Century Marks

Century Marks

Up from the ashes

The Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, was razed by arsonists hours after President Obama's election as the nation's first black president. Two defendants have pleaded guilty to arson in federal court and are awaiting sentencing. A third defendant will be tried this fall. They admitted harboring hatred for blacks and Hispanics and said they set fire to the church to denounce Obama's election. Christian and Jewish volunteers from as far away as California helped rebuild the facility. Commenting on the volunteers, Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., leader of the predominantly black Macedonia church, said a small miracle was born from the ashes (RNS).

Convert

Julia Roberts, lead actress in Eat Pray Love—the movie about writer Elizabeth Gilbert's travels in search of her self—was born in Georgia to a Catholic mother and a Baptist father. As an adult she converted to Hinduism, partly as a result of trips to India. Roberts is particularly drawn to the Hindu concept of reincarnation, and she thinks she's been able to recall a previous life as a peasant revolutionary. She hopes that in her next life she can lead a quiet existence, avoiding fame and celebrity (The Week, August 27).

Gambling for the environment

Native Americans once had their land taken from them. Now native peoples are setting an example for how the environment can be restored. In northern California, a consortium is working to protect and restore 3,900 acres of the Sinkyone wilderness along the coast where old-growth redwoods remain. Old logging roads are being removed and a stream is being restored in the hope that salmon runs will resume. Other tribes have started similar projects in Montana, Oregon, New Mexico and in a section of the Everglades in Florida. The projects are often funded by casinos and other tribal enterprises (National Geographic, August).

Using their brains

Sisters from the Congregation of St. Joseph and members of other religious orders are donating their brains to Alzheimer's research at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. They also participate in an annual battery of memory tests in order to gauge how the brain ages over time. The researchers also obtain information about the participants' lifestyles--what they eat, how they exercise, etc. The study is finding that some people's brains show signs of Alzheimer's after death even though they never exhibited its symptoms while living. It may be possible to delay the onset of Alzheimer's through mental, social and physical stimulation (Chicago Tribune, August 13).

Iranian cure?

Iran may be a rogue state, but its health system may be just what the doctor ordered, especially for underserved rural areas like Mississippi's Delta region. Authorities there have been studying the Iranian health-care system, which has eliminated disparities between urban and rural areas and reduced infant mortality rates in rural communities tenfold over the past 30 years. Key to its system are health houses in remote villages that are staffed by behvarzes, villagers who are trained to give basic health-care services, including preventive care. Planners in Mississippi are hoping to train mothers on welfare to staff health houses. "If the Iranians came up with a cure for cancer, would we not use it just because we dislike their leaders?" asks a health-care consultant in Mississippi (AARP Bulletin, July-August).