Friday, January 31, 2014

Police Nab 3 for Stealing Pope John Paul II's Blood; Stole Blood from Church Near Rome, Threw It Out

Police in Rome have arrested three men accused of stealing a religious relic stained with Polish-born pope John Paul II's blood, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (January 31, 2014).

The three threw the relic away, as they "did not understand the relic's value" and "cannot remember where they threw away the precious loot," police said.

Police recovered the object's metal frame but could not find the cloth, believed to be part of the robe the pontiff was wearing when he was shot in an assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square in 1981.

It was stolen a week ago along with a cross -- which has been found -- from the San Pietro Della Lenca Church in the mountainous Abruzzo region in central Italy where the late pope loved to go on skiing holidays.

Muslims Attack a Coptic Orth. Church in Cairo; One Police Officer Killed, Two Attackers Arrested

A group of armed men yesterday afternoon attacked the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo's "October 6" district of the governorate of Giza, the Asia News website reports today (January 31, 2014).

Police responded to gunfire and one officer died in the shootout, while two others were injured. The residents were able to stop the car carrying the attackers and handed one of them to the authorities. His accomplice was arrested a few hours later by officers.

The two attackers are Mohamed Abdel-Hamid and Ahmad Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, both active in Islamic extremist groups.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II condemned the attack and sent a message of condolences to the relatives of the murdered policeman.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Norway Exiles Record No. of Muslims from Nation; Police Step Up Muslim Deportation to Fight Crime

A record number of foreign citizens -- mostly Muslims --  were deported from Norway last year, after the country's police stepped up the use of deportation as a way of fighting crime, the Europe News website reports today (January 30, 2014).

Some 5,198 foreign citizens were expelled from the country in 2013, an increase of 31 percent since 2012, when 3,958 people were deported.

"It is the highest number we've had ever," Frode Forfang, head of the Directorate of Immigration (UDI), said. "We believe that one reason for the increase is that the police have become more conscious of using deportation as a tool to fight crime."

Nigerian citizens topped the list of those expelled for committing crimes, with 232 citizens expelled as a punishment in 2013, followed by Afghan citizens with 136 expelled as a punishment, and 76 Moroccans expelled as a punishment.

Ukraine Pres.Says Protesters Increasing Tensions; Goes on Sick Leave to Get "More Breathing Space"

Ukraine's President has accused the opposition of increasing tensions after parliament backed an amnesty for detained anti-government activists. In a statement, Viktor Yanukovych also said the authorities have "fulfilled all obligations," the Euro News website reports today (January 30, 2014).

The opposition claims the president hurried to herd members of parliament into voting for a partial amnesty in order to stop activists from occupying government buildings in Kiev and other communities. The stubborn Yanukovych refuses to allow a national election for Ukraine, which is what most protesters are seeking.

The amnesty bill passed late last night, but it has done little to ease tensions which increased after the prime minister's resignation earlier this week.

Things appear to be getting worse following the president's decision to go on sick leave today with a respiratory ailment. Some opposition figures say they suspect Yanukovych, 63, might be simply giving himself more breathing space after being forced into concessions to try to end the protests.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in Ramallah; He Was Shot for Opening Fire at Israeli Mil. Base

Israeli soldiers shot dead a young Palestinian man near a village in Ramallah after he allegedly opened fire at an army post, the Big News Network website reports today (January 29, 2014).

The Palestinian man, identified as Mohammed Mubarak, 22, was shot and killed near Ein Siniya this morning.

A Palestinian official in the military liaison department said Mubarak was shot dead by a soldier positioned in a military watchtower.

But the Israeli army said Mubarak was a militant and was shot dead after he opened fire at one of its posts.

Ed Snowden Is Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize; Norwegian Lawmakers Say He Helped World Peace

Two Norwegian lawmakers have nominated U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, the RFERL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) website reports today (January 29, 2014).

In their nomination letter, Socialist lawmakers Baard Vegard Solhjell and Snorre Valen say they do not necessarily condone all of Snowden's classified disclosures, but say his whistle-blowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world.

In another related development, the top U.S. intelligence official has called on Snowden to return the secret documents he took from the NSA detailing U.S. electronic spying around the globe.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing today that Snowden's disclosures had caused "profound damage" by revealing U.S. surveillance methods to terrorists. Snowden is receiving asylum in Russia, in order to avoid espionage and other serious charges in the United States.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Denmark Pols Seek to Halt Muslim Immigrants; Want Border Guards to Stop Muslims' Entrance

Senior members of Denmark's political party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) have expressed the belief that there are enough Muslims in Denmark, and border controls should be established to stop more from entering the country, the Copenhagen Post website reports today (January 28, 2014).

DF's defense spokesperson Marie Krarup said that the time has come to completely halt Muslim immigration. "We should limit the size of the Muslim minority in Denmark," Krarup wrote in a blog for Berlingske newspaper.

Anders Vistisen, number two on DF's list of candidates for the European Parliament, agreed that the number of Muslims in Denmark should be limited.

DF's citizenship spokesperson, Christian Langballe, could not see how a total ban against Muslims could be put into place. "It is impractical to call a complete halt, but I think that Muslim immigration must be limited," he told Berlingske.

Egypt Council OKs al-Sisi's Run for President; General Seen as Hero by Some, Tyrant by Others

News that Egypt's top military council has given army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the go-ahead to seek election as president has been greeted with a mixed response, the Euro News website reports today (January 28, 2014).

Although seen as a hero by some since deposing elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, others are more critical.

Cairo resident Ayman Mustafa is a supporter of al-Sisi: "Many of us now consider Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the most capable man to run the country at this time, he is the man who sided with the people."

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood sees him as a ruthless dictator ousting their legally-elected man and instigating a crackdown on their number which has left scores dead.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ukraine Pres. Gives Ground to Soften Protesters; Agrees to Hold Vote of No Confidence in the Govt.

President Viktor Yanukovych moved today (January 27, 2014) to ease the anti-government protests sweeping Ukraine that are threatening his rule, by agreeing to repeal anti-dissent laws and to hold a vote of no confidence in the government, the Wall Street Journal website reports.

But the concessions -- announced by his justice minister after a fourth round of talks with opposition leaders today -- remain far short of the protesters' main demand for snap presidential elections.

