Watching the World
After an absence of over 100 years, cholera has made a dramatic comeback in South America. “Since 1991, 1.4 million cases have been reported there, leading to 10,000 deaths,” states The Times of London. An added worry to health authorities was the emergence in 1992 of a new strain of the cholera bacterium in India, Bangladesh, and neighboring countries, which has so far affected 200,000 people. Cholera is an acute diarrheic disease, and death occurs in 70 percent of the cases unless adequate treatment is available. But prevention is better than a cure. Boiling drinking water and milk, keeping flies away, and washing uncooked foods in chlorinated water are basic safety factors.
Talking About World Peace
Regional wars that once played a significant part in the Cold War seem to have ended, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Yearbook 1997. In 1989, the last year of the Cold War, there were 36 “major armed conflicts.” The number dropped to 27 in 1996, and all but one, the conflict between India and Pakistan, were internal, domestic wars. Furthermore, as measured by the number of deaths, most of these conflicts showed a decrease in intensity or continued at a low level. “No other generation has been so close to a world peace,” concluded The Star, a newspaper of South Africa. Says Time magazine: “American dominance . . . has given the world a Pax Americana, an era of international peace and tranquillity unseen in this century, rarely seen in human history.”
Still Number One
“More copies of the Bible are still being printed than any other book,” reports ENI Bulletin. The countries with the highest Bible distribution are China, the United States, and Brazil. According to a report from the United Bible Societies (UBS), 19.4 million copies of the complete Bible were distributed in 1996. This was a new record and an increase of 9.1 percent over 1995. Despite the “breathtaking growth in distribution in particular parts of the world,” said John Ball, publishing services coordinator at UBS, “there is still much more to be done if we are to provide everyone with easier access to the Scriptures.”
“Messengers of Death”
Rich Western countries are creating a “double burden” of disease for developing countries, says the 1997 report of the World Health Organization (WHO). As reported in The Daily Telegraph of London, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and certain cancers are greatly increasing as developing nations adopt Western life-styles of smoking, high-calorie and fat-rich diets, and reduced physical activity. Although globally people now live longer, this is ‘an empty prize, without quality of life,’ says Dr. Paul Kleihues, a director of WHO. He adds: “Those who say we are truly messengers of death are right.” WHO is advocating an intensified worldwide campaign to encourage healthy life-styles. Otherwise, it says, there will be a “crisis of suffering on a global scale.”
Buddhist Head Advises Seeking Truth
“Obstinacy is not good” when it comes to religion, says Eshin Watanabe, the supreme priest and head of one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist sects. Asked whether he meant that loyalty to beliefs is good but obstinate beliefs are bad, Mainichi Daily News quoted his explanation: “You should ponder on whether your beliefs are right or wrong. It is important to review their relationship to other beliefs. You should also think whether they represent truth or not. We must examine these things again.” Watanabe heads the Tendai sect of Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan from China 1,200 years ago.
Some people instinctively lick their wounds when they cut themselves, as do animals. Interestingly, researchers at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London have discovered that saliva is in fact a natural antiseptic. As reported in The Independent newspaper, pharmacologists asked 14 volunteers to lick both sides of their hands and found that levels of nitric oxide on the skin were greatly increased. Nitric oxide, a powerful chemical that can kill germs, forms when nitrite present in saliva comes into contact with the acidic surface of the skin. The reaction is helped by another chemical, ascorbate, which is also found in saliva.
Marijuana—A Hard Drug?
Marijuana users have long contended that the drug is relatively harmless. However, “new evidence suggests [that marijuana’s] effects in the brain resemble those of ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin,” reports the journal Science. Scientists from the United States, Spain, and Italy conducted the studies. Among their findings was that “the active ingredient in marijuana—a cannabinoid known as THC—results in the same key biochemical event that seems to reinforce dependence on other drugs, from nicotine to heroin: a release of dopamine in part of the brain’s ‘reward’ pathway,” which keeps users coming back for more. When long-term marijuana use is stopped, the level of another chemical, a peptide called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), rises in the brain. CRF has been linked to the emotional stress and anxiety that result from withdrawal from opiates, alcohol, and cocaine. Accordingly, one researcher said: “I would be satisfied if, following all this evidence, people would no longer consider THC a ‘soft’ drug.” Each year, about 100,000 people in the United States seek treatment for marijuana dependence.
Ice in Ancient Egypt
“Although the ancient Egyptians had no artificial refrigeration, they were able to produce ice by means of a natural phenomenon that occurs in dry, temperate climates,” notes The Countyline, a newspaper of Bryan, Ohio. How did they do it? “Around sundown, Egyptian women placed water in shallow clay trays on a bed of straw. Rapid evaporation from the water surface and from the damp sides of the tray combined with the nocturnal drop in temperature to freeze the water—even though the temperature of the environment never fell near the freezing point.”
“Skin cancer has emerged in epidemic proportions in North America,” says The Vancouver Sun newspaper, and Canadians “have a one in seven lifetime risk” of developing it. “Sun exposure is believed to account for 90 per cent of melanoma cases,” adds the newspaper. Skin that is tanned is damaged, says the report, and leads to premature skin aging as well as suppression of the immune system. A national survey of more than 4,000 Canadians reveals that 80 percent know the hazards of exposing their skin to the sun, yet nearly half rarely if ever take any protective action. University of British Columbia associate professor Dr. Chris Lovato, one of the principal investigators in the survey, warns that “we need to make sun safety a habit” and instill “sensible and safe ways to enjoy being in the sun.”
Smoking costs money. How much? According to the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, in the long run, it could amount to $230,000 or $400,000—depending on whether you smoke one or two packs of cigarettes a day. “Say you are young and start smoking today and continue for 50 years, assuming it doesn’t kill you first,” says the Wellness Letter. “At a pack a day at $2.50 (to keep things simple, let’s leave out increases in price), that would add up to more than $900 a year, or $45,000 over 50 years. Put that money in the bank each year at 5% interest, and the total could easily quadruple.” Adding in extra life-insurance costs and extra cleaning expenses (for home, clothes, and teeth) brings the totals up to those mentioned above. The letter adds: “And that doesn’t count the smoking-related medical expenses you’ll face if your health insurance doesn’t cover everything.”