Watching the World
India’s HIV Strain
Scientists at the National AIDS Research Institute in Pune, India, in cooperation with a team of researchers led by Dr. Max Essex, of Harvard’s AIDS Institute, have isolated India’s most common HIV strain. It is HIV-1C, believed to be transmitted five to ten times more effectively than the HIV-1B, which is common in Europe and America. According to the Indian Express, Dr. Essex said that the rate of the spread of HIV in India is likely to be much higher than in many other parts of the world. Scientist Dr. V. Ramalingaswami observed that of the few vaccines showing promise as AIDS preventives, not one is effective for HIV-1C.
Zimbabwe Drought Relief
In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have often provided relief in disaster-striken areas. Their Christian spirit is especially needed in developing lands such as Zimbabwe, where drought has greatly affected many regions of the country. Large quantities of food and clothing were lovingly contributed for this effort, and the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Zimbabwe successfully distributed these materials to Witnesses and their friends in remote areas of the country. In addition to food and clothing, Zimbabwean Witnesses donated $7,500 (U.S.), and the Watch Tower Society spent another $20,500 to carry out the relief mission. The Society and the affected Witnesses expressed their deep gratitude for the generous love shown by their Christian brothers.
According to the International Herald Tribune of Paris, an article in the influential Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica asserts that “God may have spoken through books as diverse as the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Vedas and Bhagavad-Gita and the sacred texts of China’s Taoism and Japan’s Shintoism.” The article suggests that these and other religious writings “represent not mere literature or philosophy, but rather ‘revelation’—God speaking through man.” Because the journal’s articles are informally checked by Vatican censors, questions have been raised as to whether these views represent the pope’s own mind on the matter. The Tribune observed that in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II noted that the church was seeking in other religions that which forms a kind of common root with the teachings of the church.
100-Year-Old Fire Extinguished
More than 100 years ago, an untapped coal deposit in China caught fire, and it has continued to burn until recently. The fire covered some two square miles [6 sq km] and consumed 300,000 tons of coal annually. Efforts to extinguish the huge fire have failed for many years. However, fire fighters reportedly have finally succeeded in putting the fire out. In order to douse the blaze, fire fighters used explosives to bore holes and then poured sand, stone, and water on the flames.
High Blood Pressure and Memory Loss
“A new study shows that middle-aged men with high blood pressure are likely to suffer from impaired memory, judgment, and concentration once they reach their late 70s,” reports Psychology Today. Researchers found that for every ten-point increase in systolic blood pressure, the likelihood of diminished brain function increased by 9 percent. “We know that high blood pressure is related to stroke and heart disease,” says Lenore Launer, Ph.D., the director of the study, adding: “This is just another reason to reduce it.”
The Communication Gap
The Courier-Mail newspaper of Brisbane, Australia, reports that a recent survey found that teenage high-school students rarely, if ever, had serious conversations with their fathers. The survey showed that most teenagers spend less than 15 minutes a day with their fathers, yet they spend about an hour a day talking to their mothers. Seldom did parents speak to their children about morals or check up on what television programs or videos they were watching. Any conversation between sons and fathers was likely to be about superficial things, such as cars and sports. Communication with mothers was mostly about friends, school, and social plans but seldom about more serious matters. In many cases father-daughter communication was limited to merely joking or kidding with each other.
A study published by Brazil’s ministry of transport shows that about 90 percent of traffic accidents occur because of driver error or negligence. According to the report, drivers often become overly confident when driving in good weather or on straight highways. The report also revealed that automobile accidents caused by bad road conditions and car defects result in 25,000 deaths and 350,000 injuries every year in Brazil.
Plundering the Oceans
“In a frantic race to find new and potentially lucrative drugs, ‘bioprospectors’ working for pharmaceutical companies are taking too many organisms from the oceans without any idea of the consequences,” states New Scientist. According to Mary Garson, a marine biochemist at the University of Queensland, Australia, 98 percent of the collected samples are discarded without detailed analysis. For example, 990 pounds [450 kg] of acorn worm and 5,300 pounds [2,400 kg] of sponge yielded only 35 millionths of an ounce [1 mg] each of an anticancer substance, 3,500 pounds [1,600 kg] of sea hare produced 350 millionths of an ounce [10 mg] of a peptide used for treating melanoma, and 1,900 pounds [847 kg] of moray eel liver were needed to isolate just 12 millionths of an ounce [0.35 mg] of ciguatoxin for study. “We cannot simply remove large volumes of an organism from the ocean—however useful—unless we know for sure that we are not wiping it out,” said Garson.
Planet Discovered by Accident
A small planet was recently discovered by amateur astronomer George Sallit of Bradfield, a village in England, through a telescope in his garden shed. “It was a complete accident,” he admitted. “I took a picture and when I looked closer I realised it was a planet moving slowly across the frame.” Sallit One, as the new planet is now called, is only about 20 miles [30 km] in diameter and is some 400 million miles [600 million km] from the earth. Its orbit takes it between Mars and Jupiter. The telescope used is a 12-inch [30 cm], computer-controlled model costing $7,000 but employing software equipment designed for use on the Hubble telescope, reports The Times of London. There may be thousands of such minor planets, or asteroids, in our solar system.
A Surprise for Rice Farmers
For years rice farmers in Asia have sprayed their crops heavily in the early part of the season to kill off the larvae of leaf-folder moths, which decimate the rice plants’ leaves. Recent experiments suggest, however, that the rice plants can afford to lose up to half of their leaves without any effect on the amount of rice they produce. Some Vietnamese farmers were convinced to go without the early spraying—which accounts for 30 to 50 percent of all the pesticide Asian farmers use—and found that crop yields were not hurt at all.
Thumbs Down on Religion and Politics
According to the newspaper The Australian, “the typical Australian adolescent” has no real interest in either politics or religion. This conclusion is based on a survey of students 13 and 16 years of age, which was compiled by University of Sydney lecturer Dr. Jennifer Bowes. The youths’ priorities went in this descending order of importance: “having close friends, getting a good education, having a secure job, developing my talents, being close to my family, preserving the earth for future generations, protecting animals, having a nice home, travelling to other countries, earning a lot of money, doing something to stop pollution, getting married, helping those who are less fortunate, helping my country, doing something worthwhile for society, having some influence on other people.” The two least important of the 18 values listed were “following the principles of my religion” and “being active in politics.”