News and Views

Pastoral Bible Institute Newscoverpic_mj10_sm
Date of Annual PBI Meeting

The annual meeting of PBI Members and Directors will be held on Friday, July 16, at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The General Convention of Bible Students will begin on Saturday, July 17, at the same location and end the evening of July 22. Those who are interested in the Pastoral Bible Institute, whether members or not, are welcome to attend this meeting. Contact the Institute’s secretary for accommodation details.

PBI Directors Elected

The members of the Pastoral Bible Institute have elected these seven individuals to serve as directors for the next twelve months:

Todd Alexander Michael Nekora
David Christiansen George Tabac
Len Griehs Tim Thomassen
Ernie Kuenzli

 

World News

Religious

Kyrgyzstan is just the latest Central Asian republic to have been accused of curtailing religious rights. Under the law, new religious groups have to have at least 200 members before they can register with the authorities and operate legally—previously the figure was 10. There are now at least 50,000 evangelical Christians in Kyrgyzstan, the majority of them converts from Islam.

—BBC, 1/19/2010

As international aid agencies rush food, water and medicine to Haiti’s earthquake victims, a United States group is sending Bibles. But these aren’t just any Bibles; they’re solar-powered audible Bibles that can broadcast the Holy Scriptures in Haitian Creole to 300 people at a time. The Faith Comes By Hearing organization says its Bible, called the Proclaimer, delivers “digital quality” and is designed for “poor and illiterate people.”

—Reuters, 1/19/2010

An Oregon couple was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for praying over their ill son instead of seeking medical help.

—Associated Press, 2/3/2010

Surveys typically find that, on average, those who practice Judeo-Christian faith traditions do better financially than non-religious people, all other things being equal. The General Social Survey found that in 2004, the average “religious person”—someone who attends a house of worship at least once a week—had an income 8 percent higher than the average “secularist,” someone who attends once a year at most.

—Heritage Foundation, 1/22/2010

Nearly 200 people have been killed in fresh religious clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian city of Jos, a senior Muslim cleric and paramedic said. He said at least 800 people had been wounded in the clashes, 90 of whom had been evacuated to military hospitals with serious injuries. Fighting first erupted when Christian youths protested the building of a mosque in a Christian-majority area of Nigeria’s 10th-largest city. Houses and vehicles were set ablaze. At least 800 people were killed in Borno State last July when security forces put down an insurrection by a Muslim fundamentalist sect.

—Bankok Post, 1/19/2010

Egyptian authorities have arrested 42 people in connection with sectarian riots by Muslims and Christians in southern Egypt. Arsonists burned down 11 shops and eight houses owned by members of the minority Christian sect Friday in the village of Bahjora. Christians accuse Muslim rioters of setting the fires. Coptic Christians are adherents of an Egyptian sect of Christianity. Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, the majority of which is Muslim.

—Voice of America, 1/10/2010

Tensions have flared after Malaysia’s High Court ruled that a Roman Catholic newspaper, the Herald, was permitted to use the word Allah to describe God in its Malay language editions. Muslim groups argue that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts. Christians make up around 9% of the population in the majority Muslim state. Most non-Muslims are ethnically Indian or Chinese.

—BBC, 1/11/2010

Social

68% of people in a 15-country survey said that, given a do-over, they would marry the same person.

—TIME, 2/22/2010

The huge earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile belongs to an “elite class” of mega earthquakes. The magnitude-8.8 quake was a type called a “megathrust,” considered the most powerful earthquake on the planet. Megathrusts occur when one tectonic plate dives beneath another. Saturday’s tremor unleashed about 50 gigatons of energy and broke about 340 miles of the fault zone, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center. The quake’s epicenter was offshore and occurred about 140 miles north of the largest earthquake ever recorded—a magnitude-9.5 that killed about 1,600 people in Chile in 1960.

—Associated Press, 2/28/2010

Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. For every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work. The broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment (which includes people who want to work but have stopped actively searching for a job, along with those who want full-time jobs but can find only part-time work) reached 17.4 percent in October, which appears to be the highest figure since the 1930s. One recent survey showed that 44 percent of families had experienced a job loss, a reduction in hours, or a pay cut in the past year.

—The Atlantic, March 2010

Studies have found an overlap in the brain’s processing of language and instrumental music, and research suggests intensive musical therapy may help improve speech in stroke patients. People who have suffered a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and cannot speak can sometimes learn to communicate through singing, said Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

—Associated Press, 2/21/2010

Africa is the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS global epidemic. [It has] 10 percent of the global population but accounts for 67 percent of all individuals living with HIV/AIDSand 72 percent of AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2008. Women account for 60 percent of all individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, the highest rate in any continent.

