Sunday, November 30, 2014

Finland's Parliament OKs Gay Marriage Equality; Law Gives Same-Sex Couples Rights of Marriage

Finland's parliament approved a bill establishing marriage equality on November 28 by a vote of 105 to 92, the Advocate website reports today (November 30, 2014).

Although same-sex couples have had access to "registered partnerships" since 2002, the new law will end legal distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex partnerships, giving same-sex couples equal access to the rights affiliated with marriage, including adoption and name-change privileges.

Finland's Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, supported the measure, authoring an open letter urging Parliament to approve the legislation ahead of the vote.

The new law is not expected to take effect until 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Parliament's approval makes Finland the 12th European country to embrace marriage equality, and the last Nordic nation to do so.

Grafitti Sprayed on Walls of Tel Aviv Synagogue; Pile of Books Is Also Torched in the Synagogue

A synagogue led by a rabbi from the Tzohar movement has been vandalized in Tel Aviv, the Jewish Press website reports today (November 30, 2014).

Grafitti was discovered sprayed on the walls of the synagogue today, reading among other things, "In a place where a 'national law' is legislated -- the books should burn!"

In the synagogue was a pile of books that had been torched.

The "national law" referenced in the grafitti is the Jewish nation-state law now being discussed by the Knesset that was brought before the government by the Likud party.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

ISIS Using Kids as Human Shields, Blood Donors; UN Says Syrian Children Doing Dangerous Roles

United Nations officials are saying that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has created new and more barbaric ways to use children in the Syrian conflict, including using them as human shields and forcing them to donate blood to injured Muslim extremists, the Christian Post website reports today (November 29, 2014).

UN International Children's Fund regional child protection adviser, Laurent Chapuis, said that Islamic State militants are recruiting children -- including those of younger ages -- to join the caliphate by providing them with various paying roles within the caliphate.

Although some of the children are used in more civil roles -- like cooking, cleaning, bringing water and medical aid to wounded -- other children are thrust to the front lines and used in military roles like combatants or human shields.

"There is conclusive evidence that children in Syria have and continue to be used by all parties to the conflict -- as combatants, human shields, messengers, spies, guards, [and] porters," Chapuis said.

Pope:"I Ask You to Bless Me and Church of Rome;" Tells Ecumenical Patriarch We're Brothers in Hope

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I prayed for unity of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul today (November 29, 2014), according to the Rome Reports website.

The most powerful moment of the two Christian leaders came when Pope Francis made this request to the Patriarch: "I ask you a favor, to bless me and the Church of Rome." After such a crucial request, they prayed together the Lord's Prayer in Latin.

During the gathering both religious leaders addressed each other. The Patriarch said he welcomed Pope Francis with joy, honor, and recognition. He added that he hopes his visit will help both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches come closer.

Pope Francis answered to the Patriarch's address explaining that they are "brothers in hope." Pope Francis is the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world, while Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Christianity became divided in 1054AD in what is called the Great Schism, which tore apart the Christian Church into Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) branches.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Austin Man Fires Ammo at Mexican Consulate; Against US Immigration Policy, Killed by Police

A Texas man -- upset about U.S. immigration policy -- was fatally shot by police today (November 28, 2014), after firing more than 100 rounds of ammunition at buildings including the Mexican consulate, a U.S. courthouse, and police headquarters in Austin, Texas, the Telegraph (British) website reports.

Police identified the gunman as Larry McQuilliams, 49, an Austin resident with a criminal history.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the targets indicated the attack was probably over U.S. immigration policy.

"When you look at the national debate right now about immigration, that ... comes to mind. Sometimes our political discourse becomes very heated and sometimes very angry," Acevedo told reporters.

UN Torture Com. Urges US to Probe Police Abuse; Concerned with "Frequent" Police Brutality in US

The United Nations Committee Against Torture urged the United States to investigate police abuse, as protests continue over a grand jury decision not to charge a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in the state of Missouri, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (November 28, 2014).

In a report released today, the U.N. committee said it is concerned about "numerous reports" of police brutality and excessive use of force -- especially against minority racial and ethnic groups.

It described police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals as "frequent" and "recurrent."

The committee also expressed concern over "numerous" and "consistent" reports of police using taser guns against unarmed people resisting arrest. It emphasized that tasers should only be used in life-threatening situations.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Suicide Car Slams on UK Embassy Vehicle, Kills 5; Taliban Assumes Blame for Afghan Terrorist Attack

At least five people were killed today (November 27, 2014) when a suicide bomber slammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle belonging to the British embassy in the capital of Afghanistan, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

At least 37 civilians -- including several children -- were injured in the explosion that rocked east Kabul this morning, pelting nearby buildings with debris and sending a thick column of smoke rising into the air.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, Afghanistan's government confirmed the deaths of at least five people and criticized the Taliban's "inhuman act."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

British Brothers Are Jailed for Terrorist Offenses; Two Attended a Terrorist Training Camp in Syria

Two British Muslim brothers have been jailed for conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp in Syria and unlawfully possessing ammunition -- the first British citizens to be jailed for terrorist offenses -- the Big News Network website reports today (November 26, 2014).

Mohommod Nawaz, 30, and Hamza Nawaz, 24, admitted leaving their homes in Stratford, East London, to visit a terror training camp in Syria.

The sentencing comes as the British government introduced a new counterterrorism  law on November 19 to increase surveillance on people suspected of involvement in jihad.

Mohommod was jailed for four-and-a-half years and his younger brother Hamza sentenced to three years after both pleaded guilty to conspiring to attend a place used for terrorist training between January 1, 2012 and September 16, 2013.

