Watching the World
“Living in Sin” Not a Sin?
The Church of England’s Board of Social Responsibility recently advised the church that “living in sin” is no longer sinful, said the Guardian Weekly. The board reportedly also advised the church that “congregations could learn from unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, and should resist temptation to look back to a ‘golden age of the family.’” The Guardian quotes clergyman Philip Hacking as responding: “This makes the Church a laughing stock and causes great distress among many faithful Christians.”
Losing the Ability to Read and Write
Some three million persons in Germany have lost the ability to read and write well because of lack of practice. Johannes Ring, secretary of the Reading Foundation, explained that the advancement made by the electronic media is exacerbating the problem. At the World Conference on Combating Illiteracy, Ring stated that the increase in this type of illiteracy is partly because of the widespread use of television, computers, and video games, reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Drink to Think
Having trouble concentrating? Maybe you need to drink more water, suggests Asiaweek. The magazine reports that teachers and parents of some Hong Kong schoolchildren were recently advised that drinking plenty of water helps students combat listlessness. Children should drink 8 to 15 glasses of water a day, parents were told. Citing the book The Learning Brain, the report points to studies indicating that dehydration can lead to poor learning. Drinking pure, clean water is better than drinking soft drinks, coffee, tea, or even juices, which may actually stimulate the body to expel fluids, states Asiaweek.
Americans suffer greater exposure to pesticides through household products than through sprayed fruits and vegetables, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley. Roach sprays, hanging flypaper, flea foggers, mothballs, and similar products contain toxic chemicals. Besides causing thousands of poisonings a year, many pose long-term health dangers. The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter recommends safer alternatives: Repair or install screens and caulk cracks in floors and walls to keep out pests; seal foods and garbage in plastic; use a flyswatter; sweep up crumbs; steam-clean rugs; clean woolens frequently and store them in sealed bags. If roaches persist, try using sticky traps or sprinkling boric acid behind cabinets, but protect children and pets from contact with these products, suggests the Wellness Letter.
TV Programs for Children—Too Violent
A study of American network television has concluded that there is too much “sinister combat violence” in many programs aimed at children. According to The Wall Street Journal, the study at the University of California at Los Angeles singled out several popular cartoon series as containing “violence for the sake of violence.” The programs are normally aired on Saturday mornings, when children are not in school and their parents may not yet be up. Although this type of program is not new, the study found that “the dark overtones and unrelenting combat in these shows constitute a fairly recent trend which appears to be on the rise.”
British scientists have discovered seeds that can purify drinking water without the use of costly chemicals. The crushed seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree of northern India attract and stick to bacteria and viruses, which can then be skimmed off or trapped in filter beds, reports The Times of London. The versatile seeds can also be used to make cooking oil, soap, cosmetics, lamp fuel, and an ointment for skin infections. The tree is easy to cultivate, withstands drought, can act as a windbreak, and even provides fuel and pulp for making paper. Consequently, researchers recommend planting these trees to produce seeds that will help prevent millions of deaths every year that result from the drinking of contaminated water.
In a society obsessed with appearance, many assume that it is virtually impossible to be too thin. A recent study confirming the health hazards of obesity may seem to support this common view, but the study’s author, JoAnn Manson of Harvard University, wants it known that being too thin is also a health hazard. “I believe you can be too thin through inadequate nutrition, excessive exercise, or smoking,” she is quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal. Citing a number of doctors who decry the hazards of excessive dieting, the Journal lists some dangers of being unnaturally thin, perhaps 20 percent under the average weight for one’s height. These are anorexia, osteoporosis, hormonal disruption, falls, fractures, and retarded healing.
Snakebites—What Not to Do
When it comes to treating victims of snakebites, experts do not always agree. However, according to the FDA Consumer magazine, most U.S. medical professionals are “nearly unanimous in their views of what not to do.” If you are within 30 to 40 minutes of a medical facility, the advice is: Do not apply ice to the bite, do not use tourniquets or electric shock, and do not make incisions in the wound. A widely accepted recommendation is that whether the snake appears to be poisonous or not, all snakebites should be treated as medical emergencies, and the victim should be taken to a hospital immediately. The best preventive measure is to “leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get a closer look at it,” says FDA Consumer.
A Warning for Soccer Players
In soccer, the most popular sport in the world, players can hit the ball with their head. However, this can cause brain damage if done too often, reports the newspaper Jornal do Brasil. According to a recent study, soccer players can suffer memory loss and reduced brain efficiency from heading the ball. Although less severe, the damage is similar in nature to that which strikes some boxers who receive frequent blows to the head. Neurologist Paulo Niemeyer Filho suggests that players should avoid using their head to hit the ball when it drops from high up in the air with force or when it is wet, which makes the ball heavier. Some experts believe that excessive heading of the ball may also damage the players’ eyesight.
Genuine Smiles Are Contagious
There are two types of smiles, according to Finnish researchers Dr. Jari Hietanen of the University of Tampere and Dr. Veikko Surakka of the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Helsinki. One smile category is known to experts as social smiles. These are prompted merely by a sense of obligation and involve only the muscles of the cheeks. Genuine smiles, on the other hand, express real feelings of pleasure and activate not only the muscles of the cheeks but also the muscles around the eyes. A recent study from Finland suggests that genuine smiles are contagious. By detecting and recording minute muscle movements, researchers found that the subjects of their experiment were induced to smile merely by looking at a photograph of someone with a genuine smile. This reaction was not observed when the subjects looked at pictures of people displaying social smiles.
According to the German newspaper Die Zeit, 44 astrologers in the Netherlands recently submitted voluntarily to a test prepared by the Dutch Society of Skeptics. The astrologers were given two lists. One contained the place and date of birth of seven persons. The second provided abundant personal information about each of the seven individuals. The astrologers were asked to match each person on the first list with his respective description on the second list by using their alleged skills with astrology. How successful were they? Half the astrologers did not even get one correct answer, and no one was able to match more than three correctly. Previous experiments had yielded similar results, but the astrologers claimed that they had been supplied with the wrong information. In this case, however, the terms of the test were set by the astrologers themselves.