Thursday, July 31, 2014

Man Nabbed in Australia for Assaulting Girl,12; Lebanon Muslim, 26, Said He Married the Girl

A 26-year-old Muslim student from Lebanon is being held without bail in Australia for 25 counts of sexual assault with a minor, the Clarion Project website reports today (July 31, 2014).

The man was living with a 12-year-old girl he had "married" in a sharia (Islamic law) ceremony arranged by the girl's father, a 62-year-old convert to Islam. According to police documents, the girl was told that sharia law superseded Australian law.

"The man admitted to having sex daily with the girl, but when questioned on this he showed no remorse and was confident that in doing this he had committed no crime," police documents say.

The father -- who is separated from the girl's mother --  told police detectives he was "shocked" at being arrested, and said he saw "nothing wrong" with the union. He has been charged with procuring a child for sex and an accessory before the fact to sexual intercourse with a child.

Islamic law allows men to marry girls as young as 12 in predominantly Muslim countries.

Dutch Jew's Bldg. Firebombed Due to Israeli Flag; Woman Put Up Flag on Balcony to Support Israel

A Jewish woman -- who displayed an Israeli flag from her balcony in Amsterdam -- was targeted with a firebomb and death threats, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (July 31, 2014).

The firebomb landed on the balcony of neighbors of Leah Rabinovitch, a Mexico-born Jewish woman who flew the Israeli flag on Amsterdam's Kruger Square, located in an eastern neighborhood heavily populated with Moroccan immigrants.

According to the FokNews website, the firebomb landed on a neighbor's balcony. FokNews also reported that a stone that was hurled at Rabinovitch's apartment smashed a window and that one of the death threats sent to Rabinovitch read: "Heil Hitler, Hitler is coming back, Jews must die."

Rabinovitch and her partner put out the flag several weeks ago as a sign of solidarity with Israel's assault on Hamas in Gaza. Their downstairs neighbors displayed on their balcony a Palestinian flag, and demanded that Rabinovitch remove her flag.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

House Approves Plan for Lawsuit Against Obama; Finds Obama Exceeded His Powers, Violated Oath

The U.S. House of Representatives today (July 30, 2014) approved a plan to file a federal lawsuit against President Obama by a vote of 225 to 201, according to the Newser website.

The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

Congress members voting in favor of the lawsuit say they are protecting the Constitution's separation of powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

House Speaker John Boehner -- who initiated the lawsuit -- said, "This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's about defending the Constitution we swore and oath to. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?"

Obama Silent on Christian Beheadings by Muslims; Cath. League Head: "Doesn't That Matter to You?"

The head of the Catholic League today (July 30, 2014) issued a scathing criticism at President Obama, posting on his group's website an essay that pointed to all the Christians being beheaded by Muslim terrorists and asking the U.S. President: "Doesn't that matter to you?" the Washington Times website reports.

"Christians are being beheaded all over the Middle East because they are Christians, and those carrying out this mass murder are doing so in the name of Islam," Bill Donohue wrote on his group's website. "Yet you continue to say and do absolutely nothing about these unspeakable crimes. Do Christians mean so little to you?"

"I can search in vain to find you condemning the genocidal slaughter of Christians by Muslims," Donohue wrote.

He added, "Muslim terrorists are killing Jews in Israel, and their representatives have pledged to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Yet your administration spends most of its time lecturing Israelis to be patient. About what? Being bombed because they are Jews? Do Jewish lives mean so little to you?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

France to Accept Christians Fleeing IS in Iraq; Must Convert to Islam, Pay a Tax, or Die in IS

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement yesterday that they are taking steps to ease the suffering of Christians now fleeing northern Iraq en masse, the France 24 website reports today (July 29, 2014).

"We will aid those who have been displaced following threats from the Islamic State (IS), and who have taken refuge in [the autonomous Iraqi region of] Kurdistan," the ministers said in reference to the thousands of Christians who have fled Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- in recent days.

"We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum in our territory," the statement added.

Extremist Islamist fighters -- who took control of Mosul on June 10 -- have ordered its Christians to convert to Islam, pay a "non-Muslim tax," or face death. This deadly decree has resulted in a plethora of Christians fleeing from the IS.

Spanish Film Stars Denounce Israeli "Genocide;" Ask EU to Condemn Bombing of Civilians in Gaza

Dozens of Spanish film stars, directors, musicians, and writers -- led by Oscar winners Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Pedro Almodovar -- have denounced Israel's invasion of Gaza, the Hollywood Reporter website reports today (July 29, 2014).

They also called on the European Union (EU) to "condemn the bombing by land, sea, and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip." Moreover, they described Israel's aggression in Gaza as "genocide."

In the open letter, they demanded a cease-fire by the Israeli military and urged Israel to "lift the blockade, which the Gaza Strip has suffered for more than a decade."

The letter also said: "Gaza is living through horror these days, besieged and attacked by land, sea, and air. Palestinians' homes are being destroyed; they are being denied water, electricity, [and] free movement to their hospitals, schools, and fields while the international community does nothing."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Egypt Christian Convert Jailed for Harming Islam; Ministry of Interior: Conversion Incited Sedition

An Egyptian convert to Christianity recently released to appeal his disputed conviction for "inciting sectarian violence" was imprisoned again on charges of "defaming Islam," the Worthy News website reports today (July 28, 2014).

Security officials today sent Bishoy Armia Boulous -- formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy -- to the Ministry of Interior to face blasphemy charges filed five years ago.

In 2009, two Islamist lawyers charged Boulous with defaming Islam after he filed a lawsuit to force the Egyptian Ministry of Interior to change the religious affiliation on his state-mandated identification card from Muslim to Christian. Boulous's accusers claim that the very act of leaving Islam sullies the religion's reputation; Boulous, now 31, left Islam when he was 16.

Karam Ghobriel -- one of Boulous's attorneys -- said that the Ministry of Interior charged Boulous with violating both Article 98f: defaming a revealed religion, and Article 161: perverting a holy book. Boulous was later also charged with two counts of violating Article 102: inciting public sedition.

US Appeals Court OKs Cross at Ground Zero; Atheists Tried Removing It as a Rel. Symbol

A cross-shaped steel beam -- pulled from the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center in New York days after the September 11, 2001 attacks -- can be displayed in the national memorial museum at the site, a U.S. appeals court ruled today (July 28, 2014), according to the Raw Story website.

