Sexy…


She has beautiful olive oil skin. TGO

Sexy 746

Rogue Catholic bishops plan to grow schismatic challenge to Rome


Don’t you just love the gay man’s club? I do. It makes for entertaining news.

A bunch of whiny, mostly old farts, mostly gay, some pedophiles, discussing the way the Catholic Church ought to be. This is like members of the mob (although aren’t they one in the same?) discussing how the Mafia should operate.

When your life gets dull, just spend some time checking up on news pertaining to religion; be it the Catholic Church, Islam or Scientology. There is always amusement when it comes to the various forms of superstitions which mankind worships… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure walks during a mass in Nova Friburgo

NOVA FRIBURGO, Brazil (Reuters) – Two renegade Catholic bishops plan to consecrate a new generation of bishops to spread their ultra-traditionalist movement called “The Resistance” in defiance of the Vatican, one of them said at a remote monastery in Brazil.

French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure, himself consecrated only two weeks ago by the Holocaust-denying British Bishop Richard Williamson, said the new group rejected Pope Francis and what it called his “new religion” and would not engage in a dialogue with Rome until the Vatican turned back the clock.

Williamson and Faure, who were both excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church when the former made the latter a bishop without Vatican approval, are ex-members of a larger dissenting group that has been a thorn in Rome’s side for years.

Their splinter movement is tiny – Faure did not give an estimate of followers – but the fact they plan to consecrate bishops is important because it means their schism can continue as a rebel form of Catholicism.

“We follow the popes of the past, not the current one,” Faure, 73, told reporters on Saturday at Santa Cruz Monastery in Nova Friburgo, in the mountain jungle 140 km (87 miles) inland from Rio de Janeiro.

“It is likely that in maybe one or two years we will have more consecrations,” he said, adding there were already two candidates to be promoted to bishop’s rank.

The monastery had said Williamson would ordain a priest there at the weekend but he was not seen by reporters, and clergy said it was impossible to talk to him. Faure ordained the priest himself.

Asked what the new group called itself, Faure said: “I think we can call ourselves Roman Catholic first, secondly St Pius X, and now … the Resistance.”

SPLINTER OFF THE SSPX

The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) is a larger ultra-traditionalist group that was excommunicated in 1988 when its founder consecrated four new bishops, including Williamson, despite warnings from the Vatican not to do so.

Former Pope Benedict readmitted the four SSPX bishops to the Catholic fold in 2009, but the SSPX soon expelled Williamson because of an uproar over his Holocaust denial.

In contrast to Benedict, Pope Francis pays little attention to the SSPX ultra-traditionalists, who claim to have a million followers around the world and a growing number of new priests at a time that Rome faces priest shortages. Their remaining three bishops have no official status in the Catholic Church.

Faure said the Resistance group would not engage in dialogue with Rome, as the SSPX has done. “We resist capitulation, we resist conciliation of St Pius X with Rome,” he said.

Faure said he was not sure what it would take for Rome to return to its old traditions but conflict could be a catalyst.

The prior of the monastery, Thomas Aquinas, explained the split simply: “The Pope is less Catholic than us.”

Under Catholic law, Williamson and Faure are excommunicated from the Church but remain validly consecrated bishops. That means they can ordain priests into their schismatic group and claim to be Catholic, albeit without Vatican approval.

By contrast, women supposedly made priests by dissident Catholic bishops are not validly ordained because Catholic law reserves the priesthood only for men.

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Richard Chang)

Sexy…


A natural blonde. TGO

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Church of Scientology Calls Claims in HBO Documentary Going Clear “Ludicrous”


The Church of Scientology is comprised of scum-bags and low-lives from top to bottom, along with the brain-dead idiots too needy and too stupid to know better. To believe the things these people believe is beyond belief. I had a good friend (at the time) who joined this bogus church and they turned his brain to mud. I suppose he wasn’t that smart to begin with, otherwise he wouldn’t have drank their Koo-Aid. TGO

Refer to story below. Source; TV Guide

Going Clear | Photo Credits: HBO.

Going Clear | Photo Credits: HBO

The Church of Scientology wouldn’t take part in HBO’s documentary Going Clear, but now that the doc has aired, the church has issued a lengthy statement to The Wrap.

The two-hour film from Alex Gibney was essentially an exposé on the controversial religion and its connection to Hollywood and featured interviews from several former members, including actor Jason Beghe and director Paul Haggis. At the end of the documentary, it was stated that the church refused an interview, as did Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

“Alex Gibney is proving to be exactly like the sources in his film-no accusation is too irresponsible to make,” the statement reads. “It doesn’t matter if he lacks corroboration and proof, it’s all about promoting his movie. Each and every one of the allegations… is absolutely false and rejected. Alex Gibney is getting desperate and is now resorting to ludicrous, made-up claims. The Wrap should ask him for his proof.”

Read the full statement here.

In a response to the church’s statement, Gibney told The Wrap,The church claims it is innocent of all misdeeds. How credible does that sound?”

Did you watch Going Clear?

Sexy…


Impressive. TGO

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How big a threat are the world’s jihadi groups?


A smart people will always overestimate the enemy, never underestimate it. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Sophisticated and lethal, growing in number, Islamic State and other extremist groups won’t become a global force. Here’s why.

Christian Science Monitor

Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim looked like any ubiquitous insurgent commander in southern Afghanistan. He had a sunbaked complexion, serried black beard, charcoal eyes, and the usual accessory – an AK-47 slung over his shoulder.

But there was something distinctive about him, which alarmed American officials. He had recently defected from the Taliban and joined Islamic State (known as both IS and ISIS), creating concern that the militant extremist group was expanding its footprint in South Asia.

So on Feb. 9, a US aircraft locked onto the vehicle he was traveling in near the village of Sadat in Helmand Province. It fired a missile, killing Mr. Khadim and five of his companions.

“The Islamic State is increasingly active in the region,” says a senior American military official in Kabul, Afghanistan, though cautioning not to inflate their size or significance – at least not yet. “Some locals appear to be attracted to their battlefield success in Iraq. And everyone loves a winner.”

A year ago, the prospect that IS might emerge in South Asia, the birthplace of Al Qaeda, seemed preposterous. True, IS operatives and their Sunni allies had pushed into western Iraq, seizing the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, and moved rapidly across other parts of the country.

But they had yet to establish much of a presence elsewhere in the restive Islamic belt, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. These, after all, were strongholds of Al Qaeda, traditionally a fierce IS competitor, and the Taliban. But since last fall, IS has been slowly and methodically forging ties with militant groups in these two countries as well as other places around the globe.

“The initial ISIS reports began as rumors,” notes an Afghan defense official. “But not anymore.”

IS efforts to gain a foothold in South Asia and other regions highlight a disturbing trend. Islamic extremism is rising in key areas of the world.

Driven by a lack of stable governments and the movement of trained and ideologically committed recruits from battlefields in Iraq and Syria, extremist groups – such as IS and Al Qaeda – are spreading their reach into new areas of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. They are becoming more sophisticated in their communications, more lethal in their tactics, and more adept at fundraising.

But while some groups may be working together, creating the specter of a worldwide movement, deep fissures persist among the groups that will likely prevent them from becoming a global network.

Many Islamic fighters disagree about how much, if at all, to target Western countries and their citizens. Others disagree about the size and global nature of their desired emirate, the legitimacy of attacking Shiite Muslims, and the morality of killing civilians. In some countries, such as Syria, extremists have even engaged in intense battles with each other, widening already significant splits.

For all the strengths of today’s Islamic extremists, most are not committed to – or even capable of – conducting sophisticated attacks in the West. What’s more, polls show there is little popular support for most groups. Over the long run, their lack of local support and legitimacy may well undermine any fleeting gains – and the threat they pose to the West.

 •     •     •

Competing networks

The narrow valleys and swelling rivers of the Hindu Kush mountains, along the Afghan-Pakistani border, make the terrain inhospitable. But it was here, nearly three decades ago, that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri started Al Qaeda in the waning years of the war against the Soviets.

Bearded tribesmen clog the streets of many of the border towns, clad in their dusty sandals and shalwar kameez, the loose-fitting trousers and long, baggy shirts worn by locals. Most of Al Qaeda’s surviving leaders still remain in the area, despite the attempts by IS to recruit here.

Today, the terrorist landscape centers around these two broad movements: Al Qaeda and IS.

Al Qaeda is led by Mr. Zawahiri, the fiery Egyptian who took over when Mr. bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in 2011. Al Qaeda’s goal remains establishing a loose Islamic caliphate that extends from Africa through the Middle East, South Asia, and parts of the Pacific.

Al Qaeda’s primary strategy from its base here is to work with its affiliates – such as Al Shabab in Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa, and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria – to overthrow local regimes. Zawahiri and his colleagues seek to replace these governments with ones that implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia.

“Al Qaeda leaders continue to encourage their affiliates to create states,” says a US State Department official in Kabul. “In a sense, it’s extremist nation-building.”

That’s what Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is hoping to do. Mr. Wuhayshi is a thin, olive-skinned Yemeni with dark hair and crooked teeth. He explains in a letter to fellow extremists that the “places under your control are a model for an Islamic state.” And he encourages them to provide basic services to locals, much like a government might do.

This type of state sounds eerily similar to what IS leaders are trying to create. IS has emerged as Al Qaeda’s premier Pan-Islamic competitor. Formerly Al Qaeda in Iraq, IS broke away from Al Qaeda in early 2014 because of a series of personality, ideological, and tactical disputes.

Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, could not bear coming under the control of Al Qaeda any longer. And IS’s anti-Shiite attacks and brutal executions, including beheadings and burnings, were too extreme even for Al Qaeda. But IS and Al Qaeda have a similar goal: to establish a radical Islamic emirate.

“Rush O Muslims to your state. Yes, it is your state,” says Mr. Baghdadi in a recent announcement, asking for volunteers to immigrate to Iraq and Syria to fill key positions.

IS leaders such as Baghdadi have focused most of their operations on Iraq and Syria. But they have also attempted to expand their network into Africa, other countries in the Middle East, and South Asia.

In Nigeria, for instance, the terrorist organization Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to IS. While the move might end up aiding the group with fundraising and recruitment, it was largely seen as a public relations stunt to help counter recent military setbacks Boko Haram has suffered at the hands of Nigerian and neighboring government forces.

