Saturday, February 28, 2015

Global Anti-Semitic Incidents Hit a 7-Year High; Study: Jews Likely to Be Harassed by Individuals

Global anti-Semitic incidents reached a seven-year high, a new study found, while social hostilities involving religion declined somewhat in 2013 following a six-year peak, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (February 28, 2015).

The Pew Research Center's annual study of global restrictions on religion -- released on February 26 -- reported that approximately one-quarter of the world's countries are "grappling with high levels of religious hostilities within their borders."

In the 77 countries in which Jews were harassed, Jews were "much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments."

The study also reported that in Europe, harassment of Jews and Muslims was "particularly widespread," with Jews experiencing harassment in 34 European countries and Muslims in 32 countries.

Norway Nabs Islam Cleric Who Praised Murder; Supported the 8 Killings at Charlie Hebdo Paper

A radical Islamic preacher has been arrested in Norway after he praised last month's deadly attack by fanatic Muslims that killed eight staff members at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (February 28, 2015).

The Iraqi Kurd preacher known as Mullah Krekar said in a television interview broadcast on February 25 that "those who draw caricatures of Mohammed must die."

Krekar -- who had only been freed from prison late last month -- was arrested on February 26 on accusations for inciting crime, police said.

"I am obviously happy with what happened in Paris," the 58-year-old said in the interview with Norwegian channel NRK.

ISIS Trains Children as Young as Five for Combat; "It's Like Signing Your Kid Up for Private School"

A video released this week from ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) shows the terrorist organization training children as young as 5 years old, the Christian Headlines website reports today (February 28, 2015).

Christian News Network reports the video was filmed at the Al Farouq Institute for Cubs in Raqqa, Syria.

The video shows the boys wearing fatigues and black bandanas and chanting, "Allah Ahkbar," which means "Allah is the greatest."

"If you believe the ISIS caliphate is the best place to be and Allah commands you to go there, you'd want your family there, too," Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project said. "For ISIS supporters, this is like signing your kid up for the best private school."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Vatican Slams Leaking of Info on Power Struggle; Cardinals Felt Head of Ec. Reforms Too Powerful

The Vatican today (February 27, 2015) condemned the leaking of documents that show a power struggle in the Holy See over economic reforms and excessive expenses by the cardinal charged with carrying them out, according to the Reuters website.

L'Espresso magazine said it had seen minutes of meetings and emails showing mostly Italian cardinals felt that Cardinal George Pell had accumulated too much power.

Pell is an outsider brought by the pope to Rome from Australia to oversee the Vatican's often muddled finances after decades of scandalous control by Italians.

"Leaking confidential documents to the media in order to stir up polemics and fuel arguments is nothing new, but is always something to be condemned and is illegal," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

US Parades Troops, Tanks Along Russian Border; Could Deter Russian Attack, Could Spark WWIII

On February 25, the US Army did something that was dangerously provocative: It paraded soldiers and armored vehicles in the Estonian town of Narva, just 900 feet from Russia's border, the Vox website reports exclusively today (February 27, 2015).

Michael Burnbaum of the Washington Post explains, "Narva is a vulnerable border city separated by a river from Russia. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto NATO territory."

There is logic to this demonstration that is meant to show Russia that the US is sincerely committed to the defense of Estonia, which is a member of NATO. In other words, it is meant to deter Russia from starting a Ukraine-style conflict in Estonia, which could well spiral into World War III.

At the same time, such a demonstration is also dangerous, as it risks being misinterpreted by a furious Moscow as an act of aggression, thus making a war more likely.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UGCC Head Urges the Pope to Denounce Russia; Says Ukraine Combat Due to Russian Aggression

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) has urged a tougher line on Russian aggression in his country from Pope Francis, the Ecumenical News website reports today (February 26, 2015).

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on February 23 that a February 4 statement from Francis -- in which he called the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists "fractricidal" -- was "particularly painful for all the people in Ukraine."

The Greek Catholic leader from the conflict-wracked country said the Pope's line had rankled Ukrainians who see the violence on the Crimean peninsula not as a civil conflict, but an act of foreign aggression by Russia.

Shevchuk expressed regret that Francis did not specifically point a finger at Russia in his February 20 remarks to a group of visiting Ukrainian bishops, instead referring only to a "situation of grave conflict."

New Austrian Law Bans Foreign Funding of Islam; Law Aims to Foster "Islam of European Character"

Austria's parliament passed a new law yesterday that bans foreign sources of financing to Muslim organizations and requires imams to be able to speak German, in a move closely watched by several other European nations facing growing problems with radical Islam, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (February 26, 2015).

The new law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz calls an "Islam of European character" by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations, organizations, and funding at a time when concerns are rising about the spread of extremist Islam in Europe.

The legislation also offers Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practicing their faith in the central European country.

However, some Austrian Muslim groups view the new law as "discrimination" that imposes restrictions on Islam, but not on other religions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lithuania to Restore the Draft It Ended in 2008; Due to Bordering Russia's Aggression in Ukraine

Fearing a likely attack from colonial-driven Russia to take control of its nearby territory, Lithuania has decided to prepare for such aggression by bringing back military conscription, the Euro News website reports today (February 25, 2015).

The draft in Lithuania ended in 2008, but the authorities said its renewal was necessary due to Russia's "growing aggression in Ukraine."

