Watching the World
● “World events today mirror those of 70 years ago, on the eve of World War I,” proclaims an article in the Toronto Star of Canada. “Can today’s leaders take the steps to head off another cataclysm?” Citing the conditions then existing that led up to the first world war, the article continues: “All the ingredients of the pre-1914 situation are with us today. Indeed, the dimensions are more threatening than 70 years ago. International politics is polarized on a global scale; modern weapons could kill not just millions of young men, but wipe out entire nations; and there are explosive points all over the world.”
Speaking of the intractable position the superpowers take in every East-West confrontation, the article states: “If this continues, one dispute or another—as in 1914—is eventually bound to explode into a major conflict. Except that this time the lamps will go out not only in Europe [referring to British Foreign Secretary Grey’s comment at the start of World War I]; there will be a nuclear darkness over all the earth.”
● “Fearing a sharp rise of terrorism in 1984, the U.S. and other nations were hastily improvising an array of additional security precautions,” reports U.S.News & World Report, “not only in the Mideast but at home as well.” Barricades have been installed outside public buildings, such as the White House and the U.S. mission at the United Nations where security has been tightened, and dogs are being used to sniff cars and trucks for bombs as visitors are screened by metal detectors. Even antiaircraft missiles are on hand at the White House in case of air assault. Dignitaries have been urged to limit their public exposure, and extra protection has been assigned to key figures. It is feared that events such as the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the World’s Fair in New Orleans and the U.S. political conventions this year will become targets for terrorists wanting to call attention to their causes. Says U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan: “The prospect of 1984 being the year they bring the war to our shores is real.”
Less Growth, More People
● Although the world’s population is now 4.7 billion and growing, its rate of growth is declining, according to the annual report of UNFPA (UN Fund for Population Activities). It is expected to drop to no more than 2 percent a year for the period from 1980 to 1985—from a yearly average of 2.4 percent for 1965 to 1970. According to the report, China and India, whose combined populations make up 40 percent of the world’s total, have accepted the idea of having smaller families—a notion that has also spread to a number of developing countries. In fact, China’s annual rate of growth is already down to 1.5 percent. As reported in World Health magazine, the decline is attributed to three main factors: Higher income, lessening the need for children as old-age security; better health services, decreasing the need for more births to perpetuate the family; and more working women, with less time to raise children. The UNFPA predicts the world population to stabilize at 10.2 billion by the 21st century.
● The island of Bikini, part of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia and largest of the 23 islands in the Bikini Atoll, can be made safe for human habitation, scientists say. The islands were cleared of their 167 inhabitants in 1946 so that 23 nuclear tests could be conducted there. The tests left the soil contaminated with cesium-137, a radioactive element that becomes concentrated in any food grown. Now numbering 1,100, most of the Bikinian people live on the island of Kili—425 miles (684 km) to the south and having only one sixth of the Bikini Atoll’s land area. According to The New York Times, the committee of scientists says it would require replacing the contaminated soil with fresh soil to a depth of 18 inches (46 cm) at a cost of about $100 million (U.S.) for the island of Bikini alone. Other solutions are also being studied. Enewetak, another atoll that was used for nuclear testing, was cleaned up by the United States in the late 1970’s at about the same cost.
China’s Name Problem
● Li is a common surname in the city of Shen-yang, China, 400 miles (644 km) northeast of Peking. “Shuzhen” (fair and precious) is a favored name for women there. As a result, over 4,800 women are named Li Shuzhen. This and similar same-name difficulties have prompted frustrated authorities in northeast China to write a guide for naming babies. As reported in the newspaper Guangming Daily, ten men are named Li Wei in one work unit alone, because of the popularity of “Wei,” meaning “great.” To avoid confusion, they are referred to as “Li Wei No. 2,” “Long-haired Li Wei,” “Big Eyes Li Wei,” and so forth.
● Does drinking milk give you intestinal discomfort? If so, try switching to yogurt for a source of protein, researchers say. While babies produce the enzyme lactase that enables them to digest milk sugar, most adults produce little of it and therefore cannot properly digest milk. Yogurt, on the other hand, already contains the enzyme, allowing the food to digest itself in the body. “It substantiates a feeling people have that somehow yogurt is good for you,” says Dr. Joseph C. Kolars, director of the study.
