Women and children were among the

casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday.

KABUL – The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi’ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of “infidels.”
IS has claimed some of the most bloody attacks in Afghan cities over the past couple of years, with some aimed at the Shi’ite minority.

The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for the Kabul attack and condemned it.
More than 180 people were wounded, with many women and children among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday as families thronged to Kabul’s crowded cemeteries.
“We want peace, not such brutal suicide attacks,” said Ahmad Khan, who was burying a relative.

of the blast showed bodies strewn amid overturned tables and chairs, with dark blood stains on the wedding hall carpet.
Both the bride and groom survived.
“I won’t ever be able to forget this, however much I try,” the groom, Mirwais Elmi, told the TOLOnews channel.

He said his cousin and some friends had been killed.

“I can’t go to the funerals, I feel very weak … I know that this won’t be the last suffering for Afghans; the suffering will continue.”

The bride’s father told TOLOnews that 14 members of his family were killed.

Wedding halls have become big business in Kabul as the Afghan economy slowly picks up and families spend more on celebrations. The big, brightly lit halls that line some suburban streets of the city have been targeted previously by bolmbers.
At least 40 people were killed in a blast at a Kabul wedding hall in November.
There has been no let-up in fighting and bomb attacks in Afghanistan over recent months despite talks between the United States and the Taliban since late last year.
In the northern province of Balkh, 11 civilians were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb blew up their van, police said.

President Ashraf Ghani, in comments on the Kabul blast before the IS claim, said the Taliban could not “absolve themselves of blame for they provide a platform for terrorists.”

Celebrations for Monday’s 100th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Britain were curtailed out of respect for the blast victims, the president’s office said.
The Taliban has been fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish an Islamic state since its ousting in October 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Both U.S. negotiators and the Taliban have reported progress after eight rounds of talks since late last year. But some Afghans were skeptical about the effort, amid the carnage.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire for a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and an end to America’s longest war.

But there are concerns among Afghan officials and U.S. national security aides that Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including IS, finding a refuge.
Afghan officials also fear a Taliban pact could drive some die-hard fighters into the arms of IS.

Some U.S. officials want to maintain a counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan if a withdrawal pact is struck, but the Taliban says it wants all foreign to leave.

Some 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.

Veggie Tales’ Creator Says Christian Media Will Soon Be Forced to Cover LGBT Topics for Kids

OPINION (CBN) – ‘Veggie Tales’ co-creator Phil Vischer says it’s inevitable that Christian filmmakers will be forced to address LGBT topics on their shows. “Parents are definitely going to have to deal with a growing LGBT presence in children’s media,” Vischer told The Christian Post. “It’s going to show up more and more as the world has decided that LGBT issues are in the same categories as race and civil rights issues. So to say you shouldn’t have a same-sex couple on ‘Sesame Street’ is the equivalent of saying you shouldn’t have a black couple on ‘Sesame Street.’”

Vischer said gay characters being portrayed on children’s programming has become customary. In recent years, the children’s show Doc McStuffins included a lesbian theme. And this year an episode of the PBS cartoon Arthur included a group of characters attending their teacher’s gay wedding. While Arthur and his pals briefly discussed the wedding, another character told the group, “‘Yep, it’s a brand new world.’ “The most striking thing about that episode of Arthur wasn’t that they thought it was time to introduce kids to gay marriage; it was the reaction of all the kids on the show,” he said. “None of them asked questions about why two men were getting married. Their reaction was, ‘Oh, OK! Great!’” READ MORE

Third Temple watch: Burning of Heifer Takes Place in Preparation for Third Temple

This is the ritual law that Hashem has commanded: Instruct B’nei Yisrael to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid. Numbers 19:2

Test run of red heifer burning
Burning of Red Heifer

A major step was made towards reinstating the Temple service: after an intensive study into the practical details, an actual heifer, albeit not a red one, was burned in precisely the manner that will enable the Jewish people to be purified.

Chapter 19 of the Book of Numbers gives an in-depth description of the mitzvah (Torah commandment) of the burning of the red heifer and subsequent mixing with water for the purpose of sprinkling on the Jews as a means of ritual purification from contact with a dead body. Despite the Biblical description, the mitzvah of the red heifer is considered the most enigmatic of all the Biblical commandments. The red heifer is essential to the restoration of the Temple service.

