Watching the World
◆ According to a recent Ford Foundation report, some 23 million adult Americans cannot perform simple reading and writing tasks such as filling out a check, addressing an envelope or reading a job application form. And for the 11th year in a row, Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of American high-school seniors continued their fall. On a scale ranging from 200 to 800, the average verbal score dropped to 427 and the mathematics score to 467. Just 10 years ago, the averages were 463 and 493, respectively. “Originally 500 was supposed to be average,” said the New York Times. “The national decline in scores has been viewed in many quarters as evidence that something is amiss in American education.”
◆ Do workers have a right to give priority to religious commitments when asked to work overtime? The business publication Boardroom Reports tells of “an employee with 20 years’ service [who] had never refused to come in on a Saturday when needed until the one time when, he explained, he had agreed to help direct an upcoming Jehovah’s Witness Bible class.” The employee was fired. Yet Boardroom Reports notes that in such cases “federal laws require an employer to make reasonable accommodation to an employee’s religious practices if it can be done without undue hardship to the business.” In this case the court decided that the employee “had a right to choose Bible class rather than overtime. It was religious bias for the company to fire him. He must be rehired with back pay.”
◆ When the U.N.’s World Food Council recently opened its conference in Ottawa, Canada, Executive Director Maurice Williams compared the present situation with the crisis that produced the World Food Conference of Rome in 1974. He warned that “it is not possible to be optimistic or complacent in the face of evidence which indicates that there are probably more hungry and malnourished people in 1979 than the 450 million to whom the 1974 conference directed its attention.” He blamed much of today’s problem on the inequity of food distribution.
China to Publish Bible
◆ According to a United Press International dispatch, the People’s Republic of China will publish a complete Chinese-language edition of the Bible for the first time in 30 years. Protestant clergyman Yin Ziehzeng asserted that the “government has already sanctioned translation and publication.” He says that a government-controlled firm will print as many as 100,000 copies.
“High” Hands on the Nuclear Trigger?
◆ The U.S. Air Force recently reported that two marijuana cigarettes were discovered in the control room of an Arizona underground atomic missile silo. As a result, the launching crew and site guards were suspended from one of the 18 Titan-2 missile sites that encircle the city of Tucson.
Diesel Fuel from Trees?
◆ Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Melvin Calvin claims that when he visited Brazil this year, he was shown a tree whose sap closely resembles diesel fuel. Calvin told a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society that Brazilians have “put [the sap] in a car, directly out of the tree, and it ran fine.” According to Science News, full-grown copaiba trees, Brazilian relatives of the rubber tree, produce 10 to 20 L (2.6 to 5.3 gal.) of the high-powered sap from a single taphole within two hours. And the taps can be made semiannually. Joked chemist Calvin: “You don’t even need an oil company.”
“After Life” Experiences—How Real?
◆ Soviet Doctor Vladimir Negovsky, said to be the world’s leading authority on the science of bringing dying persons back to life, recently commented on the “after life” experiences of some whom he has brought back from clinical death. Negovsky insists that such experiences are “the productions of a sick brain.” He explains that “when a person dies, his brain dies, bit by bit, and some sort of imagination occurs, some sort of dusky, fantastic, unreal suppositions. This is typical of all sorts of brain malfunctions.” The doctor stated that “this happens not during the time of death but during the time of dying or in the time of coming back to life. What the patient sees is not in the nether world but in this world.”
Was It Really a Crime?
◆ The Soviet daily newspaper Moldavia recently gave a glowing report about the “loyalty” of a printer who had been asked secretly to print 10,000 copies of a book on Bible doctrines, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. The printer advised Soviet police, and “owing to Boris’ [the printer’s] vigilance a grave crime was prevented,” crowed Moldavia. But apparently even Soviet authorities were hard pressed to justify calling an attempt by others to spread Biblical knowledge a “grave crime,” since “the competent authorities decided against prosecuting the men.” However, Moldavia darkly observed: “There is something conspicuous and unnatural in the way Jehovah’s Witnesses display their adherence to the faith.”
◆ A U.S. federal judge recently ruled that “black English” would have to be considered when educating children who allegedly speak this “language.” The ruling claimed that “black English has been shown to be a distinct, definable version of English. . . . It has definite language patterns, syntax, grammar, and history.” However, prominent black leader Roy Wilkins states: “That is a lot of nonsense. English is not ‘black,’ ‘white,’ ‘yellow,’ ‘red,’ or ‘brown,’ and black children, while learning it, have no special rules of grammar, syntax, spelling, or pronunciation.” He also observed that “if there is such a thing as black English, it’s basically the same slovenly English spoken by segments of the undereducated poor white population.”
