Judge Blocks Ban on Dismemberment Abortions as ‘Undue Burden’ on ‘Right of a Woman’ to Kill Her Child

“Hence, that all efforts, direct or indirect, to disturb the progress of gestation or to injure the product of conception are criminal, alike violating the laws of nature and of God,”

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President George W. Bush has struck down a Texas ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, also known as dismemberment abortions, finding the prohibition to be an “undue burden” on the “right of a woman” to her child.

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“An abortion always results in the death of the fetus. The extraction of the fetus from the womb occurs in every abortion. Dismemberment of the fetus is the inevitable result. The evidence before the court is graphic and distasteful,” U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel acknowledged, but nonetheless added, “But this evidence is germane only to the state’s interest in the dignity of fetal life and is weighed on the State’s side of the scale. It does not remove weight from the woman’s side. And it does not add weight to tip the balance in the state’s favor.”

“The State’s valid interest in promoting respect for the life of the unborn, although legitimate, is not sufficient to justify such a substantial obstacle to the constitutionally protected right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability,” he opined.

Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights had sued in July to challenge S.B. 8, a bill that prohibited dismemberment abortions, except for in the case of medical emergency. 

“‘Dismemberment abortion’ means an abortion in which a person, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, dismembers the living unborn child and extracts the unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or a similar instrument that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slices, crushes, or grasps, or performs any combination of those actions on, a piece of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip the piece from the body,” the bill read, describing the common second-trimester abortion method.

Baby-aborted-6-months-D-and-E
Baby Aborted 6 Months D&E

According to Yeakel’s ruling, attorneys for the state had argued in court that the law does not block mothers from obtaining second trimester abortions because the bill does not ban the procedure when the child is killed by another method first. 

“The State responds that the Act does not render second-trimester abortions unavailable, because fetal demise can be safely achieved with one of three procedures before a physician performs a standard D&E: (1) use of a hypodermic needle to inject the drug digoxin trans-abdominally or vaginally; (2) an injection of potassium chloride directly into the fetal heart; and (3) umbilical-cord transection,” he outlined.

However, Yeakel opined that these methods are potentially unsafe for the mother and would also delay the abortion.

“The court concludes that whether the court weighs the asserted state interests against the effects of the provisions or examines only the effects of the provisions, Plaintiffs have carried their burden of demonstrating that the Act creates an undue burden for a large fraction of women for whom the Act is a substantial rather than an irrelevant restriction,” he wrote.

“The court concludes the Act is an inappropriate use of the State’s regulatory power over the medical profession to bar certain medical procedures and substitute others in furtherance of the State’s legitimate interest in regulating the medical profession in order to promote respect for the life of the unborn,” Yeakel said.

Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“A five-day trial in district court allowed us to build a record like no other in exposing the truth about the barbaric practice of dismemberment abortions. We are eager to present that extensive record before the 5th Circuit,” he said in a statement. “No just society should tolerate the tearing of living human beings to pieces. We are hopeful the 5th Circuit will respect the will of the Texas legislature by upholding Texas’ lawful authority to protect the dignity of innocent unborn children as they die.”

In his 1854 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania on criminal abortion, obstetrician Hugh Hodge declared, “Human life commences at the time of conception; … the embryo and fetus therefore should be protected during its intra-uterine life as sedulously as after birth.”

“Hence, that all efforts, direct or indirect, to disturb the progress of gestation or to injure the product of conception are criminal, alike violating the laws of nature and of God,” he stated.

Egypt reeling from attack on mosque in Sinai that killed 305

Friday’s assault was the first major militant attack on a Muslim congregation, and it eclipsed past attacks, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.

Egypt was reeling Sunday from the horrific militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed 305 people two days earlier — the deadliest assault by Islamic extremists in its modern history and a grim milestone in a long-running fight against the insurgency led by an Islamic State affiliate.

sinai-mosque-attack

Survivors and Egypt’s top prosecutor have given accounts of the massacre that unfolded as more than two dozen assailants, carrying a black IS banner, unleashed gunfire and explosions during Friday prayers at the Al-Rawdah Mosque in a sleepy village by the same name near the small town of Bir al-Abd.

The attackers arrived in five SUVs, took positions across from the mosque’s door and windows, and just as the imam was about to deliver his sermon from the pulpit, they opened fire and tossed grenades at the estimated 500 people inside.

