Watching the World
Family “Falling Apart”
◆ Uric Bronfenbrenner, a professor of psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, observes: “The family is falling apart. . . . Since World War II the extended family of several generations, with all its relatives, has practically disappeared in this country. Even the small nuclear family of mother, father, and the kids is in decline. Today, more than one-sixth of all children in our country are living in single-parent families. The single parent is usually a woman . . . and she almost always works full time.” But in many two-parent families, mothers also work now. As a result, Bronfenbrenner stated: “Increasing numbers of children are coming home to empty houses. If there’s any reliable predictor of trouble, it probably begins with children coming home to an empty house, whether the problem is reading difficulties, truancy, dropping out, drug addiction, or childhood depression.”
More Living Alone
◆ Since 1970 the number of Americans under thirty-five years of age living alone has more than doubled. According to census bureau figures, 1.45 million in this age group lived alone in 1970, but 3.39 million in 1976. This is a 133-percent increase compared to a 20-percent population increase during the same period.
Computer No Match
◆ An international chess master confronted “the world’s fastest computer” that had the world’s “most successful chess-playing program” fed into it. Each time the chess master moved one of his pieces, a programmer would type his move into the computer’s memory bank, and the computer would then give its instant response. An assistant then moved a piece on the chess board to match the computer’s suggestion. The result of the chess match was ‘no contest.’ The human defeated the computer decisively. A computer expert said: “The machine . . . doesn’t really understand the game at all. It’s very primitive and makes long-range mistakes as a result of poor planning.” The basic difference is that a computer can produce only what is programmed into it, whereas the human mind is far more versatile and can change responses as the situation requires.
Seat Belts by Law
◆ Several countries now have laws making it mandatory to use seat belts in automobiles. Failure to use the belts is punishable by a fine. Where the laws are enforced, there are significantly lower fatalities in accidents. In Switzerland, a seat-belt law went into effect on January 1, 1976. About 90-percent compliance is observed, and the death rate from accidents has fallen.
Mandatory use of seat belts has reduced fatalities dramatically in Ontario, Canada. Transportation Minister J. Snow cited statistics indicating “that a belted driver’s survival chances in a collision are 10 times higher than an unbelted driver.” In 1976, Ontario drivers not wearing seat belts were involved in 61,221 accidents, and 355 of them were killed. Belted drivers were involved in 269,772 accidents, and 153 were killed.
Books “Endangered Species”?
◆ Reading skills are decreasing, along with the desire to read. An editorial in Newsweek comments that “now, in the midst of the 1970s, we are seeing a subtle but unmistakable turning away from such things.” It observed: “The hard-cover book—that symbol of the permanence of thought, the handing down of wisdom from one age to the next—may be a new addition to our list of endangered species.” Many young people, particularly, are not developing reading skills, but are turning to radios, records and television sets. A University of Illinois official said that 10 percent of the freshmen at his university could read no better than the average eighth grader. This trend is likely to continue, since a study reveals that the average American child will have watched 15,000 hours of television by the age of 18, more time than is spent in any other activity except sleeping.
Desert Area Blooms
◆ The Kara Kum Desert makes up most of the area of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, situated just north of Iran and Afghanistan. For years, engineers have worked on a canal to bring the waters of the Amu Darya River, which flows through the eastern part of the republic, to more distant western parts. The Kara Kum Canal has been completed westward for 570 miles (920 kilometers), with about 300 miles (480 kilometers)’ more to go. Along the completed part about a million acres (400,000 hectares) of desert have been transformed into productive farmland and pasture.
Deserts Still Expanding
◆ Despite efforts to make more desert areas productive, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 6 to 7 percent of additional land has become desert in the past 50 years. This is due mainly to deforestation, overgrazing and bad farming practices. The agency says that the dry and cold deserts now make up 43 percent of the world’s land area. An example of an expanding desert is the southern part of the Sudan in North Africa. The desert there has advanced some 100 kilometers (60 miles) southward toward the equator in the past 17 years. It is continuing to advance at the rate of five to six kilometers (3 to 4 miles) a year.
Dinosaurs in Tibet
◆ For the first time in Tibet, dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Chinese archaeologists have found eleven different types of these ancient animals, some measuring 16 meters (50 feet) long and three meters (10 feet) high. The fossils were found 4,200 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level on the Chinghai-Tibet plateau.
