Century Marks

Century Marks

Taxing situation

The more a corporation pays its CEO the more it saves in corporate taxes, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies. The tax code for corporations permits them to take unlimited deductions for performance pay to CEOs. IPS studied 26 CEOs who averaged $20.4 million in total compensation last year. Each one of the corporations surveyed paid their CEO more than they paid in federal taxes. The CEOs themselves benefit from a favorable tax code, which saves them millions in federal income taxes (Star Tribune, August 19).

Peace wanted

Gershon Baskin says that the common view among Israelis is that Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel and that Palestinians want to kill Israelis and take their land—and so there is no hope for peace. Baskin, who spends a great deal of time in the West Bank, including the volatile city of Hebron, sees a different reality. He is treated with respect as an Israeli Jew. “I cross borders, go beyond walls, break down barriers and refuse to allow fear of ‘the other’ to turn into hatred,” he said. One Palestinian security official told Baskin that the problem is that Palestinians no longer have contact with Israelis, owing to the separation wall. Baskin believes that both Israelis and Palestinians want peace, in spite of the sense of hopelessness (Jerusalem Post, September 11).

On the one hand

No comprehensive study has been done of the health implications of fracking, the method used to extract pockets of natural gas deep within the earth. Fracking uses fresh water under pressure, which releases a toxic flowback to the surface. Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a Cornell biochemist, have done a study of livestock, wildlife and people in the gaslands of Pennsylvania. They found that cattle exposed to fracking fluid have a high rate of stillbirths, cleft palates, contaminated milk and death. Cats and dogs have seizures, stillbirths, fur loss and vomiting. Humans experience headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and vomiting. In separate research, high levels of benzene were found in western Colorado communities close to fracking operations. In humans, benzene causes leukemia, birth defects and breast cancer (Orion, September/October).

Jesus’ complexion

Many Americans were disturbed when video clips of Jeremiah Wright surfaced in 2008 showing him preaching about a black Jesus crucified by white Roman centurions. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, authors of The Color of Christ, point out that the features of another image of Jesus hardly get noticed: Christus, an 11-foot white marble Jesus at the Mormon visitors’ center in Salt Lake City, is a central part of Mormon iconography. The statue, a replica of a work by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, shows a Northern European–looking Jesus. It fits with what Joseph Smith said was revealed to him about Jesus: that he had fair skin and blue eyes (Huff Post Religion, September 9).

Denominational decline

Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, the two most liberal Jewish groups in the United States, are losing about 1 percent of their members each year, according Steven Cohen, sociologist at Hebrew Union College. Interreligious marriage is a significant cause: only 15 to 20 percent of interfaith families join a synagogue, and those who do are less active or leave the synagogue after the bar mitzvah of their last child. Jews tend to live in blue states where the rate of religious affiliation is the lowest. The largest “denomination” declared by American Jews is “none” (Economist, July 28).