Two Female Suicide Bombers Kill 40 in N. Nigeria; Islamist Militants Blamed for Bombings in Market

Two teenage girls wearing suicide belts blew themselves up in a market in northern Nigeria yesterday, killing at least 40 people, The Daily Beast website reports today (November 26, 2014).

It was the latest in a string of horrific attacks in Nigeria for which Islamist militants are blamed.

Yesterday's attack took place in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri.

The first girl detonated hidden explosives, killing about three people. When a crowd gathered, the second teen blew herself up, killing dozens.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pope Will Visit Patriarch Bartholomew on Nov. 28; Cath.-Orth. Dialogue May Lead to Christian Unity

Reunification of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches could be near, an Orthodox spokesman said, as Pope Francis prepares his visit to Turkey on November 28, the Catholic News website reports today (November 25, 2014).

Pope Francis' meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church will be the latest effort to heal the millenium-old schism of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Christian Church split into Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) branches in 1054 AD in what is called the Great Schism.

Pope Francis is expected to meet privately with Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew -- spiritual leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians -- during his November 28-30 trip.

Dositheos Ananostopoulos -- spokesman of Istanbul's Orthodox Church -- said that the meeting of the heads of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches indicates that the "reunification of both churches" could be near.

Col. High Court OKs Day of Prayer Proclamations; Says Atheists Are Not Forced to Attend Ceremony

The Colorado Supreme Court yesterday rejected a legal challenge to the governor's right to issue Day of Prayer proclamations, finding that non-believers who objected to the annual events did not suffer harm and do not have grounds to sue, the Religion News website reports today (November 25, 2014).

The ruling reversed a state Court of Appeals decision two years ago that said the proclamations violated constitutional protections for religious freedom by sending the message that the government endorses religion.

The Colorado justices ruled that the Freedom from Religion Foundation -- including four of its Colorado members -- did not have the right to sue because the government spent only nominal amounts to issue the annual proclamations.

Opponents also were not forced to participate in the prayer day and did not suffer negative consequences from the government, the court said.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Student Rapes Three Girls at Okla. High School; Raped Girls Bullied, Threatened, Mostly by Girls

A group of Norman (Oklahoma) High School students walked out of class today (November 24, 2014) to protest the district's inefficient response to rape and bullying accusations against students, according to the UPI website.

The protest campaign -- known as Yes ALL Daughters -- began after three girls at the high school were bullied after being raped by the same male student.

Kim Wright -- one of the protesters -- said one of the raped victims faced bullying by other students when she tried to come back to school after reporting the rape.

"She was verbally attacked when she walked into school," said Wright. "It was a group of girls who threatened her. She had just made it to the doors on her first day back."

Turkish Pres. Claims Women Not Equal to Men; Says Feminist Movement Belittles Motherhood

The president of Turkey -- speaking at a global justice and women's summit meeting in Istanbul -- declared in a speech that women are not equal to men, the Euro News website reports today (November 24, 2014).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- a devout Muslim -- also criticized the feminist movement, claiming it does not accept or value the concept of motherhood.

An English translation of his speech at the event said: "You cannot make an equality between men and women; they are not equal. They are of a different nature. Their system is different."

One prominent Turkish women's rights activist has slammed Erdogan's comments as being against the constitution and the law.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wellesley Students Say Anti-Semitism Haunts Col.; School Fires Its Hillel Director and Jewish Chaplain

Jewish students at Wellesley College -- an elite Boston-area school for women -- say that anti-Semitism is growing on campus following what they call the school administration's slow response to the anti-Israel activities of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), as well as its decision to fire the school's Hillel director and its Jewish chaplain, the JNS (Jewish News Service) website reports today (November 23, 2014).

"I firmly believe this college is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic," Jordan Hannink, a junior at Wellesley, told the news media.

Several posters have been plastered on walls around the campus "with images of Palestinian children who were killed or wounded during the Gaza war." Another poster in the student center asks, "What does Zionism mean to you?" Responses to that question that were written on the poster include "genocide," "apartheid," and "murder."

Jewish students said they had turned to the school's Hillel branch for support in their fight against campus anti-Zionism, but that those efforts were undermined by the school's decision to fire Hillel director Patti Scheinman and Jewish chaplain David Bernat. School officials cited "restructuring" as the reason for the firings.

At Least 14 Killed, 35 Wounded in Afghan Attack; Believed US-Afghan Defense Pact Caused Bombing

At least 14 people were killed and 35 wounded today (November 23, 2014) in a suicide bomb attack at a volleyball ground in Paktika province of Afghanistan, according to the Big News Network website.

"Army rescue teams evacuated 14 bodies and 35 injured people were sent to military and government hospitals," an army source said.

Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, deputy minister of Interior affairs, said that 10 people were killed and 30 others were injured. But unofficial sources put the number of casualties as high as 50 killed and 60 injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack may have been sparked by the Afghan parliament endorsing a security and defense agreement with the United States and a similar pact with NATO earlier in the day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Razing Homes of Terrorists' Families a War Crime; HRW Warns Israel to Halt the Practice Forthwith

Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian terrorists' homes constitutes a war crime and must be halted immediately, rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today (November 22, 2014), according to the Times of Israel website.

HRW said the practice "deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing." Such collective punishment in occupied territory such as the West Bank and East Jerusalem is considered a war crime, HRW stressed.

"It is a basic principle of law that one person should not be punished for another's crime," the group's deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork said. "Punitive home demolitions are blatantly unlawful. Israel should prosecute, convict, and punish criminals, not carry out vengeful destruction that harms entire families."

"Justifying punishment of people who are not responsible for a criminal act just because they might 'support' it would set a dangerous precedent which could come back to haunt Israelis," HRW warned.