—AllAfrica.com, 2/22/2010

$104.3 million—the world record for the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. The life-size bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacomettis was sold by Sotheby’s in eight minutes.

—Associated Press, 2/4/2010

In the past five years, only three U.S. airliners on scheduled flights have been involved in fatal crashes, but all were operated by the regional airlines that have grown to dominate passenger service at many airports. Last year regionals carried about 20 percent of all U.S. air travelers.

—The News & Advance, 2/2/2010

Some of mankind’s most devastating inherited diseases—cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs for example —appear to be declining, and a few have nearly disappeared, because more people are using genetic testing to decide whether to have children. Many of the diseases are little known, and few statistics kept. But their effects, ranging from blood disorders to muscle decline, can be disabling and often fatal during childhood.

—Associated Press, 2/17/2010

For the first time in recorded history, women outnumber men on the nation’s payrolls. According to seasonally unadjusted data released on Friday by the Labor Department, women held the majority of nonfarm payroll jobs in January. In 1964, the first year for which the government began collecting this data, less than a third of the nation’s nonfarm payroll jobs were held by women.

—New York Times, 2/5/2010

Anti-smoking laws are spreading. And fast. First, bars in New York and Chicago banned smoking. Other cities and towns around the United States followed suit and then it was the bistros in Paris. Now, many Middle Eastern countries—Turkey and Syria, for example—are taking steps to ban smoking in various public places. The real shock is that the anti-smoking movement is gaining steam in Lebanon, a country with one of the highest smoking rates in the world.

—Los Angeles Times, 2/24/2010

1 million—the number of illegal immigrants that left the U.S. in 2009, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

—Los Angeles Times, 2/11/2010

Facebook, the social networking site, has surpassed Yahoo to become the second most visited Web site in the United States. Google vaulted past Yahoo two years ago and became the Internet’s most popular destination.

—Mashable.com, 2/18/2010

Political

The White House has approved an $8.3 billion plan to provide loans to two new nuclear power plants. The money will go toward building two new nuclear reactors at a power plant in Burke, Ga., and will ultimately provide electricity to 1.4 million people. According to the Associated Press, when the plant is built, it will be the first nuclear power plant completed in more than three decades.

—The Hill, 2/16/2010

More than 2,400 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, the U.N. announced, making 2009 the most deadly year for noncombatants since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. The U.N. blamed the 14 percent hike in civilian deaths on a surge in suicide bombings and assassinations by Taliban forces, noting that civilian killings by allied troops, including U.S. airstrikes, fell by almost one-third last year. Aid organizations warned that the actual civilian death toll was probably far greater than reflected in the U.N.’s figures, since many deaths go unreported.

—Associated Press, 2/13/2010

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sacked his energy minister and reversed plans for rolling blackouts in Caracas a day after announcing that electricity rationing was necessary to stave off the total collapse of his country’s energy infrastructure. Bad planning meant some areas of the nation’s capital saw their electricity cut several times in the same day, and many traffic lights were left without power. Despite being one of the world’s largest oil producers, Venezuela relies on a single hydroelectric plant for most of its energy, and critically low water levels have left the country plagued by unplanned blackouts.

—The Guardian, 1/14/2010

The role that women play in combat is finally starting to be reconsidered. More than one in seven members of the U.S. Navy is female, and women have served alongside men on aircraft and surface ships for nearly two decades, but they have never been allowed aboard submarines. That might change. The U.S. Defense department has decided to allow women to serve aboard submarines, if approved by Congress.

—BBC, 2/24/2010

Iran successfully launched a home-produced satellite rocket. The news has fueled the concern of Western countries that Iran is building up “nuclear and space industries to develop atomic and ballistic weapons.”

—AFP, 2/3/2010

Financial

The U.S. government is considering whether to sell its gold reserve—the largest in the world at more than 8000 metric tons. At current prices, the reserve is worth an estimated $288 billion and could be used to pay down debt, which is the limited use allowed by current law. This would hardly make a dent in the $12.3 trillion debt, say economists, but the stored gold brings little benefit and the U.S. spends a significant amount just to safeguard it.

—Parade Magazine, 2/14/2010

Fannie Mae reported a staggering $72 billion net loss for 2009, underscoring the challenges that still face the nation’s largest mortgage financier and offering more grim news for taxpayers who may ultimately pick up the bill. Fannie’s losses were driven by souring loans and costs from maintaining a growing stable of foreclosed properties. The government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac nearly 18 months ago as rising loan defaults burned big holes in the companies’ balance sheets. The government has agreed to absorb unlimited losses for the next three years and up to $400 billion after that. So far, the two companies have taken a combined $127 billion in Treasury support, making this bailout one of the most expensive from the financial crisis.

