Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Poll: Most Americans Back Trump's Travel Ban; See It as a First Step to Screening for Terrorists

Despite the huge number of demonstrations pervading the United States in opposition to President Donald Trump's travel suspension executive order, a national poll shows most American voters agree with his temporary suspension of entry to the U.S. for visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 31, 2017).

According to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey, 57 percent of "likely U.S. voters" favored a temporary ban on refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for the next 90 days. Ten percent were undecided, and 33 percent were opposed to the ban.

Along the same vein, 56 percent favored a temporary ban on visas blocking residents of those countries from entering the U.S. until the government comes up with a better way to screen for terrorists. Eleven percent were undecided on this question, and 32 percent were opposed.

The poll was conducted on January 25-26 by Rasmussen Reports, a conservative American polling firm based in Asbury Park, New Jersey, founded in 2003 by Scott Rasmussen.

Pres. Trump Tells Obama's AG: "You're Fired;" Fires AG Sally Yates for Defying His Travel Ban

Just hours after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates last night ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to defend President Donald Trump's refugee ban, the Trump administration fired her, The Daily Beast website reports today (January 31, 2017).

Yates -- an Obama appointee -- was serving as attorney general (AG) until Trump's own AG was approved by the U.S. Senate. If he had been approved earlier, this calamity would not have occurred.

Last night -- in a disobedient defiance of the president's executive order to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S. -- Yates announced that the DOJ would not defend Trump's ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hours later, the Trump administration called Yates "weak" and announced Dana Boente as her replacement. A statement by the Trump administration reads, in part: "The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Poland's Pres. Hails Backing of 3,500 US Troops; US Troops in Poland to Meet Russian Aggression

Polish President Andrzej Duda today (January 30, 2017) hailed the "historic" presence of U.S. soldiers on his country's soil, saying it would reinforce Poland's security within NATO, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The U.S. armored brigade of some 3,500 troops -- as well as many tanks and heavy equipment -- arrived in Poland this month.

"This moment is historic, because it changes the model in our part of Europe," Duda said at the launch of a joint exercise of Polish and American troops in Zagan, a town near the German border.

Poland had asked the U.S. for military assistance due to its belief that Russia wants to seize its land. Since Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014, several countries in eastern Europe believe that Russia is planning to take over more foreign land.

Pope: Lay People Should Go Out and Evangelize; "Don't Be Locked at Home, Get Eaten by Moths"

Pope Francis has called on lay people to go outside of themselves and take risks in evangelizing, rather than staying stuffed up at home while the moths move in, the Catholic News website reports today (January 30, 2017).

"Sometimes I think the best business we can do with many Christians is to sell them mothballs so that they put them in their clothes and in their lives and aren't eaten by moths," the Pope said in an interview with Mexican journalist Noel Diaz.

Francis told Diaz that many times Christians "are locked up and they are going to get eaten by moths."

"They have to go out; they have to go and bring the message of Jesus" to others, he said, explaining that the Good News is meant to be shared, not stored away.

Cath. Bishop Punched in Face during NJ Mass; Rev. Manuel Cruz,63, Needed 2 Stitches on Lip

A 48-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested after punching an auxiliary bishop in the face during mass at the Cathedral at Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, the UPI website reports today (January 30, 2017).

The Rev. Manuel Cruz, 63, needed two stitches in his lip after the attack on January 28.

The clergyman of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark was offering prayers at a service when a man attacked him, knocking Cruz backward onto the altar.

Charles Miller was charged with simple assault. He was arrested by Sheriff's deputies who were providing security for the church at the time of the attack.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

At Least 5 Dead in Shootings at Quebec Mosque; Shooters Fired at Evening Prayers, Two Arrested

At least five people were killed and several others wounded tonight (January 29, 2017) after gunmen opened fire at worshipers during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

A Quebec police spokesman said two suspects in the shooting were arrested, and a third suspect is believed to have fled the scene.

A few dozen people were inside the Islamic Cultural Center when the shooting began just after 8:00 p.m. tonight.

Quebec's prime minister, Philippe Couillard, posted on Twitter that the government was "mobilized to ensure the security of the people of Quebec." He added, "Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence."

Giuliani Ensured Legality of Trump's Islam Ban; Made Trump's Ban Legal Citing Nations,Not Rel.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has revealed that President Donald Trump asked him to come up with a way to legally implement his controversial executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the Yahoo News website reports today (January 29, 2017).

Giulani -- a former U.S. attorney -- said he consulted with U.S. representatives and "a group of very expert lawyers" on the plan.

Emphasizing that the immigration ban is perfectly legal, Giuliani said, "What we did was to focus on the areas of the world that create a danger for us ... which is a factual basis, not a religious basis..."

Trump's executive order bars people from seven countries -- Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia -- from entering the United States for 90 days. It also stopped all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, and indefinitely suspended the entry of refugees from Syria.

US Troop Dies in Yemen in Trump Terror Raid; Raid Killed 14 Terrorists,Captured Critical Intel

One U.S. service member was killed and three others wounded yesterday in a raid against al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen -- the first such operation ordered by President Trump -- the USA Today website reports today (January 29, 2017).

The raid resulted in the deaths of 14 terrorists and the capture of critical intelligence, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement today.

"This is one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide," the statement said.

President Trump said in a statement that the raid against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula headquarters captured "important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pope Frets about "Hemorrhage" of Priests,Nuns; Asserts Loss of Clergy Is Weakening Cath.Church

Pope Francis said today (January 28, 2017) that he is concerned about what he calls a "hemorrhage" of priests and nuns from the Catholic Church, according to the Washington Post website.

