Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ohio Man Shot Dead After Church's Easter Service; Shot Outside Church in Ashtabula,Suspect Nabbed

Police in northeast Ohio are investigating a shooting outside a church that a parishioner says left one man dead after an Easter service today, the USA Today website reports.

A member of the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ in Ashtabula (Ohio) said the man was shot soon after Easter services ended around 1:15 p.m. today. Joan Crockett said the man knew the shooter, and that a suspect was taken into custody. She added that the wounded man died.

The church's pastor said congregants were leaving when they heard a gunshot.

"People pushed me into a back office and said, 'Somebody's her with a gun,'" said the Rev. David Howard Jr. There were no reports of any other injuries at the church, which has about 175 members.

Card. Dolan: Cath. Church Is Often Out of Touch; Conflicts with U.S. Cath. Views Due to Its Nature

During an interview today (March 31, 2013), Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that the Catholic Church's very nature means it will be -- from time to time -- out of touch with the concerns of its followers, according to the Big News Network website.

"Sometimes by nature, the Church has got to be out of touch with concerns, because we're always supposed to be thinking of the beyond, the eternal, the changeless," Dolan said.

He added, "Our major challenge is to continue in a credible way to present the eternal concerns to people in a timeless attractive way. And sometimes there is a disconnect -- between what they're going through and what Jesus and His Church are teaching. And that's a challenge for us."

Dolan was responding to a question from Stephanopoulos about a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, which found that 60 percent of Catholics "describe the church as 'out of touch' with the views of Catholics in America."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Anti-Semitism Is Alive and Flourishing in France; Rabbi Imperiled,Swastikas Carved on Synagogue

The chief rabbi of France has received a letter from an obscure organization threatening "brutal actions" against French Jewish journalists, the Jewish Press website reports today (March 30, 2013).

"Before we take brutal measures -- the only ones at our disposal -- we approach you because those corrupt journalists are Jewish," read the letter recently sent to Rabbi Gilles Bernheim in Paris. It was signed by an organization called IFO -- a French acronym for Interaction of Forces of Order.

The letter said the journalists were acting as Communist agents and attempting to "curb liberty in France."

In a separate anti-Semitic incident, unidentified individuals carved five swastikas on March 26 onto the wooden doors of a synagogue in Haguenau, in eastern France. A representative of the city's Jewish community reported the incident to police.

American Atheists Lose Lawsuit Over 9/11 Cross; U.S. Judge: Cross Does Not Endorse Christianity

A federal judge has ruled that the display of an iconic cross-shaped steel beam in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum does not violate the constitutional and civil rights of atheists, the Christian Post website reports today (March 30, 2013).

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts concluded on March 28 that the 17-foot-high cross -- which became a spiritual symbol for workers at ground zero -- does not amount to an endorsement of Christianity.

New Jersey-based American Atheists Inc. filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the planned presentation of the cross-shaped beam, arguing it will impose religion "through the power of the state."

David Silverman -- president of American Atheists -- said his group intends to appeal the judge's ruling. "They're trying to Christianize 9/11 with this cross and it's not American and it's not fair," he was quoted as saying.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thieves Rob Watertown, MA Greek Orth.Church; Steal Chalices, Gold Bibles, Safe Containing Cash

Watertown, Massachusetts police reported today (March 29, 2013) that a Greek Orthodox Church in that community was robbed sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning this week, according to the Byztex blog. Police Lt. Michael Lawn said the thieves may have used the back door of the Taxiarchae (Archangels) Greek Orthodox Church in the heist.

According to Lawn, the robbers stole a safe, chalices, and gold plated Bibles from the church on Bigelow Avenue.

"Somebody broke into the basement boiler room door on Elton Avenue," Lawn said. "They entered the church offices, ransacked the office, tipped over a counter top and stole the safe, which was bolted to the counter top and contained cash."

Lawn said the thieves also stole a number of chalices and Bibles from the altar, and then carried the stash out the back door on Elton Avenue. He added that the robbers may have used a car or truck to complete the theft.

Atlanta Indicts Some 3 Dozen Former Educators; Raised Students' Test Scores to Receive Bonuses

In an embarrassing blow to Atlanta public schools, some three dozen former educators -- including the ex-superintendent of schools -- were indicted today (March 29, 2013) in one of the nation's largest test cheating scandals, according to the Associated Press website.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall -- who could be sentenced to 45 years in prison -- faces several charges, including racketeering, false statements, and theft because prosecutors said some of the bonuses she received were tied to falsified scores. Hall retired just days before a state probe was released in 2011.

The criminal investigation lasted 21 months and the allegations date back to 2005. In addition to Hall, 34 people were indicted: four high-level administrators, six principals, two assistant principals, six testing coordinators, 14 teachers, a school improvement specialist, and a school secretary.

All of the people named in the indictment face conspiracy charges. Other charges in the 65-count indictment include false statements and writings, false swearing, theft, and influencing witnesses. Those indicted raised the results of student test scores -- by giving answers to students and changing answers on tests after they were turned in -- in order to get extra federal dollars and bonuses for themselves.

Patriarch Bartholomew: Christian Unity Is Doable; Sees Roman Cath.,Greek Orth.Faiths Uniting Soon

The Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I -- who attended last week the Mass elevating Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy as Pope Francis -- has expressed his belief that the reunification of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches after 1,000 years of separation is achievable. The Great Schism of 1054 split the Christian Church in two, and has been a source of controversy and ticklish diplomacy and ecclesiology ever since, the Spero Forum website reports today (March 29, 2013).

Speaking at a meeting at the University of Kadir Has in Istanbul, Bartholomew said he believed "there is a possibility for the next generations to see the churches of the East and West reunited." He continued, "This will probably not happen during my life."

Bartholomew, 73, has been the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church since 1991, and last week became the first patriarch of Constantinople to be present at the inauguration of a new pontificate since 1054.

Speaking about the new pontiff, Bartholomew said that he "seems very different" from his predecessors and that he "has the ability" to reform the Vatican. Bartholomew also said that he invited the new pope to visit Fener, the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, in Istanbul.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Pope Washes Prisoners' Feet on Holy Thurs.; Urges Priests to Visit the Sick, Sufferers and Blind

Pope Francis today (March 28, 2013) washed the feet of 12 prisoners in a youth detention center near Rome as part of the Holy Thursday service, according to the Global Post website.

The washing of feet is a Holy ritual that is part of the Holy Mass of the Lord's Supper, which symbolizes Christ washing his disciples' feet during the Last Supper.

Pope Francis is the first with his title to wash the feet of juveniles. Previous popes -- such as Benedict XVI -- celebrated Holy Thursday by washing the feet of 12 priests in one of Rome's basilicas.

In a homily today in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis told hundreds of priests, cardinals, and bishops to do less "soul-searching" and to engage more with parishioners. He said, "We need to go out... to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters."

