News and Views


Fighting in eastern Congo, which has more than 120 armed groups, has simmered for years but spiked in late 2021 with the resurgence of the M23 group, which had been largely dormant for nearly a decade. The rebels have captured swaths of land and are accused by the United Nations of committing atrocities against civilians. Eastern Congo is also increasingly grappling with violence linked to Islamic militants. In January, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for killing at least 14 people and injuring dozens with a bomb that exploded inside a church while people were praying. — AP, 1/29/2023

Estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, the oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible is on course to break a stunning record when it goes up for auction this spring. Sotheby’s, the auction house selling the Bible, is estimating the ancient text, known as Codex Sassoon, will go for upwards of $30 to $50 million when it’s presented May 16, the group announced recently. The relic dates back to the late 9th or early 10th century, containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, though it is missing 12 leaves. The Hebrew manuscript is named after its most famous owner, David Solomon Sassoon. Sassoon acquired the historically significant Bible in 1929, bringing the text back into public view after some 600 years. Since Sassoon’s passing, the leather- found religious artifact, weighing 26 pounds and measuring 12 by 14 inches, has been held in private collections. — Christian Broadcasting Network, 2/20/23

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its investment arm have been fined $5 million for using shell companies to obscure the size of the portfolio under church control, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday. The faith, widely known as the Mormon church, maintains billions of dollars of investments in stocks, bonds, real estate and agriculture. The church has agreed to pay $1 million, and Ensign Peak will pay $4 million in penalties based on the violation. Ensign Peak avoided disclosing investments with the church’s knowledge, denying the SEC and the public of accurate information required under law, Gurbir Grewal, the agency’s enforcement director, said in a statement. — AP, 2/21/23

For months, the roughly 20,000 residents in Joshimath, burrowed in the Himalayas and revered by Hindu and Sikh pilgrims, have watched the earth slowly swallow their community. Since January, multistoried hotels slumped to one side; cracked roads gaped open. More than 860 homes were uninhabitable, splayed by deep fissures that snaked through ceilings, floors and walls The holy town was built on piles of debris left behind by years of landslides and earthquakes. Scientists have warned since the 1970’s that Joshimath could not withstand the level of heavy construction that has recently been taking place. — AP, 2/27/2023

Churches, with their large parking lots, are ideal places to set up electric vehicle charging stations, according to Andrew Fox, CEO of Charge Enterprises, Inc. The company has chosen to partner with the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church to install EV charging stations on church campuses throughout the D.C. region where there are more than 600 churches within the conference. The charging station will serve as a small revenue generator for the church, which charges $0.15 per kilowatt hour, averaging a $40 profit a month. — RNS, 2/23/2023


The National Bureau of Statistics said that China’s population dropped to 1.412 billion in 2022, from 1.413 billion in 2021. It was the first decline since the early 1960s, when the country was devastated by famine after Mao Zedong launched his “Great Leap Forward. The number of births declined to 9.56 million from 10.62 million in 2021, and the number of births per thousand people dropped to 6.77 in 2022, compared with 7.52 in 2021. The U.N.’s forecasts, released in July, 2022, predicted that India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023. — Wall Street Journal, 1/17/2023

While archaeology is not brain surgery, sometimes it can find evidence for it in the ancient past. This was the case for the archaeologists at Tel Megiddo who uncovered a 3,500-year-old burial containing the remains of two brothers, one of whom underwent a surgical procedure known as trephination where part of the skull is removed. The brothers showed signs of various severe medical conditions, yet had received medical care that extended their lives far beyond what would be expected. — Bible
History Daily, 2/27/2023

While it could take more than a decade to develop, state-owned Swedish mining company LKAB said it uncovered Europe’s largest known deposit of rare-earth elements, elements that are central components for energy transition, in the Kiruna area of Sweden, above the Arctic Circle. It contains more than 1 million tons of rare-earth elements. Rare-earth elements such as lithium are essential for batteries that power electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies. “This is the largest known deposit of rare-earth elements in our part of the world,” Jan Mostrom, president and CEO of LKAB, said. — UPI, 1/12/23, Science News, 1/12/2023

