Saturday, August 31, 2013

Aussie Politician Finds Burqa as "Confronting;" "Not the Sort of Attire I'd Like on Our Streets"

The Australian leader of the Opposition Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, has confessed that he finds the burqa "confronting," the Big News Network website reports today (August 31, 2013).

The burqa -- the enveloping outer garment worn by some Muslim women -- came under fire earlier this week by another Liberal candidate for the forthccoming election, Ray King.

While drawing a link between the burqa and criminality, King described the Islamic attire as a "sign of oppression."

Speaking to reporters while campaigning in Queensland, Tony Abbott defended King, saying: "Frankly, it's not the sort of attire that I would like to see widespread in our streets."

Pope Ousts Cardinal in Effort to Enhance Admin.; Names Senior Vatican Diplomat His Sec. of State

Pope Francis today (August 31, 2013) appointed a senior Vatican diplomat as his new Secretary of State, ousting divisive cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as he looks to overhaul the Catholic Church's scandal-ridden administration, according to the Yahoo News website.

The pope's replacement for the "number two position" at the Vatican, Italian cleric Pietro Parolin, 58, is currently the Catholic Church's envoy to Venezuela and has worked on improving ties with communist China.

"The Holy Father has accepted ... the resignation of His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone," the Vatican said in an announcement, adding that the changeover would formally take place on October 15.

Pope Francis has shown a strong reformist drive in his first few months in office and has set up a series of committees aimed at reforming the disgraceful Vatican hierarchy, its economic affairs, and its bank.

Friday, August 30, 2013

NJ Motor Vehicles Dept. Allows "ATHEIST" Plate; American Atheists Pres. Dave Silverman Wins Row

Every state's Department of Motor Vehicles routinely rejects applications for vanity license plates that are deemed offensive or in poor taste, but officials in New Jersey apparently didn't have the stomach for a high-volume fight over an application for an "ATHEIST" plate, the Charisma News website reports today (August 30, 2013).

New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) initially rejected the application from David Silverman -- president of the Cranford, New Jersey-based American Atheists -- as "objectionable."

When Silverman called the MVC to lodge a complaint, he was told the word is "offensive." A legal defense fund was set up and Silverman readied for battle, but on August 28, Silverman was told he could have the plate.

"'Atheist' is not an offensive or objectionable word any more than the word 'Jew' or 'Christian' or 'man' or 'woman' is," Silverman said. "The word is used on dog tags for the U.S. government. It is who and what I am."

Chief Justice Opens Israeli Courts Rosh Hashanah; Says Detaining Suspects for 3 Days "Unacceptable"

Israeli magistrate courts will continue to process arraignments over Rosh Hashanah this year, as a result of a special order by Supreme Court Chief Justice Asher Grunis, the Jewish Press website reports today (August 30, 2013).

This year, Rosh Hashanah -- the only 2-day Jewish holiday observed in Israel -- begins Wednesday night (September 4), which means that the state's non-emergency services will be suspended by law until Sunday morning.

This would result in suspects remaining in detention without an arraignment before a judge for three days, which the Chief Justice finds unacceptable. It also conveys a higher level of attention to defendants' rights than in the United States, where anyone arrested late on a Friday must wait behind bars for their arraignment until Monday -- or even until Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday.

The national court employees union said it objects to Grunis's Rosh Hashanah directive, but its members will not challenge it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MA Church Robbed of "Everything But the Pews;" Springfield Church Member: "We'll Bring It Back"

A church in Springfield, Massachusetts has been robbed of everything from its organ to kitchen utensils, the UPI website reports today (August 29, 2013).

Investigators say the thief entered the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ last week using a key. Police Sgt. John Delaney said the theft occurred sometime between Tuesday and Thursday last week.

Bernadine Smith -- a member of the church for many years -- estimated the value of the stolen items at about $150,000. "The church was totally stripped, everything but the pews and a couple of chairs out of the pulpit," she said.

The church was founded 80 years ago in Springfield and has been in its current building since 1965. While it once had about 300 members, Smith said that the congregation -- like many inner-city churches -- has become smaller. She added, "We are going to bring it back."

FYROM Muslims Oppose Const. of Orth. Church; Muslim Clerics Fuel Protest, Police Guard Const.

Police are monitoring the situation in the village of Oktisi near Struga in southwestern FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) where last weekend ethnic Albanian Muslims prevented a ground-breaking ceremony for a small Greek Orthodox Church being built by ethnic Macedonians, the Balkan Insight website reports today (August 29, 2013). "The situation is calm, but our patrols are vigilant," a police spokesperson said.

Media reported that last Saturday evening, local Muslim clerics used evening prayers to call believers to protest the next morning against the construction of the church.

On Sunday, more than 100 ethnic Albanians gathered at the construction site and prevented the first ground being broken for the construction of the small church dedicated to St. Demetrius.

A police cordon prevented occasional scuffles between villagers from turning into a major fight, Macedonian news media reported. "We have been deprived of our basic human right to walk freely on this Macedonian land," local Greek Orthodox priest Zoran told media after the incident.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NYPD Slyly Called Mosques "Terror Enterprises;" Saw Them as "Shields for the Work of Terrorists"

The New York Police Department (NYPD) secretly opened "terrorism enterprise investigations" into at least 10 of the city's mosques, effectively designating every single congregant as a valid surveillance target, the Newser website reports today (August 28, 2013).

Documents uncovered by the Associated Press show that the NYPD spied on countless Muslims, and even tried to get informants onto the boards of mosques and other Islamic institutions.

The department succeeded in convincing a federal judge to rewrite the rules to allow such tactics in 2003, arguing that mosques could "shield the work of terrorists."

The NYPD also sent informants into the mosques carrying hidden recording devices.

Toronto Muslim Made Murder Threats on Flight; Dogan Akkaya Charged with Terrorist Hoax

Mass-murder threats uttered by a Muslim aboard a Toronto-to-Istanbul flight led to serious charges against a Turkish national, the Europe News website reports today (August 28, 2013).

"You will hear 'bang bang' and everyone is going to die," a flight attendant was told on Air Transit Flight TS100. The pilot of the Airbus A330 with 316 passengers on board turned back 90 minutes out of Montreal's Trudeau Airport on August 25.

Dogan Akkaya, 25, of Toronto, was arrested and charged with committing a hoax regarding terrorist activity as well as assault, threats, and criminal harassment. The terror-related charge could land him a 10-year prison term.

