Watching the World
Top Ten Infectious Killers
Worldwide, millions of people die every year of infectious diseases. According to Natural History magazine, the following infectious diseases were the most deadly in 1997. Acute lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, topped the list by killing 3.7 million people. Second was tuberculosis, causing 2.9 million deaths. Cholera and other diarrheic diseases were third, with 2.5 million deaths. AIDS killed 2.3 million. Between 1.5 million and 2.7 million people died from malaria. Measles accounted for 960,000 deaths. Hepatitis B caused 605,000 deaths. Whooping cough claimed 410,000 lives. Another 275,000 died from tetanus. And 140,000 died from dengue/dengue hemorrhagic fever. In spite of man’s best efforts, infectious diseases of the past still threaten human health throughout much of the world today.
Alcohol Abuse in Venezuela
Venezuelans drink more alcohol per capita than any other Latin-American country, reports El Universal newspaper, of Caracas. It is estimated that each person in Venezuela consumes between 60 and 70 quarts of liquor a year. The Ministry of Health calculates that 50 percent of all murders and suicides that occur in the metropolitan area of Caracas are linked to alcohol. A study conducted by the Central University of Venezuela, the Center for Peace, and the Judicial Police, however, claims that more than 9 out of 10 violent deaths that occur in that area involve alcohol. To help combat alcohol abuse, workshops have been set up to teach students how to resist peer pressure to drink and how to explore responsible alternative activities as well as encourage effective communication between parents and children.
Throughout the world, coral reefs are being decimated by tumors, lesions, infections, and other threats, reports Science News. Marine biologist James Cervino notes that at least 15 new coral-killing syndromes have appeared over the past 20 years. Some other forms of ocean wildlife that are being threatened include sea grass, shellfish, sea turtles, and manatees. “The biosphere—the place where life occurs—is 95 percent ocean,” says oceanographer Sylvia Earle. “If the oceans are in trouble, so are we. And the oceans are in trouble.”
Not everyone with shelves full of books is an avid reader. Shopkeeper Chris Mattheus, for instance, admits: “I like to surround myself with books, but I seldom read.” Mattheus now offers a cheap solution to the problem. He has, together with a partner, opened Germany’s first shop for fake books, reports the newspaper Weser-Kurier. Some 2,800 “blind book titles” from the fields of art, philosophy, and science are for sale. The fakes come in different designs, ranging from simple cardboard books to lavish replicas made of high-grade teak. Attractive imitations of art books, which normally command outrageous sums, cost just $10 to $15. Mattheus says: “The price varies according to centimeter, not content.”
Healthful Video Games
Mention the term “video games” and many people envision games filled with violence. However, researchers have found that “the right games can train kids with diabetes and asthma to keep their conditions under control,” reports Technology Review. Stanford University Medical Center conducted a study of about 60 diabetic children between 8 and 16 years of age. Half the children played a standard video game. The other half played Packy & Marlon, a game involving two animated elephants that help players choose the right foods to eat, check their blood glucose level, and use insulin correctly. Over a six-month period, those who played the elephant game “needed 77 percent fewer urgent-care visits to a doctor or emergency room” than the children who played the standard game, says Technology Review. Similar video games have been designed to help children manage asthma and avoid smoking.
AIDS on the Rampage
In sub-Saharan Africa during the past decade, life expectancy at birth has dropped by nearly six years, and it is expected to fall further. Why the change? Because in countries in this area, “the Aids pandemic is raging,” reports The UNESCO Courier. Presently, more than 10 percent of the population in this region are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The worst-hit countries are Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Moreover, the United Nations says that “there are 5,500 AIDS-related funerals every day in Africa,” reports The New York Times.
In a recent pastoral letter, the archbishop of Siena, Gaetano Bonicelli, noted that even after attending catechism classes, 20-year-olds “do not know the difference between the Trinity and the Madonna.” Such ignorance of Catholic doctrines is a reflection of what another high-ranking prelate, Cardinal Ratzinger, called “the disaster of the present catechism,” reports Corriere della Sera, of Milan, Italy. Archbishop Bonicelli recommends a return to evangelization. “The mission, that is evangelization, becomes the only possible response for the church in the third millennium.”
Morals on the Rebound?
In China a recent survey revealed that “though Chinese adults have become more tolerant of extramarital sex, most teenagers are still against such behavior,” reports the magazine China Today. These findings were based on a poll of about 8,000 people. “Three-fifths of the teenagers agreed that people who destroy other people’s marriages by having an affair should be punished either financially or by other means,” the survey showed, “while 70 percent of people aged between 37 and 45 do not think there should be any punishment for such activities.”
Wearing Casual Clothes to Church
In the United States, increasing numbers of people are wearing casual clothes to church, reports the Associated Press. Some ministers find it troubling to see churchgoers wearing shorts, jeans, or other casual clothes to church services. Church officials are in a quandary—they do not want to drive away new members or alienate regular worshipers who don’t want to dress up. According to one survey, “about 30 percent of Americans prefer church services that are informal and contemporary,” compared with the 21.5 percent who favor more traditional services.
Teenage Pregnancies Accepted
“An important factor in the steady increase in the number of unwed mothers [is] acceptance by society,” says The News, of Mexico City. “It seems that society is bending over backwards to erase the stigma of unwed teenage pregnancies. In so doing, it might even be going further by encouraging it.” Can the increase be reversed? The article states: “If publicity agencies have been able to turn the image of a smoker from one of sophistication to one of degeneration, if America’s diet can change from high fat to high fiber, teenagers’ ideas can be changed to make having babies in high school appear foolish and counterproductive.”
“Children are basically self-centred until at least about age 4, when they begin to become developmentally capable of empathy,” says a report quoted in The Toronto Star. To help children develop concern for others, home training in acts of kindness is suggested. Perhaps family members can record on a chart at least two unsolicited good deeds they perform each day. Parents who observe a kind act by their child can add it to the chart. A number of schools use such charts in an effort to counteract bullying. Students are invited to record acts of kindness that they witness on the part of other children. According to the report, “this helps children recognize compassion, which is a crucial step in learning how to feel and practise it yourself.”