Watching the World
In 1990 the United States became the biggest supplier of armaments to developing nations, surpassing the Soviet Union for the first time since 1983. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the United States is also the largest supplier of weapons to the Middle East, where over half of all arms purchased in the last eight years have gone. In the period from 1983 to 1990, developing nations purchased $301.7 billion worth of arms. Of the $41.3 billion worth bought last year from all suppliers, the United States sold a record $18.5 billion—more than twice what it sold in 1989—while Soviet arms transfers dropped to $12.1 billion. The study predicted a continued demand for U.S.-made weapons after their successful performance in the Persian Gulf war. China and France are the largest sellers of weapons after the United States and the Soviet Union.
Countries Beg: Stop Arms Traffic
“Latin American and Caribbean governments are urging the United States to stop the [arms] traffic, which in the last decade has become so extensive and well-organized that gun-smuggling groups can now offer the most powerful weapons on the market to clients anywhere in the world,” states The New York Times. The weapons have been used in coup attempts, to disrupt elections, to assassinate candidates, and in kidnappings. The money made from illegal gun sales is said to be second only to profits from trafficking in narcotics. “We have the reputation as being the No. 1 supplier of weapons in this hemisphere, and that reputation is probably well deserved,” says Stephen E. Higgins, director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “My experience has been that most of the countries we deal with have much more stringent controls on firearms than the United States does.”
Incentive to Quit Smoking
“Lung cancer, heart attack, stroke. For some people who seek out risky activities, the deadly dangers of smoking actually increase the cigarette’s allure, research has shown,” notes Science News. “But two new reports focusing on certain nonlethal effects of smoking may provide even these daredevils with powerful incentives to kick the nicotine habit.” The first points out that one third of all women suffering from the embarrassing problem of urinary incontinence may be able to trace their problem to a current or past smoking habit. The second study found that both men and women smokers are more prone to facial wrinkling and that premature skin wrinkling increased with the duration of the habit and the number of cigarettes consumed. Heavy smokers were almost five times more likely to have excessive skin wrinkling than their nonsmoking counterparts. “For many smokers, particularly the young, evidence that smoking causes conditions like wrinkles, bad breath or yellow teeth is much more compelling than the evidence that smoking kills,” says Thomas E. Kottke of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A.
The London weekly The European conducted a survey in six European countries to try to establish what is most important in people’s lives. “Two concepts, the family and the rights of man, are in the top three of each of the six countries,” reports the newspaper. “Also scoring well almost everywhere are freedom and equality.” Although Europeans love their families, they “are not so keen on marriage” and are “less attached to marriage the younger they are.” Those surveyed care about work, are scared of becoming unemployed, but at the same time, place money low on their list of priorities. A “striking feature,” notes the paper, is that of “the values Europeans hold most dear,” religion comes out at the bottom.
To Kill or Not to Kill
‘Killing can be Christian,’ claims Roman Catholic cardinal Giacomo Biffi. In a recent audience with Italian conscientious objectors, he said: “You can be a Christian, kill, [and] make war if that serves to save other lives,” as reported by the Madrid newspaper El País. While he is a staunch opponent of abortion, he asserted that “peace and nonviolence are not absolute values” or even “Christian values.” The prelate told his astonished audience that conscientious objection is really “meaningless” because peace “is an unworldly prospect that it would be Utopian to expect on this earth.”
Non-Jews Immigrate to Israel
“We’re filling Israel with non-Jews,” complains Israel’s immigration minister, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz. He estimates that 35 percent of the 186,000 immigrants from the Soviet Union last year, and many of the more than 300,000 expected this year, are in fact Gentiles, which would make the Jewish State less Jewish. On a recent visit to Moscow, the rabbi was shocked when he saw a number of people wearing Christian crosses while applying to immigrate to Israel. According to Interior Minister Arye Deri, many Gentiles were using their ability to immigrate to Israel (citizenship is offered to relatives of Jews, and Soviet immigrants have a high rate of mixed marriages) to escape the economic problems in the U.S.S.R. and to benefit from the $30,000 that Israel will eventually spend to resettle each Soviet immigrant. When the subsidy runs out, he predicts, they will leave. “Even bona fide Soviet Jews arriving in Israel are not all that devout,” says Newsweek. “Most—72 percent, according to one poll—consider themselves secular and are unapologetic about it.”
Earth View Obscured
Astronauts circling the globe on the space shuttle Atlantis in August reported a thick haze around the earth that obscured views from space. They speculated that it was caused both by ash from the recent volcanic eruptions in the Philippines and Japan and by the thick smoke from the burning oil wells in Kuwait. The astronauts said that there was a distinct difference in the earth’s atmosphere compared with previous flights. As he looked down from space on Kuwait’s oil fires, flight commander Colonel John E. Blaha said: “This is a really sad scene.”
New Species Found
“Kathryn Fuller, president of the World Wildlife Fund, looked no farther than her Washington, D.C., office and found pale yellow ants that proved to be new to science,” says National Geographic magazine. The ants, attracted to her desk by crumbs from her lunch, were traced back to a potted plant. Specimens were given to ant authority Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, who found that they belong to a genus called Pheidole, and he plans to name the new species in her honor. “If you can find a new species in a Washington office,” says Fuller, “the number of species out there in nature waiting to be discovered must be truly extraordinary.”
On the other end of the scale, a new species of whale has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean off Peru—the first in 28 years. It is the smallest member of the group called beaked whales. An adult male measures about 12 feet [4 m]. It has been seen so rarely that it took scientists 15 years to find enough specimens to confirm the new species, now called Mesoplodon peruvianus. The whale apparently feeds on squid. “Just how a type of whale, even a relatively small one, could escape notice for so long is a mystery,” notes The New York Times.
Aramaic Dying Out
Aramaic is evidently one of the languages spoken by Jesus Christ while he was on earth 2,000 years ago. Now the “Lord’s tongue” is dying out, reports the newsmagazine Der Spiegel of Hamburg, Germany. Although still spoken by people in a few remote mountain villages in Syria, it is slowly being overtaken by Arabic as their youths become educated and enter military service. No written form of Aramaic has existed for centuries. To offset this, Archbishop François Abu Mukh of Damascus, who hails from one of the villages, is trying to establish a written form of the language and is organizing Aramaic classes for the villagers.
“Brazil annually throws away US$596,146,869.” This is the value of 32.8 million tons of garbage, according to João Tinoco Pereira Neto, coordinator of the Center of Biological Treatment of Organic Residues of the Federal University of Viçosa, Minas Gerais. He estimates that ‘2,200 million tons of paper, plastic, glass, and metals, besides considerable amounts of clothes, rubber, leather, and lumber could be recovered.’ And recycling garbage could provide “15 million tons of organic fertilizers,” reducing the high cost of chemical fertilizers. Yet, Professor Pereira is quoted as saying to the Jornal da Tarde: “It is frustrating to know that various benefits could be obtained by adopting recycling of garbage and conclude that this is not seen as a vital public service.”