Gaza Tunnel Collapses

A tunnel being dug in Rafah, along the southern Gaza border.

The Gazans are reporting that a tunnel between the Sinai in Egypt and Gaza has collapsed, on Sunday morning.

The reports say there are people trapped inside.

There are two types of Gaza tunnels connecting to the Sinai, one type is for smuggling goofs, and the other is for terrorists.


B’nei Brak Man Marries Step Sister

The daughter of a prominent rabbi, a former resident of Jerusalem, who divorced some eight years ago, became engaged to her father’s stepson from his second marriage, B’Hadrei Haredim reported.

The unusual match—albeit not problematic in terms of Jewish law, since there is no biological connection between the bride and groom—was celebrated last Tuesday night by the couple’s prestigious B’nei B’rak family which is associated with the ultra Orthodox Ha’Edah Ha’Chareidis community.

The rabbi’s daughter from a first marriage, who is 16 and a half, will be marrying her step brother, 23, with whom she had lived as brother and sister for all intents and purposes, living in the same house.

Despite the fact that the Torah describes several incestuous marriages of our forefathers and mothers (Abraham married his niece Sara, Isaac married his first cousin Rivka, and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel), Jewish law forbids incest, which is one of the three commandments a Jewish person must not transgress even on penalty of death.

The prohibited relations in the Torah are: One’s mother, father, stepmother, paternal or maternal sister, paternal sister through one’s father’s wife, daughter, granddaughter, a woman and her daughter, a woman and her granddaughter, one’s aunt by blood father’s brother, father’s brother’s wife, daughter-in-law, brother’s wife, one’s wife’s sister during one’s wife’s lifetime, even if since divorced.

The added Rabbinic sexual prohibitions are: one’s grandmother, great-grandmother, grandfather’s wife, great-grandfather’s wife, and grandson’s wife.


Syrian rebels shoot down Russian warplane and kill pilot after he ejects

Fires caused by Russian military plane shot down by rebel forces near Idlib, Syria,FReutersThe scene shows, what according to Syrian rebels were fires caused by Russian military plane shot down by rebel forces near Idlib, Syria, reportedly on February 3, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media.

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane on Saturday and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected from the plane, Russia’s defence ministry and Syrian rebels said.

The SU-25 came down in an area of northern Idlib province that has seen heavy air strikes and fighting on the ground between Syria’s government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrians opposed to Assad see Russia as an invading force they blame for the deaths of thousands of civilians since Moscow joined the war on the side of the government in 2015.

The U.S. State Department said it had seen reports about the incident and allegations that the United States provided missiles to groups in Syria.

“The United States has never provided MANPAD missiles to any group in Syria, and we are deeply concerned that such weapons are being used,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “The solution to the violence is a return to the Geneva process as soon as possible and we call on Russia to live up to its commitments in that regards.”

The Russian plane was shot down over the town of Khan al-Subl near the city of Saraqeb, close to a major highway where the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias are trying to advance, a rebel source said.

Although the Russian pilot escaped the crash, he was killed by rebels who had tried to capture him, the source said.

“This work is the least we can do to revenge our people. Let the criminal invaders know that our skies are not a picnic and they will not pass through without paying a price, God willing,” senior commander Mahmoud Turkomani said in a statement released by the group.

Russia’s Defence Ministry also said that the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile. The pilot reported that he had ejected by parachute, it said, and he was later killed on the ground.

“The pilot died in a fight with terrorists,” the ministry said.

The Syrian opposition released footage on social media that purported to show the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.

Rebels said the downed warplane had taken part in strikes that targeted civilian convoys fleeing along a major Syrian highway from villages that the army and foreign militias had overrun.

Syria’s civil war, which is now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around twelve kilometres from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.

At least five civilians were killed in Saraqeb city on Saturday, which residents blamed on Russian planes.

Syrians in rebel-held areas say they can distinguish between Russian warplanes and those of the Syrian air force, because the Russian planes fly at higher altitude.

Russia’s Defence Ministry regularly says it targets only hardline Islamist militants in Syria.


Nigerian Air Force complicit in massacre of Christian villagers, says Amnesty

Fighter jets sent by the Nigerian Air Force fired rockets at villages where Fulani herdsmen were attacking Christian residents, according to a report released this week by Amnesty International.

The Nigerian Air Force confirmed that jets were despatched, but said they were instructed to fire only “warning shots” to deter spiralling communal violence.

