News and Views

V ReligiousNovDec_2014_revised_review_Page_2

The Church of England is ditching cassocks — and even the Devil — as its drive to modernize gathers momentum. Vicars will be allowed to conduct communion services in more casual clothing, including jeans, after the Church agreed this weekend to review existing rules on clerical investments. The General Synod has also backed an alternative baptism service which leaves out mention of the Devil, in an attempt to appeal to people who have no religious background. — National Post, 7/14/2014

As the spiritual shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, 77, has already done more in 18 months to energize the church and burnish its image than anyone has since the heyday of John Paul II in the mid-1980s. What’s far less appreciated is his intense engagement — and astounding success — in overhauling the Vatican’s finances and pushing the adoption of modern practices it had resisted for decades. “The changes are massive,” says René Brülhart, chief of the AIF, the Vatican equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Now … we’re really part of the international community.” — Fortune, 8/14/2014

The militant group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sh­ am (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has declared that it is restor­ing the Islamic Caliphate, renaming itself as simply the Islamic State (IS) and naming leader Abu Bakr al­Baghdadi as Caliph. The original Caliphate was established in the year 632 in the Arabian peninsula, and the title of Caliph, or Khalif, was given to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq who became the first leader, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The word ‘Caliph’ means successor, and designates the politi­cal leader of the Islamic community, or ummah. By using the language of Caliph and Caliphate, ISIS is attempting to establish itself as the leader of a worldwide Muslim movement and mobilize a broad coalition of support by erasing national boundaries.

Huffington Post, 6/30/2014

A new Pew Research analysis finds that 30 of the world’s countries (15%) belong to a unique group of nations that call for their heads of state to have a particular religious affiliation. From monarchies to republics, candidates (including descendants of royal monarchies) in these countries must belong to a specific religious group. More than half of these countries (17) maintain that the office must be held by a Muslim. In Jordan, for example, the heir to the throne must be a Muslim child of Muslim parents. In Tunisia, any Muslim male or female voter born in the country may qualify as a candidate for president. Malaysia, Pakistan and Mauritania also restrict their heads of state to Muslim citizens. — Pew Research Center, 7/22/2014

 H Social

Children are being drawn into violence in new ways in several parts of Africa as religious strife changes the face of conflict. The young have long occupied the front lines of civil wars on the continent, but most of those have ended. Now, nations here confront a changing, more asymmetrical kind of con­flict, featuring Islamic terrorists who use children as martyrs, or Christian lynch mobs who kill Muslims with help from neighborhood teenagers. That puts governments and aid workers up against boys like 13-year-old Anicet N’gueretoum, who aren’t quite child soldiers, but also not innocent kids anymore.

Wall Street Journal, 6/30/2014

A British inventor hopes to revolutionize the health industry after producing 3D printed pros­thetic limbs. The NHS currently has to pay around £70,000 for a prosthetic hand, but robotics expert Joel Gibbard, 23, has come up with an alternative which could cost just £600. The engineer­ing graduate created the Dextrus hand, a fully-working proto-type built with a 3D printer. Dextrus works like a human hand, us­ing electric motors in­ stead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. The 3D print­ed plastic parts work like bones and a rub­ber coating acts as the skin. The hand, which is made from the same material as Lego, can be used without a custom fit­ting. It can articulate each finger individually en­abling it to hold objects of different sizes and shapes. It takes about eight hours to print one off. The hand doesn’t have sensors but detects the amount of re­sistance on each of the fingers, enabling it to hold an egg without crushing it. — Daily Mail, 10/13/2014

G Political

New laws make it easier to seize passports. Sus­pected fighters are plucked from planes. Authorities block finances and shut down radical mosques. And behind the scenes, Silicon Valley firms are under increasing pressure to wipe extremist content from websites as Western intelligence agencies explore new technologies to identify returning fighters at the border. Governments from France to Indonesia have launched urgent drives to cut off one of the Islamic State group’s biggest sources of strength: foreign fighters. — AP, 9/3/2014

Hong Kong’s narrowing options over future lead­ership elections could have broad repercussions. Voters in the former colony face only bad choices after Beijing proposed a tightly controlled system for choosing its chief executive. The plan to intro­duce universal suffrage will be shelved. It’s increas­ingly clear that the “hands-off” philosophy that has guided China’s approach to Hong Kong since it re­claimed the territory from Britain 17 years ago no longer applies. — Reuters, 9/1/2014

Fresh evidence indicates that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, includ­ing mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities. A new briefing pres­ents a series of hair-­raising accounts from survivors of massacres who describe how dozens  of  men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by Islamic State fighters, bundled into pick-­up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. — Amnesty International, 9/2/2014

$ Financial

Prices of prime Midwest land have more than dou­bled since 2005, according to agricultural lender Rabobank, with the price of corn shooting from less than $2 per bushel to a record-beating $8 per bushel in 2012. Until recently, the real estate boom was largely the result of scarce crops, as supply failed to keep up with growing demand from protein­-hun­gry Asian consumers and government-mandated ethanol production. A bumper 2013 harvest finally tipped the market into surplus, with sharp falls in prices. But land prices kept climbing this year, fu­eling worries about a farmland bubble. Near-zero interest rates have kept mortgage costs down and made financial returns from farmland competitive with government securities. — Reuters’, 8/20/2014

40% — U.S. households with no telephone land­ lines. — Center for Disease Control, 7/12/2014

U.S. consumer borrowing surged as Americans took out more loans to purchase cars. The $19.6 bil­lion increase in credit in May followed a revised $26.1 billion gain in April. Non-revolving lending, which includes auto and school loans, advanced by the most in a year. — Washington Post, 7/13/2014

Federal regulators are set to require big banks to keep enough high-quality assets on hand to survive during a severe downturn. The Federal Reserve ad­opted rules on a 5-0 vote Wednesday that will sub­ject big U.S. banks for the first time to so-called “li­quidity” requirements. The 15 largest banks (with more than $250 billion in assets) will have to hold enough cash, government bonds and other high­ quality assets to fund operations for 30 days during a time of market stress. Smaller banks (with more than $50 billion and less than $250 billion in as­sets) will have to keep enough to cover 21 days. AP, 9/3/2014

 Y Israel

A large majority of Israeli Jews want the govern­ment’s decisions to consider Diaspora Jewry, ac­cording to a new survey conducted ahead of the first Jewish Media Summit held in Jerusalem this week. The survey found that 62% of Israeli Jews believe Jews in Israel and the Diaspora share a common fate, while 35% disagree. — Ynet News, 6/27/2014

Israel became an energy producer for the first time with a deal to export natural gas to Jordan from the mammoth Leviathan gas field. Leviathan will become Jordan’s main supplier of natural gas in the coming years. The Leviathan is a large natural gas field located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea off Israel’s coastline, about 29 miles southwest of the Tamar gas field. It is located approximately 81 miles west of Haifa, in waters about 4900 feet deep. Jewish com, 9/3/2014

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