Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Russia Arrests Evangelist for Violating New Law; Drew Negative Attitudes toward Russian Church

A Christian leader has been arrested in Russia for violating a new anti-terrorism law that bans evangelism outside of churches, the Christian Post website reports today (August 31, 2016).

Sergei Zhuravlyov, a representative of the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior, was arrested earlier this month while he was preaching before the St. Petersburg Messianic Jewish community, and was charged with violating a provision of the law that bans illegal missionary activity.

He is being accused of "fomenting negative attitudes toward the Russian Orthodox Church," and having ties to the Ukrainian nationalist political party called Right Sector, which is banned in Russia.

Zhuravlyov has since been released on bail, and is awaiting a court trial.

Pope Creates Back Human Development; Will Help Migrants,Care for Environment,Justice

Pope Francis has created a new department focusing on helping migrants, caring for the environment and social justice, and has named African Cardinal Peter Turkson -- who some have tipped as a future Pope -- to lead it, the Catholic News website reports today (August 31, 2016).

Yesterday, Francis announced a new dicastery for "Promoting Human Development" which will be led by Cardinal Turkson, a 67-year-old Ghanaian who currently runs the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and is close to the Pope.

This week Cardinal Turkson condemned governments that fail to provide their people with access to water and earlier this year suggested the Church could review its teaching on what constitutes a just war.

His new dicastery has been given a wide-ranging brief, from unemployment to the death penalty, and has a green light from the Pope to collaborate with non-Catholic institutions.

Greece Rescues 31 Migrants from Crippled Vessel; 60K Refugees in Greece Due to Unloving Nations

The Greek coast guard today (August 31, 2016) rescued 31 migrants from a crippled vessel off the country's western coast, after receiving a distress call, according to the ABC News website.

The coast guard said the boat was found today off the Greek island of Paxi, and the migrants were being transferred to the mainland port of Igoumenitsa.

The migrants -- whose nationalities were not immediately known -- were believed to have been heading to Italy.

Nearly 60,000 refugees from Asia and Africa remain in Greece, as several northern European countries have built fences on their borders and refused to accept any of them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Germany Discovers Many Jihadis Joined Its Army; Plans New Screening Mode to Resolve the Problem

Senior officials in Germany's army have called for background checks on all new recruits after discovering that dozens of soldiers with links to jihadi groups have enlisted in the country's armed forces, the Foreign Desk News website reports today (August 30, 2016).

More than 60 recruits with Islamist links have already been exposed as Germany hastily proposes a draft amendment calling for new screening procedures to eliminate potential Islamist recruits.

Military leaders are warning that infiltration means jihadists can quickly acquire both military skills and weapons training that can then be used to carry out terrorist attacks either inside Germany or abroad.

Under new fast-tracked proposals, army officials want pre-screening of new recruits ahead of acceptance into the country's armed forces.

IS Terrorists Kill 15 at Iraqi Wedding Ceremony; IS Still Maintains a Brutal Powerful Role in Iraq

Islamic State (IS) terrorists have claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 15 people at an Iraqi wedding celebration in the Shiite city of Kerbala last night, the Christian Headlines website reports today (August 30, 2016).

The attack consisted of a suicide bomber as well as five other terrorists who attacked the wedding-goers with grenades and machine gun fire.

All of the attackers have been apprehended by authorities.

The attack is believed to be retaliation for IS' loss of ground in Fallujah and other parts of Iraq. Although Iraqi and U.S.-backed forces are pushing the terrorists out of land they once controlled, IS still maintains a fierce presence in Iraq.

Obama Admin. Imports 10,000 Syrians to the US; Americans Feel They Threaten Security, Economy

As the Obama administration reached its goal of importing 10,000 Syrian refugees today (August 30, 2016), the official Twitter account of the Department of Homeland Security declared it was the "right thing to do," despite the concerns of most voters, according to the Breitbart website.

The tweet drew furious responses from many Twitter users, including those demanding that the U.S. care for its own homeless and poor first before dumping more impoverished predominately Muslim foreign nationals onto strained social safety nets and a suffering economy.

The wealthiest Muslim nations refuse to accept any displaced Syrians.

Accepting Muslims from the war-torn nation as Islamic terrorist attacks continue is considered disgraceful by most voters, as only 36 percent support the Obama administration's resettlement agenda.  The fact that terrorists often pretend to be refugees -- when in fact they are terrorists, as France and other countries discovered "the hard way" -- will now inevitably increase the number of terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Monday, August 29, 2016

MN Man Used Settlement Cash to Join IS in Syria; Given $91K in Settlement of 2007 Bridge Collapse

Federal authorities say that a young man from the United States -- now fighting for the Islamic State (IS) in Syria -- used funds garnered from a settlement in the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse to finance his trip, as well as pay for for cars and weddings of his fellow jihadis, the Clarion Project website reports today (August 29, 2016).

