Sunday, March 31, 2019

Erdogan Says Hagia Sophia to Become a Mosque; Radical Muslim Ignores Site's Christian Heritage

Turkish president and radical Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to revert the 6th century Hagia Sophia -- originally an important Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral -- into a mosque from its current status as a museum, the Artnet Newspaper website reports today (March 31, 2019).

The move is seen as an effort to rally Erdogan's conservative base ahead of local elections on March 31.

It has been a museum for almost 85 years, which is widely regarded as a compromise between Christians and Muslims who both claim the space as hallowed ground.

Converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque is likely to unleash an international backlash -- especially from neighboring Greece -- where some still mourn the loss of the Greek Orthodox cathedral. It could also endanger its World Heritage status: Hagia Sophia is inscribed on UNESCO's list with other sites on Istanbul's historic peninsula, and any changes that impact the "outstanding universal value" of the site require notifying the committee, according to its operating guidelines.

Pope Celebrates Largest Mass in Morocco Ever; Prayers Read in 5 Languages in Islamic Country

Pope Francis concluded his historic visit to Morocco today (March 31, 2019) by celebrating a Mass enlivened by a mixture of Gregorian chant with the beat of drums and the rhythmic dance, music and song of 10,000 faithful -- most of them from countries in sub-Saharan Africa -- at a sports stadium in Rabat, the capital city of this Muslim-majority country, according to the America Magazine website.

It was the largest Mass ever celebrated in Morocco, where Christianity first came between the second and third centuries but where only a tiny presence remains today.

Bishops and priests from Morocco and other countries concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis in a sports complex on the outskirts of the city.

Prayers were read in Arabic, French, Spanish, English, and Italian.

Vogue Magazine Returns to Greece after 7 Years; Greece's "Great Depression" Has Finally Ended

After seven years of absence in Greece due to that country's own "Great Depression," fashion magazine Vogue hit the nation's newsstands today (March 31, 2019), according to the Euro News website.

"Dear Vogue Greece, welcome back again," Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief since 1988, wrote in the Greek comeback edition titled "Eyes on the future" which starred model Bella Hadid on its cover.

Publishers expect the country's economic recovery, following a debt crisis for nearly a decade, will revive an appetite for glossy fashion and lifestyle prints.

"Your return after years of absence fills us with joy. Greece faced problems and lived dramatic moments. I can only imagine how tough it was. However, the signs of recovery are now visible, even here in America," Wintour concluded.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Trump Threatens to Close U.S.-Mexico Border; Hits Congress, Judges for Illegal Migrant Surge

President Donald Trump is threatening to close parts of the U.S.-Mexican border, as record numbers of migrants surge through the legal loopholes created by Congress and judges, the Breitbart website reports today (March 30, 2019).

"If Mexico doesn't immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be closing the border or large sections of the border, next week," Trump said in a tweet.

Trump added that border officials are ramping up their estimates for the number of migrants who will grab the opportunity created by Congress.

Predictions for the number of migrants from Mexico in 2019 have climbed from 900,000 to 1.2 million during the last few weeks.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Pope Issues New Abuse Laws for Vatican City; Employees Must Report Abuse or Face Prison

Pope Francis issued stringent child abuse legislation for Vatican City employes today (March 29, 2019), as part of the Church's bid to address a wave of sex abuse allegations against priests, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The legislation requires officials and employees in the Vatican City and Roman Curia -- the central administration of the Catholic Church -- to immediately report any abuse against minors and vulnerable people, or face fines or a prison sentence.

Anyone convicted of abuse be "removed from office" under the new rules, which set a statute of limitations for such crimes at 20 years from the date victims turn 18.

Previous church guidelines on handling sexual abuse cases did not cover officials and employees in Vatican City or the Curia.

Pope Would Not Let Worshipers Kiss His Ring; Wanted to Prevent Germs, Prefers Embracing

Pope Francis repeatedly withdrew his right hand as a long line of people bowed and tried to kiss it or his ring this week because he didn't want to spread germs, the Euro News website reports today (March 29, 2019).

"It was a simple matter of hygiene," Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters yesterday.

One conservative Catholic website called the episode "disturbing," and another said the pope should resign if he did not like the ritual.

"He likes to embrace people and be embraced by people," Gisotti said.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Yale Coach Took Bribes in Admissions Scheme; Pleads Guilty in Court to Conspiracy and Fraud

The former head coach of women's soccer at Yale University admitted today (March 28, 2019) that he accepted bribes to help parents get their children into the Ivy League school, becoming the third person to plead guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal, according to the Yahoo News website.

