Century Marks

Century Marks

Cash deposit

Three young housemates bought an old couch at a Salvation Army store for $20. When they brought it home they found wads of $100 bills stuffed inside. The total was over $40,000. They dreamed of ways to spend the money, but then they saw a name on one of the envelopes, which led them to a prior owner, a widow who lived in a rough neighborhood. It turned out that her late husband had put money in the couch for his wife to use when he was no longer around (NPR, May 16).

Death sentence

A Sudanese court has sentenced Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, to death for converting to Christianity. She had also been charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man. When the judge asked Ibrahim whether she would return to Islam, she said, “I am a Christian.” A government spokesman said the ruling could be appealed in a higher court (Reuters).

Throw away the key

The incarceration rate in the United States jumped 222 percent between 1980 and 2012, according to the Brookings Institution. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the increase in the number of for-profit prisons, and overpolicing in poor and minority neighborhoods have contributed to the exponential growth. The goals of the penal system have shifted toward incapacitation, deterrence, and retribution, rather than rehabilitation. “When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community,” says Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard law professor (Harvard Gazette, May 13).

Critical mass

A Harvard student club called off a satanic “black mass” after it was condemned by the archdiocese of Boston and by Harvard’s president. Although the history behind the black mass is murky, Catholics claim it is designed to mock their rituals and beliefs. The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, sponsor of the black mass, said the purpose wasn’t to mock the Catholic mass “but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.” The group said it plans to host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit, and a presentation on Buddhist meditation (CNN, May 12).


Thousands of Iranian women are sending photos of themselves without their hijab to a London-based Facebook page dedicated to allowing them “stealthy freedoms.” The Facebook page—called “Stealthy Freedom of Iranian Women”—was set up by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad and has attracted almost 150,000 “likes.” The photos show women—sans veil—in parks, on the beach, or on the street. The late Ayatollah Khomeini made the hijab mandatory in 1979 (RNS).