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Living Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International   |   Oct. 31, 2001 at 3:44 AM
TERRORISM AND HALLOWEEN

Fears of terrorism and anthrax attacks have prompted police across the country to step up Halloween patrols and led some parents to plan to keep their trick-or-treaters at home this year.

False rumors of anthrax-laced candy and Halloween attacks on shopping malls have added to the anxiety caused by last month's terrorist attacks. And a terrorism warning issued Monday by the FBI has put a new layer of fear on the holiday, which has its roots in Celtic harvest celebrations.

"With all the stuff that's going on, we need to be a little more careful," said Billy Hammers, the police chief of Vidalia, Miss.

Traditional concerns about razor blades in Halloween apples have been supplanted by anthrax scares -- adding extra weight to the traditional advice that children not eat any candy until their parents have had the chance to check it out.

In Philadelphia, Deputy Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson urged parents to wear latex gloves and inspect Halloween candies outside their home in order to prevent possible contamination.

Police in Austin, Texas, have banned materials such as flour, talcum powder or other powdery substances from the city's Halloween 2001 gathering.

Shopping malls have been fighting a rumor for the past month that they will be the targets of Halloween attacks. Another rumor circulating on the Internet says two people of Arab descent purchased thousands of dollars of candy for the purposes of tainting it anthrax. The FBI says both threats are hoaxes.

"We are hoping Sept. 11 does not not rub off on (Halloween)," said Edgewater, Fla., Police Chief Mike Ignasiak.


HOLIDAY SHOPPING

Despite layoffs and dismal economic reports, the average American household plans to spend more than $900 on holiday gifts this year.

Discounters will be among the biggest winners.

Banc One chief economist Diane Swonk said practical purchases will replace extravagance as consumers rein in spending because of economic uncertainty. But surveys conducted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks show Americans are ready to shop if they can get a good deal.

Swonk predicted that consumers will show less selfishness and that spending on luxury personal care items and recreation will fall sharply. Tourism, resorts and personal services could see big losses despite aggressive holiday cut-rates.

She said buyers will be looking for sales on appliances and furniture as well as cars, and that sales of cell phones, personal computers and consumer electronics will pickup as people spend more time with their families.

In its yearly survey, the National Retail Federation found consumers plan to spend an average $940 per household during the holidays, and that nearly two-thirds -- 65.6 percent -- plan to take advantage of discounts and sales to make non-gift purchases for themselves.

The survey of 1,000 people was conducted Oct. 19-21.

(Thanks to UPI's Al Swanson in Chicago)


STRESS

Engaging in stressful tasks like trying to meet a deadline may strengthen the immune system while exposure to stress that must be endured passively -- like watching violence on TV -- may weaken it, according to Ohio State University researchers.

"Our findings lend scientific truth to the idea that a hassle a day keeps the doctor away," said Jos Bosch.

The subjects were exposed to two different stressful experiences. The first was a timed memory task that required the students to memorize some given material and take a subsequent 12-minute test. In the second activity, the subjects were shown a gruesome 12-minute video on surgical procedures. The difference between the two kinds of stresses -- both of which are considered acute rather than chronic stress -- was that participants were actively engaged in the memory task whereas the video had to be watched passively.

The researchers measured the concentration of certain defense proteins in the saliva of the subjects. These proteins, known as immunoglobulins, are also contained in body fluids that make up the protective outer film of organs such as the lungs. The work is published in the journal Psychophysiology.

(Thanks to UPI Science Writer Alex Cukan)


TOKYO DISNEYLAND

Neither fears of terrorism, mad-cow disease nor Japan's deflating economy have stopped the crowds from packing into Tokyo Disneyland and its new, neighboring sister theme park, Tokyo DisneySea.

In fact, officials are almost embarrassed that the two parks continue to do so well when the number of visitors to Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida have dropped significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

"There has been no noticeable affect" on attendance at the parks or at the two adjacent Disney hotels located at Maihama, a few miles northeast of Tokyo, said Masumi Yuminoke, an assistant marketing manager. She pointed out that nearly 99 percent of the Tokyo park visitors are Japanese, and attendance is not affected by the slump in international travel.

Tokyo Disneyland is the world's biggest amusement park attraction, with 17.3 million visitors in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

Tokyo DisneySea, built on 48 acres reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, opened Sept. 4.

Another new theme park -- Universal Studios Japan, which opened last spring in the depressed Osaka area of western Japan -- was reportedly already on its way to its 3 millionth visitor.

Topics: Diane Swonk
© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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