HEALTH & SAFETY
June 1, Levi Strauss & Co. begins offering medical and dental benefits to the unmarried partners, including those of the same sex, of its U.S. employees. The San Francisco-based clothing manufacturer has 23,000 employees nationwide, making it the largest company yet to offer such benefits. Employees’ partners will be eligible for coverage if the couple are living together, financially interdependent, and consider their union a life partnership. Some smaller employers, such as Ben & Jerry’s, Lotus Development, and the American Psychological Association, and several U.S. municipalities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, and Seattle, already offer domestic-partner plans. Industry analysts believe that other large companies will soon follow the example of Levi Strauss.
June 3-14, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—the “Earth Summit”—will be in session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many observers fear that the summit and Agenda 21, the planning document it is to generate, will be at best symbolic. Preparatory meetings were marked by unusually united and articulate opposition to the developed countries of the North by the more numerous poorer nations of the South. At issue was which group is more to blame for the world’s environmental problems and which is to make the greater sacrifices to correct them. For lack of international agreement, some of the original agenda items, including a worldwide forest-preservation plan and restrictions on hazardous-materials export, have been shelved.
June 1, the beginning of the hook-and-line fishing season for the western Atlantic bluefin tuna (net fishermen must wait until August 15). Ninety percent of the world’s harvest ends up as sushi, and Japanese buyers are standing by at major fishing ports from New Jersey to Maine to bid on freshly landed bluefin. Top-quality giant bluefin—fish that weigh more than 310 pounds and have a high fat content and bright red, translucent meat— fetch up to $30 a pound at the dock. These fish are packed in ice and rushed to planes headed for Japan. Medium-quality bluefin usually go to U.S. restaurants. This year the international commission regulating the tuna fishery reduced the allowable catch by 10 percent, the first reduction since limits were established, in 1982. In the 1950s, before the Japanese export market developed, bluefin were caught mainly for sport, and often ended up in cans of cat food or at the dump.
June 2, Alabama, California, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico hold primaries. 9, North Dakota holds the final presidential primary of the campaign, which is usually something of an anticlimax: the state’s Democrats have already selected their 15 delegates (at a state convention last April), and the Republican nomination is seldom still in doubt. 29-30, five federal agencies sponsor the first government trade fair of recycled products. The federal bureaucracy is slow to accept such products: at a hearing last fall senators learned that procurement officials refused to buy napkins made from recycled paper because the napkins weren’t “bright” enough, and that federal fleet mechanics declined to use re-refined motor oil because they did not think it performed well enough. Congress is working on a new version of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act which may mandate more government attention to recycling.
June 1, New Moon. 14, a partial lunar eclipse (beginning about 11:30 P.M. EDT) will be visible over most of North America. 15, Full Moon, also known this month as the Rose, Strawberry, or Honey Moon. Because June is traditionally the month of weddings, the last nickname may have given rise to the post-nuptial connotations of the word “honeymoon.” 20, at 11:14 P.M. EDT, the Summer Solstice: summer begins. Today is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
American newlyweds intent on starting a family this month may find their goal more elusive than will their counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is winter and the days are shorter. Demographers have long noted low conception rates in the summer but have found no evidence of less frequent sexual intercourse to account for it. In temperate climates men produce nearly a third less sperm in summer than in winter, probably as a result of the low level of testosterone which most men experience then. Recent experiments with human beings, some of whom worked outdoors in the summer while others stayed in air-conditioned offices and homes, and with rhesus monkeys, which were subjected to different regimes of artificial light, strongly suggest that it is the longer daylight hours of summer, rather than the hot weather, that somehow trigger the low hormone output, although the mechanism is not understood.