Tuesday, September 30, 2014

British AF Jets Strike Two Key IS Positions in Iraq; Serve Key Role in Retaking Rabia Border Crossing

British Royal Air Force (RAF) jets today (September 30, 2014) made their first air strikes on two strategic positions in Iraq, according to the Euro News website. 

The UK is the latest nation to join an international effort to destroy the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Two Tornado jets were on an "armed reconnaissance mission" when they responded to a call from Kurdish troops for assistance in northwest Iraq, the Ministry of Defense (MOD) said. 

Kurdish sources said the RAF strikes were integral to retaking "an important border crossing" at Rabia, near the border with Syria. 

Afghanistan Agrees to Keep 10K US Troops There; Will Foil Terrorists' Use of That Nation for Attacks

The U.S. and Afghanistan today (September 30, 2014) agreed to a security deal to allow 10,000 American troops to remain permanently stationed in Afghanistan when the international combat mission ends December 31, 2014, according to The Daily Beast website.

The two countries signed the accord in Kabul today, days after Afghanistan officially inaugurated Ashraf Ghani as its new president.

Ghani's predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement because of his strained negotiations with Washington.

The pact establishes a U.S. presence in Afghanistan and a system for training Afghan soldiers, so that "terrorists can never use Afghanistan to launch attacks against the U.S. or its allies," said Obama administration adviser John Podesta.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hindu Radicals Turn Church in India into Temple; Tear Down Cross,Replace It with Hindu God Poster

Hindu extremists have turned a church in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh into a temple, and Christians say its members have been forcefully converted to Hinduism, the Ecumenical News website reports today (September 29, 2014).

Dalit Christians had worshiped at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Asroi village in Aligarch district, about 100 miles southeast of New Delhi.

Dalit Christians belong to India's lowest caste -- one known as "untouchables."

The church was "purified" with a ritual and declared to be a temple by the Hindu extremists. During the purification ritual, the cross was torn down and a poster of the Hindu god Shiva was placed inside the church building.

US-Led Airstrikes Bomb 4 IS Provinces in Syria; Also Hit Town of Tel Abyad on Syria-Turkey Border

U.S.-led coalition warplanes bombed Islamic State (IS) group positions overnight across four provinces in northern and eastern Syria, hitting the country's largest gas plant, the AOL (America On Line) website reports today (September 29, 2014).

Washington and its Arab allies opened their air assault against the extremist group in Syria last week, going after its military facilities, training camps, heavy weapons, and oil installations. The campaign expands upon the airstrikes the U.S. has been conducting against the militants in Iraq since early August.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition forces hit Islamic State group facilities overnight in Aleppo, Raqqa, Hassakeh, and Deir el-Zour provinces. It said there were casualties, but that it did not have concrete figures.

More strikes this morning hit the town of Tel Abyad on the Syria-Turkey border, according to a resident on the Turkish side of the frontier.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

US, Israel Blast Abbas' "Genocide" Speech at UN; He Slammed Israel for a War of Genocide in Gaza

The United States yesterday blasted Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's speech at the United Nations, in which he accused Israel of "genocide" against the Palestinians, saying his speech was "offensive" and undermined peace efforts, the Times of Israel website reports today (September 27, 2014).

In Abbas's address to the UN General Assembly, he demanded an end to Israel's occupation, accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in Gaza, and asserted that Palestinians faced a future in a "most abhorrent form of apartheid" under Israeli rule.

In his address, Abbas accused Israel of committing genocide in its recent conflict with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip -- calling 2014 "a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people" -- and said that Israel was not interested in living in peace with its Palestinian neighbors.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement shortly after Abbas's speech that the PA president demonstrated that "he doesn't want to be, and cannot be, a partner for a logical diplomatic resolution."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dozens of Italian Women in Affairs with Priests; Plan to Back Clerical Marriage at Oct. Meeting

Twenty-six Italian women -- who are married to or in relationships with Catholic priests -- want clerical celibacy to be overturned by the world's bishops when they meet in Rome for their global synod on the family in October, the WWRN (World Wide Religious News) website reports today (September 26, 2014).

And they are angry that Pope Francis has not responded to a letter they sent earlier this year urging him to relax the Roman Catholic Church's mandatory position on clergy celibacy and recognize their relationships.

One of the few women to go public is Anna Ferretti from Naples. She has been with the priest she married more than 40 years ago, and now they have four children.

Her husband gave up celebrating Mass and hearing confessions when they got married, but in the couple's eyes -- if not in the eyes of the church -- he is still a priest because he never formally renounced his vows. They have lived together ever since.

Michele Bachmann Says World on Fire from Islam; Blasts Obama for Failing to Declare War on Islam

At the 2014 Value Voters Summit, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) claimed that there is no such thing as "moderate" Islam, and that President Barack Obama failed the American people by deciding not to declare war on it, the Raw Story website reports today (September 26, 2014).

Speaking of her appointment to the elite House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, she claimed that she "had a front-row seat to a world set on fire," she said, "from Islamic jihad. And what we've seen is one disaster after another for the Obama-Clinton policy team."