Lithuania shares a border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and has reported airspace violations by Russia on several occasions in recent months. Lithuania also became a satellite of Soviet Russia after World War II, and remained under its control until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

"Today's geopolitical environment requires us to strengthen the army, and do it as fast as possible. This needs to be done in the nearest few years. That is why the State Defense Council decided we must temporarily renew conscription for the next five years. Conscripts will be drafted every year for nine months, about 3500 of Lithuania's citizens will be conscripted," announced Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Three Men in Brooklyn Charged with Ensuring IS; All from Uzbekistan, One Nabbed at JFK Airport

Three men living in Brooklyn, New York were arrested and charged today (February 25, 2015) with providing material support to the Islamic State (IS) -- a fanatic Muslim terrorist organization that has seized large regions of Iraq and Syria and has been actively recruiting Westerners to its fight  -- the NY Times website reports.

One of the men was arrested early this morning at Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and then planned to travel to Syria, according to authorities.

The men were identified as Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, Akhror Saidakhmetov, and Abror Habibov -- all citizens of Uzbekistan who were living in Brooklyn.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the authorities first became suspicious about the men last August, and are concerned that more individuals might have been involved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

IS Abducts 90 Greek Orth. Christians in Syria; Over 600 Families Flee Area, Others Trapped

A human rights group has confirmed that IS (Islamic State) jihadists abducted at least 90 Christian men, women, and children from villages in northeastern Syria yesterday, the Catholic News website reports today (February 24, 2015).

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Assyrian Orthodox Christians were kidnapped in dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

They were taken from the villages of Tal Shamiram and Tal Hurmoz in a predominantly Kurdish region of Syria that lies between Turkey and Iraq.

More than 600 families have fled, a local cleric told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) -- around 400 to Hassakeh city and another 200 to the city of Qamishli. Others are reportedly trapped in their villages.

UK Police: 3 Missing Teen Girls Likely in Syria; Flew to Turkey on Feb. 17 to Join Islamic State

British police said today (February 24, 2015) that they now believe three missing teen girls have crossed into war-torn Syria from Turkey to join the Islamic State, according to the USA Today website.

Earlier, Scotland Yard denied a claim it took them three days to inform Turkey about the teenagers -- Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 -- who left the British capital February 17 on a flight to Istanbul and have been missing ever since.

Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said British officials informed Ankara about the girls on February 20.

Yesterday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said airlines and Internet companies need to do more to stop radicalized teenagers from leaving to join Islamic militants. He added government officials will discuss with airlines how to ensure children at risk can be identified and questioned before they travel.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Columbia Ranked No.1 Anti-Semitic US College; Jewish Org. Lists Most "Jew Hatred Campuses"

Columbia University in New York City is home to the worst anti-Semitic activity in the United States, according to a list compiled by the David Horowitz Freedom Center -- a conservative think-tank based in California -- the Algemeiner (Jewish) website reports today (February 23, 2015).

The Center unveiled its first annual list of the 10 US campuses with the worst anti-Semitic activity in 2014 as part of a new campaign entitled "Jew Hatred on Campus," aimed at bringing awareness to anti-Semitism at colleges and universities throughout the nation.

According to the Center, Columbia University is listed first because it is home to the "most well-known anti-Semitic professors in the nation such as Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad, who has been accused of harassing Jewish students on multiple occasions."

Cornell University came in second place followed by George Mason University, Loyola University Chicago, Portland State University, San Diego State University, and San Francisco State University. Rounding off the list was Temple University, University of California Los Angeles, and Vassar College.

Marine Who Fled Iraq Is Convicted of Desertion; Wassef Hassoun Fled to Lebanon, Faked Kidnap

A U.S. Marine -- who vanished a decade ago in Iraq -- has been found guilty of desertion charges related to his disappearances there and in Lebanon, the Newser website reports today (February 23, 2015).

The judge, Marine Maj. Nicholas Martz, gave his verdict today in the bench trial of Cpl. Wassef Hassoun.

Martz found that Hassoun was guilty of deserting in Iraq in 2004 and then deserting again in 2005 by fleeing to Lebanon after a brief return to the United States. He was also found guilty of causing the loss of his service pistol.

Sentencing is expected later this week. Hassoun claimed that he was kidnapped by insurgents in 2004.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pope: Ordaining Married Men "Is in My Diary;" May Allow Married Priests as Does Greek Church

Pope Francis has indicated that he is open to the idea of married men being ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church, saying "the issue is in my diary," the Catholic News website reports today (February 22, 2015).

Francis was quoted by priests from the Diocese of Rome who met with him at the Vatican on February 19.

According to the Italian bishops' paper, L'Avvenire, the Pope addressed the issue of married priests. A priest and theologian who supports the ordination of married men, Giovanni Cereti, recalled the case of Greek Orthodox Churches and Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite, where married men can be ordained priests, unlike the Latin Rite. In his reply, Francis said "the issue is in my diary."

Another priest who was at the meeting recalled Francis' words as: "I would not store this question in an archive."

US Homeland Security Chief Dreads Mall Attacks; Warns IS Terror Threats Must Be Taken Seriously

The U.S. homeland security chief said today (February 22, 2015) that he takes seriously a threat by Somali-based Islamist militants against prominent shopping sites in Western nations -- including the Mall of America in Minnesota -- and urged people there to be careful, according to the Reuters website.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was reacting to a video attributed to al Shabaab calling for attacks on Western shopping areas, specifically mentioning Mall of America, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, London's Oxford Street, and sites in Paris.