Turkey Plans to Build a Bridge across Dardanelles; Bridge Would Ease Traffic Congestion in Istanbul

Turkey is planning to build a bridge across the famed Dardanelles strait to help ease traffic congestion in Istanbul -- the home of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is the head of the world's 350 million Greek Orthodox Christians -- the Yahoo News website reports today (November 22, 2014).

The Dardanelles -- which separate Europe and Asia -- were last bridged by Xerxes the Great, the Persian "king of kings" in 480 BC on his way to wage war against Greece at Thermopylae.

"We are planning to construct a new bridge across the Dardanelles strait," Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan said in an interview with Turkish television on November 20.

The Dardanelles lead into the Sea of Marmara which then goes into the Bosphorous in Istanbul itself. The waterway is three-quarters of a mile wide at its narrowest point. The new bridge will be about 30 miles long. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Exclusive:Obama Secretly OKs US Afghan Combat; Signed Order Allowing US Troops to Fight in 2015

President Obama signed a secret order in recent weeks authorizing a more expansive mission for the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned -- a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year -- the NY Times website reports exclusively tonight (November 21, 2014).

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Obama said that American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the "remnants of Al Qaeda."

But Obama's secret order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government -- a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military, and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision.

The secret order also allows American jets, bombers, and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

Prayer Ban Ends on NC Commissioners' Meetings; Court Decides Policy for Prayer Includes All Faiths

County commissioners in Forsyth, North Carolina are now allowed to have prayers before meetings, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (November 21, 2014).

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge James Beaty Jr. removed a 2010 order banning commissioners from having clergy deliver prayers that refer to Jesus Christ or other deities.

The American Civil Liberties Union had argued the prayer policy was discriminatory, but Forsyth County says the policy is pro-actively inclusive of all faiths and said persons of any faith are welcome to offer a prayer.

"It was a long battle but it was worth it," Gloria Whisenhunt, vice chairwoman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, said.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

UCLA Student Govt. Votes for Israel Divestment; Due to Israel's Occupation of Palestinian Regions

The UCLA student government has voted to support a measure that urges the UC system to sell off stock in companies that do business with Israeli military and profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, the LA Times website reports today (November 20, 2014).

The issue attracted about 250 people to the UCLA meeting on November 18. The council approved the measure on an 8-2 vote.

These resolutions, however, have no power in relation to UC finances, and the UC Regents have said they have no intention of making any divestments in Israel.

Similar efforts have been brought up in recent years with varying results. Student governments at UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego have approved similar resolutions.

Pope Demands a More Just Distribution of Wealth; Tells UN Food Is a Human Right,Not a Profit Item

Pope Francis demanded a more just distribution of the world's wealth for the poor and hungry today (November 20, 2014), telling a U.N. conference on nutrition that access to food is a basic human right and should not be subject to market speculation and quests for profit, the Huffington Post website reports.

"We ask for dignity, not charity," Francis told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

"It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by 'market priorities,' the 'primacy of profit,' which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature," Francis said.

The U.N. estimates that a third of all food produced is lost to waste and spoilage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pope's Gifts to Be Raffled Off to Support the Poor; Top Prize Is New Fiat Car Worth More Than $23K

Pope Francis is accustomed to receiving gifts from dignitaries: Bikes, even a car are among the many presents that have been given to the Pontiff, the Zenit website reports today (November 19, 2014).

All these expensive gifts will soon be raffled off and the proceeds will go to needy families in Rome. Tickets will be sold for 10 Euros ($13) at Vatican Post Offices around St. Peter's Square.

The top prize is a brand new Fiat Panda worth more than $23,000. Among the other prizes are a racing bike, a Panama hat, a digital camera, and several other papal prizes.

The raffle is another example of the Pope's immense care for the poor. The drawing for the raffle will occur on January 8, 2015.

Sharpton Denies NY Times Story on Unpaid Taxes; Times Says He and His Business Owe $4.5M Taxes

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton today (November 19, 2014) dismissed as "misleading" a New York Times report that he owes millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and an organization he heads did not pay federal payroll taxes for its employees, the Reuters website reports.

The Times reported yesterday that Sharpton -- an American Baptist minister -- and his for-profit business face state and federal tax liens of more than $4.5 million.

It also said that Sharpton travels first class, that he and his National Action Network (NAN) repeatedly failed to pay hotels and landlords, and his personal finances were intermingled with those of the non-profit NAN to pay for his two daughters' private school tuition.

"I would have to be the most inept charlatan in the world," Sharpton said at a news conference, referring to the Times report saying he was drawing a $200,000 annual salary while his organization was struggling. In response to Sharpton's denial, a NY Times spokeswoman said, "We stand by our story." 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Virginia Woman Charged with Supporting ISIS; Arranged for Man to Get into Syria to Join ISIS

A Virginia woman faces a federal charge after being accused of promoting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in social media and offering to help an undercover agent get a friend into Syria to join the radical Muslim group, the Fox News website reports today (November 18, 2014).

Heather Elizabeth Coffman of Henrico County made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court yesterday and was ordered held until a November 19 hearing, court documents show. She is charged with making a materially false statement about an offense involving terrorism.

According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Coffman promoted the organization known as ISIS on several Facebook accounts she maintained under various names. Those posts prompted a sting by the agent, who posed as an Islamic State backer.

The agent wrote in the affidavit that Coffman talked about making arrangements for a man she identified as her husband to train and fight with ISIS in Syria. She said the man -- who is not named in court papers -- backed out when the couple split up.

