Watching the World
Notable Quake Year
◆ “If 1977 goes down as the year of the terrible winter,” says Science News, “1976 must be remembered as the year of the earthquake.” This journal pointed out that the United States Geological Survey estimated that “as many as 695,000 people died last year in earthquakes and quake-related disasters.’’ The 1976 estimate was exceeded only by the annual worldwide toll recorded in 1556 C.E., when there were an estimated 830,000 quake deaths in China.
“A Historical Watershed”
◆ The year 1914 has been viewed by many as a turning point in human history. For one thing, it marked the start of World War I. Concerning that conflict and its effects, Richard Dean Burns recently wrote in the journal Mankind: “As World War One retreats into history, it becomes more and more obvious that this cataclysmic episode marked the end of the old order and shaped the destiny of the new. As a historical watershed, it signaled the end of the 19th Century in which the world’s affairs were centered in aristocratic Europe. As early as May 1918 H. G. Wells recognized that the war not only had altered Europe’s political structure but also ‘had struck deep at the foundations of social and economic life.’ Few intellectual or political leaders, he noted, as yet had begun ‘to realize how much of the old system was dead today, how much had to be remade.’”
Birth at Home
◆ By interviewing thirteen couples prior to and following the home births of their babies, Katherine Cavallari Malm, who is associated with the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, discovered four main factors that led the couples to decide in favor of home delivery. These factors were: (1) Their commitment to natural childbirth as well as breast-feeding; (2) a negative view of doctors and hospitals; (3) lower costs for home births; and (4) contact with other persons who had already had experience with home deliveries.
Criminals Learn from TV
◆ A survey conducted in a maximum security penitentiary in the United States reveals that many convicts are getting ideas for future crimes by watching crime programs on prison television. A surprising 90 percent of those surveyed said that they had actually learned new methods to improve their criminal expertise. Four out of ten said that they had already attempted specific crimes that they first saw on television. One convict declared: “TV has taught me how to steal cars, how to break into establishments, how to go about robbing people, even how to roll a drunk.” He added: “I watch TV in my [cell] from 4 p.m. until midnight. I just sit back and take notes. I see ’em doing it this way or that way, you know, and I tell myself that I’ll do it the same way when I get out. You could probably pick any 10 guys in here and ask ’em and they’d tell you the same thing. Everybody’s picking up on what’s on the TV.”
Moons of Mars
◆ The planet Mars has two small moons that men have named Phobos and Deimos. Earlier this year scientists got their first close-up view of Phobos (the larger of the two moons) by means of cameras on the U.S. Viking I spacecraft. The surface of Phobos is rugged and has many craters, as well as ridges and groovelike streaks. Astronomers do not know what has caused these mysterious grooves that run mainly from the north pole of Phobos to near its equator. A three-picture composite photograph indicates that Phobos is approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) across and 11.8 miles (19 kilometers) from top to bottom.
◆ The Associated Press reports that blue jeans—trousers generally made of blue denim—have become very popular among Hungarian youths. They are said to prefer imported blue jeans made in the West. For these the youngsters are paying the equivalent of $80 a pair, rather than buying the Hungarian variety, reportedly made of inferior denim, for only about $15 each.
◆ Thieves have been stealing Arizona and California cactuses and selling them to landscape gardeners, reports Parade magazine. According to certain authorities, an estimated 20 percent of the cactuses of Arizona desert areas have been pilfered.
◆ In the United States, approximately 10 percent of those receiving Social Security retirement benefits have their monthly checks deposited directly in their bank accounts. However, some problems have arisen. Certain banks have failed to notify individuals when the deposits have been received. Also, information accompanying the deposits has been lost when the banks failed to forward it. And, at times, personal checks have “bounced” because banks have been late in crediting the deposits to bank accounts. But the magazine Changing Times states: “The Treasury Department has nudged banks to be sure direct payments are credited by the third of each month, and the Social Security Administration has started mailing information notices directly to beneficiaries. Some banks now delay mailing monthly checking account statements until direct deposits have been credited.”
‘World’s Largest Color TV’
◆ Recently a 32-inch (81-centimeter) color-television set was placed on the market in Japan. Its manufacturers, the Sony Corporation, reportedly call it ‘the world’s largest color TV system.’ The cost of a set? Approximately $3,300.