—Wall Street Journal, 2/26/2010

Barely a year after the government used taxpayer money to bail out the financial system, the pay packages at the biggest firms on Wall Street will be record-breaking as employees at the top 38 financial firms can expect to earn a combined $145 billion, almost 18 percent more than they did last year. That would be even more than what they earned in 2007.

—Wall Street Journal, 1/15/2010

Foreclosure filings increased 14% in December from November, the first monthly increase since foreclosure activity peaked in July, according to a RealtyTrac report. Foreclosure filings were reported on 349,519 properties in December.

—USA Today, 1/14/2010

China has officially surpassed Germany as the world’s largest exporter of goods. Helped slightly by the fact that the Chinese New Year, a rare time when factories shut down, falls in February instead of January this year, exports were up 21 percent for the month. More important than showing a move from No. 2 to No. 1, the figures suggest that China’s trading with the rest of the world has stabilized after a rocky recession.

—BBC, 2/10/2010

There are increasing worries that the 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer—a record number that is more than double what it was in the early 1980s—will continue to be out of work, possibly for years to come. Many are people who once enjoyed a middle-class life but since the recession have been forced to rely on public assistance for the first time. Economists think that the highly educated and those with specific skills are likely to bounce back, but the ability to eke out a middle-class existence with only a high school education and no specialized skills might largely be relegated to history books.

—New York Times, 2/21/2010

A massive oil reserve buried two miles underground has put North Dakota at the center of a revolution in the U.S. oil industry. The Bakken Shale could contain up to 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That would make it the biggest oil field discovered in the contiguous U.S. in more than 40 years—and many in the industry believe the amount of recoverable oil could be even greater as new technology allows companies to tap more of it.

—Wall Street Journal, 2/26/2010

 Israel

A section of an ancient city wall in the Old City of Jerusalem from the tenth century BC, possibly built by King Solomon, has been revealed in archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Eilat Mazar and conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  A comparison of this finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, gives assurance that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem, according to Mazar.

—Isranet, 2/22/2010

The Taglit (Birthright) program offers young Jews from around the world the opportunity to make a 10-day free tour to Israel to learn about their roots. The only requirement to qualify to participate in the project was to have a Jewish grandfather or grandmother. During the past decade the program has made it possible for more than a quarter of a million young Jews to come to Israel. The program, considered by many to be the most successful Zionist project in the Jewish world, has resulted in far higher numbers of Jewish youth supporting Israel.

—Isranet, 1/5/2010

Israel could be heading for another record year of tourism, as January 2010 set an all-time record for the number of tourists visiting the country in that month, besting by 17% January 2008, a year that set an annual record for the number of tourists. In January, 212,000 tourists visited Israel, 62% more than January 2009.

—Israel Tourism Ministry, 2/9/2010

Israel is developing an army of robotic fighting machines that offers a window onto the potential future of warfare. In 10 to 15 years, one-third of Israel’s military machines will be unmanned. Among the recently deployed technologies is the Guardium unmanned ground vehicle, which now drives itself along the Gaza and Lebanese borders. The Guardium was deployed to patrol for infiltrators in the wake of the abduction of soldiers doing the same job in 2006. Unlike the U.S. where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are flown by certified, costly-to-train fighter pilots, Israeli defense companies have recently built their UAVs to allow an average 18-year-old recruit with just a few months’ training to pilot them. Robotic vehicles will allow modern conventional armies to minimize the advantages guerrilla opponents gain by their increased willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to inflict casualties on the enemy.

—WSJ.com, 1/13/2010

The prophet Ezekiel presented his prophecy of dry bones [chapter 37], which hailed the restoration of the Jewish people. According to recent reports, Iraq is currently trying to remove the Jewish traces from the prophet’s tomb and turn it into a mosque. The Iraqi antiquities department has been under heavy pressure to erase any proof of the Jews’ connection to Iraq. Iraq also contains the tombs of Ezra the scribe, the prophet Jonah, and King Zedekiah.

—Ynetnews, 1/18/2010

Dr. Ehud Dafni, CEO of Israeli company Arineta, has invented the first Computing Tomography (CT) imaging system that is specially designed for the heart. In the past, CT imaging of the heart was not possible because the organ is constantly in motion, beating. Recently, advanced technology has made it possible to capture a still image of the heart, but only with the use of expensive equipment that is not specifically designed for cardiac imaging and utilizes large amounts of radiation.

—israel21c.org, 2/15/2010