Friday, June 30, 2017

Boko Haram Group Head Condemns Christians; Asserts Christians, Muslims Can't Live Together

The leader of the Nigerian Boko Haram terrorist group posted a video message this week in which he said that it is impossible for Muslims and Christians to live together peaceably, the Christian Headlines website reports today (June 30, 2017).

Boko Haram is responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 people.

The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in the video that it is impossible for Muslims and Christians to work together.

He also called on Muslims to implement Sharia law, and said that non-Muslims could be allowed to exist if they "remain by the side without interference."

German Parliament Affirms Same-Sex Marriage; Merkel Hopes Vote Leads to "More Social Peace"

The German parliament today (June 30, 2017) passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage after Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who voted against the measure -- encouraged her conservative Christian Democratic Party to vote their conscience, according to the UPI website.

Members of Germany's Bundestag voted 393 to 226 to pass the bill, and four people abstained.

Merkel voted no, saying "For me marriage as defined by the law is the marriage of a man and a woman."

She said she hoped a vote in favor would bring about "more social peace."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Upstate NY Mikva Const. Site Hit with Swastikas; Vandalism Occurred in Bloomingburg in Catskills

A Jewish religious immersion pool under construction in a new ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of an upstate New York village was vandalized this week with graffiti and swastikas, the Times of Israel website reports today (June 29, 2017).

The vandalism at a mikvah in Bloomingburg, in the Catskills area, was discovered on June 25.

The new Satmar neighborhood was built to solve a housing shortage in the ultra-Orthodox community.

The local sheriff's office has opened an investigation into the anti-Semitic hate crime.

Turkey Schools Now Required to Have Mosques; Teachers Union Slams Prayer Rooms as Unconst.

Turkey's Education Ministry unveiled new regulations this week that require every new school in the country be outfitted with gender-separated Muslim prayer rooms, the Euro News website reports today (June 29, 2017).

The new regulations were published in the government's official newspaper and call for public and private schools under the purview of the government to also have an area for ritual washing before praying.

The prayer room will be required for Islamic worship, according to the new regulations, which the Labor Union of the Laborers of Education and Science decried as going against the Turkish constitution.

The teachers union accused the Turkish government -- led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  -- of "abandoning secular, scientific and contemporary education" and replacing it with religious studies.

Iraq Declares the End of ISIS' Rule in Mosul; Iraqi Gen.:"Their Fictitious State Has Fallen"

The Iraqi government today (June 29, 2017) declared the end of ISIS' rule in Mosul after recapturing the terror group's de facto capital in the country, according to the Daily Beast website.

"Their fictitious state has fallen," said Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool.

The victory marks the end of more than eight months of all-out war in the city, where ISIS declared its caliphate three years ago. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is reported by Kurdish media outlets to be heading to Mosul to deliver a "victory speech."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Australian Cardinal Charged with Sexual Assault; George Pell Top Cath. Cleric to Face Sex Charges

Police in the Australian state of Victoria said today (June 28, 2017) that Australia's senior Roman Catholic prelate -- and one of Pope Francis' top advisers -- has been charged with sexual assault, according to the NY Times website.

The prelate, Cardinal George Pell, became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses.

"Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons, and he is required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court" on July 18, Shane Patton, the deputy police commissioner, said at a news conference.

The charges were served on the cardinal's legal representatives in Melbourne. Commissioner Patton said there were multiple complainants, but refused to provide further details about them, including their ages.

IS Radicals Decapitate Civilians in Philippines; Philip. Pres.:"Dogs of Hell" Trained in Mideast

Christians and other civilians trapped in Marawi City in the southern Philippines are being decapitated and used as sex slaves and human shields by an Islamic State (IS) affiliated terror group, the Christian Post website reports today (June 28, 2017).

Although the Maute group jihadists, who are aligned with IS and operating under its command, have been reduced to holding just a few blocks in the city, they have been carrying out horrific atrocities.

The terrorists are still holding some 100 Christian hostages, survivors who have escaped said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has called the IS invaders "dogs of hell," said most of the jihadists were trained in the Middle East and "brought the ideology back home and promised to declare war against humanity."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Greek,Turkish Leaders of Cyprus Meet for Unity; UN Envoy: It's Best Chance for Unity Since 1974

Rival Cyprus leaders meet today (June 28, 2017) to resume efforts to solve one of the world's longest-running political crises in what the island's UN envoy billed as the "best chance" for peace, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The make-or-break talks in Geneva, Switzerland are geared towards ending the decades-old division of the island and striking a lasting deal between its Greek- and Turkish-speaking communities.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops seized the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking to unite Cyprus with Greece.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said today he was confident of the talks: "It's a unique opportunity because after all of these decades of division it is possible to solve," he told reporters in Geneva.

