From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved

    This file is attached to from “Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.

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7/1/2021 Hidalgo Becomes Third Mexican State To Allow Abortion by Daina Beth Solomon
Women celebrate after lawmakers in Mexico's Hidalgo state voted to lift the penalties for elective abortion,
making Hidalgo the third state in the largely Roman Catholic country to let women choose to end
their pregnancies, outside the Congress in Pachuca, Mexico June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Oscar Sanchez
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Mexico’s Hidalgo state on Wednesday voted to lift the penalties for elective abortion, making Hidalgo the third state in the largely Roman Catholic country to let women choose to end their pregnancies.
    The initiative passed with 16 votes in favor and one abstention with 28 lawmakers present, Hidalgo’s congress said on Twitter. Only the vast capital of Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca also allow women to opt for abortions, as long as they are within 12 weeks of pregnancy.
    Hidalgo’s law, which follows the same terms, will go into effect once it is published in the state’s official government gazette.
    Hidalgo, which neighbors Mexico City, previously had only allowed abortion in certain cases, including if the mother had been raped.
    Several dozen women clad in green bandannas symbolizing the abortion rights movement burst into cheers and applause outside the session as the vote count was announced, local media showed.
    Although Latin America has some of the world’s harshest abortion laws, a growing movement has called for a loosening of restrictions and Argentina legalized the procedure in December.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

7/1/2021 "Religious leaders should be asking for your forgiveness" on abortion – not the other way around by Kylie Cheung, Salon
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak with a priest as they leave St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington,
Delaware. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images - © Provided by Salon Joe Biden; Jill Biden; Catholic Church; Priest
    CoWanda Rusk was weeks away from graduating from her Texas high school, and preparing for college, when she learned she was pregnant.    "I immediately knew I didn't want to be pregnant," she recounted to Salon.
    Rusk had grown up a part of the church where her father was a youth pastor, and she remains a person of faith to this day.    "I always rely on my faith for everything, even small decisions — what colors to wear today, what will align with the universe today," she said.
    Her decision to have an abortion was no different.    Rusk says she got "on the floor and started praying" the moment after her pregnancy test turned up positive.    "I know God was with me in all of those moments, and I know I had the love and support and the guidance of something bigger than myself."
    At the time, Rusk was only 17 and wasn't too familiar with the complex politics of abortion within the church, within America, or even within Texas.    She would eventually need to seek the support of the youth abortion fund and legal support group Jane's Due Process to get an abortion as a minor, as well as help with covering the costs of the abortion.
    Rusk says she decided to have her abortion when she reflected on everything God had prepared for her, like scholarships and her bright educational future.    Because of this she knew she had God's support.    Since having her abortion, she's actively remained a person of faith and involved in her church, where she continues to organize for social justice, as she believes God intended.    Rusk has also connected with We Testify, a program that mentors and supports people who have had abortions, as a storyteller, sharing her experience to empower others and challenge stigma.
    Tohan is another storyteller at We Testify, and a Texan like Rusk, who was fresh off of sharing her abortion story with the U.S. Senate in support of the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) when she talked to Salon.    As a Christian, Tohan is guided by her faith in many parts of her life, but she says religion was unrelated to her choice to have an abortion.
    "My decision was very personal — nothing to do with religion," she said.    Tohan recalls initially struggling to justify her decision internally, and knowing abortion was "frowned upon" in religious spaces, despite the lack of clear scripture on it.    Someone who was once a close friend of hers was highly critical of Tohan when she shared her story.    But when Tohan told her father, a minister and conservative Republican, she was surprised by his support.
    "I realized, with my friend, I was putting other people before myself, which I can't afford to do.    They're not in my shoes," she said.    Her father told her those who try to control other people's reproductive decisions are extremists.    "He said, 'I'm a Republican, but I'm not an extremist, because I have sense,'" Tohan recounted.    "He said, 'So I'm a Christian. But I'm not an extremist.'"
    Earlier this month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to draft new guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, which will challenge President Biden's ability to receive communion because of his support for abortion rights.    This action, of course, is just the latest of near daily political efforts to shape abortion policy around the religious views of some, to the extent that abortion and reproductive care are widely seen as at odds with Christianity and other religions.
    This conflict, Rusk and Tohan say, is an illusion. And the numbers back them up — Catholic people have abortions at the same rate as non-Catholic people.    The majority of people who have abortions are people of faith: Most abortion patients surveyed in 2014 have some religious affiliation — 24% said they were Catholic, 17% mainline Protestant, 13% evangelical Protestant and 8% identified with some other religion.    People of most faiths also overwhelmingly seem to support abortion rights.
    So, where does the illusion of conflict come from?
    Progressive spiritual leaders say the religious anti-abortion narrative is new — and entirely political Born and raised a Catholic, when Jamie Manson was a teenager, she aspired to be a priest — that is, until she learned the Catholic Church doesn't ordain women.
    "Women have no decision-making authority in the Church.    They have no voice," she said.    "They think only men should be able to take leadership, and women are meant to be mothers.    That's our most essential vocation — just to give birth and nurture children and family."    Manson says when she made "that connection," she realized "the church believes essentially in forced motherhood."
    "That's when I became very lit up about reproductive rights in the Catholic Church," Manson said.    Today, she serves as president of Catholics for Choice, an advocacy organization that lifts up the voices of the majority of Catholics who support reproductive freedom.
    Danya Ruttenberg, a rabbi, scholar-in-residence at the National Council for Jewish Women (NCJW), author of several books on Judaism, and founder of NCJW's Rabbis for Repro campaign, says she "was a feminist before I was a religious Jew," volunteering at abortion clinics as a teenager.    Reproductive freedom is actually a Jewish value, Ruttenberg says.
    Rabbis for Repro exemplifies widespread support for abortion in religious Jewish communities, with over 1,000 Jewish clergy who "have pledged to teach and preach about reproductive health, rights and justice, and show up and do advocacy work," according to Ruttenberg.    Last year, Ruttenberg and some of these rabbis and Jewish clergy met with 52 Congress members, and got 29 new co-sponsors on a bill for reproductive rights.
    For as long as the religious right has mobilized against abortion, conservative politicians and religious leaders have constructed a narrative of people of faith overwhelmingly opposing abortion, and have asserted the Catholic Church and other religious institutions have always condemned abortion.
    This is blatantly untrue, according to both Manson and Ruttenberg.
    "This wedding of Catholic identity with anti-abortion politics, it only happened in the last few decades," Manson said.    "It's a very reductive understanding of Catholicism.    The tradition is much richer and more interesting than that."
    It's only because of the wealth and power of the Christian right wing, which is extremely "well-funded, even though it's a minority," Manson says, that abortion is understood as anti-religion, and religion as anti-abortion.
    "That minority is so vocal and influential, people automatically equate religion with anti-choice values.    And it's simply not true," Manson said.    "It's not true for Jews, it's not true for Catholics, it's not true for Christians.    We, the religious left, have to really rise up and make our voice heard, claim the moral high-ground in this struggle and not cede all the power to the Christian right."
    Catholic bishops' attempt to block Biden from receiving communion, Manson says, is "profoundly sad."
    "To use what is most sacred about our church and sacred to Biden, to punish him or try to bully him into changing his views on abortion rights, is very troubling," she said.    "The bishops taking part in this are part of a right-wing political agenda in this country.    It's very scary."
    Ruttenberg says the religious right "picked up" abortion solely for "craven political ambition and white supremacy."
    "Up until school segregation they were like, 'Oh, abortion is an issue of personal choice,'" she said.    "They eventually lost that fight, for segregation, and were like, what's a good issue that we could pick up to activate our base?    Abortion was no big deal up until then.    Then they started coming up with these 'proof texts' for why abortion was bad."
Lost in translation?
    "There's a verse in Exodus, a story of two men who fight, and one of them accidentally knocks over a pregnant woman, and she has a miscarriage," Ruttenberg said.    "As a result, the man has to pay a fine, damages — it's eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for a life.    So basically, if it's a miscarriage you pay money, but if the woman dies, you treat it as manslaughter.    The Torah and Jewish texts are straightforward: a fetus is not a person.    It's not treated as manslaughter."
    According to Ruttenberg, scripture was clear — until "a very funky game of telephone happened."    Different translations and word choices presented very different stories, that's now being used by some religious leaders to stigmatize abortion.    Manson says the Bible and prominent theologians have demonstrated that abortion isn't as open-and-shut as today's religious right would have you think.
    "Two of the most important theologians in the church's history, Saint Thomas Aquinus and Augustine, both believe there were certain stages of fetal development where abortion should be fine, and had different standings about when a fetus got a soul," she said.    "The church's teaching has changed.    It was only this absolute ban now codified in 1913.    The church and hierarchy and right wing laity are not being honest about the history of this teaching."
    At the heart of this black-and-white teaching, Manson says, is stigma.    This anti-abortion stigma infects even the thinking of progressive, "pro-choice" Catholics.    In response to the bishops' move to deny Biden communion, Mansons says a theologian friend of hers cited a bishop who was known to give communion to "murderers, executioners."
    "I was just like, I don't know if that's the analogy I want to be working off of right now!" Manson said.    "That's part of the problem with the way abortion is being framed.    The conversation especially among progressive Catholics has to move to a place where abortion is not intrinsic evil — it can be a moral good, and it's a freedom that allows women and pregnant people access to other kinds of freedoms, political power, economic power.    Let's start there."
The great divide
    When CoWanda Rusk heard Pope Francis' message in 2016 that people who had abortions should be forgiven, she says she "cringed."
    "Forgiveness happens on a personal level," Rusk said.    "I absolutely do not agree with needing forgiveness from God nor other people for making a decision to take care of yourself.    That is the most ridiculous thing, the most shaming thing.    You did nothing wrong by accessing health care."
    If anything, Rusk says, "Religious leaders should be asking for your forgiveness for not using their powers to make sure people have access to basic needs and health care."
    Politicians and religious leaders have often tried to compromise, or present the image of compromising, around abortion, when in reality, there is no middle ground on whether pregnant people should be forced to give birth.    In 1976, Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment as a budget provision to restrict public coverage and funding of abortion care.
    Reproductive rights and justice advocates have long seen Hyde as an abortion ban for poor people, yet, for years, the ban was upheld by many politicians as a compromise — abortion is still legal, they suggested, but through Hyde, we protect the delicate consciences of people of faith who don't have to pay for abortions.
    "It's a lie," Tohan said, simply.    "You cannot impose someone else's opinion, or religion, or whatever else, on another person.    That is not the 'freedom' they claim to love."
    The Hyde Amendment, of course, exists all while people who are more likely to be targeted by police must pay for police departments they may morally oppose, or the inflated military budget.    Residents of states that pass abortion ban after abortion ban must also watch as their tax dollars fund state governments' costly legal defenses of these bans in court.
    The fact is, bodily autonomy isn't a matter for half measures — you support it, or you don't.    And there's a great divide between everyday people of faith and many religious leaders on this.
    Ruttenberg sees this divide as primarily one of communication among religious Jews.    "Because of the way religious discourse in the U.S. has been so co-opted by the religious right, even in synagogues in fairly liberal communities, congregants are surprised to discover their rabbis support abortion rights,," she said.    "Like yes, of course we support abortion rights!    There has been such a cultural reticence, it's a taboo, thanks to the religious right.    We haven't been as good about talking about things as we should be."
    Tohan sees this divide as "a cross, a junction, where politics and religion have intertwined."
    "A religious leader is not God.    He doesn't determine who's a sinner, and who deserves and doesn't deserve forgiveness," Tohan said.    "The divide for me is figuring out who you are inside of God — not what your priest thinks, not the Pope telling you who you are.    You're so much more whole than that."

7/1/2021 Biden's Catholic church will now let ANYONE receive Communion by Keith Griffith For
© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo
    The Washington DC Catholic church that President Joe Biden attends has said that it will begin giving Communion to anyone who asks for it, in a move to sidestep a potential ban on politicians who support abortion.
    Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown issued the new policy in a statement on Wednesday, saying its priests 'will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it.'
    'The great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to be made a political issue,' the parish council added, in a clear reference to a recent vote by the U.S. Conference of Bishops to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist.     The vote, which passed overwhelmingly, came amid a debate in the church about whether Catholic politicians who support abortion, such as Biden, should be allowed to receive Communion.
© Provided by Daily Mail - Biden is seen leaving a service at Holy Trinity in April. The church will now
allow anyone to receive Communion, in a snub to bishops who want to ban politicians who support abortion
© Provided by Daily Mail - Holy Trinity (seen above) issued the new policy in a statement on Wednesday,
saying its priests 'will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it'
    Unlike many other churches, the Catholic Church strictly limits who is allowed to participate in Mass, and a priest who knowingly violates those rules can face excommunication.
    However, in practice, priests typically assume that anyone who presents themselves to receive the Eucharist is eligible to do so.
    Holy Trinity said in its statement that it is 'a parish which has a long history of welcoming all.'
    'Communion should be viewed 'not as a prize for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,'' the church added, quoting Pope Francis.
    'None of us, whether we stand in the pews or behind the altar, is worthy to receive it,' said Holy Trinity.
© Provided by Daily Mail
    Unlike many other churches, the Catholic Church strictly limits who is allowed to participate in Mass, and a priest who knowingly violates those rules can face excommunication.
    Many of the more conservative U.S. bishops have been clamoring for a clear directive against giving Communion to U.S. political figures who are Roman Catholics and support abortion.
    Vatican teaching forbids abortion as a grave sin.    This campaign puts the heat on Biden, who has said that while he personally opposes abortion, he supports legal abortion rights.
    However, a ban on Communion for pro-abortion politicians is unlikely to pass.
    Such a move would require unanimous support from all the country’s bishops, or two-thirds support and the Vatican's approval.
    A third of the conference has already signaled their opposition by asking for the vote to draft the document to be removed from the agenda.
    Francis himself hasn't weighed in publicly on the Communion issue, but prior to the bishops' vote, his top official on doctrinal orthodoxy had urged them to think the matter through thoroughly and aim to keep divisions to the minimum.
    On Monday, Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican City.
    Blinken declined to delve into 'domestic politics' when later asked if the two discussed the campaign by U.S. bishops to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion Roman Catholic politicians like Biden.
    The closed-door meeting in the Apostolic Palace 'played out in a cordial atmosphere,' a Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said.
    Bruni said the meeting was a chance for the pope to 'express his affection and his attention to the people of the United States of America.'

7/1/2021 Pope Urges Lebanese Leaders To Shun Partisanship, Fix Broken Country by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis holds a meeting with Lebanon's Christian leaders to discuss the country's
crisis, at the Vatican, July 1, 2021. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Thursday urged the leaders of Lebanon, which is mired in a financial depression and facing its worst social crisis in 30 years, to put aside partisan interests and work for peace and stability.
    Francis made the appeal at the end of a day-long summit with Lebanese Christian leaders in the Vatican to discuss how religions can help the country get back on its feet.
    He also repeated his wish to visit Lebanon, which is still reeling from a huge chemical explosion at the Beirut port last year that killed 200 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.
    “I would reiterate how essential it is that those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests,” Francis said.
    “Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many!    No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations,” he said during a closing prayer service in St.     Peter’s Basilica, much of it conducted in Arabic.
    Lebanon is battling a deep financial crisis, which the World Bank has called one of the worst depressions of modern history.
    It has pushed more than half the population into poverty and the currency has lost more than 90% of its value in about two years.
    Francis said Lebanese were “disillusioned and weary…in need of certainty, hope and peace.”
    Prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri, a Muslim, has been at loggerheads for months with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, over cabinet positions.
    In his closing address, Francis also said Lebanon and the Middle East should not be used “for outside interests and profits.”
    Iranian influence has been on the rise in Lebanon over the past years through Hezbollah, the armed Shi’ite group whose political power has grown.    Iran’s sway has so far put rich Gulf Arab states off coming to Lebanon’s rescue.
(Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Beirut; editing by Toby Chopra and Angus MacSwan)

7/2/2021 Salvadoran Woman, Freed After 10 Years In Prison On Abortion Charge, Seeks New Footing by Liamar Ramos
FILE PHOTO: Sara Rogel, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a suspected abortion and released after serving nearly
a third of her prison sentence, talks during an interview in Suchitoto, El Salvador, July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
    SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Sara Rogel, a Salvadoran woman who spent 10 years in prison on charges of violating the South American country’s harsh abortion ban when she terminated her own pregnancy, is trying to get her life back after being released last week.
    Rogel, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, was arrested in October 2012 after going to a hospital with bleeding caused by what she said was a fall at home.    But she was prosecuted for having an abortion.
    She was released on June 8 from a jail in Zacatecoluca, 35 miles (56 km) southeast of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.     In an interview with Reuters, Rogel said she plans to resume her career.
    “I seek to better myself; that is what I have planned,” she said.    “To finish my studies and have a job so I can have a good family because life outside is very difficult.”
    One of her greatest desires is to be able to help her former prison mates.
    "(Prison) is not an easy place.    I know what I have experienced in that place.    I know that my companions who are there are suffering, but I want to help them.    They are struggling; that’s why I want to help them so that one day they can feel the peace of mind that I have felt,” she told Reuters on Thursday.
    El Salvador has one of the world’s strictest bans on abortion.    There are no exceptions, and prison sentences can stretch up to 40 years.
    In recent years some rulings have been reversed, with women released from prison after serving parts of their long sentences.
(Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/2/2021 Mo. Attorney General Schmitt Asks Supreme Court To Hear Abortion Case by OAN Newsroom
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
    The Republican Attorney General in Missouri has requested the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a controversial abortion case coming out of his state.    On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a formal petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision against a state abortion law.     The lower courts decision struck down a 2019 law that banned abortion based solely on a prenatal diagnosis such as Down syndrome.    Doctors were set to face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of violating the law, which has failed to go into effect.
    The petition also requested the Supreme Court to review the legal validity of restrictions on abortions at various stages of pregnancy.    Schmitt argued his petition in a press release by stating the value of life regardless of any diagnosis.    He referenced his son who was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis.
    “My son Stephen has shown me the inherent beauty in life, and he brings immense joy and love to his loved ones and those around him.    Since taking office, I’ve fought to protect all life, including the unborn,” he expressed.    “A prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be a death sentence.”
    There is currently one remaining abortion clinic in Missouri, with state Republicans working to defund the Planned Parenthood in Saint Louis.

7/2/2021 Justices Decline To Hear Appeal From Wash. Florist Who Refused To Service Gay Couple Over Religious Beliefs by OAN Newsroom
Barronelle Stutzman, center, a florist who was fined for denying service to a gay couple in 2013, holds a flower as she
embraces a supporter after a hearing before Washington’s Supreme Court in Bellevue, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
    The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Washington state florist who refused service to a same-sex couple.    The high court made the decision on Friday, after holding their verdict while they deliberated another religiously-motivated case.
    Barronelle Stutzman’s appeal stemmed from a 2013 incident where she refused to make an arrangement for a same-sex couple’s wedding by claiming it would go against her religious beliefs.    The court announced the florist’s refusal as a violation of an antidiscrimination law regarding sexual orientation.    Stutzman was also sued by the couple for breaking consumer protection laws.
    Despite several justice’s desire to take on the case, the state court’s ruling will remain in effect and force Stutzman to pay a $1,000 fine.    The florist’s lawyer argued the outcome of the appeal went against First Amendment rights.
    This has been one of several current lawsuits around the U.S. regarding the refusal of service to members of the LGBTQ community.

7/2/2021 Federal Judge Blocks Ind. ‘Abortion Reversal’ Law by OAN Newsroom
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb at the Statehouse, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings File)
    A federal judge temporarily blocked an Indiana abortion law, which would require doctors to inform patients of a disputed treatment for potentially stopping an abortion process.    On Wednesday, the district judge ruled pro-choice groups challenging the law had a “reasonable likelihood of success” in regards to their claim the law violated clinic’s rights to free speech.
    The abortion reversal law was halted by U.S. District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon just one day before it was set to go into effect.    The bill was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) in April.    Hanlon stated the state of Indiana failed to prove an abortion reversal for medication abortions was effective and safe.
    A medication abortion consists of a combination of two drugs, which are taken at separate times.    Women would be able to halt an abortion after being administered the first drug.
    Proponents of the law argued it ensured women would have the information needed to halt a medication-induced abortion if they were to change their minds.    However, Hanlon countered by claiming women could have access to that information without their doctor being legally required to tell them.
    Reports said medication abortions accounted for 44 percent of the state’s 7,600 abortions in 2019.    Similar laws have already been placed in six states across the U.S., such as Arkansas and Kentucky, with a law in West Virginia expected to go into effect in July.

7/3/2021 Trans-Teen Sues Gov. DeSantis For Protecting Women’s Sports by OAN Newsroom
Photo: Gov. Ron DeSantis (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images)
    A 13-year-old transgender girl is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over a law he signed protecting biological women in sports.    The recently filed federal lawsuit alleged the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act discriminates against a Florida teen who is transgender.
    Democrats have attacked the law along with DeSantis and the state Republican Party as discriminatory against the trans community.    In response, DeSantis said the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act promotes “equality of athletic opportunities.”
    “The bill that we’re doing today will ensure fairness for women athletes for years to come in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis.    “It says that athletic teams or sports that are designated for females are open to females, and we’re gonna go based on biology not based off ideology.”
    Florida is one of over 25 states that have made moves to ban biological boys from competing in women’s sports regardless of gender identity.

7/3/2021 Cardinal Among 10 Indicted By Vatican For Financial Crimes by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been caught up in a real estate scandal, speaks to the media
a day after he resigned suddenly and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope,
near the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -A prominent Italian cardinal was among 10 people sent to trial in the Vatican on Saturday charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.
    Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly a senior official in the Vatican administration, as well as two top officials at the Vatican’s Financial     Intelligence Unit will go on trial on July 27 over a multi-million euro scandal involving the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.
    The trial will inevitably bring a swirl of media interest to the tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, and appears to underscore Pope Francis’ determination to cure the rot in Vatican finances, even if it involves messy public hearings.
    Becciu, 73, whom the pope fired from his senior clerical post last year for alleged nepotism, and who has always maintained his innocence during a two-year investigation, becomes the most senior Vatican official to be charged with financial crimes.
    The pope personally gave the required approval last week for Becciu to be indicted, according to a 487-page indictment request seen by Reuters.    The Vatican announced the indictments in a two-page statement.
    The charges against Becciu include embezzlement and abuse of office.    An Italian woman who worked for him was charged with embezzlement and the cardinal’s former secretary, Father Mauro Carlino, was accused of extortion.
    Becciu said in a statement that he was a victim of a “machination” and reaffirmed his “absolute innocence.”
    Carlino’s lawyer said his client was innocent, had been “acting under orders,” and had saved the Vatican millions of euros. He said starting a trial so soon did not give defence lawyers enough time to prepare.
    Two Italian brokers, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, were charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi, for whom Italian magistrates issued an arrest warrant in April, was also charged with extortion.
    There was no immediate response to attempts to reach their lawyers, but both men have consistently denied wrongdoing.
    Four companies associated with individual defendants, two in Switzerland, one in the United States and one in Slovenia, were also indicted, according to the document.
    The investigation into the purchase of the building became public on Oct. 1, 2019, when Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State, the administrative heart of the Catholic Church, and those of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).
    The then-president of the AIF, Rene Bruelhart, a 48-year-old Swiss, and AIF’s former Italian director, Tommaso Di Ruzza, 46, were charged with abuse of office for allegedly failing to adequately protect the Vatican’s interests and giving Torzi what the indictment request called an “undue advantage
    Di Ruzza was also accused of embezzlement related to alleged inappropriate use of his official credit card, and of divulging confidential information.
    Bruelhart said in a text message that he had “always carried out my functions and duties with correctness” and that “the truth about my innocence will emerge
    Di Ruzza did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.
    In 2014, the Secretariat of State invested more than 200 million euros, much of it from contributions from the faithful, in a fund run by Mincione, securing about 45% of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington district.
    The indictment request said Mincione had tried to deceive the Vatican, which in 2018 tried to end the relationship.
    It turned to Torzi for help in buying up the rest of the building, but later accused him of extortion.
    At the time, Becciu was in the last year of his post as deputy secretary of state for general affairs, a powerful administrative position that handles hundreds of millions of euros.
    All told, the Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses.”
    Torzi was arrested in the Vatican in June 2020, and spent a week in custody.
    According to the indictment request, Becciu is charged with five counts of embezzlement, two of abuse of office, and one count of inducing a witness to perjury.    About 75 pages of the document are dedicated to Becciu.
    It says Becciu tried to “heavily deflect” the inquiry into Vatican investments, including the London building, and tried to discredit the investigating magistrates via the Italian media.
    Becciu continued to have influence over money transfers at the Secretariat even after he left the post, the document said.
    The main charges against Becciu involve the alleged funnelling of money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.
    Another Sardinian, Cecilia Marogna, 40, who worked for Becciu, was charged with embezzlement.    Her cellphone was not connected.
    The indictment request said she had received about 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State in 2018-2019.
    She has said on Italian television that the money, sent to her company in Slovenia, was to ransom kidnapped missionaries in Africa.    But the indictment request said much of it was used for “personal benefit,” including the purchase of luxury goods.
(Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

7/3/2021 Vatican Indicts 10 People On Multiple Charges by OAN Newsroom
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu at the Vatican. (Eric Vandeville/Abaca, via Associated Press)
    A Vatican judge has indicted 10 people for alleged financial crimes.    On Saturday, five former Vatican officials, including a cardinal, were ordered to stand trial among five others in connection to a London real estate investment.
    Charges include embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud.    Vatican prosecutors have accused the suspects of cheating the Holy See out of millions of dollars in fees and charitable donations.
Pope Francis with Vatican employees in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)
    The request for indictment followed a two-year investigation by Vatican prosecutors into the asset portfolio of the Secretariat of State, which was heavily funded by donations from the Holy See.    The investigation uncovered multi-million-dollar mismanagement.    This revelation prompted Pope Francis to block the office from handling all financial and real estate assets.
    Among the indicted is Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who was the former chief of staff for the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.    Becciu was stripped of his title in the midst of the investigation, but has since claimed his innocence.
    The Pope personally approved the judge’s decision to indict and a trial date is set for July 27.

7/3/2021 Madrid’s Gay Pride Returns After COVID Cancellation
A reveller carries a rainbow flag during the Gay Pride parade in Madrid, Spain, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
    MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of people danced, beat drums and waved flags through the streets of Madrid on Saturday as the Spanish capital’s gay pride parade returned after being canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Many wore rainbow face masks at the parade, usually one of the world’s largest LGBT pride events, which this year under COVID-19 restrictions did not feature the usual floats and had a limit of 25,000 attendees.
    “I feel really happy because we have the space to protest to come out and demand respect for ourselves as human beings,” said Catherine Lopez, 36.
    Local media reported it was the biggest public event in the city since before Spain imposed its first COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March 2020.     An LGBT police association cheered “the police are also proud”
    A major theme of this year’s parade was transgender rights.    It had the slogan “Human rights are not negotiated, they are legislated: Integral Trans Law Now."
    On Tuesday, parliament approved a draft bill that will pave the way for gender self-identification, the largest European country so far to consider the law.
(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos; writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by David Gregorio)

7/4/2021 Pope Francis In Hospital For ‘Scheduled Surgery’ On Colon
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard,
at the Vatican, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis was admitted to a Rome hospital on Sunday afternoon for “scheduled surgery” on his colon later in the day, the Vatican said.
    Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope, 84, was suffering from “symptomatic diverticular stenosis” of the colon, a condition that can cause recurrent abdominal pain, bloating and changes in bowel habits.
    Bruni said the operation would take place later on Sunday in Rome’s Gemelli hospital, which is the institution where popes receive medical treatment.    Another statement would be issued afterwards.
    It is the first time the pope has been admitted to hospital since his election in 2013.
    The pope appeared to be in fine health several hours earlier when he addressed thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing and announcing a trip to Slovakia and Budapest for September.
    Francis is sometimes short of breath because a part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
    Francis also suffers from sciatica, a condition that causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the legs.
    He is sometimes seen walking with difficulty because of the pain and receives regular physical therapy for it.
    The condition forced him to miss several events at the beginning of this year.
    Last year, a bad cold kept him from taking part in a week-long Lenten retreat with his with senior aides south of Rome.
    In 2014, a year after he was elected pope, Francis was forced to cancel several engagements because of what was believed to be a stomach ailment.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson, Kevin Liffey and Nick Macfie)

7/4/2021 Hungary’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Law Casts Shadow Over Drag Queen Contest by Anita Komuves and Krisztina Fenyo
First placed drag queen Chintya Fama reacts during the 'Drag Queen Hungary 2021'
beauty contest in Budapest, Hungary, July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – In a backroom of a dilapidated former factory outside Budapest, contestants wearing huge fake eyelashes and glittering dresses are preparing for Hungary’s annual drag queen competition, all the while hoping it will not be the last.
    “Let’s party hard while we still can,” drag queen Bonnie Andrews called out to a cheering audience as she took to the stage in a black evening gown and tiara.
    Hungary’s parliament passed legislation on June 15 that strengthens rules against paedophilia and bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.
    The law comes into effect next week, and performers, guests and organisers at the contest said they feared its impact on Hungary’s LGBTQ+ community.
    Contestant Katheryne Taylor said she was worried the law could embolden those intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community.
    “We are afraid to get on the tram.    When we do so, we put our hands in our pockets to hide our painted nails. We have always done this, though,” she said.
    Hardline nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces an election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy, railing against LGBTQ+ people and immigrants.
    Orban came under fire at last week’s summit of EU leaders over the law, which Germany’s European affairs minister has said clearly violates European Union values.    A Swedish minister called the legislation “grotesque.”
    “I do not think we should be conflated with [paedophiles], and I don’t think something like this should happen in the 21st century,” said Myra Pixel as she prepared for her performance.
    Contest organiser Tamas Doka said he had tried to make sure no protesters showed up on the night, and that the venue – a converted factory in a crumbling industrial estate on the outskirts of Budapest – was partly chosen for security reasons.
    “They are scared.    Scared of …extremists starting to throw things at them, of being hurt verbally,” he said.    “The location allows us to let guests in, lock the door and then anyone else needs to ring the bell.    We are isolated here.”
    Under the new law drag shows will not be banned, but will have to start after 10 p.m. with no minors allowed in the audience.
    All of the performers Reuters talked to said that they were worried by the new legislation, but that they had not had any negative experiences so far.
    Last year’s winner Valerie Divine said most Hungarians accepted the LGBTQ+ community.    “I feel very lucky in that respect.”
(Reporting by Anita Komuves and Krisztina Fenyo, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

7/4/2021 Pope Announces Trip To Slovakia And Budapest In September
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis greets people after the weekly general audience at the San Damaso
courtyard, at the Vatican, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he will visit Slovakia on September 12-15 after a brief stop in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
    It will be the pope’s second trip outside Italy this year, following one in February to Iraq.    Trips planned for 2020 were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    He announced the trip at his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
    The Vatican said in a separate statement the pope would celebrate a Mass on the morning of Sept. 12 in Budapest to close the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.
    That afternoon, he will start a visit to Slovakia, visiting the capital Bratislava as well as Presov, Kosice e Sastin. Czechoslovakia split in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
    Vatican sources have said the pope may visit Malta and Cyprus later this year. He was to have visited Malta in May, 2020 but the trip was postponed because of the pandemic.
    On Sunday, the pope also called for reconciliation in the southern African kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), where there have been clashes between government forces and protesters calling for reforms to its system of absolute monarchy.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

7/4/2021 Violence Breaks Out At L.A. Spa In Response To Transgender Complaint by OAN Newsroom
Member of the transgender community holds flag. (MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
    Protests outside an upscale Los Angeles spa turned violent on Saturday, leading to police being called to clear the area.    Reports said two groups on both sides of the trans rights debate clashed outside of Wi Spa in response to a viral video depicting a recent complaint by a customer.
    In the video, a woman voiced her anger that a person who identifies as female exposed male genitals in the women’s section of the spa in front of young girls, teens and other women.    During the protest, a dumpster was set on fire while demonstrators fought in the middle of the street.
    Wi Spa defended their decision in a statement saying, “Like many metropolitan areas, Los Angeles contains a transgender population, some of whom enjoy visiting a spa.    Wi Spa strives to meet the needs and safety of all of its customers, and does not tolerate harassment or lewd conduct by any customer, regardless of their sex, gender, or other characteristic.”
    Police have said five people were injured in the fighting, but no arrests have yet been made.

