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Religion News Report

July 27, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 235) - 2/2

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

« Continued from Part 1
=== Buddhism
26. Tibet Anti-Religion Campaign Widens
27. Buddha Boom Proliferation Of Images Shows Eagerness Of Immigrants
To Establish Religious Ties

=== Hinduism
28. Hindu 'missionaries' head overseas

=== Islam
29. Mali court sentences Sheikh to death
30. Death Sentence For Mali's "Barefooted" Sect Founder
31. Spanish women outraged by book that gives advice on beatings
32. Mosque a religious, political tug of war
33. Laws on religious extremism too soft, Russian Security Council hears
34. Azeri God's Army cult members to stand trial for murder
35. Malaysian police arrest five more Al Ma'unah members

=== Hate Groups
36. Germany won't block access to international Nazi sites

=== Other News
37. Church sued over sex-abuse confessions
38. Ancient Rite: Peyote Ritual Stirs Trouble in Utah
39. Trial of 13 OAU Cult Suspects Threatened
40. Hearst relives kidnapping for spoof film

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
41. US judge blocks Ten Commandments monument

=== Death Penalty
42. House passes bill to block executions of pregnant women
43. News outlets ask for DNA tests in case of man executed in 1996

=== Noted
44. Two little boys (God's Army)
45. 'Born-again virgins' give up sex to bolster their self-esteem
46. Gore: Studying diverse beliefs led him to spiritual balance
47. Graham passing the torch via satellite
48. New-Age Commune Is Into Crafts and Time Travel

=== Internet
49. Study says Web is 500 times larger than major search engines now show


=== Buddhism

26. Tibet Anti-Religion Campaign Widens
Yahoo/AP, July 27, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) - China's government in Tibet has banned students from visiting Buddhist sites and restricted religious practice in private homes, widening a campaign to undermine support for the exiled Dalai Lama, a monitoring group reported Thursday.

Announced in meetings in recent weeks but not published, the restrictions target residents of Lhasa, the often tense political and religious center of Tibet, the London-based Tibet Information Network said.
(...)

The restrictions expand a four-year-old campaign to get Tibet's overwhelmingly Buddhist people to reject the Dalai Lama, their temporal and spiritual leader who remains widely popular 50 years after Chinese troops entered Tibet and 41 years after he fled to India.
(...)

Worried about the growing appeal of religion across China, Chinese leaders have waged a year-old campaign against what they label superstition. A government policy paper on Tibet issued in June called certain traditional beliefs hindrances to building a modern civilization.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Buddha Boom Proliferation Of Images Shows Eagerness Of Immigrants To Establish Religious Ties
The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
It's not exactly a battle for the biggest Buddha. Competition and conflict don't really flow with Buddhist philosophy. But area Buddhist congregations beam with pride about the religious statues they're importing from southeast Asia.

And Buddhas have been bursting out all over.

In Virginia Beach, the Buddhist Education Center of America just installed a monumental image of a sitting Buddha that's so tall it needs support from a basketball backboard.

In Isle of Wight, the Forest Temple has built a new shrine around a hollow metal Buddha that weighs at least 500 pounds.

And in Chesapeake, the Giac Hoa Tu temple has dedicated three statues made of pristine white marble that together weigh 11 tons.

Images of the enlightened one hold special meaning for Buddhists, said Ngoc Xuan ''Adam'' Nguyen of the Chesapeake temple. Statues help Buddhists to meditate and find inner calm.

The Buddhas also artful reminders of southeast Asia. Their recent proliferation shows not only the health of the economy, Nguyen said, but the eagerness of immigrants to establish religious and cultural institutions.
(...)

Buddhists ''respect the Buddhas in order to recollect his qualities,'' said temple monk Phramaha Putthachak Sitthi. ''These are compassion, wisdom and purity.''

Adorning a shrine is no different than covering church windows with stained glass, said Martin who, like many of the temple's 200 members, immigrated from Thailand.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hinduism

28. Hindu 'missionaries' head overseas
BBC. July 25, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Nearly 600 years after the first Christian missionaries landed in India, Brahmin priests are being readied at a seminary near Delhi to take their religion worldwide.

Religious organisations aligned with India's Hindu nationalist-led government, committed to preserving Hinduism in its purest and most traditional form, said the priests would try and dilute the influence of Christianity on expatriate Hindus.

This upsurge in Hindu nationalism has, say observers, coincided with a series of well-organised attacks on churches, missionaries and other Christian organisations - reportedly by Hindu extremist organisations - across India.

The extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) - which opposes the church's proselytising activities - has recently established a branch at Durban in South Africa to defend ''the rights of Hindus against conversion''.
(...)

All entrants to the Modipuram seminary are required to be proficient in Sanskrit and have a working knowledge of English.
(...)

''It is not only Hinduism the priests are taught, but also other religions to enable them to counter Christian arguments,'' Mr Singh said.

Over the years Hindu religious organisations and temple trusts like the Temple Society in North America and the South Indian Religious Society in Singapore have ''imported'' Brahmin priests from India.

The Hindu Temple Society said the proliferation of Hindu temples overseas has proved to be a godsend for Indian priests eager to move to richer pastures.
(...)

At the end of it all, it is worth the trouble as priestly duties can have material benefits too.

A name-giving ceremony, for instance, costs the patron $31 in Singapore.

The sacred thread ceremony, essential for all traditional Brahmins costs $101 and a marriage ceremony, $251.

Charges for all rituals and ceremonies double when conducted at home.

Some temples allow their priests to freelance but take a percentage of the income earned.