"Unbelievably, we have the first anti-Israel president in American history," Bachmann said, continuing to address the absent Obama. "That's your legacy."

She claimed that Muslims are engaged in "spiritual warfare, and that what we must do is defeat Islamic jihad. Sadly, our president has the wrong prescription. He even fails to acknowledge their motivations for bringing out jihad." The audience applauded wildly when she said, "Yes, Mr. President, it is about Islam!"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

IS Overruns Baghdad Area Army Base, Killing 300; IS May Now Move on to Take Over Iraq's Capital

Militants from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have overrun an Iraqi military base near Baghdad and executed 300 soldiers, the IB (International Business) Times website reports today (September 25, 2014).

It now appears that ISIS has made significant gains in the central belt of Iraq and has an eye fixed on the nation's capital, Baghdad.

Over the past few weeks, ISIS fighters in the north of Iraq and more recently in the west of Syria have been bombarded by United States-led airstrikes.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he expects the campaign in Syria and Iraq against ISIS to last up to three years. Obama's modus operandi to defeat ISIS without the use of ground troops has been criticized by many high-ranking military officers, who believe that ground troops are essential for accomplishing the task. In fact, a former Marine commander said this week that Obama's strategy for defeating ISIS (without the use of ground troops) will be about "as successful as a snowball lasting in hell."

Female Human Rights Activist Is Killed by ISIS; Due to Her Messages on Facebook Criticizing IS

Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group tortured and then killed a human rights lawyer in the Iraqi city of Mosul, after their self-proclaimed religious court ruled that she had abandoned Islam, the Fox News website reports today (September 25, 2014).

Gunmen with the group's newly declared police force seized Samira Salih al-Nuaimi last week in the northeastern district of Mosul while she was home with her husband and three children.

Al-Nuaimi was taken to a secret location. After about five days, the family was called by the morgue to retrieve her corpse, which bore signs of torture, two people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears for their safety.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, her arrest was connected to Facebook messages she posted that were critical of the militants' destruction of religious sites in Mosul. A statement by the U.N. today added that al-Nuaimi was tried in the Sharia court (Islamic court) for apostasy, after she was tortured for five days before the militants sentenced her to "public execution." The statement did not say how she was killed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

French Court Grants Lesbians the Right to Adopt; Lesbians May Adopt Child Born Abroad,Not France

France's highest civil court -- the Court of Cassation -- has ruled that married lesbian couples may now adopt their partner's child born abroad through in vitro fertilization or other medically-assisted reproduction even though it is banned in the country, the Euro News website reports today (September 24, 2014).

France only permits assisted reproduction for heterosexual couples who have been together at least two years. The restriction has forced many homosexual couples to access fertility treatment abroad.

Upon return to France, French law recognizes only the birth mother as the legal parent.

Today's court decision comes after the legalization of gay marriage in France last year, which sparked huge protests across the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Algerian Extremists Allied with IS Behead Hiker; Due to France's Refusal to End Airstrikes on Iraq

Algerian extremists allied with the Islamic State (IS) group have decapitated a French hostage after France ignored their demand to stop airstrikes in Iraq, the Yahoo News website reports today (September 24, 2014).

A group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah -- or Soldiers of the Caliphate -- had said they would kill French mountaineer Herve Gourdel after abducting him unless France ended its airstrikes against IS fighters in Iraq within 24 hours.

The French government insisted it would not back down.

Gourdel -- a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice, France -- was seized in the Djura Djura mountains of northern Algeria on September 21, during a hiking trip. His Algerian companions were released.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Israel Shoots Down Syrian Warplane in Air Space; Is Most Serious Incident Between Sides in 3 Yrs.

Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet after it penetrated Israeli air space over the Golan Heights, the Newsmax World website reports today (September 23, 2014).

The Russian-made Sukhoi fighter was shot down by a Patriot missile, military spokeswoman Lt. Libby Weiss said.

The downing of the jet is the most serious incident between the two sides since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war more than three years ago.

Mortars and shells fired by forces fighting in Syria have landed in the Israeli-held Golan several times over the past year, often prompting Israeli retaliatory fire across the border at Syrian military positions.

Bowing Afghan Pres.Blames US for Nation's War; His Farewell Speech Is an Insult to US Sacrifices

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai today (September 23, 2014) blamed the United States for Afghanistan's long war, in a final swipe at the country that helped bring him to power 13 years ago but towards which he has become increasingly bitter, the Reuters website reports.

His farewell speech came days ahead of the swearing in of a new president, Ashraf Ghani, after months of turmoil over a disputed election in a power-sharing deal, yet to be tested, with rival Abdullah Abdullah who will fill the role of chief executive. Karzai said, "One of the reasons Americans did not want peace was because they had their own agenda and objectives," but he did not elaborate.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham called Karzai's comments "ungracious and ungrateful."

"It makes me kind of sad. His remarks, which were uncalled for, do a disservice to the American people and dishonor the sacrifices made by Americans here," Cunningham said.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Past Marine Head Rips Obama's Plan to Defeat IS; "Not Snowball's Chance in Hell" for Plan's Success

A former Marine Corps Commandant told an audience that President Obama's strategy to defeat Islamic State (IS) militants -- without using ground forces -- doesn't have a "snowball's chance in hell" of succeeding, the Washington Times website reports today (September 22, 2014).

