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A newly discovered letter written by Galileo Galilei to a friend has shed light on the Italian scientist’s famous feud with the Catholic Church. Galileo (1564-1642) made the first complete astronomical telescope and used it to gather evidence that the
Earth revolved around the sun, adopting the heliocentric model suggested decades earlier by Nicolaus Copernicus. Church teachings at the time had placed Earth at the center of the universe. He tried to alter some of his language in the original letter to no avail. Despite Galileo’s early caution in dealings with the Church, he forged ahead with his research and eventually detailed the arguments for the Copernican model of the solar system in his 1632 book “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” This led to his trial by the Inquisition a year later. Galileo was found guilty of heresy and placed under house arrest for the final nine years of his life. — Times of Israel, 9/21/2018

The Ukrainian part of the Orthodox Church is on the verge of breaking away from its Russian overseer — a move that would undermine Moscow’s central role in eastern Christianity. For several centuries, since the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Moscow has pretended to the role of a “Third Rome” — a political and religious capital that would unite the Orthodox world. Even after the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, most Orthodox believers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus remained united under one
spiritual leader, the Patriarch of Moscow. Now, Putin’s military incursions into Eastern Ukraine have provoked such a deep rift between nations that used to get along. If and when the churches in Russia and Ukraine split, many fear that it may result in bloodshed. — Bloomberg, 10/10/2018

Since its grand opening in 2017, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. has exhibited five fragments from the storied Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient parchment fragments discovered 70 years ago in a desert cave. In October, the museum acknowledged that the five fragments it had on display were forgeries. They were taken down and replaced with three other fragments that do not have the same anomalies. — Religion News Service, 10/22/2018

The U.S. Department of Justice is launching a federal grand jury investigation into Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania just months after a state-level investigation unearthed decades of allegations of widespread child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests that impacted more than 1,000 children over several decades. At least 11 states have now launched some form of inquiry into local dioceses regarding allegations of child sexual abuse, with much demanding access to internal church files said
to contain documentation of decades of allegations.
— Religion News Service, 10/18/2018


The number of people living in dire poverty around the world has declined by over a billion, while the world’s population has been growing dramatically over the last 25 years. So we have more people, but far fewer living in the worst sort of poverty.
This is most pronounced in East Asia, including China, where the percent of the population living in extreme poverty has gone from 62% to 2% since 1990. So East Asia has basically wiped out extreme poverty in one generation — something that would
have been considered an impossible achievement not very long ago. “The global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. — World Bank, 9/20/2018

For a decade, Roy Palmer had multiple sclerosis and no feeling in his legs. The 49-year-old father had to use a wheelchair to get around. But last year, he received a life-changing treatment called HSCT (hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) that restored his ability to walk. “They take the stem cells out of your body. They give you chemotherapy to kill the rest of your immune system,” Palmer told the BBC. The stem cells are then used to reboot the immune system. After the treatment, he regained feeling in his left leg within two days. He eventually
regained feeling in both of his legs. — SunnySkyz, 10/25/2018

125 billion pounds — the amount of food waste sent to U.S. landfills annually. 20% — the proportion of Americans living in food insecurity. — Hungry Harvest, 9/26/2018

At co-living buildings, tenants lease tiny rooms in larger apartments shared with strangers. Renters have access to living rooms, kitchens and other common spaces, while amenities like cleaning services, dog walking and cooking classes are part of
the deal. This product, which is less than 10 years old and found primarily in large U.S. cities, represents only a tiny niche in the multibillion-dollar apartment industry. But developers are now preparing to build some of the largest new co-living properties in North America, a sign that the appeal of this type of housing could be broadening. — Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2018