The younger priests have reportedly become more outgoing, convinced their earning capacity overseas is tremendous, especially for those with an appealing ecclesiastical manner.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

29. Mali court sentences Sheikh to death
BBC, July 26, 2000
http://news6.thdo.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A court in Mali has sentenced the leader of a Muslim cult to death for the murder of a judge two years ago.

The man, Sheikh Khalil Kanoute, heads a sect called Les Pieds Nus [Naked Feet.]
(...)

The judge was killed in the town of Dioila -- he had banned the activities of the group, and jailed some its members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Death Sentence For Mali's ''Barefooted'' Sect Founder
Africa News Service, July 26, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BAMAKO, Mali (PANA) - The Bamako criminal court Tuesday sentenced to death Cheikh Kanoute, the founder of a Malian sect of followers known as the ''Bare- footed'', and two of his disciples.
(...)

The three were part of a group of seven sect members that killed the judge. The judge had sentenced their colleague who died while in detention.

Kanoute founded the ''barefooted'' sect after he had allegedly seen a vision. He then abandoned his studies and lived in seclusion for two years during which he lived in the hollows of baobab trees in Bougouni, 180 km from Bamako.

The sect's adepts, whose number is unknown, reject modernity. They dress traditionally and walk barefooted, which explains their name.

Although the death penalty exists under Mali's penal code, it has never been applied.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Spanish women outraged by book that gives advice on beatings
CNN/AP, July 26, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Women's organizations in Spain are outraged by a book written by a Muslim cleric that contains advice on how men can beat their wives without leaving marks.

The sixth chapter of ''Women in Islam'' says verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity can be used to discipline a disobedient wife.

But in some cases, beating is appropriate so long as the punches ''don't leave cuts or bruises,'' the book says, according to the Spanish news agency Europa Press.

The book's Egyptian-born author, Imam Mohamed Kamal Mostafa, is the leader of a mosque in Fuengirola near the southern city of Malaga. He could not be reached for comment.
(...)

On Monday, Mostafa's Barcelona-based editor Mowafak Kanfatch defended the book, which he said was published three years ago and has three thousand copies in print.

''What it says is that there should not be blows to the face or to sensitive parts,'' Kanfatch said on Spanish television. ''Blows should be done to parts where the woman will not suffer damage.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Mosque a religious, political tug of war
Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2000
http://chicagotribune.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...)
A Muslim organization wanted to turn the church into a mosque, the first in the suburb's 41-year history.
(...)

So began the drama that would put Palos Heights in the national spotlight as a community that fought its first mosque, with some residents making such derogatory comments that the mayor apologized for the entire town.

Despite attempts by Cronin, Semeyn and other clergy to dampen the early fears, the situation grew into a debacle.

It reached its height last month, when the Palos Heights City Council voted to buy out the Al Salam Mosque Foundation's real estate deal so the city could convert the church into a recreation center. The $200,000 deal later was vetoed by Mayor Dean Koldenhoven-over the mosque's protests-bringing him praise for protecting religious freedom.

Meanwhile, a Tuesday deadline on the real estate contract is looming, and mosque representatives say they are considering three options: walking away from the contract; buying the church building despite their fears of vandalism; or suing the city for meddling in the matter.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Laws on religious extremism too soft, Russian Security Council hears
BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by Russian NTV International television on 25th July
[Presenter] Now for news of today's meeting of the [Russian] Security Council on Islamic extremism.

[Correspondent] When he opened this afternoon's meeting on ways of countering religious extremism, Security Council Secretary Sergey Ivanov apparently did not know that the head of the Chechen administration today banned the activities of Wahhabites on the republic's territory. When journalists told Ivanov about this after the meeting, he said he understood the action taken by Mufti [Akhmad] Kadyrov. However, Sergey Ivanov did refer to Chechnya when he opened the Kremlin meeting, noting that failure to pay proper attention to the activities of radical Islamists was partly to blame for last year's events in Dagestan. Before journalists were asked to withdraw, the Security Council secretary expressed satisfaction at the number of state officials who had responded to the invitation to discuss this complex topic.

[Russian Security Council Secretary Sergey Ivanov, captioned] This conference is being held at the request, on the instructions of the president. It is connected to the fact that we have to analyse once again the situation which has developed in this sphere, the situation connected with the activities of extremist organizations, mostly Muslim ones, inside Russia. All the available information indicates that these Islamic extremist organizations are continuing to step up their activities, something which is in many ways facilitated by the worldwide trend towards politicization of Islam.

[Correspondent] Ivanov stressed that it was not only in the North Caucasus that religious extremism had to be watched. After a session lasting almost two hours, the participants in the meeting came to an unexpected conclusion.

[Ivanov] In a number of constituent parts of the Russian Federation, legislation aimed at countering religious extremism is better and thought through more fully than federal legislation. We decided that the positive experience which exists in a number of constituent parts of the Russian Federation would be drawn on in the drafting of basic, model laws for the federation as a whole.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Azeri God's Army cult members to stand trial for murder
BBC Monitoring Central Asia, July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by Azerbaijani newspaper '525 gazet' on 25th July entitled ''Jeyshullah has tried to carry out a coup in Azerbaijan'' by Ali Ahmadov
[Subhead] The murderers of Etibar Elkin and his sons will be tried

As is known, an interesting and perhaps unprecedented trial of members of the Jeyshullah (Wahhabis) [God's Army] group will soon open in Baku. Let us recall that the group, whose members call themselves Our Jeyshullah (Islamic fighters), is charged with committing various serious crimes, including the murder of Etibar Elkin, chairman of the Association of Psychics, and his sons and, according to reports, with assaulting the Krishna society headquarters.

