Thursday, April 30, 2015

France Begins Rehab Unit for Returning Jihadists; Plan Deters Muslims from Posing Threat to France

France is setting up a rehabilitation unit for young Muslims returning from conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq, the Euro News website reports today (April 30, 2015).

Young French Muslims who have become radicalized will be given individualized help and psychological support so they can fully rejoin society. The idea is to prevent them from posing a threat to France.

Prime Minister Manuel Walls proposed the measure at an international anti-terror meeting in Paris which was attended by more than 40 countries.

France voted in April last year a prevention plan to fight the jihadist networks. Since then, 1,900 people have been notified to the authorities.

Egypt Orders 69 Terrorists to 25 Yrs. in Prison; Muslim Radicals Convicted of Burning a Church

Sixty-nine Muslim Brotherhood supporters were each sentenced to 25 years in prison in Egypt yesterday for attacking and burning a church in a village near Cairo in 2013, the Reuters website reports today (April 30, 2015).

The church in the village of Kafr Hakim just outside of Cairo was burnt in August 2013 in a wave of violence that rocked the country after the army toppled elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

Egyptian authorities have jailed thousands of suspected members of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, and the courts have sentenced hundreds to death.

Since taking office in 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has identified Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and a threat to national security.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nigeria's Military Rescues 200 Girls, 93 Women; Freed in Nigeria's Sambisa Forest, Drive Ongoing

Two hundred girls and 93 women -- believed to have been kidnapped by Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram -- have been rescued in the nation's Sambisa Forest, the Christian Headlines website reports today (April 29, 2015).

The Nigerian Armed Forces made the announcement on its Twitter page, but could not confirm if the girls were among the schoolgirls that were kidnapped from a school in Chibok by Boko Haram militants in April 2014.

The Nigerian military also claimed to have destroyed three terrorist camps.

Military spokesman Chris Olukolade said that the armed forces' mission was ongoing.

Report:No.of Churchless Americans Now Soaring; Have Grown by Nearly One-Third in Past 20 years

A new report has found that the number of churchless Americans has increased by nearly one-third in just 20 years despite frequent "Christian" self-description of the United States, the Ecumenical News website reports today (April 29, 2015).

In the early 1990s, about two out of 10 U.S. adults were churchless; in the early 2000s, it was three in 10, and today, the churchless make up nearly half the adult population, the Barna group finds in its report distributed April 28.

"In spite of America's 'Christian' self-description, there is a growing sense among North American Christ-followers that the culture is changing faster than we can keep up with, or respond to," the report says.

The report -- called "Churchless" -- confirms that the world has indeed been altered in significant ways during the last few decades.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

French Muslim Student Sent Home for Long Skirt; School Says Skirt Conveys Rel. Faith, Violates Law

The case of a 15-year-old Muslim girl who was banned from a school in the northeastern French town of Charleville-Mezieres twice for wearing a long black skirt seen as too openly religious for secular France has sparked an outcry, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (April 28, 2015).

The girl was stopped from going to class earlier this month by the head teacher who felt the long skirt -- popular among some Muslim women who cover their whole body -- "conspicuously" showed religious affiliation, which is banned in schools by France's strict secular laws.

"The girl was not excluded, she was asked to come back with a neutral outfit and it seems her father did not want the student to come back to school," local education official Patrice Dutot told AFP today.

According to the 2004 law that governs secularity in schools, veils, the Jewish kippa, and large Christian crosses are all banned in educational establishments, but "discreet religious signs" are allowed.

Lesbians Are Fired from Daycare for "Life of Sin;" Fired from Fla.Methodist Ctr.for Being Lesbians

Kelly Bardier and Jaci Pfeiffer were fired last month after their employers became aware of their lesbian relationship. The couple both worked at Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center in Winter Park, Florida as daycare workers, Kelly for 8 months and Jaci for almost 2 years, the Religion News website reports today (April 28, 2015).

On March 18, School Director Barbara Twatchman confronted the couple after hearing rumors of their relationship. When the women confessed that they were dating, Twatchman gave them an ultimatum.

"We were called into the director's office and told that if we chose to continue living a life of sin, we would be terminated, but if we decided not to be gay anymore, we could keep our jobs," Bardier said.

The two didn't work together in an official capacity. They drove to work together and every now and then assisted in some of the projects in each other's classroom, but that was the extent of their work relationship.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baghdad Car Bombings Kill at Least 9, Wound 30; IS Focus in Its Caliphate Cuts Baghdad Bombings

Car bomb explosions on two commercial streets in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed at least nine people and wounded more than 30 others today (April 27, 2015), the Newsmax website reports.

One of the bombs struck Mansur in West Baghdad, while the other hit Amil in the capital's south.

Bombings and shootings in Baghdad were once a daily occurrence, but have declined since the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group launched a major offensive last June, seizing control of large areas north and west of the capital, and calling this land an Islamic caliphate.

That has tied down the IS radical group to its seized land, thus reducing its terrorist activities in Baghdad.

Islamic Radicals Seize a Military Base in NW Syria; Grab Tanks, Machine Guns in Blow to Pres. Assad

Islamic insurgents overran a military base at a converted brick factory in northwestern Syria today (April 27, 2015), carting off tanks and other weapons in the latest blow to President Bashar Assad's forces in the region, the Times of Israel website reports.

The opposition offensive in Idlib province has captured the provincial capital, a strategic town as well as villages and military bases since it began last month.

