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Religion News Report

November 8, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 283) - 2/2

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog

» Continued from Part 1

=== Noted
14. When faith fails children--religion-based neglect: Pervasive, deadly...and legal?
15. Fake blood could save lives
16. It's all in your mind
17. Expert says don't always trust memory (Loftus)
18. Beware a Rash of Exorcisms (Loftus)
19. Scholar studies why we hate (Lifton)
20. Digital Angel: The New Eye in the Sky
21. Scholars Consider a Messiah Before Jesus

=== Death Penalty
22. Court: Invoking God Was Prejudicial
23. State Dept. Asks Texas to Review Capital Case

=== Books
24. Minister wants Harry Potter expelled from school
25. Book review: Frankly, he's skeptical

=== Noted

14. When faith fails children--religion-based neglect: Pervasive, deadly...and legal?
Humanist, Nov. 1, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
My husband Douglas and I were devout, lifelong Christian Scientists until 1977 when we lost our only son Matthew as a result of our religious beliefs regarding medical care. It's hard for most people to understand this. It's hard for many to grasp how parents could watch a beloved child suffer, yet not call a doctor. I need to begin, therefore, by describing the pressures involved.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, founded in the late nineteenth century by Mary Baker Eddy, teaches that all disease is caused by sin. As little Matthew lay helpless with a raging fever, his body and bedding soaked with perspiration, the Christian Science practitioners told us that our negative feelings were making our baby sick. Our doubts, fears, lack of gratitude to them, and problems with relatives were the sins causing Matthew's illness.

Christian Science theology had trained us to believe that physicians don't really heal-at best, they only relieve symptoms; the underlying cause of the disease remains a moral problem that God alone can solve. Furthermore, this church doesn't allow its practitioners to give spiritual treatments to those who voluntarily go to a physician. Such a rule, as contrasted with the teachings of most other religious denominations, instructs that God and a doctor are mutually exclusive alternatives.

The Christian Science church also opposes medical diagnosis as much as it does medical treatment. Because of this, my husband and I had no way of acquiring rational information about Matthew's illness without breaking church rules. We wanted relief for our baby and considered taking him to a doctor, but we were terrified that the doctor wouldn't be able to treat the disease, which was a mystery to us, and then we'd have no way to resume the Christian Science healing. Thus, if we made the wrong decision, we could find ourselves bereft of help from both medical science and God.

On the twelfth day of his illness, however, a path of action seemed to open for us. The practitioner told us that Matthew might have a broken bone and that the Christian Science church does allow members to go to doctors to have bones set. Immediately we took Matthew to a hospital. As I walked in with our nearly dead baby in my arms, I asked the staff to check him for only the broken bone. But later, when we phoned our practitioner from the hospital, expecting her to continue praying for Matthew, she indignantly rejected us, saying that she had ''seen all along'' we were lacking in faith.

Our baby was diagnosed with h-flu meningitis, which has been routinely treated with antibiotics since the 194(?s and is vaccine- preventable today. The doctors explained to us how the disease had caused the symptoms we had seen. That's when we realized that the very things the Christian Science practitioners had insisted were signs the religious treatments were working were, in fact, signs of impending disaster. (For example, one practitioner, who observed Matthew's convulsions, said he might be ''gritting his teeth'' because he was ''planning some great achievement.'')

Matthew lived a week longer in intensive care on a respirator and then died. Immediately afterwards, my husband and I left the Christian Science church.

Sadly, our experience isn't unique. There have been far too many other children who have suffered and died under similar circumstances. This is why my husband and I founded Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. (CHILD), a national membersip organization that promotes the rights of children to medical care and opposes religion-related abuse and neglect of children. And this is why we think it is important to share not only our own story but those of other parents and their children.

