Watching the World
“If nothing is done, two thirds of humanity will be suffering from thirst before the year 2025,” declares the French magazine L’Express. The newspaper Le Figaro points out: “One quarter of the world’s population now has no direct access to drinking water.” To address the water crisis, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization held an international conference in Paris, in March 1998. More than 200 delegates from 84 countries, including the president of France, discussed ways to protect the world’s water supply. One of the problems highlighted was that water is often wasted because of inefficient agricultural irrigation systems and leaky water pipes. French President Jacques Chirac stressed that water is part of man’s collective heritage and therefore needs to be managed on a worldwide basis.
Office Coffee-Cup Alert
“Tiny troublemakers—including scary stuff like E. coli—are having population booms because people don’t carefully wash out their cups or disinfect sinks and preparation areas in most offices,” reports The Toronto Star. Researchers Charles Gerba and Ralph Meer tested coffee cups and coffee-making equipment in 12 offices. Some 40 percent of the cups and 20 percent of the sponges found at office sinks harbored coliform bacteria, occasionally potentially dangerous E. coli. “That’s usually indicative of unsanitary conditions,” says Gerba. The report concludes: “Unless there’s a dishwashing machine, mugs should be washed in hot, soapy water, then disinfected with a bleach-and-water solution or cleaning disinfectant. Rags and sponges should be cleaned regularly.”
Children Prefer Simple Pleasures
How can you be a good mother in the eyes of your children? In a Whirlpool Foundation survey of 1,000 American children ages 6 through 17, most preferred doing simple, everyday things with their mothers, essentially “just being together.” The children’s favorite activity with Mom was to “have dinner together.” Second place was shared by “go out to eat together” and “go shopping together.” Following closely in third place was to “sit and talk together.” The children’s first choice of ways to thank their mothers was also simple. Seventy percent said that they most often give their mother a “hug and a kiss.” Their next favorite ways were to say, “I love you” and “Thank you.”
Pollution Risk to Drivers
“A driver sitting in a traffic jam will breathe in up to three times the level of pollutants as a cyclist or pedestrian and about twice as much as a bus user,” reports The Times of London. A study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy indicates that motorists stuck in slow-moving traffic in the middle of a highway breathe in “a huge build-up of toxic gases.” Environmental advocate Andrew Davis says that contrary to conventional thinking, car drivers may be in greater need of protective masks than are cyclists who stay near the curb.
Creature Comfort for Cows
Mattresses filled with shredded rubber from recycled tires are showing up in dairy barns, reports The Globe and Mail of Canada. It is thought that the two-inch- [5 cm]thick mattresses may give cows a longer and more productive milking life. According to the report, “dairy cows spend much of their lives on concrete,” which causes them to “develop sore feet and damaged legs.” The mattresses not only reduce foot and leg problems for the animals but also cushion the impact on their knees as they drop to the ground to rest. A manufacturer of the mattresses says that the idea is to give the cows the same feeling they would have if they were reclining in a grassy pasture.
Spanish Children and TV
The average TV-watching child in Spain can witness 10,000 murders and 100,000 acts of aggression by the time he or she reaches the age of ten, according to Carlos María Bru, of the Spanish Committee of the United Nations Children’s Fund, reports Europa Press. Additionally, Professor Luis Miguel Martínez noted that over three quarters of Spanish children from 4 to 12 years of age watch TV for at least two and a half hours a day, and almost one quarter watch for more than four hours daily. On the average, states the report, “children spend 937 hours a year in front of the TV, that is, more than the 900 hours spent in school each year.” According to Ricardo Pérez-Aznar, of the Department of Information Sciences of Complutensian University, TV violence is one of a combination of sociological factors that may contribute to violence in society.
Earlier Start for Chinese History
The earliest recorded year in Chinese history has long been thought to be 841 B.C.E., the first year of the Gong He era of the Western Zhou dynasty. Recently, however, an earlier record was discovered that makes mention of a solar eclipse, reports China Today. The record links this eclipse with the first year of King Yi of the Zhou dynasty. Scientists and historians have determined that this eclipse occurred in 899 B.C.E., thus pushing back the starting point of recorded Chinese history by more than half a century. “There has been no interruption in this written record all the way up to the 20th century,” states the book Outline of the History of the Chinese People. It calls this record “one of the greatest contributions of the Chinese to the history of the civilization of all mankind.”
Wine makers have long known the importance of aroma in distinguishing one wine from another. Now, with the goal of developing better wines, scientists are categorizing the 500 or more chemicals that can contribute to a wine’s unique bouquet. The scientists have enlisted the help of people with sensitive noses, reports New Scientist magazine. Panels of sniffers have compared the individual scents of some wine ingredients to onions, honey, asparagus, tobacco, chocolate, and dried figs. Some more surprising aroma associations include “mouldy socks, rotten eggs and burning rubber.” A certain wine yeast produces an aroma that may be interpreted in various ways. Says researcher Jane Robichaud: “It depends on how sensitive somebody is to it as to whether it is adding complexity to the wine or giving the smell of a sweaty horse blanket.”
Sunburn in the Shade
Seeking shade under a tree or a beach umbrella will, most likely, not provide complete protection from ultraviolet radiation, according to a study by Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research. As reported in The Canberra Times, a person in open shade is still exposed to scattered ultraviolet radiation. Dr. Peter Parsons, biochemist and coauthor of the study, warns: “If the maximum recommended exposure limit to direct midday summer sun in all mainland capitals of Australia is 10-12 minutes, then people standing or lying in the shade will experience burn levels of [ultraviolet B radiation] causing sunburn in less than an hour.” Even in winter and on cloudy days, there is a great deal of ultraviolet radiation present. Dr. Parsons notes that as a rule, “the more sky you can see the bigger the risk.”
Blood Seminar in Bulgaria
A seminar emphasizing the conservation of blood during surgery and the use of alternatives to blood transfusions was held earlier this year in Sofia, Bulgaria. The seminar gave doctors from all over Bulgaria the opportunity to confer with a panel of experts on blood from eight countries. Professor Ivan Mladenov of Sofia commented that under the previous regime, ‘little or nothing was known about blood contamination and blood-borne viruses’ and that ‘questions on the part of patients were viewed as bad behavior that could lead to denial of medical care.’ The response of those attending the seminar reflects an increased awareness in Bulgaria of a patient’s right to self-determination and informed consent, as endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights.