Watching the World
In Germany the Federal Minister for the Environment, Angela Merkel, publicly voiced her concern at the high percentage of species that are endangered in that land. Announcing the release of a book on the environment, published by the ministry, Merkel disclosed some disturbing statistics. Experts estimate that of the vertebrates native to Germany, “40 percent of all mammals, 75 percent of reptiles, 58 percent of amphibians, 64 percent of freshwater fishes, and 39 percent of birds are endangered species,” reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Plants fare no better, with 26 percent of all species being endangered. Past efforts to reduce the danger to the natural environment have not been adequate. Merkel called for “a new strategy for the protection of nature.”
Protecting Children From Kidnappers
Parents in Germany are increasingly concerned about the safety of their children, especially because of a recent rash of kidnappings of girls in that country. According to the Nassauische Neue Presse, Julius Niebergall, a therapist with the German Association for the Protection of Children, suggested some precautionary measures. For example, parents could point out to their children certain locations on the way to and from school—a store or a house—where they can seek help in an emergency. Young ones must also be taught not to talk to strangers or allow strangers to touch them. Niebergall stressed that “children have to learn that they are allowed to say no,” even to adults. Especially when under the threat of a potential kidnapper, children ought to appeal to other adults. “Please help me. I am afraid of this man,” is what they could be taught to say.
Commercial airlines report a sharp increase in violent behavior on the part of irate passengers. Upset by things such as delayed flights and missing luggage, passengers “spit on flight attendants, fling food trays and sometimes strike employees. On occasion, they even attack pilots,” reports The New York Times. Officials are especially concerned about such attacks taking place on planes in the air, as these can result in crashes. One airline reports about 100 cases of verbal or physical assault every month. The Times says that “disruptive passengers come in both sexes, varied colors, many ages and are equally obnoxious in economy, business or first class. About one in every three has been drinking.”
Female Mutilation Continues
Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be a problem in many countries, particularly in Africa, according to The Progress of Nations 1996, a yearly report published by the United Nations. Although several countries have enacted laws against this brutal practice, about two million girls are mutilated every year. The victims are mostly between the ages of 4 and 12. “Apart from the immediate fear and pain, the consequences can include prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility, and death,” says the report. (For more information on FGM, see the April 8, 1993, issue of Awake!, pages 20-3.)
Canine Help for Epileptics
In England dogs are being trained to warn epilepsy sufferers of an impending epileptic fit. This would allow the patient sufficient time to prepare for the attack, reports The Times of London. “As a result of rewarding the dog for barking during a fit,” explains the manager of a charity specializing in training dogs for disabled people, “he has tapped into the signs and symptoms exhibited by the sufferer immediately prior to the seizure. Knowing that such a response is going to result in a reward, the dog becomes acutely sensitive to such signs.”
New Attitudes in Japan
The Japan Youth Institute recently conducted a survey among 1,000 high school students in Japan, reports The Daily Yomiuri. The survey revealed that 65.2 percent of the students see nothing wrong with skipping classes. Almost 80 percent feel the same way about disobeying teachers, and about 85 percent of the students condone disobedience to parents. According to The Daily Yomiuri, the same survey showed that 25.3 percent of the girls think that engaging in prostitution while still in school should be a matter of personal choice.
Dangerous Driving Habits
● “Fifty percent of all traffic deaths in Brazil are caused by drinking,” states the newspaper Gazeta do Povo of Curitiba, Brazil. Drunken driving causes “more than 26,000 deaths every year.” These accidents “occur mostly on short trips and in good weather.” Although a drunken driver may feel confident, his capacity to react quickly is reduced, thus endangering his own safety and that of others on the road. Tests show that under the influence of alcohol, it is difficult, even impossible, to handle unexpected situations. According to the newspaper, elimination of alcohol through metabolism may take from six to eight hours and neither strong coffee nor a cold bath will help a drunken driver to drive safely.
● According to a British survey, the average motorist makes 50 serious errors a week. Overall, the 300 drivers surveyed admitted to being careless at least once on 98 percent of their journeys, reports The Times of London. In 1 out of 2 journeys, they experienced feelings of anger. The risk most drivers take is speeding, and over half said they had been involved in an accident. Research in Toronto, Canada, suggests that drivers using a car phone while driving are four times more likely to have an accident. The danger is highest within the first ten minutes after a call has begun, likely because the driver is distracted and his reaction time is correspondingly slower.
Cooking—A Dying Art?
According to a 12-month study of eating habits in the Australian state of Queensland, cooking may become a dying art. The Courier Mail reports that most people under 25 years of age do not have the skills necessary to cook their own meals. Public-health lecturer Margaret Wingett, the author of the study, said that in times past young people—mainly girls—would learn to cook either at home from their mothers or at school. But nowadays it seems that most young people, including girls, do not know how to cook and do not appear interested in learning. Many prefer prepackaged or convenience foods. Some believe that such dietary habits can lead to an increase in hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
According to Asiaweek magazine, “105 buildings accounting for 1,249 apartments are contaminated” with radioactivity in northern Taiwan. This was discovered by an employee of a power company who was demonstrating to his son how a radiation monitor works. While taking a reading in their kitchen, he was shocked to see the indicator jump into the danger zone. A further investigation was made, confirming that the apartment building and others were contaminated. Tests showed that the radiation was emanating from steel reinforcing bars in the building walls. Authorities are not in agreement as to how the radioactivity got into the steel.
High-Tech Antitheft Devices
The microdot, once favored by spies for sending secret messages, has been put to use in Britain to help prevent burglary. The dots, each no bigger than a period, contain a household’s postal code 60 or 70 times and are used to mark possessions that could attract thieves. The Times of London reports that the dots “come suspended in a heavy-duty adhesive in a bottle with a brush, similar to a pot of nail varnish. Each contains up to 1,000 microdots and the buyer can delicately blob or coat his item as he wishes.” The potential thief is warned by a prominent label and can never be sure he has removed all the hidden dots. Likewise, a computer chip, developed to identify Vietnam War fighter-pilot casualties, now identifies paintings, sculptures, or furniture. No bigger than a grain of rice, the chip when inserted proves undetectable and holds details such as history, description, and ownership, which can be read by a scanner. This information can help establish the rightful owners of items that are found in the possession of criminals, notes The Times.