Watching the World
Record Arms Spending
◆ World military spending reached nearly $300 billion in 1975, according to a recent analysis. This is a record, compared with $270 billion the year before. The United States and the Soviet Union accounted for 60 percent of the total. The largest relative increase took place in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. In those lands arms spending increased twice as fast as the economic base that supported them. In the Middle East, such spending increased eightfold in recent years. Authorities called the arms race “out of control.”
Cynicism About Government
◆ The Wall Street Journal reports that people are more cynical about their political leaders. According to public opinion polls, vast numbers of people now believe that “it doesn’t matter who wins elections.” They see elections as “an exercise to resolve the ambitions of politicians—a power struggle essentially irrelevant to the problems of inflation and unemployment that intensely concern the people themselves.” Polltaker Patrick Caddell said: “There is a belief that the (political) process is so unresponsive and dishonest that it cannot be used by voters for their purposes.”
◆ Researchers in Milan, Italy, report encouraging success in treating breast-cancer victims. A special drug treatment after surgery, it is claimed, more than quadrupled a woman’s chances of escaping an early recurrence of cancer. The study was directed by Dr. Gianni Bonadonna of the Institute Nazionale Tumori. The researchers worked with a combination of three drugs: cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fiourouracil. The women in the study all had one or more lymph nodes in the armpit involved, but no detectable spread beyond that. Those who had four or more nodes involved seemed to benefit the most, as only 8.8 had recurrences against 40.7 percent who did not get the drug therapy. Bonadonna says, however, that it is too early to determine if survival times have been greatly lengthened.
Hong Kong Taps Sea
◆ For more than a century Hong Kong has struggled to provide water for its growing population. But scheduled for completion this year is a 40-million-gallon-a-day desalting plant that turns seawater into freshwater. It is hoped that Hong Kong will finally have enough water for its more than 4 million residents.
Longevity ‘No Accident’
◆ Dr. Robert Samp of the University of Wisconsin has concluded that living to a ‘ripe old age’ is not just an accident genetics. After analyzing life patterns of people who lived longer than average, he said: “It’s a result of lifetime habits. There is a definite personality type among these oldsters. We find a lifetime history of middle-of-the-road moderation, serenity, interest in others and interest in the future.”
More Wives Working
◆ In 1947, five times as many American husbands worked as did wives. But by 1975 that figure was less than two to one, as about 20 million wives did work outside the home compared to 38 million husbands. In 1950, 28 percent of all wives with school-age children held jobs. But that figure leaped to 51 percent by last year.
Europe’s Divorce Rate Soars
◆ An international sociological team reveals that the divorce rate in many European countries has experienced a staggering rise in the past ten years. Every fourth marriage in West Germany now ends in divorce. In Denmark it is two divorces for every five marriages. Sweden and England also have high rates. Another trend is that now two out of every three divorces in Europe are started by women; in West Germany it is three out of four.
◆ Of at least 9 million alcoholics in the United States, some 2 million are women. And their number grows rapidly. In the past five years the percentage of women alcoholics in the organization called Alcoholics Anonymous has grown from 25 to 40 percent. One reason cited is the increased demands in recent times for women to have equal rights, leading them to be less restrained in their approach to such things as drinking. However, children are paying the price for this excess. Among other negative aspects, states an authority, is the following: “Possibly many, many children have been very badly impaired because of damage through their mothers’ drinking. We feel from indications we’ve had that kids who are mentally retarded tend to come from alcoholic homes. There must be some connection.”
Elephants’ Cooling Problems
◆ Like all mammals, elephants maintain a generally stable body temperature. They can withstand only a limited body temperature rise (about nine degrees) before tissues, especially those of the brain, are fatally damaged. But, unlike humans, elephants do not sweat as a means of reducing body temperature, and their gray skins tend to absorb the sun’s heat. To compensate, they seek the shade of trees, wallow in mud and use their trunks to spray themselves with water. However, zoologists in Kenya say that their sources of shade and water are decreasing as the expanding human population reduces the elephants’ habitats.
◆ India, which has a net increase of about 13 million people a year, is talking about compulsory sterilization. Since its voluntary birth-control program has not stemmed the huge increases year after year, India’s minister of health and family planning says: “We might have to resort to making a law, and it would be applicable to all.” The limit talked about is no more than two or three children for a family. In China, married couples are strongly urged to have only two children. With their highly regimented type of life, this form of coercion appears to be generally successful.
