Watching the World
“More than 200,000 Canadians have glaucoma and only half of them are aware of it,” says the newspaper The Prince George Citizen. A leading cause of blindness, glaucoma slowly causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to die. The result is a gradual loss of peripheral vision, while central vision is spared until the last stages of the disease. Many who are affected do not seek treatment because they feel no pain and can still drive, read, and perform most tasks. According to the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada, those at greatest risk include the elderly, people who have a family history of glaucoma, black persons over 40, and people who have high pressure within the eye. “If we can get people at high risk to see their doctor, that is half the battle,” said Dr. Neeru Gupta, director of the glaucoma unit at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “The point is that early detection and treatment can save sight.”
Urban Noise Versus Sweet Dreams
During the day, over 40 million Italians—about 72 percent of the population—are exposed to excessively high noise levels, according to the Italian Ministry of the Environment. Among the possible ill effects of prolonged exposure to such noise are accelerated heartbeat, variations in arterial pressure and respiratory capacity, gastritis, and nausea, reports Corriere della Sera. In big cities the noise from traffic interferes with normal sleep. Urban nighttime noise levels can exceed 70 decibels, increasing the risk of a reduction in deep sleep and dreaming. Says Lucia Venturi, scientific director of the Italian environmental association Legambiente: ‘It is estimated that each of the 18 million people who live in large urban areas loses 30 minutes of sleep every night. This would amount to 22 sleepless nights per person each year.’
Praise Intelligence or Effort?
Many parents believe that praising children’s intelligence is good for them. However, new research indicates that such praise may actually undermine their motivation and future performance, reports Columbia Magazine, of New York’s Columbia University. According to Professor Carol Dweck, it is much better to praise children for their hard work, which bolsters their ability to deal with life’s challenges. “Kids praised for their intelligence are more concerned with how smart they look and will often sacrifice a chance to learn something important in order to shine,” notes Dweck. On the other hand, the report noted that those praised for their effort and perseverance are more likely to focus on learning and overcoming failure. “So these kids will sacrifice a chance to look smart in order to learn,” observes Dweck. “And they are very resilient because they don’t take the failure personally.”
Crows are suspected of starting two fires in Kamaishi, Japan. In the first case, firemen who went to extinguish a grass fire near a grave site found evidence of the crows’ complicity. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun explains: “The crows picked up cakes that had been placed on a grave, and immediately afterward, a fire started in the direction to which they flew. Some of the incense sticks, which had been left burning, were also missing, and candles, apparently dropped by the crows, were found where the fire broke out.” About a year later, reported the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, a fire started on a mountainside in the same area. There, a fire fighter saw a flying crow carry a burning cardboard box in its beak and drop it in a nearby river. Fire fighters discovered another burned box near the spot where the fire began. Where may the crows have found their torches this time? It turns out that a nearby resident had been burning empty potato chip boxes in a brazier.
Dangerous to Be Armed
“Car hijack victims who carry guns are almost four times more likely to be shot than those who do not,” states the South African newspaper The Natal Witness. The report adds that “victims with guns were four times more likely to be robbed of their firearms than they were likely to use them.” An examination of police station dockets showed that attackers fired their weapons at their victims in 12 percent of hijacking cases. However, the figure rose to 73 percent when victims drew a weapon in self-defense. Researcher Antony Altbeker concluded: “While owning a gun may make you feel safer, it does not translate into actual security.”
In December each year, 10,000 green turtles return to tiny Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean to breed. Using satellite tracking, British and Italian scientists have recently discovered a “turtle motorway” between the island and the animals’ feeding grounds around the Brazilian coastal city of Recife, reports The Times of London. At the end of their seven-month nesting season, all the turtles take the same route back to Brazil for the first 200 miles [300 km]. They then diverge slightly and head toward separate feeding grounds. But what about the young hatchlings, which are not strong enough to swim the 1,200 miles [2,000 km] back to Brazil? They drift on ocean currents throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean, feeding on jellyfish and plankton. It is thought that after five or six years, each one makes its individual way to the Brazilian feeding grounds. Then, at about 20 years of age, they join in the mammoth migration back to Ascension Island to breed.
More Child Soldiers
“The continued use of children in hostilities has grown from an estimated 250,000 two to three years ago to 300,000 today,” reports Go Between, a publication of the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service. Child soldiers—some as young as eight years of age—are presently involved in over 30 conflicts around the world. According to Olara Otunnu, the UN secretary-general’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, “children have been compelled to become instruments of war, recruited or kidnapped to become child soldiers, thus forced to give violent expression to the hatreds of adults.” To combat the increase in the number of child soldiers, the United Nations Children’s Fund supports a proposal “that would raise the age of recruitment into armed forces to 18 years and urges that recruitment below that age be deemed a war crime,” says the publication Facts & Figures 1998.
Seniors Using the Internet
“The newest Web demographics study suggests that seniors [age 50 and older] are using the Internet in greater numbers than was previously thought,” reports journalist Maria Seminerio of ZDNet. According to Tim Cobb, president of the organization that conducted the survey, “this is evidence that the Web is becoming increasingly mainstream and is no longer just the domain of the technologically sophisticated.” For example, at least 40 percent of adults over age 50 in the United States now have a home computer, and 70 percent of them reportedly surf the Web.
AIDS—The “Leading Infectious Disease Killer”
“AIDS is now the [single] leading infectious disease killer in the world,” notes Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations AIDS program. Science magazine reports that in 1997, AIDS was the seventh-worst killer worldwide. But during 1998 it outstripped all others except ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and acute lower respiratory disease, which are noninfectious diseases. AIDS also became the number one killer in Africa, exceeding even noninfectious diseases. In Africa alone, AIDS took approximately 1,830,000 lives last year—twice as many as did malaria, the second-leading killer on that continent.
Stressed Moms—Stressed Babies
When an expectant mother lives with a high level of stress, the growth of her unborn baby may be adversely affected, reports the Canadian newspaper National Post. According to Pathik Wadhwa, of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, in Lexington, Kentucky, the uterine environment “shapes the baby’s development, and a lot of maternal stress may predispose babies for higher risk of disease.” Stressed moms are also “more likely to deliver premature babies,” says the report. Researchers at Clemson University, in South Carolina, suggest that “relaxation exercises can help stressed pregnant women lower their blood pressure, fostering a healthier in utero environment.”