Watching the World
Cardinal Expounds on Pope’s Remarks
Adding to Pope John Paul’s statement that the theory of evolution was “more than just a hypothesis,” New York’s Cardinal O’Connor has proposed that Adam and Eve could have been “some other form,” not man and woman. As reported in the New York Daily News, O’Connor said: ‘the Catholic Church remains open to scientific inquiry, and that’s true in the case of biological evolution.’ In a sermon given at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the cardinal stated: “Is it possible that when the two persons that we speak of as Adam and Eve were created, it was in some other form, and God breathed life into them, breathed a soul into them—that’s a scientific question.” A headline in the conservative Italian newspaper Il Giornale said succinctly: “The Pope Says We May Descend From Monkeys.”
Advice for the Pope
Italian Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori believes that members of the hierarchy of the modern Catholic Church talk too much. He suggests that they ‘rarefy and concentrate’ their messages. In an interview reported by the Catholic news agency Adista, he said: “A quick calculation reveals that the church on all levels has produced more words in the past 20 years than in the preceding 20 centuries. The more one talks, the less one is listened to. I have proposed a seven-year sabbatical during which the church should keep quiet, from the assistant parish priest to the Pope. . . . All this proliferation of speeches and encyclical letters . . . I read them, but how many others do? We should make the sacrifice of going back to the custom of the popes of a few decades ago. They used to produce three encyclicals at the most.”
Thrills That Kill
Bungee jumping, free climbing, skydiving, base jumping—thrill sports—have become the vogue in France. The Paris newspaper Le Monde asked several experts why thrill sports have become so popular in France. Alain Loret, director of the study center for sports innovation, said one reason is that traditional sports, with their required rules, discipline, and training, no longer correspond to the values of today’s youths, who give more importance to freedom and fun than to the need for discipline. According to French sociologist David Le Breton, “the growing popularity of high-risk sports is a reflection of the crisis of moral values. Indeed, we no longer really know what we are living for. Our society does not tell us that life is worth living. Hence, thrill-seeking . . . can be understood to be a way to make life have sense.” However, more and more youths are risking their lives and losing them.
Ancient Alexandria Revisited
First, archaeologists announced the discovery of the Pharos, a 2,200-year-old lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, in the waters off Alexandria, Egypt. Now they say they have found “the ruins of the ancient court of Alexandria under about six metres [20 feet] of water on the eastern side of Alexandria’s old harbor,” states The Vancouver Sun. According to French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio, the site contains the ruins of Mark Antony’s home and temple and those of Cleopatra’s palace, including wine amphorae, granite columns, paved streets, and other remains of the ancient city. The researchers found “a beautiful harbor protected by a long pier that is still in good condition after 2,000 years, but it’s under water,” Goddio said. Alexandria was named after Alexander the Great, who on seeing the magnificent harbor in 332 B.C.E. determined that it would be the site for a city. It became a cultural and commercial center that rivaled Athens and Rome. The famous Alexandrian library was located there. But by the Middle Ages, most of the ancient city was gone, damaged by earthquakes and fires and swallowed by the sea.
When Does the Millennium Start?
At midnight, December 31, 1999, many people around the globe will celebrate the start of a new millennium, and plans for lavish parties have already been made. But while it is “natural for a year with such a round number” to be celebrated, says a statement from the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in Cambridge, England, “accurately speaking, we will be celebrating the 2,000th year, or the last year of the millennium, not the start of the new millennium.” The confusion arises from the transition from B.C.E. to C.E. determined by Bede, a seventh-century historian and theologian, who endeavored to date events according to the birth of Jesus. No zero year was included, so the time between the first day of 1 B.C.E. and the first day of 1 C.E. was only a year. Consequently, the first millennium started with the first day of 1 C.E. and ended with the last day of 1000 C.E. The second millennium then started on January 1, 1001. “It is thus clear that the start of the new millennium will be 1 January 2001,” the researchers said. In any case, the celebrations will be based solely on the Gregorian calendar and not on the actual birth of Jesus, who is now known to have been born some time earlier.
“The United States has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases of any developed country in the world and no effective national system to combat the epidemic [says] a panel of health experts,” as reported in The New York Times. According to a committee of the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, the dozens of sexually transmitted diseases carried by Americans are preventable yet continue to cause serious health problems, such as cancer, and thousands of deaths each year. After an 18-month study, the 16-member committee found that for every $43 spent on treatment and other costs, only $1 was spent to prevent the diseases. Their report says that a quarter of the estimated 12 million new cases each year involve adolescents. Left untreated, the diseases—which include herpes, hepatitis B, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—can cause infertility, birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, and death. Not counting the cost of sexually transmitted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, these diseases cost the nation at least $10 billion a year.
Seeking the Pure Antarctic
Despite summer temperatures of only 14 degrees Fahrenheit [-10°C.], the number of visitors to Antarctica has doubled in the past ten years. Ten thousand people booked vacations costing up to $9,000 to view this southernmost continent with its penguins, seals, and the wonders of five million square miles of frozen landscape. But these intrepid travelers are quick to point out the debris left behind by nations that have worked there—abandoned huts, fuel drums, trash, and even old computers, reports The Independent of London. Dr. Bernard Stonehouse, of the Scott Polar Institute, in Cambridge, England, who published the first travel guide to the area, says of these polluters: “They quite simply haven’t bothered to tidy up in the past, but now they are being made to bother. Tourists and visitors have been complaining that they haven’t paid money to see a rubbish dump.”
Lotteries Outdo Churches
Americans spend more on lotteries than they contribute to their churches, says the Associated Baptist Press. As reported in the Christian Century, a comparison of figures from a U.S. Census Bureau report with those from the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches shows that in 1994, Americans spent $26.6 billion on state lotteries yet contributed only $19.6 billion to their churches.
Not for Mosquitoes
Bug zappers, those electric devices hung outdoors that attract bugs at night and noisily electrocute them, do not work on mosquitoes. “These devices are essentially worthless,” says George B. Craig, Jr., a professor of entomology. Most mosquitoes are not attracted to the light and when homing in on a meal, the females—who do the biting—are looking for ammonia, carbon dioxide, heat, and other skin excretions not given off by the bug zappers. Not finding these, they veer off. Besides, trying to kill mosquitoes with zappers is like “trying to clean out the sea with teaspoons,” says Dr. Craig. A female mosquito can produce over 60,000 female descendants in just half a summer. A three-month study showed that on an average night, only 3 percent of the bugs killed by the zappers were female mosquitoes. Zappers, says Craig, “should be sold in the home-entertainment section, not gardening.”