◆ Ten years ago the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization began an ambitious program to reduce illiteracy around the world. According to the agency’s own report, the program has been a “dismal failure.” When the program began, there were an estimated 735 million illiterates in the world; now there are about 800 million. During the decade the program reached only a million people, not all of whom learned to read and write.
◆ Sudden, unexplainable deaths among infants has long baffled the medical profession. But American physician Robert Reisinger claims that this is more likely to happen among bottle-fed babies than breast-fed babies. His claim was supported by a New Zealand study that said that, in comparison with breast-fed infants, ten times as many bottle-fed infants die from this “sudden infant death syndrome.”
More Evidence Against Smoking
◆ Additional information against smoking has been published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It found that with younger age groups the death rate of those who smoked cigarettes was two to three times greater than among nonsmokers. Nor are women spared, as 62 percent of those who died suddenly from heart diseases were heavy smokers, their average age at death being 19 years less than among nonsmokers. Men under the age of 65 who gave up smoking reduced the risk of heart disease by 50 percent, according to the Journal.
Increased Smoking Among Girls
◆ In spite of the clearly established hazards of cigarette smoking, more girls are doing it. Six years ago, 22 percent of girls 13 to 17 years old were smokers, with 10 percent smoking at least one pack a day. Now 27 percent of these age groups smoke, with 40 percent smoking at least one pack a day. While among women aged 18 to 34 the percentage of smokers increased only slightly (from 34 to 36 percent), the percentage of heavy smokers among them rose from 51 percent in 1969 to 61 percent in 1975. Dr. Benjamin Byrd, president of the American Cancer Society, said that the new findings constituted an “urgent public health crisis.”
Farming Without Plowing
◆ The traditional way to farm crops such as corn is to plow under what is left after harvest and to plant a new crop the next year. But another method called “no-till” is coming into wider use. Instead of plowing in the spring, soil preparation begins the previous autumn when a cover crop such as rye is sown. In the spring, it is killed with herbicides and falls to the ground as a mulch. The corn is then planted through this mulch, using special machinery. The mulch retains moisture, prevents soil erosion and inhibits weeds. Especially where top soil is thinner and the land hilly is this method more widely used. At present, an estimated 60 percent of corn and 50 percent of soybeans are grown the “no-till” way in the state of Maryland.
Rustling for Horsemeat
◆ For the past year, Texas officials have been warning horse owners to guard against rustling. They say that horses are being stolen for sale to slaughterhouses that turn them into horsemeat for sale to European countries. Horse steak, commonly eaten in some European lands, costs over $2 a pound. One horse, stolen from a field outside Houston, was a highly valued thoroughbred. The slaughtering plant paid only 22 cents a pound for this particular animal, not knowing it was stolen. The plants say that they have no way of knowing which of the 1,300 animals that they buy each week are stolen. Because of the European demand, horsemeat exports from the United States increased sixfold in two years.
Fast Mail Service
◆ Even with modern electronic equipment, mail service in some developed countries is slow. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the mail service in Tientsin, one of China’s largest cities, is ‘heroic by American standards—several deliveries a day, seven days a week.’ A letter posted in a street mailbox before noon is said to be delivered the same day. If mailed in the afternoon, it is delivered the next morning. Mail to Peking, 70 miles away, gets overnight service. A postal official in Tientsin said: “The delivery men now do three rounds a day rather than two so the letters can reach the people on time.” Of course, mail volume there is much less than in Western cities.
Another Pill Warning
◆ The Population Council of the United States has concluded a study revealing that women over the age of forty who take oral contraceptives have a much greater death rate from that source than from any other method of birth control, including abortions. Their findings apply to women living in developed countries. The council claimed that for this age group the mortality rate from oral contraceptives is even greater than the mortality rate from pregnancies due to using birth control method at all.
◆ The recent recession in the United States took a huge toll in bankruptcies. In fiscal 1975 there were 254,484 cases, 46,000 more than the previous peak in 1967. Among these were corporate and commercial failures numbering 30,130, an increase of about 10,000 from the year before.
Gambling In Japan
◆ According to federal officials in Japan, over $12 billion was spent on legal gambling in that country during 1975. This estimated sum was wagered on government lotteries, horse races and the like. On the average, every person in Japan annually spends about $110 on legal gambling. Illegal gambling also flourishes in that nation.