Brief stories touching on male infertility, congressional ethics, and the endangered dusky seaside sparrow were among those covered in this regular feature in 1980.
HUG A HARE FOR HEALTH? Researchers at Ohio State University have found that tender loving care seems to protect rabbits — even those on experimental high-fat diets — against clogging of the arteries. The recently completed study suggests that extra cuddling may actually affect hormone levels in the bunnies ... enabling them to better withstand heart disease.
MALE INFERTILITY: An estimated one out of every ten men in America today is sterile. Fifteen years ago, a count of 80 to 100 million sperm cells per cubic centimeter of semen was the average among healthy males ... now the figure has dropped to between 80 and 40 million. Possible contributing factors include increased drug use; exposure to pesticides, radiation, and chemicals; emotional stress; and — believe it or not — the popularity of tight jeans and underwear.
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH? Long-term convicts appear to age about 30% more slowly — both physically and mentally — than do persons who are not in prison. The Center for Studies in Aging at North Texas State University attributes the phenomenon to the prison population's better eating habits, lack of stress, daily exercise, and inability to obtain alcoholic beverages.
FEMALE FARROWING SCHOOLS: When the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine (in cooperation with that state's extension service) offered a "women only" workshop on caring for pregnant sows and farrowing, they were deluged with applications from farm women. Officials believe the interest may be due to the fact that today's back-to-the-land women are often responsible for livestock care ... since their husbands commonly must hold off-the-farm jobs.
JUST HOW MUCH IS $900 BILLION, the estimated federal debt? Well, if you had started a company in the year 1 A.D. with 800 employees, and instructed them each to spend $5,000 a day, those men and women would still be spending. Moreover, your staff would be able to keep on using money at the same rate for the next four and a half centuries! And, if they "retired" after that, you could still afford to pay each one of the 200 people a tidy $1 million retirement bonus!
A GOOD READ? Congressional Ethics is a factual, non-muckraking, paperback book loaded with information — on scandals, salaries, perquisites, outside income, reform moves, etc. — concerning members of Congress.
THE FIRST WILDLIFE CASUALTY since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 may well be the dusky seaside sparrow. Florida biologists report that there are only ten of the birds left in the wild (and three in captivity). Mosquito control measures — which have been in use for more than ten years — have destroyed much of the small birds' marshland habitat.
MORE THAN JUST SUDS: The Environmental Protection Agency has removed its ban on a "low-risk" cancer-causing chemical, nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA). The substance — which is known to cause bladder cancer in laboratory animals — was withdrawn from use in 1970. Proctor and Gamble requested review of the chemical because the company wanted to use the ingredient in detergents ... for sale in areas where phosphates are banned.
LAKE ERIE LIVES ... MAYBE. Legendary for its pungent slime, dead fish, and other signs of pollution during the early years of the past decade, Lake Erie is undergoing a seeming reversal ... as beaches have reopened and commercial fishing has resumed. However, scientists say that — while there has been a reduction in the amount of pollutants entering the lake — there has been no significant decline in the amount of harmful material already in its waters. The prognosis is guarded optimism for Lake Erie's recovery.
WHAT'S THAT AGAIN? Peaches may soon be harvested the same way that wheat is ... by cutting down the whole tree and then mechanically combing the fruit from its branches. The advantage, University of Georgia researchers report, is that landowners can harvest peaches the first year after planting, instead of the five to eight years demanded by conventional silviculture. The disadvantage: 300 times more trees per acre must be planted for a farmer to obtain the same yield.
Global trade in ILLEGAL POLAR BEARHIDES is the primary means of financing the use of cocaine in Alaskan coastal villages, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .... A California anthropologist warns that FEDERAL RELOCATION OF SOME 6,000 NAVAHO PEOPLE from their ancestral homelands will seriously increase the rates of illness and death, and will be "especially traumatic" for Navaho women, through whom land is passed on to their children .... Idaho's natural farmers are looking into the potential practicality of raising CHINESE WEEDER GEESE, which will supposedly eat their own weight in greenery each day. About 1,800 of the birds should be able to weed 800 acres within a week .... Saudi Arabia is planning to set up a non-profit research organization to investigate reported sightings of UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS.... THE BLACK RHINO — whose horns have long been used as a principal ingredient in many folk medicines — has been listed as an endangered species, since it is estimated there are only 14,000 of the magnificent animals remaining in Africa.