Watching the World
◆ Arab use of the “oil weapon” shook the world. However, a recent British analysis of food prospects indicates that there may be another weapon in the world arsenal. The study, titled “Losing Ground,” warns that Britain already faces greater future danger from food shortages than from higher oil prices. “From now onward food will be the major factor in world affairs,” asserts the report. “Food will become a political weapon for lack of which many nations, among them Britain, may find themselves defenceless.”
Use of Fertilizer
◆ What is the response to recent suggestions that Americans withhold fertilizer from their lawns and golf courses to aid hungry nations? A New York Times survey indicates that, though sympathetic, few people believe that frugality on their part would actually benefit hungry people. Also, “people take pride in their lawns,” says a nursery manager. “The lawn is for the neighbors. You can’t tell people to stop doing that.” A golf grounds superintendent declares: “Golfers are very particular people. They want their greens just right. We would get weeds all over the course.”
◆ “The upgoing price of sugar is the best thing that’s happened in a long time,” says a nutrition instructor at New York’s Columbia University. She asserts that “there is no biological need for table sugar,” recommending naturally sweet foods instead. “Sugar is only calories,” notes another expert, “no protein, no vitamins.” Americans have been eating about a hundred pounds of sugar each per year for the past 50 years, according to the Sugar Association.
◆ Citing “changing circumstances of modern society,” Pope Paul VI recently issued new rules for saying Masses, based on money. Following the precedent of many businesses, the Church is dropping unprofitable lines in favor of those with a higher return. The Vatican explains that the obligation of saying daily Masses in response to past bequests and donations is being relaxed because “revenue” from such sources “has become insignificant due to the continuous devaluation of money.” On the other hand, paying customers can now expect a Mass to be celebrated punctually, rather than being put off by the priest.
◆ When the 141-nation U.N. World Population Conference recently adopted its “Plan of Action” in Bucharest, Romania, only the Vatican delegate failed to endorse it. But “several observers and delegates . . . said the Vatican’s rejection of the plan would have little effect,” notes an Associated Press report. “The Vatican is becoming more and more irrelevant,” declared a U.S. population expert who attended. “More and more Catholics are using [birth-control methods] . . . the Vatican church does not speak for many Catholics.”
The ‘Unfaithful Faithful’
◆ During a recent general audience, Pope Paul VI conceded that “the church is in difficulty.” He said it is suffering from “radical opposition, corrosive dissent” and “nearly empty seminaries.” He also lamented the “faithful who are no longer afraid to be unfaithful.” Is this because their former ‘faithfulness’ was founded merely on being “afraid”?
“Backs to the Wall”
◆ Former presidential adviser, Columbia University law professor Richard Gardner, recently called for more power to be vested in the United Nations. Citing the need for world cooperation in the crises of food, energy and environment, he said: “Now that we have our backs to the wall, maybe we can read the writing on the wall.”
◆ Psychiatrists often classify alcoholism and antisocial personality as a genetically caused mental “illness” rather than as a preventable addiction such as smoking. A medical doctor who attended a smoke-clouded psychiatric symposium on the subject concludes differently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He asked the smoking psychiatrists if “nicotinism [is] not also a mental disease, and whether filling a room with tobacco smoke might not be viewed as an antisocial act by those who don’t smoke.” He concludes: “I submit that this inconsistency provides more insight into . . . what psychiatrists really mean by mental illness than the fakery and foolishness they now foist on the public under the guise of discoveries into the genetic causes and chemical cures of this ‘illness.’”—September 2, 1974, p. 1326.
How We Got Here
◆ “We’re Here Because We’re Here,” writes a Science News senior editor attempting to explain a current, chance-based theory about the origin of life. Though rejecting a Creator as being too obvious an explanation, he admits that even a limited study of the universe reveals “very special properties without which we could not exist.” These properties, he says, “give fits to students of cosmic evolution.” Without the precise relationships that exist, “molecules on which life depends would not form.” Thus, a “prominent physicist” was forced to remark ruefully that ‘God made such precise relationships so that we would arise to worship Him.’—August 24 & 31, 1974.
◆ Latest findings about a child’s capacity to learn language are amazing researchers. Dr. John Brierley, writing in The West Australian, says that “clearly the young brain seems to be programmed almost like a computer” for language development. He notes that even “brain anatomy” suggests “that an infant is born with a pre-programmed biological capacity to speak,” and marvels at the “profuse, direct ‘wiring’ patterns which enable children to connect” sight and feel with the sound patterns of words. “‘Even more incredible,” he writes, “is the young brain’s ability to scan the environment and to pick out of the hubbub a pattern in language.”
