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Religion News Report

December 30, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 150)

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Religion News Report - December 30, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 150)
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=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Japanese doomsday cult's leading disciple returns from jail
2. Hysteria as terror cult leader freed from jail
3. Figure in Japanese Cult Freed From Jail, and Mobbed by Press
4. Freed Japanese cult leader expresses remorse for his crimes
5. AUM bigwig vows to stick to spiritual matters
6. Aum doomsday cult's flamboyant spokesman returns
7. AUM executive freed
8. Aum mouthpiece Joyu freed from prison, returns to cult
9. Aum trials tail off as Asahara's day nears
10. Chronology of cultists' legal battles
11. Residents keep cult vigil

=== Falun Gong
12. Sect Followers Said Tried in Secret
13. Severe jail terms a warning to Falun Gong in SAR, says paper
14. Falungong supporters in the US protest indictment of sect leaders
15. US trio takes outrage to Xinhua
16. Falungong member who publicized maltreatment sent to labour camp
17. Rights Groups Condemn China Falun Gong Sentences
18. Falungong crackdown may reach Hong Kong: rights group
19. China's Paranoid Fear Of the Falun Gong Sect
20. Living Buddha

=== Ho No Hana Sanpagyo
21. Foot-reading guru bought audiences with leaders

=== Japan - Cults
22. In Japan, worry as cults flourish amid wave of faith

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
23. FBI agents reportedly say mistakes doomed Davidian negotiations
24. FBI missteps doomed siege talks, memos say
25. Waco negotiators felt tear gas inevitable, one says
26. FBI was warned noise broadcasts would backfire if used against sect
27. Government hides identities of Waco witnesses

=== Scientology
28. Big Brother is helping
29. Zwickau:town council believes it has been disparaged
30. Constitutional Security agents continue surveillance
31. Not even enough money for toothpaste
32. Religious Pressure at Texas Vet Clinic Leads to $150,000 EEOC Settlement
33. Crossing The Church

=== Witchcraft / Neo-Paganism
34. Tomorrow just another day for witches
35. School Expels 5 for Being 'Witches'

=== Hate Groups
36. Use of corporate 'soles' draws attention
37. Iranians offer kidneys for Rushdie's head

=== Islam
38. Muslims De-Link Terror From Faith
39. Muslim Advocacy Group Calls for Balanced Coverage of Terrorism
40. Muslim convert's words infuriate Hindus

=== Y2K / Doomsday
41. Tourists, true believers meet at Armageddon
42. The end of the world is nigh -- but don't worry just yet
43. How the world ends is a matter of faith
44. Keeping Watch in the Holy Land
45. Looking for a Savior

=== Other News
46. Cult ready for expat exit
47. Cultists pose no threat, say police
48. Minister, wife, and Sunday school teacher once accused of child sex abuse
settle civil rights suit
49. [Levi Schneerson]

=== Noted
50. [Beliefnet.com]
51. Banal Death Penalty

=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Japanese doomsday cult's leading disciple returns from jail
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Dec. 29, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/afp/article.html?
s=asia/headlines/991229/asia/afp/Japanese_doomsday_cult_s_
leading_disciple_returns_from_jail.html
(...) Joyu was a flamboyant spokesman for the cult which spread the
Nazi-invented Sarin gas through Tokyo's subways in March 1995, killing 12
people and injuring thousands.

Arrested in October 1995, he served a three-year term for perjury over a land
purchase by the sect. Now the most senior cult member out of jail, he is
widely expected to take the helm.
(...)

"I plan to return to the group in Tokyo, but since I just got out of prison
and know nothing about my surroundings, I will not discuss my future now," he
said in the statement.
(...)

"Thus, although I have no plan to hold a news conference today, I will
explain my future plans some other time as I would like to rest for a while
and ponder," Joyu said.
(...)

Joyu still worships jailed Aum Supreme Truth cult leader Shoko Asahara as a
"messiah."
(...)

At the time of the subway attack, Joyu was in Russia. When he returned to
Japan, he vigorously defended the cult through news conferences and magazine
interviews.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Hysteria as terror cult leader freed from jail
Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.smh.com.au/news/9912/30/world/world2.html
The release from jail of Fumihiro Joyu, the man regarded as leader-in-waiting
of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, triggered another bout of hysteria over
the group yesterday.

The 37-year-old's departure from a Hiroshima prison was given saturation news
coverage.
(...)

The accepted view is that Joyu, with his charismatic personality and
communications skills, represents Aum's best hope of surviving into the new
millennium (defying its own ever-changing views on the timing of the
Apocalypse).

Journalist Shoko Egawa, an Aum expert who was targeted by the cult, has
warned consistently that Joyu would assume control once he ended his
three-year sentence on perjury charges.
(...)

Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, has been in jail since 1995
battling 17 charges of masterminding Aum's murderous activities. He is
unlikely to ever emerge from prison.

The cult's decision-making since then has been confined to a shadowy group of
six, including Joyu and one of the guru's favourite daughters, Rika. But Joyu
is seen as the real power.

His only comment yesterday, via a note distributed by Aum followers, was: "I
am going to return to the cult. I have nothing to say at this point because
I've just been released and I'm not sure of anything right now."

Some experts suspect Joyu may formally dissolve Aum, recreating it under
another name to escape punitive new legislation that allows authorities to
monitor its activities, sequester its assets and prevent it buying or leasing
land.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Figure in Japanese Cult Freed From Jail, and Mobbed by Press
New York Times, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/123099japan-cult.html
(...) The spokesman, Fumihiro Joyu, 37, is the group's de facto No. 2 figure.
He had been imprisoned since 1997 on perjury charges unrelated to the attack
with sarin gas, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
(...)

The doe-eyed Mr. Joyu's boyish good looks and reputation for cunning made him
a teen idol for both sexes and have long been considered to be among his
sect's greatest assets.
(...)

Reflecting the deepening sense of public disapproval toward the group, Mr.
Joyu was denied a room at the hotel and spent the next several hours wending
his way around the city, reporters in tow, in search of a place to stay.

In the end the group settled on housing him in the apartment of another
member in the nearby city of Yokohama, where television crews and more than
100 reporters quickly set up their stakeout positions.

The circus that followed drew crowds of onlookers and protests from
right-wing groups circulating in sound trucks blasting slogans like: "Out
with Aum! Out with Joyu!"
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Freed Japanese cult leader expresses remorse for his crimes
Nando Times, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www2.nando.net/noframes/story/0,2107,500148328-500179614-500724567-0,00.html
Fumihiro Joyu, a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 nerve gas
attack on Tokyo's subways, has expressed remorse for the crimes he has
committed, the cult said in a statement Thursday.
(...)

The statement, issued through the cult's current leader, Tatsuko Muraoka, did
not mention the subway attack, or whether Joyu had expressed remorse over the
deaths it caused.

Instead, it said only that Joyu has expressed "deep regret for the crimes he
personally committed," and has relinquished an honorary religious title given
him by the cult's founder, Shoko Asahara.
(...)

Despite intense crackdowns since the subway gassing, Aum is estimated to have
more than 2,000 members.
[...more..]


5. AUM bigwig vows to stick to spiritual matters
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news01.html
Fumihiro Joyu, an executive member of AUM Shinrikyo, intends to become a
spiritual pillar for the cult after his release from prison Wednesday,
according to security authorities.
(...)