Akkaya's bail hearing -- scheduled for yesterday -- was postponed after his lawyer requested a psychiatric evaluation. Quebec Court Judge Jean-Paul Braun agreed to the evaluation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Greece OKs US Use of Bases for Attack on Syria; Bases in Southern Greece to Facilitate US Mission

Washington has asked Greece for permission to use its military bases in Kalamata and Souda for a possible strike on Syria over the alleged use of toxic gas in Ghouta on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, The National Herald website reports today (August 27, 2013).

The two bases in Peloponnesus -- the large southern peninsula of Greece --  and on the Greek island of Crete would be used by the American air force and navy. The U.S. is expected to bomb Syria this week. U.S. intelligence data clearly indicates that Assad's government was responsible for the chemicals used last week that killed hundreds of Syrians, despite Assad's denial.

The Greek government has given the green light but stated that it will not take part in any direct military action in Syria for fear of reprisals.

Also, a buildup of warplanes and military transporters has been reported at the British airbase in Akrotiri on the predominantly Greek-populated island of Cyprus, which is less than 100 miles from Syria.

Albanian-Run Racketeering Gang Nabbed in US; Used Firms in Philly to Conduct Illegal Gambling

Nine members of an Albanian-run gang -- allegedly involved in loan-sharking and illegal gambling -- were arrested on August 23, and are expected to appear this week before a court in Philadelphia, the Balkan Insight website reports today (August 27, 2013).

The indictment was unsealed last week during a preliminary hearing and the process is expected to continue in Philadelphia on August 28.

"The principal objectives of the enterprise included generating money for the enterprise, and enriching its members and associates through, among other things, loan sharking, extortion, illegal gambling, and the collection of unlawful debts," the indictment says.

The indictment says the defendants and their associates used various businesses located in Philadelphia to conduct loan-sharking activities and illegal gambling. Seven of the defendants are Albanian, while two are American.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pakistani Imam Kills Wife for Not Wearing Veil; Said He Punished Wife for Ignoring Allah's Orders

A Pakistani imam being sought by police confessed to chopping his wife into 10 pieces because she refused to wear a veil and for sending their children to a non-religious school, the Clarion Project website reports today (August 26, 2013).

Muhammad Sharif, 42, of Bakkhal Bhir, Pakistan was the prayer leader at his neighborhood mosque and also gave Quran lessons in his home. Sharif was known to be short-tempered; his wife, Farzana Bibi, was often the victim of his physical abuse.

Although Bibi wore an abaya (a long cloak), Sharif insisted that she cover her face with a veil when she left the house, making the Islamic ritual a constant source of friction.

Police found Bibi's body not far from their house. They also found the murder weapon along with a confession written by Sharif stating that killing Bibi was "the best way to punish his wife for rebelling against Allah's orders." 

Der Spiegel: NSA Bugged UN's New York Hdqrs.; Says US Has Surveillance System in 80 Embassies

The United States National Security Agency (NSA) bugged the United Nations New York Headquarters according to Germany's weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, the Euro News website reports today (August 26, 2013).

The article said experts from the NSA cracked the UN video conferencing system in the summer of 2012.

US documents obtained by fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden stated how the European Union and the United Nations Vienna-based watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, were also targeted.

The report in Der Spiegel also told how the United States had a surveillance program in 80 of its embassies and consulates around the world.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ukrainians Hold Ceremony Hailing Nazi Germany; WJC Urges Orth. Church to End Nazi Events

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church should work to stop clergy from participating in neo-Nazi events in Ukraine, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) said today (August 25, 2013) in a letter to the head of the church, according to the Orthodox Church Info blog.

WJC President Ronald Lauder asked Patriarch Filaret in a letter to speak out against events glorifying the Nazis. Lauder referred to a recent ceremony near Lviv, Ukraine marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Galician division of the Waffen SS, in which Ukrainians fought on the side of Nazi Germany.

The WJC president wrote: "I was horrified to see photographs of young Ukrainians wearing the dreaded SS uniform with swastikas clearly visible on their helmets as they carried caskets of members of this Nazi unit, lowered them into their new graves, and fired gun salutes in their honor. I was especially troubled by the participation in this ceremony of a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that appeared to give a religious legitimacy to the rehabilitation of the SS."

In his letter, Lauder expressed hope that Patriarch Filaret would use his "moral authority to prevent any further rehabilitation of Nazism or the SS, and that you will call on the clergy of your Church not to participate in any future ceremonies or events that glorify or legitimize a uniform that epitomizes the evil of genocide."

Sweden Split on Muslim Women Wearing Hijab; Critics Say It Retains Symbol of Female Oppression

In gender-equality Sweden, a grassroots movement defending women's right to wear hijab has split the nation, backed by politicians and celebrities while critics say it supports a symbol of female "oppression," the Yahoo News website reports today (August 25, 2013).

Hundreds of Swedish women have posted photographs of themselves wearing headscarves on social media sites to show solidarity with a heavily pregnant Muslim woman who says she was attacked outside of Stockholm for wearing a veil.

Police are searching for witnesses to the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime.

The number of hate crimes against Muslim women has increased significantly in Sweden during the past year. Some Swedish social anthropologists believe that Muslim women were being used as scapegoats in the face of rising unemployment in Sweden, as well as in most European countries.

All 5 Suspects of Mumbai, India Rape Arrested; Raped Woman,22, Interning for British Magazine

Police in India said today (August 25, 2013) that all five men suspected of gang-raping a journalist have been arrested, according to the Daily Beast website.

The woman -- a 22-year-old intern at a British magazine -- was sexually assaulted at Shakti Mills, an abandoned textile mill in the center of Mumbai, on August 22.

She had gone to shoot photos with a male colleague, who was beaten during the assault.

The woman -- who is still in the hospital recovering from her injuries -- said she wanted the "strictest punishment" for her attackers, but she plans to return to her work.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

UK Judge Tells Muslim Woman to Remove Burka; Won't Let Her Enter Plea as Burka Hides Her ID

A 21-year-old Muslim woman from Hackney, England was not allowed to enter a plea at a crown court in London, because her burka did not reveal her face, the Big News Network website reports today (August 24, 2013).

The woman -- who is charged with intimidating a witness -- said she could not remove the veil in front of men because of her religion.

Judge Peter Murphy pointed out, however, she could not stand trial in the veil, which only reveals her eyes, because her identity could not be confirmed.

He said it was necessary for the court to be satisfied that they could recognize the defendant, adding that while he respected her right to dress in any way she wishes while outside the court, inside the court the interests of justice are paramount. The woman is scheduled to return to Blackfriars Crown Court on September 12.

