News and Views


News and Views

A recent Gallup poll showed, for the first time, the majority of Americans are not members of a house of worship. Thirty-five percent of Gen Z students are atheists, agnostic, or have no religious belief. — Religion News Service, 6/3/2021 (Editor’s note: Members of Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2015. This puts the age group for Gen Z in the range of 6-24 years old in 2021)

Increasing numbers of African American mosques are closing, while the overall number of mosques in the United States — 2,769, a 31% increase from 2010 — continues to grow. “The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving,” reported the first wave of conversions in the 1960s and 1970s created new African American Muslim communities, a group now aging, but a secondary wave of African American conversions occurred in the early 1990s. This group has a higher birth rate and provides expansion of the population of Muslims in America. — Religion News Service, 6/2/2021

In the Hebrew Bible, the Canaanites are described as inhabitants of Canaan before the arrival of the Israelites (e.g., Genesis 15:18-21, Exodus 13:11). For the first time, researchers conducted DNA sequencing on ancient Canaanite skeletons and have determined where the Canaanites’ descendants can be found today. A team of 13 scientists recently published their DNA findings in The American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG), which included sequencing the genomes of five individuals who were buried in the Canaanite city of Sidon in Lebanon around 1700 BC as well as the genomes of 99 individuals from Lebanon today. The results “show that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population.” — Bible History Daily, 6/9/2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James said she’s reached an agreement with a Hudson Valley town and county to end discriminatory housing practices she says were designed to keep Hasidic Jewish families from moving in. “The discriminatory … actions perpetrated by Orange County and the Town of Chester are … anti-Semitic,” James said in a statement. — AP, 6/18/2021


NASA has announced plans to launch two new scientific missions to Venus between 2028 and 2030 — its first in decades — to study the atmosphere and geologic history of Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. The US space agency said it was awarding about $US500 million for development of each of the two missions, dubbed DAVINCI+ (short for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry and Imaging) and VERITAS (an acronym for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy). The purpose of the missions is to learn more about the infernolike planet. — ABC News Australia, 6/2/2021

Fear has invaded the Mexican border city of Reynosa after gunmen in vehicles killed 14 people, including taxis drivers, workers, and a nursing student, and security forces responded with operations that left four suspects dead. This city across the border from McAllen, Texas is used to cartel violence as a key trafficking point. The area’s criminal activity has long been dominated by the Gulf Cartel and there have been fractures within that group. Experts say there has been an internal struggle within the group since 2017 to control key territories for drug and human trafficking. — AP, 6/21/2021

Hundreds of suspected members of criminal networks were arrested by authorities around the world after being duped into using an encrypted communications platform secretly run by the FBI to hatch their plans for alleged crimes including drug smuggling and money laundering. “Operation Trojan Shield” covertly monitored the encrypted communications service Anom. The sting was revealed in a series of news conferences in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The operation involved more than 9,000 law enforcement offices, 12,000 users, and 27 million messages across more than 100 countries. — Wall Street Journal, 6/9/2021

In a groundbreaking discovery, bumblebees were found biting leaves of plants which encouraged flowers to bloom earlier than normal. Between the time of their emergence and the month of April when flowers are plentiful, buff-tailed bumblebees in a Swiss research lab were observed over several trials to prune the leaves of preferred plants not in flower when the bee colony had been deprived of pollen. This was in contrast to the actions, both in the lab and on the building’s rooftop, of another colony that was not pollen-deprived. Additionally, they had a profound effect on the plants they pruned. Their nibbling enticed flowers out of a tomato plant a whole month early, and black mustard plants two weeks early. — Good News Network, 6/2/2021

Dutch scientists are using bees to identify someone with COVID-19. Their acute sense of smell allows them to detect metabolic changes in the body with the infection of the virus, much like other illnesses, which results in a faint change in the scent the body emits. Researchers from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Dutch startup InsectSense have trained bees to stick out their tongues when they detect a smell that indicates that the individual is infected with the virus. This approach is similar to how researchers have trained dogs to detect cancer, but while dogs require constant training to learn this behavior, bees can be taught in mere minutes. — The Optimist Daily, 6/1/2021


Iran’s president-elect said he would not negotiate over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support of regional militias. Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi also described himself as a “defender of human rights” when asked about his involvement in the 1988 mass execution of 5,000 people. Tehran’s fleet of attack aircraft date largely back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, forcing Iran to invest in missiles as a hedge against its regional Arab neighbors, who have purchased billions in American military hardware over the years. Those missiles, with a self-imposed range limit of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) can reach across the Mideast and U.S. military bases in the region. — AP, 6/21/2021

South Africa is the world’s sixth largest avocado exporter. The global avocado market is expected to grow from $12.2 billion in 2020 to $17.9 billion by 2025 as demand accelerates. This has resulted in a significant increase in theft from avocado farms by large gangs who choreograph raids on farms, costing growers some 24 million rand, or $1.7 million annually. — Wall Street Journal, 6/18/2021

China’s Communist Party will ease birth limits to allow couples to have three children instead of two, hoping to slow the aging of its population, which is adding to strains on the economy and society. The party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth but worries the number of working-age people is falling too fast while the share over age 65 is rising, disrupting its ambitions to transform China into a prosperous consumer society and technology leader. — AP, 5/31/2021

Smaller militaries around the world are deploying inexpensive missile-equipped drones against armored enemies, a new battlefield tactic that proved successful last year in regional conflicts, shifting the strategic balance around Turkey and Russia. Drones built in Turkey with affordable digital technology wrecked tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as air-defense systems, of Russian protégés in battles waged in Syria, Libya, and Azerbaijan. — Wall Street Journal, 6/3/2021


British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, dubbed the “Father of the Web,” will auction the original source code for the World Wide Web as an NFT. The work includes the original archive of dated and time-stamped files from 1990 and 1991, containing 9,555 lines of source code and original HTML documents that taught the earliest web users how to use the application. — NPR, 6/17/2021 (Editor’s note: A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can represent photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files.)

