Monday, April 30, 2012

S.C. Middle School Teacher Charged with Assault; Grabbed Student by Collar, Said "Come Here, Jew"

The Drudge Report website reports today (April 30, 2012) that a middle school teacher in Bluffton, South Carolina has been placed on administrative leave, after she grabbed a seventh-grader by his shirt collar, forcing him under a desk and telling him, "This is what the Nazis do to Jews."

A lawyer for social studies teacher Patricia Mulholland said she was merely conducting an "interactive lesson" on the Holocaust during a class.

The alleged victim told authorities that as he was returning to his desk after sharpening his pencil, Mulholland grabbed him by the collar and said, "Come here, Jew," and dragged him 10 to 12 feet, according to the police report.

The student told his parents about the incident that evening, and they decided to press charges against the teacher. Mulholland's court date is May 22.

EPA Official Resigns Due to "Crucify" Comment; Said EPA Should "Crucify" Polluters in a Video

The Lookout website reports today (April 30, 2012) that Al Armendariz -- the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) official at the center of a budding scandal surrounding a 2010 video in which he said the EPA should "crucify" polluters -- has resigned.

Armendariz -- head of the EPA's South Central region in Dallas -- sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last night informing her of his decision to step down.

Samuel Coleman -- who served as the EPA's senior federal official in New Orleans during the agency's response to hurricane Katrina -- will replace Armendariz as acting administrator.

Republicans -- already critical of what they call the Obama administration's war on energy -- seized upon the video when it surfaced last week, calling for Armendariz to resign.

Terror Suspects in Denmark Being Held in Prison; Arrested on Charges of Illegal Weapons Possession

The CPH Post website reports today (April 30, 2012) that a court in Copenhagen has ordered three men  -- suspected of planing a terrorist attack -- to be held in prison for four weeks.

The men were arrested last week on charges of illegal weapons possession at a suburban Copenhagen train station after one of the suspects -- a 23-year-old Turkish citizen who lives in Denmark -- attempted to transfer two AK-47 assault rifles to a 21-year-old Dane who resides in Egypt.

Both men pleaded innocent, but the third suspect -- a 22-year-old Jordanian who was not present when the arrests were made at Herlev Station -- has pleaded guilty to the charges of weapons possession.

A fourth man -- a 24-year-old Palestinian -- was also arrested and charged with being in Denmark illegally.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Study: Millenials Tend to Reject Rel. Doctrine; Leave Childhood Faith, End Up Unaffiliated

The Voice of America News website reports today (April 29, 2012) that college campuses are among the least religious places in America -- largely because people tend to drift away from faith when they are young.

A new study focusing on 18-to-24-year-old Americans -- called the Millenial Values Survey -- finds many rejecting religious doctrine and orthodoxy in general.

Findings also indicate that many members of the so-called "millenial generation" are leaving their childhood faith and ending up unaffiliated.

Around 25 percent of the respondents said they do not identify with any religion -- more than twice the 11 percent raised in households without any particular faith.

Terry Jones Carries Out Threat to Burn the Koran; Pastor Ignores Pentagon Request Not to Burn It

The Big News Network website reports today (April 29, 2012) that pastor Terry Jones carried out his threat yesterday, by burning copies of the Koran and destroying a depiction of the prophet Mohammed outside his Gainesville, Florida church.

The Pentagon had asked Jones not to burn the Korans -- in order to protect American soldiers in Afghanistan and other Islamist areas -- but Jones ignored the request.

The burning of the Koran yesterday coincided with demands from Jones for Iran to release Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from prison.

About 20 people attended yesterday's burning.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

COMMENTARY: FYROM Should Change Its Name in Order to Join NATO and EU

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) received some unpleasant news this week, as high-level diplomats in both the United States and Germany indicated that FYROM will not be allowed to join NATO or the European Union (EU) unless it changes its name. FYROM is seeking membership in both of these organizations.

The fact is that Greece already has a province called Macedonia in the northern part of the country -- a province that borders FYROM. Consequently, many Greeks believe that -- by using "Macedonia" in its name -- FYROM would like to control the Greek province by the same name.

Moreover, many Greeks are upset that FYROM is trying to be recognized as being the birthplace of Alexander the Great, when, in fact, Alexander was born in Macedon, which is part of the Greek province.

FYROM last year had huge statues of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip of Macedon, erected in its capital of Skopje to illustrate its belief that Alexander and Philip were of Slavic origin, rather than Greek origin. History, however, has already proven that Philip and Alexander were of Greek ancestry, not Slavic.

FYROM -- which became a nation in 1991 as a result of the breakup of several provinces in Yugoslavia -- needs to agree to change its name if it expects to join NATO or the EU. Its new name must be one that is acceptable by the government of Greece.

Once FYROM changes its name, it should have no problem in becoming a member of NATO and the European Union.

The longer it takes FYROM to change its name, the longer it will take FYROM to join these organizations. It's that simple!

Indiana Church Renews Old Brewery Into Church; Building's Renovations to Be Done by Volunteers

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 28, 2012) that One Life Church in Evansville, Indiana is transforming an old brewery into its house of worship.

The church -- which is known locally for its "come as you are" attitude -- already has one location in a shopping center in Henderson, Kentucky.

Leaders say the former brewery is the perfect building. The facility is large enough for a growing congregation and they hope it will be a symbol of rejuvenation for the community.

Renovations for the brewery-turned-church building will be completed by volunteers. One Life Church--West plans to open on August 19, 2012.

FYROM's Hopes of Joining NATO, EU Shot Down; Must Remove "Macedonia" from Its Name to Join

In a severe blow to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) hopes of joining NATO, a U.S. official said FYROM will have to resolve its "name" dispute with Greece before it can become a member of NATO, the Balkan Insight website reports today (April 28, 2012).

Tina Kaidanow -- Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs -- told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the U.S. wishes to see a solution to the Greek-Macedonian "name" dispute before NATO can "extend a membership offer to Macedonia."

Similar words also came yesterday from Germany's Defense Ministry, which is hosting Macedonian Defense Minister Fatmir Besimi. Christian Schmidt -- State Secretary to the Ministry -- said "Macedonia's future membership in NATO and the EU will depend on the removal of the existing obstacles."

Greece has insisted that FYROM -- which became an independent nation as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 -- remove the word "Macedonia" from its name, because a province in northern Greece bordering FYROM is also called Macedonia -- the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fla. Pastor Terry Jones to Burn Qurans April 28; This Time to Protest Iran's Jailing of Nadarkhani

The Christian Post website reports today (April 27, 2012) that Florida pastor Terry Jones -- whose burning of the Quran last year resulted in violent reaction by Muslims -- has decided to burn the Quran again tomorrow (April 28) at 5 p.m. ET in front of his church, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

This time, Jones plans to burn the Quran in protest of Iran's continued imprisonment of Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

Jones and his organization are calling for supporters worldwide to burn copies of the Islamic holy book and images of the faith's founder, the prophet  Muhammad.

Jones -- who called the Islamic faith "a bully" -- said the service will be roughly an hour long, during which time he will speak on "the last 1,400 years of Islamic persecution of Christians, believers, nonbelievers, homosexuals, and women."

Phoenix School Gets OK to Pass Out Rel. Fliers; Policy Reversal Aids Rel. After-School Program

The Christian Post website reports today (April 27, 2012) that students at an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona will be allowed to pass out fliers promoting a Good News Club after-school  program, as the result of a settlement between district officials and a Christian lawyers' association.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) announced yesterday that the Dysart Unified School District -- which had rejected the fliers because of their "religious nature" last January -- had reversed its decision.

"A Christian organization should have the same right to publicize its voluntary meetings as other groups do," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.

The purpose of the Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of Jesus and establish them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.

Gays Smash 9 Windows in Portland, OR Church; Took Action Since "Mars Hill Church Is Anti-Gay"

The Life Site News website reports today (April 27, 2012) that a homosexual activist group in Portland, Oregon -- which calls itself the "Angry Queers" -- has claimed responsibility for smashing nine windows in a church known for teaching traditional sexual morality.

"Upon returning at the church (on April 24), we discovered nine separate windows had been smashed in with rocks, including two beautiful 100-year-old stained glass windows," wrote Tim Smith, pastor of the Portland Campus of Mars Hill Church.

He also wrote, "We estimate the damage to be several thousand dollars."

