Century Marks

Century Marks

New world order

A major document released last month by the Vatican calls for a major overhaul of the world's financial system. The current financial system promotes national self-interest, rewards rich countries over the poor and is anachronistic in a globalized world, the document claims. A universal public authority that transcends national interest is needed, such as the creation of a central world bank that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges. Taxes should be imposed on financial transactions in order to build a reserve that could support countries hit by crisis (America magazine blog, October 24).

Champion the vote

A group of venture capitalists is backing United in Purpose, a nonprofit organization that is trying to influence the outcome of the 2012 election by registering 5 million conservative Christians. Using a sophisticated data mining procedure, it is compiling a database of every unregistered evangelical, conservative Christian in the country. The organization's Champion the Vote campaign has a website that lists right to life, religious freedom and traditional marriage as its top priorities. Technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, one of its financial backers, says that one day God will ask people how they voted (Chicago Tribune, September 18).

Head of the class

Harvard comes out on top in a Times Higher Education ranking of the best 200 universities in the world. No British universities made the top five. In this ranking, less weight was given to tradition and reputation and more to objective measures such as the influence of research. This shift raised the rank of several Chinese and South Korean universities. The top ten universities are Harvard, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, University of California (Berkeley), Imperial College London and Yale (Guardian, September 16).

Land rush

Large swaths of land are being secretly bought up by international investors, especially in Africa, according to Oxfam. Much of this land is used for growing sugar cane and oil palm for biofuels rather than for growing food. In Mozambique, for instance, only 32,000 out of 433,000 hectares of land approved for sale between 2007 and 2009 were used for food crops. These land purchases by outside interests leave the former inhabitants without sufficient land to meet their own needs (Guardian, September 22).

Bad dreams

When Robert Jay Lifton embarked on a project of interviewing Nazi death camp doctors, he started having bad dreams in which he was in a place like Auschwitz along with family members. He talked with Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, about the dreams. Wiesel's response: "Good, now you can do the study." Lifton understood Wiesel to be saying that he had to inhabit the subject psychologically, not just academically. That was his way of paying his dues (Witness to an Extreme Century, Free Press).