Pentagon Plans Imminent Missile Attack on Syria; Due to Assad Chemical Attack Killing Over 1,000

The Pentagon is planning an attack on Syrian government forces with cruise missiles, and is waiting President Obama's approval to strike, the UPI website reports today (August 24, 2013).

Gen. Martin Dempsey -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- is expected to present options for such a strike during a meeting today at the White House.

The Defense Department was prepared to provide the president "ranges for all contingencies" to respond to the Syrian government's attacks on its civilians, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters as he began his second official trip to the Asia-Pacific region.

The likelihood of an imminent U.S. attack in the Syrian conflict comes after a report this week that more than 1,000 men, women, and children died in what is believed to be a chemical weapons attack by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Friday, August 23, 2013

NM Supreme Court Ruling Favors Lesbian Couple; Christian Photographers Can't Deny Gay Weddings

The New Mexico Supreme Court decided yesterday that professional photographers in that state may not refuse to work at gay weddings, the Christian Post website reports today (August 23, 2013).

When Elane Photography refused to work for Vanessa Willock, a lesbian, at her same-sex wedding, the court said it violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA), which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based upon sexual orientation.

"We conclude that a commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the NMHRA and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples," Justice Edward Chavez wrote for the majority.

Elane Photography is not protected by their rights to freely exercise their religion, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution, because NMHRA is a "neutral law of general applicability," the court said. Elane Photography plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Israel Bombs Lebanon in Return for Rocket Attack; Bombing Comes Day After 4 Rockets Fired at Israel

Israel's air force bombed a militant target south of Lebanon's Capital Beirut today (August 23, 2013) in retaliation for a cross-border rocket attack yesterday, according to the France 24 website.

The air strike targeted a "terror site" near Na'ameh -- between Beirut and Sidon -- an Israeli military source reports.

A Palestinian militant group based in Lebanon -- the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) -- confirmed that its base in Na'ameh had been hit by an Israeli rocket today, but said it caused no injuries or significant damage.

The move comes one day after four rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel. The attack -- which was later claimed by the al Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group Abdullah Azzam Brigade -- caused damage but no casualties.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Greece Blocks Albanians from Re-Entering Nation; Due to Albania Converting Church to Cultural Ctr.

Hundreds of Albanian migrants -- returning to Greece from holidays -- were denied entry at the Greek border yesterday after a dispute erupted between Albania and the Greek Orthodox Church, the Balkan Insight website reports today (August 22, 2013).

The tension rose on August 16 after bailiffs -- backed by a security company -- evicted Orthodox clerics from a culture center in the town of Permet on the border with Greece, which they have used as a church for more than a decade. The clergy claim it was built on the grounds of a former church, which was destroyed when Albania's former Communist regime outlawed religion in 1967.

"A security company paid by someone desecrated the Orthodox Church," Greek Orthodox Church head Archbishop Janullatos said in a statement. "Are we in 2013, when we want to integrate into Europe, or in 1967, when the Communist Party thought that it could eradicate religion from the heart of Albanians?" he inquired.

Albania -- the poorest country in Europe -- is reluctant to antagonize Greece openly. Greece is the host to Albania's largest emigrant community in Europe, and their remittances are a lifeline for Albania's weak economy. Although Greece broadly supports Albania's goal of eventual EU (European Union) membership, it routinely uses Albanian immigrants in Greece as pawns when the going gets tough.

Christians Suing NJ Over Gay Conversion Law; Law Violates 1st Amendment Rights of Therapists

Licensed therapists in New Jersey are banned from using conversion therapy to try to change a child's sexual orientation from gay to straight under a bill Gov. Chris Christie signed into law on August 19, the Charisma News website reports today (August 22, 2013).

But now a national Christian legal group -- which blocked an identical law from taking effect in California earlier this year -- has vowed to sue New Jersey, saying that the legislation violates the First Amendment rights of parents and therapists.

The new law prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselors related to these professions from using sexual orientation change efforts with a child under age 18. Offenders jeopardize their licensed status under the new law, which does not apply to clergy, or anyone who is not licensed by the state.

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said his organization "will immediately file suit" at the request of New Jersey counselors and parents and national counseling organizations. "The New Jersey governor is putting himself in every counseling room, dictating what kind of counseling clients can receive," Staver said. He added, "This bill provides a slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Benedict: "I Resigned Because God Told Me to;" Contradicts His Original Reason of Advanced Age

Former pope Benedict now claims that his resignation in February was prompted by God, who told him to do it during a "mystical experience," The Guardian website reports today (August 21, 2013).

Breaking his silence for the first time since he became the first pope to step down in 600 years, the 86-year-old reportedly said: "God told me to" when asked what had pushed him to retire to a secluded residence in the Vatican gardens.

Benedict denied he had been visited by an apparition or had heard God's voice, but said he had undergone a "mystical experience" during which God had inspired in him an "absolute desire" to dedicate his life to prayer rather than push on as pope.

Benedict's remarks contradict the explanation he gave to cardinals when he announced his resignation on February 11. "My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he said at that time. Italian press reports have recently claimed that Benedict resigned because he was frustrated by a network of influence built up at the Vatican by a pro-gay lobby of prelates.

ZOA Says Anti-Semitism Debases Northeastern U.; Sends Letter to NU President to Stop Hostility

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) recently sent a letter to Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun, asserting that he put an end to professors' academic bias against Israel, as well as to the intimidation being used to silence Jewish students who defend their Jewish identity in the classroom, the Spero Forum website reports today (August 21, 2013).

According to ZOA's investigation, political science professor Denis Sullivan -- director of Northeastern's Middle East Center -- goes furthest in abusing his authority in the classroom to violate his students' academic freedom. As one Jewish student described the classroom milieu, "When you question what Sullivan tells the class about Israel, Sullivan finds a way to make you feel stupid."

The ZOA makes it clear that Sullivan is not the only instructor who has been discriminatory against Jews at the Boston institution of higher learning. Other instructors and staff members that ZOA alleges are anti-Semitic include Berna Turam, professor of sociology and international affairs; Shahid Alam, professor of economics and a Muslim citizen of Pakistan; Uta Poiger, a Northeastern interim dean; Stephen Director, Northeastern provost; and Lori Lefkovitz, chair of Northeastern's Jewish Studies Department and a Jew herself, who claims that there is "no hostility toward Jews" at Northeastern.