Mohamed Amin Ali Roble, 20, was one of 145 people injured when the I-35W Mississippi River bridge suddenly collapsed due to a design flaw, killing 13 people.

Roble was one of a group of men from Minneapolis who were recruited by the Islamic State, and planned to travel to Syria to fight for the terror group.

In 2014, when Roble was 18, he was given the settlement money in the case, an amount of $91,654 paid by the state of Minnesota, a contractor, and an engineering firm.

Attacker at Indonesian Church Injures Priest; Knife-Wielding Attacker Also Had a Backpack

Indonesian police are investigating a suspected terror attack by a knife-wielding assailant on a priest during Mass at a church yesterday, and a bomb squad was deployed to determine whether the attacker's backpack contained explosives, the Reuters website reports today (August 29, 2016).

The priest and his attacker suffered minor injures, according to police in Median city, Sumatra.

"A terrorism act was carried out Sunday morning at the Saint Joseph Catholic Church," said Rina Sari Ginting, spokeswoman for Median police.

Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country in the world. Although the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam, the country has had an increase of terrorist attacks in recent years, due to the fanatical (anti-Christian) propaganda of Islamist militant groups, such as the Islamic State (IS).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Unarmed Palestinian Shot Dead by Israeli Forces; Father of 2 Was Running in Ramallah When Shot

Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian man at a military post outside the village of Silwad, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday, the Big News website reports today (August 27, 2016).

An army spokesman told the news media that soldiers shot a "suspect" who was running toward them. No soldiers were injured.

Israeli media initially reported that the man was in a car and had fired at soldiers before he was shot dead.

The man was identified by Palestinian sources as Iyad Zakariya Hamad, 38, who was married with two small children.

Dutch Pol.Party Calls for Ban on Quran, Mosques; Determined to End "Islamization" of Netherlands

The political party of Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders has pledged to close mosques and ban Islam's holy book, the Quran, as anti-Muslim sentiments in the Netherlands grow, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (August 27, 2016).

Wilders unveiled the one-page manifesto on his Facebook page on August 25 ahead of the Netherlands' parliamentary elections in March.

If they prevail at the polls, Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) said its number one goal would be to halt the "Islamization" of the Netherlands. The party also vows to close all asylum seeker centers, expel criminals with dual nationalities, and refuse migrants from Muslim countries.

The PVV currently leads in almost every opinion poll amid growing anger at the Dutch government's handling of the refugee crisis.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Coptic Orth. Church Seeks to End Const. Delays; Egypt's Christian Body Wants Par with Mosques

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt has voiced its dismay at amendments to a draft law that was hoped to put churches on a par with country's numerous mosques, the World Watch Monitor website reports today (August 26, 2016).

"The Church did not expect to see so many unacceptable amendments and impractical additions," the country's largest Christian body said in a prepared statement, declaring the proposed changes "a danger to Egypt's national unity."

"Due to the [added] complications and hurdles, those amendments do not consider Egyptian Christian citizens' equal rights," the 18 August statement said.

The Coptic Church asked Egypt's legislature in mid-May to pass a law that would remove the many hurdles which often make building a church impossible. Muslim places of worship, on the other hand, are routinely built without issues.

Car Bomb Dismantles Police Station in SE Turkey; At Least 11 Police Officers Killed, Kurds Suspected

A car bomb explosion ripped through a police station in southeastern Turkey today (August 26, 2016), resulting in mass casualties, according to the Times of Israel website.

At least 11 police officers were killed and 70 people injured in the incident in the town of Cizre -- not far from Turkey's border with Syria -- state media reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack which was the latest in a string of bombings that have targeted police or military vehicles and installations in Turkey.

The official Anadolu news agency blamed the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) for the blast. Members of PKK have carried out several car bomb attacks on police and military in recent months, as Kurds attempt to establish an independent state in Turkey.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New Survey:Many Americans Reject God,Miracles; One Quarter of Americans Have No Rel. Affiliation

A new survey shows that half of Americans who have left their church no longer believe in God, leading a surge of nearly one quarter of the nation who have no affiliation with any religion, the Washington Examiner website reports today (August 25, 2016).

Pew Research Center revealed yesterday that 49 percent of what they term "nones" left their church and religion because they "don't believe."

Another 20 percent said they don't like organized religion. Other reasons included "common sense" and a lack of belief in miracles.

The new survey is the latest from Pew that demonstrates a growing secular trend in America: More and more people are junking religion and many are giving up on God.

US Nabs 916 Illegals from Terror-Linked Nations; Terrorists Tried Reaching US Via Mexican Border

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended at least 916 illegal immigrants from countries linked to terrorism trying to sneak into the U.S. across the Southwest border in 2014 and 2015, the Breitbart News website reports exclusively today (August 25, 2016), based on information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

During that period, nearly 370 may have successfully entered the United States, according to the U.S. government's estimate of "gotaways."

