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Religion News Report

June 13, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 212)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

=== Branch Davidians
1. Judge Rules On Waco Trial Testimony
2. Seven years after Waco siege, questions still loom as civil
trial approaches
3. Hearing to decide expert witnesses for Davidian trial
4. Restricted parking, more security cameras expected for Davidian trial
5. More Upset Than Interested, Waco Awaits Replay in Court
6. Attorneys disagree on delay of Davidian wrongful death trial

=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo
7. Ghosts join skeletons in arrested foot cult leader's closet
8. Ho-no-Hana members admit fraud

=== Scientology
9. Charges dropped against scientologists in Fla. case
10. France and Germany meet on Scientology
11. Records access for Scientologists
12. Scientology: Flood of applications ("Freedom of Information act")
13. Scientology: Senator Wrocklage encourages information
14. Robert Minton, Chairman of the Lisa McPherson Trust, Receives
Alternative Charlemagne Award

=== Mormonism
15. BYU student gets 'Real World' experience

=== International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
16. Hare Krishna organization sued for alleged child abuse
17. Ex-Hare Krishna Students Sue for $400 Million

=== Buddhism
18. Monks, Government Clash Over Pagoda
19. A Tibetan Buddhist Leader Is Making a Rare Visit

=== Catholicism
20. Mary's Little Lambs (Fatima)

=== Islam
21. A Look at Alawite Religious Sect

=== Other News
22. Pair acquitted of crime in faith-healing death
23. Court Rejects Right-To-Die Claim
24. Plea bargain pits man against 'queen'
25. Alleged New Age Surgeons to Stand Trial
26. Historic link across Taiwan Strait in lap of goddess
27. Federal Government Clears Omole Of Complicity In Cultism
28. Skeleton Adds to Stonehenge Saga

=== Death Penalty / U.S. Human Rights Violations
29. Death Sentences Being Overturned in 2 of 3 Appeals
30. Most Death Sentences Reversed, Study Finds
31. Death penalty caught in growing crossfire
32. French parliament leader blasts U.S. over death penalty,
mentions Abu-Jamal
33. Death penalty used fairly, Bush says
34. In Texas, Defense Lapses Fail to Halt Executions
35. Texas Lawyer's Death Row Record a Concern
36. Texas execution due today amid death penalty debate
37. Man's sentence based on his race, lawyers concede
38. U.S. Pushes to Weaken World Court on Atrocities


=== Branch Davidians

1. Judge Rules On Waco Trial Testimony
AOL/AP, June 12, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006120734255299
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) - The jury in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death trial will not consider whether federal agents shot at members of the sect during the fiery end of the 1993 siege, a judge ruled Monday.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith said he will take up the issue separately when a court-appointed expert - who is unable to attend the trial set to begin next week - is available to testify.

Attorneys for both sides said they believe the issue won't be addressed until August.

The jurors will hear testimony on other issues, including whether federal agents used excessive force in the initial raid on the Branch Davidian compound that started the 51-day standoff, and whether they helped caused fires that destroyed the compound.

The seven jurors will act as an advisory panel and the verdict will come from the judge.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Seven years after Waco siege, questions still loom as civil trial approaches
CNN/AP, June 11, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/06/11/
bc.wacoquestions.ap/index.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) -- It's been seven years since 80 people died in the fiery conclusion to a standoff between the government and the Branch Davidian religious sect.

On June 19, the two sides will confront each other again -- this time in a courtroom.

The government is the defendant in a $675 million wrongful death lawsuit, which consolidates nine civil cases filed in 1994 by Branch Davidian family members and survivors. Legal maneuvers by both sides contributed to the delay in bringing the case to trial.
(...)

The plaintiffs' lead attorney, Michael Caddell of Houston, said the lawsuit is not about money.

''It's about acknowledgment of shared responsibility and a commitment that this will never happen again,'' said Caddell.

U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford, lead counsel for the government, hopes the trial will restore the public's faith in the law-enforcement community.

''This was a terrible tragedy because there was a significant loss of life,'' said Bradford. ''It's been a great burden on the public and certainly on law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately one of the things that has happened is there has been a lot of misinformation over the years in public domain through a variety of sources. We hope this trial will be an opportunity to get the facts out.''

Many of those facts are in dispute.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Hearing to decide expert witnesses for Davidian trial
Waco Herald-Tribune, June 11, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/
2000/06/11/960779102.02100.1099.0035.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Both sides in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government will square off in Waco today, a week before the trial in the case is scheduled to begin.

At stake in the pretrial hearing is the testimony of many key expert witnesses for the plaintiffs.

Government lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to restrict their testimony at the June 19 trial. Among other things, government lawyers claim the plaintiffs' experts are being asked to speculate or testify on matters outside their area of expertise.

Expert witnesses being challenged by the government range from James Tabor, a university professor from North Carolina who has studied the Davidians' beliefs, to Patrick Kennedy, a fire expert.

A motion filed by Marie Hagen, co-counsel for the government, argued that the testimony of the contested experts would not ''assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.''

Houston attorney Mike Caddell on Friday downplayed the importance of the pretrial hearing.

