News and Views


News and Views

A global analysis of government restrictions toward religion finds that the number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions rose slightly in 2019. The analysis from the Pew Research Center, which included 198 countries, also found that government harassment of religious groups — where government officials single out a religious group with the intent of making religious practice more difficult — took place in nearly all countries. None of the world’s 25 most populous countries experienced large changes in government restrictions or social hostility scores. — RNS, 9/30/2021

Foundations for Farming, a Christian nonprofit that promotes an unconventional, eco-friendly farming method — which they call God’s way of farming — is now being used in more than 40 countries. The approach is called pfumvudza, a Shona word that means “new beginnings.” It involves planting crops in mulch beds begun by the Zimbabwean government in 2020. Since then, pfumvudza has been implemented by more than 1.6 million small farmers in the country. Zimbabwe is experiencing its first food surplus in two decades. — RNS, 10/27/2021

South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave Pope Francis a statue of a cross made with barbed wire from the demilitarized zone separating the Koreas and told him that a papal visit to the North would help create “momentum for peace” on the peninsula, officials said. The Vatican, which didn’t allow independent media in the audience, said the talks touched on the role of the Catholic Church in promoting dialogue. South Korean presidential officials said they expected Moon and Francis would discuss a possible papal visit to the officially atheist North, since Francis had previously expressed a desire to visit if it becomes possible. — AP, 10/29/2021

A Texas radio host was sentenced to three life prison sentences for a Ponzi scheme in which he bilked elderly listeners out of millions of dollars. More than a dozen senior victims testified during a three-hour court hearing about losing anywhere from $50,000 to $600,000 invested in the Gallagher Financial Group over a decade. Some said they had to sell their homes, borrow money from their children or take part-time jobs to supplement their Social Security benefits. The Gallagher Financial Group advertised on Christian radio with the tagline, “See you in church on Sunday,” promoting his books, such as “Jesus Christ, Money Master.” He amassed $32 million over a decade. — RNS, 11/2/2021


A new poll from The Pearson Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 95 percent of Americans identified misinformation as a problem when they’re trying to access important information. About half put a great deal of blame on the U.S. Government, and about three-quarters point to social media users and tech companies. Yet only 2 in 10 Americans say they’re very concerned that they have personally spread misinformation. About 6 in 10 are at least somewhat concerned that their friends or family members have been part of the problem. — AP, 10/8/2021

Haiti is struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had declined after two tragedies took place in the country: the assassination of President Jovenel Moise and an earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people. In the first eight months of 2021, over 328 kidnappings have been reported compared with 234 for all of 2020, according to the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti. Gangs have been reportedly kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, and busloads of passengers. — AP, 10/18/2021

A giant owl thought to be extinct has been photographed in the wild for the first time in 150 years by scientists working in Ghana. The Shelley’s Eagle Owl was spotted by Rob Williams and Dr. Joseph Tobias on the Atewa ridge in Ghana. It is the first confirmed sighting since the 1870s. The bird was first described in 1872, a specimen obtained from a local hunter in Ghana. — SunnySkyz, 10/26/2021

There have been so many storms in the Atlantic Ocean this year that the National Hurricane Center has used up all 21 available names, for the third time in recorded history. — AP, 11/1/2021

Governments and big investors announced fresh steps to pour trillions of dollars into curbing global warming, reflecting the financial world’s growing embrace of efforts to fight climate change as both a business necessity and opportunity. But some social justice activists called for scrutiny of investors’ motives, warning that the same financial institutions that profited from funding fossil fuel firms were now being presented as green champions. — AP, 11/3/2021


Corporate disclosure committees will find a new challenge as companies are faced with the prospect for Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure requirements concerning climate change risks, which the SEC has identified as a top regulatory priority. SEC Chair Gary Gensler indicated in a speech on the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment “Climate and Global Financial Markets” webinar that he had asked for climate disclosure recommendations from the staff for consideration by the Commission by the end of the year. —, 10/1/2021

