Watching the World
Why Children Give In to Drugs
“How can we keep our children from getting involved with drugs and alcohol, and why is it that some kids find it easier than others to ‘just say no’?” Those questions were raised recently in Parents magazine, which found some possible answers in a study undertaken by researchers at the University of Arizona, U.S.A. The study examined almost 1,200 children in the sixth and seventh grades and focused on ten different risk factors suspected of influencing children toward drug and alcohol abuse. The two leading predictors were “being susceptible to peer pressure, and having friends who used alcohol or drugs.” On the other hand, the study found that academic achievement could play a preventive role—perhaps because it improves self-esteem and rarely promotes friendships with substance abusers.
Fascination With Horror
“Teens are hooked on horror,” reports The Globe and Mail of Canada. The paper states that “there are horror trading cards, comic books, artwork, movies and even music, all hot in adolescent circles.” To satisfy such shocking taste in reading material, one book publisher increased production of horror books for teens from four a year to one a month. Others put out two horror books a month. Why such a fascination with horror? According to author Shawn Ryan, “from a historical perspective, horror has always done well when there’s a malaise or unhappiness.” According to The Globe, Mr. Ryan said: “In the nineties, we are obviously dissatisfied with government, unhappy and fearful of crime. These are the times when horror does well.”
Proper Hand Washing
Doctors say the simple act of regularly washing your hands “helps get rid of germs and viruses that cause colds, flu, strep throat, stomach disorders and more serious illnesses,” reports The Toronto Star. The paper adds: “A . . . study by Montreal epidemiologist Dr. Julio Soto shows that washing hands properly can dramatically reduce the spread of viral and bacterial infectious diseases—by as much as 54 per cent for upper respiratory diseases and 72 per cent for diarrhea cases.” The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that proper washing of hands should involve wetting hands under running water, scrubbing them with soap for a count of 30, rinsing them under running water for a count of 5, and, finally, drying them with a clean towel unused by others or a paper towel or a hands-free dryer. Food handlers in restaurants, hot dog stands, and food courts especially need to give careful attention to hand washing.
Plight of the Poor
The rural poor around the world are in dire straits, according to the World Summit for Social Development, a recent UN conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was reported at the summit that more than one billion people live in abject poverty and that over half of these go hungry every day. Contributing to the problem is unemployment. Estimates on the total number of people who are jobless or underemployed range as high as 800 million. All told, some 30 percent of the world’s employable labor force is not productively employed. From 1.1 billion to 1.3 billion people live on an income of less than a dollar (U.S.) per day. Illiteracy, which surely exacerbates the problem, now afflicts some 905 million people. Their numbers are not diminishing quickly; 130 million children do not go to school although eligible, and their numbers are expected to swell to 144 million by the year 2000.
Paying the Price for Campus Drunkenness
Binge drinking on the part of college students is exacting a high price these days—even among those who do not binge, according to U.S.News & World Report. Summarizing the results of a study of 140 college campuses, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the magazine reported that 44 percent of the college students surveyed were binge drinkers—that is, sometime during the previous two weeks, the men had consumed five drinks in a row and the women had consumed four. Nineteen percent were frequent bingers; they had binged at least three times during the same period. High percentages of the bingers suffered the effects one might expect—they had hangovers, engaged in unplanned sex, missed classes, suffered injuries, damaged property, and so forth. But other students suffered too. At schools with heavy bingeing, 9 out of 10 students had to deal with some of the problems caused by the drinking of others, such as unwanted sexual advances, property damage, interrupted sleep, and humiliating insults.
Poisoned Land in Britain
Recently, Britain’s Ministry of Defence admitted that it owns a number of tracts of land that are so contaminated with weapon-related pollution that the properties can never be sold, reported New Scientist magazine. The Ministry owns 3,400 sites in Britain, covering 598,000 acres [242,000 ha]. Two thirds of the sites are used for training grounds and firing ranges. Because of cutbacks in the military budget, the Ministry is forced to sell some of this land but evidently does not know how many of the properties are too polluted for human habitation. At least eight of the sites are thought to be contaminated with radioactivity from luminous paint that was once used in military compasses and instrument panels. Many firing ranges are littered with dangerous unexploded munitions. And at least one tract of land is believed to be contaminated by World War I munitions containing mustard gas that were improperly disposed of back in 1918.
Traffic Lights for Animals?
Animal crossings have long been a potential danger both for motorists and for animals. The French nature magazine Terre Sauvage reports that in view of the numerous accidents caused by animals crossing forest roads at night, technicians from the French National Office of Forests have come up with a surprising discovery. Animals stop for red lights! Experiments have shown that the frequency of red light has the effect of temporarily paralyzing animals. Along forest roads in France, red reflectors that capture the light from the headlights of oncoming vehicles have now been installed, but instead of reflecting the light back toward the motorists, it is reflected into the forest. Before leaping onto the roadway, the animals now wait until the light has disappeared.
Romanian AIDS Orphans
In Romania, 93 percent of all cases of HIV infection leading to AIDS are among children under 12 years old, writes reporter Roxana Dascalu for Reuters news service. She notes that the highest concentration of HIV-positive children in Europe is in the port city of Constantsa, where there have been 1,200 of such children, 420 of whom have already died. Half of these children were reportedly infected through blood transfusions and nonsterile syringes before the old regime fell in 1989. Much of the AIDS-tainted blood was sold by impoverished sailors and went directly to hospitals and orphanages. In hospices where the HIV-infected children are cared for, the report notes that success “is not measured by survival rates but how the children spend their final days and how they face death.” Says one hospice worker: “We do not let children die alone in their bed. A nurse takes them in her arms, sits down in this rocking chair and rocks them.”
New Hope for Infertile Couples?
A new medical technique is helping infertile couples to overcome their sterility, reports the French news agency France-Presse. The technique, which was pioneered in Denmark, involves using an extremely fine glass needle to place a single male sperm upon an ovum within the woman. Although the technique is meticulous and requires great skill (a sperm measures just two thousandths of a millimeter; an ovum, one tenth of a millimeter), the method has proved successful. It has the added advantage of taking place inside the woman’s body and using her husband’s sperm rather than that of an anonymous donor—thus avoiding sensitive moral and religious questions. Because poor-quality sperm is the cause of sterility for a third of all infertile couples, a doctor using the technique feels that many couples may now have renewed hopes of starting a family.