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said: “Launching air raids is not a legitimate law enforcement method by anyone’s standard. Such reckless use of deadly force is unlawful, outrageous and lays bare the Nigerian military’s shocking disregard for the lives of those it supposedly exists to protect.”

Amnesty interviewed witnesses in five villages subjected to the 4 December air raids in the country’s north-eastern Adamawa State: Lawaru, Dong, Kodomti, Shafaron and Nzuruwei.

Locals provided the agency with 86 names of people they said were killed that day, and those involved in burying the victims said that 51 had gunshot or machete wounds.

Amnesty estimates that the remaining 35 died as a result of the air raids.

The highest number of fatalities occurred in the villages of Dong and Lawaru, and Amnesty said that across the five villages 3,000 homes were destroyed.

Amnesty published photographs of scorched homes with their roofs burnt off, and whole areas of villages it believes have been razed.

It said that two aircrafts were involved in the attack – an Alpha Jet and EC 135 attack helicopter – and that the munitions were French-made SNEB rockets.

Witnesses told Amnesty that the rocket attacks happened at the same time as the herders raids, while in other villages the air force arrived shortly afterwards.

“The Nigerian authorities must investigate these attacks and, where these investigations indicate criminal responsibility, prosecute those responsible and bring them to justice,” said Ojigho.

Amnesty’s report is consistent with findings from a visit by World Watch Monitor in Dong and Lawaru, the most affected by the violence, last month.

The two villages form, with other surrounding villages, a Christian enclave in the predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria.

Information gathered by World Watch Monitor showed that at least 79 Christians were killed and many others were injured, while an undetermined number of others were still missing.

A month after the attack, the two villages resembled a battlefield after churches, houses and shops were razed to the ground. The remains of burnt properties and belongings were visible all over in Dong and Lawaru, which are separated only by the river that forms their main water supply.

More than 3,000 residents have fled the villages and sought refuge in other Numan villages and in neighbouring Gombe State.

At least 35 people were killed as a result of the raids carried out by the Nigerian Airforce. (Photo: CAN)

Dawson K. Tufano, a retired court judge from Dong village, which, like Lawaru is majority-Christian, said: “As we got early information of the Fulanis’ imminent attack, we alerted the authorities, who responded by sending mobile policemen to secure the area.

“But before the arrival of the attackers, the security forces withdrew from the area, with no reason, paving the way for to the Fulani herdsmen.”

He added that a large number of well-armed assailants chanting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”), then stormed the two villages.

“While our local vigilantes were in a fierce battle with the herdsmen, aircraft came from nowhere and started throwing bombs on our villages, abetting the herdsmen to kill several people, while many others were injured as houses and properties were completely razed due to the Air Force bombings,” he said.

The attack is believed to have been a reprisal for a massacre of over 60 Fulani women and children in three villages in Numan Local Government Area (LGA) on 19 November by Bachama youths, whose Bachama tribe is predominantly Christian.

Suspicion

Tufano accused the authorities of colluding with the Fulani herdsmen, and questioned how the herdsmen could have gained such sophisticated weaponry.

“The whole thing was a calculated attempt to destroy us,” he said. “If not, then why is it that the Air Force were only bombarding our people, while leaving alone the large number of well-armed herdsmen, who were twice the number of our population?

“Where I was hiding during the attack, l saw the herdsmen carrying sophisticated weapons, which I believed these herdsmen could not afford.

“We are now living in fear. At every loud sound, our people will start running, thinking that the herdsmen have returned to fulfil their promise to kill the survivors.”

Survivors in Dong and Lawaru told World Watch Monitor that they believed the attackers came with the motive of wiping out all the Christians in these villages.

The two villages are comprised mostly of Christians from the Bwaite tribe, also known as Bachama, and the few Muslims who came from others states to do business had fled before the attackers arrived.

The Adamawa State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) issued a statement on 10 January, criticising the government for its lack of action over the attacks, which it called “dastardly acts of terrorism”. It suggested that the attackers had “sophisticated firearms” and included “expatriate mercenaries”, and it condemned as “dangerous and reprehensible” comments by the Secretary to the Adamawa State government that seek “to justify the use of firearms by Fulani nomads in the country”.

CAN argued that the attacks, which it detailed alongside the burning down of ten churches, formed part of a systematic attempt “to discourage Christianity and to silence Christians from free religious practice”.