In Libya, IS sent emissaries in late 2014 to meet with extremist groups across the country in an effort to establish a formal relationship. IS fighters now control key sections of Libyan cities like Surt, along the Mediterranean coast. In Egypt, leaders from the group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, based in the Sinai Peninsula, pledged their loyalty to IS after a series of meetings and electronic communications.

In addition, other jihadist groups, such as the various Ansar al-Sharia organizations in Libya, exist that aren’t members of either IS or Al Qaeda. The rise of these groups has forced the umbrella networks to compete more for fighters, money, and influence.

While IS and Al Qaeda both want to establish Islamic emirates, they differ in important ways. IS has a separate command-and-control structure with committees that cover the media, administrative activities, military operations, Islamic law, and other matters.

IS is also less reliant on funding from Persian Gulf donors and raises money from such activities as smuggling oil, selling stolen goods, kidnapping and extortion, and seizing bank accounts.

While both movements view Shiite Muslims as infidels, IS has conducted more attacks against Shiites than any other jihadist group. As its beheadings and burnings highlight, IS operatives have also been more inclined to conduct grisly attacks. A decade ago, Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri wrote a letter to extremists in Iraq – the predecessors of IS – warning that their gruesome practices were counterproductive.

“Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable – also – are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages,” Zawahiri scolded.

The warnings went unheeded. And the differences between IS and Al Qaeda have turned key parts of the Islamic world into a fierce competition between the two movements. Among the most intense battlegrounds is the Horn of Africa.

 •     •     •

Where they flourish

The heat in Djibouti is oppressive. Sun-baked, mud-brick buildings dot the country’s landscape, caked in a layer of dirt and dust. Its capital, Djibouti city, is built on coral reefs that jut into the southern entrance of the gulf. The country is strategically located on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden.

For US counterterrorism officials, Djibouti sits on a critical seam. It borders Somalia, home to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabab. And it lies less than 20 miles from Yemen, home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“The trend is unmistakable,” says a US military official in Djibouti. “There are more violent extremists in this region than we’ve ever seen before. No comparisons.”

Take Yemen. In January, the government collapsed as Houthi rebels, a Zaidi Shiite movement from northern Yemen, took control of key ministries, and President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, an American ally, resigned. Over the past several weeks, Al Qaeda fighters have expanded their attacks across multiple provinces.

Meanwhile, Al Shabab distributed a video on Twitter recently threatening attacks against malls in the West. “What if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota?” asks a masked fighter, cloaked in a checkered head scarf and wearing military fatigues. “Or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada? Or in London’s Oxford Street?”

Based on these developments, Djibouti has become a major base of operations. In 2001, the Djiboutian government reached an agreement with the United States to use Camp Lemonnier as a hub of counterterrorism activity. Since then, the US presence has grown. Camp Lemonnier now serves as the US headquarters to train, advise, and assist governments in the region in fighting extremist groups, under the command of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa. It’s also a critical node for strikes against groups in Yemen, Somalia, and other countries.

But the surge in terrorist activities isn’t just confined to the Horn of Africa. In addition to Yemen, Libya has become a breeding ground for new groups because of the collapse of its government only four years after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. While Mr. Qaddafi’s demise and the July 2012 democratic elections represented a remarkable achievement for political freedom, Libya faces massive challenges.

The bureaucracy is weak, well-armed militias control much of the countryside, and extremist groups have attacked Sufi shrines across the country by digging up graves and destroying mosques and libraries. Ansar al-Sharia Libya, a loose collection of extremist groups, has emerged in this vacuum. Based in such cities as Benghazi, Darnah, and Misurata, which hug the Mediterranean coast, Ansar al-Sharia Libya seeks to establish sharia in the country.

Overall, the total number of extremist groups across the region jumped 58 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to a study by the RAND Corp. The number of extremist fighters increased dramatically, too – more than doubling between 2010 and 2013, to a high of more than 100,000 fighters.

The war in Syria is the most important attraction for fighters. Extremist groups represent a significant portion of the Syrian rebel manpower against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, including IS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Suqour al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and Liwa al-Tawhid.

The levels of extremist violence have also grown. Among Al Qaeda affiliates alone, the number of attacks more than doubled between 2010 and 2013. But most are not directed at the US – or the West more broadly. Roughly 98 percent of these attacks targeted local regimes and civilian populations across such countries as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.

This rise in extremism has been caused, in part, by a growing weakness of governments across Africa and the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings created an opportunity for radicals to secure a foothold.

Since 2010, governance indicators in these areas have dropped markedly in such categories as political stability, rule of law, and control of corruption, according to World Bank data.

The surge has also been caused by the transnational movement of fighters trained on battlefields in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These wars have provided a unique environment for extremists to pray, share meals, train, socialize, and fight together. A growing number of these operatives have moved from these battlefields to new locations in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Not surprisingly, these trends have caused alarm in Western capitals, including London.

 •     •     •

Risk of the returning recruit

The headquarters of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is nestled along the Thames River in central London. The building, called Thames House, was designed by Sir Frank Baines in the imperial neoclassical tradition. Statues of St. George and Britannia dot the building’s Portland stone facade. The Westminster coat of arms, mounted on the building, aptly reads “Custodi civitatem domine” in Latin – or “Lord protect the citizens.”

MI5 has a long history of trying to protect its population from terrorism and working closely with its American partners. Of particular concern to the agency today are Islamic extremists trained in Syria and Iraq, who also pose a threat to the US. Approximately 600 British extremists have traveled to Syria and Iraq, MI5 estimates. Many have joined IS. British agencies have watched with unease the growing number of attacks and plots across the West tied either formally or informally to Syria and Iraq.

These include attacks in Brussels in May 2014; Ottawa in October 2014; Sydney, Australia, in December 2014; Paris in January 2015; and Copenhagen, Denmark, in February 2015. More broadly, more than 20 terrorist plots in the West were either directed or provoked by extremist groups in Syria between October 2013 and January 2015, according to MI5.

“Our surveillance resources are overwhelmed,” says one British government official.

Despite the challenges, MI5 and local counterterrorism units remain aggressive. In England and Wales, terrorist-related arrests have jumped 35 percent since 2011. And more than 140 individuals have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 2010, according to MI5 statistics.

The British are not alone. Counterterrorism agencies across Europe and North America are under tremendous pressure to prevent attacks. A growing contingent of foreign fighters – more than 20,000 – is traveling to Syria to fight in the war, according to data collected by the US National Counterterrorism Center. Approximately 3,400 fighters, or 17 percent, appear to be coming from the West, especially from Europe.

It is difficult to predict whether most of these fighters will remain in Syria, move to future war zones in other regions, or return to the West. And even if some return, it is uncertain whether they will help hatch terrorist plots, focus on recruiting and fundraising, or become disillusioned with terrorism.

Still, foreign fighters have historically been agents of instability. Volunteering for war is often the principal steppingstone for individual involvement in more extreme forms of militancy.

And this struggle is as much about ideas as it is about military combat. It is a clash increasingly occurring online and on social media forums. Indeed, IS’s sophisticated use of social media has created opportunities for the group to reach potential recruits or influence those inspired by its message.

One of the most important forums is IS’s online magazine, Dabiq.

 •     •     •

How dangerous, really?

The seventh issue of Dabiq, published in February, boasts a sleek cover photograph. It shows two imams, clad in creamy white robes and wearing snuggly fitting prayer caps, holding signs emblazoned with the words “JE SUIS CHARLIE” (“I AM CHARLIE”).

It is the slogan adopted by those who denounced the January attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Like all issues of Dabiq, which is printed in several languages including English, the seventh installment includes an assortment of articles intended to establish the religious legitimacy of the group and encourage extremists to come to Syria and Iraq – or else conduct attacks in their home countries.

The feature article, which accompanies the cover image, is titled “The Extinction of the Grayzone.” It starkly divides the world into two camps: Islam, represented by IS and its supporters, and the West and its followers. The article denounces Muslims that show sympathy for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack as apostates – guilty of abandoning Islam.

Since its expansion in Iraq and Syria, IS has become a growing threat to the US. Rather than the complex attacks on 9/11, which involved years of training and meticulous planning, the most likely IS threat today comes from smaller, less-sophisticated attacks from individuals who have taken up the cause.

“The uptick in moderate-to-small scale attacks in the West since last summer by individual extremists reinforces our assessment that the most likely and immediate threat to the Homeland will come from Homegrown Violent Extremists, or individuals with loose affiliation to terrorist groups overseas,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, at a US Senate hearing in February.

IS is not the only extremist group that could mount an attack on US soil. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula provided training to two operatives involved in the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Said and Chérif Kouachi. Several Yemen-based operatives continue to plot attacks against the US as well.

Core members of Al Qaeda, based in Pakistan, also present a threat to the US homeland. But their leaders have had difficulty recruiting – or even inspiring – competent operatives in the West. That’s why Zawahiri sent a small group of operatives, referred to as the Khorasan Group, to Syria to plot attacks in Europe and America.

In addition, a small number of individuals who have embraced Al Qaeda’s ideals, like the Tsarnaev brothers, who perpetrated the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, concern security officials. Still, terrorists have had difficulty striking the US because of robust counterterrorism steps by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal and local agencies. Authorities have thwarted all but four of more than 40 home-grown terrorist plots since 9/11.

Several groups pose what experts consider a medium-level threat because of their capability to target US citizens overseas, not the US homeland. Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia, for instance, has planned attacks against American diplomats and infrastructure in Tunis, including the US embassy. In Somalia, Al Shabab’s objectives are largely parochial: to establish an extreme Islamic emirate in Somalia and the broader region. But it does possess an ability to strike targets in East Africa.

Other extremist groups represent, at best, a low-level threat to the US. These groups do not possess the capability or intent to target America domestically or overseas. They include organizations such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is mainly interested in Chinese targets. Even in Afghanistan, many local groups have little interest in attacking the US homeland.

 •     •     •

A threat overrated

While IS and other extremist groups have made some gains, in the long term they face a challenge because their firebrand version of Islam is unpopular. After the IS execution of Jordanian Air Force pilot Muath Kassasbeh by immolation in early February, a groundswell of opposition surfaced across the Muslim world.

Numerous activists on Twitter accounts and English-language jihadist forums condemned the actions as un-Islamic. They argued that burning Muslims is strictly forbidden in Islam.

