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Watching the World

Watching the World

 Watching the World

Rats and Humans in a Race for Food

According to the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), worldwide there are ten baby rats born for every human baby born. Each day, some 360,000 new human mouths must be fed, but 3,600,000 newborn rats also demand food. For example, Indonesia has a population of about 230 million people, and some 60 percent of them rely on rice for their daily energy requirements. Yet, in that country, rats eat about 15 percent of the rice crop each year. “That means that the rats are eating enough rice to feed more than 20 million Indonesians for a whole year,” says CSIRO scientist Dr. Grant Singleton.

 Chicken Soup​—A Natural Cold Remedy

Chicken soup has long been used as a folk remedy for respiratory ailments such as colds. As reported in the book Food​—Your Miracle Medicine, Dr. Irwin Ziment, lung specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles, explains how it works: “Chicken, like most protein foods, contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which is released when you make the soup. Cysteine bears a remarkable chemical similarity to a drug called acetylcysteine, which doctors prescribe for their patients with bronchitis and respiratory infections.” This drug, originally derived from chicken feathers and skin, is a mucolytic, that is, it thins down and promotes the flow of mucus from the nose, throat, and lungs. Chicken soup acts in much the same way. To make the soup an even more effective congestion fighter, Dr. Ziment suggests adding garlic, onions, and hot spices like chili peppers.

The French and the Paranormal

In spite of their reputation as rationalists, many French people still believe in the paranormal. According to a report in the French daily Le Monde, researchers found that “a third of the population believe that characteristics are determined by astrological signs, while a quarter put faith in horoscope predictions.” About 50 percent believe in faith healing and telepathy. Surprisingly, research revealed that an interest in science did not dispel belief in the paranormal. On the contrary, those with very little scientific knowledge tended to be less credulous than those who had a very good understanding of science.

Killer Heatstroke

Commenting on the heatstroke death of U.S. sports star Korey Stringer, Time magazine explained that in hot, humid weather, perspiration may not evaporate rapidly enough to cool the body during heavy exertion. Heatstroke, characterized by a potentially deadly rise in body temperature, may result. Warning signs of heatstroke may include dizziness, headache, nausea, weakness, mental confusion, rapid pulse, and hot, dry, flushed skin. Immediate cooling of the body with ice water, ice packs, or other means is necessary to save the victim’s life. But prevention is better than a cure. “Try to avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day. Wear loose-fitting clothing that allows air to circulate around your body. And be sure to drink plenty of liquids,” especially water, recommends Time. “Alcohol, tea and colas, which act as diuretics, can actually increase fluid loss.”

Tobacco Companies’ Questionable Practice

Secret tobacco company documents reveal that tobacco companies have “deliberately misled smokers into thinking they are smoking cigarettes that contain lower levels of tar and nicotine than they really do,” reports Britain’s New Scientist magazine. To cite one example, a 1990 European Union directive imposed a limit of 15 milligrams of tar per cigarette as well as a nicotine limit. However, to meet those limits on tar and nicotine, one company’s documents reveal that instead of altering the cigarettes, the firm deliberately manipulated the standards by changing how they measure the substances. How were they able to get away with it? “The companies were able to do this because they effectively control the tobacco committee [that] sets such tests,” reports New Scientist. States Stella Bialous of the World Health Organization: “It illustrates how useless these regulations are for protecting the public.”

Oldest Printed Ad

Chinese archaeologists have found the world’s oldest known printed paper advertisements, reports China’s People’s Daily Online. Two pieces of wrapping paper, dating back about 700 years and evidently used to package oil paint pigment, were unearthed from a tomb in China’s Hunan Province. “There are 70 Chinese characters on the top right of the paper which describe the variety, quality and characteristics of the commodity, and the address of the store is also printed on the paper,” says the report. Some of the language of the ad is strikingly similar to modern ads. It reads, in part: “Compared with other oil paints, the tint of our product is unique.” Noting that paper came to Europe in the 12th century and Gutenberg invented typography only in the 15th century, the report observes: “In China, paper-making can be traced back to AD 105, when Ts’ai Lun first created a sheet of paper; as to printing, in [the] 9th century China already had wood block printing.”

Church Commerce

Facing flat attendance and falling donations, churches across the United States are opening secular businesses to help pay the bills. “It’s the future of every aggressive church,” says Stephen Munsey, senior pastor of the Family Christian Center in Munster, Indiana. According to The Wall Street Journal, churches’ commercial activities range from selling coffee and doughnuts in the church lobby to operating full-service restaurants on the church terrace. One church in Jacksonville, Florida, opened a shopping mall near its church sanctuary. The mall includes a travel agency, a beauty salon, and a soul-food restaurant. The church’s founder and bishop, Vaughn McLaughlin, says: “Jesus wanted us to take the gifts that he gives us, and get interest.” He adds that in 2000, the church’s businesses brought in over two million dollars in revenue.

Harmless Cannabis?

“Claims that cannabis is harmless have been undermined by a new report which warns that the drug is becoming more powerful and can lead to severe long-term health damage,” reports The Independent of London. Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University, England, says: “Cannabis affects almost every body system. It combines many of the properties of alcohol, tranquillisers, opiates and hallucinogens.” It is known to seriously impair driving skills. It can also provoke acute mental illness, including schizophrenia; does five times more damage to the lungs than do cigarettes; may cause rare throat cancers; and may bring on fatal heart attacks in some young users. In the 1960’s, one marijuana cigarette typically contained 10 milligrams of THC, a chemical affecting the brain. “Now, with more sophisticated cultivation and plant breeding, a joint may contain 150mg of THC and up to 300mg if it is laced with hashish oil,” explains the newspaper.

Do You Understand Your Doctor?

“Communication between doctors and patients is in trouble,” reports Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo. In a survey made at the emergency pediatric ward of one São Paulo hospital, 25 percent of parents accompanying children left the doctor’s office without understanding what had happened there, 24 percent could not read the prescription because of poor handwriting, and 90 percent could not remember the doctor’s name. Several factors are contributing to this communication breakdown. They include “quick and impersonal” consultations that leave patients “distrustful and dissatisfied with the doctor’s diagnosis,” excessive use of medical jargon, and the fact that modern medical tests make it unnecessary for doctors to ask as many questions as they used to. According to the report, one psychiatrist cites another factor​—the “emotional shield” that many doctors develop “to protect themselves against pain, suffering, anguish, and fear of death.”