An atheist group in 2011 sued the museum and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey seeking to block the display as unconstitutional, arguing that the cross was a religious symbol that had no place in a government-sponsored institution.

In 2013, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts dismissed the lawsuit, and a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her ruling in a unanimous decision today.

The cross quickly became a symbol to hundreds of people, some of whom attended religious services held in front of it. It now stands in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which opened to the public in May.

Israeli Gaza Killings Incite Anti-Semitism in US; Swastika, "Hamas" Painted on Miami Synagogue

A synagogue in North Miami Beach in Florida was vandalized with spray-painted swastikas and the word "Hamas," the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (July 28, 2014).

The attack on Congregation Torah V'Emunah came early this morning, according to local reports.

The epithets were discovered slightly more than a day after cars owned by a Jewish family in Miami Beach were egged and smeared with cream cheese while the family attended Shabbat services at their local synagogue. The vandals also wrote "Jew" and "Hamas" on the back of the cars, parked in front of their home in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Miami Beach.

"Everyone was shocked," said family daughter Rachel Shakib. "No one knew what was going on, we're like this is America, this is Miami. Why would we be targeted here? We're supposed to be safe, free from anti-Semitism."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pope Calls for End of Fighting in Weekly Address; "Please Stop! I Ask You with All My Heart. Stop"

Pope Francis made an emotional plea for peace today (July 27, 2014), in an impromptu addition to comments delivered at his weekly Angelus address in Saint Peter's Square, the Reuters website reports.

As the Argentinian-born pontiff wrapped up his regular address to the faithful, he spoke of the upcoming centenary of the outbreak of World War I and said his thoughts were on the Middle East, Iraq, and Ukraine in particular.

With his voice appearing to crack with emotion, the pope broke off from his scripted remarks to make a direct appeal for fighting to end. "Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please!"

"Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future," he said. "Dead children, injured children, mutilated children, orphaned children, children whose toys are things left over from war, children who can't smile any more," the pope asserted.

Portland, Maine Cath. Worshipers Decline Greatly; Over 20 Diocese Rel. Buildings Are Now for Sale

Maine's Catholic churches are selling off properties, as the Diocese of Portland grapples with declining church attendance and a surplus of under-used buildings, the CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) website reports today (July 27, 2014).

Parishes in the diocese have more than 20 churches, convents, rectories, and schools on the market.

Church leaders say a dozen properties in the diocese have already sold for a total of more than $2.4 million since the beginning of 2013.

The diocese counts less than 200,000 Catholics -- a decline of nearly 30 percent from 30 years ago -- but Catholics are still the largest religious denomination in Maine.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

IS Forces Seize Syrian Army Base in Raqa Province; Several Syrian Troops Beheaded, Bodies on Display

Islamic State (IS) militants today (July 26, 2014) seized a Syrian army base in the northern province of Raqa, killing scores of troops and beheading some of them, the AFP (Agence-France Presse) website reports.

In the two-day assault on the base in Raqa province, the jihadists killed at least 85 soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. More than 50 troops were summarily executed, 19 others were killed in a double suicide bombing, and at least 16 more died in the assault launched on July 24.

Hundreds of troops "withdrew yesterday to safe places -- either to nearby villages whose residents oppose IS or to nearby Brigade 93 -- but the fate of some 200 remains unknown," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"Some of the executed troops were beheaded, and their bodies and severed heads put on display in Raqa city," an IS stronghold, he told AFP.

Mich. Mayor Rejects Atheist Station in City Hall; Likens Atheist Area to Nazi, Ku Klux Klan Station

An atheist resident is suing the conservative Christian mayor of Warren, Michigan after being denied equal treatment under the law, the Addiction Info website reports today (July 26, 2014).

Doug Marshall wanted to set up a "reason station" in the city hall atrium to talk to people about atheism and free thinking. But Mayor Jim Fouts denied the request because he wants the Christian "prayer station" to be the only station in city hall. Consequently, Marshall and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

In a statement, Fouts claimed that the Christian station serves a purpose while the atheism station does not.

Fouts said, "The city has certain values that I don't believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station. I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dempsey:US,NATO to Crush Russian Aggression; Sees Putin "Lighting Uncontrolled Fire in Europe"

In response to Russia firing artillery rounds on Ukraine this week in an effort to control that country, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey -- America's highest-ranking military officer -- said that the US and NATO are preparing to crush any attempt by Russia to control any nation in Eastern Europe, the Yahoo News website reports today (July 25, 2014).

Dempsey said Russia's actions in Ukraine signaled a significant "change in the relationship of the U.S. and Russia," but said America's first instinctual response to Russian aggression should be to look at NATO and the role it played against the Soviet Union a half century ago.

"That's why NATO was created... to increase stability, offset Soviet aggression at the time, but maintain a stable Europe. And we've been successful at that for 60 years," Dempsey said. "So the first step here is to have that conversation in the halls of NATO while recognizing the change and taking stock in ourselves -- in our capabilities, in our readiness, in our deterrent capabilities."

Beyond Russia's intentions in Ukraine, Dempsey said he also feared that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be in danger of "lighting a fire that he loses control of" by stoking a potentially "quite dangerous" strain of nationalism in Europe.

Anti-Semitism Soars in Europe Due to Gaza War; German Muslim Imam Asks Allah to Kill All Jews

As the fighting in Gaza continues, anti-Semites across Europe are attacking the continent's Jews under the pretext of protesting Israel's killings, The Daily Beast website reports today (July 25, 2014).

Since the beginning of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, eight synagogues in France have been attacked. In Germany, a prominent Muslim imam gave a sermon asking Allah to kill all of the "Zionist Jews."

Amos Yadlin -- a former head of the intelligence directorate for the Israel Defense Force -- said the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe ironically makes the case for immigration to Israel much stronger. "The irony of anti-Semitism in Europe today is that it encourages Jews from countries like France to immigrate to Israel, thus making it stronger," Yadlin said.

