Friday, February 28, 2014

Muslims Execute 7 Egyptian Christians in Libya; Extremist Muslims Opposed to Christian Religion

The bodies of seven Christians from Egypt were found on a beach near Benghazi, Libya on February 24. The individuals -- all young men -- appeared to have been murdered execution style, with gunshots to the head and chest, The New American website reports today (February 28, 2014).

Christians have been targeted in the region over the past few years as political unrest continues, with Muslim extremists attacking churches and individual believers for sharing their religious beliefs with others.

The "Libya Herald" reported that all seven men were Coptic Orthodox Christians from Egypt, and were between the ages of 17 and 25. Witnesses reported that the assailants -- who appeared to be Islamists -- dragged the men from their apartment, bound their hands, and shot them.

Thousands of Coptic Orthodox Christians from Egypt have flooded into Libya in recent years to work as laborers in the oil fields, and have faced heavy persecution and violence from Islamic radicals.

"Death to the Jews" Painted on Crimea Synagogue; Anti-Semites Now Blame Jews for Ukraine's Fury

A news website from Crimea -- a Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea whose parliament building is now controlled by Russian armed guards and whose Ukrainian flag atop the building has been replaced by a Russian flag -- reported that a synagogue in Crimea's capital of Simferopol has been spray painted with anti-Semitic language, the Algemeiner (Jewish) website reports today (February 28, 2014).

The spray paint included swastika symbols and the wording "death to the Jews," said Anatoly Gendin, head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Crimea.

Although there is no direct evidence linking anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine with the broader civil unrest in the country, Gendin pointed to the fact that since the protests started in Kiev last November, Ukrainian life has gotten 30 percent more expensive and the Ukrainian Oschadbank stopped issuing pension payments to the elderly.

"When I look at this anti-Semitic writing, I understand that the provocateurs want to turn the attention of regular people to 'those responsible for these negative changes.' History tells us that those always to blame are -- the Jews! What will happen later? I don't know," Gendin said.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Boston Mayor Backs Gays for St. Pat's Day Parade; Says He'll Shun Parade If Organizers Exclude Them

Boston's new mayor, Martin Walsh, plans to boycott the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, if organizers continue their stubborn stance to exclude gay and lesbian groups from marching in it, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (February 27, 2014).

Every year, more than half a million spectators line the streets of South Boston for the annual parade -- the second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States. Boston has the highest percentage of Irish-Americans in the United States, with 20 percent of residents in the metro Boston area descending from Irish immigrants, according to a Forbes report.

But in 1995, a unanimous ruling by the US Supreme Court confirmed the parade committee's right to bar gay and lesbian groups from formally participating in the event. The Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston was excluded.

Walsh -- himself the son of Irish immigrants -- did march in the parade last year as a state representative, but he's changed his tune since becoming mayor last month. "Equality comes first," Walsh said.

French Court Acquits Priest of Raping Virgin, 39; Priest Said He Believed Woman Consented to Sex

A French court today (February 27, 2014) acquitted a 69-year-old priest of raping a devout and vulnerable parishioner, the Global Post website reports.

Daniel Lagnien, 69, was accused of taking advantage of a 39-year-old woman described as psychologically frail with no sexual experience, in a case with the potential to inflict further damage on the reputation of the Roman Catholic clergy after years of hundreds of sexual scandals.

The prosecution had alleged that Lagnien made advances to the virgin during a 2010 pilgrimage to a shrine in the French Alps. Several days later, she went to the priest's home in Moirans-en-Montagne, Jura seeking an explanation of his behavior.

Instead, the prosecution said, the priest took her into a bedroom and raped her. Lagnien said he had not forced his parishioner into sex, and believed that she had consented.

The prosecutor had also said Lagnien had changed his story, initially confessing while in police custody to rape, and later saying that he had not forced the woman into a sexual relationship.

Russian Gunmen Control Crimea Parliament Bldg.; Russia May Try to Annex This Ukrainian Peninsula

Armed Russian gunmen took control of the parliament building and other regional government buildings in Simferopol, the capital of  Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on the Black Sea yesterday and raised the Russian flag, putting Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea under increasing threat. Earlier, Russian-backed fighters were seen establishing a checkpoint on the main road in Crimea, The Globe and Mail (Canadian) website reports today (February 27, 2014).

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday ordered the Russian military in its central and western commands -- more than 150,000 troops with hundreds of tanks and helicopter gunships -- to be put on alert for "war games" in the areas bordering Ukraine, while fighter jets patrolled the border.

Meanwhile, Moscow media reported that deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych -- who fled from Ukraine for fear of being killed by protesters -- had been seen in a Moscow hotel and is now staying in a Kremlin sanatorium just outside the city.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu characterized the military action in Ukraine as a snap "military drill," similar to others Putin has ordered in the past in Russia. But the timing of the military moves raised sky-high tensions in Ukraine, as well as suspicions that Russia may be planning to take permanent control of the Crimean peninsula, and prompted warnings to Russia from U.S. officials.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Albanians Fighting Abroad Face 10 Years in Jail; Due to Many Albanian Muslims Fighting in Syria

A new amendment to the Albanian criminal code raises jail terms to 10 years for Albanians who join conflicts abroad for political and ideological reasons, the Balkan Insight website reports today (February 26, 2014).

