After Iran tests ballistic missile, Netanyahu urges rethink of ‘failed’ nuke deal

Eric Cortellessa – January 30, 2017

In what is being seen as a challenge to US President Donald Trump, Iran tested a 4,000 kilometer range (2,500 miles) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, US officials said Monday.

Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama Administration and other P5+1 countries agreed with Iran in 2015.

The missile test, which Fox News reported took place on Sunday, was unsuccessful; the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile flew 600 miles and then exploded, it said, citing US officials. Israel’s Channel 10 television said the failed test actually took place about 10 days ago. It said the Iranians were plainly “testing Trump,” who last week, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, said the two would consult closely to address “the threats posed by Iran.”

Fox said the missile was launched from Semnan, outside Tehran, and that the failure involved “a reentry vehicle.” It noted that Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier Gen. Hossein Dehqhan said four months ago that Iran would start producing the missile.

Pastor, Eight Others Missing in Uganda After Muslims Beat, Rape Congregation

(Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern Uganda and eight other Christians are missing two weeks after a Muslim mob attacked a church prayer meeting, locked the congregation in, beat several members and raped 15 women, sources said.

The approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda, in Katira village, Budaka District at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks, area sources said. Previously Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation, villagers said.

At the evening service, about 80 members were present, and among those who escaped before the doors were locked was a Christian who heard one of the assailants shout, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity,” a church leader said.

Norway’s Lutheran Church approves gay marriage

TruNews – January 30, 2017

(OSLO, NORWAY) Norway’s Lutheran Church voted on Monday in favor of new ceremonial language that will allow its pastors to conduct same-sex marriages, bringing it into line with several other mainstream Protestant denominations abroad.

Last April the annual conference of the Church – to which nearly three quarters of Norwegians said in 2015 they belonged – backed the principle of same-sex marriages, but did not agree on a wording..

Monday’s decision involved modifying the marriage text to make it gender-neutral, removing the words “bride” and “groom”. The new liturgy will come into effect on Wednesday.

In 2015 the French Protestant Church allowed gay marriage blessings, while the U.S. Presbyterian Church approved a change in the wording of its constitution to include same-sex marriage.

“I hope that all Churches in the world can be inspired by this new liturgy,” said Gard Sandaker-Nilsen, leader of the Open Public Church, a movement within the Lutheran Church that campaigned to change the rules.

Federal ‘Sanctity of Human Life Act’ Introduced In U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON — A Republican representative from Georgia has introduced a resolution that would recognize the unborn as being persons from the moment of conception.

Rep. Jody Hice, former pastor of  Bethlehem First Baptist Church and The Summit Church, presented H.R. 586 days before the 44th year of Roe v. Wade, also known as the “Sanctity of Human Life Act.”

“[T]he Congress declares that—(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and (B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood,” it reads in part.

The resolution also affirms that Congress and each state has the authority “to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.”

Researchers Find Superbug Gene Spreading in Chinese Hospitals

Sputnik News – January 29, 2017

A gene that promotes bacterial resistance to last-resort antibiotics has been revealed to be worryingly prevalent in Chinese hospitals, according to research presented in two new studies in The Lancet January 27.

The MCR-1 gene was first identified in China in 2015 in Escherichia coli bacteria samples from pigs, pork, and a few human cases, and has since been found in more than 30 countries, including the United States, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reports.

The gene can spread on mobile pieces of DNA that can hop within bacteria families and from one type of bacteria to another. Its sudden prevalence is blamed on the use of the antibiotic colistin in Chinese agriculture over decades. (China banned the drug from animal feed last year.)

Colistin is one of the few remaining antibiotics that can be used to treat multidrug-resistant bacteria. Though MCR-1 has so far rarely been found in humans, its spread would mean that it could eventually run into bacteria with genes that make them resistant to other drugs as well, creating infections that are almost totally impossible to treat.

Earthquake swarm rocks Etna – Schools evacuated in three nearby towns

Strange Sounds – January 30, 2017

All in all, around 60 tremors were felt. People called the police. No reports of injuries or property damage.

On 30 January, a seismic swarm was recorded on the south-west slope of Mount Etna. The quakes ranged between 2.1 and 3.5 in magnitude at a depth between 10 and 15 km.

