Century Marks

Century Marks

Playing the numbers

The American-Israel Demographic Re­search Group claims that Palestin­ians have inflated their population in the West Bank by 1 million. The group, which puts the West Bank Palestinian population at 1.6 million, aims to discourage Israel from negotiating with the Palestinians to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, believing that in time Palestinians will leave the region. However, a census of Palestinians supervised by the Norwegian government and studies done by Palestinians, the Israel Defense Force, the United Nations and Israel’s Shin Bet security services concur there are between 2.6 and 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank. The Palestinian population grew by 29 percent from 2000 to 2012 (Haaretz, June 30).

Assembly required

The Swedish furniture maker IKEA has designed a refugee shelter capable of housing one family. The structures are designed for assembly without tools and are transportable in a flat pack. The shelter uses technology that keeps the building cool during the day and warm at night, with a solar panel providing electricity. The units are being tested in a refugee camp in southeastern Ethiopia where there are about 190,000 Somali refugees, as well as in Iraq and Lebanon. When mass-produced, the structure will cost slightly more than a tent but will be more durable. It is estimated that 3.5 million refugees currently live in tents (Christian Science Monitor, June 19).

Security overkill

The immigration bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate significantly increases expenditures for border security. However, border security is already costing Americans $18 billion per year—more than the combined budgets of the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshalls office, DEA and the Secret Service. There is one border patrol agent for every 500 feet of the Mexican border. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has more planes than the Australian Air Force and as many boats as the Russian Navy. The border fence costs $16 million per mile, which is $3,000 per foot (cambio-us.org).

Stop the war

Since the 1980s the war on drugs has created what author Michelle Alexander has called a “permanent under-caste” of men, mostly black, who are convicted of drug offenses. There are more African-American men in the American corrections system now than were enslaved in 1850. The United States has a higher incarceration rate than Russia or China or other regimes considered repressive. Strained prison budgets are forcing liberals and conservatives to reconsider the laws that have led to the explosion in the prison populations. Frank Wolf, who’s been involved with the evangelical Prison Fellowship, is one of many conservatives now endorsing “smart on crime” strategies rather than “get tough on crime” strategies (Newsweek, June 19).

Crossing over

Maggie Callanan, a hospice nurse who has witnessed more than 2,000 deaths, says many dying people experience what she calls “nearing death awareness” (as opposed to near-death experiences). In this conscious state, the dying person often talks about deceased loved ones who are waiting for them or about preparing to go on a trip. Callanan advises caregivers and family members not to correct such claims but instead ask questions that allow the person to say more about their experience. Callanan, who has co-authored Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, believes that patients in this state are getting a glimpse of the afterlife (Chicago Tribune, June 19).