Nov 17, 2017 12:36 pm

Despite apparent coup in Zimbabwe, armed takeovers have become less common worldwide

Zimbabwean soldiers stand at an intersection as they regulate traffic in Harare on Nov. 15, 2017. Generals denied that the military had staged a coup but vowed on state television to target "criminals" close to President Robert Mugabe. (AFP/Getty Images)
Zimbabwean soldiers in Harare, the nation’s capital, on Nov. 15. Generals there denied that the military had staged a coup but vowed on state television to target “criminals” close to President Robert Mugabe. (AFP/Getty Images)

This week’s apparent coup d’etat in Zimbabwe may bring an end to the 37-year-long rule of President Robert Mugabe. It’s the first such seizure of power globally in three years – a reminder of how much rarer coups have become as methods of regime change.

Since the end of World War II, there have been 225 successful coups (counting the events in Zimbabwe) in countries with populations greater than 500,000, according to the Center for Systemic Peace, which maintains extensive datasets on various forms of armed conflict and political violence. Most coups occurred during the height of the Cold War, from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The center defines a coup as “a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime, although not necessarily in the nature of regime authority or mode of governance.” It distinguishes coups from other forms of forcible regime change, such as revolutions, civil wars and foreign interventions.

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Topics: Protests and Uprisings, Wars and International Conflicts, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa

Nov 16, 2017 11:30 am

What Americans expect the future of automation to look like

An October Pew Research Center report examined Americans’ views about automation, including their opinions on how widespread these technologies would become over the next 20 years. Here’s what Americans expect to happen when it comes to four specific types of automation.

Computer programs will diagnose and treat most diseases

As medical records migrate online, algorithms may become more integrated into patient care. Some hospitals are already using computers to help diagnose certain diseases or update physicians about a patient’s condition.

While there have been some notable challenges in using this type of technology in medicine, most Americans predict it to be the norm in the coming decades. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) say that in the next 20 years doctors will use computer programs to diagnose and treat most diseases, including 21% who say this will definitely happen.

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Topics: Science and Innovation, Technology Adoption, Emerging Technology Impacts

Nov 15, 2017 1:03 pm

Assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpass 2001 level

The number of assaults against Muslims in the United States rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, easily surpassing the modern peak reached in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new hate crimes statistics from the FBI. In 2016, there were 127 reported victims of aggravated or simple assault, compared with 91 the year before and 93 in 2001.

But assaults are not the only form of hate crime carried out against Muslims and other religious groups. The most common is intimidation, which is defined as reasonable fear of bodily harm. Anti-Muslim intimidation also increased in 2016, with 144 reported victims, compared with 120 the previous year. These numbers, however, are still dwarfed by the 296 victims of anti-Muslim intimidation in 2001.

Certain types of crimes that damage or destroy property, including vandalism, also have risen, from 70 cases against Muslims in 2015 to 92 last year.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Social Values, Muslims and Islam, Muslim Americans, Discrimination and Prejudice

Nov 15, 2017 10:00 am

Prescription drug abuse increasingly seen as a major U.S. public health problem

Americans’ concerns about prescription drug abuse have risen over the past four years, with some of largest increases coming among well-educated adults.

Today, 76% of the public says that prescription drug abuse is an extremely or very serious public health problem in America, compared with 63% who said the same in 2013. Just 22% regard prescription drug abuse as a somewhat serious or less serious problem, down from 34% in 2013.

Concerns about mental illness are also up slightly from 2013. Currently, 72% say mental illness is an extremely or very serious public health problem, compared with 67% who said this four years ago, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 25-30 among 1,504 adults.

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Topics: Health, Drugs

Nov 14, 2017 6:58 am

Q&A: A closer look at Orthodox Christians

Along with Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity is one of the world’s three major Christian traditions. But unlike the other two large branches of Christianity, which have spread throughout the developing world, Orthodoxy remains largely confined to Europe.

Many majority-Orthodox countries, like Russia and Ukraine, were part of the former Soviet Union and, for most of the 20th century, were officially hostile to religion. In the more than 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, there has been an Orthodox revival in several of these countries. But many people who now identify as Orthodox Christians do not see religion as an important part of their lives, according to a new Pew Research Center report. And, particularly in former Soviet republics, many also report low levels of religious observance, such as church attendance or daily prayer.

Recently, we sat down with George Demacopolous, a professor of theology at Fordham University, to examine trends and issues in the Orthodox Christian world. Demacopolous is a noted expert on Orthodox Christian history and the author and editor of six books.

Russia is the world’s largest Orthodox country and the leader of its church is seen by many outside the country as the faith’s highest authority. Aside from its size, what, if anything, makes Russia and the Russian church special in the Orthodox world?

George Demacopolous, professor of theology, Fordham University
George Demacopolous, professor of theology, Fordham University

The Russian Orthodox Church has no theological claim to global leadership. Instead, the significance of the Moscow Patriarchate in the minds of Orthodox Christians is linked to the geopolitical significance of the Russian state. And it is especially linked to the way that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has embraced Orthodox Christianity as the single most distinctive feature of Russia’s cultural heritage, which he believes extends beyond the borders of Russia itself.