The vandals sent an e-mail to a local television station stating that they took the action because "Mars Hill is notoriously anti-gay and anti-woman."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hitler's "Mein Kampf" OK'd for German Schools; Book Was Banned Due to Fear of Nazi Revival

The Spero Forum website reports today (April 26, 2012) that Adolf Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") is poised to be published again in Germany, where Nazism took root and once flourished -- some 67 years after it was last published in that country.

The copyright of the hate-filled, anti-Semitic, and racist book has been kept out of public view since the end of World War II by law, but will make a comeback in 2015 when the copyright expires. At that time, an annotated version will be made available to schools across Germany.

The German state of Bavaria -- which became the heir to all of Hitler's works, property, and money following his 1945 suicide in Berlin -- claims that children should have copies available that include expert analysis and comments from historians which refute Nazi ideology.

Although it is legal to possess a copy of "Mein Kampf," any printing or prominent displays of the book are prohibited out of concern that it may still inspire racism and Nazism.

UNESCO Gives Saudi King Medal for Peace Efforts; King Abdullah Paid for Rel. Dialog Ctr. in Austria

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (April 26, 2012) that the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has awarded Saudi King Abdullah a medal "in recognition of his efforts in enhancing the culture of dialog and peace."

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova -- a Bulgarian diplomat -- bestowed the award during a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia this week.

The medal -- "UNESCO's highest honorary recognition award" -- was a mark of appreciation for Abdullah's initiatives in holding international forums and conferences furthering dialog and peace, the agency said.

The king last year established a center in Vienna, Austria to promote inter-religious dialog, opened an interfaith conference in Madrid in 2008, and hosted a "culture of peace" gathering at the UN in New York later that same year.

Greece Ends Its Benefits to 200,000 Fraudsters; Cuts Will Generate a Savings of $1.06B Annually

The Reuters website reports today (April 26, 2012) that Greece has stopped various benefits -- including pensions to 200,000 people who lied to get their monthly checks or were getting checks of dead relatives -- a Greek Labor Ministry official said yesterday.

Debt-laden Athens discovered the fraud after beginning basic data cross checks and means-testing, under pressure from its international lenders to cut its deficits.

The Greek government terminated payments to families that continued to receive the pensions of their dead seniors. It also stopped benefits to wealthy recipients who had posed as poor to become eligible.

The cuts -- implemented gradually since last September -- will generate savings of up to 800 million euros ($1.06 billion) annually, the Labor Ministry official said.

Greece's generous welfare state and bloated public sector have been blamed as root causes behind a debt load that is about 1.6 times the country's economic output.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

COMMENTARY: Precaution Could Have Prevented "Judas Actor" from Dying

A Brazilian actor -- who played the part of the apostle Judas in a play in Sao Paulo -- died this week as a result of accidentally hanging himself.

Tiago Klimeck, 27, was playing Judas in a scene in "The Passion of Christ" in which Judas hangs himself because he betrayed Christ.

The other members of the play did not realize that Klimeck was really dying, as they thought he was simply playing the role of Judas.

After noticing that Klimeck appeared motionless for four minutes, some members of the cast freed him from the rope that was tied around his neck; however, by that time, Klimeck was stricken too severely to be saved.

There is an important lesson to be learned from this scenario; namely, that actors must not take their work too seriously -- especially when the scenes in which they are acting involve a hanging rope, a gun, a knife, or other deadly weapon.

Indeed, it is wiser for actors to consider their lives and their safety more important than making a scene appear more realistic. Had the rope simply been placed around Klimeck's neck -- without having a knot  -- he would be alive today.

This kind of precaution, then, is essential in order to prevent similar deaths and serious injuries from occurring in the world of acting in the future.

An adage by the 16th century Dutch theologian Erasmus is appropriate for this situation: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Fort Lauderdale Church Offers Drive-Thru Prayer; Volunteers Adjacent to Church Pray with Drivers

The Huffington Post website reports today (April 25, 2012) that a Pentecostal church is extending its spiritual services by offering drive-thru prayer once a week.

Every Friday -- just outside the Christian Life Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- volunteers hold placards advertising the prayer offering to commuters.

So far, the church has served about 150 people since the program started four weeks ago.

The volunteers offer to pray with the drivers on any issue, such as a bad day, a divorce, or a fight with cancer.

Chuck Colson to Be Buried at Quantico Cemetery; Memorial Service at DC's National Cathedral Later

The Religion News Service website reports today (April 25, 2012) that Prison Fellowship founder and Watergate figure Chuck Colson will be buried privately with full military honors at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia, with a public memorial service expected later at Washington (DC) National Cathedral.

Colson -- who died April 21 at the age of 80 after a brief illness -- served as a captain in the Marines.

Michelle Farmer -- a spokeswoman for Prison Fellowship -- said the family graveside service at the Virginia cemetery will occur "in the coming days."

She added that there will also be a public memorial service at the National Cathedral "in the coming weeks."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Iowa Senator: Colombian Prostitutes May Be Spies; Demands White House Release Info on US Scandal

The Mediaite website reports that Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley today (April 24, 2012) spoke with Radio Iowa, and said that the Colombian prostitutes -- solicited by the U.S. Secret Service -- could very well have been Russian spies.

"We're looking at something that is very, very serious when national security might not be protected properly," Grassley explained.

He added, "Who knows who might be using prostitutes? The Russians are famous for that to get information out of us."

Grassley has demanded that the White House Counsel  release information about the "quick weekend internal investigation," which sought whether White House personnel were also involved in the Secret Service scandal. Some 20 Secret Service civilian and military personnel have already been suspended -- and several have resigned -- as a result of the prostitution scandal.

Actor Playing Judas Accidentally Hangs Himself; Other Actors Did Not Know He Was Really Dying

The Newser website reports today (April 24, 2012) that a Brazilian actor -- who accidentally hanged himself  earlier this month during a scene in "The Passion of Christ" -- has died.

A hospital in Brazil's Sao Paulo state confirmed on its website yesterday the death of 27-year-old Tiago Klimeck.

Klimeck accidentally hanged himself during a scene in which his character Judas commits suicide for betraying Christ.

About four minutes passed before anyone noticed that Klimeck was really dying, as it was believed that he was  just playing his part -- by pretending to die -- in the play.

Company Apologizes for Its "Holocaust" T-Shirt; Featured a Six-Point Star Nazis Made Jews Wear

The Jewish Daily Forward website reports today (April 24, 2012) that a Danish fashion company has apologized for a T-shirt featuring a six-point star, after critics complained it evoked the Star of David that the Nazis forced Jews to wear.

The yellow T-shirt -- which featured a blue patchwork star on its pocket -- appeared on the Urban Outfitters retail website last week.

It drew a complaint from the U.S. Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which urged the retailer to remove the shirt from its online catalogue.

Brian Jensen -- co-founder of the Danish fashion company that designed the shirt -- said the star has been removed after concerns were raised. He said, "I am sorry if anyone was offended seeing the shirt."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Elie Wiesel Challenges Obama Over Iran, Syria; Wants Obama to End Rule of Ahmadinejad, Assad

The Washington Examiner website reports that Elie Wiesel -- author and Holocaust survivor -- challenged President Obama today (April 23, 2012) over the ongoing existence of the Iranian and Syrian dictatorships, as he warned that Israel must have the ability to defend itself from a second Holocaust.

Wiesel -- while introducing Obama at the Holocaust Memorial Museum -- said that world leaders "have not learned anything" from the failure to prevent the Holocaust in the 1930s and early 1940s.

The Nobel Laureate asked, "How is it that Assad is still in power? How is it that the Holocaust's number one denier, Ahmadinejad, is still a president?"

Wiesel concluded with a direct address to Obama: "Mr. President, we are here in this place of memory... Israel must be strong, just to defend its own survival and its own destiny," he said, referring to Israel's right to attack a nuclear-threatening Iran.

Susan Sarandon Denied Clearance to White House; Govt. Taps Her Phone Due to Her Left-Wing Views

The Daily Mail website reports today (April 23, 2012) that Oscar-winning actress and left-wing activist Susan Sarandon said yesterday that she was recently denied security clearance to the White House and that the government has been tapping her phone.

She made the claims during a Q&A session at the Tribeca Film Festival -- an 11-day event in New York's Lower Manhattan.

Sarandon said she knew she was being watched by the government, because she had twice seen a file held on her through Freedom of Information requests.