In a recent letter to another senior member of AUM, Joyu said he wanted to be
a pillar of the cult by concentrating on spiritual activities. "It might be
better for me to support the spiritual side of our order than to involve
myself in practical business," Joyu wrote.

The statement contradicts his letters to leaders of major political parties
in June this year, in which he said he would help the cult to resolve
troubles with people living close to AUM facilities after his release.

The security authorities believe that Joyu is trying to re-establish his
leading position within the cult by emphasizing his spirituality.

Joyu also acknowledged that he still reveres Shoko Asahara, who is on trial
for instigating various AUM crimes including the 1995 poison gas attack on
Tokyo subway systems. Joyu described Asahara as a "guru of an exceptional
quality," and that he felt a "divinity" in him.
(...)

Tatsuko Muraoka, the cult's representative, said that Joyu's willingness to
return to AUM "would be respected," but she suggested that he was unlikely to
become the cult's leading spokesman as he was before his arrest. "If we
reinstated him to that role, people would be convinced that our order has not
changed a bit, (since the days of terrorism)," Muraoka said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


6. Aum doomsday cult's flamboyant spokesman returns
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Dec. 28, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/afp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991228/asia/afp/Aum_doomsday_cult_s_
flamboyant_spokesman_returns.html
(...) "He will return to Aum and regain the position of practical leader,"
said Shoko Egawa, a journalist who has been investigating the cult for more
than a decade.
(...)

But Egawa is sceptical about claims by the Aum group that it has turned a new
leaf. Joyu in particular is dangerous, she warned.

"We should not forget that he led plans for mass murder with biological
weapons, that he also directed the construction of the Sarin plant before he
was promoted to the top of the headquarters in Russia in 1993," she said.

Joyu was in Russia running the Aum's Moscow branch when the sect spread Sarin
gas in crowded Tokyo subways in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring
thousands.

He then returned to Japan to become a flamboyant spokesman and media-friendly
face of the sinister organisation, which carried out the subway attack
allegedly to avenge a police crackdown. Joyu vigorously defended the cult at
news conferences and in magazine interviews.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


7. AUM executive freed
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news02.html
(...) Security officials believe 37-year-old Joyu, formerly the cult's top
spokesman, still has influence on AUM followers, and think that his release
may solidify the notorious group.
(...)

The Public Security Investigation Agency believes Joyu may become one of the
cult's leaders again, saying in its report for 1999 that it "is focusing its
attention on how (Joyu) would lead the cult" after his release.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


8. Aum mouthpiece Joyu freed from prison, returns to cult
Japan Times, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news12-99/news.html#story1
(...) After his arrival at Tokyo's Haneda airport, Joyu first headed to the
Tokyo Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku Ward, but was not allowed to check in. A room
there had been reserved by Joyu's lawyer, sources said.

After being turned away by the hotel, he proceeded to the cult's Yokohama
branch.
(...)

Investigative authorities said they believe Joyu will stay in the Tokyo area
and lead the cult in place of Asahara.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


9. Aum trials tail off as Asahara's day nears
Japan Times, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news12-99/news.html#story2
While the trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara has proceeded at a
snail's pace, with prosecutors examining only nine out of the 17 counts that
he faces to date, his disciples' trials have entered their final stages
before the district court.
(...)

"Aum trials will reach a turning point next summer when a number of rulings
will be handed down on senior cult figures," said Ryuzo Saki, a nonfiction
writer who has covered the court proceedings for Asahara and other key Aum
members.
(...)

The following is a summary of developments in the trials of key Aum figures
in 1999:
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


10. Chronology of cultists' legal battles
Japan Times, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news12-99/news.html#story3
The following is a 1999 chronology of trial proceedings and other
developments involving key Aum Shinrikyo defendants:
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


11. Residents keep cult vigil
South China Morning Post, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.scmp.com/News/Asia/Article/FullText_asp_ArticleID-19991229024919108.asp
(...) They fear that despite an anti-Aum law which came into force this week,
their work is far from over.

"It is questionable whether the new law targeting Aum would be effective here
in Otawara," said one of the residents. "We have no choice but to stay
vigilant until the new law goes into full swing."

The public must wait to see the outcome of a hearing next month on the new
law to discover whether it will succeed in truly curtailing the sect's
activities.
(...)

Meanwhile, the Public Security Investigation Agency, which will implement the
new law, has reported that a cult statement issued in September that it was
suspending activities was a smokescreen. The agency said cult members were
told the statement was only released for show and was not intended to truly
reflect an abandonment of activities.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

12. Sect Followers Said Tried in Secret
Yahoo!/AP, Dec. 30, 1999
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991230/wl/china_banned_sect_19.html
A couple arrested in the crackdown on the spiritual movement Falun Gong have
been tried in secret in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, a rights group
reported Thursday.

Wang Hansheng and his wife, Xu Xianglan, were charged with organizing and
using a cult to undermine the law in their four-hour trial on Dec. 23 in the
No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, which has not released a verdict, the Hong
Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in
China reported.

The court was unable to find evidence to support accusations in state news
media that Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi shared huge profits made by the
couple's sales of Falun Gong books and photos, the Information Center said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


13. Severe jail terms a warning to Falun Gong in SAR, says paper
Yahoo! Asia/South China Morning Post, Dec. 28, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/scmp/article.html?
s=asia/headlines/991228/newspapers/scmp/FRONT
_PAGE__Severe_jail_terms_a_warning
_to_Falun_Gong_in_SAR__says_paper.html
Falun Gong followers in Hong Kong were told yesterday that the long jail
terms handed down in Beijing on Sunday were a warning to them. The
pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao said SAR practitioners of the sect should "wake up".

"The sentencing of the core members in China should remind some Hong Kong
people that they should stop being used by foreign forces as political tools
to obstruct China's advance to become a great country," the Hong Kong
newspaper said in an editorial. "In order to safeguard stability and unity
and the interests of its people, the Chinese Government will never be soft in
cracking down on 'evil cults'," it said.
(...)

The editorial said some followers had staged protests in the SAR and accused
"radicals" of trying to sabotage handover celebrations in Macau.
(...)

It was the latest in a series of warnings to Hong Kong followers of the cult.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


14. Falungong supporters in the US protest indictment of sect leaders
Yahoo! Asia/Channel NewsAsia, Dec. 28, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/cna/article.html?
s=asia/headlines/991228/asia/cna/Falungong_supporters_in_
the_US_protest_indictment_of_sect_leaders.html
Supporters of the banned Falungong spiritual movement gathered outside
China's New York Consulate to protest a Beijing court decision against four
of its sect leaders.
(...)

Some 50 demonstrators gathered at the Chinese Consulate to protest harsh
court penalties for three men and a woman who are leaders of the sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. US trio takes outrage to Xinhua
Yahoo! Asia/South China Morning Post, Dec. 29, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/scmp/article.html?
s=asia/headlines/991229/newspapers/scmp/CHINA__US_t
rio_takes_outrage_to_Xinhua.html
Three United States green-card holders and Falun Gong members who arrived in
Hong Kong on Monday after being detained in Shenzhen protested outside the
Xinhua office yesterday.
(...)