A Canadian family has “a renewed sense of hope” after a total stranger gave them his car after learning the family was scammed out of $600. Nathan Donovan and his wife Madison are parents of an infant and a toddler and receive social assistance. Nathan is disabled after breaking his back in a car accident in 2010 and can’t work. In an attempt to get off assistance and get back on their feet, the couple applied for a car loan so that Madison could go back to work. In order to get the $7,000 they were approved for, they were told to wire $600 to the company as collateral. They never received the loan and the website was taken down. Nathan called CBC News to warn others about the online scam that took his last $600. A regular listener of the radio show heard Nathan’s story and a few days later handed Nathan the keys to his Volkswagen Jetta, which he had for sale. The act of kindness has changed everything for
the Donovan family. — SunnySkyz, 10/12/2018


For years, police and prosecutors in Philadelphia have personally benefited from liberal use of the Pennsylvania property forfeiture law. Between 2002 and 2014, more than $28 million was used for police and prosecutors’ salaries and other compensation. Under Pennsylvania’s forfeiture law, police can seize property they believe may be connected to a crime even if they can’t charge or convict the owner. Police have seized assets worth $73 million since 2012, twice as much as Brooklyn and Los Angeles Counties. Several assistant DA’s received 100 percent of their pay from forfeiture revenue, including the top official overseeing the practice. The cash accounted for nearly 20 percent of the DA’s total budget. A class-action lawsuit, filed to stop the practice in 2014 and settled in 2018, compensates past
victims and restricts when law enforcement can seize private property without due process. — Wall Street Journal, 9/18/2018

In the space of barely ten years, the dream of [nuclear] disarmament now seems more distant than ever. All the nuclear-armed states are devoting vast resources to upgrading their arsenals. The United States and Russia are leading the way, undertaking massive modernization programs that entail new
warheads and methods for delivering them. China is steadily increasing the size of its arsenal and developing new types of delivery systems, including missiles tipped with multiple warheads. These are considered more destabilizing because they create an incentive for the other side to strike first in
order to knock them out early in a conflict. India and Pakistan, locked in a dangerous rivalry, are also expanding and upgrading their arsenals. The combined stockpiles of nuclear weapons in China, India, and Pakistan total about 560. Several of these countries have adopted dangerously escalatory nuclear doctrines and loosened their rules on the use of nuclear weapons. — Foreign Affairs, November/December 2018

Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death as soon as he entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in a premeditated murder, the city’s chief prosecutor said in a statement likely to keep tensions between Ankara and Riyadh elevated. The killing of Khashoggi, a former Saudi court insider, has also focused international attention on the policies of
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The prince in 2015 ordered a military intervention in Yemen’s war and has led an unprecedented political and economic embargo against neighboring Qatar and engaged in diplomatic confrontations with Germany and Canada. — Bloomberg News, 10/31/2018
Every year an estimated 500,000 people flee extreme violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In 2016, El Salvador and Honduras were ranked second and fourth worldwide, respectively, for the rate of violent death, joining Syria and Afghanistan in the top five. — Doctors Without Borders, 10/29/2018


The U.S. Treasury Department announced debt sales will surpass levels last seen when the country was digging out of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. This time around, fiscal stimulus is adding fuel to an already growing economy.
A ballooning budget shortfall — fueled by tax cuts, spending hikes and an aging population — is driving the U.S. Treasury to raise its long-term debt issuance at its quarterly refunding auctions to $83 billion from $78 billion three months ago. The debt issuance at this quarterly refunding beats the previous record of $81 billion set by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in 2009 when the U.S. was recovering from the Great Recession. This time borrowing is surging as the economy hums along at a 3.5 percent annual growth rate and unemployment is
near a half-century low. — Bloomberg, 10/31/2018

Since bitcoin was introduced nearly 10 years ago, law-enforcement authorities have worried the technology could ease money laundering. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are based on software that acts as a digital ledger maintained across thousands of computers. The ledgers, or blockchains, for most cryptocoins are publicly viewable, and allow people to track the movements of coins from one anonymous online account or wallet to the next. Now a new breed of cryptocurrency intermediary is giving fresh urgency to those fears, operating in plain view with scant policing and often allowing users to engage in anonymous transactions. An investigation identified nearly $90 million in suspected criminal
proceeds that flowed through such intermediaries over two years. Most operate in places such as Eastern Europe and China. — Wall Street Journal, 9/28/2018