The amendment -- initiated by the ministry of justice -- follows reports that a growing number of Albanian citizens have joined radical Islamist groups fighting in the Syrian civil war.

"It's a step in the right direction," Arjan Dyrmishi, a security expert with the Albanian Institute of Democracy and Mediation said.

Concerns are growing that Muslims from the Balkans are being drawn into the bloody sectarian conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq and, increasingly, Lebanon.

Ex Pope Benedict Denies He Was Forced to Resign; Rips New Reports of Being Forced Out as "Absurd"

Former Pope Benedict -- in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down nearly a year ago -- has branded as "absurd" fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit, the Reuters website reports today (February 26, 2014).

Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he makes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.

"There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry," Benedict, 86, who now has the title "pope emeritus," said in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider published today.

Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, 2013 and formally stepped down on February 28, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. Two weeks later, Francis -- who had been a cardinal in Argentina --  was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Muslims Excited Mosque Const. Began in Athens; Athens Only European Capital Without a Mosque

Athens is currently the only European capital that has no mosque for praying, but this shortfall will be ending in the upcoming months, the World Bulletin website reports today (February 25, 2014).

Muslims in Greece -- who have had to rent apartments to use as mosques for Friday prayers -- are now excited that they will soon have a regular mosque in an ancient city which is considered as the backbone of western civilization.

After years of Muslims' demands for a mosque in Athens fell on deaf ears by the Greek government, parliament approved building a mosque in Greece's capital two years ago. More than 95 percent of Greece's population belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Delayed several times due to financial problems and severe resistance by far right groups, the bid for the mosque was accepted three months ago, and construction of the mosque has already begun.

Obama Agrees Not to Put Monitors in Newsrooms; Trashing Plan Is Victory for Freedom of the Press

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) -- which focuses on constitutional law -- said that a decision by the Obama administration to pull the plug on its proposal for putting monitors in newsrooms is a significant victory for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press, the Charisma News website reports today (February 25, 2014).

Under fire from a growing number of Americans, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a statement announcing it is pulling the plug on the proposal, saying some of the questions directed to members of the news media "overstepped the bounds of what is required."

"This is a significant victory for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press," says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "The American people spoke out and sent a persuasive message to the Obama administration: The federal government has no business interfering in the news business -- putting monitors in newsrooms in an attempt to control the media's message."

Sekulow adds, "By shutting down this proposal, the FCC took the only action it could. We will now remain vigilant to ensure that the FCC follows through on its pledge to refrain from putting monitors in America's newsrooms."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ukraine Charges Yanukovych with Mass Murder; May Have Told Police to Shoot Kiev Protesters

Ukraine's new leaders have issued an arrest warrant for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, who was impeached on February 22 and is on the run. The charges are linked to recent deadly violence in Kiev, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (February 24, 2014).

The Kiev Post wrote this morning that it is "presumed that the investigation centers on whether Yanukovych hired snipers or ordered riot police to shoot Independence Square demonstrators in January and February." More than 100 people have been killed in Ukraine's political turmoil, including at least 75 in the past week.

The manhunt is the latest blow to Yanukovych, who just a week ago sought to use force to crush the protests on Kiev's Independence Square. Protesters have occupied Independence Square since late November, when Yanukovych decided against signing an association agreement with the European Union (EU), which would have set Ukraine on a course that could ultimately result in EU membership.

Yanukovych instead sought support from the Kremlin, which retains strong influence over the eastern half of Ukraine and views the onetime Soviet republic as part of its sphere of influence. Russia eventually offered Yanukovych's government a $15 billion loan to keep Ukraine from toppling into economic crisis. His decision to accept support from Russia -- rather than signing an agreement with the EU -- sparked the angry protests that led to Yanukovych's downfall.

Pope Urges Cardinals to Shun Royal Court Image; Warns Them Not to Behave Like a Privileged Class

Pope Francis yesterday urged cardinals -- who make up the top echelon of the Roman Catholic Church -- to shun the intrigue, gossip, and cliques typical of a royal court, the Reuters website reports today (February 24, 2014).

Since his election nearly a year ago, Francis has often told his top aides not to live or behave like a privileged class.

The eight-year papacy of his predecessor, Benedict, was marked by mishaps and missteps, which were often blamed on a dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy and intrigue befitting a Renaissance court.

Yesterday, Francis celebrated a mass with 18 of the 19 new cardinals who were elevated to that rank the day before. One of the new cardinals could not attend because of illness.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saudi Arabia to Build a Coptic Orthodox Church; To Be 1st Church in Nation of Mohammed's Birth

An agreement has been reached between the Coptic Orthodox Pope in Egypt and the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Cairo, Ahmed Kattan, on the establishment of the first church in Saudi Arabia since the arrival of Islam in 570 AD, The Tablet (British) website reports today (February 23, 2014).

