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V Religious

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To the Catholic Church’s “seven deadly sins,” Pope Francis has added the “15 ailments of the Curia.” Francis issued a blistering indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who serve him of using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living “hypocritical” double lives and forgetting that they’re supposed to be joyful men of God. — Start Tribune, 1/19/2015

While Christianity is waning in many parts of the world, in China it is growing rapidly — despite state strictures. The rise in evangelical  Protestantism  in particular, driven both by people’s spiritual yearnings and individual human needs in a collective society, is taking place in nearly every part of the nation. Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention-center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in — one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”)

Christian Science Monitor, 1/11/2015


Archaeological looting is a global issue that threatens the preservation of cultural heritage. In the Mid­dle East, archaeological looting and the deliberate destruction of archaeological sites and monuments amid ongoing warfare have captured international attention. Antiquities looted from sites in Syria and northern Iraq and subsequently trafficked are one of the main sources of funding for the Islamic State, the Sunni extremist group referred to as ISIS or ISIL. — Bible History Daily, 2/25/2015

A British survey found that 58 percent of British Jews believe that Jews may have no long-term future in Europe and that over half of British Jews say that they have witnessed more anti-Semitism in the past two years than ever. The survey, conducted by an independent anti-Semitism group, also found that 45 percent of the British Jews surveyed feel their family is threatened by Islamist extremism. Some 2,230 British Jews were given a link to complete the online survey. — The Guardian, 1/14/2015

In 1987, Christians in Iraq numbered 1.4 million. Since then, the country’s population has doubled but its Christian community has declined to 400,000. Many of these people are now internally displaced because of ISIS, a Sunni Muslim militant movement that drove them from their homes in August 2014 in its effort to establish an Islamic “caliphate.” — New Statesman, 1/29/2015

H Social

Alex Malarky, 17, who at 6-years old claimed he died while in a coma and went to heaven and back, has recanted his story that was published in a best-­selling book in 2010. Malarkey writes, calling, well, malarkey on himself. “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” Family therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer says it’s not a surprise that Malarkey would make up a story in the wake of his experience. “When something happens that is so traumatic, regardless of our age, we work to make sense of it and put it in a way that will help us process and sort it out.” — Yahoo Parenting, 1/16/2015

Nearly half of the British population agreed with one of four anti-Semitic statements presented to them according to a new poll, which found that one in eight of those surveyed believe that Jewish people see the Holocaust as a means of gaining sympathy. It also found that one in four (25%) Britons believed that Jews chase money more than other British people, a figure which rose to 39% of those participants who identified themselves as Ukip voters. The research by YouGov was commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), a network of activists in the UK which said that Britain was at a “tipping point” and warned that anti-Semitism would grow unless it was met by “zero tolerance.” — The Guardian,1/13/2015

A measles outbreak in California was tied to visits to Disneyland during the holiday season of 2014. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 84 people in 14 states were diagnosed with measles in January. Most were infected either at Disneyland or by someone who went there. Discredited warnings about the potential danger of the vaccine resulted in many parents refusing to give their children protection against the virus for those born after 1957. — AP, USA Today, 1/30/2015

A record 2,212 firearms — most of them loaded — were discovered in travelers’ carry-on bags at U.S. airports last year, according to 2014 statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security Administration. — USA Today, 1/23/2015

G Political

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has died at 90. Abdullah  had  come to power in 2005 after his half-­brother King Fahd died and was the force behind OPEC and an ally of the U.S. in the fight against al-Qaeda. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he was saddened by the death of King Abdullah, whom he credited with enhancing regional stability. Under Abdullah, Israel expanded its unofficial intelligence sharing with Saudi Ara­bia, particularly as Iran — seen as a threat both by Israel and Saudi Arabia — in recent years appeared to be getting closer to obtaining nuclear weapons capability. — AP, 1/23/2015

In response to the growing threat posed by the Is­lamic State terrorist group, the royal family of Saudi Arabia is having a 600-mile barrier constructed to completely block the Iraqi portion of the Saudi northern border, hoping to prevent ISIS militants from infiltrating the kingdom. The planned fence structure will span the entire distance of the Iraq­ Saudi border, from Jordan to Kuwait. The border barrier system will feature five layers of barbed wire fencing, a ditch, a patrol road, 240 rapid response vehicles, underground motion sensors, 40 watchtowers, radar, day/night cameras, seven command centers, 28 communication towers, 32 military response stations (equipped with helipads), and three rapid intervention teams. The entire system will also be connected through a fiber-optic communications network. — Christian Post, 1/20/2015