The number of illegals from terror-linked countries -- officially known as Special Interest Aliens (SIAs) -- arrested along the U.S.-Mexican border has nearly doubled to 462 in 2015 alone, from 255 in 2011, the last year for which the government released data without a FOIA request.

The U.S. military has warned that there are networks in Latin America that specialize in smuggling illegals into the U.S. from countries affiliated with terrorism.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pope Shares His Sorrow Over Earthquake in Italy; Over 120 Dead,Hundreds Injured,Dozens Missing

Pope Fancis expressed his "heartfelt sorrow" today (August 24, 2016), after a powerful earthquake killed at least 120 people and left a trail of destruction across central Italy, according to the Religion News website.

Hundreds of people were injured and dozens of others missing in several small towns after the magnitude 6.2 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. local time today.

The quake's epicenter was about 90 miles northeast of Rome -- the town of Amatrice is believed to have sustained the most damage -- but the shock waves were felt from the southern city of Naples to the northern town of Rimini on the Adriatic Coast. A powerful aftershock of 5.4 magnitude followed an hour later.

"I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted," the pope told the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

Turkey Sends Tanks to Syria to Free Border Town; Jarablus on Turkey-Syrian Border Controlled by IS

After a pre-dawn barrage of heavy artillery and airstrikes, Turkey sent tanks and special forces into Syria today (August 24, 2016) to help clear a border town of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants in Ankara's most significant military involvement so far in Syria's five and one-half-year civil war, according to the CBS News website.

Syrian opposition fighters also took part in the cross-border attack.

Syrian rebel forces have told CBS News that about 1,500 of their fighters crossed into Syria today, heading to the town of Jarablus.

Jarablus is a key town because it lies on the only section of Turkey's 500-mile-long border with Syria that remains under the control of ISIS. Thousands of foreign fighters have used the Turkey-Syria border to cross into Syria's war zone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kim Davis Lawsuits Dismissed by Federal Judge; Judge Rules New Law Ends Dispute Before Court

U.S. religious liberty campaigners are claiming victory in the case of Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis -- who spent time in prison for refusing to register same-sex marriages -- the Christian Today website reports today (August 23, 2016).

The case became a flashpoint for conservative resistance to the federal recognition of same-sex marriages and drew opposition from gay activists.

Davis was facing three lawsuits from couples backed by the Kentucky ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

However, the suits were dismissed by federal Judge David Bunning, who said that because a new state law had removed the names of clerks from licenses, "there no longer remains a case of controversy before the court."

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Persists in D.C.'s Chinatown; Vandals Paint Swastikas, "Jew" on Images of Rats

Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared for the fifth time this month at one of the busiest intersections in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C., the Forward website reports today (August 23, 2016).

Earlier this month, vandals repeatedly painted the word "Jew" on the images of rats appearing on an outdoor Chinese Zodiac public art display. Yesterday, swastikas were discovered painted on the street nearby.

D.C. police are offering a $1,000 reward through Crime Solvers for information that leads to an arrest in the graffiti.

The incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.

US Soldier Killed While Stepping on Afghan Trap; Another US Soldier, Six Afghan Troops Wounded

NATO has announced that one U.S. service member was killed in Helmand province, Afghanistan today (August 23, 2016) after he stepped on an improvised explosive device, according to the Washington Examiner website.

The service member was conducting a train, advise, and assist mission with Afghan forces as part of Operation Resolute Support -- the NATO mission in Afghanistan that began in 2015 when major operations in the country began to wind down.

"On behalf of all U.S. Forces -- Afghanistan, as well as Resolute Support --  our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those involved," said Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and Resolute Support.

Another U.S. service member and six Afghan soldiers were also wounded, as a result of the explosion.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Anti-IS Forces Gain New Ground in Libya's Sirte; Libyan Troops Achieve a "New Victory" against IS

Fighters of Libya's unity government -- backed by U.S. air strikes -- have recaptured more ground from Islamic State (IS) jihadists holed up in the center of the coastal city of Sirte, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (August 22, 2016).

A statement by the Libyan government said "the new victory" was achieved in clashes which raged all day on August 21 in the face of "desperate resistance by the jihadists."

IS sniper positions were "neutralized" in two U.S. air strikes... "without loss in our ranks," it added.

However, 12 government fighters were killed and 85 wounded in yesterday's clashes, the hospital in Misrata said.

Child Suicide Bomber Kills 51 at Turkey Wedding; IS Supports Terror Attack That Killed 22 Children

Turkish authorities today (August 22, 2016) were scrambling to ascertain the identity of a child suicide bomber acting on the orders of Islamic State (IS) jihadists who killed 51 people -- at least 22 of them children -- at a crowded Kurdish wedding, according to the Times of Israel website.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber at the street wedding late on August 20 in the city of Gaziantep close to Syria was aged "between 12 and 14" and that initial findings showed it had been "perpetrated by Daesh [Islamic State]."

