Wednesday, July 31, 2013

President of Ireland OKs Abortion Bill into Law; Pro-Life Group Calls Law "A Sad Day for Ireland"

Abortions under limited circumstances will be allowed in the Republic of Ireland under a new law, signed yesterday (July 30) by Irish President Michael Higgins, the BBC website reports today (July 31, 2013).

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act will allow terminations to be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother. Termination will also be allowed where there is medical consensus that the expectant mother will take her own life over her pregnancy.

President Higgins' signing of the bill into law means it does not have to be forwarded to the Supreme Court to determine whether it is constitutional. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy will now be added to the statute book. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore referred to the decision as a key milestone in Irish law.

On the other hand, the Pro-Life Campaign said yesterday that the passing of the bill into law was "a very sad day for our country."

New Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Israel Hit for Racism; Urged Jews Not to Watch Black Basketball Players

David Lau -- the recently elected chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel -- was broadly condemned for a racist comment he made yesterday regarding basketball players at the Maccabiah Games, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (July 31, 2013).

Exhorting his haredi Orthodox constituents to devote their time to learning Torah -- instead of watching basketball -- Lau said, "Why do you care about whether the 'kushim' who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the 'kushim' who get paid in Greece?" (Kushim is a derogatory Israeli slang term for blacks.)

According to "The Jerusalem Post," Knesset Education and Sports Committee Chairman Amram Mitzna said it was "very unfortunate that rabbis who are supposed to guide the way ethically fail time and time again by making racist statements."

Lau -- who was elected last week as Chief Rabbi of Israel -- canceled a planned vacation abroad after his racist remarks were published.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taliban Fighters Free 250 from Pakistan Prison; Dozens Disguised as Police Used Machine Guns

Taliban fighters -- disguised as police and armed with bombs and grenades -- freed 250 prisoners out of a Pakistan jail in a brazen overnight operation today (July 30, 2013) that raised serious questions over the new government's ability to combat militancy, according to the Newsmax World website.

Fighting continued into early hours today with explosions and machine gunfire rattling the city of Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near Pakistan's lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The attack underlines the growing capabilities of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban -- an offshoot of the Islamist insurgents of the same name in Afghanistan. The freed prisoners included dozens of top militants.

Months after promising peace talks with the insurgents, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to be accepting that the use of military force may be unavoidable.

Dozens of gunmen launched the attack by blowing up the electricity line to the prison and detonating heavy explosions that breached the outer walls. The militants then fought their way inside using rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and calling the names of Taliban prisoners through loudspeakers.

Italian Jesuit Priest Is Kidnapped in Raqqa, Syria; Paolo Dall'Oglio Taken By Al Qaeda-Linked Thugs

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio -- an Italian Jesuit priest -- has been kidnapped by al Qaeda-linked fighters in eastern Syria, the Euro News website reports today (July 30, 2013).

Opposition activists say he was taken by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- a Sunni group operating in the area.

The priest was kidnapped from the rebel-held city of Raqqa where militant Islamists have taken control.

Dall'Oglio was expelled by the Syrian authorities last year, after backing the uprising against President Bashar al Assad.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Green Paint Splattered at DC National Cathedral; Tian Jiamel Is Charged with Defacing Property

A woman was arrested today (July 29, 2013), after green paint was found splattered inside two chapels at the Washington National Cathedral, and police were investigating her in connection with two similar incidents on the National Mall, according to the Huffington Post website.

Tian Jiamel, 58, was arrested inside the cathedral shortly after the paint was found and charged with defacing property, police and cathedral officials said. Investigators were hoping to question her about the vandalism on the Mall -- including at the Lincoln Memorial -- but a language barrier was complicating those efforts, Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said soon after the arrest.

Police believed Jiamel was homeless. No motive was given.

Green paint was found early on July 26 on the Lincoln Memorial, and symbols were found painted in green later that day on another statue on the Mall.

Washington National Cathedral is an Episcopal cathedral that serves as the nation's spiritual home.

U.S. Charges Muslim of Lying about War Crimes; Says Edin Sakoc Killed 2 Women, Raped Another

Federal prosecutors have charged a Bosnian Muslim with lying to U.S. immigration officials about involvement in war crimes, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (July 29, 2013).

Edin Sakoc pleaded not guilty to the charges on July 26 during a court appearance in Burlington, Vermont. The judge ordered him to surrender his passport.

U.S. authorities say Sakoc took part in the murders of two elderly Bosnian Serb women and burned down their house during the Bosnian civil war in July 1992. He also allegedly raped the Bosnian Serb woman who was caring for the two.

If convicted of hiding this information when he sought U.S. citizenship, Sakoc faces up to 10 years in prison, a large fine, and loss of his U.S. citizenship.

Pope Francis Asserts He Won't Judge Gay Priests; Prefers That Cath. Church Becomes More Merciful

Pope Francis reached out to gays today (July 29, 2013), saying in a news conference he won't judge priests for their sexual orientation, as he returned to Rome from his trip to Brazil, the Washington Post website reports.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Frances asked. "We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society."

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory in his first news conference as pope today, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

Although the pope's comments do not signal a change in Catholic Church policy, they do indicate a shift in tone under Francis' young papacy, and an emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Three Women Activists Fined by Court in Ukraine; Women Arrested While Parading Naked in Kiev

A court in Kiev, Ukraine fined three activists of Femen -- the Ukrainian feminist organization known for its bare-breasted protests -- and a Russian photojournalist today (July 28, 2013), and released them following their arrest yesterday, according to the New York Times website.

Femen said that the women had been beaten and kidnapped when they were arrested and that they had been targeted by Ukraine's security service -- the SBU -- to prevent protests during a visit to Kiev by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have been accosted by Femen members in the past. President Putin and Patriarch Kirill came to Kiev this weekend to take part in the 1025th anniversary celebration of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Police said the three women -- Oksana Shachko, Alexandra Shevchenko, and Yana Zhdanova -- were detained by a patrol car after officers spotted them naked and arrested them for "petty hooliganism" after they failed to cover up. The photojournalist, Dmitry Kostyukov, was accused of disobeying police orders.

Today's fines were relatively small -- the equivalent of about $10.50 for each woman and just over $16.70 for Kostyukov, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.                                  

