Century Marks

Century Marks

De facto abolition

Approval of the death penalty in the U.S. has dropped from 80 percent in 1994 to 61 percent. A year ago, when a Gallup poll asked people's preference between sentencing a murderer to death or to life without parole, only 49 percent chose the death penalty. Another revealing fact: only one-seventh of the 3,147 counties in the U.S. have had an execution since 1976; counties that comprise one-eighth of the population have produced two-thirds of the sentences. Texas has executed five times as many as Virginia, which ranks second in executions. In Texas the death penalty is used heavily in only four of its 254 counties (New York Times, October 14).

New world order

A major document released last month by the Vatican calls for a major overhaul of the world's financial system. The current financial system promotes national self-interest, rewards rich countries over the poor and is anachronistic in a globalized world, the document claims. A universal public authority that transcends national interest is needed, such as the creation of a central world bank that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges. Taxes should be imposed on financial transactions in order to build a reserve that could support countries hit by crisis (America magazine blog, October 24).

Champion the vote

A group of venture capitalists is backing United in Purpose, a nonprofit organization that is trying to influence the outcome of the 2012 election by registering 5 million conservative Christians. Using a sophisticated data mining procedure, it is compiling a database of every unregistered evangelical, conservative Christian in the country. The organization's Champion the Vote campaign has a website that lists right to life, religious freedom and traditional marriage as its top priorities. Technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, one of its financial backers, says that one day God will ask people how they voted (Chicago Tribune, September 18).

Immigrant entrepreneur

Here is a headline you may not have seen: "Steve Jobs Dies: He Was the Most Famous Arab in the World." The father of the innovative head of Apple was from Syria. Jobs's parents, who weren't married, gave him up for adoption. Despite the political unrest plaguing Syria, many Syrians celebrated Jobs's accomplishments when he died. One Syrian admitted: "I think that if he had lived in Syria, he would not have been able to achieve any of this, or else he would have chosen to leave Syria" (The Lede, New York Times, October 6).

German spirits

New guidelines issued by the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany, that country's largest Protestant body, advise parishioners not to invest in companies that make hard liquor, though beer and wine producers are fine. The guidelines are meant to help investors invest their money wisely but morally in the wake of the financial crisis that has roiled world markets since 2007. The guidelines also discourage investing in companies that manufacture guns or pornography or in countries that are considered dictatorships or present a risk to the environment (RNS).