ZOA's letter to Northeastern President Aoun exposes with intense moral clarity the stark failure of Jewish leaders and American educational institutions to keep Jewish students safe from a hostile environment. It is a wakeup call for all Jews and people of conscience to speak out in condemning this failure. Only consistent and unyielding pressure will protect Jewish youth from this kind of hatred.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Past Pakistan PM Musharraf Indicted for Murder; Charged with 2007 Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

In a sudden erosion of military privilege and impunity, a Pakistani court indicted former ruler Pervez Musharraf today (August 20, 2013) in connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- the first time that such a senior general has faced criminal charges in Pakistan -- according to the New York Times website.

The court filed three charges against Musharraf, 70, including murder and conspiracy to murder, said prosecutor Chaudhry Muhammed Azhar. He spoke after the court's brief hearing in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Reporters were excluded from the hearing.

Musharraf pleaded not guilty, his lawyers said. Afterward, police commandos and paramilitary rangers escorted him back to his villa on the edge of Islamabad, where he has been under house arrest since April in connection with other cases stemming from his nine-year rule, from 1999 to 2008.

The symbolism of a once untouchable general being called to account was critical in a predominantly Muslim country that has been led by the military for about half of its 66-year history. While the military remains deeply powerful in Pakistan, the prosecution of Musharraf signals that even the country's top generals are sometimes subject to the rule of law -- at least after they have retired.

Church Ordered to Pay Woman Fired for Adultery; Laws in Singapore Protect Pregnant Workers

The Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore has been ordered to pay $5,500 in salary to a woman who was fired allegedly for committing adultery, the Christian Post website reports today (August 20, 2013).

The megachurch -- which is home to over 10,000 members and is one of the largest in Singapore -- has said that it will abide by the court order, although it insisted that it was right to fire the woman last September.

"If we concede that the dismissal was unjust, it means we are condoning adultery and it will weaken our moral and spiritual authority in the organization," said the church's senior pastor, Lawrence Khong, who founded the church in 1986.

The woman handled administrative duties for the church, and was finalizing her divorce when she found out that she was pregnant with the child of another church worker, who later resigned. Singapore's labor laws protect female workers from dismissal if they are at least four months pregnant.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Orth. Patriarch of Kiev Ends Grudge with UOC-MP; "Unless One Forgives, One Will Not Enter Heaven"

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Patriarch Filaret, has repeatedly spoken critically of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), but he does not say anything offensive about Metropolitan Volodymyr (Slobodan), Primate of the UOC-MP, the Orthodox Church Info Blog reports today (August 19, 2013).

"A long time ago, I removed from my heart the grudges I had against His Beatitude Volodymyr. When we meet, we feel fine. I do at least. We haven't had a chance to sit together for tea because he is forbidden from meeting with me. But I would like to," Patriarch Filaret said in an interview to RISU (Religious Information Service of Ukraine).

"At other times, of course, it was different. Once upon a time it was difficult to forgive. Now it is easier. With age, it is always easier to do. One understands that unless one forgives, one will not enter the kingdom of heaven. As Christ said, if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins," notes the UOC-KP hierarch.

The Ukrainian Christian Church was split into several divisions after Ukraine gained its independence resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. The three major divisions -- which exist today -- are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which conducts Greek Orthodox-oriented church services, but comes under the jurisdiction of the Papacy in Rome, not the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Lawmakers Call on Romania to Return Churches; Gave Cath. Churches to Orth. Church after WWII

A group of 20 U.S. lawmakers is urging the Romanian government to return the churches it seized after World War II, the Catholic Culture website reports today (August 19, 2013).

Following Soviet occupation, Romania became a Communist state, seized Romanian Greek Catholic Churches, and turned them over to Romania's Greek Orthodox Church.

The Communist government -- eventually overthrown in 1989 -- also confiscated many Protestant church buildings.

The lawmakers -- led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) -- called upon the U.S. State Department to "vigorously engage the Romanian government to end the travesty of justice which it has perpetuated by failing to fully restitute properties illegally confiscated from religious denominations."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cath. School Won't Employ Fired Lesbian Teacher; Bishop: Fired Due to "Quasi-Spousal Relationship"

A lesbian teacher -- who challenged her firing by a Roman Catholic school in Columbus, Ohio -- will not get her job back as part of a settlement reached with the Diocese of Columbus, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (August 18, 2013).

Attorneys for Carla Hale and the diocese say that as part of the agreement, Hale will receive "acknowledgement" for her years of service at Bishop Watterson High School. Both parties declined to give details of the settlement. (Acknowledgement could refer to financial compensation.)

Hale -- who had been a physical education teacher at the Catholic school for 18 years -- said she was fired after her mother's obituary in a local paper included the name of her (Hale's) lesbian partner, and someone complained of her sexual orientation to the Columbus Diocese.

Bishop Frederick Campbell had said that Hale was fired not because of her sexual orientation, but because she violated the church's moral teaching by having what he described as a "quasi-spousal relationship" with a woman.

Judge Nullifies Okla. Anti-Sharia Const. Amend.; Violates the Establishment Clause of US Const.

A proposed amendment to Oklahoma's state constitution that would have prevented the state courts from considering Sharia (Islamic law) was struck down by a federal judge on August 15, the World Wide Religious News website reports today (August 18, 2013).

Chief District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that the amendment's references to Sharia -- or Islamic law -- violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual's constitutional rights," she ruled.

"Throughout the case, the state couldn't present even a shred of evidence to justify this discriminatory, unnecessary measure," Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said in a statement.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Egypt Peruses Dumping Muslim Brotherhood; Party May Become Illegal Due to Terrorist Acts

Egyptian authorities rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists and began considering legally dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood, as the party defiantly called for a week of nationwide protests starting today. Among those arrested was the brother of al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Newsmax World website reports today (August 17, 2013).

The move came after yesterday's death toll in protests added another 173 people killed to more than 600 slain earlier in the week. More than 1,300 have been wounded in clashes around the country with almost half of the injured from central Cairo violence alone.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Bablawi proposed today the legal dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood party and the idea is being studied by the government, a spokesman for the government said. The proposal was made to Egypt's ministry of social affairs, which licenses non-governmental organizations, spokesman Sherif Shawky said.

Egypt's interior ministry said more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood "elements" had been arrested today, accusing members of Morsi's movement of committing acts of terrorism during the clashes.

Switzerland Opens 9 "Sex Boxes" for Prostitution; Unique Structures Built for Safety of Prostitutes

Switzerland -- a country where prostitution has been legal since 1992 -- will officially open nine garage-style structures in Zurich on August 26, in which men can have sex with prostitutes, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (August 17, 2013).

The drive-in "sex boxes" -- as they are being called -- are part of a drive by authorities in Zurich to regulate prostitution, combat pimping, and improve the safety of prostitutes.

