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Religion News Report

September 25, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 266) - 2/2

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=== Hate Groups
23. Aryan Nations lawyer files to trim $6.3 million award
24. Aryan Nations Property Given Up
25. Germans Break Up Neo-Nazi Concert
26. Protesters Face German Party Meeting
27. Protesters attack Belgian far-right leader on TV

=== (Satanic) Ritual Abuse
28. A web of intrigue

=== Other News
29. Prosecutors Drop Charges in 1984 Cult Murder Case
30. Kenya: Five pupils lured out of school in west by suspected cult members
31. Signs of poster war everywhere
32. State Watchdog Over Polygamy Ready to Roll
33. Florida Investigators Examining Telephone Psychics
34. Clonaid receives overwhelming response

=== Death Penalty
35. States Without Death Penalty Have Lower Homicide Rates
36. Reno says she finds no basis for moratorium on federal death penalty
37. First federal execution in 37 years set for Nov. 15

=== Noted
38. Can you trust your own eyes?

=== Books
39. Reading Religion
40. Harry Potter Series Among 100 Most Challenged Books in Banned Books
Week List
41. Raising a holy ruckus

=== Hate Groups

23. Aryan Nations lawyer files to trim $6.3 million award
Idaho Statesman/AP, Sep. 21, 2000
http://www.idahostatesman.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
COEUR D'ALENE -- An Aryan Nations defense attorney says a $6.3 million judgment against the organization and its leader was excessive, and that he has evidence to prove it.

In post-trial motions filed Monday in 1st District Court, Edgar Steele says jurors' comments after the trial prove the jury had already decided against Richard Butler before deliberating.

Juror Judy Jacobsen has told The Spokesman-Review that the majority of jurors had already made up their minds to bankrupt the Aryan Nations as soon as they walked into the deliberating room.

She said she and two other jurors were the only ones holding the others back from awarding much larger damage.

''If it hadn't been for the three of us, they would have gotten Butler for $100 million,'' Jacobsen said.

Steele is asking 1st District Judge Charles Hosack to reduce the damages awarded and order a new trial.
(...)

Steele's motions are typical of most post-trial procedures, said Coeur d' Alene attorney Norm Gissel, who helped represent Victoria and Jason Keenan.
(...)

Gissel said attorneys for the plaintiffs will file counterclaims to Steele's motion. ''We want to maintain this verdict,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Aryan Nations Property Given Up
AOL/AP, Sep. 22, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - In a blow to hate groups that have made the Northwest their clubhouse, the founder of the Aryan Nations has agreed to give up his Idaho compound to satisfy a $6.3 million verdict against the white supremacist organization.

Richard Butler wanted to avoid the spectacle of sheriff's vans showing up to seize the 20-acre property, lawyers said Friday. He has agreed to hand over the property no later than Oct. 25.

Under the agreement reached Thursday, Butler must give up the property and all its contents - Nazi and Confederate flags, Third Reich posters, a silver bust of Adolf Hitler, stained glass swastikas and contents of a print shop.

Butler, 82, will leave with only his clothing and personal effects.

A planned Oct. 28 parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene could be the final public hurrah for the sect: Butler also must give up the Aryan Nations name, though it was not immediately clear when he must stop using it.
(...)

Richard Cohen, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said Butler is not precluded from continuing his church, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations, which operates on the property.

Butler will deed the property near Hayden Lake to Victoria and Jason Keenan, who won the jury award earlier this month after they were attacked outside the sect's compound in 1998.

``The Keenans will be able to do with the property what they want,'' Cohen said Friday.

Edgar Steele, who represented Butler during the trial, said the deal will go through only if a judge refuses to grant a new trial.

The compound containing the sect's church, barracks and Butler's home were scheduled for seizure next Friday. Under the agreement, Butler will remain on the property until one week after the expected ruling on a request for a new trial, or Oct. 25, whichever comes first.
(...)

A recent report by the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity identified 11 white supremacist groups in Idaho, 10 of them in the Panhandle, a region of beautiful lakes and forested mountains that draws thousands of tourists and retirees.

Northern Idaho has gotten an undeserved reputation as a haven for white supremacists because of the Aryans' presence, said Jonathan Coe, the executive director of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce.
(...)

It was not known where Butler will live; no one answered the telephone Friday at the Aryan Nations. He could move his church elsewhere or he could concentrate his activities on the Internet, where Aryan Nations already has a home page.

``I don't know Pastor Butler's plans, but he has said he intends to stay in north Idaho and continue to be pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian,'' Steele said.

Steele said he counseled Butler ``not to provide any type of haven for these oddballs, criminals and wingnuts. They're the ones that got him in trouble.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Germans Break Up Neo-Nazi Concert
Excite/AP, Sep. 24, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BERLIN (AP) - A riot erupted when police broke up a neo-Nazi concert with smoke bombs and tear gas in the northern city of Lueneberg, injuring 46 officers and 15 others, police said Sunday.
(...)

The concert - which included numerous neo-Nazi bands from Germany and abroad - was broken up because the event was connected to the banned international neo-Nazi organizations ''Blood and Honor'' and its youth wing ''White Youth.''