Trump Alerts Assad on Chemical Attack Plan; Says Assad to "Pay a Heavy Price" If He Does

The White House -- as a result of intelligence info -- today (June 27, 2017) accused the Syrian government of preparing a chemical weapons attack against rebels in that country's civil war, and warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will "pay a heavy price" if such an attack is carried out, according to the UPI website.

A White House statement says: "As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."

The statement continues: "If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price."

The Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack on April 4 that killed more than 80 civilians, including many children. Trump responded to that attack by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air force base.

Monday, June 26, 2017

High Court OKs Trump's Ban on Muslim States; Ends Lower Court Ruling,OKs Trump's Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court today (June 26, 2017) allowed the Trump administration to enforce its 90-day ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries, overturning lower court orders that blocked the ban, according to the Yahoo News website.

The decision is a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

The justices will hear arguments in the case in the fall.

Several lower courts had ruled that the travel ban was illegal because it discriminated against Muslims, but the Supreme Court decided that by virtue of the office of President, Trump has the authority to issue such a ban in order to safeguard the national security of the United States.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jewish Pilgrims Blocked from Joseph's Tomb; Need Prior Authorization to Enter Nablus Area

About 20 Jewish pilgrims were arrested today (June 25, 2017) as they tried to reach Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank town of Nablus, according to the Times of Israel website.

Nablus forbids Israelis entry without prior authorization with Israeli officials.

Four of the Israeli suspects managed to reach the tomb before they were arrested.

The rest of the group was intercepted on an approach road to Nablus by Israeli security forces.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

EU: Mostly Illegal Migrants Now Entering Italy; EU Plans to Cut Flow of African Illegal Migrants

European Union (EU) officials -- including EU Council President Donald Tusk -- have admitted most of the migrants coming from Africa into Italy are not legitimate refugees or asylum seekers, but illegal migrants, the Breitbart website reports today (June 24, 2017).

Tusk said that illegal migration had gone up 26 percent in Italy compared to last year.

He added the current EU policy was "not enough" and the Mediterranean route needed to be controlled, proposing the EU support the Libyan coastguard.

The EU also plans to work closer with Libya and other countries in north Africa in order to ease the return of illegal migrants.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Abbas to Kushner: I'll Keep Paying Terrorists; Says Israel Is Using Issue to Avoid Peace Talks

A meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and White House official Jared Kushner left the Palestinian leader fuming and refusing to agree to demands that Ramallah cut off payments for convicted terrorists and their families, the Times of Israel website reports today (June 23, 2017).

Abbas accused the U.S. of taking Israel's side and refused a demand to stop paying salaries to several hundred prisoners serving time for the most serious crimes.

Kushner, who is U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, met with Abbas in Ramallah on June 21.

Yesterday, Abbas defended payments to Palestinian prisoners as a "social responsibility," and said Israel was using the issue as a pretext to avoid peace talks.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Study:Attending Church Helps One Live Longer; Non-Attendants More Likely to Die Prematurely

A new study has found that church attendance is good for your health, as those who attend services experience less stress and enjoy longer lives, the Christian Headlines website reports today (June 22, 2017).

Vanderbilt University professor and Baptist minister Marino Bruce spearheaded the study, alongside Keith Norris, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Bruce said, "We found in our study that attending church is actually good for your health, particularly for those who are between the ages of 40 and 65."

He added, "For those who did not attend church at all, they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who attended church at some point over the last year."

IS Destroys Mosul's 845-Year-Old Great Mosque; Does So Since Iraqi Forces about to Take It Over

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has destroyed Mosul's al-Hadba minaret and the 845-year-old Great Mosque of al-Nuri, or Noor mosque, where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have declared the "caliphate" in 2014, the UPI website reports today (June 22, 2017).

U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon. the spokesman for the coalition battling the IS group, said, "This act of ISIS desperation clearly shows how close the Iraqi security forces are to victory in Mosul."

A coalition official said the Islamic State destroyed the mosque and the minaret because Iraqi forces were closing in on the structure.

"This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization [ISIS] must be annihilated," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin said.

Car Bomb Explosion Kills Dozens in Afghanistan; Occurred Near Bank Where Many Waited for Pay

A car bomb explosion in the southern Afghan province of Helmand today (June 22, 2017) left dozens of people dead and several others wounded, according to the Euro News website.

The device went off outside a bank in Lashkar Gah where civilians and members of the security forces were waiting to collect their pay.

There has been no claim for responsibility but insurgent groups -- including the Taliban -- have in the past targeted banks where police, soldiers, and other government employees pick up their wages.

It's the latest in a series of recent attacks in the nation, illustrating a steadily worsening security situation across Afghanistan.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pope to Excommunicate Mafia Convicted Cath.; Will End Friendship of Church to Mafia Figures

Pope Francis has told the Vatican commission to work on a new process for excommunicating Catholics convicted of corruption or mafia-related crimes, the Christian Today website reports.

