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In 2018, nearly 50 million more Christians were added in Africa, making it the continent with the most adherents to Christianity in the world, 631 million. In the U.S., from 1991 to 2014, the number of white Protestants declined by a third. More than half of U.S. Protestant congregations now have fewer than 100 members. Over the past half-century, 71 percent of growth in Catholicism has come from its Hispanic community. — From the book, “Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century,” Reformed Church in America

From the 2019 Best Countries rankings, a characterization of 80 countries based on a survey of more than 20,000 global citizens, countries seen to be the most religious, ranked from 1-10: Israel; Saudi Arabia; Iran; India; United Arab Emirates; Pakistan; Iraq; Egypt; Jordan; Oman — US News & World Report, 1/19/2019

French President Emmanuel Macron convened the country’s Muslim leaders and representatives from all religions. The news daily Le Monde, which obtained the note that the president handed to attendees, reported that the government was proposing to revise the 1905 law on Separation of the Churches
and State, while “confirming” “its principles,” which established state secularism in France. — New York Times, 1/28/2019

A Pew Research Center study of people in 26 countries found that participating members of religious congregations report higher levels of happiness than people who are not part of a congregation. In the United States, 36 percent of people active in religious congregations report being very happy, compared to 25 percent of unaffiliated people. — U.S. News and World Report, 1/31/2019

The sale of a 230-year-old letter in which America’s first president speaks of “Providence” guiding the fledgling
republic’s affairs has rekindled interest in how George Washington saw religion, a subject long debated among scholars, supporters and skeptics. The letter was sold at the
asking price of $140,000 to an unnamed private collector. It was written September 7, 1788, to Richard Peters, at the time speaker of the Pennsylvania House. According to historian Spencer W. McBride, author of the 2017 book “Pulpit and
Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America,” Washington “believed religion was important for maintaining the civic order. Exactly what his personal religious beliefs were remains a matter of debate. He had some skepticism about the
Christian denominations of his time, but it did not keep him from going to church.” — RNS, 2/13/3019


A new study, conducted by Norwegian scientists, shows that IQ scores of today’s young people are in sharp decline. IQ points of those tested peaked among those born in 1975, while people born in 1991 scored five points lower. This shift could be due to many factors, including the way children are brought up and educated. For example, there is less focus on subjects like mathematics and languages, while the total amount of time spent watching television or using technology has increased significantly. — Israel, Islam & The End Times, 10/11/2018

Loneliness is increasingly considered a hazard to human health comparable to obesity and smoking. The U.K. appointed a Loneliness Minister to combat their chronic loneliness problem. An effort to quantify the cost of loneliness in the US (AARP
Public Policy Institute partnered with Stanford University’s Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging) estimated that among Americans aged 65 or older, social isolation costs the government nearly $7 billion in additional health care costs per year. — Wall Street Journal, 2/23/2019

Earth’s north magnetic pole has been drifting so fast in recent decades that scientists say that previous estimates are no longer accurate enough for precise navigation. The pole is wandering about 34 miles a year. Since 1831, when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic, it has moved about 1,400 miles toward Siberia. The reason for the shift is turbulence in Earth’s liquid outer core, made of iron and nickel, where the motion generates an electric field, said University of Maryland geophysicist Daniel Lathrop. In general, Earth’s magnetic field is getting weaker, leading scientists to say that it will eventually flip, where north and south pole change polarity, like a bar magnet flipping over. It has happened numerous times in Earth’s past. — AP, 2/6/2019

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) infects half a million people each year worldwide. Despite formidable challenges, the Eugene Bell Foundation and the North Korean doctors have together helped treat more than 3,000 MDR-TB patients, with a
75 percent cure rate. It is a remarkable achievement, considering the global average cure rate is 45 percent. Tuberculosis spreads through the air and thrives on poverty and malnutrition. To add to the difficulty, Eugene Bell focuses on a particular strain
of tuberculosis that is very resistant to drugs. — Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2/18/2019

In the South Pole-Aitken Basin crater on the moon, Chinese researchers sprouted cotton seeds in a controlled environment, that also contained fruit fly eggs, aboard the Chang’e 4 moon lander, which touched down on January 2. The experiment was
designed to test the feasibility of growing food in high-radiation, low-gravity environments in pursuit of the long-term goal of moon colonization by humans. — Christian Science Monitor, 1/31/2019

