Thursday, January 31, 2013

Worcester Diocese Cancels Talk by Islam Critic; Won't Speak at Cath. Conf. Due to Muslim Flak

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts has rescinded an invitation to Robert Spencer -- a Catholic whose work depicts Islam as an inherently violent religion -- to speak at its annual Catholic Men's Conference in March, the Boston Globe website reports today (January 31, 2013).

The invitation was withdrawn yesterday, after Muslims in Massachusetts expressed concerns to the diocese about the appearance of Spencer, scheduled to be a featured speaker at the DCU Center on March 16.

Spencer is director of the blog Jihad Watch and a leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America., both of which are seen as anti-Muslim groups by some organizations that monitor extremism.

He has written several books critical of Islam, including "Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam Is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs." On his Jihad Watch blog, Spencer has argued that jihad is a central tenet of  Islam.

UN: Israel Must Oust All Settlers from West Bank; Failure to Do So Can Lead to War Crimes ICC Trial

United Nations human rights investigators in Geneva called on Israel today (January 31, 2013) to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as war crimes, according to the Reuters website.

A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements, since their work adversely affects the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respect human rights.

"Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights," Christine Chanet -- a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry -- told a news conference today.

The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Israeli Warplanes Bomb Arms Shipment in Syria; Target Was Convoy Taking Weapons to Hezbollah

Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory today (January 30, 2013), American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon, according to the New York Times website.

The officials -- who spoke on condition of anonymity -- said the Israelis had notified the Americans about the attack, which the Syrian government called an act of  "Israeli arrogance and aggression" that raised the risks that the two-year-old civil conflict in Syria could spread beyond the country's borders.

In a statement, the Syrian military said a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs had been hit and denied that a convoy had been the target.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the airstrike. But they have been warning that they are monitoring the possible movement of weapons in the Syrian conflict -- including Syria's plethora of chemical weapons -- and would take action to thwart any possible transfers into Hezbollah's possession.

Schools in Lyon, France Won't Teach Roma Pupils; It's "a Case of Discrimination of Ethnic Minority"

A group of Roma (Gypsy) children in Lyon in southeast France have been forced to attend classes at a police station, because local schools refused to take them in, the France 24 website reports today (January 30, 2013).

Their "school" is on the second floor of a police station at Saint-Fons, a suburb of Lyon. The 20 children -- aged between six and 12 -- are all taught by one teacher.

They are not fed at lunchtime -- as are all other pupils at French state schools -- so at noon every day they have to walk a mile and one-half back to the shanty town where some 100 Roma have been camped near the city bypass.

"It goes against all the principles of integration," Jean-Philippe, a local campaigner for anti-racism group MRAP said. "It is a simple case of discrimination and stigmatization of an ethnic minority," he added.

Women MPs in Serbia Form Cross-Party Caucus; Designed to Promote the Cause of Gender Equality

Women parliamentarians of the Serbian parliament plan to form a cross-party women's caucus in parliament to promote the cause of gender equality, the Balkan Insight website reports today (January 30, 2013).

Dubravka Filipovski -- a member of t he New Serbian Party -- said the caucus would focus on women's poverty, the empowerment of women in the business world, and health care for women.

"We must work to address women's issues," Filipovski said, noting that women currently hold only 82 of the 250 seats in the Serbian parliament.

According to the 2011 census, women make up 51.4 percent of the population of Serbia. Some 61 percent of women in Serbia are jobless, which is disproportionate to the average unemployment rate of 27 percent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Racist Israeli Soccer Fans Protest Muslim Players; Three Arrested for Chanting Anti-Islam Slogans

Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team are protesting team owner Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak's decision to hire two Muslim players from Chechnya -- a province in Russia comprised primarily of Muslims --  the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (January 29, 2013).

Fans on the evening of January 25 -- during a Premier League game against Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem -- protested the move to bring two players from the Chechen Terek Gorzny team to Beitar Jerusalem in the coming days.

Three fans were arrested during the game for chanting anti-Muslim slogans. A sign reading "Beitar will be pure forever" was unfurled during the game.

"The two players from Chechnya are coming to Beitar. As far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between a Jewish player and a Muslim player," Gaydamak said.

Baptist Leaders Rip BSA Plan to Allow Gay Staff; Predict Decision Will Lead to BSA Mass Exodus

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) expressed extreme disappointment yesterday to news that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will likely approve admission of professed homosexuals as scout leaders, with officials close to the SBC predicting a mass exodus out of scouting by Baptist churches, the Christian Post website reports today (January 29, 2013).

A vote on the matter by BSA is planned during an executive meeting in Irving, Texas, the first week of February.

"This is a catastrophic decision for the Boy Scouts of  America. This decision will lead to a mass exodus of traditional, orthodox Christianity from the Boy Scouts, including thousands of  Catholic, Baptist, and other traditional faith congregations," Dr. Richard Land -- head of SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission -- told the Christian Post.

Albert Mohler -- president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville -- said that the policy change would be "nothing less than disastrous for the Boy Scouts of America."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Six People in Chicago Killed Due to Gun Violence; Mother Loses Her 4th (and Last) Child to Gunfire

A series of gun violence in Chicago over the weekend left six people dead -- including a 33-year-old man who was Shirley Chambers' fourth child to die due to gun violence -- the Alter Net website reports today (January 28, 2013).

Ronnie Chambers was killed by gunfire in Chicago while he was driving in a van.

"After Shirley Chambers lost her third child to gun violence in 2000, she said she felt sadder for her surviving son, Ronnie, than she did for herself," the Chicago Tribune reports.

Chambers told the Tribune back then that she only has "one child left and I'm afraid that (the killing) won't stop until he's gone too."

Neo-Nazis in KY Murder,Dismember Drug Dealer; Kill Him Because of Their Dislike of Drug Dealers

A group of neo-Nazis in Kentucky is charged with the brutal murder and dismemberment of a small-time drug dealer -- saying they killed him because they disliked drug dealers -- the Inquisitr website reports today (January 28, 2013).

Three neo-Nazis -- Anthony Baumgartner, 23, Stephen Harkness, 22, and Jeffrey Allen, 21 -- are accused of luring a 19-year-old college student, Daniel Delfin, into the back of their car.

They then choked Delfin -- who was white -- and beat him with fists and a metal pipe before dragging him out of the car. There they stabbed him in the chest and rolled his body down a hill where he died in a bush, covered in brambles.

A day later the neo-Nazis went back to find the body, then cut it apart with knives and a hatchet, scattering the pieces in a field and landfill. "The head, hands, feet, and legs" had been cut off the body, Detective Jeremy Rosing of the Boone County Sheriff's Office testified at a court hearing.