Dr Feng, a California-based immunobiologist, believed they were released
because of pressure from the US Congress and the media.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Falungong member who publicized maltreatment sent to labour camp
Yahoo!/AFP, Dec. 28, 1999
http://sg.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/article.html?
s=singapore/headlines/991228/asia/afp/Falungong_member_who
_publicized_maltreatment_sent_to_labour_camp.html
A college student who was detained for a few days for practicing Falungong
has been sent to a forced labour camp for publicizing the way she was
(...)

Police in China are free to send suspects to labour camps for up to three
years without trial.

Zhang, a student at the Dalian Science and Technology University in the city
of Dalian in northeastern China, was detained for 15 days in September for
practicing the banned Falungong meditations in a public place.

Police locked her legs with steel cuffs weighing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and
made her walk back and forth in the detention hall, causing bruises and
swelling around her feet. She was also beaten several times for refusing to
stop practicing the meditations, the information centre said.

Zhang took pictures of the injuries and posted them on the Internet on
Chinese language Web pages.

Her story provided evidence of the widespread reports of maltreatment of
Falungong practioners who were arrested by police. Human rights groups spread
the story overseas and even to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights,
the information centre said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


17. Rights Groups Condemn China Falun Gong Sentences
Yahoo! Asia/Dow Jones, Dec. 28, 1999
http://asia.biz.yahoo.com/news/asian_markets/dowjones/article.html
?s=asiafinance/news/991228/asian_markets/dowjones/Rights_G
roups_Condemn_China_Falun_Gong_Sentences.html
The prison sentences handed down to four key members of the banned meditation
group Falun Gong are evidence China uses its laws to suppress basic rights,
two rights groups said Tuesday.
(...)

China's laws on cults and state secrets are vague and arbitrary, allowing
Beijing to "use the abusive laws it creates as both a sword to smite down
dissenters and a shield to justify its human rights violations," New
York-based Human Rights in China said in a statement.
(...)

China insists it is prosecuting the group legally, but Chinese laws
"routinely flout international standards," Human Rights Watch said in a
statement.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Falungong crackdown may reach Hong Kong: rights group
Yahoo!/AFP, Dec. 27, 1999
http://sg.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/afp/article.html
?s=singapore/headlines/991227/asia/afp/Falungong_crackdown
_may_reach_Hong_Kong__rights_group.html
A Hong Kong human rights body Monday expressed fears the territory would end
its policy of tolerance towards the mystical Falungong group following the
jailing of four key members in Beijing.

Frank Lu, head of the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic
Movement in China, said he was concerned China's crackdown on Falungong might
soon spread to Hong Kong.
(...)

"I know that some National People's Congress members were unhappy with the
Falungong conference in Hong Kong and they have told the Hong Kong government
that similar events should not be allowed to take place in Hong Kong again,"
Lu said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


19. China's Paranoid Fear Of the Falun Gong Sect
San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 28, 1999 (Editorial)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/12/28/ED39102.DTL
The severity of prison sentences imposed by a Beijing court on four leaders
of the Falun Gong sect was a reminder of China's deep fear of any challenge
to their communist rule.
(...)

The Clinton administration has called the Falun Gong ban a violation of human
rights and religious freedom, yet is timid about criticizing the Beijing
regime it is seeking to embrace with trade agreements.

Although trade with the most populous nation on Earth offers rich rewards, it
is deeply troubling that the administration is not loudly protesting the
cruel crackdown on the benign followers of Falun Gong.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


20. Living Buddha
Li Hongzhi likes to think of himself as "just a very ordinary man" but that's
not what he set out to be
Asiaweek, Dec. 31, 1999
http://cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/magazine/99/1231/year.falungong.html
(...) That Clinton should intercede on behalf of a sect that has no claim to
dissidence only shows how influential Li is.
(...)

All this is unsettling - if not frightening - for the Chinese Communist
Party, which remembers only too well how the Taiping Rebellion threatened the
Qing dynasty in the 19th century. Then, as now, many Chinese disenchanted
with rising unemployment and official corruption formed themselves into a
quasi-religious group and, rallying behind a village school teacher and
shaman, captured Nanjing. While nobody believes Li has the power to confront
China's rulers in quite the same fashion, the fact is his disciples see him
as a "living Buddha." He also has an astonishing capacity to spread his
message. The Falungong has been known to mobilize followers through the
Internet and is adept at using videos and publishing material as propaganda
tools.
(...)

Despite such a following, Li describes himself as "just a very ordinary man."
But that's clearly not what he set out to be. According to an official probe,
Li changed his date of birth from July 7 to May 13, which happens to be the
day on which the Buddha was born.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho No Hana Sanpagyo

21. Foot-reading guru bought audiences with leaders
South China Morning Post, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.scmp.com/News/Asia/Article/FullText_asp_ArticleID-19991229024817003.asp
Japan's foot-reading cult, Ho-No-Hana Sampogyo, has spent US$10 million
(HK$77 million) cosying up to world leaders, including former Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev, US President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul, it has been
disclosed.

Records of the spending were discovered in documents seized from cult
headquarters earlier this month during a police raid.
(...)

Mr Fukunuga, 54, has not been sighted since the raid on the cult, which
included a search of his Tokyo home.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Japan - Cults

22. In Japan, worry as cults flourish amid wave of faith
Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/364/nation/In_Japan_worry_
as_cults_flourish_amid_wave_of_faith+.shtml
(...) Analysts say they are not surprised at the appeal of sects. In today's
Japan, a consumerist, secular society facing economic uncertainty, cults and
so-called ''new religions'' offer a spiritual balm that many Japanese,
especially young people, find attractive.
(...)

Fed up with what she calls the ''rampant consumerism'' of Japan, Yuko Enomoto
joined a group called Place of Truth several years ago. She attended weekend
prayer sessions, where members would tell stories of how the group's dead
founder, the Great Leader, had cured them of cancer or helped them win a
promotion. So-called spiritual mediums would predict the future.
(...)

The number of registered religious groups in Japan has risen 15 percent
during the past decade, to more than 6,500, according to the Japanese
government's religion almanac.

Most groups register with the government for tax purposes, but that is little
indication of whether their beliefs or activities pose a public threat. Aum
Shinrikyo was a registered religious corporation when it carried out the
sarin attack.
(...)

Cult watchers are especially concerned about a group called Kenshokai, which
is targeting university and high school students. Many have dropped out of
school to join, and membership has grown more than threefold, to 670,000, in
just a few years.
(...)

Today, most Japanese follow a loose mix of Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian
rites, but with little ideology attached. Many Japanese describe themselves
as secular.

Specialists say the dearth of organized religion has fueled the popularity of
the so-called ''new religions,'' many of which are amalgams of several faiths
plus folk beliefs. ''We don't really have any religion here, so Japanese are
like blank slates,'' said Seigo Iwatachi, who deprograms cult members.

Iwatachi belonged for years to the Buddhist-inspired Sokka Gakkai, Japan's
largest religious group and a political force as well. But he says even that
group has cultish tendencies - a faith centered around an almost deified
leader and, he claims, the use of mind control.

Sokka Gakkai has been controversial for decades, accused of kidnapping,
brainwashing, and heavy-handed recruiting. In response, the group said it
fears being tarred by the activities of fringe groups.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

23. FBI agents reportedly say mistakes doomed Davidian negotiations
CNN/AP, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.cnn.com/1999/US/12/30/waco.inquiry.ap/index.html
FBI negotiators and behavior experts told the Justice Department that
tactical mistakes during the first weeks of the Branch Davidian siege doomed
negotiations, according to a published report Thursday.