After hours of heavy fighting today, the Islamic fighters seized control of the base at the brick factory northwest of the town of Ariha, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory also said that the insurgents captured seven tanks, armored vehicles, heavy machine guns, and ammunition. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front -- one of the radical Islamic groups involved in the fighting -- posted photos on Twitter showing a tank and heavy artillery that it said were the "spoils" of the battle.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jewish Congress Head Warns of a New Holocaust; Says Soaring Anti-Semitism Leading to Same Hell

One of the world's most prominent Jewish leaders warned today (April 26, 2015) that just 70 years after the Holocaust, the world is "descending into the same, dangerous hell where we found ourselves before," the Algemeiner website reports.

Speaking at the 70th anniversary ceremony for the liberation of Bergen-Belsen at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial in Lohheide, Germany, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder praised Jewish resilience following the slaughter of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

"From the ashes of this terrible place, the Jewish people rose up and moved on," he said. "But tragically," he warned, "seventy years later, the world is not moving on; it is moving backward."

"Today, seventy years after this camp was liberated, we hear the same anti-Semitic lies. Today, a Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke cannot walk down the street in Paris or London or Copenhagen without fearing for his life," Lauder said. "Right wing neo-Nazi groups are winning seats in Parliament in Hungary and Greece. Iranian leaders repeatedly promise to wipe Israel from the pages of time."

Samaritan's Purse to Give Money to Oreg. Bakers; Couple Fined $135K, Didn't Bake Lesbians a Cake

Samaritan's Purse -- a Christian philanthropic organization headed by Billy Graham's son, evangelist Franklin Graham -- says it will help with expenses for persecuted Oregon bakers, Aaron and Melissa Klein, because they support the Word of God, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (April 26, 2015).

The Kleins lost their baking business in the Portland suburb of Gresham, after they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013.

The lesbian couple filed a complaint with the state of Oregon, which ruled the Kleins discriminated against the couple.

An administrative law judge fined the Kleins $135,000 on April 24, 2015, and ordered them to pay the couple for "emotional, mental, and physical suffering." Regarding the judge's ruling, Aaron Klein said, "Basically, what has happened is that I have been stripped of my religious freedom."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Police in Italy Arrest 18 Terrorists in "Vast" Sting; Group Driven by Al Qaeda Planned Vatican Attack

Italian police arrested 18 people yesterday in what they called a "vast" operation against a group allegedly inspired by the Al Qaeda, and foiled an attack on the Vatican, the Big News Network website reports today (April 25, 2015).

All those arrested were Pakistanis and Afghans, police said.

Those arrested were plotting an attack against the Vatican, police said, citing wiretap evidence.

The terrorist group was based on the Italian island of Sardinia and was also plotting attacks against the Pakistan government and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to police. Most of the arrests were made in Sardinia, but the operation covered seven Italian provinces, according to police.

Palestinian Teen Is Killed at an Israeli Guard Post; Ran to Attack Guards with Knife,Ignored Warning

Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian teen today (April 25, 2015), as he tried to attack them with a knife at a checkpoint in the Jerusalem area, according to the Reuters website.

The incident occurred shortly after midnight near the A-Zayyim checkpoint on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said 17-year-old Ali Abu Ghannam ran toward security guards with a knife, who shot him when he ignored their warnings to stop.

Following the killing, Palestinian protesters -- who denounced the killing -- threw stones at Israeli riot police in East Jerusalem, injuring one policeman.

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Study:Switz.Is the Happiest Nation on Earth; US Is 10th Happiest,Study Based on Contentment

A new study of global well-being has revealed that Switzerland is the world's happiest nation, thanks to healthy GDP (gross domestic product) figures, strong social bonds, and an increasing life expectancy, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (April 24, 2015).

The list is dominated by European nations -- particularly those in Scandinavia -- and measures a country's population by factors contributing to its citizens' contentment, rather than wealth.

Britons are happier now than they were two years ago, the study found, but still ranks in at a relatively lowly 21st place. The United States ranks 10th in happiness, while Canada does much better, ranking in 5th place.

Not surprising, the world's least happy countries are places ravaged by war and extreme poverty -- with Syria, Burundi, and Togo taking their place at the bottom of the 158-nation-strong list.

Swastika Sprayed on Holocaust Memorial in Kiev; Ukraine Anti-Semitism Soars Due to Russian War

The monument commemorating Jewish victims of the Babi Yar massacre in Kiev, Ukraine was desecrated for the fourth time within the past year -- possibly to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday this time -- the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (April 24, 2015).

The perpetrators sprayed a swastika on the "Menorah" monument marking the slaughter of more than 33,000 Jews in 1941 by Nazi occupation forces and their collaborators.

The desecration of the monument at Babi Yar -- one of the largest single killing operations of the Holocaust -- may have been timed to coincide with Hitler's April 20 birthday, according to a report on a not-for-profit website that monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine.

The vandalism at the Menorah monument is the fourth targeting the site in recent months. Fighting between Ukrainians and Russians during the past year -- resulting in over 6,000 deaths -- has sparked a significant increase in anti-Semitic activity in Ukraine. Each side has blamed the other for encouraging anti-Semitism.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Petraeus Spared Prison for Exposing Secret Info; Fined $100K for Giving Mistress Classified Intel

David Petraeus -- the decorated former U.S. general and head of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) -- has been spared prison after pleading guilty to giving classified information to his mistress, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 23, 2015).

The former military commander was fined $100,000 and sentenced to two years' probation today for passing on U.S. secrets to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover, who is also married.

Although Petraeus is avoiding jail -- a rarity for anyone convicted of compromising classified information -- the sentencing in a North Carolina courtroom is a dreary end to the career of one of America's most celebrated soldiers and a man once talked about as a possible presidential contender.

