Monday, February 29, 2016

Russian Airstrikes in Syria Sabotaging Ceasefire; Strike 6 Towns in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib Provinces

Syria's hard-won truce of its six-year conflict began to fray yesterday -- just one day after it went into effect -- as Russian warplanes resumed airstrikes on towns and villages in the north, and rebels fired artillery rounds across several front lines, the Washington Post website reports today (February 29, 2016).

The violence dimmed hopes that the calm that took hold on February 27 will endure long enough to inject new impetus into a wider peace effort.

The Russian planes -- based in northwestern Syria -- struck six towns and villages in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib early yesterday, according to monitoring and civil defense groups.

The Russian airstrikes appeared to signal a return to attacks that preceded the effort to end the fighting, in which Russia has helped bolster the fortunes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally.

Yazidi Girl Sets Herself on Fire to End IS Rapes; German MD Says IS Sexually Enslaving 1K Girls

A German doctor said a Yazidi girl held captive by the Islamic State (IS) terrorists set herself on fire, severely burning 80 percent of her body, in a desperate attempt to stop jihadists from raping her, the Christian Post website reports today (February 29, 2016).

Doctor Jan Lihan Kizilhan heads a project that has helped bring over 1,100 women and girls victimized by the militant group to Germany to help heal their physical and emotional wounds through a project started in 2014 which is run by the German state Baden-Wurttemberg.

Kizilhan said he has personally been told over 1,400 horrifying stories of how the barbaric terrorist group has brutally raped and abused religious minority girls and women who were captured and sexually enslaved.

Kazilhan told of one 8-year-old Yazidi girl who was sold eight different times as an IS sex slave and was also raped hundreds of times by IS fighters in a span of 10 months. He added that the horrors of IS sex slavery are so bad that one girl even set herself on fire to defend herself from being repeatedly raped by the terrorists.

Vandals Desecrate Jewish Cemetery in Poland; Paint "Holocaust Never Happened" on Its Wall

Several graves have been desecrated and walls have been painted with anti-Semitic graffiti at a Jewish cemetery in the city of Sochaczew in central Poland, the Jewish Press website reports today (February 29, 2016).

The graffiti included "Holocaust never happened" (accompanied by a Hitler smiling face) and "Islamic State was here."

On September 3, 1939 -- at the beginning of World War II -- German forces invaded Sochaczew and remained there until January 17, 1945, when the Russian Army captured the town.

Sochaczew lost more than 4,000 residents during World War II, all of them Jewish.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Twin Suicide Bombing Kills 70 People in Baghdad; IS Bombers Make the Attack in Riding Motorcycles

A twin suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State (IS) killed 70 people in a Shi'ite Muslim district of Baghdad today (February 28, 2016) in the deadliest attack inside the Iraqi capital this year, the Reuters website reports. 

Police said the suicide bombers were riding motorcycles and blew themselves up in a crowded mobile phone market in Sadr City, wounding more than 100 people in addition to the dead.

Witnesses said they saw pools of blood on the ground with slippers, shoes, and mobile phones at the site of the blasts, which was sealed off to prevent further attacks.

Islamic State said it was responsible for the blasts. "Our swords will not cease to cut off the heads of the rejectionist polytheists, wherever they are," it said in an online statement, using derogatory terms for Shi'ite Muslims.

Palestinian Attacks Mall Security Guard with Ax; Victim in Serious Condition, IDF Arrest Attacker

Israeli security forces today (February 28, 2016) arrested Saadi Ali Abu Hammad, a Palestinian man charged with attacking a security guard in Ma'aleh Adumim's shopping mall with an ax, according to the Jerusalem Post website.

Police arrived at the mall at 1:15 a.m. on February 26 and found Tzika Cohen, 48, lying on the floor with multiple stab wounds.

Cohen -- father of four -- is in serious condition at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Abu Hammad's arrest was the result of a joint operation of the Shin Bet, the Judea and Samaria police, and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces).

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mortar Shells Slam Damascus Despite Ceasefire; Rebels in Syria's E. Countryside Reject Ceasefire

The Syrian army said today (February 27, 2016) that armed rebels in the eastern countryside of Syria's capital, Damascus, fired several mortar shells into areas inside capital just hours after a ceasefire went into effect, according to the Big News Network website.

The mortar shells were fired from the rebel-held suburbs of Jobar and Douma, the Syrian Army General Command said. The Syrian rebels are trying to overthrow Syria's dictator President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian army warned of the consequences of such attacks, urging the people inside these areas to embark on reconciliation with the government.

The statement also urged the people to put pressure on the rebels, which it said, "are trying to thwart any effort to restore peace and security to the areas."

US Defense Dept.Leads Aggressive Cyberwar on IS; Forbids IS Online Postings on Recruitment, Appeal

The U.S. Defense Department has launched a newly aggressive campaign of cyber attacks against Islamic State (IS) terrorists, targeting the group's abilities to use social media and the internet to recruit fighters and inspire followers, the Washington Times website reports today (February 27, 2016).

The surge of computer-based military operations by U.S. Cyber Command began shortly after Defense Secretary Ash Carter urged commanders at Fort Meade, Maryland, last month to ramp up the fight against the Islamic State group on the cyber front.

U.S. officials confirmed that operations launched out of Fort Meade have focused on disrupting the group's online activities. The cyber attacks include efforts to prevent IS from distributing propaganda, videos, and other types of recruiting and messaging on social media sites such as Twitter, and across the internet in general.

Other attacks include attempts to stop the terrorists from conducting financial or logistical transactions online.

Friday, February 26, 2016

French Court OKs Wrecking Calais Refugee Camp; Critics: Closing "Jungle" Camp Will Worsen Crisis

A French court today (February 26, 2016) upheld a government plan to demolish hundreds of tents and wooden shelters housing migrants and refugees in the shanty town outside the coastal city of Calais known as the "Jungle," according to the Christian Science Monitor website.

