Tuesday, May 31, 2016

India Is Set to Combat High Human Trafficking; 18M People Enslaved in Debt,Brothels,Servitude

India unveiled an ambitious proposal this week to combat human trafficking by treating survivors as victims in need of aid rather than criminals, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (May 31, 2016).

The country has more than 18 million people enslaved because of debts, forced marriages, being sold to brothels, or having been born into servitude -- the most in the world -- according to the Australian-based Walk Free Foundation.

India's victims of human trafficking make up 40 percent of the world's estimated 45.8 million slaves, although the highest prevalence of slaves is in North Korea, the foundation believes.

The anti-trafficking proposal would unify several existing laws while focusing on survivors' needs and stopping victims -- including those discovered in raids on brothels -- from being arrested and jailed.

Mediterranean Loses Most Migrants in One Week; At Least 800 Migrants Believed to Have Drowned

The Mediterranean Sea has seen its most deadly week of 2016 with more than 800 migrants believed to have drowned in shipwrecks off the Libyan coast, the Euro News website reports today (May 31, 2016).

The UN's refugee agency announced the new death toll after interviewing survivors in Italy. As the bodies disappeared in the open sea, it is impossible to verify the figures.

The majority of those lives lost last week are along the more dangerous North Africa to Italy route. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) is working to understand the development of the routes, with many originating in the Sabratah area to the west of Tripoli.

"Reports of trauma from sexual and other forms of gender-based violence among women making the journey -- or being trafficked -- appear common. Some women said they were subject to sexual slavery in Libya," William Spindler, spokesman for the UNHCR refugee agency explained.

World Health Org. OKs Resolution against Israel; Says Israel Abuses Mental,Physical Health Rights

The UN World Health Organization passed a resolution last week at its 2016 World Assembly, naming Israel as the world's sole abuser of health rights, the Jewish Press website reports today (May 29, 2016).

The resolution calls for an investigation into Israel's abuse of mental, physical, and environmental health rights.

Sponsored by the Arab Group of States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other EU nations voted in favor of the resolution.

A report from the investigation is to be placed on the agenda again at next year's UN meeting.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Putin Warns Romania,Poland on Missile Shield; Russian Rockets May Hit Them to Defend Itself

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned yesterday that Romania and Poland are in potential crosshairs of Russian rockets because they are hosting parts of the U.S. missile defense shield that Moscow considers a threat to its national security, The Daily Beast website reports today (May 28, 2016).

Putin warned the two European nations that Moscow has repeatedly said it would have to retaliate if the defense shield was put into place.

Earlier this month, the U.S. program was declared operational at a site in Romania, drawing an angry reaction from Russia.

"Today, we will be forced to carry out certain measures [against Romania] to ensure our security," Putin said in a joint news conference in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. "It will be the same case with Poland," he added.

Spielberg to Harvard Grads:Anti-Semitism Rising; Says World Is Full of Monsters Espousing Hatred

Acclaimed film director Steven Spielberg admitted he was "wrong" to think as a child that anti-Semitism "was fading," telling Harvard's graduating class this week that President Barack Obama was right when he warned that anti-Semitism is on the rise," the Times of Israel website reports today (May 28, 2016).

Spielberg -- whose 99-year-old father Arnold sat in one of the first rows at his address before the Ivy League university's class of 2016 -- told the graduates on May 26 that the world "is full of monsters" espousing "racism, homophobia, ethnic hatred, class hatred, and religious hatred."

The Oscar winner said, "As a kid, I was bullied -- for being Jewish. This was upsetting, but compared to what my parents and grandparents had faced, it felt tame. Because we truly believed that anti-Semitism was fading. And we were wrong."

Spielberg added, "Over the last two years, nearly 20,000 Jews have left Europe [due mainly to anti-Semitism] to find higher ground. And earlier this year, I was at the Israeli embassy when President Obama stated the sad truth. He said: 'We must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it.'"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Czech Study:44% of Muslims Are Rel. Radicals; Islamic Fundamentalists Rank Islam before All

The opinions of 44 percent of European Muslims correspond to the definition of religious fundamentalism, according to a survey the Czech European Values think tank presented yesterday, which reveals serious shortcomings in Muslim immigrants' integration in society, the Prague Monitor website reports today (May 27, 2016).

Problems with the integration in the European system of values concern both first and further generations of Muslim immigrants, the think tank said in a press release.

The survey showed that fundamentalists increasingly incline to radicalization. For example, the application of force was assessed as a justified measure to protect the faith by 35 percent of the surveyed Muslims, but 70 percent of fundamentalists among them.

According to European Values executive director Radko Hokovsky, Islamic fundamentalists try to read and apply Islam consistently in a way that may result in breaching personal freedom, equality, and human dignity.

Study:Rel. Private Schools Outdo Secular Ones; Affiliation with Rel. Institution Fosters Success

According to a recent study published in "Policy Studies Journal," religious private schools in Milwaukee's school voucher program are outperforming secular private schools, the Washington Examiner website reports today (May 27, 2016).

The success of religious private schools has a lot to do with their affiliations with larger institutions.

"We find that 41 percent of all private voucher schools operating in Milwaukee between 1991 and 2015 failed," the study's authors write. "Start-up voucher schools, and those unaffiliated with a larger institution, have comparatively higher failure risk over time."

More than 27,000 students participate in Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program, which gives families vouchers to cover private school tuition up to roughly $8,000 a year.

