Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pope:Christians Should Not Lead Double Lives; They Must Not Say One Thing and Do Another

During morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta yesterday, Pope Francis warned Christians against having double lives -- displaying an outer facade of light, but having darkness in their hearts -- the Independent Catholic News website reports today (April 30, 2016).

Reflecting on St. John's First Letter, Pope Francis spoke of the eternal struggle against sin, saying we must be pure like the Father but even if we sin we can count on His pardon and His tenderness.

He stressed the Apostle's warning to believers to tell the truth and not have double lives, saying one thing but doing another.

"If you say you are in communion with the Lord, then walk in the light. But no to double lives! Not that! That lie that we are so used to seeing and where we too sometimes fall, don't we? To say one thing and do another, right? It's the never ending temptation. And we know where that lie comes from: in the Bible, Jesus calls the devil 'the father of lies,' the liar..."

Muslim Prayer Hall on Corsica Island Set on Fire; Prayer Hall in Corsica Also Ransacked 4 Mos. Ago

A Muslim prayer hall was seriously damaged by fire last night in the capital of the French island of Corsica -- four months after another Muslim prayer hall there was ransacked -- the Reuters website reports today (April 30, 2016).

No one was injured in the fire in the city of Ajaccio (birthplace of the famous French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte), which police are investigating as criminal after finding two separate sources of fire inside the hall.

"This is unacceptable," Ajaccio mayor Laurent Marcangeli said on Corsican television. "Those sites are not sufficiently protected."

In late December, the Mediterranean island was rocked by days of racial tension after firemen in Ajaccio were attacked on a housing estate with a large immigrant population and a Muslim prayer hall was attacked in anti-immigrant protests that followed.

Orth. Christians Mark Good Friday in Jerusalem; Go to Holy Sepulchre Church, Jesus' Burial Tomb

Thousands of Orthodox Christians from across the globe marked Good Friday yesterday with a procession through Jerusalem's Old City, retracing the steps Jesus Christ is believed to have taken on the day of His crucifixion, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 30, 2016).

The pilgrims -- some carrying crosses and others praying -- retraced the 14 Stations of the Cross and walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christ is believed to be buried.

Hundreds of Israeli security forces were deployed inside the walled Old City, and around the church, which is in East Jerusalem.

As a result of different interpretations of some aspects of Christian doctrine, the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches split the Christian Church into Western and Eastern divisions in 1054 in what is known historically as "the Great Schism."

Friday, April 29, 2016

KS Governor Refuses to Accept Syrian Refugees; Perceives Terrorists May Pretend to Be Refugees

Led by Governor Sam Brownback, the state of Kansas informed the Obama administration this week that it is defying its dictates for Kansas to cooperate in the resettlement of refugees from Syria, The New American website reports today (April 29, 2016).

In a letter to Robert Carey, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Brownback wrote, "The State of Kansas hereby withdraws its Refugee Resettlement Program State Plan and terminates its participation in all federal refugee resettlement grants and programs, effective at the earliest possible date."

Brownback added that he was taking this action to "protect the safety and security interests of the State of Kansas."

In other words, Brownback fears that some of the Syrian refugees may actually be Islamic State (IS) terrorists pretending to be "refugees" -- as was the case in the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 innocent people last November -- and a thorough background check of each refugee must be conducted before accepting refugees.

Italy Names Six Suspects of Plotting IS Attacks; Discussed Attacks on Vatican, Israeli Embassy

Italian police issued arrest warrants yesterday for six people suspected of conspiring to join the Islamic State (IS), and court documents said three of them had been discussing possible attacks on the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in Rome, the Reuters website reports today (April 29, 2016).

Four of the suspects -- a couple living near Lake Como, a 23-year-old man and a woman, all Moroccans -- were detained in Italy yesterday, Milan prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli told a news conference.

The other two -- a Moroccan man and his Italian wife -- left Italy last year, traveled to Iraq and Syria, and are still on the loose, Romanelli added.

Italy has not suffered the kind of deadly Islamist attacks that hit France and Belgium, but authorities have arrested a number of people suspected of planning terrorist attacks. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Marseille Synagogue to Be Converted into Mosque; Many Jews Desert Synagogue Due to Security Risk

A Marseille synagogue will be converted into a mosque as the Jewish population in the southern French city continues to dwindle, and many Jews refuse to attend religious services because they find the area to be a security risk, the Algemeiner website reports today (April 28, 2016).

The Muslim organization Al Badr Association purchased Or Thora synagogue and will reopen the religious site as a mosque this summer -- hoping to cater to the overflow from the organization's other mosque, filled to beyond capacity with a growing number of worshipers.

The Or Thora synagogue -- which was sold for $400,000 -- sometimes had no more than 10 worshipers at once, although it has a capacity of 250. In contrast, Al Badr's mosque is often so full that congregants have no choice but to pray outside the complex on Friday, Islam's holiest day of worship.

Elie Berrebi, the director of Marseille's Central Jewish Consistoire -- a body governing Jewish congregations -- said many of the Jewish residents in Marseille are moving out of the city because of rising anti-Semitism in the area. He added that more than 80 percent of Marseille's Jews have stopped attending central synagogues, since the areas around religious sites are viewed as a high security risk.

Wave of Syrian Airstrikes Hit Hospital, Killing 27; Rebels Blame Assad Govt. for Airstrikes in Aleppo

A wave of nighttime airstrikes hit a hospital in Syria -- supported by Doctors Without Borders -- and nearby buildings in the rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo, killing at least 27 people, as the UN envoy for Syria appealed today (April 28, 2016) on the U.S. and Russia to help revive peace talks and a ceasefire, according to the Times of Israel website.

