Activists on both sides were disappointed when the Obama administration revealed its policy on embryonic stem cell research last month. The guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health are “not bold enough,” in the view of the New York Times. But to the Family Research Council actions permitted under the guidelines will “destroy human life.”
If the economic recession has made people more receptive to spiritual concerns and theological insights, that interest has not translated into sales of religion books (see Marcia Nelson’s report in this issue).
Many excellent scholars study Islam. Many other scholars explore the changing face of global Christianity. Rarely do those experts look at the two worlds—Muslim and Christian—side by side, which is a pity: when we do, we see some remarkable parallels and connections that shed light on both.
A lot of outrage, including threats of physical violence, has been directed at executives of the American International Group and other financial-services firms. The executives are perceived as having triggered the world wide economic crisis by their reliance on subprime mortgage–backed securities and on credit default swaps (something few people understand even after hearing them explained).
The U.S defense budget, always outsized, has become even more bloated in recent years. In the past eight years military spending has nearly doubled, with much of the increase devoted to financing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A year ago Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Linda Bilmes of Harvard predicted that the Iraq war could cost the U.S. $3 trillion.
Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist known for his work in Haiti, has been to Liberia and planned to go back again in the fight against Ebola. According to Farmer, the outbreak of Ebola is a symptom of a very poor and weak health-care system in the three West African countries where it is spreading. In Liberia there is one physician per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States. The president of Liberia points out that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity each year than her whole country. Vaccines and drugs don’t exist because Ebola’s victims are poor and—so far—not very numerous (London Review of Books, October 23).