U. of Toronto Offers Course to Counter Atheism; Due to Atheism's Rapid Growth in Our Societies

The main chapel at Jesuit-run Regis College at the University of Toronto is offering an eight-week course -- which meets every Wednesday afternoon -- titled "Responding to 21st-Century Atheism," the Religion News Service website reports today (January 28, 2013).

It's an attempt -- says the Rev. Scott Lewis -- for people of faith to understand and come to terms with the increasingly muscular secularism and atheism that has risen in Western societies over the past generation.

Atheism "has become militant, aggressive and proselytizing," said Lewis -- a Jesuit scripture scholar -- who teaches the class with three other scholars. "It's made great in-roads and is now socially acceptable. If you're young and educated and believe in God, you're (seen as) a jerk."

While the course examines the increasing polarization between non-believers and people of faith, it will not be about confronting secularists or engaging in polemics, Lewis stressed before the first class of about 155 students in the adult-education program. "Both sides need to lighten up," he said.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Woman Hurt by Car Demands Driver Be Paralyzed; Demand Agrees with 1750 BC Code of Hammurabi

A young woman in Saudi Arabia -- who was recently paralyzed in an auto accident -- says she wants a court to sentence the careless driver to the loss of his ability to walk as well, the Big News Network website reports today (January 27, 2013).

The woman -- who was injured on her honeymoon -- has refused monetary compensation and is demanding retributive justice in the form of the motorist being paralyzed.

The driver was convicted of reckless driving and speeding. His offers of financial compensation have been rejected by the woman, so that he may lose his ability to walk instead. A judge in a court in the Saudi city of Jeddah has postponed his sentencing to give both sides a chance to strike a deal.

The woman's demand that the reckless driver -- whose car paralyzed her -- also be paralyzed as his punishment, brings back historical memories of the Babylonian King Hammurabi and the famous 1750 BC Code of Hammurabi, with its "Eye for an Eye" and "Tooth for a Tooth" likeness in kind form of justice.

Former Italian PM Berlusconi Defends Mussolini; Says He Was "Good Leader" Despite Nazi Policies

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggered outrage in Italy today (January 27, 2013) with comments defending fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi Holocaust, according to the Reuters website. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Speaking at the margins of the event in Milan, Berlusconi said Mussolini had been wrong to follow Nazi Germany's lead in passing anti-Jewish laws, but that he had in other respects been a "good leader."

"It's difficult now to put yourself in the shoes of people who were making decisions at that time," said Berlusconi, who is campaigning for next month's election at the head of a coalition that includes far-right politicians whose roots go back to Italy's old fascist party.

Berlusconi's comments overshadowed today's commemoration of thousands of Jews deported from Italy to Nazi death camps in eastern Europe during Mussolini's fascist rule in World War II. His comments were also condemned as "disgusting" by the center-left Democratic Party, which is leading in the polls ahead of the February 24-25 election.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

COMMENTARY: Time for Ultra-Orthodox Jews to Be Part of the American Justice System

A religious counselor in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community was sentenced this week to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism.

Nechemya Weberman was convicted of 59 counts relating to sexual abuse of a girl while she was between the ages of 12 and 15. Weberman, 54, testified he "never, ever" abused the girl, and maintained his innocence at his trial and sentencing.

This case is unique, in that it has been a tradition for ultra-Orthodox Jews in America to resolve any conflicts they may have within the Orthodox community itself, instead of referring them -- or even providing any information -- to federal, state, or local government law enforcement officials.

In fact, the abused girl -- who is now 18 years old -- and her family have been harassed by several ultra-Orthodox Jews for breaking that long-held ultra-Orthodox tradition by informing local authorities of the abuse.

We believe that this case illustrates the need for ultra-Orthodox conflicts to be referred to law enforcement officials for appropriate action, and not resolved by the ultra-Orthodox community itself.

The fact is that the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community -- for the most part -- had supported the ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor in this case before it was referred to government authorities.

The general consensus of opinion within the Orthodox community was that an ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor would never abuse a girl as she indicated. Also, the girl must have made up her accusations.

Such ultra-Orthodox Jewish feelings of denial of abuse by Orthodox community officials indicates that the victims of ultra-Orthodox abuse are not being treated fairly.

Indeed, this situation conveys par excellence why ultra-Orthodox Jews need to become an integral part of the American justice system, and not continue to allow their community to maintain its own "court of justice."

Mother Teresa Statue Will Adorn FYROM Capital; Coming to Skopje Near Alexander the Great Statue

The spree in erecting giant monuments in Skopje -- the capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) -- continues, as Macedonian authorities lay grounds for a new 30-meter-high statue dedicated to Nobel Prize-winning nun Mother Teresa, the Balkan Insight website reports today (January 26, 2013).

The statue of the late nun -- who was born in Skopje to an Albanian family but spent most of her life in India -- is to be erected on Skopje's main Macedonia Square.

The cash is coming from the Indian billionaire Subrata Roy who is on a business visit to FYROM. "Here we will build the home of Mother Teresa. I have a proposal ... to call it the Statue of Humanity," Roy said at the groundbreaking ceremony on January 25.

After the giant statues of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip, were erected in Skopje in 2011 and 2012 respectively, Mother Teresa's statue will be the third huge monument to adorn the center of the FYROM capital. Greece has criticized the Alexander the Great and Philip statues being erected in Skopje, because there is a state in northern Greece by the name of Macedonia, where they were born. Many Greeks believe that -- by having these statues in Skopje --  FYROM is trying to convey that Alexander the Great and Philip were of Yugoslavian background, when, in fact, historians have proven that they were of Greek ancestry.

Friday, January 25, 2013

UK Office Labels Israel as "a Country of Concern;" Israel Is One of the Worst Human Rights Violators

The British Foreign Office has included Israel as "a country of concern" in a report on human rights violators, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 25, 2013).

Israel appeared on a list of 28 countries accused of perpetrating human rights violations in a quarterly report on human rights and democracy issued on January 24 by the foreign office.

The report cites the Gaza war of last year and other recent violence on the border, Israeli settlement expansion, and Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues.

The part of the report on human rights violations in Iran was only half as long as the part about Israel, according to the European Jewish Press.

Five Die in Egypt in Protest Against Pres. Morsi; Protesters Say Morsi Betrayed Demands of Rev.

Five people were shot dead in the Egyptian city of Suez during nationwide protests against President Mohamed Morsi today (January 25, 2013) -- the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- according to the Reuters website.

One of the dead was a member of the security forces. Another 280 civilians and 55 security personnel were injured, officials said, in demonstrations fueled by anger at the president and his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood party.

Thousands of opponents of Morsi massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the cradle of the revolt against Mubarak -- to rekindle the demands of a revolution they say has been hijacked by Islamists who have betrayed its goals.

Street battles erupted in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Port Said. Arsonists attacked at least two state-owned buildings, as symbols of government were targeted. An office used by the Muslim Brotherhood's political party was also torched.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Union Membership Is at Lowest Level Since 1930s; Confirms Unions No Longer Serve Workers' Needs

Business groups have long complained that the Obama administration is "labor-friendly," but union membership actually declined over the last four years to its lowest point since the 1930s, the Washington Times website reports today (January 24, 2013).

The number of union workers fell by nearly 400,000 in 2012 compared to 2011, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released yesterday.

Union membership has fallen by 3.3 million workers over the last three decades -- even as more employees join the workforce -- and about half of those losses have come under the Obama administration.

Richard Berman -- executive director of the Center for Union Facts -- said this report raises "serious questions about the health of the labor movement in America." He added, "The continued decline of union membership -- even during four years of  a labor-friendly administration -- is a sign that organized labor is no longer serving the best interests of its members."

Lutherans Warn Vatican Not to Ease Conversions; Pope Would Lure Lutherans as He Did Anglicans

Lutheran leaders have warned the Vatican that the creation of a structure to welcome conservative Lutherans into the Catholic Church would harm dialogue and damage ecumenical relations, the Religion News website reports today (January 24, 2013).

In 2009, Pope Benedict created a special church structure -- called an ordinariate -- to allow disgruntled Anglicans (called Episcopalians in the U.S.) to convert to Catholicism while maintaining bits of their traditions and culture.

Ordinariates have been created in the United States, England, and Australia, attracting hundreds of conservative Anglicans who oppose recently-adopted anti-Christian policies -- such as female ministers and gay bishops -- and seek greater lines of authority.

During the past few weeks, senior Vatican officials have publicly suggested the creation of a similar structure for dissatisfied Lutherans, but senior Lutheran officials are adamantly opposed to such an idea. It was Martin Luther -- a German Catholic priest in the early 16th century -- whose caustic criticism of the Catholic Church's sale of indulgences in order to speed up a deceased loved one's entry into heaven, resulted in the birth of the Protestant Church. The Protestant Church -- which was established in 1517 with the Protestant Reformation -- is preparing to celebrate its 500th anniversary in 2017.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Irish Nanny Faces Murder Charge of Mass. Baby; Prosecutors: One-Year-Old Girl Had Head Injury

An Irish nanny -- living and working illegally in the United States since 2002 -- is facing the prospect of a murder charge, after a baby was fatally injured while in her care, the Independent (British) website reports today (January 23, 2013).

Aisling McCarthy Brady, 34,  pleaded not guilty in Cambridge (Massachusetts) District Court on January 22 to accusations of fatally assaulting one-year-old Rehma Sabir while looking after the child at her employer's home in Cambridge. The judge ordered her held on $500,000 cash bail.

Prosecutors say the toddler sustained a catastrophic head injury as a result of an assault on her first birthday (January 14), and died two days later at Boston Children's Hospital. They are expected to charge Ms. Brady with murder once an autopsy is complete.

The case comes just over a decade and a half after a British nanny, Louise Woodward, was convicted of the murder -- a charge later reduced to involuntary manslaughter -- of Matthew Eappen while looking after the eight-month-old at his home in Newton, Massachusetts. A judge's decision in that case to free Woodward with "time served" -- after she was in prison for about a year -- shocked a plethora of Americans, including most legal experts, who felt that the judge was "over-lenient" and had a judicial responsibility to sentence the infant killer to a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Defense Secretary Opens Combat Roles to Women; Opens Hundreds of Thousands of Mil. Occupations

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the military's ban on women serving in combat -- a move that will allow women into hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando units -- a senior Pentagon official said today (January 23, 2013), according to the USA Today website.

The Pentagon official spoke anonymously, because Panetta  had not yet made the announcement. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- are scheduled to announce the policy change on January 24.

Panetta's decision overturns a 1994 rule banning women from combat roles.

The chiefs of the services -- Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps --  unanimously support the change in policy, the Pentagon official said. Women make up 14 percent of the 1.4 million active duty military personnel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Turkey's Erdogan Tells Women Have 4 or 5 Kids; As a Way to Enhance Turkey's Grandeur, Ec. Dev.

Turkey's Islamic populist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Turkish women to have "at least four or five children" in the name of the country's "grandeur" and faster economic growth, the Hurriyet Daily News (Turkish) website reports today (January 22, 2013).

Erdogan and his wife Emine have four children.

Having a large family, he explained, "is of great importance for the future of our nation."

Today, Turkey has a population of 75 million, which is expected to grow to 100 million by 2025. The country is trying to become one of the top ten economic powers of the world. Currently, it is 17th.

Orth. Jewish Counselor Gets 103 Yrs. in Prison; Guilty of Molesting NYC Girl from Age 12 to 15

An esteemed religious counselor in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community was sentenced today (January 22, 2013) to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith, according to the Washington Post website.

Nechemya Weberman was convicted in December of 59 counts, including sustained sexual abuse of a child, endangering the welfare of a child, and sexual abuse. He testified in his own defense, saying he "never, ever" abused the girl, and maintained his innocence at sentencing.

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel -- more than 250,000. Both Weberman, 54, and the accuser belong to the Satmar Hasidic sect there.

The accuser -- now 18 -- had testified that Weberman abused her repeatedly behind his locked office door from the time she was 12 until she was 15.

This case is unique and significant, because it runs counter to a long-held ultra-Orthodox Jewish belief that any conflict must be dealt with and resolved from within the Orthodox community itself, and not be referred to law enforcement officials.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"March for Life" Expects Record-Breaking Crowds; Pro-Life Activities Will Be Held in DC on Jan. 25

Pro-lifers are heading to Washington, DC by the busload for activities to promote life. While the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion is Tuesday, January 22, the annual "March for Life" will be held Friday, January 25, the One News Now website reports today (January 21, 2013).

Spokesperson Jeanne Monahan -- who serves as president of March for Life -- says this year's event promises to be a huge success, with record-breaking crowds.

"Our hotels sold out a month in advance of when they normally sell out, and we're just seeing different markers, both in media requests and also in that groups like Students for Life of America sold out a month in advance of when they normally sell out," Monahan said.

Several members of Congress will join in the ranks as the March for Life ends up on the steps of the Supreme Court, which legalized abortion 40 years ago in ruling on Roe v. Wade. At least 55 million children have died in the womb since then.

Hitler Portrait Ad Is Removed from a Turkish Mall; Ad at Istanbul Mall Was Promoting Wax Museum

An ad featuring Adolf Hitler placed at a Turkish mall was pulled following complaints by Jewish leaders, the Europe News website reports today (January 21, 2013).

The ad at the Sapphire Mall in Istanbul was promoting a wax museum. It featured a large color portrait of the late Nazi leader standing behind a podium.

The text read, "If you could meet anyone, who would it be?" Other choices included Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Leonardo da Vinci. Hitler was the only figure whose picture was displayed.

"This commercial was pulled after Jewish leaders complained about it," Rifat Bali, a Turkish historian who has written several books about Turkish Jewry, said.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

COMMENTARY: Time for the UN to Take Action against Egypt for Its Religious Discrimination

The 15-year prison sentence given to a widow and her seven children by a court in Egypt this month for converting from Islam to Christianity conveys a disgrace of Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood government and its judicial system.

The fact is that this woman and her seven children should not have received any prison sentence, as they should have the right to choose whether they want to be Christians or Muslims. The sentence also illustrates how Egypt's government has become an Islam theocracy under sharia law in which non-Muslims are denied their innate human and religious rights.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government is led by a radical Muslim by the name of Mohamed Morsi -- the same man who referred to Jews in 2010 as being the "descendants of apes and pigs." Now, that's a hateful, venom-filled epithet of a religious group that is difficult to top.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission needs to take swift and punitive action against Egypt and its president (Morsi) to end this prejudice and discrimination against non-Muslims who live in Egypt.

Otherwise, we can expect many innocent Christians and Jews to be unjustly persecuted -- even executed -- in Egypt in the ensuing years.

Pope Appeals for End to Conflicts Around World; Says Slaughter of Innocent Civilians Should Cease

Pope Benedict XVI today (January 20, 2013) appealed for an end to conflicts around the world -- today is Peace Sunday -- according to the Independent Catholic News website.

Speaking to pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus with him, Pope Benedict especially prayed that -- in the various conflicts unfortunately occurring around the world -- "the slaughter of innocent civilians should cease."

He added: "Let there be an end to all violence, and let there be found the courage to conduct dialogue and to negotiate."

The Pope's appeal for peace came in the context of a reflection on the pressing need for a recovery of the full, visible communion of all Christians, which Christ Himself desires for His Church. Today also falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- a theme that the Pope also addressed.

Mother Is Enraged at School's Bullying Solution; Suggested 13-Yr.-Old Child Get Breast Reduction

A mother in St. Louis, Missouri was stunned after her daughter's school suggested breast reduction surgery as a possible way to combat bullying, The Blaze website reports today (January 20, 2013).

Tammie Jackson said her 13-year-old daughter Gabrielle has been dealing with bullying and sexual harassment since last semester, so she called the Riverview Gardens School District to complain.

"The lady on the switchboard told me that they could transfer my daughter to a different school, but she said her boobs are so large that she's going to always get teased," the mother claimed. "And then she told me that the only suggestion she could make is for my 13-year-old daughter to get a breast reduction."

School Superintendent Clive Coleman reiterated that the issue is under investigation, but speculated that the controversy may be a "product of miscommunication."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pope Raises Level of UGCC in Britain to Eparchy; Now Over 10,000 Ukrainian Greek Catholics in UK

Pope Benedict XVI has raised the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in Great Britain to the level of an eparchy -- or diocese -- and named the U.S. bishop who had been its exarch to be the eparchial bishop, the Saint Elias Church (Toronto) website reports today (January 19, 2013).

The new diocese will be known as the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, the Vatican announced on January 18.

Bishop Hib Lonchyna, 58 -- a native of Steubenville, Ohio who had served as apostolic exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain since 2011 -- continues, but with the new title, the Vatican said.

According to Vatican statistics, there are now more than 10,000 Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the United Kingdom, and they are served by 12 diocesan priests.

Autopsy Is Performed on Body of Lottery Winner; Man Poisoned,Widow and Siblings Fight for Check

Medical examiners performed an autopsy on the body of poisoned lotto winner Urooj Khan today (January 19, 2013), in an effort to determine whether the Chicago man swallowed, inhaled, or was injected the cyanide that killed him, according to the Daily Beast website.

Khan -- a 46-year-old Indian immigrant -- died suddenly last July, shortly after winning Illinois' million-dollar lottery jackpot.

It took about two hours this morning to remove Khan's body which was -- in the Muslim tradition -- wrapped in a shroud in a wooden coffin inside a cement vault. Results of the autopsy are not expected for at least two weeks.

Khan died without a will, just days before being scheduled to receive his lottery winnings. His widow and siblings have been fighting over his estate -- including the lottery check -- which has led to a court battle.

Friday, January 18, 2013

About 47,000 Celebrate Epiphany in Moscow; Bathe in Icy Waters to Honor Baptism of Jesus

Some 47,000 people in Moscow bathed in icy cold water on Epiphany early this morning (January 19, 2013), as air temperatures in the Russian capital stood at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the RIA Novosti (Russian) website.

Epiphany -- also known as Theophany -- is one of the Great Feasts, marking the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany on January 19 in line with the Julian calendar.

Honoring a Russian tradition, cross-shaped holes are cut in ice over lakes and rivers, and celebrators plunge into the water -- typically three times, in honor of the Holy Trinity -- around midnight, usually after an attending Orthodox priest says a prayer.

Christian Woman,7 Kids Jailed for 15 Yrs. in Egypt; New Islam Regime Is Inhumane Toward Christians

The 15-year prison sentence given to a woman and her seven children last week by an Egyptian court for converting to Christianity is a forerunner of harsh prosecutions of Christians that will be occurring in Egypt in the future, due to its new radical Muslim Brotherhood government, the Religion Today website reports today (January 18, 2013).

Nadia Mohamed Ali -- who was raised as a Christian but converted to Islam when she married her husband 23 years ago -- was given the shocking sentence because she converted back to Christianity after he died, in order to obtain an inheritance.

When Egypt's new regime learned of her conversion to Christianity, Nadia and her seven children -- even the clerks who processed her new identity cards -- were all sentenced to prison.

Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom said Christian conversions -- like Nadia's -- were common in the past, but Egypt's new Islamic-based constitution "is a real disaster in terms of religious freedom."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Conn. Priest Arrested for Running a US Meth Ring; Msgr. Kevin Wallin Had Served Bridgeport Church

A Connecticut Catholic priest has been indicted on charges of helping to run a cross-country methamphetamine distribution ring, the Daily Mail website reports today (January 17, 2013).

Msgr. Kevin Wallin received the drug shipments from suppliers in California and then sold them to undercover officers at least six different times between last September and the beginning of this month.

Msgr. Wallin, 61, had resigned from his role as pastor of St. Augustine's Church in Bridgeport in June 2011, citing health concerns and personal problems.

He was arrested on January 3 and charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute crystal meth. His indictment was revealed on January 16.

Judges: Fired Calif. Science Teacher Cannot Teach; Stacie Halas Was Fired for Acting in Porno Movies

A three-judge commission has decided unanimously that Stacie Halas -- a California science teacher fired after students learned she had appeared in pornographic movies -- cannot return to the classroom, the Newser website reports today (January 17, 2013).

She had hoped to set a precedent for people wanting to escape an embarrassing past, but the judges said Halas, 32, was continually deceitful about her past.

Halas was fired last April, after her online porn videos were discovered by students and teachers, although her attorney said she did not star in pornographic movies while she was teaching in any district.

He added that she took porn roles only between 2005 to 2006 because of financial problems.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Israeli Pols. Say Obama Is Meddling in Election; Obama Sees PM Netanyahu as "Political Coward"

Just one week before the general elections in Israel, several Israeli Likkud Party officials today (January 16, 2013) accused U.S. President Barack Obama of meddling and "gross interference," according to the Big News Network website.

Obama recently accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who is up for re-election next week -- of leading Israel "down the path toward near isolation," according to a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. The columnist also wrote that Obama viewed Netanyahu as a "political coward," unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise.

Although the U.S. remains Israel's closest ally, Obama and Netanyahu have often "locked horns" and maintained opposing views on several issues, including Netanyahu's recent decision to build several hundred settlements in Palestinian-claimed land in the West Bank.

Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- who is Jewish and served as Obama's Chief of Staff -- also had some harsh words for Netanyahu, accusing him of rejecting Obama's stand by announcing a new settlement expansion in the West Bank. Emanuel also said that Netanyahu was ungrateful and "repeatedly betrayed" Obama with his arrogance, given Obama's unconditional support for Israel and supplying Israel with its most modern weapons.

Westboro Baptist Church to Protest Inauguration; Plans Protest of "Beast Obama" at Pres. Ceremony

A controversial hate group -- known for its protests of funerals and gay rights events -- has secured a permit to demonstrate at the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Christian Post website reports today (January 16, 2013).

Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) -- an organization headed by Fred Phelps that is unaffiliated with any Baptist denomination -- plans to protest from 7:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Monday, January 21.

"The beast will show you his true colors; then Christ will return and consume him with the spirit of his mouth," reads the WBC group's statement posted on Twitter, referring to the re-elected president as "Beast Obama."

A petition against the WBC -- which has received more than 320,000 signatures and seeks action by the federal government to limit the group's hateful protests -- states, in part: "These 'church' members have become homeland terrorists, without bombs, but with words, terrorizing the good people of this country in a form of harassment, and this must be stopped."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Explosions Kill 83, Wound Scores at Univ. in Syria; Rockets Blast Univ. of Aleppo in Syria's Civil War

Two explosions -- believed caused by rockets -- tore through one of Syria's biggest universities on the first day of student exams today (January 15, 2013), killing 83 people and wounding scores of others, according to the News Daily website.

Each side -- the government and the rebels -- in the 22-month-old Syrian civil war blamed the other for today's blasts at the University of Aleppo, located in a government-held area of Syria's most populous city.

"A cowardly terrorist act targeted the students at Aleppo University as they sat for their mid-term examinations," Syria's United Nations ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, told the UN Security Council in New York today. The Security Council took no productive action on the matter, due to a veto by Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Assad.

If confirmed, the government's report of a rocket attack would suggest rebels had been able to obtain and deploy more powerful weapons than previously used.

Stanford Has Atheist Chaplain for Atheist Pupils; Says Atheists Suffer Same Problems as Rel. Pupils

Stanford University has appointed an atheist chaplain to serve its non-believing students, according to the Religion Today website.

Stanford's independent Humanist Community hired John Figdor last July, but he is an officially recognized chaplain under Stanford's Office of Religious Life.

A Harvard Divinity School graduate, Figdor explains his work by saying that "atheist, agnostic, and humanist students suffer the same problems as religious students, and would like a sympathetic non-theist to talk to."

Figdor recently led students through a program he calls "The Heathen's Guide to the Holidays," in which he suggested alternatives to celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah. Among the options was singing secular songs, such as John Lennon's "Imagine."

Monday, January 14, 2013

US Parishes to Celebrate Peace Sunday on Jan. 20; Pope's 2013 Theme:"Blessed Are the Peacemakers"

Parishes throughout the United States are preparing to celebrate Peace Sunday with Pax Christi (Peace of Christ) on January 20, 2013, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (January 14, 2013).

Writing to parishes, Bishop Malcolm McMahon -- President of Pax Christi -- said: "Pope Benedict's World Peace Day message for 2013 is 'Blessed Are the Peacemakers.'"

The Pax Christi office hopes that the "Blessed Are the Peacemakers" theme will encourage parishes to look at the qualities of being a peacemaker, and to celebrate those in their own communities who live out these qualities.

Pax Christi has promoted the annual Peace Day message since 1967.

Dutch Christian Party Lets Women Run for Office; But Still Excludes Women from Political Functions

The fundamentalist Christian Party (SGP) in the Netherlands is changing its rules, so that women are no longer automatically excluded from running for political office, the Dutch News website reports today (January 14, 2013).

The revised rules will mean that sex should no longer be a deciding factor when selecting candidates for parliament or local councils.

However, the SGP -- which believes the Netherlands should be governed according to Biblical principles -- will not alter its basic principles on different roles for men and women. Thus, women will still be excluded from political functions.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last July that "the advancement of the equality of the sexes is today a major goal in the member States of the Council of Europe." Nonetheless, it is the SGP's belief that freedom of religion is more important than equal rights for women.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reform Rabbi in Mass. Might Run for U.S. Senate; Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Newton May Replace Kerry

Rabbi Jonah Pesner -- an official of the Union for Reform Judaism -- is considering a run for the open Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 13, 2013).

Pesner -- who lives in Newton, Massachusetts -- said that he is having "exploratory conversations" about a run to replace Sen. John Kerry (D--Mass.), whom President Obama has nominated to be secretary of state.

He would run as a Democrat.

Pesner -- a senior vice president for the Reform organization -- was a leader of an interfaith alliance that was considered critical in bringing about universal health care coverage in Massachusetts, and served as a template for Obama's version that was passed in 2010.

Pope Shooter Meets with Patriarch Bartholomew I; Mehmet Ali Agca Read Bible in Prison, Recants

Mehmet Ali Agca -- a Muslim who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in May 1981 -- met on January 7 with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Catholic Culture website reports today (January 13, 2013).

