Watching the World
A “Movement of Mistrust”
“A crisis has opened up at the heart of the World Council of Churches,” notes the French newspaper Le Monde. The council, which last August celebrated its 50th anniversary, was formed to help unite Christian denominations worldwide. In recent years, however, a “movement of mistrust” has developed that “threatens the participation” of Orthodox religions in the organization. One of the grievances cited by Orthodox churches was that some Eastern countries have become “victims of proselytism” by Catholic and Protestant missionaries. One church, the Orthodox Church of Georgia, has already pulled out of the 330-member council. Thus, the “departure of Orthodox Churches from the World Council in Geneva is no longer an absurd hypothesis,” says the paper.
Never Too Late to Quit
A study spanning 40 years found that people who stop smoking, even at the age of 60, greatly reduce their risk of developing cancer, reports Britain’s Daily Telegraph. Professor Julian Peto, of the Cancer Research Institute in Sutton, England, says: “It has not been until the last year that we could see the full horrors of what smoking does, killing half of smokers rather than a quarter as we thought, but also how very large the benefits of giving up [smoking] are, even in old age.” Children are regularly warned about the dangers of smoking. However, older people need to know that quitting tobacco can greatly reduce their risk of developing lung cancer, Peto indicates.
Marriage Can Bring Happiness
Some denounce marriage as oppressive, and TV sitcoms often portray it as hopelessly old-fashioned. But what do the facts show? Are unmarried people necessarily better off? Not according to one sociologist quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She says that married people are “generally happier, healthier and wealthier.” As a group, those who marry also experience less stress, are less likely to commit crimes or use illicit drugs, and are more likely to get off welfare. Not surprisingly, experts say that married people live longer too.
Nine daily newspapers in the New York City area recently carried an advertisement under the headline “To All Who Received Blood From January 1991 to December 1996 in a New York/New Jersey Hospital.” Although the sponsor of the ad, the New York Blood Center, says that the intent of the ad was to assure anyone who had received a blood transfusion during the early 1990’s that the blood supply was safe, it may have had the opposite effect. Why? No doubt one cause for concern was the ad’s warning: “Recipients of donated blood products during that period may face a potential risk of transfusion-transmitted infections, such as HIV and hepatitis.”
Cancer Often Misdiagnosed
“Official statistics on cause of death may underestimate the toll from cancer,” reports New Scientist magazine. Dr. Elizabeth Burton, of the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, examined the records of 1,105 patients on whom autopsies had been performed between 1986 and 1995, to compare the rate of clinical diagnoses of cancer with the autopsy diagnoses. According to Burton, in 44 percent of the patients, the cancer had not been diagnosed or the type of cancer had been misdiagnosed. With current autopsy rates at 10 percent—compared with about 50 percent in the 1960’s—“many mistakes may never be spotted,” says the magazine.
Taenia solium, a parasite that causes the sickness cysticercosis in humans, is still a problem in some underdeveloped countries. The sickness usually results from eating infected pork that is undercooked or food contaminated with the larvae of the parasite. According to Excélsior newspaper of Mexico City, the parasite is “hard to detect,” hence it “can develop in the human body for years without the bearer being aware of it.” Symptoms can include fevers, headache, seizures, and vision problems. The paper says that to eliminate the parasite, researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico are working on developing a vaccine for pigs.
Warning Signs of Stroke
“Many people can’t identify even one symptom of stroke,” reports the FDA Consumer. The magazine adds: “Only slightly more than half of those surveyed could name at least one stroke symptom, and only 68 percent could name one stroke risk factor.” This is in spite of the fact that stroke is a leading cause of death and the main cause of disability in the Western industrialized world. To help minimize the damage caused by stroke, it is important that you seek immediate medical help at the first warning sign. The most common symptoms of stroke are sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis of face, arm, or leg; sudden blurred vision or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; difficulty in speaking or in understanding speech; and unexplained dizziness or loss of balance, especially when combined with other warning signs.
Burning Chain Letters
Since 1992 an annual Buddhist letter-burning ceremony has been held in the city of Nagoya, Japan, to dispose of chain letters. Postal authorities installed collection boxes for the unwanted letters in post offices throughout the city and asked a Buddhist temple to hold a ceremony to burn them. Asahi Evening News explained that this service has been provided “for the more superstitious recipients who were afraid to ignore or destroy the letter themselves.” Why were they afraid? The letters do not simply promise benefits to those who follow instructions. They also threaten misfortune to anyone breaking the chain. For instance, one letter warned that a person who broke the chain in Tokyo had been murdered.
In many parts of India, elephants form an important part of the work force. The Week magazine reports that in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, elephants are listed on government payrolls as full-fledged employees. Starting work at about 10 years of age, an elephant may serve its employers for up to 50 years. Upon retirement, an elephant receives a pension like other government employees, and a mahout, an elephant trainer and handler, is assigned to see that the elephant receives proper care and feeding. Benefits during the working life of female elephants include a one-year maternity leave in the comfort of a zoo before returning to the important work of timber-hauling, corralling and training wild elephants, and patrolling national parks and protected forest areas.
Toward a Universal Language?
“In a central Asian country where Western tongues are rarely spoken,” an eight-year-old tells his father that he has to learn English. The father asks why. “Because, father, the computer speaks English.” That story, notes Asiaweek, “illustrates what many consider to be an insidious side-effect of the information superhighway . . . , the potential to hasten an already rapid shift toward a dominant global language—English.” The magazine adds: “This does not spring from any pull toward universal brotherhood. It is merely practical. If we are going to engage in digital discourse and commerce across the Internet, a common currency is required for easy exchange.” Why English? Because “the PC business was born in the U.S., as was the Internet. Some 80% of the online content today is Anglophonic.” Use of other languages is slowed in some cases because of the difficulty of adapting them to the English-based keyboard. “There will be a price to pay,” says Asiaweek. “Linguists predict that half of some 6,000 languages spoken today will fall into disuse by the end of the next century, possibly within the next 20 years.”