TBR News June 25, 2017

Jun 25 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 25, 2017:  ““The media, having spent several months attacking Trump, are now looking about for some other subject to chew endlessly, and pointlessly, on.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have paywalls set up.

This means that one can view and download a specific number of their stories for free but have to pay for more.

Once the New York Times was an excellent paper with educational and useful articles but now their front page sounds just like a high school paper or one located in a tiny Mid American town.

The Washington Post has become so hysterically anti-Trump that it is pointless to search their pages for interesting stories.

The general public has discovered that they can get all the news they need, for free, from the internet so the demise of print media in America is rapidly approaching.

But advertisers, frantic to reach a wide audience, now have gotten their hands on many internet sites so that while trying to read an article, one sees acres of useless ads for worthless products.

And the words ‘Sponsored Contents” means paid advertisements.

One sees a picture of a large-breasted woman and underneath a caption “See what this famous star has been doing that will shock you!”

Readers stupid enough to click on the image will have their computers deluged with more ads for more useless and overpriced junk.”

Table of Contents



  • Trump ignored intel, launched Tomahawks in Syria based on media – Pulitzer winner Seymour Hersh
  • Kurds see chance to advance their cause in ruins of Islamic State
  • Ever-closer ties between US and Kurds stoke Turkish border tensions
  • White House spokesman does not rule out Trump-Putin July meeting in Germany
  • The east-west divide in the EU deepens
  • U.S. government narrows focus of counter-extremism progra
  • U.S. top court set to rule on religious rights; travel ban looms
  • Eight Hundred Years of Glory: A short history of Christianity
  • The Terrible Secret of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

 Trump ignored intel, launched Tomahawks in Syria based on media – Pulitzer winner Seymour Hersh

June 25, 2017


US President Donald Trump ignored reports from US intelligence that said they had no evidence Syria had used sarin to attack a rebel-held town, Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says.

Hersh is most famous for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War. He also uncovered the abuse of prisoners by US personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In a report published by the German newspaper Die Welt on Sunday, he describes how the Trump administration mishandled the media frenzy after the Syrian bombing of the rebel-held town Khan Sheikhoun in April.

Trump chose to ignore reports compiled by American intelligence and the military that contradicted the prevailing media narrative accusing Damascus of using sarin gas to kill civilians, the report says. Instead, he ordered his military to prepare options for a response, which they did.

The subsequent Tomahawk attack on the Syrian Shayrat Air Base did less damage that the White House claimed, as was apparently intended by the military planners of the operation, Hersh said. The US mainstream media failed to question the government’s narrative of the situation, instead giving Trump what appears to be the pinnacle achievement of his presidency so far.

“None of this makes any sense,” one US officer told colleagues upon learning of the White House decision to retaliate against Syria. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack… the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth… I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

Special weapon

Hersh’s report is based on interviews with several US advisers and evidence they provided, including transcripts of real-time communications that immediately followed the Syrian attack on April 4. According to the advisers, the Syrian Air Force’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun targeted a meeting of several high-value leaders of jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra Front, which has changed its name to Jabhat al-Nusra.

The US was informed of the operation in detail beforehand as part of a conflict prevention arrangement with Russia. The two-way information sharing in place in Syria at the time helped the US-led coalition and Russia-backed Damascus to avoid accidental encounters in the air, protect intelligence assets on the ground, and coordinate with each other when planning missions.

“They were playing the game right,” a senior US adviser is cited by Hersh as saying regarding the pre-mission notice from Russia.

“It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the adviser said. “Every operations officer in the region” – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA, and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.”

The special weapon used in the bombing was mentioned in Syrian communications collected before the attack by a US ally. The interception was widely reported in the Western media as an indication that Damascus had used a chemical weapon.

“If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser told Hersh. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

Fertilizers & decontaminants

The target of the Syrian bombing was described as a two-story cinder-block building. According to Russian intelligence, the jihadists used the second floor as a command and control center. The first floor housed a grocery store and other businesses. The basement was used as a warehouse for weapons, ammunition, and goods, including chlorine-based decontaminants and fertilizers.

“The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops,” a senior adviser to the American intelligence community told Hersh.

According to a US assessment of the morning airstrike cited by Hersh, the 500-pound Russian bomb triggered secondary explosions. The heat could have evaporated the chemical products in the basement, producing a toxic cloud that spread over the town, pressed close to the ground by the dense morning air.

The scenario is consistent with the accounts of patients who reported a chlorine odor in interviews with Medecins Sans Frontieres. It could also explain the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning that were attributed to sarin, but may have been caused by organophosphates used in many fertilizers, Hersh said.

Meanwhile, US intelligence had no evidence to indicate the presence of sarin gas at or near the Shayrat Air Base, from which the bombing mission was launched.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the journalist cites a source as saying. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear.”

“Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?” the adviser added.

The Trump Show

The Trump administration quickly adopted the rebel narrative, which accused President Bashar Assad’s government of conducting a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun. Top US officials went on to condemn Damascus and accuse Russia of complicity in the bombing. Trump ordered the national defense apparatus to prepare a response within hours of seeing photos of poisoned children on TV, Hersh’s report cites a senior adviser as saying.

“No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt,” the adviser said. “Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.”

“The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” he added. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

At a national security meeting at Mar-a-Lago on April 6, Trump was offered four options for responding to the Syrian incident, ranging from doing nothing and to assassinating President Assad, the report said. Eventually, the US president chose to attack the Syrian air base, which Hersh’s source described as “the ‘gorilla option’: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage.”

Of the 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at Shayrat, as many as 24 missed their targets because the initial strikes hit gasoline storage tanks, triggering a huge fire and a lot of smoke that interfered with the guidance systems of the following missies. Only a few actually penetrated the hangars, and these only destroyed nine aircraft that were apparently not operational and could not be moved during the window of opportunity between the US warning of the looming attack and the strike itself.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser told Hersh. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three [a massive attack on Syrian military facilities], there might have been some immediate resignations.”

Trump trapped by own mistake

The reaction to the show of force in the US media was probably everything the Trump administration could have hoped for. MSNBC anchorman Brian Williams described the sight of Tomahawks being launched at the Syrian base as “beautiful.” CNN host Fareed Zakaria reacted by saying that Trump finally “became president of the United States.”

According to Hersh, of the top 100 American newspapers, 39 published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the White House briefed the national media on the operation and the US response to Russia’s assertion that Syria has not used sarin gas. The Trump administration’s insistence that a chemical attack actually did happen was not challenged by any of the reporters present.

The following US coverage of the situation accused Russia of trying to cover up the alleged chemical attack, Hersh says. The New York Times described “declassified information” released during the press briefings as coming from a “declassified intelligence report,” though no formal report from US intelligence stated that Syria had used sarin, Hersh notes.

“The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser told him. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”


Kurds see chance to advance their cause in ruins of Islamic State

With the defeat of Isis close, its opponents scent opportunity in the region. Can Kurdish forces win more autonomy?

June 24, 2017

by Martin Chulov

The Guardian

As what remains of Islamic State crumbles, the would-be victors have started circling. In Mosul, Iraqi forces have begun preparing for peace in the city where the now-encircled marauders took root three years ago. Across the border in Raqqa, with five of its neighbourhoods under their control, Kurdish forces are contemplating what comes next for them and their cause.

