Watching the World
Church Blessing for Cuba
In Havana’s Vatican Embassy last February, papal emissary cardinal Eduardo Pironio shook hands and embraced the vice president of Cuba, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, as a token of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Cuban government. The Church’s tacit blessing of the government was given in exchange for new freedom for Catholic activity in Cuba. “This opens a new phase in the Vatican’s foreign policy toward Communist countries,” said Enrique Lopez Oliva, church history professor at the University of Havana, according to The Miami Herald.
Halley’s Comet on Camera
Scientists gathered at the Soviet Institute of Space Research had to wait more than nine minutes for the first pictures of the icy core of Halley’s comet to travel the 109 million miles (175 million km) back to earth. But when the image appeared on the screen, spontaneous applause burst out in the institute’s main viewing room. As the unmanned Soviet spacecraft Vega 1 swept by the comet at 47 miles (76 km) a second, it took 500 television “pictures” in three hours. The craft was as close as 5,500 miles (8,900 km) to the comet’s nucleus. A Hungarian physicist, one of the more than a hundred scientists assembled representing 12 countries, likened the feat of photographing the core to “seeing the Eiffel Tower in a Sahara sandstorm.”
Although China has imported several hundred thousand personal computers recently, an estimated 70 percent of them still stand idle. Why? Simply because there is no commonly accepted system, among some 400 systems that exist, for entering Chinese characters. Efforts to romanize the Chinese language and discard the 6,000 commonly used ideograms, as Chinese characters are called, have now been abandoned. Meantime, authorities have set a goal to get the population of over a billion people to speak the same tongue. No easy task, considering the scores of dialects spoken. Although Mandarin is China’s official language, many in the south (as well as in Hong Kong) speak Cantonese. There are also Shanghaiese, Fukienese, and the dialects of the country’s 56 minority peoples.
Children for Sale
An estimated ten thousand young girls and boys, 8 to 14 years of age, are selling themselves as prostitutes in Manila, says the German newsmagazine Stern. As reported in World Press Review, unemployment and poverty have driven more and more people to the cities, where many of the children end up involved in crime and prostitution. But this is happening in other places too. The Belgrade newspaper Politika estimates that ten thousand Yugoslavian children between the ages of 7 and 13 have been sold since 1975 to professional thieves in Italy. There they are trained to snatch bags, pick pockets, or break into houses and cars. If they do not bring in enough stolen goods, they are mistreated. If caught, under Italian law a criminal below the age of 14 cannot be prosecuted.
Out of Business
After 40 years of publication, the Japanese-language edition of Reader’s Digest will no longer be printed. The magazine, started in 1946, once boasted a circulation of over 1.4 million. After World War II the publication filled a need in Japan for reading material and served as a window to the outside world. But sales leveled off and then declined to an average of only 450,000 copies a month. Loss of circulation, high postal rates, and the way the company was operated were among the reasons cited for the failure.
A study by internist Dr. Douglas Model claims that if you are a smoker, that fact is written all over your face. He described a smoker’s face as wrinkled, weary, and haggard looking. As reported in an Associated Press dispatch, “crow’s-feet at the corners of the eyes, or wrinkles radiating at right angles from the lips, or deep lines on the cheeks and lower jaw” are characteristics of “smoker’s face,” along with a gaunt or leathery appearance and “a slightly gray, orange, purple or red complexion.” Model believes that it is caused by “a toxic process” due to a diminished circulation of blood to the skin. Of the volunteers in the study, “smoker’s face” was present in 19 of the 41 currently smoking. Yet none of 38 nonsmokers had it. His study was reported in the British Medical Journal.
