Watching the World
Quake Damages Parthenon
◆ The recent earthquake in Greece caused serious cracks in the marble columns of the Parthenon. The quake also shattered 50 of the 500 invaluable vases in the Erechtheum and 10 more in the Acropolis museum. Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, the quake on February 24 was followed by 652 aftershocks.
Lullabies Keep Babies Awake?
◆ Mothers who feel that lullabies do not help their babies to go to sleep may be correct, according to Russian researchers. Experiments at Teachers High School in Tallin disclosed that lullabies have an opposite effect—they should be hummed to keep the baby lively and awake. In addition, experts at the Tallin center found that a month after listening to lullabies, the babies could hum them for themselves. “This is a most remarkable development,” said a Tass report, “because it means that babies can hum well before they can speak.”
Cola Linked to Child Problems
◆ Dr. Michael Jacobson, a Washington, D.C., microbiologist and consumer advocate, has launched a campaign to take the “kick” or caffeine out of cola drinks. Children are among the heaviest consumers of these drinks, and Dr. Jacobson believes caffeine can cause problems for them, such as restlessness and irritability. “It’s completely needless; the benefits of adding caffeine to soda pop are completely unnecessary,” says Dr. Jacobson, who is urging the Food and Drug Administration to drop a regulation requiring cola manufacturers to put caffeine in their beverages. Even now the FDA is considering the removal of caffeine from a list of food additives generally recognized as “safe.”
Suicide at the Steering Wheel
◆ According to the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, head-on collisions on Austrian highways, at from 50 to 65 miles (80 to 105 km) an hour, are fast becoming a “popular” form of committing suicide. The evidence is that during the first five months of last year over 20 persons took their own lives, using their car as their “weapon.” Failure to obtain a driver’s license, or the revoking of one’s license, was found, in a majority of cases, to be the motive for “suicide at the steering wheel.” An English investigation also reveals that 10 percent of the one-car accidents in recent years have in reality been suicides.
Fastest Train Service
◆ When France’s new high-speed railroad line opens in October, it will be the world’s fastest train service—and one expecting little competition from airplanes. The powerful electric trains on the 264-mile (425-km) line connecting Paris and Lyons will initially cruise at 160 miles an hour (260 km/h) and eventually at almost 190 miles an hour (300 km/h). The journey will take only two hours. To combat rising oil prices, the French are electrifying their train service. Even now 80 percent of passenger service moves in electric-powered trains. Thus the French are no longer ordering diesel locomotives. Unlike railroad passenger service in the U.S., the number of French rail passengers continues to soar to record levels each year, the latest figure being 688 million passengers.
“Spiritual Emptiness” and Alcoholism
◆ “Drunkenness is by far the greatest challenge now facing Soviet society,” says a report from Moscow to The Times of London. Alcohol abuse reportedly is so serious that it is frustrating Soviet efforts to increase industrial production. So many men are said to be dying of alcohol abuse that mortality statistics are not being published any longer. According to surveys, back in 1925 about 11 percent of Soviet workers were victims of alcoholism, while today some 37 percent of male workers abuse alcohol. “Perhaps the most terrible effect though is the high percentage of mentally-retarded children born to alcoholics,” commented a member of the Soviet Academy of Medicine.
“Spiritual emptiness” was cited in the Soviet atheist magazine Science and Religion as a major cause of the alcohol abuse in the younger generation. It added: “The lack of inner values, the narrow outlook, the inability to live life (in the highest sense of the term) are what have given us that unpleasant phenomenon, hard drinking.” Feeding the new generation on the husks of atheism can only result in “spiritual emptiness” and its injurious consequences.
Medical College Caste Clash
◆ India reported that recently at least five persons were killed in riots in the western state of Gujarat over the issue of admitting lower-caste students to postgraduate classes in medical schools. When upper-caste medical students protested the admission of a certain number of lower-caste students, the Indian army was called in to put down the riots.
“Subversive” Religious Groups
◆ The Chicago Police Department recently made public its list of organizations named in its “subversive unit” files. Among them were 19 religious groups, including the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and a number of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish organizations.
◆ Malachi Martin, a former Jesuit, adviser to three popes and a very influential Vatican figure during the reign of Pope John XXIII, recently said of the power he once had: “I can’t convey to you that kind of power. . . . I was afraid that all that power was corrupting me. I found I had very little pity for people, very little compassion. I didn’t like myself.” So he withdrew from that world and went to the United States.
