Watching the World

The Price of After-School Jobs

A growing number of German youths get jobs not only during vacation but also during the school year. “Nationwide, at least a third of the children 13 years of age and older work on average more than three hours a week,” reports the magazine Der Spiegel. In the German state of Hesse, between 50 and 80 percent of senior high school students take on odd jobs. Rarely do these youths need to help their families make ends meet. Rather, they want such possessions as the latest mobile phones, designer clothes, and cars, as well as the sense of independence a job gives them. But there is a cost. “It is not exceptional for a student to snooze with his head on the desk because of working long hours the day before or even early in the morning,” notes educator Thomas Müller. “They want luxury now instead of education for tomorrow.” Fellow educator Knud Dittmann adds: “Once children have the consumer mentality ingrained in them, they accept low grades or even having to repeat a year as the price to pay.”

 Great Apes in Peril

“The jungle homes of the great apes will all but disappear in 30 years unless humans take drastic action,” reports Reuters news service. At the recent Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, United Nations officials stated: “Less than 10 percent of the remaining habitat of the great apes of Africa will be left relatively undisturbed by 2030 if road building, mining camps and other infrastructure developments continue at current levels.” This shrinking habitat has already caused a sharp decline in great ape populations. The current chimpanzee population is estimated at 200,000, compared with some 2,000,000 a century ago, and there are only a few thousand lowland gorillas and a few hundred mountain gorillas left. According to Reuters, “the U.N. is working with researchers, conservationists, governments and local people to draw up recovery plans in the two dozen countries that have great ape populations.”

TV Shapes View of History

“Britons rate the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, as the most significant event in the nation’s history over the past 100 years, ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War or the winning of women’s suffrage,” reports The Times of London. In a survey for the History Channel, over 1,000 people were asked to choose which of ten events was the most significant to them in British history during the past 100 years. The death of the princess was voted the most significant by 22 percent, the beginning of the second world war by 21 percent, and women’s suffrage by 15 percent. When asked about world events, 41 percent chose the September 11 attacks, 19 percent the atom-bombing of Hiroshima, and 11 percent the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Times comments that for most people “history is largely a matter of what they have seen most recently on television.”

A Link Between Divorce and Success in School?

A recent study by France’s National Institute of Demographic Studies indicates that children of divorced parents achieve less academically than children whose parents stay together, reports the French daily Le Monde. Children whose parents separate before the children reach adulthood leave school on average six months to a year earlier than those whose parents remain married, regardless of their social and cultural background. Even in well-to-do families, where the vast majority of children pass their final high school exams, those from broken homes are twice as likely not to obtain a high school diploma. In France, 40 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Narcotics’ Collateral Damage

In recent months, five people died in Peru as a direct result of drinking water from jungle sources that were contaminated by coca cultivation and cocaine processing, reports Lima’s newspaper El Comercio. Among other toxic chemicals, kerosene, sulfuric acid, and ammonia are used to produce cocaine. “These deaths were caused by the consumption of water from springs or streams into which the drug traffickers throw their highly toxic chemical wastes,” says the report. Even antinarcotics police who confiscate and destroy the hidden drug laboratories have been adversely affected by contact with poisonous residues. Many other jungle residents are also “undergoing irreversible organic damage” as a result of consuming the polluted water. “The sad thing is that a large part of these settlers are unaware of the danger many of them are in,” said Jonathan Jacobson of the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Antinarcotic Affairs, in Lima. “No doubt they are even people who have nothing to do with coca cultivation or processing.”

Soft Drinks in the Mexican Diet

Mexico is the second-largest consumer of bottled soft drinks in the world after the United States, and soft drinks are among the ten most common products in the Mexican diet, consumed by 60 percent of families, reports the newspaper Reforma. This concerns health experts who would like to see families spending money on milk, fruit, vegetables, and other foods that are essential to the growth and development of children. Instead, too much of the family budget goes toward a product that “does not provide any nutrient to the body but does have a large amount of carbohydrates, which in the long run contribute to the development of obesity,” reports Reforma. Other harmful effects of the high consumption of soft drinks, particularly colas, include tooth decay and osteoporosis, states the report.

When Pills Make Headaches Worse

“Neurologist Michael Anthony estimates up to 10 per cent of headache sufferers are plagued by ‘analgesic abuse’ induced headaches,” states The Daily Telegraph of Sydney, Australia. “Instead of a weekly headache, over-reliance on over-the-counter remedies can result in headaches every day.” Professor Anthony, associated with the University of New South Wales, found that “patients who abuse headache tablets have a shortage of serotonin,” a substance that restricts the expansion of blood vessels. “Low levels of serotonin cause the arteries to dilate, and that brings on headaches,” he notes. Anthony recommends that migraine sufferers use specialized medicines prescribed by a doctor rather than over-the-counter pills, adding: “If [patients] take [painkiller] tablets more than three times a week, even one dose three times a week, then within a few months their headaches will get worse.”

Easing Morning Sickness

“Between 70 and 80 per cent of pregnant women are thought to suffer from morning sickness,” states the Sun-Herald newspaper of Australia. When they get up in the morning, these newly pregnant women suffer from nausea, often accompanied by vomiting. Among the suspected causes of this condition is a rise in the level of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy, which can produce excess stomach acids. Additionally, “an enhanced sense of smell can make pregnant women prone to queasiness.” While there is no universal cure for morning sickness, the paper recommends avoiding warm places, since heat can induce nausea, taking naps and getting ample sleep, and smelling a cut lemon. “Try eating plain crackers or dry cereal before getting out of bed. Always get out of bed slowly,” the paper continues. “Have frequent protein snacks.” The newspaper says that “there is an upside to morning sickness. Recent studies suggest mothers who experience it have fewer miscarriages.”