Century Marks

Century Marks

Black flight

In a 14-year span Chicago’s black population dropped by an estimated 200,000, or about 19 percent. Many people are fleeing urban violence for safer communities in the suburbs. Concerns about failing schools and a lack of jobs add to the flight. Talk of escaping the city is common, especially among black millennials. Those who remain behind sometimes do so to be anchors in the community. Others simply can’t afford to move. If the city’s homicide rate continues, this year will be the worst since the late 1990s (The Trace, May 31).  

Running chance

Ten refugees have been selected to compete in the Summer Olympics in Brazil this year. Five of them are runners from South Sudan who have been living in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya. The Sudanese will be joined by two Congolese judo fighters, two Syrian swimmers, and an Ethiopian marathoner. Anjelina Nadai, one of the Sudanese runners, said she first started running while tending her family’s cows. She discovered she could get to the cows in half the time by running instead of walking. These athletes will compete under the Olympic flag, not that of any nation. If any of them should win a medal, the Olympic theme song will be played (The Christian Science Monitor, June 3).

Deal or no deal

Six months after a nuclear deal was reached between the United States and Iran, Iran hasn’t realized the economic stimulus it expected from the lifting of economic sanctions and gaining access to about $100 billion of assets frozen in foreign banks. U.S. laws are still very restrictive on dealing with Iran, and foreign businesses haven’t flooded to Iran as expected because European and Asian banks are afraid of violating American sanctions and being subjected to penalties. The Iranian government accuses the United States of obstructing Iran’s effort to join the world economy. Relaxing sanctions takes congressional action, something unlikely to happen in an election year (Newsweek, May 18).

Virtual sacraments?

The Church of Scotland is launching a two-year study of online interaction with the church and questions this raises about membership and sacraments. The church, known as The Kirk, has seen its rolls fall by almost one-third between 2004 and 2015 to just under 364,000 members. The church’s Legal Questions Committee is pushing for “a wide-ranging review of practice and procedure which is impacted by the use of new technology in church life.” David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, whose members broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843, said: “At best it is a cheap gimmick, at worst it comes across as yet another desperate attempt by a declining national church to shore up its numbers and justify its existence” (RNS).

Poor getting poorer

American households in extreme poverty increased between 1996 and 2011. One reason is that jobs were harder to find in 2011. Another reason is that Congress replaced the welfare program with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Benefits under TANF are harder to get, and parents without a job can find themselves penniless. States still receive federal funds to help pay the TANF benefits, but they are free to set their own eligibility requirements and shorten the length of time recipients can receive assistance. States can also divert TANF aid to other causes, such as financial aid for college students or prekindergarten programs, incentivizing them to be stingy with people in poverty (New York Review of Books, June 9).