The pope told participants today at a Vatican gathering on religious life that the loss of clergy is weakening the church.

First among the factors he cited as causing nuns and priests to quit their vocations is a society that discourages lifelong commitments. Francis lamented that many conduct their lives based on "a la carte" choices.

For several decades, the Catholic Church in many developed countries has seen the number of priests and nuns on the decline.

Trump's Holocaust Statement Leaves Out Jews; ADL Chief Slams Trump for Passing Over Jews

President Donald Trump issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday in which he vowed to combat the forces of evil, and called to "make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world," but failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 28, 2017).

The absence of any specific mention of Jews or anti-Semitism was highlighted and criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

"It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust," the president said. "It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror."

ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt said Trump's statement "misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just 'innocent people.'"

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trump Blocks Islamic Terrorists from US Entry; Also Forbids Syrian Refugees from Entering US

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today (January 27, 2017) that suspends indefinitely admissions for Syrian refugees and limits the flow of other refugees into the United States by instituting what the President called "extreme vetting" of immigrants, according to the CNN website.

The order bars all persons from certain terror-prone (Muslim) countries from entering the United States for 30 days and suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days until it is reinstated "only for nationals of countries for whom" members of Trump's Cabinet deem can be properly vetted.

"I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry," the order signed by Trump reads.

"I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America," Trump said at the Pentagon. He added, "We don't want them here."

Czech Court Rejects Lawsuit on School Veil Ban; Somali Refugee Sought $2,350 in Prejudice Suit

A Czech court has rejected a discrimination suit filed by a Somali refugee, who was banned from wearing her headscarf in a nursing school, the Al Jazeera website reports today (January 27, 2017).

"The suit which the plaintiff lodged seeking an apology and 60,000 crowns ($2,350) in compensation was rejected," said Justice Daniela Cejkova, handing down the verdict in a Prague court today.

Ayan Nuur filed a lawsuit against the school after she was not allowed to attend while wearing a headscarf.

Nuur, who was granted asylum in the Czech Republic in 2011, did not attend the trial, but was represented by her lawyer.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Greek Court:Turkey Fugitives Can Stay in Greece; Eight Soldiers Ran off to Greece after Failed Coup

The Supreme Court of Greece ruled today (January 26, 2017) that eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece after last July's coup attempt can stay in Greece, where they have claimed asylum, according to the Euro News website.

The court decision has infuriated Turkey's government, which claims the eight men are traitors and should be extradited to Turkey.

"The decision of the court was based on the argument that the supreme values of human dignity and human life must be safeguarded," said chief defense lawyer Christos Mylonopoulos.

Turkey has now issued arrest warrants for the eight men, who flew to Greece by helicopter a day after the coup attempt.

Jailed Orth. Rabbis Try to Overturn Convictions; Attacked Divorced Men Not Giving Wives a "Get"

Three Orthodox Jewish rabbis yesterday asked a federal appeals court to overturn their convictions on charges they played roles in a ring that used brutal tactics to force unwilling Jewish men to divorce their wives, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 26, 2017).

The lawyers told the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Philadelphia that investigators violated their clients' constitutional rights and that there were judicial errors during the trial. Federal prosecutors disputed those claims.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein, Jay Goldstein, and Binyamin Stimler were convicted in 2015 on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Epstein -- accused of being the ringleader -- was sentenced to 10 years. Goldstein got an eight-year term, while Stimler received a three-year sentence.

The attacks were carried out from 2009 to 2013 in New Jersey, New York City, and other locations. Prosecutors said the rabbis used brutal methods and tools -- including handcuffs and electric cattle prods -- to torture the men into granting the divorce documents, called "gets."An Orthodox Jewish divorced woman must have obtained a get from her divorced husband in order to remarry.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Iraqi Forces Liberate the Eastern Half of Mosul; Now Fighting to Liberate Western Half from IS

Iraqi forces have liberated the entire eastern half of Mosul from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) -- and now will fight to liberate Mosul's western side -- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reported yesterday on state television, the CNN website reports today (January 25, 2017).

Mosul is divided by the Tigris River, with both sides making up about half of Iraq's second-largest city.

"To see how far the Iraqis have come since 2014... gives real hope to the people of Iraq that after years of fighting and instability, peace and security are attainable," said Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend, the task force's commanding general.

ISIS seized control of Mosul in 2014. Ousting the terrorist group would be a challenge for any of the world's militaries, Townsend said.

German Police Raid Homes of Radical Suspects; Arrest 13 Plotting Attacks on Jews and Refugees

Some 200 German police officers carried out dawn raids yesterday against far-right suspects accused of plotting attacks on Jews, refugees, and police, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 25, 2017).

Police swooped on 12 homes and other sites in six states "as part of a federal investigation on suspicion of forming a right-wing extremist organization," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Six suspects "connected primarily via social media," are accused of founding the group "and in early 2016 beginning plans for armed attacks against police officers as representatives of the state, asylum seekers, and members of the Jewish community."

Another seven people are believed to have offered assistance to the group, including acquiring weapons.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

IS Used Church in Iraq as a Shooting Range; Used Another Iraqi Church as Bomb Factory

Iraqi Christians returning to their homelands trashed by Islamic State (IS) militants described the horror of finding their houses burnt and their churches desecrated, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (January 24, 2017).

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), eye witnesses reported the destruction caused by the jihadists and how church statues were beheaded and mannequins from a clothes shop were used for shooting practice.

Manal Matti, who used to run a beauty salon near the now fire-damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh -- the largest Christian town in Nineveh Plains -- said: "The jihadists used the church as a shooting range and the mannequins as targets. The mannequins are completely riddled with bullets."