At the meeting -- held at Agca's request -- Agca told the Ecumenical Patriarch that he had spent many hours reading the Bible while in prison and that he asked God for forgiveness for attempting to assassinate the pope.

After his conviction in an Italian court for attempted murder of  Pope John Paul,  Agca spent 19 years in prison in Rome before he was released in 2000, as a part of a general amnesty at the prompting of Pope John Paul II himself.

He was returned to his native Turkey, where he served a separate sentence for an earlier murder conviction. He was finally released in January 2010.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cath.-Prot. Clashes in N. Ireland Wound 16 Cops; Due to Belfast Cutting Br. Flag Display to 18 Days

Sixteen police officers were injured today (January 12, 2013) in Belfast -- the capital of Northern Ireland -- after some 1,000 Protestants marched on Belfast City Hall to protest its decision to reduce displays of the British flag, according to the Rocket News website.

Masked, hooded Catholic youths tossed bottles, rocks, and other makeshift weapons at the protesters. A running street battle ensued with heavily armored police in the middle.

Protestant extremists have mounted illegal protests and road blockades for the past six weeks in protest at Catholic council members' decision to fly the British flag only 18 days annually, not year round.

Northern Ireland is controlled by England, which is primarily Protestant, while the autonomous nation of Ireland is comprised mostly of Catholics.

Although a peaceful atmosphere has prevailed -- for the most part -- in Northern Ireland during the past decade, several serious Catholic-Protestant conflicts have occurred periodically during the past 50 years in that British-controlled territory.

Source: Armstrong to Admit to Doping on Jan. 17; US Cyclist to Confess on Oprah Winfrey Network

Lance Armstrong plans to admit to doping throughout his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey next week -- the American cyclist's first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles -- the Right Newz website reports today (January 12, 2013).

The interview is scheduled to tape on January 14 at Armstrong's home in Austin, Texas, and set to air on January 17 on the Oprah Winfrey Network, according to an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation.

Such an admission would mark a major reversal for the famed cyclist.

Armstrong, 41, has always vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs, and has never been proven to have tested positive.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Saudi Man, 86, Divorces His 15-Year-Old Bride; Saudi Arabia Has No Minimum Marriage Age Law

The Saudi Arabia Human Rights Commission today (January 11, 2013) stated that the marriage between a man -- who claims to be 70, but is probably 86 -- and his 15-year-old wife has ended in divorce, according to the Inquisitr website.

Commission president Dr. Bandar Alaiban said that a meeting recently took place between the man, the girl, and her family. After things were hashed out between them, a divorce was granted.

Dr. Suhaila Zein al-Abedin of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights said: "When you consider the very large difference in age, it looks more like this was not a marriage, but like the girl was sold. The girl's parents need to be held responsible for this."

The commission also discovered that the man's age is probably closer to 86 than 70. There is no law in Saudi Arabia that dictates the minimum age for marriage.

Pope John Paul II Will Be Declared a Saint by 2014; Polish-Born Pope Is Credited with Several Miracles

It emerged in Rome yesterday that Pope John Paul II will be declared a saint by 2014, the Austrian Times website reports today (January 11, 2013).

Vatican officials are said to be undertaking checks on a series of miracles put forward by the Polish-born pope's supporters as evidence of his holiness.

Pope John Paul II has been credited with several miracles -- not just one, which is required for becoming a saint -- according to the Vatican officials.

"Canonization should be fast. If it isn't done in 2013, John Paul II will be announced saint in 2014," said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, a close friend of the pope, and prefect emeritus of the Vatican Congregation of Bishops.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stanford Law School Has Unique Clinic Program; Its Rel. Liberty Clinic Is Only One in Entire US

Stanford Law School has established the nation's only Religious Liberty Clinic, enabling students under the professor's supervision to represent clients who are fighting to win legal battles on the grounds of religious freedom in America, the Christian Post website reports today (January 10, 2013).

The clinic will offer participating law school students the opportunity to engage in disputes arising from a wide range of religious beliefs, practices, and customs.

"Part of what we are trying to do is show our students and our community how religious liberty is a natural right that is for all of us, and that all too often religious liberty disputes are really debates about the merits of the particular religious practice involved rather than the liberty," the clinic's founding director, James Sonne said.

The clinic was made possible -- in part -- by a $1.6 million gift from the Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Paralyzed Woman Loses Irish Right-to-Die Case; Ban on Helping Someone Commit Suicide Remains

An Irish woman -- who is terminally ill with multiple sclerosis -- lost her battle for the lawful right to die in the first case of its kind to be brought in Ireland, Dublin's High Court ruled today (January 10, 2013), according to the Reuters website.

Marie Fleming -- a 59-year-old former university lecturer who is completely paralyzed -- made an impassioned plea last month to establish the right of her partner of 18 years to help her die, an act that could see him jailed in mainly Roman Catholic Ireland.

A "right-to-die" debate has played out through recent high-profile court cases in neighboring Britain, where three people all failed in bids to win legal assistance to die. Assisted suicide is only permitted in four European countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Suicide was decriminalized in Ireland in 1933, but the ban on helping someone to commit suicide remains, with a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

National Cathedral Will Hold Same-Sex Weddings; Episcopal Diocese Led Way to "Marriage Equality"

The Washington National Cathedral -- one of the highest-profile churches in the United States -- will be hosting same-sex weddings soon, a cathedral leader said today (January 9, 2013), according to the BBC website.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall said the move brings about "the full participation" of gay people in the church.

The National Cathedral has no official state sanction, but has hosted presidential inaugural services and state funerals, and welcomed foreign heads of state.

Gay marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and nine U.S. states. Dean Hall said the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. was "a leader in the implementation of marriage equality."

MA Synagogue, Jewish School Avoid End for Now; IRS Auction Due to $472,000 Debt Draws No Bids

A Chabad-affiliated synagogue and Jewish day school in Worcester, Massachusetts were spared from closure last week for non-payment of federal taxes, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website reports today (January 9, 2013).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) received no offers on January 4, after it put the building housing the Yeshiva Achei Tmimim synagogue and the Yeshiva Academy school up for auction.

"That was the news I was praying for," Rabbi Mendel Fogelman -- the school director -- told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper. "Obviously we have a long way to go. We'll have to wait and see if we can work out a deal with the IRS."

Last month, the IRS announced its intention to sell the building in central Massachusetts to cover the $472,000 in unpaid taxes owed by the synagogue and school. Fogelman launched a last-ditch effort to prevent the sale by starting an online fundraiser; however, the campaign has raised only about $50,000 in donations.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writer Stigmatizing Roma in Hungary Is Criticized; Wrote "Roma Are Animals...Unfit for Coexistence"

A founding member of Hungary's governing Fidesz party has been sharply criticized for writing a newspaper column that contained offensive remarks about the nation's Roma minority, the Cybercast News Service website reports today (January 8, 2013).