The aftermath of Fulani attacks on 4 December 2017, which claimed at least 86 lives (Photo: CAN)

CAN decried the violence by Fulani herdsmen across the state, and beyond, as a “calculated attempt by some top Islamic government officials to achieve a long-planned agenda to Islamise Nigeria”.

Its president, Bishop Dami Steven Mamza, blamed security agencies for not being proactive in curtailing the coordinated attacks in Numan area, as he visited Dong and Lawaru villages.

Further killings

The killings have continued into the New Year. On 5 January, 13 people were killed as Fulani herdsmen stormed six Christian predominantly villages – Tambo, Jumo, Luru, Bakule, Jifan and Bakopi in the Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
Several others were injured, while houses and valuables worth thousands of dollars were destroyed.

A resident of Tambo, Lamech Jalo, told World Watch Monitor that the assailants, carrying sophisticated weapons, attacked the villages at about 9pm. He said they continued their rampaging until midnight, without any intervention from the security forces.

Another resident, James Mathew, claimed that some Nigerian troops came to the affected areas but returned for reinforcements because they could not match the herdsmen’s sophisticated weaponry.

Following the attack, some Christian youths armed with bows and arrows were arrested after going out to patrol their families’ farms.

”I don’t know what is happening in this country,” Mathew said. “If the security forces could arrest Christian youths armed with bows and arrows, who came out to defend their fathers’ lands, but leave the herdsmen, with sophisticated weapons, to move freely, then something is wrong somewhere.”


‘Transphobic’ teacher cleared of wrongdoing

A maths teacher who faced disciplinary hearings after he spoke out against pushing ‘sex changes’ on children has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Roy Wilkes had posted a short statement expressing his views on hormone blockers on a Facebook page used by 7,000 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), according to The Sunday Times.

He said that giving puberty-blocking drugs to young children was “a form of child abuse”, that it could lead to a dependency on hormonal drugs, and that many children change their minds about changing gender after puberty.

Cleared

His statements were described as “grossly discriminatory” and damaging to the mental health of LGBT NUT members.

He was also accused of bringing the NUT into disrepute.

However, Wilkes was cleared of all charges against him by the national disciplinary committee of the National Education Union – the umbrella organisation for the NUT.

Free Speech

He said: “It is an important blow for freedom of speech and for the right of people to question and disagree with the prevailing narrative on self-identification and gender.”

Wilkes had used Facebook to defend an article by NUT Vice-President Kiri Tunks, warning against liberalising the law on transsexualism.

The Government is considering making changes to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to legally change their gender simply by self-declaration.


Fidel Castro’s son has died by suicide, state media say

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The eldest son of late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, killed himself on Thursday aged 68 after being treated for months for depression, Cuban state-run media reported.

The nuclear scientist, also known as “Fidelito”, or Little Fidel, because of how much he looked like his father, had initially been hospitalized and then continued treatment as an outpatient.

“Castro Diaz-Balart, who had been attended by a group of doctors for several months due to a state of profound depression, committed suicide this morning,” Cubadebate website said.

Fidelito, who had the highest public profile of all Castro’s children, was born in 1949 out of his brief marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart before he went on to topple a U.S.-backed dictator and build a communist-run state on the doorstep of the United States during the Cold War.

Dramatic custody dispute

Through his mother, he was the cousin of some of Castro’s most bitter enemies in the Cuban American exile community, U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and former U.S. congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

He was also the subject of a dramatic custody dispute between the two families as a child.

Cuba Castro Son Obit

Castro Diaz-Balart was head of Cuba’s national nuclear program, and spearheaded the development of a nuclear plant on the Caribbean’s largest island until his father fired him. (Franklin Reyes/Associated Press)

Cuba scholars say his mother took him with her to the United States when he was aged five after announcing she wanted a divorce from Castro, while he was imprisoned for an attack on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago.

Castro was able to bring Fidelito back to Cuba after the 1959 revolution.

Multilingual nuclear physicist

A multilingual nuclear physicist who studied in the former Soviet Union, Castro Diaz-Balart had been working for his uncle President Raul Castro as a scientific counselor to the Cuban Council of State and vice-president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences at the time of his death.

Previously, from 1980 to 1992, he was head of Cuba’s national nuclear program, and spearheaded the development of a nuclear plant on the Caribbean’s largest island until his father fired him.