ACN reports also show that Qaraqosh's Saint George's Syriac Catholic Church was used by IS as an improvised bomb factory and was used to store hundreds of bombs and grenades.

Obama Pulls Sneaky Act Just Hours before Exit; Gave $221M to PA Despite Congress Opposition

Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and secretly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) that GOP members of Congress had been blocking, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 24, 2017).

A State Department official and several congressional aides said that on the day before Donald Trump's inauguration, the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money.

The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time on January 18.

The aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said written notification dated January 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Anti-Semitism Alive, Well and Living in London; Jews Hit with Brick,Eggs,Swastikas on Weekend

The calm of the Jewish Sabbath was shattered this past weekend in London, as a brick covered in swastikas was hurled through the window of a Jewish family's home, Jewish pedestrians were pelted with eggs, and a swastika was drawn on another home, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 23, 2017).

Shomrim North West London -- a volunteer neighborhood watch patrol run by the Jewish community -- reported that in three seemingly separate incidents, Jews were sought out for racist attacks.

The first incident came as Jewish families walked home from attending traditional Friday night dinner at friends' and families' homes. A car was seen from which occupants hurled eggs at recognizably-Jewish pedestrians at about 10:30 p.m.

As day broke on Saturday, a brick on which swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs were drawn was thrown through the window of a Jewish family's home. Then, later in the day, police discovered a swastika on a residential building.

Trump to Move US Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem; Invites Israeli PM to DC to Better US-Israel Ties

In an action that will likely spark hostile anger in the Arab world, President Donald Trump said yesterday he still plans to fulfill his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Reuters website reports today (January 23, 2017).

Washington's Israeli embassy is now in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts.

Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state.

The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 describing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and saying it should not be divided. Yesterday, President Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Washington in early February to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, including the American embassy move.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pope Compares Populism, Trump to Adolf Hitler; Says World Must "Wait and See" Trump's Actions

As President Donald Trump was being sworn into office, Pope Francis warned about the rise of populist leaders such as Adolf Hitler, the IB Times website reports today (January 22, 2017).

The pontiff made the comments to Spanish newspaper El Pais, warning that Trump-like leaders abuse our judgment in times of crisis.

The pope added that populism was flourishing in Germany in 1933 and sought a leader, Adolf Hitler, to restore its character. "And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn't steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people."

Despite his strongly worded warning, the pope insisted the world must "wait and see" before judging Trump and see how he performs in his role as U.S. President.

Macedonia Warns Serbia on Name Interference; Serbia Backs Greece, Suggests Name of FYROM

Macedonia -- a country that gained its independence from a disintegrated Yugoslavia in 1991 and has the same name as a bordering province in northern Greece -- warned Serbia to keep out of its "name game" with Greece, the VOA News website reports today (January 22, 2017).

Macedonia said Serbia should stop calling it by the "offensive" name FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), which Greece favors, since it is a different name from its northern province.

Although Serbia still calls the country Macedonia, its foreign minister has suggested a change to FYROM, the name the Serbian highway toll receipts use.

Greece argues that the name Macedonia implies designs on its bordering province by the same name. Many Greeks also believe that Macedonia wants to be recognized as the country in which Alexander the Great was born -- instead of Greece -- but he was born in the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bomb Kills 22,Wounds 50 in Pakistan Market; Taliban Did It to Avenge Killings of Its Jailees

A powerful bomb ripped through a market area in northwestern Pakistan today (January 21, 2017), killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 50 others, according to the Big News Network website.

The early morning blast occurred in Parachinar, the administrative center of the Kurram tribal district on the Afghan border.

Officials said an initial probe suggested a remotely controlled explosive device hidden in a sack was detonated at a time the market was crowded with shoppers.

A spokesman for the anti-state Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for what he said was a suicide attack to avenge killings of its jailed members in allegedly fake police encounters.

Turkey Parliament Expands Erdogan's Powers; Referendum on Increased Powers Will Be Held

Turkey's parliament passed a polemic bill yesterday, by a vote of 339 to 142, to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Euro News website reports today (January 21, 2017).

Supporters say more presidential authority is needed in uncertain times, but critics say it is too much power in the hands of one man.

A national referendum on the change will now be held.

Ali Seker, a member of parliament opposed to the plan, told reporters, "The state of law, the secular democratic republican regime is completely eradicated. If the public is well informed, the answer will be no."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Kosovo Asks EU to Denounce Serbian Torment; Turned Back Train with Sign "Kosovo Is Serbia"

Kosovo's foreign minister has written to his counterparts in the European Union (EU), the United States, and other countries denouncing "numerous acts of provocation and aggression" from Serbia, the VOA News website reports today (January 20, 2017).

The minister, Enver Hoxha, wrote in a three-page letter: "The Republic of Kosovo encourages the European Union... to urge Serbia to remain committed to good neighborly relations and regional cooperation and not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries..."

Kosovo-Serbia relations reached a crisis moment last weekend when a Serbian train going to Kosovo bearing signs reading "Kosovo is Serbia" and decorated in the colors of the Serbian flag and Greek Orthodox Christian symbols, was turned back from the border with Kosovo.

Kosovo -- a predominantly Islam country -- seceded from Orthodox Serbia and declared itself an independent nation in 2008, but is not recognized by Serbia.

Obama Wouldn't Pardon Afghan Sgt. Deserter; Trump:Bowe Bergdahl a "Dirty,Rotten Traitor"

Despite having granted more pardons than any president in U.S. history, Barack Obama refused to pardon Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is facing a court-martial for desertion after he left his base in Afghanistan and was captured by enemy militants, The Daily Beast website reports today (January 20, 2017).