Men will drive their cars on a clearly marked route along which up to 40 prostitutes will be stationed. Once a man has chosen one of the women and negotiated a fee for her services, he will drive into one of the wooden sheds. Each shed contains a safety alarm that a woman can use if she is in danger.

The site is only open to drivers of cars -- pedestrians and men on motorbikes are not allowed -- and will operate from early evening until 5 a.m. each day. The project -- which cost some 1.4 million Swiss francs to build -- was approved by the voters in Zurich last year in a referendum.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fla. Pastor Guilty of Stealing $100K from Church; Joe Hardie Is Free Until His Oct. 3 Sentencing

A former central Florida pastor is free on bail, after a jury found him guilty of stealing more than $100,000 from New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, the Miami Herald website reports today (August 16, 2013).

It took about an hour of deliberation on August 14 for jurors in Bartow to reach a verdict.

Joe Seephis Hardie, 68, was found guilty of scheming to defraud, grand theft, and money laundering. The two most serious charges each carry maximum punishments of 30 years in prison.

The judge allowed Hardie to remain free until his October 3 sentencing. Prosecutors say Hardie took money from the church for personal use in 2007 and 2008 and a portion of 2009.

Rowan Williams to UK,US Christians:"Grow Up;" Says They Overact to Being Persecuted If Upset

Christians in Britain and the United States who claim they are persecuted should "grow up" and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling "mildly uncomfortable," according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as Archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade, the Raw Story website reports today (August 16, 2013).

"When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," he said. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. 'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say."

True persecution is "systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day." He cited the experience of a woman he met in India "who had seen her husband butchered by a mob."

Lord Williams' years as Archbishop of Canterbury were marked by turbulence over the church's stance on the role of gay priests and bishops, gay marriage, and homophobia in the wider Anglican communion -- with many members of the church expressing disappointment at a perceived hardening in its position on homosexuality.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lesbian Couple Files Complaint against Bakery; Won't Bake Wedding Cakes for Gay Couples

Two lesbians have filed a discrimination complaint in Oregon against a bakery that refused in January to make their wedding cake, the World Mag website reports today (August 15, 2013).

Aaron and Melissa Klein -- owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon -- say their Christian beliefs prevent them from baking wedding cakes for homosexual couples. Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer requested a wedding cake, but the Kleins said they would not participate in something they "strongly disagree " with.

Bowman and Cryer ordered their cake in January. When they came for the consultation, Aaron Klein apologized and told them the bakery wouldn't bake their cake. Melissa Klein said they have turned down several other homosexual couples, but this is the first complaint anyone has ever filed against them.

The official complaint -- filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries -- arrived on August 13. The Kleins have 14 days to respond. "I honestly don't know what comes after that," Aaron Klein said.

Obama Cancels Sept. US Mil. Exercises with Egypt; US Will Continue to Give Egypt Some $1.3B a Year

President Obama said today (August 15, 2013) that his government "strongly condemns" the violence in Egypt that has claimed over 500 lives, and he is canceling U.S.-Egyptian military exercises that had been scheduled for next month, the USA Today website reports.

Speaking from his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Obama did not suspend any other form of aid to Egypt; he said continued U.S. "engagement" with the military government in Cairo will help it transition back to democracy.

"But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said.

The president did not describe the military's removal of President Mohammed Morsi last month as "a coup" -- a declaration that would require ending U.S. aid to Egypt that adds up to about $1.3 billion a year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

At Least 149 Pro-Morsi Protesters Killed in Egypt; Mil. Forces Demolish 2 Huge Cairo Protest Camps

Egyptian security forces today (August 14, 2013) stormed two huge Cairo protests by supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, prompting the resignation of vice president Mohamed ElBaradei and sparking nationwide violence which left at least 149 people dead and another 1,403 injured, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

With clashes breaking out across the country and erupting in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, Egypt's army-installed authorities declared a month-long state of emergency effective from 4:00 p.m. today. They also slapped Cairo and other provinces with curfews between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Gory photographs and video images of the Cairo bloodbath at two camps dominated social media networks, as world powers -- including the United States -- called for restraint and condemned the show of force by Egypt's security forces. Military tanks were used to help demolish the two camps.

Also, four churches were attacked in Egypt today, with Christian activists accusing Morsi Muslim  loyalists of waging a war of retaliation against Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentenced to 30 Mos. in Prison; Admitted He Stole $750,000 of Campaign Funds

Jesse Jackson Jr. -- the namesake of famed civil rights leader and once-promising Illinois congressman -- was sentenced to two and one-half years in prison today (August 14, 2013) for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money to fund an extravagant lifestyle over many years, according to the Washington Post website.

Jackson, 48, and his wife Sandra Stevens Jackson, pleaded guilty last February to using about $750,000 in campaign funds to pay for high-end items, such as fur wraps and a gold-plated Rolex watch, in addition to private-school tuition.

"I misled the American people, I misled the House of Representatives," Jackson said in court today,  as he dabbed his eyes with a pile of tissues. "I was wrong and I do not fault anyone."

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation) said the former congressman and his wife used his campaign funds as a "personal piggy bank." She sentenced Sandra Jackson to one year in prison.

Calif. Passes Transgender School Bathroom Law; Boys in Schools Can Use Girls' Restrooms, Showers

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial bill into law late yesterday afternoon, allowing the state's transgender public school students to choose which bathrooms they use and whether they participate in boy or girl sports, the California Catholic Daily website reports today (August 14, 2013).

The law will cover the state's 6.2 million elementary and high school students in public schools.

Supporters say the law will help cut down bullying against transgender students. The families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts around the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use. California is the first state to pass a law of this magnitude, although four other states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, and Colorado -- have already adopted similar policies to protect transgendered pupils.

Opponents of the law say allowing students of one gender to use bathroom and locker facilities intended for the other could invade the other students' privacy. Randy Thomasson -- a strong opponent of the law -- says, "This radical bill warps the gender expectations of children by forcing all California public schools to permit biological boys in girls' restrooms, showers, clubs and on girls' sports teams, and biological girls in boys' restrooms, showers, clubs and sports teams. This is insanity."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Federal Judge Ends NYC's Stop-and-Frisk Policy; Violates "Unreasonable Searches" Clause of Const.

In a stunning decision handed down yesterday by federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin, New York City police were deemed "guilty" of a Mayor Bloomberg-supported policy of "systematically stopping innocent people" in the streets of New York, the All Voices website reports today (August 13, 2013).

