Watching the World
Religious Freedom Reconsidered in Greece
“It seems that lately the [Greek] government is concerned about issues dealing with the right of religious freedom, also taking into account the pending constitutional amendment,” reports the Athenian newspaper To Vima. “An unofficial committee within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been formed to reexamine the legal framework that concerns issues of religious freedom, the laws of the dictator Metaxas that make proselytism a criminal offense, and the conditions under which non-Orthodox religious minorities are allowed to establish churches and meeting places.” The report goes on to say that this move has been initiated mainly because of the numerous legal cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece.
Latin Is Alive
Latin remains the official language of Vatican City, even though the language was dropped from Roman Catholic liturgy in the 1960’s. Specialists translate papal documents into Latin, but it is now little used within the Vatican itself. In November 1997, however, the pope lamented the decline of spoken Latin and urged its revival. Meantime, a group of Vatican scholars has completed an eight-year project that produced an up-to-date Latin dictionary. Modern terms such as “aerosol spray,” “airport,” “department store,” “taxi,” and “traffic jam” now have their Latin equivalents. Even the ubiquitous mobile phone becomes a telephonium cellulare. For Latin buffs there is even better news. A priest in Rome has now launched a Latin-language Web site on the Internet, reports The Times of London.
By the year 2000, the statues in Rome’s public parks may all be copies. Why? “There are no alternatives to copies if we want to preserve the monuments,” explains Carla Benocci of one of Rome’s historical societies. She added that some of them are in a “shocking state of degradation, insulted by time, automobiles, vandals, and receivers of stolen goods.” Experiments are being conducted to determine what materials can best guarantee the same aesthetic effect as the originals and at the same time resist the assaults of smog and vandals. Some “clones” are in resin; others are in cement with a coating of marble dust. They are “so faithful to the original,” says Benocci, “that mistaking them for the real thing, thieves decapitated one to steal its head and tried to take another away in one piece.” And what about the originals? They will be kept in museums, where they can be admired without being endangered.
Malnutrition Killing Children
“Malnutrition kills more children than any other epidemic, natural disaster, or war,” reports the French daily Le Monde. It is estimated that almost seven million children die each year as a result of a deficient diet. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report for 1997 indicates that malnutrition is the cause of death for 55 percent of the 12 million children under age five who die each year. Besides killing children, malnutrition is responsible for numerous physical and mental handicaps as well as weakened immune systems. In South Asia, 1 child out of 2 suffers from malnutrition, and in Africa, 1 out of 3. However, this problem also affects industrialized countries. For example, UNICEF reports that in the United States, 1 out of 4 children under the age of 12 does not get the nourishment he or she needs.
Water on the Moon?
The spacecraft Lunar Prospector has detected what appears to be frozen water in the polar regions of the moon, reports The New York Times. Instruments on the spacecraft indicate the presence of hydrogen, and it is thought that the most likely form in which hydrogen could occur on the moon is as an element of water. The water is believed to be in the form of small ice crystals mixed in with loose dirt. It appears to represent 1 percent or less of the rocky soil. Already some scientists are predicting that the water could serve to sustain human colonies and to provide hydrogen and oxygen as fuel for spacecraft launched from the moon. Others are concerned that even if the water is there, it would not be economical to extract it. Dr. Bruce Murray, of the California Institute of Technology, said that it would be cheaper to bring water from earth than to mine it on the moon.
Pain Reliever Caution
“Relatively small overdoses of acetaminophen—an active ingredient in Tylenol, Excedrin, and a multitude of other nonprescription remedies—can lead to serious liver damage, especially when mixed with alcohol,” warns Health magazine, and this may result in death. “Most people think they can take two or three times the recommended dosage and not be hurt by it,” says William Lee, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “That’s not true with this drug.” As the body breaks down acetaminophen, it produces a by-product that is poisonous to the liver. The liver protects itself by means of a detoxification agent called glutathione. However, an overdose of acetaminophen can override the liver’s defenses. Alcohol depletes stores of glutathione, so taking the drug is especially hazardous after a few alcoholic drinks. And since acetaminophen is found in over 300 products, it is easy to overdose without even realizing it.
Children in Taiwan’s schools now have a new course—kidnapping classes. “Children are more likely to be kidnapped in Taiwan than anywhere outside the Philippines, with an average of one abduction every two-and-a-half days,” says Asiaweek. Parents, worried that their children might be the next kidnapping victims as crime continues to rise, requested the program. The kidnapping course trains children to be cautious when they walk alone, when they are about to step into elevators, and when they ride public transportation. They learn to be alert to suspicious persons and how to respond if abducted. Despite the negative content of the course, an effort is made to help children have a positive attitude toward life.
Back from “Extinction”
The forest owlet, thought to be extinct because there have been no confirmed sightings of it for 113 years, has been spotted and photographed in a wooded area near Shahada, India, northeast of Mumbai. The eight-inch-tall brown bird has large eyes and sports an oversize beak, feet, and talons. “It is considered one of the mystery birds of India,” said Pamela Rasmussen, of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, who along with two colleagues took the photographs. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” The two remaining mystery species of India, without recorded evidence that they have survived, are the pink-headed ducks, which were last seen in the 1930’s, and the Himalayan mountain quails, which have not been sighted for about 100 years.
The “Ideal Soft Drug”?
Chocolate’s stimulative, antidepressant, and aphrodisiac qualities have been vaunted for hundreds of years. However, recent research may indicate that chocolate does indeed affect “anxiety levels, peace of mind, and sexual behavior,” reports the French newspaper Le Monde. Scientists have discovered one substance present in chocolate that bears certain similarities to amphetamines and another with a “marked anti-depressant profile.” New research has also revealed the presence of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that produces the same “heightening of the sensations and euphoria” as cannabis. This along with chocolate’s low toxicity led the newspaper to conclude: “By stimulating physical and intellectual activity, supplying energy and generating a feeling of euphoria and well-being with virtually no side effects and a low level of addiction, chocolate qualifies as an almost ideal soft drug.”