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Religion News Report

January 31, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 161)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Special counsel uses polygraph on Waco commando
2. Agent disputes report on Waco
3. Special counsel seeks tests on Branch Davidian recordings
4. FBI cameras at Waco same as ones used by British military, expert says

=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph
5. Japan to put doomsday cult under surveillance
6. The Asahara Trial: Inoue details VX gas attack
7. Key Events in Japanese Cult History
8. Doomsday Cult Seeks To Soften Image
9. Cult accused in subway gassing offers money to victims
10. AUM kids illegally denied schooling

=== Kaeda Juku & Life Space/Shakty Pat Guru Foundation
11. Cult leaders puzzle police investigators
12. Life Space cult got youngsters to nurse corpse

=== Falun Gong
13. Police foil sect's bid to cover Mao portrait
14. Immigration Department decides against appealing refugee claim

=== Zhong Gong
15. China Moves Against Exercise Group

=== Scientology
16. Senate's printed matter at Scientology
17. Scientology Spy in the Interior Agency?
18. Scientologists not welcome

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
19. Jehovah Witnessing: 'Pioneers' don't seek converts, only a return
to the Bible'

=== Hate Groups
20. Internet a key tool for neo-Nazi activism
21. Hate groups silenced in cyberspace
22. Neo-Nazi Radio Show Taken Off Air
23. An interview with Professor Michael Barkun (on Christian Identity)

=== Karmapa
24. 'Terrible mistake' if India does not let Karmapa stay: Dalai Lama

=== Other News
25. Family under psychiatric watch after talking about leaving Earth
26. Man Charged With Unholy Threat Against Woman
27. Utah House Rejects Special Polygamy Prosecutor
28. House Nixes Bill To Fight Crimes By Polygamists
29. Falwell Sues FBI for Abortion Files
30. Colorful Market of those who promise cures
31. The CSU keeps its "C" (Universal Life)
32. On Welfare and Not Psychic? New York Provides Training
33. New York Drops Psychic Training Program
34. Buddhism Nears Mainstream in U.S., Author Says
35. FCC Changes Course on Religion

=== Interfaith
36. Reviving a Dialogue

=== Noted
37. OK, prove it! Skeptics Society members won't believe a word you say,
unless you've got proof
38. Litigious guru keeps returning for another hug (Deepak Chopra)
39. Self Help U.S.A.




=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Special counsel uses polygraph on Waco commando
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 31, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/24560_WACO31.html
The Waco special counsel, responding to questions about a Delta Force
commando's whereabouts at the end of the Branch Davidian siege, used a
polygraph on him last week to confirm that he wasn't actively involved in the
FBI's assault on the sect's compound, officials said.

The former commando passed the lie-detector test after disputing another
Delta Force soldier's sworn testimony. That soldier said the commando wasn't
seen during the entire six-hour tank-and-tear-gas operation on April 19,
1993, and showed up hours after it ended, red-faced, tired and disheveled,
officials said.
(...)

Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said he was troubled by
the commando's testimony - particularly its conflict with the sworn accounts
of two other Delta Force soldiers.

"This guy is there longer than anyone else from Delta, and he remembers
nothing? He can't remember anyone he talked to, hung out with, saw," Mr.
Caddell said. "The contradiction between his testimony and that of the
previous two soldiers is striking and incredible."
(...)

Suspicions about the role of military commandos in Waco also have been fed by
various differing Pentagon statements about the total number of Delta Force
soldiers who were sent. In October 1993, Congress was told that a total of
three were sent "during the 51 day siege."

A General Accounting Office investigator said last August that a lengthy GAO
audit of military assistance in Waco could not determine the number of
special forces soldiers. The investigator was told five by Pentagon officials
but later found records showing eight were there.

Justice Department lawyers filed court statements last year swearing that 10
special forces soldiers were sent. But Defense Department records include
classified rosters of 14 special forces personnel assigned to Waco duties,
and investigators are still trying to resolve the discrepancies.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Agent disputes report on Waco
Spokane.net/Cox News Service, Jan. 30, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/news-story-body.asp?Date=013000&ID=s737980&cat=
FBI employees dispute the government's official explanation for ripping apart
the Branch Davidians' gym as detailed in the Department of Justice's 1993
report on Mount Carmel, according to depositions taken for the wrongful-death
lawsuit filed by surviving members of the group.

In its report, the Justice Department gave two reasons why a Combat
Engineering Vehicle (CEV) -- described as a modified Patton tank -- tore
through the back of the Davidian compound, causing the gym to partially
collapse.

Escape routes were being opened for Davidians to flee Mount Carmel and the
gym was being opened for the eventual insertion of tear gas, according to the
"Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas: February
28 to April 19, 1993."

But an FBI agent riding in the CEV that plowed through the gym said in a
recent deposition the crew was ordered to try to find a way to get to a tower
at the back of the compound, where supervisors apparently believed the
Davidians had retreated to escape the tear gas.
(...)

The Justice Department did not answer the Waco Tribune-Herald's request for
an explanation of the discrepancy between the testimony of FBI agents and its
report.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Special counsel seeks tests on Branch Davidian recordings
New York Times/Dallas Morning News, Jan. 28, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/23374_WACO28.html
The Waco special counsel's office asked a federal judge Thursday for
permission to perform independent testing on tape recordings made from FBI
surveillance devices on the crucial last day of the 1993 Branch Davidian
siege.

The tests could help resolve whether the tapes now being held by the federal
court in Waco are originals or altered copies - a concern raised last year by
a recording expert hired by lawyers for the sect.

An independent analysis also might help address the question of what could be
heard as the devices broadcast to an FBI command post on April 19, 1993, the
day that the Branch Davidian compound near Waco burned with leader David
Koresh and more than 80 followers inside.

One FBI agent who helped monitor the bugs said in a deposition last month
that little or nothing could be discerned from the surveillance devices
during the last hours of the siege because of poor transmission quality and
background noise.

But a retired Army colonel who was in the FBI's command post as a military
liaison that day told The Dallas Morning News last fall that he clearly heard
voices of Davidians being broadcast by the bugs, including discussions in
which the sect members talked about spreading fuel and setting fires.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. FBI cameras at Waco same as ones used by British military, expert says
Dallas Morning News, jan. 29, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/23926_WACO29.html
A British military expert said Friday that infrared cameras identical to
those used by the FBI in the Branch Davidian siege have been used regularly
by British military forces to identify and record gunfire.

