Bible Institute News
Audio recordings of the current issue of The Herald may now be downloaded in the MP3 format. Go to www.heraldmag.org and click on “Current Issue.” Each article has an MP3 option permitting an audio file to be played or downloaded.
Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world. Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years after managing years of decline, according to a new report, as both legal and illegal migrants enter the country. The growth of Catholicism in Britain comes as the established Church of England and the Anglican provinces in Scotland, Wales and Ireland face continuing, if slow, decline. Figures for 2005 show that there are 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, under one fifth the 25 million baptized Anglicans and double the number of Muslims.
—London Times, 2/15/2007
There is a trend among many American Jews to stop circumcising their sons. In the ceremony, called brit milah and performed on the eighth day after birth, the baby boy becomes a member of the children of Israel in obedience to God’s instruction. The practice began with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-11). According to a National Opinion Research Center survey, there has been an almost 30% drop in American circumcisions since 1965. Instead of seeing circumcision as a biblical mandate, more and more American Jews are seeing it as an antiquated practice.
More than 130 Muslim scholars from around the globe called for peace and understanding between Islam and Christianity, saying “the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.” In an unprecedented letter to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders, 138 Muslim scholars said finding common ground between the world’s biggest faiths was not simply a matter for polite dialogue between religious leaders. Such a joint letter is unprecedented in Islam, which has no central authority that speaks on behalf of all worshippers. The list of signatories includes the grand muftis of Egypt, Palestine, Oman, Jordan, Syria, Bosnia and Russia and many imams and scholars. Iraq was represented by both Shi’ites and Sunnis. The letter was addressed to the Pope, leaders of Orthodox Christian churches, Anglican leader Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the heads of the world alliances of the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist and Reformed churches.
Christians have been arguing about coal in Texas, oil drilling in Alaska and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The most charged issue of all is climate change. America’s Christians are divided on basic questions: How serious is it, what causes it, and what should mankind do about it? All sides cite the Bible. A New Testament passage says the good shepherd does not exploit his sheep and a psalm declares “the earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness.”
—Wall Street Journal, 9/28/2007
The majority of Christians in India hail from the so-called Dalit community, the former “untouchables” relegated to the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy. Under India’s constitution, Dalits are entitled to affirmative-action benefits, providing a way to escape their traditional occupations such as emptying village latrines, burying cow carcasses, and tanning animal hide. But any Dalit caught abandoning Hinduism for Christianity or Islam loses these privileges and can be fired from jobs gained under the provision. This plight is now in the forefront fueled by Indian Christians’ new partnership with Islam, whose converts face the same issues.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/19/2007
The life expectancy for Americans is nearly 78 years, the longest in U.S. history, according to new government figures from 2005 released Thursday. That age, based on the latest data available, was still lower than the life span in more than three dozen other countries, however. The improvement was led by a drop in deaths from heart disease and stroke—two of the nation’s leading killers, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the new life expectancy report.
—Associated Press, 9/13/2007
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced an international crackdown in which more than 540,000 fake checks with a combined face value of $2.1 billion have been seized. Most of the cons start with e-mails telling of an inheritance or lottery win and ask the victim to help bring the money to the United States. The victim is asked to cash a check that comes in the mail and send part of the money back to the person sending it. Then that person disappears with the money and the original [fake] check bounces, leaving the victim with a loss. Many of the cases [scams] originate from Internet cafes.
—Los Angeles Times, 10/4/2007
The latest federal income-tax data reveal that the income share earned by the wealthiest 1% of the population—those who make at least $364,657 —is at an all-time high. The one-percenters earned more than 21% of the entire country’s income in 2005.
Fueled by rainy seasons, overpopulation and inadequate mosquito eradication efforts, dengue fever now rivals malaria in the number of cases worldwide. Dengue fever is a flu-like, mosquito-borne disease that’s threatening to reach epidemic proportions through much of the Caribbean and Latin America. The disease could exceed 1 million cases in the Western Hemisphere in 2007 according to a Pan American Health Organization report. Symptoms include excruciating pain in the joints and behind the eyes.
—USA Today, 10/19/2007
The number of severe infections by a "superbug" known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is at least twice as high as researchers previously believed. A new study by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2005 they made an estimated 94,000 Americans seriously ill and killed almost 19,000, compared with 17,000 who died of AIDS. Experts attribute the emergence of the superbugs to indiscriminate use of antibiotics, the failure of patients to complete their antibiotic regimens, and the use of antibiotics in animal feed. In each case, incomplete eradication of the bacteria leads to mutations that have increased resistance to the drugs.
