"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2 Syrian Women Beheaded for Practicing Witchcraft

Witchcraft is considered polytheism in Islam and adherents can face death for its practice.

An ISIS terrorist believed to be Hayat Boumeddiene,
who is wanted by French authorities‏ for the Charlie Hebdo attack.
 (photo credit:ARAB SOCIAL MEDIA)
The hard-line Islamic state group has beheaded two women in Syria, the first time it has decapitated female civilians, the founder of a group monitoring the war said on Tuesday.

The beheadings took place in the eastern Deir al-Zor province this week said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict using sources on the ground.

One of the women was beheaded along with her husband in Deir al-Zor city. In al-Mayadeen city to the south east, the group beheaded another woman and her husband. All of them were accused of sorcery, the monitor said.

Islamic State has beheaded local and foreign men in Syria, including enemy combatants, aid workers and journalists as well as people it has deemed as violating its hard-line interpretation of Islamic law.

Several of the group's female captives have been stoned to death previously after being accused of adultery and other offenses. This is the first time it was reported to have beheaded female civilians.

Abdel-Rahman, said the two female civilians and their husbands, killed in the city of Mayadin, appear to have been accused after the group found them in possession of charms.

The use of amulets, charms and other folk religious practices is common in parts of Syria, particularly in the countryside.

The charms are often written on a piece of paper sewn into fabric, and are intended to protect the recipient against bad luck or jealousy, or solve and prevent other problems.

But the practice is considered heretical and a form of “witchcraft” by ISIS, which imposes its harsh interpretation of Islam on the areas under its control.

Islamic State also "crucified" five men in al-Mayadeen for eating during daylight hours of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Observatory said.

They were hung up by their limbs on the city wall and children were encouraged to mock them as they suffered, it added.

Activists say Islamic State uses such public punishments in areas where it is present to control the local population through coercion and fear.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Biblical Response to Same-Sex Marriage Approval

John Piper
Desiring God

Jesus died so that heterosexual and homosexual sinners might be saved. Jesus created sexuality, and has a clear will for how it is to be experienced in holiness and joy.

His will is that a man might leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and that the two become one flesh (Mark 10:6–9). In this union, sexuality finds its God-appointed meaning, whether in personal-physical unification, symbolic representation, sensual jubilation, or fruitful procreation.

For those who have forsaken God’s path of sexual fulfillment, and walked into homosexual intercourse or heterosexual extramarital fornication or adultery, Jesus offers astonishing mercy.

Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

But today this salvation from sinful sexual acts was not embraced. Instead there was massive institutionalization of sin.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage.

The Bible is not silent about such decisions. Alongside its clearest explanation of the sin of homosexual intercourse (Romans 1:24–27) stands the indictment of the approval and institutionalization of it. Though people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:29–32). “I tell you even with tears, that many glory in their shame” (Philippians 3:18–19).

This is what the highest court in our land did today — knowing these deeds are wrong, “yet approving those who practice them.”

My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us. The new thing — new for America, and new for history — is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act — just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.)

What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.

My main reason for writing is not to mount a political counter-assault. I don’t think that is the calling of the church as such. My reason for writing is to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and his image in man.

Christians, more clearly than others, can see the tidal wave of pain that is on the way. Sin carries in it its own misery: “Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27).

And on top of sin’s self-destructive power comes, eventually, the final wrath of God: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).

Christians know what is coming, not only because we see it in the Bible, but because we have tasted the sorrowful fruit of our own sins. We do not escape the truth that we reap what we sow. Our marriages, our children, our churches, our institutions — they are all troubled because of our sins.

The difference is: We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We don’t institutionalize them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. We cry to Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

And in our best moments, we weep for the world, and for our own nation. In the days of Ezekiel, God put a mark of hope “on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in Jerusalem” (Ezekiel 9:4).

This is what I am writing for. Not political action, but love for the name of God and compassion for the city of destruction.

“My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” (Psalm 119:136)

The concept of 'the two becoming one flesh' is a physical example of a spiritual precept which is the entire purpose of man's existence - becoming one with God. Becoming one with God is an impossibility for a practicing homosexual, but a genuine possibility for those who forsake the practice - Jesus died for us all.

The Christian response should be one of repentance and begging forgiveness for our country. It should be one that will draw us closer to God rather than cause us to behave in a manner unworthy of the  Name of Christ.

Running around setting your hair on fire (or any other part of your body) is an absurd reaction fit for those living in a dream world that doesn't exist, yet, and will only exist when the Lord returns.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage Imminent

Some time in the next few days, Americans should learn from their Supreme Court whether same-sex marriage will become legal across their country.

Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage
The court's session ends on June 29, and it is widely speculated that the nine justices will wait until that day to issue a ruling on one of the most divisive issues in the country. But rulings are also being delivered Thursday and Friday, and the court doesn't say in advance which rulings are coming out on which days, heightening the suspense.

The plaintiffs and stakeholders have been eagerly awaiting the historic decision since the hearing in April. They have been preparing for the outcome, one way or the other.

"We are anxious and excited for hopefully a positive decision from the court. It will certainly be a huge disappointment for so many who have worked so hard for this moment if the court rules against fairness and equality for all Americans," Janson Wu, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said in an interview.

The case, known as Obergefell vs. Hodges, involves four combined cases from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. The key questions to rule on are whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to give marriage licences to same-sex couples and whether the constitution requires states to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was performed legally in another state.

Couples can now marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Depending on how the court decides, that number will either shrink or expand to all 50 states. Some states have same-sex marriage because of ballot initiatives or changes to their own state constitutions. A Supreme Court ruling against same-sex marriage wouldn't affect those states.

Justices' comments scrutinized

Other states currently allow same-sex marriage because their bans were quashed in lower court rulings. If the Supreme Court rules against same-sex marriage, then the legal status of couples in those states could become confusing and uncertain.

After April's hearing, the justices' comments and questions to the lawyers were scrutinized for clues to which way they might be leaning.

"I thought the hearing went well for us. I think the other side realizes that too," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is against same-sex marriage.

Jim Obergefell is the named plaintiff
 in the historic same-sex marriage case
 that was heard at the U.S. Supreme
 Court in April.
(Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
Despite some confidence that his side will win, Brown said his group has been busy since April preparing a Plan B in case they lose. That includes sending letters last week to all declared Republican presidential candidates asking them to commit to taking specific steps to preserve the traditional definition of marriage should they be elected.

Those actions include working to overturn any Supreme Court decision that changes the definition and appointing justices and an attorney general that would uphold the one man and one woman definition of marriage. They also include trying to amend the U.S. Constitution so it stipulates that marriage can only be between opposite-sex couples.

Loss would be 'illegitimate'

"If we were to lose, it will be an illegitimate decision on the part of the Supreme Court," Brown said, adding, "we will do everything in our power to rally the millions of Americans "who support marriage between a man and a woman only."

Now that's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. The Supreme Court cannot make an illegitimate decision; any decision they make becomes instantly legitimate, no matter how bad it is.

Both sides are looking to Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. Kennedy said during the hearing that the definition of marriage has "been with us for millennia," and he seemed to question whether it is the court's place to "know better" and change it.

That comment is what is giving those against same-sex marriage optimism, but at the same time, Kennedy has shown sympathy in the past to gay rights causes, and during the hearing he talked about the dignity of same-sex couples.

"The Conservatives made much of this false notion that marriage has always been and always should be this one definition, which is utterly untrue," said Wu. "I think Kennedy, hopefully, will see how inaccurate that description is."

He will have to see a whole lot better than I do, because I have no idea on what basis he makes that statement? Do you?

Kelly Noe, one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky case, and her wife are fighting to have both of their names kept on their daughter's birth certificate. They have been trying to carry on with normal life while they await a potentially life-changing ruling.

Noe said in an interview that she thinks the hearing went well for their side, but she knows the court can be unpredictable.

"My gut feeling is that they will say no on question one and yes on question two," said Noe. "I really don't think they're going to say no on both. I will be very surprised if that's the case."

Noe said it would be "heartbreaking" if they lost, but if they do, they won't give up.

"We will continue this fight until our marriage is recognized."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Answered Prayer, Angels, Miracles - ABC's Dianne Sawyer

The following video from ABC News' Dianne Sawyer begs the questions, 'are there angels among us'? Does prayer really work?

Decide for yourself...

Katie's miracle.

Snopes: No Angel! Priest found.

Origins:   On the morning of 11 August 2013, the vehicle bearing 19-year-old Katie Lentz of New London, Missouri, collided with another, crushing the young woman's car and trapping her inside the upturned wreckage. When it proved impossible to extricate the injured teen while the car was in that position, the decision was made to flip the vehicle back onto its tires, although such movement could dramatically change the pressure on her body and put her further at risk. 

Lentz called for someone to pray for her first. Seemingly out of nowhere, a priest no one at the accident scene recognized appeared and began ministering to the stricken girl. Those struggling to free the girl said the mysterious priest told them to be calm and their tools would now work. 

After praying with her, absolving her of her sins and anointing her, the priest slipped away unnoticed. Lentz was subsequently freed from what little remained of her car and transported by helicopter to the nearest trauma center. 

Photographs taken at the scene that morning failed to display the mysterious priest — in none of the nearly 70 of them did the man appear. Moreover, no one present had recognized him, which was highly unusual given that there was only one Catholic church within three towns, and the unknown man was not its pastor. 

It appeared a grievously injured teen's pleas for spiritual succor had been answered by an angel guised as a priest. 

The mystery was resolved within a few days. The mysterious stranger was in fact a Catholic priest, the Rev. Patrick Dowling. A priest since 1982, Dowling works in prison ministry and with Spanish-speaking parishioners, which accounts for no one present at the accident scene having recognized him. As to how he came to be there, he was returning from Ewing, Missouri, where he had celebrated Mass at a local church because that parish's regular priest had been ill. That no one saw him come or go was likely explained by his having parked his car behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from where Katie Lentz lay trapped. 

Charges are pending against the driver of the other vehicle, and Katie Lentz is on the mend despite suffering two broken femurs, a broken tibia and fibula, broken left wrist, nine broken ribs, a lacerated liver, ruptured spleen and bruised lung. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Eastern Europe Balking at EU Pressure to Accept Migrants

Slovaks protest EU imposed quotas for migrants
Bratislava, Slovakia (AFP) - At least 140 people were arrested Saturday after violence broke out at an anti-immigration rally in Bratislava attended by thousands of people in protest at EU quotas on migrant numbers, local media said.

The rally, organised by an anti-Islam group called Stop the Islamisation of Europe, drew up to 8,000 people, according to Slovakian media. Police declined to give an estimate.

Protesters included Marian Kotleba, the governor of a central Slovakian region and founder of the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia.

"I wish you a nice, white day... we are here to save Slovakia," Kotleba told the crowd.

Scuffles erupted between small groups of demonstrators and police at the end of the rally, leading to 140 arrests, the country's TASR news agency reported, citing local police sources. Six police cars were damaged in the unrest.

Earlier, at least one protester was taken into custody after using tear gas against the police, and some in the crowd were seen shredding a blue EU flag offered by one of the speakers.

After the rally, a group of protesters attacked spectators at a cycling show, local media said, adding that unidentified attackers also threw bottles and stones at an Arab family at the main train station.

The protest was called after the European Commission said in May that Slovakia, an EU and NATO member of 5.4 million people, should accept 471 migrants from Italy and 314 from Greece, as the bloc scrambles to deal with a surge in people illegally crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life.

On Friday, Prime Minister Robert Fico and his counterparts from neighbouring Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland affirmed that their countries were against quotas on refugee numbers imposed by the EU.

A June poll by the Focus opinion research agency, published on Saturday, showed Slovaks perceived the current wave of migrants heading to Europe as the hottest international topic, being mentioned by almost 22 percent of 1,018 respondents.

"The vast majority of the Slovak public... perceives migrants as a security risk for the country, or as an economic or social burden," said Focus head Martin Slosiarik.

Hungary also circling the wagons

Lydia Gall
Human Rights Watch

The country that helped tear down the Iron Curtain in 1989 is building a new one. On June 17, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government announced its plans to construct a four-meter-high fence on its 175 kilometer border with Serbia.

The proposed fence is the culmination of a several month long anti-migrant campaign by the government, which includes a national consultation on “migration and terrorism,” delivered through a questionnaire addressed to eight million Hungarian citizens that contains leading questions suggesting that everyone crossing into Hungary is an economic migrant, a terrorist – or both. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on June 10 condemning the national consultation and the questionnaire, calling on the Hungarian government to withdraw it.

The government has also launched an anti-migrant billboard campaign with messages, in Hungarian, saying things like, “If you come to Hungary, you can’t take the jobs of Hungarians” and “If you come to Hungary you must respect our culture.” Since few refugees and migrants understand Hungarian, these messages appear to be aimed more at Hungarian voters.

The move comes at a time of increased asylum applications in Hungary: double in 2014 compared to 2013, putting it in second place behind Sweden for the most asylum applicants per capita among European Union member states. Half came from Kosovo, followed by Afghans and Syrians. But they are not particularly welcome: only 9 percent of applications for asylum are accepted on the first attempt – the lowest rate in the EU.

Building fences is not the way to address Europe’s immigration and refugee demand. It will have no impact on the conflicts, human rights abuses, and poverty that drive people to try to reach EU territory. But it risks trapping people in Serbia, where Human Rights Watch documented serious abuses against migrants and asylum seekers by Serbian police and flaws in the asylum system.

UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, has described the fence as a “barrier to asylum” a statement echoed by the UN high commissioner for human rights who in a June 19 press briefing note said that the fence “may prevent asylum seekers … from accessing Hungarian territory.” The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights tweeted that the fence is “ill-advised.”

It’s also tragically hypocritical that Hungary, from where about 200,000 Hungarians were forced to flee in 1956 to obtain protection from Western countries, is currently closing its borders to those fleeing their countries for similar reasons.

Hungary should honor its human rights obligations and indeed its own history and keep its borders open to allow people to present their claims for asylum in a fair and transparent procedure.

Lydia's well written piece evokes some complex emotions, however, it fails to address the issue of the Islamization of Europe. Europeans have the right to protect their countries from losing their culture to Islam. Islam's aggressive nature will overrun all European societies and put all Europeans, eventually, and inevitably, under Sharia law, and under the abusive power of radicals dedicated to a demonic religion, if they don't stop the immigration of Muslims now.

This calls for drastic measures, the likes of which we are beginning to see. But what can realistically be done for these refugees? I have two suggestions: 1) move all Muslims refugees to Muslim countries; 2) If Muslims want to, or must come to non-Muslim countries, they must renounce Islam and cease to practice it under penalty of expulsion.

Yes, I know these are drastic proposals, but they are necessary. Also, if Muslim countries were to accept hundreds or thousands of Christian refugees, do you think they would not be required to abandon Christianity? Some countries, perhaps not; some countries definitely would.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Was UN Secretary General Assassinated?

Evidence may lead to new probe in 1961 death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld

Documents, testimony add weight to case that plane crash was no accident

By Melissa Kent, CBC News 
Nearly 56 years after the plane carrying UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld crashed in the African bush during a peace mission to Congo, the accident remains one of the Cold War's greatest unsolved mysteries. 

New evidence to be submitted to the United Nations' General Assembly this week could help shed light on one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century — namely, was the 1961 death of the second UN Secretary General an accident or an act of murder?

Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia — now Zambia — along with 15 others on Sept. 18, 1961.

The 56-year old Swedish diplomat was in Africa to try to unite the Congo, but faced resistance from a number of multinationals, often supported by mercenaries and openly hostile to the UN, who coveted the area's mineral wealth.

The crash has been a source of widespread speculation for decades, which has ramped up thanks to evidence uncovered in the last few years.

Searchers walk through the scattered wreckage of the DC6B plane that had
carried Dag Hammarskjöld, in a forest near Ndola, Zambia, Sept. 19, 1961.
(Associated Press)
That includes testimony from a former U.S. National Security Agency intelligence officer who claims he heard a recording of another pilot attacking the plane, as well as a Belgian pilot who says that he accidentally shot the plane down after being hired to merely divert it.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said a three-member panel appointed by current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently travelled to Zambia to interview new witnesses and gathered new documents from public and private archives in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Belgium.

Ban is examining the panel's report and will make his own recommendations on how to proceed before it is distributed to the General Assembly — expected to happen this coming week.

The evidence could result in a new UN probe into the crash, which would be the first since an inconclusive 1962 UN inquiry. But Dujarric says that decision will be left up to member states.

'They killed him'

Suspicions that the plane was shot down more than half a century ago are not new.

Just two days after the crash, former U.S. President Harry Truman told The New York Times, "Dag Hammarskjöld was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said, 'When they killed him,'" Truman emphasized, without elaborating.

At the time of the tragedy, Hammarskjöld was on a peace mission to unite the Congo, which had just gained independence from Belgium.

He was flying from the capital, Léopoldville (which later became Kinshasa), to meet with secessionist leader Moise Tshombé, who had declared the mineral-rich southeastern province of Katanga an independent state.

The men were to meet in Ndola, in the neighbouring British colony of Northern Rhodesia, because of ongoing fighting in Katanga.

But just after midnight on Sept. 18, Hammarskjöld's chartered DC6 crashed in a forested area about 14 kilometres from the Ndola airport. Hammarskjöld received a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Renewed speculation of foul play arose in 2011, on the 50th anniversary of his death, when Susan Williams published the book Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa.

It offered a new analysis of the evidence, including previously unseen documents, photographs, as well as testimony from eyewitnesses, many of them African, who had either not participated or not been taken seriously by Rhodesian officials or the UN.

Williams argues this was a direct result of the white minority regime in place in Northern Rhodesia at the time.

"[The locals'] testimony was dismissed, disqualified, ignored, in some cases changed," said Williams, adding that some people were afraid to come forward.

Williams said a number of local eyewitnesses told her that they saw a second, smaller aircraft "that dropped something that looked like fire" on top of the bigger plane right before it went down.

Queen Elizabeth addresses the General Assembly, as her husband Prince Philip,
sits at left, Oct. 21, 1957. Hammarskjöld sits on the far left,
behind the Queen. (John Rooney/Associated Press)
The crash killed the UN chief and 15 others, including Alice Lalande, Secretary to the head of the UN mission in the Congo, who was from Joliette, Que. She was the only Canadian and the only woman on board the aircraft.

Williams has two primary theories: that it was an assassination or a hijacking gone wrong.

The second theory is based on testimony from a former Belgian pilot known only as "Beukels," who claimed in 1967 that he accidentally downed Hammarskjöld's plane while trying to divert it with warning shots.

A group of international jurists known as the Hammarskjöld Commission sums up Beukels' testimony in a 2013 independent investigative report by stating he claimed he was acting on behalf of a group representing "a number of European political and business interests" who wanted to "persuade [Hammarskjöld] of the case for Katanga's continued independence."

No shortage of suspects

Henning Melber, former director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, explains the UN chief's mission to unite the Congo automatically pitted him against colonial settlers desperate to hold onto power and Katanga's vast mineral resources.

That included Belgians, French, the British and "mercenaries of all shapes and colours," said Melber, who also helped establish the Hammarskjöld Commission of Inquiry.

For the Rhodesian Federation, which included modern-day Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, Katanga acted as a barrier against the southward migration of African nationalism. One year earlier, in 1960, the UN had admitted 17 new member states, 16 of which were newly independent nations in Africa — including the Congo.

While the European colonies were slowly dying, the U.S. and USSR were jockeying to expand their Cold War sphere of influence, as well as their share of the resources.

"One needs to remember that the uranium that was used in the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from the Katanga province," said Melber.

Feb. 15, 1961, Hammarskjöld attends a meeting
 at the UN headquarters in New York. That was
 7 months before he died in what is now Zambia,
a death still shrouded in mystery. (AP)
The commission said the "chaotic, contradictory, frequently inexplicable and in places irresponsible reaction (or lack of reaction) of the Federation authorities" following the crash has helped fuel the rumour mill.

For example, it took the Rhodesian RAF pilots 15 hours to "officially" locate the aircraft, while Daily Telegraph correspondent Ian Colvin said he had spotted the crash site — crawling with police — six hours earlier in a chartered Cessna.

Other oddities: Some of the bodies of the victims had bullet holes, and a playing card — rumoured to be the ace of spades — was found in Hammarskjöld's collar.

The sole survivor of the crash was American security officer Sgt. Harold Julien. In his testimony, he spoke of "sparks in the sky" and said the plane "blew up," but the lead inspector of the local investigation dismissed his statements as "rambling."

According to the Hammarskjöld Commission, hospital staff said that although he was badly burned, Julien was often coherent and lucid. He died six days after the crash.

'The Lone Ranger'

Some of the most compelling testimony of foul play comes from Charles Southall, who in 1961 was an intelligence officer stationed at the U.S. National Security Agency's naval communications base in Cyprus.

He said he heard a pilot shoot down Hammarskjöld's plane and that the CIA and/or the NSA have a recording of it.

"The watch supervisor called me and said, 'Come [into work] about midnight, something interesting is going to happen,'" Southall told CBC.

That's when he said he heard a recording of the crash that somebody told him was seven minutes old, which, according to Southall, "meant that somebody down there in the Ndola area, also waiting for this to happen, made a recording of it, put a date-time stamp on it and… sent it off."

In his statement to the Commission of Inquiry, Southall recalled the pilot saying, "I see a transport plane coming low. All the lights are on. I'm going down to make a run on it. Yes, it's the Transair DC6. It's the plane."

Then, the sound of cannon fire, at which point the voice, which he described as cool and professional, became animated: "I've hit it. There are flames. It's going down. It's crashing."

Southall, now 82, believes the voice he heard was that of a Belgian mercenary pilot nicknamed "The Lone Ranger."

Hours before the wreckage was officially located, the U.S. Ambassador in the Congo, Edmund Gullion, sent a cable to Washington speculating that the secretary general's plane might have been attacked by a known Belgian mercenary.

"There is possibility he was shot down by the single pilot who has harassed UN operations," Gullion wrote.

The document, which was released by the State Department following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on behalf of the Hammarskjöld Commission, identified the pilot as Vak Riesseghel, likely a misspelling of Katanga Air Force Commander Jan Van Risseghem.

A UN Military report stated that Van Risseghem, a former South African and Royal Rhodesian AF pilot, had been arrested and repatriated to Brussels 10 days before the crash, but had managed to return to Katanga.

"As long as he is still operating he may paralyze the air rescue operations," wrote Gullion in the 1961 cable.

The FOIA request, which asked for any recording, transcription or radio message intercepted the night of the crash, produced two additional documents.

But the Hammarskjöld Commission says that more than 50 years on, they remain "top secret" and sealed for national security reasons.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Three British Sisters and Their Nine Children Cross the Border into IS Syria

"It's a one-way ticket; there's no coming back!"

Bradford (above) is a city in west Yorkshire, northern England. It is located about 14 km west of Leeds. Known as the curry capitol of Britain, Bradford has about 25% Muslim people mainly from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. 

Three Bradford sisters and their nine children split into two groups to cross the border into Syria, an IS smuggler has told the BBC.

The smuggler in charge of some of IS's border operations said the first group went early on Wednesday and the second on Thursday.

Sisters Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood and their children went missing after travelling to Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, two of their husbands made an emotional appeal for them to return. Akhtar Iqbal and Mohammed Shoaib said they "could not live" without their families and begged them to come home.

The Sugra family
BBC Middle East correspondent Paul Wood, who is on the Turkish-Syrian border, said he had spoken to the smuggler who confirmed the crossing.

"If what he says is true, it clears up the main ambiguity of this story - whether the sisters were really heading for the so-called Islamic State, or some other part of Syria, controlled by some other armed group," said our correspondent.

He said the information came up during a casual conversation with the smuggler, who is known to be an IS member, but when asked for an interview about the incident he asked for money which the BBC refused.

The information also fits with the news that one of the sisters, Zohra, sent a message to her family that she was inside Syria - but she did not say exactly where.

The North East Counter Terrorism Unit said it was "continuing to make extensive enquiries" in order to try and bring the women and children home.

The Zohra family

By Paul Wood, BBC Middle East correspondent

Every armed group in Syria has its own network of smugglers - and the so-called Islamic State is no different.

They move people - and sometimes cash and weapons - across the border for profit and for the cause.

Like all smugglers, IS uses a network of safe houses along the border, though the area of border open to them has been shrinking as they lose territory to a Kurdish military advance, backed by US airstrikes.

The Turkish security forces occasionally shoot, and kill, people crossing the border illegally, but most crossings are uneventful with many smugglers coming to "an arrangement" with the Turkish border guards.
The Khadiya family

Once inside Islamic State territory, however, the women and their children will not be allowed to leave.

I spoke to an activist who runs a secret network trying to get disenchanted jihadis out of the so-called caliphate.

He told me some 400 had been killed trying to leave - and that 200 women were under house arrest.

The group went missing following a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Shoaib (right) appeared in tears at the press conference alongside
Akhtar Iqbal (centre) and family lawyer Balaal Khan
They travelled to the Saudi city of Medina on 28 May and were last seen in a hotel in the city.

The family was supposed to fly to Manchester following their pilgrimage, but their husbands reported them missing when they did not return. They had last spoken to their children on 8 June.

The women's brother is understood to be fighting with extremists in Syria and it is believed the group missed a previous flight to Saudi Arabia in March after being questioned by security officials.

Bradford Council said they had not been made aware of any issues surrounding the family or the safety of their children ahead of the disappearance.