His comments came as U.S. officials were completing negotiations for the use
of a British Royal Navy helicopter and infrared camera for a test in Texas
aimed at determining whether government agents fired guns at the Branch
Davidian compound on April 19, 1993.
(...)

FBI officials have refused to reveal the make or manufacturer of the airborne
infrared camera used at the Branch Davidian compound during the siege. They
have said the information is classified because even the most general details
about their infrared surveillance systems could compromise U.S. law
enforcement operations.

But independent infrared experts have identified the FBI's Waco camera as a
GEC-Marconi made by a British defense firm.
(...)

Justice Department officials initially tried to convince Judge Smith that it
would be impossible to conduct a scientifically valid field test to determine
whether gunfire could have caused the flashes.

They and FBI officials said the Waco camera was one of a kind and had been
altered and upgraded after 1993. But after December negotiations, the special
counsel's office announced that it had learned from the camera's manufacturer
that identical cameras were still being used by a foreign government.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph

5. Japan to put doomsday cult under surveillance
AOL/Reuters, Jan. 31, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=0106&id=2000013105549888
Japanese authorities on Monday decided to put the doomsday cult accused of
the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system under government
surveillance, using new laws aimed at cracking down on the group's
activities.
(...)

The move comes two days after the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which recently changed
its name to ''Aleph,'' announced it will resume activities such as recruiting
new members to raise money to pay compensation to the victims of the nerve
gas attack, which killed 12 and injured thousands. Japan's Public Security
Examination Commission said in a statement on Monday that it had decided to
place Aum under surveillance for three years.

''We find it appropriate to put the group under three years of surveillance
considering the fact that the teachings, nature and reality of the group
appear unlikely to show basic change,'' the commission said.

The cult must now submit a list of its members to authorities. The
commission urged authorities to be careful when implementing the
decision, which takes effect on Tuesday, as it could infringe on the basic
human rights of cult members who are put under surveillance.
(...)

Despite the group's claim that it is implementing reforms and is now a benign
religious group, cult members were implicated in crimes twice this month.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. The Asahara Trial: Inoue details VX gas attack
Japan Times, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news1-2000/news.html#story8
Aum Shinrikyo attacked Hiroyuki Nagaoka, head of an anti-Aum group, with VX
gas in January 1995 because he was "interfering" with Aum's "practice of
truth," a key cult figure testified Friday.

At the time, members of the Aum Shinrikyo Victims' Association, including
Nagaoka and his son, were talking cultists into leaving the cult, Yoshihiro
Inoue said during a Tokyo District Court session in the trial of cult leader
Shoko Asahara.
(...)

On Thursday, Inoue said in Asahara's trial that when he learned a cultist he
and other followers attacked with VX in 1994 had died, he was too preoccupied
with his cult duties for the weight of the crime to sink in.

Inoue told the court that although the killing of Tadahito Hamaguchi was a
serious matter, all he could do was follow the orders given by Asahara and
continue his work as the cult's intelligence chief. "All I could do at the
time was finish the piles of work I had before me; my life at the time was
not reasonable," he claimed.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Key Events in Japanese Cult History
Yahoo/AP, Jan. 28, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000128/wl/contrite_cult__chronology_1.html
Key events in the history of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, accused in the 1995
sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways:

- July 1987: Aum Shinri Kyo is founded by guru Shoko Asahara.

- November 1989: Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a lawyer leading a legal crusade against
Aum, is kidnapped with his wife and baby. Their bodies are later found
buried in the mountains.

- June 1994: Seven people are killed and more than 200 are sickened by nerve
gas in a residential area in Matsumoto, central Japan.

- February 1995: Kiyoshi Kariya, a Tokyo notary public who is trying to
persuade his sister to leave Aum, is abducted and later dies.

- March 1995: Sarin spreads through Tokyo's subways during morning rush
hour, killing 12 and sickening about 5,500. The head of the National
Police Agency is shot and seriously wounded.

- April 1995: Hideo Murai, a top cult official, is fatally stabbed by a
suspected gangster before a crowd of reporters and police.

- May 1995: Asahara is arrested. A letter bomb explodes in Tokyo City Hall,
seriously injuring the governor's aide.

- April 1996: Asahara's trial opens in Tokyo District Court.

- October 1998: Cult official Kazuaki Okazaki is convicted of killing the
Sakamoto family and a cult member who had tried to quit the group. Okazaki
is sentenced to death.

- December 1999: Parliament passes laws designed to rein in Aum. Fumihiro
Joyu, a cult leader who was not charged in the subway gassing, is released
from prison.

- January 2000: Cult changes its name to Aleph.
[...entire item...]


8. Doomsday Cult Seeks To Soften Image
Yahoo/AP, Jan. 28, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000128/wl/japan_contrite_cult__1.html
(...) Trading his religious garb for a suit and tie, Joyu and other cult
members have embarked on a campaign of apologies, vows of reform and
statements distancing themselves from the guru they once worshipped as a
living god. So far, they are generating more fear than sympathy.
(...)

''The public reaction to the cult has been utter rejection,'' said Makoto
Hogetsu, a crime expert and professor of sociology at Kyoto University.
''People see their overtures as camouflage.''

Though the cult has never stopped functioning, Joyu's return has greatly
increased worries that it may enjoy a resurgence.
(...)

With the cult's other leaders still in prison or on trial, Joyu appears to be
filling the leadership vacuum. He has denied taking over the helm, but
shortly after his release, he announced a need for ''fundamental reform.''

That included removing Asahara as guru. While insisting that Asahara was
spiritually ''a genius,'' Joyu acknowledged the old leadership, including
Asahara, was responsible for the gassing.
(...)

Though a shadow of its former self - the cult now has about 2,000 members in
Japan, down from the 10,000 it claimed before the attack - it has been
regaining strength.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Cult accused in subway gassing offers money to victims
Boston.com/AP stream, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.boston.com/dailynews/029/world/Cult_accused_in_subway_gassing:.shtml
As part of its campaign to clean up its image, the cult accused in the 1995
nerve-gas attack on Tokyo subways offered Saturday to pay $186,900 a year as
compensation to the victims.