In spite of the fact that the trial will open soon, the members of the group are still hiding the motives of their crime and other details from state agencies. Along with that, some points of the case have become clear to a certain extent.

First reports say that apart from the aforesaid crimes, the Jeyshullah members are also being charged with other misdemeanours - illegal religious activities, possession of arms, illegal creation of paramilitary groups etc.

As for the motives of the crimes, there are various theories. The group members are believed to have committed crimes inspired by Islamic fundamentalism along with ordinary contract killings. The first theory is more plausible. Russian press reports that the main purpose of the group is to spread Islamism, or to be more precise Wahhabism, in Azerbaijan (by getting rid of those who stand in their way), to seize power in the country by force and, finally, to create an Islamic state. Incidentally, what has been said about the Islamic element in Jeyshullah is partly confirmed by the name of the organization, as well as by details of Elkin's murder (according to some reports, the psychic was forced down to his knees, his sentence was read out and then he was killed) and by the assault on the Krishna society office.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Malaysian police arrest five more Al Ma'unah members
Yahoo/Channel NewsAsia, July 26, 2000
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Malaysian police have detained five senior leaders of an Islamic cult accused of planning a holy war to topple the federal government.
(...)

Police said a total of 31 members of the Al-Ma'unah sect have now been detained under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

They are expected to be charged in court this week with a variety of offences, some of which carry the death penalty.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

36. Germany won't block access to international Nazi sites
CNN/Reuters, July 25, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BERLIN (Reuters) -- Germany, which has some of the world's toughest laws banning race hate propaganda, has conceded defeat to the cross-border reach of the Internet and given up trying to bar access to international neo-Nazi sites.

Deputy Interior Minister Brigitte Zypries, the government's Internet security chief, said this week in an interview with Reuters that it was unrealistic to try to shield Germans from outside Web sites, even though police do aim to stop homegrown Nazi and other offensive material, such as child pornography.
(...)

The growth of the Internet has given Germans increasing access to extremist materials such as Third Reich imagery and symbols, which were banned after World War II. Possession of swastikas and making the stiff-armed Nazi salute are illegal in Germany.
(...)

Facing German official and media pressure, leading online bookstores did agree last year to stop shipping Adolf Hitler's ''Mein Kampf'' to Germany, where it is banned. But the rapid growth of the Internet and freedom of speech laws in the United States and elsewhere mean that anyone can easily read it online.

A French judge this year took another approach and ordered U.S. portal Yahoo to block French access to any parts of its U.S. Web site on which third parties auction Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo said that was impossible. The case continues.

Zypries disagreed with such government intervention.

''We do not want to oblige the providers to do this,'' she said. ''One cannot react with such measures and prevent everything. This contradicts the medium.''

Although neo-Nazis remain a tiny minority in Germany, far-right racist attacks, especially by disillusioned youths in the formerly Communist east of the country, continue to throw a spotlight on the issue. Some Germans fear more sophisticated use of technology could mean an organized campaign of terror.

A recent report by the Federal Agency for the Protection of the Constitution, the internal security and intelligence body, showed a 10 percent rise in 1999 in the number of far-right activists deemed violent. There are now 8,200 of them.

Sensitivity about the past also means that Germany has a strong culture of personal privacy and so far the government has shied away from efforts being made in the United States and Britain to monitor certain e-mail for signs of illegal activity.
(...)

''Anyway, the Americans are not further along in the fight against organized crime even though they have these rights.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

37. Church sued over sex-abuse confessions
Houston Chronicle, July 25, 2000
http://www.chron.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A Methodist church member spoke in tongues and interpreted dreams to induce a mentally challenged couple to falsely confess that they -- and a relative -- sexually abused the couple's children, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the governing body of Texas' Methodist churches.

In a lawsuit moved to federal court Tuesday, Royce Bordman alleges his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by church member Judith Christie and Brazos County Deputy Gerald Kinard when they used tainted and manufactured evidence to obtain warrants to search his home and office.

He also alleges the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in College Station and The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church are liable for the actions of Christie, who worked for the church and falsely claimed to be a counselor.

Aldersgate's pastor, the Rev. Bruce Wood, said Christie was employed by the church, but did not claim to be a counselor on her résumé and was not hired to perform counseling services.
(...)

But Bordman says Christie harmed, not helped, his family. He claims he, his brother and sister-in-law became targets of criminal investigations after Christie, unlicensed and untrained, began months of repressed-memory therapy with his brother's family.

Carl Bordman, who the lawsuit says has a learning disability and is borderline mentally retarded, ''confessed'' to sexual abuse of his child during a lengthy session at the church that included constant admonishments from the Bible, the suit states. Although he later recanted, the mentally impaired man was convicted and is serving a prison sentence.

Royce Bordman says he spent more than $100,000 fighting charges that he sexually assaulted his niece. The charges were eventually dismissed, but he maintains the allegations have hurt him and his family.
(...)

After about nine months of repressed-memory therapy, Christie allegedly began to raise the issue of sexual abuse, intermingling it with dream interpretation. The church member purportedly asked Kathy Bordman and the family's eldest child leading questions, enabling both to ''recover'' repressed memories of sexual abuse that Royce Bordman says were false.

Kathy Bordman made a taped confession that she and Royce Bordman abused her children, but the confession was punctuated with the woman frequently interrupting herself to say she was unsure about her confession, the suit alleges.

In a solo interview with Christie, the family's eldest child allegedly said she was sexually abused by her father. Later, at Christie's prodding, she made the allegations against her uncle, the suit states.
(...)