Writing about a New Year's Eve bar fight in which several people were seriously injured -- and some of the attackers were Roma -- the journalist, Zsolt Bayer, said "a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals."

Bayer's comments in the Hungarian newspaper -- which have been severely criticized by Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics and others -- blasted the "politically correct Western world" for advocating tolerance and understanding of Roma, who make up around 7 percent of Hungary's 10 million people.

Roma are often among Hungary's poorest and least educated citizens. They are also known as Gypsies.

Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Mom of 3 Kids; Killed Her Because She Aborted His 4th Child

A man who murdered the mother of his three young children -- in a savage and prolonged knife attack in the back of a taxi -- has been jailed for life, the Europe News website reports today (January 8, 2013).

Junior Saleem Oakes -- who killed Natasha Trevis five days after a social worker "let slip" that she had aborted a fourth child -- was ordered to serve at least 22 years before being considered for parole.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that Oakes, 28, of Birmingham, England, stabbed his victim a total of 26 times in the head, face, neck, chest, back, and legs in the city last August.

Oakes had been due to stand trial for the murder of his former girlfriend, Miss Trevis, who was 22 and just 5 feet, 1 inch, but pleaded guilty to the charge before a jury was sworn in.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Newman Fund Builds Dorms at 2 Secular Schools; Will Enhance a Faith-Based Milieu, Cath. Values

The Newman Student Housing Fund is working to establish faith-based dormitories on two college campuses, housing students starting in the fall semester of 2013, the Catholic News Agency website reports today (January 7, 2013).

"What makes them work is the community," Matt Zerrusen, president of Newman Student Housing Fund,  said.

Florida Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University at Kingsville -- both secular universities -- will offer student housing coupled with campus ministry for Catholics beginning next academic year.

Zerrusen said the intention of the dormitories is to provide a faith-based community, without requiring dramatic sacrifices of students -- "You don't have to memorize the Catechism to live here -- but we'll surround you with positive Catholic influences."

Supreme Court Won't Hear GA Church Gun Ban; Denial Lets Law Banning Guns in Churches Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court today (January 7, 2013) refused to hear a case that hoped to overturn a Georgia law that bans people from carrying guns in churches, according to the Raw Story website.

The appeal was filed by a non-profit group and a Baptist preacher, both of whom previously lost before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They targeted a law -- passed in Georgia in 2010 -- that bans firearms in places of worship, saying it represents a secular intrusion into religious behavior and thereby is a violation of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, meaning that the lower court's decision to uphold the Georgia law remains valid.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

EU Rejects Turkey Due to Its Poor Human Rights; An Enraged Turkey Calls EU Assessment "Bigoted"

The nation of Turkey -- which has been trying unsuccessfully to join the European Union (EU) since 2005 -- has issued a strong attack on the EU for what it calls a "bigoted" assessment of Turkey in its recent report on EU membership requirements, the Voice of America (VOA) News website reports today (January 6, 2013).

The EU has been extremely critical of Turkey's deteriorating human rights.

Turkey's minister for EU membership, Ergemen Bagis, claims such criticism of Turkey by the EU is "bigoted" and "politically motivated."

Several EU nations -- including France, Greece, and Cyprus -- have repeatedly blocked Turkey's obsessive attempts to join the EU over the past several years. These nations -- as well as the EU itself -- have made it perfectly clear to Turkey that it cannot join the EU until it gives up its control of the northern third of the island of Cyprus, which Turkey illegally seized in 1974.

Auschwitz Mem. Has 2012 Record No. of Visitors; Was Nazi Death Camp Where Over 1M Jews Died

The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site in southern Poland -- a Nazi death camp used during World War II -- registered 1.43 million visitors in 2012, a record number in its 65-year history as a place of Holocaust remembrance, the Haaretz (Israeli) website reports today (January 6, 2013).

In a statement announcing the new figure, director Piotr Cywinski said that in the last decade Auschwitz has become a "fundamental memorial" for all of Europe.

The largest group of visitors -- 446,000 -- was from Poland, followed by large numbers from Britain, the United States, Italy,  Germany, and Israel respectively.

Nazi Germany murdered over 1.1 million people at Auschwitz-Birkenau -- the vast majority of whom were Jews.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

COMMENTARY: Cleric's Edict for Syrian Troops to Satisfy Sexual Pleasure by Gang Raping Women Is Disgusting

A Saudi Islamic cleric this week issued a fatwa (religious ordinance) that calls for the gang rape of Syrian girls and women, because Syrian "warriors of Islam" may be getting weary for the lack of sexual pleasure.

Muhammed al-Arifi -- a leading jihadist religious figure -- said it was all right for the Syrian troops to rape any girls or women over the age of 14 who are not married.

While we realize that Syrian troops -- who have been fighting diligently for nearly two years to free Syria of its dictator Assad -- may be weary and upset due to a lack of sexual pleasure, we do not believe that they should be allowed to rape Syrian girls and women to satisfy their sexual desires.

Indeed, we find it incredible that a person -- especially a cleric -- would even think of proposing such a disgusting edict.

The time has come in society when men must view women as being equal to men, instead of the all-too-common mentality of regarding women as "play toys" whose primary purpose is to satisfy men's sexual desires.

In India, a woman died last week, as a result of being gang raped and beaten by six men on a bus. The six men are now being charged with murder, and -- if convicted -- will most likely be sentenced to death.

Although the Saudi cleric calling for rape can relate to the "pleasure" the Syrian troops may receive in raping women, he certainly has no idea of the pain and shame such an immoral act has on women. The recent death of the gang raped Indian woman illustrates par excellence the seriousness and danger of such an inhumane act.

Consequently, the Saudi cleric's gang rape proposal should be ignored -- even better, tossed into the gutter, where it really belongs -- as it depicts a disrespect for women and a disgrace to humanity.

Witness of Gang Rape in India Rips Police Apathy; Fatal Rape Sparks 2500 Female Police Personnel

A man in New Delhi, India -- who was present last month at a brutal gang rape on a bus that led to the death of the 23-year-old victim -- spoke publicly for the first time yesterday with details of the attack and harsh words for police, who he said wasted time fighting over jurisdiction before taking the woman to a hospital, the Wall Street Journal website reports today (January 5, 2013).

The incident has spurred protests across India for better policing and tougher laws to protect women from sexual assault.

India's Home Ministry said yesterday it will recruit 2,500 female police personnel in New Delhi and dispatch at least a dozen to every police station in the city to enhance security for women.

