Watching the World

Improved Productivity?

“One in four Canadians is now working more than 50 hours a week, compared to one in 10 a decade ago,” reports the Vancouver Sun newspaper. A federal study involving 31,500 working Canadians found that “half of the respondents said they work at home or on weekends, donating an extra 27 hours a month to their employer.” One key reason is technology. “The survey found virtually all the unpaid overtime done at home . . . is ‘computer-supported’ work,” says the newspaper. So instead of leading to a four-day work week with more time for leisure, “technology is a prime culprit in driving up the incidence of stress, illness, burnout, absenteeism and all other costs eating into productivity.” The paper adds: “The majority of respondents agree that technology has increased the interest in their work and improved their productivity. At the same time, almost no one said technology decreased their workload or stress on the job.”

 Contamination in Large Cities

“Mexico City, Caracas, Bogotá, and Havana are among the most contaminated cities in the world,” reports the newspaper El Universal of Mexico City. That is the conclusion of a study conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting Society, published in London. The study, which examined the effects of pollution on cities around the world, took into account such factors as air quality, waste treatment, safety, housing, education, transportation, and public services. Among European cities, Zurich and Vienna offer the highest quality of life overall. As to the cleanest cities in the world, Calgary and Honolulu top the list. According to the report, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is considered the most pleasant city in which to live in all of Latin America.

The Cost of Marital Breakdown

After analyzing more than 100 pieces of research spanning more than two decades, Rebecca O’Neill, project manager of the Civitas Family Studies Unit, reports that “for many mothers, fathers and children, the ‘fatherless family’ has meant poverty, emotional heartache, ill health, lost opportunities, and a lack of stability.” According to O’Neill, children of broken homes were “50 per cent more likely to suffer health problems, twice as likely to run away from home and five times as likely to suffer abuse,” reports The Sunday Telegraph of London. The paper adds: “Children living without their natural father were also three times as likely to have difficulty getting on with other people and to struggle at school. As teenagers, they were twice as likely to drink, smoke, take drugs, . . . commit crime, have underage sex and to become teenage parents.” According to the report, even where married couples were as poor and underprivileged as single parents, their children were less likely to experience such problems.

Suicide Tops the List of Violent Deaths

“Suicide is the greatest single cause of violent death around the globe,” reports London’s newspaper The Independent. The article, based on a report by the World Health Organization, adds that 1.6 million people died by violent means in 2000. Suicide claimed 815,000 lives that year, while homicide claimed 520,000 and wars and conflicts 310,000. The vast majority of the deaths in 2000 “occurred in developing countries with fewer than 10 per cent in the developed world,” states the paper. Belarus, Estonia, and Lithuania recorded suicide rates more than four times that of Britain. In Africa and North and South America, the homicide rate is more than double the number of suicides, but in Australia, Europe, and the Far East, the reverse is true.

Sleep-Deprived Children

A lack of sleep is having disastrous effects on children’s health, says U.S.News & World Report magazine. Sleep-deprived children perform poorly in school and can have difficulty making friends. “Children with sleep debts often have a shortened attention span, and are irritable, frenetic, and impatient,” reports the magazine. Physicians are concerned that parents are often responsible for these problems. Child psychotherapist Barbara Braun-McDonald says: “If you are keeping your child up until 11 p.m. for family time, you need to re-examine your life.” Parents are encouraged to establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends, in order to build healthy sleep patterns. Other suggestions include using a regular, prebedtime routine, such as bathing, cuddling, and reading a story for younger children, and limiting access to television or computer within an hour of bedtime.

“Games, Snacks, and Blood”

Japanese youths have been frequenting “spacious air-conditioned rooms filled with free videos, computer games, snacks and even foot massagers,” reports IHT Asahi Shimbun. “There’s just one catch: blood must be spilled” because the facilities are blood donation centers run by the Japan Red Cross Society. “People donate blood in a party-like atmosphere,” says the newspaper. “Many young people hang around after donating blood and help themselves to free doughnuts, juice and computer games. Another draw is the free fortunetelling held several times a week.” There are also makeup lessons, Shiatsu (acupressure), concerts, massages, and garage sales. In order to stem a sharp decline in blood donations, the Red Cross is converting its centers throughout the country. Once reputed to be “dismal and spooky,” the centers are becoming “popular haunts among teenagers and those in their 20s,” states the newspaper.

Cruise Ships and Pollution

“Luxury cruise ships that carry millions of passengers each year to the world’s most remote beauty spots are endangering marine life with a trail of pollution,” reports The Sunday Times of London. A superliner carrying nearly 4,000 people, including passengers and crew, daily dumps tens of thousands of gallons of oily bilge water, sewage, and wastewater from showers and laundries, plus 15 gallons [70 L] of toxic chemicals and seven tons of garbage. At sea, the amount of waste generated by passengers is far greater than if they vacationed on land. In 2000, some 240 cruise ships carried ten million people to ecologically sensitive areas, such as Alaska’s Glacier Bay, the Caribbean coral reefs and islands, historic Mediterranean coasts, and even Antarctica. It is estimated that 50 more ships will be in use by 2005. Roger Rufe, of Ocean Conservancy, says: “These cruise [vacations] are increasingly popular but the ships are like floating cities without any rules on sewage and waste disposal.”

Sales of Pope Memorabilia Fading

For years “selling religious articles [in Poland] guaranteed sure income,” reports the Polish edition of Newsweek. Recently, however, “a crisis” in the sale of holy idols has been observed. Despite much publicity about the pope’s visit to Poland in 2002, there was little demand for traditional religious articles, such as chains and paintings. “The market was flooded with millions of plaster and metal busts, mats, paintings, and figurines” with the pope’s image, states the magazine, but “customers have become choosy.” One idea, however, has grown in popularity. It is a plastic card with “holy images” on one side and “golden beads melted into the plastic” on the other side. These “rosary cards” are “the latest and hottest pope” memorabilia, states the Polish weekly Wprost.