After commanding U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus returned to Washington, D.C. to lead the CIA. Following an FBI investigation of his relationship with his lover, Petraeus abruptly resigned from the spy agency in November 2012. At that time, he admitted that he and Broadwell had engaged in an extramarital affair while she was writing an admiring biography titled "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

Czech Repub.Has Roma Kids in Special Schools; Human Rights Group Views Practice as "Racist"

Amnesty International said today (April 23, 2015) that the Czech Republic has failed to comply with a European court order -- nearly 10 years ago --  to stop placing healthy Gypsy (Roma) children in schools for the mentally disabled, and calls the practice discriminatory and racist, according to the ABC News website.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007 that the Czech Republic must stop the practice.

In the report, the human rights group said it found that Roma still make up almost 30 percent of students in schools for those with mild mental disabilities, while the community makes up less than three percent of the nation's population.

"The widespread segregation of Romani children is a horrifying example of systematic prejudice, with schools introducing children to bitter discrimination at an early age," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary-general.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Man Held in France for Planning Church Attacks; Police Find Weapons,IS Documents in His Home

A man being detained in France on suspicion of planning an imminent attack on one or two churches has been identified as Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an electronics student, the Euro News website reports today (April 22, 2015).

The alleged terror plot in the Paris region was uncovered by chance.

Emergency services there were called on April 19 by the 24-year-old himself. Injured, the Algerian national may have shot himself by accident. A blood trail led to his car. There, and at his home, shocking discoveries were made.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters: "His home was searched which led to the discovery of three Kalashnikov assault rifles, an empty charger, three empty cartridge belts, bullet-proof vests, and tactical body armor, police armbands, yellow police tunics, a camcorder and a camera, a computer and a hard drive, 2,000 euros in cash and telephone hardware, SIM cards, and documents in Arabic mentioning the terrorist organizations al Qaeda and Islamic State [IS]."

Judge: NY's MTA Must Show "Killing Jews" Ad; Rules Ad Is Protected Speech Under 1st Amend.

A federal judge yesterday ordered New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to display on its buses a controversial ad that refers to Muslims killing Jews, rejecting the argument that the ad could incite terrorism or imminent violence, the Religion News website reports today (April 22, 2015).

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan said the ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative -- which had previously run in Chicago and San Francisco -- was protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ad portrays a menacing man wearing a scarf around his head and face, includes a quotation "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah" attributed to "Hamas MTV," and then states, "That's His Jihad. What's yours?"

Koeltl said, "It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

US Bishop Guilty of Sex Abuse Coverup Resigns; Quitting Backs Pope's Zero Tolerance for Abuse

The Vatican today (April 21, 2015) announced the resignation of a Kansas City, Missouri bishop who was convicted of a sex abuse coverup but remained in office for three more years, according to the Washington Post website.

Bishop Robert Finn's resignation will be seen as a key achievement for Pope Francis, who has said his papacy would have a zero tolerance for abuse in the church.

"It has been an honor and a joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith," Finn, 62, said in an emailed statement from the diocese.

Finn was the only U.S. bishop to be criminally convicted in an abuse coverup. He received two years of probation in 2012 for not telling authorities after a computer technician found hundreds of images of child pornography on a priest's laptop and told Finn.

Israeli PM and Pres. Reject Meeting Jimmy Carter; Carter Accused Netanyahu of Blocking Pales.State

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin of Israel have turned down invitations to meet with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during his visit to Israel and nearby Arab countries later this month, due to his "anti-Israel" views, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 21, 2015).

Both the president and prime minister declined the invitations after consulting with the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council.

A senior diplomatic official told Channel 10 -- which broke the story -- that Carter is "a disaster for Israel," and that all Israeli leaders should refrain from meeting the former president, because of his "anti-Israel positions."

In recent years, Carter has become an outspoken critic of Israel's policies and of Netanyahu. During Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza last year, Carter charged that there was "no justification in the world for what Israel is doing." He also accused Netanyahu of blocking steps toward a two-state solution and working toward a "Greater Israel."

Monday, April 20, 2015

US Troops Now in Ukraine to Train Govt. Forces; Will Provide Skills to Counter Russian Aggression

United States paratroopers today (April 20, 2015) began training Ukrainian government forces who will fight Russian invaders and pro-Russian separatists in the east, angering Moscow as the deadly conflict rumbles on in the former Soviet-controlled country, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed troops from the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade in a rain-soaked ceremony at a military base in Yavoriv, western Ukraine, to launch Operation Fearless Guardian.

Poroshenko told the troops, "This is not only a war for the independence of Ukraine, but also a war for freedom and democracy in Europe and the whole world."

Some 300 U.S. troops will train 900 members of Ukraine's National Guard, which is deployed in the east where heavy artillery fire is going on between Ukrainian and Russian troops despite a February ceasefire.

Malaysia Muslims Force Church to Remove Cross; Claim It Challenges Islam, Church Will Remove It

About 50 Malaysians have pressured a newly-inaugurated church to remove a cross on the building, claiming that the symbol "challenged" Islam, given that the area is inhabited by a Muslim majority there, the Ecumenical News website reports today (April 20, 2015).

Local residents of Tama Medan said the protest in Petaling Jaya was staged during a Sunday service on April 19.

The group marched toward the church around 10:00 a.m., insisting that the sight of the cross in an area populated mainly by Muslims seemed to be an affront to Islam.

"After meeting with the priest, the church agreed to take down the cross by next Sunday [April 26]," said village leader Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Poland Wants Apology for FBI Director's Atrocity; Accused Poland of Cooperating in Nazi Holocaust

Poland said today (April 19, 2015) it has demanded a formal apology from the United States after the head of the FBI claimed Poland shares responsibility for the Holocaust with Germany, the Daily Mail (British) website reports.

