Monday, December 31, 2012

Subway Pusher Says She Killed Innocent NY Man; Because "I Hate Hindus, Muslims Ever Since 2001"

Erica Menendez -- a 31-year-old woman of the Bronx -- has been arrested in the subway-pushing death of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, an immigrant from India who lived in Queens with roommates, the Inquisitr website reports today (December 31, 2012).

Sen -- described as a quiet and friendly man who was hardworking and had recently launched a new business -- was shoved to his death on the tracks at the 40th Street station in Queens on December 27.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown commented on the charges in the case saying: "The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter's nightmare... Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train."

Brown quoted Menendez as saying: "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers."

NYC Bomb Suspects Had a Terrorist Encyclopedia; Couple Had Explosives, Shotgun, Ammo in Apt.

Police arrested a New York City couple in their apartment on December 29, after authorities investigating a credit card theft found a highly explosive compound, bomb-making manuals, a sawed-off shotgun, and ammunition, the Reuters website reports today (December 31, 2012).

Morgan Gliedman, 27, and Aaron Greene, 31, are being charged with two counts of suspicion of criminal possession of a weapon, for the shotgun, court documents show.

One sheaf of papers found in the apartment had a cover page that read "The Terrorist Encyclopedia," according to court documents.

Police went to the couple's Greenwich Village apartment on December 29 to question Gliedman -- the daughter of a prominent New York doctor -- to investigate a credit card theft. At the apartment, detectives discovered a plastic bottle containing seven grams of Hexamethylene triperoxide (HMTD), court documents show. HMTD is commonly used in homemade bombs.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rowan Williams Ends Role as Abp. of Canterbury; Is Now Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge

Rowan Williams formally steps down tomorrow (January 31, 2012) as the Archbishop of Canterbury to take up a life in academia, after nearly a decade of leading the world's Anglicans during one of its most turbulent periods, according to the Independent (British) website.

His departure will be marked with none of the fanfare that greeted the Welsh-born cleric when he was first enthroned on the Chair of St. Augustine in Canterbury Cathedral nine years ago.

Tomorrow afternoon, the 62-year-old archbishop will quietly leave his quarters at Lambeth Palace and travel north to Cambridge, where he is due to take up the post of Master at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Hard as he tried to unite his church's increasingly fractious groups, he leaves the Anglican Communion bitterly divided over the issues of women clergy and homosexuality. His successor, Justin Welby, will be enthroned at Canterbury in March 2013.

Bomb Kills 2 Praying in Orthodox Church in Libya; Viewed as Christians Targeted by Radical Islamists

At least two Egyptians have died and two others have been wounded in a bomb attack on an Egyptian Orthodox Church in Libya, the Global Post website reports today (December 30, 2012).

Home-made dynamite used for fishing was found at the site of the bomb, the BBC reported. The church is in Dafiniyah  and is often frequented by Egyptians.

Egypt's foreign minister denounced the attack and called for an investigation.

Christians in Egypt and Libya -- two predominantly Islamic countries -- have become worried about being targeted by hard-line Islamists in recent months.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Man Is Indicted for Throwing Bleach on NY Rabbi; Was Mad Rabbi Published Abuse by Hasidic Jews

A Hasidic Jew has been indicted on charges he threw bleach into the face of a New York rabbi who publishes claims of child sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (December 29, 2012).

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said that Meilech Schnitzler has been indicted on two counts of attempted assault, two counts of assault, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The top charge carries a potential prison sentence of 15 years.

Prosecutors say Schnitzel threw a cup of bleach in the face and eye of Rabbi Nathan Rosenberg on December 11. The government also says the men knew each other.

Woman Gang Raped in India Has Died in Hospital; Six Men Charged with Murder, Face Execution

Indian police charged six men with murder today (December 29, 2012), adding to accusations that they beat and gang-raped a woman on a New Delhi bus nearly two weeks ago in a case that shocked the country, according to the Washington Post website.

The murder charges were laid after the woman died earlier today in a Singapore hospital, where she had been flown for the latest state-of-art treatment.

New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the six face the death penalty if convicted, in a case that has triggered protests across India for greater protection for women from sexual violence, and raised questions about lax attitudes by police toward sexual crimes.

The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for provoking the crime, forcing them to keep quiet and discouraging them from reporting it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule.

Friday, December 28, 2012

BBC Slams Athens for Not Having Single Mosque; Athens Is Only EU Capital Without a Muslim Ctr.

Stressing that Athens is the only EU (European Union) capital without a mosque, the BBC has revealed that some 300,000 Muslims living in the Greek capital are sandwiched in basements to pray, the To Vima (Greek) website reports today (December 28, 2012).

"The absence of a mosque here (Athens) is a great tragedy for us Muslims," said Mohammad Jamil Sient, a native of Pakistan now living in Athens. He added, "Greece invented democracy, culture, and respect for each other's religion, but does not respect us Muslims enough to give us a normal, legitimate mosque."

There is resistance from various quarters -- including some priests of the Greek Orthodox Church -- that are opposed to a mosque in Athens. Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus -- the seaport area of Athens -- told the BBC, "Greece suffered five centuries of Islamic tyranny under the Turkish yoke and construction of the mosque would insult witnesses who liberated us."

A BBC correspondent said Seraphim's viewpoint is Islamophobic and discriminates against Muslims.

Woman Pretended to Be Aunt of Newtown Victim; Nouel Alba Arrested, Lied on Facebook for Money

A woman in the Bronx was arrested yesterday and accused of scamming unsuspecting Facebook users out of donations by pretending to be the aunt of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the Raw Story website reports today (December 28, 2012).

Nouel Alba, 37, had her personal account numbers attached to the scam, which asked Facebook users to contribute to the boy's "funeral fund."

Alba allegedly posted on Facebook claiming to be the aunt of Noah Pozner, whose parents have memorialized by setting up a website in his name. She told federal investigators that the money had been refunded, but a criminal complaint against her says that is not case.

A complaint filed yesterday says she also used her phone and text messages to pose as the boy's aunt. Alba could be jailed for up to five years for making false statements to investigators.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Mothers Who Can't Pay Bills Kept in Kenya; NY Group Files Lawsuit to End Hospital Practice

The director of the Pumwani Maternity Hospital -- located in a poor neighborhood of downtown Nairobi in Kenya -- freely acknowledges that he detains mothers who can't pay their bills, the Drudge Report website reports today (December 27, 2012).

Lazarus Omondi says it's the only way he can keep his medical center running. Nonetheless, a New York-based group filed a lawsuit this month in hopes of forcing Pumwani to stop the practice.

Two mothers who live in a mud-wall and tin-roof slum near the maternity hospital said Pumwani wouldn't let them leave after delivering their babies. The bills the mothers owed were $60 and $160.

One of the women said that guards with sticks beat mothers who try to leave the hospital without paying.

Prague Abp. Invites 300 Poor to His Xmas Dinner; Provides Them with Food, Gifts, Clothes at Castle

Prague Archbishop Cardinal Dominik Duka welcomed around 300 homeless, elderly, refugees, disabled, lonely, and those from the margin of society at the Christmas dinner staged by the Sant'Egidio community at his Prague Castle on December 25, the Prague Monitor website reports today (December 27, 2012).

Duka wished all of them to have at least some joy in their hearts despite all of their trouble and cold, and to have the courage to come to terms with the difficulties surrounding them.

"Let God give you the feeling that He is with you and help you find your place," Duka said, blessing all of them and drinking a glass of champagne with them.

All the guests received traditional Czech food as well as Christmas sweets and fruit. Moreover, every guest received a special Christmas gift and some clothing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

India Gangrape Victim Being Treated in Singapore; Raped, Beaten by Six Men on a Bus, Fights for Life

A 23-year-old medical student -- whose rape by six men on a bus in the Indian capital of New Delhi earlier this month sparked violent protests across the country -- was flown to Singapore today (December 26, 2012) for use of the most up-to-date equipment for her medical treatment, according to the Today Online website.

The major goal is to arrange for an organ transplant for the unidentified woman -- who has been fighting for her life since the hour-long rapes -- which saw her struck by an iron bar, and ended with her and a male companion being thrown off the moving bus.

Large parts of her intestines were removed as a result of the injuries from the attack. Her condition worsened on Christmas day when she suffered a cardiac arrest and was revived by cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, her doctors said.

The government of India -- which has agreed to pay all the expenses of the woman's transportation and  treatment in Singapore -- has made arrangements for her to be shifted in a well-equipped air ambulance to a renowned hospital, so that she can be provided state-of-art medical treatment that may stretch many weeks, according to one of her doctors.

Gunmen Kill 6 in Xmas Eve Service in N. Nigeria; Islamist Group Seeking Sharia Law Is Suspected

Gunmen attacked a church in northern Nigeria during a Christmas Eve service , killing six people -- including the pastor -- and setting the building on fire, the Global Post website reports today (December 26, 2012).

The attack took place in the village of Peri, near Potiskum, the economic capital of Yobe state.

"A group of gunmen came into the village at midnight and went straight to the church... They opened fire on them... They then set fire to the church," said Usman Mansir, a resident of the village.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but Boko Haram Islamist militant group is suspected, since it  has attacked a number of churches in the north since 2010 in its campaign to impose Sharia law.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Boston Priest Named Vatican's Sex Crimes Lawyer; Watchdog Group Is Opposed to Rev. Oliver's Apmt.

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a Boston priest as the Vatican's new sexual crimes prosecutor, the Irish Central website reports today (December 25, 2012).

The Vatican said that Rev. Robert Oliver -- who handled sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston at the height of the scandal -- would be "the promoter of justice" at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal office that reviews all abuse cases.

Father Oliver was among the canon lawyers brought in to advise Cardinal Bernard F. Law on sexual abuse cases in Boston in 2002, and was responsible for investigating charges against accused priests when Cardinal Law was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had kept many abusive priests working in parishes.

Anne Barrett Doyle -- co-director of a watchdog group called Bishop Accountability -- said, "Reverend Oliver is a champion of accused priests, which obviously does not bode well for the job he will do as promoter of justice."

Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons Kills 6 in Syria; Use of Them Expected to Result in US Mil. Action

Rebel forces in Syria say that Assad regime forces used chemical weapons in an attack on Homs on December 23, 2012, killing six people and injuring dozens more with poison gas, according to the Times of Israel website.

Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera reported 10 people suffered serious injuries from the chemical attack -- including blindness and paralysis -- and over 50 more suffered other injuries.

