A 4.9 magnitude quake struck the California mountain resort of Mammoth Lakes on November 30, the strongest of thousands of earth movements since summer. Seismologists think the quakes are caused by magma moving under the Sierra Nevada. Such strong quakes raise fears in Los Angeles—hundreds of miles away—that the city's water supply could be severely upset if a volcanic eruption occurs in the Mammoth Lakes area.
Up to 3,000 families lost their homes as Typhoon Paka ravaged Guam for 12 harrowing hours on December 17. Winds blew at 150 m.p.h. and reached a record gust of 236 m.p.h. Hospital officials said low barometric pressure induced nine pregnant women to give birth.
As a result of El Niño, 1997 will go on record as the world's worst year for wildfires. The Amazon region of Brazil had more than 45,000 fires, destroying about 5 million acres, an area almost the size of Vermont. Fires in Indonesia burned 4.9 million acres. Vast areas of New Guinea, Colombia, Peru, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and other parts of Africa also burned. Large-scale fires also struck Australia, China, Russia and several Mediterranean countries.
In the 23 years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on January 22, 1973, 32.5 million abortions have been performed in America. In the years 1993-1996, an estimated 1.4 million abortions occurred each year.
Zoologists believe that high levels of ultraviolet radiation-B (UVB) can cause physical deformities in amphibians. Increased solar UVB, attributed to an eroded ozone layer, has played a role in the worldwide decline in amphibian species. In a laboratory study, where egg masses of long-toed salamanders were exposed to UVB, 85% of the embryos died, and all but 4 of the remaining salamanders were deformed.
On December 16, the government of Helmut Kohl took the first step toward securing German consent to NATO's plans for expansion by allowing its Foreign Minister to sign protocols on extending alliance membership to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Over the past 2 years, nearly 2 million people have attended 650 church services at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, where believers wait up to 17 hours to shake and roll on the floor, convinced that God is making them do it. Evangelist Steve Hill began the revival on Father's Day 1995, when church members spontaneously began showing signs of being "slain in the spirit." Critics believe that the evangelist is manipulating the emotions of weak people who want to surrender.
Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement recognizing the status of Catholic Church institutions in Israel. Foreign Minister David Levy said the pact "strengthened the already good relations which exist between Israel and the center of the Catholic Church, the Holy See."
In response to Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement that Israel would annex the Jordan Valley and other territories if the Palestinians unilaterally declared themselves a sovereign nation, Yassir Arafat said, "Let it be quite clear to all that the state of Palestine exists and al-Kuds al-Sharif [Jerusalem] that was occupied in 1967 will be its capital."