Watching the World
Never Too Old to Learn
◆ According to Professor Gilbert Leclerc of the University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, the elderly have almost the same capacity for learning as do younger people. He recently said that research reveals that the average person uses only about 1.5 billion of the 12 billion nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Though a number of neurons die with age, the most pessimistic estimate is about three billion. Thus he maintains the elderly are wrong when they believe that their intellectual capacities are so reduced that they can no longer learn. But, of course, poor health may interfere with their using those capacities as fully as would otherwise be possible. And with the advancing years the powers of memory lessen.
Blood Business “Booming”
◆ “The world market in human blood is booming, with the trade estimated to be worth well above $1 billion annually,” reports a feature story in the Vancouver Sun. It added: “The high profit margins and a fast-growing demand for human blood in wealthy nations is being filled, . . . by a relatively small number of the poorest people in developing nations. Recipients are charged about 40 times its cost.” The report claims that some 40,000 in south India support themselves by regularly selling their blood. Though the account asserts that it is the increase in heart surgery that has swelled the demand for blood, “one operation needing some 60 donations,” the fact is that centers in Texas, Toronto, New York and California are doing heart surgery without transfusions of blood and claiming equal or better success. Will such bloodless surgery become popular if it puts some people out of business?
Toothpaste to Fight Colds?
◆ Early this year a worker in a toothpaste factory in Hsining, Tsinghai Province, China, developed a toothpaste that supposedly prevents users from catching cold. He got the idea from fluoride toothpastes that are designed to inhibit tooth decay. The worker checked with physicians as to which Chinese herbs are used to treat colds. Then he ground up the herbs, mixed them into a toothpaste and found there was considerable demand for the product. Even those who already have colds are said to benefit. When the dentifrice was tested on 3,600 persons with colds, 63 percent claimed marked improvement.
Government Officials and Crime
◆ A survey in the U.S. of FBI field offices has revealed that the most widespread white-collar crime is corruption of state and local officials. Second in rank comes bank fraud and embezzlement. Also in high rank are arson for profit and illegal dumping of toxic wastes.
A Nagging Wife
◆ A fireman in a small community near Überlingen, Germany, was recently sentenced to pay a fine of 2,000 D-marks (about $1,200, U.S.) for turning in a half dozen false alarms. According to the Schwäbische Zeitung, he did this to escape his “continuously nagging wife.” After the fire department had been called out, the plagued husband looked forward to spending a few peaceful hours with his fellow firemen at their local meeting place. The judge showed understanding for the frustrated husband, but tried to convince him that this was no way to solve his marriage problems.
◆ According to the International Labor Organization, Argentina had the highest inflation rate last year—140 percent. The report showed that Israel had the next highest rate, with 111 percent. Most countries in Africa reported more than 20 percent. Among the Asian lands, the rate was 10 to 25 percent. Kuwait had the lowest rate, with 4.4 percent.
Camels to the Rescue
◆ Kenya has begun to enlist the aid of camels in the fight against poachers. The poachers sell rhino horns for $300 (U.S.) a pound. The slaughter of black rhinos in the area around Meru National Park has reduced their numbers from 250 to 29. Then it was decided to use camels to help police the area. The head of a 42-member antipoaching team explained: “There is absolutely no doubt that a mounted camel unit has a number of advantages over men confined to motor vehicles. First, we’re totally independent of roads. We can get into country that’s inaccessible to conventional units. We’re silent and we don’t raise dust. Besides, you’ve got tremendous visibility from up there.” Further, he said, the camels cost less to operate, since they do not require gasoline and have no maintenance problems. On antipoaching expeditions, each camel is expected to travel at least 25 miles (40 km) a day, carry 300 pounds (136 kg) of gear and go 20 days without water.
Swiss Printers Visit Watchtower
◆ The printers of the Swiss typographical periodical Schweizerische Buchdruckerzeitung arranged an information trip to the United States for some of its readers from the printing trade in Switzerland and afterward published their impressions. During the visit, they paid several visits to printing factories in the United States, including one to the Watchtower Society’s facilities in Brooklyn, New York. The Swiss visitors had words of praise for the Jehovah’s Witnesses working there, saying: “We were impressed to find such a friendly, contented and hard-working staff.”
Professionals vs. the Family
◆ According to the Minister of Community and Social Services for Canada’s Ontario Province, social service professionals are becoming a threat to the family, taking more and more control of areas of “‘caring’ that were once the concern of family, friends, the church and volunteers.” Many judges today, on the recommendation of a social worker or physician, do not hesitate to take away custody of children from their own parents. “It’s terribly presumptuous to believe that a three- or four-year degree in social work makes someone more competent in the area of caring and makes parents and families less than competent,” Norton explained. A director of youth services added that there is “an over-intervention” in family matters. He argued that there is a difference between offering help and taking over the family.