Reports in recent weeks have verified that embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad has been preparing to use chemicals as the country's 21-month-old civil war -- which has already claimed over 40,000 lives -- rages on.

After being informed by U.S. intelligence sources earlier this month that Assad was preparing chemical weapons for use against Syrian protesters, U.S. President Barack Obama asserted that if Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian protesters,  the United States would take military action against the Assad regime.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pope Urges People to Find Room in Lives for God; Says Schedules Do Not Include Any Time for God

Pope Benedict XVI -- leading the world's Roman Catholics into Christmas -- today (December 24, 2012) urged people to find room for God in their fast-paced lives filled with the latest technological gadgets, according to the Reuters website.

The 85-year-old pope -- marking the eighth Christmas season of his pontificate -- celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica, during which he appealed for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and an end to the civil war in Syria.

At the mass for some 10,000 people in the basilica -- and broadcast to millions of others on television -- the pope wove his homily around the theme of God's place in today's modern world.

"The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full," the pope said.

Cleric in Bethlehem Celebrates Palestinian State; Eased by UN's Assent of an Ind. State of Palestine

Christians from the world over packed Manger Square in Bethlehem today (December 24, 2012) to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the ancient West Bank town where He was born, according to the Huffington Post website.

For their Palestinian hosts, this holiday season was an especially joyous one, with the hardships of the Israeli occupation that so often clouded previous celebrations eased by the United Nations' recent recognition of an independent state of Palestine.

In his annual pre-Christmas homily, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, said the road to actual freedom was still long, but this year's festivities were doubly joyful, celebrating "the birth of Christ our Lord and the birth of the state of Palestine."

"The path (to statehood) remains long, and will require a united effort," added Twai -- a Palestinian citizen of Jordan -- at the patriarchate's headquarters in Jerusalem's Old City.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Syrian Govt. Bombs People in Line to Buy Bread; Scores Dead, Including Women, Children in Line

Airstrikes ordered by the Syrian government killed scores of people -- including women and children -- today (December 23, 2012), as they waited in line to buy loaves of bread, according to the Inquisitr website.

The attack on Halfaya in central Syria centered around the same area that was seized last week by Syrian rebels. Today's airstrike is believed to be one of the most deadly strikes since the Syrian civil war broke out 21 months ago.

More than 44,000 people have been killed in the past 21 months. About 100 people are now being killed in Syria each day; more than 180 deaths occurred today.

A bread shortage has sent over 1,000 people into long street lines to wait for food each day.

Egypt's Islam-Backed Const. Gets a "Yes" Majority; Morsi Non-Supporters Bound to Increase Protests

Egypt's Islamist-backed constitution received a "yes" majority in a final round of voting on a referendum that saw a low voter turnout, but the deep divisions it has opened up threaten to fuel continued turmoil in the nation, the Times of Israel website reports today (December 23, 2012).

Passage is a victory for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, but a costly one. The bruising battle over the past month stripped away hope that the long-awaited constitution would bring a national consensus on the path Egypt will take after shedding its autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

Instead, Morsi disappointed many non-Islamists  -- even more so than Mubarak -- who once backed the new president, resulting in Morsi becoming more reliant on his core support in the Muslim Brotherhood party and other radical Islamists.

Yesterday's voting in 17 of Egypt's 27 provinces was the second and final round of the referendum. Preliminary results released early today by  Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood showed that 71.4 percent of those who voted yesterday said "yes" after 95.5 percent of the ballots were counted.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Many Jews Blast Anti-Semitic Slur on Mila Kunis; Ukrainian Lawmaker Likened Her to Nazi Victims

Jewish leaders today (December 22, 2012) demanded a Ukrainian politician take back an anti-Semitic slur he used against American actress Mila Kunis, 29,  according to the Big News Network website.

A member of the Ukraine parliament posted a message on his Facebook page this week stating that Kunis -- who is an American Jew of Ukrainian ancestry -- was not truly a Ukrainian, and then referred to her by a derogatory Ukrainian term used by Nazi forces when rounding up victims for death camps during World War II.

The unprovoked attack against Kunis -- who starred in the relatively recent movie "The Black Swan" -- brought a sharp retort from Ukraine's Jewish community.

Kunis -- who emigrated to the United States from Ukraine  at the age of  8 -- was named the "Sexiest Woman Alive" by Esquire magazine in its November 2012 issue, in which she poses naked.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles sent a letter to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov,  saying Kunis' family fled Ukraine to escape anti-Semitism, and called on Azarov to condemn the statements publicly.

Pope Pardons Butler Imprisoned for "Vatileaks;" Butler Stole Pope's Papers, Leaked Them to Press

In a show of Christian love and forgiveness during the Christmas season, Pope Benedict XVI visited his former butler in prison today (December 22, 2012) and pardoned him for stealing his private papers and secretly releasing them to the press, according to the Guardian website.

Following the 15-minute meeting, Paolo Gabriele, 46, was freed and returned to his Vatican City apartment, where he lives with his wife and three children.

The Vatican said that Gabriele -- who was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison last October -- cannot continue living or working at his apartment, but informed him that it will find him housing and a job elsewhere soon.

Pope Benedict's pardon closes a disgusting scandal for the Vatican -- it has been nicknamed the "Vatileaks" scandal -- as it featured allegations of power struggles, intrigue, corruption, and gay liaisons at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mont. Parents Take "War on Xmas" to a New Level; Say Xmas Carols Are Form of Bullying, Need to Go

A Christian attorney says some Montana parents are taking the "war on Christmas" to a whole new level, the One News Now website reports today (December 21, 2012).

The complaining parents in Missoula -- who refused to be identified -- want Christmas carols replaced with secular songs. They say that traditional carols are a form of "bullying" and need to go.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel thinks their claim is ridiculous. "This takes the war on Christmas to a new level. To call Christmas carols "bullying" is just unbelievable," Staver said.

He adds, "We need to make a stand. If we don't, we ultimately will lose our liberties, lose our right to speak, and the only viewpoint will be a secularist, anti-God viewpoint."

Pope Rips Gay Marriage and New Family Concepts; Says Human Dignity Is Denied with Ruined Family

Pope Benedict XVI has weighed in on a heated debate over gay marriage, blasting new concepts of the traditional family and warning that mankind itself is at stake, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (December 21, 2012).

"The question of the family... is the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men," he said today.

The defense of the family, the Pope said, "is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears."

Earlier this week, the Vatican's official newspaper criticized a plan being discussed in France to legalize both marriage and adoption for gay couples. France is expected to pass the "marriage for all" bill early next year, despite vehement opposition from the right and religious groups.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bernie Madoff's Brother Gets 10-Year Prison Term; Peter Pleads Guilty, "Deeply Ashamed" of Conduct

Peter Madoff -- a lawyer who committed several crimes to help his older brother Bernard swindle investors out of billions of dollars in a ponzi scheme -- was sentenced today (December 20, 2012) to 10 years in prison, according to the New York Times website.

Bernard Madoff had pleaded guilty in March 2009 and is serving a prison term of 150 years.

Peter Madoff, 67, told the judge today that he was "deeply ashamed" of his conduct and had "tried to atone by pleading guilty."

Last June, Peter Madoff admitted to committing many crimes, including falsifying documents, lying to securities regulators, and filing sham tax returns.

Prosecutors said that if he had done his job honestly as chief compliance officer at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, regulators would most likely have detected the fraud several years earlier.

Pastor Terry Jones Produces an Islam-Hating Film; It Depicts Muhammad as a Murderer, Child Abuser

Pastor Terry Jones -- the Koran-burning preacher from Florida who hates Islam -- has produced a film called "The Innocent Prophet," a movie he completed in collaboration with an ex-Muslim Pakistani native named Imran Firasat, The Blaze website reports today (December 20, 2012).

The movie -- which stretches 71 minutes in length -- has been released on YouTube. As was the case with Jones' past projects, the film holds the potential to infuriate Islamist groups around the world.

The name and purpose of "The Innocent Prophet" intentionally mirrors that of the ever-infamous "Innocence of Muslims" film, which was blamed for widespread protests and murders in the Middle East earlier this year.

The sentiments of "The Innocent Prophet" are captured in an official description of it on YouTube. It states that the film will help Muslims know the true face of Muhammad, as the creator of the false religion of Islam to achieve his own goals. It adds that, "It's time to clear all doubts and accept that Muhammad was not a prophet but was a mobster, murderer, abuser of children, and a self-proclaimed prophet."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pop Star Frankie Valens Is Kansas Church Pastor; Voiced "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Other Songs

Former pop singer Frankie Valens is now the pastor of First Christian Church in Syracuse, Kansas, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (December 19, 2012).

Famous for such songs as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "This Magic Moment," and "She Cried," Valens' music career took off in the late 1960s.

Born Frank Piper, he changed his name to Valens after becoming famous.

His father -- Bernie Piper -- pastored the same church in 1978 and 1979. Valens says he relies on the Lord -- and at times, the Internet -- for sermon ideas, and is using his singing talents for the Lord.

Eight-in-Ten in World Identify with a Rel. Group; Study Finds That Christians Lead World with 2.2B

A new study of more than 230 countries and territories -- conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life -- finds that more than eight-in-ten people worldwide identify with a religious group, the Ekklesia website reports today (December 19, 2012).

At the same time, the number of those unaffiliated with religion is on the rise, and now constitutes the third-largest global belief group.

The report estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84 percent of the 2010 population of 6.9 billion.

The study finds that 2.2 billion Christians (32 percent of the world's population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23 percent), 1 billion Hindus (15 percent), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7 percent), and 14 million Jews (0.2 percent) around the world as of 2010.

The study also finds that about one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16 percent) have no religious affiliation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch Gets Patriarch; Metropolitan John X Elected by Vote of 18 Bishops

Metropolitan John X was elected to lead the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch yesterday, the Greek Reporter website reports today (December 18, 2012).

His predecessor -- Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) -- passed away in a Beirut hospital on December 5, a day after suffering a massive stroke.

Metropolitan John X (al-Yazigi) was chosen as the new head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.  The vote took place in the Balamand Monastery (near Tripoli, Lebanon), in which 18 bishops participated.

