Watching the World
Ancient Law Works
◆ Several groups of elderly Californians have successfully launched what they believe is a novel way to cope with today’s costs. They request commercial food handlers to give them damaged and short-weight foods that would normally be wasted, and ask farmers for permission to pick what remains in their fields after the harvest. Something new? No, the idea is over 3,000 years old—it is found in the Bible’s Mosaic law. The “gleaning” of the harvest had to be left in the fields for less fortunate persons. One farmer remarked: “They’re not asking for something for nothing. They’re out here cutting and picking themselves.” And a food-packaging company official declared: “If there were more people with this frame of mind, the whole world would be a better place to live in.”—See Leviticus 23:22.
“Seeing” with Sound
◆ What humans have learned from the bat as to radar and sonar often is used for military purposes. But now the bat’s sound-echo guidance method is helping a blind California baby to “see.” When inaudible sounds beamed from a small device tied to the baby’s forehead are reflected by objects in front of him, the echo is transformed into pleasant little whistles in the tot’s ears. Changes in pitch, loudness and quality of the whistles enable the infant, after months of training sessions each day, to determine distance, direction, size and even hardness of objects. As to her baby’s first reaction to the device, the mother says: “His face lighted up. It was like a light going on in his head. He knew there was something out there.”
All About Women?
◆ Mexico City’s U.N.-sponsored International Women’s Conference reportedly differed little from the male-dominated parleys that women often complain about. The usual diatribes and fighting among political antagonists governed the discussion to such an extent that, near its end, Australia’s delegate objected: “The conference is treating women as irrelevant. We have not talked about women as such at all.”
“Divine Sovereignty” Assemblies
◆ This year Jehovah’s witnesses are holding 91 “Divine Sovereignty” District Assemblies across the United States. Reports from the first 64 of these four-day gatherings show a total peak attendance of 664,667 persons; the number baptized, 12,718. Highlighting the assembly theme of Divine Sovereignty, the keynote speaker in each city declared that “on the surface of things, it appears that two great political forces are bitterly contending with each other for domination.” But he pointed out: “There is a contest of far greater magnitude” on a spirit level that “involves the whole universe.” Christians were urged to show by their actions that they let God, not his opposer, Satan, be the sovereign of their lives.
“Saving” the British Pound
◆ The British pound’s recent sharp drops in value moved Donald Coggan, the archbishop of Canterbury, so much that he asked for God’s intervention. He urged his flock to “pray earnestly” for the embattled currency.
◆ Housewives in Kokubunji, a Tokyo suburb, can now shop in the world’s first automated supermarket. Vending machines display almost 2,500 kinds of goods behind windows. When the shopper pushes a button and inserts her plastic identification card in a slot, the desired item pops out and the price is recorded by a computer. The cashier later inserts the same plastic card into a computer that instantly produces the total charges. Two cashiers have replaced the twenty required previously. Prices, it is claimed, are lower because of decreased labor costs, and theft and cashier mistakes are almost eliminated. But some complain that they cannot examine the goods and that when they push the wrong button, it takes much effort to correct the error.
‘Mouths of Babes’
◆ Elementary School teachers in Marcianise, Italy, assigned their classes to write themes on the subject “If Jesus Returned.” The Italian newspaperPaese Sera published these edited excerpts: “When he went into the churches and saw marble altars, golden and silver candelabras, so many beautiful paintings and statues,” wrote the children, “Jesus thought: ‘My disciples and I were poor and here my new disciples are rich.’ Every time Jesus would come out of a church he was disappointed and unhappy.” And, in the opinion of the children, what was Jesus’ final judgment after his visit? “The Christians today are not Christians any more.”
America’s Changing South
◆ “Traditional Southern values,” writes an Alabama university instructor in the New York Times, include “patriotism, fundamentalism, and country-and-Western music.” He notes that “what is surprising, however, is the growing popularity of recent country songs whose lyrics describe explicit sexual activity. . . . Ironically, this music grows in popularity in an area where fundamentalist Christian churches thrive—institutions that lobby for blue laws, shut down [pornographic] movies . . . and attempt to keep ‘obscene’ and ‘Communist’ material out of schoolbooks.”
Obsessed with Weapons
◆ Enough nuclear weapons now exist world wide to kill earth’s population 27 times over, according to figures recently released by a U.S. congressman. Yet the world continues spending nearly $20 billion a year on military research and development—about five times what it spends on medical research. Furthermore, approximately half the world’s scientists and technicians are working on improved and new weapons, says a spokesman for the Stockholm Peace Research Institute. As for the manufacture of plutonium, a key element in atomic power, the Institute’s recent annual report says: “Even if safeguards are 99.9 per cent effective in 1980, enough plutonium could be diverted without detection to produce nuclear weapons at the rate of one per week.”
