Watching the World
Auto Sales Fraud
◆ Some used-car dealers have been known dishonestly to change the odometer reading on an automobile they are trying to sell. The odometer records the mileage that a car has been driven. Now, one of the largest automobile dealers in Westchester County, New York, has been indicted for carrying on this deception. If convicted, the dealer could be fined about $150,000 as well as lose his sales license.
A Widow’s Advice
◆ Few women, when they find themselves widows, are ready for the crushing emotional blows accompanying their new state. To their surprise, “grief” takes many forms: anger, bitterness, paranoia, loss of sleep, irritableness, among others. How can a woman cope with this problem? One, Lynn Caine, relates her experience in Widow, a recently published book. She says: “The best single bit of advice I can give to other widows may be—keep your job if you have one, and find one if you don’t. . . . A part-time job, a volunteer job, anything that will provide you with a routine and stability. . . . You have to understand that your mind is not working properly. Even though you think it is.”
Religion as News
◆ Currently changes come fast and steady in the world of religion. Now the president of the U.S. Religion Newswriters Association says that even these expert religion-watchers are baffled by the adjustments. He writes in Theology Today: “With Vatican Council II . . . and the social crusades of the 1960s, even the most isolated editors realized that religion was news. Today the nature of religious news is in transition. There are more downbeat pieces on the church establishment, more offbeat developments and new faiths. . . . Religion specialists themselves often admit confusion about where things are heading.”
A “Psychic” Tested
◆ Scientists at California’s Stanford Research Institute recently conducted controlled experiments with Uri Geller, a claimed magician and psychic. In one case the scientists consulted other magicians so as to make their tests “cheat-proof.” Geller was sealed in a room with metal walls preventing him from seeing out or receiving radio signals. Outside, a dictionary was opened at random and the first word that could be graphically depicted was drawn. Inside the room Geller was to make the same drawing. Most of his pictures are said to have been remarkably similar to the original drawing, according to an item in Britain’s conservative Nature magazine.
◆ U.S. business is a mind-boggling $1.1 trillion in debt! That is 1000 percent higher than at the close of World War II in 1945. “But,” says a recent special issue of Business Week, “even that does not tell the whole story.” Why not? The article continues: “Off those balance sheets, in footnotes that all too often are set in fly-speck type, is still more debt, representing equipment leased by companies.” By the end of 1974, U.S. companies are expected to hold almost $90 billion worth of leased equipment.
African Drug Addicts
◆ The drug abuse problem has jolted the schools of Lagos, Nigeria. Why? Some students reportedly turn to narcotics as a result of “overpampering” by parents who give them too much money and freedom. Interestingly, however, others are said to become addicted after failure to measure up to academic goals. All schools, the local Daily Times reports, have the drug problem; it adds that the results of student addiction “in most cases have been very disastrous.”
Marijuana and Driving
◆ Knowledge of the bad effects of marijuana is accumulating. Now a University of British Columbia professor reports in Science magazine on one area of real life where this drug can particularly cause problems: driving an automobile. He writes: “It is evident that the smoking of marijuana by human subjects does have a detrimental effect on their driving skills and performance in a restricted driving area, and that this effect is even greater under normal conditions of driving on city streets. . . . Driving under the influence of marijuana should be avoided as much as should driving under the influence of alcohol.”
◆ Mormons do not allow blacks to be ordained into their “priesthood.” This causes many problems within the church. Of this situation, Lowry Nelson says in Christian Century: “I am one Mormon who finds that situation unfortunate indeed.” He contends: “Intrachurch critics scoff at the official position as pure myth.” Can church leaders change the teaching? Or, are they powerless? Nelson writes: “Even if they were to find a way to change the policy, a large majority of the members would no doubt suffer a severe shock. They have been told for generations that blacks are not worthy of the priesthood, and, it must be admitted, they have found a comfortable religious sanction for their ‘natural’ prejudices.”
◆ Languages, as well as people’s attitudes toward them, change. For instance, with the petroleum crisis a year ago, interest in Arabic soared. Language schools report that, in some cases, the number of students of Arabic has quadrupled. Part of the rise is due to businessmen hoping to get mid-East jobs. Over 100 million people, it is estimated, speak Arabic. Meanwhile, when the Vatican’s Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops convened in September, most prelates felt compelled to use Latin. As the sessions ended, most were employing modern tongues—to the relief of speakers and listeners. Says a theologian: “The bishops speak awful Latin.”