The move against the mafia marks a step change in Vatican policy, in which involvement in organized crime becomes literally unpardonable because it is a way of life rather than a single sin.

Excommunicated Catholics cannot take communion or be married in church.

Organized crime is entrenched in Italy and in several South American countries. Francis has been severely critical of the closeness of the Church to mafia figures, which sees children named after mobster godfathers and religious processions stopping outside the homes of mob bosses as a form of respect.

Swastikas Painted inside a Jerusalem Synagogue; Vandals Also Tried to Burn Synagogue Rel. Books

Swastikas were discovered painted on the walls of  a synagogue in central Jerusalem today (June 21, 2017), according to the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website.

The vandalism was discovered in the Hasidic Lelov synagogue in the Nachalot neighborhood. Swastikas were also painted on the outside walls of nearby apartment buildings.

Police said the vandals also attempted to set fire to religious books in the synagogue.

Swastika attacks on synagogues in Israel are rare.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Poland Refuses to Accept Any More Migrants; Will Block Them to Reduce Islamic Terrorism

Despite the threat of sanctions from the European Union (EU), the Polish government has decided to not allow any more Muslim migrants into its country to help reduce the risk of radical Islamic terrorism, the CNS News website reports today (June 20, 2017).

"We, Poland, are learning from the mistakes of others... and we will not open our doors to Islamic migrants," said Ryszard Czarnecki, the Polish European Parliament deputy, in early June after the terrorist attack in Manchester, England on May 22.

Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have refused to take in their designated share of some 160,000 migrants, who apparently are overloading Italy and Greece.

The EU could take the three defiant nations to the European Court of Justice, which could impose heavy financial fines on them.

Jewish Deli in Chicago Area Hit with Hate Crime; Message "Free Gaza" Spray-Painted Outside Deli

A popular Jewish deli in suburban Chicago was vandalized in what is being investigated as a hate crime, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (June 20, 2017).

The message "Free Gaza" was spray-painted on the sidewalk outside the Shmaltz Deli in Naperville, Illinois on June 18.

"The reason they left it [the message] there, obviously painted it there, is because it is a Jewish deli," Naperville Police Commander Lou Cammiso said.

Deli owner Howard Bender cleaned the graffiti and hung a sign where the words were spray-painted reading "Hate Has No Home Here."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Alabama Man Arrested for Terrorism Support; Aziz Sayyed,22, Also Being Investigated by FBI

A 22-year-old man from Huntsville, Alabama was arrested by local authorities on charges of soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism, the Clarion Project website reports today (June 19, 2017).

Aziz Sayyed, who is a U.S. citizen born in North Carolina, is also being investigated by the FBI.

Details in the case were not released, but Roger Stanton, the FBI special agent in charge, said, "We successfully mitigated a threat today with this arrest."

The arrest came as a direct result of a tip given to police, said Huntsville Police Department Chief Mark McMurray.

Man Plows Van into Crowd by London Mosque; Kills One,Wounds 10,Tried to "Kill All Muslims"

A man arrested after a van plowed into a crowd of worshipers near a mosque in north London today (June 19, 2017) is now being held on suspicion of terrorism, according to the CNN website.

One man died and 10 people were injured in the assault.

The 47-year-old white man was wrestled to the ground by members of the public and then arrested at the scene. The man shouted he wanted to "kill all Muslims."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was directed at Muslims and condemned it as "every bit as sickening" as deadly Islamist attacks that hit the country in recent months.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

US Blasts Syrian Govt. Jet for Bombing Rebels; US to Syria:Won't Tolerate Attacks on US Allies

Despite having Russian support in the seventh year of its civil war, the Syrian government now knows it cannot intimidate America, as the  U.S. Navy shot down a Syrian government fighter jet today (June 18, 2017) in retaliation for dropping bombs on U.S.-backed rebels, according to the UPI website.

The U.S. attack on the Syrian government occurred near Raqqa, the defacto capital for ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which is battling both the Syrian government and the U.S.-led coalition within the country.

The U.S. explained its attack on the Syrian government in a statement, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces attacked members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a loose coalition of Syrian Kurds and Arabs backed by the U.S.

"The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated," the U.S. statement said.

Bombing at Mall in Colombia Kills 3, Wounds 9; Mayor of Bogota Calls It Cowardly Terrorist Act

A strong explosion yesterday from a bomb rocked one of the busiest shopping centers in Colombia's capital, Bogota, killing three people, including a 23-year-old French woman, and injuring nine others, the Yahoo News website reports today (June 18, 2017).