Day-after scenarios are rapidly being plotted by every group that has played a role in Iraq and Syria over many years of war and loss. Russia, the US and Iran are jostling for advantage across the swath of both countries held by the capitulating group. The prize is far more than who gets to claim the inevitable military victory over Isis. At stake, for all sides, is the future make-up of the region and a chance to shape it in their likeness.

The wish list of outcomes is broad and divergent. For Russia, there is the chance to establish a presence in the centre of the region, with political muscle and enhanced gas and oil interests. For Iran, a consolidated and potentially decisive role in both countries. And for the US – in the absence of a broader strategy – the chance to spoil its rivals’ plans.

Amid the great power struggles, others too have sensed opportunity in chaos. The Kurds of Iraq and Syria have made little attempt to hide the fact that the post-Isis vacuum marks a rare, potentially historic, moment.

In Iraq, the president of the largely autonomous Kurdish north, Massoud Barzani, has called a referendum on independence to be held on 25 September. In Syria, Kurdish forces raised by the US, and sent to oust Isis from one of its last two citadels, believe that their role can be parlayed into broader autonomy.

Across a dizzying battlefield that has devolved into a series of concurrent conflicts within the one war, Kurdish forces backed by the US are making steady gains in Raqqa. In Iraq, in the early phases of the fight for Mosul, the peshmerga played an important part in securing the city’s northern and eastern approaches.

The role they played in Iraq and continue to play in Syria is seen by both Kurdish factions as offering significant leverage in any negotiations. The view elsewhere is very different. Iraq and Turkey have said they would not support a break-up of Iraq, symbolic or otherwise, and have shown little enthusiasm for more than the current arrangements, which allow – begrudgingly in Baghdad’s case – the Kurds to sell oil taken from fields in northern Iraq through a pipeline they have built to Turkey.

The US has refused to support talk of Kurdish independence since the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, wedding itself to the position that a united Iraq best serves its disparate peoples. Overriding the view are the explicit fears of regional allies that a break-up of Iraq along ethnic lines would directly threaten their own borders.

“That position won’t change,” said a senior US official. “It is not the time to be redrawing state boundaries, especially in Iraq and Syria. Such talk can only be advanced by broad regional consensus. And we are nowhere near that yet.”

Turkey, which has forged close economic ties with Iraqi Kurdistan as a means of maintaining the status quo, has been even more vehemently opposed to US backing for Kurdish groups in Syria, pointing to their ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK, with whom Ankara has fought a deadly four-decade insurgency inside its borders.

In the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, the security chancellor of the region, Masrour Barzani, says Turkey has nothing to fear from the poll. “The referendum will shape the bilateral relationship between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq,” he said. “We do not intend to change borders of neighbouring states. It simply formalises a delineated border between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq.

“It’s time to accept that this model is not working. Iraq is already practically divided, and this vote will reflect what has already taken place. This referendum will be binding. It will give us a mandate to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Baghdad on terms that recognise the legitimate aspirations of our people.”

Baghdad also expects its share of the pie for the role its forces have played in recapturing cities they lost three years ago. There is little sign among the country’s leaders of a willingness to cede a large part of the country as the price of a victory. Nor is there a willingness to do business on touchstone issues such as Kirkuk or oil revenues.

“They think they won the war?” asked one senior parliamentarian in the Iraqi capital. “We have tens of thousands of martyrs, and they have 42. If there was a way to get rid of them and maintain what is ours, we would. But there’s not.”

In Syria, where US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters are chipping away at Raqqa, having advanced through the north-east of the country and overrun Isis-held areas along the way, a direct clash between the Syrian regime and the US air force last week led to the downing of a Syrian jet to the south-west of the city.

“They were bombing our positions,” said an SDF spokesman, Talal Selo. “They attacked us three times very deliberately. They think that advancing against Isis from the south of the city should be their role.”

When the Raqqa campaign started on 6 June, Washington said there were 2,500 battle-ready SDF fighters. Since then, 15 have been killed, along with more than 300 Isis members.

South of Raqqa, the fight to eliminate what remains of Isis segues into a broader conflict. Iran has moved militia forces that it backs into the Euphrates river valley, an essential area of influence over the past 14 years. The effect of that has been to stymie US plans to move into the area from strongholds further south.

How to establish US influence in the area, and secure a legacy once Isis is defeated in Raqqa, has been consuming planners in Washington in recent weeks. One official told the Observer that Kurdish proxy forces should not think that their role in the war entitled them to a broader geopolitical role once it was over.

“Russia prised the Turks away from the Syrian opposition because it told [Turkish president] Erdoğan that it supported Syria’s territorial integrity. Assad wanted to hear that too. The Kurds need to realise that this isn’t going anywhere for them. When this is done, they need to go home.”

Ever-closer ties between US and Kurds stoke Turkish border tensions

Following Turkish airstrikes last week, US armoured vehicles have been deployed as a buffer between Kurdish and Turkish forces

May 1, 2017

by Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent, and Fazel Hawramy

The Guardian

In the aftermath of Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish positions in north-east Syria last week, US troops escorted an ageing militant through an angry crowd to inspect the damage.

As a senior leader of the Kurdish militant organisation the PKK, Abdi Ferhad Şahin, known as Şahin Cilo, has a $1.1m Turkish government bounty on his head. Cameras were present to record the moment, which amounted to Cilo’s remarkable transformation from hunted to courted.

Despite being proscribed as a terror group by Washington and Ankara, Cilo’s forces have become ever more central to Washington’s war against Islamic State (Isis) in Syria. So much so that Cilo’s appearance alongside troops who not long ago might have seized rather than protected him seemed to be worth the price of angering an ally.

Here, the most complicated corner of the war in Syria looks certain to get messier.

US armoured vehicles were deployed over the weekend along a section of the tense Turkish border, creating a buffer zone between the Turks to the north and Kurdish forces to the south, who are known in Syria as the YPG and are closely linked to the PKK.

Despite increasing Turkish rancour, Washington continues to see the Kurds as an indispensable ally in the next phase of the Isis campaign – the push towards Raqqa.

In Turkey’s eyes, the Trump administration was supposed to change all that. Anger at Barack Obama’s policy of using the Kurds as US proxies had given way to hope that the new president would either send US forces to do the job, or switch loyalties to localised Arab units, which Turkey is trying to raise.

With the US-Kurdish pact consolidating, not weakening, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has reverted to claiming that the burgeoning alliance could end up empowering a Kurdish push for autonomy, and stoke the fires of insurgency inside Turkey’s own borders. When Turkey launched the pre-dawn airstrikes on Tuesday, the US was given just 52 minutes’ warning.

Asked about the images of Cilo under US escort, state department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said: “I haven’t seen those pictures, but I would strongly call into question… that senior military leaders of the US were somehow glad-handing or shaking hands with PKK leaders. As I said, the PKK is a recognised foreign terrorist organisation by the United States.”

The denial underscores the dilemma for the US, which has been criticised by both allies and proxies for not having a coherent strategy in Syria or Iraq and, almost three years into the war with Isis, for not being able to finalise the fighting force that will end up storming Raqqa, or define a path for what may follow.

Washington has sent more than 500 American special forces and advisers to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group led by the YPG, which includes some Arab units. Many YPG leaders are former PKK commanders who honed their skills fighting the Turkish army for decades.

In Iraq, at least 5,000 US troops are advising the Iraqi army in the fight against Isis. The centrepiece of that war – the push to retake Mosul – has ground into a seventh month, with airstrikes failing to dislodge determined militants in the west of the city.