6,227 — pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018. This was the highest in 28 years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Factors include distracted driving, more people walking to work, and more SUVs, which cause severe injuries
in collisions with people. — AP, 2/28/2019


A federal judge in Texas has declared that the all-male military draft is unconstitutional, ruling that “the time has passed” for a debate on whether women belong in the military. The decision deals the biggest blow to the Selective Service System since
the Supreme Court upheld the draft in 1981. The case in Texas was brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group, and two others. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service released an interim report in January
that said it is currently reviewing such a proposal, as well as whether registration should be discontinued entirely. — USA Today, 2/25/2019

Seven Labour politicians quit the U.K.’s main opposition party as Brexit cracked open the structures that have defined British politics for decades. The move to quit the party and form an independent group could marginalize politicians in favor of
keeping close links with the European Union or avoiding Brexit altogether, raising the odds of a no-deal outcome. — Bloomberg News, 2/18/2019

Tehran, western Asia’s most populous city, is sinking. Detailed satellite images reveal that some parts of the Iranian capital are falling by as much as 25 centimeters a year, and that the collapse is spreading to encompass the city’s international airport.  The latest study has been accepted for publication
in Remote Sensing of Environment. A combination of population growth (doubled in the past 40 years), droughts and large dams which prevent aquifers from recharging, has exacerbated the problem. The sinking that has occurred might be irreversible, the study hints. — Nature, 12/6/2018

A controversial bill that would have created a massive statewide database of DNA from a myriad of professionals, volunteers and even dead people has been scaled back to require DNA only from professionals who care for patients with intellectual disabilities in an intermediate care facility rather than the original proposal that DNA be taken from anyone who has to be fingerprinted by the state for a job, to volunteer in certain positions, to get a real estate license, to serve as a foster parent or for one of many other reasons. — Arizona Republic, 2/19/2019

A new study from NASA shows an increase of the greening on land is mainly due to ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both China and India. This new insight was made possible by a 20-year-long data record from a
NASA instrument (MODIS) orbiting the Earth on two satellites. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s — a 5% increase. “China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation — a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” said Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University. “We [first] thought [the greening] was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization
from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and a co-author of the study. “The MODIS data lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, [and] we see that humans are also contributing.” — SunnySkyz, 3/1/2019


The U.S. national debt crossed the twenty-two trillion ($22,000,000,000,000) mark in February. Estimates indicate that annual deficits will hit $2 trillion within the next decade. Social Security and Medicare face a combined $100 trillion cash deficit over the next 30 years, which would push the national debt to nearly 200% of the gross domestic product (GDP). At that point, interest on that debt would consume 40% of all tax revenues at current interest rates. Sentiment to tax the wealthy to fund the deficit would require taxing more than the annual income
of anyone who earns more than $400,000 per year. Funding the deficit through a Value-Added-Tax (VAT) would require an 87 percent fee assessment on every purchase by every American. — Manhattan Institute and the Detroit News, 2/25/2019

The Federal Reserve in its semiannual report to Congress characterized the U.S. financial system as “substantially more resilient” than before the 2008 financial crisis. New regulations and reserve requirements have left large banks in a strong position. Household borrowing has remained in line with income growth. However, business debt, including that of “riskier firms has expanded significantly.” The report “suggests that many rural workers who experienced a permanent job loss, perhaps due to a factory closing, decided to eventually exit the labor force rather than continue their job search.” — Wall
Street Journal, 2/23/2019

Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets through their phone apps. Unbeknown to most people, in many cases that data is being shared with Facebook Inc. The social media giant collects intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook. Facebook is under scrutiny from Washington and European regulators for how it treats the information of users and nonusers alike. — Wall
Street Journal, 2/22/2019