Yaziji, 57, hails from Syria's Lattakia, and earned a bachelor's degree in theology in 1978 from the Institute of St. John Damascus. He then earned a doctorate degree in theology in 1983 from the University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Excessive Alcohol Kills Northern Ill. U. Freshman; Police Charge 22 Fraternity Members with Hazing

Nearly two dozen fraternity members at Northern Illinois University were charged yesterday with hazing-related counts, after a freshman was found dead at their fraternity house following a night of drinking, the Associated Press website reports today (December 18, 2012).

Police and prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity in DeKalb, Illinois. Five fraternity members are charged with felony hazing, while the other 17 Greeks are facing misdemeanor hazing charges.

The warrants were filed after David Bogenberger, 19, was found unresponsive at the fraternity house on November 2.

The DeKalb County coroner ruled Bogenberger's death was caused by cardiac arrhythmia, with alcohol intoxication as the major cause.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hungarian Lawmaker Allowed to Burn Israeli Flag; Protesters Shouted "To Auschwitz with All of You"

A member of the Hungarian Parliament burned an Israeli flag in Budapest this past weekend during an anti-Israel protest outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish Press website reports today (December 17, 2012).

Lenhardt Balazs -- the lawmaker -- is currently unaffiliated with a party, but he used to be a member of the far-right Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary) party.

The Jobbik party opposes any relationship between the Hungarian government and Israel. It holds 47 seats in the Hungarian Parliament.

The anti-Israel demonstration over the weekend -- attended by about 100 people -- had been called to protest Israeli "atrocities" against Arab Palestinians. Anti-Semitic slogans -- including "filthy Jews" and "to Auschwitz with all of you" -- were shouted during the demonstration.

Muslim Cabbie Sues for Right to Wear Rel. Garb; Sues City of St. Louis and Taxi Co. for Harassment

A Muslim taxicab driver is suing the city of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, and a private security company, saying he has been harassed and arrested for wearing religious garb, the Religion News website reports today (December 17, 2012).

Raja Awais Naeem -- who works for Harris Cab and manages a shuttle service called A-1 Shuttle-- says his religious beliefs require him to wear modest, loose-fitting clothing and a hat called a kufi.

Naeem -- originally from Pakistan but now a U.S. citizen -- said he has been told he must adhere to the commission's rules requiring a white shirt, black pants, and no kufi.

His lawsuit seeks an injunction to allow religious dress for cabdrivers, and civil damages, including attorney's fees and other costs.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

President Obama Addresses Newtown,CT Citizens; Says He'll Do All in His Power to Prevent Tragedies

President Barack Obama assured the grieving and shocked Newtown, Connecticut community today (December 16, 2012) that "you are not alone" and vowed to wield with "whatever power this office holds" in a quest to prevent future mass shootings, according to the Yahoo News website.

"We can't tolerate this anymore," Obama said from behind a podium on the stage of Newtown High School auditorium. "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."

"In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents, and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," the president said.

There were sobs from the crowd, as the president read the first names of the 20 children killed at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, and paid tribute to the six adults who died defending them.

At Least 10 Killed in an Airport Attack in Pakistan; Taliban Claims Credit for the Attack in Peshawar

At least 10 people were killed and more than 40 others injured when an airport in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar came under attack last night, the Muslim News website reports today (December 16, 2012).

Those killed included five attackers. Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Both Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Ashraf condemned the attack.

The attackers -- who used an explosive-laden vehicle -- rammed the vehicle into the wall surrounding the Bacha Khan Airport in Peshawar.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kuwait Passes Law to Kill Those Slandering Islam; Parliament Passed Law Due to Increased Cursing

Kuwait's parliament has approved a law issuing the death penalty to Muslims who curse or slander God, the Quran, any of the prophets, and in particular, the Prophet Mohammed and his many wives, The Blaze website reports today (December 15, 2012).

Non-Muslims who engage in these forbidden acts will be sentenced to prison for no less than 10 years.

The National Security Society (NSS) reports that defendants who repent in court may be spared suffering capital punishment, but will still serve five years in prison, incur a fine of $36,000, or both.

Kuwaiti member of parliament Ali al-Deqbasi said, "We need this legislation because incidents of cursing God have increased. We need to deter them."

Jewish Women in Israel Lack Same Rights as Men; Women Can't Wear Prayer Shawl at Western Wall

Israeli security guards at Jerusalem's Western Wall yesterday searched women worshipers arriving at the holiest place where Jews can pray with the Jewish prayer shawl, which -- under Israel's predominantly Orthodox Judaism -- can be worn only by men, the Times of Israel website reports today (December 15, 2012).

Once the shawls were found, dozens of women had to deposit them before proceeding to pray in the section reserved for women. A few women -- who managed to sneak the shawls under their coats and then wrapped them around their shoulders -- were promptly evicted.

Similar scenes have played out nearly a dozen times each year since the group known as "Women of the Wall" was established 25 years ago. Its members have endured arrests, heckling, and legal battles in a struggle to attain the right to pray at the Western Wall like men do.

Laura Geller -- a Reform rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles -- was one of the women forced to leave her prayer shawl behind yesterday. She said, "It's interesting that Israel is one of the few countries in the world where I can't be the Jew that I am."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Judge Rejects Police Captain's Case Against Tulsa; Capt.Was Disciplined, Did Not Go to Mosque Event

A federal judge has ruled against Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Captain Paul Fields and his lawsuit against the City of Tulsa, the Free Republic website reports today (December 14, 2012).

Fields sued the city after he was suspended for 80 hours without pay for refusing to attend -- or to order his officers to attend -- a law enforcement appreciation day event at a mosque.

Fields said that following the order would have violated his religious rights.

The judge said Fields did not have to attend, but had the responsibility to send his officers, so his religious rights were not violated. The judge added that Fields did not have to take part in any religious (Islamic) aspect that might have occurred at the event.

Vandals Paint Smut on Greek Orthodox Monastery; Paint "Jesus, Son of a Whore" on Jerusalem Bldg.

Vandals have spray-painted graffiti that proclaims "Death to Christianity" and "Jesus, Son of a Whore" on a Greek Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem, the Spero Forum website reports today (December 14, 2012).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the vandalism, which occurred overnight on December 12.

Micky Rosenfield -- a spokesperson for Israeli police -- said the vandals also sprayed the words "price tag" in Hebrew on the monastery's outer wall. This is taken to mean that the vandalism was done by Jewish extremists as a form of punishment of settlers and sympathizers in Israel whose institutions are seen as being in favor of the Palestinian cause.

This week's vandalism on the Monastery of the Holy Cross is the fifth major attack in Israel against a Christian site this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral Marks 850th Anniv.; Cathedral Has Over 14 Million Visitors Each Year

Dignitaries, tourists, and Parisians gathered in the thousands yesterday for a ceremony and Mass marking the beginning of a year-long commemoration of Notre Dame Cathedral's 850th anniversary, the Huffington Post website reports today (December 13, 2012).

Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe were among the civil and religious dignitaries taking part in last evening's events marking the beginning of the cathedral's construction in 1163.

Speaking outside the cathedral before celebrating Mass, the archbishop said Notre Dame de Paris is "a symbol for Parisians and for people across the world."

Each year, the cathedral sees over 14 million visitors. Five Masses a day are held during the week, and seven on Sunday. The building took nearly 90 years to build.

Woman Busted in Spain for Drug Breast Implants; Hid 3 Pounds of Cocaine in Her Breasts at Airport

Police in Spain arrested a 28-year-old woman arriving at the Barcelona airport yesterday with three pounds of cocaine concealed in her breasts as implants, the CBS News website reports today (December 13, 2012).

Spain's Interior Ministry said that border police noticed blood-stained gauze on the woman's breasts.

The woman -- who arrived from Bogota, Colombia -- said she had recently had breast implant surgery.

Police were suspicious and sent her to a local hospital. The implants were removed from her breasts and found to contain the cocaine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Five Teens Nabbed for Theft of Va. Nativity Scene; Charged with Larceny, Trespass, Property Damage

Five teenagers are facing charges they stole and then destroyed a nativity scene from a church in Bedford County in Southwestern Virginia, the Drudge Report website reports today (December 12, 2012).

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office said the five were arrested yesterday, after the 12-piece Christmas scene was reported missing over the weekend from Shiloh United Methodist Church in Forest.

The set had an estimated value of $2,500.

The teenagers face charges of grand larceny, trespass, and property damage.

Hasidic Jew Convicted of Sexually Abusing Female; Nechemya Weberman Used Hasidic Role as Shield

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) -- the world's largest group of Orthodox rabbis -- is praising the process that led to the conviction of a Hasidic Jewish man on December 10 on sexual abuse charges relating to to a female, and called on all segments of the Jewish community to cooperate with police in such cases, the Religion News website reports today (December 12, 2012).

The RCA is generally dissociated from Hasidic Jewish communities -- fervently religious groups that follow the teachings of particular rabbis in almost all aspects of daily life.

Concentrated in Brooklyn, New York, Hasidic communities -- such as the Satmars, to which the convicted counselor belongs -- have frustrated police with their refusal to work with civil authorities on sexual abuse cases.

In a statement released the day after the conviction of Nechemya Weberman, 54, the 1,000-member RCA said it "decries any invocation of Jewish law or commercial interests as tools in silencing victims or witnesses from reporting abuse." Weberman will be sentenced on January 9, 2013, when he could receive a 25-year prison sentence.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coptic Group Head Asks Nations to Isolate Egypt; So "Phony Pro-Democracy" Head Morsi Will Quit

The founder of an international group of advocates for the equality and rights of Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt is appealing to the leaders of democratic nations to cut any ties they may have with Egypt, the Christian Post website reports today (December 11, 2012).

The Voice of the Copts is attempting to thwart President Mohamed Morsi's regime from implementing a primarily Islamic-based constitution.

"We demand that world leaders withdraw their recognition of Egypt's phony 'pro-democracy' leader, Mr. Morsi, who is backed by the illegal Muslim Brotherhood party," states Dr. Ashraf Ramelah -- president of Voice of the Copts -- in an open letter sent yesterday.

The letter added, "Freeze your political relationships with Egypt, halt all investments and aid to Egypt and force Mr. Morsi's regime to step down. This will facilitate legitimate democratic goals yet to be achieved by Egypt's freedom fighters."

Teacher in France Sacked Over Grisly Assignment; Had Students Write Why They'd Commit Suicide

A teacher in western France was suspended yesterday (December 10, 2012), after he asked a class of 13- and 14-year-olds to view themselves committing suicide as a written school assignment, according to the France 24 website.