Putin – and by extension the Russian Orthodox Church – are popular among many non-Russian Orthodox because he has increasingly positioned the Russian government as the lone political protector of Christians in the Middle East. Moreover, he and the patriarch of Moscow are increasingly contrasting the language of “traditional values” with the secular ideologies prevalent in Western Europe and the United States. Thus, many Orthodox Christians living outside of Russia see a powerful Russia with a resurgent Orthodox Church as a positive for global Orthodoxy.

The link between Russia’s political power and the perception of the Moscow Patriarchate’s global leadership are all the more apparent when we contrast it to the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is the canonical leader of the Orthodox world but who suffers under constant harassment from the Turkish government and who has little real geopolitical authority.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Christians and Christianity

Nov 13, 2017 6:58 am

Americans generally positive about NAFTA, but most Republicans say it benefits Mexico more than U.S.

As Mexico prepares to host the fifth round of negotiations over the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), most Americans (56%) say that the pact is good for the United States, while just a third (33%) say it is bad.

And while President Donald Trump has raised questions about the fairness of the agreement, relatively few say that Mexico (30%) or Canada (20%) benefit more from the agreement than the U.S. does, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 25-30 among 1,504 adults.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the trade pact is bad for the U.S. and that it has benefited Mexico, in particular, more than the U.S. In recent years, partisans have moved apart in their assessments of free trade agreements generally as Republicans have grown more negative in their views, and opinions about NAFTA today reflect this partisan dynamic.

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Topics: Globalization and Trade, North America, Mexico

Nov 10, 2017 11:30 am

The changing face of America’s veteran population

Gavin Kinney, left, and his brother Rigel hold up a sign at the New York City Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Gavin Kinney, left, and his brother Rigel hold up a sign at the New York City Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2015. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There were around 20.4 million U.S. veterans in 2016, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. As Americans observe Veterans Day, here are key facts about those who have served in the military and how this population is changing.

1Gulf War-era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans, surpassing Vietnam-era veterans in 2016, according to Veterans Affairs’ 2016 population model estimates. As of last year, there were 6.8 million American veterans who served during the Vietnam era and 7.1 million who served in the Gulf War era, which spans from August 1990 through the present. (Some veterans served through both eras.) There were also around 771,000 World War II veterans and 1.6 million who served during the Korean conflict, the VA estimates. About three-quarters (77%) of veterans in 2016 served during wartime and 23% only served during peacetime.

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Topics: Military and Veterans

Nov 8, 2017 4:03 pm

Key takeaways about Orthodox Christians

A woman lights a prayer candle at an Orthodox church in Moscow. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A woman lights a prayer candle at an Orthodox church in Moscow. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Orthodoxy is the third-largest branch of Christianity, after Catholicism and Protestantism. Today, there are approximately 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Orthodoxy, or Eastern Christianity, formally split from Roman Catholicism (known then as Western Christianity) in 1054 over a host of theological issues, high among them disputes over papal authority.

Here are key takeaways about Orthodox Christians, based on the report:

1Orthodox Christians have decreased as a share of the overall Christian population even as their numbers have more than doubled since 1910, when there were 125 million of them. This decrease in share is due to the fact that the worldwide populations of Catholics, Protestants and other Christians have collectively almost quadrupled over the last century (from 490 million in 1910 to 1.9 billion in 2010). Roughly one-in-eight Christians (12%) are now Orthodox, down from one-in-five (20%) in 1910.

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Topics: Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Christians and Christianity

Nov 8, 2017 10:01 am

Republicans, Democrats have starkly different views on transgender issues

The American public is fundamentally divided over whether it’s possible for someone to be a gender different from the sex they were assigned at birth, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The survey comes amid debates over which public bathrooms transgender individuals should use, how they should be recognized on official documents and whether they should serve in the U.S. military.

Overall, roughly half of Americans (54%) say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, while 44% say someone can be a man or a woman even if that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Perhaps not surprisingly, considering the widening partisan divide across a variety of issues, Democrats and Republicans have sharply different views on this question. While eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (64%) take the opposite view and say a person’s gender can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

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Topics: Gender, Social Values, Political Polarization

Nov 8, 2017 7:00 am

More than 100,000 Haitian and Central American immigrants face decision on their status in the U.S.

People protest the possibility that the Trump administration may overturn Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office on May 13 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
People protest the possibility that the Trump administration may overturn Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office on May 13 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

More than 100,000 immigrants from Haiti and Honduras are expected to learn in the coming weeks whether they will be allowed to stay in the United States under temporary protection that was granted years ago because of natural disasters in their home countries. That protection expires next year.

These immigrants are among more than 320,000 from 10 nations who have time-limited permission to live and work in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) because of war, hurricanes, earthquakes or other catastrophes in their home countries that could make it dangerous for them to return. The largest number – 195,000 – is from El Salvador, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

Federal officials have not said whether they plan to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haiti and Honduras, which already have repeatedly been extended, but they have stated that TPS is meant to provide temporary rather than long-term relief. Nicaragua’s designation will now expire in January 2019, U.S. officials announced on Nov. 6. Officials from some nations where TPS will soon expire have asked for extensions, saying their countries have not fully recovered and that their immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy. Earlier this year, on May 21, TPS expired for immigrants from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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Topics: Immigration, Latin America, Unauthorized Immigration, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Donald Trump