Watching the World
The High Cost of Crime
The Justice Department estimates that about 94,000 criminal acts are committed in the United States every day. How much do these crimes cost U.S. citizens? According to economics analyst Ed Rubenstein, the direct costs—including personal property losses, such as cars, cash, and jewelry—approach 20 billion dollars a year. Added to this, however, are the costs related to law enforcement, courts, prisons, and parole systems. This brings the figure up to around 100 billion dollars. Also, since crime victims often suffer from bouts of fear, trauma, or depression, many cope with these negative emotions by staying home from work. Therefore, productivity losses can easily drive “total costs to crime victims” up to “$250 to $500 billion each year,” says Rubenstein.
In Thailand a novice Buddhist monk hooked on amphetamines has confessed to the rape and murder of a 23-year-old British tourist, reports World Press Review. This crime, however, is just one in a “series of scandals” that have plagued Buddhist clergymen recently. “In addition to a rising number of criminal offenses, materialistic greed is corrupting Buddhism.” In what way? “The selling of good-luck charms is a lucrative business for some monks, who travel in chauffeur-driven limos.” As a result, the “people’s faith in once-revered Buddhist clergy is being challenged.” The magazine also notes that in an effort to curb “drug abuse” among monks, “monasteries have opened detox centers.”
One pair of latex gloves may not be sufficient to protect wearers against HIV or hepatitis, the magazine New Scientist reports. That was the conclusion reached by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin when they discovered that “one in three gloves lets through viruses the size of HIV or hepatitis.” Jordan Fink, the head of the allergy division of the university, began testing latex gloves after doctors and nurses complained about allergic reactions in 1992. That was the year the U.S. government started requiring medical personnel to wear rubber gloves if contact with a patient’s blood or body fluids was likely. According to Fink, health-care workers who have cuts or other breaks in their skin should consider wearing more than one pair of gloves, says the magazine. Medical staff with unbroken skin shouldn’t be unduly alarmed, however. “The unbroken skin is a good barrier,” Fink says.
Countering Con Artists
After spending 17 years as a consumer reporter for a local TV station in Boston, Massachusetts, Paula Lyons has compiled a list of ways to overcome the “cunning skills and relentlessness of con artists.” According to an article in the Ladies’ Home Journal, Lyons’ suggestions include: Refuse to do business over the telephone with a stranger who calls you. Never invest in what you don’t understand. Never pay for a “free” prize. Do not put too much faith in money-back guarantees. Avoid donating to charities you don’t know. Never buy a used car without having it inspected first by an independent mechanic. “These rules may seem rather conservative,” says Lyons, but “they can protect you from some of the worst abuses in the marketplace.”
Brazil’s Health Problems
The director of Brazil’s national center of epidemiology, Dr. Eduardo Levcovitz, lamented: “Our people have the misfortune to suffer from both the health problems of the industrialized First World and the preventable diseases of the Third World.” Quoted in The Medical Post, Dr. Levcovitz cites the main causes of health problems among Brazilians. Topping the list are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Next comes death from violent crime and accidents. Following the “First World” diseases are infectious diseases resulting from poor living conditions. “It is estimated that half the Brazilian population suffers from some kind of parasitic infection,” says The Medical Post. Malaria alone afflicts about 500,000 Brazilians every year. Other common parasitic diseases found in Brazil are Chagas’ disease, schistosomiasis, hookworm, leishmaniasis, and filariasis.
In 1994 “the number of people needing organ transplants” in the United States “outpaced the number of donors by nearly a third,” says The Journal of the American Medical Association. From 1988 to 1994, the number of people receiving transplants increased 49 percent, while organ donors increased by only 37 percent. With the demand for organs outstripping the supply, some critically ill patients have died waiting for an organ to become available. Commenting on this dilemma, New Scientist magazine says: “As transplant operations become more routine, more people want them and swell the list.” The report thus mentions that “organ transplants have become a victim of their own success.”
In Britain, when homeowners sell their homes, they have a legal obligation to reveal details of any past disputes they have had with their neighbors, reports The Sunday Times of London. An 80-year-old widow who failed to inform buyers that she had twice complained to the local authorities about a noisy neighbor was successfully sued for misrepresentation. Now she faces bankruptcy following a $45,000 judgment. The new owners lived in the house for six years, but they found life next to their neighbor intolerable and had no choice but to sell, they told the court. To avoid such problems, some buyers have resorted to hiring private detectives to check on the conduct of their prospective neighbors. A cursory examination can cost as little as $75, but some buyers are prepared to pay $1,500 for a more thorough check.
The Faithful Sea Horse
Oxford zoologist Amanda Vincent has discovered that sea horses apparently remain faithful to their mate for life. Studying the four-inch [10 cm]-long species Hippocampus whitei off the southeastern coast of Australia, Dr. Vincent was astonished to find such fidelity among fish, notes The Times of London. It was observed that each morning the male waits for his mate at a prearranged place. Upon meeting, the sea horses change color and then perform a dance. Producing offspring is a shared experience. The female lays her eggs and deposits them in a special brood pouch in the male’s tail. He then fertilizes them, and they remain in the pouch until birth. If a mate dies, the surviving sea horse will bond with only another unpaired sea horse. Sadly, survival of these delightful creatures is at risk, since millions are captured every year for aquariums and for use in traditional Asian medicine.
Hungry for Heavy Metal
When heavy metals, such as nickel, lead, zinc, and cadmium, contaminate the soil, the ground becomes dangerous and unusable. Current cleanup methods require scraping away the topsoil and disposing of it in landfills or removing the contaminated soil and exposing it to strong acids that release the entrapped metals. These cleanup methods, however, are very costly. Now scientists are studying a much cheaper and cleaner way to help solve the problem. It’s called phytoremediation. The process involves using plants that absorb heavy metals from the soil and transfer the metal to the leaves, stems, and other parts of the plant above ground. Once the heavy metals are drawn out of the ground, the plants can be processed and the more valuable metals recycled, says Science magazine.
“Cooking—and Wheezing—With Gas”
Under that heading, Science News reported that British researchers have found that “women who cook with gas are at least twice as likely to experience wheezing, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of asthma as those who prepare meals using electric cooktops and ovens.” The study, conducted at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, notes that the symptoms persisted even when exhaust fans were used. And while both men and women participated in the survey, the “effects showed up only in women—probably because they spend more time in the kitchen.”