News and Views-September/October 2016

September/October 20162016Esmall

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V Religious

A total of 89 individuals and religious communi­ties across Russia are known to have been brought to court in 2015 for possession of literature dealing with religion or beliefs. None of this literature appears to incite the violation of human rights, vio­lence or hatred. Of these, 79 ended up with punishments, including four individuals who received jail sentences. These figures represent an increase on the previous year, when 56 punishments (all fines) resulted from 65 prosecutions for possession of religious literature the authorities deem “extrem­ist”. The cases were brought under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offences (“Production or mass distribution of extremist materials”). In 33 cases, courts ordered the confiscated religious lit­erature to be destroyed. — Forum 18, 4/25/2016

Students in Turkey’s leading high schools have rebelled against government efforts at an Islamist makeover of the education system. Since the Jus­tice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002, Turkey has had six education ministers, each of whom made major changes to the education sys­tem, some argue to turn students into guinea pigs. The most significant change, adopted in parliament amid fistfights and protests in March 2012, expand­ed the imam­-hatip religious schools and introduced Quranic studies and the life of the Prophet Muham­ mad as elective courses in public schools. In early June, a wave of protests spread through leading high schools around the country, with students demand­ing “modern” education. — Al Monitor, 6/21/2016

Despite Pope Francis’ overwhelming popularity, only about one-in-ten American Catholics say they turn to the pope “a great deal” for guidance on dif­ficult moral questions. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. Catholics (73%) say they rely “a great deal” on their own conscience when facing difficult mor­ al problems, compared with 21% who look to the Catholic Church’s teachings, 15% who turn to the Bible and 11% who say they rely a great deal on the pope. — Pew Research Center, 4/19/2016

Islamic extremism is growing in the southern Phil­ippines, with alarming implications for the rest of Asia, reports Time. For more than four decades, Is­lamist groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the Mindanao is­land group of southern Philippines. Several have now pledged allegiance to ISIS, while one of their leaders — Sheik Mujahid Abu Abdullah al-Filipini from the Abu Sayyaf militia — has been appointed ISIS’s leader in the Philippines. In one of the blood­iest days for the armed forces in years, 18 soldiers were killed and over 50 wounded on 9 April. ISIS claimed responsibility. Shortly afterwards, Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Filipino hostages. — World Watch Monitor, 4/18/2016

The annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” docu­mented 941 incidents last year in the U.S., a three percent rise over 2014. Last year, 56 of the incidents were violent assaults, a more than 50 percent rise from the 36 violent attacks reported in 2014. The states with the highest totals of anti-Semitic inci­ dents were those with large Jewish populations, starting with New York (198) and California (175). Anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled last year at colleges and universities across the United States, accounting for 10 percent of the total number of in­ cidents in 2015. — Jewish Press, 6/22/2016

 Social

A recent study by Common Sense Media, a parent advocacy group, found that 59 percent of parents think their teens are addicted to mobile devices. Meanwhile, 50 percent of teenagers feel the same way. The study surveyed nearly 1,300 parents and children. — Washington Post, 5/20/2016

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) called the country’s first case of a “super bug” with resistance to a last ­resort antibiotic a sign that we’ve reached “the end of the road” for the drugs. The discovery and develop­ment of antibiotics once was thought to be the end of many illnesses. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been a growing concern for health care providers and in places like nursing homes, but they are start­ing to emerge in the general population according to the CDCP. Bacteria can develop resistance to an antibiotic and share that resistance with each other through molecules in their DNA called plasmid. — Bucks County Courier Times, 5/31/2016

Researchers at Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Center in England say women need more sleep than men because their brains are much more complex. The director of the Sleep Research Center, Jim Horne, says “For women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological dis­tress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger.” By contrast, the state of a man’s health does not appear to be closely linked to how much they sleep. In the study, men showed no increased risk of developing the ailments that affect women when they are sleep-deprived. — SunnySkyz.com, 6/14/2016

