Watching the World
The Vatican banned Charles E. Curran, a 52-year-old priest and leading American theologian, from teaching Roman Catholic theology at Catholic University of America in Washington. The censure resulted from Curran’s repeated challenge of the church’s absolute prohibition of artificial birth control, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, and divorce. Curran contended that under special circumstances these acts can be morally justified. (According to a public opinion poll taken in 1985, the majority of U.S. Catholics agree with Curran’s view of morality.) This action—the first on strictly moral issues in more than 20 years—is seen as a modern precedent for the church’s defense of its claim of infallibility on moral teachings. Some Vatican officials believe that this censure is the Vatican’s way to eliminate dissent among U.S. Catholics on issues of church authority and sexual morality.
AIDS and Transplants
At least two organs with hidden AIDS contamination were transplanted to other people, said officials at a Greensboro, North Carolina, hospital. The organs containing AIDS antibodies were taken from a brain-dead accident victim who had received massive amounts of transfused blood. Initial blood tests of the victim failed to reveal that the blood was infected. It appears that the new blood masked the AIDS antibodies. Although transplanted organs have not been found to transmit AIDS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns that organs from people with AIDS are “considered as potentially infectious” and should not be used for transplants.
Coffee or Tea?
Because of natural and man-made disasters, coffee-producing countries have seen a drastic decrease in coffee production during the past year. An estimated 30 million bags of coffee were produced during the 1984-85 period, reports The Times of London, whereas production may be only 16 million bags during 1985-86. As a result, the price of raw coffee has almost doubled—an increase inevitably passed on to the consumer. Are Britons alarmed by rising coffee prices? Apparently not. The Guardian reports an increase again in tea consumption among the British. About 80 percent of the nation’s population are tea drinkers. Britons drink an average of four cups a day—more tea than is drunk by “the rest of Western Europe and the United States put together.” The cost? As little as a penny (about 1 1/2 cents U.S.) a cup, plus the cost of milk and sugar.
Beginning officially on January 1, 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will become the fourth largest Protestant church in the United States, with 5.3 million members. After 20 years of negotiations, three separate Lutheran bodies voted overwhelmingly to merge into one new denomination. Bishops of the merging bodies hope that the new church will have greater influence with government officials on social issues and a more coherent voice in ecumenical contacts with other churches, and that it will attract more blacks, Hispanics, and Asians to the new church.
Youth Informs On Parents
A 13-year-old California girl who informed on her drug-using parents last August has become a celebrity. Hollywood movie producers see the potential for a box-office hit in the dramatic twist of a child’s informing the police about her parents’ illegal drug use. “At least a dozen movie production companies are actively seeking the rights to her story,” reports The New York Times. She is said to have turned over to the police a bag filled with marijuana, pills, and cocaine after unsuccessfully pleading with her parents to stop using drugs.
Nurses Still Smoking
Despite increasing cases of lung cancer and irrefutable evidence of the link of the disease to tobacco use, large numbers of nurses are taking up cigarette smoking, claims Dr. Craig Stotts at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. His research found that fewer nurses have given up smoking than have members of other groups of health professionals and that nurses have a higher rate of smoking than the American public as a whole. Why? Reasons nurses give for not giving up smoking are stress, frustration, and lack of willpower. “If we had not had cigarettes,” said Stotts, “lung cancer would be one of the rarest diseases around.”
Newly released U.S. government documents reveal that one of the most powerful hydrogen bombs ever made—42,000 pounds (19,000 kg)—dropped accidentally from a U.S. bomber near the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 29 years ago. There was no nuclear blast and no one was injured, although the nonnuclear explosives in the bomb did detonate upon impact, creating a crater 12 feet (3.7 m) deep by 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “It is possibly the most powerful bomb we ever made,” said a nuclear weapons specialist. Researchers believe that the bomb’s potential nuclear force was more than ten megatons, or ten million tons of TNT, over 600 times the destructive power of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
One of several species of birds related to the spoonbills, the colorful Japanese ibis, is threatened by extinction. In 1977 there were eight crested ibis in Japan. By 1981 only six of these beautiful birds were left. In an effort to avoid extinction and encourage breeding, the Japanese Environment Agency captured the remaining wild birds and placed them in a preservation center on the birds’ native island of Sadogashima, Japan. By 1983, just one male and two females were still alive. Since the birds were not producing, China loaned one of their 18 Japanese ibis, a male, to Japan. However, to date, the breeding effort has proved unsuccessful. With the recent death of one of the two remaining females, officials of the Environment Agency and the Toki Preservation Center are considering artificial insemination as a last hope to preserve the Japanese species.
Right Seeds for Africa?
The Green Revolution of the 1960’s introduced seed varieties that have brought bumper harvests in many countries. Why have the same seeds not reduced hunger in Africa? “The Green Revolution did not help Third World Southern Africa,” states Dr. H. Garnett, head of the Department of Microbiology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. New varieties of seed depend on farming techniques that are too costly for most Africans. In addition, Africa’s climate and soil often differ from lands where the seeds were developed. “One has to be careful in introducing varieties developed in Europe or the USA,” explained Garnett. “Some kinds of high yielding maize do not suit some African farmers as they require large amounts of added chemicals and water to achieve maturation.”
Daylight saving time will start earlier in the United States next year. Instead of starting on the last Sunday in April, it will start on the first Sunday in April. It will still end on the last Sunday in October. It is estimated that the earlier start will prevent over 1,500 injuries and 20 deaths due to traffic accidents and save more than $28 million in accident costs.
New Car for Disabled
A car for the severely disabled has recently been developed in Japan. “The new car can be controlled by those with severe physical disabilities in all . . . four limbs, including people now [confined] to electric wheelchairs,” reports the Asahi Evening News. Remodeled from a regular passenger car, the driver uses a 12-inch-long (30 cm) stick instead of steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedals. Pushing the stick forward accelerates the car, backward applies the brakes, and sideways does the steering. Buttons set up near the stick take care of other operations such as lights, wipers, and backing up. Remodeling one car costs about 900,000 yen ($5,800, U.S.).
An ancient boat found on the bottom of the Sea of Galilee when drought caused the water level to recede is fast becoming a religious relic. Archaeologists have dated it from about the time of Christ and say that the wooden boat has survived because of being covered by a layer of oxygen-free silt that supported little bacterial activity. As reported in Discover magazine, the boat was encased in polyurethane and brought to shore, where it will be embalmed by means of a synthetic wax. “The last thing in the world we want is for this to turn into a holy relic,” says archaeologist Shelly Wachsman of Israel’s Department of Antiquities. However, pilgrims have been flocking to see it, believing it to be the boat in which Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee soon after he miraculously fed 5,000 people. When some find they cannot touch the boat because of its frailty, they ask to touch Wachsman’s hands, since he touched the boat!
Fighter aircraft have increased so much in speed and maneuverability in recent years that humans have become the limiting factor in the technology. World War I planes had from 10 to 15 gauges, instruments, and controls. That went up to 35 in a World War II fighter. Today’s planes have about 300. The pilot must monitor and interpret all the information and make split-second decisions while in a dangerous environment. Additionally, the planes can perform high-speed maneuvers that put tremendous strain on the pilot. In regard to one tight turn, The Wall Street Journal said: “At best, such a maneuver will pop blood vessels in his arms, cause temporary blindness, slam his head into his chest, drain blood from his brain and make him feel as though he weighs nine times his normal weight. At worst, it can cause a blackout and a crash.” A number of pilots have lost their lives in this way.