Watching the World
◆ The Guatemalan earthquake that left over 22,000 dead and more than a million homeless also gave hundreds of foreign tourists and businessmen a jolt of reality about the world they live in. A New York Times news analysis observed that affluent travelers generally live in a “cocoon” of comfort. But when the quake hit, “that cocoon was temporarily shattered,” said the Times. “All of a sudden, they found themselves without electricity, communications, refrigeration, running water, security and a myriad of things they were used to . . . Whether they realized it or not, they found themselves in a position to discover that what is normal to them is a luxury for perhaps 75 percent of the world’s population.”
A Key to Tooth Decay?
◆ A dental scientist at New York University claims that the breast-feeding of babies can help to prevent tooth decay. He stated: “It is in infancy that the groundwork is laid for future dental health problems.” He noted that bottle-fed babies are given formulas that contain milk sugar or corn sugar, so that the babies very early develop a taste for sweets. This habit is difficult to break later, with the result that the preference for sweets damages teeth later on.
◆ Does smoking filter cigarettes help to prolong the lives of smokers? An Oxford University statistical study published in the British medical journal Lancet indicates the contrary. The study found that, as the use of filter brands in England and Wales dramatically increased since 1955, lung-cancer deaths did decrease, but those from coronary heart disease grew! Why? Because, the study declares, filter removal of the tar and nicotine that cause lung cancer is offset by increased carbon monoxide (28 percent more) from filter tips. Carbon monoxide and other gases in the smoke are said to affect coronary heart disease.
U.S. Draft Now Defunct
◆ American youths who turn 18 years of age no longer need to register for the draft. Federal budget cuts have mandated the closing of all local draft boards. Draft cards are no longer being issued, though those already issued cannot lawfully be destroyed.
Out of Touch
◆ Why is Communism making such giant inroads in Catholic Italy? The Catholic lay journal Commonweal recently argued that it is because Church leaders are so remote from the people. It says that this “is aptly suggested by the papal title, ‘The Supreme Pontiff,’ by the other titles of leaders, such as ‘His Eminence’ and ‘His Excellency’—all denoting great altitude.” Even the Church language causes Italian Catholic lay university students to complain of documents “whose basic content consists of commonplaces, self-evident first principles, and truisms so abstract in character as to be universally applicable to any time and place, suggesting the broad, vague vision from a lofty mountain.”
Are They Listening?
◆ The recently released Vatican document reasserting bans on birth control, premarital intercourse, masturbation and homosexuality (with some reservations) has created a worldwide storm of Catholic protest and reemphasized many disagreements within the Church:
● French priest and author Marc Oraison said: “I think the majority of Catholics won’t be very impressed by this document.”
● John Deedy, managing editor of the Catholic journal Commonweal, writes that “the Vatican has furnished Catholics with a theology of sex that is often more easily lampooned than it is subscribed to and lived by.”
● New Zealand Catholic priest Felix Donnelly says that “the Vatican’s condemnation of homosexual acts affects . . . some priests [who] do practise homosexual activities and feel they can justify their behaviour.” He estimates that the percentage of homosexual priests in New Zealand would be ‘slightly higher’ than the 5 percent estimated for the general population.
● U.S. priest and columnist Andrew Greeley called attention to another contradiction: On one side of Rome’s street, Via Aurelia, “is the wall of Vatican City and the palace of the Holy Office.” But “on the other side of the Via Aurelia is a ‘pharmacia’ whose outside wall is graced by a vending machine for contraceptives.” Priest Greeley wonders “whether the people who wrote [the document] . . . really think there is an audience out there still listening to them.”
Abacus Comes Back
◆ Japan’s Daily Yomiuri reports that the abacus “is beginning to make a comeback in this country after being overtaken by the popularization of the portable electric calculator.” Educators have decided that the “abacus is most suitable for building students’ calculating ability, while electric calculators are best fitted for business use.” Abacus training from the third grade up now is as basic to education in Japan as reading and writing. Annual abacus production had fallen from a peak of 6 million to 2,300,000 over the past 10 years. A 50-percent growth is expected for this year. Even so, production of electronic calculators in Japan will reach 30 million, and the 3,000-yen ($10.00) abacus must compete with calculators that sell for as low as 2,000 yen ($6.60).
◆ Two years ago, the American Hospital Association issued a Patient’s Bill of Rights amid much publicity. Now the Association has found that fewer than a third of the hospitals they surveyed have made any effort to make the statement available to patients and only 9 percent actually give each patient a copy. What do the rights of patients include? Michael Elliott, hospital administrator at Milwaukee’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, says that a patient’s rights extend even to death. “The patient has a right to die here,” he declared. “If the patient is a Jehovah’s Witness and does not want a blood transfusion, he won’t get it. It’s that simple.”
◆ Many cases of hepatitis from blood transfusions “are never reported at all because of the fear of subsequent legal and not clinical complications,” says Chicago medical researcher Dr. Friedrich Deinhardt. He also criticized what he called “generally unnecessary” one- or two-unit blood transfusions, suggesting that they be eliminated to help to reduce cases of the often deadly disease.—Medical Tribune, February 25, 1976.
◆ It is estimated that over 25 percent of all U.S. and Soviet scientists and engineers are doing some kind of weapons work, according to William Epstein of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. He writes that “scientists have a truly awful burden of responsibility for the ongoing arms competition.” But scientists say that what the politicians do with the fruits of their research is not their responsibility. Epstein counters: “Science may be neutral and amoral, but scientists are not. . . . They have a moral duty to use their capabilities for the benefit of humanity and not for its destruction.”
Why Do They Serve?
◆ London’s Sunday Telegraph reports that the Cardinal of Paris “looks after 5.5 million Catholics with the help of a staff of 170,” while “the Bishop of Cologne [Germany] needs 450 people to assist him to tend a flock only half the size.” That is over 5 times as many clergymen per million Catholics in Cologne as in Paris. Why? Well, in Germany the government pays clerical salaries, and they “are hardly parsimonious [meager],” observes the Telegraph. “In Bavaria, for example, . . . a bishop gets a basic income of about [$2,500] a month while a priest earns [$1,200].”
“Skimming the Cream”
◆ Russia’s Trans-Siberian railway is “skimming the cream off the [shipping] business” between Europe and Japan, says Business Week magazine. Since 1970 the Soviet rail carrier’s share has grown to about 15 percent of the half million shipping containers that travel between the two areas each year. Shipping rates 20 to 40 percent lower than those of seaborne carriers are the enticement. For cargo that normally brings very high rates by sea, such as machinery and electronic equipment, the Soviets give the greatest savings, thus “skimming the cream.”
Parents Pollute Children
◆ French children whose parents smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day have about twice as many tonsil and adenoid operations as nonsmokers’ children, according to Paris pediatrician Gilles Said. Tonsil operations, for example, rose from 28 percent for nonsmokers’ children, to 37 percent with parental smoking of between 5 and 10 cigarettes a day, and to 58 percent with the smoking of 20 or more cigarettes. Said also found that when parents reduced their smoking, his child patients who had complained of headaches and respiratory problems were relieved.
Alcohol in Autos
◆ President Ernesto Geisel of Brazil recently launched a “national alcohol program” to promote production of alcohol from cane, cassava (manioc) and other sources. The objective is to add the alcohol to the local gasoline by stages until the mixture becomes about 20 percent alcohol. Brazilians hope to save millions on oil imports. The mixture is said by some experts actually to improve mileage and reduce pollution. Swedish and German auto companies also are testing it on a large scale. A California legislative bill designed to permit the blend by 1980, reportedly opposed by the oil industry, was defeated.
◆ Two University of California researchers recently found that the spout of gray whales begins primarily as liquid water, and it becomes mist higher up in the spout. They trapped three whale calves for observation and measured the rate of water flow from their spouts with a flow meter. The largest calf spouted at a rate of as much as 202 liters (53 gallons) per second.
Slaughter of the Innocents
◆ Between 40 and 55 million abortions are now being performed world wide each year, according to a study sponsored by the United Nations. Worldwatch Institute also reports that about two thirds of the earth’s population live in countries where legal abortions are relatively easy to obtain, compared with just one third five years ago. “Few social changes have ever swept the world so rapidly,” observes the study.
◆ Six Greek children, aged 7 to 16, recently died shortly after being given blood transfusions as treatment for Mediterranean anemia. Athens newspapers report that two of the children received blood from the Agrinion Hospital and the other four from the Blood Donation Society of the General Public Hospital of Larissa. Mr. N. Brissimis, assistant secretary for Social Welfare Services, announced that “these children in fact died from the blood transfusion made to them,” according to the Athens daily Ta Nea.
Speed Saves Energy
◆ Australian zoologist Terence J. Dawson reports, after years of research, that kangaroos use about only one fourth as much energy when walking on all fours or running slowly as they do when hopping slowly. However, when they change to high-speed hopping, their energy efficiency greatly improves.
Throwing Away Pets
◆ In Denver, Colorado, throwing away pets is given as the main reason for the death of about 40,000 animals a year. That is the number of dogs, cats and other creatures destroyed annually by a Denver animal agency. The director blames “faddish” Americans who choose a pet on a whim and then later abandon the animal. He stated: “We have a throwaway culture. You get something, you get tired of it, you throw it away.”