Watching the World
“Holy Year” Misgivings
◆ Do Romans wholeheartedly favor Pope Paul’s recently declared “Holy Year”? A Rome correspondent reports in the New York Post that “there are printed signs and handwritten graffiti railing against it all over this city.” Why? He answers that “some political forces . . . felt that the worldwide economic condition made it insensitive to suggest to poor people that they ought to travel to holy places.”
Resolute Quake Victims
◆ When the recent Pakistan earthquake brought death and injury to thousands, victims both helped and hindered relief efforts. A religious custom created problems for the doctors. One badly injured woman’s husband angrily said that he would rather let her die than be attended by a man. “Many injured women, following Moslem custom, refused to be treated by male physicians,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
◆ The Paddock brothers’ now-famous 1967 book Famine—1975! pointed forward to the current food and population problem. What do the authors say now that 1975 is with us? “Everything is so much worse than when we wrote that book,” says William Paddock. “You have a couple of hundred million more people to worry about, you’ve got the energy crisis, you’ve got inflation.” The report in the New York Times Magazine concludes that “people like the Paddocks . . . seem more convinced of their pessimistic premises than ever.”
Religion in Spain
◆ The conservative Protestant journal Christianity Today, noting Spain’s growing religious freedom, asserts that the country’s “largest [Protestant] denominational groups” are branches of the Plymouth Brethren (“nearly 10,000 members”) and Southern Baptists (“6,000 to 7,000 members”). Each has about 100 “meeting places.” The article notes in passing that “Jehovah’s Witnesses claim exceptional growth.” The fact is that there are almost as many active Witnesses in Spain as all “Protestant” groups combined—about 29,000 are distributed in more than 400 congregations throughout the country. Many more persons are obviously interested in their work, as is indicated by the 60,022 who attended the annual observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal at meeting places of Jehovah’s witnesses in Spain last April.
Now that 1974 is far enough behind us, many prominent observers feel safe in reflecting on its meaning and what 1975 will bring:
• “What a year 1974 was!” marvels Professor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in The Wall Street Journal. “All these extraordinary events, besides being extremely disconcerting and disagreeable, had one other feature in common: that is, no one foresaw them. . . . History has a remarkable capacity to outwit our best theories and to elude our most considered predictions.”
• “Indeed, 1974 will surely prove to have been the easy year” for feeling the impact of oil price increases, warn five international economists in Foreign Affairs. “The danger that one or more importing nations will simply not be able to pay for oil is immediate, within a matter of months.” They add: “Underlying economic tensions have . . . been inexorably moving toward crisis.”
• “We are witnessing a fundamental turning in the experience of the Western World which closes a 500-year span of economic history,” declares economist John E. Sawyer in the New York Times. He asserts that previous assumptions of a boundless human future “have now been fundamentally altered,” and that “new and unaccustomed constraints are henceforth a persisting condition of life on this earth.”
• Science magazine editor Philip H. Abelson laments, “heaven only knows when this country will emerge from the years of travail and discontent that it is now entering.”
• And a National Observer European correspondent, viewing the prevailing mood in Paris and London, writes of “this, the winter before Armageddon.”
◆ French scientists dredging up rocks from the Atlantic’s mid-ocean ridge were surprised when some pebbles exploded “with a sound like popping corn.” The small, glassy pebbles continued to pop, one or two at a time, for about three days. Scientists think that gases trapped in them at high pressure caused the “popping.” The pebbles were brought to the surface from over a mile and a half deep, where the pressure is 300 times as great.
How Many People?
◆ Are generally accepted world population figures accurate? The Environmental Fund says not. Their study, noted in Science News, alleges that world population was already more than four billion last year and is growing at 90 million per year, not 75 million or so. The study asserts, for example, that official U.S. Census figures do not include over seven million illegal immigrants or the 5.3 million admittedly not counted in the 1970 census. The Fund also claims that China’s actual population is at least 917 million, far more than the popularly reported 800 million.
◆ Where do people hold the longest telephone conversations? The head of Greece’s telecommunications organization claimed that distinction for Greece. When complaining that Greeks do “extensive gossiping over the phone,” he asserted that it “exceeds in time not only the average in Europe and America but of the entire world.” He urged a shortening of conversations to improve telephone service.
Hemophilia Treatment Hazard
◆ Certain clotting “factors” derived from blood are now in wide use for the treatment of hemophilia, a disorder causing uncontrollable bleeding. However, those given this treatment face another deadly hazard: the Swiss medical weekly Schweizer Med Wochenschrift reports that almost 40 percent of 113 hemophiliacs studied had cases of hepatitis. “All these patients had received whole blood, plasma, or blood derivatives containing [the factors],” notes the report. Of course, true Christians do not use this potentially dangerous treatment, heeding the Bible’s command to ‘abstain from blood.’—Acts 15:20, 28, 29.