The Jewish Agency for Israel -- which encourages Jewish immigration to the state -- estimates that 5,000 Jews will emigrate from France to Israel this year. This is the highest figure of French Jewish immigration to Israel since its founding in 1948.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Norway on Alert Over Imminent Terrorist Attack; Muslims Returning from Syria Seen as Attackers

Norway is increasing its security amid intelligence reports of a possible imminent "terrorist attack" by militants who have fought in Syria, the country's security officials said today (July 24, 2014), according to the AFP (Agence-France Presse) website.

The move comes as concerns mount in Europe about the growing threat posed by jihadists returning from war-torn Syria.

"We recently received information that a group of extremists from Syria may be planning a terrorist attack in Norway," said Benedicte Bjoernland, the chief of PST, the nation's domestic intelligence service.

The threat is "non-specific" but "credible," said Bjoernland. Neither the timing of the attack, nor the identity of the militants are known, she added.

Pentagon: Russia Fires Artillery at Ukraine Troops; Will Supply Ukraine Rebels with Stronger Weapons

The Pentagon has gathered intelligence showing that Russian troops have been firing artillery across the border at the Ukraine military, the Washington Times website reports today (July 24, 2014).

Pentagon officials said today that the destabilizing development was revealed to them via an interagency intelligence briefing this morning. U.S. spy satellites are believed to have shown Russia's use of artillery against the Ukrainian troops.

In addition, the United States is now tracking a Russian plan to supply its Ukraine-based supporters with stronger, more damaging weapons than they already have on hand, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said. U.S. spy satellites have also shown Russian troops at a military base in Rostov in southwestern Russia training Ukrainian separatists on how to use more powerful rocket launchers.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," Harf said during a press briefing this afternoon.

UN Now Uses Unmanned Drones in Its Missions; May Soon Be Using Deadly Missiles to Kill People

In a controversial move supported by the Obama administration, the United Nations is now using unmanned aerial drones to support what it calls "peacekeeping missions," The New American website reports today (July 24, 2014).

While the drones are unarmed at this time, concerns are growing that they may eventually carry missiles to rain down death on enemies of the UN or its largely autocratic member regimes.

The testing ground for the drones used by the UN's self-styled "peace" troops is the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. There, the dictator-dominated global outfit is operating a fleet of five "unmanned aerial vehicles" -- or UAVs -- in its bloody effort to disarm various groups. The drones are equipped with infrared sensors, helping UN forces pick up on hot spots even at night and through thick vegetation.

One day -- perhaps soon -- the drones may also carry deadly weapons such as missiles to kill people. Such action would violate the primary purpose of the United Nations, which is to help to maintain peace throughout the world, not to commit acts of aggression.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza Shelters Civilians; Abp.: "We've Opened the Church to Help People"

About 1,000 Palestinian Muslims fleeing Israeli shells devastating their Gaza neighborhood have found shelter in the city's 12th century Greek Orthodox Church, the Reuters website reports today (July 23, 2014).

Despite its thick walls dating back to the Crusades, the Church of Saint Porphyrius was still not a very safe haven. Shortly after they arrived, Israeli aircraft bombed a nearby field, spraying shrapnel on the church and damaging graves.

But children from the Shejaia district, where some 72 Palestinians -- many of the women and children -- were killed during fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants on July 20, were busy playing football in the yard yesterday.

"We have opened the church in order to help people. This is the duty of the church and we are doing all we can to help them," Archbishop Alexios told Reuters as the sounds of small children echoed outside his office at the church. "At the beginning there were 600 people, and today they became a thousand -- mostly children and women. Some of those children are a week old," said the head of Gaza's Greek Orthodox minority -- the largest of the Christian communities in Gaza. 

France,Germany,Italy Slam Europe Anti-Semitism; Jointly Agree Gaza Conflict Does Not Justify It

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomed a powerful statement on European anti-Semitism today (July 23, 2014) by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy, the Breaking Christian News website reports.

"At a time when 'Death to the Jews' chants can be heard at public gatherings in the European capitals, allegedly in protests against Israel, the bold, timely and unambiguous words of the three foreign ministers send a strong message that should be embraced by all EU member states," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Now the challenge will be to translate the clear words into equally clear actions. Threats to Europe's Jews threaten Europe's core values and very future."

"Anti-Semitic agitation and hostility against Jews, attacks against people of Jewish faith and against synagogues have no place in our societies," declared Ministers Laurent Fabius of France, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, and Frederica Mogherini of Italy.

The three foreign ministers denounced "the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days," and stressed that "nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eleven Parents of Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Died; At Least 4 Died of Trauma, 7 from Islamic Attack

In the three months since Islamic extremists kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, 11 of their parents have died, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (July 22, 2014).

The town where the girls were kidnapped, Chibok, is cut off by Islamic militants, who have been attacking villages in the region. The militants are determined that Nigeria must adopt sharia (Islamic law), and have said the girls are being sold into slavery and as child brides.

Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists.

At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure, and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus. "One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him," said Bitrus.

Islamic State (IS) Muslims Seize Iraqi Monastery; Force 5 Monks to Leave on Foot with Just Clothes

Islamic militants have taken over a monastery in northern Iraq -- one of the country's best-known Christian landmarks -- and expelled five resident monks, the AFP (Agence-France Presse) website reports today (July 22, 2014).

Islamic State (IS) fighters stormed Mar (Saint) Behnam, a fourth century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic Church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh on July 20, sources said.

"You have no place here anymore; you have to leave immediately," a member of the Syriac clergy quoted the Sunni militants as telling the monastery's residents. He said the monks pleaded to be allowed to save some of the monastery's relics, but the fighters refused and ordered them to leave on foot with nothing but their clothes.

The incident was the latest move by the Islamic State -- which last month declared a "caliphate" straddling large regions of northern Iraq and Syria -- to threaten a Christian presence in the area spanning some 2,000 years.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tsarnaev's Pal Guilty of Impeding Boston Inquiry; Convicted for Hiding Items in Tsarnaev's Backpack

A Muslim college roommate of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of impeding the investigation into the attack, the Newser website reports today (July 21, 2014).

Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty today of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He agreed with a friend to remove Tsarnaev's backpack from his dorm room after the 2013 bombing. The backpack contained altered fireworks.

Tazhayakov's lawyers argued that the other friend removed the items from the dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and then threw them away. Prosecutors told the jury that both men shared in the decision to get rid of the items to protect Tsarnaev.

The friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, faces a separate trial in September. Tazhayakov faces up to 25 years in prison, and will be sentenced in October.

Greek Orthodox Head in Israel Blasts Terrorism; Urges World Back Israel "to Safeguard Holy Land"

Father Gabriel Nadaf -- one of the heads of the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel and a staunch supporter of the state of Israel -- called on the international community today (July 21, 2014) to support Israel's government and Operation Protective Edge, and to unite against terrorism "in order to safeguard the Holy Land," the Jewish Press website reports.

In a letter to ambassadors from various countries stationed in Israel, Nadaf called for support both for the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) as it engages in military conflict, and also for diplomatic support for Israel.

"In the name of the Israeli Christians, I am crying out to the whole world: Wake up! Terrorism acts don't allow any chance for peace. If Hamas doesn't safeguard its own people, Israel cannot be held responsible for their safety. Hamas is supposed to be protecting its own people but unfortunately, like all the terrorist organizations, it does the opposite, takes advantage of the civilian Gazan population, and sacrifices its people (women and children). Therefore, the death of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza is the sole responsibility of Hamas. They are the only ones to blame," said Father Nadaf in his letter.

He added, Israel complied with Egypt's offer of a ceasefire, but Hamas refused. Israel cannot sit idle while the barrages of rockets are being fired on its civilians and it cannot allow the infiltration of terrorists into its space through tunnels whose sole purpose is killing Israeli civilians. The one big difference between Hamas and Israel is that the lives of Israeli civilians are very precious to the State and it will do everything in its power to protect them, regardless of religion."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

ISIS Group Stones Woman to Death for Adultery; Occurred in New Islamic State of Syria and Iraq

Jihadists in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa have accused a woman in her thirties of adultery and stoned her to death, the WWRN (World Wide Religion News) website reports today (July 20, 2014).

It was the first execution of its kind by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria, which recently proclaimed the establishment of an Islamic "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

"ISIS carried out its first sentence of death by stoning against a woman in Tabaqa, accusing her of adultery," said the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, referring to a town in Raqa province, most of which is under ISIS control.

An activist in the province confirmed the report, and said the stoning took place in a public square in the Tabaqa market area on the evening of July 17.

Deadliest Day for Israelis, Palestinians in Gaza; Today 87 Palestinians and 13 Israelis Were Killed

After weeks of escalating conflict in Gaza, both sides reported death tolls that made clear today (July 20, 2014) was the deadliest day so far in the war. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 87 Palestinians had died and the Israeli military said 13 soldiers were dead, according to the NY Times website.

Most of the Palestinians were killed in an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City called Shejaiya. For the Palestinians, it was the deadliest episode since July 8, when Israel began its offensive, first from the air, which was intended to curb rocket fire against its cities and the danger of infiltration through tunnels running under the border from Gaza into Israel.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that more than 300 people were injured today in Shejaiya.

The Palestinian government, which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Western-supported Palestinian Authority and by Hamas -- the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza -- in a statement described the killing of Palestinians in Shejaiya as "a heinous massacre" and a war crime.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Christians Fleeing from Iraq to Avoid Being Killed; They Must Now Convert to Islam, Pay a Tax, or Die

Christian families fled from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today (July 19, 2014) after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam, the Telegraph (British) website reports.

"For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of today's noon deadline set by Islamic State (IS) for them to submit or leave.

The warning was read out in Mosul's mosques yesterday, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.

"We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract -- involving payment -- if they refuse this, they will have nothing but the sword," the announcement read. It said that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -- who the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim -- had ordered Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to "leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate."

Sudan Govt. Bans Construction of New Churches; Christians: Ban Violates Const.,Freedom of Rel.

On June 30, the Sudanese government demolished a church in Khartoum, Sudan without reason given, with only one day's notice; now authorities have announced that the construction of new churches in the country is banned, the Christian Headlines website reports today (July 19, 2014).

Sudan's Guidance and Endowments Minister Shalil Abdullah told Sudanese Christians there are enough churches in the nation already. Construction of new churches would not be permitted by the government.

Rev. El Ramli said Abdullah's statement was wrong; Christianity is growing in Sudan and the Christians need locations to worship.

"We want the government to give us new plots so we can build a new church," he said. "We are citizens and the constitution says there is freedom of religion and worship, so we are using this to get our rights."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Court Acquits Berlusconi in a Sex-for-Hire Case; Reverses Lower Case Sentence for Sex with Minor

An Italian appeals court today (July 18, 2014) acquitted former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a sex-for-hire case, reversing a lower court conviction that had carried a seven-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on holding political office, the Yahoo News website reports.

The case has received global attention, offering an unseemly peek into the 77-year-old three-time prime minister's private life with witness testimony revealing raunchy, sex-fueled bunga-bunga parties at his private villa in Milan attended by a large number of aspiring showgirls.

Berlusconi denied the charges, saying the case was politically motivated by magistrates trying to drive him from power. Both he and el-Mahroug -- who was a 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute when she frequented the then-prime minister's villa -- denied ever having sex.

The acquittal was announced just as Berlusconi was leaving a facility for Alzheimer's patients where he is performing community service for a separate conviction on a tax fraud charge. That is the only case finalized against Berlusconi -- a billionaire -- who has faced dozens of trials, mostly for his deceitful business dealings.

CNN Reporter Calls Cheering Gaza Israelis "Scum;" Posted Slur on Twitter, CNN Sends Her to Moscow

A CNN reporter -- who called a group of Israelis "scum" yesterday -- is no longer covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a foreign correspondent, the New York Daily News website reports today (July 18, 2014).

Diana Magnay has been reassigned to CNN's Moscow bureau after taking to Twitter to vent her anger about an Israeli group cheering missiles striking Palestinian positions in Gaza last night.The Israeli group also allegedly threatened to "destroy" her team's car if Magnay said anything they didn't like on the air.

"After being threatened and harassed before and during a live shot, Diana reacted angrily on Twitter," a CNN spokeswoman said. "She deeply regrets the language used, which was aimed directly at those who had been targeting our crew."