Meanwhile, four of seven neo-Nazis arrested in the arson attack of an immigrant home were ordered Sunday to remain in custody while authorities determine charges. The four men, aged between 20 and 23, have not made any statements on the early Saturday attack but are known to have earlier involvement in anti-foreigner activities, police said.
(...)

Also in western North Rhine-Westphalia state, police said Sunday two women and a man would be charged with causing serious bodily harm and slander for being the main suspects in a beating attack of a black man Saturday night.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Protesters Face German Party Meeting
Excite/AP, Sep. 23, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PASSAU, Germany (AP) - Hundreds of protesters marched Saturday outside the annual meeting of an extreme-right political party, after city authorities failed to stop the group from screening a video with a Holocaust denier who is banned from the country.

About 2,600 demonstrators gathered in the southern town of Passau, displaying signs such as ''Extreme-rightists unwanted,'' as police said nearly 2,200 members of the German People's Union party met in a conference hall.

Passau officials initially had sought to ban the party from showing a video with disputed British historian David Irving, who is banned from entering Germany, where Holocaust denial and incitement to racial hatred are illegal. The party took the city to court and won the right to show the video there and in an appeal heard Friday.

A British judge had branded Irving an anti-Semite racist in April in ruling that an American scholar was justified in saying he denied the Holocaust.

The address by Irving - part of a documentary on the Allied bombing of the eastern city of Dresden at the end of World War II - was being projected onto a giant screen in Passau's Nazi-era Nibelungenhalle conference center, a favorite venue for far-right gatherings. The city has discussed possibly razing the building, after failing in previous attempts to stop the parties from meeting there because of their rights as legally recognized groups.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Protesters attack Belgian far-right leader on TV
Expatica.com/AP, Sep. 25, 2000
http://www.expatica.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A small group of Dutch protesters on Sunday clashed with police and barged onto the live set of a television talk show, spraying chocolate sauce on the leader of Belgium's extreme right-wing party.

One officer and two protesters were injured, reports said.

The protesters, described as antifascists, forced their way into the Amsterdam studio of state-run NOS Television and sprayed the sauce onto the face of Filip Dewinter, head of anti-immigrant Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc) party.

The attack forced the political news program ''Het Buitenhof'' temporarily off the air, leaving the politician stunned and with half his face covered in chocolate. He was not injured.

The dialogue on the show had been barely audible to viewers due to fireworks set off outside by protesters before the break-in to the studio.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== (Satanic) Ritual Abuse

28. A web of intrigue
The search for Curio leads cybersleuths down a twisted path
San Diego Union-Tribune, Sep. 24, 2000
http://www.uniontrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Armed with a telephoto lens and a laptop computer with a hidden camera, Michelle Devereaux headed south from San Francisco on a mission to find Curio.
(...)

A dozen or more people from San Diego to Washington State and beyond -- all victims of Curio' s Internet missives -- had been trying to unmask the notorious cyber crusader for nearly five years.
(...)

Curio got away on that day last October. The photos of her from the secret camera weren' t that clear; nobody recognized the woman staring at the SDSU computer screen.

It would be another eight months before those who have railed against her online, have sued her, have traded implied threats with her and reported her to the police would get the answer to the question tormenting them:

Who is Curio and why is she saying such nasty things about us on the Internet?

Amid her many hundreds of Internet postings, Curio offers several glimpses into her background.

In May 1997 she wrote that she had ''worked in many facets of the child-abuse field for 10 years.'' She had ''seen all manner of atrocities committed against children and witnessed all types of adult games played to avoid culpability.''

Ten years earlier, Curio learned of a new form of child abuse. ''Having a 17-year personal background in the 'occult' has educated me about types of individuals who walk this path.

''My particular interest is in the subject of ritual abuse.''

The words ''ritual abuse'' were often preceded by the word ''satanic'' in a debate that raged across America for 15 years, from the early 1980s to mid-' 90s.

Certain psychotherapists and some police investigators and prosecutors purported to have evidence of underground cults, satanic and otherwise, who had taken control of day-care centers and were abusing preschoolers in blood rituals.

These supposedly involved animal -- and even human -- sacrifice, cannibalism, torture and all manner of sexual abuse.

The ritual-abuse scare rocked the nation. The McMartin Pre-School case in Manhattan Beach in the early ' 80s was followed by the Dale Akiki prosecution in San Diego and scores of similar cases around the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. The media stories were endless.

Following the acquittals of the McMartin defendants and Akiki (who won more than $3 million from local authorities in a civil lawsuit), the theory of a satanic-ritual-abuse conspiracy was discredited by mental-health experts and the co.

A 10-year investigation of satanic-ritual-abuse allegations by FBI Special Agent Ken Lanning turned up virtually nothing. Yet certain people persist in their belief in ''these heinous crimes against children.'' Curio claims to be able to document 50 such cases worldwide.

In her zeal to protect ''young victims,'' Curio has posted extensive information about notable individuals who worked hard over the years to debunk the notion of satanic-ritual abuse.