Sarandon -- who was raised in a Roman Catholic family and graduated from Catholic University of America -- has been deemed troubling by the government due to her left-wing activism, which has spanned four decades. Most recently, she was forced to apologize for calling Pope Benedict XVI "a Nazi" last October.

Muslims Burn Down Catholic Church in S. Sudan; War May Occur Soon between Sudan and S. Sudan

The Christian Post website reports today (April 23, 2012) that hundreds of Muslims incinerated a Catholic Church complex in Khartoum -- the capital of South Sudan -- amid growing hostilities between the Arab-dominated Muslim government of Sudan and the newly independent, predominantly Christian nation of South Sudan.

Fire fighters could not put out the fire, according to witnesses.

South Sudan seceded from the predominantly Sunni Muslim north in 2011, after decades of civil war.

It is feared that Sudan and South Sudan might witness a full-scale war in the near future over some unresolved issues, including sharing of natural resources and demarcation of borders.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Texas Teen Collected $17,000 by Faking Cancer; Arrested and Charged with Theft-By-Deception

The New York Post website reports today (April 22, 2012) that a Texas teenager -- who raised more than $17,000 after telling classmates that she was dying of cancer -- was arrested on April 20, and charged with theft-by-deception.

Angie Gomez, 19, told her family, friends, and fiance in January 2011 that she had just six months to live in her battle with cancer.

The Horizon City teen set up her own charity foundation -- called "Achieve the Dream" -- and raised $17,000 from fundraisers, checks, gift cards, and in-kind donations.

A long-running investigation revealed that the hospital Gomez said had treated her held no record of her as a patient.

Pastor's Mother Shot, Killed Outside Colo. Church; Off-Duty Officer at Services Shoots, Kills Suspect

The Guardian website reports that a Colorado pastor's mother and a suspect are dead, after both were shot today (April 22, 2012) outside a suburban Denver church.

Authorities said the pastor's mother was shot when she went outside the New Destiny Christian Center in Aurora as services were ending Sunday. The pastor of the church -- whose mother was killed -- is DeLono Straham.

An off-duty officer was in the congregation and shot the suspect.

The shooting occurred after there was an argument between people in two vehicles in the parking lot outside the church.

Thousands in Moscow Defend Orthodox Church; Prayer Held Today to Multiply Spiritual Strength

The RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports that about 65,000 Orthodox Church believers gathered at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral today (April 22, 2012) for a nationwide prayer in defense of the faith and desecrated sacred objects.

Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill held a liturgy in Christ the Savior Cathedral, during which he urged believers to take part in the nationwide prayer outside the Cathedral "for our faith, our Church, our sacred objects, and our Motherland."

Kirill said he hoped the nationwide prayer would "multiply our spiritual strength" to fight against faithlessness.

Bishops and priests led by Patriarch Kirill prayed together with Orthodox Church believers in front of sacred objects outside of the Cathedral, including objects that were recently desecrated by vandals.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: U.S. Nuns Must Not Promote Radical Feminist Themes

The Vatican this week lashed out at a group of Catholic nuns in the United States,  because this group of nuns has what the Vatican calls "serious doctrinal problems."

The group of nuns -- called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- has challenged Church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, in addition to promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith," according to the Vatican.

We believe that the Vatican is correct in chastising this group of nuns.

After all, the celibacy of Catholic priests and the acceptance of only men as priests are traditions that date back to the founding of Christianity some 2,000 years ago.

For these nuns to try to change these Church traditions -- with no authority whatsoever to do so -- conveys an air of them being arrogant, nervy, and even sacrilegious toward the Catholic Church. These nuns need to "bite the bullet," so to speak.

If some nuns are not happy with traditional Catholic Church doctrine -- and the path that the Church is currently taking -- then they should give up their sisterhood and perhaps move on to another profession. If they want to continue to be nuns, they have a responsibility to keep their ideas for changes in the Catholic Church to themselves.

The fact is that being a spiritual nun requires an exceptional love, devotion, and support for the Catholic Church. Nuns, then, must not be critical of the Church or its modus operandi -- even if they believe that their ideas will be beneficial for the Church.

In the final analysis, nuns who support the Catholic Church and its traditions will be enhancing the Church and their own spiritual role in doing so, because they will, in effect, be empowering the Body of Christ.

Gays, Lesbians to Be Ordained Rabbis in Israel; Schechter Rabbinical Seminary Trustees OK Plan

The Jewish Week website reports today (April 21, 2012) that gay and lesbian students will be ordained as Conservative rabbis in Israel.

The Board of Trustees of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary voted on April 19 to accept gay and lesbian students for ordination beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.

"The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious  process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah," -- or Jewish law -- Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

Alexander added, "This decision highlights the institution's commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world."

Evangelist Chuck Colson Dies at the Age of 80; Was an Advocate for Prison Reform Since 1975

The Washington Post website reports today (April 21, 2012) that Charles Colson -- who established a worldwide prison fellowship ministry after his conversion to evangelical Christianity -- died today in Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia at the age of 80.

The death -- after a brain hemorrhage earlier this month -- was confirmed by a family spokeswoman, Michelle Farmer.

Colson had helped lay the groundwork for the Nixon landslide in November 1972 by appealing to disgruntled Democrats and blue-collar minority voters.

Released from prison on parole in January 1975 -- after serving seven months in a minimum-security facility for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice -- Colson was a leading voice in the evangelical movement and an advocate for prison reform until his hospitalization this month. He is considered by some American theologians  to be the most popular American evangelist of the 21st century.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Muslim Men Sentenced to 38 Yrs., Raped 2 Girls; Said They Did It as Part of Muslim Eid Festival

The Daily Mail (British) website reports today (April 20, 2012) that a group of Muslim men -- who abducted and raped two teenage girls as part of the Muslim Eid celebrations -- laughed in a British court yesterday, as they were jailed for a total of 38 years.

The girls -- aged 15 and 16 -- were lured miles from home to a dingy hostel.

In a horrifying weekend-long ordeal, they were repeatedly raped by two men, Shamrez Rashid and Amar Hussain, before being offered to several other men who also raped the girls.

Rashid, 20, told the court that the girls enjoyed the sex, which had taken place as they celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid.

Polish PM Tusk Rips Turkey for Its EU Threats; Threatens to Punish Cyprus and EU for Cyprus Role

The Europe News website reports today (April 20, 2012) that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has stressed that the European Union (EU) should not accept any Turkish threats against the Republic of Cyprus, which will assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2012.

Speaking yesterday during a press conference with President Demetris Christofias in Nicosia, Cyprus, the Polish Prime Minister noted that the Republic of Cyprus would assume the EU presidency as a member state of the Union and will thus represent the whole Union.

"It is not possible to have any threat for the presidency and we do not accept, and I believe, the EU should not accept these threats," Tusk said.

Turkey invaded the predominantly Greek Orthodox island of Cyprus in 1974, and seized control of the northern third of that island, which it still controls today. Turkey has threatened to upgrade this occupied area and to freeze its relations with the EU, if Cyprus is granted the six-month rotating presidency of the EU -- which it is scheduled to do -- in July of this year.

New Survey: Belief in God Increases with Age; Phil. Is. Has Highest Faith Rate with 83 Percent

The Christian Post website reports today (April 20, 2012) that a research report -- released this week by the University of Chicago on the belief of God in 30 countries -- found that faith increases with age, but the number of people certain of the existence of God has declined, with the lowest number of faithful people reported in Japan.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) concluded that when people enter old age and begin their final years, they become more convinced that there is a God -- over 43 percent of those aged 68 and older claimed that certainty. NORC believes that this may be due to the increasing anticipation of death.

Only 23 percent of those 27 and younger said they were as confident in God's existence.

The Philippine Islands -- a strong Catholic country -- had an 83 percent faith rate (no doubts about God's existence), while that number was only 7.8 percent in the East Germany region. In Japan, only 4.3 percent of respondents said that they know God exists.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

US Supreme Court Ruling Allows Violence by PLO; Says PLO Cannot Be Sued for Killings by Members

The Washington Times website reports today (April 19, 2012) that the relatives of a U.S. citizen -- who was allegedly tortured and killed by Palestinian intelligence officers on the West Bank -- may not sue the Palestinian Authority or the PLO for damages under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9 to 0 yesterday that a 1991 anti-torture law authorizes civil lawsuits only against an individual who actually carried out the torture or killing -- not against an organization with which the alleged torturer or killer was associated.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision is important, because it limits the amount of damages available to victims under the TVPA by making clear that recovery is contingent on the assets of the alleged torturer or killer, and not on an organization.

