Century Marks

Century Marks

Church cover blown

As commodity prices soar, thieves are targeting British churches and other institutions, taking copper lightning rods, lead rain pipes, bronze statues, iron gates, even church bells and entire roofs. "Boom conditions in China, India and Brazil have created an incredible demand for lead and copper," said a representative of a private company that insures about 90 percent of churches in England and Wales. "Church roofs are often the target, threatening some churches with bankruptcy," she said. The price of copper came close to US$10,000 a ton earlier this year, having fallen as low as $2,825 a ton in December 2008 due to the financial crisis affecting demand (ENI).

Head of the class

Harvard comes out on top in a Times Higher Education ranking of the best 200 universities in the world. No British universities made the top five. In this ranking, less weight was given to tradition and reputation and more to objective measures such as the influence of research. This shift raised the rank of several Chinese and South Korean universities. The top ten universities are Harvard, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, University of California (Berkeley), Imperial College London and Yale (Guardian, September 16).

Land rush

Large swaths of land are being secretly bought up by international investors, especially in Africa, according to Oxfam. Much of this land is used for growing sugar cane and oil palm for biofuels rather than for growing food. In Mozambique, for instance, only 32,000 out of 433,000 hectares of land approved for sale between 2007 and 2009 were used for food crops. These land purchases by outside interests leave the former inhabitants without sufficient land to meet their own needs (Guardian, September 22).

Bad dreams

When Robert Jay Lifton embarked on a project of interviewing Nazi death camp doctors, he started having bad dreams in which he was in a place like Auschwitz along with family members. He talked with Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, about the dreams. Wiesel's response: "Good, now you can do the study." Lifton understood Wiesel to be saying that he had to inhabit the subject psychologically, not just academically. That was his way of paying his dues (Witness to an Extreme Century, Free Press).

Peace efforts

Former President Jimmy Carter thinks it was a mistake for the U.S. to veto the bid in the United Nations for Palestinian statehood. He argued that President Obama could make good on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize by backing the move for Palestinian statehood (Haaretz, October 6).