Witnesses told of being evacuated from movie theaters and stores after the blast in a second-floor women's restroom at the upscale Centro  Andino in the heart of Bogota's tourist district.

Ambulances and firetrucks rushed to the scene and the injured were taken to a hospital, where two later died.

Police said a bomb from an undetermined explosive had caused the destruction. Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa called it a "cowardly terrorist bombing."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Radical Islam Fuels Extremist Views in Sweden; IS Propaganda Is Major Factor for New Upsurge

The Swedish security service SAPO says the number of people in Sweden with extremist views has grown to several thousands, mainly among people with sympathies for radical Islam, the Fox News website reports today (June 17, 2017).

SAPO's head, Anders Thornberg, says, "We have never seen anything like it" and propaganda from the Islamic State [IS] group was a key factor.

He also says the figure was in the hundreds a few years ago, and it was "a historic challenge with extremist environments growing."

Thornberg told Sweden's news agency TT Friday that SAPO gets about 6,000 pieces of intelligence every month, up from 2,000 five years ago. He didn't go into specifics.

Germany's 1st "Liberal Mosque" Opens in Berlin; By a Feminist Opposed to Male-Dominated Islam

Germany's first "liberal mosque" has opened inside a Protestant church it is renting in Berlin, the RT (Russia Today) website reports today (June 17, 2017).

"Fundamentally, the mosque's door is open to everyone, with one exception: No one will come in with a niqab or burka," organizer Seyran Ates, who moved to Germany from Turkey when she was six years old, said.

Banning the headwear often worn by females in the Muslim community isn't the only modern-day twist being brought to the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque, which is named after Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd and iconic German author Johann Wolfgand von Goethe. According to Ates, men and women will be allowed to pray and preach together, rather than separately. Members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community will also be welcomed.

Ates, a feminist, peace activist, and lawyer, said she felt it was "ultimately irresponsible" for a progressive Muslim woman like herself to simply complain about conservative Islamic organizations, rather than start her own mosque. She admitted she received some "very violent and obscene" threats for opening the liberal mosque, which prompted her to request police protection.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Israeli Policewoman Stabbed Dead in Jerusalem; Old City Crowded with Muslims during Ramadan

Israeli police shot dead three Palestinians today (June 16, 2017) after a deadly knife attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem, in which a policewoman died, according to the BBC website.

Two of the Palestinians attacked police officers with guns and knives while the third stabbed the policewoman, police say.

The Old City has been crowded currently with tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The dead policewoman has been identified as Hadas Malka, 23 years old.

Trump Briefs New Cuba Policy in Miami Speech; Limits US Travel,Business to Help End Tyranny

President Donald Trump told cheering Cuban-Americans in Miami, Florida today (June 16, 2017) that his new restrictions on U.S. travel to and business dealings with Cuba will help bring down the communist regime that has oppressed its people for more than a half-century, according to the USA Today website.

"With God's help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve," Trump said in unveiling plans that reverse some of the revamped Cuba policies made by predecessor, President Barack Obama.

The current Cuban regime has been in place since 1959 and weathered a U.S. economic embargo from 1962 to last year, when most of the restrictions were lifted.

While banning individual self-directed travel to Cuba, trips for specific educational, government, religious, and social purposes will still be permitted. Also, the two nations will still have opened embassies in their capital cities, as they will retain diplomatic relations.

Israeli PM Honors Greek Jews Lost in Holocaust; Leads Holocaust Museum Ceremony in Salonika

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday honored the Greek Jewish community lost during the Holocaust at the dedication of a site to build a Holocaust museum in Salonika, Greece's second largest city, the Times of Israel website reports today (June 16, 2017).

Netanyahu, who is in Greece for a tripartite summit with that country and Cyprus, attended the dedication with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, as well as the son and daughter of Moshe Ha-Elion, 93, a Greek Holocaust survivor who this year lit a torch at the national ceremony for Holocaust memorial day.

Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife, Sarah, praised Israeli ties with Greece and Cyprus, calling the three countries "the real democracies in the Mediterranean basin."

The countries signed several joint statements, including dealing with energy and cultural exchanges, during the two days of meetings.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

DC Police Issue Warrants for 12 Turkish Thugs; Erdogan's Guards Attacked Peaceful Protesters

The Washington, D.C. Metro police department today (June 15, 2017) issued arrest warrants for 12 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail who brutally beat several peaceful protesters outside the Turkish embassy's residence last month, according to the Daily Caller website.

Speaking at a press conference, Metro Police Chief Peter Newsham listed by name 12 members of the security detail and four private citizens allegedly involved in the attacks, which occurred on May 16 and left nine protesters injured.

Nine suspects are Turkish security officers. Three others are Turkish national police. Two men are Canadian citizens, and two others are Turkish-American.

