We live in an era of 24-hour news in which we’re constantly bombarded by information from websites, social media, and television. Yet despite this deluge, there are still many fascinating news items that you are likely to have missed. Here are nine such events and discoveries from 2018 that you may not have heard about.

1.  A previously unknown painting of Jesus’s face was discovered at the Byzantine site of Shivta in the Negev Desert of southern Israel. The painting is believed to be an important discovery, since it represents the first pre-iconoclastic baptism-of-Christ scene to be found in the Holy Land.

2.  Scientists may have discovered a new organ in the human body. In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers describe the interstitium, which is a series of connected, fluid-filled spaces found under skin as well as throughout the gut, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles. According to Time magazine, the new organ may play a critical role in how many tissues and other organs do their jobs, as well as in some diseases like cancer.

3.  A study released this year shows the ozone layer—a layer that protects life on Earth from harmful layers of ultraviolet rays from the sun—continues to heal from previous man-made damage. Ozone in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1 percent to 3 percent since 2000 and, at projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s, followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060.

4.  The murder rate in the United States in 2018 is on track for the largest one-year drop in five years, according to The New York Times. The final numbers won’t be available until the FBI formally reports them in September 2019. But based on a comparison of 2017 data and 2018 data for 66 large American cities (population more than 250,000), murder has been down about 7 percent on average this year relative to the same point in 2017.

5.  Over the past 200 years, pandemic cycles of cholera have killed tens of millions of people around the globe. But because of cholera vaccines—many created in the past two years—the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a 90 percent reduction in cholera deaths by 2030 and the elimination of cholera in at least 20 countries out of the 47 currently affected.

6. Excavations in Jerusalem have unearthed what may be the first extra-biblical evidence of the prophet Isaiah. Just south of the Temple Mount, in the Ophel excavations, a team of archaeologists discovered a small seal impression that reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.” According to Bible History Today, the upper portion of the impression is missing, and its left side is damaged. Reconstructing a few Hebrew letters in this damaged area would cause the impression to read, “[belonging] to Isaiah the prophet.”

7. Sickle cell anemia (also know as sickle cell disease) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa. The disease occurs among about 1 out of every 365 African-American births, and among about 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births. In March 2018, an article in the American Journal of Human Genetics announced scientists have determined the origin of sickle cell anemia. The scientists involved in the study hope this research can help improve medical care for people with the disease, and make it possible to better predict whether a patient will develop a severe or mild form. Also, in April, the first adult stem cell transplant performed on an adult sickle cell patient resulted in a woman being declared cured and disease-free.

8. For the first time, a woman who received a uterus transplanted from a deceased donor gave birth to a healthy child. The procedure of transplanting uteri from deceased women could drastically increase the availability of the organs, helping more infertile women become pregnant. It could also replace the current procedure of acquiring the organs from living donors, an expensive option that can lead to risky complications such as infections or serious bleeding.

9. Almost 300 million Christians—approximately 1 out of 7 worldwide—live in a country of persecution, subject to violence, arrest, and human-rights violations. According to a report by Aid to the Church in Need, aggressive nationalism, hostile to religious minorities, has worsened to the degree that the phenomenon can be called ultra-nationalism. Violent and systematic intimidation of religious minority groups has led to them being branded as disloyal aliens and threatening to the state. The report also finds that in the eyes of Western governments and the media, religious freedom is “slipping down the human-rights priority rankings,” being eclipsed by issues of gender, sexuality, and race.

Other posts in this series:

Apostles’ Creed • George H. W. Bush (1924–2018) • Religious Freedom Restoration Act • Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre • Out-of-Wedlock Births • Bethel Church Movement • Christian Hymns • Hurricanes • Infertility • The STD Crisis • Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) • Russian President Vladimir Putin • Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh • MS-13 • Wicca and Modern Witchcraft • Jerusalem • Christianity in Korea • Creation of Modern Israel • David Koresh and the Branch Davidians • Rajneeshees • Football • The Opioid Epidemic (Part II) • The Unification Church • Billy Graham • Frederick Douglass • Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 • Winter Olympics • The ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders •  Events and Discoveries in 2017 • Christmas Traditions • Sexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State