Watching the World
◆ Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitrios pledged in his “Christmas message” to ‘help make 1977 a year of worldwide religious freedom and tolerance,’ reports the Athens Daily Post. However, the patriarch went on to say that 1977 would also be ‘especially a year of struggle against religious fanaticism,’ the label his church puts on religious groups that they dislike. Was Greek Orthodox “tolerance” being displayed by the numerous attempts its clerics made to stop the peaceful assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1976? The metropolitan of Monemvasia and Sparta, Ieronymus, decreed excommunication for merely “rendering services” to the Witnesses.
◆ To enliven their lonely winter vigil at the U.S. Antarctic station located near the South Pole, some twenty scientists and others stationed there have created an unusual “300 Club.” According to U.S. News & World Report magazine, “you sit in a sauna bath at 250 degrees [121 degrees Celsius], then run around the South Pole marker naked in minus -50-degree [-46-degree Celsius] temperature. The 250 and the 50 add up to 300.”
◆ “How can I tell my home office we lost a fourth of our shipment to a bunch of pirates?” complained a shipping official in Nigeria. “They’d call me back for psychiatric consultation!” But he was not having delusions. The government has recently vowed to take strong action against “the incidence of sea piracy” in its coastal waters. Speeding in on motorized dugout canoes, bands of twenty-five to thirty chanting, cutlass-brandishing criminals have attacked freighters waiting for berths at Nigeria’s major ports. Looted cargoes are quickly on sale in local shops and on the street.
America the First?
◆ A recent World Bank study may disillusion those who believe that the United States has the best of everything. According to the study, it does remain first among the nations in such dubious areas as violent crime, divorce and consumption of liquor and tobacco. However, in matters such as infant mortality, it is twenty-first, with 16.6 deaths per 1,000 births, while Sweden has only 9.6. The U.S. has dropped to sixth place in per capita annual income, behind Sweden, Switzerland and three oil-producing states. Newspaper circulation (300 per 1,000 people) is well behind Sweden (564 per 1,000) and at least five other countries.
◆ “Breast-fed infants born with thyroid deficiencies tend to grow faster, have higher intelligence, and show better bone maturation than formulated babies,” notes a report in Medical World News. “Breast milk seems to ‘medicate’ infants with congenital hypothyroidism.”—February 7, 1977, p. 27.
● In a study comparing over 1,000 women who gave birth at home with the same number of hospital births, a Wisconsin physician found that “the hospital group suffered more birth injury (30 versus 0 instances) and more neonatal infection (8 versus 2) and more often required oxygen (93 versus 13 instances). Only one home delivered full-term infant suffered respiratory distress lasting more than 12 hours, while 17 hospital-born infants did.”—Medical Tribune, January 26, 1977, p. 23.
● A recent study by the French National Center for Scientific Research indicates that babies born in the peaceful, darkened, quiet atmosphere recommended by French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer continued to benefit as they grew up. (See Awake!, October 8, 1975, p. 30.) The babies “walked sooner than average, were unusually adept with their hands, and had minimal trouble with toilet-training and learning to feed themselves,” notes a New York Times summary. A French psychologist remarked that they showed a “markedly greater precocity of interest in the world and in people than other babies do.”
Watching the Animals
◆ What animals attract the most tourist attention in Africa’s game parks? “The way it breaks up on average,” says a scientist studying the matter, “is that for each two-hour game drive in [Kenya’s Amboselli game] park, the tourists spend eight to 12 minutes for lion and cheetah, three to four minutes on elephant and rhino, two minutes for giraffe and buffalo and a minute for zebra and antelope.” Conservationists sponsoring the study argue that keeping land for game parks and tourism is more economically rewarding than using it for farming, grazing or industry.
◆ According to a report from Moscow, the hard-sell advertising so common in the Western world is not part of Soviet sales technique—yet. “There is something charmingly innocent about Soviet advertising,” writes New York Times correspondent David K. Shipler. “The Russians appear to be under the impression that sheer information can persuade people to buy things.” Ads on Soviet television appear only once every few nights in fifteen-minute blocs, he says. A photo of several vacuum cleaners may appear, for example, with the sales pitch: “Vacuum cleaners can be bought at electrical appliance shops.”
◆ A British agricultural scientist says that a four-year study reveals that cows respond liberally to farmers who care. He reports that farmers who talk and sing to their cows, pat them and otherwise take an interest in the animals may obtain as much as 10 percent more milk from the contented creatures.
