Watching the World
Beggars in Sheep’s Clothing
In China, begging is becoming the road to wealth for some unscrupulous scam artists, reports Worker’s Daily. If child beggars see someone they think looks sympathetic, they “start weeping and say ‘uncle, auntie—I’m very hungry.’ The potential donor cannot do anything but give,” says the Chinese newspaper. Mothers pinch their children to make them cry and then claim that “the children are sick and have no money to see doctors.” The elderly, it says, kneel down, “kowtow, and force a donation.” The questioning of 25,000 beggars over a period of three years revealed that only 8.5 percent of them had no one to rely on and only 18.5 percent of those who appeared to be disabled actually were, said a Chinese official.
More Victims Sue Church
Victims of sexual abuse in Australian religious institutions run by Catholic “brothers” are banding together to take what The Canberra Times describes as one of the biggest class actions in Australian legal history. An application to allow more than 250 writs to be lodged for compensation was filed recently by an organization representing former child victims. The abuse is alleged to have occurred from the 1940’s right up until the 1980’s, and the main defendants cited in the writs include several Catholic archdioceses. One Marist brother has already been convicted of sexual assault. The lawyer representing the victim in this case said: “We’re facing the tip of the iceberg. There’s a deluge of actions likely to occur in the next few years. All religious institutions would need to be concerned.”
Who Has the Most Children?
Which nation has the highest fertility rate in the world? According to the United Nations, in first place is Rwanda, where women of childbearing age give birth, on the average, to 8.5 children each. Next come Malawi with 7.6 children, Côte d’Ivoire with 7.4, and Uganda with 7.3. The world average is 3.3 children, while for developed countries it is 1.9. Surprisingly, the nation with the lowest fertility rate in the world, with only 1.3 children per woman of childbearing age, is once prolific Italy. Gone are the days when it was common for an Italian family to have three, four, or more children. Evidently, the times have also passed in which Italians followed the instructions of the Catholic Church with regard to birth control and contraception.
Parental Contact Before Birth
Why speak to a baby that is still in its mother’s womb? In the Brazilian magazine Veja, Swiss child psychiatrist Bertrand Cramer says: “This kind of conversation allows the parents, especially the mother, a first contact with the child before birth.” Although it is not fully known how the baby interprets such talk, “the only certainty is that the memory already works, which is extraordinary,” according to Cramer. Moreover, after birth, since the baby observes intently the parents’ facial expressions, Dr. Cramer says that “all small events in life have enormous importance already in the first days.” However, he cautions: “Rather than worrying about perfect children, parents should avoid a poor relationship with the children, which may result in future schizophrenic, depressive adults. It is enough to dream of normal children—and not potential Nobel prizewinners.”
AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire
Of the nearly 13 million inhabitants of Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, at least 1 in 10 adults is infected with the AIDS virus, making it one of the worst affected regions in the world. Doctors say that AIDS is already the number one cause of death among young adults in Abidjan, the nation’s capital, and that the epidemic has reached almost every section of the country. The French government has said that it will be committing greater financial support to combat the AIDS epidemic in Côte d’Ivoire. French doctors and government ministers, however, say that the international pharmaceutical industry has done very little to help developing countries in their fight against AIDS. The French newspaper Le Monde notes that the pricing policies of drug manufacturers have put the antiviral drugs needed to treat AIDS victims virtually beyond reach in Africa.
Churches in Hungary Share Blame
About half a million Jews are said to have been murdered in Hungary during World War II. How did Christendom’s churches there react during this horrific period? A report prepared by theologians of the Lutheran, Baptist, and Roman Catholic faiths reveals that these churches “regret not having acted more vigorously to protect Jewish fellow-citizens in their country.” Why were the churches so reluctant to oppose the persecution? The hesitant stance was said to be “the result of the anti-Judaistic tradition of the churches, as well as the traditionally close connection with the authorities,” says Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Deaths During Pregnancy
“Child-bearing is one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in developing countries,” states the 1992 Report issued by the United Nations Population Fund. Each day during 1992, an average of 1,359 women in the developing world died as a result of complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. In contrast, says the report, during that same year, pregnancy-related deaths in the developed countries took 11 victims per day. Although a woman’s risk of dying during pregnancy in some developed countries varies from 1 in 6,000 to 1 in 9,000, the risk in the least developed countries is 1 in 20. These figures, notes UNFPA, reveal “a staggering disparity between the developing and the developed worlds.”
One in 4 of the youths in France who regularly listen to music on personal stereo headphones may now suffer from hearing damage, reports the Paris magazine Le Point. High-decibel music is the culprit. Over two-thirds of the youths in France own personal stereos. Many of these stereos deliver from 100 to 110 decibels of high-energy sound directly into the ear canal. To avoid permanent hearing damage, doctors say that at the 100-decibel level, listening should continue for no more than 40 minutes and just five minutes at the 110-decibel level! Yet, many youths admit that their headphone listening time often exceeds five hours a day. Considering the number of youths suffering from increasing premature hearing loss, the World Health Organization has recommended that a maximum output limit of 90 decibels be set for personal stereos.
A new center for the prevention of suicides and attempted suicides has been set up at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. The head of the center, Assistant Professor Danuta Wasserman, says in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that one of many factors in suicides and attempted suicides is the lack of confidence that suicidal individuals have in themselves and in others. She therefore suggests that closer contact with others and greater fellow feeling will minimize suicides. “In Sweden there is a developing tendency to close the door on others and live just for oneself,” she says. She proposes that if thoughts of suicide persist, one should “avoid self-denial and isolation” and “speak to somebody.” Long-term studies following up those who have attempted suicide show that 90 percent of them eventually have a normal life after the crisis is over.
Biblical City Uncovered
Le Figaro, a French newspaper, reports that a team of Japanese archaeologists has uncovered the ruins of one of the five ancient Biblical cities named Aphek. For years scholars have unsuccessfully tried to connect the location of this ancient city with the modern village of Afriq, or Fiq, three miles [5 km] east of the Sea of Galilee. However, archaeologist Hiroshi Kanaseki believes that the discovery of part of an ancient wall at ʽEn Gev, located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, proves that the site is indeed where this particular Biblical city of Aphek once stood. It is mentioned in the Bible at 1 Kings 20:26 as the location where Syrian King Ben-hadad II was defeated by the Israelite forces under King Ahab.