Magnay deleted the controversial comment from Twitter about 20 minutes after posting it. She posted it after she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the cheering of the Israeli strikes was "astonishing, macabre, and awful."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Russian Rebels Seen as Destroying Malaysian Jet; Shot Down in E. Ukraine Near Russia, 295 Killed

A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashed and burned in eastern Ukraine today (July 17, 2014), after being shot down by a ground-to-air missile in what President Petro Poroshenko called a terrorist act. All of the 295 people on board -- including 280 passengers and 15 crew members -- are presumed dead, the Kyiv Post website reports.

Security Services of Ukraine chief Valentyn Nalivaichenko said the government is making all evidence in the investigation public, including intercepted phone calls between two members of the Russian military special services unit in which they discussed shooting down the airplane.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any Russian involvement, saying Ukraine is responsible.

However, Ukrainian officials say the Kremlin-backed separatists evidently mistook the commercial aircraft for a Ukrainian military one in an area of fighting between the government and Russian-supported forces. Two Ukrainian military planes were shot down in the area by Russian rebels during the past week.

Israel Begins Gaza Ground Operation on Hamas; Uses Tanks to Blast Tunnels, Hamas Infiltrators

Israel launched a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip today (July 17, 2014) to destroy tunnels it says are being used for terrorist activities, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports.

"A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip," the Israel Defense Forces' spokesman's office said today. "A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun."

The operation is limited for now to tanks targeting ten tunnels in Gaza leading into Israel, the IDF said.

Earlier today, Israeli troops stopped an attempted Hamas infiltration from the Gaza Strip, forcing 13 infiltrators back into tunnels.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Assad Sworn In for 3rd Term as Syrian President; Stays Pres. Despite 170,000 Deaths in Syrian War

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a new seven-year term today (July 16, 2014), after his victory in last month's election that affirmed his grip on power more than three years into Syria's ongoing civil war, the Telegraph (British) website reports.

Dismissed as a sham by Assad's opponents -- including the United States -- the vote was held in June in areas of central and northern Syria that remain under state control. Large areas of Syria have fallen to an insurgency dominated by Islamists, including a powerful al Qaeda offshoot known as the Islamic State (IS) that has also seized regions of Iraq.

Assad -- supported by Russia and Iran -- has defied calls by Western states for him to step aside during the conflict that started in 2011 with protests against his dictatorial rule, before descending into a civil war that has killed more than 170,000 people. He became president of Syria on the death of his father in 2000.

U.S. President Barack Obama had threatened Assad of American military action if Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrian people during its civil war; however, Obama failed to carry out his threat despite Assad's use of chemical weapons. Recent reports from Syria indicate that Assad is still using chemicals against Syrians by allowing the nation's military to drop barrels filled with chemicals from helicopters and planes. 

Boko Haram Killed 2,053 Civilians in Past 6 Mos.; Islamist Militant Group Kidnapped 200 Schoolgirls

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram -- whose major mission is to impose sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria -- has killed at least 2,053 civilians in over 95 attacks during the first half of 2014, an analysis by Human Rights Watch reported today (July 16, 2014), according to the Christian Post website.

The militants -- who also kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April -- have waged a war on the Nigerian government and the country's Christians for nearly five years.

"Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost," said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "Atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account."

The watchdog group detailed a number of the attacks that have occurred in Nigeria since January, and noted that its figures are based on analysis of media reports as well as field investigations. Many of the most deadly attacks took place in Borno State -- the birthplace of Boko Haram -- where 1,446 people were killed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pope: Child Immigrants to US Must Be Welcomed; Calls for Protection of Central American Children

Pope Francis is calling for urgent action to protect the tens of thousands of children who make their way alone from Central America to the United States, the VOA News website reports today (July 15, 2014).

In a letter read at a Vatican-organized conference in Mexico City, Francis said these children need to be welcomed.

He added that after leaving their families and escaping violence and poverty, they are met with racism and xenophobia when reaching the U.S. border.

The pope appealed to the world community to promote development in Latin America, while also spreading the word among the would-be child immigrants that traveling alone is dangerous.

Poll: Two-Thirds of GOP Would Impeach Obama; Over 60% of Americans Say He Abused His Power

Despite reluctance among the establishment wing of the Republican Party to impeach Obama, the GOP grassroots is overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment, a new poll commissioned by the online Huffington Post revealed. More than six in 10 Americans also said the president has "abused his authority," The New American website reports today (July 15, 2014).

The most recent survey results came shortly after former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin became the latest high-profile political figure to openly promote impeaching the president, saying the abuse from the "lawless" and "imperial" administration could no longer be ignored or tolerated.

The poll also comes after the South Dakota Republican Party last month became the first state GOP  to adopt a resolution officially calling for impeachment.

According to the latest Huffington Post poll, 35 percent -- over one-third of all American voters --  support impeachment. Among Republicans, 68 percent said impeaching Obama would be justified. For Democrats, though, the number is just eight percent.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pope Says One in 50 Cath. Clerics Are Pedophiles; Calls Sex Abuse Scandal a "Leprosy in Our House"

Calling the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal a "leprosy in our house," Pope Francis told an Italian newspaper that one in 50 Catholic clerics are pedophiles, the NPR (National Public Radio) website reports today (July 14, 2014).

In an interview with Eugenio Scalfari -- the 90-year-old founder of "La Repubblica" -- Francis is quoted as saying that advisers in the Church "reassure me" that the problem amounts to "about 2 percent."

"This data should hearten me but I have to tell you that it does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave," he was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Most pedophilia takes place in family situations, but "even we have this leprosy in our house," he is quoted as saying of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church must "weep and make reparation" for its crimes, the pope said

Church of England Allows Women to Be Bishops; Synod Vote Ends Centuries of Tradition in Church

The Church of England voted today (July 14, 2014) to allow women to become bishops for the first time in its history, according to the BBC website.

The General Synod gave final approval to legislation introducing the change by the required two-thirds majority. The previous vote in 2012 was backed by the House of Bishops and Clergy, but blocked by traditionalist lay members.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was "delighted" but some opponents said they were unconvinced by the concessions offered to them.