MidEast Christian News reported that the Coptic Orthodox Pope, Tawadros II, thanked the King of Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh Government for their approval of the building of the church, which would be Coptic Orthodox.

Such a development would be remarkable, as the Saudi kingdom forbids all public expressions of Christianity and possession of items such as Bibles, crucifixes, religious statues, and other religious symbols. Mecca -- the capital of Saudi Arabia -- is the birthplace of Islamic Prophet Mohammed and the most holy city of Islam.

At the meeting of the Coptic Pope and the Saudi ambassador, the two discussed consolidating relations between the Church and Saudi Arabia, especially after the Saudi King pledged to send aid to Egypt after the June 30 military overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi -- an event welcomed by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Ukraine's Parliament Ousts President Yanukovych; Protesters Sought His Ouster Due to Russian Deal

The Ukrainian parliament has ousted its president Viktor Yanukovych, the Big News Network website reports today (February 23, 2014).

The expulsion yesterday came after months of violent protests in many parts of the country.

Yanukovych -- a staunch ally of Russia -- had turned Ukraine away from a deal with the European Union (EU), which would have seen it take full membership.

His deal with Russia -- which, in effect, shattered Ukraine's expected agreement with the EU -- angered a plethora of Ukrainians who turned Kiev, Ukraine's capital, into a war zone last week with several people killed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bolivia's High Court Rules Abortion Is a Crime; Ruling Scorns UN's Global Pro-Abortion Pressure

In a critical and highly publicized ruling, Bolivia's Constitutional Court bucked the recommendations of two United Nations committees to decriminalize abortion -- by contending there is an "international customary norm on abortion" -- and, instead handed down a surprise ruling which continues to protect the unborn, the Breaking Christian News website reports today (February 22, 2014).

According to a Life News report, the court's arguments for protecting life were "original," asserting "ancient indigenous cosmic beliefs that life is in constant perpetuity, without beginning or end; therefore, everything that is life or 'could potentially generate life' is protected by the Bolivian constitution."

In other words, it notes, abortion-on-demand must never be permitted and is a crime during the later stages of pregnancy.

The report also noted that the Bolivian justices "followed the lead of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in determining when life begins. In a ruling about the legal status of embryos, the Costa Rica-based court decided that human life does not begin at conception, when an embryo is formed, but when the embryo is implanted in the uterus."

Syrian Christian Group Slams Support for Assad; Says His Civilian Murders Contradict Christianity

A group of Syrian Christian intellectuals have issued a statement, condemning church support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Daily Star (Lebanese) website reports today (February 22, 2014).

The statement -- which was issued on February 19 -- was signed by 33 prominent activists, artists and writers, and intellectuals including Karim Jalloul, Marwan Khouri, and Samir Matar.

It accused the Assad regime of exploiting religious minorities and using sectarianism as a tool to cement control, rejecting what it said was church authorities' incorrect promotion of Assad as a protector of minorities.

"The Assad regime did not distinguish between those who rebelled against his tyranny and repression; he crushed them all," the statement read. It added that the regime's tactics of shelling civilians, use of missiles and barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and siege tactics "contradict the teachings of Christianity."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ukrainian Parliament Acquits Yulia Tymoshenko; Former PM Served 30 Months for Abuse of Power

Ukraine's newly empowered parliament has voted to allow the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko after 30 months in prison, the Newser website reports today (February 21, 2014).

Legislators voted 310-54 to decriminalize the abuse of power charge under which she was imprisoned, meaning that she is no longer guilty of a criminal offense.

"Free Yulia! Free Yulia!" legislators chanted after the vote. It was not immediately clear when she might be released from the eastern city of Kharkiv where she is serving her prison sentence.

As part of today's deal between President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders, the parliament also granted unconditional amnesty to detained protesters.

Dalai Lama Meets with Obama at White House; China: Meeting Exiled Tibetan Hurts Ties with US

President Barack Obama held low-key talks with the Dalai Lama at the White House today (February 21, 2014), after warnings from China that the meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would "seriously damage" ties with Washington, according to the Reuters website.

The private meeting lasted about an hour, although the Dalai Lama -- a Nobel Peace Prize laureate -- was not seen by White House photographers as he entered and exited the complex.

The White House sidestepped questions about whether it was worried Obama's meeting -- his third with the Dalai Lama -- would upset its relationship with China.

"We are committed to a constructive relationship with China in which we work together to solve regional and global problems," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a regular news briefing, noting that Obama and other U.S. presidents had previously met with the Tibetan theologian.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Govt. Truce in Ukraine Falters, 60 Killed Today; Police Get Combat Weapons for Use on Protesters

Gunfire in Kiev's Independence Square today (February 20, 2014) shattered a truce declared hours earlier between the Ukrainian government and anti-government protesters, the UPI website reports.

According to the chief of the National Resistance Headquarters' medical service Sviatoslav Khanenko, more than 60 people were killed today with the number of deaths expected to rise.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych blamed the protesters for the failed truce. In a statement on the presidential website, his office alleged: "The opposition used the negotiation period to buy time, to mobilize, and to get weapons to protesters."

