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Iran premieres big-budget epic film ‘Muhammad’


Shiites supposedly like the film, while Sunnis don’t. No surprise there. Sunnis don’t seem to like much of anything. For those of you unaware, the Sunnis are the conservative Muslims. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Iranians stand in front of a cinema featuring "Muhammad" in Tehran on August 27, 2015 -- the first day of screening

Tehran (AFP) – Iran’s most expensive movie, “Muhammad”, which chronicles the childhood of the Muslim prophet, opened nationwide, winning praise from early audiences.

Directed by Majid Majidi, the 171-minute, visually stunning film cost around $40 million (36 million euros), partly funded by the state, and took more than seven years to complete.

Majidi says the aim of his work, the first part of a trilogy, is to reclaim the rightful image of Islam, which he said extremists have distorted.

“Unfortunately at this time the impression of Islam is of a radical, fanatical and violent religion, which is not what it’s about,” he said in Montreal, where “Muhammad” had its international premiere, hours after screening back home.

“The barbaric acts of terrorism conducted by terrorist groups under the guise of Islam are not related to Islam,” he said, alluding to beheadings and destruction of cultural treasures by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

“Islam is a religion of peace, friendship and love, and I tried to show this in the film.”

– Ambitious goals –

“Muhammad”, which captures Saudi Arabia more than 1,400 years ago, offers much more than stereotypical trains of Arabs on camels riding across yellow sand dunes.

It takes cinemagoers from the birth of the future prophet up to his teenage years, and is packed with miracles.

The crew of “Muhammad” is indicative of the film’s ambition.

It includes three-time Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, while the score was devised by India’s Allah Rakha Rahman, a double Academy Award winner for the Danny Boyle-directed blockbuster “Slumdog Millionaire”.

In one scene, an army of tribesmen mounted on elephants charges the holy city of Mecca to heart-pounding music, only to be destroyed by a flock of crows hurling stones.

In another, intensely emotional scene, the boy heals his nanny with a touch of his hand.

“It was very moving for us,” said Mahsa Rasoulzadeh, 40, accompanied by her mother and teenage daughter at Kourosh Cinema in west Tehran.

– Strong demand in Tehran –

The theatre was around two-thirds full at an 11:00 am showing on Thursday, the first day of the Iranian weekend, but afternoon sessions were sold out in advance and two more had to be added for after midnight to meet demand.

Abolfazl Fatehi, 21, who came to watch the film in a family group of seven, said he loved it.

“I think this film can be a starting point of research for those who don’t know Islam,” he said.

Mehdi Azar, a 25-year-old worker at the cinema, said that while the film’s length might put some movie-goers off, “it’s attractive enough to draw an audience. It was very attractive visually”.

Outside the Imperial Cinema in Montreal, around 50 protesters chanted against Iran, accusing Majidi of betrayal and calling the event Iranian propaganda.

The film is the second major production on the prophet.

The first, “Muhammad, Messenger of God”, was made in 1976 by Syrian-American filmmaker Moustapha Akkad.

It was a huge success with Shiite Iranians.

Forty years on, with its cost around 20 times higher than any other Iran-produced film, Majidi’s effort has raised high expectations.

Despite broad early enthusiasm some felt the movie had not lived up to the hype.

“I had heard so much about it… but, to be honest, my expectations were much higher than what I saw,” said Komeil Arjmandi, 23, who is studying film direction.

“I wanted the film to rise higher than Mr Akkad’s movie.”

Yet, officials don’t want the film to be compared with others.

In order to “preserve the dignity” of the prophet, “Muhammad” was excluded from competition in Iran’s major Fajr festival in February and was instead showcased in a separate showing.

While Iran has denounced cartoons of the prophet like those published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Shiites are generally more relaxed than Sunnis about depiction of religious figures.

Many showings of “Muhammad” in Shiite-majority Iran have already sold out, but the film has triggered controversy in the Sunni world.

No announcement has yet been made on when the two other parts of the “Muhammad” trilogy, covering the rest of his life, will be produced.

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Colorado theater gunman’s sentencing caps grueling trial


Oh gee, how “impressive.” Live without parole for 3318 years. If there was a way to define stupidity, the judicial system in this country (the United States of America) would headline Webster’s Dictionary! 

What kind of a f*cked-up judicial system do we have in this country? 3300-plus years in prison without parole, really! What do they think this guy is, a newly planted giant redwood? Is this the best we got for someone who murdered 12 innocent people? How pathetic is that! And speaking of pathetic, the people in the jury of this trial ought to be ashamed of themselves. They are lame beyond the definition of the word. To be unable to justify putting this meaningless worm to death speaks to the fact that they are spineless!

By the way, let’s not forget this judge, who is also a loser. This country is going to hell in a handbasket! TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Movie theater shooting gunman gets the maximum sentence

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Belittled by the judge and jeered by spectators, James Holmes was sent to prison for the rest of his life Wednesday, while the survivors of his murderous attack on a Colorado movie theater wondered aloud how they would spend the rest of their days.

Judge Carlos A. Samour sentenced Holmes to the maximum — 12 consecutive life terms without parole plus 3,318 years — then made a final, contemptuous order: “Sheriff, get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Samour described Holmes as an angry quitter who gave up on life and turned his hatred into murder and mayhem against innocent strangers.

Survivors and victims’ family members in the gallery cheered, and someone shouted “Loser!” as deputies took Holmes away.

The long, grueling trial came to its formal conclusion three years and 37 days after Holmes murdered 12 people and tried to kill 70 more during a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Samour, who was scrupulously respectful toward Holmes throughout the trial, launched into a withering condemnation of him as someone who knew right from wrong but “robbed the world of all the good these victims would have accomplished” and irreparably damaged the lives of hundreds more.

“It is almost impossible to comprehend how a human being is capable of such acts,” Samour said.

Outside the courthouse, prosecutors and victims broke into smiles and even cracked a few jokes, their relief obvious. But they also wondered what their futures would hold without the daily routine of the trial and the comfort they found in each other’s presence.

“I’m relieved that it’s over, but I don’t think it will ever be over, you know?” said Rena Medek, whose daughter Micayla was among those killed. “I always have my daughter to think about.”

Kathleen Larimer only recently has been able to accept that her son, John, was murdered in the attack. She said the trial has become her life and she doesn’t know what moving forward will be like.

“Now that this is over, I have to go home and live with all that emptiness, and yet somehow be happy with life going on,” she said.

“The trial is over, and that thing will never see the light of day again,” said Caren Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed.

Samour was required to give Holmes life without parole, rather than the death penalty, after a split jury decided the sentence earlier this month. Prosecutors have said 11 jurors favored death and one voted for life without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty.

The 3,318 additional years were for Holmes’ convictions for attempted murder and an explosives count.

Colorado court system spokesman Rob McCallum could not say whether the sentence was a record for the state. He said it was the longest he was aware of.

Before sentencing Holmes, Samour tried to reassure victims who were upset at the lack of a death penalty that Holmes’ punishment would still be severe.

The judge also dismissed complaints that the trial was a waste of time, noting it gave family members and survivors an opportunity to tell the world about their ordeal. The case could have ended the same way more than two years ago, when Holmes offered to plead guilty if he could avoid the death penalty. Prosecutors rejected the offer.

As they departed the courtroom for the last time, survivors and relatives hugged and thanked prosecutors, law enforcement officers and a handful of jurors who were in the courtroom to observe. Some wiped away tears.

Victim advocates then collected dozens of colorful tissue boxes scattered about the courtroom floor and loaded them into a brown box. Therapy dogs that comforted witnesses were led out of the courthouse by handlers, one of whom patted the dog and whispered, “We’re done.”

Colorado prisons officials will determine where Holmes will be incarcerated after an evaluation that includes his mental health.

Holmes, who has been diagnosed with varying forms of schizophrenia, could wind up in the corrections department’s mental hospital, the 250-bed San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo. He also could be transferred to an out-of-state prison.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office refused to discuss Holmes or say whether he had left the jail, citing security concerns.

