Watching the World
Famine Afflicts Large Portions of Humanity
Never has the earth produced so much food to feed humanity; yet, never has so much of humanity been afflicted with famine. The news agency France-Presse reports that according to the latest statistics from the World Bank, famine gripped the lives of some 1.13 billion persons in 1990, more than ever before. It affected almost 30 percent of the people living in developing countries. The world’s worst-affected regions were southern Asia, where 562 million people suffer from famine (49 percent of the population); Africa, with 216 million (47.8 percent of the population); the Near East and North Africa, with 73 million (33.1 percent of the population); and Latin America and the Caribbean, with 108 million (25.2 percent of the population). These figures do not include almost another billion persons who suffer from malnutrition.
Boosting Income the Sensational Way
At the start of 1993, the Association for Scientific Research into the Parasciences in Germany gathered 70 predictions made by astrologers and then evaluated the results at the end of the year. In view of prediction failures of previous years (see Awake! of June 8, 1992, page 29, and July 8, 1993, page 29), did astrologers fare better in 1993? They “told a pack of lies,” reports the Nassauische Neue Presse. “Most astrologers don’t even believe their own annual prognoses,” remarks a spokesman for the association. But astrology in Germany is big business, with an annual turnover of $57 million (100 million deutsche marks). Many fortune-tellers regard sensational forecasts as “an effective way of getting into the headlines” in order to boost income, reports the newspaper.
Children’s Job Market
An estimated eight million children occupy the job market in Brazil, reports O Estado de S. Paulo. These minors may perform the same work that adults would do. Often being underpaid, however, they contribute little to the family income. Likely, without adequate schooling these small workers remain semiliterate and as poor as their parents. What is more, Luiz Cláudio de Vasconcelos of the Ministry of Labor states, “the minor who works eliminates the jobs of other family heads, as he is willing to receive a third of an adult’s wages.”
World Population Hammered by AIDS
□ “AIDS will have a devastating toll in human lives in the 15 countries with the highest prevalence rates for HIV,” warns Populi, the magazine of the United Nations Population Fund. Based on a recent UN report, World Population Prospects: The 1992 Revision, the magazine predicts that some ten years from now, “population growth in these countries will be 12 million less because of AIDS. About 9 million additional people will die from AIDS in these countries, and fewer children will be born because of the deaths of women in their childbearing years.”
□ World AIDS Day was celebrated on December 1, 1993. But the results of campaigns to fight the disease did not offer much cause for celebration. A WHO (World Health Organization) official admitted: “I honestly don’t think we’ve made any impact on Aids in Africa.” He acknowledged the need to stress the importance of marital fidelity in fighting the disease. The newspaper Cape Times stated that Africa “has a third of the world’s reported cases.” According to WHO, an estimated one million adult AIDS cases exist in sub-Saharan Africa.
Curb on Smoking Accelerated
New laws requiring specific warnings about the dangers of cigarette smoking have been passed in the Australian Capital Territory. Starting April 1, 1994, all cigarette packages must carry clearly visible warnings, such as: “Smoking Kills,” “Your Smoking Can Harm Others,” “Smoking Is Addictive,” and “Smoking When Pregnant Harms Your Baby.” According to The Canberra Times, the warnings must occupy not less than 25 percent of the packet’s front. The rear of the packet must have at least one third of its area covered with the following statement: “Tobacco smoke contains many cancer-causing chemicals. When the smoke is breathed in, these chemicals can damage the lungs, and can cause cancer. Lung cancer is the most common cancer caused by smoking. Lung cancer usually grows and spreads before it is noticed. In most cases it kills rapidly. [Smoking] kills almost three times as many people as are killed by alcohol and all other drugs, combined. Six times more people die from the effects of smoking each year than from car accidents.”
The latest innovation in Italian agricultural technology is a computerized robot capable of picking “up to 2,500 oranges an hour directly from the trees.” The machine is equipped with eight “extremely sensitive” mechanical arms, each furnished with an electronic eye, and is programmed to “perceive the intensity of colors” and choose “the ripe fruit, unerringly passing over the unripe, after delicately feeling them,” according to La Stampa. The track-equipped robot, “powered by a diesel engine, can work day and night even in bad weather and pick oranges on trees of up to three and a half meters [11 feet] high . . . During picking, it moves at a maximum speed of eight kilometers [5 miles] per hour and has a traveling speed of up to 14 kilometers per hour [9 miles per hour], hauling a trailer that can carry up to 500 kilos [1,100 pounds].”
Where Weeds Are Popular
“Weeds cover the entire park, and there are many fruit and chestnut trees,” says Asahi Evening News of a new type of park in Tokyo. There are no paved surfaces, and the “usual park items like swings, slides and sand boxes cannot be found.” Nearby residents are delighted. Two years ago they suggested to the local council that a park “should have grass growing and contain insects and small animals” and that “children should be able to dig holes and play with mud, and there should be no signs banning anything.” Since then, a second park, also described as “close to the natural state, being overgrown with weeds” has been constructed in Tokyo. Nationwide urban planners and park designers have been amazed to see how much city dwellers want this type of park, noting that when they have it, they eagerly share in its cleaning and upkeep.
Cooling Off Hellfire
“Churches are not emphasizing the old fire-and-brimstone sermons nearly as much” as they have in the past, says Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University. Why not? “Damnation isn’t what it used to be,” reports The Edmonton Journal, a Canadian newspaper. A recent Gallup survey showed that while 60 percent of Americans said they believe in a fiery hell, only 4 percent expect to go there. In Canada, 38 percent of those surveyed believe in hellfire; in Spain, 27 percent; and in Sweden, 7 percent. “The thought of hell does not seem to motivate people to either serve God or accept Christ as their savior,” claims Pentecostal clergyman Bruce Klepp. The hellfire “teaching makes no ultimate moral sense at all,” claims Tom Harpur of The Toronto Star.
One of the entries in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition, is the word “karaoke.” This word refers to “a device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along” and comes from a Japanese word made up of kara, meaning “empty,” and oke, an abbreviation for “orchestra.” It gratifies the user’s ego by letting him sing with a full-scale orchestra. For the first time in Japan, karaoke was recognized in the “education white paper” as a “cultural activity,” and the country’s most popular one at that. An amazing 74 percent of those in the 19 to 29 age bracket participated in it during the one-year period preceding a survey. Commenting on the change of mentality among Japanese, Tetsuo Sakurai, a professor of sociology, said in Mainichi Daily News: “People are now eager to express themselves freely and publically.”
Human Rights Situation: “Distressing”
“Respect for human rights is crucial to the future well-being of humanity,” stated Ibrahima Fall, assistant secretary general for human rights at a UN World Conference on Human Rights. “But in many [countries],” he noted, “the level of human rights violations that continues is distressing.” World Conference on Human Rights, a UN newsletter, confirms that at least half the world’s population suffer under human rights violations today. Adds Mr. Fall: “Death, destruction, discrimination, poverty, persecution, rape, slavery, starvation and stunted or blighted lives remain the daily curse of millions of people.” Even worse, that curse is spreading because “rights problems,” warns the UN, are “skyrocketing.”