"This latest statement from al Shabaab reflects the new phase we've evolved to in the global terrorist threat, in that you have groups such as al Shabaab and ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] publicly calling for independent actors in their homelands to carry out attacks," Johnson told the CNN program "State of the Union" today.

Asked about the threat to Minnesota's Mall of America -- one of the world's largest shopping areas -- Johnson said: "Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we've got to take that seriously." He advised people going to the Mall of America to be especially careful.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pope to Mafia: Repent and Church Accepts You; Last Year Pope Had Excommunicated the Mafia

Pope Francis urged members of Italian organized groups today (February 21, 2015) to repent, saying the Catholic Church would welcome them if they promised to stop serving the cause of evil, the Times of India website reports.

He spoke during an audience at the Vatican for pilgrims and anti-crime activists from the southern region of Calabria, home to the 'Ndrangheta, mainland Italy's equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia.

"Open your hearts to the Lord. The Lord is waiting for you and the Church will welcome you if your willingness to serve good is as clear and public as your choice to serve evil was," the pope said.

When he visited Calabria last June, Pope Francis accused organized crime groups of practicing "the adoration of evil" and said members had excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church by their actions.

Muslims Form Human Shield at Oslo Synagogue; Give Jews Safety in Norway after Denmark Attack

More than 1,000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's only synagogue today (February 21, 2015), offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend, the Forward (Jewish) website reports.

Chanting "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia," Norway's Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend.

"Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that," Zeeshan Abdullah -- one of the protest's organizers -- told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around the synagogue.

Norway's Jewish community is one of Europe's smallest, numbering around 1000, and the Muslim population -- which has been growing steadily through immigration -- is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million.

Friday, February 20, 2015

New Poll: Czechs Tend to Ban Non-EU Settlers; Swedes Are Most Tolerant to House Foreigners

A total of 74 percent of Czechs are opposed to immigration from countries outside the European Union (EU), according to the latest Eurobarometer poll organized by the European Commission (EC), the Prague Monitor website reports today (February 20, 2015).

An even more negative approach to immigration from non-EU nations is taken by Latvians (79 percent), and three south European nations: Greece, Italy, and Cyprus (75 percent each).

In Slovakia, the share of opponents is the same as in the Czech Republic (74 percent).

The most tolerant of all European people are the Swedes, of whom only 25 percent are opposed to immigration from non-EU countries. The EU average is 57 percent. 

Poll:Utah Is Top US State for Church Attendance; New England Has Least Churchgoers, Vt. Lowest

Utah was named the state with the highest weekly church attendance in a recent Gallup poll, with the largely Mormon state taking the top spot over the traditional Bible Belt states -- including Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas -- the Christian Headlines website reports today (February 20, 2015).

According to the poll, 51 percent of Utah residents say they attend religious services each week. This was bolstered by Utah's Mormon population of 59 percent.

New England states reported the lowest church attendance, with only 17 percent of Vermont citizens claiming to attend church services weekly.

Survey editor Frank Newport said, "There is no definitive answer as to why residents in a state like Mississippi are so likely to be in church on Sundays, while residents in a state like Vermont are so unlikely."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rabbi Freundel Is Guilty of 52 Voyeur Charges; Could Be Sentenced to 52 Prison May 15

Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel -- the former spiritual leader at a Washington, D.C. synagogue -- today (February 19, 2015) pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports.

Today's plea means that Freundel could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 52 years in prison and ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Sentencing was postponed until May 15, 2015.

Freundel, 63, was arrested last October on six charges of voyeurism after investigators found secret cameras installed in the mikva shower room showing over 150 naked women, and additional recording devices in his home. His Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel, immediately suspended him and later fired him.

Judge Geoffrey Alprin asked Freundel, "Are you going to make me look stupid and flee the jurisdiction prior to sentencing?" In a loud voice, Freundel responded, "Absolutely not, your honor." The judge then released Freundel on his own recognizance until the May sentencing, addressing him as Rabbi Freundel.

Human Rights Group:Hate Speech Rise in France; Anti-Semitic Acts Soar, Jews Departing En Masse

A new report from the Human Rights Council of Europe warns of a significant rise in discrimination and hate speech in France, the Euro News website reports today (February 19, 2015).

Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner of the Council, paints a grim picture about the level of intolerance in France, despite government efforts to tackle the problems.

"Despite advances in legislation and measures to combat intolerance and racism, discrimination and hate speech not only persist in France, but are on the rise," he said.

Muiznicks added, "In the first half of 2014 alone the number of anti-Semitic acts virtually doubled, while the number of Jews leaving France for Israel tripled compared with 2012, which is a telling indication of their feeling of insecurity."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ukrainian Pres. Seeks International Peace Force; Would Halt Russian Rebels' Advance toward Kiev

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called today (February 18, 2015) for an international peacekeeping mission in his nation's war-torn east, an indication that his nation can no longer fend off pro-Russian rebels after a major battlefield defeat, the Washington Post website reports.

A United Nations peace force on the ground would harden the battle lines after 10 months of fighting, forcing Ukraine to give up for now its attempts to reunify the country. But it would also halt Russian-backed rebels from pushing onward toward Kiev, Ukraine's capital.

Poroshenko's suggestion came hours after thousands of Ukrainian troops fled the encircled railway hub of Debaltseve, where fighting only intensified after a cease-fire took effect on February 15.

Nearly one year after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea, the fresh loss threatened tough political consequences for Ukraine's pro-Western president amid questions of how the troops became surrounded in recent weeks.

Pope Gives US Gay Rights Group VIP Treatment; Group Ignored in Past, Now Part of Francis Effect

A prominent American Catholic gay rights group was given VIP treatment for the first time today (February 18, 2015) at an audience with Pope Francis -- a move members saw as a sign of change in the Roman Catholic Church -- according to the Reuters website.

"This is a sign of movement that's due to the Francis effect," said Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to homosexual Catholics and promotes gay rights in the 1.2 billion-member Church.

Gramick and executive director Francis DeBernardo led a pilgrimage of 50 homosexual Catholics to the audience in St. Peter's Square.

They told Reuters in an interview afterwards that when the group came to Rome on Catholic pilgrimages during the papacies of Francis's predecessors John Paul and Benedict, "they just ignored us."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Exclusive:ISIS Expanding beyond Iraq and Syria; Intel Sources Reveal World War on Terror Likely

American intelligence officials have revealed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is in the process of expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt , and Libya -- thus indicating a new global war on terror appears to be imminent -- the NY Times website reports exclusively.

Intelligence officials estimate ISIS fighters number 20,000 to 31,500 in Syria and Iraq. However, ISIS -- with its ultimate goal of spreading Islam throughout the world -- has become the greatest worldwide threat to the independence of nations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 ended its ability to spread communism.

There are pledges of support from "probably at least a couple hundred extremists" in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen, according to an American counter-terrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss confidential information about the group.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart -- director of the Defense Intelligence Agency -- said in an assessment this month that the Islamic State was "beginning to assemble a growing international footprint."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Anti-Semitic Slurs Painted on 30 Wisc. Homes; "Everyone in the Neighborhood Is Pretty Upset"

At least 30 homes in Madison, Wisconsin were vandalized early on February 14 -- some with anti-Semitic slurs and swastikas -- the Haaretz (Israeli) website reports today (February 16, 2015).

Residents awoke to derogatory words geared toward women and other minorities spray-painted on their homes, cars, garage doors, mailboxes, and driveways, according to the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism.

One resident, Jim Stein, told Wisconsin TV station WISC-TV, "Everyone in the neighborhood is pretty upset."

"It was, of course, extremely disturbing to me," Stein -- who is president of the Jewish Federation of Madison -- told the station.

IS Video Shows 21 Egyptian Christians Beheaded; Egypt Reacts, Launches Airstrikes on IS in Libya

Egypt launched airstrikes today (February 16, 2015) on targets in neighboring Libya to retaliate for the barbaric mass execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians held by fanatic Islamic militants affiliated to the Islamic State (IS), the Daily Beast website reports.

Egyptian officials say more strikes will be launched on jihadists in the coming days, dragging the country deeper into the chaos that has swept Libya since the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Today's air-raids by Egypt -- which killed some 50 IS terrorists --  came after a horrific five-minute video was posted by the militants yesterday, showing the gruesome spectacle of Egyptian Christians having their throats sliced on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea at Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace.

Immediately, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al Sisi vowed revenge publicly during a television broadcast to Egyptians, and the bombing followed hours later. The Egyptian leader said he would choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings" of Egypt's citizens.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hundreds of Jewish Graves Vandalized in France; Gravestones Daubed with Swastikas, Nazi Slogans

In another major incident of soaring anti-Semitism in France, hundreds of Jewish graves have been desecrated at a cemetery in the eastern part of the country -- near the border with Germany -- the BBC website reports today (February 15, 2015).

Images on social media showed the gravestones in Sarre-Union daubed with swastikas and Nazi slogans.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said every effort would be made to catch the perpetrators of an "ignoble and anti-Semitic act, an insult to memory."

Anti-Semitic attacks have risen sharply in France in recent years. For example, a Jewish kosher supermarket in Paris was one of the sites targeted by Islamist gunmen in a series of attacks last month that left 17 people dead.

Germany Cancels Parade Due to Islamist Threat; Police Received Credible Info of Terrorist Attack

Police in the German city of Braunschweig today (February 15, 2015) canceled a popular Carnival street parade because of fears of an imminent Islamist terror attack, according to the Newser website.

Police spokesman Thomas Geese said police received credible information that was a "concrete threat of an attack" on today's parade and therefore called all visitors to stay at home.

Braunschweig's Carnival parade is the biggest one in northern Germany and draws around 250,000 visitors each year.

Geese said the parade was canceled only 90 minutes before it was scheduled to start, "but we didn't want to take any risks."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fire Destroys Bldg. at Houston Islamic Center; Investigators Believe Fire Set as a Hate Crime

Arson investigators believe that a fire that destroyed one of three buildings at an Islamic center in Houston, Texas was intentionally set as an Islamic hate crime, the LA Times website reports today (February 14, 2015).

No one was injured in the blaze that erupted before 6:15 a.m. prayers yesterday in a storage area of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school, located in a residential neighborhood on Houston's southeast side.

About 25 firefighters responded and extinguished the fire within an hour, according to Kenyatta Parker, a spokesman for the Houston Fire Department.

Institute officials said arson investigators told them that the fire was intentionally set.

Man Killed in Denmark by Men Targeting Artist; Lars Vilks Drew Mohammed as Dog, Gets Away

One person was killed today (February 14, 2015) when two gunmen -- believed to be Muslims -- opened fire on a Copenhagen blasphemy seminar in an apparent assassination attempt on a Swedish artist who had received death threats for publishing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed as a dog, according to the USA Today website.

Lars Vilks, 68, was hustled into the kitchen of the Krudttoenden cafe by bodyguards and was unharmed. Three police officers were wounded. Police said the dead victim was a 40-year-old man.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called the shooting "a cynical act of violence." She added it had all the signs of a political assassination attempt and an "act of terrorism."

Officers at the scene regarded the attack as an assassination attempt on Vilks, Copenhagen Police Incident Commander Jorgen Petersen told the Danish newspaper "Ekstra Bladet."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Argentina Pres. Charged with Bombing Cover-up; Accused of Hiding Iranian Bombing of Jewish Ctr.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner was formally accused today (February 13, 2015) of shielding Iranian officials from prosecution over a 1994 bombing at a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people, the Newsmax World website reports.

The prosecution move advances the case against Kirchner that was being pursued by late prosecutor Alberto Nisman before he died mysteriously on the eve of congressional hearings on his accusation.

The accusation now goes to the judge in the case, Daniel Rafecas, to decide whether to call Kirchner to make a statement.

Kirchner has been under fire since Nisman, 51, died from a gunshot wound to the head on January 18, after accusing her of covering up the involvement of high-ranking Iranian officials in the deadly bombing in exchange for oil.

OR Gov. Kitzhaber Resigns Amid Ethics Scandal; His Fiancee Cylvia Hayes Took $200K in Payoffs

Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber submitted his resignation today (February 13, 2015) amid allegations that his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, used their public positions for private gain -- accepting money from private environmental nonprofits for her green-energy consulting firm -- to pursue green policies in the state, according to the Washington Times website.

Sources with direct knowledge of the matter said Kitzhaber met with administration officials this morning to make his plans known. His resignation as governor will take effect at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 18.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that Ms. Hayes had accepted some $200,000 in payments from green nonprofits to work on controversial low-carbon fuel standard policies at the same time that the administration was promoting new legislation on the issue.

Oregon Secretary of State, Kate Brown, is expected to replace Kitzhaber, and become the first openly bisexual governor in the United States.

Rabbi Freundel Filmed Over 150 Naked Women; Prosecutors Meet with Women Filmed at Mikvah

Prosecutors told a meeting of victims that Rabbi Barry Freundel secretly recorded more than 150  naked women at the Mikvah adjacent to his Washington, D.C. synagogue, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 13, 2015).

The February 11 meeting at the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington for Freundel's victims was the first time women from the community learned of the large scope of the peeping tom videos. So far, only six of Freundel's alleged victims have been identified by name.

Freundel, 63, was arrested last October on six charges of voyeurism after investigators discovered secret cameras installed in the mikvah shower room and additional recording devices in his home. His Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel, immediately suspended him and later fired him, ordering him to vacate the shul's rabbinic residence.

Freundel -- who separated from his wife after his arrest -- has refused to leave the residence, and the congregation has taken the case to the Beth Din of America to evict him.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pope Accuses Families Not Having Kids as Selfish; Feels Sick Societies in Europe Due to Lack of Kids

Speaking yesterday at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said: "Not having children is a selfish choice," the Catholic News website reports today (February 12, 2015).

"Life rejuvenates and brings multiplying energy: It enriches, it does not impoverish," said Francis, speaking during the audience on the role of children in the family.

"A society stingy in generation, that does not love to surround itself in children, that considers them overall a worry, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society," said the Pope.

Francis made his remarks about the need to have children in a brief aside about the low level of birthrates in European countries. "Let's think of many societies that we know here in Europe," said the Pope. "They are depressed societies because they do not want children, they do not have children. The level of birth does not arrive at one percent."

IL Gov.'s Order Ends Non-Member Union Dues; They Violate 1st Amend.,May Erode US Unions

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced an executive order this week barring unions from requiring non-union state workers to pay the equivalence of dues -- called "fair share" fees -- The New American website reports today (February 12, 2015).

Calling the compulsory fees a "critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers," Rauner also claimed those dues violate the U.S. Constitution. Gov. Rauner's order to forbid unions in Illinois from collecting dues from non-union state workers is expected to have a significant negative impact on the future of labor unions throughout the United States.

"Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inextricably linked," Rauner said.

He added: "As a result, an employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

NC Gunman Kills 3 Muslims in Parking Dispute; Police Investigate to Decide If It Was Hate Crime

A North Carolina gunman was charged with killing three young Muslims in what police said today (February 11, 2015) was a dispute over parking and possibly a hate crime, according to the Reuters website.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with first-degree murder in yesterday's shootings around 5 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The victims were newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said in a statement: "We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case."

ISIS Female Police Disfigure 15 Women with Acid; Due to Women Appearing in Public Without Niqab

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) policing unit in Mosul severely disfigured the faces of 15 Iraqi women by pouring acid on them as a form of punishment after the women were caught without their faces being veiled appropriately last weekend, the Christian Post website reports today (February 11, 2015).

ISIS' all-female policing unit, the Al Khansa brigade -- which polices the streets of the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa and Iraqi stronghold Mosul -- carried out the punishments after the women were detained on February 8 in the Mosul neighborhood of Salamiya, a Kurdish official said.