Six hospital staff and three children were among the casualties. The strikes -- which occurred around midnight -- hit the al-Quds field hospital in the rebel-held district of Sukkari in Aleppo, according to rescue workers.

The chief Syrian opposition negotiator, Mohammed Alloush, blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the deadly airstrikes. He said that the latest violence by government forces shows "the environment [for peace talks] is not conducive to any political action."

The Civil Defense -- a volunteer first-responders agency whose members went to the scene of the attack -- put the death toll at 30 and said the dead included six hospital staff. It added there were still victims buried under the rubble and that the rescue work was continuing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

EU Warns Turkey on Visa-Free Travel to Europe; Must Meet 72 Criteria Before It Gets This Benefit

The European Union (EU) top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said yesterday that Turkey would only get visa-free travel to the bloc once it has met all the required criteria, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 27, 2016).

Turkey has demanded its citizens be allowed to enter the European Union's passport-free Schengen zone without visas by June, in exchange for it taking back migrants rejected by Greece.

But the EU insists that Turkey must meet 72 conditions -- of which it is believed to have fulfilled about half -- before being allowed visa-free travel.

"On free travel [for Turkey], this will be done only once all the criteria are respected, as for all countries with which we negotiate free travel for a limited period," EU foreign policy chief Mogherini emphasized. She added,... "a very severe verification must be carried out to apply this measure."

UN Rips Israeli PM's Golan Control Declaration; Agrees Israel's Claim "Null and Void," Not Legal

The UN Security Council yesterday dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent claim to his cabinet that the Golan Heights would "forever" remain under Israel's control, as it has been since Israel seized it from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967, the Jewish Press website reports today (April 27, 2016).

After reviewing Netanyahu's claim, the UN Security Council members "expressed deep concern" over his position and "stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged."

The UNSC rotating president, China's UN envoy Liu Jieyi, told reporters that Israel's imposing its laws in the Golan is against Council Resolution 497, and is "null and void and without international legal effect."

Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon responded: "Holding a meeting on this topic completely ignores the reality in the Middle East. While thousands of people are being massacred in Syria... the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East." 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Christian Woman in Pakistan Kidnapped,Married; Taken at Home by Armed Muslims, Accepts Islam

A Christian woman in Pakistan has been kidnapped, forced to marry, and convert to Islam, the Christian Today website reports today (April 26, 2016).

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a lawyer who runs Legal Evangelical Association Development, said 23-year-old Laveeza Bibi was kidnapped on April 14.

Two Muslims -- armed with guns -- forcibly entered the family home in Kasur, Punjab and threatened Bibi's mother and father before kidnapping the young woman. One of them, Muhammad Talib, then forced Bibi to marry him.

About 1,000 similar cases are registered in Pakistan each year, and many more go unreported.

French Muslim Retailer Fined for Discrimination; Men Could Shop Mon.--Fri.,Women on Weekends

A Muslim shopkeeper has been fined 500 euros ($560) for ordering different opening hours for men and women at his store in the French city of Bordeaux, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 26, 2016).

Jean-Baptiste Michalon -- the owner of a general store who converted to Islam in 2012 -- created an uproar when he posted a notice outside his store in June 2015 indicating different shopping hours for men and women.

"Sisters" were invited to shop on Saturdays and Sundays only, while "brothers" were told they could shop on weekdays.

Michalon abandoned the plan due to a swell of negative reaction, and his shop has since closed its doors.

Monday, April 25, 2016

US Journalist Is Forbidden Re-entry into Istanbul; Turkey Bans Journalists, Denies Freedom of Press

A Turkey-based American journalist says he was denied re-entry at Istanbul Ataturk Airport today (April 25, 2016), and is returning to the United States, according to the Business Insider website.

David Lepeska is one of several foreign journalists who have been recently imprisoned, denied entry, or expelled from Turkey as the government cracks down on critical media and dissenting voices -- in effect violating the freedom of the press in Turkey -- raising concerns in a country once seen as a model of Muslim democracy and which aspires to become a member of the EU (European Union).

"I've been given no reason for the entry ban, or confirmation that this status is lasting or permanent," Lepeska said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Turkish authorities to allow Lepeska to enter Turkey without delay. The government should "stop obstructing him and other international journalists from reporting in the country," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

Hungary PM:Islamization Banned by Constitution; Says Migrants Could Endanger Hungarian Culture

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said today (April 25, 2016) that Hungary's constitution bans Islamization because the document aims to protect Hungarian language and culture, according to the ABC News website.

Orban also said the constitution forces the government to oppose any kind of mass migration that would endanger those principles.

"We have the right to choose whom we want and don't want to live with," he added.

Orban had previously stated he wants "zero" migrants in Hungary.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Obama Sending 250 Troops to Syria to Fight IS; Says IS Won't Be Defeated While He's President

President Obama is expected to announce tomorrow that he is sending another 250 military personnel to Syria to assist local forces combat the Islamic State (IS), the Washington Examiner website reports today (April 24, 2016).

Government officials said Obama signed off on the new deployment, which would increase the number of American ground troops in Syria from 50 to 300.

The president is expected to make the announcement in Hanover, Germany where he is wrapping up a week-long overseas trip.

Obama said today that military efforts alone cannot solve Syria's long-term problems and that the Islamic State would not be defeated in his remaining nine months in office.

George Clooney Leads March in Yerevan, Armenia; Commemorate 101st Anniv. of Armenian Genocide

Hollywood star and rights advocate George Clooney today (April 24, 2016) led thousands of Armenians on a march to a hilltop memorial in Yerevan -- the capital of Armenia -- to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the World War I-era Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

A staunch advocate of the massacre's recognition as genocide, Clooney arrived in the ex-Soviet nation yesterday to take part in the hugely symbolic ceremonies. (Turkey denies that the Armenian genocide ever occurred.)