The exercise -- assigned at the Antoine Delafont school in Charente -- read as follows:

"You've just turned 18. You've decided to end your life. Your decision is definitive. In a final surge, you decide to put in words the reason behind your decision. In the style of a self-portrait, you describe the disgust you have for yourself. Your text will retrace certain events in your life at the origin of these feelings."

Several angry parents complained to school officials about the teacher's assignment, and the teacher was suspended.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Three Are Hospitalized from Pot-Laced Brownies; Two Students Made Brownies as Prank,Face Prison

Two University of Colorado at Boulder students are facing multiple felony charges, after they fed marijuana-laced brownies to their unsuspecting history class -- leading to the hospitalization of three people -- the Denver Post website reports today (December 10, 2012).

The professor of the course was taken to a hospital by paramedics on December 7, after complaining of dizziness and dropping in and out of consciousness. Two student in the class were also hospitalized after eating the brownies.

Thomas Ricardo Cunningham, 21, and Mary Elizabeth Essa, 19, baked the THC-laced brownies for their history class at the Hellems Arts and Sciences Building on December 7, said Ryan Huff, Colorado University police spokesman.

The charges -- about 16 of them -- against Cunningham and Essa include second-degree assault and inducing consumption of controlled substances by fraudulent means. Both are being held without bail at the Boulder County jail, and may be sentenced to prison.

New Study: Atheists Face Worldwide Persecution; Atheists Can Be Executed in at Least 7 Countries

According to a study released today (December 10, 2012), atheists can be executed in at least seven nations, if their beliefs become known, the Reuters website reports.

The study -- conducted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) -- showed that "unbelievers" in Islamic countries face the most severe treatment at the hands of the state and adherents of the official religion.

The report -- titled "Freedom of Thought 2012" -- said "there are laws that deny atheists' right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry."

According to the survey of some 60 countries, the seven nations in which a person's atheist beliefs can result in death are: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Colo. Doctor Taken by Afghan Taliban Is Rescued; Dr. Dilip Joseph Held for 5 Days, Close to Death

An American doctor -- abducted by the Taliban five days ago -- was rescued today (December 9, 2012) in eastern Afghanistan by American troops, according to the Fox News website.

Dr. Dilip Joseph of Colorado Springs, Colorado was returning from a visit to a medical clinic he had been overseeing on December 5 when he was captured, according to his employer, Morning Star Development -- a Colorado-based non-governmental organization.

He was rescued today in an early morning operation, which was ordered when intelligence showed that Joseph was in imminent danger of injury or death.

Joseph has been working for Morning Star for three years and has been serving as a medical adviser, traveling frequently to Afghanistan.

WCC Mourns Death of Greek Orthodox Patriarch; Pat. Ignatius IV Reconciled Religions in Mideast

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed its deepest sorrow at the death of  Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, who died on December 5 in Lebanon at the age of 92, the Ekklesia website reports today (December 9, 2012).

The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit -- General Secretary of the WCC -- called his passing away the loss of a "great leader who spent his entire life in reorganizing and developing the institutions of his church."

Dr. Tveit added that "Patriarch Ignatius IV has earned the respect of both Christians and Muslims in the Middle East due to his systematic efforts to bring peace and reconciliation in the region."

Ignatius IV was also one of the founding members of the Middle East Council of Churches.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rel. Org. Wants Consumers to Boycott JC Penney; Due to Penney Using Lesbian DeGeneres in Its Ads

A conservative Christian organization has once again called on consumers to boycott JC Penney, as a result of the retailer's decision to feature talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in their Christmas TV commercial, the Irish Central website reports today (December 8, 2012).

Last February, the group One Million Moms -- which is part of the American Family Association -- objected to the award-winning host being appointed as JC Penney spokesperson because she is a lesbian.

Once again, the organization is calling on their members to boycott the department store after she was featured in their Christmas ad, alongside three Christmas elves.

"Christians must now vote with their wallets. We have contacted JC Penney's several times in the past with our concerns, and they will not listen. They have decided to ignore our complaints, so we will avoid them at all costs," the One Million Moms statement said.

Swedish Artist Uses Holocaust Ashes for Painting; ADL Says Use of Human Remains as Art Offensive

Carl Michael von Hausswolff says he used ashes of Holocaust victims to create a very macabre painting. The Swedish artist maintains that he stole the ashes during a tour of a concentration camp, the Inquisitr website reports today (December 8, 2012).

The thought that human ashes may have been used in such a manner has caused an international uproar and backlash against the artist. Jewish leaders consider the painting an act of desecration.

The Swedish artist claims he stole the ashes of Holocaust victims while visiting the Majdanek concentration camp in 1989. Carl Michael von Hausswolff said that he mixed the ashes of those who were killed at the camp during World War II with water and then used material to paint a series of gray streaks onto the painting.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in New York City head Abraham Foxman said this about the painting: "The use of human remains as art is disrespectful and offensive, period, but what makes this so much worse is that Carl Michael von Hausswolff is also doing it at the expense of Hitler's victims."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Michigan Legislators Pass Right-to-Work Laws; Bar Unions from Forcing Workers to Join Them

Michigan state Republican legislators made waves yesterday by passing a series of right-to-work measures, attracting a wave of protests from union members and other opponents of the bills. The statutes would bar unions from requiring employees to become union members, or to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment, the New American website reports today (December 7, 2012).

While unions and their Democratic allies oppose the laws, Michigan Republicans yesterday made a swift move to make theirs the 24th state with right-to-work on the books.

A triumph in Michigan -- normally considered a pro-union state -- would provide the right-to-work movement its most fortified bedrock in the Rust Belt, where unions already have suffered some solid defeats.

"This is all about taking care of the hard-working workers in Michigan, being pro-worker and giving them freedom to make choices," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in supporting the bills. "The goal isn't to divide Michigan, it is to bring Michigan together."

FBI Nabs Retired Sailor for Attempted Espionage; Robert Hoffman Tried to Hand Russia Secret Info

The FBI has caught a retired sailor from Virginia Beach, Virginia trying to pass secret information to Russia, the Newser website reports today (December 7, 2012).

Cryptologic technician Robert Hoffman has been charged with attempted espionage after he was tripped up by an undercover operation.

As a member of the Navy, Hoffman got a top-level security clearance; a year after retiring in 2011, agents posing as Russians caught him attempting to transfer submarine tracking information, the FBI says.

The 39-year-old was decorated six times for good conduct while in the Navy. A conviction could mean life in prison.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jewish Hate Crime Is One of Worst Ever in U.S.; "You Killed Jesus" Scrawled on Miami Menorah

In what can be viewed as one of the most hateful anti-Semitic acts in the United States, a large menorah -- covered in seashells and used to spread the light of Hanukkah at Miami Beach in Florida -- was vandalized on December 2, scrawled with black graffiti stating "You Killed Jesus" on its base,  the Jewish Press website reports today (December 6, 2012).

December 2nd marked the 11th anniversary of the first time the religious symbol was vandalized, with the beach-themed Hanukkah vessel being torn down thrree times in its first year on display.

The menorah -- a sign of peace and joy in the Jewish religion -- is lit annually by Chabad Rabbi Zev Katz. "We're not going to be discouraged, we're going to keep going," Katz said regarding the hateful crime.

The damaged shells have already been replaced, and Miami police are investigating the incident.

West Point Senior Quits Due to Its Overt Religion; Says West Point Disrespects Nonreligious Cadets

An Army cadet -- who is quitting West Point less than six months before graduation -- says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities, and disrespects nonreligious cadets, the Associated Press website reports today (December 6, 2012).

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week. The 24-year-old said that a determination this semester -- that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression -- played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

"I've been trying since I found that out: What can I do? What can I possibly do to initiate the change that I want to see and so many other people want to see?" Page said. "I realized that this is one way I can make that change happen."

Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called "heathens" by instructors at basic training. In announcing his resignation this week, Page denounced "criminals" in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cal. Sheriff's Plan to Purchase a Drone Is Halted; Activists Blasted the Plan, Said It Violated Privacy

The Alameda County, California sheriff's office has been forced to suspend the purchase of a surveillance drone, after constitutionalists and activists slammed the agency with concerns that the use of the unmanned aerial vehicle would violate privacy protections, the New American website reports today (December 5, 2012).

Sheriff Gregory Ahern had asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to approve a $31,646 grant to purchase a drone. The money was part of a $1.2 million grant handed out by the California Emergency Management Agency.

County supervisors were preparing to vote on the use of grant money for such a purpose, but the public outcry from civil rights attorneys and anti-drone advocates has now forced the sheriff's office to halt the decision.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Linda Lye stated that the proposal would allow virtual police "spying," adding that Sheriff Ahern was "not taking privacy issues seriously."

Egypt Govt. Pays Thugs to Rape Women Objectors; Also Pays Thugs to Attack Men Protesting in Cairo

Egypt's embattled Muslim Brotherhood regime is paying gangs of thugs to rape women and beat up men who gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest the despotic power grab of President Mohamed Morsi, the Fox News website reports today (December 5, 2012).

In a bitter replay of the Arab Spring protests -- which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago -- protesters have flooded the Cairo square to denounce Morsi, who has stripped the judiciary of power and is rushing through an Islamist constitution.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have gathered in the square to protest the new constitution and to call for Morsi's ouster. Morsi fled the presidential palace in Cairo yesterday, after the complex was surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters chanting slogans reminiscent of those used during the revolution that ousted Mubarak.

The new constitution faces a December 15 referendum, but opponents and the nation's judges have signaled they won't take part in what they consider a sham process.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rahm Emanuel Says Netanyahu Betrayed Obama; Sees Israeli PM as Ungrateful of Solid US Support

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu betrayed U.S. President Obama by announcing a new settlement expansion and the cutoff of tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today  (December 4, 2012).

Emanuel -- who is of Jewish ancestry and was President Obama's chief of staff in the president's first term -- delivered the assessment over the weekend at the Saban Forum, an off-the-record Washington event.

Emanuel's comments were made public by another participant, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during an open forum and were confirmed by several other participants.

According to an account by New Yorker journalist David Remnick, Emanuel had said that Netanyahu had "repeatedly betrayed" Obama, and that the latest Israeli moves -- apparent retaliations for the successful Palestinian bid to achieve non-observer state status last week at the United Nations -- were especially galling,  given U.S. support for Israel during its recent mini-war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Maria of "Sesame Street" TV Rips Israel on Twitter; Sonia Manzano Calls Israelis "Bullies" on Her Feed

Sonia Manzano -- who plays Maria on the long-running PBS television series "Sesame Street" -- is bashing Israel via her Twitter feed, the Breitbart website reports today (December 4, 2012).

