Saturday, December 31, 2016

Terrorist Gunman Kills 35 at Istanbul Nightclub; Dressed as Santa Claus at a New Year's Eve Party

A terrorist dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey during New Year's celebrations tonight (December 31, 2016), killing at least 35 people and wounding 40 others, the NY Post website reports.

Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker -- armed with a long-barreled weapon -- killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club before entering and firing on people partying inside.

"Unfortunately, [he] rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year's and have fun," Sahin told reporters.

Several of the more than 500 people in the club jumped into the cold waters of the Strait of Bosporus to escape being shot.

Fighting Resumes in Syria Despite New Ceasefire; Rebels Accuse Russian,Govt. Forces of Air Strikes

Fighting has continued in certain areas around Damascus -- the capital of Syria -- despite a ceasefire agreement that was signed two days ago, according to The Daily Beast website.

At least two civilians and five militants have been killed in the fighting over the Eastern Ghouta and Barada Valley regions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today.

Another group has accused Russian and Syrian forces of carrying out air strikes in the Barada Valley despite the ceasefire, threatening the region's main source of water.

Although the Syrian government denied the allegations, rebel forces have warned that they will not respect the ceasefire if the violations continue.

Twin Blasts Kill at Least 18 in a Baghdad Market; IS Suspected of Baghdad's Worst Attack Since Oct.

Two bombs exploded in a busy market area in central Baghdad today (December 31, 2016), killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

The blasts ripped through shops in the Al-Sinek area, wounding 38 or more people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the deadliest attack to hit the capital since mid-October, but the Islamic State (IS) group has claimed nearly all such bombings.

Baghdad has been on high alert since the start of an offensive on October 17 in Iraq's largest military operation in years -- an attempt to retake the northern IS stronghold of Mosul,  Iraq's second largest city.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Kosovo Decides to Tear Up Wall Built by Serbs; Serbs Built Wall to Destabilize Kosovo's Status

The parliament of Kosovo has voted to demolish a concrete wall, deemed to have been built as an act of defiance by the small Serb community in the northern city of Mitrovica, the Euro News website reports today (December 30, 2016).

The ethnic minority Serbs began constructing the wall earlier this month, calling it a technical support barrier against a landslide.

The government, however, was not convinced. Kosovo -- a predominantly Muslim nation -- declared its independence and separated from the primarily Greek Orthodox Christian nation of Serbia in 2008.

Edita Tahiri, minister of dialogue with Serbia, said: "This wall was intended to destabilize the situation in Kosovo, and we will not let Serbia's intentions come to fruition."

Vandals Desecrate 2 Menorahs in Brooklyn Parks; ADL Head: Shameful Reminder of Anti-Semitism

Two menorahs have been vandalized on Brooklyn playgrounds during Hanukkah, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (December 30, 2016).

One in the Prospect Heights neighborhood was twisted and knocked off its base.

In adjoining Park Slope, another menorah had a branch torn off and its wiring ripped out and cut.

Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League's New York Regional Director, said, "It [the menorah] is an enduring symbol of Judaism, and its desecration is a shameful reminder that anti-Semitism still exists in our communities."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Norway's Main Church, State to "Divorce" Jan.1; Lutheran Church to Be Independent Legal Entity

Norway's Lutheran Church and the state of Norway are to divorce on January 1, 2017 after nearly 500 years together, the Christian Today website reports today (December 29, 2016).

The change recreates the Lutheran Church -- Norway's largest church --  as an independent legal entity.

The churchgoing rate in Norway is one of the lowest in the world at only around five percent.

Churches in Norway are funded by the state, according to the number of members they have. In November, the Catholic Church in Norway was fined for fraud and ordered to reimburse money it had claimed for using names of immigrants from Catholic countries without their permission.

Syrian Govt.,Rebels Sign a Nationwide Ceasefire; May Be Prelude to Ending Syrian 6-Yr. Civil War

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced today (December 29, 2016) that Syria's government and opposition groups have agreed to a nationwide ceasefire and are ready to hold peace talks, raising hopes of an imminent peaceful settlement of a six-year war that has left a half million people dead and 11 million displaced, according to the Vice News website.

Syria's military and the Turkish foreign ministry also confirmed today that the agreement -- brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran -- was designed to pursue a political solution to Syria's war.

The deal -- which excludes jihadi groups such as IS (Islamic State) -- will go into effect tonight at midnight.

If the ceasefire holds, peace talks between Syria's government and the opposition will be held in mid-January in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Saudi Man Opposing Male Guardian Law Jailed; Guilty of Inciting to End Guardianship of Women

A Saudi Arabian man has been sentenced to a year in jail for his activism against the kingdom's law that requires all women to have a male guardian, the Clarion Project website reports today (December 28, 2016).

The man -- who who was also fined 30,000 riyals ($8,000) -- was convicted of "inciting to end guardianship of women."

Authorities arrested the man while he was putting up posters in mosques calling for an end to the law. (A woman's guardian in most predominantly Islamic countries is usually her father and then, after marriage, her husband. However, if she is a widow, her "guardian" may be her son.)

The male guardianship law requires a woman to receive permission of her guardian to travel, marry, get an education and, in many cases, accept employment and have access to healthcare. The law also requires that a woman who has finished a prison term obtain the permission of her male guardian to leave, meaning that many women end up languishing in prison because their guardians refuse to sign for their release.

Kerry Blasts Israel for Its Settlement Expansion; Says Israel's One-State Choice Won't Allow Peace

In the harshest scolding ever of Israel by a U.S. official since it became a nation in 1948, Secretary of State John Kerry took direct aim at Israel in a major speech today (December 28, 2016), criticizing its Jewish settlement expansion and demanding "mutual respect" from the key U.S. ally, according to the Washington Examiner website.

Kerry slammed the Israeli government for displacing Palestinian families and depriving them of "basic freedom and dignity," while expressing serious concern about current Israeli leaders' opposition to a two-state solution.

Responding to accusations that the U.S. snubbed Israel last week by allowing a UN Security Council resolution to pass that demanded Israel halt its settlement program, Kerry said the settlements were destroying the possibility of separate countries living side by side in peace.

He added, "If the choice is one state... Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both, and won't ever really be at peace."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Czech Pres.Traces Europe Terror to Migrant Wave; Says Taking Muslims on Czech Land Breeds Terror

The Czech president has linked recent attacks in Europe to the ongoing influx of migrants escaping war-torn, poverty-stricken countries, the Prague Monitor website reports today (December 27, 2016).

Milos Zeman told Czechs in his annual Christmas speech yesterday that "today almost no one doubts the connection between the migration wave and terrorist attacks."

In order to prevent terrorist attacks on Czech soil, Zeman said that the Czech Republic shouldn't take in migrants on a "so-called volunteer basis," alluding to the European Union's efforts to distribute migrants across the continent.

Zeman says he has nothing against helping migrants "on their territory or on neighboring territories" -- or helping Italy and Greece -- but "placing Muslim, hardly compatible migrants on our territory would mean creating a breeding ground for potential terrorist attacks."

More Single Than Married Americans for 1st Time; Few Millenials Attending Church, Getting Married

For the first time in U.S. history, singles outnumber those who are married, and millenials are setting two new trends: fewer are getting married and fewer are attending church, the Christian Headlines website reports today (December 27, 2016).

These new trends suggest millenials are hesitant to commit to marriage due mainly to the pain many have experienced seeing their parents or other adults go through a divorce.

Many millenials also have rejected church. A majority of 72 percent of millenials do not attend church.

In contrast, 51 percent of older generation Americans attend church.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Donald Trump Says UN Now Just a Social Club; He May Remove US from Money-Draining Org.

Implying that he may take action to withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations after he becomes President on January 20, 2017 because it has become just a "social club," Donald Trump today (December 26, 2016) wrote a Twitter tweet, vowing "Things will be different," when he is President, according to the Washington Examiner website.

"The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So Sad!" Trump wrote.

Trump's message comes following a UN Security Council abstention by the U.S. last week that allowed the UN to pass a resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.

Trump also tweeted "Things will be different after January 20" [with respect to the United Nations]. The UN has been criticized by politicians and peace analysts in recent years for its failure to achieve peace on numerous occasions, and many believe the time has come to abolish the ineffective international  organization and its multi-billion dollar annual cost.

IS Kills at Least 30 Civilians Fleeing from Syria; Turkey Kills 88 Civilians in Airstrikes, Loses 36

At least 30 civilians were killed and several others wounded by the Islamic State (IS) yesterday after trying to flee the Syrian town of al-Bab, The Daily Beast website reports today (December 26, 2016).

Turkey's state-run news agency said the civilians were targeted by the militants with mines and explosives as they tried to exit the besieged town.

The operation to liberate the town of al-Bab from IS -- called the Euphrates Shield by the Turkish military -- has heated up during the past few weeks.

Turkey -- which has killed 88 civilians in airstrikes as part of the operation -- has lost 36 soldiers while battling IS in the area.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Iraqis Ousted by IS Return Home for Xmas Mass; 300 Attend Assyrian Orthodox Church in Bartella

In defiance of Islamic State (IS) and other extremists, 300 displaced Iraqi Christians returned to their hometown of Bartella in northern Iraq to celebrate mass on Christmas Eve, the Daily Caller website reports today (December 25, 2016).

Bartella has been shelled and burned during fights between Iraqi government forces and IS, but that didn't stop the Christians from proclaiming that "Christ is the light of the world."

Assyrian priest Yacoub Saady said at the end of the mass, "We, the Christians are the oldest component of this country. We are staying put and no power can force us to leave."

After the Iraqi military retook Bartella, volunteers came in droves to clean up the Assyrian Orthodox Church of Mart Shmoni. Wiring still hangs from the church's ceiling and icons remain missing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pope's Xmas Message Observes Children's Plight; "Suffer the Squalid Mangers That Devour Dignity"

Pope Francis tonight (December 24, 2016) urged Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today's children, bemoaning how some must escape bombs or flee in migrant boats, and how others are prevented from even being born at all, the Yahoo News website reports.

Francis celebrated a somber Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, processing to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments as the Sistine Chapel sang "Gloria" and the church bells rang out across Rome.

In his homily, Francis urged his flock to reflect on how children today aren't always allowed to lie peacefully in a cot, loved by their parents as Jesus was, but rather "suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity."

"Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons," he added.

PM Netanyahu:Israel Is Reevaluating Its UN Ties; Calls Resolution Disgraceful Anti-Israel UN Move

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said tonight (December 24, 2016) that Israel is "reevaluating its ties with the United Nations," according to the Jewish Press website.

He also said the Jewish State would "overcome" the anti-Israel condemnation, Resolution 2334 (2016), passed unanimously yesterday by the UN Security Council with the assistance of the U.S.

An angry Netanyahu asserted that "Yesterday, the Obama administration carried out a disgraceful anti-Israeli underhanded move at the UN."

"Not only does the resolution not promote peace -- it pushes it further away," he added.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Obama Lets UN to Condemn Israeli Settlements; OKs Negative Change in US Policy Before Leaving

Marking a critical negative reversal in U.S. policy toward Israel just a few weeks before leaving office, President Obama today (December 23, 2016) allowed a resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in disputed Palestinian territory to pass through the United Nations Security Council, according to the Washington Examiner website.

The U.S. did not go so far as to vote for the resolution, but allowed it to pass by abstaining from the vote after decades of vetoing such proposals.

Obama has grown more critical of the settlements in the past year and upset with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he views as building the settlements as a deliberate effort to prevent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called Obama's decision "absolutely shameful," and looked toward the future Trump administration to "reverse the damage done" to the U.S.-Israeli relationship by Obama.

Pope: Opposing Vatican Reform Inspired by Devil; Tells Hierarchs Reform Needed to Update Church

In his annual Christmas address yesterday to the Vatican hierarchs, Pope Francis warned that those engaged in "malicious resistance" to the reform of the Roman Curia are inspired by the devil, the Religion News website reports today (December 23, 2016).

Francis urged the prelates who work with him to undergo "permanent conversion and purification" to modernize the church and serve it better.

The 80-year-old pontiff warned his audience that the administrative reforms he has begun would be far-reaching and required profound change among those who run the Vatican Curia.

A few months ago, Pope Francis' authority to reform the church was questioned by four traditional cardinals -- headed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke -- who asserted that Catholic doctrine forbids a pope from allowing remarried divorced Catholics to receive communion.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

ISIS Video Shows Turkish Troops Burned Alive; Captured 2 Turks in Syria,Ripped Pres.Erdogan

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video today (December 22, 2016) showing two captured Turkish soldiers being burned alive, the Telegraph (British) website reports.

The video -- showing two uniformed men being hauled from a cage before being bound and torched -- was posted on jihadist websites.

The 19-minute footage was purportedly shot in the ISIS-declared "Aleppo Province" in northern Syria, where Turkish troops and tanks have been entering neighboring Syria to fight against ISIS in recent months.

Speaking in Turkish, the killer of the two men verbally attacks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and calls for "destruction to be sowed" in Turkey.

Syrian Army Recaptures War-Torn City of Aleppo; Marks Its Biggest Victory in Syrian 6-Yr. Civil War

The war-torn city of Aleppo has been recaptured, the Syrian army said today (December 22, 2016), marking its biggest victory in the country's six-year civil war, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports.

President Bashar al-Assad's government has full control of Aleppo -- the country's most populous city before the war -- for the first time since 2012.

The rebel forces agreed to withdraw from Aleppo after a month-long army offensive drove them from 90 percent of their original territory.

But the U.S. remained wary of the victory, citing reports of increased violence in other parts of the country as well as the future of those evacuated from Aleppo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

UN Praises Mass Murderer Castro with Tribute; Cuban Refugees in Miami Delighted at His Death

The United Nations, its leaders, and several UN agencies have been showering praise on one of the world's most brutal mass murderers in recent weeks, The New American website reports today (December 21, 2016).

The late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and his Stalinist regime murdered tens of thousands of innocent people and imprisoned hundreds of thousands as they enslaved and destroyed what was once among the most prosperous nations in the world.

Following several earlier "tributes" to "honor" the mass murderer, yet another "tribute" was held yesterday (December 20) at the General Assembly Hall. The UN's failure to live by its original goal of promoting peace by supporting all democratic peace-loving nations conveys that the time has come for the UN to be abolished. Hopefully, President-elect Trump will soon withdraw the United States from this money-draining useless organization.

The late butcher of Cuban people and liberty died on November 25 at the age of 90, setting off massive celebrations among his victims in what has become "little Cuba," otherwise known as Miami, Florida.

Swastikas, Hate Notes Painted in Nassau County; NYC Suburbs of Merrick, Mineola Are Worst Hit

Several incidents of red spray-painted swastikas and other hate messages have been found in neighborhoods on Long Island, New York, The Jewish Week website reports today (December 21, 2016).

The incidents occurred this week mainly in the towns of Merrick and Mineola in Nassau County, about 30 miles outside New York City.

Among the incidents, a sidewalk outside a private home was vandalized with several red swastikas and "Make America White Again," and swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were painted on a wall outside a 7-Eleven store in Merrick.

New York City police have reported a 400 percent increase in such incidents since the November 8 presidential election.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Poland Officially Recognizes Jesus as Its King; Christ Asked to Rule All Aspects of Polish Life

In the presence of Polish President Andrzei Duda and other top officials from both church and state, Jesus Christ was officially recognized recently as the King of Poland in a Catholic ceremony, The New American website reports today (December 20, 2016).

The ceremony was held last month at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow and then repeated at churches across Poland, marking the 1050th anniversary of the nation's Christianity. The congregation also renounced the devil and all his evil work.

Since Jesus has already been recognized by Christians as King of kings, the Polish ceremony enthroning Christ recognized that sovereignty, with the formalities being described by officials and celebrants, as a sign of the willing submission of Poland and its people to the rule of Christ.

Throughout the mass, Christ was asked to rule over every aspect of Polish life.

RA Removes Rabbi for Conducting Intermarriages; Rabbi: Policy Is Outdated Due to Trend of History

Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom has been expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the movement's rabbis' association, for performing interfaith weddings, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (December 20, 2016).

Rosenbloom told JTA the council offered to retain his membership in exchange for a promise not to perform any more intermarriages. He declined the offer.

"It is a futile policy," Rosenbloom said, "a policy that will eventually be overturned because the trend of history is against it. I have no bitterness..."

Rosenbloom, 72, is the retired rabbi of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a 158-year-old synagogue near Philadelphia.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Nine Die in Berlin Christmas Market Truck Attack; May Be Terror Attack Like The One in Nice in July

At least nine people are dead and about 50 are injured in a suspected terror attack in Berlin when a Schwarzmuller rental truck plowed into a Christmas Market tonight (December 19, 2016), according to The Daily Beast website.

Police arrested one suspect in the attack. A second occupant of the truck's cab is dead.

Today's attack occurred in Charlottenburg, a leafy, affluent area of the German capital known as the Times Square of Berlin.

Police have not specified a motive for the incident, but it is similar to a terrorist attack in Nice, France on July 14 -- France's Independence Day -- in which an Islamic State (IS) terrorist drove a truck into a crowd of people, killing 86. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for today's attack.

Pope Sees Colombian Pres.,Opponent at Vatican; Pres.:"We Need Your Help" to End 52-Year War

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and opposition leader Alvaro Uribe met Pope Francis at the Vatican on December 16, as the government looked to build consensus for a peace deal with Marxist rebels, the Religion News website reports today (December 19, 2016).

On his third visit to the Vatican, Santos appealed to Francis for support in ending a 52-year war which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

"We need your help," said Santos, who signed a modified peace deal in November after a previous pact was rejected in a national vote.

Francis -- an Argentine who helped broker diplomatic efforts in Cuba and Venezuela -- then received right-wing Senator and former President Uribe, who has been one of the harshest critics of the new peace deal.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pope Praises Mary and Joseph in Today's Angelus; Says Mary Conceived Jesus as Work of Holy Spirit

Thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus with Pope Francis today (December 18, 2016), and heard him say the day's Gospel "shows us two people, who more than any other, have been involved in this mystery of love: the Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph," according to the Independent Catholic News website.

"Mary is presented in the light of the prophecy that says: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.' The Evangelist Matthew recognizes what had happened in Mary, that she conceived Jesus as a work of the Holy Spirit..."

"Mary is, therefore, a model to watch and a support we can rely on, in our search for God, in our closeness to God. In this, let God come close to us and our commitment to build a civilization of love."

"The other protagonist of today's Gospel is St. Joseph... He fully trusts God who approaches him and, following His invitation, does not repudiate his bride, but takes with him and marries Mary."

Six Buses Assigned to Syrian Evacuation Torched; Evacuating Wounded, Sick from Aleppo Is Halted

An evacuation deal involving trapped civilians and fighters in a war-ravaged east Aleppo and two Syrian villages was thrown into doubt today (December 18, 2016) when assailants torched six buses assigned to the operation, according to the Yahoo News website.

The buses were to take part in the evacuation of over 2,000 wounded and sick Syrians from Foua and Kfarya -- two rebel-besieged villages that have remained loyal to the government in an area under opposition control in the northwest Idlib province.

Evacuations from Aleppo had been halted amid mutual recriminations two days ago.

The suspension of the evacuations had thrown an Aleppo deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last week into disarray.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gunmen Kill Five Afghan Female Airport Workers; Taliban Refutes Women Working Outside Homes

Taliban gunmen are suspected of shooting dead five female airport workers and their driver in southern Afghanistan today (December 17, 2016), because the radical Islamic group is opposed to women working outside the home, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The women were in a van going to the airport in the southern Kandahar province when at least three gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at them, provincial spokesman Samim Kheplwak told AFP.

"All the women and their driver aboard the van were killed. The attackers fled the area and we have launched an investigation," he said.

Kandahar International Airport Director Ahmadullah Faizi said the women were employees of a private company who would provide luggage and body search services for female passengers.

Car Bomb Kills 13,Wounds 56 in Turkey Terror; Erdogan Blames Attack on Kurdish Separatists

A car bomb today (December 17, 2016) killed 13 soldiers and wounded 56 when it ripped through a bus carrying off-duty military personnel in the central Turkish city of Kayser -- an attack Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan blamed on Kurdish militants -- according to the Reuters website.

The blast near a university campus comes a week after deadly twin bombings targeted police in Istanbul.

Militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged a three-decade violent insurgency -- in an effort to obtain an independent state in Turkey -- that has seen some of the worst fighting during the past year.