After Mosul will likely come a push towards Mount Sinjar, the spiritual home of Iraq’s Yazidi sect. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis were driven from the town of Sinjar and the surrounding area by Isis in August 2014, and many of the sect’s female members were enslaved.

Turkish jets also attacked Sinjar mountain last week, killing five peshmerga fighters loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – an ally of Ankara who retook the city of Sinjar in November 2015. The attack targeted PKK positions on the mountain that have been consolidated over the past year.

As it works to complete the first phase of a 911-kilometre, three-metre high wall along its border with Syria, Turkey is putting pressure on the KRG to restrict the movement of the YPG and the PKK in Sinjar. In another sign of cascading fallout, this has sparked clashes between the peshmerga and PKK affiliates.

But a regional military source has said Turkey is determined to step up its disruption of US plans, having given up on hopes of a wholesale policy shift in Washington away from collaboration with the PKK.

“They were happy when [CIA director Mike] Pompeo came to Ankara and told [Erdoğan] that the Kurds would only isolate, not capture, Raqqa. That bought time, but that time has now elapsed and what you will see is a more aggressive posture by the Kurds. I don’t rule out a ground incursion towards Sinjar. And if that happens, the Americans have said they will not stand in their way.

“There are so many different ways that this could get ugly.”

White House spokesman does not rule out Trump-Putin July meeting in Germany

June 23, 2017


A White House spokesman did not rule out a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin when he was asked about reports the two leaders may hold talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in Germany next month.

“To the extent that we can work with Russia to solve some problems and to cooperate, if we can find that willingness then we’d like to do it,” spokesman Sean Spicer said at a news briefing.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by the Washington Newsroom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

 The east-west divide in the EU deepens

While the German and French leaders celebrated the close ties between their countries during this week’s EU summit, divisions between western and eastern European leaders grew.

June 24, 2017

by Christoph Hasselbach (js)


The summit was intended to spread a bit of optimism. The professionals, it was announced, would now take care of Brexit negotiations, and the British government even promised to protect EU citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom after withdrawal. Although that proposal is now being criticized as inadequate and vague, it is still being touted as a sign of progress. After that, the remaining 27 member states sought to create momentum for new projects.

The joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was then appropriately symbolic. Merkel described the mood of the two-day summit, which ended on Friday, as “optimistic and dynamic.” Such words are more easily uttered in the knowledge that economies in almost all member states, even those which were heretofore weak, are starting to grow again. The eurozone has just completed its best quarter in almost six years, which, however, isn’t saying much considering the crisis that has been plaguing the continent for the last several years.

Yet Estonia, which will take over the European Council’s rotating presidency in July, has said that more must still be done. Estonia is considered a role model for EU digitization. In Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas urged: “Data is the next steel and coal. So we need to be ready for a next 60 years of digitization in Europe. Europe has to become the world leader in digital.” In the case of German Chancellor Merkel, Ratas is preaching to the converted. She was full of praise, “because Estonia is an example of how digitization is already being lived out.”

The EU also wants to take the lead in maintaining free trade around the world, which member states see threatened by the protectionist tendencies of US President Donald Trump. But, as French President Macron said, the EU is not “naive” either. Openness also necessitates fairness. European governments find it unfair that some countries seemingly flood the European market with dumping prices, or that companies from third states buy European firms while at the same time blocking European takeovers in theirs. The main culprit in both instances is China.

Refugee distribution? Hopeless

But the generally positive mood that has come on the heels of the Brexit depression did not brighten every topic of discussion – such as that of immigration. Macron, who is seen by many as Europe’s new hope, began the conference by angering eastern European countries that have refused to accept refugees from the bloc’s main countries of arrival, Italy and Greece. Macron complained that members were not in a “supermarket” and that the EU was not about “handing out money without regard for European values.”

Although he did not name names, those he was referring to, such as Hungary, felt attacked. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban snapped back that Macron’s comments were a “kick.” He labeled Macron a “newbie” whose start in office was “not very encouraging.” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, on the other hand, stood by Macron: “I cannot always make demands and then shirk my responsibilities.”

In an effort to smooth over differences, Macron also met separately with heads of government from the so-called Visegrad Group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nothing, however, came of the meeting. After the summit, Merkel said that all members were “very, very much in agreement” on the issue of fighting the root causes of migration and the control of Europe’s exterior borders. She resignedly added: “Unfortunately, we made no progress on the question of distribution,” noting that very little time had been allotted for discussing the issue, “since it was clear that we would not be able to make any progress.”

In his joint press conference with Merkel, Macron added: “The current refugee crisis is not a temporary, but rather a long-term challenge, which can be resolved only through long-term stabilization in Africa and the Middle East and through ambitious European development policies.”

Competition from Eastern Europe

Macron’s discussion with the Visegrad Group was delicate for another reason as well. The French president fears that the entire European project is in jeopardy because workers in wealthy western European countries feel threatened by eastern European competition. Macron recently even cited the issue in explaining the Brexit: “How could Brexit happen? Because workers from eastern European countries were taking British jobs.” Macron is therefore calling for changes to the so-called “Posting of Workers Directive.” He envisions that workers sent to fill western European jobs should be paid according to local wage scales. The proposal was greeted by high-wage countries such as Germany and Austria. But eastern Europeans are vehemently refusing to cede their competitive advantage.

The summit made clear that Emmanuel Macron’s election has given a jolt of energy to the French-German duo that will perhaps be able to drive new European projects. But at the same time, it also highlighted the threat that the divide between new EU member states from the east and old ones from the west could grow ever deeper.

U.S. government narrows focus of counter-extremism program

June 23, 2017

by Julia Harte and Dustin Volz


WASHINGTON-The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday announced changes to a $10 million government grant program, narrowing its focus around efforts to combat Islamist extremism.

In an update to awards announced in January by former President Barack Obama’s administration, the department released a new list of grant recipients and amounts, shifting money to law enforcement offices and away from groups that combat U.S.-based extremism.

Reuters reported in February that President Donald Trump’s administration wanted to revamp the program to focus solely on Islamist extremism.

A DHS spokeswoman said the department changed the grant criteria after the release of the initial list to consider whether applicants would partner with law enforcement, had experience implementing counter-extremism prevention programs, and would be able to continue after the awards were spent.

“Top-scoring applications that were consistent with these priorities remained as awardees, while others did not,” said DHS spokeswoman Lucy Martinez.

Three local law enforcement offices in California, Washington state and Minnesota were among the new awardees, receiving grants totaling $1.2 million.

A spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in California said it would use the money to address extremism “on all fronts,” not just Islamist violence. Sergeant Ray Kelly cited violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing demonstrators that recently erupted in the city of Berkeley as an example of local extremism in the county.

Kelly said the office would use the grant money to train officers to better recognize and address signs of alienation that make young people vulnerable to extremism, with the help of behavioral health counselors who are already on staff.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a nonprofit group that works to improve public understanding and policies that affect American Muslims, said the Trump administration revoked its nearly $400,000 grant because the group “did not meet the criteria of working with law enforcement to counter violent extremism.”

The revised list also omitted several original awardees focused on U.S.-based extremism, such as Life After Hate, which tries to steer young people away from far-right extremism.

Christian Picciolini, a co-founder of Life After Hate, told Reuters his group was planning to use its $400,000 grant to scale up its counselor network of former extremists to “meet the highly increased requests for our services since Election Day.”