The proposals are likely to be voted on at an extraordinary session of Parliament tomorrow, called to try to end more than two months of mass anti-government protests in Kiev -- the capital of Ukraine -- that began after Yanukovych turned his back on a trade-and-political deal with the European Union (EU) at the last minute in favor of ties with Russia.

Protests spread from Kiev in recent days, as demonstrators seized government headquarters in several regional capitals in Ukraine's west and center, where Yanukovych is least popular.

Thieves Take Pope John Paul's Blood from Church; Reliquary with Blood Stolen from Abruzzo Church

Thieves broke into a small church in the mountains east of Rome over the weekend and stole a reliquary with the blood of the late Pope John Paul II, the Reuters website reports today (January 27, 2014).

Dozens of police with sniffer dogs scoured the remote area for clues to what the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana called "a sacrilegious theft that was probably commissioned by someone."

Franca Corrieri, church custodian, said she discovered a broken window early yesterday morning and called the police. When they entered the small stone church they found the gold reliquary and crucifix missing.

John Paul II -- who died in 2005 -- loved the mountains in the Abruzzo region. The Polish-born pope  would sometimes slip away from the Vatican secretly to hike or ski there and pray in the church. He is due to be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in May, meaning the relic will become more noteworthy and valuable.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

ACLU Is Suing La. Schools for Rel. Harassment; Says School Staff Tends to Harass Buddhist Kids

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a Louisiana school board, alleging officials at one of its public schools harassed a sixth grader because of his Buddhist faith and that the district routinely endorses and encourages such unconstitutional practices, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 26, 2014).

The lawsuit was filed on January 22 in U.S. District Court in Shreveport on behalf of Scott and Sharon Lane and their three children.

According to the complaint, the Lanes enrolled their son in Negreet High School and he quickly became a target of harassment by school staff. Their son is a lifelong Buddhist of Thai descent.

Superintendent of Schools Sara Ebarb also was named in the lawsuit. The ACLU also asked the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the school system.

Pigs' Heads Sent to Jewish Museum, Syn. in Rome; Unprecedented Level of Anti-Semitism Hits Rome

Several pigs' heads were mailed in boxes last week to Jewish institutions in Rome -- including the city's main synagogue and the Israeli embassy -- the Jewish Press website reports today (January 26, 2014).

Police intercepted the package that was mailed to the embassy in the prestigious Parioli neighborhood of Rome, after similar "gifts" had been received by the synagogue and the Jewish Museum of Rome.

"Those who insult the Jewish community offend Rome," said Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino in a tweet. "We reject the intimidation outright."

According to the the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Rome has seen an unprecedented level of antisemitic intimidation, in anticipation of International Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, which is the day of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Allies.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Supreme Court Favors Nuns Over Obamacare; Admin. Can't Require Contraceptive Coverage

The Supreme Court on January 24 granted a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado a temporary exemption from President Obama's controversial Affordable Care Act -- also known as "Obamacare" -- which requires employers to cover contraceptives in their employees' health care plans, the Christian Post website reports today (January 25, 2014).

The Little Sisters of the Poor declared in writing "that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services," and therefore the administration cannot enforce the requirement for contraceptive coverage, said the order issued by the entire Supreme Court.

The court said in its ruling that the religious order of nuns -- who take care of the needy and dying elderly -- does not have to sign a government form which can authorize a third party to provide the contraceptive coverage under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

The court's order also provides protection to more than 400 other Catholic organizations that receive health benefits through the same Catholic benefits provider -- the Christian Brothers -- according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Pope: Women Deserve a Greater Role in Church; Gives No Sign of Women Becoming Cath. Priests

Pope Francis today (January 25, 2014) lauded women for their sensitivity toward society's weak and "gifts" like intuition, insisting they take on greater responsibilities in the Catholic church, as well as in professional and public spheres, the Yahoo News website reports.

Francis was full of praise about female talent and untapped potential in a speech at the Vatican to an Italian women's group. But the pope gave no sign that the Vatican glass ceiling against ordaining women for the priesthood might see some cracks during his papacy.

From day one of his papacy in March, Francis has been trying to make the Catholic church more welcoming, but it forbids women from becoming priests, arguing among other things, that Jesus and His apostles were all men.

Also, Francis made it clear last November -- in an extensive document laying out his priorities as head of the 1.2-billion-member Catholic church -- that the ban against women's ordination would stand.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Syria Threatens to Leave Peace Talks in Geneva; Diplomats Say an Overall Peace Deal Is Unlikely

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has threatened to quit peace talks in Geneva if no serious discussions have taken place by tomorrow, the Russia News website reports today (January 24, 2014).

Muallem conveyed this to UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today, the day the government and opposition delegations were due to start separate talks at the United Nations in Geneva.

The regime and the opposition have refused to meet face-to-face and are communicating through Brahimi.

Later, Brahimi said government and opposition delegates agreed to meet "in the same room" tomorrow. Diplomats say they are now aiming at small concessions -- such as local truces -- rather than an overall peace deal.

"Blind" Man Gets $175,000 in Social Sec. Scheme; Sentenced to Year in Prison for Defrauding SSA

A "blind" Milwaukee, Wisconsin man's $175,000 Social Security disability fraud scheme ended when federal agents caught him driving a speedboat, the Free Beacon website reports today (January 24, 2014).

Lawrence Popp, 58, was sentenced to one year in prison on January 21 for defrauding the Social Security Administration (SSA) after pretending to be blind in order to get disability benefits. Popp said he was unable to drive, read, or "bowl without bumpers" due to his condition.

Popp -- a wealthy businessman -- continued to work and go on lavish vacations in the Cayman Islands while collecting disability benefits for five years.

Popp's ruse was discovered after agents from the IRS and the SSA caught him driving a water-ski boat, a snowmobile, and driving a car to and from his benefits office.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pope Francis Calls the Internet "a Gift from God;" Says It Has Immense Possibilities for Solidarity

There are a lot of opinions out there about the Internet -- it's a time-waster, a world-changer, a gold mine, a panacea -- but here's one from an especially high authority: It's "a gift from God."

Those were the words of Pope Francis, the Newser website reports today (January 23, 2014).

In a statement released for the Catholic Church's World Communications Day, the pope said the Internet "offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God."

The pope also had some caveats, including the possible isolation of those who over-indulge on the Internet.

