Watching the World
◆ How is religion currently faring in Communist Russia? “The Russian Orthodox Church and the All-Union Council of Baptists function obediently under state scrutiny,” reported the New York Times of March 1, 1976. “But unapproved sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . have been harassed for refusing to submit on issues like conscientious objection to military service. Last month, the official press in Byelorussia reported prison sentences for several Jehovah’s Witnesses found guilty of copying articles from the Western publication Watchtower and maintaining secret chapels.”
◆ How factual are the scientific textbooks used by schoolchildren? An article in Scientific American recently admitted that “Textbooks in particular tend to convey a message of certainty to the nonspecialist. . . . Few textbooks are careful to stress the distinction between fact and interpretation or to suggest that intuition and speculation actually guide the development of scientific concepts.” As to “scientists who deeply desire to avoid challenge and criticism from people outside their own profession,” the article notes that “they tend to respond to criticism with a kind of scientific fundamentalism.”
Pact with Fascists
◆ In a recent general audience on the 47th anniversary of the Lateran Treaty between Pope Plus XI and Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Pope Paul VI said that he is ready to negotiate a revision. But he said that the special clauses protecting the Roman Catholic religion must be retained. He noted appreciatively that the Lateran pact with Mussolini had brought “clear relations between the state and the Catholic Church, between the Italian nation and the Holy See.”
Bottle of Death
◆ For two thirds of the world, “in many instances, placing an infant on a bottle is tantamount to signing the death certificate of the child,” asserts a recent world study prepared by two Cornell University nutrition experts. Contaminated or overdiluted formulas may cause malnutrition, diarrhea or gastrointestinal infection, which is said to be a major cause of infant deaths in poor communities. “The pediatric wards of tropical hospitals are full of babies dying of this man-made disease.” The report lays much of the blame for high infant mortality in developing countries to advertisements implying that “nice people with nice houses who want nice babies, bottle feed their babies” instead of breast-feeding them. It notes that “the media onslaught is terrific, the messages are powerful and the profits are high.”
Running from Guns
◆ “The National Rifle Association is considering moving its headquarters out of Washington,” reports the New York Times. Why? “Partly because of gun-related crimes against its employees” there. However, the gun group’s director of public affairs maintains that “there’s been no evidence presented by anyone that strong gun control will deter crime.” Meanwhile, the report comes from Japan (where private ownership of handguns is prohibited) that 37 homicides and two robberies where handguns were used occurred in 1974 among the nation’s 111 million people. Comparative figures for about 211 million Americans amounted to about 11,000 murders and 160,000 robberies where handguns were used.
◆ A book published in Australia recently contended that boomerangs actually were discovered by the ancient Egyptians, citing the curved wooden objects found in tombs of the pharaohs. The outraged Australian Boomerang Association tried to get the book banned in court as an attack on Australian aboriginal heritage. Will the Egyptian “boomerangs” get a chance to prove themselves? “Given the reluctance of museum curators to see 3,000-year-old artifacts hurled through the air,” notes Newsweek magazine, “a conclusive end to the boomerang controversy seemed unlikely.”
◆ U.S. Senator William Proxmire says that the Federal Reserve Board has about $4 billion stored in a vault inside Pony Mountain near Culpeper, Virginia. The money, reportedly, is a hedge in case the nation’s money supply is wiped out in an atomic attack. Maintained at a cost of almost $2 million a year, the vault can also shelter up to 400 people. Asserts Proxmire: “Under this doomsday scenario we would have $4 billion in cash and no people except a few lonely radioactive government officials.”
◆ Book sales in Japan grew over 16 percent last year, after close to a one-third jump in 1974. The almost universally literate Japanese bought an average of about six books each in 1975, for a total of 666 million books. To keep up, Americans would have had to purchase 1.3 billion books. “There was a general expectation that book sales would decline during the recession,” notes an official of Japan’s largest publisher, “but these are actually the best years we have had since the war.”
Children and Sports
◆ “According to the latest studies,” says Family Health magazine, “one out of every three youngsters under the age of 15 sustains an athletic injury sufficiently serious to require a doctor’s attention.” It cites the “win-at-all costs approach to sports [that] begins much too early.” Professional baseball player Rusty Staub says that sports at all ages increasingly reflect “the violence and frustration of the times.” He declares that professional ball is “no longer a sport. It’s a vicious, physical business.”
Sparks of Love
◆ Every spring, Korean magpies prepare for their mating season by building nests, often with bits of wire and scrap metal. Such metallic nests located atop the crossbars of high-voltage lines in southern Japan produce electrifying results. Short circuits abound. The Kyushu Power Company has had little success in discouraging the amorous birds.