The return of the mitzvah of the red heifer is described by the Prophet Ezekiel as a stage in the final redemption.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. Ezekiel 36:25

The red heifer is not a sacrifice per se so it is burned in an area outside of the Temple, on the Mount of Olives. According to Jewish tradition, there have been nine red heifers since the mitzvah was given at Mount Sinai and the tenth red heifer will be used in the era of the Messiah. The last red heifer was prepared by the high priest Ishmael Ben Piavi around 60 CE and its ashes sufficed for the next three hundred years.

Last Wednesday, Professor Zohar Amar, a Professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies at Bar-Ilan University, reported at a Temple Institute Conference on his studies into the practical details of reinstating the mitzvah (Torah commandment) of the red heifer. Professor Amar has been involved in various areas of research that link Torah and science. His approach is to harness contemporary research techniques to scholarship in Jewish Studies.

“The burning of the red heifer is a biblical commandment which was performed until the end of the Second Temple period,” Professor Amar told the conference.

“This is a rare ceremony that took place once in several generations, and the ashes were used to prepare sanctified water that granted ritual purification. Historical sources indicate that the practice of purification using the ashes of the red heifer continued until the beginning of the fourth century CE.”

“The details of burning the heifer and the method of preparing the ashes appear extensively in sources from the Mishnaic periods; heretofore, the subject has only been studied theoretically,” Prof Amar said, explaining that he conducted his research in cooperation with the Temple Institute.

“A simulated experiment of burning a red heifer was conducted to investigate several research questions, such as: How much wood was required to burn a red heifer completely to ashes and how much ash actually remained after the burning?. How is it possible that ashes from immolating one heifer, as it appears in the sources, can supply ritual purposes for many years?”

“One of the models that were used to build the experimental program was the rite of cremation which is conducted to this day in India and Nepal,” Prof. Amar explained. “The design of the entire experiment took many months, and the implementation itself was carried out far from the eye of the public and the media. Only after analyzing the results did it become possible to publish it. In the course of the experiment, all of the specifications mentioned in the sources were reconstructed, beginning with the excavation of a ‘winepress; a rectangular pit, in which the pyre was built of dried wood of the pine, oak, and fig trees.”

“For the purpose of the experiment, a mature sick heifer was selected of the Baladi breed which was prevalent in ancient Israel,” Prof. Amar said, emphasizing that the heifer used in the experiment was not red. “The process of burning lasted some nine hours, and the heifer’s ashes together with the wood used to burn it yielded several tens of kilograms of ashes. It emerges that the amount of ash needed to prepare the ritual water was a minute amount sprinkled over the water. Based on the amount of ash obtained, the investigator proposed a theoretical model to calculate how many instances of sprinkling the water this amount could actually yield. This is a groundbreaking study of historical significance because there has been no investigation into the practical implementation of the laws of the red heifer since the destruction of the Temple.”

The experiment was designed to check the amount of ash produced, and whether it would be enough to purify every Israelite living today.

11,000 birds killed or maimed by hailstorm in Yellowstone County

Hail kills, maims birds
A few young birds walk among the carcasses of pelicans and double-crested cormorants killed by 2-inch hail and 70 mph winds on Sunday, Aug. 11, at Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt.

A hailstorm that flattened crops, broke windows and wrecked roofs and vehicles throughout the Yellowstone County area on Sunday also killed and maimed more than 11,000 waterfowl and wetland birds at the Big Lake Wildlife Management Area west of Molt.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists who visited the lake this week picked up dead ducks and shorebirds with broken wings, smashed skulls, internal damage and other injuries consistent with massive blunt-force trauma. They reported thousands of additional dead or badly injured waterfowl and wetland birds in and around the lake.

A neighboring landowner reported baseball-sized hail that broke windows in the area on Sunday evening. Local weather reports said Molt and Rapelje suffered 2-inch hail propelled by a 70 mph wind.

FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the birds at the lake were killed or injured. Of the birds that are still alive, Paugh estimated that 5% of the ducks on the lake and 30% to 40% of living pelicans and cormorants show some sign of injury or impaired movement — mostly broken wings and broken wing feathers.

FWP’s Big Lake WMA features a shallow, often-seasonal lake and wetland that are nesting areas for dozens of species of ducks, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, shorebirds, gulls, pelicans and other waterfowl. Because of wet weather this past spring the lake filled and currently covers around 4,000 acres.

Paugh and wildlife research specialist Jay Watson were back at the lake later this week to continue their survey of the damage to birds and try to assess the potential for additional problems.

