Watching the World
Lightning on Venus?
◆ When the Soviet Venera 12 landing craft soft-landed on Venus December 21, 1978, it is claimed to have made what some U.S. scientists have called an “exciting,” “fantastic” discovery. “The descent took place in ‘inclement weather,’” said the Tass news agency report. “The groza [thunderstorm] instrument recorded fairly frequent electrical discharges in the atmosphere during the descent. One weighty discharge made the surroundings resound for 15 minutes after the device had landed.” Thunder may rumble for some seconds after lightning on earth, but scientists are stunned at the idea of reverberations lasting as long as 15 minutes.
Baby Mammoth News
◆ Soviet scientists were elated when a well-preserved frozen baby mammoth was discovered in Siberia during the summer of 1977. (See Awake! of 11/22/77, p. 30.) Now the official Tass news agency reports that scientists believe the cause of the mammoth’s death was blood poisoning from a leg infection. However, they also noted that it had been buried by a mud flood shortly after death. “Such flooding in northern Siberia was quite a surprise to geologists,” said Tass. Just as perplexing is why, after flooding, there was a sudden deep freeze that preserved the little creature so well.
Malpractice and Blood
◆ The American Trial Lawyers Quarterly observes that, contrary to popular belief, few persons receive compensation for medical negligence in their treatment. To avoid such injustice, the article suggests that the courts accept a “list of designated compensable events” in surgery and other fields of medicine without having to prove the issue each time. Interestingly, the proposed list for surgery, prepared by Professor Clark Havighurst of Duke University, contains 29 “compensable events,” of which about 10 percent involve errors with blood transfusions. These include “reaction resulting from mismatch of blood types during a transfusion,” “bacterial infection following a blood transfusion” and “serum hepatitis following a blood transfusion.”
Japan’s Safer Driving
◆ For eight years in a row, Japan’s traffic fatalities have decreased, from 16,765 in 1970 to about 8,670 in 1978. This nearly meets the government’s goal of halving the death toll from its peak in 1970.
Behind the Persecution
◆ Argentina’s persecution of religious minorities is discussed in Canada’s Hamilton, Ontario, Spectator. Newsman James Neilson reports: “The government’s main target, clearly, is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose refusal to pay homage to such worldly symbols as flags and national anthems has Argentina’s superpatriotic military men spluttering with fury. . . . The refusal of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to bear arms or salute the flag in the innumerable patriotic ceremonies mounted by the authorities is seen as virtually the same as collaboration with an aggressive foreign power. The fact that the Witnesses would not bear arms for Brazil and Chile or salute their flags either is not regarded as of any importance.”
Neilson, of the Southam News Service, says that “for such minorities as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the immediate future in Argentina is bleak.” Then, identifying another force behind the persecution, he observes: “The government’s [Roman Catholic] religious zealotry shows no signs of abating—if anything, the clerical flavor of the government is getting more intense.”
◆ “What role, if any, should religion play in the judicial resolution of a child custody dispute?” asks the American Bar Association Journal. The Journal then cites a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Missouri “which held that a judge cannot determine child custody based on approval or disapproval of the beliefs, doctrine, or tenets of the religion of either party.” This decision reversed a lower court’s award of two children to their father, primarily because it disapproved of the religious beliefs of the mother, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, the Supreme Court declared that “the state shall prefer no faith but must favor the best interests of those children whose parental custody it determines.”
◆ Many in today’s colleges feel guilty and ashamed about being a virgin, because of the now-prevalent moral looseness on campus. Many college counselors report 20- to 24-year-olds coming to them complaining about loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia and irritability. After questioning the girls, one counselor said of the typical patient: “She feels rather abnormal or even defective—not only because she isn’t using some sort of contraceptive, but also because she isn’t sexually active with one or more male friends as her sorority sisters report that they are.”
Sharing the Loot
◆ How Christlike is the average Christmas shopper? An indication comes from South Africa, where a bag with $18,000 (U.S.) in cash broke as robbers tried to wrest it away from a shop accountant. “Shoppers joined the five or six bandits and the accountant in a scramble for the money,” says the Reuters news agency report. The accountant got $2,680, while the Christmas shoppers and bandits vanished with more than $15,000.
Swiss Watches from Hong Kong?