SHAUNTAY WALKER age four, died of meningitis in Sacramento, California, in 1984. She was home sick from nursery school for seventeen days but the school staff didn't report the matter to Child Protection Services. When her aunt observed that the little girl was comatose and then threatened to call the police, Shauntay's mother moved her to a Christian Scientist's home, where the girl died.

AARON NORMAN, age ten, died of untreated diabetes in 1987 near Spokane, Washington. Members of the fundamentalist church his parents belonged to told the minister and church elders they suspected the boy had diabetes, but no one told his parents. When Aaron wet the bed, his father thought the boy had been masturbating and beat him with a board. The minister and elders encouraged the father to continue beating Aaron until he confessed.

AMY HERMANSON, age seven, died in 1986 in Sarasota, Florida. She was a talented little girl who took piano, violin, harp, and art lessons and excelled in academic subjects.

One employee said she didn't file a report with CPS because she knew the Hermansons were Christian Scientists and they were ''signing [her] paycheck.''

ROBYN TWITCHELL, age two, who lived near Boston, Massachusetts, died of peritonitis and a twisted bowel after a five-day illness in 1986. It began with him screaming and vomiting. By the second day his parents, Ginger and David Twitchell, were calling the Christian Science church's world-- wide public relations manager for advice. He assured them that the law granted their right to use Christian Science treatment instead of medicine.

At the Twitchells' trial, a Christian Science practitioner testified that she had achieved a complete healing of Robyn and that he had run around happily chasing his cat fifteen minutes before he died. Rigor mortis had set in before the parents called 911.

Ginger and David were convicted of manslaughter in 1990. In 1993 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned the conviction on a technicality but also ruled that parents had a legal duty to provide necessary medical care for their children regardless of their religious beliefs.

IAN LUNDMAN, age eleven, died of diabetes in 1989 in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father had left the Christian Science church but didn't have custody of him.

The custodial parents retained a Christian Science practitioner for spiritual treatment of Ian's illness (who later billed the parents $446 for his prayers).

ANDREW WANTLAND, age twelve, died in 1992 in La Habra, California, of untreated diabetes. He experienced frequent urination, vomiting, and rapid weight loss before becoming comatose and dying. Although his parents had joint custody and his mother had specified that she wanted medical care provided for their children, his Christian Science father refused to inform Andrew's mother of his illness until it was too late.

ELIZABETH ASHLEY KING, age twelve, died of bone cancer in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1988. She had missed seven months of public school before neighbors alerted Child Protection Services.

But, because she reportedly requested it, the state allowed the girl to be placed in an unlicensed Christian Science nursing home.

HARRISON JOHNSON, age two, died in September 1998 when he was stung 432 times by yellow jackets in Melbourne, Florida. His parents didn't call 911 until seven and a half hours later after the toddler became unconscious. Harrison's parents, Kelly and Wylie Johnson, belong to the Bible Believers' Fellowship [Note: This should be, 'Bible Readers Fellowship'], a tiny religious group that advocates exclusive reliance on prayer to heal and claims that doctors are sorcerers.

CALAHAN DOUGLAS SHIPPY, age fourteen, died December 28, 1998, in Rembey, Alberta, from juvenile-onset diabetes after several weeks of illness. His parents-Ruth and Steve Shippy, affiliated with Followers of Christ, a group which advocates exclusive reliance on religious rituals for healing disease-were charged with criminal negligence resulting in death and failing to provide the necessities of life to a dependent.

Pediatrician Seth M. Asser and I conducted the largest study ever done on child fatalities in faithhealing sects and published our results in the April 1998 issue of Pediatrics. We analyzed the deaths which occurred between 1975 and 1995 of 200 U.S. children, who were associated with eighteen different religious sects that object to medical care. We were able to obtain documentation on 172 of these cases sufficient to conclude that medical care was withheld on religious grounds. And of those 172 children, 140 of them would have had a 90 percent or better probability of survival if adequate medical care had been provided in a timely way.