In a series called The Hidden Life Within, Italian artist Giuseppe Penone carefully carves out the age rings in trees, basically leav­ing the sapling behind. What’s left is called heartwood. The rings are the xylem and phlo­em of the tree, trans­porting nutrients and water. — SunnySkyz, 6/13/2016

The honeybee popula­tion in the United States is in shambles. Beekeepers reported a 44 percent loss in their colonies from April 2014 to April 2015 the drop-off in honeybee colonies according to the ABF: pesticides, varroa mites, poor nutrition and disease. — Bucks County Courier Times, 5/31/2016 The American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) cites that approximately one-third of all food Americans consume is directly or indirectly obtained from honeybee pollination. A few of the crops include apples, cucumbers and almonds. Four contributing factors play a large role in the drop-off in honeybee colonies according to the ABF: pesticides, varroa mites, poor nutrition and disease. — Bucks County Courier Times, 5/31/2016

Political

Three hundred out of a thousand U.S. voters asked to take the official citizenship test couldn’t name the vice president. More than 60 percent did not know the length of U.S. senators’ terms in office, and 43 percent couldn’t say that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. Only 30 percent knew that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In another study, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only 36 percent could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Only 62 percent knew that the U.S. Supreme Court was tasked with determining the constitutionality of legislation. — Washington Post, 5/20/2016

For the past 18 months, Yemen has been going through one of the most chaotic times of its modern history. Since the Houthi takeover of the capital, Sanaa, on Sept. 21, 2014, the country has been wit- nessing a gradual collapse of the state, which was accelerated when President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left Sanaa for Aden and then for Riyadh. By March 2015, the Houthi rebel group was the de facto power running the country. As the war continues, most of the country’s public institutions are barely functioning. The health sector cannot provide for the wounded and the sick with three doctors per 10,000 people, while 14 million people need help accessing health care. Education in schools and universities has been interrupted by the many rounds of fighting, and around 1.8 million Yemeni children are out of school because of the ongoing war. — Al Monitor, 5/15/2016

North Korean missile launch likely failed in May, according to a South Korean news agency. Despite failures, there has been growing outside worry over North Korea’s nuclear and missile activity, which included a long-range test in January and a long- range rocket test in February that outsiders see as a test of banned long-range missile technology. — AP, 5/31/2016

Financial

Puerto Rico’s budget director says the U.S. territory cannot pay off its debt and provide essential services at the same time. He warned that nearly 3,500 public employees would have to be laid off in part if the island were required to meet all its debt obligations. Alternatives are reducing the work week and making deeper cuts to the health, public security and education sectors. — AP, 5/31/2016

Bank of America Corp. admitted to wrongdoing in settling a U.S. regulator’s allegations that it mis- used billions of dollars in customer funds to finance trades that benefited the firm. The bank will pay $415 million over claims that its Merrill Lynch unit engaged in complex transactions to reduce the amount of client funds that had to be set aside in reserve accounts, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. Had the firm failed, its customers would have been exposed to a “massive shortfall,” the regulator said. The $356 million fine portion of Bank of America’s settlement is by far the largest for a firm accused of violating the SEC’s customer protection rule. — Bloomberg News, 6/23/2016

Laurence Kemball-Cook saw room to create a new kind of sustainable energy technology. His company’s Pavegen floor tiles generate electricity by harnessing the power of footsteps. The tiles are a kind of kinetic energy recovery system. Tread on a tile and the surface depresses up to one centimeter. The downward force drives an energy-storing flywheel inside the tile, which spins to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy through electromagnetic induction. The tiles can conceivably go anywhere there’s floor space and foot traffic — airport terminals, sidewalks, and playing fields. Pavegen tiles have since been used to help light soccer pitches in Brazil and Nigeria, a hallway in Heathrow Airport, and offices and shopping centers in London. — Wired, 6/13/2016

Israel

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released figures suggesting that out of all residents in the West Bank and Gaza, 41.6% are considered “refugees.” The “refugee” status is permanently bestowed upon all Palestinians until they somehow all cram back into their alleged ancestral homes, in the same villages. — Jewish Press, 6/23/2016

The Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that 2015 saw 27,908 new immigrants come home to Israel. This marks a 16% increase from the 2014 figures. According to The Jerusalem Post, this past year also marked an increase in the number of youth relocating to Israeli shores. In 2014, 16.3% of immigrants were aged 14 and younger, while 19% of the 2015 olim (new immigrants) fell in that age bracket. The report also revealed that a whopping 67% of those who made Israel home over the previous year are academic professionals. This means an increase of almost 40% from the 2014 number. Nearly half of these professionals hold qualifications in the legal, cultural and social field, while 26% worked in sciences or engineering. A further 10% were in the health industry. According to The Jerusalem Post, a 53% majority of 2015’s olim hail from the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine and Russia. A further 24% arrived from France and 9% came from the United States. — Israel 21546 Absorption Center, May, 2016

Mustafa Mughniyeh, who replaced Hezbollah’s slain Chief of Staff Mustafa Badreddine, has reportedly declared that Israel, at least for now, is no longer considered the enemy of the Shiite organization. Speaking before a cadre of Hezbollah’s top command, Mughniyeh declared that Israel is a friend and a strategic ally opposite the Saudi enemy, and therefore, from this day on, there is no more war against Israel. He also noted that Israel was the only country that liberated the Shiites in south Lebanon from the Palestinian conquest in 1982. The PLO, which had been driven out of Jordan a decade earlier, created an independent state in everything but a name in south Lebanon, and used it as a base from which to harass Israel — leading to the first Lebanon war. — Jni Media, 5/19/2016

The Mossad Cyber-Operations Arm published a recruiting ad with a series of columns of numbers and letters, four pairs of which were highlighted, along with the clandestine unit’s logo, complete with its slogan — a verse from Proverbs, as befits a Jewish clandestine operation — “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is salvation” (Proverbs 11:14). Beside that scripture came the ad’s recruitment call: “Are you ready for a challenge?” — Jewish Press, 5/13/2016

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced a new edition to its defense arsenal. According to the military, it has successfully tested the “Iron Dome of the Sea.” The maritime missile interception system, based on Israel’s renowned Iron Dome, has proven its mettle in intercepting shortrange ballistic missiles from aboard a moving ship. The live tests took place two weeks ago, showing the Iron Dome of the Sea capable of shooting down rockets similar to those fired from the Gaza Strip. The Jewish state has a number of assets at sea, including a multi-billion shekel offshore gas rig located some 16 nautical miles from Gaza.  Previous attempts by Hama to target the rig from Gaza have proven unsuccessful. During the 2014 conflict, the Hamas militants fired nearly 5,000 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip at Israeli targets. The Iron Dome proved invaluable, achieving an astonishing intercept success rate of 90%, and saving countless Israeli lives. — Bridges for Peace, 5/19/2016

The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the destruction of Israel will be ridiculously easy; a pesky task accomplished in a matter of moments. In fact, according to one of its senior military commanders, the Iranian army would need no more than eight minutes to wipe the Jewish state from the map. Speaking to the semi-official Fars News Agency last week, Ahmad Karimpour flaunted the Iranian army’s prowess, boasting that it could “raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.” Karimpour, who serves as a senior adviser to the al-Quds Force, a special forces unit in the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for extraterritorial operations, added that it was merely a matter of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, giving his nod of approval. — Times of Israel, 5/23/3016

Unless Israel acts swiftly, its capital city will soon have a majority of Arab voters, mostly from East Jerusalem, who will be able to alter the city’s political balance. As Israeli residents, East Jerusalem Arabs can vote in the municipal elections; if they all come together, an Arab mayor could very well be elected. In the recent 2013 municipal elections, only 0.7% of Jerusalem’s Arab residents took part in the elections. This small figure has not stopped the members of Save Jewish Jerusalem from contending that the Arab residents might use this democratic tool — to wit, the elections — to take over the city politically. — Al Monitor, 6/21/2016

 

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