Watching the World

Tobacco Company Admits Smoking Causes Cancer

After decades of disputing the findings of various medical authorities, Philip Morris, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, now acknowledges that smoking causes lung cancer and other deadly diseases. A company press release says: “There is an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers.” The New York Times notes that “previously, the company had contended . . . that smoking was a ‘risk factor’ or a ‘causal factor’ in diseases like lung cancer, not that it caused the diseases.” Yet, despite this admission, the company says: “We are very proud of our cigarette brands and the advertising campaigns that have supported them over the years.”

Vanishing Landmarks

Grain elevators are slowly disappearing from Canada’s western prairies. The peak number of grain elevators was reached in 1933 when there were 5,758 dotting the countryside. Since then the number has plummeted to 1,052. The reason? One person who witnessed the demolition of a grain elevator lamented: “Times have changed so much. Agriculture is now agribusiness. The family farm is dying. So are the elevators.” “Prairies without elevators would be a little like Venice without canals, New York without skyscrapers or Britain without pubs,” reports Harrowsmith Country Life magazine. Special-interest groups are working to preserve what is considered to be an architectural symbol of the Canadian plains. One grain elevator was converted into a museum and another into a dinner theater.

Never Enough Time

Throughout Europe more and more people are feeling pressed for time, reports the German newspaper Gießener Allgemeine. The same is true whether people are working outside the home, doing housework, or enjoying leisure time. “People sleep less, eat faster, and feel more rushed on the job than 40 years ago,” says sociologist Manfred Garhammer, of Bamberg University. He found that daily life has accelerated in all the European nations that he has studied. Laborsaving household devices and a reduction in hours at work have not brought about any “leisure society” or “time prosperity.” Instead, on average, time for meals has been reduced by 20 minutes and for a night’s rest by 40 minutes.

Australia’s Gambling Addiction

“Gambling is now a serious health issue in Australia, directly affecting at least 330,000 chronic gamblers,” reports The Australian. According to the paper, more than 1 out of every 5 electronic gambling machines worldwide is located in Australia, where 82 percent of the adult population gamble. A commission investigating Australia’s gambling industry found that 2.3 percent of adult Australians have a serious gambling problem. Of these, 37 percent had contemplated suicide, more than 11 percent had attempted suicide, and 90 percent said that they were severely depressed as a result of their gambling. The commission called for an overhaul of gambling operations and has suggested that warning signs be posted in gambling lounges.

Combating Stress

Do you feel stressed? As reported in El Universal, the Mexican Institute of Social Security suggests the following guidelines to help combat tension. Sleep as much as your body demands—between six and ten hours a day. Eat a complete and balanced breakfast, an average-size dinner, and a light supper. Also, experts widely recommend that you reduce your intake of foods high in fat, limit the amount of salt you use and, after age 40, reduce your consumption of milk and sugar. Try to find time for quiet meditation. Reduce stress further by maintaining contact with nature.

 Toxic Beauty

A cosmetic procedure that involves injecting the deadly toxin botulin is now being used to eliminate facial wrinkles, reports The Toronto Star. The toxin paralyzes selected facial muscles, which in a few days lose their tone, causing wrinkles to flatten out. The treatment lasts for about four months and leaves a patient with a more relaxed, youthful appearance. There is a toll exacted, however. The report cautions that “users lose their wrinkles, but they also lose their ability to raise their brows in surprise, to have a smile spread up to their eyes, [and] to frown.” It is a matter of being prepared to “paralyze parts of your face for the beauty of youth,” the paper says.

“Which Side Is God On?”

“I don’t mean to demean anyone’s beliefs,” writes sports columnist Sam Smith, “but hasn’t this public display of piety gone far enough in sports? Why are football players praying after scoring a [touchdown]?” The same players who huddle in prayer after a game can also be seen “cursing out reporters” in the locker room or “trying to injure players” during the heat of a sports contest, notes Smith. Thinking that God favors one team over another “seems to demean the belief in God,” he says. Thus, his article concludes: “Let’s not make sports into more than what they are.”

Dangerous Occupations

What are the ten most dangerous occupations? According to figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, timber cutters topped the list with nearly 129 fatalities per 100,000 workers, while fishers and water transportation workers followed close behind with some 123 and 94 deaths respectively per 100,000 workers. Listed in descending order, other risky occupations are those of airplane pilots, structural metal workers, miners, construction laborers, taxicab drivers, truck drivers, and farm workers. However, “the overall rate of fatal occupational injuries—4.7 per 100,000 employed—has decreased by about 10 percent” in the last five years, reports Scientific American.

Clever Birds!

“Sparrows in Calcutta stay clear of malaria,” reports the French nature magazine Terre Sauvage. Experts have noted that with the increase of malaria, sparrows are now flying farther afield to search for leaves of a tree known for its high concentrations of naturally occurring quinine, which is an antimalarial medicine. In addition to using the leaves to line their nests, the birds apparently eat them. “Sparrows, fond of cities and afraid of malaria, seem to have found a way to protect themselves,” notes the magazine.

Dirty Money

More than 99 percent of London’s bank notes are tainted with cocaine, reports the Guardian newspaper. Experts tested 500 bank notes and found that 496 contained traces of the drug. Contamination begins when notes are handled by drug users. These notes, in turn, contaminate other currency when they are sorted by bank machines or stored together. Cocaine has become Britain’s fastest-growing recreational drug among those aged 20 to 24. According to the London-based Youth Awareness Project, teenagers use cocaine because they feel that it enhances their reputation and increases their power.

“Most Common Blood-Borne Infection”

“At least 2.7 million Americans carry the hepatitis C virus, making it the most common blood-borne infection in the United States,” says an Associated Press report. Hepatitis C is spread from person to person primarily by means of sexual contact or through infected blood. Those most at risk of contracting the disease are intravenous drug users who share needles and people who engage in unprotected sex. The infection can also be spread, however, by tattooists and acupuncturists who do not properly clean their equipment. People who have received blood transfusions are also at risk. Every year, about 1,000 people in the United States receive liver transplants as a result of liver failure caused by the virus.