Watching the World
Immigrants Chance Death
Each year thousands of illegal immigrants risk their lives to search for employment and a better standard of living in South Africa. Hundreds are said to have been eaten by crocodiles while swimming across the Limpopo River. Others are trampled by elephants or killed by lions while traversing Kruger National Park on foot. Park officials recently shot five lions that had become man-eaters. “Postmortems on the five lions,” reports the Johannesburg newspaper The Star, “revealed human remains in the animals’ digestive systems.” The exact number of illegal immigrants who are killed by wild animals is not known. “Regular patrols have found human tracks which inexplicably disappear into thin air,” says the newspaper. “A fully grown male [lion] is capable of eating 70kg [150 pounds] of meat at a single sitting. The chances of human remains being left as evidence is very slim, particularly once hyenas and jackals arrive at a lion kill.”
Plight of Children in War
Terre des Hommes organizations care for children in need. According to Petra Boxler, chairwoman of the organization in Germany, “about two million children have lost their lives in the last ten years in wars, skirmishes, and street fights.” Furthermore, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung, another six million children have suffered severe bodily injury, and ten million have serious emotional scars. Boxler laments that for children, wars have recently taken on a more sinister character. In some lands children are forcibly trained as killers, and in other countries they are “being used as living mine-searchers.”
“New” Animals Discovered
“Just a few decades ago, common wisdom held that most of the world’s mammals—furry, warm-blooded, milk-giving creatures—were already known. No longer,” says U.S.News & World Report. “Between the 1983 and 1993 editions of Mammal Species of the World, 459 entries were added. In the last four years, biologists have discovered dozens more—rodents, bats, deer, antelopes, wild ox, and even monkeys.” It is predicted that the 4,600 mammal species now recognized will grow to close to 8,000. Some “mammal ‘discoveries’ are made in museums, when scientists take a closer look at specimens collected years ago.” Additionally, “many new species host a community of parasites and other tiny creatures that also are unknown to science,” the article states, and “1 out of 3 newly described mammals is an animal never before seen by a scientist.” Most new discoveries are being made in tropical forests and other isolated regions of the world. Says mammalogist George Schaller: “I’m surprised to see people get so wildly excited about a possible bacterium on Mars when our own planet is crawling with undiscovered species.”
Religion at the Crossroads
“As we move towards the end of this century and of this millennium, there is a sense that it’s more than just a symbolic threshold, that there is something of an epochal change taking place,” said Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches. “The trouble is that we don’t quite understand the direction in which this change is leading us. Therefore we are somewhat inhibited in actively shaping the process of change instead of just responding to [it] and reacting.” Dr. Raiser listed the “plurality of religions” as an issue to be faced. ENI Bulletin quoted him as saying that Christendom “still is more part of the problem than part of the solution.” He added: “We are far from having developed ways in which we can live with one another as neighbours without continuing to perceive the other, the one who is different from us in religious conviction and practice, as a threat rather than . . . a potential source of enrichment.”
The Millennium Already Ended?
According to scholars, “the millennium actually turned several years ago. Sorry, but we all missed it,” states Newsweek magazine. The reason? Our calendar “rests on an arbitrary division of time,” supposedly based on the birth of Christ. But, the article notes, modern scholars believe that Jesus was actually born several years “before Christ.” According to Newsweek, that “means that we are already well into the third millennium.” The error lies with Dionysius the Short, who, in 525 C.E., was commissioned by Pope John I to develop a standard liturgical calendar. Dionysius decided to use Jesus’ birth as the pivotal point but erred in calculating it. “Historians will never know for sure exactly when Jesus was born,” says Newsweek. “Even the dating of Christmas, which celebrates his birth, is arbitrary. The church selected Dec. 25, scholars believe, to coincide with—and religiously counter—pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.” Bible chronology indicates that Jesus was born in the year 2 B.C.E.
Cats Now Included
For decades it has been a crime in New York State to leave the scene of an accident involving a cow, a horse, or a dog, without seeking to locate the animal’s owner or at least notifying the local police. Cats were excluded. However, that matter has now been taken care of by a new bill that was overwhelmingly passed and signed into law. Known as the “Flat Cat” bill, this law makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident that injures a cat, without at least reporting the injury to the police. Failure to report could carry a fine of $100 for “hit-and-run injurers” of cats. “For cat lovers, it represents the shining possibility that one manifestation of species discrimination might be put to rest,” commented The New York Times.
“Epidemic of Obesity”
“A growing epidemic of obesity is threatening the health of millions worldwide,” reports The Journal of the American Medical Association, citing a warning issued by the World Health Organization. “Nutrition and health experts from 25 countries said the prevalence of obesity in adults is up to 25% in some countries in western Europe and the Americas. The figure rises to 40% for women in eastern Europe and Mediterranean countries and in black women in the United States. Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia have the highest obesity prevalence—up to 70% in some areas.” The experts warned that unless trends shift toward diets lower in fat and toward more active life-styles, many countries will face overwhelming numbers of people with coronary heart disease, respiratory problems, stroke, gallbladder disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and musculoskeletal problems.“Obesity ‘should be regarded as one of the greatest neglected public health problems of our time, with an impact on health [that] may well prove to be as great as that of smoking,’ the experts said.”
On June 1, 1997, a figure—apparently caused by humidity—appeared on a wall in one of the stations of the Mexico City Metro. To many devoted Catholics, this was a supernatural appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe—a name given to the Virgin Mary in Mexico. “The Catholic Church does not consider the appearance of the Virgin of the Metro to be an authentic miracle but a natural formation produced by water filtration in the station walls,” stated El Universal newspaper. Nonetheless, many people stop in front of it to worship, and the image has been “visited by more than a thousand per hour.” A small niche was constructed for the image and was inaugurated by a Catholic priest.
Profiting From Addiction
According to the United Nations organization, it is estimated that there are some 340 million drug addicts worldwide. As reported in the Jornal da Tarde, “dependence on tranquilizers and sedatives comes first, with 227.5 million users, or nearly 4 percent of the world’s population. Next comes marijuana, with 141 million addicts, totaling 2.5 percent of the global population.” It is also estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of all illicit drugs are seized by the police. The selling of drugs generates up to $400 billion every year. In some cases, dealers make a profit of up to 300 percent—“profits never found in any other kind of business,” says the newspaper.