According to Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, the deserted soldier hoped to be among the hundreds of people Obama pardoned this week before ending his presidency, but such was not the case.

The effort to obtain a pardon was revealed today by Fidell in a new motion filed by Bergdahl's legal team.

The team is attempting to dismiss the Army's case on the grounds of President Donald Trump's harsh words toward Bergdahl during the presidential campaign, claiming they deny him a fair trial. At that time, Trump called Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

US Air Strikes Blow up 80 IS Terrorists in Libya; Focused on IS Plotters of Europe Terror Attacks

The United States said today (January 19, 2017) that more than 80 Islamic State (IS) militants -- some of whom had been plotting terror attacks in Europe -- were killed by U.S. air strikes on camps outside the group's former North African stronghold of Sirte in Libya, according to the Reuters website.

"These strikes were directed against some of ISIL's external plotters," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Pentagon briefing today.

He added, "They certainly are people who were actively plotting [terror] operations in Europe..."

The U.S. attack last night was led by two B-2 bombers, which took off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to carry out a 30-hour round trip bombing run. They dropped about 100 precision-guided munitions on the camps.

FBI to Probe Bomb Threats at Jewish Centers; JCC Assoc. Views Them as Being Anti-Semitic

Federal authorities said yesterday they are launching an official probe into a wave of bomb threats to U.S. Jewish institutions across the country in recent weeks -- including yesterday when at least 32 Jewish centers in 16 states received threats -- the Times of Israel website reports today (January 19, 2017).

The FBI said the bureau and the Justice Department civil-rights division are investigating "possible civil rights violations in connection with threats."

The JCC (Jewish Community Center) Association of North America said it was "concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats. While the bombs in question are hoaxes, the calls are not."

Paul Goldberg, director of Secure Community Networks -- which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security -- said whether the threatened institutions evacuated depended on the practices of local law enforcement.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

IS Surrounds Mil. Airport in Deir ez-Zor, Syria; Food Airdrops End for Quarter Million Civilians

Islamic State (IS) fighters have broken through government defensive lines in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, surrounding a military airport and cutting off food supplies for about a quarter of a million civilians in what could become a major humanitarian disaster, The Guardian website reports today (January 18, 2017).

Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria is divided between the militants and the government of Bashar al-Assad. IS fighters have now taken control of the area where the UN's World Food Program (WFP) air drops were landing.

The UN body announced that it has halted its airdrops, leaving a quarter of a million civilians residing in the government-held areas of Deir ez-Zor under a tightened IS siege.

The Syrian military has responded with a series of airstrikes on IS positions in the area.

Fordham Rejects Students' Pro-Palestinian Club; Says It Would Be More Like a Lobby Than a Club

Fordham University will not allow students to form a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter because it does not allow groups that solely promote the interests of one country, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (January 18, 2017).

According to a statement yesterday from Fordham -- a Jesuit school in New York City -- an SJP chapter would act more like a political lobby than a traditional campus club.

The statement reads: "Fordham has no registered student clubs the sole focus of which is the political agenda of one nation against another nation. The narrowness of Students for Justice in Palestine's political focus makes it more akin to a lobbying group than a student club..."

There is a Jewish Students' Club at Fordham, but its description does not mention Israel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Obama Abetted Worst Drop in Rel.in US History; Atheists Make Up 25% of Pop.,Was 16% in 2007

According to the findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center, Barack Obama's presidency between 2008 and 2016 was responsible for bringing about the U.S.'s most drastic decline ever in the faith and religion of its people, the Christian Today website reports today (January 17, 2017).

"When it comes to the nation's religious identity, the biggest trend during Obama's presidency is the rise of those who claim no religion at all," Pew president Michael Dimock pointed out.

He added, "Those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is 'nothing in particular,' now make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. adult population, up from 16 percent in 2007."

President Obama was also a strong supporter of gay marriage, which is now legal throughout the United States, since the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in 2015 legalizing same-sex union. That decision stunned the Christian community, with many of the largest religious institutions in America firmly opposing it on the ground that marriage is only for a man and woman as clearly defined in the Bible.

Lithuania to Build Border Fence to Deter Russia; Fears Russian Mil.Buildup on Border Signals War

As a result of a Russian military buildup in its Lithuanian-bordering enclave of Kaliningrad during the past few months, Lithuania has decided to build an 80-mile-long border fence equipped with surveillance cameras this year, the Washington Post website reports today (January 17, 2017).

The project -- designed to be a deterrent to Russian aggression -- is expected to be funded by the European Union (EU) as a security investment.

All three of the tiny Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- are members of the EU and NATO. They were also under the control of Soviet Russia until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

After Russia's recent war in eastern Ukraine -- and its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula -- Baltic leaders fear their countries may be the next targets for Russian expansion.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Turkish Police Nab Istanbul Nightclub Killer; Shot 39 Dead on New Year's Eve to Assist IS

The gunman who killed 39 people with an automatic rifle at a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year's eve has been arrested in a police operation, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (January 16, 2017).

The man, who operated under the cover name Abu Muhammed Horasani, was caught in a hideout with his four-year-old son.

The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

Horasani was described as being of Uzbek origin. He was caught at a housing complex of a friend on the European side of Istanbul.

Study: 8 Men Own as Much as 3.6 Billion People; Inequality Causes Public Anger,Trump's Election

A study released today (January 16, 2017) by the anti-poverty organization Oxfam shows the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the world's population is much greater than previously thought, with just eight men owning as much as 3.6 billion people, according to the Al Jazeera website.

Oxfam is urging leaders to do more than lip service to resolve this incredible problem.

