Watching the World
Banking Time Instead of Money
A new form of banking has arisen in Spain. Several local volunteer associations have created “time banks” that exchange services among people. “The ‘Time Bank’ is the first bank that works without money,” claims Elvira Méndez, director of the Spanish association Health and Family. These banks keep a list of citizens who offer to perform certain tasks such as caring for the elderly, babysitting, cooking, cleaning, or teaching. The unit of exchange is the hour, and all activities have the same value. An hour of teaching quantum physics, for example, is equivalent to an hour of hairdressing or babysitting. The beneficiary pays for the service by performing other tasks, and the time spent is credited to him. Time banks thus seek to organize and encourage the traditional interchange of services that used to exist among good neighbors.
Pets Cloned to Order
Household pets are now being cloned to order. The first case in the United States was that of a kitten delivered to a Texas woman, reports The New York Times. Bereaved of Nicky, the cat she had owned for 17 years, the woman had a kitten cloned from Nicky’s DNA, which had been banked beforehand. The cost was $50,000. The kitten, named Little Nicky, is said to be identical, even in personality, to the original cat. The company that produced Little Nicky also plans to clone dogs “for a much more lucrative market than cats,” says the newspaper. David Magnus, codirector of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University in California and a critic of such practices, said: “It’s morally problematic and a little reprehensible. For $50,000, she could have provided homes for a lot of strays.”
Dogs Foresee Epileptic Fits?
Some dogs that have been household pets for more than a year can foresee epileptic attacks in the children with whom they live, reports the Spanish newspaper Diario Médico. Researchers reached this conclusion after carrying out a study of 45 families. Several parents with epileptic children noticed that prior to an attack, their dog began to behave in a “peculiar way.” It would force the young one to sit down or would lean against the child’s side so that if he fell, the dog would break his fall.
Bhutan Bans Tobacco Sales
The kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas between India and China, has banned the sale of all tobacco products. The ban does not apply to foreign diplomats or tourists or to those who work for nongovernment organizations. It is believed that Bhutan is the first country in the world to take such a step. Smoking in public places has also been forbidden. “The moves are part of government efforts to make Bhutan a smoke-free nation,” says BBC News.
Childhood Trauma Linked to Heart Disease
Childhood experiences of physical or psychological hardship increase the child’s risk of suffering from heart disease later on in life. This conclusion was reached by researchers in Atlanta, Georgia, and San Diego, California, U.S.A., who examined the medical records of 17,337 adults. Science News explains that the participants were assessed according to “which of them, as children, had witnessed domestic violence, experienced mental or physical abuse or neglect, or lived with someone who went to prison, abused drugs or alcohol, or was mentally ill.” It was found that the greater the number of traumatic experiences a person had early in life, “the greater were his or her chances of developing heart disease” as an adult.
Tainted Blood in Japan
The Japanese health ministry has taken the unusual step of disclosing “the names of 6,916 hospitals and 17 medical suppliers believed to have stocked a hepatitis C-tainted blood product,” states The Japan Times. The coagulant was responsible for causing “one of the largest medical disasters in Japan’s postwar history.” According to the paper, between 1980 and 2001, some 290,000 people were treated with the coagulant. It is estimated that 10,000 were infected. Many were pregnant women who received it to stop bleeding during labor. The ministry’s announcement followed campaigns by victims who wanted to bring the problem to the attention of the public and encourage any who may have received the product to test for hepatitis C. If untreated, hepatitis C can prove fatal.
Frog Extinction Risk
Millions of frogs are dying, according to New Scientist magazine, and no one quite understands why. They face a higher risk of extinction than either birds or mammals. Almost one third of the 5,743 known amphibian species are endangered. These are some of the conclusions of the first global survey of amphibians. The magazine reports that “scientists have been concerned about the health of amphibians since 1989, when they compared notes at the first International Conference on Herpetology and found sudden and mysterious declines in many species around the world.” Nine species of amphibians are known to have become extinct since 1980, and another 113 species known to exist then “can no longer be found.” Says zoologist James Hanken of Harvard University: “We simply do not know what’s hurting them.”
Crisis of Confidence
Worldwide, politicians and business leaders are distrusted, reports the Paris daily International Herald Tribune. According to a Gallup International survey conducted in 60 countries, a majority believe that political leaders are “dishonest,” wield “too much power,” are “overly susceptible to influence,” and “behave unethically.” In Africa, West Asia, and Latin America, more than 80 percent of respondents expressed doubts as to the honesty of politicians. Business leaders have a slightly better reputation—only about 40 percent of the respondents thought that business leaders are dishonest and behave unethically. When it comes to global security, 55 percent in Western Europe were pessimistic about the future. In Egypt, 70 percent thought “the future looked dim.” The most optimistic respondents were from other African countries surveyed, and 50 percent of them felt that the situation will improve.