''Defendant Christie used her position as an untrained, uncertified and unlicensed counselor to manipulate the thoughts and statements of a mentally challenged family,'' the suit states. ''The family was highly susceptible to the techniques of suggestion, junk science and religion imposed by defendant Christie.''
(...)

Bordman is seeking unspecified damages. The lawsuit names Christie, Kinard, Brazos County, the Brazos County Sheriff's Department, Aldersgate United Methodist Church and The Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* See also: Satanic and/or Ritual Abuse and Related Issues


38. Ancient Rite: Peyote Ritual Stirs Trouble in Utah
Salt Lake Tribune, July 23, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com//a>Off-site Link
[Story no longer online?
Read this]
At the state crime lab in Taylorsville, 3,500 peyote buttons rest inside a metal vault.

Nick Stark, a medicine man in the Oklevueha Earth Walks chapter of the Native American Church in Benjamin, owned the buttons before police confiscated them July 8. Claiming he is entitled to use and share the hallucinogenic plant as an American Indian spiritual leader, he wants them returned.

Weber County police and prosecutors, investigating Stark for possible drug distribution charges, say they would destroy the peyote if a court rules Stark had them illegally.

However, leaders of the A Shii-Be-To chapter of the Native American Church (NAC), based in Salt Lake City, dismiss Stark as an imposter and decry the idea of destroying the peyote, which is eaten and used to brew a tea during religious ceremonies. They want the buttons.

''We do not want anything to happen to the peyote,'' said President Johnny Blackhorse. ''It is so sacred, so precious to us. We call it 'Mother Peyote' because that is how we feel about it. If somebody damages it, it would be like somebody hurting your mother.''
(...)

For thousands of years, American Indians have considered peyote -- a hallucinogenic cactus that grows in the limestone soils of the Chihuahuan desert in southern Texas and northern Mexico -- integral to traditional religious ceremonies.

Such ceremonial usage is protected. Under federal law, use of peyote during ''bona fide'' ceremonies in ''traditional'' American Indian religions is lawful.

But the tug-of-war over Stark's buttons highlights the difficulty law enforcement faces in interpreting just whose religion is sufficiently ''traditional'' or ''real'' to enjoy protection from prosecution for using peyote during worship.

Ronald Garet, a professor of law and religion at the University of Southern California, says such an analysis raises serious questions about potential violations of Americans' freedom of religion.

''If originality or purity is the test'' of a religion's validity, Garet said, ''then many religions will fail.''

Asking a judge to determine the correctness of a church's religious practices would probably be unconstitutional, he added. ''Once a court is asked to adjudicate . . . it's put into a position where it might run afoul of the First Amendment,'' Garet said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Trial of 13 OAU Cult Suspects Threatened
Post Express (Nigeria)/Africa News Service, July 26, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Lagos - The trial of the 13 cult suspects who were accused of killing five students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile- Ife on July 10, 1999 may have hit the rocks as all exhibits needed for the prosecution of the case before an Osogbo High Court could not be produced.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Hearst relives kidnapping for spoof film
The Sunday Herald (Scotland), July 23, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress kidnapped by America's infamous 1970s terrorist organisation the Symbionese Liberation Army, is to star in a bizarre ''art imitating life'' movie by renegade director John Waters about urban guerrillas who abduct a beautiful young multi-millionairess.

The film, a warped spoof called Cecil B Demented, sees Hearst revisiting her wild past on celluloid. Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA in 1974 and then joined the terrorist outfit. She was later jailed for her part in an armed bank robbery.
(...)

Hearst, who has already appeared in three John Waters movies including Serial Mom, plays the mother of one of the kidnappers, Fidget. She and her husband make a plea on TV for their son to surrender. In the movie, Hearst almost mimics her father, Randolph Hearst the newspaper tycoon, who went on television to beg for her release. She urges her terrorist son to ''tell us where you are''.

Griffith's character, Honey Whitlock, becomes converted to her captors' cause just as Hearst did. She begins brandishing guns and shouting ''Death to those who support mainstream cinema''.

The SLA slogan was ''Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people''. Griffith's character then becomes one of America's most wanted criminals after she joins the cinema terrorists on a series of guerrilla operations.
(...)

Hearst, who claims she was raped during her time with the SLA, was arrested for an armed bank raid she performed with the group and sent to prison.

She says she was forced to take part in the robbery, and had been brainwashed after spending more than 50 days in a closet. Many have doubted her claims that she was a victim of mind-control.

Sentenced to seven years for grand theft, her sentence was later commuted by President Jimmy Carter. She left jail after two years and ever since has been seeking a full pardon. She is now married to her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw.

The Hearst kidnapping, one of the strangest the FBI ever dealt with, was one of the first examples of the Stockholm Syndrome - where kidnap victims come to identify with their abductors as a means of survival.

The SLA's leader, the self-styled Field Marshal Cinque, indoctrinated her with a constant stream of radical rhetoric. Cinque, who took his name from a famous rebel slave, was an escaped convict called Donald DeFreeze, who was obsessed with guns.

After her indoctrination Hearst became Tania, the SLA activist. She named herself after the female Bolivian revolutionary who died alongside Che Guevara.
(...)

Hearst is set to give key evidence in the forthcoming trial of an alleged former SLA comrade who was recently captured by the FBI.
(...)

Hearst, who is expected to tie Olson to the criminal activities of the SLA, is reluctant to take part in the trial. There have been rumours that some witnesses will claim that she staged her own kidnapping and was the most zealous of all SLA members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

41. US judge blocks Ten Commandments monument
Reuters, July 25, 2000
[Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance]
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (Reuters) -- A federal judge Tuesday told the state of Kentucky it may not install a monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol, saying it would violate the Constitution.
(...)

