• Watching the World Helping the Deaf in Africa

    “UNAD NEWS commends the selfless interest and efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses to learn sign language,” stated the journal of the Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD). The journal reported that a group of hearing Witnesses in Kampala, Uganda, have taken up learning sign language with the goal of providing spiritual care to hearing-impaired people in that land. The report added that two promising interpreters “are regular pioneers or full-time [ministers] in one of the world’s fastest growing and highly respected religions, known internationally for its total adherence to biblical teachings.”

    Wash Your Hands!

    The American Society for Microbiology recently sponsored research to determine how many people wash their hands after visiting a public rest room, reports The New York Times. Evidently, almost everyone knows that they should wash their hands. In a telephone survey of 1,004 adults, 94 percent claimed that they always wash after using a public rest room. But do they? Researchers monitoring rest rooms in five large American cities found that out of 6,333 persons, only 61 percent of the men and 74 percent of the women washed their hands after using the toilet. Dirty hands spread diseases easily, and just one food handler with unwashed hands can make dozens of people sick. Part of the problem may be a lack of parental direction. “Moms often today are not telling their kids to wash their hands,” noted Dr. Gail Cassell. “Schools aren’t telling children about it. We need to be reminded that this is important.”

    Laugh, and Live Longer?

    It has long been believed that laughter is good medicine. Ten years ago scientists at the State University of New York decided to find out why it is. They recently revealed their discovery that laughter helps trigger the release of powerful hormones that energize a person’s immune system. One group of hormones, called cytokines, has been found to promote the activity of white blood cells, which are needed to ward off viral and bacterial infections and which destroy potential cancer cells. These are just “one of the substances whose levels are increased by laughter,” says The Sunday Times of London. The link between laughter and cytokines has led some researchers to refer to them as happy hormones. Thus, the paper calls laughter “a recipe for a long life.”

    Catholic Church in a “Time of Peril”

    A document issued by a group that includes seven bishops describes the Catholic Church as being in a “time of peril,” reports the Star-Telegram, of Arlington, Texas. The document “calls on the church to heal its deep divisions,” says the newspaper. Polls show that many of the 60 million Catholics in the United States disagree with such church teachings as priestly celibacy and the ordination of women. At a news conference releasing the document, the late cardinal Joseph Bernardin expressed his concern about “an increasing polarization within the church and, at times, a mean-spiritedness” that interferes with the church’s mission. “As a result, the unity of the church is threatened,” he said. “The faithful members of the church are weary and our witness to government, society and culture is compromised.”

    Progress by Looking Backward

    Before transistors, there were vacuum tubes. Now researchers are taking a look backward. “We’re revisiting vacuum tubes from the 1940s,” says physicist Griff L. Bilbro, of North Carolina State University. “But now we’re taking advantage of new materials and computer design tools to predict their performance at very high frequencies, for use in radar and cellular phones.” One difference between the old and the new tubes is size. The new tubes are tiny and come in arrays about the size of a match head. They are made by “encasing electrodes in diamond, then evacuating the air from the interiors,” says Science News magazine. “A big difference between the new diamond vacuum tubes and the large glass bulbs of 50 years ago is heat. The old tubes had to glow red-hot to emit streams of electrons. The new tubes produce current at room temperature.” Besides being more durable than semiconductors and computer chips, the new tubes also outperform them at high levels of temperature, voltage, and radiation.

    Dolphin Lifeguards

    A man swimming in the Red Sea may have been saved by a group of dolphins, reports the Journal of Commerce. Mark Richardson, of Britain, was swimming off the Egyptian shore when he was attacked by a shark. After he suffered bites to his side and arm, he was encircled by three bottle-nosed dolphins “flapping their fins and tails to scare away the shark.” The dolphins then “continued to circle Mr. Richardson until his friends got to him.” According to the Journal, “such behavior by dolphins is common when mothers are protecting their calves.”

    “Fast-Food” Communion

    An American entrepreneur , Jim Johnson, is producing disposable prepackaged sacraments for use in church Communion services, reports Christianity Today. The small purple plastic cups, about the size and shape of a single-serving container of coffee creamer, enclose a swallow of grape juice or wine. They also come with an unleavened bread wafer sealed inside the double pull-tab cover. According to Johnson, the product has the advantages of quicker preparation and cleanup time, economy, and hygiene. More than 4,000 churches have already switched over to the new product, although some complaints have been raised about the “mass-market” approach to the Communion. Johnson counters: “Jesus provided the first fast-food meal when he fed the multitudes.”

    Commuting Pigeons

    Pigeons in London have long been observed hitching rides on the subway with earthbound commuters, reports New Scientist magazine. Additionally, some people claim that the birds even know at which stop they should get off. Following an invitation by the magazine, a number of readers wrote to tell about their own experiences with the feathered travelers. One man, for example, wrote: “During 1974-76, I regularly encountered a single pigeon of light reddish colouring boarding the underground at Paddington and disembarking at the next station.” Another man observed a similar spectacle as far back as 1965. It would seem that pigeons have been dodging fares in London’s transit system for some 30 years!

    Australian State Legalizes Euthanasia

    A man in Australia’s Northern Territory has become the first person to die under a new state law permitting doctor-assisted suicide, reports The New York Times. The man was in his 60’s and was suffering from prostate cancer that was considered terminal. “This is the first time ever a man has legally ended his life,” said Dr. Philip Nitschke, the physician who administered a lethal dose of barbiturates to the man. “The man was hooked up to a machine that allowed him to start the process of his own death by pressing a key on a bedside laptop computer,” Nitschke explained. The new law, however, is facing bitter opposition. The national parliament is considering legislation to override the law, and the law is being challenged in court by some doctors and churches.

    Churches Converted

    According to the Dutch newspaper Het Overijssels Dagblad, about 300 church buildings in the Netherlands have been converted to supermarkets, apartments, exhibition halls, and office buildings. With church attendance in the Netherlands down about 50 percent over the last 15 years, many churches are glad to find someone who is willing to take the burden of costly maintenance off their shoulders. Some church buildings have been sold for the token sum of one guilder (about 60 cents, U.S.)! Transforming a former church into a commercial building, however, sparks a lot of emotional pain, especially among older ones. One authority remarked: “They have attended there for years. They were baptized and united in wedlock there, and now they see people doing the most common things there . . ., even cursing.”

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