Clooney and the French singer of Armenian origin Charles Aznavour joined President Serzh Sarkisian and thousands of Armenians to lay flowers at the eternal flame at the imposing Tsitsernakaberd memorial as requiem services for the victims were held in churches across the country.

Some 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. Turkey rejects the genocide label, claiming that the Armenians died in civil strife when they rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops during World War I.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Teens Awarded Visit from Pope in St. Peter's Sq.; Take Part in Holy Yr. Youth Day, 16 Confess Sins

Sixteen teenagers have gotten an unexpected opportunity to confess their sins to Pope Francis, the Fox News website reports today (April 23, 2016).

The pontiff made a surprise appearance late this morning in St. Peter's Square, where thousands of Catholic faithful -- ranging in age from 13 to 16 -- were participating in a special Holy Year youth day, including confession near the famed Colonnade of Bernini.

Francis and each of the 16 teenagers sat face-to-face in simple chairs set up in pairs for him and many others hearing confessions in the square. The pope spent more than an hour in the square.

He has dedicated the Holy Year to two central themes of his papacy: mercy and reconciliation.

Scotsman Shows Video of Dog Doing Nazi Salutes; Dog Responded to "Gas the Jews," Incensing Jews

A Scottish man apologized today (April 23, 2016) after a video of him showing his dog making Nazi salutes while responding to the phrase "gas the Jews," eliciting outrage among Jewish groups, according to the Times of Israel website.

A video that he posted online under the title "Mate your dog's a Nazi," and which has received over 800,000 views, 28-year-old Markus Meechan said he had decided to train his girlfriend's pug Buddha to be a Nazi as a practical joke.

He then filmed multiple instances in which his dog perks up to the sound of the phrase "gas the Jews" as well as simply the word "Jews." In the second part of the video, the dog is seen watching a Hitler speech and raising its right paw in response to the phrase "Sieg heil" ( or "Hail Hitler" ).

Jewish groups were incensed by the video, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews calling it "sickening" and encouraging police to investigate Meechan.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Many Illegal Immigrants Cross into US Border; Government's Eased-up Policies Cause Increase

Illegal immigrant families are streaming across the border at record pace, as U.S. Border Patrol statistics released today (April 22, 2016) show that more than 32,000 have been caught trying to sneak into the U.S., according to the Washington Times website.

The nearly 40 percent higher than the previous record of 2014, and it's well more than double last year's pace, suggest that the government's relaxed enforcement policies have backfired and invited a new wave of illegal immigrants.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had thought he'd licked the problem two years ago, after surging manpower to the border.

But the pace of illegal immigrants picked up last summer -- just as Johnson announced new relaxed rules for detaining illegal immigrants -- and it has remained high ever since.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Police Arrest 17 Jewish Activists in ADL's Lobby; Blast Support of Israel's Occupation of Palestine

Police arrested 17 Jewish activists denouncing the "Jewish establishment's support of the occupation of Palestine" on April 20 in the lobby of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) headquarters in New York City during one of a series of national Passover protests organized by the anti-occupation group "If Not Now," the Forward website reports today (April 21, 2016).

Before they were cuffed and shuffled into New York Police Department vans, the activists had sat cross-legged on the ADL lobby floor, leading a crowd of some 100 people in their version of a Passover Seder.

They banged on the floor, danced in circles, and sang familiar Hebrew songs. The Seder's ten plagues included "subjecting Palestinians to daily humiliation" and "destroying the Palestinian economy."

"We act now to build a Jewish community that recognizes that we cannot be free, absent the freedom for Palestinians," the text of one handout read.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obama, Saudi King Meet, Discuss Mideast Crises; Agree to Inclusive Approach to Decrease Conflicts

President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Salman agreed on the importance of "an inclusive approach to de-escalating regional conflicts" during a two-hour closed meeting today (April 20, 2016) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to the VOA (Voice of America) News website.

In a statement after the meeting at Erga Palace, the White House said the two leaders discussed the "challenges posed by Iran's provocative activities in the [Mideast] region."

Tension between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has risen in recent months over differing approaches to Iran and the fight against terrorism.

The statement also said, "the president underscored the importance of accelerating the campaign against [Islamic State] and welcomed Saudi Arabia's important role in the coalition" of nations that is fighting the militant group.

Syrian Peace Talks End as Opposition Team Quits; Due to Syrians Dying Daily from Bombings, Sieges

The leaders of Syria's opposition delegation left Geneva yesterday after the group suspended its formal participation in troubled peace negotiations, the France 24 website reports today (April 20, 2016).

The coordinator of the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Riyad Hijab, told journalists he was leaving a day after the group put its participation at the talks on hold to protest escalating violence and restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria.

"We will not accept negotiations while our people are still suffering," Hijab said.

"It is not suitable, neither morally nor on the humanitarian side, to be part of negotiations when Syrians are dying daily from sieges, hunger, bombings, poisonous gases, and barrel bombs," he insisted.

Polish "Rabbi" Was Impostor at Poznan Temple; Jacek Niszczota Faked Being Rabbi Jacob Nistell

A local journalist in a western Poland city discovered that the local "rabbi" is not a rabbi at all, never lived in Israel, is not familiar with Jewish customs, and does not speak or understand Hebrew, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 20, 2016).

"Rabbi" Jacob Ben Nistell claimed he was from Haifa, Israel. Members of the Poznan Jewish community believed him and decided to embrace him as a community rabbi, where he served for several years.