Their comments, detailed in previously undisclosed Justice Department memos
obtained by The Dallas Morning News, faulted the FBI's reliance on punitive
paramilitary actions, saying they doomed efforts to coax out more Davidians.
(...)

"The outcome would have been different if the negotiation approach had been
used. More people would have come out, even if Koresh and his core never
did," said Pete Smerick, now retired.

One of his memos during the siege warned that strong force would "draw David
Koresh and his followers closer together in the 'bunker mentality' and they
would rather die than surrender."
(...)

FBI Agent Byron Sage said in a 1993 Justice Department interview _ which was
cited repeatedly in the department's review -- that the sect never truly
negotiated. Sage, based in Austin, said FBI disagreements did not change the
outcome.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. FBI missteps doomed siege talks, memos say
Dallas Morning News, Dec. 30, 1999
http://dallasnews.com/specials/waco/1230waco1waco.htm
FBI tactical missteps in the first weeks of the Branch Davidian siege
hopelessly derailed negotiations, cementing the sect's "bunker mentality,"
top FBI negotiators and behavior experts told the Justice Department.

Their assessments, detailed in previously undisclosed Justice Department
memos obtained by The Dallas Morning News, faulted the FBI's reliance on
punitive paramilitary actions, saying they doomed efforts to coax more
Davidians out and escalated the magnitude of the tragedy.

"The negotiators' approach was working until they had the rug pulled out from
under them" by aggressive tactical actions, Agent Gary Noesner, FBI
negotiation coordinator for the first half of the siege, told a Justice
Department investigator in August 1993.
(...)

An FBI behavioral profiler said in a separate Justice Department interview
that he warned early on "that they should not send in the tanks, because if
they did so, children would die and the FBI would be blamed even if they were
not responsible."
(...)

The depth and detail of such criticisms, collected in the Justice
Department's 1993 review of the Waco confrontation, were not included in the
massive report on the siege.
(...)

Although the 1993 Justice Department review acknowledged rifts within the
FBI's Waco team and touched on negotiators' complaints, it concluded that Mr.
Koresh, the Branch Davidians' apocalyptic leader, was solely responsible for
the deadly outcome.

Like other recent revelations, the confidential memos, other internal
documents and interviews by The News raise questions about the official
account of what happened.
(...)

"Any negotiator would have told them that dismantling the building would
provoke a violent response," Agent Noesner said in 1993. "Anyone would have
seen the risk. What was the rush? The plan had been to wait. The agents were
safe in the tanks . . . so that even though they were drawing fire, that did
not justify dismantling the building.
(...)

Mr. Smerick and Mr. Noesner, who now oversees the FBI's negotiation program
and hostage-rescue team, declined to comment, citing an investigation by
independent counsel John Danforth.

FBI commander Jeff Jamar and hostage-rescue team commander Richard Rogers,
both retired, declined to be interviewed.
(...)

But in confidential Justice Department interviews and in interviews with The
News, some of the FBI's top negotiators and behavioral scientists in Waco
gave sharply opposing accounts.
(...)

A regional FBI official sent to help Mr. Jamar, Bob Ricks, said in an FBI
interview that Mr. Jamar wanted to isolate the compound and had "some
pressure from FBI HQ to take this step."

Agent Noesner and other behavioral experts were stunned. They said Mr. Jamar
did not consult them and refused to reconsider despite warnings that the
Branch Davidians would feel that they were being punished after cooperating,
Justice Department memos say.
(...)

Surrenders stopped until two adults gave up March 19. Seven others followed
three days later in what Agent Noesner said negotiators considered "the most
positive day they had experienced. There were indications . . . that 20
people would come out the next day."

But within hours, FBI tanks began pushing the sect's cars from the front of
the compound. The Justice Department memo noted that Agent Noesner called it
"the worst decision he's seen in 21 years with the FBI."
(...)

"Noesner thinks he is stating the opinion of all of the negotiators when he
says that the decision on March 12 to cut off the power and the decision on
March 21 to remove vehicles after seven people had come out were not just
matters of poor timing, but were absolutely critical decisions that changed
the outcome," the report stated.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Waco negotiators felt tear gas inevitable, one says
Dallas Morning News, Dec. 30, 1999
http://dallasnews.com/specials/waco/1230waco3gassing.htm
Negotiators backed using tear gas against the Branch Davidians because they
were powerless to prevent it and feared that tacticians would otherwise be
allowed to "throw it in," a top negotiator said after the standoff.

Internal records obtained by The Dallas Morning News indicate that the
bureau's tactical experts began lobbying for the use of CS gas in early
March, even sending a formal plan to the White House.

Two weeks later, negotiators concluded that punitive paramilitary tactics had
killed negotiations, Gary Noesner, FBI negotiation coordinator in the first
half of the siege, said in a confidential 1993 interview.

On March 22, he said, negotiators submitted their own plan that included
gassing the compound.

"This showed a clear realization . . . that the negotiations were basically
over. They knew they were at an impasse," Agent Noesner said. "They
recommended that tear gas be used because they realized this was going to
happen anyway and they wanted to control it, to use it with leverage in the
negotiations. The tactical interests just wanted to throw the gas in."

Their proposal became the blueprint for the plan approved by Washington.
(...)

As the plan took final shape, Mr. Van Zandt said, he warned "whoever would
listen" that it was too risky and wouldn't work. "That fell on deaf ears. I
said we're playing into Koresh's prophecies. We're doing what he wants."

Shortly before gassing began April 19, Mr. Van Zandt said, he told the
negotiators what was coming. "It was a very deep, sobering time."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. FBI was warned noise broadcasts would backfire if used against sect
Dallas Morning News, Dec. 30, 1999
http://dallasnews.com/specials/waco/1230waco2dalai.htm
Even the Dalai Lama got caught up in the Branch Davidian standoff.

During the FBI's efforts in 1993 to force sect members to surrender, agents
used loudspeakers to blast loud music and other ear-splitting noises into the
compound.

FBI commanders said that nonstop nightly Nancy Sinatra songs, shrieks of
dying rabbits, Christmas carols and Tibetan monk chants would increase the
Branch Davidians' discomfort and sleep deprivation.

But FBI behaviorists, in recently disclosed confidential memos, argued that
the noise broadcasts that began March 22 would backfire with such a committed
religious group.
(...)

Blaring sacred Buddhist chants - brought in by an FBI official whose wife got
the recording at a museum where she volunteered - was particularly offensive,
he and other negotiators said.
(...)

Intervention from FBI Director William Sessions, prompted by a letter of
complaint from the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, finally
silenced the chant broadcasts, FBI records indicate. Other broadcasts
continued.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Government hides identities of Waco witnesses
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.postnet.com/postnet/specialreports/waco.nsf
/ByDocId/2DBB0E6B80B43BA78625685600536FF4
When lawyers for the Branch Davidians sat down recently to question a
government witness about what happened at Waco, they found themselves looking
at a black screen.
(...)

The episode is an example of the elaborate security that the federal
government has erected around the identities of some of the witnesses to the
1993 siege at Waco. While members of the highly classified Delta Force get
super-secret treatment, the lawyers also cannot ask for personal identifying
information of some other witnesses, such as FBI agents.

The government says the precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of
federal employees, especially those who participated in the final assault on
the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel complex near Waco, Texas. Justification
for the precautions is demonstrated, the government adds, by the fact that
some agents of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who
have been linked to Waco have been threatened and harassed.

