Watching the World
◆ Since few written historical records about Africa’s past remain, the Frobenius Institute of Frankfurt, Germany, is, instead, studying African architecture. “These last few symbols of the power and wealth of Africa’s former kingdoms” are now being studied for clues to the past, according to London’s monthly Africa. The article notes that surviving records indicate that the king of ancient Ghana “ruled over a state much larger and richer than that of his contemporaries in England.” Also, “Portuguese who visited Benin in the late 15th century placed it on a level with their own country.”
“Historians are becoming increasingly convinced that, for a thousand or more years before the arrival of the first Europeans,” continues the British journal, “Africans lived in highly organized and complex societies which produced great civilizations, armies, religions, systems of law, and, of course, art and architecture.”
Spain’s Constitution Under Ecclesiastical Fire
◆ The draft of Spain’s proposed new constitution is being criticized by the Spanish Roman Catholic Church because of Article 3, which could result in a complete separation of church and state. Cardinal Enrique y Tarancón, president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, declared: “We are not asking for any privilege, but we have to keep in mind that we are in Spain, and in Spain we Catholics are in the majority.” A popular Spanish cartoonist illustrated the meaning of the cardinal’s remarks with a caricature of the cleric trying to explain to a confused little citizen: “Give to the Lord that which is the Lord’s, and to the Lord that which is Caesar’s. My son, do not forget that we are in Spain.”
Tower’s Tilt Stalls
◆ In 1977, for the first time since measurements began in 1907, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa ceased to tilt. Movement had been slowing, averaging only half a millimeter (.02 inch) during the previous three years. Experts are not quite sure why there has been a halt, but the government still plans to start reinforcing the foundation. The 179-foot (55-meter) tower now leans about 17 feet (5 meters) from vertical.
Roots Back to Babylon
◆ Baghdad, Iraq, used to have the largest Jewish community in the Arab world. But Iraq’s Jewish population has dwindled greatly over the years. Where once there were 180,000, now, due to emigration, only about 500 Jews remain, and they are mostly over the age of 60. This community is the remnant of one of the oldest Jewish groups in the world. They trace their roots back more than 2,500 years to ancient Babylon, when the Jews were exiled there after Jerusalem’s fall in 607 B.C.E. The ruins of ancient Babylon lie about 55 miles (88 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Report on War Against Hunger
◆ Has the world hunger problem gone away since it made headlines a few years ago? After an exhaustive study, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization disclosed that little or no progress has been made during the past three years in its efforts to wipe out hunger and malnutrition. “The world food situation remains fragile,” said the report given at the agency’s recent conference in Rome. “There are no grounds for complacency.”
Speaking in Tongues—Christian?
◆ Is speaking in tongues only a “Christian” phenomenon? Not according to a report given at a symposium held at the university in Göteborg, Sweden. Professor Maja-Lisa Swartz of the Helsinki, Finland, university says that her studies in Tanzania since 1965 indicate that “speaking in tongues is nothing specific for the Christian religion. It appears in all religions and is no guarantee for what type of spirit it is that the speaker is speaking for.”—Göteborgs Posten.
Bear Breaches Border
◆ A pregnant polar bear, bearing a radio collar for tracking by American scientists, recently created a Soviet border incident. Roaming north across the ice pack from Point Barrow, Alaska, the animal then strayed west and crossed into Russian territory, no doubt with hibernation—not spying—in mind. “A cable to Moscow brought reassurance,” reports the New York Times. “The Russians will mount an expedition over the pack ice of the West Siberian Sea to look for the errant bruin.”
◆ The weekly of the Soviet Writers Union, Literaturnaya Gazeta, recently published a report on long-lived Soviet Georgians. More than half of those questioned about their life habits were between 96 and 115 years of age, and 8 percent were between 116 and 132. All the “long-livers” agreed that if a person wants a long life, he should engage in physical activity. Explained 108-year-old Sona Aligyzy Kerimova: “Whoever keeps company with his pillow will not live long.” When a 132-year-old woman was asked about any past illnesses, her answer was: “There was no time to be ill. I spent my whole life raising children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and I have more than seventy of them.”
What was the diet of these long-lived Russians? Though 22 percent restricted their diet, especially with regard to meat, notes Literaturnaya Gazeta, the rest ate freely of a wide variety of foods, including “onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, walnuts, buttermilk, matsoni, honey, meat, and of course spring water—although all agree that overeating is dangerous.” Most did not smoke.