In what would be the most sweeping tax changes in a century, a global agreement to set a minimum 15% corporate tax rate cleared its last major hurdle after Ireland, a low-tax country that is the European headquarters for some of the largest U.S. tech companies, said it would join the overhaul effort. The change in Irish policy comes ahead of a meeting of 140 governments and jurisdictions that have for years been negotiating a way of taxing international companies to limit avoidance and divide tax revenue in a way they say is fairer. The group seems likely to give its backing to a final agreement that would aim for implementation in 2023. — Wall Street Journal, 10/8/2021

The global energy transition is perhaps nowhere more perplexing than in the Arabian Peninsula, where Saudi Arabia, which supplies about one-tenth of the world’s oil, and other Gulf monarchies are caught between two daunting scenarios that threaten their livelihoods. In one, the world stops burning oil and gas to cut down on heat-trapping emissions, shaking the very foundation of their economies. In the other, global temperatures keep rising, at the risk of rendering unlivable much of the Gulf’s already extremely hot terrain. The political stability of the six Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — is rooted in profits from fossil fuels. This includes exports that energy-hungry China and India will want even more over the next two decades.— AP, 10/27/2021


The federal government’s top financial regulators have called for stricter oversight of stablecoins, citing concerns over market integrity, investor protection and illicit finance. The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) said stablecoins could “support faster, more efficient, and more inclusive payments options” but “present a variety of risks.” The report urged Congress to pass legislation promptly to address the risks. The market capitalization of stablecoins has grown from a little more than $20 billion a year ago to more than $130 billion. — CFO Magazine, 11/2/2021 — (Editor’s note from Investopedia: A stablecoin is a class of cryptocurrencies that attempts to offer price stability and is backed by a reserve asset. Stablecoins attempt to offer the best of both worlds — the instant processing and security or privacy of payments of cryptocurrencies, and the volatility-free stable valuations of fiat currencies.)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been examining Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft since February 2020. The companies made 616 nonreportable transactions of more than $1 million between the beginning of 2010 and end of 2019, as allowed under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter said “Each individual merger viewed independently may not seem to have significant impact. But the collective impact of hundreds of smaller acquisitions can lead to a monopolistic behavior.” Questions arise as to whether “big tech firms engage in a pattern of acquisitions that collectively allow them to get bigger in a way that limits competition.” — CFO Magazine, 9/16/2021

House prices have been rising at a record pace but incomes aren’t keeping up, which is making homeownership less and less affordable. The median American household would need 32.1% of its income to cover mortgage payments on a median-priced home, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That is the most since November 2008, when the same outlays would eat up 34.2% of income. — Wall Street Journal, 10/4/2021

Economists on average see inflation at 5.25% in December, just slightly less than the rate that has prevailed since June. Assuming a similar level in October and November, that would mark the longest inflation has been above 5% since early 1991. — Wall Street Journal, 10/18/2021

Union leaders are pressing to increase their ranks and secure gains for their members as workers demand more from their employers while companies struggle with labor shortages and snarled supply chains. A walkout by production workers for farm and construction machinery company Deere followed recent stoppages at snack producer Mondelez International Inc., commercial truck maker Volvo and breakfast-cereal giant Kellogg Co. Labor leaders elsewhere this year have worked to unionize Starbucks Corp baristas and Inc. warehouse workers, so far with mixed success. “There is a new militancy out there,” said James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters labor union, which represents 1.4 million workers. — Wall Street Journal, 10/18/2021

A major home builder is teaming with a Texas start-up to create a community of 100 3-D printed homes near Austin. It would be by far the biggest development of this type in the U.S. Lennar Corp. and construction-technology firm Icon will start building in 2022 at a site in the Austin metro area. Icon and others have built 3-D printed housing before. But this effort will test the technology’s ability to churn out homes and generate buyer demand on a much larger scale. Icon’s 15.5-foot-tall printers can build the exterior and interior wall system for a 2,000-square foot, one-story house in a week. The printer squeezes out concrete in layers, like toothpaste out of a tube. — Wall Street Journal, 10/27/2021

