Watching the World
“For 116 years it graced the halls of the National Museum of Wales at Cardiff—the fossilised skeleton of a 200m[illion]-year-old predator that once cruised the Jurassic seas,” says Britain’s newspaper The Guardian. “Then curators at Cardiff decided the remains of the ocean-going carnivore ichthyosaurus needed a brush up—and realised that they had been taken in.” “When we stripped off five layers of paint we found it was an elaborate forgery,” said conservator Caroline Buttler. “It was an amalgam of two types of ichthyosaurus plus a clever attempt at fake parts.” Instead of disposing of it, the museum will put it on display as an example of a fake fossil.
Contaminated Mountain Lakes
Mountain lakes are not as clean as they are thought to be. “Even the highest lakes, such as the Schwarzsee above Sölden [Austria], are full of pollutants,” reports the German magazine natur & kosmos. Fish in high-altitude lakes have a DDT level that is as much as 1,000 times higher than fish found at lower altitudes. Why? In tropical countries the poisonous chemical becomes airborne through evaporation and is carried away by air currents to other parts of the world. Over cold spots—like mountain lakes—the DDT particles condense and fall as precipitation. The “ice-cold mountain lakes work like cold traps,” says the magazine, and “snatch the DDT from the atmosphere.” DDT—an insecticide toxic to humans and animals—has been banned in Europe for over 20 years, but it is still being used in developing countries.
“Eccentric graves are the new funeral fashion,” reads the French newsmagazine L’Express. Tomb producers offer to erect personalized monuments in 25 different colors, in new designs, and in materials such as stained glass or metal. Monuments already made include sculptures of a parachute, a dog and cow, a train wreck, and a huge barrel—ordered by a wine merchant. One major company states that it makes at least 80 replicas of motorbikes a year to decorate graves. According to the article, local regulations may only allow for a headstone and a slab, but French law gives support to individual beliefs and grants owners of a cemetery plot “freedom of construction.”
Beware of Lead in Jewelry
“If your child is likely to chew or suck on jewellery which may contain lead, discard the items immediately,” advises a Health Canada report. Laboratory tests of inexpensive costume jewelry typically purchased for children revealed that most samples had a lead content of between 50 and 100 percent. “Absorbing even low amounts of lead may have harmful health effects on the intellectual and behavioural development of infants and young children,” says the report. Lead content is, of course, difficult to determine without a testing kit. So in view of the normally low cost of children’s jewelry, the best strategy might be that recommended in the National Post newspaper: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Natural Habitat—Key to Conservation
“Habitat protection [is the] key to wildlife conservation,” says the Times of Zambia newspaper. The report states that the greatest factor influencing the decline of wildlife populations is habitat destruction. “Overgrazing, fires, soil erosion, [and] cultivation” are among the culprits. “Obviously agriculture is important and there is no way we can do away with it,” the article explains. But in areas where agriculture “is not so beneficial due to poor soils,” natural habitats could be preserved, says the Times. When domestic animals are brought into these areas, they have difficulty coping with parasites such as ticks and mites, but “wild animals have a natural way of dealing with such pests,” from wallowing in mud and rolling in dust to being pecked clean by birds.
Witnesses Gain Court Victory in Russia
The New York Times of February 24, 2001, reported: “Jehovah’s Witnesses won a potentially far-reaching victory today [February 23] in a Moscow court over prosecutors who had sought to ban the group under a 1997 law that prohibited religious sects that incite hatred or intolerance.” The trial had been suspended on March 12, 1999, and five experts were appointed to study the beliefs of the Witnesses. The case was in recess for nearly two years. After it was convened on February 6, 2001, it took less than three weeks for the court to find the prosecution’s charges to be groundless. However, the prosecution asked the Moscow City Court to order a retrial. On May 30 that request was granted, and the case was remanded back to the trial court to try the case again. “The Russian Orthodox Church, which bitterly opposes missionary activities,” said the Los Angeles Times, “was one of the main proponents of the 1997 religion law, which forced many denominations to go through a difficult registration process.”
Making a Profit From Donated Clothing
“Only a tiny amount” of donated clothing actually reaches those in real need, says the German newspaper Südwest Presse. In Germany each year, over 500,000 tons of clothing are donated to help the needy. But, in general, the organizations that collect the clothes sell them to commercial enterprises, making donated clothing a business worth several hundred million German marks. Often the collectors do not know what happens to the donated items. The article states: “If you want to make sure your clothes really benefit the poor, you will have to pass them on to the needy yourself or send them to trusted persons in the crisis area.”
Why Children Have Trouble Communicating
According to the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper, the spokesman for a pediatricians’ association in Berlin puts the blame for communication problems of the young on excessive television viewing and computer usage. He said that children, especially preschoolers, should spend less time watching TV or sitting in front of a computer and more time communicating with and being stimulated by real people. Additionally, new research, says The Sunday Times of Britain, suggests that “growing numbers of people in their twenties and thirties are suffering from severe memory loss” and the inability “to distinguish between important and unimportant facts” because of an “increasing reliance on computer technology.”
A joint Brazilian and German project plans to document native Brazilian languages threatened with extinction, reports Brazil’s newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. Researchers hope to preserve the Trumai, Aweti, and Cuicuro tongues by creating a digital data bank of texts and sounds. According to linguist Aryon Rodrigues, only 180 of Brazil’s original 1,200 native tongues have survived. Of these, at least 50 are spoken by fewer than 100 people. In the case of one language, Makú, the only speaker is a 70-year-old widower living in the north of Brazil. Rodrigues says that the preservation of native languages is vital to conserving the traditional knowledge of a people.
Trash Troubles in Mexico City
Thirty percent of Mexico City’s trash stays on public roads to become potentially harmful pollution, said a recent report in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal. Aarón Mastache Mondragón, secretary of environment, indicated that only 10 percent of Mexico City’s trash is recycled and that about 48 percent is not biodegradable. Based on data from the National Institute of Recyclers, a cardboard ticket takes a month to break down; a bamboo branch, from one to three months; a cotton towel, from one to five months; a woolen sock, a year; painted wood, a little over a year; a tin can, 100 months; an aluminum can, from 200 to 500 years; and a glass bottle, more than a million years.