The official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul, Saed Mamuzini, said that the women were subject to the cruel, face-deforming punishment simply because they were caught in public without wearing a Niqab -- the cloth-like veil that fully covers the face except for slits for the eyes.

"They have implemented this punishment so that other women in the city will never consider removing or not wearing the niqab," Mamuzini said. ISIS militants believe that women must wear a full face veil to protect them from debauchery.

Obama Asks Congress to OK War against IS; Request Limits Mil. Operations to 3-Yr. Max.

President Obama yesterday asked Congress for approval to formally wage war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Washington Examiner website reports today (February 11, 2015).

Obama's three-page resolution attempts to appease Democrats wary of putting more ground troops in the Middle East and Republicans who insist the White House is not doing enough to counter violent extremism.

Obama's proposal to Congress would limit the military authorization to three years and prohibit "enduring offensive combat operations," an intentionally broad description.

"My administration's draft AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan," Obama emphasized. "Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

ISIS Terrorists Crucify,Behead,Bury Kids Alive; Kill Non-Muslims, Including Women,Children

Islamic State terrorists are torturing and burying children alive in Iraq, according to a report by the United Nations, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (February 10, 2015).

The U.N. says ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is systematically killing, torturing, and raping children and families from Christian communities.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has received reports of several cases of mass executions of boys. There are also reports of children being beheaded, crucified, and buried alive.

"They (ISIS) say, 'If anyone don't become like Muslim, we kill them, each one, from baby to woman to old man,'" a middle-aged woman told CBN News' Chris Mitchell.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Prince Charles to Muslims:Abide by UK Values; Rips Islamic Fanatics Who Destroy UK Society

Prince Charles has taken an unusual step away from royal tradition, telling Muslims who come to Britain -- as well as those who are born or go to school there -- that they should "abide by our values," as he begins his current tour of the Middle East, starting in Jordan, the Inquisitr website reports today (February 9, 2015).

The prince denounced the systematic radicalization of young Britons by Islamic fanatics and said they should show more respect to "the values we hold dear."

Prince Charles intends to speak to Arab leaders during his six-day Mideast tour about the dangers that radical Islam poses, not only to the United Kingdom, but also to more moderate Muslim states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

As the future King of England said yesterday: "The radicalization of people in Britain is a great worry, and the extent to which this is happening is alarming, particularly in a country like ours where we hold values dear. You would think the people who have come here, or are born here, and go to school here, would abide by those values and outlooks."

IFCJ Donates $650K to Jews in Eastern Ukraine; Will Ease Distress in Russia-Ukraine Battle Areas

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) pledged $650,000 in emergency funding for Jews in the battle zones of eastern Ukraine, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 9, 2015).

The emergency funding will provide Jews from cities such as Donetsk and Mariupol -- who are caught in the crossfire between Ukrainian troops and Russian separatists -- with medicine, food, housing, and security, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ's founder and president said.

"We will do everything in our power and means so no Jew will be left homeless or starved," Rabbi Eckstein wrote.

The funding will ensure thousands of food and medicine packages, as well as three months of operating soup kitchens and providing security for Jewish synagogues and institutions in Donetsk, Lugansk, and Mariupol.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Greek PM Seeks $183B Damages from Germany; Has a "Moral Obligation" to Get WWII Damages

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said today (February 8, 2015) that the country had a "moral obligation" to claim reparations from Germany for damages wrought by Nazis during World War II, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Greece had "a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism," Tsipras said in a key address to parliament.

"Our historical obligation is to claim the occupation loan and reparations," the new prime minister said, referring to Germany's four-year occupation of Greece and a war-time loan which the Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to give it which ruined the country financially.

Tsipras's anti-austerity Syriza party claims Germany owes Greece some 162 billion euros ($183 billion) -- or around half the country's public debt, which stands at over 315 billion euros.

US Sends Over $25M in Military Aid to Lebanon; Helps Lebanon Fight Terrorist Threat from Syria

The United States delivered more than $25 million worth of military aid -- including heavy artillery -- to the Lebanese army today (February 8, 2015) to help it fight jihadist groups which have repeatedly battled with security forces near the Syrian border, according to the Reuters website.

The U.S. ambassador to Beirut, David Hale, said in a statement the weapons would be used to "defeat the terrorist and extremist threat from Syria."

"We are fighting the same enemy, so our support for you has been swift and continuous," Hale said at an event marking the delivery of the weapons in Beirut.

The Lebanese army has fought regular battles with armed groups -- including militants linked to the Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front -- in areas near the Syrian border, most recently late last month when six Lebanese soldiers were killed.

Va. Pastor Arrested Due to False Police Report; Said Black Man He Helped Shot, Robbed Him

Virginia Pastor George Hunley has been arrested for filing a false police report. He stated that an interracial couple -- a white woman and black man -- had shot and robbed him after he stopped to be a "Good Samaritan" and attempted to help them with car trouble they were having, the Kulture Kritic website reports today (February 8, 2015).

Hunley was released following his arrest and has been officially charged with the misdemeanor offense of making false statements to the police.

He reported that the black man pulled a gun on him after he pulled over to help the couple. He also reported that a struggle ensued during which he was shot twice in the leg before escaping and driving himself to his house where he called police to make the report.