What is his view of religion in the U.S.? “The present religious atmosphere in this country is one of complete decadence,” he declares. “There are 275 Roman Catholic Bishops. I would put my trust in three of them. The rest do not lead Christian lives. Every one of these Bishops is supposed to represent Christ, is supposed to live poorly and give his money to the glory of God. Their function is that of preachers and teachers. Find me one. The people are not fooled, they’re looking for something to lift them, to inspire them—but there is no one. The people of the Moral Majority are certainly not the ones. They have simply fallen into the old temptation of seizing power. If they really want to influence people, let them practice their religion not their politics.”—New York Daily News, February 22, 1981.
Appeal to Athenians
◆ The Greek Post Office (ELTA) recently appealed to absent-minded Athenians to avoid dropping items of clothing, identity cards, and so forth, in the mailbox. Said the Athens Daily Post: “Post Office employees almost daily find various useful items of absent-minded Athenians who throw them in the mailbox instead of their letters or cards. Found are such items as bags, keys, coins, shoes and even shirts. . . . There is a big hall filled with such personal items abandoned by the absentminded Athenians.” Most of these Athenians fail to ask the post office about their missing possessions.
Salvaging Timber at Mount St. Helens
◆ When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, about 3.2 billion board feet of timber was knocked down and singed. The tremendous force of the explosion badly splintered many trees, but much timber is still usable. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service made an extensive study of the area and estimates that about one billion board feet of the trees leveled by the blast can be salvaged for commercial use.
Sauna Sweating Healthful?
◆ The Finns have long been advocates of the sauna for its health benefits. People feel rejuvenated after a sauna, and it brings about a sense of relaxation and well-being. It has caught on in North America and is felt to be an aid to losing weight. The Canadian medical column “The Doctor Game” reports that there “is an initial decrease in weight due to a loss of fluid. But it’s speedily regained when liquids are consumed.” The column adds: “The same is true of hypertension. Often there’s a slight fall in blood pressure. But there’s also a hidden danger. Sometimes the body reacts by releasing hypertensive agents in the blood stream. This rebound phenomenon raises the pressure.” It pays to exercise caution. Some have been severely burned from staying too long. The column’s closing advice about using a sauna is: “People with heart and chest conditions should avoid it. Don’t prolong a stay beyond 20 or 30 minutes. And, like swimming, don‘t go it alone.”
Letter to the Pope
◆ The Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung reports that 140 Catholics from Basel and vicinity have written a letter to the pope. In it they asked that he “in the spirit of Christian brotherliness and justice grant the request of priests asking to be freed from their vows of celibacy.” They also asked the pope to reinstate all those who had been forced by celibacy regulations to relinquish their positions of Church service. “We can no longer get along without them,” they wrote. They claimed that a delay in the granting of dispensation would not only cause these clergymen economic distress, but also thrust them into a moral and religious crisis. The letter was signed by 27 priests, 10 theologians and 103 laymen, among them a number of politicians, industrialists and intellectuals.
Overloaded Train Balks
◆ Japan’s new Kobe Portliner, a computerized train system connecting the man-made Port Island with downtown Kobe, came to a standstill. The reason? A six-car train was overloaded; emergency bells rang, and the computerized system would not close the doors. Meantime, the trains in the other nine stations could not move until the stalled train got started. After six minutes some of the passengers got off, and the doors closed and the train moved. It took about an hour and a half, however, for the system to get back to normal. In Tokyo there are platform personnel who push passengers into the trains, but, in Kobe, they evidently need a system to keep too many from boarding.
◆ Personal bankruptcies in the U.S. last year soared 76 percent to 367,000, from 209,500 in 1979. As a result, banks report large losses on consumer loans. The Bank of America, the country’s largest, says its losses from consumer loans were up 40 percent. Citibank reported that its losses rose 56 percent. A major retailer, Sears, Roebuck & Company, said its losses from personal bankruptcies for the first 11 months of last year rose 124 percent, to $40 million (U.S.), from $18 million in the comparable 1979 period. A vice-president of one bank stated that “consumers might have to use credit more judiciously.” He said it might be necessary to return to the way of living of the 1950’s, when, in general, people “had a healthy attitude toward credit.”
Wood Makes a Comeback
◆ With home-heating oil skyrocketing in price, it was inevitable that wood would make a comeback. The extent of wood’s renaissance is surprising: “Wood has recently surpassed nuclear power as a source of energy in the United States,” reports Worldwatch Institute, “and could provide up to one-fifth of the country’s energy by the year 2000.” Moreover, said the study, use of wood is likely to increase by 50 percent. Wood is presently used to heat 7 percent of U.S. homes, but in New England about 50 percent of the homes burn some wood for heat. Ten years ago fewer than 200,000 wood stoves were sold each year in the U.S.; now the number is about one million.