''The government is not trying to strike the testimony of our expert witnesses,'' said Caddell, lead plaintiffs attorney. ''They're trying to exclude portions of their testimony. Big difference. They've got all the same problems with their witnesses. I don't view it as a big deal. Lawyers always wrangle on what goes before the jury. At the end of the day, we'll have more than enough evidence to put before the jury.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Restricted parking, more security cameras expected for Davidian trial
Waco Herald-Tribune, June 10, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/
2000/06/10/960690342.27192.3242.0154.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Like seven years ago, after a shootout that left five Branch Davidians and four agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms dead, state and national media will encamp in Waco. Seventeen members of the media have requested credentials from the U.S. Marshals Service to cover next week's civil trial. Outside scrutiny of Waco will be intense, although down from 1993 standards. Then there were 35 satellite TV trucks alone parked a couple miles from Mount Carmel, in what came to be known as Satellite City.
(...)

New video cameras have been installed inside and outside Waco's federal courthouse and security will be beefed up during the civil trial, according to Jack Dean, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas, who is supervising the security efforts.
(...)

Seating at the trial will be on a first-come basis, Dean said. Those wanting to attend the trial will have to go through a metal detector, which was installed at Waco's federal courthouse after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

How many Davidians will pass through it isn't known.

Davidian Sheila Martin, who lives in Waco, said she expects many of them to turn out along with a number of supporters.

''This trial is important to us,'' Martin said. ''It shows that after all these years we're still believing and saying they were wrong to do what they did. We're going into this knowing that people believe the raid was the wrong thing to do. We're all hoping to be there. I couldn't tell you how many will make it, though.''

Martin lost her husband, Wayne, who was a Waco attorney, and four children in the fire that destroyed Mount Carmel.

However, she said the civil trial is not about revenge.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. More Upset Than Interested, Waco Awaits Replay in Court
Washington Post, June 9, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/
A24378-2000Jun8.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Tex. Seven years after the FBI's siege of the Branch Davidian compound near here ended in fire and death, the city of Waco is fed up with the awful images its name evokes. Who's to blame? Did the religious cult cause the catastrophe, as federal officials contend? Did the FBI use ''grossly excessive force,'' as a lawsuit against the government alleges? Waco's citizens aren't much interested. The disaster is an ugly memory they'd like to forget.

But of course they can't. And now this central Texas city is wearily braced for a courtroom replay of the nightmare. The federal government is scheduled to go on trial here June 19 as the defendant in a wrongful-death civil case brought by scores of plaintiffs, most of them relatives of Branch Davidians who perished in the April 19, 1993, conflagration.
(...)

Michael A. Caddell, the lawyer for the biggest group of plaintiffs in the case, has annoyed many conspiracy theorists who accuse the FBI of deliberately carrying out a slaughter. Caddell, who rejects those allegations, said he will argue in the trial that FBI commanders at Mount Carmel made errors in judgment for which the government should be held liable.

''They made bad decisions,'' Caddell said in an interview. ''That doesn't mean they had ill motives or they were part of some huge conspiracy. They got frustrated and angry at the refusal of the Branch Davidians to come out, and they began to feel pressure to make something happen.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Attorneys disagree on delay of Davidian wrongful death trial
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 8, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/
2000/06/08/960513324.02100.3916.0023.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Branch Davidians against the government disagree on whether the trial should start in Waco on June 19, according to a motion filed Thursday.

Mike Caddell, lead plaintiffs' attorney, asked Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to reject a request by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark for a continuance. Clark represents many longtime Davidians such as Clive Doyle. In his motion, Caddell noted that Smith had already rejected a motion by the government asking for a continuance. That motion was filed under seal, according to Caddell's motion.

Both Clark and the government want to delay the trial until after Sept. 5, according to Caddell's motion.
(...)

The civil trial was first scheduled for October 1999. Then it was reset for May 15, 2000. A subsequent postponement pushed it back to June 19.

''There is no basis for further delay,'' Caddell wrote.

Caddell mentioned in his motion that the government also filed under seal a motion asking Smith to reconsider his decision to empanel a jury for the civil trial. Since no individuals are defendants in the case, federal law doesn't require a jury trial. Smith said in a May 26 order that he decided to empanel a jury because of the ''importance of the issues involved in this case.''

Smith has not responded to the government's jury motion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo

7. Ghosts join skeletons in arrested foot cult leader's closet
Asahi News (Japan), June 10, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0610/asahi061004.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
When police last month arrested Hogen Fukunaga, the head of the Ho no Hana Sampogyo foot-reading cult, and began rummaging through the skeletons in his closet, they also found a ghost-a ghostwriter, that is.

Fukunaga is accused of bilking 87 billion yen from his followers. One of his most powerful weapons were the 109 books he authored. He has since admitted that all of them were ghostwritten. (The ghostwriter is also allegedly being questioned by police.)

The case has spotlighted one of the nation's least talked about professions, says the June 7 issue of SPA!. The magazine sets out to unearth the truth about hidden authors and finds Japan is a heaven for ghostwriters who pen everything from entertainment and sports celebrity autobiographies to new religion tracts and political speeches.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Ho-no-Hana members admit fraud
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), June 13, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0613cr08.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Several leaders of Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo have admitted to fraud allegations that cult members, including founder Hogen Fukunaga, swindled large amounts of money from participants during seminars hosted by the cult, police said Monday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

9. Charges dropped against scientologists in Fla. case
AOL/Reuters, June 12, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006120645244425
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CLEARWATER, Fla., (Reuters) - A Florida prosecutor dropped criminal charges on Monday against the Church of Scientology's Clearwater headquarters in the 1995 death of a woman member.