Rel. Leaders Tell Pres. Obama Stop Using Drones; See Drones as "Assassination by Remote Control"

A group of rabbis, priests, and ministers has called on President Obama to stop using drones to kill people -- a practice they describe as "assassination by remote control," the CNN website reports today (March 28, 2013).

In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation -- a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones -- the religious leaders say the practice also violates religious principles.

"The use of remote-controlled drones to assassinate targeted persons without charge, trial, or even at least the chance to surrender, is about as un-Christian a maneuver as I can imagine," said the Rev. Paul Zahl, the retired Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

"The Obama administration is playing God," said Joe Nangle, a Franciscan friar at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Virginia, in the video. "Instead of a culture of life, we are dealing death."

Two Boys Charged with Trying to Poison Teacher; Students, 13, Put Hand Sanitizer in Teacher's Tea

Two Virginia middle school students are facing felony charges of attempted poisoning -- accused of spiking their teacher's tea at least twice with hand sanitizer -- the ABC News website reports today (March 28, 2013).

The two 13-year-old male students -- who have not been named -- were removed from Hines Middle School in Newport News, Virginia and placed in an alternative school after confessing, officials said. The attempted poisoning was brought to the school's attention by student witnesses on January 29, who contacted the school's resource officer and assistant principal, according to Michelle Price with Newport News Public Schools.

On March 6, both teens were charged with one count of attempted poisoning -- a class three felony -- after the Newport News Police Department conducted an investigation. A class three felony carries a punishment of not less than five years nor more than 20 years in prison and a fine of not more than $100,000 in Virginia.

The 66-year-old teacher -- who does not want to be named -- was unaware that anything had been put in her tea until she was told, and missed a few days of teaching after she went to see her doctor.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ala. Elementary School Bans the Word Easter; Principal: "'Easter' Infringes on Student Rights"

The principal of Heritage Elementary School in Madison, Alabama has banned the use of the word "Easter" in the school, saying that it infringes on the rights of students, the Fox News Insider website reports today (March 27, 2013).

Lydia Davenport -- the school principal -- explained her decision, saying, "Kids love the bunny and we just try to make sure that we don't say the 'Easter Bunny' so we don't infringe on the rights of others, because people relate the Easter bunny to religion."

Gretchen Carlson asked, "Have we just gotten so deep into this political correctness that now we just can't take the religion as it is, celebrate it, and move on?"

Steve Doocy cracked, "I feel sorry for those kids though because they can't say the E-word. Well, what if the teacher wants to talk about that big storm that's moving up? You know... the Nor'------?"

Syrian Rebels Open Their First Embassy in Qatar; Rip Nations for Not Helping to Topple Pres. Assad

A Syrian opposition bloc -- recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative for Syria -- opened its first embassy today (March 27, 2013) in Qatar, in a diplomatic blow to President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Reuters website.

But opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib -- who took Syria's seat at an Arab summit in Doha yesterday -- used the ribbon-cutting ceremony today to voice his frustration with world powers for failing to do more to help the Syrian rebels in their two-year-old struggle to topple Assad.

"There is an international willingness for the revolution not to triumph," he told reporters at the embassy, which was decorated with balloons in the red, green, white, and black of Syria's national flag.

"The only way to victory is unity," Alkhatib declared. Damascus raged against summit host Qatar -- the richest nation in the world per capita -- for helping the opposition into Syria's seat at the League, while Russia and Iran also criticized the move to delegitimize Assad's rule.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Muslim Man Gets 18 Years for Seattle Terror Plot; Plotted to Attack US Mil. Base with Machine Guns

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 35 -- who plotted to attack a Seattle military complex with machine guns and grenades -- was sentenced to 18 years in prison today (March 26, 2013), and also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart to be supervised for 10 years after his release, according to the Europe News website.

Abdul-Latif -- also known as Joseph Anthony Davis -- pleaded guilty last December to conspiracy to murder U.S. officers and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors argued for a 19-year prison sentence with lifetime supervision following his release, saying Abdul-Latif directed major aspects of the planned attack.

"This was a real attack plot," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg, who prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion. Greenberg noted the defendant had been eager to take possession of machine guns, and didn't back out of the plan when he had opportunities to do so.

Officers Require Warrant for Dogs to Sniff Homes; Supreme Court:Const.Bans Non-Warrant Searches

The U.S. Supreme Court today (March 26, 2013) ruled that drug-sniffing police dogs cannot be used at the door of a house to detect drugs, unless the dog is accompanied by an officer with a warrant, according to the Bloomberg News website.

"When it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. "This right would be of little practical value if the state's agents could stand in a home's porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity."

The justices were considering a bid by Florida officials to revive the prosecution of a man arrested after police raided a Miami house and found marijuana plants.

The Florida Supreme Court had ruled that prosecutors could not use evidence obtained in the house because officers violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Calif. State Dept. of Ed. OKs LGBT-Themed Books; Analyst: "It's Raping Innocence of Our Children"

The California Department of Education's newest reading list for students K-12 includes LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) literature, prompting complaints from critics who say a leftist agenda is being pushed on children, the Religion Today website reports today (March 25, 2013).

The reading list has been met with controversy by those who say it promotes the LGBT lifestyle to children at such a young age.

"It's a frightening trend," said American Fan Radio talk show host Sandy Rios. "The reading lists are very overtly propagating a point of view that is at odds with most American parents."

Rios added, "Leftist educators are advocates of everything from socialism to sexual anarchy. It's very base; it's raping the innocence of our children."

Over 300K Protest in Paris Against Gay Marriage; Protesters Hope to Win Senate Rejection of Bill

Paris riot police fought back crowds who pushed their way onto Paris' landmark Champs-Elysees avenue as part of a huge protest against a draft law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, the One News Now website reports today (March 25, 2013).

More than 300,000 people -- including conservative activists, children, retirees, priests -- converged on the capital yesterday in a last-ditch bid to stop the bill.

The lower house of France's parliament approved the "marriage for everyone" bill last month with a large majority, and it is facing a vote in the Senate next month.

Sustained protests -- led by opposition conservatives in this traditionally Catholic country -- have eroded support for the draft law in recent months, and organizers hope yesterday's march will have a significant impact on the Senate debate.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Erdogan States Israeli Apology Is Only First Step; Wants Money, No Blockade to Restore Relations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today (March 24, 2013) that he expects Israel to compensate Turkey and lift the maritime blockade against Hamas before Ankara normalizes relations with Jerusalem, the Jewish Press website reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey on March 22 -- almost at the same time President Barack Obama left Israel for Jordan -- over the "tragic" results of the clash between Turkish terrorists and Israeli commandos who were virtually unarmed when they boarded a ship that was trying to break the maritime blockade.

"We have said, 'An apology will be made, compensation will be paid, and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted,'" the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan added, "There will be no normalization (of diplomatic relations) without these."

Islamic Preacher Wants Girl, 19, Stoned to Death; Girl Posed Topless in Tunisia for Women's Rights

A Tunisian Salafi (radical religious Muslim) preacher has called for a 19-year-old girl -- who posted her topless pictures on Facebook -- to be quarantined and stoned to death before she starts a national epidemic, the Jihad Watch website reports today (March 24, 2013).