The worshipers screamed and cried out in pain. A stampede broke out in the rush toward a door leading to the washrooms. Others tried desperately to force their way out of the windows. Those who survived spoke of children screaming as they saw parents and siblings mowed down by gunfire or shredded by the blasts. 

When the violence finally stopped, 305 people, including 27 children, had been killed and 128 wounded.

One of the witnesses, Ebid Salem Mansour, recalled how the attackers shouted Allahu Akbar, or God is great, as they fired on the worshippers.

So composed were the militants that they methodically checked their victims for any sign of life after the initial round of blazing gunfire. Those still moving or breathing received a bullet to the head or the chest, the witnesses said. When the ambulances arrived they shot at them, repelling them as they got back into their vehicles and fled.

Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Nabil Sadeq, said the attackers, some masked, numbered between 25 and 30. Those with bare faces sported heavy beards and long hair, his statement added. Clad in military-style camouflage pants and black T-shirts, one of them carried a black banner with the declaration of the Muslim faith — there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.

Despite the banner, IS still has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Survivors of the bloodshed spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where some of the wounded are hospitalized.

“We knew that the mosque was under attack,” said Mansour, a 38-year-old worker in a nearby salt factory who had settled in Bir al-Abd three years ago to escape the bloodshed and fighting elsewhere in northern Sinai. He suffered two gunshot wounds to his legs on Friday.  

“Everyone lay down on the floor and kept their heads down. If you raised your head you get shot,” he said. “The shooting was random and hysterical at the beginning and then became more deliberate. Whoever they weren’t sure was dead or still breathing was shot dead.”

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed that the attack “will not go unpunished” and that Egypt would persevere with its war on terrorism. He did not specify what new steps might be taken. On Saturday, he ordered that a mausoleum be built in memory of the victims of Friday’s attack and cancelled a visit to the Gulf Sultanate of Oman that was scheduled for next week.

Egypt’s military and security forces have already been waging a tough and costly campaign against militants in the towns, villages and desert mountains of northern Sinai, and Egypt has been in a state of emergency since April. Across the country, thousands have been arrested in a crackdown on suspected Islamists as well as against other dissenters and critics, raising concerns about human rights violations.

Seeking to spread the violence, militants over the past year have carried out deadly bombings on churches in the capital of Cairo and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. Egypt’s IS affiliate has also claimed responsibility for the 2016 downing of a Russian passenger jet that killed 224 people over Sinai. That attack decimated the country’s already ailing tourism industry.

Friday’s assault was the first major militant attack on a Muslim congregation, and it eclipsed past attacks, even dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s. The death of so many civilians in one day recalls the killing of at least 600 in August 2013, when Egyptian security forces broke up two sit-in protests in Cairo by supporters of Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist president ousted by the military the previous month.

The local IS affiliate has targeted Sufis in the past. Last year, the militants beheaded a leading local Sufi figure, the blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, and posted photos of the killing online. In the January edition of an IS online magazine, the Sinai affiliate vowed to target Sufis, accusing them of idolatry and heretical “innovation” in religion and warning that the group will “not permit (their) presence” in Sinai or Egypt.

Millions of Egyptians belong to Sufi orders, which hold sessions of ritual chanting and dancing to draw the faithful closer to God. Sufis also hold shrines containing the tombs of holy men in particular reverence.

Islamic militants stepped up their campaign of violence in northern Sinai after the military ousted the elected but divisive Morsi. Authorities followed up with a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, jailing thousands.

The result has been a long, grinding conflict centered on el-Arish and nearby villages and towns in north Sinai. The militants have been unable to control territory, but the military and security forces have also been unable to bring security, as the extremists continuously carry out surprise attacks, mostly targeting outposts and convoys.

 

Disney animated series introduces a Male Princess

The cartoon previously broke ground by featuring the first same-sex kiss for a Disney property on an episode that aired in February.

Disney made a bold statement to its Disney XD audience suggesting that boys can be princesses, like girls! 

On a recent episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, the character of Marco Diaz (voiced by Adam McArthur) disguised himself as Princess Turdina to help save the students at St. Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses from Ms. Heinous, the wicked headmistress.

Marco is about to reveal his truth to the students when Ms. Heinous storms in and outs him herself, pulling down his shirt to reveal a strand of chest hair. But the other princesses stand by Marco’s side.

