Watching the World
In a new industry in the Andes Mountains of Peru, shoes are being made from trout skin, reports El Comercio newspaper of Lima. The skins of fish from hatcheries or fish farms are cleaned and cured with natural tanners. Next they are oiled and then dyed with natural products such as turmeric, cochineal, or achiote. This treatment does not destroy the attractive diamondlike design on the skins, which can also be fashioned into “coin purses, wallets, watchbands, or cellular phone covers.” Says industrial engineer Barbara León, who spearheaded the project: “The most important thing is that no artificial tanner such as chromium is ever used. This avoids contamination problems and makes the trout skin a totally ecological product.”
Laughter—Still the Best Medicine!
“A dose of comedy taken daily for four weeks has now been found to reduce significantly the symptoms of depression,” reports The Independent of London. “Some of the patients who were told to spend 30 minutes a day listening to therapeutic tapes of comedians were cured, while others found that the severity of their symptoms had been halved.” More than 100 studies in the United States have indicated that laughter induced by humor can be beneficial. Not only people who are depressed but also those who had allergies, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems, and even cancer and rheumatoid arthritis have responded. Laughter has long been known to promote well-being, but just how is not clearly understood. Psychotherapist Dr. Ed Dunkleblau offers some cautionary advice though: Avoid abusive and sarcastic humor, and be careful about being too funny. Otherwise, the patient may feel that his problem is not being taken seriously.
‘Religion of Secondary Importance’
A recent survey among Brazil’s urban adult poor has revealed that while 67 percent claim to be Catholic, only 35 percent actually profess faith in Jesus, Mary, and church doctrine. Even fewer—a mere 30 percent—attend church services every week. The survey, commissioned by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, also shows that many disagree with official teaching on premarital sex (44 percent), divorce (59 percent), remarriage (63 percent), and the use of contraception (73 percent). According to theologian Severino Vicente, the church is losing ground because of its shortage of priests, its dwindling influence on Brazil’s educational system, and its superficial teaching of doctrines. He states: “The new generation of Catholics has been educated in relativism and views religion as a matter of secondary importance.”
Hospital statistics for 1999, published by Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry, showed that “76 people were killed each week in domestic accidents—more than died in road accidents,” reports The Guardian of London. “DIY [do-it-yourself] tools, stairs, carpets and kettles of boiling water” were among the most frequent causes of death. More than 3,000 people each year went to the emergency room after falling over laundry baskets, more than 10,000 were hospitalized for accidents that occurred while attempting to pull up socks or tights, and more than 13,000 injuries were sustained while preparing vegetables. Some 100,000 accidents were alcohol related. A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents observed: “At work and on the roads we are regulated, but at home we let our guard down. You can do serious damage if you pull a tea cosy [teapot cover] off and drop the teapot full of hot water on your foot.”
Viking Food Preservative
A thousand years ago, Vikings took water from peat-moss bogs on their voyages because it stayed fresh for months. And on land Scandinavians traditionally preserved fish and plant foods such as carrots and turnips by storing them in peat bogs. Researchers have long thought that tannins or a lack of oxygen in the bogs is what slows the decay of organic material. Now CNN reports that Dr. Terence Painter of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and his associates have isolated from the moss a complex sugar that they believe is the real preservative. To demonstrate its effectiveness, they buried some salmon skins in wood cellulose and buried other skins in peat or coated them with moss extract. “Fish stored in the peat or extract stayed fresh for up to a month, while the non-treated fish stank after two days,” says the report.
Smog Increases Heart Attack Risk
“The thick smog that smothers many Canadian cities in summer can trigger heart attacks within two hours,” reports the National Post newspaper of Canada. Smog contains particulates—tiny, invisible pollutants discharged primarily by automobiles, power plants, and fireplaces. “Patients who were already susceptible to heart attacks, such as diabetics, people with heart disease or seniors, experienced a 48% rise in their risk of a heart attack in the two hours after being exposed to severe air pollution containing particulates,” says the paper. “The risk increased to 62% in 24 hours.” When smog warnings are issued, “try and spend more time indoors, preferably with the air conditioning on,” suggests Dr. Murray Mittleman of Harvard University’s medical school. “These particles are so small they do penetrate into indoor air and air conditioning will filter them out.”
The Power of a Nap
According to British sleep expert Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University, the best remedy for afternoon drowsiness “is simply to take a ten-minute nap,” reports The Times of London. Horne claims: “It’s like any treatment: the nearer to the time of suffering that you administer the dose, the more effective it is.” Some corporations in the United States have installed napping rooms—with beds, blankets, pillows, and soothing sounds for their staff, along with alarm clocks set to sound every 20 minutes. But Professor Horne cautions that if you snooze too long—say, 25 minutes—you may wake up feeling bad. “Once the body gets beyond ten minutes it starts to think that it is night time and the full-blown sleep process starts setting in.”
Obesity and Cancer
“Obesity is the main avoidable cause of cancer among non-smokers in the Western world,” reports The Times of London. Fifty years of research has shown that life-style changes—including losing weight if obese—could halve the occurrence of cancer in nonsmokers. “If you are a non-smoker, the two things that really matter are being overweight and the viruses that cause stomach and cervical cancer,” says Professor Julian Peto of Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research. “Experiments with animals that have had their diet restricted show a much-reduced cancer risk.” A person is considered medically obese if the body weight is more than 20 percent over the desirable body weight for his or her age, sex, height, and body build.
Living Together Before Marriage
“Parents who lived together before they married are almost twice as likely to separate,” states Canada’s National Post. Heather Juby, coauthor of a study conducted by Statistics Canada, said that researchers expected to find that having a child was a symbol of the parents’ commitment to each other. “But,” she noted, “the couples that are more open to cohabitation are also more open to separation.” The researchers found that 25.4 percent of those who cohabited before marrying separated, compared with 13.6 percent of parents who did not live together before marriage. “People who live together first have less stable relationships,” says Juby, “because people who were prepared to [co-habit] are people who perhaps value less the commitment to marriage.”