Century Marks

Century Marks

Just friends

According to the Sesame Workshop, the puppets Ernie and Bert are just friends and they will remain that. The producers of the children's TV program Sesame Street were responding to an online petition asking for the show to feature a gay wedding between Ernie and Bert as a way of encouraging acceptance of gays. The two characters have lived together at 123 Sesame Street since 1969. They share a bedroom but have single beds. "Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation," Sesame Workshop said on its official Facebook page (Reuters).

Rich difference

Social scientist Dacher Keltner has conducted numerous studies which lead him to conclude that rich people really are different from the rest of society: they are less empathetic, less altruistic and more selfish. He's found that people with low incomes are better able to decipher the emotions of people in photographs than are rich people. His claims have been contested, however, by social scientists who point to other studies showing different results. A study last year at Harvard and Duke indicated that regardless of income or political affiliation, Americans think income should be equally distributed. Rich people tended to think income is already equally distributed (MSNBC, August 10).

Seeker sensitive?

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, withdrew from participation in Leadership Summit 2011 at Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago, responding to an online petition targeting the church's stance toward gays. The petition claims that Willow Creek has "practiced dangerous conversion therapy to 'cure' people of their sexual orientation." Pastor Bill Hybels says the church isn't antigay but expects its people to uphold the principle that sex belongs only in a marriage between a man and a woman. The summit was broadcast to 40 nations by satellite (Toledo Blade, August 12).

Welfare “reform”

The food stamp program seems to have worked well during the recent recession. The number of recipients has increased by about 30 percent. Welfare, since it was "reformed" in 1996, is another matter. Getting through the hoops to receive assistance from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is difficult and the decisions can be arbitrary. Some recipients have called it the "Torture and Abuse of Needy Families" program. One couple was told that to qualify they must each apply for 40 jobs a week, even though their car was in disrepair and they had no money for gas or babysitting (Barbara Ehrenreich's afterword to the 2011 edition of Nickel and Dimed).

Back to school rally

When Texas governor Rick Perry held a public prayer meeting last month in Houston before announcing he was a candidate for the Republican presidential race, about 30,000 people showed up. What didn't get much national attention was a much larger gathering in Houston that same day which drew 100,000 and had to turn people away. It was the first citywide back-to-school event at which children were given free backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations and even food. Planners, who expected only 25,000, were overwhelmed at the response (Houston Chronicle, August 7).