Watching the World
Babies Have Musical Sense
“Even before babies have acquired language, they exhibit a marked capacity for reacting to music,” says the journal Scientific American. According to the report, babies are able to detect differences in musical tones and changes in both the tempo and the rhythm of the music. They are also able to recognize a melody even when it is played in a different key. Babies as young as two months show a preference for consonant musical sounds (harmony) over discordant sounds. “Peter Hepper of Queen’s University in Belfast,” says the report, “found that about two weeks before birth, fetuses recognized the difference between the theme music of [a popular] TV show, heard daily by their mothers for weeks, and a novel song.”
Car Peace and Safety
“Occupants of a car should avoid quarreling at all costs,” warns Germany’s technical supervision association TÜV, as reported by the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. “The driver unconsciously becomes more aggressive in his driving, thereby increasing the risk of an accident.” A “crisis situation” arising in a car can rapidly deteriorate, notes the article, especially since the confines of the car leave no place to retreat. Therefore, it is recommended that car occupants avoid touchy subjects that can lead to arguments. All those in the car do well to consider themselves members of a team with a common goal. The article advises: “Before starting off, it should be established how the front passenger can help with navigating, tuning the radio, or handling difficult situations.”
The Black Sea Is Recovering
The Black Sea now has more dolphins, crabs, and shrimps—creatures that do not usually live in polluted waters—than in the past, states Demokratychna Ukraina, a Ukrainian newspaper. Even the Odessa harbor, which is usually considered the most polluted part of the Black Sea, again has a widespread sea horse population. “Ecosystems in the Black and Azov seas are slowly but surely recovering after a long-term sickness,” said Borys Aleksandrov, director of the Odessa branch of the South Seas Biology Institute. Why the recovery? “With the fall of Communism,” notes Science News, “economic strains in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria sharply reduced agricultural spending on fertilizer. Therefore, nitrate runoff into the Black Sea plummeted in the 1990s.” While the reduced use of fertilizers has benefited the Black Sea, “economic collapse or reduced farming is a poor strategy for controlling dead [sea] zones,” says Science News. Laurence Mee, a professor of marine and coastal policy at the University of Plymouth, England, suggests another solution. He says: “We should learn to be a little more clever about how we do our agriculture, so that we limit the runoff of those nutrients.”
Irrigated With Sewage
“One tenth of all economically useful plants worldwide are cultivated with waste water,” reports Der Standard, an Austrian newspaper. Crops as diverse as tomatoes and coconuts are grown this way. “The wastewater is mostly untreated, flowing directly from megacities into the irrigation system,” says the paper. Citing as an authority, Chris Scott, of the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, the paper explains: “In many areas close to the rapidly growing megacities, this is the only way to get around water shortages.” On about 50 million acres [20 million ha] of farmland earth wide, farmers have few alternatives—sewage not only provides free fertilizer but is often the only water available or affordable, the reports say.
Trafficking in Humans
“People trafficking has become the third biggest source of income for international crime syndicates behind drugs and arms, raking in an estimated 6 billion to 9 billion dollars per year,” reports the international edition of The Miami Herald. At a recent press conference in Mexico City, John Miller, the director of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told reporters that some 17,500 people a year were trafficked into the United States, one third of these coming either from or through Mexico. “I am not talking about illegal immigration, but men, women and children who are forced or coerced by persons to be in slavelike conditions,” said Miller. He called human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor “one of the premier human rights issues of the 21st century.”
The Sun and Pregnant Moms
“A study of vitamin D levels in pregnant women has found an alarming number are dangerously deficient, posing a risk to their unborn babies,” reports the Sun-Herald newspaper of Australia. Babies deficient in vitamin D can develop bowed legs, suffer fits, and may develop the bone disease known as rickets. A study of 1,000 pregnant women, conducted at St. George Hospital in Sydney, found that “one in 10 fair-skinned women, and one in five dark-skinned women were deficient in vitamin D.” The solution to this problem seems simple. Humans produce about 90 percent of their vitamin D requirement by exposing their skin to mild sunshine. “Most women [need] only about 10 minutes of sunshine a day or about one hour a week to get adequate levels of vitamin D,” says the paper.
Athletic Woman Syndrome
Women who regularly do excessively hard physical workouts could be at risk of developing osteoporosis, eating disorders, and amenorrhea—the interruption of the menstrual cycle, reported the Brazilian newspaper Folha. Turíbio Leite de Barros Neto, coordinator of the Center of Physical and Sports Medicine at the University of São Paulo, said: “Ideally, a woman should have 10 percent more body fat than a man. In other words, she should not have less than 15 percent body fat.” If a woman has less fat than that amount, her body may have difficulty producing the hormones needed to regulate her monthly cycle and she could limit the calcium she accumulates in her bones, leading to osteoporosis, said Folha.