Five Policemen Shot Dead at Egyptian Checkpoint; Seen as "Payback" by Islamists for Mursi's Ouster

At least five police officers have been killed in an attack on a security checkpoint south of Egypt's capital of Cairo, the Euro News website reports today (January 23, 2014).

Two others were injured -- one badly -- in the town of Beni Suef, some 100 kilometers from Cairo.

Egypt's interior ministry said armed motorcyclists opened fire while riding past the checkpoint.

Attacks on security forces have increased significantly since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the Egyptian army in July, with more than 250 police officers and soldiers killed since then.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Israel Foils Al-Qaida Plan to Bomb US Embassy; Marks 1st Planned Attack on Israel by Al-Qaida

Israel today (January 22, 2014) said it had foiled an "advanced" al-Qaida plan to carry out a suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and bomb other targets, the ABC News website reports.

The Israeli Intelligence Agency arrested three Palestinians who allegedly plotted bombings, shootings, kidnappings, and other attacks. It said the Palestinian men -- two from Jerusalem and one from the West Bank -- were recruited by an operative based in the Gaza Strip who worked for al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

The U.S. State Department said it was not yet able to corroborate the Israeli claims.

While a number of groups inspired by al-Qaida have carried out attacks against Israel before, this appeared to mark the first time an attack on Israel was directly planned by al-Qaida leaders.

Ukrainian Police Use More Force, Kill 3 Protesters; First Protest-Related Deaths Since Crisis Began

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met opposition leaders today (January 22, 2014) in an attempt to defuse street violence in which three men were killed overnight, but tensions remained high as his prime minister branded anti-government protesters "terrorists," the Reuters website reports.

The talks -- the first concrete move toward negotiating an end to two months of civil unrest -- ended after about three hours, but there was no immediate word from the presidency or opposition leaders.

Two of the dead men perished from police bullet wounds, Ukraine's general prosecutor said, and the third died after falling from the top of Dynamo football stadium while fighting with police. The protesters -- inflamed by news of the deaths -- faced off even more angrily with riot police.

Last night's deaths were the first protest-related deaths since the Ukrainian crisis erupted last November after Yanukovich enraged most Ukrainians by unexpectedly rejecting a trade deal at the last minute with the European Union (EU), and then agreeing to a deal of financial aid from Soviet-era overlord Russia to prop up Ukraine's ailing economy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Syria Accused of Much Torture,11,000 Executions; Defector Snuk Pix of Dead Prisoners Out of Syria

A report today (January 21, 2014) by three former war crimes prosecutors says that there is clear evidence that Syria has systematically tortured and executed about 11,000 detainees since the start of the uprising in March 2011, according to the World News website.

One of the authors of the report told the BBC there was evidence of government involvement. Damascus has denied claims of abuse.

The investigators examined thousands of images of dead prisoners reportedly smuggled out of Syria by a defector.

The report comes one day before peace talks on Syria are due to begin in Switzerland. The conference in the resort Swiss town of Montreux is being seen as the biggest diplomatic effort to end the three-year Syrian civil war in which more than 130,000 people have been killed.

Hungarian Jews May Ignore Holocaust Ceremony; Due to a Resurgence of Anti-Semitism in Hungary

Hungarian Jewish leaders said today (January 21, 2014) they may stay away from commemorations of the Holocaust in 2014 because of resurgent anti-Semitism in a nation that has struggled to come to terms with a wartime role in deporting Jews, the Euro News website reports.

The Hungarian government is planning to mark the 70th anniversary of June 1944, when 437,000 Jews were sent to Nazi death camps within weeks. In total, about half a million Jews perished before the Budapest ghetto was liberated in 1945.

Since World War II, anti-Semitism has remained a big problem in the central European nation, which is home to the largest indigenous Jewish community in all of Europe.

The plans for 2014 include a new Holocaust memorial center, which is under construction at a Budapest train station that was once the hub of the deportations to Nazi death camps. Another monument will depict Hungary as a victim of German aggression.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pope Aide Urges Doctrine Head to "Loosen Up;" Abp. Gerhard Mueller Should Be More Flexible

An influential aide to Pope Francis criticized the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog today (January 20, 2014), and urged the conservative prelate to be more flexible about reforms being discussed in the Roman Catholic Church, the Reuters website reports.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the head of a "kitchen cabinet" the pope created to draw up reform proposals, said that Archbishop Gerhard Mueller -- who has opposed any loosening of Church rules on divorce -- was a classic German theology professor who thought too much in rigid black-and-white terms.

"The world isn't like that, my brother," Rodriguez said in a German newspaper interview, rhetorically addressing Mueller in a rare public criticism among senior Catholic Church figures.

"You should be a bit flexible when you hear other voices, so you don't just listen and say 'here is the wall,'" Rodriguez said in an interview with the daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Many Injured in Clashes with Riot Police in Kiev; Ukrainian Pres. to Negotiate with Protest Leaders

At least 100 protesters were injured today (January 20, 2014) after clashes with riot police in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, according to the Euro News website.

Volunteer medics treated them on the ground, with dozens sent to a hospital. The Interior Ministry said 30 police had been hurt, with more than 10 hospitalized.

Despite appeals from opposition leaders not to resort to violence, a minority threw molotov cocktails and stones at police overnight on Sunday. They are angry at new legislation banning protests which they say paves the way for a police state.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Yanukovych says he will negotiate with opposition leaders and that a cross-party commission would be set up today to try to resolve the crisis. Also, the Ukrainian government has threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) for holding outdoor prayer services to support opposition protesters in Kiev's Central Square.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dead Boar Left on Doorstep of French Synagogue; Police View Synagogue Surveillance Film for Thug

The remains of a slaughtered wild boar were left on the steps of the Chabad of Saint-Brice-sous-Foret synagogue, north of Paris yesterday morning, the Algemeiner (Jewish) website reports today (January 19, 2014).

Chabad Rabbi Shalom Dovber Amram arrived at the house of worship at 8 a.m. and discovered on the doorstep pieces of a small butchered boar.

The rabbi alerted local municipal workers to clean up the remains, and the police were notified.

Police arrived at the scene at about 11 a.m. They discovered that parts of the animal had been moved, but not entirely removed by the city staff. Police are investigating the incident, beginning with a review of the synagogue and municipal surveillance systems.

Nun, 31, Gives Birth to a 7.7-Pound Boy in Italy; Had No Idea She Was Pregnant,Will Keep Baby

A Salvadorean nun -- who said she had no idea she was pregnant -- gave birth in Italy on January 15, after she felt stomach cramps in her convent and was rushed to a hospital, the Huffington Post website reports today (January 19, 2014).