Lisa McPherson, 36, died on Dec. 5, 1995, after she had been in the care of Scientology members for 17 days at the headquarters.

In 1998, Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe charged the church with two felonies, practicing medicine without a license and criminal neglect of a disabled adult in McPherson's death. No individual church members were charged with any crimes.

In February this year, Pinellas Medical Examiner Joan Wood changed her finding in the cause of McPherson's death from undetermined to accidental after experts hired by the church challenged her original finding.

McCabe said because of the change in the autopsy finding, he did not have enough evidence to proceed with the case.
(...)

The case had been scheduled for trial in October. If the church had been found guilty of either or both charges, the only penalty would have been a fine and the costs of the investigations.
(...)

A separate civil wrongful death suit by McPherson's estate against the church is still pending. No trial date has been set.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Lisa McPherson Memorial PageOff-site Link

Why are these people dead, Scientology?Off-site Link


10. France and Germany meet on Scientology
Yahoo/Reuters (Germany), June 7, 2000
http://cisar.org/000607f.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Hamburg (Reuters) - Germany and France intend to cooperate on an international level in the surveillance of the Scientology Organization. ''A resolution of the sect phenomenon must be found on a European level,'' said France's national sect commissioner, Alain Vivien on Wednesday in connection with the federal-state conference on ''So-called Sects and Psychogroups'' in Hamburg, in which Vivien also took part. France issued invitation for a European conference in the beginning of 2001 so that future operations can be discussed. Most countries reacted to Scientology like Germany and France, said Vivien, though with hesitation.
(...)

Hamburg's Interior Senator Hartmut Wrocklage (SPD) said, ''The battle against Scientology can only be won internationally.'' Vivien said that Scientology was an international matter, because, not least of all, its goal was worldwide domination.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Records access for Scientologists
taz (Germany), June 8, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000608e.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
After months of delay, the Scientologists will be able to look into the records concerning them in all the Brandenburg Ministries and their subordinate departments for the first time. The required information will shortly follow. The application for file access had been submitted back in October 1999 by Munich Scientologist and Director of the Human Rights Office of Scientology Germany, Ingo Lehman. State representatives from the SPD and CDU viewed that as a misuse of the Brandenburg freedom of information law of 1998 and intended to prevent access from Parliament. They could not get it through. DPA
[...entire item...]


12. Scientology: Flood of applications
taz (Germany), June 9, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000609a.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
By using the freedom of information law, the Scientology Organization has submitted many applications on diverse themes to public institutions, according to Interior Senator Eckart Werthebach (CDU). He said that had posed the administration with a heavy work load. (dpa)
[...entire item...]


13. Scientology: Senator Wrocklage encourages information
Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany), June 8, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000608c.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Now, as before, Scientology poses ''a considerable risk to the welfare of our citizens.'' That was stated by Interior Senator Hartmuth Wrocklage (SPD) after a federal-state conference on the theme of ''so-called sects and psychogroups'' in the Hanseatic City [of Hamburg], which also included the leading sect commissioner of France, Alain Vivien. Scientology, however, does not yet present a danger for the Constitution, nor have German institutions been infiltrated by the organization. In the long run, ''however, there is a threat from an organization which operates with totalitarian elements.'' The line which must be pursued is ''information, information and information,'' said the Senator. Citizens must be in the position, for example, to recognize the Scientology jargon. The same words mean something completely different than in normal speech usage.

Wrocklage gave Ursula Caberta, Director of the Work Group on Scientology, which resides within the Interior Agency, ''full support in the battle against the Scientology psycho-concern.'' In response to the numerous attacks and defamations by the organization against Caberta, he said, ''She is an upright woman who does not whine when under heavy fire; she does her job.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Church of Scientology is known for its harassment of - and attacks
against - its critics

14. Robert Minton, Chairman of the Lisa McPherson Trust, Receives Alternative Charlemagne Award
Yahoo/PRNewswire, June 12, 2000 (Press Release)
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000612/lisa_mcphe.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LEIPZIG, Germany, June 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was released today by Lisa McPherson Trust:

The first annual Alternative Charlemagne Award was presented to Robert S. Minton, chairman of Lisa McPherson Trust, on June 3, 2000, in Leipzig, Germany, for his work in the United States to educate the public about the dangers of Scientology.

Hundreds of Europeans and Americans attended the ceremony, which was organized by the European-American Citizens Committee for Human Rights and Religious Freedom. The award was created to counter President Bill Clinton's acceptance of the European Charlemagne award at the same time that Clinton's administration is attacking Germany and other European countries' human rights records on behalf of the cult of Scientology.

Thomas Gandow, sect commissioner of the Evangelical Church in Berlin- Brandenburg and a member of the award committee, explained the significance of the award.

''By holding this ceremony,'' he said, ''we intended to give a sign that, in spite of the Clinton administration, there are people in America who think differently and who do not swim with the Scientology tide.''

In his acceptance speech, Minton said that he was very moved to receive the award in Leipzig, where the freedom movement in East Germany was born.