He admitted two weeks ago during an interview that he is not a rabbi. Krzysztof Kazmierczak, a reporter for "Glos Wielkopolski" (or "The Voice of Wielkopolski"), said that the alleged rabbi in fact is Jacek Niszczota and comes from Ciechanow, a town in north-central Poland.

"I'm surprised. I never checked his identity document. He said he comes from Haifa, his mother still lives there, and he has an Israeli passport and a son in the army," Alicja Kobus, head of the Poznan Jewish community and vice president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, told "Glos Wielkopolski." Kobus added that Niszczota is in fact Catholic and previously worked as a cook.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Taliban Kills at Least 28 in Kabul, Afghanistan; Suicide Bomb, Gunfire Wound More Than 320

Taliban militants attacked an elite government security agency in Kabul, Afghanistan with a suicide bomb and gunfire today (April 19, 2016), killing at least 28 people and wounding more than 320 others in one of the most devastating attacks in Kabul in years, according to the Alaska Dispatch News website.

The target -- the main training ground for an Afghan intelligence unit tasked with protecting senior officials -- represented a direct strike against the Western-aided government a week after the Taliban announced its spring offensive.

The raid also was a message that the reach of fighters -- and their ability to stage major coordinated attacks -- appears undimmed, despite rifts within the militant group's ranks and pressures from the rival Islamic State (IS), as it seeks to expand its influence in Afghanistan.

For leaders of Kabul, it may shatter for now any hope for the revival of stalled peace talks with the Taliban and would put President Ashraf Ghani under growing pressure from rivals over his efforts to reach out to the Taliban.

US, Germany: Golan Heights Not a Part of Israel; Netanyahu:Israel Won't Cede Seized Syrian Land

The United States and Germany both have criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent declaration that the Golan Heights "will forever remain part of Israeli sovereignty," the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (April 19, 2016).

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that the Obama administration does not consider the Golan Heights -- which Israel seized from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967 -- to be part of Israel, despite Netanyahu's assertion at a Cabinet meeting on April 17.

"The U.S. position on the issue is unchanged," Kirby said at a daily media briefing at the State Department in Washington. "This position was maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations."

Also, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said yesterday, "It's a basic principle of international law and the UN charter that no state can claim the right to annex another state's territory just like that."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hundreds of Migrants Have Drowned in Med. Sea; Italy Now Confirms a Tragedy It Previously Denied

Some 500 refugees from Libya are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe on April 16 -- one year after a similar tragedy -- Italy's president confirmed today (April 18, 2016), according to the Washington Post website.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said during a prize ceremony in Rome today that Europe faced "yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died." His comments are the first official remarks on a recent incident that had previously been denied by Italian authorities.

Italy's foreign minister also confirmed the tragedy today, but said that details were still scarce.

"What is sure is that we are again with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, exactly one year after the tragedy we had... in Libyan waters," Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

US to Send 200 More Troops,Helicopters to Iraq; Will Assist Iraqi Troops to Retake Mosul from IS

Defense officials revealed today (April 18, 2016) that the U.S. will send about 200 additional troops to Iraq to advise and assist its military, and will also send it more Apache attack helicopters to support those forces in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group, according to the USA Today website.

The decision comes as Iraqi forces have begun preliminary operations to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from IS control. Retaking the city -- which has been occupied by IS for nearly two years -- is expected to be a difficult battle that may take several months.

The defense officials could not speak publicly about the decision to increase the forces, since it has not yet been formally announced.

President Obama has approved an increase of the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 -- or from 3,870 to 4,087 troops.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Brazil Congress Votes to Impeach Pres. Rousseff; She Is Accused of Corruption, Illegal Accounting

Brazilian legislators voted today (April 17, 2016) in favor of impeaching President Dilma Rousseff -- a move that could see the country's first female leader removed from power -- the Al Jazeera website reports.

Tens of thousands of pro- and anti-impeachment protesters gathered in the capital of Brasilia and other cities to watch the dramatic vote, broadcast live on national television today. Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any other country in the world.

The impeachment motion will next go to the Senate which will vote -- probably in May -- whether to open a trial.

Rousseff, 68, is accused of corruption and of illegal accounting acts to mask government shortfalls during her 2014 re-election. The impeachment battle comes during Brazil's worst recession since the 1930s.

Belgian Minister: Muslims Danced after Attacks; Due to Failure to Integrate Muslims into Society

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said yesterday that a "significant" part of the Muslim population celebrated attacks, blaming Belgium's policies for failing to integrate Muslim migrants into society, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (April 17, 2016).

"A significant section of the Muslim community danced when attacks took place," Jambon said in an interview with the Flemish-language De Standaard newspaper.

The Belgian minister also accused Muslim residents of Brussels' largely immigrant Molenbeek neighborhood of attacking police during an operation last month to arrest a suspect in connection with the deadly attacks in Paris last November.

"They threw stones and bottles at police and press during the arrest of Salah Abdeslam.This is the real problem. Terrorists we can pick up, remove from society. But they are just a boil. Underneath is a cancer that is much more difficult to treat. We can do it, but it won't be overnight," he said.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mississippi Law Authorizes Firearms in Churches; Gun Control Guards Call Law Dangerous,Reckless

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a gun rights bill into law yesterday, allowing churches to create security programs designating members to carry firearms to defend worshipers against violence, the Reuters website reports today (April 16, 2016).

The legislation -- called the "Mississippi Church Protection Act" -- also makes it easier for residents in other settings to carry concealed weapons, drawing criticism from gun control advocates.

"Churches deserve protection from those who would harm worshipers," Bryant said.

Gun control proponents called the law dangerous. "Mississippi law enforcement, families and faith leaders all spoke against this reckless bill that will allow dangerous people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit," said Shirley Hopkins Davis, a member of the Mississippi chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in a statement.