"The style and goals of the attacks clearly show the aim of the separatist terrorist organization is to trip up Turkey, cut its strength and have it focus its energy and forces elsewhere," Erdogan said in a statement.

Friday, December 16, 2016

IS Burns Thousands of Iraqi Christians' Homes; Final Deathblow before Leaving, Iraqis in Ruins

Islamic State (IS) militants have dealt a final blow to Iraq's displaced Christian population by burning thousands of homes before surrendering the occupied territories, the Christian Today website reports today (December 16, 2016).

As more than two years of its occupation comes to an end, IS forces have systematically set fire to homes in the Nineveh Plain before leaving.

Many Iraqi Christians had long hoped for an eventual return home, but even with IS forces gone, the destruction has dealt a blow to their dreams.

"This is it. Everything is gone," said one man who had lived in a home destroyed in Bartella, a recently liberated Iraqi Christian town. He added, "Why should we stay in this country any longer?"

ADL Blasts Hitler-Mustache Image of Netanyahu; Posted at Israeli College, Mars Holocaust Memory

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) yesterday condemned a student work hung at Shenkar College of Art in Israel that depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Hitler mustache, the Times of Israel website reports today (December 16, 2016).

The poster of Netanyahu -- doctored to make him look like Hitler -- was briefly exhibited at the art college in Tel Aviv, due to a controversy over free speech and incitement.

The work features a black-and-white photo of the prime minister with the Hebrew word for "incitement" placed under his nose in a way that appears similar to Adolf Hitler's iconic mustache.

World ADL Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt and Carole Nuriel, head of the organization in Israel, said in a statement that "the use of Nazi imagery to demonize the Israeli PM denigrates the memory of the Shoar [Holocaust] and its victims. Such Holocaust analogies inflame rather than inform and cross the lines of legitimate discourse..."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

US Defense Chief Vows Anti-IS Fight to Allies; Tells Coalition US to Keep Fighting Terrorists

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter today (December 15, 2016) reassured coalition partners that the United States would remain a key player in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports.

"I can't give assurances. I can't speak for the next administration. However, I do have confidence in the future of the coalition campaign," Carter told his counterparts from 14 coalition nations meeting in London.

"I'm confident that, based on the results we're seeing and the strength of our coalition, the United States and its military will continue to be with you as a leading partner in this campaign," he added.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. has had a force of some 5,000 troops in Iraq, relying on small teams of special operations forces and advisers who assist local fighters. Trump has criticized that as an insufficient and slow-moving response to the threat posed by IS -- one that has allowed the militants to become entrenched in Iraq and Syria for several years -- and has stated that he will take much stronger aggressive action against IS.

Rescuers Evacuate Aleppo Civilians from Fighters; Leave Syrian City by Bus Despite Govt. Sniper Fire

Rescuers today (December 15, 2016) began to evacuate the last civilians trapped by fighting in eastern Aleppo, and deadly sniper fire struck even before the buses left, but unlike yesterday -- when the sniper fire aborted the departure -- the evacuation is proceeding, according to the Newser website.

Under a new deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, civilians and anti-government rebels in the last sliver of eastern Aleppo that was still under rebel control were to board ambulances and buses for the trip out.

But as people were beginning to do so, government snipers opened fire, killing one and injuring about six more, a rescue service spokesman said.

The evacuation will mark a huge win for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's six-year civil war, allowing him to reclaim the city of Aleppo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Priest Refuses to Back Traditional Nativity Scene; Says He Fears Upsetting Muslims,Other Religions

A priest in Italy has refused to set up a traditional nativity scene out of fear of upsetting Muslims, the Christian Today website reports today (December 14, 2016).

Father Sante Braggie -- saying he wanted to show respect towards other religions -- refused to sanction the nativity scene, going against the tradition established by his predecessor, Father Oreste Mori.

Father Mori said he could not believe his successor's decision and condemned it as "renouncing our culture and traditions" and as an "unpardonable" weakness.

The row has finally been resolved by local volunteers agreeing to set up the nativity scene.

Saudi Woman Nabbed for Failing to Wear Hijab; Posted Photo on Twitter, Some Call for Her Death

A Saudi activist -- who posted a picture of herself outside without a hijab -- has been arrested, the Clarion Project website reports today (December 14, 2016).

Malak al-Shehri, 21, posted a picture of herself on Twitter this week without her government-mandated abaya (long cloak), instead wearing a jacket and a mid-calf length dress. The picture was taken in downtown Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Conservative twitter users demanded her arrest and punishment, with some going so far as to call for her death.

Saudi Arabia -- the most religious of all Islamic countries -- enforces strict modesty dress codes on women and a host of other restrictions routinely decried by activists as discrimination against women. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive motor vehicles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pope Sends a Letter to Assad for Peace in Syria; Calls for End of Syria's Deadly 6-Year Civil War

Pope Francis is moving beyond prayer in stepped-up efforts to find peace for Syrians caught in the crossfire in a lingering civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in six years of relentless fighting, The Daily Beast website reports today (December 13, 2016).

The pontiff -- who will turn 80 this weekend -- penned a letter to Bashar al-Assad that was hand-delivered to the Syrian leader in Damascus yesterday by Mario Zenari, the Vatican's cardinal and apostolic nuncio (ambassador) to Syria, calling for "an end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities."

According to the Holy See press office, the Vatican has been increasing diplomatic pressure on Assad with an eye to becoming an integral negotiator in eventual peace talks.

In another effort to resolve an international stalemate, Pope Francis served as the key negotiator that led to the renewal of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations last year, after a non-diplomatic hiatus of more than 50 years.

EU Signs Agreement with Cuba to Normalize Ties; After Death of Fidel Castro, Human Rights Denier

The EU (European Union) and Cuba yesterday signed a deal to normalize ties that had been blocked for decades by human rights concerns under communist dictator Fidel Castro -- who died last month -- the France 24 website reports today (December 13, 2016).

Cuba had been the only Latin American country that did not have a "dialogue and cooperation" deal with the EU, covering issues such as trade, human rights, and migration.

But EU ministers last week agreed to drop a policy in place since 1996 which stated that Cuba first had to improve its human rights standards before getting closer links with the bloc.

The new agreement was signed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, and representatives from 28 EU member states at a Brussels ceremony capping years of difficult negotiations.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Egypt Pres. Names the Bomber of Coptic Church; Four Others Nabbed,Police Seek 2 More Suspects

The deadly attack on a Coptic Orthodox Christian cathedral complex in Cairo yesterday was staged by a suicide bomber, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi said today (December 12, 2016), according to the Orthodox Church Info Blog.

"The terrorist attack on the church was carried out by 22-year-old Mahmoud Mostafa Shafiq. The terrorist was wearing a suicide vest," Sisi said at a funeral ceremony in Cairo.

The president added that four people -- three men and a woman -- had been detained in connection with yesterday's attack, which left at least 20 churchgoers dead and almost 50 injured. Police are searching for two more suspects.

St. Mark's Cathedral serves as the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Copts are the largest ethnic and religious minority in predominantly Islamic Egypt, making up about 10 percent of the population.

UK Backs Antisemitism Definition to Stem Bias; Will Help to Diminish Hate Crimes against Jews

The British government is to formally adopt a definition of what constitutes antisemitism, which includes over-sweeping condemnation of Israel, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying the measure will help efforts to combat hate crime against Jews, The Guardian website reports today (December 12, 2016).

A Downing Street statement said the intention of such a definition was to "ensure that culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organizations or bodies have different interpretations of it."

The definition reads: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

More detailed guidance says it could be considered antisemitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel or their religion than to their own nations, or to say the existence of Israel is intrinsically racist.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

ISIS Recaptures Palmyra from Syrian Govt.Troops; Outwits Syrians and Russians for Focus on Aleppo

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants today (December 11, 2016) recaptured Palmyra, taking the ancient central Syrian city from government troops in a major advance after a year of setbacks in Syria and neighboring Iraq, the CBS News website reports.

In retaking Palmyra, the extremist group appeared to be taking advantage of the Syrian and Russian preoccupation with Aleppo, timing the attack to coincide with a massive government offensive to capture the last remaining opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern Syrian city.

Palmyra -- with its towering 2,000-year-old ruins -- holds mostly symbolic meaning in the wider Syrian civil war, although its location in central Syria gives it some strategic significance as well.

ISIS militants re-entered the city yesterday for the first time since they were expelled by Syrian and Russian forces nine months ago.

Bombing at Cairo, Egypt Chapel Kills 25 at Mass; Another 49 Wounded at Coptic Orthodox Church

A bombing today (December 11, 2016) at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral killed 25 people and wounded another 49 during Sunday Mass, according to the Catholic News website.

Egypt's official MENA news agency said an assailant lobbed a bomb into a chapel adjacent to St. Mark's Cathedral, seat of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church and home to the office of its spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, who cut short a visit to Greece to return to Cairo after the blast.

Witnesses said the explosion may have been caused by an explosive device planted inside the chapel. A senior Church leader, Bishop Moussa, said at the cathedral that there were reports that a woman posing as a worshiper left a bag in the chapel's women's section before slipping out.

The blast took place as a Sunday Mass in the chapel was about to end and coincided with a national holiday in Egypt marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Most of the victims are believed to be women and children.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Two Blasts in Istanbul Kill 29 People,Wound 166; Came after Soccer Game, Police Nab 10 Suspects

Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said tonight (December 10, 2016) that two blasts after an Istanbul soccer match killed 29 people and wounded 166 others, according to the Chicago Tribune website.

The twin Saturday night bombings inflicted high casualties among police, killing 27 officers, as well as two civilians.

In an address early Sunday, the minister said 10 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks.

Police cordoned off the area as smoke rose from behind the newly-built Vodafone Arena Stadium, known colloquially as Besiktas Stadium after the local team. Witnesses also heard gunfire after the explosions. The second blast was believed to be a car bomb.

DoD Head: US to Send 200 More Troops to Syria; Will Help Kurdish and Arab Fighters Retake Raqa

U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said today (December 10, 2016) that Washington will send another 200 troops to Syria to help an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters seize the Islamic State (IS) group bastion of Raqa, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

They will join 300 U.S. special forces troops already deployed in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance in the drive on the jihadist stronghold it launched on November 5.

