Saturday, January 31, 2015

Egypt Court Bans Hamas Wing as Terrorist Org.; Bans Qassam Brigades, Calls It Terrorist Group

An Egyptian court today (January 31, 2015) banned the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas and listed it as a terrorist organization, according to the Big News Network website.

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood which Egyptian authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, from the presidency in 2013.

Today's ruling came days after the country faced some of the bloodiest attacks on security forces in years. During Morsi's one-year presidency, militants in Sinai kidnapped seven soldiers and killed 16 others.

"The court ruled to ban the Qassam Brigades and to list it as a terrorist group," said Judge Mohamed al-Sayid of the special Cairo court which deals with urgent cases.

IS Militants Say They Will Behead Pres. Obama; Also Plan to Convert US into a Muslim Province

Islamic State (IS) militants have threatened to behead Barack Obama and turn the United States into a Muslim province in a gruesome video from their caliphate of Iraq and Syria, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (January 31, 2015).

In the video, a black-clad jihadist -- standing over a Kirdish soldier who has been beheaded -- warns the U.S. president: "Know, oh Obama, that we will reach America."

He adds: "Know also that we will cut off your head in the White House and transform America into a Muslim province."

The IS militant's threats on the video also include a message for France and "sister" Belgium. He says: "We advise you that we will come to you with car bombs and explosive charges and will cut off your heads."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Protesters Mar TX Muslim Rally for Rel. Freedom; Tell Muslims They Should Go Back to Middle East

A rally in Austin, Texas by Muslims seeking religious tolerance was repeatedly disrupted by a small group of protesters who said the state belonged to followers of Jesus Christ and that Muslims should go back to the Middle East, the Reuters website reports today (January 30, 2015).

During opening remarks at the Texas Muslim Capitol Day event, a Christian activist from Michigan grabbed the microphone from the speaker and said: "I proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ over the capitol of Texas. I stand against Islam."

A group of people who described themselves as Christian activists also heckled the group of about 600 Muslims who showed up for the rally.

Some of the protesters shouted: "Go home. You ain't going to be happy here."

Synagogue Begins Rel. Court Case to Evict Rabbi; Voyeur Rabbi Barry Freundel Won't Leave Home

The Washington, D.C. synagogue that dismissed Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel after he was charged with voyeurism is now trying to evict him from his synagogue-owned residence, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (January 30, 2015).

Kesher Israel has launched a case with the Beit Din of America to oust Freundel, who was arrested in October on charges that he secretly filmed several naked women -- among them his students and converts -- who used a Jewish ritual bath adjacent to the Orthodox synagogue.

"We were informed in late December that Rabbi Freundel did not have plans to leave the house," Elanit Jakabovics, the president of Kesher Israel, said yesterday in an email to congregants. "So, we began informal conversations to resolve this issue with Rabbi Freundel and his attorney, but to no avail."

Freundel is granting his wife, Sharon, a religious divorce -- called a "get" -- which is required for an Orthodox Jewish woman to remarry.

Taliban Shoots 3 American Contractors in Kabul; Killed by an Afghan Radical Who Infiltrated Mil.

The Taliban claimed responsibility today (January 30, 2015) for a shooting incident at a military base attached to Kabul's international airport yesterday that killed three American civilian contractors and an Afghan national, saying the attacker had infiltrated the ranks of the security forces, according to the Washington Post website.

On Twitter, the military group's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted that the shooter's name was Ihsanullah, from Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan. He said the man had infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan security forces and was working at Kabul's airport.

The attacker "opened fire on invaders" before he was "martyred by return fire," Mujahid tweeted.

An unidentified Afghan air force official told the Reuters news agency that the shooter was an Afghan soldier.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vandals Destroy a Virgin Mary Statue in Australia; Statue Kept Outside Sydney Church for 2 Decades

A statue of the Virgin Mary was destroyed yesterday by vandals at the St. Charbel Church in Punchbowl (Australia) -- a suburb of Sydney -- the Catholic News website reports today (January 29, 2015).

The statue -- which has stood inside a glass enclosure outside the church for more than two decades -- was discovered broken in half around 5 a.m. yesterday by church volunteers.

The destruction of the 1.2m statue has left the church community shocked and police are now investigating.

Fr. Joseph Sleiman, church pastor, said: "The community has been deeply affected and shocked by the attack. We would like to state that we strongly condemn any behavior of this nature to our church and any place of worship. Our church is a place of worship and prayer that should be respected by all."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pope: Workaholic Dads Turn Kids Into Orphans; Tells Them "Waste Time" Playing with Offspring

Pope Francis said today (January 28, 2015) that many children are effectively orphans because their fathers are absorbed with work and do not play with them, the Catholic Herald website reports.

Speaking at his customary Wednesday morning audience, the Pontiff urged fathers to "waste time" playing with their offspring.

"They [children] are orphans, but within the family, because the fathers are often absent, also physically, from the home but above all because, when they are home, they do not behave as fathers, they do not have a dialogue with their children," Pope Francis said.

He added, "They do not give to their children ... those principles of life that they need, just as much as they need bread."

Hezbollah Kills 2 Israeli Soldiers Near Lebanon; Payback for Israelis Killing 6 Hezbollah Fighters

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another seven were wounded today (January 28, 2015) in a Hezbollah strike on an army convoy near the Lebanese border, the Free Republic website reports.

Israel's military responded to the anti-tank missile strike on its convoy with aerial and ground attacks on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. A Spanish United Nations peacekeeper was killed by the Israeli attacks.

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack and said it destroyed a number of Israeli vehicles.

A statement from Hezbollah also said that the attack was carried out by a group calling itself the "heroic martyrs of Quneitra," indicating it was retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on the Golan Heights on January 18 that killed six Hezbollah fighters.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

EJC Pres.:Jews Plan on New Exodus from Europe; Anti-Semitism in Europe Now Worst Since WWII

Jews are close to a new exodus from Europe where they face economic pressure and radical Islam in some countries, European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor told journalists yesterday before the opening of an international forum about the Holocaust in Prague, the Prague Monitor website reports today (January 27, 2015).