The 31-year-old mother and her baby boy -- who weighs 7.7 pounds -- are doing well and other new mothers in Rieti hospital have begun collecting clothes and donations for her.

"I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain," the nun was quoted as saying at the hospital.

The nun belongs to the "Little Disciples of Jesus" convent in Campomoro near Rieti, which manages an old people's home, and reports said she would keep the baby. Her fellow nuns were quoted as saying they were "very surprised."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

UN Cancels Jewish Paris Exhibit on Israel Land; Due to Arab League Lodging Last-Minute Protest

A United Nations agency has pulled an exhibit on the Jewish people's "3,500-year relationship" to the land of Israel, after the Arab League lodged a last-minute protest, the Fox News website reports today (January 18, 2014).

The exhibit -- titled "People, Book, Land--The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel" -- was created jointly by the Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and was scheduled to open January 20 at UNESCO's Paris headquarters. But less than a week before it was to open, UNESCO informed the SWC it was canceling it because the Arab League had claimed the exhibit "could create potential obstacles related to the peace process in the Middle East," the U.S.-based Jewish newspaper "The Algemeiner" reported.

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Wiesenthal Center called the cancellation an "absolute outrage."

"The Arabs don't want the world to know that the Jews have a 3,500-year relationship to the Land of Israel," Hier said.

Syria's Main Rebel Group to Attend Peace Talks; Agrees to Meet with Assad Reps Jan. 22 in Switz.

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) -- the main Western-backed rebel group battling to topple the government of Syria's Bashar Assad -- today (January 18, 2014) agreed to take part in peace talks in Switzerland next week, the World News website reports.

The group's legal committee approved participation in the talks -- scheduled to start on January 22 -- by a vote of 58 to 14.

The so-called "Geneva II" talks -- which are actually being held in Montreaux, Switzerland under the auspices of the United Nations -- were brokered by the United States and Russia. In the talks, SNC leaders would sit down for the first time with representatives from Syrian President Assad's government since the country's bloody civil war broke out in March, 2011.

The SNC -- which is riven with internal divisions -- is Syria's main opposition group in exile. The country's centrist internal opposition group -- the National Coordination Body -- said it would not attend the peace talks.

Muslim Stuck in Pipe at NJ Water Plant Arrested; May Have Been Planning to Poison Drinking Water

A Muslim man in New Jersey -- who may have been planning to poison the water in a water treatment plant -- has been charged with fourth-degree criminal trespassing and may face additional charges as the investigation continues, the Creeping Sharia website reports today (January 18, 2014).

Around 11:30 a.m. yesterday, Asef Mohamed, 26, of Manalapan, NJ, had been freed from a pipe and airlifted to an area hospital, after he was stuck some 12 feet down the pipe, which was not in use.

United Water spokesman Rich Henning said Mohamed broke into the plant that treats and pumps water for the township of Manalapan.

"This was a person that purposely climbed a six-foot fence with three or four layers of barbed wire on top," Henning said.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Taliban Behind Afghan Suicide Bomber Killing 15; Three on UN Staff Among Dead in Kabul Attack

Up to 15 people -- mostly foreigners -- were killed today (January 17, 2014) when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a popular Lebanese restaurant in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, the Newsmax World website reports.

Islamist Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack in the upscale Wazir Akbar Khan district, which hosts many embassies and restaurants catering for expatriates.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said its representative in Afghanistan was one of the dead, and the United Nations said three of its staff were killed as well.

"Such targeted attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said. "They must stop immediately."

Smoking Is More Dangerous Than We Realized; New Report Links Smoking with Diabetes, Arthritis

Smoking is more dangerous for people than we previously thought, according to a new report from the U.S. surgeon general, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 17, 2014).

The 980-page report now links cigarettes with a number of diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, and liver cancer.

It can also hurt a person's immune system and cause birth defects, and exposure to second-hand smoke can cause a stroke.

The new report comes 50 years after the surgeon general first warned about the dangers of smoking.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Israel May Ban Word "Nazi" Due to Anti-Semitism; Critics:Proposed Law Is Free Speech Infringement

The Israeli parliament gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would make it a crime to call someone a Nazi -- or any other slur associated with the Third Reich -- or to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way, the Slate website reports today (January 16, 2014).

The penalty would be a fine of as much as $29,000 and up to six months in jail.

Backers of the law say it is a response to what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world as well as an increasing, casual use of such terms. But critics -- including some with deep connections to the Holocaust -- say the proposed law is a dangerous infringement on free speech and an overreach impossible to enforce.

The bill must still be debated in a parliamentary committee, then go through a series of votes in the Knesset before it can become a law. An official close to the legislation process said today the bill would "most likely be killed" in the committee, adding that attorney general Yehuda Weinstein has deemed the bill unnecessary.

About 90 Percent of Egyptian Voters Back Const.; Sets the Stage for Army Gen. Sisi to Run for Pres.

Egyptians who voted in a referendum this week overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, official sources said, citing early results of a ballot that could set the stage for army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president, the Reuters website reports today (January 16, 2014).

About 90 percent of the voters approved the constitution, the state news agency and a government official said. The constitution won wide support among Egyptians who backed the army overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi last July.

Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood -- which is expected to dispute the official numbers -- had called for a boycott of the two-day vote, seeing it as part of a coup against a leader freely elected 18 months ago. It had called for anti-government protests, which resulted in the arrest of 444 people during the two days of voting.

The referendum has been seen as a public vote of confidence in Sisi, the 59-year-old widely seen as the most powerful figure in Egypt since he removed Mursi and won massive popularity among the Egyptians who staged mass protests against his rule in June.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Obama Vows to Bypass Congress, Rule by Decree; Unconstitutional Rule May Lead to Impeachment

Sounding more like a communist dictator than a U.S. president who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, Barack Obama announced that he would no longer wait for Congress or legislation to impose his radical agenda to "fundamentally transform" America, the New American website reports today (January 15, 2014).

Instead, in January 14 remarks about making 2014 a "year of action," Obama declared that his administration would expand its rule-by-decree machinations through the use of even more anti-constitutional "executive orders" and "executive actions."

This radical and illegal plan, analysts say, is setting up a potential showdown of historic proportions with lawmakers and an increasingly outraged American public.

