Watching the World
‘Silence About Religion’
◆ Religious leaders have been lamenting that newspapers and other periodicals are ignoring their ‘news.’ Christian Century, while recently taking the churches’ side of the issue, nevertheless adds: “But let us also sympathize with the editors. While much religion prospers today, it has to do chiefly with two areas of declining interest. One is the visit to town of the guru of the week. For a while such visits were exotic and attractive. Now they often look like rip-offs; the accounts of them grow tiresome. The other field is revivalism. But what can newspapers say after they have said that So-and-So drew a big crowd? Again, and again and again? . . . Silence about religion in public forums suggests that there are few reasons for serious people to take it seriously.”
Why They Hunger
◆ Can American farmers feed the starving world? A letter writer in Science says that two things are involved: “First, the eating habits of America will have to be changed so that we can afford to export the grain; second, all those people from Topeka to Dacca who will own, manage, and handle that grain will have to fit their thousands of tasks into one massive and coherent grain-moving enterprise—without a profit motive.” Will this happen? The writer implies No. Why? “Selfish, shortsighted behavior comes easy; effective concern for humanity in the large, and commitment to long-range goals, do not.”
Germans Quit Churches
◆ How are West Germans saving money during hard times? By forsaking their churches! There is an obligatory tax on all church members in that country. “For many people,” says a German correspondent for The Economist, “the best way of saving money is not to cut down on food or take a more modest holiday, but to throw off the obligation of paying tax to the church.” Last year 210,000 Protestants and an estimated 65,000 Catholics gave up church membership. Financially hard-pressed Germans have not failed to see the affluence of the churches. The magazine notes: “The churches have ridden on the wave of economic prosperity and evidence of their wealth is everywhere to be seen—modern churches . . . and well-heeled clergymen.”
Separating Fact and Fancy
◆ Archaeology’s discoveries are sometimes used in attempts to contradict what the Bible says. The foolishness of using such material to try to discredit the Bible is emphasized in a recent issue of Science Digest: “If we believed the inscriptions found on any of the hundreds of royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, every pharaoh through Egyptian history would have been a benign ruler interested only in the good of his people, humble in the sight of his gods and relentless in pursuit of his enemies.” The magazine adds that archaeologists “still must grapple to separate fact from fancy.”
◆ Shrubland is often considered “worthless.” But a recent article in Science says that the true value of shrubs, the most dominant vegetation of the world’s arid regions, has long been underestimated. An increase in certain shrubs can enhance the use of an area by wildlife and livestock. Leaves, twigs, buds and flowers are high in protein, phosphorus and, at times, carbohydrates. Some species of shrubs have high commercial value, though this has been little exploited; others, it is believed, could become productive crops. The article observes: “Many shrubs may simply need reevaluation.”
Collecting Credit Cards
◆ In spite of the recession, there is one business that is doing well: credit card collection. There are at least six firms in the U.S. specializing in retrieving cards from people who have overextended themselves. One company claims that in the month of January it received 37,000 requests from issuing companies for cards to be returned; that is a 37-percent increase over the previous month and a 125-percent increase over the previous six months. The company’s president, J. C. Stewart, notes: “We are getting accounts of movie stars, sports personalities . . . people with incomes in excess of $60,000.”
◆ Many shoppers studiously compare prices before buying. But then they do not take the same care in selecting a bank or financial institution from which to borrow money. A recent Consumer Reports study shows that this can be an expensive mistake. One bank in Chicago charges 9.10 percent on unsecured personal loans (12 months); another bank in the same city, 12.91 percent. Meanwhile, in the Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas, area the same kind of loan costs a whopping 17.97 percent at one bank but only 10 percent at another in the same region.
Is ice hockey violent—or does it just appear that way to some overly sensitive observers? Well, consider: In 1973 there were about 30,000 serious injuries connected with the game. And last year? There were 41,000—an increase of over 35 percent. Those injured included both players and fans; more than a few of these were hurt as a result of fights after hockey matches.
Cargo Thefts Increase
◆ Cargo thieves are taking more than ever. U.S. Senator Alan Bible notes: “Today’s cargo thief grabs 10 times more dollars by robbing a truck than by robbing a bank. A full truckload theft averages $47,000. The ordinary bank robber gets $4,500 per theft.” He refers to cargo thievery as a billion-dollar racket. Cargo thieves are becoming more proficient. In one case a load of coffee hijacked at 4:30 in the afternoon was at a supermarket by 5:15. New York police officials estimate that 20 percent of all the cigarettes sold in the city come from criminal sources.
