Watching the World

“Russia currently has around two billion tons of toxic waste on its territory, and there is no effective way to dispose of it.”​—RIA NOVOSTI, RUSSIA.

The 21st century has seen a surge in maritime piracy. In 2007, for example, “263 actual and attempted pirate attacks took place.”​—THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, U.S.A.

Alcohol During Pregnancy

Each year in Germany about 10,000 babies are born with alcohol-related birth defects, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Some 4,000 of these children are severely and permanently disabled. “There is no certain limit for safe alcohol consumption during pregnancy,” warns Drug Commissioner Sabine Bätzing. “We need to enhance the awareness of physicians, midwives, and pregnant women that even one drink now and then [by a pregnant woman] could harm a child mentally and physically or lead to behavioral problems.”

Gardening​—Good for Your Health

“Researchers are discovering that growing your own food​—however much or little you can do—​is better for your health than anyone ever suspected,” says Psychology Today. Research showed that when “certain strains of soil-borne mycobacteria” were ingested or inhaled, they “sharply stimulated the human immune system.” Thus, says the magazine, “it looks increasingly like ingesting components of the soil itself might be as critical to human health as the very finest fruits and veggies grown in it.”

Record Nonstop Flight

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have reported “the longest non-stop flight recorded for a land bird.” A number of bar-tailed godwits were tracked by satellite as they made their annual migration over the Pacific Ocean. One female made an eight-day, 7,242-mile [11,650-kilometer] nonstop flight from Alaska to New Zealand. By the time it arrived, it had “burned off half of its 1.5-pound [700g] weight,” says the magazine The Week. On their return journey, the godwits fly from New Zealand to China and then back to Alaska​—a round trip of 18,000 miles. “If 18,000 miles [29,000 km] is an average annual flight distance,” says the USGS, “then an adult godwit would fly some 288,000 miles [463,000 km] in a lifetime.”

Catching Cactus Thieves

The Saguaro National Park, Arizona, U.S.A., is losing some of its signature cactuses to thieves. “Everybody wants a saguaro in their front yard,” says Jim McGinnis, of the Arizona Department of Agriculture’s office of special investigations. So it is not uncommon to see a vehicle in the desert carrying a cactus. Thieves typically target four- to seven-foot specimens, which can fetch a thousand dollars or more. To combat theft, officials are planning to insert microchips into cactuses. Handheld scanners should later reveal whether specimens for sale in nurseries or landscape businesses were stolen from the national park.