Century Marks

Century Marks

Fuel up

Leaders at the Pentagon are not among those who deny the reality of global warming. They’re working on strategies to respond the effects of climate change. They are also trying to reduce depen­dence on fossil fuels through the use of alternative energy. The Defense Depart­ment consumes 90 percent of fuel used by the federal government, at a cost of $16 billion in 2008. No wonder the Pen­ta­gon is ex­perimenting with fighter jets fueled by a combination of jet fuel, cooking grease and algae (Orion, May/June).

Rain down

From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have led Christian preachers and Catholic priests to encourage prayer processions and American Indian tribes to use their closely guarded traditions to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain. An interfaith service in Oklahoma City was held where Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayers were used for rain. The Catholic bishop in Lubbock is planning a special mass at which farmers can have their seeds and soil blessed. The archbishop of New Mexico’s largest diocese has turned to social media to urge parishioners to pray: “Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad” (AP).

Food first

Nearly 260,000 people died during the Somalian food crisis of 2010–12. Over half of them were children under five. The deaths are attributed to an Islamist militia group that kept aid from getting to the area, warlords who stole food aid, and officials in the capital who diverted food aid. The U.S. war on terror is also to blame, because it and the World Food Program ceased giving aid to the region after the Islamist militia group was named a terrorist organization. A spokesperson for the aid group Oxfam said, “When . . . people are dying of hunger, politics should not play a part” (Chicago Tribune, May 3).

Music of the heart

When Joel Kurz was a seminary intern at an inner-city Lutheran mission, he encountered an alcoholic who told him to “learn number 123 in the red book.” Number 123 in the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal turned out to feature the tune “Down Ampney,” composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the 15th-century text “Come down, O Love divine, / Seek thou this soul of mine.” Vaughan Williams had requested that this hymn be sung at his funeral. Kurz later discovered the alcoholic man had been working on a doctorate in music when his wife and son were killed in an auto accident. Kurz concluded that the man must have identified deeply with the plea in this hymn (Weavings, May/June/July).

Irresistible

Three men from the United Arab Emirates were visiting Saudi Arabia to attend an annual cultural festival when they were apprehended by the religious police. They were forcibly removed from the festival and deported to Abu Dhabi. The reason given was they were considered too handsome and women might possibly find them irresistible. Saudi women are usually not allowed to interact with males outside their family (Time, April 17).