Watching the World
Lying to Get a Job
“One in four people lie when applying for a job,” reports London’s Financial Times. During a 12-month period, the security company Control Risks Group screened 10,435 candidates in financial services and information technology and “found falsification across all levels of position,” the paper states. “About 34 per cent of applications contained discrepancies in employment history, while 32 per cent exaggerated or falsified academic qualifications. A total of 19 per cent tried to cover up a poor credit history or bankruptcy and 11 per cent omitted identifying details.” Those who had lived abroad were more likely to misrepresent their credit history, evidently thinking they would not be caught, and men were “significantly more given to falsification than women.” Tim Nicholson, of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, confirms the results of the study and adds: “If recruiters take as fact what is written on a piece of paper, they have not done their job properly.”
Elephants in Digboi in northeast India have a fascination for oil. “The elephants move around freely in the oilfields, often opening crucial valves in the pipelines that connect the wells to the refinery,” says Ramen Chakravarty, a senior engineer with Oil India Limited. “The elephants seem to enjoy the sound when a valve is opened, especially if it’s one that regulates steam which prevents paraffination of the crude.” Not only do the elephants seem to enjoy the “whooshing sound” of the oil spurting out but they also appear to be drawn to oil wells for “the mud and water that come out with the crude,” reports the Indian Express newspaper. “The water is saline and elephants are fond of it.” Interestingly, it was an elephant that unwittingly led to the discovery of oil there. The animal had returned to camp after carrying rails for the region’s first railway line, when British officers noticed an oily substance on its legs and traced the tracks to an oil-bubbling pit. This resulted in the opening of Asia’s first oil well in 1889.
Driving and Fatigue
“Fatigue, especially when combined with alcohol, presents a particularly high risk of road crashes resulting in death or serious injury,” reports the British Medical Journal. Researchers in Bordeaux, France, found that driver fatigue was responsible for up to 20 percent of highway accidents. Even under good driving conditions, 10 percent of serious crashes involving only one vehicle were related to fatigue. According to Professor Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Loughborough, in England, the afternoon is one of the most dangerous times for drivers. “We are designed to have two periods of sleep,” he says, “one at night and one in the afternoon, at about 2pm to 4pm.” What should a driver do when he feels sleepy? Take a break. “Opening the window or turning on the radio provides only temporary relief,” says Horne. “The best thing to do is find somewhere to park safely and have a nap for 15-20 minutes.” The problem is that many drivers, aware that they are sleepy, continue to drive. The Sunday Times of London says: “Next time you experience yawning, drooping eyelids or wandering concentration while driving, remember this is one wake-up call it can be fatal to ignore.”
U.S. Gun Sales Rise
“Gun and ammunition sales across the country have risen sharply since Sept. 11 as more Americans take what many consider to be the most personal step toward feeling safer: arming themselves,” states The New York Times. “There has been a steady stream of serious-minded first-time buyers.” Some gun manufacturers have capitalized on the crisis by aggressively using patriotic slogans and pictures to attract new buyers. Many officials, though, find the proliferation of deadly weapons unsettling. “We are always concerned with the overall numbers of guns that are available and out on the street making things unmanageable for law enforcement,” says North Miami Beach police chief William B. Berger. Statistics show that guns purchased by the law-abiding sometimes end up in the hands of criminals. Gun-control groups urge people to think before buying.
“Staggering” Toll of Mental Illness
“The global toll of mental illness and neurological disorders is staggering,” declares Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent WHO report reveals that mental disorders are “among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.” About 450 million people in the world currently suffer from mental or neurological disorders, says the report. While treatments exist for most neurological disorders, nearly two thirds of people suffering from a known mental illness never seek professional help because of discrimination, stigma, scarce resources, or inadequate health care.
Adult Chicken-Pox Deaths
“Chickenpox, one of the most common infections of childhood, is killing a growing number of adults,” says the Independent newspaper of London. Figures published in the British Medical Journal show that in the early 1970’s, adults accounted for 48 percent of deaths from chicken pox, whereas by 2001 the figure had risen to 81 percent. Professor Norman Noah, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warns: “This study confirms that chickenpox causes considerable mortality in adults . . . Our figure of 25 deaths a year [in England and Wales] is probably an underestimate. . . . If adults get chickenpox they should realise it is different from the childhood disease. They are at greater risk and need to see a doctor much earlier.” Males aged 15 to 44 are most at risk.
More Believers in Slovakia?
The 2001 census in Slovakia showed that some 84 percent of Slovaks now claim to belong to a religion. According to sociologist Ján Bunčák, this is mainly an expression of a “deep social conformism.” Although religion was suppressed during the Communist era, belonging to a religion is now considered “proper” and “normal.” However, “very many among them do not believe in God at all,” says Bunčák. Commenting on the overall situation in Europe, he adds: “The great majority of people profess some religion. . . . People make the declaration, but at the same time, they do not want religion to interfere too much with their lives.”
Four Billion Hungry by 2050
Growth in developing countries is expected to increase the world’s population to 9.3 billion by the year 2050, according to the annual report of the United Nations Population Fund. Of these, it is estimated, 4.2 billion will be living in countries where basic needs for food and water cannot be met. This is double the amount of people who already lack sufficient food. “The report shows that poverty and rapid population growth are a deadly combination,” explained Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the fund. “Poor people depend more directly on natural resources such as available land, wood and water, and yet they suffer the most from environmental degradation. . . . While some of us practice wasteful consumption, others cannot consume enough to survive.”
Why Men Die Younger
“A man’s life, a miserable life: men get sick sooner and die sooner.” This grim picture was painted by the organizers of the first World Congress on Men’s Health, held in Vienna, Austria. They were alarmed, reports the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, by the fact that men die, on average, five years earlier than women. Why do men die younger? For one thing, they are more likely to smoke or drink excessively. Overeating and lack of exercise are other major risk factors—70 percent of middle-aged men are said to be overweight. Moreover, many suffer from the stress of trying to balance work and family. And men are less likely to go to a doctor when they are sick or to seek preventive health care. Summing it up, Siegfried Meryn, one of the congress organizers, said: “Medically, men are indeed worse off.”