“I have become very troubled upon hearing this news, because I thought that burning anyone (even animals) was not allowed under any condition in Islam,” posted one participant on the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum, using the name “pathoftrials.”

Islamic scholars have also been widely critical of IS. “What happened to the Jordanian pilot is by all means a crime. This barbaric action is far away from humanity, much less religion. Islam is innocent of this act,” said Sheikh Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt.

What’s more, support for extremist groups across the Muslim world is low, according to survey data from the Pew Research Center. Al Qaeda received negative marks in all 14 countries surveyed. In addition, the vast majority of respondents, both Muslims and Christians, have an unfavorable view of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Concern about Islamic extremism is growing among countries with substantial Muslim populations as well. It jumped from 81 percent in 2013 to 92 percent in 2014 in Lebanon, 71 percent to 80 percent in Tunisia, and 69 percent to 75 percent in Egypt, according to the Pew Research Center.

Viewed in this context, the rise of extremist groups may well be fleeting. With little local support, they lack the foundation necessary for a sustainable movement. Even IS has had trouble holding ground on its home turf, as Iraqi government forces and local militias have retaken control of key portions of cities like Tikrit, Iraq.

Deep divisions also exist among these groups about ideology, tactics, and objectives. For all the strengths of today’s Islamic extremists, most are not committed to or capable of conducting sophisticated attacks in the West, like on 9/11.

“Most of the plots uncovered in the United States were amateurish schemes that were detected long before they got close to being operational,” says Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp. “Two-thirds of the US plots involved single individuals. Most of the remaining plots were tiny conspiracies. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.”

Seth G. Jones is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp., and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies. His most recent book is “Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa’ida Since 9/11.”

Sexy…


She has beautiful brown eyes… TGO

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Islamic State group beheads 8 Shiites in Syria’s Hama


How f*cked up is an ideology whose members slaughter each other? They worship the same God (Allah) and the same Prophet (Muhammad). They share the same “holy” book, the Koran (Quran) and yet this doesn’t matter! It’s all about the ‘interpretation’ of the “holy” book that matters, which is about as holy as Harry Potter.

The Muslim world really and truly is a sick world. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — A new video released by the Islamic State group on Sunday shows its fighters cutting off the heads of eight men said to be Shiite Muslims. The video posted on social media said the men were beheaded in the central Syrian province of Hama.

The video could not be immediately independently verified, but it appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that the video was authentic.

IS has beheaded scores of people since capturing large parts of Iraq and Syria last year in a self-declared caliphate.

In the video, the men, wearing orange uniforms with their hands tied behind their backs, were led forward in a field by teenage boys. They were then handed over to a group of IS fighters. A boy wearing a black uniform hands out knives to the fighters, who then behead the hostages.

An Islamic State fighter speaks in the video, using a derogatory term for Shiites and calling them “impure infidels.” The IS fighter said in the video that the current military campaign against IS will only make the militant group stronger.

“Our swords will soon, God willing, reach the Nuseiries and their allies like Bashar and his party,” the man said referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group that is fighting on his side. The word Nuseiry is a derogatory term to refer to Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

In Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency quoted the family of Younes Hujairi, who was kidnapped from his hometown of Arsal near the Syrian border in January, as saying he had been beheaded. NNA quoted members of Hujairi’s family as saying they have seen pictures of an IS fighter carrying his severed head on social media.

It was not clear if Hujairi was one of one of the men beheaded in the video. Hujairi is a Sunni, while the video states that all the beheaded men were Shiites.

The border town of Arsal, where Hujairi was kidnapped, was also the site of a bold joint raid by the Islamic State group and Syria’s al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front last August that captured two dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen. Four of those hostages have been killed so far, two of them beheaded by IS. The remaining 20 soldiers and policemen remain hostages.

Sexy…


A natural hottie. TGO

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Sexy…


Very sexy. TGO

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Run from Cuba, Americans cling to claims for seized property


The Castro regime has destroyed tens of thousands of families throughout their 56-plus years of communism on the Caribbean island. All of the low-lives in this world who believe that communism is good and that communist dictators help the poor are really stupid people. These dictators only help themselves and no one else.

All of the wealth stolen from the Cuban people, as well as Americans who invested in Cuba, is now sitting in Swiss banks, among other places. Of course, Fidel and Raul Castro will be dead fairly soon, although not soon enough. What this means is that all of that money will go to others, but I would bet my right arm that none of the Cubans or Americans who lost their homes, life savings, automobiles, farms, etc. will ever see a penny of it. Although I hope to be proven wrong. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The smell of Cuban coffee drifts from the kitchen as Carolyn Chester digs through photos, faded with age, that fill four boxes spread across the dining table.

Friends linked arm-in-arm on the sands of a Cuban beach.

Men in suits and women in evening gowns at a Havana nightclub.

And in almost every frame, a dapper American man with a salt-and-pepper mustache and a raven-haired woman with the arched eyebrows of a 1950s movie star — Chester’s father and mother — smiling at the good fortune that, they could not know, would soon be snatched away.

“That life is gone,” Chester says.

“I always heard about Cuba … and all this money that we lost and ‘Maybe one day,’ but I didn’t understand it.”

Now, nearly 60 years and 1,500 miles later, that day may finally be nearing for Chester, and for others like her. But to reach it, new and untested diplomacy will have to settle very old scores.

Soon after Fidel Castro won control of Cuba in 1959, his government began confiscating the property of thousands of U.S. citizens and companies. For Edmund and Enna Chester, the losses included an 80-acre farm, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock, and a brand new Buick that, who knows, may still be plying Havana’s streets.

The confiscation of American property, valued today at $7 billion or more, was wrapped up in the retaliatory back-and-forth that led to the trade embargo, which remains in place. In 1996, Congress passed a law insisting Cuba repay Americans for what was taken before the embargo can be lifted.

That demand went unmentioned in President Barack Obama’s December announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would resume diplomatic ties. Given Cuba’s frail economy, some experts say companies whose property was taken might gladly settle for rights to do business there today and move on.

But a corporation doesn’t hang on to memories the way a family can. That’s clear in places like Chester’s 832-square-foot bungalow in Omaha, pitched atop a corner lot that’s mostly slope, where a gold-framed oil portrait of her mother from long ago watches over the yellowing property deed and the worthless stock certificates.

They are reminders that the Cuba that existed before Castro is history. But the bitterness over what came after lingers on.

___

Inside the offices of a little-known federal agency, more than 5,900 claims files tally the furniture and factories, clothing and cars that once belonged to Americans in Cuba.

But really, the claims are stories — of lives that were left behind.

Edmund Chester’s story began soon after he came home to Louisville, Kentucky, from the Army and got a job as a newspaper reporter. In his off hours, Chester taught himself Spanish, which lead him away again. In 1929, he was hired by The Associated Press, which dispatched him to Havana.

Chester spent the next decade reporting across the Caribbean and Latin America. His work kindled a love of Cuba, whose music and art filled his home until his death, and seeded two crucial relationships.

The first came when he covered a 1933 revolt that put a former sergeant, Fulgencio Batista, in charge of Cuba’s military. Two decades later, when Batista was Cuba’s dictator, he trusted Chester — by then a fishing companion and confidant, no longer a journalist — to write his authorized biography, with a photo of the men smiling alongside one another, inside the front cover.

The second relationship began in 1939 when Chester went to Chile to cover an earthquake and spotted Enna, nearly 20 years his junior, at a hotel swimming pool. Years later, their daughter recalls, the couple would dance around the parlor of their Mount Dora, Florida, home to the ballad “Besame Mucho” — Spanish for “kiss me a lot.”

“He was still smitten with her,” Carolyn Chester says.

In 1940, CBS hired Chester as its chief of radio broadcasting for Latin America. Eventually, he became the network’s director of news and special events, working in New York alongside Edward R. Murrow.

Chester returned to Cuba in 1952, buying a chain of radio stations on an island where U.S. companies dominated the economy. Havana was a magnet for Americans, including celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, searching for a hedonistic getaway.

“Cuba was a cabaret, a casino, a place to soak up the sun,” says Louis Perez, a historian at the University of North Carolina. “Boy, did that change.”

Chester sold the radio stations after a few years. But his growing family continued to split their time between an apartment overlooking Havana Bay and central Florida.

He opened a Havana public relations agency and when a Hollywood crew came to make a 1956 feature, “The Sharkfighters,” Chester shepherded them around what was then called the Isle of Pines, off Cuba’s south coast. Soon after, the Chesters bought an 80-acre farm on the island, once home to an American population large enough to support its own school. In 1957, the Chesters acquired $250,000 worth of shares in the Cuban Telephone Co.

But Edmund Chester, an adviser and speechwriter for Batista, grew uneasy as Castro’s rebels gained ground.

“Preciosa, I have just hung up the telephone after talking to you and I could tell that you were worried,” he wrote his wife from Havana in July 1958, weeks after Carolyn was born. “I agree that we ought to make (a) complete break with Cuba at the earliest possible moment.”

When he rejoined the family in Florida three days before Christmas, his work in Cuba was still unfinished. But days later, Batista fled the country, and on Jan. 1, 1959, Castro’s forces seized control.

In the first months of Castro’s rule, many American officials thought he was someone they could work with.

But when the Soviet Union began shipping oil to Cuba, the U.S. ordered island refineries — owned by American firms and other multinationals — not to process the crude from its Cold War archrival.

The Cuban government seized the refineries. The Eisenhower administration struck back by eliminating price protection for Cuban sugar, which netted the island 90 percent of its hard currency earnings. Cuba had already nationalized the island’s largest farms and moved to take control of still others. By the time President John F. Kennedy imposed the embargo in 1962, Cuba had confiscated scores of properties.

Marooned, Edmund Chester, looked for a way to support the family. He hadn’t foreseen this forced retirement, he wrote a friend in 1965. And now most of his nest egg had been “whipped into a batch of Cuban scrambled eggs by the tyranny of Fidel Castro.”

__

The Chesters were hardly alone.

Throughout the 1960s, the U.S. government’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission fielded thousands of American claims for confiscated Cuban property. The largest came from corporations, led by U.S.-owned Cuban Electric Company, whose seized power plants were valued at $268 million. After years of mergers, that claim is today held by retailer Office Depot Inc.

But the majority of the 5,900 approved claims came from individuals and families.

Luther Coleman was a Detroit entrepreneur who moved his family to the Isle of Pines in 1952, where he bought more than 3,000 acres.

Coleman’s daughter, Nancy Luetzow, who moved to Cuba when she was 8 and today lives in Hillsdale, Michigan, said her father convinced her “timid” mother. “He said this is our chance to have a life in paradise.”

The family’s claim for lost property was valued by the FCSC at about $173,000.

Roy Schechter was born in Cuba, a dual American citizen whose family had immigrated years earlier and founded Havana’s synagogue. Schechter married and brought his American wife, Lois, to the island.

In 1960, the couple drove to the family’s 14,000-acre farm to prepare the week’s payroll and were met by soldiers who told them they were no longer the owners. When the couple departed soon after on a ferry to Key West, Lois Schechter hid her wedding ring and other jewelry inside a diaper stained with vanilla extract, hoping to dissuade Cuban officials from a thorough search.

Before they left, they paid all their employees, expecting that one day they’d return. Instead, Roy Schechter spent the rest of his working life in the shoe store in Nyack, New York, owned by his father-in-law. The Schechters’ losses, along with the farm, included a 17-room Spanish colonial in Havana that had been his mother’s and now is used as a residence for the Chinese embassy.

Their daughter, Amy Rosoff, who shares a home in Saratoga Springs, New York, with her mother, recalls her father’s regular reminders about their claim.

“I’d love to get my grandmother’s house back,” Rosoff says, “because it’s a sort of a whole history that’s been taken away.”

Experts on the long-lost property differ on what to make of the American claims, which are protected by international law.

“You’re now dealing in the realm of memory more than anything else,” says Robert Muse, a Washington attorney representing companies with claims. “For many, the sense of dispossession is to form an idealized world that may not have altogether been exactly like that.”

But Mauricio Tamargo, chairman of the settlement commission until 2010 and now an attorney representing claimants, said the confiscations inflicted lasting damage on American families.

“Many of them never recovered financially,” Tamargo says. “You know, nobody ever expected for their claims to go unpaid for 50 years.”

__

Edmund Chester, in his early 60s with three young children, couldn’t afford to retire.

But a hard freeze destroyed the citrus trees he’d planned to harvest. He replaced them with peach trees, but they died, too. He put his remaining savings into a poultry venture.

“The chicken farms were a financial disaster,” son Edmund Jr. says. “I didn’t realize how bad it was until I searched court records for me and his court papers all came up. The feed supplier, the mortgage holder, they were all after him.”

The stress weighed on the elder Chester, whose mental faculties were fading. He told his children he feared Castro’s men were coming to kill him and taught them all how to handle guns. He awoke in the middle of the night screaming.

Those fears were grounded in experience. One night in 1958, the Chesters’ eldest, Patricia, was swimming in the pool behind the house with friends when a sharp noise pierced the darkness.

“At first we thought it was backfire” from a passing car, recalls a girlfriend, Jean Stoothoff. But the staccato of gunshots continued down the length of the property, she says. The last came just as Edmund Chester and two guards ran outside with their own guns drawn.

“He had a little .38. I don’t know where he kept it, but whenever somebody new drove in and he didn’t know who they were, he’d put it in his back pocket and go out and greet them,” his son recalls.

Before he died in 1975 after a series of strokes, the elder Chester invested his hopes in winning compensation for property seizures that were “so sudden, so violent, and so complete.” For years afterward, Enna Chester clipped and saved newspaper stories about American claims in Cuba, even as she sold off the land around the house to cover bills.

Carolyn Chester, whose father died when she was 15, said her parents’ talk of their losses made little impression until she was about 20 and joined her mother for lunch with a banker. As they were leaving, he called her aside to remind her that someday the frozen relationship between the U.S. and Cuba would thaw — and money might come her way.

But her mother’s death in 2001 left Carolyn Chester with reels of old home movies, dense paperwork and unpaid debts.

When she moved to Omaha with her family in 2006, she got a job in the admissions office at Creighton University’s medical school, where she showed co-workers her family’s Cuba photos.

One day, a colleague mentioned in passing that she’d heard students and professors at the law school were delving into claims for confiscated Cuban property. Hadn’t Castro taken the Chester family’s land, too?

___

About a decade ago, the notion of a Cuba without Fidel Castro began to seem increasingly possible.

“Fidel’s looking infirm, and the Bush administration decides, well, if something happens in Cuba we need to have a plan in place,” says Michael Kelly, a professor of law at Creighton.

The government commissioned several studies, including one taking measure of the property seizures and possible strategies for settling the claims. A group at Creighton won the job, despite being far-removed from the South Florida-centered vortex of emotions that often swirl around the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Professors recruited students, and they spent a week poring over old claims at the settlement commission’s offices in Washington, D.C. Two professors flew to Cuba, searching for homes and businesses listed in claims paperwork, only to find the names of streets had changed. Some buildings were moldering, others apparently gone.

“Each of these tells a little bit of a story,” political science professor Rick Witmer says, pointing to entries in a computer database he built from bits of detail about each of the claims. One entry lists a family’s lost art and household furnishings. Another, a cigarette factory.

“These are people’s lives, the things that they lost. And you’re not going to be able to put that back together.”

U.S. law, though, demands that the government try. The embargo began with a presidential directive. But in 1996, with tensions inflamed by Cuba’s downing of two planes flown by exiles dropping leaflets on the island, lawmakers passed the Helms-Burton act, which, in part, made the embargo a part of U.S. law that could only be lifted by Congress.

“It is the sense of the Congress,” the law says, “that the satisfactory resolution of property claims … remains an essential condition,” for the full resumption of relations between the countries.

Looking at the certified claims provides a window back to when Cuba was home to a concentration of American wealth. Today, the biggest claims, by corporations like Exxon-Mobil Corp. and Coca-Cola, might well be settled by giving them the right to do business in Cuba, Kelly says. But claims holders will have to face the reality that the country doesn’t have the money to make them whole, he says.

“When the Cuban economy opens we will be facing the largest bankruptcy of the 21st century, 90 miles off our shore,” Kelly says. “So we need to be creative about how those claims go away.”

___

In 2007, Creighton professors held a news conference to announce their findings about Cuban claims they cautioned might net just 3 or 4 cents on the dollar.

Claims holders had long been told their losses would be adjusted for inflation, making what was valued at nearly $1.9 billion in the 1960s worth much more today, at least on paper. The possibility that the Chesters’ losses, once worth $489,000, might instead be devalued, rankled Carolyn Chester. And when an investor called seeking to buy her claim for a fraction of its original value, she grew angry.

Divorced, with a teenage son, Chester began devoting long hours to studying family records. She dug for information, trying to understand how it was that, with so many non-U.S. companies investing in Cuba, its government could possibly have so little to repay claims.

Poring over articles about Cuba, she disputed comments from readers who labeled the Americans who had lived on the island as mobsters who got what they deserved.

“She’s taken this thing,” her brother says, “and grabbed onto it like a pit bull.”

On a Wednesday morning in December, Chester heard that Obama was going to deliver a statement about Cuba, and asked for the rest of the day off. Back home, she leaned toward the television below her mother’s portrait, listening closely as the president spoke of rewriting a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

To Chester, the speech confirmed that politicians and the corporations that lobby them want to move on, and would be glad if the claims vanished.

But they can’t see what she does from her living room, where a two-foot tall stack of Cuba-related documents crowns the coffee table.

Fidel Castro didn’t merely take property, Chester says. He stole her parents’ financial security, her father’s health — and any chance of an inheritance to repair her cracked and listing front steps.

Fifty-six years later, she says, “I’m not going to let him take from me again.”

___

Adam Geller can be reached at features@ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AdGeller

23 ‘beheaded’ in NE Nigeria on eve of election: lawmaker, nurse


More of the same from Muslim barbarians, this time in Africa. Whenever one reads the news and sees the word beheading, you can be assured that Muslims are to blame. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP

A Boko Haram flag flutters from an abandoned command post in Gamboru, Nigeria, on February 4, 2015
 

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) – Suspected Boko Haram gunmen beheaded 23 people and set fire to homes in Buratai, northeast Nigeria, on the eve of Saturday’s general elections, a federal lawmaker representing the area told AFP.

“There was an attack on Buratai late Friday by gunmen suspected to be insurgents….They beheaded 23 people and set homes on fire,” said Mohammed Adamu, who represents the town some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Borno’s capital Maiduguri.

“At least half the village has been burnt,” he added.

A nurse at the nearest major hospital, in Biu, said the 32 injured who were receiving care also reported that many were decapitated during the attack.

Further details of the violence were not immediately available, but the attack is consistent with Boko Haram’s past strikes in the area in the south of the state, where defenceless civilians have been repeatedly targeted.

It was not clear if the raid late Friday was linked to Saturday’s polls, but Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had vowed to disrupt the vote.

Elsewhere in Nigeria’s restive northeast, suspected Islamist militants killed at least seven people in separate attacks in the Gombe state.

Witnesses reported that the assailants in Gombe made clear their intention was to disrupt the polls.

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A Guide to the Dark Side


Witty and sarcastic; Pat Condell never disappoints. TGO

Video: YouTube

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Boston bombing jury sees fuse, debris from suspect’s apartment


Who cares??? What difference does it make? Are they also going to show the jury the brand of toilet paper he used, assuming he used toilet paper: after all, toilet tissue was invented by the west.

This entire trial is a disgusting fiasco! TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

BOSTON (Reuters) – The Boston Marathon bombing jury on Wednesday saw evidence including a fuse and a piece of a pressure-cooker lid seized at the apartment where accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother lived.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent described sorting through a debris-filled room that was “like a construction site” in the Tsarnaevs’ cramped three-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, four days after the deadly bombing on April 15, 2013.

“It almost looked like a construction site. There were tools in there, lots of debris,” testified FBI Special Agent Christopher Derks, who led the apartment search.

The jury also saw a jar filled with nails, a pellet gun and shooting targets and a black flag with Arabic writing that hung on the apartment’s wall, all seized by agents.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, is accused of killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs packed with nails and BB pellets at the race’s crowded finish line. He is also charged with fatally shooting a police officer three days later as he and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan tried to flee. Tamerlan died hours after the shooting, following a gunfight with police in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers opened the trial early this month by bluntly admitting their client committed all the crimes of which he is charged. They contended, however, that Tamerlan was the driving force behind the attack, with Dzhokhar going along out of a sense of subservience. The lawyers want to persuade the jury to spare him the death penalty.

In Wednesday’s court session, an FBI agent read out a series of text messages between Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and an unidentified friend sent on Nov. 6, 2012, the day U.S. voters re-elected President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“Elections are whatever. I want the lesser of evils to win, Which is Obama but either way they’re Shaytan (Satan) … killing Muslims is the only promise they will fulfill,” Tsarnaev wrote, according to FBI Special Agent Heidi Williams. In a later exchange, also with an unidentified friend, Tsarnaev wrote, “I wanna bring justice for my people,” Williams testified.

Witnesses this week have detailed jihadist writings found on Tsarnaev’s computers and evidence related to a trip to a New Hampshire shooting range a month before the attack as signs that he was a motivated and willing participant.

Kimberly Franks, a supervisory agent with the FBI, testified that investigators who searched Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth found a large fireworks device labeled “Big Snow.”

Prosecutors contend the Tsarnaev brothers filled their homemade bombs with black powder removed from fireworks purchased legally in New Hampshire.

The jury also saw a photo of a similar firework, with its powder removed, that was retrieved from a backpack found at a landfill south of Boston. FBI Special Agent Kenneth Benton testified that he and fellow agents searched the landfill after a college friend of Tsarnaev’s took the plaid backpack from the defendant’s dorm room and tossed it into a dumpster.

Two Kazakh exchange students were charged with obstruction of justice for removing that backpack from Tsarnaev’s room on April 18, 2013, after the FBI released photos of the brothers identifying them as suspects in the bombing.

Exchange student Azamat Tazhayakov in July was found guilty of obstructing justice for taking the backpack and his friend Dias Kadyrbayev in August pleaded guilty to the same charge.

The bombing killed restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23, and 8-year-old Martin Richard. Tsarnaev is also charged with the fatal shooting of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier three days after the bombing.

(Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)

Iran film portrays the Prophet Muhammad, drawing criticism


Certainly everyone out there who doesn’t belong to the religion of war must be as sick as I am of hearing about the Prophet Muhammad! I mean let’s face it folks, if modern-day jihadists are any indication of what Muhammad must have looked like, he was certainly a bearded, filthy, violent, ignorant little man. By the way, it must be said that he was also a pedophile, after all he did marry a nine year-old.

So, my question to you is, are you also sick of hearing about how Muhammad can’t be depicted in any form of medium?

Anyway, all of you fanatical Muslims, all of you Sunnis out there, deal with it… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

In this picture taken on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, director of “Mohammad, Messenger of God” movie speaks in an interview with the Associated Press in Tehran, Iran. In Islam, portraying the Prophet Muhammad has long been taboo for many.  In the new 190-minute film, the story focuses on Muhammad’s childhood, never showing his face. The movie instead focuses on others to tell his story. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
 

ALLAHYAR, Iran (AP) — Here in this Persian replica of Mecca, built at the cost of millions of dollars, an Iranian film company is attempting to offer the world a literal glimpse of the Prophet Muhammad despite traditional taboos against it.

The movie “Muhammad, Messenger of God” already recalls the grandeur — and expense — of a Cecil B. DeMille film, with the narrow alleyways and a replica Kaaba shrine built here in the remote village of Allahyar. But by even showing the back of the Prophet Muhammad as a child before he was called upon by Allah, the most expensive film in Iranian history already has been criticized before its even widely released, calling into question who ultimately will see the Quranic story come to life on the big screen.

“How should we introduce our prophet?” asked Majid Majidi, the film’s director. “Many relay their messages to the world through cinema and pictures.”

In American cinematic history, films involving the Bible often find the biggest audience and box office returns. Biblical stories have inspired dozens of films from the 1920s all the way to recent blockbusters like “Noah” starring Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott’s biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

But in Islam, portraying the Prophet Muhammad has long been taboo for many. Islamic tradition is full of written descriptions of Muhammad and his qualities — describing him as the ideal human being. But clerics generally have agreed that trying to depict that ideal is forbidden. The Paris terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people in January, saw gunmen target it over its caricature of the prophet.

But while Sunni Islam, the religion’s dominant branch, widely rejects any depictions of Muhammad, his close relatives or companions, Shiite Islam doesn’t. In Shiite powerhouse Iran and other countries, posters, banners, jewelry and even keychains bear the images of Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, revered by Shiites who see him as the prophet’s rightful successor. The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, who led Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and later became the country’s supreme leader, reportedly even kept a picture similar to young Muhammad in his room for years.

In the new 190-minute film, the story focuses on Muhammad’s childhood, never showing his face. The movie instead uses others to tell his story, like his grandfather Abdul-Muttalib, portrayed by Iranian actor Ali Reza Shoja Nouri.

“It was a very heavy role,” Nouri told The Associated Press. “I cannot express my feelings about it.”

For his vision, Majidi hired Academy Award winning visual effects supervisor and filmmaker Scott E. Anderson, three-time Oscar-winning Italian director of photography Vittorio Storaro and music producer Allah-Rakha Rahman, who won two Academy Awards for his work on “Slumdog Millionaire.”

By making a high-quality film, Majidi said it will give the world the right impression about the Prophet Muhammad. He blamed Islamic extremists and the West for sullying the image of a pillar of faith for 1.5 billion people across the world.

“For Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad is a mercy to the world and the hereafter,” he said.

Yet, the film already has seen widespread criticism even before being widely released, largely from predominantly Sunni Arab countries. In February, Egypt’s Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seats of learning, called on Iran to ban a film it described as debasing the sanctity of messengers from God. Meanwhile, the Sunni kingdom of Qatar has announced plans to have its own $1 billion epic shot on the prophet’s life.

Majidi said he would be ready to cooperate with any Islamic country planning a film on Muhammad.

“We are ready to cooperate to produce any movies to introduce Muhammad to the world,” Majidi said. “We are an Islamic country, we know the related culture and we have capabilities for production of such movies.”

So far, the film appears to have the support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s current supreme leader, who attended an inauguration of the film’s set in 2012.

Iranian film critics generally have praised the film as well, like Mostafa Seyedabadi, who declared its color and lighting as “astonishing,” However, critic Masoud Farasati dismissed some of the film’s shots, like a low-angle view of the prophet as a teen against the sky, as a “Hollywood” knockoff.

Producers plan to ultimately release the film in Arabic, Persian and English, with showings across Iran and abroad in the summer. Filming took a year, while postproduction in Germany took two more years. And if this film is successful, its producers say they hope to film two sequels, one focusing on Muhammad’s life from his teenage years to his 40s and another after 40 when he became the prophet of Islam.

Mohammad Mahdi Heidarian, head of the private Nourtaban Film Industry company, said his company spent about $30 million in total to make the movie. He and others declined to elaborate on who provided financial backing for it, though there are wealthy investors and religious institutions in Iran that likely would support such efforts.

In the past, such religious films have done well in Iran. The 1977 Quranic epic “The Message,” starring Anthony Quinn as the uncle of the unseen and unheard prophet, drew crowds and long lines to movie theaters in Tehran. And another that did well was DeMille’s own 1956 film, “The Ten Commandments,” with Charlton Heston playing the sea-parting prophet Moses. It’s yet to be seen whether Majidi’s film will be led into the promised land of a wide release.

Building Collapse in New York City’s East Village


Thankfully this was not a terrorist attack. Being New York and the state of affairs in this world we live in, terrorism is unfortunately the first thing on people’s minds. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Building collapse in New York City's East Village

A building on fire near New York University collapsed on Thursday, and at least two people were critically injured, firefighters said.

Orange flames and black smoke billowed from the facade and roof of the five-story building in Manhattan, near several NYU buildings and the Washington Square Park area. Flames were spreading to other buildings. Investigators were looking into whether there had been a gas leak. There were some reports of an explosion before the fire.

The area was being evacuated, and other people were being evaluated at the scene. (AP)

 

 

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Forget ISIS, Hackers and Money—The Universe Is About to Collapse


Maybe this (well, not this) but something similar, is what the human race needs to put things in perspective and have us come together as one; assuming that’s even possible. Maybe being attacked by an alien species would bring us all together for good; assuming we survived which we almost certainly wouldn’t. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Fiscal Times

The Fiscal Times

Forget ISIS, Hackers and Money—The Universe Is About to Collapse

Forget ISIS, plane crashes in the ALPS, your student loan, Hillary’s emails, interest rates, Vladimir Putin, the Iran Deal, Ted Cruz, and anything else that keeps you up at night.

Here’s one that could put us all to sleep—permanently. Physicists have figured out that our universe is on an “imminent” track to collapse. As PhysOrg put it, the universe will soon stop expanding and collapse in on itself, obliterating all matter as we know it. To physicists, imminent is like dog years writ large—meaning tens of billions of years, give or take.

Nemanja Kaloper at the University of California, Davis and Antonio Padilla at the University of Nottingham have “proposed a mechanism” for cosmological collapse. Yup…thanks to these two fat brains, we can now safely invest in the manufacturer of Xanax, confident that the sales of the anxiety pill will likely skyrocket (no pun intended).

“The fact that we are seeing dark energy now could be taken as an indication of impending doom, and we are trying to look at the data to put some figures on the end date,” Padilla told Phys.org. “Early indications suggest the collapse will kick in in a few tens of billions of years, but we have yet to properly verify this.”

The story in PhysOrg goes on to describe how the 13.8 billion year old universe evolves.  It’s complicated. Whenever you have accelerated expansion and dark matter, you might as well throw in the towel—at least that’s what I took away from the report.

“There is much to do,” Padilla told PhysOrg. “Over the longer term, we would like to understand how our theory could emerge from a more fundamental theory, such as string theory. It is also important to ask what happens when we consider vacuum energy corrections from quantum gravity.”

Sounds perfectly logical, right? Then came Padilla’s Xanax conclusion:

“The present epoch of acceleration may be evidence of impending doom. . . A detailed analysis to better quantify these predictions is certainly warranted.”

Plane crash kills 150 people in French Alps; Europe in shock


Hopefully this was not a terrorist attack, because in this day and age with all of the sick people on this planet (Muslims) one can never be sure. One way or the other it won’t bring back all of those unfortunate enough to be on this flight.

It’s another sad day for those of us with a heart. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

A screengrab taken on March 24, 2015 shows search and rescue personnel at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 in the French Alps, above the southeastern town of Seyne (AFP Photo/Denis Bois)

SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) — A black box recovered from the scene and pulverized pieces of debris strewn across Alpine mountainsides held clues to what caused a budget airliner to take an unexplained eight-minute dive Tuesday midway through a flight from Spain to Germany, apparently killing all 150 people on board.

The victims included two babies, two opera singers and 16 German high school students and their teachers returning from an exchange trip to Spain. It was the deadliest crash in France in decades.

The Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, was less than an hour from landing in Duesseldorf on a flight from Barcelona when it unexpectedly went into a rapid descent. The pilots sent out no distress call and had lost radio contact with their control center, France’s aviation authority said, deepening the mystery.

While investigators searched through debris from Flight 9525 on steep and desolate slopes, families across Europe reeled with shock and grief. Sobbing relatives at both airports were led away by airport workers and crisis counselors.

“The site is a picture of horror. The grief of the families and friends is immeasurable,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after being flown over the crash scene. “We must now stand together. We are united in our great grief.”

It took investigators hours to reach the site, led by mountain guides to the craggy ravine in the southern French Alps, not far from the Italian border and the French Riviera.

Video shot from a helicopter and aired by BFM TV showed rescuers walking in the crevices of a rocky mountainside scattered with plane parts. Photos of the crash site showed white flecks of debris across a mountain and larger airplane body sections with windows. A helicopter crew that landed briefly in the area saw no signs of life, French officials said.

“Everything is pulverized. The largest pieces of debris are the size of a small car. No one can access the site from the ground,” Gilbert Sauvan, president of the general council, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, told The Associated Press.

“This is pretty much the worst thing you can imagine,” said Bodo Klimpel, mayor of the German town of Haltern, rent with sorrow after losing 16 tenth graders and their two teachers.

The White House and the airline chief said there was no sign that terrorism was involved, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged reporters not to speculate on the cause.

“We still don’t know much beyond the bare information on the flight, and there should be no speculation on the cause of the crash,” she said in Berlin. “All that will be investigated thoroughly.”

Lufthansa Vice President Heike Birlenbach told reporters in Barcelona that for now “we say it is an accident.”

In Washington, the White House said American officials were in contact with their French, Spanish and German counterparts. “There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time,” said U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were to visit the site Wednesday.

Search operations were suspended overnight and were to resume at daybreak, though about 10 gendarmes remained in the desolate ravine to guard the crash site, authorities said.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a black box had been located at the crash site and “will be immediately investigated.” He did not say whether it was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.

The two devices — actually orange boxes designed to survive extreme heat and pressure — should provide investigators with a second-by-second timeline of the plane’s flight.

The voice recorder takes audio feeds from four microphones within the cockpit and records all the conversations between the pilots, air traffic controllers as well as any noises heard in the cockpit. The flight data recorder captures 25 hours’ worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane.

Germanwings is low-cost carrier owned by Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline, and serves mostly European destinations. Tuesday’s crash was its first involving passenger deaths since it began operating in 2002. The Germanwings logo, normally maroon and yellow, was blacked out on its Twitter feed.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr called it the “blackest day of our company’s 60-year history.” He insisted, however, that flying “remains after this terrible day the safest mode of transport.”

Germanwings said 144 passengers and six crew members were on board. Authorities said 67 Germans were believed among the victims, including the 16 high school students and two opera singers, as well as many Spaniards, two Australians and one person each from the Netherlands, Turkey and Denmark.

Contralto Maria Radner was returning to Germany with her husband and baby after performing in Wagner’s “Siegfried,” according to Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu. Bass baritone Oleg Bryjak had appeared in the same opera, according to the opera house in Duesseldorf.

The plane left Barcelona Airport at 10:01 a.m. and had reached its cruising height of 38,000 feet when it suddenly went into an eight-minute descent to just over 6,000 feet, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann told reporters in Cologne.

“We cannot say at the moment why our colleague went into the descent, and so quickly, and without previously consulting air traffic control,” said Germanwings’ director of flight operations, Stefan-Kenan Scheib.

At 10:30, the plane lost radio contact with the control center but “never declared a distress alert,” Eric Heraud of the French Civil Aviation Authority told the AP.

The plane crashed at an altitude of about 6,550 feet (2,000 meters) at Meolans-Revels, near the popular ski resort of Pra Loup. The site is 430 miles (700 kilometers) south-southeast of Paris.

“It was a deafening noise. I thought it was an avalanche, although it sounded slightly different. It was short noise and lasted just a few seconds,” Sandrine Boisse, the president of the Pra Loup tourism office, told the AP.

Authorities faced a long and difficult search-and-recovery operation because of the area’s remoteness. The weather, which had been clear earlier in the day, deteriorated Tuesday afternoon, with a chilly rain falling. Snow coated nearby mountaintops.

Winkelmann said the pilot, whom he did not name, had more than 10 years’ experience working for Germanwings and its parent airline Lufthansa.

The aircraft was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991, had approximately 58,300 flight hours in some 46,700 flights, Airbus said. The plane underwent a routine check in Duesseldorf on Monday, and its last regular full check took place in the summer of 2013.

The A320 plane is a workhorse of modern aviation, with a good safety record.

The last time a passenger jet crashed in France was the 2000 Concorde accident, which left 113 dead.

___

Charlton reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant, Thomas Adamson and Elaine Ganley in Paris; Claude Paris in Seyne-les-Alpes; David McHugh in Frankfurt; Geir Moulson and David Rising in Berlin; Frank Augstein in Duesseldorf; Al Clendenning in Madrid; Joe Wilson in Barcelona; Kirsten Grieshaber in Haltern, Germany, and AP Airlines writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

Al Qaeda influence seen in accused Boston bomber’s note: witness


Who cares? Who really cares who influenced this scum bag, and what difference does it make? Does it matter if it was bad genes, a low IQ, lack of character, lack of morals, if he was abused by a priest; all of the above or none of the above? He’s guilty of murder, manslaughter, destruction of public property, destruction of private property, breaking and entering, and oh, by the way, TERRORISM!

I’m sure that those who are dismembered, who’s lives were ruined, are really concerned about who influenced him!!! What a circus this country has become! What a freakin’ joke the United States is… It’s no wonder the rest of the world laughs at us. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

Scum Bag

BOSTON (Reuters) – Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and a terrorism expert serving as a prosecution witness argued on Tuesday over whether the defendant was paraphrasing Al Qaeda propaganda in a note he left four days after the deadly attack.

While hiding in a boat hours before his arrest, Tsarnaev scrawled a note reading, in part, “we Muslims are one body you hurt one you hurt us all,” a message counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt said was similar to extremist writings found on Tsarnaev’s computer.

Defense attorney David Bruck asked Levitt if it was not possible that Tsarnaev, now 21, had heard those words from his older brother, Tamerlan.

“Could other people have hit these points too? Maybe in that same verbatim language? Maybe,” Levitt acknowledged at U.S. District Court in Boston. “Could that have contributed to the radicalization? It could have.”

Tsarnaev is accused of killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the race’s crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, and with fatally shooting a police officer three days later as he and his 26-year-old brother tried to flee.

Tamerlan died hours after the shooting, following a gunfight with police.

Defense attorneys opened Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial March 5 admitting he committed the crimes, but are seeking to persuade the jury to spare him the death penalty by painting him as a mostly normal American kid who fell under his brother’s spell.

Levitt, a senior fellow at a Washington think-tank and a former U.S. intelligence agent, told jurors he did not know if the materials found on Tsarnaev’s computer, including sermons by U.S.-born Al Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki and issues of Al Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine, were put there by Tsarnaev or by someone else, such as his brother.

The bombing killed restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23, and 8-year-old Martin Richard.

TARGET PRACTICE

The jury also saw records of the younger Tsarnaev taking target practice at a New Hampshire shooting range about a month before the bombing. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev paid about $170 to rent two 9 mm Glock handguns, which use the same sort of ammunition used to fatally shoot Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier on April 18, 2013.

FBI special agent Matthew Riportella testified that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, not Tamerlan, rented the guns and listed himself as having “intermediate” firearms experience on a form there.

Jurors saw images of deformed bullets recovered from Collier’s head, as well as a single shell casing almost submerged in a pool of bright red blood in the driver’s seat of the officer’s cruiser.

Prosecutors acknowledge they are not sure which of the brothers pulled the trigger during the ambush of Collier, but contend both were present and equally guilty.

Tsarnaev was barely hanging on at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where his grades were so poor that he had lost his financial aid by the spring of 2013, said Mark Preble, the school’s vice chancellor.

In a letter appealing the loss of aid, Tsarnaev wrote that he had “lost too many of my loved relations” to cope with schoolwork, adding that his relatives lived in Chechnya, a Russian “republic that is occupied by Russian soldiers that falsely accuse and abduct innocent men under false pretenses and terrorist accusations,” Preble testified.

The appeal was denied, he added.

FRIEND PLEADS GUILTY

Separately on Tuesday, Khairullozhon Matanov, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, pleaded guilty to charges of lying to investigators probing the bombing. The man was a friend of the Tsarnaevs but played down how well he knew them.

Matanov, 24, was hesitant during the hearing that lasted nearly an hour, telling U.S. District Judge William Young that he had agreed to change his plea only because he could have faced up to 20 years in federal prison if he did not. Young set a June hearing date where he will determine whether to accept a plea deal under which Matanov would be sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, minus time served.

“He’s been very conflicted about this for a long time,” said Virginia Venti, a resident of Quincy, Massachusetts, who added that she had gotten to know Matanov through his work as a cab driver and had visited him in prison. “I believe he’s innocent. He knew nothing about the bombing.”

(Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and James Dalgleish)

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The Knights Templar Shows How to Fight ISIS and Win


The Knights Templars were awesome. They were more than warriors, they were also businessmen. But as warriors they were completely loyal to the group. Maybe the author of this article is correct; maybe it will be a non-state entity that takes down ISIS. Only time will tell… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Fiscal Times

The Fiscal Times

The Knights Templar Shows How to Fight ISIS and Win

701  years ago, on March 18th, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake in France. As he died, Jacques de Molay cursed the French king who had betrayed him, and whose own dynasty collapsed fourteen years later. That didn’t help de Molay, whose order was exterminated as a road bump in the path of French power.

