Sunday, April 30, 2017

Erdogan Furious US Supports Kurds Fighting IS; Views Kurds as Terrorists Seeking Part of Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today (April 30, 2017) his government is "seriously saddened" by U.S. military forces operating alongside Syrian Kurdish fighters that Ankara views as terrorists and Washington believes are the most effective fighting force against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, according to the VOA (Voice of America) News website.

Turkish forces last week launched airstrikes on Syrian Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, against which it has been waging a three-decade-long fight for control of southeastern Turkey. The Kurds are seeking to set up their own independent state in Turkey, which Turkey refuses to allow.

The U.S. slammed the Turkish strikes, saying they were not approved by the U.S.-led coalition and "led to the unfortunate loss of our partner forces."

After the Turkish attack, the U.S. sent military vehicles with American flags to the Syrian side of the border to patrol with YPG fighters, in order to prevent further attacks by Turkey.

Pope Francis,Pope Tawadros Sign Agreement; Recognize Each Other's Sacrament of Baptism

In a common declaration, signed by Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, Catholics and Copts declared for the first time that they will recognize each other's sacrament of baptism, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (May 30, 2017).

The declaration also calls for a common translation of the Lord's Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter.

Catholics and Copts, the declaration says, can witness together to the shared values of human life, the sacredness of marriage and family, and respect for creation.

Finally, the declaration calls for intensified prayers for all Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith, especially in Egypt and the Middle East.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pope Leads Mass for Thousands of Egypt Cath.; Denounces Violence and "Demagogic" Populism

Pope Francis led a jubilant mass for thousands of Egyptian Catholics today (April 29, 2017) during a visit to support Egypt's Christian minority and promote dialogue with Muslims, according to the Times of Israel website.

Francis circled the Cairo stadium on a golf cart waving to the crowds as a chorus sang a joyous hymn.

Yesterday, Francis pleaded for tolerance and peace as he visited a Coptic Orthodox Church bombed by the Islamic State (IS) group in December.

The 80-year-old pontiff denounced violence and "demagogic" populism in an address yesterday to a Muslim-Christian conference.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pope Arrives in Egypt Bearing Message of Peace; Plans to Lend Support to Coptic Orth. Christians

Pope Francis arrived in Egypt today (April 28, 2017), bearing a message of peace and reconciliation, according to the NY Times website.

The country is under a state of emergency after suicide bombings, attributed to Islamic State (IS) militants, killed at least 44 people in Coptic Orthodox Christian churches on Palm Sunday.

It is Francis' 18th trip outside of Italy in the four years of his papacy, and his seventh to a predominantly Muslim nation.

In his visit to Egypt, the pope plans to lend his support to Coptic Orthodox Christians, reach out to Muslim leaders, and meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Germany OKs Burqa Ban for Public Servants; Part of Security Plan to Avoid Terror Attacks

German lawmakers have approved a partial ban on the full-face burqa Islamic veil and a package of security measures aimed at preventing extremist attacks, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (April 28, 2017).

The new laws follow several jihadist attacks, including a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives last year.

The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties, like that in effect in neighboring France since 2011.

The prohibition will apply to public servants -- including election officials, military and judicial staff -- performing their duties.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

U.S. to Send 1,500 More Troops to Afghanistan; Disciplined "Devil Brigade" Set for Afghan Duty

The U.S. Army said today (April 27, 2017) that it is sending an additional 1,500 troops to Afghanistan in order to support the war effort there, known as Operation Freedom's Sentinel, according to the Daily Beast website.

"Since spearheading [World War II] allied assaults in Sicily and Anzio in 1943, the Devil Brigade has accomplished its missions through disciplined initiative," said the unit's commander, Col. Tony Magsig.

He added: "The same endures today. The 'Devils in Baggy Pants' are well-trained, well-equipped, and ready to assist our Afghan partners as part of the Resolute Support mission."

Earlier today, the Pentagon announced that two U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation to counter Islamic State (IS) troops.

ACLJ Urges UN to Act on IS Christian Genocide; Calls on UN to Mobilize, Take Swift Action on IS

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is urging the new secretary general of the United Nations to take action on the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, the Christian Post website reports today (April 27, 2017).

"In our letter, we urge the United Nations to 'declare that the ongoing atrocities committed by the Islamic State [IS] and associated groups constitute genocide and that those victimized by the genocide include Christians,'" the ACLJ wrote this week.

"We also urge the secretary general 'to communicate with all appropriate offices of the United Nations accordingly and to mobilize the international community to take swift and decisive action,'" the law group added.

The letter to Antonio Guterres -- the UN secretary general -- shows a long list of horrors (such as beheadings) that Christians and other religious minorities have suffered at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and other predominantly Islamic countries in the region.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Turkey Nabs 1K "Secret Imams" for Coup Effort; Erdogan Says They Tried to Topple Him in July

Turkish authorities said today (April 26, 2017) they had arrested more than a thousand "secret imams" who had infiltrated police forces on behalf of a U.S.-based cleric accused by President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to topple him last July, according to the Reuters website.

The nationwide sweep was one of the largest operations in months against suspected supporters of the Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan. Gulen -- who lives in the U.S. -- denies any part in the unsuccessful coup led by military officers.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the overnight crackdown targeted a Gulen network "that infiltrated our police force, called 'secret imams.'"

Another 9,103 personnel from Turkey's police force were suspended April 26, police headquarters in Ankara said in a statement on its website, citing alleged links with Gulen's network.

Ten Jewish Tombstones Smashed in Romania; Are Wrecked on Holocaust Remembrance Day

An anti-Semitic organization said that vandals smashed 10 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in the Romanian capital of Bucharest in "a premeditated act," the Times of Israel website reports today (April 26, 2017).

The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania said the tombstones were broken into pieces -- perhaps by using sledgehammers --  at the Jewish cemetery in southern Bucharest overnight on April 24, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis are commemorated in Israel.

Romania deported 150,000 Jews and 25,000 Roma to concentration camps in an area of the Soviet Union controlled by the Axis powers from 1942 to 1944, when the country was run by pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu.

An estimated 6,000 Jews live in Romania today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Migrant Camps in Greece,Italy Are Overcrowded; Camps Designed to Process 8K People, Hold 16K

European Commission auditors say that the migrant registration centers in Greece and Italy are overcrowded and urgently require more experts -- particularly to help children -- the Greek Reporter website reports today (April 25, 2017).

The auditors say that two more registration centers are needed to process migrants arriving in Italy and that facilities on the five Greek islands that receive asylum seekers from Turkey must be improved.

"There are still more migrants arriving at the hotspots [registration centers] than leaving, and they are seriously overcrowded," the auditors said.

They added that hotspots in Greece and Italy are designed to process about 8,000 people, but are routinely dealing with 15,000--16,000 migrants.

COE Puts Turkey on Watchlist for Rights Denial; Raging Turkey Claims Vote Due to Islamophobia

A leading human rights body today (April 25, 2017) voted to put Turkey on a watchlist due to its crackdown on dissent since last July's failed coup attempt, rights violations, and concerns about President Tayyip Erdogan's increased grip on power, according to the Reuters website.

Turkey reacted furiously to the vote at the Strasbourg-based Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, saying it smacked of Islamophobia and was a "disgrace to this organization, which claims to be the cradle of democracy."

The 47-member of the Council of Europe (COE) is separate from the European Union (EU), but the vote is likely to be a further setback in Turkey's attempt to join the EU.

The Council of Europe applies its monitoring scheme to all countries when they join,  but this was the first time it has been reopened against any member of the body, which includes Russia, Ukraine, and all 28 EU member states.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Jews Blast Pope for "Concentration Camp" Rant; Equated Refugee Camps to Concentration Camps

Pope Francis has drawn sharp criticism from a Jewish organization for comparing European refugee holding centers to "concentration camps," which were used by Nazis to kill millions of Jews during World War II, the Independent (British) website reports today (April 24, 2017).

The pontiff made the comparison during a visit to Rome Basilica where he met with migrants on April 22. Recalling his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last year, he talked of encountering a Muslim refugee from the Middle East who told him how "terrorists came to our country" and beheaded his wife for refusing to throw down her crucifix.

Pope Francis said: "I don't know if he managed to leave that concentration camp, because refugee camps, many of them, are of concentration [type] because of the great number of people left inside them."

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) urged the pontiff  "to reconsider his regrettable choice of words." David Harris, head of the AJC, said in a statement: "The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult... but concentration camps they certainly are not."

Anti-Semitic Incidents in US Rose by 1/3 in 2016; Have Shot Up 86% in First Three Months of 2017

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said today (April 24, 2017) that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose by more than one-third in 2016 and shot up 86 percent in the first three months of 2017, according to the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website.

There has been a massive increase in harassment of American Jews -- largely since November -- and at least 34 incidents linked to the presidential election in November, the ADL said today in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.

There were a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions during 2016, a 34 percent increase of incidents of assaults, vandalism, and harassment over the previous year. Nearly 30 percent of those incidents -- or 369 of them -- occurred in November and December.

The acts included 720 harassment and threat incidents, an increase of 41 percent over 2015; 510 vandalism incidents, an increase of 35 percent; and 36 physical assault incidents, a decrease of 35 percent.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

N. Korea Is Ready to Sink a US Aircraft Carrier; Can Sink Nuclear-Powered Carrier with 1 Strike

North Korea said today (April 23, 2017) that it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension, according to the Reuters website.

The U.S. ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," the Rodong Sinmun -- the newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party -- said in a statement.

The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a "gross animal" and said a strike on it would be "an actual example to show our military force."

Four Israelis Wounded in Tel Aviv Terror Attack; Palestinian Stabbed 4 with Wire-cutters at Hotel

Four people were wounded today (April 23, 2017) in a terror attack at a hotel on the Tel Aviv beachfront by a Palestinian teen armed with wire-cutters, according to the Times of Israel website.

The attack began in the lobby of the Leonardo Beach Hotel where the Palestinian stabbed three people. He then fled outside and attacked one more person -- a man in his 70s -- before he was captured by police.

All four victims were lightly wounded and treated at the scene by medics before being taken to Ichilov Hospital.

The Palestinian -- identified as an 18-year-old from the Nablus area of the West Bank -- was apprehended by police. Police determined that the attack was a terror attack.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Airstrikes Hit Rebel-Controlled Hospital in Syria; Slam Idlib Province Near Recent Chemical Attack

Activists monitoring Syria's long-running civil war said today (April 22, 2017) that airstrikes had seriously damaged an underground medical center in Idlib province, just a few miles from the site of a deadly chemical attack that sparked international outrage and a U.S. cruise missile retaliation earlier this month, according to the VOA News website.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said airstrikes targeted a cave that housed the rebel-controlled Abdin medical facility, killing at least one person and wounding more than a dozen others.