Over 100K Protest in France over Labor Reforms; French PM:Law to Weaken Unions Won't Change

Demonstrators protesting against a French labor reform law took to the streets of Paris and other French cities and towns yesterday, as the country's powerful trade unions put up a show of force against the government's refusal to scrap reforms aimed at boosting employment, the France24 website reports today (May 27, 2016).

French authorities estimated at least 153,000 people took part in the protests across France, but the CGT labor union put the number much higher at 300,000. A total of 77 people were arrested during the demonstrations.

Protests in Paris descended into violence, with protesters throwing projectiles and police firing teargas. The unrest left several store fronts, a bus shelter, and a Velib bike-sharing station damaged.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that while "improvements and modifications" could be made to the labor reforms, the heart of the bill -- a measure weakening the power of unions over workplace rules -- will remain unchanged.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Erdogan May Derail the EU-Turkey Migrant Deal; Wants Turkey to Get Quick Visa-Free Access to EU

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has threatened to block a deal with the EU (European Union) on migrants, if Turks do not gain visa-free access to the bloc soon, the BBC website reports today (May 26, 2016).

But the EU says Turkey still needs to meet certain conditions -- including changes in its terror laws -- before access can be granted.

The agreement is aimed at halting the mass movement of Asian refugees into Europe.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece since March 20 are to be sent back to Turkey if their claim is rejected.

Pope Prays for Over 100 Terror Victims in Syria; Asks God to "Convert the Hearts" of IS Jihadists

Pope Francis has prayed for more than 100 victims in the string of terror attacks that rocked Syria this week, and those responsible for the blasts asking God's compassion to "convert" the hearts of IS (Islamic State) terrorists, the RT (ReTweet) website reports today (May 26, 2016).

While speaking during his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square yesterday, Pope Francis asked God to "convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction."

He also prayed for "eternal rest to the victims" and "consolidation to their relatives."

The pope strongly condemned the fact that most victims were innocent civilians and voiced grief over the deaths of eight children.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Muslim Swiss Youth Must Shake Teacher's Hand; Families of Kids Refusing to Do So Face $5K Fine

In Switzerland, the humble handshake between a teacher and children at the beginning and end of the school day -- a tradition throughout much of the country -- has become a battleground in a public debate about religious freedom and sexual equality, the Washington Post website reports today (May 25, 2016). 

Now, one Swiss canton has added a financial element to the controversy, warning families of children who refuse to shake hands with their teachers that they would face a fine of up to $5,000.

In April, two students at a school in the town of Therwil, near Basel, had requested an exemption from shaking a teacher's hand. The two teenagers -- brothers from a Syrian family -- had suggested that shaking a woman's hand went against Islamic teachings. In a compromise, the local school district ruled that the two children would not have to shake any teacher's hand, whether male or female.

However, the regional education authorities in the Basel-Country Canton released a statement today that reversed the school district's decision. The schoolchildren would be required to shake the hand of their teacher, the statement said, or their guardians would be fined up to $5,000.

Blair: Defeating IS Needs a "Proper Ground War;" Former British PM Says Airstrikes Alone Will Fail

Former British prime minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the Islamic State (IS) group will be defeated only with a ground war involving Western troops, the Times of Israel website reports today (May 25, 2016).

Blair said airstrikes alone wouldn't defeat the militants.

He asserted, "Instead, you are going to have to go and wage a proper ground war against them," with British, American and other Western troops playing a supporting role.

"The armed forces of America, the UK, France, other major countries have both experience and capability so even if we are using them in support of local forces, you have just got to decide what our objective is," Blair stated at a discussion on foreign affairs in London. "Is our objective to defeat this enemy? My answer to that is yes."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Greece Buses Thousands of Idomeni Refugees; Most Being Exiled South to State-Run Centers

Bulldozers and hundreds of riot police moved into the Idomeni refugee camp in northern Greece at dawn today (May 24, 2016), ordering residents to leave, according to the Euro News website.

At least 8,000 people have been stuck at the site since March after the Greek-Macedonian border was closed.

Despite terrible living conditions, many of the migrants and refugees in the camp had previously resisted attempts by Greece's government to get them to leave. Most have now been bused to state-run centers further south.

At its peak in February, more than 12,000 people were stranded in the Idomeni camp, having been prevented from continuing their journey further north, due to fences that were built along Greece's border.

Christian Population in England, Wales Skidding; People Having No Religion Outnumber Christians

A new analysis shows that the number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, The Guardian website reports today (May 24, 2016).

The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion -- referred to as "nones" -- reached 48.5 percent in 2014, almost double the figure of 25 percent in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christians -- Anglicans, Catholics, and other denominations -- made up 43.8 percent of the population.

"The striking thing is the clear sense of the growth of 'no religion' as a proportion of the population," said Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St. Mary's Catholic University in Twickenham, England, who analyzed data collected through British Social Attitudes surveys over three decades.

He added, "The main driver is people who were brought up with some religion now saying they have no religion... The reason for that is the big question in the sociology of religion."

Monday, May 23, 2016

IS Executes Its Worst Leaders with Attack Dogs; Does So to Intimidate Its Soldiers to Obedience

Being enraged by its recent loss of territory to Kurdish and Iraqi forces, the Islamic State (IS) decided to take savage punitive action against several of its own leaders by using attack dogs to execute them, the Clarion Project website reports today (May 23, 2016).

IS found several of its leaders guilty of failing to carry out their duties, so it tied them to trees and set mad dogs on them. The dogs mauled them to death.