Tunisian newspaper Assabah News quoted Salafi preacher Alami Adel -- who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice -- saying: According to Islamic law, the Tunisian girl  "deserves 80 to 100 lashes, but what she committed is worth much more than that. She deserves to be stoned to death and she must be quarantined because what she did is an epidemic."

He added, "She is like someone suffering from a serious and contagious illness and she must be secluded and treated." The girl remains in a psychiatric hospital in Tunis, where she was taken by her parents.

The girl -- who is part of a feminist movement and group called FEMEN -- can be seen smoking a cigarette topless with Arabic words written across her chest in black stating in English "My Body Belongs to Me." FEMEN is a Ukrainian-based feminist organization that gathers women together in various countries -- who protest while being topless in order to attract more attention -- in support of women's rights.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Study: Econ. Inequality Is a Permanent US Factor; Rich Are Getting Richer and Poor Get Poorer in US

A new study by a team of economists in academia and the U.S. government has found that economic inequality is a permanent -- and not a temporary -- feature in the United States, based on an analysis of 350,000 federal income tax returns between 1987 and 2009, the Alter Net website reports today (March 23, 2013).

"For household income -- both before and after taxes -- the increase in inequality over this period was predominantly, although not entirely, permanent," the highly technical report concluded.

The study by economists at two state universities, the Federal Reserve, and the U.S. Treasury Department also found -- not surprisingly -- that the wealthiest Americans consume more than less well-off people, and that disparity causes poorer Americans to suffer as a result.

Simply put, the study confirms what Vermont's U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders has been saying for years: "The rich are are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer." It also verifies what the famous 19th century German philosopher and economist Karl Marx -- who preferred communism because it was a fairer economic system for a nation's people than capitalism -- said in his "Communist Manifesto" book; namely, that under capitalism, the wealthy exploit the poor, and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Pope Francis Visits Benedict at Castel Gandolfo; Francis:"We're Brothers," Two Pray Side-By-Side

Pope Francis traveled today (March 23, 2013) to Castel Gandolfo -- a hill town south of Rome -- to have lunch with his "brother" and predecessor Benedict XVI, a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church, according to the Associated Press website.

The two men dressed in white embraced warmly on the helipad in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict has been living since he stepped down February 28 and became the first pope to resign in over 600 years.

In a series of gestures that ensued, Benedict made it clear that he considered Francis to be pope, while Francis made it clear that he considered his predecessor to be very much a revered brother and equal. They clasped hands repeatedly, showing one another the deference owed a pope in ways that surely turned Vatican protocol upside down.

Traveling from the helipad to the palazzo, Francis sat on the right-hand side of the car -- the traditional place of the pope -- while Benedict sat on the left. When they entered the chapel inside the palazzo to pray, Benedict tried to direct Francis to the papal kneeler at the front of the chapel, but Frances refused. "No, we are brothers," Francis told Benedict. Francis wanted to pray together with Benedict, so the two used a different kneeler in the pews and prayed side-by-side.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Biden,Pelosi Receive Communion at Pope's Mass; Pro-Abortion Pols Convey Hypocrisy, Defy Christ

Liberal audacity and hypocrisy were on display in the Vatican on March 20, when both Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) partook of Communion during Pope Francis I's installation -- in spite of their aggressive efforts over the years to keep abortion legal and profitable in the United States -- the New American website reports today (March 22, 2013).

The vice president's office confirmed that Biden and Pelosi -- who are both confirmed Catholics -- took Communion during the Mass at St. Peter's Square. Although Biden and Pelosi claim to be Catholic Christians, the fact is that they are not true Catholics, because their pro-abortion stances are in direct violation of Catholic doctrine, and they even defy the teachings of Christ.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis expressed his opposition to offering communion to politicians who support legalized abortion. "We must adhere to 'eucharistic coherence,'" he wrote in 2007, "that is, be conscious that politicians cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals."

The sacrilegious actions of both Biden and Pelosi at the Vatican set off a firestorm of criticism from Catholic leaders, among them Father Frank Pavone, who heads the pro-life group called Priests for Life. "Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi should certainly not receive Communion, either at the papal installation or anywhere else," warned Pavone before the Mass. He added, "Communion means 'union,' and they are not in union with the church on the most fundamental moral issue of the right to life."

At Least 42 Killed, 80 Wounded in Damascus Blast; Due to Suicide Bomber Exploding Bomb in Mosque

At least 42 people were killed -- including a pro-government senior Muslim cleric -- and over 80 more were wounded in an explosion at the Iman Mosque in downtown Damascus yesterday, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (March 22, 2013).

According to Syria's SANA state news agency, a suicide bomber set off an explosive device at the mosque during a religious lesson given by Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti, a top Sunni Muslim preacher and longtime supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The 84-year-old cleric and religious scholar was killed in the blast. Sheikh al-Buti used to deliver mosque sermons on Fridays on state television. He particularly condemned terrorism and violence.

Syria's Al-Ikhbariya television channel broadcast footage from the inside of the mosque after the blast, showing dozens of dead bodies mixed with scattered limbs and hands on the carpeted floor. The announcer on the channel said a suicide bomber entered the mosque and blew himself up.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pope to Hold Holy Thurs. Mass in Juvenile Prison; Alters the Traditional Venue at St. Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis -- considered by many theologians to be the most humble pope in more than a century --  has decided to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper in a Rome juvenile detention facility and wash the feet of some of the young detainees, the Catholic News website reports today (March 21, 2013).

This marks a significant change in venue of the previously scheduled March 28 Holy Week event from St. Peter's Basilica to Rome's Casal del Marmo prison for minors.

The Vatican said that, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis used to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper -- which reflects on the call to imitate Christ by serving one another -- in Argentine prisons, hospitals, or shelters for the poor and marginalized.

"With the celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue that practice, which must be carried out in a context characterized by simplicity," the Vatican said in a statement today. The Mass of the Lord's Supper highlights "the commandment of love" and service through the ritual of washing the feet of others, the statement added.

Schaap Gets 12 Years in Prison for Sex with Girl; Told 16-Year-Old Their Affair Was "Gift from God"

Former First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana pastor Jack Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in prison yesterday for sex crimes with a female church member who was 16 years old at the time, the Christian Post website reports today (March 21, 2013).

Schaap -- a married father of two children -- pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a girl who was 16 when their relationship began last year. He was fired from his position at the church in August 2012.

"He told me to confide in him, to trust him, and he made me feel safe and comfortable around him as a man of God," the girl -- who was not named -- wrote in a letter to Judge Rudy Lozano. "Schaap preyed on that trust and my vulnerability."