Judge Scheindlin said that the NYPD deliberately, purposely stopped and frisked thousands upon thousands of usually young black and brown men on the slimest of pretexts. They were supposedly looking for weapons, drugs, or other contraband.

According to the federal judge, New York City police held little regard for the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibition against "unreasonable searches and seizures" by government agents.

Judge Scheindlin plans to appoint an "outside lawyer," Peter Zimroth, to monitor the NYPD's future compliance with this nation-state's Constitution. Zimroth is a former New York City corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Parents Sue School District for Ignoring Bullies; Son Called "Stingy Jew," Told "Get in the Oven"

The parents of a 13-year-old boy are suing their southeastern Massachusetts school district for ignoring verbal and physical attacks on their son by other students for being Jewish, the Jewish Press website reports today (August 13, 2013).

Jennyfer Sordillo and Robert Groezinger filed the lawsuit late last month against the Carver public schools in U.S. District Court in Boston. The parents claim their son was subjected to daily anti-Semitic attacks by a group of boys at his school.

The abuse included religious slurs, Nazi salutes, having pennies thrown at him, and being punched and kicked. The lawsuit claims the abuse has been occurring for two years and school officials "have done nothing to stop it," despite the boys' parents complaining repeatedly to them about the school bullying.

According to the lawsuit -- which was brought under the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law -- the boy was called names such as "stingy Jew," "dirty Jew," and "Jew boy," and was told after being saluted with the Hitler salute that he needed to "get in the oven."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fr. Patrick Dowling Identified as the "Angel" Priest; Saved Life of Girl Crushed in Car, "Disappeared"

The media in America was full of reports last week of a mystery priest who came to the aid of a seriously injured young woman trapped at the scene of a critical car accident in eastern Missouri. Rescue workers described his arrival as a "miracle" and say that the girl, 19-year-old university student Katie Lentz -- who had multiple injuries -- had been fading fast until the priest came and prayed with her, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (August 12, 2013).

Although more than 70 photographs were taken at the scene, none of them showed a priest, and the workers, and the girl's family were desperate to know who the priest was. The road had been blocked off a mile in either direction and it did not seem possible that someone could have got to the accident scene unnoticed.

Katie's mother, Carla, said emergency workers have told her there was no way her daughter should have lived inside such a mangled car. She said she believed the priest was an angel who had saved her daughter's life.

Late this afternoon, the mystery priest was identified as Father Patrick Dowling, from the Diocese of Jefferson City. Fr. Patrick explained that he had been on his way to celebrate Mass when he realized there was an accident ahead. He parked his car and walked 150 yards or so to see whether he could do anything to help. He gave Katie absolution, anointed her, and prayed with her for a short time. Then, the rescue workers needed space, so he said: "I stepped to one side and said my rosary silently until the lady was taken from the car -- then I left."

Katie will need more surgery, it was reported today, but the doctors are confident that she will make a full recovery. Indeed, Katie's survival of the accident was a miracle.

Judge Denies Mom Right to Name Son "Messiah;" Rules That Title Messiah Belongs to Jesus Alone

A mother in eastern Tennessee says she will appeal a court's decision that she can't name her son "Messiah," as a judge ruled that the "title has only been earned by one person, and that person is Jesus Christ," the Christian Post website reports today (August 12, 2013).

Jaleesa Martin and her husband -- who live in Newport, Tennessee -- went to the Cocke County Chancery Court after they couldn't agree on a last name of their seven-month-old baby, whom the mother had named Messiah Deshawn Martin. They never thought the child's first name would become an issue.

Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew -- who serves the 4th Judicial District of Tennessee -- ordered the child's name be changed to Martin Deshawn McCullough, so that it includes both parents' names and excludes the "title" Messiah. "The word Messiah is a title, and it's a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said.

Martin plans to take her case to the Cocke County Chancellor on September 17, and insists that it is her right to name her child as she wants to name him.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Swiss Luxury Shop Denies Racism Towards Oprah; Said $38,100 Handbag "Too Expensive for You"

The owner of a luxury goods shop in Zurich, Switzerland has denied that racism was involved when Oprah Winfrey was discouraged from buying a 35,000 Swiss franc ($38,100) handbag, the Reuters website reports today (August 10, 2013).

The U.S. talk show host -- recently named the world's most powerful celebrity -- was in Switzerland for the wedding of singer Tina Turner when the incident occurred last month.

The broadcaster said in two U.S. interviews that a sales assistant had refused to show her the crocodile handbag, saying it was "too expensive" for her and steering her towards other, cheaper ones.

Luxury shop Trois Pommes (Three Apples) denied discriminating against Winfrey -- an African-American -- who asked to look at a "Jennifer" purse, designed by Tom Ford and named for actress Jennifer Aniston. The owner claimed the incident was due to a "language barrier." Shop owner Trudie Goetz told Reuters yesterday, "This has nothing to do with racism."

Greek Orthodox Services Ended in Salt Lake City; Ended by Area Bishop Due to Priests' 40% Pay Cut

There won't be any more Sunday services, baptisms, weddings, or funerals in Salt Lake City, Utah's two Greek Orthodox Churches -- Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias -- per order of the regional metropolitan, due to a 40 percent pay cut for the churches' priests, the Salt Lake Tribune website reports today (August 10, 2013).

Metropolitan Isaiah -- the Denver-based Greek Orthodox leader whose region includes Utah -- recently ordered the three clergy members serving the community to "immediately suspend all priestly ministry to the parishes."

His directive came after the cash-strapped parish council voted July 29 to cut the pay of the three priests by 40 percent to balance the 2013 budget. "Our community is out of money and unable to meet the payroll this week," the parish council explained the next day in a letter to parishioners.

The 40 percent reduction for the three priests -- Father Michael Kouremetis, Father Matthew Gilbert, and Father Elias Koucos -- will save the parishes $124,980 annually, the council calculated. Parish Council Chairman Dimitrios Tsagaris said the council is working with Metropolitan Isaiah to find a solution to the situation, and expects the problem to be rectified soon.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Violence Flares for 2nd Day in Northern Ireland; Cath. See Summer Parades as Protestant Ferment

Violence flared for a second consecutive night around traditional Orange Day parades in Northern Ireland, with police coming under attack from petrol bombs, fireworks, stones and bottles, and responding with water cannon, the Reuters website reports today (August 9, 2013).

One police officer was engulfed in flames when struck by a petrol bomb, but it was quickly extinguished by colleagues. The officer remained on duty after being examined by medical personnel, a spokesman said.

Thousands of pro-British Protestants march every summer in the British province, a regular flashpoint for sectarian violence as Catholics -- many of whom favor the unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland -- see the parades as a provocation.