Witnesses said it was unclear whether Syrian warplanes or those from Syrian ally Russia had targeted the facility.

The medical charity Physicians for Human Rights said more than 400 airstrikes tied to Russian or Syrian government warplanes bombed more than 300 separate medical facilities between 2011 and the end of 2016. Nearly 800 medical workers were killed as a result of the airstrikes.

Russian Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses' Rel.; Calls It Extremist Org.,Has State Take Its Land

Russia's Supreme Court has formally banned Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization and ordered the state to seize its property in Russia, the Religion News website reports today (April 22, 2017).

The court -- after six days of hearings -- ordered the closing of the group's Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters on April 20.

The Interfax news agency in Russia quoted Justice Ministry attorney Sveltana Borisova in court as saying the Jehovah's Witnesses pose a threat to the rights of Russian citizens. She also said Jehovah's Witnesses' opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.

Russia's King Vladimir the Great in the year 988 chose the Greek Orthodox Christian faith as the country's primary religion. Today, some 90 percent of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Taliban Gunmen Murder Scores at Afghan Base; Attacked Unarmed Soldiers in Mosque, at Lunch

Scores of soldiers were killed today (April 21, 2017) when Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers in military uniforms stormed an Afghan Army base in northern Afghanistan, according to the NY Times website.

The attack on the 209th Corps in Balkh Province began around 1 p.m., in a crowded area where soldiers -- most of them unarmed -- were leaving Friday Prayer or eating lunch.

Zabiullah Kaker, a member of the Balkh provincial council, said people inside the army corps had told him that at least 66 soldiers were killed in the attack and that 74 were wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. A Taliban spokesman said the assailants were assisted by four soldiers inside the base who had long been Taliban infiltrators.

IS Strikes Iraqi Forces in Mosul with Chemicals; US Says Chemicals Injured Several Iraqi Troops

The senior U.S. ground commander in Iraq has confirmed that Islamic State (IS) fighters launched a chemical attack against advancing Iraqi security forces in the besieged city of Mosul, injuring a number of local troops amid heavy fighting, the Washington Times website reports today (April 21, 2017).

The attack -- which took place this week in the western portion of Mosul -- ended with several members of the targeted Iraqi unit exposed to a chemical agent, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said.

He added that coalition forces are still conducting tests on the mortar round pieces laced with the chemical agent fired at Iraqi forces, to determine what specific chemical was used.

Gen. Martin declined to comment whether American and Australian military advisers who were attached to the Iraqi unit had been injured from the chemicals.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Paris Police Officer Killed, Another Wounded; Champs-Elysee Shooting Seen as Terrorist Act

Paris police say the shooting this evening (April 20, 2017) that left one police officer dead and another one wounded in the famed Champs-Elysees shopping district was likely a "terrorist act," according to The Daily Beast website.

The assailant was killed in an exchange of gunfire.

A police spokeswoman said the attacker shot at police officers standing guard near the Franklin Roosevelt subway station.

The assault came three days before France votes in the first round of its highly contentious presidential election.

Israel Court:Tel Aviv Markets Can Open Shabbat; Ruling Pleases Secular Jews, Enrages Orth. Jews

Israel's High Court of Justice yesterday ruled in favor of Tel Aviv's battle to expand facilities open to the secular public on Shabbat, saying that the city can permit mini-markets to operate on the Jewish day of rest, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 20, 2017).

The ruling was hailed as a victory by the city and liberal politicians, who said it was an important step against religious coercion. However, ultra-Orthodox officials railed against the ruling and vowed to fight it and bypass the court.

"As I said already four years ago, the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa was free and will remain free," Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, said.

But Interior Minister Aryeh Deri slammed the ruling as a change to the religious status quo in Israel and "a serious blow to the holy Shabbat and the character of the Jewish people."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coalition of 41 Muslim Nations Forms to Hit IS; "The Muslim NATO" to Guard Mideast,N.Africa

A coalition of 41 Muslim-majority nations is working to create a mobile military force to combat the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria and militant threats across northern and western Africa, the Newsweek website reports today (April 19, 2017).

The alliance -- known informally as "the Muslim NATO" -- is preparing later this year to hold its first major meeting with defense ministers from across the Muslim world to define its structure and mission.

Saudi Arabia has tapped the former head of Pakistan's army, General Raheel Sharif, to oversee the coalition's forces.

Saudi Arabia is putting in the bulk of the funding, just as U.S. military spending drives NATO's budget. In recent months, however, President Donald Trump has warned European NATO members that the U.S. might become a more reluctant ally if other nations don't increase their NATO spending.

IS Terrorists Kill 1,Wound 4 by Egypt Monastery; Raises Security Fears for Pope's Near Egypt Visit

Islamic State (IS) gunmen attacked security forces yesterday near St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, killing one police officer and injuring four others, the UPI website reports today (April 19, 2017).

St. Catherine's is part of the Greek Orthodox Church and a UNESCO World Heritage site visited by thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year.

The Islamic State was also responsible for the bombings at two Coptic Orthodox Churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday that killed 45 people.

The Egyptian terror incidents have raised fears on the safety of Pope Francis, who is planning to visit Cairo at the end of this month.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fox News to Fire O'Reilly for Sexual Harassment; NY Times Report of $13M Payoff Led to Downfall

Fox News Channel is preparing to end the 21-year tenure of Bill O'Reilly on its cable news amid a cascade of sexual harassment allegations by women co-workers, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 18, 2017).

