Century Marks

Century Marks

What the doctor ordered

The Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur hospital system is working with 400 churches to ensure that its patients have a support system while in the hospital and when they are discharged. Hospital staff called "navigators" work with liaisons in each congregation that is part of the Congregational Health Network to arrange for visits, transportation and follow-up care. The mortality rate for those in the program from 2007 to 2009 was 50 percent lower than for those not in it, and readmission rates were 20 percent lower. The hospital system says 70 percent of its patients belong to churches (Washington Post, October 3).

Church cover blown

As commodity prices soar, thieves are targeting British churches and other institutions, taking copper lightning rods, lead rain pipes, bronze statues, iron gates, even church bells and entire roofs. "Boom conditions in China, India and Brazil have created an incredible demand for lead and copper," said a representative of a private company that insures about 90 percent of churches in England and Wales. "Church roofs are often the target, threatening some churches with bankruptcy," she said. The price of copper came close to US$10,000 a ton earlier this year, having fallen as low as $2,825 a ton in December 2008 due to the financial crisis affecting demand (ENI).

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).

A bit of parsley

The U.S. Senate begins every session with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the partisan bickering ensues. The prayer is led by Chaplain Barry C. Black, a Seventh-day Adventist who rose to the rank of rear admiral as a navy chaplain. His prayers typically call for unity, respect for one another, and reconciliation. Black is not disturbed by the fact that the Senate rarely heeds his petitions. The rancorous speeches made on the floor of the Senate are usually prepared before he gives his opening prayer, he says. Peter Marshall, Senate chaplain in the 1940s, says he was the equivalent of parsley—just there for decoration (Washington Post, September 21).