◆ The pocket calculator must now make room for a “pocket-size” TV set. Britain’s Sinclair Radionics company’s “Microvision” set has a 2-inch (5 cm.) screen and measures 6 inches (15 cm.) x 4 inches (10 cm.) x 1.5 inches (4 cm.) It weighs just 26.5 ounces (750 grams). The little set is said to be able to operate almost anywhere in the world, using either batteries or electricity for power. “To the best of our knowledge,” claims the company’s founder, “no other country in the world is remotely close to what we have done.”
Advertise to Sterilize
◆ India’s drive to cut her massive population’s growth has concentrated on male sterilization. “Motivation center” tents feature gifts, such as clocks, watches, transistor radios, bicycles and other items to persuade the candidates. The centers “look like American savings banks offering premiums,” noted one observer. “Incentives” in the “voluntary” program may also include cash, while “disincentives” to parents with three or more children may include withholding ration cards or even refusing medical care to children of parents who fail to cooperate with the program.
Whale of a Ride
◆ A pair of large beaked whales were found having difficulty in New Zealand’s Napier harbor. Wearing wet suits and flippers, a marine animal trainer and his companion helped to get the pregnant female off some rocks. Then, after a few minutes, the trainer “climbed on the male’s back and leaned over and stroked the female.” Once he got them facing the harbor entrance, he dismounted and watched them slowly head for the open sea.
◆ Millions of Chinese used to flowery, political newspaper articles that are long on words and short on information are in for a change, according to the Communist Party newspaper Jenmin Jil Pao (People’s Daily). To inaugurate the new policy, the front page recently contained nine letters of complaints from readers. One wrote that articles were so “long-winded, pretentious and overawing” that the people “only read the headlines of newspapers and the covers of books.”
◆ Recent reports from New York city’s subways raise questions about the character of some persons who supposedly rank high in modern society.
● To save the fifty-cent cost of a New York subway token, two brothers squeezed through the turnstile together. Poverty? Hardly. Police learned that one was a wealthy diamond dealer with more than $30,000 in his pocket. The other had more tokens. “I don’t know why I did it,” said the man with the money.
● Others use metal slugs instead of tokens to save the fare. “In a month, antislug [detectives] netted a vice-president of [the largest American oil company], a [famous university] professor, a chemist, and a writer from [the best-known news magazine],” reports New York magazine.
● Under the headline “Religious Beliefs Hinder Rodent Control Campaign,” the Times of India reports that grain merchants in Bombay “are obstructing municipal officials.” The same Hindu religious belief in reincarnation that keeps Indians from killing cattle for food also protects the rats, which destroy vast quantities of grain in this hungry land. The Times noted that one official had told of rattraps’ being frequently tampered with and of once catching a trader “redhanded in the act of kicking open a trap and letting the rats loose.”
Enforcement with Teeth
◆ Greek soccer fans will have to curb their emotions or face enforcement with teeth, according to a recent United Press International report. “A government spokesman said the cabinet has approved the purchase abroad of German shepherd dogs,” notes the report, “specially trained to deal with unruly fans.” Sports disturbances in Athens and several other towns inspired the government decision to “bite down” on the problem.
◆ The editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India reports that in 1975 his country produced more films than any other nation, over 470 in 13 languages. There are about 300 film magazines published there, said to be more than the rest of the world combined. The 8,500 cinema houses in the country take in more than $244 million annually from millions who have little else in the way of entertainment. An Indian film critic, Bikram Singh, recently wrote of the films: “We produce the most and we produce the worst.”
“Blessing the Tanks”
◆ Catholic news columnist Garry Wills recently commented on the former close cooperation with the military by Catholic Relief Services in Vietnam. He wrote that “Catholics are the most reliable recruits in America’s cold war.” But he notes that “it hurt both our politics and our religion to fuse them in a bellicose piety that makes our military force the arm of God.” Wills also observes that the chaplain’s corps brought Catholics and Protestants in America into “a unity around the act of killing. . . . The priests are still blessing the tanks.”
◆ Blind persons have benefited for years from the Seeing Eye dog program. Now the American Humane Association (AHA) is training “hearing dogs” to help the deaf. The training program is said to be less extensive and, hence, less expensive than that for Seeing Eye dogs. “The first priority is to train dogs to respond to alarm clocks and smoke alarms,” says an AHA official. They also respond to most other sounds to which a hearing person reacts. Then a “hearing dog” will nudge its master, run to the sound source and run back again.