Muslims Beat Up, Strip Christian Woman in India; Also Shoot at Her Son When He Tries to Help Her

The Europe News website reports today (April 19, 2012) that a Christian woman was harassed, beaten, and stripped naked in public by some Muslims in Punjab, India, because in her family people like to dress up too much. When her 22-year-old son tried to help her, the Muslim extremists fired at him but narrowly missed him.

As tragic as this is, it is typical of the violence and persecution that Christians endure. More than a month after this incident -- which occurred in mid-March -- both police and the courts have not brought any redress or punished the offenders.

Shamin Bibi -- a 42-year-old mother of five -- was the victim of the Muslim attack.

The reason for the Muslims' action is that they do not want Christians to "dress up" -- even on holidays or on Sunday for church.

Vatican Scolds Group of US Nuns for Bad Habits; Says It Backs Feminist Views Opposed by Church

The New York Times website reports today (April 19, 2012) that the Vatican has appointed an American bishop to oversee the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had "serious doctrinal problems."

The Vatican's assessment said that members of the group -- called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious -- had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that "disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

The verdict on the nuns' group was issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is led by an American, Cardinal William Levada, formerly the Archbishop of San Francisco.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

COMMENTARY: Calling Police to End Kindergartner's Temper Tantrum Was Wrong

A six-year-old girl in Milledgeville, Georgia was handcuffed by police and taken to the police station this week, because she had a temper tantrum in which she threw furniture and knocked over a small shelf in her kindergarten classroom.

Although there are still several unanswered key questions of this situation -- such as why the girl had the temper tantrum, and how the teacher initially responded to the temper tantrum before calling for the principal -- we believe that the principal's call for the police to resolve this situation was unnecessary and wrong.

In fact, it conveys a message of incompetence on the part of the school principal, because it clearly illustrates that he was unable to resolve this disciplinary situation on his own.

Instead of seeking police assistance, the principal should have taken the girl to his office -- or a nearby empty room -- and called the girl's parents to come to the school to pick up their daughter.

For police to handcuff a six-year-old kindergarten girl -- and drive her to the police station -- is an incredible "remedy" for this situation.

Indeed, it is a "remedy" that never should have occurred.

New Arizona Law Puts the Bible in Public Schools; Course to Examine Bible, Its Role in Western Civ.

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 18, 2012) that the Bible will soon be studied in public high schools in Arizona.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law requiring the Arizona Board of Education to design a new Bible curriculum that would examine the Bible and its role in Western culture.

It would be an elective course, so schools would not be forced to teach it.

Republican Arizona State Rep. Terri Proud -- sponsor of the bill -- said the class will be helpful for students because references to the Bible are found everywhere.

New Film on Hitler's Youth for Austrian Schools; Will Be Shown to Warn Kids of Political Dangers

The Austrian Times website reports today (April 18, 2012) that a controversial new film -- titled Hitler's Youth (Hitlers Jugend) -- is set to be shown in Austrian schools in a bid to help youngsters learn of the dangers of allowing themselves to be led astray politically. Hitler was born in Austria, where he was raised in a Catholic family.

Produced by the young Salzburg filmmaker Lydia Schiffkorn, it used extensive archive footage and also spoke to people who lived at the time to talk about the dangers that politics can create.

For example, it shows how the Association of German Girls managed to recruit youngsters for the Nazi regime.

Siegfried Bernegger -- an eyewitness from the time -- talks about how it was compulsory for schoolboys to have to buy the Hitler youth uniform in a certain store in Salzburg.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Study: White Juries Convict Blacks More Often; Blacks Are Convicted Less When a Juror is Black

The New York Daily News website reports today (April 17, 2012) that a Duke University-led study shows juries formed from all-white jury pools in Florida convicted black defendants 16 percent more often than white defendants.

Researchers examined more than 700 non-capital felony criminal cases in Sarasota and Lake counties from 2000-2010.

In cases with no blacks in the jury pool, blacks were convicted 81 percent of the time, and whites were convicted 66 percent of the time.

When the jury pool included at least one black person, the conviction rates fell to 71 percent for black defendants, and 73 percent for whites. Consequently, the authors of the study conclude that racial composition of the jury pool has a major effect on trial outcomes.

Six-Year-Old Handcuffed Due to School Tantrum; Police Take Her to Holding Cell at Police Station

The Daily Beast website reports that a 6-year-old Georgia girl today (April 17, 2012) was handcuffed by police and taken to the station, after she threw furniture and knocked over a shelf at her school.

Young Salecia Johnson's family is outraged, saying that the way police responded to the disturbance at Creekside Elementary School was way out of line.

The police cited policy in support of their decision to handcuff the kindergartner and stick her in a holding cell.

Police Chief Dray Swicord of Milledgeville, Georgia said, "There is no age discrimination" on transporting detainees to our station and handcuffing them in the back.

Israeli Air Force Ready for Imminent Iran Attack; Dozens of Pilots Waiting for Order to Bomb Sites

The Eurasia Review website states that a major Israeli TV station reported today (April 17, 2012) that the Israeli Air Force is geared up and ready to launch a massive assault on Iran's nuclear facilities.

A reporter from Israel's Channel 10 TV station -- who spent several weeks interviewing pilots and other military personnel at an Israeli air base -- said dozens of pilots are inspired with the prospect of Israel's first full-scale air campaign in 30 years.

"Dozens if not more planes are being prepared to carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear sites," the reporter Alon Ben-David said.

When the order to attack Iran is given -- and it is expected to be given any day now -- the assault on Iran will be "short and professional," Israeli pilots said.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cardboard Cathedral Is OK'd in Christ Church, NZ; Will Replace Stone Church Wrecked in Earthquake

The Huffington Post website reports that Anglican leaders in the city of Christ Church, New Zealand today (April 16, 2012) announced plans to build a soaring 82-foot-high cathedral with 104 tubes of cardboard as a temporary replacement of the iconic stone Christ Church Cathedral, which was destroyed last year in an earthquake that killed 185 people.

The temporary cathedral will cost about $4.1 million.

It will include traditional structural materials -- like concrete and steel -- as well as a polycarbonate roof.

The Rev. Craig Dixon said it will be weatherproof and fire-resistant.

TX Pastor: Romney's Mormonism Is Not Christian; Endorses Him Due to Obama's Non-Biblical Views

The Raw Story website reports today (April 16, 2012) that a Texas pastor -- who has repeatedly called Mitt Romney's Mormon religion a cult -- is now endorsing Romney, because President Obama "opposes Biblical principles."

Dallas pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress first said in 2007 that Romney was not qualified to be president because "Mormonism is a cult."

Jeffress was quoted last October as saying, "Evangelical Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian."

Now, Jeffress says that he expects evangelicals across the nation to put Romney in the White House, because Obama embraces non-Biblical principles, such as abortion.

Thousands See "Holy Fire" Miracle in Jerusalem; Flame Rises Day before Orthodox Easter Each Yr.

The Christian Post website reports today (April 16, 2012) that thousands of Christians from around the world gathered in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher on April 14 to witness a flame that emerges miraculously from the tomb of Jesus a day before the Greek Orthodox Easter -- based on the older Julian calendar -- each year.

The special ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- built on the site where Jesus was crucified and buried -- was attended by Christian pilgrims and clerics wearing their robes.

Orthodox Christians say the Holy Fire miracle -- which occurs every year on the day before the Orthodox Easter -- has been documented for more than 1,000 years.

Christians in many countries -- including Greece, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lebanon, and Egypt -- watch the ceremony live each year. After the ceremony, the Holy Fire is brought to some of these predominantly Orthodox Christian countries.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pope Will Celebrate His 85th Birthday on April 16; Guests to Include His Brother and Pres. of Bavaria

The National Catholic Register website reports today (April 15, 2012) that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his 85th birthday tomorrow with a number of visitors -- including his elder brother and the president of his native Bavaria.

His birthday will be "a normal working day, he never interrupts his daily routine, but it will be a very Bavarian day," said Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Pope Benedict's private secretary.

Pope Benedict -- who is now the sixth-oldest pontiff in history -- returned to the Vatican on April 13, after five days of rest at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

His few days of retreat followed a grueling two weeks that included his six-day apostolic voyage to Mexico and Cuba and the Church's Easter celebrations in Rome.

Islamic Militants Storm Prison in Pakistan Today; Free 384 Islamists, Some "Dangerous Insurgents"

The Daily Beast website reports that 150 Islam militants -- armed with grenades and rockets -- stormed a prison in Pakistan today (April 15, 2012), freeing 384 Islamist militants.

The attack was on a prison in a tribal region where the Taliban and al Qaeda are known to hold sway.

The two-hour attack on the prison included a force of gunmen in cars and pickup trucks and succeeded in freeing "some hard-core militants," a Pakistani official said.

The attacks seem to have targeted barracks where "dangerous insurgents" were quartered.

Tenn. Teachers Can Participate in Rel. Activities; State Law Allows Activities before or after School

The One News Now website reports today (April 15, 2012) that a measure to allow teachers and other school workers to participate in prayer groups and other religious activities on school grounds has been signed by Tennessee's governor.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed the legislation last week. It allows school personnel to participate in such activities as long as they don't carry into the classroom or conflict with the assignments of the participant.

The activities must also be student-initiated and be held before or after school.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee has said that events outside of school hours -- such as "See You at the Pole" -- are permissible under certain conditions, but public school employees must prevent the impression of endorsing religion.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

COMMENTARY: France Must End Its Discrimination against Its Blacks and Arabs

This week, lawyers in France filed a lawsuit for 15 French people of black or Arabic descent who claimed that they had been abused as a result of identity checks based on racial profiling.

In other words, French police tend to target blacks and Arabs because of their skin color or ethnicity -- rather than because they are suspected of violating the law -- in a policy that is called "racial profiling."

The lawyers for the 15 abused victims said they wanted to ensure that the French government would establish guidelines for police checks and that a police report would be written for each check carried out.

We agree with the lawyers' call for guidelines and police reports.

The fact is that French police should not use skin color or ethnicity to determine whom they will question for identity checks. Rather, such checks should be determined by a belief of police that a person being checked is suspected of having violated the law.

The French government, then, needs to adopt a policy of "blind identity checks" when police question French citizens; that is, police must treat all citizens equally -- by ignoring their race, ethnicity, or religious preference -- when they decide to conduct an identity check of an individual.

In the final analysis, such a policy will enhance the overall prestige of France, because it will promote equality for all of France's citizens, instead of the current discriminatory policy of suspecting individuals of violating the law, only because of their race or ethnicity.

Synagogue Custodian Stole Items Worth $70,000; Stolen from Temple Emanuel in Worcester, Mass.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) website reports today (April 14, 2012) that a synagogue custodian in Massachusetts pleaded guilty this week to stealing gold and silver religious items from his place of employment.

Donald Spencer III, 29, stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of items from Temple Emanuel in Worcester -- including Torah shields, a Havdalah set, and a Kiddush cup -- worth more than $70,000. Some of the items were artifacts rescued from Nazi Germany.

Most of the stolen items -- which Spencer sold at a pawnshop -- were melted down for scrap before police could find them.

Spencer was sentenced in Worcester Superior Court to four to five years in a state prison.

Dozen of Obama's Secret Service Agents Let Go; Due to Misconduct with Prostitutes in Colombia

The Washington Times website reports today (April 14, 2012) that up to a dozen Secret Service agents in Colombia -- where they had arrived in advance of President Obama's visit to that country -- have been relieved of their duties amid allegations of misconduct with prostitutes.

The agents have been replaced by other agents in Cartagena, Columbis -- site of the summit of the Americas -- where Obama arrived yesterday.

Edwin Donovan -- spokesman for the Secret Service -- said the development would not affect the president's security at the summit.

Obama is scheduled to take part in two days of meetings before returning to Washington on Sunday night (April 15).

Friday, April 13, 2012

U.S. Nazi Party Gets Own Lobbyist on Capitol Hill; To Lobby on Political Rights, Ballot Access Laws

The Yahoo News website reports today (April 13, 2012) that the American Nazi Party has registered its own lobbyist on Capitol Hill -- 2008 National Socialist Movement presidential candidate John Taylor Bowles.

Bowles registered with the Clerk of the House of Representatives as a lobbyist on April 10.

According to the form filled out by Bowles, he registered as a lobbyist in order to pursue issues relating to "political rights and ballot access laws."

His form also cites accounting, agriculture, clean air and water, civil rights, health issues, the Constitution, immigration, manufacturing, and retirement as "general lobbying issue areas."

Court Orders Saudi Woman 50 Lashes for Cursing; Swore on Friend's Mobile Phone after Argument

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Saudi woman to 50 lashes for cursing -- following an argument with a friend -- the Spero Forum website reports today (April 13, 2012).

The two Saudi women involved -- aged 33 and 31 years -- had decided to go out with their children for a weekend night, but differed on where to go.

An argument ensued, and the two women decided to separate. One of them later sent a text to her friend's mobile phone in which she swore at her.

The other woman went to court and showed the judge the message. The court ordered her lashed 50 times for cursing.

Minorities in France File Lawsuit against the State; Blacks, Arabs Claim They Are Targeted by Police

The France 24 website reports today (April 13, 2012) that lawyers for 15 French people -- either black or of Arab descent -- filed a lawsuit on April 11 against the state for abusive identity checks based on alleged racial profiling.

A lawyer for the group said they were routinely targeted for police identity checks that often included humiliating public body pat downs, insults, and even threats because of the way they look.

The lawsuit against the French state targets the Interior Ministry, which oversees police.

The lawyers said the primary aim of the action is to ensure guidelines for police checks and a police report for each check carried out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ex-Cath. Priest Stole $30,000 from Paralyzed Man; Cyprian Meier Spent 148 Days in N. Dakota Prison

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 12, 2012) that a former Roman Catholic priest stole about $30,000 from a paralyzed man while he was caring for him.

Cyprian Meier, 68, was sentenced this week to 18 months in prison by a judge in Bismarck, North Dakota for exploiting a vulnerable adult.

The sentence was suspended for five years. Meier will get credit for the 148 days he has already spent in prison.

Meier said he spent the money on Internet scams.

New Poll: Bribes Have Most Effect on Czech Pols; Found to Be Key Factors in Pols' Decision-Making

The Prague Daily Monitor website reports today (April 12, 2012) that Czechs believe that bribes and corruption have the biggest influence on politicians' decision-making, according to a poll carried out last month and released on April 10.

Lawmakers are also under a big influence of interest groups and lobbies, the poll showed.

Forty-one percent of people said bribes and corruption were key factors in decision-making.

More than one quarter of the 1053 people polled believe that citizens' opinions do not influence politics at all.

Christian School Fires Unwed Pregnant Teacher; Teacher Files Discrimination Charges with EEOC

The Raw Story website reports today (April 12, 2012) that a Christian school in Texas has fired an unmarried science teacher because it claimed she was not a good "Christian role model."

Cathy Samford -- who is now 39 weeks pregnant -- said she was "totally shocked" when Heritage Christian Academy in Rockwall, Texas fired her from her job after they discovered she was pregnant late last year.

"I'm not just some teacher that went out to a bar and got pregnant and went back to school saying it's okay," Samford explained. "I was in a committed relationship."

Samford has filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for gender and pregnancy discrimination, and is prepared to sue the school.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

COMMENTARY: Rutgers University Needs to Suspend Publication of Its Sarcastic Paper

A satirical student newspaper at New Jersey's Rutgers University is under investigation for bias because it published a column praising Adolf Hitler, and attributing the column to a Jewish student activist, along with his picture.

This sarcastic article appeared in the satirical student paper "The Medium" on April 4 alongside Rutgers student Aaron Marcus' name and photo. To add insult to injury, Marcus lost several relatives in Hitler's Nazi German Holocaust during World War II.

The article has received much criticism from Rutgers faculty and staff, including Richard McCormick -- president of Rutgers -- who called it ... "a vicious and provocative and hurtful piece, regardless whether the First Amendment protections apply to such expression."

We agree with President McCormick's description of the article.

The fact is that freedom of the press -- in its true meaning -- requires a responsibility that accompanies it. The press, then, does not have an unlimited right to print an article that is insulting to an individual -- especially if the statements in the article are not true.