U.S. Ambassador Stephen Mull will "receive a note of protest and a summons for an apology" over the comments made by FBI director James Comey, foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said today.

Comey's April 16 opinion piece in the Washington Post has sparked outrage among Polish politicians and media who see his comments as wrongly stating that Poland willingly played a key role in Nazi Germany's genocide of six million European Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.

"In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn't do something evil," Comey wrote in the piece titled "Why I require FBI agents to visit the Holocaust Museum." Comey added, "They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do."

About 700 Killed as Migrant Boat Sinks Off Libya; Italian Navy,Coast Guard Enact Rescue Operation

Some 700 people were feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast last night in what may be one of the worst disasters of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, the Reuters website reports today (April 19, 2015).

Twenty-eight people were rescued and 24 bodies recovered from the 20-meter-long vessel, which sank around 70 miles from the Libyan coast, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian coast guard said.

If confirmed, the death toll would bring the total number of dead since the beginning of the year to more than 1,500 as the flow of migrants seeking to flee poverty, war, and insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East has continued.

Italian officials said 17 vessels from the navy and coast guard, merchant ships in the area, and a Maltese patrol boat -- as well as aircraft from the navy and coast guard -- were involved in the search-and-rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Christians in Mil.Now Punished for Reading Bible; Obama Won't Let Chaplains Counsel Jesus' Ideals

If you are a Bible-believing Christian, there is no place for you in Barack Obama's version of the U.S. military, the Prison Planet website reports today (April 18, 2015).

Christian service members all over the nation are being disciplined for reading their Bibles, talking about their faith publicly, and encouraging others to live a moral lifestyle.

Moreover, just saying the name of "Jesus" at the wrong place or the wrong time while serving in the military today is enough to spark a national controversy.

Michael Berry -- senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in America -- said recent high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private counseling sessions that reflected the teachings of their religion could cause devout Americans who are qualified for military service to think twice about joining the military.

Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills 33, Wounds 100; Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Attack

A motorcycle-riding suicide bomber attacked a bank branch in eastern Afghanistan today (April 18, 2015), killing at least 33 people in a deadly attack the country's president said was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, according to the USA Today website.

The attack marks a major escalation in the country's fight against an affiliate of the Muslim extremist IS group that now controls a third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

The attack in Jalalabad -- capital of eastern Nagarhar province -- targeted a crowd of soldiers and civilians gathered outside a bank to receive their monthly salaries. The blast killed at least 33 people and wounded more than 100, said Dr. Hamayon Zaheer, the head of Jalalabad's hospital.

A few hours after the attack, President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Islamic State group -- not the Taliban -- for the suicide bombing.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vandals Dig Up Graves of Nazi Victims in Crimea; Anti-Semitic Attacks Are Rising Rapidly in Russia

A Russian Jewish organization called on authorities in Crimea -- the peninsula on the Black Sea that Russia seized from Ukraine a year ago -- to take action after vandals desecrated mass graves of Nazi victims outside the city of Simferopol, The Moscow Times website reports today (April 17, 2015).

"To desecrate the grave of those slain by Nazis is sacrilegious and heinous to the utmost degree," said Alexander Boroda, head of the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities.

Vandals dug four holes -- each about 1.8 meters deep -- at the site of the graves. Human bones and remains of clothing excavated from the graves were found scattered on the ground nearby, according to a Jewish News Agency report.

The desecrated graves were those of Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war who were shot by Nazis in mass executions in late 1941. Boroda said violent anti-Semitic attacks have recently become more common in Russia, as now "there are monsters who follow along the beaten Nazi path and try to mock the dead."

Muslims Kill 12 Christians on Libya Boat to Italy; Italian Police Arrest 15 Muslims for the Murders

Italian police said yesterday that Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers overboard -- killing them -- because the 12 were Christians, the Hot Air website reports today (April 17, 2015).

Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily said.

The original group of 105 people left Libya on April 14 in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants -- Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali, and Senegal -- threw the 12 overboard, police said.

The Muslim terrorists would have killed more Christians, but the rest of the refugees linked themselves together in a human chain to prevent them from doing so.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Report:IS Operates Cells in Mexico Near Texas; Mexican Drug Cartels Help Terrorists Get in US

An explosive report released April 14 by the non-profit Judicial Watch -- citing official Mexican military and law-enforcement sources -- reveals that the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is operating a camp in Mexico just miles away from the U.S. border, The New American website reports today (April 16, 2015).

The sources also told the government watchdog that human smugglers working for Mexican drug cartels were helping ISIS operatives cross the U.S. border into Texas and New Mexico.

According to the Judicial Watch report -- relying on sources including a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector -- the ISIS camp is situated about eight miles from the U.S. border near El Paso, Texas.

"Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juarez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States," Judicial Watch reported, citing the same knowledgeable sources.

Ohio Man Accused of Planning Terrorist Act; Trained in Syria, Returned to Kill Americans

An Ohio man was indicted today (April 16, 2015) on terrorism charges after officials say he trained with Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and returned to the U.S. hoping to commit a terrorist act, according to the USA Today website.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23, faces charges of attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, attempting to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and one count of making false statements to the FBI.

The indictment -- handed down by a federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio -- references several "private conversations" between Mohamud and his brother Abdifatah Aden (who was killed in Syria in 2014 after joining a terrorist organization) that discuss Mohamud's plans to join a terrorist group.

