Watching the World
◆ New students of Transcendental Meditation (TM) often are led to believe that it is a purely nonreligious practice. However, Tom Harpur of the Toronto Star recently observed that “no one else besides the Pope is called, ‘His Holiness.’” Yet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the sect’s current North American leader, is so addressed. Harpur also notes that “every person initiated into TM is made to be present at and participate in a Hindu religious rite in which there are prayers, homage to Hindu deities, and the offering of symbolic sacrifices.” Why are most initiates unaware of the religious factor? “Because the whole ceremony is in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language,” says Harpur. “But, English translations of the religious rite make its character abundantly clear.”
◆ When the Soviet Cosmos 954 satellite recently burned through the Canadian atmosphere, scattering radioactive remnants, people began to wonder about the danger of other satellites and “space junk” coming down. Since such space launchings began, about 10,500 objects have reached space orbit. Some 6,000 have fallen back, most of them burning up in the atmosphere, and about 4,500 remain in space.
The orbit of the largest object of all, America’s Skylab, is now decaying, and scientists estimate that it could reenter the atmosphere in late 1979. They admit debris of the 85-ton satellite could reach the earth without burning up and that they do not know where it would strike. To prevent this, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration hopes to (1) reactivate Skylab’s thrusters to start it tumbling, thereby reducing drag, and (2) use the space shuttle to attach a propulsion unit that could either expand Skylab’s orbit or control the satellite’s reentry, directing it to a safe crash site.
◆ Does ritual reciting of pledges to national flags make better citizens? A Honolulu, Hawaii, teacher recently asked 111 ninth graders to write out the U.S. pledge of allegiance. “Not one could do it correctly, and most had little idea of what it meant,” reports Parade magazine. Some children wrote “in the visible” for the correct “indivisible.” Others substituted “under guard” for “under God,” and part of “to the republic for which it stands” became “for richard stand” Parade observes: “Apparently some of them don’t really know what they’re pledging.”
Argentina’s Catholic Power
◆ In February, Argentina decreed that “all religions except Roman Catholicism must register with the state or be banned,” reports the New York Times. According to the decree, any religious group’s new registration can be turned down, thereby establishing “effective control” over non-Catholic religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been banned.
◆ Are peoples’ “good” and “bad” days predictable by means of determining personal biological cycles, as claimed by the recent biorhythm faddists? A report in Archives of General Psychiatry says No. Researchers carefully examined information from over 200 highway accidents in which the drivers checked were at fault. Then they computed the drivers’ biorhythm cycles for the time of the accidents. Their findings: “No evidence for a relationship between purported biorhythm cycles and accident likelihood.”
Clergy Meet the Law
◆ How do Italy’s highly successful kidnappers “recycle” their huge ransoms so that the money cannot be traced? “According to court sources,” reports the New York Times, “ransom money awaiting such recycling or ‘laundering’ was kept in bags and suitcases in the sacristy of the 1,200-year-old Church of Sant’Angelo in central Rome.” The Times also says: “According to the carabinieri (Italian police), the church served as a clandestine financial center. Mafiosi couriers carrying satchels filled with money and posing as worshippers are said to have been coming and going for years.” Franciscan Friar Fernando Taddei, the church’s prior, was arrested.
When a referee disallowed his soccer team’s last-minute tie-breaking score, Rome priest Calogero, the team’s chairman, “led hundreds of supporters—sleeves up and cassock flying—chanting: ‘Get the ref!’” reports the London Daily Mail. “After a three-hour riot, police freed the official and the erring father led 70 of his sheepish flock into court to be fined.” Still the priest declared: “I did what was right in the name of truth and justice.”
A Baltimore, Maryland, grand jury recently indicted the Pallotine Fathers’ former head of fund raising on some 60 counts of misappropriating funds and one count of obstructing justice. The priest, Guido John Carcich, had been exposed in 1976 as having sent less than 3 percent of over $20 million in mail donations to Pallotine missionaries overseas. Among other charges, he is accused of having “squandered $127,000 on cronies, a niece and a private secretary, while diverting $278,000 for his own personal use,” reports Time magazine. His immediate superior, priest Domenick Graziadio, said: “I do not believe he committed any crime.” And Time also notes that “the order’s leadership has been slow in trying to clear it up.”