Israel and the Middle East

A new study at Tel Aviv University found that eosinophils — a type of white blood cells — are recruited to the battle against cancer metastases in the lungs. According to the researchers, these white blood cells produce destructive proteins of their own, while at the same time summoning the immune system’s cancer-fighting T-cells. The researchers believe that their findings can contribute to the development of innovative approaches to cancer immunotherapy treatments, based upon the collaboration between T-cells and eosinophils. The paper was published in Cancer Research (Metastasis-entrained eosinophils enhance lymphocyte-mediated anti-tumor immunity), a prestigious journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. — Jewish Press, 9/13/2021

In his first trip to Russia since he was sworn in as premier earlier this year, Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They are expected to focus on the Iran nuclear program, efforts to return Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal, and Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, near Israel’s northern border. Putin welcomed Bennett at the opening of the meeting, saying that while there were a number of “problematic issues” to discuss, he was optimistic the two sides would find “opportunities for cooperation.” The Israeli premier lauded Putin for helping to forge a strong relationship between Moscow and Jerusalem over the past 20 years. “I can tell you, in the name of the Israeli people, that we view you as a real friend of the Jewish people.” — Arutz Sheva, 10/22/2021 — (An editor notes that this is not consistent with Ezekiel 38 and 39.)

Israel became the first country globally to make booster shots widely available for citizens having the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Israel was suddenly in the midst of a fourth wave of infections caused by the delta variant. Israelis who received a second vaccine dose more than six months before will no longer be provided a vaccination certificate, the Green Pass, which allows them to fully participate in social and commercial activities across the country. According to Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Desert, Be’er Sheva, the Green Pass is “not a prize or punishment” but rather a public health measure based on consideration of clinical and epidemiological data. — Israel News, 10/3/2021

The Slovakian government recently apologized for World War II-era laws that stripped Jews of their rights. On the 80th anniversary marking the adoption of the “Jewish Code” on September 9, 1941, the Slovakian government said in a statement that it “feels a moral obligation today to publicly express sorrow over the crimes committed by the past regime.” The laws facilitated the transfer of Jewish assets to non-Jewish owners and prevented Jews from access to education. According to the census dated December 15, 1940, about 88,951 Jews lived in Slovakia. Slovakia signed an agreement with Germany that permitted their deportation and sent over 70,000 to Nazi concentration camps, where most of them — as many as 60,000 — were murdered. — JNS, 9/9/2021

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the first official meeting between the two nations’ leaders in over a decade. The leaders discussed “a series of issues in the diplomatic, security and economic spheres, as well as ways to deepen ties and strengthen the interests of our countries,” Bennett said. Unlike past meetings between Israeli and Egyptian officials, this meeting was open and publicized. Egypt became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979, but the peace has largely remained on the intergovernmental and security level rather than people-to-people peace. — Bridges for Peace, 9/9/2021

Hezbollah, Israel’s archfoe and the terror organization perched on the Jewish state’s northern border in Lebanon, boasted that its prowess extends to some 100,000 fighters-trained, armed and ready. According to the head of the Shiite Iranian terror proxy, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, “the region has never seen Hezbollah as strong as it is now.” The terror chief’s live televised boast was, however, not directed at its Jewish neighbors. Nasrallah’s statement was meant for his fellow countrymen, leveled as a threat at the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces, whom he accused of seeking to drag the country into a civil war. — Bridges for Peace, 10/22/2021

Israeli and German jets soared side-by-side over the Jerusalem skies in the “Blue Flag” joint exercise between the Israeli Air Force (IAF) and a number of other countries. It’s not likely a sight that anyone living 60 or 70 years ago imagined they would see: a Luftwaffe fighter jet — painted with the German flag alongside the Israeli flag — flying wing-to-wing with an Israeli jet over the capital of the Jewish state. The flyover marks the first time a German plane has flown over the skies of Jerusalem since the First World War. — Times of Israel, 10/18/2021

Israel is unlikely to prevent the Biden administration from reopening its consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority if the White House insists on the controversial step, a former Israeli diplomat said, although the move could have repercussions for US-Israel relations. Former Israeli ambassador to Canada and director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Alan Baker said Israel is unlikely to block the US from doing so but that doing so over Israeli objections would violate international convention. The ambassador concluded, “The question is whether it wants to risk getting into a row with the Israel government.” — Arutz Sheva, 10/22/2021

%d bloggers like this: