Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Terrorists Entering US from Mexico Periodically; DHS Sec. Napolitano Briefs Congress of Threat

The Blaze website reports today (July 31, 2012) that Janet Napolitano -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary -- told Congress last week that members of terrorist groups that intend to harm the country enter the U.S. through Mexico "from time to time."

During the July 25 hearing, she said that the U.S. is constantly working against different and evolving threats involving various terrorist groups and various ways they may seek to enter the country.

Napolitano added, "The southern border -- the U.S.-Mexico border -- is heavily, heavily staffed at record amounts of manpower, materiel, infrastructure, and the like, and we are constantly making sure we're doing all we can to make that border as safe as possible."

Napolitano's briefing to the Homeland Security Committee of Congress confirms that Mexico is frequently being used by terrorist groups to enter the United States -- a phenomenon that has been going on secretly  for the past several years.

Romney's Israeli Superiority View Called Racist; Angers Palestinians Who Say It Promotes Hatred

The Big News Network website reports today (July 31, 2012) that Mitt Romney -- the U.S. Republican presidential contender -- is being accused of racism, after he said that the Israelis were richer than Palestinians because of their cultural and religious superiority.

Romney said that Israel was more prosperous than the Palestinian territories because of its culture and the "hand of Providence," seen by many Palestinians as a reference to God.

While visiting Israel earlier this week, Romney said, "As I come here and I look out over this city (Jerusalem)  and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."

Regarding Romney's statements, Saeb Erekat -- the veteran Palestinian negotiator with close ties with the United States -- said, "What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence, and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable."

Md. Pastor Is Sentenced to 27 Months in Prison; Rev. Freeman Took Millions of $ from Worshipers

The Washington Post website reports today (July 31, 2012) that Robert Freeman -- a Southern Maryland pastor and longtime televangelist -- drove fancy cars and lived in a $1.75 million home in Indian Head on the Potomic River that has five fireplaces, a jet-ski lift, and two four-car garages.

To finance that lifestyle, federal prosecutors said, Freeman turned to his followers to purchase the vehicles and waterfront property. Many, it turned out, could not afford it.

Yesterday (July 30), Freeman, 56 -- who headed Save the Seed ministry in Waldorf, Maryland -- was sentenced to 27 months in prison in a related bankruptcy case. Prosecutors said he hid church assets to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts.

"Freeman lived a life of fraud and deception, using millions of dollars from church members, and fraudulently obtained credit to pay for luxury cars and a mansion, while falsely representing in court that he was indigent," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Life Foundation Blasts FBI for "Gestapo Tactics;" Says FBI Uses Witch Hunt on Critics of Abortion

The California Catholic Daily website reports today (July 30, 2012) that Life Legal Defense Foundation attorney Allison Aranda sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because they threatened and questioned pro-life advocate Andrew Moore at his home in Dallas, Texas on July 13. The letter demands that the FBI stop the harassment, which it referred to as "Gestapo tactics."

The FBI agents asked Mr. Moore about his employment, how he met his wife, who his friends are, where they attend church, why he has certain political views, and why he engages in particular activities in the community.

"The FBI agents used bullying tactics and intimidated Mr. Moore," said Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, located in California. "It's deplorable that they want to silence his constitutionally-protected free speech rights."

"When has it become the business of the government to invade a private citizen's residence to ask him such personal questions?" Cody added. "It is clear that the FBI is not merely seeking to enforce federal law, but is conducting a witch hunt of anyone who is openly critical of the Obama administration's pro-abortion position."

Judge OKs AZ's Ban on Abortions from 20th Week; Abortions Must Be before 20th Week of Pregnancy

The One News Now website reports that Arizona's ban on abortions -- starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy -- will take effect this week as scheduled, after a federal judge ruled today (July 30, 2012) that the new law is constitutional.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the statute may prompt a few pregnant women who are considering abortion to make the decision earlier.

But he said the new law is constitutional because it doesn't prohibit any women from making the decision to end their pregnancies.

The judge also wrote that the state provided "substantial and well-documented" evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks.

Female Punk Band Members on Trial in Moscow; "Pussy Riot" Band Sang Punk Prayer in Church

The Reuters website reports that three women -- who protested against Vladimir Putin in a "punk prayer" on the altar of Russia's main cathedral -- went on trial today (July 30, 2012) in a case seen as a test of the longtime Russian leader's treatment of dissent during a new presidential term.

The women from the band "Pussy Riot" face up to seven years in prison for an unsanctioned performance in February in which they entered Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, ascended to the altar, and called on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out."

Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were brought by a police van to Moscow's Khamovniki court -- each handcuffed by the wrist to a female officer -- for Russia's highest-profile trial in years.

The band's stunt was designed to highlight the close relationship between the dominant Russian Orthodox Church and former KGB officer Putin, then prime minister, whose campaign to return to the presidency in a March election was backed clearly by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Comm. Has Video Tribute to UK Victims; Refuses to Honor 11 Jews Killed in 1972 Olympics

The USA Today website reports today (July 29, 2012) that after saying there would be no moment of silence to honor the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) permitted a video tribute to the 52 people who were killed in the suicide bombings in the London transit system the day after the city won the Games in 2005.

As has been the case for 40 years, the IOC recently refused repeated requests from world leaders and families to honor the Israelis, including President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and leaders from several other nations.

They all knew last week that there would once again be no tribute in the Opening Ceremony. The IOC has steadfastly tried to forget the horror of Munich.

Is is almost unheard of for a nation to change Olympic Opening Ceremony protocol, and the IOC often uses that as one of its excuses to deny a moment of silence for the Israelis.

Women Seeking Abortion Warned of Suicide Risk; Court Rules in Favor of SD Abortion-Suicide Law

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 29, 2012) that a federal appeals court has ruled that doctors in South Dakota must warn women seeking abortions of an increased risk of suicide if they go through with the procedure.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that portion of a 2005 South Dakota law on the suicide advisory. Planned Parenthood has been suing to overturn the law.

But the judges wrote: "The suicide advisory presents neither an undue burden on abortion rights nor a violation of physicians' free speech rights."

The court also confirmed that statistics show women who have had abortions have higher rates of suicide compared with women who have given birth.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

COMMENTARY: Billy Graham's Call for Repentance Is Something Americans Need to Promote

On July 24, 2012, Evangelist Billy Graham wrote in a prayer letter on his website: "My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance."

Graham, 93, asserts in his prayer letter that America has been undergoing a terrible downward spiral of moral standards in recent years. He refers to the idolatry of worshiping false gods -- such as technology and sex -- and the indifference most Americans have toward abortion, which has resulted in the murder of millions of American babies in recent years.

He also says that self-centered indulgence, arrogance, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.

Graham notes that Christian chaplains in many U.S. police departments are no longer allowed to mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. He says this is due to our society striving to avoid any possibility of offending anyone -- except God.

Graham emphasizes that the further we ge from God, the more the world spirals out of control.

On the other hand, Graham is optimistic, in that he believes that Americans will repent to God and change their lifestyles in the near future.

We agree with Graham that America has become a secular, self-indulgent society whose focus is on material possessions and wealth.

"How can I accumulate as many things and as much money as possible?" seems to be the most popular question Americans are asking themselves today. Moreover, Americans are devoting less time and interest than ever to religion.

The fact is that the number of Americans who have faith in religion is at an all-time low. A Gallup poll conducted this month shows that only 44 percent of Americans -- that's less than half -- now have confidence in organized religion.

While we agree with Graham that American moral standards have deteriorated significantly in recent years, we do not currently see any signs of repentance to God and a morally-improving America.

Unfortunately, Americans for the most part, have become greedy, self-centered, power-loving individuals who have neglected God -- and that is a very sad and immoral lifestyle for American society.

Indeed, it is now imperative that Americans repent to God for their immoral lifestyle, and turn over a new leaf -- one that promotes love of God, love of fellow human beings, and a lifestyle that God would enjoy seeing.

French Police Struck During Islamic Veil ID Check; Arrest Veiled Woman, Three Supporters for Assault

The France 24 website reports that French police in the port city of Marseille say three of its officers were injured in the early hours of July 25, 2012 when a mob of some 50 people tried to prevent them from checking the identity of a woman who was wearing a full Islamic veil.

Under French law, wearing a full veil -- or covering one's face -- in a public place is illegal, and offenders must submit to ID checks.

According to the police, the woman was stopped just after midnight near a city mosque and refused to cooperate with the officers.

A man accompanying the woman -- as well as a large group of bystanders -- came to her aid and three officers were injured slightly in a scuffle. After police reinforcements arrived, four people -- including the 18-year-old woman named only as Louise-Marie -- were arrested for assaulting the officers.

Baptist Church in Miss. Bans Black Wedding; Pastor Performed Marriage at Another Church

A black couple in Crystal Springs, Mississippi says that a predominantly white Baptist church refused to let them get married because of their race, according to the Raw Story website.

Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson said that the day before they were to be married, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs informed them that the ceremony would have to be moved due to the reaction of some white church members -- even though the couple had attended the church regularly.

"The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if the pastor went on to marry her, then they would vote him out of the church," Charles Wilson explained.

Dr. Stan Weatherford, the church pastor, was forced to perform the marriage at another church, after he was taken by surprise by his congregation's outrage.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saudi Woman Can't Wear Headscarf in Olympics; Decision Is Made Due to Safety Concerns of Judo

The Europe News website reports today (July 27, 2012) that a competitor from Saudi Arabia -- who is one of that country's first female athletes ever selected for the Olympics -- will not be allowed to wear a headscarf during competition, as a result of a ruling by the International Judo Federation.

President Marius Vizer ruled that "according to the principles and spirit of judo," Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani could not fight with a headscarf.

Judo officials said they were very proud their sport was one of the first to welcome a Saudi female competitor, but announced on the eve of the London Games that she would not be allowed to fight with a headscarf, even though the federation has not banned women from covering their hair before.

Federation spokesman Nicolas Messner said the decision was made due to safety concerns.

Survey: D.C. Leads US Cities for Swearing on Job; Those Who Swear Are Less Likey to Be Promoted

The Yahoo News website reports today (July 27, 2012) that a new survey finds that employees who swear frequently on the job are less likely to get a promotion. And the nation's worst offenders are workers in Washington, D.C.

The Career Builder study found some interesting -- and often conflicting -- results in their survey of 2,298 hiring managers and 3,892 nongovernment employees.

For example, 81 percent of respondents said cursing in the workplace brings an employee's professionalism into question. And 64 percent of employees said they would think less of a co-worker who swears regularly while on the job.

Moreover, 57 percent of managers said they are less likely to promote someone who swears. Majorities also said that swearing makes a co-worker appear less in control (71 percent), less mature (68 percent), and even less intelligent (54 percent).

Billy Graham: Heart Aches for Deceived America; Says He's Afraid of Damage Caused by US Lifestyle

The Rev. Billy Graham has posted a new prayer letter on his website on July 24, 2012, where he addresses the people of the nation and tells them he is very much afraid of the damage that the American lifestyle is doing in the eyes of the Lord.

The 93-year-old evangelist writes that millions of babies have been aborted in recent years, and our nation seems largely unconcerned. "Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle," Graham remarks.

The pastor goes on to refer to several other incidents in recent times where he sees the American government and American society as a whole coming down on Christians -- including instances where chaplains who serve the police department have been told to no longer say the name of Jesus during prayer.

"My heart aches for America and its deceived people," Graham continues. "The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Five Charged with Abusing Jewish Campers in Pa.; Shot Paintballs at Campers, Yelled Racial Epithets

The Cybercast News Service website reports today (July 26, 2012) that five people have been charged with terrorizing campers at a Jewish summer camp in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Authorities in Wayne County said yesterday the group of three adults and two juveniles sped through the grounds of Camp Bonim in Clinton Township in a pickup truck three times this month, shooting paintballs at campers, destroying property, and yelling anit-Semitic epithets at campers and staff members.

Facing numerous charges -- including ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats and riot -- are 18-year-old Tyler Spencer of Linden, Tenn.; 21-year-old Mark Trail of Bethany; 18-year-old Cassandra Robertson of Honesdale; and the unnamed juveniles.

Spencer had been charged earlier in a hit-and-run accident involving a camp counselor.

Ind.Churches May Buy Land Where Cross Stands; Cross in Dugger Subject to Church-State Lawsuit

The Christian Post website reports today (July 26, 2012) that a group of Indiana churches is looking into purchasing a piece of public property near a major roadway that a cross was built on, as a way of keeping the cross from being taken down as a result of a possible church-state lawsuit.

The Faith Community Church of Dugger and others may raise the funds to purchase the land near Indiana 54 where a 26-foot tall cross with the words "Jesus Saves" currently stands.

Pastor Shawn Farris of Faith Community said that the plan to purchase the property was being seriously considered.

"That's what we're thinking so far, waiting on the town to get everything together," said Farris, whose congregation erected the cross display off Indiana 54 in 2010.

Topless Woman Tries to Attack Russian Patriarch; To Protest Anti-Ukraine Policy of Russian Church

The New York Daily News website reports today (July 26, 2012) that a bare-breasted feminist activist -- a member of the controversial Ukrainian women's rights group called Femen -- tried to attack the Russian Orthodox Church's leader to protest alleged anti-Ukrainian policies by the church and the Kremlin.

The protester managed to get a yard within Patriarch Kirill today at Ukraine's Kiev airport, but was stopped by a security guard and a priest.

The woman -- identified by Femen as Yana Zhdanova -- had the words "Kill Kirill" written on her back in large black letters, and shouted a phrase from a religious ritual that aims to expel demons, roughly translated as "Kirill, go to hell."

The commotion highlighted the tension that exists between Moscow and Kiev, as Ukraine tries to move out of Russia's shadow politically, economically, and spiritually. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church said it will not press charges against Zhdanova.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

COMMENTARY: Barbaric Attackers of Lesbian in Nebraska Deserve Long Prison Sentences

This week, three masked men attacked a 33-year-old woman in her home in Lincoln, Nebraska, because she is a lesbian.

The attackers broke into the woman's home early last Sunday morning, stripped her naked, tied her hands and feet, and then carved anti-Lesbian slurs into her forehead, arms, and stomach with a knife.

The distraught woman managed to walk to a neighbor's house after the attackers had left.

She was treated at a hospital and then housed at an emergency shelter, and asked that her identity not be revealed.

The Lincoln Police Department has assigned several detectives to the case, in an effort to find the attackers and bring them to justice.

We believe that these barbaric attackers -- once they are arrested and tried in court -- should be given long-term prison sentences. The fact is that there is no excuse for such a savage act  -- especially in a civilized society.

Although we do not personally approve of a gay or lesbian lifestyle, we believe that every U.S. citizen has the right to choose his or her preferred lifestyle.

Indeed, to try to impose one's own lifestyle on another person -- and by means of barbaric violence no less -- violates the most important right that the the U.S. Constitution provides for every American.

Court Upholds Georgia's Ban on Guns in Church; Pastor, Some Members Want Guns for Protection

The Religion News website reports today (July 25, 2012) that a federal appeals court has upheld Georgia's ban on bringing guns into places of worship.

The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins -- a Baptist pastor -- and a gun-rights group had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 20 that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation's First and Second Amendment rights. 

Gun-rights advocates might want a weapon for self-defense, but that is a "personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose," the court ruled.

Greek Triple Jumper Expelled from Olympic Team; Her Twitter Joke of Africans in Greece Is Offensive

The Yahoo website reports that Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banished from the Olympic Games today (July 25, 2012) for making racist comments on Twitter.

Papachristou was scheduled to fly to London next week from her training base in Athens when the Hellenic Olympic Committee -- Greece's Olympic federation -- made the decision to expel her from the team.

Papachristou, 23, made a racist and tasteless comment on her Twitter account that highlighted the number of African immigrants in Greece. She wrote: "With so many Africans in Greece....at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!!!"

The West Nile virus was first discovered in the African nation of Uganda, but cases have recently been found during the European summer. Papachristou's tweet was met with a flood of angry responses, but she didn't apologize until today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Msgr. Lynn Is Sentenced to 3 to 6 Years in Prison; First US Cath. Leader Convicted of Priest Coverups

Msgr. William Lynn -- the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision -- was sentenced today (July 24, 2012) to three to six years in prison, the New York Times website reports.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," Judge Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia said as she imposed the sentence, which was just less than the maximum of three and a half to seven years.

Monsignor Lynn, 61, was found guilty on June 22 of child endangerment after a three-month trial that revealed efforts over decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal.

At that time, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests -- sometimes transferring them to unaware parishes -- and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.

This case is extremely significant -- indeed it sets a precedent in American jurisprudence --  because it sends a strong no-holds-barred message to bishops and other Roman Catholic Church leaders in the United States that if they cover up a priest's sexual child abuse, they will be sent to jail themselves.

Woman's Body Is Carved with Anti-LGBTQ Slurs; Nebraska Woman Was Tied Up, Carved with Knife

The Democracy Now website reports today (July 24, 2012) that police in Lincoln, Nebraska are investigating a potential anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) hate crime in a brutal attack by three masked assailants on a woman -- who is openly lesbian --  in her home.

The attackers entered the 33-year-old woman's home early Sunday morning (July 22), stripped her naked, tied her up, and then carved anti-LGBTQ slurs into her arms and stomach with a knife.

Hateful graffiti was also sprayed on the walls.

Hours after the attack, hundreds of Lincoln residents held a vigil as the woman received treatment in a local hospital for her wounds.

Former Butler Asks Pope Benedict for Forgiveness; Apologizes to Pope in Letter for the Pain He Caused

Pope Benedict's former butler -- who was arrested two months ago in an investigation of leaks of documents alleging corruption in the Vatican -- has written to the pontiff asking for forgiveness, his lawyer said today (July 24, 2012).

Paolo Gabriele, 46, was arrested on May 23 and placed under house arrest on Saturday (July 21) after 60 days detention in a small "safe room" in the Vatican's police station, according to the Reuters website.

Gabriele -- who worked in the papal household -- was arrested after police found a wealth of sensitive Vatican documents in the apartment where he lived with his wife and three children inside the Vatican.

Carlo Fusco, Gabriele's lawyer, said he expected a Vatican magistrate to formally close an investigation and order Gabriele to stand trial on charges of aggravated theft. It carries a sentence of up to six years in jail under the law of the world's smallest city-state. Gabriele would like to see a papal pardon after the trial, Fusco said.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Men Rob Vicar at Historical German Church; Armed Men Get Vicar's Wallet, PIN to Credit Card

The Big News Network reports today (July 23, 2012) that three armed men robbed the vicar of a church listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany.

George Kirchmeir -- vicar of the Wies Church in Steingaden, Bavaria -- said he awoke last Saturday night to two gun barrels pointing at his head.

The 73-year-old vicar said two masked men demanded his wallet, access to a safe, and the PIN to his credit card, as a third man waited outside.

The robbers chained the vicar and a 51-year-old church employee to a radiator and drove to an ATM to withdraw cash using the stolen credit card. Police have surveillance footage of the three men at the ATM and are investigating the robbery.

Thousands of People Gather Outside Mo. Church; End Westboro Church Protest of Soldier's Funeral

The Huffington Post website reports today (July 23, 2012) that a planned protest by the Westboro Baptist Church was overshadowed on July 21 when thousands of supporters gathered at the funeral of a fallen soldier to block the radical church's effort.

Thousands of people in red shirts formed a "human wall" around the Columbia, Missouri church where 21-year-old Army Specialist Sterling Wyatt's funeral was held. Wyatt was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month.

Westboro Baptist Church -- an independent Kansas-based church known for its extreme ideology and widely condemned demonstrations -- had indicated plans to picket the funeral.

When Tori Smith -- an acquaintance of Wyatt's -- got wind of the protest plans, she decided to organize a small group of supporters to counteract the church's negative actions. Word of Smith's plans spread quickly, drawing thousands to the church last Saturday morning.

Judge OKs Bus Ad Calling Israel's Foes "Savages;" Says Bus Co. Violated 1st Amend. by Rejecting Ad

The Christian Post website reports that a federal judge said on July 20, 2012 that transportation officials violated the First Amendment by refusing to run a New York City bus advertisement by blogger Pamela Geller that called enemies of Israel "savages."

Federal Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan said he agreed with Geller -- the executive director of the American Freedom Defense initiative -- that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) should not have rejected her ad.

The MTA had rejected Geller's ad, saying its standard does not allow demeaning of individuals or groups based on race, religion, or other protected categories

Her ad says, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pope's Butler Accused of "VatiLeaks" Leaves Cell; Returns to Vatican Apartment with Wife, 3 Kids

The Catholic News website reports today (July 22, 2012) that defense lawyers for Paolo Gabriele -- Pope Benedict XVI's butler accused of leaking private papal documents to the press -- said whether or not anything Gabriele did was a crime will be up to Vatican magistrates or a Vatican court to determine.

The lawyers spoke to reporters yesterday (July 21), after Gabriele was allowed to leave a Vatican cell and return to his Vatican apartment to be with his wife and three children. He had been in custody for 60 days.

Vatican magistrates said they had finished their interrogation of the 46-year-old papal valet and were putting him under house arrest.

The magistrates are still drafting their formal decision -- expected to be released by early August -- on whether or not they believe they have enough evidence to put Gabriele on trial for his alleged part in the "VatiLeaks" scandal.

Friday, July 20, 2012

FYROM Residents Upset by Statues in Skopje; 81% Say Govt. Should Stop Wasting Taxpayers' Money

The Balkan Insight website reports today (July 20, 2012) that -- after filling the capital of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) with dozens of new monuments -- the government has been criticized by most of that nation's residents for spending too much of the taxpayers' money on statues.

According to the poll by the local Rating agency, an overwhelming 81 percent of the respondents say the government should stop splashing out on new monuments as part of its grand revamp of the FYROM capital known as Skopje 2014.

Only 18 percent opted for more statues, while the rest -- less than 1 percent -- said they were not sure.

Two of the most notable statues in Skopje include one of Alexander the Great and the other of his father, Philip of Macedon. Greece -- FYROM's southern neighbor -- has been extremely critical of these two statues, because it believes that FYROM is trying to take credit for Alexander the Great's ancestry, when in fact he was of Greek ancestry, and born in what is now the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

New Study: Asian Americans Religiously Diverse; Most Are Christian,Then Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim

A new inclusive study of religions of Asian Americans -- released today (July 20, 2012) by the Pew Research Center -- reveals that Asian Americans are less religious than most Americans, but are also far more religiously diverse, according to the Religion News website.

The 3,551 Asian Americans surveyed were 42 percent Christian, compared to 75 percent of all Americans.

The next largest group of Asian Americans identified as unaffiliated (26 percent), followed by Buddhists (14 percent), Hindus (10 percent), and Muslims (4 percent).

Although Asian-Americans make up less than 6 percent of America's population, their numbers are growing, thus contributing to the increase in Buddhists, Hindus, and other non-Abrahamic faiths in the U.S.

Defense Dept. OKs Mil. Uniforms in Gay Parade; Is 1st Time in US History, Had Been Illegal Before

The Christian Post website reports today (July 20, 2012) that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) gave permission yesterday for all service members participating in San Diego's Gay Pride Parade this Saturday (July 21) to march in uniform for the first time in American history.

Christian chaplains in the military previously said that the DoD's recent recognition of Gay Pride Month -- less than a year after the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) -- is the new "stark reality" that behavior once considered by the military as grounds for court martial is now celebrated.

"Based on our current knowledge of the event and existing policies, we hereby are granting approval for service members in uniform to participate in this year's parade, provided service members participate in their personal capacity and ensure the adherence to Military Service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform," the DoD memo stated.

Chaplain (Col.) Ron Crews, USAR retired, said , "For the first time ever, the Department of Defense is making a positive event over behavior (sodomy) that had been a court martial offense a year ago."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Penn. Mom Accused of Hacking School Computer; Catherine Venusto Upped Grades of Daughter, Son

The ABC News website reports today (July 19, 2012) that a Pennsylvania mother faces six felony charges for hacking into her children's school computer to change their grades.

Catherine Venusto, 45, of New Tripoli worked for the Northwestern Lehigh School District from 2008 through April 2011 and has two children in the district.

She has been accused of changing her daughter's failing grade from an F to an M (for "medical") in June 2010, and changing her son's 98 to 99 in February 2012, nearly a year after she quit her job as a secretary.

Venusto was arraigned yesterday (July 18) afternoon in Lehigh County Magisterial Court on three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six charges are third degree felonies.

Three British Muslims Accused of Terror Training; Trained in Pakistan, Planned to Commit Terrorism

The Europe News website reports today (July 19, 2012) that three British Muslims -- including a convert who was recently featured in a documentary about radical Islam -- have been charged with traveling to Pakistan for terror training.

Richard Dart, 29, Imran Mahmood, 21, and Jahangir Alom, 26, had traveled to Pakistan between 2010 and 2012 "with the intention of committing acts of terrorism or assisting another to commit such acts," Scotland Yard said in a statement.

Two others, 22-year-old Ruksana Begum and 47-year-old Khalid Javed Baqa, were charged with having material likely to be useful for terrorism.

All five -- who were kept in custody -- had been arrested earlier this month.

Theme Park Denies Lesbians Family Ticket Rate; Says Family Card Is Only for Mother, Father, Kids

The Austrian Times website reports today (July 19, 2012) that a lesbian couple were refused a family ticket to a theme park, despite having two children.

Klagenfurt's Minimundus miniatures world denied the couple -- who had the correct paperwork showing they are cohabitating partners -- the reduced entrance fee set aside for two adults and two children, saying lesbians were not eligible for the family discount under tax laws.

Instead, the two women had to buy two single adult tickets and two children's tickets.

Minimundus boss Hannes Guggenberger defended the decision, saying the family card was only for father, mother, and two of their own children.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

COMMENTARY: Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel Must Serve in Israel's Military

This week, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem against attempts to draft the Orthodox community into the Israeli military.

The current law in Israel exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. This exemption infuriates other types of Jews -- such as Conservative and Reform -- since they are required to serve in the military for three years.

Israel's Supreme Court recently ruled that the law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews must be revised, and set August 1, 2012 as the deadline for its revision. In other words, if Israel does not pass a new law regarding the military requirement of ultra-Orthodox Jews by August 1, the Supreme Court will decide on their military fate.

We believe that ultra-Orthodox Jews -- like all other Jews -- should be drafted in Israel. Failing to do so conveys that Israel employs a "caste system" in which Israel's federal government treats ultra-Orthodox Jews more favorably than other Jews, who must put their lives on the line by serving in the military to ensure that  Israel maintains its freedom.

Moreover, we believe that -- from the time Israel became an independent nation in 1948 -- ultra-Orthodox Jews should have been required to serve in Israel's military. Exempting them from the draft for over 60 years has been sending a wrong message -- a message that says it is all right for ultra-Orthodox Jews to have more rights and more independence than other Jews in Israel.

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews have said that they would go to prison, rather than serve in Israel's military. That being the case, these Jews should serve a three-year prison sentence -- the same number of years that they would have served in the military.

In the final analysis, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel need to do their fair share -- like all other Jews -- in providing the manpower needed to allow Israel to remain a free nation. Indeed, serving in Israel's military should be something that ultra-Orthodox Jews should be proud of doing -- just as the pride they show in their religious studies and beliefs -- and not something they should avoid.

After all, if Israel were to lose its freedom -- and this is a real possibility, based on the fact that it is surrounded by belligerent Arab neighbors -- many of the rights that all Jews (including ultra-Orthodox Jews) in Israel now enjoy would come to an abrupt end.

Canadians Richer Than Americans for First Time; Average Canadian Household Is $40,000 Richer

The Slate website reports today (July 18, 2012) that the average Canadian household is about $40,000 wealthier than the average household in the United States.

Over the past five years, the net worth of the average Canadian has crept up -- thus overtaking the average American's wealth for the first time.

The figures -- from Environics Analytics WealthScapes -- place the net value of the typical Canadian household at $363,202 versus $319,970 for the American household.

Canadians also own about twice as much real estate as Americans, and have fewer mortgages, as well as a lower unemployment rate.

Seven Killed in Bulgarian Bus Blast with Israelis; May Have Been Work of Muslim Suicide Bomber

The Reuters website reports that at least seven people -- believed to be Israelis -- were killed and over 20 injured today (July 18, 2012) by an explosion on a bus in Bulgaria that was carrying Israeli tourists outside the airport of the coastal city of Burgas.

Police said several other buses at the site -- on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast -- had been damaged.

An Israeli witness told Israeli army radio that the explosion was probably caused by a suicide bomber at the entrance of the bus.

Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria -- a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists -- was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants who could infiltrate via neighboring Turkey.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Jews Protest Draft Plans; Israel May Start Drafting Ultra-Orthodox in Aug.

The Huffington Post website reports today (July 17, 2012) that thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested yesterday in Jerusalem against attempts to draft members of the cloistered community into the Israeli military.

The current law exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. That infuriates many Israelis, since all other Jews are required to serve.

Israel's Supreme Court recently ruled the law must be revised, and set an August 1 deadline for approval of  a law requiring ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews fear assimilation in the secular military, and claim they are serving the state of Israel by serving God in prayer and study. Some have even asserted that they will go to jail, rather than serve in the military.

Boys Scouts Agree to Keep Existing Ban on Gays; Says It's "Absolutely the Best Policy" for the Group

The Slate website reports that the Boy Scouts of America today (July 17, 2012) announced that it will uphold its existing ban that excludes gays -- something the group said was "absolutely the best policy" for the group.

The 11-member special committee's decision was unanimous, and will stop action on a resolution recently submitted to the board asking the organization to reconsider the rule.

The policy was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000.

Protests of the policy have focused on Jennifer Tyrrell -- an Ohio mother who lost her role as Scout den mother because she is a lesbian.

Seventh-Day Adventists File a Lawsuit in Alabama; City of Alabaster Requires a License Fee to Solicit

The Religion News website reports today (July 17, 2012) that Seventh-day Adventists have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of two ordinances in an Alabama city that the church says bars it -- and other religious groups -- from door-to-door solicitations unless they first register and pay license fees.

The lawsuit was filed after a member of the church's Summer Student Missionary Program was ticketed in June by a police officer for selling books door-to-door without a City of Alabaster permit.

The lawsuit seeks a court order that declares the ordinances unconstitutional and bars the city from enforcing them.

U.S. District Court Judge Karon Bowdre has set a hearing in the case for tomorrow (July 18).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pat. Kirill Dedicates Church Near Massacre Site; Thousands of Poles Murdered in Katyn by Stalin

The Catholic Culture website reports today (July 16, 2012) that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill dedicated an Orthodox Church yesterday at the site of the Katyn massacre, and acknowledged the Soviet execution of thousands of Poles, saying "finally, the truth prevailed over lies."

In 1940 -- on orders by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin -- Soviet troops shot many thousands of unarmed Polish military officers and civilians, and left them buried in Katyn Forest.

For 50 years, the Soviet government denied the slaughter, but in 1991 -- with the collapse of the Soviet Union -- Russian leaders finally acknowledged the deaths.

Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill -- appealing for reconciliation between Poland and Russia -- said, "The Katyn tragedy united Russians and Poles, and the two people should always remain brothers," as he dedicated the Church of the Resurrection in Katyn.

US Navy Fires at Motor Boat, Killing One Person; Boat Headed Toward Ship, Was Warned to Halt

One person was killed and three others injured today (July 16, 2012) when a U.S. Navy ship fired at an approaching motor boat off the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, according to the Reuters website.

Just why the boat headed toward the U.S. refueling ship, the USNS Rappahannock, is not clear, U.S. officials said.

But the U.S. Navy -- fearing it could be a suicide bomber boat -- said the motor boat ignored repeated warnings to halt its approach, before a security team fired several rounds at it from a .50-caliber machine gun.

Yesterday, Iran renewed its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz -- through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports pass -- unless sanctions imposed over its nuclear program are revoked.

Fifty Christians Are Burned to Death in Nigeria; Burned in Pastor's Home, Sought Refuge There

The Christian Post website reports today (July 16, 2012) that -- as attacks on Nigeria's Christians continued this past week -- a particularly grizzly attack saw 50 Christians burned to death at their pastor's home, where they had fled for refuge from a terrorist attack.

Over 100 people were killed by armed terrorists in Nigeria this past week. Nigeria has the largest population in all of Africa, with some 158 million people.

Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has once again taken responsibility for the attacks.

The Boko Haram last week said that all Christians in Nigeria need to convert to Islam, or "they would never know peace again."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One Million Christians March for Jesus in Brazil; Considered "Largest Christian Event in the World"

The Catholic News website reports today (July 15, 2012) that more than a million evangelical Christians are taking part in an annual March for Jesus in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The event is organized by the Reborn in Christ Church and draws faithful from hundreds of Protestant churches in Brazil, which is the world's largest Roman Catholic country.

Police captain Luis Fernando Otaviano says that "the number of people participating is extremely high -- at least one million."

Organizers have described the march as the "largest Christian event in the world," saying they expected at least five million people to rally behind 15 sound trucks and attend religious music shows likely to last well into the night.

Pat. Gregorios Sends Note to Pres. Mursi of Egypt; Greek Catholic Patriarch to Support Mursi's Goals

The Spero Forum website reports today (July 15, 2012) that Patriarch Gregorios III -- the Greek Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria -- has sent a letter to President Mohammed Mursi of Egypt, congratulating him as the new president of Egypt.

In the letter, Patriarch Gregorios states that he is proud to be an Egyptian citizen, and pledges to support Mursi in his great responsibility.

Patriarch Gregorios also emphasizes the importance of Arab unity, in order to find a just, global, and permanent solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He concludes his letter by saying he would like to meet with Mursi, in order to wish him good wishes in person from Egypt's Greek Catholic sons and daughters, faithful to their mission in its service and to their loyalty to it.

Madonna Is Sued by France's National Front Party; Due to Video with Swastika on Leader's Forehead

France's far-right National Front said today (July 15, 2012) that it will sue Madonna, after the singer showed a video at a Paris concert that contained an image of the party's leader with a swastika on her forehead.

Madonna played the video last night at Stade de France, according to the Associated Press website.

Alain Vizier -- spokesman for the National Front -- said today that the party would file a complaint in French court for "insults."

National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen has tried to lessen the National Front's image of being racist and anti-Semitic.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

COMMENTARY: Illegally Selling Kidneys for Huge Profits Is a Disgusting Practice

On July 11, 2012, a Brooklyn resident was sentenced in Trenton (NJ) federal court to two and a half years in prison for illegally selling human kidneys for profit.

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 61, pleaded guilty to brokering illegal kidney transplants for New Jersey customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more for each kidney.

Prosecutors said Rosenbaum made millions by exploiting desperate recipients and paying donors very little for their kidneys.

We believe that Rosenbaum deserved the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence he received for his inhumane and illegal profitable ploy. In fact, we believe that his prison sentence should have been at least five years.

To make money by illegally selling kidneys -- or any other part of the human body for that matter -- is one of the most disgusting and inhumane things a person can do to his fellow man in our civilized society.

The fact that Rosenbaum is an Orthodox Jew -- which is considered to be the most sacred of all types of Jews -- makes this situation even more incredible.

One would have expected Rosenbaum to place God before gold, but he obviously did just the opposite. This case marks the first time in American history in which a person has been convicted for selling human kidneys for profit; hopefully, it will also be the last time.

This situation reminds us of Judas Iscariot, and his betrayal of Christ nearly 2,000 years ago for 30 pieces of silver. Indeed -- because of  his obsessive desire for money -- Rosenbaum can be viewed as a "modern-day Judas" by doing whatever he needs to do to receive money.

When will man ever learn to place his love for God and human beings ahead of his own selfish greed for money?

Pakistani Man Buries His Newborn Daughter Alive; Did So Because She Was Physically Deformed

The Associated Press website reports that Pakistani police arrested a man today (July 14, 2012),  accusing him of burying his newborn daughter alive because she was physically deformed.

This shocking incident illustrates the extreme prejudices in Pakistan against children -- especially girls -- that are born with any type of physical deformities.

Mohammed Anwar -- a police officer in the city of Khanewal in the eastern Punjab province -- said the child was born July 12 at a hospital in the nearby town of Kach Khoh.

The man -- identified by police as Chand Khan -- buried the girl while she was still alive. He did not tell his wife -- who was still in the hospital -- about his plan to bury the child. He could be sentenced to death for killing his daughter.

Number of Faithful in Taiwan Grows Significantly; Taiwan Has 27 Different Religions, Mostly Taoist

The China Post website reports today (July 14, 2012) that the number of people in Taiwan with membership in religious venues grew steadily for the fifth consecutive year to 1.59 million, according to a national survey by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in 2011 and released today.

Taiwan has 27 different religions -- the four major ones being defined by the MOI as Taoist, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic -- with the majority being Taoists.

The overall annual growth in religious membership was 1.82 percent, while the number of religious buildings increased by 0.74 percent.

The number of Protestants in the country grew the most last year, with an annual increase of 2.98 percent compared with 2010.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Church of England Supports an Anti-Israel Group; Blames Israel for Peace Failure in the Middle East

The Trumpet website reports today (July 13, 2012) that the governing body of the Church of England voted on July 9 to support a pro-Palestinian group dedicated to the demonization of of Israel.

The General Assembly passed a motion to endorse the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) -- a group that blames Israel for the failure of the peace process and calls for a boycott of Israel, as well as the hacking of government websites and a sit-in at Israel's embassies.

The Church of England motion was endorsed by 201 votes to 54, with 93 abstentions.

The Israeli Embassy in England criticized the motion, saying, "By supporting this group, the Church of England has chosen to amplify one-sided voices and to single out Israel -- the only country (in the Middle East) where Christian rights are enshrined and the Christian population is growing."

White House Police Officer Now on Admin. Leave; Told Other Officers He "Would Shoot First Lady"

The Washington Post website reports today (July 13, 2012) that a Washington, D.C. police officer -- who worked as a motorcycle escort for White House officials and other dignitaries -- has been placed on administrative duties, after he was overheard making threatening comments about first lady Michelle Obama.

The officer -- who has not been identified to the press -- made the comments on July 11, while several officers from the Special Operations Division discussed threats against the Obamas.

According to several police officers, the officer said he would shoot the first lady. Then,  he used his phone to show a picture of the firearm he said he would use.

A Secret Service spokesman said that the agency was conducting an investigation of the incident.

American Faith in Organized Rel. at All-Time Low; Only 44% of Americans Have Confidence in Rel.

The Huffington Post website reports today (July 13, 2012) that -- according to a new Gallup poll -- the number of Americans who have faith in organized religion is at an all-time low.

Only 44 percent of Americans today have a lot of confidence in organized religion, compared to 66 percent in 1973 when organized religion or church was the highest rated institution in Gallup's "confidence in institutions measure."

The consistent decline in religion may be tied to scandals associated with televangelist preachers Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart, as well as the 2002 child molestation charges and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.

The new poll showed Protestants being more confident in organized religion than Catholics, since 56 percent of Protestants had a lot of confidence in organized religion, compared to only 46 percent of Catholics.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Marriages in Italy Last an Average of 15 Years; Divorces, Separations Are Gradually Increasing

The Life in Italy website reports today (July 12, 2012) that Italian marriages last an average of 15 years -- as the divorce rate slowly climbs -- according to the country's statistical agency.

In 2010 -- the latest year available for figures -- 88,191 married couples separated, an increase of 2.6 percent over the previous year, Istat, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, said in a report released today.

A total of 54,160 divorces were reported in 2010, an icrease of 0.5 percent.

Ages in divorce and separation are gradually rising, Istat noted, because in recent years, couples have have tended to marry later in life.