At a press conference on Tuesday Mr Iqbal made an emotional appeal to his wife Sugra, saying: "I'm shaking and I miss you. It's been too many days."

Mr Shoaib, husband of Khadija, dismissed any suggestions the sisters were in unhappy relationships saying he and his wife of 11 years had a "perfect relationship".

Syed Zubair Ahmed, the estranged husband of Zohra Dawood did not attend as he is currently in Pakistan, where he has been living for the past seven months.

'Quietly condoning IS'

David Cameron says IS is one of the biggest threats the world has faced
Dr Mohammed Iqbal, president of Bradford's Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, insisted that propaganda was reaching Muslims over the internet, not through mosques.

But Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, accused families of those travelling to Syria and Iraq of "endlessly pointing the finger at others" and said communities should take responsibility.

It comes as Prime Minister David Cameron has warned of the dangers posed by those who "quietly condone" Islamic State militants' extremist ideology.

Speaking at a security conference in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, he stressed the importance of tackling radicalisation at its source.

Radicalization, is the process of demonizing otherwise devout people. I'm not talking figuratively, but literally. It is literally demonic for women like these 3, to jointly go insane and take their children into a place where the sons will most likely die at an early age, and where the girls will become brides, willing or unwilling, shortly after puberty.

Nowhere, in a sane world, is such an action justified. Islam is horrifically evil! Those 'peaceful' Muslims are not the majority, they are those who have been partially assimilated into western culture, a culture that younger Muslims are rejecting in favour of more 'devout', ie radical Islam.

The west is in serious trouble and most governments are suffering from 'Ostrich Syndrome'. It may already be too late to stop them from turning Europe into an Islamic continent.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Denmark Awakes; Government Loses on Immigration and Welfare

Denmark's opposition parties have beaten the ruling coalition after a close general election.
PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and former PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen
With all mainland votes counted, the centre-right group led by ex-PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen beat PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt's centre-left coalition, although her party is the largest.

The right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People's Party will become the second-largest in parliament.

The DPP is now expected to join Mr Rasmussen's ruling coalition.

The DPP's leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl had previously (in Danish) poured cold water on the idea of going into government.

He told Denmark's Politiken he preferred "the little free bird role, which can make the Danish People's Party come closer to getting our policy through in the real world than you think".

But Mr Dahl could yet be in a position to make a bid to become prime minister.

By midnight local time (22:00 GMT) 99% of votes had been counted. Results from four seats in Greenland and the Faroe Islands have yet to be included.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt's governing Social Democratic Party was the biggest party, winning at least 26.3% of the vote, according to Danish broadcaster DR.

But her allies failed to gain as much of the vote as those of the opposition.

According to DR, the DPP won 21.1% of the vote, and Mr Rasmussen's Denmark Liberal Party came third on 19.5%.

Welfare and immigration exercised Danish voters more than the economy.

Anger at perceived benefit tourism led the traditionally pro-immigration Social Democratic Party to launch an advertising campaign with the slogan: "If you come to Denmark you should work."

Mr Rasmussen, who led the country between 2009 and 2011, suggested that benefits are so high that there is barely any incentive for Danes or immigrants to work.

Way back in 2009, Telegraph reporter Adrian Michaels warned that Europe was in trouble because they were ignoring the mass immigration, particularly of Muslims. It took Denmark another 6 years to recognize that problem; 6 more years of the problem multiplying. But, at last, the people have responded, and are now far ahead of their EU neighbours who have buried their stupid heads in the sand.

The report, which follows, makes for fascinating reading, especially when you consider that his stats are quite dated, and that so little has changed, so few governments are willing to address the problem.

By Adrian Michaels 08 Aug 2009

Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb: a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.

The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain's population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent. Europe's Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015. In Brussels, the top seven baby boys' names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza.

Europe's low white birth rate, coupled with faster multiplying migrants, will change fundamentally what we take to mean by European culture and society. The altered population mix has far-reaching implications for education, housing, welfare, labour, the arts and everything in between. It could have a critical impact on foreign policy: a study was submitted to the US Air Force on how America's relationship with Europe might evolve. Yet EU officials admit that these issues are not receiving the attention they deserve.

Jerome Vignon, the director for employment and social affairs at the European Commission, said that the focus of those running the EU had been on asylum seekers and the control of migration rather than the integration of those already in the bloc. "It has certainly been underestimated - there is a general rhetoric that social integration of migrants should be given as much importance as monitoring the inflow of migrants." But, he said, the rhetoric had rarely led to policy.

The countries of the EU have long histories of welcoming migrants, but in recent years two significant trends have emerged. Migrants have come increasingly from outside developed economies, and they have come in accelerating numbers.

The growing Muslim population is of particular interest. This is not because Muslims are the only immigrants coming into the EU in large numbers; there are plenty of entrants from all points of the compass. But Muslims represent a particular set of issues beyond the fact that atrocities have been committed in the West in the name of Islam.

America's Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, part of the non-partisan Pew Research Center, said in a report: "These [EU] countries possess deep historical, cultural, religious and linguistic traditions. Injecting hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of people who look, speak and act differently into these settings often makes for a difficult social fit."

How dramatic are the population changes? Everyone is aware that certain neighbourhoods of certain cities in Europe are becoming more Muslim, and that the change is gathering pace. But raw details are hard to come by as the data is sensitive: many countries in the EU do not collect population statistics by religion.

EU numbers on general immigration tell a story on their own. In the latter years of the 20th century, the 27 countries of the EU attracted half a million more people a year than left. "Since 2002, however," the latest EU report says, "net migration into the EU has roughly tripled to between 1.6 million and two million people per year."

The increased pace has made a nonsense of previous forecasts. In 2004 the EU thought its population would decline by 16 million by 2050. Now it thinks it will increase by 10 million by 2060. Britain is expected to become the most populous EU country by 2060, with 77 million inhabitants. Right now it has 20 million fewer people than Germany. Italy's population was expected to fall precipitously; now it is predicted to stay flat.

The study for the US Air Force by Leon Perkowski in 2006 found that there were at least 15 million Muslims in the EU, and possibly as many as 23 million. They are not uniformly distributed, of course. According to the US's Migration Policy Institute, residents of Muslim faith will account for more than 20 per cent of the EU population by 2050 but already do so in a number of cities. Whites will be in a minority in Birmingham by 2026, says Christopher Caldwell, an American journalist, and even sooner in Leicester. Another forecast holds that Muslims could outnumber non-Muslims in France and perhaps in all of western Europe by mid-century. Austria was 90 per cent Catholic in the 20th century but Islam could be the majority religion among Austrians aged under 15 by 2050, says Mr Caldwell.