As the FBI investigated Schaap, it was discovered that the former pastor drove the teen girl across state lines for sex. Schaap had tried to justify his relationship with the young girl by claiming that it was a "gift from God."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope Favored Gay Civil Unions as Argentine Card.; Did So as a Means to Prevent Gay Cath. Marriage

Pope Francis has made some uncompromising statements on issues like gay marriage, but he also has a strong pragmatic streak that could hint at changes to come for the Catholic Church, the Newser website reports today (March 20, 2013).

As the Catholic Church in Argentina fought to prevent the legalization of gay marriage in 2010, the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio startled bishops with a proposal for the church to approve civil unions for gay couples.

Bergoglio -- whose proposal was overruled -- put forth the idea as the "lesser of two evils," his authorized biographer says. "He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society."

The cardinal publicly denounced the gay marriage bill as a "destructive pretension against the plan of God," but "he listened to my views with a great deal of respect," says a gay rights leader and theologian who received a swift response to a letter of complaint. "He told me that homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage."

N. Dakota Lawmakers May Outlaw All Abortions; May Defy Supreme Court's OK of Abortion in 1973

North Dakota lawmakers -- who recently approved some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States -- are now considering outlawing all abortions, the One News Now website reports today (March 20, 2013).

North Dakota's so-called "personhood" measures would ban abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception.

The state Senate passed two personhood measures last month, and the House could vote on them as early  as next week. One of the bills would make the proposal a state law, while another is a resolution that would put the definition into the state constitution, if passed by the voters.

North Dakota is one of several states with Republican-controlled legislatures and GOP governors that is now in the process of passing laws on abortion restrictions. A new law outlawing all abortions in North Dakota would be a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bulgaria Church Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize; Orth.Church Saved Plethora of Jews During WWII

Bulgaria's Orthodox Church has been named as a contender for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on the 70th anniversary of the saving of a huge number of Bulgarian Jews during World War II, the Balkan Insight website reports today (March 19, 2013).

Lachezar Toshev -- deputy chairman of Bulgaria's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) -- said he had started the nomination process to gain greater worldwide recognition for the Church's role in helping to save Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps.

"The act of salvation of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust is not very well-known internationally, although there are enough documents to prove it," said Toshev, who is also an honorary associate member of PACE and one of the people entitled to make nominations for the prize.

During World War II, tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews managed to evade deportation, and Toshev said that the nomination would "at least shed light on the issue in the course of the discussions" about the prize's eventual winner.

Over 1M Assemble for Pope Francis's Installation; Calls on People to Be "Protectors" of Poor, Nature

The newly installed Bishop of Rome has called upon Christians and non-Christians alike to be "protectors" of the environment, the poor, and their families. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was formally installed as Pope Francis today (March 19, 2013). He is the 266th pope and the first one from Latin America, according to the Christian Post website.

The date for which Pope Francis was formally installed was the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, Francis focused on Joseph's role as protector for Jesus and Mary.

"How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly, and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand," said Pope Francis in his homily.

Over a million people gathered in Vatican City for the Mass -- held at St. Peter's Square -- including more than 130 government delegations and 30 Christian delegations. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople -- the head of the Orthodox Church -- was present, thus conveying a bona fide  rapprochement for Christian unity, since this was the first time an ecumenical patriarch has attended the installation Mass of a Roman Catholic Pope since the Great Schism of 1054 split Christianity into the Western (Roman Catholic) and Eastern (Greek Orthodox) Churches.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Greek Soccer Player Banned from Playing for Life; Due to His Nazi Salute When His Goal Won Game

A Greek soccer player has been banned for life from playing for the national team, after giving the Nazi salute during a game, the Jewish Press website reports today (March 18, 2013).

Giorgos Katidis, 20, who plays for the AEK Athens team, gave the salute after scoring the winning goal in a match on March 15 -- the same day Greek Jews marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jewish community to Auschwitz.

The Greek soccer federation on March 17 barred Katidis from playing for the national team for life, saying that the Nazi salute was a "severe provocation" and an insult to "all the victims of Nazi barbarity."

In recent months, Greece has seen an upsurge in such incidents with the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, whose members and leaders often give the salutes and employ other Nazi imagery. Speaking at a ceremony yesterday to mark the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jews, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to take a harsher stance against neo-Nazis and racists.

Court:CIA Cannot Refuse Requests for Drone Info; Drone Strikes Have Killed Many Innocent Civilians

The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) cannot refuse to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about its program using pilotless remote-controlled planes (drones) to kill terror suspects and others, now that officials have publicly acknowledged it, a federal appeals court has ruled, the Washington Times website reports today (March 18, 2013).

Given the public statements by officials from President Obama on down, "it is neither logical nor plausible for the CIA to maintain that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain" by admitting that it had records or documents about the program, reads the unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) had filed the lawsuit against the CIA, seeking disclosure of 10 categories of documents about the drone program -- which has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, including three Americans, and a multitude of innocent civilians. The U.S. Congress is currently in the process of passing a law that would forbid the U.S. government from using drone strikes against Americans in the United States.

"This is an important victory. It requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the CIA's interest in the targeted killing program is a secret," said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer in a statement.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Turkish Police Detain Man for Killing NY Mom; Suspect Seen Trying to Sell Her Leather Jacket

Turkish police today (March 17, 2013) detained a man wanted for the killing of a Staten Island mother in Istanbul, according to the New York Post website.

The suspect -- a homeless man identified by Turkish authorities only as Ziya T -- had been on the run since the body of Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two boys, was discovered last month.

Authorities said Sierra died of a fatal blow to the head from a brick. She had traveled to Turkey to explore her photography hobby. Her body was found hidden near the city walls on February 12, days after her family reported her missing.

The homeless man was caught on surveillance video trying to sell her leather jacket, according to reports in the Turkish media.

Moscow Mayor Won't Allow Mosques to Be Built; Says 4 Moscow Mosques Suffice for Its Muslims

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has declared that he will not allow any new mosques to be built in Russia's capital, the Europe News website reports today (March 17, 2013).

Moscow only has four mosques, but that's plenty, according to the mayor, who believes new ones won't be needed once Moscow's estimated two million unregistered foreigners are "dealt with."

Mayor Sobyanin said: "It has turned out that the praying Muslims are not at all Russian citizens and they are not Moscow residents. They are labor migrants. There are only 10 percent of Moscow residents among them and building mosques for everyone who wants them -- I think this will be over the top."

Moscow's Muslims are not happy with the ban. The Russian Mufti Council has promised to fight it, saying it's sending a request to build a new mosque to President Vladimir Putin himself.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Greek Jews Mark 70th Anniv. of Nazi Deportation; Ceremony Is Held in Thessaloniki's Freedom Sq.

Jewish residents of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki today (March 16, 2013) marked the 70th anniversary of the roundup and deportation of its Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II, according to the Associated Press website.

Several hundred people gathered at Thessaloniki's Freedom Square, where the first group of Jews was rounded up by the occupying German forces on March 15, 1943.

The crowd held a moment of silence, then marched to the city's old railway station, where the first trains departed for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. A short ceremony was held at the station and flowers were laid on the tracks.