◆ A greenhouse at the New York Botanical Garden has been heated by “the pachythermal energy of elephant dung,” reports the New York Times. The manure is brought from the nearby Bronx Zoo and put into a large covered tank. The heat is generated by thermophilic microflora that cause the decomposition of the manure. Its initial temperature ranges up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius), and a fan circulates the hot vapor through pipes that serve the function of a radiator inside the greenhouse. John Albert, who invented the heater and built it for $150, says: “It can generate enough heat for an average winter night, but when it gets below freezing we need help from the electrical system.” The greenhouse measures twenty feet by fourteen feet (6 x 4 meters).
◆ Although bubble baths often are viewed as soothing, they have ingredients that can result in serious physical harm. Therefore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed that these products carry warning labels. “The Food and Drug Administration has received many complaints from consumers and physicians about adverse reactions from bubble baths,” said acting FDA commissioner Sherwin Gardner. “The reactions range from rashes and itching to injuries to the urinary tract, bladder and kidney, and genital disorders, particularly in girls.” He also cited respiratory disorders and eye irritation, and said: “Many of these reactions required medical attention.”
“VD Capital of the World”
◆ A recent Associated Press dispatch from Bangkok, Thailand, cited that city’s deputy governor as saying that it is “the VD capital of the world.” According to Dr. Opas Thammavanich, during 1976 there were 58,461 reported cases of venereal disease in Bangkok. The city has a population of 1,867,297.
◆ According to the journal Christianity Today, the late American evangelist and faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman left a personal estate amounting to $732,543. This sum included her suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home valued at $130,000, as well as $94,000 worth of jewelry. Among other things, her wealth included vacation property in Canada, a $4,500 interest in gas wells in Texas and shares amounting to $60,000 in a corporation that she had set up for the sale of her records and books. The published report adds that the final court inventory included “$200 in coins—all 50-cent pieces she had culled from offerings at her services.” Reportedly, about $314,500 remained after the payment of taxes, debts and expenses, as well as legal and other fees. It seems that the faith-healing business is a lucrative one.
◆ Osmond Breland, professor of zoology at the University of Texas, reports that between 1950 and 1969, 245 persons died due to snakebite, compared with 458 who died during the same period from the stings and bites of insects. The brown recluse spider, an arachnid of the southwestern United States, has been among the killers. Breland suggests desensitization shots for persons who seem hypersensitive to stings and bites. “Because most bites are from insects in shoes, clothes, or bedding,” reports Science Digest, “Breland suggests occasional insecticide spraying of storage areas for bedding, and shaking out clothes and checking shoes, especially on camping trips.” In some areas there may be good cause for taking reasonable precautions against the bites and stings of spiders and various insects.
◆ The bicycle has been called “the most energy-efficient transportation system in the world.” In explanation, the journal Ceres states: “A man on a bicycle uses up, gramme for gramme and kilometre for kilometre, about four times less calories than a horse or a jet, five times less than a pigeon or an automobile, and over six times less than a dog, a cow or a gull, not to speak of high-energy consumers such as helicopters, rabbits, small birds and insects.” This is said to be true because, once a person is on a bicycle, he makes the most efficient use of his thigh muscles—the most powerful in the body. At the same time, wasted movements of other muscles are limited.
Safe Air Travel
◆ During 1976 airlines of the United States achieved a new record by carrying some 220,000,000 passengers. But the air carriers experienced only 45 fatalities during the year, compared with 124 in 1975 and 464 during 1974. According to Federal Aviation Administrator John L. McLucas, during 1976 the safety record of the country’s scheduled and supplemental air carriers was the best in over twenty years. From the standpoint of the number of passengers carried, he said that “1976 was the safest in aviation’s 50-year history.”
“Saints” March On
◆ The General Synod of the Church of England recently proposed that the number of saints’ days observed by the Church be reduced from 250 to 80. The cut-down calendar was sent to a revision committee that was to return it to the Synod for approval. Among those “demoted” were Saints Valentine and Nicholas, the latter being a fourth-century bishop of Myra, Asia Minor, the prototype of today’s Santa Claus. “We were anxious to ensure that all our saints actually existed,” remarked Dean Ronald Jasper of York during the Synod debate. “There was some doubt about St. George [patron saint of England], but we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
◆ At Denmark’s Ringe State Prison, men and women live in the same cell blocks. The American Bar Association Journal reports: “Relationships are permitted, though marriage is not, and contraceptives are available.”
“Threatened by Alcoholism”
◆ A recent study by researchers at the University of Kiel reveals that a sixth of Germany’s young people between 10 and 18 years of age are “threatened by alcoholism.” It was found that the drinking habits of parents were a major factor. “If a father hits the bottle regularly,” reports Parade magazine, “so do his children in 21 percent of the cases studied.”