Century Marks

Century Marks

New readers

India now has the world's largest circulation of daily newspapers. A recent survey determined that the country has 83 million readers between the ages of 13 and 35. The demand for print material has created a burgeoning pulp fiction industry that produces novels that appeal to young adults aspiring to better their economic status. An example: Stilettos in the Newsroom, a semiautobiographical novel written in English by an Indian journalist, in which each chapter ends with a lesson, such as: "Office romance can be fun . . . only if done with the right people!" (Christian Science Monitor, December 13).

Free or determined

John Horgan, a self-confessed lapsed Catholic turned agnostic and scientific materialist, welcomes scientists who question the existence of God. But he's concerned about scientists who deny free will. It doesn't make sense, he claims, "to deny that our conscious, psychological deliberations . . . influence our actions." According to Horgan, we need the concept of free will more than we need God as a basis for ethics and morality. He notes an experiment that showed students were more inclined to cheat on a math test and less likely to let a peer use their cell phone after reading a passage challenging the validity of free will (Religion Dispatches).

Peace weapon

In his annual message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, Pope Benedict XVI said the freedom to profess and express one's faith is an "authentic weapon of peace" now under threat, especially in Iraq. The pope made special mention of the plight of Iraqi Christians, recalling the October attack on a Catholic cathedral in Baghdad in which dozens of worshipers, including two priests, were killed by gunmen linked to al-Qaeda. Benedict also warned against "more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility" aimed at Christians in the West, especially in an increasingly secular Europe (RNS).

Mourning into dancing

 When Robin Rogers and George Overholser called off their nuptials, they decided they didn't want to waste their $3,500 deposit for the reception, so they orga­nized a $100-per-person fund-raiser for the Greenpoint Reformed Church's soup kitchen in New York City and raised $10,000 for the hungry. "This is a great example of someone turning mourning into dancing," the Greenpoint pastor said (The Week, December 17).

Wonder woman

Glamour magazine has named Dr. Hawa Abdi woman of the year, saying she is "equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo." A Somali ob-gyn and lawyer, she runs a 400-bed hospital and helped start a school mostly for girls. Surrounding the hospital are 1,300 acres of farmland that have become a refuge for some 90,000 people displaced by the warring factions in Somalia. A hard-line militia decided last May that a woman couldn't run this operation and ordered her to hand it over to them. She refused, even though her daughter pleaded with her to give in. The militia eventually relented in the face of worldwide outrage, mostly from Somali groups. But before departing the militia wrecked the hospital. Abdi has been in the U.S. raising money to restore the facility (Nicholas D. Kristof in New York Times, December 15).