"If they attempt to enter the United States, they will be arrested," Newsham said of the Turkish security detail. Yesterday, two Turkish-American supporters of Erdogan were arrested in connection with the savage beatings, which included knocking peacefully protesting women protesters to the ground and kicking them in the head.

Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Are on the Rise in UK; Fires Set on 2 Jewish Restaurants in Manchester

Police are investigating two arson attacks on kosher restaurants in Manchester, England, as a Jewish charity says anti-Semitic hate crime is on the rise in the UK, The Guardian website reports today (June 15, 2017).

Detectives have released CCTV images of the arsonists, who attacked two restaurants in Prestwich, a Jewish area of north Manchester, earlier this month.

Ta'am restaurant on Bury New Road was firebombed shortly before midnight on June 2 when two men approached and threw a milk carton filled with petrol and a lit rag at the premises.

In the early hours of June 6, JS Restaurant on King's Road was targeted. The offenders forced open a window before pouring accelerant inside and lighting it. Police believe the attacks are linked and are treating them as anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump Gives Mattis OK for More Afghan Troops; Defense Sec.Plans Thousands More to Defeat Mil.

President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, thus opening the door for sending more American forces to a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was "not winning," the NY Times website reports today (June 14, 2017).

Mattis favors sending several thousand more American troops to strengthen the effort to advise Afghan forces as they push back against gains made by the Taliban, the Islamic State (IS), and other militant groups.

But officials said he had not yet decided how many  more forces to send to Afghanistan, or when to deploy them.

While testifying yesterday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis promised Congress that the Trump administration would develop a new strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July to turn around the war.

Mayor of Rome Pushes to Halt Migrant Arrivals; Says Rome under Much Pressure from Migrants

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has written to the interior ministry asking for the Italian capital to be removed from the list of migrants being sent there, the Euro News website reports today (June 14, 2017).

More than half a million migrants have reached Italy by boat from North Africa since 2014.

The mayor emphasized that Rome is under strong pressure from migration and that it can't go on.

Only around a third of Italy's 8,000 city governments have offered to shelter asylum seekers.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Southern Baptist Membership Continues to Fall; Have Lost a Million Members in the Past Decade

Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) declined for the 10th straight year, while baptisms dropped to the lowest level in 70 years, according to statistics released in advance of the 2017 SBC annual June 13-14 meeting in Phoenix, the Baptist News website reports today (June 13, 2017).

The latest LifeWay Christian Resources Annual Church Profile reports a combined membership of 47,272 churches at 15,216,978 for the church year in 2016.

That's a loss of 77,786 members from 2015, about half a percent. Between 2014 and 2015Southern Baptists lost 204,409 members and 236,467 the year before.

Today there are one million fewer Southern Baptists than there were a decade ago.

Policewoman Shot in Munich Fights for Her Life; Was Shot in the Head by a Man at a Train Station

A policewoman is fighting for her life today (June 13, 2017) after being shot in the head at a train station near Munich, Germany, according to the Euro News website.

She suffered "life-threatening injuries" after a man -- who had been stopped for a security check -- seized a gun from one of her colleagues.

The man, 37, had grabbed the weapon after pushing a policeman on the platform as a train was entering the station.

Police say the man was arrested and the incident was not terrorism.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Venice Bans New Hotels in Tourist Crackdown; Pushes to Limit No. of Tourists, Over 60K Daily

As part of a continued effort to protect the famous canal city from runaway tourism, authorities in the Italian city of Venice said they will prevent a new holiday accommodation from opening in the city's center, the Telegraph (British) website reports today (June 12, 2017).

Massimiliano De Martin, Venice's councilor for urban planning, submitted the plan to the mayor's office and described the measure as essential "for the protection of the city."

He said hotels were taking over residential buildings in Venice, pushing locals out and "running the risk of impoverishing the city's social fabric."

Some 22 million tourists visit Venice annually; that's more than 60,000 a day, which is greater than the population of the city.

US Rabbis, Cantors Call for Palestinian State; 1800 Address Letter to Israeli PM Netanyahu

A letter calling on Israel to end the military occupation of the West Bank and lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state was delivered on behalf of 1,800 American rabbis and cantors to the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (June 12, 2017).

The letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was written on behalf of the members of Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. It was delivered on June 9, the day 50 years ago that the Six-Day War ended.

The letter said that the Truah members are rabbis and cantors "who hold deep love for the State of Israel, and who believe that the vision of the Hebrew prophets, cited in Israel's Declaration of Independence, for a homeland committed to peace and justice, represents the most powerful guarantee of Israel's future."

The letter continues: "As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, we celebrate the extraordinary victory that enabled Israel's survival, and granted the Jewish people sovereignty over our holiest sites. We also recognize that this victory inaugurated fifty years of occupation that has infringed on the human rights of Palestinians, left too many Israelis and Palestinians dead or injured, and continues to threaten Israel's long-term survival."