“The current administration’s lack of focus on domestic white extremist terrorism, let alone its denial to even acknowledge it exists, is highly troubling,” Picciolini wrote in an email.

(Reporting by Julia Harte and Dustin Volz; Editing by Bill Rigby and Bill Trott)

 U.S. top court set to rule on religious rights; travel ban looms

June 25, 2017

by Lawrence Hurley


WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on Monday in a closely watched religious rights case involving limits on public funding for churches and other religious entities as the justices issue the final rulings of their current term.

The nine justices are due to rule in six cases, not including their decision expected in the coming days on whether to take up President Donald Trump’s bid to revive his ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries in which an emergency appeal is pending.

Of the remaining cases argued during the court’s current term, which began in October, the most eagerly awaited one concerns a Missouri church backed by a conservative Christian legal group. The ruling potentially could narrow the separation of church and state.

A decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, located in Columbia, Missouri, set the stage for more public money to go to religious entities. The church sued after being denied state taxpayer funds for a playground improvement project because of a Missouri constitutional provision barring state funding for religious entities.

Trinity Lutheran could be headed for a lopsided win, with two liberal justices joining their conservative colleagues in signaling support during the April oral argument. It was one of the first in which Trump’s conservative appointee to the court, Neil Gorsuch, participated.

The dispute pits two provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment against each other: the guarantee of the free exercise of religion and the Establishment Clause requiring the separation of church and state.

A broad ruling backing the church could hearten religious conservatives who favor weakening the wall between church and state, including using taxpayer money to pay for children to attend private religious schools rather than public schools. President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a leading supporter of such “school choice” plans.

The most notable of three immigration-related cases in which rulings are due on Monday is a dispute over whether immigrants detained by the U.S. government for more than six months while deportation proceedings unfold should be able to request their release. The case takes on additional significance with Trump ratcheting up immigration enforcement, placing more people in detention awaiting deportation.

The court also is set to decide a case that could clarify the criminal acts for which legal immigrants may be deported. Another involves whether the family of a Mexican teenager shot dead while standing on Mexican soil by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas can sue for civil rights violations.

As the justices look to finish work before their summer break, they must decide what to do with Trump’s travel ban, which was blocked by lower courts. His administration has made an emergency request asking for the ban to go into effect while the litigation continues.

The March 6 executive order called for a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to let the government implement stronger vetting. Trump has said the order is needed urgently to prevent terrorism in the United States.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

 Eight Hundred Years of Glory: A short history of Christianity

by Darrell W. Conder

When Pope Innocent III was anointed as the Vicar of Christ in 1198, one problem that faced him was heresy — a heretic being someone who asked questions about the Bible. Good old Innocent decided the best way to deal with this annoyance was a bit of Jehovah-style bloodletting. So his holiness cast an eye on Beziers, France to put the fear of God into his subjects. It is recorded that the last savage Christian persecution under a pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian, killed some 2,000 Christians. In Beziers, Pope Innocent killed at least six times that number — 12,000 — in one afternoon! For this day’s holy work, his holiness pronounced a special blessing for his soldiers and promised an indulgence from purgatory. Where was Jesus when Christian soldiers murdered Christian men, women and children in his name? In the same place when his soldiers sliced open pregnant Midianite girls back when he was calling himself Jehovah.

At least the victims of Christ’s love died somewhat quickly in Beziers. Those who fell into the hands of the Holy Inquisition, which was a Christian office set up to seek out and punish heretics and witches, had it a bit more rough. One eye witness wrote: “feet wrenched off legs, eyes torn from their sockets, and the prisoner burned with brimstone and basted with oil.” This is no exaggeration.

First of all, let’s understand that torturing non-believers has a precedent in God’s holy word. In 2 Samuel 12:31 we can read about David, a man after God’s own heart, taking the men, women and children of Rabbah and all the other Ammonite cities by putting man, woman and child “under saws, and under harrows [toothed plows] of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln [i.e., roasted them alive].” So the Holy Inquisition had its authority to torture and murder in God’s name by simply imitating the work of a man “after God’s own heart,” the details of which were found in scripture.

When the Church arrested heretics they were taken to a torture chamber, stripped naked (in case the Devil had applied some secret mark to their body), and were made ready for the holy work of the ministers of Christ. Typically a victim was hoisted into the air by their hands, which were tied behind their back, effectively dislocating shoulders with horrific pain. While hanging in this agony, a priest might apply flaming balls of sulfur to the genitals, or feet, or breasts, or under the arms, or on the back. If the victim was a woman, there was a special device for spreading the vagina (called the vaginal pear), which allowed for the ripping of the cervix and also for placing flaming sulfur directly inside the vagina. In fact, genitalia were a special target for the Holy Inquisition, as historian Barbara Walker notes: “. . . [priests] liked to attack women’s breasts and genitals with pincers, pliers, and red-hot irons.” Even more terrible to contemplate is that in some cases there were no breasts to mutilate because under the rules of the Holy Inquisition, girls as young as nine years could be tortured in the name of Jesus. (Walker, Barbara G. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983, p. 445.)

Dr. Paul Carus, in his famous book The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil (Avenel, New Jersey: Gramercy Books, 1996: originally published in Chicago in 1900 as The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil From the Earliest Times to the Present Day) provides us with an example of what it was like to be arrested for heresy: “The hangman binds the woman, who was pregnant, and places her on the rack. Then he racked her till her heart would fain break, but had no compassion. When she did not confess, the torture was repeated, the hangman tied her hands, cut off her hair, poured brandy over her head and burned it. He placed sulphur in her armpits and burned it. Her hands were tied behind her, and she was hauled up to the ceiling and suddenly dropped down. This hauling up and dropping down was repeated for some hours, until the hangman and his helpers went to dinner. When they returned, the master-hangman tied her feet and hands upon her back; brandy was poured on her back and burned. Then heavy weights were placed on her back and she was pulled up. After this she was again stretched on the rack. A spiked board is placed on her back, and she is again hauled up to the ceiling. The master again ties her feet and hangs on them a block of fifty pounds, which makes her think that her heart will burst. This proved insufficient; therefore the master unties her feet and fixes her legs in a vise, tightening the jaws until the blood oozes out at the toes. Nor was this sufficient; therefore she was stretched and pinched again in various ways. Now the hangman of Dreissigacker began the third grade of torture. When he placed her on the bench he said: ‘I do not take you for one, two, three, not for eight days, nor for a few weeks, but for half a year or a year, for your whole life, until you confess: and if you will not confess, I shall torture you to death, and you shall be burned after all. The hangman’s son-in-law hauled her up to the ceiling by her hands. The hangman of Dreissigacker whipped her with a horsewhip. She was placed in a vise where she remained for six hours. After that she was again mercilessly horsewhipped. This was all that was done on the first day.”

In 1599 in Bavaria, Germany, a convicted witch by the name of Anna Pappenheimer, after already being mercilessly tortured in prison, was taken into the public square where her flesh was peeled off with red-hot pincers, after which her breasts sawed off. But her tormentors were not through. The bloody severed breasts were forced into the mouths of her two sons, in a perverse parody by her Christian torturers of breast feeding the boys, who were later burned alive along with their mother. In the crowd, Anna’s ten year old son was made to watch all this horror. The next day, he too was burned alive beneath the cross of the Lord Jesus.

