Wednesday, November 30, 2011

COMMENTARY: Freedom of Speech Must Not Be Viewed as Having No Limit

Last week, Emma Sullivan, an 18-year-old high school student in Kansas was taking part in a school function at the state capitol in Topeka, when she sent out a tweet regarding Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Sullivan's tweet proved to be an eye opener, because she said some vulgar things in it about Gov. Brownback. After reading the tweet, Brownback's office contacted Sullivan's school, and the school's principal, Karl Krawitz, demanded that Sullivan write a letter of apology to Gov. Brownback.

This week, Sullivan said she would not apologize to Gov. Brownback, and her school said Sullivan would not be disciplined after all, because of her "constitutionally-protected freedom of speech."

This decision is one in which principal Krawitz is wrong. Krawitz should have insisted that Sullivan apologize to Gov. Brownback, or be suspended (for at least three days).

The fact is that the right of freedom of speech carries with it responsibility. In this situation, Sullivan was indeed irresponsible for her vicious, defamatory, and obscene tweet regarding Gov. Brownback.

Moreover, she had no basis or justification for making such obscene comments. Sullivan says she was kidding; nonetheless, that does not justify such a defamatory tweet.

Freedom of speech must not be viewed as having no limit. The United States has libel laws that have resulted in lawsuits in which individuals and news publications have been ordered to pay millions of dollars to people whose character they have wrongfully defamed.

Sullivan -- who is 18 years old -- is not too young to be cognizant of these libelous laws, and to abide by them. Otherwise, she may not be so lucky, if she defames a person in the future.

Rhode Island Outraged Over State "Holiday Tree;" Gov. Chafee Called a "Grinch" for Pigheadedness

The Fox News website reports today (November 30, 2011) that a Rhode Island lawmaker is calling Gov. Lincoln Chafee "Governor Grinch" after he defied lawmakers and decided that the state could have a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree."

Chafee defended his decision by arguing that it maintains the tradition of the state's founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams -- as a haven for tolerance -- where government and religion were kept separate.

RI State Rep. Doreen Costa called the governor a "Grinch." She had sponsored a resolution passed by the House of Representatives last January declaring that the state's tree be referred to as a "Christmas tree," but Chafee refuses to honor that resolution.

So Costa has decided to erect her own Christmas tree -- at the State House -- and on lighting it on December 6, when Chafee plans to host the official "holiday" tree lighting event.

Boston Univ. Installs Foot Baths for Its Muslims; Mike Huckabee: Foot Baths Are "Un-American"

At its own initiative and cost, Boston University has installed foot baths for Muslims in its bathrooms and student union prayer rooms, The Boston Channel website reports today (November 30, 2011).

"We have to pray five time (every day), and every five times we have to wash," said student Reema Alashgar, a Muslim.

Student Center director Margot Veldivia said, "The students didn't ask for this, but rather we understood the tradition and how necessary it was in their daily lives."

Mike Huckabee -- former candidate for U.S. President and an ordained Southern Baptist minister -- said foot baths are "an accommodation we're making to one religion at the expense of the others." He also said they are "un-American."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Pagan Chapel Is Built at US Air Force Academy; "Stonehenge-Like" Ring of Stones Cost $80,000

The New American website reports today (November 29, 2011) that a pagan chapel has been built at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The new open-air "Stonehenge-like" ring of stones -- with a propane firepit -- was provided at a cost of nearly $80,000 to the American taxpayers.

According to the academy's enrollment records, only three of the 4,300 cadets identified themselves as pagans -- followers of an ancient religion that generally does not worship a single god and considers all things in nature interconnected.

In supporting the pagan chapel, Maj. Darren Duncan -- the chaplain in charge of all the faith communities at the academy -- said that if the military is to defend the Constitution, it should also be upholding its guarantee of religious freedom.

Calif. City Drops Charges in Bible Study Case; Had Said Home Bible Study Violated City Ordinance

The case against a Southern California Christian couple -- that was recently fined $300 for holding a Bible study in their home -- has been dismissed, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 29, 2011).

Last September, city officials in San Juan Capistrano, California cited Chuck and Stephanie Fromm for holding a Bible study in their home.

Officials at that time had said the couple violated a city ordinance by using property developed for residential use for public assembly, and ordered them to stop holding the Bible studies.

Officials have now dismissed the case and refunded the $300 citation fee to the Fromms.

Ten-Year-Old Girl Is Raped in Jutland, Denmark; Somalian Boy, 16, Arrested, Denies He Raped Girl

The Copenhagen Post website reports today (November 29, 2011) that a 16-year-old Somalian boy has been arrested for the rape of a 10-year-old girl in the small town of Jutland in Denmark.

On November 19, two girls were threatened at knife-point by a boy and led into a forest.

Although the nine-year-old girl managed to escape and sound the alarm, the 10-year-old girl was raped.

The boy charged with the rape appeared in court on November 26. He denied any involvement in the rape.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brownback: Staff "Overreacted" to Teen's Tweet; Gov. Apologizes,Teen Won't for Her Lewd Tweet

The Slate website reports today (November 28, 2011) that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is sorry his office made such a big deal of an obscene tweet about him from a teen last week.

"My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize," Brownback said in a statement to the news media this afternoon. He added, "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."

After coming across 18-year-old Emma Sullivan's tweet -- which said that the Kansas governor "sucked" and included #heblowsalot -- last week, Brownback's office flagged it, and her school principal, Karl Krawitz, demanded Sullivan write a letter of apology to Brownback.

School officials said today the high school student -- who refuses to apologize to Brownback -- will not be disciplined, because of her constitutionally-protected freedom of speech.

UN Accuses Syria of Crimes against Humanity; New Report Reveals at Least 256 Children Killed

A UN investigation report -- released today (November 28, 2011) -- accused Syrian forces of killing and torturing children, and other crimes against humanity since last March, the Associated Press website reports.

The report by a UN Human Rights Council -- released in Geneva, Switzerland -- found that at least 256 children were killed by government forces between mid-March and early November, with some of them tortured to death.

The full list of alleged crimes committed by Syrian forces included "murder, torture, rape, and other forms of sexual violence," said panel chairman Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian professor.

More than 3,500 Syrians have been killed by Syrian forces since last March, when thousands of Syrians began protesting for ending the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his dictatorship.

New Mass Translation Launched in US Churches; Roman Missal Is Updated from Its Original Latin

English-speaking Roman Catholics -- who have been attending Mass for years -- found themselves in an unfamiliar position Sunday (November 27, 2011), as they needed printed cards or sheets of paper to follow along with the ritual, according to the Associated Press website.

The Mass itself -- the central ritual of the Catholic faith -- hasn't changed, but the English translation has.

A years-long process of revision and negotiation led to an updated version of the Roman Missal -- the text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass -- which originally was written in Latin.

The new translation began across the English-speaking Catholic world on Sunday, after several months of preparation.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Israel Is Accused of Harassing Women Journalists; IFJ Lists Six Nations Noted for Harassing Women

The Big News Network website reports today (November 27, 2011) that Israel has been pinpointed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) as one of six countries where female journalists face "extreme levels of violence" while carrying out their jobs.

The IFJ highlights Mexico, the Philippines, Somalia, Russia, Nepal, and Israel as countries where women journalists face "threats, political pressure, violence, rape, and abuse either due to their gender or simply for doing their job."

In all of the countries highlighted by the IFJ -- except for Israel -- women journalists have been killed or shot during the course of their work.

In Israel earlier this year -- in an episode that became known as bra-gate -- a female journalist was denied entry to a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because she refused to remove her bra for a security check.

Unilever to Launch World's First Toilet Academy; Will Open in 2012 to Combat Sanitation Problems

Unilever-- a multi-billion dollar global company -- will launch the world's first toilet academy next year in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, the Cybercast News website reports today (November 27, 2011).

Unilever says it will open the academy as a first step in combating the sanitation problems caused by the 2.6 billion people around the world without access to toilets.

Keith Weed -- chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever -- said, "We know that better sanitation saves lives, which is why we at Unilever have committed to sustainably improve sanitation through the Domestos Toilet Academy program."

Unilever -- which employs some 167,000 people around the world -- is a $5.2 billion business that owns Dove, Lipton, VO5, Knorr, and other companies.

