Why fly into a hornet's nest? Pope John Paul II well knew that his journey through Holland would stir up old and bitter antagonisms. Risks were there. Greater divisiveness in the Dutch church could well have been the net result. Said The Spectator in its sum-up article, "For the first time, the Pope seems to have failed to carry a country with him by the force of his personality." The Pope was under pressure in Holland. Yet one has to admit he did not flinch. He came down as hard as ever in support of traditional Catholic teaching. He defended his Dutch appointees without apology. But why stir up a hornet's nest in the first place? Why take risks? Why not confine the trip to the more friendly climes of Belgium and Luxembourg? The answer is that the Pope is on the offensive in Europe. He has greater purposes in mind than Dutch church unity. He has an overall plan — and Holland is only one link in a long "Eurochain." For decades the Catholic Church has been quiescent in Europe. It has followed European events — not led them. The reign of John Paul II has changed all that. A number of leading Catholic writers and journalists collaborated on a book titled The Pope From Poland. It was written under the aegis of The Sunday Times in London. The authors of this book pointed out that even when John Paul II is in Rome, "He is thinking of his next journey" (page 250, Collins, London, 1980). John Paul is a traveling Pope. With a purpose I The Pontiff has long-range goals in mind. Catholic writers of The Pope From Poland put it in these terms: " The most obvious way in which John Paul II made an impact on the international scene was through the development of a vigorous Ostpolitik — the whole complex web of relations between the church and those governments of Eastern Europe which between them control the lives of some 60 million Catholics" (page 250). The Pope has been presenting "a vision of a wider Europe, culturally and spiritually united" (page 251). The political poker game that began in Eastern Europe with the Pope's first trip to Poland in June 1979, soon spread to include the West. While in Spain in late 1982, the Pope called for the unity of the whole of Europe. He deplores the present division. This year's Benelux trip was no different. The Pope repeated that same European theme in Luxembourg, then in Brussels — the main seat of the Common Market. Said John Paul II: "The borders set by treaties cannot limit the communication of men and nations. Europeans cannot submit themselves to the division of their continent." Papal pronouncements are not without their importance to politicians It is no time for Europeans — or anyone — to be sleeping. Watch!
Quakes and Computers
According to a Stanford University study, if northern California and Silicon Valley were rocked by an earthquake as strong as the 1906 San Francisco quake (about 8.3 on the Richter scale), the following. scenario would result: Many older buildings would be demolished, while the interiors of newer structures would be cluttered with broken glass and shattered plaster. Water mains and pipes in many buildings and streets would be broken. Data communication networks of telephone lines and microwave installations would be knocked out. Within days, the economic impact would be felt all over the world. Firms in other countries could not assemble computers because Silicon Valley would be technologically dead. In northern California and San Francisco, major defense contractors and the banking industry, whose lifeblood is dependent on data processing, would sit incapacitated. Life in the San Francisco — Oakland Bay area would be a shambles — even smaller companies could not operate without computers. "No bank would be able to transfer any money if its computers were down. The West Coast banking community would be unable to function," says Professor Haresh Shah of Stanford University's Civil Engineering Department. Simple transactions like buying groceries or cashing a check could not occur because the machines used for these operations wouldn't work. During the many months needed to get Silicon Valley functional again, foreign competitors would capture new markets. Research — shows magnetic disks and tapes would be highly endangered by earthquake shocks unless well secured in storage areas. Heavy jars, cracked cases, nicks in disks or scratches on tapes would make much stored material unusable. Earthquake engineers now propose that data processing centers in areas highly vulnerable to quakes isolate each piece of equipment from the floor through a set of springs or other shock-absorbing suspension. Such solutions would be costly to many large computer users, however, as they would need to protect heavy critical data processing equipment not only from up-and-down motion, but also sliding thrusts. Japan is keenly working on such isolation devices because that nation has an extremely high earthquake risk.
Alcohol Abuse and the Unborn
At least 2,000 mentally and physically deformed babies are born each year in the Federal Republic of Germany to alcoholic mothers, according to a report in the German Tribune. Research shows that the most significant factor in determining the likely extent of birth defects is how long the woman has had a drinking problem. A woman who is just beginning to abuse alcohol yet still retains control over her intake will probably deliver a healthy baby. Conversely, an alcoholic mother-to-be-one with a constant physical and mental need for alcohol — has a 50 percent chance of giving birth to a deformed child. Of those babies affected, 90 percent will be mentally retarded. One in three will have cardiac defects. Others will have deformities of the urinary tract, bladder and genitals. Though alcoholism has long been recognized as a serious health hazard, this knowledge has been widely neglected in prenatal planning and care. Its costs to the public are far greater than just unproductive citizens, as if that weren't bad enough: Alcohol abuse costs generations yet unborn the chance to live whole, healthy lives.