◆ After the recent exposure of underworld crime’s connection with church and synagogue gambling in the northeastern U.S., the experience of a Louisville, Kentucky, Times reporter takes on added meaning. When interviewing priests for a story on illegal church gambling in that southern city, he reports that one belligerent cleric told him: “You guys get on a crusade against bingo (and) you’re going to get your heads knocked off by the Roman mafia.” Another was more open: “I think we should be honest about it. It is illegal, you know. But it is a major source of income.”
◆ When a departmental integrity test of New York City police revealed that 30 percent of those tested pocketed the money in decoy “lost” wallets, many New Yorkers were indignant. But the angered police union recently made a similar test of the public, and found that 86 percent of random New Yorkers kept the money! Again there was a storm of public indignation, but this time asserting either that such tests are not a true measure of honesty or that the police had no right to make the test.
◆ How does the number of those in prison compare among the nations? U.N. Secretary-General Waldheim recently reported that “the rates of incarceration fluctuate from 20 persons per 100,000 in the Netherlands to 200 per 100,000 in the United States, to over 300 per 100,000 in four African countries.”
◆ Greek Catholic Archbishop Capucci, who reportedly confessed to smuggling arms to terrorists in Israel, is not the first cleric to engage in such activity. After noting a history of alleged spying and smuggling activities under the cloak of religion, Time magazine states that some clergymen were motivated not only by their cause, but also “alas, by the enormous sums of money they can make.” Capucci’s patriarch, Maximos V, who charged that the archbishop was framed, was himself said to have been “caught smuggling gold coins and rings across the border” when he served as archbishop in Israel during the 1950’s, reports Newsweek.
◆ Modern milling techniques are said to have removed as much as nine tenths of the rough cereal fiber from the diets of Western nations since 1870. Medical scientists writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association say that this may account for the fact that Africans living under tribal conditions usually do not have the “civilized” illnesses: heart disease, varicose veins, gallstones, tumors and others. Their research indicates that fiber in the Africans’ coarsely processed cereal assures frequent and regular elimination. This, in their opinion, avoids retention of fecal matter that could upset proper metabolism. They suggest a return to unprocessed foods to put the fiber back in “civilized” diets.
◆ A London Blood Transfusion Service recently stopped accepting blood from two prisons because of the “high incidence of blood disease carriers.” Ten times as many prisoners were hepatitis, carriers as in the general population. The service’s director noted that his decision was “a politically loaded situation” because donating blood filled a social, need for the prisoners as well as providing a regular supply. But, he said, “you would not thank me if your wife was given infected blood to fulfill a social need.” How safe is nonprison blood? “There’s no test system of any kind that is 100 percent safe,” he stated.
Religion in the Act
◆ Millions of people across the U.S. paid up to $25 and more to watch motorcyclist Evel Knievel try to jump across Idaho’s 1,600-foot-wide Snake River Canyon. Knievel received $6 million for the unsuccessful effort and promoters expect to get millions more. Even religion got in on the act. “There were laughs and snickers,” reports the New York Post, “when the Catholic priest making the invocation asked God to ‘guide him to a safe and successful landing wherever that might be.’”
◆ Two Mexican parish priests recently left their “spiritual” pursuits in favor of a valuable gold religious chalice. Each accused the other of stealing it. A confrontation followed during which “both men drew guns and started firing,” according to the United Press International report. “Although both men emptied their guns at each other, all shots missed, police said.”
◆ “We’re Becoming a Nation of Old Women,” headlines the London Daily Mail, noting that “five times as many people are reaching the age of 100 in Britain today compared with ten years ago.” However, “they are virtually all women.”
◆ “Science Is a Magnet” titles an article in a recent issue of Soviet Life. The magazine claims that a poll of first-year Soviet university students reveals that 80 percent plan on a scientific career. More than two thirds of the girls interviewed at one university prefer scientists as husbands. Nationwide there are said to be three times as many science students as there were twenty years ago; the current total is 4,600,000. Yet the work of scientists in the nation is not easy. They must work at least ten hours every day; three or four of those hours are spent keeping up to date by reading or attending seminars.