Most of these people have stated their conclusions regarding ritual abuse in public forums and have been questioned in open court, where no one is anonymous.

But now they were being challenged -- libeled, in their words -- by someone who operated at a distinct advantage. Curio (who often went by the full pseudonym Karen Curio Jones) said her anonymity was necessary ''for safety reasons'' and she protected it fiercely.

That drove her opponents in the Internet ''flame wars'' nuts.

''You can' t imagine what this does to you until you' ve gone through it,'' said Carol Hopkins, who is near the top of Curio' s Internet enemies list. ''She has disrupted our personal lives, called employers, talked to law enforcement.

''She makes all sorts of unsubstantiated claims. There are a lot of crazies out there and some may be willing to act. It is truly frightening.''

Carol Hopkins was a natural target for Curio.

A former school administrator, Hopkins was an outspoken member of the 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury that blasted the child-protection system after investigating wide-ranging allegations of zealous social workers removing children from their homes without cause.

Hopkins later formed the Justice Committee and publicized what she identified as false allegations of child abuse here and around the nation. Curio blamed Hopkins and two San Diego Union-Tribune reporters (Jim Okerblom and the author of this story) for ending official interest here in satanic-ritual abuse:
(...)

Another of Curio' s favorite subjects is Elizabeth Loftus, professor of psychology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington in Seattle.

An internationally known expert on the workings of memory, Loftus has written numerous articles and books decrying the idea that trauma associated with child sexual abuse acts to repress the memory of such horrible events.

And she has testified for the defense in many trials (including the Akiki case), explaining how memories -- especially those of young children -- can be manipulated, even by well-meaning people.

According to Curio, Loftus ''colluded with'' Hopkins to write the critical grand-jury reports, a claim both women denounce as absurd.

Loftus said she recently was invited to deliver the keynote address at a convention of the New Zealand Psychology Society and arrived to find herself the center of controversy.

Accusations that she conspires to protect child molesters, many fueled by Curio' s Internet postings, led to a story in the Wellington Evening Post and stoked the talk-show fires.

''I spent most of my time defending myself against misrepresentations,'' Loftus said. ''People attending my speech were met by individuals with 27-page booklets -- much of it compiled from the Internet -- accusing me of all sorts of vile stuff.
(...)

But if Hopkins and Loftus consider Curio a tireless nuisance, Michael Aquino considered her a threat to his safety and that of his family.

Aquino said that is why he filed suit in San Diego Superior Court against a local Internet provider in a failed attempt to learn Curio' s identity.

It seems inevitable that the retired Army intelligence officer from San Francisco would loom large on Curio' s radar screen.

He was, after all, a top official in the late Anton LaVey' s Church of Satan and founded the Temple of Set, a quasi-religious institution that many consider satanic.

In the late 1980s, Aquino was investigated in a McMartin/Akiki-type case centering on allegations of satanic abuse at a day-care center at San Francisco' s Presidio military base.

Aquino, who was a lieutenant colonel, was questioned because of his satanic beliefs. Neither Aquino nor anyone associated with him was ever charged, much less tried and convicted, in the Presidio case -- a point Curio concedes.

But that hasn' t stopped her from insinuating he abuses children in satanic rituals.

''My basic interest was to identify an anonymous person who, because of his/her obsessions and delusions, might pose a threat to the safety of myself and my family,'' Aquino said.
(...)

In the beginning, Michelle Devereaux said, she was not a target of Curio but a compatriot.
(...)

She also once believed she had been abused by a satanic cult herself.

''Curio and I were coming from the same place -- I spent eight or nine years in therapy, all the while researching satanic-ritual abuse,'' Devereaux said. ''It wasn' t until 1999 that I exited the cloud of unknowing.''

Curio, she said, ''sealed it for me that this stuff is all a bunch of crap. When she came along doing her Internet thing and saying all this stuff about these people, I finally realized how crazy it all was.

''I feel sorry for her on one hand. But she' s vicious. And she' s got her supporters. She was really hurting people. I decided to get involved.''

Devereaux became a cybersleuth. She traced Curio' s Internet posts to specific computers.

Besides her home computer, Curio posted from computer labs at SDSU, USD and UCSD as well as from Children' s Hospital, Sharp HealthCare Centers, San Diego Public Library, San Diego County Library and local cybercafes.

So determined was she to protect her anonymity, Curio not only favored public computers but also forged her online identity and scrambled her electronic trail.

But Devereaux eventually smoked her out.
(...)

She had contacted police in San Diego and San Francisco about Curio' s ''cyberstalking crusade,'' yet failed to garner much interest. But Devereaux found a sympathetic ear at SDSU Police headquarters on campus.

''In some of the Internet correspondence, it was alleged that Curio had made threats and might be carrying a gun. That raised our interest,'' said Detective Susan McCrary.
(...)

Then on Tuesday, June 13 at 1 p.m., Devereaux' s pager again went off.
(...)

And there she was.
(...)

The officers searched Curio' s bag but found no gun.

''When we asked if she' d been using university computers to harass people on the Internet, she said, ' I post messages and information.' She denied ever harassing anyone in her life, however.''

