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RELIGION

Religion-based scams rising

Scams using religion as a lure to get people to invest money took in about $1.8 billion over the past three years, according to a new study. The Washington-based North American Securities Administration Association (NASAA) reports that officials in 27 states have taken legal action against hundreds of companies and individuals that used religious or spiritual beliefs to gain the trust of more than 90,000 investors in the US before taking their money.

In contrast, a 1989 survey co-sponsored by NASAA found that only 15,000 investors had lost more than $450 million in such scams in the previous five years. NASAA says the rise may be due to investors' looking for an alternative to the skittish stock market, and scams that offer above-market returns.

SCIENCE

Population peak at 9 billion?

The population of the world, now at 6.1 billion, may peak at about 9 billion as early as 2070, and then begin to slowly decline, according to a new analysis. The changes will vary considerably in different parts of the world, with the population continuing to rise in Africa, the researchers say. At the same time, the proportion of people older than 60 will continue to increase rapidly, jumping from 10 percent to 34 percent. The projections, by Wolfgang Lutz of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, are based on an updated computer model that incorporates the latest data on fertility rates and other variables affecting growth.

Water may exist beyond Earth

Astronomers have produced more clues that water - considered one of the essential ingredients of life - might be present in the forms of shallow ice reservoirs just below the surface of Mars, and in a liquid ocean on Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons, according to the journal Nature. The astronomers are from Brown University and the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

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