Century Marks

Century Marks

Coming out

Some of the children of the wealthiest Americans have been involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. One held a sign reading, "I have more money than I know what to do with. Tax me more." A sign held by twins read, "You would know our dad, if we told you who he was." Some of children of the 1 percent said it was hard to decide to get involved-it was almost like "coming out" (The Week, December 30–January 6).

Patient care

Dr. Stephen Workman, an internist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has reflected on what doctors should and shouldn't say when patients are dying. When he senses that death is possible, he says to patients: "You could die during this hospital admission. Is that something you've been thinking about?" He might follow up with, "What have you been thinking, and what are your expectations?" He thinks doctors should not say that a patient is failing to respond to treatment; rather, they should say that the treatments are not working. It is the treatments that fail, not the dying patient (New York Times, December 20).

Does God (particle) exist?

Scientists at the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research believe they are honing in on the so-called God particle, also known as the Higgs boson. Scientists hypothesize that this particle is what allows other particles to have mass. Researchers at the institute, known as CERN, are using the 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider to try to create the conditions that existed after the Big Bang that formed the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Alternative explanations for the mechanism that allows particles to have mass are also being pursued. Scien­tists working on the Higgs boson say they'll search for another year. If it is not found by then, they will conclude that it doesn't exist (Washington Post, December 13).

Good pay for historian

Jonathan Zimmerman says the first thing he learned in graduate school about being a historian is that the field demands both rigor and humility: you must know what you're talking about—and when you don't, you need to admit it. These are not qualities that characterize Newt Gingrich, who has been leading in the polls as candidate for the Republican presidential campaign. Gingrich has a doctorate in history, but he never did the academic work necessary for gaining tenure at West Georgia College, where he taught before launching a political career. Gingrich has written over 20 books that use history, but most historians regard them as simplistic and partisan. He defends the work he did for Freddie Mac by saying that he was a historical consultant, for which some sources say he earned as much as $1.8 million. "Who knew my profession could be so lucrative?" asks Zimmerman (Chicago Tribune, December 1).

Aid for the rich

More than 20 percent of U.S. financial aid for college goes to students who don't need it, according to the College Board, the association of colleges that administers the SAT test. Colleges and universities are using this money to compete for students with high grade point averages and SAT scores. Elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Stanford give aid to students from families with incomes as high as $200,000. The consequence is that fewer dollars are available for students with actual financial need, whose share of financial aid has steadily declined over the past decade (USA Today, November 25–27).