Tatsuko Muraoka, who replaced Shoko Asahara as guru of the Aum Shinri Kyo
cult this month, said several tens of thousands of dollars will be paid to
the victims immediately.
(...)

Aum, which recently changed its name to Aleph, also said it will start a
personal computer company and transfer all proceeds into a victims fund.
(...)

The cult's recent expressions of contrition, however, have been received with
deep skepticism by the Japanese public not only because of its timing but
also because the cult has not opened its books.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. AUM kids illegally denied schooling
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news06.html
The education board here admitted Friday that it illegally denied children of
a convicted AUM Shinrikyo executive places in a public school - but said
regardless, it will not let the kids attend class.
(...)

"Our action clearly infringed on the School Education Law," an official of
the board, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted. "But we'll stick with
our policy, as we cannot allow the twins' entry to disrupt other children's
education," the offical added.
(...)

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Department's Public Security Division
raided six cult-related locations Friday on suspicion that the address of a
telephone answering service company had been falsely registered in April
1996.

The searches were a part of investigations into the cult's computer
businesses that authorities estimate to have an annual turnover of 6 billion
yen.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Kaeda Juku & Life Space/Shakty Pat Guru Foundation

11. Cult leaders puzzle police investigators
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0129cr12.htm
More than a week has passed since two mummified bodies were discovered at the
headquarters of the Kaedajuku cult in Miyazaki on Jan. 20, but two cult
leaders who have been arrested continue to puzzle investigators with their
incomprehensible remarks and strange behavior.

In light of prolonged investigations into a similar case involving the
"self-enlightenment" group Life Space in Chiba Prefecture, police authorities
are warning against illegal activities not only of the Aum Supreme Truth
cult, which recently changed its name to Aleph, but also smaller cults.

Junichiro Higashi, 55, and Akemi Togashi, 49, who were arrested on suspicion
of abandoning the bodies of a 6-year-old boy and an infant, told police they
were "channeling resurrection energy" to the two children after they had
died. According to police, the pair also offer incomprehensible explanations
for their actions that give investigators headaches.
(...)

Calling himself "the creator's proxy," Higashi tried to use mysticism to
recruit members into his religion, which comprises elements of several
religions, including Christianity, Taoism and Shintoism. Wooden boxes called
"wave creators" were found at the cult's headquarters, along with windmills
that the cult claimed could send spirits.
(...)

Investigations into Life Space have been prolonged as group members continue
to claim that a mummified body found in the cult's possession remained alive
even after police searched facilities connected with the group.

Life Space guru Koji Takahashi, 61, has maintained that Shinichi Kobayashi,
66, from Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, was brought to a hotel near Narita
airport to receive treatment--which consisted of having his head stroked by
the guru. Takahashi claims he administered the treatment in accordance with
"the only established theory approved by the academic world." Takahashi also
claims that Kobayashi was alive until police conducted an autopsy on his
mummified body.

Therefore, police are having difficulties establishing that the guru was
aware he was giving up his responsibility of trying to keep Kobayashi alive
or that he was abandoning the body--two key points necessary to establish a
charge of abandoning a body against Takahashi.
(...)

Takahashi and his followers have since moved to a hotel in Oaraimachi,
Ibaraki Prefecture, and continue cult activities such as preparing
publications and updating the group's Internet Web site.

Meanwhile, Kobayashi's bereaved family members, who believed Kobayashi was
alive even after his body began to decompose, traveled to the United States
earlier this month to file a case before an unidentified international
institution against the Chiba prefectural police for alleged violations of
international laws.

Masaki Kito, a lawyer and expert on cult issues, said antisocial groups that
did not hesitate to commit crimes against the general public could develop
into "destructive cults" like Aum Supreme Truth. Kito added that Kaedajuku
and Life Space might become destructive if they remain unmonitored.

"Such cases are the result of the failure of systems to protect children and
the human rights of cult members even following the arrests of Aum members,"
Kito said. "I think an increasing number of similar cases will occur in the
future."

Sadao Asami, a former divinity professor at Tohoku Gakuin University who
studies cults, said new religions and self-enlightenment groups were popular
among young people who wanted to change their lives or were searching for
spiritual fulfillment.

"Antisocial cults are always founded by fraudulent people," Asami said. "With
small cults in particular, few leading members try to dissuade founders (from
taking certain actions) and because the activities of such groups are
conducted behind closed doors, it is possible for something unthinkable to
happen. "Cults may have different names, but they are the same in essence."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Life Space cult got youngsters to nurse corpse
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news08.html
Mummy-making cult Life Space used its child members to "nurse" the mummified
body of a man the cult claimed was undergoing treatment, the Mainichi has
learned.

The children, a boy and eight girls aged 9 to 17, were found during raids on
the facilities of Shakty Pat Guru Foundation (SPGF), following the discovery
of the mummy of a 61-year-old man at a hotel room in Narita in November last
year.

While the guru of the cult, former accountant Koji Takahashi, "treated" the
body by allegedly sending it his spiritual power, the eight girls were
reportedly taken from the facilities to the Narita hotel to tend the mummy
from the summer of 1999 until the body's discovery in mid-November.

"The girls told us that they wiped the mummy clean and changed the linen to
nurse the body," said an official of the Tokyo care home where the children
were taken following the discovery of the body.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

13. Police foil sect's bid to cover Mao portrait
South China Morning Post, Jan 29, 2000
http://www.scmp.com/News/China/Article/FullText_asp_ArticleID-20000129154436523.asp
Police thwarted an attempt by members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect to hang
a giant portrait of their guru over the painting of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen
Square, a human rights group said on Saturday.