Youths on Skid Row
◆ Skid row, the hangout of alcoholics and other social outcasts, is now seeing an influx of youths. At one Denver, Colorado, soup-kitchen center, about 25 percent of the 9,000 people dealt with annually are said to be under 29 years of age. College campuses, once their havens, were where they turned to drugs. Now they have left campuses, forgotten the political issues of the last decade and have taken to another drug: cheap, legal and readily obtainable—alcohol. Will they change? “Rehabilitation,” says an article in the Denver Post, “implies going back to someplace or some stage a person has experienced before. These men . . . have no place to which to return, and if they did return, it probably wouldn’t help them.”
God and Englishmen
◆ According to a recent poll, fewer Englishmen now believe in God. The study, made for the British Broadcasting Corporation, reveals that only 29 percent of those interviewed even claimed to believe in a ‘personal God’; that compares with 38 percent in 1963. The pollsters also found that 42 percent admit that they never go to church at all, while another 11 percent go less than once a year.
◆ There is a growing worldwide chorus calling for international disarmament control. Although there have been agreements signed, devices to detect banned nuclear tests constructed, and observation teams from opposing nations formed, weapons production continues to swell. What is needed? Swedish disarmament expert Alva Myrdal says “mutual confidence” is lacking, and adds: “Ultimately such confidence depends on the trustworthiness of the nations that are parties to the agreement. . . . It involves the question of what kind of world society one wants to foster for the future: one based on openness or one based on secretiveness.”
◆ The Forest Service is now intentionally allowing some natural forest fires in the western U.S. wilderness to burn. Proponents of the new method say that ‘natural fires’ burn away primarily cones, needles, shrubs and grasses. The right kind of trees and other grasses are thinned out; some varieties depend on fire to thrive. Natural fires, if regularly allowed, are small, preventing larger ones. A single kind of vegetation does not widely develop as fuel for a huge fire. Opponents of the idea say that the environmentalists are only guessing. They claim that soil cover in the Rockies is thin and fragile; by allowing fires to burn the soil is sterilized and humus is destroyed.
◆ Atlantic magazine says that New York city, along with its 8 million people, has 5 million pigeons. Other major cities have similar high pigeon populations. Experts are baffled by what they consider the major problems these birds create. Their droppings coat statues and benches, infect food of vendors and are known to contribute to respiratory diseases. Worst of all, in the opinion of many, the pigeons just will not go away. Nothing—sticky coatings on building ledges, exploding carbide shells, poisoned bread crumbs or sharpshooters—will scare them off. However, it should not be forgotten that other people appreciate city pigeons, believing that they bring signs of natural life to cold concrete skyscrapers.
◆ Plastics have not seemed to be biodegradable; that is, they do not appear to break down or disintegrate as do other substances, as, for instance, paper. However, a recent British report says that nitric acid has been found effective in accomplishing the job. The product that results from the “oxidizing” of the plastic, according to the report, can be used to cultivate 19 species of fungi. It is thought that this fungi, in turn, can be made into a protein supplement to feed animals—and maybe man.
◆ The Soviet newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva reports that borehole drillers have found reefs well over a mile beneath the nation’s largest desert, the 100,000-square-mile Kara-Kum in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, just east of the Caspian Sea. It is said to have at one time been inhabited by fossil plants and animals. The paper concludes that the find confirms the theory that the Kara-Kum once “was the bottom of a tropical sea.”
Bartenders Give Counsel
◆ Bartenders have always been known to listen as someone mumbled about problems over his beer. Now, in Racine, Wisconsin, as well as in some other cities across the U.S., bartenders can take a short course to show them how to spot people with emotional, personal, economic, or drinking problems and then how to direct them to professional help. Groups of taxi drivers, barbers, beauticians and others in a listening position are starting similar programs.
Gum Arabic Shortage
◆ The drought in Africa is bringing unforeseen consequences for the rest of the world. Gum arabic—an essential ingredient in gum drops and other candies—is in short supply. Why? It is given off by acacia trees in Africa; but the drought has resulted in a shortage of gum collection by tribesmen. Thus its price has gone up ninefold in one year, from $364 a ton to $3,172. More than candy is affected. Gum arabic is also used to make the adhesive on postage stamps and envelopes, and is employed in the offset printing process.
Now, What Are You Worth?
◆ The inorganic components of a person weighing 150 pounds are now worth about $5.60, according to Dr. Donald T. Forman at Northwestern University. In 1969 the value was $3.50. And in 1936, a mere 98 cents. However, the doctor points out, inflation, and not the rarity of any of the body’s elements, is the reason for the increase.