Meanwhile, Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko confirmed that police have been issued combat weapons. "We signed relevant orders as part of the Antiterrorist Center's work: the law enforcement officials have been provided with combat weapons, and they will be used in line with the law on police."

Penn. Couple Go to Prison After 2nd Child Dies; Opted for Prayer Over Med. Care for Sick Sons

A Pennsylvania Pentecostal Christian couple -- who allowed a second sick child to die rather than seek medical help for reasons of faith -- were sentenced to prison yesterday, the Raw Story website reports today (February 20, 2014).

Herbert Schaible, 47, and Catherine Schaible, 44, each received prison sentences of three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison followed by 30 months of probation after their release.

The Schaibles -- members of the First Century Gospel Church in Juniata Park, Penn. -- opted for prayer over medical treatment for their pneumonia-stricken 7-month old son Brandon. The child died in April after suffering for days with breathing problems. At the time, the couple were only two years into a 10-year probation sentence resulting from the death of their 2-year-old son Kent in 2009 from bacterial pneumonia.

In court yesterday, Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said that while he respects the bond between parents and children, the Schaibles must face consequences for their failure to intervene in Brandon's death from a preventable illness.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Four Are Killed in a Double Bomb Blast in Beirut; Al Qaeda Group Targeted Iranian Cultural Center

An al Qaeda-linked group says it was behind deadly twin bomb blasts in the southern suburbs of Beirut today (February 19, 2014) that killed at least four people and injured more than 100, the Euro News website reports.

The army said two cars packed with explosives were used in the attack, in an area of Lebanon's capital controlled by Shi'ite Hezbollah.

The militant Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility, saying the Iranian cultural center was the target. Iran's embassy was attacked in November.

Tehran backs Hezbollah which has sent fighters into Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad's forces fight the uprising there. Radical Sunni Islamists sympathetic to the rebellion have pledged to attack Hezbollah on Lebanese soil, and this is the latest in a string of car and suicide bombings.

Nun, 84, Gets 3 Yrs. for Nuclear Facility Break; Tells Judge "To Remain in Prison Is an Honor"

An 84-year-old nun and two men were each sentenced to nearly three years in prison yesterday for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility in July 2012, the Religion News website reports today (February 19, 2014).

Sister Megan Rice and two other anti-nuclear activists were convicted last May of breaking into a federal complex that stores enriched uranium. Rice -- a member of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus -- broke into the Tennessee facility with Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, and Michael Walli, 64. The three used wire cutters to slice through multiple security fences.

"Please have no leniency on me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me," Rice told the federal judge at her sentencing hearing.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar in Knoxville said he wanted the sentence to send a signal that others need to work for change within the bounds of the law.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Islamist Militants Kill 200 in Nigeria in Past Week; Seek to Set Up Islamic Nation Under Sharia Law

Islamist militants have been responsible for the deaths of at least 200 civilians in northeastern Nigeria in the last week, the Christian Today website reports today (February 18, 2014).

The attackers are thought to be members of Boko Haram -- an Islamic extremist group with ties to al-Qaeda -- that has declared its intention to cleanse the country of Christians, eradicate Nigerian democracy, and replace it with an Islamic state guided by Sharia law.

They also detonated bombs and set fire to homes in the attack.

The gunmen arrived at night-time in pick-up trucks and on motorcycles, chanting "Allah Akbar" meaning "God is great." They ordered villagers to gather together before opening fire on those present and slitting the throats of any who attempted to escape.

At Least 14 Die in Worst Day of Ukraine Violence; Govt. Had Set Deadline to End Protests "Or Else"

Ukrainian riot police have advanced onto a central Kiev square occupied by protesters, after at least 14 people died in the worst day of violence since demonstrations erupted against president Viktor Yanukovich 12 weeks ago, the Irish Times website reports today (February 18, 2014).

Protesters on Independence Square responded with petrol bombs, fireworks, and stones, as police moved slowly forward, hours after the state security service had set a deadline for the demonstrators to end disorder or face "tough measures."

The riot police moved in hours after Moscow gave Ukraine $2 billion in aid which it had been holding back to demand decisive action to crush the protests.

Nationwide protests against Yanukovich erupted in November after he bowed to Russian pressure and pulled out of a planned far-reaching agreement with the European Union (EU), deciding instead at the last minute to accept a Kremlin bailout for the heavily indebted Ukrainian economy. Most Ukrainians are opposed to such close ties with Russia as they believe that Russia may have plans to control Ukraine, as it did shortly after World War II until 1991 when Ukraine was nothing more than a Russian satellite.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ethiopian Hijacks a Rome-Bound Plane to Geneva; Wanted Asylum in Switz.,Faces 20 Yrs. in Prison

A plane from Ethiopia to Italy was hijacked today (February 17, 2014) and diverted to Geneva by its co-pilot, who Swiss officials said locked the pilot out of the cockpit after he went to the bathroom, according to the USA Today website.