According to the indictment, Mohamud was trained with weapons and explosives, hand-to-hand combat, and even breaking into houses. He was then instructed by a Muslim cleric in the organization to return to the United States and commit an act of terrorism, the indictment said.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Atty. Gen. Rejects Bible as Official Tenn. Book; Says Doing So Violates US,Tenn. Constitutions

Tennessee's attorney general said yesterday that a bill under consideration in the legislature to make the Bible the official state book would be an unconstitutional endorsement, the Religion News website reports today (April 15, 2015).

The bill would violate both the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee's state constitution, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said.

"I am quite confident that the Bible's distinguished place in history will not be diminished in the absence of a state's endorsement," Slatery said in a statement.

He said that Tennessee's constitution states "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

Kim Kardashian Is Cut from Jerusalem Photo; Editor Calls Her "Pornographic Symbol," Lewd

An Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish news website has cut Kim Kardashian -- one of the world's most photographed women -- from a photo taken of her in Jerusalem this week, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 15, 2015).

The original photo of Kardashian, her husband, Kanye West, and Jerusalem's Mayor Nir Barkat was altered to put Kardashian behind a restaurant receipt. Kardashian was blurred in another photo.

Nissim Ben Haim, an editor at the Kikar HaShabbat website, said today they removed Kardashian from the photo because she's a "pornographic symbol" who contradicts ultra-Orthodox values.

Last November, it was believed by many that Kardashian would be "breaking the Internet" because millions of people were viewing the naked photos of her that had been posted online.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Erdogan Condemns Pope for "Genocide" Word; Warns Him Not to Make That "Mistake" Again

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said today (April 14, 2015) he condemns Pope Francis for comments that the 1915 mass killing of Armenians was genocide and warned him not to make such a statement again, the Reuters website reports.

Pope Francis became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to publicly call the killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians "genocide" on April 12, infuriating Erdogan and prompting a diplomatic row with Turkey, which summoned the Vatican's envoy and recalled its own.

Muslim Turkey agrees Christian Armenians were killed in clashes with Islamic Ottoman soldiers that began on April 15, 1915, when Armenians lived in the empire ruled by Istanbul, but denies hundreds of thousands were killed and that this amounted to genocide.

In reaffirming Turkey's view that there was no Armenian genocide, Erdogan declared today, "I condemn the pope and would like to warn him not to make similar mistakes again."

China:Buddhist Abbeys in Tibet Must Fly Its Flag; Order Seen as Bid to Stamp Out Separatist Doings

The government in Beijing has ordered all Buddhist monasteries in the defiant Tibet Autonomous Region to fly China's flag, the Ecumenical News website reports today (April 14, 2015).

The order is seen as a bid to stamp out separatist movements in the province.

In an article for the state-run "People's Daily," local communist party boss Chen Quanguo pointed out that temples in the region ought to foster a sense of patriotism and nationalism among people, as the government seeks to build trust among monks and nuns.

Chen announced that in return the government will deliver more social services to "registered" monks and nuns, such as their inclusion in new State pension subsidies, provisions of medical insurance policies, and free health check-ups.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Boko Haram Abducts,Rapes,Enslaves 2K Women; Amnesty Report: Islamists Killed 5500 Civilians

Boko Haram -- the radical Islamist militant group in Nigeria -- abducted, raped, and enslaved at least 2,000 women, and subjected them to forced marriages, stonings, and sexual slavery during the past year, according to a new report that berates Nigeria's "dismal" security situation, the Independent (British) website reports today (April 13, 2015).

The Amnesty International report -- based on more than 150 witness accounts -- charges the Islamist militants with the deaths of more than 5,500 civilians and paints the most detailed picture yet of the oppression inflicted upon young women.

Boko Haram members should be brought to justice over war crimes such as "rapes, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence," according to the Amnesty study, published a year after the group abducted 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria.

Soon after taking control of a town, militants implemented restrictions of movement -- particularly on women -- the report says. Failure to attend daily Islamic prayers was punishable by public flogging.

Thousands March in Hungary for Holocaust Dead; Jews Parade as Anti-Semitic Party Jobbik Prevails

Hungary's annual March of the Living -- which is held in remembrance of the victims of the holocaust -- was attended by thousands in Budapest yesterday, the Euro News website reports today (April 13, 2015).

Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Nazi concentration camps, most of them in 1944. Today, the country's Jewish community numbers around 100,000.

This year's rally took place amid rising support for Jobbik, a party often accused of anti-Semitism, and which is now Hungary's second-largest party behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz.

President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder -- who was in Budapest for the march -- warned that ruling Fidesz was leaving a vacuum which Jobbik was attempting to fill: "Jobbik has a role to play that Fidesz and the socialists are not doing. And that is a dangerous game. Because this is very very much like other right wing parties in the past had risen. And then once they got in power, changed everything."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pope Calls 1.5M Armenian Murders "Genocide;" Turkey Recalls Ambas.,Accuses Pope of Hatred

Pope Francis today (April 12, 2015) marked the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of over a million Armenians by calling the massacre of Ottoman Turks "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urging the international community to recognize it as such. An infuriated Turkey -- which denies an Armenian genocide ever occurred -- immediately responded by recalling its ambassador to the Vatican and accusing Francis of spreading hatred and "unfounded claims," the ABC News website reports.

Francis issued the pronouncement during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica commemorating the centenary that was attended by Armenian church leaders and President Serge Sarkisian, who praised the pope for calling a spade a spade and "delivering a powerful message to the international community."

"The words of the leader of a church with one billion followers cannot but have a strong impact," Sarkisian said.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks during World War I -- an event widely viewed by historical scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, continues to deny that a genocide ever took place, and that the Armenians killed were victims of a "civil war."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Throng of Greek Orth.Christians Go to Jerusalem; Crowd Holy Sepulcher,Honor Jesus' Resurrection

Thousands of Greek Orthodox Christians gathered in Jerusalem tonight (April 11, 2015) for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates Jesus' resurrection, the New Europe website reports.

