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  • For years U.S. employers have been grousing(lamentaram) that more and more aspiring workers lack the know-how to get the most basic jobs done. Last week such complaints received alarming confirmation. Adult Literacy in America, a 150-page survey conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), reported that roughly 90 million Americans over age 16-almost half that category's total population-are, as far as most workplaces are concerned, basically unfit(2) for employment.
In December 1895 the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen demonstrated the first X-ray pictures, among them that of the left hand of Mrs. Roentgen. Within a few weeks the news of the discovery spread throughout the world, and the penetrating properties of the rays were soon exploited for medical diagnosis without immediate realization of possible deleterious effects. The first reports of X-ray injury to various human tissues and to vision came in 1896. In that same year Elihu Thomson, the physicist, deliberately, exposed one of his fingers to X-rays and provided accurate scientific observations on the development of roentgen-ray burns.
  • (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Women in ancient Pompeii were not all like the classical beauties depicted on the city's famous frescoes(*). A substantial minority of those who died when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 were obese, a bit on the hairy side and would have suffered from headaches and a form of diabetes, according to Estelle Lazer, an archaeologist and physical anthropologist at the University of Sidney. She says about 10 per cent of the city's women would have suffered from these systems because they had a minor hormonal disorder called hyperostosis frontalis interna(HFI).
  • ("New Scientist")
  • (*) frescoes - afrescos (modalidade de pintura mural)
A priest Known by his Resistance code name Abbé Pierre awakened the conscience of France in 1954 when he seized the microphone of Radio Luxembourg and told of a women who had frozen to death in a Paris street clutching a notice of eviction(*). His appeal for help - for blankets, stoves, tents - altered French thinking about the homeless. Through continued outspokenness and charitable work he influenced subsequent public policy, and today polls show Abbé Pierre, founder of the international charity Companions of Emmaus, to be the nation's most admired person.
  • (Time,)
  • (*) eviction - despejo
Avoid looking like in American when in another country, say Roger Axtell and John Healy in their "Do's and Taboos of Preparing for Your Trip Abroad". This is a difficult piece of advice to follow. Mr. A and Mr. H offer what they consider helpful tips: don't wear baseball caps or sweat shirts with campus badges, be polite and avoid loud conversations in public. The trouble is, foreigners mostly tend to look like foreigners. There is something about them. The more you try to blend is with the country the odder you look. Lots of eccentric English have tried this game without success. Lawrence of Arabia liked to dress up as a sheikh and Lord Byron as a Greek, and were seemingly impervious to the sniggers(*) they aroused among the locals. (The Economist,)(*) snigger - riso contido
Ovambo families in northern Namibia traditionally build a house for each child, using wooden poles placed close together to build the circular walls. But now that the region is running short of trees enterprising people in the area are turning to a more readily available building material: the empty beer bottles that litter the roadsides and are available cheap from local shops.
  • "New Scientist”
  • A pocket-size monkey with a koala-like face, a hint of stripes like a zebra and tufted ears is the latest species to be discovered in the world's largest rain forest. Named after a nearby Brazilian river, the Maués marmoset is the third new monkey to be found in the rain forest during the past two years. Such revelations underscore the Amazon basin's biological richness (it is home to more than a quarter of the world's known primate species) and its continuing aura of mystery.
  • Time
Cholera attacks the intestines, causing nausea and severe diarrhea that has been likened to a hemorrhage. It can kill within hours. The epidemic has appeared and reappeared across the globe in many forms since at least the ninth century. But the last time it struck in South America was 1895. The Pan-American Health Organization warns that the new strain, known as El Tor, is likely to kill 40.000 Latin Americans and infect another 6 million by 1995.
  • El Tor's path is impossible to predict. Borne by human travelers and cargoes of raw fish and produce, cholera can show up as a surprise visitor almost anywhere. Last week four people fell ill with cholera in New Jersey - victims of contaminated shellfish from Peru. But in general, developed countries are susceptible only to isolated outbreaks. It is the hot, humid, sewerless slums of Latin America that are now most vulnerable to epidemic.
  • Newsweek -
  • Porcupines, like humans, are among the few species that couple for life, and regular sex may be the key to their faithfulness. Biologists at Tel Aviv University have documented that porcupine pairs, both in captivity and the wild have frequent sex during the night, even when the female can't conceive. The researchers conclude that "frequent sociosexual behavior" reinforces lifelong bonding. Besides, given a porcupine's armor of sharp spines, fighting over new females may not be worth the damage.
  • (New Scientist)
An earthquake rides on a principle of disintegration-the disintegration not only of architecture and pavements and lives but also of the entire idea of order of process and human control. "What can one believe quite safe" asked Seneca, "if the world itself is shaken and its most solid parts totter to their fall... and the earth lose its chief characteristic stability?"
  • In March 1933, Albert Einstein was visiting the Long Beach campus of the University of California. He and his host from the department of geology walked through the campus, intently discussing the motions of earthquakes. Suddenly they looked up in puzzlement to see people running out of campus buildings. Einstein and the other scientist had been so busy discussing seismology that they did not notice the earthquake occurring under their feet.
Spiders on marijuana are so laid back, they weave just so much of their webs and then... well it just doesn't seem to matter any more. On the soporific drug chloral hydrate, they drop off before they even get started.
  • A spider's skill at spinning its web is so obviously affected by the ups and downs of different drugs that scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama think spiders could replace other animals in testing the toxicity of chemicals.
London was more prepared for the outbreak of the second world war than the central government let on. After all if you were seeking peace through diplomacy, it was unwise to tell the citizenry how far you feared the worst.
  • For London, the worst was aerial bombing on a scale not previously known. If not quite the greatest city in the world in 1939, London was certainly among the most expansive. Over 8 million people - about one fifth of the British population - lived there, concentrated in an area of some 750 square miles. It was an inviting target for anything that the Germans could drop on it, and the government knew it.
Across the developing world, images of wild-eyed children and haggard teenagers firing assault rifles or shouldering grenade launchers have become as commonplace as the smell of cordite. Look closely at the ethnic armies of Central Asia, examine the rebel militias in the African bush, and you'll find children. You'll find them in the ranks, on the barricades and, with heart-rending frequency, in hospital beds and in hastily dug battlefield graves. International conventions are supposed to bar anyone under the age of 15 from serving in combat. But that hasn't stopped either governments or rebels in Africa, Asia and Latin America from routinely rounding up children for military duty.... Call them what you will. Boy soldiers, child warriors, kid militiamen.
  • wild-eyed = appearing or being furious, radical, visionary
  • haggard = intractable, violent, suffering, anxious
  • cordite = a kind of explosive
  • heart-rending = heart-breaking
As old barriers break down, voyagers in the next century will enjoy more exotic locales, more exotic customs - and perhaps more exotic diseases. This year's Ebola virus outbreak in Zaire raises an issue as chilling now as it was in 1347, when traders sailing from the Black Sea port of Caffa to Messina, Sicily, brought back plague, which killed perhaps one-third of Europe's population. As it happens, plague also cropped up in 1994, in India.