Speaking at a conference in Washington, General James Conway -- who served as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps at the end of the Bush administration and beginning of the Obama administration -- said that he was skeptical that the U.S. had reliable ground forces in Iraq.

Two former defense secretaries who served under President Obama also recently criticized Obama's strategy with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CBS news this week that the president waited too long to act in Syria, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. is not going to be successful against the terror group "strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own."

Pat Robertson Rips Viewer Wanting Church Taxes; Says What Belongs to God Is What Belongs to God

Televangelist Pat Robertson today (September 22, 2014) accused a viewer of having a "liberal mentality" because she suggested that tax-exempt status was essentially a government handout to churches, the Raw Story website reports.

"Whose church are we?" the viewer named Wendy asked in an email to Robertson. "Are we God's church or the world's? Jesus said, 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.' Taxes."

Robertson seemed outraged that the question had been asked. "I don't know what handout you're talking about. We don't take a handout from the government," he quipped. "Not paying taxes, it's your money. The fact the government doesn't take it away from you is not a government handout, and time immemorial, what belongs to God is what belongs to God!"

The TV preacher continued, "That money in the church is given by people to the Lord. It doesn't belong to the government."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pope Blasts Exploitation of Rel. to Justify War; Warns Not to Use God as a Shield for Oppression

Pope Francis spoke out today (September 21, 2014) against the perversion, distortion, and exploitation of religion to justify violence as he visited Albania, according to the USA Today website.

"Let no one use God as a shield while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression," the pontiff said in an address to Albanian President Bujar Nishani, other state officials, religious leaders, and the diplomatic corps. "May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman."

His speech came amid tightened security for the trip -- the pontiff's first trip to a majority Muslim country since the Islamic State (IS) militant group gained control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Francis spoke admirably of the "climate of respect and mutual trust" between the religions of Albania, which endured brutal religious oppression under communism for some 45 years after World War II, but today live and work together harmoniously. Muslims make up about 59 percent of Albania's population, while Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians each make up some 10 percent.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Abp. of Canterbury Admits He Doubts God Exists; Can't Explain Why God Allows So Much Suffering

In a statement that most Christians around the world will view as appalling and sacrilegious, the Archbishop of Canterbury -- Britain's most senior church leader, and the head of 80 million Anglicans (called Episcopalians in the U.S.) worldwide -- has admitted he doubts that God exists, The Daily Beast website reports today (September 20, 2014).

"I mean there are moments, sure, where you think, 'Is there a God?' 'Where is God?'" Justin Welby said during an interview at Bristol Cathedral.

Welby also admitted he couldn't explain suffering. Why does God allow so many people to suffer?

But Welby's pragmatism and apparent decency stand for (at least in the United Kingdom) a non-extreme Church, in tune with the socially progressive, tolerant, and embracing country into which the UK has transformed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Anti-Semitic Neo-Nazi Runs for US Senate in KY; Robert Ransdell Uses Slogan "With Jews We Lose"

November's U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is between Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Newser website reports today (September 19, 2014).

But write-in candidate Robert Ransdell is now making headlines because he happens to be a neo-Nazu who runs on the slogan, "With Jews We Lose," reports the Courier-Journal.

Ransdell drew more attention earlier this week when he was invited to speak as part of a forum at the University of Kentucky.

He pushed his anti-Jewish views and called himself the "white people's candidate" before his microphone got cut off when he refused to stop speaking when asked.

French Warplanes Have Struck IS Targets in Iraq; French Pres.:Jets Hit Terrorists' Logistics Depot

French warplanes struck at Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq today (September 19, 2014), according to the Euro News website.

The French President said the Rafale jets had attacked what he called "a logistics depot of the terrorists."

"Further actions will take place in the coming days with the same goals of weakening the terrorist organization and helping the Iraqi authorities, which means the Iraqi soldiers and the Peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan," French President Francois Hollande said.

It is the first military action against the IS by France since Hollande announced this week that his country would join a US-led coalition in a campaign against the Islamic extremists.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Australia Thwarts an IS Plot of Random Beheading; IS Goal Was to Display Its Reach of Military Power

Australia says it has thwarted a so-called "demonstration killing" plot by the Islamic State, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (September 18, 2014).

Earlier today, Australian authorities detained 15 people who planned to publicly behead a random person in Sydney before draping that person in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flag.

"That's the intelligence we received," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters. "The exhortations -- quite direct exhortations -- were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country."

The apparent goal was to demonstrate the reach of the Muslim militant group.

USAF Ends "So Help Me God" in Enlistment Oath; American Humanist Assoc. Planned to File Lawsuit

The U.S. Air Force announced yesterday that -- effective immediately -- Airmen who enlist or reenlist will no longer have to say the phrase "so help me God" as part of the required oath, the Huffington Post website reports today (September 18, 2014).

The Air Force faced pressure to change the policy from the American Humanist Association, which threatened to sue it on behalf of an atheist airman who was not allowed to reenlist because he would not say the phrase.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement, "We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously."