He recalled the violence against Jews that occurred in Europe last year: the three Jewish children shot in front of their school in Toulouse, France, in March; four people murdered in a Brussels Jewish Museum in May; and a brutal assault of a couple in their flat in December in Paris.

Earlier this month, four Jewish hostages were killed by a Muslim terrorist in a kosher grocery store in Paris.

Kantor said he was for the creation of a European office for internal security, European legislation for intolerance crime, and the post of a European envoy for anti-Semitism.

Jailed Albanian Imams Laud Charlie Hebdo Raid; Declare Offending Mohammed Is an "Act of War"

Two Albanian imams -- arrested on charges of inciting terrorism -- have issued a declaration from prison in support of the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the Balkan Insight website reports today (January 27, 2015).

"Whoever has pained the prophet [Mohammed] or has written articles in newspapers, magazines, books or produced movies in which he is offended... this is considered an act of war," imams Abdurrahim Balla and Bujar Hysa wrote in a letter sent from prison, which is being circulated on social networks.

"The act that happened in France, if it is proved that was carried out by Muslims, because of the cartoons, it's considered a good deed that will be rewarded by Allah," they added.

Balla and Hysa were arrested last February as part of an anti-terrorism sweep in Albania, accused of recruiting jihadists to fight with the radical Islamist groups Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Facebook Blocks a Page That Insults Mohammed; Yields to Turkish Threat to End Facebook Access

Facebook has decided to block a page that insults the Islamic Prophet Mohammed after receiving a court order in Turkey, the UPI website reports today (January 26, 2015).

A Turkish court decided to ban all websites featuring the cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine with the Prophet Mohammed on it earlier in January.

The country was threatening to remove access to all Facebook in Turkey if the social media company did not comply with its requests.

Members of the Turkish government had previously threatened to ban Facebook because of people posting articles and images critical of the government.

Church of England Ordains 1st Woman Bishop; Rev. Libby Lane Ordained Bishop of Stockport

The Church of England consecrated its first female bishop today (January 26, 2015) during a ceremony at York Minister, the BBC website reports.

The Reverend Libby Lane, 48 -- an Oxford-educated mother of two -- was ordained as the new Bishop of Stockport in front of more than 1,000 people.

The Church of England formally adopted legislation last November to allow women bishops, following decades of argument over women's ordination. Today's historic move ends five centuries of all male leadership since the Protestant Church was established with the Reformation in the year 1517.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu -- who led today's two-hour service -- said: "It is high time we had women bishops. I have been praying and working for this day."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spanish Police Arrest Four Suspected Terrorists; Moroccan Islam Radicals Planned to Attack Spain

Spanish police yesterday arrested four suspected Islamist extremists who were prepared to launch attacks in Spain, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (January 25, 2015).

Officers detained two pairs of brothers -- Spaniards of Moroccan origin -- in the Spanish territory of Ceuta bordering Morocco, the interior ministry said in a statement.

It said they had "a very similar profile" to the killers in this month's Islamist attacks in France.

"They formed part of a jihadist cell fully prepared and willing to launch an attack in Spain," the ministry statement added.

France Seen as Most Dangerous Country for Jews; Anti-Semitic Incidents in France Doubled in 2014

France was the most dangerous country for Jews in 2014, with the highest incidence of anti-Semitism, an annual Israeli state report released today (January 25, 2015) revealed, according to the Times of Israel website.

The report -- which was set to be presented to the Knesset today by Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett -- also recorded a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks during the summer Gaza conflict, and maintained that most attacks were carried out by Mislim extremists. (More Jews and Muslims live in France than any other country in Europe.)

"France was marked as the most dangerous country for Jews today," a statement said. The number of anti-Semitic crimes doubled in France in 2014, it maintained.

"Last year nearly 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents were reported including assaults, many categorized as 'extremely violent' as well as attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutes."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Muslim Woman: Cops Made Me Remove Scarf; Sues Police in Mich. for Violating Const. Rights

A Muslim woman filed a lawsuit on January 22, accusing Dearborn Heights (Michigan) police of violating her constitutional rights by making her remove her Islamic head scarf after they arrested her for driving on a suspended license, the Detroit Free Press website reports today (January 24, 2015).

The lawsuit -- filed in federal court in Detroit -- asks for Dearborn Heights to "modify its current policy" so that Muslim women can wear Islamic head scarves during booking procedures.

Malak Kazan of Dearborn Heights was pulled over by police in July on a traffic violation and then taken into custody on a traffic misdemeanor because of her suspended license, according to the lawsuit. The male police officer then asked Kazan to remove her head scarf to take her booking photo, which requires no head coverings or hats.

Kazan objected, saying her Islamic faith required her to cover her hair and neck in the presence of men who are not part of her immediate family, the lawsuit said.

Rise in Anti-Muslim Incidents Turn Out in France; Over 55 Hateful Acts Reported in Past Two Weeks

Anti-Muslim incidents in France have seen a marked increase since the attacks at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the NBC News website reports today (January 24, 2015).

Over 55 anti-Muslim actions and threats have been reported to police in the past two weeks, according to the Ministry of the Interior data.

These include attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses, arson, hate speech, racist graffiti, vandalism, discrimination, physical assault, threats with firearms, and the murder of Mohamad al-Maquli, who was stabbed to death in his own home.

"The attacks in Paris occurred in a very Islamophobic and racist context in France," said Elsa Ray, spokesperson for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an advocacy group which has recorded reports of over 66 anti-Muslim attacks (not necessarily reported to the police) in the past two weeks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Colorado Teen Trying to Join ISIS Is Sentenced; Shannon Conley,19,Gets 4-Year Prison Sentence

Shannon Conley -- the 19-year-old woman from Colorado who was nabbed by the FBI after she attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) -- was sentenced to four years in prison by a Denver Federal Court judge today (January 23, 2015), according to the Inquisitr website.

