Watching the World
Snow is being used as a new energy source during summer, reports Japan’s Asahi Evening News. The city of Bibai in Hokkaido, northern Japan, has short, hot summers and plenty of snow in winter. Instead of hauling the snow away, workers pack it in storehouses. Then, during the summer, “air is circulated in a large, snow-packed cold store before being emitted as chilled air like that used for refrigeration,” says the newspaper. This chilled air is used to cool buildings that have been equipped with “snow conditioners,” specially designed snow-based air conditioning systems. An added benefit is that the snow-filled warehouses have high levels of humidity, which helps to purify the air by absorbing dust particles and odors.
Deadly Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
“A deadly multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB), which is on the increase, has the capacity to wipe out entire families,” reports the Johannesburg Star newspaper. “In the next few years it will overtake the number of ordinary tuberculosis (TB) cases” in South Africa. According to the South African National Tuberculosis Association, TB patients can develop MDRTB if they stop taking their medication too soon or if they take it erratically. The more dangerous drug-resistant TB can then be passed on to people who have never had TB. Treatment of drug-resistant TB is 20 times more expensive than treatment of normal TB and is less successful—half the patients with the drug-resistant strain die. South Africa’s TB crisis, says the report, “is spiralling out of control despite the availability of free TB treatment.” Two thirds of the population have dormant TB that can easily become activated by the HIV virus.
Is 49 a Dangerous Age?
‘Beware, 49-year-olds,’ warns Asahi Shimbun. More men of this age than any other are being arrested in Japan for murder and attempted murder. Forty-nine-year-olds also rank high in inflicting bodily injury. Next come 47-year-olds, followed by 48-year-olds and then 45-year-olds. Why so many in this age bracket? Men approaching their 50’s have reached a crossroads in life, says a Tokyo psychiatrist. “Their children become independent, they have to care for their aging parents and their relations with spouses become difficult,” he says. “They are at a stage when their control over impulses is weakened, and some act impulsively even when they can foresee danger.” According to the newspaper, housing loans, education fees, pressures at work, layoffs, and unstable jobs also cause stress in the lives of men in their late 40’s.
Memory Loss Linked to Technology?
Some doctors in Japan, the United States, and Britain have begun blaming computer technology, such as electronic organizers and car navigation systems, for severe memory loss in young adults, reports The Sunday Times of London. These doctors claim that modern gadgets lead to diminished use of the brain in working out problems, leaving workers, including even those still in their 20’s and 30’s, unable to remember names, written words, or appointments. Dr. David Cantor of the Psychological Services Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., says: “Many experts believe information overload is making it difficult for some people to absorb new information . . . These people forget things because they were too distracted to absorb them in the first place.” Dr. Takashi Tsukiyama of Tokyo observes that these problems “have nothing to do with age but are related to [your] life-style, such as not using your brain enough.”
“A Serious Public Health Problem”
According to government statistics, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among Americans. More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide annually, and every year more than 650,000 attempt to take their life. There are more than three suicides for every two murders, says Reuters news service. Both public and private groups refer to suicide as “a serious public health problem.” David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general, says: “There are few who escape being touched by the tragedy of suicide in their lifetimes.” Some of the factors associated with suicide include “depression, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and alcohol and other drug abuse,” reports Reuters.
Although the Bible has traditionally been revered in the United States, a recent study found that only 16 percent of professed Christians there say that they read the Bible daily. As reported in The Sun Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S.A., another survey showed that only 2 in 10 people were able to identify the person who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Additionally, those surveyed could cite only three or four of the Ten Commandments.
Grapefruit Juice and Drugs
Taking prescription drugs with grapefruit juice can increase “the risk of side effects and, in a few cases, [cause] serious reactions,” reports the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. The primary drugs involved include some cholesterol-lowering drugs, high blood pressure medications known as calcium channel blockers, and certain tranquilizers. Interestingly, however, not all people react negatively to the mixture, nor do all grapefruit juices cause the problem. “If you’re on medication and drink grapefruit juice,” says the Wellness Letter, “check with your pharmacist about the possible interaction.”
Memory Like an Elephant?
Researchers working in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park have found that one of the keys to an elephant herd’s survival is the oldest female’s memory. “Seniors of the elephant matriarchy, females at least 55 years old, turn out to be far better at telling friends from strangers than . . . 35-year-olds,” reports Science News. By remembering so-called contact calls, or low-frequency rumbles, senior matriarchs identify unfamiliar calls and herd the group into a defensive huddle. The report says that “a female typically recognizes about 100 peers by their calls.” Thus, when poachers kill an older cow, it means the loss of a large storehouse of information for the entire herd.
Number One Killer
“Alcohol kills 55,000 youths per year,” reports the French daily Le Figaro. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is the number one killer of European men aged 15-29 and is a factor in 25 percent of all deaths. This includes deaths from “intoxication, traffic accidents, suicides, and homicides,” says the paper. The situation is particularly bad in some Eastern European countries, where “a third of young men are condemned to die shortly as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.” At a conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of WHO, denounced aggressive marketing by alcohol manufacturers, which makes it increasingly difficult for youths to adopt “a balanced and healthy attitude toward alcohol.”
How to Be Happy
“The key to a fulfilling life does not lie in a bulging bank balance. In fact, being rich, popular and influential is the least likely way to find contentment,” according to new research by psychologists. Kennon Sheldon of the University of Missouri-Columbia, in the United States, says: “In Western cultures, many advertisements suggest we should be beautiful, popular and rich. It may make the market work, but those who get sucked into it are not the happiest people.” As reported in The Independent of London, a study of more than 700 college students revealed that according to the students, “self-esteem” and “being close to others” were the most important factors in their happiness. Money was mentioned least often as a reason for happiness. The belief that “‘those who think money can’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop’ has been dispelled,” says the newspaper.