The monument was a gift from the Kentucky Order of the Eagles, a fraternal group, in 1971. It stood on the capitol grounds until 1980 when it was moved to make way for a new building. Coincidentally that was the same year the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky statute requiring posting the commandments in schools.

The Kentucky Legislature earlier this year passed a resolution requiring the monument to be brought out of storage and reinstalled this summer, according to Chris Kellogg, a spokeswoman for the state government.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state to prevent the monument from being brought back, leading to Tuesday's ruling. Kellogg said the state would make a decision on an appeal after the judge issues a written ruling later in the week.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Suggested reading (buy it now, before the ACLU tries to ban the book for
its use of the word ''Christmas''):

How The Grinch Stole ChristmasOff-site Link


=== Death Penalty

42. House passes bill to block executions of pregnant women
CNN, July 25, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A pregnant woman, sentenced to death by a state, could not be executed until after giving birth if a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by the House of Representatives ever becomes law.

The bill, entitled the ''Innocent Child Protection Act'' expands a current ban on such executions by the federal government and many individual state governments.
(...)

The bill may be more about abortion rights politics than practical concerns as the National Right to Life Committee, which lobbied for passage of the bill, said it is not aware of any executions of pregnant women being carried out in the United States.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Most civilized nations have abandoned the death penalty altogether.

About the death penalty


43. News outlets ask for DNA tests in case of man executed in 1996
July 26, 2000
CNN/AP, July 26, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATLANTA (AP) -- Three newspapers and CBS News said Wednesday they would pay for new DNA tests on evidence from a 1981 Georgia murder case to explore whether the man executed for the crime was innocent.

If the DNA testing shows that Ellis Wayne Felker did not rape and kill 19-year-old Evelyn Joy Ludlam, it would be the first time DNA evidence exonerated an American inmate who was put to death. DNA evidence has cleared eight death-row inmates.

Felker, executed in 1996, claimed he was innocent.

The Boston Globe, The Macon Telegraph, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CBS are calling for new DNA tests on evidence in the murder of the college student, whose body was dumped in a creek.

''We've been very interested, like other news organizations, in finding a case where perhaps a man was wrongfully executed,'' said Ben Bradlee Jr., the editor overseeing the project for the Globe. ''If this could be proven, it could dramatically alter the terms of the death-penalty debate.''
(...)

Kelly Burke, district attorney in Houston County, where the case was prosecuted, said the examination was ''a total waste of their time.''

Even so, Burke said he expected to approve the new tests, and the evidence could leave his office as early as Friday for a lab in California. The results could come back in several weeks.

Advances in DNA testing have been at the forefront of the national debate of the fairness of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment have called for measures to give death row inmates more access to post-conviction DNA testing; even many death penalty supporters say such tests should be used to eliminate any doubt about convicts' guilt.

Last month, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a death penalty supporter, stopped the execution of Ricky McGinn until evidence found on his alleged victim, his stepdaughter, could be tested. Preliminary results failed to clear McGinn, but more tests are planned, according to published reports.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

44. Two little boys
The generals: An exclusive interview with the 12-year-old twins who lead the most desperate guerrilla army in the world.
The Guardian (England), July 27, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4044532,00.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Abstract: ''Johnny and Luther Htoo are fighting a hopeless war. The small band of guerrillas they command is up against 21,000 troops of the Burmese army who have wiped out or displaced most of their people. But the war is really about a gas pipeline - and the company behind the pipeline is British.''


There is a crunch of bamboo stalks underfoot and the first of four bodyguards appears, wearing a black judo guerrilla uniform and a black headscarf. He scans the clearing. Then the 12-year-old commander of God's Army of the Holy Mountain arrives.

Luther Htoo is dressed in a short-sleeved khaki shirt with an Airforce One badge on his right arm. On his forearm is the tattoo of a fish pierced with a spear. He nods to one of the bodyguards, who passes him a lit cheroot, then he spits and climbs on to his bodyguard's knee. His special protector is called Rambo, a 28-year-old fighter who has been with him for three years. He likes playing with Rambo's long, thick, black hair.

Luther, the leader of the youngest and most desperate guerrilla army in the world, accepts a chocolate biscuit. He says his younger twin, Johnny, second in command of Burma's God's Army of the Holy Mountain, might be along later. Or he might not.
(...)

God's Army of the Holy Mountain was born three years ago when the Burmese army moved in to swamp the route of a multi-million pound gas pipeline and clear thousands of people before them. For 50 years the Burmese army and the Karen, one of Burma's three main ethnic groups, had skirmished, but in the early 90s the Burmese army launched opera tion Spirit King. Its aim was to wipe out the Karen and secure the route of the pipeline. A hundred thousand Karen fled to refugee camps across the Thai border.

The British consortium Premier Oil began pumping gas through Karen land in April. The UK energy consultant Wood McKenzie estimates that the pipeline will earn Premier Oil - which includes Japanese and Thai oil companies and the brutal Burmese regime - almost ££500m over the next 25 years.
(...)

Luther and Johnny were discovered three years ago by a television crew who went looking for the Burmese students who had fled after taking over the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.
(...)

Then the twins disappeared in the jungle.
(...)

Their army is an army of orphans, their camp a mobile foster home for the remnants of the Karen people's 50-year fight for independence against the Burmese.

Two years ago, at the end of 1998, God's Army had 500 soldiers and Johnny and Luther were reported to be working miracles: landmines were jumping up in front of them and soldiers who fought with them were able to brush off bullets like a jungle shower. The Baptist preachers who had brought Christianity to the Burmese jungle from Salem, Massachusetts, 100 years ago had also brought the cult of deliverance to a destroyed people. The Karen needed saviours.