If not, it warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow around the world and lead to more unyielding radical political changes akin to last year's election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The eight richest men in the world -- in order of their wealth -- are: Bill Gates, Microsoft founder; Amancio Ortega, founder of fashion house Inditex; Warren Buffet, financier; Carlos Slim Helu, Mexican business magnate; Jeff Bezos, Amazon boss; Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator; Larry Ellison, Oracle founder; and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dozens of Nations Seek Mideast Peace in Paris; Call on Israel, Palestinians for 2-State Solution

Dozens of countries today (January 15, 2017) called on Israel and the Palestinians to revive work toward a long-lasting peace -- including an independent Palestinian state -- according to the Newsmax website.

The closing declaration at a Mideast peace conference in Paris urged both sides to "officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution."

The Palestinians welcomed today's declaration, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the conference "rigged" and cooked up behind Israel's back to force it to accept conditions against national interests.

However, French President Francois Hollande said, "Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place."

Iraqi Forces Take Control of Mosul Univ.from IS; Gain Tigris River Area in Drive to Take Mosul;

Iraqi special forces drove back Islamic State (IS) militants in the Mosul University campus today (January 14, 2017), while elite police units took over large areas along the east bank of the Tigris River, according to the Reuters website.

Iraqi forces have made rapid advances since the new year, as part of a three-month, U.S.-backed offensive.

For the radical Islamic State, losing Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- would probably mean the end of the Iraqi side of its self-styled caliphate, which it declared in 2014.

The Iraqi military plans to begin attacks on western Mosul -- which the IS still fully controls -- once it has captured the entire eastern bank of the Tigris River.

Man Nabbed for Burning Mosque Near Seattle; Isaac Wayne Wilson,37,Being Held without Bail

A mosque was badly burned outside Seattle yesterday morning, and police believe the fire was intentionally set, the CNN website reports today (January 15, 2017).

The fire occurred in Bellevue, Washington. No one was in the Islamic Center of Eastside at the time.

"We have confirmed it was arson, but do not know a motive," Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said.

He added that Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, was charged with felony malicious mischief and is being investigated for arson. Wilson is being held at a Seattle jail where he has been denied bail.

Pope Says Darkness Sometimes Clouds His Faith; Slams "Parrots" Who Back Church, Not Its Values

Pope Francis admitted today (January 15, 2017) to sometimes having "darkness" cloud his own faith, while warning against "Christian parrots" who pay lip service to the church but fail to act on its values, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

"At certain times, I have also encountered moments of darkness in my faith and the faith decreased a lot, but with a little bit of time we rediscover it," the Pontiff told parishioners after saying mass in the village of Guidonia near Rome.

Francis also urged believers to spend more time talking to their family. "If I say I'm Catholic... but then I don't talk to my parents, I don't help my grandparents, the poor, I don't visit the sick, then there's no point," said Francis.

He added, "In that way, we're nothing but a Christian parrot: words, words, words."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Painted at Mass. Cemetery; Headstones Razed, "Kill Jews" Painted on One

Unidentified perpetrators spray painted the words "Kill Jews" and other anti-Semitic graffiti on headstones at a cemetery on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the Times of Israel website reports today (January 14, 2017).

Several headstones were also knocked over at the Oak Neck cemetery in Hyannis, about 70 miles southeast of Boston.

One headstone was defaced with the numbers "4.20," an obvious reference to Adolf Hitler's birthday.

The incident comes amid a significant increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in some parts of the United States -- including New York City -- following the presidential election in November.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Greek, Turkish, British Diplomats Meet on Cyprus; May Have Paved Way for Cyprus' Reunification

Turkey's president says his country must continue to underwrite the security of Cyprus, even if there is a deal reunifying the island that is divided along ethnic Greek and Turkish lines, the Fox News website reports today (January 13, 2017).

However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul today that a full pullout would be possible if Greece -- which also deploys a small troop contingent in Cyprus -- does the same.

Erdogan's remarks came a day after top diplomats of Cyprus "guarantors" -- Greece, Turkey, and Britain -- met in Geneva for the past three days, discussing among other things how to protect both communities from possible hostilities if a Cyprus reunification deal is reached.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in Geneva today the fact that the guarantors dealt with security matters for the first time since Cyprus became divided in 1974 offers hope for a deal.

Kremlin:US Troops in Poland Threaten Russia; Some 4,000 US Troops Will Safeguard Poland

The Kremlin has blasted the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war in 1991, branding the arrival of troops and tanks in Poland as a threat to Russia's national security, The Guardian website reports today (January 13, 2017).

The deployment -- intended to counter what NATO portrays as Russian aggression in eastern Europe (like its seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula) -- will see U.S. troops permanently stationed along Russia's western border for the first time.

About 1,000 of a promised 4,000 troops arrived in Poland this week, and a ceremony to welcome them is scheduled for tomorrow (January 14).

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security..."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

IS Using Small Drones on Iraqi Troops in Mosul; Drones Firing Small Bombs, Grenades on Iraqis

A U.S. Army commander in Iraq revealed today (January 12, 2017) that Islamic State (IS) fighters in Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city and IS's last stronghold in the nation -- are using drones (non-piloted aircraft) to drop small bombs onto Iraqi troops and civilians, according to the Military Times website.

Col. Brett Sylvia leads some 1,700 soldiers who make up Task Force Strike, which is advising Iraqi troops and other security forces who have been fighting to retake Mosul from the IS terror group since early November.

As Iraqi security forces have moved into Mosul, they have been attacked by commercially purchased drones dropping small munitions "akin to a small, little grenade," Sylvia said.

He added that Iraqi security forces have retaken most of eastern Mosul, but they face a tough fight in the western part of the city, where IS is well dug in.

