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Weekly Roundup

Here are a few stories from this week that deserve notice:

* New survey data from Pew Research Center on Russians and religion offers an interesting mix of results. In the post-Soviet era, the percentage of Russians identifying as part of the Russian Orthodox Church has dramatically increased (from 31% to 72%). However, monthly church attendance has barely increased (2% to 7%). This divergence shows that many Russians are apparently following the modern construct of defining religion as separate from worship. Also, it is possible that calling oneself "Russian Orthodox" may be more of a nationalistic identity marker than a religious commitment.

* Former President Jimmy Carter penned an insightful piece on the ongoing developments of the "Arab Spring" in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Based on experiences and findings of the Carter Center (which has monitored elections in the post-Arab Spring environment), Carter offers a reasoned and nuanced assessment too often missing in public declarations about democracy, religion, and politics in those nations.

* Congress actually raised the U.S. debt ceiling in a simple vote like they used to before the "Tea Party" raised the political stakes the past few years. Politico offered good analysis of how language helped create the debt ceiling showdowns of the past few years and how a shift in words helped end it this time. Regardless of one's politics, it is a good reminder of the power of words.

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