Pope Praises Refugees on Greek Island of Lesbos; Brings 3 Muslim Refugee Families Back to Rome

In an emotional visit to a fenced-in refugee center on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis told hundreds of displaced families today (April 16, 2016) that "you are not alone" -- and underscored his message by taking three families of Syrian Muslim refugees back to Rome with him -- according to the USA Today website.

The 12 refugees -- including six children -- joined the pope on his plane after a five-hour visit to Lesbos's detention center. The pope also asked European leaders to do more to help the thousands of refugees stuck in camps.

The 12 refugees will be cared for in Rome by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay organization dedicated to charity, the Vatican said. The Vatican is already hosting two refugee families in Rome.

Francis was accompanied on his Lesbos visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, along with Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, and the Greek Orthodox  Archbishop of Athens.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sanders to Ec.Conf.:"Immoral" Economy Must Go; 1% of People Now Pile Up More Wealth Than 99%

The global market economy has largely failed working people, Sen. Bernie Sanders told an economic conference at the Vatican today (April 15, 2016), as the Democratic candidate for president broke from the U.S. campaign trail to deliver a speech on his signature issue of income inequality, according to the Washington Post website.

"At a time when so few have so much, and so many have so little, we must reject the foundation of this contemporary economy as immoral and unsustainable," Sanders said.

In his speech, Sanders repeatedly referred to Pope Francis as an inspiration to seek a moral economic foundation. He said, "As Pope Francis has stated: 'Man is not in charge today; money is in charge, money rules.'" (Pope Francis apologized for not being able to attend the economic conference, since he had to prepare for a trip to Greece tomorrow, in an effort to alleviate Europe's migrant crisis.)

"The top one percent of people on this planet now own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent," Sanders said. "That, to me, is unacceptable, it is unsustainable, it is immoral, and together we have got to change that."

Hotel in Ukraine Refuses to Rent Rooms to Jews; Says It Required Repairs After Jews Stayed There

A hotel in Uman, Ukraine is refusing to rent out rooms to Jews, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 15, 2016).

A leader of Ukraine's Jewish community reported the discriminatory rule yesterday.

Eduard Dolinsky -- director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee -- wrote yesterday on Facebook that an administrator at Uman City Plaza told him the policy was in place because the last time that Jews were allowed to stay at the hotel, it required repairs.

Dolinsky said he called the hotel -- a small establishment with 17 rooms -- because he read an online review by a Jew who was turned away by the hotel.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Muslim Nations Agree to Unite to Fight Terrorism; Will Set Up a Multination Police Center in Istanbul

Acting on a proposal by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Muslim nations agreed today (April 14, 2016) to establish an Istanbul-based multinational police coordination center for Islamic states to fight terrorism, according to the UPI website.

During today's 13th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Erdogan noted terrorism is the biggest problem facing Muslim nations.

"Once again, I call on the international bodies to review their approaches to terrorist organizations," Erdogan said during his opening speech at the OIC. It is necessary to conduct operations against terror organizations on the ground, while there should [also] be efforts to target those organizations' financial and human resources."

He added, "For that, international cooperation is vital. Establish a body that would solidify and institutionalize cooperation against terror with the OIC is the right step to take."

Canada Set to Pass Law that OKs Assisted Suicide; Law Will Exclude Foreigners from Assisted Suicide

An assisted suicide bill in Canada -- expected to become a law soon -- excludes foreigners from traveling to Canada to die, the BBC website reports today (April 14, 2016).

People with mental illness and psychiatric disorders also are excluded.

The bill -- which is backed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- must be voted on by both the Canadian House and Senate.

It seeks to protect "the conscience rights of medical practitioners," said Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. She refused to answer why foreigners would be excluded from assisted suicides.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ADL:Europe Failing to Fight Anti-Semitic Crimes; Crime Increase Due to Neo-Nazi, Islamist Groups

A new report jointly released by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Human Rights First says member states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are not living up to their commitments to fight anti-Semitic hate crimes, the Jewish Press website reports today (April 13, 2016).

The "Scorecard on Hate Crime Response in the OSCE Region" notes hate crimes continue to go unreported in the participating member nations -- which include the United States.

Both Human Rights First and ADL have developed recommendations for the United States to aid its European allies in combating the rise of anti-Semitic and extremist violence, especially in France, Germany, and Hungary.

"There has been a rise in anti-Semitic hate crime," in some OSCE countries, the report notes, adding the trend "can be traced to both incitement from neo-fascist groups and the growth of violent Islamist extremist groups."

Russian Jets Play Deadly Games on US Navy Ship; Fly So Close to Ship They Created "Wake in Water"

Two Russian attack planes flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy destroyer, called the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, the NBC News website reports today (April 13, 2016).

A U.S. official said these actions were "unsafe" and "unprofessional," and described them as among the "most aggressive" acts by the Russians in some time. (Turkey shot down a Russian jet, killing its pilot late last year, because it flew over Turkey on its way to Syria. Turkey, a member of NATO, had previously warned Russia to stop those flights, but Russia continued them.)

The official said that the Russian planes created a "wake in the water" because they flew so close. A Russian KA-27 helicopter also made seven passes on the destroyer and was believed to be photographing the ship.

The U.S. official added that the Cook was clearly in international waters at the time of the incident, explaining that it was operating about 70 miles from Kaliningrad, a Russian province. (Most nations agree that international waters begin after 12 miles from their coasts.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One Killed,Dozens Hurt in Turkey Truck Bombing; Truck with Explosives Rammed into Police Station

A Turkish soldier was killed and dozens injured today (April 12, 2016) in a truck bombing in Diyarbakir province in the southeast of the country, according to the Euro News website.