Surprisingly, a spineless Congress has allowed Obama's unconstitutional actions to be implemented and has even been providing taxpayer funding for them. The American public has already had enough of the lawlessness, with more than two-thirds of Americans saying that the federal government is now "out of control" and threatening basic liberties. Surveys have even shown that a majority of American  voters now support Obama's impeachment.

Cardinal's Ritual Request Stuns Female Pastor; Rev. Anne Robertson Anoints Card. O'Malley

Plymouth, Massachusetts resident and Massachusetts Bible Society director, Rev. Anne Robertson -- a United Methodist minister -- never imagined that she would get the chance to share a ritual drop of water for a baptism remembrance with a Roman Catholic cardinal, but on January 12 Cardinal Sean O'Malley asked her to do so, the Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) website reports today (January 15, 2014).

"It was completely unexpected," the Rev. Robertson said yesterday in her first media interview about the encounter. "I'm still blown away by it. What moved me was not so much that I was anointing him," she said. "It was him being willing to accept that from my hand -- to ask me, as a woman in ministry, to do that. I was choking back tears for hours."

The Rev. Robertson was the only female clergy member who assisted at a special 50th anniversary worship service at Sudbury United Methodist Church. Cardinal O'Malley delivered the homily at the ecumenical gathering, which commemorated a groundbreaking appearance by Cardinal Richard Cushing at the church in 1964.

As part of last Sunday's anniversary service, the 500 who filled Sudbury United Methodist to overflowing were invited to receive a drop of consecrated water on their forehead and be told, "Remember your baptism and be thankful." The ritual resembles the ceremonial receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday, but isn't a formal United Methodist sacrament.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kerry, Vatican Equivalent Meet on Mideast Crises; Discuss War in Syria, Jan. 22 Geneva Peace Talks

Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, hosted a lengthy meeting with his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, today (January 14, 2014) to discuss ongoing tensions in the Middle East, as well as the U.S. bishops' concerns about the Obama administration's health care mandate, according to the Catholic News website.

"The meeting was very broad; it lasted about one hour and 40 minutes," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

"Various themes were discussed and naturally those regarded the Middle East first of all -- the situation in Syria and preparations for the (upcoming peace) conference in Geneva," Father Lombardi said, referring to the UN-sponsored peace talks scheduled for January 22.

Father Lombardi added that the Vatican's position on the Syrian conflict -- which has been ongoing since March 2011 -- was explained by the pope in his January 13 speech to diplomats serving at the Vatican. The Vatican's top concerns, he said, are to restore peace, address the serious humanitarian situation, and help the suffering Syrian population.

Breakaway Presbyterian Churches Pass 100 Mark; Founded as a Change from the Liberal PCUSA

A conservative Presbyterian breakaway network of churches founded as an alternative to the more liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) has passed the 100-membership mark, the Christian Post website reports today (January 14, 2014).

Founded just two years ago, the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) of Presbyterians passed the milestone late last year and continues to add more congregations this month.

In an announcement recently sent out to supporters, ECO hailed the passing of the 100-church mark as a "milestone."

Church officials said they recently added four more churches to the network and added, "Welcome to these new ECO churches. We praise God for His Faithfulness and look forward to growing together in 2014!"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Octuplets' Mother Faces Welfare Fraud Charges; Did Not Report Money She Got from Adult Films

Octuplets' mom Nadya Suleman faces welfare fraud charges, as she is accused of not reporting money she earned as a topless dancer and adult film actress, the Top Breaking News website reports today (January 13, 2014).

"While applying for public aid, the mother of 14 children allegedly failed to disclose that she was also getting checks for personal appearances and residuals from videos," said a news release from Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey today.

Suleman -- known in tabloids as "Octomom" -- has not been arrested, but she has been ordered to appear before a Los Angeles County judge for her initial arraignment on January 17, according to the district attorney's office. The prosecutor will ask the judge to set a $25,000 bond, the release said.

The charges of one count of aid by misrepresentation and two counts of perjury by false application for aid accuse Suleman of not reporting nearly $30,000 in earnings. Suleman faces up to five years, eight months in prison if convicted, the prosecutor said.

Abbas: Will Not Recognize Israel as Jewish State; Palestine Capital Must Be E. Jerusalem for Peace

Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech to supporters this past weekend that he will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and he will not sign a peace deal that does not include eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 13, 2014).

The Palestinian Authority chairman made the inflammatory remarks on January 11 during a visit by hundreds of Palestinian activists to his Ramallah headquarters in Samaria.

Abbas also told the delegation that without East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, there will be "no peace between us and Israel."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not sign a peace agreement unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Abp. of Canterbury to Visit Ecumenical Patriarch; Goal Is to Enhance Orthodox-Protestant Relations

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will travel to Istanbul tomorrow (January 13) to visit Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (January 12, 2014).

As Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch is "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox communion.

Responding warmly to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's invitation to visit, Archbishop Justin noted the important contributions he had made to the world church and to society at large, and "recognized all that unites the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church."

The intensive two-day visit will include a private meeting with His All-Holiness, an official reception in the Chamber of the Throne, and a discussion with the Synodical Committee for Inter-Christian Affairs. Archbishop Welby says he hopes that the visit will help to develop greater fellowship between the two churches and contribute to the wider goal of Christian unity.

Lebanese Forces Fire on Syrian Aircraft Over It; Is 1st Time Lebanon Fired on Planes in Syrian War

Security officials say Lebanese forces fired on Syrian aircraft today (January 12, 2014) that violated Lebanon's airspace, according to the News Daily website.

It was the first time since the outbreak of Syria's conflict three years ago that the Lebanese military took action to prevent Syrian warplanes from violating its airspace. This Lebanese action indicates that Lebanon is no longer allowing its territorial or airspace from being violated by Syria -- even if it means being involved in the Syrian civil war.

Syrian forces have fired toward Lebanon in the past, in an effort to discourage rebels from fleeing to Lebanon.

Lebanese officials say the military opened anti-aircraft fire at two Syrian warplanes after the aircraft bombed a border area close to the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Society's Boycott of Israeli Produce Grows Fruitful; Boycott Drops Israel's Produce Over $29M in 2013

Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank are losing several million dollars a year by an international campaign to boycott Israeli products from the area, the Europe Sun website reports today (January 11, 2014).