Hasan Khala Hasan -- a Peshmerga (Kurdish Army) commander on the front line -- reported the news. He said IS uses a variety of ultraviolet tactics to intimidate its soldiers into obedience.

"IS uses any members who are thought to be of no use, for the organization to frighten other members," Dier Ahmed, a Kurdish sociologist said.

Over 100 Killed as 7 Bombs Hit Two Syrian Cities; ISIS Claims It Attacked the Cities of Jableh,Tartus

At least 101 people were killed today (May 23, 2016) in two Syrian regime bastions in a spate of bombings claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group, according to the Times of Israel website.

Fifty-three people were killed in the city of Jableh and another 48 died in Tartus further south, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said they were "without a doubt the deadliest attacks" on the two cities since Syria's civil war erupted in March 2011.

Seven bombs -- most of them suicide attacks -- hit Jableh and Tartus almost simultaneously this morning.

45% of Netherlands Babies Have Unwed Parents; Over 95% Born before 1980 Had Married Parents

The latest figures from Statistics Netherlands show that nearly 45 percent of babies in the Netherlands are born to unmarried parents -- continuing a trend that began in the 1990s -- the Dutch News website reports today (May 23, 2016).

The proportion for first-born babies is even higher, with 52 percent born to parents who are unmarried and have no registered partnership.

Before the 1980s more than 95 percent of children were born to parents who were married or registered as partners.

By 2000 the proportion had dropped to 75 percent and in 2008 it fell to less than six in 10.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

IS Group Leader Calls for Attacks in Europe, US; Urges Backers"Harass Crusaders Day and Night"

An Islamic State (IS) group spokesman has urged sympathizers in Europe and the U.S. to launch attacks on civilians there, if they are unable to travel to the group's self-declared Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the Newsmax website reports today (May 22, 2016).

In a 31-minute audio message released last night by the IS media arm al-Furqan, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani says the U.S.-led war against the group is doomed to failure and that America "fell in the swamp of perdition."

He tells IS sympathizers in Europe and the U.S. to "harass the Crusaders day and night and to terrify them until each neighbor becomes afraid of the other."

Adnani adds that sympathizers should not underestimate the value of "throwing a rock at a Crusader in the heart of his home."

Boko Haram Calls for a Deal with Nigeria Govt.; Will Release Kidnapped Schoolgirls, No Penalty

Islamic extremist militants Boko Haram -- who have killed more than 2,600 people in Nigeria -- want to broker a deal with the government to release the remaining kidnapped Chibook schoolgirls in return for escaping execution, the IB (International Business) Times website reports today (May 22, 2016).

Over 200 schoolgirls were seized from a school in Chibook two years ago and have never been traced or found. It is believed only a third of the girls remain alive.

Senior members of the Islamic terrorist group told the Nigerian newspaper Leadership on May 20 that it was prepared to negotiate a surrender and release the hostages on the condition they would not be betrayed by the government or killed for giving up their arms.

"We want to surrender because things are getting worse," said Amir Muhammad Abdullahi, who is reportedly Boko Haram's second in command. He added that no side was winning the battle and that only a third of the girls remained as "the rest have been martyred."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

US Top Mideast Gen. Makes Secret Visit to Syria; Meets US Mil. Advisers,Syrian Democratic Forces

The top U.S. commander for the Middle East secretly visited Syria today (May 21, 2016), according to the BBC website.

Gen. Joseph Votel -- head of the U.S. Central Command -- spent about 11 hours in northern Syria.

He met with U.S. military advisers and the leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of Kurdish and Arab rebel forces.

Speaking after his visit, Gen. Votel said training local forces to fight the Islamic State (IS) radical group was the right approach. The U.S. has some 200 military advisers in Syria, where 270,000 people have been killed in a civil war that has been going on for over five years.

Greek Judges' Ruling May Derail EU-Turkey Pact; Rule Turkey Unsafe,Lacks Refugee Human Rights

In a court decision that could sabotage the European Union-Turkey agreement for returning refugees from Greece back to Turkey, Greek judges today (May 21, 2016) ruled that a Syrian refugee should not be sent back to Turkey, according to the Big News Network website.

Amnesty International -- which supported the Syrian refugee -- said that migrants in Turkey are not safe, as they do not have basic human rights and could be taken to war-torn Syria.

The three-person appeals tribunal in Athens decided in a two-to-one verdict that Turkey does not uphold international treaties that provide human rights to Syrian refugees, resulting in the forced deportation of the defendant.

The defendant's identity is unknown; however, reports claim that he was one of the first refugees to be deported after the signing of the controversial EU-Turkey pact on March 18. The United Nations and Amnesty International both criticized the EU-Turkey deal when it was first agreed to, saying it violates international law as well as refugees' human rights.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Kosovo Court Berates Imam,6 More for Aiding IS; Imam: "Blood of Infidels Is the Best Drink for Us"

A court in Pristina -- the capital of Kosovo -- today (May 20, 2016) sentenced seven men to prison terms for up to 10 years after finding them guilty of being part of the Islamic State (IS) radical group, according to the Inserbia website.

The main defendant, Imam Zekeria Qazimi, was jailed for 10 years for recruiting young Kosovars to go and fight in Syria for the IS.

Qazimi had been the imam at the El-Kuddus mosque in Gjilan, Kosovo when he was arrested in August 2014.

