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Watching the World

Watching the World

Watching the World

It’s a Dog’s Life

“Australia spends more on pets than on foreign aid,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “Doggie lifejackets, diamond jewellery and breath fresheners for pets are among other items that have sent Australians’ spending on their pets soaring to $2.2 billion a year.” Jason Gram, a pet shop owner, noted the change in attitude toward pets in the last decade. “Dogs used to be in the backyard, covered in fleas and chewing on a bone,” he said. “Now they’re indoors, sitting on a fluffy bed and wearing a diamante collar.” He noted, though, that the shift has been good for business, as dogs are now treated as members of the family and lavished with expensive goods. While some pets are “cared for as if they had human needs, desires and aesthetic standards,” said the paper, there is “no evidence that dogs preferred a $50 toy to a $5 toy. But the indulgence appeared to satisfy the owners’ need to demonstrate love.”

Noise Pollution

Excessive noise very often diminishes the quality of life for people who live in cities. According to the World Health Organization, it may even have a negative effect on their health, reports the Spanish newspaper ABC. The harmful effects of noise pollution have also been recognized by the Constitutional Court in Spain, which ruled against a public place of entertainment accused of violating a city prohibition on noise pollution. The court stated that excessive “noise violates the individual’s fundamental right to safeguard his moral and physical integrity, his personal and family privacy and the inviolability of his home.” According to the court, serious noise pollution could cause “hearing deficiency, sleep disorders, neurosis, high blood pressure and an increase in aggressive behavior.”

Young Victims of War

The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that of the 800,000 people massacred during Rwanda’s racial riots, 300,000 were children, reports the German newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung. It is estimated that more than 100,000 children in Rwanda live in households without any adult supervision. “Their everyday life is plagued by extreme poverty,” says the newspaper.

Maintaining a “Mental Edge”

“Being bilingual helps prevent people from losing their ‘mental edge’ as they age,” says the Toronto Star newspaper. York University psychologist Ellen Bialystok tested the cognitive functions of 104 adults aged 30 to 59 and of 50 adults aged 60 to 88, all of whom had similar education and income levels. In each age group, half the participants were bilingual. Each person was asked to complete a simple task with two competing options while his reaction time was measured. “Bilinguals were faster on the test than monolinguals,” notes the newspaper. According to Bialystok, bilingual people are always presented with two language options, and their brain must decide the right language to speak in reply. “Over time, these mental gymnastics protect the brain by hindering the natural slowdown of the executive processes that occurs with age.”

“Politically Correct” Bible?

“Favorite prayers and psalms from the Bible have been radically reworked for a new Anglican prayer book in a bid to get the faithful to think about issues like Third World debt and fair trade,” reports Reuters news service. The Pocket Prayers for Peace and Justice replaces Jesus’ words from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” with “You are giving us our daily bread when we manage to get back our lands or get a fairer wage.” Likewise, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” from the 23rd Psalm, has been removed and replaced with “Even if a full-scale violent confrontation breaks out I will not be afraid, Lord.” Traditionalists have called the new 96-page book “a travesty and therefore blasphemous,” as well as “crass and insulting,” says London’s newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Economic Abortions

Contrary to the thinking of many, “it is middle-class married [women], not promiscuous teenagers, who are making up the bulk of abortion patients in Australia,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. With husbands working full-time and their wives working part-time, the decision not to have children is often driven by economics. “Motherhood brings with it both career and financial implications,” says Peter McDonald, professor of demography at the Australian National University. “The income level [women] can get without a child is very high, but if they have a child, then they are going to lose out.” According to the Herald, 1 in 3 pregnancies in Australia is terminated by abortion.

“Get to Know Your Child’s Friends”

In the United States, “teenagers who reported that at least half of their friends were sexually active were 31 times likelier to get drunk, 5 1/2 times likelier to smoke and 22 1/2 times likelier to have tried marijuana,” reports The New York Times. The survey, conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, involved 500 parents and 1,000 youths between 12 and 17 years of age. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the chairman and president of the center, said: “There is a clear message for parents of 12- to 17-year olds: make sure you are aware of the dating practices of your child and get to know your child’s friends.” He added: “Parents who open up dinner conversation to topics such as dating and substance use are likelier to help their kids grow up drug free.”

Self-Harm Among the Young

“Britain has the highest rates of recorded self-harm in Europe,” reveals The Times of London. Each year, British accident and emergency units treat 150,000 cases in which people have deliberately harmed themselves, such as by cutting themselves. The problem is most common among youths. “Although young women self-harmers outnumber young men by seven to one, rates in men have doubled since the 1980s,” states The Times. It seems that these individuals harm themselves “as a way of coping with emotional pain or in response to emotional numbness.” According to Andrew McCulloch, of the Mental Health Foundation, the figures “may be evidence of growing problems facing our young people, or of a growing inability to respond to those problems.”