Century Marks

Century Marks

Serendipity and the news

Cass R. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Informa­tion and Regulatory Affairs, says that newspapers have what he calls an architecture of serendipity. In newspapers, readers encounter content and become informed about subjects in which they have little interest. Sunstein worries about the future of the Washington Post, now that it has been purchased by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Bezos is a master at discovering what people want and tailoring the market to their desires. If the same strategy is applied to newspapers, people might read only about subjects they already care about (Chicago Tribune, August 14).

Scared of America

Following the killing of an Australian man studying in Oklahoma, Tim Fischer, the former deputy prime minister of Australia, suggested that Australians should avoid traveling to the United States. “Yes, people [who] are thinking of going to the USA on business, vacation, trips, should think carefully about it given the statistical facts you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people,” Fischer said. He had championed gun control reforms in Australia nearly two decades ago. Gun control laws have virtually eliminated firearms crimes in Australia (CNN.com, August 20).


As a child, Deirdre Sullivan’s parents took her and her siblings to funerals. “Always go to the funeral,” her father would say. She heard him also saying: do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it; it might inconvenience you, but it could mean the world to someone else. This message came back to her after her father died and his funeral was held in the middle of the workweek. “The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral,” she said (NPR).


Sean Gastonguay, his wife, their two small children and his father left the United States by private boat to get away from what they considered government interference in religion. They attempted to reach the island nation of Kiribati, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. A storm severely damaged their boat, leaving them adrift on the ocean for weeks. Rescued by a fishing boat, they were transferred to a cargo ship that took them to Chile. Now back in the U.S., they owe the State Depart­ment $10,000 for the flight home (AP).

Religion in the house

Of the 435 members in the U.S. House of Representa­tives, 136 are Roman Catholic. Among the other leigislators are
66 Baptists, 45 Methodists, 35 Anglicans/  Episcopalians, 28 Presbyterians, 22 Jews and 8 Mor­mons. All but one of the Jewish representatives are Democrats; all but one of the Mormons are Republicans. There is only one self-proclaimed atheist (Huffington Post, August 20).