A bus driver and five other men face murder charges -- and the death penalty, if convicted -- of raping and assaulting the woman before throwing her off the bus, naked, onto a highway. The woman died on December 29 as a result of the gang rape and attack.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Church of England Lifts Ban on Gay Male Bishops; Voted Last Nov. to Keep a Ban on Women Bishops

The Church of England has lifted a ban on gay male clergy who live with their partners from becoming bishops on condition they pledge to stay celibate, threatening to reignite an issue that splits the 80-million-strong global Anglican community, the News Daily website reports today (January 4, 2013).

The issue of homosexuality has driven a rift between Western and African Anglicans since a Canadian diocese approved blessings for same-sex couples in 2002 and U.S. Anglicans in the Episcopal Church appointed an openly gay man as a bishop in 2003.

The Church of England -- struggling to remain relevant in modern Britain despite falling numbers of believers -- is already under pressure, after voting narrowly last November to maintain a ban on women becoming bishops.

The church said the House of Bishops -- one of its most senior bodies -- had ended an 18-month moratorium on the appointment of gays in civil partnerships as bishops. The decision was made in late December, but received little attention until the church confirmed it on January 4, 2013.

Pakistani Girl Shot by Taliban Leaves UK Hospital; Was Shot in Head for Insisting Girls Be Educated

Doctors in England said today (January 4, 2013) that a 15-year-old Pakistani girl -- who was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls' education -- has been released from a Birmingham hospital to live with her family, according to the New Max World website.

Photographs released by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham today showed Malala Yousufzai hugging nurses, waving, and smiling shyly.

Malala will live with her parents and two brothers in the UK while she continues to receive treatment, but will be admitted again in the next month for another round of surgery to rebuild her skull.

Malala was returning home from school in Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley on October 9, 2012, when the Taliban targeted her for criticizing their efforts to keep girls from getting an education. The militants have threatened to target Malala again, because they say she promotes "Western thinking."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Atheist Group Sues IRS for Not Taxing Rel. Orgs.; Says IRS Gives Churches Preferential Treatment

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- the atheist group that has carved out a niche in the legal domain by suing school districts and municipalities for supposedly violating the First Amendment -- has turned its harassment on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for giving churches and religious organizations "preferential treatment" in filing for and maintaining their tax-exempt privileges, the New American website reports today (January 3, 2013).

On December 27, the FFRF -- which claims to have some 19,000 "nonreligious" members nationwide -- filed suit in a western Wisconsin U.S. District Court, complaining that while the IRS requires non-church tax-exempt groups like itself to file "detailed, intrusive, and expensive annual reports to maintain tax-exempt status... such reports are not required for churches and certain other affiliated religious organizations."

An aggrieved FFRF spokeswoman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, wondered: "Why should churches be exempt from basic financial reporting requirements?"

The atheist group said that it is asking the court to "find the church exemptions a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and the equal protection rights of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

Cath. Church Ends London's Gay-Friendly Masses; Abp.: "Mass Is Highest Prayer of Whole Church"

London's archbishop asserted yesterday (January 2, 2013) that the Catholic Church will stop gay-friendly Masses in the central London church that has held them for the past six years, according to today's World Wide Religious News website.

The 18th-century church in Soho -- the heart of London's gay scene -- has been hosting the twice-monthly Masses with the support of the local Church hierarchy, but Archbishop Vincent Nichols said in a statement that gay Catholics should attend Mass in their local parishes rather than going to separate services.

"The Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer of the whole Church," Nichols said, stressing there would still be pastoral care to help gay Catholics "take a full part in the life of the Church."

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that gay sex is sinful, but homosexuals deserve respect.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Saudi Cleric Calls for Gang Rape of Syrian Women; His Edict Lets Syrian Rebels Have Sexual Pleasure

A prominent Saudi cleric -- expressing frustration that "warriors of Islam" fighting in Syria may be getting weary for the lack of sexual pleasure -- has issued a fatwa (religious ordinance) that calls for the gang rape of Syrian women, the Alter Net website reports today (January 2, 2012).

Muhammed al-Arifi -- who is a leading  jihadist religious figure -- made it clear that his edict called for the gang rape of Syrian women and girls. He specified that the "intercourse marriages" last only a few hours, "in order to give each fighter a turn."

As to who is an eligible bride, the cleric approves any girls or women over the age of 14 who are not married.

Saudi Arabia has been funding the Syrian revolution and sending weapons -- including portable anti-aircraft missiles -- to the Free Syrian Army for nearly a year, but this fatwa is the first time that rape as a tool of war has been proposed as part of the opposition's military strategy.

UN Releases Shocking Analysis of Syria's Deaths; Reveals 60,000 People Killed in Syria's Civil War

In a shocking analysis released today (January 2, 2013) by the United Nations Human Rights Office, it was revealed that at least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war -- with monthly casualty figures steadily increasing since the conflict began almost two years ago -- according to the Associated Press website.

The death toll is a third more than the figure of 45,000 given by activists opposed to the regime of President Bashar Assad.

It comes as activists report that a Syrian warplane blasted a gas station near Damascus today, killing and wounding scores of people and igniting a huge fire in what could be one of the bloodiest attacks in weeks during the 22-month conflict.

"Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013," UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pope Rips Rich and Poor Inequality at Jan. 1 Mass; Blasts Self-Worship Due to Unregulated Capitalism

Pope Benedict XVI prayed for world peace, condemning the inequality between rich and poor and "unregulated financial capitalism" at a New Year's mass in St. Peter's Basilica today (January 1, 2013), according to the Raw Story website.

The pope spoke of "hotbeds of tension and confrontation caused by the growing inequality between rich and poor and the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mentality also expressed by unregulated financial capitalism."

He added that humanity had "an innate vocation for peace" and prayed for "the gift of peace" this year, quoting a Biblical passage saying: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates New Year's Day as World Peace Day.

Islam Radicals Kill 5 Female Teachers in Pakistan; Killed to Discourage Females from Being Educated

Five female teachers in Pakistan today (January 1, 2013) were killed by Islamic militants who are determined to keep women and girls away from education, according to the Daily Mail website.

They were murdered in a New Year's Day ambush on the van carrying them home from their jobs at a community center and primary school in the northwest of the country.

The teachers and two health workers -- one man and one woman -- were killed this afternoon in the conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

This is the same region in which a Taliban gunman shot 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai in the head last October for criticizing the Islamic militants and promoting girls' education. She is currently recovering in Britain, where she was taken to prevent her from being killed.

Many Islamic militants in Pakistan oppose female education, and have blown up all-female schools and killed female educators as a way to discourage girls from getting an education.