Watching the World
Britain’s Religious Conversions
Britons are swapping religions at a faster rate than ever, with about 1,000 converting every week, reports The Sunday Telegraph. “Anglicans are becoming Roman Catholics, and vice versa, Jews are becoming Buddhists, Muslims are becoming Anglicans and Roman Catholics Jews.” Islam, Buddhism, New Age movements, and paganism are gaining the most converts. Dr. Ahmed Andrews of England’s Derby University, himself a convert, says: “There are between 5,000 and 10,000 white Muslim converts in this country, and most of the ones I know are former Catholics.” Jews make up 10 to 30 percent of converts to Buddhism. Anglican conversions to Catholicism peaked after the Church of England decided to ordain women. According to Rabbi Jonathan Romain, “people feel a spiritual vacuum so they look outside their own religious backgrounds.”
Life-Style and Cancer
“Cancer is overwhelmingly caused by where you are, what you do, and what happens to you in life, rather than by what you are, a study of almost 90,000 twins has shown,” reports London’s newspaper The Guardian. Dr. Paul Lichtenstein of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute led the research team for this study. He says: “Environmental factors are more important than gene factors.” Scientists believe that smoking causes about 35 percent of cancers, while another 30 percent appear to be related to diet. Genetic factors play a part in prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer, but Dr. Tim Key of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in Oxford, England, advises: “Even if you have . . . a family history [of cancer] what you do with your life is much more important. You should not smoke, you should take care of your diet. Those things do make a difference.”
Use Your Brain
“The brain’s vitality can remain intact throughout our lives, as long as we keep exercising it,” states the Vancouver Sun newspaper. “Read, read, read,” says Dr. Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Ohio, U.S.A. To retain brainpower as you age, choose mentally challenging hobbies, study a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, or engage in stimulating conversations. “Anything that stimulates the brain to think,” says Dr. Soas. He also encourages cutting back on TV. “When you watch television, your brain goes into neutral,” he says. The Sun adds that a healthy brain also needs oxygen pumped through healthy arteries. Thus, exercise and proper diet, the same things that help to prevent heart disease and diabetes, also help the brain.
Elephants “Don’t Forget Their Friends”
“Elephants never forget—or at least, they don’t forget their friends,” reports New Scientist magazine. Dr. Karen McComb of the University of Sussex, England, recorded the low-pitched “contact calls” of female African elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, noting which elephants would meet together frequently and which were strangers. She then played back their calls to 27 elephant families to study their responses. If the animals knew the caller well, they immediately called back. If they knew the caller only slightly, they listened but did not respond, and an unfamiliar call made them agitated and defensive. “They could recognise members of at least 14 other families from their calls, which suggests that each elephant can remember around 100 other adults,” the article stated. Elephants may remember humans too. John Partridge, head of mammals at England’s Bristol Zoo, says that an Asian elephant he worked with for 18 years recognized him when he returned after a three-year break.
High-Tech Drug Smugglers
In the past, Colombian drug smugglers have concealed their wares in passenger planes and ships. Recently, however, authorities were amazed to find that smugglers were building a high-tech, double-hulled submarine, measuring more than 11 feet [3 m] in diameter, which was capable of holding about 200 tons of cocaine. Suspicious residents nearby led police to “a warehouse outside Bogotá, 7,500 feet [2,300 m] up in the Andes and 210 miles [300 km] from any port,” says The New York Times. “The 100-foot [30 m] vessel could have crossed an ocean, surfaced off Miami or other coastal cities and surreptitiously unloaded its drug cargo.” Though no one was at the site or was arrested, Russian and American criminals are thought to be involved, including a skilled submarine engineer. Semitrailers could have transported the submarine to the coast in three sections, officials said. They marveled at the lengths to which the drug traffickers would go to export their products.
Animals Thrive in the DMZ
“Since the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] was established at the close of the Korean War in 1953, security measures have left the natural environment there and in surrounding areas largely undisturbed,” states The Wall Street Journal. “While economic development has ravaged much of the land elsewhere in the two Koreas, the border area has become the peninsula’s most important animal refuge.” Rare and endangered birds and animals reside there. Tigers and leopards are thought to be there as well. Environmentalists are now worried that the recent peace efforts between North and South Korea could destroy the DMZ animal haven. Therefore, they are asking for “a cross-border ‘peace park’” to preserve the wildlife there and allow the animals from both sides to mate. Says the Journal: “Environmentalists take heart from the belief that peace might help reunite these animals, the way the thaw has already brought together long-separated family members.”
Stressful Lunch Breaks
“Lunch is for wimps in macho Britain as workaholic employees give up the mid-day meal in favour of a sandwich eaten at their desks,” reports London’s Financial Times. Recent research shows that the average Briton’s “lunch hour” is now just 36 minutes long. Medical experts say that a midday break alleviates stress. But some employers arrange lunchtime meetings, thus giving workers no break at all. Datamonitor, the research organization that compiled the report, observes: “Caught up in a society that demands more of its workers and regards time as an expensive commodity, the lunch break is for many an inconvenient fuel stop.” Datamonitor analyst Sarah Nunny adds: “We’re competing in global markets. There’s no longer any scope for saying ‘I’ll do it later.’ It has to be done now.”
Tobacco Addiction in Mexico
As part of a recent program for the prevention and control of tobacco addiction in Mexico, José Antonio González Fernández, then national secretary of health, noted that 27.7 percent of Mexicans smoke. The greatest concern is that approximately one million smokers are between the ages of 12 and 17. Mr. González observed that an estimated 122 Mexican deaths per day are associated with the tobacco habit. He lamented “the high cost that this represents for the economic development of the nation, the lost years of productive human life, . . . and the indirect harm that we suffer because of those who smoke around us.”
Filling a Spiritual Need?
The growing popularity of self-help gurus who preach self-affirmation, positive thinking, and personal success “coincides with a movement in the population away from organized religion,” says Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. “An interest in spirituality is very much alive, but traditional sources of it are losing ground.” Research indicates that although 80 percent of Canadians say that they believe in God, 22 percent of those who profess Christianity give more importance to their private beliefs than to the teachings of any church. The Globe report calls the spirituality offered by the self-help business “something to help you refuel and get back to the business of getting ahead.”