The seismic activity then continued, but was not accompanied by anomalies in the geophysical parameters, in particular the amplitude of the volcanic tremor which was maintained in moderately low stationary values ​​typical of recent months.

Boris Behncke, a specialist volcanologist living in front of the Italian volcanic peak, explains:” The thrust of deep magma may have caused this seismic swarm. In the past, such event were observed a few weeks or months before a major eruption. It is however still too early to say if this earthquake sequence is a precursor of a lateral eruption… But it will happen sooner or later.

$100,000 for diplomat lawn chairs … in Pakistan!

Steve Peacock – January 29, 2017

The Trump administration has wasted no time reversing Obama policies, but actions such as the State Department’s purchase of nearly $100,000 in luxury lawn furniture – solely for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan – are proceeding untouched.

State Department officials after the New Year revealed they would not open their acquisition of extravagant outdoor pieces to competitive bidding. Then on Jan. 24 they awarded a sole-source contract for $95,376.56 to Janus et Cie, a California-based company whose client list includes hotels, resorts and corporations worldwide.

The company’s “specific product was chosen for its aesthetics and no other product will meet the unique color and style needed,” the State Department said in its explanation for the non-competitive contract.

“The specific design features coordinate with the unique architectural details, the environment, and the existing conditions of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad,” they added.

The department conducted “extensive market research” on other luxury furniture providers, none of which could entirely satisfy the Islamabad compound’s needs, it said in a Sole Source Justification for Simplified Acquisition document.

Western navies said planning major drill off coast of Iran

Times of Israel staff – January 27, 2017

Western navies are planning a show of force off the coast of Iran next week with a large military exercise involving American, British and French forces, the Middle East Eye website reported Friday.

Exercise “Unified Trident,” which will reportedly involve a simulation of a confrontation with Iran, is intended to “enhance mutual capabilities, improve tactical proficiency and strengthen partnerships in ensuring the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation,” according to US Naval Forces Central Command.

It will be held near the coast of Bahrain by Combined Task Force 50, and will involve aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates from the three nations.

Iran has had numerous confrontations recently with US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and around the Strait of Hormuz, with the most notable case being Iran’s capture of 10 US Navy sailors last January who had drifted into Iranian waters after experiencing mechanical problems.

Earlier this month a US Navy vessel fired three warning shots at a group of Iranian ships that approached the destroyer at high speed in the strait.

Merkel, Hollande Call for EU Unity Amid New Worries

Lisa Bryant – January 27, 2017

The European Union’s two most influential leaders called for unity in championing European values and the European project during a Berlin meeting overshadowed by concerns about the new Trump administration and rising populism at home.

“We need a clear, common commitment to the European Union, to what we have accomplished and to the values of our liberal, democratic democracies,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a brief statement to the press alongside French President Francois Hollande.

Coming a week before the EU’s first summit of the year in Malta, the meeting aimed to set the tone for the 27-member bloc. Yet it was overshadowed by another key meeting across the Atlantic, as Prime Minister Teresa May of exiting EU member Britain talked with U.S. President Donald Trump.

In remarks, Trump has suggested a sharp break with the EU on issues ranging from maintaining sanctions on Russia and upholding the Iran nuclear agreement to climate change, free trade and NATO’s viability.

Mother Sues West Virginia Public School System over Bible Classes

Katherine Rodriguez – January 21, 2017

A mother sued her child’s school district in West Virginia over their 75-year practice of putting kids in Bible classes.

The mother, whose child is a kindergartner, says her child is being forced to take these classes at a Mercer County elementary school or face ostracism if she doesn’t, Fox News reported.

The mother is identified as “Jane Doe” while her child is identified as “Jamie” in the lawsuit backed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

“Jamie will either be forced to attend Bible indoctrination classes against the wishes and conscience of Jane Doe, or Jamie will be the only or one of only a few children who do not participate,” the lawsuit says.

“Jamie will therefore be made conspicuous by absence, and essentially be identified as a non-Christian or nonbeliever, subjecting Jamie to the risk of ostracism from peers and even school staff.”

Teresa Russell, an administrator for Mercer County Public Schools, told the Associated Press that the Bible courses are voluntary electives and they haven’t been officially notified about the suit.