Italian news agency ANSA said passenger Francesco Cuomo said the pilot was demanding that the hijacker open the door and tried to break it down. Cuomo, an Italian, said the hijacker got on the loudspeaker and threatened to crash the plane, then the oxygen masks came down.

Once the plane landed in Switzerland, the hijacker climbed out the window of the jet's cockpit using a rope and surrendered to police. All 202 passengers and crew exited safely from the Boeing 767-300 plane that had taken off from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The man "wanted asylum in Switzerland," Geneva International Airport chief executive Robert Deillon said. Geneva prosecutor Oliver Jornot and Swiss federal authorities were investigating the hijacking and would press charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Snake Kills Snake-Handler Preacher in Kentucky; Jamie Coots Refused Treatment for a Snake Bite

Jamie Coots -- a third-generation snake handler who pastored a small church in Lexington, Kentucky -- died yesterday after he was bitten by a snake, and subsequently refused treatment, The Daily Beast website reports today (February 17, 2014).

Coots had gained fame through his National Geographic TV show "Snake Salvation."

He had been bitten by snakes before during his spiritual ministering: After he had survived a 1998 bite without treatment, he said, "It's a victory to God's people that the Lord seen fit to bring me through it."

Snake handlers believe they are following a religious command, based on Mark 16:17-18 "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Syrian Govt. Now Uses Barrel Bombs from Planes; Have Caused Some 3,400 Deaths in Past 3 Weeks

Several Syrians -- who have reached the Turkish border town of Kilis -- bring stories of horror about exploding barrels from the sky, the Washington Post website reports today (February 16, 2014).

The worst part is the terrifying anticipation as the barrel bombs are unleashed from warplanes roaring overhead, said one man who fled after three bombs demolished the street where he was living. The sight of rescuers scraping human remains from the sidewalk outside her home prompted another of the refugees to leave. A third Syrian -- a grandmother -- said she left because "Aleppo is empty."  She added, "There's no one left -- no shops, no markets, no life at all."

The barrels -- crude cylinders stuffed with TNT that are being tipped out of warplanes at the rate of 20 a day -- have killed hundreds and injured thousands. They are almost all being dropped over residential areas, suggesting an intent to drive people out, residents say.

The barrel bombs are powerful enough to demolish apartment buildings, obliterate homes, and incinerate people, and their increased use has been the primary cause of a sharp increase in deaths in Syria over the past three weeks. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 3,400 people have been killed since the Geneva peace talks began, making the three-week period since then "the most concentrated period of killing in the entire duration of the conflict," according to Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EU Slams Swiss for Voting to Limit Immigration; Many Natives Felt Switz. Was Losing Its Culture

The European Union (EU) is terrorizing voters in Switzerland and threatening retaliation against the tiny nation -- which is not a member of the EU -- after the Swiss voted on February 9 to limit immigration in a national referendum, The New American website reports today (February 11, 2014).

Amid verbal attacks on the Swiss themselves -- senior EU officials have been suggesting that "xenophobia" was behind the vote -- out-of-touch European politicians and bureaucrats are even warning that Switzerland could lose its current bilateral access to the "common market" ruled by the emerging super-state in Brussels.

The EU -- famous for ignoring the public to impose its will -- has already started adopting the "consequences" promised by its leaders. According to news reports, the unaccountable regime just suspended talks with Switzerland on incorporating Swiss utilities into the broader European energy market.

With the neutral Alpine nation facing a flood of immigrants from Europe who do not share their generally liberty-minded values and culture, concerns over unrestricted immigration under bilateral treaties finally came to a boil this year. Already, some 25 percent of the population is foreign born -- about two-thirds of that total come from EU nations -- and many native Swiss people have long felt that Switzerland was losing its culture.

Romanian President Is Fined for Insulting Roma; Said Roma Avoid Work, Make a Living by Stealing

Romania's anti-discrimination council yesterday fined President Traian Basescu 600 lei (about 130 euro) for saying that Roma/Gypsy people avoid work and make a living mainly by stealing, the Balkan Insight website reports today (February 11, 2014).

Basescu made his comments back in 2010 at a news conference in Slovenia. Addressing the problem of Roma integration, he said: "Very few of them want to work... and traditionally, many of them live off stealing."

Roma activists welcomed the imposition of the fine. "It is an important, and even more symbolic, act of justice. We hope this decision will make other people stop discriminating against the Roma people," Marian Mandache, from the Romani Criss Roma rights organization, said.

Basescu himself has not reacted in public about the ruling.

Monday, February 10, 2014

PA's Erekat Says Peace Talks Will End on April 29; Adds PA Will Not Recognize Israel as Jewish State

Saeb Erekat -- the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel -- said today (February 10, 2014) that direct negotiations have stalled and would not be extended beyond April. He also underlined the PA position that it would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Algemeiner website reports.

Speaking in Ramallah, Erekat denied reports that there was an initiative from the U.S. to extend the negotiations beyond a self-imposed April 29 deadline.

He also dismissed a reported statement from Tzipi Livni -- head of the Israeli delegation to the peace talks -- on the willingness of the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, saying that "it will not happen."