In March 1997, in the Htaw Maímaw district of eastern Burma, a local pastor brought two illiterate nine year olds to the military chief and said the Lord had spoken to them and they would save the Karen people. News of the visitation passed through an area where the Burmese army was cracking down hard after the Karen had killed eight workers on the pipeline.

The military chief gave the children a ''pistol complete with bullets and everything'', says the pastor, Thah Hpay, who also went with the twins into their first battle.

''That morning there were 20 enthusiastic men there and our commander Luther shouted 'God's Army!' and everyone in the cart shouted back 'God's Army!' At 6.20pm at the Manderlay church where the enemy was we selected eight from among us to serve as commandos and we named them 'Jesus Commandos'. We attacked the enemy at Manderlay and shot dead 24 of them. For the next battle, at Aímlat, we started to fight at 3pm and the battle lasted for two hours. Those that attacked were 16 but the enemy were hundreds.''

So the beautiful myth of divine salvation for a desperate people was born and the cult of the twins began to grow.
(...)

Even with God behind them Luther and Johnny Htoo can't fight the gas pipeline that brought 10 Burmese infantry battalions to their land. By January this year there were 21,000 troops in an area where there had once been 1,500. ''Economically, the gas pipeline had to go through at all costs,'' says Sister Mary Roberts, a Catholic nun from California who arrived in the area from China in 1951.

''The military used forced labour to clear the forests, people were kidnapped to work as porters and build the military security camps. They were being wiped off the land and nobody was helping them. In the daytime, the women were taken to work as porters for the army and at night they belonged to the soldiers.

''The oil companies were very clever. They let the Burmese military do the dirty work and then pretended they didn't know anything about it.''

Premier Oil, the British company running one of two pipeline consortiums cutting through the Karen area said that they knew there were human rights abuses by the military and they condemned them. Chief executive, Charles Jamieson also said: ''We're satisfied that human rights abuse aren't taking place in the area we are responsible for. If we come across them we report them to the relevant authorities.

''Premier believes in constructive engagement with the regime - not empty rhetoric,'' he added.

The Jubilee Campaign, the human rights organisation based at Westminster and and campaigning for the Karen says: ''Its is a nonsense for Premier to report abuses to the 'relevant authorities - the 'relevant authorities' are the Burmese military. Premier should admit they are working with mass murderers.'' The Jubilee Campaign claim that at least 30,000 Karen have died in the military's secret genocide against these people.
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45. 'Born-again virgins' give up sex to bolster their self-esteem
Chicago Tribune/New York Times News Service, July 26, 2000
http://chicagotribune.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...)
In a culture saturated with sexual messages, where consenting adults seem to hop into bed at the bat of a feathery eyelash, a small minority are willfully dropping out of the game.

Calling themselves ''born-again virgins,'' they embrace abstinence not so much on moral or religious grounds, but to cleanse themselves and reassert self-control. An age-old notion, celibacy has taken on new and particular urgency for these converts, many of whom, though not all, have been singed by affairs gone wrong.

There has been a recent outpouring of books, manuals and screeds advocating celibacy, including Williams' ''Sensual Celibacy'' (Simon & Schuster, 1999), in which she argues that saying no to sex recharges the spirit. She urges women to pamper themselves with luxuries they might once have lavished on men: soft pillows, scented candles, decadent underwear.

The most scholarly offering is ''A History of Celibacy'' (Scribner, 2000) by Elizabeth Abbott, the dean of women at Trinity College at the University of Toronto. ''Thanks in part to AIDS,'' she writes, ''and much more to a stultifying surfeit of mindless sex, celibacy has emerged from clandestineness and has crossed back into the mainstream.''
(...)

Miramax has commissioned an original screenplay from Wendy Keller, author of ''The Cult of the Born-Again Virgin'' (Health Communications, 2000), and Iris Martin, a psychotherapist who is one of many celibate women interviewed in the book.
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* The term ''born again'' is used incorrectly here. The proper context is as
follows:

(John 3:3-8 NIV) In reply Jesus declared, ''I tell you the truth, no one can
see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'' {4} ''How can a man be born
when he is old?'' Nicodemus asked. ''Surely he cannot enter a second time into
his mother's womb to be born!'' {5} Jesus answered, ''I tell you the truth, no
one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
{6} Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. {7} You
should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' {8} The wind
blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it
comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.''

Only Christians are born again. Unificationists (Moonies), Mormons,
Jehovah's Witnesses, other cultists, followers of non-Christian religions,
atheists, pagans, etcetera, can not be ''born again.''


46. Gore: Studying diverse beliefs led him to spiritual balance
Pioneer Planet/AP, July 22, 2000
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...)
Both the conservative church and the liberal divinity school left their mark. Gore and his wife, Tipper, say they are both ''born-again,'' and they attend a small church that's part of the increasingly conservative Southern Baptist Convention. But Gore's writings about the spiritual roots of the world's environmental problems in his book, ''Earth in the Balance,'' have brought charges of New Age pantheism from Christian conservatives.

Gore maintains that exploring diverse teachings about religion and the environment has been key to finding his own spiritual balance.

''The search for truths about this ungodly (environmental) crisis and the search for truths about myself have been the same search all along,'' he writes in the book.
(...)

During his junior year at Harvard, Gore had his first ''born-again'' experience.

''It's very personal, and I don't want to be advertising all of the particulars and details,'' he told ABC News. ''When I was a young man, I had an experience (of) a very intense awareness of the presence and the meaning of Jesus and the message of God through Jesus.''

