Watching the World
World Illiteracy Grows
● One out of four people in the adult world is illiterate, more than an estimated 800 million, and if present trends continue, by the end of the century that figure will grow to 900 million. That is the sobering conclusion reached by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Although in a ten-year span the world illiteracy rate dropped from 32.9 to 28.6 percent, the total number of adult illiterates grows, due to the population increase. The director-general of UNESCO, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, calls the eradication of illiteracy “a moral imperative for the international community.” In The Unesco Courier, he writes: “There are today some 120 million children of primary school age who do not have the opportunity to attend school . . . Sixty per cent of these children cut off from school are girls.”
“Religious” Tax Dodgers
● Japan’s National Tax Administration Agency has a perpetual headache—catching tax evaders. After a national survey, 243 persons were selected for investigation. All were caught dodging taxes and had to pay, on the average, 5.34 million yen ($24,272, U.S.) in fines and back taxes. Surprisingly, among those sought as tax dodgers are religious organizations! The records of one tax bureau revealed that 90 percent of 642 religious organizations evaded taxes to some extent. The unreported income from these religious groups exceeded 3 billion yen ($13.6 million, U.S.), with Buddhist temples topping the list. No doubt religious properties were being used for nonreligious purposes.
● “The Vatican will pay $250 million [U.S.] to creditor banks as part of a settlement in the Banco Ambrosiano case,” notes the weekly National Catholic Reporter. “Ambrosiano collapsed in 1982 with bad debts totaling $1.2 billion [U.S.]. The Vatican was involved in those debts. The pact includes a clause that no further action would be taken against the Vatican bank,” concludes the report.
‘Popular’ Bloodless Surgery
● “Although some religious groups require [bloodless] surgery, the process is gaining popularity among the general public as people become warier of contracting diseases from transfusions,” says Dr. Gerald Lemole, director of the bloodless surgery program at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia. By using saline solution and a scalpel that cauterizes blood vessels, bloodless operations are being performed on heart patients and others who request them, reports Modern Healthcare magazine. The article also points out that a doctor in Irving, Texas, has performed “more than 5,000 procedures without transfusions on both [Jehovah’s] Witness and non-Witness patients” using similar methods.Modern Healthcare, 12/83, p. 50
Chemicals and You
● Of the five million known chemicals, 53,500 have commercial importance. How many of those have been thoroughly tested for toxicity? Only a handful! After four years of investigation, the National Research Council of the United States found in a random sampling of more than 50,000 common chemicals, pesticides, drugs and cosmetics that “only a few have been subjected to extensive toxicity testing and most have scarcely been tested at all,” states their publication Toxicity Testing: Strategies to Determine Needs and Priorities. For example, 74 percent of 3,400 cosmetic ingredients and 80 percent of 8,600 food additives had toxicity data that was insufficient.
Divorces Up in China
● China experienced the highest divorce rate in three years—370,000 couples—says The Daily Yomiuri of Japan. A survey of 961 cases conducted by the Shanghai City’s Institute of Sociology, at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science, found that the major reasons for divorce are: infidelity, incompatibility, economics, bad sex life, neurosis, selfishness. Two trends stand out. One, divorce as a result of infidelity “has tripled in the past two years,” says the report. “The other is that divorce between people under thirty is on the rise.” The account observes: “Even old people bound to traditional morality are no longer repulsed by divorce.”
Worms at Work
● When the city of Cologne, Federal Republic of Germany, negotiated to borrow one million worms per year from a special farm in Germany’s Eifel region, it was with the best of ecological motives. The plan to transform the city’s rubbish into compost for the city’s parks attracted attention throughout Europe, reports London’s Sunday Telegraph. And it worked extremely well. But when the time came to return the worms, they had all literally gone underground. Now Cologne has received an ultimatum from the farm: Return our million worms and their offspring (probably another ten million) or pay up DM 40,000 ($15,600, U.S.), the market price for the special exotic Chilean variety used.
Food for Thought
● One of the most valuable resources a country can have—the intelligence of its children—may be lost through malnutrition, says Dr. John R. Silber, president of Boston University. He says that a malnourished mother damages the brain cells of the infant she carries, and the brain of a malnourished infant will not develop properly. “A child retarded from malnutrition,” says Silber, “will always live on the fringes of poverty. He will rarely be hired and often fired. With luck, he will often be on welfare. Without it, he will often be in jail.”
