Watching the World
Bishops Resent Curbs
Roman Catholic bishops in the United States continue to struggle for greater freedom to interpret church teachings for American Catholics. In the latest round, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 205 to 59 to reject a proposed Vatican policy paper that would undermine their authority to act as a group. They resolved that “it should be replaced with another draft.” One bishop compared the Vatican proposal to “a used car that could not be fixed, regardless of how much money you pour into it.”
After almost 20 years, Chinese officials have publicly revealed that an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale shook southern Yunnan Province in 1970 and killed about ten thousand people. The information was revealed when they corrected the death count for an earthquake in that same area last November 6, which injured 4,015 people and left 300,000 homeless. The revised death toll for the 1988 quake stands at 730 people, down from 938.
A recent study found that kidney transplant recipients who did not receive blood transfusions prior to surgery had survival and organ function rates similar to those of kidney patients who did receive transfusions. Researchers at the University of Minnesota compared Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused blood transfusions for religious reasons, to a control group of non-Jehovah’s Witnesses who received kidneys along with transfusions. Their findings were published in the June 1988 issue of Transplantation.
While hitchhikers may travel cheaply in a monetary sense, there is a hidden cost they may not count on—their lives! According to German police, 57 hitchhikers, male and female, were murdered in the Federal Republic of Germany between 1980 and 1987. Another 40 “narrowly escaped a murder attempt,” comments the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Hitchhiking is a risky business.
One week’s television programming in France yielded a crop of 670 murders, 15 rapes, 27 tortures, and 20 scenes of sex. “Each day they [televiewers] witnessed more murders and aggressions than are committed in a city like Paris in a year,” reports the French weekly Le Point. What are the consequences of viewing such violence? One police officer commented: “When questioned, rapists are often surprised that rape is prohibited by law. In some ways television is opening the way to considering such things as everyday features of life.”
Computerized ‘Lord of Hades’
Statues of Enma, the Japanese deity who rules Hades and judges whether humans have been good or bad, are not frightening Japanese children into obedience the way they used to. Therefore, one priest in Tokyo plans to use computerization to make the Enma at Hojoin Temple more terrifying. The Enma, 11 1/2 feet [3.5 m] tall, will now be activated when a coin is inserted and one of 12 prayers is selected. His angry red face will suddenly light up, and he will thunder out such questions as, “Can you say that you have never told a lie? Have you never borne a nasty thought toward others . . . ?” The priest hopes Enma’s questions will motivate people to improve their personality.
Youths in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have taken up a deadly new sport: train surfing. Too poor for ocean surfing, they seek thrills by standing on top of speeding commuter trains. The stunt often amounts to suicide. As the electric-powered trains barrel along at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour [120 km/hr], surfers are often swept off or electrocuted on the power cables. In one 18-month period, some 200 were killed, with another 500 injured. A State prosecutor blames inflation and social problems for the youths’ indifference to the danger of their “sport.” Agrees a bereaved father: “Brazilian youth is suffering so much, they see no reason to live.”
The main causes of preventable deaths in Britain are tobacco and alcohol, says the chief medical officer for the British government, Sir Donald Acheson. His recently released report, On the State of the Public Health for the Year 1987, also calls attention to innocent victims of these two dangers—the unborn in the womb, nonsmokers who inhale other people’s smoke, and victims of drunk driving.
While many Third World countries are grappling with a population explosion, “Australia’s birth rate slipped 11 per cent below zero population growth last year,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald. What does that mean? It means that “Australia’s population would rapidly age and decline” were it not for immigration, notes the Herald. According to the report, statistics for the past 12 years have shown Australia’s birthrate to be well below the rate of replacement. The increasing trend among women to postpone childbearing so they can work longer for material assets is cited as contributing to the decline of the birthrate.
Energy-efficient homes are posing a major health problem. The reason? They trap indoor pollutants, says a Canadian building designer and environmental researcher. He claims that “cleansers, perfumes, air fresheners, disinfectants, polishes, waxes and glues can cause skin irritations,” reports The Toronto Star. Dr. William Chodirker, chief of immunology and allergy service at the University Hospital in London, Ontario, says that about 15 percent of the population suffer from allergic reactions to items inside their homes. He points to asthma as the most common medical problem triggered by household items. In airtight, energy-efficient homes, heating and cooling systems recirculate pollutants and intensify the problem.
Only seven countries in the world remain rabies-free, reports The Independent of London. Five are in the Northern Hemisphere (Britain, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Iceland, and mainland Norway) and two (Australia and New Zealand) are in the Southern Hemisphere. However, recent outbreaks of the disease have prompted Scandinavian authorities to put their counties above the Arctic Circle on full alert to prevent the disease from spreading further. Rabies is already endemic across the Arctic regions, including Greenland, Siberia, and Alaska. Although domestic animals and reindeer have apparently been unaffected thus far, red foxes, polar foxes, mink, and wolverines are victims of this advancing killer disease.
“The world’s worst locust plague” in a quarter century is making its way through northern Africa, damaging whatever crops are in its path, reports The Economist of England. Originating three years ago in Ethiopia, the locust outbreak is now threatening 65 countries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the plague will continue for another two years before it is brought under control. Because of its voracious appetite, a migrating desert locust is able to consume daily the equivalent of its own weight. Thus, a one-third-square-mile [1 sq km] section of a swarm, containing about 50 million locusts, “can devour as much food in a day as a village of 500 people will eat in a year,” says The Economist.