And black columnist June Brown Garner wrote in the Detroit News: “During my long experience as a newswoman, I have met thousands of blacks who speak black English. Knowing that black children can speak better English if they try, I never permit a child to use black English in my presence. I get better English by simply asking for it.” Clearly, regardless of a person’s race, he should endeavor to speak correctly.
Biggest Weight Loss
◆ Since March of 1978, a Washington man has reportedly shed over 900 pounds (400 kg) after being rushed to Seattle’s University Hospital, unable to move or speak. “We were not able to weigh Jon because he was too sick,” said Dr. Robert Schwarz, “but we estimate that he weighed about 1400 pounds. He was probably more than that. He was by at least 300 pounds the heaviest person ever reported.” Firefighters had removed a window in the ailing man’s home and put him on a thick plywood slab to transport him to the hospital. He “hopes to drop to 300 pounds (140 kg) by December,” according to a report in the New York Post. “Then he plans to leave the hospital with a goal of slimming down to about 210 (95 kg).”
Plants Reinforce Concrete
◆ In Biblical times straw was used to reinforce clay bricks. Now researchers at Zambia University in Africa say that certain plant fibers can be an economical alternative to steel or fiberglass reinforcement of concrete. They claim that plant-strengthened concrete is five times as strong as concrete alone. Among several plant types they tested, elephant grass proved to be the best for toughness and resistance to chemicals in the concrete.
◆ Onions and/or garlic may have qualities that protect people from both strokes and hypertension, according to recently published medical research. Doctors at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., reported that the vegetables contain a compound that inhibits the type of blood clotting that can cause strokes. And researchers at East Texas State University told a chemical conference in Honolulu that they had found that an onion extract dramatically lowered blood pressure in experimental animals. “We had often been told that people consumed onions or onion juice for the treatment of high blood pressure,” they said. Apparently this “folk remedy” has scientific foundation.
◆ With “something like the cement overshoes used by Chicago gangsters in the 1920s,” says The Economist of England, potato plants now being bred by government scientists protect themselves from pesticide-immune insects. Pests landing on the hybrid plants break some of the tiny hairs covering their stems and leaves. A fluid that becomes sticky in the presence of oxygen flows out, and “within seconds the bug is quick-set in ‘cement,’” relates the report. The hapless insects die of exhaustion or starvation. The Plant Breeding Institute near Cambridge is now trying to improve the hybrid’s low potato yields.
Sex-Change Surgery Dropped
◆ After performing over 100 sex-change operations during the past 13 years, Baltimore’s prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital has abandoned the procedure. According to a report in Archives of General Psychiatry, this conclusion was reached after a study of 50 transsexuals indicated that the surgery “does not cure what is essentially a psychiatric disturbance and surgery does not demonstrably rehabilitate the patient.”
Reading Leads to Rhodes Scholarship
◆ The famous Rhodes Scholarship for study at Oxford University in England was awarded for the first time to an American black woman, Karen Stevenson. The award is given on the basis of both scholarship and athletic ability. To what does she attribute her scholastic achievements? “We had library cards and were always in trouble with overdue books,” Miss Stevenson said. “No television was allowed during the week. If there was something we especially wanted to see . . . we had to talk to [mother] about it the Sunday before and plan for it.”
How Many Fatalities?
◆ A study made public by Congress shows that about 75 percent of the entire United States population would be killed in an all-out atomic war. That is about 165 million people. The injured could total 33 million, many of whom would die in following years due to diseases caused by radiation. Genetic defects would cause further damage to millions. Thus, practically the entire population would suffer death or health damage in one way or another.
◆ A survey made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that a typical hamburger, French-fry and soft-drink meal bought at a fast-food outlet averages about $1.70 (U.S.)—an increase of 48 percent over the past three years. If one prepares the same items at home, the cost is 83c—an increase of 51 percent during the same period.
Biggest Shipping Loss
◆ When the supertanker Atlantic Empress sank in August after a collision in the Caribbean, it became the largest commercial ship ever lost. Its cargo of 275,000 tons of crude oil itself was the biggest lost from one ship. A spokesman for the insurers said that the total loss could amount to $85 million (U.S.).