Conley was nabbed by FBI agents at Denver International Airport last April when she attempted to travel to Germany, and from there to Turkey.

Her plan was to eventually reach Syria, where she was supposed to render her services as a nurse.

Conley was apparently indoctrinated and brainwashed into joining ISIS by an unidentified ISIS fighter who had managed to woo her online.

At Least 70 Churches Burned to Ground in Niger; Result of Satirical Paper in France Mocking Islam

At least 70 churches were burned to the ground during the "anti-Charlie protests" in Niamey, the capital of Niger, the Ecumenical News website reports today (January 23, 2015).

The backlash of the Charlie Hebdo incident in France has spread far and wide.

The violent reaction against the satirical paper's controversial cover -- the first issue after a terrorist attack on its offices killed 12 people -- escalated quickly and reached as far as the former French colony.

At least five people have been killed in Niamey. Also, more than 170 people have been injured in Niger as a result of the French publication's ridiculing cartoon of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UN Chief Voices Support to Fight Anti-Semitism; Hatred toward Jews in Europe Stirs UN Concern

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced support for the fight against anti-Semitism today (January 22, 2015), saying the world body has a duty to speak out on this matter and prevent it, the Business-Standard website reports.

 "Our efforts to build a world of mutual understanding are being severely tested today by rising extremism and barbaric acts," Ban said while delivering a video message to an informal meeting of the United Nations General Assembly today that was prompted by growing anti-Semitism attacks in Europe.

"Jews remain targets, as do Muslims and so many others," Ban said.

"Grievances about Israeli actions must never be used as an excuse to attack Jews. In the same vein, criticisms of Israeli actions should not be summarily dismissed as anti-Semitism," he added.

Pope Sees "Shadows and Dangers" of an IS Attack; Speaking Against IS Could Lead to Vatican Attack

Pope Francis today (January 22, 2015) told Italian police officers in charge of security around the Vatican that he saw "shadows and dangers," but urged them not to give in to fear, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"On the horizon we see shadows and dangers which worry humanity," he said in the wake of an increase in security around the Vatican amid intelligence information indicating that Islamic State (IS) extremists may be plotting to attack the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Some worry Pope Francis has made himself a target by speaking out against the Islamic State group and having the Holy See voice support for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

Italy's interior minister this month said police were on high alert in key locations across Rome and around the Vatican after the Paris attacks by Islamic fanatics.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Japanese PM Will Not Pay $200M Ransom to IS; IS Plans to Kill 2 Japanese If Not Paid by Jan. 23

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is caught in a difficult situation: He has vowed to save the two Japanese civilians held hostage by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, while also being pressured to uphold Japan's efforts in combating terrorism by not giving in and paying ransom, the International Business Times website reports today (January 21, 2015).

Abe said this week Japan will not "give in to terrorism" by meeting the demands of the Islamic State for a $200 million ransom within 72 hours (that is, by January 23) for hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute -- a think tank in Washington, D.C. -- said Abe has several options: He could pay up, encourage another government to extract the hostages, or rely on intermediaries to negotiate on Japan's behalf.

Abe has already sought help from Middle Eastern leaders for the rescue, but negotiating has been discouraged by the United States, which feels that doing so could give the IS terrorist group -- which is trying to establish itself as a caliphate in Iraq and Syria -- some validity.

Arab Terrorist Stabs 17 People on Tel Aviv Bus; Israeli PM Blames Abbas and Hamas for Attack

An elite unit of Israeli prison service officers apprehended a 23-year-old resident of Tulkarem -- an Arab city under Palestinian Authority control -- who injured 17 people in a stabbing spree on a Tel Aviv bus today (January 21, 2015), the Breaking Christian News website reports.

The officers chased the terrorist as he fled on foot, stopping him with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Paramedics transported the 17 injured people to three different area hospitals. Four remain in serious condition and four in moderate condition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for these attacks: "The terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state. This same terrorism is trying to attack us in Paris, Brussels and everywhere," Netanyahu said, pointing out that Hamas -- the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip -- quickly praised the attack.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paris Mayor Considers Lawsuit Against Fox News; Fox: Parts of Paris Are Run by Muslim Extremists

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said today (January 20, 2015) that "the honor of Paris has been prejudiced" by Fox News reporting, and the city is considering a lawsuit, the Big News Network website reports.

The mayor cited Fox reporting that some neighborhoods in Paris are controlled by Muslim extremists who enforce religious law, as police are afraid to operate there. Fox reporters referred to those neighborhoods as "no-go" zones.

"I think we'll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed," Hidalgo told CNN today.

Fox has issued an unusual apology for defaming Paris.

High Court Lets Muslim Prisoner Have a Beard; Says Ark. Prison Officials Violated Federal Law

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today (January 20, 2015) that Arkansas must accommodate a Muslim prisoner's request to grow a beard for religious purposes, according to the Washington Post website.

Justice Samuel Alito -- writing for the court -- said Arkansas prison officials violated a federal law passed to protect religious practices from policies set by state and local officials.

The challenge was brought by Gregory Houston Holt, who is serving a life sentence for slitting the throat of a former girlfriend and stabbing her in the chest.

Holt is also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad. He told the court that the Muslim faith requires him to grow a beard.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Women Banned from Macedonia Rel. Ceremony; Clergy State Cross Should Be Retrieved by a Man

An Orthodox Christian diocese in the nation of Macedonia has banned female swimmers from taking part in the annual blessing of the waters ceremony to mark the Epiphany holiday, the Fox News website reports today (January 19, 2015).

Tens of thousands of people across the landlocked country today attended river and lakeside religious ceremonies, where swimmers raced to retrieve crosses thrown into the water by Orthodox clerics. 

Women were banned from taking part in the ceremony in the eastern Macedonia area of Bregalnica, where clergy said the cross should be retrieved by a man, because of his role as traditional head of the family.