The actress sent out two pro-Palestinian messages relating to the latest unrest in the Middle East, first calling Israelis "bullies" and then comparing the Jewish state to early American settlers who wiped out Native Americans.

Manzano wrote: "Israelis retaliate the simple recognition of Palestinians by UN by deciding to build 3,000 more settlements. Bullies!"

She also wrote on her Twitter feed: "Why do Israelis need to be 'recognized' by Palestinians? Did Native Americans need to 'recognize' their tormentors?"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Judge OKs Nev. Amend. of Man, Woman Marriage; Rules Nev. Had a Right to Define Marriage as It Did

A federal judge has upheld Nevada's constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, thus providing a victory for social conservatives who have suffered a string of court losses on the issue, the Christian Telegraph website reports today (December 3, 2012).

In his November 26 opinion, Judge Robert Jones ruled that Nevada had a constitutional right to pass the amendment. The lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal, which advocates for gay issues.

Jones -- nominated by President George W. Bush -- said Supreme Court action in a 1972 case confirmed Nevada's ability to define marriage as it wishes.

Moreover, Jones went further in his ruling, saying Nevada had a legitimate state interest in defining marriage as it did. He added, "The perpetuation of the human race depends upon traditional procreation between men and women."

Univ. of Wisconsin to Grant Atheist Org. $69,000; Is Largest Grant Ever Given a College Atheist Org.

An organization of student nonbelievers is about to receive $69,000 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- the largest grant from an institution of higher learning ever awarded to an atheistic student-led organization -- the Religion News website reports today (December 3, 2012).

The grant's size marks a milestone for Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics (AHA) at UW, placing it in an elite group of large, student-run organizations eligible for UW funds, and making it the most well-funded atheist student group in the nation.

"This is unquestionably the most money an SSA group has ever received," said Jesse Galef, director of communications for Secular Student Alliance (SSA) -- an organization of 387 campus-based groups of nontheists, including AHA. "Over half our groups operate on $250 or less."

The grant has passed two approval stages and is awaiting approval from the university's student council, chancellor, and regents. Rejection at this point is rare, said David Gardner, a spokesman for the university's student government association.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Israel Withholds $100M from Palestine's Govt.; A Retaliation By Israel for Palestine's New UN Role

Israel today (December 2, 2012) rejected the United Nations' endorsement of an independent state of Palestine, announcing it would withhold more than $100 million collected for the Palestinian government to pay debts to Israeli companies, according to the News Max World website.

It was the second act of reprisal since the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on November 29 to support the Palestinians' statehood initiative. The following day, Israel announced it would start drawing up plans to build thousands of settlement homes, including the first-ever residential developments on a sensitive piece of land near Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel declared the statehood campaign -- led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- as "a gross violation of the agreements signed with the state of Israel."

"Accordingly, the government of Israel rejects the UN General Assembly decision," he said. Israel -- backed by the United States -- campaigned against the statehood measure, arguing that only negotiations can deliver a Palestinian state.

Egypt's New Constitution Neglects Human Rights; Ignores Women's Rights, OKs Civilian Mil. Trials

The draft constitution approved by Egypt's Constituent Assembly two days ago poses serious human rights problems, the Ekklesia website reports today (December 2, 2012). Criticism has come from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and others over the past 24 hours.

The draft falls well short of protecting human rights and, in particular, ignores the rights of women, restricts freedom of expression in the name of protecting religion, and allows for the military trial of civilians.

"This document, and the manner in which it has been adopted, will come as an enormous disappointment to many of the Egyptians who took to the streets to oust Hosni Mubarak and demand their rights," commented Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

The constitution also fails to provide for the supremacy of international law over national law, raising concerns about Egypt's commitment to human rights treaties to which it is a state party.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

West Point Chapel Has Its 1st Same-Sex Wedding; Army Chaplain Conducts Ceremony of NJ Lesbians

Cadet Chapel -- the landmark Gothic church that is a center for spiritual life at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point -- hosted its first same-sex wedding today (December 1, 2012), according to the Yahoo News website.

Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton -- a West Point graduate -- exchanged vows in the regal church in an afternoon ceremony, attended by about 250 guests and conducted by a senior Army chaplain.

The two have been together for 17 years. They had a civil commitment ceremony that didn't carry any legal force in 1999 and had long hoped to formally tie the knot. The way was cleared last year, when New York state legalized same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama lifted the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military.

The newly married lesbians both live in New Jersey and would have preferred to have the wedding there, but that state does not allow gay marriage.

Actress Loses Bid to Remove Video from YouTube; Judge Won't Buy Her Claim of Copyright Violation

An actress -- who said she was duped into appearing in an anti-Islam film that stoked violent protests against the United States across the Muslim world -- yesterday lost her second legal bid to force the video off YouTube, the Reuters website reports today (December 1, 2012).

Denying a request by actress Cindy Lee Garcia for a court order requiring the popular online video site to remove the crude 13-minute clip -- which is titled "The Innocence of Muslims" -- a federal judge found she was unlikely to prevail on her claims of copyright infringement.

U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald of Santa Clara, California also canceled a December 3 hearing he had previously set for oral arguments over Garcia's request.

Garcia's lawyer, Cris Armenta, said she planned to appeal the decision.

Friday, November 30, 2012

WCC Lauds Palestine's UN Status as Step to Peace; Says Two-State Accord Will Lead to Mideast Peace

The newly upgraded status of Palestine in the United Nations is viewed as a positive step in the direction toward peace and a reaffirmation of the World Council of Churches' long-term commitment to a two-state solution, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary said today (November 30, 2012), according to the Ekklesia website.

"It is now up to the two sides -- Israel and Palestine -- to move this process forward," said Dr. Tveit. "The vote in the UN confirms that the two-state solution is the best way to peace in the region. Without that, the future holds yet more violence and insecurity, and continuing tragedy for both peoples."

Dr. Tveit made his comments following the decision of the UN General Assembly yesterday to acknowledge the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a "non-member observer state."

"The WCC has consistently spoken in favor of a two-state solution," Tveit recalled. Since as early as its First Assembly in 1948, the WCC has championed the rights of both Israel and Palestine to free and independent states of their own.

"Bride, Groom" to Be History on Marriage Papers; WA State to Use More Neutral Terms Like Spouse

The words "bride" and "groom" -- as well as "husband" and "wife" -- are about to be eliminated on marriage and divorce certificates in Washington state, the New Media Journal website reports today (November 30, 2012).

Tim Church -- a spokesman for the Washington state Health Department -- said they will likely be removing those words in favor of more gender neutral terms.

He said the changes are necessary in response to the same-sex marriage law that takes effect December 6. "We've been quickly moving ahead to change our marriage certificate to make sure it fits for everyone who is going to be using it," Church said.

The words "bride" and "groom" could be replaced with "Spouse A" and "Spouse B" or "Person A" and "Person B," he added.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Palestine Wins UN Recognition of Sovereign State; Gen. Assembly Votes 138-9 for Its Observer Status

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly today (November 29, 2012) 138-9 -- with 41 abstentions -- to grant Palestine non-member observer state status, according to the USA Today website. The nine nations that voted against Palestine's UN recognition were: Israel, the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau.

"We are here for a final serious attempt to achieve peace," Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told General Assembly delegates before the vote. "Not to end the negotiation process....rather to breathe new life into the negotiation process."

Abbas went forward despite appeals to postpone the request, which the United States and Israel claim will only make negotiations for a permanent state less likely to happen. Both the U.S. and Israel had threatened Abbas with losing much financial aid Palestine has been receiving, if he went ahead and and sought Palestinian recognition by the UN.

Hanan Ashrawi -- a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a former peace negotiator -- said upgrading Palestinian status in the United Nations from observer to non-member state status will "enshrine our right to self-determination and statehood" and "help prevent Israel from destroying the chances of peace." She added that Israel is working against peace by annexing Jerusalem and building a security barrier on land that should belong in a Palestinian state.

Atheists Sway Judge to Ban a Calif. Nativity Scene; Judge Audrey Collins Suppresses 60-Yr. Tradition

The nearly 60-year tradition of a Nativity scene displayed at a park and hosted by a coalition of churches in Santa Monica, California ended, after a federal judge ruled on November 26, 2012 that the city can ban such displays, according to the California Catholic Daily website.

A controversy over the display about the birth of Jesus at Palisades Park erupted last Christmas season when an atheist group "manipulated" the city's lottery system for spaces, according to a nonprofit, resulting in only two booths for the Christian group that normally uses 14 booths for the Nativity-related scenes.

"It's a very sad day when a small number of people with an axe to grind -- people who do not like Christianity and who do not like God -- are able to prevail by manipulating rules to censor our message from the public place where it has been displayed for the enjoyment of millions of people for nearly 60 years," Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, said.

Judge Audrey Collins denied a request from the committee to erect the large displays primarily on the grounds that the city's administration was overburdened with the permit process for the displays, according to William Becker, the group's lawyer. A temporary injunction to allow the displays to go up this Christmas season was not allowed. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Saudi Arabia Opens Vienna Multi-M$ Interrel. Ctr.; Critics:The Real Goal Is an Islam "Propaganda Ctr."

Saudi Arabia has officially opened the doors to a controversial new "interreligious and intercultural dialogue center" in the Austrian capital of Vienna, the Europe News website reports today (November 28, 2012).

The King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue was inaugurated during an elaborate ceremony at the Hofburg Palace in downtown Vienna on November 26. More than 650 high-profile guests from around the world attended the event, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the foreign ministers of the center's three founding states -- Austria, Spain, and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis say the purpose of the multi-million-dollar institution -- which will be headquartered at the Palais Sturany in the heart of Vienna and will have the status of an international organization -- is to "foster dialogue" between the world's major religions in order to "prevent conflict."

Critics, however, emphasize that the center is really an attempt by Saudi Arabia to establish a permanent "propaganda center" in central Europe from which to spread the conservative Wahhabi sect of Islam. Moreover, the opening ceremony was accompanied by many angry protesters, who said that the Austrian government had "bowed the knee" to Saudi Arabia, and that the center was "a shame for Austria."