The operation coincides with a vast U.S.-backed offensive to retake Iraq's second largest city of Mosul from jihadists, forming a twin-pronged campaign intended to deliver a knockout blow to the Islamic "caliphate" they declared across Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The cities of Raqa and Mosul are the last major urban centers under Islamic State control, after the jihadists suffered a string of territorial losses in both countries over the past year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

US Warplanes Destroy 168 IS Oil Trucks in Syria; Largest Airstrike in IS War Weakens Its Revenue

In an effort to weaken the revenue of the Islamic State (IS) group, U.S. warplanes destroyed a fleet of 168 oil tankers in Syria in the largest strike in the two-year-old air campaign against the terrorist group, the USA Today website reports today (December 9, 2016).

More than 20 aircraft were used to destroy the tanker trucks, which were gathered near the city of Palmyra in central Syria. The oil in the trucks was worth about $2 million, according to a statement.

The airstrike -- which was launched yesterday -- is part of an operation to reduce revenues from the Islamic State. The IS gets 25 percent of its revenue from oil, the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, a private research group, estimates.

"When ISIL has access to large sums of money, they use it to conduct violent terror attacks against anyone who doesn't share their barbaric ideology," Col. John Dorrian, a military spokesman, said in a statement.

New Slovakia Law Bans Islam as Recognized Rel.; Also Blocks Islam from Receiving State Subsidies

The predominantly Christian country of Slovakia has passed a law that effectively bans Islam as an officially recognized religion, which also blocks Islam from receiving any state subsidies for its schools, the CNS News website reports today (December 9, 2016).

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in May that "Islam has no place" in Slovakia.

Prior to the law being passed on November 30, Slovak National Party Chairman Andrej Danko said, "Islamization starts with a kebab and it's already under way in Bratislava -- let's realize what we can face in 5 to 10 years."

"We must do everything we can so that no mosque is built in the future," Danko said.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

US Official:50K IS Troops Killed in Iraq and Syria; Backs US General's August Estimate of 45K Killed

A senior military official for the first time says the U.S.-led coalition has killed 50,000 Islamic State (IS)  militants in the last two years in Iraq and Syria, the Newsmax website reports today (December 8, 2016).

The official said it was a conservative estimate, but it's a bit more than what others have estimated before.

The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, so he spoke on condition of anonymity.

His estimate appears to be in agreement with one given by Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who said in August that about 45,000 Islamic State combatants have been killed in Iraq and Syria.

Vatican Asserts Homosexuals Must Not Be Priests; Issues New Text:"The Gift of the Priestly Vocation"

In new guidelines on the priesthood, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has reiterated that men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" should not be admitted into seminaries and, therefore, should not become priests, the Catholic News website reports today (December 8, 2016).

That position was initially stated by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2005, but it was re-stated in a document released yesterday.

The new document also deals with other matters, including the value of indigenous and immigrant vocations and the importance of inoculating future priests against infection by "clericalism."

The new text -- titled "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation" -- was dated Thursday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a public holiday in Italy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IS Troops in Mosul Hospital Strike Iraqi Forces; Use Machine Guns,Coalition Bombs IS Building

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) extremists in Iraq intentionally struck a hospital in Mosul today (December 7, 2016) to protect Iraqi forces from IS fighters inside the building, according to the VOA (Voice of America) News website.

The coalition said Iraqi forces requested "immediate support" after receiving heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenade fire from IS forces in a building at the Al Salem hospital complex.

It is unclear how many casualties resulted from the IS strike.

Islamic State had been using the hospital as a command and control headquarters, according to the coalition. The airstrike was targeted to the location where IS fighters were firing on Iraqi forces.

Pope Francis Notes Spreading Fake News Is a Sin; Compares It to People Fascinated with Excrement

Pope Francis said today (December 7, 2016) that media that focus on scandals and spread fake news to smear politicians risk becoming like people who have a morbid fascination with excrement, according to the NY Post website.

Francis told the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio that spreading disinformation was "probably the greatest damage that the media can do" and using communications for this rather than to educate the public amounted to a sin.

Using precise psychological terms, he said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement.

The Argentine-born pontiff excused himself for using such terms in order to get his point across.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

German Chancellor Merkel Calls for a Burqa Ban; Hardens Her View Due to Anti-Migrant Sentiment

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today (December 6, 2016) proposed a partial ban on the face veil, hardening her party's once-progressive view on immigration in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, according to the Vice News website.

Speaking at the Christian Democratic Party conference, Merkel suggested that the burqa and the niqab -- head coverings traditionally worn by Muslim women -- are "inappropriate" and insisted that German law "takes precedence over codes of honor, tribal or family rules -- that has to be spelled out clearly."

While some of her closest colleagues in the party have previously suggested a ban on face coverings -- purportedly for security reasons -- this is the first time Merkel has made such a strong statement publicly.

Merkel has often been criticized for her handling of Europe's refugee crisis, after she opened German borders to allow over a million people -- most of them fleeing war in the Middle East and Africa -- to live in Germany in 2015.

NYPD Sees a Rise in Post-Election Hate Crimes; Jews Targeted Most with 24 of the 43 Incidents

The New York Police Department said it has seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump, with the majority of incidents directed at Jews, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (December 6, 2016).

There has been a 115 percent increase in bias crimes in New York City following election day, with Jews being targeted in 24 of the 43 incidents during that nearly month-long period. The anti-Semitic incidents represented a threefold increase from November 2015.

In total, hate crimes have increased 35 percent from 2015, the NYPD's chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said.

"We had a huge spike right after election day; it's somewhat slowed a little bit," Boyce said. "We're seeing across the board an increase right now."

Monday, December 5, 2016

About 5K Women in Nigeria Have AIDS for Life; Most Were Raped by Boko Haram Islamic Group

At least 5,000 people across 27 refugee camps in the northern Nigerian state of Borno have the auto-immune virus HIV (AIDS). Most of these are women who were rescued from or escaped Boko Haram captivity and were raped by the Islamic jihadist militia, the Clarion Project website reports today (December 5, 2016).

"We have heard of many supporting non-governmental organizations in Borno but none of them has approached us to offer assistance to the IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] with the virus," Hassan Mustapha, the Coordinator of HIV/AIDS told the media.

Boko Haram is a jihadist group that has waged a campaign of terror -- mainly against Christians --  across northern Nigeria since 2009. They pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in March 2015 and are now the Islamic State in West Africa.

Boko Haram was responsible for over 6,000 deaths in 2015, more than any other terrorist group in the world.

Kerry Blames Bibi for Israeli-Palestinian Failure; Says Const. Settlements Done to End Peace Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israel yesterday during a speech before the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum, claiming that support for settlement construction stems from a desire to subvert Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Times of Israel website reports today (December 5, 2016).

Kerry refrained from committing to veto any UN resolution intended to establish a Palestinian state, only promising a veto "if it is a biased, unfair resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel."

Kerry -- who will end his tenure as secretary of state in January -- warned the audience that "you can fight about where we are in this process, but I'll tell you this: There is no status quo. It is getting worse. It is moving in the wrong direction."

In his lengthy appearance, Kerry accused Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's government of suffering from a lack of leadership, and explicitly cited Education Minister Naftali Bennett's recent comments lauding the demise of the two-state solution as "profoundly disturbing." Kerry emphasized that he was certain that the settlement construction was intended to serve as an obstacle to peace.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christian Cemetery Desecrated in the Holy Land; Offensive Arabic Graffiti Found on Graves,Walls

The Christian cemetery of the village of Kfar Yassif in Galilee, northern Israel, was desecrated on December 1, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (December 4, 2016).

Blasphemous and obscene graffiti -- written in Arabic -- was found on several graves and funerary plaques as well as on the outer walls of the cemetery.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem -- in communion with all the churches of the Holy Land -- has strongly condemned this act of vandalism and asked the police to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

The Patriarchate shares the sadness of the families of the deceased of Kfar Yassif and has expressed to them his closeness and solidarity.

DoD Head: US to Remain in Iraq after IS Defeat; Must Do So to Prevent IS from Seizing New Land

U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday that the American military -- along with its international partners -- will need to remain in Iraq even after the expected defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group, the Times of Israel website reports today (December 4, 2016).

Carter said the U.S. and its coalition partners must not stop after completing the current campaign to expel IS from Mosul. He added the militants are on a path to lasting defeat.

"We'll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and ISIL's attempts to relocate or reinvent itself. To do so, not only the United States but our coalition must endure and remain engaged militarily," he said.

Carter did not say how long this continued U.S. military presence might be necessary or how many troops would be required. At any rate, those decisions are likely to fall to the Trump administration after it takes office in January.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Syrian Army Advances, Now Rules Half of Aleppo; Some 310 Civilians Killed in Aleppo in Past Month

Syria's army advanced deeper into east Aleppo today (December 3, 2016), so that it now controls more than one-half of the former rebel stronghold, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled eastern neighborhoods of the battered northern city since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime began its latest offensive in mid-November.

Around 310 civilians have been killed in the government's assault on east Aleppo since November 15, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The fighting has prompted more than 50,000 people to leave east Aleppo for territory controlled by either the government or Kurdish forces.

Ethel Rosenberg's Sons Seek Obama Acquittal; Executed in 1953 for Passing Secrets to Russia

The two sons of convicted spy Ethel Rosenberg were at the White House on December 1 -- more than 50 years after pleading unsuccessfully to spare her life -- in a last-ditch appeal to President Barack Obama to exonerate her amid new evidence, the Chicago Tribune website reports today (December 3, 2016).

Rosenberg was executed in 1953 along with her husband, Julius, after being convicted of conspiring to pass secrets about the atomic bomb to Soviet Russia. But court records made public last year through a judge's order cast doubt on the conventional narrative of a Cold War espionage case that captivated the country.

"This is our mother we're talking about," Robert Meeropol, one of Rosenberg's two sons, said as he stood outside the White House gates. "Since we can't bring her back to life, there could be nothing more satisfying to us than to have the government acknowledge that this shouldn't have happened, that this was wrong."

The new documents revealed that Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, whose damning trial testimony against her and her husband helped secure the couple's conviction, had never implicated his sister in an earlier appearance before a grand jury.

Friday, December 2, 2016

IS Preparing to Set Up New "State" in Philippines; Terror Analyst:IS to Soon Control Land on Island

The Islamic State (IS) may be losing ground in Syria and Iraq, but it is making inroads across southern Philippines, the Clarion Project website reports today (December 2, 2016).