Police intervened in the area last year, when a female swimmer reached the cross first, but had it forcibly taken away from her by a man.

(Nota Bene: The term "Macedonia" as used in the above article refers to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ((FYROM for short)), not the region in northern Greece that is also called Macedonia.)

Canadian Troops Battle with IS Fighters in Iraq; Canadians Kill IS Fighters, No Canadian Injuries

Canadian special forces exchanged gunfire with Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq in recent days, in the first ground battle between Western troops and IS, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (January 19, 2015).

The Canadians came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near front lines and shot back in what Canadian special forces commander Brigadier General Michael Rouleau described as self-defense, killing the IS fighters.

Rouleau said the melee had taken place on the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq.

The general added that the Canadians used sniper fire to neutralize the IS troops, and there were no Canadian injuries.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Israel Lobbies ICC Member States to Cut Funding; Due to ICC Starting Inquiry on Israeli War Crimes

Israel is lobbying member-states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to cut funding for the tribunal in response to its launching of an inquiry into possible Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the News Daily website reports today (January 18, 2015).

The ICC did not immediately respond to the news, but international law experts thought it unlikely that the lobbying effort would persuade the countries that contribute most to the court to reduce their funding.

Israel -- which like the United States does not belong to the ICC -- hopes to dent funding for the court that is drawn from 122 member-states in accordance with the size of their economies, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

"We will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it," Lieberman said.

Pope's Wet Manila Mass Draws Record 7M Crowd; Outdoor Mass Is Largest Papal Event Despite Rain

Pope Francis concluded his trip to Asia today (January 18, 2015) with an open-air mass for a rain-drenched crowd in Manila (the capital of the Philippines) that the Vatican and government said drew up to seven million people -- the largest ever crowd for a papal event -- the Global Post website reports.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the office of the president told the Vatican that between six and seven million attended the mass in Manila's Rizal Park and surrounding areas. The Philippines have the distinction of being the only predominantly Catholic country in all of Asia.

The 78-year-old pope -- wearing a transparent yellow poncho over his white cassock -- was driven through the ecstatic crowd in a "popemobile" modified from a jeepney, the most popular mode of transportation in the Philippines which is based on a U.S. military vehicle used in World War II.

Pope Francis stopped often along the route to kiss children and bless religious statues on the day the Philippines celebrates the feast of the infant Jesus. The faithful -- also wearing ponchos -- held up rosaries in a forest of uplifted arms as he passed by them.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Austria May Leave Vienna's Rel. Dialogue Center; Due to Saudi Arabia's Poor Human Rights Record

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has called for Austria to withdraw from a Saudi-financed religious dialogue center in Vienna that has become embroiled in controversy over Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record, the Reuters website reports today (January 17, 2015).

He became the latest and most senior Austrian politician to suggest quitting the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), which was opened in 2012. Saudi Arabia paid for the baroque palace that houses the center and is footing its budget for the first three years.

"This center does not fulfill at all the mandate of dialogue and is silent about basic issues of human rights. We will not tolerate this. It is clear to me from today's perspective that we should get out," Faymann told the newspaper Der Standard in an interview published today.

Austria has been particularly critical in recent days over Saudi Arabia's flogging of an atheist and civil rights blogger, sentenced to 1,000 lashes for charges including insulting Islam.

Greek Police Detain 4 Suspected Islam Terrorists; One Seems to Be Ringleader of Belgian Jihadi Cell

Widening a European counter-terrorism dragnet against radical Muslims, authorities in Greece today (January 17, 2015) detained four terrorism suspects, including a man believed to be the ringleader of a Belgian jihadi cell, the ABC News website reports.

A Greek police official said the four were arrested separately in Athens and included a man who matches the description of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, whom Belgian authorities suspect was behind a jihadi cell that was dismantled in Belgium two days ago.

Authorities in Belgium were going over photos, fingerprints, and DNA material sent from Greek police to try to verify whether the person was Abaaoud, said Greek and Belgian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of an ongoing investigation.

Greek officials initially thought Abaaoud was in Turkey, but the detained man's name -- as well as the cellphone found on him -- matches descriptions that Greek police received from Belgium, the Greek official said.

Cath. Church Excommunicates "Woman Priest;" Georgia Walker Had an "Ordination Ceremony"

Georgia Walker -- a Kansas City woman who participated in a simulated ordination to become a Roman Catholic priest on January 3 -- has been excommunicated by the Church, the Christian Today website reports today (January 17, 2015).

Bishop Robert Finn, of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, sent a letter on January 7 informing Walker of her automatic excommunication due to her participation of a ceremony not recognized by the Vatican.

"What the official church does to me is not relevant," Walker said. "They can't take away my baptism, they can't take away my calling to the priesthood. All they can do is deny me their sacraments."

The diocese denies the ordination of Walker, stating that priesthood is passed down through bishops and can only be conferred to men. Walker satisfies neither requirement.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Paris Hero from Mali Given French Citizenship; Kosher Market Employee Saved Lives of 6 Jews

A Mali national -- who saved the lives of six Jews at the terror-besieged Paris kosher supermarket on January 9 -- will be given French citizenship as a reward for his bravery, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 16, 2015).

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called Lassana Bathily -- a resident of France since 2006 -- a "hero" and praised him for his bravery.

Amedy Coulibaly had already murdered four people when the 24-year-old devout Muslim -- an employee at the kosher grocery -- quietly led his charges down to the basement and hid them in a walk-in refrigerator. Then, he escaped the supermarket through the delivery lift and flagged down police during the hostage crisis, giving them information on the layout of the store that was vital to ending the siege.

Among the people he saved was a tiny one-month-old baby, but Bathily said his actions were those "any human should take" for others facing a threat from a common enemy.

In Holland Atheists Outnumber Believers in God; Atheists Make Up a Fourth of Pop.,Believers 17%

In Holland -- or The Netherlands as that nation is more commonly called today -- the number of atheists has now surpassed the number of people who believe in God, the Dutch News website reports today (January 16, 2015).