Thirty-nine soldiers and eight civilians were hurt in the explosion in the town of Hani, the military said.

The statement said a vehicle filled with explosives rammed into a police station.

Southeastern Turkey has been rocked by violence since a ceasefire between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) collapsed last year. Many Kurds live in this part of Turkey, where they have been attempting to have some territory of their own, in order to establish a Kurdish nation.

Hillel International to Launch Branch in Poland; Opening of Hillel Warsaw Is Planned for April 18

Hillel International will launch operations in Poland beginning next week, the organization serving Jewish college students announced today (April 12, 2016), according to the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website. There are Hillels in 14 other nations.

The opening of Hillel Warsaw is scheduled for April 18, on the eve of the 73rd anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

A delegation of Hillel International leaders and Jewish dignitaries from around the world will gather in Poland for the event, where a reception will be held for Polish Jewish students.

"At Hillel International, our mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students everywhere so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world," Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, said in a statement. "Jewish life in Poland has seen a remarkable revitalization in recent years, but that progress can only be sustained if we ensure that young Polish Jews have the community and the resources necessary to thrive."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Norway Agrees to OK Same-Sex Church Weddings; Joins Sweden,Denmark in Allowing Gay Marriages

After 20 years of of discussion, Norway's main church today (April 11, 2016) voted by an overwhelming majority to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Euro News website.

The decision was backed by 88 of the 115 delegates at the annual conference of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Trondheim.

Under the new rules, priests who do not want to marry a same-sex couple will still have the right to object.

Those against the decision say the Bible defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At present, gay marriage is possible in Sweden, Denmark and a number of Anglo-Saxon congregations around the world. 

Temple Blaze in India Kills 108 People,5 Arrested; Fireworks Explosions Wound 380 at Hindu Affair

Indian police have detained five people after a fireworks display at a Hindu temple set off explosions and fire killing 108 people, the Reuters website reports today (April 11, 2016).

Thousands of people were gathered at the temple at Kollam in the southern state of Kerala yesterday for the pyrotechnic show to mark the start of the Hindu year when sparks ignited a cache of fireworks stored inside the temple grounds.

The district administration said it had not given permission for the fireworks display following complaints of noise and pollution. Some 380 people are being treated in hospitals for burns and injuries caused by flying concrete and debris.

Police Officer Anantha Krishnan said the five taken into custody were employees of a fireworks manufacturer who was given the contract for running the show at the Puttingal Devi temeple.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hundreds of Migrants in Idomeni,Greece Injured; Clash with FYROM Police in Scaling Border Fence

Hundreds of migrants in the northern Greek town of Idomeni -- which borders the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) -- were injured today (April 10, 2016) after they were stopped from scaling the border fence by FYROM police, with whom they clashed, according to the Yahoo News website.

FYROM police used tear gas, stun grenades, plastic bullets, and a water cannon to repel the migrants, many of whom responded by throwing rocks over the fence at police. Greek police observed from their side of the frontier but did not intervene.

More than 50,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece after Balkan countries closed their borders to the massive flow of refugees pouring into Europe. Around 11,000 remain camped out at the border with FYROM, ignoring instructions from the government to move to organized shelters as they hold out hope to reach Western Europe.

Clashes continued in the afternoon as migrant groups tried to overwhelm FYROM border security. The increasing use of tear gas reached families in their nearby tents in Idomeni's makeshift camp. Many camp dwellers -- mostly women and children -- fled into farm fields to escape the painful gas.

At Least 3 Wounded in Bomb Attack in Istanbul; US,Israel Warned Their Citizens to Leave Turkey

At least three people were wounded last night after a bomb detonated at a bus stop in the Mecidiyekoy neighborhood of the Sisli district, in central Istanbul, the Jewish Press website reports today (April 10, 2016).

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast came just hours after a "credible threat" alert from the U.S. embassy in Turkey, warning citizens to stay away from tourist sites and crowded areas in Istanbul and Antalya.

The American alert followed a renewed "high concrete threat" warning on April 8 by Israel to its citizens. Israel's National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israelis to leave Turkey at once, and advised those who were planning to travel to the country to postpone their trips.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Third Suspect in Brussels Airport Attack Nabbed; Mohamed Abrini Confessed Being at Crime Scene

The Federal Prosecution Office in Brussels says it cam confirm that the arrested terror suspect Mohamed Abrini was the third man present at Brussels Airport during the March 22 suicide bombings there, the Washington Examiner website reports today (April 9, 2016).

Authorities have been seeking the "man in the hat" ever since he was filmed alongside the two bombers just before the airport attack that killed 16 people.

Abrini was arrested yesterday in Brussels in a police raid.

The prosecutor's office said today that Abrini "confessed his presence at the crime scene" after being confronted by investigators.

Hasidic Jew Is Stabbed, Robbed in NYC Subway; Fell Asleep on Bench When Attacked at 3:30 AM

Abraham Fekete, 55, had dozed off on a bench when -- at about 3:30 a.m. -- he was attacked by an unidentified man, who slashed his neck, arm, and hands before running away with his cash, the Forward website reports today (April 9, 2016).

Police said Fekete -- dressed in traditional Hasidic clothing -- had been traveling from Brooklyn to meet friends in the diamond district of Manhattan when he got lost. He sat down to read the subway map at the Bleecker Street station when he fell asleep.

Another man and his friend found Fekete bleeding after the attack and applied pressure to his wounds.

Fekete was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he remains in stable condition.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Nepal Govt. Ends Christmas as National Holiday; Claims Nepal Is Already Too Filled with Holidays

The Nepali government has removed Christmas as a national holiday, which has promoted protests from the country's Christian population, the Christian Headlines website reports today (April 8, 2016).