The Church had special horrors for males, whose testicles and penis were targeted, and special devices were invented solely for this purpose such as a hollow, hinged devise that was heated glowing hot into which the victim’s penis was placed — this pain on top of seared flesh, smashed bones, fingernails that had been smashed or pulled out, and any other horror dreamed up in the minds of good God-loving priests.

Another special torture instrument invented solely for use during the Inquisition, include the brodequin, a device which was used to crush the legs by tightening, or by using a mallet for knocking in wedges to smash the bones until the bone marrow spurted out. This device was handy because when the victim inevitably passed out from the pain, it was proof of their guilt because losing consciousness was a trick of the Devil to spare his children pain.

Other tortures included applying oil to various parts of the body and slowly roasting them over an open fire. Sometimes an oversized boot was fitted on the victim and boiling water or sizzling hot grease was poured inside. (Imagine the pain we all have felt when we inadvertently burn our fingers on a hot pan; now consider the pain these helpless victims suffered, and the pain they endured afterwards from the horrific lingering pain of massive burns over the most delicate parts of their body.) And then there was the torture of squassation, which entailed strapping hundred-pound weights to a suspended victim’s arms and legs, and then hoisting the weights up above the victim, and then releasing the ropes, which dislocated virtually every bone in the victim’s body. It was said that several applications were often sufficient to kill even the strongest man.

The wheel was perhaps the worst torture device. A naked victim, who often had already been subjected to the tortures described above, was stretched spread-eagle on a large wheel. Wooden cross pieces were placed under the wrists, elbows, ankles, knees and hips. The inquisitor then used a wooden mallet to smash the victim’s bones and joints in dozens of places, although taking special care not to kill his victim. According to the observations of a seventeenth-century German chronicler, the victim was transformed “into a sort of huge screaming puppet writhing in rivulets of blood, a puppet with four tentacles, like a sea monster, of raw, slimy and shapeless flesh (rohw, schleymig und formlos Fleisch wie di Schleuch eines Tündenfischs) mixed up with splinters of smashed bones”. In this indescribably horrid state, the victim’s smashed noodle-like arms and legs were braided into the spokes of the wheel; then the wheeled victim was hoisted up on a pole and left to the elements to suffer a slow death. Eyewitnesses tell how crows would often feast on the helpless, screaming victims as they begged God for the mercy of death.

The water torture began with a naked victim strapped to a table. A funnel was inserted down their throat and gallons of water were poured in until the victim’s stomach was literally ready to burst. The inquisitor would then beat the victim’s stomach with mallets rupturing internal organs. Or, in another variation, a length of knotted cord was forced down the victim’s throat with the water, and then yanked from the mouth, effectively resulting in disemboweling.

Cleansing the soul was accomplished by forcing a victim to swallow scalding water, grease or glowing coals. We can add to this list, the cat’s paw, the breast ripper, the testicle ripper, the rectal pear, the shin vice, the head crusher, Saint Elmo’s belt, the rack, ducking the witch, the heretic’s fork and numerous other ways to “discover” the mark of Satan.

During all of this sanctimonious horror God’s ministers practiced the ultimate absurdity by blessing the instruments of torture with “holy water” and invoking God’s blessing: “Lord God we pray thee manifest thy truth on this thy servant [the instrument of torture]. Thou, O god, who hast, in former times, done great signs and wonders among thy people by fire . . . If this thy servant, who is about to undergo this trial, is guilty, let his hand be seared and burnt by the fire: but, on the other hand, if he is innocent, suffer not the fire to affect him. Lord God, thou to whom all secrets are known, fulfill, by thy goodness, the hope of our confidence and faith, while we undertake this examination; that the innocent may be set free, but the guilty detected and punished.” von Bracht writes: “When the priest had finished this prayer, he sprinkled the red hot iron with holy water, and pronounced upon it the benediction; The blessing of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, fall upon this iron, that we may by it form a righteous judgment.” (von Bracht,The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs’ Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, p. 241.)

When all the torture was through, and if the victim had not died, he or she was returned to their prison cell awaiting their next “examination.”

Speaking of the “examination,” the rules of the Inquisition stated that a person could only be subjected to one torture session. Although the initial examination could go on for an entire day, even perverts get tired of torturing and raping, so they must take a break. To get around the inconvenience of the one session rule, the inquisitors simply declared a recess in the session, which could last for hours, days, weeks or months, meaning that a victim could be “examined” endlessly — unless they died. Not only this, there was an inducement for the “examination” to last because the Church charged the victim’s family for their torture services. That’s right! The ministers of Christ charged a family for burning and ripping their daughter’s breasts, wrenching off her fingers or toes, pulling out her fingernails, applying burning sulfur to her genitals and raping her. The longer the sessions, the more money extracted for the work of Christ. On top of this, there was a charge for the victim’s upkeep in prison: the family had to pay for their mother, father, son or daughter’s filthy rotten food and lodging in a filthy, disease-ridden overcrowded, rat-infested cell.

The medieval prison defies description. The places used for the ordinary prisoners were deplorable hell-holes, but the cells to which heretics were consigned were even worse. When a man or woman was thrown into a cell, it wasn’t unusual to find rotting corpses lying about covered with maggots. Food was often non-existent, and when it was given, was foul and rotten — tossed on a floor swarming with rats and roaches and covered with excrement, urine, maggots, pus and blood. If this wasn’t bad enough, the stronger prisoners, driven mad with hunger, often took the food from the weak, who were left to die in this filth.

Ten or fifteen people crowded together in one cell without sanitation brought predictable results — disease. Very often mass death occurred from an epidemic inside the prison, which the Church declared was God’s “divine retribution” because it proved the guilt of the prisoner.

There was no such thing as medical attention in prison, meaning that ill half-conscience prisoners were left to be eaten alive by the armies of rats swarming the prison cells. Rats in fact, were a useful tool to the Inquisitor, who would, on occasion, order that a prisoner be closely chained to the floor of his or her cell. The rats, accustomed to feeding on human flesh, would then feed on this living meal throughout the night — or days. In fact, the victim, in keeping with the priest’s perverse desires, might have fish oil, or other food smeared on their genitals or breasts in order to provide the rats with a target in their feast. It was all yet another tactic used by the inquisitors to induce the “heretic” to confess their “sin” against the Lamb of God, the “God of love and mercy” who was sitting up in heaven just waiting for the repentant sinner to come to him, as Billy Graham’s theme song proclaims: “Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me and that thou bids me come to thee Oh, Lamb of God, I come I come.”

In time, it became a custom to allow “zealous Christian” men to visit the cells of women prisoners, after they paid a few coins, so that they could, themselves, personally “examine” the accused women. (Walker, op. cit., p. 446.) At this point the condemned women, who usually had been gang-raped and tortured by their inquisitors, were subjected to brutal men who not only raped them, but thought it their God-given duty to inflict further pain and suffering.

That the arrests and tortures often were for sexual gratification can be seen in the case of a priest/inquisitor named Foulques de St. George of Toulouse. The people of Toulouse, thoroughly disgusted with his atrocities, gathered evidence that he arrested women only to rape and torture them. Indeed, the chronicler of Trier, Germany recorded that all the females in two nearby villages were killed by inquisitors in 1586. However, these actions were rare exceptions because to question the Inquisition was a one-way ticket to be arrested, tortured and killed by the Inquisition, which means that almost nothing was done to stem the perverse appetites of the Holy Inquisition.

