What has Seoul to do with Kampala? In the 1980s, the term “Global South” gained currency as a means of describing those parts of the planet outside the advanced regions of Europe, North America and Japan. Various writers, including myself, noted the dramatic rise of Christian numbers in that vast region.
With its long coastline, rugged mountains and haunting sand dunes, Oman is a paradise for desert lovers, hikers and boaters. Muscat, the capital city, is a gem—its arched white buildings and flat roofs squeezed between the blue ocean and black mountains. Yet call me an egghead, but what I remember most from a trip to Oman is a booklet I read there with an ominous title: Body Count: A Quantitative Review of Political Violence Across World Civilizations (2009). In it, author Naveed Sheikh claims that “the Christian civilization emerges as the most violent and genocidal in the world history.” Compared to Islam, Christianity is a clear winner: 31.94 million deaths by Muslims to 177.94 million deaths by Christians.
Empires come and empires go—and their collapse, says financial historian Niall Ferguson, is often precipitous (Foreign Affairs, March/April). For example, the economic and military might of the British Empire was sharply reduced by the time of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956—just a decade after one of the empire’s shining moments, the defeat of the Axis powers.
Whenever talk turns to how dreadful health care is in countries where the government has a large role in it, I think back to a summer spent in Scotland. Our young son began to suffer from what seemed to be a virulent new allergy, and after sleepless nights and several days of sneezing, we went to the local infirmary, part of the national health plan.
To little fanfare, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, joined a team on the streets of San Francisco doing a head count of the homeless. It was part of a survey required of cities every two years in order to qualify for federal funding for homeless programs. The president had told McDonough he wanted to know firsthand what the city was doing about the homeless. San Francisco has been able to get 19,000 homeless off the streets during the past decade by expanding housing and support services, but it still had over 6,000 people on the street during the 2013 count. “This is the same sort of challenge we face all over the country. The numbers tell the story,” McDonough said. “I had no idea anyone gave a damn,” one homeless man told the team (SFGate.com, January 30).