Watching the World
Reading Machine for Blind
◆ A machine first developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is being regarded as the most important reading aid for blind people since Braille was developed. At present, 14 of the 80-pound (36-kilogram) machines have been installed in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and one in the New York Public Library. The machine has an optical scanner that projects a beam of light across the printed page, converting this into data that is analyzed by a computer, which then transforms it into speech. With this method any printed page can be read, whereas only a small fraction of printed material is ever issued in Braille. However, at present the machines are very costly.
◆ Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jamil Baroody, believes that the world’s growing economic problems will probably lead to an economic depression similar in scope to the one that began in 1929. The 72-year-old diplomat and economist observes that in the past, governments tried to create jobs and prosperity by means of deficit spending only in times of crisis. However, he states: “You can do that at a time of crisis. But now we are doing it all the time and the result will be bankruptcy. . . . The Korean and Vietnam wars brought some added employment, but the overspending never stopped. Governments issued more and more bonds and printed more and more money.” This has resulted in constantly rising prices and debts, and less and less ability to pay back, the standard formula for bankruptcy and depression.
A Crumbling Illusion?
◆ Social scientist G. Cavanaugh of the University of California says that it is an illusion to believe that a large, prosperous ‘middle class’ exists in the United States. He states that about 70 percent of all families were once thought to be middle class, the top 10 percent rich, and the bottom 20 percent poor. According to one definition, the middle class could afford to own a home, travel widely, send their children to college, eat at good restaurants, enjoy the arts, and have adequate insurance coverage for cases of sickness, disability and death. However, Cavanaugh declares: “All of these together are and have always been beyond the reach of most American families in the 20th century.” He observes that such a “life style in America has never been attained by more than the top 25 percent of American families.” He adds: “Rather suddenly, the middle-income families now discover that they can no longer afford to obtain a mortgage on a house, to send their children away to a state college or to underwrite any major medical expenses.”
Challenge to Biorhythm Theory
◆ Those who believe in the biorhythm theory claim that the physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities of people fluctuate in set patterns. They say that they can assess someone’s potential on any given day by knowing the person’s birth date. Some who challenge the theory feel that it conflicts with the free will that people have. Evidence in this regard comes from Arthur M. Louis, an associate editor of Fortune magazine. Writing in Psychology Today, he says that his analysis of biorhythm charts of athletes shows no significant relationship between their performance and their charts. In one case, a biorhythm supporter claimed that a baseball player, Reggie Jackson, would have a bad world series, since the games were to be held at the time when all three of his critical cycles were to be at their low points. Yet, the ball-player had one of the most spectacular performances in the history of baseball, his three home runs the last day winning the world series.
“Most Powerful Motor”
◆ “The bird’s heart is the most powerful motor in the world,” says biologist Yuri Keiskiaik of the Soviet Union. In the magazine Soviet Life, this scientist comments: “In terms of weight, the speed it can build up and the length of flight it can sustain, a bird can out-perform a modern plane. This tiny heart contains mysteries that scientists in many fields would pay dearly to understand.”
Superstition Bans Women
◆ Many tunnel workers in Japan still hold to an ancient superstition that forbids women to enter a tunnel while work is in progress in it. This is the case with construction of the world’s longest railway tunnel linking the main island of Honshu with the northernmost island of Hokkaido. A foreman said that if a woman entered the tunnel, it might anger the temperamental and jealous “goddess” who protects the workers from disasters. Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri reported that in 1971 about 50 female employees of the railroad and family members of the miners persuaded officials to let them look at the work. However, after a visit a minor leak was noticed in the tunnel wall. Workers blamed the women’s visit, calling this leak “a curse of the goddess.” Since then, no woman has been allowed in the tunnel. On the first day of each month, the workers gather at the mouth of the tunnel for a ceremony in which they pray at a small shrine of the “goddess.”
Seat Belts Saving Lives
◆ An Ontario, Canada, law makes automobile seat belts mandatory. The result? A study by the Public Safety Information Service shows that in the first year under the seat-belt law, of 61,271 persons who were involved in automobile accidents and not using their seat belts, 355 were killed. However, only 155 died among 269,772 others who were “buckled in” during accidents. Thus, those not wearing seat belts were about 11 times as likely to die in an automobile accident.
