Watching the World
War More “Humane”?
◆ The drafting of a treaty on the rules of war recently was completed by a 72-nation conference in Geneva, Switzerland. It is supposed to make war less hard on civilians. For example, it bans incendiary bombing of civilian concentrations and forbids the use of booby traps that are planted in an “apparently harmless portable object.” However, observed France’s Le Monde: “This attempt to ‘humanise’ war quickly found its limits. The only weapons which have been banned from being used ‘under any circumstances’ do not seem to be in known arsenals.”
Even under the new treaty, says the newspaper, “one can without feeling any shame place mines around a military target and even booby-trap utensils used in army kitchens.” The treaty “does not deal with chemical weapons (consisting mainly of paralysing gases) which are at present enjoying a boom in superpower and other arsenals,” notes Le Monde. “It would be quite risky to infer from it that the wars which are being waged today . . . are going to become ‘humanised’.”
Arms for the Poor
◆ While the two ‘superpowers’ spent more of the $500,000,000,000 devoted to weapons in 1980 than other nations did, the largest increase in arms spending has come in nations that can least afford it. In a recent 10-year period, military budgets of the developed countries grew by 5.8 percent (in constant prices). But England’s Guardian reports that those of the ‘Third World’ countries went up by an average of 107.1 percent—nearly 20 times as fast! It is estimated that governments now spend eight times as much on new-weapons research alone as they do on solving energy problems.
◆ Writing in Natural History magazine, Harvard historian Dr. Stephen Jay Gould claims that famous Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a party to the “Piltdown man” hoax, “the most famous and spectacular fraud of twentieth-century science.”
The hoax began in 1912 when lawyer and amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed that he had found an apelike human’s remains near Piltdown, England. But in 1953 British scientists proved that “Piltdown man” was a fraud. Radioactive dating showed that the cranium came from the skull of a modern man. The jaw belonged to an orangutan. The teeth had been artificially filed down and the bones chemically stained to suggest age. Also, ancient animal bones from distant lands had been placed in the same area to further the impression of age.
For a long time Dawson was accused of being a lone culprit in the hoax, but Gould asserts that his research shows that Teilhard, who had just been ordained as a priest and was then studying paleontology, was part of “the Piltdown conspiracy.” Gould says that some of the bones found in the Piltdown pits came from other countries where Teilhard collected specimens on previous trips. Also, in letters sent by Teilhard to one of the scientists who uncovered the hoax, Gould asserts that Teilhard lied to cover up his part in the scheme.
Government Supports Organic Farming
◆ Two recent studies supported by unlikely sources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation, are quite favorable to organic farming. According to the New York Times, in their examination of 69 farms in 23 states, one research team found that “almost all of them were efficient, productive, scientifically sound and cost-competitive with conventional farms.” In another comparison of 51 farms, reports the Times, scientists learned that “although the cash value of crops was lower on organic farms, the organic farmers’ expenses were 36 percent less than those of conventional farms. . . . farmers who used organic agricultural procedures consumed only about 40 percent of the energy required on farms that used chemical fertilizers and pesticides.” The article notes that these findings “have angered and baffled some practitioners of traditional [chemical] farming.”
Brazil Repeats History
◆ In circumstances reminiscent of America’s old West, Brazil still has problems of clashes between native Indian tribes and white settlers. The Indians claim that the whites are gradually invading their reserves and that their appeals for help have been heeded too slowly. After a massacre in September, policemen carrying machine guns were sent in to keep the peace. However, as Veja magazine observed: “Only the definite establishment of boundary lines between the properties of the whites and the Indians is going to prevent the continuing of a war which other countries suffered during the last century and which survives today only in nostalgic wild west stories.”
◆ Animals are often observed licking their cuts and other wounds. A team of scientists headed by Dr. Michael Young of the University of Florida thinks it knows why: saliva contains a healing agent. The substance is called “nerve growth factor” (NGF), a protein. When NGF was applied to an open wound, either experimentally by the scientists or through licking by the hurt animal or its companions, the wounds healed four to five times as fast. Similarly, researchers in Australia reported that when mice were prevented from licking their wounds they healed much more slowly than those that could. Other animals, and humans, are also known to have NGF in their saliva. Efforts are being made to see if NGF can be used to make a woundhealing medication for use after surgery and in cases of severe burns and other trauma.