Four Rabbis Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Attack; Police Kill 2 Attackers with Gun, Ax, Meat Cleaver

Four rabbis -- three of them U.S.-born -- were killed in an attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue today (November 18, 2014) by two Palestinians wielding a gun, an ax, and a meat cleaver, according to the USA Today website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "respond harshly." He immediately ordered the demolition of the attackers' homes, although the attackers had been shot and killed by police.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said eight people were wounded in the assault during morning prayers, including police officers. She added that the attackers were Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem identified the dual American-Israeli citizens as Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary Levine, and Mosheh Twersky. The fourth victim is Avraham Goldberg, who was born in the United Kingdom.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nonprofit Group Sues Harvard for Racial Profiling; Says Univ. Discriminates against Asian Americans

A nonprofit group filed a lawsuit today (November 17, 2014) against Harvard University, accusing the world-famous Ivy League institution of racial profiling in its admissions policies, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Students for Fair Admissions says Harvard limits the number of Asian Americans it admits while giving preference to other races, according to the Project on Fair Representation (PFR), a legal defense fund supporting the lawsuit.

"The university is engaging in a campaign of invidious discrimination," PFR said in a statement.

"White, African American, and Hispanic applicants are given racial preferences over better qualified Asian Americans," it added, accusing Harvard of breaching civil rights laws and undermining the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution.

Church of England Allows Women to Be Bishops; First Women Could Be Ordained as Early as 2015

The Church of England has formally adopted legislation which opens the door for women to become bishops, the Euro News website reports today (November 17, 2014).

The first ones could be ordained as early as next year.

The first female priests were ordained in 1994, but to date have not been able to take on the Church's most senior roles.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the move meant the start of "a new way of being in the church."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Patriarch Kirill Rips Europe's Wane of Christianity; Russian Orth. Head Says Europe Abandoned Christ

As he received an honorary degree at the University of Belgrade in Serbia on November 14, Patriarch Kirill -- the head of the Russian Orthodox Church -- sounded the alarm over the rapid de-Christianization of European society, which "gave up on the fundamental Christian values in its life and activities," the Interfax website reports today (November 16, 2014).

He cited prominent 20th century Serbian Orthodox cleric, Saint Nikolai Velimirovich of Ohrid and Zica, who said that "Christ is leaving Europe."

"Today, when the process of secularization, the denial of absolute truth, the elimination of the concept of sin from the public consciousness reaches unprecedented, apocalyptic dimensions, we regret to note that many European states have actually abandoned their Christian identity," Patriarch Kirill said.

The recognition of gay marriage, euthanasia at the legislative level, and the growing number of abortions indicates that Europe -- which used to be a stronghold of Christianity -- "has become a locomotive of destructive processes," Patriarch Kirill added.

Obama Confirms Beheading of American by ISIS; Pres. Says IS "Revels in the Slaughter of Innocents"

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group released a video today (November 16, 2014) that shows American aid worker Peter Kassig was beheaded in Syria -- along with a dozen Syrian soldiers -- in the latest killing by the group posted on the Internet, according to the USA Today website.

The White House later said a review of the video confirms Kassig's death.

President Obama -- in a statement issued as he flew back to Washington from Australia -- said the Islamic State "revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction."

Obama added that Kassig "was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed" by war. He called Kassig's death "an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity."

Turkish Pres. Says Muslims Discovered Americas; Claims They Arrived in 1178,Built Mosque in Cuba

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the Americas were discovered by Muslims in the 12th century -- nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus set foot there -- the Al Jazeera (Arabic) website reports today (November 16, 2014).

"Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus," the president said in a televised speech during an Istanbul summit of Muslim leaders from Latin America.

"Muslim sailors arrived in America from 1178. Columbus mentioned the existence of a mosque on a hill on the Cuban coast," Erdogan said.

The president also said that Turkey was willing to build a mosque at the Cuban site mentioned by the Italian explorer.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pope Francis Denounces Right to Die Movement; Says Euthanasia Is a Sin against God and Creation

Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement today (November 15, 2014), saying it's a "false sense of compassion" to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity when in fact it's a sin against God and creation, the Yahoo News website reports.

Francis made the comments to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.

Earlier this month, the Vatican's top bioethics official condemned as "reprehensible" the assisted suicide of an American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

Francis did not refer to the Maynard case specifically. But he did say, "Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator."

National Cathedral Hosts Islamic Prayer Service; Did So to Reconcile Christian-Muslim Relations

The Washington National Cathedral hosted its first Muslim prayer service yesterday afternoon, in an effort to promote interfaith prayer and improved global relations between Muslims and Christians, the Christian Post website reports today (November 15, 2014).

The Muslim prayer service was briefly disrupted by a protester. "Jesus Christ died on that cross over there!" a woman said loudly at the beginning of the service. "He is the reason why we are to worship only Him. Jesus Christ is our lord and savior!"

The protester was escorted out of the cathedral.

The Episcopal church set in Washington, D.C. altered its visitor tour schedule in order to host traditional Islamic Friday prayers called Jumu'ah. The service was led by South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, and held in the Cathedral's north transept -- an area considered mosque-like because of its arches and limited iconography.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Germany Says "Hatred of Jews" on Rise in Europe; Soaring Israeli-Palestinian Conflicts Spark Hatred

Germany's foreign minister said at an international conference on anti-Semitism yesterday that "hatred of Jews" was on the rise once more in his country and across Europe, fueled by spiraling violence in the Middle East, the Religion News Service website reports today (November 14, 2014).

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany's Jews were subjected to threats and attacks at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and the conflict between Israel in Gaza must not be used as justification for anti-Semitic behavior.

"Bold and brutal anti-Semitism has shown its ugly face again," Steinmeier told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) event.

