Watching the World
British Church Thefts
“Places of worship are no longer considered sacrosanct,” reports The Sunday Times of London. Candlesticks, bishops’ chairs, brass lecterns, medieval flagons, and ancient fonts are stolen from England’s churches and sold as garden ornaments. This illegal trade is international, with artifacts stolen to order. One missing stained-glass window turned up in a Tokyo restaurant. The annual loss to the churches amounts to nearly $7 million. Now sophisticated surveillance devices are being installed and security firms employed to guard ecclesiastical premises.
More Abortions in Canada
A record high of 104,403 abortions were performed in Canada in 1993, which is a 2.3-percent increase over the previous year. According to The Toronto Star, “that amounts to 26.9 abortions per 100 live births.” Why the rise? While this has been attributed by some to the increasing number of private abortion clinics in the country, officials at Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada point to economic pressures as “the number one reason given for having abortions.” Anna Desilets, executive director of Alliance for Life, a pro-life group, feels that “easy access to abortion leads people to use it as birth control, at taxpayers’ expense.”
Babies With AIDS
The number of Venezuelan babies with AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate, reports El Universal of Caracas. “Previously between two and six children with AIDS were reported annually,” explains one expert, “but now we have from two to six cases a week.” The percentage of infected women, who in turn transmit the virus to their babies, increases on a daily basis. “It is important to remember,” concludes the newspaper report, “that the statistics handled by the Ministry of Health only reflect the tip of the iceberg.”
Violent Women Increase
“Females are more often involved in violence than in the past,” claims University of Ottawa criminologist Tom Gabor. “The violence,” reports the newspaper The Globe and Mail, “is increasingly committed by females who take the lead, rather than the secondary role. These are not handmaidens to a male evil genius.” Violent-crime charges against adult females have risen from 6,370 in 1983 to 14,706 in 1993. Men, however, still account for the majority of violent crimes. According to the Globe, “in 1993, 88.6 per cent of adults and 76.3 per cent of youths charged with violent crimes were male.”
Priests and Marriage
The Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a growing number of influential Catholics argue that “an end to enforced celibacy would help stem the loss of priests.” Celibacy is viewed as a chief deterrent preventing young men from entering the priesthood. Highlighting the problem, the Herald provided some revealing figures. New South Wales’ main priest-training center had an average peak of 60 entrants a year from 1955 to 1965. But the corresponding figure between 1988 and 1994 was only nine entrants a year. The deputy director of another priest-training college in Sydney stated that, in his opinion, allowing clergy to marry might prove to be a “quick fix” solution but not a long-term remedy for the dire shortage of priests in Australia.
The United Nations is trying to raise $75 million to begin the removal of an estimated 110 million land mines in 64 countries, reports the International Herald Tribune. It costs only about $3 to produce an antipersonnel (AP) mine no larger than a pack of cigarettes. But to locate and remove such a mine from the ground costs between $300 and $1,000. Removal of the mines is hampered by another problem. Said a United Nations spokesman: “Every year 2 million new AP mines are laid in addition to the 100 million-plus already out there.” Experts agree that it will take decades to clear the world of what a Cambodian general described as “patient killers that never fail.”
More than one thousand persons have committed suicide by jumping off San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge since it was opened in 1937. “Killing oneself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge has a romance to it, an allure. It’s so beautiful there. There’s a particular fantasy involved,” said suicide expert Richard Seiden. Few of the jumpers live to tell the tale, which is not surprising since they hit the water at 75 miles [120 km] per hour and usually rupture internal organs. A study of 500 people who had been persuaded not to jump revealed that less than 5 percent ended up killing themselves later.
With 26 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants, Argentina now leads the world in the number of traffic-related fatalities, according to the Argentina newspaper Clarín. During 1993 there were 8,116 such deaths in the country. The number rose to 9,120 in 1994. But during the first six months of 1995, there had already been more than 5,000 traffic-related deaths. In 1994 about 25 percent of the victims were pedestrians. Just in the province of Buenos Aires, traffic-accident deaths increased by 79 percent. A large percentage of the accidents were due to the failure of drivers to calculate well when passing other vehicles.
A 1993/94 report shows that more children are smoking in Britain. The number of smokers 11 to 15 years of age has increased from 10 percent to 12 percent. This increase doubles what government health officials expected for 1994, notes the Independent newspaper. Although there has been a decline in adult smoking, some 29 percent of British men and 27 percent of the women still smoke. “A more marked reduction in adult smoking may be required before teenagers’ attitudes are significantly affected,” the report concludes.
Oral Hygiene for the Aged
“Oral hygiene can be a matter of life and death for elderly people,” says Asahi Evening News. Japanese scientists concluded that “elderly people can reduce the risk of pneumonia simply by brushing their teeth.” In a study of 46 elderly people, one group of 21 had their teeth brushed thoroughly by nurses daily after lunch. They were also given dental hygiene checkups two or three times each week. After three months it was found that the 21 had suffered ten fewer days of fever than the 25 who did not follow the routine. Better health was attributed to the absence of oral bacteria. A previous study concluded that “saliva or food particles accidentally inhaled into the lungs often cause pneumonia,” said the newspaper.
Immortality for Sale?
“For $35, Immortality Can Be Yours,” claims the Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A. Microbiologist James Bicknell offers to preserve your DNA so that, as the paper puts it, “in some future century, a loving descendant could use the biological information in the DNA to make a copy of you.” Dr. Bicknell is marketing a DNA kit that consists of two pieces of sterile gauze and a small container of liquid. “You rub the gauze on the inside of your cheeks,” he says, “insert the gauze in the liquid, and mail it back to me.” He then extracts the DNA from the cells that were rubbed off onto the gauze and deposits the DNA on some filter paper. The paper is then preserved in a tube in a small aluminum box with your name engraved on it for you to display as you wish. Says the Guard: “He figures people save ashes of the dead, locks of hair and fingernail clippings. A box of DNA is something to pass on to the grandkids.”
Gene Therapy Under Fire
Expectations were high six years ago when gene therapy in humans first began. Scientists expected, in time, to cure inborn genetic diseases by injecting corrective genes into their patients. They also hoped to inject genetic material that would cause harmful cells, such as cancer cells, to self-destruct. Yet, after much enthusiastic research, the therapy is coming under attack. States the International Herald Tribune: “For all the frenzy, there has not been a single published report of a patient who was helped by gene therapy.” Leading scientists fear that the research is being pushed too quickly by commercial and personal interests, rather than by concern for patients. One problem is that the cells treated by gene therapy may be attacked and destroyed by the body’s immune system, which sees them as foreign.