Watching the World
Record-breaking Meteorite Fragment
◆ The explosion of a meteorite high above China’s Kirin Province sent over a hundred stones plummeting to the earth on March 8. One chunk reportedly weighed 3,894 pounds (1,766 kilograms). It is thought to be the biggest meteorite ever observed while falling, though it is not the largest found after unobserved descents.
◆ The journal Industry Week cites two studies indicating that secularly employed wives generally are overworked because their husbands give them little aid with chores at home. One study, undertaken by the International Labor Organization, holds that, considering household tasks, many working wives have a 70- to 80-hour workweek. A separate study by the Stanford Research Institute reportedly holds that husbands help “only with self-selected tasks and for a very small fraction of the total housekeeping hours.”
◆ United Press International reports that Soviet scientists are prepared “to launch artificial caviar to replace eggs from the pollution-threatened sturgeon.” After years of experimentation this “caviar” was produced at the Academy of Sciences Institute. UPI says that the Soviet newspaper Moskovskaya Pravda has given the basic ingredients as milk albumin, casein, fish fats and oils, water and salt. A Russian scientist who sampled the experimental product a while ago is quoted as saying, “The taste was terrible.” But since then the fully developed artificial caviar has been sold in some of Moscow’s shops and is said to have “evoked a generally favorable response.”
Fewer Physicians Smoking
◆ The American Cancer Society reports that there has been a sharp decline in the number of American physicians who smoke cigarettes. Only about one out of five do so. A periodic survey of 5,604 doctors has indicated that 38.6 percent were smoking cigarettes in 1959, but this had dropped to 28.3 percent by 1965 and was just 19.2 percent by 1972. Of those polled, 5,407 were men and 197 were women doctors. Among the female physicians surveyed, smokers had dropped only from 34.4 to 23.7 percent between 1959 and 1972. Eighteen percent of the original 5,604 doctors have died and 2,426 replied to the 1972 poll.
◆ A poll by the Catholic cleric and sociologist Andrew Greeley and his associates of the independent National Opinion Research Center indicates that there has been a downward trend in Church observance among United States Roman Catholics. The survey involved almost a thousand persons who were polled in both 1963 and 1974. Though the number receiving Communion weekly had risen from 13 to 26 percent, those attending Mass each week had dropped from 71 percent in 1963 to 50 percent in 1974. By then only 17 percent made confession weekly, compared with 38 percent in 1963. Those favoring Church-disapproved artificial contraception had grown from 45 to 83 percent during the same period. By 1974, 43 percent were in favor of sexual relations between engaged individuals, whereas only 12 percent had held that view back in 1963. Also, while 70 percent had thought that the pope held his authority in direct line from Jesus Christ, by 1974 that idea was accepted by only 42 percent.
◆ Though carbon-monoxide gas has no telltale odor or color, it can be lethal. Poisoning symptoms may include headache, sleepiness and an abnormally brilliant and glaring appearance of oncoming automobile headlights. To reduce the peril linked with this dangerous product of a running auto engine, the motor should be correctly tuned and the exhaust system should be in good condition.
Spread of Rabies
◆ During recent years, rabies has been advancing at a rapid pace from Poland’s forests across Europe. Reportedly, the disease now is spreading through France at 25 miles (40 kilometers) yearly along a 700-mile (1,126-kilometer) front. Because of strict regulations, such as a six-month quarantine for a pet dog brought into Britain, that land has been nearly free of rabies. However, fear exists that the disease will be brought across the English Channel, perhaps by a person who succeeds in smuggling an infected pet into the country. An individual contracting rabies will die if proper treatment is not received within a few days.
◆ Last year the International Monetary Fund made $4.8 billion available to countries having oil-associated balance-of-payments difficulties. Of that sum, Italy borrowed 20 percent and Britain approximately 25 percent. That put those two nations in the lead among lands obtaining loans for that purpose.
Second Opinion on Surgery
◆ Certain unions require that patients get a second opinion regarding elective surgery. In other unions, the program is voluntary and patients can choose to request a second opinion. According to recently published results of a study, in the mandatory programs 16 percent of recommended surgical operations were found to be unnecessary, whereas the figure was 35 percent in the voluntary programs. The New York Daily News quotes Dr. Eugene McCarthy of Cornell University Medical College as stating: “The impact of our findings more than justifies the wide adoption of second-opinion elective surgery for appreciable improvement in the quality of care and effective cost utilization.”