Cuba halted its plant plans that same year because of a lack of funding after the collapse of Cuba’s trade and aid ties with the ex-Soviet bloc and Castro Diaz-Balart largely disappeared from public view, appearing at the occasional scientific conference or diplomatic event.

A former British ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare, who lectures at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, said he had seemed “thoughtful, rather curious about the world beyond Cuba” at a dinner in Boston two years ago. “But he seemed a bit weary about having to be a Castro, rather than himself,” Hare said.

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a Cuba expert at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, said Fidelito had provided him with invaluable help in the 1990s while he was writing a book on Cuba’s nuclear program.

In 2000 they met again at a conference in Moscow and Fidelito worked “the room full of international nonproliferation experts, diplomats and journalists with aplomb, speaking no less than four languages: Spanish, English, Russian and French.”

His death came just over a year after that of his father on Nov. 25, 2016, aged 90.


Militants storm Save the Children office in Afghanistan amid deadly clashes

Save the Children attack Afghanistan

The attack began with a suicide car bomb outside the office, followed by gunmen entering the compound and fighting Afghan special forces, according to a spokesman for the government in the eastern province.

Four gunmen today stormed an office of the Save the Children charity in the Afghan city of Jalalabad and battled with security forces who surrounded the building, killing at least one person and wounding 11, officials said.

‘There was a blast and the target was Save the Children,’ said spokesman Attaullah Khogyani. ‘Attackers entered the compound and the fight is going on.’

Some witnesses said the attackers appeared to have been wearing police uniform, a commonly used tactic, but there was no immediate official confirmation of this.

The director of the provincial health department said 11 wounded people had been taken to hospital.

As security forces fought their way in, they recovered one body inside the compound but the person’s identity was not clear. At least one gunmen was still fighting, Khogyani said.

‘An explosion rocked the area and right after that children and people started running away,’ said Ghulam Nabi, who was nearby when the bomb exploded. ‘I saw a vehicle catch fire and then a gunfight started.’

‘We are devastated at the news that our Save the Children office in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan, came under attack this morning as armed men entered the building, about 9am today local time,’ a Save the Children spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

‘Our primary concern is for the safety and security of our staff. We are awaiting further information from our team and cannot comment further at this time.’

There are several other aid groups and government offices in the immediate area, and security forces evacuated people from surrounding buildings while they exchanged fire with the militants.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province, on the porous border with Pakistan.

The province has become a stronghold for Islamic State, which has grown to become one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous militant groups since it appeared around the beginning of 2015.

Backed by intensive US air strikes, Afghan forces have claimed growing success against the Taliban and other militant groups, including Islamic State, but militant attacks on civilian targets have continued, causing heavy casualties.

The attack in Jalalabad came just days after Taliban militants attacked the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including 13 foreigners.

In October, the Red Cross announced that it was drastically reducing its operations in Afghanistan following attacks that killed seven of its staff last year.


8 People Americans Trust More Than Their Local Pastor

Image result for pastor images

Less than half of the country—just two out of every five Americans—believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards, a recent Gallup poll found

That level of trust has dropped steadily since 2009, down from a high of 67 percent in 1985, the pollster reported.

Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than judges (43%), day care providers (46%), police officers (56%), pharmacists (62%), medical doctors (65%), grade school teachers (66%), military officers (71%), and nurses (82%).

According to religious breakdowns of the data provided to CT, self-identified Christians (776 respondents) are nearly twice as likely as non-Christians (236 respondents) to still have faith in their faith leaders. While nearly half of Christians said pastors had high ethical standards, only a quarter of non-Christians agreed.

Christians also indicated stronger support of military officers, with nearly three-quarters finding them trustworthy (74%), significantly more than non-Christians (63%). Christians were also more likely to trust police officers (59% vs. 46%), auto mechanics (35% vs. 27%), and business executives (18% vs. 13%).

Non-Christians, on the other hand, preferred grade school teachers (71% vs. 65% of Christians), judges (49% vs. 42%), and newspaper reporters (32% vs. 23%).

“Three of the professions rated highest for honesty and ethical standards are in the healthcare field—nurses, medical doctors, and pharmacists—a trend that has been the case in recent years,” Gallup said. “While the clergy are not at the bottom of the list of professions, this year’s ratings represent a new low for a profession with image problems in recent years.”