Catholics and Concubines
◆ Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Lusaka, Zambia, recently admitted that “more than 30 per cent of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Lusaka live with concubines.” A church survey released by the archbishop to the Times of Zambia revealed that “about 3,225 out of 10,903 married couples live with concubines.” How does the Church view children from such unbiblical arrangements? According to Archbishop Milingo’s report, says the Times, “children born from marriages out of wedlock, but of Christian parents,” or from a “Christian couple living in concubinage” or even “a second wife to a Christian married in church had a right to be baptised and religious ministers had an obligation to baptise them.”
◆ “For the second time in two days,” reports the New York Post, “a holdup man has blasted off his own finger—leaving it at the robbery site as evidence for police.” Apparently some gun-happy New York criminals are in a hurry to try out their weapons on the “job,” before acquiring the ability to use them. Both of the inept gunmen ended up in local hospitals.
‘No Virgins Left’
◆ A highly respected study by Johns Hopkins University professors Melvin Zelnik and John Kantner show that about 50 percent of the 10.3 million young women between the ages of 15 and 19 in the United States have taken part in premarital sex—fornication. This is about double the percentage since Zelnik and Kantner began their research in 1971. Observes Zelnik: “Things that supported remaining a virgin in the past . . . have disappeared.” A high school senior in Louisiana said of the girls now in their first and second years of her high school: “By the time they graduate there aren’t going to be any virgins left.” One consequence of this immorality: one million teenage girls in the U.S. get pregnant each year, the sharpest increase being among those under 14. Another: venereal disease is rampant among adolescents, accounting for 25 percent of the one million newly reported gonorrhea cases every year.
Priest Shortage Worsening
◆ “A survey of Canadian priests by the Roman Catholic Church’s bishops shows that the institution is plagued by old age,” says the Toronto Star. The church survey showed that 82 percent of all Canadian priests were over 40 years of age, with many nearing retirement. However, the Star reports, “the source of replacements, those below 30 years old, stands at a mere 2.4 per cent. . . . Given the shortage of men entering seminary, the survey’s results indicate the crisis over manpower is vastly more serious than was hitherto believed.”
As an example, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix states: “During the last five years, only two Catholic priests have been ordained in Edmonton compared with more than 10 a year two decades ago. And no priests will be ordained this year. Rev. Mike McCaffrey, principal of Newman Theological College in nearby St. Albert, . . . says the church is attracting not only fewer but also poorer candidates for the priesthood.”
Another priest, Les Drewicky of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Edmonton, says that the shortage of priests is a symptom of a larger disease: “The basic problem is that the church as a whole—each individual Christian—is losing a sense of mission.” He called the situation in the church “a crisis of faith.”
Old Seeds Grow
◆ Over 100 years ago, botanist William Beal began an experiment with plant seeds to see how long they could survive and still grow. Near his laboratory in East Lansing, Michigan, he buried 20 bottles, each containing 1,000 seeds of 20 plant varieties. After five years, he unearthed one of his bottles, planted the seeds, and they sprouted. He did this every five years to 1920, and found that all the samples he unearthed germinated. At his death in 1924, his colleagues continued the experiments every 10 years. In 1980, over 100 years later, another bottle was unearthed and the seeds were planted. Twenty-nine of the seeds germinated, although six died. The 23 that grew were of three different varieties.
◆ A Reuter’s report from Spain states that in 1979 the number of Roman Catholic nuns in that country dropped to 62,200 from 82,000 six years before. In 100 of the religious orders for nuns, there are now no novices training. Church authorities also expressed great concern at the growing apathy and skepticism toward religion on the part of Spanish youth.
◆ Columnist James Wechsler, writing in the New York Post, notes that deaths in the “sport” of boxing are nearly one a month now. He says: “Since 1945, an Associated Press survey now reports, 330 professional and amateur boxers have died as a result of the beatings they suffered.” He noted that “boxing is the only so-called sport in which the only test of achievement is inflicting maximum physical damage on an adversary.” He adds: “Outlawing of boxing will not make the world safe for sanity. It would be a minimal affirmation that murder acquires no legal sanction because it is conducted in an arena with commercial sponsors.”
World Subway Fares
◆ New York City residents often complain of the high cost of a subway ride. A comparison of other subway systems shows the following for a six-mile (10-km) ride: London, $1.93 (U.S.); Munich, 85 cents; Paris, 73 cents; Tokyo and New York, 60 cents; Mexico City, 5 cents; and Moscow, 3 cents. London has a zone fare system, shorter rides costing less.
Feel Safer Overseas
◆ A survey of American diplomats around the world revealed that many of them feel safer in their overseas assignments than they do in Washington, D.C. Of those who answered, 243 said that they felt less safe overseas, but more than twice as many, 541, said that they were more, or at least equally, frightened in the Washington area. The dangers most feared at home were burglary and street crime.