Both the Army and the Navy allow soldiers and sailors to omit saying "so help me God" from their oaths when they enlist.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Iraqi Ambas. Warns of Pope's Safety in Albania; Claims IS Plans to Kill Pope on His Sept.21 Visit

Pope Francis' security will not be increased during his trip to Albania this weekend, despite alleged assassination threats by the terrorist Islamic State (IS), the Catholic News website reports today (September 17, 2014).

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said there was "nothing serious" in the threats, which were revealed by the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See in an interview with the Italian newspaper "La Nazione" yesterday.

Fr. Lombardi confirmed that the Pope would travel in the same open-top car he uses in St. Peter's Square in Rome while he is in Albania on September 21. He added: "There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation."

Habeeb Al-Sadr -- who has been the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican since 2010 -- told the newspaper that "the threats against the Pope are credible," and warned that IS genocide of Iraqi Christians indicated their intent to wipe out Christianity.

OK State Rep. Calls for Genocide of US Muslims; Calls Them a Cancer to Be Cut Out of US Society

Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett used a genocidal analogy this week to describe Muslims in America, The Daily Beast website reports today (September 17, 2014).

During a town-hall meeting on September 15, the Republican representative said Muslims are a "cancer that must be cut out of American society."

He continued: "Islam is not a religion. Islam is a socio-political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest."

Bennett also said that "more than 90 percent of the Quran is about violence and the violence necessary to overtake non-believers."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Swastikas Painted on Philly Kosher Butcher Shop; ADL Head Calls Act Attack on Entire Community

A kosher butcher shop in Philadelphia was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti last week, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (September 16, 2014).

Crude swastikas were painted on the butcher shop, Simon Glatt's Kosher meats, between the evening of September 10 and the next morning. The butcher shop has been at its location for 20 years.

A nearby synagogue was similarly vandalized in June. There are no witnesses and no suspects in either case.

"The defacement of public property in Philadelphia with swastikas represents an attack on the entire community," Anti-Defamation League (ADL) associate regional director Joshua Cohen said. "The swastika is a universal symbol of hate meant to instill fear and intimidation. It's clear that the perpetrator intended to not only damage property, but also to send a message of hate to the entire community."

Dempsey:US Advisers May Fight with Iraqi Troops; Will Urge Obama Use Them Against ISIS If Needed

Gen. Martin Dempsey -- the military's top officer -- told a Senate panel today (September 16, 2014) that he will recommend having U.S. advisers fight with Iraqi troops against the militant ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) if the situation requires it, according to the USA Today website.

"To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIS targets, I will recommend that to the president," said Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

U.S. advisers could be called on to get closer to the fight, Dempsey said, if Iraqi security forces undertake a complex operation such as retaking the city of Mosul.

Dempsey said that if needed, he will recommend to President Obama that they be deployed. Obama has ruled them out for now, he added.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saudi Police Arrest 28 Christians for Prayer Forum; Saudi Arabia Is Only Country to Ban All Churches

A group of 28 Christians holding a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia -- the birthplace of Islam -- were arrested by Saudi police last week, the Christian Today website reports today (September 15, 2014).

The group was abducted from the home of an Indian Christian in the city of Khafji, near the Kuwait border. They have not been heard from since their arrest. Several Bibles were also confiscated in the raid.

"Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleaning that has always been its official policy," said Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.

"It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over two million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments," she said.

Coalition Meets in Paris to Discuss Plans on ISIS; Nations Say Global Action Needed to Defeat ISIS

An international coalition of 29 countries has met in Paris to discuss a coordinated response to counter the threat of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, the Euro News website reports today (September 15, 2014).

Earlier, the French announced that they would join Britain in operating reconnaissance flights over Islamic State positions to assist the U.S. air force currently engaged in strikes against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

Speaking at the opening of the conference, French President Francois Hollande said the world is facing a global threat which needs a global response.

More than a dozen Arab countries have agreed to support attacks against Islamic State militants.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Israeli Troops Will No Longer Spy on Palestinians; Say Some Things They're Asked to Do Are Immoral

Forty-three Israeli soldiers of a selective intelligence unit have written an open letter to their superiors refusing to take part in any further action against Palestinians because of what they see as past abuses, the Newser website reports today (September 14, 2014).

For instance, they say Unit 8200 would gather information about an individual's sex life and use it to blackmail the person into becoming an informer for Israel.

"The notion of rights for Palestinians does not exist at all, not even as an idea to be disregarded," says one of the 43.

"There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense," one sergeant-major said. "Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we're not willing to do these things any more."

Pope: Massacres, Destruction Leading to WW III; Says Greed, Intolerance, Lust for Power Cause War

During a visit to Italy's largest war memorial, Pope Francis said this weekend that the world's conflicts today -- with the kind of crimes, massacres, and destruction they involve -- could be called a "piecemeal" Third World War, the Christian Post website reports today (September 14, 2014).

"War is madness," the Pope said in the homily of a mass yesterday at the Redipuglia war memorial,  where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried.

"Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep," Francis said. "Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction."