Unexpectedly, our work immediately served as a catalyst for an important new discovery. Shortly after our results were published, public officials in Oregon disclosed to the media that a large number of children from a Followers of Christ congregation near Oregon City had died. Seventyeight children were found to be buried in a cemetery owned by this church. Another dozen Followers of Christ children died near Caldwell, Idaho, over a twenty-year span.

None of these ninety children was included in our Pediatrics study. In fact, when we did our research we hadn't even heard of the Followers of Christ. Yet these children had been dying year after year, from 1955 through 1998, and nobody outside the group had any real idea.

In the light of this and other information we've acquired since our study, we believe that the numerous deaths across the nation known to us are but a small fraction of the actual total. This may be especially true where coroners have failed to do autopsies in such cases. And the religious groups tend to keep the facts to themselves.

The Christian Science church in particular has admitted to its lack of internal accountability and recordkeeping.

Death isn't the only consequence of religiously motivated medical neglect. Untold numbers more, who grew up in homes with parents who had religious objections to medical care, have suffered needless fear and pain or have become permanently disabled. Illnesses and injuries left untreated can produce a host of outcomes. For example, some CHILD members can trace hearing loss to such neglect. And one became profoundly deaf at age seven after a series of ear infections for which her Christian Science parents wouldn't secure medical treatment.

Thousands of children aren't inoculated against communicable diseases because of their parents' religious objections. The Christian Science church has told its practitioners and nurses not to report contagious diseases to their state and has discouraged them from reporting cases of sick children without medical care to protection services agencies.

Contagious diseases can also spread to those outside faith- healing sects. For example, in 1982, nine-year-old Debra Kupsch contracted diphtheria at a Christian Science camp in Colorado, then traveled on a bus with a number of other unvaccinated children to Wisconsin where she died. The state of Wisconsin then had to track down and test all the children and adults she had come into contact with. In 1985, one child whose parents had claimed a religious exemption from state-required immunizations became the index patient for a measles outbreak that ripped through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near Glacier National Park in Montana, affecting 137 people. In 1994, at the Principia Christian Science parochial schools in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, an outbreak of measles spread to more than 200 children, including many outside the Christian Science community. It was the nation's largest measles outbreak since 1992 and cost St. Louis County taxpayers over $100,000.

Religious freedom, of course, is a precious right, but our courts have never ruled that the First Amendment includes a right to deprive a child of preventive, therapeutic, or diagnostic health care. Indeed, they have issued opinions in the opposite direction.

In response to Christian Science church lobbying, the federal government began requiring states to pass religious exemptions from child abuse and neglect charges in 1974. My husband and I lobbied for several years against this regulation. The federal government rescinded it in 1983.

In 1996, however, Congress enacted a law stating that the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has no ''Federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian.'' Furthermore, Senator Dan Coats (Republican- Indiana) and Representative Bill Goodling (Republican-Pennsylvania) claimed during debate that parents have a First Amendment right to withhold medical care from children. Therefore, Congress is again encouraging states to pass laws allowing parents to withhold medical care on religious grounds although the exemption laws aren't a federal requirement for grant money as they were between 1974 and 1983.

In 1997 the Christian Science church used the CAPTA religious exemption to promote a bill in Maryland exempting believers in spiritual healing from all civil and criminal charges regardless of the harm to the child. Although the bill was defeated, this action makes it clear that the Christian Science church remains the primary political and legal force behind the agenda of securing special legal privileges for believers in faith healing.

These efforts need to be stopped and the mischief that has already been done to our laws needs to be undone. Enormous challenges lie ahead. In 2001, Congress will reauthorize the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. CAPTA requires that states receiving federal money for child abuse programs have laws requiring parents to provide necessary medical care, but CAPTA also allows these states to enact statutory exemptions for parents with religious objections. I believe that this federal law discriminates against children in faith- healing sects by depriving them of the protections it offers to other children. CHILD will be urging members of Congress to remove the religious exemption.