A British trader at a Danish bank’s branch in Estonia noticed that a London business, which moved more than $1 million through the branch almost daily, had filed a report with the U.K. government claiming it had no income or assets. He began investigating and five years after the bank announced that more than $230 billion has flowed from Russia and other former Soviet states through its tiny branch in Estonia. It is a money-laundering scandal on a grand scale, as the money involved is equal to more than all the corporate profits in Russia in a year. The scandal has tarred the reputation of Denmark, a country ranked among the world’s most transparent. — Wall Street
Journal, 10/24/2018

About 40 percent of adults said that if faced with a $400 unexpected expense, they would either not be able to pay it or would do so by selling something or borrowing money. Additionally, less than 40 percent of working adults think they are on track in saving for their golden years and 25 percent have no retirement savings or pension at all — Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017, 5/28/2018


The political stalemate between Israel and Palestine continues and Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have shown zero progress since 2014. Nevertheless, the security and economic cooperation between the two sides seem to always stay the course. This is particularly intriguing since such sectors often depend on political relations, but they are somehow unrelated in this case. It seems that the Palestinian-Israeli rift since 2014 has yet to cast a shadow over bilateral economic relations. On the contrary, communication in this field seems to be in full swing. This undermines the political role of the PA and instead favors investment and commerce — all while raising questions about the political future of the PA and the legitimacy of its existence. — Al Monitor, 9/18/2018

The leader of Hezbollah boasted that the Lebanese terror group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles, despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons. Hassan Nasrallah told supporters they need to be confident in Hezbollah’s capabilities and that the regional balance of power
has changed. Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and has acknowledged carrying out scores of strikes in Syria, most of them believed aimed at halting suspected arms shipments for Hezbollah. “If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a destiny and reality it didn’t expect any day,” Nasrallah said. — Times of Israel, 9/20/2018

Due to rising anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, 40 percent of British Jews have considered leaving the country, up from 31 percent in 2017. With 90 percent of British Jews citing issues associated with the Labour Party, many of them acknowledged considering or taking concrete measures to emigrate. Just 22 percent of British Jews say they currently feel welcome in Great Britain. “Most British Jews who would ordinarily wear Jewish clothing and symbols said that they now conceal them when out
in public,” the Campaign Against Antisemitism said in a statement. “British Jews also revealed that now they felt more threatened by the far-left than by the far-right.” — JNS, 9/23/2018

The excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the site of Gath of the Philistines mentioned in the Bible, have produced many fascinating finds. While uncovering an impressive destruction level dating to the second half of the ninth century B.C.E., when Gath was the largest of the five cities of the Philistines, excavators found an exceptionally well preserved horned altar reminiscent of the Israelite horned altars described in the Bible (Exodus 27:1-2; 1 Kings 1:50). — Bible History Daily, 9/26/2018

For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed a Second Temple period stone inscription that spells the name Jerusalem as Yerushalayim (as spelled in Hebrew today), rather than Yerushalem or Shalem.  The inscription reads: Hananiah son of Dudolos of Jerusalem. The IAA press release announcing the
discovery describes the inscription as Aramaic but written with Hebrew letters. — Bible History Daily, 10/9/2018

From Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman — the first since 1996 by a leader of the Jewish state — to that of Israel’s culture and sport minister Miri Regev to Abu Dhabi — where the Israeli anthem was played in the course of a judo
tournament — the increasingly conspicuous signs of the warming relations between the Jewish state and Gulf countries have become all the more obvious over recent days. This approach is a key priority for Netanyahu, driven by a realist view of geopolitics that sees a convergence of interests in the face of a common enemy: Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat, and which Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies regard as the Middle East’s monstrous Shia menace. — France 24, 10/28/2018