Dutch Holocaust Museum Gives Out Barbed Wire; Visitors Are Given Nazi Camp Wire as "Souvenirs"

A Dutch Holocaust museum is handing out pieces of barbed wire from a Nazi concentration camp to visitors, who can keep them as "souvenirs," the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (November 28, 2012).

RTV Utrecht -- a local television channel -- reported that the management of the Camp Amersfoort National Monument decided to give away the wire, after it had been criticized for putting the wire for sale at $12 for each piece earlier this month.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) -- a watchdog on anti-Semitism -- asked the museum to stop selling the wire. CIDI Deputy Director Esther Voet said that some descendants of resistance fighters found the sale inappropriate. She added the pieces of wire could reach collectors of Nazi memorabilia.

The wire once surrounded a Nazi concentration camp in which Nazis placed Dutch resistance fighters. Also detained at the camp was a Jewish contingent of forced labor prisoners. Most of them did not survive the Holocaust.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ACLU Sues US for Barring Its Women in Combat; Says Women Barred from 238,000 Mil. Positions

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today (November 27, 2012) sued on behalf of four U.S. servicewomen to challenge a longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions, citing the changing nature of warfare and fairness for career soldiers, according to the Christian Science Monitor website.

The ACLU argued in a legal complaint filed in federal court in Northern California that a military policy to bar women from combat roles on the basis of gender was unconstitutional.

"Nearly a century after women earned the right of suffrage, the combat exclusion policy still denies women a core component of full citizenship -- serving on equal footing in the military defense of our nation," reads the suit, on behalf of four women soldiers who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Women are not allowed in infantry -- or in smaller units engaged in combat -- and are barred from more than 238,000 positions, the ACLU said. But in Iraq and Afghanistan -- where there are no clear battle lines -- women have been pulled into combat in spite of the policy, the civil rights group added.

Samples of Arafat's Remains Dug Up at His Grave; Will Take Three Months to Determine If Poisoned

Yasser Arafat's political heirs today (November 27, 2012) opened his grave in Ramallah, West Bank, and foreign experts took samples of the iconic Palestinian leader's remains as part of a long-shot attempt -- eight years after his mysterious death -- to determine whether he was poisoned, according to the Times of Israel website.

Arafat died in November 2004 at a French military hospital, a month after suddenly falling ill at his West Bank compound, at the time besieged by Israeli troops.

The immediate cause of his death was a stroke, but the underlying reasons were unclear, leading to widespread belief in the Arab world that Israel poisoned the 75-year-old symbol of Palestinian nationalism. Israel has denied involvement in Arafat's death.

The probe of Arafat's death was revived this past summer when a Swiss lab detected elevated traces of a lethal radioactive substance, polonium-210, in biological stains on his clothing. Dr. Abdullah Bashir -- a member of the Palestinian investigative team -- said it would take at least three months for results to come back.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Priest Books Wedding and Funeral at Same Time; Apologizes for "Bride and Gloom" Ritual in Serbia

Serbian Orthodox priest Father Jefrem Ratkovic was forced to apologize, after he recently scheduled a wedding at the same time as a funeral in the central Serbian town of Ljig, the Austrian Times website reports exclusively today (November 26, 2012).

When bride Dragana Jovic, 23, arrived at the church dressed in white, she found dozens of mourners dressed in black together with a coffin containing the body of a local man, Nemanja Petrovic, 86.

Both the brightly-dressed wedding guests and the dark-clothed mourners had started to take their places in the church by the time the priest arrived.

After he realized that he had scheduled a wedding and a funeral at the same time, Father Ratkovic asked the mourners -- and their coffin -- to wait outside while he carried out the wedding, and then the funeral was allowed to go ahead. He told the local media, "Double bookings can happen in anything, the Church is no different. I have apologized though, and both sides were fine about it."

Russia's Pravda News Calls Obama "a Communist;" Makes US Changes as Lenin,Stalin Made in Russia

The famed Russian news site "Pravda" -- which was formed as the official Communist publication of the former Soviet Union -- recently released a scathing opinion column entitled, "Obama's Soviet Mistake," in which the author unabashedly labels U.S. President Barack Obama "a Communist without question promoting the Communist Manifesto without calling it so," The Blaze website reports today (November 26, 2012).

The author, Xavier Lerma, goes on to note how Obama's "cult of personality" has mesmerized the ignorant in America, who will follow the hope and change icon in much the same way as "fools" still praise Lenin and Stalin in Russia.

The Russian author questions if Americans have ever read history and concludes that American schools have been "conquered by Communists long ago," paving the way for a revisionist history that would only lead to the election of a Communist president in the United States.

Lerma also astutely notes, "Christianity in the U.S. is under attack as it was during the early period of the Soviet Union when religious symbols were against the law."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saudi Women Now Being Tracked Electronically; Males Must Sign Out for Women to Leave Nation

Saudi Arabia -- the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive motor vehicles -- has now implemented a new tracking system that electronically notifies their male guardians with texts when Saudi women cross the border, the Newser website reports today (November 25, 2012).

Women cannot leave Saudi Arabia unless their male guardians sign them out at an airport or the border.

News of the electronic tracking of women leaving Saudi Arabia has sparked a backlash on Twitter.

"This is technology used to serve backwardness in order to keep women imprisoned," wrote columnist Badriya al-Bashir, slamming the "state of slavery under which women are held."

Albanians in FYROM Celebrate 100th Ind. Anniv.; Albania Got Its Ind. from Ottoman Empire in 1912

More than 1,000 ethnic Albanians today (November 25, 2012) marched in Skopje -- the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) -- to mark the 100th anniversary of Albania's independence from the Ottoman Empire, according to the Newsvine website.

The prime ministers of neighboring Albania and Kosovo, Sali Berisha and Hashim Thaci respectively, attended the celebrations later today at Skopje's sports center.

Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 percent of FYROM's population of 2.1 million, but tension with the country's Slavic-speaking Macedonian majority has remained high since a six-month armed ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001 to demand greater autonomy in minority areas.

For nearly five centuries, Albania was at the heart of a sprawling Ottoman Empire, but it declared its independence in 1912, and is now a parliamentary democracy and a member of the United Nations and NATO.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

COMMENTARY: Morsi Becomes More Tyrannical Than Mubarak as Egypt's President

When hundreds of thousands of Egyptians revolted against their autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak, and overthrew him as their leader in February 2011, they probably never dreamed that his replacement would be a president who would be even more tyrannical.

But that is exactly what has happened.

Mohamed Morsi -- who has been president of Egypt since June 2012 -- gave himself incredible dictatorial powers on November 22 by implementing a presidential decree that grants him unlimited powers.

The vast majority of Egypt's 83 million people are furious at Morsi for his "power grab" and are determined to continue their protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities until he rescinds his decree or is no longer president.

His decree, in effect, makes Morsi the head of Egypt's executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Judges in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria -- Egypt's second largest city -- have gone on strike, and have agreed not to return to work until Morsi's decree is lifted.

Morsi -- a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Party -- claims he granted himself sweeping powers in order to "protect the revolution" that overthrew Mubarak. Most Egyptians, however, are too wise to believe that, and believe that Morsi is obsessed by his own power.

Morsi's self-empowering actions can be compared to those of Adolf Hitler when he was dictator of Nazi Germany. Some Egyptians have even given Morsi the nickname of "Egypt's new pharaoh."

The fact is that Egypt needs neither a Hitler-type dictator nor a pharaoh to lead its nation.

Either Morsi must rescind his omnipotent decree -- and soon -- or he must be overthrown by the Egyptian people.

At Least 7 Killed, 18 Injured in a Pakistani Blast; Bomb Explodes During a Shiite Rel. Procession

At least seven people -- including three children -- were killed and 18 were injured today (November 24, 2012) in a bomb attack on a Shiite Muslim religious procession in Pakistan, according to the Big News Network website.

The bomb exploded near a Muharram procession at Bannu Chungi in Dera Ismail Khan district.

The bomb had been placed in a garbage can near the procession. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik blocked cellphone service in some cities, where intelligence indicated the possibility of bombs being detonated by cellphones.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Raging Mobs in Much of Egypt Torch Govt. Offices; Angry Pres. Morsi Rules His Powers Are Unlimited

Angry mobs in Egypt have torched the offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood government in several cities, protesting against President Mohammed Morsi's decision to give himself dictatorial new powers, the Christian Post website reports today (November 23, 2012).

Today, Morsi announced that -- under his new decree -- his decisions cannot be revoked by any authority in the country, including the judiciary. Many Egyptians have called this Hitler-type rule a "coup," sparking a new wave of protests in a country that has seen great violence in recent years.

Egypt's state TV reported that offices were torched in the cities of Port Said, Alexandria, and Ismalia, while three people have been admitted to a hospital in Cairo after they were injured in street clashes in the nation's capital.

Mohamed ElBaradei -- a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- said that President Morsi has appointed himself Egypt's new "pharaoh," and called the decree "a major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences."

Kentucky Law Requires Its Citizens to Affirm God; Law Has Been Upheld by KY State Court of Appeals

In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state's citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God -- or risk 12 months in prison -- the Alter Net website reports today (November 23, 2012).

The law and its sponsor -- state representative and Baptist minister Tom Riner -- have been the subject of controversy since the law first surfaced in 2006, yet the state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite clearly violating the First Amendment's separation of church and state.

"This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin Kagin, the legal director of American Atheists -- a national organization focused on defending the civil rights of atheists.

American Atheists launched a lawsuit against the law in 2008, which won at the Circuit Court level, but was then overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Egypt's Top Muslim Cleric Slams Peace with Israel; Urges Holy War to Liberate Palestinian Territories

The top cleric from Egypt's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood -- which refuses to hold talks with Israel -- has denounced peace efforts with Israel, urging holy war to liberate Palestinian territories, the Yahoo News website reports today (November 22, 2012).

Today's call by Mohammed Badei came just a day after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi -- who also hails from the Muslim Brotherhood -- succeeded in brokering a truce to end eight days of Israel-Hamas fighting.

Under the truce, Gaza's ruling Hamas will stop its rocket fire into Israel, while Israel will cease its airstrikes on Gaza and allow the opening of the strip's long-blockaded borders.

Badei says "jihad is obligatory" for Muslims and that peace deals with Israel are a "game of grand deception." He adds that there have been enough negotiations, and "the enemy knows nothing but language of force."

