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Noah’s Ark could have floated even with two of every land animal in the world packed inside, scientists have calculated. Although researchers are unsure if all the creatures could have squeezed into the huge vessel, they are confident it would have handled the weight of 70,000 animals without sinking. A group of master’s students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Leicester University studied the exact dimensions of the Ark, set out in Genesis 6:13-22.

According to The Bible, God instructed Noah to build a boat that was 300 cubits long 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high — recommending that it be constructed from gopher wood. The students averaged out the Egyptian and Hebrew cubit measurement to come up with 48 centimeters, making the Ark around 144 meters long. Using those dimensions, the Archimedes principle of buoyancy and the ap­ proximate weight of various animals, they were surprised to discover that the Ark could have floated.— National Post, 4/3/2014

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual com fort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied. Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution.  China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. — The Telegraph, 4/19/2014

When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll. The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). — Christianity Today, 4/13/2014

As of 2012, at least 17 nations (9% worldwide) have police that enforce religious norms, according to a new Pew Research analysis of 2012 data. These actions are particularly common in the Middle East and North Africa, where roughly one-third of countries (35%) have police enforcing religious norms.— Pew Research Center, 3/19/2014

Barely half of millennials say they look to religion for guidance, but a higher percentage “talk to God,” suggesting that the 18-to-34 demographic is more spiritual than sectarian, according to a new survey by the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The survey of 2,000 U.S. men and women, ages 18-34, found that 62 percent said they talk to God, while 52 percent said they look to religion for guidance. — NPR, 4/14/2014

 

Social

For the first time since Japan’s nuclear disaster three years ago, authorities are allowing residents to return to live in their homes within a tiny part of the 12-mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima plant. More than 100,000 people were displaced by the disaster on March 11, 2011, when a huge earth quake and tsunami damaged the plant, causing nu clear reactor meltdowns. — USA Today, 4/2/2014.

More than three decades after the eradication of smallpox, U.S. officials say it’s still not time to destroy the last known stockpiles of the virus behind one of history’s deadliest diseases. The remaining two vials are held under tight security in two labs— one in the U.S. and one in Russia. The virus is being used for carefully limited research to create drugs and safer vaccines in case this killer ever re turns, through terrorism or a lab accident or if all the world’s stocks aren’t really accounted for. Member countries of the World Health Organization long ago agreed that eventually the last virus strains would be destroyed. The question was when. — AP, 5/1/2014

The death toll in Syria’s three year conflict has exceeded 150,000. The figure includes civilians, rebels, members of the Syrian military and foreign fighters battling on both sides. — USA Today, 4/2/2014

Political

Venezuela’s government is rolling out a new identification system to battle food shortages. The cards will track families’ purchases in order to foil those who stock up on groceries at subsidized price and then illegally resell them for several times the amount. The oil-rich Venezuelan economy is criticized as dysfunctional by analysts. — USA Today, 4/2/2014

The rise of far-right politics in Europe reached new heights in elections in Hungary when “Jobbik,” the self-professed “radical right wing” political party which has often been accused of blatant anti- Semitism, won 20.54% of votes, making it the third largest party in the country and the single largest extreme right party in Europe. Hungary however, is not alone. In the last decade, in particular in the wake of the EU’s economic crisis and ongoing influx of immigrants into Europe, the continent’s far- right parties’ popularity has made dramatic leaps. “Anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Europe are always connected to citizen’s financial difficulties,” Professor of Political Science at Bar Ilan University Shmuel Sandler said. “When life is hard, people look for someone to blame, and populist parties know how to use this momentum to ride the wave of racism.” “Europe is mostly secular, and suddenly immigrants for whom religion is extremely important are coming in, for example Jews and Muslims.”— Ynetnews, 4/10/2014

The Syrian conflict has expanded its reach yet again, with Jordan the latest country to use its military on forces threatening its border. The incident raises concerns not only that the Syrian civil war could now bring Jordan into the fighting, spreading the conflict to yet another country, but includes the possibility that the terror groups fighting with the Syrian rebels could become an ongoing threat to neighboring nations such as Jordan. In other words, Syria’s civil war could see a fourth front in its conflict. A new battle could emerge, in which extremist rebel groups start fighting with neighboring countries as well. — The Mideast Update, 4/17/2014

 