War is irrational, the pontiff added. "Its only plan is to bring destruction: It seeks to grow by destroying," he said. "Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology..."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

White House, Pentagon Contradict Kerry on ISIS; Say US at War,Kerry Calls It Counterterror Opn.

The White House and the Pentagon said for the first time yesterday that the United States is indeed "at war" with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), contradicting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who maintained a day earlier that Washington's efforts cannot be seen as part of the "war on terror," the Christian Post website reports today (September 13, 2014).

"In the same way that the United States is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates... the United States is at war with ISIS," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby was also quoted as saying that while "this is not the Iraq War" from a decade ago, Washington is "at war with ISIS in the same way we are at war and continue to be at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates."

On September 11, Kerry described the U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS militants as a "very significant... major counterterrorism operation," but added that "war is the wrong terminology." Kerry's spokeswoman, Marie Harf, also refused to call the operation part of the "war on terrorism."

Ukraine PM:Putin Wants to Seize East Europe; Says Putin's Ultimate Goal Is to Recreate USSR

Russian President Vladimir Putin's ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine as an independent country and restore the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said today (September 13, 2014), according to the News Daily website.

Speaking at a conference in Kiev attended by European lawmakers and business leaders, Yatseniuk also praised a new wave of economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and the United States, and said they posed a major threat to the Russian economy.

"We are still on a stage of war and the key aggressor is the Russian Federation... Putin wants another frozen conflict (in eastern Ukraine)," Yatseniuk said.

"His goal is to take the entire Ukraine... Russia is a threat to the global order and to the security of the entire Europe."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pope to Marry 20 Atypical Cath. Couples Sunday; Includes Couples Cohabitating, Others with Kids

Among the men and women Pope Francis is set to unite in marriage this weekend are Catholics who have been living together as well as couples who already have children, the Catholic News website reports today (September 12, 2014).

The Pope will preside over his first wedding ceremony as Pontiff during a Nuptial Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, September 14. The event -- which will see 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage -- was organized by the vicariate of Rome.

The ages of the brides and grooms range from the youngest being 25 to the oldest being 56, the vicariate said. It added that some couples "have been engaged for a long period of time or for not as long; there are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children; who got to know each other in Church."

While cohabitation is not in itself a canonical impediment to marriage, it is contrary to the Catholic  Church's teaching on marriage and sexual love. The Church urges that pastoral ministers help couples prepare for marriage by showing them the witness of Christian family life in such a way as they might regularize their situation before their wedding ceremony.

Central Intel Agency Says ISIS Has 31K Fighters; Ten Arab Nations Agree to Help US Destroy ISIS

There are as many as 31,000 fighters in terror group ISIS' army, the U.S. CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has said, which is three times more than previously feared. Meanwhile, ten Arab countries have said that they will be helping the U.S. in the war against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the Christian Post website reports today (September 12, 2014).

"This new total reflects an increase in [ISIS] members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence," CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said today.

The 10 Arab countries pledged to help the U.S. in its fight against the terror group are: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Arab countries said in a joint statement that they "shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism" and said that they had discussed a strategy to "destroy" the terror group wherever it operates.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Russia Rips Obama's Plan to Expand ISIS Attacks; Warns US It's "Aggression," Breach of Inter. Law

Russia became the third nation to criticize the Obama administration today (September 11, 2014), regarding President Barack Obama's announcement last night that he plans to expand a campaign of bombing against the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to include targets inside Syria, the Daily Mail (British) website reports.

Iranian and Syrian officials slammed the White House for excluding them from an international coalition formed to destroy the radical Islamic terror group.

Later today, the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a key ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad -- warned the U.S. that it would be an "act of aggression" and "a gross violation of international Law."

The challenge came from Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich in Moscow. A state-run Syrian newspaper also warned that U.S. airstrikes over Syrian territory could trigger the "first sparks of fire" in the region.

HRW: Israel Likely Committed Gaza War Crimes; Violated Laws of War by Destroying 3 UN Schools

Israel is likely to have committed war crimes in Gaza, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today (September 11, 2014) -- a day after the Israeli army announced five criminal investigations into incidents involving its forces -- the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

The 50-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas-led militants ended on August 26 after killing more than 2,100 Palestinians -- most of them civilians -- and 73 people on the Israeli side, 67 of them soldiers.

The New York-based rights watchdog said in a statement today that in three cases it examined, Israel unnecessarily caused "numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war."

The incidents were the separate shellings of two UN schools in northern Gaza on July 24 and 30, and a guided missile strike on another UN school in the southern city of Rafah on August 3. The attacks killed a total of 45 people, including 17 children, HRW said.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Assad Still Uses Chemical Weapons on His Rebels; Report Confirms Helicopters Drop Chlorine Bombs

A toxic chemical -- almost certainly chlorine -- was used "systematically and repeatedly" as a weapon in attacks on villages in northern Syria this year, the global chemical weapons watchdog said today (September 10, 2014), according to the Newsmax World website.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that a report by a fact-finding mission it sent to Syria based its conclusions on dozens of interviews with victims, physicians, eye-witnesses, and others.