Holmes moved from California to Colorado in 2011 and entered a prestigious postgraduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in Denver. But he dropped out after a year; by that time, he was well into planning the attack and stockpiling ammunition. He rigged his apartment to explode on the night of the shooting, hoping to divert first responders from the Aurora theater. The homemade devices didn’t go off.

He surrendered meekly outside the theater after the July 20, 2012, attack and eventually pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Last month, the jury rejected that plea, finding Holmes knew right from wrong when he slipped into the theater dressed head-to-toe in body armor and started shooting.

Holmes’ state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. They said Holmes was obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, and he pursued neuroscience to find out what was wrong with his brain.

Prosecutors pointed to Holmes’ elaborate planning and his refusal to divulge to anyone — family, friends, psychiatrists — that he was thinking about, and preparing for, mass murder.

An attorney for Holmes’ parents did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Wednesday. Holmes’ mother, Arlene, was the last to testify during his emotional sentencing hearing, saying her son feels remorse but his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it.

“We are very sorry this tragedy happened and sorry everyone has suffered so much,” she testified.

___

Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi and Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

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Iran film epic about Prophet Mohammed postponed


The world would be a much better place without the likes of Jesus and Mohammed. These two figures have been (and in the case of Mohammed) continue to be the cause of much of the misery and suffering of the human race throughout the ages. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP
A man walks past an advertising billboard in Tehran for the movie "Muhammad", which will now be screened in Tehran for the first time on Thursday, a spokesman for the film told AFP
 

Tehran (AFP) – The eagerly awaited premiere of Iran’s multimillion-dollar film “Muhammad” — about the childhood of the prophet — was postponed Wednesday for 24 hours due to technical problems, a spokesman said.

The huge production cost an estimated $40 million and took more than seven years to complete.

The 171-minute film, which stars many top Iranian actors, was due to show in around 140 theatres throughout Iran on Wednesday, the day before it opens the Montreal Film Festival.

But it will now be screened in Tehran on Thursday, just as in Canada, a spokesman for the film told AFP.

“It will premiere tomorrow,” he said.

Iranian media reported that the film’s audio track was incompatible with the existing sound systems in Iranian cinemas, forcing the postponement to make time for changes.

“Those who have purchased tickets in advance can use their tickets from Thursday until next Wednesday,” Mohammad Reza Saberi, the film’s producer and distributor, told the ISNA news agency.

“Muhammad” is the first part of a trilogy on the prophet’s life. It depicts events before his birth and up to his teenage years, before he became prophet, which according to the Koran was at 40.

While Iran has denounced cartoons of the prophet like those published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Shiite Muslims are generally more relaxed than Sunnis about depictions of religious figures.

While many planned showings of “Muhammad” in Shiite-majority Iran have already sold out, in the Sunni Muslim world the production has triggered controversy.

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Amnesty report finds Saudi Arabia executed 175 in past year


It would appear that strict Sharia law is worthless in terms of maintaining order. The other possibility, being that these Muslims are fanatical, is that innocent people are being executed. And needless to say, the executions are barbaric as they are the result of beheadings. But then again, what else can one expect from barbarians? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.

The 43-page report titled “Killing In the Name of Justice: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia” said that between January 1985 and June 2015, at least 2,208 people were executed in the kingdom. An Associated Press tally based on official announcements shows that Saudi Arabia executed 109 people since January, compared to 83 in all of 2014.

The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling. Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.

People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

“Saudi Arabia’s faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale,” Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement.

In one case highlighted in the report, two sets of brothers from the same extended family were executed in August 2014 in the southern city of Najran after being convicted of receiving large quantities of hashish. Amnesty said the men claimed they were tortured during interrogation and sentenced to death largely based on confessions made after being beaten and deprived of sleep.

Amnesty said it reached out to the Saudi Interior and Justice ministries, but received no reply.

Most executions are carried out by beheading, though some are also done by firing squad. In rare cases, executed bodies have been displayed in public to deter others from committing crime.

Islamic law as practiced in Saudi Arabia allows for retribution in some cases, whereby relatives of the murder victim have the right to decide if the offender should be executed or pardoned. If pardoned, compensation or “blood money” is often paid to the family. In one case reported in Saudi media in 2012, a father pardoned his son’s killer on condition he memorize the Quran before leaving prison.

Amnesty said almost half of those executed during the last 30 years were foreign nationals, many of whom lack the Arabic skills to understand court proceedings and charges. Almost a third of those executed were for drug-related offenses.

The rights group said Saudi authorities have denied its researchers access to the country. The London-based rights group said it researched cases for this report by contacting people before their execution and reaching out to relatives and lawyers, in addition to analyzing available court documents.

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Judge gives spirited defense of theater shooter’s trial


This freak deserved the death sentence, end of story. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

James Holmes appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — The judge who oversaw Colorado theater shooter James Holmes’ trial gave an impassioned defense of the jury and the process Monday after the mother of one of the wounded said Holmes’ life sentence showed more concern for Holmes than for the victims.

“You can’t claim there was no justice because it wasn’t the outcome you expected,” Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said in an unusual speech from the bench during Holmes’ formal sentencing hearing for the 2012 attack.

Samour said the jury was fair and impartial and that he tried his utmost to be the same.

“And that’s how you know it was justice,” he said.

Samour spoke after Kathleen Pourciau testified that her daughter, Bonnie Kate Pourciau, suffers constant, excruciating pain and terrible nightmares from the gunshot wounds she suffered at Holmes’ hand.

Kathleen Pourciau said the sentence showed little respect for life.

“The message is the state of Colorado values a mass murderer more than the lives of those he murdered,” she said, speaking from a lectern facing Samour and occasionally turning toward the attorneys and the packed gallery behind her.

Afterward, she sat quietly and nodded but showed no other reaction as Samour defended the trial.

Holmes murdered 12 people and tried to kill 70 more when he opened fire during a packed midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” His attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, and experts testified that it wouldn’t have happened if he were not seriously mentally ill.

Jurors quickly rejected his insanity defense, convicting him on July 16 of 165 felony counts. But they were divided on the sentence, with 11 favoring death and one favoring life in prison without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty, so Holmes automatically got life.

Samour will formally hand down the life sentences for 24 murder convictions — two for each victim — after a three-day hearing that began Monday. He’ll also sentence Holmes on the 141 other counts, which include attempted murder and an explosives charge.

The hearing won’t change the life sentence but gives survivors a chance to share their harrowing stories.

At least 100 victims and witnesses are expected to testify. Holmes will also have an opportunity to speak, though he declined to do so during his trial.

Two jurors who heard the case — including an alternate who didn’t participate in the deliberations — sat in the gallery listening to the testimony Monday.

Holmes wore a burgundy jail uniform and sat shackled at the defense table Monday. He showed little emotion and twiddled his thumbs as Pourciau and others described the physical pain, the grief and the despair his rampage caused.

“There’s no human language that can convey the pain I have witnessed seize ahold of my family,” said Kristian Cowden, whose father Gordon Cowden was the oldest of those killed.

Cowden and her sister, Brooke, spoke in trembling, tearful voices as they talked about how their father’s death shattered their lives and left them in a black hole of sorrow.

Brooke Cowden described “drowning in pain and sadness.”

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed, called Holmes an evil coward and also denounced the defense attorneys as “agents of evil” who were trying to advance their own careers.

Aurora Police Cmdr. Michael Dailey spoke of the emotional trauma that he and other officers — including his wife, an Aurora officer — suffered in the chaotic and bloody aftermath of the shooting.

He called Holmes a monster who should be banished from public sight and forgotten.

“I hope that every day is painful for him. I hope that prison is not kind to him,” Dailey said. “I hope prison gives him his just rewards.”