Projected growth rates are a disputed area. Birth rates can be difficult to predict and migrant numbers can ebb and flow. But Karoly Lorant, a Hungarian economist who wrote a paper for the European Parliament, calculates that Muslims already make up 25 per cent of the population in Marseilles and Rotterdam, 20 per cent in Malmo, 15 per cent in Brussels and Birmingham and 10 per cent in London, Paris and Copenhagen.

Recent polls have tended to show that the feared radicalisation of Europe's Muslims has not occurred. That gives hope that the newcomers will integrate successfully. Nonetheless, second and third generations of Muslims show signs of being harder to integrate than their parents. Policy Exchange, a British study group, found that more than 70 per cent of Muslims over 55 felt that they had as much in common with non-Muslims as Muslims. But this fell to 62 per cent of 16-24 year-olds.

The population changes are stirring unease on the ground. Europeans often tell pollsters that they have had enough immigration, but politicians largely avoid debate.

France banned the wearing of the hijab veil in schools and stopped the wearing of large crosses and the yarmulke too, so making it harder to argue that the law was aimed solely at Muslims. Britain has strengthened its laws on religious hatred. But these are generally isolated pieces of legislation.

Into the void has stepped a resurgent group of extreme-Right political parties, among them the British National Party, which gained two seats at recent elections to the European Parliament. Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who speaks against Islam and was banned this year from entering Britain, has led opinion polls in Holland.

The Pew Forum identified the mainstream silence in 2005: "The fact that [extreme parties] have risen to prominence at all speaks poorly about the state and quality of the immigration debate. [Scholars] have argued that European elites have yet to fully grapple with the broader issues of race and identity surrounding Muslims and other groups for fear of being seen as politically incorrect."

The starting point should be greater discussion of integration. Does it matter at all? Yes, claims Mr Vignon at the European Commission. Without it, polarisation and ghettoes can result. "It's bad because it creates antagonism. It antagonises poor people against other poor people: people with low educational attainment feel threatened," he says.

The EU says employment rates for non-EU nationals are lower than for nationals, which holds back economic advancement and integration. One important reason for this is a lack of language skills.

The Migration Policy Institute says that, in 2007, 28 per cent of children born in England and Wales had at least one foreign-born parent. That rose to 54 per cent in London. Overall in 2008, 14.4 per cent of children in primary schools had a language other than English as their first language.

Muslims, who are a hugely diverse group, have so far shown little inclination to organise politically on lines of race or religion. But that does not mean their voices are being ignored. Germany started to reform its voting laws 10 years ago, granting certain franchise rights to the large Turkish population.

It would be odd if that did not alter the country's stance on Turkey's application to join the EU. Mr Perkowski's study says: "Faced with rapidly growing, disenfranchised and increasingly politically empowered Muslim populations within the borders of some of its oldest and strongest allies, the US could be faced with ever stronger challenges to its Middle East foreign policies."

Demography will force politicians to confront these issues sooner rather than later. Recently, some have started to nudge the debate along. Angel Gurría, the OECD secretary-general, said in June: "Migration is not a tap that can be turned on and off at will. We need fair and effective migration and integration policies; policies that work and adjust to both good economic times and bad ones."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Swimwear Must be Acceptable to Muslims at UK Pool

In the 'coming soon to a theater near you' category

WaterWorld in Stoke-on-Trent plans to black out windows and provide a prayer room during a women-only night aimed at Muslims.

WaterWorld in Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Only female lifeguards will patrol the park during the event, which has triggered a flood of complaints.

Staff will also "guard" the front entrance to "make sure that no males enter the facility".

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said: ‘I imagine there would be a lot of outrage if the boot was on the other foot and swimmers were told they had to dress appropriately in respect of Christians. I don’t see how this is different."

One invitation to the "Sisters Only Funday" advises attendees to cover their "awrah" (nudity) by wearing full-length jogging bottoms and a dark-coloured t-shirt.

WaterWorld owner Mo Chaudry said: "I'm astonished that we have been targeted. We feel we've been victimised for offering something that we feel there is a demand for."

A WaterWorld spokesman said: "We pride ourselves in having the adaptability and diversify to cater to demands of our guests.

"This is a female-only event and is not specific to any ethnic or religious group."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nemtsov's Daughter Chased out of Russia

From BBC Europe

Zhanna Nemtsova has been working as a TV journalist
for an independent TV station in Moscow
A daughter of murdered Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has accused pro-Kremlin media of spreading hateful propaganda, and says she has left Russia to live in exile.

Zhanna Nemtsova told the BBC that she had received threats, and this was one of the reasons behind her departure.

In a newspaper column, she said Russian propaganda echoed the era of genocide in Nazi Germany and Rwanda.

Mr Nemtsov, a leading Kremlin critic, was shot dead in Moscow in February.

Five suspects have been arrested over the killing, all of them from the Russian republic of Chechnya. However, the investigation has not established who ordered the murder, and one of the suspects has said he was forced to make a confession.

Several critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have left the country over the last few years, complaining of intimidation and authoritarianism.

A close friend of Mr Nemtsov, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was admitted to hospital with acute kidney failure last month. Doctors have not established a cause and his father told the BBC he suspected poisoning.

Mourners pay tribute to Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on 7 March 2015
Boris Nemtsov was murdered as he walked along a bridge in central Moscow
In a column for business daily Vedomosti, Ms Nemtsova said state-controlled media in Russia had contributed to her father's death by labelling him and other opposition leaders "traitors".

She accused pro-Kremlin journalists of spreading hatred and intolerance, and urged the West to impose sanctions against those involved.

"Many of the texts of Kremlin-controlled media recall the rhetoric of African propagandists," she wrote.

"Putin's information machine - similar to those in Nazi Germany and Rwanda - is using criminal methods of propaganda, and sowing hatred which generates violence and terror."

Monday, June 8, 2015

International Justice Mission Assists in Rescuing 155 Slaves


International Justice Mission
IJM Site Administrator

One-hundred-and-fifty-five people who were held as forced labour slaves in incense factories for up to three years are now free. Families were separated and trafficked from as far away as Nepal, and they were kept under 24-hour surveillance with guard dogs at night.