Witnesses generally linked the chlorine attacks to helicopter-borne barrel bombs, but said the helicopters were flying too high for them to see any identifying markings on the aircraft.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the report's findings "corroborate allegations that the Assad regime is continuing to use chemical weapons in Syria, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention."

AF Atheist Won't Say "So Help Me God" in Oath; Can't Re-enlist Due to Refusal, Sues AF in Court

The U.S. Air Force has told a sergeant he will have to leave the military unless he agrees to take an oath with the phrase "so help me God," the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (September 10, 2014).

The atheist airman was denied his request to re-enlist last month because of his refusal to swear to God. He will now take the military to court, his lawyer said.

"We have now received word from the Air Force regarding our letter. It has not indicated a willingness to settle out of court," said Monica Miller, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, which has taken up the service member's case.

With the deadline for re-enlisting expiring in November, the technical sergeant at Creech Air Force base in Nevada -- whose name has not been released to the press -- will be forced to sue the government in a federal court, Miller said.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Is Painted on NY Sidewalk; Rabbi: It Shows "Ignorance, Hate, Spitefulness"

Authorities are investigating after anti-Semitic graffiti was found spray-painted on a sidewalk in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of New York's Rockland County, the CBS website reports today (September 9, 2014).

A swastika and the words "Hail Hitler" were found scrawled inside a Star of David on September 7 along Morris Road in Spring Valley, New York.

Many Holocaust survivors live in the area and Rabbi Yisroel Kahan said this opens old wounds.

"This is something that's hateful and it's a shame and it will not be tolerated," Kahan said. "It's a combination of ignorance, hate, spitefulness."

Hindus Persecute Millions of Indian Christians; Radical Hindus Now Eliminate Christians in India

International Christian Concern (ICC) -- a watchdog group -- has warned that a Hindu nationalist group called Sangh Parivar is inflicting suffering and looking to cleanse the minority population in India, much like terror group ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria, the WWRN (World Wide Religion News) website reports today (September 9, 2014).

ICC said in a press release that the nationalist group and its associate organizations have been directing hate speech toward Christians and leading attacks on pastors and churches in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

John Dayal -- a member of the Indian government's National Integration Council -- said: "There has been a sharp rise in hate campaigns against Christians by political organizations. This threat of purging Christians from villages extends from Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to now Uttar Pradesh, and to the borders of the national capital of New Delhi."

There have also been reports of churches being turned into Hindu temples, and entire mobs attacking Christian houses. "Like Christians facing ISIS in Iraq, millions of Christians across India are facing persecution at the hands of radical Hindu nationalist groups," the watchdog group added.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pope OKs Resignation of Ireland's Church Head; Card. Sean Brady's 18 Yrs. Beset by Child Abuse

The Vatican announced today (September 8, 2014) that it has accepted the resignation of the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, according to the BBC website.

Last month, Dr. Brady -- who has been the leader of Ireland's Catholics for 18 years -- confirmed that he offered his resignation to Pope Francis in July.

His tenure had been beset by clerical child sex abuse scandals and claims that he helped cover up at least one case.

Archbishop Eamon Martin has been named Dr. Brady's successor. Pope Francis has appointed him Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. (Armagh is a town in Northern Ireland which serves as the capital of Ireland's Catholic Church.)

Gwyneth Paltrow Plans on Converting to Judaism; Brought Up by Christian Mother, Jewish Father

Academy award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow -- who was brought up as a Christian by her mother -- will soon be converting to Judaism, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (September 8, 2014).

Paltrow has been following the Kabbalah movement for several years and is friends with Michael Berg, co-director of the Kabbalah Central in Los Angeles, according to the New York Post.

Paltrow's late father -- who was Jewish and a film producer -- is believed to have been descended from a long line of Eastern European rabbis. Paltrow recently told an event in London -- hosted by the Jewish community's Community Security Trust -- that she wants to raise her two children (Apple, 10, and Moses, 8) in a "Jewish environment."

She and her musician husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, were divorced earlier this year.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Messianic Jews Arrested for Abusing Women; Forced Them to Have Sex to "Save Israel"

Israeli police in Jerusalem say they have uncovered a messianic Jewish sect that prostituted women to "save Israel," the AP website reports today (September 7, 2014).

In a statement today, police said officers arrested four people on suspicion of coercing women into having sex with non-Jews and exploited them sexually by making them addicted to drugs and alcohol. The reasoning behind the plot was "to save the people of Israel and bring redemption nearer."

The four suspects -- two men and two women -- were part of a messianic sect.

A four-month-long investigation revealed the four were brainwashing the women into believing they were helping the Jewish people by having sex with non-Jews, while pocketing the money earned from the women for themselves.

Salonika Mayor Wears Star of David at Inaugural; Honors Memory of Jews Exiled by WW II Nazis

The mayor of Salonika -- the second largest city in Greece -- wore a yellow Star of David at his second term inauguration at city hall last week, the Jewish Press website reports today (September 7, 2014).

Mayor Iannis Boutaris, 72, wore the star as a gesture of respect to honor the memory of the Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II, he explained.

The Nazis deported more than 90 percent of Jews from Thessaloniki (Salonika) at the time -- some 60,000 Jews -- and later wiped them out.