Vladimir Putin touted his creationist Internet theory at a media forum, saying “the Internet originally was a ‘CIA project’ and ‘is still developing as such.’ ” To resist that influence, Putin said, Russia needs to “fight for its interests” online. The Kremlin has been anxious to exert greater control over the Inter net, which opposition activists — barred from national television — have used to promote their ideas and organize protests. Russia’s parliament passed a law requiring social media websites to keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year. Also, businessmen close to Putin now control Russia’s leading social media network, VKontakte. — AP, 4/24/2014

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is, at the age of 27, the youngest foreign minister in the world. He met with Israel’s President Shimon Peres who, at 90 years old, is currently the oldest head of state in the world. President Peres was in Austria on an official visit when he met with Kurz for the first time. Kurz told Peres that he regarded this, his first ever visit to Israel, as very important to underline his country’s responsibility towards the Jewish state. President Peres told Kurz that relations between Austria and Israel were very good and that there was much to be done to continue to improve science and business contacts between the two countries. — Ashenet, 4/23/2014

 Financial

The International Monetary Fund’s board has signed off on a $17 billion bailout for Ukraine to boost the former Soviet state’s failing economy, weakened by months of upheaval and a stand-off with Moscow that has triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War. Ukraine desperately needs to increase revenues to try to meet its foreign currency debt obligations, and the first disbursement of $3.2 billion to Kiev will help it meet immediate payments. —Reuters, 5/1/2014

Russia’s central bank is coping with rising inflation in the widening economic fallout from the Ukraine crisis. Standard & Poor’s, the bond rating agency, cut Russia’s credit rating to one notch above junk levels, citing uncertainty about Ukraine and anxious investors pulling their money out of Russia. — USA Today, 5/27/2014

Since 2007, the cost of brand-name medicines has surged, with prices doubling for dozens of established drugs that target everything from multiple sclerosis to cancer and blood pressure. Fifteen cancer drugs introduced in the last five years cost more than $10,000 a month, according to data from Memorial Slogan Capturing Cancer Center. Analysts, meanwhile, predict the first $1 million drug treatment may be just around the corner. — Bloomberg News, 4/30/2014

Israel

According to the World Jewish Congress, there are approximately 250,000 Jews living in Ukraine today. Nearly half of them live in Kiev but there are sizeable groups in the cities of Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk. Both of these cities are in the industrialized eastern half of Ukraine where the fighting is taking place. Ukraine has a history of violent anti-Semitism and recently there have been isolated anti-Semitic acts making it a potentially dangerous area of the world for Jewish people. — Bridges for Peace, 4/24/2014

A survey of Hebrew-speaking Jewish youth found that Israeli youth overwhelmingly described themselves as following religious tradition in some capacity, with 92% of males having read from the Torah on their bar mitzvah, and with 87% of all youth saying that they eat Shabbat dinners with their families. Some 60% reported that they eat or try to eat at kosher restaurants only. On the question of Jerusalem, 85% of youth surveyed said they were unwilling to give up parts of the capital despite its ability to lead to a real peace with the Palestinians.  Twenty percent of secular youth were willing to relinquish East Jerusalem for peace. — Times of Israel, 3/25/2014

Anti-Jewish violence in Ukraine seems to be escalating. The upsurge of anti-Jewish activity has led many Jews to question their future in the ethnically divided country. That concern has been exacerbated by fears of a possible Russian invasion of the east of the country. The rise of anti-Jewish violence led U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to warn that there was “no place” for anti-Semitism in Ukraine, during a visit to the former Soviet republic. According to Jewish Agency figures, 221 Jews emigrated from Ukraine to Israel in the first quarter of 2013 and 375 immigrated during the same time period this year.— Haaretz, 4/24/2014

Israeli lawmakers passed a contentious law meant to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, the culmination of a drive for reforms that has seen mass protests by the religious community in Israel and beyond. The issue of conscription of the ultra-Orthodox is at the heart of a cultural war in Israel.— AP, 3/12/2014

Gas consumption in Egypt has doubled during the past decade, but production has been in decline since 2009. At least as a temporary measure, Egypt needs to raise gas imports in order to meet surging demand. Last October, Israel said that Egypt had expressed interest in importing its gas via the pipeline connecting the two countries, which until spring 2012 transported gas the other way — from Egypt to Israel. However, Egypt denied its interest in the Israeli gas, saying it is eyeing liquid natural gas (LNG) imports instead, even though pipeline supplies from Israel were probably cheaper. Although Egypt and Israel have a peace treaty, a deal to buy Israeli gas would prove politically unpopular in Egypt. — Media Line, 4/13/2014

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