● Every year no less than 10,000 young girls in Italy become mothers for the first time, states Corriere Medico. What problems do many of these teenage mothers face? “Mothers below sixteen years of age, who can neither marry nor acknowledge their babies, are often disowned by their own family, having to turn to some child welfare associations for help,” notes the medical journal. “Among pregnant girls under 18 years of age, fewer than half get married and almost always these ‘shotgun’ weddings are short-lived and difficult.”
The Queen’s Salary
● According to British officials, a 3.78-percent increase in the financial allowance for Queen Elizabeth II and her family was just enough to prevent a “significant reduction in the royal style.” The increase brings the Queen’s annual salary to 3.95 million pounds ($5.5, million U.S.), and is considered “modest,” falling below the 4.7-percent hike of last year. The average British worker’s wage increase is about 7.5 percent, and the inflation rate is 4.8 percent. Staff members “ranging from footmen to secretaries” reportedly will share 70 percent of the Queen’s increased allowance.
● Air flights over the city of Jerusalem may be curtailed, according to the French daily La Croix. “Religious Israelis have recently displayed concern that flying over the city may constitute a profanation,” states the article. Jews are commanded by their faith not to walk upon the soil of the Temple mount, and “according to Rabbi Goren, the airspace above the mountain also shares its sanctity.” The report lists one other reason for the flight prohibition—cemeteries. “According to tradition, the ‘cohanim’—Jews of the priestly line—are not to approach corpses or tombs, for such would defile them. There too, Rabbi Goren has extended the prohibition to include the airspace above cemeteries.”
● Four years ago, Mount St. Helens literally blew its top off—1,300 feet (396 m) of its peak. The volcano’s eruption on May 18, 1980, obliterated more than 150 square miles (389 sq km) of forest, leveling trees as far away as 17 miles (27 km) and spewing tons of gritty ash into the air. An estimated two million birds, fish and animals perished in the volcano’s 20-mile (32-km) ring of death. Today scientists are amazed at how quickly life has returned to the area. Plants have sprung up, along with animal life such as elk and deer. Streams and lakes are cleansing themselves. The eruption’s aftermath has even stimulated tree growth, says Jerry Franklin, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “We thought the trees would be stunted for four or five years,” he says in The New York Times. “They came back to a superior rate in one year.”
‘Hearing Dogs’ for Deaf
● During the last seven years, over 2,000 live hearing aids—certified hearing dogs—have aided the deaf in the United States. In order to help their hearing-impaired owners overcome everyday problems, the animals go through a special four-month training program. They are trained to respond to numerous household sounds, such as a baby’s cry, a doorbell, a telephone, an alarm clock, a smoke detector, as well as to any special need of their owner. How does the canine communicate with its deaf master? It is trained in eye contact, body language and touch.
● Tattooing used to be the preserve of professionals. Nowadays, however, a growing number of youngsters in Britain’s schools, girls as well as boys, are crudely tattooing themselves, even their faces. They use India or ball-point pen ink and a pin. This can lead to permanent disfigurement. It is very difficult and painful to remove, and removal can leave behind a hideous scar. In addition, Scotland’s Lanarkshire Health Board warns: “Paying scant regard to hygiene, they run a real risk of contracting serum hepatitis, syphilis, leprosy, tuberculosis and several other disorders.”
Shoplifting in Italy
● Shoplifters rob Italian businesses of 160 billion lire ($100 million, U.S.) a year, according to Gazzetta del Sud. Of the estimated 500,000 shoplifters who prowl the shops and department stores in Italy, how many are caught? Only 46,000, states the report. The majority of these thieves, 58 percent, are women.
● Childhood suffering does not necessarily lead to a troubled adulthood, suggests new research data. “The emotionally traumatized child is not doomed, the parents’ early mistakes are not irrevocable,” state psychiatrists Drs. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess in The American Journal of Psychiatry. New studies indicate that although some who were psychologically hurt as children—abused, unloved, even abandoned—may grow into emotionally crippled adults, this is not the case with all. One study discovered that when help could not be found in the family, resilient children would find it in their friends, teachers or ministers.