Read, contemplate, comment, discuss
USA – Florida’s Gatored Communities
In just one week this past May, three women were killed in three separate alligator attacks. These dangerous reptiles, which are found only in the southeastern U.S., have lived side by side with the human population without too much trouble over the years (over the past 60 years, only 17 people have been killed by alligators). Experts suggest the recent hot, dry weather spells have pushed the gators into more populated areas, and has left them hungrier than normal. It’s also suggested that the thousands of people moving to Florida each month are pushing development deeper and deeper into the alligators’ territory, and that the newcomers sometimes feed the gators like pets. A note on the side: About one million wild alligators now live in Florida, an impressive recovery considering they were listed as an endangered species some 35 years ago.
USA – Better Strap Yourself In For This One
Traffic update: There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that a record number of people (80%) in the U.S. are buckling their seat belts when riding in their cars and trucks. The bad news is that 48 million people still are not using seat belts. A new study clearly shows that wearing a seat belt significantly reduces the chance of serious injury and death in road accidents. The chance of dying in a car is reduced by 45%, and the chance of dying in a pickup truck, SUV, or minivan is reduced by 60%. The study shows that seat belt use is particularly low among young males in rural areas who drive pickup trucks. Almost 60% of people who died not wearing their belts crashed along rural roads, and in pickup truck deaths, 70% of the victims hadn’t buckled up.
MEXICO – The Best Offence is a Good Fence?
American soldiers are being sent to the U.S.- Mexico border and a new triple-layer fence is being built to try to keep out uninvited Mexican immigrants and criminals. The Mexicans themselves are offended by the fence, and feel that America’s success is largely due to workers from Mexico. Also, cash is sent back to Mexico by the workers ($18 billion US in 2005), and no Mexican wants that to stop. Many see the anti-immigration movement as racism, as white Americans grow concerned that the Latino population in many states is catching up to or exceeding their own. Meanwhile, Mexico is doing little to stop the abuse of its own immigrants entering from Guatemala, and foreign-born Mexican citizens are barred from holding positions in the government, military, police, or firefighting service.
CAMEROON – Chomping Chimps and HIV
HIV/AIDS still plagues the world, Africa especially, with almost 2.5 million Africans dying of AIDS every year. While no cure or vaccine has been discovered, scientists have finally answered the question of where HIV/AIDS originally came from. It has long been suspected that chimpanzees were the source, but scientists first need to do some dirty work in the field. Proof has finally come from genetic testing of chimp poop in the jungles of Cameroon. An isolated community of wild chimps has been shown to be carriers of a virtually identical chimp version of HIV, which does not harm the animals themselves. For the disease to jump from ape to human, someone either was bitten by a chimp or was cut while butchering one. This transfer is thought to have occurred as early as the 1950s.
AFRICA – The Melting Snows of Kilimanjaro
For almost 12,000 years, a handful of tropical mountains in Africa have proudly sported glacial ice caps. Most famous of these mountains is Kilimanjaro, a huge destination for the alpine hiking and climbing crowd. But times are changing, and so is the climate. Over the last century, Kilimanjaro’s ice cap has shrunk by 80%, and on another mountain range, the Rwenzori, ice has retreated by over 50% since 1987. Scientists generally agree that there may not be ice left on these peaks by 2020. There is concern that tourism will drop once the beauty of the icy summits is gone, and local tribes worry that a key source of water in dry seasons will disappear. The only other tropical mountains with glaciers are in the Andes (South America) and on the island of New Guinea (Asia).
INDIAN OCEAN – Dead and Dying
The salty lake in the Middle East, known as the Dead Sea, is shrinking. While not particularly large to start with (Canada has about 45 lakes that are bigger), the Dead Sea has shrunk in size by 33% in the last 50 years, and the shoreline has dropped by over 65 feet! Its key source of fresh water, the Jordan River, is being tapped by the people of Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Now only 10% of the Jordan River’s water actually makes it to the Dead Sea, and this is expected to drop to 4% in the coming years, leaving the Dead Sea to continue dropping by three to four feet per year. The only thing saving the Dead Sea is its tourist value, as the saltiest body of water in the world is a huge attraction and an important part of Holy Land history. A plan for a canal to bring in water from the nearby Red Sea is being considered.
FINLAND – Lordi of all the Lands
For 51 years, the countries of Europe have been battling it out in the Eurovision Song Contest. It is one of the world’s largest music competitions and a major source of pride for the winning country. The event has helped launch the international careers of Abba and Celine Dion (representing France) and brought major success to hundreds of artists in their own countries. The songs, presented by over 40 countries, are an eclectic mix of ethnic folk, pop, techno, soul, and rock songs. This year’s winner, scoring the most points ever in the event (to both the horror and amusement of millions of viewers), was the controversial Finnish black metal band, Lordi, who sport demon costumes on stage. Several religious groups had urged a boycott of the band, claiming they are Satanists.