Now for Some Good News

June 26, 1994

Enough of O.J., of flesh-eating bacteria, of massacres, wars and heat waves. It's time for some good news, or at least an upbeat perspective.

Let's start with the bacteria that, according to one lurid tabloid confessional, "ate my face." It's true, a form of streptococcus bacteria that destroys flesh is alive and well. But -- good news -- the odds are slim the average person will become food for another tabloid headline, or that grim and grisly forms of strep infections are arising. The number of cases fits normal patterns; there is no epidemic.

For other pieces of good news, we combed through a new edition of "Vital Signs," a yearly compendium of trends by the Worldwatch Institute. "Vital Signs 1994" reports that last year's world output of goods and services expanded 2.2 percent over 1992 -- higher than the increase in world population. That expansion of the global economy was enhanced by a drop in the population growth rate. In 1993, the world added 87 million people, a million fewer than the year before.

Meanwhile, people in most parts of the world -- Russia and other former Communist countries are ominous exceptions -- are living longer. Some credit can go to successful efforts to increase immunization rates. According to UNICEF, vaccines administered in 1992 saved 3 million lives.

Many people will feel safer knowing that a decline in arms sales continues. In 1991, worldwide arms exports declined by 36 percent. In 1993, the number of nuclear warheads worldwide dropped by almost 6 percent.

And from Sarajevo, recent news reports brought an upbeat story, along with a slim ray of light for the future. Four months after the constant bombardments of the city ended, children are again worrying about their grades instead of how to stay alive. Some of their symptoms of trauma are beginning to recede and there is even hope that with the right kind of help these young victims of war will cope with their experiences in ways that won't perpetuate the violence in future generations.

If they can break the old, ugly cycle of violence and revenge, they will help deprive the world of a staple source of bad news. Now that would be good news, indeed.

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