China, India Enjoy Bumper Crops
After years of grain shortages, China and India, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world's population, are producing more grain than they can effectively handle. Liu Dongping, a deputy director of China's Commerce Ministry, said China produced 407 million tons of grain in 1984, an increase over 1983's bumper crop of 387 million tons. Because of the surplus, farmers have problems selling produce, and buyers have difficulty transporting and storing it. Since favorable weather and higher government purchasing prices have renewed farmers' output, China has been able to export significant quantities of grain. South Africa, for example, now in its third year of drought, purchased 20,000 tons of yellow maize from China to supplement its own domestic shortfall. In India, grain production has far surpassed the nation's storage capacity of 20 million tons, according to Rao Birendra Singh, Food and Civil Supplies Minister. Bumper harvests in the past two years have dramatically cut the need for food imports. When viewed on a per capita basis, India is essentially self-sufficient in food grains. Nevertheless, a startling number of Indians are chronically malnourished. Widespread poverty prevents millions from being able to purchase enough food. Both countries hope to overcome the food surplus through changes in food management policies. For China, this means converting some grain land over to industrial and feed crops, and changing food composition from food grain to meat, milk and eggs, according to Liu Dongping.
The New Pirates
Maritime piracy has resurfaced and now flourishes in places such as the Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia, the South China Sea, the coasts of West Africa and Brazil, the Caribbean and the Phillip Channel between Singapore and Indonesia. More than 200 pirate raids have been recorded since 1980. The actual number may be as high as 400. These raids, along with shipping frauds, cost shippers and ship owners about US $1,000,000,000 a year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Among the victims have been Asia's boat people, fishermen, merchant vessels and oil tankers. During the past four years, 1,376 people have been killed, 2,283 raped and 593 abducted by pirates working the coast of Thailand, according to a United Nations report. The increase of piracy is attributed to Third World poverty and the worldwide drug trade. The smaller crews of modern ships add to their vulnerability.
Aswan Dam: Mixed Blessing
Some three dozen African nations are suffering varying degrees of drought and famine that have claimed thousands of lives. Yet Egypt is still enjoying multiple harvests. One of the main reasons for this good news amid much despair is Egypt's 33-story Aswan High Dam. It's been called an ecological, economic and cultural disaster. Yet Egypt's Aswan Dam has been the difference between continued irrigated food production and the drought and famine that grip much of Africa. There is no doubt that Egypt has paid a high price for the dam and massive Lake Nasser, which the dam created. Hidden costs raised much criticism of the Soviet-built project. Expensive application of fertilizer is now necessary, since the 2.4-mile-long dam traps the rich silt that once nourished farmers' fields. Erosion along the banks of the Nile River has destroyed the once-lucrative Egyptian sardine industry. In addition, increased humidity levels in the country have endangered many of Egypt's ancient archaeological treasures. And displaced Nubians are still wrestling with negative effects of their relocation, among them the disease bilharzia, caused by water snails that rapidly multiply in the now slow-flowing Nile. Further, if the drought continues in the headwater countries of the Nile, Egypt could be in for future trouble. But for now, none can dispute Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's remark, "The High Dam has proved throughout the years that it has carried out its role in protecting Egypt against drought."
Violent Crime and You
Violent crime strikes 1 in every 33 Americans — about 3 percent — each year, says a U.S. Justice Department study of crime statistics. Nearly seven million Americans are victimized by violent crime annually, according to the study, which covered the years 1978 through 1982 and included rapes, robberies and assaults. Assaults are the most common violent crime. And seven million is a conservative estimate: The study did not include murder, manslaughter by drunk driving, kidnapping, child abuse or similar crimes. The study found that men were more likely to become violent-crime victims than women, that a higher proportion of blacks are victimized than whites and that young people aged 16 to 24 are more likely to be victimized than people of other age groups. There is a direct relationship between family income and victimization: The lower the income, the greater the victimization. According to a separate study, the average American has a 1 in 133 chance of being murdered in his or her lifetime, and one chance in 10,000 of being murdered in any given year.