Israel OKs Release of 104 Palestinian Prisoners; Needed to Renew Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Israel's Cabinet today (July 28, 2013) approved the release of 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners, clearing a major hurdle toward a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after five years, as the U.S. pushes to bring the two sides back to the table, the Newser website reports.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will next hold preliminary talks in Washington on July 30, to be followed by up to nine months of negotiations on a peace deal. The Cabinet voted 13-7 with two abstentions to approve in principle the release of 104 prisoners, said a government official.

The vote came after a stormy session in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu linked the release to a resumption of talks even as relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks protested outside. "I believe this is a step toward peace and I hope that we can use this opportunity to resume negotiations," said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekal.

Under the deal -- brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry -- the prisoners would be released in four stages over several months. Each release would be linked to progress in negotiations.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Turkey Uses Hagia Sophia Museum as a Mosque; Famed Greek Orthodox Church Used for Ramadan

It was in Turkey that the followers of Jesus were called "Christians" for the first time in history, but this nation is making efforts to erase its Christian past, as reflected in the conversion of an ancient Byzantine church into a mosque, the Christian Post website reports today (July 27, 2013).

The Hagia Sophia Museum -- a former Greek Orthodox Church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon -- was used this month for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, reports International Business Times.

The mufti of Trabzon was joined by local Muslim residents for the Islamic prayers in the 13th century church building on July 5. The Christian murals have been covered with curtains, and the bell dome is being used as a minaret.

The Association of Archaeologists in Turkey is not happy with the move, which is being seen as an attempt by the ruling "Islamic-oriented" Justice and Development (locally known as AK) party to erase the Christian past and revive the Ottoman heritage. "To destroy the properties of a museum like Hagia Sophia, which could be a candidate for world cultural heritage, is a crime against universal culture and humanity," the Association said.

Egyptian Police Kill at Least 56 Radical Islamists; See No Need for Restraint on Morsi's Islam Allies

The Egyptian authorities unleashed a ferocious attack on Islamist protesters today (July 27, 2013), killing at least 56 people in the second mass killing of demonstrators in three weeks and one of the deadliest attacks since Egypt's revolution in early 2011, the New York Times website reports.

Police officers joined by civilians fired live ammunition at supporters of the former president, Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the military three weeks ago.

The attack -- in which some victims were killed with gunshot wounds to the head -- appeared to offer further proof that Egypt's new leaders were widening their crackdown on Morsi's Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood and suggested that Egypt's security services felt no need to show any restraint.

With hundreds of people gravely wounded, the toll seemed likely to surpass the more than 60 deaths on July 8, when soldiers and police officers fired on pro-Morsi demonstrators. The killings came one day after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched in support of the military after its commander called for mass demonstrations to give him a "mandate" to fight terrorism.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Putin: Orth. Christianity Sparked Russia's Growth; Played a Key Role in Making Russia a World Power

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday praised the role of Orthodox Christianity in the country's history and congratulated the heads of the world's Orthodox churches on the 1025th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus -- a medieval state comprising parts of today's independent nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus -- the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (July 26, 2013).

"The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of Christian civilization, and helped it turn into one of the largest world powers," Putin said in a message addressed to participants of a commemorative celebration in Mocow's Red Square, the Kremlin reported.

"It is Orthodoxy that gave Russia a powerful impetus for the development and rise of culture and education," Putin added.

Patriarch Kirill -- the head of the Russian Orthodox Church -- opened the commemorative celebration by saying: "The foundation of our national, spiritual and cultural life was laid 1025 years ago. Our ancestors adopted the Christian faith and, together with it, a system of values and morals ...that no historical upheavals were able to destroy."

Pope Draws 1.5M Catholics at Copacabana Beach; Urges Cath. to Put Jesus at Center of Their Lives

Some 1.5 million of Brazil's Catholics braved the cold and rain yesterday to hear Pope Francis speak at Copacabana beach for World Youth Day, the France 24 website reports today (July 26, 2013).

A teeming swathe of young Catholics joined dancers swaying to samba beats on Copacabana for World Youth Day, braving cold rain and wind to cheer the Argentine-born pope who has championed a "poor Church for the poor."

"I always heard that Cariocas (Rio residents) didn't like cold and rain. Your faith is stronger than cold and rain," the pope said as he was treated to religious choirs, samba songs, and dance routines. Pope Francis repeated a theme of his week-long visit, urging young Catholics to shun the trappings of materialism and put Jesus Christ at the center of their lives.

"Possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied," he said.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rabbi Ovadia Isikoff Shot in the Chest in Russia; Seriously Injured in the Violent Dagestan Region

Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Ovadia Isikoff -- who is the Rav of the city of Derbent, the second most important city in Russia's predominantly Muslim-populated Dagestan region -- was seriously injured today (July 25, 2013), after being shot in the chest, most likely by an Islamist, according to the Jewish Press website.

Rabbi Isikoff -- in his 40s and married with four children -- was coming out of his car, returning home from a ritual slaughtering, when he was shot. He is in the local hospital, where doctors say he is fighting for his life. Local police are conducting a manhunt for the suspect, who fled after the incident.

Chief Rabbi of Russia Rabbi Berel Lazar -- who is himself part of Chabad Lubavitch -- has hired a medical airplane from Israel with a qualified surgeon, a paramedic, and an intensive care doctor to aid Rabbi Isikoff's treatment.

The Dagestan region of Russia -- located in northern Caucasia -- is considered the most violent region in Russia today. Various radical Islamist organizations conduct frequent attacks on government and civilian targets with the aim of establishing an independent Muslim state in southern Russia -- something that Russia has no intention of doing.

Disney Chan. Set to Show Lesbian Couple in 2014; "One Million Moms" Rips Plan for "Charlie" Show

An episode in the next season of "Good Luck Charlie" will feature a lesbian couple -- a first same-sex episode for the Disney Channel -- the Charisma News website reports today (July 25, 2013).

According to "TV Guide," the episode will air in early 2014 as part of the sitcom's final season.

A week after the plan to feature lesbian moms was announced, "One Million Moms" called for a protest of the Disney Channel.

"Just because something may be legal or because some are choosing a lifestyle doesn't make it morally correct," "One Million Moms" says. "Disney should stick to entertaining instead of pushing an agenda. Disney decided to be politically correct versus providing family-friendly programming."

The organization is asking parents throughout America to send an email to the Disney Channel requesting it omits the lesbian scene in "Good Luck Charlie" or omits the episode altogether.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Principal in India Arrested for Poisoned Lunches; Twenty-Three Students Died of Insecticide in Food

The principal of a school in India was arrested today (July 24, 2013) after 23 students died and 25 others got sick eating poison-laced food, according to the UPI (United Press International) website.