In announcing plans to close down the Calais camp, authorities cited security and sanitation concerns and the increasingly tarnished image of Calais, a city of nearly 80,000 that takes pride in attracting tourists to its Opal Coast.

French authorities said they will increase daily efforts to move displaced migrants into a container camp set up last month in the northern sector of the "Jungle" and encourage them to go to temporary welcome centers where they can reconsider their plans and eventually apply for asylum in France.

But critics say closing the camp would only exacerbate the crisis, as the displaced people will be forced to go back to sleeping in fields and smaller camps.

Anti-Semitic Slurs Halt Philly Developers' Meeting; Tenants Say New Housing Will Displace Minorities

A community meeting in an urban renewal neighborhood of Philadelphia was forced to end abruptly this week after local activists hurled anti-Semitic comments at Jewish real estate developers, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 26, 2016).

At the February 22 meeting in Point Breeze, in South Philadelphia, activists with Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze yelled "Go back to Israeel!" and other insults at developers who were making presentations.

"This was not one person with a screw loose. This was a mob mentality," said Ori Feibush, a local developer who is Jewish but was not presenting at the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned after the head of the organization hosting the meeting learned of the anti-Semitic comments. Concerned Citizens leaders -- many of them African-American -- have clashed with Feibush and other developers before, voicing concerns that new developments will displace lower-income minority residents from the Philadelphia neighborhood.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Italy's Senate OKs Same-Sex Couples Civil Unions; But Rejects Gay Adoptions Due to Vatican Potency

The Senate in Italy today (February 25, 2016) approved a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex and heterosexual couples, according to the BBC website.

The motion was backed by a 173 to 71 vote after a deal was reached to remove a provision allowing gay adoptions and other clauses, thus watering-down the bill.

Italy is the only major Western European country with no civil partnerships or gay marriage.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi -- who had promised to pass a civil unions bill -- described today's vote as "historic." However, he had to agree to remove a gay adoption provision opposed by several lawmakers due to pressure from the Catholic Church.

Greek PM:We Refuse to Be "Warehouse of Souls;" Says EU States Must Share Load of Migrant Crisis

With migrant numbers stacking up in Greece, there's tough talk from its Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the Euro News website reports today (February 25, 2016).

He says Athens will block future European Union (EU) agreements, if member states don't do more to share the burden of the crisis.

Migrants are now getting trapped in Greece because of fences and tougher checks elsewhere.

"What we refuse to do is accept the transformation of our country into a permanent warehouse of souls and, at the same time, continue to act within the European Union and at summits as if there's nothing wrong," Tsipras told the EU parliament.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chomsky:Trump Aided by "Breakdown of Society;" Compares People's Lost Hope to Great Depression

MIT professor and intellectual Noam Chomsky attributes Donald Trump's success in the Republican presidential primary to "fear" and a "breakdown of society," the Politico website reports today (February 24, 2016).

In an interview yesterday on Trump's surprising progress, Chomsky said, "People feel isolated, helpless, victims of powerful forces that they do not understand and cannot influence."

He compared the current political environment that's allowed Trump to flourish to the 1930s, when the U.S. was in the Great Depression.

"Objectively, poverty and suffering were far greater [during the Great Depression]. But even among poor working people and the unemployed, there was a sense of hope that is lacking now, in large part because of the growth of a militant labor movement and also the existence of political organizations outside the mainstream," Chomsky asserted.

Pope:Wealth, Power Must Be Used to Help Poor; They Mustn't Be Used to Selfishly Exploit Others

Pope Francis said yesterday that wealth and power are meant to serve the poor and the well-being of everyone, not to selfishly exploit others, the Catholic News website reports today (February 24, 2016).

When power loses that sense of service, it "turns into arrogance and becomes control and subjugation," the Pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

But God is greater than people's wickedness and "sleazy games," urging them to recognize their sins and repent, he said. "How wonderful it would be if the powerful exploiters today did the same" and changed their ways, the Pope said to applause.

The Bible gives many accounts of kings and powerful people as well as "their arrogance and abuse of power, too," he said. "Wealth and power are things that can be good and useful for the common good if they are put at the service of the poor and everyone with justice and charity," he said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Kurds Rescue a Swedish Girl,16, from ISIS in Iraq; Swayed by IS Member in Sweden to Travel to Syria

Kurdish forces have rescued a 16-year-old Swedish girl from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in northern Iraq, according to regional Kurdish authorities, the CNN website reports today (February 23, 2016).

Kurdish special forces came to the aid of the girl, named Marlin Stivani Nivarlain, near the ISIS-held city of Mosul on February 17, said a statement by the Kurdistan Region Security Council.

The teen is from Boras, about 250 miles southwest of Stockholm, the Swedish capital. According to Kurdish authorities, Nivarlain "was misled by an ISIS member in Sweden [her boyfriend] to travel to Syria and later to Mosul."

The Kurds are a Middle Eastern ethnic group that inhabit primarily an area that includes parts of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. Many Kurds have long sought to establish a Kurdish state in the region -- a step opposed by those countries because they would lose territory to such a state.

Vandals Post Anti-Israel Ads in London Subways; Pro-Palestinian Activist Group Says It Posted Ads

Hundreds of posters in support of the Palestinians and calling Israel an apartheid state were hung in London's Underground subway system, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 23, 2016).

The ads were removed yesterday, Israel's Foreign Minister said in a statement. Commuters first saw the signs during yesterday's morning commute after they were put up overnight.

Transport for London -- which runs the subway system -- told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that the ads were "unauthorized acts of vandalism" and would be taken down.

London Palestine Action -- a pro-Palestinian activist group -- claimed responsibility for the ads, saying they are part of the group's Israeli Apartheid Week campaign. Some of the ads call the BBC's coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict biased toward Israel, while others are emblazoned with the headline "Apartheid is Great Britain."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sanders Says He and Pope Francis Are Socialists; Both Seek to Provide a Happy Human Life for All

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders praises Pope Francis in a new video interview with the Canadian Catholic television network Salt + Light, calling the pontiff a socialist like himself and lauding his critique of the global market system, the National Catholic Reporter website reports today (February 22, 2016).