Arab League Votes for Sanctions against Syria; Assad Govt. Killed 3,500 Protesters Since March

The Arab League approved sanctions against Syria today (November 27, 2011) in the latest bid to dissuade the Assad regime from its continuing killing of dissenters, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

Nineteen of the regional bloc's 22-member nations voted in favor of the unprecedented sanctions at a meeting in Cairo.

Damascus -- which has already been under U.S. and European Union sanctions -- denounced the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

More than 3,500 Syrian protesters have been killed since the protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began last March.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

COMMENTARY: President Obama's Godless Thanksgiving Address Is Upsetting to Many

President Barack Obama this week upset a plethora of Americans -- as well as many other people throughout the world -- because he failed to thank God during his Thanksgiving radio address to the nation, thus defying the holiday's historic tradition.

Instead, President Obama used his radio address to express his gratitude to service members, and volunteers to soup kitchens and shelters.

The president said that he and his family would spend the day "eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we are." Instead of reflecting on luck, it would have behooved President Obama if he reflected on God and conveyed to the nation how good God has been to us.

President Obama also acknowledged America's tough economic climate, and offered hope that the economy would improve. Again, instead of depending on hope, the president should have asked God to help our nation to recover from these dismal economic times.

It is all right that President Obama mentioned all of the factors that he considered important as we celebrate Thanksgiving day. Nonetheless, as President of the United States, he also had a responsibility to thank God for all that He has given us on Thanksgiving -- and indeed throughout the entire year.

Cairo Rally Vows: "One Day We'll Kill All Jews;" Held on Anniv. of 1947 UN Plan for Jewish State

The Y Net News (Israeli) website reports that a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo's most prominent mosque yesterday (November 25, 2011) turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest, with attendants vowing "one day we'll kill all Jews."

Some 5,000 people joined the rally, called to promote the "battle against Jerusalem's Judaization." The event coincided with the anniversary of the United Nations' partition plan of 1947, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Speakers at the event delivered hateful speeches against Israel, slamming the "Zionist occupiers" and the "treacherous Jews."

Upon leaving the rally, worshipers were given small flags -- with Egypt's flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other -- as well as maps of Jerusalem's Old City detailing where "Zionists are aiming to change Jerusalem's Muslim character."

Army Removes Cross from Chapel in Afghanistan; Officials Say Permanent Cross Violates Army Regs

The Christian Post website reports today (November 26, 2011) that the U.S. Army has removed a cross that was prominently placed on the front of a chapel located at the remote base of Camp Marmal in Northern Afghanistan.

Although soldiers at the Central Asian base considered the cross to be an inspiring symbol, officials said that having a permanent sectarian image on the chapel violated army regulations.

One U.S. soldier referred to the decision -- and the regulation behind it -- as "a direct attack against Christianity and Judaism."

Joe Conn -- a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- told The Christian Post that the Army made the right decision. "The American military includes personnel from many different faith traditions and some who follow no spiritual path at all. That diversity should be respected," said Conn.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What a Turkey! Pres. Omits God in Weekly Speech; Obama Fails to Thank God in Thanksgiving Talk

Critics of President Obama felt little holiday cheer after the president did not thank God in his Thanksgiving-themed weekly Internet address, the ABC News website reports today (November 25, 2011).

On the website of Fox News Radio, radio host Todd Starnes wrote, "His remarks were void of any religious references, although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God."

The president said his family was "reflecting on how truly lucky we truly are," Starnes said.

"For many Americans, though, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on how blessed and thankful they are," Starnes added.

Two Reagan Statues Unveiled in Eastern Europe; Honored by Georgia, Poland, Ended Communism

The Free Republic website reports today (November 25, 2011) that a "park bench" monument dedicated to Cold War victor Ronald Reagan was unveiled yesterday in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Mikhail Saakashvili -- Georgia's pro-Western president -- proclaimed that the work "deserves a place in the heart of Tblisi," as he and his countrymen seek to honor Reagan for "destroying the Soviet empire."

In Poland, a new Reagan statue was dedicated near the U.S. Embassy earlier this month.

Lech Walesa -- the leader of Poland's Solidarity freedom movement in the early 1980s -- said, "Thirty years ago, defeating communism did not seem possible without a nuclear war." He added that the changes that occurred peacefully were the result of Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Pakistani Taliban Bombs Girls' School in Swabi; Seeks to Prevent Girls from Receiving Education

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports today (November 25, 2011) that the Taliban bombed yet another girls' school in Pakistan.

The explosion on November 14 in Swabi -- a rural agricultural region in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province -- was a violent reminder of the extremes that the Pakistani Taliban is willing to go in order to prevent girls from receiving an education.

The bomb was so powerful that it stopped clocks at the time of the blast -- nineteen minutes past midnight -- and left classrooms in ruins.

The Pakistani Taliban has bombed hundreds of schools since launching a campaign to topple the U.S.-backed government in 2007.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Journalist: Egypt Police Sexually Assaulted Me; Groped Every Part of My Body, Called Me a Whore

The Newser website reports today (November 24, 2011) that an Egyptian-American journalist says police in Cairo sexually assaulted her after arresting her during protests.

Mona Eltahawy's left arm and right hand were broken, and police "groped every part of my body and called me names, called me a whore," she said.

"Five or six surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area, and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers," she added.

"Eventually, they apologized for the police behavior and sent me home in a taxi," she noted.

Pakistan Mobile Networks to Ban "Jesus Christ;" Govt. Gives Phone Companies 7 Days to Block It

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is banning the name of Jesus Christ from any text message sent in the country, the World Net Daily website reports today.

The government's telecommunications agency has given mobile phone companies a list of 1,695 words, and informed them that they have seven days to implement filters in their systems that would block the transmission of the words.

The official list includes several English language slang terms for sexual acts, religious words, and other words that Pakistani religious authorities consider obscene.

Jonathan Racho -- of International Christian Concern -- said, "You have to remember that this is a government that controls a lot of activities in the country, including mobile companies."

Five Muslim Girls Beat 13-Year-Old Belgian Girl; Told Her "Return to Your Country," "Dirty Jew"

The Europe News website reports today (November 24, 2011) that five Muslim Moroccan girls in Belgium beat a 13-year-old classmate, called her a "dirty Jew," and told her to "return to your country."

The girl, Oceane Sluijzer, filed a complaint with police after the anti-Semitic attack at a sports training center.

The attackers were identified and questioned by police.

Jewish legislator Viviane Teitelbaum of Brussels denounced the "silence" of political leaders and most of the media after this attack.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

COMMENTARY: Time for the Catholic Church to Excommunicate Nancy Pelosi

This week, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Catholics for their pro-life position, and she promoted abortion in the U.S. House of Representatives, despite the fact that she herself is of the Roman Catholic faith.

Pelosi became upset with America's Catholic bishops this week, because they are protesting an Obama administration decision forcing insurance companies to cover birth control, contraception, and drugs that could induce abortions.

She said Catholics have "this conscience thing" that puts women at physical risk. She indicated that Catholics would prefer to have a woman die, rather than have an abortion.

Although Pelosi said, "I'm a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it," one would never know it from her extraordinary support of legislation that is in direct contrast to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Indeed, she is a thorn in the Catholic Church.

Some Catholic theologians believe that Pelosi should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion -- while others feel that she should be excommunicated from the Catholic Church -- because of her persistent support of abortion. Some also believe that Catholic bishops maintain a double standard by "looking the other way" when a person of power or prestige is in violation of Catholic Church doctrine.

At the same time, many Catholics refer to Pelosi as a "Cafeteria Catholic;" that is, she chooses which parts of the Catholic faith she will follow, and which parts she will not follow. Needless to say, this is a very sacrilegious and selfish route for a Catholic worshiper to follow.

In February 2009, Pelosi had a closed-door meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Pope Benedict spent almost the entire time of that 15-minute meeting talking to Pelosi about the right to life and the need to defend the unborn.

The Pope's words obviously had no effect on Pelosi's support of abortions. In fact, this week she was more adamant than ever in defending her anti-Catholic stance on abortions.

The Catholic hierarchy in the United States now has a responsibility to implement its canonical laws in excommunicating Nancy Pelosi from the Roman Catholic Church -- and the sooner it does so, the better.

Group Wants Cross Removed at Calif.Marine Base; Atheist Org. Claims Cross Violates US Constitution

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 23, 2011) that an atheist organization is demanding that a cross at a Marine base in San Diego, California be removed.