Is It Legal?
◆ Is a homosexual “marriage” really a marriage? When the Manitoba, Canada, provincial vital-statistics recorder refused to register their Unitarian-Church-blessed homosexual “marriage,” the men took it to court. The verdict? “I view it as self-evident that the ceremony performed . . . was not a marriage,” ruled Winnipeg’s chief County Court Judge Alan Philp; “it was a nullity.” The Bible agrees.
◆ While fundamentalists in the southern U.S. challenge public school authorities about too-secular textbooks, some Quebec parochial school authorities have a different textbook problem. Many Montreal Catholic high school students want to take “more relevant” courses than religious instruction. The chairman of religious studies at one school says that the problem is irrelevant textbooks: “We are trying to change the book, but it is hard to get two theologians to agree to anything about such things as divorce, abortion, drugs and many other things students often talk about.”
◆ “Don’t move your lips when you read” is familiar advice—but is it valid? No, says a report in the International Journal of Linguistics. Researchers’ experiments showed that movements of the lips, tongue and vocal cords aid reading comprehension not only of poor readers, but also of good readers amid distractions.—Compare the Bible, at Joshua 1:8; Acts 8:30.
◆ From 1971 to 1973, U.S. authorities thought they had ‘turned the corner’ on drug abuse, with drug-related deaths falling from 1,726 to 1,017. But their elation was short-lived. Almost 700 died from drugs in the first half of 1974 alone, and July to September showed a two-thirds rise in deaths over that period the previous year. Now “we can no longer talk about turning the corner on heroin anywhere,” says the director of the President’s Drug Abuse Prevention Office, Dr. Robert DuPont.
Fending Off Rape
◆ What is the best way to handle a rapist? Should a woman submit quickly to avoid harm? Talk calmly? Or scream? “Resist loudly, firmly—and early,” urges the director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Denver (Colorado) General Hospital. He writes in Psychology Today that rapists are usually insecure persons who will ‘test the victim’s docility’ by first trying to frighten her into submission. “It is important that a woman resist at the very beginning,” he says, while it is still “easier for him to look for a more cooperative victim.” He also cites a California police official’s advice: “Scream bloody murder. It will alarm the rapist and hopefully the surrounding community.”
◆ Heart-attack deaths among older persons who shovel snow, says a consultant for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, “are the product of a lifetime of not doing things like shoveling snow and running.” In a recent lecture, he asserts that most aging persons mistakenly slow down their activity, thinking that physical exertion harms people their age. The result, he says, is bodily deterioration or “avoidable atrophy . . . a contributing factor in the death of older persons” under sudden stress.
Do Ears Tell On Heart?
◆ Mayo Clinic researchers recently presented evidence that a fold in one’s earlobe(s) may indicate coronary artery disease (CAD). The Mayo study found that 90 percent of their patients with creased lobes also had CAD, while about the same percentage of those without folds had normal arteries. Though not considered conclusive, in their opinion, creased earlobes “should probably be regarded as a physical diagnostic sign of CAD in conjunction with other clinical evidence.”
“Which Comes First”?
◆ “Although economic historians may not agree on which comes first, a severe decline in a society’s honesty and morality or a severe inflationary spiral, the two do seem to go together,” says the president of American Viewpoint, Inc. To combat widespread dishonesty, his organization launched a campaign to popularize the idea that “it is not stupid or nuts to be honest.” He says: “We wish to make honesty socially and culturally ‘all right,’ the smart thing, maybe even fairly fashionable.”
◆ Although Nigeria does not have nearly as much automobile traffic as do industrial nations, nevertheless, it reports almost 4,000 fatalities on its expanding road network between January and October 1974. Concerned officials embarked “upon a nationwide accident prevention public enlightenment campaign,” and a crackdown on violators, reports the Lagos Daily Times. The crackdown quickly swamped the traffic court system, so that mobile highway courts had to be set up.
Why No Fresh Apples?
◆ A high level of carbon dioxide gas in the air of apple storerooms slows spoilage. But this “has also led to the deplorable custom of almost never selling a fresh apple,” writes Yale biology professor Arthur W. Galston in Natural History. “The older, stored fruit is sold first, while the newly harvested fruit is placed in high carbon dioxide storage. . . . the stored product, while not rotten, lacks the distinctive flavor and aroma of the fresh fruit.”