Rudolph "Rudy" Meredith pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

He is among 50 people charged with participating in the scheme, headed by college admissions counseling services operator Rick Singer.

Some $25 million in bribes were paid to coaches -- including Meredith -- who helped Singer's clients secure spots for their children as fake athletic prospects, prosecutors said.

UN Rips Trump's Proclamation of Golan Heights; Backs Syria's Sovereignty of Heights, Not Israel's

The U.S. came under sharp criticism from the 14 other UN Security Council nations yesterday for recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights earlier this week, in violation of council resolutions, the Times of Israel website reports today (March 28, 2019).

Speaker after speaker supported Syria's sovereignty of the Golan Heights and opposed President Donald Trump's proclamation of Israeli sovereignty of the territory.

As South Africa's UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said, "This unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East."

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it as part of Israel in 1981.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Yale Expels Student Accepted on $1 Million Bribe; First Student Expelled in College Admissions Scam

Yale University has expelled a student whose parents paid more than a million dollars in bribes to get her in -- the first such move since a huge admissions scandal erupted earlier this month -- the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (March 27, 2019).

Some 50 people have been indicted so far in a college scam -- the largest in U.S. history -- to help children of the American elite gain entry into top U.S. colleges.

They include sports coaches who provided bogus recommendations, university administrators who manipulated standardized test scores, and 33 parents accused of paying bribes totaling some $6.5 million  to guarantee admission for their children.

According to the university, women's soccer coach Rudy Meredith resigned from Yale after it was approached by the Boston U.S. Attorney's Office requesting information on him. The admission of the student who received a fraudulent endorsement has been rescinded, the university said.

Crucifix to Depart Montreal Council Chamber; Council Says Crucifix Installed in Different Era

A crucifix that has been affixed to the wall in the city council chambers in Montreal, Canada for over 80 years will be taken down to "reaffirm" the "secular character" of the government building, the Christian Post website reports today (March 27, 2019),

The crucifix, which features a sculpture of Jesus, has hung on the wall of the Montreal City Council since 1937.

It was stationed there as a reminder to politicians to ensure their decisions are guided by God.

But city councilman Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde said, "The crucifix was installed during an era that was completely different than the one we live in today. We now live in a society ... that must be secular, neutral, and open to all citizens."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Erdogan Calls for Hagia Sophia to Be Mosque; Was Built as a Greek Orth.Church in 6th Cent.

The Greek government voiced opposition yesterday to the suggestion from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Istanbul's Hagia Sophia -- a Byzantine-era cathedral that now serves as a museum -- could be reconverted into a mosque, the AP website reports today (March 26, 2019).

Erdogan's suggestion drew ire in Greece as the cathedral -- built in the 6th century -- was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox Church.

It remained so until it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the city -- at that time known as Constantinople -- in 1453. Turkey turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.

"It is not only a great temple of Christendom -- the largest for many centuries -- it also belongs to humanity. It has been recognized by UNESCO as part of our global cultural heritage," Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said.

Arab States Angry at Trump's Golan Declaration; Say It "Makes US the Main Enemy of the Arabs"

Arab states today (March 26, 2019) condemned U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration, which he signed yesterday, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, according to the World Israel News website.

Israel captured the territory from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War after Arab armies had mobilized forces near the borders with Israel.

Syria's foreign ministry called the U.S. decision a "blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Syria.

Syria also asserted that the Trump declaration "makes the United States the main enemy of the Arabs."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pastors: School Has Negative Influence on Rel.; Study Finds School Hinders Child's Spirituality

A majority of Protestant pastors and half of Catholic priests believe school is a negative influence on a child's spiritual development, according to a new report by the Barna Group, the Christian Post website re;ports today (March 25, 2019).

Barna partnered with a religious think tank named Cardus to interview 650 Protestant and Catholic church leaders last year about spiritual development among youth.

Respondents were asked to rank certain entities regarding whether they had a positive or negative influence on a child's spiritual development. The categories were "parents/family," "church," "school," "peers/friends," "Christian community," and "culture/society."

According to their findings, 65 percent of Protestant respondents and 50 percent of Catholic respondents viewed school as a negative influence on a child's spiritual development.

Trump Recognizes Golan Heights as Israel Ter.; Signs Proclamation Disregarding Syria's Claim

U.S. President Donald Trump today (March 25, 2019) formally recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the dramatic shift in American policy will help Israel defend itself against regional threats, according to the Times of Israel website.

"This was a long time in the making," Trump said alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, as he signed the proclamation.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, thus annexing it. But the U.S. and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation.