"I think what the pope has done, in a very bold way, is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that's not what human life should be about," says the Democrat. "That is a very, very radical critique of the hyper-capitalist system, world system, that we're living in today."

Sanders speaks in an interview with Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who heads the Canadian network and also assists the Vatican press office with English-language press inquiries. The interview will air for the first time tomorrow evening (February 23) and will then be made available.

The Democratic candidate adds, "Everybody knows that right now we have the wealth, we have the technology to provide at least a decent standard of living for all of our people. So few should not have so much, and I think that's what the pope is talking about." (Recent studies show that in the U.S. -- where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer -- just one percent of the population controls 95 percent of the money.) 

NH State Rep.Says "The Pope Is the Anti-Christ;" Payback for Pope Saying Trump Is Not Christian

A New Hampshire state representative -- who supports Donald Trump for U.S. president -- referred to the Pope as the "anti-Christ" in a Facebook post thread, the Politico website reports today (February 22, 2016).

That comment came in a thread the same day, February 18, that Pope Francis suggested that Trump's desire to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is "not Christian," provoking a quick response from the Republican front-runner, who said it is "disgraceful" for the Pope to question a person's faith. (Trump is a Presbyterian Protestant Christian.)

Susan DeLemus wrote on Facebook, "The Pope is the anti-Christ... I'm not sure who the Pope truly has in his heart."

She added, "I'm not Catholic, so I don't think he's infallible. I believe he's fallible just like the rest of us. I'm really not a respecter of men. It's really God I respect, and he's the head and the leader."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Turkey Appeals to US Not to Back Kurds in Syria; US Says It Will Go on Backing Kurds Fighting IS

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday called on the U.S. to give unconditional support to Turkey in the fight against Syrian Kurdish militants, illustrating growing tension between Ankara and Washington over policy in northern Syria -- where Turks and Kurds are at war -- the Yahoo News website reports today (February 21, 2016).

Davutoglu also said Turkey would tighten security across the country -- especially in the capital -- after a car laden with explosives was detonated near military buses in Ankara four days ago, killing 28 and wounding more than 60 people.

Turkey claims the Syrian Kurdish YPG -- which the U.S. is backing in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria -- was involved in the bombing, working with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Despite Turkey's pleas for the U.S. not to support the Kurds, a State Department spokesman said that the U.S. would continue to back groups in Syria -- including the Kurdish YPG -- that are fighting the Islamic State terror group.

Pope Urges Leaders to Reject Executions This Yr.; Says We Must Heed Commandment "Do Not Kill"

Pope Francis today (February 21, 2016) urged Catholic leaders to show "exemplary" courage by not allowing executions this year, while expressing hope that eventually the death penalty will be abolished worldwide, according to the AP website.

Francis told tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that "the commandment 'do not kill' holds absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty."

"I appeal to the conscience of those who govern so that international consensus is reached for the abolishment of the death penalty," the pope said. "And I propose to all those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: May no execution sentence be carried out this Holy Year of Mercy."

Francis is using the church's Holy Year of Mercy, which runs through November 20, to encourage efforts for more reconciliation and mercy in the world.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Two Abducted Serbs Killed in US Raids in Libya; US Airstrikes Ruin IS Training Camp in Sabratha

Serbia's foreign minister said today (February 20, 2016) that two Serbian embassy staff members -- abducted in Libya in November -- are believed to have been among nearly 50 people killed yesterday in U.S. airstrikes on a suspected Islamic State (IS) training camp, according to the Newsmax website.

U.S. officials said the site targeted in the strikes was a camp used by up to 60 militants including Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane, blamed for two attacks on tourists in Tunisia last year that left dozens dead.

Sladjana Stankovic, a Serbian communications officer, and Jovica Stepic, a driver, were taken hostage on November 8 after their diplomatic convoy, including the ambassador, came under fire near the coastal city of Sabratha.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Serbian authorities had been negotiating the release of the two staff members with the kidnappers prior to the attack. He added that Serbia would send a formal protest note to Washington for not informing Serbian authorities of the raid.

EU's Police Chief: Up To 5K Terrorists in Europe; "We Can Expect Rel.Terror Group to Stage Attack"

The European Union's police chief has warned that up to 5,000 jihadists could be at large in Europe after training with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Telegraph (British) website reports today (February 20, 2016).

Europol -- the EU's police agency -- estimates the number of EU citizens who have slipped back after training in the Middle East as between 3,000 and 5,000, Rob Wainwright, the British head of Europol said.

"Europe is currently facing the highest terror threat in more than ten years," Wainwright added.

He told a German newspaper, "We can expect ISIS or other religious terror groups to stage an attack somewhere in Europe with the aim of achieving mass casualties among the civilian population."

Friday, February 19, 2016

Protestant Leaders Rip Pope for Insulting Trump; One Says "JFK May Be Rolling Over in His Grave"

Several prominent Protestant leaders -- including Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. -- are criticizing Pope Francis for implying yesterday that Donald Trump's intention to build a wall on the southern border of the U.S. is "not Christian," the Christian Post website reports today (February 19, 2016).

After the Pontiff chastised Trump's desire to build the wall instead of "building bridges" in a conversation with reporters during his return flight home from Mexico, the real estate mogul responded by saying that it is "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith.

Falwell -- the president of Liberty University who endorsed Trump for president earlier this year -- told CNN that the Pope's comments would cause America's first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, to "roll over in his grave." Believing that the Pope fully intended to get involved in American politics, Falwell said, "I think John F. Kennedy would be rolling over in his grave right now if he could hear what the Pope was saying. That's a man who fought to be president against lots of prejudice because many Protestants in this country did not want to elect a Catholic president [because they feared the Pope would be running the country]."

Franklin Graham -- a Protestant minister and the son of world famous evangelist Billy Graham -- said on Facebook that the desire to protect national security by building a wall does not defy the Gospel. He added, "My advice to the Pontiff : Reach out and build a bridge to Donald Trump. Who knows where he may be this time next year!"

