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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sign of the Times: Vatican Officially Recognizes Palestinian State In New Treaty




VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty finalized Wednesday, immediately sparking Israeli ire and accusations that the move hurt peace prospects.
The treaty, which concerns the activities of the Catholic Church in Palestinian territory, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic recognition from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.
The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. But the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and constitutes official diplomatic recognition.

"Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists," said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
The Israeli foreign ministry said it was "disappointed" by the development.
"This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations," the ministry said in a text message. "Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly."

The treaty was finalized days before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Pope Francis at the Vatican. Abbas is heading to Rome to attend Francis' canonization Sunday of two new saints from the Holy Land.
The Vatican has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.
During Pope Francis' 2014 visit to the Holy Land, the Vatican's official program referred to Abbas as the president of the "state of Palestine." In the Vatican's latest yearbook, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See is listed as representing "Palestine (state of)."
The Vatican's foreign minister, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, acknowledged the change in status, given that the treaty was initially inked with the PLO and is now being finalized with the "state of Palestine." But he said the shift was simply in line with the Holy See's position.

This isn't the first time that the Vatican under Francis has taken diplomatic moves knowing that it would ruffle feathers: Just last month, Francis referred to the slaughter of Armenians by Turkish Ottomans a century ago as a "genocide," prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador.

Study: Americans becoming less Christian, more secular




NEW YORK (AP) — The number of Americans who don't affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call "nones" the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.
Christianity is still the dominant faith by far in the U.S.; 7 in 10 Americans identify with the tradition. However, the ranks of Christians have declined as the segment of people with no religion has grown, the survey says.
Between 2007 and 2014, when Pew conducted two major surveys of U.S. religious life, Americans who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent. At the same time, Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent of what was once a predominantly Protestant country.
Researchers have long debated whether people with no religion should be defined as secular since the category includes those who believe in God or consider themselves "spiritual." But the new Pew study found increasing signs of secularism.
Last year, 31 percent of "nones" said they were atheist or agnostic, compared to 25 percent in 2007, and the percentage who said religion was important to them dropped.
Greg Smith, Pew's associate research director, said the findings "point to substantive changes" among the religiously unaffiliated, not just a shift in how people describe themselves. Secular groups have become increasingly organized to counter bias against them and keep religion out of public life through lawsuits and lobbying lawmakers.

The growth of "nones" has political significance as well. People with no religion tend to vote Democratic, just as white evangelicals tend to vote Republican. The Pew study found a slight drop — about 1 percent — in the evangelical share of the population, which now comprises a quarter of Americans. But the overall number of evangelicals rose to about 62 million people.
Pew researchers said Christian losses were driven by decreases among mainline, or liberal, Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Mainline Protestants declined by about 5 million to 36 million between 2007 and 2014. Pew found 13 percent of U.S. adults are former Catholics. The study put the number of Catholic adults at 51 million, or just over one-fifth of the U.S. population, a drop of about 3 percent over seven years. In 2007, Catholics made up about one-quarter of Americans.
However, Pew researchers acknowledge those conclusions differ from those of some other major studies that found only slight declines or even a slight uptick in the numbers of Catholics in the last couple of years. Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which tracks American Catholicism, puts the U.S. adult Catholic population at 61 million.
Regarding other religions, Pew found an increase in membership of non-Christian faiths, driven mainly by growing numbers of Muslims and Hindus. Despite the increase, their numbers remain small. Muslims and Hindus each comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. The number of Jews rose slightly over the period, from 1.7 percent to 1.9 percent of Americans.
Overall, religious groups have become more ethnically diverse along with the broader population. Latinos now comprise one-third of U.S. Roman Catholics, although fewer U.S. Latinos identify as Catholic overall. One-quarter of evangelicals and 14 percent of mainline Protestants are racial minorities. Membership in historically black churches has remained relatively stable over the period.
The survey of 35,000 people, titled "America's Changing Religious Landscape," was conducted in English and Spanish from June 4 through Sept. 30 of last year and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Aide to California State Attorney Accused of Running an Freemason-Occult Police Force

Article Source: businessinsider.com







One of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' (D) staffers was arrested last week and "accused of operating a rogue police force that claimed to exist for more than 3,000 years," The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday
Brandon Kiel, deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice, and two others — David Henry and Tonette Hayes — reportedly face charges for their roles in the Masonic Fraternal Police Department.
"Suspicions about the Masonic Fraternal Police Department — whose members trace their origins to the Knights Templar — were aroused when various police chiefs in Southern California received a letter in late January that announced new leadership for the group," the Times' Matt Hamilton wrote.
"Following an investigation, officials said, sheriff’s investigators searched two sites in Santa Clarita and found badges, weapons, uniforms and law enforcement paraphernalia." 
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said in a statement that the Masonic Fraternal Police Department was not a legitimate police force and that Kiel, Henry, and Hayes were arrested for allegedly impersonating police officers. 
"Detectives conducted a thorough investigation in collaboration with several law enforcement agencies and determined MFPD was not a legitimate police agency," the sheriff's department said in a statement, according to NBC News
The Times called attention to a website purporting to represent the Masonic department. The site claims the police department is widely respected and operates in 33 states. 
"The Masonic Fraternal Organization is the oldest and most respected organization in the 'World.' Grand Masters around the various states are facing serious safety concerns for their Jurisdictions and their family members. The first Police Department was created by the 'Knights Templar's' back in 1100 B.C.," the site says. "When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first!"

Harris is the Democratic front-runner to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) in 2016. Her office declined to comment to the Times but said Kiel had been placed on administrative leave.