Watching the World
Effects of the Energy Crisis . . .
◆ Nearly every country has been strained in one way or another by recent Arab cutbacks in oil. Even in India retail gasoline costs increased by almost 50 percent, to $1.49 per gallon. There is also a shortage in natural gas. Particularly the industrialized nations of the U.S., western Europe and Japan are feeling the energy squeeze. Consider a few of the effects.
. . . On Automobiles
◆ Sunday driving is now banned in certain European countries to conserve fuel. Gasoline restrictions have also appeared in the U.S. and most speed limits there are now 55 miles per hour. The scarcity of petroleum and its rising price have increased small-car sales in recent months. Smaller cars go farther on each gallon of gas than do larger ones. Many persons are trading in big cars at an economic loss to buy smaller ones. Meanwhile, new big-car sales are slumping. In one thirty-day period ending in November their sales were 27 percent below the same period in 1972. Says a major auto sales analyst: “No one ever thought things would fall so far so fast.”
. . . On Other Industry
◆ U.S. industry’s unemployment rolls are longer due to layoffs because of the petroleum shortage. Fewer airline flights, for instance, mean that fewer pilots and ground crewmen are needed. Fewer skilled workers are needed to build airplanes. Also, such products as synthetic fibers (used in clothing) as well as plastics are in limited supply due to the shortage of natural gas, which is essential in their manufacture. In the brick industry, fuel normally accounts for 10 percent of production costs; now, due to the increase in the cost of fuel, it is responsible for 50 percent of the costs. And, says Business Week, “as the oil and gas shortage bites deeper, a host of products will disappear from the market, many of them cheap, low-profit items.”
. . . On the Stock Market
◆ During the first six weeks after the early October outbreak of war in the Middle East the Dow-Jones industrial stock averages fell by over 125 points. On one day, Monday, November 19, the drop of 28.67 points was the sharpest in eleven years and the fifth-largest day’s drop in history. Stock averages in Europe declined as much as 20 percent during October and November. The cause? A New York Times editorial reflects the view of many: “The sell-off on Wall Street clearly reflects fears of what the energy crisis . . . will do to economic conditions in the United States and abroad.”
. . . On Farming
◆ Modern farming methods require huge amounts of oil. In fact, Science magazine says, farming, as an industry, is the largest user of petroleum in the U.S. The shortages affect machinery, such as tractors and trucks, and petroleum-base fertilizers. It was recently estimated that the equivalent of 80 gallons of gasoline is required to produce just one acre of corn. The so-called green revolution, being pressed in many parts of the “less developed” world, uses similar high-energy crop-production techniques. Understandably, the magazine adds: “Problems have already occurred with green revolution crops, particularly problems related to pests. More critical problems are expected when there is a world energy crisis.”
. . . On Honesty
◆ “Black market” fuel, already a problem in the U.S., is expected to cost the government even more money in lost taxes during the oil shortage. How? Consider one way: Diesel fuel and number 2 home heating fuel are almost the same, chemically speaking. But, primarily because of taxes, heating fuel may sell for 26 cents per gallon; diesel fuel, for 43 cents. Truckers sometimes evade taxes by using home heating oil in their tanks. Fleet Owner, a trucking magazine, says that that trick alone costs the government one billion dollars a year in unpaid taxes.
“Churches Are in Trouble”
◆ A special study of fourteen Boston area churches—Catholic, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Baptist and others—says they are suffering from declining attendance and mounting costs. It notes: “The institutional church, regardless of denomination, faces a situation in the urban community that can be described only as disastrous.” At least two of the churches are now said to be considering the removal of their structures for housing and an office building. A follow-up report in the Boston Globe says that many local “clergymen agree with the premise of the study that inner-city churches are in trouble.”
A Baptist and the Bible
◆ Roy Essex is Baptist chaplain at the University of Toronto as well as chaplain and consultant with other organizations in that area. What does he think about the Bible? The Toronto Star reports: “I don’t go along with the Adam and Eve stuff. I find difficulty with Daniel and the lions’ den and other Old Testament stories.” He adds: “There is a lot of superstition still mixed up in what passes for religion. We need to separate the two.” His views are just the opposite of those of Jesus Christ and his apostles, who testified that they believed these accounts.—Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 15:45; Heb. 11:32, 33.
Fewer at Mass
◆ A survey published in The National Catholic Reporter shows that U.S. Catholic Church attendance suffered a “catastrophic” drop between July 1972 and July 1973. The number of Catholics attending church “weekly or almost weekly” dropped from 61 percent to 48 percent during that year. Among those over 50 years of age, the decline was from 76 percent to 55 percent; this latter tendency the surveyors called a ‘dramatic phenomenon.’ Writer William Reel says that this problem “threatens to bring down the whole institution.”