Polish Magazine's Anti-Migrant Cover Draws Ire; Cover Photo Shows "The Islamic Rape of Europe"

A right-wing Polish magazine cover emblazoned with the headline "The Islamic Rape of Europe" triggered a storm of criticism on social media yesterday, with some comments comparing it to World War II fascist propaganda, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 19, 2016).

The cover of the news weekly "w Sieci" ("In the Net") showed a posed photo of a blue-eyed blonde woman, wrapped in a European Union (EU) flag, looking terrified as she is groped by several dark-skinned men. Most Poles are opposed to an EU plan requiring its member nations (including Poland) to accept thousands of migrants from war-torn Syria and Iraq, as well as other Asian and African nations.

The magazine said the cover referred to a rash of sexual assaults against hundreds of women by men of North African and Arab origin during the New Year's Eve celebrations in the German city of Cologne.

But the publication drew fierce criticism on Twitter. "'Islamic rape of Europe,' screams Polish magazine. They obviously forget Nazi depictions of Poles in the 1930s," said one Twitter user.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Exclusive: Obama Won't Hit IS in Libyan Capital; Pentagon Calls for Striking IS-Ruled City of Sirte

Despite the growing threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group in Libya, the Obama administration has rejected a Pentagon plan for an assault on ISIS's regional hub there, The Daily Beast website reports exclusively today (February 18, 2016).

In recent weeks, the U.S. military -- led by its Africa and Special Operations Commands -- has pushed for airstrikes and the deployment of elite troops, particularly in the city of Sirte. The hometown of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the city is now under ISIS control and serving as a regional epicenter for the terror group. (ISIS has boasted in the past it can use this stronghold for terrorist attacks on  nearby Rome and the Vatican.)

The airstrikes -- as called for by the Pentagon -- would target ISIS resources, while a small band of Special Operations Forces would train Libyans to eventually be members of a national army, the officials said. According to U.S. military figures, there are now some 5,000 ISIS fighters in Libya -- a spike from 1,000 just a few months ago -- with  an increase of fighters every day.

Unfortunately, "there is little to no appetite for this administration" to take military action against ISIS in its control of Sirte, one defense official told The Daily Beast.

Pope:Trump Not Christian for Rejecting Mexicans; Trump:Disgraceful for Rel. Leader to Shame Faith

Pope Francis said today (February 18, 2016) that Donald Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump -- the leading Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency --  quickly fired back, saying it is "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports.

The Pope's comments to reporters -- on his flight back to Rome from Mexico -- came hours after he prayed at the U.S.-Mexican border for people who died trying to reach the United States.

Trump -- a Presbyterian Protestant Christian -- shot back within minutes, saying, "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful."

In an obvious attack against the Obama administration for its failure to use ground troops to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, Trump added  if ISIS attacks the Vatican -- and intelligence information indicates it would like to do so -- "the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because [if he were] this would not have happened."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ankara, Turkey Car Bombing Kills 28, Wounds 61; Kurdish or IS Militants Believed to Be Responsible

Twenty-eight people were killed and dozens wounded in Turkey's capital, Ankara, today (February 17, 2016) when a car laden with explosives detonated next to several military buses near the armed forces' headquarters, parliament, and other government buildings, according to the Nation (Pakistani) website.

A government spokesman said 28 people had been killed and 61 wounded in the blast, which took place near a busy intersection during the evening rush hour.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag described the attack as an act of terrorism and told parliament -- which was in session when the blast occurred -- that the car exploded on a part of the street lined on both sides by military vehicles.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Some security sources said signs indicated that Kurdish militants were responsible; others said they believed Islamic State (IS) militants may have been behind the bombing.

A Women-Led Mosque Has Opened in Denmark; All Imams to Be Female,Bars Men at Fri. Prayers

Scandinavia's first female-led mosque has opened in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a bid to challenge "patriarchal structures" and create debate and dialogue, according to its founder, The Guardian website reports today (February 17, 2016).

Sherin Khankan -- born in Denmark to a Syrian father and a Finnish mother -- said that while all activities at the Mariam mosque except Friday prayers would be open to both men and women, all imams would be female.

"We have normalized patriarchal structures in our religious institutions. Not just in Islam, but also within Judaism and Christianity and other religions. And we would like to challenge that," she said.

Imam Waseem Hussein -- the chairman of one of Copenhagen's biggest mosques -- questioned whether there was a need for the project. "Should we also make a mosque only for men? Then there would certainly be an outcry among the Danish population," he told the daily Politiken newspaper.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Belgian Police Hold 10 Involved in IS Recruitment; Computer Parts,Mobile Phones Seized in the Raids

Belgian police have detained 10 people, suspected of operating a recruitment ring for the Islamic State (IS) group, the Euro News website reports today (February 16, 2016).

Nine raids were carried out in homes in and around Brussels at the request of a judge in Liege, who specializes in terrorism-related cases.

Federal prosecutors say computer equipment and mobile phones were seized in the operations around Belgium's capital.

"Our investigation points to several persons having left for Syria to join Islamic State," Belgium's federal prosecutors said. Belgium has one of the highest rates of participation in militant groups -- such as Islamic State -- per capita.

Vatican Clarifies Bishops' Role in Child Sex Abuse; Bishops Need to Report Suspected Abuse to Police

A commission created by Pope Francis has reaffirmed that Catholic bishops have "a moral and ethical responsibility" to report suspected child sexual abuse to civil authorities, The Daily Beast website reports today (February 16, 2016).

The advice contradicts a 2015 Vatican training course that told bishops they had no obligation to report abuse charges to law enforcement officials under church law. (See "Vatican: Bishops Need Not Report Abuse to Police..." in Theology and Society, February 11, 2016.)

The commission issued a statement in the name of its chairman Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, saying, "As Pope Francis has so clearly stated, 'The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.'"