Meena Kumari, 36 -- who had fled from the area after the July 16 incident -- was apprehended by police while on her way to court in Bihar state where she intended to surrender herself.

Manju Devi -- a cook at the school who also was hospitalized after eating the food she prepared -- said she told Kumari the mustard oil to be used for the lunch smelled and looked bad, but the principal insisted she continue making the meal.

Forensic scientists found monocrotophos -- an insecticide that's toxic to humans -- in residue from the food and oil used to make the deadly school lunch. Kumari is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow, Police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar said.

French MP Faces Prosecution for Hitler Remark; Told Gypsies "Hitler Didn't Kill Enough of Them"

French Member of Parliament (MP) Gilles Bourdouleix faces possible prosecution after a local newspaper quoted him telling a group of Gypsies he wished Hitler had killed more of them during World War II, the Euro News website reports today (July 24, 2013).

The allegation followed a confrontation with the group which had set up an illegal camp in his home town of Cholet in western France. Bourdouleix is the mayor of Cholet, in addition to being an MP.

On a recording posted on various media websites, Bourdouleix could be heard saying "Hitler maybe didn't kill enough of them."

His remarks were broadcast across France as President Francois Hollande moves to defuse growing anger over illegal Roma camps from conservatives and frustrated taxpayers, who -- in time of austerity -- feel that social services provided by the state are being abused.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

High School Teacher to Be Tried on Sex Charges; Cal.Teacher May Have Had Sex with Male Student

A Brea, California high school teacher has been accused of having sex with a 17-year-old male student, according to the Orange County district attorney's office, the World News Views website reports today (July 23, 2013).

Michelle Johnson, 45, of Anaheim, was charged today with six felony counts of oral sex of a minor and three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse. She is currently out of custody on $20,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow.

Johnson -- who worked as a math teacher at Brea Olinda High School -- allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with the victim between April and June.

The inappropriate behavior occurred on multiple occasions outside of the school and on campus, said the district attorney's office. The victim's parents contacted police after they became suspicious of their son's relationship with Johnson.

Veil Incident Touches Off Violence in Paris Suburb; After Police Detain a Muslim Woman Wearing Veil

Violence erupted in the Paris suburb of Trappes last weekend, as dozens of people assaulted its police station, threw fireworks, and set trash cans on fire, the Voice of America News website reports today (July 23, 2013).

The incidents took place after police arrested a man for assaulting them, after they detained his wife for wearing the face-covering veil in public -- a practice that is illegal in France. There are more Muslims living in France than in any other country in Europe.

Yesterday, a teenager was sentenced to six months in prison in connection with the Trappes clashes. Two other defendants were acquitted. The situation in Trappes remains tense but, for the moment, calm.

France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls defended the police response, despite some Muslims claiming police were rough on them. Valls said Trappes residents want order and calm restored -- and that's what's happening. He saluted what he called exemplary work by the police.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pope Francis Arrives in Brazil for Week-Long Visit; Says Faith in Jesus Offers Us Riches of His Love

Pope Francis returned to his native Latin America today (July 22, 2013), asking for open hearts -- even after the irrepressible crowds made it clear he had them -- the Catholic News website reports.

The 76-year-old pope's first international trip involved a 12-hour flight -- from Rome to Rio de Janeiro -- taking him back to the continent he left more than four months ago to attend the conclave that elected him pope.

In his remarks in Rio de Janeiro -- delivered in a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish -- the pope borrowed a phrase from the Acts of the Apostles: "I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ!"

Pope Francis said he had come to Brazil -- the country with more Catholics than any other country in the world -- to "give an account of the reasons for the hope" that comes from faith in Jesus and inspire them to "offer everyone the inexhaustible riches of His love."

Jimmy Carter:America Is No Longer a Democracy; Says NSA's Invasion of Privacy Has Gone Too Far

"America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time," former President Jimmy Carter said last week, The New American website reports today (July 22, 2013).

Carter was quoted as having made that remark at a closed-door meeting of Atlantic Bridge -- a research and education organization supporting cooperation between the United States and Great Britain on political, economic, and defense issues.

The former president reportedly said the National Security Agency's (NSA) invasion of privacy has gone too far, as he defended the actions of Edward Snowden, the American now seeking asylum in Russia after leaking classified documents revealing the massive NSA interception of communications between citizens and among government officials worldwide.

Carter's assessment of the Snowden affair is in sharp contrast with the Obama administration's position and with members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who have accused Snowden of treason. On the other hand, former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, a New Hampshire Republican, sent an email message of support to Snowden last week, in which he called the NSA surveillance program a "massive violation of the United States Constitution."

Russian Orth.Church Head Rips Same-Sex Union; Views It as a Path of Self-Destruction for Country

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill sees the recognition of same-sex unions by Western countries as a sign of doom. He called upon Russians to ensure that this sin is never formalized by the rule of law, the RT (Russia Today) website reports today (July 22, 2013).

"We face enormous temptations when countries start approving sin and codifying it into law in order to justify it," the patriarch said after yesterday's Sunday service in the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square.

Those who follow their conscience and "fight such laws imposed by the minority are subjected to repressions," he added.

"This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction," Kirill stated.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Woman in Dubai Reports Rape, Gets Prison Time; Norwegian, 24, Charged with Illegal Use of Alcohol

Marte Deborah Dalelv was looking to have her alleged attacker arrested when she reported she had been raped by a colleague. Instead, the 24-year-old Norwegian woman working in Qatar was arrested herself, and was sentenced to 16 months in prison on charges of sex outside of marriage, making a false statement, and illegal consumption of alcohol, the Newser website reports today (July 21, 2013).

Dalelv says she was on a work trip in Dubai and had been drinking with colleagues at a bar. She asked a male colleague to escort her back to her hotel room for safety reasons, but she says the man instead led her to his room, where he raped her.

Dalelv called police the next day, and was taken to the police station. But there, she says, the officers didn't believe her. They kept her in jail for four days without explanation.

She is now out of jail while an appeal is pending. She says she is speaking out to warn other foreigners in Dubai. "Dubai seems like a Western city, but what a lot of tourists don't know, for example, is that it's not legal for them to drink alcohol," she said.

