Watching the World

Seventy-Nine Million Women “Missing”

A UN-funded survey of “India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives said some 79 million women were ‘missing in South Asia’ due to discrimination against females, both before and after birth,” states a Reuters report. The women are “missing” as a result of abortions as well as “infanticide and the preference given male babies in the region in dishing out food.” The latter is said to continue into adulthood, resulting in chronic nutritional problems for females. There are “high levels of mortality among young girls and women in their child-bearing years,” the report said. The figure of 79 million was based on the fact that there are only 94 women for every 100 men in the region, while worldwide the ratio is 106 women for every 100 men.

Longest Road Tunnel Opened

The world’s longest road tunnel has been opened in Norway, reports the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Laerdal Tunnel is 15.2 miles [24.5 kilometers] long and connects Norway’s two biggest cities, Oslo and Bergen. Before this, car drivers had to choose between a winding mountain road and a ferry journey across a fjord. A high priority has been placed on security in the new tunnel. It has a turnaround every third of a mile [500 m], huge fireproof fans that can extract smoke and poisonous gases through a ventilation shaft, and state-of-the-art emergency systems. Because many people are afraid of long tunnels, large plazas divide the Laerdal Tunnel into four sections. The walls of these plazas are illuminated with blue lights to give the impression of daylight and fresh air. Still, a survey showed that 25 percent of Norwegians—fearful of accidents or fire—will avoid the tunnel.

Endangered Animals Return to Israel

Many animals that disappeared from Israel are making a comeback, stated an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Jackals and wolf packs are back in the Negeb and the Golan Heights. At last count, the number of eagles in northern Israel had increased to 450. Even a leopard has been observed in Galilee. Leopards were believed to be extinct in this region, and wolves were threatened with extinction. But now these predators are back, as is their prey—antelope, wild goats, and deer. While some animals return on their own, others have been reintroduced into their former habitat. These include wild asses; more than 100 are once again roaming the Negeb.

More Nursing Advantages

“Want to boost your baby’s IQ?” asks Psychology Today magazine. “It may be as easy as choosing breast milk over store-bought formula.” Two fatty acids that occur naturally in breast milk—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA)—seem to make the difference in neural development. Tests showed that “children who consumed both DHA and AA performed better than other groups in terms of memory, problem solving and language development skills,” says the magazine, showing that natural breast milk is best.

“Research also casts light on why people are so deeply attached to the foods of their culture,” states Science magazine. “Women who drank carrot juice while pregnant or lactating cultivated a taste for carrots in their offspring. . . . The work indicates that breast feeding is better than formula, because it makes children more accepting of new foods” and teaches them “what foods are safe—highlighting the importance of a healthful diet for pregnant and lactating moms.”

Decent Work Still Desired

“Decent Work for All—Still a Dream,” says a headline in the German newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung reporting on the symposium “Global Dialogue,” held at the  world exhibition EXPO 2000 in Hannover. Although the principle of equal pay for equal work for men and women was adopted in 1951 and a ban on child labor in 1973, 150 million people around the globe are without a job, 850 million are underemployed, and 250 million children have to work. Half the world’s population live on less than two dollars a day. And despite all efforts, the gap between rich and poor has widened rather than narrowed. The concerns of rich and poor countries are also quite different. While European politicians discuss share option schemes and the influence of trade unions, their colleagues from developing countries have to care for much more fundamental issues, such as basic school education for all and creating jobs for the rising generation.

Masada in Danger?

“Masada must not fall again!” is a rallying cry that inspired Jews as they built the modern nation of Israel. “But Masada could conceivably fall again,” notes an NBC news release, “literally, to the forces of nature.” The popular tourist site “is situated on one of this planet’s most volatile faultlines: the Dead Sea Rift Valley.” The mountain’s cliffs are split into hundreds of blocks, some of which could possibly be shaken loose by an earthquake. Indeed, computer analysis indicated that several on the eastern Snake Path side were at the point of doing just that, and these have already been reinforced by 60-foot [18 m]-long steel rods. However, the remains of a palace that King Herod built on the northern face of Masada “is also on shaky ground” and in need of being shored up. As yet, work on this section has not begun because of lack of funds. It was at Masada, 60 miles [100 km] from Jerusalem, that a group of 967 Jewish rebels withstood two years of siege by the Roman army almost 2,000 years ago. The night before the Romans broke through their fortifications, it is said that the Jews opted for suicide rather than surrender.

Be Wary of the Sun

Prolonged exposure to the sun without adequate protection can cause skin cancer, states an article in El Universal newspaper of Mexico. According to dermatologist Adriana Anides Fonseca, solar radiation has a cumulative effect that generally manifests itself as malignancy after the age of 50. She recommends applying sun screen 30 minutes before sunning oneself and reapplying it every three or four hours, after going into the water, or when perspiring profusely. Light-skinned people need a filter with a sun protection factor above 30 or 40; and dark-skinned people, one with 15 to 30. Even then, it must be remembered that sunscreen does not prevent radiation damage completely, and tanning lotions can make matters worse by producing deeper burns. Special care should be taken to protect infants from direct exposure to the sun, as their epidermal defenses are not yet fully developed.

Interest in the Priesthood Lost

Catholic parents are “no longer eager to say ‘my son, the priest,’” says The New York Times. “Catholic leaders . . . are well aware that a major factor behind the shortage of priests is a shortage of Catholic parents who are willing to coax their children to consider vocations to the priesthood.” Among the reasons given are smaller Catholic families, where “it is harder to accept an only son’s joining a celibate priesthood,” the article states. “In addition, the prestige of the priesthood has been shaken over the last decade with each news report about child abuse by priests, parents said in interviews.” A survey of Catholics most active in the church, commissioned by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, revealed that two thirds of the parents would not encourage their children to follow a career as a priest or a nun. According to Edward J. Burns, a priest and representative of the group, a young, unmarried couple at a family reunion would get no disapproving comments if they announced that they were living together. Yet, a young man contemplating the priesthood would be pulled aside by family members who would say, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”