Watching the World
Campaigning for Peace
In connection with the UN Year of Peace (1986), “a spectacular international celebration” is planned for the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, October 22. According to a brochure entitled “The Million Minutes of Peace,” this is to climax “a unique, worldwide people’s program” that is being held in 42 countries throughout the preceding month. Its sponsors, including the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, describe it as a “global initiative [for] the sole purpose of bringing together people from diverse ethnic, political and religious backgrounds in a program to espouse and support peace.” Archbishop Giovanni Cheli (Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN) has assured the organizers “of our collaboration and our prayers for peace,” and Mother Teresa has declared, “I shall pray much for the success of this event.” The celebration “will be followed by a thematic international presentation of Multi-Million Minutes of Peace to the Secretary General of the U.N. on United Nations Day, October 24, 1986.”
“Last Day” Coming?
Recently, two Nigerian scholars have tried to connect current world events with the end of the world. Femi Abbas, writing in his “Islam” column in the National Concord, quoted U.S. President Ronald Reagan as saying in 1983 that “Armageddon which we have all read about in the Bible will probably happen in our time.” Reagan’s statement, Abbas wrote, “is only a partial fulfilment of the omens of the Last Day,” which Abbas claims Muhammad foretold. Another scholar, M. A. Ajomo, professor of international law at the University of Lagos, cited in his lecture “International Peace and Security” recent earthquakes, wars, and diseases like AIDS as “signs of the end,” reports the New Nigerian.
China’s One-Child Policy
In an effort to curtail the rapid population growth, China instituted a one-child policy in 1979. Quotas were also devised for how many children each community could produce. According to Qian Xinzhong, director of the State Family Planning Commission, over half the population is now under 21 years of age. Couples who comply by having only one child receive more living space and higher pensions, along with free medical care and priority in school admissions and employment for their children later on. The policy, however, has sprouted some problems. With all the attention lavished on one child, the program has created children who are “indulgent, selfish, introverted, unconcerned, and unable to care for themselves,” says Dr. Yan Chun of the Beijing Children’s hospital. Many children have also become obese.
After analyzing the complete program of the two main German TV channels for one week, the Bavarian Ministry for Education noted “alarming trends.” Brutal scenes occurred on an average of one every eight minutes, and the programs between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.—those most watched by children—contained the highest level of aggression, noted the German researchers. The Bavarian government, in the Frankenpost newspaper, warned: “Parents and custodians are called upon to protect children from uncontrolled TV consumption and from brutal scenes on the screen. This is possible by carefully selecting programs beforehand, as well as by keeping an eye on afternoon and early evening TV movies.”
Women are the head of the house in 80 percent of all single-parent families in France, according to a survey reported in the Paris daily Le Monde. (A little over 6 percent of all French households are single-parent families.) The survey of single-parent families showed that “some women have divorced on the pretext of ‘liberation’ only to fall into greater material and emotional dependency, this time as regards their children.”
Most Widely Abused Drugs
Australian health authorities name alcohol and tobacco as the most widely abused drugs in Australia. Since both of these can be purchased legally, they are termed “licit” drugs in contrast with the wide range of illicit drugs, from heroin to LSD. These licit drugs are the hidden killers, reports The Australian. Each year in Australia they contribute to the death of about 30 times more people than those who die from the effects of all other drugs combined. “The problems caused by illicit drugs are peanuts compared with the enormous problems we are experiencing with alcohol addiction,” admits the manager of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
Guns—Unsafe in Home
“People may actually be increasing, not decreasing, their risk of violent death by having a gun in the home,” notes Dr. Arthur Kellerman in a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Research revealed that for each gunshot slaying for self-protection in a gun-owning home, there were 43 suicides, homicides, or accidental deaths by firearms. The victims were 12 times more often found to be friends or acquaintances than strangers. Even when suicides were excluded from statistics, deaths were 18 times more often among household members than strangers because of guns in the home. In view of such findings, Dr. Kellerman cautions: “The advisability of keeping firearms in the home for protection must be questioned.”
Rhino Population Fading
Black rhino, once widespread throughout most of equatorial Africa, are quickly disappearing. In 1969 zoologist A. K. K. Hillman reported 15,000 black rhino in Kenya alone. Today, there are only 9,000 left in all of Africa. What spurs the killing? Vanity and false beliefs. “Over 50% of rhino horn goes to North Yemen to be made into dagger handles,” writes Lucy Vigne in Earthscan Bulletin. Yemeni men will pay $6,000 (U.S.) for a dagger with a rhino handle. “The rest goes to Eastern Asia for use in medicines.” Powdered rhino horn is considered an aphrodisiac and can command $450 an ounce.
Yearning for Peace
What would the Swiss most like to see for mankind in general in 1986? Demoscope, a Swiss polling institute, interviewed a representative group of 517 citizens and found that 49 percent want to see peace worldwide and to see wars and trouble spots disappear, reports the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung. For themselves, the desire for a happy family life was of prime importance to 37 percent. Second, they hoped to live in peace with neighbors and environment. For the young, though, a career and success were checked off as most important.
Exercise and Aging
Why do most older people have a slower reaction time than younger people? A research team at The University of Texas at Austin believes that this is due to age-produced changes in brain chemistry. In rat studies, the researchers discovered that rats that exercise daily maintain faster reaction times as they age, compared to rats that do not exercise. “Exercise will not make an older person any younger,” says Dr. Richard E. Wilcox. “But because of its effect on brain chemistry, exercise may have a stronger positive influence on reaction times than we previously thought was possible.”
Drugs and Crime
Police authorities now have “hard evidence” that “drugs are the single greatest source of crime,” according to U.S.News & World Report. In a recent study by the Justice Department, it was determined that of all those arrested on criminal charges in Washington, D.C., and New York City, two thirds were found to have traces of illegal drugs in their systems—twice the level expected by the experts. According to the report, the drug preferred by most users was cocaine.
Federal statistics show that the rate of suicide among Canada’s native Indians exceeds those of all other racial and ethnic groups in the world, according to The Toronto Star. From 1978 to 1982 in Alberta, there were 146 Indians who committed suicide—a rate of 61 per 100,000 Indians, or nearly four times that of the province as a whole. Menno Boldt of the University of Lethbridge noted: “I have yet to see evidence of any racial group [whose suicide rates] are anywhere near what Indians experience.”
Save the Forests
As the International Year of the Forest came to a close last December (1985), the UN Chronicle reported: “Every year, more than 27 million acres (11 million hectares) of tropical forests, an area larger than Austria, are lost.” The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN warns that “if present rates of deforestation continue, much of the world’s tropical forests could be destroyed.” If this trend continues, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of earth’s plant and animal life could be wiped out by the year 2000 unless deforestation can be stopped and reversed.
‘Burning Their Last Straw’
Millions of people in the Third World have run out of firewood and are now using straw, crop residues, and animal dung as fuel. But by doing so, notes Earthscan, the London-based news and information service on development and environment issues, some may take their “last turn in a downhill ecological spiral.” Why? Farmers too poor to buy fertilizer are now burning the only fertilizer they get for free, manure, resulting in poorer crop yields. And in places already suffering from deforestation, using straw aggravates the problem of erosion. Comments Earthscan: ‘Poor farmers are burning their last straw.’
The First European Symposium on Suicidal Behavior, recently held in Munich, revealed that most of the 13,000 suicides registered each year in the Federal Republic of Germany are committed by men over 70 years of age. Professor H. J. Möller estimates that suicide attempts are 10 to 20 times the reported number, according to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Social isolation and inability to solve problems are risk factors in most suicides. The modern trend to accept the individual’s right to commit suicide alarms the psychiatrists.