In what would have been a supreme insult to the central government six months
after it banned Falun Gong as an ''evil cult'', 16 followers tried to cover
Mao with the portrait of US-based sect founder Li Hongzhi on January 24, said
the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Immigration Department decides against appealing refugee claim
Calgary Herald (Canada), Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.southam.com/calgaryherald/newsnow/cpfs/national/000129/n012904.html
The Immigration Department has withdrawn its application to appeal a decision
to grant refugee status to a Chinese migrant who claimed membership in the
persecuted Falun Gong religious sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Zhong Gong

15. China Moves Against Exercise Group
AOl/AP, Jan. 31, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=2000013102563750
China has declared a meditation-exercise sect to be an ''evil cult'' and
ordered its suppression, expanding a crackdown that began with the Falun Gong
spiritual movement, an official and a rights group reported today.

Zhong Gong would be the second offshoot of a traditional health practice
known as qigong to be banned since a protest by 10,000 Falun Gong followers
in April provoked worry among China's communist leaders about the popularity
of the groups.

Like Falun Gong, Zhong Gong has attracted huge numbers of followers,
including senior government officials. The unfolding crackdown against Zhong
Gong, as described by a Hong Kong-based human rights group, appears to apply
many of the tactics used in the early stages of the campaign against Falun
Gong.
(...)

Zhong Gong founder, Zhang Hongbao, has gone into hiding to avoid arrest, but
police have started confiscating the assets of his Qilin Group, a
conglomerate based in the port city of Tianjin, the center said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

16. Senate's printed matter at Scientology
Die Welt (Germany), Jan. 28, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000128b.htm
A printed document classified as "secret" which primarily dealt with
evaluation of the Scientology sect is at the center of an investigation by
Internal Affairs ["Dienststelle Interne Ermittlung" (DIE)]. The approximately
one and a half year old document has now fallen into the hands of the sect.
It was allegedly sent anonymously to Scientology. Internal Affairs took the
case a week ago. The police are supposed to let the authorities know who made
the document available to the sect.
(...)

The main source of puzzlement is that the document is an older, superceded
version. "It is an exact copy of one of the original versions which was
modified and redone many times. If there were actually a spy in the Interior
Agency, he would have gotten the most recent document on the topic," said an
unnamed source from investigative circles.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Scientology Spy in the Interior Agency?
Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany), Jan. 27, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000127a.htm
There is a nagging suspicion that in the Hamburg Interior Agency, of all
places, there is a Scientologist, or at least a sympathizer of the
controversial organization. The fact is: the sect had access to a paper
classified as "secret"; it was part of a proposed Senate document for
Interior Senator Hartmuth Wrocklage and State Advisor Wolfgang Prill.

The 20 page document did not only contain assessments on Scientology, but
also had description of other "sects, psycho-groups and destructive cults,"
as it said. The purpose of the document was apparently to extend the mission
of the Work Group on Scientology, directed by Ursula Caberta, to other
groups, as well as to review possible cooperation with Schleswig-Holstein in
the area.

When asked how a "secret" agency document could have gotten into her hands,
Hamburg's Scientology President Gisela Hackenjos stated that the papers were
sent to her anonymously by mail. By admitting to that she has demonstrated
how far the long arm of Scientology had reached into the apparatus of
government. Investigating, discrediting and shaking up opponents are all part
of the way Scientology does business. "Perhaps someone wanted to bring the
Work Group on Scientology's expansion to our attention," said Hackenjos. She
cannot imagine that a kindred spirit is working in the agency. Right down to
the police ("they are always very nice") people "are not at all well-disposed
to us," she said.
(...)

However this solves the problem the Hamburg State Office for Information
Technology had with the new Windows 2000 computer operating system. As
reported, there were fears that the the "Diskeeper" defragmentation program,
which is part of the system and which originates from a US American
Scientology company, could tap into the flow of data in the Hamburg
government apparatus.

Although Windows provider, Microsoft, has now confirmed in writing that this
danger is not associated with the component in question, it will not be
installed, stated Renate Mitterhuber, spokesman for the Revenue Office. In
doing this they are in keeping with the political proposal in which the city
will not do business with Scientologists. (scho)
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Scientologists not welcome
Goettinger Tageblatt (Germany), Jan. 26, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000126a.htm
Members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce have elected a new board.
(...)

In a modification to their charter, the members of the junior chamber of
commerce spoke out against Scientology and the teachings of its founder, L.
Ron Hubbard. This modification was said to have been necessary because
members of the junior chamber of commerce in Hamburg "had fallen into the
crosshairs of the organization." The Junior Chambers of Commerce consist of
businesses and management nationwide who maintain contact with the regional
economy and address current issues of business management. Its program
includes presentations, operational reviews and seminars.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Jehovah's Witnesses

19. Jehovah Witnessing: 'Pioneers' don't seek converts, only a return to the
Bible'
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/jan/01292000/religion/religion.htm
Rain drizzles from a gray sky and the air has turned suddenly chilly, but the
Jehovah's Witnesses distributing their literature in a Sandy neighborhood are
undaunted. "We are unpaid volunteers from a charitable organization,"
Sister Pat Smith tells the first woman, hugging a toddler to her hip as she
opens the door.
(...)

All in all, it is a successful morning for Smith and a pair of male
"pioneers" who devote at least 70 hours a month to this door-to-door effort.
No slammed doors, no screamed profanities, no unpleasant arguing. Which is
good, Smith hastens to say, because these pioneers are not seeking converts
to their church, only a return to the Bible. And Bible study is at the heart
of the Jehovah's Witnesses' belief and practice.
(...)

Today the church has more than six million members worldwide, with about
4,500 in Utah's 35 Jehovah's Witnesses congregations.
(...)

The church, believing itself to be a restoration of first-century
Christianity, rejects the creeds of traditional Christianity subscribed to by
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and most Protestant groups. The idea of the
Trinity, or three-person deity including God the Father, Jesus Christ and the
Holy Spirit, common to most Christians, was "developed from pagan sources,"
they believe.
(...)

But unlike the carefully scripted message of Mormon missionaries, the
Witnesses' field service workers adapt their approach for every listener.
"If I see a Virgin Mary statue, I know they are probably Catholic," she says.
"I might talk about the Lord's prayer."
(...)

