Watching the World
● What was once known as a mom-and-pop enterprise has become a $10-billion-a-year business largely run by ex-convicts and hard-core individuals. What is it? The growing of marijuana, reports The New York Times. Areas leading in its production are northern California, Hawaii, Oregon, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, and Idaho. The largest growers use wilderness areas, mostly public lands, to cultivate an extraordinarily potent marijuana hybrid—worth $2,000 to $3,500 per plant—known as sinsemilla. Growers in northern California have shot hikers and hunters who have walked unsuspectingly through their patches and have maimed some with booby traps. “The killing and maiming of people occurs almost every day in the county,” said The Ukiah Daily Journal, one of the region’s largest newspapers. Regarding the growers, John Rooney, director of the Idaho Department of Law Enforcement, says, “These aren’t hippie types anymore, but hard-core people who treat it as a business, and they’re serious and very protective of their investment.”
● “Firewood, the cooking and heating fuel of the poor, is in short supply and getting scarcer in many regions,” says the magazine Science in summarizing a recent report by Earthscan, part of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. The scarcity—first called to public attention a decade ago—continues despite the efforts of many Third World countries and aid agencies to promote tree planting and other schemes. The projected demand indicates “a need from anywhere from a fivefold to, in some parts of Africa, a 20-fold or greater increase in the area planted” with trees. “For those who are really poor,” concludes Earthscan, “the depletion of formerly free firewood supplies means that fuel joins food, water, and housing on the list of basic needs that are satisfied inadequately and with great trouble.”
● Last November, two days after the space shuttle Discovery blasted into space to recover two errant satellites, a less-heralded Ariane V 11 rocket rose from the jungles of French Guiana and hoisted two telecommunications satellites into orbit—one of them for an American company. Time magazine called the mission “ominously successful.” Why? Because this and other successful missions have made the Ariane space rocket—a product of the European Space Agency—the space shuttle’s chief competitor for profits in space. What makes Ariane so attractive is its higher rate of successful satellite launchings compared to those of the shuttles. Also, the price for launching satellites with Ariane rockets is competitive, a matter of significance, especially since shuttle fees for launching satellites are scheduled to increase by 80 percent next October.
● “Large groups of prostitutes once strolled a 5 1/2-mile (9-km) strip of Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard,” reports The New York Times. “But on a recent Friday a police patrol sighted just three, down from about 80” eight months previously. Arrests dropped from 30 or 40 a night to about 7. What has happened? Besides an efficient police detail patrolling the streets, the use of computers has thwarted attempts by prostitutes to use aliases. The computers match physical descriptions, criminal histories, aliases, and fingerprints. Identifying repeat offenders has resulted in longer jail sentences.
● In New York City, police made 17,000 arrests for prostitution last year, mostly on the street. But only 5 percent of the arrests resulted in jail sentences. Almost half of the prostitutes were released within hours, and the rest were fined. According to the report, prostitution is “flourishing indoors almost without impediment.” Some prostitutes work out of brothels hidden behind the doors of luxury apartments. Others work for escort services or for themselves through referrals. They advertise in sex tabloids, on late-night cable television, and in the telephone directory under escort services.
● In Melbourne, even though prostitution occurs in massage parlors that have been issued a permit to operate in business and industrial districts, procuring a prostitute on the street is still illegal. In West Germany, brothels and street soliciting are legal in “controlled zones.” In Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Zurich thousands of tourists are attracted to red-light zones each year. Says the owner of a very popular brothel, “As long as the world is around, there will be prostitution.”
Boom of Illegitimate Babies
● “More than one of every three babies born in New York City [in 1983] were born out of wedlock,” reports The New York Times. That ratio is triple what it was 20 years ago. This worries city planners, says the report, “not for moral reasons,” but because they believe that these children “are more likely to lead lives of poverty and to have a harder time educating themselves, finding work and assuming adult responsibilities.” The dramatic increase in immorality, experts say, is due to a higher percentage of low-income families living in New York City and to a more tolerant attitude among people in general toward having out-of-wedlock children. Sociologist Kenneth B. Clark cites another reason. “Young people have practically nothing else to do,” he said. “They’re unemployed. There are very few pleasures in life for them besides sex and drugs.”