The majority of those dead were children or teenagers, with 29 of the 44 victims identified so far aged under 18.

The bride and groom were rushed to the hospital, but were not seriously wounded.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lutheran Church Tries Ending US Israeli Funding; Due to Israel's Occupation, Human Rights Abuses

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, the Big News Network website reports today (August 20, 2016).

The four million-member Christian church -- one of the largest in the U.S. -- voted last week on two separate resolutions targeting Israel's occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.

The first resolution calls for the end of US aid to Israel until it ceases violations of international human rights norms, specifically the ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The second resolution -- adopted by a 90 percent margin -- calls for the creation of a "human rights social criteria investment screen," specifically citing concerns raised in the church's Middle East policy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Syrian Govt. Jets Bomb Kurdish Forces in Hasaka; Is First Time Syria Attacked Kurds in Its Civil War

A city in northeastern Syria has become a flashpoint in the country's civil war as Syrian warplanes attacked Kurdish forces yesterday, and the United States responded by sending its own aircraft to protect U.S. coalition forces in the area, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (August 19, 2016).

Thousands of civilians have been fleeing the Kurdish-majority city of Hasaka, since the Syrian airstrikes started yesterday, which witnesses said have killed dozens of people.

The airstrikes mark the first time since the start of Syria's civil war in 2011 that Syrian government warplanes targeted a majority Kurdish enclave. They also appear to mark a break between Syrian government troops and the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that had been working loosely together against Islamic State (IS) fighters in the city since 2014.

"They [warplanes] are targeting specific areas to weaken local Kurdish forces," Hasaka resident Aziz Abe told VOA.

Germany Plans Partial Ban on Islamic Face Veil; Ban to Include Schools, Colleges, Motor Vehicles

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative government is planning to ask that the face veil be banned in schools, universities, and while driving a motor vehicle, the Euro News website reports today (August 19, 2016).

The ban involves all types of head coverings obstructing a clear view of the face.

Muslim women wearing the burqa and niqab will be particularly affected.

The government's call for a partial ban on the burqa and niqab suggests they represent a lack of integration, an inferior social categorization of women, and could pose security risks.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Salt Lake City's Lesbian Mayor Weds Her Fiancee; Wed as Hundreds Protest LDS's Rejection of Gays

Salt Lake City -- which serves as the global headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called the Mormon Church) -- played host over the weekend to the marriage of Jackie Biskupski, the city's first openly gay mayor to her fiancee, Betty Iverson, the Religion News website reports today (August 18, 2016).

"Yesterday our family was brought together by marriage," Biskupski (who is not a Mormon) wrote in a Facebook post on August 15. "We have always been bonded by love, but now we are joined by law."

The private ceremony was performed by Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a longtime friend of the couple and a lawyer who also represented same-sex couples who sued Utah for the right to marry in 2014.

The wedding took place amid protests by several hundred people and mass resignations from the LDS (Latter-day Saints) Church by those upset over its policies toward its LGBT members. At least 100 of those gathered filed papers to remove their names from the church's rolls, according to Quit Mormon, the group that held the gathering. They are protesting a 2015 church ruling that describes sexually active LGBT Mormons as apostates and requires that their children reject their parents before being baptized.

US Lutherans Improve Rapport with Cath.Church; OK Cordial Cath.Ties 499 Years after Reformation

Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States has approved a declaration recognizing "there are no longer church-dividing issues" on many points with the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian Century website reports today (August 18, 2016).

The "Declaration on the Way" was approved 931-9 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly held last week at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the 3.7-million-member  ELCA, called the declaration "historic" in a statement released by the denomination following the August 10 vote. "Though we have not yet arrived, we have claimed that we are, in fact, on the way to unity," Eaton said.

Luther -- a Catholic priest who strongly opposed some Catholic doctrine --  began the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517, when he nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The document included 95 statements regarding Catholicism he wanted to debate with the Catholic Church. One practice of the Catholic Church that Luther especially opposed was the sale of indulgences by the Church to family members of deceased individuals, in order to lessen the time these individuals would spend in purgatory before going to heaven.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Muslims Outpace Christians to US This Past Yr.; Nearly 29K Muslims, 27K Christians Came to US

Despite an air of Islamophobia pervading the United States as a result of several deadly terrorist attacks by Muslims, more Muslim refugees than Christians came to the U.S. this fiscal year, according to a report released this week.

More than 60,000 refugees have fled to the U.S. so far in this fiscal year -- which began last October -- the Newsy website reports today (August 17, 2016).