O'Reilly's exit from the network he has been with almost since its inception is expected to be official later this week.

Like the ouster last summer of Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes for sexually abusing several women co-workers, O'Reilly's downfall is a milestone for the industry and a signal of the second-generation leadership of Rupert Murdoch now steering Fox.

The current downfall for O'Reilly began April 1, 2017 when the New York Times published a report of $13 million in settlements that O'Reilly and Fox News had paid out to five women who accused O'Reilly of harassment, in order to keep them quiet. More than 60 advertisers defected from "The O'Reilly Factor" popular TV news show just days after the New York Times report.

Serious Schism May Soon Occur in Cath. Church; Conservative Cath.Reject Pope's Liberal Doctrine

A backlash of recent attacks launched by conservatives against Pope Francis -- led largely by German and American bishops who fear the pope may be overturning centuries of doctrine on divorce and other matters -- is now driving talk of a schism within the Roman Catholic Church, the LA Times website reports today (April 18, 2017).

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller -- the pope's own doctrinal chief -- made it clear in an interview in February that he firmly opposed Francis' tinkering with the church's ban on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics taking Communion.

Francis has implied that the ban on Communion could be relaxed. But Mueller told "Il Timone," an Italian Catholic publication: "No power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council of the bishops, has the faculty to change it."

For conservative Catholics, this was another reason to feel aggrieved, after Francis suggested in 2015 that Lutherans could receive Catholic Communion, and when asked about gay people in 2013, said, "Who am I to judge?"

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alabama Lets Church Have Its Own Police Force; Birmingham Church Has Many Events Each Year

The Alabama Senate has allowed a large Presbyterian church to create its own police force, the Christian Headlines website reports today (April 17, 2017).

The 4,000-member church says it needs its own police force to keep its congregation safe, especially with the increased violence directed at church congregations.

Atty. Eric Johnston -- who is behind the bill -- stressed the need Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham has for the police force.

"We've got over 30,000 events a year that take place at Briarwood -- going on all day, all night, at the school, at the church, at the seminary," Johnston said.

Hungary Has "March of Living" for Nazi Victims; Marks 550K Hungarian Jews Killed in Holocaust

Thousands of people took to the streets yesterday in Budapest, Hungary for the "March of the Living," an event commemorating the 550,000 Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust, the Euro News website reports today (April 17, 2017).

It was held on Hungary's Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the mass detention and deportation of Hungary's Jews in 1944.

The event began at the "Shoes on the Danube" memorial, which honors people -- mainly Budapest Jews -- shot by militiamen.

They were ordered to take off their shoes and stand by the river before being shot so their bodies were carried away by the Danube. Only their shoes remained.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Erdogan Wins Power-Grab Turkey Referendum; Opposition Appeals Results,Claims Voter Fraud

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum today (April 16, 2017), granting him sweeping new powers, according to the Independent (British) website.

The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51 percent of voters had sided with the "Yes" campaign, ushering in the most radical change to Turkey's political system in modern times.

But the main opposition -- the Republican People's Party -- said they would demand a recount of up to 40 percent of the vote and appeal the results due to voter fraud.

Erdogan's victory allows him to become a powerful dictator by replacing Turkey's parliamentary democracy with an autocratic independent presidency.

Worshipers at Holy Sepulchre View Holy Fire; Miracle Fire Occurs Each Yr.on Holy Saturday

Thousands of Christian worshipers attended the ceremony of Easter's Holy Fire on Saturday (April 15) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and lit their candles with Holy Fire from Jesus' tomb, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (Easter, April 16, 2017).

The Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday -- the day preceding Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday.

At exactly 2 p.m. every year, a sunbeam is believed to shine through the window in the ceiling of the church and light a lamp placed in the tomb.

Seconds after the Orthodox patriarch reveals the Holy Fire, it spreads throughout the church as worshipers light each other's candles. Traditionally, an olive lamp lit by the Holy Fire is transferred soon after the ceremony to Bethlehem  -- the birthplace of Jesus.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cyprus Pres. Says Peace Talks at Vital Moment; Isle's Greek,Turkish Leaders Set Up 4 Meetings

President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus said today (April 15, 2017) that the Mediterranean resort island is at a vital moment in its UN-based peace process aimed at reunifying the island, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops seized its northern third of land, in response to a failed coup by Athens to annex the independent island to Greece. Turkey is the only nation that has ever recognized the Turkish-held north of Cyprus.

The current peace process -- which saw talks resume in May 2015 -- is seen by international analysts as the best hope for a lasting peace agreement.

Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have agreed to schedule four new meetings, in a new phase of talks beginning on April 20. Hopefully, the talks will lead to a harmonious unified federal republic for Cyprus.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 100 in Syria; Explodes Van Near Buses Civilians Neared

At least 100 people were killed today (April 15, 2017) when a suicide bomber struck a convoy of buses carrying civilians out of two Syrian towns where they had been besieged for more than two years, according to the Telegraph (British) website.

Residents of Fuaa and Kafrya had been surrounded by rebel forces since March 2015 and were finally being evacuated to regime-controlled areas under a deal reached between the Syrian government and opposition.

