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Hard Numbers: Pope cracks down, Americans live (bit) longer, coup plotters arrested, Amazon deforestation slows, adopt axolotls

Pope Francis presides the weekly general audience at Paul-VI hall at the Vatican

Pope Francis presides the weekly general audience at Paul-VI hall at the Vatican

Photo by Vatican Media/Catholic Press Photo/IPA/ABACAPRESS.COMN
2: Pope Francis is punishing two different high-ranking, conservative American clergymen for being sources of church disunity. Bishop Joseph Strickland, of Tyler, Texas, was relieved of his duties earlier this month, and Cardinal Raymond Burke of Wisconsin is about to be evicted from his Vatican apartment and will lose his salary as a retired cardinal. Emblematic of the divide between traditionalists and progressives in the Catholic Church, the pontiff faces backlash for calling out vaccine skeptics, welcoming LGBTQ+ people into the church, critiquing capitalism, and criticizing climate change deniers. The first Jesuit Pope has called out American Catholics directly in the past, warning against a “strong reactionary attitude” and being ruled solely by ideology.

77.5: The good news: Life expectancy in the United States rose over one full year to 77.5 in 2022, up from 76.4 years in 2021, according to new CDC data. The bad news: That’s still more than a year lower than 2019’s pre-pandemic 78.8 years.

13: Authorities have arrested 13 military officers in Sierra Leone following Sunday’s failed coup, which came several months after the contested election of President Julius Maada Bio to a second term. Amid the chaos, 20 were killed and nearly 1,900 inmates escaped a central prison in Freetown. Coups are very on trend in the region: There have been eight military takeovers in Central Africa since 2020.

55.8: Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is down 55.8% this year compared to the same period in 2022, according to a new study by the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Association. The 9,117 square kilometers of forest loss between January and November 2023 – roughly the size of Puerto Rico – is the lowest level since 2019.

600: The future of the axolotl, the fish-like salamander known for its adorable grin, is not all smiles. The endangered amphibian has seen its population density drop by 99.5% over the past two decades, thanks to pollution and invasive species. But Mexico’s National Autonomous University has relaunched a campaign to allow people to virtually adopt an axolotl (and get live updates on its health) for as little as 600 pesos — around $35 USD.

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