Watching the World
A major rubber company in Yokohama, Japan, stopped producing a line of automobile tires because Muslims were offended by them. Muslims complained that the tread pattern resembled the Arabic word for “Allah.” Asahi Evening News said that the company has issued an apology for its lack of knowledge of Islam and explained that a computer designed the tread for maximum driving safety. No offense or blasphemy of Allah was meant. The company is recalling or replacing the tires in Islamic countries.
“New” Evangelization by Catholics
The Roman Catholic Church is putting new emphasis on evangelization, reports New York Newsday. Church officials are worried over the loss of large numbers of immigrant Catholics to other religious groups. Hence, Pope John Paul II has called for “the new evangelization” and has created an organization, Evangelization 2000, just for that purpose. “These strategies even include door-to-door evangelization, a method normally associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups,” reports Newsday.
Australia’s Expensive Crime
The total yearly cost of crime in Australia has been estimated at A$1,600 for every man, woman, and child in the country, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. The total annual cost is A$27 billion, which represents 2.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. How is this astonishing amount calculated? The Australian newspaper quotes figures from the institute’s report. Fraudulent insurance claims on motor vehicles are increasing, and the total cost of all types of fraud is now put as high as A$13 billion a year; the cost of nonfatal assaults is about A$300 million a year. The annual cost of law enforcement has reached A$2.5 billion, and the cost to keep just one prisoner in jail for one year has now risen to A$50,000.
“City of No Flies”
Residents of Beijing, China, have declared all-out war on houseflies, reports the International Herald Tribune. “Our goal is to create a city of no flies,” stated a senior health official. “But we won’t just kill flies. We want to create clean cities.” In a campaign to “mobilize the masses,” citizens posted banners and distributed two million pamphlets announcing the campaign. During a special “attack week” that followed, the city distributed about 15 tons of pesticides and 200,000 flyswatters. In another attack week in the following month, 1,000 teams of elderly people and young children warred against flies with 17,600 pounds [8,000 kg] of poison. In June some areas of Beijing seethed with a fly population as high as 33 per room. The goal is to bring the density level down to two flies per 100 rooms.
A European Community of the Poor?
With 18 percent of the world’s total revenue distributed among Europe’s 6 percent of the world’s population, the European Community would appear to be a haven of peace and prosperity. Yet, Le Monde Diplomatique, a Paris newspaper, reports that within the 12 nations of the European Community, there are now some 53 million persons living below the poverty level. In Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, the poor make up from 20 to 25 percent of the population, and their numbers are rapidly increasing in Great Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Worsening unemployment has become the biggest factor in the growing number of poor people. Among the 13 million unemployed within the Community, more than half are considered long-term unemployed.
Dark Side of United Church
“Most of us come from a rather naive assumption that such things as sex abuse would not occur in the church and would never be committed by clergy,” said United Church minister Sylvia Hamilton. However, Hamilton suggests that “it is a major problem.” According to Canada’s Toronto Star, sexual abuse “ranging from jokes to forced sexual activities—is as prevalent, if not more prevalent, in the church as in society as a whole.” Peter Lougheed, a United Church task-group member, confessed that “the church is a less safe place for the parishioner and for women than the secular workplace.” The Star report adds: “After years of denial and cover-up, the problem is only now percolating to the surface like bubbles in a swamp.”
Lead Worth Its Weight in Gold
A cargo of lead ingots found in the wreck of a Roman ship that sank off the Sardinian coast two thousand years ago is “worth its weight in gold,” states the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. In ancient Rome, thought to have been the load’s original destination, the metal would have been valuable to “make pipes, solder conduits, and cast weights.” But scientists consider the discovery even more precious. Since the ingots lay on the seabed, protected from the effects of cosmic rays by a “heavy mantle of sand,” time has canceled every trace of radioactivity. Such pure lead, which is impossible to find elsewhere, is of inestimable value to research physicists for protective shields that will have no effect on the delicate measurements carried out in their laboratories.
In August 1992, the WCC (World Council of Churches) elected Dr. Konrad Raiser as its new secretary-general. Dr. Raiser replaced Emilio Castro, who had served as head of the organization since 1984. The WCC, made up of over 300 Protestant, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox churches, was formed in 1948 in an effort to bring about greater unity among the churches. Commenting on its failure to bring about such unity, the Paris newspaper Le Monde said: “Doctrinal dialogue has stagnated, and political involvement has divided the WCC. Its involvement in South Africa against the apartheid government, the trafficking of arms, and its [position in favor of] liberation theology have not brought about harmony . . . and have damaged its credibility. Swallowed up by more and more bureaucracy, the WCC arouses, at the most, polite curiosity or, worse, indifference.”
“The ’80’s were not favorable for Brazilian children and adolescents, concluded the Foundation of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics,” reports Jornal da Tarde. Of the 59.7 million children, the study revealed 32 million belonged to families whose per capita yearly income was less than half the minimum wage of about $40. Rather than going to school, 17.2 percent of Brazilian children between the ages of 10 and 14—about ten million—work secularly to help their suffering families. The result? Sociologist Rosa Ribeiro said: “It is reproduction and perpetuation of poverty. Without adequate schooling, the child has no chance of changing his social condition.”
Drugs in Ancient Egypt
“Scientists at the Universities of Munich and Ulm [in Germany] have detected traces of hashish, cocaine, and nicotine in Egyptian mummies,” reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Researchers examined samples of bone, hair, and tissue taken from several mummies dated at between 1070 B.C.E. and 395 C.E. What do these scientific discoveries tell us about life in ancient Egypt? “Egyptians clearly used drugs even to soothe crying children,” the newspaper says. How do scientists know? A papyrus describes a mixture of fly excreta and poppy seeds as a potent sedative.
Bloodstained Barber Poles
Red-and-white spiral-striped poles have come to identify barbershops. Why? Because during the Middle Ages, barbers not only cut hair and trimmed beards but also pulled teeth and performed bloodletting as a cure-all. “During a bloodletting,” reports The Toronto Star, “it was customary for the patient to squeeze a pole tightly in one hand, so that the veins would swell and the blood gush freely.” To minimize the appearance of bloodstains on the pole, it was painted red. “When not in use, it hung outside the shop as an advertisement, wrapped round with the white gauze used to bandage bloodlet arms,” said the Star. Barbers inherited the pole trademark when the profession was divided between surgeons and barbers during the reign of Henry VIII, king of England in the 16th century.
A Single Sky for Europe?
“Within the next eight years, air travel in Europe will arrive at the point of complete paralysis,” asserts La Repubblica. In the last two years, the volume of traffic has increased by 8 percent. Yet, delays caused by air traffic control problems have “leapt by 62 per cent,” and almost a quarter of all flights arrive 24 minutes late. The absence of a centralized European airspace control network is blamed for the congestion, says the president of the Association of European Airlines, Giovanni Bisignani. At present, there are 54 control centers, which use 31 different systems. Unless a solution is found, punctuality will be no more than just “a dream.”
Effect of Violent Movies
In an interview by the Brazilian magazine Veja, film director Steven Spielberg was asked about the effect that violence in entertainment may have on viewers. Said Spielberg: “Watching violence in movies or in TV programs stimulates the spectators to imitate what they see much more than if seen live or on TV news. In movies, violence is filmed with perfect illumination, spectacular scenery, and in slow motion, making it even romantic. However, in the news, the public has a much better perception of how horrible violence can be, and it is used with objectives that do not exist in the movies.” Spielberg adds that so far he has not permitted his young son to watch some of his well-known movies (Jaws, the Indiana Jones series) because of the amount of blood and violence shown.