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Deborah Amos

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For Alissa Berger and her family, it was the first visit to the Dar-ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth, N.J.

"We are from Temple Emanu-El," says Jenny Tananbaum, who came with the Bergers and refers to the nearby Jewish synagogue.

"We are here to adopt a Syrian family," says Berger. "We are going to work with a family for a year to help them." This is not a handout, she says, but practical help to upgrade inadequate housing, make sure the utilities work and help with employment and navigating American culture.

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When 31 governors called for a ban on Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. after last November's terrorist attacks in Paris, it united faith-based communities across the country. They are challenging the wave of opposition to these refugees by taking a leading role in resettling them.

The Obama administration is on track to make its goal of admitting and resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees before the end of September, despite concerns that Islamic militants could enter with them.

"The current pace of arrivals will continue thru the end of this fiscal year so we may exceed 10,000," said Anne Richard, assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "For next year, we will continue to welcome large numbers of Syrians."

Four years ago, veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin, an American reporter for a British newspaper, was killed in Syria.

Now her family has filed a lawsuit alleging that high-ranking Syrian officials deliberately killed the award-winning reporter.

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Armed with a 3-D printer and a computer-guided stonecutter, cultural heritage advocates are taking on the jackhammers of the Islamic State and its destructive ideology.

When Islamic State militants seized the Syrian desert town of Palmyra last May, an orgy of demolition began. Using dynamite, fire, bulldozers and pickaxes, the wrecking crew targeted 2,000-year-old Greco-Roman temples, monuments and stone statues. Palmyra's 20-foot-tall Arch of Triumph, a symbolically important monument, lay in ruins.

Abdulnasser Gharem doesn't have the background you might expect for a successful artist – let alone one famous for edgy work from Saudi Arabia. He was once a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi army. He went to high school with two of the 9/11 hijackers.

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Here's something that never used to happen in Saudi Arabia:

In the wake of the crisis with Iran, Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's deputy crown prince and defense minister, as well as King Salman's favored son, gave a five-hour interview to a reporter from The Economist, and the British news magazine published the entire transcript.

The decision by Saudi Arabia's King Salman to sever diplomatic relations with Iran sends a strong message to its main regional rival. The move should also be seen as a warning that the Saudis feel the United States is not standing up to Iran, and are willing do so on their own, according to regional analysts.

I first saw Saudi Arabian women "pushing normal" before I knew this concept had a name. I was walking down Tahlia Street in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It's a trendy weekend hangout spot, a strip of fast food burger and brand name coffee shops popular with young Saudi men.

It was striking to see three young women stride down this all-male domain defying the kingdom's conservative social codes enforced by the religious police and the judgments of family and neighbors.

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The first Saudi Arabian women to vote celebrated with hugs and selfies and lingered at the polls to share the moment on Saturday. Women won only 20 seats out of more than 2,000 in local councils across the country, but it was more than the candidates expected.

In the western coastal city of Jeddah, one winner was Lama al-Suleiman, a prominent businesswoman and British-trained biochemist. She says the toughest campaign battle was fighting tradition in a male-dominated society.

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