Following Trump's speech today on the Golan Heights proclamation, Netanyahu spoke and praised Trump for having done more for Israel than any other president in U.S. history.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Second Parkland School Survivor Enacts Suicide; Due to Gunman Killing 17 Last Yr. at Fla. School

A student at the Florida high school where a gunman killed 17 people last year was found dead of an apparent suicide, police said today (March 24, 2019) -- the second student from the school to claim their own life within a week, according to the USA Today website.

The student, whose name was not released, attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

"Officers responded to a call yesterday and determined the death was from apparent suicide," Coral Springs officer Tyler Reik said.

On March 17, school alumna Sydney Aiello, 19, died of apparent suicide, her family and friends said. The Miami Herald said the victim of yesterday's suicide was a sophomore boy.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Trump Abruptly Ends New Sanctions on N. Korea; Does So Because He "Likes" Dictator Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump yesterday abruptly withdrew new sanctions aimed at North Korea because, the White House said, he "likes" the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, the Yahoo News website reports today (March 23, 2019).

Trump announced on Twitter that he had ordered the withdrawal of "additional sanctions" imposed by the Treasury Department on March 21 on North Korea.

"I have today [March 22] ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!" Trump posted on Twitter yesterday.

"President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Syria Vows to Recover Israeli-Seized Golan; Trump Wants Israel to Retain Occupied Ter.

The Syrian government vowed to take back the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, as its allies and enemies alike condemned U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday for wanting to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in a war, the Reuters website reports today (March 23, 2019).

Trump's statement on Golan Heights marked a dramatic shift in U.S. policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 -- a moved not recognized internationally.

The European Union said its position on the status of the Golan Heights was unchanged and that it did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

Germany said any change in borders should be "done through peaceful means between all those involved," while France said it did not recognize the Israeli annexation of  Golan and any recognition was contrary to international law.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Indiana Teachers Shot with Pellets in School Drill; Union: Teacher Wounds Included Welts, Bleeding

The Indiana State Teachers Association said today (March 22, 2019) that several groups of four teachers at a time were led into a room, told to kneel and then were shot with a pellet gun "execution style" and injured during an active shooter training at an Indiana elementary school in January, according to the Huffpost website.

The association revealed the violent training tactic, which took place at the Meadowlawn Elementary School in Monticello, while testifying to end the practice in House Bill 1004, which addresses school safety, before the state's Senate Education Committee.

The teachers' injuries in the training included welts and bleeding, the union said. About 30 teachers were involved in the training.

"They told us, 'This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing,'" one teacher told the IndyStar. "They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times... It hurt so bad."

Taliban Kills 2 US Troops Today in Afghanistan; US and Taliban Currently Discussing Peace Plan

Two U.S. service members died in Afghanistan today (March 22, 2019), while conducting a military operation against the Taliban, according to the UPI website.

The names of the service members are being withheld until 24 hours after family members have been notified, NATO said.

Today's deaths mean at least four U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan in 2019.

The U.S. and Taliban are currently working through a peace process in the country.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump Bars Money for Non-Free-Speech Colleges; Colleges Cracking Down on Conservative Speech

President Donald Trump signed an executive order today (March 21, 2019) to withhold federal research and education funds from colleges if they don't certify that they will protect free-speech rights on campus, the Euro News website reports.

"We're here to take historic actions to defend American students and American values," Trump said at the White House. "They've been under siege."

 Colleges and universities spend some $40 billion in federal research aid and development dollars annually, according to the National Science Foundation.

The idea that universities are cracking down on conservative thought and speech has become a cause celebre on the political right, and one that Trump has taken up as major political issue.

Jewish Cemetery Vandalized in Fall River,MA; Gravestone Graffiti Included "Expel the Jews"

At least 30 gravestones were desecrated with swastikas and anti-Semitic messages on March 17 at the Hebrew Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts, the Religion News website reports today (March 21, 2019).

The phrases included "expel the Jews," "ethnic cleansing,"  "heil Hitler,"  "Hitler was right," and "Jewish bastard," written on headstones with a black magic marker.

Local police launched a hate crime investigation after a cemetery maintenance worker reported the vandalism, which included several headstones that were pushed over.

The vandalism is part of an uptick in anti-Semitic acts in Massachusetts, from anti-Semitic fliers being distributed in communities to graffiti in middle and high schools and universities.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Finland Is Ranked Happiest Country in the World; US Ranked 19th, Its Lowest Happiness Level Ever

Finland has been crowned the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row, leading a top ten that is made up of five Nordic nations, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (March 20, 2019).