Job Comes First
◆ If an earthquake occurred when you were away from home, whom would you call first? A survey of men in Japan revealed that only 9 percent would call their wives first. Instead, 37 percent said that they would call their employers before anyone else. This may help explain the result of a survey taken last year for the prime minister’s office. It found that 62 percent of single Japanese women desired marriage, but only 12 percent expected to derive happiness from it.
‘World’s Largest Flying Bird’
◆ Scientists have discovered the fossils of a giant bird that may have been the largest one ever to fly. The bird is the extinct teratorn, a name meaning “wonder bird.” Judging from the remains, found in Argentina, it truly was a wonder bird, its wingspan being 25 feet (7.6 m)! From beak to tail it measured 11 feet (3.4 m) and it weighed about 165 pounds (75 kg). “This makes it the world’s largest known flying bird,” said Dr. Kenneth E. Campbell, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. “It’s definitely a most spectacular creature.” With its 25-foot (7.6-m) wingspan, the teratorn eclipses the largest living flying bird, the Andean condor, with a wingspan of only 10 feet (3 m).
Centenarians on the Increase
◆ Japan’s Health and Welfare Ministry reported that the country now has 794 women and 174 men who are 100 years of age or older. It said that the number was increasing and that there are 31 more centenarians than in the previous year and 484 more than there were 10 years ago. The oldest person in Japan is said to be Shigechiyo Izumi of Tokunoshima Island, who was 115 years old on June 29, 1980. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living person. However, in the Soviet Union the government claims that in several of its provinces many live to well beyond 100 years of age.
◆ A commentary appearing in The Journal of the American Medical Association recently declared: “The area of nutrition has been neglected by the medical profession. Most medical schools devote less than three hours of total instruction to nutritional deficiency and therapy. Only 3% of all questions on parts I, II, and III of the National Boards deal with the nutritional aspects of disease. In short, physicians in the United States are not required to have any understanding of nutrition to be licensed to practice medicine.”—Vol. 244, No. 6, p. 559.
Of Age But Still at Home
◆ For five years now, young people in the Federal Republic of Germany have been becoming of legal age at 18 instead of at 21, as before. An investigation by Munich’s German Youth Institute has revealed how this change has affected young people. According to the study, 78 percent of the 500 young people between 17 and 21 who were interviewed are still living at home with their parents, although about half of them are thinking about moving out. Only 6 percent, however, were looking for a chance to leave as soon as possible. According to the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, the majority remain at home with their parents because they get along well, particularly in view of the fact that more and more parents are willing to tolerate late hours and dating. Only one third said they were required to obey parents’ orders to be home at any particular time.
◆ The Sacred Congregation for the Clergy in Rome has issued a 29-page document calling for North American and European clergy to transfer some priests to Latin America and other less developed countries to cope with serious shortages of priests in those lands. The document pointed out that 45 percent of the world’s Catholics live in North America and Europe, but that they are looked after by over 77 percent of the available priests. At the same time, another 45 percent of the Catholics in the world live in Latin America and the Philippines with only 12.6 percent of the church’s priests to look after them.
Clergy reaction was swift. A bishop in Ontario complained: “They don’t, for instance, seem to know that about 80 per cent of our priests are over 50 years old.” And The Gazette in Montreal reported that a monsignor there called the plan “useless and destructive.” “Our priests are used to a North American lifestyle,” he said. Of course, the underlying problem is that there are few young men entering the priesthood, as the Vatican document itself mentioned. It is only a matter of time until the shortage will be more acute also in Europe and North America.
Dutch “Love” Boats
◆ In response to complaints that Rotterdam’s prostitutes were venturing out of their “legal” red-light districts into residential areas, the Dutch city’s executive reportedly approved a plan to put them out to sea. The plan calls for “floating brothels,” which could be operating by the end of the year. But official approval does not make the practice right or the fruitage good.
Vitamin E for Breast Cysts?
◆ Will moderate amounts of vitamin E help women with breast cysts? A study was made in this regard, using 26 women with cysts. They took moderate amounts of vitamin E, and 10 of them reported complete relief from the painful lumps. Said a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association of September 5, 1980: “The lumps went away and the patients noticed tremendous clinical improvement.” Why did the vitamin E provide relief for 38 percent of the women? “I can give you five pages of theory,” explained the Baltimore scientist who headed the research team, “but I’m really not sure.” It was observed that most of the women with cysts had high hormone levels and vitamin E had “profound effects” in reducing that level to normal.