Watching the World
Witnesses in Italy
◆ “As Catholics waited in long lines last weekend to visit the grave of Pope Paul VI,” wrote news columnist Rod Nordland from Rome, “about 65,000 Italians gathered under colorful umbrellas in the Flaminio soccer stadium to pay homage to their God. But it was a different God than the one represented by the pontiff [Paul VI] who lay buried in the grottos beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Here, in the world’s most Catholic nation the Jehovah’s Witnesses have gained a strong and growing toehold.”
Nordland said that the Witnesses had only 95 adherents in Italy during World War II, but “now claim to be Italy’s second largest religious group. They are certainly its fastest growing. . . . Their numbers are still small in relation to the 54 million population of Italy, most of whom are at least nominally Catholic. But they have made their presence felt here. Officials of the church say some Jehovah’s Witness or other has knocked on every door in Italy by now.”—Philadelphia Inquirer, August 16, 1978.
Norway Bans Skateboards
◆ After observing the American experience with skateboards, Norway’s Product Control Council temporarily banned the devices several months ago. Now the ban has been made law. The Environment Ministry declared that business profits would have to be sacrificed in favor of children’s safety. Even advertising the sport of skateboarding comes under the ban. The Council noted that, in 1977, 28 children died and 100,000 were injured in U.S. skateboarding accidents.
Dividing the Pie
◆ When World War II was at its peak in 1943, the Axis partners were already arguing over how they would divide Europe. Documents recently declassified by the U.S. National Security Agency reveal a conversation between Benito Mussolini’s foreign minister, Count Ciano, and the Japanese emissary in Rome: “We are going to have a showdown and get a clear delineation of what is ours and what is the other fellow’s,” Count Ciano said. “Take France: Germany has occupied four fifths of it, but after all, we Italians also have great economic interests throughout that whole country and, believe me, we are going to hold on to them in the future. In short, we intend now to see just how all Europe is going to be divided up.”
More Blood in Food?
◆ In an article titled “New Sources of Protein,” the Scandinavian Airlines magazine Scanorama reports that “at the Danish College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, Prof. J. Wismer-Pedersen and his associates are turning their attention to another much neglected source of nutrition: animal blood.” The article notes that yearly about 40,000 tons of Denmark’s slaughterhouse blood, “if it doesn’t go down the drain, is used primarily to enrich animal feed. Only a minute portion is used for human consumption, in blood sausage and blood pudding.”
Now the Danish scientists are proposing that this blood be used to enrich other foods. They say that it can successfully be added to sourdough rye, a staple in the Danish diet, as well as to salami and similar products, ground beef, gravy flavorings and soup-powder mixes.
◆ When the British ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 recently rode out a huge North Atlantic storm, even an iron railing was crumpled by waves as high as 100 feet (30 meters). Passengers, furniture and equipment pitched around wildly. Yet there were only two broken bones among the 1,200 passengers, aside from minor bruises. “Did you think of sending for help from the Coast Guard?” someone asked the captain. “First, there was no need for help,” he said. “And secondly, if there had been a Coast Guard cutter in the area, the Queen would have had to help the Coast Guard.”
Animal Fire Fighters
◆ A herd of 800 Spanish goats in the Cleveland National Forest near San Diego, California, has proved that the animals are useful and economical for fire prevention. In a two-year test by the U.S. Forest Service, the goats chewed up brush in firebreak areas (land cleared between forested sections so fire on one side cannot reach the other), keeping them clear of combustible material. The herd is now to be increased to 2,500 in the area, and 35,000 eventually are planned for 60 additional firebreaks. Of course, the firebreaks have to be fenced to keep the hungry goats from clearing the forests too.
Roots Reduce Fertility
◆ The staple diet of a primitive island tribe is threatening the tribe’s very existence. Located on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, the Onges tribe eats tuberous plants that contain one of the compounds used in the manufacture of oral contraceptives. Lower fertility has reduced the size of the tribe to a few hundred, and the ratio of men to women is imbalanced, with only 6.8 girls for every 10 boys under 15 years of age.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now promoting the study of plants for their contraceptive value at six research centers around the world. WHO notes that surprisingly little attention has been given to this possibility, attributing it, in part, to pharmaceutical companies’ synthetic approach to drugs.
Twins in Black and White
◆ A mother of twins recently went to court in the Federal Republic of Germany, claiming child support from two men—one white, one black—who she said were the fathers of her twins. The two boys were indeed of different races, and a physician who is an authority on such matters testified that they were in all probability fathered by the two men charged with the responsibility. “The ova were fertilized by the sperm of the two different men,” he said, “who engaged in sexual relations with her probably within a period of a few hours.” She lost the case, however, when it was shown that she had had relations with a number of other men as well.