America simply doesn’t have enough truck drivers to deliver everything its people buy. Many retailers are just now feeling the pain as annual shipping contracts are renewed. “Millennials, they don’t want to drive trucks,” said Darren Tristano, CEO and founder of consultant Foodservice Results. “They’re looking at this and saying, ‘I want to be in something more glamorous, more tech-oriented.’” Pay bumps for drivers haven’t moved the needle much. Autonomous trucks are still far off. If legislators
succeed in lowering the minimum age for long-haul drivers to 18 from 21, as some propose, it wouldn’t help much. Insurance for young drivers would be sky high. The trucking industry is also trying to recruit more women, who currently make up a small fraction of the workforce. — Bloomberg, 3/1/2019


An Israeli summit hosting Eastern European governments fell apart after Israel’s top diplomat said Poles “suckled anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk,” the latest clash between the two governments. Poland pulled out of the meeting, planned
to take place in Jerusalem, after a series of negative comments by Jewish leaders regarding Poland’s participation in the Holocaust. Many Israelis consider Polish complicity in the Holocaust a historical fact — and necessary to explain how German occupiers were able to murder 90% of the country’s Jews.  However, many Poles feel that foreign accounts of
Nazi rule overlook the murder of Christian Poles and that Jews are afforded an elevated status as victims compared with Poland’s non-Jewish war dead. — Wall Street Journal, 2/18/2019

An unwelcome byproduct of the present day contempt toward Israel is the heretofore unexpected enmity connection shared between Islamic extremists, far-right neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and elements within the far-left. This is a particularly dangerous combination when supplemented with
organized hostility and agitation from the groups Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, American Peace Now, and J-Street. Within the past four years, incidents of property damage as well as threats of actual and implied violence targeting Jews — particularly pro-Israel, Jewish students, and their non-Jewish supporters — have dramatically escalated on campuses across the United States while administrations of the affected institutions appear reluctant to intervene. — Jerusalem Post, 2/23/2019

U.S. wariness over China’s ambitions in Israel started in 2015 when Shanghai International Port Group won a 25-year project to build and operate the Haifa seaport, where American Navy vessels regularly dock. Now that U.S. officials are sounding alarm bells over Chinese industrial espionage, Israel has become a pressure point. National Security Adviser John Bolton lobbied for tighter scrutiny over Chinese tech deals. Diplomatic ties have been warming since the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem. —
Bloomberg, 2/22/2019

An Israeli tour guide stumbled across a rare 1,900-year-old coin from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt unearthed by recent rains in the Lachish region, southwest of Jerusalem. After cleaning off the muck, the two realized they might have a find.
Dr. Danny Syon of the Israel Antiquities Authority, despite the fact that the coin hadn’t undergone professional cleaning yet, succeeded in deciphering the images and inscriptions on the rare coin, determining that it dates back to 133 or 134 AD. — Times of Israel, 2/11/2019

Brazil will receive 10 generators that use Israeli technology to produce pure, clean drinking water from ambient air, according to Brazilian Minister of Science Marcos Cesar Pontes. According to Pontes, the GEN-350s will be installed in schools and hospitals throughout Brazil, particularly in areas that lack safe drinking water. The GEN-350 is easily transportable and can be installed anywhere and needs no infrastructure to operate except for electricity. In 2018, authorities restricted millions of
residents to daily water quotas due to continuous drought. Israel’s technology has come to the rescue of other countries that have faced ecological and environmental disasters, including India’s southern state of Kerala where they helped residents recover from devastating monsoons. Watergen’s efforts to make clean water available around the world earned
the company its place on the World Economic Forum’s list of the world’s top technology pioneers in 2018. — JNS, 2/9/2019

“Notes of Hope,” a collection of musical works composed by prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps, were played to the public for the very first time at a Jerusalem concert on the 73rd anniversary of the day that the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by the British. The collection is the work
of Italian maestro, composer and musicologist Prof. Francesco Lotoro, who had collected the rescued work of death camp inmates over a 30 year period. He salvaged over 8,000 musical works composed in prison camps that included Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, and Westerbork. He discovered music scores
written in coal, and scrawled on postcards, walls, and doors. He even found a five-act opera written on toilet paper. The recital was performed by Israel’s Ashdod Symphony Orchestra and accompanied by young performers from the Bikurim Performing
Arts School and Yerucham Conservatory for the benefit of Israel’s outlying communities in the Negev. — Jerusalem Post, 1/29/2019