''The religious face of Scientology is, in reality, nothing more than an illusion masking its political agenda and ambitions,'' Minton said. ''However, Scientology uses this religious face as a cover to protect it from scrutiny. To my knowledge, this is not the kind of political animal that any democratic society has ever had to deal with before. It has co-opted the U.S. State Department under the guise of religious freedom to condemn Germany and France for religious persecution against Scientology.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* A German Embassy statement on Scientology said that ''because of its
experiences during the Nazi regime, Germany has a special responsibility to
monitor the development of any extreme group within its borders.''
- U.S. Challenges Germany on Scientology, Washington Post, May 4, 2000

=== Mormonism

15. BYU student gets 'Real World' experience
Excite/U-Wire, June 6, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/uw/000606/
entertainment-arts-25
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(U-WIRE) PROVO, Utah -- MTV's ''The Real World'' casting special, June 6 at 8 p.m., will reveal that one of its stars is a BYU student.
(...)

She said originally she was not planning on doing the show because she lived at King Henry Apartments and they don't have MTV.

''I was on the attitude that MTV is evil because it is all blocked off, but I learned better,'' Stoffer said.
(...)

Stoffer said being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of her character on the show.
(...)

Drinking Mountain Dew or developing a relationship with one of her Real World roommates might make some BYU students think she is a bad representative for the LDS religion, Stoffer said.

She said she welcomes this because she hopes students will realize that there is nothing wrong with appreciating or loving someone who is of a different religion.
(...)

''The most adversity I faced was from people in Provo that were closed minded to the whole idea of MTV because for some reason in our culture MTV represents this big evil,'' Stoffer said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Mormonism is a pseudo-Christian religion, and as such is a cult of
Christianity
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

=== International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

16. Hare Krishna organization sued for alleged child abuse
Dallas Morning News/AP, June 12, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/latestnews/94976_krishna12.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DALLAS -- More than three dozen former students of Hare Krishna boarding schools filed a $400 million lawsuit against leaders of the religious community Monday, alleging years of sexual, physical and emotional torture.

The 44 plaintiffs in the suit allege child abuse over two decades at boarding schools in the United States and India.

The federal suit, filed in Dallas, names the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as lead defendant, along with 17 members of the group's governing board of top leaders and the estate of the movement's founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
(...)

Anuttama, a Hare Krishna spokesman, said the organization planned to comment on the lawsuit later Monday. Last year, Hare Krishna leaders announced that they would pledge $250,000 a year to investigate past child abuse and aid survivors.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Ex-Hare Krishna Students Sue for $400 Million
Excite/Reuters, June 12, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/r/000612/16/
news-crime-krishna-dc

DALLAS (Reuters) - More than 40 former students of Hare Krishna schools filed a $400 million lawsuit on Monday against the religious movement, alleging they were sexually and physically abused as children over the course of two decades.
(...)

Anattuma, the international communications director for ISKCON in Washington, said the movement has acknowledged since the early 1990s that some of the children in its schools were abused.

''If the events alleged in this suit did occur, we regret that they did and we will make every effort to help address the needs of the young people named in the suit,'' he said.

''I think the size of the suit, $400 million, is excessive. It is far more than the total worth of temples worldwide.''

Anattuma said ISKCON started its own investigations in 1996 into at least 50 cases of alleged abuse going back to the 1970s and has spent $250,000 for counseling and treatment for victims.

The organization also created a full-time child protection division in 1998 in charge of preventing abuses at Krishna schools worldwide.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Buddhism

18. Monks, Government Clash Over Pagoda
New York Times/AP Stream, June 10, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/i/
AP-Vietnam-Pagoda-Dispute.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- The famed lotus-bedecked grounds of the One Pillar Pagoda have become the backdrop of a simmering battle for control of the Buddhist shrine, underscoring Vietnam's tight controls on religious activities.

A government campaign to dismiss and expel the two resident monks from the pagoda and replace them with a government appointee has sparked strong resistance from local Buddhists.

The yearlong dispute -- pitting Hanoi officials against 80-year-old presiding monk Thich Thanh Khanh and his assistant Thich Tam Kien -- has drawn attention from Buddhist groups worldwide.

While Vietnam's constitution enshrines freedom of religion, the government traditionally maintains a firm grip on religious activities.

International human rights groups claim Catholics, Protestants and members of the government-banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam are regularly suppressed.

In this case, however, the monks were part of the state-sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Church.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. A Tibetan Buddhist Leader Is Making a Rare Visit
New York Times, June 10, 2000 (Religion Journal)
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/
061000religion-journal.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
By now, many Americans can claim at least a passing familiarity with the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet. He was well enough known, for example, to have drawn an audience in the tens of thousands for a public teaching he gave in Central Park last August. And, perhaps more to the point, he has had a book, ''The Art of Happiness'' (Riverhead), on the best-seller lists for well over a year.

But how many know of the 41st Sakya Trizin, supreme head of one of Tibetan Buddhism's four traditions, or schools? He has just embarked on a three-month teaching visit to the United States and Canada that began this week in New York.

''He's second only in importance to the Dalai Lama,'' said Jeff Watt, a translator of Tibetan texts who also is a consultant to a philanthropic group that is planning a museum of Tibetan and related art in New York.

