Watching the World
Brazil’s Wasted Food
According to Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, “the country annually throws away $2.34 billion (U.S.) in rice, beans, corn, soya, wheat, vegetables, and fruits,” says O Estado de S. Paulo. “Calculating the losses of other [farm] products and consumer waste, the amount runs up to $4 billion (U.S.).” But why is 20 percent of the agricultural output and 30 percent of the fruit production wasted? Among the reasons given are ‘low storage capacity on the farms, inadequate production technology, precarious highways, and poor management of crops.’ Bemoaning the lack of rules to control the waste, Benedito Rosa of the Ministry of Agriculture is quoted as saying: “Such wasted food could feed people who need it.”
Monday Morning Syndrome
“The stress of returning to work on Monday mornings increases the risk of a heart attack by 33 percent,” reports Jornal do Brasil. A German study of 2,636 cases “revealed that the risk of suffering heart failure varies according to the day of the week and the hour.” However, it was found that Mondays were especially dangerous and that heart attacks are three times more likely to occur in the morning than during the rest of the day. Factory workers are more affected by the Monday-morning syndrome than professionals and office workers. “We suspect that the change to a more intense rhythm, right after weekend relaxation, causes the [heart] attacks,” says Professor Stefan Willich, who directed the research. People with heart trouble should begin their week in a calm manner, it was suggested.
“World’s Top Gambling Nation”
“Japan has become the world’s top gambling nation,” says the Asahi Evening News. The most money (65 percent) is gambled on pachinko, using pinball machines. The Japanese also spend more than any other nation on local horse racing. Sales in 1992 were more than double those of the United States and more than four times those of Hong Kong, Britain, and France. To increase sales, young women are now being targeted. Said one from Nagoya: “My parents make a fuss but I always tell them, ‘National and local governments are organizing them. How can they be bad?’” Actually, Japanese law prohibits gambling in principle, but public gambling exists as a “back alley economy,” says researcher Hiroshi Takeuchi. He feels that when gambling proceeds exceed 4 percent of a country’s gross national product, it becomes a social problem. Japan’s now stand at 5.7 percent.
Churches Feel the Crime Wave
Until recent years, Australian churches were generally left unlocked, even when no services were being conducted. But things have changed now, reports the newspaper The Weekend Australian, because of robberies, break-ins, vandalism to church buildings, and a number of instances in which priests have been attacked. “Most of our parishes are now locking their churches up, I’m afraid. I think that’s very sad,” said Catholic archbishop John Bathersby. “I think there’s been a breakdown in the reverence for religion. I think the whole secularisation of society has really brought a state of affairs where many people don’t see the Church as any different from any other institution in society, and therefore that special aura of respect for it has disappeared. Some people see a church as just another building.”
Not only is Pope John Paul II the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church but he is also a playwright, an author, and a recording artist. His recent book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, was on the best-seller list for many weeks. The play, a musical drama called The Jeweler’s Shop, opened this past December in New York City for a limited engagement. It was written by the pope in 1960 under the pseudonym Andrzej Jawien. “The pope was a playwright, an actor, a director, a translator and a drama critic for the local paper in Cracow,” explained the play’s producer. There is also a top-selling double CD recording of the pope reciting the Rosary. And the pontiff is a renowned world traveler, with plans to visit five continents this year. His 63rd trip, in January, was described by The New York Times as “an attempt by the 74-year-old Pope to shuck off the imagery of a papacy in decline and to project the idea that neither his health nor his age will deter him from injecting his moral vision into the world’s business.”
Blood—A Dangerous “Drug”
“Could it be that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right in refusing blood transfusions?” asks England’s Sunday Telegraph. Current transfusion scares involve blood contaminated by hepatitis C and the AIDS virus. “But infection is only one of a number of dangers that have been described in professional journals,” says the Telegraph. “Studies such as the one that estimated the chances of an adverse reaction to a transfusion as high as 20 per cent are little known to the public. Equally unfamiliar are the studies that have found that having a transfusion is the best predictor of making a poor recovery after abdominal or colon operations.” Studies also show that a high percentage of blood transfusions are given unnecessarily and that transfusion practices vary widely and are based more on habit than on scientific data. Calling blood “a powerful drug” with which “most surgeons are far too cavalier,” Tom Lennard, consultant surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, commented: “If blood was a new drug it wouldn’t receive a product licence.”
Protect Your Babies from Noise
“Too much noise can be harmful to unborn and newborn babies,” says a press release by Radio France Internationale. A baby in its mother’s womb is particularly susceptible to being traumatized by any loud noises to which its mother is exposed. Since a mother’s abdominal wall and amniotic fluid offer very little protection from outside noises, a child may be handicapped before birth. For example, the risk of high-frequency hearing loss is three times greater among children whose mothers were exposed to noise levels between 85 and 95 decibels—levels quite common for many rock concerts and discotheques. In addition to causing hearing damage, some researchers warn, frequent exposure to loud noises, especially during the mother’s last months of pregnancy, can also increase an unborn baby’s heart rate.
“Emotional First Aid”
First aid at the scene of an accident should include more than attention to physical injuries. Injured persons also need emotional help, reports the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. What sort of help? The Professional Association of German Psychologists suggests four simple steps for rendering “emotional first aid.” The suggestions, each of which begins with the letter S as a memory aid, were the result of interviews with accident victims and professionals. The recommendations are: “Say that you are there. Screen the injured person off from distractions. Seek bodily contact. Speak and listen.” Efforts are being made to get the measures promoted through doctors and driving schools and to get them included in first-aid courses.
“India’s Little ‘Beasts of Burden’”
That is what a Times of India report called India’s 17 million to 44 million child laborers. Despite the availability of some 23 million able-bodied unemployed adults, factory owners often choose to employ children, who work without protest for half the adult wage and rarely question the health hazards of their jobs. It was only when some Western nations refused to import goods produced by child labor that some manufacturers replaced the children with adults. The government of India has promised more stringent laws to prevent such abuse and to compel parents to give their children basic education. Says India’s president, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma: “Neither tradition nor economic necessity can justify child labour and eliminating such exploitation is one of the major challenges today.” However, many justify the practice on the grounds that abject poverty is a “harsh reality” and that the wages earned by a child give desperately needed support to the family.