Violence between Catholics and Protestants still occasionally flares since a peace agreement was signed in 1998, which largely ended three decades of strife between the two religious groups. Much of Belfast -- the capital of Northern Ireland -- remains divided along religious and nationalist lines.

Three Charged with Hate Crime against Orth. Jews; Fired Paintball Gun, Yelled Insults at 2 NY Jews

Racial tensions in the New York town of Ramapo -- near Monsey -- flared on August 7, when two men and a woman were arrested for firing a paintball gun at two members of the Jewish volunteer patrol group Chaverim. One of them suffered minor wounds to the stomach, the Jewish Press website reports today (August 9, 2013).

The trio also yelled anti-Semitic slurs and was charged with a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The victims were standing on the street when the attackers drove through the Jewish community near Monsey. Police arrived and arrested the trio.

Tensions have been running high in Ramapo, where there is a large Orthodox Hassidic community as well as large black and immigrant communities.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tsarnaev's Buddies Indicted for Hiding Evidence; Charged with Obstructing Justice by Dumping Data

Two of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's former college buddies were formally indicted today (August 8, 2013) for allegedly helping the Boston Marathon bombing suspect ditch evidence, the Newser website reports.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov -- both 19 years old -- were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. When they were first arrested last April, they were charged only with conspiracy.

The two Muslims and Kazakhstan nationals were classmates and close friends with Tsarnaev at Umass-Dartmouth. In the wake of the bombings, he texted them, and told them to go to his room and "take what's there," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say the two shoved items in a garbage bag -- reportedly including a laptop and a backpack full of fireworks -- with Tazhayakov's "knowledge and agreement." They then allegedly threw those items in a dumpster.

Romania Builds 10 New Churches Every Month; Church Const. Soars Since End of Communism

Romania is in the middle of a church-building boom, with some 10 new places of worship completed every month and one vast cathedral slowly taking shape, the Free Republic website reports today (August 8, 2013).

Everywhere in Romania there are churches -- big, small, medieval, modern, tin-roofed, wooden, painted -- and each has its own appeal.

Since the 1989 revolution that overthrew communism, the Greek Orthodox Church has been expanding incredibly in Romania.

About 90 percent of Romanians are Orthodox Christians. In the wake of communist dictator Ceausescu's downfall, the Church has capitalized on its pre-eminent position in the country, building new churches at a rate of one every three days, as well as an enormous cathedral currently under construction in the center of Bucharest, Romania's capital.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jackie Robinson Statue Defaced with Racist Slurs; Swastikas, Swears Scrawled on Statue in Brooklyn

Police are hunting for a vile vandal who scrawled swastikas and vulgar racist slurs on the famous Jackie Robinson statue outside the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium in Coney Island, the New York Daily News website reports today (August 7, 2013).

A manager at MCU Park stumbled upon the defaced statue at about 8:30 a.m. today, police said. Robinson was the first black player in Major League baseball.

Among the hate messages written in black marker on the monument to Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese was "Heil Hitler." (Others are too vulgar to be written here.)

"The statue is a symbol of tolerance," said Billy Harner, director of communications for the Cyclones. "It's an absolute tragedy that someone would deface it the way they did."

Obama Cancels Sept. Meeting with Russia's Putin; It's a Retaliation for Russia's Asylum of Snowden

President Barack Obama today (August 7, 2013) abruptly canceled a Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for next month, in a retaliation for Russia's decision to grant asylum to fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, according to the Reuters website.

The cancellation marks a stark low point in U.S.-Russian relations in the years since Obama embarked on a "reset" in ties to try to gain more diplomatic cooperation, only to find that deep differences remain.

"Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia summit in early September," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

The Russian government expressed disappointment at the decision, which means Obama will skip Moscow talks with Putin, but still attend a G20 summit in St. Petersburg on September 5-6. Obama will stop in Sweden on September 4 in place of the Moscow visit.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chinese Officials View Nation's One-Child Policy; May Allow Chinese Couples to Have 2 Children

Chinese officials have confirmed that they are reviewing the country's controversial one-child-only policy for families -- a policy that was established in 1978 -- and may consider making changes, the Christian Post website reports today (August 6, 2013).

"China is still deliberating whether to further relax the country's one-child policy by allowing a couple in which only one party is an only child to have two children," the official Xinhua (Chinese) News Agency reported on August 3.

Some news reports have suggested that China is getting ready to end the one-child policy because of an upcoming aging crisis. But Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said that China -- the world's most populous country with a population of 1.3 billion people -- "is certainly not ditching the one-child policy."

Littlejohn's group has been campaigning to Chinese President Xi Jinping to end the one-child policy, which it says is responsible for a great deal of violence against women and girls, because of parents' tendency to keep boys over girls.

India: 5 Soldiers Killed in Kashmir Near Pakistan; Pakistan Denies Responsibility for the Killings

India claims that five of its soldiers have been killed in the nation of Kashmir along the disputed border with Pakistan, the Euro News website reports today (August 6, 2013).

Indian media said the deaths came during an attack on an Indian military post. The incident comes as the two nuclear powers have been moving towards resuming stalled peace talks.

Security officials in Islamabad, Pakistan have denied responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan and India have been fighting on and off for the control of Kashmir -- which borders both nations -- for more than a half-century.

Cath. Cleric Pleads Not Guilty of Paying for Sex; Msgr. Allegedly Paid Prostitute $40 in Lowell, MA

A Catholic priest from St. Rita's Church in Lowell, Massachusetts pleaded not guilty today (August 6, 2013) on charges of paying for sexual conduct. The priest, Monsignor Arthur Coyle, 62, is from the Archdiocese of Boston. He was arrested after police allegedly found him on August 4 with a prostitute behind a cemetery, the Alter Net website reports.

As a result of the incident, Coyle has taken a leave of absence from being a high-ranking vicar at the Archdiocese.

He was arrested after he offered a prostitute money for sex, Lowell Police Captain Kelly Richardson said. Coyle allegedly paid $40 to the prostitute for oral sex.

Last December, Coyle was named a Prelate of Honor, the second of three monsignor ranks within the Catholic Church.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brazil OKs Law to Give Women Morning-After Pill; Inducing Abortions OKd 4 Days After Pope's Visit

Just four days after Pope Francis left Brazil -- where millions of Catholics had assembled to support his theology -- President Dilma Rousseff signed into law a measure that opens the door to the distribution of abortion-causing drugs in the country's public health care system, the Catholic News website reports today (August 5, 2013).

