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One in three British men are criminals by age 40

Buried in the British Crime Survey published recently by the British Home Office was this startling conclusion: "By the time they reach the age of 40, fully 40 percent of men in Britain have a criminal record for a non-motoring offence-a fact little known among the general public."

Officials note that this figure may actually understate the number of criminals, since some obviously commit crimes but are not caught and convicted.

The study tracked a group of men born in 1953 over four decades. By age 15, 8 percent had at least one conviction. By age 20, 20 percent had been convicted. By age 30, 31 percent, and 34 percent by age 40. After age 40, first offenses are rare.

The crimes are not petty or insignificant, say authorities. Theft, burglary and violent crimes are proportionately more common in England and Wales than in the United States. In 1996, 6 percent of the English population had their homes burglarized.

In the last two decades the number of recorded crimes in England and Wales has doubled-a greater increase than in any other Western country. Only in murder rates does the United States live up to its reputation of being more violent than England.

Commenting on the pervasiveness of crime in England, Dick Hobbs, a criminologist at Durham University, said: "We have been encouraged to think over the last 15 years that crime is exceptional, but it's now normal for people to commit crime. For many young people, it's a routine activity. In some areas you find up to 90 percent of the youths involved in crime." (Source: The Sunday Times [London].)

U.S. home-foreclosure rate approaches Great Depression's

Although the American economy appears strong, some troubling statistics indicate that it is not as stable as it may appear. In 1997 a record 1.3 million Americans declared bankruptcy-an increase of more than 20 percent for the second year in a row. In 1998 more families will likely lose their homes to foreclosure than in any year since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Analysts noted that in recent months 1.09 percent of mortgage loans were in the process of foreclosure-a rate almost double that of the recession years of the 1980s. These percentages mean that more than half a million homes will likely be lost by home owners this year. (Source: The Denver Post.)

Britain leads Europe in auto thefts

The United Kingdom leads Europe in the incidence of auto thefts, with car owners there more than twice as likely to lose their vehicles to theft as are other European drivers.

Of every 1,000 cars in Britain, 22 are stolen each year, according to insurance-industry reports. The rate is highest in England and Wales, with 23 of every 1,000 cars stolen annually. Scotland and Northern Ireland follow at 15.5 and 14.6 thefts, respectively.

The overall average for Europe is 95 of every 1,000 autos stolen each year. France, with the next-highest rate of thefts at 11.4 cars stolen per 1,000, is still only about half as bad as Britain. Austria had the lowest theft rate, and its 1.4 thefts per 1,000 cars was one sixteenth that of Britain's. (Source: The Daily Mail [London].)

Turning the corner on cancer?

New cancer cases in the United States are declining for the first time in decades, according to a joint report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. Officials reported that deaths from cancer are also decreasing.

The decline in new cases is largely attributable to behavioral changes, particularly reductions in cigarette smoking. Authorities attribute the drop in deaths to more-effective therapies and better screening, which enable physicians to detect the disease earlier.

The incidence of cancer had risen steadily since the 1930s and climbed an average of 1.2 percent annually from 1973 to 1990. From 1990 to 1995, the latest year for which complete statistics are available, the rate of new cancers averaged a 0.7 percent decrease each year. New cases of cancer appear to have peaked in 1992, when 426 of every 100,000 Americans were diagnosed with cancer. By 1995 the number had decreased to 392.

The various types of cancer continue to be a major health threat, taking the lives of 1,500 Americans every day. But, says CDC official Dr. James Marks, "cancer is conquerable, and progress is being made." (Source: The New York Times.)

"Safe sex" fading in Britain

New research and statistics indicate that Britain's young people are increasingly ignoring warnings about the dangers of AIDS and other sexually transmissible diseases and are reverting to promiscuous sexual behavior-with predictable results.

A survey of sexual behavior of 500 young men and women 16 to 24 showed that three in four of those not married were having regular sex (defined as at least five times a month) compared with only one in four in 1991. Of these, far fewer were actively concerned about the risk of contracting AIDS or other diseases. In addition, more than four in 10 reported having four or more sexual partners by age 24.