Blood Transfusion Deaths in Abortions
◆ In “Handbook on Abortion” by Dr. & Mrs. J. C. Willke, the question is asked: “Are blood transfusions a cause of death in abortions?” The publication answers: “Yes, very much so.” It observes: “For every 1,000 units (pints) of blood transfused, one pint will carry a virus that is serious enough to ultimately cause a fatal hepatitis in the person who receives it. . . . If we would take four pints as the average number needed for the woman who hemorrhages, then it is evident that of every 250 women transfused, one will die within the next several months of infectious hepatitis.”
Hepatitis in Blood
◆ The transmitting of hepatitis through blood transfusions is now a well-known cause of disease and even death. After much research, scientists identified the virus known as hepatitis B as a cause of transfusion hepatitis. (Hepatitis A virus is not ordinarily transmitted by blood transfusions.) However, in the past few years it has been observed that thousands of cases of posttransfusion hepatitis are still occurring in patients known to have been free of both hepatitis A and B. It has now been indicated by circumstantial evidence that these new hepatitis cases are probably caused by one or more still undiscovered viruses in the donor’s blood.
Success in Breast-feeding
◆ England’s Guardian reports that a study on infant feeding published by the Office of Population Censuses and Survey shows that mothers who breast-feed their babies within four hours of birth are more likely to continue breast-feeding successfully. Those who waited longer, especially more than 24 hours, were more likely to give up breast-feeding within the first week or two. Said the Guardian: “The report implies that the practice of whisking babies away from mothers immediately [after] they are born should be discontinued. And it stresses the importance of making the first breastfeeding experience a good one. Women are easily discouraged if the babies do not respond well, if they themselves do not lactate properly, and if the baby appears happier with a bottle.”
◆ A young Swiss man who liked to ski was blinded in an automobile accident. Yet, he was determined not to give up skiing. He resumed skiing on a beginners’ slope with his father shouting instructions. Within a year, he was on steeper slopes, his only aid being a helmet fitted with a radio receiver. Instructions were relayed to him by a guide who watched his descent.
◆ A Washington, D.C., environmental group, Worldwatch Institute, reports that cigarette smoking is increasing, especially in the world’s poor nations, although it is well known that smoking causes death-dealing diseases. Why the increase in poorer countries? The institute says that this is because tobacco producers present smoking as a symbol of “progress.” Many among the ‘upper classes’ in these nations view smoking as a symbol of modernity, as well as a symbol of class distinction. Says the institute: “The educational and economic elites of the world’s poorer countries are leading their countrymen in taking up the practice.”
◆ Skateboards have developed from a simple plank of wood with two small wheels on each end to more sophisticated ones, including some powered by small motors. But their increased usage has also resulted in an increased number of accidents. In a recent 12-month period in the United States, 24 deaths and 106,000 injuries were attributed to skateboard accidents.
◆ The United States national debt is well over 700 billion dollars. However, the government also has promised to pay over 10 times that amount (7.4 trillion dollars) under certain circumstances. That is more than three times the value of all the goods and services the nation produces in one year. These liabilities include such things as government-insured savings accounts in banks, social-security payments not yet covered by income taxes, pensions, private-loan guarantees and many others. These government obligations now average over $70,000 for each taxpayer, compared to less than $14,000 in 1972, according to U.S. News & World Report.
◆ How long does the average doctor spend with a visiting patient? The National Center for Health Statistics in America says that face-to-face encounters between doctors and patients last only 15 minutes, on the average. Internists averaged about 18 minutes, general practitioners 13 minutes, and dermatologists less than 12 minutes.
“Not Much Left to Burn”
◆ Some parts of large cities have been abandoned, looted, and burned down to the extent that they resemble cities heavily bombed in World War II. In New York city, two fire-department companies had shared a firehouse located in a deteriorated section of the Bronx. However, one of the companies then moved to another location. Why? The New York News said: “Because its [previous] neighborhood has virtually burned down.” It was noted that there was “not much left to burn,” so that two fire companies were not needed there anymore.
◆ Seven out of every 10 Americans die without leaving a will. But this creates many difficulties in today’s complex society. Except for insurance or property that is jointly owned, where there is no will, other assets, no matter how small, are dealt with by state law. Such assets often are then distributed with no regard to the preference of the deceased. And rules vary from state to state. Also, considerable administrative expense is involved. To avoid such complications, a will should be drawn up, especially by parents, making provisions for surviving mates as well as for appointing a guardian or trustee to care for underage children should both parents die.