To illustrate his point, Mr. Watt, is a former monk in the Sakya tradition, said that in religious ceremonies in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, the seat of honor after the Dalai Lama would go to the Sakya Trizin, whose title means ''Holder of the Sakya Throne.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Catholicism

20. Mary's Little Lambs
Washington Post, June 10, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
articles/A32313-2000Jun9.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) The story of Fatima is not dogma--meaning you do not have to believe that the Virgin Mary appeared to three children to be a good Catholic. McConnell, who feels that the Lady of Fatima brought her back to the church and brought peace to her soul, believes prayers to Mary brought real results, like the healthy birth of her twins.
(...)

The Vatican will soon publish the text of the third prediction, along with an explication of its meaning. Meanwhile, the unveiling of the third secret has created new interest in the story of the Miracle of Fatima, the three children, and the spinning sun that appeared to fall from the sky on Oct. 13, 1917.
(...)

''These apparitions are typically associated with cultural or social situations in which there is a lot of duress,'' said William D. Dinges, a professor of religion at Catholic University. ''There is a presumption that when things are not good there is a certain receptiveness to supernatural interventions.''

There have been twice as many apparitions reported since 1950 than during the previous 300 years, although the church has sanctioned only a few. The church treats most apparition reports with skepticism and subjects the seers to lengthy medical, psychiatric and forensic investigation.
(...)

The release of the third secret has not quieted speculation entirely, however. Now the speculation has moved to other areas.
(...)

The latest posting on the Web site of the Fatima Network (www.fatima.org) demands that the pope release a photocopy of the original in Lucia's hand. The Network, a media enterprise headquartered in Canada, has called the miracle at Fatima ''the most momentous and important event of our time, which is still unfolding to this day.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

21. A Look at Alawite Religious Sect
Las Vegas Sun/AP, June 12, 2000
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin
/stories/w-me/2000/jun/12/061200142.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Syrian President Hafez Assad comes from the Alawite religious minority which, though considered a sect of Shiite Islam, bears little resemblance to Islam in doctrine or practice. The secretive faith -- in name indicating followers of Ali, son-in-law of Islam's founding Prophet Mohammed -- also combines elements of Christianity and astrology. It is believed to date to the 9th century.
(...)

Alawites, unlike Muslims and Christians, believe women do not have souls. Astrological phenomena also takes on special meaning. There is a belief, for example, that the Milky Way is made up of deified souls of believers.
(...)

Alawites are estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, living mainly in Syria, where they account for about 6 percent of the 17 million population, but also in Lebanon and Turkey.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

22. Pair acquitted of crime in faith-healing death
The Oregonian, June 8, 2000
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/
index.ssf?/news/oregonian/00/06/nw_52autop08.frame
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[Faith healing]
A Canadian couple who belong to an Oregon-based church that believes God can heal the sick received a mixed court victory Wednesday in the case of their 14-year-old son who died of complications from diabetes.

Steven and Ruth Shippy failed to seek medical treatment for their son Calahan, who died at home Dec. 30, 1998. The couple are followers of the Oregon City-based Followers of Christ Church, which has been involved in similar cases in Oregon.

In a courtroom in Red Deer, Alberta, on Wednesday, the Shippys were convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life but acquitted of criminal negligence.

They will be sentenced June 26, but the couple probably will not serve any jail time.

After the verdict, the boy's father said he believes he has the right not to seek medical help for his eight children. ''I wouldn't change a thing,'' Steven Shippy said.
(...)

The Followers of Christ Church is a fundamentalist Christian denomination that came to Oregon early in the 20th century. When members become gravely ill, fellow worshippers pray and anoint them with oil. Those who seek modern medical remedies are ostracized by the group.

A June 1998 investigation by The Oregonian found that of the 78 children buried in the church's cemetery since 1955, 21 died from treatable diseases.
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23. Court Rejects Right-To-Die Claim
New York Times/AP Stream, June 8, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/
AP-Assisted-Suicide.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DENVER (AP) -- The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled against an 81-year-old man who claims free will granted by God or nature allows him to choose euthanasia for himself.

The court rejected former District Judge Robert Sanderson's claim that a state law criminalizing assisted suicide violates his constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
(...)

In rejecting Sanderson's argument, the appeals court said ''an individual's religious beliefs do not excuse the individual from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.''
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24. Plea bargain pits man against 'queen'
St. Petersburg Times, June 9, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/News/060900/news_pf/
SouthPinellas/Plea_bargain_pits_man.shtml
Off-site Link
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One of three men accused of robbing merchants to support ''Queen Shahmia'' is set to testify against her under a deal he struck Thursday with Lee County prosecutors.

Ismael Castilleja, 26, pleaded no contest to one count of robbery and three counts of accessory after the fact, Assistant State Attorney Felicia Wilcox said. State prosecutors are recommending two years in prison, and his sentencing is set for July 14.

Castilleja's plea, Wilcox said, is contingent upon his testimony against Richell Denise Bradshaw, a woman who called herself the daughter of God and who police say benefited from robberies committed by her menservants.

Bradshaw, 33, has been charged with ordering five of the robberies. Her trial is set for June 19.

Mark Ahlbrand, Bradshaw's attorney, said there is no evidence that she did anything wrong.

''I think what the law basically provides for is that simply telling somebody to do something that's wrong is not a crime unless they can establish that the nature of the relationship was such where the person was deprived of free will,'' he said.
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25. Alleged New Age Surgeons to Stand Trial
Salt Lake Tribune, June 9, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/jun/06092000/utah/56562.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CEDAR CITY -- Two men who allegedly drilled a hole in a woman's head during a New Age surgical procedure in the tiny Iron County town of Beryl were bound over for trial after a preliminary hearing Thursday on charges of practicing medicine without a license.

