Watching the World
Worldwide, commercial fishermen are scouring the oceans for sharks, stripping them of their fins, and throwing the carcasses overboard. “This type of gruesome amputation is fueled by demand for nothing more than a pricey [shark fin] soup,” reports Science News. In August 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard seized a Hawaiian vessel off the coast of Mexico after discovering it was stuffed with 32 tons of shark fins. No other shark parts were on board. “The grotesque load represents the slaughter of at least 30,000 sharks and the discard of some 1.28 million pounds [580,000 kg] of fish,” says the magazine. “Around the globe, fishing fleets now take an estimated 100 million sharks annually.” With shark fins fetching upwards of $200 per pound [450 grams] on the open market, there is an unsustainable growing demand.
A recent study concludes that “people who complain they don’t have enough time are under an illusion,” reports The Australian. The paper cites a study conducted by the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University and states: “Many of us are spending more time at work and doing household tasks than is strictly necessary.” Researchers calculated the amount of time a working couple without children needed to work in order to provide the bare necessities of life. They then compared the calculated time to the amount of time they actually spend on those activities. The study found that childless working couples “spent a combined 79 hours a week at work, 37 hours on household tasks and 138 hours on personal care, but they only needed to work 20 hours a week [10 hours each], do household tasks for 18 hours and spend 116 hours on personal care [including eating and sleeping],” says the paper. If a couple were willing to scale back, they could gain as many as 100 additional hours of free time a week. The study, according to The Australian, suggests that working couples without children “claim to be most pressured for time, but are, in fact, the least time-strapped of any group, with parents far more pressed for time.”
Diabetes Increasing in India
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 170 million people worldwide have diabetes. India is the country with the highest number of sufferers—32 million—and this figure is expected to exceed 57 million by 2005, reports the Deccan Herald newspaper. At an international congress on diabetes in Asia, held in Sri Lanka, experts pointed to diet and life-style changes as the primary reasons for this sharp increase, along with stress, genetic factors, low birth weight, and overfeeding of newborns. In India the cost of treating diabetes is one of the lowest in the world. Still, diabetes-related health complications and mortality remain high, in part because of both lack of awareness and late diagnosis of the disease. A study conducted in major Indian cities concluded that 12 percent of the adult population suffer from diabetes and 14 percent have impaired glucose tolerance, which often precedes diabetes.
War Correspondents Traumatized
“A significant number [of war correspondents] were severely traumatized by what they had witnessed and experienced,” says The New York Times. The newspaper was commenting on “a study of  foreign correspondents from six major news organizations who regularly covered wars and other armed conflicts.” The article explains that “the war reporters had substantially higher rates of serious depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than did [a comparison group of 107] reporters who did not cover wars.” The symptoms “included flashbacks, recurring nightmares, irritability, difficulties in concentration and hypervigilance.” Additionally, “the correspondents reported a range of social difficulties, . . . including an inability to adjust to civil society, a reluctance to mix with friends, troubled relationships and the use of alcohol as a hypnotic.” On average, the men and women in the study “had spent 15 years in conflict zones including Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, Somalia and Afghanistan.”
“Old Europe does justice to its name more and more,” reports the Spanish newspaper El País. In practically all countries of the European Union, at least 20 percent of the population is over 60 years of age. Demographers predict that by the year 2050, 4 out of every 10 citizens in some lands, such as Austria, Italy, and Spain, will be over 60. This progressive aging of the population will demand both social and economic adjustments, noted the Second World Assembly on Aging, held in Madrid, Spain. Pensions and health insurance will become more difficult to finance. For example, employers may have to hire older workers, organize flexible or shared work schedules, and offer staggered retirement plans. Furthermore, “since there will be fewer young people, companies that want to grow will have to direct their services and products to older ones,” observes Spanish businessman Josep Maria Riera.
Sex Education Needed More Than Ever
According to official figures in Germany, between 1996 and 2001, abortions increased by some 60 percent among 15- to 17-year-olds and by 90 percent among girls even younger, reports Der Spiegel. Norbert Kluge, of the University of Koblenz-Landau, states that while children are reaching sexual maturity at an ever earlier age, they are ‘not properly educated in sexual matters—and especially not early enough.’ Children need to be well informed about the facts of life before they reach the age of ten, but many parents shy away from their responsibility, says Kluge. According to the Berliner Morgenpost, the director of the Federal Parents Council in Bonn advises parents to dwell more on emotional themes, such as “love and relationships,” when giving sex education to their children, rather than on the biological processes.
E-Mail and Social Skills
According to two researchers, employees are just as likely to speak to a coworker working on the same floor via E-mail as they would to counterparts working in different time zones, says Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Speaking of the effect E-mail can have on social skills, David Crystal, a professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, says: “Simultaneous feedback is a fundamental feature of conversation,” and E-mail does not allow for this because of the time lag between receiving and responding to a message. Moreover, an E-mail writer can monopolize the conversation without being interrupted. “The ability to take turns in conversation,” states the Globe, “is an essential social skill.”
Two Sets of Nerves?
Humans are endowed with a special nervous system to sense love and tenderness, reports the German scientific journal Bild der Wissenschaft. Swedish scientists discovered that a woman who had lost her main touch receptors still felt a pleasant sensation when stroked with a soft paintbrush. This sense of pleasure, they found, was evoked by a second nerve network in the skin, consisting of slow-conducting fibers called tactile C fibers. The network only responds to a gentle touch and activates those brain areas dealing with emotions. Commenting on why humans might have two different sets of nerves, the International Herald Tribune states: “The slow fibers function from the earliest hours of life, perhaps even in the womb, while the fast fibers develop slowly after birth. Newborns might be able to feel the love in a parent’s touch before they can feel the touch itself.”