After a New Year's Day terrorist attack on a Coptic Christian church in Egypt killed 21 people, Muslims and Christians united in solidarity to protest discrimination against Copts, calling for an end to violence. On the Coptic Christmas Eve, which took place about a week after the attack, while Egyptian Copts attended mass, thousands of Muslims showed up to act as "human shields" to protect them from terrorist attacks. The Muslims were inspired by a slogan created by Egyptian artist Mohamed El-Sawy: "We either live together, or we die together."
The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was preventable, according to the presidential commission investigating the catastrophe. The spill, originally described as an "aberration" by industry leaders, is now being attributed to a series of blunders not only on BP's part, but also by Halliburton, the cement contractor Transocean, and the government agencies that police offshore drilling. Details in the report cite lax regulations, cost-cutting decisions, and a lack of emphasis on safety as the main culprits. Government officials say that the Interior Department and its new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement are working to restore faith in the safety and environmental soundness of oil and gas drilling. The commission concluded that without considerable reform throughout the offshore drilling industry, a similar event could easily happen again.
Source: Houston Chronicle
Mike Zovath, senior vice president of Answers in Genesis, the organization that is building a biblical theme park called Ark Encounter in Kentucky, says he doesn't believe in climate science. Zovath, along with many conservative Christians, remain skeptical about endorsing the idea of climate change. Despite their reservations, the appearance of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards on the organization's website suggest that although environmentalism may not be embraced completely, Christian fundamentalists are realizing the benefits of green building. The 500-foot timber-framed ark will be suited with geothermal heating, rainwater capture, active and passive solar heating, and specialized window glazing. Ark Encounter will not be applying for LEED certification, though it will use LEED techniques and include information displays about them for the public.
Source: Washington Post
A species of fox that was thought to be extinct has suddenly reemerged. Biologists caught images of the Sierra Nevada red fox on cameras they set up along a trail near the Sonora Pass in northeast California. DNA testing at the University of California, Davis, confirmed that the sighting on camera was, in fact, a red fox. Certain breeds of Californian red foxes have been presumed extinct since the 1920s. Trapping in the early part of the last century, in addition to loss of habitat, have kept fox species' numbers low. Based on these recent sightings, researchers presume that there are small, isolated groups of red foxes living throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Source: Tree Hugger
In 2009, the teen birth rate fell to its lowest since 1940. The birth rate for teenage girls ages 15 through 19 dropped to a reported 39 births per 1,000 girls. This is a 6 percent decline from the previous year. Teen birth rates had been on the rise since 2000, but started steadily decreasing in 2008. Experts assume the downward trend could have something to do with the recession, which began in 2007. Others assign different causes for the shift: The US has seen a recent drop in immigration, presumably because of a weak job market; Hispanics make up a large portion of immigrants, as well as accounting for roughly one in four births during 2009. Some credit the MTV reality show "Teen Mom" for the decline, as the program showcases the plights of teen motherhood.
Source: Associated Press
Civilian deaths resulting from violence in Iraq fell 15 percent during 2010, according to UK-based nonprofit Iraq Body Count. As of December 25, 2010, civilian deaths totaled 3,976, down from 4,680 in 2009. The cities of Mosul and Baghdad suffered the most violence during 2010. Civilian losses accounted for 78 percent of the 5,120 documented violent deaths in Iraq during 2010. This estimate includes 60 US forces killed, as well as 408 Iraqi soldiers and 676 insurgents. Nonstate forces were responsible for about two explosions a day. According to the report, such explosions killed 2,605 civilians and accounted for 66 percent of all Iraqi civilian deaths during the year.
According to preliminary census figures, one in six Americans are poor. The official 2009 census reported a poverty rate of 14.3 percent, or about 43.6 million people. Under the new, revised census formula, overall poverty in 2009 actually reached 15.7 percent, or 47.8 million. Americans 65 and older experienced the largest increase of any group, reaching 16.1 percent. The Census Bureau also reported increases among working-age adults, children, blacks, Hispanics, whites, and unmarried couples. Expert analysis showed out-of-pocket medical expenses as the most significant factor affecting the number of poor. Without these costs, poverty rates would drop from 15.7 percent to 12.4 percent. Commuting and childcare were also cited as financial burdens for many. Kathleen Short, a Census Bureau research economist, said government aid programs like food stamps and tax credits kept many people from falling below the poverty line.
Source: Associated Press
Twenty eleven is expected to bring more financial woe to struggling US cities and states, as well as cities around the world, says Meredith Whitney, a leading US research analyst. Whitney, the woman responsible for accurately predicting the 2008 demise of Citigroup, predicts that local and state debt is the biggest threat we're facing in 2011. Overspending and frivolous borrowing have put many US and European cities trillions of dollars in debt. US states have spent near half a trillion dollars over what they have collected in taxes, and face a $1 trillion hole in pension funds. Illinois faces a 21 percent chance of default, more than any other state. The famously ailing city of Detroit has decided to cut municipal services like police, lighting, and road repair. California raised tuition fees, Arizona has sold their capitol building. Florence, Venice, and Madrid are taking similarly drastic actions. The Spanish region of Valencia has even started issuing debt to its own citizens.
Source: Guardian (UK)
Darrell Issa (R-CA), newly elected chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has recently been granted the power to subpoena and investigate the Obama Administration. The chairman himself has been subject of many past investigations. Issa's past run-ins with the law include a gun conviction; three allegations of car theft, one leading to an indictment for grand theft; an arson allegation; and questionable finances, to name a few. In 1996, Issa helped fund proposition 209, a ballot initiative that would ban affirmative action in public institutions in California.
Source: The New Yorker