Israel, in cooperation with other countries, initiated the first UN General Assembly Special Meeting on Anti-Semitism. Thirty-seven member states including Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, and all members of the European Union (EU), sent a letter to Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly, calling for a special session to address the global outbreak of anti-Sem­itism. The American, Canadian and the EU Mis­sions to the UN partnered with Israel to host the event. Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, stated, “It says a lot that so many countries have partnered with Israel to raise this issue of anti-Semitism to the top of the UN’s agenda. We have a great deal of work to do to move this issue from the headlines to the history books.” The event took place on January 22nd and was broadcast live from the UN. — Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1/18/2015

More than one million people may have been forced to leave their homes in northern Nigeria by the five-year-old insurgency of Islamist sect Boko Haram, a United Nations agency said. The militants’ attacks may force even more people to flee, both internally and to Cameroon, Niger and Chad, which could destabilize the region, the International ­Organization for Migration (IOM) warned. “We also are concerned with the regional impact of the crisis and potential threats to the peace and security of neighboring countries, should Boko Haram’s insurgency spread,” said IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker. The Sunni Muslim sect, which is trying to carve out an Islamic state in the largely Muslim north of the west African country, has killed thousands since 2009 in what is seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producer. — Reuters, 1/21/2015

 $ Financial

$3,300,000,000,000 — $3.3 Trillion — amount of U.S. consumer debt at the end of 2014, excluding real estate loans. — USA Today, 1/9/2015

Greece said it will struggle to make debt repayments to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the European Central Bank this year as Germany’s finance minister voiced open doubts about Athens’ trustworthiness. A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month  extension  of a financial rescue for the currency bloc’s most heavily indebted member, Finance Minister Yanis Varou­fakis gave a frank assessment of Greece’s financial position.” We will not have liquidity problems for the public sector. But we will definitely have problems in making debt payments to the IMF now and to the ECB in July,” he told Alpha Radio. He put no figure on the funding gap. After interest payments this month of about 2 billion Euros, Athens must repay an IMF loan of around 1.6 billion that matures in March and about 7.5 billion in maturing bonds held by the ECB in July and August. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said no further aid would be paid out until Athens fulfilled all the conditions.— Reuter’s 2/25/2015

Every year, some 55,000 New Yorkers move to Florida, more than those who migrate to any other state. Each year, New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance collects more than $200 million from “residency audits,” in which taxpayers must provide elaborate evidence of their whereabouts. If you want to stop paying New York income tax, you must prove you’re spending more than half the year outside New York. If you’re close to the 183-day limit, you may need to account for every single day, and that’s not always easy. The state will look at phone records, credit card receipts, and other bills. When it comes to counting days in New York, the taxman is strict. If you’re flying back to Florida from JFK, for example, and your plane’s 11:30 p.m. departure from Queens is delayed until after midnight — bam, you’ve just spent an extra taxable day in New York. — Bloomberg, 2/25/2015

 Y Israel

“The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers to­ gether the outcasts of Israel” (Psalms 147:2). In a year that was marked by increased anti-Semitism in many parts of the world, aliyah hit a 10-year high with approximately 26,500 new immigrants com­ ing to the Land. The number of immigrants from France in 2014 more than doubled when compared to the previous year. The number of Jewish people fleeing from Ukraine almost tripled-from 2,020 to 5,840 in 2014. Both countries experienced violent anti-Semitism and, in Ukraine’s case, the violence of a civil war. Overall, Western Europe experienced an 88% increase and countries of the former Soviet Union saw their numbers rise by 50%. — Bridges For Peace, 1/5/2015

Israel’s military censor cleared for publication the recent arrest of a terrorist cell claiming affiliation with the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) in the Judean town of Hebron. The Shabak (Israel’s equivalent of the FBI) worked together with the IDF in November to track and successfully arrest the terror cell, which was made up of Palestinian residents of Hebron. Security sources said the cell had been planning to attack a number of Israeli targets, both civilian and military. — Israel Today, 1/4/2015

2014 marked the first year that more Jews moved to Israel from France than from any other country— 7,000 of them. Israeli authorities are expecting another 10,000 from France this year. — PRI, 1/12/2015

Archaeologists have found the suspected remains of the palace where one of the more famous scenes of the New Testament may have taken place — the trial of Jesus. Now, after years of excavation and a further delay caused by wars and a lack of funds, the archaeologists’ precious find is being shown to the public through tours organized by the museum. Questions about the location stem from various interpretations of the Gospels, which describe how Jesus of Nazareth was brought before Pilate in the “praetorium,” a Latin term for a general’s tent within a Roman encampment. Some say Pilate’s praetorium would have been in the military barracks, others say the Roman general would probably have been a guest in the palace built by Herod.

Today, historians and archaeologists are certain that Herod’s palace was on the city’s western side, where the Tower of David Museum and the Ottoman-era prison stand. — Washington Post, 1/4/2015


Categories: 2015 Issues, 2015-May/June

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