Lessons in the Ruins
Mexican engineers contend that the disastrous earthquake that shook Mexico City last September “should have leveled practically every building” in the city’s downtown area, reports Science News. Although Mexico City maintained “one of the world’s most stringent building codes” at the time of the quake, one authority claims the intensity of the earthquake, in certain areas, was greater than what the buildings were designed to handle. The primary problem was the way the “soft clay soil behaved” during the quake. Greater ground movement was transmitted by the “weak” soil than what engineers and planners had previously expected. Additionally, the shaking extended for a longer period of time than what the buildings were designed to withstand. Highlighting the unpredictability of quakes and their effects in spite of the best available knowledge, one earthquake engineer stated: “It demonstrates that if one doesn’t take care, any material is vulnerable in an earthquake.”
In the 1920’s some two dozen Egyptologists died shortly after they entered Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb. Were they victims of a curse, as alleged? French medical doctor Caroline Stenger-Philipp found a possible explanation for the mysterious casualties, reports the International Herald Tribune. Clues pointed to organic substances left in the tomb, such as fruit and vegetables, as the culprits. During the centuries these items—originally intended to feed the Pharaoh during his “trip to eternity”—decayed, produced mold, and formed organic dust particles with high allergenic potency. The scientists fell victim to an allergic shock reaction after breathing the particles, the French doctor claimed.
Respect for Fathers
Japanese fathers have long been accused of being married to their jobs and having little time for their families. Has this caused children to lose all respect for their fathers? The Tokyo newspaper Asahi Shimbun ran the headline “Fathers Are Doing Much Better Than We Thought,” with the subheading “One Out of Two Children Say They ‘Can Respect’ [Their Fathers].” The survey of 7th- through 12th-grade students revealed that 46.8 percent of the students felt at ease when talking to their fathers. However, matters can still be improved, as 95.3 percent felt that way when talking to friends of the same sex. Only 17 percent said they would approach their fathers with their troubles.
Computer Game “Fever”
There are some 20 million electronic game players in Japan, and most of them are school-age children, teachers were told at a recent conference in Osaka. As reported in the Asahi Evening News, “the electronic game phenomenon has resulted in less active students who prefer to stay indoors and play with the television or computer.” One classroom survey of 38 fourth-grade students in a Wakayama elementary school revealed that 34 of them played such games every day. Of these, 8 played four hours a day, while 19 averaged an hour or less of computer play daily.
“Earthworm fluid” has long been considered useful by traditional Chinese doctors in the treatment of hemorrhoids, kidney failure, ulcers, fever, asthma, inflammation, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Now, however, Ji Heli, a chemistry teacher at the Shanghai Light Industry College, has discovered a method of brewing the body fluids of earthworms “without the traditional stench and sediment,” reports New Scientist. Factory directors and businessmen are enthused over this new process. Why? Because of its prospects for expanding China’s earthworm-breeding industry. “Earthworm liquid is also a nutritious drink,” says Ji Heli, “which can be mixed in alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and even put in cakes.”
Two of Jehovah’s Witnesses stood at the door of Mr. Gunter R.’s apartment in Frankfurt wanting to talk to him about the Bible. “He felt irritated, dismissed them politely but firmly, and closed the door,” according to the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau. However, five minutes later they were once more standing at his door. This time they did not come to proclaim good news from the Bible but bad news of the nasty smell of gas from the apartment above. The two Witnesses and Gunter rushed upstairs. Just as Gunter was about to press the doorbell, the Witnesses “managed to stop him.” Later, firemen forced the apartment open and discovered a gas-main leak. “One thing is for sure; ringing the bell would have caused an explosion,” says the newspaper, adding: “Some ‘proclamations’ are clearly of value.”
Cylinder printing has taken a “giant” step forward with the new Japanese Full-Colour Jumbo Facsimile press. Weighing 14 tons, it is designed to handle sheets of paper 52 by 23 feet (16 by 7 m). Billboards that formerly took up to two weeks to complete manually can now be turned out in an hour and a half. How does it do it? Pictures or drawings, the originals perhaps as small as a page from a magazine, are optically scanned and stored as a digital code in a computer memory. The operator can superimpose text, change the balance of color, and make other alterations. Then four spray jets take over as the 8-foot-diameter (2.5 m) drum starts to rotate. Asiaweek reports that wall coverings and hangings can also be printed by this new method.