The Pew Research Center recently analyzed data from the State Department's Refugee Processing Center.

Pew found that since October 2015, nearly 29,000 of the refugees -- or 46 percent of the total refugees entering the U.S. -- have been Muslims. At the same time, a little more than 27,500 Christians came to the U.S., which comes out to 44 percent.

UK Hate Preacher Choudary Guilty of Backing IS; Urged His Video Viewers to Back Terrorist Group

Anjem Choudary -- one of Britain's most notorious hate preachers -- has been convicted of supporting the Islamic State (IS), and now faces up to a decade in jail, the Breitbart website reports today (August 17, 2016).

Choudary was convicted at the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court in London) after jurors heard that he had sworn allegiance to the terrorist group, and urged his followers to do the same in a series of videos broadcast via You Tube.

Both Choudary and his co-defendant, Mohammed Rahman, 33, urged their supporters to obey Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and to travel to Syria to support the Islamic State.

The pair face up to 10 years in jail for inviting support for a proscribed organization, and will be sentenced in September.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

US-Backed Syrian Rebels Let Defeated IS Mil. Flee; IS Had Used Civilians as Human Shields in Manbij

Islamic State (IS) fighters -- surrounded during the key battle for Manbij, Syria last week -- agreed to surrender their weapons to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels in return for safe passage out of the embattled city, a senior defense official said today (August 16, 2016). It was the first agreement of its kind with the terror group, the USA Today website reports.

The exhausted and demoralized Islamic militants were using civilians as human shields, which is why the U.S.-backed fighters agreed to let them flee Manbij after three months of intense fighting and near constant aerial bombardment by the U.S.-led coalition.

The U.S. official -- who was not authorized to discuss battle details -- said the Islamic State fighters surrendered after being surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces, fighters recruited and trained by the U.S.-led coalition.

The official added that the agreement to let the Islamic State militants escape likely saved hundreds of civilians held by the fanatical fighters.

Thousands Visit Lourdes for Annual Pilgrimage; Spring Water at Holy Site in France Cures Many

Tight security is in place in the southwestern French town of Lourdes, as thousands of worshippers flock for the annual Catholic pilgrimage, the Euro News website reports today (August 16, 2016).

Bag inspections were in operation, as armed police and troops patrolled the holy site to prevent terror attacks.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin -- the Catholic Church's most senior official presiding over the pilgrimage -- said, "I look to those Muslims who love the Virgin Mary. Lots of times I've seen Muslim families carry the newborns and put them into the hands of Mary, put them under her kindness and her maternal love."

A holy site since the mid-19th century when a village girl claimed to have visions of the Virgin Mary, Lourdes draws thousands of pilgrims each year, many of whom have said they were cured by its famous spring water.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pope Rips "Shameful Silence" of African Conflicts; Cites Congo Massacres as Example of Indifference

Pope Francis is decrying what he calls the "shameful silence" about long-running conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, according to the Newsmax website.

Speaking to tourists today (August 15, 2016) in St. Peter's Square, Francis cited massacres in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example of bloodshed that too often has "no weight on world opinion."

He recalled the suffering of populations in many parts of the world who are "innocent victims of persistent conflicts."

Yesterday officials said suspected rebels killed at least 36 people in northeastern Congo, spurring street protests against the ongoing violence.

At Least Six Killed in Car Bombing in SE Turkey; Turkey Blames Ind.-Seeking Kurds for Bombing

At least six people have died in a car bombing outside a police station in southeast Turkey, the Euro News website reports today (August 15, 2016).

Four police officers and two civilians were killed. Also, 25 people were wounded.

The explosion took place outside a police center on a busy road linking Diyabakir with the town of Batman.

Officials have blamed the Kurdistan Workers' Party for the bombing, as Kurds endeavor to establish an independent state in Turkey.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pope Gives a Lunch to Syrian Refugees at Vatican; Lunch Guests Flew to Italy with Pope from Lesbos

Pope Francis had lunch with 21 Syrian Muslim refugees -- including nine children -- at his private residence at the Vatican yesterday, sending a powerful message to those in the West fervently opposed to welcoming those forced to flee the war-torn nation, the Religion News website reports today (August 12, 2016).

The Vatican's chief media spokesman, Greg Burke, said the pope's guests included the Syrian families who returned to Italy with him from the Greek island of Lesbos aboard the papal plane after his official visit there in April.

"Both the adults and the children had the chance to speak with Pope Francis about the start of their life in Italy," Burke said.

"The children gave him a collection of their drawings, and the pope reciprocated with toys and other gifts," he added.

US Judge Won't Relax Pollard's Parole Conditions; Pollard Betrayed US by Selling Secret Info to Israel

A U.S. judge has refused to ease parole conditions for freed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard so he can begin working as a financial analyst, the Times of Israel website reports today (August 12, 2016).

