News and Views


Northern Ireland has more Catholics than Protestants for the first time, census results showed, a historic shift that some see as likely to help drive support for the region to split from Britain and join a united Ireland. — Reuters, 9/22/2022

Members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized a recently renewed Vatican deal with China, saying it emboldens the Chinese government to crackdown on Christian communities. The secretive provisional agreement
originally signed in 2018 and renewed Oct. 2, allows Beijing to have a say in the appointment of bishops in the officially recognized church. Catholic officials hope the agreement will help to reconcile the government-approved church and the Catholic community, known as the underground church, which is led by priests sanctioned by the Vatican. Critics said it has only made the situation worse for Christians in China. — RNS, 10/31/22

Jon Lee is one of the chief architects of the “He Gets Us” campaign, a $100 million effort to redeem Jesus= “brand” from the damage done by his followers. Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, said the movement hopes to bridge the gap between the real Jesus and the public perception of his followers. Extensive market research found that, while many Americans like Jesus, they are skeptical of his followers. Those classified as “non-engaged” said the behavior of Christians is a barrier to faith. More than two-thirds agreed when asked: “Followers of Jesus say one thing, but do not follow those things in practice.” — RNS, 10/10/2022


From far-flung villages to the steps of Tehran University in the capital, Iranian women are leading men. They are at the front of protests and rally the crowds by burning their mandatory hijabs (headscarves), cutting their hair and dancing in public. Their immediate cause is Mahsa Amini, a 22-yearold student, who died on September 16th after morality police beat her, apparently for wearing a loose hijab. But their grievances are fed by four decades of religious strictures that have fallen heaviest on women. — The Economist, 9/26/2022

NASA has issued a second image of the famous “Pillars of Creation” taken by the new super space telescope, James Webb. The pillars lie at the heart of what astronomers refer to as MESSIER 16, or the Eagle Nebula. — BBC, 10/28/2022

A European parliamentary committee investigating the use of spyware in the 27-country bloc urged Greek officials to do more to shed light on a phone surveillance scandal that targeted opposition politicians and journalists. The scandal, which shook Greece’s center-right government this year, centered on the National Intelligence Service’s tapping of opposition party leader Nikos Androulakis’ phone with the use of Predator spyware. The government denies using Predator, which allows the monitoring of calls, messages, photos or video on a phone and was developed by the Cytrox company in North Macedonia. — AP, 11/4/2022

While failures of big city water systems attract the attention, it’s small communities that more often are left unprotected by destitute and unmaintained water providers. Small water providers rack up roughly twice as many health violations as big cities on average, an analysis of thousands of records over the last three years by The Associated Press shows. In that time, small water providers violated the Safe Drinking Water Act’s health standards nearly 9,000 times. Federal law allows authorities to force changes on water utilities, but they rarely do, even for the worst offenders. “We’re talking about things that we’ve known in drinking water for a century, that we have an expectation in this country that everybody should be afforded,” said Chad Seidel, president of a water consulting company. — AP, 11/3/2022

A rescue mission dubbed “Operation Noah’s Ark” transported hundreds of birds off Pine Island in Florida after it was hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Authorities pleaded with residents of Pine Island to abandon their homes because of damaged roads, including a collapsed bridge that prevented deliveries of food, gas and other life-sustaining supplies. But Will Peratino and Lauren Stepp did not want to leave and abandon their 275 parrots at the Malama Manu Sanctuary. “We would not abandon them. I would never leave them. Never,” Stepp told The Associated Press. “If they cannot be fed or watered, they will die. And I can’t live with that.” — SunnySkyz, 10/26/22


Russia pushed ahead with its biggest conscription since World War Two while Ukraine demanded “just punishment” for a seven- month-old invasion sending shock waves around the world. Security forces detained more than 1,300 people in Russia at protests denouncing mobilization, while some Russian men rushed for the exits. Traffic at border crossings with Finland and Georgia surged and prices for air tickets from Moscow rocketed. — Reuters, 9/22/2022