In a ritual dating back more than 1200 years, they crowded into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.

During the annual ceremony, top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb. They then emerge to reveal candles that are miraculously lit with holy fire as a message to the faithful from heaven. At midnight on Easter evening, the faithful proclaim "Christos Anesti!" ("Christ Is Risen!").

Roman Catholics and Protestants marked Easter last Sunday (April 5), in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter tomorrow (April 12), using the older Julian calendar.

Activists in Ukraine Mutilate Three Soviet Statues; Its Parliament Passes Bill to Dump Soviet Symbols

Activists toppled three statues of Communist leaders last night in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, two days after parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill designed to purge the country of Soviet-era symbols, the France 24 website reports today (April 11, 2015).

A video posted on You Tube by an anti-Russian militant group called "We've Had Enough" shows the masked men smashing three large monuments glorifying atheistic Bolshevik leaders in Ukraine's second largest city.

The men can be seen using a ladder to hook the statues with a cable tied to a white van that pulls away, bringing the statues down. In one instance, police officers look on without intervening.

An angry Russian foreign ministry today accused Ukraine of "rewriting history" by destroying the Soviet statues.

Pope Blocks Gay Nominee as French Ambassador; Denies Liberal Image,"Who Am I to Judge"Maxim

Pope Francis has barred a close aide of French President Francois Hollande as the new French ambassador to the Vatican because he is gay, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 11, 2015).

The rejection calls into question the pope's reputation as holding more liberal views on homosexuality. Last year, when asked what he thought of gays being members of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis stunned many people with his liberal and unauthoritative answer: "Who am I to judge?"

Laurent Stefanini, 54 -- a senior diplomat and President Hollande's chief of protocol -- was nominated in early January, but the Vatican has maintained a stony silence over whether it accepts his credentials, officials in Paris said.

The usual time frame for the Vatican's acceptance is a month and a half. After that, a prolonged silence following a nomination is normally interpreted as a rejection.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vandals Strike Danish Deli in Anti-Semitic Attack; Smash Deli Window, Write "Jewish Pigs" on Wall

Vandals smashed a window and scrawled anti-Semitic messages at Copenhagen's only kosher deli early yesterday morning, less than two months after a man was killed in an attack outside a synagogue in the Danish city, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 10, 2015).

Police said a window was broken and the word "Jodesvin," which translates to "Jewish Pigs," was written on a wall, according to Danish media reports.

The incident came amid concerns of rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Officials have pointed to a worrying uptick in attacks against Jews on the continent in the last several months, including an attack on a kosher deli in Paris in January that left four Jews dead.

The attack came as Denmark commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the country, on April 9, 1940.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Erdogan:Islamic World at Risk of Disintegration; Due to Sunni and Shiite Sects Killing Each Other

The Islamic world is at risk of disintegration due to the current conflicts in the Middle East between Sunni and Shiite strands of the Muslim faith, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today (April 9, 2015).

Erdogan -- who is increasingly considering himself as the chief leader of the Muslim world -- said he would take steps to calm the tensions by meeting Islamic leaders.

The Turkish president -- a devout Sunni Muslim -- made the comments in a closed briefing to Turkish reporters today in Ankara.

"You can have a different denomination [of Islam] but if you seek to impose one denomination on another, you will break up the ummah [Islamic community]," Erdogan said.

New Study:US Cath.on Downward Social Mobility; Was White Middle Class,Now Latino Lower Class

A new study has found that Catholicism in the United States has fundamentally changed from being white and middle class to immigrant and working class, prompting tensions about how to respond to the shift, the Catholic News website reports today (April 9, 2015).

The Boston College study shows an increasing number of parishes serving Latinos matching the explosive growth of this sub-population in churches.

Hosffman Ospino, an assistant professor in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College and a native of Colombia, served as the principal investigator for a national study of parishes serving Latino Catholics, who now make up 40 percent of the total U.S. Catholic population.

"What we see are thousands of parishes nationwide, and dioceses, reinventing themselves," Prof. Ospino said. His study found that 25 percent of Catholic parishes in the U.S. now have Hispanic ministries. They are intentionally creating new programs, outreach strategies, and structures to serve their new parishioners. Moreover, many church leaders are now learning Spanish to connect with their flocks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Afghan Soldier Fires at US Soldier, Killing Him; American Troops Fire Back, Kill Afghan Shooter

An Afghan official said an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops today (April 8, 2015), killing at least one and wounding two others before he was shot dead, the CBS News website reports.

A U.S. official confirmed that the slain service member was American.

Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sherzad -- police chief for eastern Nangarhar province -- said the attack came after a meeting between Afghan provincial leaders and a U.S. embassy official in the compound of the provincial governor of Jalalabad.

He added that the American troops immediately returned the fire, killing the Afghan soldier.

Tsarnaev Found Guilty in Boston Marathon Trial; Next Phase Decides If Islamic Radical Gets Death

A federal jury today (April 8, 2015) found 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty in the twin bombings of the Boston Marathon two years ago, convicting a young man who had embraced radical Islam and carried out one of the worst acts of terrorism on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, according to the Washington Post website.

Tsarnaev was charged with 30 counts -- including 17 that carry the death penalty -- and found guilty on each one of them. Among the most serious charges, he was convicted of using a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in the deaths of three people and, separately, of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.

The conviction sets up the second phase of the trial, in which the same jury will decide whether Tsarnaev spends the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison or dies by lethal injection.