Imams, Cath. Priests Play Soccer Match in Bosnia; Where 100,000 Died in a Rel. War 20 Years Ago

A soccer match between Muslim imams and Catholic priests last night has helped raise funds for a new kindergarten in Bosnia, the Associated Press website reports today (November 22, 2012).

More than 4,000 people paid one euro ($1.30) to watch the game in the central town of Zenica, cheering "Bosnia, Bosnia" and celebrating whoever scored. The Catholics won 5 to 3.

The match -- organized by Bosnia's Inter-religious Committee -- was played by priests of the Bosnian Franciscan order and Muslim imams, said Priest Fra Zdravko Andjic. His good friend, Imam Jakub Salkica, said both sides got along well, but joked about suspicions of match-fixing.

Two decades ago, more than 100,000 people died in this country in a religious war that involved Muslim Bosniaks, Christian Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poland Nabs Suspect Seeking to Bomb Parliament; Terror Plot Is 1st Since Poland Ended Communism

Polish authorities have arrested a radical nationalist who planned to blow up parliament and had links to the right-wing extremist who murdered dozens of people in Norway last year, the Independent Online website reports today (November 21, 2012).

The suspected plot -- to detonate a bomb outside parliament when the country's most senior officials were inside -- was the first of its kind since Poland  threw off Communist rule more than 20 years ago.

"This is a new and dramatic experience," said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was one of the intended targets of the assassination plot, along with the president.

Prosecutors said the suspect -- a 45-year-old scientist who works for a university in the southern city of Krakow and has not been publicly identified -- planned to plant four tons of explosives in a vehicle outside parliament and detonate it remotely.

Report:"Alarming" Islamophobia Occurs in France; No. of Anti-Muslim Attacks in 2012 Increased 42%

A new report by a leading anti-racism observatory in France states that French Muslims have become the target of a marked increase in Islamophobic violence and actions -- as well as incendiary statements by politicians -- over the last two years, the France 24 website reports today (November 21, 2012).

The number of racist acts against Muslims in France is increasing "alarmingly," according to the country's National Observatory of Islamophobia, whose president has called for overt Islamophobia to be taken as seriously as anti-Semitism, which is a criminal offense in France.

According to the Observatory report -- which claims to fight "all forms of racism and xenophobia" -- "in 2011 the number of anti-Muslim attacks was up 34% on the previous year....but what is happening in 2012 is alarming. Between January and the end of October there were 175 reported Islamophobic acts -- a 42% increase compared with the same period in 2011."

The Observatory's President Abdallah Zekri said that the huge rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in France could be partly explained by "the tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far right."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vatican Dismisses Roy Bourgeois from Rel. Order; Violated Cath. Dogma by Favoring Women Priests

Roy Bourgeois -- a longtime peace activist and Catholic priest who had come under scrutiny for his support of women's ordination -- has been dismissed from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, which he served in Maryknoll, New York for 45 years, the National Catholic Reporter website reports today (November 20, 2012).

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made the dismissal in October, according to a news release issued yesterday afternoon by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Yesterday's statement from Maryknoll puts a cap on years of discussion about Bourgeois' role in the order, following his participation in the ordination of Roman Catholic woman priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska in August 2008.

Shortly thereafter, Bourgeois was notified by the Vatican congregation that he had incurred a "latae sententiae" (automatic excommunication) for his participation.

Turkey's PM Declares "Israel Is a Terrorist State;" Calls Killings of Children in Gaza "Terrorist Acts"

A top Turkish official has claimed that Israel is committing acts of terrorism by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza, the Europe News website reports today (November 20, 2012).

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Eurasian Islamic Council conference in Istanbul that the Jewish state is systematically mass-killing Muslims.

"Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza," Erdogan said. "For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts."

The conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas escalated on November 14, as a result of an Israeli airstrike that killed the Hamas military commander, Ahmed Jabari.

Anglican Church Refuses to OK Female Bishops; Foes Had Votes in General Synod to Deny Move

The governing body of the Anglican Church -- also known as the Church of England -- today (November 20, 2012) blocked a move to permit women to serve as bishops in the church, according to the Associated Press website.

Following a day-long debate today, opponents mustered enough of votes to deny the necessary two-thirds majority required among lay members of the General Synod.

Church officials say it may take five years to go through the process of taking new legislation to a final vote.

The push to muster a two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod was expected to be close, with many on both sides unsatisfied with a compromise proposal to accommodate individual parishes that refuse to accept female bishops.

Today's decision by the Anglican Church is in line with the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christian Churches,  whose theological dogma dictates that only males can be bishops.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NYC Man Sentenced to Life for 2009 Subway Plot; Adis Medunjanin Planned to Blast a Suicide Bomb

A Bosnia-born U.S. citizen has been sentenced to life behind bars for his role in a foiled suicide-bomb plot on New York City subways in 2009, the Fox News website reports today (November 19, 2012).

Adis Medunjanin, a Muslim, received the sentence on November 16 in federal court in Brooklyn.

Prosecutors had accused Medunjanin and two high school classmates of receiving al-Qaida training in Pakistan before agreeing to strap on backpack bombs for a strike a few days before the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

Admitted mastermind Najibullah Zazi and another man both pleaded guilty and testified against the 28-year-old Medunjanin.

Gay Marriage Protesters, Feminists Clash in Paris; Govt. Plan to Allow Gay Marriages Enrages French

A second consecutive day of protests in France yesterday against gay marriage attracted more than 100,000 people, the Euro News website reports today (November 19, 2012).

Largely organized by Catholic groups, yesterday's demonstrations added to a weekend that saw opponents of proposed legislation backed by the socialist government and due to be deliberated on in January.The protesters say allowing gay marriages is a step too far.

Scuffles broke out in Paris, as several members of the Ukrainian topless group Femen clashed with anti-gay marriage demonstrators. Police used teargas to disperse those fighting.

The Femen feminists -- who carry out protests while topless in order to attract more attention for their cause -- often take part in protests targeting religious institutions and against sex trafficking.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Coptic Orthodox Pope Is Enthroned in Egypt; Heads Largest Christian Group in Islamist Egypt

The Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II -- who was elected Pope earlier this month -- was enthroned today (November 18, 2012) as the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians, according to the Inquisitr website.

Coptic Christians make up about a tenth of Egypt's 83 million people, making them the largest Christian group in the predominantly Islamist nation.

Copts have long complained of facing increasing discrimination as the Egyptian government grows more Islamist, but -- in a show of good faith -- the Muslim prime minister and a host of other cabinet officials attended the ceremony. Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi did not attend.

The Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of congratulations to Pope Tawadros. Pope Benedict said he hoped the relationship between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox churches would grow "in a fraternal spirit of collaboration" as well as "through a deepening of the theological dialogue."

Franklin Graham:US Has Turned Its Back on God; Rips Christians for Not Supporting Biblical Values

Evangelist Franklin Graham -- son of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham -- is issuing a wake-up call to America, asserting that the nation has turned its back on God, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 18, 2012).

Graham warned that President Obama's agenda will bring the greatest changes to the United States since the Civil War. He also said Christians can blame themselves for the crisis facing our nation.

"We need to do a better job of getting our people -- the church -- to vote," he admonished. He added, "I'm not trying to tell you how to vote. You can vote, but vote, my goodness, and vote for candidates that stand for Biblical values."

"Our country is in trouble," he warned. "It's in trouble spiritually. We've turned our back on God."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Episcopal Bishop Urges SC Diocese Not to Defect; SC Diocese Says Bishop Won't Affect a Done Deal

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has sent a pastoral letter to the members of a diocese whose leadership is defecting from the denomination, the Christian Post website reports today (November 17, 2012).

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori sent the letter to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on November 15, writing that she wants the Diocese to remain part of the Church.

"Your presence adds to the ability of this community to discern the will of God, even if you disagree vehemently with one or another resolution passed by a particular General Convention," wrote Schori.

Joy Hunter -- director of communications for the South Carolina Diocese -- said the pastoral letter will not change the course the Diocese intends to take. "The Diocecse of South Carolina has already disassociated from that organization," said Hunter, adding that Schori's authority holds no jurisdiction.

The Episcopal Church has lost more than 100,000 members during the past decade, due primarily to its recent adoption of several anti-Christian beliefs, including women priests and bishops, gay and lesbian priests and bishops, and same-sex marriage.

Turkish PM Vows to Back Muslims in Gaza War; Views Egypt's New Govt. as Hope for Palestinians

Turkey's prime minister has vowed support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the current military conflict between Israel and the Hamas, the Newsvine website reports today (November 17, 2012).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Egypt's uprising that ousted longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak from power last year as a point of hope for Palestinians. The Turkish leader delivered his remarks in a speech at Cairo University today.

Erdogan also met with President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo for the first time since the Egyptian Islamist leader was elected last June.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people protested today outside the Arab League headquarters in Cairo -- where Arab foreign ministers are meeting to discuss Israel's expanded fierce air assault on rocket operations in Gaza -- which is run by the Islamic militant Hamas group.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Acquitted Greek Magazine Editor to Face a Retrial; Prosecutor: Decision Violates Individuals' Privacy

Costas Vaxevanis -- publisher of the Greek magazine "Hot Doc" -- will face trial once again, as a result of the Athens Public Prosecutor's Office appeal of a court decision earlier this month acquitting him of charges of violating privacy laws after publishing what the magazine claimed was the so-called Lagarde list, a list of some 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, the Ekathimerini (Greek) website reports today (November 16, 2012).

In a statement, the prosecutor said the decision was "legally wrong," as it violated the privacy of individuals on the list and called for a re-examination of the case.

Earlier this month, Vaxevanis was cleared of misdemeanor charges after publishing a list of names of Greeks with deposits in the Geneva branch of HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation).

The prosecutor -- who had argued the case against him in court -- claimed Vaxevanis had "offered blood and turned the country into a coliseum."

Israel Musters a Deluge of Troops on Gaza Border; Will Launch Ground Assault If Rocket Fire Persists

Israel began to mobilize tens of thousands of troops and extend its aerial and artillery attacks on the Gaza Strip for the third consecutive day today (November 16, 2012), while Palestinian militants mounted their deepest-ever missile strikes into the heart of Israel, in what may well be the prelude of a new Middle East War, according to the Wall Street Journal website.

The exchanges -- which have killed 19 Palestinians and three Israelis -- broadened a conflict that had erupted into the open on November 14. At that time, Israel responded to escalating missile strikes from Gaza militants by launching a blitz of airstrikes that killed the top military commander of Hamas -- the Islamist militant group and political movement that runs Gaza.