Despite taking heavy losses in a battle with the Philippines military recently, an IS-affiliate has raised its flag over municipal buildings in a southern city in the Southeast Asian country.

This led one expert to forecast Islamic State will announce a new province on one of Philippines' largest islands.

Senior analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center Otso Iho believes it is only a matter of time before IS controls swaths of southern Philippines with its base on Mindanao, the country's second-largest island with a population of 20 million.

Israeli Minister Says Half of Fires Were Arson; Police Arrested 35 People on Suspicion of Arson

Israel's public security minister said 40 to 50 percent of the fires that raged across Israel over the past week were caused by arson, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (December 2, 2016).

Addressing the Knesset on November 30, Gilad Erdan said he came to those numbers based on "the estimates of professionals" and "findings on the ground."

"When you see two Molotov cocktails with flammable materials, and you see that the fire started from there, you understand that this is arson, and there were a number of cases like this," Erdan said.

The Israeli police said on November 29 it was too early to know how many of the hundreds of fires were the result of arson and terrorism. At that time, police had arrested at least 35 people on suspicion of arson or incitement to arson.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Turkey to Send 3K Refugees to Greece Each Day; Greek Intel: Turkey May Break EU Refugee Deal

Greek intelligence officials claim that the Turkish government has a secret plan to allow 3,000 refugees to sail to Greece every day, the Independent (British) website reports today (December 1, 2016).

The Greek officials said thousands of dinghies and motorboats have massed along the Turkish coast as the refugee deal agreed between Ankara and Brussels in March appears ready to collapse. Last week, the EU parliament voted to stop accession talks of Turkey joining the EU (European Union), as a result of Turkey's loss of human rights.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to open the borders if the EU continued to block talks on Turkey's accession to the EU.

According to the Greek newspaper "Proto Thema," Turkey has given up on hope of the EU living up to its side of the deal and could start allowing the refugees to flee to Greece and several Greek islands "within a matter of weeks."

Ted Cruz to US Senate:Castro Is Burning in Hell; Cuban Native Likens Castro to Hitler and Stalin

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tore into Fidel Castro from the Senate floor yesterday, suggesting the former Cuban atheist dictator is in hell, The Hill website reports today (December 1, 2016).

"He has departed for warmer climates," the Texas Republican said. "This brutal dictator is dead."

Cruz -- one of the Senate's three Cuban-American senators -- compared Castro to Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler and Soviet Russia's Joseph Stalin.

"They also tortured and assassinated opponents," Cruz said. "They built concentration and extermination camps and eradicated all liberties, committing the worst crimes against humanity."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Judge Rips 4 Cardinals Who Question Pope's Rule; Can He OK Communion of Remarried Divorcees?

A senior Vatican judge said today (November 30, 2016) that four cardinals who recently published a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify "Amoris Laetitia" (or allowing remarried divorced Catholics to receive communion) could lose their red hats over the "very grave scandal" they've caused, according to the Catholic News website.

"What Church do these cardinals defend? The Pope is faithful to the doctrine of Christ," said Fr. Pio Vito Pinto. (The four ultra-conservative cardinals -- led by U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke -- have asserted that allowing remarried divorced Catholics to receive communion is a violation of Catholic doctrine.)

"What they have done is a very grave scandal, which could even lead the Holy Father to take away their red hats, as it's happened already in some other times in the Church," Fr. Pinto added.

The Vatican judge appointed in 2012 by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Vatican's main working court -- also known as the Roman Rota -- was quick to clarify that his words don't mean Francis has made such a decision. They simply mean that he could.

Norway Cath.Church Fined for Padding Members; State Pays Rel. Minorities Based on Membership

The Norwegian Catholic Church has been fined 1m kroner (about $142,000) for exaggerating the number of members it has, in order to receive more state aid, The Guardian website reports today (November 30, 2016).

Oslo prosecutors slapped the fine on the Diocese of Oslo, responsible for keeping national records of Catholics living in the Scandinavian country.

The diocese is accused of having gone through telephone directories looking for immigrants with names suggesting that they were from Catholic countries and adding them to the list of members of the church between 2011 and 2014, sometimes without their knowledge.

In Norway -- a predominantly Protestant country -- the state finances the various religious minorities in proportion to the number of church members.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jimmy Carter:US Can Recognize Palestinian State; Pres. Obama Must Do So to Achieve Mideast Peace

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in a New York Times op-ed yesterday, called on President Barack Obama to recognize a Palestinian state before he leaves office on January 20, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (November 29, 2016).

"I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short," Carter wrote.

"The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on January 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership," he wrote.

Carter added, "Such a resolution should include security guarantees for both Israel and a Palestinian state... and a possible peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations."

Ohio State Attacker Posted Angry Facebook Rant; Anger at Muslim Torment Conveys Terror Motive

An Ohio State University student -- who was angry at the way Muslims were treated around the world --  has been identified as the suspect behind the gruesome attack yesterday on the school's Columbus campus, the USA Today website reports today (November 29, 2016).

The attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was shot dead by police, but not before driving a car into a group of people and then attacking victims with a butcher's knife.

Eleven people were injured, but all are expected to survive. Artan, a Muslim, was born in Somalia and was living in the U.S. as a permanent resident.

Investigators found a message he posted on Facebook before the attack in which he expressed anger about the treatment of Muslims around the world, conveying that the attack was most-likely terrorist-driven.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Kirill:Trump Is Only US Pol Who Can Defeat IS; Russian Rel.Head Assured by Trump's Tenacity

In a recent interview with "Russia Today," Patriarch Kirill -- the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church -- said that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is the only American politician who has given Christians hope in defeating barbaric ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terrorism, the Christian Today website reports today (November 28, 2016).

The Russian religious leader said that although he does not know Trump personally, he has been encouraged by Trump's strong stance against terrorism.

Kirill then likened IS terrorism in the Middle East today to what happened during World War II when the world's powers united to defeat Nazi Germany.

If they were able to do that then, then they should be able to defeat ISIS today, Kirill said.

Obama, Biden Spurn Fidel Castro's Funeral; Cuba's Communist Dictator Was US Enemy

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the funeral of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, which is scheduled for December 4, the Newsmax website reports today (November 28, 2016).

The decision appeased top Republicans who had demanded the president avoid the ceremony for the 90-year-old Castro, an atheist, who died on November 25. Even Castro's sister -- who left his dictatorial regime in Cuba to live in Florida -- said she won't be attending her brother's funeral.

Castro turned Cuba into a communist country in 1959, after a successful revolt allowed him to take control of the government. Shortly thereafter, Cuba became a close ally of Soviet Russia and an enemy of the United States.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were broken in the early 1960s, and remained broken throughout the remainder of Castro's rule in 2009. At that time, Castro's younger brother, Raoul Castro, took control of the Cuban government, and has remained its communist leader to the present day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

ISIS Shoots at Israelis in Syrian Golan Heights; Israel Reacts with Airstrike,Kills 4 ISIS Troops

An Israeli airstrike killed four ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) fighters in the Syrian Golan Heights today (November 27, 2016), according to The Daily Beast website.

The airstrike was called after Israeli troops came under fire in the region. No Israeli soldiers were injured in the attack.

The militants were believed to be members of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization and which has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Parts of the Golan Heights are controlled by Israel, seized from Syria in a war in 1967. The Israeli soldiers were on their side of the border when the ISIS fighters shot at them.

Pro-Trump Hate Letter Is Sent to Calif. Mosques; Calls Muslims "Filthy," Says Trump to Cleanse US

Three California mosques received an anonymous letter calling Muslims "vile and filthy," praising President-elect Donald Trump, and saying he plans to "cleanse" America, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (November 27, 2016).

The same, short anti-Muslim letter -- addressed to "Children of Satan" -- was sent in recent days to mosques in San Jose in northern California and Long Beach and Claremont in the Los Angeles area, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which condemned the letters.

The letter called on Muslims to "pack your bags and get out of Dodge," CAIR said.

Trump -- the letter added -- is "going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he's going to start with you Muslims."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vatican Panel Discourses OKing Female Deacons; Reformers Hope It Leads to Women Being Priests

A papal commission on the role of female deacons met for the first time yesterday in a move reformers hope will open the door to women eventually entering the Catholic clergy, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (November 26, 2016).

At the present time, only men can serve as priests or as deacons in the Catholic Church.

The new commission -- which includes six women among its 13 members -- has been instructed to examine whether women regularly acted as deacons in the early Christian church.

Advocates of women playing a greater role in church governance say they did, so there should therefore be no barrier to them serving as deacons now.

Suspect Nabbed for Fatality at Cath. Care Home; Believed He Worked at the France Home in Past

A 47-year-old man today (November 26, 2016) was arrested and charged with murder after a woman member of a staff was killed by a masked intruder at a care home for retired missionaries in Monferrier-sur-Lez in the south of France on November 24, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

The alleged murderer is an unemployed former paratrooper and father of two children.

A spokesman said there was no evidence to suggest the attack was terror related. It is believed that the man had worked at the home in the past.

After receiving an emergency call from the home on November 24, police found a 54-year-old woman had been tied up and stabbed to death, and set up a manhunt in the district surrounding the home.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Two Migrants Die in Gas Blast on Lesbos Island; Migrants Respond with Fire, Burn Much of Camp

A woman and a child have died in an explosion at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, the Euro News website reports today (November 25, 2016).

According to local police, the blast was caused by gas as the woman was cooking.

Migrants started a fire after the explosion, burning a large part of the camp.

The past few months have seen several violent incidents at refugee camps on a number of Greek islands, where the number of migrants -- mostly from war-torn Syria and Iraq -- is more than double the capacity of the island camps.

IS Truck Bomber Kills 56 at an Iraq Gas Station; Another 45 Wounded,Several Cars Catch on Fire

A truck bomb tore through a gas station south of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 56 people -- including 20 Iranians -- in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, the Times of Israel website reports today (November 25, 2016).

Police and hospital officials confirmed the toll and said another 45 people were wounded in the attack, which destroyed the gas station and set several cars on fire.

The IS group claimed the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, saying it was a suicide truck bomb.

