Watching the World
Fear of Next Inflation
◆ In many parts of the world, the rampant, double-digit inflation of the past year appears to be subsiding. Recovery from the recent recession is also said to be expected soon by some economic spokesmen. However, some observers foresee the next inflation as being the really devastating one. Two British economists state in their new book The Second Great Crash: “As the next expansion gathers pace, inflation is sure to accelerate. There Is a grave danger—indeed, a near certainty,” that the next boom “will see a number of major countries lose control of their currencies.”
Venereal Disease Rampage
◆ The “permissive generation” is paying the price. Venereal disease is on the rampage in most countries. Yet, authorities say that the problem is much worse than official figures show. The World Health Organization notes that the number of venereal disease victims is from three to ten times the number actually reported by doctors. In some nations with poorer health services, from 6 to 10 percent of the people aged fifteen to thirty are infected. In several Asian countries, from 20 to 55 percent of the university students contracted venereal disease in a one-year period. In the United Kingdom, a recent survey showed that a chain reaction beginning from just one source infected 1,639 people!
Can Sahara Be Halted?
◆ Each year huge areas of Africa become engulfed in the expanding Sahara Desert. One estimate is that it devours an area the size of Connecticut every two years. Now experiments are being made with vast “green walls” of newly planted trees to see if the desert’s march can be halted and some parts reclaimed. In Algeria, a desolate area was planted with 1,000 tree seedlings, of which 800 survived with irrigation. Eventually many more were planted, and 130,000 trees are flourishing there, nourished by underground water that their roots can now reach, plus any rainfall. It is reported that the fertile area they created grows vegetables, grain and citrus fruits, while at the same time the trees stop sandstorms, cool the surroundings, and increase surface humidity.
◆ Some apartment windows in big cities have covering iron gates that are locked. The purpose is to keep out burglars. However, officials in New York city warn that, in an emergency, an apartment can become a firetrap if the gate key cannot be located quickly. Fire killed a Brooklyn mother and her two sons in this very situation. Instead of a lock, fire prevention officers urge the use of a gate that has a latch on the inside that cannot be opened from the outside.
◆ Because of slackened business conditions, many companies and government agencies have cut back the number of people employed. One company in New York solved its problem in another way. Instead of dismissing 400 of 2,000 employees, labor and management representatives agreed to keep all the workers, but to put them on a four-day week. It meant a cut in pay for each worker, but none became unemployed.
Unkind “Kindness Day”
◆ The National Park Service sponsored a “Human Kindness Day” on the Washington, D.C., Mall. A crowd of 125,000 attended, listening to “rock” music. The Washington Post tallied these results: 500 robberies reported to police, many involving assault; at least 86 people taken to hospital emergency rooms with injuries; and an official of the agriculture department lost the sight of one eye as a result of a stabbing. Police were unable to stop assaults by roving bands of youths. Thousands of bystanders looked on and offered no help.
Babies Born Drunk
◆ A University of Washington researcher says that alcoholic mothers can give birth to drunken babies who later may show mental deficiencies. Dr. David W. Smith said that it is not uncommon for an infant to come into the world with the smell of alcohol on its breath. Alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman easily passes into the bloodstream of her unborn baby. One newborn baby had a blood-alcohol level 50 percent higher than the level considered a legal presumption of drunkenness. The pediatrician said: “The baby was stone drunk.”
Low Scores in Science
◆ After the Soviet Union launched its first “Sputnik” satellite in 1957, schools in the United States made strenuous efforts to increase the quality of science education. Yet new test scores revealed that only about half the students from ages nine to seventeen could answer relatively simple science questions. Science knowledge actually declined significantly during a three-year period. A director of a science teachers’ association says: “Too many laymen have lost faith in science,” and, as a result, youthful enthusiasm has cooled too.
◆ Only 30 percent of the seventeen-year-olds sampled in United States schools could solve a simple multiplication problem involving decimals. In England, the London Daily Mail says, “Alarming evidence that children are no longer being taught even how to multiply properly is revealed in a new report.” Of the thousands tested, more than two thirds the children eleven and twelve years of age could not multiply 7 by 8. Among fifteen-year-old boys, more than half came up with the wrong figure.
What Concerns Americans Most
◆ In the past year there have been many crises competing for attention. Which concerned Americans the most? Members of Congress find that not many people are especially concerned about world affairs. As one congressman said, people “couldn’t care less about ‘sweeping reassessments’ of the U.S. role in the post-Vietnam world,” or other broad international matters. He said: “Most of my people are worried about their jobs.”