“That doesn’t prove anything. Princesses can be hairy,” one princess shouts.

“Why does it matter if he’s a boy? Nothing he said was wrong,” another exclaims.

Others join the chorus by saying, “Yeah, we believe in you, Turdina,” “Turdina is a state of mind,” and, “He can be a princess if he wants to!”

Star vs. The Forces of Evil was created by executive producer Daron Nefcy, only the second woman to spearhead her own Disney animated show. The cartoon previously broke ground by featuring the first same-sex kiss for a Disney property on an episode that aired in February.

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 Copied from a You Tube clip “If men were male princesses” 

Ex-priest to stand trial for 1960 murder of Texas beauty queen

A former Roman Catholic priest is due to stand trial this week on charges he beat, raped and strangled to death a Texas beauty queen nearly 60 years ago after hearing her last confession.

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A former Roman Catholic priest is due to stand trial this week on charges he beat, raped and strangled to death a Texas beauty queen nearly 60 years ago after hearing her last confession.

Irene
 Irene Garza 

Lawyers for John Feit, 84, have denied his responsibility for the 1960 murder of Irene Garza, 25, in McAllen, Texas, and said in court filings that he was wrongly accused of “one of the most notorious and heavily publicized crimes in the history of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Irene
 Irene Garza

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and opening statements are expected on Thursday at a state district court in Hidalgo county in south Texas. The trial is likely to take about two weeks, county officials said on Monday.

Garza, a former Miss South Texas and second-grade school teacher, was last seen giving confession during Holy Week at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on April 16, 1960, according to the Texas Rangers cold case website.

Her body was found five days later in a nearby canal. An autopsy showed that Garza had been raped while comatose and died of suffocation. 

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 Left- Irene Garza who was raped and murdered after giving her last confession to Feit-Right

Feit had initially been considered by authorities to be a suspect in the case but was not indicted. He had been implicated in the assault of another woman in the area a few weeks before Garza’s disappearance, but pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and served no jail time.

Shortly after Garza’s body was found, Feit was ordered by his church superiors to leave McAllen, the Dallas Morning News reported.

johnfeit
 Feit

Feit later left the priesthood and moved to Arizona, where he started a family.

Texas Rangers investigating cold cases reported in 2002 that a local priest had told them, shortly after Garza’s body was found, that he had seen scratches on the hands of Feit, who was a visiting priest at Sacred Heart Church at the time.

The local priest, Father Joseph O’Brien, also told investigators that Feit had confessed to the murder, law enforcement officials said. Feit has denied that.

Prayer of Thanks Removed From Elementary School’s Thanksgiving Program~ Following Complaint

Public schools have an obligation to remain neutral toward religion…..

JONESBORO, Ark. — A prayer thanking God for life’s blessings was recently removed from an Arkansas elementary school’s Thanksgiving program after one of the nation’s most conspicuous atheist activists groups lodged a complaint.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the superintendent of the Westside Consolidated School District on Nov. 10 after being informed by a parent that students at Westside Elementary School were sent home with lyrics to memorize for the program, which included a prayer of thanks to God.

“Thank You for the world so sweet/Thank You for the food we eat/Thank You for the birds that sing/Thank You, God, for everything,” the poem was to have read. FFRF contended that the prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” 

“[P]ublic schools have an obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” the letter read. “Moreover, inducing young and impressionable children to give thanks to God is a usurpation of parental authority.”

“Such a practice alienates the students, teachers and members of the community whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school, particularly the 24% of all Americans, and 38% of Americans born after 1987, who are not religious,” FFRF asserted.

The group therefore requested that “all references to God or religion” be removed from the Thanksgiving program, and asked for a written response advising how the district would take steps to do so. 

According to FFRF, Superintendent Scott Gauntt conducted an investigation into the matter and after confirming the inclusion of the prayer of thanks in the program, had it nixed from the event.

“We will be more diligent in the future in an attempt to uphold the letter of the law in regards to separation of church and state,” Gauntt wrote.

FRRF has applauded the move removing God from the Thanksgiving program, calling it a “sincere action to uphold its constitutional obligation to protect the students’ rights of conscience.”

As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Colorado pastor arrested for allegedly impregnating 14-year-old girl

Leach told his ex-wife “he knows he had made the worst mistake” and “it’s not like he will go around and sleep with everybody’s 13 or 14-year-daughter”…

A Colorado pastor was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly impregnated a 14-year-old girl who had his child.