7/5/2021 LGBT+ Campaigners In Georgia Call Off Pride Match After Office Attack
Protesters storm the office of LGBT+ campaigners at a rally against the planned March for
Dignity during Pride Week in Tbilisi, Georgia July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - LGBT+ campaigners in Georgia called off plans to stage a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in the capital Tbilisi and targeted activists and journalists.
    Activists launched five days of LGBT+ Pride celebrations last Thursday and had planned a “March for Dignity” on Monday in central Tbilisi, shrugging off criticism from the church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia.
    The march plan was disrupted on Monday by counter protesters before it could begin.
    Video footage posted by LGBT+ activists showed their opponents scaling their building to reach their balcony where they tore down rainbow flags and were seen entering the office of Tbilisi Pride.
    Other footage showed a journalist with a bloodied mouth and nose and a man on a scooter driving at journalists in the street.
    Campaigners said some of their equipment had been broken in the attack and that they had been forced to cancel.
    “No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now.    This is my working space, my home, my family today.    Left alone in the face of gross violence,” Tamaz Sozashvili, one LGBT activist, tweeted.
    The interior ministry urged activists to abandon their march for security reasons.    It said in a statement that various groups were gathering and protesting on Monday and that journalists had been targeted with violence.
    “We once again publicly call on the participants of ‘Tbilisi Pride’ to refrain from the ‘March of Dignity’ … due to the scale of counter-manifestations planned by opposing groups…” it said.
    In the run-up, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he viewed the march as “not reasonable," saying it risked causing public confrontation and that it was not acceptable to most Georgians, the Civil Georgia media outlet reported.
    Rights campaigners condemned the violence and accused Garibashvili of emboldening hate groups.
    “Violent far-right crowds supported by (the) Church & emboldened by (an) incredibly irresponsible statement of PM @GharibashviliGe gathered in Tbilisi center to prevent Pride March, attacking journalists & breaking into Pride office,” wrote Giorgi Gogia, who works for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth/Olzhas AuyezovEditing by Andrew Osborn)

7/5/2021 Russian Food Retailer Apologises For Ad That Included Lesbians by Alexander Marrow
A logo of Russian food retailer VkusVill is seen on a store
in Moscow, Russia July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A high-end Russian food retailer has angered both gay rights campaigners and opponents by running and then apologising for an ad that included a profile of a family in which a mother and her adult daughter both have female partners.
    A 2013 Russian law, decried by Western countries as state-enforced bigotry, bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.”    Many politicians from the ruling party are stridently anti-gay.
    The advert for Vkusvill, a chain of more than 1,250 food shops, pictured four women from the family in a kitchen, and said they liked the shop’s Japanese rice balls with mushrooms and its humus.    It initially appeared with an “18+” warning indicating it should not be read by children.
    Vkusvill initially defended the advert, saying: “We think it would be hypocritical not to talk about the real families of our customers.    We advise you to weigh up all pros and cons before reading this report.”
    But on Sunday, after threats of a boycott, it deleted it from its website and issued what it called an apology to customers, employees, partners and suppliers on behalf of senior management.
    “We regret that this happened and consider this publication to be a mistake, which became a display of unprofessionalism from certain employees,” the statement said.
    More than 35,000 people commented on the company’s Instagram feed, some of them angry at the decision to run the advert in the first place, others angry at the move to pull it.
    “We are not a mistake,” wrote user @russiaforgays, calling the decision to take down the ad “cowardly.”
    Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of state news network RT, tweeted that the reversal had pleased nobody.
    “The audience of traditionalists like myself has been lost, and now the very audience they were flirting with has been severely disappointed,” she wrote on Telegram on Sunday.
    Vkusvill said in 2019 it was considering floating its shares on the stock market in New York.    It has since opened its first shops abroad in the Netherlands and says it aims to expand beyond Russia.    It declined to comment on Monday on whether the incident would affect its expansion plans or its valuation.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Peter Graff)

7/5/2021 Pope Doing Well After Intestinal Surgery, Vatican Says by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard,
at the Vatican, June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis is doing well following intestinal surgery, the Vatican said on Sunday after the 84-year-old pontiff was hospitalised for the first time since his election in 2013.
    Spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement that the pontiff “responded well” to the surgery, which was done under general aesthesia and which the Vatican had said earlier had been scheduled and not prompted by an emergency.
    He gave no further details about the surgery or how long it lasted and did not say how long the pope would remain in Rome’s Gemelli hospital.
    The pope entered the hospital early on Sunday afternoon and the statement was issued just before midnight Rome time.
    Francis underwent surgery for symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon, a condition where sac-like pouches protrude from the muscular layer of the colon, leading it to become narrow. The operation was carried out by a 10-person medical team.
    In addition to causing pain, the condition can lead to bloating, inflammation, and difficulty in bowel movement.    It tends to affect older people more.
    The pope appeared to be in fine health several hours earlier when he addressed thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing and announced a trip to Slovakia and Budapest for September.
    The sprawling Catholic-run Gemelli hospital and medical school in the northern part of Rome traditionally treats popes and a part of its 10th floor is permanently reserved for them.
    As he does every year in July, Francis already had suspended all of his general and private audiences for the month.    The surgery appeared to be timed to coincide with a period in which he has only one public commitment – his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
    Unlike his predecessors, he stays in the Vatican and has never used the sprawling papal summer estate in the Alban Hills south of Rome.
    Francis is sometimes short of breath because a part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
    He also suffers from sciatica, which causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the legs.
    The condition, for which he receives regular physiotherapy, forced him to miss several events at the beginning of this year and has led him on occasions to walk with difficulty. Last year, a bad cold kept him from taking part in a week-long Lenten retreat with senior aides south of Rome. In 2014, a year after he was elected pope, Francis was forced to cancel several engagements because of what was believed to be a stomach ailment. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson, Kevin Liffey, Nick Macfie, Barbara Lewis and Diane Craft)

7/5/2021 Pope In Good Condition, Alert After Surgery To Remove Part Of Colon by Philip Pullella
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis is alert, breathing without assistance, and in a good overall condition following surgery to remove part of his colon, the Vatican said on Monday.
    The 84-year-old pope is expected to stay in hospital for seven days barring any complications, following his three-hour operation on Sunday night by a 10-person surgical team at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
    The pope underwent a left hemicolectomy, a procedure in which one side of the colon is removed, Bruni said. It was the first time the Vatican had disclosed the specific nature of the surgery.
    The statement did not specify whether the decision to remove part of the colon had been taken before or during the surgery.
    The scheduled surgery was for symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon, a condition in which sac-like pouches protrude from the muscular layer of the colon, leading it to become narrow.
    In addition to causing pain, the condition, which is more common in older people, can lead to bloating, inflammation, and difficulty in bowel movement.
    It was the first time Francis has been hospitalised since his election as pope in 2013.
    The surgery appeared to be timed to coincide with a period in which he has only one public commitment – his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
    Francis traditionally suspends all his general and private audiences for the month of July, although unlike predecessors, he stays in the Vatican and has never used the sprawling papal summer estate in the cooler Alban Hills, south of Rome.
    The Vatican said it was not clear if Francis would leave the hospital in time to make his Sunday blessing as usual.    The late Pope John Paul led the prayer from the window of his room and even from his bed during several hospitalisations over the course of his 27-year papacy.
    Information about Francis’ health has come via short Vatican statements, a contrast to John Paul’s time, when doctors issued detailed medical bulletins and even held news conferences.
    The guidance is believed to come directly from the pope, who guards his privacy more closely than John Paul did.
    The sprawling Catholic-run Gemelli hospital and medical school in the northern part of Rome traditionally treats popes and a part of its 10th floor is permanently reserved for them.
    Francis’ hospitalisation on Sunday came as a surprise because only hours earlier he appeared to be in good health when he addressed thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and announced a September trip to Slovakia and Budapest.
    Francis is sometimes short of breath because part of a lung was removed following an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
    He also receives regular physiotherapy for sciatica, which causes pain that radiates from the lower back to the legs.    The condition forced him to miss several events at the beginning of this year and has led him on occasions to walk with difficulty.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams, Peter Graff and Catherine Evans)

7/5/2021 Vaccinate Or Repent, Russian Church Says Amid Hundreds Of Daily COVID-19 Deaths
FILE PHOTO: A woman receives a dose of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
in a vaccination centre at a shopping mall in Omsk, Russia, June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church admonished people refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, calling them sinners who would have to atone for the rest of their lives, as the country reported another jump in new infections and deaths.
    The church urged all its faithful to be inoculated as another 24,353 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Monday, including 6,557 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,635,294.
    The government coronavirus task force said 654 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 138,579.
    Speaking on state television, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said those refusing to vaccinate were committing “a sin for which they will have to atone throughout their lives
    He added: “I see situations every day where people visit a priest in order to confess that they had refused to vaccinate themselves or their close ones and unwillingly caused someone’s death."
    “…The sin is thinking of oneself but not of another person.”
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams)

7/5/2021 Protests In Spain Against Suspected LGBT Hate Crime
An LGBT+ activist gestures during a protest over the death of Samuel Luiz, who was attacked
outside a club in A Coruna, in Barcelona, Spain July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
    BARCELONA (Reuters) – People took to the streets of Spain’s biggest cities on Monday evening to express their anger at the death of a man in a suspected homophobic attack at the weekend.
    Crowds filled a central Madrid square and activists marched down a major street in Barcelona, chanting slogans and waving placards and rainbow-coloured flags.
    “The response to the wave of LGBT-phobic hatred that ended the life of Samuel in A Coruna is overwhelming,” the left-wing Podemos party that governs in coalition with the ruling Socialists wrote on Twitter.
    The 24-year-old nursing assistant was beaten near a nightclub in the early hours of Saturday in the town of A Coruna, northern Spain, by several assailants including one who shouted a common pejorative description of a homosexual, state broadcaster RTVE reported. He later died in hospital.
    Jose Minones, a local government representative in the region where A Coruna is located, tweeted that the police were working to find out what happened and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
    Local media quoted him as saying the investigation would show whether or not the attack was motivated by homophobia.
    Interior Ministry data shows 278 hate crimes related to sexual orientation or gender identity were reported in Spain in 2019, an 8.6% increase on the previous year.    The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights warns only a fraction of hate crimes are reported to the police.
    In central Barcelona, 21 year-old Sergio Cuevas said: “I think this crime happened because homophobia kills.”,
(Reporting by Nacho Doce, writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

7/6/2021 Spain Says Non-Consensual Sex Is Rape, Toughens Sexual Violence Laws by Belén Carreño and Nathan Allen
FILE PHOTO: Protesters do a sit down in front of the Spanish Parliament during a demonstration against the release on bail of five men
known as the "Wolf Pack" cleared of a gang rape of a teenager and convicted of a lesser crime of sexual abuse in Madrid, Spain, June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera
    MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government approved a law on Tuesday to define all non-consensual sex as rape, part of a legislative overhaul that toughens penalties for sexual harassment and mandates more support systems for victims.
    It approved the bill five years after what became known as the ‘wolf-pack’ case, in which five men gang-raped an 18-year-old woman at Pamplona’s bull-running festival, causing public outrage and prompting calls to reform laws on sexual violence.
    The draft still requires parliamentary approval, which is expected by the end of the year.
    Based around a “yes means yes” model, which qualifies any non-consenting sex as rape, the law will bring Spain into line with 11 other European countries, including Sweden, Portugal and Britain, that use similar legal definitions.
    “What the new law does is put the victim at the centre of the public response,” government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference.    “Silence or passivity does not mean consent.”
    Under existing legislation, a perpetrator must have used physical violence or intimidation for an assault to be classified as rape.
    Stalking and street harassment, considered misdemeanours under current legislation, will become crimes, as will female genital mutilation.
    Gang rape will be considered an aggravating factor entailing prison sentences of up to 15 years to deter gang crimes similar to others that have shocked Spaniards.
    In parallel, the measures call for the creation of a 24-hour sexual assault helpline and specialized children’s homes for underage victims.
    Spain has long sought to position itself at the forefront of sexual politics and counter prevailing macho attitudes.    It legalised gay marriage in 2007 and introduced a pioneering gender violence law in 2004.
    Last week the cabinet passed a draft law to allow anyone over 14 to legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy.
    Protests erupted across Spain on Monday night in response to the killing of a gay man who was beaten to death in what appeared to be a homophobic attack in the northern city of La Coruna at the weekend.
    Police in Madrid charged protesters with batons, prompting the government to open an investigation into their conduct.
(Reporting by Belén Carreño and Nathan Allen, Editing by Timothy Heritage),

7/6/2021 For Transgender Turks, Discrimination Said To Loom Larger by Ece Toksabay
Cayan Hakiki studies for the university entrance exams at her home in Ankara, Turkey
June 19, 2021. Picture taken June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Cayan Hakiki trimmed their finger nails and scrubbed off the polish last week in order to take Turkish university entrance exams without being hassled, as advocacy groups say transgender people face increasingly open discrimination.
    “I didn’t want any problems at the entrance,” Hakiki, 23, who was born male but identifies as trans or queer, told Reuters at home in the capital Ankara.
    “We are subject to all kinds of violence from the moment we begin to exist as an LGBTI+ person, whether from people on the street, the government or the police.”
    Advocates say crackdowns on Pride events and other curbs on free speech and assembly reflect the government’s heavier hand including recent open denunciations of the LGBTI community.
    President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has dismissed such claims of discrimination and says police are upholding the law against “unlawful” protests.    In other instances, the government has denied the existence of LGBTI individuals, or said the concept was imported from the     West, and posed a threat to family values.
    Transgender Europe, a network of organizations that advocate for rights, says 54 transgender people were killed in Turkey from 2008 through September 2020, the highest rate in Europe.
    Unreported cases means the number is likely higher, it said, adding that transgender people face discrimination including denial of jobs, housing, health care and education.
    Last week, as international Pride month ended, Turkish authorities including police in riot gear detained an estimated 100 people taking part in parades and demonstrations across the country.
    Police used tear gas to disperse some of the hundreds who had gathered and the government said they were responding in part to vandalism.
    Such events have been banned in recent years, though in the past thousands took part in the main Istanbul Pride parade.
    Asked to comment on claims that government rhetoric and policies increases personal risk for transgender people, the Interior Ministry and Palace did not immediately comment.
    European Union concerns over human rights have hindered Turkey’s accession process, which has been languishing for years after the bloc informally suspended membership talks.
    For the third straight year in 2020, Turkey ranked second lowest in the “Rainbow Index” that measures respect for LGBTI human rights in 49 European countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe).
    Advocates like Hakiki, who is part of the Ankara-based Pink Life transgender awareness group, say examples of discrimination are multiplying.
    In February, amid student and faculty protests over the naming of a Istanbul university rector, Erdogan and other officials seized on the display on campus of an image that combined Islamic imagery and rainbow flags.
    Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu labelled the students “LGBT deviants” and Erdogan praised his Islamist-rooted AK Party’s youth wing for not being “LGBT youth
    The Interior Ministry and Palace also did not immediately comment on claims that government rhetoric amounts to discrimination against transgender and other LGBTI people.
    Last month, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic sent a letter to Turkey’s interior and justice ministers expressing concern about rising homophobic narratives by some officials, and called on them to reverse course and protect LGBTI rights.
    “I want to stay in this country and continue our struggle for rights,” said Hakiki, who completed the entrance exams and aims to study performance arts management in Istanbul.
    Hakiki jokes they prefer the “B for Barbie” pronoun, but accepts using “they/them
    “If there’s going to be a change in this country, it will be led by the LGBTI+ movement.    It is the government who is afraid of this movement, and not the other way around,” they said.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Giles Elgood)

7/7/2021 Hungary Rejects EU Demand To Ditch ‘Shameful’ Anti-LGBT Law by Gabriela Baczynska and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators attend a protest against a law that bans LGBTQ content in schools and
media at the Presidential Palace in Budapest, Hungary, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Hungary on Wednesday rejected a demand from the European Commission and many EU lawmakers to repeal new legislation banning schools from using materials deemed to promote homosexuality.
    Last month, EU leaders lambasted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over the legislation in a tense discussion behind closed doors, with Dutch     Prime Minister Mark Rutte telling Budapest to respect EU values of tolerance or leave the bloc.
    “Homosexuality is equated with pornography.    This legislation uses the protection of children as an excuse to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation,” Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive Commission told the European Parliament.    “It is a disgrace.”
    The Commission can open a new legal case against Hungary at the European Court of Justice or use a new mechanism designed to protect the rule of law in the 27-nation bloc by freezing funding for countries that undermine democratic standards.
    Orban, who faces a national election next year, has said the new law aims to protect children and does not discriminate against sexual minorities.
    His chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, reiterated that stance on Wednesday: “Brussels’ efforts to have us allow LGBTQ activists into schools and nursery schools are in vain, we are not willing to do that.”
    The case is the latest flare-up between Hungary and the EU, which has already launched an investigation against Budapest for undermining democracy.    Orban has steadily tightened restrictions on media, NGOs, academics and migrants despite the criticism from Brussels, international watchdogs and rights groups.
    Hungary’s conservative ally, Poland, is expected to block any attempt to impose the maximum EU penalty of suspending Budapest’s voting rights in the 27-nation bloc.
    EU lawmakers urged the Commission not to release to Hungary funds earmarked for supporting its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic if they are to contribute to Budapest’s anti-LGBT agenda or before it can ensure solid anti-fraud protection.
    Discriminating against LGBTI+ people is illegal in the EU, said Iraxte Garcia Perez, a Spanish EU lawmaker and the head of the socialist faction in the European Parliament.
    “That is why the new law in Hungary must be repealed.    An offensive and shameful law that goes against human rights.”
    Lawmakers also spoke against so-called “LGBT-free zones” that some local authorities established in Poland, which also faces EU legal action.
    At the other end of the spectrum, Spain became the first large EU country last month to approve a draft bill to allow anyone aged over 14 to change gender legally without a medical diagnosis or hormone therapy.
    French President Emmanuel Macron has called the split over values between the liberal West and more conservative eastern countries such as Hungary and Poland a “cultural battle” that damages EU unity.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Toby Chopra, Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

7/7/2021 China’s Wechat Deletes University LGBT Accounts
FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of WeChat logo in this illustration
picture taken March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeChat social media platform has deleted dozens of LGBT accounts run by university students, saying some had broken rules on information on the internet, sparking fear of a crackdown on gay content online.
    Members of several LGBT groups told Reuters that access to their accounts was blocked late on Tuesday and they later discovered that all of their content had been deleted.
    “Many of us suffered at the same time,” said the account manager of one group who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
    “They censored us without any warning.    All of us have been wiped out.”
    Attempts by Reuters to access some accounts were met with a notice from WeChat saying the groups “had violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese internet.”
    Other accounts did not show up in search results.
    WeChat did not immediately respond to emailed questions.
    While homosexuality, which was classified as a mental disorder until 2001, is legal in China, same sex marriage is not recognised. Social stigma and pressure still deter people from coming out.
    This year, a court upheld a university’s description of homosexuality as a “psychological disorder,” ruling that it was not a factual error.
    The LGBT community has repeatedly found itself falling foul of censors and the Cyberspace Administration of China recently pledged to clean up the internet to protect minors and crack down on social media groups deemed a “bad influence.”
    The Weibo social media platform, owned by Weibo Corp, has at times removed lesbian content and the online community board platform Zhihu has censored topics on gender and identity.
    Last year, China’s only pride festival was cancelled indefinitely after organisers cited concerns over staff safety.
    “Authorities have been tightening the space available for LGBT advocacy and civil society generally. This is another turning of the screw,” said Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai’s China Center, who focuses on LGBT rights and gender equality.
(Reporting by Pak Yiu; Editing by Robert Birsel)

7/9/2021 Fla. Couple Sues Woke Catholic School To Rescind $1.35M Donation by OAN Newsroom
File photo of a crucifix and a stained-glass window inside a Catholic Church. (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)
    A Florida couple is trying to take back their large donation to a Catholic school that, according to them, have caved to woke ideology.    On Wednesday, attorney Adam Levine, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Anthony and Barbara Scarpo, said Academy of the Holy Names is more focused on racially divisive themes than Catholic values like they advertise.
    On top of their daughter’s $22,000 a year tuition, the Scarpo’s pledged to donate $1.3 million to the school back in 2017.    After paying more than $240,000 of their pledge, however, attorney Levine said they now feel cheated because the school is failing to deliver on their promise of Catholic education.
    Meanwhile, Academy of the Holy Names denied any wrongdoing and said they are prepared to defend themselves in court.    In fact, the Tampa area lawyer representing the school, Gregory Hearing, hinted at a possible countersuit that would demand the couple pay the remainder of their pledge.    He went on the call the lawsuit none other than a “publicity stunt.”
    “We can discern no motivation behind the lawsuit other than attention seeking by your clients and a desire by you to build a brand,” Hearing noted in a response letter.
    The Scarpo’s pointed out they aren’t the only parents concerned about the educational direction of the Catholic school.    They claimed the mainstream Catholicism in which they expected is no longer being embraced.
    “The continued indoctrination of your twisted version of social and racial justice, equity, inclusion, sexuality and today’s politically correct narrative has permeated like a stench through the halls of the Academy,” noted Mr. Scarpo.    “And been allowed to seep into the minds of our children, causing stress, anger, guilt and confusion.”
    A spokesperson for the Academy of the Holy Names claimed its curriculum includes social justice and concern for marginalized people, which “is, and always has been, based on Catholic values and rigorous academic standards.”

7/11/2021 Georgians Protest Over Death Of Journalist Beaten In Attack On LGBT+ Supporters
FILE PHOTO: Participants hold rainbow flags during a rally in support of those who were injured during the July 5 protests, when a pride
march was disrupted by members of violent groups before it could begin, in Tbilisi, Georgia July 6, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze>
    LGBT+ campaigners in the South Caucasus country of Georgia called off a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in Tbilisi and targeted activists and journalists.
    Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, who was beaten up in the incident, was found dead at his home by his mother, TV Pirveli, the channel he worked for, said on Sunday. It did not disclose the cause of death.
    Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the parliament and the office of ruling party Georgian Dream on Sunday to call for the prime minister and interior minister to resign over the violence and Lashkarava’s death.
    A woman splashed red paint on the door of a government building in protest.
    Lashkarava’s death has outraged human rights activists in Georgia, who blame the authorities for emboldening hate groups and failing to keep journalists and LGBT+ supporters out of harm’s way.
    The interior ministry said it was investigating Lashkarava’s death, but did not say what caused it.    The ministry said later that Lashkarava’s “professional activities were illegally obstructed by threats of violence” during the attacks on LGBT+ supporters.
    Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili wrote on Twitter on Sunday that she had visited Lashkarava’s family.
    “What happened is a tragedy and I send my condolences to the entire media community and to all of Georgia,” she wrote.    “It must be investigated and those responsible must be punished.”
    More than 50 journalists were targeted in the violence, police said on Monday, prompting Western countries to call on Georgia to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.
    The planned pride march, which was called off before it began, had prompted criticism from the church and conservatives, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the march risked causing public confrontation.
(Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jane Merriman)

7/11/2021 Israel’s Supreme Court Rules In Favour Of Same-Sex Couple Surrogacy Rights
FILE PHOTO: People take part in a Gay Pride event which has been down-scaled amid coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) fears, at Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel June 28, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday ruled that current legal restrictions barring same-sex couples from becoming parents through surrogacy were unlawful and must be lifted within six months.
    The country’s LGBTQ+ community praised the decision as a breakthrough.    It had demanded for years to be allowed to pursue surrogacy, which is already accessible to heterosexual couples and single women in Israel.
    The issue has highlighted a liberal/conservative divide, often along religious lines, in Israel, where same-sex marriages are not conducted by state-sanctioned authorities but are formally recognised if they are performed abroad.
    The Supreme Court, petitioned by gay rights activists, ruled more than a year ago that a surrogacy ban for same-sex couples and single men violated their rights and called for the rules to be changed.
    But having been informed by the government – which took office last month and includes a mix of liberal, conservative and Arab Islamist parties – that making legislative changes right now would be unfeasible, the court determined the exclusions would become invalid within six months.
    “Finally, equality!” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote on Twitter.
    The Health Ministry, he said, would begin the necessary preparations to uphold the court’s decision.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)

7/11/2021 Veterans Affairs Proposes Paying For Gender Reassignment Surgeries by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough speaks during his confirmation hearing before the
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)
    As Republican governors across the country have banned gender reassignment for children, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs announced the taxpayer funding of gender reassignment for veterans.    Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has pushed for free gender reassignment surgeries for veterans.
    McDonough estimated this would cost taxpayers up to $71 million for about 3,000 veterans annually.    However, for McDonough the up front costs will save tax dollars in the long run.
    “We also think that these are manageable numbers and overtime,” he explained.    “If we make this investment, we’ll save costs on things like mental health care treatment and other health care problems that would result of our transgender vets not having access to this care.”
    McDonough said Joe Biden picked him to advocate for veterans and for that reason, the administration would allow him to do what he found to be necessary to help all veterans.    He implied that veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans particularly earned the help.
    “That’s what he expects of me to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can, offering world-class health care and timely access to benefits for all veterans,” he stated.    “Be they veterans of color or LGBTQ+ veterans, our job is to get them all the service and the care that they’ve earned.”
    President Donald Trump’s administration banned those diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in combat and disallowed government funding for gender reassignment treatments and procedures. He did so after President Barack Obama permitted openly trans people to serve.
    Obama administration also allowed for the taxpayer funding of so-called gender affirming care and psychological treatment.    Joe Biden signed an executive order overturning President Trump’s ban as one of his first acts in the Oval Office.
    Biden went on to say, “Essentially, we’re restoring the situation we had before with transgender personnel who have qualified in every other way to serve their government in the united states military.”
    Now that the policy has gone full circle, McDonough says it needs public comment and approval before being reimplemented.
    “One, we have to do this pursuant to statute and two, we have to do it publicly, subject to public comment,” he expressed.
    “We’ll want to hear the public’s comment on this and obviously, we’ll address those concerns as those comments come.”
McDonough said the decision to begin the process of allowing transgender military service was a unanimous decision by the Veteran Affairs governing body.    He estimated the process would take about two years before the policy was fully implemented.

