Watching the World
Man’s Best Friend?
Small children left unsupervised with a dog are at risk of being bitten, according to a report in the newspaper El Universal of Mexico City. “The attacks are almost always initiated by the child, and the dog just defends itself,” says the report. One Mexican hospital has treated 426 children for dog bites in the last five years. Of these children, 12 percent were permanently injured or disfigured. The report urges parents to teach their children basic rules regarding all dogs: Respect their toys, house, and eating utensils; do not go near a dog when it is eating or sleeping; do not pull its tail or try to ride it.
Japan’s Suicide Problem
Perhaps because of economic stagnation, “Japan seems to have lost its purpose” and “has been adrift,” many Japanese say. The result is a “decade-long rash of suicides,” reports The New York Times. “In a society where much is driven by shame, record-high levels of unemployment have turned many men into despondent, daytime wanderers who pretend to have gainful occupations by staying away from home all day.” Anxious and ashamed, some think of ending their lives. “There is a lack of hope,” says Dr. Yukio Saito. “People have no dreams for the future, and everything seems to be declining. . . . Suicide has become sort of epidemic.” Railway suicides have apparently become increasingly popular. In an attempt to offset them, one rail company has painted its crossings a bright green to alter the state of mind of the one contemplating suicide, and they have installed mirrors across the tracks from platforms to make a jumper pause and think. The company has also trimmed foliage to deny the sense of privacy. Experts say, though, that unless the economic situation improves, these efforts will most likely be futile.
Arguing and Marriage
A new study by Andrew Christensen of the University of California at Los Angeles found that “couples who are less critical and more accepting of their differences have the most successful marriages,” states Time magazine. Arguing, on the other hand, often produces only more argument.
Getting Enough Sleep
“We are a dangerously sleep-deprived society,” states University of British Columbia psychologist Stanley Coren. Too little sleep was partly to blame for the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Drowsiness causes more than 100,000 car accidents each year in North America, reports Maclean’s magazine of Canada. Stanford University sleep specialist Dr. William Dement cautions: “People don’t really understand how much sleep they need.” For better sleep, researchers suggest: Eat your evening meal no later than three hours before bed. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Don’t keep a TV or a computer in the bedroom. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Wear socks to keep your feet warm in bed. Take a warm bath before bed. Exercise daily—but not right before bed. Finally, says Maclean’s: “If you can’t sleep, get up and do something. Go back to bed only when you feel tired, then get up at your regular hour.”
Keeping the Kitchen Clean
“[Ordinary] bleach is your best defence” against disease-causing pathogens that hide in a busy kitchen, says the Vancouver Sun newspaper of Canada. The report offers the following suggestions: Daily prepare a solution of one ounce of bleach per gallon [30 milliliters of bleach per 4 liters] of warm, not hot, water. Hot water causes the bleach to vaporize. Wipe down kitchen surfaces with this solution, using a clean cloth. Allow the surfaces to dry in the air. Maximizing contact time with the bleach kills more organisms. Wash dishes in hot soapy water, and then sanitize them by soaking them for a few minutes in the bleach solution. No chemical residue will remain on the dishes after they dry. Every day, wash and bleach kitchen sponges, dishcloths, and scrubbing brushes. And to minimize the risk of contaminating food with your hands, wash them thoroughly, especially under the nails.
Mexico has the largest population speaking indigenous languages in the Americas. In addition, after India and China, Mexico is third in the world in the number of native languages still spoken. Many of these languages are dying out, reports the Mexican English-language newspaper The News. Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, director of the Council for Culture and the Arts, explains that of the fewer than 100 native languages spoken in Mexico at the end of the 19th century, only 62 remain. And 16 of these languages are spoken by fewer than 1,000 individuals. One concern is that when languages die out, native terms identifying plants are lost, resulting in a loss of knowledge of their traditional uses in treating illnesses.
Don’t Drink and Swim
During one recent year, most cases of drowning in Germany involved “excessive alcohol consumption,” says Dr. Klaus Wilkens, president of the German Lifesaving Association. According to the health newsletter Apotheken Umschau, 477 drowning accidents occurred in German rivers, creeks, and lakes in 1998. Combining alcohol and swimming is dangerous because alcohol can impair coordination and the body’s muscular functions and can cause you to overestimate your own abilities. Therefore, lifeguards warn: ‘Don’t drink and swim!’
Paid to Kill Insects
The Uttar Pradesh State forest department in India has begun an insect-killing campaign in an effort to prevent one-inch-long winged insects called hoplo from destroying a forest of approximately 650,000 sal trees, reports The Times of India. Because the insects have recently increased in number, the very existence of this species of tree is threatened. The insects burrow into the bark and the stems, causing the trees to dry up and die. The forest department is using the “trap tree” method to capture the insects. Pieces of bark from young sal trees are scattered in the area where the insects are found. Liquid oozing from these pieces attracts and intoxicates the insects, making it easier to catch them. Local boys are employed to do the job, for which they are paid 75 paisa (about two cents) per insect.
Accepting early retirement may have certain advantages, but it can also take a heavy emotional toll. Brazil’s Diário de Pernambuco reports that former public employees complained of problems ranging from ‘dissatisfaction, irritability, insecurity, and loss of identity to depression and the feeling that their world was falling apart.’ According to geriatrician Guido Schachnik, “it is not uncommon for men who retire early to seek refuge in drink or for women to become dependent on medicine.” Those thinking of leaving their job should “avoid debt, recycle skills, and seek advice to escape falling into a bottomless pit,” says psychologist Graça Santos.
AIDS and Agriculture in Zambia
Agricultural productivity in Zambia is being hampered by the rapid spread of AIDS there. The Zambia Daily Mail newspaper notes that one of the most important agricultural resources is the labor of farmers and their helpers. But much of this labor force is being lost to AIDS. “When farmers die, there is reduced labour on farms and consequently production levels dwindle drastically. This affects household food security, leading to the escalating levels of poverty,” reports the Daily Mail. The solution, according to Daniel Mbepa, administrator of the Mansa district in Zambia, is for farmers to restrict their sexual relations to their own partners. He said: “By promoting good morals, the AIDS problem can be controlled.”