Wells Fargo Co. to Pay $175M for Discrimination; Blacks, Hispanics Paid Higher Fees Than Whites

Wells Fargo & Co. has agreed to pay $175 million to resolve allegations it discriminated against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in its mortgages, the U.S. Justice Department said today (July 12, 2012).

According to the Daily Mail website, the biggest U.S. mortgage lender will pay $125 million to borrowers who were steered into higher-priced sub-prime loans or who paid higher fees and rates than white borrowers.

Wells Fargo will also contribute $50 million to homebuyer assistance programs in eight metropolitan areas around the U.S.

Thomas Perez -- U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights -- said at a news conference in Washington today, "This case is about real people, African-American and Latino, who suffered real harm as a result of Wells Fargo's discriminatory lending practices."

NYC Man Sentenced to Prison for Selling Kidneys; Levy Rosenbaum Made Millions from Recipients

The Fox News website reports today (July 12, 2012) that a New York City man was sentenced in Trenton (NJ) federal court yesterday to two and a half years in prison, in a case that is the first ever federal conviction for illegally selling human kidneys for profit.

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 61, a Brooklyn resident, pleaded guilty last October to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for New Jersey-based customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more.

Prosecutors say Rosenbaum -- an Orthodox Jew -- made millions of dollars by exploiting desperate recipients and paying donors a petty sum.

In court yesterday, Rosenbaum admitted wrongdoing, but said his motives were "altruistic."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

COMMENTARY: Northeastern University Physics Grad Who Plotted Terrorism Needs a Change of Attitude

On July 10, 2012, Rezwan Ferdaus -- an Ashland, Massachusetts man who holds a degree in physics from Northeastern University -- agreed to plead guilty to a terrorism plot to fly explosive-filled remote-controlled airplanes (similar to drones) into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol buildings in Washington, D.C.

Under the agreement reached by federal prosecutors and his lawyers, Ferdaus -- a Muslim-American -- would serve 17 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

Ferdaus, 26, faced life in prison under sentencing guidelines for those charges, before the agreement was reached. Prosecutors have also agreed to dismiss four additional charges against Ferdaus of supporting terrorists and obtaining weapons, in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty.

A hearing for Ferdaus to plead guilty has been set for July 20 in U.S. District Court where the agreement is expected to be approved by a judge.

Ferdaus was arrested by FBI agents posing as al-Qaida members in September 2011 -- just after the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- in one of the most significant terrorist plots the United States has seen in the past decade.

The fact is that Ferdaus -- described by former Northeastern fellow students as being a peaceful musician -- grew angry toward the United States during the past few years, as he became an extremist in his Islam religion.

All in all, Ferdaus can consider himself as being "lucky" for only having to serve 17 years in prison -- instead of the usual life sentence -- for such a deadly terrorist plot.

Indeed, Ferdaus will have ample time to contemplate his inhumane plot during his prison years, and -- if he is wise -- he will reverse his angry attitude toward America into one of genuine love for his country and its citizens.

Newly Ordained Chinese Bishop Excommunicated; Joseph Yue Fusheng Ordained Without Vatican OK

The Catholic San Francisco website reports today (July 11, 2012) that Chinese Father Joseph Yue Fusheng has been excommunicated for allowing himself to be illicitly ordained a bishop, despite repeated warnings from the Vatican.

"The Holy See does not recognize him as a bishop of the apostolic administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the province of Heilongjiang," the Vatican said in a written statement July 10.

Father Yue was ordained bishop of Harbin on July 6 without papal mandate -- a rite the Chinese government has been using in recent years.

Five Vatican-approved bishops took part in the rite -- held at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Harbin -- capital of Heilongjiang province. The Vatican said those five bishops who took part in the July 6 ordination would also be excommunicated.

Birmingham Congregation Selling New Synagogue; Can't Afford It Due to Low Sale Price for Old One

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 11, 2012) that a Jewish congregation in Alabama is selling its synagogue because it has been stung by the tough real estate market.

Knesseth Israel Congregation -- which has about 100 families as members -- is asking for $5.5 million for its Birmingham campus. The property includes a social hall, a kosher kitchen, office space, and a ritual bath.

Rabbi Eytan Yammer says the group can't afford the campus because its old synagogue sold for only a quarter of what members expected amid the economic downturn.

He added that the congregation will move elsewhere if necessary.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bosnia Marks 17th Anniv. of Srebrenica Massacre; Serb Forces Killed 8,000 Muslim Men and Boys

The Voice of America News website reports today (July 10, 2012) that Bosnia-Herzegovina marks the 17th anniversary tomorrow (July 11) of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces.

People from across the nation and elsewhere are gathering near the eastern Bosnian town -- the site of Europe's worst case of mass murder since World War II.

The central event will be the burial of recently identified remains of 520 victims. Organizers expect more than 30,000 people to attend.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Serbia's new President Tomislav Nikolic call the Srebrenica massacre a "grave crime," but they refuse to call it a "genocide."

Man Pleads Guilty to Trying to Destroy US Bldgs.; Northeastern U.Physics Grad Hoped to Use Drones

A Massachusetts man -- charged with plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes (drones) packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol -- filed a plea agreement in federal court today (July 10, 2012), pleading guilty to two charges, according to the Christian Science Monitor website.

Rezwan Ferdaus -- a Muslim-American from Ashland who holds a degree in physics from Boston's Northeastern University -- was arrested last September after federal employees posing as al-Qaida members delivered materials he had requested, including grenades, machine guns, and what he thought was 24 pounds of C-4 explosives.

In the plea agreement, Ferdaus will plead guilty to attempting to damage and destroy federal buildings by means of explosives.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to request a 17-year sentence.

Episcopal Church OKs Ordination of Transgenders; People Who Change Birth Gender Can Be Priests

The Huffington Post website reports today (July 10, 2012) that the Episcopal Church voted yesterday to allow the ordination of transgender people.

At a General Convention in Indianapolis, the church's House of Deputies approved a change to the "nondiscrimination canons" to include "gender identity aid expression."

The move makes it illegal to bar from the priesthood people who were born into one gender and live as another, or who do not identify themselves as male or female.

The Episcopal Church -- which has 1.9 million members in the United States -- has rules against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, and age for Episcopalians who want to become priests.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Germany Will Compensate 80,000 Nazi Victims; Will Pay $300M to Victims in Eastern Europe

The Jerusalem Post website reports today (July 9, 2012) that Germany has agreed to provide restitution payments to an additional 80,000 Jews in what Claims Conference officials are describing as a historic breakthrough.

The agreement -- which was reached today in negotiations between German officials and Claims Conference representatives -- is likely to result in additional payments of approximately $300 million.

Most of the money will go to Nazi victims in the former Soviet Union, who have never before qualified for pensions or payments from German restitution money.

Greg Schneider -- the executive vice president of the Claims Conference in Washington, D.C. where the negotiations took place -- said, "This is the last group of people who have never received any compensation. To be able to do that at this stage ....for 80,000 people is tremendous."

Teen Trashes Church, Has Confession Next Day; Teen, Friend Broke Windows,Smashed Furniture

The Austrian Times website reports today (July 9, 2012) that a teenage vandal felt so guilty after trashing a church that he went to confession in the church and then turned himself in to police in Katsdorf, Upper Austria.

The 17-year-old went to the priest yesterday morning to confess that he and a friend had broken into the church the night before, and vandalized the church, breaking windows and smashing furniture and holy symbols.

After confessing to the priest, the 17-year-old and his accomplice turned themselves in to police.

The pair claim they completely flipped out after getting into a row with guests in a pub.

Man Gets 60 Days in Jail for Home Bible Studies; Michael Salman Is Guilty of 67 Code Violations

A Phoenix, Arizona man has been sentenced to 60 days in jail because he refused to stop hosting Bible studies in the privacy of his home, thus violating the city's building code laws, the Washington Times website reports today (July 9, 2012).

Michael Salman -- an ordained pastor -- was found guilty in the City of Phoenix Court of 67 code violations.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, along with three years probation and a $12,180 fine.