7/11/2021 Pope Reappears After Surgery, Backs Free Universal Health Care by Philip Pullella and Giulia Segreti
Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from a balcony of the Gemelli hospital, as he recovers following
scheduled surgery on his colon, in Rome, Italy, July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    ROME (Reuters) -Pope Francis, seeming in good overall condition, appeared in public on Sunday for the first time since undergoing intestinal surgery a week ago and made a plea for free universal healthcare.
    The 84-year-old pope, who had part of his colon removed in the surgery, stepped out on the balcony of his suite on the 10th floor of Rome’s Gemelli hospital to lead his weekly prayer before hundreds of cheering people below.
    He stood for about 10 minutes, reading from a prepared text but also adding many impromptu remarks.
    He appeared to be slightly short of breath at times and his voice was occasionally raspy.    He had part of one of his lungs removed when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
    Hundreds of people gathered in the open space below shouted “Viva il Papa!” (Long Live the Pope) and waved national flags.     Doctors and patients stood on other balconies to watch.
    “It was a great joy to see the pope again … his voice was a little shaky but the pope is always the pope and we wanted to be here,” said an Italian priest who identified himself as Father Massimiliano.
    In the mostly improvised part of his talk, Francis said good healthcare should be accessible to all and free.
    “In these days that I have been in hospital, I saw once more how important it is to have a good healthcare system that is accessible to all, as it exists in Italy and in other countries,” he said.
    “A health service that is free and guarantees good service accessible to all … This precious good should not be lost. It must be maintained and everyone should be committed to this. Because everyone needs it …,” he said.
    Healthcare is a major political issue in the United States, one of the few industrialised countries that does not have universal cover for its citizens.
    According to the World Health Organization, universal health coverage means that all have access to health services they need without financial hardship.
    Several children who are patients in the hospital appeared with the pope on the balcony.    “Why children have to suffer is (a question) that touches the heart,” he said.
    It was the first time since his election as pope in 2013 that Francis has not read the Sunday prayer and message from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, expect for when he was traveling.
    Francis criticised managers of Church-run hospitals whose first thought, he said, is to close when economic difficulty hits.
    “Your vocation as a Church is not to have money but to be of service, and service is always free,” he said in part of his unprepared remarks.
    Before closing with his traditional final remark of “Have a good lunch and goodbye until we see each other again,” Francis appealed for an end to “the spiral of violence” in Haiti, where President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on Wednesday.
    The Vatican did not issue a daily medical bulletin on Sunday.    On Saturday it said the pope was continuing a normal recovery, gradually resuming work, walking and eating with aides, and that his blood tests were satisfactory.
    Doctors had originally foreseen a seven-day stay in hospital for the pope, but there was no indication when he would be discharged.
(Additional reporting by Antonio DentiEditing by Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)

7/14/2021 No-Stress Scripture: Nigerian Christians Relish Pidgin Bible by Angela Ukomadu
A congregation member reads the Pidgin Bible during a church service at the
Heavenly Citizen's Church in Lagos, Nigeria June 27, 2021. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) – At the Heavenly Citizen’s Church in Lagos, the pastor and congregation have adopted a new tool to help them understand Christian scripture: the first Bible translated into Nigerian pidgin.
    Sometimes called pidgin English, the language is widely used and understood across regions and ethnic groups in the nation of 200 million people, although most books and newspapers on sale in Nigeria are in English.
    “Most people here, they are not properly schooled, you know, and so we do more pidgin English here,” said pastor Ben Akpevwe, who has been using the Pidgin Bible during services at his church in the down-at-heel Ejigbo neighbourhood in Lagos.
    “Each time I am reading it in church they are always very excited because it is like identifying with the language of the people.”
    The Pidgin Bible is the result of three years of solitary labour by amateur translator Salem Egoh.    He wanted to improve the understanding of the Bible in the fervently religious country, where English is the official language, but not the mother tongue for millions of people.
    He said the job had required creativity because many words found in English versions of the Bible had no exact equivalent in pidgin.
    “For example the word ‘chariot’ has no word in pidgin, we had to invent a word called ‘horse motor’ to represent chariot,” said Egoh, who included a glossary of 1,000 words at the end of his translation.
    So far, the Pidgin Bible consists of the New Testament, the Book of Psalms and the Book of Proverbs.    Egoh is working on a translation of the rest of the Old Testament, and hopes to release a complete Bible by the end of the year.
    Working his way through a passage from the Book of Chronicles, he typed: “David plus all di pipo of Israel march go Jerusalem (wey be Jebus).”    This was translated from: “And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus.”
    In the meantime, at the Heavenly Citizen’s Church, worshipper Elizabeth Eromosele is already making good use of the Pidgin Bible, which is on sale across Nigeria and has been adopted by a number of places of worship.
    “When it comes to English language you have to really crack your brain,” she said.
    “But when it comes to Pidgin Bible you will read it as if you are interacting, you are talking freely.    You are just reading it with comfort, you are not stressing yourself.”
(Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Alison Williams)

7/15/2021 Democrats Look To Legalize Marijuana At Federal Level by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during the annual NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally in support of the
legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use, on May 1, 2021 in New York City. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
    Senate Democrats have unveiled their proposal to lift the federal ban on marijuana. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his fellow Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) gave a press conference on Wednesday to introduce a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.
    According to a draft of the proposal, the bill aims to expunge federal convictions of nonviolent marijuana charges, remove weed from the Controlled Substances Act and move to set up a tax system in states where the drug is legal.
    “There is an urgency to this because there are people all over our country seeing their lives destroyed.    They’re hurt," said Booker.
    This comes as marijuana has been featured in the political spotlight following Joe Biden’s support for decriminalization amid several states legalizing the drug at least medically.    If the bill does pass, states will still be able to ultimately decide their own laws regarding marijuana.

7/15/2021 Dems Push For Removal Of Hyde Amendment In HHS Funding Bill by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) (R) talks to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) prior to a hearing before the
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies at
Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 14, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
    A major House subcommittee has pushed through a spending bill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services without including a decades-old bipartisan amendment that prevents federally funded abortions.    The Labor Health and Human Services Subcommittee approved the legislation on Monday, which would allow an unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars to be used for abortion procedures.
    Republican Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) voted against the bill saying Democrats are out of touch with what the American people want.
    He also drew attention to the fact that for years members of the House had agreed to include the provision and allow Americans to live by their conscience.    Cole pointed out Joe Biden was among those lawmakers at one time.
    Many critics have called attention to this flip-flopping by Biden, including his vice president.    Cole reiterated the bill is unlikely to pass through the Senate without the amendment in place.
    Even if all Democrats supported removing the ban, including Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) who has publicly supported Hyde, the left would not have the votes to overcome a filibuster.    Nevertheless, the bill is now headed to the full Appropriations Committee for a markup and an eventual vote where Republicans are likely to stand firm and secure the Hyde Amendment during negotiations.

7/16/2021 Hungary PM Calls EU Action On LGBT Rights ‘Legalised Hooliganism’ by Krisztina Than
FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of demonstrators are seen as they march around the Hungarian parliament to protest against Hungarian
Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s Prime Minister on Friday accused the European Commission of “legalised hooliganism” for an infringement action against measures by his government that the EU executive said discriminated against LGBT people.     Thursday’s action against Hungary related to a new law that bans schools from using materials deemed as promoting homosexuality or gender change, which Orban has described as a child-protection issue.
    Stepping up a war of words with Brussels, Orban told state radio on Friday: “This (EU infringement action) is legalised hooliganism… The European Commission’s stance is shameful.”
    He said the debate offered Hungarians a glimpse into “European life,” into what went on in schools in Germany, reiterating that Hungary would not let LGBT activists “march up and down” in schools promoting what he called sexual propaganda.
    Rights groups have rallied against the legislation, which Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has called a disgrace.
    The infringement action has also targeted Poland after some municipalities there declared themselves “LGBT-ideology free zones
    It marks the latest in a series of clashes between Brussels and some of the EU’s newer eastern European members over a range of core issues also including the rule of law, migration and press freedoms.
    Orban, a nationalist who has repeatedly crossed swords with Brussels since he took office in 2010, said EU authorities were trying to impose their will on Hungary over how children should be raised.
    The anti-LGBT campaign, which his government has stepped up over the past year, looks likely to feature prominently on his political platform ahead of a potentially tough national election next year.
    In the past two weeks, huge blue billboards have been erected nationwide bearing slogan such as: “Have you been annoyed with Brussels?” and “Are you afraid your children will face sexual propaganda?
    Orban on Friday also predicted another clash over EU recovery funds, which have been withheld by Brussels but which he said Hungary would eventually get.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; editing by John Stonestreet)

7/16/2021 La. Lawmakers To Hold First Veto Override Since 1974 by OAN Newsroom
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters at a briefing on the state’s efforts
against the coronavirus pandemic in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
    Louisiana lawmakers scheduled the first veto override session under the state’s Constitution enacted in 1974.    According to vote tallies released on Friday, only 12 of 39 senators and 35 of 104 House members voted to avoid sessions to overturn Gov. John bel Edwards (D-La.) recent vetoes.
    Edwards rejected two bills in particular that rallied legislators to support the session.    The first was a measure banning transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams of their preferred gender.    In addition, the Democrat governor tossed a bill allowing residents 21-years-old and older to carry handguns without a permit.
    The Constitutional Carry Bill garnered a lot of support in the predominantly pro-gun state.
    “I don’t think that any more criminals will carry than are currently carrying,” explained Dan Zelinka, President of the Louisiana Shooting Association.    “What it does allow is the law abiding citizen to carry and law abiding citizens have never been a problem.”
    Meanwhile, the state’s historic veto override session is expected to begin on Tuesday and last up to five days.

7/17/2021 Pope reverses Benedict, restores restrictions on Latin Mass
    ROME – Pope Francis cracked down Friday on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who decried it as an attack on them.    Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict relaxed in 2007, and went further to limit its use.    The pontiff said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council.

7/18/2021 Learn To Switch Off, Says Pope In First Appearance At Vatican After Hospital Stay
Pope Francis leads Angelus prayer from his window at the Vatican following intestinal
surgery, at the Vatican, July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis made his first public appearance since returning to the Vatican mid-week after an 11-day hospital stay, telling wellwishers they should take a break and switch off from the stresses of modern life.
    “Let us put a halt to the frantic running around dictated by our agendas.    Let us learn how to take a break, to turn off the mobile phone,” Pope Francis said in his weekly address from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
    The 84-year-old pope had part of his colon removed in an operation on July 4 — the first time that Francis has faced a significant health concern during his eight-year papacy.
    He returned to the Vatican on Wednesday, where he needed help from assistants to get out of his car.    He looked well on Sunday, speaking in a relatively clear voice although not as strong as before his hospitalisation. He did not mention his stay in hospital.
    Hundreds of people were gathered in the sunny square and cheered when he appeared at the open window.
    As is often the case, at the end of his address the pope mentioned some of the events dominating world headlines.
    He urged an end to the recent public unrest in South Africa and called for peace and dialogue in Cuba after unprecedented, protests rocked the Communist-run country.
    “I am also close to the dear people of Cuba in these difficult times, in particular to the families who especially suffer,” Francis said to cheers.
    He also referred to catastrophic floods in recent days in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, which have killed more than 180 people.
(Reporting by Crispian BalmerEditing by Frances Kerry)

7/18/2021 Pope Francis Calls For Peace, Dialogue In Cuba
Pope Francis waves as he leaves after leading Angelus prayer from his window at the
Vatican following intestinal surgery, at the Vatican, July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis called on Sunday for peace and dialogue in Cuba after unprecedented, nationwide protests rocked the communist-run country.
    “I am also close to the dear people of Cuba in these difficult times,” Francis said in his weekly address to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, his first public appearance since returning to the Vatican after an 11-day hospital stay.
    The pope also urged an end to the recent violence in South Africa and called the deadly floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands a “catastrophe.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

7/19/2021 Vatican Criminal Trial To Shed Light On Failed Carige Bank Takeover by Giselda Vagnoni
FILE PHOTO: People walk in St. Peter's Square ahead of Pope Francis' weekly
general audience, June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) – The thwarted takeover of a troubled Italian bank in 2018 will come into focus in a forthcoming Vatican trial that is tied to Pope Francis’s efforts to clean up Holy See finances after decades of scandals.
    Weakened by mismanagement and bad loans, Carige bank was placed under special administration by the European Central Bank in early 2019 after a failed attempt led by one of its main shareholders, Raffaele Mincione, to take control.
    Vatican prosecutors allege that Mincione bought a stake in Carige with embezzled money including funds raised from faithful Catholics and intended for the needy.
    They have indicted him and another nine people including a prominent Cardinal Angelo Becciu over a multi-million-euro scandal that also involves the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.
    The trial is due to begin on July 27. The defendants are all free pending the opening of the case.
    Mincione, who lives in London, has consistently denied wrongdoing. His Italian lawyer Luigi Giuliano declined to comment, saying “he wants to prepare the defence arguments in the utmost confidentiality” ahead of the trial.
    The former Carige shareholder resigned from the lender’s board in September 2018.    Two months later, Mincione sold the London property to the     Vatican in a deal negotiated by another Italian middleman, Gianluigi Torzi, who also faces trial.
    Torzi has denied any wrongdoing, as has Becciu.
    Prosecutors believe the Vatican paid over 350 million euros ($410 million) for the building, including debt, which had been acquired by Mincione for 129 million pounds ($177.66 million) just a few years before.
    As evidence of alleged criminal intent, prosecutors say Mincione used part of 40 million pounds of Vatican money to repay a loan from Torzi for the failed bid to take control of Carige’s board.
    “Until now, the sources available for public consultation have never hinted that Mincione had financed the takeover of Carige with funds from the (Catholic Church),” prosecutors said in their 487-page charge sheet released earlier this month.
    The two brokers are accused of embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi is also charged with extortion.
    Both men have said the sale of the London building was unconnected to the loan for Carige.
    Torzi’s lawyer Ambra Giovene told Reuters prosecutors had yet to prove that part of the 40-million-pound loan was transferred by Mincione to her client, and stressed there was no link between the two deals.
Carige declined to comment.
($1 = 0.7261 pounds)
(Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Mark Heinrich)

7/21/2021 State’s challenge Biden’s push for LGBTQ rights by Jarrell Dillard Bloomberg News TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
    A drive by Texas lawmakers to restrict transgender participation in sports is the latest signal of pushback in Republican-led states as President Joe Biden champions expanded LGBTQ rights.
    While the two Texas bills are stuck because of a walkout by the state’s House Democrats, they’re part of a growing trend of more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 33 states this year.    Of those, 25 were signed into law, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the most in a year since the group began tracking the figures in 2015.
    In Texas, the number of bills introduced to limit transgender rights has more than doubled to almost 50 this year, including 17 proposals offered during a 30-day special session that ended last week, all dealing with transgender people competing in sports, according to Equality Texas, an advocacy group.
    'This constitutes a national emergency,' said Ricardo Martinez, the group’s chief executive officer.    'And we don’t have to wait for these bills to be passed for them to cause harm.'
    Biden has issued executive orders to advance the LGBTQ rights.    He lifted the ban on transgender service in the U.S. military and the State Department has ended requirements for medical certification for passports if a person’s self-selected gender doesn’t match the gender on their identity documents.
    The Democratic-led U.S. House in February passed the Equality Act, which would amend federal civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to extend protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity in the workforce, public places and government programs.    The measure is stalled in the 50-50 Senate, where many Republicans argue it infringes on religious freedom.
    The risk is a patchwork of rules so anyone moving across state lines will 'literally have your legal rights change multiple times,' said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign.    'These issues certainly should be resolved at the federal level.'
    That prospect is clouded by Senate rules that require at least 60 votes to advance most legislation.    Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat who’s the author of the Senate version of the Equality Act, has been lobbying Republicans to support the legislation, but there’s no sign of imminent action.
    Merkey said in an email that he’s 'hopeful that we will continue to build on the Equality Act’s momentum, by getting this bill across the finish line in the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.'
    School sports have become the latest battleground on LGBTQ rights.    This week’s special session of the Texas legislature called by Governor Greg Abbott brought state Senate approval of two measures (SB 2 and SB 32) that would require transgender student athletes to compete on sports teams based on their gender assigned at birth.
    Texas Senator Charles Perry, who wrote both bills, argued that the differences in body mass and makeup between men and women would make competition unfair.
    'It is not OK to destroy the dreams of one for the benefit of another,' he said.
In Texas, the number of bills introduced to limit transgender rights has more
than doubled to almost 50 this year. Tom Fox/TNS

7/21/2021 Mexico’s Veracruz State Votes To Allow Abortion, Joining Three Other Regions by Daina Beth Solomon
FILE PHOTO: Women hold green handkerchiefs during a protest in support of legal and
safe abortion in Mexico City, Mexico, February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s southeastern state of Veracruz will become the fourth state in the predominantly Roman Catholic country to clear away criminal penalties for elective abortion after lawmakers on Tuesday voted to decriminalize the procedure.
    The initiative to allow abortions by choice passed in a 25-13 vote with one abstention, Veracruz’s Congress said in a statement.
    The state will join Mexico City, Oaxaca and Hidalgo, which decriminalized abortion just late last month, as places where women can now choose to have abortions within 12 weeks of pregnancy.
    “We thought this day was so far off that we’re in shock, in the best way possible,” said a tweet from Brujas del Mar, a Veracruz feminist group, while noting that most of Mexico’s states have yet to follow suit.
    “Let’s go after the 28 (states) that are left.”
    Veracruz is one of just three states in Mexico that does not mandate jail time for women who have unauthorized abortions, according to data from advocacy group GIRE, in a region where traditional anti-abortion attitudes have only recently started to shift.
    Even as Argentina legalized the procedure in December, several of more than 20 Latin American nations still ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison.
    Veracruz became a focal point in Mexico’s abortion debate last year when the Supreme Court ruled against a proposal to decriminalize abortion in the state, a move condemned by women’s rights activists.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Drazen Jorgic and Richard Pullin)

7/22/2021 Hungary To Hold Referendum On Child Protection Issues By Early 2022 - PM Aide
FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2021. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary expects to hold a government-initiated referendum on legislation that limits schools’ teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues late this year or early next year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.     Orban announced the planned referendum on Wednesday, stepping up a culture war with the European Union.
    The European Commission last week began legal action over the measures, which have been included in amendments to education and child protection laws.    If successful, Brussels could hold up funding for Hungary while the restrictions are maintained.
    “For Hungary, there are many more arguments in favour of European Union membership than against it.    Joining the EU was the right decision, it was in our national interest and it remains to be the case,” Gergely Gulyas, Orban’s chief of staff, told a weekly news briefing.
    But he said Hungary believed it had the right to comment on what he called “the rules of the club” and make decisions on its own in issues where it did not hand over authority to EU institutions.
    Gulyas said Hungary was still in talks with the European Commission, the EU executive, on its national recovery plan and was seeking an agreement.    But he added that the government would start pre-financing projects from the national budget.
    The European Commission listed serious concerns about the rule of law in Poland and Hungary in a report on Tuesday that could help decide whether they receive billions of euros in EU funds to help recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage)

7/22/2021 Venezuela’s Maduro Calls Vatican Letter A ‘Compendium Of Hatred’
    CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday called a letter sent by the Vatican’s foreign minister to local businesses, which urged Caracas politicians to take seriously negotiations to resolve the country’s crisis, a “compendium of hatred.”
    The letter from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was read aloud by a Catholic Church representative on Tuesday evening at the annual assembly of Fedecamaras, the largest business federation in the heavily Roman Catholic South American country.
    A top government official attended that meeting for the first time in years in a sign of easing tensions between business leaders and the socialist government, as Maduro opens the economy in an effort to end a years-long recession in the once-prosperous OPEC nation.
    “When everyone is talking about producing and overcoming the economic crisis, an unknown priest…read a letter from Pietro Parolin, a letter that was a compendium of hatred, of venom,” Maduro said in a state television appearance on Wednesday, accusing Parolin of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.
    The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Maduro’s comments came as Venezuela’s government and opposition – which labels Maduro a dictator who rigged his 2018 election and has largely boycotted the past two elections – prepare for negotiations to attempt to establish mutually agreeable electoral conditions.
    Parolin’s letter said that a solution to Venezuela’s crisis would only come “if Venezuelans, and especially those who have some political responsibility, are willing to sit down and negotiate in a serious way about concrete problems and find solutions to Venezuelans’ true needs.”
    Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras last month said the Church was willing to facilitate dialogue between the two sides.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Leslie Adler)

7/22/2021 GOP Bill Halts Funding To Universities Providing Chemical Abortions by OAN Newsroom
File – Reps. Mary Miller (R-IL), left, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) are pictured.
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
    Republican lawmakers recently took aim at universities while introducing new legislation that targets abortion practices.    Congressional Republicans introduced the Protecting Life on College Campus Act of 2021 on Wednesday, which would bar federal funds from going to universities that provide abortions or abortion pills to its students or faculty members.
    The bill comes in response to a California law that will require health centers at state colleges to provide abortion pills by 2023.    The proposed legislation not only applies to the 34 schools in the University of California and the California State University systems, but serves as a deterrent from other blue states who may try to implement similar policies in the near future.
    Illinois Rep. Mary Miller (R), who sponsored of the bill, said it’s time to protect women and increase access to alternative options.
    “Lives of the unborn and the safety of our girls, and I have to say that I’m very concerned about the situation our country is in,” she stated.    “Before God, may we acknowledge the truth about what we have done, about what we have been involved in, what we are promoting now, what we are forcing Americans to pay for.”
    Rep. Miller argued the pills are not only immoral, but also dangerous to the uninformed women taking them.    She noted, they have killed 24 women and have injured thousands more.    In fact, a recent study found that 7 percent of those who underwent a chemical abortion required follow-up surgery.    Yet, in recent months abortion activists have been fighting the FDA’s safety standards that require women to meet with a doctor in-person before receiving abortion pills.
    According to Rep. Miller, “the abortion industry exploits young women.”    She said Republicans are committed to protecting women and the unborn despite Democrat attempts to make abortions self managed as well as unrestricted.

7/23/2021 Pope To Skip Sunday Mass But Will Make Regular Noon Address – Vatican
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from a balcony of the Gemelli hospital, as he recovers following
scheduled surgery on his colon, in Rome, Italy, July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis will skip a Mass on Sunday that he had been scheduled to say before his recent surgery, but the Vatican said there was no cause for alarm and that it was part of normal convalescence.
    The Vatican said the pope will go ahead with his Sunday noon prayer but that a Mass for the Catholic Church day to pay homage to the elderly and grandparents will be said instead by Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
    Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said it was part of “normal convalescence.”    Saying the Mass, which had been scheduled months ago, would have meant wearing vestments and alternating between walking, sitting and standing for about two hours.
    The 84-year-old pope underwent surgery to remove part of his colon on July 4 and spent 11 days in hospital. He has been mostly resting since returning to the Vatican.
    A papal trip to the Hungarian capital Budapest and Slovakia next month is still scheduled to take place, the Vatican said on Wednesday as it released a gruelling four-day schedule.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Louise Heavens)

7/24/2021 Thousands Join Budapest Pride March Against Anti-LGBTQ Law by Gergely Szakacs
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the
latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Thousands of Hungarians joined the annual Budapest Pride march on Saturday to support LGBTQ people and protest against a law that limits teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues in schools.
    Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power since 2010, has introduced social policies that he says aim to safeguard traditional Christian values from Western liberalism, stoking tensions with the European Union.
    The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban’s government over the new law, which came into force this month, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
    Demonstrators at the march through the streets of central Budapest said the legislation was dividing the former Soviet-bloc nation and now a member of the European Union.
    “The law is an outrage. We live in the 21st century, when things like that should not be happening.    We are no longer in communist times, this is the EU and everyone should be able to live freely,” Istvan, 27, said at the march with his boyfriend.
    Orban’s Fidesz-Christian Democrat government, which faces a tough election next year, says LGBTQ rights and other such social issues are matters for national governments to decide.    It says the law aims to protect children not target homosexuals.
    Organisers said in a statement the rally would show opposition to “power-hungry politicians” and reject intimidation of LGBTQ people.
    “Instead of protecting minorities, the Fidesz-Christian Democrat government is using laws to make members of the LGBTQ community outcasts in their own country,” they said.
    Orban owes some of his electoral success to a tough line on immigration.    As that issue has receded from the political agenda, his focus has shifted to gender and sexuality issues.
    Boglarka Balazs, a 25-year-old economist who joined the rally, said the legislation was a campaign tool.    “This is nothing more than a diversion that tries to tear the country apart.    It is a provocation because of the elections,” she said.
    A survey last month by the Ipsos polling organisation found that 46% of Hungarians supported same-sex marriage.
    More than 40 embassies and foreign cultural institutions in Hungary issued a statement backing the Budapest Pride Festival.
    “We encourage steps in every country to ensure the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” wrote the signatories, including the U.S., British and German embassies.
    Balint Berta, 29, who works at a clothing retailer, said the legislation was creating artificial tensions in society.    “The more politics incites this, society will turn around and people will turn against one another after a while,” he said.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Gareth Jones and Edmund Blair)

7/24/2021 Religious Leaders Call Out Facebook For New ‘Prayer’ Feature by OAN Newsroom
A picture shows logos of U.S. online social media and social networking service Facebook. (LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
    Social media giant Facebook has received massive backlash from religious communities after launching its newest feature of a prayer button.    On Friday, several members of various faith communities spoke against the new “prayer” feature by calling it a sick attempt at monetizing religion.
    Catholic writer Simcha Fisher went on to express, “the button was adding a layer of impersonality and a layer of artificiality, which just felt very foreign to what we were doing when we pray for each other.”
    The social media giant slowly began to roll out the feature back in May, which allows users to click and respond to prayer requests.    Experts have warned the use of the new feature gave Big Tech access to sensitive user data and added it was ultimately about revenue for the social media company.
    “You are in one way or another providing more information to an organization that thrives on finding ways to monetize your information,” cybersecurity expert Adam Levin stated.    “You’re essentially a product, but now you are a religious product as opposed to just a secular product.”
    Those in the religious community have expressed the new feature made them feel exploited by Facebook.
    “You have to assume that they’re trying to exploit you in some way or the other, so I don’t know any reason why this would be an exception and because it’s about our spiritual life it seemed especially gross.”
    They also questioned what the social media giant hoped to gain from the new feature and what data would be gathered from it.
    “Drilling down to the level of collecting information about the kind of things that people actually ask prayer for or if they’re just collecting the kind of people who would be likely to be asking prayer and then targeting them for ads about spiritual things,” Fisher explained.    “You just always have to assume it’s about money in one way or another.”
    According to Facebook, faith groups are seen as a vital community in order to boost engagement on the social media platform.

7/24/2021 Vatican Reveals Property Holdings For First Time In Transparency Drive by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the 60 Sloane Avenue in London, Britain, April 13, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley
    (Reuters) – The Vatican released information on its real estate holdings for the first time on Saturday, revealing it owns more than 5,000 properties as part of its most detailed financial disclosures ever.
    The information was contained in two documents, a consolidated financial statement for 2020 for the Holy See and the first-ever public budget for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA).
    APSA, a sort of general accounting office, manages real estate and investments, pays salaries, and acts as a purchasing office and human resources department.
    Between the two documents – each with an unprecedented number of pie charts, graphs and maps – and two explanatory interviews, the Vatican issued more than 50 pages of financial material.
    The 30-page APSA budget showed that it owns 4,051 properties in Italy and about 1,120 abroad, not including its embassies around the world.
    Only about 14% of its Italian properties were rented at market rates, while the others were rented at cut rates, many to Church employees.    About 40% were institutional buildings such as schools, convents and hospitals.
    The documentation showed that APSA owns properties as investments in upscale areas of London, Geneva, Lausanne and Paris.
    One building, in London’s smart South Kensington district, led to enormous losses after it was purchased by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State as an investment in 2014.
    On Tuesday, the trial of 10 people in connection with its purchase, including a prominent cardinal, starts in the Vatican.    They are charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.
    Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy (SPE), told the official Vatican News website that the building would be sold soon.
    He said the trial would be a “turning point” in the Vatican’s credibility in economic matters and that a similar event could not be repeated because of measures put into place since.
    Last year, Pope Francis stripped the Secretariat of State of control over its funds, transferring them to APSA and with oversight by the SPE.
    A separate consolidated financial statement for the Holy See issued on Saturday showed a 64.8 million euro deficit in 2020, down from a 79.2 million deficit in 2019.
    The Holy See budget includes the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Curia, that oversees the governing of the 1.3 billion-member worldwide Church, its global diplomatic representations and media operations.
    Vatican City, including the Vatican Museums and the Vatican bank, has a separate budget.
    To plug the 2020 deficit, about 50 million euros were taken from Peter’s Pence, a fund of donations to help the pope carry out the Church’s worldwide work.
    The COVID-19 pandemic hit Vatican revenues hard in 2020.
    St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the latter a cash cow that received about 6 million paying visitors in 2019, were closed or only partially open for much of 2020.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)

7/24/2021 Archbishop Says Nancy Pelosi Isn’t ‘Devout’ Catholic Because She Supports Taxpayer-Funded Abortion by OAN Newsroom
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) archbishop has criticized her for invoking Catholicism while simultaneously advocating for taxpayer-funded abortions.    Despite claiming to be a devout Catholic, Pelosi has said taxpayer-funded abortions are a “priority.”
    Pelosi’s statement came as she defended House Democrats’ current effort to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund most abortions.    In response Thursday, the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, rebuked Pelosi, saying “no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it.”
    He added that the right to life is fundamental and Catholics do not oppose fundamental human rights.        The archbishop has consistently condemned Pelosi’s position on abortion.    “She is misguiding so many Catholics who think that because she is a permanent leader and important person in our country, and Catholic that people think it’s acceptable to favor abortion.    And that’s simply not true,” said the archbishop.
    Archbishop Cordileone said that objecting to abortion is not exclusive to church teaching, and that it transcends it as the natural law of man.    However, the Democrat views abortion differently than the teachings of her supposed Catholic faith.
    “Because it’s an issue of health for many woman in America, especially those in low income situations and in different states.    It’s something that has been a priority for us for a long time,” said the House speaker.    The archbishop commented on Pelosi’s use of the smokescreen of abortion as an issue of health and fairness to poor women, calling it the epitome of hypocrisy.
    He posed the question, “what about the health of the baby being killed?    What about giving poor women real choice so they are supported in choosing life?
    The archbishop concluded by saying, “it is people of faith who run pro-life crisis pregnancy clinics.    They are the only ones who provide poor women life-giving alternatives.”    He added these are the ones worthy to call themselves “devout Catholics.”

7/25/2021 House Dems Unify On Taxpayer Funded Abortions by OAN Newsroom
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) speaks during a news conference about the Paycheck Fairness Act
on Capitol Hill on April 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    Funding abortion has appeared to be a central debate in the Democrat Party.    House Democrats on Congressional subcommittees recently took the unprecedented step of removing the Hyde and Helms Amendments from federal law by not including them in approved spending measures.
    The Hyde Amendment prevents U.S. tax money from funding abortions through Medicaid.    Additionally, Helms prevents tax dollars from funding abortions in foreign countries.
    According to a recent Marist poll, most Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion both in the U.S. and abroad.    However, Democrats and pro-choice activists have remained unfazed in their plans for the future of abortion in America.
    House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) claimed it was against American national values to not allow taxpayer funded abortions.    “Quite frankly, allowing Hyde Amendment to remain on the books is a disservice not only to our constituents, but also to the values we espouse as a nation,” said DeLauro.    “We are finally doing what is right for our mothers, our families, our communities by striking this discriminatory amendment once and for all.”
    Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) is trying to repeal Helms for much of the same reasons.    She said she believes that U.S. tax dollars not being allowed to fund abortions in foreign nations is killing women all across the globe.    “It would save literally thousands of lives of women who die because of the presence of the health amendment…Helms Amendment and unsafe abortion.”
    The arguments to repeal the amendments come as House Democrats seek to take advantage of the current political moment.    Joe Biden used to be a decades-long stalwart supporter of both Hyde and Helms.    However, when running for president in 2020 he flipped his stance.
    He fell in line with the leadership in the Democrat Party because of what he called increased attacks on abortion.    While Democrats currently control the House and Oval Office, passing the repeals through the tied Senate could prove near impossible.
    Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) recently sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee leaders urging Hyde be reinstated in the spending bill when it is presented to the Senate floor.    In a potential omen for Democrat chances of repealing the amendments, Wicker was joined by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in support of the measures.
    They stated the Hyde Amendment is a decades-long consensus building compromise, and warned repealing it would eliminate over 40 years’ worth of bipartisan precedent.