Peter Evan Halverson, 54, and William E. Lyons, 56, were charged after Iron County officials viewed a segment from a ''20/20'' television news magazine story that aired in early February. The tape shows the two men purportedly helping an English woman perform the surgery called trephination. The procedure, believed to have been used by prehistoric cultures, involves a hole drilled into the skull to relieve pressure. It has become a New Age fad that supposedly improves mental efficiency.
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* Related:
Drilling a hole in my head cured my fatigue, The Express, Feb. 22, 2000

26. Historic link across Taiwan Strait in lap of goddess
The Australian (Australia), June 9, 2000
http://theaustralian.com.au/common/story_page/
0,4381,784734%255E2703,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A Taiwanese religious leader claims to be organising the first direct voyage across the Taiwan Strait in 50 years, with plans to lead a flotilla of boats carrying more than 7000 pilgrims to pay homage to Matsu, the Chinese goddess of the sea.
(...)

After consulting the oracles by casting cups on the ground, Mr Yen picked July 16 as the most auspicious date for the voyage to commence.

Mr Yen, who heads the Chen Lan Temple in central Taiwan, and his followers will head for Meizhou Island, said to be the birthplace of the goddess, via three small Taiwanese islands that lie within metres of the Chinese mainland.

If successful, hundreds of fishing boats and other small vessels will shuttle across the treacherous waters as part of annual celebrations that culminate with Sea Goddess Ascension Day in September.

Opening up direct links between Taiwan and China would end the tortuous journey that about 100,000 pilgrims from Taiwan make each year to worship at the Matsu shrine in the weeks leading up to her birthday. Most pilgrims must fly through Hong Kong and then connect through the nearby city of Fuzhou.
(...)

Mr Yen's attempt to force the issue has attracted strong criticism from Taiwanese who remain suspicious of Beijing's hard-line demands for reunification with the island.

Outspoken Vice-President Annette Lu has lambasted his use of ''religious links'' as potentially damaging to the national interest.

''It's totally inappropriate for religious figures to try to manipulate the Government into opening a direct link with China for religious journeys, especially by claiming it is a decree from a goddess,'' Ms Lu said.
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27. Federal Government Clears Omole Of Complicity In Cultism
Vanguard Daily (Nigeria)/Africa News Online, June 8, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/west/nigeria/stories
/20000608/20000608_feat20.html
Off-site Link
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Lagos - The federal government has absolved former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ife Professor Wale Omole of allegations that he sponsored cultists at OAU.

But the government has empowered authorities of institutions of higher learning to summarily dismiss students confirmed to be involved in cult activities in campuses after a fair hearing.
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28. Skeleton Adds to Stonehenge Saga
Washington Post, June 10, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
British scientists said yesterday that a recently rediscovered skeleton first excavated at Stonehenge in the 1920s is that of a man who was decapitated with a single sword stroke to the back of the neck, raising new questions about the mysterious stone formation.

An archaeologist found the skeleton in the British Museum of Natural History, where it was taken after its original storage place at the Royal College of Surgeons was badly damaged by bombs during the London blitz in World War II.

The skeleton, of a 5-foot-5 man about 35 years old, is one of four ever to have been found at Stonehenge, whose fabled circle of prehistoric stone megaliths has been interpreted as everything from a ceremonial site for druids to an ancient astronomical observatory.

The skeleton was excavated by British Lt. Col. William Hawley in 1923, and may date from the Roman period in the first century B.C. or as late as 1000 A.D., when the historical record is detailed enough to have recorded the beheading.
(...)

Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain of southern England, was built between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. It began as a circular ditch and earthwork with the cremated remains of many people buried both outside the perimeter and inside the circle.

By 2000 B.C., the biggest of the stone megaliths were in place and the skyline surrounding the site was ringed with Bronze Age burial mounds, called barrows. ''These are rich, high-status burials of warrior aristocracy, with gold and weapons,'' Miles said. ''They are well outside Stonehenge, but obviously are supposed to be within sight of it.''

It is generally accepted that until that time, Stonehenge served as a religious or ceremonial site, but by 1500 B.C. the archaeological record dwindles, suggesting that the area was abandoned. There was little reason to visit a place on a grassy plain ''in the middle of nowhere,'' even in ancient times, Miles explained, except to participate in a formal rite.

The beheading, however, suggests that the site retained significant ceremonial importance hundreds of years later, Miles said. The name Stonehenge derives from the Old English Stanhenges meaning ''Stone Gallows.''
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=== sect commissioner / U.S. Human Rights Violations

Note: The U.S. sets itself the task of policing human rights throughout the
world. It even tries to pressure countries like France and Germany to
accept the extremist Scientology organization as a ''religious movement.''
Meanwhile, it turns a blind eye to numerous human rights violations at
home - including a seriously flawed ''justice system,'' and the continued
use of the death penalty.

29. Death Sentences Being Overturned in 2 of 3 Appeals
New York Times, June 12, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/061200death-penalty.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The most far-reaching study of the death penalty in the United States has found that two out of three convictions were overturned on appeal, mostly because of serious errors by incompetent defense lawyers or overzealous police officers and prosecutors who withheld evidence.