Among the speakers was Karen Polak, from Amsterdam's Anne Frank House, who told delegates there had been "lots of outspoken violence against Jews who obviously have no responsibility for the policies of the state of Israel." Frank -- a Jewish girl who died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 -- wrote a posthumously published diary while in hiding that has helped teach post-war generations about the Holocaust -- the murder of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany during World War II.

NYC Hasidic Family Charged in $20M Fraud Case; Irving Rubin Lied,Received $1M in Public Benefits

More than a dozen members of a prominent Satmar Hasidic family in New York City were charged with lying to obtain $20 million in mortgages, while also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in public benefits, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (November 14, 2014). (Satmar Hasidic Jews are Ultra-Orthodox Jews -- the most conservative and most spiritual members of the Orthodox branch of Judaism.)

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the assistant director of the New York field office of the FBI, announced the indictments yesterday, charging 14 defendants with conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to mortgages on properties in three counties, two in New York City.

The defendants include real estate developer Irving Rubin, as well as his brothers, sons, wife, and various in-laws. A real estate lawyer and real estate appraiser are also charged in the case.

The defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in loan proceeds in connection with more than 20 fraudulent loans. The majority of the loans went into default and were not repaid. At the same time, the defendants claimed that they had little or no income and assets and were entitled to receive public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps, and Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poll:Latin Americans Quit Cath. Faith in Droves; Many Are Now Protestants, Only 69% Are Cath.

A survey released today (November 13, 2014) shows that Latin Americans born into Roman Catholic families have increasingly left the faith for Protestant churches, while many others have dropped organized religion altogether in a major shift in the region's religious identity, according to the Newsmax World website.

While 84 percent of Latin American adults report they were raised Catholic, only 69 percent now identify as such, said the Pew Research Center in Washington. At the same time, Protestants have gained a multitude of converts, due mainly to Protestantism being less rigid than Catholicism (for example, Protestantism allows a person the right to remarry after a divorce, but Catholicism does not).

About one in 10 Latin Americans were raised Protestant, but nearly one in five now call themselves Protestant. About 4 percent of Latin Americans report they were raised with no religion, but 8 percent say they have no tie to any faith.

The survey -- conducted between October 2013 and February 2014 -- outlines the challenge for Catholic leaders in a region that was once a stronghold for the faith. Latin America still has about 425 million Catholics -- or 40 percent of Catholic adherents worldwide -- according to the poll. But the exodus from the Catholic Church continues to occur.

Kentucky Baptists Expel Church for Gay Weddings; Claim Louisville Church Promotes Homosexuality

A church in Kentucky has been ousted from the Baptist denomination for performing gay weddings. The Kentucky Baptist Convention decided on November 11 to expel Crescent Hill Baptist Church of Louisville, stating that it could not be affiliated with a church that promotes homosexuality, the Christian Headlines website reports today (November 13, 2014).

Director of the Convention, Paul Chitwood, said, "We're all sinners and we recognize that, but for a church to say 'we're going to endorse the sin, we're going to call what the Bible calls wrong, [and] call it right,' that becomes the issue."

According to the Crescent Hill website, the church believes, "God loves all people without condition."

Crescent Hill pastor Rev. Jason Crosby attended the meeting that decided the fate of the church. Only a few members of the Convention voted in favor of Crescent Hill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

W.Bank Mosque Badly Damaged in Arson Attack; Petrol Bomb Strikes W.Bank Ancient Synagogue

A mosque in the West Bank was extensively damaged in an arson attack today (November 12, 2014), according to the Euro News website.

The incident is likely to further fuel tensions in the area after a series of fatal stabbings of Israelis and the deadly use of motor vehicles by Muslims to ram Jewish pedestrians during the past few days.

Palestinian officials blame Jewish settlers for the arson.

In a separate attack today, a petrol bomb was thrown at an ancient synagogue, causing slight damage.

Three US Sailors Attacked By Turkey Nationalists; Attacked in Istanbul, 12 Turkish Youths Arrested

A group of nationalist Turkish youths today (November 12, 2014) attacked three visiting U.S. sailors in Istanbul, trying to force sacks on their heads in an assault angrily condemned by the U.S. government, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

Several dozen members of the nationalist youth group Turkiye Genclik Birligi (Turkish Youth Union) attacked the sailors in the Eminonu district on the Istanbul waterfront -- a popular tourist hub -- shouting "Yankee Go Home" and "Down with US Imperialism."

The youth group tried to force white hoods onto the heads of the sailors -- a reference to an incident from the 2003 Iraq war that outraged many in Turkey when U.S. forces in northern Iraq arrested a group of Turkish soldiers, forced hoods on their heads, and held them for three days.

The sailors were from the USS Ross guided missile destroyer, which was moored in Istanbul after returning from military exercises in the Black Sea, U.S. officials said. According to NTV television, 12 people were arrested for the attack.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Palestinian Pres. Says Israel Fueling a "Rel. War;" Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Hits Dangerous Phase

The Palestinian president today (November 11, 2014) accused Israel of provoking a "religious war" as new violence between both sides broke out in the West Bank, leaving a Palestinian man dead, and mounting concerns that the long-running conflict is entering a new and dangerous phase, according to the Drudge Report website.

Mahmoud Abbas blamed the latest tensions on a series of visits by Jewish worshipers to Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site.

Abbas' remarks -- at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- came as Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian demonstrator in clashes in the West Bank today.

The shooting occurred a day after a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus stabbed and killed a 20-year-old Israeli soldier at a crowded Tel Aviv train station, and another Palestinian assailant stabbed three people at a bus stop next to a West Bank settlement, killing a 25-year-old Israeli woman and wounding two others.