Sunday, June 11, 2017

IS Gunmen Kill 3 Policemen in Pakistan Today; Shot Police While Riding Motorcycle in Quetta

Gunmen riding a motorcycle killed three policemen at a checkpoint in southwest Pakistan today (June 11, 2017) before fleeing the scene, in an attack claimed by a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The incident occurred in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Quetta is the capital of Pakistan's mineral-rich Balochistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist insurgencies in the province since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.

Pope Gets Tough with Defiant Nigerian Priests; Will Fire Priests Who Do Not Obey Him, Bishop

In a rarely used self-righteous display of the power he holds by virtue of his position, Pope Francis has laid down an ultimatum to defiant Nigerian priests: lose your job if you don't obey me and your bishop, the ABC News website reports today (June 11, 2017).

Francis met June 8 at the Vatican with a delegation from the Ahiara diocese, where priests have been refusing to accept the 2012 appointment by the then pontiff, Benedict XVI, of the local bishop.

Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, reporting the pope's unusual harsh order, said today that Francis was acting "for the good of the people of God" by threatening to suspend the priests from the ministry if they didn't pledge in a letter, by July 9, "total obedience" to Francis and accept Bishop Peter Okpaleke's appointment.

Francis told the visiting delegation he was "very sad" about the priests' refusal to obey and ruled out tribal loyalties as explaining the refusal.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

US Forces Join Fight against IS in S. Philippines; Assisting Local Troops to Recapture Marawi City

Special Operations Forces from the U.S. are helping the Philippine military kick ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants out of a southern town, the Slate website reports today (June 10, 2017).

The Philippine troops are having a hard time ending the three-week siege of Marawi City in the southern Philippines, where some 200 IS militants have taken positions in a corner of the town where an estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians are trapped.

The Philippine military emphasized the U.S. is providing technical assistance, and not boots on the ground, in the country.

The U.S. in the Philippine fight of IS comes just a few months after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to kick U.S. military personnel out of the country after the U.S. criticized him for killing thousands of drug addicts.

Afghan Soldier Turns Rifle on US Troops,Kills 3; Taliban Is Responsible, Infiltrated Afghan Army

An Afghan army soldier turned his weapon on U.S. servicemembers today (June 10, 2017), killing three Americans and wounding another in eastern Afghanistan, according to the USA Today website.

The Afghan soldier was killed during the attack, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor in Nangarhar province.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting in a statement by spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, who said a person loyal to the terror group infiltrated the Afghan army "just to attack foreign forces."

The attack occurred in Achin district, where U.S. special forces have been fighting alongside Afghan troops against Islamic State (IS) and Taliban militants.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pence Presents Support for Cyprus Peace Talks; Hosts Cyprus Pres. at White House, Seeks Unity

Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday that the United States supports peace talks on Cyprus aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island, the VOA (Voice of America) News website reports today (January 9, 2017).

Pence hosted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the White House yesterday. Pence expressed hope that Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders "will agree to a settlement that would reunify Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation to the benefit of all Cypriots."

Pence also thanked Cyprus for its support for the Middle East peace talks and the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island in response to a failed coup by Greek troops aimed at unifying the independent island with Greece. The south is recognized as the sole Cypriot government, while only Turkey recognizes a separate Turkish Cypriot north.

Polanski's Sex Victim Goes to Court to Back Him; Polanski Was Convicted of Raping Her at Age 13

The victim of Roman Polanski's sex assault 40 years ago is appealing directly to a judge today (June 9, 2017) to end the long-running case against the fugitive film director, according to the Newser website.

Samantha Geimer -- who was 13 years old at the time Polanski raped her -- is supporting Polanski's efforts to end the legal saga that limits his freedom. Today will be the first time she has appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on his behalf, attorney Harland Braun says.

Polanski -- a Polish Jew -- has been a fugitive from justice since he fled to France in 1978 on the eve of sentencing for the crime of having unlawful sex with a minor.

His lawyers have been fighting for decades to end the case and lift an international arrest warrant.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pope Calls on Christians to Call God "the Father;" Says "Our Father" Prayer Lets Man Speak to God

Pope Francis is urging Christians seeking to nurture their spirituality to embrace calling God "the Father" in favor of other honorifics, the Newsweek website reports today (June 8, 2017).

"Calling God by the name 'Father' is not something that can be taken for granted," the pope said.

Francis has sought to use his position to change the direction of the Catholic Church on divisive issues such as poverty, clergy reform, climate change, and divorce.

In his latest public address, Francis said the "Our Father" prayer underscores how man can speak directly to God, "who always watches us with love, and who surely won't abandon us."