7/25/2021 U.S., Canada Facing Surging Threats To Churches by OAN Newsroom
A Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigator (R) and others work at the San Gabriel Mission
after a fire early on July 11, 2020, in San Gabriel, Calif. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
    Churches in America and Canada have recently fallen victim to mounting threats of vandalism and arson.    In Canada, churches are being targeted by activists seeking revenge for Indigenous students.
    “We’re concerned by the frequency and the number of incidents,” said Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department.    “We’re concerned that as these incidents occur they could embolden other people, that the crimes could escalate and it could put people in danger.”
    Last year, as George Floyd protesters tore down historic statues, American churches were burned down and vandalized in the process. Additionally, California, Florida, Missouri, Massachusetts and New York reportedly saw statues vandalized and churches set on fire.    St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., which is also known as the “President’s Church” was also vandalized after protests near the White House took a dark turn.
    Recent pictures showed Antifa yet again vandalizing a church in Portland. Now it seems Canada has joined the trend.    A Coptic Orthodox Church in Western Canada was burned down, adding to a string of 45 churches attacked in the country within recent weeks.
    Police said they are still searching for suspects and have labeled the attacks as “suspicious.”    However, politicians believe churches are being targeted for the recent discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at schools run by the Roman Catholic Church.    Although according to officials, in most cases they don’t have evidence to confirm the fires are linked to the graves.
    Politicians, Indigenous leaders and law enforcement have all condemned the fires.    “I can understand the frustration, the anger, the hurt and the pain no question, but to burn things down is not our way,” said former chief of Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde.
    Fires have destroyed four Roman Catholic churches after 215 unmarked graves were discovered near a former boarding school for Indigenous children in British Columbia.    In addition, a few weeks later, 751 unmarked graves were found near a former Indian residential school.
    Canada’s prime minister responded to the findings as a sad discovery that brings awareness to the pain of the past, but condemned attacks on churches.
    In June, many churches were damaged in Alberta’s largest city of Calgary.    One of the churches completely destroyed by flames was St. Johns in Surrey.    Many immigrants known to flee persecution in other countries are said to have attended this church.
    Coptic Orthodox Churches began migrating to America in the late 1940s and the first one known in Canada was opened in 1965.    Further, the Indian residential schools are thought to have started in the 1800s.
    Two Anglican Churches on Indigenous territory were also damaged by fires.    Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, recently called this time as “the most persecuted era of Christianity in the history of mankind.”    He added many Christians face significant persecution for their faith all across the world.
    According to Open Doors USA’s world watch list, over 340 million Christians worldwide face high levels of persecution.    Another United Kingdom government report found that Christians were the most persecuted religious group, stating 80 percent of the oppressed are Christian.

7/26/2021 Landmark Vatican Fraud Trial Of 10 Including A Cardinal Set To Start by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the 60 Sloane Avenue in London, Britain, April 13, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A landmark fraud trial of 10 people including a cardinal begins in the Vatican on Tuesday in what officials hope will be a turning point in its financial credibility and show that no-one is above the law.
    The headliner at the trial is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 73, formerly a senior official in the Vatican administration, who becomes the most senior Vatican official to be tried for financial crimes.
    Pope Francis, who lifted Becciu’s immunity so he could be indicted, fired him from his last Vatican post in 2020 for alleged nepotism.    Becciu has always maintained his innocence.
    Another formerly prominent defendant at the trial, which mostly revolves around the purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts, is Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, once head of Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit.    He denies all wrongdoing.
    The key outsiders are two Italian investment brokers, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, both of whom have denied wrongdoing.
    Hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to deal with preliminary matters and then the trial is expected to be adjourned until October, when two hearings a week will be held.
    It is taking place in a makeshift courtroom in the Vatican Museums because Covid restrictions and the number of defendants, lawyers and journalists make the Vatican’s normal courtroom too small.
    “I think this trial marks a turning point that can bring about greater credibility of the Holy See in financial areas,” said Father Juan Antonio Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy (SPE).
    “The fact that this trial is taking place at all means that internal controls worked.    The accusations came from inside the Vatican,” he told the official Vatican News website.
    In 2014, the Secretariat of State invested more than 200 million euros, much of it from contributions from the faithful, in a fund run by Mincione, securing about 45% of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s SouthKensington district.
    The indictment handed down on July 3 said Mincione had tried to deceive the Vatican, which in 2018 tried to end the relationship.
    It turned to Torzi for help in buying up the rest of the building, but later accused him of extortion.
    At the time, Becciu was in the last year of his post as deputy secretary of state for general affairs, a powerful administrative position that handles hundreds of millions of euros.
    All told, the Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses.”
    Becciu is charged with five counts of embezzlement, two of abuse of office, and one count of inducing a witness to perjury.    He is also charged with allegedly funnelling of money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.
    Another Sardinian, Cecilia Marogna, 40, a woman who worked for Becciu, was charged with embezzlement.    She has denied wrongdoing.
    One possible early hiccup is the fact that Torzi, who lives in London, is the subject of an extradition request by Italian magistrates who want to try him for other alleged financial crimes, including fraudulent billing and tax fraud, not related to the London property.
    His lawyer, Ambra Giovene, told Reuters he cannot leave London before the Italian extradition hearing and so for the time being he has what she intends to tell the Vatican court a legitimate impediment from the trial.
    Last year, the pope stripped the Secretariat of State of control over its funds and transferred them to another Vatican department, with additional oversight by the SPE.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

7/27/2021 Accused Cardinal In Court As Vatican Fraud Trial Opens And Is Adjourned by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been caught up in a real estate scandal, pauses as
he speaks to the media a day after he resigned suddenly and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave
to elect a pope, near the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Cardinal Angelo Becciu said on Tuesday he wanted to comply with the wishes of Pope Francis as he attended the opening of a trial in which he stands accused along with nine others of financial crimes.
    The once powerful cardinal, who previously had free rein over all Vatican buildings, passed through a metal detector like all the others on entering the makeshift Vatican courtroom, his eyes sometimes downcast.
    He then sat quietly through a hearing that lasted nearly eight hours before the trial was adjourned until Oct. 5.
    “The pope wanted me to go on trial.    I am obedient.    I am here,” Becciu, wearing a black “clergyman” suit with a priest collar, told reporters before leaving the room.
    Becciu, 73, and his former secretary, Monsignor Mauro Carlino, were the only two defendants to attend Tuesday’s hearing.    Both men have denied all wrongdoing.    The others on trial exercised their right to be defended in absentia.
    The trial mostly revolves around the purchase by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.
    The prosecution has accused Becciu and other former Vatican officials or employees involved in the deal of embezzlement and abuse of office, among other charges.
    He is also charged with funnelling money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.    He denies that charge too.
    The trial is taking place in a modern room in the Vatican Museums because the city state’s standard tribunal is too small due to COVID-19 restrictions.
    A crucifix hung on the wall behind the dais where the three-judge panel sat.    Nearby hung a large photograph of Pope Francis, the sovereign monarch of Vatican City.
    Among the eight who did not attend were Italian investment brokers Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, both charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi is also charged with extortion.    Both deny any wrongdoing.
    During a day dedicated mostly to procedural matters, defence lawyers asked for a long adjournment because they still had not seen all the evidence from indictments issued on July 3.
    Torzi’s lawyer, Ambra Giovene, said her client, who lives in London, is contesting an Italian extradition request for non-related alleged financial crimes and had a legitimate impediment.
    Mincione’s lawyers said they wanted guarantees that if he attends the trial he will not be put behind bars in the Vatican, as Torzi was for 10 days in 2020.
    The saga began in 2014, when the Secretariat of State invested more than 200 million euros, much of it from contributions from the faithful, in a fund run by Mincione, securing about 45% of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington district.
    Mincione is accused of deceiving the Vatican, which in 2018 tried to end the relationship with him.
    It turned to Torzi for help in buying up the rest of the building, but later accused him of extortion.
    At the time, Becciu was in the last year of his post as deputy secretary of state, a position that handles hundreds of millions of euros.
    All told, the Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses
    Francis, who stripped Becciu of his immunity, fired him from his last Vatican post in 2020 for alleged nepotism.
    Becciu’s lawyers said testimony against him by another Vatican official, Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, should not be admitted because Perlasca was interrogated without legal representation. The prosecution said Perlasca came to them spontaneously.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

7/30/2021 Hungarian Election Panel Clears Questions Of LGBT Referendum by Gergely Szakacs and Anita Komuves
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and
the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus/File Photo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s National Election Committee (NEC) approved on Friday the government’s list of questions on LGBT issues it wants to put on a referendum as part of what Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called an “ideological war” with the European Union.
    Orban, a nationalist who has been in power since 2010, proposed a referendum on ruling party legislation that limits schools’ teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues, stepping up a culture war with the EU.
    An NEC spokesman confirmed that the panel had approved the government’s questions.
    Facing a tough election next year, Orban has increasingly sought to promote social policies that he says safeguard traditional Christian values against Western liberalism.
    The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban’s government over the new law, which came into force this month, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
    Orban aims to hold the referendum by early 2022 before a parliamentary election, where six opposition parties will unite against him for the first time.
    Another set of referendum questions on key government policies submitted by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, who is vying with other opposition candidates to become Orban’s challenger next year, was not on the NEC’s Friday agenda.
    Hungarians will be asked whether they support the holding of sexual orientation workshops in schools without parents’ consent, and whether they believe gender reassignment procedures should be promoted among children.
    They will also be asked whether content that could affect sexual orientation should be shown to children without any restrictions, and whether gender reassignment procedures should be made available to children.
    The amendments, which have caused anxiety in the LGBT community, ban the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change at schools, ostensibly as a measure to prevent child abuse.
    Several civil rights groups have criticised Orban’s reforms and a global survey last month by the Ipsos polling organisation found that 46% of Hungarians support same-sex marriage.
    Orban owes some of his electoral success to a tough line on immigration.    As that issue has receded from the political agenda, his focus has shifted to gender and sexuality issues.
    A June survey by the think tank Zavecz Research put public support for Orban’s ruling Fidesz party at 37% of all voters, while the joint opposition party list had 39% support.    Another June poll by Median put support for Fidesz at 39% compared with 33% for the opposition parties.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs and Anita Komuves; Editing by Edmund Blair)

7/30/2021 New Zealand Introduces Bill To Outlaw LGBT Conversion Therapy by Praveen Menon
FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian walks past the New Zealand parliament building known as the Beehive in
central Wellington, New Zealand, July 3, 2017. Picture taken July 3, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand introduced on Friday legislation that proposes up to five years in prison for practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, known as LGBT conversion therapy.
    The proposed measures were aimed at ending such practices, which do not work, are widely discredited, and cause harm, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement.
    “Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.    They are based on the false belief that any person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is broken and in need of fixing,” Faafoi said.
    “Health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates here and overseas have spoken out against these practices as harmful and having the potential to perpetuate prejudice, discrimination and abuse towards members of rainbow communities,” he added.
    Under the newly proposed bill, anyone performing conversion practices on person younger than 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity, would be subject to up to 3 years imprisonment.
    Conversion practices that cause serious harm would carry a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.
    The government said that the bill does not address general expression of religious beliefs or principles about sexuality and gender.
    Laws against conversion therapy have been gaining momentum around the world, including in countries such as Canada, Britain and Australia.
    The United States does not have a federal ban on conversion therapy, but several U.S. states, including California, Colorado, New York, Washington and Utah, prohibit the practice to some degree.    The American Medical Association has condemned the practice as “harmful and ineffective
    Aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, conversion therapy can include talk therapy, hypnosis, electric shocks and fasting.    In extreme cases, exorcism and “corrective rape” for lesbians, have been documented.
    Ending conversion therapy was one New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s campaign promises when she was elected for a second term last year.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

7/30/2021 Ex-Cardinal McCarrick charged with sexual assault by Abbott Koloff, USA TODAY NETWORKbr.     Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was charged with the sexual assault of a teenage boy, the first criminal charge to be brought against the prelate since he was accused years ago of abusing seminary students.    He is the highest-ranking church official to face such charges.
    Online court records show McCarrick was charged Wednesday with indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older.
    The Boston Globe reported that the criminal charges are related to an allegation that McCarrick abused a 16year-old boy at a wedding at Wellesley College in the 1970s.
    Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations was suspended when McCarrick left the state.
    He was working as a priest in the New York Archdiocese at the time.
    McCarrick, 91, was among the most powerful officials in the Catholic Church for decades until he was removed from ministry in 2018 when the church deemed an allegation of child sexual abuse against him to be credible.    He was defrocked a year later amid accusations that he abused children and adult seminary students.
    He was sued by several men in New York and New Jersey who said he abused them as children, but for the most part, the statute of limitations has barred authorities from pursuing criminal charges.
    Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who represents the accuser, said he could not discuss the case. He said he has not brought a civil suit.
    He noted in a statement that this is the first time that a cardinal has been criminally charged with abusing a minor in the USA, and “it takes an enormous amount of courage for a sexual abuse victim to report having been sexually abused to investigators and proceed through the criminal process.”
    McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, issued a brief statement in response to the charges, saying “we will look forward to addressing this case in the courtroom.”
    McCarrick had been the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, in the 1980s and the archbishop of Newark from 1987 to 2000, when he was promoted to be head of the Washington Archdiocese – even as Pope John Paul II looked into allegations that McCarrick had abused adult seminary students at a New Jersey shore home for many years.
    A Vatican report issued last year said several New Jersey bishops lied in letters to the pope about what they knew about sex abuse allegations against McCarrick, helping pave the way for his promotion to be approved.
    McCarrick is accused of abusing children in several pending lawsuits that were filed in New Jersey under a law that suspended the civil statute of limitations on sex abuse complaints for two years, starting Dec. 1, 2019.
    The Boston Globe reported that court records show McCarrick lives in Dittmer, Missouri, at a home where clerics who have committed sexual abuse and other troubled priests have been sent.
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is the highest-ranking church official
to face criminal charges of abusing a teenager. GETTY IMAGES

8/1/2021 Biden Names First Muslim Religious Freedom Ambassador by OAN Newsroom
Rashad Hussain, file photo. (AMER HILABI/AFP via Getty Images)
    Joe Biden has nominated Rashad Hussain as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.    This makes Hussain the first Muslim to be nominated to the position.
    In a statement on Friday, Biden announced his intent to nominate and appoint leaders to serve in key religious affairs roles, which include Hussain.    The 41-year-old reportedly served under the Obama administration from 2010 to 2015 and is currently the director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council.
    Hussain will replace Sam Brownback, who held the position from 2018 to 2021.

8/2/2021 ‘I’m Fighting For My Community’ Says Miss South Africa’s First Transgender Contestant by Nqobile Dludla and Sisipho Skweyiya
Lehlogonolo Machaba, the first openly transgender woman to compete for the Miss South Africa title poses for a photograph
outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, July 10, 2021. Picture taken July 10, 2021. REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The first transgender contestant in South Africa’s national beauty pageant, 24-year-old Lehlogonolo Machaba hopes she will inspire greater acceptance of the LGBTQI community.
    Machaba, a fashion model, is competing for the Miss South Africa title, which opened to transgender contestants in 2019.
    “Being the first is a bit overwhelming and I’m also anxious that people do know now that I’m a trans woman,” Machaba said.
    South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriage is legal and which enshrines LGBTQI rights in its constitution.    People can change their identity in the national birth register.
    However, violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex people in South Africa has escalated, with more than 10 people killed in attacks this year, and social stigma and discrimination remains strong.
    Machaba said she expected to be stigmatised for putting a spotlight on issues transgender people face, but that the killing of a close friend in a hate crime had given her strength to fight.
    “I’m here to fight for my community, not necessarily in a physical manner, but through words,” she said.
    “It would mean a lot for me as a trans woman to win Miss South Africa but also I believe it would mean a lot for the queer community in South Africa.    It would show that South Africa is breaking boundaries,” she said.
(Writing by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)

8/4/2021 Biden Picks Diplomat With Polish Ties To Manage Key NATO Relationship by Trevor Hunnicutt
FILE PHOTO: A bust of Polish composer Frederic Chopin is flanked by U.S. and
Polish flags in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden picked Mark Brzezinski, a Democratic-aligned foreign policy official with ties to Poland, as his ambassador to the European country regarded as a key Western bulwark against Russia.
    Biden has been eager to strengthen partnerships in Europe to counter both Russia’s and China’s assertive posture given cool relations between Washington and those countries. Poland and the United States are both members of the NATO military alliance.     The White House announced the pick on Wednesday.
    Brzezinski, who speaks Polish, served as former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Sweden, when Biden was vice president.    He was also on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.
    His father, Poland-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, was former President Jimmy Carter’s influential Cold War-era national security adviser, who advocated a tough stance countering what was then the Soviet Union and included Russia.    Poland was in the Soviet sphere of influence for four decades until the collapse of Communist rule.
    His sister, Mika Brzezinski, is a co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” news program, who feuded with Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
    Democrats often accused Trump of being too easy on Russia and too quick to offend allies, charges he rejected.     In addition to his other diplomatic roles, Brzezinski was the first executive director of the White House’s Arctic Executive Steering Committee under Obama.
    The region is of increasing military interest to both Russia and the United States as a warming climate opens up more opportunities for shipping, fishing, drilling and mining.
    Despite the close security cooperation, the heavily Roman Catholic country and its Western allies occasionally clash over issues including judicial independence and LGBT rights.
    The White House also said Biden had finalized his nominees for ambassadors to the African countries of Togo, Benin and Malawi, picking career foreign service members for each role.    All of the positions require Senate confirmation.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

8/6/2021 Biden nominates first LGBT federal appeals court nominee
    WASHINGTON – The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has tapped Beth Robinson, an associate justice on the Vermont Supreme Court, to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
    Biden also is nominating employment law attorney Charlotte Sweeney for the U.S. District Court in Colorado.     She would become the first openly LGBT woman to serve as a federal district court judge in any state west of the Mississippi.    Biden has announced 35 judicial nominees to serve on the federal bench.

8/6/2021 Hungary Restricts Sales Of LGBT-Themed Children’s Books
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban
and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary ordered shops on Friday to sell children’s books seen as promoting homosexuality in “closed wrapping," stepping up restrictions that have set Prime Minister Viktor Orban on a collision course with rights groups and the European Union.
    The decree also included books seen as promoting gender change and containing “explicit” depictions of sexuality.    It told shops to sell them separately and banned any sale of them at all within 200 metres of a school or a church.
    The order is the first of what is expected to be a series of directives spelling out the implications of a law passed in June banning the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender reassignment at schools.
    The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban’s nationalist government over the legislation, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
    Orban, in power since 2010 and facing a challenging election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy in a self-proclaimed crusade to safeguard what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
    In July Hungary fined the distributor of a children’s book about same-sex “rainbow families” under a law that bans unfair trade practices.
    Orban’s government says the new law is meant to protect children and leave it up to parents to educate them about sexuality.
    Several rights groups have said the law wrongly conflates paedophilia and pornography with LGBT issues.    Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive Commission has called it a “disgrace.”
    An Ipsos poll last month found that 46% of Hungarians support same-sex marriage.    Last month thousands of Hungarians joined the annual Budapest Pride march to protest against the law.
    The European Commission’s legal action against Hungary and a separate move against Poland are the latest salvo in a clash of cultures between Brussels and some of the EU’s newest members in eastern Europe over a range of core issues including the rule of law and press freedoms.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

8/7/2021 Amsterdam Substitutes ‘Pride Walk’ For Canal Parade In 25th Anniversary Of Gay Pride
People carry a giant rainbow flag in the 25th gay pride parade in
Amsterdam, Netherlands August 7, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Amsterdam capped a month of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of its first Gay Pride festival with a “Pride Walk” through the city’s historic centre on Saturday that drew around 10,000 participants carrying flags and an enormous rainbow banner.
    Usually, one of the biggest events of the year in Amsterdam, the festival has traditionally ended with a flotilla along the city’s canals, with parties, music and dancing on the boats, quays, and in bars and people’s houses.    But the canal parade was cancelled in 2020 and again this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    Saturday’s Pride Walk was billed as chance for Amsterdammers to not just have a party but to actively participate and show their support for LGBT rights under threat in the Netherlands and around the world.
    “Times have changed, and now a lot of (gay people) don’t feel safe anymore, even in Amsterdam 70 percent don’t dare to walk holding hands,” said Siep de Haan, who launched the first boat parade in 1996.
    Amsterdam “was a gay paradise 25 years ago and we have to get that back,” he told local broadcaster AT5.
    Flags from 71 countries around the world where homosexuality is a crime lined the route, together with a sign describing grim punishments prescribed for those convicted.
    Despite the event’s serious message, participants wore colourful outfits and marched to cheers, whistles, chants and drums as they passed through the city’s streets.
    The Gay Pride festival in Amsterdam usually draws half a million particapants and viewers.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

8/7/2021 German SPD Goes On The Attack With Jab At Rival’s Catholicism by Paul Carrel
FILE PHOTO: The flag of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is pictured at the party's headquarters after
leader Andrea Nahles announced to resign in Berlin, Germany, June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats have broken a taboo in modern German politics by taking aim at the religious beliefs of a close aide to Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel after a Sept. 26 election.
    In a video published online, the left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD) singled out a number of leading conservatives including Nathanael Liminski, who heads Laschet’s office in his regional government in North Rhine-Westphalia.
    Liminski, a practicing Roman Catholic, gained attention as the voice of Generation Benedict, a church group he co-founded following World Youth Day 2005, which supported the positions of Pope Benedict XVI.
    “Whoever votes for Armin Laschet and the CDU, votes for … ultra-Catholic Laschet confidants for whom sex before marriage is a taboo,” the narrator says as the video shows a Russian doll bearing Liminski’s face, inside a bigger doll bearing Laschet’s face.
    By highlighting a rival’s religious beliefs, the SPD is breaking with a tradition in consensus-oriented Germany of avoiding personal attacks in election campaigns, especially on matters of faith.
    “The political debate is becoming ever more divided by cultural issues,” said Carsten Nickel at Teneo, a political risk consultancy.    “The SPD is trying to wake up this campaign by mobilising supporters around cultural questions.”
    In the video, the SPD took aim at other leading conservatives, arguing that supporting them would make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and push the party to the right.
    The conservatives promise voters “stability and renewal” in their manifesto.
    The video, streamed live on Wednesday, ran at the end of a half-hour presentation by SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil.    An SPD spokesperson, contacted by Reuters, said it was a ‘social media clip’ and was not an election campaign commercial.
    Leaping on the video, the Tagesspiegel newspaper ran a headline on Saturday reading: “Laschet targeted by ‘negative campaigning’: The SPD breaks a taboo in the election campaign.”
    Ahead of September’s federal election, the party is trying to convert the popularity of its chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz, into support for the wider party.
    An opinion poll published on Thursday showed that in a hypothetical direct vote for chancellor, Scholz would be the most popular candidate to lead the next government.
    Laschet bled support after he was seen laughing on a visit to a flood-stricken town.    However, Laschet’s CDU/CSU alliance still leads other parties.
    Merkel, in power since 2005, plans to stand down after the election.
(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Christina Fincher)

8/9/2021 Italian Police Seize Envelope With Bullets Sent To Pope
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads Angelus prayer from his window overlooking St.Peter's
Square at the Vatican, August 8, 2021. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    ROME (Reuters) – An envelope addressed to Pope Francis containing three pistol bullets has been seized in a mail sorting facility close to the northern Italian city of Milan, police said on Monday.
    Postal workers called the police after intercepting the envelope overnight in the small town of Peschiera Borromeo.
    Police told Reuters the envelope, sent from France, was addressed to “The Pope, Vatican City, St Peter’s Square.”
    A Vatican spokesperson had no immediate comment.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Philip Pullella; Editing by Gavin Jones and Andrew Cawthorne)
[It is a gesture and its possible danger so who did the Pope piss off and he is a target by a rifle from 400 feet in that window?.].

8/9/2021 Federal Court Rules In Favor Of Abortion Waiting Period by OAN Newsroom
A judge gavel rests on top of a desk. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
    A federal court ruled Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period between consultation and an abortion constitutional.    In a ruling on Thursday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals cited Supreme Court precedent, which allowed a waiting period.
    The court decided the waiting period was reasonably related to Tennessee’s interest in protecting the right to life.    Even if most women go forward with an abortion after the waiting period, the court argued many may decide to not follow through after a period of reflection.
    The court went on to note while the law placed burdens on abortion clinics themselves, the clinics had no constitutional right to perform abortions.

8/10/2021 Prominent Pro-Life Group Endorses S.C. Gov. McMaster For Reelection by OAN Newsroom
Gov. Henry McMaster gives a news conference in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) received a huge endorsement in his bid for reelection.    The Susan B. Anthony List pro-life organization announced on Tuesday it was backing McMaster for second term.
    In an interview on Tuesday, the group’s president praised McMaster for defending pro-life laws in both South Carolina and Mississippi.    In July, the Republican governor led a court fight over a Mississippi law to restrict abortions.
    Earlier this year, McMaster signed a bill into law aimed at banning most abortions in South Carolina.
    “We have a duty.    It is a duty that we share as Americans and South Carolinians to protect life above all else,” he stated.    “That’s what we’re here for.”
    SBA’s early endorsement of McMaster has been seen as a measure to deter any other Republicans from running against him.    Officials from the group have been set to travel to Greenville, South Carolina on Wednesday to give their official endorsement to the governor.

8/12/2021 Guyana lawmakers abolish law against cross-dressing
    GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Guyana’s Parliament has voted to immediately remove a colonial-era law against crossdressing, saying it is outdated, discriminatory and out of tune with modern times.    The vote Tuesday was a formality to comply with a 2018 ruling by the Trinidad- based the Caribbean Court of Justice.    It would prevent police from charging people who dress in clothes seen as meant for a different gender.    A Guyanese court about a decade ago ruled that police could act if a person had crossdressed for an “improper purpose.”

8/15/2021 Pope Urges Dialogue In Afghanistan So People Can Live In Peace, Security
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall
at the Vatican, August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis called on Sunday for dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan so that its people can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.
    Francis made the appeal in his noon address as Taliban insurgents entered the capital Kabul and the United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter. [L1N2PL01V]
    “I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan.    I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue,” he said to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
    “Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,” he said.
    There are very few Christians in Afghanistan, nearly all of them foreigners in embassies or aid workers.
    The Taliban entry into the capital caps a lightning advance by the Islamist militants, who were ousted 20 years ago by the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

8/15/2021 Thousands March In Bucharest LGBTQ Pride Parade
A gay couple hugs during a LGBTQ+ pride parade near a bus stop that has anti-LGBT graffiti message
sprayed on it, in Bucharest, Romania, March 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Thousands of people joined an LGBTQ pride march in Bucharest on Saturday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, ahead of planned legislation that would chip away at minority rights.
    Socially conservative Romania, which decriminalised homosexuality in 2001, still bars marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples.
    Lawmakers from two different parties – the junior ruling coalition ethnic Hungarian party UDMR and the opposition ultra-nationalist Alliance for Uniting Romanians (AUR) – said they plan to introduce legislation to ban so-called gay propaganda in schools when parliament reconvenes in September.
    An estimated 8,000 people joined the march on Saturday, dancing and waving rainbow flags. Riot police fined the organisers for exceeding the number of participants allowed at civic protests.    The organisers will challenge the fine.
    “We have a long way to go as a country until we come to accept everyone,” said Daria, 16, at her second pride parade.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by David Holmes)

8/18/2021 Pope Francis Urges Everyone To Get COVID-19 Vaccines For The Good Of All
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience
Hall at the Vatican, August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis issued an appeal on Wednesday urging people to get inoculated against COVID-19, saying the vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic, but needed to be taken by everyone.
    “Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” the pope said in a video message made on behalf of the nonprofit U.S. group the Ad Council and the public health coalition COVID Collaborative.
    “They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together.”
    Vaccines are widely available in mainly wealthier nations, but mistrust and hesitancy over the newly developed shots have meant that many people are refusing to take them, leaving them especially vulnerable as the Delta variant spreads.
    By contrast, poorer nations still do not have access to large-scale vaccine supplies.
    Medical experts have warned that ever-more dangerous variants might develop if the virus is allowed to circulate in large pools of non-vaccinated people.
    Pope Francis was himself vaccinated in March, saying at the time that it was an ethical obligation.
    “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.    I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love,” the pope said in his latest video message.
    The Ad Council and COVID Collaborative launched vaccine public service announcements to the U.S. public in January across television, websites and social media.
    In a statement, the Ad Council said the pope’s message represented its first campaign designed for a global audience.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

8/18/2021 Biden Coming After Schools In Defiance Of Transgender Sports by OAN Newsroom
Masked students walk the halls between classes during the first day of school at Stamford High
School on September 08, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
    The Biden administration kicked off back to school season by threatening schools that embrace traditional gender ideology.
    In a video address on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said transgender students should be allowed to compete with whatever gender they identify with for sports and go into any bathroom they want.    She then appeared all too eager to threaten schools that refuse to comply.
    “We’re here to say that’s wrong and its against the law,” she stated.
    “Right now, we are fighting against laws that tried to ban transgender athletes in West Virginia and deny health care for transgender young people in Arkansas,” Clarke continued.    “And recently, federal courts in both states have blocked those laws from being applied.”
    Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Suzanne Goldberg also chimed in and urged students to report cases in which biological males are not allowed to enter women’s space such as female bathrooms.
    “We know that you are resilient and we hope you find support where and when you need it,” she stated.    “But we also want you to know the Department of Education and the entire federal government stands behind you.    Your rights at school matter.”
    Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services, Rachel Levine claimed that students have the right to sex-altering services, many of which have sterilizing effects.
    This prompted former HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino to say the Biden administration’s video address is pushing unscientific ideologies.
    “Kids, especially girls, will be damaged by decisions being made by Biden administration appointees who won’t have to live with the long-term consequences,” he noted.
    The Ethics and Public Policy Center senior ethics fellow added, back to school messages should be about seeking and learning truth, not pushing unscientific ideologies that hurt children and take away parent’s rights.

8/20/2021 Court upholds Texas abortion procedure ban by Kevin McGill, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NEW ORLEANS – A Texas law outlawing an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies has been upheld by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
    The 2017 law in question has never been enforced.    It seeks to prohibit the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the womb without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead.
    Abortion rights advocates argued that the law, known as SB8 in court records, effectively outlaws what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy.    The procedure is medically known as dilation and evacuation.
    They also argued that fetuses cannot feel pain during the gestation period affected by the law.
    Texas legislators banned the procedure with a law that describes it as “dismemberment abortion.”    Abortion rights supporters argued in court that one alternative provided in the law, using suction to remove a fetus, also results in dismemberment.
    A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the law last year.    But Texas was granted a re-hearing by the full court, and a majority of the 14 appellate judges who heard arguments in January (three of the court’s 17 active judges were recused) sided with Texas on Wednesday.    The opinion, by judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Don Willett, said “the record shows that doctors can safely perform D& Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use.”
    Concurring in the result were judges Priscilla Owen, Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Catharina Haynes, James Ho, Kurt Engelhardt and Cory Wilson.
    Judge James Dennis wrote a dissent, joined by judges Carl Stewart and James Graves.    A separate dissent was written by Judge Stephen Higginson, joined by Gregg Costa.
    Dennis said the Texas law, “under the guise of regulation, makes it a felony to perform the most common and safe abortion procedure employed during the second trimester.”