Erekat has been a lead member of the negotiating team for the PA -- and before that for the PLO (the Palestinian Liberation Organization headed by the late Yasser Arafat)  -- for the past 23 years.

Eight Killed at a Sufi Rel. Gathering in Pakistan; Sunni Militants Don't See Sufi as True Muslims

Gunmen threw grenades at a Sufi Islamic religious gathering yesterday in the port city of Karachi,
Pakistan, and then opened fire on the people assembled to offer prayers, killing eight, the USA Today website reports today (February 10, 2014).

Eight more people were wounded in the attack, said Aftab Chanur, an official at the hospital who gave the death toll.

The four gunmen on motorcycles first lobbed grenades at the building where a Sufi cleric was receiving his followers, then raked it with automatic fire, said police official Javed Odho. He added that women and children were among the dead and wounded.

Pakistan is 95 percent Muslim, and the majority of Pakistanis practice Sufi-influenced Islam. Nonetheless, their shrines and followers have come under attack in Pakistan by Sunni Muslim militants who don't consider them to be true Muslims, and who consider their shrines to be sacrilegious.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gunman Kills 2,Injures 6 in Russian Orth. Church; No Known Motive for Shooting on Sakhalin Island

A gunman has killed two people and injured six others after opening fire in a Russian Orthodox cathedral today (February 9, 2014), according to the Independent (British) website.

A nun and a parishioner were fatally wounded in the attack in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the island of Sakhalin, off Russia's eastern coast.

The gunman -- who had worked as a security guard in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk -- was detained at the scene, the federal Investigative Committee said.

There was no immediate word on a motive for the attack, which came just six days after a Moscow teenager killed a teacher and a policeman and held 20 classmates hostage, in what was Russia's first major school shooting.

Internet Censorship in Turkey Triggers Protests; Protesters Say Controls Made to Hide Govt. Fraud

Turkish police fired water cannon and teargas to disperse thousands of people protesting in central Istanbul yesterday against new controls on the Internet approved by parliament, the Reuters website reports today (February 9, 2014).

The new powers -- when approved by the president -- will let authorities block web pages within hours, in what the opposition has said is part of a government bid to stifle discussion of a corruption scandal currently taking place in Turkey.

Riot police advanced along Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue behind armored vehicles firing water cannon at protesters, some of whom waved flags and held up placards.

Some demonstrators responded by throwing stones or setting off fireworks aimed at police before scattering into side streets. "Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption," some chanted.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Militants in Syria Committing Organ Trafficking; Most Traffick Organs Go to Turkey by Ambulance

Militants in war-torn Syria have organized a special group to collect the bodies of dead Syrians for organ trafficking, the Big News Network website reports today (February 8, 2014).

Press TV has reported the bodies are transported to local hospitals where organs are removed and sent on to recipients.

It is believed that the trafficked organs are mostly sent into Turkey via private ambulance services.

In 2013, it was also alleged that a number of young injured Syrian citizens who were taken to hospitals in the cities of Antakya and Iskenderun in Turkey for treatment had instead fallen foul of  organ traffickers. At that time, the Lebanese newspaper Ad-Diyar reported that Turkish doctors had confirmed livers, kidneys, and hearts from over 15,000 Syrians had been excised before their bodies were returned to Syria for burial.

Federal Privileges to Extend to Same-Sex Couples; Atty. Gen. Holder Requires Equal Rights for Gays

The federal government will soon treat married same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples when they file for bankruptcy, testify in court, or visit family in prison, the New York Times website reports today (February 8, 2014).

Attorney General Eric Holder issued policies aimed at eliminating the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the federal criminal justice system, according to excerpts from a speech today at an event organized by a prominent gay-rights group.

"In every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections, and rights as opposite-sex marriages," Holder said.

The changes were set in motion last year when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to refuse federal benefits to married same-sex couples -- a ruling that Holder supported.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Protesters in Bosnia Set Fire to Govt. Buildings; Unemployment Leads to Worst Riots Since 1995

Protesters in predominantly Islamist Bosnia have set fire to government buildings and fought with police on the third day of that nation's worst civil unrest since its 1992-95 war, the Euro News website reports today (February 7, 2014).

In Bosnia's northern town of Tuzla, masked youths -- many of them sporting football insignia -- stormed and torched the seat of the local authority, while a section of the presidency building in the capital Sarajevo was also set alight with a flare thrown through a window.

The protests have spread across the country. Police used water cannons as demonstrators who had already attacked local government headquarters in Sarajevo turned on the Bosnian presidency building.

Anger over massive unemployment and political inertia triggered the disturbances, starting in Tuzla, which has been hit hard by factory closures. Many protesters claim authorities have stood by idly as several state firms collapsed after privatization.

Missouri Cath. Priest Denies Lesbian Communion; Refused Her Communion at Her Mother's Funeral

A Catholic priest in Chillicothe, Missouri abruptly refused to give communion to a lesbian parishioner at her mother's funeral when he found out that she was in a lesbian relationship, the Raw Story website reports today (February 7, 2014).