Romello Leach, 22, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who is a pastor for several churches that meet at a Colorado Springs hotel, faces multiple counts of sexual assault on a child, The Gazette reported.  The unidentified girl said she and the pastor had sex twice, once in Nov. 2016 in Leach’s car and at her home earlier this year, the Denver Channel reported.

The teenager gave birth to the child on Sept. 15 when she was 15 years old. The girl reportedly did not inform anyone she was pregnant until her mother noticed her “larger belly” in May, arrest records stated.

The teenager’s mother took her to the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center where they notified an employee that Leach was the father, the affidavit stated. The employee informed the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office of the pregnancy and an investigation was launched.

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 Romello Leach, 22, accused of impregnating a 14-year-old girl. (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office )

Leach told his ex-wife in a recorded telephone discussion that he had sexual relations with the teenager and admitted to being the father of her baby, arrest records stated.  

Leach told his ex-wife “he knows he had made the worst mistake” and “it’s not like he will go around and sleep with everybody’s 13 or 14-year-daughter,” the affidavit stated.

In a different recorded phone call, Leach admitted to an unidentified person of having sexual relations with the girl at least four times and being the baby’s father. Leach “admitted the behavior was wrong and said he was full of lust at the time,” The Gazette reported.

Leach was being held at El Paso County jail without bond. Deputies were investigating if there were any other victims of Leach’s. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Virginia Youth Pastor Charged With 1st Degree Murder in Thanksgiving Day Triple Homicide

Gattis’ Facebook page listed Grace Lutheran Church as his employer since 2014.

A Virginia youth pastor has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife, stepdaughter, and stepdaughter’s boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day and is now in being held in jail.

In an incident police are calling a domestic in nature, Christopher Gattis, 58, shot and killed his wife Jeanett Gattis, 58; her daughter Candice Kunze, 30; and Andrew Buthorn, 36, Kunze’s boyfriend, at the home near Richmond that they shared with Gattis just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, Yahoo News reported Sunday. The women were found dead in the home; Buthorn’s body was found in the yard. 

Gattis, who is a youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Chester, Virginia has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is now being held at Chesterfield County jail without bond. He will appear in General District Court on Monday and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Tuesday.

“Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester, and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church,” the church said in a statement on its website.

“Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges. Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved.”

Residents of Gattis’ neighborhood are surprised.

“We were all friends. We hang out sometimes [and] cook out in the back,” Mike Brown, neighbor to Gattis, told the Richmond-area CBS affiliate.

“I mean every time I see them, they’re always the same way. [I] had no clue that they were having problems that I knew of, but behind closed doors is behind closed doors.”

Neighbor Larry Patton, who lives across the street from the Gattis home, described the family in Friday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch as “good people.” When he and his wife moved into the neighborhood two years ago the Gattis family welcomed them, and the neighbors often shared meals together.

“He’d do anything for you. He was always quick to laugh. He had a hearty laugh,” Patton recalled of Mr. Gattis, the youth pastor. 

The neighbors told reporters that approximately six weeks ago Candice had moved back home from Oregon and brought her boyfriend along with her.

Gattis’ Facebook page listed Grace Lutheran Church as his employer since 2014.

Police say that their investigation into the triple murder is ongoing.

Migrants from west Africa being ‘sold in Libyan slave markets’

“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants,”

UN migration agency says selling of people is rife in African nation that has slid into violent chaos since overthrow of Gaddafi

West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.

Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalized that people are being traded in public. S

“The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages [in Libya],” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s head of operation and emergencies. “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”

The north African nation is a major exit point for refugees from Africa trying to take boats to Europe. But since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi, the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable.

One 34-year-old survivor from Senegal said he was taken to a dusty lot in the south Libyan city of Sabha after crossing the desert from Niger in a bus organised by people smugglers. The group had paid to be taken to the coast, where they planned to risk a boat trip to Europe, but their driver suddenly said middlemen had not passed on his fees and put his passengers up for sale.

“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants,” said Livia Manante, an IOM officer based in Niger who helps people wanting to return home.

She interviewed the survivor after he escaped from Libya earlier this month and said accounts of slave markets were confirmed by other migrants she spoke to in Niger and some who had been interviewed by colleagues in Europe.