But Curio was anonymous no longer.

Her name, Gilbert said, is Diana L. Napolis, 44, of La Mesa. She worked for San Diego County as a child-protection-services investigator for many years before leaving that post in 1996.

''She told us she is self-employed now, working in child-custody cases downtown,''
McCrary said.
(...)

Within days of Curio' s apprehension at SDSU, state records show, a Diana L. Napolis obtained a marriage and family counseling license from the state of California, enabling her to practice psychotherapy.

Napolis ignored several requests to be interviewed for this story. Whatever motivates her remains pretty much a secret.

But now that Curio has been exposed, no one involved is quite sure what to do.

''It' s like the dog who chases cars and finally catches one,'' Devereaux said. ''Now what?''

SDSU police say they are maintaining a file on her and if there' s enough evidence of cyberstalking and harassment, they may recommend that the district attorney file charges. California is one of the few states with an anti-cyberstalking law.

''It' s a very gray area, though,'' McCrary said. ''She hasn' t made any physical threats. Everything' s been done in a public forum.''

But pulling back the curtain on Curio to reveal Napolis has effectively stripped her of her power, Devereaux contends.

That may be enough, Aquino said: ''Now that this person has been identified, that ' faceless' threat no longer exists. She is now just another woman with ' satanic ritual-abuse' sexual fantasies.''

Carol Hopkins likens Napolis to ''the mythical Japanese soldier stumbling out of the jungle still fighting World War II.''

''Conspiracy theories about satanic-ritual abuse have been thoroughly discredited by reasonable people, but true believers remain.''

She said the Curio case boils down to a civil-rights issue:

Do First Amendment rights of free speech trump the rights of those being accused of a crime (child molestation) to know their accuser' s identity?

''On the Internet now, you can say almost anything you want, and there' s nothing to stop you,'' Hopkins said. ''When we didn' t know who Curio was, she had power. To finally learn she' s a nobody, why even bother with her now?''

Of course Diana Napolis/Karen Curio Jones has her own opinion, posted on the Internet:

''This is still the United States and I believe it is wrong to try and censor speech just because you don' t like the message.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

29. Prosecutors Drop Charges in 1984 Cult Murder Case
New York Times/AP, Sep. 23, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEWARK, Sept. 22 -- Prosecutors have dropped murder charges against a former professional football player who was accused of committing a cult murder 16 years ago.

The Essex County prosecutor's office released a statement saying it had ''insufficient credible evidence'' to proceed with the case against the suspect, Robert Rozier, who played briefly with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979, and a suspected accomplice, John Armstrong.

Prosecutors said they dropped the case because one crucial witness had made contradictory statements, another witness is dead and a third has been deported.
(...)

Mr. Rozier, 44, was a football star at the University of California- Berkeley, and he had a brief career in the National Football League before he joined a branch of a black separatist cult founded in the 1980's by a Miami man, Yahweh ben Yahweh. The cult labeled white men ''devils'' and preached retribution against them. It was blamed for 23 murders before its leader was imprisoned in 1990.

Mr. Rozier admitted committing seven of those murders. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after cooperating with the authorities and testifying against Mr. Yahweh in 1992.

In March 1999, a grand jury in Essex County indicted Mr. Rozier and Mr. Armstrong for the slaying of Mr. Cicala, a white homeless man.

When Mr. Rozier was indicted, prosecutors said that he carried out the murder as a sacrifice to Mr. Yahweh, who was to visit Newark two days later.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Kenya: Five pupils lured out of school in west by suspected cult members
BBC Monitoring, Sep, 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by Kenyan radio on 25th September
Fear and panic have engulfed Kakamega Primary School [in western Kenya] following the disappearance of five pupils allegedly lured out by members of a suspected cult. According to the school's headmaster, Mr Peter Khamala, investigations have revealed that the pupils were lured out of their classrooms by members of the cult and taken to unknown destinations.

Mr Khamala said among the five, four pupils who have come back to school are hysterical and look stupefied. He added that they interrupt lessons, fall into prayer and claim that the world is coming to an end on 31st December this year. Mr Khamala said one of the pupils who spoke to him revealed that he was taken to Kisumu by a person he could not identify, where he was forced to attend a Christian crusade.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Signs of poster war everywhere
Montreal Gazette (Canada), Sep. 21, 2000
http://www.montrealgazette.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) A poster war is being waged on the billboards of Montreal, pitting a U.S. religious sect that preaches meditation and physical fitness against a company that does most of the outdoor ads for cultural events in the city.

It hasn't come to blows yet. But the competition for space on fences around construction sites in downtown Montreal is bringing out the worst in everybody.

And that includes the peaceniks.

''It's utter warfare right now,'' said Udar Robinson, 36, a carpenter from Victoria, B.C., and a member of the Sri Chinmoy sect, whose blue-and-yellow posters flog a big, free music concert Saturday at the Molson Centre.

''We have to come out and reposter three times a day, sometimes more, because the other guys cover us up. They get really upset if they see us.

''I'm sure they don't meditate.''

