Sunday, January 31, 2016

Swedes Arrested for Harassing Refugee Children; Hand Out Leaflet "Against Imported Criminality"

Up to 100 masked men threatened to attack refugee children in central Stockholm -- the capital of Sweden -- on January 29, according to local police accounts, the Washington Post website reports today (January 31, 2016).

Fredrik Nylen -- a spokesman for Stockholm police -- said that several men had been arrested because they may have gathered "with the purpose of attacking refugee children." But Swedish and British newspapers reported that Swedes physically attacked refugees.

Police said that up to 100 men were involved in a march through the city center during which they handed out leaflets which threatened punishments for "north African street children roaming" Stockholm.

"It's enough now," the leaflets reportedly say, referring to the recent influx of refugees into the country and recent reports of crimes, allegedly committed by migrants. The leaflets encouraged other men to "defend our public areas against the imported criminality."

IS Triple Suicide Bombing Kills 50 in Damascus; Some 100 Wounded by Car Bomb,2 Suicide Belts

At least 50 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in a triple suicide bombing today (January 31, 2016) near a holy Shiite Muslim shrine outside the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to the ABC News website.

Syrian news agency SANA said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated at a bus station near the shrine.

It added that two suicide bombers then detonated their explosive belts when people gathered at the scene.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the triple bombing in a statement released on social media.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

At Least 37 Migrants Drowned Off Turkish Coast; Boat Heading to Lesbos Sank after Hitting Rocks

At least 37 people -- including 10 or more children -- drowned today (January 30, 2016) off the western coast of Turkey, when a boat packed with migrants capsized, according to the USA Today website.

The five-mile journey in the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Lesbos is short, but rocky -- causing the tragedy that killed several babies and toddlers.

A Turkish government official said the 56-foot boat hit rocks almost immediately after leaving shore. About 75 people were rescued, the Turkish Coast Guard said. More drowning victims are believed to be trapped inside the sunken vessel.

Police arrested a Turkish man suspected of being the smuggler who organized today's failed sea crossing. The man denied responsibility, saying that he also had relatives on board.

France Threatens Israel on a Two-State Solution; Will Recognize Palestinian State If No Agreement

France's foreign minister said yesterday that France will recognize a Palestinian state if a final push that Paris plans to lead for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians fails, the Reuters website reports today (January 30, 2016).

U.S.-led efforts to broker peace for a two-state solution collapsed in April 2014 and since then there have been no serious efforts to resume talks. France's attempt to re-establish peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians appears to be a threat to Israel that it needs to agree to a two-state solution in the near future.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has repeatedly warned that letting the status quo continue risks killing off a two-state solution and playing into the hands of Islamic State (IS) militants.

"We cannot let the two-state solution disintegrate. It is our responsibility as a U.N. Security Council member and a power seeking peace," Fabius told an annual gathering of foreign diplomats.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Church Near Confucius' Hometown Sparks Tussle; Many Chinese See Qufu as China's Spiritual Home

Ancient Chinese Confucianism is being confronted by Christianity, as conflict arises over a Christian church looking to expand in a region that is known as Confucius' hometown, the Christian Headlines website reports today (January 29, 2016).

Confucius' hometown of Qufu in eastern China's Shandong province has long been a bastion of ancient Chinese spirituality. Although China's Communist party has tried to eradicate religion in the past, Confucianism is seeing a rebirth in China, just as many Christians are being persecuted and their churches demolished.

The presence of a Christian church less than two miles from Qufu's main Confucian temple is currently sparking debate.

One Confucian scholar, Zeng Zhenyu, believes that a Christian church has no place so close to the sacred spot of Confucius' hometown. "Qufu in China is like Jerusalem and Mecca," Zeng, a professor at Shandong University's Advanced Institute for Confucian Studies, said. "It's the Chinese people's spiritual home."

Grenade Is Thrown into German Refugee Shelter; Police:It Was "Just Luck" Grenade Didn't Explode

A hand grenade was thrown into a refugee shelter in Germany overnight, as officials said attacks against asylum seekers in the country hit a new level of hate and violence, the Independent (British) website reports today (January 29, 2016).

Police in the southern town of Villingen-Schwenningen said it was "just luck" that the grenade did not explode when it landed at 1:15 a.m.

Around 20 asylum seekers were sleeping inside the building at the time and were evacuated while a bomb squad destroyed the grenade in a controlled explosion.

Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, said the attack represented a new level of "hate and violence" that must be addressed by local and federal authorities.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Many Iraqis Displeased in Europe Return Home; Due to Asylum Process, Bad Food, Poor Shelters

A growing number of Iraqis are returning home from Germany, citing a lengthy asylum process, bland food, and poor shelters as reasons for leaving, the Euro New website reports today (January 28, 2016).

"My husband liked the idea of going there [to Europe]. He saw others and wanted to imitate them," said one Kurdish returnee. "The situation there was much worse than here. We spent around three months there. We got nothing. The food was bad and there was little of it ..."

The number of returnees began rising in the final months of 2015. In December, 200 Iraqis headed back home.

The increase in demand has pushed Iraqi Airways to operate three flights per week -- from Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt.

Obama: US to Lead Fight against Anti-Semitism; Asserts We Must Not Be Silent on Its Recent Rise

U.S. President Barack Obama told a gathering at the Israeli Embasy in Washington, DC yesterday that America has an obligation to lead the fight against rising anti-Semitism, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 28, 2016).

Speaking at a ceremony marking International Holocaust Day, Obama said the rise in anti-Semitism is "undeniable."

It is the first time that International Holocaust Day has ever been held at the Israeli Embassy.

"When we see some Jews leaving major European cities where their families have lived for generations, because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses -- when we see all that and more, we must not be silent," Obama said.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sweden Will Expel Some 80K Asylum-Seekers; Migrant Stabbed Employee to Death This Week

Sweden's interior minister said today (January 27, 2016) that the Scandinavian country expects to expel up to 80,000 asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected, according to the BBC website.

Anders Ygeman said that charter aircraft would be used to deport the migrants over several years.

Some 163,000 migrants applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015 -- the highest per capita number in Europe.

Sweden earlier this week became the latest of a number of European nations to see tensions of migrants heightened by violence. A 15-year-old asylum-seeker was arrested in Molndal --near Gothenburg -- after a 22-year-old asylum center employee was stabbed to death.