A breakdown in Pakistan’s electrical grid have triggered multiple electricity outages for millions of people due to the weak infrastructure of the heavily indebted nation. Blackouts impact Pakistan’s nearly 220 million people on an almost daily basis. The International Monetary Fund has bailed out Pakistan five times in the last two decades. Its latest bailout tranche, however, is stuck due to differences with the government over a program review that should have been completed in November of 2022. — Reuters, 1/23/2023

The Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation, a non-governmental business organization, estimated the financial damage from the quake in Turkey alone at $84.1 billion. Senior United Nations officials conceded that help to quake victims in Syria had been too slow due to Turkey’s limited border crossings. Some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the epicenter, almost no houses were left standing in the village of Polat, where residents salvaged refrigerators, washing machines and other goods from wrecked homes, but had to share tents with other homeless due to the lack of response by the government. In the U.S., an anonymous Pakistani man walked into the Turkish embassy and donated $30 million for the earthquake victims. — AP, 2/13/2023

Scientists got their first up-close look at what’s eating away part of Antarctica’s Thwaites ice shelf, nicknamed the Doomsday Glacier. Using a 13-foot pencil-shaped robot that swam under the grounding line where ice first juts over the sea, scientists saw a shimmery critical point in Thwaites’ chaotic breakup. “It’s not thinning and going away. It shatters,” said Britney Schmidt, creator of the robot and lead author of one of two studies. The Florida-sized glacier has gotten the nickname the “Doomsday Glacier” because of how much ice it has and how much seas could rise if it all melts — more than 2 feet (65 centimeters), though that’s expected to take hundreds of years. — Nature, 2/15/2023


Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, has accused Russia of planning to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow her country’s government, prevent it from joining the EU and use it in the war against Ukraine. Sandu’s comments came after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with confirmation by Moldovan intelligence official, said that his country had intercepted plans by Russian secret services “for the destruction of Moldova.” She said the plan involved citizens of Russia, Montenegro, Belarus and Serbia entering Moldova to try to spark protests in an attempt to “change the legitimate government to an illegal government controlled by the Russian Federation”. — The Guardian, 2/13/23

Health authorities in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan will allow unmarried individuals to raise a family and enjoy benefits reserved for married couples, in the latest effort to bolster a falling birth rate. The government dictates that only married women are legally allowed to give birth, but with marriage and birth rates having fallen to record lows in recent years, provincial authorities revamped a 2019 rule to cover singles who want to have children. Married couples and any individuals who want offspring will be allowed to register with the government in China’s fifth most populous province, with no ceiling on the number of children they can register for. — Reuters, 1/30/2023

Austria has come under heavy criticism for granting visas that will allow sanctioned Russian lawmakers to attend meetings in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The issue highlights the delicate balancing act the European country has engaged in while trying to maintain its longstanding position of military neutrality during the war in Ukraine. The Austrian government has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but also stressed the need to maintain diplomatic relations with Moscow. Austria hosts several U.N. agencies and international organizations, established during the Cold War as a forum for dialogue between East and West. — AP, 2/12/2023

The U.S. military is considering sending Ukraine thousands of seized weapons and more than a million rounds of ammunition once bound for Iran backed fighters in Yemen, an unprecedented step that would help Kyiv battle Russian forces, U.S. and European officials said. The challenge for the Biden administration is finding a legal justification for taking weapons from one conflict and transfer them to another. The U.N. arms embargo requires the U.S. and its allies to destroy, store or get rid of the seized weapons. — Wall Street Journal, 2/25/2023


Provisional PMI survey data for February indicate encouraging resilience of the major developed economies of the world, with reviving output growth in the US and Europe allaying fears of recessions. Business activity rose across the four largest developed world economies (the “G4”) in February, reviving after seven months of continual decline. Moreover, growth was recorded in all four economies for the first time since mid-2022. The upturn is skewed towards services, however, with manufacturing remaining in decline. — S&P Global Market Intelligence, 2/22/2023

The International Monetary Fund has started negotiating with Ukrainian officials to put together what could be its largest loan package for the country since Russia’s invasion as the prolonged war deepens its economic woes. The Ukrainian government is seeking a loan that is far larger than the $2.7 billion the multilateral lender has provided through two emergency loans since last March, according to people familiar with the situation. Ukraine has argued that IMF involvement is crucial to reassure other foreign backers that its economic policies and its financial data are sound. — Wall Street Journal, 2/14/23