8/20/2021 BHP Has Fired 48 Workers For Sexual Harassment Since 2019
FILE PHOTO: BHP's logo is projected on a screen during a round-table meeting with
journalists in Tokyo, Japan, June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – BHP Group fired 48 staff in the two years to the end of June for sexual harassment, it told a Western Australian government inquiry investigating such incidents at mining camps in the mineral-rich state.
    The government probe comes as the sector struggles with a dire skills shortage and low female representation.
    BHP received four rape allegations, one allegation of attempted rape and other reports of unwanted sexual touching, in addition to 73 substantiated reports of sexual harassment from June 2019 to June 2021, it said in a submission.
    Two rape allegations were substantiated, investigation for one was continuing and one was not substantiated, it said in the report, which outlined sweeping measures to reduce such incidents.
    That includes $300 million to increase camp security by improving its training and workforce vetting practices, making reporting of incidents easier, and ensuring its contractors abide by those rules.
    Other major miners including Rio Tinto Fortescue, unions and interest groups have also made submissions to the enquiry, which will make recommendations to West Australia’s parliament in April 2022.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

8/20/2021 Judge Approves Boy Scouts Of America $850M Settlement by OAN Newsroom
Boy Scouts of America uniforms are displayed in the retail store at the headquarters for the French Creek Council
of the Boy Scouts of America in Summit Township, Pa. (Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP, File)
    The Boy Scouts of America entered a settlement deal to compensate tens of thousands of men who said they were sexually abused.    On Thursday, the judge overseeing the case signed off on an $850 million agreement for those taken advantage of by Scout leaders when they were younger.
    Boy Scouts of America has reportedly received around 80,000 claims involving sexual abuse against both Scout leaders and volunteers.    The agreement, signed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, mandated the Boy Scouts of America to create funds for the victims in $250 million in cash and property.
    However, Silverstein rejected two key provisions of the deal after three days of testimonies. It is not yet clear how the ruling would affect the future of the case.
    Silverstein went on to say this ruling would help the Boy Scouts of America surface from bankruptcy.

8/25/2021 Mosque bombing convict wants transgender identity recognized
    MINNEAPOLIS – The militia leader convicted of masterminding the bombing of a Minnesota mosque asked a judge to legally acknowledge her transgender identity.    Emily Claire Hari was previously known as Michael Hari, who was found guilty last year of civil rights and hate crime charges related to the bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington in 2017.    Hari said gender dysphoria and right-wing misinformation fueled her “inner conflict” when she was convicted in the bombing, according to court documents.

8/28/2021 Transgender inmate sues Virginia prisons over surgery denial
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A transgender man held at a women’s prison in Virginia is suing state prison officials after being denied breast removal surgery.    Jason Yoakam, who is serving sentences for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and a firearm offense, says the denial by the state Department of Corrections violates his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment and his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.    Yoakam was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2017.

8/28/2021 Calif. delays legalizing psychedelics by Don Thompson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California lawmakers will wait until next year to consider decriminalizing psychedelics, with the bill’s author saying Thursday that he will keep working to persuade the public and legislators that it’s a good idea.
    The bill would allow those 21 and older to possess for personal use small amounts of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of magic mushrooms.    It also covers psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline excluding peyote, lysergic acid diethylamide and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, often called ecstasy).
    It passed the Senate and Assembly committees before it stalled.
    The bill “moved significantly farther than anticipated,” Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said in a statement.    The delay will allow supporters “to capitalize on the momentum from this year while building support in the Assembly for next year.”
    Wiener previously removed ketamine from his bill after opponents said it could be used as a date-rape drug. He also stripped out an allowance for “social sharing” of the drugs on his list.
    But the California District Attorneys Association was among groups that remained opposed, arguing that “hallucinations can be dangerous to users and bystanders alike” and that LSD has been linked to>     Wiener said the decriminalization would be “part of the larger movement to end the racist War on Drugs,” and that research shows the drugs can help treat mental health and substance use disorders.

8/29/2021 Pope replaces Australian bishop in alleged misconduct probe
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Saturday replaced an Australian bishop who stepped down amid a Vatican investigation into what Australian media have described as allegations of sexual misconduct.    The Vatican said Francis accepted Bishop Christopher Alan Saunders’ resignation as head of the Broome diocese in western Australia.    Francis appointed another prelate, Bishop Michael Henry Morrissey of the Geraldton diocese, to temporarily administer the sprawling Catholic diocese in Broome.

8/29/2021 Pope Asks World’s Christians To Pray And Fast For Afghanistan
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis looks on during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI
Audience Hall at the Vatican, August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday called on the world’s Christians to pray and carry out fasting to ask God to bring about peace and coexistence in Afghanistan.
    Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing, Francis said he was following events in Afghanistan with “great worry” and was participating in the suffering of those mourning the dead in last Thursday’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
    He also said he was close to “those who are seeking help and protection,” an apparent reference to those trying to leave the country.
    “I ask all to continue to help those in need and to pray so that dialogue and solidarity can bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence that offers hope for the future of the country,” he said.
    And because of this I appeal to everyone to intensify prayer and carry out fasting, prayer and fasting, prayer and penitence. Now is the time to do it.”
    Thursday’s suicide attacks killed scores of Afghans and 13 American troops outside the gates of the airport, where thousands had gathered to try to get a flight out since the Taliban returned to power.
    There are very few Christians in Afghanistan, nearly all of them foreigners in embassies or aid workers.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

9/1/2021 Teen loses appeal over gender on birth record by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a request to change a transgender teen’s birth certificate to male from female.
    In a 2-1 opinion, the court Monday affirmed a decision by a judge in Allen County, who said there was insufficient evidence that a gender change on the certificate was in the teen’s best interest.
    The appeal was filed by the teen’s mother after a name change was the only approved switch.    The parents were also in favor of changing the gender marker.
    'The totality of the child’s medical history is highly relevant,' Judge L. Mark Bailey said.    'But here the parents decided to forego expert testimony or the proffer of any relevant medical records, in favor of their conclusory testimony prompted by their teenager’s relatively recent disclosure.'
    But in dissent, Judge Terry Crone said the mother submitted letters from a doctor and a mental health counselor.
    'It should go without saying that H.S.’s parents, who have known him since his birth, are infinitely more capable than the trial court of judging what ‘happiness’ means to their child and what is in his long-term best interests with respect to his gender identity,' Crone said.
    In a 2-1 opinion, the court Monday affirmed a decision by a judge in Allen County, who said there was insufficient evidence that a gender change on the certificate was in the teen’s best interest.

9/1/2021 Virginia high court rules for teacher in transgender debate
    RICHMOND, Va. – The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the reinstatement of a northern Virginia gym teacher who said he won’t refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns.    Loudoun County Public Schools filed an appeal after a judge ruled that the school system violated the free speech rights of teacher Tanner Cross by suspending him after he spoke up at a school board meeting.    Cross, a teacher at Leesburg Elementary, cited his religious convictions for his decision.

9/1/2021 Pope Says Afghan Withdrawal ‘Legitimate’ But Mistakes Putin Remarks For Merkel’s by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience
at the Vatican, August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was “legitimate” but backed some criticism of its involvement there with a quote he mistakenly attributed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which actually came from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Francis, 84, discussed the situation in Afghanistan in an interview broadcast on Wednesday on Spanish radio network COPE.
    “The fact of renouncing (Afghanistan) is legitimate,” he said, adding, without elaborating, that Vatican diplomacy would be at work to try to prevent reprisals against people there.
    But he criticised the modality of the withdrawal.
    “As far as I can see, not all eventualities were taken into account here … or so it seems, I don’t want to judge.    I don’t know whether there will be a review or not, but certainly there was a lot of deception perhaps on the part of the new authorities (Taliban).    I say deceit or a lot of naiveté, I don’t understand,” he said.
    In the same section of the interview, Francis paraphrased in Spanish a quote he attributed to Merkel about how it was time to end outside interventions aimed at installing democracy while ignoring traditions and cultures.
    The comment was actually from Putin, at a news conference with Merkel in Moscow on Aug. 20.
    Putin said: “The irresponsible policy of imposing some external values must be stopped, as well as the aspirations to introduce democracy following the patterns of other states, without consideration of the historical, national, and religious traits of the country, completely ignoring the traditions of other people.”
    On Aug. 15, two weeks before the withdrawal, Francis called for dialogue so people could live in peace and security.
    Last Sunday, on the eve of the withdraw, he called on all Christians to pray for the people of the overwhelmingly Moslem country.
(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro in Madrid; Editing by David Gregorio)

9/2/2021 Abortion laws here similar to Texas - KY rules press on as US’ newest one takes effect by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    As abortion rights supporters and opponents watch to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene in a challenge to a Texas law that virtually eliminates abortion access, Kentucky already has enacted multiple restrictions.
    Kentucky lawmakers have passed a flurry of bills meant to limit or ban abortion since Republicans won the House of Representatives in 2016, giving the GOP majority control of the House and Senate.
    Some of Kentucky’s laws remain suspended under legal challenges based on the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, a ruling seen as likely to be altered under the court’s more conservative make-up.
    Among Kentucky laws suspended under a legal challenge is one enacted in 2019 to ban abortions once cardiac activity is detected in the fetus — similar to the Texas law that took effect Sept. 1 Kentucky’s “fetal heartbeat” law, like the Texas law, bans abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant.
    But the Texas law differs because of its unique feature that allows citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman receive an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
    Kentucky’s law provides criminal penalties and other sanctions against health providers.
    Other Kentucky abortion laws passed in recent years include:
Constitutional amendment
    House Bill 91, passed in 2021, will allow Kentuckians to vote next year on a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution establishing that there is no right to an abortion in the commonwealth.
    The proposed amendment, which voters will decide in November 2022, does not include any exceptions for abortions in cases where a pregnant woman’s health is in danger or if the pregnancy resulted from sexual assault.
Attorney General powers
    Also in 2021, the General Assembly passed a bill giving the state attorney general new authority to regulate abortion clinics.    Supporters said the law would give the state’s Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron power to seek civil and criminal penalties for any violation of Kentucky’s abortion laws.
    Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, had vetoed the bill but legislators overrode the veto.
    ‘Trigger’ law A “trigger law,” enacted in 2019, will automatically ban abortion in Kentucky should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.    Supporters sought to have the bill in place in hopes the high court will reverse its 1973 decision and return power to states to authorize abortion.
Disability law
    A 2019 law bans abortion if the woman is seeking one because of the race, gender or disability of the fetus.    It has been adopted in several states as an effort to protect fetuses with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
    A federal judge has issued a temporary order barring enforcement of the law while a challenge is pending.
Medication abortions
    A 2019 law requires doctors to provide disputed information to patients that abortions induced by taking a series of pills may be reversed.    It originally was filed only to clarify that doctors or clinics must report abortions induced by medication, as well as all other abortions to the state.
14 week ban
    A 2018 law sought to ban a common abortion procedure generally used after the 14th week of pregnancy called dilation and evacuation.
    The law was struck down by a federal appeals court, but Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron is seeking to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of reinstating it.
Ultrasound law
    A 2017 law requires doctors who perform abortions to first complete an ultrasound and attempt to show and describe the image to the patient, as well as to play an audible heartbeat of the fetus.
    Kentucky law already requires a woman receive counseling 24 hours in advance of an abortion.
20 week limit
    Also in 2017, Kentucky enacted a law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.    It has not been challenged in court.
    Supreme Court rulings have permitted abortion up to the point a fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks, Clinic regulation.
    A 1998 law requires Kentucky abortion clinics to have signed agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in the event of an emergency.    It was struck down as unnecessary in 2018 following a legal challenge but was upheld in 2020 by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@courier- or 502-582-4228. Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
Kentucky lawmakers have passed a flurry of bills to limit or ban abortion
since Republicans won the House in 2016. MATT STONE/COURIER JOURNAL

9/2/2021 Texas Heartbeat Bill Takes Effect With SCOTUS Approval by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, file photo, supporters of a bill banning abortions in South Carolina after a fetal heartbeat
is detected wore similar stickers at a state Senate subcommittee public hearing in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, File)
    Texas has taken a major stride in supporting the sanctity of life.    At midnight Wednesday, the state’s heartbeat bill went into effect.    This allows private citizens with information about a criminal abortion to report it to law enforcement or sue any abortion provider who kills an unborn child after a heartbeat is detected.    Additionally, any person who aids or abets these illegal abortions can also be sued.
    Pro-life women like the director of Texas Right to Life, Elizabeth Graham, believe the law’s unique framework will keep the abortion battle out of the “talons of activist judges.”
    “When we devalue a child, whether that’s at 40 weeks of pregnancy or a minute after birth born, we really are devaluing the rest of our brothers and sisters, born and unborn,” she stated.
    Graham said the law represents a turning point in the nation and is a huge victory for women.
    “The point of the law is to protect unborn children and to recognize the humanity of the unborn child who has a heartbeat, who has fingers, toes, hair, eyes,” she continued.    “And to empower the mother to chose life and feel like she can bring a child into the world with the multiple resources available.”
    Graham went on to add, women faced with unexpected pregnancies will not be left without support like pregnancy centers and nonprofit agencies, which focus on helping women faced with unexpected pregnancies and offer them free resources.    She said this also includes education on how men and women can have a healthy relationship and work as a team to raise their child.
    “And many times, these organizations will help the father of the child to learn about parenting classes, healthy relationship skills, what his responsibilities could be or should be,” explained the director.    “And so, these services are readily available to woman of any income level.”
    Graham went on to add, she hopes this law will push Planned Parenthood into providing women with options besides abortion, especially considering they have claimed 97 percent of their services do not include abortion.
    “And I do hope America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, would get on that train and back away from providing abortion,” she stated.    “And understand that the way to empower women is to give them options when they are in a crisis.”
    Graham believes there’s a trend in America leaning toward empowering the family unit and away from tearing apart an unborn child.    In the meantime, she’s organizing an effort to help private citizens enforce the law and has vowed to ensure lawbreakers will be held accountable.
    The Supreme Court upheld the new pro-life law in Texas in a five-to-four vote on Wednesday.    The high court refused to block the state’s new six-week abortion ban. The ruling came after abortion advocates made an emergency request for the Supreme Court to intervene and stop Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) law.

9/3/2021 Trove Of Missing Ancient Mesopotamian Artefacts Found In Norway
Seized artefacts found by Norway police are seen in this handout picture, in Viken region,
Norway August 24, 2021. Picture taken August 24, 2021. Norwegian Police/Handout via REUTERS
    OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian police said on Friday they had seized a large number of archaeological artefacts reported missing by Iraqi authorities, including what is presumed to be cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia.
    The objects were found by the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Oekokrim), which assisted Norway’s Ministry of Culture in the search.
    The items had been part of a private collection in Norway, and while several witnesses were questioned there were no criminal charges, a police spokesperson told Reuters.     “In total, almost 100 objects of significance to the global cultural heritage have been seized,” Oekokrim said in a statement.
    “They are now being examined by experts to determine their authenticity and, if possible, establish their provenance.”     The police did not say when the items may have arrived in the northern European country, or how they ended up there.
    Iraq is the site of ancient Mesopotamia, a region home to many ancient civilizations including that of the Sumer which developed the cuneiform, one of the world’s oldest writing systems.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty, Editing by William Maclean)

9/3/2021 Press Secy. Psaki Lashes Out At Religious Reporter by OAN Newsroom
White House press secretary Jen Psaki pauses during a press briefing at the
White House, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    A fiery exchange broke out between White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and a reporter for a Catholic television network.    During a briefing on Thursday, Owen Jensen, who works for Eternal World Television Network, asked Psaki some tough questions about how Joe Biden can claim to be a devout Catholic as he advances the left’s pro-abortion agenda.
    Jensen: Why does the president support abortion, when his own Catholic faith teaches abortion is morally wrong?     Psaki: He believes that it’s a woman’s right, that it’s a woman’s body and it’s her choice.
    Psaki then got combative when Jensen followed up with another question.
    Jensen: Who does he believe then should look out for the unborn child?
    Psaki: He believes it’s up to the woman to make those decisions and up to a woman to make those decisions with a doctor.    I know you’ve never faced those choices nor have you ever been pregnant, but for woman out there who have faced those choices this is an incredibly difficult thing.
    After shaming the male reporter for not having a uterus, she quickly changed the topic.
    Psaki also warned Biden is working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to overturn the Texas heartbeat law, which went into effect Wednesday.    The so-called devout Catholic will apparently make defeating the law a priority and has already urged his cabinet members to look at every option to overturn the legislation.
    All this comes months after Psaki made a promise to Americans who were concerned about replacing his religious values with the left’s pro-abortion agenda.
    Many leaders in the Catholic community have commented on Biden’s failure to uphold his own religion’s values. This includes the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Horacio Gomez, who said Biden has pledged to pursue policies that would “threaten human life and dignity.”

9/4/2021 Protesters Block Roads To Stop Enthronement Of Montenegro’s Top Cleric
A truck arrives at a blockage of demonstrators during a protest against the enthronement
of Bishop Joanikije in Cetinje, Montenegro, September 4, 2021. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic
    PODGORICA (Reuters) – Several thousand protesters used tyres, rocks and vehicles to block roads leading to the city of Cetinje in southwest Montenegro on Saturday in a bid to stop the Serbian Orthodox Church holding an enthronement ceremony for its new top cleric.
    The protests reflect tensions in the Balkan country, which remains deeply divided over its ties with Serbia, with some advocating closer ties with Belgrade and others opposing any pro-Serb alliance.
    Montenegro left its union with Serbia in 2006 but its church did not get autonomy and remained under the Serbian Orthodox Church, making it a symbol to some of Serbian influence.
    Opponents of the enthronement of Joanikije II to the top clerical position, known as the Metropolitan of Montenegro and Archbishop of Cetinje, pushed through police barricades on Saturday, taking control of roads leading to the city.
    At one point police used tear gas but this failed to disperse the protesters who said they would hold the barricades through the night.
    Protesters also took down a fence the police had put around the monastery in Cetinje where the enthronement is supposed to take place on Sunday morning.
    “We are on the barricades today because we are fed up with Belgrade denying our nation, and telling us what are our religious rights,” protestor Andjela Ivanovic told Reuters.    “All religious objects (churches) built in Montenegro belong to people here and to the state of Montenegro.”
    In the capital Podgorica by contrast, thousands gathered to greet the Serbian Patriarch who arrived on Saturday afternoon.    None of the church officials talked about the possibility of moving the date or the venue of the enthronement ceremony.
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Stevo Vasiljevic; Editing by David Holmes)

9/4/2021 Texas Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order, Impedes New Pro-Life Legislation by OAN Newsroom
AUSTIN, TX – MAY 29: Attendees grab signs at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021
in Austin, Texas. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a new bill outlawing abortions after a
fetal heartbeat is detected signed on Wednesday by Texas Governor Greg Abbot. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
    A Texas county judge issued a temporary order halting a pro-life organization from abiding by Texas’ new pro-life law that aims to enforce a new six-week abortion ban.    On Friday, Judge Maya Gamble placed a temporary restraining order against the Texas Right to Life in favor of three Planned Parenthood affiliates.
    The restraining order essentially prevents the Texas Right to Life group from helping to enforce the new pro-life laws in Texas that bans abortions after six weeks.    The order is due to expire on Sept. 17, although experts say this may just be the first in many efforts to block the new Texas law.
    The order “offers protection to the brave health care providers and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Texas, who have continued to offer care as best they can within the law while facing surveillance, harassment and threats from vigilantes eager to stop them,” said a Planned Parenthood spokesperson.
    Meanwhile, Vice President of Texas Right to Life Elizabeth Graham noted, “Planned Parenthood can keep suing us, but Texas Right to Life will never back down from protecting pregnant women and preborn children from abortion.”

9/4/2021 Calif. To Pay $800K In Legal Battle To Church That Defied COVID-19 Rules by OAN Newsroom
BANTEN, INDONESIA – DECEMBER 25: Christians hold candles during Christmas Eve mass at a church on
December 25, 2018 in Carita, Banten province, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
    California officials are expected to pay a Los Angeles County church that defied mask orders hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle its ongoing legal battle.    Recent reports confirmed L.A. County and the state agreed to pay the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley an $800,000 settlement.
    This comes as the county attempted to penalize the church for continuing to hold indoor services without social distancing or face covering requirements.    However, the church has fought back and sued the state and the county for violating its constitutional and religious freedoms.
    “Our commitment to the Word of God and his church has never wavered.    We have simply continued to stand firm, as we always have and always will,” said pastor of the church, John MacArthur.    “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not empower it.”
    The pastor of the church said California officials can no longer treat people of faith like second-class citizens.

9/4/2021 Ex-Cardinal pleads not guilty to sex assault by Alanna Durkin Richer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DEDHAM, Mass. – Former Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the once-powerful American prelate who was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse, pleaded not guilty Friday to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception in Massachusetts nearly 50 years ago.
    McCarrick, 91, wore a mask and entered suburban Boston’s Dedham District Court hunched over a walker.
    He did not speak during the hearing, at which the court entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, set bail at $5,000, and ordered him to stay away from the victim and have no contact with minors.
    McCarrick is the only U.S. Catholic cardinal, current or former, to be charged with child sex crimes.
    His attorney Katherine Zimmerl said they are “looking forward to addressing the allegations in court” and would have no other immediate comment.    Another hearing was set for Oct. 28.
    McCarrick, who lives in Dittmer, Missouri, faced three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, according to court documents.    He can still face charges because he wasn’t a Massachusetts resident and had left the state, stopping the clock on the statute of limitations.
    An attorney for the accuser said after the hearing that his client has shown “enormous amount of courage” by coming forward and is “ready to see this trial through the end.”

9/5/2021 Pope Hopes Many Countries Take Afghan Refugees And Young Are Educated
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience
Hall at the Vatican, August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was praying that many countries take Afghan refugees and, in an apparent reference to the Taliban’s past restrictions on schooling for women, said it is essential that young Afghans receive an education.
    “In these moments of upheaval, in which Afghans are seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them,” he told hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing.
    “I pray that many countries welcome them and protect those who are seeking a new life.”
    The pope is a strong supporter of the rights of refugees and migrants.
    Thousands of Afghans evacuated by the United States are waiting in so-called transit hubs in countries such as Qatar, Germany and Italy.    Thousands of others are trying to leave via land crossings with neighbouring countries such as Pakistan.
    “I also pray for the internally displaced so that they have help and necessary protection.    May young Afghans receive an education, which is an essential good for human development,” Francis said.
    The last time the Islamist militants were in power in Afghanistan, women were not allowed to work and girls could not go to school.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Goodman)

9/5/2021 President Trump Takes Credit For SCOTUS Ruling On Texas Pro-Life Law by OAN Newsroom
President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    President Trump has taken credit for a Supreme Court decision not to block the recent pro-life law in Texas.    During an interview this weekend, the 45th president said Texas’s law to restrict abortion could change and evolve going forward, but would continue to protect the lives of unborn babies.
    Last week, Texas banned most abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected at about six weeks and the Supreme Court did not act on a request to block that law.    Trump praised the decision by the Supreme Court and added the justices have been doing a better job now than before he took office.
    “We do have a Supreme Court that’s a lot different than it was. Before, it was acting very strangely and I think probably not in the interests of our country,” he stated.    “We’re studying the ruling and we’re studying also what they’ve done in Texas, but we have great confidence in the governor, the attorney general and the lieutenant governor.”
    Trump went on to say he’ll soon make a major announcement to bring both sides together in the latest pro-life debate.

9/6/2021 EU Warns Polish Regions They Could Lose Funding Over ‘LGBT-Free’ Zones
FILE PHOTO: People attend the "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community,
in Warsaw, Poland June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – The European Commission has written to five Polish regional councils urging them to abandon declarations that they are “LGBT-free” in order to receive funding, one of the councils affected confirmed on Monday.
    The European Union executive is at loggerheads with Poland and Hungary over issues ranging from LGBT rights to press freedoms.    In July it launched legal action against both countries over measures it says discriminate against the gay community.
    Polish LGBT activists posted a scan of the letter on social media and on Monday a spokesman for the Lubelskie region confirmed receiving it.    A European Commission spokeswoman in Warsaw also confirmed the letter had been sent.
    “The Commission would like to stress that declaring LGBTIQ-free/unwelcome territories, workplace or services constitutes an action that is against the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,” the letter said.
    It added that extra funding under part of the bloc’s COVID recovery fund would be put on hold pending the regions’ responses to the Commission’s concerns.
    The funds are part of REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe), a package of additional cohesion funds under which Poland has been allocated a total of over 1.5 billion euros.
    “At the moment, it (the letter) is being analysed in order to prepare an answer,” the Lubelskie region spokesman said in an email.
    Lubelskie and Malopolska regions have both recently voted to remain free of “LGBT ideology.”
    Gay rights is a deeply divisive issue in predominantly Catholic Poland.
    Many religious conservatives see the fight for LGBT equality as an attack on traditional values.    In 2019 numerous local authorities declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology,” seeking to ban what they see as the promotion of homosexuality and other minority sexual identities, especially in schools.
    A European Commission spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter.    The Polish Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
    Poland has also angered Brussels by asking its Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether its constitution takes primacy over EU law.
    The primacy of EU law is a key tenet of European integration, and European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Poland’s questioning of this principle was holding up the acceptance of its spending plan for recovery funds.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels, writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Dan Grebler)

9/6/2021 Democrats Demand Federal Law To Enshrine Roe V. Wade by OAN Newsroom
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) in the Longworth House Office Building on
Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
    Pro-life Americans celebrated Texas the ban of abortions after a heartbeat could be detected in a fetus.    Over the holiday weekend however, Democrats unified around a message about what actions were required to respond to the ban.
    Many Democrats have demanded federal legislation to enshrine Roe V. Wade into law as it has been only a Supreme Court precedent without legislative backing.    Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar (D), who cosponsored the proposed pro-abortion legislation, said she believed Texas’s abortion ban made the state a dangerous place for women and children.
    “Texas is now a very dangerous place for women and children,” she claimed.    “We are gonna see more states basically import this law and do everything possible to create the most hostile conditions for women in our country.”
    When the Supreme Court denied a request to block the Texas law, Escobar demanded the court be expanded and the filibuster abolished.    Taking a similar tack, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) noted without 60 votes in the Senate, she too believed the filibuster must be abolished to pass a federal abortion law.
    “I believe we should abolish the filibuster,” she stated.    “I do not believe an archaic rule should be used to allow us to put our heads in the sand.”
    Democrats calling for the end of the filibuster to pass through their political priorities has been nothing new.    However, the same Democrat holdouts who refused to get rid of the constitutional measure, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz), have not said they would reconsider just because of the abortion ban.
    On top of the 60 vote requirement to pass the law through the Senate, the law could be rendered unnecessary by the court at a later date.    Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.) noted the court’s ruling had nothing to do with the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade itself.
    Rather, he believed the Supreme Court might overturn the Texas law and added Democrats have used the narrow ruling to rile up their own base for fundraising purposes.
    “The ruling on SCOTUS was that the plaintiffs did not have standing.    It had nothing to do with the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade.    It was only on if the plaintiffs had standing.    People are using it to gin up their base to distract from the disastrous policies in Afghanistan,” he expressed.    “I think the Supreme Court will swat it away once it comes to them in an appropriate manner.”
    Amid Democrats push to expand abortion, pro-life groups are saying they feel emboldened to fight to keep Texas’s law on the books, while also bringing similar abortion bans to other states.

9/6/2021 Archbishop Condemns Biden, Pelosi For Supporting Abortion by OAN Newsroom
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is photographed. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP file photo)
    The archbishop of San Francisco condemned “self-proclaimed Catholics” Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their hypocritical support of abortion.    In a recent op-ed, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone defended Texas’s ban on abortions after six weeks.
    Cordileone characterized abortion as the “preeminent human rights issues of our time” and said more than 60 million lives have been lost to abortion since the Roe vs. Wade decision.    He added pro-abortion politicians should be denied Holy Communion.
    “You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings,” he stated.    “The answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence but love, for both mother and child.”
    Last week, Biden called Texas’s law an “unprecedented assault” and directed his administration to look for ways to protect abortion access after the Supreme Court refused to block the law.