The U.S. Parole Commission did not abuse its discretion when it required the 61-year-old former U.S. Navy intelligence research specialist to submit to a curfew and monitoring of work computers and his whereabouts, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said yesterday.

Pollard's lawyers had argued that the restrictions blocked him from accepting an offer to work as a financial analyst after his release from prison last November.

In June 1986, Pollard pleaded guilty to conspiring to deliver national defense information to a foreign government, selling U.S. secrets to Israel. He served 30 years of a life-long prison sentence.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

ISIS Sex Slave:Women Treated Worse Than Death; IS Kidnapped 5K Women,Sells Girls as Young as 9

A 21-year-old Iraqi woman -- whose family was massacred by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group while she was kept as a sex slave before managing to escape -- has testified about the horrific torture and abuse militants are inflicting on women and young girls, the Christian Post website reports today (August 11, 2016).

Nadia Murad shared her story during a visit to London, where she revealed this week how IS fighters killed six of her brothers and her mother in Northern Iraq.

Murad herself was taken as a sex slave, one of some 5,000 Yazidi girls and women the terror group has kidnapped.

"But when they took me to Mosul and raped me, I forgot my mother and brothers. Because what they were doing to women was more difficult than death," she said. "Imagine until now, for more than a year and a half, girls as young as 9 are being rented and sold out for sex."

Miss. Woman Gets 12 Years for Supporting IS; Islam Convert Sobs in Court, Sorry for Actions

A Mississippi woman, who once sought to disguise a planned journey to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group as her honeymoon, was sentenced by a federal judge today (August 11, 2016) to 12 years in prison on a terrorism charge, according to the NY Post website.

Vicksburg native Jaelyn Young broke down in heavy sobs during her sentencing by US District Judge Sharion Aycock. Young pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Her parents pleaded for leniency at today's hearing. Young, amid sobs, said she was ashamed of her actions.

Her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty March 11 to a similar charge and is set to be sentenced August 24. Prosecutors have said that Young -- who converted to Islam while studying at Mississippi State University -- had prodded Dakhlalla into the plan.

Muslims Sue MI City for Rejecting Mosque Const.; City Officials Feared Mosque Leaders as Terrorists

The leaders of an Islamic center filed a lawsuit yesterday against Sterling Heights, Michigan, after the city last year rejected their plans to build a mosque that was strongly opposed by many residents, the Detroit Free Press website reports today (August 11, 2016).

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan announced that her office and the Department of Justice are investigating whether the mosque was treated fairly.

In the federal lawsuit, the American Islamic Community Center accuses the city of being biased against Muslims, citing emails from city officials that talked about getting investigated the possibility of the mosque's leaders being terrorists.

In one email, a police official asks whether the FBI can be contacted to see whether the mosque leaders are "on their radar."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

US Warns Turkey to Back Off Threats Over Coup; Erdogan Angry US Won't Hand Over Cleric Gulen

Since a failed military coup last month, U.S. relations with Turkey have been worsening, with the Erdogan government harshly criticizing the Obama Administration at every chance -- accusing the U.S. of not being supportive enough and at times accusing the U.S. of being secretly behind the coup -- the Antiwar website reports today (August 10, 2016).

The State Department has warned the Turkish government to back off the various threats and accusations against the U.S. surrounding the coup, saying the U.S. finds Turkey's "inflammatory rhetoric" a serious problem.

Turkish officials don't appear to be keen on backing away from the allegations, with Turkey's Justice Ministry issuing a statement warning the U.S. is risking bilateral relations by not handing over exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The U.S. is unwilling to extradite Gulen outside of the traditional extradition avenue, and Turkish officials have acted baffled at this, insisting that their status as a U.S. ally means the White House ought to take their word for it (Gulen masterminding the coup) and hand over Gulen, and whoever else they want.

Lith.Uses Former Concentration Camp for Parties; Deputy Mayor Says Events Are Solely Educational

The city of Kaunas in Lithuania has defended its use of a site that was a former concentration camp, where recreational events are now being held near the graves of thousands of Jews killed by the Nazis and their local collaborators during World War II, the Times of Israel website reports today (August 10, 2016).

Deputy Mayor Povilas Maciulis made his defense of the Seventh Fort this week following last month's revelations that summer camps, barbecue parties, treasure hunts, and camping activities were taking place there.

In 2009, the city privatized the site, which is run by the nongovernmental Military Heritage Center. The center is headed by 37-year-old amateur historian Vladimir Orlov.

"Yes, there are activities carried out in the museum; however, they are exclusively educational and pertaining to the museum's purpose," Marciulis wrote in a statement that he sent to several people a few days after Israel's director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, asked the Kaunas mayor to have the festivities banned at the former concentration camp.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Church Will Use Drones to Drop Bibles in Syria; Church Feels Bibles Will Promote Love,Not War

A church in Sweden will soon start using drones -- three meters wide -- to drop thousands of electronic Bibles over closed areas in the Middle East, the Washington Post website reports today (August 9, 2016).

