Watching the World
Shortage of Skilled Parents
Canada’s first national survey on parenting reveals that “many [parents] lack even basic knowledge of how children develop and how parents can assist in that process,” says the National Post. Of the more than 1,600 “fathers, mothers, and single mothers with children under the age of six” surveyed, 92 percent acknowledged that being a parent is the most important thing they can do. Yet, “less than half were fully aware they can positively influence their child’s level of intelligence by reading to them, playing with them, touching them, or holding them.” Additionally, about 30 percent “believe every baby is born with a certain level of intelligence, which cannot be increased or decreased by how parents interact with them.” Such findings are troubling, says the Post, since research shows that “a child’s first five years are pivotal in developing their ability to learn, create, love, trust, and develop a strong sense of themselves.”
Sweden to Separate Church and State
The Church of Sweden says that it will become separate from the State on January 1, 2000. This action will sever ties between it and the Swedish government that have existed since the 16th century. “Up until the first of January 1996 it has been possible for children automatically to become members of the Church of Sweden at birth, provided that one of the parents was a member,” says the church’s official Web site. “Baptism was not required.” The reform was ratified by the Swedish government in 1995 after four decades of debate and proposals within the church synod. About 88 percent of the Swedish population are members of the Church of Sweden.
Violence Against Computers
“What do you do when your PC [personal computer] does not do what you want it to?” asks the on-line German magazine PC Welt. “Do you thump it? Or do you throw it straight out the window?” Such reactions are not rare. In a worldwide survey of 150 information technology managers, 83 percent reported bursts of rage or outright violence directed against computers. Users frustrated by a never-ending download or by a mouse that quits working sometimes smash the monitor, punch the keyboard, dash the mouse against the wall, or even kick the computer. While the computer bears the brunt of the user’s frustration, it is often the user that has caused the problem. For example, one worker got angry at her E-mail program because it failed to send any mail. Later it was found that instead of keying in the E-mail address, she had typed in a street address.
Dress for Success
When you are preparing for a job interview, it’s good to keep in mind that “well-dressed people leave good impressions,” says the Toronto Star newspaper. That is because a first impression lasts a long time. Therefore, “the basic message for those in business is: If you’re careless about how you look, you’re careless, period,” says the report. Experts say that a person who is neat and clean in appearance conveys an unspoken assurance to prospective employers or clients that they can expect quality work. Image consultants also stress that “an erect posture and energetic presence makes a strong first impression. Your tone of voice and pace of speaking make a difference.”
“Piracy is arguably the single greatest menace to modern shipping today,” reports the International Herald Tribune. Pirate attacks are increasing, particularly in the Southeast Asian seas, apparently as a result of reduced naval patrols in the area. These seas, where some of the world’s busiest shipping channels are located, provide lucrative bounty to pirates, who are thought to operate from the many isolated islands in the region. Well-armed pirates use speedboats at night to plunder ships of all their valuables. Officials say that pirates, difficult to catch at sea, can only be stopped if they are tracked down on land, where they sell their stolen merchandise.
Egypt’s Gold Mines
Egypt’s gold mines are said to have produced over 1,500 tons of gold in ancient times. Although it has been almost 2,000 years since any sizable amount of gold was mined there, geologists estimate that much gold is still left in the ground. “We would like to bring back the glory of the Pharaohs and will reopen our mines that go back more than 6,000 years,” said Sami El-Raghy, managing director of an Australian gold-mining company. The Egyptian government has given his company the rights to explore the Eastern Desert area next to the Red Sea, where 16 Pharaonic mines are known to exist. However, a 2,900-year-old map discovered in Luxor (ancient Thebes) in 1820 indicates that there are also 104 lost mines in the area, covered over by desert sands. According to The Wall Street Journal, it is believed that through the use of modern techniques, some may become viable gold mines again.
Six Billion and Counting
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that world population reached six billion on October 12, 1999. It took just 12 years for world population to increase from five to six billion, said Carl Haub, of the Population Reference Bureau. According to a bureau report, “world population grew 4.4 billion in the 20th century,” while in the 19th century, “the population grew by only about 600 million.” Increases in life expectancy are the primary reason why world population surged in the 20th century. “Today, about 98 percent of world population increase takes place in less developed countries,” said Haub.
“In 1998, the Earth’s average temperature literally went off the top of the chart,” says a Worldwatch Institute press release. Higher atmospheric temperatures result in greater evaporation and rainfall, which, in turn, creates more destructive storms. For example, “weather-related damage worldwide totaled $92 billion in 1998, up a staggering 53 percent from the previous record of $60 billion in 1996,” says Worldwatch. In addition, record storms and floods forced an estimated 300 million people from their homes in 1998. Scientists are uncertain whether 1998 was an aberration or this destructive trend will continue. However, the report said: “Climate simulation models suggest that the events of 1998 could be a window on the future.”
An area of the Amazon rain forest that was ruined by mining has been transformed into a luxuriant forest within two years, reports New Scientist magazine. Scientists at Embrapa, a government agricultural research center in Brazil, developed a method of implanting nitrogen-fixing bacteria in tree seeds. Once planted, their growth speeds up greatly. The technique proved successful at Oriximiná, in the northern state of Pará, where bauxite mining had caused extensive deforestation. Researchers are using the new method on Brazil’s eastern coast, where only 6 percent of the original forest remains, notes the magazine.
A Mother’s Worth
If you were to add up the salaries for all the jobs that a mother performs throughout the year, how much would her services be worth? According to a report in The Washington Post, she would receive $508,700 a year! This figure is based on a study of median salaries for occupations that mothers typically perform. These are some of the 17 occupations included in the report, along with their average annual salary: Child-care worker, $13,000; bus driver, $32,000; psychologist, $29,000; animal caretaker, $17,000; registered nurse, $35,000; executive chef, $40,000; and general office clerk, $19,000. According to Ric Edelman, chairman of the financial services company that conducted the study, these figures do not take into account such expenses as Social Security and other retirement benefits.