Evidence leading to his conviction included a video from 2013 in which Qazimi said: "The blood of infidels is the best drink for us."

US Special Ground Forces Fighting ISIS in Libya; ISIS Now Controls a Tenth of Libyan Med. Coast

U.S. Special Forces and surveillance flights are now operating on the ground and over Libya, as the West moves to boost security operations in the country to bolster Libya's increasingly desperate fight against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the CNN website reports today (May 20, 2016).

Surveillance flights over the country's 1,240-mile coast have been in operation from the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria for over a year, and Special Forces have recently increased their presence on the ground.

Witnesses and Libyan officials told CNN the Special Forces are in evidence near the city of Misrata, with a dozen or more soldiers operating out of a base near the city.

It is unclear what precisely the U.S. Special Forces' scope of operations is in Libya -- the U.S. government remains secretive on the mission -- as airstrikes and other attacks have been limited. But they join an increasingly fraught Libyan battle against ISIS, which has seized more territory in recent months and is now estimated to control a tenth of Libya's Mediterranean coastline.

Vandals Deface Graves at UK Jewish Cemetery; Police Head:"A Sickening Act of Anti-Semitism"

Vandals destroyed headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Manchester, England on May 18, in what a senior police officer called "a sickening act of anti-Semitism," the Times of Israel website reports today (May 20, 2016).

Police found 14 headstones knocked over and smashed at the Blackley cemetery, in northeast Manchester.

Police are treating the vandalism as a hate crime, although no suspects have yet been apprehended, Superintendent Wasim Chaudhry, head of Greater Manchester Police's North Manchester Division, said in a statement.

"This is a sickening act of anti-Semitism which we are taking very seriously. I believe this was a deliberate and targeted attack and there is no place for such abhorrent behavior in our communities," Chaudhry told UK press.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pope Rips Employers Offering No Health Benefits; Calls Them Bloodsuckers Using "Civilized Slavery"

Pope Francis has condemned employers who only offer temporary contracts or no health insurance to employees, calling them "bloodsuckers," and saying they exploit workers by turning under-the-table  payments into "civilized slavery," the Catholic News website reports today (May 19, 2016).

"Those poor people become slaves. We think of the here and now, the same thing happens all over the world," Francis said in his daily homily yesterday.

The Pope complained of "rich people who exploit others," saying they offer contracts only from September to June, and then the employees have to "eat air"from July to August.

"Those who do that are true bloodsuckers, and they live by spilling the blood of the people who they made slaves of labor," Francis said.

Wasted Egypt Plane Debris Found Near Greek Isle; Possible Terror Attack Higher Than Tech. Problem

Greek authorities found floating wreckage -- including two life vests -- from the Egypt flight carrying 66 people that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea early today (May 19, 2016), the USA Today website reports.

EgyptAir said the Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed to the government in an official letter that Greek authorities found the debris near the Greek island of Karpathos.

The Greek minister of defense said the Airbus A320 made two sharp turns then suddenly lost altitude before vanishing from radar 174 Miles from the Egyptian coast.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said "the possibility of a terror attack" as the cause of the crash of flight MS804 is "higher than that of a technical error." He also indicated that planes don't tend to disappear that rapidly, unless they are bombed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Greek Police Slam Migrants on Macedonia Border; Migrants Seek to End Closure to Europe Heartland

Greek police today (May 18, 2016) fired tear gas and stun grenades at refugees and migrants who tried to push a railway carriage through a police cordon during a protest at a crowded camp on Greece's northern border with FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), according to the ABC News website.

Police said about 200 people were involved in today's violence, and the migrants also attacked officers with stones.

The sprawling camp in the northern Greek city of Idomeni is home to some 10,000 migrants trapped in Greece, after a series of border closures by nations further north in Europe's prosperous heartland.

Officials said protesters pushed an empty railway carriage at Greek police stationed on the line at the Macedonian border fence.

Pope: Islam, Christianity Have "Idea of Conquest;" Seeks More Islam Tolerance in European Societies

In an interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix published this week, Pope Francis suggested it was not productive to view Islam as a threat and pointed to its shared roots with Christianity, the Washington Post website reports today (May 18, 2016).

"It is true the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam," the pope said. "However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest."

During the past year, Francis has placed himself at the center of political conversations roiling the West, championing the plight of refugees while calling for more tolerance within European societies.

In April, the pope journeyed to the Greek island of Lesbos and visited a migrant detention center. Upon returning to the Vatican, he brought home with him a dozen Syrian Muslim refugees.

Two New York Rabbis Drown in Miami Rip Tide; Used Remote Beach to Avoid Half-Naked Women

Two New York City Hasidic rabbis -- who used an isolated beach in Miami, Florida to avoid having to see half-naked women -- drowned yesterday after being caught up in a powerful rip current, despite efforts by an off-duty cop who rushed to the scene to save them, the Times of Israel website reports today (May 18, 2016).

Rabbis Isaac Rosenberg, 67. and Chaim Parnes, 66, chose an isolated stretch of Haulover Beach -- located in Miami -- where they could bathe in the ocean while avoiding the sight of scantily-dressed women, a friend of the rabbis said. Women are allowed to be topless at Miami beaches.

Officer George Waisman -- an off-duty policeman -- heard a distress call and raced to the scene. He helped bring the rabbis to shore.