The study, an examination of appeals in all capital cases from the time the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, in 1973, to 1995, also found that 75 percent of the people whose death sentences were set aside were later given lesser sentences after retrials, in plea bargains or by order of a judge. An additional 7 percent were found not guilty on retrial.

Eighteen percent were given the death penalty on retrial, but many of these had their convictions overturned again in the appeals process.

The study, to be released today, is based on a search of state and federal court records. It was conducted by a team of lawyers and criminologists at Columbia University led by James S. Liebman, a professor of law who has served as a defense lawyer in a number of death penalty trials and appeals.

The report is likely to intensify an already gathering debate about the death penalty, which has been provoked by the release of some death row inmates after new DNA technology helped exonerate them. Concerns about the death penalty were heightened by the decision in March by Gov. George Ryan of Illinois, a Republican, to declare a moratorium on executions in his state after 13 men on death row there were cleared by new evidence.

While some death penalty supporters have argued that Illinois is an aberration and produces less reliable death sentences than other states, the Columbia study found that the rate of serious error detected by court reviews in Illinois capital cases was 66 percent, slightly below the national average of 68 percent.

Support for the death penalty is overwhelming, but recent Gallup polls have shown it slipping, from a peak of 80 percent in 1994, to 66 percent, its lowest point since 1978, when it was 62 percent.

Even many death penalty supporters have expressed serious concerns about its fairness. Last month, the historically conservative New Hampshire Legislature voted to abolish the death penalty, though the bill was vetoed by the state's Democratic governor, Jeanne Shaheen.
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3. Most Death Sentences Reversed, Study Finds
Washington Post, June 12, 2000
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39349-2000Jun11.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A comprehensive study of 23 years of capital punishment has found that more than two-thirds of America's death sentences are overturned on appeal, leading the report's author to conclude that this country has a ''broken system'' that is ''fraught with error.''
(...)

death penalty supporters interpreted the numbers differently than Liebman. They say the report proves that there is only the slimmest of chances of executing an innocent person because the appeals courts subject the cases to extraordinary scrutiny. They also note that 93 percent of those inmates retried were convicted again, though many received a lesser sentence.

Nine years in the making, Liebman's study is adding fuel to an already fiery debate about capital punishment nationwide. Although executions have reached record numbers, public support is at a 19-year low. And voices from across the political spectrum have begun to question whether those on death row received fair trials.
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31. death penalty caught in growing crossfire
CNN, June 11, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/LAW/06/11/death.penalty/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(CNN) -- The death penalty came under intense fire Sunday with the release of a major legal study, the publication of a newspaper investigation and a proposal that the American Medical Association endorses a national moratorium on executions.

Serious errors occur in nearly 70 percent of all trials leading to the death penalty, according to the study, which was conducted by New York's Columbia University Law School and based on a review of 4,600 cases.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, reported Sunday that ''dozens'' of inmates have been put to death in Texas despite unreliable evidence, representation by disbarred or suspended attorneys, and psychiatrists' testimony deemed ''questionable.''

The Tribune investigation drew a response from Gov. George W. Bush, who said he ''strongly disagrees'' with its findings.
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32. French parliament leader blasts U.S. over death penalty, mentions Abu-Jamal
CNN/Reuters, June 10, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/06/10/france.death.reut/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PARIS (Reuters) -- The speaker of France's National Assembly on Saturday slammed the death penalty in the United States and said one-time Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal should not be executed.

''There is a stain on America's prestigious image. It's no longer slavery, it's no longer organized racial segregation, it's the death penalty,'' parliamentary speaker Raymond Forni told a human-rights conference.

Several U.S. states are re-examining the death penalty amid renewed scrutiny of capital punishment. However, a majority of Americans -- 66 percent in a February poll -- support the death penalty for murder.
(...)

''It's as if this country which claims to guide the world wanted to ignore how the world is changing and even oppose its development...It's as if the United States felt proud to be the last Western democracy with the death penalty,'' Forni said.

''We have to be America's guilty conscience so that in the end it is no longer the black sheep of Western democracies. We have to help it help itself,'' Forni said.
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33. death penalty used fairly, Bush says
Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/94791_execute_12tex..htmlOff-site Link
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CHICAGO - During his presidential campaign, Gov. George W. Bush has expressed confidence in his state's busy death penalty system and said he does not see the need to institute a moratorium as Illinois has done.

But a Chicago Tribune investigation published in Sunday editions says that dozens of inmates have been executed in Texas even though their cases were marred by unreliable evidence, disbarred or suspended defense attorneys and questionable psychiatric testimony.

Among other things, the investigation of the 131 executions during Mr. Bush's tenure found that attorneys for 40 of the inmates presented just one witness or no evidence at all during the trials' sentencing phase.

Many defense attorneys also failed to present evidence of a defendant's brain damage, low IQ or childhood abuse, the Tribune reported. All are factors that officials in Illinois and many other states consider in pleas to halt an execution.

Defendants in about a third of the Texas cases were represented at trial or initial appeal by an attorney who had been or was later disbarred, suspended or otherwise sanctioned, the report said.

And testimony from fellow inmates also played a role during the guilt or sentencing phase of at least 23 cases in which a defendant was executed under Mr. Bush.