___

Associated Press writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

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Up to 150 drowned, shot dead fleeing Boko Haram in Nigeria


And now to the continent of Africa, more specifically Nigeria, where yet another Islamic group (they spread like rats) is ruthlessly murdering people at will; once again in the name of Islam. How “beautiful” is that? Are more Muslim apologists going to come out of the woodwork to defend these cowardly criminals? Of course! Hell, westerners have become softer than Jello with their political correctness crap. They’ll blame Boko Haram’s actions on anything but Islam. But hey, if they really believe what they preach, they should go to Nigeria and join Boko Haram and learn what it’s like to be a savage, just like members of Al-Qaeda, IS, the Taliban or any of the hundreds of Islamic terrorist organizations throughout the world – whose members, by the way, are infiltrating cities and towns across western Europe and North America, while all of you Muslim apologists have your heads stuck up your asses! TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau delivering a speech

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) – Up to 150 people drowned in a river or were shot dead fleeing Boko Haram gunmen who raided a remote village in Nigeria’s northeastern Yobe state, residents said on Tuesday.

Dozens of militants arrived on motorcycles and in a car on Thursday last week and sprayed automatic gunfire, scattering terrified inhabitants of Kukuwa-Gari.

“They opened fire instantly, which forced residents to flee. They shot a number of people. Unfortunately many residents who tried to flee plunged into the river which is full from the rain. Many drowned,” Modu Balumi, a resident of the village, told AFP.

“By our latest toll we have 150 people either (shot dead) or drowned in the attack. The gunmen deliberately killed a fisherman who tried to save drowning residents of the village.”

Balumi said the bodies of many of the drowned were picked out by locals several kilometres away.

News of the attack was slow to emerge because the militants have destroyed telecom masts around the village, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Yobe State capital Damaturu, since the insurgency began in 2009.

“They were pursued by the gunmen who kept firing at them. In the frantic effort to escape they jumped into the river, which was full to the brim.”

A local government official confirmed the attack but put the death toll much lower, at around 50.

– Massacre –

The higher count would constitute the largest loss of life in any single Boko Haram attack since President Muhammadu Buhari swept to power on May 29, vowing to crush the insurgency.

The village was still reeling from a raid by suspected Boko Haram militants on July 31 when at least 10 people were killed by gunmen who burned homes, food silos and livestock.

‎The Gujba area of Yobe state, where Kukuwa-Gari village is located, has been hit hard by Boko Haram violence in the past but had seen relative calm since troops reclaimed it in March.

In September 2013 scores of students of an agricultural college in the area were massacred as they slept in their dormitories.

In February last year dozens of students of a boarding secondary school in the main town of Buni Yadi were also killed in a gun attack on their hostels.

The jihadist militia, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, has waged a violent campaign for a separate Islamic homeland in the northeast which has seen more than 15,000 deaths since 2009.

Ryan Cummings, chief security analyst at South African consultancy Red 24 and an expert on the Nigerian insurgency, said the Kukuwa-Gari attack underlined that victory against the Islamists could not be defined by territorial control.

Many areas liberated by the army were more than likely abandoned by Boko Haram who preferred not to engage troops in conventional warfare, he said.

– Suicide attacks –

“Consequently, while localities such as Kukuwa-Gari have been reclaimed from rebel hands, Boko Haram continues to possess both the intent and operational capacity to execute attacks against these settlements,” he told AFP.

“Furthermore, what the Nigerian army is witnessing now is that snapshot operations to liberate civilian populations is a much easier task than actually securing communities from the ever-present threat of further attacks.”

The military under Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was heavily criticised for poor handling of the insurgency and its failure to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok in April last year.

Since Buhari took office, the militants have stepped up their campaign with a wave of raids, bombings and suicide attacks which have left more than 1,000 people dead in Nigeria alone, according to an AFP count.

The Islamists have also carried out deadly ambushes across Nigeria’s borders and in recent weeks suicide bombers, many of them women, have staged several attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

Nigeria’s new leader replaced his military chiefs last week, ordering them to end the insurgency within three months, and a five-nation regional force of 8,700 troops from Nigeria and its neighbours is expected to deploy imminently.

Chadian leader Idriss Deby declared on August 12 that efforts to combat Boko Haram had succeeded in “decapitating” the group and that its fearsome leader Abubakar Shekau had been replaced by a commander open to negotiations.

But Shekau dramatically rebuffed the claim in an audio recording released on Sunday and authenticated by security analysts, dismissing the Chadian head-of-state as a “hypocrite” and a “tyrant”.

Islamic State militants behead archaeologist in Palmyra: Syrian official


More barbarism from the most backward and barbaric of all religions; and of course I’m referring to Islam. Just imagine beheading an 82 year-old man and hanging his headless body from a column in the town square! Who would do such a thing? Why of course, Muslims would, and they did. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded an antiquities scholar in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Tuesday.

IS, whose insurgents control swathes of Syria and Iraq, captured Palmyra in central Syria from government forces in May, but are not known to have damaged its monumental Roman-era ruins despite their reputation for destroying artifacts they view as idolatrous under their puritanical interpretation of Islam.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said the family of Khaled Asaad had informed him that the 82-year-old scholar who worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra was executed by Islamic State on

Tuesday.Asaad had been detained and interrogated for over a month by the ultra-radical Sunni Muslim militants, he told Reuters.

“Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to the place and to history would be beheaded … and his corpse still hanging from one of the ancient columns in the center of a square in Palmyra,” Abdulkarim said.

“The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on (Palmyra) and every column and every archaeological piece in it.

“Abdulkarim said Asaad was known for several scholarly works published in international archaeological journals on Palmyra, which in antiquity flourished as an important trading hub along the Silk Road.

He also worked over the past few decades with U.S., French, German and Swiss archeological missions on excavations and research in Palmyra’s famed 2,000-year-old ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site including Roman tombs and the Temple of Bel.

Before the city’s capture by Islamic State, Syrian officials said they moved hundreds of ancient statues to safe locations out of concern they would be destroyed by the militants.

In June, Islamic State did blow up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which the militants regarded as pagan and sacrilegious.

(Reporting by Kinda Makeih in Damascus Writing by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Rush-hour Bangkok bombing at busy shrine kills 18, hurts 117


KABOOM! Once again, religion is the reason for senseless deaths. And, surprise, once again it’s the Muslims who are planting the bombs! Isn’t Islam wonderful?

Now, once again, what do all of you Muslim apologists out there have to say? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Thailand Explosion

BANGKOK (AP) — A bomb exploded Monday within a central Bangkok shrine that is among the city’s most popular tourist spots, killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 100 across a hectic intersection surrounded by five-star hotels and upscale shopping malls.

With a powerful flash caught on security video and a boom heard blocks away, the blast from the improvised explosive device scattered body parts across Rachaprasong intersection, spattered blood, blasted windows and burned motorbikes to the metal. It exploded during evening rush hour as the area was filled with tourists, office workers and shoppers.

“Suddenly there was a big boom, and the whole room just shook, like someone dropped a wrecking ball on top of our ceiling,” said Pim Niyomwan, an English instructor working on the eighth floor of the building right next to the shrine. “The whole building just shook. My four students were hysterical.”

Video shortly after the blast depicts a scene of shock and desperation: people running for their lives and crying amid the debris. An emergency worker in an ambulance, frantically pounding the chest of a victim.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

“Those who have planted this bomb are cruel,” said national police chief Somyot Poompummuang. “They aim to kill because everyone knows that at 7 p.m. the shrine is crowded with Thais and foreigners. Planting a bomb there means they want to see a lot of dead people.”

At least 18 people were confirmed dead and 117 injured, according to the Narinthorn emergency medical rescue center. The dead included Chinese and a Filipino, Somyot said.

As a single, devastating blow to this Southeast Asian metropolis, Monday’s bombing has no equal in recent history, though Thailand is no stranger to violent attacks. A more-than-decade-long insurgency by southern Muslim separatists has left more than 5,000 dead far from the capital. In Bangkok, politically charged riots centered on this very intersection in 2010 killed more than 90 over two months.

“We still don’t know for sure who did this and why,” Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters. “We are not sure if it is politically motivated, but they aim to harm our economy and we will hunt them down.”

The bomb detonated at Erawan Shrine, which is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, but is extremely popular among Thailand’s Buddhists as well as Chinese tourists. Although Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, it has enormous Hindu influence on its religious practices and language.

