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Around 260 million people in the world today identify themselves as Christian Orthodox, double the number registered a century ago, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. Russia alone has more than 100 million followers, while more than 95 percent of people in predominantly Orthodox countries such as Moldova, Georgia, Romania and Greece report keeping icons at home.
Yet, as popular as Orthodoxy is in Eastern Europe, this branch of Christianity seems to be losing ground in the overall Christian population. Today, Orthodox Christians represent only 4 percent of the world’s population. Additionally, Orthodox followers account for 12 percent of Christians worldwide, down 8 percentage points from the levels in 1910, according to the Pew report. Today, Orthodoxism remains concentrated in Europe, where 77 percent of Orthodox Christians still live. — U.S. News Report, 12/17/2018
The Muslim population in the United States will be larger than the Jewish population by 2040, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew estimated that there are currently 3.45 million Muslims by religion in America, around 1.1% of the U.S. population. In 2013, Pew estimated that there were 4.2 million Jews by religion in America (1.8% of the U.S. adult population), but 5.3 million Jews if one also counted “Jews of no religion,” or non-affiliated people raised by a Jewish parent. By 2050, Pew said, the Muslim population will reach 8.1 million, or 2.1% of the U.S. population (although changes in immigration policy could affect those numbers). — Forward, 1/4/2018
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States spiked in 2017, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. There were 1,986 acts of anti-Semitism in the US last year, according to an ADL audit. That is more than double the total from 2015, which was 942. It’s also a 57 percent increase over the 2016 total of 1,267. The audit said that the rise is due in part to an increase in people reporting incidents of anti-Semitism.
The toll represents the second-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded since the ADL began documenting them almost four decades ago, and is the highest-ever single-year jump. — JTA, 2/27/2018
The global population is aging. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 8.5% of people in the world in 2015 were aged 65 or older, and that will grow to 17% by 2050. — NIA, 2/28/2018
The town of Goodhue, Minn., has a population of less than 1,000. Howard Snitzer, 54, was heading to buy groceries at Don’s Foods, when he crumpled to the sidewalk, suffering a massive heart attack. The grocery clerk called 911, and the only customer in the store, an off-duty corrections officer, rushed to Snitzer’s side and began performing CPR. Across the street, the owner of a body shop heard the commotion and hurried over. As news spread, the numbers grew. In total, about 20 pairs of hands worked to the point of exhaustion to save Snitzer’s life in a CPR marathon that lasted for 96 minutes until paramedics arrived via helicopter. Mary Svoboda, a Mayo Clinic flight nurse who flew in on the emergency helicopter, said “it was unbelievable. There were probably 20 in line, waiting their turn to do CPR. They just kept cycling through.” After 10 days, Snitzer was released from the hospital — miraculously healthy, and incredibly grateful. “I feel like I have a responsibility to them to live the best life possible and honor the effort they made,” Snitzer said. — SunnySkyz, 2/18/2018
No one disputes that opioid abuse has caused an epidemic in our country, one that costs tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions, of dollars per year. Less well known, but of vital importance to policymakers, is how these costs are distributed. Opioid abuse rates and deaths vary considerably from state to state, as do the costs associated with this epidemic. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Council of Economic Advisers aggregate nonfatal costs — that is, spending on health care and substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs, and lost productivity— associated with abuse and misuse of opioids. CEA builds from that estimate and adds the societal burden of fatalities from opioid overdoses, estimating the nonfatal costs of the opioid epidemic in 2015 to be $72.3 billion and the fatal costs to be $431.7 billion for a total cost of $504 billion. — American Enterprise Institute, 1/16/2018
France unveiled a wide-ranging new program to counter radicalization, as French jihadis return from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq and the watch list grows of people showing risk signs. The plan, announced by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, is made up of 60 measures and puts the accent on prevention, notably aimed at trying to catch danger signals within society. It is France’s third effort in less than four years to try to prevent and control a phenomenon that numerous nations are grappling with. France got a late start on the issue even though homegrown Islamic extremists set off deadly bombs in France in the 1990s and more French jihadis went to Syria and Iraq to support the Islamic State group or al-Qaida than other Europeans. The new plan targets prisons, schools, and even sports clubs, and involves specialists and ordinary people on both local and national levels. — AP, 2/23/2018
Jordan and Turkey are bolstering ties in a bid to unify positions toward regional challenges where the two countries share mutual interests, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian crisis. King Abdullah II hosted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Gen. Hulusi Akar, the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, on separate visits to Amman over the course of two days, Feb. 19 and 20, respectively. Cavusoglu met with the Jordanian monarch to review bilateral relations and the latest regional developments, according to a Royal Court statement. The king stressed his “keenness to continue coordination on issues of concern to the Islamic nation and enhance security and stability of the region.” He also said Turkey was looking into using the “Aqaba port as a regional hub for Turkish exports to various markets, including Africa,” the Jordan Times reported. A day later, Abdullah and Akar discussed bilateral military cooperation. — Al Monitor, 2/27/2018
China’s decision to repeal presidential term limits marks the moment when President Xi Jinping dropped any pretense of following the rules. The move, which may extend his tenure beyond 2023, shows just how deep the cult of Xi runs in Chinese politics. His political thought was enshrined in the Communist Party’s charter alongside his name last fall, giving Xi, 64, the same mythic status as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. His government regularly bends Chinese companies to its iron will. — Bloomberg, 2/27/2018
A Polish official said that Germany could owe his country $850 billion for the damage it inflicted during World War II. Arkadiusz Mularczyk is leading a team in the parliament that is assessing potential reparations to Poland. Germany killed 6 million Polish citizens and caused great material losses during its nearly six-year occupation of Poland. Last year, Poland’s ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice Party said the nation deserves compensation for its losses and set up a team of lawmakers under Mularczyk’s leadership to estimate how much is due. To date, Poland has not made an official demand. Germany has repeatedly said there is no legal basis for Poland’s reparation claims because the matter was settled in a 1953 agreement.— The Times of Israel, 3/2/2018
Millionaires from Russia to Norway and the U.S. are seeking to take advantage of Italy’s low tax rates for the super-rich. In an effort to attract capital, Italy unveiled a measure last year allowing ultra-wealthy individuals taking up residency to pay a flat tax of 100,000 euros ($123,000) a year, regardless of their income.