The two rabbis were then taken to the Aventura Hospital where they were pronounced dead. A third man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where he is in stable condition.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ISIS Loses 45% of Territory in Iraq, 20% in Syria; Loss of Land Causes IS to Increase Terror Attacks

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has lost 45% of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20% of areas it controlled in Syria, the USA Today website reports exclusively today (May 17, 2016).

The territory seized by Iraqi forces -- aided by coalition airstrikes and U.S. advisers -- is up from 40% announced earlier this year. The percentages are based on areas the militants controlled at their peak strength after they swept into Iraq in 2014.

The recent battlefield losses in Iraq are prompting ISIS to strike back against civilians with terrorist bombings, the latest killing dozens in Baghdad today.

During the past few weeks, U.S.-aided Iraqi forces pushed ISIS militants out of towns in western Iraq's Euphrates River valley as they consolidated gains made last December, when Iraq's army retook the city of Ramadi.

Pope Will Visit Genocide Memorial in Armenia; Visit Bound to Strain Vatican-Turkey Relations

Pope Francis will visit the Armenian Genocide memorial complex during a three-day visit to Armenia in June, a move that may strain the Vatican's diplomatic relations with Turkey, the Narional Catholic Reporter website reports today (May 17, 2016).

The pope will travel to the Tsitsernakaberd site in southern Armenia on June 25, spending an hour at the memorial, the Vatican said. The complex commemorates some 1.5 million Armenians killed between 1915 and 1923 under the Ottoman Empire.

Francis' trip to the site carries huge significance, following the pontiff's description of the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century."

The pope's use of the term genocide -- during an Armenian Mass at the Vatican last year -- angered Turkey, which disputes the death toll and argues the killings 100 years ago did not amount to genocide.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Israel PM Rips French Pres. on Jerusalem Stand; For Backing a UN Resolution Condemning Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a strongly worded letter to French President Francoise Hollande to condemn Paris's support for a recent controversial UNESCO resolution, the Times of Israel website reports today (May 15, 2016).      

The UNESCO document spoke of "Occupied Palestine" and made no mention of historic Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It also condemned "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif."

France was among 33 countries that backed the resolution in the 58-member body.

In his letter to Hollande, Netanyahu said he was "astounded" by France's support for what he called "a historic distortion of truth" and "an extremely biased and offensive" resolution.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

At Least Three Killed in Moscow Cemetery Brawl; Caucasus Muslims Seek Jobs, Attack Immigrants

At least three people were killed today (May 14, 2016) when a mass brawl involving hundreds of people erupted at a Moscow cemetery, according to the Guardian website.

Some 23 people have been taken a hospital, four of them in serious condition. Police made more than 90 arrests.

Two of those killed were hit by a car driven by someone leaving the scene, according to Moscow police spokeswoman Sofia Khotina. She said the three people in the car -- who were armed with guns -- were among those detained by police.

Reports said the fight at the Khovanskoye cemetery -- in the southwest of Moscow -- involved 200 immigrants from former Soviet nations in central Asia and Muslim residents of Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, who are seeking jobs at the cemetery.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pope Seeks Study to Allow Women to Be Deacons; May Be 1st Step to Allowing Women Cath. Clergy

In a move of historic importance, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons -- a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church's all-male clergy to women -- the Religion News website reports today (May 13, 2016).

The order of deacons was reinstituted in the Catholic Church after the reforms of the 1960s.

In restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to "mature married men" over 35.

Many protested that limitation, saying the earliest Christian texts also speak of  "deaconesses" and arguing that the modern church should also allow women deacons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Citadel Won't Let Muslim Woman to Wear Hijab; Says Standardized Uniform Essential to Its Goals

The president of the Citadel military college has decided that a Muslim student will not be allowed to wear a hijab with her uniform at the college if she enrolls there this fall, the Reuters website reports today (May 11, 2016).

Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the Citadel president, said the public military college recognized the importance of individual religious beliefs, but could not grant the exception to the standardized uniform considered essential to its learning goals.

"Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model," Rosa said in a statement yesterday. "This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit."

Rosa added that the student's request to wear the headscarf was given "considerable review" by the college in Charleston, South Caroline, and the school hoped the admitted student would still enroll there.

Three IS Suicide Bombings in Iraq Kill 93 People; At Least 165 Wounded in Horrific Attacks in Iraq

Three different suicide car bombings in Baghdad today (May 11, 2016) killed at least 93 people and wounded upwards of 165 in one of the deadliest days in Iraq this year, according to the USA Today website.

One blast hit the northern area of Kadhimiya and the other went off in Jamia, in the west.

The bombings came hours after at least 64 were killed and dozens injured in the largest attack of the day -- a car bombing in a market in a mainly Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad today.

The radical Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Protests Rise in France as Govt. Passes Labor Bill; Workers Claim Reforms Will Reduce Their Rights

Fierce protests broke out throughout France today (May 10, 2016), after the government passed controversial labor reforms, according to the BBC website.

The city of Nantes saw clashes between protesters and security forces. In Paris, police fired rubber pellets on demonstrators outside the National Assembly.

The reforms -- which the government says are essential to help cut high levels of unemployment -- make it easier for employers to hire and fire. Opponents fear they will also allow employers to bypass workers' rights on pay, overtime, and breaks.

President Francois Hollande has faced months of resistance to the labor bill from students, unions, and even members of his own Socialist Party.

Two Elderly Jewish Women Stabbed in Jerusalem; Being Treated at Hospital, Police Nab 2 Terrorists

Two elderly Jewish women were stabbed today (May 10, 2016) by two masked assailants while out for a walk on a popular promenade overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, in what is being called a terror attack, according to the Forward website.

