Watching the World
Taiwan Grants Amnesty to “Prisoners of Conscience”
“President Chen Shui-bian [of Taiwan] pardoned 21 convicts . . . , including 19 ‘prisoners of conscience’ who were jailed for resisting conscription,” reports The China Post. “The pardon, effective on International Human Rights Day [December 10, 2000], will clear the names of 19 Jehovah’s Witnesses, convicted for refusing to take the mandatory military service for religious reasons.” Of the 19, 14 had already been released on parole. The special pardon was the first in ten years. Attorney Nigel Li, whose law firm handled the case for the Witnesses, stated: “I was moved and touched by the Witnesses and their peace-seeking mission. . . . Their choice for peace reflects a high human value. It requires that we give them special respect.”
“‘Overpopulation’ a Myth?”
“Amazing as it may seem, the entire population of the world can be housed in the U.S. state of Texas,” reports Vitality magazine. According to the article, the current United Nations estimate of the world’s population is about six billion people, and Texas has a land area of some 262,000 square miles [680,000 sq km]. The amount of living space per person would therefore be more than 1,217 square feet [113 sq m]. “A family of 5 would thus occupy more than 6,085 square feet [565 sq m] of living space. Even in Texas, that’s a mansion,” says Vitality. “Meanwhile, the rest of the world would be completely empty, available for all of mankind’s agricultural, manufacturing, educational, and recreational activities!”
The Versatile Nopal—A Boon to Diabetics?
Many people think of the nopal as just another desert plant that grows in the wild. However, as reported in The News of Mexico City, the versatile nopal may be of special interest to diabetics. Why? Scientists have found that foods prepared with flour made from dehydrated nopal can be consumed by diabetics without raising their blood-sugar levels. It seems that by strengthening the liver and pancreas, nopal increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Air Pollution Over the Indian Ocean
Large areas of the northern Indian Ocean suffer from an unexpectedly high level of air pollution, reports the newsletter MorgenWelt Nachrichten. Researchers from six countries found that during the winter, monsoon winds carry soot, fly ash, organic particles, mineral dust, nitrates, and sulfates from southern and southeastern Asia to the Indian Ocean. From January through March 1999, a layer of haze, measuring nearly two miles high [up to 3 km high], covered an area of nearly four million square miles [over 10 million sq km], which is greater than the landmass of Canada. “According to the scientists, the increasing levels of pollutants in Asia cause an extensive decline in the quality of the air, which has both regional and global impact,” says the paper.
Chocolate—Good for Health?
Chocolate is said by some to be good for your health, states the newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun of Japan. Why? Because chocolate contains cocoa polyphenol, which helps to inhibit arteriosclerosis and cancer. Additionally, chocolate is said to be effective in balancing the immune system and helping the body to recover from stress. Professor Hiroshige Itakura of Ibaraki Christian University says: “High quality chocolate that uses plenty of cocoa beans and very little sugar and oil is the most effective.” However, the professor also stressed the importance of eating “green and yellow vegetables and proteins containing the different kinds of polyphenol” that the body needs.
While futurists hope that life expectancy will rise to 100, it is difficult to increase it beyond 80. According to The Globe and Mail of Canada, experts say “no quantum leap in life expectancy can occur unless biomedical researchers find a way to modify the aging process and make it widely available at low cost. Until that happens, regardless of how many lifestyle improvements we make, how many vitamins we ingest and how many hormones we inject, the number will not change markedly.” With regard to life expectancy, Canada was ranked 12th among 191 countries by the World Health Organization last year. The number of healthy years before sickness was calculated at 70 for men and 74 for women. In Japan, deemed to be the healthiest nation, a citizen can expect to live almost 75 illness-free years, the report states.
Graveyard of Giant Oysters
Over 500 fossilized giant oysters, some with a circumference of up to 11 feet [3.5 m] and weighing up to 650 pounds [300 kg], were found in Acostambo, Peru, at an elevation of 12,300 feet [3,750 m] above sea level, reports the newspaper El Comercio. Paleontologist Arturo Vildozola found the oyster bed just a few meters from a highway that runs between the towns of Pampas and Colcabamba. Apparently, the oysters had not caught anyone’s attention in the past, despite being scattered on the ground for many years. This find of giant oysters reinforces the idea that at one time the ocean covered the Andes mountain range.
“New Car” Smell
Chemicals emanating from interior finishes in buildings can cause the health problems sometimes referred to in Japan as “sick-house syndrome.” But high concentrations of toxic chemicals are also released by materials in new cars, reports the newspaper The Daily Yomiuri. In testing one new vehicle, researchers at the Osaka Prefectural Institute of Public Health found the concentration of harmful substances to be about 34 times the limit set for houses by the Health and Welfare Ministry. Even after a year of vehicle use, the chemical level remained above the provisional limit. Notes Iwao Uchiyama of the National Public Health Institute: “When one is in the close confines of an automobile for extended periods, it would be good to be careful.” How? He comments: “If outside air is brought in, a car can be aired out more quickly than a house.”
Teen Pregnancy in the United States
“The United States leads the developed world in teen pregnancy,” says the magazine U.S.News & World Report. It is estimated that every year, one million teenagers in the United States become pregnant and that 25 percent of these will have a second child within two years of the first. The figures from 1997 show that Mississippi had the highest percentage of births to teenagers (20 percent), while Massachusetts had the lowest (7.2 percent). Overall, the highest teen pregnancy rates occurred in the so-called Bible Belt, located in the southern part of the United States.
Domestic Violence Against the Aged
“Property disputes are becoming a common cause of domestic violence against the aged,” reports O Estado de S. Paulo. A study of complaints filed with police in São Paulo, Brazil, between 1991 and 1998 showed that relatives—children, grandchildren, their spouses, and others—were involved in 47 percent of the cases. “Physical and psychological violence usually result from an attempt to force the elderly one to transfer property or divide up his belongings among relatives while he is still alive,” said prosecutor João Estêvão da Silva. Heartless abandonment in State hospitals and rest homes is also sometimes financially motivated. “Because of poverty, older ones become a burden, and this causes family tension,” explained Silva.