Trash Indicator Down
◆ The volume of trash that people throw out is another indicator of hard times. During the first part of 1975 garbage collections dropped steadily because consumers bought fewer goods and had less to throw out. In the first three months Chicago sanitation workers picked up 200,000 fewer tons than in the same period last year. New York city had 1,000,000 tons less during 1974, and the drop continued this year.
Nuclear Blasts for Oil
◆ The Soviet Union reports an unusual use of nuclear energy. That country has exploded underground nuclear devices for the purpose of increasing oil production in marginal wells. It claimed a yearly increase of 100,000 tons by this method.
How Many Can Be Fed?
◆ World population growth has alarmed many food experts. Indeed, hunger and starvation have become growing worries. However, the director of the United Nations Office of Inter-Agency Affairs and Coordination says that, if the earth’s agricultural potential were maximized, at least 38 billion people could be fed, even without using the seas for food. For that to happen, though, the nations would have to demonstrate a degree of cooperation not in evidence at this time.
Housewife Climbs Everest
◆ A Japanese housewife became the first woman to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Mrs. Junko Tabei, 35, only 5 feet, 92 pounds, was accompanied by her Sherpa guide. Her group spent three years preparing for the climb.
◆ The average American family can no longer afford to buy an average-priced house, which now costs $34,000, according to the president of the American Bankers Association. In addition, costs of repair and maintenance, property taxes, fuel, utilities and insurance have gone up sharply in recent years. This official concludes that the average family could no longer afford such a house even with an interest-free loan. In Japan, much the same is true. Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri notes: “To most ordinary people, being able to purchase their own land for their own home is still a dream beyond their realization.”
◆ Oil from sperm whales has long been used as an industrial lubricant. But with this species of whale being nearly wiped out, there is a great shortage of sperm oil. Now a desert shrub found in Mexico and in the United States holds promise of being an adequate substitute. The 7- to 10-foot shrub is called the “jojoba.” Its seeds contain 50 percent oil and this is similar in chemical makeup to sperm oil. Users are hopeful that it can be cultivated to resupply diminished stocks of this type of oil. Only recently an automobile company complained that the removal of sperm oil from its automatic transmission fluids led to serious corrosion problems.
◆ Officials in England say that over 500,000 children are absent from school every week. But they estimate that about 40 percent of the notes from parents to teachers, excusing the absences, are “partially or wholly untrue.” They feel that parents who tell lies in such notes are “a national disgrace, with long-term harmful effects on the national character.”
◆ The Japanese National Railways reports that about 1,800,000 items were lost in trains in one year, an increase of 67,000 over the year before. Included were 441,000 umbrellas, 369,000 items of clothing, 72 sets of false teeth and 7 urns containing human ashes. Unless owners turn up within a year, the items are auctioned.
Lock Your Car!
◆ Since locked cars mean fewer thefts, police in Kassel, Germany, have a novel way of teaching the local citizens the need to lock their cars. They confiscate all articles that can be seen on the seats and floors of those that are unlocked. They then leave behind a card of the Kassel police. The owner must report to the police station and pay a fine to get his possessions back.
Sharp Attendance Decline
◆ There has been a drastic drop in attendance at functions of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The National Catholic Reporter states that only 50 percent of Catholics attended Mass weekly in 1974, compared to 71 percent in 1963. In the same period, the number going to confession every month dropped from 38 percent to 17 percent. The greatest declines were noted among young people.
◆ The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported the results of tests taken to determine the disease-carrying capacity of money. It was found that of 150 randomly taken coins, 13 percent carried disease-causing germs, including Staphylococcus. A similar test on 50 paper bills turned up three times as high a level of contamination.
◆ Golden eagles are trapped in southwestern Montana in order to protect spring lambs. This year, at least sixty-four of the birds were removed to other areas of Montana and Colorado. Ranchers claim that in 1974 eagles killed from 22 to 35 percent of their lambs. In one study of 58 lambs that had been killed, 44 were said to be eagle victims.
◆ Which country is the richest in the world, where average income per person is considered? According to the Union Bank of Switzerland, it is Kuwait, the tiny oil-producing country in the Middle East. In 1974, the average income per person was $11,000 a year. Next in order in the top ten were Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the United States, Canada, West Germany, Iceland, Norway and France.