Ex ISIS Member:Turkey Supporting Islamic State; Both NATO Member Turkey and ISIS Hate Kurds

Although Turkey has told the U.S. that it is helping to defeat ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants, the fact is that Turkey has been secretly supporting ISIS. Testimony provided by a former member of Islamic State in Syria indicates that ISIS militants view NATO member Turkey as their ally, and that the Turkish government has been coordinating its military efforts with ISIS -- including ISIS' free use of Turkish soil -- the Christian Post website reports today (November 11, 2014).

A former IS communications technician working out of the ISIS communications bureau in the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa said in an interview with Newsweek magazine on November 7 that the Turkish government allowed ISIS convoys to cross freely over its border and travel through the country to avoid combat in Kurdish-controlled regions in Syria, in efforts to attack more vulnerable Kurdish troops in Syria's northeastern region.

Speaking under the pseudonym of "Sherko Omer," the former ISIS communications technician -- who managed to escape -- further added that the basis for the Turkish cooperation is that ISIS and Turkey share a common enemy: the Kurds.

"ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria," Omer said. "The Kurds were the common enemy for both ISIS and Turkey."

Monday, November 10, 2014

W.Bank Stabbing Kills Israeli Woman, Wounds 2; Muslim Affiliated with Terror Org. Shot, Arrested

A young Israeli woman was killed and two others were injured in a stabbing attack in the West Bank today (November 10, 2014), the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports.

The attack occurred early this evening at the Alon Shvut junction in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, where the three Israelis were waiting for rides.

The dead woman was identified as Dalia Lemkos, about 25, from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. The others suffered light stab wounds.

The assailant -- who was shot and wounded -- has been identified by police as Maher Hamdi Hashalamum, 30, of Hebron. He is affiliated with the terror organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Suicide Bomber Kills 47, Wounds 79 in Nigeria; Believed Islamic Extremists Planned the Attack

Several dozen people were killed today (November 10, 2014) when a suicide bomber detonated an explosion at a school in northeast Nigeria, according to the USA Today website.

The incident occurred at Government Technical Science College in the city of Potiskum, the capital of Yobe state.

National police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said, "There was an explosion detonated by a suicide bomber. We have 47 dead and 79 injured."

He added the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram was believed to be responsible for the attack.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bahamas Faith Ministry Head Dies in Plane Crash; Pastor, Wife, 7 Others Killed on Grand Bahama Is.

The leader of Bahamas Faith Ministries, Dr. Myles Munroe, and his wife Ruth were killed today (November 9, 2014) in a plane crash in Grand Bahama, according to the Breaking Christian News website.

The crash occurred this afternoon and killed all nine people on board the private jet.

The plane struck a crane at the Grand Bahama Ship Yard, exploding on impact and crashing into the ground near a junkyard area.

A police source said it was believed the group was heading to a conference hosted by Pastor Munroe.

Coptic Orth. Church Pope Calls for Christian Unity; Says Dialog Needed between Cath., Orth. Churches

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, today (November 9, 2014) called for unity and dialog between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, the Egypt Independent website reports.

During a golden jubilee celebration in Austria organized by Pro-Orienta -- an establishment launched to promote dialog between Catholic and Orthodox churches -- Egypt's pope said unity among churches comes with theological dialog as well as partnership in several fields including education, monasticism, and social development.

"We hope all churches around the world could agree on a unified day to celebrate the Feast of  the Resurrection," the pope said during the event attended by Austria's Catholic archbishop, Christoph Schonborn, and the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch.

The Christian Church became divided in 1054 in what is called the Great Schism, with a Roman Catholic (or Western) Church led by the Pope in Rome, and a Greek Orthodox (or Eastern) Church led by the Patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gorbachev: Ukraine Crisis Causing New Cold War; Rips UN for Failing to Take Any Action on Ukraine

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev -- who is credited with forging a rapprochement with the  West that led to the demise of communist regimes across eastern Europe -- warned in a speech in Berlin today (November 8, 2014) that East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis were threatening to push the world into a new Cold War, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to the Reuters website.

"The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say that it has already begun," said Gorbachev, 83, who is honored in Germany for his pivotal role in helping create the conditions for the Berlin Wall's peaceful opening on November 9, 1989, heralding the end of the Cold War.

"And yet, while the situation is dramatic, we do not see the main international body, the UN Security Council, playing any role or taking any concrete action," Gorbachev added. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 4,000 people since the start of the uprising by pro-Russian separatists in mid-April.

Russia blames the Ukrainian crisis on Kiev and the West, but NATO says it has overwhelming evidence that Russia has aided the rebels militarily in the conflict. Russia also added fuel to the fire by seizing control of Ukraine's Crimea -- a crucial peninsular on the Black Sea.

IS Militants' Iraqi "Cultural Cleansing" Is Horrid; Non-Islamic Cultures from Early Civ. Are at Risk

The Christian Science Monitor website reports today (November 8, 2014) that the so-called Islamic State's "cultural cleansing" of minority groups uprooted from their northern Iraq homelands has led to fears that entire cultures from the cradle of civilization are under the biggest threat in recorded history, the United Nations' top cultural official warns.

"It can be compared to the Nazi methods, and here I think it goes all across the board," says Irina Bokova, director general of the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "Either they conform to their (Islamic radicals') views of religion or belief or they have to disappear. I don't remember anything like that in contemporary history."

She says Interpol (International Police) and antiquities authorities are taking steps to halt a lucrative trade in the smuggled artifacts of these ancient civilizations, which the Islamic State (IS) uses to help fund its operations.