The penalty phase is expected to begin next week, with closing arguments probably taking place at the end of this month.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Poland Builds 6 Watchtowers on Russian Border; Due to Russia's Aggression in Bordering Ukraine

Not taking any chances on Russia's current war-like modus operandi in Ukraine from spreading to its country, Poland will build six watchtowers to survey its 200-kilometer-long border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the Newsmax website reports today (April 7, 2015).

The six towers will be up to 164 feet high and ready in June of this year for round-the-clock surveillance, the spokeswoman for Poland's border police told the Polish news agency, PAP.

They will cost more than $3.8 million, but 75 percent of the amount will come from the EU (European Union) fund for external borders.

Kaliningrad is near the Baltic Sea -- sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania -- both EU members. Russia's seizure and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea -- and its continued aggression in Ukraine -- have caused unease in the Baltic states and Poland, all of which were controlled by Soviet Russia after World War II until 1991.

UK PM Cameron Praises Nation's Christian Roots; Urges Britons Rebuff World Christian Persecution

British Prime Minister David Cameron has encouraged Britons to take pride in the United Kingdom's (UK) Christian roots and to use the Easter season as a time to remember the persecution of Christians around the world, the Gospel Herald website reports today (April 7, 2015).

In delivering his annual Easter message on April 5, Cameron said, "Across Britain, Christians don't just talk about 'loving thy neighbor,' they live it out... in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups."

The prime minister explained that while Britain is a nation that welcomes and accepts all faiths, it is nevertheless a predominantly Christian country, and thus has a responsibility to speak out about the persecution of Christians worldwide.

"It is truly shocking to know that in 2015 there are still Christians being threatened, tortured, even killed, because of their faith from Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea," Cameron said.

Monday, April 6, 2015

French Muslims Want to Double No. of Mosques; France Would Double Its 2200 Mosques By 2017

A call by Muslim leaders for the number of mosques in France to be doubled has aggravated community tensions barely three months after the Charlie Hebdo killings, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 6, 2015).

"We have 2,200 mosques and we need double that within two years," the Rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, told applauding French Muslims at a conference.

Many Muslims believe local authorities in France block applications to open or build mosques and prayer-rooms, leading to overcrowding and protests over prayers held in the streets.

The demand for more mosques is unlikely to find favor with the French government, still struggling to work out common strategies with Muslim leaders to combat radicalization in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and concerned about a rise in support for the far-Right Front National.

Many in E.Europe Adapt for Russian Aggression; Fear Russian Invasion Due to Attack of Ukraine

NATO aircraft scream across eastern European skies, and American tanks rumble near Poland's border with Russia on a mission to reassure citizens that they're safe from Russian aggression, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 6, 2015).

But these days -- due mainly to Russia's ongoing aggression in nearby Ukraine -- ordinary people aren't taking any chances.

In Poland, doctors, shopkeepers, lawmakers and others are heeding a call to receive military training in case of a Russian invasion. Neighboring Lithuania is restoring the draft and teaching citizens what to do in case of war. Nearby Latvia has plans to give university students military training next year.

Many people in eastern Europe are worried that their independence won from Soviet Russia in 1991 is threatened once again, as hostilities between Russia and the West intensify due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed during the past year.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Czech Pres. Blocks US Envoy from Prague Castle; Ambas. Aired Opposition to Pres. Visiting Russia

Czech President Milos Zeman has "closed the door" of Prague Castle to the U.S. ambassador following comments perceived as critical of the Czech's decision to attend a World War II commemoration in Moscow, the Reuters website reports today (April 5, 2015).

European Union (EU) leaders are boycotting the ceremony in May due to Russia's ongoing aggression in Ukraine, but Zeman -- who has often departed from the EU line -- has said he would attend.

"I can't imagine the Czech ambassador in Washington would give advice to the American president where to travel," Zeman told the Czech news media. "I won't let any ambassador have a say about my foreign travels. Ambassador [Andrew] Schapiro has the door to the castle closed."

Schapiro had told Czech television a few days ago that it would be "awkward" for Zeman to attend the World War II commemoration in Moscow, since all the other EU nations are boycotting it.

Hundreds Protest Islamic Extremism in Australia; Rally to Safeguard Traditional Australian Culture

Protesters waving Australian flags and carrying signs such as "Yes Australia. No Sharia" rallied around the country yesterday in events organizers said were against Islamic extremism, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 5, 2015).

The "Reclaim Australia" events drew hundreds of supporters, but also triggered counter-rallies from other groups that criticized them as racist and called for greater tolerance.

"We are pro-Australian values and anti-extreme Islam, but we're not anti-Muslim," Reclaim Australia spokeswoman Catherine Brennan said.

She added, "Since when is it being racist to love your country and to love the values and culture that you've been brought up with?"

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Muslims Hold an Anti-Semitic Protest in Vienna; Wave Pal. Flags, Yell "Free Palestine!,Kill Jews!"

Bosnian soccer fans joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Vienna, Austria yesterday and shouted anti-Semitic epithets in one of the city's central plazas, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 4, 2015).

A video posted on You Tube shows several dozen Muslim demonstrators waving Palestinian flags in Stephansplatz and calling "free, free Palestine!"

The Bosnian fans are seen standing among the protesters and joining them in their cries, before setting out on a chant of their own: "Kill, kill the Jews!"

Bosnians were in Vienna to watch a match between Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina later in the day. Austrian police are investigating the incident.

Pope Condemns Persecution of Christians by Mil.; Berates "Complicit Silence" on Christian Killings

Pope Francis condemned the "complicit silence" about the mass killing of Christians by militants during a Good Friday service yesterday in Rome, the BBC website reports today (April 4, 2015).