Many European markets have stopped buying produce from Israeli settlers who grow capsicum, chili, dates, grapes, and herbs.

The sale of fresh produce has dropped by more than $29 million in the last year, because of the stoppage, which has largely been led by shoppers in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

Shunning of settler produce has affected growers in the Jordan Valley's twenty-one settlements. International boycott movements have successfully been able to convince large food chains they should not stock the Israeli produce if they want their reputations to remain intact.

Russian Orthodox Church Hit for Stalin Calendars; Thousands of Priests Deported, Executed by Stalin

The Russian Orthodox Church has come under heavy criticism on the Internet this week over a 2014 wall calendar published by a revered monastery's printing house that features portraits of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the WWRN (World Wide Religion News) website reports today (January 11, 2014).

The black-and-white calendar -- titled "Stalin" and costing $6 -- is advertised as "a great gift for veterans and history fans." Many Russians still credit Stalin with Russia's victory over Germany in World War II and with making the Soviet Union a superpower.

The Russian Orthodox Church -- which was severely persecuted under Stalin but has enjoyed a resurgence since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- said it dismissed the head of the printing house in July once it found out about the printing, but the calendars had already been delivered.

"The Russian Orthodox Church was subject to the most severe repressions during Stalin's rule when thousands of priests were deported and executed. Releasing such a publication in a church establishment ... is morally unacceptable," Vakhtang Kipshidze, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said.

Friday, January 10, 2014

No. of Christians Killed in 2013 Soars from 2012; Islamist Extremism Seen as the Worst Persecutor

An annual survey indicates that the number of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (January 10, 2014).

Open Doors -- a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide -- said it had documented 2,123 "martyr" killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said.

"This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm," said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Other Christian groups estimate the annual figure as high as 8,000.

The Open Doors report placed North Korea at the top of its list of 50 most dangerous countries for Christians. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan were the next four in line. The United States-based group said, "Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church."

France's Hollande May File Suit on French Mag.; Claims Articles on His Affair Violate His Privacy

Francois Hollande has threatened to take legal action against a French magazine which claims he is having an affair with an actress, the Euro News website reports today (January 10, 2014).

A source in the French president's office says he feels his privacy has been breached and he is studying what action to take.

"Closer" -- the weekly tabloid magazine in question -- claims Hollande regularly rides pillion on a scooter driven by his bodyguard to visit a Paris apartment block to see actress Julie Gayet. It has printed extensive details of their alleged comings and goings.

Hollande -- who became president of France in 2012 -- is in a long-term partner relationship with ex-journalist Valerie Trierweiler, who has assumed the functions of France's first lady. Polls indicate that Hollande -- a socialist -- is the most unpopular president in France's modern history.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Former Nazi Is Charged in 1944 French Massacre; Helped Germans Kill Residents of French Village

German prosecutors have charged an 88-year-old former member of Hitler's elite Waffen SS (storm troopers) with taking part in a World War II massacre of hundreds of French villagers -- nearly 70 years after one of the most infamous Nazi atrocities -- the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (January 9, 2014).

In the methodical June 1944 slaughter, SS soldiers took the small village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France by surprise and killed nearly all its inhabitants within a few hours. They killed 642 men, women, and children.

The men were herded into barns and shot dead, while the women and children were burned alive in the village church.

"The prosecution charges an 88-year-old pensioner from Cologne with [joining in] the destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane in France," said Achim Hengstenberg, court spokesman in the western German city. The accused -- who has not been named -- denies the charges.

Five Bodies Found in Southern Russia's Stavropol; Killed One Month Before Olympics in Nearby Sochi

Russia has put security forces on combat alert in the southern Stavropol region after today's  discovery of five corpses with gunshot wounds, barely a month before the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Reuters website reports today (January 9, 2014).

Stavropol -- about 190 miles from the Black Sea resort of Sochi -- is the gateway to the North Caucasus region, where Russia faces an insurgency by Islamist militants who have threatened to prevent the Olympic Games from going ahead.

President Vladdimir Putin -- who has staked much political and personal prestige in the Games -- has already ordered a beefing up of security measures nationwide after suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in two separate attacks last month in Volgograd, another southern Russian city.

The five corpses were found late last night in four cars in two separate locations in the Stavropol region.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Exclusive:N.Korea Is Most Anti-Christian Nation; Arrests Christians for Having Bible, Christian Lit.

The most closed off and anti-Christian country in the world, North Korea, continues to arrest Christians for practicing their faith. Ryan Morgan of International Christian Concern says that people are executed in North Korea just because they have a Bible or Christian literature, the One News Now website reports exclusively today (January 8, 2014).

"A couple of months ago we got a report that over 80 people have been executed across the country and, among those 80, were Christians or owners of Bibles," he says.

"Conditions in prison camps are so bad that thousands of people die in the camps every single year from starvation, from the oppressive conditions, from torture," Morgan explains.

There is absolutely no indication that the North Korean government intends to change even slightly --  in fact, there are reports that some prison camps have even been expanded -- so Morgan is convinced the pattern will continue. He is calling for continued prayer for North Korean Christians.

Beyonce Disrespects Christ in Instagram Photo; Stands in Front of Jesus in Photo of Last Supper

Beyonce Knowles has drawn much criticism for a photo she posted last week on her Instagram account, in which she is seen posing in front of a depiction of  The Last Supper, the Charisma News website reports today (January 8, 2014).

The photo was taken at a juice bar in Miami, and the 32-year-old singer struck a pose directly in front of Jesus in the Andy Warhol mural of The Last Supper with camouflage.

Among those criticizing Beyonce is the American Family Association (AFA). "Is nothing sacred anymore? This is clearly an act of disrespect towards Jesus Christ, whom Beyonce covers up with her pose," AFA President Tim Wildmon said in a published statement. He added, "This had to be done intentionally."

The singer did not post a caption on the photo, and she has not released a statement regarding the controversy it caused.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Italian Police Nab Tunisian Stalking Ex-Girlfriend; Threatened He'd Behead Her, Said She's "His"

Police arrested an unemployed Tunisian immigrant in Italy on suspicion of stalking his Italian ex-girlfriend for nearly two years and threatening to cut off her head, the ADN Kronos (Italian) website reports today (January 7, 2014).

Police arrested 36-year-old Valid Smiri, as he tried to climb over a gate and enter his ex-girlfriend's apartment building in the town of Quartu, near Cagliari.