Pope:World's Richest Risk Hell by Ignoring Poor; States Caring for Poor Is Path to True Conversion

Pope Francis is taking direct aim at the wealthy and powerful of the world, saying in his message for Lent that they are often "slaves of sin" who, if they ignore the poor, "will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is hell," the Religion News website reports today (January 27, 2016).

"The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow," the pontiff wrote in his annual Lenten exhortation which was released on January 26.

Francis has made caring for the poor and denouncing social injustice a hallmark of his pontificate since his election in 2013. He has said he would like "a church that is poor and for the poor," and he has called the "unfettered pursuit of money" the "dung of the devil."

In this year's message to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics for the penitential season leading to Easter, he uses some of his most powerful language yet. He talks about the corrupting influence of money and power, while pointing out that caring for the poor -- and not just praying for them -- is the path to genuine conversion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pope Francis, President of Iran Meet at Vatican; Focus on Dialogue to Promote Tolerance, Peace

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the President of Iran met today (January 26, 2016) at the Vatican, an encounter that speaks to a changing geopolitical landscape and both men's significant role in it, the CNN website reports.

Cameras captured Pope Francis and President Hassan Rouhani shaking hands and sitting down across from each other. The Vatican later offered a glimpse into what it called "cordial discussions" touching on the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear accord and "problems afflicting the Middle East."

While the Vatican news release did not mention any specific group or country, no doubt the agenda included talk about the years-long war and humanitarian crisis in Syria and Christians endangered by Islamist extremists such as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

"The parties highlighted the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance, and peace," the Vatican said. 

Israeli Woman Dies from Supermarket Stabbing; Two Male Palestinians Shot Dead by Store Guard

An Israeli woman seriously injured yesterday in a stabbing at a West Bank supermarket died today (January 26, 2016), according to the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website.

Shlomit Krigman, 23, died early this morning. She was in the Beit Horon settlement, located between Jerusalem and Modiin, visiting her grandparents when she was attacked in the market.

Krigman -- who grew up in the Shadmot Mehola settlement in the West Bank -- had served as a Bnei Akiva youth group leader in Beit Horon, where she lived. She is survived by her parents and six siblings.

A 58-year-old woman also stabbed in the attack remains hospitalized in Jerusalem. The two male Palestinian assailants who attacked the women were shot dead by the store's security guard.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Turkey Urges EU to Give It 3B Euros for Refugees; EU: Turkey Must Retain Refugees, Hasn't Done So

Turkey told the EU (European Union) today (January 25, 2016) to give it the three billion euros promised in November by governments to help Ankara stem the flow of migrants to Europe, according to the Euro News website.

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the government urgently needed the money. "Regarding the delay of 3 billion euros for the refugees, we don't take it personal, it has nothing to do with Turkey. It's the internal matter of the EU. But I have to remind that any delay of the amount of money coming for the refugees is affecting the daily life and the living standards of the refugees in Turkey," he said.

EU officials say that Turkey has to deliver on its part of the deal before it will be compensated; diplomats in Brussels are unhappy that few steps appear to have been taken by Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. More than one million refugees and migrants reached Europe in 2015 by land or sea illegally, according to the International Organization for Migration.

"The EU member states, I have to say, are watching very closely whether the numbers of irregular migrants go down due to Turkish actions and where these migrants come from," said Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner responsible for neighborhood policy.

Franklin Graham:College Must Fire Polemic Prof.; Prof. Said Christians, Muslims Worship Same God

The Rev. Franklin Graham says he's "deeply concerned" about reports that the Evangelical Wheaton College could be reconsidering its move to terminate the controversial tenured professor who suggested that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the Christian Post website reports today (January 25, 2016).

"Both my father Billy Graham and my mother attended Wheaton College in Illinois -- in fact that's where they met. I'm surprised and disappointed that the faculty council there is now recommending the college drop their plans to terminate a professor who published that she believed Islam and Christianity worship the same God in December," Graham wrote on his Facebook page.

"This is no minor issue that should be debated. Islam denies that God has a Son. They deny that Jesus is God," he added.

Associate political science professor Larycia Hawkins ignited intense debate last year after she chose to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslims. She also suggested that Christians and Muslims worship the same God in a Facebook post, which led to Wheaton College Provost Stanton Jones recommending termination proceedings.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Over 40% of Europeans Hold Antisemitic Views; Report Claims Israel Is Behaving Like the Nazis

According to data presented at an Israeli cabinet meeting today (January 24, 2016), more than 40 percent of European Union (EU) citizens hold antisemitic views and agree with the claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians and behaving like the Nazis, the Algemeiner website reports.

Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett -- who also serves as minister of education -- presented the country's 2015 antisemitism report, pointing to the trends emerging in Europe as a result of the spread of radical Islam; the refugee and migrant crisis; the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement; and the rise of the extreme Right.

The "new antisemitism" explored in the report deals mainly with Jew-hatred among Muslims, rather than fringe parties in various European countries. The report states that "anti-Israel protests and accusations that Israel is a blood-thirsty, illegitimate country creates a slippery slope that eventually leads to the assault on Jews identified with Israel."

Another aspect of antisemitism raised in the report is that it has led to Jewish "enclosure in guarded areas and to a record high in emigration from Western Europe."

At Least 63 People Die in Syrian Air Strikes; Includes 9 Children Struck by Russian Jets

At least 63 people -- including nine children -- have died in air strikes believed to be carried out by Russian warplanes on a town in eastern Syria, the News Daily website reports today (January 24, 2016).

The raids on Khasham near the city of Deir al-Zor yesterday were among a series of strikes that also hit two other towns in the past 48 hours, killing scores of people.

Russian jets have been bombing Deir al-Zor as Syrian pro-government forces clash with Islamic State (IS) fighters, who control most of the province.

Warplanes have also hit Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa over the past two days, killing at least 44 people in the city. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pope: Cath. Church Opposes Gay Marriage in Italy; "Family Is Part of God's Dream... Saves Humanity"

Pope Francis issued a stern reminder of the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage yesterday (January 22, 2016), as a fierce debate raged in Italy ahead of a vote that would give legal recognition to homosexual couples, according to the Christian Today website.

Next week, the Italian Senate is due to resume debating a bill that would legalize civil partnership for homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexual couples.