"Similarly, two individuals who were involved in this matter in connection
with their duties in the Department of Defense have recently received threats
to themselves or their families that included references to the Branch
Davidian incident," according to a Justice Department motion filed in federal
court.
(...)

Newspapers have begun to weigh in on the issues. The Dallas Morning News has
filed a motion asking a court to open records relating to what happened at
Waco. The Post-Dispatch plans to join in that motion today.
[...more...]

=== Scientology

28. Big Brother is helping
Focus (Germany), Dec. 27 ,1999
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991227d.htm
Every building owner knows that structural alterations of a building require
a permit. Apparently the new occupant of an office building on 9 Domstrasse,
not far from the city hall in Hamburg, does not know anything about that. The
Scientology sect moved into the domicile in November, after they had to give
up their old haunt because of a notice to vacate issued as a result of the
millions owed in back rent.
(...)

One real, small problem remains for the psycho-sect - the permit for building
alteration. Because no application had been submitted to the planning review
office in the mid-Hamburg district which has jurisdiction over the building,
a staff member from that office visited the Scientology center to get a quick
look at the construction work in process, and to notify the Scientology
association of a deadline to submit the necessary documents. The sect reacted
promptly. Only 48 hours after the visit, Michael Budig paid a visit to Ursula
Caberta, the Scientology Commissioner of the Hamburg Senate, to gather
information on the conflict. Budig does not have anything to do with the
sect; he works as a speaker for politics and commerce at the American general
consulate in Hamburg. The diplomatic representatives had been instructed by
the State Department in Washington to look into the case.

A surprising precedent. Because a German association, the "Scientology Kirche
Hamburg, e.V.", had trouble with a local planning office, it called in the
American State Department.
(...)

This was not the first time the United States has taken sides for
Scientology. In the mid-1990s, for instance, the USA applied to the OSCE for
condemnation of Germany for alleged human rights violations. And in a report
by the Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress, Germany was chastised
for alleged persecution of Scientologists. To be sure, the events described
were traced back to the propaganda of the sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Zwickau:town council believes it has been disparaged
Freie Presse (Germany), Dec. 28, 1999
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991228b.htm
After the Zwickau CDU and the Buendnis/Greens, the city administration also
reacted, on Tuesday, to the official application by Scientologist Kurt
Fliegerbauer for the position in the planned Scientology Information Office.
"I personally perceived your offer as a joint disparagement of the city
council, the administration and Zwickau's community politics," wrote Health
and Social Mayor Pia Findeiss in her written response to Fliegerbauer, the
business manager of the Osterstein Castle Management Association.

Pia Findeiss, who is representing Chief Mayor Rainer Eichorn these days
because he is on vacation, reminded Fliegerbauer of the objective of the
planned establishment. Its first mission is to inform citizens about the
machinations of the sect. The city council's decision came about primarily
because Zwickau's reputation is suffering more and more at the hands of the
Scientology Organization. At the same time, unrest is growing among the
people and in parts of the economy. The city government itself, according to
Pia Findeiss, will accomplish the decision of the council in "all
earnestness," for which a plan for support and financing will be presented by
the end of the first quarter in the year 2000.

The application by Kurt Fliegerbauer was rated by the CDU and Buendnis 90 as
"impudence and provocation" and "a degree of audacity which could hardly be
surpassed."
[...entire item...]


30. Constitutional Security agents continue surveillance
Suedwest Presse (Germany), Dec. 29, 1999
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991229a.htm
The influence of the Scientology Organization in politics, commerce and
society is, in the assessment of Constitutional Security agents, less than
feared in years past.

The number of Scientology adherents is, according to a statement by Helmut
Rannacher, considerably lower than at first presumed. The influence of the
organization was also said to be less than was formerly feared, the chief of
Baden-Wuerttemberg Constitutional Security said yesterday. In spite of that,
Rannacher supports the continued surveillance of Scientologists by his
office. The goal of the organization, he said, was "a different political
system in the middle and long range."
(...)

Rannacher said that Scientology did not have the goal of completely
infiltrating commerce, but wanted to quickly accumulate large quantities of
money. The organization seeks out segments in which "a fast buck" can be
made: business consulting and the real estate trade. According to estimates,
a third of the Stuttgart real estate transaction are been marked by
Scientology in one form or another.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Not even enough money for toothpaste
How careers, souls and bank accounts can be ruined by Scientology
Report by a former sect member from Saarland
Saarbrueker Zeitung (Germany), Dec. 27, 1999
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991227c.htm
(...) Ute Paul (name changed, the ed.) did not attain the goal of creating
her own environment herself nor of "being cause over all things." The 56 year
old woman had given everything she had, up to the point of wanting to give
her own life. Ute Paul had climbed high up in the hierarchy of Scientology;
she was an "Operating Thetan" (OT), as it is called in the jargon of the
organization. In doing that she attained a rank held by only a couple of
hundred of the estimated three to eight million Scientologists in the world.
(...)

What followed was typical for joining a psychosect: auditing, which
psychologists describe as coerced hypnosis and brainwashing; training drills;
hours at a time in the sauna to allegedly purge body and spirit - along with
that, Ute broke out and got red blotches on her skin because she had consumed
high doses of vitamin B3 (niacin). Naturally, thousands of marks had to be
paid for these courses and treatments. In doing that [spending money] Ute
soon made contact with the international level of management: by her first
year she had already spent ten days on a luxury liner in the Caribbean which
is the highest cadre-smith in Scientology; she said, "I was made to feel like
I was one of the best, one of the few who could save our planet."

Ute was to soon get a first inkling that this allegedly elite organization
could primarily be regarded as financially exploiting its members. "I put
45,000 marks at my son's disposal so that he could attain a high auditing
grade," she said. In doing that she was promised inside the organization that
Peter could receive auditing from her for free. "But Scientology did not keep
their promise," said Ute. Their frustration kept them away from the
organization for a year. Up to that point, Ute had paid Scientology 160,000
marks [approx. $120,000] - within a twelve-month period.
(...)

Her great disillusionment came to her in the Scientology center in English
East Grinstead, which is about 30 kilometers south of London. Ute was
auditing Scientology staff there: "They stole candy and money from each other
- and went to the rest rooms to sneak drinks out of flasks." Drinking alcohol
is regarded as "unethical" in the organization. Even the people in management
were not able to afford toothpaste or a trip to the barber: "They wore shoes
which had holes in them and owned only a solitary uniform which they had to
wash and let hang overnight to dry." Ute said that she did not want to live
like that. With her high grade of "Operating Thetan" level five, she
travelled back to Germany where she visited many other OTs: "They had all
obtained nothing with their alleged abilities, they are broke or mentally
ill."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Religious Pressure at Texas Vet Clinic Leads to $150,000 EEOC Settlement
Law News Network, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.lawnewsnetwork.com/stories/A12404-1999Dec28.html
An Arlington, Texas veterinary clinic agreed earlier this month to pay
$150,000 to six employees who claimed in a suit backed by the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission that the company unlawfully pressured
employees to subscribe to beliefs of the Church of Scientology (EEOC v. I-20
Animal Medical Center, N.D. Tex, 398CV2316-X, settlement approved 12/2/99).
(...)

