Century Marks

Century Marks

On the one hand

No comprehensive study has been done of the health implications of fracking, the method used to extract pockets of natural gas deep within the earth. Fracking uses fresh water under pressure, which releases a toxic flowback to the surface. Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a Cornell biochemist, have done a study of livestock, wildlife and people in the gaslands of Pennsylvania. They found that cattle exposed to fracking fluid have a high rate of stillbirths, cleft palates, contaminated milk and death. Cats and dogs have seizures, stillbirths, fur loss and vomiting. Humans experience headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and vomiting. In separate research, high levels of benzene were found in western Colorado communities close to fracking operations. In humans, benzene causes leukemia, birth defects and breast cancer (Orion, September/October).

Jesus’ complexion

Many Americans were disturbed when video clips of Jeremiah Wright surfaced in 2008 showing him preaching about a black Jesus crucified by white Roman centurions. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, authors of The Color of Christ, point out that the features of another image of Jesus hardly get noticed: Christus, an 11-foot white marble Jesus at the Mormon visitors’ center in Salt Lake City, is a central part of Mormon iconography. The statue, a replica of a work by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, shows a Northern European–looking Jesus. It fits with what Joseph Smith said was revealed to him about Jesus: that he had fair skin and blue eyes (Huff Post Religion, September 9).

Denominational decline

Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, the two most liberal Jewish groups in the United States, are losing about 1 percent of their members each year, according Steven Cohen, sociologist at Hebrew Union College. Interreligious marriage is a significant cause: only 15 to 20 percent of interfaith families join a synagogue, and those who do are less active or leave the synagogue after the bar mitzvah of their last child. Jews tend to live in blue states where the rate of religious affiliation is the lowest. The largest “denomination” declared by American Jews is “none” (Economist, July 28).

Long-term care

Russell Dohner, 87, has been practicing medicine in the small town of Rushville, Illinois, for nearly 60 years. He refuses to quit, even though he is stooped and increasingly frail. And he still charges just $5 for each visit—or nothing at all if patients can’t afford that meager amount. People remember his kindnesses. One woman recalls how Dohner came to her house and sat by her sister’s crib all night when she suffered from seizures. Dohner’s nurse is 85 and his receptionist 84 (Chicago Tribune, August 26).

Energized

On a very windy day last April, Colorado’s largest utility company generated 57 percent of its power from wind, a national record. Overall, the United States gets just 3 percent of its power from wind, and utility companies are reluctant to become more dependent upon it due to its variability (CNN.com, August 6). The San Antonio Water System has agreed to be the first site to host an experimental system that produces renewable energy from the flow of water in municipal pipelines. The system incorporates vertical axis turbines that generate electricity in large, gravity-fed pipelines (WaterWorld.com).