The shrine, adjacent to a five-star hotel, is at the intersection of two major arteries in the city. Throngs of tourists come there to pray at all hours, lighting incense and offering flowers purchased from rows of stalls set up on the sidewalk along the shrine. The site is a hubbub of activity, with quiet worshippers sometimes flanked by Thai dancers hired by those seeking good fortune, while groups of tourists shuffle in and out.

Bangkok has been relatively peaceful since a military coup ousted a civilian government in May last year after several months of sometimes violent political protests against the previous government. Anusit Kunakorn, secretary of the National Security Council, said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who orchestrated the May 2014 coup, was closely monitoring the situation.

At the same time, the military government has tightly controlled dissent, arresting hundreds of its opponents and banning protests. Tensions have risen in recent months, with the junta making clear that it may not hold elections until 2017 and wants a constitution that will allow some type of emergency rule to take the place of an elected government.

Stirring the pot has been exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. It was his sister Yingluck Shinawatra who was ousted as prime minister last year.

Last week, Thaksin posted a message on YouTube urging his followers to reject the draft constitution because he said it was undemocratic. The draft charter is supposed to be voted on next month by a special National Reform Council. If it passes, it is supposed to go to a public referendum around January.

Another source of recent tension is the annual military promotion list, with the junta’s top two leaders — Prime Minister Prayuth and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit — widely believed to be supporting different candidates. The reshuffle, which comes into effect in September, has traditionally been a source of unrest, as different cliques in the army, usually defined by their graduating class in the military academy, seek the most important posts to consolidate their power.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens, advising them to avoid the shrine’s area.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby expressed deep sympathy to those affected by the Bangkok explosion. He said authorities were still determining whether any Americans were among the victims.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed shock at the loss of life of innocent civilians and sent condolences to those affected and to the people and government of Thailand.

Tourists reacted with concern.

“We didn’t think anything like this could happen in Bangkok,” said Holger Siegle, a German who said he and his newly wed wife had chosen Thailand because it seemed safe. “Our honeymoon and our vacation will go on, but with a very unsafe feeling.”

While bombings are rare in Bangkok, they are more common where the Muslim separatist insurgency has been flaring: in the country’s three Muslim-majority provinces in the deep south.

In March this year, several arrests were made in connection with a grenade that was tossed at Bangkok’s Criminal Court. Those detained were apparently sympathizers of the pro-Thaksin Red Shirt movement. Critics of the current military government say some of the bombings may have been carried out by the junta to justify its continued suppression of basic rights and liberties. The government denies that.

In April, a car bomb exploded at a shopping mall on the resort island of Samui, injuring seven people. The motive was unclear, though the government suggested it was linked to politics.

The last major bombings in Bangkok occurred on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2006, when a series of bombs at celebrations around town killed at least three people and wounded dozens. Those bombings occurred just three months after a military coup ousted Thaksin, and there was speculation that his supporters carried out the attacks in revenge. However, the bombings were never solved.

The 2006 coup set off a battle for power among Thaksin’s supporters and opponents, sometimes in the form of violent protests. Protesters from both sides sometimes faced armed attacks by unknown groups, with more than 90 people killed in 2010 during pro-Thaksin demonstrations that were quashed by the army. The focus of the 2010 protests was the same intersection where Monday’s blast took place.

Erawan Shrine itself also has been a scene of violence. In March 2006, a man who smashed the statue of the four-headed Brahma with a hammer. The man, believed to be mentally ill, was lynched by bystanders. A new Brahma statue was installed at the shrine within months.

___

Associated Press journalists Grant Peck, Charles Dharapak, Jocelyn Gecker, Michael Rubin and Penny Yi Wang contributed to this report.

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Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. sees long road to normal ties


These communists are something else. Castro seizes power in Cuba on January 1st, 1959. He then steals all the land, all the businesses, all the houses, all the automobiles, etc. Then aligns himself with the communist Soviet Union, together they threaten to attack the United States; so the embargo goes into effect. Mind you, every other country in the world was free to conduct business with Cuba. Yet somehow, the communist vermin in Cuba, which obviously includes Josefina Vidal, claim that the United States owes the corrupt Cuban government money! Really? These people are a joke.

I really do not understand what it is that the United States stands to gain by “normalizing” relations with Cuba? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

But Cuba’s government refuses to cash the checks, made out to a non-existent Treasurer, because it sees the U.S. occupation of Guantanamo as illegal.

Former leader Fidel Castro used to stuff them into a drawer and Vidal says they are now stored in archives “like a historical document,” a symbol of the bitterness between the two countries for over half a century.

“I receive them personally, year after year,” Vidal, the director of U.S. affairs for Cuba’s foreign ministry and its lead negotiator in bilateral talks with Washington, told Reuters in an exclusive interview. “We have a collection.”

With the two countries now putting aside their Cold War-era rivalry and restoring diplomatic relations, many old bilateral conflicts are now being pulled out of storage for negotiation.

Both sides see a chance for quick progress on some relatively simple issues, possibly including a civil aviation deal, but others will take years and they may never reach an agreement.

On one side, Cuba wants back the 45 square miles (116 square km) of land at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba.

It also wants an end to the U.S. economic embargo, no more radio and television signals with anti-communist programming beamed into Cuba, and a halt to U.S.-financed “democracy programs” that Cuba says are aimed at toppling the government.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration says Guantanamo is not up for discussion, and its goal of lifting the embargo faces strong opposition inside a Republican-controlled Congress.

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Friday for “genuine democracy” in Cuba and the United States wants the extradition of some U.S. fugitives living on the island.

What the United States frames as human rights, Cuba sees as internal security, and it insists it will only make political changes according to its own needs. It also says it cannot hand over fugitives who have been granted asylum.

Vidal recognizes the difficulties ahead but says Cuba is willing to tackle all the issues, no matter how hard.

“I prefer not to be pessimistic,” she said in an hour-long interview on Friday, when Kerry was in Havana to raise the U.S. flag at the recently reopened American embassy for the first time since 1961.

Kerry also said the path toward normalization will be arduous but that reopening embassies was an important step.

“There will continue to be issues on which we disagree or where they may not yet be ripe for transition or discussion or transformation,” Kerry told a news conference. “We’re biting off a lot right now. This is a big agenda.”

TALKS IN SEPTEMBER

The two sides will set priorities and timetables on an array of issues with a bilateral commission that will meet for the first time in September.

Vidal said a civil aviation agreement, under which U.S. and Cuban airlines could win landing rights in each other’s countries, is one area where a deal could be reached soon.

She also said Cuba is willing to discuss areas of conflict, such as the 5,913 claims from Americans whose properties were nationalized after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

The two sides would begin talks with a huge gulf between them. A Cuban law links negotiations on property claims to Cuba’s own claims for damages caused by the embargo and other U.S. aggressions.

Vidal said damages amount to more than $300 billion as of the year 2000, an amount far beyond the value of the U.S. property claims or what Washington would ever consider paying.

Talks on direct mail, environmental protection and battling drug trafficking will resume, Vidal said, building on deals already reached in oil spill mitigation and sea search-and-rescue cooperation.

On the most sensitive issue of political reforms, Vidal said Cuba will not give up anything to placate hardline opponents of Obama in the U.S. Congress or anti-Castro exiles in Miami.

“No matter what we do or stop doing, these people … are just going to ask for more and more and more,” she said. “They don’t want what’s good for the Cuban people. They want revenge.”

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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11-year-old gives birth to girl in Paraguay


This whole thing is so disgusting. One has to wonder who is worse, the scum who rapes a ten year-old little girl, or the Catholic Church, which has indoctrinated these people (and an entire nation) into believing that a little girl, victim of rape, should have a child. The entire scenario is totally disgusting. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — An 11-year-old girl who was denied an abortion after being raped gave birth Thursday, the culmination of a case that put a spotlight on child rape in this poor South American nation and drew criticism from human rights groups.

Elizabeth Torales, a lawyer for the girl’s mother, told The Associated Press that the minor gave birth to a baby girl via cesarean in a Red Cross hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital. She said reported there were no complications and both the mother and baby were resting.