Nepal -- a primarily Hindu country bordered by India to its south and China to its north -- first recognized Christmas as a national holiday in 2008 when the country became a secular state. Now, Nepal has removed Christmas Day as a national holiday because the Nepali calendar is already too filled with the holidays of other religions.

"The government [of Nepal] recognizes 83 festivities for Hindus and other communities, but none for Christians," stated Rev. C.B. Gahatraj, secretary general of the National Federation of Christians.

Various faith groups said they plan to challenge the government's ruling.

Pope Has Good News for Divorced,Not for Gays; Church Must "Care for Weakest of Her Children"

Pope Francis released a document today (April 8, 2016) that paves the way for new integration into the Roman Catholic Church for divorced Catholics, but does little to soften the church's strict views on hot-button topics like gay marriage, abortion, and contraception, according to the USA Today website.

While the 256-page apostolic exhortation called "Amoris Laetitia" -- Latin for "The Joy of Love" -- makes no change to church doctrine, it establishes that the pope sees individual conscience as the most important principle for Catholics trying to navigate difficult issues surrounding sex, marriage, and family life.

"I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion," the pope said. "But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness." He added, "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."

The apostolic exhortation says that a "breach of the marriage bond" is "against the will of God." But it also said that while the church "constantly holds up the call to perfection" it must also "care for the weakest of her children, who show signs of wounded and troubled love, restoring them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Men in Pakistan Fight for the Right to Kill Wives; Islamic Extremists Protest to Repeal Punjab Law

Groups of hard-line, right-wing Islamic extremists across Pakistan have banded together in protest to reclaim the right to abuse and kill their wives and daughters, the NY Post website reports today (April 7, 2016).

The country has finally taken a progressive step forward on gender equality, but some men still believe that under Islam the mistreatment of women is their divine, God-given right.

The controversy began when the Pakistani government introduced the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, which criminalizes violence against women in Punjab -- Pakistan's most populous region.

Before the law was enacted on March 1, 2016, diehard extremists attempted to block the legislation, saying it would "destroy the family system in Pakistan" and "add to the miseries of women." The bill was passed unanimously by the Punjab Assembly, and opponents have since warned of ongoing protests if it is not repealed.

Denmark Police Nab 4 IS Suspects,Seize Weapons; Accused of Joining ISIS"to Commit Terrorist Acts"

Danish authorities today (April 7, 2016) arrested four people suspected of having enlisted in ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria. Authorities also seized weapons and ammunition related to those arrests, according to the CNN website.

Copenhagen police and Denmark security and intelligence service -- known as PET -- worked together to make the arrests in the Copenhagen metropolitan area.

Copenhagen police spokesman Mads Jensen told CNN that authorities found weapons and bullets in a related search. It was not immediately clear the amount discovered, or whether the suspects were actively plotting a terrorist attack.

Copenhagen police declined "for the sake of the investigation" to specify what led to the arrests or the identities of those detained -- even their genders and nationalities. They are accused of having joined the IS group in Syria "to commit terrorist acts," according to police. The four will appear in closed-door hearings tomorrow (April 8).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

AZ Border Patrol: Drugs Flying into US in Drones; Drugs Flown from Mexico,Obtained by Smugglers

Border Patrol officials in Arizona said today (April 6, 2016) that drug smugglers are starting to use drones to bring drugs into the United States from Mexico, according to the Washington Examiner website.

The Yuma Sector Border Patrol has recently encountered small unmanned remote-controlled aircraft -- commonly referred to as drones -- being used to smuggle drugs into the United States," U.S. Customs and Border Protection said today.

"The drones vary in size, but are commonly between 2 to 4 feet wide," it said.

"They are known to carry illegal contraband into the U.S. where it is dropped and picked up by smugglers north of the border," the agency added.

Majority of People in Scotland Have No Religion; Only 20% of Scots Belong to Presbyterian Church

A new survey published by Scottish Social Attitudes reveals that more than half of the 5.4 million people living in Scotland have no religion, the Religion News website reports today (April 6, 2016).

The 52 percent of unaffiliated Scots represents a 12 percent jump from 16 years ago, when 40 percent of survey respondents said they had no religious affiliation.

The proportion of people who say they belong to the Church of Scotland -- the Presbyterian Church that for so long dominated almost every aspect of life in that country -- has fallen dramatically, to just 20 percent, down from 39 percent of the population in 1999.

"The survey's findings show that Scottish commitment to religion, both in terms of our willingness to say we belong to a religion and to attend religious services, is in decline," said Ian Montagu, a researcher at ScotCen Social research in Edinburgh, which runs the annual surveys.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pope to Visit Greece Next Week to Back Migrants; Will Visit Lesbos Where Some 1M Migrants Came

Pope Francis will visit Greece on April 14-15, a Greek government official said today (April 5, 2016), in order to get a first-hand look at the front line of Europe's migrant crisis and thousands of refugees fleeing conflict, according to the Reuters website.

The Holy Synod -- the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church -- said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit Lesbos, the Aegean Sea Greek island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year.

Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied to Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

"The Greek government will welcome Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as valuable supporters and friends in the struggle to offer refugees some relief," the government official said.

Air France's Female Crew Can Refuse Iran Flights; Union Blocks Airline from Forcing Headscarf Rule

Air France's female flight attendants will be allowed to refuse to work the company's new route to Iran, The Guardian website reports today (April 5, 2016).

Unions for the airline's cabin crew held talks with management after several female crew members opposed an order to wear an Islamic-symbolizing headscarf in Iran.

Management agreed that flights to Iran would be staffed on a volunteer basis, and flight attendants refusing to work these flights would be assigned elsewhere and would not lose any pay.

