Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders 08.03


An interesting moment. Advertising revenue continues to sink at the New York Times Company, which reported a second-quarter net loss of $88.1 million last week. According to New York Magazine, what's most interesting is that circulation revenue now exceeds advertising revenue at the company's three largest papers: the Times, International Herald Tribune, and Boston Globe. According to the New York Magazine analysis, "print and digital ad dollars dipped 6.6 percent to $220 million, while circulation revenue was up 8.3 percent to $233 million." "They're probably the first major paper that has crossed that line," media analyst Ken Doctor of Newsonomics told Daily Intel. "It is an interesting moment."

The myth of soldier-suicide? TIME Magazine has a cover story on suicide rates among military personnel. What's true about that story is that suicide rates do seem to be climbing. What's also true is that any and all suicides are tragic. We should work to prevent them. However, what's also true-and what TIME ignores-is that historically military personnel have much lower rates of suicide than does the general population. Also, even with the recent rise in military suicides, it's not clear that the rates are any higher than the rates in the population as a whole. The suicide rate in the U.S. is 11.8 per 100-thousand people, but that rate can vary widely by demographic group. For example, the rate for males is 19.2, and about 80 percent of military personnel are men, so we might expect the military suicide rate to be closer to that rate. The suicide rate in the most recent year for which we have data is 20.2, a record high and a cause for alarm. However, recent years have been between 15 and 20 per 100-thousand, depending on the year, a rate not so very different from national averages. We won't know for another year or two if the most recent number is an anomaly, a peak, or part of an upward trend.

Emergency relief. Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian college in Illinois, asked a federal court on Monday for emergency relief from a government mandate requiring it to offer contraceptives and potential abortion-inducing drugs under its insurance plan. The reason for the appeal: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requires businesses to offer the insurance when their next enrollment begins. Some faith-based groups have until August 2013 to comply, but Wheaton does not qualify for the extension. The government says that Wheaton is not "religious enough," according to Becket Fund for Religious Liberty General Counsel Kyle Duncan. The University asked the court to decide by Sept. 30, a month before open enrollment starts for its 2013 health insurance plans.

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Wise blood. I hope you will forgive me a moment of "personal privilege" to note that on this date, Aug. 3, one of the great writers of the 20th century died. Flannery O'Connor was just 39 when she died of lupus in 1964, but she left behind a remarkable body of work, including two brilliant, scathing, satiric novels, and a handful of short stories that will likely be read long after the work of Gore Vidal (who died this week) is relegated to the ashbin of history. WORLD has paid homage to O'Connor over the years, including a hypothetical (and delightful) interview with her conducted by Marvin Olasky in 2007. I visited her grave a few years ago with my daughter and Marion Montgomery, my mentor and a close friend of O'Connor. An account of that trip appeared on WORLD's website. If you've never read any O'Connor, I recommend starting with her short story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" or "Revelation," one of which you can find in almost any anthology of great American short stories. (By the way, a recent issue of the web-journal Christendom Review is dedicated to Montgomery, and my contribution to that memorial issue appears here.)

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren is vice president of mission advancement for The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.


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