Iraqi officials said the target of the attack appears to have been a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims heading home after taking part in a major Shiite religious observance in the Islamic holy city of Karbala.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Arab Media Celebrate Many Fires Hitting Israel; "Israel Is Burning," Similar Posts Go on Twitter

Arab social media networks today (November 24, 2016) were rife with inflammatory celebratory reactions in light of the myriad of brush fires that have been blazing across central and northern Israel for the past three days, the Jerusalem Post website reports.

Dry conditions and high winds have spread the flames across central and northern regions of Israel as well as parts of the West Bank.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said this morning that he suspected that up to half of the fires had been intentionally ignited by arsonists. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that those who set them could not be Jewish, thus implying that the fires were set by Islamic terrorists.

One of the most popular Twitter tweets commending the fires reads, "Israel has prevented the muezzin (a Muslim prayer crier) calls to prayer, and then it was engulfed in fire."

Manhunt in France after Killing at Rel. Residence; Woman Is Stabbed at a Catholic Retirement Home

French police searched today (November 24, 2016) for a masked gunman suspected of stabbing an elderly woman to death in a retirement home for Catholic missionaries in southern France, according to the Yahoo News website.

A large police operation was launched to search for the attacker, believed to be armed with a shotgun and a knife.

The military police could not say whether the incident was linked to a terrorist act.

A gendarme security spokesman said today that more than 100 members of the security forces were dispatched to the village of Montferrier-sur-Lez, near the city of Montpellier in the southern tip of France.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Patriarch Kirill:Multiculturalism Has No Future; Christians Need Their Own Ethnic, Rel. Identity

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has doomed multiculturalism, saying it has "no future," the Christian Today website reports today (November 23, 2016).

He said it "implies different cultures mixing, different cultures and religions poured together and shaken vigorously to create a kind of cocktail."

Kirill said that Russia was an example for the rest of the world to follow. "Russia is a multiethnic country, but the idea of multiculturalism has never been promoted."

He added, "This approach, which allows people to express their ethnic and religious identity freely, has especially flourished recently, in modern Russia... We live in the same country, so all of us must observe the law and be nice to each other."

Iraqi Forces Retake Monastery in Nineveh Plains; IS Ransacked the 4th Century Monastery in 2 Yrs.

The history pages of Iraq's Christian community lie in charred fragments on the floor of a fourth century monastery near Mosul which IS (Islamic State) militants ransacked during a two-year occupation that Iraqi forces ended this week, the Catholic News website reports today (November 23, 2016).

The jihadists at the Mar Behnam monastery burned a collection of books about Christian theology, scrapped off inscriptions written in Syriac -- the language used by Jesus -- and demolished sculptures of the Virgin Mary and the monastery's patron saint.

"Their fundamental goal was to destroy Christian history and civilization in the Nineveh plains," said Duraid Elias, commander of the Babylon Brigades, a Christian militia that helped retake the site.

The Nineveh plains -- a sprawling region north and east of Mosul -- are a mosaic of ethnic and religious communities with roots dating back to ancient Mesopotamia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

EU Leaders Call for the End of Turkey Entry Talks; Due to Post-Coup Purges,Loss of Freedom of Press

The leaders of the European Parliament's largest group has called for the European Union (EU) to halt membership talks with Turkey because of its post-coup purges, the Euro News website reports today (November 22, 2016).

"Our message to Turkey is very clear: accession negotiations should be frozen immediately," said Manfred Weber, the head of the largest faction in the European Parliament, the center-right European People's Party.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who has tried unsuccessfully for several years to allow Turkey to join the EU -- said the EU will have to "live with the consequences," if the decision is taken to stop Turkey's admission talks.

More than 125,000 people in Turkey have been suspended or dismissed over July's failed military coup. Some 36,000 have been arrested and media outlets closed.

Man Being Held for Planned Times Square Attack; IS Backer Tried to Copy Nice Attack That Killed 80

A man who tried to join the Islamic State (IS) group voiced support for a terrorist truck attack in New York's Times Square like the one that killed scores of people in Nice, France in July, the Times of Israel website reports today (November 22, 2016).

In a conversation about the Nice attack intercepted by federal authorities, Mohamed Rafik Naji told an unnamed associate that the IS leaders "want an operation in Times Square," according to court papers.

"I was saying if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck, and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them," said Naji, a legal U.S. resident from Yemen.

Naji was ordered held without bail following his arrest yesterday. In the Nice attack, an IS supporter drove a 19-ton truck onto a seaside crowd on Bastille Day (July 14), killing more than 80 people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pope OKs All Priests to Absolve Sin of Abortion; Retains Consent He Gave in Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis is allowing all Catholic priests to absolve the "grave sin" of abortion, extending special permission he had granted them in 2015 for the just-ended Holy Year of Mercy, the Catholic News website reports today (November 21, 2016).

Releasing "Misericordia et misera," an apostolic letter concluding the Year of Mercy, the Pope wrote that "there is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach," while reiterating that "abortion is a grave sin."

In his letter released yesterday, Pope Francis gave all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion.

"I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion," he wrote.

Suicide Bomber Kills 27 in Afghan Shiite Mosque; Thousands of Afghan Civilians Killed Since 2001

A suicide bomber killed at least 27 people and wounded dozens today (November 21, 2016) in an explosion at a crowded Shiite mosque in Kabul, the Afghan capital, according to the Reuters website.

The attacker entered the Baqir-ul-Olum mosque shortly after midday as worshipers had gathered for a ceremony, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the 15 years since the Taliban regime was brought down in the U.S.-led campaign in 2001.

In July, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 1,601 civilians had been killed in the first half of this year alone -- a record since it began keeping figures in 2009.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Restaurant in Portugal Vandalized by Jew Haters; Hit Due to Chef Attending Food Festival in Israel

Anti-Israel activists vandalized a restaurant in Portugal because its head chef participated in a food festival in Israel, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (November 20, 2016).

The perpetrators -- believed to be activists for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel -- on the eve of November 18 spilled red paint on the front of the Cantinho do Avillez restaurant in the northern Portuguese city of Porto and posted several signs, including one reading "Free Palestine."

The attack followed picketing opposite the restaurant by BDS activists over the participation of chef Jose Avillez in the Round Tables festival in Tel Aviv, Israel this month.

Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, condemned the BDS movement for the hate crime, which he said was anti-Semitic.

IS Kills 4 Members of Pakistan's Security Forces; IS Affiliate in Pakistan Making Powerful Growth

The Islamic State (IS) group today (November 20, 2016) claimed the killing of four members of Pakistani security forces who were shot dead yesterday by gunmen on a motorcycle in the southwestern city of Quetta, according to the ABC News website.

The IS affiliate in Pakistan has grown in recent months by attracting disgruntled Taliban militants and by partnering with a violent sectarian group that targets Pakistan's Shiite minority.

IS claimed the attack on a Sufi shrine earlier this month that killed more than 50 people.

Pakistan has stepped up security for Shiite processions today and tomorrow to mourn Imam Hussein, the slain grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thousands Protest in Poland against Ed Reforms; Reforms Would Change 3-Tier School System to 2

Tens of thousands of protesters from across Poland protested in Warsaw today (November 19, 2016) against education reforms proposed by the right-wing government that critics say could see thousands of jobs slashed, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"I call upon Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and the government not to destroy the assets" of the current education system, said Slawomir Broniarz, head of the main teachers' union.

Broniarz called for a "massive social front" to mobilize against the reforms, saying there would be "chaos" if the changes were made.

The reforms call for changing the three-tier school system to just two levels, which means that many high schools will be closed.

New Catholic Cathedral Inaugurated in Norway; Number of Cath.Rising Fast in Lutheran Country

Norway's Roman Catholics have inaugurated a new cathedral -- the first in Europe in a decade -- as the predominantly Lutheran country sees the number of Catholics swell, mainly due to immigration from Poland and the Philippines, the Washington Post website reports today (November 19, 2016).

A Mass yesterday at the cathedral was attended by Pope Francis' envoy, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The $11.7 million New Saint Olav cathedral is located in Trondheim, some 243 miles north of Norway's capital of Oslo.

With 125,000 registered members, Norway has Scandinavia's largest Catholic community. In 2015, Norway's state Lutheran Church had about 3.8 million members, or 73 percent of the population.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thousands March against Turkey Brussels; Angry at Erdogan's Control of the Press, Academia

Several thousand demonstrators have taken to the streets of Brussels, Belgium -- where the European Union (EU) headquarters are located -- to protest against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Euro News website reports today (November 18, 2016).

They included several pro-Kurdish groups, angry over Erdogan's crackdown on the media, the judiciary, and academia.

Participants at the march -- mainly organized by the Turkish opposition party HDP -- said Erdogan was behaving like a dictator by jailing dissidents and political opponents.

"We would like to appeal and ask the European [Union] countries to sever their ties with the Turkish government, and that sanctions are applied," said a demonstrator, who had traveled from Cologne, Germany.

Is the Pope Catholic? Not Enough for 4 Cardinals; 4 Disputing Communion for Remarried Divorcees

An interview with Pope Francis on cardinal criticism of his efforts to make the Catholic Church more open and pastoral in its ministry, was published today (November 18, 2016) in "Avvenire," the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, according to the Religion News website.

The Pope's interview was sparked by four hard-line cardinals who have grave concerns about Francis' approach to interpreting Catholic doctrine. Without mentioning the cardinals by name, Francis said, "They are acting in bad faith to foment divisions."

The four critics -- led by U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke -- had written privately to Francis in September, asking him if a document he issued in April could be interpreted to mean that divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion.

Earlier this week, the four cardinals went public with the letter to Francis because they learned he had no intention to responding to their concerns. Burke then told the "National Catholic Register" that if  Francis did not offer a clarification soon, the next step by the cardinals would be to make "a formal act of correction of a serious error" -- a phrase that some believe is tantamount to accusing the Pope of heresy!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pakistan Nabs 8 Operating IS Recruitment Cell; Group Disciplined Young Men to Fight in Syria

Authorities in Pakistan say they have captured a group of eight militants operating a recruitment cell in the country at the behest of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (November 17, 2016).

Counter-terrorism forces in an overnight operation arrested the men in Lahore, the second-largest Pakistani city and capital of the populous Punjab province.

Authorities seized mobile phones, laptops, and IS propaganda material from the group.