Young Cath. Are in Rio for World Youth Festival; Pope Arrives in Brazil on July 22 for 7-Day Stay

Some 800 young British Catholics have arrived in Rio, Brazil, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis for the World Youth Day festival, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (July 21, 2013).

The first Latin American Pope arrives in Brazil tomorrow (July 22), and some notable highlights of his seven-day visit will include the blessing of a drug addiction clinic, a visit to the favela of Manguinhos -- one of the poorest in Rio -- a welcome ceremony on Copacabana beach, the hearing of young Catholics' confessions, silent adoration, and the celebration of Mass with upwards of 1.5 million pilgrims.

This is Pope Francis' first international trip as Pontiff.

Spiritual and practical preparations for the largest youth festival in the world have been taking place across Brazil -- which has more Catholics than any other country in the world -- over the past year.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Official: Israel Agrees to Have 1967 Border Talks; Palestinians to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

An Israeli official said yesterday that Israel has agreed to a proposed formula for new peace talks with the Palestinians under which the border of their future state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, but with agreed land swaps, the Reuters website reports today (July 19, 2013).

The official said that, were the Palestinians to accept the formula, it would be announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who would also describe the future Palestine as existing alongside a "Jewish state" of Israel.

It is believed that Kerry -- now in the region for his sixth time since March in an effort to revive peace talks that deadlocked in 2010 -- may be close to a breakthrough.

Israel has previously balked at agreeing to the 1967 borders as a basis for talks with Palestinians. But the latest proposal addresses a longstanding central demand made by Netanyahu that the Palestinians explicitly recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Florida Muslim Is Indicted for Terrorist Training; Shelton Bell Recruited Youth to Support Jihadists

A Jacksonville, Florida man was indicted by a grand jury yesterday for allegedly training to participate in "violent armed conflict" with terrorists, the Creeping Sharia website reports today (July 19, 2013).

Shelton Thomas Bell, 19, a Muslim, has been charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material to support terrorists, according the office of Acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III.

Between May-September 2012, Bell allegedly participated with Ansar Al-Sharia in "physical, firearms, and other training in preparation for armed conflict in the Middle East," the release detailed. According to the indictment, Bell also made videos and recruited juveniles to participate in what he called "the actions of jihad."

Bell is being held on a $200,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on August 1, 2013.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pope Tawadros Cancels Meeting of Public Prayer; Due to Violence During Egypt's Govt. Transition

For the third week in a row, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II canceled the weekly meeting of public prayer and catechesis he holds every Wednesday afternoon in the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (July 18, 2013).

Announcing the cancellation, the Secretary General of the Council of Churches in Egypt, Fr. Bishoy Helmy, explained that the decision had been made because of the current difficult moment the country is facing, affected by the violence that followed the overthrow of Morsi's radical Islamist  government and the beginning of a new phase of political transition under the protection of the army.

Since June 30, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Minya, Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, and Pope Tawadros have both avoided appearing in public, not for their own personal security but because they do not wish to put crowds in danger of attack.

Currently, some Egyptians are accusing Christians of being responsible for the popular uprising in the country on June 30.

Greece OKs the Layoff of 25,000 Teachers, Police; Doing So Was Needed to Receive Billions of Euros

A total of 12,500 public sector workers in Greece -- mainly teachers and municipal police -- will enter a mobility pool, in which they are given eight months to find new work or be fired, and another 15,000 face the same fate next year, the World News Views website reports today (July 18, 2013).

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras led his conservative coalition to narrowly pass the unpopular austerity scheme late last night. Parliament voted in favor of the bill, which was a perquisite of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission to provide Greece with several billion euros in the next aid package.

The decision was reached amid a backdrop of demonstrations, as anti-austerity protesters -- many who will be directly affected by the massive government distribution of pink slips -- called for no more sacrifices before the vote.

With unemployment at over 27 percent, and 60 percent of Greece's young adults out of work, the public does not resonate with the Parliament's decision to cut more jobs.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Judge Blocks Building of Rel. Monument in Calif.; It Would Have Had Soldier Kneeling Before a Cross

A federal judge on July 15 blocked the construction of a monument in southern California, ruling it would be an "unmistakably religious" symbol on public property, the Raw Story website reports today (July 17, 2013).

The Lake Elsinore City Council unanimously approved the construction of the polished black memorial last year, which would depict a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross. The City Council planned to build the monument at the entrance of the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium, which is owned but not operated by the city.

The American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit over the monument in June, claiming it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

"It is a violation of the First Amendment when a government body unnecessarily chooses a divisively religious means of honoring the country's veterans," said William Burgess, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. "We are pleased that Judge Wilson has seen the necessary merit in our case to stop the religious memorial from being erected on public grounds."

Saudi Arabia Airlines Won't Fly Israelis in NYC; Discrimination Against Israelis Violates US Law

Saudi Arabia Airlines refuses to issue tickets in New York City for Israelis -- even if they are only stopping off in Saudi Arabia for a connecting flight -- a policy that contradicts federal law, the Jewish Press website reports today (July 17, 2013).

The airline's website asks travelers for their citizenship but does not have an option available for "Israel," although it does have options for other countries -- even Antarctica.

New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio was quick to jump on the report, and one of his staff called the airline, saying he was an Israeli trying to fly from JFK to India. The airline agent said he could not fly with Saudi Arabia Airlines.

United States law states: "An air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry." Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia continues to discriminate against Israelis.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FYROM Excavator Arrested for Stealing Artifacts; Pasko Kuzman Is Charged with Smuggling Icons

Archaeologist Pasko Kuzman -- the chief excavator of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) -- has been arrested in connection with an investigation into the smuggling of antiquities, the Balkan Insight website reports today (July 16, 2013).

Police arrested the head of Macedonia's Cultural Heritage Protection Office yesterday on misuse of office charges. Kuzman was taken in handcuffs to a courthouse in Skopje, the capital of FYROM.

Kuzman is being questioned for his alleged involvement in an ongoing investigation into the smuggling of valuable icons and archaeological artifacts.

Several archaeologists, employees of the culture ministry, and illegal excavators have already been charged with involvement in the case. The archaeologists are accused of helping the illegal excavators to determine the price of their artifacts and to find buyers outside of Macedonia.

Polish Youth Group Ends Rel. Ads of Tennis Star; Agnieszka Radwanska Posed Nude in ESPN Mag.

