Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

More stuff

Compulsive consumerism has come to dominate British family life, according to a study done by UNICEF UK. One mother reported that she thought her three-year-old son would be bullied if he didn't have a Nintendo DS games system at home. Parents are putting long hours into work and giving their children consumer goods as compensation. Children interviewed in the study said they would prefer more time with their parents. "We are probably the most secular society in the world, we do not have the counterbalance of religion," says Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood. From the time they are born children get the message that "the one thing that matters is getting more stuff" (Telegraph, September 14).

Food stuff

Global food prices have spiked twice in the last three years largely for two reasons, according to a study released by the New England Complex Systems Institute: increasing diversion of grain to ethanol production and speculation in the commodities market. Ethanol this year will consume 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop, which constitutes 16 percent of world corn production. With the deregulation of commodity futures in 2000, the futures market has become another place for speculative investments, resulting in huge spikes in food commodities. The authors recommend two steps to bring down and stabilize food prices: restore financial regulations in the commodities market and end ethanol production. "There is a moral imperative," says one of the authors of the paper (fastcompany.com, September 22).

A bit of parsley

The U.S. Senate begins every session with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the partisan bickering ensues. The prayer is led by Chaplain Barry C. Black, a Seventh-day Adventist who rose to the rank of rear admiral as a navy chaplain. His prayers typically call for unity, respect for one another, and reconciliation. Black is not disturbed by the fact that the Senate rarely heeds his petitions. The rancorous speeches made on the floor of the Senate are usually prepared before he gives his opening prayer, he says. Peter Marshall, Senate chaplain in the 1940s, says he was the equivalent of parsley—just there for decoration (Washington Post, September 21).