“The baby doesn’t yet have a name,” said Torales, who added that her client and the girl’s grandmother had requested custody of the infant.

Hospital director Mario Villalba told reporters outside the hospital that the birth took about 35 minutes. She said the girl would remain in the hospital for three or four days, “like any other patient who has had a cesarean.” She said the minor was currently accompanied by her grandmother, but declined to give more details.

The girl was allegedly raped and impregnated by her stepfather when she was 10. The stepfather has been arrested and is awaiting trial. The girl’s mother has been charged with negligence.

The mother requested an abortion for her daughter, but the government refused to allow it, drawing praise from religious groups but criticism from many human rights organizations, including U.N. officials. Paraguay bans abortion except when a mother’s life is in danger. At the time, the girl was five months pregnant and local health officials said she appeared to be in fine health.

In a statement Thursday, Amnesty International said it was glad the girl came through the birth all right, but said the fact that “she did not die does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities.”

While the case did spark some discussion about abortion in deeply socially conservative Paraguay, the focus of several protests was on better protecting children from abuse.

About 600 girls age 14 or under become pregnant each year in this country of 6.8 million people, according to local health statistics. Many people have called for stiffer penalties for abusers and the funding of education programs to help parents and authorities better spot signs of abuse.

Norma Benitez, spokeswoman for the Latin American Women’s Commission, said her group would now push the government to provide a safe environment for the girl that includes both her mother and grandmother.

“The Paraguayan state must fulfil its role of protecting children by providing a home and a dignified life” for this family, she said.

The Roman Catholic Church has wide influence in the country and was at the forefront of calls not to allow an abortion. Mariano Mercado, spokesman for the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, reaffirmed the church’s position Thursday but didn’t talk about the girl’s case.

“Human life is sacred and should be respected and protected from the moment of conception until death,” he said.

Carlos Gilizzola, a physician who holds a seat in the Senate, said he that for four years he has been pushing legislation to increase sex education funding.

“The majority of Christian churches, led by the Catholic Church, campaigned in 2012 to make sure the bill wasn’t even taken up in committee,” he said.

In July, Pope Francis spent three days in Paraguay. He met with officials, toured a slum outside Asuncion and celebrated two Masses. While activists had hoped to bring up the case of the pregnant girl, Francis did not speak about it or focus on abortion in any of his speeches.

Fidel Castro to US: You owe us millions


Wow, this SOB doesn’t die already! The ironies of life… Babies, kids, teenagers, good decent people die each and every day. Yet this common thief, this low-life assassin, this cockroach is still alive and approaching 90 years of age. And people think there’s a God… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday by insisting the United States owes Cuba "many millions of dollars" because of the half-century-old American trade embargo
 

Havana (AFP) – Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the half-century-old American trade embargo.

Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries’ restoration of diplomatic relations.

The trade embargo that the United States slapped on communist Cuba in 1962, three years after Castro seized power by ousting a US-backed regime, remains in effect despite the thaw.

President Barack Obama wants Congress to lift it, although US officials say this will take time and is not an automatic part of the restoration of ties, as it requires congressional action.

Many Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, oppose the idea, insisting Cuba has to improve its human rights record and make other democratic reforms.

Castro wrote: “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations.”

Castro made no mention either of Kerry’s visit to reopen the embassy, a step that comes eight months after Obama and Castro’s successor and brother Raul announced plans to restore relations. It officially took effect July 20.

Castro ceded power to his brother Raul in 2006, stepping down because of poor health.

Over the years, Fidel Castro has been a frequent contributor of essays to the communist party newspaper Granma and other media. Thursday’s article was his first since May 8.

“Writing is a way to be useful, if you keep in mind that we poor humans must be more and better educated in the face of the incredible ignorance that surrounds us all, except for researchers who use science to seek a satisfactory answer,” Castro wrote.

Castro’s 89th birthday is being celebrated with a wide array of events.

In town to take part is Bolivia’s populist President Evo Morales, who often refers to Castro as his “wise grandfather.”

Castro’s other regional ally, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was also present for the occasion, according to reports.

Venezuelan television network Telesur published three photos of the Cuban leader in a tracksuit and cap sitting with Maduro and Morales in a small van.

Some 200 people, accompanied by beating drums, sang “Happy Birthday” to Castro early Thursday at a special concert dedicated to the former leader.

Islamic State claims huge truck bomb attack in Baghdad’s Sadr City


KABOOM! Muslims keep on killing their own people… Members of the religion of piss strike yet again and show the world what Islam is all about. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters
Islamic State claims blast in Baghdad's Sadr City
By Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – At least 76 people were killed and 212 wounded on Thursday in a blast claimed by Islamic State in Baghdad’s Sadr City, police and medical sources said, one of the biggest attacks on the capital since Haider al-Abadi became prime minister a year ago.

“A refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up inside Jamila market at around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT),” police officer Muhsin al-Saedi said. “Many people were killed and body parts were thrown on top of nearby buildings.”

A statement circulated online by supporters of Islamic State said the blast had targeted what it called a stronghold of the “charlatan army” and Shi’ite Muslim militias.

The market in the Shi’ite neighborhood is one of the biggest in Baghdad selling wholesale food items. A Reuters witness at the site saw fruit and vegetables mixed with shrapnel littering the blood-soaked blast crater.

Smoke rose from charcoaled debris. Rescuers pulling bodies from the rubble stumbled over sheet metal that had formed the walls and roofs of vendors’ stands.

“We hold the government responsible, fully responsible,” witness Ahmed Ali Ahmed said, calling on the authorities to dispatch the army and Shi’ite militias to man checkpoints in the capital.

Abadi took office last summer following the army’s collapse in the face of Islamic State’s takeover of the northern city of Mosul that left the Baghdad government dependent on militias, many funded and assisted by neighboring Iran, to defend the capital and recapture lost ground.

Security forces and militia groups are fighting Islamic State in Anbar province, the sprawling Sunni heartland in western Iraq. In Baghdad, Abadi has proposed sweeping reforms aimed at reducing corruption and patronage, the biggest changes to the political system since the end of U.S. military occupation.

(Additional reporting by Saif Hameed and Reuters TV in Baghdad and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Louise Ireland and Robin Pomeroy)

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Universe ‘resting on sofa’ as it slowly dies


Interesting stuff… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

This photo released by the European Southern Observatory on August 6, 2015 shows a composite picture of how a typical galaxy appears at different wavelengths in the GAMA survey

Sydney (AFP) – The Universe is experiencing a slow death, like a person resting on the sofa awaiting eternal sleep, according to astronomers from a project which measured the energy generated by 200,000 galaxies.

The international team carried out the most precise measurements of energy generation in a large portion of space ever completed and found that it is only half of what it was two billion years ago and fading.

“The Universe is fated to decline from here on in, like an old age that lasts forever,” said Simon Driver from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia.

“The Universe has basically plonked itself down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze.”

Researchers used seven of the world’s most powerful telescopes to observe galaxies at 21 different wavelengths, from ultraviolet to the far infrared, as part of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly Survey (GAMA).

Observations collected over eight years from the Anglo-Australian Telescope in rural New South Wales state were used in conjunction with those from orbiting space telescopes operated by NASA and the European Space Agency.

“We used as many space and ground-based telescopes we could get our hands on, to measure the energy output of over 200,000 galaxies across as broad a wavelength range as possible,” said Driver, who is presenting the findings to the International Astronomical Union in Hawaii on Monday.

– Galactic slowdown –

Driver said while most of the energy sloshing around in the Universe was created in the aftermath of the Big Bang, additional amounts were constantly being released by stars as they fused elements such as hydrogen and helium together.

“This newly released energy is either absorbed by dust as it travels through the host galaxy, or escapes into intergalactic space and travels until it hits something such as another star, planet, or very occasionally a telescope mirror,” he said.

Andrew Hopkins, from the Australian Astronomical Observatory, said while it had been known for some time that the rate at which the Universe was forming stars was declining, the new data showed that the rate of energy production was reducing the same way across all different wavelengths.

“It doesn’t matter which wavelength you look at the Universe in, it is slowing down in its energy production in the same way,” Hopkins told AFP via telephone from Hawaii.