The statement adds, "Our bishops' charter clearly states the obligation that all dioceses [and] eparchies and personnel report suspected abuse to the public authorities."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Zeman: EU Must Deport Islamic Fanatic Migrants; Czech Pres. Sees Them Preparing Terrorist Attacks

The solution to the migrant crisis in the EU (European Union) rests in the deportation of economic migrants -- as well as religious fanatics among them -- Czech President Milos Zeman said, adding that jihadists are among the Muslim migrants, the Prague Monitor website reports today (February 15, 2016).

Speaking on February 12 at an international conference on Social Democracy in the 21st Century, Zeman described Muslim migrants as persons who are not able to adapt themselves to European culture and that there are jihadists who could be preparing terrorist attacks among them.

"The sole possible solution to the migrant crisis is the deportation of the economic migrants and those who preach religious violence, religious hatred, briefly, those who are preparing acts of terrorism...," Zeman said.

"We cannot hope that there are no jihadists among the migrants, or people who can form 'sleeping cells' preparing monstrous terrorist actions as those in Paris recently [in which 130 innocent people were killed], Zeman added.

Four Women Stoned to Death in Iraq for Adultery; Sharia Law Has No Punishment for Men Involved

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has executed four women in the city of Mosul in Iraq's northwestern Nineveh province for "committing adultery," the BBC website reports today (February 15,  2016).

"The four victims were arrested on Wednesday [February 10] in a raid by ISIS jihadis," said Raafat Zarari, spokesman of the Nineveh media center.

The ISIS-led Sharia Court issued a decision to publicly execute the four women, without mentioning any details about the men with whom they supposedly committed adultery.

"The four women were stoned to death Thursday [February 11] in front of a large crowd of people in central Mosul," Zarari reported.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pope to Mexican Govt.:Promote "Common Good;" Urges Mexicans to Avoid Corruption, Drug Trade

Pope Francis addressed several Mexican politicians to begin his first full day in Mexico yesterday and urged the country to steer itself away from corrupt practices, the Big News Network website reports today (February 14, 2016).

"Each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few, to the detriment of the good of all, the life of the Society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development," the pope said.

The pope was joined by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and members of his cabinet in Mexico City as he spoke about focusing the country's efforts on promoting "the common good."

Pena Nieto did not refer to the pope's comments when he acknowledged the crowd, but he did welcome the pontiff to the country and gave him a tour of the National Palace. Some 100,000 people were in the Zocalo square area outside the palace to see the pope as he delivered drive-by blessings from his vehicle.

Saudi Jets Now on Turkish Airbase to Ravage IS; Saudi Arabia Might Deploy 150K Troops to Syria

A senior Saudi defense official revealed that Saudi Arabia has deployed warplanes to a Turkish airbase in order to "intensify" its operations against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (February 14, 2016).

"The Saudi kingdom now has a presence at Incirlik airbase in Turkey," Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri said on Saudi television last night.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said yesterday that Saudi jets would be deployed at Incirlik , and the two countries could participate in ground operations against IS in Syria. Saudi Arabia said last week that it was considering sending 150,000 troops to Syria to fight IS.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and would like to see him overthrown. Assad's foreign minister warned last week that any ground intervention would "amount to aggression that must be resisted ."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Russian PM:"We're in a New Cold War" with West; Blasts NATO and US for Hostilities toward Russia

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared today (February 13, 2016) that his country is in "a new Cold War" with Western countries in a speech that faulted the United States and its allies for a breakdown in relations with Russia, the Washington Examiner website reports.

"NATO's attitude toward Russia remains unfriendly and opaque, and one could go so far as to say we have slid back to a new Cold War," Medvedev said at the Munich Security Conference today.

"On an almost daily basis, we are being described the worst threat, be it NATO as a whole, or to Europe, America or other countries," Medvedev asserted.

"Sometimes I wonder if this is 2016 or 1962," he added. (The Cold War was a period of hostility between western countries and the Soviet Union that lasted from the end of World War II through 1989).

Friday, February 12, 2016

EU and UN Agree to Use Force on Refugee Crisis; NATO Deploys Ships in Aegean to Nab Smugglers

The secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced yesterday that the alliance will attempt to crack down on human smuggling in the Aegean Sea by sending ships to police the waters between Turkey and Greece, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (February 12, 2016).

European Union and United Nations officials have struggled for some time with the idea of using force to confront the refugee crisis. In the first five weeks of 2016 alone, more than 70,000 migrants crossed the Aegean to Greece, many of them refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. In 2015, only about four thousand entered Greece by sea in the same period of time.

"Europe is facing the greatest refugee and migrant crisis since the end of the Second World War," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a press conference yesterday, "driven by conflict and instability on our southern borders, as well as criminal networks that traffic in human suffering."

Many refugees who cross to Greece are fleeing a civil war in Syria that has displaced millions during the last five years, both within the country and in the Middle East and Europe.

Pope,Russian Patriarch Sooth Disputes in Cuba; Cath.,Orth. Churches Seek Unity from 1054 Split

The heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches haven't spoken since the Great Schism of 1054 shattered Christianity, so they had a lot of catching up to do when they sat down for their historic meeting today (February 12, 2016) in Cuba, according to the USA Today website.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill embraced and kissed one another three times on the cheek as they met in the VIP room at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

After another round of handshakes for the cameras and greetings with members of their entourages, the two men sat and began talking. They were scheduled to hold a two-hour "personal conversation" and then sign a joint declaration.

The split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches nearly 1,000 years ago has festered over issues such as the primacy of the pope and accusations by the Russian Orthodox Church that the Catholic Church tries to poach converts in Russia.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Turkey Threatens to Flood Europe with Refugees; Pres. Erdogan: EU Hasn't Given Turkey 3B Euros

Turkey is prepared to "open the gates" and allow hundreds of thousands of refugees on its soil into Europe, the country's president threatened today (February 11, 2016), as he denounced the West's "shameful" contribution to the crisis, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan goaded EU leaders, saying they had not delivered the three billion euros in aid his government was promised in exchange for halting the tide of refugees. (The EU says Turkey has halted very few -- if any -- refugees from going to Europe.)