The 13-foot cross sits on a Camp Pendleton hilltop in honor of veterans and those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers claims the Christian symbol violates the U.S. Constitution.

The American Center for Law and Justice -- which is fighting for the cross to remain -- said, "The Constitution does not prohibit honoring fallen troops through the use of an historic symbol merely because that symbol also carries religious significance."

DSK Sues French Journals, Aide to Pres. Sarkozy; New Articles Say He May Have Visited Prostitutes

The France 24 website reports today (November 23, 2011) that former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- who was arrested in New York City last May and charged with trying to rape a hotel maid -- is now suing several newspapers and an adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy over reports about him.

His lawyers said they were pursuing French daily newspaper Le Figaro and several French magazines, as well as Henri Guaino, a senior Sarkozy adviser.

In the U.S. case, prosecutors dropped the attempted rape charges against Strauss-Kahn, because of several lies of the hotel maid that detectives noticed. When he returned to France, a French woman filed an attempted rape case against Strauss-Kahn, but that case was also dropped, because it occurred too long ago to be pursued in the courts.

Now, several French periodicals have been writing articles about a prostitution situation in northern France, in which Strauss-Kahn was allegedly involved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Catholics to Launch Shelter for Anglicans on Jan.1; Is a By-Product of Pope's 2009 Anglican Welcome

The Ethics Daily website reports today (November 22, 2011) that a new Roman Catholic structure for Anglican converts in the United States will be formally launched on January 1, 2012, according to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

The structure -- technically called an ordinariate -- will function like a non-geographic diocese. Converting congregations will be allowed to retain certain Anglican liturgical and ecclesiastical traditions, such as married priests.

Thus far, 67 Anglican clergy have applied for ordination as Catholic priests, and 35 have received initial approval from the Vatican, Cardinal Wuerl said.

Following England -- which created an Anglican ordinariate last January -- the U.S. will be the second since Pope Benedict XVI extended an unprecedented welcome to Anglicans (called Episcopalians in the United States) in 2009.

ADL Raps Wodka Vodka for NY Anti-Semitic Ad; Ad Refers to Hanukah to Imply Jews Are Cheap

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (November 22, 2011) that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka for reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The ads on several billboards feature two dogs -- one wearing a Santa cap and the other wearing a yarmulke -- with the message "Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing."

"In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday," Ron Meier, ADL's New York Regional Director, said in a statement today.

Meier added, "Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate."

Pelosi Bashes Catholics for "Conscience Thing;" Backs Abortion, Says She's "A Devout Catholic"

The Life News website reports today (November 22, 2011) that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bashed Catholics for their pro-life position yesterday, when she promoted abortion in defiance of Catholic Church teaching at every turn.

This time, Pelosi is upset that the nation's Catholic bishops are protesting a potential Obama administration decision forcing insurance companies to cover birth control, contraception, and drugs that could induce abortions.

Pelosi said, "I'm a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it ... but they have this conscience thing that puts women at physical risk, although Catholic providers strongly disagree."

Just how can Pelosi be a devout Catholic and honor her faith when, in fact, she promotes and supports legislation that is in defiance of Catholic Church teaching? Comments, anyone?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exclusive: Cardinal Law Replaced in Vatican Post; Was US Cardinal Known for Hiding Sexual Abuse

Cardinal Bernard Law -- the American prelate most closely identified with the sex-abuse scandal -- has been removed from a ceremonial post at the Vatican, according to the Catholic Culture website.

On November 21, 2011, the Vatican press office announced -- without mentioning Cardinal Law's name -- that Archbishop Santos Abril Castello had been approved Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The post had been held by Cardinal Law, now 80 years old, since 2004.

In December 2002, Cardinal Law resigned his post as Archbishop of Boston, after an investigation -- led by the Boston Globe -- revealed that the cardinal had knowingly given new pastoral assignments to several abusive priests, while covering up evidence of their misconduct.

Saudi Arabia Now Requires Women to Cover Eyes; Failure to Do So Can Result in Public Floggings

The Asia News website reports today (November 21, 2011) that Saudi Arabian women with attractive eyes may be forced to cover them up, according to a report in the Saudi news website, "Bikya Masr."

In the report, Sheikh Motlab al Nabet -- a spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice -- is quoted as saying the committee had the right to stop women revealing "tempting" eyes in public.

Women in Saudi Arabia already have to cover their hair, and, in some regions, their faces while in public. If they do not, they face punishments, including fines and public floggings.

Al-Qaida Sympathizer Accused of NYC Bomb Plot; Islam Convert About to Bomb Police, Post Offices

The Associated Press website reports that an al-Qaida sympathizer accused of plotting to bomb police and post offices in New York City -- as well as U.S. troops returning home -- remains in police custody, after an arraignment on several terrorism-related charges today (November 21, 2011).

Jose Pimentel, 27, of Manhattan -- a convert to Islam -- was motivated by terrorist propaganda and resentment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on November 19, because he was ready to carry out his plan.

New York police had Pimentel -- a U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic -- under surveillance for more than a year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Abp. of Canterbury Is Victim of Economic Crisis; Publisher Seeks to Write Off Money He Is Owed

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has consistently argued that rich nations should forgive the debts of poorer ones. Now, he faces a costly dilemma of his own, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (November 20, 2011).

His publisher, Darton, Longman and Todd, is struggling to pay off its debts and is seeking a company voluntary arrangement, which could mean the archbishop being asked to write off 75 percent of the 15,000 pounds that he is owed.

The publisher has brought out several of Dr. Williams's books, including "Resurrection: Why Study the Past?" and "Open to Judgement."

Muslim Protesters Demand End of Surveillance; NYC Mayor Allows It to Prevent Terrorist Attack

The Voice of America News website reports today (November 20, 2011) that hundreds of Muslims staged a rally and public prayers in New York City on November 18, to protest alleged ethnic and religious profiling in their community by the city's police department.

Demonstrators gathered in New York's Foley Square chanting for an end to surveillance.

They also held signs condemning the New York City Police Department for allegedly infiltrating mosques, spying on Muslim student groups, cataloguing Middle Eastern restaurants, and compiling data on Arab cab drivers.

The profiling of Muslims in New York City came to light recently, as a result of an investigative report made public by the Associated Press. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has authorized the use of undercover police and intelligence officials to infiltrate Islamic institutions, in an effort to ensure that there will not be another Muslim terrorist attack in the city.

Pope Ends African Trip with Huge Mass in Benin; Some 50,000 Fill Stadium for Benedict's Mass

Pope Benedict XVI ended his second trip to Africa today (November 20, 2011) with a mass for tens of thousands in the voodoo heartland of Benin and by issuing a grand vision for his Church's future on the continent, according to the Yahoo News website.

Benedict left the West African nation following a three-day visit that saw him denounce corruption, label AIDS a mainly ethical problem, and encourage Africans to seek reconciliation in the face of conflicts.

For Sunday's mass celebrated by Benedict, some 50,000 people filled a stadium in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin.

Officials estimated another 30,000 people watched from outside the stadium, with the pope's mass projected onto giant screens.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

COMMENTARY: Vatican Should Pursue Libelous Lawsuit to End Benetton's Disgusting Images

Benetton, an Italian clothing company, presented several disgusting images this week in a new advertising campaign. One of these images shows Pope Benedict XVI kissing a Muslim imam on the lips.

Benetton's advertising theme this year is titled "UNHATE," thus explaining the reason for its image of the Pope and imam kissing. Nonetheless, this kind of image is totally uncalled for, and shows a lack of respect by Benetton toward both Catholicism and Islam.

The Vatican -- just one day after the image was released at a press conference in Paris -- took legal action against the Italian clothing company by demanding it end its circulation of the Pope's image. Benetton quickly removed the image from its advertising campaign.

We believe that the Vatican should pursue this defamatory photo with a libelous lawsuit against Benetton. A fine of several million dollars -- which is a fair amount for this defamatory photo -- would deter the Italian clothing company from displaying disgusting photos in the future.

Indeed, Benetton's disgusting images for promoting its clothing -- something it has done for decades -- must now end.

Report: Levels of Anti-Semitism Rising in Italy; Also Shows 44 Percent of Italians Hostile to Jews

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (November 19, 2011) that a report released last month by the Italian Chamber of Deputies' Committee for Inquiry into Anti-Semitism found mounting levels of anti-Semitism in the country.