Many opponents view such a law as a prelude to legalizing gay marriage.

"The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God's dream and that of His Church for the salvation of humanity," Pope Francis said in an address to members of the Vatican court that rules on marriage annulments.

Bloomberg Plans Run as Ind. Candidate for Pres.; Former NY Mayor Feels He'd Attract Upset Voters

Being disappointed in the Democrat and Republican top leaders in the presidential race, Michael Bloomberg -- the billionaire former mayor of New York City -- has told his aides to draw up plans for an independent campaign for the U.S. presidency, the Reuters website reports today (January 23, 2016).

Bloomberg has advised friends and associates that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his own money on a campaign for the November 2016 election.

Bloomberg, 73, has given himself an early March deadline for entering the presidential race, after commissioning a poll in December to see how he would fare against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican and Democratic frontrunners.

No independent has ever won a U.S. presidential election. But Bloomberg -- who has close Wall Street ties and liberal social views -- sees an approving attraction of voters for his candidacy if Republicans nominate Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Democrats nominate Clinton or Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Friday, January 22, 2016

US to Deploy Combat Troops to Iraq to Defeat IS; Drops Obama's "No Boots on the Ground" Policy

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced today (January 22, 2016) that the U.S. will deploy "boots on the ground" in Iraq to help Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group,  according to the AlterNet News website.

The policy shift is a turnaround from President Obama's previous stance of not deploying combat troops in Iraq, since the airstrikes alone by the U.S. and other nations against ISIS for over a year have not been as successful as expected.

Sec. Carter's announcement today marks the first time an express acknowledgment of ground troops has been made by a U.S. senior official. The first such deployments -- according to Sec. Carter -- will be the 101st Airborne Division.

"Soldiers in the storied 101st Airborne Division will soon deploy to Iraq to join the fight against ISIL," Carter wrote in "Politico" magazine. "They will head there with the support of the American people and armed with a clear campaign plan to deliver the barbaric organization a lasting defeat, which I personally shared with them last week at Fort Campbell," Carter added.

Migrants' Boats Sink off Greek Coast Drowning 44; Germany Presses Turkey to Take in More Refugees

Forty-four people drowned after three refugee boats sank today (January 22, 2016) off the coast of Greece, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to press Turkey to play a bigger part in resolving Europe's escalating migrant crisis, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Germany and Turkey have emerged as crucial players in the biggest migration crisis to rock Europe since World War II, and both Merkel and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will seek to drive a hard bargain in Berlin where the two countries' cabinets are meeting.

The outcome of today's talks is not only important for Merkel -- who faces intense pressure at home to impose a cap on Germany's refugee intake -- but will also have resonance across Europe where public opinion is hardening against a record asylum seeker influx.

In a stark illustration of the high cost of the voyage, Greek and Turkish coastguards recovered the bodies of 44 migrants -- including 20 children -- whose boats capsized on their way to Greece, officials said today.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Denmark Won't Alter Culture to Please Migrants; Will Ensure Pork Is Listed on Public Inst. Menus

In Denmark -- a country with more pigs than human beings -- pork has become the latest element of a debate that has been declared a culture war, in an effort to limit Muslim migrants and lessen their impact on Danish society, the Washington Post website reports today (January 21, 2016).

The city council of Randers this week made it mandatory for public institutions -- including cafeterias in kindergartens and daycare centers -- to have pork dishes on their menus. The council members said that their decision was an effort to preserve Danish identity and culture  -- including pork meals which are consumed by most Danes.

Pork -- which is usually not eaten by observant Jews and Muslims -- is central to the Danish food industry. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council states that the consumption and export of pork are crucial to Denmark's economy. There are some 5,000 pig farms in Denmark, with several million animals.

The decision in Randers is likely to please anti-Islamic lobby groups. Although the city council stressed that it did not want to force Muslims or Jews to eat food that contradicts their religious beliefs, some considered the decision a message to refugees and other migrants that Denmark was unwilling to give up parts of its culture to accommodate others.

Feds Investigate Kent State Prof. for Link to ISIS; Julio Pino May Have Recruited Students for ISIS

Julio Pino, an associate history professor at Kent State University in Ohio, is under investigation for links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, the Clarion Project website reports today (January 21, 2016).

Pino -- who has a documented history of extremism-- reportedly posted ISIS propaganda pictures on social media and may have been recruiting students for the terrorist group.

Shockingly, Pino is still teaching two classes this semester despite the investigation. Over 20 of his  students have been interviewed and the investigation has been going on for about a year and a half. He has taught at Kent State since 1992 and converted to Islam in 2000.

In an interview after the news broke, Pino said he has not broken the law or encouraged anyone else to break the law. He added his freedom of speech should be respected and denied he is under investigation. But Pino is under investigation for possible links to ISIS, and his freedom of speech is not exempt from disciplinary action if it includes incitement to terrorism.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Taliban Terrorists Kill 21 at Pakistan University; PM Pledges to Wipe Out "Menace of Terrorism"

Pakistani officials said at least 21 people are dead and 23 others wounded after Taliban gunmen climbed over the wall into a university in northwest Pakistan today (January 20, 2016) and began firing, according to the USA Today website.

The attack -- which included explosions -- broke out as about 600 people attended a poetry recital at Bacha Khan University, which serves 3,000 students in Charsadda, near the city of Peshawar.

Army spokesman, Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said that four attackers were killed. Pakistani troops were posted on buildings and went block by block to clear the campus.

The attack erupted in the same province as the 2014 Peshawar school attack that killed more than 150 people -- mostly children -- and shocked the nation. The carnage prompted the Pakistani prime minister to pledge the country will wipe out the "menace of terrorism."

Mad Israel Calls US Ambassador "Little Jew Boy;" Said Israel Uses Double-Standard Law in W. Bank

The U.S. State Department has moved to back America's ambassador to Israel in a heated and escalating dispute over his remarks on January 18 that Israel applied law in the occupied West Bank differently to Palestinians and Israelis, the Raw Story website reports today (January 20, 2016).

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro's critical comments drew harsh criticism from several top officials in Israel's government -- including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Shapiro was also insulted on Israeli television last night by a former aide to Netanyahu who described the ambassador by using the offensive Hebrew word "yehudon," which translates as "little Jew boy." The term is used by Israelis against other Jews whom they regard as not being pro-Israeli enough.

