LISTEN: Urban Christian News Weekend Report #110

1. According to the Associated Press, A river ferry carrying about 100 passengers capsized in central Bangladesh on Sunday after being hit by a cargo vessel, killing at least 31 people. A rescue operation was underway, but it was not clear how many people were missing. The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel on Sunday afternoon. Rescue teams were deployed and passing boats were helping in the operation.

2. According to the BBC, a bomb has killed at least two people, including a police officer, and injured 10 other people at a rally in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv. The rally was one of several being held to mark a year since the Kiev uprising that led to the fall of pro-Russia leader Viktor Yanukovych. Security forces have detained four suspects in the attack. Kharkiv lies outside the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, where a ceasefire appears finally to be taking hold.

3. According to The Washington Post, A florist rejected a settlement offer from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Friday, days after a state judge ruled that her “relationship with Jesus” was not enough to justify her refusal to provide flower arrangements for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The Wednesday ruling determined that the “religiously-motivated conduct” of Barronelle Stutzman, the Christian owner of Arlene’s Flowers, was in “direct and insoluble conflict” with the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. On Friday, Stutzman told Ferguson in a letter released through her attorneys that the state’s settlement offer of a $2,000 penalty, a $1 payment for court and legal fees, and an agreement “not to discriminate in the future,” was akin to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus in the Bible. She said, “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”

4. According to the Associated Press, Amid relentless snowstorms and brutal wind chills, the above-freezing temperatures in Sunday’s forecast for the Northeastern U.S. never looked so good. Snow continued to fall in the region into the morning or turn to icy rain but temperatures were expected to warm to highs near the mid-30s in Boston and Portland, Maine, and near 42 in Philadelphia. Even with the wind chill, it could seem a “balmy” 30 to 35 degrees in New York City on Sunday. Kim Buttrick of the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts, said, “We have a little teaser with this warmup. But temperatures are going to go back to being below normal on Monday and Tuesday.”

5. According to CNN, ISIS appears to be trumping its own brutality once again. In a new propaganda video, the terror group claims to have beheaded at least 21 captured Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers in Iraq. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of this video. The video includes scenes showing Peshmerga prisoners still alive in cages and paraded in the streets of Kirkuk, which ISIS has shown in a previous video earlier this month.

6. According to VOA News, Damascus is calling a Turkish military operation overnight to evacuate dozens of troops and relocate a historically significant tomb in northern Syria an act of “flagrant aggression.” Ankara dispatched tanks and other heavy weaponry across the border late on Saturday to rescue nearly 40 Turkish soldiers tasked with protecting the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, as Islamic State militants surrounded the area in recent months. The Turkish Prime Minister described the operation as a success. He said the Turkish forces had been given a directive to protect the country’s spiritual values and the safety of armed forces personnel.

7. According to the Jerusalem Post, A delegation of Israeli Defense Ministry officials in the US signed a contract this weekend finalizing Israel’s purchase of 14 additional Joint Strike Fighter F-35A fighter jets. According to the terms of the deal struck with the JSF Project team at the Pentagon, 14 jets, made by Lockheed Martin, will be delivered to Israel Air Force, with an option to purchase another 17 of the fifth generation platforms in the future. The defense establishment is determined to ensure that the Israel Air Force eventually receives 50 F-35 jets, forming two squadrons of 25 jets each.

8. According to CNN, Somali terror group Al-Shabaab has released a video calling for attacks on shopping malls in Canada, the UK and the United States. In the propaganda video released Saturday, the al Qaeda-linked terror group talks about its September 2013 attack on a mall in Kenya. The brazen siege, which went on for days, left more than 60 people dead at an upscale mall in Nairobi. In its new video, it calls for similar attacks on specific malls in the three countries.

9. According to the Time of Israel, a report in the Wall Street Journal reveals that Arab nations have joined Israel in expressing concern over the emerging details of a US-led international nuclear deal with Iran, indicating in private talks with US officials that they are worried about the apparent terms of the agreement. Though Arab officials have been careful not to side with Israel in their stated positions, their worries over the possibility of a nuclear-armed Tehran are in fact similar to those of Jerusalem, and their attitudes towards the current state of nuclear talks between Tehran and Western powers are similarly pessimistic. Leaders of Sunni states such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fear a bad deal with Tehran would allow it, with the removal of sanctions, to become a nuclear threshold state. They say it could also lead to a nuclear arms race in the region.

10. According to Israel National News, Norwegian Muslims organized a peace vigil in Oslo on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Jews a week after fatal shootings in Denmark targeted a synagogue and free speech seminar. As the small mainly elderly Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Sabbath prayers, a group of young Muslims, many of them teenage girls wearing headscarves, formed a symbolic ring outside the building to roaring applause from a crowd of more than 1,000 people. 37-year-old Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organizers of the vigil, said, “This shows that there are many more peacemakers than war-makers. There is still hope for humanity, for peace and love across religious differences and background.” A traditional Sabbath ceremony was held in the open air with many demonstrators adding their voices to the Hebrew prayers.

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