Top News Stories for Today – April 14, 2017
Christians celebrate Good Friday in Jerusalem
Hundreds of Christians streamed through the cobblestone alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, hoisting wooden crosses and chanting prayers to mark the crucifixion of Jesus. Throngs of pilgrims walked a traditional Good Friday procession that retraces Jesus’ steps along the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Way of Suffering.” They followed his 14 stations, saying a prayer at each and ending at the ancient Holy Sepulcher church. Leonard Mary, a priest from Irondale, Alabama, was dressed as Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. He was flanked by men posing as Roman soldiers and had fake blood dripping down his chest as he lugged a giant cross down the street.
Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, are marking holy week. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday in May. Less than 2 percent of the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories is Christian, mostly split between Catholicism and Orthodox streams of Christianity. Christians in the West Bank wanting to attend services in Jerusalem must obtain permission from Israeli authorities. USA Today
Trump warns N. Korea against more provocations
President Trump has renewed threats to take “care of” the North Korean nuclear threat amid expectations of a new nuclear test this weekend, prompting a defiant response Friday from a senior official in Pyongyang. North Korean vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol said “If the US comes with reckless military maneuvers then we will confront it with the DPRK’s pre-emptive strike”.
A day earlier, Trump had responded emphatically to reports that North Korea is poised to detonate an underground nuclear device as early as Saturday to mark the anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung. While Trump’s remark was taken as a threat of military action against the North, Trump added that China “is working very hard” to defuse the international tension over North Korea, and that he is hopeful Beijing’s diplomacy will be effective. VOA
US’s Mother of Bombs kills dozens of ISIS
The US’s deployment of its largest non-nuclear weapon Thursday in Afghanistan killed 36 militants and destroyed three large caves being used by Islamic State terrorists, Afghan officials said Friday. Nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon weighs 21,000 pounds and was used to target tunnels in the Nangarhar Province.
It was the first time the bomb had ever been used in combat. The Pentagon did not release an official casualty count, and Afghan officials said they were still evaluating the extent of the detonation. The New York Times reported residents indicated the blast was felt “tens of miles away.” The New York Times, CNN, The Week
British intelligence alerted US to Trump-Russia ties
British spy agency GCHQ shared intelligence information with the US that first alerted the Americans to the potentially troublesome ties between Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives, The Guardian reports. GCHQ alerted US agents to suspicious “interactions” between Trump-orbit individuals and known or suspected Russian agents in late 2015, and alongside other European intelligence agencies informed the US of the connections.
GCHQ was not conducting a targeted operation against Trump, but rather the alleged conversations were “picked up by chance,” The Guardian notes. The FBI is currently investigating whether Russia meddled in last year’s election, and whether anyone involved in the Trump campaign may have aided their efforts if so. The Guardian, The Week
NASA reveals one of Saturn’s moons could support life
NASA on Thursday announced that it has discovered one of Saturn’s moons could sustain life. The tiny moon, called Enceladus, has “almost all of the ingredients that you need to support life as we know it on Earth,” project scientist Linda Spilker said.
The revelation that prompted the announcement was that Enceladus is home to an underground saltwater ocean, which hints at active energy sources similar to the Earth’s undersea vents. While the discovery is not proof of life on Enceladus, it does mean the moon “joins Mars and [Jupiter’s moon] Europa as the best potential locations for life beyond Earth in our solar system,” London-based physics professor Andrew Coates said. BBC, The Guardian, The Week
Wikileaks founder Assange labeled darling of terrorists by CIA Chief
CIA Director Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks in his first public comments, labeling it a hostile intelligence organization out to damage the United States as much as any terrorist organization. “It overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations,” he said, calling the celebration of WikiLeaks in some circles “perplexing and deeply troubling.”
Pompeo went as far as to lambast WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a “darling” of terrorist groups, saying a member of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) recently thanked Assange on social media for “providing a means to fight America in a way that AQAP had not previously envisioned.” VOA
Dozens of US troops deployed to Somalia
The troops’ arrival marks the first presence of American military forces in Somalia, other than a small unit of counterterrorism advisers, since March 1994 when the US pulled out of the U.N. intervention operation in the war-torn state, five months after 18 US special forces personnel were killed in a battle with Somali militiamen that inspired the movie Black Hawk Down. VOA
Facebook is killing fake accounts
Facebook is ramping up efforts to kill off sham accounts used to spread fake news, pass along malware and falsely boost page rankings, activity that can distort its advertisers’ views of user interest.
The company is in the process of rolling out changes to its technical systems to make it harder to create fake accounts, its security team said in in a blog post. These include looking for patterns such as repeated posts of the same content or an increase in messages sent. Facebook said that its newest changes allowed it to find and kill off more than 30,000 fake accounts in France. USA Today
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