Only about 1,200 Jews live in Salonika today.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kiev Orthodox Church Head:Putin Honors Satan; Patriarch Filaret Says He's a Liar, Headed to Hell

Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a baptized Orthodox Christian and strong supporter of Russia's Orthodox Church -- has fallen under the spell of Satan and faces eternal damnation unless he repents, a top Ukrainian clergyman said today (September 6, 2014) in an unusually blunt statement that squarely blamed the Russian leader for the war in Ukraine, the Reuters website reports.

Patriarch Filaret heads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church--Kiev Patriarchate -- a branch of the Orthodox Church that broke away from Moscow in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the declaration of an independent Ukraine.

His church -- a rival of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church--Moscow Patriarchate which is closely linked to Putin -- strongly supports Ukrainian nationhood and the Kiev government's struggle to defeat pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Patriarch Filaret said Putin had deliberately stoked the conflict in Ukraine by sending mercenaries, troops, and weapons across the border and had spread lies via Russia's mass media about what was really happening. The Kiev Patriarch urged the Orthodox faithful to pray that Putin would "come to his senses." Otherwise, the patriarch added, Putin would face "an ignominious end and eternal damnation in hell."

Northeastern U. Computer Tech Grad Assists ISIS; Ahmad Abousamra Is on FBI's Most Wanted List

An American is believed to have joined the radical Islamic militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and using expertise he acquired with a degree in computer technology from Northeastern University in Boston to advance the goal of a global caliphate, the Creeping Sharia website reports today (September 6, 2014).

Ahmad Abousamra, 33, is suspected by the FBI of being the current social media manager of ISIS, and is on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The U.S. government is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Abousamra -- who grew up in Stoughton, Massachusetts -- comes from a privileged Syrian background, and is likely to be highly intelligent. His father is an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital -- one of the very top medical facilities in the world -- while Abousamra made the Dean's List at Northeastern, which has more students on work-study programs than any other university in the United States. Moreover, Northeastern receives more applications for freshman admissions than any school in the nation.

The kind of rejection Abousamra had for America -- the country that took in his Syrian immigrant family and provided him with a stellar college experience -- is very troubling and difficult for Americans to understand. After Abousamra was questioned by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2006, he fled the United States for Syria. He was charged with terrorism-related offenses in 2009, and in 2013 the FBI added him to its Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Phone Store in Istanbul Bans Entry of "Jew Dogs;" Anti-Semitism in Turkey Has Risen in Recent Yrs.

A shop in downtown Istanbul, Turkey posted a sign on its window front announcing that "Jew dogs" are banned from entering, the Algemeiner (Jewish) website reports today (September 5, 2014).

The discriminatory banner -- which was spotted yesterday -- says, "The Jew dogs cannot come in here" and features an image of an Israeli tank.

The store is located in Tahtakale -- an area where many Jewish businesses are situated -- and sells mobile phone accessories.

In recent years, the social climate in Turkey has become increasingly threatening for the country's Jewish population. During Israel's recent Operation Protective Edge aimed at stemming Gaza rocket fire, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan compared Israeli actions to Hitler, and violent protests threatened the Israeli embassy and consulate.

Vicar:IS Persecution the "Worst Since Holocaust;" IS Does "Ethnic Cleansing," Rids Iraqi Christians

Canon Andrew White -- the Vicar of Baghdad -- said that what is happening in Iraq is "the worst reality of religious persecution since the Holocausr," the Christian Headlines website reports today (September 5, 2014).

According to investigator Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International has obtained evidence that Islamic State (IS) is committing an "ethnic cleansing," or ridding north Iraq of Christians and other religious minorities.

"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq," Rovera said.

Amnesty International recently released a 26-page report detailing the acts of persecution that IS has committed throughout the area in recent weeks. "Hundreds if not thousands" of Yazidi women and children have been kidnapped, and many Iraqis that practice religions other than Islam have been killed.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tufts Sets Up 1st US Univ.-Funded Humanist Post; Supports Atheist, Agnostic, and Non-Rel. Students

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts has established a humanist staff position -- the first university-funded staff position of its kind in the United States -- dedicated to supporting atheist, agnostic, and non-religious students, the Religion News website reports today (September 4, 2014).

Atheist and agnostic students at Tufts have been campaigning for this kind of university-support for the past five years.

The Tufts Freethought Society -- a group of about 150 students who identify as atheistic, agnostic, or otherwise non-religious -- was instrumental in convincing the Tufts administration to establish a "humanist" chaplaincy to serve as a resource for students interested in exploring how to live "ethical and meaningful lives" without subscribing to any religion.

Walker Bristol -- a former Tufts Freethought student leader -- recently started as the first part-time Humanist in Residence at Tufts.

St. Louis Cath.School Fires Two Lesbian Teachers; School Says Lesbians' Marriage Violated Contract

The termination of two lesbian faculty members at Cor Jesu Academy -- an all-girls Catholic high school in St. Louis -- has prompted an outcry from alumnae who have vowed to withhold donations to the school, the Crux Now website reports today (September 4, 2014).