The parliamentary report cited a 2008 study by Italy's Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation showing that 44 percent of Italians express attitudes and opinions "in some way hostile to Jews," and that 12 percent are "fully fledged anti-Semites."

It also revealed a dramatic increase of anti-Semitic websites and social networks, and a level of hatred against Israel that the report says goes far beyond the limits of legitimate criticism.

Silvio Berlusconi's resignation as Italian prime minister last week was jeered and cheered by many Italians, including Jews. Berlusconi -- a 75-year-old billionaire womanizer -- was notorious for telling "Jewish jokes," making tasteless references to the Holocaust, and often committing social blunders on Jewish matters.

Rep. to Muslims: "Go Back to Where You Came From;" Tenn. Rep.'s Bigotry on Radio Infuriates Muslims

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (November 19, 2011) that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called state and national GOP leaders yesterday to demand the resignation of a Tennessee lawmaker, after he suggested in a radio interview that U.S. Muslims should "go back to where they came from" if they objected to his recent call for the removal of all Muslims serving in the military.

CAIR -- a Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization -- said Republican State Rep. Rick Womick's "bigoted and un-American" views render him incapable of fairly representing the people of Tennessee.

Ibrahim Hooper -- CAIR National Communications Director -- said, "His (Womick's) understanding of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause is obviously too flawed for him to fairly and effectively represent all the citizens of Tennessee."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pat Robertson: Obama Has a "Muslim Inclination;" Says Obama May Have Warped View of US Needs

The Huffington Post website reports today (November 18, 2011) that televangelist Pat Robertson revived conspirational talk about President Obama's childhood yesterday, claiming that Obama was driven by some sort of "Muslim inclination" because of his upbringing in Indonesia.

"I don't know if he was trained in a madrassa, one of those Muslim schools, but nevertheless that is his inclination," Robertson said, during a discussion about Obama attending the ASEAN conference in Indonesia this week.

"His father was a Kenyan socialist and he talks about the roots of his father. So he's got an African and an Indonesian background," Robertson said.

He added, "This may give him (Obama) a warped perspective of what needs to be done to make America the greatest nation on earth."

Cardinal Donates Vienna Church to Serb Community; Vatican OKs Transfer to Serbian Orthodox Diocese

The head of Austria's Roman Catholic Church has agreed to give one of his parish churches to Orthodox Christians, after an appeal against the decision by local Catholics was rejected by the Vatican on November 11, 2011, according to the Ekklesia website.

In October 2011, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn said he had decided to merge two neighboring parishes in Vienna so that the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows could be taken over by the Serbian Orthodox Church's Diocese of Central Europe.

However, the move was protested by local Roman Catholics, including Poles who attended Polish-language services in the church and who staged demonstrations outside Vienna's St. Stefan Cathedral.

In an open letter, Schonborn said he had promised to donate the church after determining it could no longer be maintained by its declining Roman Catholic congregation, adding that he had arranged Polish services in other local churches.

The cardinal said he believed Roman Catholics should "help sister churches in a spirit of Christian solidarity," and would rather give churches to a denomination with which they had "so much in common" than sell them for use as restaurants or discos.

"I am aware this is a painful decision for people connected with this place. But the churches we own were built in other times in the expectation that there would be more Catholics," he said.

A Serbian Orthodox spokesman, Mirko Kolundzic, welcomed the cardinal's ecumenical gesture, adding that the request for a church had been made directly by Patriarch Irinej of Serbia after his 2010 installation. About 160,000 Orthodox Serbs live in and around Vienna.

Catholics Buy Bankrupt Mega-Crystal Cathedral; Orange County Calif. Diocese Pays $57.5M for It

The Los Angeles Times website reports today (November 18, 2011) that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, California is buying the Protestant megachurch the Christian Cathedral for $57.5 million.

The formerly Protestant Crystal Cathedral -- which filed for bankruptcy last year -- is a monument of 20th century modernist architecture.

Rev. Robert Schuller, 85, founded his ministry there half a century ago.

The Catholic News Agency reports there are more than a million Catholics in Orange County.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Willie Nelson Says It's Time for Rich to Pay Taxes; Is "Proud" of People in Occupy Wall St. Movement

The Raw Story website reports today (November 17, 2011) that country music legend Willie Nelson said yesterday that he is "proud" of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"Once the people have had enough, they start speaking and they'll start doing what they are doing. I'm proud of them for doing it," Nelson said in a TV interview.

"I pay my taxes, and some of those guys up there (on Wall Street) don't," he noted.

He added that he is furious at people who make millions of dollars a year and pay little or no taxes.

Irish Nun Blew Almost $1M in Gambling Sprees; Stole Money as Iona College Financial Aid Officer

The Irish Central website reports today (November 17, 2011) that an Irish nun landed in solitary confinement in her convent -- but avoided a jail term -- after admitting she blew $850,000 in gambling sprees.

The nun admitted to stealing the money from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, where she worked as a financial aid officer.

Sister Marie Thornton -- better known as Sister Susie -- wore her Celtic cross around her neck as she pleaded guilty to the charges, but Judge Kimba Wood decided she was being punished enough by her solitary confinement in a Philadelphia nunnery.

Almost every weekend for 10 years -- until 2009 -- Sister Susie would drive to Atlantic City, New Jersey and use college credit cards to gamble. She was losing $2,000 to $5,000 a visit, prosecutors said.

Vatican Takes Legal Action against Benetton Ad; Ad Shows Benedict Kissing a Muslim Imam on Lips

The Catholic News Agency website reports that the Vatican today (November 17,2011) took legal action against Italian clothing company Benetton to prevent the circulation of an ad featuring Pope Benedict XVI kissing a Muslim imam on the lips.

The legal move on November 17 comes one day after Benetton hastily withdrew the image from a new advertising campaign following protests from both the Catholic and Islamic religions.

The image was used as part of a new advertising campaign by Benetton titled "UNHATE" which was launched yesterday at a press conference in Paris.

Benetton is an Italian-based fashion company with about 6,000 stores in 120 countries. It has become known in recent decades for the shock value of its advertising stunts.

Calif. High Court Rules in Favor of State's Prop.8; Allows Anti-Gay-Marriage Amend. to Be Defended

In a defeat for gay-rights groups, California's Supreme Court ruled today (November 17, 2011) that the state's anti-gay-marriage amendment (Proposition 8) could be legally defended in court, even if the state refused to enforce it.

According to the Daily Beast website, the ruling will most likely send gay-rights groups to federal court to decide whether state marriage bans are constitutional.

While the California governor and attorney general had refused to enforce the gay-marriage ban, state officials challenged it to keep it in the books.

A judge had ruled last December that the ban is unconstitutional.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

COMMENTARY: Israel's Holding $100 Million in Palestinian Taxes Will Not Affect Palestine's UN Goal

Israeli Cabinet ministers voted this week to hold onto some $100 million in taxes owed to the Palestinians, despite warnings from Israel's Defense Ministry that the measure could threaten the stability of the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Israel stopped the transfer of tax funds as a "punishment" for Palestine being admitted into UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization -- which was part of an unsuccessful attempt to be admitted as a state in the UN.

Israel believes that creation of a Palestinian state must be achieved through negotiations, and charges the UN bid is designed to bring unwarranted pressure on the Jewish nation.

Israel's decision to hold onto the tax money may come back to haunt it, since Mahmoud Abass's moderate Palestinian Authority -- which employs thousands of people -- has helped to prevent attacks on Israelis, and has won praise from Israel and the United States. Palestine's inability to pay these people -- due to Israel's holding onto Palestinian taxes -- may result in a loss of these security forces, and a significant increase in attacks on Israelis.

In any event, Israel's decision to hold some $100 million in taxes owed to Palestinians is a punishment that really has nothing to do with the "crime" of Palestine's new membership in UNESCO. It will, in fact, result in having a greater negative impact on Israel itself -- rather than Palestine -- because world public opinion will view it as an Israeli inhumane act of cowardice.

Moreover, it will not deter Palestine from moving forward to achieve "non-member state observer" status in the UN General Assembly, which it will most likely achieve.

In a similar scenario, the United States -- Israel's closest ally -- had threatened to end its funding of about 20 percent of UNESCO's expenses if it admitted Palestine. The U.S. threat obviously had no impact on UNESCO or its member nations.

This week's Israeli "punishment" of Palestine also will have no impact on Palestine, as it decides what action it will now take in its plans to become an affiliate of the UN General Assembly.