The other guys are the haggard staff of Publicite Sauvage, a St. Laurent Blvd. firm of onetime billboard ''outlaws'' who now have a near-monopoly on cultural postering in Montreal.

Since July, to their unending annoyance, they've had their hands full with Sri Chinmoy.

Double shifts, overnight shifts, cloak-and-dagger operations following the sect's half-dozen vans across the city and ripping down their posters, which don't just take up just a part of the board but cover it completely.

''They're spiritual fascists,'' said Beaudoin Wart, who runs Sauvage.

''You can't get a word in with those fanatics; they think they carry the truth in them. But what they're really doing is holding the cultural milieu hostage.''

Sauvage contracts with film distributors, theatre companies, music producers, bars and night clubs to put up their posters across the city. Montreal has allowed the practice since 1994.
(...)

The Sri Chinmoy sect has come to Montreal twice in the last decade, in 1991 and 1995. Those occasions were also marked by a poster blitz.

The sect is run by a Bengal-born guru whose real name is Chinmoy Kumar Ghose. A former Indian consular official who moved to the U.S. in the 1960s, his celebrity converts include guitarist Carlos Santana.

The sect promotes meditation, physical fitness and obedience to its ''supreme'' leader, the guru himself. It organizes conferences, marathons and concerts like the one Saturday.

On the posters, the event is billed as a free ''concert for a life,'' an evening of ''music and mediation for peace,'' endorsed with a quote from none other than the late composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. State Watchdog Over Polygamy Ready to Roll
Salt Lake Tribune, Sep. 25, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Utah has hired its first ''closed society'' watchdog, a position created earlier this year by lawmakers alarmed by reports of abuses within some of the state's polygamous communities.
(...)

Before March, Attorney General Jan Graham unsuccessfully tried for two years to convince lawmakers to approve up to $500,000 to hire two investigators to focus on the activities of some Utah polygamist groups. Her efforts began after a series of Salt Lake Tribune stories highlighted instances of welfare fraud, child abuse and incest among polygamist communities.

The money to hire Barton was approved in a compromise after the defeat of a bill by Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, calling for funding to investigate ''those who are using the guise of polygamy, religion or anything else they might think up to perpetrate crimes.''

Barton's expertise runs to welfare and tax fraud but he will also be available to investigate allegations of sex and child abuse. He will also assist county investigators as requested, focusing on the activities of any closed society, including the state's 20,000 to 40,000 polygamists.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Florida Investigators Examining Telephone Psychics
Tampa Bay Online/AP, Sep. 24, 2000
http://ap.tbo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - If the telephone fortunetellers at the Psychic Readers Network know how the state's investigation into their employer will turn out, they haven't said.

The attorney general's economic crimes unit is investigating the Psychic Readers Network and its sister company, Access Resources Inc., after former employees testified that many of telephone psychics were actually homeless people from the local Salvation Army shelter.

They told investigators no employees were ever tested for psychic ability, that they were given scripts to work from and that the only skill that mattered was their ability to keep callers on the line. The network charges callers $4.99 a minute to have their fortunes told.

''They didn't care if you were talking to Jesus - talk to him for 20 minutes at least,'' said former employee Barbara Weil in a sworn interview with investigators.

Barbara Melit, another former telephone psychic, said her colleagues ''came in off the street. They were alcoholics. They had no experience whatsoever as being a psychic. ... They had hit bottom and they basically needed a job to keep them supplied with alcohol and drugs.''

Sean Moynihan, an attorney for Access Resources, said witnesses and documents given investigators were arranged by a man out to get the company and its president, Steven Feder.

He called the allegations ''completely and utterly false.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Clonaid receives overwhelming response
The Augusta Chronicle, Sep. 25, 2000 (Press Release)
http://augustachronicle.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...Raelians...]
LAS VEGAS -- The following release was issued today by Clonaid:

Clonaid, the first Biotech company to offer human cloning, got funding last month for the cloning of a baby who died at the age of 10 months.

Since that announcement was made, Clonaid has received a large number of requests from parents who have lost a child.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty

35. States Without Death Penalty Have Lower Homicide Rates
San Francisco Chronicle, Sep. 22, 2000
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The dozen states that have chosen not to enact the death penalty since the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that it was constitutionally permissible have not had higher homicide rates than states with the death penalty, statistics and analysis show.

Indeed, 10 of the 12 states without capital punishment have homicide rates below the national average, FBI data shows, while half the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above the national average. A state-by-state analysis found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 percent to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.

The Times study also found that homicide rates have risen and fallen along roughly symmetrical paths in the states with and without the death penalty, suggesting to many experts that the threat of the death penalty rarely deters criminals.

``It is difficult to make the case for any deterrent effect from these numbers,'' said Steven Messner, a criminologist at the State University of New York at Albany, who reviewed the analysis. ``Whatever the factors are that affect change in homicide rates, they don't seem to operate differently based on the presence or absence of the death penalty in a state.''

That is one of the arguments most frequently made against capital punishment in states without the death penalty -- that and the assertion that it is difficult to mete out fairly. Opponents also maintain that it is too expensive to prosecute and that life without parole is a more efficient form of punishment.