The crucial vote in the House of Laity went 152 in favor, 45 against, and there were five abstentions. Today's vote overturns centuries of tradition in a Church that has been deeply divided over the issue.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jews' Lives in Paris Endangered by Violent Riots; Protesters Shout "Hitler Was Right," Stone Temple

Violent anti-Jewish riots in Paris today (July 13, 2014) -- sparked by Israel's ongoing operation in Gaza to halt rocket attacks from the coastal enclave -- left Jews in the French capital fearing for their lives. One French Jewish activist warned: "French Jews are in serious danger," the Algemeiner (Jewish) website reports.

An anti-Israel demonstration at the city's Bastille Square quickly turned violent with protesters seeking out and attacking Jewish targets and screaming "death to Jews" and "Hitler was right," according to community newspaper, JSS News.

Hundreds of Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue while rioters threw stones and bricks. The group was initially thought to be held hostage and was freed to leave the center only after police intervention. A Jewish-owned store on rue de la Roquette was trashed by 50 men with iron bars and a young man was hospitalized nearby, according to reports.

"What we are witnessing in Paris today is extremely, extremely serious. Jews are in peril for their lives," New York-based French Jewish artist and activist, Ron Agam, told the Algemeiner website.

Israel Sends Ground Troops to Gaza for 1st Time; Plans to Step Up Attacks, 4K Residents Flee Area

Israel deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time today (July 13, 2014), as some 4,000 area residents fled southward from the northern part of the territory in the face of Israeli threats to step up attacks there, according to the National Post (Canadian) website.

Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show any signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their week-long conflict, despite calls from the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza's borders, some fear that the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered.

"All our ground forces are ready," a senior Israeli military official said today. "We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so."

The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel's military spokesman described as a "short and temporary" campaign against northern Gaza to begin later today. The area is home to more than 100,000 people.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Okla. Univ. Expels Lesbian for Marrying Partner; Southwestern Christian U. Bars Homosexuality

A lesbian student -- who recently "married" her partner -- has been expelled from an Oklahoma university one semester short of her sports management degree.

Christian Minard, 22, attended Southwestern Christian University, a school affiliated with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in Bethany, Oklahoma. As part of her admission requirements, she signed a lifestyle covenant that prohibits "homosexual behavior."

Minard belongs to an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Oklahoma City, but her decision to marry her partner, Kadyn Parks, put her at odds with the school's lifestyle covenant.

The two were married in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 17. On July 9, a letter addressed to Minard from Brad Davis -- the school's vice president of student life -- arrived at her parents' home, informing her that she was expelled from the school.

Thieves Rob Pastor, Deacon in Chicago Church; Bishop: City Has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A pastor and a deacon were held up at gunpoint in a Chicago church on July 10 as they were preparing for a Bible study meeting, the CBS website reports today (July 12, 2014).

It happened at the Liberty Christian Center in Chatham as Pastor Anton Matthews and deacon Edgar Horton prepped for Bible study. The doors were open -- they always are -- in the Chatham house of worship.

Two men rushed in; one had a gun. The weapon was pointed at the pastor's head. The thieves fled after receiving money from the pastor and deacon. The Bible study was held at 7:00 p.m. as scheduled.

Bishop James Dukes of Liberation Christian Center spoke to CBS about the Chicago violence. He said, "The whole city, I believe, is suffering from PTSD" (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rebel Missile Attack Kills 30 Ukrainian Troops; Ukraine Officials Vow to Punish Russian Rebels

An adviser to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said today (July 11, 2014) that Russian separatist rebels in the east may have killed as many as 30 government soldiers in a rocket attack, the RFERL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) website reports.

Zoryan Shkyryak said the rebels used Grad multiple-rocket launchers in their assault. "Up to 30 were killed," Shkyryak said.

"It is not excluded that the number of victims will rise because these bloodthirsty scum despicably shot from Grad [rocket] systems and there is destruction," Shkyryak added.

He said authorities would react swiftly to punish the perpetrators. "They will be destroyed or captured and be made answerable to Ukrainian law."

Polish Doctor Fired for Not Performing Abortion; Said Abortion Violates His Roman Cath. Beliefs

A Polish doctor -- who refused a woman's request for an abortion procedure because of a "conflict of conscience" with his Roman Catholic beliefs -- has been fired from the hospital he works at, the Christian Post website reports today (July 11, 2014).

The case -- which sparked a nationwide abortion debate and prompted Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk to tell Warsaw obstetrician Bogdan Chazan that he must choose the law over his faith -- began in April when the doctor refused a pregnant woman an abortion at Warsaw's Holy Family Hospital.

The woman had come to Chazan to ask for an abortion because her own physician had diagnosed her unborn child with grave health problems. The obstetrician, however, told the woman that he could not agree to such an abortion in his hospital, and referred the woman to a hospice where the child could get palliative care once born.

Abortion is legal only in certain cases in Poland, such as when the mother's life is in grave danger and before 25 weeks of pregnancy; if the fetus is known to have severe birth defects, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. The child at the center of the debate was later born at a different hospital, but with severe head and facial deformities and a brain that was not viable.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Australian Judge: Incest May No Longer Be Taboo; Likens Incest to Once Criminal Gays,Now Accepted

A judge in Australia has been criticized after saying incest may no longer be a taboo and that the community may now accept consensual sex between adult siblings, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (July 10, 2014).

Judge Garry Neilson -- from the district court in the state of New South Wales -- likened incest to homosexuality, which was once regarded as criminal and "unnatural" but is now widely accepted by society.

He said incest was now only a crime because it may lead to abnormalities in offspring, but this rationale was increasingly irrelevant because of the availability of contraception and the increasing acceptance of abortion.

Judge Neilson made the comments during the trial of a brother charged with raping his younger sister. The man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his sister when she was 10 or 11 years old in 1973 or 1974, but has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to sex they had in 1981, when she was 18 and he was 26. "By that stage they are both mature adults," the judge said.

American Atheists to Launch Atheist TV Channel; World's 1st Atheist TV Channel Begins on July 29

The American Atheists group has announced that the world's first all-atheist TV channel will launch on July 29, 2014 through streaming service Roku, promising "superstition-free programming" for adults and children, the Christian Post website reports today (July 10, 2014).

"The launch of Atheist TV is history in the making," American Atheists President David Silverman said in a press release yesterday.

"There are hundreds of TV channels dedicated to religious programming, but nothing like this has ever existed before for atheists, and yet the demand is overwhelming. For the first time, atheist video content -- from firebrand speeches, to stand-up comedy, to documentaries, to real science-based educational programming, and more -- is now available to atheists worldwide, on the air and all in one place."