The detainees were recruiting young men to send them illegally to Syria via Afghanistan and Iran -- the two immediate neighbors of Pakistan sharing long porous frontiers.

At Least 50 Arrested at Greek Isle Migrant Camp; Refugees Set Tents Afire,Smash Cars,Loot Shops

At least 50 people were arrested today (November 17, 2016) on the Greek Island of Chios after violence at a migrant camp, according to the Euro News website.

Refugees set tents on fire before looting nearby shops, smashing cars, and stealing fireworks to launch at local residents.

The riot was triggered after those inside the Souda camp clashed with supporters of the far-right Golden Dawn Party.

Four people were taken to the hospital as a result of the unrest. Thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Asia -- including the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq -- remain on several Greek islands, since most European countries refuse to accept them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Air Strikes Blast Syria's Rebel-Controlled Aleppo; Hammer Children's Hospital, Blood Bank, Kill 32

Air strikes bombed neighborhoods around a children's hospital and a blood bank in Syria's rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo today (November 16, 2016) in a second day of renewed bombing that has killed at least 32 people, according to the Reuters website.

Today's air raids formed part of a wider military escalation by the Syrian government and its allies -- including Russia -- which fired coordinated volleys of missiles at rebels yesterday and for the first time used its only aircraft carrier.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights -- a British-based war monitor -- said the air strikes were carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes.

Air raids also continued in the countryside west of Aleppo from which rebels have launched assaults on government-held areas. An air attack on the village of Balbao killed at least 19 people -- including three children -- the Observatory said.

Obama in Greece:We Must Correct Ec. Inequality; Society Must End Elite Favoritism, Help the Poor

In an emotional and powerful speech in Athens, Greece -- the birthplace of democracy -- U.S. President Barack Obama said today (November 16, 2016) that globalization has brought many economic benefits to the world, but needs a "course correction" to address growing inequality, the Euro News website reports.

"When we see people, global elites, wealthy corporations seemingly living by a different set of rules, avoiding taxes, manipulating loopholes... this feeds a profound sense of injustice," Obama added.

Obama's visit to Athens was originally planned as a farewell tour of his presidency, but became focused on reassuring jittery allies of strong military support after the surprise election victory of Donald Trump.

Despite Trump saying during the presidential campaign that he would only help NATO if its allies paid their way, Obama stressed that NATO will remain a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Germany Sacks "True Religion" Org. for Aiding IS; Seen as "Collecting Pool" for Would-be IS Fighters

A German organization that calls itself the "True Religion" and that is known for distributing German-language copies of the Quran was outlawed today (November 15, 2016), after the authorities accused it of recruiting jihadists to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to the NY Times website.

Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, said the government had banned the True Religion organization, because it acted as a "collecting pool" for would-be Islamist fighters.

Starting this morning, officers raided 190 premises in more than half of Germany's 16 states. Materials were secured, but there were no detentions.

De Maiziere said that 140 of the group's supporters are known to have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for the Islamic State (IS).

Israel Husbands Now Must Grant "Gets" to Wives; Ordered to Do So by Rabbinical Court or Face Jail

A Jewish man in Israel who refuses to grant his wife a religious divorce after being ordered to do so by a rabbinical court can now face criminal charges and be jailed, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (November 15, 2016).

Under a new policy directive issued yesterday by the state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, his office will seek a significant prison sentence for a husband convicted of violating the rabbinical court's order to give his wife a "get," or religious divorce.

A religious court cannot impose a get, and a man must give the Jewish religious divorce on his own free will.

A woman who is unable to obtain a get is known as an agunah, or chained woman. Under Jewish law, she cannot remarry. In the United States, only Orthodox Jewish women -- not Conservative or Reform Jewish women -- being divorced are required to obtain a get from their husbands in order to remarry.

FBI:Hate Crimes of Muslims Are up 67% in 2015; Jews Go On as Most Often Target of Hate Crimes

FBI statistics released yesterday show that reported hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. rose in 2015 to their highest levels since those seen since those following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Times of Israel website reports today (November 15, 2016).

The reporting period covers the calendar year 2015.

In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents the prior year, an increase of 67 percent.

Jews and Jewish institutions remain the most frequent target of religious-based hate crimes, representing 53 percent of all those reported. Crimes against Jews increased about 9 percent.

Monday, November 14, 2016

ICC: US Forces Might Have Tortured Afghans; Appear to Have Tortured 61 Detained Persons

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors said today (November 14, 2016) that a preliminary probe indicates that members of the U.S. armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan, according to the Newsmax website.

The prosecution office said in a report late today that U.S. forces "appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture" in Afghanistan, mainly in 2003 and 2004.

The report adds CIA operatives may have tortured at least 27 detainees in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the same time period.

Prosecutors say they will decide "imminently" whether to seek authorization to open a full-scale investigation in Afghanistan.

Iraqi Forces Arrive in Mosul,Battle Suicide Bombs; IS Militants Now Wounding Many Mosul Civilians

Iraqi forces have been battling waves of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) suicide bombs, as they advance deeper into eastern Mosul, the Euro News website reports today (November 14, 2016).

Troops are converging from several fronts on Iraq's second largest city.

Mosul is ISIS' last major controlled region of Iraq.

Medical teams have been treating several injured civilians. ISIS militants are said to have turned on civilians when Iraqi soldiers arrived.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mike Dukakis Calls for End of Electoral College; Northeastern Pol.Science Prof.Says It's Outdated

A former Democratic presidential nominee is calling for the Electoral College to be abolished after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but still lost the presidency to Donald Trump, the Washington Examiner website reports today (November 13, 2016).

Michael Dukakis -- who lost to George H.W. Bush in 1988 -- told Politico that the Electoral College "should have been abolished 150 years ago."

"Hillary won this election, and when the votes are [all] counted, by what will likely be more than a million votes. So how come she isn't going to the White House in January?" he said.

Dukakis -- who has been a distinguished professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston for the past 25 years -- called on Congress to make ending the Electoral College a priority during President Obama's remaining time in office.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Turkey Declares a Travel Warning Not to Visit US; Says Anti-Trump Demonstrations Likely to Go On

Turkey issued a travel warning for its citizens today (November 12, 2016) about going to the United States, citing violent protests following this week's presidential election, according to the Newsmax website.

In a statement today, Turkey said the anti-Donald Trump demonstrations "occasionally featured acts of crime and violence," and noted that security forces had "detained many demonstrators."

It added that "based on demonstrators' social media posts, it's clear that the demonstrations will likely continue for some time."

Earlier this month, Turkey criticized a U.S. decision to order family members of employees posted to the Istanbul Consulate to leave because of several recent terrorist attacks in Turkey. Today's travel warning by Turkey may have been, in reality, a retaliation against the U.S., whose earlier travel ban angered Turkey.

Taliban Explosion Strikes NATO Afghan Air Base; Suicide Bomber Kills Four Americans,Wounds 17

A Taliban suicide bomber -- dressed as a laborer -- blew himself up today (November 12, 2016) at the NATO air base at Bagram north of the Afghan capital Kabul, killing four Americans and wounding 17 people, according to the France 24 website.

Two U.S. military service members and two U.S. contractors were killed, and 16 other U.S. service members were wounded, along with a Polish soldier who was part of the NATO mission.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the military will investigate what happened to determine what steps could be taken to improve protection for the base.

President Barack Obama had originally planned to have all U.S. forces out of the country by the end of his term, but later decided to keep 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to help Afghan forces contain the Taliban insurgency.

Friday, November 11, 2016

IS Executes Scores, Piles Up Chemicals in Mosul; Is Now Using "Phosphor Projectiles," Sulfur Pits

The United Nations human rights office said today (November 11, 2016) that Islamic State (IS) fighters have executed scores more people around the northern Iraq city of Mosul this week and are stockpiling deadly chemicals in civilian areas, according to the Reuters website.

A mass grave with over 100 bodies found in the Mosul suburb of Hammam al-Alil was one of several Islamic State killing grounds, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

"Clearly, there are many other killing fields. We also have reports of other mass graves which we haven't yet been able to verify," Shamdasani told reporters.

Iraqi troops have found large stockpiles of sulfur, and the IS has used "phosphor projectiles" near Mosul, Shamdasani said. She added that the IS has also "placed sulfur pits [in Mosul] in close proximity to civilians."

Franklin Graham:"God Showed Up" to Aid Trump; Resulted in the "Biggest Pol.Upset of Our Lifetime"

Evangelist Franklin Graham said that prayer -- and God's answer to it -- helped Donald Trump and Mike Pence pull off "the biggest political upset of our lifetime," the Washington Post website reports today (November 11, 2016).

Graham -- son of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan's Purse -- told the Washington Post, "I could sense going across the country that God was going to do something this year. And I believe that at this election, God showed up."

Yesterday -- a day after Trump was elected to become America's 45th president -- Graham said God had answered their prayers.

Evangelical leaders from across the country -- including Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, and Ralph Reed -- stood by Trump during a heated election time.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taliban Suicide Attacker Kills 2, Wounds 100; Slams Explosives Truck on German Consulate

A Taliban truck -- loaded with powerful explosives -- slammed into the German consulate in Afghanistan's northern Mazar-i-Sharif city today (November 10, 2016), killing at least two people and wounding more than 100 in a major militant assault in the war-torn country, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The Taliban called it a "revenge attack" for U.S. air strikes in the province of Kunduz earlier this month that left 32 civilians dead.

The huge explosion -- followed by sporadic gunfire -- reverberated across the usually tranquil city, causing windows to break and civilians to seek cover.

"The suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden truck into the wall of the German consulate," local police chief Sayed Kamal Sadat told AFP.

IS Lauds Donald Trump's Pres. Election Victory; Says His Pres. Will "Lead to Civil War," Ruin US

Muslim extremists celebrated President-elect Donald Trump's victory at the polls yesterday, hoping his triumph will "lead to civil war," the USA Today website reports today (November 10, 2016).

"Rejoice with support from Allah, and find glad tidings in the imminent demise of America at the hands of Trump," said the al-Minbar Jihadi Media network, which is affiliated with the Islamic State (IS), according to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.

"Trump's win of the American presidency will bring hostility of Muslims against America as a result of his reckless actions," the al-Minbar Jihadi Media network continued.