The World Happiness Report -- released today -- ranked 156 countries by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support, and corruption.

Although the Nordic nations of Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland topped the table, there was no sign of Britain in the top ten.

The UK placed 15th -- up from 19th last year -- four above the U.S., which came in at its lowest ranking ever at 19th.

Muslims Born in West Are More Likely Terrorists; Swedish Study:Western Muslims Feel a Prejudice

A new study by researchers at a Swedish university has found that Muslims born and raised in the West are more likely to support extremist ideas than those who are born elsewhere and who later emigrate to the West, the RT website reports today (March 20, 2019).

While it is a common assumption that the threat from extremist Islam comes from outside the West, the new study has found that homegrown radicals could be a much greater problem.

Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden found that support among Western-born Muslims for extremism often comes from a feeling of being disadvantaged in comparison to the majority of the population in those countries.

The researchers also found that when you look at terror attacks that occurred in Europe and the U.S., you find that a majority of them are "planned and implemented by people who are born and raised in the West."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Blasts Electoral College; Calls for Abolishing It So "Every Vote Matters"

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for an end to the Electoral College as a way to guarantee that "every vote matters," the CBS News website reports today (March 19, 2019).

Her comments came last night at a CNN town hall in Jackson, Mississippi, in response to a question about voter disenfranchisement.

"My view is that every vote matters," the Democratic candidate for U.S. president said.

She added, "And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College."

Iranian Woman Sentenced to 38 Yrs.,148 Lashes; Defended Women Who Removed Head Scarves

The husband of a human rights attorney in Iran recently announced that his wife has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, the Christian Headlines website reports today (March 19, 2019).

Nasrin Sotoudeh, 55, faces spending most of the rest of her life in prison and an excruciating lashing simply because she defended seven women who had been arrested for protesting Iran's hijab law by removing their head coverings in public.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Kahndan, said that she faced charges of assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the state, encouraging corruption and prostitution, appearing at the judiciary without Islamic hijab, disturbing public peace and order, and publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion.

The Revolutionary Court in Tehran tried her in absentia when she refused to appear because she could not choose her own attorney.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Police Nab Utrecht Suspect,37,Who Killed 3; Turkish Native Had Been Jailed for IS Links

Utrecht's police chief confirmed today (March 18, 2019) that the 37-year-old Turkish suspect in the deadly shooting on a tram in the Netherlands has been arrested, according to the RT website.

Gokmen Tanis was arrested after a major manhunt following the shooting that killed three people and injured nine more.

A police spokesperson said Tanis was arrested on Oudenoord street, where his red Renault Clio was found.

The 37-year-old Turkish native had previously been arrested over suspected links to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group a few years ago, but was later released.

US Supreme Court Backs Lesbians Over B&B Inn; Says Inn Should Have Rented a Room to Lesbians

The U.S. Supreme Court today (March 18, 2019) declined to hear oral arguments in a case about a Hawaiian bed and breakfast inn that refused on religious grounds to serve a lesbian couple, allowing a lower court ruling against the business to stand, according to the Christian Post website.

In an order released today, the high court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case of Cervelli v. Aloha Bed & Breakfast, thus upholding a lower court ruling against the small business.

Phyllis Young, owner of the three-room Aloha Bed & Breakfast, will now face a penalty for the refusal in 2007 to rent a room to Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford.

In 2011, Young was sued by the lesbian couple over the 2007 incident, being represented by the pro-LGBT law firm Lambda Legal.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Daily Aspirin No Longer Advised to Benefit Heart; AHA Study: It Increases Risk for Internal Bleeding

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology announced today (March 17, 2019) that the old tradition of taking low-dose aspirin daily is no longer recommended as a preventative for older adults who don't have a high risk of heart disease, according to  the CNN website.

Doctors may consider aspirin for older high-risk patients -- such as those who have trouble lowering their cholesterol or managing their blood sugars -- as long as there is no increased risk for internal bleeding, the new guidelines say.

"Clinicians should be very selective in prescribing aspirin for people without known cardiovascular disease," John Hopkins cardiologist Dr. Roger Blumenthal, who co-chaired the new guidelines, said in a statement.

He added, "It's much more important to optimize lifestyle habits and control blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to recommending aspirin."

Erdogan Tells Israeli PM "Twist Your Son's Ear;" Son Said Turks Waged Armenian, Greek Genocide

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upped the stakes yesterday in his tit-for-tat exchanges on Twitter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the World Israel News website reports today (March 17, 2019).