Birds and Planes
● About 1,500 collisions between birds and planes are reported each year in the United States alone, causing millions of dollars in damage to airplane engines. Sometimes it results in crashes and fatalities to people as well. Why so many mishaps with birds? Because birds that roost near airport runways go deaf, says Professor Allen Counter of Harvard University, and consequently they cannot hear the plane or warning cries from birds who do spot the aircraft. Studying sea gulls from Boston’s Logan International Airport, he concluded that the noise they are subjected to—90 to 100 decibels every 40 seconds—also “scrambles their brains” by “overwhelming their auditory systems” so that the “brain response is obliterated.”
● China wastes almost half of its food, claims Eugene Whelan, head of the World Food Council. If it wasn’t for the nearly 50 percent loss of corn, soybeans and other grains due to outmoded storage facilities, China could export large quantities of food to nations in need, he says. As reported in The New York Times, Mr. Whelan visited China in his official capacity as head of the council. “Communes are paid so much to produce these crops, but then there is no storage for them,” he said. “Their storage facilities are like those we used 100 years ago, and as far as cold storage is concerned it is practically nonexistent.” Meanwhile, 22 African nations are experiencing serious food shortages.
● “The more strategies you use, the higher the probability of rape avoidance,” concludes sociologist Pauline Bart from studies of women who foiled rapes. “Few women avoided rape with only one strategy.” As reported in The Edmonton Journal of Canada, her studies showed that it is best to use several tactics, such as screaming, fleeing or even physical force. “By fighting back, a woman significantly increases her chance of avoiding rape,” Bart said. “Not resisting is no guarantee of humane treatment.” In addition, “Raped women who used physical strategies,” she said, “were less likely to be depressed than raped women who did not physically resist their assailants.”
Largest Royal Palace
● He rules over one of the smallest countries in the world, but Sultan Muda Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei is no small spender when it comes to his royal residence. “His new 1,788-room palace on a partly manmade 100-foot [30-m] hill overlooking [the] capital is believed to be the largest royal residence in the world,” reports The New York Times. In a land of only 2,226 square miles (5,765 sq km) on the northern coast of Borneo, his four interconnected three-story buildings occupy about 50 acres (20 ha) in the center of a landscaped garden of 300 acres (121 ha). The Vatican, the former record-holder, has 1,400 rooms compressed into 13 acres (5 ha). The sultan’s palace boasts four thrones (allowing for a visit of a foreign royal couple), a public banquet hall that can accommodate 4,000 people, a heliport, underground parking for 800 automobiles, a huge personal recreation center, including a practice field for polo and the very latest in technology for surveillance and air-conditioning. The cost? About $300 million (U.S.), reports the Times.
● Toronto’s theology schools are experiencing an increase in enrollment, reports The Globe and Mail. “School officials say the lack of job opportunities, the emergence of the Christian feminist movement and the Anglican Church’s decision in 1975 to ordain women are making the church an attractive career choice for a broad range of students.” Also bringing results was the Catholic Church’s use of billboards to stimulate interest in the priesthood. Over a hundred men with serious intent of becoming priests are reported to have replied. “Some people think it’s terrible to say we’re getting people because they can’t get jobs anywhere else,” one clergyman said, “but the ministry just happens to be one of the helping professions where there are job opportunities.” However, care has had to be exercised in order to screen out candidates who knew nothing about the denomination or had contrasting theological viewpoints.
● Tokyo is the “safest city in the world,” according to the city’s Metropolitan Police Department—that is, in comparison with other major cities. As reported in the Mainichi Daily News, its 132 murder cases were only one seventeenth the number of those in Los Angeles. Tokyo crimes, including murder and robbery, totaled about 221,300 for the first 11 months of last year—an average of 663 a day. A cause for alarm, according to the paper, is the increase of youthful offenders. “More than half of the criminal offenses committed in Japan today are by people aged less than 20,” it reports, and “those at 14 were the most prone to commit crimes.” For the first time, girls accounted for over 20 percent of the crimes committed by those in the 14- to 19-year-old age bracket. Under Japanese law, youths under 14 are immune from criminal responsibility.