Specifically, the complaint charged that I-20 subjected non-scientologist
employees to disparate treatment, failed to reasonably accommodate the
religious beliefs of non-scientologist employees, and retaliated against
workers who opposed what they believed were unlawful employment practices.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Crossing The Church
New Times LA, Dec. 30, 1999 (Letters to the editor)
http://www.newtimesla.com/feedback/index.html
[Scientology]

[In response to the story "Double Crossing"]

(...)
"Double Crossed" is exemplary of a new breed of journalistic censorship.
Utilizing only those allegations that fit a predetermined "story" and
ignoring facts and evidence provided to you refuting your theme, created your
intended result. This is dishonest journalism, it is extremely irresponsible,
and it is indeed an act of censorship by a biased press, by filtering out
conflicting evidence provided to you.
(...)

I met with Tony Ortega and Editor Rick Barrs prior to publication of your
article in order to educate you on some of the accurate facts regarding the
story you intended to publish and to provide documentation for you and your
staff. Unfortunately, you chose to ignore the majority of what I provided and
pretend the facts are different than they are.

Kendrick L. Moxon
Los Angeles

Editor's note: Ortega's story did in fact include Moxon's protestation that
he was bound by attorney-client privilege not to answer some questions, and
it also pointed out Graham Berry's personal and professional problems. The
story made clear that Berry's and Cipriano's veracity was in question, but
that documents tend to corroborate some of Cipriano's allegations about
Moxon.

Ortega's article accurately portrays Scientology's moral relativism and its
fair game tactics. I know. I am a former member of the Church of Scientology.
(...)

=
Not since the L.A. Times' weeklong analysis in 1990 has a Los Angeles paper
(or any media, for that matter) so unabashedly run stories exposing
Scientology for what it is a vindictive, controlling, totalitarian,
pseudoscientific cult.
(...)

Shaun Mason
Hollywood

New Times has done it again with Ortega's brilliant expos of the Church of
Scientology's appalling array of vile actions against attorney Graham Berry
and Robert Cipriano. As a former member of the Scientology cult and a former
Cult Awareness Network staff member, I will attest that I and many others
have also been the target of Scientology's fair game policy.

What is truly chilling is that the Department of Justice, the IRS, various
states' attorneys, and other government agencies do nothing to stop this
phony church. They get away with it by using tax-exempt funds, and their
brainwashed followers including John Travolta, Chick Corea, and Greta Van
Susteren all go along with it.

The good news is that there are more and more of us out here who are
determined to bring this to the attention of the public, and we will see that
justice is done.

Jim Beebe
Northbrook, Illinois
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Witchcraft / Neo-Paganism

34. Tomorrow just another day for witches
Cleveland Live/AP, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.cleveland.com/news/pdnews/metro/o30witc.ssf
(...) What commonly is known as the advent of the new millennium is just
another day for a coven of witches in southeast Ohio.
(...)

Witches don't follow the world's common calendar, which starts with the birth
of Jesus as year zero. Rather, the coven said it believes time is circular
and spiral-like.

Although they base their years on the Earth's rotation around the sun, they
do not label the years by number and have no calendar. A witch's new year
begins on one of the holidays, Samhain, or Oct. 31.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. School Expels 5 for Being 'Witches'
Excite/Reuters, Dec. 31, 1999
http://news.excite.com/news/r/991231/07/odd-chile-witches
A high school in Santiago has expelled five girls after accusing them of
being witches, bathing in blood and telling fortunes, local newspapers
reported on Thursday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

36. Use of corporate 'soles' draws attention
Spokane.net, Dec. 26, 1999
http://www.spokane.net/news-story-body.asp?Date=122699&ID=s724761&cat=
An obscure Washington law is allowing dozens of individuals in
anti-government movements to declare themselves "corporation soles" --
religious nonprofit corporations with benefits both real and imagined.

The secretary of state's office hands out certificates for these one-person
religious corporations to anyone who can jot a set of bylaws on a napkin.
Little information is required of applicants, and the corporations they form
are virtually unregulated.

The Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity began investigating corporation
soles last summer when it learned several white supremacists and
anti-government militants had them.
(...)

Under the law last revisited in 1915, corporation soles were intended for
traditional churches such as the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike most
Protestant churches or other nonprofit organizations, Catholic churches are
governed by a bishop instead of a board of deacons, elders or directors. A
corporation sole recognizes the right of a bishop or other "overseer" to
control the assets and activities of a church.

But sketchy state records show relatively few of the approximately 700
corporation soles now registered in Washington belong to the Roman Catholic
Church or other traditional churches.

Despite huge holes in the secretary of state's database, Lunsford was able to
spot about 50 corporation soles associated with white supremacists,
militiamen, constitutionalists or people who deny the Holocaust. He
discovered some supporters of the Christian Identity, anti-government group
Posse Comitatus had set up "soles" as early as 1979.
(...)

One of Erickson's anti-government associates, Posse Comitatus supporter James
E. Shaver Sr., found another use for corporation soles. He said in a 1992
court document that his status as "archtrustee" of the Santiago Seafarers
Society entitled him to perform a disputed marriage ceremony for Erickson.

Shaver rattled some Stevens County residents in December 1994 when he
publicly offered to drive the IRS out of the county with a "posse."
(...)

The Coalition for Human Dignity's Lunsford said he suspected at first that
corporation soles, like unauthorized "common-law courts," would be used to
place bogus-but-troublesome liens on the property of public servants.

Now, though, he believes right-wing political and religious philosophies may
have more to do with the new popularity of corporation soles. Advocates
apparently believe the religious corporations give them license to ignore
man's laws and follow what they perceive to be God's laws, Lunsford said.
(...)

Although effective at shielding assets from creditors, corporation soles
apparently have little value as tax shelters. Federal law allows any
organization that considers itself a church to quit paying income taxes,
regardless of whether it is a nonprofit corporation. The only catch is that
the IRS had better agree the church is legitimate if there is an audit.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Iranians offer kidneys for Rushdie's head
BBC News, Dec. 28, 1999
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_581000/581258.stm
Over 500 Iranians have pledged to sell one of their kidneys to pay for the
killing of British author Salman Rushdie, condemned to death 10 years ago by
religious decree.

Islamic militia in the holy Shi'ite city of Mashhad were behind the campaign,
which was endorsed by officials in the elite Revolutionary Guards, the
hardline Iranian daily Kayhan reports.

A total of 508 people, including six Muslims from countries outside Iran,
have signed up to sell a kidney, Kayhan said.
(...)

The organisers, part of the Basiji volunteer militia force, planned to
publicise their campaign on the internet to seek worldwide support.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

38. Muslims De-Link Terror From Faith
Yahoo!/AP, Dec. 27, 1999
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991227/pl/albright_muslims_3.html
The leader of a U.S. Muslim group said Monday that State Department travel
warnings are beginning to separate terrorist threats from Islam, "a positive
response'' to repeated complaints.

Recent advisories were "very positive in delinking the issue of terrorism
from faith,'' said Aly Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim
Council and one of several Muslim Americans invited to dinner last week by
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
(...)