Research by the Ipsos institute found just over a quarter of the population describe themselves as atheists, while 17 percent believe in the existence of God.

The last time the research was carried out in 2012 it put believers ahead of atheists. Some 60 percent are agnostic or unsure whether God exists.

Psychologist Joke van Saane says technological developments are having an impact on traditional patterns of belief. "It used to be that your village, your family or your church determined who you are. Now you can be someone on Facebook without traditional links," she said.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fox News Host Criticized for Her Terrorist Rant; Said "We Need to Kill Radical Muslim Terrorists"

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro has come under fire for a televised rant in which she said: "We need to kill them -- the radical Muslim terrorists hell-bent on killing us," the Christian Today website reports today (January 15, 2015).

Speaking during a news segment on January 10, Pirro said: "You're in danger, I'm in danger. We're at war. And this is not going to stop... Bomb them, bomb them, and bomb them again."

She continued: "After this week's brutal terror attacks in France, hopefully everybody now gets it. And there's only one group that can stop this war. The Muslims themselves."

She added: "Our job is to arm those Muslims to the teeth and give them everything they need to take out these Islamic fanatics, let them do the job, and when they do, we need to simply...look the other way."

Exclusive: IS Expands in Syria Despite Airstrikes; At Least One-Third of Syria Is Under IS Influence

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there, The Daily Beast website reports exclusively today (January 15, 2015).

At least one-third of the country's territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Moreover, the Islamic extremist group has not suffered any major ground losses since the airstrikes began several months ago.

In Syria, ISIS "has not lost any key terrain," Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, who studies the Syrian conflict, said.

Even U.S. military officials privately admitted to The Daily Beast that ISIS has gained ground in some areas of Syria. The Pentagon claims that ISIS has lost some territory around the northern city of Kobani. That has been the focus of the U.S.-led campaign, and ISIS has not been able to take Kobani, despite its best efforts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Putin Snubbed for 70th Anniv. of Auschwitz Lib.; Poland Mad at Putin's Plot for Ukraine, E. Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not expected to attend Holocaust commemorations in Poland later this month, since he has not been invited, the Euro News website reports today (January 14, 2015).

January 27 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Nazi concentration camp, but relations between Moscow and Warsaw are strained over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis. Poland is angry at Putin for having Russia seize control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea. Recalling Soviet Russia's 45-year control of Poland and several other Eastern European nations beginning in 1945, many Poles believe that Putin is trying to establish a new "Russian Empire."

A Russian spokesperson said that Putin has not received a personal invitation to Poland's commemorations.

The Auschwitz concentration camp was established by the Nazis in 1940 and became the largest of the death camps during World War II. It was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945. The United Nations established the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on that date.

UN to Discuss Uptrend of Anti-Semitism Jan. 22; "Alarming Outbreak of Anti-Semitism Worldwide"

The United Nations General Assembly will hold a meeting on the growth of anti-Semitism on January 22 in response to a request from dozens of nations, including Israel, the United States, and all of the European Union members, the Associated Press website reports today (January 14, 2015).

The 37 countries sent a letter to assembly President Sam Kutesa on October 1, 2014 -- long before last week's attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris -- calling for a meeting in response to "an alarming outbreak of anti-Semitism worldwide."

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said on January 12: "We have a great deal of work to do to move this issue from the headlines to the history books."

The killing of four French Jews in last week's hostage standoff at the Paris kosher market was just the latest incident to raise fears among European Jews. It follows killings at a Belgian Jewish Museum and a Jewish school in southwestern France in 2014.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Backlash of Paris Murders Hits Europe's Muslims; Millions of Peaceful Muslims Viewed as Terrorists

As the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks continues to unfold, it is becoming clear that the backlash against Europe's Muslims is ferocious and not likely to abate soon, the Inquisitr website reports today (January 13, 2015).

Islamic mosques are being hit in Europe by firebombs and pig heads, Muslim women in veils and hijabs are being heckled in the streets, and threats against Muslims via the internet are everywhere.

While France and the entire world mourn last week's Islamic-related terror attacks, an air of hatred prevails toward many of Europe's Muslims -- both physically and as a form of alienation from the rest of Europe.

In other words, Europe's Muslim community is experiencing a growing fear as anti-Muslim rhetoric ratchets up throughout Europe, lumping Europe's millions of peaceful Muslims in with a handful of Islamic terrorists.

Boko Haram Militants Suffer Heaviest Toll Ever; Cameroonians Kill 143 of Them in a 5-Hour Fight

The Boko Haram Islamic extremist group suffered its "heaviest toll" ever as Cameroon soldiers killed 143 terror thugs in a lopsided victory, the NY Daily News website reports today (January 13, 2015).

Hundreds of gunmen had crossed the border from Nigeria and attacked a Cameroonian military camp in Kolofata.

Boko Haram troops suffered the heavy losses during a bloody five-hour fight.

"It is by far the heaviest toll sustained by the criminal sect Boko Haram since it began launching its barbaric attacks against our land, people, and goods," said Cameroonian Information Minister Issa Bakary.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pope Francis Blasts "Deviant Forms of Religion;" Asserts Extremists Are Using Rel. to Justify Evil

Pope Francis today (January 12, 2015) condemned "fundamentalist terrorism" and "deviant forms of religion" for last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, amid fresh claims that he himself may be at risk of attack from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Telegraph (British) website reports.

The Pope said religion was being perverted by extremists and used to justify evil, including "the tragic slayings" of 17 people that took place in Paris last week after Islamist extremists attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and took people hostage in a kosher supermarket.

"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God Himself, turning Him into a mere ideological pretext," the 78-year-old pontiff said in an annual address to foreign diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

The Pope spoke out against the menace posed by Islamic fundamentalism after an Israeli TV channel reported that the Vatican could be the next target of ISIS.

