Watching the World
“Nation of the Dead”
In an article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), those suffering “man-made death” from war, political violence, and related privations are likened to “the nation of the dead.” This so-called nation’s population now stands “around one hundred million,” but “real growth began in 1914.” If “war” is an armed conflict including one or more governments and causing a thousand or more deaths annually, then, the article notes, “there have been 471 wars since about 1700, resulting in at least 101.6 million deaths. More than 90% of those deaths have occurred in the 20th century.”
Historically, civilians have accounted for about 50 percent of war-related deaths. But by the 1970’s, that grew to 73 percent, and in the 1980’s, it stands at 85 percent. Man-made death results from nationalism, which produces “international and civil anarchy” under “the modern system of nation-states,” observed the article. Nationalism also causes nations to “rationalize killing their own citizens,” claiming that they threaten the “sovereignty of the nation.” The JAMA article compared the scale of man-made death with “the scale of death in former times from epidemic disease” and called it “the most terrible scourge of the 20th century.”
A car driver can become aggressive if he is listening to music that has recognizable lyrics, claims a music researcher in West Berlin. “The reason is that both parts of the brain (the left side records speech, the right side music) are being taxed simultaneously,” explains the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Since instrumental music has no lyrics, and songs in a foreign language are not understood by most drivers, such music would be preferable. The study reveals, however, that the volume of the music also influences driving habits: The louder it is, the greater the strain on the driver.
‘Beating Swords Into Swords’
“The INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces),” signed by the United States and the Soviet Union last year, “does not reduce the number of nuclear bombs each nation has in its arsenal by even one” says Parade Magazine. Although the treaty calls for destruction of 2,612 missiles, each side “is allowed first to remove the nuclear warheads from those missiles and transfer them to new weapons systems . . . or to adapt and rework them into artillery projectiles or bombs of varied types.” Doing so is comparable to “beating swords back into swords” and means that “no long-term progress will have been made in reversing the arms race,” comments Britain’s Manchester Guardian Weekly. And leaving fissionable material available for a possible “new generation of weapons” is “precisely the opposite of what we hope to achieve through an arms-reduction treaty.”
Church Laws Changed
“The Church of God, America’s oldest Pentecostal denomination, has decided that wearing jewelry, using cosmetics and even going to movies can be compatible with personal holiness,” says The Christian Century. This is a major change in the church’s moral code, formulated in 1911, which also banned short hair on women and swimming with persons of the opposite sex who were not family members. Why the change? Because as the church expanded abroad, says the report, the “restrictions on appearance and behavior have not been understood in urban environments and foreign cultures.” And in their 9,200-member church in Atlanta, “on Friday nights the church invites born-again teen-agers to listen to Christian rock bands in its auditoriums.”
With the price of aluminum having more than tripled since 1986, robbers are literally “dismantling America’s highways,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Anxious to cash in on the inflated prices, last year thieves stole about $200,000 worth of material from California’s highways. Highway signs and guardrails made of aluminum are among the items taken to be sold as scrap at 55 cents a pound. Air Force bomber parts, farming irrigation pipes, and aluminum siding taken from vacant homes, as well as scaffolding from construction sites, have also been reported stolen. The Journal reports that a spokesman for an Illinois transportation department said: “If crews don’t get to an accident scene fast after somebody’s knocked down a light pole, [the light poles] disappear, too.”
How do you track a swarm of African “killer” bees? You bug them. That is what entomologists are planning to do with the aggressive bees migrating northward from Mexico toward the United States. Designed by American engineers, a microprocessor device small enough to be attached to the back of a bee will enable scientists to “monitor a bee’s movements from a distance of one to two kilometres,” reports New Scientist. A scanning receiver monitored by a team of scientists will pick up the infrared signals sent by the tiny chip. This will alert them to the bees’ progress and enable them to warn populations directly in the bees’ path. The final version of the chip is expected to weigh about 0.0012 ounce [35 mg]—about half of what a typical worker honeybee is able to carry.
Following 11 years of research at a cost of $4 million, scientists at the University of Western Australia have developed a fully automated method of shearing sheep, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The experimental robot is capable of shearing a sheep in the same time as it takes a fully trained shearer—about four minutes. “It is made up of a single shearing arm, equipped with sensors to read the contours of each sheep,” notes the Herald. The animal “is held firmly by a cradle, which moves it into position during shearing.” Sheepshearing is said to be such rigorous work that it requires a steadily working shearer to be “as fit as an Olympic athlete.” With the model for commercial use already in development, the robots could be on the market by 1992 at a cost of A$500,000 ($400,000, U.S.) per unit. A spokesman for the Australian Worker’s Union said that human shearers remain “very skeptical” that the robots will replace them.
After ten years of successful tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a pill that can dissolve most gallstones, reports the New York Post. In tests the drug, generically named ursodiol, was claimed to be successful in treating “60 to 70 percent of patients with cholesterol gallstones,” with no side effects. Treatment may require the use of the drug up to 12 months at a cost of $1,400. By comparison, the Post notes that “a gallstone operation can cost $10,000.”
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has become the center of an annual spectacle—the blessing of animals. Among the animals blessed by Episcopal bishop Paul Moore were a turkey, an eagle, a python, a fish, a llama, a raccoon, a tortoise, an 8,000-pound [3,600 kg] elephant. He even blessed ten billion algae in a flask! The custom is founded on the story of “saint” Francis, who, legend says, preached to birds. Each year hundreds of pet owners throughout the city bring their animals to the cathedral for a special blessing.
Number Eight in Space
Israel’s successful launch of its first space satellite has made it the eighth country with such capability (the others are the United States, the Soviet Union, France, China, Japan, India, and Britain). This Israeli satellite, called Ofek-1, is said to be designed for collecting scientific data on the earth’s magnetic field and space conditions.