The insulting epithet was used by Aviv Bushinsky -- former aide to Netanyahu and now a TV news reporter -- after Shapiro said at a security conference: "Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation by Israeli authorities.... and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law -- one for Israelis and another for Palestinians."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dutch Protest against a Refugee Center in Heesch; Call for Locking Male Muslims to Protect Women

Heesch is the latest Dutch town to suffer anti-immigrant protests after police made three arrests last night, as a demonstration forced councilors to abandon a public meeting over plans for the town to host 500 refugees over the next 10 years, the Euro News website reports today (January 19, 2016).

The Dutch took over 50,000 refugees in 2015, but many in this town of 13,000 people want none.

"When they can't get rid of this mess in The Hague they just dump it in the village here. But we don't want them either, so they can keep them there, but not in our farmers' village, not in my backyard. If they'll rape my daughter, there won't be 500 cops here to protect her," said one man.

The riot came only hours after the far-right's Geert Wilders called for Islamic male refugees to be kept locked up in asylum centers, saying such a move was needed to protect Dutch women after the hundreds of  New Year's Eve sexual assaults by Muslim men on women in Cologne, Germany.

French PM:IS Attacks Show We Are in World War; Radicalized Young People Fostering IS Terror Acts

Listing a multitude of terrorist attacks in Israel -- as well as several attacks by the Islamic State (IS) around the world -- French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said they showed "we are in a world war," the Jerusalem Post website reports today (January 19, 2016).

Valls made the statement yesterday at a Paris hotel in an address before some 350 listeners -- mostly from the Jewish community -- during an event organized by CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities. Valls joins several other national and religious leaders -- including Pope Francis -- in asserting that we are now in a world war being waged by the radical Islamic State, in its unrealistic, unattainable, and delusional goal to have Islam control the world.

In explaining the reasons for the existence of a terrorist threat in France, Valls noted "upheaval in the Arab world" and "the reality in certain neighborhoods in France, where young people are being radicalized."

"There are more and more terrorist attacks all over the world. In France, Burkina Faso, in Jakarta, in Israel, it keeps happening and it shows we need to learn to live with it," Valls said.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Algerian Man Is 1st Nabbed for Cologne Attacks; 1K Muslim Men Groped Women New Year's Eve

A 26-year-old Algerian man was arrested today (January 18, 2016) for his involvement in New Year's Eve attacks on women in Cologne, Germany, making him the first of about 1,000 perpetrators -- suspected of being recent Muslim migrants -- to receive sexual assault-related charges, according to the Daily Caller website.

The man is accused of groping a woman and stealing her cell phone, which was in his possession at the time of the arrest according to Ulrich Bremer, Cologne's chief prosecutor. An additional 21 suspects have been charged with non-sexual offenses, with eight awaiting trial. A total of 497 women reported they were sexually assaulted.

The day after the attacks were exposed, Cologne-based attorney Nikolaos Gazeas said it will be hard to convict even one person of sexual assault, since groups carried out the attacks.

"You have to prove a perpetrator's personal guilt," Gazeas said. "That's problematic in the case of crimes committed from within groups, and it's particularly problematic in the case of New Year's Eve because everything was so chaotic at Cologne's main train station [primary location of the New Year's Eve celebration]."

Wisc.Co.Bans Muslim Prayer During Work Hours; Claims Prayer Breaks Cause an "Undue Hardship"

A Wisconsin manufacturing plant -- claiming "undue hardship"  results from prayer breaks -- has told Muslim employees they cannot leave the assembly line to pray, although Muslim employees say there was never a problem, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (January 18, 2016).

Muslim employees can only leave work to pray during meal breaks, according to a new policy imposed at Ariens Manufacturing Company, which makes lawn mowers and snow blowers in Brillion, Wisconsin.

Islamic faith requires Muslims to pray five times a day. Until the new policy was announced on January 14, Muslim employees at Ariens were permitted to leave their station at the production line to pray twice during their shifts. While practicing the five-minute prayer, the Muslim employees would allocate their duties among coworkers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employees do not have to accommodate a religious practice if it causes "undue hardship" to the company by decreasing practice if it causes "undue hardship" to the company by decreasing "workplace efficiency."

3 American Contractors Kidnapped in Baghdad; Abducted from an Apartment Used as a Brothel

The U.S. embassy in Iraq has confirmed that three Americans have been kidnapped in Baghdad, the Clarion Project website reports today (January 18, 2016).

The Americans -- who worked as contractors at Baghdad International Airport -- were kidnapped in the southern neighborhood of Dora on January 17.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, "The safety and security of American citizens overseas is our highest priority. We are working with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals."

The three -- two men and a woman -- were kidnapped by Shiite Muslim militiamen who raided a second-floor apartment. According to a police major general as well as a neighbor, the apartment was being used as a brothel. Raids on brothels in the neighborhood have occurred previously and the men were merely told to leave.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Czech Pres.:Muslim Integration in Europe Unreal; Views It as Attempt to "Gradually Control Europe"

Czech President Milos Zeman said today (January 17, 2016) that it was "practically impossible" to integrate the Muslim community into European society, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"The experience of Western European countries which have ghettos and excluded localities shows that the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible," Zeman said in a television interview.

"Let them have their culture in their countries and not take it to Europe; otherwise it will end up like Cologne," he added, referring to the hundreds of New Year's Eve sexual assaults on women in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Earlier this month, Zeman claimed that the influx of Muslim refugees into Europe was masterminded by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, saying the radical Islamist group was using money from several nations to finance it, in a bid for Muslims to "gradually control Europe."

Muslim Enters Woman's Israel Home,Kills Her; Arab Construction Worker Kills Mother of Four

An Arab Muslim construction worker, working inside the community of Otniel in Israel, entered into a home around 5:30 p.m. yesterday and stabbed and murdered a 38-year-old woman. The woman was taken to Soroka Medical Center by helicopter in critical condition, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 17, 2016).

The woman, identified as Daphna Meir, was murdered in front of three of her children. Daphna was a mother of four children, as well as two foster children.

She worked as a nurse in Soroka hospital.

The community is currently under full lockdown as the army searches for the terrorist.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saeed Abedini Departs Iran Prison after 3 Years; Christian Pastor, 3 Others Freed in US-Iran Deal

Pastor Saeed Abedini has been released from prison in Iran after more than three years in captivity for his Christian faith, the Christian Post website reports today (January 16, 2016).