When Father Tries to Mother
◆ After former college athlete Bob Peters signed a 70-day “motherhood contract” with his wife, he received a rude awakening as to how much is involved. The football and wrestling coach said: “I’m in good physical condition. I’m big and strong, but since I’ve been doing this, I’ve lost 10 pounds that I didn’t want to lose.” He cared for the couple’s four children, aged 4 to 16, while his wife went to work. His weight loss is “because of the running around, getting up early and staying up late,” says Peters. “It’s folding the last load of clothes and trying to figure out where to put it all.” He recommends that, after work, husbands should help their wives with dinner and the dishes, and even bring them their slippers and a newspaper occasionally.
◆ When nonsmoker M. Valet pointed out to a cigar-puffing passenger in his train compartment that it was a no-smoking section, he got a puff of smoke in the face. After his protests fell on deaf ears, the determined anti-smoker pulled the train’s emergency stop cord, bringing the turbo-train to a screeching halt. A train guard fined each of the men, Valet for pulling the handle without sufficient cause, and the smoker for smoking. Valet recently took the matter to court and won a 1,000-Franc ($230, U.S.) judgment for himself and also for the anti-smoking league to which he belonged. The Lyons court said that his ticket was comparable to a contract requiring the railroad to ensure his safety from hazards—including cigar smoke.
Most Aggressive Babies?
◆ Are girl or boy babies more aggressive after birth? A study reported in Psychology Today magazine indicates that males are. The researchers found “significant sex differences in three types of activity” while observing 29 newborns. “Male infants were awake more often than females, displayed considerably more facial grimacing, and engaged in more low-intensity movement,” they found.
Charity for Homosexuals
◆ “For the first time in its long history,” reports California’s San Francisco Chronicle, “the United Way (formerly United Crusade, formerly Community Chest) is funding a homosexual group; $30,000 [U.S.] to Pacific Center for Human Growth in Berkeley.” No doubt contributors will be interested to know how their money is being used.
The “Best” Potholes?
◆ A British auto maker is building an eight-mile (13-kilometer) car-testing track near Coventry. Among the road hazards being built into it are genuine New York city potholes! The auto manufacturer “has taken plaster casts of some of New York’s bigger wheel benders,” reports The Wall Street Journal, “so they can be reproduced” for the test track.
◆ Bicycle sales, after years of lagging behind the automobile in the industrial nations, are once again outstripping car sales. The four million new bicycles purchased in the Federal Republic of Germany last year exceeded new car registrations by 1.8 million. U.S. bicycle sales have recently surged ahead of autos as well, and those in Britain have doubled in recent years.
Among the reasons suggested are increased interest in exercise and growing appreciation for the environment, now threatened by industry and the automobile. Medical evidence indicates that bicycling is safer than jogging for those not fit, and people have also found that it is a useful—and inexpensive—means of transportation. A German government ministry recently recommended setting aside over 30 percent of that country’s highways for bikers.
Greeks Marry When Older
◆ Greek sociologist Nikos Fasiolas observes that, even though the average Greek is taller now than in previous generations, Greeks continue shorter than Europeans in general. In the opinion of Mr. Fasiolas the reason for this “is the mentality of their parents.” To what was he referring? He told a conference of Greek physicians and anthropologists that “the mentality prevailing in Greece . . . rules that a man cannot marry unless he is economically independent”; so most Greeks wait until they are older to marry and have children. The Athens Post observes that “according to statistics for 1973 in Greece, the average age of persons who got married was 38 for men and 25 for women. It stands to reason, therefore, that ‘tired’ persons of that age cannot possibly produce model children.”
Coconut for Crashes
◆ What would make the safest crash helmet for vulnerable motorcyclists? The coconut, say Dutch scientists at Holland’s National Center for Applied Scientific Research in Delft. They claim that coconut shells absorb shock “far better than any other existing crash helmet,” according to the Holland Herald. The researchers are trying to simulate coconut shells using a foam plastic, for use by cyclists.
Australia’s Sun-Power First
◆ “The world’s first Sun-powered telecommunications system is being built in Australia’s desert heart,” reports Britain’s New Scientist magazine. “A solar-powered microwave radio link will bring 20th century telecommunications to such places as Bullocky Bore, Tea Tree, Devil’s Marbles and 16 Mile Creek.” The system of 13 sun-powered microwave repeater stations is designed to carry telephone, telegraph and TV signals over 580 kilometers (360 miles) of inhospitable countryside. The silicon solar cell units are said to provide 132 watts of continuous power and up to 814 watts peak power. Batteries supply power for nights and cloudy days. It is hoped that the system will have a long life and require little maintenance in this difficult environment.