On May 10 a powerful, 7.1 temblor devastated 200 villages in Iran, killing more than 2,400 people and injuring about 5,000. The quake destroyed 10,000 homes, making 100,000 homeless. A survivor says, "I was outside when I heard the mountain roar like a dragon, and suddenly the air became dark as night from the thick cloud of dust."
Munich Reinsurance Company, in its annual report on natural disasters, counts 600 in 1996, a new record. Catastrophes included 200 windstorms, 170 floods, 50 earthquakes, 30 volcanic eruptions and 150 other events ranging from wildfires to avalanches. Over 11,000 people died from natural disasters last year. The company reports that about five times more catastrophes occur today than in the 1960s.
With Syria's recent arms deal with Russia and Iran, the prospects for war in the Middle East have increased dramatically. This Russian and Iranian support nullifies the effect of Israel's military cooperation pact with Turkey. If Syria gains the backing of Egypt, intelligence sources in Israel conclude, war in the region must be considered a near certainty by the end of 2003—and a strong possibility before 2000.
» The March-April edition of Futurist magazine reports that the growing global dependence upon electronic storage and transmission of data for defense, trade, banking, etc. is creating an attractive target for international terrorism. If terrorists broke into the Federal Reserve's computer system, they could cause financial and political chaos around the world.
» The Pentagon expects to use Meditag, a postage-sized semiconductor chip embedded in plastic, in place of the traditional dog tag. The Meditag can store the equivalent of 600,000 single-spaced typed pages and will also hold up better than the dog tag under battlefield stress.
Selected emergency room patients will soon be given a blood substitute called HemAssist instead of a blood transfusion at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. This experimental treatment, also to be used in five other hospitals nationwide, is unusual because HemAssist will be administered without the patient's permission. Though ethically questionable, the hospitals will continue with the procedure because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration partially lifted a 50-year ban on involuntary human medical testing last fall.
In what was billed as his most important speech of the year, German President Roman Herzog insisted, "Germany needs to be jolted. . . . All are called upon, all must be willing to make sacrifices, all must participate. . . . We need a new social contract for the benefit of the future. . . . We must set to work now. I am calling for more self-reliance. I am counting on renewed courage. And I am putting my trust in our creative power. We must believe in ourselves once more. The best years still lie before us."
A newsletter associated with Algeria's rebel Armed Islamic Group published a threat of increased Islamic terrorism in France. The threat, quoted on French television on April 17, warned that "a merciless war will be waged against France."