Despite being ranked the fourth best tennis player in the world, Agnieszka Radwanska, 24, of Poland is learning that the moral teachings of her church still apply to her, the Breitbart website reports today (July 16, 2013).

Although known for frequently broadcasting her Catholic faith, the tennis star decided to pose nude in ESPN's Body Issue. The decision has resulted in her removal from any future campaigns of the Polish youth group Krucjata Mlodych (meaning, Youth Crusade), which had previously featured her in ads where she spelled Jesus with tennis balls and encouraged youth to be proud of their faith.

Now, the group has ended the relationship, declaring the nude shoot to be "immoral behavior."

A senior Catholic priest, Father Marek Dziewiecki, was particularly critical of Radwanska saying, "It's a shame that someone who has declared their love for Jesus is now promoting the mentality of men looking at a woman as a thing rather than a child of God respect and love."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fuller Theological Seminary OKs Gay Student Org.; Gay Students Must Stay Celibate, Be Pol. Inactive

Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California is one of the first evangelical seminaries in the United States to approve an official student organization for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students, the One News Now website reports today (July 15, 2013).

Fuller is one of the largest multidenominational seminaries in the world and its decision not to oppose the club is creating ripples in the larger world of Christian colleges.

Attempts to start gay student groups at some other Christian colleges throughout the nation have been met with censorship and outright bans.

Although the group's approval is seen by many as progress, some argue it is a step forward with strings attached. School policy states students can "come out," but they must remain celibate and are not allowed to be politically active. The students have chosen to accept the group's limitations.

San Diego Mayor Is Accused of Groping Women; Attorney Will File a Sexual Harassment Claim

Several former supporters of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner today (July 15, 2013) demanded that he resign, since he has been accused of forcibly kissing two constituents and grabbing the buttocks and breast of a staff member, according to the LA Times website.

Filner's behavior toward women is so egregious that women who work for him call him a "dirty old man" and coined the phrases "the Filner headlock" and "the Filner dance" to describe how he isolates women and then makes unwanted advances, attorney Marco Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said a sexual harassment claim will be filed with city officials. Also, lawsuits are a possibility, he said.

"Bob Filner is tragically unsafe for any women to approach," an angry ex-councilwoman Donna Frye said today at a news conference outside San Diego City Hall.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Money-Smuggling Prelate Scarano Stays in Prison; Court in Rome Rejects Appeal for Release on Bail

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) has been ordered to stay in prison by the Court of Review in Rome after it rejected an appeal presented by the prelate's lawyers, the Vatican Insider website reports today (July 14, 2013).

Judges also rejected an appeal presented for financial broker Giovanni Carenzio and Giovanni Maria Zito, an agent in the AISI -- the internal intelligence agency of Italy.

The three men were arrested on June 28 after Rome prosecutors accused them of plotting to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland into Italy.

The three are also accused of corruption. If they are convicted, they face up to six years in prison, prosecutors said.

NAACP Plans New Zimmerman Civil Rights Trial; Org. Angry He Was Found Not Guilty of Murder

The head of the largest civil rights group in the United States said today (July 14, 2013) that the organization has had ongoing discussions with the staff of Attorney General Eric Holder on whether the Justice Department should go after George Zimmerman in a federal civil rights case, the Washington Examiner website reports.

In a statement, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) president Ben Jealous said the group was "outraged and heartbroken" after a jury of six women found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder last night in the fatal shooting of unarmed Florida black teenager Trayvon Martin.

In cities across the country, thousands of protesters took to the streets to voice their displeasure with the verdict.

Zimmerman -- a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community -- shot and killed Martin in February 2012, but his defense successfully argued that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense and the prosecution failed to prove otherwise.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Syria Bombing Damages Christian Crusade Castle; Tower of Famed Krak des Chevaliers Castle Struck

An air raid on Syria's famed Krak des Chevaliers castle -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- has damaged one of the fortress's towers, the Newsmax World website reports today (July 13, 2013).

The Krak des Chevaliers was built between 1142 and 1271, according to UNESCO, and along with the adjoining Qalat Salah el-Din fortress, is considered to be one of the best preserved Crusader castles in existence.

Several videos posted online show at least one air strike yesterday against the castle in central Homs province, where fighting is raging between Syrian government troops and rebel forces.

The footage shows a huge blast as a tower of the castle -- which is built on a hill -- appears to take a direct hit, throwing up large clouds of smoke and scattering debris in the air.

Putin Commemorates WWII Heroes of Key Battle; Tank Fight in Prokhorovka in 1943 Razed Germans

Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in memorial events yesterday, commemorating the Battle of Prokhorovka, fought by Soviet tank regiments near the town of Prokhorovka in the Belgorod Region 70 years ago, the Interfax-Religion website reports today (July 13, 2013).

Putin and World War II veterans laid flowers at the Zvonnitsa memorial bell tower at the Prokhorovskoye Polye military-historical museum.

The Russian president also visited the St. Peter and Paul Church, where he lit a candle for the soldiers killed during the battle and venerated an icon. The church's dean told Putin that the church was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle.

The tank battle between Russians and Germans was fought in 1943 at a crucial moment in World War II. Russian tank regiments inflicted irreparable casualties on the German tank forces.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Baseball Great Darryl Strawberry Now a Minister; Says His Top Priority Is Leading People to Jesus

Former Major League Baseball All-Star Darryl Strawberry -- whose legendary play on the field was coupled with a well-chronicled battle with illegal drug addiction and legal problems in his personal life -- said he is no longer the man he was before, and that his top priority is leading people to Jesus Christ. He is now an ordained minister leading a wide-ranging ministry -- including Christian-based recovery programs -- the Christian Post website reports today (July 12, 2013).

"I'm over 'Strawberry,'" he told "USA Today" in his first interview with the media since becoming a preacher and ministry leader three years ago. "I'm over Mets. I'm over Yankees. I don't want to exist as Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player."

Strawberry -- who played for the New York Mets and New York Yankees during a 17-year career that included four World Series championship rings -- leads a ministry along with his wife, Tracy, devoted to helping people "who are suffering and in bondage to afflictions that are destroying their lives and relationships."

Strawberry -- whose ministry is located 30 miles from St. Louis in St. Peters, Missouri -- reiterated that baseball was not important to him anymore. "I love the game, don't get me wrong, but I love the Bible more. I want to help people save their lives, and have the responsibility of leading people into following Christ," he said. "It's so hard to describe what that feels like, but I've never been happier in my life. It's so much fun being a pastor."

