Watching the World
SUICIDES IN CHINA
Suicide has become the leading cause of abnormal death in China, and Chinese authorities are concerned. According to China Daily, “about 140,000 people are killing themselves” each year, with women making up approximately 98,000 of that number. Why do so many women take their lives? A major factor cited was the failure of husbands to meet their wives’ “psychological and emotional needs.” Researcher Shan Guangnai said: “Statistics show that half of the suicide women died because of family disputes and failures in marriages.” Another factor cited was industrialization, which, with its faster pace of life, has brought “conflict between the old and new social values and moral standards.” Guangnai recommends a warm, loving family life coupled with harmonious relations as an aid to suicide prevention.
The recently completed Mount Macdonald railway tunnel in the Canadian Rockies, 9.1 miles [14.6 km] long, is the longest tunnel in North America. It took two teams of 500 workers 54 months to complete. According to Ron Tanaka, the railway’s chief construction engineer, teams of workers started on each side of the mountain and met in the middle, only a foot [0.3 m] off target. The tunnel is part of a $500-million project that also includes a 1.1-mile [1.8 km] tunnel under Mount Shaughnessy, five major bridges, and a 4,032-foot [1,229 m] viaduct. The project was engineered to reduce grade through Beaver Valley from 2.2 percent to 1 percent, thereby eliminating the need to add pusher locomotives to westbound freight trains. In the past it took six 3,000-horsepower locomotives to push the freight trains over Rogers Pass into Beaver Valley.
In a last-ditch effort to thwart poachers, Namibia’s wildlife officials have begun sawing off the horns of rhino to make them valueless to poachers. Conservationists claim it is as painless as the clipping of one’s fingernails, as the horns are merely outgrowths of compressed hair and have no nerves. While a hornless rhino is defenseless against predators and other rhino, the desperate measure appears to be needed to halt the slaughter of Africa’s black rhino, an endangered species. In less than a decade, African black rhino have been reduced from 15,000 to 3,500, reported African Wildlife magazine. And in Namibia, where only about 100 rhino were thought to remain, at least 16 have fallen to poachers in the first five months of this year. Black rhino horns, prized for supposed medicinal qualities, currently sell on the international black market for as much as $50,000 a pair.
A NEW SOS
In use since the pioneer days of telecommunications, the Morse code SOS signal is in danger of extinction—at least as far as shipping is concerned. Beginning in 1993, ships will be equipped with a radio distress beacon that “sends a distress signal [via satellite] at the touch of a button,” reports the International Herald Tribune. Due to become compulsory worldwide after 1999, this new system will allow coast guards to read on their computer terminals the imperiled ship’s name and its exact position. However, Morse code still has its uses. “When the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 knocked out most electric power,” the paper notes, “amateur radio operators used Morse telegraphy to call for help. Morse code signals can get through because they require much less broadcasting power to transmit than voice messages, and are far more easily unscrambled if distorted in transmission.”
PAY FOR PRAYERS
A major worry of many older Japanese who have few or no relatives is that after their death, there will be no one to pray for them or care for their graves. Buddhist temples, however, are beginning to respond—for a price. A Tokyo temple offers, for as long as the temple stands, to bring out the remains of the deceased at all major festivals and offer prayers for the dead person. The fee is ¥500,000 ($3,500, U.S.). A graveyard in nearby Saitama Prefecture guarantees prayers and grave tending for 50 years at ¥700,000 ($4,800, U.S.). Applications are already coming in from individuals seeking the ‘pay for prayers’ service.
TO DRINK OR NOT
Does a “normal” daily intake of alcohol really pose a health threat? Yes, claims H. H. Kornhuber of the Hospital for Neurology at Ulm University, Federal Republic of Germany. Daily consumption of alcohol impairs the processing of fat by the liver and leads to obesity. Other side effects are a rise in pulse rate and blood pressure and an increased cholesterol level. Investigations show “clearly that the borderline—where a threat to health begins—does not lie between those who consume little alcohol and those who consume much but between persons of moderate alcohol consumption and those of none at all,” notes German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
In April 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion discharged radioactive particles over a large portion of the earth’s surface. Genetic deviations are now appearing in plants and animals in the contaminated zone around the plant, reports the International Herald Tribune. According to the Tribune, the Soviet newspaper Leninskoye Znamya says that unusually large pine trees are growing in the area, as well as poplar trees with leaves seven inches [18 cm] wide, about three times their usual size. In addition to more cases of radiation-induced cancer in humans, scientists now fear that because of the long half-life (up to 33 years) of some isotopes released in the accident, an increase in genetic disease, malformations, miscarriages, and premature births will be felt for generations to come.
Each year in the United States, an average of 8,176 toothpick-related injuries are reported, notes The New York Post. As an example, the paper cited the case of a 28-year-old man who was killed by one. He had sought treatment for fever, chills, and bleeding. Doctors performed emergency surgery and discovered a toothpick that had punctured an abdominal artery. The patient had swallowed the toothpick six months earlier and had forgotten about it. Swallowed toothpicks have caused deaths by suffocation and by puncture of the patient’s bowels, or colon. Doctors emphasize “the need for adequate and immediate treatment in the event of such an ingestion.”
Since the first Soviet satellite, Sputnik, was launched into space on October 4, 1957, a total of 19,287 man-made objects have been tracked in orbits, mainly around the earth. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) reported that as of June 30, 1988, there are still 7,184 remaining. The majority of these objects were debris from spent rockets. However, the British magazine Spaceflight News reports that while there are still 1,777 payloads orbiting in space, only 5 percent of them continue to operate.
When a recent Gallup poll surveyed U.S. college students, nearly 80 percent said that religion plays an important part in their lives, but 69 percent do not consider premarital sex to be wrong. According to The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, an editor of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which commissioned the survey, said: “We were disappointed to see that even though they believe in God, their faith doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on their personal lives and habits, their sexual attitudes and practices.”
The United States and the Soviet Union are in competition: Who can sell the most weapons to developing countries? American sales rose by 66 percent in 1988 to $9.2 thousand million, nearly matching the Soviet level of $9.9 thousand million—a 47-percent drop during the same period. Together, they account for nearly two thirds of all sales of arms to developing countries. France and China come next, both delivering about $3.1 thousand million worth of arms to developing countries last year. The Middle East has been the largest market. Two thirds of all weapons sold in the last four years were delivered there.