—Los Angeles Times, 10/17/2007
Computers, monitors and networking and transmission equipment for the Internet account for 9.4% of U.S. energy consumption. Of common computing equipment, the largest drawers of power are desktops and monitors, which combine for about two-thirds of the energy use.
—Uclue.com (an on-line research firm), 10/2/2007
There have been no fatal airliner crashes involving scheduled flights in 2007 in the United States. Around the world, there have been 7 crashes that killed more than 20 people each. “This is the golden age of safety, the safest period, in the safest mode, in the history of the world,” said Marion C. Blakey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Airlines have benefitted from equipment improvements like cockpit instruments that help planes steer clear of mountains when visibility is poor, and jet engines that are so reliable pilots can go through their entire careers without seeing one fail.
—New York Times, 9/30/2007
Sixty-four percent of Americans spend more time with a computer than with their spouse or other companion, according to a study for SupportSoft, which makes software for computer help desks. It also found 84% of Americans feel more computer-dependent than they did 3 years ago.
—www.SupportSoft.com, October, 2007
Cell phone penetration will reach 75% worldwide by 2011. By the end of 2008, half the world’s population will have a mobile phone. About 65% of the growth will be in Asia.
—Portico Research study, October, 2007
The number of children dying worldwide has dropped below 10 million a year for the first time, UNICEF said. New data from the UN Children’s Fund suggests that life-saving measures like vitamin A supplementation, insect nets and vaccines are reaching more children than ever in poor countries. Global child deaths fell to 9.7 million in 2005, down from nearly 13 million in 1990. UNICEF’s data is based on government-conducted surveys in more than 50 countries in 2005-2006.
—Associated Press, 9/13/2007
Roughly 40,000 Americans are at least 100 years old, according to the New England Centenarian Study. A staggering 85% of those centenarians are women. The majority of people who live to 100 and beyond haven’t had to battle age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. Loma Linda, Calif.—home to a community of Seventh-day Adventists who eschew alcohol, cigarettes and meat—has one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. The evidence from Loma Linda seems to suggest that diet and lifestyle are key to a super-long life.
—Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2007
The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) estimates that one billion passengers will strain the aging air-traffic-control system in 2015, up from the current 750 million passengers. The FAA has awarded a contract to ITT to begin replacing antiquated ground-based radars with a system known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, or ADS-B, that relies on satellites to keep closer track of airplanes. Over the next 18 years, the FAA will spend $15 billion to overhaul U.S. air-traffic technology. Another obstacle will be adding runway capacity on the ground. The U.S. hasn’t added a major new airport in 12 years.
—Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2007
The governments of the Persian Gulf—along with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia—have seen their coffers swell to unprecedented size with rising energy prices and a regional economic boom. They have been exercising their growing clout by making acquisitions around the globe. Four of the eight largest government-controlled investment authorities are from the Gulf, and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority tops the list with assets estimated at $875 billion, according to Morgan Stanley. Middle Eastern firms and funds shopping around the globe have spent $64 billion so far this year, compared with $30.8 billion in all of last year and $4.5 billion in 2004, according to Dealogic. Acquisitions in the U.S. and Britain account for slightly more than half of the total this year.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/21/2007
This year, China is set to become the world's third-largest economy, surpassing Germany. With its rise, China is in many ways trying to position itself as an alternative world power, a country that has managed to have economic progress without Western-style democracy. China is even flexing its diplomatic muscles in the Middle East, opposing coercive action against Iran, which is one of its most important oil suppliers, over Tehran's nuclear programs. China's growing participation is filling what Chinese diplomats say is a void left by declining contributions from Western armies preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. China has more than 1,500 soldiers serving in U.N. missions in Congo, Liberia, Lebanon and Sudan.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/17/2007
Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building since July, has also become the tallest free-standing structure on earth the developers said. The Burj Dubai surpassed Canada's Toronto-based CN Tower, which at 1,822 feet, had been the world's tallest free-standing structure since 1976. By the end of 2008, the developers say, the Burj will fulfill all four criteria for the tallest building, listed by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The criteria include: the height of the structural top, the highest occupied floor, the top of the roof, and the tip of the spire, pinnacle, antenna, mast or flag pole.
The Middle East is a vital region for energy-parched China, providing nearly 60 percent of the Asian industrial power’s oil needs, mainly from the Gulf. Mideast wealth managers are seeking to invest in significant Chinese initial public offerings but the market remains protected. While Chinese companies want to invest in energy-related projects, the Gulf’s upstream hydrocarbons sector remains largely off-limits to foreign interests. The Dubai International Financial Centre says the Gulf could invest as much as $250 billion in Asia, mainly in China, over the next five years if regulations are eased.