Thousands of Workers on Strike Across Brazil; Demand Reduced Work Week, Better Services

Tens of thousands of workers across Brazil walked off their jobs on July 11 in a peaceful nationwide strike, demanding better working conditions and improved public services in Latin America's largest nation, the News Daily website reports today (July 12, 2013).

Metalworkers, transportation, and construction workers -- as well as teachers and civil servants -- adhered to the "Day of Struggle" organized by Brazil's biggest trade union federations.

Strikers either partially or completely blocked 40 interstate and intercity highways in 14 states. In the city of Santos, dock workers prevented trucks from entering Latin America's biggest port.

The strikers are demanding better public transit, health, and education services, as well as agriculture reform and a reduced work week.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fla. Probes Branding of Sex Trafficking Victims; Bodies of Women, Girl Prostitutes Are Branded

A human trafficking ring in Florida is branding the bodies of women and girls who are used for prostitution, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 11, 2013).

A major bust began in May, netting 92 arrests, among them a 15-year-old girl. Officials learned she was part of a trafficking ring that was bringing women and girls into counties throughout Florida to sell their bodies.

The Polk County sheriff said he was outraged when he saw markings on the girl that showed she was being treated like a slave.

"In the year 2013 we are tattooing, branding children and people are using them as consumable merchandise and they simply throw them away," Sheriff Grady Judd said. The Florida attorney general is pursing this multi-county investigation into human trafficking.

Pope Signs a Law Making It a Crime to Abuse Kids; Law Includes Child Porn, Prostitution, Sexual Acts

Pope Francis signed a law today (July 11, 2013) making it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds, according to the Global Post website.

Crimes now punishable under the legislation include child pornography, child prostitution, sexual violence or acts with children.

According to Radio Vatican, it broadens the scope of crimes already outlawed but specifically applies them to officials and employees of the Vatican city state Roman Curia, where hundreds of people currently live and work.

The law also includes a provision that makes it possible to indict those individuals for crimes committed beyond the grounds of the Vatican city state.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ind. Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Felony for Prison; Punishable by 18 Months in Prison, $10,000 Fine

As of July 1, 2014, same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses in Indiana will have committed a felony, punishable by 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine, the Alter Net website reports today (July 10, 2013).

The new crime stems from the revival of a 1997 law forbidding false information on a marriage license as a Class D felony.

It will also make it a Class B misdemeanor -- punishable by up to 180 days in a jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 -- for clergy, judges, and others to perform a same-sex marriage.

Because Indiana marriage license forms have a space for "male applicant" and "female applicant," any same-sex couple filling out the form would automatically violate the law.

Report: Congress Stops US Arms for Syrian Rebels; Fears Weapons Would Fall into Hands of Al-Qaeda

Both House and Senate intelligence committees have voted to stop sending military aid to Syrian rebels by freezing the funding intended to ship arms, the Newser website reports today.

Sources say the decision was made last month, amid fears that the weapons would end up in the hands of Islamist militants.

Syrian rebels do not appear to have received any new U.S. arms, Reuters adds, and are confused by the suspension.

"If we are going to arm, we have to make sure we have control of what arms are out there and how people are trained to use those arms so they don't fall into the hands of our enemy al-Qaeda," says Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Turkish Police Let Protesters Break Ramadan Fast; Resume Efforts to Remove Them from Gezi Park

Turkish police allowed thousands of protesters -- who have been trying to block the planned  redevelopment of a park in Istanbul -- to break their Ramadan fast today (July 9, 2013), before resuming efforts to get them to leave the area, the Yahoo News website reports.

Last night, police fired teargas and water cannon at protesters as they tried to prevent them from gathering in Gezi Park, which has become the focal point of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Two leftist Muslim groups sympathetic to the protests -- the Revolutionary Muslims and Anti-Capitalist Muslims -- hosted fast-breaking iftar dinner in a nearby pedestrian street by the Gezi Park on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The local municipality also hosted a dinner in Taksim Square by the Gezi Park, and people marched in the park afterwards. The park had been sealed off for three weeks after police expelled the residents of a protest camp there.

Former Yeshiva U. High Students File $380M Suit; Claim Administrators Covered Up Sexual Abuse

Nineteen former students of a Manhattan high school run by Yeshiva University (YU) have filed a $380 million lawsuit against YU, accusing administrators and teachers of covering up decades of physical and sexual abuse, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (July 9, 2013).

The lawsuit -- filed July 8 in U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York -- alleges a "massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of high school students ... facilitated, for several decades, by various prominent YU and high school administrators, trustees, directors, and other faculty members."

The assaults are alleged to have taken place during the 1970s and 1980s. In New York, criminal and civil cases of child sexual abuse must be brought before a victim's 23rd birthday. However, Kevin Mulhearn -- a lawyer representing the victims -- argues in the suit that the statute of limitations does not apply because YU fraudulently covered up the abuse.

"I am proud to represent these 19 men. They are entitled to the respect, dignity, and justice which was denied to them when they were children," Mulhearn said. "We are looking forward to prosecuting these claims."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Susan Sarandon Asserts She Is Not a "Feminist;" Women's Rights Activist Sees Term as Demeaning

Susan Sarandon -- who has worked diligently for women's rights during the past four decades -- told the British newspaper "The Guardian" in a recent interview that she would never call herself a "feminist," The Daily Beast website reports today (July 8, 2013).

"It's a bit of an old-fashioned word," the 66-year-old actress said, referring to herself as a "humanist" instead because that word is "less alienating to people who think of feminism as a load of strident bitches and because you want everyone to have equal pay, equal rights, education, and health care."

The feminist identity is used more "to minimize you," she said, adding that her 28-year-old daughter "doesn't even relate" to the term.

Most women now view feminism -- which reached its peak in the 1970s -- as being outdated in our society. In fact, many women now believe that feminism has become an ideology whose primary objective is to support lesbians and a lesbian lifestyle.

Putin Gives Award to Richest Person in Russia; Alisher Usmanov Gave $150M to Charity in 2012

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov -- the richest person in all of Russia -- has received one of Russia's highest civil awards in recognition of his charitable and philanthropic activities, according to a presidential order published today (July 8, 2013), the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports.