Prosecutors and officials in states that have the death penalty are as passionate as in states that don't. While they recognize that it is difficult to make the case for deterrence, they contend that there are powerful reasons to carry out executions. Rehabilitation is ineffective, they argue, and capital punishment is often the only penalty that matches the heinousness of the crimes committed. Furthermore, they say, society has a right to retribution, and the finality of an execution can bring closure to victims' families.

Polls indicate that these are the views held by most people. And certainly, most states have death penalty statutes. Twelve states have chosen otherwise, but their experiences have been largely overlooked in recent discussions about capital punishment.

``I think Michigan made a wise decision 150 years ago,'' said the state's Republican governor, John Engler. Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846 and has resisted attempts to reinstate it. ``We're pretty proud of the fact that we don't have the death penalty,'' Engler said, adding that he is opposed to the death penalty on moral and pragmatic grounds.

Engler said he is not swayed by polls that show 60 percent of Michigan residents favor the death penalty. He said 100 percent would like not to pay taxes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The publisher of Apologetics Index is a member of Amnesty InternationalOff-site Link,
and consider the death penalty to be a human rights violation. That is
especially true in the USA, which has a severly flawed justice system.


36. Reno says she finds no basis for moratorium on federal death penalty
CNN, Sep. 12, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Janet Reno said Tuesday she sees no reason to order a moratorium on federal executions, despite a new report that shows racial disparity in cases in which her prosecutors seek the death penalty.

The report shows that in more than 70 percent of cases where the Justice Department asked for the death penalty, the defendants were African-American, Hispanic, or members of other minority groups.
(...)

''Minorities are over-represented in the federal death penalty system,'' Reno told reporters after the release of the Justice Department's 400-page study. But the attorney general said she needs more information before deciding whether the disparity is the result of racial or ethnic bias.

Reno was flanked by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's highest ranking African-American law enforcement official, who oversaw the study.

''I cannot help but be disturbed both personally and professionally,'' Holder said of the findings. But Holder said he agrees with Reno's decision not to call for a moratorium.
(...)

Reno has expressed distaste for the death penalty in the past and has expressed doubt that it is a deterrent to crime. Nonetheless, she has authorized seeking the death penalty in about 38 percent of the cases where it was requested by U.S. attorneys.
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37. First federal execution in 37 years set for Nov. 15
CNN, Sep. 22, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
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WASHINGTON -- The first federal execution in nearly four decades is set for November 15.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced Friday it will execute convicted murderer David Paul Hammer by lethal injection at the never-before-used federal death chamber at Terre Haute, Indiana.
(...)

A federal appeals court agreed last month to dismiss an appeal of Hammer's sentence filed against his wishes by death penalty opponents.

Hammer was convicted in Oklahoma of kidnapping, attempted murder, armed robbery and prison escape. He murdered another inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary at Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Hammer pleaded guilty to that killing in 1996.

Hammer's execution might be the first of several federal death sentences carried out in the next few years.
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=== Noted

38. Can you trust your own eyes?
BBC, Sep. 22, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
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Eyewitnesses are in demand like never before. But if you were in the right place at the right time - like outside the MI6 headquarters when the bomb went off - how much would you remember?

You're walking home in town one night, about an hour before the pubs shut.

Suddenly you hear a bang, see a flash of light. It's all over as quickly as you read that sentence.

Now ask yourself - how well equipped are you to go on television, around the world, to say what you saw.

How many bangs were there? What did it feel like? Were you scared? Where did the flash come from? How many bangs did you say?
(...)


In the world of constant live news on TV, radio and the web, the value of an eyewitness has soared.

Experts warn, however, that you might not be as reliable as you think you are.

Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, says this is partly because we tend to be overconfident in our memories. We think we accurately remember more than we actually do.

''People tend to panic or get very excited, which changes their ability to remember details,'' he says. ''There's immense social pressure to be a 'good' witness.''

The unreliability is made worse because by their nature the situations described are often emotional and unexpected events, and that witnesses are asked to describe what they saw again and again.

''Witnesses have to repeat their stories. The more they repeat them, the more difficult it is for them to remember what details they have added and what they actually saw.''

They also tend to rely on stereotypes, for example that criminals are ugly, or that they see fire when an aeroplane is in trouble in the air.

Bruce Gillet, who has been investigating traffic accidents for more than 35 years, goes even further.

''You read eyewitness accounts to get some idea of what happened, but you can forget the details - they're absolute rubbish,'' he says.

''People don't look out for accidents. They hear the noise, they look around and assume what they've seen is the entire story.''
(...)

There are ways to maximise what people have remembered, however. Chief among these is the ''cognitive interview technique'', which gets witnesses to concentrate on reliving the experience and say everything that is happening without editing it.

The technique was developed to see if there was an alternative to hypnosis, because of the risk of hypnotised witnesses imagining things - ''confabulation'' - and mixing them up with real memories.

''The problem is that when the witness comes out of hypnosis, the things they have confabulated they tend to think are real,'' says Mr Bennett.