Today, days after the Iraqi government admitted that its attack on Tikrit has ground to a halt, the death of the Templars offers lessons on how to fight the Islamic State, an entity they would have recognized very well.

The only successes against ISIS have come at the hands of expressly ethno-sectarian troops—not states you could identify on a Google map: the Shiite militias and Iranian advisors that accompany the Iraqi army into battle, the Alawi Syrians and their Hezbollah allies, or the Kurds fighting, with a wink, for the Iraqi state. Even the first time ISIS was defeated, in 2007-2008, it was by expressly sectarian Sunni militias in Anbar, not by the Iraqi army.

There is no state army winning in the Middle East; nor, really, against radical Islam elsewhere, which has exploded since 2001. The reason lies in the history of the Knights Templars.

Before Amnesty International, before Greenpeace, the Knights Templars and other crusading orders like the Knights Hospitaller were the original non-governmental organizations. They were created to fill the gaps in state capacity, protecting pilgrims enroute to the Holy Land after the First Crusade recaptured Jerusalem in 1099. The Templars supplied banking, medical care, and a permanently expeditionary military capacity that solidified Christendom’s lines of communication to the Middle East, and they prospered by it.

Sovereignty was a bit of a confused concept at that time. Power was not wholly the prerogative of states, as it became after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1646, which put an end to the wars of religion.  While there were recognizable national entities – like France, most of all, and England – the lines of feudal loyalty were distinctly non-national.

A baron could own lands in France but could also be nominally sworn to a lord in Burgundy or have vassals in the Holy Roman Empire who were nominally fighting his king, though they gave fealty to him. Underneath the map of medieval Europe, there were crisscrossing lines of identity and affiliation that were in many cases stronger than states. And no identity was stronger than Christendom.

That would change.  The Templars were ultimately undone not because the French king was greedy for their lands, because the balance of power between state and non-state had swung back towards the state. There was no more service to offer: The Crusades were over, and the Holy Land was lost. France had become a more unified kingdom and with unification came the jealousy of temporal authority. Then, it was a function of time, politics and technology.

In the modern day, it has swung towards the non-state, and ISIS.

ISIS revels in the gaps of state authority. The national Arab states it rivals have fallen far behind the rest of the world, with no efficiency other than the secret police. ISIS and other radical groups flood Twitter with an appeal to the global identity of Muslims. The spontaneity of a thousand different human interactions every day, across the globe, is bound to metastasize a network of ideas faster than any bureaucracy can keep manage. They are also aided, perversely, by the triumph of democratic capitalism.

As the world’s only ideology, the victory of the West has laid bare its own weakness: that it offers no greater cause than more consumption and a softer life. Islamism, like communism and fascism, is the latest incarnation of man’s desire to fill that nothing with something. The victory of no cause may have perversely begged the creation of some cause – even a cruel and terrible one.

All the Interpol cooperation in the world hasn’t been successful in choking off the supply of recruits pouring into Syria to fight for ISIS, a substate pipeline not too unlike that of the Templars. The shadow networks of hiwala funding, military recruiting, and Islamist ideology crisscross European and European-drawn boundaries.

So what, then, is the Templar lesson for ISIS?  Perhaps it is simply that the hagiography of state authority waxes and wanes. Caesar will not always be Caesar. Today, it is expressly evident that there is a border between Iraq and Syria on our maps; but it is also expressly evident that there is no border in real life. Nor is there a real one between Syria and Lebanon; nor perhaps, really between Iraq and Iran. There is a gap in capacity.

ISIS has arisen to fill that gap, but something else will arise to push back against it, since states cannot. That something won’t be the Templars, exactly, but it will also not be a state. It will instead be new non-state networks to funnel money and fighters against ISIS.

There are already reports of Americans and other Westerners going to join the Kurdish militias; how long before the Christian communities in Iraq and other ethno-sectarian communities under assault begin to attract adherents as well?

The war against ISIS and radical Islam may not always be state versus non-state, but perhaps eventually non-state versus non-state. Popularized violence and popularized sovereignty; more efficient, certainly, to cut out the middleman. It would be the return of de Molay, at least for a while, until they don’t need him anymore.

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Remodeling the Muslim response to terror attacks


The bottom line as far as Islam is concerned is that it is a flawed ideology. Muslims and Muslim apologists can put whatever spin they want on Islam. They can make the claim that it is a peaceful faith and all the rest of it. However, the bottom line is that be it north Africa, the Middle East, the far east, everywhere on earth where Islam dominates there is chaos, social injustice and especially violence, and lots of it.

The issue shouldn’t be the response to terror attacks. The real issue is recognizing that Islam is a severely flawed ideology. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that a problem exists. And as long as religions, particularly Islam, continue to get a free ride its leaders will lure the mindless masses and grow like the plague. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

As the Islamic State and other groups step up attacks in the Mideast and North Africa, the responses of each country matter even more – and reveal sharp differences. Which response will best lead to peace?

Christian Science Monitor

Tired of all the news about jihadist attacks in Muslim countries – the beheadings in Libya, the killing of foreign tourists in Tunisia, the suicide bombings of mosques in Yemen or of churches in Pakistan, the terrorist strikes on police in Egypt or on the military in Saudi Arabia?

There is another side to these sensational events, one that is not as dramatic yet carries far greater import as militants like Islamic State step up their attacks in the Middle East and North Africa.

The alternative news lies in how each country reacts to any incident of mass violence, and whether the right kind of response can lead to a peaceful Muslim world.

Until recently, the most common reaction has been counterviolence – military raids on terrorist cells or radical Muslim groups, retaliation against particular tribes or sects, or even the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria on Islamist fighters. Often a harsh crackdown only creates new recruits for extremist groups. In a few places, such as Yemen and Libya, violent reactions have helped create a failed and chaotic state, with little or no central authority.

A second response has been tighter controls on civil liberties. Egypt has reverted to dictatorship after its brief Arab Spring democracy, jailing liberal activists and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. The monarchies in the Gulf states have become more authoritarian. Pakistan, where a pro-Islam military holds much sway, has toughened its anti-blasphemy enforcement.

A third response has been to assert a peaceful brand of Islam – yet one largely defined by unelected leaders who rely on coercion for conformity to strict religious habits. In February, for example, Saudi Arabia held a conference of Islamic scholars in Mecca to counter the lure of Islamic State. The main message? Impose Islamic codes of behavior “in all life’s affairs.”

A fourth and far-less-common response is to put into practice the values of individual liberty and dignity through pluralistic democracy, with state tolerance for all types of faith.

Last year, Iraq responded to the threat of Islamic State by replacing an authoritarian Shiite leader with one promising to be more welcoming to minority Sunnis and Kurds. But Iraq’s attempt at inclusiveness remains a faltering experiment, similar to that in Afghanistan. And both countries still rely on the United States to strike back at militants and keep politicians in line.

The best example of this last type of response lies in Tunisia. While this small Mediterranean nation of 11 million is the birthplace of the Arab Spring, it only succeeded this year to finally create a coalition government, one that comprises parties of secularists, leftists, and Islamists operating under a popular constitution. When terrorists struck the Bardo Museum on Feb. 18 and killed 21 people, mainly foreign tourists, the country offered a stark alternative in its response.

Police reacted quickly to the attack, of course, and killed the two gunmen and began a search for others. But thousands of Tunisians gathered in the streets the next day, singing the national anthem and waving the national flag and anti-terrorist signs. A team of mental-health counselors assisted the survivors. Tunisia’s strong band of civil society groups mobilized to track the government’s response.

President Beji Caid Essebsi declared on TV: “We won’t win if we don’t stand together.” And the moderate Islamist Ennahda party called for a national conference on strategies to fight terrorism and for passage of laws that would reform and support Tunisia’s security forces.

Despite these unifying reactions, Tunisians remain on guard in case their government possibly politicizes the attack and uses it to restrict civil liberties or jail dissidents. The weakness of the security forces has been exposed. Cracks might open between the parties in the coalition.

Still, Tunisia’s reaction – an affirmation of the civic bonds that unite, not divide – stands out in the Arab world. For now, it also serves as a model. If other countries follow, it might even be bigger news than a terrorist attack.

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Afghanistan buries woman beaten to death by mob


This is what these savages do… They beat a mentally ill woman to death in the streets for supposedly burning the Koran! How do Muslims justify what these animals do? Why would anyone want to belong to this criminalistic faith. Everywhere in the world that these vermin live turns to sh*t! This is so totally despicable that it is beyond description. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

Mentally ill woman beaten to death in Kabul

The mob of men beat 27-year-old Farkhunda before throwing her body off a roof, running over it with a car, setting it on fire and throwing it into a river near a well-known mosque.

The attack was apparently sparked by allegations that Farkhunda, who like many Afghans has just one name, had set fire to a Quran. But Afghanistan’s most senior detective said no evidence had been found to support those claims.

Video of the assault taken with cellphones has circulated widely since the attack on Thursday. The killing has shocked many Afghans and led to renewed calls for justice and reform.

“We want justice for Farkhunda, we want justice for Afghan women. All these injustices happening to Afghan women are unacceptable,” said a prominent women’s rights activist who goes by the name Dr. Alima.

“In which religion or faith is it acceptable to burn a person to death? Today is a day of national mourning and we will not keep quiet.”

President Ashraf Ghani, now in Washington on his first state visit to the United States since taking office in September, condemned the killing as a “heinous attack” and ordered an investigation.

Following allegations that police stood by and did nothing to stop the killing, Ghani told reporters before leaving for the U.S. that the incident revealed “a fundamental issue” — that security forces are too focused on the fight against the Taliban insurgency to concentrate on community policing.

Many rights activists, however, said the killing cut to the core of how women are treated as second-class citizens in Afghan society.

Despite constitutional guarantees of equal rights and advances in access to health and education, for many women in Afghanistan little has changed since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ended the Taliban’s harsh rule. Girls are routinely married off as children, traded as chattels and then rarely permitted to leave their homes without a male relative.

Hundreds of people gathered at a graveyard Sunday in the middle-class suburb near Farkhunda’s home. With the permission of her father, the women in black carried her coffin from an ambulance to an open-air prayer ground, and then to her grave, rituals that are usually attended only by men.