◆ The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is renting extra space aboard the proposed space shuttles in a project that it calls the “Getaway Special.” For prices ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 for one-and-a-half- to five-cubic-foot cylinders, individuals, companies or universities can send their own scientific experiments into space, occupying unused nooks of the shuttle’s cargo hold. Use of the entire hold would cost about $20 million. About 80 spaces had been sold by early this year, with the stipulation that the experiments cannot be vulgar or “crassly commercial.” “They have turned down, for example, a mortician’s proposal to spew the ashes of cremated bodies in orbit,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Also rejected was an applicant who simply wanted to send up a package of medallions and then sell them as having ‘flown in space.’”
Power of Hypnosis
◆ Under hypnosis, a woman known to be terrified of guns fired at a sleeping friend with a gun that she thought was loaded, according to recently released declassified Central Intelligence Agency documents. The documents also describe how hypnotized persons were persuaded to engage in simulated immoral and abnormal behavior. Highly secret CIA research into mind and behavior control during 1951 to 1954 is described in the papers.
◆ In what is thought to be the first known case among insects, Cornell University researchers report observing green lacewing (flying insect) larvae disguising themselves as their prey. They feed on a woolly variety of “honeydew”-excreting aphids that certain ants herd and protect. The young lacewing larvae apparently cover themselves as soon as possible with waxy fluff or “wool” that they pull from the aphids. In this disguise, these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” feed without interference from the protecting ants.
In one experiment, the New York researchers released 27 “unclothed” and 23 “clothed” larvae among aphid colonies. Only four of the denuded larvae escaped attacking ants. The four survivors had quickly hid among the aphids and begun putting on a new wool covering, which took about 20 minutes. Ants attacked only eight of the 23 “clothed” larvae, but quickly released them upon getting the sticky fluff in their mandibles.—Science, February 17, 1978.
Surgeons Need Haircuts
◆ British surgeons are risking patient infection when they fail to cover long hair completely, says an article in the British Medical Journal. The writer, Dr. Norman Simmons, states: “They sport caps which perch inadequately on hairy heads.” The article notes that bacteria-carrying particles often contaminate hair and could endanger patients. But long-haired surgeons complain that hoods that completely cover their locks are too hot. “Surgeons and anaesthetists must either put up with the heat, put up their hair in buns, or get it cut,” demands the article. “Would it be too great a sacrifice, or like Samson would they lose their strength?”
◆ When the nose wheel of a small plane with six on board fails to lower properly, what can be done? An amazing rescue operation was arranged when this happened at a landing strip near Orange, New South Wales, in Australia. Two cars were driven in parallel along the runway at about 100 m.p.h. (160 k.p.h.), with a heavy rope tied between their tow bars. As the aircraft’s rear wheels skimmed the ground, the front wheel was lowered enough to touch the rope and flick it up behind the stubborn bracket. Then “the cars accelerated, pulling the suspension leg forward to the fully locked position,” reports the London Daily Mail. As the pilot lifted the nose, the cars accelerated again, taking the rope with them and allowing the plane to land normally.
“Junk Food” Boosts Pressure
◆ Are the soda-hamburger-potato-chip diets of many children harmful to their health? Science News reports that for eight weeks a Louisiana State University School of Medicine researcher fed spider monkeys food containing the same levels of salt and sugar found in such so-called “junk food” diets. “The monkeys developed abnormally high blood pressure levels when compared to monkeys on standard diets,” says the report. “In addition, . . . sugar and salt in combination had a greater blood pressure elevating effect in the monkeys than did salt alone.”
◆ The soft, white snow that looks so pure may not be as clean as it seems—certainly not for drinking—according to an American research chemist. In Kansas City area snow, he found six times the level of lead allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-water standards. He says that snow acts as a “scrubber” to wash away atmospheric lead that autos and factories pour into the air, often raising the lead content to as much as 1,000 times its natural level.
◆ The National Catholic Reporter says that the second priest in recent months has joined a Nicaraguan guerrilla group to fight against the government. The priest, Gaspar Garcia-Laviana, declared that he joined the guerrillas “because in the crack of the avenging rifle in our mountains, cities and villages, we see the sign of our redemption drawing near.”
Bran Best for Bowels
◆ It has been claimed that bulky and speedy bowel movements may help to prevent colon cancer. The respected British medical journal Lancet recently carried a report on the relative value of various types of dietary fiber in this regard. The report indicates that bran is by far the most effective fiber, while carrots, cabbage and apples are comparably less effective.
Debt Piling Up
◆ Consumers in the United States are piling up debts “at a frantic pace,” says Changing Times. It warns: “Don’t succumb to the easy-credit come-ons. Lenders are loaded. They have been using all sorts of inducements to get people to borrow. But danger signals are flying—millions of people may already be in over their heads, trying to keep up with payments on house, car, installment contracts, charge accounts.” More than one out of every four after-tax dollars now goes to repay debt.