But as they were leaving rebel-held territory a van supposedly carrying medical supplies pulled level with their buses and exploded, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Footage from the scene showed bodies piled on the side of the road next to the burnt-out vehicles. Many children were among the dead.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Woman Fatally Stabbed on a Jerusalem Train; Tourist from Britain Stabbed by Arab Muslim

A woman was fatally stabbed today (April 14, 2017) by an Arab Muslim attacker just steps from Jerusalem's Old City, where thousands of Christians and Jews gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, according to the Washington Post website.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends April 17, and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday.

The attack took place inside a car of the city's light-rail train not far from the entrance to the Old City's Christian Quarter.

The woman was treated for stab wounds and later died in a hospital, police said. She was not identified, but news outlets reported that she was a tourist from Britain. The suspect was identified as Jamal Tamimi, 57, of East Jerusalem.

Teacher in Germany Can't Wear Cross Necklace; Neutrality Law Forbids Rel. Attire in Classroom

School management has forced a teacher in Berlin, Germany to remove a necklace with a cross from her attire when she is in the classroom, the Fox News website reports today (April 14, 2017).

School administrators in the German capital city enforced a neutrality law that bans teachers and civil servants from wearing religious symbols and clothing in public.

The neutrality law generally applies to Muslim women who wear a hijab, or headscarf.

Across Europe, controversial Muslim headscarf bans have sparked debate on this issue.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pope Visits Prison Known for Mafia Turncoats; Washes 12 Inmates' Feet,Follows Jesus' Action

Pope Francis visited a fortress prison holding mafia turncoats today (April 13, 2017) and included Muslims and women in a traditional Holy Week foot-washing ritual that previous popes had limited to Catholic men, according to the Reuters website.

Francis said Mass for the 70 inmates of the prison, a 16th century fortress at Paliano 47 miles south of Rome.

During the service, he bent to wash and kiss the right foot of 12 inmates, commemorating Jesus' gesture of humanity towards His 12 apostles on the night before He was crucified.

The high-security prison is reserved almost entirely for prisoners known in Italy as "collaborators of justice," those who testify against their former comrades -- mainly members of the mafia -- and need special protection for doing so.

US Drops "Mother of All Bombs" in Afghanistan; Targets IS Cave Complex, IS Now Using Tunnels

The U.S. dropped the "Mother of All Bombs" (MOAB) -- the largest conventional bomb in the American arsenal -- on an Islamic State (IS) cave complex in Afghanistan today (April 13, 2017), unleashing a munition so massive that it had to be dropped from the rear of a cargo plane, according to the NY Times website.

The bomb -- officially known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) -- hit a tunnel complex in the Achin district of Nangarhar Province. There was no mention of the number of casualties by the U.S. military.

During the years of fighting in Afghanistan, a handful of similar bombs were used by the U.S. to destroy caves believed to be used by forces of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

That the U.S. is again using this type of ordnance reflects the changing nature of the enemy in Afghanistan, and the fact that the Islamic State -- like the Taliban and Al Qaeda -- is now also using the many available Afghan caves and tunnels.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Slaves Are Still Alive, Well and Growing in Libya; Selling for $200,Women Forced to Be Sex Slaves

Growing numbers of African migrants passing through Libya are being sold as slaves by traffickers or militia groups, the Euro News website reports today (April 12, 2017).

The UN's International Organization for Migration has published a report based on interviews with several West African migrants who told of being bought and sold in garages and car parks in the southern city of Sabha -- one of Libya's main migrant smuggling hubs.

"Migrants are being sold in the market as a commodity," said Othman Belbeisi, the head of the UN agency's Libya mission. He added, "you can pay between 200 and 500 dollars to get a migrant."

There also claims that women have been brought to Libyan clients and forced to become sex slaves.

"Bible Answer Man" Joins Greek Orthodox Rel.; Quits Evangelicalism,Converts in Greek Church

In an effort to attain a more inspiring richness of theology and worship, a popular evangelical radio personality known as "The Bible Answer Man" and president and chairman of the Christian Research Institute, has converted to the Eastern Orthodox religion, the Christian Post website reports today (April 12, 2017).

Hank Hannegraaf was chrismated on Palm Sunday at Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"What astounding news," said Rod Dreher, an Orthodox Christian and author of the New York Times best-selling book titled "The Benedict Option."

Dreher told the Christian Post that 11 years ago he came to the "foreign country called Orthodoxy" and now cannot imagine being anywhere else. He added: "The richness of Orthodox theology and worship is incomparable... sedimenting life for Christ into my bones."

Swastikas, Hatred Graffiti Smeared on Va. JCC; "Hitler Was Right," SS Symbol Painted on Bldg.

Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were found daubed on a suburban Washington, DC Jewish Community Center (JCC) yesterday, the Times of Israel website reports today (April 12, 2017).

Fairfax County Police said an investigation has been opened into the vandalism incident at the JCC of Northern Virginia.

"Hitler was right," swastikas, and the "SS" (Storm Troopers) Nazi symbol were found spray-painted on the exterior of the JCC building.

Jeff Dannick, the JCC's director general, said discovering the graffiti on the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover was particularly disheartening. "As painful as this is, it's even more painful for it to happen on Passover," Dannick said.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Iraq Says IS Has Lost Most of Its Land It Seized; IS Controlled 40% of Iraq in 2014,Now Only 6%

The Iraqi military said today (April 11, 2017) that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has lost more than three-fourths of the territory it seized when it swept across Iraq in the summer of 2014, according to the ABC News website.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a military spokesman, said the extremist group currently controls less than 12,000 square miles in Iraq, or 6.8 percent of the country's territory -- down from more than 40 percent at its height.