"We suffered here worse than convicts in jail,” a 21-year-old labourer from the northeastern state of Assam said. "When I arrived here the owner took away my phone and wallet. He kept telling us that he will pay us before we leave to Assam. But when I told him I want to leave, he beat me up and threatened me. I have not stepped out or been in touch with my family since I came here. I have been waiting to somehow escape but there was no way.”

One Rescue Leads to the Next

The back-to-back rescue operations on May 28 began when IJM received a call from a police officer, a Sub Inspector of Bangalore Urban. The officer had been trained by IJM on forced labour slavery, and he called IJM for technical assistance with a planned operation at one incense factory. IJM mobilized a team to meet the police and local officials at the factory right away.

After the rescue, each man shared about a harsh life of slavery and imprisonment. The 107 laborers were trafficked more than 800 miles to Bangalore from Nepal and far away states including Assam, Jharkhand and West Bengal. They were forced to work seven days a week from 6am until 2am, some having to handle dangerous chemicals. The labourers also reported physical abuse by the owner, and were prohibited from leaving the factory even when in need of medical attention. All 107 people shared a single room with one toilet.

As the man shared about the harsh conditions in the factory, two said their brothers were being held in a similar factory in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Miraculously, there were two IJM social workers close to this exact location in Tamil Nadu. IJM worked quickly to inform the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and local officials, and by 7:30pm were ready to attempt the rescue.

A Discovery in the Dark

A power cut in the village meant it was pitch dark, and the rescue team struggled to locate the factory. When they finally arrived, it appeared deserted. But half-eaten food still warm on the plates suggested the slaves had been rushed away in a hurry. It seemed that the factory owners knew rescue was on its way.

"As we searched the facility I was totally flabbergasted, shocked, amazed. There was no electricity; the room was pitch dark. I was using the flashlight on my phone, searching the factory but finding nothing. Eventually, in one of the smaller rooms, I saw a bunch of people crammed together in the dark,” said Sam George, IJM Director of Aftercare.

"As I spoke to them, Praisey, our social worker, yelled to me from another room, "Sam! You need to see this!" I rushed to where she was and was shocked again. Using my phone light through the doorway all I could see was hundreds of eyes—like little animals in the dark—reflecting back at me. I was so confused. As my eyes adjusted I realized they were people!”

Forty-eight forced labourers were rescued from this second factory in Tamil Nadu and are expected to return home in the coming days.

Meanwhile in Bangalore, the IJM team focused on aftercare for the labourers. The 107 labourers have received release certificates from the government that ensure their freedom. They will return home next week.

The case against the suspects continues. The owner of the Bangalore incense factory was arrested, along with one trafficker and three employees. All are being held in custody under Indian Penal Code section 370 and the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act.

Partner with us to see the end of slavery. Learn how by watching Gary Haugen's TED Talk.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Oregon Bakery Claims Government Colluded with LGBT Group Who Set Them Up

(L to R) Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council,
Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa,
at FRC's "State of the Family" address, Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2015.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple and as a result was fined over $130,000, declared in an exclusive interview with the Daily Signal that the case against them needs to be removed from the bureaucratic governmental agency that oversees discrimination complaints because of possible new evidence of bias.

"I think the case should be pulled out of [the Bureau of Labor and Industries court and put into a civil court because I cannot get due process here," Aaron Klein told The Daily Signal.

Last week the Daily Signal, a news site related to the Heritage Foundation, published evidence of collusion by the Bureau of Labor and Industries and the pro-LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon. Based on this new evidence, which consists largely of emails, texts, and phone conversations between the two parties, prompting lawyers for the Kleins to file another motion to reopen the case. A similar motion to reopen the case was denied in March before the Daily Signal's publication of new evidence.

Brad Avakian is the judge at the bureau who is responsible for issuing a final ruling concerning the $135,000 fine. Sweet Cakes by Melissa has since shut its doors because of backlash and boycotts by those angered over their actions. The Kleins' children were even the targets of death threats.

"I had a gut feeling that he was in cahoots with [Basic Rights Oregon] from the get go," Aaron Klein declared in the interview. "We already knew that he had a premeditated idea about what was going on."

Avakian made a Facebook post about the Kleins' guilt before the agency's ruling and imposing of a fine.

"You can't have an office that has a judge, jury and executioner," Aaron Klein declared. "Judges should be unbiased and they should be elected by the people without the power to legislate, investigate and do everything else."

The Kleins have consistently said serving a gay wedding ceremony is against their Christian beliefs. Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the lesbian couple, testified at a hearing in March that they suffered emotional distress because they were "humiliated" and "ashamed" that they were not accepted as a soon-to-be married couple.

BS! They knew exactly what they were doing when they entered that bakery. If they were really concerned about being humiliated and ashamed, they could have gone to one of a dozen other bakeries to make their cake. But, no, they went after the Christians for the express purpose of bringing them before the court and having them shut down. And they call Christians intolerant!

Their tactics are a lot like militant Islam - they portray themselves as victims while they are the real aggressors.

The Daily Signal's continued reporting about the collusion exacted a response by Basic Rights Oregon on Tuesday:

"The Heritage Foundation has fabricated a conspiracy theory between Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and Basic Rights Oregon, ignoring the truth and the facts.

"Here's reality: The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) did not consult Basic Rights Oregon on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa discrimination case," declared pro-LGBT rights group Basic Rights Oregon. "To the extent Basic Rights Oregon has been in contact with BOLI staff about this case, it was to stay informed about timeline and process only."

Basic Rights Oregon did not mention in their press release their donations to Avakian's bid to be commissioner of the BOLI nor Avakian's purchases of tickets costing hundreds of dollars to attend Basic Rights Oregon's annual fundraising galas and gay pride parades. They did however mention their endorsement of Avakian through their PAC.

Melissa Klein told the Daily Signal she plans to "fight this all the way we can."

You go, girl! and God bless you.

Saudi Court Upholds Blogger's 10 Years and 1,000 Lashes

Islam cannot tolerate questioning, debate or truth

From BBC Middle East
Raif Badawi's family have warned he could die if the 1,000 lashes are carried out
Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on blogger Raif Badawi, despite a foreign outcry.

Speaking from Canada, his wife Ensaf Haidar told news agency AFP, "this is a final decision that is irrevocable."

In March, the kingdom expressed "surprise and dismay" at international criticism over the punishment.

At the time, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying it rejected interference in its internal affairs.

In 2012, Badawi was arrested and charged with "insulting Islam through electronic channels".

For four years he had been running the Liberal Saudi Network, which encouraged online debate on religious and political issues.

