Century Marks

Century Marks

Going dry

Thanks to irrigation, Saudi Arabia has been able to grow its own supply of wheat for more than 20 years. But wheat production is collapsing because the aquifer used for irrigation is almost depleted. Water supplies and grain production are also declining in Syria and Iraq. Wells are starting to go dry in parts of India. China is overpumping water, especially in the North China Plain. About half the world's population lives in countries where the water tables are falling. Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea have been leasing or buying land in other countries, especially Ethiopia and Sudan, to grow grain for their citizens. The potential for conflict between countries over water is very high, says environmentalist Lester Brown (Foreign Policy, May/June).

Making the grade

Researchers say that Republican and Democratic professors grade their students differently. Democrats tend to be more egalitarian, meaning that more of their grades fall in the middle. Republicans tend to hand out both more high grades and more low grades, and they give lower grades to blacks than do Demo­crats. The researchers compared thousands of test scores between 2000 and 2004 at an unnamed elite university. They compared the test scores to SAT scores in order to rule out any pattern of Democratic or Republican professors attracting better students (InsideHigherEd.com, May 20).

Neither beggar nor borrower

Through 16 centuries the church officially upheld the biblical prohibition against charging interest. Its concern was to protect poor people, on the basis of the Old Testament belief that the God who rescued the Hebrew people from enslavement looks out for the poor. That tradition fell out of favor when Deism arose and God was removed from economic life. But how society deals with debt is a sign of the quality of its corporate life, says M. Douglas Meeks. Jesus taught forgiveness of debtors. The current economic crisis, caused in no small part by bad lending practices, demands that the charging of interest be regulated out of concern for the poor (Interpretation, April).

Not saying

Michael Ware, a former CNN correspondent, mentioned to a marine during a break in a firefight in Iraq that people back home ask him what was the worst thing he saw in Iraq. He said he tells them, "You haven't earned the right to know." In response the marine said that when he goes home, he is asked how many people he's killed. His reply: "That is between me and the dead" (Newsweek, May 2).

Mormon candidates

The Republican Party may have two Mormon candidates running for the presidency. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is already in the race. Jon Huntsman, a distant cousin of Romney's, former governor of Utah and until recently Obama's ambassador to China, is also considering throwing his hat into the ring. Huntsman was a Mormon missionary to Taiwan where he learned Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien. He's a bit coy about his religion: he refers to himself as a very spiritual person who is proud of his Mormon roots, but declines to say whether he still belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Time, May 23).