Iraqi forces -- backed by U.S.-led airstrikes -- have pushed the religious militants out of a string of towns and cities over the past two years.

They are currently battling the IS in Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- where they have recaptured the city's eastern area, and are expected to recapture western Mosul in the near future.

Priest Criticizes Pope,Worshipers Leave Mass; Pope Francis "Has Only Been Bad for Church"

A priest is being asked by his archbishop to take a break from his parish in the small Italian town of Montesilvano after several people in the priest's congregation stormed out of Mass when he criticized Pope Francis during Palm Sunday services, the Religion News website reports today (April 11, 2017).

Media reports claimed the congregation shouted "Shame, shame!" at the Rev. Edward Pushparaj -- a native of India -- when he said Pope Francis had only been "bad" for the Catholic Church.

The episode has forced the local bishop, Archbishop Tommaso Valentinetti of the Archdiocese of Pescara-Penne, to intervene; he has pledged to meet with the disgruntled parishioners from St. Anthony of Padua parish.

In his homily, Pushparaj referred to the pope's dialogue with other faiths and in particular his decision to wash the feet of a Muslim woman at a detention center outside Rome on Holy Thursday in 2013, Francis' first as pope. "In four years Pope Francis has only been bad for the church," the priest reportedly said.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pope Francis' Homeless Laundry Opens in Rome; Lets Homeless Wash, Dry, Iron Clothes, Blankets

The first washing machines and tumble dryers for the homeless in Rome went into action today (April 10, 2017), as "Pope Francis' Laundry" opened its doors to provide a much needed service, according to the Independent Catholic News website.

One of the many difficulties for those who live on the streets is to be able to wash, dry, and iron their clothes and blankets, and the Vatican-sponsored laundry is a response to Pope Francis' invitation to give concrete signs of solidarity to our brothers and sisters in need.

Having done more to help the poor than any other pope in history, Pope Francis' Office of Papal Charities has already set up free showers, a barber shop, a dormitory, a healthcare clinic, and a pharmacy for the poor in Rome.

The laundry room is located at the "People of Peace Center" run by the Sant'Egidio Community at the old hospital complex of San Gallicano, in the central Trastevere area of Rome.

Two Holocaust Memorials in Greece Vandalized; Vandals Show Hatred for Murdered Greek Jews

Two Holocaust memorials in Greece were vandalized during the past week, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (April 10, 2017).

In Kavala -- a city in northern Greece -- the marble veneer was smashed with hammers on the evening of April 5. The monument unveiled about a year ago commemorates 1,484 Jews from the city who died in Nazi death camps during World War II.

A few days earlier, a memorial in Arta, in northwestern Greece, was vandalized with paint and the aphorism "Yolo" (You only live once). More than 350 Jews in Arta were arrested in 1944; most of them were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered by Nazis.

"It is obvious that there are still people disturbed by their Jewish fellow citizens even if the latter are  dead," the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said in a statement.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

U.S. Soldier Killed Fighting IS in Afghanistan; U.S. and Afghan Forces Battling IS Since 2015

A U.S. soldier was killed fighting the Islamic State (IS) offshoot in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangahar yesterday, the Chicago Tribune website reports today (April 9, 2017).

The soldier's name has not been released in order to allow family members to be notified first.

U.S. and Afghan forces have been fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan's restive east since 2015.

The Taliban -- the insurgent Islamist group that has fought the United States and the Afghan government since 2001 -- has also routinely clashed with the Islamic State.

At Least 37 Killed in 2 Egypt Church Bombings; IS Responsible for Coptic Orth. Church Attacks

At least 37 people were killed and more than 100 injured today (April 9, 2017) in two separate bombing attacks that struck Coptic Orthodox Churches in Egypt, ripping through Palm Sunday services, according to the Clarion Project website.

The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A bomb placed under a seat in the main prayer hall of St. George's Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta, northern Egypt, ripped the hall apart, killing at least 26 and wounding 60 others.

A suicide bombing hit St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt a few hours later. At least 11 people were killed and 35 others wounded in that attack. Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, had just led mass for Palm Sunday. Fortunately, he was unharmed by the attack.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Cyprus Solons Mend Law on Union with Greece; Lets Greek-Turkish Reunification Talks Resume

Lawmakers in ethnically divided Cyprus have amended a controversial law about a commemoration in Greek Cypriot schools that angered breakaway Turkish Cypriots and led to reunification talks breaking off, the Yahoo News website reports today (April 8, 2017).

The amendment -- which gives the education minister full discretion over such commemorations -- was passed yesterday by a vote of 30-20 with the support from the two largest Greek Cypriot parties. The move clears the way for peace talks to resume on April 11 after a near two-month break.

The law had made the brief schoolroom commemoration of a 1950 referendum for Cyprus's union with Greece mandatory.

Turkish Cypriots saw it as a deviation from the stated goal of reunifying the island as a federation -- a goal that may soon become a reality.

IS Kills Dozens of Civilians Fleeing from Mosul; Mutilates Civilians, Hangs Bodies on Tel. Poles

Witnesses said today (April 8, 2017) that Islamic State (IS) militants have killed dozens of civilians attempting to flee Mosul -- Iraq's second largest city -- hanging several bodies from electricity poles as Iraqi forces fight to retake the city, according to the Reuters website.

Iraqi troops are meeting fierce resistance, as IS militants retreat into the Old City, where street fighting is expected in narrow alleyways.