But Gore says his experience in the Vietnam War -- he spent a five-month tour as an army journalist -- would challenge teachings he had taken on faith.
(...)

He wanted to know, ''How can human beings do these things to each other?'' said Jack Forstman, a Vanderbilt professor. ''He thought a few courses in religious studies, particularly in ethics and philosophy of religion, would be helpful in ordering his own mind.''

Gore never intended to become a minister. He attended Vanderbilt on a yearlong Rockefeller Foundation scholarship for people planning secular careers and later said that he had hoped to make sense of the social injustices that seemed to challenge his religious beliefs.

The university in Nashville was a center of social activism.
(...)

''Our strength was interfaith understanding, grappling with critical philosophical issues that seemed to undermine theology,'' said David Ogletree, Gore's Christian ethics professor who now teaches at Yale.

Still, Gore remained grounded in traditional worship after he left Vanderbilt, attending churches and prayer meetings as his political career advanced, representing religiously conservative Tennessee, as his father did. He invoked Christian parables in political speeches as a congressman and senator, and later as vice president, at times falling into a preacher's cadences.
(...)

While in Carthage, the Gores continued to attend the Salem Missionary Baptist Church of Al's childhood. In Washington, they went to Tipper's home church in Arlington, Va.: Mount Vernon Baptist, where she would serve as a deaconess.

In the late 1970s, she and her husband reaffirmed their religious commitment when they were ''born again'' at the Arlington church.

''He was baptized here, full immersion.'' says the Rev. Martha Phillips, the church's interim minister. ''When we are immersed, we are burying our sins with Christ.''
(...)

In ''Earth in the Balance,'' Gore wrote of his faith, which he said was ''rooted in the unshakable belief in God as creator and sustainer, a deeply personal interpretation of the relationship with Christ, and an awareness of a constant and holy spiritual presence in all people, all life, and all things.''

Faith, he wrote, should lead to an adherence to just principles, including a responsibility to preserve the earth for future generations. He talked of lessons to be learned from other religious traditions, including ancient earth goddess worship, and of God's place in the universe.

''Why does it feel faintly heretical to a Christian to suppose that God is in us as human beings?'' he wrote. ''Why do our children believe that the Kingdom of God is up, somewhere in the ethereal reaches of space, far removed from this planet? Are we still . . . looking everywhere except in the real world?''

Ogletree says Gore's sense of the sacred in nature was not at odds with a belief in a transcendent God: ''The Old Testament is full of images of God being concretely present and yet totally beyond.''

But Mark Tooley of the conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy wrote that Gore offended Christians who believe that ''the Earth is but a footstool to the sovereign and very distinct creator of all creation.''

His positions on political issues involving religion have been tough to categorize.

Gore supports abortion rights and gay rights, positions that Southern Baptist Convention officials have urged him to recant. He is also against school vouchers supported by many religious conservatives.

While he agrees with liberals that evolution should be taught in public schools, he made conservatives happy when he said localities should be free to teach creationism as well.
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47. Graham passing the torch via satellite
Star Telegram/AP, July 25, 2000
http://www.star-telegram.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Rev. Billy Graham has always wanted to do big things for God.

At 81, it's not enough for him to pass the torch to one person. He wants to pass it to 10,000. And on Saturday (July 29) in Amsterdam, Graham will do just that at the largest gathering of world evangelists under one roof.

Graham's Amsterdam 2000 conference, five years in the making at a cost of $39 million, will bring together men and women from 185 countries. At the sprawling RAI Center they will learn how to be good evangelists in the Graham mold: how to proclaim the Christian message of salvation through Jesus Christ, invite listeners to convert, and conduct their personal lives in accordance with the faith's values of honesty and integrity.

In hundreds of workshops simultaneously translated into 25 languages, some of the biggest names in the evangelical world will offer participants advice, support and encouragement. They include the Most Rev. George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury; the Rev. Billy Kim, pastor of one of the largest Baptist churches in Korea; Bill Bright, the director of Campus Crusade for Christ; and Luis Palau, the Oregon-based evangelist especially popular among Latin people.
(...)

Graham and his organization have been at the forefront of a movement to help mobilize and train these new converts.

''One of the things he learned is that the Christian church is bigger than the categories he grew up with,'' said Larry Eskridge, the associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Illinois. ''Christendom is no longer a white man's religion. It's been claimed by others.''

In Africa and Asia, the growth of Christianity has been spectacular. In 1900, there were 8.7 million Christians in Africa. Today, there are an estimated 335 million, nearly 50 percent of the continent's population. The story is similar in Asia, where the number of Christians has risen from 20 million a century ago to about 307 million.

Today, there are almost twice as many Presbyterians in Korea as in the United States. And there are six times as many Anglicans in Nigeria as there are Episcopalians in this country.

It is these people, many of whom converted at the risk of losing their jobs and alienating their families, for whom Graham feels a particular affinity.

William Martin, a sociologist at Rice University in Houston and the author of a ''A Prophet with Honor,'' a Graham biography, said: ''My clear sense is that deep inside him there is a feeling that people who face hardship and persecution are the real heroes of the faith.

''He has a genuine feeling for people working in difficult circumstances. This thrills him more than anything he does.''
(...)

This year, he wanted to go beyond the scope of the previous conferences and combine their various elements into one grand affair.

The organization spent two years looking for emerging Christian leaders all over the world. Each of the 10,000 participants chosen was screened, interviewed and asked to write six to eight pages of answers to essay questions. The goal has been to identify people who have had success in their ministry but few professional growth opportunities.