America has laws against libel -- the defamation of an individual by the press -- in order to discourage the press from printing unsubstantiated defamatory articles or pictures of individuals. Libelous lawsuits have resulted in many American individuals -- who have been falsely defamed by newspapers or magazines -- winning millions of dollars from these publications as a result of such defamation.

While "The Medium" satirical paper does not have enough money for Aaron Marcus to sue it for libel, the paper does deserve to have punitive action taken against it for its hatefulness, recklessness, and irresponsibility.

That being the case, we believe that Rutgers President McCormick needs to suspend publication of "The Medium" for at least a full academic year -- or better still, permanently.

Soccer Team In Spain Bows to Muslim Pressure; Removes Christian Cross from Its Official Logo

The Spero Forum website reports today (April 11, 2012) that Real Madrid -- the top-ranked soccer team in Spain -- has removed a Christian cross from its official logo as a way to strengthen its fan base among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.

Real Madrid says its decision to remove the cross from its logo is simply a cost of doing business in a globalized world.

But critics say the move represents yet another erosion of European culture and tradition in the face of encroaching Islam.

The cross first became a part of Real Madrid's logo in 1920 when King Alfonso XIII granted the club his royal patronage. The word "Real" means "Royal" in Spanish, and the cross still forms an integral part of the coat of arms of the king of Spain.

Romania to Make School Uniforms Compulsory; Decision Is Designed to Reduce Social Divisions

The Balkan Insight website reports today (April 11, 2012) that Romania -- in an effort to reduce social discrepancies between pupils -- is planning to make school uniforms compulsory in its public schools.

The Romanian parliament -- backed by most of its members and by most parents -- is expected to soon introduce mandatory school uniforms at primary and secondary school levels.

The government has already announced its support for the move, after the first calls came from parents' unions. Poorer families will be able to apply for funds to buy the uniforms.

Most private and international school pupils in Romania already wear uniforms.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Israeli Pres. Peres Urges Obama to Free Pollard; Obama Says He Will Not Free the Convicted Spy

The Global Post website reports today (April 10, 2012) that Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a personal letter to President Obama yesterday, urging the U.S. to release Jonathan Pollard -- a convicted spy for Israel -- due to his deteriorating health.

The convicted spy was a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy.

He was arrested in 1985 for photocopying classified documents and giving them to his Israeli counterparts.

After initially trying to seek refuge in the Israeli embassy, Pollard was convicted under the Espionage Act and sentenced to life in prison in 1987. The White House confirmed yesterday that President Obama has no intention to release Pollard from prison.

Rutgers U. Satire Paper Ripped for Praising Hitler; Used Photo, Name of Zionist Student to Mock Jews

The Religion News website reports today (April 10, 2012) that a satirical student newspaper is under investigation for bias by New Jersey's Rutgers University for publishing a column in praise of Adolf Hitler, and attributing it to a Jewish student activist.

An article titled "What about the good things Hitler did?" appeared in "The Medium" on April 4 alongside Rutgers student Aaron Marcus' name and photo.

A self-described Zionist, Marcus writes columns for the Rutgers student newspaper, "The Daily Targum," which "The Medium" sought to spoof.

Richard McCormick -- president of Rutgers -- said, "No individual student should be subject to such a vicious and provocative and hurtful piece, regardless whether the First Amendment protections apply to such expression."

Man Loses Job for Refusing Women Handshakes; Court Rules He Ignores Men-Women Equality

The Dutch News website reports today (April 10, 2012) that a council in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was correct not to offer Muslim lawyer Mohammed Enait the job of client manager, since he refused to shake hands with women, a court in The Hague ruled today.

Enait had applied for the job at the social services department, but said he would not shake hands with women on religious grounds.

When he was refused the job, Enait brought a civil case against the Rotterdam council, saying the rejection was religious discrimination.

The court found the refusal to shake women's hands "unacceptable" and that Enait is ignoring the equality between men and women.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Parent Rage Makes School Return "God" to Song; Changed God Bless the USA to We Love the USA

The New American website reports today (April 9, 2012) that a Massachusetts elementary school -- that got in over its head when it censored the word "God" from a song planned for a student concert -- has reversed its decision, as a result of an uproar from parents.

Parents of fourth-graders at Stall Brook Elementary School in Bellingham, Massachusetts reacted strongly after administrators removed the word "God" from the popular and patriotic Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the USA," and changed it to "We Love the USA."

Greenwood said, "Maybe the school should have asked the parents their thoughts before changing the lyrics to the song."

He added, "They could have asked the writer of the song, which I of course, would have said you can't change the lyrics at all or any part of the song."

Ukrainian Greek Cath. Priest Suspended 30 Days; Refused to Bury a Man Due to His Church "Debts"

The RISU (Religious Information Service of Ukraine) website reports today (April 9, 2012) that a priest from Ukraine's Lviv Region -- who refused to bury a man for "debts" to the Church -- has been punished.

Fr. Stepan Palii of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) was dismissed from the services in his parish for one month.

Fr. Volodymyr Zhdan -- Chancellor of the Stryi Eparchy of the UGCC -- said, "We have taken into account the fact that the priest, Stepan Palii, admitted his guilt. The father realized that he abused his power."

Fr. Zhdan added, "The father apologized to the bishop for exposing the Church to such criticism, and showed readiness to accept any punishment."

German Author Gunter Grass Barred from Israel; Wrote a Poem That Accentuates Hate of Israelis

The Deutsche Welle (German) website reports today (April 9, 2012) that Israel has barred Nobel laureate Gunter Grass from entering the country, because the author wrote a poem in which Israel is depicted as endangering global peace. Grass claims to be a friend of Israel despite his poem.

Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai -- who made the decision to bar Grass from Israel -- said in a statement yesterday that "Gunter's poem is an attempt to fan the flames of hate against the state of Israel and the Israeli people."

In the poem published last week -- titled "What Must Be Said" -- Grass wrote Israel must not be allowed to launch military strikes against Iran over fears that Tehran is building nuclear weapons.

Israel has threatened to take military action against Iran to halt what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as a threat akin to the Holocaust, in which some six million innocent Jews were killed by Hitler's Nazi Germany during World War II.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Abbas Will Renew Palestinian UN Statehood Bid; Unless Israel Agrees to Palestinian Stipulations

The Jerusalem Post website reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his threat today (April 8, 2012) to unilaterally seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, if Israel did not accept his conditions for resuming the peace process.

Abbas made the threat during a meeting in his office in Ramallah with an Israeli delegation.

Abbas told the delegation that the letter -- which he plans to send next week to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- is aimed at breaking the stalemate in the peace process.

He added that there would be no resumption of the peace talks unless Israel halted settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, accepted the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state, and released Palestinian prisoners.

Pope Celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square; Delivers Sermon Warning Mankind "In Darkness"

The Daily Beast website reports that Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Easter mass before a massive crowd of worshipers in St. Peter's Square today (April 8, 2012).

The pope -- who will turn 85 later this month -- recently returned from a trip to Mexico and Cuba, and looked tired as he presided today.

He had been up late last night, however, for a three-hour vigil inside St. Peter's Basilica at which he delivered a sermon in which he warned that mankind is "in darkness."

The pope's hectic schedule and the events surrounding Easter -- Christianity's most sacred day -- have reportedly taken their toll on the aging pontiff.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

COMMENTARY: Dissident Catholic Priests Need to Respect Christ's Teachings Over Their Own Ideas

In an unusually outspoken criticism, Pope Benedict XVI blasted a group of dissident Austrian priests this week for questioning key teachings of the Catholic Church.

The group -- called the Pfarrer Initiative -- has challenged the church on its requirement of priestly celibacy and its ban on women priests.

Pope Benedict accused the Austrian group of trying to do something to change the Catholic Church in accordance with their own preferences and ideas.

We agree with the Pope's criticism of these priests. The fact is that these dissident priests knew the Christian teachings of the Catholic Church when they were ordained. If they did not agree with these teachings, they should not have been ordained.

Moreover, it is not their right or duty to reform the Catholic Church, as they have no authority whatsoever to do so.

The Catholic Church has traditionally required priests to be celibate and to be men, not women. For this group of dissident priests to demand that priests should be allowed to be married, and that women should be allowed to be priests pervades an air of arrogance and disrespect toward the Catholic Church and its traditional teachings.

Being a Roman Catholic priest requires many sacrifices and an unlimited and unquestionable love for Christ and His Church.