The secular organization added that it will be celebrating by hosting an invitation-only launch party in Manhattan the night of July 29.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Abbas Accuses Israel of Palestinian "Genocide;" Says Israel Attacks Gaza to Murder Palestinians

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel today (July 9, 2014) of committing "genocide" against the Palestinians, and said the coming days will be "difficult," the Jerusalem Post website reports.

Abbas -- who was speaking after an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) operations in the Gaza Strip -- said the Israeli "war" on the Palestinians began in Hebron before moving to Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

"This war is not against Hamas or any faction, but against the Palestinian people," Abbas said.

Abbas also said that the Palestinians were planning to go to the United Nations Security Council to halt the "Israeli aggression."

Four Czech Soldiers Killed in Afghan Bomb Attack; Tops Single Loss of Life for Czech Peacekeepers

Military authorities have confirmed the death of four Czech soldiers killed in a suicide bombing near the Bagram Airbase in eastern Afghanistan, the Radio Prague website reports today (July 9, 2014).

The attack took place in the early morning hours yesterday, as NATO soldiers were undertaking a routine patrol outside the air base, and just as the country is in the midst of electing a new president.

Reports also state that at least 10 local civilians were killed in the blast, for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility.

The deaths of the four Czech soldiers -- aged between 28 and 39 -- represents the largest ever single loss of life for the country's military while undertaking peacekeeping missions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Billy Graham Video Message Issued This Fall; "Heaven" to Be Released to Churches on Nov. 7

A new video message from world-famous evangelist Billy Graham is in production and is set for release on November 7, 2014, in honor of his 96th birthday, the Christian Telegraph website reports today (July 8, 2014).

The program -- called "Heaven" -- is being released to churches as an evangelistic tool, in conjunction with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's "My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham" campaign.

"My Hope 2014" puts the focus on partnering with local churches to present the Gospel.

This fall, the new evangelical program called "Heaven" will be available -- free of charge -- for churches to use in offering a message of hope in their own communities.

Israel Increases Gaza Action After Rocket Attacks; Set to Battle Hamas for "More Than a Few Days"

Israel bombarded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip today (July 8, 2014), intensifying what it said might become a long-term offensive against Islamist Hamas after a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns, the Newsmax World website reports.

Following the worst outbreak of violence along the Gaza frontier since an eight-day war in 2012, the Israeli military said a ground invasion of the enclave was possible, and urged citizens within a range of 24 miles of the coastal territory to stay close to bomb shelters.

"We are preparing for a battle against Hamas which will not end within a few days," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.

"We will not tolerate missiles being fired at Israeli towns and we are prepared to extend the operation with all means at our disposal in order to keep hitting Hamas."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pope Expresses Deep Pain with Sex Abuse Victims; Calls Guilty Priests "Sacrilegious Cult" of Abusers

Pope Francis expressed his "deep pain and suffering" with priest sex abuse victims in his first meeting of its kind today (July 7, 2014), asking them for forgiveness and condemning what he called a "sacrilegious cult" of abusers, the Christian Post website reports.

"This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charisma in order to be brought to God," the Roman Catholic Church leader declared.

"And these people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God's love and are eager to grow in the faith."

Vatican Radio noted that six victims were present for the mass in the Vatican guest house where Pope Francis spoke, and also had the opportunity to speak with him privately.

Israelis Disturbed to See Nazi Flag in Arab Town; Flies Over Beit Ummar, Reminds Jews of WW II

Hundreds of Israeli residents of Gush Etzion were disturbed to see a Nazi flag flying over the Arab town of Beit Ummar yesterday, the Jewish Press website reports today (July 7, 2014).

The large flag is visible from Route 60, the main route in the area. Residents notified the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), but they have so far failed to act.

Beit Ummar -- a town of about 13,000 -- is located northwest of Hebron, close to where the bodies of three abducted Israeli teens were discovered in a shallow grave on June 30.

A resident of Carmei Tsur who saw the flag told Tazpit News Agency that this is reminiscent of what happened some 75 years ago during World War II. "The Arabs are no longer fearful of hiding their intentions," he said, "to kill, destroy, and uproot the Jewish people."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Clashes Grow Between Israeli Police,Palestinians; Protesters Throw Rocks at Cars, Over 20 Arrested

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters spread from Jerusalem to Arab towns in northern Israel today (July 5, 2014), following the funeral of an Arab teenager who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack, the New York Post website reports.

Riots erupted in east Jerusalem yesterday, as thousands of Palestinians attended burial services for  16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

The violence spread to northern Arab towns this morning, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. Protesters there threw rocks at passing cars, burned tires, and threw rocks and fire bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. More than 20 protesters were arrested.

Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem also used an electric saw to damage the light rail that connects the heavily Arab-populated eastern sector with the mostly Jewish West.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Islamic State Imposes Tax on Christians in Iraq; Rapes All Women in Homes That Don't Pay Tax

The newly declared Islamic State (IS) -- comprised of land it seized last month from Iraq and Syria -- has been brutally enforcing Islamic laws in Mosul, Iraq, the Worthy News website reports today (July 4, 2014).

Islam's prophet, Muhammad, had decreed that people of other religions had to pay a poll tax to Muslims as a reminder of their inferior status. Salama al Khafaji -- a member of the High Commission -- said IS was imposing a minimum payment of $250 upon all Christians in Mosul.

"The economic situation in Mosul is extremely difficult, and there are no financial resources, or job opportunities except for vegetable shops; any other businesses are non-existent," said al Khafaji. "Citizens are at a loss now as to how to make ends meet."

According to al Khafaji, when IS members entered the home of an Assyrian family in Mosul to demand their tribute, the family protested because they didn't have the money. So instead, IS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the head of the household, who was so traumatized by the attack that he later committed suicide.

ISIS Kidnaps Over 150 Schoolchildren in Syria; Episode Lacks Coverage Due to Syrian Civil War

More than 150 children have been kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- now called Islamic State -- inside Syria's town of Manbij. The children have been missing for more than a month, yet their kidnapping has gone largely unnoticed, the IBT (International Business Times) website reports today (July 4, 2014).