They also refer frequently to a book prepared by the Watch Tower Bible
Society called, Reasoning from the Scriptures, which provides hints on how to
approach various topics and to respond to "conversation stoppers" like "I'm
not interested," or "I have my own religion," "We are already Christians
here," or "I'm busy."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Jehovah's Witnesses is a pseudo-Christian movement. Theologically, it is
a cult of Christianity


=== Hate Groups

20. Internet a key tool for neo-Nazi activism
New Jersey Online/AP Stream, Jan. 27, 2000
http://wire.nj.com/cgi-bin/nj_nview.pl?/home1/wire/AP/
Stream-Parsed/INTERNATIONAL/a0693_AM_HolocaustConference
The Internet has given neo-Nazis a dangerous tool to spread racist propaganda
around the world, a top Swiss official told a Holocaust conference Thursday.

Switzerland's home affairs minister, Ruth Dreifuss, urged international
cooperation to prevent the transmission of racist theories, hatred and
discrimination across national borders.
(...)

Dreifuss said international experts would propose to include the subject at
the World Conference on Racism next year in South Africa.
(...)

Dreifuss did not offer details about her proposal, but Switzerland already
has begun work on the initiative, persuading some Internet providers to block
access for some racist groups, said Lukas Beglinger, a minister in the Swiss
Foreign Affairs department. The efforts so far have been easily circumvented,
he said.

U.S. envoy Stuart Eizenstat said that freedom of speech issues would prevent
the United States from passing a law against racist activity on the Internet,
but that hate groups could be monitored for "planning destructive activity."
(...)

The Swedish government organized the forum, which included panel discussions
and remembrance ceremonies, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about
the World War II Holocaust among young people.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Hate groups silenced in cyberspace
MSNBC, Jan. 27, 2000
http://www.msnbc.com/local/WNBC/661218.asp
Hate sites have proliferated across the Internet, allowing anyone to link to
hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and others dedicated to passing off
misinformation and hatred. One Long Island company got smart, and decided to
purchase a number of Web site addresses – effectively keeping them out of the
hands of white supremacists.

Type in www.swastikas.com into a Web browser and you’ll see something rather
unexpected – pages and pages of information dedicated to preventing hate and
bias crimes. It’s just one of the domain names that Bias Help of Long Island
purchased Tuesday.

The purchases were made after a proliferation of hate sites were posted on
the Internet during the '90s. To counteract hate groups' presence in
cyberspace, Bias Help bought up the domain names swastikas.com, klansmen.com,
crossburning.com and whitesupremacists.com. Now anyone who tries to reach
those sites will automatically be routed to BiasHelp.org.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Neo-Nazi Radio Show Taken Off Air
The Guardian/AP stream (England), Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/Breaking_News/International/0,3561,629873,00.html
A Berlin court ruled Wednesday that a public access radio station could take
a neo-Nazi radio program off the air because it violated laws against hate
speech.
(...)

On Wednesday, Berlin's administrative court ruled that an Oct. 29 show
violated laws in Germany's constitution banning hate speech because it aired
a song from a banned neo-Nazi music group.

Neo-Nazi sentiment has grown in Germany in the wake of unification in 1990,
especially in the former communist East, which experts say is partially due
to high joblessness.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. An interview with Professor Michael Barkun
Hate Watch, Jan. 26, 2000
http://hatewatch.org/interviews/Prof.html
Audio (Real Player):
http://www.hatewatch.org/ra/barkun.ram
We are very pleased to present Professor Michael Barkun, who is the professor
of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
at Syracuse University. Professor Barkun is author of several books
including, "Religion and the Racist Right, Origins of the Christian Identity
Movement". Professor Barkun is considered an expert in the Christian Identity
Theology which is prevalent among many right wing extremis groups.
(...)

HW: "At HateWatch we have noticed that many of the online racists are
experimenting with Christian Identity and other racist ideologies in an
almost playful way. Some of these racists have in fact begun to quilt
together different aspects of Christian Identity with National Socialism and
even parts of the Klan traditions to form their own new racist systems. Do
you think that the Internet is having an impact on the evolution of Christian
Identity or is there an evolving of Christian Identity occurring?"

MB: "Well I think there are two things going on. One is that the Internet
greatly accelerates the process of change within the radical right generally
and within Christian Identity in particular. It enables ideas to spread far
more rapidly and doctrines to under go permutations much more rapidly. The
other thing that has to be born in mind is because Christian Identity is such
a fragmented, decentralized religious community if one wants to call it that,
there is no way of enforcing doctrinal conformity or orthodoxy. In other
words there is no organization, or individual, or group of individuals, who
are out there and can say of some particular preacher or writer, your version
of Christian Identity is the wrong one, or your version of Christian Identity
is heretical. Everyone is on an equal footing and because the movement is
broken up in to these dozens and dozens of small churches and bible study
groups there are tremendous potentials for rapid doctrinal change and for
bringing into Christian Identity elements that come out of other ideological
and religious sources. There is where you get mixtures of Christian Identity
and neo-nazism. You get mixtures of Christian Identity with Klan symbolism.
So that sort of syncretic religion or syncretic religio-political activity
has been a hallmark of Christian Identity virtually from its beginnings. But
I think that the mutations are occurring much more rapidly now than they did
before, largely because of technological innovations of the Internet. By the
way, that makes it very difficult to predict where the movement is going. Its
capable of changing very quickly."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Religion and the Racist Right : The Origins of the Christian Identity
Movement
By Michael Barkun
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807846384/christianministrOff-site Link (paper)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807823287/christianministrOff-site Link (hard)


=== Karmapa

24. 'Terrible mistake' if India does not let Karmapa stay: Dalai Lama
Sri Lanka Daily News/AFP, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.lanka.net/lakehouse/2000/01/29/for01.html
The Dalai Lama has warned India it would be making a "terrible mistake" if it
did not allow a teenaged high lama who fled Tibet to remain here.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's warning regarding the 14-year-old
Karmapa lama was contained in a letter dated January 18 and released to the
press here Friday.
(...)

The Dalai Lama admitted an internal rift within the Karmapa's Kagyu sect had
"complicated" the situation. One faction of the Kagyu lineage recognises
another boy as the "true" Karmapa, and is bitterly opposed to the new arrival
-- recognised by Beijing and the Dalai Lama -- being enthroned at the sect's
headquarters at the Rumtek monastery in northern Sikkim state.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

25. Family under psychiatric watch after talking about leaving Earth
CNN/AP stream, Jan. 30, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/01/30/cult.custody.ap/index.html
A family of six was under psychiatric observation after telling neighbors
they planned to leave Earth -- and then piling trash and their belongings in
the center of their living room, authorities said.
(...)

