Watching the World
The Power of Laughter
“Scientists have calculated that only half a minute of joyful laughter is worth 45 minutes of static rest,” reports the Polish weekly Przyjaciółka. “A spontaneous burst of laughter is comparable to three minutes of aerobic exercise, whereas ten warm smiles equal ten minutes of intensive rowing.” Other benefits of laughing include a threefold increase in the amount of air drawn into the lungs as well as improved circulation, digestion, metabolism, brain function, and elimination of harmful substances. The magazine suggests that to help put yourself in the right mood, you should smile at yourself, your mate, and your children first thing in the morning. “Learn to laugh at yourself,” it adds. “Try to find the good side of things even in difficult circumstances.”
A recent study of the sleep patterns of 56 healthy babies, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, revealed that “babies who slept well at night were exposed to significantly more light in the early afternoon.” Exposure to light in the morning and evening, however, produced no difference in sleep quality. The author of the study, Dr. Yvonne Harrison of Britain’s Liverpool John Moores University
Chagas’ Disease Spreading
Chagas’ disease comes from a parasite transmitted through the feces of a bloodsucking insect commonly called the kissing bug. The disease is endemic in rural areas from Mexico to Argentina. The Herald of Mexico reports that an estimated one and a half to two million Mexicans are infected with the parasite. However, Chagas’ disease is spreading to other parts of the world. One way is through blood transfusions. Mexican biologist Bert Kohlmann explains: “We’ve already got reports from Australia, Europe, the United States and Canada of infections through blood transfusions. Migrants from the Americas who are usually healthy give blood and nobody in those other places even thinks about screening for Chagas.” The World Health Organization estimates that in the Western Hemisphere, 16 to 18 million people are infected with the disease and 100 million more are at risk. At present, there is no cure for Chagas’, which is often fatal.
Drumming Up Taxes
To encourage local residents to pay their $1.15 million of unpaid property taxes, city officials in Rajahmundry, India, offered to waive penalties and interest, reports Reuters news service. When that approach failed, the officials hired 20 teams of drummers to play outside the homes of negligent taxpayers. The drummers “put up a spectacle outside the houses of defaulters, draw them out and explain their dues to them and the need to clear it at the earliest,” said municipal commissioner T.S.R. Anjaneyulu. “They don’t stop until people agree to clear the dues.” The unusual method got results. After the drummers played nonstop for just one week, the city recovered 18 percent of its property tax backlog.
Religion in Russia
In the past, religious believers in Russia were thought to be mostly women, the elderly, and those with an incomplete secondary education. However, data now shows a rise in religious affiliation among youths, men, and those with higher education, reports the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Between 1989 and 1991, only 30 percent of the population identified themselves as Orthodox. But after 1999, that figure reached more than 50 percent. Russian sociologists recently found that 30 percent of Russians believe in life after death, 24 percent in heaven and hell, and 28 percent in religious miracles. Nearly a third of those surveyed agreed with the statement “I believe that God exists and have no doubts about that.” At the same time, “30 percent of Russians believe in astrology, and 50 to 55 percent believe in prophetic dreams and omens,” says the report.
Greek Church Tries Modern Greek
Concerned that many Greek churchgoers could not understand Bible passages read at church services in ancient Greek, the archbishop of Greece directed that Athens’ churches also use modern Greek. “The New Testament has been read in the original Hellenistic ‘Koine’ or common language, a version of Greek spoken from the late fourth century BC to fifth century AD,” explained the newspaper Kathimerini. But the archbishop was “anxious that the young especially do not understand this form of Greek and cannot follow services,” stated the report. In a pilot program that Kathimerini called “a major step for a Church that clings to its traditions,” Bible passages were read first in Koine Greek and then in modern Greek. Less than a year later, however, the newspaper reported that the church “was abandoning” this effort that had been made “to make New Testament readings more accessible.”
Friend-Finder Web Sites Fuel Divorce Rate
Internet sites that reunite old schoolmates are “fuelling a surge in marital break-up as bored husbands and wives contact old flames,” reports Britain’s Guardian Weekly. Commenting on how this practice affects Britain’s divorce rate, which reached a seven-year high in 2004, Christine Northam, spokeswoman for the marriage guidance body Relate, said: “A lot of people have a rosy impression of the first relationship they had at school or college. If they are feeling unhappy with their partner, they begin wondering what it would have been like if they’d stayed with the old flame.” It is now easier than ever for unhappy spouses to “log on to the internet to scan for romance,” notes the paper, “instead of sorting out the emotional problems of the marriage.”
Using the stairs “produces more nonfatal injuries each year than motor vehicle accidents,” states the U.S. magazine The Week. The report adds: “Every year, an estimated 1,091 American stair climbers are killed and 769,400 are injured.” What causes the missteps that result in falls? “Generally, people misjudge the distance and plant one of their feet wrong,” says The Week.