Speakers included the city's mayor, Yannis Boutaris, and Holocaust survivors. "We were packed 80 to a train....When we arrived, they sent a number straight to the crematoriums and kept some of us for work. We were beaten often by the guards," recalled Holocaust survivor Moshe Haelion.

Orth. Patriarch Bartholomew to Attend Papal Mass; Seen as a Prelude to Unity of Cath.,Orth. Churches

For the first time since the Great Schism between Western and Eastern Christianity in the year 1054, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople will attend a papal inauguration Mass, the National Catholic Reporter website reports today (March 16, 2013).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis' formal inauguration in St. Peter's Square on March 19, along with representatives of Argentina's Orthodox Church and Italy's Orthodox Church.

Bartholomew's attending of the inauguration might be seen as a sign of hope for reunification between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, although it has been almost 1,000 years since the five episcopal sees of the Roman Empire -- Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem -- were completely undivided.

Those hoping that this renewed Catholic-Orthodox esprit de corps will serve as a prelude to Christian reunification, can take heart in Pope Francis' first words to St. Peter's Square upon his election this week, where he did not once refer to himself as pope, but rather simply as Rome's bishop.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" Haunts Pope Francis; Vatican Slams News of His Failure to Oppose Junta

The honeymoon that Pope Francis has enjoyed since his remarkable election hit a bump today (March 15, 2013), with the Vatican lashing out at what it called a defamatory and "anti-clerical left-wing" media campaign questioning his actions -- or lack of them -- during Argentina's murderous military dictatorship, according to the Associated Press website.

On Day 2 of the Francis pontificate, the Vatican denounced news reports in Argentina and beyond resurrecting allegations that the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio failed to openly confront the junta responsible for kidnapping and killing thousands of people in a "dirty war" to eliminate leftist opponents.

Bergoglio -- like most Argentines -- did not publicly confront the dictators who ruled from 1976-83, while he was the leader of the country's Jesuits. Human rights activists differ on how much blame he personally deserves.

Top church leaders had endorsed the junta and some Catholic priests even worked alongside torturers inside secret prisons. Many activists are angry that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires for more than a decade, he didn't do more to support investigations into the atrocities.

Philly Abp. Chaput Allows Girl, 11, to Play Football; Voids Former Ruling Barring Her to Play with Boys

An 11-year-old girl won her fight to play football with boys in the Philadelphia-area Roman Catholic youth leagues when the Archdiocese reversed an earlier decision and announced yesterday it would permit co-ed play, the Reuters website reports today (March 15, 2013).

The case of Caroline Pla, of suburban Buckingham Township, drew international attention when an online petition on her behalf drew 108,000 supporters, according to her mother, Seal Pla.

The girl's family was told last fall that Caroline could no longer play on the team, as she had done for two seasons. She was the only girl on the team.

But yesterday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia -- headed by Archbishop Charles Chaput -- told the family it changed its mind. "At the direction of the Archbishop, the Archdiocese will allow for co-ed participation in CYO football, effective in the 2013 season," the church said in a statement.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Man Is Convicted for Tearing Off a Woman's Veil; Did It in Attempt to Back France's Anti-Burqa Law

A French court gave a 30-year-old man a five-month suspended sentence yesterday for tearing off an Islamic woman's veil in an attempt to enforce France's anti-burqa law, the Big News Network website reports today (March 14, 2013).

The man -- whose name was not reported -- pleaded guilty to religious violence and to declaring a false identity to police at the scene.

Police said the man tore a niqab -- a garment that covers everything but the eyes -- off a woman he saw at a fairgrounds in Nantes in September 2012. He was ordered to compensate the woman, who had to take three days off from work after the incident.

The man said he was trying to enforce the 2010 French law banning most face coverings in public.

Atheists Oppose "In God We Trust" on Currency; File Case in US Court Claiming Logo Is Unconst.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- a church-state separation group --  put out a press release on March 12 announcing that the organization was joining 19 other plaintiffs in challenging "In God We Trust" on federal currency, The Blaze website reports today (March 14, 2013).

The challenge -- being made in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York -- was filed against the U.S. Treasury on February 1.

Well-known atheist activist Michael Newdow will be representing the group.

"Our government is prohibited from endorsing one religion over another but also prohibited from endorsing religion over nonreligion," FFRF's Dan Barker said in the press release. "The placement of a monotheistic ideal on our nation's currency violates this stricture and is therefore unconstitutional."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Egypt's Govt. Blasts UN Draft of Women's Rights; "Destroys Islamic Ethics,Institution of the Family"

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government today (March 13, 2013) issued a statement on its Facebook page denouncing a draft United Nations document defending women against violence and establishing key rights, according to the Global Post website.

The Muslim Brotherhood said that the UN document includes items that "collide with the principles of Islam and its basic unanimous elements of [the] Quran."

According to the powerful Islamic group -- the party of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi -- the UN document would "destroy Islamic ethics, and seek to demolish the institution of the family," the Muslim Brotherhood said, describing it as tantamount to an "intellectual and cultural invasion."

In Islamic cultures, women, for the most part, are treated as inferior to men, as they are denied many of the rights that are granted to men. For example, in some Islamic countries, a woman cannot leave the house without permission from a man.

Cardinals Choose Abp. of Buenos Aires New Pope; Card. Jorge Bergoglio Is 1st Latin American Pope

Throngs jamming St. Peter's Square in Vatican City roared with joy today, as Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- archbishop of Buenos Aires -- stepped into the balcony as the new pope and leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, the USA Today website reports today (March 13, 2013).

The crowd grew silent as Bergoglio, 76, recited the Lord's Prayer and a Hail Mary. "Let us pray for the whole world," he told the crowd.

He added, "I ask a favor: Before the bishop blesses the people, I want to ask you to ask the Lord to bless the bishop. Please pray in silence for me."

Bergoglio's papacy is one of firsts. He is the first Jesuit, first non-European, and first Latin American pope. He is also the first to take the pope name of Francis, for the saint devoted to the poor.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Miss. Lawmakers Pass Public School Prayer Bill; Legalizes School Prayer and School Bible Clubs

Mississippi lawmakers have passed legislation that would legalize student-led prayer in the state's public schools, the New American website reports today (March 12, 2013).

The bill -- which Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign into law -- would also allow students to talk about their faith in the classroom and organize school Bible clubs, as well as pray at football games, graduation ceremonies, and during morning announcements.

Sponsors of the bill said that secular groups have intimidated and confused school administrators about the legality of religious expression in schools, and the law is meant to bring clarity. According to those on both sides of the issue, organized school prayer remains widespread in Mississippi -- which was rated the most religious state in America in a recent independent survey -- despite opponents' efforts to curtail it.

The bill's proponents insist it will not force students to pray, but will enable them to do so voluntarily. But Bear Atwood -- director of Mississippi's American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter -- argued that students who do not wish to pray would still be a "captive audience."

