Watching the World
Dangers of Obesity
Dramatic increases in diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases are forecast as a result of “the epidemic of obesity sweeping Europe,” reports The Independent of London. Addressing a meeting of medical experts from 26 countries in Milan, Italy, the chairman of the International Obesity Task Force said: “This is a global crisis and urgent action is required now to prevent this silent epidemic of serious illness and spiralling health costs. We are facing a health disaster if we do not act.” All European countries are involved, and in some areas between 40 and 50 percent of the population is affected. Since 1980, obesity rates in England have risen from 8 to 20 percent for women and from 6 to 17 percent for men. The reasons given include sedentary life-styles and a richer diet—both linked to growing prosperity. The greatest cause for concern is the number of overweight children. According to Professor Jaap Seidell, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, “there are signs that a larger proportion of the next generation are becoming obese and overweight at an earlier age.”
The Downside of Globalization
Economic globalization is creating a world marketplace that provides greater opportunities for many, but it is also increasing risks, reports the British newspaper The Guardian. The interdependence of nations in the emerging world economy makes it possible for an apparently isolated event—such as the devaluation of the Thai baht in 1997—to spark financial panic worldwide. “Thirty years ago,” notes The Guardian, “the gap between the richest fifth of the world’s people and the poorest stood at 30 to 1. By 1990 it had widened to 60 to 1 and today it stands at 74 to 1. . . . Among the biggest beneficiaries of globalisation are criminals, who can now exploit worldwide markets for drugs, arms and prostitutes.”
Can You Avoid Colds?
You may not be able to avoid colds entirely, but there are precautions you can take, says The New York Times. The following are among the most important: To the extent possible, avoid crowds, and try not to shake hands with people who obviously have a cold. In addition, refrain from rubbing your eyes and nose, and wash your hands frequently. Such precautions help because the hands often carry cold viruses to delicate eye and nose membranes. Cold viruses on a surface or on the hands can remain active for several hours, and a person who has a cold can be contagious for some time before and after the signs of illness are obvious. Other precautions include eating a balanced diet and being especially careful when around children. Why? Because they get between five and eight cold infections a year!
Mental Health in Africa
“An estimated 100 million people, out of sub-Saharan Africa’s 600 million population, suffer from mental disorders,” reports the South African newspaper The Star. According to the World Health Organization, war and poverty are primarily to blame for this high figure. A related factor is the declining support of the extended family. According to Professor Michael Olatawura, of Nigeria, this “traditional African safety net” is being eroded by Western values, drug abuse, and civil violence. In addition, family members are traveling farther afield in search of employment. “The economic problems of African governments have confounded our ability to support health as we should,” says Professor Olatawura.
The horrors of war are being expressed in an unusual art form in Afghanistan, reports The News of Mexico City. For the past 20 years, Afghan artisans have woven depictions of war implements into their famous rugs. In among the traditional figures of birds, mosques, and flowers can be found figures of machine guns, hand grenades, and armored tanks. Rug expert Barry O’Connell says that while the figures are not always immediately noticeable, many designs are “so accurate in their iconography” that it is often possible to “distinguish between AK-47 and AK-74 assault rifles.” It is said that the majority of the rug weavers are women who are victims of war. For them, weaving these unique rugs is a subtle way of expressing their feelings.
High levels of dissolved pesticides have made some rainwater in Europe unsuitable to drink, reports New Scientist magazine. Chemists in Switzerland have found that rain samples taken during the first minutes of a storm frequently contain higher levels of pesticides than those considered acceptable by either the European Union or Switzerland. Crop sprays are to blame, and the highest concentration of such toxic chemicals shows up in the first downpour after a long dry spell. Meanwhile, Swedish researchers have linked the rapidly rising incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, to the widespread use of several crop sprays. Chemicals that prevent the growth of vegetation on roofing materials likewise pollute the rainwater that runs off buildings.
More than one person a week is killed on Britain’s farms, making farming one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, reports The Times of London. In 1998 the youngest victim, only four years old, was crushed under the wheels of a tractor, and seven other deaths were caused by tractors overturning on slopes. Farmers are being warned to think twice before undertaking risky tasks and to check conditions before driving a tractor up a grade. David Mattey, chief agricultural inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said: “Most of these tragedies would have been avoided if the person had stopped for a few seconds, thought the job through and completed the task in a slightly different way.”
Unusual Power Sources
▪ The island of Ouvéa, in New Caledonia, has no petroleum, but it is using coconut oil to generate electricity, reports the French magazine Sciences et avenir. French engineer Alain Liennard spent 18 years developing an engine that runs on coconut oil. The engine drives a generator, which in turn powers the desalinization plant that supplies the island’s 235 families with drinking water. Liennard says that his 165-kilowatt system rivals diesel engines in power output and fuel consumption.
▪ Meanwhile, in an experiment conducted in Kalali village in Gujarat State, India, the strength of bullocks has been harnessed to generate electricity. Down to Earth magazine, of New Delhi, reports that a scientist and his niece came up with an idea for generating power. Four bullocks turn a shaft connected to a gearbox that drives a small generator. The generator is connected to batteries, which power a water pump and a grain grinder. The unit cost of this power is about ten cents, compared with $1 per unit using windmills or $24 per unit using solar panels, says Down to Earth. However, since the villagers need the bullocks to work their fields for three months of the year, the developers are seeking an effective means of storing power for use during the bullocks’ absence.
On the average, girls grow 10 inches [25 cm] and gain 40 to 50 pounds [18-22 kg] between the ages of 10 and 14, while boys grow about 12 inches [30 cm] and gain 50 to 60 pounds [22-27 kg] between 12 and 16. During this period of rapid growth, it is not uncommon for teens to feel very uncomfortable with their weight, and many become concerned about controlling their weight. “But dieting and restricting food intake are not healthy solutions and are not recommended,” writes dietitian Lynn Roblin in The Toronto Star. These measures can deprive the body of nutrients, notes Roblin. Also, experimenting with diets “sets the stage for poor eating habits and could lead to more serious eating disorders.” Teens, she notes, need to have a more realistic view of their body image and achieve a healthy weight through “sensible eating, active living and feeling good about themselves.”