Century Marks

Century Marks

Ecclesial credit

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is helping to reform the payday lending enterprise in the United Kingdom by advocating new caps on interest. At the same time, Welby is urging the church to support credit unions that charge reasonable interest rates and don’t threaten delinquent borrowers with menacing letters from bogus lawyers. Welby has a business background, and his mother was an assistant to Winston Churchill (Spectator, November 15).

Health-care difference

About 10 million more people in the United States have health insurance this year because of the Affordable Care Act, which has helped offset income inequality by redistributing income to the poorest people in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies. Benefiting most are those in the 18–34 age bracket, blacks, Hispanics, and those living in rural areas. Despite Republican resistance to Obamacare, people in largely Republican areas have greater coverage gains than those in predominantly Democratic areas (New York Times, November 2).

Great feat

During Hitler’s siege of Leningrad in the winter of 1941–42, the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the entire Leningrad Philharmonic were evacuated from the city. A performance of Shostakovich’s seventh symphony, dedicated to the city of Leningrad, was planned for August 9, 1942. There were barely enough musicians left in the city to perform it. The score had to be flown in over German lines, and musicians were pulled from the front lines to bolster the meager ranks of musicians left behind. This performance was a show of resistance in a city which had just lost 1.2 million people (NPR, November 2).

Rags to riches?

Nineteenth-century novelist Horatio Alger Jr. has become synonymous with the American rags-to-riches mythology, but it’s a story that he never lived himself. The son of a Congregational minister in Massachu­setts, Alger became a Unitarian minister. Confronted with allegations about nefarious acts he had committed with young boys, Alger left town. Alger’s father talked the church officials out of going public with the evidence and promised that his son would never again seek a ministerial position. Alger took up a writing career in New York City, where he befriended many boys whose tough-luck stories Alger worked into his novels. No allegations were ever made about Alger’s relationship with these boys, who were very loyal to their patron (John Swansburg, Slate, September 29).

Extreme measures

Larry Ellison, one of the wealthiest Americans, is spending millions of dollars on research to prolong life. “Death makes me very angry. It doesn’t make any sense,” Ellison ex­plained. Mortician Caitlin Doughty says it shouldn’t surprise us that almost all the people who want to use extreme measures to stay alive are rich, white males, “men who have lived lives of systematic privilege and believe that privilege should extend indefinitely” (Vox, October 30).