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Watching the World

Watching the World

“The proportion of Google searches that include the word ‘porn’ has tripled since 2004.”​—THE ECONOMIST, BRITAIN.

“When a young [Russian] woman gets married, . . . the likelihood that her husband is going to strike her, or that their fights will get physical, is around 60 percent.”​—MOSKOVSKIYE NOVOSTI, RUSSIA.

“One in seven UK based scientists or doctors has witnessed colleagues intentionally altering or fabricating data during their research or for the purposes of publication.”​—BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, BRITAIN.

“The number of cancer survivors in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1971 to about 12 million . . . The increase in survivors can be attributed in large part to earlier diagnosis through screening, more effective treatment and improved follow-up care.”​—UC BERKELEY WELLNESS LETTER, U.S.A.

Just before the 2011 Christmas celebrations, fighting broke out among some 100 priests and monks of rival denominations in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. “It was a trivial problem that . . . occurs every year,” said a police lieutenant-colonel. “No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God.”​—REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, U.S.A.

A Great Green Wall Across Africa

A Pan-African project, launched by the African Union in 2007, aims to halt the desert’s advance with a green wall. From Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East, 11 countries are planting millions of seedlings of appropriate species, in an effort to create a swath of vegetation 4,750 miles (7,600 km) long and 9 miles (15 km) wide. “We have to plant species which offer no incentive for logging,” says Aliou Guissé, professor of plant ecology at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. It is hoped that the reforested areas will also serve as a nature reserve and provide sustainable resources for local communities.

Why Do We Yawn?

Scientists cannot explain why every person on the planet yawns​—in most cases, several times a day. Even babies in the womb do it. So do hedgehogs, ostriches, snakes, and fish. There are lots of theories, often contradictory, but none satisfy all the researchers. Many scientists have proposed that an explanation for this gulp of air, lasting six seconds on average, is to augment the brain’s oxygen supply. Yet “so far, researchers haven’t found evidence supporting this suspicion,” says Science News. New studies on rats seem to suggest that “a yawn may be a thermostat, cooling an overheated brain.” But no one really knows.