—Financial Times, 9/6/2007
2008 is shaping up to be the third in a row in which the world consumes more grain to make fuel, food and livestock feed than it harvests. The trend is helping reduce global grain stockpiles to their lowest point relative to consumption since the mid-1970s, when Asia struggled with chronic food shortages and the Soviet Union suddenly emerged as a big grain importer. Part of the reason for the drawdown can be seen in China, where soaring demand for milk has increased the number of dairy cattle threefold so far this decade. Half of the world's hogs now live in China, which is importing about 13% of all the soybeans grown in the U.S. to help fatten its livestock. The Chinese government, caught off guard by a nearly 50% rise in retail pork prices, is throwing cash at farmers willing to produce more of the nation's most widely consumed meat.
—Wall Street Journal, 9/28/2007
A few years ago the U.S. pension system seemed headed for a crisis. Plans were woefully underfunded. Many plans were in default. Things got so bad that some experts said the pension system was in worse shape than Social Security. There was talk that only a massive bailout would fix the problem. A report released in August by Goldman Sachs shows that the crisis turned out to be not much of a crisis after all. The report showed that at the end of 2006 defined benefit pension plans of S&P 500 companies were, in aggregate, fully funded. That means the funds had enough money to cover all of their obligations.
—Investors Business Daily, 9/12/2007
The Grapes of Galilee, a new Israeli wine aimed at American Christians, launched in the U.S. with a label boasting of grapes grown in the region where Jesus lived and irrigated with water from the Jordan River. The label features images of Jesus being baptized and walking on water. The wine will be marketed, according to the distributor, in the areas of the U.S. with the highest concentration of Catholics and primarily advertised through religious print publications.
—Advertising Age, 10/1/2007
Petra, the rock-cut city in Jordan, has been chosen by 100 million voters as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It was selected, along with six other monuments, as part of the “New7Wonders” online campaign. The Hebrew Bible says that Petra was part of the Edomite kingdom during the late second and early first millennia B.C.E. Many of Petra’s geographical features are associated with Moses and his brother Aaron. According to the Bible, the Israelites passed through Petra en route from Egypt to Canaan.
—Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov./Dec. 2007
After weeks of ambiguity, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] confirmed October 2 that the Israeli Air Force [IAF] had attacked targets in Syria in September. The IDF, however, would not reveal details of where the raid took place or its aims. According to several reports in the foreign media, the IAF attack targeted a military base housing North Korean-made nuclear equipment. On September 6, the Syrian News Agency reported that an IAF fighter jet breached Syrian airspace, flying north-east and breaking the sound barrier. Israel refused to comment on the Syrian report, and official government sources in Syria denied the report.
In a July meeting with Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski officially requested that Turkey return the famous Siloam inscription to its native city. The Siloam inscription dates to shortly before 700 B.C.E. and commemorates the completion of a rock-cut water channel under Jerusalem known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The text, written in ancient Hebrew, records the last dramatic moments as two teams digging the tunnel from opposite ends worked toward the sounds of each other’s voices and broke through with a pick axe. The inscription was carved into the rock on the side and was discovered in 1880. The block was cut from the wall by looters but was recovered and turned over to the Ottoman rulers who controlled the Holy Land.
—Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov./Dec. 2007
An Israeli-developed mini-robot prototype will likely have a major impact on the way keyhole neurosurgery is done in the near future. Keyhole neurosurgery, a minimally invasive procedure, is used for tumor biopsies, deep brain stimulation, inserting a draining tube to treat hematomas, and for catheter insertion. Increasingly, it will be used for tissue, tumor, and DNA sampling, which cannot be performed using anatomical imaging. Its advantage —that the surgery can be done with only a keyhole opening in the skull—comes with a price. A slip in a surgical gesture is a surgery hazard.
A delegation of 34 people from Papua New Guinea visited the Western Wall and donated a kilo of gold and several thousand dollars to the Temple Institute, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. The delegation’s participants, who define themselves as members of “The Bible Circle,” told the institute’s workers that they study the Bible on a regular basis. Recently, they read the prophecy of Zechariah 6:15—where it says: “And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you,”—and decided to follow the verse and come to Israel. The Papuans explained that since their country was rich in gold mines, their donation was “nothing out of the ordinary,” but added that in the future they hoped they would be able to send valuable wood for the new Temple’s construction.