Carol Parker and her partner of 20 years, Josephine Martin, received word from their longtime priest that he would not allow them to take communion in the church they have attended for more than 12 years.

Parker's mother died on December 26. When Father Benjamin Kneib of Saint Columbian Catholic Church read that Parker's mother was survived by a son, a daughter, and her daughter's partner, Kneib contacted the couple to tell them they were no longer welcome in God's house.

"He had called me the day of the rosary and said he wouldn't be able to give us communion because of our same-sex relationship," Parker told a local TV channel.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rabbis Send "Wrath of God" Letter to John Kerry; Call on Kerry to End "Antagonism" Against Israel

According to Israel National News (INN), a group called Rabbis from the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel penned an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for an end to his "antagonism" against Israel, the Truth Revolt website website reports today (February 6, 2014).

INN reports that the criticisms in the letter stem from Kerry's efforts to "hand over" Israel to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as well as his threatened global boycott of the Jewish state if peace talks fail. The letter contends that Kerry's plans would result in tens of thousands of Jews being displaced from their homes -- something the rabbis equate to "war on God."

The rabbis' letter to Kerry states: "Your incessant efforts to expropriate integral parts of our Holy Land and hand them over to Abbas's terrorist gang, amount to a declaration of war against the Creator and Ruler of the universe. For God awarded the entire Land of Israel to our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in order that they bequeath it, as an everlasting inheritance, to their descendants, the Jewish people, until the end of time."

The letter adds: "If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people -- like Nebuchadnezer and Titus -- who destroyed, respectively, the first and second great Temples and the entire Holy City of Jerusalem, and who, by Heavenly punishment, brought eventual disaster upon themselves, too."

The letter concludes: "By the power of our Holy Torah, we admonish you to cease immediately all efforts to achieve these disastrous agreements -- in order to avoid severe Heavenly punishment for everyone involved."

Thousands of Women Are Raped in Iraqi Prisons; Human Rights Watch: Many Detained for Years

Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of women illegally and subjecting them to torture and sexual abuse, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released today (February 6, 2014) reveals, according to the Reuters website.

Many women were detained for many months -- even years -- without being charged before seeing a judge, HRW said.

In custody, women described being kicked, slapped, hung upside-down and beaten on the soles of their feet, given electric shocks, threatened with sexual assault by security forces during interrogation, and even raped.

"The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq," said HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork in a statement accompanying the report, titled: "'No One Is Safe:' Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ukrainians Replace Lenin Statue with Gold Toilet; Did So to Convey Corruption of Pres. Yanukovych

Protesters in Ukraine have installed a golden toilet on the cement block that was once the home of a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (February 5, 2014).

A student group in Kiev placed the toilet there as a scathing commentary on allegations of corruption among government officials.

Among the accusations against Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych that have fueled the demonstrations is the charge that he had gold toilets installed at his sprawling country estate near Kiev.

The Lenin statue was torn down as a gesture rejecting Moscow's historic influence over Ukraine. Protesters are angry that the Ukrainian government recently moved away from a closer relationship with the EU (European Union) to develop stronger ties with Russia.

Montana Diocese Fires Unwed Pregnant Teacher; Says She Violated Cath. Contract in Personal Life

The Diocese of Helena (Montana) is defending its decision to fire an unwed Butte Central teacher because she is pregnant, the Montana Standard website reports today (February 5, 2014).

Shaela Evenson "made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract," which requires her to follow Catholic teachings in both her personal and professional life, Superintendent Patrick Haggarty said yesterday.

This morning, Haggarty defended the decision in a new interview with The Montana Standard newspaper. "It's not easy being a Christian or a Catholic in today's world," Haggarty said. "Our faith asks us to do things that right now are not popular with society."

Evenson taught sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade literature and physical education at the school for the past nine years. She was dismissed on January 10 after the diocese received an anonymous letter revealing that she is pregnant.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ADL Rips Kerry for Boycotts on Israel Comment; Said "Boycotts Will Ensue" If Peace Talks Fail

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today (February 4, 2014) sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, upbraiding him for a speech over the weekend on Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace talks that it said worked "to create a reality of its own," with his "tough talk," the Algemeiner website reports.

His comments relating to boycotts against Israel if the peace talks fail, the ADL said, will make it more likely "that the talks will not succeed..." "that Israel will be blamed if the talks fail" and "that boycotts will ensue."

For what he didn't say, the ADL pointed to the "historical amnesia" that forgets that it was the Palestinian side that has walked away from every previous international peace agreement proposal.

"In speaking about the price Israel will pay if the peace talks break down and Israel is blamed, you may have thought you were merely describing reality," the ADL wrote. "But as the key player in the process, the impact of your comments was to create a reality of its own."

EXCLUSIVE:Afghan Pres.,Taliban in Secret Talks; May Explain Karzai's Rising Hostility Toward US

Citing unnamed Afghan and Western officials, the New York Times reported exclusively today (February 4, 2014) that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has been holding secret talks with Taliban officials in the hope of persuading them to make peace with the government, according to the Reuters website.

The NY Times -- in its report -- said a Karzai spokesman confirmed contact had been made with the Taliban and described the past two months as positive.

Officials, however, told the paper the Taliban-initiated peace talks have been fruitless so far, although they may help explain Karzai's mounting public hostility to Washington.

Last November -- around the same time the secret talks reportedly began -- Karzai announced his intention to avoid signing a bilateral security deal with the United States until after a presidential election in April. Karzai has served two terms as president of Afghanistan and cannot run again.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Student Kills Officer, Teacher at a Moscow School; Takes More Than 20 Students Hostage, Is Arrested

Russian police say they have arrested a high school student who reportedly shot his way into a high school in Moscow, taking more than 20 students hostage, the Euro News website reports today (February 3, 2014).

A teacher and a police officer were killed in the incident, although the hostages were freed unharmed.

"The person who took 20 people and a teacher hostage is a student in the upper classes at the same school. He has been neutralized and all the students have been freed," Interior Ministry spokesman Andrei Pilpchuk said today on state TV.

The gunman is said by police sources to have walked into the school with a rifle and kept his hostages in a biology classroom before being "neutralized" by armed officers.

Calif. Man Points Gun at Girl Scout Cookie Seller; Was Perhaps Due to Conservative Rage Toward GS

A California man was taken into custody yesterday after he allegedly pulled a gun on a young Girl Scout (GS) who was selling cookies, the Raw Story website reports today (February 3, 2014).

The Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office said that the father of the girl -- who is a minor -- contacted authorities after he saw 59-year-old John Dodrill point the gun at his daughter while she was selling cookies door-to-door yesterday.

Dodrill was taken into custody for suspected assault with a deadly weapon. His firearm was confiscated as evidence, the sheriff's office said.

This year, conservatives are calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because the Girl Scouts  supported liberal and pro-abortion Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) as a candidate for woman of the year. Conservatives believe that the Girl Scouts are being taken over by liberal left ideologues -- something that conservatives and anti-abortionists strongly oppose.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Syrian Aircraft Bomb Rebel-Held Areas in Aleppo; At Least 36 Killed, Mostly Women and Children

Syrian government aircraft continued to pound rebel-held areas in Aleppo with makeshift bombs today (February 2, 2014), killing at least three dozen people -- most of them women and children -- the NY Times website reports.

The bombs were dropped across neighborhoods in the south and east of the country's largest city, reducing cinder-block apartment buildings to rubble and leaving crowds of men searching the debris for survivors, according to videos posted online.

Rebels have pointed to days of heavy bombing in Aleppo -- which is in northern Syria -- to argue that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has no interest in reaching a negotiated end to the civil war despite its participation in internationally backed peace talks with exile political opposition. The first round concluded in Geneva on January 31.

The Syrian government has not commented on the airstrikes other than to mention in the state news media that its forces have killed "terrorists" -- a blanket term it uses for the opposition.

Sochi Killing Stray Dogs Before Winter Olympics; Hires a Co. to Kill Dogs,Says They Can Be Deadly

The Russian city of Sochi has hired a company to kill off as many stray dogs as possible before the start of the Winter Olympics later this week, the Global Post website reports today (February 2, 2014). City officials backed off on a similar plan last year after outcry from animal rights groups.

Alexei Sorokin -- owner of Basia Services -- told ABC News by phone he didn't know how many strays his company had killed and refused to say when it was hired by Sochi to kill the dogs.

According to Sorokin, stray dogs pose a threat to the Games.

"Imagine, if during an Olympic games, a ski jumper landed at over 80 miles per hour and a dog runs into him when he lands. It would be deadly for both a jumper and for the stray dog," Sorokin said.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

UN Scolds Israel for Wrecking Palestinian Homes; Says Displacing Palestinians Violates Inter. Law

The United Nations has told Israel it is not happy with homes it is demolishing in the Jordan valley, the Big News Network reports today (February 1, 2014).

Israel was censured this week by the UN after 36 Palestinian homes were knocked over, leaving 66 Palestinians -- including 36 children -- displaced in the Jordan Valley community of Ain al-Hilweh.

James Rawley -- the UN humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories -- released a statement yesterday calling for a halt to the "ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians."

He said the number of structures being demolished along the Jordan Valley had more than doubled in the last year, depriving Palestinians of access to shelter and basic services. Rawley added that it was also in violation of international law.

Montenegro Church Shows Fresco of Tito in Hell; Due to a Power Conflict with Serbian Orth.Church

A Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro has painted a likeness of the speaker of parliament in a scene of sinners in hell, along with Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and former Yugoslav communist  leader Josip Broz Tito, the Balkan Insight website reports today (February 1, 2014).

The Church of the Resurrection in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica said all of them belonged in hell as "church haters."

Representatives of the Church said this week that speaker Ranko Krivokapic merited his own position in the painting as a result of his "failed attempts at persecution" of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Conflict between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church has existed for several years, since Montenegro claims its Orthodox Church is autonomous, while Serbia claims it comes under Serbia's jurisdiction. Montenegro had been a part of Serbia, but became an independent republic in 1992, after the breakup of Yugoslavia into several smaller nations.