Watching the World
Threat to Religious Liberty in Europe
At a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., Massimo Introvigne, a Roman Catholic scholar from Turin, Italy, said that antisect lists or reports are being compiled in several countries. Organizations targeted as “dangerous sects” include Baptists, Buddhists, Catholic charismatics, Hasidic Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, and the Young Women’s Christian Association. A German report cites 800 groups; one in Belgium, 187; and one in France, 172. Introvigne writes that in France “teachers have been fired from public schools after years of honorable service only because they were members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” As reported by Compass Direct news service, Introvigne expressed concern about public sponsorship of anticult movements. He said: “It is abundantly clear that these movements are responsible for spreading misleading and often simply false information about religious minorities, and an intolerant worldview.”
Researchers at Australia’s University of Sydney have developed a window that closes automatically when a low-flying airplane approaches. After the offending noise source has passed, the window opens again. An outside microphone, aided by software built into the window, can recognize the particular frequencies of other offending noises as well, such as the sound of heavy trucks. Tests indicate that these windows can reduce noise by as much as 20 decibels, hopefully sufficient to ensure undisturbed sleep. New Scientist magazine comments: “One of the big advantages of the system is that buildings can be both soundproofed and ventilated without the need to install expensive air conditioning.”
TV’s Effect on Children
“Cartoons and video games influence the behavior of 6- to 12-year-old children more than school, since they spend up to 38 hours a week watching TV as opposed to 23 hours in the classroom,” reports the Mexican newspaper El Universal. Researcher Omar Torreblanca noted that TV teaches children which attitudes to adopt in particular situations—but without the child’s being aware of whether those attitudes are good or bad. He explained: “If the child sees cartoons or a film in which one of the characters is tied up with satisfactory results, the child will most probably imitate this practice.” Torreblanca’s investigation indicated that “kids apply in their daily life what they learn every day from TV but not what they learn at school, since they consider school as just an obligation.”
Walking May Lengthen Life
Walking every day can significantly lengthen one’s life, says Asiaweek. A 12-year study focused on 707 nonsmoking men between the ages of 61 and 81 who were able to walk. Those “who walked just 3.2 km (two miles) per day—even at a leisurely pace—reduced their risk of death from all causes by half,” notes the report. Those who did not walk were 2.5 times as likely to die from all types of cancer as those who walked at least two miles a day. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that even walking as little as a half mile a day reduced mortality. Previously, some fitness experts questioned the value of such low-intensity exercise. Now, the new study concludes: “Encouraging elderly people to walk may benefit their health.”
Music Helps Children
Teaching three- or four-year-old children to play music can help them to reason and think, says Gordon Shaw, physics professor at the University of California, Irvine. At this young age, brain connections are readily formed, and researchers have demonstrated that regular practice for even ten minutes a day helps to produce “a long-term improvement in how a child reasons and thinks.” In a nine-month test, children who had taken piano lessons were compared with groups who had received either computer lessons or no training at all. Those who had learned to play the piano improved their intelligence test scores by 35 percent, while the other two groups showed little or no improvement, reports London’s Sunday Times.
Is it possible to destroy a beach by making it too clean? Yes, says a study of Swansea Bay, in Wales. The key to a healthy beach is the strandline, where debris accumulates twice daily at high tide. The debris can include trees, driftwood, algae, grass, and even dead animals, all mixed in with seaweed. This mixture is home to tiny invertebrates that help break down the decomposing vegetation, which is then dispersed by the wind and waves to act as a binding agent for the sand. The strandline also provides food for birds and for such animals as voles, mice, hares, and even foxes. It was the decline in wading birds feeding on the strandline that alerted conservationists to the fact that regular scouring of the beach upsets its delicate ecological balance. Many beach lovers desire an unrealistically clean beach. The Times of London reports that one visitor even expected pebbles to be removed from the sand.
Our Global Food Dish
Have you ever wondered how much the world’s population eats every day? The Greek newspaper To Vima reported some startling statistics about daily consumption. Worldwide, two billion eggs are produced and consumed! The world devours 1.6 million tons of corn. Potatoes are also popular, 727,000 tons of them! Rice is the basic staple of a large portion of earth’s population, with 1.5 million tons produced daily. Of this, 365,000 tons are consumed by the Chinese. The 7,000 tons of brewed tea leaves fill about three billion cups. The privileged of the world enjoy 2.7 tons of caviar. The average adult in the Western world takes in 4,000 calories a day—compared with the 2,500 calories recommended—while in Africa the average is only 1,800.
Eels at Work
Eels have been put to work testing water quality in Japan, reports The Daily Yomiuri. Five years ago Professor Kenji Namba of Hiroshima University discovered that eels react to slight variations in water quality. Harmful substances such as cadmium or cyanide cause an eel’s heartbeat to slow down, whereas cancer-causing trichloroethylene rapidly raises its heart rate. A machine is now being marketed that utilizes this unique sensitivity. The eel lies in an acrylic tube in the machine. As the water flows through the tube, electrodes attached to the tube monitor the eel’s heart rate, and any changes are relayed by pager to a technician. Eels selected for this job are from especially clean waters and are replaced monthly to maintain accuracy.
Safety Belts and Traffic Death
Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court recently struck down a mandatory seat belt law, ruling that it violated guarantees of personal freedom, reports The Tico Times of San José, Costa Rica. Since the decision, the percentage of drivers in the country using seat belts has dropped from 87 percent to only 44 percent, while accidents and resulting deaths have climbed. The Highway Safety Council of Costa Rica has mounted an emergency effort to reduce the injury rate, but that effort is frustrated when passengers do not wear seat belts, states the report. Says Council representative Manfred Cervantes: “We’re really trying to make people understand that they can protect themselves and save their own lives by being responsible drivers.”
About 1.1 billion people worldwide smoke tobacco, says Professor Judith Mackay, of the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control. As reported in the British Medical Journal, at the tenth world conference on tobacco and health, it was estimated that there were three million tobacco-related deaths in 1990. That toll is expected to rise to ten million between the years 2025 and 2030. The Journal states that over the next three decades, the increase in smoking-related deaths will shift from the developed to the developing nations. According to Professor Richard Peto, a professor of medical statistics at Oxford University, “China already has more tobacco deaths than any other country.”