Watching the World

“We Would Do Well to Invent Them”

Professor Anatoly P. Zilber, chairman of the Department of Intensive Care and Anesthesia, Petrozavodsk University and Republican Hospital of Karelia, Russia, commends Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying: “They do not abuse alcohol, they do not smoke, they are not money hungry, they do not break their promises, nor give false witness . . . It is not a mysterious sect, but law-abiding citizens.” He adds: “[They] are respectable, happy people, interested in history, literature, art, and life in all its aspects.” Then, after listing the positive changes that the Witnesses have brought about in bloodless surgery, the professor says: “To alter Voltaire’s words, we could say that if Jehovah’s Witnesses did not exist, we would do well to invent them.”

The Height of Fashion?

Platform shoes, “a vital accessory for fashion-conscious young people,” together with high heels are responsible for about 10,000 injuries a year in Britain, observes The Times of London. Steve Tyler, a spokesman for the British Standards Institution, says: “The most common injuries are twisted or sprained ankles and broken legs, but these shoes may also cause back problems, especially in young girls whose bodies are still developing.” In Japan platform shoes have even been involved in the deaths of two women in recent months. In one case a 25-year-old nursery school worker wearing five-inch platform sandals tripped, fractured her skull, and died. Another young woman was killed when the car she was traveling in hit a concrete pole because the driver could not brake properly while wearing her six-inch [15 cm] platform boots. In a bid to avoid lawsuits, some manufacturers have taken to putting warning labels on their shoes.

Chores for Children

“Today’s time-pressed parents are laid back when it comes to having their children help around the house,” reports The Toronto Star. Although chores “will never be a top priority for kids,” says Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline, such tasks “build self-reliance and self-esteem.” According to a study appearing in Child magazine, some realistic home chores for two- to three-year-olds could include picking up toys as well as putting clothes in the hamper. Children between three and five years of age could set the table, carry dishes to the sink, and keep their play areas neat. Those 5 to 9 years of age could make their own bed, rake leaves, and pull weeds, while 9- to 12-year-olds could do chores such as washing and drying dishes, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, and vacuuming. Nelsen adds that “it helps to give deadlines for completion.”

Young People and Crime

A Scottish Executive survey reveals that in Scotland 85 percent of boys and 67 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 15 say that they committed a crime during the past year. The Glasgow newspaper The Herald reports that out of 1,000 pupils surveyed from six schools, only 12 percent said that they had never committed any offense. Of the crimes admitted, 69 percent of boys and 56 percent of girls had damaged property. Some 66 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls had stolen from shops, and almost half had stolen from school. Other crimes included setting fire to property and using a weapon to cause injury. Young people from this age group claimed peer pressure was a major reason for their crimes, while for those over 15, a more likely cause was funding a drug habit.

Disruptive Students

Traditionally, Japan has had little teenage rebellion. But schoolteachers throughout Japan now report that it is increasingly difficult to maintain order in class because of restless and disruptive students. The Tokyo metropolitan government questioned 9-, 11-, and 14-year-old students to ascertain  their feelings toward other people. According to The Daily Yomiuri, 65 percent said that they are irritated and fed up with their friends, 60 percent with their parents, and 50 percent with their teachers. Forty percent said that they are never or rarely able to control their anger. Breaking things is how 1 in 5 students says he or she vents anger.

“Mystery Virus”

“A mystery virus is contaminating blood supplies throughout the world,” reports New Scientist. “No one knows whether this ‘TT’ virus is dangerous, but there are fears that it might cause liver disease.” The virus, named TT after the initials of the Japanese patient in whose blood it was first discovered, has been found “both in blood donors and in patients with liver disease undergoing transfusions.” In fact, a study revealed the virus to be in 8 of 102 California donors whose blood tested negative for viruses, including HIV and hepatitis B and C. It is estimated that the infection rate is 2 percent in Britain, 4 to 6 percent in France, 8 to 10 percent in the United States, and 13 percent in Japan. Scientists “studying TT virus around the world are anxious not to cause panic,” the article says, but are seeking “to find out whether the virus poses any risk to health.”

Collar of Life

Stock farmers in some areas of South Africa stood to lose up to 40 percent of their newborn stock to jackals each season. Not only was this financially distressing but it also resulted in a jackal population explosion. Efforts to remove the jackals proved unsuccessful and even harmful to other wildlife. However, a clever solution has been devised and used in recent years. It is a semirigid sheep collar that is adjustable and reusable and that does not restrict the sheep’s movements or harm the jackal. It simply prevents the jackal from inflicting a fatal bite. According to the Natal Witness newspaper, farmers who have been using the collars “have reported an immediate and permanent end to kills by jackal.” And because the jackals are restricted to their natural diet of insects, rodents, and carrion, their numbers are dropping.

Woodworking Wasps

The ichneumon wasp has an egg-laying structure that is “hardened with ionized manganese or zinc,” reports National Geographic. The wasp uses its metal tool to drill deep into tree trunks to lay eggs on or in the bodies of host grubs. “Some can drill as much as three inches into solid wood,” says Donald Quicke of Britain’s Imperial College. When the wasps hatch, they eat the wood-boring grubs and then chew their way out of the tree using mouth parts hardened with minerals from the grubs they ate.

India’s “Silent Emergency”

“Despite improvements in health and well-being in the last few years, malnutrition remains a ‘silent emergency’ in India,” reports The Times of India. Malnutrition costs India more than $230 million in health care and lost productivity. According to the report, over 50 percent of Indian children under four years of age are malnourished, 30 percent of newborn babies are “significantly underweight,” and 60 percent of women are anemic. Senior social development specialist at the World Bank, Meera Chatterjee, says that “malnutrition not only blights the lives of individuals and families but also reduces the returns on investment in education and acts as a major barrier to social and economic progress.”

Unhappy Priests?

Three times in the past six years, a survey has been taken on the image of priests in French society. As published in the Catholic newspaper La Croix, the most recent survey reveals that 45 percent of French people do not view priests as happy or fulfilled persons. People generally still regard the priest as being close to others and as someone who listens. However, the paper says that “fewer and fewer French people consider him as a man necessary to society” and that only 56 percent see him as “a witness of God on earth.” Fewer than 1 in 3 of the general public and only 51 percent of regular churchgoers would encourage their son or a relative to take up the priesthood.