France Decides to Use Soldiers at Jewish Schools; Some 5K Security Forces Will Guard 700 Schools

France's interior minister said that the country will deploy soldiers at Jewish schools to increase security, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (January 12, 2015).

Nearly 5,000 security forces and police will help protect the country's 700 Jewish schools, Bernard Cazeneuves said today during a meeting with parents at a Jewish school south of Paris, near the site of last week's deadly attack on a kosher supermarket.

The promise of more protection came a day after French President Francois Hollande said in a meeting with French Jewish leaders in the wake of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket that the country would move to protect synagogues and Jewish schools, including using the military.

Also today, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, likely had an accomplice, and asserted that "the hunt will go on."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Female Child Suicide Bomber Kills 20 in Nigeria; Two More Female Bombers Kill 4 at Supermarket

A girl -- believed to be as young as age 10 -- was stopped at the entrance of a Nigerian market before explosives she was carrying killed her and 19 others yesterday, the Newser website reports today (January 11, 2015).

The bombs were attached to the girl, whose age is not clear.

Boko Haram Muslim militants -- known for pressuring children to take part in suicide bombings --  are suspected in the Maiduguri attacks.

Today, violence in Nigeria continued, with two female suicide bombers killing at least four people at another market.

Pope Permits Mothers at Baptisms to Breastfeed; Allowing Breastfeeding Conveys Pope's Empathy

Pope Francis told the mothers of 33 babies he was baptizing in the Sistine Chapel in Rome today (January 11, 2015) not to hesitate to breastfeed them if they cried because they were hungry, the Yahoo News website reports.

"You mothers give your children milk, and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don't worry," Pope Francis said.

Francis poured water on the foreheads of the infants -- 13 boys and 20 girls, all children of Vatican employees -- as he lamented the plight of those around the world who are too poor to feed their own.

At least one woman took Francis up on his offer and began breastfeeding her infant. The invitation to breastfeed typifies the down-to-earth style Pope Francis has adopted since being elected Pope in 2013.

Netanyahu to French Jews: Israel Is Your Home; Declares "Radical Islam Is at War with the West"

Asserting that radical Islam is now at war with the West, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Jews yesterday -- after 17 people including five Jews were killed during three days of Islamist attacks in Paris -- that Israel is their home, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 11, 2015).

Four of the Jewish fatalities occurred during the January 9 attack on a Jewish supermarket, while the fifth person of Jewish descent, cartoonist Georges Wolinski, was gunned down in a January 7 attack at Charlie Hebdo's newspaper headquarters.

"To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home," he said in a televised statement, referring to the Jewish practice of facing Jerusalem during prayer.

"All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms. We will help you in your absorption here in our state that is also your state," the prime minister concluded.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Two Suicide Bombers Kill 9 in Lebanon's Tripoli; Al-Qaeda's Syrian Branch Says It Waged Attacks

Two suicide bombers killed nine people and wounded 37 others today (January 10, 2015) in an attack on a cafe in a flashpoint Alawite neighborhood of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, according to the Newsmax World website.

Al-Qaeda's Syria branch claimed responsibility for the attack in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood.

"Nine people were killed and 37 others wounded," the health ministry said in a statement.

Lebanese security forces believe the bombers lived in Mankubeen, a majority Sunni neighborhood just 500 yards away from Jabal Mohsen.

Paris Synagogue Closed for 1st Time Since WWII; Attacks Have "Jews on Edge of Seething Volcano"

The Grand Synagogue of Paris was evacuated during the kosher market siege yesterday (Friday) afternoon, and did not reopen for sabbath services last night, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (January 10, 2015).

It closed ahead of Shabbat services on Friday night in the wake of a series of terror attacks across Paris, including a siege on a Jewish kosher market by an Islamic extremist.

Friday's closure marks the first time since World War II that the synagogue -- a Paris landmark -- was not open for worship on the sabbath, according to the Orthodox Union. 

"The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano," said Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Exclusive: Assad Building Nuclear Plant in Syria; Set in Mts. Near Lebanon,Guarded by Hezbollah

Germany's Spiegel news magazine revealed today (January 9, 2015) that intelligence indicates Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is building a secret underground plant with the goal of developing nuclear weapons, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Citing information made available by unidentified intelligence sources, Spiegel said the plant was located in an inaccessible mountain region in the west of the war-ravaged country, a little more than a mile from the Lebanese border.

It is deep underground, near the town of Qusayr and has access to electricity and water supplies, the magazine said. It added that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah -- which supports Assad's rule in Syria's civil war -- is guarding the secret project.

Speigel also said that it had access to "exclusive documents," satellite photographs, and intercepted conversations, thanks to intelligence sources.

Gunman, 4 Hostages Die in Paris Kosher Market; French Pres. Calls It a "Horrific Anti-Semitic Act"

Police stormed a kosher (Jewish) supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris today (January 9, 2015), killing a gunman linked to the killing of a policewoman and a deadly attack on a French satirical newspaper. Four of the supermarket hostages -- all Jewish men --  were killed, according to the USA Today website.

French President Francois Hollande -- in a TV address to the nation -- described the attack in Paris' Porte de Vincennes predominantly Jewish area as a "horrific anti-Semitic act."

Several people -- including two police officers -- were wounded, and the hours-long standoff with Amedy Coulibaly, 32, ended amid gunshots near the supermarket today.

At the same time, explosions rattled a small printing warehouse northeast of the city where two brothers suspected in the January 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper were cornered by police. The Kouachi brothers -- Cherif, 32, and Said, 34 -- were killed in a shootout with police, and the hostage they had taken was freed.

Islamists Killed Twice as Many Christians in 2014; Murdered 4,344 Christians in 2014, 2,123 in 2013

Open Doors -- an international group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide -- found in its annual survey monitoring religious freedom that radical Islamists were the main persecutors of Christians around the world in 2014, the Charisma News website reports today (January 9, 2015).