The apparent logic of the Swedish church Livets Ord -- or "Word of Life" -- is that by using a tactic that simulates the airstrikes that have traumatized a region, they will bring light and love and maybe convert some Muslims to Christianity.

"We start our project in a few weeks and hope to drop thousands of Bibles," the church's website says. The Bibles are pillbox-size and will be dropped from high altitude by a contractor hired by the church.

Faced with scorn from the media, Christian Akerhielm, the church's missions director, has emphasized that the drone campaign adds to their good work in the region, which involves distributing aid at refugee camps.

Suicide Bomber Kills 63 in a Pakistan Hospital; Also Wounds More Than 50 in Quetta Hospital

A suicide attack at a Pakistan hospital has left 63 dead and more than 50 wounded, the Christian Headlines website reports today (August 9, 2016).

"It seems it was a pre-planned attack," said Anwar ul Hag Kakar, a government spokesman.

More than 100 people had been gathered at the hospital to mourn a lawyer who had been killed earlier in the day.

At this time, no terrorist group has taken responsibility for the attack that took place in the city of Quetta in Pakistan's Baluchistan province.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Syrian Rebels Break Government Siege of Aleppo; Regain Control of Ramussa to Open Aleppo Route

A major Syrian opposition body announced today (August 6, 2016) that rebels have broken a devastating government siege of the battered city of Aleppo after a week of fierce fighting, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

An alliance of rebels, Islamists, and jihadists has fought since July 31 to end a three-week-long siege by government forces of Aleppo's eastern districts.

"Rebels break Aleppo's siege," wrote the Istanbul-based National Coalition on Twitter.

The Islamist faction Ahrar al-Sham also said on Twitter that rebels had regained control of Ramussa on the southwestern edges of the city and thereby "opened the route to Aleppo."

Friday, August 5, 2016

US Muslim Org. Rips ISIS for Disgracing Muslims; Posts Billboard "Hey ISIS, You Suck!!!" in Chicago

People driving in Northbound I-294 -- about a half-mile north of Chicago's North Avenue -- are being met with a giant billboard reading, "Hey ISIS, you suck!!! From: # Actual Muslims," the Salon website reports today (August 5, 2016).

The crude billboard is part of an "ISIS Sucks" campaign being launched by a Muslim non-profit  organization.

The Sound Vision Foundation bought the billboard as part of a larger strategy to challenge extremism and Islamophobia.

"We launched the campaign in light of the constant pressure on American Muslims to condemn ISIS," explained Leena Suleiman, the director of creative engagement at Sound Vision.

Obama: Defeating ISIS on Battlefield Not Enough; Warns IS Will Focus on Worldwide Terror Attacks

President Barack Obama has hailed the progress the United States and its allies have made in the military campaign against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the Euro News website reports today (August 5, 2016).

But -- speaking after a security briefing at the Pentagon yesterday -- Obama warned of the risks of attacks abroad by the radical group, as it shifts its strategy faced with its defeat in Iraq and Syria.

He warned that more than military victory is required for the Islamic fanatics to be crippled in performing terrorist activities.

Obama asserted, "So long as their twisted ideology persists and drives people to violence, then groups like ISIL will keep emerging, and the international community will continue to be at risk..."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Muslim Woman In Hijab Told to Leave Ind. Store; Says She Was Discriminated against Rel. Freedom

A woman wearing the traditional Muslim dress of a hijab and niqab was asked to remove her head covering or leave the store in Indiana, the UPI website reports today (August 4, 2016).

Sarah Safi, 32, said she was discriminated against on August 1st at a Family Dollar store in Gary, Indiana, because she wouldn't remove the veil from her face. Safi captured part of the exchange on video using her cellphone.

"I might have made it 10 steps into the store and I hear the lady behind the counter say, 'Ma'am, you need to take that off your face or you need to leave my store,'" Safi said.

Safi said it was her religious freedom to wear the dress, and the manager threatened to call the police. Safi returned to her car -- where her four children were waiting, she said -- rather than deal with the police.

Greek Solons OK State-Funded Mosque in Athens; Tens of Thousands of Muslim Migrants in Athens

Lawmakers in Greece today (August 4, 2016) approved construction of a state-funded mosque near central Athens -- a proposal that triggered dissent within the coalition government amid a heated public debate on how to manage the migrant crisis -- according to the Washington Post website.

The proposal follows several failed attempts to implement the project that had preciously faced strong opposition from the Greek Orthodox Church.

The governing left-wing Syriza party backed the 950,000 euro ($1 million) state-funded mosque, but it was opposed by its nationalist coalition partner, the Independent Greeks.