Catholics and Voodoo
◆ Over 90 percent of Brazil’s 100 million people are Catholics. But Raimundo Cintra, a priest at Rio de Janeiro’s Catholic University, says that 60 million Brazilians also actively practice voodoo. He thinks the church should study voodoo to discover why it attracts Brazil’s natives. He says: “We’re interested in utilizing voodoo’s positive aspects so our church can take better care of the people’s needs.” Catholic Church attendance in Brazil is dwindling, as are the number of its priests and seminary students. Voodoo believers, on the other hand, appear to be increasing.
◆ Ever more pollution is being poured into the oceans. But now the lingering effects of such pollutants are better understood. Some time back a small oil spill took place in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. About 95 percent of the fish, crabs, lobsters and clams were dead within hours. Months later, small marine organisms still suffered toxic effects. Within eight months the area contaminated had grown to ten times the size of the original spill. Poisonous compounds were still present in sediments a year later. Reports a current Saturday Review/World: “In all, the evidence added up to a far more incriminating picture of the problems of oil than had been envisaged.”
◆ The number of deaths in the U.S. from cancer is increasing. In 1971 there were 161.4 deaths due to cancer out of every 100,000 deaths in the country. In 1972 the figure had risen to 166.8 deaths. This increase is about three times the annual average since 1950. Cancer authorities claim that 1.3 million Americans may be found to have cancer for the first time in 1974.
◆ The Baltimore, Maryland, Fire Department reports that in the one-year period ending with July 1973 it received 9,013 alarms from street fire-alarm boxes. Of these, 5,329 were false alarms! In New York city there were more than 77,000, false alarms during the eight months of 1973.
◆ There are more rapes and assaults now taking place on American college campuses. This increase is not imagined, according to H. T. Voye, editor of the Campus Law Enforcement Journal: “It’s not just a question of more women reporting it. It has happened.” What is behind the rape increase? Coed dormitories, for one thing, which allow almost anyone free access to virtually any part of a college campus. Hitchhiking girls are also vulnerable to attack. Authorities also connect the increase with a general rise in campus crime, ranging from stealing bicycles to muggings.
Work and Live
◆ A new report by the U.S. Veterans Administration indicates that a person is likely to live longer if he continues to work. Work, it is reasoned, makes people feel needed.
Gonorrhea Epidemic Continues
◆ World wide, gonorrhea is now said to be “almost out of control.” A recent medical symposium was told that there may have been up to two and a half million cases of the disease in the U.S. in 1972. A spokesman for the Center for Disease Control observes: “No significant infectious disease is more common than gonorrhea in the United States right now.” There, and elsewhere, “extra-genital gonorrheal infections” are occurring more frequently. This is gonorrhea in the throat or rectum, a result of homosexual or other perverted practices. Can the disease be stopped? According to the Montreal Star, experts at an international symposium held there “saw little hope of solving the problem short of a return to traditional sexual morality.”
◆ By late November the U.S. had already been struck by a record 990 tornadoes. They are reported to have killed seventy-five persons. Fierce tornadic winds, believed to reach a speed of 600 miles per hour in their vortex, have been known to drive wooden splinters through steel, lift railway cars into the air and level masonry buildings.
◆ Chronically alcoholic women who are pregnant may bear children with serious birth defects, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet. It reports the cases of eight deformed children born to such women. All the children had what was considered below-normal intelligence and weight and were 20-percent shorter than average infants. Afflicted with a variety of physical defects, all are thought to be permanently retarded in their growth. Dr. David W. Smith of the University of Washington estimates that up to 20 percent of all alcoholic mothers may bear similar children.
Autos and Infant Safety
◆ In 1972 there were 370 infants less than one year of age who were killed in auto accidents. Pediatricians recommend that a small child be strapped into a special heavy plastic carrier attached to the front seat of the car. The child faces the rear. A raised back on the carrier keeps the child from being thrown against the windshield in case of an accident or sudden stop.
◆ According to doctors at Stanford University, there is now an “epidemic” of sudden-death heart attacks in the United States. It currently claims 150,000 American lives every year. Doctors have identified certain ‘risk factors’—obesity, smoking, hypertension, elevated blood cholesterol and a family history of heart trouble.
◆ Over two hundred cases of infectious hepatitis were reported from Houston, Texas, in late September. About the same time 14 persons in northwest Georgia contracted the disease. Both groups of people had eaten tainted oysters from Louisiana. Raw seafood from polluted waters, a common source of infectious hepatitis, can be safely consumed according to some—but only if it is thoroughly cooked.