The women -- reported to be in their 70s or 80s -- were taken to a Jerusalem hospital in moderate condition with stab wounds to their arms and upper bodies following the attack this morning in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.

The victims were walking with a group of women on the promenade, which marks the border between the eastern and western halves of the city.

Police said they later arrested two men -- believed to have committed the stabbings -- in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the two arrested men "terrorists."

Monday, May 9, 2016

Kerry Rips Wall Idea at Northeastern Ceremony; Says "No Wall Is Big Enough to Block Terrorists"

Secretary of State John Kerry took a shot at Donald Trump during his May 6 commencement speech to Northeastern University graduates, by saying no wall is big enough to keep dangerous terrorists out of the United States, the Washington Examiner website reports today (May 9, 2016).

"Many of you were in elementary school when you learned the toughest lesson of all on 9/11," he said in his speech at Boston Garden.

He added, "There are no walls big enough to stop people from anywhere, tens of thousands of miles away, who are determined to take their own lives while they target others."

Kerry also dismissed the importance of national borders, and concluded his Northeastern speech by saying, "You're about to graduate into a complex and borderless world."

Muslim Refugees in Germany Shift to Christianity; State Christianity Provides More Peace, Happiness

More than 80 men and women from Iran and Afghanistan converted to Christianity on May 5 during a mass baptism in Hamburg, Germany, the Daily Caller website reports today (May 9, 2016).

Albert Babajan, the pastor who carried out the ceremony, has converted 196 Muslims in 2016. He expects the number to grow to 500 by the end of the year, and says the most common reason is disappointment in Islam.

Babajan stated he has denied a large number of prospective converts for having ulterior motives, such as cementing their stay in Germany. "If I have the impression that someone doesn't believe it from the heart, then I won't baptize him," he said.

Iranian girl Shima said, "I've been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it. To be a Christian means happiness to me."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

US to Take Tough Stance on Israel in New Report; Report to Rip Israeli Settlements, Seek UN Assent

U.S. diplomats have said that Israel will soon be taken to task by the U.S. over settlements, demolitions, and property seizures on land that the Palestinians claim for a future state in an international report, the Big News Network website reports today (May 8, 2016).

The diplomats add that the U.S. is lining up closer to the positions of the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations, all of whom have criticized Israel's role in the Middle East conflict.

The report will focus mostly on the rise of construction of Israeli housing in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The report -- which is likely to enrage Israel -- will be released at the UN and be sent to the Security Council for endorsement. It will underline the problems in the peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, and provide recommendations to restart negotiations.

Turkey Pres. Rips Europeans of Autocracy, Cruelty; Says They Have "No Mercy" for Rejecting Migrants

Turkey's president has kept up his rebuke of European nations, accusing them of "dictatorship" and "cruelty" for keeping their frontiers closed to migrants and refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, the NY Times website reports today (May 8, 2016).

Addressing an audience attending a short film competition titled "Mercy and Justice" in Istanbul today, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said European nations had "no mercy and no justice."

Last week, Erdogan threw into doubt the future of a deal with the EU (European Union) which would allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel in Europe, by suggesting that Turkey would not meet an EU demand for his country to reform its anti-terrorism legislation.

His harsh words against the EU came after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu -- who negotiated the deal -- announced he would step down this month, following a rift with Erdogan. Some international affairs experts believe that Erdogan forced Davutoglu to resign as prime minister so that he (Erdogan) could become an unchallenged dictator and lead Turkey on a path to implementing fascist policies.

Some 240K Poles Defend EU,Democracy in March; Protest Undemocratic Actions by Right-Wing Govt.

Around a quarter of a million Poles flooded central Warsaw yesterday, marching to defend their country's place in the EU (European Union) and protest against moves by the right-wing government, which they claim undermine democracy, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (May 8, 2016).

Warsaw city hall said the march drew around 240,000 people, making it one of the largest demonstrations since the 1989 collapse of communism in Poland.

The mammoth protest came about as an annual pro-EU parade merged with a demonstration called by a coalition of pro-democracy groups and opposition parties.

Shouting "freedom, equality, democracy," the mass of marchers inched their way through the city center, brandishing a mix of red and white Polish flags with blue and gold EU flags.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Obama:Prayer Empowers Us to Do What Is Right; Helps Resist Despair, Is Alternative to Pessimism

U.S. President Barack Obama has praised the merits of prayer as a chance to learn from mistakes and to gain the courage to stand up for what is right, the Christian Today website reports today (May 7, 2016).

In a statement issued this week for the National Day of Prayer, Obama said: "In times of steady calm and extraordinary change alike, Americans of all walks of life have long turned to prayer to seek refuge, demonstrate gratitude, and discover peace.

"Sustaining us through great uncertainty and moments of sorrow, prayer allows us an outlet for introspection and for expressing our hopes, desires, and fears. It offers strength in the face of hardship, and redemption when we falter.

"Our faith and our earnest prayers can be cures for the fear we feel as we confront these realities. Helping us resist despair, paralysis, or cynicism, prayer offers a powerful alternative to pessimism."

Afghan Soldiers Kill 2 Romanian NATO Soldiers; NATO Troops Avenge, Kill the 2 Afghan Shooters

Gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms shot dead two Romanian soldiers in the country's south today (May 7, 2016), in the first insider attack on foreign troops since the Taliban launched its spring offensive last month, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

The attack occurred in Kandahar province, which has seen long-simmering tensions between Afghan and foreign forces.