Consequently, Catholic priests have a responsibility to abide by Christ's teachings -- even more so than their own ideas and preferences that they believe would enhance the Catholic Church -- as they perform their pastoral duties with a genuine love of the Body of Christ.

Cancer-Stricken Chavez Weeps in Pre-Easter Mass; Begs to Jesus: "Give Me Life, Do Not Take Me Yet"

The Washington Times website reports today (April 7, 2012) that Hugo Chavez -- the president of Venezuela -- wept and asked God to spare his life during a pre-Easter Mass, after he returned to Venezuela from his latest session of cancer treatment in Cuba.

In a televised speech to the Catholic service in his home state of Barinas on April 5, Chavez cried -- and his voice broke -- as he eulogized Jesus, revolutionary fighter Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Chavez pleaded to Jesus: "Give me your crown, Jesus. Give me your cross, your thorns so that I may bleed. But give me life, because I have more to do for this country and these people."

He added, "Do not take me yet," while standing below an image of Jesus with the Crucifix.

Laws in Hungary Make Homelessness a Crime; People Sleeping on Streets Can Be Fined, Jailed

The NPR (National Public Radio) website reports today (April 7, 2012) that Hungary's new anti-vagrancy laws -- the toughest in all of Europe -- now mean that homeless people sleeping on the street can face police fines or even jail time.

Advocacy and human-rights groups are alarmed by the new efforts to criminalize homelessness, where the ranks of the needy have increased during Hungary's dire financial crisis.

Debt, joblessness, and poverty are on the rise. The country's bonds have been downgraded to "junk" status, and the nation's currency -- the forint -- has dropped sharply against the euro.

Advocates for the poor in Hungary estimate that there are more than 10,000 homeless on the streets and in the shelters in Budapest -- the capital of Hungary -- and some 20,000 more across the rest of the nation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Russian Patriarch's $30,000 Watch Gone in Photo; Editors Tried to Hide Wealth of Russian Church

The New York Times website reports today (April 6, 2012) that the Russian Orthodox Church has performed a miracle: It made an enormously expensive watch its leader was wearing disappear in a photograph.

Editors doctored the photograph on the church's website of the church leader, Patriarch Kirill I, by extending a black sleeve where there once appeared to be a Breguet timepiece worth over $30,000. The church might have gotten away with its "disappearing act," if it had not failed to also erase the watch's reflection, which could be seen in the photo on the highly glossed table where the patriarch was seated.

The church apologized yesterday for the deception, and restored the original photo to the site. The controversy -- which erupted on April 4 when attentive bloggers discovered the airbrushing -- further stoked anger over the Russian Orthodox Church's frequent lavish displays of wealth and power.

"A gross violation of our internal ethics has occurred, and it will be thoroughly investigated," the church said in a statement. It added, "The guilty will be severely punished."

Phyllis Schlafly to Collegians: Avoid Feminists; Lectures That "Everything They Stand for is Bad"

The Raw Story website reports today (April 6, 2012) that conservative political activist Phyllis Schlafly yesterday gave some advice to students at The Citadel College in South Carolina: Stay away from feminists.

While giving a lecture entitled "Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America," the 87-year-old Schlafly told the all-male audience that "feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad." She also warned against getting into a relationship with a feminist.

"Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it," she said. "Some of them are pretty. They don't all look like Bella Abzug."

Schlafly is mostly known for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have affirmed the equal treatment of men and women. Thanks in part to the work of her organization -- The Eagle Forum -- the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified by the states. In her lecture, she said that the proposed amendment would have made women eligible for the draft and opened the door to legalizing same-sex marriages.

Catholic Churches of Holy Land Promote Unity; Will Observe Easter on Same Sunday as Orthodox

The Catholic churches of the Holy Land plan to observe Easter according to the Greek Orthodox calendar, the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land announced this week. The change could come as early as next year, the Catholic Culture website reports.

Father Pierbattista explained that the change was prompted by a desire to strengthen ecumenical ties between Catholics and Orthodox, and also by pastoral concern for the many families in the Holy Land that include both Catholic and Orthodox believers.

The Orthodox churches set their liturgical feasts according to the old Julian calendar. In some years, the Orthodox observe Easter on the same day as Catholics; in other years, the date may differ by one week -- as it does this year -- to five weeks.

The change in the liturgical calendar for Catholic churches would not apply to the basilicas in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which draw thousands of Catholic pilgrims for Easter and Christmas every year.

This Catholic-Orthodox agreement on observing Easter on the same Sunday every year in the Holy Land may serve as a significant breakthrough in the reunification of Christianity, which was divided into Catholicism and Orthodoxy in 1054, in what is known as the Great Schism.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

HRW Group Slams Bosnian Ethnic Discrimination; Roma, Jews, Other Minorities Banned from Politics

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) website reports today (April 5, 2012) that Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Roma, Jews and other minorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina remain excluded from participation in national politics.

In a report -- released on April 4 -- the New York-based HRW calls on Bosnian leaders to remove ethnic and religious discrimination against minorities from the country's constitution, laws, and public institutions.

HRW says much discrimination stems from Bosnia's postwar 1995 constitution, which "mandates a system of government based on ethnicity, and excludes these groups from high political office."

The constitution bars anyone who is not one of the country's three main ethnic groups -- Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs -- from running for the tripartite national presidency or the House of Peoples, a parliamentary chamber.

Gaddafi Raped Slew of Women While Ruling Libya; Documentary Says He Raped Most Women He Met

The Europe News website reports today (April 5, 2012) that the late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi raped countless women -- including his female bodyguards -- during his years in power.

German broadcaster RTL (Radio-Television Luxembourg) is set to screen a new documentary on this situation -- which includes interviews with Gaddafi's inner circle -- on April 9.

Reporter Antonia Rados said: "There were many women in Libya spellbound by Gaddafi who wanted to meet him. And when they did, he raped them."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo -- the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands -- said there was evidence that Gaddafi had instructed his troops to rape women who had voiced opposition to his regime.

Pope Condemns Group of Defying Austrian Priests; Group Fights Church on Celibacy, Women Priests

The Austrian Times website reports today (April 5, 2012) that Pope Benedict XVI has sharply condemned a group of dissident Austrian priests and laymen for questioning key teachings of the Catholic Church.

The group -- known as the Pfarrer Initiative -- has challenged the church on topics such as priestly celibacy and its ban on female priests.

Speaking today during a mass on Maundy Thursday -- the day in which Catholic priests traditionally renew the vows they made when they were ordained -- the Pope said he would not tolerate disobedience.

About 15 percent of Austria's 2,000 priests signed the initiative's call for disobedience last June, calling for "long-needed reforms" and the "admission of women and married people to the priesthood."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

COMMENTARY: University of Notre Dame Needs to End Its Secular Trend

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana has done it again; that is, it has made a mockery of the Roman Catholic Christian ideals and doctrine that it -- as a Catholic institution of higher learning -- should be supporting unconditionally.

In 2009, the University of Notre Dame was sharply criticized for having President Barack Obama -- a strong supporter of abortion -- as the main speaker of its commencement exercises. This situation was so anti-Catholic that the religious head of the Indiana Catholic Diocese -- and several other prominent Catholics -- refused to attend the commencement ceremonies.

Now, pro-lifers and Catholic organizations are criticizing the University of Notre Dame for its indirect promotion of pro-abortion groups. The school has officially listed several "summer internship opportunities" for its students at several pro-abortion organizations, but at no pro-life organizations.

The fact is that the university -- and a Catholic one, no less -- should know better than to encourage its students to work for pro-abortion groups. In other words, it should not have listed any pro-abortion organizations for possible student employment.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a serious sin -- it is the killing of an innocent life -- it is sacrilegious for the University of Notre Dame to encourage its students to work for pro-abortion organizations.

The University of Notre Dame, then, needs to change its priorities from supporting pro-abortion views and organizations to supporting Catholic Christian doctrine par excellence.

The time has now come for the University of Notre Dame's board of trustees to investigate the above mentioned -- and perhaps other -- sacrilegious occurrences that have taken place at the Catholic school in recent years, and to take whatever action it deems appropriate to end them.

Indeed, the board of trustees might find it necessary to replace the current president of the University of Notre Dame with a president who will better instill a Catholic Christian spiritual path for the university to follow, in place of the secular one that has been pervading and stigmatizing the university in recent years.

