Understanding World Events and Trends
Plain Truth Magazine
January 1986
Volume: Vol 51, No.1
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Understanding World Events and Trends
Plain Truth Staff  

Vatican's Political Activism

   In 1985, the Vatican showed that it is a force to be reckoned with on the world's diplomatic fronts.
   On May 2 Argentina and Chile signed a Vatican — mediated pact ending a century-old, often bitter dispute over the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America. Pope John Paul II stepped into the dispute in 1979 at the request of the two predominantly Catholic South American rivals.
   The Vatican's diplomatic concerns, however, are not limited merely to impartial arbitration.
   On July 2 the Pope devoted the fourth encyclical of his papacy (an encyclical is a papal letter informing the Roman Catholic Church of a matter of importance) to the work of two ninth-century heroic figures who brought traditional Christianity, as well as other tenets of Western culture, to the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. The two missionaries were the brothers Cyril and Methodius.
   Earlier in the year John Paul II had designated the Greek-born brothers as patron saints of Europe. "The symbolic importance being attached to this choice," according to Roberto Farmigoni, an Italian member of the European Parliament, "highlights the Pope's vision of a united Europe. "
   About two centuries after the missionary work of Cyril and Methodius, Europe was divided spiritually between the Roman church in the West and the Orthodox community in the East. Since 1945, Europe has been politically divided as well.
   What the world is now seeing, writes columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, is "Pope John Paul II 's determined Ostpolitik... to bridge the chasm between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern rite churches. and closer ties between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy."
   This fusion, if it can be implemented, will have its impact in the political field as the key to European unity.
   John Paul II said the two saints were "the connecting links or spiritual bridge between the Eastern and Western traditions, which both come together in the one great tradition of the universal church. Not even today does there exist any other way of overcoming tensions and repairing the divisions and antagonism both in Europe and in the world, which threaten to cause a frightful destruction of lives and values."

Ignorance to Blame in Child Deaths

   More children in Africa and Asia die from parental ignorance about how and when to wean them than die from famine. Likewise, more children die from parental failure to properly manage diarrhea than because of various disease epidemics So says a recent study of conditions that affect child health.
   Seventeen million children die each year from poor nutrition and childhood diseases — mostly in Third World nations. Some two thirds could be saved if their parents had better basic education and guidance in family planning, according to a Worldwatch Institute report.
   Author William Chandler notes that many women in Africa begin weaning a child at 18 months or older. Many of these children suddenly receive hard-to-chew adult food or food that offers insufficient nourishment. Mr. Chandler says the resulting malnutrition kills 10 times as many children as does famine.
   Also, waiting at least two years between births could reduce infant mortality by 11 percent. Avoiding high-risk pregnancies — those in women under the age of 20 or over the age of 35 — would reduce infant mortality another 5 percent.
   Higher risks of infant mortality are involved in later births and in cases where only short intervals have passed since previous births, when the mother's nutritional reserves are depleted and overall health is poorer.

Small Nations, Big Losses

   The year 1985 witnessed the deaths of three men who, though not the leaders of powerful nations; will most certainly be missed in their countries and regions.
   John Michael Geoffrey Manningham " Tom" Adams, 53, died March 11 of a heart attack. Mr. Adams represented the Barbados Labour Party and served as prime minister from 1976 until his death. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford, where he earned degrees in politics, philosophy and economics. Later he worked as a London attorney and as a broadcaster for the BBC before becoming head of the Barbados Labow Party in 1971.
   Concerned about events in neighboring Grenada after Maurice Bishop gained control of that country in 1979, Mr. Adams supported U.S. action in that island nation in 1983.
   "He had a range far beyond the Caribbean," said Sally Shelton, U.S. ambassador to Barbados (1979-81).
   Tage Erlander, 84, prime minister of Sweden from 1946 to 1969, died June 21.
   Mr. Erlander attended the University of Lund, where he became politically active in the Social Democratic Party. Erlander was first elected to the Swedish Parliament in 1933. It was as undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Social Affairs that Erlander made his mark on Sweden by planning many of that nation's social reforms.
   In 1945 Mr. Erlander became minister of education. When then-prime-minister Per Albin Hansson died in 1946, Mr. Erlander was elected chairman of his party and became prime minister.
   "A clever administrator, a good speaker, unconventional and unassuming and with a strong sense of humor, Tage Erlander was held in high esteem by the Swedish people," said a report in Swedish Digest.
   President Linden Forbes Burnham of Guyana died of an apparent heart attack following throat surgery August 6. Mr. Burnham ruled Guyana for two years before that nation's independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, and for 19 years afterward.
   A brilliant student, Mr. Burnham earned his law degree with honors from the University of London in 1947. He was elected premier of what was then British Guiana in 1964 and helped with the transition to independence.
   The late President had been ailing for some time with diabetes and heart problems.

Japan's Mountain of Debt

   News reports focusing on Japan's huge export surplus and resulting frictions with the United States have overshadowed another, more ominous development in the island nation: Japan's mammoth budget deficit.
   Like most nations of the Free World, Japan is spending well beyond its means. But Japan's budget deficits today outstrip those of any other industrialized nation.
   This fiscal year, more than 19 percent is going to service debt — a higher percentage than in the United States or West Germany. Debt service has replaced social security as the number one budget expenditure in Japan. Japan's long-term outstanding debt stands at US $500,000,000,000 — nearly half the nation 's gross national product.
   So far the huge deficit has not held back Japan's economy, which continues to grow at an impressive rate. But the outlook is not that bright. Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone is seeking to pare government fat and put a lid on spending, but many fear such measures will stall economic growth.
   In addition to the disturbing debt picture, other trends trouble Japanese economic planners. Among them is the growing obsolescence of Japan's manufacturing plants. Japanese economists fear the aging plants may soon begin to cut into Japan's international competitiveness. The dilemma: Special tax breaks to encourage new industrial investment would cut into tax revenues and further aggravate Japan's already huge budget deficit.
   The Japanese economic locomotive may soon have to get accustomed to a less rapid pace. The government faces some serious decisions as it seeks to improve its fiscal situation.

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Plain Truth MagazineJanuary 1986Vol 51, No.1