Watching the World

“Pester Power”

Britain’s shopping districts “are being invaded by a new generation of free-spending, highly sophisticated, fashion-conscious youngsters,” reports The Times of London. “Aged 10 to 13, they are mature enough to make independent decisions about what to buy but young enough to use ‘pester power’ to get their parents to pay for expensive items of their choice,” the newspaper adds. Piers Berezai of Datamonitor, a market research company, observes: “With divorce increasing and more women working, parental guilt plays an increasing role with money replacing time spent together. Children are realising that pestering is a very effective tool to get what they want. Parents, who only see their children periodically, are more prone to giving in and are more likely to indulge their kids.”

Adults Eating Baby Food

More and more baby food is being consumed by adults, reports the German news agency dpa-Basisdienst. Ten percent of the production of a major German baby food manufacturer is sold to households without children. People of all ages and from all walks of life love milk pudding and stewed fruit prepared for babies. Since a serving may have only 100 calories, many weight-conscious adults choose baby food for a snack. Manufacturers cater to the trend by recommending their products for “young and old” and by providing recipes that include their products. The German Nutrition Society, however, is not happy about the trend. According to its spokeswoman Anette Braun, grown-ups do not need such specially prepared foods unless they are sick. They should chew their food. “After all, that is why we have teeth,” says Braun.

Smoking Addiction Can Start Quickly

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have confirmed that some people show evidence of addiction “within days of their first cigarette,” says an Associated Press report. The study tracked the smoking habits of 681 youths between 12 and 13 years of age for a year and recorded symptoms that indicate addiction. “There’s been a suspicion that many people become addicted very quickly,” states Dr. Richard Hurt, “but this is really the first hard evidence that we’ve had that this occurs.” Says the director of the research team, Dr. Joseph DiFranza: “The really important implication of this study is that we have to warn kids that you can’t just fool around with cigarettes or experiment with cigarettes for a few weeks and then give it up.”

Churches Admit Using Forced Labor

Recently, the German public was aghast to learn that during World War II, both the Catholic and the Evangelical churches made use of forced labor. According to a spokesman for the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, “laborers worked on estates run by the church—in the fields of monasteries as well as in vineyards and hospitals,” reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Evangelical Church’s largest welfare and social institutions in Europe “employed forced laborers during the whole of the second world war,” says the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Both the Catholic and the Evangelical churches have pledged several million deutsche marks to compensate surviving forced laborers, most of whom were civilians from Eastern European countries.

Can Zinc Lozenges Shorten Colds?

For years researchers have debated whether zinc helps people to fight off colds. One recent study found that “[zinc] lozenges taken every few hours at the start of a cold slash its average duration nearly in half,” reports Science News. Moreover, participants in the study who took zinc lozenges every two to three hours for four or five days “reported significantly less coughing and nasal discharge” than those who  took placebos. However, some people taking zinc experienced side effects such as constipation and mouth dryness, says the magazine.

Importing Priests

Concerned about a shortage of priests in the developed world, the Catholic Church has begun importing priests to fill the need, reports the Italian magazine L’Espresso. “In Italy, Europe, and North America, seminaries are becoming infertile and the dioceses are no longer able to replace their priests,” the magazine says. To fill vacant parishes, priests from Brazil, India, and the Philippines are being imported. “The trend is just beginning,” reports L’Espresso, “but it is transforming the church. . . . In Italy, there are already 1,131 priests from outside the European Union on the payroll of the Bishops’ Conference, that is, 3 percent of the total.” Italy is thus becoming ‘missionary territory,’ the magazine notes.

Dried Pet Treats Can Make You Ill

“Pet treats made from the dried ears, hooves, lungs, and bones of pigs and cows have been implicated in Salmonella poisoning in humans,” reports FDA Consumer. According to Canadian health officials, over a one year period, more than 35 Canadians were treated for salmonella poisoning after handling dried pig ears. Gloria Dunnavan, director of the Division of Compliance for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, suggests that consumers handle dried animal parts just as they would raw meat. “In other words, wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling, avoid putting the treats on food contact surfaces (such as kitchen countertops), and don’t allow children to touch their mouths after handling [them],” says the magazine.

Capsules That See

An Israeli company has developed a capsule that after being swallowed acts as a tiny video camera for studying ailments of the small intestine, reports the Mexican newspaper Excelsior. The minicamera transmits signals to a special belt that the patient wears around the hips. The images are then processed by a computer and studied by specialists. The small camera is expelled by natural means. According to Dr. Blair Lewis, one of the advantages of this method of examination is that it is painless. One of the capsule’s inventors, Professor Paul Swain, says that “it will be possible to obtain an image of the lower part of the small intestine without having to sedate the patient and even while he is walking about.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given approval for the capsule to be tried on 20 patients in New York and London.

Rising Depression at Work

“Stress, anxiety and depression on the job affect as many as one in 10 workers worldwide,” reports the Paris daily International Herald Tribune. A study by the UN International Labor Organization found that work-induced stress costs Europe and the United States over $120 billion a year. The rise in job-related depression is said to be due, in part, to the technology revolution, which has put additional stress on workers. The Tribune reported that in the United States, some “200 million working days are lost annually due to work-related mental health problems” and that in Finland over half the work force suffers from stress-related problems. Additionally, some 30 percent of workers in Britain are said to have mental-health problems, and 5 percent suffer from major depression.

Temple’s Mixed Flock

An old Buddhist temple in Japan is attracting more than worshipers. Since the temple underwent restoration work in 1955, woodpeckers have been flocking to it. The small holes that they have made in the temple “are so numerous that some tourists think they are part of the design—to allow sunlight to filter in, brightening up the inside,” says Asahi Evening News. The chief priest laments that until now all attempts to keep the birds away from the temple have failed. Built in 1286, the main hall of Daizenji Temple in Yamanashi Prefecture is officially recognized as a national treasure.