All in all, both the United States and Israel should know better than to try to buy off an organization or a nation, in an effort to force it to comply with their ideology, instead of maintaining its own.

Nazi-Symbol Vase Laid on Hitler's Parents' Grave; Vase Has "Unforgettable" and "SS" Inscribed on It

The Austrian Times website reports today (November 16, 2011) that an unidentified visitor to a cemetery in Leonding, Austria has placed a vase on the grave of Adolph Hitler's parents -- engraved with the word "unforgettable" and the letters "SS." ("SS" refers to the Nazi soldiers who served as Hitler's bodyguard.)

According to the state office for protection, the visitor posed as a Viennese artist and "Hitler's grandson."

An increasing number of German skinheads have held vigils around this grave.

Parish Priest Kurt Pittertschatsche -- who is trying to encourage a legal review in the diocese -- said, "We want to find out who the grave belongs to and how often such incidents have occurred."

Study: Rel. Services Make Some Women Happier; 56 Percent More Optimistic Than Non-Attendants

The Ethics Daily website reports today (November 16, 2011) that a new study in the Journal of Religion and Health suggests that there is a link between optimism and attendance at religious services.

"We looked at the religious practices of nearly 100,000 women and found a strong connection between going to church or synagogue or any other house of worship and a positive outlook on life," said Eliezer Schnall, clinical associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University.

Those who attended services frequently were 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic outlook than those who did not, and were 27 percent less likely to be depressed, according to the study.

Schnall's research is in agreement with several other studies that associate church attendance with happiness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Robbers Break into Buffalo, NY Orthodox Church; Steal 1933 Holy Gospel, Roof Copper Worth $6000

The Christian Post website reports today (November 15, 2011) that a silver-gilded Holy Gospel book dating back to 1933 and other items that were stolen from a church in Buffalo, New York, have parishioners and church leaders devastated.

Robbers broke into the Saints Peter and Paul Eastern Orthodox Church in Lovejoy on November 12, and also stole more than $6,000 worth of copper that lined the roof of the church.

For the church, the greatest loss was the Holy Gospel book, much more so than the thousands of dollars worth of copper stolen.

"It's hard to even put a value on that book that was used in prayer here for many years," said Father Volodymer Zablotskyy, church pastor.

Israel Will Hold $100M in Taxes from Palestinians; A Punishment for Palestine's UNESCO Admission

The Washington Post website reports today (November 15, 2011) that the Israeli Cabinet ministers decided yesterday to hold on to about $100 million in taxes owed to the Palestinians, despite warnings from Israel's Defense Ministry that the measure could threaten the stability of the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Israel stopped transfer of tax funds as punishment for the Palestinians' successful bid for admission to UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization -- which was part of an unsuccessful larger effort to gain admission as a state in the world body.

Israel believes creation of a Palestinian state must be achieved through negotiations, and charges that the UN bid is one of a series of steps to bring unwarranted pressure on the Jewish state.

Israeli defense officials have warned that funding cutoffs threaten Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's moderate Palestinian Authority.

Muslims Outraged Over Pig Parts at Mosque Site; Dumped at Site of Proposed Mosque in Switzerland

Muslims in Switzerland are responding with shock and outrage after a pig carcass and severed swine heads were discovered buried at the site of a proposed mosque, the Europe News website reports today (November 15, 2011).

Police in the town of Grenchen uncovered the pigs on November 11, after they received an anonymous message claiming someone had buried the body parts and spilled 120 liters of blood from pigs, in an effort to desecrate the ground to halt the construction of the mosque.

Thomas Suber -- chief of the Solothurn Canton police -- said there are no suspects.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Throng of Kosovo Serbs Seek Russian Citizenship; 21,733 Request Citizenship for Russian Protection

The Russian website RIA Novosti reports on November 15, 2011 that more than 21,000 Kosovo Serbs have applied for Russian citizenship, according to Zlatibor Djordjevic, a spokesman for the Old Serbia movement.

"We have handed over 21,733 Russian citizenship requests to the Russian embassy in Belgrade," Djordjevic said.

He said the letter -- addressed to the Russian State Duma -- will be delivered to the lower chamber of the Russian parliament via the Foreign Ministry. Djordjevic added that more Serbs may turn to Russia for protection.

"By all possible means, we tried to get protection from our country, but it pushes us back into the state which we refuse to recognize," Djordjevic said.

Kosovo -- a state comprised mainly of Albanian Muslims -- seceded and declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. About 10 percent of Kosovo's two million people are Serbs, who are primarily of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Over 3,000 Girls in Germany Are Forced to Marry; Mostly Children of Muslims, A Third Under Age 17

The Europe News website reports today (November 14, 2011) that more than 3,000 women and girls in Germany -- mostly from Muslim families -- faced forced marriage in the course of a year, according to official research released today.

The first federal study of its kind found 3,443 recorded cases in 2008 -- the most recent year with sufficient data -- in which people living in Germany were forced to wed or threatened with a forced marriage.

Most were between the ages of 18 and 21, but a third of them were under the age of 17.

Almost all were female and children of staunchly religious immigrant families.

National Cathedral in DC Reopens after 10 Weeks; Had Been Closed Due to Aug. Earthquake Damage

The Religion News Service website reports today (November 14, 2011) that the Washington National Cathedral -- which was closed since being damaged by an earthquake last August -- reopened on Saturday (November 12) with a private ceremony to install D.C.'s ninth Episcopal bishop.

The first event at the newly reopened cathedral was the consecration of Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde -- the first woman to serve as Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C.

Budde was seated on Sunday (November 13) at the cathedral's first public worship ceremony in the 10 weeks since its closing.

The cathedral is now stabilized, but repairing the damage caused by the earthquake will take years, and will cost more than $15 million.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

COMMENTARY: Vatican Press Office Needs to Be Sincere in Describing Pope's Health

An Italian journalist revealed last week that Pope Benedict XVI's legs have been diagnosed as having arthrosis -- a degenerative disease caused by erosion of cartilage in joints over time.

The onset of arthrosis means Pope Benedict, 84, can move only short distances, because it becomes extremely painful to continue walking.

Last month, the news that the Pope was towed into St. Peter's Basilica on a rolling platform shocked many people. The Vatican press office only said the platform was used "to alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father."

The Vatican press office needs to be more sincere and honest in describing the Pope's physical condition. "To alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father" is indeed an insincere half-truth description -- even a dishonest one -- of the Pope's arthrosis problem.

Is the Vatican press office afraid that revealing the real reason for the Pope's difficulty in walking will stigmatize the Pope? It should know better than that.

In a similar situation, the Vatican press office refused to confirm that Pope John Paul II -- who died in 2005 at the age of 84 -- had Parkinson's disease for at least a year after he first had it. Many people realized that Pope John Paul had Parkinson's disease -- just by seeing him on television -- for many months before the Vatican press office confirmed it.

The Vatican press office, then, needs to establish a new modus operandi in disseminating news regarding the Pope's health. It must be honest, sincere, and thorough.

Deteriorating health of a person -- especially an elderly person -- should not be considered a stigma that must be kept secret. Rather, it should be viewed as a natural phenomenon of life that occurs in most people when they are octogenarians -- if not earlier -- as a part of the aging process.

The Vatican press office needs to realize this, and become more honest, sincere, and thorough when it describes the health of a Pope.

Pope: God Has Given People Talents and Mission; Addresses Crowds below Palace in St. Peter's Sq.

Pope Benedict XVI used his Sunday Angelus address today (November 13, 2011) to remind people that God has given everybody both talents and a mission in life, according to the Catholic News Agency website.

"God calls all men to life and bestows him with talents, while entrusting him with a mission to accomplish," said the Pope from the window of his Apostolic Palace to the crowds gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope added, "It would be foolish to think that these gifts are due to us, just as our failing to use them would be a dereliction of the goal of our very existence."

The Pope drew his observations from Sunday's Gospel passage from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells the parable of the master who goes on a long journey and gives talents to three servants.

NYC Police Probe Car Fires, Swastikas on Benches; Hate Crime Occurred in Jewish Section of Brooklyn

The Reuters website reports today (November 13, 2011) that New York City police responded to 911 calls reporting cars ablaze early on November 11. When they arrived, police found three cars on fire.

Another vehicle -- a red van -- had "KKK" spray painted on it, representing the racist group Ku Klux Klan.

Police also found eight benches with Nazi swastikas spray painted on them.