Usmanov -- whose fortune is estimated at $17.6 billion by Forbes Magazine -- was given the Order for Services to the Fatherland Fourth Class by President Vladimir Putin, in a decree issued July 5 by the Kremlin.

With about $150 million of charitable donations in 2012, Usmanov is the most philanthropic of all Russian businessmen, according to Forbes.

The money he donates is distributed through his companies and charitable funds, as well as through personal gifts.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Coptic Christians Thankful for Morsi's Overthrow; Even Muslim Public Affairs Council Praises Ouster

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians are thankful for the military's overthrow of radical Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (July 7, 2013).

Father Joseph Boules -- who pastors an Orthodox Coptic church in Anaheim, California -- said the uprising shows that Egyptians want religious freedom, not an Islamic nation.

Boules was 13 when he emigrated from Egypt with his family. He said he is praying for peace in the country of his birth.

Even a California-based Muslim group welcomed Morsi's removal from office. The Muslim Public Affairs Council said in a statement: "We rejoice and celebrate the victory of the Egyptian people against the exploitation of religion to suppress the masses and rob them of their God-given freedom and dignity."

Israeli Cabinet Passes Ultra-Orthodox Draft Law; Angers Ultra-Orthodox Men,Exempt Since 1948

Israel's cabinet approved a draft law today (July 7, 2013) to abolish wholesale exemptions from military duty granted to Jewish seminary students, stoking ultra-Orthodox anger over the break with tradition, according to the Reuters website.

Many Israelis have long bridled over state privileges handed to the conservative believers or "Haredim" -- a Hebrew term meaning "those who tremble before God."

Most Israeli men and women are called up for military service for up to three years when they turn 18, and often see active service in the occupied West Bank and other flashpoints.

But ultra-Orthodox men studying in seminaries, religious women, and Arab citizens of Israel have been exempted since the state of Israel was formed in 1948. Under the proposed law, only 1,800 of those students -- designated "outstanding biblical scholars" -- would get an exemption, out of the estimated 8,000 who become eligible for the draft every year.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chile Bars Pregnant Girl from Having an Abortion; Girl, 11, Raped for 2 Years by Her Mother's Partner

The case of a pregnant 11-year-old girl -- who was raped in Chile by her mother's partner -- has set off a national debate about abortion in one of the most socially conservative countries in Latin America, the Huffington Post website reports today (July 6, 2013).

Chileans were outraged yesterday after state TV reported that the girl is 14 weeks pregnant and was raped repeatedly over the past two years. Police in the remote southern city of Puerto Montt arrested her mother's partner, who confessed to raping the fifth grader.

Doctors say the girl's life and that of the fetus are at high risk. But in Chile, ending the pregnancy is not an option.

Chile allowed abortions for medical reasons until they were outlawed in 1973 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. The current government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has opposed any loosening of the prohibition.

Coptic Orthodox Christian Priest Killed in Egypt; Due to Egypt's Pope's Blessing of Mursi's Ouster?

Gunmen shot dead a Coptic Orthodox Christian priest in Egypt's lawless Northern Sinai today (July 6, 2013), in what could be the first sectarian attack since the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, according to the Reuters website.

The priest, Mina Aboud Sharween, was attacked this afternoon while walking in the Masaeed area in El Arish.

The shooting in the coastal city was one of several attacks believed to be by Islamist insurgents that included the firing at four military checkpoints in the region, security sources said.

Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood party has fiercely criticized Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros -- spiritual leader of Egypt's 8 million Christians -- for giving his blessing to the removal of President Mursi and attending the announcement by armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suspending the constitution. A few weeks ago, Pope Tawadros said that Islamist President Mursi treated Christians worse than they have ever been treated in Egypt during the past 2,000 years.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Venezuelan Pres. Would Grant Snowden Asylum; So He Can Prevent Persecution from "the Empire"

Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said today (July 5, 2013) they are willing to grant asylum to NSA (National Security Agency) leaker Edward Snowden, according to the USA Today website.

Snowden -- who is believed to be in Russia -- has asked for asylum in several countries, including Nicaragua and Venezuela.

"As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live without ... persecution from 'the empire,'" Maduro said, referring to the United States. He made the offer during a speech in Caracas marking the anniversary of Venezuela's independence.

In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer "if circumstances allow it." Ortega didn't say what "the right circumstances" would be when he spoke during a speech in Managua. "We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies," Ortega said.

Man Kept Wife Locked in Home as His Sex Slave; He Only Let Wife Eat in Return for Sex for 10 Yrs.

A brutal husband -- who kept his wife locked in their home in Poland as his sex slave for 10 years -- is facing life behind bars, the Austrian Times website reports today (July 5, 2013).

Cruel Pawel Liskewicz, 35, would only allow wife Marta Nowak, 30, to eat in return for sex, and refused to let her set foot outside the house for more than a decade.

He was seized by police when she managed to escape and asked her shocked neighbors in Chorzow to dial 999.

Police spokesman Justyna Dziedzic said: "A man has been charged with false imprisonment, torture, and rape."

Egypt's Mil. Fires at Pro-Morsi Protesters in Cairo; At Least One Pro-Morsi Demonstrator Is Killed

Security forces opened fire and launched tear gas at supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo today (July 5, 2013), killing at least one person at a demonstration outside the building where Morsi is being held, the Washington Post website reports.

In the chaos, the precise number of casualties was not clear. Witnesses said several persons were injured, and some news outlets reported that multiple people were killed. The Muslim Brotherhood -- which was among the organizers of the pro-Morsi rallies -- said in a statement that five protesters were killed in Egypt today.

The violence added to concerns of an escalation between Morsi's mostly Islamist supporters and their decades-old nemesis, Egypt's powerful security forces, two days after the military forced Morsi from office.

As helicopters circled over the Republican Guard headquarters, one witness said that a man was fatally shot in the head and was carried away in a shroud by protesters.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Russia Passes Law Banning Gay Couple Adoptions; Putin Denies Russia Discriminates Against Gays

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on July 3 banning the adoption of children by same-sex couples, as part of an increasingly conservative agenda the Kremlin is pursuing since his return to power, the Reuters website reports today (July 4, 2013).

Earlier this week, Putin signed another law banning gay "propaganda," which human rights groups say has increased hate crimes against homosexuals.

Putin -- who has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority and harnessed its influence as a source of political support -- has championed socially conservative values since starting a new six-year term in May 2012.