Ahmadinejad Pix with Chavez' Mom Rages Imams; Islam Law: No Unrelated Woman Can Be Touched

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under fire from the country's clerics over a photo of him consoling the mother of Hugo Chavez at the late Venezuelan leader's funeral -- physical contact that's considered a sin under Iran's strict Islamic codes -- the Yahoo News website reports today (March 12, 2013).

The photo -- released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press Office -- shows Elena Frias' right hand clutching Ahmadinejad's left, her head against his, as they stand near the flag-draped coffin of her son at a military academy in Caracas, Venezuela on March 8.

The image drew the immediate fury of Teheran's religious conservatives. "No unrelated woman can be touched unless she is drowning at sea or needs medical treatment," Hojat al-Islam Hossein Ibrahimi, a cleric at the Society of Militant Clergy, said.

Some of Ahmadinejad's supporters insisted the image was fake, but videos of Ahmadinejad's embrace of Frias also surfaced, thus confirming the original image's authenticity.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Queen Elizabeth Signs Historic Gay Rights Charter; Has Equal Rights in 54 Br.Commonwealth Nations

Queen Elizabeth II -- still ailing from a hospitalization last week -- has lent her support to the gay movement by signing a historic new charter for civil rights, the RTT News website reports today (March 11, 2013).

The document -- which was signed in public earlier today -- calls for an end to "all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, color, creed, political belief, or other grounds" in all 54 countries in the British Commonwealth (including 41 countries in which homosexuality is still considered a crime).

This is believed to be the first time the British monarch has shown her support for gay rights. The timing is significant, because Prince William and Kate Middleton's baby will soon be born. If the baby is a girl, she could become queen of England.

The 86-year-old queen was hospitalized last week for the first time in ten years to treat a bout of gastroenteritis.

Greek Govt.OKs Const.of $1.1M Mosque in Athens; Athens Is Only Capital in Europe without a Mosque

It will cost the cash-strapped Greek government -- which is cutting pay, raising taxes, and slashing pensions for workers, pensioners, and the poor -- some 846,000 euros (about $1.1 million) to build an official mosque in Athens for the city's Muslim population, the Greek Reporter website reports today (March 11, 2013).

All that's needed for the project to begin is for the Transportation Ministry to start the bidding procedures for construction.

The idea of a mosque is still a sensitive one in Greece, which suffered under 400 years of Ottoman occupation when churches were prohibited. Around 300,000 Muslims now live in Athens -- the only capital city in Europe without a mosque.

As the country that gave the world democracy, Greece -- which is more than 90 percent Orthodox Christian -- has decided to build and pay for the mosque primarily because of its religious tolerance. The mosque in Athens will have a capacity of 350 people, but the design will not feature a minaret because architects determined that a minaret would not blend well with the neighboring ambiance.

Spanish Town Holds First Seder Since Inquisition; Spain Now Pleads for Jews It Forced Out in 1492

A town in northern Spain is preparing to hold its first Passover seder since the area's Jews were forced to flee the country during the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (March 11, 2013).

The festive dinner will take place in the old center of the town of Ribadavia on March 25 and is being organized by the municipality's tourism department in partnership with the Center for Medieval Studies, a Ribadavia-based association which researches the history of Iberian Jews prior to their expulsion during the Spanish Inquisition that began in 1492.

Historian Abraham Haim -- the center's honorary president -- will be conducting the religious ceremonies at the seder, according to a report by La Voz de Galicia, a local newspaper. Anyone is invited to attend, but a seat costs about $40, the newspaper said.

Last month -- in an unusual effort to boost its poor economy -- Spain offered immediate citizenship to descendants of some 200,000 Jews who were forced out of the country in the 15th century, because of their non-Catholic faith.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Russia OKs Orthodox Priests' Aid in Emergencies; Will Allow for Spiritual Guidance in Emergencies

A spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, Irina Rossius, announced today (March 10, 2013) that the ministry is going to attract priests to work with people who have suffered in an emergency situation, according to the Voice of Russia website.

She said that besides the help of rescuers and "secular" psychologists, some people who get into a difficult situation need spiritual guidance as well.

Under the new agreement, the ministry will inform of new disasters the assistance team of specially trained clergymen, sisters of mercy, and lay volunteers affiliated with the Orthodox Church, while a special aircraft will fly them to a response center.

The Russian Orthodox Church reached the agreement with Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov on March 7, after Bishop Pantaleon had consecrated the ministry's new center of psychological aid building.

Bolivian Pres. "Almost Certain" Chavez Poisoned; Claims US Poisoned Him,Venezuela to Probe Case

Bolivian President Evo Morales said yesterday that he was "almost certain" that "the empire" (the United States) had poisoned his political ally, late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (March 10, 2013).

President Chavez -- who led Venezuela for 14 years -- died March 5 at the age of 58 after a two-year-long fight against cancer.

Nicolas Maduro -- who had been vice president under Chavez and was sworn in as acting president last Friday -- earlier accused Venezuela's enemies of causing cancer in Chavez, saying the issue would be investigated by a special commission.

Morales -- who traveled to Caracas to attend Chavez's state funeral on March 8 -- said he had always been aware of Chavez's disease, although he never revealed any details. Venezuela under Chavez's leadership maintained an extremely hostile relationship with the United States.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

UK Cath. Mag.: Same-Sex Marriage Battle Is Over; Church Should "Make Peace with Gays, Lesbians"

A British Catholic magazine called The Tablet has claimed that the battle over same-sex marriage is "over" -- and the Catholic Church should now "make peace with gays and lesbians" -- the Cybercast News Service website reports today (March 9, 2013).

The Tablet said in a March 5 editorial that the Church has lost the battle over same-sex marriage, and there is "no more mileage" in the issue of "gay marriage."

Pointing out that more than half of the Catholic members of the British House of Commons voted in favor of a same-sex marriage bill, and that polls in the United States show that a majority of Catholics are no longer opposed to same-sex marriage, the editors concluded that "there is no more mileage in this issue for the Catholic Church," and called on Catholic bishops in England and in the United States to concede defeat.

"The sensible course would be to put it on the back burner with the heat turned low -- to make peace with the gay world and move on," the editorial said.

One-Third of Islamic Girls Under 18 Are Married; Survey Shows Many Child Brides Forced to Wed

A new United Nations Population Fund survey of 42 mainly Islamic countries found that more than a third of all girls under the age of 18 in them are married -- many against their will -- the Newser website reports today (March 9, 2013).

Niger has the highest percentage, with 75 percent of its girls marrying before they turn 18.

Other nations with high numbers include Chad (68%), Bangladesh (66%), South Sudan (50%), and India, which -- thanks to its huge population -- has the most child brides.

Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday focusing on South Sudan, blaming child marriage for its "pronounced gender gaps in school enrollment" and "soaring maternal mortality rates," and presenting testimony from one girl forced to marry a 75-year-old man at the age of 15.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cath.U. Scholars Insult Pope Benedict for Leaving; One Wants Cath. to "Resign" from Broken Church

Pope Benedict XVI got a nasty sendoff from some scholars at Catholic universities in the United States -- including a Georgetown academic who wants Catholics to "resign" from the Church for a while -- in a cynical response to the Holy Father's resignation, the Cardinal Newman Society website reports today (March 8, 2013).

