Watching the World

Drunken Animals

According to reports from around the world, humans are not the only ones to experience the inebriating effects of alcohol. Recently, after having discovered beer in a village in Assam, India, an elephant herd went on a drunken rampage and destroyed buildings. In Bosnia a bear that acquired a taste for leftover beer in discarded cans began to beg for more. Tired of its rowdiness, the villagers decided to leave it nonalcoholic beer. That did the trick. The bear still enjoys its drink but is no longer aggressive. In northern California, birds drunk on fermented berries from roadside bushes attacked cars. The remedy was to cut down the bushes. Fermented nectar causes bees to fly into trees or just fall to the ground, unable to find their way back to the hive. Drunken bees that do make it home face a further challenge​—the wrath of guard bees determined to prevent the whole colony from becoming intoxicated.

 Raining Fish

Hundreds of little fish perhaps from the spray of Lake Dojran or Lake Korónia were found in the village of Koróna, reported the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia. “Everywhere the villagers found fish that had fallen from the sky.” According to Christos Balafoutis, director of the meteorological department in Thessalonica, such incidents are not rare. Storm clouds in low-pressure weather systems produce whirlwinds that suck up water, along with fish and frogs, from the surface of lakes. “The air in the whirlwind can lift them up to a high altitude and carry them very far,” says the report. Later the fish fall when the force of the whirlwind weakens.

Teens’ Real Worries

“Parents are so worried about their teenage children getting mixed up with drugs that they are failing to spot the serious emotional and mental health problems that concern their offspring,” says The Times of London. A survey of more than 500 parents and more than 500 teenagers shows that 42 percent of parents believe that drug abuse is the single biggest problem facing their children. However, only 19 percent of teenagers agree. Thirty-one percent of teens worry more about relationships with friends and family, and 13 percent about bullying. Justin Irwin, director of the telephone help line Get Connected, the organization that commissioned the study, expressed particular concern about the tendency of parents to overlook their teenagers’ psychological and emotional problems. He urges parents: “Stop making assumptions. Start being realistic.”

Harmful Effects of Sleep Loss

“Nine percent of Poles sleep less than five hours per night,” reports the Warsaw weekly Wprost. “Among Americans and Britons, 1 in 3 sleeps no more than 6.5 hours a night.” According to Michał Skalski of a sleep-disorder clinic in Poland, “someone who sleeps little is under permanent stress.” Japanese research indicates that “the risk of heart attack is 50 percent higher in those who sleep five hours a day or less when compared with those sleeping eight hours per night,” reports Wprost. In addition, American studies indicate that lack of sleep may be linked to diabetes and other health problems. Sleep loss not only “leads to changes in glucose metabolism” but is also related to “increased risk of obesity,” says the report. “When you’re tired, your body tries to compensate for the lack of energy,” explains the magazine American Fitness. “Sleep-deprived people tend to eat and drink more to feel awake. So, if you’ve lost a couple pounds and want to keep them off, sleep a little more.”

A Day in the Office

A survey by London Magazine asked 511 people about their typical day. During working hours, about half had drunk alcohol, 48 percent had stolen, and almost a third had used illegal drugs, reports London’s newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Additionally, 42 percent had “imagined killing their boss,” almost a third “had looked at pornography on the internet,” “62 per cent had been propositioned by a colleague and nearly a fifth had had sex in the office.” Thirty-six percent of these employees had lied on their résumés, 13 percent said that they would go to bed with their boss to get a promotion, and 45 percent would backstab a workmate to get ahead. According to psychotherapist Philip Hodson, much of this conduct springs from resentment of those in power. He said: “We are willing to do anything to be at the top. Labels, position and status are very important to us.”

Sudden Death in Sports

When three men in their 50’s died of heart attacks on the same day after running long-distance races in different parts of Japan, sports doctors issued warnings. Dr. Masatoshi Kaku, chairman of the Kobe Sports Academy and a medical doctor, writes in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper: “About 80 percent of sudden deaths are heart related. . . . People who have been given a clean bill of health make up more than 90 percent of sudden death victims.” Dr. Kaku recommends that electrocardiogram tests be made while exercising rather than only while the subject is at rest. He further advises against overexertion and recommends refraining from exercise if you experience the slightest feeling of fever, nausea, or dizziness. “It is not a disgrace to drop out in the middle of a game or race,” says Dr. Kaku. He adds: “Athletes tend to overvalue the virtue of going the distance, but you should know to question it when necessary.”

The Need for Family Conversation

“Family conversations have deteriorated into a ‘daily grunt’ that leaves young children unable to talk properly,” reports The Times of London. Alan Wells, director of the government’s Basic Skills Agency, which is responsible for maintaining educational standards in Britain, attributes the decline to children’s “sitting in front of the television and the computer and the lack of time families spend having food together.” Wells also blames an increase in one-parent families lacking grandparents, as well as the fact that few parents now read to their children. He believes these factors help to explain why children entering school at four or five years of age are “less articulate and less able to express themselves” than children were in the past. Wells recommends programs to teach parents how to interact with their children.

A More Balanced Life

A survey conducted by the Australia Institute, an independent research organization, found that “23 per cent of Australians aged 30 to 59 have sacrificed income for the sake of a more balanced lifestyle in the past 10 years,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The trend, which the researchers call downshifting, is being adopted by many who hope to improve their sense of well-being and to have more time with their children. These workers are “switching to a less demanding and less well-paid job, reducing work hours or dropping out of the workforce altogether,” says the Herald. Dr. Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute, said: “This is about putting lives in front of incomes. These are people who certainly do not view themselves as drop-outs; they’re ordinary people from the mainstream, who are rejecting over-consumption and deliberately reducing their income in search of a more balanced lifestyle.”