The number of asylum-seekers entering Canada between formal border crossings has surged to the highest point since the government started tracking them in 2017, as dropped pandemic restrictions enable more travel and conflict and catastrophe displace people in many parts of the world. — Reuters, 9/28/2022

China’s military now has hypersonic missiles that evade most defenses, a technology the U.S. is still developing. Its drones can paralyze communications networks. Naval ships outnumber those of America, and it launched the first aircraft carrier to be built in the country. It has 2 million soldiers, compared with just under 1.4 million for the U.S. “We must comprehensively strengthen miliary training and preparation, and improve the army’s ability to win,” said President Xi at the opening of the Communist Party congress in October. — Wall Street Journal, 10/21/2022

The Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray agreed to cease hostilities, a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough two years into a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine. Just over a week after formal peace talks mediated by the African Union (AU) began in the South African capital Pretoria, delegates from both sides signed an agreement on a “permanent cessation of hostilities.” — Reuters, 11/2/22

An Israeli defense contractor is supplying anti-drone systems to Ukraine by way of Poland. Equipment is being sold to Poland to circumvent Israel’s refusal to sell advance arms to Ukraine. — Prophetic Birth Pangs, 9/13/2022

Iran’s foreign minister acknowledged for the first time that his country has supplied Russia with drones. The comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian come after months of confusing messaging from Iran about the weapons shipment, as Russia sends the drones slamming into Ukrainian energy infrastructure and civilian targets. Iranian officials had denied arming Russia in its war on Ukraine. — AP, 11/5/2022


(Editor’s note: Bitcoin mining is the process of creating new bitcoins by solving extremely complicated math problems that verify transactions in the currency. When a bitcoin is successfully mined, the miner receives a predetermined amount of bitcoin. The hardware is a powerful computer that uses an enormous amount of electricity. It’s not uncommon for the hardware costs to run around $10,000 or more, Some of the hardware setups for mining bitcoin require multiple servers).

There’s a fire sale on bitcoin-mining hardware The most efficient bitcoin-mining machines are selling for 77% less than last year. Mining companies like Core Scientific Inc. expanded rapidly during the bull run, sometimes borrowing hundreds of millions to buy hardware and build warehouses to house the hardware. Those operations were profitable when bitcoin and crypto were booming. Once the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates, risk assets became less attractive. When bitcoin crashed — it’s currently down about 70% from a year ago — mining companies” expenses, especially their debt payments, overwhelmed their revenue. — Wall Street Journal, 11/5/22

The U.S. and its allies see little prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine soon given the high stakes for Moscow and Kyiv, and the fact that both sides believe they can win. North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its members say they are determined to keep supplying economic and military assistance to Ukraine. Some U.S. lawmakers have questioned continued funding, and a recent Wall Street Journal poll found that support for Ukraine was waning among some voters. — Wall Street Journal, 11/6/22

The Vatajankoski power plant 270 km (168 miles) north-west of Finland’s capital, Helsinki, is home to the world’s first commercial-scale sand battery. Fully enclosed in a 7 m (23 ft) high steel container, the battery consists of 100 tons of low-grade builders’ sand, two district heating pipes and a fan. The sand becomes a battery after it is heated up to 600 C using electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels in Finland. The renewable energy powers a resistance heater which heats up the air inside the sand. Inside the battery, this hot air is circulated by a fan around the sand through heat exchange pipes. Thick insulation surrounds the sand, keeping the temperature inside the battery at 600 C (1,112 F), even when it is freezing outside. — BBC News, 11/3/2022


For the first time in Israel’s history, the government will be made up primarily of religious parties, with 33 seats in the projected 64-strong coalition going to the Religious Zionism Party, Shas and United Torah Judaism, two more than the Likud. This is expected to have major implications on religion and state issues in Israel, as each of these parties has already laid out plans both to reverse reforms put in place by the outgoing government and to institute new ones to reinforce Orthodox control over religious life in Israel. — Times of Israel, 11/4/2022