In an address in Ankara, Erdogan said the Turkish government was being taken for "idiots" by Brussels and insisted he was "proud" of leaking minutes of a high-level meeting with EU leaders, in which he had threatened to flood Europe with refugees.

It came as NATO deployed a task force of battleships to the Greek coast to collect intelligence and -- for the first time -- return any stranded refugee vessels they intercept directly back to Turkey.

Vatican: Bishops Need Not Report Abuse to Police; Enraged Victims Groups Say Church Protects Itself

A Catholic Church document -- released to the press earlier this month -- tells bishops they don't have to report clerical child sexual abuse accusations to police, the UPI website reports today (February 11, 2016).

Regarding abuse allegations, the Vatican said bishops must be aware of local laws but their only duty was to deal with cases internally.

Victims groups reacted angrily to the edict -- written by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella -- despite Pope Francis declaring "everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse," including defrocking abusive clergy.

Nicky Davis, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- or SNAP -- said clergy should be legally obliged to report suspected abuse. "Their systems function to protect the interests of the institution," she said. "They don't put the protection of children first."

Israeli Tourism Minister Levin Rips Reform Jews; Says Reform Judaism "Dying World,"to End Soon

Israeli and American Reform Jews will boycott Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, after he made disparaging comments about Reform Jews, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 11, 2016).

During a cabinet meeting last month on a proposed expansion to the non-Orthodox section of the Western Wall, Levin called Reform Judaism a "dying world" that has succumbed to assimilation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the statement.

In response, Israeli Reform Movement CEO Rabbi Gilad Kariv called on his American counterparts to shun Levin. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the American Union for Reform Judaism, has agreed.

In his comments last month, Levin, who is a secular Jew, cited the marriage of Chelsea Clinton -- daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton -- to a Reform Jew as an example of the extent to which American Reform Jews have become assimilated, and said all Reform Jews would "disappear" in two or three generations.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Episcopal Church to Still Perform Gay Marriages; Won't Stop Practice Despite Anglican Suspension

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has admitted that the Episcopal Church's suspension in January by the Anglican Communion for supporting gay marriage is fair, but said that it will not change their stance on the issue, the Christian Post website reports today (February 10, 2016).

"We're not changing -- so there shouldn't be an expectation that in the next three years the Episcopal Church is going to change," Curry said. "This is who we are," he added.

Anglican Communion leaders announced at a major meeting in January that they are suspending the Episcopal Church -- which is the Anglican Church in America -- for three years due to its 2015 vote to authorize same-sex marriage ceremonies in church.

"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 majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching," the Anglican Primates affirmed.

Sanders'Historic Win Has Little Outcome on Jews; His Lack of Judaic Worth Rueful to Most US Jews

Although Bernie Sanders won the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire last night -- thus becoming the first Jew to win a U.S. presidential primary -- most American Jews are not viewing this historic victory with much joy, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (February 10, 2016).

There are many reasons for a lack of Jewish pride and celebration resulting from Sanders' historic victory.

Sanders describes himself as "not particularly religious." He is married to a non-Jewish woman. He is aloof from Jewish communal life. Moreover, he appears to be in favor of a democratic form of socialism -- rather than capitalism --  for the United States.

As far as his religion is concerned, one could say that Democratic Socialism -- not Judaism -- is Sanders' real religion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

EU Official: Turkey Must Retain More Refugees; Fails to Cut Migrant Flow in $3.2B Deal with EU

Europe needs Turkey to dramatically cut the number of migrants reaching Greece within weeks or the pressure for more border closures and fences will grow, the top EU (European Union) official in charge of ties with Ankara has warned, the Reuters website reports today (February 9, 2016).

Frustrated that refugees continue to stream into Greece despite a November 29 deal between Ankara and Brussels to slow down the flow, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Turkey must show results by the time EU leaders meet for a February 18-19 summit.

"This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants," Hahn -- the EU's enlargement commissioner -- said.

"Turkey could do more, I have no doubt," Hahn added. The EU had agreed to give Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) and Turkey had agreed to keep Syrian refugees on its soil, but statistics on migrants indicate that  Turkey has not retained any more refugees than it had before the November pact was signed.

Some 2K Bosnians Protest Ban on Wearing Hijab; "Religious Signs" Now Barred in Country's Courts

Bosnians have taken to the streets to protest a ban on wearing Islamic headscarves (hijabs) in the country's legal institutions, the Religion News website reports today (February 9, 2016).

Around 2,000 people marched through the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on February 7 to protest against the new restrictions. The country's high judicial council ordered the ban on the hijab and all "religious signs" from courts and other legal institutions.

"The ban of wearing [the] hijab in judicial institutions is a serious attack against Muslim honor, personality and identity, a violation ... aimed at depriving them of their right to work," Samira Zunic Velagic, a protest leader, said.

Muslims make up 45 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina's population. Christians account for an estimated 52 percent of the nation's population, the majority of whom are of the Greek Orthodox faith.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Widow of IS Leader Charged in US Hostage Death; Held Kayla Jean Mueller as Slave before She Died

The wife of a now-deceased Islamic State (IS) leader was charged today (February 8, 2016) for her role in last year's death of American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller, the USA Today website reports.

Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, 25, the widow of former IS leader Abu Sayyaf, allegedly conspired to provide support to the terrorist group, often forcibly holding Mueller in the couple's homes where she was subjected to repeated sexual abuses by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mueller died in February 2015.

Bahar -- also known as Umm Sayyaf-- "knew how Mueller was treated by Baghdadi when Mueller was held against her will in Sayyaf's home," federal prosecutors said.