Abedini -- a U.S. citizen who has attracted high-profile advocates for his release including President Obama and members of Congress -- was released today along with three other detained Americans: Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian; former Marine Amir Hekmati; and Nosratollah Khosavi-Roodsari, U.S. administration officials confirmed.

Abedini's wife, Naghmem -- who has tirelessly campaigned for his release since his imprisonment -- said in a statement, "This has been an answer to prayer. This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed's return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time."

The four Americans were released by Iran in exchange for at least six people imprisoned by the United States, and just ahead of the implementation of the July 2015 historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

IS Attack in Syria's Deir Ezzor Kills 35 Soldiers; Govt. Troops Kill 16 IS Fighters in Aleppo Prov.

At least 35 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed today (January 16, 2016) in a multi-front attack by the Islamic State (IS) group on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The fighting came as regime forces battled IS in the northern province of Aleppo, repelling a jihadist assault and killing at least 16 fighters from the group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS had advanced into the northern tip of Deir Ezzor city in eastern Syria, and captured the suburb of Al-Baghaliyeh.

The advance puts IS in control of around 60 percent of the city, with the regime holding the rest.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Anglican Communion Suspends Episcopal Church; Due to US Church Performing Same-Sex Marriages

For the first time, the global organizing body of Anglicans has punished the Episcopal Church -- which is the name of the Anglican Church in the United States -- following years of heated debate with the American church over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the role of women clergy, the Washington Post website reports today (January 15, 2016).

The Anglican Communion's announcement yesterday that it would suspend its U.S. branch for three years from key voting positions was seen as a blow to the Episcopal Church, which allows its clergy to perform same-sex marriages, and this summer voted to include the rite in its church laws.

It was also seen as a victory for conservative Anglicans -- especially those in Africa -- who for years have been pressing the Anglican Communion to discipline the U.S. body.

"The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union," the leaders of the Anglican Communion, which represents 44 national churches, said in a statement during a meeting in Canterbury. "The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."

Anti-Semitism Draws Record No. of Jews to Israel; European Jews Most Abused Since Nazi Holocaust

Jewish immigration to Israel from Western Europe reached an all-time high last year, as a result of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 15, 2016).

The Jewish Agency -- which works closely with the Israeli government and acts as a link for Jews around the world -- reported that 9,880 Western European Jews immigrated to Israel in 2015, the highest annual number ever.

The vast majority -- close to 8,000 -- came from France, where a rise in anti-Semitic attacks has shattered the sense of security of the world's third-largest Jewish population. Experts say European Jews have not felt this threatened since World War II, when 6 million Jews were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust.

Just this week, a machete-wielding teen attacked a Jewish teacher in the French city of Marseille, prompting a local Jewish authority to ask fellow Jews to refrain from wearing their traditional skull caps in order to stay safe.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fifty Countries Named to Christian Hall of Shame; 2015 Was Worst Yr. Ever for Christian Persecution

With North Korea leading the way and Islamic extremism rapidly expanding, 2015 was the "worst year in modern history for Christian persecution," the Religion News website reports today (January 14, 2016).

Iraq is in second place on the Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian.

Iraq is also the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism "has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing," said the report, released on January 13.

The top 10 countries leading the world in Christian persecution, in the order named, are: North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya.

Seven Dead in IS Militants' Attack in Indonesia; Viewed as Pattern of a Global War Waged by IS

Suspected allied militants of the Islamic State (IS) carried out a brazen attack in central Jakarta today (January 14, 2016), setting off explosions and engaging in a running gun battle in the heart of the Indonesian capital. Five of the attackers and two others were confirmed dead, while nearly two dozen people were injured, according to the Washington Post website.

The mayhem follows swiftly on the heels of Islamic State-linked attacks in Istanbul, Paris, and San Bernardino, California -- a sign of the global reach of the radical Islamic organization.

The Jakarta police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters that the Islamic State was "definitely" behind the attack. The strike -- which targeted a major business and shopping district -- involved multiple suicide bombings, including at a Starbucks, and a 15-minute exchange of fire between gunmen and security forces. Officials say the tactics closely mirrored those of the coordinated bombings and shooting spree carried out in Paris in November.

Indonesia is the home of the world's largest population of Muslims, and there have been increasing fears of Islamic State-style extremism taking root in the archipelago nation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sweden Urging Israeli Palestinian Killings Probe; Says Human Rights Groups Find Them Unlawful

Israel has summoned the Swedish ambassador after Sweden's foreign minister called for a probe into claims by human rights groups that Israeli forces have carried out extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, the Euro News website reports today (January 13, 2016).

The claims assert "... that the Israeli response was reportedly disproportionate to the degree that extrajudicial killings could be strongly suspected.," said Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom. "Human rights groups and international law experts have expressed similar concerns. It is vital that there are thorough, credible investigations into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability."

Israel has rejected the Swedish foreign minister's statement as "delusional."

The European Union, the United States, and the United Nations have all expressed concern, saying that while they recognize Israel's right to self-defense, restraint is necessary to ensure the violence does not escalate further. Some 170 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed during 2015 in the occupied territories and Israel, according to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

ISIS Burns Its Own Troops Alive to Teach Lesson; IS Gave Up Ramadi to Iraqis,Must Fight to Death

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took its own fighters and burned them to death after they fled Ramadi, following that city's capture by Iraqi forces, the Daily Caller website reports today (January 13, 2016).

After the fighters fled Ramadi, ISIS dragged them into a town square, moved them into a circle formation, and set them on fire to let other fighters know that losing is not an option.

If they did not know it before, ISIS fighters know now that the only acceptable course of action is to fight until victory or until death.

The burning took place 250 miles north of Ramadi in the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul. Ramadi -- a major ISIS stronghold -- was recently recaptured by Iraqi forces after a week of hard fighting with the help of U.S. air support.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

IS Suicide Bombing Kills at Least Ten in Istanbul; Hits Turkey's Vital Tourism Industry for 1st Time

A suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State (IS) struck the historic heart of Istanbul, Turkey today (January 12, 2016), killing at least 10 people -- including eight Germans -- in what would be the IS group's first major attack on Turkey's vital tourism industry, according to the Washington Post website.

