Watching the World
A Bull in a China Shop
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the proverbial bull really did get inside a china shop? Well, BBC News reports that something like that actually took place. A bull escaped from an animal auction in Lancashire, England, and then ran into an antique store. “The store specializes in old china and, as expected, several valuable pieces were trampled,” says one newspaper that reported the story. After consulting with the owner of the bull and taking into consideration the risks involved in trying to capture the animal, the authorities decided that it would be best to destroy the bull. So police cordoned off the area and shot the trapped bull in the store.
World Leader in Lightning Strikes
Researchers analyzing satellite data have discovered that “Brazil has the highest recorded incidence of lightning strikes in the world,” reports O Globo newspaper. “Between two and three electric discharges occur [in Brazil] every second, a total of 70 million each year.” The cause? Abundant rain forests, coupled with a hot climate. These create the perfect environment for frequent electrical thunderstorms. In addition to claiming the lives of some 100 Brazilians annually, lightning causes an estimated 200 million dollars’ worth of damage to telephone and power transmission lines as well as to industries and other facilities. And, contrary to popular belief, “lightning can strike three, five, or even ten times in the same place,” says scientist Osmar Pinto, Jr., of the National Institute for Space Research.
Mobile phones with built-in cameras are putting confidential business matters at risk, reports the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Though the cameras were once thought to be just another gadget to promote sales, the digital pictures taken by this new generation of cellular phones are greatly improved in resolution and are considered a growing problem by the security officers of many companies. Not only are the phone cameras inconspicuous but unlike conventional cameras, they also allow for the instant transmittal of a picture, making them the perfect tool for industrial espionage. Even if the intruder is intercepted, the damage has already been done. For these reasons, a number of companies have already banned the use of mobile phones with built-in cameras in security-sensitive areas, such as design departments and places where new models of products are tested.
Tragic Toll of Traffic Accidents
“Traffic accidents claim thousands more lives each year than violent crime,” reports the Spanish newspaper El País. The tragic annual road toll in Europe stands at 55,000 deaths and 3.5 million injuries. In Spain people aged 15 to 29 account for 35 percent of all road deaths, making traffic accidents the principal cause of death for this group. “This is the most serious public health problem there is,” says Jeanne Picard Mahaut, spokesperson for La Ligue, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving road safety. “If you don’t believe me,” she adds, “tell that to the doctors who have to deal with emergency cases every weekend.” Among other measures, La Ligue and two other European groups call for factory installation of speed limiters in vehicles and for the fitting of cars with a ‘black box’ that would reveal the possible cause of an accident.
Bad Year for Alpine Glaciers
The torrid summer of 2003 was “the worst season in living memory” for alpine glaciers, said the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. As summers have become warmer and average temperatures have risen, accumulated snow and ice on the mountains of northern Italy have been melting at “an unprecedented rate.” Among the surprises that recently emerged from the melting ice was a 7,300-pound [3,300 kg] Austrian-made cannon, found at an altitude of 10,400 feet [3,178 m] above sea level. The piece was deployed to attack Italian positions during the first world war. “Finds like this have become increasingly frequent over the last 20 years,” the article states. “The warmer summers have turned our glaciers into freezers with the doors left open.”
South Korea’s Suicide Problem
Suicides in South Korea have steadily been rising each year since 1999, reports The Korea Times. “In recent months,” the paper says, “tragic stories of people taking their own lives have been reported almost every day, mainly brought forward by economic difficulties, such as credit card debts, but also through individual despair. According to statistics by the National Police Agency, a total of 13,055 people committed suicide [in 2002], a 6.3 percent rise compared to 12,277 the year before. This amounts to 36 people killing themselves per day and 1.5 people per hour.” But something is even more alarming. Says the Times: “Despairing parents are choosing to take their children’s lives along with theirs.” One example was that of a 37-year-old woman who committed suicide after finding out that her husband had lost the equivalent of $140,000 (U.S.) in stock trading. Both of her children—a son 14 years old and a daughter 12—were also found dead. “Psychologists say that an increasing number of people are being driven to commit suicide as society is failing to give them any hope to overcome their difficulties,” the article concludes.
Travelers Susceptible to Ailments
“Worldwide, more than one in nine travellers develops respiratory ailments,” says The Medical Post of Canada. The finding was the result of a study by GeoSentinel—a partnership of the International Society of Travel Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It tracks health information through a communication and data collection network of 25 travel-medicine clinics worldwide. Between January 1997 and December 2002, there were 18,817 travelers who visited its clinics, and 2,173 were diagnosed with ailments that ranged from sore throat and ear and sinus infection to pneumonia, bronchitis, and mycobacterial infection. Travelers visiting a high-risk country are advised to make sure that their vaccinations are current and to consider a flu shot regardless of the time of the year. According to Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, an infectious-disease specialist at the World Health Organization, good hygiene is the first line of defense against a bacterial or viral ailment. She stated: “If there is one message we want to say over and over, it is, ‘Wash your hands.’”