Christian mom to appeal death sentence for blasphemy

(NBC News) A Pakistani Christian mother-of-five who was sentenced to death for blasphemy will appeal her sentence in a last-ditch effort to escape a judgment that has been condemned around the world. It was “a victory in itself to get a hearing for this appeal, as no judge was interested judging this case,” said Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Aasia Bibi’s lawyer, referring to the Thursday decision. The 46-year-old was convicted in 2010 of making derogatory remarks about the Islamic Prophet Muhammad during an argument with coworkers at a farm in the Punjab province, home to most of the country’s four million Christians.

Russian ruble plunges to new all-time low

(Agence France-Presse) Russia’s ruble slumped to a new all-time low on Friday as the economic fall-out from the Ukraine crisis and lower oil prices caused the finance minister to call for a “back-up” 2015-2017 budget.

For the first time it took more than 53 rubles to buy one euro, and the rate against the dollar topped 41.92 with speculation swirling that Standard and Poor’s could cut its rating for Russia to a “speculative” level.

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov however dismissed talk of a possible downgrade as “exaggerated” as the agency was set to release its latest rating Friday, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Review: The Book of Life

Visually splendid tale of myth and wonder, though not without some disappointingly modern conclusions.

Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez

Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Cast: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman

Theatre Release:October 17, 2014 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

A busload of spitball slinging schoolchildren are unloaded at a museum, expecting to spend the day menacing the world around them. However, they are greeted by Mary Beth, a quick-witted tour guide who seems knowledgeable in dealing with mischievous tricksters.

Grabbing their attention with an optical illusion that leads to a secret passageway, Mary Beth leads the children to an obscure room where she introduces them to a mysterious book. It’s the “Book of Life,” she tells them, and it contains all of the world’s stories. Inviting them into a particular story, Mary Beth begins reading about San Angel, a Mexican town brimming with myths and traditions. Family histories are reestablished with each generation, for instance, through participation in the Day of the Dead and bullfighting.

So Jorge Gutierrez’s The Book of Life begins when a group of children are enticed by the power of story. The central story unfolding in San Angel is being read aloud as one story among the world’s many.

Mary Beth begins her story three kids and two gods. The three young children—guitar strumming Manolo, bold and fake-mustache wearing Joaquin, and independent-minded María—rollick together about town, each filled with dreams that are like expectations for how his or her story might transpire. They look like wooden puppets—or figurines that Mary Beth can use to visually represent the story to the captivated children.

Manolo’s conflict is that he inherits a family tradition of bullfighting, but he prefers playing his guitar and, though talented at sidestepping charging bulls, doesn’t like the tradition of animal slaughter bound up with the sport’s expectations. ...

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Kurds fear ISIS use of chemical weapon in Kobani

(London Guardian) Kurds battling Islamic State militants for control of Kobani fear the extremist group may have used an unidentified chemical weapon, according to officials and one of the few doctors still working in the besieged Syrian town.

Patients with blisters, burning eyes and breathing difficulties turned up at a clinic after a blast was heard on Tuesday evening, Dr Walat Omar said. He described the symptoms as abnormal and said he could not identify their cause, but suspected a chemical weapon.

“After a loud explosion [on Tuesday night], we received some patients with abnormal symptoms. They reported a bad smell which produced some kind of allergic reaction,” Omar said in a telephone interview that was periodically disrupted by heavy explosions.

U.N. chief ‘shocked and alarmed’ by Gaza tunnels

(Israel Hayom) U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited southern Israel and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and told both sides what they wanted to hear. After meeting in Gaza with members of the Palestinian unity government, Ban said, “I am here with a very heavy heart. The destruction which I have seen coming here is beyond description. This is much more serious destruction than I saw in 2009 immediately after the violence at that time.”

Ban vowed to southern Israel residents that the $5.4 billion dollars pledged to Gaza reconstruction at the international donors conference in Cairo on Sunday would not be used by Hamas to fund terrorist activities.

Israeli government officials showed Ban the opening to a tunnel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha that was used by terrorists from Gaza.

“I was shocked and alarmed by the underground tunnels,” Ban said. “It is not acceptable. No one should live under constant threat or fear of these rockets or the penetrating underground tunnels.”

First Response

When my husband, Tom, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, I began to call family members. My sister and her husband came right away to be with me, and we prayed as we waited. Tom’s sister listened to my anxious voice on the phone and immediately said, “Cindy, can I pray with you?” When my pastor and his wife arrived, he too prayed for us (James 5:13-16).