Israel's leaders have said they will launch a ground assault on Gaza if the rocket fire continues.

"The situation has all the elements and dynamics that could lead us down the road we haven't been before," said Steve Cook, a Mideast specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. He added, "It's a very dangerous situation."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holy Sepulchre Church's $2.3M Water Bill Solved; Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Ends Giant Debt

The conflict over an unpaid $2.3 million water bill of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been resolved, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (November 15, 2012).

"The Holy Sepulchre Church's water debts have been written off, not without the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church after Patriarch Kirill met with Israeli President Shimon Peres," Deacon Alexander Volkov -- who heads the Patriarch's press service -- said yesterday while summing up the five-day visit by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to the region.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- which has for centuries been one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for millions of Christians as the purported site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ -- earlier in November threatened to close its doors, as its bank account was frozen over a debt to an Israeli water company. The Hagihon company -- which took over the water supply from Jerusalem authorities in the late 1990s -- recently demanded payment of a $2.3 million bill dating back 15 years, including interest.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III earlier this month wrote letters to the leaders of Russia, Israel, the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan with an appeal to intervene with the standoff and put a stop "to this flagrant act against the church." Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the presidential administration will thoroughly study Patriarch Theophilos's request for help.

Pope: Ecumenical Work Lifts New Evangelization; Says Christians Must Persist in Defeating Divisions

Ecumenical work is a key component of the "new evangelization," Pope Benedict XVI told the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity in an address today (November 15, 2012), according to the Catholic Culture website.

All Christians should be concerned by "the crisis of faith affecting vast areas of the world, including  those where the proclamation of the Gospel was first accepted and where Christian life has flourished for centuries," the Pope said, at a private audience held in the Clementine Hall of the apostolic palace.

Pope Benedict said that ecumenism calls for "patience, humility, and abandonment to the Lord's will."

He added, "Christians must be persistent in the effort to overcome divisions, never accepting the fractures within the Christian community as something normal or as the best that can be obtained."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Romney: Obama Won by Gifts to Blacks, Latinos; Says Gifts Will Cost Taxpayers Trillions of Dollars

Mitt Romney is attributing his loss in the 2012 presidential election to the "gifts" President Obama gave to minority voters, the Think Progress website reports today (November 14, 2012).

Speaking to donors today, the former Massachusetts governor praised his own campaign, but speculated that Obama won because he was "very generous" to blacks, Hispanics, and young voters.

He cited as motivating factors to young voters the administration's plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and the extension of health coverage for students on their parents' insurance plans well into their 20s. Free contraception coverage under Obama's healthcare plan, he added, gave an extra incentive to college-age women to back the president.

"The President's campaign," Romney said, "focused on giving targeted groups a big gift -- so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars."

Pat Robertson OKs Petraeus' Affair with Broadwell; Is "A Good Looking Lady Throwing Herself at Him"

Television evangelist and ordained Southern Baptist Minister Pat Robertson doesn't think General David Petraeus should be condemned for his love affair with writer Paula Broadwell. After all, she is "an extremely good looking woman" and "he's a man," Robertson said, the Huffington Post website reports today (November 14, 2012).

Robertson, 82,  excused former CIA Director Petraeus for the extramarital affair with his biographer, Broadwell, on the November 12 episode of "The 700 Club" -- the flagship program of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The affair resulted in Petraeus' resignation as CIA Director on November 9.

"Who knows?" Robertson said. "This man is off in a foreign land and he's lonely and here's a good looking lady throwing herself at him. I mean, he's a man."

Robertson added that Broadwell is an extremely good looking woman and a marathon runner. "So she's out running with him and writing a biography. I think the term is 'propinquity.'"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jesse Jackson, Jr. Seeks a Plea Deal with Govt.; May Go to Prison, Be Forced to Leave Congress

Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is in discussions with the Department of Justice to reach a plea deal which could send him to prison and force his resignation from Congress. Jackson is believed to have misused campaign funds, the Inquisitr website reports today (November 13, 2012).

Jackson, 47, has hired Dan Webb -- a lawyer specializing in high profile corruption cases -- to represent him in discussions with the government.

In addition to the misuse of campaign funds, Jackson has been under investigation by a House ethics panel over an alleged bribe by one of his supporters to convicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The bribe was said to be intended to entice Blagojevich to appoint Jackson to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who has since been convicted of corruption charges and imprisoned.

It has been reported that the FBI has also been investigating the allegations of misuse of funds by Jackson -- and has been doing so for more than half of a year.

Man, 76, Arrested in New Zealand for Assault Plan; Planned to Throw Horse Manure on Prince Charles

Police arrested a man in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday, before he had a chance to throw a bucket of horse manure onto Prince Charles and his wife Camilla during a royal visit to the Pacific nation, the News Max World website reports today (November 13, 2012).

Castislav "Sam" Bacanov, 76, pleaded not guilty in an Auckland court today to planning a crime in a public place. He has agreed -- under his bail conditions -- to keep at least 500 meters from the royal couple.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are on a six-day tour of New Zealand -- the last leg of their Pacific tour marking Queen Elizabeth II's 60th Jubilee.

Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said officers arrested Bacanov -- a known anti-royalist -- yesterday near a downtown Auckland venue where Charles and Camilla were due to appear. Bacanov is due to appear in court again on November 27.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Imam Is Elected Head of Syrian Opposition Group; Plans to Win International Support, Defeat Assad

Activist Muslim preacher Moaz al-Khatib has been elected the first leader of a new Syrian opposition umbrella group that hopes to win international recognition and prepare for a post-Assad Syria, the Reuters website reports today (November 12, 2012).

Veteran opposition figure Riad Seif -- who proposed the U.S.-backed initiative to set up an umbrella group of opposition groups inside and outside Syria -- was elected as deputy president along with Suhair al-Atassi, a well-known female activist.

Opposition figures had struggled for days in Doha, Qatar to find unity, under heavy pressure from U.S. diplomats and officials from Qatar, which has bankrolled much Syrian opposition activity since an uprising began last year. Some 35,000 Syrians have been killed by government forces, in its failed effort to end the uprising.

Khatib -- a former imam at the famous Umayyad mosque in Damascus -- was imprisoned several times for criticizing Assad's rule before he left Syria for Cairo this year. Delegates said he had been the only candidate for the post of president.

New Society Trend:Women Now "Marrying Down;" Wives Achieve Higher Social Status in Six Nations

New research has found that women are increasingly "marrying down" and choosing men who are less qualified and educated than themselves, the Independent Online (South African) website reports exclusively  today (November 12, 2012).

The growing number of girls going through university and into work means that centuries of men holding the higher social status within relationships are coming to an end, the research reveals.

In some countries, it is now more common for the female half of the partnership to be better educated than the male half, said the global study by university experts in Barcelona, Spain.

Sociologically,  a partnership where the woman has the higher social status is known as "hypogamy." But more commonly, it is referred to as "marrying down."

Researcher Albert Esteve said ...."In these times of crisis, the woman is increasingly becoming the income earner." His research shows that countries in which "hypogamy" is the norm are: France, Jordan, Mongolia, Slovenia, South Africa, and Spain.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Polish Police, Rioters Clash on National Holiday; Nationalists: Liberal Values Ruin Cath. Tradition

Riot police in the Polish capital of Warsaw used truncheons and rubber bullets today (November 11, 2012) to break up a crowd of right-wing extremists who pelted them with firecrackers and lumps of concrete at a parade to mark the national holiday, according to the Reuters website.

It was the second consecutive year that independence day celebrations have degenerated into violence, underlining the gulf between the government and hardline nationalists who think liberal values imported from Europe are ruining Poland's Catholic traditions.

Police said that 132 people were detained following the violence, which took place in central Warsaw. Five policemen sustained injuries that needed hospital treatment.

The day started with thousands of police in riot gear lining the streets trying to stop trouble erupting between right-wing groups, left-wing radicals, and government supporters -- all holding their own independence day parades to push their competing visions of what sort of country Poland should be.

Palestinian Pres.Abbas Seeks UN Observer Status; Insists on UN Recognition Despite Israeli Threats

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said today (November 11, 2012) that he will ask the United Nations General Assembly this month to recognize Palestine to non-member observer status, despite pressure to abandon the bid from Israel and the United States, according to the Associated Press website.

Both Israel and the United States say a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations. Talks broke down four years ago and the Palestinians refuse to renew them until Israel halts all settlement construction -- which Israel refuses to do.

Abbas said in a speech today, "Some powers are trying to tell us that the two-state solution doesn't come from the UN, but through negotiations.... Negotiations are crucial. But to get UN recognition is also key."

Israel has threatened Palestine that it will stop collecting tax revenue for the Palestinian Authority and not hand over the money, if President Abbas continues to seek Palestinian observer state membership of the UN.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Twin Car Bombs Kill 20 Syrian Soldiers in Deraa; Dozens Wounded, Muslims Suspected of Attack

Twin bombings at a military base by rebel forces in the southern Syrian town of Deraa killed at least 20 soldiers today (November 10, 2012) and wounded dozens more, according to the Big News Network website.

Two cars -- loaded with explosives -- blew up within minutes of each other.

No group has claimed responsibility for today's bombings, but Islamist groups have taken credit for similar attacks in the past.

Turkish state media reported November 9 that 26 Syrian military officers -- including two generals and 11 colonels -- have fled into Turkey.

Vatican Computer Expert Convicted in Leaks Case; Aided Butler,Gets Two-Month Suspended Sentence

A Vatican court today (November 10, 2012) found a Holy See computer expert guilty of obstruction of justice in the investigation of leaks of sensitive papal documents to the media by Pope Benedict's former butler, according to the Reuters website.

The same court which already convicted Paolo Gabriele -- the Pope's former butler -- gave Claudio Sciarpelletti a two-month suspended sentence for obstructing the investigation of the media leaks. The Pope's former butler was sentenced to 18 months in prison last month.

The leaks unleashed one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy, embarrassing the Vatican at a time when it was struggling to overcome several child sex abuse scandals involving clerics, as well as mismanagement at its bank.

Vatican watchers are skeptical that Gabriele could have acted alone, and believe he may have been forced to take the blame in order to shield bigger players inside the Holy See. They say both Gabriele and Sciarpelletti could be pawns in a palace power struggle.