Erdogan was enraged by Netanyahu's son, Yair, who reminded him in a tweet last week that Turkey's capital city was called Constantinople as "the capital of the Byzantine empire and center of Orthodox Christianity for more than a thousand years before Turkish occupation."

In an additional "reminder," he mentioned various genocides Turks have carried out "against Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians" and the ethnic cleansing of "all Christians from Asia Minor."

Erdogan responded that the Israeli leader should "twist his son's ear" for his words that insulted Turkey. Netanyahu responded by calling Erdogan a "dictator who sends tens of thousands of political opponents to prison, commits genocide against the Kurds, and [illegally] occupies northern Cyprus."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

NY Police Nab Man for Murder of Mafia Boss Cali; Anthony Comello Is in Custody in NJ,Heads to NY

New York police today (March 16, 2019) arrested a 24-year-old man in the shooting death this week of reputed New York City Mafia boss Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, and he will face murder charges in New York, according to the USA Today website.

Officials identified the man as Anthony Comello and said he was in custody in New Jersey pending extradition to Staten Island.

"The investigation is far from over," NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told reporters.

Shea said police were still working to determine the suspect's motive and whether he was working with or for other people.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Poll: More Cath. Leaving Church Over Sex Abuse; Feel Church Too Slow in Reducing Clerical Abuse

A growing number of American Catholics are reconsidering their loyalty to the global church as it continues on a slow path toward reforming how it handles clerical sexual abuse, the Huffington Post website reports today (March 15, 2019).

A Gallup poll published on March 13 found that 37 percent of U.S. Catholics have questioned whether they will remain part of the church this year amid recent news about sexual abuse of young people by priests.

This is up from 22 percent who said the same in 2002, the last time Gallup conducted polling on this question. At that time, the Boston Globe Spotlight team's investigation into clerical abuse and the church's cover-up in the Boston area led to exposing the scandal nationwide.

Over the past year, many Catholics questioned whether the church's secretive, self-protective culture has really changed since 2002, and whether bishops have been held accountable for covering up the issue.

Man Kills 49 People in 2 New Zealand Mosques; Streams Facebook, Calls Immigrants "Invaders"

A gunman in New Zealand attacked worshipers in two mosques today (March 15, 2019), killing 49 people and injuring 42 others in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a "terrorist attack," according to the Euro News website.

A 28-year-old Australian suspect, identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, appeared in Christchurch district court today. He streamed footage of the attack on Facebook and denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders."

Tarrant has been charged with murder and was remanded without plea. He will return to court on April 5 and will face additional charges.

Two other suspects in the mosque attacks are currently in custody.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

College Scandal Shows Money Controls Higher Ed; Primary Goal of Colleges Is to Maximize Revenue

The news this week on the college admissions scandal involving wealthy people and Hollywood celebrities, bribes, and fake test scores -- all done to get adolescents into the premier colleges and universities in our nation -- should not be a shock to any of us, the UPI website reports today (March 14, 2019).

Colleges have become a big business and they are all about one thing: making money. They are motivated to maximize revenue and too many traffic in degrees that fail to prepare people for the workforce.

This is more proof that colleges care less and less about getting the best candidates and providing a best-in-class education. This falls behind the need to generate maximum revenues and this results in behaviors that create vacuums like this to occur.

It is time we hold colleges accountable. They should do a better job ensuring that if they have a real admissions system... it should not be influenced by bribes. Otherwise, cut government funding and let them become an online university and just let everybody in.

NY Mafia Boss Francesco Cali, 53, Is Murdered; Shot 6 Times, Hit by a Truck Outside His Home

More than three decades of Mafia peace have been shattered by the murder last night of Gambino crime family boss Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (March 14, 2019).

Cali, 53, was shot six times and run over by a pickup truck outside his redbrick home in the upmarket Todt Hill neighborhood of Staten Island.

His wife and young children were inside the house and one man -- believed to be a family member -- ran outside, collapsed and cried, "Papa! Papa!"

Cali's murder is the first hit on a Mafia boss since John Gotti arranged the assassination of then-Gambino head Paul Castellano in 1985.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pentagon Limits Approval of Transgender Troops; Forbids Them from Serving If They Need Surgery

The U.S. Defense Department signed a memo yesterday that will enforce limitations on transgender people serving in the military, the Reuters website reports today (March 13, 2019).

The policy will take effect April 12 and will bar most transgender individuals from serving if they require transition surgery or hormone treatments.

The memo allows service secretaries to issue waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Trump cited military focus and medical costs for initiating the new policy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Australian Cardinal Gets 6 Years in Prison; Card.George Pell Molested Two Choirboys

The most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced today (March 12, 2019) to six years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in a crime that an Australian judge said showed "staggering arrogance," according to the ABC News website.

Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.

The five convictions against Pell carried a maximum possible sentence of 10 years each.

"In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance," Kidd said in handing down the sentence.

FBI Charges 50 in College Entry Bribery Scheme; Largest College Admissions Scam Ever Prosecuted

The U.S. Justice Department today (March 12, 2019) charged 50 people with being part of a long-running bribery scheme to get privileged children with lackluster grades into prestigious colleges and universities, according to the Washington Post website.

The alleged crimes included cheating on college entrance exams, as well as bribing college officials to say certain students were coming to compete on athletic teams when those students were not in fact athletes, officials said.

Several schools were targeted, including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, and UCLA, among others.

Boston's U.S. attorney, Andrew Lelling, called it the largest-ever college admissions scam prosecuted by the Justice Department. Of the 50 people charged as part of the FBI's Operation Varsity Blues, 33 were parents, officials said, warning that the investigation is ongoing and that others could be charged.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Greek Coffee Seen as World's Healthiest Coffee; Boiling Greek Coffee Adds More Nutrients to It

Greek coffee is considered by scientists to be the healthiest coffee in the world, the Again and Again website reports today (March 11, 2019).

American scientists have just unearthed evidence that coffee exerts protective effects against heart failure and stroke.

According to the researchers, for every extra cup of coffee drunk per week, there was a 7 percent reduction in risk of heart failure and an 8 percent risk reduction for stroke.

Greek coffee is boiled, which creates kaimaki (foam), which adds a rich, creaminess to the coffee. The process of boiling coffee extracts many more nutrients from the coffee beans than the filtering method.

New Study: Preteen Suicide Risk at 30 Percent; Suicide Thoughts Typically Seen in Older Teens

A new study reveals that suicide is a growing problem in America, and it's especially problematic among young people, the UPI website reports today (March 11, 2019).

Some 30 percent of youth between ages 10 and 12 who visited emergency rooms for either physical or psychiatric treatment screened positive for suicide risk, according to a study published today in Hospital Pediatrics.

And among the preteens who visited the emergency room only for psychiatric problems, 54 percent showed a suicide risk, and more than 17 percent in that group had attempted suicide in the past.

"Typically, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are seen in older teens. It was troubling to see that so many preteens screened positive for suicide risk, and we were alarmed to find that many of them had acted on their suicidal thoughts in the past," said Lisa Horowitz, a clinical scientist in the National Institutes of Mental Health and study author, in a new release.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

US to Surpass Saudi Arabia in Oil Prod. This Yr.; Shale Boom Helps US Become Top Oil Exporter

According to energy research from Rystad Energy, the U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia in exports of oil, natural gas liquids, and petroleum products, like gasoline, the Drudge Report website reports today (March 10, 2019).

The milestone -- driven by the transformative shale boom -- would make the U.S. the world's leading exporter of oil and liquids.

That has never happened since Saudi Arabia began selling oil overseas in the 1950s, Rystad said.

"It's nothing short of remarkable," said Ryan Fitzmaurice, energy strategist at Rabobank. "Ten years ago, no one thought it could happen."

Netanyahu:Israel Not a State of All Its Citizens; Asserts Israel Is Nation-State of Jewish People

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- in an apparent effort to win Israel's April 9 election -- said today (March 10, 2019) that Israel "was not a state of all its citizens" in a reference to the country's Arab population, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.

The prime minister went on to say all citizens -- including Arabs -- had equal rights, but referred to a controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

"Israel is not a state of all its citizens," Netanyahu insisted.

"According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people -- and only it."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

House Endorses Statehood for Washington, DC; First Time Ever House Endorsed DC Statehood

The U. S. House of Representatives yesterday endorsed statehood for the District of Columbia for the first time in American history, with the passage of the Democrats' sweeping voting rights bill, the Daily Caller website reports today (March 9, 2019).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer became the latest high profile Democrat after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to express support for DC statehood.

Opponents argue that Democrats support the measure only because it would ensure them two additional Democratic senators.

DC's city council is made up entirely of Democrats.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Prison Officials Checking Shkreli's Drug Contacts; Drug Thief May Be Running a Co. with Cellphone

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said today (March 8, 2019) it was investigating convicted former drug company executive Martin Shkreli's conduct in prison after the Wall Street Journal reported he was still helping run his old company using a contraband cellphone, according to the Reuters website.

"This allegation is currently under investigation," the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

It also said that possessing a contraband phone could lead to criminal charges.

Shkreli, 35, is about 17 months into a seven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors with exorbitant drug costs in a previous company.

