Century Marks

Century Marks

Wake-up call

Last summer scientists documented that the sea level is rising faster in the northeastern United States than in almost any other place on the globe. They spelled out a series of risks, including the flooding of the New York subway system—which happened last month during Hurricane Sandy. It’s unclear whether New York City can build sea walls to protect against future storms and higher seas. New York is 17th on a list of cities worldwide that are subject to calamities from flooding due to global warming. Leading the list are Mumbai and Kolkata, which are less likely than New York to be able to hold back rising seas (Bill McKibben at commondreams.org).

Brazil’s religious right

More than 20 percent of Brazilians are evangelicals, and while they don’t yet have a unified agenda the way many evangelicals in the U.S. do, they are making a political mark. They hold only about 10 percent of the seats in the legislative assembly, but they had enough power to kill a measure that would have supplied Brazil’s schools with antihomophobia materials (Los Angeles Times, October 21).


Two years ago Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, prime minister and defense minister of Israel, directed the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad (the country’s intelligence and special operations agency) to prepare for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the heads of both the IDF and Mossad were opposed to a strike and never fully prepared for it. The former heads of these agencies, now retired, have spoken against an Israeli attack. Gabi Ashkenazi, former head of the IDF, has said that Israel should continue to carry out covert actions against Iran but not start a war. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has said it would be stupid to attack Iran. Dagan has worried that Netanyahu and Barak would go to war illegally, bypassing the cabinet (Haaretz, November 4).

Chosen by lot

The Coptic Church of Egypt recently chose a new pope through a blind process. After the number of candidates was whittled down to three, their names were placed on pieces of paper in crystal balls sealed with wax and put in a glass bowl. A blindfolded boy picked one name out of the bowl. Bishop Tawadros’s name was chosen. The new pope will have the challenge of guiding the church in the face of a government led by the Muslim Brother­hood (BBC News, November 4).

Real presence

Tarn Wilson, a high school English teacher, sat with a student after school to talk with her about a memoir the student had written concerning her depression and attempt at suicide. Wilson asked the student, “What helped?” The student responded that she had been helped by friends who encouraged her, who argued for life, even at times when she was too sullen to respond. Then she said: “Just being there. Physically. Being there. You don’t have to say anything at all” (Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer/Autumn).