"The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is actively investigating the twisted person or people who attacked the cars, benches, and a sidewalk on a block of Ocean Parkway," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Police have no suspects.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Exclusive: Israel Won't Tell US of Attack on Iran; Obama Upset, Increases US Monitoring of Israel

Israel has refused to reassure U.S. President Barack Obama that it would warn him in advance of any pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear capabilities, the Telegraph (British) website reports exclusively today (November 12, 2011).

Informed sources say Obama was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to "seek Washington's permission."

Last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta flew to Israel and met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and he told them that President Obama wanted a guarantee that Israel would not attack Iran without notifying Washington in advance. Neither Israeli agreed to such a guarantee.

Upset by the Israeli response, Obama reportedly ordered U.S. intelligence to increase its monitoring of the Israeli military's tactical activities.

Nov. 13 Is Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church; To Focus on Christians Persecuted for Their Faith

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today that this Sunday (November 13, 2011) Christians around the world will gather in honor of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

The Voice of the Martyrs said the day is to "focus our prayers on the thousands of Christians around the world who are persecuted and martyred for their Christian faith."

The persecution watch group developed outreach kits for churches wanting to hold special events for the day of prayer.

In the United States, some churches plan to show a video about Padina -- an Iranian woman who left Islam for Christ after making a phone call to a Christian television show.

Arab League Suspends Syria, Calls for Sanctions; Approves Withdrawal of Ambassadors from Syria

The France 24 website reports that the Arab League today (November 12, 2011) suspended Syria until President Bashar al-Assad implements an Arab deal to end violence against protesters, and called for sanctions and transition talks with the opposition.

A statement said the League decided "to suspend Syrian delegations' activities in Arab League meetings" if it continued to stall the Arab plan and to implement "economic and political sanctions against the Syrian government."

It also called for withdrawal of Arab ambassadors from Damascus, but left that decision to each Arab state.

The decision will take effect on November 16.

Friday, November 11, 2011

UN Sec. Council Rejects Palestine Membership; Palestine May Seek "Non-Member State" Observer

The Voice of America News website reports that a Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership today (November 11, 2011) failed to win approval in the UN Security Council committee that deals with new members.

The Palestinians now will probably go to the UN General Assembly where they hold observer status as an "entity," and if they get a two-thirds majority approval -- which is very likely -- they will upgrade to "non-member state" observer.

This would expand their ability to participate in UN activities, such as being signatories to some international treaties.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said that the Palestinian leadership -- together with its Arab and other partners -- would decide what UN route to take in the coming weeks.

Anti-Semitism Is Alive and Growing in Germany; Report: Anti-Semitism Found in 20 Percent of Pop.

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports that findings were revealed today (November 11, 2011) in a new report from a panel of experts commissioned by the German government on the status of persistent anti-Semitism in the country.

Whether in private circles, at the pub, on the playground, in the football stadium, or online, the report showed anti-Semitism is a fact of life for Jews living in Germany.

Although it is officially illegal in Germany, anti-Semitic sentiment is found in around 20 percent of the population in one form or another, according to the findings.

Those responsible for carrying out 90 percent of anti-Semitic crimes were described as "right-wing extremists." Police statistics show they are mainly charged with making provocative comments, desecrating Jewish cemeteries, Holocaust denial, and anti-Semitic assaults.

Islamic Radicals Kill Afghan Mother and Daughter; Stoned, Shot by Two Men for "Immoral Activities"

A mother and daughter were stoned and shot dead today (November 11, 2011) in their home in eastern Afghanistan by two armed men, according to the Global Post website.

The men -- who accused the young widow and her daughter of "immoral activities" -- entered their home in Ghazni at about 4:00 a.m.

Security officials said the men took the pair out to the yard, where they were first stoned, and then shot dead.

Ghazni police chief Zilawar Zahid said the Taliban was responsible, and that the two men were arrested. Islamic law (Shariah) allows women to be stoned to death, if they are convicted in a court of law for having committed adultery or other immoral acts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Britain Bans "Muslims Against Crusades" Group; Group Planned to Stage Demonstration on Nov. 11

The Ecumenical News International website reports that Theresa May -- Britain's Home Secretary -- announced today (November 10, 2011) that an extremist Islamist group called "Muslims Against Crusades" will be banned starting at midnight.

The parliamentary order -- handed down in London -- will make membership in the group a criminal offense.

The group had planned to stage a demonstration on November 11 called Hell for Heroes.

November 11 is the day millions of Britons honor the dead of two world wars and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Exclusive: Pope Benedict Suffers from Weak Legs; Vatican Silent on His Degenerative Joint Condition

The Catholic Culture website reports today (November 10, 2011) that Pope Benedict XVI suffers from a degenerative joint condition in his legs.

The Vatican did not disclose this condition of the Pope; however, journalist Andrea Tornielli revealed it to the Catholic Culture website.

In October, the news that the Pope was towed into St. Peter's Basilica on a rolling platform was alarming. The official announcement from the Vatican press office only said the platform was used "to alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father."

A degenerative joint condition can be painful, but it is not life-threatening. Nonetheless, the Vatican has kept Pope Benedict's condition secretive, just as it had refused to confirm that Pope John Paul II had Parkinson's disease.

Ex-Israeli President Will Serve 7 Years for Rape; Court Ruling Seen as Triumph for Women's Rights

Israel's Supreme Court yesterday (November 9, 2011) ordered former President Moshe Katsav to spend seven years in prison, after rejecting his appeal of a rape conviction and other sex crimes, according to the Associated Press website.

The unanimous decision of the three-judge panel ended with Katsav becoming the highest-ranking Israeli official ever sentenced to prison. He will start serving his sentence on December 7.

The ruling was seen as a major triumph for women's rights, and for a legal system willing to take on some of Israel's most influential figures.

Katsav, 65, was convicted by a lower court last December of raping a former employee when he was a Cabinet minister, and of sexually harassing two other women during his term as president from 2000 to 2007.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

COMMENTARY: Obama Administration Needs to Recognize the Power of Prayer

Last week, Congress discussed legislation that would add President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Sadly, at a House hearing on November 3, Robert Abbey -- director of the Bureau of Land Management -- said an inscription that President Roosevelt read on radio broadcast (Television was almost non-existent then.) to the nation on June 4, 1944, would "dilute" the memorial's central message.

In his prayer, President Roosevelt asked God to give our troops the courage they needed to defeat Nazi Germany. More than 160,000 Allied troops crossed a strip of sea from England to Normandy in France on June 6, 1944.

God did give the Allied troops the courage they needed, since they were able to defeat the Nazis and free France from Nazi Germany's control. Indeed, the success of the Allied troops on D-Day was critical, in that it marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and World War II.

Consequently, adding President Roosevelt's prayer to the World War II Memorial would not "dilute" the memorial's central message -- as conceived by the Obama administration -- but would, in fact, enhance it.

US Commission: Pakistani Schools Teach Hatred; Teachers Say Hindus, Christians Enemies of Islam

A new government study released today (November 9, 2011) reveals Pakistan's educational system encourages radical Islam, according to the Christian Broadcast Network website.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said the country's textbooks and teachers are biased against non-Muslims and foster "prejudice and intolerance" of Hindus and Christians.

"Teaching discrimination increases likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security," Commission Chairman Leonard Leo said.

The report specifically said that Pakistani teachers view religious minorities -- especially Hindus and Christians -- as "enemies of Islam."

Women's Rights Activist Goes Topless at Vatican; Belongs to Ukrainian Women's Group "Femen"

The Clerical Whispers website reports today (November 9, 2011) that a young Ukrainian women's rights activist sneaked past security and partially stripped in front of St. Peter's Basilica last Sunday, just after the Pope's church service.

She brandished a black placard demanding "Freedom for Women" and then took her top off.

Italian police eventually subdued the topless activist, who was kicking and screaming as they dragged her away from the papal enclave under the bewildered gaze of the faithful and tourists.

She belongs to the Ukrainian women's rights group called "Femen" or "Topless Fighter," which campaigns against sexism, and whose topless tactics have attracted increasing public attention during the past three years.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

French President Sarkozy Calls Netanyahu a Liar; Obama: "....But I Have to Deal with It All Day"

The Big News Network website reports today (November 8, 2011) that a private conversation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama -- who did not realize that reporters could hear them -- reveals that Sarkozy referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "a liar."