Teacher Makes Student Clean Ashes on Forehead; District Is Upset, Places Teacher on Admin. Leave

A fourth grade elementary school teacher is apologizing to one of her students after making him remove a religious symbol from his forehead during class, the Yahoo News website reports today (March 8, 2019).

William McLeod joined his family and church to receive a cross on his forehead on Ash Wednesday in honor of the beginning of Lent and the Easter season.

But quickly after noticing that he was the only person in class who had the religious symbol, he was approached by his teacher to take it off. Now, the district is calling the teacher's actions unacceptable.

A statement from the district's spokesperson, Chris Williams, reads: "We take the matter very seriously and are investigating the situation. The teacher is currently on administrative leave."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Pope Opens Lent with a Call to End Selfishness; We Must Open Our Hearts to Needs of the Poor

Pope Francis has urged Roman Catholic faithful to free themselves from the "clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness" as he marked the start of Lent, the period of prayer and fasting before Easter, the Religion News website reports today (March 7, 2019).

Francis led a procession and then celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the basilica of Santa Sabina, one of Rome's most beautiful.

In his homily, Francis said the 40-day period of Lent is a "wakeup call for the soul" to rediscover the direction of life.

He added: "We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor."

Poll: US Sympathy for Israel Lowest Since 2009; Liberal Democrats Raise Backing of Palestinians

A new Gallup poll finds that a majority of Americans remain partial towards Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 59 percent saying they sympathize more with Israelis, whereas 21 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians, the World Israel News website reports today (March 7, 2019).

However, while still widespread, sympathy toward Israel is down from 64 percent in 2018 and marks the lowest percentage favoring Israel since 2009, says Gallup.

Meanwhile, the 21 percent sympathizing more with the Palestinians -- statistically unchanged from a year ago -- is the highest by one point in Gallup's trend since 2001.

These results are based on Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted each February.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Town Proposes Rule to Jail Barking Dog Owners; Saddle River, NJ Hopes to Cut Long Dog Barking

A New Jersey town wants to get tough on excessive dog barking and a new proposal could even land a noisy pup's owner in jail, the Drudge Report website states today (March 6, 2019).

The proposed ordinance in Saddle River would prohibit loud, continuous barking for over 20 minutes during the day, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Its law would get even stricter at night, with penalties kicking in for barking lasting more than 15 minutes from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

A public hearing and vote on the ordinance are scheduled in Saddle River, N.J. on March 18.

Sarsour Rips Pelosi for Her Anti-Semitic Motion; Calls Pelosi a Feminist Doing Dirty Work of Men

Women's March co-chair Linda Sarsour blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for pushing an anti-Semitism resolution, calling her a "typical white feminist upholding patriarchy,"  the Washington Times website reports today (March 6, 2019).

"Nancy is a typical white feminist upholding the patriarchy doing the dirty work of powerful white men," Sarsour said yesterday on Facebook.

The Palestinian-American activist also defended U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, whose comments last week on pledging "allegiance to a foreign country," referring to Israel, were widely decried as anti-Semitic.

The House Democratic leadership responded to the latest uproar over Ms. Omar with a proposed resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Record Arrests of Immigrants at US Border; Numbers Hit Emergency,Back Trump's Wall

Homeland Security officials announced today (March 5, 2019) that the number of families snared trying to sneak into the U.S. southern border soared by 50 percent in one month alone, setting an all-time record with more than 36,000 family members apprehended, according to the Washington Times website.

The government also encountered some 70 groups of at least 100 migrants during the first five months of the fiscal year, shattering records and placing new challenges on Border Patrol agents.

The mini-caravans are being funneled to some of the remotest parts of the border, where there is little in the way of medicinal help and it takes hours to process and transport the groups.

Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said, "We are facing alarming trends." He added the numbers signal the existence of an immigration and humanitarian crisis, reinforcing President Trump's assertion of an emergency necessitating his redirection of money to build a border wall.

Trump:Rep.Omar's Words "Dark Day" for Israel; Said Jews Pay Congress Members to Back Israel

President Donald Trump tweeted today (March 5, 2019) that Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar's newest remarks about Israel mark a "dark day" for the Jewish state,  according to the AP website.

Some Republicans and Jewish groups are pressuring Democrats to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Representative Ilhan Omar is again under fire for her terrible comments concerning Israel," Trump wrote... "A dark day for Israel."