The bombing -- which injured 15 others -- took place in the shadow of the city's famous nine-domed Blue Mosque, which draws visitors from around the world. Most of the victims were German nationals, Turkish officials said.

The targeting of Turkey's tourism trade puts the IS group on a more direct collision course with the Turkish state, which has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent militants from using the country as a crucial route for IS recruits, supplies, and oil smuggling.

The blast occurred just before 10:30 a.m. in the Sultanahmet district, an area that includes the 400-year-old Blue Mosque; Hagia Sophia, a former Byzantine-era Greek Orthodox basilica; and the lavish Ottoman Topkapi Palace.

Methodist Minister Tells Parish She Is a Lesbian; Says She Loves,Shares Life with Another Woman

A United Methodist Church minister announced on Sunday, January 3, during her sermon that she is a lesbian, the Christian Headlines website reports today (January 12, 2016).

Rev. Cynthia Meyer, of the United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas has been with the ministry for 25 years.

"The Lord has led me here to share my deep truth with you. I have been an ordained UMC pastor for 25 years. At last, I am choosing to serve in that role with full authenticity, as my genuine self, as a woman who loves and shares my life with another woman," Meyer told her congregation.

Meyer said for 20 years she had stayed single, but then fell in love with Mary. Under the United Methodist Church, "self-avowed practicing" gay people cannot be ordained or get married. Church leaders have not yet terminated her as a minister.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Teen Wounds Jewish Teacher In France for the IS; Stabbed Teacher in Marseille in the Name of Allah

A teenager who attacked a Jewish teacher in Marseille today (January 11, 2016) is a Turkish citizen who said he acted in the name of the militant Islamist group Islamic State (IS), the prosecutor in the southern French city of Marseille said, according to the Reuters website.

"He claimed to have acted in the name of Allah and the Islamic State, repeating several times to have done on behalf of Daech (Islamic State)," the prosecutor, Brice Robin, told a news conference.

The 15-year-old -- who was armed with a machete and a knife -- wounded the teacher slightly before being stopped and arrested.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the attack a "brutal anti-Semitic aggression." France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in all of Europe.

Three Migrants Hurt in Cologne Payback Attacks; Migrants Abused 600 Women on New Year's Eve

Two Pakistanis and a Syrian man were injured in reprisal attacks in the German city of Cologne, which was the scene of hundreds of New Year's Eve attacks on women by migrant men, the Euro News website reports today (January 11, 2016).

A regional parliamentary commission in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia is planning to question police and others about the events on New Year's Eve.

Authorities say the events of that night led to more than 600 complaints -- on attacks allegedly committed by migrants who recently took refuge in Germany from Africa and Asia -- ranging from sexual assault on women to theft.

The violence has led to vigorous debate about Germany's migrant policy and to demonstrations by women's rights groups and the German anti-Islam political movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West).

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Egyptian Pres. Sisi to Recreate Ravaged Churches; Vows to Revamp at Least 14 Coptic Orth.Churches

The president of Egypt says he will rebuild at least 14 Coptic Orthodox Christian churches this year that were damaged or destroyed in sectarian attacks in August of 2013, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 10, 2016).

Protesters attacked at least 50 churches and Christian homes after a deadly dispersal of Islamist sit-ins following the military removal of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged to restore the churches while attending Christmas mass at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo.

Sisi spoke in the church while standing next to Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He said, "We have taken too long to fix and renovate [churches] that were burned. This year everything will be fixed. God willing, by next year there won't be a single church or house that is not restored."

Pope Francis Writes Book Printed in 86 Nations; Calls Himself "A Sinner in Need of God's Mercy"

Pope Francis describes himself as "a sinner in need of God's mercy," in an upcoming book where he also urges the Catholic Church to focus on its mission as a grassroots, hands-on organization, the Yahoo News website reports today (January 10, 2016).

The first book of his papacy -- titled "The Name of God is Mercy" -- goes on sale on January 12 in 86 countries, comprises a series of interviews, some of them highly personal, with the 79-year-old Argentine-born pope.

In the book, the pope calls himself "a man who is in need of God's mercy."

Describing the notion of forgiveness, Pope Francis -- a frequent visitor to prisons -- refers to his "special relationship" with convicts. "I have always been very much attached to them, precisely because of the awareness that I have of being a sinner," Francis says. "Every time I cross the doorway of a prison, I always ask myself, 'Why are they here, and not me?'.... I don't feel superior to those in front of me."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Many Anti-Govt. Protesters in Kosovo Get Violent; 10,000 Protest Govt.Approving Serb-Run Districts

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Pristina -- the capital of Kosovo -- today (January 9, 2016), with police firing tear gas as  some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and set fire to a government building, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The rally was the latest in a long-running protest against deals reached by the government with Serbia -- the country from which Kosovo seceded in 2008 -- and a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro.

The protesters -- who numbered around 10,000 -- called for the government to resign because it failed to withdraw from the controversial agreements, particularly a deal to set up an association of Serb-run municipalities for Kosovo's Serb minority.

Those opposing the deal believe it will deepen the ethnic divide and increase Serbian influence in Kosovo, whose 1.8 million-strong population is mostly ethnic Albanian and Muslim. On the other hand, the vast majority of Serbians are Greek Orthodox Christians.

Netanyahu Plans to Impair Obama's UN Job Bid; "Obama Is Worst US Pres. Israel Has Dealt With"

The daily Arabic-language newspaper Al-Jarida is reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to sabotage U.S. President Barack Obama's bid to become the next United Nations secretary-general, the Big News Network website reports today (January 9, 2016).

The newspaper -- published in Kuwait -- says the prime minister intends to enlist the support of Arab governments to curtail Obama's plan to replace Barik Ki-moon when his term ends at the end of this year.

Al-Jarida says Obama has been sounding out Democrats, Republicans, and Jewish officials in the U.S. to garner support for a campaign to become the UN chief.

Israeli sources said when Netanyahu was alerted to Obama's UN plans, he hit the roof. "Wasn't eight years of having Obama in office enough?" Netanyahu told associates. "Eight years during which he ignored Israel. And now he wants to be in a position that is liable to cause us hardships in the international arena. Obama is the worst [American] president Israel has had to deal with...."