Why, in the twenty-first century, is this situation allowed to continue? I think it's because the United States remains reluctant to fully acknowledge children as rights-bearing persons. The public and its lawmakers aren't ready to give children a constitutional right to health care. While states do require parents to provide their children with the necessities of life, they don't always require that children receive adequate health care. And every state, at one time or another, has passed laws allowing parents to withhold on religious grounds some forms of medical treatment.

Religions That Have Endangered Children Because of an Official Objection to Medical Care

Bible Believers' Fellowship

Christ Assembly

Christ Miracle Healing Center

Christian Science

Church of God Chapel

Church of God of the Union Assembly

Church of the First Born

End Time Ministries

Faith Assembly

Faith Tabernacle

Followers of Christ

Holiness Church

Jehovah's Witnesses (only objection today is to blood transfusions)

Jesus through Jon and Judy

''No Name'' fellowship

Northeast Kingdom Community Church

The Source

Rita Swan holds a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University. She is president of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. (CHILD), in Sioux City, Iowa (www.childrenshealthcare.org).
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15. Fake blood could save lives
Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 22, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
With blood shortages getting worse each year, drug companies are developing blood substitutes that could boost vital supplies as early as 2002.

One product, Hemopure, comes from cattle blood. A synthetic product called Oxygent looks like skim milk. Two other substitutes, Hemolink and PolyHeme, are derived from surplus or expired human blood.

Blood substitutes have shelf lives of one to three years. By comparison, human blood is good for only 42 days. The products also are compatible with all patients, regardless of blood type.

Manufacturers say substitutes eliminate the minute risk of transmission of hepatitis C and HIV. The products could save lives in ambulances and on the battlefield. Moreover, substitutes might prove acceptable to people such as Jehovah's Witnesses, who have religious or moral objections to blood transfusions.

However, substitutes cost as much or more than regular blood. And they don't last long in the bloodstream. Depending on the product, they lose half of their oxygen-carrying capacity in 12 to 48 hours.

Moreover, experts worry about possible side effects, including high blood pressure and gastrointestinal irritability. In 1998, Baxter Healthcare abandoned its HemAssist blood substitute after a study found it might do more harm than good. Severely bleeding trauma patients who received HemAssist died at a higher rate than patients who received conventional treatment.

Blood has three components: red blood cells, which carry oxygen; white blood cells, which fight infections, and platelets, which stop bleeding. The substitutes perform the job of red blood cells. (A person who loses blood does not need to replace white blood cells or platelets immediately.)

PolyHeme, made by Evanston-based Northfield Laboratories, and Hemolink consist of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin molecules extracted from human blood. Hemopure consists of hemoglobin taken from cow's blood. Oxygent is a man-made chemical that carries dissolved oxygen.

Each product has drawbacks. Supplies of Hemolink and PolyHeme will be limited by the amount of surplus and expired blood.

Hemopure supplies are more plentiful-17 pints can be made from one cow. But competitors point to concerns about transmitting mad cow disease. The manufacturer insists that can't happen because it removes all viruses, bacteria and other germs.

Supplies of Oxygent also should be plentiful. Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp. said its San Diego factory could make 2.5 million pints a year. But competitors note that the product requires patients to breathe oxygen during surgery for best results.
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16. It's all in your mind
Post-Gazette, Oct. 24, 2000
http://www.post-gazette.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...Alternative Healing...]
If you want to change your life, just change your mind.

That's part of the thinking behind a movement to revolutionize the way people ''do therapy'' and find happiness and inner peace.

It also is part of the curriculum at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, which recently opened the Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health. This is named for the millworker-turned-mystic whose beliefs began to attract followers 26 years ago.

''The traditional approach in medicine deals with curing disease instead of promoting health,'' said Dr. Robert D'Allessandri, dean of the medical school. He embraced Banks' theosophy, or insights, at a seminar five years ago and envisioned doctors treating patients by trusting their ''innate wisdom'' as much as technology.
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* Sidebars:

Sydney Banks believes that people are shaped by three principles: mind,
thought and consciousness.