Book Costs Soar
◆ High production costs are forcing hardback book publishers to cut back their output as much as 40 percent this year. Some are making smaller page margins so that more words will fit on a page. Others are considering the use of special paper that looks like cover cloth. Meanwhile, paperback book publishers say that their business is increasing.
◆ State Patrol officials in the U.S. state of Washington estimate that, on a percentage basis, more people die on motorcycles than in automobile accidents. State figures indicate that there were 2.4 deaths in the state in 1974 for every 10,000 motor vehicles (excepting motorcycles). However, there were 5.3 deaths for every 10,000 motorcycles. Further, an official in the Auto Club of Washington estimates that a car or truck is driven about four times as many miles as a motorcycle. The death rate on motorcycles is high, officials say, because users are often inexperienced. State Patrol Sergeant Ron Anderson adds that accidents occur because automobile drivers are “used to looking for other cars,” not motorcycles.
Sign of the Times
◆ “Supermarkets, for the first time in memory,” says The International Teamster, “are hiring uniformed guards.”
◆ Many historians deny that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. But what evidence can they produce? All they say is that the Gospels are wrong. Paul L. Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, flipped a question back into the laps of the critics when he recently asked: “Does any early source, friendly or hostile, claim that Jesus’ tomb was occupied . . . that the sepulcher was not empty, that a body still reposed inside it? Such a claim would have been an obvious slash through the . . . Resurrection proclamations in the early Church. Yet no authority in any way close to the event in space or time makes this claim—to my knowledge—for at least the first four centuries after Christ . . . The hostile sources agree that the tomb was empty!”
“Ghetto” for the Aged
◆ The contradiction of people starving in the midst of affluence is probably no more apparent than in the resort area of Miami Beach, Florida. “Within walking distance of some of the nation’s most lavish hotels in Miami Beach,” says a Scripps-Howard article, “there is a crumbling geriatrics ghetto where hundreds of old people are starving.” Hunger has driven many to shoplifting. Some restaurants are said to have established a minimum charge to keep old folks from ordering a 20-cent cup of coffee and then filling themselves with free pickles, sauerkraut and tomatoes. There are cases of aged people picking through garbage for food behind restaurants and stores. Certain restaurants are now said to separate their leftovers from real garbage so that it will remain reasonably sanitary.
◆ Crime is growing not just in the big cities. It is also flourishing in the rurals. So serious is rural crime in Georgia that the Associated Press recently ran a three-part newspaper series on its effects in that state. In one recent three-week period eleven persons were violently killed in rural Georgia. J. A. Cody of the Georgia Sheriffs Association argues that government money being spent in larger cities is serving to chase criminals to the outlying areas: “They’re definitely coming to the area of least resistance.” Other officials contend that rural criminals are rarely from the big cities.
◆ Many doctors feel themselves currently caught in a “malpractice crunch.” As a consequence, their insurance rates are rising while fewer companies even write such policies. Is there anything that doctors can do to stem the tide of medical suits? Dr. Charles A. Hoffman from Huntington, West Virginia, who is working on the malpractice problem, advises medical men: “If you treat every patient as if he were a member of your family, you won’t have to worry much about claims against you.”
◆ During bad economic periods auctioneers do well. There are more businesses going bankrupt, and so greater demand for auctions follows. Similarly, more people looking for bargains are frequenting auctions. “They taught us in auction school,” says the president of the American Society of Auctioneers in St. Louis, “that when times are good, you can make a living, and when times are bad you can get rich.”
Four Billion People
◆ World population passed four billion on April 1, according to the calculations of Dr. L. C. Nehrt of Wichita State University. He bases his figure on data from the United Nations which fixed earth’s population in mid-1973 at 3.86 billion and a growth rate of 2.05 percent per year.
◆ In the Middle Ages, says Machine Design magazine, European yearly beer consumption was allegedly 106 gallons per person, on the average. This was reportedly due to the scarcity and cost of pure water and other beverages. Today the average German descendant quaffs only about 35 gallons, and Americans, little more than 19.
Frozen Food Eating
◆ Swedes consume the most frozen food of all Europeans, about 45 pounds each per year, reports Europe’s Vision magazine. They swallow 50 percent more than the next highest, the Danes and West Germans, and twice as much as the nearby Norwegians. The rapidly rising Italian demand is still far behind, at only about 4 pounds. But Americans still consume about twice as much frozen edibles as the Swedes.