Paul Elie -- senior fellow at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs -- wrote in the New York Times that Catholics should "resign" from the Church "en masse for the remainder of Lent," because the "Catholic Church is broken."

In another sarcastic sendoff to the Pope, Notre Dame's religious historian R. Scott Appleby wrote: "He leaves behind a Church still staggering from the sexual abuse crisis, weakened by bureaucratic infighting, curial scandals and papal gaffes, and facing a host of challenges..."

Sociologists use a professional term to describe a person who debases his own religion, ethnicity, or race. That sociological term is "self-hatred."

On the other hand, several Catholic college administrators praised Pope Benedict for his teaching on the mission of Catholic education. Among those commending the pope were the presidents of The Catholic University of America, Wyoming Catholic College, and Benedictine College in Kansas.

Osama bin Laden's Son-in-Law Taken to US Court; Faces Charges of Conspiring to Murder Americans

Osama bin Laden's son-in-law is in U.S. custody and will appear today (March 8, 2013) in federal court in New York City to face charges of conspiring to murder Americans, according to the Washington Times website.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 47 -- a former spokesman for the al Qaeda terrorist network -- was seized by U.S. authorities in Jordan this week.

George Venizelos -- the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office -- said Abu Ghaith "held a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime."

"He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda's murderous cause," Mr. Venizelos said.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Obama Wants Dates for Israeli Exit from W. Bank; If Israel Won't Give Them, He Will Act on His Own

U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, the Jihad Watch website reports today (March 7, 2013).

Israeli sources said Obama -- scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20 -- wants a detailed Israeli withdrawal plan from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the president's visit.

The sources said the Israeli plan would be considered in what could be an imminent U.S. initiative to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank in 2014.

Obama has made it clear to Netanyahu that his upcoming visit is not about photo-ops, but the business of Iran and a Palestinian state, according to the Israeli sources. They added, "The implication is that if Israel won't give him something he can work with, then he'll act on his own."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

US Atty. Gen. OKs Drone Shots to Kill Americans; Says Pres. Obama Has Legal Right to Do So in US

While many Americans thought they could not lose any more of their rights under President Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder -- who represents the Obama administration -- has decided that drone (pilotless remote-controlled airplane) strikes to kill U.S. citizens on American soil are legal. Holder sent a letter to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on March 4 in which these stunning admissions were made public, the Inquisitr website reports today (March 6, 2013).

Sen. Paul had asked the Obama administration to come clean as to whether it believes it has the authority to order such domestic drone strikes to kill U.S. citizens.

This question came up after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorized the use of drones over the United States.

Sen. Paul said, "I'm not talking about people engaged in lethal force. I'm talking about city people in a cafe having coffee." He added, "People like this are being killed around the world (by strikes from U.S. drones). We should not be doing this in America."

US Muslim Leaders: "Muslims Are Above the Law;" Say Quran "Should Be the Highest Authority in US"

Islamic leaders in the United States are teaching their faithful that they don't have to follow U.S. law, the Europe News website reports today (March 6, 2013).

Speaking at an event in Austin, Texas called "Muslim Capitol Day," Mustafa Carroll -- executive local director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- told the crowd that they were literally above the law.

"If we are practicing Muslims, we are above the law of the land," said Carroll.

In another situation, CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad was paraphrased by a reporter as saying, "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant," and the Quran "should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." 

UN Says a Million Refugees Have Now Fled Syria; Half of Refugees Fleeing Civil War Were Children

The United Nations said today (March 6, 2013) that the number of Syrian refugees who have fled the ongoing two-year conflict in Syria has reached a million, according  to the BBC website. (The UN had previously estimated that over 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war.)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the number of people seeking haven in neighboring countries had jumped since the beginning of the year.

Half of the refugees were children, the UN said -- most of them under 11 and often traumatized by their experiences.

The largest numbers of refugees were seeking shelter in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. The figure includes registered refugees and newer arrivals awaiting registration.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jen Aniston May Marry in Greek Orthodox Church; Sources Say Aniston,Theroux Looked at PA Church

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux's wedding plans are moving along -- they are expected to get married  this month -- with talk that the religious ceremony may take place at a Greek Orthodox Church in Pennsylvania that Aniston used to frequent as a child, the Orthodox Church Info Blog reports today (March 5, 2013).

Sources in the town of Eddystone, Pennsylvania have said that the couple are looking at marrying at St. George Greek Orthodox Church. The actress made a $25,000 donation to the church in honor of her grandmother, with whom she used to attend services.

A plaque outside the church reads, "Donated by Jennifer Aniston in memory of Stella Anastassakis." Aniston's first cousin, Kathy Brown, is the church secretary.

Rumors have been circulating since the couple's engagement last year as to where and when the ceremony will take place, but Aniston and Theroux have managed to keep their wedding plans top secret.

Racist Incidents Cancel Classes at Oberlin College; Anti-Semitic, Antigay Notes Permeate Its Campus

Ohio's Oberlin College -- known as much for ardent liberalism as for academic excellence -- canceled classes yesterday and convened a "day of solidarity," after the latest in a month-long string of what it called hate-related incidents and vandalism on its campus, the New York Times website reports today (March 5, 2013).

At an emotional gathering in the packed 1,200-seat campus chapel, the college president, Marvin Krislov, apologized on behalf of the college to students who felt threatened by the incidents and said classes were canceled for "a different type of educational exercise," one intended to hold "an honest discussion, even a difficult discussion."

In the last month, racist, anti-Semitic, and antigay messages have been left around campus, a jarring incongruity in a place with the liberal political leanings and traditions of Oberlin -- a school of 2,800 students in Ohio, about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland.

The incidents included slurs written on Black History Month posters, drawings of swastikas, and the message "Whites Only" scrawled above a water fountain. After midnight on March 4, someone reported seeing a person dressed in a white robe and hood -- in an effort to portray the Ku Klux Klan --  near the Afrikan Heritage House

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fla. Muslim Cleric Convicted of Terrorist Support; Faces Up to 60 Yrs. in Prison for 4 Guilty Counts

Miami Muslim cleric Hafiz Khan was convicted of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists today (March 4, 2013), charges that could -- given his advanced age -- land him in prison for the rest of his life, according to the Newser website.

During the trial, prosecutors trotted out hundreds of FBI recordings in which Khan, 77, expressed support for the Taliban, for the killing of U.S. soldiers, and for the violent overthrow of Pakistan's government, and discussed sending around $50,000 to Pakistan.

Khan's attorney says he was lying about his extremist views in the hopes of getting an extremist to donate $1 million to Khan's Swat Valley madrassa -- not suspecting that the extremist was actually an FBI agent.

Prosecutors called that defense "a lie," saying that the million-dollar offer did not appear on the tapes. Khan now faces up to 15 years in prison for each of the four counts on which he was convicted.