Tens of thousands of pilgrims joined him for the Way of the Cross ceremony, recalling Jesus' crucifixion.

Among the cross bearers were Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and Nigerians who had escaped Boko Haram persecution.

"We still see today our persecuted brothers, decapitated and crucified for their faith in you [Jesus], before our eyes and often with our complicit silence," Pope Francis said, presiding over the ceremony at the Colosseum.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Netanyahu to Obama:Iran Deal a Threat to Israel; Obama to Bibi: Iran Deal Shows Critical Progress

The framework nuclear deal agreed to yesterday with Iran would jeopardize Israel's existence if implemented, Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's spokesman quoted him as saying to U.S. President Barack Obama today (April 3, 2015), according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"PM Netanyahu to President Obama: A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel," Mark Regev wrote on his Twitter account.

Netanyahu said in the telephone conversation that the deal as it appears to be emerging "would not block Iran's path to the bomb. It would pave it."

In an opposite viewpoint, Obama told Netanyahu that the framework deal between Iran and the world powers represented "significant progress."

Philly Woman Arrested Trying to Join Terrorists; Keonna Thomas Planned to Go to Syria Via Turkey

Keonna Thomas (also known as Fatayat Al Khilafah), 30, of Philadelphia was charged today (April 3, 2015) with knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the FBI website reports.

According to the criminal complaint, Thomas posted on Twitter the following statement: "If we truly knew the realities ...we would be rushing to join our brothers in the front lines Pray ALLAH accept us as shuhada [martyrs]."

The complaint also states that Thomas knowingly attempted to travel overseas to Turkey and then Syria, in order to join, fight with, and martyr herself on behalf of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

If convicted, Thomas faces a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Turkish President's Daughter Slams Feminists; History Proves Western Nations Ruled Women

Women receiving a lower share of inheritance than men is normal and justified -- considering men's responsibilities according to Islam -- Sumeyye Erdogan, the daughter of the Turkish president and the deputy head of the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), said today (April 2, 2015), the Hurriyet Daily News website reports.

Giving a lecture in Brussels, Belgium on "the perception of Muslim women around the world and the fight for the equality," Erdogan said the topic of inheritance distribution in Islam was among the most discussed in terms of equality.

"They ask why daughters are given lower shares from a will while sons receive more. But when we look closely, we see that men are assigned the responsibility for bringing the bread home, while women are not. So naturally giving higher inheritance shares to men is normal, fair, and righteous," Erdogan said.

In the same speech, Erdogan also said the history of Western countries was "worse when it came to the suppression of women. We don't have any reason to be diffident. When you examine the history of the world for practices that dominated women, you mostly see Western countries. You don't see Islamic countries," she said.

Iran, World Powers Agree on Nuclear Talks Plan; Iran Curbs Nuclear Plan, World to End Sanctions

Negotiators from Iran and major world powers reached agreement today (April 2, 2015) on a framework for a final agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions, the Washington Post website reports.

Participants in the talks said the sides -- including the United States and its key European allies -- would promptly start drafting a final accord to be completed by a June 30 deadline.

"Big day," tweeted Secretary of State John Kerry. He said the European Union (EU), the six major world powers (United States, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China), and Iran "now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal."

In return for agreeing to curb its nuclear program, sanctions against Iran will be terminated by the European Union and the United States, subject to verification that Iran is meeting terms of the agreement, a statement said.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Inter. Criminal Court OKs Palestinian Authority; Joins Court to Ease Recognition of PA Statehood

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has joined the International Criminal Court, vowing to hand over suspects to The Hague, the Euro News website reports today (April 1, 2015).

In a move strongly opposed by Israel, the Palestinians are becoming the 123rd member of the world's permanent war crimes tribunal. It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- a day before Israel's elections last month -- declared that as long as he is prime minister of Israel, he will never recognize a Palestinian independent state, thus sabotaging any effort for a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

"As the Rome Statue enters into force for the State of Palestine, Palestine acquires all the rights as well as responsibilities that come with being a State Party to the Statute," said Judge Kuniko Ozaki, Second Vice-President of the International Criminal Court.

Joining the court is part of the Palestinians' strategy to soon gain global recognition of statehood. The court is already looking at possible crimes committed by Israel during last year's conflict in Gaza.

Atlanta Educators Convicted in Cheating Scandal; Hiked Student Test Scores for Bonuses, Fed.Funds

In a major victory for prosecutors, a number of Atlanta educators were found guilty today (April 1, 2015) for their roles in public schools cheating scandal, bringing a close to a half-decade drama that tarnished a major school district's reputation and raised questions nationwide about the wisdom of pushing educators to improve students' standardized test scores, according to the NY Times website.

Eleven of the former educators were convicted of racketeering charges in a decision announced in a Georgia courtroom. Only one of the 12 educators on trial was acquitted of the racketeering charge; verdicts on the theft and false statements charges were mixed.

The dozen educators who stood trial -- including five teachers and a principal -- were indicted in March 2013 after years of questions about how Atlanta students had substantially improved their scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, a standardized examination given throughout Georgia. Some 180 employees -- including 38 principals -- were accused of wrongdoing. Most of them pleaded guilty in court plea-bargaining agreements.

The illegal cheating scheme -- which had been authorized by Atlanta's then-school superintendent -- involved educators secretly changing incorrect answers to correct answers on hundreds of students' standardized tests. This was done so the Atlanta school department would receive millions of dollars more in federal funds as a result of "student test improvements." The educators, in turn, received large bonuses for their illegal and unethical actions.