Authorities said the first clue that Hunley was lying was that they were not able to find any blood in his car from the alleged gunshot wounds he received. Louis Sheriff's Office Major Don Lowe reports that there was in fact no robbery that took place.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

US Accuses 6 Citizens from Bosnia of Aiding IS; Sent Money, Guns, Mil. Eqpmt. to IS Via Turkey

Six people -- including three from St. Louis, Missouri -- are facing charges of providing support and resources to terrorists, the USA Today website reports today (February 7, 2015).

An indictment has been unsealed charging Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40, his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, 35, and Armin Harcevic, 37, all of St. Louis County. Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, New York, Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34, of Schiller Park, Illinois, and Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Illinois, with supporting terrorists.

The United States attorney's office says all six suspects are natives of Bosnia -- a predominantly Islamic country formed from the breakup of Yugoslavia --  who immigrated to the United States and are either naturalized citizens or have refugee status. Federal investigators say the suspects funneled money, guns, and military equipment to Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria by way of Turkey.

If convicted, each count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists carries up to 15 years behind bars and/or fines up to $250,000. The charges of conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country carry a penalty up to life in prison.

Pope:Spank Kids If Needed,Don't Demean Them; View Upsets Opponents of Corporal Punishment

"Spank your kids if you must, but make sure you don't demean them," was the gist of Pope Francis' message to parents around the world during his weekly general audience -- which was about the role of fathers in the family -- held in Rome this week, the Yahoo News website reports today (February 7, 2015).

Some groups -- including parents and children's rights advocates -- criticized the pope for what they saw as an endorsement of corporal punishment.

"It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment," said Peter Newell, coordinator at the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children.

Peter Saunders -- founder of the UK-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood -- called the pope's statement "misguided." He said, "It is a most unhelpful remark [for the pope] to have made and I will tell him that." Saunders was abused by Catholic priests as a boy and was appointed by Pope Francis to a Vatican commission protecting children from abuse.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tex. OKs Operation of 1st US Shariah Law Court; Islam Law Seen as Totalitarian,Hostile to Women

A group of Muslims in northern Texas has created what has become the first official Shariah (Islamic) law system in the United States, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (February 6, 2015).

The new Shariah tribunal in Irving, Texas is trying to assure Americans they are not planning to follow the type of Shariah law practiced in Muslim countries; however, critics are not convinced.

Dr. Frank Gaffney -- who leads the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. -- said Shariah law is "brutally repressive... very hostile to women, hostile to homosexuals, hostile to Jews, hostile to Christians... [a] kind of totalitarian system."

Research shows that at least 146 cases have been identified where the U.S. court system has allowed Shariah law to be used instead of American laws.

No Charges on NJ Cop's Daughter Insulting Jews; Posted Online Pix of Being Hitler, Degraded Jews

The teenage daughter of a New Jersey state trooper will not be charged with any crimes after posting and sharing online threats against Jews with her friends -- including threatening to bomb a popular gathering place of Orthodox Jews -- the Raw Story website reports today (February 6, 2015).

The unidentified teen -- who posted multiple pictures of herself on Twitter dressed as Adolf Hitler -- tweeted a photo of young Orthodox families sitting outside an Italian ice shop in Jackson, New Jersey with a caption reading: "perfect bombing time."

In another photo, the young woman is wearing a Nazi uniform with a swastika giving a "Heil Hitler" salute, with a caption reading: "1944: crematorium crew."

Avi Schnall -- New Jersey director of Agudath Israel which represents the Orthodox community -- supported the decision not to file charges, but said: "When Hitler becomes another costume that teenagers dress up in, and bombing a group of Jews becomes humorous, that tells us something is very wrong with our society."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pope Tells Bishops to Guard Children from Abuse; "No Place in Ministry for Those Abusing Minors"

Pope Francis has ordered Catholic bishops around the world to co-operate as a matter of priority with a commission he set up to protect children from sexual abuse by clerics, even if it unearths new scandals, the Catholic News website reports today (February 5, 2015).

The Pope -- who met victims of abuse last year -- sent the letter to the bishops and heads of religious institutions a day before the commission was due to hold its first full meeting.

"Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused," the Pope says in the letter.

He adds: "Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children... priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors."

Md. Episcopal Bishop Is Indicted on 13 Charges; Charges Include Drunk Driving in Bicyclist Death

Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook was indicted yesterday on 13 charges in the death of a Baltimore bicyclist, including homicide, drunken driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident, the Washington Post website reports today (February 5, 2015).

Marilyn Mosby -- Baltimore City state's attorney -- had announced January 9 that her office was charging the 58-year-old cleric from the Diocese of Maryland with killing Thomas Palermo on a Saturday afternoon in December while he was taking a bike ride.

Prosecutors have said since January that Cook could face more than 20 years in prison.

Since the accident, details of Cook's past drinking have come out, raising questions about what Episcopal officials knew and whether she was receiving any support since becoming the diocese's first female bishop last year. Cook was charged in a 2010 drinking-and driving incident, which top diocesan officials knew when they selected her as a candidate, but which they did not share with the broader body that voted to choose her.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Greece's Golden Dawn Party Nazis Face Trial; Court Orders Them Tried as "Criminal Group"

A judicial panel in Greece ruled today (February 4, 2015) that the leader and lawmakers from the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party will stand trial on charges of participating as a "criminal group" -- an offense that carries a 26-year prison sentence -- The Olympian website reports.

The panel voted that all 18 Golden Dawn lawmakers who held seats in Greece's previous parliament will stand trial, along with 52 other defendants. No trial date was set.

Golden Dawn party came third in parliamentary elections held last month.