In time, the charge of heresy was joined with another charge, which provided a very large number of female victims for Christ’s ministers. It was the charge of witchcraft. Karen Armstrong writes: “The old pagan belief in witchcraft received its Christian baptism in 1484, when Pope Innocent VIII brought out an astonishing Bull, Summa Desiderantes . . .” (Armstrong, The Gospel According to Woman, p. 103.) Innocent officially began the witchcraft hysteria, which was to plague Christendom for centuries to come. The pope empowered two Dominicans, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, to investigate the practice of witchcraft, and the result was a book called Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), which was a handbook to help the Inquisitors uncover witches. Released in 1486, The Hammer of Witches essentially placed full blame for witchcraft on women, while painting men as their victims. For a priesthood that enjoyed arresting, raping, torturing and burning women, this book was a God-send.

Among other perversions, Malleus Maleficarum taught that witchcraft was due to women’s “insatiable sexuality” and that owing to her “inferior humanity” a woman, was more susceptible than a man to the devil through sex. (ibid, p. 104.) Moreover, the more beautiful the women, the more likely a suspect she was because her beauty was used by Satan to entice innocent young men into his grasp! Armstrong writes: “Indeed, the Malleus is quite clear that part of a woman’s danger is her beauty.” (ibid., p. 112.)

Malleus Maleficarum was “filled with a pathological hatred of women,” as historian Walter Nigg writes, which was an attitude fostered by countless centuries of Christian teaching, via the woman-hating pen of St. Paul himself. Thanks to Paul, Christians taught that women were inferior “because, being formed from a man’s rib, they are ‘only imperfect animals’ and ‘crooked’ whereas man belongs to a privileged sex from whose midst Christ emerged.” (Nigg, The Heretics, p. 277.)

What a grand arrangement for a perverse priesthood! Beautiful women were in league with the Devil, and needed to be arrested, taken to a private cell, stripped naked, tortured and burned to death. Even more ludicrous, if the inquisitor became sexually aroused during the torture of these naked beautiful women, he claimed it was sure evidence that the Devil was working through the victim to entice him. And when this sexually aroused man of God raped his victim, she received full blame and her torture was even more savage.

On December 5, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared that Germany was particularly infested with witches. For the next one hundred years Germany endured human bonfires — almost all being fueled with German women. (Lea, A History of the Inquisitions, Volume III, p. 540.) For example, in the spring of 1586 the summer was late in coming to Trier, Germany. The unseasonable cold, said the archbishop, was due to witches! A woman was arrested, tortured and made to confess that a coven of witches was going to cause the entire summer to be cold in order to ruin crops and thus the economy of the town. The archbishop arrested, tortured and burned 118 women and 2 men. For his part, the archbishop was praised by the Vatican for his quick action, while the victims of God’s love smoldered in the ashes. (Lea, op.cit., Volume III, p. 549.)

In the Gospel of Mark (10:14) Jesus once said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Well, “suffer the little children” is a fitting way to relate what Christ’s Holy Inquisition did when it arrested, tortured and murdered untold thousands of children. In mid-seventeenth-century Neisse, Silesia more than two thousand babies, girls and women were roasted alive in ovens during a nine-year period for suspected witchcraft. In 1629 the chancellor of Würzburg, Germany wrote that three hundred children of three or four years of age were accused by of having had intercourse with the Devil, all of whom were tortured and burned to rid the Church of their evil threat. Actually, it does not take much imagination to wonder why children were included in the priestly pursuit of burning heretics, especially in light of the mountain of recent charges about pedophile ministers and priests.

Being arrested for witchcraft by God’s church was a no-win situation for the victim. An arrest for witchcraft was a death sentence. First, a suspected witch was brought before an inquisitor and asked a trick question. Asked if they believed in witches, most said “no.” This was an incriminating answer because His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ, had said Europe was infested with witches, and one didn’t dispute papal authority. So, the answer was enough to convict — and no witch, even if he/she freely confessed, would be spared death the penalty because the bible expressly stated that no witch should live (Exodus 22:18). So, unlike the heretic, who on some occasions after torture, public humiliation, and confiscation of all his/her property, might be allowed to die in prison, the witch was doomed from the beginning to death — if he or she didn’t die during the “examination.”

Of course, if victims survived the torture of repeated examinations and their lodging in the prison cell, they still had to endure their punishment.

In the early days of the Inquisition, the judges often allow the victim to escape the death penalty by being punished in other ways. For instance, a victim could be locked in public stocks, which was a hellish predicament. Completely helpless, the victim was left to the tender mercies of the assembled mob: slapped, kicked, poked with sharpened sticks, urine and feces dumped on his or her head, or forced into the mouth, poked out eyes, torn-out tongues, stoned, ears cut off, castrated, fingernails and toenails ripped out, fingers and toes sawed off, whipped, etc. But this was in the days when the Church showed a victim mercy. Eventually death was the standard punishment.

When a heretic was sentenced to death, it was by fire because the Church reasoned that it was wrong to shed blood, and burning didn’t shed blood. Besides, the Lamb of God had paved the way for these holy, purifying fires in John 15:6 “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (Also, the bible itself teaches that burning was a godly form of execution: Joshua 7:15, which prescribes burning as a form of execution and Leviticus 21:9, which teaches that a profaning woman should be burned with fire.)

The burning of heretics dates all the way back to a papal statute of 1231, which demanded death by fire, adding that it was to be used universally. (Nigg, The Heretic, p. 220, Reinach, Orpheus, p. 328.) In fact, in the Inquisition’s heyday the pope promised indulgences (remission for punishment) in hell or purgatory for those who provided fuel for these cleansing fires. (Reinach, op.cit., p. 328.) This offer by the papacy wasn’t for any religious concern, it was because providing firewood was expensive and the Church was looking for ways to cut costs since the number of victims was increasing according to the Church’s perverse appetite.

There was one technicality to be carried out before someone was actually burned: the Church, in its sanctimonious piety, handed its victims over to the local governments so that God’s ministers could claim that the Church had never killed anyone. The victim’s trial ended with these words: “We [the ministers of Christ] cast you forth from this our ecclesiastical court and leave you to be delivered to the secular arm. But we earnestly pray that the said secular court may temper its justice with mercy that there be no bloodshed or danger of death.” (Coulton, Inquisition and Liberty, pp. 168-69.) But, no secular court dared contradict the findings of the Inquisition. No secular court dared let a victim go free — if any judge had dared do so, he would likely find himself before the very men whose judgment he had overturned, faced with a charge of witchcraft or heresy.

When the victim was led to a public place for his/her burning, they were often horribly abused by the assembled superstitious crowd, which often had been whipped up to a state of bloodlust by the ranting of their local priest. But this last abuse was nothing compared to what the victim had already suffered. If the victim was a woman, she usually had had her tongue cut out, or bored through with a glowing hot poker to keep her from telling bystanders that she had been raped by God’s ministers — the official excuse for this practice being that it kept the guilty from blaspheming God during their burning.

One of the most horrible recorded cases of burning is that of an unnamed Jersey woman, who was murdered in a public square in 1562. Being in the last weeks of pregnancy, the morning of her execution brought on labor. As the fire started to crackle beneath her feet, the wretched woman gave birth, after which a godly onlooker scarfed up the unoffending baby and tossed it into the flames beneath its screaming mother’s feet — all this happening while Jesus sat up in heaven on the right hand of his father watching the spectacle!