Referring to the guilty finding, Salman said, "They're attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Police in Spain Arrest 4 for Rel. Manuscript Theft; Find $1.26M in the Home of One of the Detainees

The Worldwide Religious News website reports today (July 8, 2012) that Spanish police have arrested four people in connection with the theft of a priceless collection of 12th century religious manuscripts.

Spain's Interior Ministry says an electrician who worked at a cathedral in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela -- from where the Calixtinus Codex was stolen a year ago -- has been arrested along with his wife and son, and another woman.

The missing, richly-decorated tome is considered the first guide for people making the ancient Christian pilgrimage -- known as the Camino de Santiago -- the Spanish name for the Way of St. James.

Police found $1.26 million in a house belonging to one of the detainees.

Afghan Govt. Blasts Taliban Execution of Woman; Killed Due to Koran Rejecting Adultery by Women

The Big News Network website reports today (July 8, 2012) that a video showing the public execution of a woman -- accused of adultery by the Taliban -- has been condemned by the Afghan government.

The video showed a turban-clad man shooting the woman -- who had been forced to sit on the ground -- with an automatic rifle.

Prior to the shooting a group of men are seen reading verses from the Koran, after which they announce the woman should be executed for adultery.

The government of Kabul has ordered an immediate military operation to find those responsible for the woman's murder.

Pope Benedict Dismisses Abp. Bezak of Slovakia; Slovaks: Firing Has "Divided Faithful and Society"

The Catholic News website reports today (July 8, 2012) that Catholics in Slovakia have demanded an explanation after their church's youngest archbishop was dismissed by Pope Benedict XVI, after just three years in office.

Hundreds of Catholics protested at Trnava Cathedral following an announcement on July 2 that Archbishop Robert Bezak, 52, was stepping down immediately.

They said Bezak's dismissal had "disgusted and divided the faithful and society."

Last Sunday (July 1) Bezak told churchgoers that the Vatican had leveled "serious allegations" against him and barred him from speaking to the media.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

COMMENTARY: Spanking Children Can Result in Anxiety and Personality Disorders When They Are Adults

This week, delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution calling for "an end to the practice of corporal punishment in homes, schools, and child care facilities."

In other words, America's largest Presbyterian denomination says it is wrong to spank children. We agree with this viewpoint.

Recent studies have indicated that there is a link between the physical punishment of a child and the mental disorders that could result from physical punishment when that child is an adult.

In fact, the American Association of Pediatrics -- in a study it just published this week -- found that children who are pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped, or hit by a parent or other adult are more likely than those who are not treated in this way to suffer from mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and several personality disorders as adults.

That being the case, it would behoove parents and other adults not to spank children.

All in all, it's just just not worth the negative impact that spankings may have on children when they are adults.

PC(USA) Rejects Same-Sex Definition of Marriage; "Between a Woman and a Man" OK'd in Close Vote

The Christian Post website reports today (July 7, 2012) that the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to keep its current definition of marriage "between a woman and a man" by narrowly defeating a proposal to change the wording to "between two people" at its 220th General Assembly last night.

The proposal by same-sex marriage proponents would have also changed the definition of marriage from being "a civil contract" to a "covenant" that "according to the laws of the state also constitutes a civil contract."

Nearly four hours of debate preceded last night's 338-308 vote.

Neal Presa -- the General Assembly moderator -- said in prayer after the vote, "Some of us weep while some of us rejoice. We are a divided church."

FIFA Panel OKs Islamic Headscarves for Women; Reverses Ban on Islamic Hijab for Soccer Players

The Washington Times website reports today (July 7, 2012) that soccer's rules-making panel approved headscarves for female Muslim players on July 5, thus reversing a ban on the Islamic hijab that has been enforced in FIFA (Federation International de Football Association) competitions since 2007.

The panel gave its approval to the headscarves after FIFA's medical committee decided two scarf designs do not threaten the safety of female players. The approved designs use quick-release velcro fasteners and magnets.

Soccer rules prohibit equipment that is dangerous or makes a religious statement.

FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan led a yearlong campaign to overturn the ban and allow Muslim women to play the game.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Presbyterian Church Addresses Spanking Children; Votes to End Spanking in Home, School, Day Care

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 6, 2012) that America's largest Presbyterian denomination says it is wrong to spank children.

Delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a resolution calling for "an end to the practice of corporal punishment in homes, schools, and child care facilities."

Fifty-one percent of the church leaders meeting in Pittsburgh voted for the measure, while 47 percent opposed it.

Several speakers had argued that the measure improperly intruded on parental prerogatives.

A Child Could Have More Than 2 Parents in Calif.; Lawmakers Review Bill to Amend Two-Parent Law

The Catholic Online website reports today (July 6, 2012) that a bill now being considered by California lawmakers would allow children to have more than two parents.

The bill -- introduced by Sen. Mark Leno from San Francisco -- would amend California's current two-parent-per-child law, in order to protect the best interests of the child.

Under the proposal, families with three or more parents would share custody, financial responsibility, and visitation for the child, based on a judge's determination of each parent's wealth and the time spent with the child.

Benjamin Lopez -- a legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition --blasted the bill as a new attempt to "revamp. redefine, and muddy the waters" of family structure in the drive to legalize homosexual marriage.

New Govt. of Egypt Has 1st Sex-Slave Marriage; Woman to Husband: "I Enslave Myself to You"

The Europe News website reports today (July 6, 2012) that Egypt's "first sex-slave marriage" took place mere days after the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammad Morsi became president.

On July 2, the Egyptian TV show Al Haqiqa (The Truth) showed a video clip of a man, Abd al-Rauf Awn, marrying his slave.

He made the woman repeat after him the Koran's rite of marriage.

But instead of saying the usual, "I marry myself to you," the woman said, "I enslave myself to you," kissing him in front of an applauding audience.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Man Sentenced to Prison for Making Hitler Salute; Made Hitler Salute in Austria Where It Is Illegal

The Austrian Times website reports today (July 5, 2012) that a man has been sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison for making a Hitler salute at a political speech of Austria's far right politician Karl Heinz Strache in Vienna, Austria.

The 34-year-old man was charged for making the Nazi sign -- which is illegal in Austria -- while at an anti-Islam demonstration against the building of a new Islamic culture center in the city in June 2010.

The skinhead -- who was just five meters from Strache -- was photographed by a newspaper photographer making the Hitler salute. It was then published in the paper.

Ironically, Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in the small town of Braunau, near the German border.

Atheist Sues PA Restaurant for Its Rel. Discount; Restaurant Gives 10% Discount to Churchgoers

The Raw Story website reports today (July 5, 2012) that an atheist in Manheim Township, Pennsylvania is suing a restaurant for offering a 10 percent discount to diners who bring in a church bulletin on Sundays.

John Wolff filed the complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission because Prudhomme's Lost Cajun Kitchen discriminated against him for not attending church services.

Wolff said, "I have no animosity toward Prudhomme's, but I do bear a grudge against the religious right that seems to intrude on our civil rights, right and left, getting laws passed that favor religion."

But restaurant co-owner Sharon Prudhomme insisted that she planned to ignore the complaint, because the Sunday discount "marketing ploy" was perfectly legal.

Six Arrested in London in Anti-Terror Operation; Islam Radicals Arrested for Planning UK Attacks

The BBC website reports that five men and a woman suspected of terrorism offenses were arrested today (July 5, 2012) in London as part of an intelligence-led investigation involving MI5. (MI5 refers to military intelligence in the United Kingdom.)

Eight homes in west, east, and north London and one business are being searched.

The arrests relate to a possible plot involving Islam extremists, with potential UK targets.

Police involved in the long-running operation decided to act today on the grounds of public safety. The six arrested are aged between 18 and 30.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

COMMENTARY: Boys Bullying Bus Monitor Is the Result of Parental Failure

It was revealed this week that four seventh-grade students from the town of Greece in upstate New York -- who harassed a 68-year-old school bus monitor -- have been suspended for a year.

The school department of Greece -- a Rochester suburb with some 96,000 people -- said the four boys will be transferred to a special alternative education program, because the district is legally required to give them an education.

A video of this incident posted online shows Karen Klein -- the bus monitor -- ignoring profanity, insults, and threats from the students. Klein eventually breaks down in tears, as a result of the nasty bullying.