In response to a reporter's question after church Sunday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Mr. Bush said he ''strongly disagrees'' with the suggestion that inmates sentenced to death in Texas have been inadequately represented by counsel. He also said the state's courts ensure a fair proceeding.
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34. In Texas, Defense Lapses Fail to Halt Executions
Washington Post, May 12, 2000
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/politics/elections/2000/whitehouse/bushgeorgew/A52193-2000May11.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
AUSTIN Like a vast majority of inmates on Texas's death row, Calvin Jerold Burdine could not afford a lawyer for his trial. So the court paid a lawyer named Joe Frank Cannon to represent him. Today, 16 years after Burdine was convicted of murder and sentenced to die, no one disputes that Cannon did a lackadaisical job. In fact, during important stretches of testimony, he was asleep at the defense table.

Yet despite Cannon's documented incompetence, Texas authorities argue that Burdine should be executed. He remains on death row, facing lethal injection as his appellate lawyers fight the state's attempt to deny him a new trial.

In his Republican presidential campaign, Gov. George W. Bush, a strong proponent of ''swift and sure'' capital punishment, has repeatedly said he is ''absolutely confident'' that Texas's death penalty system works fairly. A review of the state's death penalty files show that Burdine is one of many capital defendants whose legal proceedings were poorly handled by lax, inept or inexperienced lawyers.
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35. Texas Lawyer's Death Row Record a Concern
New York Times, June 10, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/061100tx-deathrow.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
OUSTON, June 10 -- On death row at the Terrell unit of the Texas state prison in Livingston, an hour's drive north of here, inmates and death penalty lawyers refer sardonically to a place they call the Mock Wing. This metaphorical prison enclave has housed at least a dozen death row inmates, some already executed, others awaiting their final punishment, who shared the same lawyer, Ronald G. Mock.

Mr. Mock, who was appointed by Harris County judges to represent indigent defendants in capital cases, says he believes he has had more clients sentenced to death than any lawyer in the country. One of those clients, Robert Anthony Carter, 34, was executed on May 31. On June 22, another client, Gary Graham, 36, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after a 19-year court battle.

In large part because Mr. Graham's conviction turned on a single eyewitness who saw him only fleetingly and at night, his new lawyers are insisting that he is innocent and are pressing for a postponement of his execution and for a new trial. In earlier pleadings, they also raised questions about Mr. Mock's competency as trial counsel.

Mr. Graham's is the latest high-profile death penalty case to focus attention on Gov. George W. Bush and how the death penalty is administered in his state. With their appeals exhausted, Mr. Graham's lawyers are asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Mr. Bush grant Mr. Graham some form of clemency. Last week, Mr. Bush granted a 30-day reprieve to another condemned prisoner, Ricky Nolen McGinn. It was only the second time during his tenure that he has stepped in to stop an execution.

In addition to the innocence claim, what makes Mr. Graham's case particularly compelling is that his new lawyers, and other critics of the death penalty, are portraying it as a textbook example of how bad lawyering sends poor people to death row here and in other states across the country. Mr. Mock, who boasted in an interview this week that he had flunked criminal law at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law, called no witnesses during the guilt phase of Mr. Graham's trial, which lasted two days. He did not challenge before the jury the testimony of the single eyewitness who sealed Mr. Graham's guilty verdict, although there were other witnesses who could have provided conflicting testimony. He called only two witnesses during the penalty phase, when his job was to persuade the jury to spare his client's life.
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36. Texas execution due today amid death penalty debate
CNN, June 12, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/LAW/06/12/death.penalty.01/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (CNN) -- Thomas Mason is scheduled to die by lethal injection Monday night in Texas -- even as questions are raised about death penalty cases in the state, and a physicians group seeks a national moratorium on executions.
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37. Man's sentence based on his race, lawyers concede
Seattle Post-Inteligencer/AP, June 6, 2000
http://www.seattlep-i.com/national/scot062.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court set aside a convicted Texas killer's death sentence yesterday after the state's lawyers conceded that the life-or-death decision had been based in part on the fact he is Hispanic.

The justices told Texas courts to provide a new sentencing hearing for Victor Hugo Saldano, convicted of a murder in Collin County in 1996.

The brief order said Saldano's case should be restudied ''in light of the confession of error'' by the state's lawyers.

The appeal acted on yesterday did not dispute Saldano's guilt.
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38. U.S. Pushes to Weaken World Court on Atrocities
New York Times, June 9, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/global/061200un-court.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- The United States, isolated among the nations of the world, is going into a crucial conference Monday on the soon-to-be-established International Criminal Court still asking for changes in its charter.

The United States says it is trying to protect American soldiers and officials from falling under the court's jurisdiction. But all members of the European Union and other members of NATO support the court and have told the United States that there should be no attempt to reopen debate on how it will work.

Unless some compromise can be found, legal experts say, a major step in international law will be taken without United States participation, even though Americans have been at the forefront of demanding trials for leaders like Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein.
(...)

Richard Dicker, counsel for Human Rights Watch, said that legal experts who support the court are puzzled at the strength of the opposition to the court, since it gives countries whose citizens are charged with international crimes the right to try them in their own courts, as the United States has frequently done through courts martial when American soldiers are involved in criminal activity.

''Why they seem to be driving this thing over the edge to get something they don't need is an intriguing question,'' Mr. Dicker said in an interview. ''The treaty has more than enough assurances to meet their concerns.''
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