Asked if he expects results from Albright's promise to encourage hiring of
American Muslims, Abuzaakouk replied: "Oh, yes.'' "It is recognition at the
highest level and encourages us. We are already telling our young people to
take the opportunity to take the test,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Muslim Advocacy Group Calls for Balanced Coverage of Terrorism; Media
Content Analysis Shows Coverage Increases When Muslims Are Involved
Yahoo!/PRNewswire, Dec. 29, 1999 (Press Release)
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/991229/dc_cair_te_1.html
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic
advocacy group, is calling on media professionals to use one standard of
newsworthiness when reporting on issues related to domestic and international
terrorism. CAIR expressed concerns about an apparent imbalance in coverage
whenever Muslims are involved or alleged to be involved in terrorist
activities.
(...)

According to a survey of national media outlets by the Muslim Internet news
service iViews.com, linkage of Islam and Muslims with terrorism has increased
51 percent since the beginning of the month of December. (see
http://www.iviews.com) The survey tracked the words "Islam'' or "Muslim,''
occurring within a three-word proximity of "terror'' and its derivatives.

iViews.com's research also showed that the sharp increase seemed to coincide
with a December 11th State Department warning to U.S. citizens traveling
abroad. The warning referred to "credible information that terrorists are
planning attacks'' to coincide with New Years Eve and the Islamic month of
Ramadan in which Muslims fast during daylight hours. A number of American
Muslims contacted CAIR to express concern about the apparent linkage between
terrorism and Ramadan.
(...)

There are an estimated six million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion
worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United
States.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Muslim convert's words infuriate Hindus
South China Morning Post, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.scmp.com/News/Asia/Article/FullText_asp_ArticleID-19991229024850562.asp
A prominent poet who converted to Islam has been ordered to stop making
disparaging remarks about Hinduism. Kerala High Court issued an injunction
against Kamala Das, 67, and summoned her to next month answer charges
levelled by an unnamed complainant.

The Indian poet changed her name to Suraiya Begum last week and started
wearing an Islamic veil. Her interviews since embracing Islam have upset
many hardcore Hindus.
(...)

As Begum told the English-language weekly: "There is something gruesome about
Hinduism. As a child I listened to stories about vengeful [Hindu] gods who
punished you for your sins." She said that as an ageing widow, she badly
needed a "protective religion like Islam".
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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41. Tourists, true believers meet at Armageddon
Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 1999
http://www.globe.com/dailyglobe2/364/nation/Tourists_true
_believers_meet_at_Armageddon+.shtml
If the biblical battle of Armageddon begins here tomorrow, as some believe it
will, the cost of admission will be 18 shekels (about $4). And there is
plenty of parking.
(...)

A steady stream of tour groups from Europe and America shuffled past the
ticket booth then made their way up a steep hill to the rocky outcropping
that is a treasure trove of archeology, and a site that tourism officials are
eagerly trying to market.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. The end of the world is nigh -- but don't worry just yet
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Dec. 28, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/technology/afp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991228/technology/afp/The_end_of_the_
world_is_nigh_--_but_don_t_worry_just_yet.html
(...) According to the doom-merchants, the world's number could soon be up,
either because the date-change heralds the second coming of Christ or because
the computer glitch known as the "millennium bug" will bring everything
grinding to a halt, possibly unleashing a nuclear holocaust along the way.

Alarm would be premature, however. In 1999 alone, the world failed to end on
several occasions, notably:

July: In Japan, thousands of believers in the predictions of the 16th-century
French seer Nostradamus, particularly one indicating that "the king of
terror" would arrive from the sky "in the year 1999, seven months", feared
the worst.

August 11: French perfumier Paco Rabanne said the total solar eclipse would
be the occasion for the Russian space station Mir to crash on Paris, with
disastrous consequences.

September 9: The proximity of the date 9/9/99 to the "9999" used as a
termination signal in some computer programs led some to predict a worldwide
electrical failure, possibly triggering the end of the world.

September 11: The influential Los Angeles rabbi Philip Berg believed this was
the day a great ball of fire would hit the earth.

Going back in time, the end of the world has failed to materialise with
impressive regularity. Among innumerable examples:
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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43. How the world ends is a matter of faith
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 28, 1999
http://www.seattlep-i.com/lifestyle/relg28.shtml
You probably want to know when and how the world's going to end, right?
As you must suspect, there is no definitive answer.
(...)

What follows are general interpretations of the end of the world -- at least
as we know it -- in the classical texts of the world's major faiths. To
further complicate things, not all people belonging to these faiths interpret
the texts in the same way.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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44. Keeping Watch in the Holy Land
Washington Post, Dec. 31, 1999
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-12/31/144l-123199-idx.html
(...) There, [Bobby] Bible settled in so he could watch the skies part, Jesus
appear and the faithful rise up to the heavens -- an event described in the
Bible's First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians and known as "the rapture."

"This is the major event of my life," said Bible, 60, who changed his name
when he became a born-again Christian. "We are at ground zero here on the
Mount of Olives. I give [the rapture] a 30 percent chance of happening at
midnight New Year's Eve."

Bible was hedging his bets. So were the Israeli police. About an hour after
detailing his interpretation of scripture to a reporter over breakfast, Bible
was arrested at his hotel and whisked off to police headquarters for the
third time in a week. He told the hotel manager he was being deported,
although the police denied they have made a decision.
(...)

That prophesy is shared by millions around the world and has spawned an
intense focus on the holy land as the new year approaches. One Internet site
-- www.olivetree.org -- features a "MessiahCam" offering constantly updated
photographic images of key Jerusalem sites where Jesus could appear. They
include the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, the site from
which Jesus is said to have departed Earth, and the Golden Gate in the
eastern wall of the Old City, a blocked-off entryway through which it is
believed Christ would reenter Jerusalem.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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45. Looking for a Savior
WIRED, Dec. 28, 1999
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,32282,00.html
(...) Miles professes to be the Messiah.

The Petra Hotel has become a favorite waystation for some of the more
fervent religious visitors flocking to Jerusalem on the eve of the
millennium. Jews, Christians, and Muslim lodgers sit in the hotel's spacious
lounges, studying the Torah, the Bible, the Koran. Others passionately
discuss a piece of scripture or the latest religious conspiracy-theory
gossip. Miles often preached to the guests.
(...)

Besides his job of saving the world, Miles confesses to a dark side. He
claims he is also the Antichrist, linguistically tied to Romulus, the founder
of Rome who murdered his brother, and to alleged Serbian war criminal
Slobodan Milosevic. Bad things tend to occur when he is angry or in pain, he
said.
(...)

Miles is not the only self-professed prophet to wear out his welcome at the
Petra.

Brother Elijah, another self-proclaimed messenger who took up residence
there, was picked up by police this fall.
(...)

"The truth is all I'm gonna speak. The world is full of liars. Look at the
White House," Elijah said. He carried a black briefcase inscribed with large,
red English and Hebrew lettering: "Elijah, Prophet of God." "Bill Clinton
is a 30-degree Mason, Hillary is a 33, so is Bob Dole. They're Satanists.
They're killing mankind for the love of greed and money."
(...)

After detaining Elijah and administering a psychological evaluation, police
persuaded him to leave the country.

When asked about Brother Elijah and the Petra Hotel, Menuchin would only
acknowledge, "We know the general area around [the hotel] is where the
prophets like to gather. We know there are people who suffer from the
Jerusalem syndrome."
(...)