“Eyes like a Hawk”
◆ The foregoing expression denotes acute vision. But is that saying based on fact? Recently, three researchers at Vanderbilt University found that the sparrow hawk does possess eyesight superior to that of humans. Using two illuminated test windows, one having blank fields, the other with vertical gratings, they tested the vision of a sparrow hawk. When the bird flew to the window having the gratings, it was rewarded with food. Progressively, the bird was shown gratings with narrower lines, finally those too thin to be seen by the human eye. By this means, the team determined that in daylight this sparrow hawk had eyesight approximately 2.6 times more acute than that of humans. Putting those findings another way, Science News says that that bird’s visual ability was “the equivalent of reading an eye chart at 100 yards or a traffic sign half a mile away.”
Surplus Pilgrim Medals
◆ When the 1975 “Holy Year” concluded, the Vatican reportedly had about a million leftover pilgrim medals on hand. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “They had cost about 50 cents, but today an Italian company, whose letterhead claims authorization of the Holy Year Central Committee, is selling them for $5.” Central committee president Cardinal Maximilian de Furstenberg admitted late in November: “The medals did not sell as well as we might have wished.”
United States Immigration
◆ From 1820 to 1974, reports Parade magazine, 46,712,725 immigrants gained entry into the United States. By far the majority were Europeans. They constituted 76.8 percent of the total, or 35,888,309 persons.
Swiss Watch-Industry Slump
◆ Watchmakers in Switzerland produced almost 40 percent of the timepieces manufactured world wide last year. Though they made 79 million, there was a 22-percent drop in exports from the previous year. During a recent 18-month period, over 16,000 Swiss watchmakers lost their employment. That amounts to 21 percent of the watch-industry workers. The worldwide recession and the rise of the Swiss franc on money markets (which has increased the dollar cost of Swiss watches by 70 percent since 1971) are factors in the slump. “But,” says Time magazine, “the most ominous development has been a marketing blunder: Swiss watchmakers failed to appreciate the sales potential of electronic digital watches.” Nevertheless, the Swiss watch industry now is pushing digital-watch production.
Alcohol Takes Its Toll
◆ Reportedly, some 9 million United States citizens are alcoholics or problem drinkers. Ten percent of the country’s workers are said to have drinking problems, “resulting in an estimated $25-billion-a-year drain on the economy,” according to Parade magazine. It also reports that yearly in the U.S. alcohol is involved in over 25,000 traffic deaths, 20,000 fatalities in other accidents, 20,000 disease deaths and 15,000 suicides and homicides.
The European Bison
◆ Back in 1919, what was considered the last wild wisent, or European bison, was killed for food. Only a few of these animals then remained in zoos. Today, however, 1,650 roam the Bialowieza Forest, which straddles the Polish-Soviet border. In 1921, this forest became Poland’s first national park, and, in 1923, a Polish professor began gathering European bison from many zoos. Only 17 of these animals, related to the American bison, survived World War II. Thereafter, breeding resumed, leading to the large number existing in this forest today.
Drop in Drug Prescriptions
◆ Drug prescriptions filled in U.S. drugstores have dropped in number for the first time in many years. The journal Drug Topics said that a survey reveals that in 1975 7.5 million fewer prescriptions were filled than in 1974. Nevertheless, total customer costs rose 6.6 percent, and the average prescription cost $4.93, or 33 cents above the figure for the previous year. The decline in number of drug prescriptions has been ascribed to a trend among physicians not to prescribe tranquilizers and antibiotics as liberally as they did in the past. According to The Wall Street Journal, Drug Topics also links the drop to the recession and to “an increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed by hospital outpatient clinics and government-sponsored Health Maintenance Organization pharmacies.”
◆ During 1975, “at least 12,000 Americans were poisoned by plants, some of them fatally,” reports Time magazine. It published a list of dangerous foliage, prepared by Dr. Guy Hartman of Fontana, California. The whole plant is toxic if eaten by humans in the case of the azalea, calla lily, castor bean, daphne, oleander, privet, ranunculus or buttercup, wisteria and yellow jessamine. In other instances, parts of the plant are dangerous, as follows: black locust (bark, foliage, young sprouts); holly, Jerusalem cherry, lantana (berries); English ivy (berries and leaves); daffodil (bulb); poison oak, rhubarb (leaves); poinsettia (leaves and stem); iris (leaves, roots and fleshy parts); bird-of-paradise (seed pods). While many adults avoid eating things about which they are uncertain, parents well to caution their own not to pick and eat plants found while playing in a field or their own backyard. Some of the foregoing plants cause serious illness, while others are deadly. A doctor’s attention and hospital care may be vital if plant poisoning occurs.
Sanctified or Sickened?
◆ Sanctification is sought by Hindu pilgrims who bathe in India’s Yamuna River. But Indian scientists report that water tests where the Yamuna and Ganges Rivers converge indicate the presence of germs causing such diseases as typhoid and cholera. Sewage from the city of Allahabad is cited as the cause of this dangerous pollution.