Va. Man Guilty of Fighting for IS for 3 Months; Testified He Just Wanted to "Check Things Out"

A Virginia man, who joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq for three months, was convicted yesterday of terrorism charges, despite his assertion that he was only there to "check things out," the Military Times website reports today (June 8, 2017).

The jury in U.S. District Court took only four hours to deliberate before convicting Mohamad Khweis, 27, of Alexandria, on all charges.

He faces 20 years or more in prison when he is sentenced in October.

At his trial, Khweis told the jurors he just wanted to see for himself what the Islamic State group was like. He added that after a few months, he realized it was not for him.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sears Cancels "Free Palestine" Clothes from Site; Due to Feedback Opposing Pro-Palestine Designs

As a result of complaints by many customers, Sears has agreed to remove a line of clothing featuring the slogan "Free Palestine" from its website, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (June 7, 2017).

The clothing was offered for sale by another company, Spreadshirt Collection, and included tank tops, t-shirts, and hoodies featuring a variety of pro-Palestinian messages.

The designs included a clenched fist in the colors of the Palestinian flag and statements opposing the Israeli occupation.

A Sears spokesman said the apparel was pulled from the site based on feedback the company received.

Greek Police Smash Migrant Smuggling Ring; Sold Migrants Fake Passports to Ease Flights

Greek police have smashed a major migrant smuggling ring operating out of the country, the Euro News website reports today (June 7, 2017).

The organized criminal gang -- said to include six Afghans and a Sudanese -- is accused of helping migrants enter other EU (European Union) countries and Canada illegally.

Migrants trying to leave Greece are believed to have paid up to 16,000 euros for high quality travel and identity documents.

Ioanna Rotziokou, a spokeswoman for the Greek police, said: "The traffickers we've arrested provided irregular migrants with fake or stolen passports to facilitate their transfer by regular flights from airports."

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Montenegro Angers Russia by Joining NATO; Russia Plans to Retaliate against Montenegro

Montenegro -- a Balkan nation that had formerly been a state in the now-defunct Yugoslavia -- yesterday became the 29th member of the NATO military alliance at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., the Military Times website reports today (June 6, 2017).

Montenegro's decision to join NATO has enraged Russia, which sought to maintain a strong historic, political, and religious influence in its fellow Slavic, Eastern Orthodox Christian country it considers a special zone of interest.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said yesterday "Russia reserves the right to take counter-measures on the basics of reciprocity amid the Montenegrin authorities' hostile stance."

Bringing Montenegro into NATO further diminishes Russia's influence in southeast Europe, and hinders its ability to carry out aggression in the Middle East.

UN Sec.-Gen. Slams Israel on 1967 War Anniv.; "Occupation of Palestinian Territory" Must End

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed Israel yesterday for what he called its "occupation of the Palestinian territory" on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, the Jewish Press website reports today (June 6, 2017).

In a statement last night, Guterres referred to the "displacement" of hundreds of thousands of "Palestinians and Syrians" but focused on what he said was a heavy humanitarian and development burden on "the Palestinian people."

He spoke of the generation after generation of those who he said have been "compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children."

Guterres made no mention of their own choices in the matter, the numerous rejections of peace proposals rejected by the Palestinian Authority leadership and the refusal by those living in camps who chose not to move out and make a better life for themselves elsewhere.

Monday, June 5, 2017

US Rep.:Radical Muslims at War with Christians; Calls on Americans to "Hunt Them,Kill Them All"

In response to the recent London Bridge terror attack, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) has an extreme proposal: Kill anyone suspected of being an Islamic radical, the Mother Jones website reports today (June 5, 2017).

On his campaign Facebook page, Higgins, a former police officer, posted this message: "The free world... all of Christendom... is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals.

"Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied.

"Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all."

Four Arab Nations Cut Diplomatic Ties to Qatar; Accuse It of Supporting Regional Terror Groups

Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries severed diplomatic ties to Qatar today (June 5, 2017) and moved to cut off land, sea, and air routes to the energy-rich nation that is home to a major U.S. military base, accusing it of supporting regional terror groups, according to the ABC News website.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates made no demands of Qatar as their decision plunged the international travel hub into chaos and ignited the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf since the 1991 war against Iraq.

Qatar -- which is the home to some 10,000 American troops -- criticized the move as a "violation of its sovereignty," and denied supporting terror groups.

The four countries began withdrawing their diplomatic staff  from Qatar as regional airlines announced they had suspended service to its capital, Doha.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Many Civilians Killed in Fleeing IS in Mosul; Dozens Lay on IS-Held Street Near Frontline

The bodies of dozens of Iraqi civilians killed in the past two days while fleeing an Islamic State-held neighborhood in Mosul lay on the street close to the frontline with Iraqi armed forces, the Reuters website reports today (June 4, 2017).