The neighbor told police the family had made doomsday predictions, believing
the end of the world was coming, Rasso said. "They said they would leave
this Earth at midnight and as soon as God took them, their goods that were
piled up would catch on fire," Rasso said.

After police arrived, the father, 38-year-old Charles Brown, awoke from a
trance-like state, Rasso said.
(...)

Police said neighbors and a relative indicated the family belonged to a cult,
but it was not clear what group they claimed to be affiliated with.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Man Charged With Unholy Threat Against Woman
APBnews, Jan. 27, 2000
http://www.apbnews.com/newscenter/breakingnews/2000/01/27/priest0127_01.html
A man claiming to be a Catholic priest is accused of taking an elderly
woman's money after threatening her with damnation, officials said today.
(...)

The woman, who struck up a friendship with Welsh at a local chapel in 1994,
told police he stole more than $500 from her during a weeklong visit and said
she "would be held accountable by God on Judgment Day" if she did not
financially support him.
(...)

Welsh has documents showing he was ordained by an Argentinian bishop who has
since been excommunicated, prosecutors said. But the credential is not valid
to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which noted he belongs to the
Immaculate Heart of Mary on Manomin Avenue -- a breakaway church neither
they, the Vatican or the National Catholic Conference of Bishops recognizes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Utah House Rejects Special Polygamy Prosecutor
APBnews/AP, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.apbnews.com/newscenter/breakingnews/2000/01/28/polygamy0128_01.html
Utah lawmakers have voted down a bill that would have established a special
prosecutor to investigate abuse and fraud in polygamous communities.

The House bill, killed by a vote of 28-43 Thursday, would have allocated
$200,000 to hire a special prosecutor to probe crimes of welfare and tax
fraud, as well as domestic and sexual abuse in polygamous societies.

The bill's sponsor, Salt Lake City Republican Ron Bigelow, said investigators
are needed because polygamist societies generally are secretive, making
uncovering crime difficult.
(...)

Opponents argued the measure targeted an entire group of people based on
their religious beliefs.
(...)

There are an estimated 25,000 people living in polygamy in Utah, many of whom
trace their beliefs back to fundamental Mormonism. Mainstream Mormonism has
disavowed the practice.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. House Nixes Bill To Fight Crimes By Polygamists
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/jan/01282000/legislat/legislat.htm
(...) "Don't think this is prosecuting polygamy -- it is not," said
sponsoring Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City. Instead, he said, House
Bill 62 targets "those who are using the guise of polygamy, religion or
anything else they might think up to perpetrate crimes."

But the bill was defeated on a 43-28 vote. While the legislation might
not have been aimed at cracking down on polygamy -- labeled by some as Utah's
"dirty little secret" -- many lawmakers opposed it on grounds it was unfairly
singling out polygamists.

Rep. David Zolman, R-Taylorsville, complained about a decades-old "witch
hunt" against polygamists. He urged an alternative approach to getting those
closed societies to open up to the outside world -- "amnesty" and
decriminalization of plural marriage. Zolman has become the Legislature's
lead spokesman for removing the Utah Constitution's prohibition on polygamy,
and also has promoted the idea of an official state apology for past
law-enforcement raids on polygamous enclaves.
(...)

Some scholars have estimated between 20,000 and 40,000 polygamists reside in
the Western United States, most of them in Utah. The Mormon church embraced
plural marriage until 1890, when it officially disavowed the practice.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Falwell Sues FBI for Abortion Files
APBnews/AP, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.apbnews.com/media/gfiles/2000/01/28/falwell0128_01.html
While J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, the organization kept a file on nearly
everyone from Frank Sinatra to Eleanor Roosevelt and not always for law
enforcement purposes. Most believed that practice died with the former
director, but according to a lawsuit filed recently against the president and
the FBI by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the conservative group Judicial Watch,
it continues.

The lawsuit, which stems from several denials of Freedom of Information Act
and Privacy Act requests, charges that the FBI, at the behest of the Clinton
administration, has been maintaining a database -- called VA-AP-CON, for
Violence Against Abortion Providers -- to monitor abortion opponents that
have no connection with abortion clinic violence.

The suit also states that the White House, through the FBI, has been using
the information to "smear and destroy" the reputations of Falwell and other
abortion opponents.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the plaintiff's attorney and the son of the televangelist,
told APBnews.com that the database was set up under the guise of monitoring
violence against abortion providers, but in reality has been used to monitor
the president's foes outside a law enforcement capacity.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Colorful Market of those who promise cures
Main Rheiner (Germany), Jan. 28, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000128a.htm
"The more rational the world, the more emotional the person" - Reverend
Wolfgang Piechota believes that this old saying is reinforced by the
exhibition on "Sects, Spirits and Miracle Healers," which can be seen
starting February 4 in the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer building.
(...)

The exhibition in the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer building, which is being put on by
the speaker for Evangelical Schools in conjunction with the Evangelical
Church's Sect and Worldview Commissioner in Rheinland, shows all sorts of
sects and movement which make promises of salvation, eternal health or other
remedies. Satanism and doomsday cults are presented as are fundamental groups
of the two Christian churches. Informational boards document the entire
bandwidth of occult, para-psychological and esoteric phenomenon.

"We are trying to approach different ways of thought with curiosity and a
preparedness for dialogue," emphasized Reverend Wolfgang Piechota, school
speaker of the Evangelical Church of Nahe and Glan at the opening of the
exhibit. Superintendent Hartmut Eigemann also stressed that the church is not
interested in opposing other ways of thinking. "The exhibition is meant
solely to provide help in orientation and ability to evaluate."
(...)

A number of school classes have already scheduled visits. For people who have
been affected by such groups, literature is provided which lists where they
can get help.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. The CSU keeps its "C"
Nuernberger Zeitung (Germany), Jan. 26, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000126c.htm
The CSU may continue to call itself "Christian." Yesterday Wuerzburg State
Court turned down a complaint in which the political party would have been
forced to delete the word "Christian" from its name.

