Watching the World
Gloomy Baby Boomers
“Baby boomers” is the term coined to describe people born between the end of the second world war and the beginning of the 1960’s. During that period many countries on the winning side of the war reported a marked population increase. A 16-country survey shows that baby boomers, once carefree and optimistic about the future, now “feel insecure about themselves and their children, and regard their old age with something like dread,” says the European newspaper. Why the gloom? “They are now confronted with a world which they feel has gone too far in terms of individualism, materialism and lack of self-control and good manners,” states the report.
Hidden Hepatitis-C Infections
“Hepatitis C appears to be a major public health concern in France,” says a report by a team of French doctors. The doctors point out that most hepatitis-C infections are detected only after a patient has already been diagnosed as having developed chronic liver disease of 10 to 30 years’ duration. Infection with the hepatitis-C virus can be deadly and is most often transmitted through blood transfusions and intravenous drug use. The report warns that more thorough screening methods are urgently needed, as less than one quarter of those found to be infected were previously aware of it. According to the journal Hepatology, an estimated 500,000 to 650,000 French residents are presently infected with the virus.
Breast-Feeding Cuts Illnesses
“Breast-fed babies are less prone to ear infections and diarrhea, according to a study of more than 1,700 babies ages 2 through 7 months,” states Parents magazine. “Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a baby who is exclusively formula-fed is nearly twice as likely to develop one of these conditions as a baby who is exclusively breast-fed.” While doctors have long felt that breast milk protects against infection because it passes on the mother’s protective antibodies, the study shows that the benefits are significant. Says Laurence Grummer-Strawn, an author of the study: “It’s safe to say that the more breast milk an infant receives in the first six months, the better.”
Piercing Presents Problems
Body piercing may be all the rage in some countries, but “pierced lips, cheeks, and tongues present risks that go beyond infection,” reports The Journal of the American Medical Association. According to dentists at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, in Morgantown, “pain, swelling, infection, increased salivary flow, and gingival injury are common in patients with oral piercings. . . . Jewelry for oral piercing poses additional risks.” The jewelry can chip or crack teeth, produce speech impediments, cause formation of scar tissue, and—if swallowed—obstruct airways.
No Competition Please
The World Council of Churches (WCC), with 330 member churches, has “called for an end to ‘competitive’ attempts by some churches to poach new members from other churches,” reports the ENI Bulletin. The WCC “specifically criticises the use of ‘humanitarian aid’ in developing countries . . . to influence the poor, lonely and uprooted to change their denominational allegiance.” Guidelines were offered to distinguish between an ‘acceptable witness to the Gospel and unacceptable proselytism.’ Included in the latter are “unfair criticism” of another church, presenting one’s church and beliefs as being the true ones, offering educational opportunities or humanitarian aid to persuade others to join another church, using force or psychological pressure to induce people to change their religious affiliation, and taking advantage of people’s distress or “disillusionment with their own church in order to ‘convert’ them.”
Desertification in Italy
Though not a country normally associated with deserts, Italy has instituted a National Committee for the Fight Against the Desert. The reason? Soil infertility has been rapidly advancing northward in Italy. “If a serious environmental policy is not introduced to reduce gases responsible for the greenhouse effect and to change certain unhealthy agricultural practices,” says the newspaper La Stampa, “within just a few decades, 27 percent of [Italian] territory could become scorched earth.” The alarm was raised at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conference on desertification that was held in Rome. It was explained that zones at risk are no longer confined just to the southern Italian regions of Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria, Apulia, and Basilicata but that certain traditionally productive areas of the north have also been affected and are now registering a drop in fertility.
Treating Childhood Diarrhea
“Venezuelan researchers have developed a vaccine that almost eliminates severe diarrhea among children,” says The Daily Journal of Caracas. “The vaccine . . . is designed to protect against rotavirus diarrhea, which kills about 873,000 children under age five in developing countries each year.” Even in the United States, the illness still sends more than 100,000 infants and preschoolers to the hospital annually. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, reports that use of the vaccine had an 88-percent protection rate against the virus and reduced hospital admissions for severe diarrhea by 70 percent. However, there is a drawback. “The treatment may be too expensive for developing countries where it is needed most,” says The Daily Journal—countries “where less than $20 is spent per person each year on health care.” Until the vaccine can be produced inexpensively, dehydration from diarrhea must be treated by replacing lost fluids, the method that has been used effectively for 20 years.
Temple Receipt Found
What “appears to be a receipt for a donation of three silver shekels to the Temple of Yahweh” has “recently surfaced on the antiquities market,” states Biblical Archaeology Review. “This is the oldest extra-Biblical mention of King Solomon’s Temple ever discovered. [The words] BYT YHWH, ‘the house of the Lord [Yahweh],’ . . . had been found complete in only one extra-Biblical inscription,” and because of obscure context, its meaning has been disputed. The new inscribed potsherd, measuring 4 inches by 3.5 inches [10.9 by 8.6 cm] and containing five lines and 13 words, is clear and easily readable. Dated as early as the ninth century B.C.E., it is at least a century older than the other inscription and has been declared authentic by experts.
Queen of Sheba Dispute
In Ethiopia she is called Makeda. In Yemen her name is Bilqis. She is better known as the queen of Sheba, mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran. Each country claims her as its own and hopes that her tomb will soon be found there, encouraging archaeologists to keep digging for proof. If evidence of the queen of Sheba can be found, the site will be a huge attraction for tourists and will add to claims of that country’s ancient ties to civilization. “Archaeologists have found plenty of inscriptions from the ancient Sabean kingdom on old stones in Ethiopia and Yemen,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “Strangely, none mention a Makeda or Bilqis.” It adds: “The Bible isn’t much help. It details all the gold and spice Sheba brought to Solomon, but doesn’t say where she came from.”
The Samaritans, now reduced to only 600 people, must come up with a million dollars in ransom to get their holy books back. The two scrolls, said to be 700 and 400 years old respectively, were stolen from a Samaritan synagogue in the West Bank city of Nablus over three years ago. The thieves spirited the scrolls out of the country, and only recently did they surface in Amman, Jordan, where they were viewed by Samaritan elders. It is believed that they were stolen by a person who was familiar with where they were kept. Most of the Samaritans live on the mountaintop above Nablus, which is their holiest site. It is there, they believe, that God commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac in sacrifice.
[Picture Credit Line on page 29]
Courtesy: Shlomo Moussaieff