Watching the World
Women Are Disadvantaged
“Poor rural women are the most deprived people in the world,” states the United Nations publication, UN Chronicle. “They are sicker and more illiterate than men and lack the opportunities males have to better themselves.” Two major studies on world poverty in 1990 by two international development agencies, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank, have reached that bleak conclusion. “About half a million women, 99 per cent of them in the developing world, die in childbirth each year,” reports the UN Chronicle.
“We human beings have become a danger to ourselves. We must act in time.” Those ominous words form part of an environmental pledge taken by university presidents from 22 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. They pledged to have their schools teach more about environmental issues than in the past and to increase school resources devoted to research on the environment. The officials, who met at a conference in Talloires, France, this past October, also declared common goals “for an environmentally sustainable future.”
Drought necessitated that the “miracle water” from the world-famous pool at Lourdes in France be rationed, causing alarm among visitors in search of miraculous cures. Religious authorities allowed pilgrims only half a pint [1/4 L] each of the water from the spring, which, according to tradition, welled up in 1858 after an apparition of the Madonna. All bottles in excess were confiscated, and the water poured back into the pool. “In all the churches in France, they are praying to the Virgin of the Rain, in vain. But in any case, she couldn’t make it rain only on Lourdes,” observed the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The increasing popularity of dogs as household pets has become a cause for concern among city and health authorities in France. The French weekly magazine L’Express reports that each day 20 tons of dog droppings are picked up from the streets and sidewalks of Paris at a cost of more than 400 francs ($70, U.S.) per kilo. But in addition to the cost and nuisance, a more serious factor has come to light. Dog waste is the source of a disease caused by the parasite Toxocara canis. Half the children’s play areas and sandboxes of Paris were found to be contaminated with the highly resistant microscopic eggs of the parasite, which enter homes on the soles of shoes and on the paws of household pets. Its presence in man has been largely underestimated. Fatigue, abdominal pain, allergies, heart and arterial problems are early symptoms of the disease.
Membership rolls of the major Protestant denominations are continuing in their downward trend in the United States, according to the 1990 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Although the yearbook, published by the National Council of Churches, shows that the losses are smaller than 1 percent in most cases, they have been constant since the mid-1960’s. The Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. have all experienced losses. However, the report listed Jehovah’s Witnesses as one of the religions that has shown an increase in numbers. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States had a 3-percent increase in 1989 and a 4-percent gain for 1990.
Bad News for Smokers
On September 25, 1990, the Centers for Disease Control in the United States released the report “The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1990.” Some principal conclusions reached are: “1) Smoking cessation has major and immediate health benefits for persons of all ages . . . ; 2) former smokers live longer than continuing smokers; 3) smoking cessation decreases the risk for lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease.”
Tobacco Sale to Soviets
Recently in the Soviet Union, an angry crowd of smokers were on the verge of rioting because of a shortage of cigarettes in that country. Two United States companies pledged to ease the shortage. They plan to sell more than a month’s supply to the Soviets, 34 thousand million cigarettes. Interestingly, spokesmen for the American companies said that the cigarettes would lack the surgeon general’s health warning about cancer and other diseases associated with tobacco use.
Toxic Toad-Slime Licking
Dr. Alan Emery of the Canadian Museum of Nature told The Globe and Mail that there has been a population explosion among cane toads all over the world in the last ten years. The cane toad, or Bufo marinus, “secretes a toxic milky white liquid that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency calls bufotenine.” In Queensland, Australia, the toad has become such a plague that the government has “classified toad slime as an illegal substance under its Drug Misuse Act.” The slime secreted by the cane toad is toxic and “causes hallucinations, severe vomiting and seizures.” The Globe reported that two Canadians who licked their fingers after touching a pet toad became violently ill and had to be hospitalized.
Sleep for the Brain
Why do we need sleep? At a recent conference in Strasbourg, France, a controversial theory was presented. Sleep was said to be of less benefit to the body than to the brain, which recovers from the efforts of the day through sleep. Tests indicate that whereas “human bodily functions continue practically unimpaired even after several days without sleep,” reports Die Zeit, “the brain is different.” In test cases, people suffered from “lack of attention and concentration, impaired memory, a slowing down of the thought process, and orientation problems” when deprived of sleep.
Rebuilding of Babylon Stalled
Ancient Babylon, the famed city of King Nebuchadnezzar with its hanging gardens, collapsed under the onslaught of conquerors more than 2,500 years ago. A much smaller Babylon survived until about the fourth century C.E., when it became a complete ruin. Modern-day Iraq recently planned to rebuild the former citadel of imperial power to its grandeur of old. (See Awake! of March 8, 1988, page 30.) However, recent political events in the Middle East have put a restraint on such construction plans, reports The New York Times. Isaiah 13:19, 20 sets forth an interesting prophecy on Babylon’s doom, stating that “she will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation.”
German Church Tax
In the Federal Republic of Germany, churches get financial support by means of a church tax, which employers deduct from wages. One employer refused to remit church tax deducted from his employees’ wages. Why? In 1664 his ancestors were accused of witchcraft and were tortured and burned to death, and he holds the church responsible. He was taken to court, which found his action unjustified. “Otherwise,” reports the magazine Polizei, “anyone whose ancestors suffered unjustly . . . could refuse by reason of conscience to perform a duty placed upon him” by the State.
Slow Music and Drinking
Research conducted in bars that play country and western music found that “as the music slows down, the drinking picks up,” reports the journal Psychology Today. The study was conducted over a period of two years and included 2,000 groups of drinkers. James Schaefer, a researcher on the project, said that “hard drinkers prefer listening to slower paced, wailing, lonesome, self-pitying music.” As Schaefer points out: “The patrons may often be living the life of the songs they want played.”