Boeing has forecast India to be the fastest-growing aviation market in the world over the next two decades, with the country’s carriers expanding rapidly to meet a surge in demand. The plane maker expects India to require about 2,210 new aircraft over the next 20 years. That will be driven predominantly by demand for smaller aircraft to feed a domestic market that Boeing forecasts will double by the end of the decade. Indian carriers have expanded internationally with the help of their continued operation through Russian airspace, cutting travel times. — Wall Street Journal, 2/15/2023

On Colorado’s northeastern plains, where the pencil-straight horizon divides golden fields and blue sky, farmers may spend up to $300,000 on used high-tech tractors in order to plant and harvest during short, seasonal windows. A farmer named Danny Wood scrambles to plant and harvest millet, dryland corn and winter wheat in short, seasonal windows. The tractor’s manufacturer doesn’t allow farmers, however, to make certain fixes but requires a servicer who may add only a few lines of missing computer code at a cost of nearly $1,000. Colorado and 10 other states have introduced bills that would force manufacturers to provide the tools, software, parts and manuals needed for farmers to do their own repairs. — AP, 2/132023


Throughout the West, the two pillars that have always supported civilizations from collapsing, faith and fertility—the fact of believing in something rather than nothing and of having a sufficient number of children to keep the civilization alive—have been in steep decline. Today, there is in fact only one “Western” country according to all democratic, cultural, social, civil and economic indexes, which has been going against the trend for years: Israel Faith is increasingly prominent, and the population is growing faster than even most Islamic countries. In 2020, Orthodox Israeli women had an average of 6.64 children, “traditional” women an average of 3.92 and secular women an average of 1.96, a figure higher than that of any other industrial country. — Israel National News, 1/29/2023

Iranian officials have threatened Ukraine and unnamed regional states for allegedly cooperating with Israel in response to a reported Israeli drone strike on a military munitions factory in Esfahan in January. An unidentified source told Nour News Agency, which is affiliated with the Supreme National Security Council, on January 31 that Tehran may reevaluate its relationship with Kiev and change its ostensibly neutral policy toward the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The source was responding to Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak suggesting that the Israeli strike was retaliation for Iranian military support to Russia. — ISW, 1/31/23

Israel and Sudan have finalized the text of a peace agreement to be signed “later this year,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said. Sudan was part of the original Abraham Accord normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco brokered by the administration of former US President Donald Trump. But after a military coup in Sudan in October 2021, the final steps of the process with Khartoum were stalled. Cohen said that the signing would “serve as an opportunity for the establishment of relations with other countries in Africa as well as the strengthening of existing ties with African countries.” — BBC, 2/4/23

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would be willing to serve as mediator between Ukraine and Russia. In an interview January 31, Netanyahu said he was asked to mediate not long after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year but declined the offer as he was not prime minister at the time. “I was opposition leader at the time and I said, well I have a rule; one prime minister at a time,” he said. When asked if he would agree to it now, Netanyahu said: “If asked by all relevant parties, I’ll certainly consider it but I’m not pushing myself.” — CNN, 2/1/23

On the shores of the Persian Gulf, a new complex houses a Catholic church, a Jewish synagogue and an Islamic mosque in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The Abrahamic Family House offers a concrete, marble and oak manifestation of the UAE’s publicized push toward tolerance after hosting Pope Francis in 2019 and later diplomatically recognizing Israel in 2020. However, the UAE still criminalizes proselytizing outside of the Islamic faith. — AP, 2/21/2023

Ties among Abraham Accords nations are growing stronger in travel, tourism and trade despite the normalization agreements’ lack of popularity in the Arab partner countries. This is according to the Abraham Accords Peace Institute (AAPI)’s recently released 2022 Annual Report, which examines avenues to improve and expand the agreements signed by Israel, the United States [US], the United Arab Emirates [UAE], Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and Kosovo. Another key finding of the 2022 report regards the support for the Abraham Accords in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with at most 25% of the public (among Emiratis) holding a very positive or somewhat positive view of the Accords. — Jewish News Service, 2/20/2023

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