Around 150 people, including some with a wealth of above the “hundreds of millions,” inquired about the measure, Fabrizio Pagani, head of the office of the Minister of Economy and Finance said in an interview in London. Italy, which is struggling to accelerate the recovery after years of recession, is racing to attract wealthy foreigners to boost the economy with investments, consumption and fresh capital.
Countries such as Portugal have already been successful in luring high-net-worth individuals, offering tax benefits in an effort to shore up public finances. Under the tax measure, individuals are expected to move their residencies to Italy. Pagani said Milan, Venice and the glamorous area around the lakes at the foot of the Alps may become even wealthier. — Bloomberg, 2/26/2018
Craig Wright, the self-proclaimed inventor of bitcoin, is accused of swindling more than $5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency and other assets from the estate of a computer-security expert. Wright, who claimed in 2016 that he created the computer-based currency under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, allegedly schemed to use phony contracts and signatures to lay claim to bitcoins mined by colleague Dave Kleiman, another cryptocurrency adherent, who died in 2013, according to a lawsuit filed by Kleiman’s brother. — Crypto, 2/26/2018
$2.2 million — the amount the US Federal Government loses per minute. It spends far more on defense, Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs than it collects in taxes and interest. — 2017 Financial Report of the United States Government
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released data regarding the country and its population. As 2018 begins, some 8,793,000 people currently reside in Israel. Of those residents, 6,556,000 are Jewish, making up 75 percent of the populace. As for the
country’s non-Jewish population, 1,837,000 are Arabs, making up 21 percent of the total population. 400,000, meanwhile, are non-Arab Christians and people who are not classified by religion in the census, making up 4 percent of the population.
The country also welcomed 27,000 new olim [new immigrants] this past year, with roughly 10,000 other immigrants also coming into the country. That number includes people who immigrated to the country as part of the law permitting to do so. The chief countries sending immigrants to Israel in 2017 were Russia (27%), the Ukraine (25%), France (13%) and the United States (10%). — Ynetnews, 12/31/2017
Excavations in Jerusalem have unearthed what may be the first extra-Biblical evidence of the prophet Isaiah. Just south of the Temple Mount, in the Ophel excavations, archaeologist Eilat Mazar and her team have discovered a small seal impression that reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.”
The upper portion of the impression is missing, and its left side is damaged. Reconstructing a few Hebrew letters in this damaged area would cause the impression to read, “[belonging] to Isaiah the prophet. “If the reconstruction stands, this may
be the signature of the Biblical prophet Isaiah — the figure we encounter in the Books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. — Biblical Archaeology Review, March-May, 2018
For the first time, the royal seal of King Hezekiah in the Bible was found in an archaeological excavation. The stamped clay seal, also known as a bulla, was discovered in the Ophel excavations led by Dr. Eilat Mazar at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The discovery was announced in a press release by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, under whose auspices the excavations were conducted. The bulla, which measures just over a centimeter in diameter, bears a seal impression depicting a twowinged sun disk flanked by ankh symbols and containing a Hebrew inscription that reads “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.” The bulla was discovered along with 33 other stamped bullae during wet-sifting of dirt from a refuse dump located next to a 10th-century BCE royal building in the Ophel. — Bible History Daily, 2/21/2018
Egypt and Israel have signed a landmark $15 billion deal to export natural gas from the Leviathan Pipeline to Egypt over the next decade. Delek Drilling told the Tel Aviv stock exchange that Noble Energy Mediterranean signed an agreement with Egypt’s
Dolphinus Holdings Ltd for the sale of 64 bn cubic meters of natural gas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed “the historic agreement” which “will bring billions to the country and will aid in the education, health and welfare of Israeli citizens.” It is not clear how the gas from both fields will be transported to Egypt. A number of options were being considered, including connecting Egypt to Israel’s own transmission network and using the pipelines to the east Mediterranean and Jordan. Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz hailed the announcement as the most significant deal with Egypt since the 1979 peace accord. — The Israel Project, 2/18/2018 — Biblical Archaeology Review, December,