Century Marks

Century Marks


An upstate New York man filed a $3 million lawsuit against a Roman Catholic church after a 600-pound stone cross fell and crushed his leg. The man had regularly prayed at the church for his wife’s recovery from cancer. As a gesture of thanks for his wife’s recovery, the man offered to scrub down the large cross which stood outside the church. While he was cleaning the massive crucifix, it came unhinged from its mount and toppled onto him. The 45-year-old father of three, who had no health insurance, lost his leg in the accident


Jamie Barden, a psychologist at Howard University, tried an experiment with students. He told them a story about Mike, a political fund raiser. Mike had a serious car accident after drinking at a fund-raising event. A month later, Mike made an impassioned statement on the radio against drunk driving. Barden asked the students if they thought Mike was a changed man or a hypocrite. The students were two and a half times more likely to say that Mike was a hypocrite if they were told he belonged to a political party different from their own (New York Review of Books, November 8)

Independent study

The One Laptop per Child organization dropped off computer tablets in two remote Egyptian villages. The tablets were preloaded with alphabet games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings and other programs. The organization wanted to see if children could teach themselves to read without any help from instructors. Within five days the kids were using 47 apps each, after two weeks they were singing ABC songs, and within five months they had figured out how to use the camera (MIT Technology Review, October 29).

Unholy gambling

A hacker group calling itself the “moroccan­ghosts” took over the French website of the Euromillions lottery early this month. The hackers posted verses from the Qur’an and warned that gambling would “turn you away from God and prayer.” France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, many of whom come from Morocco and Algeria (The Week, November 9).

Wake-up call

Last summer scientists documented that the sea level is rising faster in the northeastern United States than in almost any other place on the globe. They spelled out a series of risks, including the flooding of the New York subway system—which happened last month during Hurricane Sandy. It’s unclear whether New York City can build sea walls to protect against future storms and higher seas. New York is 17th on a list of cities worldwide that are subject to calamities from flooding due to global warming. Leading the list are Mumbai and Kolkata, which are less likely than New York to be able to hold back rising seas (Bill McKibben at commondreams.org).