The August 1 law requires health care centers in Brazil -- which has more Catholic worshipers than any other country in the world --  to administer the morning-after pill to women who say they have been raped up to 72 hours after the crime.

The head of Brazil's Special Secretariat for Women's Policies, Eleonora Menicucci -- an avid abortion proponent -- defended Rousseff, saying the decision to sign the law was out of "respect for Congress and for women."

The new norm, she said, will have "a positive impact in preventing abortion in women who have been the victims of rape," although she acknowledged that it allows for abortifacient "emergency contraception."

World Congress of Philosophy Meeting in Athens; Theme Is "Philosophy as Inquiry and Way of Life"

The XXIII World Congress of Philosophy opened in Athens, Greece on August 4, and will continue its meetings through August 10. Chaired by the President of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies William McBride, the highbrow get-together takes place every five years, the Euro News website reports today (August 5, 2013).

The theme this time is "Philosophy as Inquiry and a Way of Life" with scholars including a discussion on the state of Europe.

"Modern European society at its best is trying to be a rational society and an inclusive society, that respects the differences of others. A strong Europe will require rethinking of what is the meaning of our European identity," noted Professor Dermot Moran.

"We must not close ourselves to the rest of the world, not consider Europe or our countries as a fortress. Not thinking, that, if we close ourselves to the world, we will be better off. If we close ourselves to the world, we will be nothing," said Professor Luca Scarantino.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Greek Singer Mimics Stevie Wonder on TV Show; Slammed for Acting Blind, Painting Face Black

A female Greek singer has sparked outrage after dressing up in a black face and pretending to be blind by wearing sun glasses while impersonating Stevie Wonder on a TV music reality show, the New York Post website reports today (August 3, 2013).

Singer "Mando," 47, dressed up as Wonder for the "Face Sounds Familiar" talent show, playing Wonder's hit "Part-Time Lover."

Greek celebrities on the show are assigned a singer to impersonate, but Mando's rendition turned heads for her dedication to the role. She even had a stage hand help her down the stairs.

Mando was voted winner of that week's episode by viewers, but several users on Twitter later criticized the rendition and the show for letting it happen.

Exclusive: Egypt's Ruler Rips Lack of US Support; "We Won't Forget US Turned Its Back on Egypt"

In his first interview since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last month, Egypt's commanding general sharply criticized the U.S. response, accusing the Obama administration of disregarding the Egyptian popular will and of providing insufficient support amid threats of a civil war, the Washington Post website reports exclusively today (August 3, 2013).

"You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that," said an indignant Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, speaking of the U.S. government. "Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?"

Sissi is widely considered the most powerful man in Egypt, wielding more control than anyone over the country's direction after a tumultuous two and a half years in which the military has shoved aside two presidents following popular uprisings. He denied interest in running for president himself but did not rule it out.

Sissi spoke exclusively to the Washington Post on August 1 -- the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the administration's most supportive comments to date, saying that Egypt's army was "restoring democracy."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mil. Clerics Begin Their Duties in Serbian Army; Meet Troops' Spiritual Needs, Advise Commanders

Eight Greek Orthodox priests, one Roman Catholic chaplain, and one Islamic imam were officially welcomed to their duties at a celebration at the Serbian Army's headquarters in Belgrade on July 31, the Balkan Insight website reports today (August 2, 2013).

Colonel Milan Aksic said that it would be the first time for seven decades that religious services would be performed at military bases, "guaranteeing the constitutional right of army members to have the freedom of confession."

Apart from when performing services, the military clerics will wear the Serbian army uniform with a symbol of their religion. They will not wear or use weapons, and will not be able to issue commands.

Besides tending to soldiers' and other army employees' spiritual needs, they will also serve as advisers to unit commanders, and will be their subordinates. Before this week, military priests had not been a part of the Serbian Army since the outset of World War II in 1939.

KY Nuns, Monks Won't Sell Land for Gas Pipeline; Foil Pipeline Const. from Penn. to Gulf of Mexico

Two Kentucky Catholic religious orders -- which own collectively more than 3,000 acres of historic farmland -- are refusing to give up portions of their land for a proposed natural-gas pipeline that would channel millions of gallons of pressurized, highly flammable natural-gas liquids through the area, the Raw Story website reports today (August 2, 2013).

The nuns of the Sisters of Loretto and the monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani have denied surveyors permission to survey the land ahead of the pipeline project, and say they have no interest in helping it along.

"We've been on this property since 1824," said Sister Maria Visse, service coordinator for the Sisters of Loretto. "We feel entrusted with this land. It's a gift. It's not a commodity."

The proposed pipeline would run from gas-drilling facilities in Pennsylvania to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, impacting 18 counties in Kentucky.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Russian Orth.Church Backs Asylum for Snowden; For Freedom of "Electronic Concentration Camp"

The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its support to Russia's decision to accept fugitive U.S. Intelligence leaker, Edward Snowden's request for asylum. Orthodox Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Chairman of the Synodal Department of Church-Social Relations, said that Moscow "could quite possibly be urged to protect real freedom, from the global ideological dictatorship, from the electronic concentration camp," the Vatican Insider website reports today (August 1, 2013).

Chaplin stated he supported Moscow's intention to accept the former CIA agent's request for asylum.

Snowden -- whom Washington accuses of espionage -- has been stranded at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, without any valid travel documents, for more than 40 days. The former NSA contractor was granted temporary political asylum for a year and has left Sheremetyevo airport for a safer place which is to remain secret.

"It is positive that Russia shows independence in this case, as well as in many others, regardless of serious pressure. Russia's image as a country supporting true ideals of freedom depends on how Russia will act in this situation," Chaplin said.

Kenyan Lawyer Seeks to Nullify Jesus' Conviction; Asks International Court of Justice to Acquit Him

A Kenyan lawyer wants to overturn Pontius Pilate's decision to convict Jesus, but he also wants to keep the faith that flowed from it, the Charisma News website reports today (August 1, 2013).

"The selective and malicious prosecution (of Jesus) violated His human rights," said Dola Indidis, a Roman Catholic who is petitioning the International Court of Justice -- based at the The Hague -- to nullify Jesus' conviction and death sentence.

Indidis -- a former spokesman for the Kenyan judiciary -- accuses Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Judea, of "judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias, and prejudice."

Indidis' petition has surprised Christian leaders in Kenya. The Rev. Maloba Wesonga -- a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi -- said the exercise was futile, at least from a theological point of view. "As we know it, the trial had to happen," said Wesonga. "We must understand that Jesus was not vulnerable and nobody can do justice to God."