“As the Universe expands and as the rate of expansion accelerates we know that the rate at which galaxies can continue to evolve is going to slow down and this is reflected in the rate that we have been able to measure of how fast they are forming their stars.”

It is hoped that the survey data will help scientists better understand how different types of galaxies form.

Researchers also want to expand their work to map energy production over the entire history of the Universe using new facilities, including the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, which is set to be built in Australia and South Africa over the next decade.

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New violence in Ferguson prompts question: How much progress has city made?


The answer to the question posed in the title of this article is simple; the city hasn’t progressed at all, because the people haven’t progressed. These people, and I refer to black thugs, have the same mentality and will continue to have the same mentality. They feel that because they are black and their ancestors were slaves, that somehow white people owe them something. And apparently, that something includes allowing the criminal among them to do as they wish with no repercussions. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way and never will. Law-abiding citizens will not be shot just because of the color of their skin. If that were the case there would be police shootings of black people multiple times every day of the week in every major city. But if one acts like a thug and commits crimes against society, they will pay the price, whether black, white, yellow or brown. It’s the law of averages and it will catch up with you. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Ferguson residents said they were starting to see some positive changes in the city and its police force. But a state of emergency was issued Monday after more shootings occurred as protesters marked the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.

Christian Science Monitor

A St. Louis County official issued a state of emergency Monday, following a pair of shootings the night before in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson as protesters marked the anniversary of the police shooting death of Michael Brown.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar is taking control of policing in and around Ferguson under the state of emergency, which was issued by County Executive Steve Stenger.

Since the death of Mr. Brown, a black man, at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer, the subjects of racial inequality and policing have become a fixture in the national discourse. A variety of attempts have been made across the country to address those issues, and in Ferguson itself, community members said they were starting to see some positive changes in the city and its police force.

After years of racial inequality in the city, perpetuated by institutions including the municipal court and police force, Ferguson installed a new interim police chief and a new interim city manager. Residents said they were noticing changes in police conduct.

But the new shootings – which resulted in one black suspect being critically wounded – are putting to the test the strides that Ferguson has made. And some residents are wondering whether the apparent changes in Ferguson may be only temporary, like the “interim” tags on the new senior officials.

“I don’t think you can judge people on political victories a year out,” says Brendan Roediger, a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law.

“The answer is Ferguson now is largely the same as it was a year ago,” he adds. “The difference is now people are fighting.”

A focus of reform has been the Ferguson Police Department, and in the wake of the new shootings, community members and activists are now questioning whether changes at the top have led to changes on the ground.

The department has instituted a range of reforms since the US Justice Department released a scathing report in March, finding that police for years had targeted minorities in the town with tickets and fines to boost municipal revenues. The report also criticized the department for an overaggressive response to protests after Brown’s shooting.

Department officers are now receiving de-escalation and anti-bias training, Reuters reported, and are trying to spend more time at community events. Officers are also inviting teens on “ride-alongs” to learn more about what policing involves.

Mary Chandler, a black Ferguson resident in her 30s, told Reuters that she had seen a “180-degree change” for the better in the city’s police.

“It used to be aggression, zero tolerance,” she said. “Now they are more tolerant. They are listening to us.”

But residents have also spoken of lingering fears and distrust of police, and the new shootings appear to have reopened old wounds.

One shooting began as Andre Anderson, the FPD’s acting chief, spoke to reporters near where the center of protests have been ever since Brown’s death. “We’re trying to work with the community. We’re explaining to them their rights, and we just want to be as patient as possible,” he told a group of reporters Sunday night.

A second later, shots could be heard near the press conference. Four plainclothes detectives with the St. Louis County police – who were supporting the FPD at the protests – pulled up in an unmarked vehicle to confront a suspect, who “immediately turned and began firing” at the vehicle, St. Louis County police said in a press release. The two groups exchanged more gunfire, the press release said, and the suspect was shot multiple times. The suspect was later transported to a hospital in “critical, unstable” condition.

The four detectives involved in the shooting have between six and 12 years of experience, St. Louis County Police Chief Belmar said. They have been placed on administrative leave.

“These were criminals; they weren’t protesters,” he said of those who instigated the shooting. “There is a small group of people out there that are intent on making sure that we don’t have peace that prevails.”

In the other incident, two teenagers were shot in a drive-by shooting at 2:15 a.m. Monday near a memorial for Brown on Canfield Drive. The victims are expected to survive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Three St. Louis County police officers were also injured in the overnight events. Two were pepper-sprayed by protesters, and a third was hit in the face by a rock.

While condemning the outburst of violence, local activists were critical of both the presence of the plainclothes officers and the subsequent police response.

Belmar told reporters that the plainclothes detectives, who weren’t wearing body cameras, were able to be “more fluid and agile” in responding to threats. Kayla Reed, a field organizer for the Organization for Black Struggle, said in a statement that using plainclothes officers for a protest was “a poor decision.”

“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic,” she added.

Tyrone Harris Sr. told the Post-Dispatch that the man shot by police was his son, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr. The older Harris told CBS affiliate KMOV that his son was not armed and that he had been “running away from the situation, and police ended up shooting him.” He added that his son was in “the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The elder Mr. Harris told the Post-Dispatch that his son was “real close” with Brown. Both had attended Normandy High School in St. Louis.

“We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” he told the paper.

St. Louis County prosecutors on Monday filed 10 charges against Harris, including one involving firearms and first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer. All the charges are felonies.

Hours later after that shooting, officers began threatening to arrest some protesters who remained near the scene, according to multiple reports. The protesters – who numbered less than 100 – were ordered to disperse east down Canfield Drive, or “chemical munitions” would be used against them, reports said. About 2 a.m., some bombs could be seen on Canfield, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Professor Roediger, who was in Ferguson Sunday night, says that police fired tear gas down Canfield Drive in the direction they were asking protesters to disperse.

“Several times they said, ‘East on Canfield,’ ” Roediger says. “The crowd moved east on Canfield, and [police] shot tear gas three blocks down.”

“The police just cannot do anything but escalate,” he adds. “If it wasn’t for the folks there doing de-escalation on the organizers’ side, last night would’ve been a hundred times worse.”

The Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, with the Ferguson Action Council, also condemned the police action on Sunday night.

On the anniversary of Brown’s death, he said in a statement, “we see yet again overly aggressive policing in blatant violation of the constitutional rights of those gathered, the blanket use of chemical weapons on people given no possibility of dispersing and most tragically, the shooting of yet another young black man.”

The FPD has acknowledged that it has struggled to address a central criticism from the Justice Department report: recruiting more minority officers. Of the department’s 50 officers, five are black, and at least one black officer quit the force after Brown’s shooting, Reuters reported.

Ferguson Police Sgt. Dominica Fuller told the wire service that the city has started a program to pay for black police candidates to go through the police academy, but has not had many takers.

“There are not a lot of minorities that want to be police officers, let alone in the city of Ferguson,” she said.

Sergeant Fuller, who has been with the department for 17 years and became its first black female police sergeant in May, said that while a lot has changed, “there’s still people that are still hurt and angry.”

“It’s going to take some time,” she added, “but we’re working on that.”

Others point out that some of the changes are only temporary. Mr. Anderson, the interim police chief, has taken a six-month leave of absence from his current department in Glendale, Ariz. A judge brought in to reform the municipal court system will be retiring, by law, when he turns 75 in eight months, according to CNN.

“A new city manager and police chief don’t make changes people can feel and experience,” the Rev. Tommie Pierson of Greater St. Mark Family Church in St. Louis told CNN. “When the talk becomes reality, then we’ll stop.”

On Monday, activists marched in St. Louis as part of a day of planned “Moral Monday” events. They gathered outside the federal courthouse in the city and flew a banner in front of the iconic St. Louis Arch that read, “Racism Still Lives Here.”

Roediger says that, while it is important to claim the victories that have been achieved, “it is not finished.”

“That change was forced by activists and organizers,” he says. “There’s a whole community locally and nationally that’s building political power, and that has not paid off entirely yet, but it will.”

