Watching the World
Pope Says Individuals, Not Church, to Blame
In a letter addressed to church leaders, civil authorities, and the population of Rwanda, Pope John Paul II tried to absolve the Roman Catholic Church from responsibility for the genocide there in 1994. “The church in itself cannot be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law,” he claimed. However, the pope also stated: “All the members of the church who have sinned during the genocide must have the courage to bear the consequences of the deeds that they have committed.” This is apparently the first time the pope has publicly addressed the charge that priests in Rwanda participated in and actively encouraged the slaughter that took the lives of some 500,000 people and the charge that the Catholic hierarchy took no action to stop it. Vatican commentator Luigi Accattoli, writing in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, said that the pope’s statement for Catholics not to try to escape justice “touches a sensitive spot,” in that “among those accused of genocide, there are also priests who have taken refuge abroad.” Most of the people in Rwanda are Catholic.
“Families in Transition”
“The typical Canadian family has changed its look so dramatically that married couples with children account for just 44.5 per cent of all families,” reports The Globe and Mail. In contrast, “in 1961, married spouses with children accounted for almost 65 per cent of all Canadian families.” Another startling figure is the increase in the number of common-law marriages, which almost tripled, from 355,000 in 1981 to 997,000 in 1995. The survey, which was conducted by Statistics Canada, also noted: “If the incidence of divorce, remarriage and common-law partnership continues to remain high, more volatility in family forms can be expected.”
France’s Fascination With the Occult
“Why are the French spending so much time with seers and psychics these days?” asks The New York Times. “The French are reportedly consulting clairvoyants and numerologists in greater numbers than ever. . . . The Government has evidence that magic is thriving. Last year, the tax authorities said that close to 50,000 taxpayers, the highest number ever, had declared income from their work as stargazers, healers, mediums and similar occupations. By comparison, the country had fewer than 36,000 Roman Catholic priests and some 6,000 psychiatrists.” To some, the activity indicates fear of what may happen at the end of the millennium. Others view it as a result of the erosion of established institutions, such as religion. The practitioners of these crafts say that their clientele has changed greatly in recent years. In the past, most clients were women. Now there is about an equal number of both sexes. And rather than asking about sickness and affairs of the heart, people now ask about their jobs.
Japan’s Vending Machines
“There is almost nothing that is not available in a vending machine in Japan,” says The Washington Post. Vending machines dispense gift-wrapped items, CDs, beer, boxer shorts, eggs, pearls, stuffed elephants, panty hose, disposable cameras, and just about anything else you can think of. There are “no-bending vending machines” that deliver items chest-high, low-built machines that will not block views, and even machines that are decorated with flowers or other motifs. “Japan is only about the size of Montana, but there are nearly as many vending machines here as in the entire United States,” the article adds. “Most Japanese vending machines are placed outdoors; there’s even one atop snowy Mount Fuji.” High-priced items can be dispensed outdoors because vandalism rates are low in Japan. Space is expensive, so shop owners use vending machines to stretch their shelf space. They can be found on nearly every street corner in Tokyo. However, some groups are upset that liquor, beer, and cigarettes can be obtained by any child able to pop in some coins.
Coming Teenage “Crime Storm”
“Violent crime in the United States is a ‘ticking time bomb’ that will explode in the next few years,” states The New York Times regarding a report by the Council on Crime in America, an organization of prosecutors and law-enforcement experts. “While adults are committing less violent crime, the rate of violent crime among teen-agers has skyrocketed over the last decade. . . . Each generation of teen-agers since the 1950’s has been more violent than the last.” By the year 2005, the number of 14- to 17-year-old males will increase by 23 percent, and it is this jump that worries the experts. Concerned that the most serious criminals are males who start their criminal ways at a very early age, John J. DiIulio, Jr., a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, stated: “We are in the lull before the crime storm.” His report, compiled for the Council on Crime in America, pointed out that about a third of all violent crimes are committed by people who have been apprehended but who are on parole, probation, or pretrial release. Government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, the report said, but is failing to do so.
Bloodless Surgery Gains Momentum
In late 1996 a hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A., joined 56 others across the country that have “bloodless centers for Jehovah’s Witnesses,” reported The Hartford Courant. “After studying the idea, hospital administrators realized that the wishes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were no longer so different from those of most other patients.” With the aid of drugs and advanced surgical techniques, doctors perform organ transplants and joint replacement as well as open-heart, cancer, and other surgeries—all without the use of blood. In addition, many health-care professionals now openly acknowledge the dangers of receiving a blood transfusion. Dr. David Crombie, Jr., chief of surgery at Hartford Hospital, candidly admits: “I was raised in medicine at a time when blood was thought of as a tonic. Now it’s thought to be a poison.” The Bible consistently forbids taking blood into the body.—Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:14; Acts 15:28, 29; 21:25.
Are You Technostressed?
Cellular phones, pagers, fax machines, home computers, and modems have revolutionized communication. However, Dr. Sanjay Sharma, who has a special interest in stress management, feels that this new technology has also invaded people’s privacy and relaxation time. The result is technostress. As reported in The Toronto Star, “stress is a major contributor to illness, loss of productivity and premature death.” The effects include high blood pressure, heart disease, mood swings, headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, depression, and weakening of the immune system. How can you avoid being technostressed? Of course, it is always wise to consult your doctor. In addition, the report recommends regular exercise, taking a weekend vacation, and getting daily sunlight, which “triggers release of hormones that combat depression and stress.” Finally, “turn off the ringers on your phone and fax machine. Let the answering machine take calls.”
Blackbird Car Alarm
Blackbirds are causing an unusual problem in England’s North Yorkshire town of Guisborough—they jolt people from their early morning slumber by mimicking car alarms. “When the owners rush out to confront the thieves they often find a blackbird in mid-song,” reports The Times of London. “It had the tone and pitch just right,” commented one local resident. “We’ll all be driven crackers.” And there may be little respite. As one bird passes a new song on to a neighbor, the sound can become a lot more common. Actually, about 30 of Britain’s bird species are capable of mimicking other sounds. The common starling is the most gifted of them all and can easily mimic the calls of other birds. One was known to imitate the ring of a telephone so convincingly that it was impossible to tell the imitation from the real thing.
Pagan Feast Still Popular
Saint John the Baptist’s Day “has less to do with the Catholic saint than one imagines,” reports Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo. Although the feast “coincides with the day on which the saint is said to have been born, . . . the real commemoration is of agricultural and pagan character.” Summarizing the findings of anthropologist Câmara Cascudo, the journal says that “Germanic and Celtic solar cults” celebrated the feast at harvesttime “in order to turn away the demons of sterility, grain plagues, and droughts.” Years later, the feast was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. One feature of the feast that persists in some countries is the lighting of Saint John’s fires. Where did this practice originate? “The tradition . . . is linked to the worship of the sun-god, venerated in order for him not to move too far away from the earth and to avoid a hard winter,” says the paper.