Watching the World
Saving the Lives of Newborns
Each year, four million babies die within a month of birth. These neonatal deaths “make up more than 40 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five,” reports the German magazine Bild der Wissenschaft. What can be done to save the lives of newborns? Cost-effective methods recommended in the study “State of the World’s Newborns” include such simple things as keeping the babies warm and breast-feeding them immediately after birth, which promotes immunity to illnesses. Deaths can also be prevented by improving the health of expectant mothers, many of whom are overworked and undernourished and haven’t fully recovered from an earlier delivery. “In developing countries, where 98 percent of the newborn deaths occur,” local people could be trained in midwifery skills. “Their primary tasks would be to give expectant mothers instruction, to care for proper hygiene, and to give vaccinations,” the study states.
“Just as the light bulb replaced the candle, the automated lighthouse has replaced the hardy lighthouse-keeper,” says the Financial Post newspaper. “Now it appears even the days of the automated lighthouse are numbered.” While a modern lighthouse beams a powerful light that can be seen from 20 miles [32 km] out at sea and is fitted with an automated foghorn to warn sailors that land is near, satellite technology enables mariners to pinpoint their exact location. Ships are now equipped with global positioning systems that serve as eyes for a vessel when the crew cannot see what is ahead. Mike Clements, program manager with the Canadian Coast Guard in St. John’s, Newfoundland, says that global positioning systems “may make lighthouses redundant. There is nothing that can compare to [these systems]. You can’t navigate by a lighthouse.”
“Just as infants of hearing parents start to babble at an age of about seven months . . . , children who grow up in a deaf household babble silently with their hands in imitation of their parents’ main form of communication,” even if these children can hear, says The Times of London. Research led by Professor Laura Petitto at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, suggests that babies are born with a sensitivity to the rhythms and patterns that are characteristic of all languages, including sign language. She says that babies who can hear but who have “signing deaf parents make a special kind of movement with their hands, with a specific rhythmic pattern, that is distinct from other hand movements. . . . It [is] babbling but with their hands.” The babies who were exposed to sign language produced two types of hand movements, while those whose parents used audible speech produced only one type. The research team used a position-tracking system to record the babies’ hand movements when they were 6, 10, and 12 months old.
Dead Sea Scrolls Published
“More than half a century after the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves in the Judean desert, scholars are celebrating the publication of the last of the 2,000-year-old religious texts,” says U.S.News & World Report. The publication of the 37-volume series was announced by Professor Emanuel Tov, who led the team of scholars that analyzed the scrolls. The completion of the work was credited to modern technology, including digital photography and multispectral imaging that enabled the scholars to decipher writing that had faded. The writings, translated from Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, are dated from 250 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.
Coping With Uncertainties
Sales of Bibles by members of the Christian Booksellers Association of Canada have increased by as much as 30 percent since the terrorist attacks in the United States, reports Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. “People are looking to find answers,” says Marlene Loghlin, executive director of the association. “There is a fear factor involved here. There are a lot of unanswered questions in people’s hearts and minds.” The report adds that even smaller bookstores have experienced “a rise in sales of anything religious-based that might help people make sense of the tragic events.” According to one University of Toronto theology professor, this is a common reaction. “In times of great uncertainty, people start to ask foundational religious questions,” and “seeking answers in the Bible may help,” she said.
AIDS—South Africa’s Leading Cause of Death
“AIDS has become the leading cause of death in South Africa, and young adults are especially hard hit,” says The New York Times, commenting on a study by South Africa’s Medical Research Council. The researchers estimate that during the next decade, between five and seven million people in South Africa will die from AIDS. Young women in their 20’s are dying at a greater rate than women in their 60’s. South Africa “has more people known to be infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, than any other country,” the article adds. “One in nine South Africans, and one in four adults [ages 30-34], is now believed to be living with H.I.V., government officials say.”
Living in Cities
“In 1900 the largest cities were London, New York, Paris, Berlin and Chicago,” notes The Sunday Times of London. But according to new projections, “by 2015 western cities will have been eclipsed. Tokyo, Bombay, Lagos, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Sao Paulo in Brazil will be the biggest.” These and 25 other cities will each have more than 20 million inhabitants. However, “estimates show London will lose its place as one of the top 30 most populated cities by 2015, and will be the only leading one whose population will have shrunk,” says the Times. Explosive growth creates many problems. “The poor will increasingly be concentrated in their own neighbourhoods characterised by high rates of crime, violence and social disorder,” said Douglas Massey, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Tokyo, whose 26 million are expected soon to reach 30 million, has been able to cope because its growth has been slower and it has the necessary infrastructure and services. According to Massey, from Roman times to the Victorian era, no more than 5 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, but he estimates that by 2015, 53 percent will do so.
Quit Smoking—For Good!
“All smokers must try to stop smoking. If you succeed, then make sure you do not start up again,” warns Professor Bo Lundback of the National Institute for Working Life in Stockholm, Sweden. Why? Because ex-smokers who return to smoking may suffer a more rapid decline in lung function than those who do not stop at all. A ten-year study of 1,116 men and women aged 35 to 68 showed that those who smoked throughout the study suffered a 3-percent decline in lung function, while those who stopped for more than a year and then started again experienced a 5-percent decline. “The decline in lung function is much greater in the first couple of years after an ex-smoker restarts,” warned Lundback. “And what smokers lose in lung function, they’ll never get back.” Those who successfully gave up smoking during the ten-year study experienced only a 1-percent decrease in lung function, reports The Times of London.