Century Marks

Century Marks

Cardinal prophecy

In March 2003, Pope John Paul II sent a letter to President George W. Bush trying to discourage him from invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The letter was delivered in person by Cardinal Pio Laghi, a Bush family friend. President Bush, without opening the letter, set it on a table and launched into a defense of war against Iraq, saying he believed it was God's will. The cardinal told the president three things would happen if Iraq were invaded: it would cause many deaths and injuries on both sides; a civil war would ensue; and the U.S. would have difficulty extricating itself from the war (Vatican Insider, September 30).

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).