1. According to Religion News Service, More Utahns go to church every week — 51 percent — than any other state, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup’s Frank Newport writes that that statistic is “a direct result of (Utah)’s 59 percent Mormon population as Mormons have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S.” The next most-frequent church attendees are in the South — Mississippi (47 percent), Alabama (46 percent), Louisiana (46 percent) and Arkansas (45 percent). In fact, 10 of the top 12 churchgoing states are in the South. At the bottom of the list is Vermont where 17 percent of residents say they attend religious services every week. Half the bottom 10 states on the list are in New England.
2. According to NPR, A U.S. Central Command official told reporters at the Pentagon that the military operation to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, will be in the April-May timeframe, and this operation will involve an estimated 20,000-25,000 Iraqi soldiers. They say that in the city of Mosul, they estimate there are anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters for the Islamic State. Mosul won’t be easy — because Islamic State fighters have been dug in in that city since last June, when they took it over.
3. According to The Jerusalem Post, Leading Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called on his fellow Democrats on Thursday to attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Congress next month, saying the Israel-US relationship should “transcend” any political differences. Schumer said of the US-Israel relationship, “It’s always been a bipartisan policy. Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on it, we ought to keep it that way.” Some Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, have said they will not attend the speech.
4. According to Reuters, Iran has refrained from expanding tests of more efficient models of a machine used to refine uranium under a nuclear agreement with six world powers, a U.N. report shows, allaying concerns it might be violating the accord. Tehran’s development of advanced centrifuges is sensitive because, if successful, it could enable it to produce potential nuclear bomb material at a rate several times that of the decades-old version of the machine now in use.
5. According to Huffington Post, Dozens of African-American police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, are facing demotions to the positions they held over a decade ago in response to a ruling in a discrimination lawsuit the officers brought against the city. Black officers sued the Memphis Police Department in the early 2000s, alleging that the tests the city used to determine promotions discriminated against minorities. A lower court sided with the plaintiffs, and some of them were promoted afterwards. But last fall, a federal appeals court overturned the decision. The officers may still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in the meantime, the city is considering demoting 28 of the 62 plaintiffs back to the positions they held when the lawsuit was first brought.
6. According to CBN News, American missionary Russell Martin Stendal was arrested Wednesday by police in Colombia as part of an investigation into the alleged ties of the Marxist rebel group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Stendal’s lawyer Eder Castro said, Russell “is dedicated to distribute Bibles and preach the word to everyone and he has traveled to the most complicated areas of the country evangelizing.” Both prosecution and police have been in contact with the US Embassy in Colombia.
7. According to Baptist News Global, A Brewton-Parker College vice president fired Feb. 2 after refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement about Ergun Caner’s Jan. 20 resignation has been reinstated. C.B. Scott was reinstated as vice president of alumni, advancement and church relations at the Baptist-affiliated school in Mount Vernon, Ga., by interim president Charlie Bass. Scott, a former pastor, said he turned down a severance package on the condition that he sign a non-disclosure agreement as a “matter of personal integrity.”
8. According to the AP, A lawmaker and a deputy mayor were among many killed in a suicide bomb attack Friday on a hotel near the presidential palace in the capital. One person rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of the Central Hotel in Mogadishu, and another suicide bomber then entered the hotel and blew himself up. The country’s deputy prime minister was also among some government officials wounded by the bombings.
9. According to Washington Post, Venezuela braced for anti-government protests Friday after intelligence agents arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on allegations of taking part in a coup plot backed by the US. The commando-style raid Thursday touched off demonstrations by Ledezma’s backers, and the country’s opposition leader called for more protests as Venezuela struggles with deepening political rifts and a slumping economy. The State Department called the coup allegations “baseless and false.”
10. According to the AP, Two powerful cyclones smashed into northern Australia on Friday, knocking out power to thousands, tearing roofs and doors off houses and prompting coastal residents to flee their homes, but appeared to have spared the region earlier predictions of a “calamity.” The twin storms, dubbed the “cyclone sandwich”, struck within hours of each other. Cyclone Lam hit a sparsely populated stretch of the Northern Territory, while the more powerful and potentially dangerous Cyclone Marcia crossed over small towns along the east coast of Queensland state. Despite the storms’ ferocious winds and drenching rains, no injuries had been reported.
As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
Richard Cecil said, “In the midst of sorrow, faith draws the sting out of every trouble, and takes out the bitterness from every affliction.”