Witnesses said Smiri was shouting: "I'll kill you, I am an Arab, you don't know me. Even if they arrest me, I'll come back and kill you. I'll cut off your head!"

The 47-year-old woman ended a three-month relationship with Smiri in 2012 -- a decision he has refused to accept. He hung around the woman's apartment building and hurled insults at her and threatened to kill her each time he saw her go in or out, saying she was "his," according to investigators.

Muslims Burn Some 50K Lebanon Library Books; Greek Orth. Priest Unaware of Anti-Islam Booklet

American officials denounced the burning of a Christian leader's library in Tripoli, Lebanon on January 3 as based on false pretenses and said it's a threat to religious liberty, the Christian Post website reports today (January 7, 2014).

"The really bad news is that this is not out of the ordinary," Robert George -- chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) -- told the Christian Post. George emphasized the need to advocate for religious freedom across the world to prevent attacks like this one.

The fire burned two-thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts in the Al-Saeh library owned by Greek Orthodox priest Ibrahim Surouj. The arsonists targeted Surouj due to an alleged pamphlet insulting the Prophet Mohammed being found in one of the library books. When Surouj met with Islamic leaders in the city, he stated that he had nothing to do with the pamphlet.

International Security Forces Brig. Imad Ayyoubi also denounced the connection. "Father Surouj has nothing to do with the article and the source of the website is from Denmark and was published on January 7, 2010," Ayyoubi said. Hundreds of Lebanese citizens have demonstrated in support of the priest.

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Jihad Jane" Is Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison; Planned to Kill Cartoonist for Offending Muslims

A federal judge today (January 6, 2014) sentenced a Pennsylvania woman -- who called herself "Jihad Jane" -- to 10 years in prison for her part in a plan to murder a Swedish cartoonist whose images of Prophet Muhammed offended Muslims, the NY Times website reports.

Colleen LaRose -- who used "Jihad Jane" as an online alias -- pleaded guilty to four charges, including conspiring to aid terrorists and to kill a person in a foreign country, after she plotted with jihadists she met on the Internet to kill the cartoonist, Lars Vilks, who depicted the Islamic prophet atop the body of a dog.

LaRose, 50, of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia), went to Europe in 2008 with the intention of killing Vilks, but failed to meet up with the people who had encouraged the mission. She returned to the United States and was arrested after the plan was discovered.

Judge Petrese Tucker of United States District Court said today that she was satisfied that LaRose would have carried out the killing if she had made the right contacts. "The court has no doubt that, given the opportunity, Ms. LaRose would have completed the mission," the judge said at the end of the hearing, which lasted about 80 minutes.

UN Rips Israel's New Migrant Detention Policy; Says Israel Is Violating 1951 Treaty on Refugees

Thousands of African migrants staged a huge protest in central Tel Aviv yesterday in opposition to Israel's new migrant detention policy, the Euro News website reports today (January 6, 2014).

Three weeks ago, the Israeli parliament passed a law which allows authorities to detain migrants without valid visas indefinitely. Since then, dozens of men mainly from Eritrea and Sudan with families to support have been arrested.

Social worker Noa Erental expressed her sympathies with the migrants: "The problem is that people who want human rights and came here to a democratic country, searching for a safe place, are sent to prison. They are treated as prisoners, as a cancer. Some people call them cancers in Israel."

The new government measure has also drawn criticism from the United Nations Refugee Agency. It accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not conforming to the 1951 world treaty on the treatment of refugees. Some 60,000 African migrants currently live in Israel.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Violence Against Afghan Women Rose in 2013; Due to Departure of Foreign Troops, Aid Workers

Violent crime against women in Afghanistan hit record levels and became increasingly brutal in 2013, the head of its human rights commission said yesterday -- a sign that hard won rights are being rolled back as foreign troops prepare to withdraw -- the Reuters website reports today (January 5, 2014).

Restoring fundamental women's rights after the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition of troops in 2001 was cited as one of the main objectives of the war. Under the Taliban, women were forced to wear the head-to-toe covering burqa and barred from leaving their homes without being escorted by a male relative. Also, schools for girls were shut down.

Sima Samar -- chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) -- told Reuters that the brutality of attacks on women had greatly intensified. "The brutality of the cases is really bad. Cutting the nose, lips, and ears. Committing public rape," she said. "Mass rape... It's against dignity, against humanity."

She attributed the increase in crime to a culture of impunity and the imminent departure of international troops and aid workers, leaving women more exposed to attack.

Egypt Pres. in Rare Visit to Coptic Orth. Pope; Shows Appreciation of Its Christian Citizens

Egypt's interim president today (January 5, 2014) made a rare visit to the Coptic Orthodox pope ahead of this week's Orthodox Christmas celebrations, underlining efforts by the military-backed government to project an image of inclusion ahead of a crucial referendum later this month, according to the Washington Post website.

The highly symbolic visit to Pope Tawadros II at the papal seat at Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral by Adly Mansour was the first such visit since socialist leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser attended the cathedral's consecration ceremony more than 40 years ago.

Mansour's visit underlined the secular outlook of the military-installed government and signals a dramatic departure from the sectarian rhetoric of some of the more radical allies of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi during his one year in power and the tension and distrust that defined their relations with Christians.

"The visit is an expression of the appreciation by the Egyptian state of its Christian citizens who have offered a great deal while standing side by side with their Muslim brethren for the nation's glory," said presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Syrian Mufti OKs Soldiers Raping Rebels' Wives; Thousands of Women Already Raped in Syrian War

Reports of thousands of rapes in the Syrian civil war have been documented by human rights groups who are monitoring the situation on the ground. A deputy of the Chief Mufti of Syria has now issued a religious decree that it is permissible -- and even encouraged -- to rape the wives and daughters of rebel troops and supporters, the Inquisitr website reports today (January 4, 2014).

The Syrian civil war -- which is now in its third year -- has left more than 130,00 dead and millions of people homeless or displaced. This new edict issued by Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Ali al-Dala -- aide to the chief mufti of Syria, who is loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad -- will only make matters worse.

When asked about how Syrian soldiers should treat women related to Syrian rebels, Al-Dala said that soldiers loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad have permission to marry unmarried and married women who are sisters and mothers of rebel soldiers. He said the Syrian soldiers are not required to perform any type of official ceremony to be considered "married" to the women.