First Synagogue in 500 Yrs. Opens Today in Sicily; Spanish Inquisition Forced Jews to Give Up Sicily

More than 500 years after the Jews were expelled from Sicily by the Spanish Inquisition, a tiny Jewish community will open its first synagogue today (January 12, 2017)  in the island's capital city of Palermo, according to the Religion News website.

At an official ceremony today, the Catholic Archdiocese of Palermo will transfer to the Jewish community a chapel, the Oratory of Santa Maria al Sabato, which was built above the ruins of the Great Synagogue that once stood in the center of Palermo.

The Sicilian Institute of Jewish Studies and a Jerusalem-based organization, Shavei Israel, requested the transfer. It will formally take place on the anniversary of the decree that demanded the expulsion of Jews from Sicily during the Spanish Inquisition: January 12, 1493.

At that time, Sicily was ruled directly by the kings of an overreligious Roman Catholic Spain via governors and viceroys.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lesbian Couple Are to Lead DC Baptist Church; Couple Praises Church for Justice,Compassion

A historic Baptist church in Washington, D.C. recently hired a lesbian couple to serve as the lead pastors of the congregation, the Christian Headlines website reports today (January 11, 2017).

Calvary Baptist Church announced the leadership of the couple last Sunday, January 8.

Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen are the married lesbian couple who will be taking on the roles next month as senior pastors of the 115-year-old church.

The couple said: "We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned."

Morocco Bans Burqas to Strengthen Its Security; Bandits Tend to Use Burqas to Carry Out Crimes

Moroccan burqa manufacturers and retailers were issued written warnings this week of their obligation to immediately cease making and/or selling the garment, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 11, 2017).

The government of Morocco -- a predominantly Islamic country --  has ordered businesses producing burqas to convert them to other garments, rather than dumping them on the followers of another religion.

Moroccan news media speculated that the burqa ban reflects security concerns, "since bandits have repeatedly used this garment to perpetrate their crimes."

"We have taken measures to completely ban the import, manufacture and marketing of this garment in all cities and towns in the kingdom," a senior official at the Ministry told the news media.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

IS Ruined Over 100 Places of Worship in Nineveh; Marred Non-Muslim Rel. Sites Since Its 2014 Hold

A new preliminary report -- which is due to be officially published shortly -- reveals that at least 100 places of worship have been vandalized or completely demolished in the territories of Mosul and Nineveh Province since June 2014, when the Islamic State (IS) imposed its rule in that region, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (January 10, 2017).

The report is being compiled by the Commission on Crimes Committed by IS/Daesh, with information collected by the Kurdish Peshmerga troops who have been liberating the area from the jihadists.

Mariwan Naqshbandi, spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, said the document highlights that most of the destroyed or damaged religious sites are Christian churches, but a number of Yazidi temples and places of worship belonging to other religious minorities have also been destroyed or badly vandalized.

The Commission is also collecting data on other crimes committed by IS/Daesh -- in particular its violence against women (especially Yazidi women) -- during its occupation.

At Least 30 Persons Killed in 2 Afghan Bombings; Afghan Taliban Claims Deadly Kabul Twin Blasts

At least 30 people were killed today (January 10, 2017) and another 80 injured in Afghanistan's capital, following two explosions near the offices of the parliament in Kabul, according to the Euro News website.

The United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister confirmed its ambassador to Afghanistan was injured in the attack.

A suicide bomber blew himself up, followed immediately afterwards by a car bomber, in what authorities say appears to have been a coordinated operation.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Historic Talks Begin in Geneva to Reunite Cyprus; Cyprus,Greece,Turkey Leaders Seek to Attain Aim

Leaders from Cyprus have begun three days of meetings in Geneva, Switzerland with the aim of reuniting the island after decades of division, the Euro News website reports today (January 9, 2017).

Mustafa Akinci, the northern Cyprus leader, and President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasides, are hoping to succeed where others have failed in the past 42 years.

Senior UN Envoy Espen Barth Eide told a news briefing, "It's [Cyprus's reunification is]  going to be difficult, but possible."

The presidents of both Greece and Turkey are expected to travel to Geneva later this week to take part in the talks. Alexis Tsipras of Greece and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have already spoken on the phone to stress the need for constructive talks if there is to be a positive outcome.

Pope Rips Jihadist Attacks as Homicidal Madness; Stresses That "One Can Never Kill in God's Name"

Pope Francis today (January 9, 2017) described jihadist attacks around the world as "homicidal madness" and urged religious leaders to reassert that "one can never kill in God's name," according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics also called on government leaders to combat the poverty that, he said, could allow fundamentalism to flourish.

In a hard-hitting and wide-ranging speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps, the 80-year-old pontiff voiced sorrow that, at the start of 2017, religion was still being used as a pretext for "rejection, marginalization and violence."

He cited the "fundamentalist-inspired terrorism" that in 2016 claimed victims in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States.

Armed Iranian Fast Attack Boats Harass US Ship; USS Mahan Fires Warning Shots, Iran Boats Flee

The U.S. Navy said today (January 9, 2017) that the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack boats in the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz over the weekend, according to the Washington Examiner website.

The small boats were armed and considered a potential threat to the Mahan, which was escorting the amphibious assault vessel USS Makin Island and the replenishment oiler USNS Walter Diehl.

Navy officials say the U.S. warship was conducting a nighttime transit of the strait at the time, and went through a series of standard procedures to warn the Iranian boats away.

As the Iranian boats were closing within 900 yards, the Mahan fired three warning shots from its .50-caliber machine guns, and the Iranian boats departed.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Army Lets Muslims,Sikhs Wear Hijabs,Beards; Commanders May Deny Non-Sincere Requests

The U.S. Army last week updated regulations to allow Sikh and Muslim soldiers to cover their heads, and Sikhs to maintain their beards, the PJ Media website reports today (January 8, 2017).