Topping the list of Christians confirmed to have been killed for faith-related reasons were Nigeria at 2,484 and Central Africa Republic at 1,088, with Syria and Iraq -- where Islamic State militants have driven hundreds of thousands of Christians from areas they control -- at 271 and 60 respectively.

North Korea topped the list of countries most hostile to the world's largest faith for the 13th consecutive year followed by Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, and Nigeria. Christianity has an estimated 2.2 billion followers compared with Islam at 1.6 billion.

The 4,344 Christians killed in the survey year to October 31, 2014 were more than double the 2,123 victims in 2013, it said.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Turkish Govt. Woos Women to Have More Babies; Will Get Full Wages for 6 Months' Part-Time Work

The Turkish government has unveiled a new incentive program to encourage working women to have more children, in an effort to avoid the decline of the Turkish population, the Hurriyet Daily News website reports today (January 8, 2015).

Under the new plan, the government is pledging 300 Turkish liras for a couple's first child, 400 liras for the second, and 600 liras for the third, while also easing conditions for new mothers to return to their jobs after maternity leave.

"After the end of maternity leave, mothers with one child will have the right to work part-time for two months, mothers with two children for four months, and mothers with three or more children for six months. They will receive full wages while working part-time," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today.

The government's new incentive program is part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-term policy of encouraging "at least three children per family."

WCC Joins U.N. in Decrying Paris Terror Attack; "Attack on Human Life, Dignity, Human Rights"

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has joined top United Nations officials in denouncing the terror attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Chralie Hebdo that killed 12 people and left at least 10 wounded, the Ecumenical News website reports today (January 8, 2015).

The churches grouping and the U.N. organizations urged people not to fall into the hands of the attackers and take revenge into their own hands with attacks on minority communities.

Hooded, armed gunmen attacked the offices of the publication in a Paris suburb yesterday before firing automatic weapons in a scene police described as "carnage."

The acting general secretary of the WCC, Georges Lemopoulos, said, "The fatal attack that has taken place today in Paris against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is an attack on human life, human dignity, and human rights of all."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Egypt's Pres. Al-Sisi Visits Coptic Orth. Church; Christians Celebrate Xmas Despite Islamic Fear

Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi visited a Coptic Orthodox Christmas mass last night, making him the first Egyptian leader to do so since President Nasser more than 50 years ago, the Euro News website reports today (January 7, 2015).

The show of solidarity was welcomed by the country's eight million Orthodox Christians whose Christmas this year is being overshadowed by an increase in violence from Islamist extremists.

However, amid tightened security, Christian worshipers still managed to mark the day in the predominantly Islamist nation.

Egypt and most Eastern European Orthodox Christian nations celebrate Christmas on January 7 -- not on December 25 as most nations do -- because they still observe the Julian calendar, which corresponds to January 7 on the Gregorian calendar that is used by most countries.

Three Islamic Gunmen Kill 12 at Paris Newspaper; Angry at Satirical Paper's Cartoons of Mohammed

Three masked gunmen shouting Islamic phrases stormed the offices of the French satirical newspaper "Charlie Hebdo" today (January 7, 2015), killing 12 people, including the editorial director and four cartoonists whose work included controversial drawings of the prophet Mohammed, the USA Today website reports.

The gunmen -- wearing hoods and armed with automatic rifles -- killed a receptionist to gain entrance to the offices in central Paris, then opened fire on a second-floor editorial meeting, killing 10 people, including eight journalists, prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters. A police officer was killed during their getaway.

Eight others were injured in the noon-time attack, including four who were in serious condition.

Molins said the attackers shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great") and the "prophet is avenged," before fleeing in a stolen black Citroen, exchanging gunfire at least twice with police outside.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Female Suicide Bomber Hits Turkey Police H.Q.; Kills Police Officer, Injures 2nd One in Istanbul

A female suicide bomber has blown herself up in the Turkish city of Istanbul, killing one police officer and injuring another, the BBC website reports today (January 6, 2015).

She targeted a police station in the tourist hub of Sultanahmet, near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia museum -- formerly the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Church.

The woman spoke English with a thick accent, but her nationality and identity remained unknown, Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told Turkish TV.

No group has yet said it was behind the attack -- the second on Turkish police in less than a week. Police arrested a man who threw grenades and fired a weapon at police officers near the prime minister's office on January 1, but no one was injured in that attack.

Islamic State Cripples 670K Students' Education; Has Schools Closed While It Deforms Curriculum

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today (January 6, 2015) that an estimated 670,000 children in Syria are being deprived of an education after Islamic State (IS) forces ordered schools closed while the curriculum is made to conform with its religious rules, according to the Reuters website.

Islamic State -- an offshoot of al Qaeda which has recruited foreign fighters -- has seized land in Syria and Iraq, imposing its strict reading of Islamic law.

The militant Islamist group stands accused of massacres, beheadings, sexually enslaving women and young girls, and recruiting children as fighters.

"In December there was a decree of the Islamic State ordering the stoppage of education in areas under its control," UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said today.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lebanon Cuts Syrian Refugees Fleeing Civil War; Claims It Has "No More Capacity" to Host Them

The United Nations has expressed concern over new Lebanese restrictions on Syrian refugees aimed at slowing the influx of asylum seekers escaping Syria's civil war, the BBC website reports today (January 5, 2015).

Travel between the neighboring countries was previously unrestricted, but now Syrians will have to obtain a visa.

There are more than a million Syrians in Lebanon -- more than one-fourth of the four million Lebanese who live in the small country -- and a senior minister says there is "no more capacity." "We have enough. There's no capacity anymore to host more displaced," Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said at a news conference today.

More than 76,000 people were killed in Syria's civil war in 2014, including almost 18,000 civilians.

Archaeol. May Have Found Jesus' Trial Bldg.; Bldg. in Jerusalem May Have Been Trial Site

Archaeologists have claimed that an excavated building in Jerusalem's Old City could very well be the site of Jesus Christ's trial by King Herod before He was crucified, the Christian Post website reports today (January 5, 2015).