Paugh said his scientific estimates show that the hailstorm killed or badly injured between 11,000 and 13,000 waterfowl and shorebirds, some of which still are alive but will not survive their injuries from the storm. Most of the dead birds have blown ashore.

Among future concerns is the possibility that disease — including botulism — caused by rotting carcasses could further devastate the bird populations. FWP will continue to monitor that situation.

“On a positive note,” Paugh said, “the lake is still covered with waterfowl that are alive and healthy. Life will go on.”

4.2 magnitude earthquake damages central Kansas

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan (KWCH) – 10:20 a.m.

We’re beginning to evidence of Friday morning’s damaging earthquake in Reno County.

Several people in Hutchinson and South Hutchinson have posted photos of bottles that have fallen off shelves, falling ceiling tiles and broken windows.

Kraft Electric, Inc. posted video to its Facebook page showing the moment the earthquake hit causing its office to shake violently and sending more items tumbling from the shelves.

No injuries have been reported with the quake.

Eyewitness News has a team in the area gathering more information from emergency crews, business owners and residents.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake shook central Kansas early Friday morning.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter was 3 miles south/southwest of South Hutchinson.

People bogged down the phone lines at the KWCH 12 newsroom as soon as it hit around 7:59 this morning.

Tim Black, who lives near 17th and Severance in Hutchinson, told us his house shook and things fell off the walls.

Hutchinson resident Alice Hinnen called in, saying things fell off shelves in her home. She told us she has felt earthquakes before, but this is the strongest one yet. She also reported feeling an aftershock.

Jake Goertz lives in South Hutchinson. He wrote on Twitter, “Earthquake lasted a good 20 seconds here. I have felt four aftershocks.”

Goertz did not note any damage, except for items that fell off shelves.

82 juvenile sex-trafficking victims rescued, 67 suspects arrested in nationwide FBI sting

– The FBI conducted a monthlong sweep known as Operation Independence Day that targeted sex traffickers and helped save minors across the country, the agency announced Thursday.

The sting happened in July and resulted in the identification of 21 minors, rescue of 82 minors and arrest of 67 suspected traffickers. It also prompted 60 federal investigations.

“The FBI is fiercely focused on recovering child victims and arresting the sex traffickers who exploit them,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Through operations like this, the FBI helps child victims escape the abusive life of sex trafficking.”

FBI agents relied on more than 400 law enforcement agencies working on the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces in each of the 56 field offices for the bureau. The sweep included undercover operations.

In total 161 operations were conducted around the country, according to the agency, and 33 field offices helped recover or ID the juveniles.

Here are the number of recoveries or identifications from each area:

Albuquerque: 1

Atlanta: 6

Boston: 1

Buffalo: 1

Charlotte: 3

Chicago: 2

Cincinnati: 1

Cleveland: 2

Columbia: 2

Dallas: 13

Detroit: 9

Denver: 4

Honolulu: 1

Houston: 3

Jacksonville: 1

Kansas City: 2

Knoxville: 2

Las Vegas: 14

Little Rock: 1

Los Angeles: 4

Memphis: 2

Miami: 1

Milwaukee: 1

New Haven: 1

New Orleans: 1

Portland: 4

Richmond: 1

Sacramento: 1

San Antonio: 4

San Diego: 4

San Francisco: 2

Seattle: 6

Washington Field: 2

The FBI said that it worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to identify young runaways and missing children and juveniles who might have been trafficked.

In the past, FBI agents conducted weeklong sweeps nationwide under the name Operation Cross Country. But this year, FBI officers had a longer window to plan and coordinate operations as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative.

The agency said the goal with Operation Independence Day was to “develop richer leads and intelligence, and more robust cases.”

The FBI, NCMEC and the Department of Justice’s Child and Exploitation and Obscenity Section launched that initiative in 2003 to combat sex trafficking in the U.S. Since then, the 86 task forces associated with the program have led to the recovery and identification of more than 6,600 child victims and more than 2,700 criminal convictions of traffickers.

One major aspect of the trafficking cases is the placement of victim specialists on operational teams, the agency said. The mission of those specialists is to give victims the resources to help them in their situation. But those specialists also serve as mediators between “victim-witnesses” and investigators.

“Our agents, intelligence analysts, professional staff and victim specialists work tirelessly before, during and after these operations to make sure that victims get the help they need to reclaim their lives,” Wray said.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.