It seems that even if your eyes might not be deceiving you, your brain could well be.
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=== Books

39. Reading Religion
ABC News, Sep. 24, 2000
http://www.abcnews.go.com/Off-site Link
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Sept. 24 - In one of the most religious countries in the world, more and more people are seeking spiritual enlightenment in the same manner monks, rabbis and priests have done for centuries: by readingOff-site Link.

Attendance at religious services in the United States has remained the highest of any developed country, according to the Gallup Organization and other surveyors of popular opinion and habits. And the personal-quest side of that religiosity has pushed a once-niche book category into best-seller status, boosting the sales of religious books to all-time highs.
(...)

The books we read often reflect our spiritual yearnings, or at least provide a piece of the puzzle, says Lynn Garrett, religion editor at Publisher's Weekly. Garrett says she receives calls almost every week from journalists interested in the latest sales figures and what the new season's line up of religious books tells us about ourselves.
(...)

Last year, religious book sales hit an all-time high of $2.15 billion, making religious books (including religious fiction) the second biggest category after general fiction and accounting for 16 percent of all books sold. According to the Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit organization that tracks book publishing trends for the industry, sales are likely to climb to $2.74 billion by 2004.

Just last week, The New York Times best-seller list included such titles as Life on the Other Side, a psychic's guide to the afterlife; The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama and psychologist Howard C. Cutler; Oprah Winfrey Show spirituality expert Gary Zukov's The Seat of the Soul; and the seventh installment of the popular apocalyptic fiction Left Behind series, The Indwelling.

Spirituality Lite
For almost two decades, ''spirituality lite'' dominated Publisher's Weekly's religious book best-sellers list and held some of the top spots on The New York Times list. The prolific Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which now has more than 30 titles, epitomized the feel-better-fast inspirational book.

''There was a kind of pre-millennium frenzy with a sort of frothy spirituality that offered quick answers and quick fixes,'' says Eric Major, vice president of religious publishing for Doubleday. ''But I think a huge need has grown in a time of consumerism for people to seek more from life and to bring balance to their lives. People are reading books to discover how they can maintain a spiritual life while still being a lawyer, a bus driver, a teacher, etc.''
(...)

Popular right now, says Major, are books by Catholic theologians such as Thomas Merton, Scott Hahn, Ronald Rolheiser, books on the monastic life and on how to live a more spiritual life through traditions of faith such as Christian fixed-hour prayer.

''There is also a drive toward authenticity,'' says Ellen Frankel, chief executive officer and editor in chief of the Jewish Publication Society. ''People want texts close to the original versions, they seem to want to know more about where traditions have come from … and of course people are very interested in mysticism at the moment. Right now books on Jewish mysticism are some of our best sellers.''

Marty Martin, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Chicago and the author of more than 60 books on American religion, says the first wave of religious titles just made people thirsty for more.
(...)

The drive toward religious books may be due, in part, to the depth of religious sentiment in America.

The latest figures show about 35 percent of Americans say they attend a religious service at least once a week - the highest percentage of any developed country. In comparison, only about 5 to 6 percent of Western Europeans say the same, and the religious book-buying trend has not caught on there either, says Ronald Inglehart, program director of the World Values Service at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

''The United States has this unique history of fleeing religious persecution and each successive wave of immigrants increases religious attendance,'' he says. ''The U.S. is also rare in that religion is an entirely voluntary thing. In a lot of European countries that wasn't always the case.''
(...)

Baby boomers, he said, have led the search for spirituality. Although no one has officially drawn a direct link between the two trends, the rise in religious book sales has paralleled baby boomers' slide into middle age and beyond. Boomers, Martin says, are trying to resolve the larger issues of life and death as they age.
(...)

''Churchgoers don't accept having their beliefs spoon-fed to them anymore,'' says Martin.

Instead, they hear something in church and want to read more about it on their own time.
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40. Harry Potter Series Among 100 Most Challenged Books in Banned Books Week List
PRNewswire, Sep. 25, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/Off-site Link
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CHICAGO, Sept. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Some of America's finest literary efforts lead the 100 most frequently challenged books for Banned Books Week. And the Harry Potter series wasn't far behind.

The list is published by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom as part of Banned Books Week (September 23-30), which annually celebrates the freedom to readOff-site Link.

Topping the list is Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz, accused of ''being too scary'' and ''unsuited to age group,'' followed by ''Daddy's Roommate'' by Michael Willhoite, accused of ''promoting homosexuality as a normal lifestyle.'' The rest of the 10 most frequently challenged books of the decade, in order, were: ''I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'' by Maya Angelou (3), ''The Chocolate War'' by Robert Cormier, ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' by Mark Twain, ''Of Mice and Men'' by John Steinbeck, ''Forever'' by Judy Blume, ''Bridge to Terabithia'' by Katherine Paterson, ''Heather Has Two Mommies'' by Leslea Newman, and ''The Catcher in the Rye'' by J.D. Salinger (10).