Dictators don't allow political dissent, or even questioning (example Putin and Erdogan). But even less tolerant are the hierarchy of Islam. Islam cannot allow dissent from within for fear it will collapse; it cannot allow questioning, because it doesn't have any answers except blind acceptance of an evil book by an evil man; and it certainly cannot allow debate, because debate often leads to truth, and truth would be the end of Islam.

Saudi authorities sent his case for review as global pressure to free Badawi mounted.

Amnesty International activists held a protest demanding the release of blogger
Raif Badawi in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Berlin on 22 May 2015
Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January, but subsequent floggings have been postponed.

A shaky video taken on a mobile phone showed Badawi being lashed by a member of the security forces.

The footage prompted international protests which were repeated every Friday, the scheduled day for the beatings.

It is not clear why Badawi has not yet endured a second round though a medical report found he was not fit for the punishment.

Is anyone ever fit for 1000 lashes?

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent. It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism.

Lord have mercy on Raif Badawi and on his family. Only You can save him now.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Turkey Election: It's All About Erdogan and Expanding His Power

Turkey's governing AK party has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years, near-complete election results show.

The surprise outcome also sees the pro-Kurdish HDP crossing the 10% threshold, securing seats for the first time.

With 99% of the vote counted, the AKP has 41% of the vote, state-run TRT television reports.

The result is a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to boost his office's powers.

President Erdogan, who first came to power as prime minister in 2003, had been seeking a two-thirds majority to turn Turkey into a presidential republic.

Controversial Turkish president not on the ballot, but election seen as test of his rule

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2014 REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Unfortunately, he is not waving goodbye
Nil Köksal
CBC News

We know one thing for sure about Turkey's parliamentary election Sunday: no matter which of the 20 parties Turkish voters stamp "evet" or "yes" beside on their ballots. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn't going anywhere.

His name isn't even on the ballot, but his ambitions are. This election is all about how much power the controversial and increasingly autocratic Turkish leader will be able to wield in the future should his party gain enough seats to make the now-ceremonial presidency the real seat of authority.

It is a frightening prospect for millions in Turkey, even for many who were once Erdogan supporters.

Erdogan wants to ditch Turkey's parliamentary system, which he led for 12 years as prime minister, and replace it with a presidential one. If his former party, the ruling AK Party secures enough seats, it can start the process of changing the constitution to do just that.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
His role would be greatly diminished if there
 is a constitutional change. (Ole Spata/AP)
The party needs to win at least 330 seats, 60 per cent of the legislature, to be able to take the issue to a referendum vote, 367 seats (67 per cent) to do it without one.

As president, Erdogan has already gone far beyond blurring the boundaries of what is supposed to be a largely ceremonial role — alarming critics and democracy activists in the process.

In this election, Ahmet Davutoglu is the one running for office. He is the prime minister, but you might forget that after seeing Erdogan's presence everywhere in the campaign.

Turkey's constitution demands the president be neutral, show no allegiance to any party and certainly not campaign for one.

But Erdogan has dropped all pretense of neutrality, and is constantly on the campaign trail for the AK Party, his voice strained and cracking after months of rallies across the country selling the party's platform for a "New Turkey."

The rallies have generally been light on policy and heavy on provocation, with Erdogan attacking anyone who dares challenge him.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition
Republican People's Party makes a heart shape with his
hands after delivering a speech in Istanbul earlier this week.
For example, Erdogan threatened to sue opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, who, while commenting on the excess of Erdogan's much-maligned thousand-plus room palace, said the president uses a gold-plated toilet. (The president dared Kiliçdaroglu to inspect the palace, but he declined.)

Erdogan has also picked public fights with international news outlets, including the New York Times, telling the paper it should "know its place" after it published an editorial critical of him.

At home, while monopolizing media coverage, Erdogan lashes out at any journalist who challenges him or his authority.

Newspaper editor Can Dündar is once again the Turkish president's main target, and Erdogan has threatened to prosecute him and put him away for life for publishing an investigative piece about gun running from Turkey to ISIS fighters in Syria, which contained allegations that Turkey's intelligence agency MIT was involved.

The Koran and the Kurds

In the past, the key to Erdogan's popularity has been his ability to use Islam to divide Turks along secular and religious lines.

But he stunned many conservatives and secularists alike when he used a Koran as a prop during an election rally last month.

Trying to appeal to Kurdish voters in southeastern Turkey, he waived a copy of a Kurdish-language Koran, telling voters it was his party that made sure the Holy Book was published in their native tongue.

In Sunday's vote, it is the Kurds and their supporters who might keep Erdogan from getting the seats he needs to push his presidential plans ahead.

"Will the HDP pass the threshold?" That is the question in Turkey these days and refers to the Peoples' Democratic Party — the HDP, a Kurdish party led by lawyer Selahattin Demirtas.

He's a refreshing voice for some younger voters. And even for some older voters who would never have dreamed of voting for a Kurdish party just a few years ago.

Selahattin Demirtas leads the Kurdish party HDP.
The party is vying to be the first Kurdish party to be elected
to Turkey's parliament and could be the spoiler. AP
Most are not doing this out of any particular belief that Kurds should play a role in Turkish politics, but because they want to do anything possible to stop Erdogan from amassing any more power.

The HDP isn't expected to form a government by any means — just getting enough seats to have a place in parliament would be a major victory. In fact, that would be a first for a Kurdish party in Turkish history.

It was just 13 years ago that Erdogan was the one making history in Turkey.

Even then there were concerns that he would take Turkey away from its secularist roots. But the promises of a stronger democracy and fairness for Turkey's marginalized communities — devout Muslims in particular — won many voters over.

It could have made Erdogan a model leader for the Muslim world and beyond. Instead, he has become a worry for the West and more importantly his own country. Turks are paying attention to the power play, and Erdogan's political future hangs in the balance.

Nil Köksal is an award-winning journalist with CBC Television currently on assignment in Istanbul, Turkey. Köksal has reported on international stories developing in Turkey, New York and Washington, D.C., including the first inauguration of Barack Obama. Follow her on Twitter @nilkoksalcbc

Friday, June 5, 2015

Catharyn's Story - A Double Blessing

I just want to share this wonderful blessing, 
in double portion, with you.

It's a story of great faith and perseverance by a couple of beautiful people whom I got to know at an Alpha course at Northpointe Community Church, in Edmonton, Alberta, in about 2010. 

God hears our prayers; He feels the crying in our hearts. He is compassionate and loving and patient, sometimes infuriatingly patient, as He builds our faith and character and our relationship with Himself. 

And for the faithful - He is with us always.

Catharyn and Oscar