Brain and Language
◆ Scientists have believed for some time that only the left half of the brain has language ability. However, recent findings from two sources indicate that the two sides of the brain are not as specialized as previously thought. Studies with new equipment at the California Institute of Technology indicate that the brain’s right hemisphere may have the vocabulary of a 14-year-old and the ability to form sentences of a 5-year-old. Meanwhile, a study of Hopi Indian children in Arizona indicates that their very concrete language may actually require greater use of the right half of the brain than do more abstract languages such as English. These findings bolster hope that those who lose much of the left half of their brain in cancer surgery, stroke or injuries may be aided to regain the ability to speak.
◆ Suicides are occurring even among children under the age of 10, reports the World Health Organization. Why? Its study indicates that some youths probably get the wrong idea from adults who refer to dead people as “passing on.” The children also fail to realize the permanence of death because they see TV and film actors appearing again after supposedly dying. Bitter youngsters imagine that their suicide will punish people by causing grief, not realizing that they will not be around to see it.
◆ Fifty or more nations now produce television programs. From this vast material all the other countries can choose just what they want to present on their few channels. How much do they pay for these programs? ‘The rates bear little relationship to the apparent prosperity of the nation or the size of the audience,’ observes London’s Financial Times. ‘They are simply what a seller can squeeze from the buyer.’ Half-hour episodes are said to cost about $400 in Austria, $700 in Mexico, $25 in Uganda and $3,500 or more in Britain. Russians reportedly are willing to pay only half what East Germans do, and oil-endowed Kuwait no more than less wealthy Jamaica (about $60).
◆ A recent Japanese study of babies whose mothers lived near airports, from at least the first half of pregnancy onward, found that many of the tots could sleep right through high-level recorded airplane noises. But babies subjected to airport noise only after mid-pregnancy, or not at all, were awakened by the recorded sounds. On the other hand, classical music roused the “airport babies.” Why? “To such babies airplane noises are just an ordinary sound and the music of Beethoven is an unusual sound,” says Yoichi Ando of Kobe University. “Their sensitivity to noises and sounds became abnormal while they were still in the womb.”
Soviet Sex Survey
◆ A surprisingly candid survey recently published in Russia revealed that Soviet citizens are rapidly embracing the sexual permissiveness that they used to condemn as Western decadence. More than half the male students at Leningrad University admitted to sexual encounters before the age of 18. Almost two thirds of the women engaged in premarital sex before they were 21. By age 24, almost all had succumbed. Reportedly, students and scientific workers overwhelmingly approve of premarital sex relations, and the married women, of having extramarital affairs. Nearly 10 percent, or 400,000, of the children born in a recent year were illegitimate.
◆ Flashflooding recently turned the world-famed Las Vegas gambling strip into a sea of mud. Floodwaters killed two persons. Yet “shoeless gamblers, pant-legs rolled up, continued to plunk coins into slot machines in some casinos as calf-deep water swirled around them after the freakish storm,” reports the New York Times.
New Galactic Mystery
◆ A new observation system has enabled California astronomers to photograph what is said to be the most distant galaxy yet observed, an estimated eight billion light-years away. But a new space mystery has accompanied the discovery. Radio emissions from the galaxy are so intense that scientists say the nuclear energy in its stars should quickly be burned up, and the stars should not remain. Yet they exist. “Hence their energy source remains a major challenge of astrophysics,” notes the New York Times.
◆ While the World Health Organization is claiming victory over smallpox, it is admitting that, after a multimillion-dollar, 19-year fight, it has not gained a victory over malaria. Director general Halfdan Mahler says: “For many years we tried to keep up a bluff that global eradication was possible . . . now we have thrown in the towel. It is very difficult to admit failure and it took us a very long time to admit that this organization was not able to put forward a program for eradication.”
◆ A five-year-old Norwegian boy plunged into a partially frozen river. He was submerged for 40 minutes before police were able to rescue him. Emergency lifesaving procedures revived the lad, but there remained a question of possible brain damage due to prolonged lack of oxygen. However, after a rapid physical recovery, doctors found that his brain function has continued normal for more than a year since the incident. They concluded, as published in the British medical journal Lancet, that rapid cooling of the child’s body in the cold water greatly reduced the brain’s need for oxygen.