Century Marks

Century Marks

Head of the class

Harvard comes out on top in a Times Higher Education ranking of the best 200 universities in the world. No British universities made the top five. In this ranking, less weight was given to tradition and reputation and more to objective measures such as the influence of research. This shift raised the rank of several Chinese and South Korean universities. The top ten universities are Harvard, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, University of California (Berkeley), Imperial College London and Yale (Guardian, September 16).

Land rush

Large swaths of land are being secretly bought up by international investors, especially in Africa, according to Oxfam. Much of this land is used for growing sugar cane and oil palm for biofuels rather than for growing food. In Mozambique, for instance, only 32,000 out of 433,000 hectares of land approved for sale between 2007 and 2009 were used for food crops. These land purchases by outside interests leave the former inhabitants without sufficient land to meet their own needs (Guardian, September 22).

Bad dreams

When Robert Jay Lifton embarked on a project of interviewing Nazi death camp doctors, he started having bad dreams in which he was in a place like Auschwitz along with family members. He talked with Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, about the dreams. Wiesel's response: "Good, now you can do the study." Lifton understood Wiesel to be saying that he had to inhabit the subject psychologically, not just academically. That was his way of paying his dues (Witness to an Extreme Century, Free Press).

Peace efforts

Former President Jimmy Carter thinks it was a mistake for the U.S. to veto the bid in the United Nations for Palestinian statehood. He argued that President Obama could make good on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize by backing the move for Palestinian statehood (Haaretz, October 6).

Old immigration story

Benjamin Franklin's freethinking ways didn't include tolerance for other ethnic groups, especially German immigrants. He wondered why "Palatine Boors [that is, Germans] be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and be herding together [to] establish their languages and manners to exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language [or] customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion" (John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Westminster John Knox).