The dead bodies included men, women, and children.

Bags in which they had carried their belongings were strewn around the road leading out of the Zanjili district, still in the hands of the Islamic State in Mosul.

"Over the past two days, ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] has been shooting people escaping this area," said Dave Eubank from the Free Burma Rangers Relief Association.

British PM Blasts Evil Ideology of Radical Islam; Seeks New Counterterrorism Measures to Lick It

British Prime Minister Theresa May today (June 4, 2017) condemned the "evil ideology of Islamist extremism" that she said drove the three terror attacks in Britain since March and called for tougher measures to combat terrorism, according to the Times of Israel website.

They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism," the British prime minister said.

"It is an ideology that claims our Western values and freedom, democracy, and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam," she added.

Declaring that "enough is enough," the prime minister called for increased domestic counterterrorism measures. "We cannot and must not pretend that things can remain the same."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Putin Vows to Dump NATO If Sweden Joins It; Views Sweden Membership as Threat to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed deep opposition to the idea of Sweden joining NATO, calling its potential membership of the U.S.-led alliance a "threat" that would need to be "eliminated," the Newsweek website reports today (June 3, 2017).

"If Sweden joins NATO this will affect our relations in a negative way because we will consider that the infrastructure of the military bloc now approaches us from the Swedish side," Putin said.

"We will interpret that as an additional threat for Russia and we will think about how to eliminate this threat," he added.

Russian officials have treated NATO expansion near or at its borders as encroachment, rather than a desire by their smaller neighbors to deter Russian aggression, as it occurred in Ukraine in 2014, when Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Six Killed as Van Hits Crowd on London Bridge; Terrorists Then Stab People at Borough Market

At least six people were killed and 20 patients were taken to area hospitals after London police responded tonight (June 3, 2017) to two terrorist incidents, as a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge and several stabbings occurred at Borough Market, according to the Yahoo News website.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the incidents are "being treated as a potential act of terrorism."

London Mayor Sadig Khan also called it terrorism, saying, "The Metropolitan Police are responding to the horrific terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market."

Police killed all three men who got out of the van and started stabbing people in Borough Market.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Putin Rips People Who Blame Russia for Hacks; Says They're Like Anti-Semites Who Blame Jews

Russian President Vladimir Putin today (June 2, 2017) lashed out at critics who are accusing his country of trying to interfere in the 2016 American presidential election by likening them to anti-Semites, according to the Raw Story website.

During an interview today in St. Petersburg, Russia, NBC's Megyn Kelly pointed out that all the digital fingerprints on the hacks in the 2016 election indicated Russian involvement -- but Putin grinned and dismissed it as an elaborate hoax.

"What fingerprints, or hooves prints, or horn prints? There are many specialists that can invent or fix it up," Putin said.

Putin then accused the Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton of behaving like anti-Semites by blaming Russia for the 2016 election outcome. "It's like anti-Semitism -- the Jews are to blame..."

Rel. Split on Trump's Climate Accord Pullout; Many Oppose US Withdrawal, Others Back It

Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others reacted emotionally to President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, the Religion News website reports today (June 2, 2017).

While leaders of the religious left were critical of the move, conservatives were somewhat divided.

Many who welcomed other radical actions of the administration were concerned about the impact of the decision.

However, others -- skeptical that climate is changing or believing that God will take care of the planet -- praised Trump's withdrawal.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Turkey Wants No Conditions for Cyprus Unity; Greek Pres.Wants Turkey to Withdraw Troops

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today (June 1, 2017) that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are ready to take part in a summit in Geneva to work out a peace accord reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus, as long as Greek Cypriots drop unacceptable "conditions," according to the Washington Post website. 

The island's Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades insists on first dealing with the issue of the withdrawal of Turkish troops that Greek Cypriots consider a threat.

More than 35,000 troops remain in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north after Turkey's 1974 invasion that followed a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Anastasiades has proposed that an international police force oversee post-reunification security, but the minority Turkish Cypriots see Turkish troops and military intervention rights accorded to Ankara as their only protection.

Trump Will Not Move US Embassy to Jerusalem; Breaks Campaign Promise, Upsets Many Israelis

U.S. President Donald Trump today (June 1, 2017) signed a waiver that delays for at least six months any plan to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, disappointing the Israeli government and failing to adhere to a key promise he made on the campaign trail throughout 2016, according to the Times of Israel website.

The White House said: "President Trump made his decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interests..."

Trump made no public mention of the embassy during his visit last week to Israel. Before his arrival, several Israeli ministers led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called on Washington to move the embassy -- a measure that would be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump's conversations with various Arab leaders since early in his presidency are believed to have influenced his decision to put the move of the embassy to Jerusalem on the back burner, since such a move would hinder the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.