Church trends. The Pew Research Center released the results of a survey of the nation’s Latinos today, issuing findings that won’t be much of a surprise to the evangelical community. More Latinos are leaving the Catholic Church for Protestant congregations. About 55 percent of Hispanics consider themselves Catholic, a 12 percent drop in just the last four years. The number of Hispanics who described themselves as evangelical rose from 12 percent to 16 percent. Survey respondents gave a variety of reasons for their change of religious affiliation, but Pew researchers said no one reason dominated. Perhaps of more concern for the church generally, the number of Hispanics who said they left a church and now had no religious association has grown from 10 percent to 18 percent since 2010.
Drug raid. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) launched a raid today against rings making and selling synthetic drugs in 25 states. Agents served warrants at homes, warehouses, and smoke shops, with the largest operation focusing on Alabama. The targeted drugs include blends of synthetic marijuana and powders known as bath salts, which have had dangerously unpredictable, mind-altering effects on users. After working on shutting down U.S. operations for years, the DEA has refocused efforts on drugs coming out of China. The agency also is following the money trail: Millions of dollars in drug proceeds are being sent to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, where U.S. officials fear it could be funding terrorists.
Syrian surrender. Syrian rebels who have been fighting Bashar al-Assad’s government for three years began evacuating their former stronghold in Homs today. The drawback is part of a UN-brokered deal to end the fighting and break two sieges that have brought the region’s residents to their knees. The rebels were allowed to take one gun each and one rocket-propelled grenade launcher per bus. They joined fellow fighters in rebel-held towns 12 miles north of Homs.
Bad grades. The nation’s high school seniors are bringing home a report card sure to disappoint everyone. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, public school seniors stagnated in reading and math between 2009 and 2013. Even worse, seniors last year performed slightly worse in reading compared to students who first took the assessment in 1992. Only 26 percent of seniors perform at or above “proficient”levels in math. Only 38 percent perform at or above “proficient”levels in reading.