The Netherlands was chosen for its neutrality and easy access. Since many of the participants cannot afford the trip, the Graham organization has provided scholarships of up to $3,500. It has remodeled an exposition center in nearby Utrecht to serve as a dormitory for 7,000 evangelists. The organization has installed 3,500 bunk beds, 289 toilets and 432 portable showers.
(...)

As a boy, Graham once took a cat and shut it in the doghouse overnight with the family collie. The next day, the dog and cat came out friends forever.

In his autobiography, ''Just As I Am,'' Graham joked the incident may have sowed the seeds of his ecumenical convictions.

One thing is certain: A signature attribute for which Graham will be remembered is his ability to bring sparring Christians under one roof.

Although he grew up a Presbyterian and was ordained a Southern Baptist, Graham has never gotten involved in doctrinal debates or denominational squabbles. Throughout his career, he extended a hand to Christians of all stripes, including Roman Catholics and Pentecostals.

That may also be the reason so many evangelists have jumped at the opportunity to attend the Amsterdam conference. To them, Graham's name is above reproach, precisely because he has stayed above the fray.
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* The conference can be followed via the web:

http://www.crosswalk.com/billygraham/details/1,8128,3058,00.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

Background information about Amsterdam 2000:
http://www.media.amsterdam2000.org/default.aspOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

(For all those who asked whether I am attending the conference: I was invited
but can not attend due to my health situation).


48. New-Age Commune Is Into Crafts and Time Travel
New York Times, July 26, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BALDISSERO CANAVESE, Italy, July 21 -- The cottage cellar door seems to lead to a basement toolshed. Actually it is the disguised entrance to the ''Temple of Man,'' a five-story underground warren of vast, ornately decorated chambers, with towering pillars, 40-foot-high gold-leaf ceilings, giant frescoes and bronze statues, all linked by narrow passages and concealed stone doors that spring open and shut by electrical command.

The temple looks like a cross between Xanadu and the subterranean headquarters of a Bond villain plotting world domination. Begun more than 20 years ago in total secrecy, it is the spiritual core of Damanhur, a 23-year-old New Age commune nestled, somewhat improbably, amid tiny rural villages in the Piedmont valley of Valchiusella, in the foothills of the Alps.

Members reject the term cult, describing their commune as a nation, one that aims at total self-sufficiency and boasts its own currency, schools, federal and local government, newspapers, Web site and tax code. It also claims to have its own unique transportation system: time travel.

But the oddest thing about Damanhur is not its belief system, but the way it has melded California-style New Age spirituality with the customs and mores of northern Italy. When its 500 full-time residents are not experimenting with time travel and ''Selfic'' healing, they are industriously churning out luxury items for export.
(...)

In the late 1980's, Damanhur dispensed with its early collectivist spirit and secrecy, and it has since embraced capitalism and Internet-driven public relations (www.Damanhur.it). Tourists can tour the temple for a $40 fee, and its bustling workshops, healing centers and guesthouses offer paid spiritual retreats and seminars.
(...)

Mostly, the commune draws middle-aged people interested in mysticism and the paranormal. ''It is a deep, holistic, growthful environment,'' Peta Lynne, 50, a visitor from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, who described her day job there as a ''channeler.''

When she began explaining how she rediscovers past lives, she was cut off by Esperide Ananas (Butterfly Pineapple), or Silvia Buffagni, Damanhur's director of international public relations. Ms. Buffagni rolled her eyes and impatiently explained that Damanhur took a less ''fluffy'' approach to channeling, a somewhat rigid distinction coming from one who claimed to have witnessed a fellow Damanhurian travel through time to Atlantis.
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=== Internet

49. Study says Web is 500 times larger than major search engines now show
CNN/AP, July 27, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/07/26/deepweb.ap/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Internet has become so large so fast that sophisticated search engines are just scratching the surface of the Web's vast information reservoir, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The 41-page research paper, prepared by a South Dakota company that has developed new software to plumb the Internet's depths, estimates the World Wide Web is 500 times larger than the maps provided by popular search engines like Yahoo!, AltaVista and Google.com.

These hidden information coves, well-known to the Net savvy, have become a tremendous source of frustration for researchers who can't find the information they need with a few simple keystrokes.
(...)

Many researchers suspected that these underutilized outposts of cyberspace represented a substantial chunk of the Internet, but no one seems to have explored the Web's back roads as extensively as BrightPlanet.

Deploying new software developed over the past six months, BrightPlanet estimates there are now about 550 billion documents stored on the Web.

Combined, Internet search engines index about 1 billion pages.
(...)

Search engines rely on technology that generally identifies ''static'' pages, rather than the ''dynamic'' information stored in databases.

This means that general-purpose search engines will guide users to the home site that houses a huge database, but finding out what's in them requires additional queries.

BrightPlanet believes it has developed a solution with software called ''LexiBot.''

With a single search request, the technology not only searches the pages indexed by traditional search engines, but delves into the databases on the Internet and fishes out the information in them.

The LexiBot isn't for everyone, BrightPlanet executives concede. For one thing, the software costs money -- $89.95 after a free 30-day trial. For another, a LexiBot search isn't fast. Typical searches will take 10 to 25 minutes to complete, but could require up to 90 minutes for the most complex requests.
(...)

About 95 percent of the information stored in the deep Web is free, according to BrightPlanet.

Several Internet veterans who reviewed BrightPlanet's research Wednesday were intrigued, but warned that the company's software could be too overwhelming.

''The World Wide Web is getting to be so humongous that you need specialized engines. A centralized approach like this isn't going to be successful,'' predicted Carl Malamud, co-founder of Petaluma-based Invisible Worlds.

Like BrightPlanet, Invisible Worlds is trying to extract more data hidden from search engines, but is customizing the information.
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