One man told Reuters he had found the mutilated body of a relative strung up from an electricity pole along with three other young men, who had been caught by the militants while trying to flee.

He said, "Their appearance was shocking. We weren't able to get them down and they have been there for two days."

Friday, April 7, 2017

Penn. Monsignor Admits Stealing Half-Million $; Used Money for Gambling,Concert Tickets,Meals

A Catholic monsignor will plead guilty to embezzling over a half-million dollars from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over nine years to pay gambling debts, buy concert tickets, and enjoy expensive meals, the Religion News website reports today (April 7, 2017).

Monsignor William Dombrow, 77, was rector of Villa Saint Joseph, a retirement home for aged and infirm priests in Darby, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia.

Dombrow had sole control of a Villa Saint Joseph bank account used to deposit bequests and life insurance proceeds intended to benefit the home, court documents show.

Prosecutors say the monsignor stole $535,258 between 2007 and 2016. Last year the bank became suspicious and alerted the archdiocese.

Truck Ploughs on Crowd in Stockholm,3 Dead; Shots Also Fired in Terrorist Attack in Sweden

A truck drove into a crowd today (April 7, 2017) on a shopping street and crashed into a department store in Stockholm, Sweden, killing at least three people and wounding eight in what the country's prime minister said appeared to be a terrorist attack, according to the ABC website.

Part of central Stockholm was cordoned off and the area was evacuated, including the main train station.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said all indications were that was an "act of terrorism."

Swedish broadcaster SVT said shots were fired during the attack and people in the area were seen fleeing the scene.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trump Plans to Take Mil. Action against Assad; Tillerson:Steps Already Underway to Dump Him

President Donald Trump said today (April 6, 2017) that his defense officials spent today discussing viable military options to rid Syria of its president, Bashar al-Assad, for using a deadly sarin gas attack this week that killed scores of his own people -- including many young children -- according to The Daily Beast website.

"What happened in Syria is truly one of egregious crimes... it shouldn't be allowed to happen," Trump  said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said steps are already underway for organizing an international coalition to remove Assad.

Although the Syrian government denies using deadly chemicals in the April 4 attack, the U.S. has radar-derived intelligence confirming that Syrian regime aircraft dropped the chemicals on the town at the time of the attack in Idlib.

Germany Is Preparing to Outlaw Child Marriages; Seeks to Protect Girls Married in Muslim Nations

Germany is working on new rules ensuring that most marriages involving minors are not legally recognized in the country, the Euro News website reports today (April 6, 2017).

The draft law aims to protect girls who were married abroad -- mainly in Muslim countries where child brides as young as 10 years old are allowed -- and who sought asylum in Germany.

The bill was approved by the cabinet yesterday, and is expected to be approved by Germany's parliament in July.

It calls for marriages involving under-16s to be considered null and void, and for courts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to nullify those involving youths aged 16 to 18.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dog Slams Female Suicide Bomber at Wedding; Dog,Bomber Perish at Wedding Party in Nigeria

A watchdog died after tackling a female suicide bomber in Nigeria, preventing the would-be attacker from detonating herself in a wedding party, the Daily Caller website reports today (April 5, 2017).

The dog's brave actions prevented the suicide bomber from causing any other casualties to the party.

The failed attack occurred in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno state, where the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram terrorist group is known to engage in suicide attacks.

"A female suicide bomber with [an improvised explosive device] strapped to her body attempted to infiltrate a wedding ceremony gathering in Belbelo community of Jere," said a spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force in Borno State. "She was however prevented by a watchdog, so she had to detonate the IED [Improvised Explosive Device] to kill herself and the dog. The dog was owned by a resident in the locality."

Trump Vows to Obliterate IS, Other Terrorists; Jordan King Visits Trump,Discuss Defeating IS

After meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House today (April 5, 2017), President Donald Trump vowed to "totally eradicate ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and other terrorists," according to the Newsmax website.

Taking questions from reporters along with Abdullah at the Rose Garden, the president continued to assure victory over terrorism.

"As far as ISIS is concerned, the United States will work with whoever it's appropriate to work with, to totally eradicate ISIS and other terrorists," Trump told the assembly. He praised Abdullah as a man who is committed to defeating ISIS.

"We will destroy ISIS, and we will protect civilization. We have no choice... King Abdullah and I also discussed measures to combat the evil and ideology that inspires ISIS and plagues our planet," Trump said.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Russia Suicide Bomber Was an Islamic Radical; Toll from St. Petersburg Train Attack Is Now 14

The suspect behind a deadly terrorist attack yesterday on a St. Petersburg subway station in Russia was a 23-year-old man from a former Soviet republic in central Asia who had links to Islamist radical groups, the Newser website reports today (April 4, 2017).

Officials in Kyrgyzstan have identified the suspect as Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Russian citizen born in the city of Osh.

Officials say the death toll from the attack has now reached 14, with some 50 others injured by a bomb that exploded on a train in St. Petersburg.

A second bomb left at a different station failed to explode. Investigators believe Jalilov also planted that device before blowing himself up on the train.

Anti-Semitic Acts in Sweden Close Down Center; Jewish Parents Felt Kids Unsafe in Umea School

Jewish groups dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism called on the Swedish authorities today (April 4, 2017) to step up security for the country's Jewish citizens, after threats against a community center in Umea forced it to close, according to the Jerusalem Post website.