Mind is universal creative energy, thought is the power to create
moment-to-moment reality and consciousness is the ability to be aware of both
what is created and that it is being created.

According to Banks, as people begin to realize the operation of these
principles for themselves, they gain insights about how to reach their own
wisdom and common sense. They find calm, clarity, security and a positive
direction, regardless of life circumstances, because they see the inside-out
nature of experience.

''Releasing the Power in Health,'' a national conference about innate health
and mental well-being, has been scheduled at the Westin William Penn,
Downtown Pittsburgh, June 14-17, 2001. Sydney Banks is scheduled to lecture.

You can reach the Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health at WVU by calling
(304) 293-1917or by visiting www.sbiih.orgOff-site Link

Banks has written three books:
-- ''The Missing Link: Reflections on Philosophy and Spirit,'' (Lone Pine
Publishing, 1998)
-- ''In Quest of the Pearl,'' (Duval-Bibb, 1990)
-- ''Second Chance,'' (Duval-Bibb, 1989)
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17. Expert says don't always trust memory
The Daily Press, Nov. 4, 2000
http://www.dailypress.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...False Memory Syndrome...]
WILLIAMSBURG - There's nothing more convincing than a positive, confident eyewitness in determining the outcome of a trial, said Elizabeth Loftus, a University of Washington professor of psychology and law who is a well-known expert on human memory.

Unfortunately, she said, an eyewitness can be both extremely persuasive and completely unreliable.

Loftus, the author of the books ''Eyewitness TestimonyOff-site Link'' and ''The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual AbuseOff-site Link,'' has testified as an expert witness at more than 200 trials, and has appeared on ''Oprah,'' ''60 Minutes,'' and many other talk and news shows.

Some of her work has been so controversial that, according to a 1996 profile in Psychology Today, ''She has been called a whore by a prosecutor in a courthouse hallway, assaulted by a passenger on an airplane shouting, 'You're that woman!' and has occasionally required surveillance by plainclothes security guards at lectures.''

''Human memory is malleable. It does not just work like a video camera,'' Loftus said.

Not only do people incorrectly remember the details of events they've witnessed, but it's pretty easy to make them believe they've seen things they haven't, Loftus said her research has shown.

Although a question may sound like it was designed to elicit information, it can also subtly deliver information to a witness, she said.

She cited, for example, research showing people's estimate of a car's speed depended on whether they were asked how fast it was going when it ''contacted'' or ''smashed'' the other car.

When the verb ''contacted'' was used, the average estimate was 32 mph, she said. It rose to 34 mph when ''hit'' was substituted, 38 mph when the verb was ''bumped,'' 39 mph when the word was ''collided'' and almost 41 mph for the word ''smashed.''

What happens, Loftus explained, is that people remember the impact, but when a word like ''smashed'' is used, it enhances the image of the force involved, which the hearer can easily and unconsciously integrate into his memory.

When the experiment was carried further, people were more likely to falsely remember there was broken glass at the scene if they had previously been asked how fast the car was going when it ''smashed'' into the other vehicle.

It is very easy to alter or contaminate a witness' memory, Loftus concluded.

Sometimes after a talk, people will tell her that the information she shares is dangerous, Loftus said. She asked if anyone in the room felt that way. Almost no one raised a hand.

Loftus said there were ethical guidelines involved in actively using that kind of knowledge to deliberately manipulate witnesses, but the law students would be wise to keep the information in mind for use defensively in evaluating eyewitness statements.
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18. Beware a Rash of Exorcisms
WIRED, Oct. 31, 2000
http://www.wirednews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...False Memory Syndrome...]
If you think you know your own mind, think again.

Demonstrating the plasticity of memory, psychologists at the University of Washington in Seattle convinced students they witnessed demonic possession as children.

