Century Marks

Century Marks

Going gently

When Charlie, a highly regarded orthopedist, discovered he had pancreatic cancer, he refused all treatment. He ended his practice, never entered a hospital again, and spent time with his family until his death. This is not an unusual approach for doctors, according to Ken Murray, himself a physician. Doctors know what options they have at the end of life and how futile extreme efforts often are. While doctors often must use extreme measures to keep other people alive to meet relatives’ expectations, they refuse these measures themselves. Studies have shown that people in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who seek active treatment (Health Care Blog, August 6, 2012).

Revolution reading

These five books on the American Revolution, selected by American historian Thomas Kidd, were all written for a general audience by academic historians: Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution; David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride; Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence; James Byrd, Sacred Scrip­ture, Sacred War: The Bible and the Amer­ican Revolution; and Maya Jasa­noff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Kidd himself has authored two books on the topic: God of Liberty: A Religious History of the Amer­ican Revolution and Patrick Henry: First among Patriots (Patheos, July 2).

Assembly required

The Swedish furniture maker IKEA has designed a refugee shelter capable of housing one family. The structures are designed for assembly without tools and are transportable in a flat pack. The shelter uses technology that keeps the building cool during the day and warm at night, with a solar panel providing electricity. The units are being tested in a refugee camp in southeastern Ethiopia where there are about 190,000 Somali refugees, as well as in Iraq and Lebanon. When mass-produced, the structure will cost slightly more than a tent but will be more durable. It is estimated that 3.5 million refugees currently live in tents (Christian Science Monitor, June 19).

Security overkill

The immigration bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate significantly increases expenditures for border security. However, border security is already costing Americans $18 billion per year—more than the combined budgets of the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshalls office, DEA and the Secret Service. There is one border patrol agent for every 500 feet of the Mexican border. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has more planes than the Australian Air Force and as many boats as the Russian Navy. The border fence costs $16 million per mile, which is $3,000 per foot (cambio-us.org).

Stop the war

Since the 1980s the war on drugs has created what author Michelle Alexander has called a “permanent under-caste” of men, mostly black, who are convicted of drug offenses. There are more African-American men in the American corrections system now than were enslaved in 1850. The United States has a higher incarceration rate than Russia or China or other regimes considered repressive. Strained prison budgets are forcing liberals and conservatives to reconsider the laws that have led to the explosion in the prison populations. Frank Wolf, who’s been involved with the evangelical Prison Fellowship, is one of many conservatives now endorsing “smart on crime” strategies rather than “get tough on crime” strategies (Newsweek, June 19).