Archbishop Commends Terrorism
◆ Melchite Catholic archbishop Hilarion Capucci recently was released from an Israeli prison to which he had been sentenced for smuggling guns, grenades and explosives from Jordan to Arab dissidents in Israel. Pope Paul VI reportedly had intervened with Israel’s president in Capucci’s behalf after he had served less than three years of his 12-year sentence. Had the archbishop changed his attitude toward support of violence? Apparently not, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Capucci “is reported to have thanked the heroes of the Palestine Liberation Army for having committed terrorist attacks in attempts to gain his release,” says writer Harry James Cargas. “Capucci joins the troublesome list of theoreticians who claim to detest violence by others while encouraging it among those who share their own political views.” Melchite Catholicism recognizes the pope as foremost patriarch.
◆ A housewife in Okazaki City, Japan, recently displayed an explosive temper, with tragic results. As a subcontractor for a fireworks company, she made and packaged fireworks in her home. Now, her home and family are no more. As she explained from her hospital bed: “I was doing my part-time fireworks job in a room off the kitchen when my husband and I got to quarreling. I picked up a large box of kitchen matches and threw it at him. Somehow they ignited and fell into an apple box of fireworks I had made.” A tremendous explosion resulted, in which she saw her husband and five-year-old son engulfed in flames. The temper explosion also cost the lives of her three daughters, aged eight to 13. How wise and true is the Bible’s counsel: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil”!—Ps. 37:8.
◆ When an old bridge over the Big Sandy River collapsed, residents of Vulcan, West Virginia, tried to get the government to rebuild it. Finally, in an effort “to shame the bureaucrats into action,” reports Time magazine, the honorary mayor of the town’s 200 people “applied to the Soviet Union for foreign aid.” He was stunned when a Russian charity committee responded that it would consider the request. However, the State Highway Commission quickly produced the necessary funds.
◆ Recently, police raided a Brooklyn, New York, synagogue that was holding a “Las Vegas Nite,” arresting 37 persons and seizing about $4,500. Some 300 persons were gambling at 12 blackjack tables, 12 poker tables and three crap tables. The cashier identified himself as a rabbi associated with a rabbinical college. Later, the synagogue’s rabbi, though denying association with the gamblers, admitted that the facilities had been rented to the organization operating the games. According to Sergeant Gibbons of the Brooklyn South Public Morals Squad, the gambling had “definite links to organized crime.”
Decline of a Delicacy
◆ Bird’s-nest soup, made from the saliva or “nest cement” of Borneo’s Collocalia Vestita swift, is getting scarcer. “Only five professional collectors are licensed by the Sarawak Museum to harvest swifts’ nests from the huge limestone caves at Niah,” reports the Belgian journal To the Point International. These five men are aging, and “few young men are prepared to clamber 120 meters [390 feet] up fragile bamboo poles to scrape the nests from the roofs of the caves,” notes the magazine; “it is an arduous job that has cost several lives over the years.” The next-best nests from Madai cave near Lahad Datu are also becoming scarce. Not only that, but insecticides are said to be responsible for more egg breakage by causing thinner shells, as well as contaminating the prized saliva.
Oldest Zoo Gorilla
◆ Massa, claimed to be the world’s oldest gorilla in captivity, recently reached the age of 47 at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, zoo. The zoo has tried to keep Massa slim to increase his life expectancy after another overweight gorilla died of a heart attack at 34. The slimming diet for the 300-pound (136-kilogram) creature might include two carrots, six oranges, half a bushel of kale, succulent shoots and twigs and leaves of shrubs and trees. His daily menu also includes a two-pound (.9-kilogram) cake well fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Planting the Thought
◆ Can what we read plant dangerous thoughts? A recent murder in Creances, France, indicates that this is possible. The confessed killer admitted that he found the name of a certain type of poison in an Agatha Christie murder mystery. He put the poison in a bottle of wine intended for someone other than those who actually received the poison. The victims included his own uncle and aunt.
◆ The Church of England has appointed a 70-year-old bishop as official exorcist. He is said to be the first high-ranking clergyman in recent times to hold this office. Some theologians criticize the church’s exorcism rituals, which include chanting and prayer to get rid of “intrusive evils.”
Good News—and Bad
◆ The number of aviation accidents among American air carriers was the lowest in history during 1977. Only 26 accidents are on record, compared with the previous low of 28 in 1976. However, while 1976 had a record low of fatalities (45), the disastrous jumbo-jet collision in the Canary Islands helped to drive up 1977 fatalities to a record high (654).
◆ In 1977 a new record of 1,339 criminal bombings occurred in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This was a 12-percent increase over 1976. However, property damage declined from $12,100,000 in 1976 to $7,200,000 in 1977. “This could indicate,” said the bureau’s director, that “criminals are using explosives less for disruptive purposes and more against people.”