Last month, Omar suggested on Twitter that members of Congress are paid by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to support Israel. Trump said Omar should resign from Congress for that remark.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Women Go on "Birthstrike" to Stop Having Kids; Group Refuses to Bring Kids in Collapsed World

Fears of "climate change" and other environmental disasters are prompting some women to band together to refuse to bear children, the WND (World Net Daily) website reports today (March 4, 2019).

About 60 people have already joined a new group calling itself "BirthStrike," consisting of people "too concerned by the consequences of ecological collapse to have children."

"I'm terrified. Our planet is in a kind of collapse," Blythe Pepino, 33, told the BBC regarding why she founded the group.

She added, "The natural world is collapsing around us and that's actually happening right now... Everything I've read that basically last year I came to the decision that I couldn't bring a child into that."

Vatican to Open Secret Archive on Pope Pius XII; Many Say WW II Pope Ignored Jewish Holocaust

Pope Francis announced today (March 4, 2019) that the Vatican will open a secret archive on Pope Pius XII, the controversial pontiff who critics say ignored the Jewish Holocaust during World War II, according to the UPI website.

Pope Francis said the church "isn't afraid of history" and Pope Pius XII's legacy has been treated with "some prejudice and exaggeration."

The documents will be released on March 2, 2020.

Eugenio Pacelli was confirmed as Pope Pius XII in 1939 and served util 1958. "For more than 30 years, the American Jewish Committee has called for the full opening of the Holy See's Secret Archives from the period of World War II," said AJC inter-religious affairs director Rabbi David Rosen.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

US Merges Its Consulate-Embassy in Jerusalem; Merger Upsets Palestinians, Say It Favors Israel

The U.S. plans to move ahead with the downgrade of its mission to the Palestinians on March 4, 2019 by merging its Jerusalem consulate with its embassy in Israel, the World Israel News website reports today (March 3, 2019).

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said -- when announcing the merger in October -- that it was intended to improve "efficiency and effectiveness" and did not constitute a change in policy, but Palestinian leaders view the decision as another move against them by the Trump administration.

The U.S. transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last May.

The new merger brings Palestinian Authority (PA) affairs directly under the supervision of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who will now oversee American diplomatic relations with both Israel and the PA.

Report: Only 6 Nations Give Women Equal Rights; Women Will Not Achieve Full Equality Until 2073

Only six countries of the world currently give women equal rights with men, a major report from the World Bank has found, the CNN website reports today (March 3, 2019).

That's an increase -- from zero -- compared to a decade ago, when the organization started measuring countries by how effectively they guarantee legal and economic equality between the genders.

But the rate of progress means that by CNN calculations,women won't achieve full equality in the areas studied by the World Bank until 2073.

The six countries that have equal rights for men and women are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden. Of these nations, France saw the biggest improvement over the past decade for implementing a domestic violence law, providing criminal penalties for workplace sexual harassment and introducing paid parental leave.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

US-Backed Troops Surround Last IS Enclave; Expect IS to Be Defeated Today or Tomorrow

The IS (Islamic State) terror group was surrounded today (March 2, 2019) by U.S.-backed troops battling IS's last Syrian enclave in Baghouz, a village located in eastern Syria, where a large majority of IS fighters and followers reside, according to the Express (British) website.

Authorities said the fight will be "over soon," ending a four-year battle against the jihadist group in Syria.

However, U.S. President Donald Trump told American troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska on February 28 that U.S.-backed forces in Syria have already captured all IS territories in Syria.

An SDF official said the fighting is ongoing and that the troops were "surprised by the statement" from Mr. Trump.

Kraft Donated Over $400M to Philanthropies; Faces 2 Counts of Soliciting Prostitutes in Fla.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft  has donated enormously to a long list of nonprofits and universities in Boston and beyond -- more than $400 million over five decades -- the Yahoo News website reports today (March 2, 2019).

Among his beneficiaries are people who fight sex trafficking.

Kraft, 77, is facing two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in Florida. Authorities say he paid women for sexual services on January 19 and 20 at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, an operation police say is tied to an international human trafficking ring.

Kraft pleaded not guilty on February 28 and has denied any illegal activity. He is scheduled to be arraigned on March 27.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Pentagon Plan Ends US Afghan Troops in 5 Yrs.; Would Halve US Afghan Troops in Few Months

A new Pentagon report reveals that all U.S. troops could exit Afghanistan within the next half-decade, the Washington Examiner website reports today (March 1, 2019).

A plan under consideration as part of Afghanistan peace negotiations would pull all of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan within three to five years, along with other international troops in the region.

The plan would halve the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in the next few months.

With European and Australian troops taking charge of training Afghan forces, remaining U.S. forces would be freed up to focus more attention on counterterrorism strikes.