The discovery was made following a dig that started 15 years ago beneath an abandoned building close to the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem.

The building had in past centuries been used as a prison by the Ottoman Empire, but according to Amit Re'em -- the Jerusalem district archaeologist who led the excavation -- it could also very well be the site where Jesus was trialed by Herod the Great, as found in the New Testament.

Re'em said that the site "is a great part of the ancient puzzle of Jerusalem and shows the history of the city in a very unique and clear way."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Turkey OKs Building Its 1st Church in a Century; Syriac Church Will Be in Yesilkoy Near Istanbul

Turkey's Islamic-rooted government has authorized the building of the first church in the country in nearly a century, the Yahoo News website reports today (January 4, 2015).

The church is for the tiny Syriac community in Turkey and will be built in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy on the shores of the Sea of Marmara, which already has Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian churches.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Turkey's religious leaders in Istanbul on January 2, and said no faith that has lived in the country could be regarded as foreign.

"It is the first (new church) since the creation of the republic (in 1923)," a government official said.

Netanyahu Slams Palestinians for Joining ICC; Says Israel "Will Not Sit Idly By" Brazen Action

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today (January 4, 2015) that Israel "will not sit idly by" in the wake of Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Forward (Jewish) website reports.

"The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel," Netanyahu said this morning at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

"We will not allow IDF soldiers and commanders to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is the Palestinian Authority leaders -- who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas -- who must be called to account," Netanyahu said.

He added that Israel will defend its soldiers with the same "strength and determination" with which they defend the state.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Boko Haram Seizes 40 Boys in Northeast Nigeria; Uses Males as Soldiers and Females as Sex Slaves

The Boko Haram Muslim extremist group kidnapped about 40 boys and young men and killed scores of soldiers yesterday in a bold attack on a multinational military base in northeast Nigeria, the Newser website reports today (January 3, 2015).

The militants came to the remote village of Malari yesterday and began to select young men aged between 12 and 25.

The Boko Haram insurgents drew international condemnation with their April kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls; hundreds of other boys, girls, young men and women have also been kidnapped by the group.

Some who escaped the kidnapping say the males are forced to fight for Boko Haram, while females are used as sex slaves and suicide bombers.

Israelis Stone US Diplomatic Autos in West Bank; Diplomats Sought Uprooted Trees,Drew Weapons

Israeli police said Jewish settlers threw stones yesterday at cars of a U.S. diplomatic delegation which came to inspect vandalism to scores of nearby Palestinian-owned trees in the occupied West Bank, the Reuters website reports today (January 3, 2015).

The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem had no comment on the incident outside Adei Ad settlement, which caused no casualties.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said the purpose of the trip was to inspect nearby trees that had been uprooted in what their Palestinian owners suspect was vandalism by Jewish settlers.

A resident of Adei Ad told Reuters -- on the condition of anonymity -- that U.S. delegates came within 50 yards of a settlement in two diplomatic cars accompanied by local Palestinians. He added that two armed diplomatic guards -- one with a pistol and the other with an M-16 rifle -- emerged from the cars and pointed their weapons at the settlers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

US Special Forces Give up Rescue of Jordan Pilot; Due to Dire ISIS Fire, Pilot Remains ISIS Captive

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) hostage rescue attempts by U.S. Special Forces were abandoned last night after the team took heavy fire in Syria. Jordanian fighter pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh is being held in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa -- in northern Syria -- the Inquisitr website reports today (January 2, 2015).

The U.S. Special Forces were carried to Syria to rescue the Jordanian fighter pilot via two gunships. Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured by ISIS on December 24. Heavy raids on Islamic State fighters were carried out by coalition troops during the rescue attempt.

Muadh al-Kasasbeh, 26, is the first military pilot to be captured by ISIS since the international coalition forces began fighting the Islamic State in September.

The Jordanian fighter pilot was reportedly one of several captives who would have been saved had the U.S. Special Forces rescue mission not been abandoned in Syria.

UN Certifies Palestine's Completion of ICC Route; Means ICC Can Judge Crimes on Palestinian Terr.

Palestinian observers at the United Nations have presented their documents ratifying the Treaty of Rome's conditions for membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and 17 other UN-administered international treaties, the Euro News website reports today (January 2, 2015).

Completion of the ICC process means Palestine's unusual, non-state entity with the UN is confirmed, and the court takes on competence to judge crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory.

Foreign resistance to granting the Palestinians any form of recognition on international bodies that could be interpreted as recognizing claims to statehood has weakened in the last two years, faced with a frozen peace process with Israel.

Starting with Sweden, a number of European states have relaxed their stance and begun to grant the Palestinian state, or semi-state recognition, much to the anger of Israel.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sweden Hit by 3rd Mosque Arson Attack in Week; Many Seek Reducing Sweden's Immigration Policy

Swedish police launched a manhunt today (January 1, 2015), after the third arson attack in Sweden  against a mosque in a week, amid growing tensions over the rise of a far right anti-immigration movement, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"People saw a man throwing something burning at the building," police in Uppsala said in a statement, adding the mosque in eastern Sweden did not catch fire.

A police spokesman said the burning object was a Molotov cocktail and that no one was in the building at the time.

"The crime has been classed as attempted arson, vandalism, and incitement to hatred," the police said.

Pope: We Must Fight Slavery, Human Trafficking; States Everyone Has a God-Given Right to Be Free

Pope Francis has urged people of all religions and cultures to unite to fight modern slavery and human trafficking. In his first Mass of 2015, he said that everyone had a God-given right to be free, the Euro News website reports today (January 1, 2015).

Today's service at St. Peter's Basilica marks the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace. This year's theme is "No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters."

"All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture, and religion, let us join our forces," he said.

The pope has made defense of migrants and workers a central issue of his papacy. At a Vespers service on New Year's Eve, he condemned administrators and criminals in Rome accused of pocketing public funds meant to help poor migrants, urging a "spiritual and moral renewal."