Sayyaf -- now being held on terror-related charges in Iraq -- allegedly admitted to FBI agents last summer that she was chiefly responsible for Mueller and other hostages while her husband traveled. On those occasions, she acknowledged hosting IS members and al-Baghdadi at her home. If convicted, Sayyaf faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Jewish Boy, 11, Stabbed with a Scissors in Israel; Hospitalized with Moderate Wounds, Arab Held

An 11-year-old Jewish boy was stabbed and wounded today (February 8, 2016) in an attack in the central Israeli town of Ramle, according to the Times of Israel website.

The boy was hospitalized with moderate injuries, the Magen David Adom emergency service said. The child said the assailant was an Arab. A 17-year-old Arab youth was arrested a short time later on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

The victim said he was walking down the street when an Arab teen asked him for a lighter, and stabbed him when he answered he did not have one.

According to police, the boy ran home after being stabbed with scissors, and his mother called for help.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wheaton College Prof. Larycia Hawkins Quits Job; Stated Christians and Muslims Worship Same God

Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkins -- who was placed on administrative leave by the college on December 15 for stating that Christians and Muslims worship the same God -- has decided to part ways with the college just five days before a faculty hearing was scheduled to decide her fate at the school, according to an email yesterday from college president Philip Ryken to the campus, the Washington Post website reports today (February 7, 2016).

"The Administration and Dr. Hawkins have come to a place of resolution and reconciliation," Ryken said in his email. "With a mutual desire for God's blessing, we have decided to part ways." Wheaton College is a private evangelical college in Wheaton, Illinois, and is the alma mater of world famous Christian  evangelist Billy Graham. Billy's son, Franklin Graham -- also an evangelist -- had called on the college to terminate Hawkins last month. (See "Franklin Graham: College Must Fire Polemic Prof...." in Theology and Society, Jan. 25, 2016.)

Hawkins was placed on administrative leave on December 15 after she published a Facebook post suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The statement set off a wave of controversy across the country amid larger debates about the role of Muslims in America.

The college said at the time that her comments raised significant theological questions and requested the professor provide a theological statement. Faculty at Wheaton College are required to sign a statement of faith, which some felt Hawkins could not affirm after making her comments.

Police:W.Bank Synagogue Burned Up by Arsonists; Netanyahu Says Fire Due to Palestinian Incitement

An investigative team of police officers and firefighters today (February 7, 2016) concluded that a fire that consumed a makeshift synagogue in a West Bank outpost on February 5 was the result of arson, the Times of Israel website reports.

According to an initial investigation, suspected attackers set fire to holy Jewish texts at an outpost next to the Karmei Tzur settlement in the West Bank.

There were no injuries in the incident, but books -- piled up and set on fire --  were badly damaged and the tent that housed them and served as a synagogue went up in flames.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- believing the fire was the result of Palestinian incitement -- said today that Israel would "do everything to find [the perpetrators] and bring them to justice." He added, "We are in the midst of a hard battle between those who seek coexistence and peace and those who want war and blood."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

German Cath.Church Calls for Reducing Refugees; Cardinal:Germany Can't Take in All World's Needy

The German Catholic Church today (February 6, 2016) called for a reduction in the influx of refugees arriving in Germany, saying the country cannot take in "all the world's needy," according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Germany has been struggling to cope with 1.1 million asylum seekers that arrived in 2015 and Berlin has not yet given an official estimate for how many it expects this year.

"As a church we say that we need a reduction in the number of refugees," Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, said.

"Germany cannot "take in all the world's needy," Marx added. The question of how to respond to the migrant crisis, he asserted, should not solely be a matter of "charity but also reason."

Twitter Says It Suspended 125K IS-Related Accts.; Network Now Bars Terrorist Posts on Its Website

Twitter announced yesterday that it has suspended at least 125,000 accounts that are related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since mid-2015, The Daily Beast website reports today (February 6, 2016).

They were suspended, the social media network said, after threatening or promoting terrorist acts related to ISIS.

"Like most people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups. We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service," the network said in a blog post yesterday afternoon.

This disclosure is significant as it marks the first time that Twitter has made these suspensions public, and appears to be a response to pressure from the White House as well the French, Australian, and British governments.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Four Algerians Nabbed for a Berlin Terror Plot; One Registered in Germany as a Syrian Refugee

One of four Algerian men suspected of plotting an attack in Berlin had registered in Germany as a Syrian refugee and another had contacts in Belgium, the One News Now website reports today (February 5, 2016).

Police -- who believe the four had ties to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group -- conducted raids yesterday in Berlin and western Germany. One of the Algerians and his wife were arrested at a refugee home because they were sought by Algerian authorities for belonging to the IS group.

Berlin police said the man arrived with his family in Germany at the end of last year and sought asylum as a Syrian refugee.

Police said they established that another of the Algerians -- who was not arrested -- had contacts with Belgium. They didn't elaborate, but Belgium has a strong Islamic extremist scene.

Pope Francis, Russian Patriarch to Meet in Cuba; Try to Heal Ties Broken by Great Schism of 1054

A historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill -- head of the Russian Orthodox Church -- will take place in Cuba next week, following more than two years of secret talks aimed at healing ties broken nearly 1,000 years ago, the Religion News website reports today (February 5, 2016).

According to the surprise announcement -- made simultaneously today in Moscow and at the Vatican -- Francis will make a brief stopover in Havana on February 12 before continuing on to Mexico for a six-day visit.

Kirill will already be in Cuba on an official visit and will meet the pontiff for two hours at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport before signing a joint declaration with Francis. It will be the first time in history that the leader of the Catholic Church has met with a Russian Orthodox patriarch.

The Western and Eastern  branches of Christianity split apart into the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church in what is referred to as the Great Schism of 1054. Today, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics and upwards of 250 million Orthodox Christians in the world.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

European Parliament Titles IS Atrocities Genocide; IS Conducts War Crimes,Crimes Against Humanity

The European Parliament voted today (February 4, 2016) to designate the atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against religious and ethnic minorities as genocide, according to the OBL News (The Orthodox Church Info Blog) website.

The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority.

Formal genocide recognition places legal obligations on all countries who are signatories to the genocide convention to take action.