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy reportedly told Obama. The exchange took place while Obama was berating Sarkozy for backing the Palestinian bid for membership in UNESCO.

"You're fed up," Obama replied, "but I have to deal with it all day."

A technical hitch allowed reporters to listen in on the private conversation, which took place at the G20 summit meeting on November 3. In a show of respect for the privacy of the two presidents, the press did not disseminate this information to the public -- until today when a French website first revealed it.

W. Hollywood Passes First US Ban on Sale of Fur; Felt Sorry for Animals That Are Inhumanely Killed

Putting animal rights over fashion and its own vibrant shopping scene, West Hollywood's leaders gave final approval today (November 8, 2011) to a first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of fur clothing within city limits, according to the Reuters website.

The five-member city council of the tiny municipality -- wedged between Beverly Hills and Hollywood -- voted 3 to 1 with one abstention to approve the ordinance.

The fur ban takes effect in 2013.

The ban was approved as a result of supporters' arguments that furs are produced from animals that are inhumanely killed for their pelts.

IAEA: Iran Worked on Dev. Nuclear Weapon; Ties Iran's Nuclear Program to Weapons Production

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website reports today (November 8, 2011) that the UN atomic agency charges -- in a report just released today -- that Iran has worked on developing a nuclear weapon design and other research and testing relevant for such arms.

The report marks the first time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has directly tied Iran's nuclear program to weapons production.

"The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device," the IAEA says in the new report by Director-General Yukiya Amano.

The document also says that those activities may be continuing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exclusive: Israel Attack on Iran Seems Imminent; Believes Iran May Already Have Nuclear Weapon

The New American website reports today (November 7, 2011) that an Israeli attack on Iran is becoming increasingly imminent, and that officials in the United States are concerned that they may not be informed before Israel attacks Iran.

American intelligence sources indicate that senior Israeli ministers -- who once opposed a military strike against Iran -- are now supporting such an endeavor. Israeli President Shimon Peres warns that indeed such an attack may soon occur.

The American sources further indicate that Israeli officials have been swayed by updates on the progress Iran has made recently toward building a nuclear program.

Members of the Obama administration claim that Israel's change of heart is based on the belief that Iran may already possess a nuclear weapon.

Most Rel. Colleges Don't Recognize Atheist Clubs; Secular Student Alliance Has 320 College Chapters

While making more accommodations for religious minorities at their facilities, most Christian colleges draw the line at atheism, the Christian Post website reports today (November 7, 2011).

Earlier this year, Notre Dame University (NDU) -- which has a Muslim Student Association and a Jewish Club -- rejected an application to create a Secular Student Alliance chapter.

Dennis Brown -- assistant vice president of Public Information and Communications for NDU -- said the university policy is that a student organization's goals must not contradict the mission of the university or the Roman Catholic teaching.

The Secular Student Alliance -- which was founded in May of 2000 -- has around 320 college chapters in the United States.

Vandals Leave Huge Reagan Statue Leaning Left; May Have Tried to Steal It for Scrap Metal Money

A larger-than-life statue of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan has been removed from Bonita Canyon Sports Park in Newport Beach, California after it was damaged by vandals, the Raw Story website reports today (November 7, 2011).

The thieves attempted to steal the bronze statue -- using a chain and truck -- according to Newport Beach police. City crews removed the statue, because it was leaning forward and to the left.

"Either someone really didn't like Reagan or they tried to steal it so they could sell it for scrap metal," police Sgt. Kirk Jacobi explained.

The statue was dedicated on October 9, in honor of Reagan's 100th birthday.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

French Weekly HQ Burnt for Mohammad Cartoon; Magazine Cover Had Muhammad as Guest Editor

The Taiwan News website reports today (November 6, 2011) that the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo -- a satirical weekly French magazine -- were burnt down in a bomb attack on November 2, after it published an issue with a caricature of the Islamic prophet Muhammad on the cover.

The issue -- entitled "Charia" Hebdo (a word play on the Muslim Shariah law) -- was published in response to the victory of an Islamist party in Tunisian elections with the prophet Muhammad depicted as its "guest editor."

Stephane Charbonnier -- the magazine's real editor -- said a Molotov cocktail had been thrown through a window to start the fire.

"The stocks are burned, smoke is everywhere, the paste-up board is unusable, everything is melted, and there is no more electricity," Charbonnier said.

Pakistan Indicts 7 Men in Bhutto Murder Case; Bhutto Was First Female PM of a Muslim Nation

The Raw Story website reports that yesterday (November 5, 2011) a Pakistani court indicted five Islamist militants and two police officers in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto -- the first female prime minister in the Muslim world -- was killed in a gun and suicide attack in 2007.

An anti-terrorism court indicted the seven men in a hearing held behind closed doors in the city of Rawalpindi for security reasons.

"They have been charged with conspiracy as well as abetment in the murder," Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a government prosecutor said.

Obama Admin. Opposes FDR Prayer on Memorial; FDR Asked God to Help Our Troops Defeat Nazis

The Obama administration is opposing congressional legislation to add President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day prayer to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 6, 2011).

At a House hearing on November 3, Robert Abbey -- director of the Bureau of Land Management-- said a plaque or inscription of the prayer that Roosevelt read on radio broadcast to the nation on June 6, 1944, would "dilute" the memorial's central message.

In his prayer, President Roosevelt asked God to give our troops the courage to defeat Nazi Germany.

"This prayer came at a perilous time. Yet, it was answered in victory at a dear cost of lives," 87-year-old George Fowler -- a World War II veteran -- told a House committee.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

COMMENTARY: Christians Can Learn Lesson from Devilish Column in "The Pilot"

"The Pilot," the Archdiocese of Boston's official weekly newspaper -- and the oldest Roman Catholic newspaper in the United States -- gained worldwide attention this week, as a result of one of its columnist's writing in last week's issue that the devil may be responsible for gay attraction.

Daniel Avila -- who was policy adviser for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) until yesterday (November 4) when he resigned -- had written in "The Pilot" that "the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil."

Needless to say, Avila's statement on the devil stunned many readers of "The Pilot." Moreover, it infuriated gays and lesbians, who considered Avila's statement to be an unfair and untrue assessment of their lifestyle.

"The Pilot" retracted Avila's statement, and Avila apologized to its readers for writing it this week. But the damage had already been done, and Avila was forced to resign his position at the USCCB on November 4.

There is an important lesson for all Christians to learn from this scenario. It is that we must not judge and condemn the lifestyle of others, even though we may not approve of that lifestyle ourselves.

Christ would want us to love our fellow brothers -- regardless of their lifestyle -- rather than condemning them.

Indeed, Christ's final words while He was crucified, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," clearly illustrates His forgiveness and love of humanity.

Jehovah's Witnesses Head Guilty of "Extremism;" Russian Govt. Says Group Undermines Civic Life

The Spero Forum website reports today (November 5, 2011) that a court in Russia's Altai region has found the head of the local community of Jehovah's Witnesses guilty of "extremism," sentencing him to 100 hours of community service.

Investigators opened an investigation on Alexander Kalistratov, after he published 48 articles of religious content of a "very extreme nature," which aimed to discredit other religions.

The case is the latest in a long series that sees the Jehovah's Witnesses under the watchful eyes of the Russian authorities.

With about 200,000 Jehovah's Witnesses scattered throughout Russia, they are accused of "sectarianism, religious extremism, incitement of social isolation, and behaviors that undermine the country's civic life."

Rel. Communities in Thailand Respond to Floods; "Temple of the Golden Mount" Offers Counseling

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (November 5, 2011) that religious communities in Thailand are responding to a continuing flood crisis resulting from heavy monsoon rains in the last three months.

At least 373 people have died, and flooding has reached the capital city of Bangkok.

Wat Sa Ket -- or "the Temple of the Golden Mount" in Bangkok -- is offering counseling to flood victims.

The National Office of Buddhism has mobilized some 200 monks "with training in Buddhist psychology and counseling" to various evacuation sites.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bankrupt Church Pastor Wants Food for Sick Wife; Lawsuit Charges Pastor of $10M Misuse of Funds

The Yahoo News website reports today (November 4, 2011) that some members of a bankrupt Orange County, California megachurch are expressing outrage, after fielding an email request for congregants to deliver food to waiting limos for the next few weeks, so it can be ferried to the founder's wife, Arvella Schuller, who is sick with pneumonia.