Despite the shrinking trust around clergy in particular, the church overall has maintained its reputation, according to 2017 findings from the Pew Research Center. As CT previously reported, “Americans view the impact of religious institutions more positively than colleges, labor unions, banks, or the media, and their reputation has changed little during the political shifts over the past few years.”

Nurses have topped the ethical professions list almost every year since they began appearing in the survey in 1999. (The one exception: After the September 11 attacks, firefighters won as most trustworthy and ethical.)

At the other end of the list, lobbyists are consistently ranked lowest by Christians, non-Christians, and members of every political party.

Both Christians and non-Christians are also unlikely to trust members of Congress (11% for both), car salespeople (11% of Christians, 10% of non-Christians), and advertisers (13% of Christians, 8% of non-Christians).

Republicans trust clergy even more than Christians do—59 percent rated their honesty and ethical standards highly. Fewer Democrats (41%) and Independents (35%) felt the same.

Republicans split from Democrats and Independents on many other professions, including the most preferred. While Democrats and Independents trust nurses more than anyone else, Republicans trust military officials (87%) even more (84% trust nurses). For comparison, 69 percent of Independents and 60 percent of Democrats trust military leaders.

Republicans are also far more likely to trust police officers (80%, compared to 47% of Independents and 48% of Democrats) and pharmacists (70%, compared to 60% of Independents and 69% of Democrats).

They’re less likely to trust newspaper reporters (12%, compared to 19% of Independents and 46% of Democrats) or TV reporters (12%, compared to 18% of Independents and 39% of Democrats).

Independents are less likely to trust lawyers (13%, compared to 22 percent of Republicans and Democrats) and auto mechanics (28%, compared to 37% of Republicans and Democrats).

Car sales people, members of Congress, advertisers, and lobbyists are at the bottom of the list for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

Last year, pastors ranked among the leaders Americans believed could generate healthy conversations about societal issues. Earlier surveys have indicated that Americans view professional athletes as more impactful than faith leaders.

Along with noting drops in pastor trustworthiness in 2012 and 2013, Gallup also found that dynamic pastors are less of a draw for churchgoers than the sermon message itself.


 Pastor Dukes Books now published on Amazon and Kendle Proceeds  to be used to pioneer new work in Yerington NV.Sister Carol Dukes Book now published on Amazon

Are Democrats in the Senate on record of opposing a tax break for homeschoolers

Image result for Homeschool images

The tax system overhaul passed just before Christmas hit an unexpected bump just hours after House lawmakers finished celebrating their historic vote. Several items ran afoul of Senate procedural rules and had to be pulled from the bill before final approval. One of those directly affected homeschooling families.

Under the bill, lawmakers expanded 529 educational savings accounts to include private K-12 schooling. They also attempted to include homeschool expenses, a tax benefit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has lobbied for since 2000.

“We were an inch away from victory,” said William Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations.

Although a procedural hiccup ultimately killed the provision, the vote put every single Democrat in the Senate on record of opposing a tax break for homeschoolers, Estrada said. That squelches hope for getting the measure passed anytime in the near future. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., plans to submit a bill in the House, something he’s done every year, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has offered to sponsor a measure in the upper chamber. But getting something passed will be a “tough row to hoe,” Estrada said, mostly because of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

While homeschoolers eagerly anticipated the tax advantages 529 plans offer, not all school choice advocates support expanding the accounts to cover K-12 education. The benefits only apply to families who have large chunks of money to set aside, making the 529 expansion primarily a gift to the wealthy. Parents able to set aside small amounts of money each month to save for college can still do that, and reap the benefits over time. But because interest accrues slowly, any gains from small, regular savings would be wiped away if parents pull money out of the accounts to pay for anything before college.

Another unintended consequence: Skewing 529s to benefit wealthy families could make them a target for a future Democratic administration. President Barack Obama tried to limit the tax benefits for 529 plans in 2015, but because they helped parents across all but the lowest income brackets, he couldn’t whip enough support. That might change once families start using the plans to pay for private school. One 529 administrator told The New York Times she now considered the plans a “sitting duck” for lawmakers eager to strip government benefits from wealthy taxpayers.

Courtesy: WORLD News Service


Pastor Dukes Books now published on Amazon and Kendle Proceeds  to be used to pioneer new work in Yerington NV.Sister Carol Dukes Book now published on Amazon