9/7/2021 Mexico Supreme Court Rules Criminalizing Abortion Is Unconstitutional
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, a major victory for advocates of women’s health and human rights in the majority Roman Catholic nation.
    “This is a historic step for the rights of women,” said Supreme Court Justice Luis Maria Aguilar.
    The unanimous vote by Mexico’s top court comes just as north of the border, some U.S. states have taken steps to restrict abortion access, particularly Texas, which enacted the strictest anti-abortion law in the country after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

9/7/2021 Prisoners Got 15,000 Gelati From Pope During Rome’s Long, Hot Summer
FILE PHOTO: An ice cream shop sells ice cream dedicated to Pope Francis, a mascarpone and strawberry
flavoured creation, in Cassano allo Jonio, southern Italy, June 20, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – They were not “Get out of jail free” cards but they were possibly one of the next best things.
    During one of Italy’s hottest summers on record, Pope Francis sent 15,000 ice creams to inmates in Rome’s two prisons, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
    A statement from the pope’s charity office said they were sent to the two prisons – the older Regina Coeli jail on the Tiber River in the centre and the modern Rebibbia prison in the city’s outskirts.
    They were delivered in his name by Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who is known as “the pope’s almoner” or one who distributes alms to the poor.
    Krajewski, at 57 one of the youngest cardinals, has also set up medical and bathing facilities for the homeless near the Vatican at Francis’ direction since the pontiff’s election in 2013.
    The summer was one of the hottest on record in Italy, with one city in Sicily reporting 49 Celsius in August, believed to be the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.
    Krajewski’s office also sent a $600,000 computerized tomography (CT) scan machine to a health facility in Madagascar and about 2 million euros ($2.37 million) of funds to improve medical facilities in three unnamed African countries during the summer, the statement said.
($1 = 0.8441 euro)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella in Vatican City; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

9/7/2021 World’s Top Three Christian Leaders In Climate Appeal Ahead Of U.N. Summit by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience at the Vatican, August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The world’s three main Christian leaders issued an unprecedented joint appeal to members of their Churches to “listen to the cry of the earth” and back action to stem the effects of climate change.
    In “A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation,” Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew asked Christians to pray that world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November make courageous choices.
    “We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the message said.
    Francis heads the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of the world’s some 220 million Orthodox Christians and Welby is the senior bishop of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has about 85 million members.
    All three have been very active in environmental affairs and concur that climate change and global warming is at least partially caused by human activities such as the use of fossil fuels.
    “We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” the message said.
    It said recent extreme weather events, natural disasters, floods, fires, droughts and rising sea levels have shown that “climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival.”
    Europe had its warmest summer on record this year, though only by a small margin over two previous highest temperatures for June-August, European Union scientists said earlier on Tuesday, and green groups have called for the COP26 conference to be postponed.
    Typically delegates from more than 190 countries attend the annual talks, yet with many countries grappling with COVID-19 and poorer nations struggling to access vaccines, it should be delayed, the Climate Action Network (CAN) said.
    Scotland’s bishops have said Pope Francis, who underwent intestinal surgery in July, will take part in the Glasgow conference, health permitting.
    A spokeswoman for Welby said he would attend.    Bartholomew’s office did not immediately respond to an email about his plans.
    On Oct. 4, the Vatican will host a major gathering of world religious leaders and scientists to take a common stand to raise the stakes ahead of the Glasgow conference.
    Called “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” is being organised by Britain and Italy.    It will bring together some 40 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 scientists.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/7/2021 Spain’s PM To Convene Hate Crime Commission After Suspected Homophobic Assault
FILE PHOTO: LGBT activists protest against homophobic crimes in Madrid, Spain, July 11, 2021. The signs read
"I don't want to die while being shouted faggot" and "There will not be another Salem". REUTERS/Javier Barbancho
    MADRID (Reuters) – Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will chair on Friday an urgent meeting of Spain’s commission against hate crimes amid an uproar over a suspected homophobic assault on a 20-year-old Spaniard in central Madrid.
    The young man was returning home on Sunday afternoon when eight people wearing hoods managed to surround him in his building’s hallway and verbally abused him while threatening him with a knife, a police source said.
    The attackers carved a homophobic slur with a knife on his buttocks. He also suffered a cut in his lower lip, the source added.
    “Hate crimes must receive the highest social and political condemnation,” government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez said on Tuesday, adding Sanchez will hold the meeting later in the week.
    Homophobic attacks have been brought to the spotlight in Spain in the past few weeks after a man was beaten to death in July in the northwestern region of Galicia allegedly because of his sexual orientation, causing mass protests across the country.
    Rodriguez asked parliament to accelerate a new bill on equal treatment and non-discrimination, which she said would address this kind of violence.
    Police said they were reviewing surveillance cameras set near the young man’s home, searching for leads and witnesses to Sunday’s assault, but the investigation was just starting.
    LGBT groups have called a protest in Madrid next Saturday against “a wave of attacks on LGBT people.”    Madrid’s lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual collective asked for political action after the assault, which they labelled “savage.”
    Spain has been a pioneer in rights for the LGBT community, allowing same-sex marriages since 2005.    A recent survey of eight Western countries by British pollster YouGov found Spain had the highest proportion of people who identified as LGBT.
    It found that 91% of Spaniards would be supportive if a family member came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual, compared with just 66% in the United States and 57% in France.
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo with additional reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Inti Landauro and Mark Heinrich)

9/9/2021 Brief Pope Stop In Hungary Underlines Differences With PM Orban by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI
Audience Hall at the Vatican, August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An unusually brief stay in Hungary on Sunday at the start of Pope Francis’ first foreign trip in months will underline his differences with nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
    Francis, 84, will spend only seven hours in the Hungarian capital Budapest to close an international Roman Catholic meeting before moving on to Slovakia, where he will stay much longer, visiting four cities before leaving on Wednesday.
    The Vatican’s schedule says Francis is due to meet Orban.    But the extreme brevity of his stay in Budapest has prompted diplomats and Catholic media to suggest that the pope, making his first trip since surgery in July, is giving priority to Slovakia and in effect snubbing Hungary.
    Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, called for European unity, and criticised countries that try to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.
    By contrast, Orban told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia last week that the only solution to migration was for the European Union to “give all rights back to the nation state.”
    The pope has called for migrants to be welcomed and integrated to tackle what he has called Europe’s “demographic winter.”    Orban said in Slovenia that today’s migrants “are all Muslims” and that only “the traditional Christian family policy can help us out of that demographic crisis.”
    The pope’s decision to spend more time in Slovakia than Hungary must also be read in the context of his fierce criticism of nationalist-populist leaders such as Hungary’s prime minister,” the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet said.
    Speaking to reporters on the plane returning from Iraq in March, Francis said his stop in Budapest was “not a visit to a country but for a Mass.” About 75,000 people are expected.
    The U.S. conservative National Catholic Register newspaper reported that Hungarian officials, including some bishops, had failed to convince the pope to stay longer in Hungary and perhaps make a full state visit.
    The Register said some regarded the decision as “a gigantic slap in the face” of Orban.
    Francis is also due to meet Hungarian President Janos Ader before saying the Mass to conclude a Church congress that began last Sunday.
    Asked by Spanish Radio network COPE last week what he would say to Orban about closing borders, Francis said: “When I am in front of a person, I look him in the eyes and let things come out.”
    The pope is leaving Rome unusually early on Sunday – at 6 a.m. – so that he can say the Mass in Budapest and reach Slovakia in the afternoon, without spending the night in Hungary.
    When a reporter asked at a briefing on Thursday why the pope appeared to be “running away from Hungary,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the stop there was a “spiritual pilgrimage” that should be seen in a religious context.
    Orban’s office said in an email to Reuters on Thursday that the pope’s stop for a religious event was “an enormous honour” and that comparisons with the Slovakia leg would be “misleading.”
    The trip will be the first test of the pope’s strength since surgery in which 33 cm (13 inches) of his intestine were removed because of a narrowing of the colon.
    In Slovakia he will meet the president, prime minister and parliamentarians.    Slovakia is against uncontrolled immigration but its leaders have been much less strident in their opposition than Hungarian leaders.
    The pope will also meet Slovakia’s Jewish community.    About 105,000 Slovak Jews were killed in the Holocaust and today the community numbers around 3,000.
    In Kosice, he will meet with the Roma population in the dilapidated Lunik IX district, one of the largest concentrations in the country.    Slovakia has a Roma population about 440,000, many in settlements on outskirts of towns.
    Francis will say two open-air Masses in Slovakia – which is about 65% Catholic – including one service in the lengthy Byzantine rite.
(Additional reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs in Budapest, Robert Muller in Kosice and Jason Hovit in PragueEditing by Timothy Heritage/Mark Heinrich)

9/9/2021 Mexican Abortion Ban Punished Poor Women, Top Justice Says
FILE PHOTO: A woman holds up a banner which reads "My body, I decide" during a protest to celebrate
the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) that declared the criminalization
of abortion as unconstitutional, in Saltillo, Mexico September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -The Mexican Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on Tuesday to decriminalize abortion will principally help poorer women, who have in the past borne the brunt of punishments for the crime, the president of the tribunal said on Wednesday.
    Speaking after the court ruled it was no longer possible to prosecute any woman who has an abortion without violating the constitution, Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar said denying women the right had been an enormous social injustice.
    “Rich girls, and I’ve said this, and it upsets many that I say it, have always had abortions and never gone to prison.    This is a crime which to a great extent punishes poverty,” Zaldivar told reporters at a news conference in Mexico City.
    Only four out of Mexico’s 32 regional governments had decriminalized abortion before the court’s ruling, and dozens of women have been imprisoned over the last decade for having had abortions, according to leading advocacy groups.
    Zaldivar is viewed as a close ally of leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has put helping the poor at the center of his administration.    However, Lopez Obrador has shied away from taking sides on the contentious matter of abortion.
    Earlier, Lopez Obrador said the court’s decision should be respected, while adding that he felt he should not offer an opinion, because there are differing points of view on abortion in Mexico, a predominantly Roman Catholic country.
    The court’s ruling was hailed as a major victory for advocates of women’s health and human rights, and came just as parts of the United States enact tougher laws against the practice, particularly in Texas on Mexico’s northern border.
    The Mexican Episcopal Conference, an organization made up of Catholic bishops, said in a statement that the ruling “unfailingly implies discrimination against the human being by reason of its gestation stage, positioning the unborn child as if it were a legal asset that can be disposed of…
    The organization called on politicians, academics, churches and civil organizations to “guarantee the protection of women in all circumstances, gestating or not, while respecting the human right to life of both the mother and the unborn child.”
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Dave Graham; Editing by Sandra Maler and Kim Coghill)

9/9/2021 Biden Admin. Pressed To File Suit Against Texas Over Abortion Law by OAN Newsroom
Texas Gov Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.
The sweeping bill signed Tuesday by the two-term Republican governor further tightens Texas’ strict voting laws. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    The Biden administration is reportedly gearing up to sue Texas over its new abortion law.    According to reports, “people familiar with the matter” have said the Department of Justice could file the suit as early as this week.    The Justice Department is expected to argue the law illegally interferes with federal interests.
    This comes after Democrats and abortion rights groups have continued to push the administration to take action.    When asked about the possibility of the suit, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to confirm if it was in the works.    However, she asserted that an action as such would reflect Joe Biden’s calls to protect women’s right to choose.
    The law has seen push-back over the lack of a provision for victims of rape or incest, which Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) said they have a plan for.
    “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them,” stated the governor.    “And getting them off the streets.”
    Attorney General Merrick Garland this week said the Justice Department is exploring all its options.    This includes an attempt to strip the state of federal funding or exploring if there are federal facilities in the state that could provide abortions.

9/9/2021 “Feeling Free”: Women Criminalized By Mexico’s Abortion Bans Celebrate Ruling by Laura Gottesdiener
FILE PHOTO: A woman takes part in a protest to celebrate the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) that
declared the criminalization of abortion as unconstitutional, in Saltillo, Mexico September 7, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
    MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – When a nurse arrived at Martha Mendez’s bedside in a Mexican hospital carrying a fetus and told the teenager to ask it for forgiveness, Mendez resigned herself to the prison sentence she assumed would inevitably follow.
    It was March 2015, and hours earlier Mendez had arrived at the public hospital in the southern state of Veracruz suffering from pain and stomach cramps.
    She said she was unaware she was pregnant and that the medication she’d been prescribed months earlier, after being misdiagnosed with gastritis, could harm her pregnancy.
    After she suffered a miscarriage in the hospital, first the medical staff and then local prosecutors accused her of committing the crime of inducing her own abortion – sparking a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
    While Mexico’s highest court declined to rule on Mendez’s situation and her case was eventually shelved, she watched in shock on Tuesday as the body declared that abortion was not a crime.
    “I felt overjoyed,” she told Reuters by telephone.    “It was part of feeling free after everything I went through.”
    According to the Mexican reproductive rights group GIRE, 172 people in Mexico were imprisoned for the crime of an illegal abortion from January 2010 to January 2020.
    Over 3,500 more – including Mendez – were accused of the crime, according to GIRE’s data, which was obtained through freedom of information requests and was shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of its publication.
    All but four Mexican states – Oaxaca, Veracruz, Hidalgo and Mexico City – prohibit abortion under most circumstances, although it is legal in all states in cases of rape.
    Veracruz legalized abortion earlier this year; it was restricted when Mendez was accused of the crime.
    While Tuesday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling did not overturn those bans, it set a binding precedent that judges cannot sentence people to jail for either having, or assisting in, illegal abortions.
    Advocates say eliminating the threat of prison time for those seeking an abortion is the most significant part of the ruling.
    “Now all women know that if they decide to have an abortion they won’t be criminalized, they won’t be persecuted,” said Veronica Cruz, co-founder of the Guanajuato-based advocacy group Las Libres.
    Reuters could not determine exactly how many people in Mexico are currently jailed for illegal abortions.    It was not immediately possible to contact any.
    Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar said in a news conference on Wednesday he did not know the number of those imprisoned, but that the criminalization of abortion has primarily affected poorer women.
    “Rich girls have always had abortions and never gone to prison,” he said.
    The government does not publish data about how many people have been jailed for having or assisting in illegal abortions, although publicly available crime figures show it has opened 432 investigations nationwide so far this year.
    For years, reproductive rights advocates in Mexico have sought to track such cases and provide legal support to the accused, some of whom – like Mendez – say they were criminalized after miscarriages.
    Tuesday’s ruling marked a striking contrast with new abortion restrictions in Texas, just across the border.
    “In the same week, we have these regressive changes in Texas, and this advance in Mexico,” said Isabel Fulda, deputy director of GIRE.
    The Mexican court decision came in response to a legal challenge to a 2017 law in the northern border state of Coahuila, which set a maximum prison sentence of three years for either having, or assisting with, an illegal abortion.
    The ruling immediately invalidated the Coahuila law, and paved a path for advocates to challenge abortion restrictions nationwide.
    The ruling also offers increased security to members of the dozens of feminist collectives that for years have helped women induce abortions, using widely available medications such as misoprostol.
    Cruz’s group, Las Libres, was among the first in Mexico to begin offering this so-called “accompaniment” to women, offering them both emotional support and practical information based on World Health Organization’s recommendations.
    Since the early 2000s, Las Libres has helped thousands of women access a self-induced abortion, Cruz says.
    Among those who have since joined this effort is Mendez, who now lives in Guanajuato with her first child, a 9-month-old son, and helps women through the process of taking the pills at home.
    “Now I feel like it’s safer for me to help other women,” she said.
(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey, additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

9/10/2021 Biden’s DOJ Unveils Lawsuit Over Texas’ Pro-Life Law by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 09: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference to announce a civil
enforcement action at the Department of Justice September 9, 2021 in Washington, D.C.(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
    The Justice Department is suing Texas after its new law aims to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.    Attorney Gen. Merrick Garland said on Thursday, the Texas law to restrict abortion is “illegally interfering” with federal interests.
    The suit comes after Democrats and pro-abortion groups pushed the Biden administration to take action against Texas.    Garland also claimed Texas has infringed on the constitutional rights of women.
    “Thus far, the law has had its intended effect because the statute makes it too risky for an abortion.    Abortion providers have ceased providing services.    This leaves women in Texas unable to exercise their constitutional rights and unable to obtain judicial review at the very moment they need it,” stated Garland.
    In Texas, the law leaves enforcement to private citizens through civil lawsuits as opposed to criminal prosecutors.    Earlier this week, Garland promised the Justice Department would enforce a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.    This law prohibits obstructing access to abortion clinics, as well as destroying property at these reproductive health centers.
    “The Department of Justice has a duty to defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the rule of law.    Today, we fulfill that duty by filing the lawsuit I have just described,” said Garland.
    Despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that kept the pro-life law in effect, reports have said the Biden administration may try and strip Texas of federal funding or provide abortions at federal facilities in the state.

9/10/2021 Lawyers Criticize Biden Admin. Lawsuit Against Texas Over ‘Heartbeat’ Bill by OAN Newsroom
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, D.C. on September 1, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
    Lawyers are questioning the Biden administration’s move to sue Texas over the recently passed pro-life bill.    The legal experts have begun pumping the brakes on their attempts to insert itself into state law.
    On Thursday, the Justice Department sued Texas over the bill which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, claiming it was enacted in direct defiance of the Constitution and illegally interferes with federal interests.    However, lawyers have turned that argument on its head.
    “We knew the Biden administration was planning to do something, but it’s an audacious lawsuit and that’s because it is ignoring the fact that the judiciary has not asked or answered this question about constitutionality of the law yet, and instead is arguing that the U.S. government has the right to insert itself to invalidate a properly passed and signed state law that it believes to be unconstitutional,” said Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life.
    Critics said they aren’t surprised by the move, however don’t think the lawsuit will be fruitful for the administration or abortion advocates.    They have argued the law went through the proper channels to be enacted.
    “It’s just a different facet and really just highlights the Biden administration’s lack of restraint in choosing to try to insert itself in this discussion, in an ongoing lawsuit already about the law that is going through the proper channels, went through the Supreme Court denying that petition is back at the 5th Circuit,” stated Parma.
    Despite the impending legal battle, they are hopeful the law will survive and have yet to hear of a violation.

9/11/2021 Hundreds Protest Against Rise In Homophobic Attacks In Madrid
LGBTIQ+ activists and supporters demonstrate against hate crimes at Puerta del Sol
square in Madrid, Spain, September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Susana Vera
    MADRID (Reuters) – Hundreds of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to call for better protection for LGBT rights after a series of homophobic attacks that have shocked Spain in recent months.
    People waved rainbow flags and carried banners reading: “justice,” “touch one of us, touch us all,” “we are being killed,”
    “We are here to protest against the continuous homophobic attacks and the constant aggressions that happen weekend after weekend,” said protester Gabriel Escribano.
    Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday chaired an urgent meeting of ministers, community leaders and police to discuss how to reduce hate crimes, which have been growing by around 9% a year since 2014, according to the Interior Ministry.
    Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Wednesday hate crimes were on the rise and becoming more violent.
    There have been growing calls for the government to take action since the killing of nursing assistant Samuel Luiz, who was beaten to death in July in the northwestern region of Galicia allegedly because of his sexual orientation.
    Spain has long been praised as an LGBT-friendly destination, and was a pioneer of gay rights, becoming just the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2005.
(Reporting by Michael Gore and Elena Rodriguez; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Christina Fincher)

9/12/2021 Pope Francis Arrives In Hungary For Lightning Visit
Pope Francis arrives to board the plane for his visit to Hungary and Slovakia, at
Fiumicino Airport near Rome, Italy, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Pope Francis arrived in Hungary early on Sunday, starting an unusually short stay that will underline differences with nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
    Francis, 84, will spend only seven hours in the capital Budapest to close an international Roman Catholic meeting before moving on to Slovakia, where he will stay much longer, visiting four cities before leaving on Wednesday.
    The Vatican’s schedule says Francis is due to meet Orban and President Janos Ader as well as bishops and representatives of some Jewish communities before saying Mass to conclude a Church congress that began last Sunday.
    The extreme brevity of his stay in Budapest has prompted diplomats and Catholic media to suggest that the pope, making his first trip since surgery in July, is giving priority to Slovakia, in effect snubbing Hungary.
    Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, called for European unity, and criticised countries that try to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by William Mallard)

9/12/2021 Pope Urges Hungary To Be More Open To Needy Outsiders by Philip Pullella and Gergely Szakacs
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives in Heroes' Square in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Sunday that Hungary could preserve its Christian roots while opening up to the needy, an apparent response to nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s stand that Muslim immigration could destroy its heritage.
    Francis was in Hungary for an unusually short stay that underlined differences with the anti-immigrant Orban, his political opposite.
    Closing a Church congress with a Mass for tens of thousands of people in central Budapest, Francis used the imagery of a cross to show that something as deeply rooted as religious belief did not exclude a welcoming attitude.
    “The cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone,” he said in his remarks after the Mass.
    “The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness; to draw from the wellsprings, opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time,” he said at the end of the open-air Mass, which Orban attended with his wife.
    “My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate,” the pope said.
    Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, and has called for European unity, and criticised countries that try to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.
    Orban, by contrast, told the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia last week the only solution to migration was for the European Union to “give all rights back to the nation state.”
    The pope has called for migrants to be welcomed and integrated to tackle what he has called Europe’s “demographic winter.”    Orban said in Slovenia that today’s migrants “are all Muslims” and that only “the traditional Christian family policy can help us out of that demographic crisis.”
    Francis, 84, who spent only about seven hours in Budapest, met Orban and President Janos Ader at the start of his visit.
    The Vatican said the meeting which was also attended by the Vatican’s top two diplomats and a Hungarian cardinal, lasted about 40 minutes and was cordial.
    I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish,” Orban said on Facebook.    Hungarian news agency MTI said Orban gave Francis a facsimile of a letter that 13th century King Bela IV sent to Pope Innocent IV asking for help in fighting the Tartars.
    Later on Sunday Francis arrived in Slovakia, where he will stay much longer, visiting four cities before returning to Rome on Wednesday.
    The brevity of his Budapest stay has prompted diplomats and Catholic media to suggest the pope is giving priority to Slovakia, in effect snubbing Hungary.
    The Vatican has called the Budapest visit a “spiritual pilgrimage.”    Orban’s office has said comparisons with the Slovakia leg would be “misleading.”
    The trip is the pope’s first since undergoing major surgery in July.    Francis told reporters on the plane taking him to Budapest that he was “feeling fine
(Reporting by Philip Pullella. Editing by Jane Merriman)

9/12/2021 In Hungary, Pope Says Anti-Semitism ‘Fuse’ Must Not Be Allowed To Burn by Gergely Szakacs
Pope Francis leads a mass in Heroes' Square, in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Pope Francis called on Sunday for vigilance against a rise in anti-Semitism, saying during a brief trip to Hungary this was a “fuse that must not be allowed to burn.”
    The pope arrived in Hungary early on Sunday for an unusually short visit underlining differences with his political opposite, nationalist and anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
    More than half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, which destroyed a once-vibrant culture across the country.
    Today, there are about 75,000 to 100,000 Jews in Hungary, the largest number in central Europe, according to the World Jewish Congress, with most of them in Budapest.
    “I think of the threat of anti-Semitism still lurking in Europe and elsewhere,” the pope said in an ecumenical meeting in Budapest with leaders of other Christian religions and Jews.
    “This is a fuse that must not be allowed to burn.    And the best way to defuse it is to work together, positively, and to promote fraternity,” he said.
    A survey by the think tank Median commissioned by Mazsihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, found that one in five Hungarians were strongly anti-Semitic, while another 16% were what the survey called moderately anti-Semitic.
    The survey, published in July and taken during 2019-2020, said there were fewer anti-Semitic acts such as vandalism and physical assault in Hungary compared with other European countries.
    In his speech, the pope evoked the image of Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge over the Danube River, linking the two halves of the Hungarian capital, Buda and Pest.
    “Whenever we were tempted to absorb the other, we were tearing down instead of building up.    Or when we tried to ghettoize others instead of including them,” the pope said.    “We must be vigilant and pray that it never happens again.”
    He said Christian leaders should commit to what he called an education in fraternity to stand up against outbursts of hatred.
    Orban, in power since 2010, had raised concerns in Hungary’s Jewish community when several years ago he used an image of U.S. financier George Soros, who is Jewish, in an anti-immigration billboard campaign.
    In May, Orban told reporters that anti-Semitism accusations against him were “ridiculous,” adding that Hungary was a “more than fair and correct country in that respect.”
    Orban has also said Jews should feel safe under his government and that Hungary would show “zero tolerance.” for anti-Semitism.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs. Editing by Philip Pullella and Jane Merriman)

9/12/2021 Hundreds Protest Against Rise In Homophobic Attacks In Madrid
LGBTIQ+ activists and supporters demonstrate against hate crimes at Puerta del Sol
square in Madrid, Spain, September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Susana Vera
    MADRID (Reuters) – Hundreds of people gathered in central Madrid on Saturday to call for better protection for LGBT rights after a series of homophobic attacks that have shocked Spain in recent months.
    People waved rainbow flags and carried banners reading: “justice,” “touch one of us, touch us all,” “we are being killed.”
    “We are here to protest against the continuous homophobic attacks and the constant aggressions that happen weekend after weekend,” said protester Gabriel Escribano.
    Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday chaired an urgent meeting of ministers, community leaders and police to discuss how to reduce hate crimes, which have been growing by around 9% a year since 2014, according to the Interior Ministry.
    Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Wednesday hate crimes were on the rise and becoming more violent.
    There have been growing calls for the government to take action since the killing of nursing assistant Samuel Luiz, who was beaten to death in July in the northwestern region of Galicia allegedly because of his sexual orientation.
    Spain has long been praised as an LGBT-friendly destination, and was a pioneer of gay rights, becoming just the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2005.
(Reporting by Michael Gore and Elena Rodriguez; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Christina Fincher)

9/12/2021 Drag Queens And Refugee Stories: Touring The ‘Real’ Hong Kong by Joyce Zhou
Tour guide Michael Tsang speaks to tourists during a tour visiting refugee communities in
Hong Kong, China August 21, 2021. Picture taken August 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
(Corrects to clarify asylum seekers were apprehensive about persecution in their home country, not Hong Kong, in paragraphs 10-11)
    HONG KONG (Reuters) - Guide Michael Tsang was able to take tourists freely around Asia’s financial hub in 2019, introducing them to the city’s protest movement, explaining “one country, two systems” and showing them scenes of economic inequality.
    Since the coronavirus pandemic cut off foreign visitors and a sweeping national security law passed last year limited what Tsang’s tours could show, his business has been hit hard.    So he shifted to attract local residents with activism tours, including the city’s LGBT movement and refugee community.
    During an August tour he took 30 people to a drag show with a person called “MissTina UglyHaira” who styles herself after singer Christina Aguilera.    Prancing up and down a bar in the city’s Soho district in high heels and a mesh top, Tina details some of her life stories before lip syncing and gyrating for the audience, who applaud loudly.
    Karen Lai, who said she had a “very conservative” upbringing, called the experience eye opening.
    “I realised it is nothing like my parents said,” said Lai, 29.
    Tsang, who quit his finance job in 2016 to start Hong Kong Free Tours, said he wanted to help bring harmony to society and engage people from different facets of life.
    The tours, which also show the city’s disappearing heritage, religious diversity, socio-economic inequality and housing crisis, are a far cry from typical shopping and foodie trips.
    “Society is so polarised these days, so we try to do something to try and resolve the issue,” he told Reuters.
    One of Tsang’s tours visits the city’s famed Chungking Mansions, a labyrinthine complex with ethnic restaurants, guesthouses and stores selling everything from cheap phones to burqas.
    Social worker Jeffrey Andrews, a Hong Kong resident of Indian descent, introduced tour goers to small family-owned businesses inside the complex and met asylum seekers who took refuge in the city.
    For the asylum seekers, Andrews explained that some were apprehensive to share their personal journey as the topics were often sensitive, including touching on political and religious persecution in their home countries.
    “It’s really representing the diversity in Hong Kong…it’s what we are aiming for – people to connect,” Andrews said.
    Sally See, 22, said that besides showing her new things, the tour covered lots of topics that Hong Kongers rarely talk about.
    “We get to meet strangers and talked with more people,” she said.    “I think it’s really fun, especially now we are stuck in Hong Kong, so I feel like I am a tourist again.”
(Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

9/13/2021 Pope, In Slovakia, Warns European Countries Against Being Self-Centred by Philip Pullella and Robert Muller
Pope Francis gives remarks in front of members of the clergy at the Cathedral of
Saint Martin in Bratislava, Slovakia, September 13, 2021. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Pope Francis warned against too much focus on individual rights and culture wars at the expense of the common good on Monday during a visit to Slovakia amid increased nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment across eastern Europe.
    The 84-year-old Francis, looking fit, is making his first trip since undergoing intestinal surgery in July.    Asked by a reporter on Monday how he felt, he joked: “Still alive.”
    On the first papal visit to Slovakia since 2003, Francis returned to a theme he had touched on during a stopover on Sunday in Hungary on how nations should avoid a selfish, defensive mentality as he recalled the region’s communist past.
    “In these lands, until just a few decades ago, a single thought system (communism) stifled freedom.    Today another single thought system is emptying freedom of meaning, reducing progress to profit and rights only to individual needs,” Francis said.
    Addressing Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, other officials and diplomats in the gardens of the presidential palace, the pope added: “Fraternity is necessary for the increasingly pressing process of (European) integration.”
    Slovakia, part of Czechoslovakia during communist times, secured its independence from Prague in 1993.    The Slovak and wider eastern European economies have since boomed but their integration into the European Union has also coincided with a nationalist backlash against increased illegal immigration, often involving Muslims from the Middle East and Afghanistan.
    Slovakia’s neighbours, Hungary and Poland, have been at loggerheads with the EU over their hard-line stance on migration as well as over their judicial reforms and curbs on media freedoms.
    In September, Brussels told Poland its challenge to the primacy of EU law over national law was holding up the release of 57 billion euros in recovery funds to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Francis specifically mentioned the EU recovery plan on Monday, saying people were “looking forward with hope to an economic upturn” it is meant to underpin.
    The pope has often called for European solutions to the migrant crisis and has criticised governments that try, like Hungary’s, to tackle it with unilateral or isolationist actions.
    In Budapest on Sunday, in an apparent response to nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s stand that Muslim immigration could destroy its heritage, he said preserving a nation’s deeply rooted Christian heritage did not exclude a welcoming, caring attitude for others in need.
    “Our Christian way of looking at others refuses to see them as a burden or a problem, but rather as brothers and sisters to be helped and protected,” he said on Monday.
    Slovakia is about 65% Catholic.
    At a meeting with bishops, priests and nuns, Francis said Catholics also must not be inward-looking, self-absorbed and defensive, in an apparent reference to his conservative critics who are resisting change.
    “The Church is not a fortress, a stronghold, a lofty castle, self-sufficient and looking out upon the world below,” he said.
    He later visited a memorial on the site of a synagogue demolished by the communists in 1969 and paid tribute to the more than 100,000 Slovak Jews killed in the Holocaust.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alex Richardson)

9/13/2021 Pope to Hungary: Open your arms to everyone by Nicole Winfield and Justin Spike, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BUDAPEST, Hungary – Pope Francis urged Hungary on Sunday to 'extend its arms towards everyone,' in a veiled critique of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-migrant policies, as the pontiff opened a four-day visit to Central Europe in his first big international outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July.
    Francis, 84, appeared in good form during his short visit to Budapest, presiding over a lengthy Mass and standing as he waved to crowds from his open-sided popemobile.
    Francis spent just seven hours in Budapest before arriving Sunday afternoon in neighboring Slovakia to start a four-day tour.    The lopsided itinerary suggested that Francis wanted to avoid giving Orban – the type of populist nationalist he frequently criticizes – the political boost that comes with hosting a pope for a proper state visit ahead of elections in Hungary next spring.
    Francis did meet upon arrival with Orban, whose refugee policies clash with the pope’s call to welcome and integrate those seeking better lives in Europe.    After the meeting, Orban wrote on Facebook: 'I asked Pope Francis not to let Christian Hungary perish.'
    Orban has frequently depicted his government as a defender of Christian civilization in Europe and a bulwark against migration from Muslim-majority countries.
    In 2015, he rejected proposals to settle refugees from the Mideast and Africa in Hungary and erected a fence along Hungary’s southern border to keep out asylum-seekers trying to enter the European Union.
    The Vatican said the meeting was held in a 'cordial atmosphere' and lasted longer than expected – 40 minutes.
    'Among the various topics discussed were the role of the church in the country, the commitment to the protection of the environment, the protection and promotion of the family,' said a Vatican statement.
    Vatican and Hungarian officials have insisted Francis wasn’t snubbing Hungary by staying for such a short time, noting that the Hungarian church and state only invited him to close out an international conference on the Eucharist on Sunday.
    It was at the end of that Mass that Francis urged Hungarians to remain steadfast in their religious roots, but not in a defensive way that closes them off from the rest of the world.
    'Religious sentiment has been the lifeblood of this nation, so attached to its roots,' he said.    'Yet the cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms toward everyone.'
    He said Hungarians should stay firm in their roots while 'opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time.'
    'My wish is that you be like that: rounded and open, rooted and considerate,' he said.
    Francis’ visit and his final Mass in Heroes’ Square went ahead with few coronavirus restrictions even as Hungary, like the rest of Europe, is battling new infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.
    Few in the crowd wore masks and no tests or vaccination certificates were required to gain entrance.    Some 65.4% of Hungarians over 18 are vaccinated.
Pope Francis opened a four-day visit to Central Europe in his first big international
outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