Grodus, a retired Dutchman, has spent more than a year at the Petra, sharing
a crowded, stuffy room with seven other people for 25 shekels a night, as he,
too, awaits the Messiah. His god is media- and tech-savvy: All human
knowledge is rapidly being recorded on the Internet, and at any moment He
will broadcast his message to the world on television, Grodus said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

46. Cult ready for expat exit
Yahoo! Asia/South China Morning Post, Dec. 29, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/scmp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991229/newspapers/scmp/ASIA_
_Cult_ready_for_expat_exit.html
A cargo-cult-like movement that believes the world will go dark on Saturday
and all expatriates will vanish has formed in Papua New Guinea.
(...)

Called the Rainbow Church, members have left their villages to build new
houses and a large building called the "Dark House". The group, headed by a
"principal", believes that on January 1 the world will go dark and all
expatriates will disappear.
(...)

Cargo cults are believed to be a reaction to the materialism of Caucasian
culture that pervaded Melanesia during the past century. They all share a
millennium belief that a mysterious ship or plane will arrive to bring enough
food and goods so that people will no longer have to work.

Some of the cults emerged during World War II, when tonnes of US materials
arrived on remote islands and beaches by ship and plane.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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47. Cultists pose no threat, say police
The Australian, Dec. 31, 1999
http://www.news.com.au/news_content/national_content/4351160.htm
Australian police forces have downplayed the threat of millennium terrorist
attacks, while conceding some members of doomsday cults had been contacted by
authorities.

NSW Police Commissioner Peter Ryan said yesterday his officers had in the
past two months approached people linked to cults that believe the turn of
the century may be the end of the world.

Mr Ryan confirmed some doomsday cultists, linked to groups in Israel, had
been identified in Australia.
(...)

Federal police assessments had determined that Australian members of such
groups posed no direct risk to safety.
(...)

Monitoring of extremist right-wing groups by the Australian Security
Intelligence Organisation also has increased in the wake of threats to
disrupt millennium celebrations in the US.

US authorities have advised the Australian embassy in Washington of groups
they believe may cause disruption.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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48. Minister, wife, and Sunday school teacher once accused of child sex abuse
settle civil rights suit
Court TV, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.courttv.com/trials/news/123099_wenatchee_ap.html
A Pentecostal minister, his wife and a Sunday school teacher who were
acquitted of charges in the 1994-95 Wenatchee child sex cases have settled a
civil rights lawsuit against the state for $850,000.

Four days before the trial was to begin, the Rev. Robert "Roby" Roberson
wrote to supporters Thursday that the amount was "nothing close to what we
were asking for." But, he said, "(we) felt with all of our financial
obligations and debts and attorneys' expenses that this was the prudent thing
to do."
(...)

Because of a paperwork error, the case was split off from a $60 million
civil-rights lawsuit filed by Roberson and others that also included as
defendants Wenatchee police and Douglas County sheriff's office staff.

A jury rejected the civil rights claims after an 11-week trial in Seattle in
1998. That case is now on appeal.
(...)

Twenty-eight Wenatchee-area people were charged with sexually abusing scores
of children. Fourteen pleaded guilty, five were convicted and charges were
dismissed or greatly reduced against six others. The Robersons and Ms. Sims
were acquitted.

In the past 1 1/2 years, more than a dozen of those convicted or who pleaded
guilty have had their cases reviewed by courts or dismissed outright.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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49. [Levi Schneerson]
Yahoo!/Ap, Dec. 30, 1999
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991230/us/religion_briefs_1.html
KBG files on a Ukranian rabbi have been turned over to Lubavitchers, an
ultra-orthodox Jewish group headquartered in Brooklyn.

The files concern Levi Schneerson, who was chief rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk,
Ukraine, until his arrest in 1939 for counterrevolutionary activities -
namely promoting Judaism in the Soviet Union. Schneerson was imprisoned, then
exiled to a remote area of Kazakstan. He was released in 1944 and died a few
months later.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

50. [Beliefnet.com]
Yahoo!/AP, Dec .30, 1999
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/19991230/us/religion_today_1.html
(...) In religion, as in everything else, the World Wide Web is rich with
resources and possibilities. But it's also a creation without form and void,
an infinite maze with material of unknown sponsorship or indeterminate
reliability.

Enter www.beliefnet.com.

The super-site going online this weekend spans all interfaith options. As
devised by chairman Steven Waldman, former national editor of U.S. News &
World Report, the contents are geared especially to seekers who are not
committed to a particular faith.
(...)

Religion is one of the most popular topics on line, but the Web is
"disorganized and mostly driven by sites with particular agendas,'' Waldman
contends. "For a lot of people, that's fine. But we'll be the place that will
bring order in the chaos.''

Mark Kellner, Washington Times computer columnist who is currently updating
his "God on the Internet'' guide, agrees about the chaos. Beliefnet, he
thinks, could mark phase two in online religion, marshaling comprehensive
resources on a nonpartisan basis.

But the thing to watch, Kellner says, is whether Beliefnet's offerings are
truly all-inclusive. Also, he wonders, where will the money come from?
(...)

His curiosity is partly autobiographical. Waldman says he was raised as a
"standard-issue American Reform Jew'' who knew more about gastronomy than
theology. That changed when he married a Presbyterian, two sons came along
and the couple faced what to do about religious upbringing.
(...)

Beliefnet also features dozens of non-staff columnists. Tom Bethel of the
conservative American Spectator handles Catholicism. The Bible columnist,
probably the most ideologically sensitive slot, is Oregon State University's
Marcus Borg, a Jesus Seminar member who says the New Testament Gospels
contain more mythology than history.

Other contributors: Wicca priestess Margot Adler; Harvard theologian Harvey
Cox; Buddhist lama Surya Das; Southern Baptist official Richard Land; author
Jack Miles ("God: A Biography''); radical Episcopal Bishop John Spong; and
noted rabbinical writer Joseph Telushkin.
(...)

Waldman thinks Beliefnet's special aspect will not be those pieces, or its
links to other recommended sites, but community-building. Beliefnet will
offer multicultural message boards, discussion groups, prayer circles,
eulogies and other interactive features.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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51. Banal Death Penalty
International Herald Tribune, Dec. 29, 1999
http://www.iht.com/IHT/TODAY/WED/ED/eddeath.html
and
The Year in Death
Washington Post, Dec. 28, 1999
http://search.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-12/28/000l-122899-idx.html
That the death penalty has again become routine in the United States is clear
from the almost negligible attention that executions now receive. It is also
clear from the ever increasing numbers of executions.
(...)

This is, of course, the outcome that the death penalty's proponents have long
sought.
(...)

Proponents have made amply clear that neither moral objections to the state's
killing someof its citizens nor the possibility of innocent people being put
to death concerns them much.
(...)

The frustrating aspect of this regularizing of executions is that it has
happened even as the fallibility of the criminal justice system has become
ever more evident. In addition to the 98 executions, this past year saw eight
persons freed from death row after having their flawed convictions
overturned. And in the past several years, DNA evidence has sprung dozens of
innocent people from prison.

All of this should make people wary of irreversible punishments such as
death. Nobody can honestly say with confidence that all of the 598 people
executed since the death penalty's re-legalization were guilty. And that begs
the question - the one that advocates of the death penalty are generally
unwilling to address - of what frequency of error one is willing to tolerate
in order to preserve capital punishment.
(...)

The continued expansion of the death penalty in the face of its obvious
failure as a tool of justice is part of a more general failure of imagination
in criminal justice policy under which people prefer toughness to
effectiveness. It is long past time to revisit this principle.
[...more...]