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“Several other migrants confirmed his story, independently describing kinds of slave markets as well as kinds of private prisons all over in Libya,” Manente said. “IOM Italy has confirmed that this story is similar to many stories reported by migrants and collected at landing points in southern Italy, including the slave market reports. This gives more evidence that the stories reported are true, as the stories of those who managed to cross-match those who are returning back to their countries.”

After his sale, the Senegalese migrant was taken to a makeshift prison of a kind that has been well documented in Libya. Those held inside are forced to work without pay, or on meagre rations, and their captors regularly call family at home demanding a ransom. His captors asked for 300,000 west African francs (about £380), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation.

Men who lingered there too long without the ransom being paid were taken away and killed, he said. Some wasted away on meagre rations in unsanitary conditions, dying of hunger and disease, but overall numbers never fell. “If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente said.

His terrified family began scraping together loans. As he spoke fluent English, French and some local languages, he translated for his jailers to win time for relatives to collect the money.

Many other migrants flee Libya with similar stories, said Giuseppe Loprete, chief of mission at IOM Niger. “Its very clear they see themselves as being treated as slaves,” he said.

Loprete’s office has arranged for the repatriation of 1,500 people in the first three months of this year – almost the same number as in the whole of 2015. He fears more horrors are likely to emerge.  

“There are now more migrants coming back from Libya, so that’s also why all these stories are coming to the surface,” he said. “And conditions are worsening in Libya so I think we can also expect more in the coming months.”

Even growing international awareness of the problems migrants face is being exploited. IOM has had credible reports of criminals posing as aid groups that help migrants to lure in people who have escaped or bought their freedom and want to return home.

The organisation is working to spread awareness across west Africa of the horrors of the journey through the personal stories of those who return. Though most migrants know the boat trips to Europe are extremely risky, fewer realise they may face even worse dangers in Libya before even reaching the coast.

“Tragically, the most credible messengers are migrants returning home with IOM help,” said spokesman Leonard Doyle. “Too often they are broken, brutalized and have been abused. Their voices carry more weight than anyone else’s.”

African Migrants Auctioned Off in Libya’s Slave Markets

The footage, captured via mobile phone, shows young men being auctioned off like merchandise…

Disturbing video footage of African migrants being bought and sold in a slave auction in Libya was released last week by CNN

The footage, captured via mobile phone, shows young men being auctioned off like merchandise. The auctioneer asks for bids from buyers, with some being sold for the equivalent of $400 and handed over to their “masters.” Every year, thousands of refugees and migrants attempting to escape warfare or poverty cross Libya’s borders, risking everything to reach safety. Due to a recent crackdown by the Libyan coast guard, many end up waiting for additional boats, making them vulnerable to smugglers. Some of these smugglers become “masters,” forcing refugees and migrants into slavery. CNN reports on a man named Victory, who was sold at a slave auction: 

He made it as far as Libya, where he says he and other would-be migrants were held in grim living conditions, deprived of food, abused and mistreated by their captors.

“If you look at most of the people here, if you check your bodies, you see the marks. They are beaten, mutilated.”

“The situation is dire,” Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said. “Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

In light of the footage, the Libyan government has promised to investigate the country’s slave trade. 

ISIS Threatens to Attack Vatican on Christmas

ISIS militants see the Vatican as a prime target because it represents Christianity and the West.

The Islamic State has threatened to attack the Vatican on Christmas, in what they are calling a “Christmas blood” attack.

In a propaganda video released by ISIS supporters, a masked figure is shown driving toward the Vatican with a gun and a backpack, supposedly containing a bomb. The video is accompanied by the words “Christmas blood. So wait…” ISIS AND VATICAN

According to Fox News, Christmas is historically a time when ISIS has stepped up their attacks. One such attack occurred in 2015, when a terrorist who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State carried out an attack in San Bernardino, California which killed 14 people.

The terrorist group is especially looking for opportunities to be on the offensive since they are losing more and more ground in the Middle East, the seat of their so-called “caliphate.” Terror experts have warned that, because the Islamic State has lost territory they previously controlled, they may focus their efforts on isolated attacks in various parts of the world. 

ISIS militants see the Vatican as a prime target because it represents Christianity and the West. Security is being stepped up in the Vatican and in other places around the world as the holiday season approaches.