“She is a sister to you all, and it is your duty to bury her,” Farkhunda’s brother Najibullah, standing graveside, told the crowd.

Several politicians, officials and senior police officers addressed the funeral, which was broadcast live. Men formed a chain around the women pallbearers to offer protection and support.

The attack appeared to have grown out of a dispute between Farkhunda, a veiled woman who had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching post, and men who sold amulets at Shah-Do Shamshera shrine, where the killing happened.

She regarded the amulet sellers as parasites and told women not to waste their money on them, friends and family said. Her father, Mohammed Nadir, said the men responded by making false accusations that she had torched a Quran.

“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” he said. The Interior Ministry said it was providing extra protection for the family.

The head of the ministry’s criminal investigation directorate, Gen. Mohammad Zahir, said 13 people had been arrested in connection with the killing, including two men who sold amulets. The Interior Ministry said 13 policemen had been suspended pending investigation.

Zahir said authorities were “unable to find any single iota of evidence to support claims that she had burned a Quran.”

“She is completely innocent,” he said.

___

Follow Lynne O’Donnell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lynnekodonnell

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Suicide bombers kill 137 in Yemen mosque attacks


Why do we bother with these people? Why is the United States participating in drone attacks or any other kind of support for any of these demented tribesmen? Just let these people blow themselves to bits and destroy one another. There is no good guy versus bad guy here. They’re all the same. One group is supported and armed by us, presumably for being “good,” and once they’re safe and gain some power they merge with another militant group and see us (the United States) as the enemy, then commit terrorist acts against us.

I say, just leave them the hell alone. Remember Charles Darwin; survival of the fittest… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) – Suicide bombers killed at least 137 worshippers and wounded hundreds more during Friday prayers at two mosques in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, in coordinated attacks claimed by Islamic State.

The attacks on mosques used by supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters who control the city were the deadliest in a years-long campaign of violence in the country, where Washington has been waging a drone air war against a local branch of the Sunni Muslim militant group al Qaeda.

Sectarian unrest has increased in recent months after the Iran-backed Shi’ite fighters seized the capital last year.

Four bombers wearing explosive belts targeted worshippers in and around the crowded mosques. State news agency Saba, which is controlled by the Houthis, put the death toll at 137 and the number of wounded at 357.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, appealing for blood donors to help treat the large number of casualties.

A Reuters journalist at the Badr mosque counted at least 25 bloody bodies lying in the street and inside the building. One man carried a child in his arms.

Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot that controls swathes of Syria and Iraq and has been attracting followers in other countries, considers Shi’ites to be heretics.

Both groups have now rallied against the Houthis in Yemen, giving them the same enemies as the U.S.-backed government in a complex, multi-sided conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country.

“Let the polytheist Houthis know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest and will not stay still until they extirpate them,” the group said in a statement posted by supporters on Twitter, claiming responsibility for the attacks.

“God willing, this operation is only a part of the coming flood.”

Among the dead was Almortada al-Mahatwary, a leading figure in Yemen’s Shi’ite Zaidi sect, the Houthi-controlled al-Masirah television channel said.

Badr mosque was hit by two bombers and two others struck a second mosque. A fifth bomber was killed when he tried to attack a mosque in Saada province, a northern Houthi stronghold, but the device went off prematurely, a security source told Reuters.

“I was going to pray at the (Badr) mosque then I heard the first explosion, and a second later I heard another one,” a witness told Reuters.

Television footage showed young men in traditional Yemeni clothes carrying lifeless bodies, some dripping with blood, out of the mosque.

In Washington, the White House condemned the bombings and said it could not confirm that the attackers were affiliated with Islamic State.

HURTLING TOWARD CIVIL WAR

Yemen has been hurtling toward civil war since last year, when the Houthis seized most of the north, including Sanaa.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally, fled the capital in February after a month imprisoned by the Houthis under house arrest and has set up a power base in the southern city of Aden.

Unidentified warplanes have attacked his Aden palace for the past two days.

Anti-aircraft guns fired on two planes that dropped bombs on an area that includes his residence on Friday. He was unharmed, sources at the presidency said.

While Yemen is one of the main bases of al Qaeda, it has not previously been known as a major base for Islamic State, the Al Qaeda offshoot also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Since last year, when Islamic State swept across northern Iraq and declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims, militants in other countries have expressed their support for the group, although it is not clear if it actually directs them.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was no clear operational link between the people who carried out Friday’s attacks in Yemen and Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “the terrorist attacks” and called on all sides “to immediately cease all hostile actions and exercise maximum restraint.”

Yemen has been sliding into turmoil since its long serving ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh was toppled after “Arab Spring” protests that began in 2011. Saleh is now believed to have allied himself with the Houthi fighters that he tried to crush while president.

Since fleeing the capital, Hadi has been trying to consolidate his hold over Aden to challenge the Houthis’ ambitions to control the whole country.

Thirteen people were killed on Thursday when forces loyal to Hadi fought their way into Aden’s international airport and wrested an adjacent military base from a renegade officer, Aden governor Abdulaziz bin Habtoor said.

(Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Peter Graff and John Stonestreet)

Afghan cleric and others defend lynching of woman in Kabul


I never thought it would be possible for an entire group of people to be so ignorant, obsessed and barbaric; obviously I was wrong. Muslims have demonstrated that in fact humans can be worse than maggots. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters

KABUL (Reuters) – An Afghan cleric and a police official on Friday defended the lynching of a woman in central Kabul after a mob was filmed stamping on the woman and smashing a brick on her head after she was accused of burning a Koran, Islam’s holy book.

The woman’s body was set on fire and thrown onto the banks of Kabul’s main river on Thursday.

It was unclear whether she had actually burned a Koran, but during Friday prayers at a mosque in a smart area of Kabul, a cleric’s sermon broadcast by loudspeaker told devotees that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.

“I am warning the government not to arrest those who did this, because it will mean an uprising,” said the cleric at the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque.

Another Afghan man boasted on Facebook of participating in the lynching, saying that “pious people of Kabul, including myself, killed her and then burnt her. Her place is in hell.”

A spokesman in the Kabul police chief’s office also appeared to justify the killing, saying the woman had deliberately insulted Islam.

“This (person) thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life,” Hashmat Stanekzai wrote on his Facebook page.

President Ashraf Ghani’s office said the killing would be investigated by both the Ministry of Interior and a committee of religious scholars.

“No individual is allowed to make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others,” Ghani’s statement said.

It added that the government “also condemns in strong terms any action that causes disrespect to the Holy Koran and Islamic values”.

Anger among Afghans over Koran desecration has boiled over into violence several times. In 2011, riots killed seven U.N. staff after an American pastor broadcast a video of himself burning a Koran.

Foreign donors that have poured billions of dollars into promoting the rule of law and human rights programs did not issue statements on the killing, which took place just a short drive from the diplomatic quarter.

Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch urged foreign embassies, which often swiftly condemn violence linked to the Taliban, to publicly denounce the attack, to “make it clear that this kind of complete lack of rule of law represents a shocking failure”.

The United Nations mission in Kabul late on Friday condemned the killing “in the strongest terms”.

(Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Kay Johnson and Kevin Liffey)

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Boko Haram ‘slaughter wives’ in NE Nigeria: witnesses


I have many friends who ask me why I so despise religions, especially Islam. I suppose they don’t read any of the news stories I post in this blog… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP
The leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau

Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) – Dozens of Nigerian women who were forced to marry Boko Haram fighters were reportedly slaughtered by their “husbands” before a battle with troops in the northeast town of Bama, multiple witnesses said Thursday.

Five witnesses who recounted the massacres to AFP said the Islamist militants feared they would be killed by advancing soldiers or separated from their wives when they fled the town.

They killed the women to prevent them from subsequently marrying soldiers or other so-called non-believers, they added.

“The terrorists said they will not allow their wives to be married to infidels,” said Sharifatu Bakura, 39, a mother of three.

Nigeria’s military along with forces from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger have claimed huge victories over the insurgents in recent weeks but defenceless civilians still face serious threats.

– ‘Dozens’ of corpses –

According to Bakura’s account, which was supported by others, Boko Haram fighters received word of a military assault on Bama, formerly an Islamist stronghold in Borno state.

The insurgents had decided to flee to the nearby town of Gwoza before the troops’ arrival but first decided “to kill their wives so that nobody will remarry them”, she said.

Bukara’s husband was killed by the insurgents four months ago but she was spared from a forced marriage because she was visibly pregnant.

Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria’s military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.

Witnesses who were taken under military protection this week to Borno’s capital Maiduguri, 73 kilometres (45 miles) away, said the killing of women began 10 days before Bama was liberated.

The Islamists said “if they kill their wives, they would remain pious until both of them meet again in heaven, where they would re-unite”, said Salma Mahmud, another witness.

A vigilante who fought alongside the military in the battle to retake Bama, Abba Kassim, said he saw “dozens of women corpses” in the town.

- Commander’s instructions -

While other witnesses reportedly a similarly high casualty figure the numbers were impossible to verify.

Fanna Aisami, 52, also in Maiduguri after escaping Bama this week, said the executions followed a warning from Boko Haram’s top commander in the town.

“He informed them of the situation and ‎the consequence of the takeover of the town by the advancing troops.

“He warned them that when soldiers killed them they would take their wives back to the society where they would be forced to marry and live with infidels,” the mother of seven said, speaking by phone to AFP in Kano.

The commander “said it would be better for them to kill their wives and send them to heaven,” Aisami added.

A number of women were shot dead in front of the commander’s house, she further said.

Yagana Mairambe, 58, reported similar details but told AFP that “some Boko Haram men refused” and fled with their wives towards neighbouring Yobe state.

Nigeria’s national security spokesman Mike Omeri told AFP he would try to verify the reports while the military could not immediately be reached for comment.

With Boko Haram gunmen facing heavy military pressure across northeast Nigeria, attacks, including suicide bombings, have persisted, even as the government in Abuja tries to assure voters that March 28 elections will be secure.

The Islamist uprising has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2009 and President Goodluck Jonathan has faced fierce criticism over failure to contain the violence.

The latest reported atrocities in Bama recall similar massacres at high schools and colleges across northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram has executed scores of students learning a so-called infidel curriculum.

Sexy…


Nice long legs… TGO

Sexy 716

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