The civil trial was alleged to have addressed the character rights of Jesus
Christ. The court determined that this right could only be asserted by the
"rights holder himself" or by people designated by him or closely related to
him after his death." Spiritual relationship alone would not suffice (file
number 61 O 1203/99).

The complainants - three former theologians of the Catholic and Evangelical
Church who support the "Universal Life" (UL) sect - viewed Jesus Christ's
character rights as being violated by the CSU. By supporting the NATO attacks
on Yugoslavia, it was said that the party was using "false labelling,"
according to the attorney. It was said that a Christian political party which
supported war as an alternative should not be allowed to use the name of
Jesus Christ, who preached non-violence. The presiding judge countered with
the statement, "It's not up to us to decide who the true Christians are."
[...entire item...]


32. On Welfare and Not Psychic? New York Provides Training
New York Times, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/00/01/28/news/national/regional/ny-welfare-psychic.html
Late at night, when testimonials to "incredible psychics" flash across the
television screen, the $4.99-a-minute soothsayer standing by the phone to
"actually solve your problems" could be a welfare recipient recruited,
screened and coached for the job by New York City.

The city's welfare department has been recruiting welfare recipients to work
from home as telephone psychics since April. Fifteen people have been hired
so far by a company called Psychic Network, said Ruth Reinecke, a spokeswoman
for the Human Resources Administration.

Clairvoyance is not among the qualifications listed on the city's recruitment
flier. Any public assistance recipient with a high school equivalency degree,
"a caring and compassionate personality" and the ability "to read, write and
speak English" can qualify for Psychic Network's "minimum starting salary of
$10 per hour, plus bonuses," the flier says.
(...)

"What if I'm not a psychic?" a caller to Business Link asked.

"They'll train you," the city employee who answered the telephone replied.
Ms. Reinecke said that applicants were trained to read tarot cards by a
representative from Psychic Network at the city's Business Link office on
West 34th Street.
(...)

Investigators typically reacted with disbelief to New York City's
welfare-to-work psychic venture, but an enforcement official with the Federal
Communications Commission, where 40 percent of all complaints concern psychic
pay-per-call operations, laughed uncontrollably, then begged for anonymity.

Self-described "genuine psychics" were not amused. "That is totally a scam,"
said the manager at Abracadabra Productions Ltd., a small Manhattan company
that lists tarot, astrology, palmistry, Turkish coffee and tea leaves on its
Web site. "Genuine psychics study for years," she said, refusing to give her
full name. "The city should not be doing this. It's shameful."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. New York Drops Psychic Training Program
New York Times, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/00/01/29/news/national/regional/ny-welfare-psychic.html
Nine months after New York City began recruiting welfare recipients to work
from home as telephone psychics, city officials decided that there was no
future in it.

Yesterday, Jason A. Turner, commissioner of the city's Human Resources
Administration, announced the end of the city's arrangement with a company
calling itself Psychic Network.
(...)

The decision to part company with the Psychic Network came on the same day
that an article on the arrangement was published in The New York Times.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Buddhism Nears Mainstream in U.S., Author Says
New York Times - Religion Journal, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/00/01/29/news/national/religion-journal.html
(...) But these days -- after a long increase in native-born converts and an
influx of hundreds of thousands of Asian immigrants who have established
their own temples -- it may be worth asking whether Buddhism has become much
more a part of America's increasingly pluralistic religious mainstream.

That question was put to Richard Hughes Seager, an associate professor of
religious studies at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and the author of a
new book, "Buddhism in America,"Off-site Link published by Columbia University Press, that
is part of a series of concise but detailed studies of religion in the United
States.

In an interview, Professor Seager said he thought Buddhism in this country
could no longer be described as an "alternative" faith primarily attracting
seekers. "If you go through the immigrant communities," he said, "you're
going to find people who really want mainstream status, who are working hard
to get it."

Given how decentralized and varied Buddhist groups are in the United States,
comprising different traditions and ethnic groups, it is not easy to know how
many practitioners there are. Professor Seager said research suggested that
two million was a safe estimate, with immigrants outnumbering converts 3 to
1. (If that is the case, then there are nearly as many Buddhists in this
country as there are Episcopalians.)

But if immigrants are the majority, the popular literature on Buddhism is
written by converts.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. FCC Changes Course on Religion
Yahoo/AP, Jan. 29, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000129/pl/religious_broadcasting_9.html
Federal regulators have undone a controversial decision that had sparked a
storm of protest from the nation's religious broadcasters and Republican
lawmakers. The Federal Communications Commission reversed its determination
that certain religious programming could not count as educational.

The FCC's original action, though affecting only a limited number of
religious broadcasters, had prompted complaints that regulators were trying
to control the content of religious TV. A lawmaker introduced legislation
this week that would have undone the FCC's order. On Friday, the
commissioners, in a 4-1 vote, undid it themselves.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith

36. Reviving a Dialogue
New York Times - Religion Journal, Jan. 29, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/00/01/29/news/national/religion-journal.html
(...) The past year proved an important one for Christian churches reaching
major ecumenical agreements.
(...)

An unusual note in interfaith relations was struck this month in Los Angeles
when a Roman Catholic priest, a Mormon bishop, the rabbis at a Conservative
synagogue and the head of an Islamic center decided that they would sponsor a
billboard at a busy intersection, Santa Monica and Westwood Boulevards.

In a variation of a famous phrase by René Descartes, the 17th-century French
philosopher and scientist, the sign proclaims: "I think, therefore I pray."

Rabbi Sherre Zwelling, one of the rabbis at Sinai Temple, said the idea was
to promote interfaith cooperation. She said those participating "would love
to see" the idea reach beyond Los Angeles.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

37. OK, prove it! Skeptics Society members won't believe a word you say,
unless you've got proof
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 28, 2000
http://www.latimes.com/communities/news/san_gabriel_valley/20000128/tsg0000266.html
(...) Unbelievers, anti-believers, semi-believers and recovering believers
will gather among both science lovers and skeptics of the skeptics for a
lecture by Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand entitled, "Too Good to be True: Urban
Legends, Myths and Folklore." Brunvand, who is credited for inventing the
study of urban legends, will discuss 20 years of research tracing the roots
and courses of myths like alligators in the sewers and pets in microwaves,
Shermer said.
(...)