Tens of thousands of Muslim migrants live in greater Athens and use informal prayer rooms around the capital. The number of Muslims in Greece has increased significantly following the refugee crisis last year, when the country was on Europe's busiest transit route for people fleeing to the continent to avoid war and poverty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Turkish Cypriots Protest Turkey's Rel. Imposition; Say Turkey Tries to Mold Islamic Norms on Them

Hundreds of Turkish Cypriots took to the streets today (August 3, 2016) to protest against what they say is Turkey's attempt to mold their secular culture into one that's more in tune with Islamic norms, according to the Washington Post website.

Some 1,500 mostly young people blew whistles and raised their hands in front of Parliament in the Turkish Cypriot part of the ethnically divided island's capital, Nicosia. They were decrying the creation of a "coordination committee" that will fund, oversee, and approve all youth sport and cultural activities.

Protesters from some 80 groups spanning the political spectrum charged that the committee's hidden agenda is to instill a more Islamic way of life by funding cultural and sporting projects that will include religious elements.

The committee is headed by a Turkish national who has been appointed by the Turkish government and is "all about religion" and instruction about the Quran, Ottoman customs, and the Arabic language, Turkish Cypriot lawmaker Zeki Celer said. "Turkish Cypriots are more secular, we believe how we chose to believe, and we don't need anyone to teach us how," Celer told The Associated Press.

Washington Police Officer Nabbed for Terrorism; Transit Employee Is First US Officer Tied to ISIS

A police officer in Washington, D.C. was arrested today (August 3, 2016) for allegedly attempting to aid the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after a seven-year investigation, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

Nicholas Young, 36, a convert to Islam, was the first police officer in the United States arrested in connection with ISIS.

Young was a transit officer, responsible for patrolling the underground and bus systems of the U.S. capital. A spokesman for Washington's transport system -- known as Metro -- said Young has now been fired.

His arrest came after he bought $250 worth of gift cards for mobile messaging apps -- a popular form of communications for the terrorist group -- with the intention of aiding ISIS overseas, prosecutors said.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Pope Sets Up Group to Study Women Deacons; Group Draws Experts in Patristics,Ecclesiology

Pope Francis has created a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church, following up on a promise made last May, the Catholic News website reports today (August 2, 2016).

The Pontiff has appointed an equal number of male and female experts as members of the commission, which will be led by Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria, a Jesuit who serves as the second-in-command of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation.

The Vatican said that the Pope had decided to create the group "after intense prayer and mature reflection" and wanted it particularly to study the the history of the female diaconate "in the earliest times of the Church."

The formal name given to the group is "Study Commission on the Women's Diaconate." The commission's members include experts in patristic theology, ecclesiology, and spirituality.

France Closes Up 20 Mosques for Radical Islam; "No Place in France to Incite Hatred in Mosques"

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said yesterday that French authorities have shut down 20 mosques and prayer halls they found to be preaching radical Islamic ideology since December, The Atlantic website reports today (August 2, 2016).

"There is no place... in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques," Cazeneuve said.

The mosque closures follow several high-profile attacks by Islamic extremists in the country, including the recent murder of an elderly Catholic priest while he was celebrating Mass in Normandy.

France has been under a nationwide state of emergency since the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terror attacks in Paris in 2015. The state of emergency grants the nation the ability to enforce tougher measures, including shutting down places of worship suspected of promoting radical views.

Monday, August 1, 2016

US Launches Airstrikes on IS Land in Sirte,Libya; Marks Essential Expansion of US Role against IS

The United States has launched airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Sirte, Libya, the Pentagon said today (August 1, 2016), the first direct U.S. involvement in the fierce battle unfolding there and a significant expansion of the American campaign against the militant group, according to the Washington Post website.

In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that Libya's Western-backed government had requested U.S. air support, as forces under its command battle to reclaim the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte, which became an important Islamic State stronghold after militants seized it last year.

Fayez Serra, prime minister of Libya's Western-backed unity government, said he had requested the assistance to help the advance of local forces in Sirte against the Islamic State.

The use of American air power in Sirte opens a new chapter in the Obama administration's war against the Islamic State -- heretofore limited primarily to Iraq and Syria -- as IS now is attempting to establish a caliphate across a wide swath of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Five Russians Die in Downed Helicopter in Syria; IS Calls on Members for Terror Attacks in Russia

The Kremlin said that five military personnel on board a helicopter shot down in Syria today (August 1, 2016) were killed, according to the Jerusalem Post website.

The helicopter -- with the five on board -- was shot down in Syria's Idlib province by Syrian rebels.

They died a "heroic death" on a humanitarian mission, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

The Russian forces are supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria's five-year-old civil war. Yesterday, the Islamic State (IS) posted a nine-minute message on You Tube, calling on its members to carry out jihad (holy war) in Russia.