Friday, January 8, 2016

Obama Combat ISIS Online Propaganda; Will Focus State Dept. Program to Erode IS Appeal

The Obama administration is in the process of overhauling its faltering efforts to combat the online propaganda of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and other terrorist groups, U.S. officials said, reflecting increasing White House frustrations with ineffective efforts to cut into ISIS's use of social media to draw recruits and incite attacks, the Washington Post website reports today (January 8, 2016).

Officials will create a counter-terrorism task force, which will be based at the Department of Homeland Security but aims to enlist dozens of federal, state, and local agencies. Other moves include revamping a State Department program that was created to serve as an information war room to challenge the Islamic State online and erode its appeal.

The unit at the State Department will turn its focus toward helping allies craft more localized anti-terrorism messages and will stop producing any videos or other material in English -- ending a campaign that had been derided by critics.

The moves come at a time of increasing public anxiety and criticism of the administration's strategy after recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California that were linked to or encouraged by the Islamic State.

Tel Aviv Gunman Shot, Killed in Northern Israel; Israeli Forces Sought Capture But Were Fired On

Nashat Milhem -- the gunman who killed three Israelis last week in Tel Aviv -- was shot and killed by Israeli forces today (January 8, 2016) in exchange of fire in northern Israel, according to the Times of Israel website.

He was located near his home in the Arara area. An initial report saying he was killed in a mosque was inaccurate.

Milhem was tracked down to the building where he was hiding out, spotted the armed forces encircling the building, and attempted to flee. During the chase, he opened fire on the forces, and was shot dead, Israeli security officials said.

The Israeli forces had sought to capture him alive, but were fired on by Milhem, who was using the same weapon he used for last week's shootings.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Syrian Refugee OKs Wife's Rape to Enter Europe; Women Refugees in German Shelters Also Raped

Lacking in money, a would-be Syrian refugee offered his wife's repeated rape as payment for the family's passage from war-torn Syria to Europe, the Clarion Project website reports today (January 7, 2016).

This was compounded by the husband, who participated in the daily rape of his wife during their journey to the European mainland. Islamic law treats women as second-class citizens, and requires women to be under the authority of their husbands or -- if not married -- under a male member of the household.

Subsequently, his wife obtained a restraining order against her husband. Now living in Berlin, Germany, the woman fears her husband or another family member could try to kill her because of the shame she brought upon the family.

Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute -- a non-profit international policy council and think tank --  recently wrote: "A growing number of women and young girls housed in refugee shelters in Germany are being raped, sexually assaulted, and even forced into prostitution by male asylum seekers, according to German social work organizations with first-hand knowledge of the situation."

ISIS Terrorist with Butcher Knife Killed in Paris; Suspect Shouted "Allahu Akbar" by Police Station

An unidentified knife-wielding man shot dead by Paris police today (January 7, 2016) was carrying paper with an ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flag on it as well as a claim of responsibility, according to the NBC News website.

The incident came as France marked the one-year anniversary today of the deadly Charlie Hebdo (comic magazine) terror attacks. The magazine published several cartoons ridiculing Islamic prophet Mohammed, thus infuriating many radical Muslims.

The prosecutor's office said a terrorism investigation has been opened into the incident, which took place outside the Goutte d'Or police station.

The suspect was carrying a butcher's knife and shouted "Allahu Akbar" -- or "God is greatest" -- before he was shot dead by police, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office. It said a piece of paper with the ISIS flag and a claim handwritten in Arabic were found on the suspect, along with a cellphone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cologne Mayor Puts Onus on Women for Groping; Women Should Keep Arm Length Away from Men

The mayor of Cologne, Germany has inflamed a debate about migrants and sexual harassment by suggesting that women can protect themselves from men on the streets by keeping them more than an arm's length away, the NY Times website reports today (January 6, 2016).

The remarks by Mayor Henriette Reker -- who, being a woman herself has shocked many with her view of accusing the women for their plight -- were made yesterday to reporters after Cologne police said they had received more than 90 complaints of robbery and sexual assault (including two accounts of rape), as groups of men targeted young women in and around the city's main train station on New Year's Eve.

Today, Mayor Reker was being widely ridiculed by commentators and across social media for putting the onus on the victims of the attacks.

"It is always possible to keep a certain distance that is longer than an arm's length," Ms. Reker told reporters yesterday, suggesting that the city authorities would provide guidelines for young women who find themselves surrounded by aggressive men trying to grope them. The police -- who have not made any arrests -- said the assaults had been carried out by several hundred young men, whom they described as having a "North African or Arabic" appearance.

Israeli Passengers Wary of Arabs on Athens Plane; Forced Crew to Dump 2 Arabs in Racial Profile Act

A group of Jewish Israeli travelers forced the Greek national carrier Aegean Airways to take two Arab Israelis off a flight from Athens to Tel Aviv for fear that the pair "could be terrorists," the Times of Israel website reports today (January 6, 2016).

During the incident on January 3, the Israelis stood up and prevented the flight from taking off, the airline said.

As the airport was about to close, the Arab passengers were offered a night in a hotel at the airline's expense and were promised seats on a flight to Israel the following morning. Some of the Israelis demanded that the Arabs' luggage be checked as well, but that demand was not met.

"While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis'... safety must be first," Aegean said. The two Arabs were compensated for the incident and flew to Israel on an El Al flight the next day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Many Attacks on German Women Harm Migrants; Migrants Grope Women in New Year's Street Party

The tensions simmering beneath Germany's willingness to take in one million migrants blew into the open today (January 5, 2016), after it was revealed that scores of young women in Cologne, Germany had been groped and robbed on New Year's Eve by gangs of men described by the authorities as having "a North African or Arabic" appearance, the NY Times website reports.

Taking advantage of the New Year's Eve street party, hundreds of young men broke into groups and formed rings around young women, refusing to let them escape, the authorities said. Many groped the women while others stole their wallets or cellphones.

The women who were attacked screamed and tried to fight their way free, a man who had struggled to protect his girlfriend told German public television. Anti-immigrant Germans claimed the attacks illustrate the dangers of accepting huge numbers of migrants.

The Cologne police said that they had received 90 complaints from victims, including two women who said they had been raped. No arrests have been made.

At Least 27 Migrants Dead Off Coast of Turkey; After Their Rubber Boat Tears by Hitting Rocks

Turkish locals walking along the Aegean beaches today (January 5, 2016) were shocked to find another grim harvest from the refugee crisis: at least 27 bodies from a rubber dinghy that had deflated on the rocks, according to the Euro News website.