The appeal comes weeks after a lawsuit charged that Rev. Robert Schuller -- founder of the Crystal Cathedral house of worship -- and his family had been paying themselves lavish salaries and other benefits while the church was in financial straits.

"They've completely depleted the church's funds," Bob Canfield, a church member said.

The lawsuit filed by creditors alleges that the Schullers borrowed more than $10 million from the church's endowment fund, and used it for salaries and regular church expenses.

Ireland Will Close Its Embassy to the Vatican; Vatican Ended Its Diplomacy to Ireland in July

The Religion News Service website reports today (November 4, 2011) that the Irish government -- after months of tense relations with the Vatican over the clergy sex abuse scandal -- announced yesterday (November 3) that it will close its embassy to the Vatican.

"The government believes that Ireland's interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a non-resident ambassador," said Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore.

Gilmore said the decision to close Ireland's embassy to the Vatican was unrelated to controversy this past summer over a government-sponsored report on sex abuse in the Irish diocese of Cloyne.

In a speech to the Irish parliament in July, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the report exposed the "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day." The Vatican recalled -- and has never since returned -- its ambassador to Ireland a few days after Kenny's speech.

Mass. Cath. Paper Retracts Same-Sex Defamation; Columnist Daniel Avila Wrote It Was Work of Devil

A Massachusetts-based Catholic publication has retracted an opinion column in which the author suggested that same-sex attraction was the work of the devil, the Christian Post website reports today (November 4, 2011).

Daniel Avila -- a policy adviser for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) -- issued an apology on November 2 after the column was retracted from "The Pilot" newspaper.

"The Church opposes, as I do, all unjust discrimination and the violence against persons that unjust discrimination inspires," wrote Avila.

Kara Suffredini -- executive director of Mass Equality, a gay advocacy organization located in Boston -- was critical of the episode. She said "The Pilot" -- as well as the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy -- were unfit to judge same-sex attraction, given "their own past scandals."

POST SCRIPT: The Associated Press website reports today (November 4, 2011) that Daniel Avila resigned his job today with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a result of his recent defamatory column on same-sex attraction in "The Pilot" Catholic newspaper.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nurses Assisting with Abortions Sue NJ Hospital; Federal, NJ Laws Bar Forcing Employees to Assist

The New American website reports today (November 3, 2011) that a dozen nurses in New Jersey have filed a lawsuit against their employer, charging that they were forced to assist with abortions.

According to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) -- the conservative legal advocacy group representing the nurses -- the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) initiated a policy in September requiring that nurses serving in its Same Day Surgery Unit to assist with abortion procedures or face losing their jobs.

ADF noted that "federal law prohibits hospitals that receive certain federal funds from forcing employees to participate in abortions."

Moreover, New Jersey law states: "No person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or sterilization."

Lesbian Couple Chosen Calif. H.S. King, Queen; Results in a Bunch of Adult Hate Calls, Emails

The Christian Post website reports today (November 3, 2011) that a lesbian couple that attends a San Diego, California high school stirred up controversy over the weekend when they became the school's homecoming king and queen.

Although it was the student body's vote that decided who received the honors, not all of the students are happy with the result and school officials say they have since been overwhelmed with "hate" messages from angry adults.

"I am disappointed that this happy and positive event has received national media coverage, which has attracted a slew of what I can only describe as hate calls and emails to the school," said Bill Kowba, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District.

Last Friday -- during a pep rally -- female student Rebeca Arellano was named Patrick Henry's homecoming king and the next day, her partner, Haileigh Adams, was announced as queen during a school dance.

British Govt. OKs Civil Partnerships in Churches; Church of England States It Will Not Permit Them

The Ethics Daily website reports today (November 3, 2011) that the British government said yesterday (November 2) that same-sex couples will be allowed -- for the first time -- to use churches to seal their civil partnership vows, starting in December.

But the directive added that no religious group will be forced to conduct or host such a ceremony -- and the Church of England quickly announced it would permit no such rites on its premises.

In a statement, the church said, "it has no intention of allowing civil partnerships to be registered" in its churches.

Lynne Featherstone -- the government's equalities minister -- used a written statement to Parliament to announce that same-sex couples will be allowed to seal their vows in churches and other places of worship in England and Wales, starting December 5.

Largest No. of Rabbis Since WW II Meet in Poland; Rabbi Conference Faces Issues Affecting Jewry

Scores of rabbis from across Europe gathered in Warsaw, Poland on October 31 for the largest meeting of Jewish religious leaders in Poland since the community was virtually wiped out during World War II, the Huffington Post website reports today (November 3, 2011).

This year's three-day Conference of European rabbis focused on a range of issues affecting European and global Jewry, including attempts in Europe to ban the Jewish method of religious slaughter of animals.

Over the past 30 years, the Jewish population in Poland has grown from just a few thousand to over 20,000, the conference said.

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich called the gathering of about 150 rabbis "a real testament to the revival of Jewish life in Poland."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

COMMENTARY: Catholic University of America Needs to Support a Muslim Student Group

Muslim students at Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC are complaining that their human rights have been violated by the college.

They have accused CUA of preventing them from establishing a Muslim student group, and failing to provide prayer rooms without Christian symbols.

Their attorney -- a professor at the George Washington School of Law -- has filed a complaint by submitting 60 pages of allegations to the Washington, DC Office of Human Rights.

While we acknowledge the fact that CUA is a Catholic-oriented university, we still feel that CUA has a responsibility to meet its Muslims' desire to establish a Muslim student group and a prayer room without Christian symbols.

More than 120 Muslim students now attend CUA -- more than double the number of Muslims at the university just three years ago.

Consequently, CUA appears to have taken a liking to its Muslim students during the past few years. Perhaps CUA believes that Muslims add diversity to its campus. It must now reciprocate for having achieved a more diverse campus.

In the final analysis, CUA needs to be more broad-minded in meeting the needs of its Muslim population.

After all, the purpose of a university is to instill knowledge to its students, and to be open in the exchange of ideas and beliefs of all of its students. That, of course, includes its Muslim students.

Ukrainian Catholic Priest Blasts Justice System; Compares It to Old Testament's "Eye for an Eye"

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) -- the largest of the 21 Eastern Catholic churches in communion with the Holy See -- is denouncing the Ukrainian prison system as "a repressive apparatus for revenge so that a person completely loses his dignity," the Catholic Culture website reports today (November 2, 2011).

"Our judicial system is as follows: In the Old Testament it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; now it's a jaw for a tooth, a head for an eye," says Father Constantin Penteley, head of the UGCC's office for penitentiary pastoral care.

There are cases in which someone is detained "so that he signs all the papers against him," Father Penteley says.

He adds this is a torture, because the judicial investigation extends for a long time -- usually years -- resulting in people to sign papers that say they confess to the crime.

Bosnia Court Orders US Embassy Attacker Held; Serbian Muslm Opened Fire on Sarajevo Embassy

The Europe News website reports today (November 2, 2011) that a state court in Bosnia has ordered the detention on terrorism charges of a gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on the U.S. embassy -- striking its walls with several bullets -- in the capital, Sarajevo, last month.

Judge Nenad Seleda ordered that Mevlid Jasarevic -- a 23-year-old Serbian Muslim -- be detained for a month to prevent him from fleeing the country.

Jasarevic said he did not recognize the court.

"I do not recognize your court. It is worthless before Allah," he told the judge during his appearance in court.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Supreme Court Rejects Utah Highway Cross Case; Lower Court Ruled Crosses Violate Constitution

The Christian Post website reports today (November 1, 2011) that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of a case in which a Utah court ruled that roadside memorial crosses -- erected in honor of fallen highway troopers -- violate the U.S. Constitution.

The 12-foot-high white crosses in question -- which were paid for by the private Utah Highway Patrol Association -- were purported to be an endorsement of Christianity by the state.

American Atheists, Inc. had sued the association and claimed that the placement of the religious symbols on public grounds was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the atheists, because the cross was the "preeminent symbol of Christianity."

Muslim Students at CUA Claim Rights Violated; Office of Human Rights Investigates Allegations

The Europe News website reports today (November 1, 2011) that Muslim students at Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC, have complained that their human rights have been violated by the college.

They have accused CUA of banning them from forming a Muslim student group and failing to provide prayer rooms without Christian symbols.

The Office of Human Rights is investigating 60 pages of allegations against CUA.

The students claim they are surrounded by "a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate."