Date published: November 29, 2011
DIFFERENT GODS: Neda Agha Soltan became the symbol of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 after she was shot and killed while running away from antiriot police. The grainy cell phone photo of her lying on the ground, with blood streaming from her nose and mouth, went viral. Her older sister later recalled that Neda had spoken about a university professor who was teaching about a vengeful God. Neda had said, "This is not my God. The God I worship is a compassionate and loving God" (Robin Wright, Rock the Casbah, Simon and Schuster).
BEYOND TRIBALISM: The world was stunned by the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in which the majority Hutu population tried to wipe out the Tutsis. Three years after the genocide a militia group attacked a secondary school at Nyange and ordered Tutsis and Hutus to form separate lines. The students refused, saying they were all Rwandans. The rebels responded by shooting indiscriminately, killing 13 students for their refusal to be divided along tribal lines (Emmanuel M. Katongole in Witness of the Body, edited by Michael L. Budde and Karen Scott, Eerdmans).
NO EXIT: The popular uprisings that deposed autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt were initiated by people whose lives were so desperate that they felt they had nothing to lose. Before the revolts, many in North Africa thought their only hope was to immigrate to Europe. In 2007 a cobbler in Tunisia said to David Cook, a scholar from Rice University: "Do you think that any of us would be here if we could move to France? Everyone would be gone in a week if they would let us in!" Hedgehog Review, Fall).
RESISTANCE: At least six Buddhist monks have died by self-immolation this year in protests against China's political crackdown in the Tibetan regions of China. In Tibet, monks are not even allowed to celebrate the Dalai Lama's birthday. The Dalai Lama himself has taken a moderate path in opposing Chinese rule, urging China to give Tibetans autonomy but not complete independence. Despite their devotion to the Dalai Lama, Tibetans debate whether his approach has been effective. Some predict that Tibet will explode in protests after he dies (Time, November 14).
TAX FREE: A comprehensive study of the 280 most profitable Fortune 500 companies shows that 78 of them paid no income tax in one out of the past three years and 30 of them had a negative income tax rate during that threeyear period. In the 1950s a quarter of federal outlays were paid by corporate taxes; in fiscal year 2010 corporate taxes paid only 6 percent of federal government expenses. The report, done by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, notes: "Most Americans can rightfully complain, ? pay more federal income taxes than General Electric, Boeing, DuPont, Wells Fargo, Verizon, etc., etc., all put together'" (Salon, November 3).
POLITICAL STYLE: Not much distinguished two candidates running for the Arizona state senate in Mesa. Both were Mormons and both believed in small government and low taxes. What separated them was style and tone. Russell Pearce is the tough-talking senator who wrote Arizona's anti-immigration law and subsequently lost a recall vote. His opponent, Jerry Lewis, an accountant who runs a chain of charter schools, embodies civility, listening and compromise. The image of the missionary-minded Church of the Latter Day Saints was tarnished in Latin America by Pearce's anti-immigration rhetoric, says one Mormon. With two Mormon candidates also in the presidential race for the Republican party, the LDS Church is trying to prove that it stays out of politics (Economist, November 5).
JEWS AND OWS: An ad miming on cable TV shows Occupy Wall Street protesters making anti-Semitic statements and holding up signs offensive to Jews. Kevin Healey points out that the ad is produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel, hardly an unbiased group. It was founded by neoconservative leader William Kristol and evangelical leader Gary Bauer. Other observers point out that the Occupy movement has involved many Jews. Columnists from the Jewish news source JTA said that the Occupy Wall Street protests have a Jewish flavor and are "becoming a fulcrum of Jewish ferment" (Scoop, November 3).
LOOKING BACK: Columnist David Brooks stumbled onto a collection of autobiographies written by the Yale class of 1942 for its 50th class reunion. He says that the most common lament in the stories comes from those who worked for the same company all their lives and they now realize that their Uves were boring. Another lament came from those who wish they had been willing to take more risks. None of those who did make life-changing choices regretted the decisions, even if the choices ended in failure. The essays of those who sensed a particular calling in life are filled with passion and conviction. Said one, "I have been put on earth to be a painter" (New York Times, October 27).
WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE: Buy Here Pay Here companies sell used cars to people with poor credit at higherthan-book values and at interest rates much higher than conventional auto loans. The average profit per sale- 38 percent- has attracted the attention of Wall Street. Some financial firms are bundling loans from these dealerships they way they bundled subprime mortgages before the 2008 financial crash. In the past two years, investors have bought more than $15 billion in subprime auto securities. "We think that investing in such companies is a ticking time bomb," says Joe Keefe from the socially responsible Pax World Management fund company. "It has ethical as well as systemic risk implications" (Los Angeles Times, October 30).
TRANSGENDER REALITY: chaz Bono's appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars has made transgender issues more public- and it appears that the public is fine with that. In an August survey, 89 percent of Americans agree that transgender persons deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans Three quarters of those polled think that Congress should pass laws to protect them from job discrimination (65 percent of white evangelicals agreed). In a followup survey, those polled were given a chance to define transgender and more than two thirds gave correct replies (Public Religion Research Institute).