Israel’s population reached 9,593,000, said a report published on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanah [Jewish New Year] and as the year 5782 — according to the Jewish calendar — ends. In its annual report, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) says that the country’s population is on course to reach 10 million by the end of 2024. The Israeli population grew by 187,000 (about 2%) over the past year. According to the CBS 7,069,000 residents of the state are Jews (about 74% of the population), 2,026,000 are Arabs (about 21%) and the rest are defined as other, i.e. Christians who are not Arabs, other religions and people without religious classification in the Interior Ministry. — Ynetnews, 9/23/2022

Azerbaijan has decided to open an embassy in Israel, after 30 years of relations between the two countries and amid tensions with neighboring Iran. Arzu Naghiyev, an MP and member of the Azerbaijan-Israel parliamentary friendship group, told the Azerbaijani news site Pravda last week that the two countries have very good relations, despite the absence of an embassy. Israel and Azerbaijan enjoy close relations, especially in defense matters, as 69 percent of Azerbaijan’s arms imports between 2016 and 2020 came from Israel. — i24 NEWS, 11/1/22

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ plans to move the British embassy in Israel to Jerusalem have been abandoned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Asked whether the UK government was still considering a move, a No. 10 spokesperson said: “It has been looked at. There are no plans to move the British embassy.” — Bridges for Peace, 11/4/22

An Israeli electrical airliner “Eviation” made its maiden voyage to a height of 3,500 feet and remained aloft for eight minutes. While small electrical aircraft have already flown around the world. Elis is the first developed and built as an airliner. It is intended for local flights and fits nine passengers. It can fly up to 286 miles per hour and carry a weight of 1.1 tons. — Ynet news, 9/28/2022

Poland has demanded 1.3 trillion euros ($1.29 trillion) in reparations from Germany for the damages, primarily for the human toll of World War II. Included in that list are a number of villages that saw pogroms by ethnic Poles in which hundreds or even thousands of Jews were massacred. The government report argues that Warsaw is owed reparations for these attacks because they took place while Nazi Germany was occupying Poland. — Times of Israel, 9/23/2022

Despite widespread references within textual and pictographic sources to the cultivation of the opium poppy and the use of opium, little archaeological evidence for this practice had been discovered before the salvage excavations at Tel Yehud in central Israel. These excavations uncovered hundreds of Canaanite graves from the 18th to 13th centuries BC. Within several of the graves dating to the 14th century, the team discovered a collection of Base-Ring jugs imported from Cyprus. Shaped as an inverted poppy head, these vessels contained the residue of the opium which they had been filled with at the time of burial. — Bible History Daily, 9/23/2022

All across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, the remains of great Roman-era building projects are visible testaments to the technologies that emerged and proliferated under Roman influence and rule. For example, a theater in Caesarea Maritima — first constructed by Herod the Great in the first century BC — is still used for shows in Israel today. Likewise, a first-century Roman-era aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, still carries water into the city. Roman innovations, such as underfloor heating, concrete, road networks, and advanced water systems, continue to amaze and inspire. — Bible History Daily, 9/21/2022

Lebanon is nearing agreement with Israel over a maritime dispute involving offshore gas fields, but the cash-strapped country still faces an uphill struggle towards unlocking potential hydrocarbon riches, analysts say. With the demand for gas rising worldwide because of an energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lebanon hopes that an offshore discovery would ease its current unprecedented financial downturn. But more than a decade since it declared its maritime boundaries and an Exclusive Economic Zone, it still has no proven natural gas reserves. Already, Lebanon lags far behind Israel which has been investing in the offshore Karish field for years and is expecting its first gas within weeks. — AFP, 10/6/2022

Moscow’s former chief rabbi said that those Jews who can leave Russia. Pinchas Goldschmidt has spent the last 30 years building a Jewish life in the shadow of the Kremlin but says that anti-Semitism is rising to an alarming state. — Prophetic Birth Pangs, 9/17/2022