According to a Human Rights watch report, ISIS abducted 153 children between the ages of 13 and 14 from the mostly Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab on May 29. The children were returning home from taking their year-end exams in the city of Aleppo when they were abducted.

The kidnapping in Syria did not receive anywhere near the news media coverage that the recent kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria received. Max Abrahms -- a terrorist expert from Northeastern University in Boston -- said the Syrian kidnapping case wasn't reported because Syria's civil war, now in its fourth year, has exhausted readers and international leaders.

"There is so much violence there in Syria, even big attacks go unseen," Abrahms said.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Abp. Joseph Named North American Metropolitan; Is Elected by Holy Synod of Antioch in Lebanon

His Eminence Archbishop Joseph was elected Antiochian Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America by the Holy Synod of Antioch, led by His Beatitude Patriarch John X, meeting in Balamand, Lebanon today (July 3, 2014), the Antiochian website reports. He succeeds Metropolitan Philip, who died of a heart attack at the age of 82 last March.

His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph was consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on June 30, 1991 at the St. Mary Cathedral in Damascus, Syria, after many years of serving as a deacon and priest. His Eminence was born in Damascus in 1950. He was consecrated with the title  Bishop of Katana in Syria, and served as Patriarchal Assistant and Secretary of the Holy Synod of Antioch.

In 1995, he was sent by Patriarch Ignatius IV of blessed memory to America. Here, Bishop Joseph was assigned to the West Coast Chancery by Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory. After self-rule was awarded to America's Antiochian Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph was enthroned at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral by Metropolitan Philip as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West on September 12, 2004.

On December 11, 2011, at the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Patriarchal Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Lebanon, Patriarch Ignatius elevated Bishop Joseph to the rank of Archbishop, in honor of his many years of service as a bishop both in America's Archdiocese and in the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Colo.Woman Nabbed for Helping Terrorist Group; She Wanted to Launch a Holy War in Middle East

The FBI says a woman from Colorado was helping the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- the violent jihadist group that recently renamed itself  Islamic State -- the Washington Post website reports today (July 3, 2014).

The 19-year-old woman was arrested in April as she allegedly attempted to board a flight she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria. There, she planned to meet with Islamic State members, FBI officials said today. She is charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization, court documents show.

Shannon Maureen Conley -- a Muslim convert -- was arrested April 8 at Denver International Airport after telling federal agents she planned to go live with a Tunisian man she met online who claimed to be fighting for Islamic State. Conley -- a nurse's aide -- said she planned to become a housewife and a nurse at the man's camp.

She also told federal agents she wanted to utilize the American military training she gained from the U.S. Army Explorers to launch a holy war in the Middle East. The documents state that her "legitimate targets of attack" included military facilities, government employees, and public officials.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Romanian Mayor Is Detained for Accepting Bribes; Given Some 520,000 Euro for Awarding Contracts

The mayor of the eastern Romanian city of Bacau, Romeo Stavarache, has been detained for allegedly accepting bribes totaling more than half a million euro, the Balkan Insight website reports today (July 2, 2014).

Stavarache -- a member of the opposition National Liberal Party -- was remanded in custody for 30 days today for allegedly receiving bribes of over 2.3 million lei (some 520,000 euro) from businessmen.

According to the government's anti-corruption department, DNA, between 2008 and 2011, Stavarache allegedly received -- directly or via two other people who were also detained over the bribery claims -- various amounts of money from four businessmen, in exchange for assigning them public contracts.

In one incident, Stavarache allegedly asked a company to give him 50 percent of the value of the work paid for by Bacau city hall for installing street lights. He also demanded from another firm 10 percent of the value of a building contract for a 45-apartment block which was worth 2.7 million euro.

Palestinian Teen Is Abducted and Killed Today; Viewed as Revenge for Deaths of 3 Israeli Teens

A Palestinian teen was abducted and killed in Jerusalem today (July 2, 2014), Palestinians said, accusing Israeli settlers of carrying out a revenge attack for the deaths of three Israeli youths. The accusation sparked clashes with Israeli forces and demands by the Palestinian president that Israel hold the killers accountable, the Huffington Post website reports.

The latest claim stokes tensions already heightened by the deaths of the three Israeli teens, whose bodies were found this week -- two weeks after they were abducted in the West Bank -- and a surge in fighting between Israeli and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Just hours after Israel buried the three teens, relatives of Mohammed Abu Khdeir said the 17-year-old was forced into a car in a neighborhood of east Jerusalem before it sped off. A burned body was found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem forest.

Abu Khdeir's family said it had identified the body. The teen's cousin, Saed Abu Khdeir, said the family believes the youth was killed by Israelis in an act of revenge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

European Court Upholds France's Full Veil Ban; Woman Argued Ban Violated Her Rel. Freedom

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a ban by France on wearing the Muslim full-face veil -- the niqab -- the BBC website reports today (July 1, 2014).

A case was brought to the court by a 24-year-old French woman, who argued that the ban on wearing the veil in public violated her freedom of religion and expression.

The French law -- which was passed in 2010 -- says nobody can wear in a public space clothing intended to conceal the face. The penalty for doing so can be a 150-euro ($205) fine.

France has about five million Muslims -- the largest Muslim community in Europe -- but it is believed that only about 2,000 women wear full veils.

Israel Retaliates at Hamas for Deaths of 3 Teens; Attacks 34 Targets on Hamas Power Base of Gaza

Hours after three Israeli teenagers who  disappeared from the West Bank on June 12 were found dead, the Israeli air force carried out an attack overnight on what an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson described as 34 targets in Gaza, the Slate website reports today (July 1, 2014).

Although the prevailing Palestinian political force in the West Bank is the moderate Fatah party, Israel believes Hamas (which is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department) perpetrated the murder of the teenagers -- "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night -- and has struck the group's power base, Gaza.

Members of Netanyahu's Likud party are calling for the eradication of Hamas.

Israel suspects that Hamas-affiliated militants named Marwan Qawasameh and Amar Abu Aisha are responsible for the murder of the three teenagers; less than five hours after the announcement of the teens' deaths, Israeli forces cleared Qawasameh and Aisha's homes in the West Bank city of Hebron and then destroyed them with explosives. The whereabouts of the two suspects are unknown.