Bodies were discovered on at least two beaches opposite the Greek island of Lesbos, towards which the unfortunate migrants had been heading.

They may be the first migrant fatalities at sea this year. It is unlikely they will be the last if the Syrian civil war continues; in 2015 nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe.

The dead included women, children, and babies, more of whom appear now to be making the journey, an indication that the crisis in Syria is worsening.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Anti-Semites Harm a Jewish Home in Amsterdam; Yell "Cancer Jews, Free Palestine," Damage Doors

The home of a Jewish family in Amsterdam, The Netherlands was vandalized by anti-Semites who shouted "Cancer Jews" and "Free Palestine" on the night between December 31 and January 1, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 4, 2016).

In their Facebook post, the victims wrote: "Last night, a few teens decided their celebrations are not complete without some hatred. While yelling 'Cancer Jews' and 'Free Palestine,' they kicked our doors and windows."

Police have not made any arrests.

The attack took place shortly after the mayor of Amsterdam had pledged a million Euro to protect Jewish institutions in the city.

Sweden Makes Border Checks to Limit Migrants; Tries to Give Shelter, Services to 200K Migrants

For the first time since the 1950s, Sweden is imposing border checks on rail and road travelers entering the country from neighboring Denmark, in an effort to curb the flow of asylum seekers, the Euro News website reports today (January 4, 2016).

From now on everyone coming to Sweden will have to present a valid photo ID -- such as a passport -- to Swedish border security personnel.

"In order to avoid domestic passengers to get mixed up in a pass-control, they will remain on one side of the fence and passengers traveling from Denmark will end up on the other side. And those are the ones who will be checked," said Director of Operations at Malmo Police Department, Paul Juhlin.

Sweden had expected to accept about 100,000 newcomers in 2015, but by year's end the figure was almost twice that, and the country is struggling to provide shelter, education, and other essential services for would-be asylum seekers.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Saudi Arabia Breaks Diplomatic Ties with Iran; Due to Iranians Tearing Up the Saudi Embassy

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran today (January 3, 2016) and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, marking a swift escalation in a strategic and sectarian rivalry that underpins conflicts across the Middle East, the NY Times website reports.

The surprise move -- announced in a news conference by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister -- followed harsh criticism by Iranian leaders of the Saudis' execution of an outspoken Shiite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by protesters in response.

The cutting of diplomatic ties came at a time when the United States and other nations had hoped that even limited cooperation between the two powers could help end the crushing civil wars in Syria and Yemen while easing tensions in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

Instead, international affairs analysts believe the diplomatic cut will increase sectarian divisions and investment in Middle East wars.

Israeli Female Mil. Officer Is Shot by Pal.Terrorist; Taken to Jerusalem Hosp.,Police Search for Sniper

A 20-year-old female IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) officer was moderately wounded in a Palestinian shooting attack in Hebron today (January 3, 2016), according to the Algemeiner website.

Police say the attack was committed by a sniper who opened fire at a group of Israelis standing in the area of the parking lot near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The terrorist escaped and a manhunt is underway to apprehend him.

Magen David Adom paramedics who treated the woman soldier at the scene say she sustained bullet wounds to the pelvis. She was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Africa's Biggest Jesus Statue Unveiled in Nigeria; Over 100 Priests,Hundreds of Catholics at Event

Nigeria yesterday unveiled a nine-meter-tall statue of Jesus Christ carved from white marble, believed to be the largest of its kind in Africa, the Yahoo News website reports today (January 2, 2016).

Standing barefoot with arms stretched, the "Jesus de Greatest" statue weighs in at 40 tons.

More than 100 priests and hundreds of Catholic worshipers attended the nine-meter (30-foot) statue's official unveiling in the village of Abajah in southeastern Nigeria.

It was commissioned by Obinna Onuoha, a local businessman who hired a Chinese company to carve it and place it in the grounds of a 2000-capacity church that he built in 2012. The cost of the statue has not been revealed.

First Vatican Accord with Palestine Takes Effect; Pact Lets Palestinians Control Holy Land Church

The Holy See announced today (January 2, 2016) the Vatican's first accord with the Palestinians -- an agreement that Israel has attacked as counterproductive to the Middle East peace process -- has come into force, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The accord was signed in June, just over two years after the Roman Catholic Church recognized the Palestinian territories as a sovereign state in February 2013.

The accord covers the operation of the Church in areas of the Holy Land under Palestinian control, but its significance has been seen in broader terms as a symbol of growing international backing for a Palestinian state.

Israel attacked today's accord as "premature and counterproductive" to efforts to get the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations with the Jewish state.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Turkish Pres. Erdogan Lauds Hitler's Presidency; Says It's Good Example of Power He Would Like

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes the Third Reich presidency of Adolf Hitler is a good example of the kind of executive power he would like to have, the Daily Caller website reports today (January 1, 2016).

In an interview late yesterday with reporters, Erdogan was asked if it is possible his proposed plan to transform the president from a ceremonial office to the role of a chief executive could work without disrupting Turkey's unitary political structure.

"There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler's Germany," Erdogan replied. "There are later examples in various other countries."

Erdogan and his ruling AK Party are looking to change Turkey's constitution after winning back the majority in parliament in last November's elections. Opposing parties would also like to revise the constitution, but they do not support the plan to create a more powerful presidency as they feel it would potentially lead to the office becoming too authoritarian.

2 Killed, 7 Wounded in Tel Aviv Shooting Attack; Gunman Used Automatic Weapon,Still on Loose

Two people were killed and two others seriously wounded in a shooting attack in Tel Aviv today (January 1, 2016). Five others were wounded -- three in moderate condition and two with light injuries. Hours later, the killer was still on the loose, according to the Times of Israel website.

Witnesses said some 15 shots were fired in the attack, apparently in semiautomatic bursts from a Carl Gustav submachine gun. The shots were fired at locations near the city's well-known Dizengoff Center Mall.

Eyewitnesses said the gunman fired into at least three establishments in the area -- a bar, a restaurant, and a cafe -- and then fled. One of the cafe staffers and several customers chased after him, but he "disappeared" into a side-street. Police have closed off the area in an effort to find him.

The two fatalities were pronounced dead at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. Four others were receiving treatment there, including at least two victims who were immediately taken to surgery, the hospital said.