A crackdown against the party was launched in September 2013, following the murder of Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly by a Golden Dawn member.

Israeli Army Charges 5 Troops with Gaza Looting; Stole Cash, Materials from Homes during Conflict

The Israeli army is planning to indict several of its soldiers who fought in Gaza last summer on charges of looting, the Haaretz (Israeli) website reports today (February 4, 2015).

The military police are investigating five incidents of suspected looting by Israeli troops during Operation Protective Edge. Four of the incidents took place in the southern Gaza towns of Khuza'a and in Khan Yunis, where Palestinians complained that Israeli soldiers had stolen their possessions when they fled their homes due to fighting.

The fifth case -- which took place in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City and was reported while the military operation was still underway -- concluded with the arrest in August of a Golani Brigade combat soldier for stealing cash from a home.

Since looting is a crime under Israeli law that carries a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment, a hearing will be held before the indictments are handed down. The soldiers' defense attorneys recently received letters informing them of the Military Advocate General's intent to indict the soldiers and will be given a chance to defend them during the hearing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Canada Police Arrest Man for Aiding IS Fighters; Charge Him with Participation in Terror Activity

Canadian police today (February 3, 2015) arrested an Ottawa man they said was planning to aid Islamic State (IS) fighters and charged him with participation in the activity of a terrorist group, according to the Newsmax World website.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement that Awso Peshdary, 25, was also charged with facilitating the activity of a terrorist group.

Police have also filed charges in absentia against two other men they said had left Canada to fight with the Islamic State.

They added that there had never been any immediate threat to the Canadian public from those charged today.

Throng of German Christians Leaving Church; Due to Increase in Taxes for Church Members

German Christians said to number hundreds of thousands are formally renouncing their faith and leaving the Church to escape a change in the tax laws, the Ecumenical News website reports today (February 3, 2015).

Up to 400,000 Germans officially filed declarations to leave the Protestant and Catholic Church after a decision to extend the 8 or 9 percent charge to capital gains income.

Up to 200,000 Germans are believed to have filed official declarations last year renouncing their membership of the main Protestant Church -- the highest number in almost 20 years -- with a similar number believed to have left the Catholic Church.

Church members in Germany are required by law to pay a tax to fund church activities, which is collected by the government and is used to fund education and social services.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Muslim Women Open First Female Mosque in US; Los Angeles Mosque to Let Women Give Sermons

A Los Angeles mosque -- which caters exclusively to women and is the first of its kind in America -- was created by comedy writer Hasna Maznavi and lawyer Sana Muttalib as a response to the various ways women are made to feel uncomfortable in many mosques, the Slate website reports today (February 2, 2015).

Maznavi and Muttalib said the mosque will allow for female speakers who can address women's issues from a female perspective, as they deliver the Friday sermon. The mosque conducted its first services on Friday, January 30, 2015.

In most mosques, "women do not often get a chance to access the male imam for questions or discussions after prayer, because he is in the men's section and is inaccessible until a later time," Maznavi and Muttalib added.

By creating a space for conversation after services, they are hoping to facilitate a meaningful conversation that will speak to women's concerns.

Vandals Hit Fence of Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw; Paint "Jews for Slaughter" on Anniv. of Prison Lib.

Unknown vandals defaced the fence of a Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, considered to be one of the largest in Europe, the Forward (Jewish) website reports today (February 2, 2015).

The attack on the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street in Warsaw was discovered on January 31. Burials still occur in part of the cemetery.

The vandals wrote on the fence with red spray paint: "Jews for slaughter," and the date 10.12.14. That is the day on which Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled in the case of religious slaughter, when judges on the Tribunal decided that the ban on ritual slaughter was unconstitutional.

"Less than a week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we have to deal with the manifestation of hatred against Jews. 'Jews for slaughter' is not only a humiliation that society cannot ignore, it is an invitation to violence and threats to which we should be vigilant," said Anna Chipczynska, President of the Jewish Community of Warsaw.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sen. McCain: US-Israeli Relations Worst Ever; Says No Other Pres. Had Such Poor Relations

The relationship between the United States and Israel has "never been worse," Arizona Senator John McCain said today (February 1, 2015), according to the NY Daily News website.

McCain said President Obama expected a more harmonious cooperation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who tends to be extremely inflexible -- on a host of critical issues pertinent to the U.S. and Israel, including negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"No other President has had such a difficult relationship with the state of Israel since it became a country [in 1948]," McCain added.

Last month, Netanyahu accepted an invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress in March. President Obama -- showing his disappointment in Netanyahu's failure to cooperate with him in resolving critical issues in the Middle East -- has already said that he does not plan to meet with Israel's prime minister during his U.S. visit.

Hagel:US May Need to Send Some Troops to Iraq; Says It Would Help to Push IS Out of That Nation

Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a CNN interview on January 30 that the U.S. may need to send its ground troops back into Iraq, in order to push the Islamic State (IS) terror group out of that country, the Christian Post website reports today (February 1, 2015).

"I think it (driving out Islamic State terrorists) may require a forward deployment of some troops ... to help air strikes," Hagel said on CNN.

General Martin Dempsey -- the highest-ranking U.S. military officer as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- also told Congress earlier that American troops could be required in Iraq to defeat the Islamic State.

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) -- an al-Qaeda offshoot that seeks to establish an Islamic emirate -- has gained control of about one third of the territory in both Iraq and Syria.