For the First Time, Russia Ranked Among Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

(Worthy News) – Russia’s ongoing crackdown on religious minorities, foreign missionaries, and evangelists has earned it a spot among the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which flags religious freedom violators for the State Department, listed the former Soviet state among six new Tier 1 “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its latest annual report, released Wednesday.

It is the first time in the commission’s almost 20-year history that Russia has made the list. A total of 16 countries currently hold the CPC designation, and another dozen are being reviewed as Tier 2. [ Source ]

U.S. Economy Expands at Slowest Pace in Three Years

(Worthy News) – The U.S. economy expanded at the slowest pace in three years as weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 0.7 percent annualized rate after advancing

2.1 percent in the prior quarter, Commerce Department data showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1 percent gain. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose 0.3 percent, the worst performance since 2009. [ Source ]

Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

(Worthy News) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table. [ Source ]

Report: Israel attacked Iranian arms depot near Damascus airport

(Worthy News) – The Israel Air Force reportedly attacked an Iranian arms depot near the Damascus International Airport early Thursday morning, according to the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar television station.

According to various reports, a series of explosions at fuel tanks and warehouses near the airport rocked eastern Damascus at around 3:20am.

Regular supplies of weapons from Tehran are sent by commercial and military cargo planes through the arms supply hub, which is operated by Hezbollah, Reuters cited a regional intelligence source as saying. [ Source ]

‘Huge’ blasts near Damascus airport blamed on Israeli strike

(Worthy News) – Explosions were heard near Damascus’s airport on Thursday morning, in what some local Arabic-language media reports blamed on an Israeli airstrike.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman said the explosion early Thursday has been heard across the capital, jolting residents awake.

“The blast was huge and could be heard in Damascus,” he said. [ Source ]

Mnuchin vows ‘biggest tax cut’ in US history, confirms plan to slash business rate

(Worthy News) – Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration aims to lower business tax rates to 15 percent, saying a forthcoming proposal will constitute the “biggest tax cut” for Americans in history.

“This is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country,” Mnuchin said, as administration officials prepare to outline Wednesday afternoon what he described as “principles” of their tax plan.

Mnuchin, speaking at a Washington forum, would not reveal many specifics but confirmed that they want to lower the business rate to 15 percent. [ Source ]

U.S. hits Syria with new sanctions

(Worthy News) – Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced new sanctions Monday against Syria for its chemical weapon attack, targeting 271 Syrian individuals involved in the Bashar Assad regime’s chemical weapons program.

The sanctions target people connected with a scientific center involved in research and development of chemical weapons, freezing their financial assets and blocking U.S. companies form doing business with them.

“We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor and we plan to hold the Assad regime accountable for their unacceptable behavior,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters at the White House. [ Source ]

Fatah Calls for Palestinian ‘Day of Rage’ Against Israel

(Worthy News) – The West Bank’s ruling party Fatah called on Palestinians to participate in a day of rage this Friday in support of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, reported on Saturday that Fatah is urging Palestinians “to clash with the occupier at all friction points.”

More than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted of five counts of murder, are carrying out a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons. [ Source ]