Evangelist Chuck Colson Is in Critical Condition; Has Brain Surgery to Remove Clotted Blood Pool

The Christian Post website reports today (April 4, 2012) that Chuck Colson -- a noted evangelical leader and leader of Prison Fellowship -- is in critical condition after surgery following a brain hemorrhage on March 30.

"Colson is listed in critical condition at this point, but has shown some early signs of potential recovery," said Michelle Farmer, Colson's spokesperson.

The 80-year-old Colson fell ill while addressing a conference in the Washington, D.C. area on March 30. He underwent surgery on March 31 to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain.

"We are in prayer for him. He has truly been one of the most transformation leaders in the Christian world -- probably in this century," Penny Nance, who heads Concerned Women for America, told The Christian Post.

Gay Student Sues OH School District Over T-Shirt; Student Says His Freedom of Expression Violated

A gay student -- whose southwest Ohio high school prohibited him from wearing a T-shirt designed to urge tolerance of gays -- is suing the school, saying it's violating his freedom of expression rights, the Associated Press website reports today (April 4, 2012).

The mother of 16-year-old Maverick Couch filed the federal lawsuit on his behalf against Wayne Local School District and the principal of Waynesville High School, northeast of Cincinnati.

Couch is a junior at the public school. His lawsuit says he has been threatened with suspension if he wears a shirt bearing the message "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe."

The lawsuit asks that school officials be ordered to allow Couch to wear the shirt. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cath. Slam U. of Notre Dame's Pro-Abortion List; Lists Pro-Abortion Groups for Students to Get Jobs

The One News Now website reports today (April 3, 2012) that pro-lifers are criticizing the University of Notre Dame in Indiana for its indirect promotion of pro-abortion organizations.

The Catholic school had been highly criticized for giving pro-abortion President Barack Obama an honorary degree during its 2009 graduation. In fact, the head of the Indiana Archdiocese -- and several other invited Catholics -- refused to attend that graduation.

Now, John Ritchie -- of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) -- points to a Notre Dame link promoting "summer internship opportunities" for students.

"The list they point students to features a number of pro-abortion groups, some very radical pro-abortion groups," Ritchie details. "And since the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a sin, it's the killing of an innocent life, it seems highly inappropriate to point students in that direction."

Russian Forces Kill Muslim Rebels in Chechnya; Rebels Fired at Forces Seeking to Stop Their Car

The Reuters website reports that Russian security forces killed five Islamist rebels suspected of plotting suicide attacks in the capital of the republic of Ingushetia today (April 3, 2012), according to Russia's anti-terrorism committee (NAK).

The NAK statement said the rebels opened fire on security forces after they attempted to stop their car. It said all five were killed in the shooting.

NAK also said that two of the rebels wore belts loaded with explosives, which are used by suicide bombers.

More than a decade after federal troops toppled an Islamist government in Chechnya, security forces are fighting militants in a region-wide insurgency, fueled by anger at poverty, clan feuds, and corruption.

Town of Wellesley (MA) to Buy St. James Church; Boston Arch. to Sell "Occupied" Church for $3.8M

The Big News Network website reports today (April 3, 2012) that the nearly decade-long standoff between parishioners and St. James the Great Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts may soon come to an end.

Yesterday, the Wellesley Board of Selectmen signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Archdiocese of Boston to buy the church and the eight-acre site on Route 9 for $3.8 million.

Town officials say they plan to demolish the church and use the property for recreational purposes.

Parishioners -- who refuse to vacate the building -- have been occupying the church and holding vigils since the Archdiocese of Boston shuttered it in 2004. The last step for protesters to prevent the sale is an appeal to the Vatican.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Supreme Court OKs Local Police Strip Searches; Many View Ruling as Eroding 4th Amend. Rights

The Alter Net website reports that the U.S. Supreme Court today (April 2, 2012) -- on a close 5-4 decision -- ruled that local police can strip-search anyone who is arrested for minor offenses, if they are to be held within the jail's general population before being released.

The decision is a further erosion of the Fourth Amendment's protection from unlawful search and seizure.

Moreover, it overturns laws in 10 states that place limits on non-suspicious strip-searches and upholds a technique used by some local police forces against Occupy protesters last fall, prompting protesters to sue.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard -- attorney and executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund -- said, "The Supreme Court ruling today continues a dangerous trend expanding law enforcement intrusion into our lives and bodies, on the pretext of security, in a curtailment of fundamental Fourth Amendment rights."

Austrian Brewery Used to Return Cath. to Church; Salzburg Brewery Was Founded by Monks in 1621

The Austrian Times website reports today (April 2, 2012) that Austrian priest Franz Lauterbacher is hailing success for a project to win back the faithful to the country's scandal-ridden Catholic Church by inviting people who have left the church to discuss their lack of faith -- in a brewery run by monks.

The Augustiner Brau brewery was founded in 1621 in Salzburg, and is still owned and run by monks today.

Austria's Catholic Church has seen record numbers of people leaving it in recent years, due mainly to a series of sex abuse scandals.

Father Lauterbacher said that at his first meeting in the brewery, nine people decided to return to the church, and that the numbers have been high at the regular meetings since then.

Christians Travel to Jerusalem to Mark Holy Week; Jesus Entered Jerusalem a Week before His Death

The Christian Post website reports today (April 2, 2012) that hundreds of Christian visitors were in Jerusalem yesterday -- Palm Sunday -- the first day of Holy Week for Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians. (Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter one week later than Catholics and Protestants this year.)

Pilgrims joined a procession of about 15,000 Christians that began at the Mount of Olives. To remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem the Sunday before His crucifixion, marchers carried palm and olive branches.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- which held a special Palm Sunday Mass -- is believed to be located on the site where Jesus was crucified.

Bethlehem's Nativity Church -- believed to be the site where Jesus was born -- also held a special service.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Azerbaijan Allows Israel to Use Its Air Bases; Iran's Neighbor Aids Israeli Path for Bombing Iran

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 1, 2012) that Israel will use airbases in Azerbaijan when it attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a U.S. senior official.

Azerbaijan Borders Iran and would make any military strike much easier because Israeli jets would not need permission to fly over other Middle East nations.

"We're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it," the senior official said.

Iran is expected to complete its nuclear facilities within the next few months -- unless they are bombed by Israel before they are completed -- but an imminent Israeli attack on Iran has been discouraged by U.S. President Obama. Obama -- who appears to be more concerned about his reelection than Iran's nuclear facilities -- has asked Israel to wait until after the U.S. presidential elections in November before attacking Iran, but Israel has rejected that idea, because Iran is expected to complete its nuclear facilities well before November.

French Perfumist Faces Ruling on Racist Remarks; Guerlain on TV Interview: I "Worked Like a Negro"

The France 24 website reports today (April 1, 2012) that a Paris court will decide this Thursday (April 5) whether Jean-Paul Guerlain -- for decades the "nose" behind the world-famous perfume brand -- was being racist when he said that he "worked like a negro."

Asked in an October 2010 television interview about how he had created the Samsara scent, Guerlain replied using a racial slur -- the French term "negre" -- and implied that black people are lazy.

The 75-year-old heir to one of the world's oldest perfume houses went on trial in February on charges of making "racist insults" during the interview on French public television.

He faces up to six months in prison and a 22,500 euro ($30,000) fine if the court finds him guilty when it delivers its verdict on April 5.

Bishop Rejects Speech by Ted Kennedy's Widow; Dropped as Grad. Speaker Due to Anti-Cath. Views

The Catholic Culture website reports today (April 1, 2012) that Anna Maria College -- a small Catholic institution outside Worcester, Massachusetts -- has rescinded an invitation to Victoria Kennedy to be the school's commencement speaker, as a result of pressure from Worcester Bishop Robert McManus.

Anna Maria College announced that it had withdrawn an invitation to Victoria Reggie Kennedy -- the widow of former Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy -- "with deep regret."

A spokesman for the Worcester diocese pointed to the policy of the U.S. bishops that "Catholic institutions should not be honoring Catholics who take positions publicly which are contrary to the Catholic faith's most fundamental principles, particularly on the dignity of life from conception and the sanctity of marriage."

The rejection of Victoria Kennedy as a commencement speaker brings back memories of President Obama -- a strong abortion advocate -- being the commencement speaker at Notre Dame University in Indiana three years ago. The decision of Notre Dame's president to have Obama as the commencement speaker infuriated a plethora of Catholics, including the bishop of the Indiana diocese and others, who refused to attend that graduation ceremony.