The resolution condemns ISIS and its human rights abuses against Christians and others who do not agree with its interpretation of Islam. It adds that these violations amount to "war crimes," "crimes against humanity," and "genocide," according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Refugee Males Groping Russian Women Attacked; Russian Males Beat Refugees,18 Taken to Hospital

A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club last Saturday, the Daily Caller website reports today (February 4, 2016).

The refugees -- mostly Muslims whose native countries tend to treat women as second-class citizens --  had previously been ordered to leave Norway for "bad behavior" and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn't realize is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries.

The male refugees groped and harassed women in a similar manner as the assaults in Cologne, Germany on New Year's Eve. A group of Russian males took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember for a long time.

Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen male refugees were in such bad condition that they had to be treated at a hospital.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Obama Rips Anti-Muslim Ideas in Mosque Visit; "We've Got to Show America Protects All Faiths"

President Barack Obama -- in his first visit to a mosque in the United States -- said today (February 3, 2016) he was seeking to rebut "inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim-Americans" from Republican presidential candidates, the CNN website reports.

"Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: You fit right here," Obama told the audience at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a 47-year-old mosque with thousands of attendees. "You're right where you belong. You're part of America too. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American."

As he decried GOP counter-terror plans that would single out Muslims for extra scrutiny -- and prevent Muslims from entering the United States in an effort to eliminate terrorist attacks -- Obama insisted that applying religious screens would only amplify messages coming from terrorist groups.

"We can't be bystanders to bigotry," Obama said. "Together, we've got to show that America truly protects all faiths. As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves."

Israeli Police Officer, 19, Dies from Palest. Attack; Another Officer in Serious Condition from Attack

One of two Israeli Border Police officers seriously injured in an attack by three Palestinian assailants in Jerusalem today (February 3, 2016) has died, according to the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website.

Hadar Cohen, 19, of Or Yehuda in central Israel, died just hours after she was critically wounded today near the Old City, outside the Damascus Gate. She had recently joined the Border Police and was still in training.

The assailants -- who entered Israel illegally from the Jenin area in the West Bank -- were shot and killed by other officers, according to police.

Like Cohen, the other injured officer was taken to Hadassah Hospital at Mount Scopus. A hospital spokesman said the officer, 18, was in serious condition, having received stab wounds across her body, including her head. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

France Flattens Church Serving Refugees in Calais; French Said Space Needed for Camp Security Zone

French police bulldozed a church serving Christian refugees yesterday in a camp called "the jungle" in the city of Calais, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (February 2, 2016).

The French said clearing the space was necessary to create a security zone around the camp.

The Rev. Teferi Shuremo clashed with police holding riot shields as excavation machines crushed the structure.

Officials also tore down an abandoned mosque in the area yesterday. The Calais camp holds some 4,000 refugees from Syria and other countries.

Pope Warns Gossiping Clergy: "Bite Your Tongue;" Describes "Anarchy" as the "Daughter of the Devil"

Pope Francis told gossip-loving priests and nuns yesterday to bite their tongues, and warned those breaking their vow of obedience to fall into line quickly, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (February 2, 2016).

"If you get an urge to say something against a brother or a sister, to drop a gossip bomb, bite your tongue! Hard!" the pontiff said in an improvised speech to members of the clergy, marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life.

The pope warned against those abusing their religious vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, describing "anarchy" as the "daughter of the devil."

The Roman Catholic Church is still suffering from the clerical sex abuse scandal, which hurt the institution globally and saw many believers -- particularly in the West -- turn their back on the centuries-old institution.

Poll:French Blame Jews for Rise in Anti-Semitism; Most Believe Jews Powerful, Richer Than Average

According to a new poll by the Ipsos market research team, 60 percent of Frenchmen believe that Jews bear some responsibility for the recent rise in anti-Semitism, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (February 2, 2016).

The 18-month study -- sponsored by the Foundation of French Judaism -- also found that 56 percent of Frenchmen believe that Jews have a "lot of power" and are richer than average, while more than 40 percent said Jews are "a little too present in the media."

Anti-Semitism and a worsening economy have driven many French Jews to seek their fortune abroad during the past year, with many leaving for Montreal, London, and other cities.

Jews are not perceived as troublemakers in France. Prejudices against Muslims are much higher. More Jews and Muslims live in France than any other country in Europe.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Defense Dept.Wants More Troops in Iraq, Syria; Hundreds More US Troops Needed to Defeat IS

Hundreds of additional forces -- including trainers, advisers, and commandos -- are needed in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), Pentagon top brass has conceded, prompting Department of Defense officials to urge the White House to approve further deployments to Iraq and Syria in the next few weeks, the Washington Times website reports today (February 1, 2016).

Defense Department officials told the White House that the U.S.-led effort to destroy the Islamic State requires still more manpower in addition to the roughly 3,700 American troops already in Iraq.

Admission from the Obama administration that more troops are needed followed recent remarks from Defense Department officials who expressed a desire to adjust U.S. operations abroad.

"We're looking for opportunities to do more," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN in an interview last week. "We're not looking to substitute for local forces in terms of governing the place and policing the place."

Israeli Teens Indicted for Vandalizing Church; Graffiti on Walls Included "Christians to Hell"

The Jerusalem District Court indicted three Jewish teens yesterday for vandalizing a Jerusalem church with anti-Christian graffiti in January, the Times of Israel website reports today (February 1, 2016).

The three -- aged 16 and 15 -- were charged with religiously motivated destruction of property for the vandalism incident on January 16, which included the phrases "Christians to Hell," and "Death to the heathen Christians, the enemies of Israel," daubed on the walls of the Dormition Abbey.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli lawmakers, and several rabbis condemned the incident, a spokesperson for the local Catholic Church denounced the lack of measures taken by authorities to stop the increasing number of hate crimes against Christians and churches in Israel in recent years.

"Despite promises by the government, these incidents continue to take place," Wadia Abu Nasser, the executive director of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, said at the time. "If we were to actually count all these incidents, they'd be in the hundreds."