In a series of recent experiments, psychologists simply showed subjects newspaper articles about possession and then suggested symptoms of depression or anxiety were caused by witnessing a demonic possession during childhood.

Subjects who initially thought demonic possession was highly implausible became convinced they had witnessed it themselves when they were very young.

''It's relatively easy to make people believe they had an experience when they were children that they didn't have,'' said University of Washington psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in memory research.

''Even people coming into the study saying this is very implausible could be led to believe they had the experience themselves when they were very young.''

Loftus predicted the current run of two movies dealing realistically with demonic possession -- the re-release of The Exorcist and Showtime's Possessed -- will have a similar effect and lead to a rash of exorcisms.

She said a ''mini-epidemic'' of exorcisms were reported after the initial release of The Exorcist in 1973.

In a series of experiments, 200 students from Italy were asked to rate their feelings about the plausibility of demonic possession and whether it had occurred to them as children.

Initially, all the subjects said possession was highly implausible and they had not witnessed one as a child.

To disguise the nature of the study, questions about possession were buried in a ''life events inventory'' that included dozens of questions about ordinary childhood experiences like accidents or getting lost at the mall.

Subjects then were presented with articles, stories or testimonials about possession that made it seem a plausible, not uncommon occurrence.

A week later, they filled out a ''fear profile'' concerning feelings of anxiety or depression as an adult. Again, the questionnaire contained a lot of red herrings.

After completing the fear profile, some of the subjects were given ''false feedback'' and were told their fears were caused by witnessing demonic possession as a child.

The researchers found that about 18 percent -- or one-fifth of these subjects -- later changed their minds about the plausibility of demonic possession and were convinced they had witnessed it as children.

''It's a minority,'' Loftus said, ''but a very significant minority.''

Three-quarters of the rest of the subjects also changed their opinions, but not quite as radically, Loftus said.

As a control, another group of subjects was told their fears were caused by a choking incident in early childhood. There was no change in the control group's attitudes about possession.

The research was led by Giuliana Mazzoni, a psychology professor at Seton Hall University, and included Irving Kirsch of the University of Connecticut.

It will be published next year in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Loftus said the experiments are consistent with a large body of research into the creation of false memories.

However, she said they are the first to create highly implausible memories.

''Previous experiments created memories that were plausible,'' Loftus said. ''But even something that's implausible can be infused with plausibility.''

Even if highly implausible false memories haven't been created before in the laboratory, it is relatively common occurrence in real life, Loftus said.
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19. Scholar studies why we hate
Times Union, Nov. 3, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
It's a grim fact of contemporary life, with school shootings in this country and numerous recent examples of genocide in Rwanda and Kosovo, that Dr. Robert Jay Lifton has more killing fields to cover than he can possibly find time to write about.

During an acclaimed scholarly career that has spanned 20 books, including his best-known, ''The Nazi DoctorsOff-site Link,'' Lifton has interviewed Hiroshima survivors, cult members, global terrorists, survivors of Armenian genocide and other victims of war or human rights atrocities.

''I'm perhaps more sensitized to victims because I'm Jewish,'' Lifton, 74, a psychiatrist and distinguished professor at The City University of New York, said in a phone interview from his seasonal home in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. ''My life's passion has been to expose and confront mass killing and genocide anywhere it occurs.''

Although the locales and cultures vary widely and the forms of genocide range from the machete in Rwanda to the gas chamber in the Nazi Holocaust, Lifton's far-flung studies discovered commonality that amounts to a kind of genocidal mentality.

''All of the things I've written about are related in a way, because there is an underlying psychology to this extremist behavior,'' he said. ''In very broad terms, the model I've come up with includes an extreme historical trauma, confusion and chaos, followed by a group with a revitalizing ideology that becomes genocidal by feeding on an impulse to destroy what I call the designated victim.''

