Watching the World
AIDS and Asia
Although some Western nations have seen a slight reduction in the number of confirmed AIDS cases, the epidemic has been on a rampage in many parts of Asia. The number of cases in India “increased 71 times in the first half of the 1990s,” according to an Asiaweek report. Thailand, which ranked 57th in the world in number of cases in 1990, ranked 5th by the mid-1990’s. Cambodia moved up from 173rd to 59th place. And the Philippines experienced a 131-percent increase in the same period. Many are aware that the thriving child-sex industry in a number of these nations is partly to blame, but Asiaweek states that some politicians whose countries “rely heavily on tourist dollars . . . are reluctant to take meaningful measures” against it.
Allergies in Germany
A study published by the German Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Schemes has revealed that 1 German in 4 over 14 years of age suffers from an allergy. The most common form of allergy is hay fever, which affects almost six million people there. About 2.3 million are bothered by the sun, and over 2 million are allergic to animal hair, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Over 40 percent of those who suffer from allergies take medicine for their complaint, and 10 percent state that the symptoms seriously restrict their daily routine of life. The survey also revealed that people in certain “trades and professions, such as bakers, joiners, nurses, and doctors, carry a high allergy risk.”
Wash Your Hands!
“Washing your hands is the best, simplest, and most economical way of preventing the spread of many infections,” states the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Yet, “more than 3 out of every 10 Italians do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, even if they are going to eat immediately afterward.” The results of this survey are almost identical with those obtained by similar surveys in other countries. “Hands can transmit germs to food and set off a chain of contamination,” explains microbiologist Enrico Magliano. How can the chain be broken? Wash your hands—under the fingernails too—with soap and hot or lukewarm water for at least 30 seconds (the minimum time needed to eliminate bacteria). This includes rubbing them together for 10 to 15 seconds. Rinse and dry them well, starting from your arm and working toward your fingers, says the article.
Child Abuse and the Immune System
According to researchers at Mie University in Japan, when a child suffers prolonged abuse, his immune system deteriorates, leaving the child vulnerable to disease. The university studied the bodies of 50 children between the ages of one month and nine years who had died from cerebral hemorrhages or other conditions caused by physical abuse. The children’s thymus glands, “which control the functions of the immune system, had shrunk to half the normal weight,” reports the Mainichi Daily News. The longer the abuse, the greater the contraction. In fact, “the gland of a child who had been abused for more than six months weighed one-sixteenth that of an unabused child,” said the newspaper. Researchers have seen similar gland shrinkage in children who have suffered mental abuse or malnutrition from parents’ failure to provide meals.
China’s Link With Mesopotamia
It has long been thought that ancient Chinese civilization originated in China’s Hwang He Valley, independent of outside influence. After a recent archaeological discovery, this theory is now being called into question. The French magazine Courrier International reports that at a site near Ch’eng-tu, in the Szechwan Province of China, a team of archaeologists has uncovered the vestiges of what appears to be an ancient temple built within a walled enclosure. The archaeologists report that the temple’s structure and configuration are very reminiscent of the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia. Professor Ichiro Kominami, of the University of Kyoto, stated that “it is possible that [Szechwan] was the cradle of a unique ancient Chinese civilization that had close links with those of the Indus and of Mesopotamia.”
The World Health Organization estimates that more than a million people die from hepatitis B each year. Pediatrician Jagdish Chinnappa says that nearly 150,000 of these deaths are in India. At a conference arranged by a multinational pharmaceutical company, he explained that India has “35 to 40 million HBV [hepatitis-B virus] carriers which makes for 10 per cent of the global pool,” reports The Times of India. The newspaper adds that “one in two cases of chronic liver disease and eight out of ten cases of primary liver cancer is due to Hepatitis B infection.”
Indoor Air Pollution
A recent study by the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India, shows that 2.2 million Indians die each year of illnesses related to air pollution. The Indian Express reports that according to the study, indoor pollution is a principal factor. Women living in slums who cook on coal, wood, and dung fuel face the greatest risk. While steps are being taken to control outdoor air pollution, experts felt that little was being done to reduce the risk to millions inside their own homes. “A hidden crisis is on for which no immediate solution seems possible,” stated the director of TERI, R. K. Pachauri.
Ominous predictions about the future of the world’s water supply were made at the first World Forum on Water, which took place in Marrakech, Morocco, during March of 1997. Pollution, drought, and increasing population are putting ever-greater strains on water resources. As the French newspaper Le Monde reports, “the need for water is growing twice as fast as the world’s population.” According to the World Meteorological Organization, by the year 2025, two thirds of the world’s population will live in areas where supply will not meet demand. Unless an equitable solution can be found, some authorities fear that water will be a source of war in the 21st century. Already, “the UN has pinpointed about 300 potential zones of conflict,” says Le Monde.
Violent Crime in Venezuela
With a population of 20,000,000 people, Venezuela averages some 400 murders a month, says the newspaper El Universal. A study made by one organization states that the principal causes for the rise in crime are not economic but, rather, sociocultural. Under the heading “Poverty Is Not the Principal Cause of Delinquency,” the newspaper said that according to the report, Venezuela’s violence stems from the lack of human values and parental training at home. To improve the situation, experts recommend teaching responsible parenting and encouraging people to be more family oriented.
Promoting a Healthy Life-Style
In their World Health Report 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that humanity faces a growing “crisis of suffering.” Each year, cancer and heart disease, along with chronic health problems, kill more than 24 million people and threaten to increase the burdens of hundreds of millions of others. During the next 25 years, the number of cancer cases in most countries is expected to double. Heart disease and stroke, the big killers in wealthy nations, will become much more common in poor countries. In response to these possibilities, WHO calls for an “intensified and sustained” worldwide campaign to promote healthy life-styles and to reduce the risk factors—unhealthy diets, smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise—that often result in deadly disease.