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Cuba briefly arrests 90 dissidents at protest march


Communist scum in Cuba continue to harass decent people who simply want to avoid having their human rights violated.

Naturally, communism is opposed to human rights. In a communist society the only people with rights are those in power. The irony of it is, those in power are calling the civilians worms. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Cuban dissidents and members of the Ladies in White human rights group hold a national flag and pictures of imprisoned dissidents as they protest against the reopening of the US embassy on the island, in Havana, on August 9, 2015

Havana (AFP) – With tense bilateral ties recently renewed after five decades, and top US diplomat John Kerry due in Havana in days, Cuba briefly detained about 90 activists.

Cuban security forces on Sunday rounded up about 50 protesters with the Ladies in White dissident group and around 40 other activists, some wearing masks with the image of US President Barack Obama, according to an AFP reporter.

All 90 were released after four and a half hours in custody, according to the leader of Ladies in White, Berta Soler.

Earlier at the march, protester Angel Moya — Soler’s husband — slammed Obama, and said the December announcement to normalize relations between the former Cold war foes had bolstered Havana’s crackdown on dissidents.

“It’s his fault, what is happening,” said Moya, a former political prisoner, speaking about Obama.

“The Cuban government has grown even bolder,” he added before being detained.

Uniformed police and plainclothes officers were on hand at the incident in Havana’s upscale Miramar district.

When marchers who were not arrested started to leave, pro-government activists chanted “down with the pack of worms.”

Kerry will be in Havana Friday for the ceremonial inauguration of the newly reopened US embassy. On January 20, the countries officially reopened embassies in their respective capitals.

Soler said she hopes Kerry would meet with dissident groups and members of non-governmental organizations during the visit.

She said she also wants Kerry to pressure Havana to respect human rights in the country, where freedom of assembly and freedom of the press have been criticized.

Washington should “give the Cuban government some conditions to get it to stop violating human rights,” Soler told AFP.

Kerry will be the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, sealing what will be a major foreign policy legacy of Obama’s eight-year tenure.

Cuba is the only one-party Communist-ruled nation in the Americas.

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Pat Condell: The Palestinian Cause Is A Great Lie


Thoughts on the Jewish/Palestinian situation… TGO

Video: YouTube

Jewish extremism crackdown draws in a familiar family


This time it’s the Jews… But what’s consistent in all of these stories of wreckless acts is religion. Yes, religion, that ugly word which is responsible for, among other things: superstition, fanaticism, ignorance, suicide bombings, beheadings, stonings, oppression of women, human sacrifices, animal sacrifices, torture, death, violence, destruction, bigotry, racism, hatred, terrorism…

Muslims want to live under Sharia law, Jews want to live under the laws of the Torah. Mental retardation, that’s what this all is; a mental disease brought about by the indoctrination of weak-minded people by parents or others of higher authority. Worst of all, there is no cure in sight for these types of people. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

Meir Ettinger has been placed in administrative detention for six months with the possibility of extension

Jerusalem (AFP) – His long beard, dangling sidelocks and wide smile give him the look of a hippie from another era, but Meir Ettinger has become the symbol of a crackdown on Jewish extremism.

The young man, whose grandfather headed a racist movement, was arrested on Monday, the first alleged extremist to be taken into custody in connection with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge of “zero tolerance”.

The push to crack down on Jewish extremism follows the July 31 firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank that killed an 18-month-old child and critically wounded his parents and four-year-old brother.

It came only hours after a stabbing attack at a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem that wounded five people and killed a 16-year-old girl.

The incidents were unrelated, with the suspect in the Gay Pride stabbings an ultra-Orthodox Jew carrying out a “lone wolf”-type attack.

The firebombing however follows a pattern of such actions by suspected Jewish extremists against Palestinians, Christians and even the Israeli military.

After the torching of part of a shrine in northern Israel in June where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes, the Shin Bet internal security agency labelled him the head of an “ideological infrastructure” responsible for the arson.

According to the Shin Bet, the same “infrastructure” vandalised a monastery in 2014 and unsuccessfully sought to disrupt Pope Benedict’s visit the same year.

Ettinger’s family is no stranger to controversy.

His grandfather Meir Kahane founded Kach, a racist movement that wanted to chase Arabs from Israel and which was banned in 1988.

His father is a rabbi at two religious schools in Jerusalem. His parents disapproved of his radical stance, and when he was 17, Ettinger left to live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

– Hilltop Youths –

A number of illegal Jewish outposts have sprung up in the mountains of the West Bank on land Palestinians view as part of a future state of their own.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law. Israel grants approvals for settlements, but unauthorised outposts are also illegal under its laws.

They advocate for the return of the ancient kingdoms where Jews can live under the laws of the Torah.

In his blog on July 30, Ettinger wrote of God’s honour being “desecrated by idolatry filling the Holy Land”.

He lashed out at “the state of Israel’s great sin of allowing idolatry — churches and monasteries abounding in the Land of Israel with the sound of their ringing bells mixing with the pleasant sound of the Torah and prayer that, thank God, is plentiful in the Holy Land.”

Ettinger said “there are many, many Jews, much more than what people think … who are committed not to the broken laws of the state but much more eternal laws, true and from a pure source.”

His lawyer said Ettinger has never committed violence and called his arrest “window dressing”.

For some, Ettinger was inspired by Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a rabbi from a messianic branch of Hasidic Judaism that denies Arabs the right to live in the Holy Land.

Ettinger spoke of him in January 2014 with a group of settlers who sought to destroy an olive grove in the Palestinian village of Kusra in the West Bank.

They were beaten by residents before being turned over to Israeli soldiers.

He is also reported to have broken into Joseph’s tomb in Nablus despite restrictions imposed on Jews and to have collected information on authorities’ plans to evacuate illegal outposts.

His alleged activities earned him six months in prison and a ban on travel to the West Bank and Jerusalem for one year. He was living in Safed in northern Israel for several months when he was arrested this week.

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Trump dumped from conservative event in Atlanta over ‘inappropriate’ comments


There is no doubt in my mind that if Donald Trump had made similarly derogatory comments about a man, he’d still be attending the speaking engagement, which further proves his point. His point being that this country has taken political correctness to another level.

If this Fox chick was a “big girl,” which she obviously isn’t, she would insist that Donald Trump attend the event that he’s been prevented from attending. Instead, she’s hiding behind the ass-sniffers jumping to her defense. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

Debate fallout: GOP hopefuls push on as key event dumps Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was dumped from a prime speaking role to an important gathering of conservative activists on Friday for his criticism of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after a combustible debate performance.

Trump was scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Saturday night at a conference in Atlanta organized by Red State, an influential conservative group.

Red State chief Erick Erickson said he had disinvited Trump from the event because of what he described as “demeaning” remarks about Kelly who was one of three moderators during the first major Republican debate on Thursday night in Cleveland.

“While I have tried to give him great latitude, his remark about Megyn Kelly was a bridge too far,” Erickson said, adding he had invited Kelly, one of Fox’s highest profile anchors, to attend his conference in Trump’s place.

Trump was unbowed by the dumping.

“This is just another example of weakness through being politically correct,” his campaign said in a statement.

During the debate, Kelly asked Trump to respond to derogatory statements he had made in the past about women, calling them “fat pigs” for example. Trump tried to wave off the question and dismissed Kelly during a raucous debate performance.

“And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry,” Trump said. “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”

Erickson said in a Facebook statement that in a CNN interview Trump said of Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

“His comment was inappropriate,” said Erickson.

“It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him. But I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong,” he said.

“He is not a professional politician and is known for being a blunt talker. But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross. Decency is one of those lines.”

A variety of Republican presidential candidates have been speaking at the Red State gathering in Atlanta and Trump was scheduled for a prominent appearance.

Shortly before Erickson’s statement, Trump’s campaign had just put out a media advisory with the schedule for Trump’s appearance.

The New York billionaire has been riding high in the polls in recent weeks as Republican search for their nominee to face the Democrats’ choice in the November 2016 election.

Carly Fiorina, the business executive who is the only woman running for the Republican nomination and who spoke to Red State on Friday, applauded Trump’s dumping.

“I stand with @megynkelly,” she tweeted.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Michael Perry)

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The Freakishness of Christianity


All religions are f*cked up, some more than others, but at their core they’re all f*cked up because they depend on faith, and faith is simply belief without evidence. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Atlantic

The Atlantic

Evangelical Christianity has long had a stranglehold on how Americans imagine public faith. Vague invocations of “religion”—whether it’s “religion vs. science” or “religious freedom”—usually really mean “conservative, Protestant, evangelical Christianity,” and this assumption inevitably frames debates about American belief. For the other three-quarters of the population—Catholics, Jews, other Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, secular Americans, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc.—this can be infuriating. For some evangelicals, it’s a sign of success, a linguistic triumph of the culture wars.

But not for Russell Moore. In 2013, the 43-year-old theologian became the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the political nerve center of the Southern Baptist Convention. His predecessor, Richard Land, prayed with George W. Bush, played hardball with Democrats, and helped make evangelicals a quintessentially Republican voting bloc.

The idea behind this sort of Moral Majority-era politics was clear, Moore writes in his new book, Onward. “Most Americans agreed on certain traditional values: monogamous marriage, the nuclear family, the right to life, the good of prayer and church attendance, free enterprise, a strong military, and the basic goodness of the American way of life. The argument was that this consensus represented the real America.” Presumably, everyone else—gays, divorcees, pacifists, socialists—lived outside the “real America.”

If such a “real America” ever existed in more than Leave It to Beaver re-runs, it certainly doesn’t exist now. Gay marriage is legal. Church attendance is down. Most TV shows are less about happy homes than the hectic, diverse tumble of American family life; the cultural preoccupation with perfectionist conservatism has largely come to an end.

Some see this as a loosely defined form of “secularization.” These are the people, Moore said, who approach him after church and ask, fearfully, whether Christianity is dying. “Behind that question is an assumption that Christianity is a sub-culture of American life,” he told me. “I think what is dying is cultural, nominal Christianity, and I don’t think we should panic about that. I think we should see that as an act of God’s grace.”

The assumption that evangelicals own American culture and politics has ended. This is good for minority groups, for other Christians, and for those who are still searching. But the radicalness of Moore, who by right of inheritance should be America’s Culture Warrior in Chief, is that he thinks it’s good for evangelicals, too.

* * *

Like any good Southern Baptist preacher, Moore knows how to unleash some spiritual whoop-ass, though that probably wouldn’t be his preferred choice of words. The straitlaced, suit-wearing preacher from Biloxi, Mississippi, included a whole passage in his book about how much he hates tattoos; he is studiously polite and clean-cut. Yet he rails against people who merely perform their Christianity, who assume that following Jesus is the same as being a “shiny, happy Republican.”

In the Bible Belt in particular, “Christianity became a totem to secure a happy marriage, a successful career, well-behaved children—all that, and eternal life, too,” he writes. “Such a Christianity doesn’t have a Galilean accent, but rather the studied clip of a telemarketer.”

That last dig—at the faith’s “telemarketers”—is key to understanding Moore’s rage. It’s partly aimed at some of evangelicalism’s most prominent leaders—the Creflo Dollars and Joel Osteens of the world, who spend $70 million on jets and preach about perfection, rather than sin. But it’s also a partial repudiation of culture warriors past.

Moore sees the world through the eyes of the outcast, rather than the conqueror.

“There was a larger mentality that came along with the last generation of evangelical political activism that assumed that we represent the real America in ways that turned out not only not to be true, but turned out to be damaging to the larger mission of the church,” Moore told me.

It may be more effective to package Christianity in terms of God and country and tradition, rather than sin and Christ and blood, but in Moore’s eyes, it’s less authentic. As he wrote in his book, “We were never given a mission to promote ‘values’ in the first place, but to speak instead of sin and of righteousness and judgement, of Christ and his kingdom.”

Moore is making an argument for embracing Christian strangeness. “Our message will be seen as increasingly freakish to American culture,” he writes. “Let’s embrace the freakishness, knowing that such freakishness is the power of God unto salvation.”

This word, “freak,” is both jarring and effective: It’s a high-school-hallway diss, all hard-edged consonants and staccato contempt. Christians have reclaimed this word before; the 1960s-era “Jesus freaks” mixed gospel teachings with hippie counter-culture. In many ways, Moore wants to capture a similar mentality, one of standing against and apart from culture, rather than trying to win it over. This is not quite the same as “the Benedict option,” as Rod Dreher has called it—a strategic retreat from culture and fortification of communities that share similar values. As Moore pointed out, the core of being an evangelical is evangelism, spreading the good news of Christ; there’s no low-church history of monastic retreat like there is in the Catholic or Orthodox traditions. But it is a strategic reorientation: to see the world through the eyes of the outcast, rather than the conqueror.

* * *

If pastors and pundits and politicos follow Moore’s lead, what would that mean for evangelicals—and for everyone else?

On the evangelical side, Moore hints at a few strategic shifts ahead—and, perhaps, strategic retrenchments. During his time as a Southern Baptist leader, Moore has pushed hard on the topic of racial reconciliation within the denomination. He sees the broader church for what it’s becoming: markedly less white, and steadily more global. This is part of the context for his campaign against a vague, American-values Christianity—the real movement in the faith is happening outside of the United States.

He also thinks Christians need to change how they relate to their LGBT brothers and sisters. “The loudest voices against the hounding and intimidation of gay and lesbian persons around the world should be from the wing of the church most committed to a biblical Christian sexual ethic,” he writes. This means working to end homelessness among gays and lesbians, he says, and caring for teens who have been rejected by their parents.

But this response is not a softening on sexuality; if anything, Moore is calling for more fidelity to this Christian sexual ethic. This means talking about “chastity,” not just “abstinence,” he says; condemning “fornication,” not just “premarital sex.” It means eschewing divorce and recognizing traditional gender roles and rejecting the values of the sexual revolution. (“Can we really pretend that the culture around us is an increasingly safe place for women or for their children?” he writes. “What is this but the brutal patriarchy of a Bronze Age warlord? All of these things empower men to pursue a Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha-male in search of nothing but power, prestige, and the next orgasm.”)

“A certain cultural moment in American life sees Christianity as a mood, rather than a life-changing truth.”

This is not an assimilated, salable Christianity. If anything, it troubles the anodyne, dog-whistle-y “values” rhetoric that Moore rejects. It calls for politicians to be committed to living out Christianity beyond the breath it takes to utter “God bless America.” It goes against “a certain cultural moment in American life which sees Christianity as a mood, rather than a life-changing truth,” like the Willie Nelson concert where the singer seamlessly transitions from “Whiskey River” to “Amazing Grace.” And inevitably, it undermines Bible Belt identity, which has long depended on pairing God with guns and Republican politics. Not to worry, Moore says: “The Bible Belt was no Promised Land.”

Perhaps this moment of evangelical clarity could also be a moment of clarity for other kinds of American Christians. Conservative Protestants have longed crowed about the decline of mainline Christianity, citing shrinking attendance as a sign of tepid faith. Then again, “American Christianity” has so often been used as a shorthand for evangelical Protestantism; if the faith is delineated in terms of conservative “values,” it’s a little unclear what it means to be a progressive Christian. If evangelicals embrace their weirdness, perhaps progressive Christians will embrace a similar cultural moment.

What will be most interesting, though, is how a distinctive, metaphysically weirder Christianity will be perceived in broader American culture. Most Americans have some religious affiliation, and an even greater portion of Americans believe in God. For many, though, religion is not the defining element of their identity; it’s something for Saturday or Sunday mornings, if that. Moore urges evangelicals not to fear the secularization of American culture, but “if by ‘secularization,’ we mean the loss of the ability to comprehend religious motivation or religious people, we have an entirely different set of problems,” he writes. It’s been somewhat easy for the American public to accept a Christianity that’s vaguely nationalistic. As evangelicals let go of popular opinion and let their freak flags fly, this will be a harder exercise in pluralism. But, as Moore says, “onward.”

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