Century Marks

Century Marks

Poor giving

In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those in the top 20 percent of earnings—gave only 1.3 percent of their earnings to charity. Those in the bottom 20 percent donated 3.2 percent of their income. Several theories exist as to why the wealthy are inclined to give less: by their very nature they are driven to look out for their own interests, and they are less likely to be exposed to real human need. Wealthy people tend to give to institutions from which they benefit, such as universities, museums, and arts organizations, while the poor tend to give to social service charities and religious organizations (Atlantic, March 20).

Life together

A program in the Netherlands provides free housing to university students in retirement homes. In exchange, the students are required to hang out with the elderly residents for 30 hours a week. They play games, go shopping, or do the residents’ shopping for them, cook for them, or teach them new skills, such as how to use computers. Other European nations with a shortage of housing for the elderly are experimenting with other means to keep seniors from being isolated. A planning commission in Britain is calling for housing units for the elderly to be built in shopping developments and at universities (TheJournal.ie, December 7, 2014).

Healing hearts

Indigenous women in Bolivia are hand-weaving a small device used to seal holes in the hearts of infants. The simple, inexpensive device, called an occluder, is made of a single strand of superelastic metal. It takes several hours to fashion. Designed by a Bolivian cardiologist, the device has saved the lives of thousands of children born with this condition. The incidence of this birth defect in La Paz, Bolivia, is ten times higher than in other places due to the high altitude. The occluder is also made for export (BBC News, March 29).

Lord have mercy

A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).

Free ride (almost)

Stanford University has decided to provide free tuition to students whose parents make less than $125,000 a year. If the parents make less than $65,000, the school will cover room and board as well. Students are expected to contribute $5,000 each year from summer earnings, savings, or part-time employment. Stanford enrolls a high percentage of students from wealthy families, and it has one of the world’s largest endowments. It has a very straightforward approach to financial aid: middle-class students can find out before applying how much aid they’ll get, what they’ll need to contribute, and whether they can afford Stanford (Vox, April 1).