Watching the World
Early Breast-Cancer Detection
Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among Brazilian women, affecting an estimated 1 out of every 12, reports the Brazilian journal Medicina Conselho Federal. The journal encourages regular breast self-examination for all women over the age of 25. Medicina also recommends that women have an initial mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40, a mammogram every two years between 40 and 50, and yearly mammograms thereafter. Although women who have a diet high in saturated fats and those with a family history of the disease are at greater risk, 70 percent of breast-cancer patients do not fit into any high-risk category. This fact, notes Medicina, “clearly demonstrates the importance of a policy of early detection.”—See Awake! of April 8, 1994.
Addiction to over-the-counter medicines is on the increase in Northern Ireland, reports The Irish Times. In Northern Ireland, as in many other countries, products such as painkillers and cough medicines containing codeine or other potentially addictive drugs can be obtained without a prescription. Some who unintentionally become addicted struggle to maintain their habit, since withdrawal can be agonizing and include nausea and depression. One addict spent his inheritance, sold his home, and ran up a debt of £18,000 ($29,000) to feed his 70-bottle-a-week addiction. Frank McGoldrick, of Belfast’s Research on Chemical Dependency Group, says that most over-the-counter medicine abusers are loath to admit dependency and casually dismiss the notion that they are doing damage to themselves. “They are not breaking the law,” McGoldrick notes. “Most don’t even realise they are abusers.”
High-school girls are the consumer trendsetters in Japan, says a report published in The Daily Yomiuri. Fads spread quickly through their word-of-mouth network, which can exceed 1,000 acquaintances. Their influence also extends to other age groups through parents and siblings. The “girls are blessed with ideal consumer attributes: money, a curiosity about the new and the time to indulge it.” About 68 percent of Japanese teens get allowances, averaging $220 a month, and many also receive funds from doting grandparents and from part-time jobs. Sociologists are concerned about the girls’ genzai shiko, or live-for-the-moment attitude, and about their general lack of deeper personal goals. A recent study concluded that today’s high-school girls “suffer from the boredom of acquiring whatever they want without having to sweat for it.”
World’s Oldest Person Dies
Jeanne Louise Calment, the world’s oldest person according to the Guinness Book of World Records, died on August 4, 1997, at the age of 122, reports the French newspaper Le Figaro. Jeanne was born on February 21, 1875, in Arles, southeast France—before the invention of the light bulb, the phonograph, and the automobile. Married in 1896, she had one daughter whom she outlived by 63 years, and one grandson, who died in 1963. She recalled meeting the painter Vincent van Gogh in 1888, when she was a teenager, and she was a friend of the poet Frédéric Mistral, who won the Nobel prize in 1904. Jeanne made many quips about the secrets of longevity, mentioning such factors as laughter, activity, and “a stomach like an ostrich’s.”
As a baby learns its native tongue, much of its ability to execute speech is fixed in a region of the brain known as Broca’s area. Recently, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine what part of the brain is active when bilingual subjects use one language or the other. They discovered that when a person learns two languages simultaneously as a young child, both are stored in the same part of Broca’s area. However, when a second language is learned during adolescence or later, it appears to be located alongside the first, rather than intermingled with it. The Times newspaper of London comments: “It is as if learning the first language has set the circuits in Broca’s area, and so the second language must be accommodated elsewhere.” The researchers feel that this may help explain why it is harder to learn a second language later in life.
Chinese Child-Rearing Concerns
A large-scale study of parent-child relationships was recently carried out under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reports China Today. The research revealed concern on the part of many parents about raising today’s children. According to China Today, “some feel totally lost at what their children should be taught—traditional Chinese morality such as honesty, modesty, forbearance and caring, or the modern ethos of competition?” Nearly 60 percent of parents worried about the negative effects of TV on children. News researcher Bu Wei advised parents to regulate the programs a child watches according to his or her age and personality, to watch and discuss the programs with the child, and not to allow TV to take up too much of the child’s time.
The Shark’s Worst Enemy?
Sharks generally arouse fear in humans. But it would seem that there is greater reason for sharks to fear man. “A few dozen” humans die each year as a result of shark attacks, while an estimated 100,000,000 sharks are killed annually by fishermen, reports the French newspaper Le Monde. This fact worries many marine biologists, who fear that the natural balance of the oceans could be disturbed if the destruction continues. Sharks play a vital role in controlling marine populations. Since sharks are slow to reach sexual maturity and have only a few pups after a long gestation period, overfishing threatens to drive some shark species to extinction. One practice that marine experts particularly deplore is “finning”—cutting off the fins for food and throwing the shark back into the sea to die.
Roundup From the Sky
Slow-flying airplanes called ultralights are now being used by some Australian ranchers for roundups on their vast cattle and sheep stations, reports The Sunday Mail newspaper of Brisbane, Australia. One Queensland rancher says that his ultralight saved him two weeks’ wages for several men every time he rounded up his sheep. “The motorcycle took over from the horse, and now the ultralight is taking over from the motorcycle,” he said. The lightweight planes are fitted with powerful tape players that broadcast recordings of dogs barking. On hearing this, “startled cattle and sheep break into a gallop and head for the nearest yards,” states the article.
Canadians are working longer hours, and many are suffering from the effects of it, says The Globe and Mail newspaper. Economic fears have put men and women, including the parents of young children, under pressure to work harder and longer. Nearly 2,000,000 Canadians average more than nine hours of overtime a week, and 700,000 are moonlighting, working at least one extra job. Some researchers say that anxiety levels have skyrocketed, especially among white-collar workers. Experts are concerned about the effects of the trend on the children, who see little of their parents. Dr. Kerry Daly of the family studies department at the University of Guelph, Ontario, observes: “People have a sense of their lives really spinning out of control. They’re not sure how to jump off.”
The Stress of Unemployment
The emotional and social stresses of unemployment can affect a person’s health, according to studies mentioned in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The body’s immune system is said to be weakened by such stress. Unemployed people are also more likely to have high blood pressure and heart attacks than those who are employed. “The stress the long-term unemployed have to put up with is worse and fraught with more consequences than that of the employed,” states Professor Thomas Kieselbach, of Hannover University, Germany. “Almost all of the unemployed suffer in one way or another from depressive disorders.” The number of unemployed in the European Union is said to be approximately equal to the combined populations of Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.