Shermer, an adjunct professor at Occidental College, is publisher and
editor-in-chief of "Skeptic," a quarterly publication sampling some of the
most thought-provoking topics of our time like an all-you-can-digest
smorgasbord of existential dissection. The magazine, which reaches
approximately 40,000 readers, makes a science of science, deconstructing
such epidemics as everything from basic faith to little green men on Mars and
deflating wives tales, paranormal fantasy and superstition.

Shermer said he targets the issues and theories that are the most
controversial but he does make an effort to be a little more sensitive
towards issues of religion.
(...)

"I used to be a born-again Christian. Now you could say I'm a born-again
atheist. But they are both articles of faith, so the correct term would be to
say that I'm nontheistic, because a belief that there is no God is not the
same as to have no belief in God."
(...)

The Skeptic Society lecture begins at 2 p.m. and is located at Baxter
Lecture Hall. Members of the Skeptics Society attend for $5, $8 for
nonmembers. Literature and memberships can be purchased at the lecture.
Shermer also hosts "Science Talk," every Wednesday on KPCC 89.3 FM radio. For
more information, check out the organization's Web site at
http://www.skeptic.com/


38. Litigious guru keeps returning for another hug
San Diego Union-Tribune, Jan. 18, 2000 (Column)
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/utarchives/cgi/idoc.cgi?522795
Can't you feel your ageless spirit being rocked upon the cosmos' timeless
bosom? Can't you glimpse your monogrammed beach towel on the beaches of
ecstasy? Can't you, in other words, feel the warm embrace of Deepak Chopra's
lawyers?
(...)

After filing a $35 million libel suit against The Weekly Standard and the
New York Post, Chopra termed it "an act of love meant to lift them to a
higher state of awareness, accountability and respectability."

That was many lawsuits ago, in 1997, but Chopra remains a hopeless
romantic. Last week, after a San Diego Superior Court jury ash-canned his
suit against a former employee -- he had claimed that she had tried to
blackmail him -- the New Age apostle of mind-body healing revealed that his
ardor has not cooled. "Maybe it is my karma to dismantle the corruption in
the San Diego judicial system," he said.
(...)

Last year, a former Newport Beach psychotherapist expressed her affection
with a $100 million lawsuit, charging Chopra with lifting portions of her
unpublished manuscript for his "Seven Spiritual Laws of Success."

In 1997, professor Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University biologist,
leveled similar charges against another Chopra work. The case was settled
with both parties issuing a joint statement:

"Dr. Deepak Chopra acknowledges that in the original printing of 'Ageless
Body, Timeless Mind' it would have been helpful and appropriate to identify
the substantial contributions to the field of stress research made by
Professor Robert Sapolsky and his influence on Dr. Chopra's work. Dr.
Chopra and his publisher will include in any future printings of 'Ageless
Body, Timeless Mind' an attribution to Professor Sapolsky for his
contributions . . . "
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Self Help U.S.A.
Newsweek (International Edition), Jan. 10, 2000
http://newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/int/sr/a50819-2000jan3.htm
10 steps to a better millennium: If you are determined to keep your New
Year's resolutions, the booming self-improvement industry is raring to help.
But as gurus turn to the Net and other slick marketing tactics, skeptics
wonder if group hugs really do lead to a better life.
(...)

Since Colonial times, Americans have devoured "success literature," those
pragmatic guides to a better life from authors including Ben Franklin, Dale
Carnegie and Covey. Today they're called self-help books, and they constitute
a $563 million-a-year publishing juggernaut. Books are just one avenue to a
brand-new you. From seminars to CDs to "personal coaching," the
self-improvement industry rakes in $2.48 billion a year, according to the
research firm Marketdata Enterprises, which predicts double-digit annual
growth through 2003.

An opportunist band of self-help celebrities is riding that wave, building
empires based on the proposition that its approach can change lives. With
slick marketing and growing acceptance by mainstream Americans, authors like
Covey, Anthony Robbins and John Gray are amassing fortunes that rival those
of Hollywood moguls.

Their rising popularity raises two essential questions: who buys this stuff,
and does it really work? Researchers say female baby boomers are the biggest
customers, but self-help seminars are populated by all races, ages and
professions. Many adherents are well educated, hold good jobs and lead lives
that appear pretty fulfilling. But something's missing. Gurus and followers
alike cite the same forces.
(...)

For up-and-coming gurus, entrenched stars like Robbins and Covey can make
this a tough industry to enter.
(...)

That restraint is noble, but gurus who diversify build bigger empires.
Consider John Gray, the former Hindu monk who wrote "Men Are From Mars, Women
Are From Venus," a book on how the genders communicate differently. Today he
pontificates on everything from sex to parenting to all-round success. On a
recent Saturday at his "Personal Success" seminar, the synergies are
apparent. Nearly 300 fans crowd a Virginia hotel ballroom (admission: $199).
Much of the session consists of Gray's recycling tales from his books. Later
in the afternoon Gray dims the lights and orders participants to pair up,
hold hands and pretend to speak to their fathers. They weep over childhood
slights as assistants pass out tissues. During breaks, participants crowd
tables to buy books and tapes.
(...)

Helping couples is a nice niche, but lately spiritual self-help has become
the industry's real growth segment. That genre's rising star, Iyanla Vanzant,
explains why: "People have lost faith in each other," she says.
(...)

Despite booming business, there will always be nonbelievers. Unlike
pharmaceuticals, gurus have no laboratory test offering definitive proof of
their effectiveness. But some mental-health professionals are surprisingly
upbeat about their usefulness. In "The Authoritative Guide to Self-Help
Resources in Mental Health" (Guilford Publications. Summer 2000), 2,500
psychologists rated a mountain of change-your-life material. Their
conclusion: roughly two thirds of titles are beneficial. They give high marks
to Covey, but give down arrows to others, including titles by Gray and Deepak
Chopra. "There's a lot of crap out there," says psychologist Norcross, one of
six coauthors. But in a world with drugs, hijackings and school shootings,
how much damage can advice about time management or relationships really do?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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