Members of the Jewish Association in eastern Sweden decided on April 2 to close their doors in light of a series of anti-Semitic incidents and threats to members of the community.

According to Jewish media, the community center was vandalized with swastikas, in addition to being targeted by threatening emails. The windows of an association member's car were also smashed.

"Too many things have happened lately, which mean that Jewish parents don't feel safe having their kids at the schools," the Jewish association's spokesperson Carinne Sjoberg told Swedish national public TV broadcaster SVT.

Syrian Chemical Attack Kills Scores of Civilians; Assad Has No Mercy in Killing His Own People

Scores of civilians -- among them many children -- were killed and more than 200 were injured in an airstrike today (April 4, 2017) that released toxic gas on a town in northwest Syria, according to the Times of Israel website.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights -- a monitoring group -- put the number of dead at 58, although unconfirmed reports said over 100 were killed.

The nature of the deadly chemical substance has yet to be confirmed, but a British doctor at the scene tweeted that the chemical released was sarin gas.

Government planes carried out the airstrike on a rebel-controlled area in Khan Sheikhoun, south of the city of Idlib, the provincial capital. Former U.S. President Barack Obama had promised to send U.S. forces to Syria to overthrow President Bashar Assad if he used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels, but Obama never carried out his promise, despite Assad's use of chemicals at that time.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lithuania Says That Russia May Soon Attack It; Russia Built Up Forces, Weapons on Its Border

Lithuanian intelligence warned today (April 3, 2017) that Russia could attack the Baltic states with as little as 24 hours' notice, thus limiting NATO's ability to respond, the Euro News website reports.

Ramigius Baltrenas -- head of Lithuanian Military Counter-Intelligence -- said Russia's main priority was to strengthen its capabilities towards the West.

The Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- were annexed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s, but gained their freedom in 1991. They have been increasingly fearful of Russian aggression since Russia seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula three years ago.

Moscow upgraded its military forces in its enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea last year, and more recently moved several ballistic nuclear-capable missiles there.

At Least 10 Perish in 2 Russian Subway Blasts; Explosions in St. Petersburg Seen as Terrorism

Two explosions in Russia today (April 3, 2017) struck subway stations in St. Petersburg -- Russia's second largest city -- killing at least 10 and injuring many others, according to the UPI website.

All subway stations in St. Petersburg have been closed as a result of the explosions.

The Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, reported there are 50 people either dead or injured. It also reported that the explosive devices were small, homemade, and fitted with shrapnel, indicating this was a terrorist attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who is in St. Petersburg -- said all causes for the explosions were being considered, including international and domestic terrorism.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pope Lauds 500th Anniv. Conf. on Reformation; Says Envy between Cath.and Protestants Is Over

On March 31, Pope Francis greeted participants in a conference promoted by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, titled:"Luther: 500 Years Later: A Rereading of the Lutheran Reformation in Its Historic Ecclesial Context" which took place in Rome from March 29 to 31, 2017, the Independent Catholic News website reports today (April 2, 2017).

Gratitude to God and surprise, Pope Francis said, were his first responses upon hearing of the conference on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther presenting his 95 theses, which sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

The Holy Father noted that the title of the joint document commemorating the fifth centenary of Luther's reform is "From Conflict to Communion."

He added: "Serious research into the figure of Luther and his critique of the Church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long marked relations between Catholics and Protestants."

Amsterdam Residents Oppose Holocaust Plaque; Sue City to Have Murdered Jew Plaque Removed

City workers dislodged and relocated a postcard-sized memorial plaque from the entrance to the former home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, of a Holocaust victim following complaints by residents, the Jerusalem Post website reports today (April 2, 2017).

The plaque -- a brass cobblestone bearing the name of Joachim Elte that in 2014 was embedded into the sidewalk -- was moved to a location "as far away as possible from the door" of the two residents, who recently sued the city to have the plaque removed altogether.

The two residents -- who were not named -- filed a motion ordering the removal of the plaque. The two said they found it too confrontational to have to constantly be reminded of the Nazi deportation and murder of Elte.

A judge sent the motion of the two to an administrative court for review.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Boko Haram Troops Nab 22 Girls Aged 17,Less; Deja Vu Chibook Schoolgirls Used as Sex Slaves

Boko Haram Islamist radicals have abducted 22 girls in two separate raids in northeastern Nigeria, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (April 1, 2017).

In the first attack on March 30, the jihadists in pickup vans raided the village of Pulka near the border with Cameroon where they kidnapped 18 girls, aged 17 and under.

"They picked up four other girls who were fleeing the raid they came across in the bush outside the village," said a community leader who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

In October 2016, 21 of the 200 Chibok schoolgirls, who had been kidnapped in 2014 by Boko Haram troops, were freed. Most of the 200 schoolgirls became sex slaves and wives of Boko Haram troops, and many of the girls became pregnant and had babies.

Taliban Attack in Pakistan Kills 22,Wounds 70; Occurred Near Mosque as People Went to Pray

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack yesterday in Pakistan's northwestern city of Parachinar that killed at least 22 people and wounded 70 more, the Reuters website reports today (April 1, 2017).

The explosion targeted a mosque in a remote area bordering Afghanistan as people gathered for Friday prayers.

Sajid Hussain, a parliamentarian from Parachinar, said gunfire preceded the blast, which he described as a suicide attack.

The targeted mosque is a Shia mosque in Sunni-majority Pakistan, indicating the attack may have been sparked by the hostility between the two major Islamic sects.