The latest law aims to protect children from "dictated non-traditional sexual behavior" and rid them of "distresses of soul and stresses, which according to psychologists' research, are often experienced by children raised by same-sex parents," according to a fact sheet on the Kremlin's website. Putin, 60, denies there is discrimination in Russia against gays.

Ind. Day Has Its Roots in Ancient Greece; US Democratic Rule of Free People Began in Greece

Today (July 4, 2013) is Independence Day in the United States, and the key element to America's independence -- democracy -- has its roots in ancient Greece, the Greek Reporter website reports.

America is very thankful to Greece for its influence on our nation's democracy. President Obama has described that influence in the proclamation he issued this year commemorating Greek Independence Day (March 25):

"Two hundred and thirty-six years ago, a new American Nation was founded on an old Greek principle -- democratic rule by a free people. We trace this enduring idea to ancient Hellas, where Greeks brought forth the world's first democracy and kindled a philosophical tradition that would stand the test of time."

The proclamation continues: "As America's Founders built a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, they drew inspiration from the democratic pioneers who shaped a small group of ancient Greek city states. In the years since, Greece and America have strengthened that connection through shared history and deep partnerships between our people."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Five Muslim Men Attack Jewish Family in France; Give Nazi Salute, Scream "Heil Hitler...Dirty Jew"

A Jewish family in Lesigny, France was verbally and physically assaulted with an iron rod by five Muslim men on June 23, the Europe News website reports today (July 3, 2013).

During the assault, the Muslim men did the Nazi salute while screaming "Heil Hitler, we should have burned you all and finish the job in '40. Dirty Jew. I will burn your house with you and your sons in it." Additional remarks were even more obscene.

The incident began when a young Jewish man -- concerned for the safety of children attempting to cross the street in front of his house while a neighbor was racing a motorcycle up and down that street -- asked the neighbor, who is Muslim, to stop and wait.

The motorcyclist's family came to his rescue and four other Muslim assailants then joined in and assaulted all of the Jewish family members. One young Jewish woman ended up with a broken wrist.

Mil. Tells Morsi He's No Longer Pres.of Egypt; Tanks Go Toward Pres. Palace, Coup Expected

A state-run Egyptian newspaper reveals that Mohammed Morsi has been told by the military that he is no longer president of Egypt, the National Journal website reports today (July 3, 2013).

The deadline that the Egyptian military gave Morsi to solve the political crisis in the country has come and gone, and there are widespread reports that a military coup is underway.

Egyptian soldiers and tanks are moving on the ground toward the presidential palace where Morsi supporters have gathered, while a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman is saying the military has taken over. An official announcement from the military is expected soon.

Reuters reported that a political roadmap will be announced soon by the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church and opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vatican Panel Clears John Paul II for Sainthood; Date for Ceremony Could Come as Soon as Dec. 8

A Vatican official said today (July 2, 2013) that Pope John Paul II has cleared the final obstacle before being made a saint, awaiting just the final approval from Pope Francis and a date for the ceremony that could come as soon as December 8, 2013, according to the Associated Press website.

A commission of cardinals and bishops met today to consider John Paul's case and signed off on it.

One possible canonization date is December 8 -- the feast of the Immaculate Conception -- a major feast day for the Catholic Church. This year the feast coincidentally falls on a Sunday, which is when canonizations usually occur.

The Vatican official -- who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized by the church to discuss saint-making cases on the record -- confirmed reports in La Stampa newspaper that John Paul could be canonized together with Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council but died in 1963 before it was finished.

Univ. Directs Student to Remove Cross Necklace; Supervisor Said Univ. Forbade Wearing Rel. Items

A Sonoma State University student has filed a religious accommodation request after she was ordered to remove her cross necklace because it might offend other students, the Fox News Insider website reports exclusively today (July 2, 2013).

"It is amazing in this day of diversity and tolerance on university campuses that a university official would engage in this type of obvious religious discrimination," said Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser.

Liberty Institute is representing Audrey Jarvis, 19, a liberal arts major at the northern California university.

On June 27, Jarvis -- while working at a student orientation fair for incoming freshmen -- was directed by her supervisor to remove her cross necklace, because the university chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items.

A university spokeswoman said today that Jarvis's supervisor was "completely wrong" in asking her to remove her necklace, and that the university president plans to apologize to Jarvis.

Ukrainian Policemen Accused of Raping Woman; Sparks Riots in Ukraine,Parliament Orders Inquiry

Riots have been occurring in the small town of Vradiyevka in southern Ukraine today (July 2, 2013), where a gang rape of a woman by police officers allegedly took place, the Euro News website reports.

Mobs stormed the town's police headquarters, after authorities refused to detain one of the policemen accused of rape.

Iryna Krashkova, 29, says she was beaten and raped by two policemen after being grabbed on a street and forced into a taxi.

In Kiev -- the capital of Ukraine -- there were more demonstrations close to the presidential palace. Parliament has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Two Pakistani Sisters Killed for Dancing in Rain; Believed to Be "Honor Killings" for Indecent Act

In what are believed to be Islamic "honor killings," two teenage Pakistani sisters were shot and killed yesterday, after they were accused of dishonoring their family's name by recording themselves dancing in the rain, the Inquisitr website reports today (July 1, 2013).

Noor Basra, 15, and her 16-year-old sister Noor Sheza, were dressed in traditional clothing as they danced outside their bungalow in Chilas, in Pakistan's northern region of Gilgit. The video of them dancing was taken six months ago, and footage had been shown in the conservative Pakistani town.

The sisters and their mother, Noshehra, were shot and killed in their home by five gunmen yesterday.

Police believe the murders may have been arranged by the girls' stepbrother, Khutore, who wanted to "restore the family honor." Khutore fled to avoid police, but the four accomplices confessed to the murders.

Israeli Nabbed for Defacing Christian Monastery; Painted "Jesus Is a Monkey" on West Bank Bldg.

An Israeli is under arrest for the vandalism of a Christian monastery in the occupied West Bank last year, carried out in solidarity with hardline Jewish settlers, the Newsmax World website reports today (July 1, 2013).

The words "Jesus is a monkey" were painted on the wall in Hebrew on the 19th century Latrum Monastery, and the monastery's doors were torched.

The September act was condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the perpetrators had threatened freedom of religion and must be punished.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a 22-year-old man from Bnei Brak -- a predominantly Orthodox Jewish town near Tel Aviv -- was arrested yesterday and was due to be arraigned in court today.