Watching the World
Museums in Peril
Are museums in danger of extinction? In Italy, a nation endowed with one of the greatest cultural heritages in the world, the equivalent of an entire museum full of art treasures disappears every year. “The richest of Italian museums is the one that you cannot see,” reports the newspaper Il Messaggero. In 1992 alone, almost 35,000 works of art, worth more than 200 billion lire ($123 million), were stolen from museums, churches, public and private institutions, and homes. Only 1,971 were recovered. According to estimates, between 1970 and 1992, an average of 30,000 works of art have disappeared every year—a real national emergency, say the authorities. What happens to all these stolen treasures? Reportedly, many end up in the secret hideouts of drug dealers and organized-crime leaders.
Trance or Death?
The followers of Balak Brahmachari, devoted though they are to their guru, suffered little apparent disappointment when doctors declared him dead, India Today reports. The devotees, called Santans, insisted that the doctors were mistaken and that their 73-year-old leader had simply gone into a “meditative trance.” They requested that he be kept in the hospital’s intensive care unit. When the doctors refused, the Santans brought the body back to their ashram, or cult residence, near Calcutta, and put it on display on a bed of ice in a cooled room. The municipal authorities insisted that the body be cremated to prevent any health hazards, but the Santans dismissed such requests as propaganda, arguing that the body showed “no sign of decay at all.” Weeks passed. Finally, the authorities were forced to take action and dispose of the corpse.
Music and Murder
Music may have played an important role in two recent murders in Texas, U.S.A. In one case, a 19-year-old driver shot and killed a state trooper who had pulled him over to issue him a ticket. The youth’s lawyer not only claimed that the youth was listening to violent rap music when he fired on the officer but also claimed that his long-standing immersion in such music had ‘hyped him up’ to commit murder. The jurors reportedly agreed that the music had played an important role in the youth’s actions. But according to the prosecuting attorney in the case, “they just did not feel that the music reduced [his] blameworthiness for the crime.” The youth was sentenced to death. In a similar story, a 15-year-old youth who confessed to shooting and killing his mother claimed that a song by the heavy-metal group Megadeth had given him instructions from demons to do the killing.
As they seek to reduce the risk of their patients’ catching AIDS or hepatitis, doctors in Brazil are seeking alternatives to blood transfusions, reports the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. The paper further explained: “Brazilian doctors already use alternative methods of surgery for Jehovah’s Witnesses. By means of erythropoietin—a [hormone] produced by the kidneys—they have been able to raise the number of red blood cells to a level high enough, in some cases, to eliminate transfusions after surgery.” Hence, after operating on 91 Witnesses, Dr. Sergio A. de Oliveira of the Portuguese Welfare Hospital, São Paulo, states: “We find that Jehovah’s Witnesses patients can undergo cardiac surgery without blood or blood products, with a good margin of safety.”
Church Insurance Against Abuse Claims
“The Australian Catholic Church has taken out a multimillion dollar insurance policy to protect itself against claims of sexual abuse by priests,” reports The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, New South Wales. “We admit it goes on,” said a Catholic bishop in Melbourne, Australia. He asserts that such extensive insurance coverage is normal “for that kind of offence.” According to a support group for the victims, sexual abuse by the clergy is more widespread than the church admits. A spokesman for the group said he believes the church’s focus is more on protecting the clergy than helping the victims. He added that the message “at the very core of the church’s documents is, don’t tell the truth.”
How to Be a Priest
“Japanese youth nowadays are called the ‘manual generation’—they read ‘how-to-books’ before they do anything. Now priests are no exception.” So reports Tokyo newspaper The Daily Yomiuri. In order to teach priestly etiquette and traditions to today’s young priests, Kyoto’s Institute for Zen Studies directed that a how-to-be-a-priest manual be prepared. Whereas Zen priests of old had to remain unmarried and were famed for their strict training, many today simply inherit the work from their fathers or grandfathers. But fathers, the newspaper says, often fail to teach their sons manners befitting priests, and the youths themselves are too busy studying for college exams to learn Zen customs. Some reportedly have difficulty reading the sutras, or discourses of the Buddha.
Heart Problems Among Argentine Women
Recent statistics show that the number of heart attacks is rising rapidly among women of all ages in Argentina. The newspaper Clarín published the results of a survey on the subject made by the Sociedad Argentina de Cardiología (Argentine Society of Cardiology). It surveyed 82 intensive care units and 521 heart patients throughout the country. The report states that the number of women admitted to Argentina’s hospitals because of heart attacks increased by over 56 percent in less than a year. And whereas in 1991 only 25 percent of heart attack patients were women, at present they represent nearly 40 percent. Risk factors for heart attacks include high blood pressure, obesity, excessive fat in the blood, alcoholism, and tobacco use. However, this study found no direct correlation between age and the mortality of heart patients.
Neurosis in the Convent?
Convents and monasteries are often thought of as idyllic havens for meditation. However, Bruno Giordani, a clergyman who teaches psychology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, has produced “a disquieting analysis” of convents and monasteries, reports the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. According to his report, “many nuns appear to be victims” of “a large number of serious psychological disorders.” He enumerates the traits of the “neurotic nun,” who “often suffers from pathological guilt feelings or else the absence of all moral sensibility.” Some are troubled by “solitude, not being understood, and narcissistic behavior,” affirms Giordani. Little wonder, then, that the next world synod of Catholic bishops, which will be held in 1994, will deal with the specific problems faced by the clergy.
Wars Still Continue
Although military expenditures worldwide are being cut back, the number of wars being fought is not declining. “The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden recorded 30 serious armed conflicts in the past year ,” reports the German newspaper Nassauische Neue Presse. According to the institute, that was the same number as in 1991. Even though fighting ceased in some trouble spots, “Bosnia witnessed the start of the bloodiest conflict, in which over 100,000 persons lost their lives by the year’s end.” SIPRI predicts that “the number of conflicts that escalate into violence will fall only very gradually.”
Street Named After Witness Martyr
When a new street was to be named in the small German town of Baltmannsweiler, the Community Council settled on the name Bernhard Grimm. Why? Reports the newspaper Esslinger Zeitung: “Grimm, born in 1923, lived at 30 Reichenbacher Street. As a believing Jehovah’s Witness, he refused to take up military service when registered. He was immediately imprisoned and taken to Berlin. The military court sentenced him to death for ‘corrupting the military.’ On August 21, 1942, the death sentence was executed on the 19-year-old in Berlin-Plötzensee.” Because it was just over 50 years since this young man’s martyrdom, the community councillor thought it a fitting time to name a street after him.
“Magazines and newspapers have fewer readers,” states Gazeta Mercantil. The Brazilian newspaper reports that delegates in Berlin, Germany, attending the 46th convention of the International Federation of Newspaper Editors were concerned over the growing “lack of interest in reading the printed page and the preference for audiovisual” media. In the opinion of the president of the Inter-American Society of the Press, Alejandro Junco de la Vega, many have “no awareness of the importance of the printed word . . . Many still believe that television is more relevant.” Horácio Aguirre, director of the newspaper Las Americas in Miami, voices an opinion doubtless shared by many a newspaperman, that a newspaper “presents a much more ample panorama of what is happening in the world.”