As IS militants took over large parts of northern Iraq, more than one million Iraqis fled their towns and villages, many of them from religious minorities living in communities that date back to the earliest days of their faiths. The IS militants have also destroyed and damaged a plethora of  churches and religious shrines, in an effort to "delete" Christian and other non-Islamic cultures.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pope: Some Christians Are Christians in Name; Money, Vanity, Pride Depict "Pagan Christians"

Not all those who claim to be Christians really are, said Pope Francis today (November 7, 2014). Some are Christians "in name only," he said. "They bear the name of Christians but live a life of pagans," the Breitbart website reports in quoting the Pope.

In his homily at Mass today, the Pope said that there have always been two types of Christians -- those who truly followed Christ and those who only pretended to follow Him.

At the time of St. Paul, there were "worldly Christians, Christians in name only, with two or three Christian features, but nothing more." The Pope called this sort of people "Pagan Christians," whom St. Paul called "enemies of the cross of Christ."

"If you love money and are attached to it, if you love vanity and pride, you are headed down a bad road," the Pope said. If, instead, he continued, "you try to love God and serve others, if you are gentle, if you are humble, if you are the servant of others, you are on the right path. Your citizenship is in heaven."

Kiev: Russia Is Sending More Tanks into Ukraine; Russian Tanks, Artillery, Trucks Head to Luhansk

Ukraine's military accused Russia of sending more tanks into the east of the country yesterday to support Russian separatists, the Euro News website reports today (November 7, 2014).

NATO says it has seen an increase in Russian troops and equipment along the border between the two countries during the past few days, and is looking into reports that tanks crossed into Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities also claim government forces killed some 200 rebels at Donetsk airport yesterday.

"The convoy headed towards the town of Krasny in the Luhansk region. The movement of military equipment was reported, consisting of 32 tanks, 16 howitzer artillery systems, and 30 trucks carrying ammunition and fighters," Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense and Security Council, told a news briefing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Obama Secretly Wrote Letter to Iran's Khamenei; Sought Iran Leader's Aid against IS,Nuclear Deal

The Slate website reports today (November 6, 2014) that President Barack Obama secretly wrote Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in mid-October and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence.

The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the IS campaign and nudging Iran's religious leader closer to a nuclear deal. Khamenei holds the highest office in Iran for life.

Current relations between the U.S. and Iran are not nearly as bad as they've been in the past, and U.S. officials say this is not the first time Obama has secretly written to Khamenei.

The two countries are involved in nuclear negotiations, and Iran's current president (Hassan Rouhani) is a relative moderate whose election is believed to indicate a desire by Iranian citizens to reconnect with the rest of the world.

Rob O'Neill Is Navy SEAL Who Killed Bin Laden; Says Shot Split Bin Laden's Skull Assuring Death

Former Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill said in an interview with The Washington Post that he was the one who fired the final shot to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011, the CNN website reports today (November 6, 2014).

The 38-year-old Montanan also said other SEAL team members were involved in the raid, including Mark Bissonnette, who detailed the group's experiences in his memoir, "No Easy Day."

O'Neill -- who had been serving as a SEAL for 15 years at the time of the bin Laden raid -- had participated in critical missions before, but said he feared this mission would be his most difficult. "I didn't think I would survive," he told the Post.

He said it was clear that bin Laden had been killed and not merely injured from his shot when he fell to the floor with a split skull. Before he was shot, bin Laden "had his hands on a woman's shoulders pushing her ahead," O'Neill recounts, likely to deflect the attack.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Amnesty Int'l Report:Israel Guilty of War Crimes; Israel Claims Gaza Report Is Biased against Jews

Israeli officials blasted an Amnesty International report accusing the Jewish state of war crimes during the war in Gaza last summer, calling it the latest example of the organization's bias against the Jewish state, the Fox News website reports today (November 5, 2014).

The report -- which was released today -- accused Israel of "callous indifference" in conducting attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal area, where the Israel Defense Forces conducted an operation to stop rocket attacks and tunneling in an offensive that the UN says left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead.

But Israeli officials said, "The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks."

Israel launched the Gaza operation in early July, following a crackdown by Israeli forces in the West Bank, where troops arrested scores of Hamas members, in response to the kidnapping and killings of three teenage Israelis in June by Hamas operatives. Several weeks later, Jewish extremists kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem in an apparent revenge attack.

Muslim Driver Plows Auto into Jerusalem Crowd; At Least 1 Killed, 14 Injured, Driver Is Shot Dead

An Arab Muslim driver plowed his vehicle into a crowd of people at a light rail station along the seam-line between East and West Jerusalem today (November 5, 2014), killing a Border Police officer, and injuring 14 more people, according to the Times of Israel website.

"Ten people were wounded, one of whom is in critical condition," emergency services spokesman Zaki Heller said.

The fatality was named as Border Police officer Jedan Assad, 38, from Beit Jann, a Druze village. Assad was a father to a three-year-old boy; his wife is five months pregnant.

The terrorist driver was identified as 48-year-old Ibrahim al-Akary from Shuafat in East Jerusalem, a father of five. He was shot and killed by Israeli police.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

At Least 5 Dead in Saudi Arabia Mosque Shooting; Shi'ite Worshipers Killed in Sunni-Ruled Country

At least five people have been killed and many more wounded after masked gunmen opened fire on a Shi'ite mosque last night in Saudi Arabia, the Euro News website reports today (November 4, 2014).

The shooting took place as worshipers were marking one of their most important religious anniversaries, Ashoura, to commemorate the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

It happened in the village of al-Dalwah, in the country's eastern al-Ahsa region, the heart of the Shi'ite community.

Six people have been arrested for the shooting. Shi'ites are a minority in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, and say they are discriminated against in educational and job opportunities and restricted in their worship.

