Watching the World
After citing numerous examples in which Jehovah’s Witnesses have been the target of “government-sponsored religious intolerance” in many nations, a report in The Wall Street Journal continues: “One way to assess the attitudes of governments world-wide on the issue of freedom of religion would be to see what activities the U.N. has undertaken in the area. The answer is that—in contrast with its work in the area of racial discrimination—the U.N. has done little to attempt to curb government-sponsored religious intolerance.” But the UN has not been alone in remaining silent on the matter. “Although one might expect inaction in the politically charged arena of the U.N.,” the article states, “the dearth of comment about religious freedom by intellectuals is more disturbing. One could read countless books and articles about Africa and never read about the Jehovah’s Witnesses; one could read volumes about the Soviet Union and learn little about its treatment of religious believers.”
Sex Law Repealed
A Canadian judge has ruled that a section of the criminal code was unconstitutional because it discriminates against males who wish to engage in sexual relations with females under the age of 14. The Toronto Star states that the district court judge dismissed charges against a 21-year-old London, Ontario, man accused of having sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl. Commenting on the basis for his decision, Judge Killeen said that the law is no longer “reasonable or rational in 1985.”
The water level under Britain’s major cities is steadily rising to the point of “threatening tunnels, foundations and even deep basements,” says London’s Daily Telegraph. For two hundred years, factories pumped up millions of gallons of water to satisfy the needs of industry. Now the relocation of factories outside large cities and the general industrial decline give rise to the fear of what civil engineering experts call a “time bomb.” Water-level monitoring in London reveals a rise of about three feet (1 m) a year since the early 1970’s. Serious problems are reported from Liverpool and Birmingham, where pumping equipment is already at work to keep railroad tunnels and cable pipelines usable.
“Rights of the Unborn”
A three-year-long legal tangle over what to do with 16,433 aborted fetuses was recently solved. They were discovered in 1982 in the Los Angeles area, preserved in a steel bin. Antiabortionists wanted to give them a religious burial, but this was opposed by feminist and civil liberties groups. The United States Supreme Court ruled that a burial of the fetuses by any one religion would violate the separation of Church and State. The compromise solution was to give the fetuses a nonreligious burial. They were placed in six coffinlike boxes and buried in three unmarked graves. President Reagan sent this message to those gathered for the burial: “From these innocent dead, let us take increased devotion to the cause of restoring the rights of the unborn.”
A notable population shift has taken place in the Soviet Union. While two thirds of the population was rural 30 years ago, that same proportion now lives in cities. “In a country where a rural, traditional way of life, with its firm sets of values, had endured much longer than in most Western nations,” reports The New York Times, “the shift from the extended patriarchal family to the nuclear urban family is yielding painful results.” There has been a “shift in social values and ways of life.” New freedom in life, away from the village and family, is said to be contributing to the disintegration of families, to alcoholism, and to crime. “Today’s young family is full of conflict, unstable and with few children,” says Viktor I. Perevedentsev, senior researcher with the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Ouija Board Dangers
The Toronto Star reports that a 12-year-old girl spent a very frightening year after having been told incorrectly by a Ouija board that she would die by the time she reached the age of 13. In his new book Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game, Stoker Hunt points out that apart from giving blatantly incorrect messages, the board has been known to induce psychosis in some users, while others lose all sense of reality due to their obsession with the game. The Toronto Star notes that use of the board could expose one to demonic influences, and that it isn’t something to be toyed with.
Subdued Light for Baby
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that doctors recommend subdued lighting in rooms for newborn babies. Studies on infants kept in brightly lighted nursery rooms revealed evidence of damage to the blood vessels of the eyes, leading to vision defects. Though not discrediting the value of well-lighted intensive-care nurseries, the medical team expressed concern for children that have to spend weeks or months under such conditions. They suggest that bright light heightens the eyes’ sensitivity to oxygen, resulting in the damage to immature blood vessels.
Recent advances in freeze-drying techniques have been introduced to the world of commercial taxidermy. This new process appeals to pet owners who, grieved over the loss of their pets, see it as an opportunity to preserve the dead animal. Describing the process, the Los Angeles Times reports that the animal is shampooed, disemboweled, dipped in insect repellent, and injected with preservatives. It is given artificial eyes and is posed by means of internal wires. After several days in a commercial freezer, it is transferred to a freeze-drying chamber to be completely dehydrated. This process may take from a few weeks to six months. The cost can vary from $400 to $1,000, depending upon the size of the dog or the cat.
Teaching to Read
A new method of teaching children to read, one skill at a time, has produced mixed results in the area of reading. For example, the pupil is taught consonants, tested, retaught and retested until he is proficient, before going on to vowels and plurals. According to The New York Times, results have been poor when no actual reading is done during the process. One U.S. university professor who advocated the new method admitted: “The children got good in learning these [skills], but they weren’t reading.” In one district where this method was used exclusively, only a third of high school graduates could read at a 12th-grade level. So school districts are now combining the new method with a normal reading program.
Price of Inflation
Bolivia is reported to be the poorest nation in South America. Inflation within the country has left the peso practically worthless. Prices are skyrocketing at an annual rate of 10,000 percent! One visitor claims the cost of a hamburger is one million pesos, while a night spent at a good hotel may cost 35 million pesos. Parade Magazine reports that Bolivia imported $23 million worth of peso bills in 1984, making them the country’s third-largest import, outranked only by mining equipment and food. It is not uncommon for Bolivians to carry pesos in sacks or serapes slung on their backs when they go shopping. Inflation has forced the government to begin distributing currency in denominations of five million pesos.
Who Robs Banks?
A police investigator in Munich, Germany, conducted an inquiry into the motive and background of bank robbers. He came to the conclusion that robbing banks is in no way a crime committed only by persons with a previous criminal history. Rather, it has become practically “anybody’s crime.” “The investigation revealed that today’s bank robbers come from all social, occupational, and intelligence levels,” reports the Bremer Nachrichten. “You find the factory owner as well as the military officer, the stockbroker and the craftsman; but also the bank employee himself, yes, even the police officer.” The most common motives are indebtedness, a passion for gambling, and the desire for “a carefree life-style.”
New Light on Youth Suicide
During the past 20 years, youth suicides have more than tripled in the United States. A three-year study at the University of Louisville (Kentucky) has found that the generally accepted idea that those who speak of suicide do not commit it is not true. In studying 24 suicides of youths aged 12 to 19, it was noted that 17 had spoken beforehand of their desire to die, 11 had threatened to commit suicide, and 8 had tried to do so. “Because of this data, we are much more sensitive if a teacher or parent calls and says a kid wishes he were dead,” said Dr. Mohammad Shafii, who headed the research team. Explaining the rise in suicides, he cites “the increase in one-parent homes, the declining influence of the church as a support system,” and “more than anything else . . . a lack of human contact,” reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville.
Breakthrough for Astronomy
If you slowly rotate a liquid in a bowl, you will see a hollow forming on the top. Now researchers at the University of Arizona are using that principle to melt glass and form it into the parabolic mirrors used in astronomy. By means of a spinning oven that rotates from 8 to 15 times per minute, they have already produced a 2.61-foot (0.8-m) glass blank. “When cooled, the blank requires only a fraction of the grinding and polishing that is normally necessary,” reports Sky & Telescope magazine. Economy is another important factor. Only a small amount of raw material is lost during the operation. The spinning oven is “a major step toward building truly giant telescopes on Earth or in space,” says the report.