Other well-known books on the list include: ''The Giver'' by Lois Lowry (11), ''It's Perfectly Normal'' by Robie Harris (13), Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine (15), ''The Color Purple'' by Alice Walker (17), ''Sex'' by Madonna (18), ''A Wrinkle in Time'' by Madeleine L'Engle (23), ''To Kill a Mockingbird'' by Harper Lee (40), Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling (48), ''Brave New World'' by Aldous Huxley (54) and ''Bless Me, Ultima'' by Rudolfo A. Anaya (78).

The top 100 list was compiled from 5,718 challenges to library materials reported to or recorded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom from 1990-1999. A ''challenge'' is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness. Seventy-one percent of the challenges in the '90s decade were to materials in schools or school libraries; another 26 percent were to materials in public libraries. Nearly 60 percent of challenges were brought by parents, 16 percent by library patrons and 10 percent by administrators.

In 1995, the number of reported challenges reached a high of 762 challenges, but by 1999 had declined to 472.

This decline is likely due to an increased focus away from books to the Internet -- the newest medium in the library -- according to Judith Krug, the office's director.
(...)

The most often cited reason for requesting that a book be removed from the library or curriculum is that the book is ''sexually explicit'' (1,446 challenges). Other reasons for challenges included ''offensive language'' (1,262 challenges), ''unsuited to age group'' (1,167 challenges), ''occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism'' (773 challenges), ''violent'' (630 challenges), homosexual theme or ''promoting homosexuality'' (497 challenges), ''promoting a religious viewpoint'' (397 challenges), ''nudity'' (297 challenges), ''racism'' (245 challenges), ''sex education'' (217 challenges) and ''anti-family'' (193 challenges).

The entire list of the top 100 challenged books of the last decade can be found at www.ala.org/bbooks/top100bannedbooks.htmlOff-site Link . The most challenged books of 1999 can be found at www.ala.org/bbooks/1999bannedbooks.htmlOff-site Link .

Observed since 1981, Banned Books Week is sponsored by the ALA, American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and National Association of College Stores. It is also endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.
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41. Raising a holy ruckus
CNN, Sep. 21, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/books/news/09/21/jesus.mysteries/index.htmlOff-site Link
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(...) Freke, along with his lifelong friend Peter Gandy, is the author of ''The Jesus MysteriesOff-site Link,'' a radical new look at Christian origins that suggests that Jesus the man did not exist at all. Freke and Gandy pose the view that Jesus was a mythical character created in the mold of the mythological Osiris/Dionysus god-man character. While the so-called ''Quest for the Historical Jesus'' is nothing new, the thesis in ''The Jesus Mysteries'' takes the mission one step further.

When interviewing Freke during his recent U.S. tour, the first question was obvious: Why did you write ''The Jesus Mysteries''?

''I think we focused in on Christianity particularly because we felt it was our own culture,'' Freke said, ''and because it seemed very stuck. It seemed determined to say it was different, and it had a unique claim on truth. Our gut feeling was, 'That can't be right. Truth is something human and universal.'

''We weren't looking at it at that point to try and uncover that there was no Jesus,'' he continued. ''It was as much a shock to us as it will be to our readers. We resisted it for a long time in our research. But once the idea crystallized, the evidence has just come piling in. So many things that didn't make sense suddenly do, once you turn everything around.''

'The message ... was far deeper'
Far from being turned off Christianity by their research, Freke and Gandy say their premise actually strengthened their faith.

''What it's done,'' Freke said, ''is completely transform our understanding of Christianity. Its message is not tied to belief in a historical event, so that you either believe it happened, or you don't -- and if you believe it, you're saved, and if not, you're damned. What we've discovered is that the message of original Christianity was far deeper than that. It was about, for the original Christians, becoming a Christ oneself.

''The great tragedy of literalist Christianity, which focuses on the historical Jesus, is that it ends up dividing itself from everyone else and we end up with these horrendous religious divisions that have bedeviled the world,'' he continued. ''Christians are not united. Baptists hate Methodists and Methodists hate Catholics and round and round it goes, because each one has their version of Jesus. (But) once you understand it as a myth, everyone can have their version of Jesus because it's about finding a relationship with a mythic archetype, not arguing over history.''

A wave of discussion
The success of ''The Jesus Mysteries'' in England has created a wave of discussion in academic and religious circles. While one might expect a firestorm of controversy, the book has been remarkably well-received, reaching bestseller status in the United Kingdom, garnering at least one ''Book of the Year'' award, and receiving support from American religious figures such as the Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong.
(...)

The life of Jesus as myth is not a new assertion. In recent years, a new wave of ''Historical Jesus'' research has emerged in the wake of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Gospels (also known as the ''Gnostic Gospels'') in 1945 and the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Academic figures such as John Dominic Crossan (''The Historical Jesus''), Marcus Borg (''Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time''), and Burton Mack (''Q: The Lost Gospel''), among others, have struggled to separate fact from fiction in the canonical gospels.

But most scholars agree that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth existed and was crucified around A.D. 30. Freke and Gandy challenge that assumption, and also take on another major belief: the preeminence of the Roman Catholic belief system in early Christianity.
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* (Proverbs 17:28 NIV) Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and
discerning if he holds his tongue.