A fund drive that began with a goal of $5,000 to help Klein take a nice vacation has raised more than $667,000, as a plethora of Americans feel sympathetic toward her for the abuse she endured from the boys.

Why were these boys so mean toward the bus monitor? The fact is that the parents of these four boys failed to instill in them the importance of treating others with civility and respect. If their parents had done so, these boys would not have acted so crudely and disrespectfully toward the bus monitor.

The Greece school department took appropriate and reasonable action in suspending the four boys from attending their school for one year. This punishment will undoubtedly discourage the boys from bullying a school bus monitor -- or anyone else for that matter -- in the future.

In the meantime, the parents of the boys need to speak to them and inform them of the importance of being polite and respectful -- and not abusive -- toward other people.

Indeed, it would behoove the boys' parents to refer to the Golden Rule in conveying to them how they should behave: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Church Agencies Back Fed. Govt. Paternity Leave; Provides Fathers with $606 a Week for Two Weeks

The Catholic News website reports today (July 4, 2012) that church agencies have welcomed the federal government's decision to provide fathers with two weeks' paid paternity leave at the rate of $606-a-week minimum wage from January next year.

Anthony Farley -- executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations -- says the paid paternity leave "is a great benefit for families, allowing for the father to provide support over the important initial period at home with a new child, without placing unmanageable burdens on the employer."

The paternity pay will be available to eligible fathers who earned less than $150,000 in the previous financial year.

To be eligible, the father must have worked at least 330 hours -- or more than one day a week -- in 10 of the 13 months before the birth.

Statue of Christ Stolen from Outside NJ Convent; Trenton Councilman Offers $250 for Its Return

The New Jersey On-Line website reports today (July 4, 2012) that a four-foot-tall statue of Christ was stolen from outside the convent at Divine Mercy Parish in Trenton this week.

The nuns first noticed the statue was gone on July 2, but they were not able to get city police to come out and take a report until yesterday afternoon, Sister Karen Crawford said.

Crawford -- who has spent 18 years at the Grand Street convent -- said she has no idea why anyone would want to rip the statue from its base outside the living quarters of three nuns.

Trenton Councilman George Muschal said he is offering a $250 reward -- from money out of his own savings -- for the monument's return. He added, "It's worth every dime to see them (the nuns) happy."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

France Arrests Man for Aiding Terrorist Groups; Tunisian Native Suspected of Financing Groups

The Voice of America (VOA) website reports today (July 3, 2012) that French authorities have arrested the administrator of an extremist website who is suspected of playing a role in recruiting and financing for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

The French prosecutor's office said the Tunisian national -- who lives in the French city of Toulon -- was being questioned today.

The prosecutor said there is evidence the suspect may have played a role in collecting funds for weapons purchases by various groups, including Fatah al-Islam and the Islamic State of Iraq.

The prosecutor added that he is also suspected of financing and recruiting for such groups.

New Lab Study Concludes Yasser Arafat Poisoned; High Level of Polonium Found on His Belongings

The Newser website reports today (July 3, 2012) that the Al Jazeera news agency -- in its investigation of the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- has concluded that Arafat was probably fatally poisoned in 2004.

The news organization had Arafat's personal belongings -- including clothes and his toothbrush -- analyzed by a lab in Switzerland, and the results turned up highly radioactive polonium.

"I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids," says the lab's director.

Arafat had been healthy until suddenly becoming ill with a still-unexplained ailment before he died.

Human Rights Group Blasts Greek Police Violence; Says Police in Greece Beat and Torture Protesters

Amnesty International charged in a report today (July 3, 2012) that Greek police often use violence against demonstrators, migrants, and detained suspects -- and that authorities' willingness to downplay the problem exacerbates a "climate of impunity."

According to the Associated Press website, the human rights group examined cases mainly from 2008-2012, although some went as far back as 2001.

It outlined allegations by protesters and migrants of beatings, ill-treatment, and even torture at the hands of Greek police.

In a news release of the report, Amnesty International said that Greek authorities "for too long have brushed off such violations as 'isolated incidents,' creating a climate of impunity."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Atheist Clubs Spreading Rapidly in High Schools; Due to Many Rel. Scandals, Use of the Internet

The Religion News website reports today (July 2, 2012) that the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) -- a national organization of more than 300 college-based clubs for atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other "free thinkers" -- is helping to establish clubs for high school students to hang out with other teens who share their skepticism about the supernatural.

There were about a dozen high school atheist clubs at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic school year -- a figure that rose to 39 in 17 states by the 2012 summer break.

The clubs are student-led, with SSA providing information and guidance only upon a student's request.

JT Eberhard -- director of SSA's high school program -- attributes the growing interest in atheism among high school students to several factors, including disenchantment with organized religion among recent scandals, and the rise of the Internet, which gives young doubters a safe forum to ask questions.

National Catholic Reporter Recognizes a Lesbian; States Heather Mizeur of Md. Enhances Church

The Spero Forum website reports today (July 2, 2012) that the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) -- a newspaper that describes itself as being a Catholic publication led by laity -- has released a list of what it describes as "12 Catholic women under 40 who are making a difference in the church."

One of the 12 women selected for "making a difference in the church" is Heather Mizeur, a delegate to Maryland's General Assembly for Montgomery County, near Washington, D.C.

Mizeur's website notes that she lives in Takoma Park, Maryland with her "spouse" Deborah Veres. In a video, Mizeur describes Veres as her "wife."

The NCR bio describes Mizeur as a lesbian and a "leader in the debate over same-sex marriage in Maryland. In March, the bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed."

Mormons Resign En Masse in Salt Lake City, Utah; Left Due to Doctrines, Rejection of Gay Marriage

The Christian Post website reports today (July 2, 2012) that about 150 Mormons participated in a mass resignation ceremony and signed a "Declaration of Independence from Mormonism" in Utah -- the state where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is based -- on Saturday (June 30).

The group of Mormons -- from Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and a few other states -- flashed signs saying, "Finally ExMormon,"  "Research the Church," and "Transcend Mormonism," as they hiked Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City.

The reasons behind the Mormons' exit included doctrines, inconsistencies in how the LDS narrates its own history, and its rejection of gay marriage.

"It's been a hard journey and this is a symbolic end," event organizer Zilpha Larsen said.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brazil Has Record Decline in Number of Catholics; Less Than Two-Thirds See Themselves as Catholic

The Catholic News website reports today (July 1, 2012) that less than two-thirds of Brazilians now identify themselves as Catholics, marking a record decline in what is considered to be the world's largest Catholic country, according to new figures from the country's latest census.

Only 64 percent of the Brazilian population of 191 million identifies itself as Catholic, said the figures, taken from the 2010 census.

In the year 2000, Catholics comprised almost 74 percent of the population, down significantly from almost 92 percent in 1970.

On the other hand, the number of Brazilian Christian evangelists has risen, up about seven percent to 22.2 percent from 15.4 percent in 2000.

Attacks on Two Churches in Kenya Kill 17 Today; More Than 60 Wounded in the Attacks in Garissa

The Reuters website reports that masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in a town in Kenya today (July 1, 2012), killing at least 17 people.

More than 60 people were wounded in the attacks in Garissa, the north Kenya town which has been used as a base for operations against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.

"This is the worst single attack since October, when our troops went into Somalia," national police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Garissa, a largely Muslim town of 150,000 with a significant ethnic Somali population.

Students Who Bullied Bus Monitor Are Suspended; Four 7th Graders Will Attend an Alternative School

The One News Now website reports today (July 1, 2012) that four seventh-grade students from upstate New York -- who were caught on video taunting a 68-year-old bus monitor -- have been suspended for a year.

The school system in the Rochester suburb of Greece, New York says it will suspend the middle school students from their school and from using regular bus transportation for a year for bullying Karen Klein.

The students will be transferred to a special alternative education program because the district is legally required to give them an education. Each student will also be required to complete 50 hours of community service with senior citizens.

A video posted online shows Klein ignoring a stream of profanity, insults, and threats from the students. Eventually, Klein breaks down in tears as a result of the bullying.