9/14/2021 Pope, In Slovakia, Says Don’t Exploit Religion For Politics by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis arrives to lead the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in Presov, Slovakia, September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
    PRESOV, Slovakia (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the cross should not be used as a political symbol and warned against Christians trying to be triumphalist, in an apparent criticism of the use of religion for partisan ends.
    Francis flew to the city of Presov, in eastern Slovakia, where he presided at a long service known as a Divine Liturgy, a Byzantine rite used by Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
    The pope wove his homily around the theme of Christian identity, saying crosses and crucifixes were often used superficially by Christians.
    Speaking to about 30,000 worshippers, he said many Christians had crucifixes or crosses around their necks, on walls in their homes, in their cars and in their pockets but had no real relationship with Jesus.
    “What good is this, unless we stop to look at the crucified Jesus and open our hearts to him,” he said.    “Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status.”
    In 1950 in Presov, the communist authorities forced the Eastern Rite Catholics, who owe their allegiance to the Pope, to join the Orthodox Church.    A number of Eastern Rite clerics who refused were jailed.
    In Hungary, where the pope stopped briefly on Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has appealed to religious sentiment in his anti-immigrant and nationalist politics, saying that Hungary’s Christian heritage risked disappearing.
    After his meeting with the pope on Sunday, Orban said he asked the pontiff “not to let Christian Hungary perish.”    The pope said in Hungary that the country could preserve its Christian roots while opening up to the needy.
    At the liturgy on Tuesday, Francis also again appeared to warn Christians against the use of their religion in so-called culture wars that he believes hurt the common good.
    “How often do we long for a Christianity of winners, a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential, that receives glory and honour?” he said.
    In Slovakia, the far-right Kotlebovci-People’s Party Our Slovakia says it stands on three pillars – Christian, national and social – and has vowed to prevent immigration of mostly Muslim refugees.
    “The cross is not a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living,” Francis said, adding that a true believer “views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister.”
    A number of political parties in Europe, including several far-right parties in the east, use crosses on their party flags or symbols.
    In Hungary, one of Orban’s government allies, the tiny Christian Democratic Peoples’ Party (KDNP), uses a cross on their symbol.    The far-right nationalist Our Homeland Party (Mi Hazank) uses the Byzantine cross, which has two horizontal beams.
    The pope later visited one of the most impoverished communities in Slovakia, a settlement of Roma people, where he condemned prejudice and discrimination against them, saying it was wrong to pigeonhole entire ethnic groups.
    He then held a rally with young Slovak Catholics attended by around 20,000 people at a stadium in Kosice before he was due to return to Bratislava.    He returns to Rome on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Robert Muller in Kosice and Gergely Szakac in Budapest; Editing by Alex Richardson)

9/14/2021 Pope Calls Out Prejudice As He Meets Roma In Slovakia by Robert Muller
Pope Francis attends a meeting with members of the Roma Community at Lunik IX
district in Kosice, Slovakia, September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
    KOSICE, Slovakia (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Tuesday condemned prejudice and discrimination against Europe’s Roma people during a visit to one of the most impoverished communities in Slovakia, saying it was wrong to pigeonhole entire ethnic groups.
    Francis, 84, arrived at the bleak Lunik IX settlement on the outskirts of Slovakia’s second biggest city, Kosice, on his penultimate day in the country.
    “We cannot reduce the reality of others to fit our own pre-packaged ideas; people cannot be pigeonholed,” he said, overlooking the dilapidated concrete apartment blocs where about 4,300 people live next to the city garbage dump.     “All too often you have been the object of prejudice and harsh judgments, discriminatory stereotypes, defamatory words and gestures,” he said, after addresses from a Catholic priest who helps in the community and from several residents.
    “As a result, we are all poorer in humanity,” he said.
    There are around 440,000 Roma living in Slovakia, most of them in the eastern part of the country of 5.5 million.
    The Roma, who migrated to Europe from India in the 10th century, have long faced persecution around the world, living on the fringes of society and struggling for work.
    In Lunik’s squalid and dangerous living conditions, many residents burn whatever they can during the winter to stay warm because many buildings lack heating, making for poor air quality.
    “He is bringing some joy to this place,” a Roma woman told reporters through a translator.
    The jobless rate among Slovak Roma stands far above the national 7.7% level.
    In April, Slovakia adopted a strategy to improve the Roma situation by 2030 with a focus on employment, education, healthcare and housing.
    Addressing residents from an open stage covered by white cloth with flower designs painted by Roma children, the pope said that God saw people as equal. Some residents watched from balconies with peeling paint.
    “Judgment and prejudice only increase distances. Hostility and sharp words are not helpful. Marginalizing others accomplishes nothing.    Segregating ourselves and other people eventually leads to anger,” he said.
    Father Marian Deahos, who works with Roma people in a nearby town, said stereotypes made integration and communication difficult.
    “The biggest problem is that everybody thinks gypsies, Roma people, are inferior,” he told a reporter.
    “Everybody thinks that they steal, that they don’t want to work.    Everybody thinks they should stay in a ghetto like this and not be part of society among us,” he said.
    In his address, the pope asked the Roma to go forward “step by step, with honest work, in the dignity of earning your daily bread.”
    Earlier on Tuesday, the pope, presiding at a Byzantine religious, said the cross should not be used as a political symbol and warned against Christians trying to be triumphalist.
    His last event on Tuesday was a rally with the city’s young people at a football stadium.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Philip Pullella and Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/14/2021 S.Korea’s Lack Of Anti-Discrimination Laws Takes Toll On LGBT Youth, Activists Say by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO: A participant takes part in the Korea Queer Culture Festival 2016
in central Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s failure to pass national laws banning discrimination is taking a toll on citizens, particularly LGBT youth, a new report said on Tuesday, as activists see pending legislation as the best chance yet to extend protections.
    U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said its research showed the lack of protections had led to a range of discriminatory practices and were exacerbating harassment for young LGBT people.
    “Even as domestic public opinion warms to LGBT rights and neighbouring governments take steps toward LGBT equality, however, South Korea’s government has failed to make meaningful progress, citing intense religious and conservative opposition to justify inaction,” the report said.
    Among other systemic problems, Human Rights Watch said schools have excluded discussions of LGBT people from sex education, funded mental health programmes where counsellors discouraged students from being LGBT, and made it difficult for transgender students to attend consistent with their gender identity.
    South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Multiple pieces of legislation that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, race, and other statuses are pending in the National Assembly, and some leading ruling party presidential candidates and other officials have expressed their support for the proposals.
    South Korea will hold a presidential election on March 9, 2022.
    But the push for anti-discrimination laws has also provoked a backlash, and many previous efforts have failed.
    When a petition to the parliament earlier this year calling for anti-discrimination laws went viral, gaining 100,000 signatures in four days, a duelling petition opposing the measures gathered the same number of signatures just as quickly.
    Some leading presidential candidates for the main conservative party have vowed to abolish the gender equality ministry if elected, and polls have shown a growing number of young South Korean men complaining that equality efforts have gone too far.
    LGBT legal protections have improved in South Korea over the past two decades, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a 2020 report, but remained below the average of other OECD countries.
    “Korea is falling behind regarding other LGBTI-inclusive laws such as legal provisions explicitly protecting LGBTI individuals against discrimination and violence, or laws addressing the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples,” the report said.
    This is the tenth time draft legislation on anti-discrimination has been submitted to South Korea’s parliament since 2007, according to Amnesty International.
    Passing such a law could make South Korea a pioneer among Asian nations, the group said in an open letter to lawmakers last month.
    “Such a law would not in and of itself eradicate discrimination, prejudice, stigmatization and social marginalization overnight, but it would give hope and safety to many and publicly demonstrate that South Korea is genuinely committed to promoting inclusion,” the letter said.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Karishma Singh)

9/15/2021 Pope Urges COVID Inoculations, Says Vaccines Are Humanity’s Friends by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis speaks to the media on board an Alitalia aircraft enroute from Bratislava's Milan Rastislav Stefanik
International airport in Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Rome, September 15, 2021. Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS
    ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Wednesday he was puzzled why so many people, including some cardinals in Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, have refused to get inoculated against COVID-19.
    “It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines,” he said aboard the plane returning from Slovakia, responding to a question from a reporter about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy.
    “As children (we were vaccinated) for measles, polio.    All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything,” he said.
    Francis, who has been vaccinated against COVID, has often urged others to get inoculated for the common good.
    On the plane, he said perhaps some people were afraid at first because there were various vaccines available and some turned out to be “little more than distilled water.”
    He did not name any vaccines.
    “Even in the College of Cardinals there are some vaccine negationists,” he said.    “But one of them, poor thing, has been hospitalised with the virus.    These are the ironies of life.”
    Francis did not mention the names of any cardinals.
    Cardinal Raymond Burke, a conservative and a vaccine sceptic, was hospitalised in the United States last month after contracting the virus.
    Some conservative anti-vaccine bishops, particularly in the United States, have said Catholics should have the possibility of claiming conscientious objection to the vaccine on religious grounds.
    But the pope has made clear in the past that he disagrees, never having mentioned the option.
    Last month, he issued an appeal on behalf of the nonprofit U.S. group the Ad Council and the public health coalition COVID Collaborative, saying the vaccine should be taken by everyone.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Gregorio)
[As you can see the Pope is following the U.S. group the Ad Council based in New York rather than the GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB.].

9/15/2021 Cuba Publishes Draft Family Code That Opens Door To Gay Marriage by Sarah Marsh
FILE PHOTO: Participant waves a rainbow flag during the annual March against
Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, Cuba May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba published a long-awaited draft of a new family code on Wednesday that would open the door to gay marriage if approved, in a move that LGBT rights activists applauded cautiously as they remained wary of whether it would actually be implemented.
    The new code defines marriage as the “voluntary union of two people” without specifying gender, as opposed to the current definition as the “union of a man and woman.”
    The draft still needs to go to a grassroots debate, however, and will then be amended to take into account citizens’ opinions before going to a referendum.    Activists fear the commission charged with it could relent under pushback from religious groups and those who prefer traditional machismo culture.
    They say the government should not have stipulated a referendum on what are fundamental human rights.    The government says it wants to build rather than force acceptance of>     In 2018 the government decided to withdraw an amendment to Cuba’s new constitution that would have opened the door to same-sex unions after campaigning by evangelical churches.
    “The blueprint for the family code is everything one could have hoped for,” said Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, director of Tremenda Nota, a digital magazine that focuses on women, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community and the Black community.
    “It took a long time and there was no transparency in its interminable process of nearly 15 years.    But it’s there.”
    Cuba, which sent gays to correctional labor camps in the early years after its 1959 leftist revolution, made considerable advances in LGBT rights in the 2000s and 2010s, despite the widespread persistence of machismo.
    The island nation introduced the right to free sex reassignment surgery, banned workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and started holding annual marches against homophobia – Cuba’s equivalent of gay pride.
    Many members of the LGBT community say, however, they have been frustrated by a slowdown in the pace of change in recent years while a handful of other Latin American countries have moved forward with approving gay marriage.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

9/16/2021 Biden Fires 2 Trump Education Dept. Appointees Amid Lawsuit by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 16: Joe Biden speaks during an event in the East Room of the
White House September 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
    Joe Biden has fired two Donald Trump appointees who launched a lawsuit against the Department of Education.    Reports emerged on Thursday that Biden fired economic professor Steve Hanke and law professor John Yoo.
    The appointees were tapped by President Trump to serve on the National Board for Education Sciences, which advises officials in the DOE about funding and research.    However, they both sued the Education Department in July for refusing to deliver their signed presidential commissions.    The two men claimed the Department of Education lacked communication and failed to acknowledge the validity of the appointments made.
    The board is meant to meet at least three times a year and produce an oversight report.    This report is due annually on July 1, yet the Biden administration failed to call a meeting regarding Hanke and Yoo which prompted them to sue.
    The lead attorney for the lawsuit, Jessica Thompson, commented saying “it’s an honor to be appointed by the president and to receive such a commission and our clients and other members were excited to serve the country in this way.    And so these commissions mean something to them, and they’re hopeful that they can still obtain them.”
    In the meantime, the Education Department has until Sept. 24 to file a response to the lawsuit.

9/16/2021 Change Rape Definition, Stop Restricting Media, Europe Tells Poland by Gabriela Baczynska
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators attend a protest against a decision restricting abortion rights
in Warsaw, Poland, January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Poland must change its legal definition of rape to protect women and stop restricting media, European institutions said on Thursday, in the latest challenges to the ruling nationalists over rights and democracy.
    Under the eurosceptic, socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, Poland has fought with the European Union on issues ranging from treatment of migrants to independence of judges.
    Despite protests, PiS has tightened already restrictive anti-abortion laws, introducing a de facto ban on terminating pregnancies.
    The Council of Europe (CoE) – the continent’s top rights watchdog – said Warsaw should increase efforts to combat sexual violence and change its definition of rape from a force-based act to one covering all non-consensual sex.
    The Council is reviewing how European nations implement the 2014 Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women.    Of 17 states analysed so far, only Belgium, Malta and Sweden penalise sexual violence on grounds of lack of consent alone.
    “Without a consent-based definition of rape in criminal law, prosecutors will invariably decide against seeking an indictment in cases where the sexual act is undisputed, but consent is not,” the CoE said in a statement.
    Separately, the EU parliament voted 502-149 in favour of endorsing a resolution expressing concern over media freedoms in Poland and criticising a draft law targeting a U.S. Discovery-owned TV news channel TVN, which is critical of the government.
    The non-binding resolution further laments the erosion of judicial independence, the use of litigation to silence critics, and attempts to block sex education classes.
    It criticises Poland for setbacks to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as discrimination of gays, saying the EU should withhold funds to Warsaw.
    Nineteen of the bloc’s 27 countries – but not Poland – already won European Commission approval for their national spending plans, unlocking access to tens of billions of euros from the bloc in COVID-19 recovery funds.
    The Commission has also criticised Poland over lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights following a decision by some Polish communities to declare themselves “LGBT-free”
    The Ministry of Family and Social Policy dismissed concerns of discrimination, saying on Wednesday that it did not legally limit the right of all people to live or work there.
    The Commission is likely to judge this reasoning as faulty and to tell Poland to make amends, or face a lawsuit at the top EU court, which might order redress as well as fines.
    Warsaw has said it would plug the gaps in funding should the self-proclaimed “LGBT-free” zones lose EU money. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Lisa Shumaker)

9/17/2021 Pope Inspired Me Over Family Values, Says Hungary’s Orban by Gergely Szakacs
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis shakes hands with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban at Romanesque Hall
in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Hungary, September 12, 2021. Vatican Media/ Handout
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that his recent meeting with Pope Francis encouraged him to keep defending the traditional family though the pair avoided airing their differences over immigration.
    In power since 2010, Orban has cast himself as a saviour of Hungary’s culture against Muslim migration into Europe and a protector of Christian values against Western liberalism.
    That has won him domestic popularity – though he faces a potentially tough election next year – but brought criticism from rights groups and LGBT campaigners.
    “The meeting gave me very strong encouragement,” Orban said of his encounter with Francis during an unusually short seven-hour stay in Hungary.
    “The Holy Father made it clear that the fight we are waging to protect families is the most important struggle with regard to the future of Europe,” he added on public radio.
    Last year, Hungary amended its constitutional definition of family to effectively ban adoption by same-sex couples: another win for conservatives but decried by rights groups.
    Orban cited the pope as telling him during their 40-minute meeting that there should be no debate or argument over the traditional family unit.
    “He expressed himself more strongly than I have ever managed to … (He said) the family consists of a father, a mother and children, full stop,” Orban said.
    “Moreover, he said: go ahead, go for it.    And go for it we will.”
    Both Orban and the pope, in a readout on his plane on Thursday, said immigration was not discussed.
    Francis has often denounced what he sees as a resurgence of nationalist and populist movements, and criticised countries trying to solve the migration crisis with unilateral or isolationist actions.
    The Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni called the meeting cordial, and Francis told reporters that the birth rate, laws to incentivise having babies, and the environment were discussed.
    “I tip my hat,” the pope said of Hungary’s efforts to clean rivers and defend the environment, adding that he intended a full visit in 2022 or 2023.
    The pope said on the plane that the Church could not sanction homosexual marriage but governments should give gay couples legal rights in areas such as healthcare, pensions and inheritance.
    In June, Hungary adopted a law banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s despite criticism from rights groups and the European Union that it is discriminatory.    Orban says the law protects children.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Philip Pullella and Andrew Cawthorne)

9/17/2021 Gay War Veteran Speaks Out For Equal Rights In Ukraine’s Military by Margaryta Chornokondratenko
Viktor Pylypenko, a Ukrainian war veteran who fought in the country's east against pro-Russian separatists,
poses for a picture with his military uniform in Kyiv, Ukraine September 1, 2021. Pylypenko came out publicly as gay in
2018 and co-founded a non-governmental organisation that supports LGBT+ people in the country's military
and promotes tolerance and equal rights in the army. Picture taken September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) – Viktor Pylypenko has become a role model for dozens of LGBT+ Ukrainian war veterans and their supporters since he organised their participation two years ago in Kyiv’s largest ever gay pride march.
    Pylypenko, 34, spent almost two years from 2014 to 2016 on the frontline fighting with Kyiv’s forces against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed at least 14,000 lives. He came out as gay in 2018.
    “(LGBT activism) became a continuation of my personal war against the enslavement of a human being’s freedom,” Pylypenko told Reuters ahead of Kyiv’s annual pride march on Sunday.
    And he makes a direct link between his sexual orientation and the cause for which he says he was fighting – a free and sovereign Ukraine in which all enjoy equal rights.
    “I volunteered to go to the frontline because I understood that they (the separatists) want to deprive us of freedom, they want to deprive the whole country of freedom.    As a gay man, I was very sensitive to this,” he said.
    Pylypenko, who has set up a non-governmental organisation to support LGBT+ people in the military, said he received support from other members of his batallion, adding that they were more interested in his military record and commitment than in his sexual orientation.
    He believes having more LGBT+ people serving in the military, a respected institution in Ukraine, can help overcome prejudice towards sexual minorities in the ex-Soviet republic.
    “The military can change society’s attitudes, they have the reputation, they have trust, they have defended peace in Ukraine,” said Pylypenko, who comes from a military family that he says has accepted his sexuality.
    Ukraine’s Western-backed government has increased support for LGBT+ rights in recent years.    Parliament outlawed workplace discrimination in 2015, though homophobic attitudes remain fairly widespread.
    Gay pride marches regularly attract counter-protests by far-right and religious activists.    After Kyiv’s 2015 pride march was disrupted by violent attacks, city authorities deploy a large police presence to maintain order and protect participants.
    Pylypenko said his dream was for armed forces divisions to take part in gay pride marches “as allies and to enjoy the fact that they live in a developed country with human rights equality where they are not ashamed of the topic of homosexuality but support it and openly raise rainbow flags.”
(Editing by Gareth Jones)

9/18/2021 British court rules under-16s can receive puberty-blocking drugs
    LONDON – Britain’s Court of Appeal ruled Friday that doctors can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to children under 16 without a parent’s consent, overturning a lower court’s decision that a judge’s approval should be needed.    Appeals judges said the High Court was wrong to rule last year that children considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to medical treatment involving drugs that delay puberty.    The 2020 ruling said clinics should seek court authorization before starting such treatment.

9/19/2021 Thousands March For LGBTQ+ Rights In Ukraine Despite Some Opposition
Participants take part in the Equality March, organized by the LGBT+ community in Kyiv, Ukraine September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) – Thousands of people including soldiers and diplomats marched peacefully through the Ukrainian capital on Sunday in an annual gay pride parade despite some opposition to an event called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Organisers said about 7,000 attended the Equality March this year, compared to 8,000 in 2019, which saw the biggest turnout since the event was initiated a decade ago despite opposition from religious and nationalist groups.
    Homophobia is widespread in Ukraine, according to a survey by the sociological group “Rating” published in August, which said 47% of respondents had a negative view of the LGBTQ+ community.
    The marchers were flanked by police as a few hundred anti-gay rights protesters gathered nearby, but there was no violence.
    “So fantastic to be out on the streets alongside my cool @UKinUkraine colleagues and friends supporting LGBTQ groups in Ukraine,” British Ambassador Melinda Simmons wrote on Twitter.
    She posted a picture of herself surrounded by dozens of young smiling people with rainbow flags, some wearing rainbow masks.
    “We want to protect the rights of LGBT people, because they first of all are humans,” student Olexandra told Reuters.
    Dressed in military uniform, Anastasia, a veteran of the war with Russian-backed separatists, said the army had issues with equal rights.
    “The service regulations do not allow you to reveal your (true) face,” she said.    “This is the second time we have come to the pride (march) to openly say that in the army and other organisations not usually associated with the LGBT movement, there also are LGBT people.”
    The government has increased support for LGBTQ+ rights since Western-backed leaders came to power in 2014.    Parliament passed legislation in 2015 to ban discrimination in the workplace, but it does not allow for same-sex marriage or adoption of children.
    “This is already the 10th pride, it was successful, it went calmly,” Leni Emson, director of the KyivPride non-government organization, told journalists.
    Ukraine ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova wrote on Facebook on Sunday that the constitution recognises all people “equal in their rights from birth, regardless of any characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity
    “I urge citizens to be tolerant to one another and refrain from manifestations of discrimination,” she said.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Sergiy Karazy; Editing by Nick Macfie)

9/20/2021 Hungary PM Launches Election Campaign With $2 Billion Tax Refund For Families
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the opening session of parliament
in Budapest, Hungary, September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s government will refund $2 billion of income tax to families in early 2022 and also plans a big hike in the minimum wage, right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the opening session of parliament on Monday, setting the stage for next year’s election.
    Orban, who faces a parliamentary election that is shaping up as a competitive race for the first time in a decade, said the economy’s sharp rebound from the coronavirus pandemic provided room in the budget for the measures.
    Hungary raised about 4.4 billion euros on international markets last week in a surprise bond issuance to help cover rising spending and a likely delay in the arrival of European Union COVID-19 recovery fund money due to a row between Brussels and Budapest over gay rights and media freedoms.
    Orban has already showered the electorate with handouts, including generous home-renovation grants, and last week extended a moratorium on loan repayments for vulnerable groups until mid-2022.
    He said the economy was set to grow more than 5.5% this year, and that there was already a shortage of labour.
    The government will issue the tax refunds to all families next February.    The payments will be capped at the level of income tax paid by someone earning the average wage.
    “In total, the tax authority will refund 600 billion forints ($2 billion) to 1.9 million parents,” Orban told parliament, importing an electoral recipe from his Polish allies, the populist and nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.
    Poland’s ruling party had introduced a scheme giving families 500 zlotys per month for each child and also exempted most people aged under 26 from the obligation to pay income tax.
    Orban reiterated that an exemption from personal income tax for those under 25 will come into force next year.
    Pensioners will also get an extra payment due to rising inflation, he said.
    He flagged a hike in the minimum wage to 200,000 forints from 167,400 forints currently, saying that talks with employers were under way and that there was a “good chance” of an agreement.
    Opposition parties said the wage hike had been long overdue, and sharply criticised the government for what they said was rampant corruption, surging prices and a widening wealth gap.
    “Three things have grown in Hungary….your luxury, the size of yachts and poverty,” said Peter Jakab, leader of the opposition Jobbik party.    “Prices are sky high.”
    According to four opinion polls conducted in August, Orban’s Fidesz and the broad alliance of opposition parties are running neck-and-neck.    The election is expected to be held by next spring, although no date has been set yet.
    Orban, who has grown increasingly radical on social policy to protect what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism, reaffirmed his support for a law that EU leaders say discriminates against gay and transgender people and goes against EU values.
    The law, passed in June, bans the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s.
    “We do not allow room for any kind of sexual propaganda targeted at children,” Orban said
($1 = 301.8200 forints)
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Hugh Lawson)


9/20/2021 Vatican Says To Require COVID-19 Health Pass For Residents, Visitors
FILE PHOTO: A t-shirt is seen in a shop in Rome, Italy, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A health certificate showing proof of immunity from COVID-19 immunity will be required to enter the Vatican as of Oct. 1, the city state said on Monday.
    Residents, workers and visitors will have to carry the so-called Green Pass that is already widely used in surrounding Italy, the Holy See said in a statement.
    An exception will be made for those attending mass “for the time strictly necessary for the rite.”
    The Green Pass – originally conceived to ease travel among European Union states – shows that someone has been vaccinated, has tested negative or has recently recovered from the coronavirus.
    On Thursday, the Italian government made it obligatory for all workers to show the certificate as of Oct. 15, in an effort to boost its vaccination campaign.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones)
[The purposes are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission, and that they are derived from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37–40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) as every church is driven by something.
    The church is in your heart and is not a physical building where just approved Christians who comply to dictatorship to worship depending on your health, and even Jesus walked through the Lepers.
    As to the physical buildings where Christian’s worship and also to refer to the community of Christians.
    In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him.    They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”    And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?    Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
So we do not need the Vatican to do what Christians should do or a mark of the beast on us to be accepted.]

9/20/2021 San Marino Abortion Debate Heats Up Ahead Of Historic Referendum by Angelo Amante and Emily Roe
Members of the "Yes" campaign to legalise abortion in San Marino hand out leaflets ahead of the September 26th referendum in San
Marino, one of the smallest countries in Europe, September 15, 2021. Picture taken September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini
    SAN MARINO (Reuters) – One of Europe’s staunchest opponents to legal abortion could fall on Sunday when San Marino, a tiny and deeply Catholic republic landlocked in Italy, holds a referendum to overturn a law dating back to 1865.
    A “Yes” vote will bring some relief for pro-choice supporters further afield who have been dismayed as authorities in countries like Poland and in the U.S. state of Texas have tightened laws.
    In the mountainous enclave of 33,000 people, women who end their pregnancies risk three years’ imprisonment.    The term is twice as long for anyone who carries out their abortion.     As the campaign enters its final week emotions are running high between traditionalists and the referendum’s promoters, with hard-hitting posters on the medieval streets.
    Vanessa Muratori, a member of the San Marino Women’s Union, believes the Sept. 26 plebiscite will crown a personal 18-year battle to give San Marino women the same rights as in Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978.
    “I care about my country and I want it to be civilised,” she says.    “I feel like a link in a chain of women’s emancipation that goes beyond San Marino.”
    Elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean island of Malta, and the micro-states of Andorra and the Vatican City, another Italian enclave, still ban abortion altogether.
    Muratori set up a feminist association in 1994 and presented a bill to legalise abortion to San Marino’s legislative council in 2003.    It received just two votes in favour and 16 against.
    The experience brought home to her the extent of the religion-based resistance to change, and convinced her that a well prepared campaign was needed to win over her compatriots’ hearts and minds.
    Success on Sunday will allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter only in the case of the mother’s life being in danger or of grave malformation of the foetus.
    In Europe’s last referendum on abortion, the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar voted in June to ease what remain extremely strict curbs.
    Ireland legalised abortion in a far higher-profile referendum in 2018, while this month the state of Texas went in the other direction, introducing a law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
    Social progress has always been slow in San Marino.
    Women did not get the right to vote until 1960, 14 years after surrounding Italy, and have only been allowed to hold political office since 1974.    Divorce was legalised in 1986, some 16 years after Italy.
    Nonetheless, Muratori’s Women’s Union, campaigning from a gazebo in a children’s playground near the Italian border, has made inroads into the conservative mentality, and gathered 3,000 signatures to launch the vote, three times more than required.
    “From my point of view this referendum shouldn’t even be necessary, choosing whether to have a baby or not should be part of a woman’s human freedom,” said Anita Alvarez, a 20-year-old student.
    The ‘No’ campaign is equally determined.    Using the slogan “one of us,” its core message is that the unborn child should have the same rights as all San Marino citizens.
    Marina Corsi, a pharmacist active with the ‘NO’ committee, said this principle should not be compromised even in cases of rape or the certainty of severe disability for the unborn baby.
    “It is not the baby who is guilty in rape cases, it is the rapist who should be punished, not the child,” she said.
    As things stand, San Marino women wanting an abortion normally go to Italy, where they can only get one privately, at a cost of around 1,500 euros ($1,766).
    “Women are forced to seek healthcare …as criminals because they are rejected by their own state,” said Karen Pruccoli, a businesswoman who is a member of the ‘YES’ committee backing the referendum.
(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

9/21/2021 “I’m Still Alive,” Says Pope, “Though Some Wanted Me Dead” by Crispian Balmer
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis arrives for the Holy Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady
of Sorrows in Sastin, Slovakia, September 15, 2021. REUTERS/David Cerny/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has joked that some people in the Church hoped he would not survive his recent colon operation, and denounced vociferous conservative critics for doing “the work of the devil” by undermining the Roman Catholic Church.
    Francis made the comments during a meeting with members of the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order, in Slovakia this month.    They were reported on Tuesday by the Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica.
    Asked about his health by one of the Jesuits, Francis was quoted as replying: “Still alive.    Although some people wanted me dead.”
    “I know that there were even meetings between prelates who thought that the Pope was in a more serious condition than was being said,” he added.    “They were preparing the conclave (to elect a new pope).    So be it.    Thank God, I am wella.”
    Francis, who was elected pontiff in 2013, underwent colon surgery on July 4, and spent 11 days in hospital.    He has since resumed a full work schedule.
    Addressing some of the challenges facing the Church, Francis took aim at traditionalists, saying that “turning back is not the right way” and that it was important to move forward.
    He denounced a “major Catholic television station,” which he did not name, that he said was constantly attacking him.
    “I personally may deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve this.    It is the work of the devil,” he said.
    In recent years, Francis has been the focus of criticism from a small but powerful number of American conservatives unhappy with his stands on various theological issues as well as social matters from immigration to climate change.
    They are regularly given time on the U.S.-based Catholic television network EWTN.
    The pope admitted that criticism from clerics within the Church annoyed him at times.
    “I sometimes lose patience, especially when they make judgments without entering into a real dialogue.    I can’t do anything there.    However, I go on without entering their world of ideas and fantasies,” he said.
    He warned against clerical “rigidity” and said God wanted society to be free.
    The Catholic Church teaches those homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are, but Francis has been more conciliatory towards gay people than perhaps any other pope.
    “We are afraid to accompany people with sexual diversity,” he was quoted as saying by the magazine, adding that priests should offer support to homosexual couples.
    However, he cautioned against the rise of “gender ideology.”
    “It is dangerous because it is abstract with respect to the concrete life of a person, as if a person can decide abstractly at will whether and when to be a man or a woman,” he said.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Barbara Lewis and Kevin Liffey)
[Matthew 7:13-14 KJV - The Narrow Way - 13Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
    The Liberals have made it a strong point to push homosexuality and transgenderism on the youth; and the schools, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and legislators are all involved in promoting lifestyles that generally can’t procreate.    It is a depopulation agenda, and it is satanic.
    “You shall not lie with a male, as with a woman; it is an abominationLeviticus 18:22.
    “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?    Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (transgender man to woman), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals)” 1 Corinthians 6:9.]