● “In 1982, the rumor got its first big boost from Protestant fundamentalists,” says The Wall Street Journal. “This time, the largest single source group . . . has been Roman Catholic nuns and priests.” What is the rumor? That the president of Procter & Gamble, the nation’s largest manufacturer of household products, declared himself a Satan worshiper and that the company’s “man in the moon” logo contains the sign of Satan. Two years ago, P&G went to great lengths publicizing denials, tracing sources, arranging for testimonials from church leaders, and filing six lawsuits before the story died. But last September the story gained new life. A nun in western Pennsylvania received in her mailbox a leaflet containing the story—sender unknown—and sent out copies to others. As a result, in October 1984 alone, P&G received over 5,000 inquiries in its offices. When told that the rumor was untrue, many who spread it were very apologetic. “But some who believe the rumor are loath to give it up—whatever the evidence,” says the report.
● “Your dog stumbles from his feeding dish and faints dead away. What are you going to do?” poses The Wall Street Journal. Resuscitate him, says Dr. Gabor Vajda, a Phoenix, Arizona, veterinarian who has trained some 200 pet owners and veterinarians in “canine CPR” (canine cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Clients are taught how to breathe life back into their dogs by blowing short breaths into their nostrils. Furthermore, an educational-equipment manufacturer has produced a canine version of the Resusci-Annie doll—used in some CPR courses—called Resusci-Dog. It is complete with “fur, wiring and all kinds of stuff,” says a company representative. In regard to clearing an animal’s air passage, Dr. Vajda says, “Never use your fingers to dislodge food.” Dogs bite.
● “AIDS cases have increased nearly 100% in 8 months” in ten European countries that regularly provide data, reports the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, up from 215 cases reported in 1983 through October to 421 cases through July 15, 1984. “Of the patients from the 10 European countries, 87.4% were male homosexuals, 3.4%, hemophilia patients, and 1.4%, drug abusers,” says the report. But in almost all patients from the Caribbean and Africa that were observed in Europe, no known risk factors could be detected.
● The town of Ech-Cheliff (formerly El Asnam), Algeria, has been destroyed by earthquakes at least six times. Its earliest destruction, according to legend, was in the fifth century. Twice it was destroyed in the 19th century. The same town was destroyed again in 1936, then in 1954—leaving 470,000 of its inhabitants homeless. The most recent quake, which occurred in 1980, left 3,000 dead—largely due to the collapse of multistory concrete apartment buildings put up after the 1954 quake. This time the town has been rebuilt using 23,000 single-story prefabricated homes built on shallow foundations. “If the earth moves again,” says Rachid Artouf, the chief administrative officer at Ech-Cheliff, “the houses will just bounce around like metal boxes.” He is confident that this will minimize casualties.
● Not only has the production of counterfeit products become a $19-billion-a-year business, says the U.S. Customs Service—up from $4.5 billion four years ago—but a higher percentage of today’s counterfeit products are potentially deadly. “It’s one thing to talk about counterfeit [name brand] shirts, they don’t result in harm to your body,” says James Bikoff, president of the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition in San Francisco. “The same doesn’t go for counterfeit brake linings, hospital heart pumps and drugs.” In England a series of deaths was caused by counterfeit brake shoes that failed. Also, counterfeit drugs have been responsible for at least 12 deaths. The American Medical Association has issued a warning about counterfeit tranquilizers and amphetamines that are substandard.
● “The new adult comic books are anything but comic,” says the Toronto Star. “With nudity and explicit violence dominating the art work and storylines that owe more to de Sade than Disney, they’re breaking all the old taboos and raising the spectre of censorship.” Often printed in striking color on high-quality paper and selling for an average of $2 a copy, these comics are meant for readers in their late teens and in their 20’s. But young children purchase them too. One Toronto storeowner, concerned about the possibility of authorities censoring these magazines, refuses to stock some of these titles. He gave as his reason “the amount of violence and blood and ripping and tearing and disregard for humanity” that they contain.
● “PMS [premenstrual syndrome] has become a catch-all description for the mood disturbances [of many women] . . . prior to the onset of menstruation.” That is how the Globe and Mail of Toronto, Canada, summarizes one of the points made by Dr. Anthony Clare, a professor of psychological medicine, at a recent PMS symposium in Toronto. “The number of women with orthodox PMS, with symptoms of such severity that require medical treatment,” asserted the doctor, “is about . . . 5 per cent.” He added that many women who complain of PMS are actually suffering from stress, role conflicts, or marital problems that may become aggravated by, or attributed to, the menstrual cycle. Though PMS was first identified in 1931, Dr. Clare says its cause “is as cloudy and elusive as ever.”