On land and at sea, the supply chain struggles to keep up. In the Pacific Northwest, is such a cluster fest that the U.S. Coast Guard is redirecting boats to anchor off the coast of Whidbey Island and other places they typically do not park. Crews wait days, even weeks, to dock at ports and offload their precious goods. It is the same story up and down the West Coast. — Planet Money, 6/15/2021

Per a Pew Research Center report in 2020, about 3.2 million more baby boomers were retired than a year earlier, an increase of 50 percent. The percentage of people who expect to work past age 67 declined to a record low in 2020, according to a New York Federal Reserve survey. The pandemic caused people to rethink their priorities. It also forced others out of the labor market. Rapid increases in stock and home prices improved the finances of many, inducing them to retire earlier. — Forbes, 5/26/2021

Russia’s finance ministry said its sovereign-wealth fund will exit the U.S. dollar as Moscow weans its economy off the greenback amid threat of U.S. sanctions. The National Wealth Fund, which holds part of the country’s oil revenues, will cut its share of dollar assets to zero from 35%. The $186-billion strong fund will hold most of its assets in euros, yuan, and gold, the finance ministry said. The move would further strengthen the role of the Chinese currency in Russia at a time Moscow and Beijing are pursuing closer ties. — Wall Street Journal, 6/3/2021

ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, illegally published details about the reported income and tax payments of some of the richest Americans. Taxpayer information is confidential. The news organization said it did not know the identity of its source and described the information as IRS data on thousands of people over more than 15 years. Ron Wyden, a representative from Oregon, and chairman of the Finance Committee, lauded the illegal release as proof that the “country’s wealthiest have not been paying their fair share.” Others condemned it as a violation which could easily happen to ordinary people. — Wall Street Journal, 6/9/2021

Turkey’s central bank sharply increased its main interest rate to 19% in March to counter double-digit inflation and a depreciating lira. Increases on fresh produce have raised the price of Russian borscht as potatoes, cabbage, and carrots have risen by 60% to 80%. As the U.S. projection of 7% growth in GDP increases the value of the dollar, smaller economies may find themselves stretched. Any burst of inflation can weigh heavily on their currencies and ability to service debt denominated in dollars or euros. Russia has experienced a 6% increase in prices during 2021. — Wall Street Journal, 6/18/2021.

The median home price topped $350,000 for the first time as a shortage of properties and low interest rates drove double-digit monthly increases. May sales rose 44.6% from a year earlier, when home sales dropped due to Covid-related lockdowns. The median existing-home price rose 23.6% in May from a year earlier to $350,300, a record high. The annual price appreciation was the strongest in data going back to 1999. The lack of homes for sale relative to demand and record housing prices have slowed the pace of home sales in recent months. — Wall Street Journal, 6/22/2021


Tel Ashkelon National Park has undergone extensive development work, during which the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed a magnificent 2,000-year-old Roman public building, the largest of its kind in Israel. The marble, discovered during years of archaeological excavations, was imported from Asia Minor in merchant ships reaching the shores of Ashkelon, a bustling trade city. The basilica was devastated by an earthquake in 363 AD. The effects of the seismic waves are clearly visible on the building’s floor. After its destruction, the building was abandoned. — Jewish Press, 5/31/2021

Days after a cease-fire ended the unflinching barrages of rockets fired from terrorists in Gaza toward Israel, Jewish people around the world still pay the price for anti-Israel anger and hatred. Not all the activism comes from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic camp, however. Thousands of people gathered outside Ground Zero of the World Trade Center site in New York City in a rally, called “United against Antisemitism. United Against Terror. United for Us,” organized by the Israeli American Council (IAC) New York region. — Bridges for Peace, 5/28/2021

Israeli scientists report a discovery that could pave the way to neutralizing dangers from the cancer-causing protein BRD4. When this protein becomes overactive due to a body malfunction, genes that cause various cancers become over-stimulated. Boosting the production of a particular enzyme in the body could reduce the risk it poses, according to a new study by Prof. Dan Levy, a biologist at Ben Gurion University. — Times of Israel, 5/28/2021

Israeli scientists have developed a “quality assurance” method for genome editing, making it easier to translate DNA technologies from theory to treatments. The CRISPR genome editing system works by cutting DNA with microscopic “scissors” and fixing it. Molecular biologist Dr. Ayal Hendel of Bar Ilan University said that his innovation allows a new level of precision in assessing tools before they are submitted for clinical trials. He hopes it will speed the search for cures for sickle cell disease and severe combined immunodeficiency, “bubble boy disease.” — Times of Israel, 5/24/2021

Naftali Bennett, 49, former Netanyahu ally and chief of staff, turned rival, became prime minister after a 60-59 vote. Bennett, an observant Jew, presides over a fragile coalition of eight parties with deep ideological differences. His small party is popular with religious Jews and West Bank settlers. “We stopped the train, a moment before it barreled into the abyss.” — AP, 6/16/2021

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