Watching the World
“China’s Aging Population”
“China’s aging population is increasing at a steady rate,” reports the magazine China Today. “By the end of 1994 China had 116.97 million senior citizens over age 60, a 14.16 percent increase over 1990.” People over 60 now make up nearly 10 percent of the country’s population, and the aged population has been growing at a rate that is almost three times that of the total population. How are they being cared for? While labor incomes, pensions, social insurance, and relief take care of the needs of many, over 57 percent of China’s senior citizens are supported by their children or other relatives. “Since family relations in China are relatively stable, and China has a fine tradition of respecting and taking care of the old, most senior citizens live with their kinsfolk, and are being well looked after by them,” says China Today. “Only 7 percent of China’s old people live by themselves.”
Child Labor—A Growing Problem
According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization, 13 percent of the world’s children between the ages of 10 and 14—some 73 million children—are forced to work. The report added that if statistics were available for children under ten and for girls in full-time domestic work, the world’s child-labor force would likely number into the hundreds of millions. Although the Geneva-based organization has been trying to combat child labor for 80 years, the problem has continued to increase and expand, especially in Africa and Latin America. While slave labor and dangerous working conditions are the lot of millions of these children, prostitution was cited as a particular problem. In some countries “adults see the use of children for sexual purposes as the best means of preventing [HIV] infection,” says the report. The International Herald Tribune of Paris said that the organization “blamed government officials who . . . had ignored the problem.”
Meeting Children’s Needs
The State of the World’s Children 1995, a report by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), says that it is absurd to think that the world cannot afford to meet the essential needs of its children. To illustrate their point, UNICEF gives the following figures: The estimated extra cost of meeting the worldwide need for adequate nutrition and basic health care is $13 billion a year; for primary education, $6 billion; for safe water and sanitation, $9 billion; for family planning, $6 billion—making a total of $34 billion a year. Compare that, they say, with the estimated amount of what is already being spent per year on the following: golf, $40 billion; beer and wine, $245 billion; cigarettes, $400 billion; the military, $800 billion. Surely, they say, all the world’s children could be adequately cared for if proper priorities were established.
“A New Kind of Opium War”
That is how The Times of India described the all-out efforts of U.S. tobacco companies to push their products in Asia. Although each year in India alone at least one million people die of tobacco-related diseases, the Indian government has not yet passed any antitobacco legislation. This, according to the Times report, is due to powerful lobbying by tobacco companies, both national and transnational, as well as “U.S. federal laws that threaten trade sanctions against countries that do not permit the sale of the U.S. tobacco products.” It is estimated that 99 percent of the population in rural India is unaware of any harm from tobacco use. Media exposure usually shows a smoker as confident, attractive, and secure. Major competitions in popular sports, like cricket, are sponsored by tobacco companies. Cigarettes are also a significant source of revenue for the government, which has invested in four cigarette companies.
Belief in Hellfire Renounced
A Church of England report has rejected the traditional view that hell is a place of fire and eternal torment. According to the report by the church’s Doctrine Commission, “Christians have professed appalling theologies which made God into a sadistic monster and left searing psychological scars on many.” It added: “There are many reasons for this change, but amongst them have been the moral protest from both within and without the Christian faith against a religion of fear, and a growing sense that the picture of a God who consigned millions to eternal torment was far removed from the revelation of God’s love in Christ.” However, they say that each person still faces a day of judgment and that those who fail the test will be cast into a state of annihilation, or nonbeing. States the New York Herald Tribune: “The report made clear there was no chance of all people of all faiths automatically being saved.”
A three-year-old boy fell into an enclosure where seven African gorillas were on display at the Brookfield Zoo, in suburban Chicago, and he was rescued by one of the female gorillas. The boy, who had broken away from his mother, climbed over the 4-foot railing and plunged nearly 20 feet onto the exhibit’s concrete floor, injuring his head. The eight-year-old gorilla, Binti Jua—Swahili for “daughter of sunshine”—ambled over and gently picked up the injured child. With her own baby still clinging to her back, Binti cradled the boy’s limp body in her arms and carried him over to the service door of the exhibit, placing him carefully on the ground where zookeepers could retrieve him. Binti, who had been abandoned by her own mother, “had been taught mothering techniques by her keepers, who gave her human dolls to nurture and care for” before the birth of her offspring, reports the New York Daily News. She has since attracted thousands of visitors and has been rewarded with offerings of fruit. The boy, who suffered bruises and abrasions, recovered.
Take Your Choice
“Has your year got off to a bad start?” asked an article in New Scientist magazine. “Not to worry, there are at least 14 other new years around the world left to choose from.” Actually, only the countries that have adopted the Gregorian calendar count January 1 as the first day of the year. It was Julius Caesar who, in 46 B.C.E., decided that the calendar year would begin on January 1, and this was retained when Pope Gregory revised the calendar in 1582. As different cultures developed their own calendar systems, at least 26 different New Year’s Days cropped up. Of those that remain today, the Chinese system is the oldest. For them, the New Year starts this year on February 7. The Jewish New Year will fall on October 2. The Muslim calendar, a totally lunar one, will have its own date as well—May 8.
Smoking Linked to Crib Deaths
Babies and pregnant women should not be exposed to any tobacco smoke, say British researchers. A two-year study by the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, in Bristol, examined every case of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death, in three regions of England. Questioning the parents of 195 babies who died and those of 780 others who lived, they found that of the mothers whose babies died, 62 percent smoked, contrasted with 25 percent of the mothers whose babies lived. “The recent research makes it clear that fathers who smoke are also a problem,” says Joyce Epstein, of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. “If we could remove all smoking from a baby’s environment, we estimate that cot deaths [cases of SIDS] would fall by 61%.”
Blood Yields Secret
Hemoglobin has been closely examined for over 60 years and is said to be perhaps the most studied protein in biology. It has long been known to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and to bring back carbon dioxide and nitric oxide. Yet, physicians and scientists were surprised by recent findings that indicate an additional role—that of carrying a differently bound form of nitric oxide, called super nitric oxide, to all parts of the body. Super nitric oxide actually plays an important role in health and in keeping cells and tissues alive, including the maintenance of memory and learning, sexual erections, and blood pressure. Hemoglobin, by regulating the amount of nitric oxide to which the body’s blood vessels are exposed, can make the blood vessels expand or contract. “The finding is likely to have significant implications for the treatment of blood pressure and the development of artificial blood,” reports The New York Times. Presently, most blood substitutes have the tendency to raise blood pressure. This may be because they lack super nitric oxide, the researchers say.