Weekly Wrap 4.8.16: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Top 10 Takeaways from ‘Amoris Laetitia’

“We should no longer talk about people “living in sin.” A great analysis of Pope Francis’ new document on the family from America magazine.

2. Keystone Pipeline Leak Worse Than Believed

According to TransCanada, the pipeline could have leaked nearly 17,000 gallons in South Dakota — and they’ve “yet to pinpoint the source.”

3. WATCH: 7 Reasons Men Should Not Be Pastors

This must’ve struck a nerve. It’s the most-viewed thing we’ve ever done!

The FBI Wants to Force Apple to Break Into Phone Owned by San Bernardino Shooters. Here's Why That's a Big Deal.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

There are two things that make this order very dangerous, Opsahl said. The first is the question it raises about who can make this type of demand. If the U.S. government can force Apple to do this, why can't the Chinese or Russian governments? The second is that while the government is requesting a program to allow it to break into this one, specific iPhone, once the program is created it will essentially be a master key. 

Wife of ISIS Leader Charged in Death of American Aid Worker

ISIS flag hangs in Palestinian refugee camp. Image via REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/RNS

The wife of a now-deceased Islamic State leader has been charged for her alleged role in last year’s death of American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller. Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, 25, the widow of former ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, allegedly conspired to provide support to the terrorist group, often forcibly holding Mueller in the couple’s homes where she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mueller died in February 2015.

Orthodox Rabbis Charged in Jewish Divorce Shakedown Plot

Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland on 91 West Carlton Road in Suffern, NY. Photo via RNS, by Tim Farrell/courtesy The Star-Ledger

In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings, and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod — two rabbis were charged in New Jersey in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces.

Two others were also charged in the case, which grew out of an undercover sting operation involving a female FBI agent who posed as a member of the Orthodox community seeking a divorce.

As many as six others may also be charged, officials said.

FBI Investigating Second Fire at Missouri Mosque

From the Associated Press via STLToday.com:

JOPLIN, Mo. — The FBI has joined an investigation into the second fire at a Joplin mosque in four years.

The blaze early Wednesday burned a 4-by-6-foot section of shingles atop the Islamic Society of Joplin's building. Firefighters extinguished the flames before they could do further damage, authorities told The Joplin Globe.

Capt. Kelly Stephens of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department said investigators were studying security camera footage but he would not say what the tapes showed.

About 50 families are members of the Islamic Society of Joplin, which opened the building in 2007 as a mosque and community center, society officials said. The FBI led an investigation in 2008 when the mosque's sign was torched; that crime remains unsolved.

Read more: HERE.

Mission Creep

On Jan. 25, 2011, Jacob Flowers left work early to get to a meeting. The organization where Flowers serves as executive director, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, has been involved in community organizing since 1982. Although not officially affiliated with any religious body, the Center works closely with the faith community and is housed in a large building owned by First Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ community in Memphis.

While a snowstorm swirled outside, Mid-South’s organizing director, Brad Watkins, presided over an afternoon workshop in which anyone who was interested could come in and complete Freedom of Information Act requests about FBI surveillance. Activists decided that a FOIA-themed workshop would be a good way to stand in solidarity with anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists in the Midwest whose homes had been raided by the FBI the year before. Since the workshop attracted only a modest crowd of peace activists, nothing could have been more alarming than the arrival of three unexpected guests—black-clad agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“We suspected that they found a way to get into the building,” Flowers recalled in an interview, “because normally the building is locked up pretty tight.” The FBI agents explained that they were there to warn the owners of the property of an impending protest. Watkins informed them that it was a workshop, not a protest, and that they were currently looking at the people responsible for organizing it. As soon as Watkins began asking if they were trying to harass citizens concerned about FBI repression, the agents quickly left.

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We're Watching You...

Between 2003 and 2006, the Pentagon database TALON kept tabs on thousands of “potential threats,” including the following peace and anti-war groups:

Catholic Worker

War Resisters League

United for Peace and Justice

Voices in the Wilderness

Brooklyn Parents for Peace

Park Slope Greens

Not in Our Name

Progressive Programmers League

Kairos Community


World War III Arts in Action

No Police State Coalition

Veterans for Peace

Rhode Island Community Coalition for Peace

Broward Anti-War Coalition

Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition

International Action Center

Students for Peace and Justice

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Military Families Speak Out

Campus Anti-War Network

American Friends Service Committee

Western Massachusetts Military Recruitment Education Network

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Berkeley Stop the War Coalition

Georgia State University Students for Peace and Justice

Source: “No Real Threat: ACLU Report on the Pentagon’s Secret Database” (2007)

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Members of Mosque Under FBI Scrutiny Say They're Being Pushed to Adopt Americanized Islam

Hands with Muslim prayer beads, Omer N Raja / Shutterstock.com
Hands with Muslim prayer beads, Omer N Raja / Shutterstock.com

In the past two years, the FBI has placed at least five men with affiliations to the mosque, including its longtime religious leader, on the nation's no-fly list, a roster of suspected terrorists barred from flying in the United States. None has been charged with a terrorism-related offense, and federal officials haven't told them why they're on the list.

The unexplained actions are aggravating the FBI's already poor relationship with the mosque and fueling fear and frustration among Muslims that their house of worship appears to be once again in the government's crosshairs.

"It's not that we're doing anything wrong," said Jesse Day, who converted to Islam two years ago and regularly attends the Friday services. But like many others at the mosque who flinch at the sight of a camera and suspect an informant moves among them, he worries.

MAP: How Far Do You Live from a Government-Surveilled Peace Group?

Did you know that the U.S. government has kept tabs on church-based and other peace groups? "Mission Creep" in the July 2012 issue of Sojourners looks into this dirty practice, past and present. Click on the red dot below to see where the FBI barged into an activist meeting in a Memphis church last year, or view the blue dots to see just a few of the anti-war protester groups that were monitored as “potential threats” by the Pentagon database TALON (Threat & Local Observation Notices) between 2003-2006. (Sources: Mission Creep, Sojourners, July 2012; “No Real Threat,” 2007 ACLU report based on Freedom of Information Act data).

View How Far Do You Live from a Government-Surveilled Peace Group? in a larger map

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners.

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FBI Says Muslims’ Trust is Broken by NYPD Spying

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
NYU students attend town hall to discuss NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities on Feb. 29.(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. — As friction over the New York Police Department's spying on New Jersey Muslims continues to grow, the state's top FBI officer said the uproar is damaging his agency's ability to gather important counterterrorism intelligence.

"What we have now is (Muslim communities) ... that they're not sure they trust law enforcement in general, they're fearing being watched, they're starting to withdraw their activities," Michael Ward, director of the FBI's Newark division, said Tuesday (March 6).

"And the impact of that sinking tide of cooperation means that we don't have our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the community as well -- we're less knowledgeable, we have blind spots, and there's more risk."

In his first public comments on the deepening controversy, Ward said the FBI has spent the years after 9/11 opening lines of communication with New Jersey's Muslim communities.