"Two Resolve Support [NATO] service members died this morning when two individuals wearing Afghan uniforms opened fire... in southern Afghanistan," the military coalition said. "Resolute Support members returned fire and killed the shooters."

The two NATO soldiers were identified as Romanian, the defense ministry in Bucharest, Romania said, adding that the incident occurred during a training mission for Afghan police.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sadiq Khan Elected 1st Muslim Mayor of London; Khan, 45, Is the Son of a Bus Driver from Pakistan

Sadiq Khan -- a member of Britain's Labor Party -- won an election today (May 6, 2016), becoming London's first Muslim mayor, according to the USA Today website.

Khan received 44.2% of first preference votes to Conservative Party candidate Zac Goldsmith's 35.6%. Second preference votes are now counted with Khan passing the crucial 50% mark to secure victory.

Khan, 45, is the son of a bus driver from Pakistan.

Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, French Prime Minister Manuel Valis, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other politicians congratulated Khan on Twitter.

Pope Chides Europe Leaders Over Migrant Crisis; "Tempted to Yield to Their Own Selfish Interests"

In a dramatic address that brought back memories of Martin Luther King Jr.'s poignant "I have a dream" speech, Pope Francis today (May 6, 2016) criticized European leaders for their handling of the migrant crisis, according to the UPI website.

As he accepted the prestigious Charlemagne Prize today for his work on behalf of European unity, the pontiff asked: "What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?"

Speaking to an audience that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and Spain's King Felipe VI, he complained that the continent's people "are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences."

And he declared: "I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties toward all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia."

Vandals Burn Israel Flag Near Ukraine Memorial; Anti-Semitic Act on Holocaust Remembrance Day

A group of young people burned an Israeli flag outside a Ukraine Holocaust memorial in Kiev yesterday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (May 6, 2016).

The flag burning near the Babi Yar ravine -- where 30,000 Jews were murdered over the course of two days in September 1941 -- was captured on surveillance video.

Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko condemned the incident, referring to the flag burners as "young vandals." He called on law enforcement authorities to investigate.

"This happened on the national Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the Jewish people all over the world remember the 6 million victims who perished during World War II," Klitschko said.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Top Israeli Gen.Compares Israel to Nazi Germany; Peeved Israeli Soldier Shot Palestinian on Ground

A top Israeli general faces criticism after comparing aspects of Israeli society to Nazi-era Germany during a speech yesterday about the Holocaust, the Christian Science Monitor website reports today (May 5, 2016).

Speaking at the Tel Yitzhak kibbutz on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Major-General Yair Golan -- the Israel Defense Forces' second-highest-ranking officer -- implied that Nazi-like behavior exists in Israeli society.

"If there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe -- particularly in Germany -- 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016," he said.

Golan was apparently making reference to Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria's shooting of a Palestinian on the ground. Sgt. Azaria was charged with manslaughter. In his speech, Golan condemned "the aberrant use of weapons" and said the military was committed to "investigate difficult issues impartially."

Francis Is 1st Pope to Receive Charlemagne Prize; Awarded Each Year to Europe Unification Backer

Tomorrow Pope Francis will become the first Pope to receive the Charlemagne Prize, awarded each year since 1950 to individuals or institutions for their service to European unification, the Catholic News website reports today (May 5, 2016).

St. John Paul, and now Francis, are the only religious leaders to receive the recognition, even though its origins include a Christian element.

Francis -- an Argentine native -- is also the first leader from the global south to receive the Charlemagne Prize, and only the fourth non-European, with the other three being from the United States: George C. Marshall (1959), Henry Kissinger (1987), and Bill Clinton (2000).

Many observers expect Francis to deliver a hard-hitting speech when he accepts the prize, especially given that he has made the European refugee crisis his top social and political priority for 2016.

Erdogan Fires Turkish PM Davutogla in "Coup;" Pres.Troubled by PM's Achievements with West

In a swift and brutal act that some are calling a "palace coup," Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday sacked his prime minister, Ahmet Davutogla, to further cement his own power at the helm of the only Muslim NATO country, The Daily Beast website reports today (May 5, 2016).

Davutogla recently convinced the EU (European Union) to grant visa-free travel for Turks, in exchange for Turkey taking back migrants rejected by Greece. Erdogan publicly dismissed that pact as a mere "detail."

Some reports indicate that Erdogan got rid of Davutogla because the prime minister secured a face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington during a scheduled visit for this month. The trip has now been canceled. After meeting with President Obama last month, Erdogan said Obama "betrayed" him by saying that the Turkish president should end Turkey's rejection of a free press.

Davutogla's ouster conveys that Erdogan -- who has made headlines in recent weeks with his criticism of the West and his rejection of a free press in Turkey -- no longer faces any real competition in shaping Turkey's future course.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Young Americans Reject Sunday as a Rel.Holiday; Poll:Only 22 Percent of Millennials Attend Church

A recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who believe that the Sabbath is a religiously significant day has sharply declined since 1978, the Christian Post website reports today (May 4, 2016).

In a survey -- conducted by YouGov on behalf of Deseret News -- 50 percent of respondents said the Sabbath had a religious or spiritual significance. This contrasts to a 1978 Gallup poll when 74 percent of respondents said the same.

In their report, titled "Sabbath Day Observance in the U.S.," Deseret noted that the trend was most prominent among the millennial generation. Also, only 22 percent of millennials report attending church.