Predictably, the rate of gonorrhea infection among British teenagers has grown by almost 30 percent just since 1995.

A similar survey showed that 12 percent of British young people mistakenly believe that a cure for AIDS is available-thus this misinformation might be contributing to the lack of awareness of the dangers of promiscuity.

Dr. Nick Ford, University of Exeter researcher who carried out the first study, observed that many young people "are having a series of sexual partners." Changing attitudes and lifestyles "have implications not only for the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases but also marriage, family formation and childbearing."

He attributed much of the change in behavior to a major shift in the thinking of young women. "The 'romantic' attitude of women towards relationships has been eroded. They are now much more at ease with casual relationships."

These findings bring to mind the apostle Paul's prediction: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men [and women] will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, . . . without self-control,... headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (Sources: The Sunday Times [London], 2 Timothy 3:1-4.)

Information war: The next threat?

As the United States recently prepared for a showdown with Iraq, Pentagon planners increasingly worried about American vulnerability to a new kind of warfare-sabotage of U.S computer systems.

Government officials consider America so susceptible to such attacks that in July 1996 the White House asked 6,000 experts for their input in forming a commission to evaluate the threat and recommend strategies for defense. Included in their year-long research were senior officials from all U.S. national security agencies, the U.S. Treasury and the departments of Transportation, Energy and Commerce.

What are the dangers? Many aspects of modern life are increasingly controlled by computers, including banking systems, electrical power, telephones, hospitals, air-traffic-control systems, railroads, traffic lights, water supplies and the like. Without computers, life as we know it in Western countries would largely grind to a halt, creating massive economic problems and social upheaval.

In this kind of warfare the only weapons needed are a computer, modem and telephone line-and technological know-how. Inside knowledge, gained through bribery, threats or extortion, would make it immeasurably easier for an enemy nation-or terrorist-to infiltrate and disrupt computer systems.

Retired Air Force general Robert Marsh, head of the commission, stated: "Common to all threats is the insider. We could spend millions on technology to protect our infrastructure, but a well-placed insider or disgruntled employee could render nearly all protection useless."

Summing up the threat, Gen. Marsh stated: "The opportunity to do harm is expansive and growing. The threat is a function of capability and intent . . . These tools recognize neither borders nor jurisdictions. They can be used anywhere, anytime, by anyone with the capability, technology and intent to do harm. And they offer the advantage of anonymity."

In such warfare the identity and location of an assailant would remain a mystery, making defense and countermeasures difficult. (Source: The Independent on Sunday [London].)

New states of anarchy

When authority collapses, chaos ensues, says world-affairs analyst and author Georgie Anne Geyer, and the trend is increasing around the world. Pointing to events in Algeria, where some 60,000 to 75,000 people have been killed in a six-year civil war, the analyst says the troubled nation is the latest in a series of countries in which breakdown of government has left a vacuum filled by savagery and brutality.

Algeria's road to disaster began when 1991 elections, which Islamics apparently won, were annulled by the secular Algerian government. To overturn the decision, Islamic militants initially chose to fight the government through traditional military means. When that strategy failed, they turned to terrorism, usually choosing to invade villages at night, systematically stabbing, slashing, burning and beheading the innocent inhabitants.

Analysts think the terrorists' goals are twofold: first, to provoke so much chaos that the government will eventually collapse; second, to drive the populace out of various regions so they can move in and take over, creating their own ministates answerable to no one but themselves.

This pattern is paralleled, says writer Geyer, by events in recent years in Europe (Bosnia), Africa (Rwanda) and South America (Colombia). In the case of Colombia, drug overlords have joined forces with communist guerrillas in effect to create their own fiefdoms in remote areas of the country. Events in Bosnia and Rwanda showed that, whether armed with machine guns or machetes, man is capable of incredible savagery toward his fellowman when there is no greater power to keep such brutality in check. (Source: Universal Press Syndicate.) GN