French police kill terrorists, free hostages; U.S. to close bases in Europe (UCNN #550)

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1. According to USA Today, French police were waging two intense hostage standoffs Friday as two suspects in the terror attack on a satirical newspaper were cornered in a small industrial town near Paris Friday and a third gunman was holding as many as five people hostage at a kosher supermarket in the eastern part of the capital. AFP reported that two people were killed in the second incident at the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris, but that could not be confirmed.The simultaneous hostage-takings came as the intense manhunt for the two suspects in the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper on Wednesday had been cornered near Charles de Gaulle airport.

2. According to VOA News, The United States says it will close more than a dozen bases in Europe in a move the Defense Department expects to save $500 million per year when fully implemented, with no impact on the military’s ability to respond across Europe. The list of European base closures announced Thursday includes operations at Royal Air Force base Mildenhall northeast of London. The base closure is among the largest since the end of the Cold War. The base is home to tanker, reconnaissance and special operations aircraft, and 3,200 U.S. military personnel and their families.

3. According to The Hill, President Obama on Thursday visited the French Embassy in Washington to pay condolences to the victims of a mass shooting at a Parisian satirical newspaper. While at the embassy, Obama met with French Ambassador to the United States and signed a book of condolences. The president’s inscription reads: “On behalf of all Americans, I extend our deepest sympathy and solidarity to the people of France following the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. As allies across the centuries, we stand united with our French brothers to ensure that justice is done and our way of life is defended. We go forward together knowing that terror is no match for freedom and ideals we stand for — ideals that light the world. Vive la France!”

4. According to the Huffington Post, Emboldened by a new Senate majority, Republicans in Congress introduced five abortion restrictions in the first three days of the new legislative session that would severely limit women’s access to the procedure. Reps. Trent Franks and Marsha Blackburn on Monday reintroduced a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which the GOP-controlled House already passed once in 2013. And Sen. David Vitter introduced four bills on Wednesday that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning funds, require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, ban abortions performed on the basis of gender, and allow hospitals, doctors and nurses to refuse to provide or participate in abortion care for women, even in cases of emergency.

5. According to KTVZ, A 42-year-old Gresham, Oregon pastor and fired Tillamook police officer was arrested late last month and brought to the County Jail on Tuesday, where he was booked on 37 rape and abuse charges involving crimes with two children ages 10 to 12. James Daniel Worley, senior pastor at Powell Valley Church, was arrested Dec. 30 in Multnomah County following a Dec. 16 grand jury indictment. He was being held on $500,000 bail. The charges include 20 counts of first-degree sex abuse, two counts of first-degree rape, 11 counts of first-degree sodomy, one count of attempted sodomy and three counts of using a child in sexually explicit conduct. The charges involve two children who under the ages of 14 and 12 and allege crimes between 2002 and 2004.

6. According to USA Today, Andraé Crouch, a gospel musician who bridged the worlds of church and mainstream music for more than 50 years, died Thursday afternoon. The 72-year-old singer, songwriter and choir director had been hospitalized since Saturday at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in the Los Angeles area after suffering a heart attack. Crouch, sometimes called “the father of modern gospel music,” led the choirs that sang on such hits as Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and Madonna’s Like a Prayer. As a songwriter, he wrote several gospel favorites, most notably, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, My Tribute (To God Be the Glory) and Soon and Very Soon, a song sung at Jackson’s public memorial service. His recordings brought him seven Grammys, and Crouch also received an Academy Award nomination for his arranging work on the 1985 film The Color Purple.

7. According to The Christian Post, Persecution watchdog group Open Doors has accused the U.S. and world leaders of standing by and watching Christian genocide happen in 2014, following the release of its World Watch List of countries where followers of Christ are most heavily targeted. Open Doors CEO David Curry told The Christian Post that “there has been a genocide of Christians in Iraq, and the Western world stood by and watched it happen.” He added that for 2015, he would like to see world leaders “understand that the persecution of Christians is a leading indicator, around the world, of major humanitarian problems. It’s not that Christians are collateral damage; it’s that they’re being targeted — and wherever they are being targeted, there are future problems.” The newly released World Watch List ranks 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith. The majority of nations on the list are spread throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

8. According to AFP, The European Union will draw up new proposals to fight terrorism in the next few weeks following the deadly attack on a satirical magazine in France, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday. Brussels officials said a key aim is to push through a scheme to share data on all airline passengers despite opposition from some of the EU’s 28 member states and the European Parliament.

9. According to Reuters, Boko Haram militants have killed dozens of people and burned down homes in the northeast Nigerian town of Baga in the past two days, in a second killing spree since seizing control there at the weekend, witnesses said on Thursday. Two locals said the Islamist insurgents began shooting indiscriminately and burning buildings on Tuesday evening in raids on the civilian population that carried on into Wednesday. The insurgency killed more than 10,000 people last year, according to a count by the Council on Foreign Relations in November. It is seen as the gravest threat to Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, and a headache for President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of an election on Feb. 14.

10. According to the BBC, A huge police operation is under way north-east of Paris in the search for the main suspects in Wednesday’s deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine. Officers are searching areas near the town of Villers-Cotterets where the two men reportedly robbed a petrol station. The village of Longpont was sealed off during house-to-house searches for the brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi. France has been marking a rare national day of mourning for the 12 victims of the attack on the magazine in Paris. Officials say there is no evidence of a link between the Charlie Hebdo attack and a second gun attack on Thursday, in which a policewoman was shot dead in Montrouge, a southern suburb of the capital.

As you go throughout this day, keep this word in mind: Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Mark Twain said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

God loves you. He always has and He always will. He loves you so much that the Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, why don’t you get to know Him today. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose by the power of God for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening. May God bless your day.