Religions in Crimea Must Register by End of 2014; Ukrainian Greek Cath. Church Property Is at Risk

Since Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March, religious groups there -- except for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate -- have faced persecution, and restrictions on their ministry, the Catholic News website reports today (November 4, 2014).

Religious communities in Crimea face an uncertain legal framework, because they are unsure of what laws must be observed. Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox of the Kiev Patriarchate, and Muslims are all facing persecution from local authorities, and anticipate that they may have to go underground next year.

"The so-called 'Crimean government' issued a new law under which all religious organizations, by the end of the year, must go through a process of re-registration," explained the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, at an October 23 press conference.

It is thus possible that in January 2015 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will find itself outside the law, with its parishes and other property subject to confiscation.

Monday, November 3, 2014

President of Israel Says Israel Is a "Sick Society;" Jews Forgot How to Be Decent Human Beings

The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, said in late October that Israel is a "sick society," the Alternet website reports today (November 3, 2014).

The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment Rivlin said at a conference at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities on October 26. Rivlin added it appears that Jews and Arabs have abandoned the secret of dialogue.

With regard to Jews he said: "I'm not asking if they've forgotten how to be Jews, but if they've forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?"

In Rivlin's eyes, the academy has a vital task to reduce violence in Israeli society by encouraging dialogue and the study of different cultures and languages with the aim of promoting mutual understanding, so that there can be civilized meetings between the sectors of society.

Obama Admin. Encounters Major Setback in Syria; Most US-Backed Rebels in North Go with Al-Qaeda

The Obama administration's Syria strategy suffered a major setback yesterday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed US-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections, and ending hopes that Washington will find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State, the Washington Post website reports today (November 3, 2014).

Moderate rebels -- who had been armed and trained by the United States -- either surrendered or defected to the extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda, who swept through the towns and villages the moderates controlled in the northern province of Idlib, in what appeared to be a concerted push to vanquish the moderate Free Syrian Army.

Other moderate fighters were on the run, headed for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against the Islamic State.

Moderates still retain a strong presence in southern Syria, but the Islamic State has not been a major factor there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Israeli Govt. Ups Punishment for Stone Throwers; Stone Throwers at Motor Vehicles Can Get 20 Yrs.

Israel's government today (November 2, 2014) approved an amendment to the penal code that will stiffen punishment for throwing stones at motor vehicles, according to the Jewish Press website.

At its weekly cabinet meeting, the cabinet decided to add an amendment to the current penal code allowing judges to imprison a convicted terrorist for up to 20 years for throwing or casting stones or other objects at a motor vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the legislation in recent discussions on the disturbances in Jerusalem.

"Israel is taking vigorous action against terrorists and those who throw stones, fire bombs, and fireworks," the prime minister said at the start of today's cabinet meeting.

Conservative Cath. Upset by Pope's Liberal Faith; Feel "Who Am I to Judge?" Remark Weakens Role

Many conservative Catholics struggle to get a handle on Pope Francis, who since taking office last year warned against an "obsessive" concern with culture war issues, such as abortion and gay marriage; encouraged discussion of church teaching on things like contraception and divorce; and asked, regarding gay men and lesbians who profess religious faith, "Who am I to judge?," the USA Today website reports today (November 2, 2014).

Conservative reaction ranges from open dismay over Francis' direction to the more common conviction that it's not the pope promoting liberalization, but a news media that reports his frequent off-the-cuff remarks out of context for a public with little grounding in Catholicism.

Rev. Paul Sullins -- a priest who teaches sociology at the Catholic University of America -- says that for some conservatives the problem starts at the top: "Their feeling is, 'We're out here on the front lines in the culture wars -- fighting abortion, gay marriage. It seemed Benedict had our back, and Francis doesn't.'"

America's 78 million Catholics form the nation's largest religious denomination. Some yearn for a simpler time -- like 2012. "When the pope says, 'Don't judge,' I don't agree with that," says Mick O'Connell, a 68-year-old Catholic from Philadelphia standing outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. "It's his job to judge right from wrong."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bldg.Begins on Greek Orth.Church Ruined on 9/11; Gov. Pataki: Church to Restore New Yorkers' Faith

Construction has begun on a New York City church that was destroyed in the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks; St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is expected to reopen in 2016, the Christian Headlines website reports today (November 1, 2014).

The new church will stand on Ground Zero at the corner of Liberty and Greenwich streets and will have a capacity of 150 people -- about double the original capacity.

A meditation area will be added to serve as "a refuge for people in need of spiritual comfort, regardless of their specific beliefs or unbeliefs," said the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Demetrios.

New York Governor George Pataki said that rebuilding the church will restore the faith of New Yorkers. "We had remembrance, we had commerce, but without St. Nicholas, we did not have faith. Well now today, we have remembrance, we have commerce, we have that rock, we have faith, right here at St. Nicholas," Pataki said.

Boko Haram Disavows Truce with Nigerian Govt.; Says Kidnapped Girls Converted to Islam, Married

The leader of Nigeria's Islamic extremist group dashed hopes for the release of 200 kidnapped girls today (November 1, 2014), denying reports of a truce with the government, according to the USA Today website.

In a new video message, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says the schoolgirls -- who were Christians -- have converted to Islam and married off. "The issue of the girls is long forgotten because I have long married them off," he says, laughing.

Today's news goes counter to what the Nigerian government said two weeks ago when it announced a cease-fire deal with the terrorist organization, raising hopes among the families of the kidnapped girls -- who were taken from the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok in April -- that their daughters would soon be released.

But as the weeks dragged on with no sign of the kidnapped girls, hopes began to fade. It is now believed that the Nigerian government may have made a truce two weeks ago with one faction of Boko Haram -- a faction that really did not have the authority to make such a truce.