Watching the World
Archaeologists have long felt that no major discoveries were left to be made in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings after finding the treasure-laden tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922. But a new tomb has come to light that may be the largest and most complex in the valley. With at least 67 chambers and a suspected lower level that may bring the total number up to more than 100, it was apparently built by Ramses II as a burial place for his sons. Ramses II ruled for 66 years in the 13th century B.C.E. and had over 100 children, including 52 sons. Tombs for two of the sons had already been found. It is thought that the rest were buried in this newly found tomb, where names of four sons, including his firstborn, Amen-hir-khopshef, have been discovered. This has intrigued religious scholars because some have speculated that Ramses II was Egypt’s pharaoh at the time of Israel’s Exodus. Other scholarship, however, has placed the time of the Exodus at 1513 B.C.E.
“Mining is by its nature a dangerous business,” notes Johannesburg’s WeekendStar, “and one that is vital to the country’s economy.” Just how dangerous was highlighted in May when an underground 12-ton locomotive in one of South Africa’s gold mines “ploughed through no fewer than three safety devices before plunging down a 2 103m [6,900 foot] shaft and squashing the lift cage,” which contained 104 miners. There were no survivors. “Unfortunately, such tragedies have long been a feature on South Africa’s landscape,” says the WeekendStar. “In the first 93 years of this century more than 69 000 workers were killed and over a million injured on our mines.”
Epoch of War and Unrest
“Some historians believe that the 20th century will be seen as a time of unparalleled savagery,” notes The New York Times. “Increasingly, the 75-year period from 1914 to 1989, covering two world wars and the cold war, is being seen by historians as a single, discrete epoch, a time apart in which much of the world was fighting war, recovering from war or preparing for war.” An article in The Washington Post concurs: “Our 20th-century wars have been ‘total wars’ against combatants and civilians alike,” it says. “The casualties, including the genocide of the Jews, are measured in the tens of millions. The barbarian wars of centuries past were alley fights in comparison.” Civil insurrections have added to the carnage. How many have died? “The ‘megadeaths’ since 1914, by an estimate of Zbigniew Brzezinski, have totaled 197 million, ‘the equivalent of more than one in ten of the total world population in 1900,’” says the Post. It adds that it is an “indisputable fact that terrorism and wanton killing are embedded deeply in the culture of this century” and that “no political or economic system has so far in this century pacified or satisfied the restless millions.”
World Health Survey
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its first annual survey of global health, reports that about 40 percent of the world’s population—over two billion people—are sick at any given time. Much of the disease and illness is needless and preventable, they say. Poverty is the greatest underlying cause, as more than half of the world’s 5.6 billion people do not have access to the most essential drugs, a third of its children are undernourished, and over a fifth of the people in the world have little or no resources to prevent or treat their illnesses. The deadliest diseases—heart disease, strokes, pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, malaria, and respiratory infections, as well as diarrhea in children under five—kill millions each year. However, the report notes that in the last 25 years, life expectancy has increased to 65 years from 61. “For many millions of people for whom survival is a daily battle, the prospect of a longer life may seem more like a punishment than a prize,” said Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, director-general of WHO.
Religions in Japan were prompted to express their views on Armageddon after the Aum Shinrikyo religion came to public attention in connection with the fatal sarin gas attack in Tokyo’s subways in March. “For years, cult leader Shoko Asahara . . . has prophesied that the world would witness Armageddon,” reports The Daily Yomiuri. Although Aum is nominally Buddhist, two Buddhist organizations said that “the Armageddon concept was unknown to Buddhism,” reports Mainichi Daily News. “Both the mainstream Christian groups surveyed . . . dismissed AUM’s belief that Armageddon is imminent. The Catholic group said that the belief is not familiar to Catholics, while the Protestant organization said that the cult should not have used the word ‘Armageddon’ in that ‘a Biblical word was taken out of context.’ The Unification Church stated that ‘religious propagation methods that fan general fear are undesirable,’ and Shinyoen stated that if some view is pushed too hard people feel threatened.” Apparently, Aum’s founder doubted his own prophecy. One of the cult’s top leaders was quoted as saying: “I guess the sarin project was launched so that the guru’s prophecy could come true.”
Religion and Healing
A study of 232 elderly patients who had open-heart surgery has shown that those patients “who were able to find strength and comfort in their religious outlook had a survival rate three times higher than those who found no balm in religious faith,” says the International Herald Tribune of Paris. Although previous research pointed to the health benefits of having close relationships with and support from friends and family, this was the first study “to demonstrate such a strong health advantage from religious faith among seriously ill patients,” said the Tribune. The study’s director, Dr. Thomas Oxman, observed: “It seems that being able to give meaning to a precarious, life-threatening situation—having faith there is some greater meaning or force at work—is medically helpful.”
Any who have ever had reason to complain about postal service inefficiency can console themselves with the case of a couple from Vicenza, Italy. While interned in a Nazi concentration camp in northern Europe in 1944, an Italian husband wrote his wife: “Don’t worry if it takes a long time for news from me to get through.” “Almost a premonition,” says La Repubblica newspaper, since the message arrived at its destination 51 years later. The couple, now in their 80’s, were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of the letter and organized a small party of their friends to mark the occasion. The route taken by the letter before finally arriving at its destination remains a mystery.
Virtual Reality Impact
Virtual reality (VR) “could take over up to one-third of the home video-game market by the end of the century,” claims a report in The Globe and Mail newspaper of Canada. In such games players wear a helmet that includes earphones and a display screen in front of each eye. Wired gloves allow the player to transmit motion signals and interact in the computer-generated world. But along with the convincing graphics of such games have also come reports of “cybersickness,” possibly due to the time lag as computer-created images react to body movements. Aftereffects include disorientation, nausea, headaches, eyestrain, coordination problems, and flashbacks. “Observers predict that because of the high incidence of cybersickness, it is only a matter of time before someone gets injured and VR is dragged into court,” says The Globe. The report suggests that until simulations can be speeded up to keep pace with people’s reactions, “less-convincing graphics, less motion, less immersive simulations and time limitations on machines may help.”
Vending Machine for Religious Images
In traditionally Catholic countries, religious images are one of the most visible signs of “popular devotion to the patron saints and protectors of holy places,” notes the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica. Now, technology has been introduced into the flourishing trade of these religious articles. An automatic vending machine for icons, named “icomatic,” dispenses religious images when fed a special token. “The self-service system will guarantee discretion in the choice, will eliminate queues, and will assure a religious image for all,” says the paper.