Air France suspended flights to Iran in 2008, but will resume service beginning April 17, 2016, since the international sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear program have been lifted.

Monday, April 4, 2016

First Boats of Migrants from Greece Reach Turkey; Part of EU-Turkey Contract to Ease Migrant Crisis

The first boats carrying migrants being deported from Greece arrived in Turkey today (April 4, 2016), as part of an EU (European Union) plan aimed at easing mass migration to Europe, according to the BBC website.

Most of the 202 people who left the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, and arrived in Dikili in western Turkey, are Pakistanis.

Ewa Moncure -- spokeswoman for the EU border agency Frontex -- told reporters in Lesbos that the first returns were carried out calmly.

Under the EU-Turkish deal, migrants arriving illegally in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

Paris Vandals Tear Down Signs of Israel Exhibit; Signs Sketched "Open a Door to Israel" at Louvre

Vandals defaced and tore down signs announcing an exhibit about Israel at the Louvre Museum in Paris, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (April 4, 2016).

The vandalism -- which occurred yesterday morning on the French capital's subway -- can be considered an anti-Semitic hate act.

The exhibit -- called "Open a Door to Israel" -- is a joint project of Israel's Strategic Affairs and Foreign Affairs ministries, and features nine doors that open to interactive screens that present different aspects of Israel.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement that the signs were ruined by activists of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Obama Hits Turkey's Loss of Freedom of Press; Turkey's Pres.: Obama Spoke "Behind My Back"

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused U.S. President Barack Obama of going behind his back for criticizing Turkey's press freedom record, and linked it to efforts to "divide" Turkey, the Huffington Post website reports today (April 3, 2016).

Obama said on April 1 -- after meeting with Erdogan in Washington, D.C. -- that he was troubled by curbs on the press in Turkey and said he had urged Erdogan not to repress democratic debate in his country.

Turkey has seized control of opposition newspapers and TV channels, and cut the satellite feed of a pro-Kurdish channel, thus eliminating freedom of the press in the country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 13 journalists are in jail in Turkey for their coverage, and described a "massive crackdown" that includes self-censorship and harassment of media-business owners.

Obama Aides Omit "Islamist Terrorism" on Video; Claim Phrase Excluded Due to a "Technical Glitch"

It appeared that the White House on April 1 censored a video of the French president to omit him saying the words "Islamist terrorism" during a speech at a bilateral meeting, but U.S. officials claim a "technical glitch" caused the ill-timed dropped audio, the Washington Times website reports today (April 3, 2016).

The Media Research Center -- a media watchdog -- reported that the White House had removed a video of French President Francois Hollande speaking at a press event on terrorism with President Obama.

A White House official said the audio gap was the result of a "technical error."

After much criticism, the White House later posted the original footage of Hollande's statement, including the words "Islamist terrorism."

Saturday, April 2, 2016

ISIS Planning to Use Drones to Attack the West; British PM:IS Nuclear Attack Is "Only Too Real"

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned yesterday that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terrorists are planning to use drones to spray nuclear material over Western cities in a horrific "dirty bomb" attack, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (April 2, 2016).

World leaders are concerned that jihadists want to buy basic drones that are widely available online to transport radioactive material into the heart of major cities in a strike that could kill thousands.

The UK Prime Minister warned that the dangers of ISIS getting hold of nuclear material was "only too real."

Cameron met yesterday in Washington D.C. with more than 50 world leaders -- including the presidents of America, France, and China -- in a Nuclear Security Summit to plan how they would react to such an ISIS attack. (Russia did not attend the meeting due to its anger against Western nations for imposing sanctions on it for its aggression in Ukraine.)

Syrian Troops Find 40 Bodies in Palmyra Grave; Recapture of Palmyra Is Biggest Setback for ISIS

Syrian troops have found a mass grave with 40 bodies in the city of Palmyra after recapturing the city -- with the support of Russian forces -- this week from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Big News Network website reports today (April 2, 2016).

The grave was uncovered on the northeastern edge of the city and contains the bodies of men, women, and children. A military source said that some of the bodies had been beheaded, while others had been shot.

The source added that they were officers, soldiers, members of pro-regime militia and their relatives; 24 of the victims were civilians, including three children.

The recapture of Palmyra by Syrian troops has been viewed by international affairs scholars as the biggest setback for ISIS since it declared a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Eleven Suspected Neo-Nazis Arrested in France; Police Raid 8 Parts of France, Seize Rifles, Guns

France's interior minister said today (April 1, 2016) that 11 suspected members of a neo-Nazi group have been arrested, according to the AP website.

The members of the group -- who allegedly were spreading racist messages -- were arrested yesterday in an investigation of "criminal association" and "participation to a combatant group," Bernard Cazeneuve said today in a written statement.

Cazeneuve said 11 rifles, two guns, 28 knives, some bullet-proof vests and helmets, and several Nazi flags were among the items seized during the police raids in eight regions of France.

The statement added that the three "most active members" of the group were brought before a judge today to be charged.

Migrants Riot as Greece Returns Them to Turkey; Migrants on Island of Chios Don't Want to Return

After a night of violence at a holding center on the Greek island of Chios, hundreds of migrants and refugees today (April 1, 2016) forced their way out by tearing down a razor wire fence, according to the Euro News website.

Tensions are boiling over, as Greece prepares to start returning migrants to Turkey under the European Union's deal with Ankara.

Reception centers on the Greek islands have become detention centers for migrants arriving after March 20, who face being sent back to Turkey if their asylum applications are not accepted.

"They [the migrants] say they don't want to go back to Turkey and that they are afraid for their safety after yesterday's clashes," a police official on Chios said.