Priest in Italy Burns Photo of Benedict at Mass; Says Pope Abandoned Catholics When Needed

A priest in a rural parish in northwestern Italy burned a picture of ex-Pope Benedict yesterday during Sunday mass, claiming the pontiff "abandoned" the world's Catholics when they needed him most, the New York Daily News website reports today (March 4, 2013).

"A shepherd does not leave his flock!" thundered Don Andrea Maggi, the 67-year-old pastor in Castel Vittorio, a medieval hilltop town near the French border, according to a report in "Corriere della Sera."

"I am doing it because he was not a Pope," Maggi said after burning the photo in front of dozens of horrified parishioners in the middle of Sunday's mass. "He abandoned us."

"It was a shocking gesture, committed before a dozen children," said witness Gianstefano Orengo, the mayor of the town.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gunmen Attack Coptic Orthodox Church in Libya; Islam Extremists Assault Two Priests in Benghazi

Gunmen -- believed to be Islam extremists -- attacked an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, assaulting two priests, the Reuters website reports today (March 3, 2013).

The foreign ministry said in a statement that it "strongly condemned Thursday's attack on the Egyptian church... and the aggression towards Father Paul Isaac and his assistant by the irresponsible armed men."

It did not elaborate on the attacks but said an inquiry committee involving the interior, defense, and justice ministries had been formed and had "taken the necessary measures to secure the church and its occupants."

Moreover, it expressed "deep concern" over the attack, saying it was "contrary to the rules" of Islam and international human rights laws.

Cardinals Will Ask New Pope to Serve Until Death; Feel Benedict's Quitting Mars Sacredness of Pope

Cardinals plan to ask the next pope to pledge in his inaugural address that he will serve until his death -- unlike Benedict XVI whose resignation, they believe, has destabilized the Catholic Church -- reports the Catholic News website today (March 3, 2013).

Doubts have emerged about the impact of Benedict's decision to retire before his death, as the cardinals begin a series of meetings -- known as general congregations -- to discuss the church's future.

Italian reports suggest some church leaders believe Benedict's departure has undermined the sacredness of the papacy. An unnamed cardinal told the Corriere della Sera newspaper it was impossible to abolish the rule that a pope had the right to resign of his own free will.

"But for the future we need to safeguard the freedom of the church from external influences," he said, amid fears that a pope could be pressured into stepping down.

"Racial Slurs" Aimed at Senate Rep. Leader's Wife; Sen. Mitch McConnell Rips Liberal Group's Bias

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky lambasted a liberal group yesterday (March 2, 2013) for criticizing the Asian heritage of his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, calling its Twitter messages "racial slurs" and "the ultimate outrage," according to the USA Today website.

McConnell forcefully defended Chao, who was born on the island of Taiwan and who moved to the U.S. as an 8-year-old with her family aboard a freight ship.

"This woman has the ear of (at)McConnellPress -- she's his (hash)wife," the group Progress Kentucky tweeted on February 14. "May explain why your job moved to (hash)China!"

Progress Kentucky removed the offending comments from Twitter after Louisville public radio station WFPL-FM aired reports about them. Also, the group issued two apologies over the past week for what it described as "inappropriate tweets sent by our organization."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

COMMENTARY: Supreme Court Ruling Destroys Americans' Freedom, OKs a U.S. Police State

In a critical decision this week that destroys many of the freedoms that our forefathers fought so hard to attain, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is all right for the government to secretly monitor any American's telephone calls, e-mails, and other electronic data.

We disagree with the supreme court's decision, as we believe it is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..."

The decision, in effect, gives the U.S. government a free rein in conducting surveillance of individuals who have not even been suspected of committing a crime. We view this phenomenon as "unlimited government snooping."

This totalitarian form of government -- now prevalent in the United States -- resulted as a by-product of the fear of terrorism that pervaded our nation after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

This exceptional fear resulted in the Fourth Amendment being temporarily repealed by congress, and Presidents Bush and Obama signing off on it. The time is long overdue for congress to reactivate the Fourth Amendment -- and thus end illegal government snooping -- since its "temporary" repeal has already outlived its original purpose, and indeed can no longer be justified.

Now -- more than 10 years after the 2001 terrorist attacks in America -- the supreme court has destroyed the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, in effect turning our nation into a despotic surveillance police state. Moreover, the current federal government -- in its quest for unlimited power --  has usurped the control of several human rights that Americans used to enjoy.

This is the kind of police state that prevailed for over 70 years in the former communist Soviet Union -- a type of state that we never dreamed could be a part of America's democracy. Unfortunately, it now is.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and its communism in 1991 resulted in the end of that police state, and the vast majority of Russians today are thankful for that transition.

Hopefully, Americans will regain the human rights to which they are entitled, but have now lost, and the democratic form of government that they no longer can fully enjoy, in the not-too-distant future.

Two NJ Men Indicted for Synagogue Bombings; Face Life in Prison If Convicted on All 30 Charges

Two New Jersey men were formally charged yesterday (March 1, 2013) in a series of firebomb attacks on synagogues in the state of New Jersey, according to the Times of Israel website.

A grand jury handed up a 30-count indictment against Aakash Dalal and Anthony Graziano, Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

Graziano faces nine counts of attempted murder stemming from the firebombing of a rabbi's residence in Rutherford on January 11, 2012. Police said Molotov cocktails were thrown at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, igniting a fire in the second-floor bedroom of the rabbi's residence where he, his wife, five children, and his parents were sleeping at the time and escaped serious injury.

Both Graziano and Dalal -- who were 19 at the time of the synagogue attacks -- are charged with bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit arson upon a synagogue, and aggravated arson. The are facing up to life in prison if convicted on all charges.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chicago Board of Ed OKs Sex Ed for Kindergarten; Tots to Learn about Basic Anatomy, Reproduction

The Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools District -- which is the third largest school district in the United States -- agreed to a new policy yesterday to start teaching children sex education in kindergarten, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (March 1, 2013).

The policy mandates teachers spend a set amount of time on sex education lessons at every grade level.

Across the country, most public schools begin teaching sex education in fifth grade.

Under Chicago's new policy, kindergartners will learn about basic anatomy, reproduction, healthy relationships, and personal safety. Parents will be allowed to opt their child out of the sex education program.

College Denies Christian Leaders for a Chr. Group; Rollins College in FL Says Doing So Discriminates

Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida has determined that a Christian student organization is in violation of the school's nondiscrimination policy because the group requires its leaders to be followers of Christ, the Fox News website reports today (March 1, 2013).

The college's board of trustees voted unanimously not to exempt the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship from the policy -- meaning the Christian group will no longer receive funding and will not be recognized as an official campus organization.

"The principles of the nondiscrimination policy, which are at the heart of the educational process, are inconsistent with allowing exceptions for student organizations," the college said in a statement.

The statement adds: "Such exemptions would be inconsistent with the processes of learning and growth that the college seeks to foster."