With that last comment, let us keep in mind as we read these accounts that the victims here were God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christians who undoubtedly cried out in their misery to those gods for mercy and deliverance. Where was this loving deity, Jesus we all hear preached? Well, either he sat in heaven and looked on approvingly, or, like Kenneth Taylor’s translation of 1 Kings 18:27 in the Living Bible, was doing what Elijah said about the god Baal: he couldn’t hear prayers because he was perhaps “sitting on the toilet”! Or, say I, perchance Jesus didn’t hear them because he is but a myth!

Mark Twain once wrote: “During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. . . . There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them still remains.”

One of the great tragedies resulting from the wholesale murders of “witches” was the almost total elimination of those who treated illness with natural remedies, which had been passed down through a thousand generations. Essentially the Church taught that the only remedy for illness was touching a holy relic (which the Church sold), or being anointed by a priest with holy oil. Anything else was regarded with suspicion — especially if the ill person recovered from the application of natural medicines. Hence, natural practitioners, most of whom were women, were the first to be arrested and charged with witchcraft. And so, in the cleansing fires of the holy mother Church died thousands of years of cures or treatments for every medical problem known to man. That loss was so great that even today humanity suffers the effect by paying absurdly high prices for chemical remedies, the side effects of which often outweigh the benefits. Oh, we all have so much to thank the Lord for, do we not?

Okay, so far I’ve covered God’s love for heretics and witches inside the Christian torture chambers and dungeons, but all of this was somewhat mild when compared to the Church’s remedy for a problem called the Protestant Reformation. People — hordes of them — countries full of them — were finally reading the bible and thinking for themselves, and something had to be done because people thinking for themselves are dangerous to any organization, be it churches or governments. In other words, the Holy Inquisition had to be taken to the streets on a massive scale. Good Christians everywhere had to be whipped up into a blood frenzy if the Church was to survive.

It is going way beyond the scope of this article to present a detailed history of the whole Reformation, nevertheless it is vital to offer a few significant horrible examples, such as when Pope Pius IV sent his armies into Orange (in the Netherlands) in 1562 to massacre Protestant heretics — the Holy Inquisition having already pronounced a sentence of death for heresy on the whole population. Hordes of merciless Catholic Christian soldiers were sent into the Netherlands with the promise of plunder, rape and torture, AND the promise of an indulgence from his holiness the pope! During the endless months of horror women were raped en masse, hung by their breasts and tortured with fire, knives and a host of improvised devices; men were hung by their genitalia until the helpless organs were ripped from their bodies, all the while being subjected to the love of God with fire, knives and glowing-hot pokers. Men, women and children were dragged behind horses until they died in their agony, or were tied spread-eagle between four horses and ripped apart; children were tortured to death and then hung up as decorations in the city streets — all the while with a priest watching and sprinkling “holy water” on the devices of torture.

On the occasion of their marriage, King Henry II of France gave his wife an unusual gift. King Henry “. . . celebrated the coronation of his wife Catherine de Medici with a bonfire of heretics.” (A Brief History of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Peoples, p. 450.) Queen Catherine was obviously delighted with the spectacle, which is borne by her later obsession for punishing heretics, and because it was she who loosed Catholic mobs into the streets of Paris to hunt down their fellow Protestant Christians on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24) in 1572. As in the Netherlands, the scenes of mobs publicly raping, torturing, murdering and plundering filled the streets. By the end of the day it is estimated that 70,000 Huguenot men, women, children and babies lay raped, mutilated and dead in the streets. When the Vicar of Christ, Pope Gregory XIII, got word of this great massacre, he held an elaborate celebration, said High Mass, gave special blessings to the murderers, gave great honors to the one who plotted the deed, Queen Mother Catherine, and then ordered a medallion to be struck commemorating the event. (DeRosa, Vicars of Christ, p. 145)

St. Bartholomew’s Day was only a fraction of the murderous terror against the Protestants of France. Reinach records that at Caen, and many other towns, “. . . parents might be seen following the hurdles on which the bodies of their children were being drawn, to be hacked in pieces by the pupils of the Jesuits.” (Reinach, Orpheus, p. 366.) No wonder that Voltaire wrote about the Inquisitions: “You follow these scenes of absurdity and horror with pity; you find nothing like them among the Romans, the Greeks, or the old barbarians. They were the fruit of the most infamous superstitions which has ever degraded man… but you know that we have not long emerged from such darkness, and that not even yet is the light complete.” (Reinach, op.cit., p. 326.)

Perhaps one of the saddest of tragedies was the case of Lutheran Church founder, Martin Luther. When this Catholic priest successfully rebelled against the papacy, many Germans were encouraged to begin thinking for themselves in matters of religion. This freedom was encouraged by Luther until it included questioning his doctrines. During the Peasant’s War, Luther urged the nobility to have no mercy, and to track down heretics: “track them like dogs and kill these children of the devil” was Luther’s orders. Taking him at his word, the nobles and their armies butchered over one hundred thousand God-fearing men, women and children. Luther later boasted that “I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants in the rebellion, for I said that they should be slain; all their blood is upon my head. But I cast it on the Lord God . .” (O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: the Credentials of the Catholic Religion, p. 29.) Right on Martin Luther! The impetus for religious murder can always be rightly laid on the head of God and his holy word!

And then there was Ireland.

In a letter from Rome, dated May, 1538, the following instructions were received: “His Holiness Paul III, now pope, and the council of the fathers, have lately found, in Rome a prophecy of one St. Lacerianus, an Irish bishop of Cashel, in which he saith that the Mother Church of Rome falleth, when in Ireland, the Catholic faith is overcome. Therefore, for the glory of the Mother Church, the honor of St. Peter, and your own security, suppress heresy, and his holiness’ enemies.” (Fox’s Book of Martyrs, pp. 300-301.) This letter began the great bloody murders of Protestant Christians in that most Catholic Christian of nations, Ireland.

The massacre had been secretly planned by the Catholic clergy for months prior to its unleashing on 23 October 1641, the date of the feast of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. Throughout all Ireland “. . . every Protestant who fell in their [the Catholic’s] way was immediately murdered. No age, no sex, no condition, was spared.”

Countless Protestant children from one area were rounded up and attacked by a crowd, who hacked, stoned, and beat them to death. Their parents were hanged by their feet or hands from trees and tortured, or burned alive. In other towns, women and children were tied to trees, and vicious dogs were set loose on them, while cheering crowds watched. Some were tied to the tails of horses and dragged to death. Women were, of course, raped by the thousands, after which they were sexually mutilated. In one place Protestant women were stripped naked, and having their breasts cut off, were allowed to slowly bleed to death to the taunts of the Catholic crowds. Whole families were buried alive, while over their graves, others were skinned alive — while the Christian mobs who performed these deeds were granted a special indulgence by his holiness, the pope, which meant, according to Catholic doctrine, sending a group of murderers directly to heaven for killing their fellow Christians.

One Catholic priest a certain Father Mahoney, told his congregation “You have already killed 150,000 enemies . . . as your enemies confess in their writings. I think more heretics have been killed; would they had all been. It remains for you to slay all other heretics and expel them from the bounds of Ireland.” (Campbell, The Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse, p. 19.) With the murder of little unborn babies, cut from wombs and fed alive to dogs and pigs, while their mothers, still barely alive, were forced to watch, the pope was able to “sleep better, knowing the enemies of Christ” had been put down in Ireland! Of course, this horror was recompensed in kind when the rabid Protestant Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, came to Ireland with his armies and killed untold thousands of Catholics, including burning terrified Catholic women and children alive inside their church during the siege of Drogheda.