In another Muslim extremist by-product of Trump's victory, the Afghan Taliban urged Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and to "not pursue interests at the expense of other countries," SITE reported.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Schindler's List Be Holocaust Memorial; Schindler Saved Lives of 1K+ Jews at Czech Site

A disused building in the Czech Republic -- where German industrialist Oskar Schindler employed more than a thousand Jews to save them from the gas chambers -- is being turned into a Holocaust memorial, The Guardian website reports today (November 9, 2016).

Parts of the complex in Brnenec -- close to Schindler's birthplace in Svitavy -- were given the status of cultural monument this month, according to the Czech culture ministry.

Built in the 19th century, the laboratory, mill, chemical depot, front door, and a square used for roll call "have close historical links... to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Brnenec," the ministry spokeswoman, Simona Cigankova, said.

During World War II, Schindler (1908-1974) saved the lives of 1,200 Jews by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factories in Nazi-occupied Poland and Czechoslovakia. His ability to prevent Jews from being murdered by Nazis is portrayed in the popular 1993 film, Schindler's List.

Netanyahu Hails Trump as True Friend of Israel; Views US-Israel Alliance Heading to New Heights

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (November 9, 2016) congratulated Donald Trump on his election victory for U.S. President, saying the Republican is "a true friend of the state of Israel," according to the Times of Israel website.

Netanyahu's remarks were released a few hours after Trump proclaimed victory over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in a surprise electoral coup.

"We will work together to advance security, stability, and peace in our region," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"The bond between the U.S. and Israel is based on shared values, shared interests, and a shared future. I am sure that President-elect Trump and I will continue to strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the U.S., and we will bring them to new heights," he added.

Vatican Congratulates Trump on His Pres.Victory; Prays Jesus Enlightens Him to Bring World Peace

Congratulating Donald Trump today (November 9, 2016) for his victory in the U.S. presidential election, the Vatican secretary of state expressed hope that people would work together  "to change the global situation, which is a situation of serious laceration, serious conflict," the Catholic Herald (British) website reports.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin -- Pope Francis' top aide -- spoke about the election today during a meeting at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University.

"We send our best wishes to the new president that his administration may truly be fruitful," the cardinal said.

He added: "And we also assure him of our prayers that the Lord would enlighten and sustain him in his service to his country naturally, but also in serving the well-being and peace of the world."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ohio Man Trying to Join ISIS in Libya Arrested; Said He Attempted to Fly Overseas to Join Jihad

An Ohio man accused of trying to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been arrested while trying to fly to Libya, the CBS News website reports today (November 8, 2016).

The federal prosecutor in Columbus, Ohio says Aaron Daniels was taken into custody yesterday at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport after a month-long investigation.

After his arrest yesterday, Daniels admitted he was attempting to fly overseas to join jihad.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said Daniels wired $250 to now-deceased ISIS operative Abu Isa Al-Amriki in January.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ukrainian Moscow-Allied Orth.Church Set on Fire; Russian-Ukrainian Hostilities Lead to Rel.Violence

A church has been firebombed in central Ukraine in an attack illustrating profound religious divisions of the country, which have worsened as a result of Russia's seizing Ukraine's Crimean peninsula two years ago, the Christian Today website reports today (November 7, 2016).

Molotov cocktails were hurled at the Church of SS Cyril and Methodius in Pavlograd, according to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The church -- which sustained significant damage -- is part of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which is under the authority of Patriarch Kirill, head of the ROC. A rival branch of the Orthodox Church -- the Kiev Patriarchate -- rejects Russian control of Ukrainian churches and is associated with Ukrainian nationalism.

The Orthodox Church statement said three Molotov cocktails were thrown, with the resulting fire damaging prayer books and the central part of the church, including icons and frescoes.

FBI Questions Muslims in 8 States on Terrorism; Muslim Rights Head: Questions Unconstitutional

A civil rights organization for American Muslims says the FBI questioned Muslims in at least eight states on November 5 and 6, seeking information about a possible threat from al-Qaeda to carry out pre-election terror attacks, the Washington Post website reports today (November 7, 2016).

The Muslims were asked eight questions -- including several special to al-Qaeda -- said Hassan Shibly, a lawyer and the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Florida.

He said his clients were asked whether they knew the al-Qaeda leaders killed in U.S. military airstrikes last month, who U.S. officials believe were connected to the alleged plot, and whether they knew of anyone who wished to cause harm to Americans at home or abroad.

Shibly said it appeared only Muslims of Afghani and Pakistani descent were questioned. He called the FBI actions "outrageous" and "unconstitutional."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Kurdish, Arab Troops Launch Attack on Raqqa; Mission to Retake IS-Controlled Capital in Syria

U.S.-backed rebels today (November 6, 2016) began an operation to retake the city of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria, according to the Newsmax website.

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) -- an alliance of of Kurdish and Arab armed forces -- said its operation to retake Raqqa is called "Euphrates Anger."

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on October 25 that the battle to retake Raqqa in Syria would "overlap" with the assault on the city of Mosul in Iraq.

Since it was formed in early 2015, the SDF has seized much territory along the Syria-Turkey border from the Islamic State, and pushed the jihadist group back to within 18 miles of Raqqa.

Pope Francis Holds a Jubilee Mass for Prisoners; "We Are All Sinners,Often We Too Are Prisoners"

Pope Francis held a special Jubilee of inmates, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, today (November 6, 2016), according to the Yahoo News website.

He later urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible.

"Today we celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy for you and with you, our brothers and sisters who are imprisoned," Francis told them. He said while breaking the law involves paying the price, "hope must never falter."

He added, "We forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

ISIS Kills Scores of Its Own Troops Fleeing Mosul; IS Leader Told Troops Not to Retreat in Total War

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group is executing its own fighters by the dozen as they attempt to flee from the city of Mosul in the face of an offensive by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, the IB (International Business) Times website reports today (November 5, 2016).

The UN's Human Rights Agency said some 50 IS fighters -- accused of desertion -- were killed at the Ghazlani military base in Mosul.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS, said in a speech to residents of Mosul on November 3 that there could be no retreat in a "total war." Reports have emerged that IS troops are disguising themselves as refugees to leave Mosul without being shot.

The UN also reported today that hundreds of women were being used as human shields by IS troops fighting the approaching Iraqi forces.

Cath.Church:Devil Uses Pols Like Hillary Clinton; Satan Converts Christian Values to Worldly Ones

A Roman Catholic Church in San Diego, California told its parishioners the devil works through politicians like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton -- whose strong support for abortions contradicts the teaching of the Catholic Church --  and warned that voting for Democrats is a "mortal sin," the Reuters website reports today (November 5, 2016).

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church made the statements in a weekly leaflet given to churchgoers, a copy of which remains on the church's website.

"Satan has deceived many Christians to convert to worldly values from Christian ones," the October 30 bulletin says.

Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, said in a statement: "While we have a moral role to play in explaining how Catholic teaching relates to certain public policy issues, we must not and will not endorse specific candidates ... or engage in partisan political activity of any kind."

Friday, November 4, 2016

Turkish Pres.:Germany Is a Haven for Terrorists; Erdogan Angry Germany Harbors PKK Members

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today (November 4, 2016) lashed out at the German government, claiming that the migrant policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel have made Germany a haven for terrorists, according to the Breitbart website.

The controversial power-obsessed president -- who has consolidated his power in the wake of the failed coup to overthrow him in July -- said that Germany was harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is illegal in Turkey. In fact, Turks and Kurds are now arch enemies, as Kurds seek to establish their own independent state in Turkey.

"Germany has become an important port for terrorists, " Erdogan said.

He warned that the German open door policy during the height of the migrant crisis -- Germany accepted more than a million migrants in 2015 -- would come back to haunt Germans, saying: "Hey Germany, be aware that these terrorists will hit you like a boomerang."

Car Bomb Rocks City of Diyarbakir in S.E.Turkey; At Least Eight Killed and 100 Wounded by Attack

A car bomb rocked the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir today (November 4, 2016), killing at least eight people and wounding more than 100 others, the Euro News website reports.

It came just hours after police detained several politicians of the Kurdish region's biggest party.

The blast struck a central area, near a police station where some of the Kurdish party leaders were being held in a terrorism probe.

It tore off facades of buildings and firefighters were searching debris for people trapped there. The Kurdistan Workers Party -- or PKK -- is believed to be responsible for today's attack.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Freed Boko Haram Women Raped by Guards; Nigerian Women Are Abused by Police,Others

The Human Rights Watch group said today (November 3, 2016) that many women and girls who had survived the violence and sexual abuse of the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, have been raped by government officials in northern Nigeria where they sought safety, according to the CNN website.

Dozens of women and girls who stayed at camps for the displaced in Borno State's capital, Maiduguri, told Human Rights Watch (HRW) they were sexually abused or coerced into sex by camp leaders, vigilante group members, policemen, and soldiers.

Several women were abandoned after they became pregnant.

Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW, said, "It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them."

Two US Troops Killed by Taliban in Afghanistan; US Troops Have Been in Afghanistan for 15 Years

Two U.S. service members were killed today (November 3, 2016) battling Taliban Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan alongside local troops, according to the Newser website.

NATO described the Americans killed -- and two other Americans wounded -- in the assault as being part of "a train, advise, and assist mission" in Afghanistan's Kunduz province. The American casualties have not yet been identified.

Although U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan are officially over, thousands of U.S. troops remain in the country.

U.S. special forces first entered Afghanistan in October 2001 -- due to the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. -- in an effort to kill terrorists and suppress terrorist activities. At that time, Afghanistan was considered by the U.S. to be the root of terror strategies and the predominant haven for terrorists.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Iraqi Jets Kill 116 IS Militants in Mosul Bombing; Iraqi Gen.:Beginning of True Liberation of Mosul

Iraqi fighter jets killed 116 Islamic State (IS) group fighters during bombing raids on the IS-stronghold city of Mosul yesterday, including 67 who were at a meeting in a hotel swimming pool that has been described as the terrorist group's "war room," the Vice News website reports today (November 2, 2016).

Details of the attacks were provided by the Kurdish news outlet, Rudaw.

The air attacks came on the same day that Iraqi special forces entered Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- for the first time in over two years.

"Now is the beginning of the true liberation of the city of Mosul," Staff General Taleb Shegnati al-Kenani, commander of the Iraqi special forces, said on Iraqiya state TV, which is located in a building that Iraqi troops took control of as they began their offensive to retake Mosul.