"Only 41 percent of millennials consider Sunday to have religious meaning, compared to 51 percent of Generation X, 56 percent of Baby Bombers, and 58 percent of the Silent Generation," the report indicated.

Director of US Intel Worries about ISIS Attacks; Says ISIS Has Ability to Stage Paris-Style Attack

The Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official warned yesterday that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. -- using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict scores of casualties -- the CNN website reports today (May 4, 2016).

"They do have that capacity," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen in an exclusive interview.

"That's something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels," where March attacks on a train and at an airport left 32 dead and 300 people injured, Clapper said. The November Paris attacks killed at least 130 people.

However, President Barack Obama views ISIS attacks as less likely to occur in the U.S., due to a plethora of preventive measures being used to thwart such attacks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leaked Papers Show Assad,ISIS Colluded for Yrs.; Example: ISIS Yielded from Palmyra to Aid Assad

Leaked files obtained by the Sky News website indicate that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been colluding with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to arrange deals on the battlefield, the Christian Today website reports today (May 3, 2016).

One example of cooperation was an agreement that ISIS would withdraw from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra -- which in fact it did --  to allow Assad's regime to recapture it.

The leaked files indicate that Assad made deals with ISIS in order to defeat the rebels seeking to overthrow him as president.

The documents -- which were leaked by ISIS defectors -- also claim that trade arrangements between Assad's government and ISIS have been going on for years.

US Rel.Freedom Org.Lists New "Hall of Shame;" China,Burma,N. Korea,Iran Top Rel. Abuse List

The right to exercise religion became worse around the world in 2015, according to a new report from a bipartisan United States commission, affecting Christians, Jews, Muslims, among others, the National Catholic Register website reports today (May 3, 2016).

"By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission's last annual report in 2015," Robert George, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), stated yesterday. He was speaking at the release of USCIRF's annual religious freedom report.

One of the commission's main tasks is to publish an annual report on the global state of religious freedom, noting the countries with the worst abuses against the freedom to practice religion.

Among the report's recommendations is a list of countries where the worst violations of religious freedom are taking place. The commission's current "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) list includes China, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Eritrea. USCIRF has also asked the State Department to designate seven more nations as CPCs: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Iraq, Vietnam, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria.

Monday, May 2, 2016

German AfD Party Adopts Anti-Islam Manifesto; Party Bans Minarets,Call to Prayer,Full-Face Veil

The German anti-immigrant party -- "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) -- has adopted an anti-Islam manifesto on the second day of its two-day conference in Stuttgart, the Euro News website reports today (May 2, 2016).

Members voted to include a ban on minarets, the call to prayer, and the full-face veil.

AfD party co-leader Jorg Meuthen said after the vote that Islam was not part of Germany.

He added: "Sharia [Islamic law] on German soil cannot be allowed. Also the treatment of women as is described in the Koran, in our point of view, is not compatible with the German constitution. Still, this does not mean that we turn against Muslims who are integrated and live peacefully here."

Fire Destroys Serbian Orthodox Church on Easter; St. Sava Church Played Critical Role for NYC Serbs

An historic Serbian Orthodox Church in Manhattan that plays an important role in New York's Serbian community was gutted by flames yesterday, just hours after parishioners had filled its pews for Easter services, the NY Times website reports today (May 2, 2016).

The New York Fire Department said it received the first report of the blaze at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava -- on West 26th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas in the Flatiron district -- shortly before 7 p.m. It grew to a four-alarm fire that took 168 department personnel to tame, fire officials said.

The fire occurred after an Easter luncheon that stretched into the late afternoon and capped several busy days of Orthodox Christian celebrations, officials said.

Frank Gribbon -- a fire department spokesman who was at the scene last night -- said the blaze did not appear to be suspicious. He added, "There is so much damage you can't find the point of origin."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Car Bomb Attack Kills 2 Turkish Police Oficers; Wounds at Least 22 Near IS-Held Terr.in Syria

A car bomb explosion outside police headquarters in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep today (May 1, 2016) killed at least two police officers and wounded at least 22 other people, according to the VOA (Voice of America) News website

Turkish media quoted Gaziantep regional governor Ali Yerlikaya as saying many of those wounded in today's blast are police officers.

Gaziantep is the sixth largest city in Turkey with a population of 1.5 million and is located about 55 kilometers from Islamic State (IS) controlled territory along the Syrian border.

The city serves as a major hub for refugees fleeing the war in Syria. The Islamic State is believed to be responsible for the explosion.

Poll: Most Young Americans Disfavor Capitalism; Govt. Should Provide Health Insurance,Other Aid

A new Harvard University poll shows that young Americans are fed up with capitalism and feel it has outlived itself, the Alter Net website reports today (May 1, 2016).

According to the results, 51 percent of young adults aged 18-29 oppose capitalism in its current form. By contrast, only 42 percent of people drawn from a pool of 3,183 individuals -- selected by Knowledge Panel, a probability-based database designed to be representative of the U.S. population -- opted in favor of the global economic order.

Unfortunately, the results showed no consensus regarding an alternative solution. (Obviously, communism or even socialism are not viewed as viable alternatives for replacing capitalism.)

On the issue of increasing government intervention to regulate the economy, roughly one in three respondents said this would be effective. Also, almost half of the respondents were in agreement that "basic health insurance is a right for all people" and that "basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them."