In the last several weeks, alumnae have created a private Facebook group with more than 2,000 members in support of the couple, Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro, urging supporters to call and write to Cor Jesu leaders and voice their concerns.

Reichert said she and Gambaro were asked to resign after the school said in late July it received a copy of a mortgage application with the couple's names. The couple had married in New York over the summer and the school said they had violated the moral contract faculty are required to sign as part of employment.

A statement from St. Louis' Cor Jesu said the school "does not publicly discuss personnel matters."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

DOJ Sues PA Police for Equal Handling of Women; Says PA Needs Lower Standard for Women Cadets

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in late July to end the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) practice of requiring that all state-police applicants -- be they male or female -- pass the same exact physical fitness test to be admitted for cadet training, The New American website reports today (September 3, 2014).

Now it has been announced that the PSP will challenge the federal lawsuit, with State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan saying that dumbing down the standards "would be insulting to those men and women who already strove to achieve those standards... We should not be bullied into lowering our standards for any applicants."

The DOJ's problem with the PSP's equality of opportunity is that it doesn't create equality of outcome, as female applicants fail the physical test at higher rates than do their male counterparts.

This higher female failure rate caused the Obama administration to launch an investigation of the PSP in 2009 and then file its lawsuit on July 29 of this year.

SEAL Hero Parents Demand Obama Quit Over IS; Say Obama Lacks Leadership, Fears Battling IS

The parents of a SEAL Team 6 member, who died in Afghanistan, have called on President Barack Obama to resign, saying that his "cowardly lack of leadership" in his failure to confront the barbaric Islamic State (IS) threatens U.S. and world security, the Newsmax website reports today (September 3, 2014).

In an open letter published on the WorldTribune website, Billy and Karen Vaughn, whose son Aaron died in 2011, wrote that they were stunned by Obama's decision to go golfing directly after giving a somber speech about the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the jihadists, also known as ISIS.

"As commander-in-chief, your actions, or lack thereof, Mr. President, cost lives," said the Vaughns, whose son was killed in action when a Chinook helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan with 30 American soldiers on board.

"As you bumble about in your golf cart, slapping on a happy face and fist-pounding your buddies, your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole -- not only in America's security but the security of the entire globe. Your message has come across loud and clear, sir: You are not up to this job. You know it. We know it. The world knows it."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dozens of Iraqi Women Sold as Brides by IS Mil.; Kidnapped,Taken to Syria,Sold for Some $1K Each

Several dozen Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq have been taken to Syria, forced to convert to Islam, and sold into marriage to militants, the Global Post website reports today (September 2, 2014).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had confirmed that at least 27 Yazidi women had been sold for around $1,000 each to IS fighters.

The group said it was aware that some 300 Yazidi women had been kidnapped and transported to Syria by the jihadists, but it had so far documented the sale into marriage of 27.

"In recent weeks, some 300 women and girls of the Yazidi faith who were abducted in Iraq have been distributed as spoils of war to fighters from the Islamic State," a statement said.

Putin to EU Head:"I Could Take Kiev in 2 Weeks;" Raging Russia Claims Quote Taken Out of Context

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of the European Commission in a private phone call that "If I wanted to, I could take Kiev in two weeks," the Newser website reports today (September 2, 2014).

Russia hit back today, saying "This quote was taken out of context."

European Commission President Jose Barroso revealed the details of his Ukraine crisis conversation with Putin shortly before the EU summit in Berlin last weekend.

Putin aide Yuri Ushakov blasted Barroso, saying that his words were "incorrect and beyond the bounds of diplomatic practice."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ukraine Gives Up Key Airport to Russian Forces; Warns of Ks of Deaths in Worst War Since WW II

Ukrainian forces ceded a strategic eastern airport to pro-Russian insurgents today (September 1, 2014), as the government of Kiev accused Moscow of launching a "great war" that could claim tens of thousands of lives, the AFP (Agence-France Presse) website reports.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey vowed today to "immediately mount defenses against Russia, which is trying not only to secure positions held by terrorists before but to advance on other territories of Ukraine."

"A great war arrived at our doorstep, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II," he wrote on Facebook, warning of "tens of thousands of deaths."

Kiev said its forces south of the rebel hub of Lugansk were forced to retreat from the local airfield and a nearby village after withstanding Russian artillery fire and battling a Russian tank battalion. Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, "There is direct, overt aggression against Ukraine from the neighboring state."

Girls Nabbed for Plan to Bomb French Synagogue; Muslim Teens Plotted Suicide Blast of Lyon Bldg.

French authorities have arrested and indicted two Muslim girls -- ages 15 and 17 -- for plotting a suicide bombing in the Great Synagogue of Lyon, the Jewish Press website reports today (September 1, 2014).

The girls contacted each other through social media and are among 60 people under investigation in France for association with radical Islamists -- especially the Islamic State (IS) -- where thousands of Europeans have joined the terrorist group.

The suicide plot in Lyon is part of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, where four people were killed earlier this year in an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels. At least nine French synagogues have come under attack since Israel retaliated against Hamas rocket fire last month.

"Jews in France or Belgium are being killed because they are Jews," Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions told Newsweek. "Jihadism has become the new Nazism. This makes people consider leaving France."