9/22/2021 Polish Court Delays Ruling On Primacy Of EU Law
Protesters attend a demonstration taking place during a session of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, ruling on whether
several articles of EU Treaties comply with the Polish Constitution, in front of the Constitutional Tribunal building in
Warsaw, Poland September 22, 2021. Banners read "Unconstitutional Tribunal" and "Constitution" REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Wednesday adjourned its sitting on whether the country’s constitution or European Union treaties take precedence. An EU commissioner said earlier the challenge was holding up the release of EU funds to Warsaw.
    Poland is involved in a series of disputes with the EU on issues ranging from courts and media freedom to LGBT rights, as critics accuse its nationalist government of inching towards an exit from the bloc.
    “Due to the emergence of new circumstances and new allegations and to be able to ask insightful questions … the Constitutional Tribunal adjourns until Sept. 30,” the head of the Tribunal, Julia Przylebska, said after hearing the parties.
    Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki brought the case as part of a dispute with the EU over changes to Poland’s judicial system, which Brussels says may undermine judicial independence.
    The primacy of European laws over national ones is a key tenet of European integration.
    Warsaw says Brussels has no right to interfere with the judicial systems of EU member states and argues the reforms were needed to remove communist-era influence in the judiciary and speed up proceedings.
    Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says the EU’s insistence on the primacy of EU law over national legislation undermines the foundations of Poland’s sovereignty and its constitutional order.
    While some warn of a potential “Polexit,” Poland is unlikely to leave the bloc any time soon.    There is no legal way to throw countries out of the EU and most Poles support membership.
    A survey this month showed 88% of Poles believed Poland should remain in the EU and only 7% favoured pulling out, but nearly a third believed leaving was a possibility.
    But Poland could lose EU funds that have helped its economic development.    European Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has said the court challenge is holding up 57 billion euros ($66 billion) in EU recovery aid to Warsaw.
    The EU’s top court ruled in July that a Polish disciplinary chamber for judges was illegal, a day after the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw ruled that Poland should ignore a previous demand to stop the chamber operating.
    Following a threat of financial penalties from the European Commission, Poland said it would disband the chamber, but hasn’t provided details.
    Warsaw is also waiting to hear from the Commission after five Polish regions refused to back out of declarations they would remain “LGBT-free,” which means they may lose EU funds.
    On Monday, the EU court ordered Poland to pay a 500,000 euro daily fine for defying a ruling to halt the Turow lignite mine on the border with the Czech Republic.    Warsaw vowed to keep the mine running despite the penalty.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Pawel Florkiewicz and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson)

9/22/2021 Divided Swiss To Vote On Same-Sex Marriage by Silke Koltrowitz, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Cecile Mantovani
FILE PHOTO: A flag is pictured ahead of a vote on same-sex marriage in Bern, Switzerland,
September 8, 2021. Picture taken September 8, 2021. Flag reads: "Yes, I will". REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    ZURICH (Reuters) -Swiss voters decide on Sunday whether to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children after a highly charged campaign pitted gay rights activists against conservative opponents in one of the last Western European countries to still ban gay marriage.
    The federal government and parliament approved opening civil marriage to same-sex couples, but opponents forced a referendum on the issue under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.
    During the campaign, opponents of the reform used images of crying babies, while supporters waved “Yes, I do” rainbow flags at the Zurich and Geneva pride parades.
    The share of voters set to approve same-sex marriage fell to 63% in the latest poll by gfs.bern for broadcaster SRG, while the share of those against rose to 35%, versus 69% and 29% a month earlier.
    Same-sex couple Corinne Guntern and Anouk Oswald, from Zurich, said the ‘Marriage for All’ vote represented an important milestone for their future.
    “I want to be able to choose for myself if I want to marry this partner next to me and if it’s the right path for us to start a family,” said Oswald, 30.    “It’s important to show the younger generation you don’t need to hide.”br>     Guntern, also 30, said it was not fair that a single woman could adopt a child while a same-sex couple could not.
    “Today, if I reach a certain age and I’m single, regardless of my sexual orientation, I can be accepted into the adoption process and apply to adopt a child.    But if I’m in a same-sex partnership, right now, I can’t,” she said.
    “Of course, a child needs safety and love … but I don’t think it makes a difference whether that’s given by a straight or gay couple,” she said.
    In Switzerland, same-sex couples received the right to enter civil partnerships in 2007 and the right to adopt children parented by their partner in 2018.
    Under the amended law, same-sex couples would be allowed to adopt children unrelated to them.
    Married lesbian couples would also be allowed to have children through sperm donation, currently legal only for married heterosexual couples.    Under the law, both women would be recognised as the child’s official parents from birth.
    Antonia Hauswirth of the national committee “Marriage for All” said the current adoption procedure could take three years.    “If something happens to the biological mother during this time, the child is considered an orphan.”
    The proposed scheme would give children born from a sperm donation two parents from birth and thus better legal protection, she said.
    Opponents say the changes would deprive children of a father.
    “Tomorrow, a child in Switzerland will still have a mother, but just an ‘other parent’ instead of a father.    The father just gets deleted from the civil code, that’s not acceptable to me,” said Olivier Dehaudt, a member of a referendum committee objecting to the proposal.
    The proposed legal change would also open an easier path to citizenship for the foreign spouse of a Swiss citizen.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Cecile MantovaniEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

9/22/2021 Sen. Rand Paul Keeps Up Fight To Recover PPP Loans Illegally Given To Planned Parenthood by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 14: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) prepares to hear Secretary of State Antony Blinken
testify during a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing to examine the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan
on Capitol Hill on September 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford – Pool/Getty Images)
    Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) has doubled down on the fight against the Small Business Administration’s illegal funding of Planned Parenthood. Under the Trump administration last year, officials found the SBA illegally gave dozens of Planned Parenthood branches about $80 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.    The SBA asked the organization to give back the loans after determining that they were ineligible, but some branches refused.
    In an exclusive interview with One America News earlier this year, Sen. Paul said Planned Parenthood continued to illegally obtain PPP loans under the Biden administration.    Paul said he would not give up on the fight to hold the SBA accountable.
    “We’re going to keep on this, we’re going to pursue this.    We don’t think that Planned Parenthood should be getting any taxpayer dollars, but certainly they shouldn’t be getting COVID relief money that’s not legally destined for them,” Paul told OAN’s John Hines.
    Meanwhile, Sen. Paul and Republican members of the Small Business Committee have sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and SBA leaders, requesting their help in recovering the funds.    The Small Business Committee is also attempting to stop a vote on the SBA’s nominee for deputy administrator until the agency takes action.


9/23/2021 San Francisco Archbishop Calls Out Pelosi For Stance On Abortion by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 23: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds a news conference at
the U.S. Capitol on September 23, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushes back an archbishop’s comment against abortion, saying women have the right to choose.    During a news conference on Thursday, the archbishop of San Francisco said Pelosi’s backing to codify Roe v. Wade is “child sacrifice.”
    The Women’s Health Care Protection Act would essentially protect women’s abortion access.    While the archbishop criticized the legislation, Pelosi, whose Catholic, said her views on abortion differ.
    “The archbishop of the city, that area of San Francisco, and I have a disagreement about who should decide this,” said Pelosi.    “I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities.”
    Meanwhile, tensions have only risen as more states are moving to enact abortion bans similar to the one recently passed in Texas.

9/24/2021 Mexican State Of Sonora Approves Same-Sex Marriage
FILE PHOTO: Members of Mexico's LGBT community are pictured as they mark
Pride month in Mexico City, Mexico, June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The congress of the Mexican state of Sonora voted on Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, meaning that about three quarters of the country’s regions have now made the practice legal.
    Lawmakers in the legislature of Sonora, a large northern state that borders Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, approved the change in the law with 26 votes in favor and seven against.
    On Wednesday, the central state of Queretaro, long regarded as one of the most conservative in the country, also approved same-sex marriage legislation in what Mexican media reported was the 23rd of 32 regions to do so.
    The push for marriage equality and LGBT rights has gathered pace since Mexico City became the first region to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009.
    Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been at pains not to alienate socially conservative voters, but many activists in his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) are staunch supporters of socially liberal causes.
(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Robert Birsel)

9/24/2021 German Archbishop To Take ‘Spiritual Time-Out’ After Abuse Scandal – Vatican by Philip Pullella and Douglas Busvine
FILE PHOTO: The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, gives an update on the consequences and measures taken after an independent report
on abuse cases at the Cologne archdiocese was released last week in Cologne, Germany, March 23, 2021. Oliver Berg/Pool via REUTERS
    ROME/BERLIN (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne will take a “spiritual time-out” from his duties after committing grave errors in a crisis over clerical sexual abuse, but will retain his post, the Vatican said on Friday.
    Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki, 65, had faced criticism for his handling of allegations of past child sex abuse, in particular for shelving a report into wrongdoing by priests over unspecified shortcomings in methodology.
    It was clear that Woelki needed “time to reflect, to renew and to reconcile,” the Vatican said after talks between     Pope Francis and Woelki on a crisis that has rocked the church in Germany and follows many similar scandals around the world.
    “This has led Pope Francis to accommodate Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s wish for a spiritual time-out,” the Holy See said in a statement.
    The announcement from Rome sought to resolve a long-running scandal that has shaken the richest national branch of the Catholic Church, dividing its leadership and eroding a flock that numbers more than 20 million people.
    Yet, coming directly after a three-day meeting of German bishops that sought to chart a path out of the crisis, the statement from the Holy See came as a surprise to the chairman of the gathering.
    Responding to the Vatican statement, Bishop Georg Baetzing said he had learned of the decision by Pope Francis only on Friday. He said he had been unaware of it on Thursday – the final day of the autumn bishops’ convention.
    “I accept the decisions of the Holy Father and hope that the process of reconciliation will begin in the Archdiocese of Cologne,” Baetzing said in a statement.
    “I am unable to judge whether this can lead to a fundamental change in the situation over the next few months.”
    The Pope in May dispatched two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archbishop of Cologne’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in Germany’s largest archdiocese.
    In what was interpreted at the time as a rebuke, liberal Cardinal Reinhard Marx subsequently offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, saying he had to share responsibility for sexual abuse committed by clerics in the past.
    The Vatican said that there was no evidence that Woelki had broken the law in relation to the cases of sexual abuse.
    “Nonetheless, he committed grave errors in his approach to the question of dealing with this question, above all in the area of communication,” it said.    “That contributed to a large extent to the crisis of confidence than has shaken many of the faithful.”
    In a statement issued by his office, Woelki thanked Francis while recognising that trust had been lost in recent months.    He would dedicate himself to contemplation and prayer through a time-out running to March 1.
    “I am walking this path with a clear message from the Holy Father that we have provided serious and comprehensive information and that we have not covered up anything,” said Woelki, reprising earlier denials of wrongdoing.
    “I would like to ask you to pray for the Archdiocese and for me in the coming weeks.    I also promise you my fervent prayer.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella and Douglas Busvine, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Nick Macfie)

9/24/2021 Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Debbie Dingell Get In Heated Argument After Pro-Choice Bill Passes House by OAN Newsroom
Rep. Debbie Dingell (center), Democrat of Michigan, shouts at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (right), on the
steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 24, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
    GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Democrat Rep. Debbie Dingell (Mich.) faced off on the steps of the Capitol building.    On Friday, Dingell began yelling at Greene, who had confronted a gang of Democrats on the steps just before.     The group of Democrats were celebrating the passage of a bill earlier in the day on Friday, which has granted women greater access to abortions.    Republican lawmakers have advocated against the bill by arguing it would restrict regulations on abortions at a state level.
    “Are you kidding me?    Try being a Christian and supporting life,” Greene asserted.    “Support life.”
    The Dingell campaign later spun the altercation as a test to her ability as a tough leader by claiming to have “stood up to Greene to jam through the Democrat agenda.”

9/25/2021 House Democrats Pass Sweeping Abortion Law by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks as Rep. Sylvia Garcia
(D-Texas) (L), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) (3rd L) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) (R) listen during
a news conference outside U.S. Capitol September 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
    The Women’s Health and Protection Act passed the House in a 218 to 211 vote.    The bill is in response to the Texas abortion law, SB8, and is the legislature’s attempt to block the state’s legislation where the Supreme Court didn’t.    Since Roe v. Wade led the Supreme Court to rule abortions to be constitutional in 1973, Democrats have claimed the Texas law violates the Constitution.
    The bill, which received only Democrat support, would provide federal oversight for abortion laws nationwide.    Introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D) of California, the act aims to eliminate mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods and pre-abortion counseling.    Chu claimed the Texas law has an unrealistic time span to detect pregnancies and levels severe penalties against abortion facilitators.
    “At six weeks, before most women know that they are pregnant, with no exception for incest or rape.    But it’s not an outlier,” claimed Chu.    “The other hundreds of anti-choice laws that have been adopted have chipped away at Roe and they’re all based in some way on bullying or harassing patients or doctors.”
    Prior to the vote, the House floor was filled with emotionally charged testimonies from both the pro-choice and pro-life camps.    Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) used a personal experience to illustrate her belief of fetuses being human lives.
    “I, like many women, suffered a miscarriage.    I should have been able to hold my son in my arms but that was not God’s plan,” said Van Duyne.    “Years later, I still grieve that loss and not the loss of a generic ‘cluster of cells,’ but an actual baby.”
    Proponents of the bill, however, claimed women living in abortion restrictive states will be put at risk by pursuing illegal methods of pregnancy termination.    In the meantime, the bill will advance to the Senate where it will likely face harsh opposition from Republicans.

9/27/2021 COVID-19 vaccine revives debate over religion vs. science - Anti-shot activists cite ‘mark of the beast’ by Scott Gleeson and Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
    The COVID-19 vaccine has been scientifically proved to save lives, but for a select group of people in the religious realm, a more important matter is at stake – eternal salvation.
    As the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads, many Americans resist COVID-19 vaccines, some citing the uncertainty of long-term side effects, others lacking trust in the medical field.    Some vaccine resisters have been galvanized by the idea that the shot is the “mark of the beast.”
    The “mark of the beast” in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation signals an allegiance to Satan or those who reject God.
    “Studies show that any conflicts between religion and science are not about facts, they are more about values and morals,” said John Evans, a professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of California, San Diego.
    What does Revelation say?
    The apocalyptic biblical term comes from Revelation 13: 16-18.    According to the Apostle John in the New International Version Bible, a pair of beasts will rule the Earth with cruelty.    Their evil reach – which can be interpreted as hidden manipulation – will require all people who engage in commerce to wear the mark of the beast.    The Apostle John did not identify what the mark looks like, although some theologians translate Scripture to associate the number “666” with it.
    Pastor Darin Wood of First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, wrote an op-ed in August for the Midland Reporter-Telegram that said, “One of my church family posed an honest question: ‘Pastor, is the COVID vaccine the mark of the beast?    I’ve been told it is.’    Their question was an honest and heartfelt one, and clearly, they were anguished about it.    In kindness, I answered, ‘no’ and thought little more about it.    Until the question came again.    And again.    And again.
    “There’s no indication that the vaccine matches the mark described by the Apostle John.    … I’ve been sent numerous articles and videos ... that (suggest) the vaccine represents a conspiracy of governmental control or that the vaccine contains some sort of marking agent to indelibly identify those foolish enough to receive the vaccine.    It’s just not reasonable or logical to presume such a wide conspiracy is even possible.    The question then arises as to why this wide mistrust in medical treatment has come.”
    “(Former President) Donald Trump tapped into American populism, and with that comes the disbelief of experts,” Evans told USA TODAY.
    Peter Feaman, a top Republican National Committee official in Florida, said last month that vaccines are “the mark of the beast” and comparable to a “false god.”    In May, Feaman wrote on his blog of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraging vaccines in Michigan: “Diabolical Michigan Governor Whiter wants her citizens to get the Mark of the Beast to participate in society.”
    According to Evans’ studies, the majority of “mark of the beast” believers appear to be politically conservative and from Protestant Christian backgrounds.
    “People with spiritual beliefs that all things are influenced by religion are more likely to believe ‘mark of the beast,’ which is in every Christian’s Bible, but people will focus on particular passages in the Bible to support their belief system,” Evans said.
    What do religious leaders say?
    Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie said COVID-19 vaccines are not “the mark of the beast,” but many Christians may believe they are, thinking the world is in what the Bible calls “the last days.”
    “The Bible speaks of someone identified as the ‘Antichrist’ and he will require people have a ‘mark’ that people will receive to buy and sell,” Laurie told USA TODAY in an email.    “The COVID-19 vaccine – or any vaccines – have nothing to do with any of this.”
    Laurie, who has been vaccinated, said the mark will be a pledge of loyalty to the Antichrist, and no one would take the mark unknowingly.
    “In Revelation 14, we learn that those who take the mark are doomed,” he said.    “God will not doom people for taking something unwittingly.”
    Misinterpretations of Revelation 13:16-18 can stem from social media where people can spread unreliable information, according to Laurie.
    “Sometimes these statements are packaged to look like Bible Prophecy,” he said, “but they are false and misapplied because many people do not understand what the Bible actually says about these things.”
    Nicole Williams, a traveling intensive care unit nurse, said she has heard the “mark of the beast” as a reason not to get vaccinated many times.
    “I get being hesitant because it is new and we don’t know the long-term effects, but calling it the ‘mark of the beast’ is crazy,” Williams said.
    Williams has worked in hospitals in Texas, New York, California and Hawaii in her three years as a nurse.
    “I understand that people want to get back to how things were, but calling something you don’t understand the ‘mark of the beast’ is extreme and harmful,” she said.
    Peer-reviewed data has deemed the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID- 19 vaccines safe, and they demonstrated 94% to 95% effectiveness against the virus, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
    The journal published that the Johnson & Johnson single dose shot provided protection against the virus and was effective against hospitalization and death.
The King James version of Revelation 13:16-18 refers to the mark of the beast,
thought to be a sign of Satan. ASHLEY MAY/USA TODAY
    Here the beast (the world wondered after is revealed) rises out of the sea to put Israel to the test eventually to commit the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15) and break a covenant.    The book was sealed in Dan. 12:4 till the time of the end.    In the last half of the chapter the number of the second beast appears to be concealed as 666 in Rev. 13:18, which if totaled as “18 seals-vials-trumpets as the ‘number of a man,’ which was done to itself”).
Revelation 13:16-18 Mark Of The Beast
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom.    Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
    666 is a simple answer: Six Seals, Six Trumpets and Six Vials, which is eighteen things in what mankind will do to himself and the Seventh of each is happening in Heaven.
    Six Angels opened Six Seals and the Seventh Angel opened the Seventh Seal to release:
    Six Angels to blow Six Trumpets for four 1/3rd economic disasters and then two Woes to release a star, Wormwood and Locusts.
    Then a third woe comes as Six Angels release the Six Vials or Bowls of Judgment with 4 ecological disasters that affect those with the mark of the beast, and the oceans, rivers, and sun becomes like blood.

9/27/2021 San Marino Votes To Legalise Abortion In Historic Referendum by Angelo Amante
FILE PHOTO: People walk in the historic centre of San Marino, ahead of a referendum on legalising
abortion, September 15, 2021. Picture taken on September 15, 2021. REUTERS / Jennifer Lorenzini
    ROME (Reuters) -The tiny republic of San Marino has voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalising abortion in a referendum, overturning a law dating back to 1865, official results showed on Sunday.
    Some 77.30% of voters backed the proposal to allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and afterward only in the case of the mother’s life being in danger or of grave malformation of the foetus.
    The turnout was low, with just 41% of eligible voters casting a ballot.
    The vote in the northern Italian enclave of 33,000 people comes as authorities in countries like Poland and the U.S. state of Texas have tightened abortion laws.    Earlier this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that penalising abortion is unconstitutional.
    Up to now in San Marino, women who ended their pregnancies risked three years’ imprisonment.    The term is twice as long for anyone who carries out an abortion.
    San Marino women wanting an abortion normally went to Italy, where they could only get one privately, at a cost of about 1,500 euros ($1,765).
    Elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean island of Malta, and the micro-states of Andorra and Vatican City, another Italian enclave, still ban abortion.
    In Europe’s last referendum on abortion, the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar voted in June to ease what remain extremely strict curbs.    Ireland legalised abortion in a far higher-profile referendum in 2018.
    Social progress has tended to be slow in San Marino.
    Women did not get the right to vote until 1960, 14 years after surrounding Italy, and have only been allowed to hold political office since 1974. Divorce was legalised in 1986, some 16 years after Italy.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Writing by Giselda Vagnoni and Gavin Jones, editing by Peter Cooney)

9/27/2021 Two Transgender Women Win Seats In German Parliament
Tessa Ganserer, member of the German Green Party and transgender candidate for the German Bundestag elections walks from
her office to the Parliament during a Reuters TV interview in Munich, Germany, July 6, 2021. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Two German politicians from the Greens have made history by becoming the first transgender women to win parliamentary seats in Sunday’s national election.
    Tessa Ganserer and Nyke Slawik stood for the Greens party, which came third in the election, increasing its share of the vote to 14.8% from 8.9% in 2017 and is set to play a pivotal role in the building of a new three-way coalition government.
    “It is a historic victory for the Greens, but also for the trans-emancipatory movement and for the entire queer community,” Ganserer, 44, told Reuters, adding that the results were a symbol of an open and tolerant society.
    Topping the priority list for Ganserer, who was elected to Bavaria’s regional parliament in 2013, is an easier procedure for ratifying a sex change on identity documents.
    Ganserer, who has two sons, also wants legislative changes to allow lesbian mothers to adopt children.
    Slawik, 27, said the results were unbelievable.    She secured a seat in parliament through the Greens list of candidates in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
    “Madness!    I still can’t quite believe it, but with this historic election result I will definitely be a member of the next Bundestag,” Slawik posted on Instagram.
    Slawik has called for a nationwide action plan against homophobia and transphobia, a self-determination law, and improvements to the federal anti-discrimination law.
    Homosexuality was decriminalised in Germany in 1969 and same-sex marriage legalised in 2017.    But hate crimes against LGBT+ people jumped by 36% last year, according to police figures that highlight a rising trend of homophobia in parts of German society.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Gareth Jones)

9/28/2021 LGBTQ Groups Hope Japan PM Race May Lead To Same-Sex Marriages by Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies
FILE PHOTO: Candidate for the presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Seiko Noda,
attends a debate organized by the Liberal Democratic Party, Youth Bureau, Women's Bureau at the
party headquarters, in Tokyo, Japan, September 20, 2021. Philip Fong/Pool via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) – LGBTQ rights activists are hoping that Japan may finally allow same-sex marriage if Taro Kono, who has publicly supported gay marriage, becomes the country’s next prime minister, but change will not come easily.
    Kono is seen as the leading contender to win the ruling party’s leadership vote on Wednesday and become premier.
    Of the four candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership, Kono and Seiko Noda have supported gay marriage.    Same-sex marriage is only legal in Taiwan in Asia.
    The fact that same-sex marriage, long seen as a cultural flashpoint among conservatives in Japan, is even being discussed in the leadership race shows how much wider acceptance the issue has garnered among lawmakers and the public, activists said.
    “It’s great that he (Kono) clearly supported same-sex marriage and it’s significant that this came from someone inside the LDP” during a leadership race, said Gon Matsunaka, an LGBTQ rights activist in Tokyo.
    Same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan, but there has been a gradual move to broader acceptance of gay couples.
    “This shows the extent that the LGBTQ rights movement has moved forward here – same-sex marriage was just never raised as an issue in previous leadership races,” said Makiko Terahara, a lawyer who heads an organisation that campaigns for same-sex marriage.
    Since Shibuya ward in Tokyo became the first municipality to issue certificates recognising same-sex partners in 2015, some 100 local governments have followed suit to cover over a third of the country’s population.    Such certificates recognise same-sex couples but provide limited legal rights.
    A March poll by the Asahi newspaper found that 65% supported gay marriage, while 22% opposed it.
    But despite the public support, political change will be a different matter, advocates say.
    “It’s a very big thing that he (Kono) is in favour, but if he becomes PM will he quickly make this happen?… I think that’ll be kind of hard,” said Takeharu Kato, a lawyer who was involved in a landmark ruling that said disallowing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
    Kono has also come out in support of separate surnames for married couples and allowing heirs of female lineage succeed the imperial throne.
    The timing and careful wording of his statement suggests it was a strategic move to capture support among more progressive party members, experts say.
    “(Kono) seems to think that his best shot at victory is being the overwhelming choice of not just within the grassroots, but among the electorate as a whole,” said Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies; Editing by Mari Saito and Michael Perry)

9/28/2021 Chile Lawmakers Take ‘First Step’ Towards Easing Abortion Rules by Fabian Cambero
ILE PHOTO: Pro-choice activists holds banner reading 'Abortion legal, safe and free!' during a rally
outside the government house as the chamber of deputies discuss a bill that decriminalises abortion
until the 14th week of gestation, in Santiago, Chile January 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
    SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s lower Chamber of Deputies approved on Tuesday a plan to debate a bill that would expand the legal access for women to get abortions, despite opposition from the South American country’s center-right government.
    The lower house passed the motion with 75 votes in favor versus 68 against and two abstentions, which allows it to move forward examining the bill that proposed legalizing termination of pregnancy up to 14 weeks.
    The bill still faces a lengthy process before it could become law.    Chile in 2017 legalized abortion for women under conditions where their life was in danger, a fetus was unviable or when a pregnancy had resulted from rape.
    “We are happy and excited because we have taken a tremendous step, which we did not expect, to be honest, in terms of the rights of women,” said lawmaker Maite Orsini, one of the promoters of the bill.
    “This is a first step and we are not going to stop fighting until abortion is legal, free and safe for all women in Chile.”
    The bill will now have to be reviewed by the legislative body’s Commission for Women and Gender Equity and then be voted on again in the Chamber of Deputies, before moving up to the Senate.
    A number of countries around conservative Latin America have taken steps to decriminalize abortion, including Argentina last year and Mexico, where the Supreme Court unanimously ruled this month that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Nick Macfie)

9/28/2021 El Salvador Women March Against Abortion Laws Amid Planned Latin America-Wide Protests by Ana Isabel Martinez and Gerardo Arbaiza
    SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Scores of people in El Salvador waved green flags and marched through the capital San Salvador en route to Congress to demand loosening of the country’s “strict” abortion laws, with similar protests planned across Latin American cities.
    Holding up banners saying “it’s our right to decide” and “legal abortion, safe and free,” the mostly-women protesters met as part of the “International Safe Abortion Day” being marked around the globe.
    The Salvadoran protesters sought to pressure the country’s legislators to ease one of the world’s strictest abortion laws, which prohibit termination of pregnancy in cases of rape and even if the mother’s life is at risk.
    The proposals taken to the Salvadoran Congress have been named “Beatriz Reform,” in honor of a young woman who in 2013 openly called for an abortion to save her life as she suffered from a chronic disease, which took her life four years later.
    “We are asking for minimum measures to add to the Penal Code to guarantee the life and integrity of women,” Morena Herrera, a prominent Salvadoran feminist, told journalists.
    “It does not require constitutional reform.    It can be done now and if it is true that there is independence of powers, the Legislative Assembly must respond,” she added.
    Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele earlier this month ruled out any amendments to the abortion laws as part of controversial constitutional changes his government is planning.
    Protests are also planned later in the day in Colombia and several cities in Mexico and Chile.
    Sweeping changes across the predominantly Roman Catholic region have seen abortion law amended in some nations, including Argentina and parts of Mexico.
    But several out of more than 20 Latin American nations still ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison.
    Mexican authorities have put up protective fences on key buildings and emblematic monuments across several cities where women are expected to hold rallies.    In the past, portesters have painted over historic monuments.
    Protesters were also gathering in the Chilean capital Santiago, where legislators have been discussing plans for a bill that would expand the legal access for women to get abortions.
(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City and Gerardo Arbaiza in San Salvador; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Sandra Maler)

9/29/2021 ‘You Are Making The Future Today’, Pope Tells Youth Climate Activists
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall
at the Vatican, September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    MILAN (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Wednesday praised youth climate campaigners for their efforts to tackle global warming and encouraged them to carry on with their work “for the good of humanity.”
    Thousands of young activists have converged on Milan this week for a Youth4Climate event, with some 400, from about 190 countries, due to engage with policymakers to hammer out proposals for tackling climate change.
    “It is said that you are the future, but in these matters, you are the present, you are those who are making the future today, in the present,” the Pope told participants in a video message.
    Francis has strongly supported the goals of the 2015 U.N. Paris accord to reduce global warming, and Scotland’s bishops have said he will take part in the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November, health permitting.
    Since becoming pope in 2013, he has repeatedly urged governments to take drastic measures to combat global warming and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
    In 2015, Francis wrote an encyclical on the need to protect the environment, reduce wasteful lifestyles, stem global warming and protect the poor from the effects of climate change.
    “It is time to take wise decisions so that we can make use of the many experiences gained in recent years, in order to make possible a culture of care, a culture of responsible sharing,” the pope told the activists.
    “There must be harmony between people, men and women, and the environment. We are not enemies: we are not indifferent.    We are part of this cosmic harmony.”
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    This page created on 7/1/2021, and updated each month by 7/31/2021, 8/31/2020, 9/30/2021.

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