Army Secretary Eric Fanning said in his directive that ... "I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations."

Requests will be denied only if the commander "determines that this request is not based on a sincerely held religious belief" or "identifies a specific concrete hazard..."

Also, those wearing religious headgear must be able to fit protective combat headgear over it.

Terrorist Rams Truck into Soldiers in Jerusalem; Four Killed, Dozen Wounded, Trucker Shot Dead

Four are dead, one critically wounded, and ten lightly wounded as a truck rammed into a group of soldiers near the promenade of Armon HaNatziv in Jerusalem just before 1:30 p.m. today (January 8, 2017), according to the Jewish Press website.

Three of the murdered are female soldiers, and the fourth is a male soldier. Thirteen more soldiers were wounded.

The soldiers were getting off a bus when the truck rammed into them.

The truck driver was killed. Some reports indicate that the terrorist was shot and killed by the soldiers' civilian tour guide; other reports say the soldiers shot him.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Iraqi Forces Adjust to Cease IS Control of Mosul; Head to Tigris River to Retake IS's Last Iraq Land

Iraqi special forces closed in on the Tigris River that runs through central Mosul today (January 7, 2017), advancing in parallel with other troops and forcing Islamic State (IS) to retreat in its last major stronghold in the country, according to the Reuters website.

Islamic State has been driven out of more than half the areas it held east of the Tigris River, which bisects the city, but is still in control of the west.

It will be much harder for the jihadists to defend Mosul -- the second largest city of Iraq --  once Iraqi forces reach the river.

Iraqi forces pushed to within several hundred yards of the Tigris and a strategic bridge today, in their effort to retake Mosul from the Islamic State.

At Least 15 Die in Car Bombing at Syrian Market; Took Place in Province of Aleppo in Town of Azaz

At least 15 people were killed today (January 7, 2017) when a car bomb went off in a busy market in a Syrian rebel-held town along the Turkish border, according to the Times of Israel website.

The Syrian Civil Defense team says the initial casualty count shows that at least 15 people died in the explosion in Azaz, a border town in the northern province of Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll at 19, and other activists said the number is likely higher after the explosion ripped through a busy market.

Many rebels and civilians who were pushed out of Aleppo city during a massive government offensive late last year resettled in Azaz. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for today's bombing.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Israel Cuts $6M to UN to Protest Settlement Vote; States UN Needs to End Its Anti-Israel Incitement

Israel announced today (January 6, 2017) that it is cutting about $6 million in its annual dues to the United Nations to protest last month's Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as "a flagrant violation under international law," according to the ABC News website.

Israel's UN Mission said the amount represents the portion of Israel's contribution to the UN's regular budget totaling more than $40 million allocated "to anti-Israel bodies."

"It is unreasonable for Israel to fund bodies that operate against us at the UN," Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said.

He added, "The UN must end the absurd reality in which it supports bodies whose sole intent is to spread incitement and anti-Israel propaganda."

Series of Chapels, Shrines Desecrated in Austria; Vandals Behead Statues,Burn Bibles and Murals

Police are hunting for vandals after a series of chapels and shrines were desecrated within a few days in northern Austria, the Breitbart website reports today (January 6, 2017).

Statues have been beheaded, Bibles burned, and sacred images destroyed since the New Year in the Innviertel region on the Bavarian border.

Among the chapels vandalized was one in the town of Auerbach, with vandals smashing the glass guarding two Virgin Mary statues and stealing at least 22 murals, which they burned.

That chapel is visited by about 20 people per day due to the belief of healing qualities of a nearby well.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Arab Street Named for Greek Cath. Abp. Capucci; Ramallah Honors Palestinian Weapons Supplier

Greek Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, who was convicted by Israel in 1974 of providing military weapons to Arab Islamic terrorists and who died in Rome on New Year's Day 2017, has been honored with a street named after him in the city of Ramallah, the Jewish Press website reports today (January 5, 2017).

Ramallah Mayor Musa Hadid announced the move as a way to "honor the memory of Capucci in observance of his national positions and defense of Palestinian people's rights."

Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and other officials attended the ceremony, which was open to the PA public.

Capucci was born in Aleppo, Syria and became archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church in Jerusalem in 1965. He was known for his obsessive hatred of the State of Israel and his assistance to Arab terrorists, including arms trafficking, for which he was convicted by Israeli authorities and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1974.

(Note: Greek Catholics are persons who observe Greek Orthodox traditions -- including the liturgy of their church services, priests being allowed to be married before being ordained, etc. --   while still coming under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Greek Orthodox Church.)

Turkey Threatens to End US Access to Its Air Base; Is Furious US Backs Its Kurdish Eneny Fighting IS

Turkish officials said they are considering shutting down an air base being used by NATO allies in a bombing campaign against the Islamic State (IS) over a disagreement about a lack of allied support for Turkey's own military campaign in the Middle East, the UPI website reports today (January 5, 2017).

Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu said yesterday that Turkey has the right to shut off international access to Incirlik Air Base, the launching spot for U.S.-led air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has been running its own bombing campaign against Kurdish fighters that it considers terrorists. On the other hand, the United States has supported the Kurdish fighters as allies in the larger fight against the Islamic State.

"The U.S. is a very important ally for us. We have cooperation in every field. But there is the reality of a confidence crisis in the relationship at the moment," Cavusoglu said. "Giving arms to the [Kurdish militias], the U.S. chose a terrorist organization over its ally [Turkey]."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

US Troops in Lithuania Deter Russian Aggression; Baltic States Don't Trust Russia for Seizing Crimea

The Lithuanian government has confirmed the presence of U.S. special forces in the country, which it said had been deployed to train local forces and act as a deterrent against Russian aggression, the IB Times website reports today (January 4, 2017).