Early seventeenth century Bohemia had a population of 4,000,000, eighty percent of which were Protestant. During the Thirty Years War, after the Hapsburg emperor Ferdinand II and his armies and the holy order of the Jesuits had done the work of Christ, only 800,000 people were left in all Bohemia and Hungary, all of whom were Catholic. Even worse, the war, which had started as a religious war in Bohemia, eventually drew in all the German states, and then Sweden and France, and in the end as many as twenty million men, women, children and suckling babes lay dead in the bosom of Christ!

And on and on and on it went. But hold on! God’s “love,” the kind about which we have been reading, is still alive!

When electronic voting machines re-elected George W. Bush for another term as president — not that I have any particular problem with computers running the country (they couldn’t be any worse than a politician) — they re-elected the same man who claims that God tells him what to do. You read right: President Bush talked to God, and God told him what to do!

The Terrible Secret of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

June 25, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD


In early 1948, the government of Jordan gave permission to the Arab Legion to search the area where the original Qumran cave was thought to be. Consequently, Cave 1 was rediscovered on January 28, 1949, by Belgian United Nations observer Captain Phillipe Lippens and Arab Legion Captain Akkash el-Zebn.

The rediscovery of Cave 1 prompted the initial excavation of the site from  February 15 to March 5, 1949 by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. The Cave 1 site yielded discoveries of additional Dead Sea Scroll fragments, linen cloth, jars, and other artifacts.

Cave 3, which contained the period references to Jesus,  was discovered on  March 14, 1952 and eventually yielded 14 manuscripts including Jubilees and the curious copper scroll, which lists 67 hiding places of valuable assets of the Essenes, mostly buried underground, throughout the Roman province of Judea (now the state of Israel). According to the scroll, the secret caches held astonishing amounts of gold, silver, copper, aromatics, and manuscripts.

The Essenes were known to be a wealthy cult.

These scrolls from Cave 3 were the specifically the product of Essene Jews living in Jerusalem, who hid the scrolls in the caves near Qumran while fleeing from the Romans during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The scroll in question was found by an amateur archeologist from Syria in May of 1952 and was sold by him, through a dealer in antiques named John Meanen, a former CIA operative based in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Meanen sold the scroll in 1955 to a Heinz von Hungen, MD who collected rare Catholic artifacts, among other valuable historical objects.  The scroll was subject to forensic testing as to age and then photographs were sent to three different experts in the Nabataean language. The scroll itself was on a parchment and testing on this and on the ink along with the text itself, dated this at close to about 50-55 CE. This is the only period reference to Jesus. From the translated text it is set forth that Jesus was born, not in Bethelhem but in Alexandria, Egypt and that his father was Jewish and his mother Egyptian. He had two older brothers, one of whom later became a member of the Essene cult when the family moved to Judea. As a member of the Essenes, Jesus was called ‘Bar Nasha’ or the son of man. Jesus took this name when he joined the ranks of the Essenes.

Translation from the original Nabataean of significant portion of the scroll from Cave 3

(1)  Of this Jesus we compile this recording of his wonderous deeds and his gathering many into the fold.

(2)  He was born in Alexandria, the son of Yossef and that his mother was a woman of Egyptian parentage and that he had two brothers with him. Joseph and his family then removed themselves to the land of Caanan in the second year of the Prefect Aquila and prospered.

(3   Jesus then being young but of a strong religious cast, (blessing) was taken into the Brotherhood by his elder brother Jacob who instructed him and became his greatly loving partner and there did prosper greatly, becoming a great leader of the people and one who sought to expel the heathen (unbelieving) sons of Rome from the land.

(4)  That Jesus, not being ill-favored and most eagerly was welcomed by the society and loved (taken to their souls and bodies) then by many.  He was given the name of ‘Bar Nasha’ (son of man). In the ritual bathing, he proved to be mighty and much beloved indeed and this because of the inspiration and teaching of John who was himself a much beloved person.

(5)  And Jesus, not being ill-favored, was a most inspired (wonderous) preacher and went amongst the multitude and spoke with great and moving spirit about the brotherhood, causing many to come to its fold with joy and pleasure. And when age came upon him, Jesus went out into the land, preaching to the people and was himself greatly loved.

(6) In the rule of Felix, the time had come to throw off the Roman yoke (enslavement) and Jesus, and many others, did prepare a great undertaking against these Romans but they were betrayed by one Judas to the Romans and these came upon them suddenly and with great force. Many were siezed but a few eluded the Roman police (soldiers) and removed to the secret place.

(7) Jesus was one of these and with him came Cephas, a most beautiful young man who was much beloved, of Jesus, who accompanied him to his secret place and loved him greatly.

Summation of  translation:

Jesus father, Yossef,was born in Alexandria in 41 BC under Ptolemaeus XV Philopator Philomētor Caesar and in the seventh year of his rule (June 23, 47 BCE – August 23, 30 BCE), Jesus was born, also in Alexandria,  under Gaius Iulius Aquila,  Prefect of the Province of Egypt (10-11 CE). Jesus’ leading an Essene rebellion and his subsequent rapid departure from Jerusalem was under the Procuratorship of Antonius Felix (52 to 58 CE) in Judea. Jesus’ older brother, fellow Essene and Jesus’ lover was Jacob (or James.)

I assume, without fear of contradiction, that there were no children from this union.

Most current Biblical scholars generally believe Jesus was a follower or disciple of John  and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus’s first followers had previously been followers of John.

John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus. Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who expected an apocalypse and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism.

The baptism story has its roots in the extensive nude ritual bathing practiced by all the Essenes.

There also is mention of a younger, handsome man whom Jesus  called Cephas, meaning “stone” in Aramaic and which is translated to “Peter.” Jesus said he would build his future church on this young man. References to him can be found in the Gospels and he is described as wearing scanty or no garments at all and associating very closely with Jesus. He was at the Mount of Olives putsch  episode and ran away, naked, from the Romans.

This scroll was written by the Essenes residing at Khirbet Qumran. They composed many of the historically important  scrolls and ultimately hid them in the nearby caves during the Jewish Revolt, sometime between 66 and 68 CE. The site of Qumran was eventually destroyed and the scrolls were never recovered by those that placed them there.

Josephus mentions the Essenes as sharing property among the members of the community, as does the Community Rule.

During the excavation of Khirbet Qumran, two inkwells and plastered elements thought to be tables were found, offering evidence that some form of writing was done there. More inkwells were discovered in nearby loci.

Several Jewish ritual baths were discovered at Qumran, which offers evidence of an observant Jewish presence at the site.

Pliny the Elder writing after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE describes a group of Essenes living in a desert community on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea near the ruined town of ‘Ein Gedi.

Parchment from a number of the Dead Sea scrolls have been carbon dated. The initial test performed in 1950 was on a piece of linen from one of the caves. This test gave an indicative dating of 33 CE, plus or minus 200 years, eliminating early hypotheses dating the scrolls to the mediaeval period.

Since then, two large series of tests have been performed on the scrolls themselves. The results were summarized by VanderKam and Flint, who said the tests give “strong reason for thinking that most of the Qumran manuscripts belong to the last two centuries BCE and the first century CE.”

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