Century Marks

Century Marks

Pants Sunday

For the second year in a row, Mormon feminists wore pants to church on the second Sunday of December. While there are no specific prescriptions for women to wear skirts or dresses to church, Mormon women face subtle pressure to do so. The organizer of “Wear Pants to Church” Sunday said, “Sometimes at church it feels like we’re asked to adopt gender roles that are very traditional.” One participant said she was more optimistic about the church because of this quiet protest. “There is a future for progressive Mormons,” she said, “that we can do better for the gay community, for women and for people of color” (Reuters).

State by state

Statistics released by the federal government indicate that, through November, the rate of residents signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is three times higher in states embracing the federal law compared to states where its leaders have resisted it. On the one side are mostly Democratic-leaning states that have expanded Medicaid for low-income people and started their own health insurance exchanges. On the other side are states that have refused to expand Medicaid and have not set up their own health insurance exchanges, even though many of them have relatively higher levels of poverty and fewer insured citizens (AP).

Out of Spain

Researchers reported last month that they discovered human DNA in a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, surpassing the prior oldest human DNA discovery by 300,000 years. The thighbone found in Spain was once thought to come from a predecessor of the Neanderthals. Its DNA, however, most closely looks like a form of humans known as Denisovans, who were previously thought to exist 4,000 miles to the east. The discovery means that the history of human evolution is much more complicated than scientists had thought (New York Times, December 4).

Home again

The Annenberg Foundation has paid $530,000 for 24 sacred Native American artifacts for the sole purpose of returning them to the two tribes that tried but failed to keep them from being auctioned off at a Paris auction house. A lawyer for the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes had argued before a French court that as sacred objects, used in religious ceremonies, the artifacts should not be sold. A U.S. law that limits trafficking in Native American items holds no force abroad (RNS).

Dead Sea comeback

Last month Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority entered into an agreement that would help reverse a 50-year decline in the water level of the Dead Sea. In the plan, desalination plants would convert salt water from the Red Sea to drinkable water. The briny remains would then be pumped to the Dead Sea. Jordan and the West Bank are chronically short of fresh water. While Israel has a surplus, it too could experience a shortfall during an extended drought. The plan calls for Israel to increase the amount of water it sells to the Palestinian Authority by 30 million cubic meters each year. Some environmental groups are concerned about detrimental effects of transferring brine to the Dead Sea (Washington Post, December 9).