"The United States was the first to offer additional safety assurance measures to the Baltic countries following the deterioration of the security situation in the region after the [Russian] annexation of [Ukraine's] Crimea," Defense Ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaite told local media yesterday.

She added that the U.S. forces were training Lithuanian special forces, and would remain there as long as the security situation made it necessary.

In recent months, tensions between the Baltic state and its Russian neighbor have increased, with Moscow deploying nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave.

Most Adults OK Living Together Before Marriage; Study:65% of Americans Say It Aids Compatibility

A recent survey has revealed that the majority of American adults believe there is nothing wrong with living together before marriage, the Christian Headlines website reports today (January 4, 2017).

The Barna Group study titled Barna Trends 2017 revealed that 65 percent of American adults believe that cohabitation is all right, and even a good way to test compatibility.

Also, 57 percent of survey participants said that they have previously lived or are currently living with a significant other while unmarried.

And 62 percent said that living together does not increase pressure to get married.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Congress 91% Christian, Versus 70% of US Pop.; Most Congress Members Protestants, Cath. 2nd

An analysis released by Pew Research on the first day of the 115th Congress found that 91 percent of lawmakers identify as Christians, compared to just over 70 percent of the American population, the PJ Media website reports today (January 3, 2017).

While 23 percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation, only one lawmaker -- Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) -- says she is not religious.

There are 241 Protestant Christians in the new House, 144 Catholics, 22 Jews, 10 for whom information is not available or they refused to answer, seven Mormons, five Orthodox Christians, three Hindus, two Muslims, two Buddhists, and one Unitarian Universalist.

In the Senate, 58 members are Protestant, 24 are Catholic, eight are Jewish, six are Mormon, and one is Buddhist.

Syrian Rebels Quit Peace Truce Due to Govt.Hits; Renew Firing at Govt. Troops Violating Ceasefire

Syrian rebel groups announced yesterday that they have decided to freeze any talks about their participation in Syrian peace negotiations being prepared by Moscow in Kazakhstan unless the Syrian government and its Iran-backed allies end what it said were violations of a ceasefire, The Guardian website reports today (January 3, 2017).

In a statement, the rebel groups also said that any territorial advances by the army and Iran-backed militias that are fighting alongside it would end the fragile ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey -- which back opposing sides in Syria -- that came into effect on December 30.

"The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations," said the statement signed by a number of rebel groups.

Rebels say the Syrian army is seeking to recapture the rebel-controlled area northwest of Damascus, which contains a spring that provides most of Damascus's water and which lies on a major supply route from Lebanon to the Syrian capital.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Pope's New Year Message: Accept We Need Jesus; "In Jesus,Faith Becomes a Leaven and a Blessing"

Pope Francis, in his new year message at St. Peter's Basilica suggested that "we should acknowledge that we need the Lord to enlighten us," the Inquisitr website reports today (January 2, 2017).

He said, "God wanted to be close, in the flesh, to those who feel lost, hurt, discouraged, afraid, inconsolable, or who feel burdened by loneliness so that sin, despair and exclusion [wouldn't have the final word.]"

Considering the message of the birth of the Lord in a Bethlehem manger, said the pontiff, would help in the contemplation of the God-Child as the old year ends and a new year begins.

He added, "In Jesus, faith becomes hope; it becomes a leaven and a blessing."

Jerusalem Abp. of 1970s Hilarion Capucci Dies; Greek Cath. Abp. Sneaked Arms to Palestinians

Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who was an archbishop in Jerusalem when Israel convicted him in 1976 of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank, has died at the age of 94, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (January 2, 2017).

The Vatican today confirmed reports that Capucci had died in Rome, but provided no details, including when he died.

A native of Aleppo, Syria, the Greek Catholic archbishop had a history of activism linked to the Palestinian and other Middle East conflicts when Yasser Arafat headed the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). Israeli police had found military weapons in the trunk of his car that he planned to give to Palestinian militants in the 1970s -- an incredible situation for a cleric that made world headlines at that time.

After he served two years in an Israeli prison for the conviction, he was released due to Vatican intervention and deported.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Study:Christians Most Abused Rel. Group in 2016; Some 90K Christians Killed for Their Faith in 2016

A new study by the Italy-based Center for Studies on New Religions (Censur) reveals that nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 -- equivalent to one every six minutes -- the Newsweek website reports today (January 1, 2017).

The annual study -- which won't be officially released until next month -- also shows that 500 to 600 million Christians were prevented from freely practicing their faith.

The number killed has actually declined from 105,000 in 2015, but it still makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world, Massimo Introvigne, director of Censur, told Vatican Radio today.

"Without wishing to forget or belittle the suffering of members of other religions, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world," Introvigne said.

Auschwitz "Escape Room" Eliminated in Greece; Game Allowed Auschwitz Escape, Offended Jews

An entertainment company in Greece has eliminated a game in which players use clues to escape from a room themed around the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (January 1, 2017).

The Rubicon agency -- which is located in the northern Athens suburb of Galatsi -- in recent weks advertised the Auschwitz "escape room" on social media. Jews and other complained it was disrespectful to Holocaust victims.

A spokesman of the firm responsible for the game said it had been scrapped and that the decision to create it did not take into account "that this could cause offense."

Escape room games feature a space -- often with a dramatic theme -- in which a group of players is locked in until they find a way out based on a series of clues, riddles, or puzzles.