According to testimony from captured rebel soldiers and captains before they were executed, rape was very common in Syria's civil war long before the new religious edict. The system in place is that Syrian soldiers are to bring the attractive girls to their commanders for evaluation. The evaluations are to determine if the captains want to rape the women or if the soldiers can have them.

Pope: Church Must Not Create "Little Monsters;" Urges Seminaries to "Form the Hearts" of Students

Pope Francis has said men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood should be properly trained or the Church could risk "creating little monsters" more concerned with their careers than serving people, the Catholic News (New Zealand) website reports today (January 4, 2014).

Describing the formation of future priests as a work of art -- not a police action -- the Holy Father urged the major superior of priests religious orders to "form their hearts." If we fail to form their hearts, "we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mould the people of God," the Pope warned.

Francis said men should not enter the priesthood to seek a comfortable life or to rise up the clerical career ladder. "The ghost to fight against is the image of religious life understood as an escape or hiding place in face of an 'external' difficult and complex world," he said.

Priests must have "real contact with the poor" and other marginalized members of society, he added. The Pope's comments have been published in the current issue of the Italian Jesuit journal "Civilta Cattolica."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Six Muslim Brotherhood Backers Killed in Egypt; Police Subdue the Newly-Designated Terrorist Org.

Six people were killed as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with police in Cairo and other cities across Egypt today (January 3, 2014) -- defying an ever-widening national crackdown on the Islamist Movement -- the Global Post website reports.

Islamists opposed to the army's overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July have been holding daily demonstrations, even after the army-backed government declared his Brotherhood a terrorist group last week, thus increasing the penalties for dissent.

The government is using the new classification to detain hundreds of Brotherhood supporters. Thousands more -- including top leaders of the group -- have been in jail for months, arrested in the aftermath of the army takeover.

The Muslim Brotherhood -- the country's oldest and best organized Islamist movement -- is now under increased pressure due to mass arrests of its members, orders that the assets of Brotherhood leaders be frozen, and the recent designation of the group as a terrorist organization.

Three Striking Cambodian Factory Workers Killed; Police Shoot at Workers Striking for Higher Pay

At least three people were killed in Cambodia today (January 3, 2014) when police opened fire on textile factory workers on strike, according to the Euro News website.

Human rights workers said security forces were armed with rifles and pistols. They shot at demonstrators who threw rocks, bottles, and petrol bombs outside a factory in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

The workers are seeking a pay increase as part of a nationwide strike. The government has offered to raise the minimum wage from 58 euros a month to the equivalent of 70 euros a month. Unions have rejected that increase.

Many American big brands outsource clothing and footwear manufacturing to Cambodia, because of its cheap labor costs. For example, jeans made in Cambodia usually sell in the United States for a higher price per pair than the workers' earnings of  58 euros a month income.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kerry Is in Israel Seeking Peace with Palestinians; Netanyahu:Israelis Doubt Palestinians Want Peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today (January 2, 2014) that doubts about the Palestinians' commitment to peace are mounting in Israel, the Newsmax World website reports.

"There is growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace," Netanyahu said, with Kerry at his side, at the start of their talks in Jerusalem.

Kerry arrived in Israel today in his latest bid to re-energize peace negotiations and find scarce common ground between pessimistic Israeli and Palestinian officials. But on the the question of borders, security, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem, leaders from both sides have sounded far apart this week.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin today rejected the creation of a Palestinian state based on the lines pre-dating the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel captured and continues to occupy Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. "The Jordan Valley must be under Israeli sovereignty forever," he said, referring to the border area with Jordan, from which Palestinians want a full Israeli withdrawal.

Car Bomb Kills at Least Five in Southern Beirut; May Be Revenge for Last Week's Hezbollah Attack

A car bomb killed at least five people in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut today (January 2, 2014) -- the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Shi'ite and Sunni targets in Lebanon -- according to the Yahoo News website.

Several other cars were destroyed by the force of the blast, which left blackened and twisted wreckage smoldering on the street in front of buildings whose facades were torn off by the explosion.

Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said five people were killed and 66 wounded.

The explosion occurred less than a week after former finance minister Mohamad Chatah -- a critic of the Shi'ite Hezbollah militant group and its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- was killed along with six others by a car bomb in Beirut. Many view today's car bomb attack as a retaliation against Hezbollah for that recent attack.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Exclusive:Muslims Sell Blood of Dead Christians; Behead Christians in Syria, Sell Blood for $100K

Atrocities by Syrian jihadist rebels have reached a sensational new low level, according to a revered nun working with persecuted Christians, the WND (World Net Daily) website reports exclusively today (January 1, 2014).

Sister Hatune Dogan told WND in a Skype interview that members of the Syrian opposition are draining the blood of Christians they behead and selling vials to Islamic radicals -- mostly in Saudi Arabia -- for $100,000 each.

The Syrian Orthodox nun explained that the blood is used in a ritual washing of hands in the belief the act atones for sins and provides privileged access to heaven. The Christians, she said, are beheaded in ceremonies in which they are forced to kneel, with their hands and feet bound, as the Muslim radicals read a death sentence imposed because the victim refuses to renounce Christianity and embrace Islam.

She detailed how the head of the victim is brutally severed with knives. The blood spurting from their necks is captured in basins and then bottled.

Sister Dogan added that the sale of Christian blood "is a big business." She explained, "with this money, the Muslim terrorists can buy more weapons."

Pope Emphasizes Peace in New Year's Day Prayer; Calls on World to Be a "Community of Brothers"

Pope Francis offered New Year's greetings of peace today (January 1, 2014) to the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite with the Holy Father the Angelus prayer at the start of 2014, according to the Vatican News website.

The Pope said his wishes for the new year are "those of the Church:" Christian wishes that put Jesus Christ at the center of history and at its end: "the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of peace, justice, liberty in love." And the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father said, is the force which propels us towards that end.

Recalling that on January first, the Church celebrates the feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God as well as World Day of Peace, Pope Francis referred to his Message of Peace for the Day: "Fraternity: the Foundation and Pathway to Peace," saying it stems from the conviction that we are "all children of one God and are part of the same human family," sharing a common destiny.

We all have a responsibility, the Pope stressed, to build a world which "becomes a community of brothers who respect each other, accept each other's differences, and take care of each other." He added, "Everyone must work to build a society of solidarity and truly more just."