Call Girls Pray
◆ Hundreds of licensed and unlicensed prostitutes at the hot-spring resort of Pei-t’ou, Taiwan, recently went on strike, according to a recent Associated Press report. The dispatch also mentioned that the girls, mostly Buddhist, used their extra time to visit temples for prayer.
◆ It is fifty times as safe to fly by major airlines as by private and corporate aircraft, according to figures from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. The statistics also indicate that major carriers are 118 times as safe as air taxi services. In 1975 there were only .04 deaths per 100,000 hours of flying on the big airlines, while private and corporate craft had a record of 2.01, and air taxis 4.71.
◆ Mainland China’s Hsinhua news agency claims that an ovarian tumor weighing 88 pounds (40 kilos), with a diameter of 1.5 feet (45 cm.), was removed from a Togolese woman named Sowa last December. She was said to have recovered quickly, after the operation by Chinese and Togolese doctors, who reportedly used acupuncture anesthesia. The agency says that she first noticed the abdominal swelling in 1970 and that her weight had increased to almost 200 pounds (90 kilos) when the tumor was removed.
Too Many Watchers
◆ West Germany’s Cologne Zoo has about 40,000 visitors on weekends and these “make the animals, especially the monkeys and big cats, so nervous they need a day of rest,” says Ernst Kullmann, the zoo’s director. “When we close Sunday night, the monkeys run around as if they were wound up. They don’t play and they refuse to eat. Many have circulatory problems. They just sit in their cages, completely exhausted.’’
Longest Road Tunnel
◆ A blast recently shattered the last few feet of granite in a tunnel that will connect Switzerland with Italy through the Gotthard mountain mass. Nearly 10 miles (16 kilometers) long, it will be the world’s longest highway tunnel when opened to traffic.
“Serious Genetic Defects”
◆ In West Germany, one out of four newborn babies reportedly has “serious genetic defects.” So say two professors at Heidelberg. They also state that because of chromosome irregularities every 200th newborn child shows such deformities as mongolism. Moreover, according to these medics, the number of illnesses partially or wholly due to heredity has risen yearly in West Germany and other industrial nations.
◆ Strong alcoholic drinks have been termed “firewater,” especially in connection with the Indians of North America, and some people have concluded that Indians are more easily inebriated than persons of the white race. However, in alcohol metabolism studies at Phoenix, Arizona, two doctors found that there is no significant difference between American Indians and white men in their absorption of alcohol for each kilogram of body weight. These findings conflict with a 1971 Canadian study holding that Eskimos and Canadian Indians metabolized alcohol more slowly than persons of the white race. Comments Science Digest: “The Canadian study, however, has since been criticized by some researchers as uncontrolled: it compared hospitalized Indians to healthy whites and measured alcohol metabolism only by the Breathalyzer test.”
◆ International Wildlife magazine says that a mere 200,000 lions exist today. This is a 50-percent drop from their number just a quarter of a century ago. It has been asserted that human hunters are not to blame for the decrease, but that some African landowners are poisoning the animals. Also, increasing portions of the lion’s grassland home on that continent are being used for cattle grazing. The fear has been expressed that if present trends persist, lions will number only a few thousand by century’s end.
What About a Will?
◆ Many problems can beset survivors when a person dies leaving a poorly drafted will or none at all. Whether to prepare a will is a personal matter. If an individual decides to do so, he may choose to consult a competent lawyer. Beforehand, however, it may be wise to list what and who to include in the will. “If you already have a will,” comments the journal Industry Week, “consider revising it whenever your estate changes appreciably or whenever you move to another state. Births, deaths, and marriages should also prompt a review of your will.”
◆ This winter, residents of the mountains in southern France were surprised to see red snow falling from the sky. Scientists say that strong winds carried red sand about 900 miles (1,448 kilometers) from the Sahara. The sand mixed with descending white crystals to produce red snow.
Another Transfusion Danger?
◆ The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reports that one individual became ill with Colorado tick fever eighteen hours after receiving donated blood. But before the presence of the tick fever virus was noted, this person’s blood was administered to a man eighty-two years of age. He became sick and this virus was detected in his blood. The Journal of the American Medical Association quotes CDC officials as saying that “transmission of Colorado tick fever by transfused blood has not been previously documented.” “But,” adds the Journal, “they also say it is unlikely the blood recipient was exposed before transfusion ‘because the area of Montana near his home is thought to be free of the small rodent hosts that are necessary to maintain the cycle of infection.’”