Lottery Winners Happier?
◆ Some winning lottery tickets may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, others as much as a million dollars. But are the winners happier than before? A survey reveals that in many cases the winners are less happy because of new tax problems, lawyers’ fees, changing attitudes of friends, and a lack of privacy due to the notoriety. One said: “So far, this has been more headaches than happiness.” Another stated: “It ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. People get jealous, your friends get jealous and [the government] takes all the money. . . . It ain’t worth it.”
Cutting Cancer’s Toll
◆ The World Health Organization declares that “smoking-related diseases are such important causes of disability and premature death in developed countries that the control of cigarette smoking could do more to improve health and prolong life in these countries than any other single action in the whole field of preventative medicine.” Authorities estimate that the lung-cancer death rate could be cut about 85 percent and the heart-attack rate by about 20 percent if people stopped smoking.
Concern over Leprosy
◆ Leprosy affects about eleven million people around the world, mainly in developing countries. World health officials are concerned because the disease is becoming more resistant to standard drug treatment. It is hoped that other drugs, or perhaps some type of vaccination, can be developed in time to counteract the new development.
◆ The magazine China Reconstructs reports that growing numbers of Chinese farm families are using home-made “marsh gas” for fuel in cooking and lighting. The gas consists mainly of methane and is made in a 10-cubic-meter (350-cubic-foot) tank constructed from stone, clay or lime and sand. One tank serves one farm household. Leaves, weeds, stalks, and human and animal manure are put into the tank, water is added, and fermentation produces the gas. A plastic tube leads from the tank to burners for cooking and lamps for lighting. It is said that in one county 73 percent of the farm homes now use marsh gas. The residue from marsh gas generation is considered excellent organic fertilizer.
◆ Within the past few years a growing problem has surfaced: the beatings many women suffer from their mates. Studies suggest that as many as four and a half million American women have been battered at least once by their mates, many repeatedly. In Chicago, police say that of 11,000 aggravated assaults (where the victim is hospitalized) 3,000 were women beaten by their mates.
Watch Your Step
◆ Last year 538,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms throughout the United States for injuries resulting from falls on stairs. Reasons given included: carrying packages and thus obscuring one’s view; tripping due to long skirts, flared pants, platform shoes or loose slippers; objects such as toys left on stairways; wet or icy stairs; and improper lighting. Turning around to talk to someone on a stairway, and being in a hurry were also contributing factors.
◆ Since coffee has more than tripled in price the past two years, it is getting greater attention from thieves. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that “hijackers like to keep up with the times; our biggest headache now is coffee.” The FBI told of 15 hijackings in which nearly two million dollars’ worth of coffee beans were stolen.
Preventing Food Poisoning
◆ It is estimated that each year more than a million Americans suffer from food poisoning due to the salmonella organism. While the illness lasts only a few days, it brings severe discomfort from nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and exhaustion. The major cause is faulty food handling in the home and in public places. The organisms are found most often on raw products such as meats, poultry and eggs. Freezing and refrigeration retard their growth, and cooking can destroy them. When one is handling such raw products it is recommended that hands, utensils, cutting boards and counter tops be cleaned with hot, soapy water.
Record Auto Imports
◆ For years imports of small foreign automobiles have taken a substantial part of auto sales in the United States. In the month of April a new record of 205,000 automobiles were imported into the country, accounting for 20 percent of auto sales. Increased costs of larger domestic automobiles, as well as fuel and upkeep, were a factor. The leading imports were Toyota, Datsun and Volkswagen.
◆ Sports events are making people fat, declares Canadian Member of Parliament P. Yewchuck. He says that too many people become fat because they make a habit of sitting and watching sports on television “while smoking heavily or consuming large quantities of high-calorie junk foods and alcoholic beverages.”
Safety Caps Save Lives
◆ In 1972, 46 children in the United States died from aspirin poisoning. Legislation was then passed requiring safety caps on all aspirin bottles. The next year child deaths from aspirin poisoning fell to 17. Later, all prescription drugs were required to have the safety caps that make it difficult, if not impossible, for small children to open.
Oil Output Declining
◆ Oil production in the United States dropped to an eleven-year low in February, an average of less than eight million barrels a day. In the first week of March, imports of crude oil and oil products rose to a record ten million barrels a day. Thus, the trend of recent years continues, domestic production dropping and dependence on foreign oil growing.