◆ Just eight years ago Swiss watchmakers controlled 70 percent of world sales. Now sales are falling below 30 percent. Increases in the value of the Swiss franc and competition from low-priced digital watches are said to have contributed to the decline. One company is reported to be moving its electronic module division to Hong Kong because of high production costs in Switzerland. Others may follow suit. The industry is also diversifying into other fields such as precision instruments, heart pacemakers and electronic fire alarms.
◆ A new road to Ramot runs through a religious neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. The residents of the neighborhood consider it a desecration of the Sabbath to use the road on that day, and object strongly when Ramot residents do so. When this did not help, religious youths recently “pelted cars with stones on Friday night and Saturday afternoon,” said the Jerusalem Post. Dozens of cars were hit. “A religious spokesman [was] asked how stone throwing on the Sabbath could be justified,” reports the Post. He replied “that it was carried out by boys under the age of 13, to whom such rabbinical injunctions do not apply if the boys’ action is for a worthy purpose.”
◆ A million census takers will be visiting the homes of Soviet citizens during the year for the nation’s 1979 population count. Rather than using the mails for census taking, as some other countries do, each household is visited personally. Some hardy census takers may have to hike for miles to reach isolated mountain and desert settlements in the far reaches of the country’s more than four million square miles (10 million square kilometers) of northern tundra. An estimated 260 million Soviets will be counted.
◆ The Idaho State Police recently tried a unique method to save manpower. Rather than having troopers sit in cars by the roadside all day to slow traffic, they decided that a car staffed with a pseudopoliceman—a borrowed mannequin—might do just as well. After the first day of duty, the police-jacketed mannequin’s presence was termed a success. Cars slowed from an average of 67 miles per hour (108 kilometers per hour) to the 55-mile-per-hour (89-kilometer-per-hour) speed limit as they passed the dummy in the police car. However, state police superintendant Tom Proctor had some qualms. “We’d really be embarrassed if someone stole it,” he said.
◆ Private schools in Tokyo have raised their tuition fees an average of 40,000 yen ($200, U.S.). Now for each child enrolled in a private school parents can expect to pay, on the average, 550,000 yen ($2,750, U.S.) for one year. The highest tuition is 975,000 yen ($4,875, U.S.). Since chances of entering a prestigious university are greater if one attends these private schools, many families make it a matter of pride to enroll their children, even if economic conditions of the household may make it unwise.
Is There No Mercy?
◆ Deer-hunting season opened in Norristown, Pennsylvania, with the heartless slaying of a pregnant doe caged in the park zoo. She was wounded by a bullet that lodged in her neck. Efforts were made to save the baby. “If she had hung on just a little longer she might have given birth,” bemoaned the zoo curator. A buck was also missing from the zoo and presumed killed. Ironically, a picture of the caged buck appeared in the newspaper the day before with the caption that this deer would at least be safe during the hunting season.
◆ An international outcry arose last year when Japanese fishermen slaughtered about 1,000 dolphins said to be ruining their fishing grounds. The government fishing agency launched research to see if there was a way to drive the dolphins away from the fishing grounds without killing them. The result: A life-sized plastic model of their natural enemy, the killer whale or grampus. However, the mere presence of the look-alike did not seem to bother the intelligent creatures. But, according to Mr. Shinichi Yajima, an official in charge of the research, when sound recordings of a hungry grampus were played through an underwater speaker, “they showed discernible signs of panic.”
Litter on High
◆ In a desperate effort to force mountain climbers to stop littering the mountains, Japan’s Environment Agency has appealed to the Japanese Alpine Club and the Japan Mountaineering Association. The Agency said that if the mountains were found littered after the coming spring thaw, they would be obliged to ask the climbers to pay for cleaning costs, perhaps paying a fee before they could go onto the climbing areas. One example involves a helicopter that had to bring down 2.5 tons of garbage collected on Mt. Mae Hotaka.
◆ About 60 senior high-school students in Osaka, Japan, were recently exposed as having formed an after-school “sex-club.” Police began investigating reports of students frequenting a particular hotel and learned that they had been engaging in sexual activities for about a year in such “love hotels.” The students were turned over to the schools, since “neither prostitution nor theft was involved,” reports the Mainichi Daily News. The group collected abortion funds for pregnant members.
◆ How much does it cost today to give birth in a North American hospital? $2,463, according to a University of Idaho specialist, who says that this includes “hospital care, medical expenses, nursery supplies and maternity clothing.” The total cost of raising a child to age 18 is estimated at around $54,000. “People should really begin now thinking about where they’re going to get the money to raise the child, and not after the baby is born,” says the specialist.