Lifton will discuss the interrelated nature of cults, terrorism, genocide, the Nazi Holocaust, Armenian genocide and other examples of mass killing in an annual Armenian lecture series at Russell Sage College in Troy.

Lifton's Nov. 2 visit is underwritten by contributions raised from Armenian-Americans locally and throughout the U.S. The fund-raising effort was organized by Lucille Gochigian Sarkissan, of Guilderland, a Sage graduate. Sarkissian's mother survived the Armenian genocide during World War I, in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey were killed by the Turkish government beginning in 1915.

Debating the politics of the resolution's withdrawal and other nuances of the Armenian genocide and its aftermath is not the primary purpose of Lifton's talk.

''We're trying to get to the universality of the issue by coming to understand the underlying psychology of a society's enthusiasm for destroying fellow human beings, and there's no more accomplished person to do that than Dr. Lifton,'' said Steven Leibo, who directs Sage's Center on Violence and Healing and invited Lifton to campus.

In addition to his teaching and writing, Lifton, a recipient of more than a dozen honorary degrees, is director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

Lifton continues to expand his range of subjects. His new book, which will be published by William Morrow in November, is an examination of the death penalty in the U.S., with co-author Greg Mitchell. It's titled ''Who Owns Death: Capital Punishment, the American Conscience, and the End of ExecutionsOff-site Link.''

Last year, a paperback edition was published of ''Destroying the World to Save It'' (Metropolitan Books), Lifton's study of the extremist Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, which released poison gas in Tokyo subways.

Lifton said the killings at Columbine High School and other schoolyard violence across the U.S. should be a warning to parents and teachers.

''There is a sad and dangerous process in which these kids spend a lot of time visiting right-wing extremist Web sites and become sort of junior neo-fascists in a confused way,'' Lifton said.

''There needs to be a balance in a democracy between freedom of expression and awareness of danger,'' Lifton said. ''But if there are signs of violence and extreme tendencies of a cultic kind, along with acquisition of weapons, one has to be vigilant and take action.''

Lifton said the best deterrent to such extremism is knowledge. ''The more we understand in advance about the way extreme cults function, the less vulnerable we are to them,'' Lifton said.
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20. Digital Angel: The New Eye in the Sky
Fox News, Oct. 16, 2000
http://www.foxnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Here's a story that will do the bar code on the back of Dark Angel star Jessica Alba's neck one better:

A network of satellites sends a positioning signal to a chip implanted beneath your skin. That chip, powered solely by body heat, relays the signal and your body's vital stats to a ground station.

The folks manning that ground station, as well as authorized Internet users, can use that information for identifying you, tracking you and monitoring your health.

It's not sci-fi. Applied Digital SolutionsOff-site Link (ADS) will, on Oct. 30, unveil and demonstrate Digital Angel, or DA, which is being touted for a number of uses.

There's the potential for the technology to monitor chronically-ill patients, track livestock to ensure food quality, track people who are at-risk for kidnapping, enforce the terms of a parole and identify people for security and e-commerce applications.

The Digital Angel system makes use of the Global Positioning System's network of satellites to figure out the chip's position. On-board biometric technology is capable of monitoring vital statistics such as body temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. This information is then relayed via either another GPS signal or a wireless communications signal to a remote monitoring system.

The whole system is powered by body heat, so the chip doesn't have any batteries that need replacing. ''The power source is building power all the time,'' says Richard Sullivan, Applied Digital Solutions' CEO.

While implantation under the skin in humans is an issue still pending with the Food and Drug Administration, that won't delay the release of Digital Angel. ''I think that FDA approval is, in the interim, not necessary because DA can be a wristband or adhered to anywhere on your body via a patch,'' says Sullivan.

But make no mistake - implantation is on the way. According to Sullivan, the FDA is first interested in implanting livestock with the chip so the quality of meat can be ensured.
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* Sidebar:

Digital Angel: Privacy Problems?
Fox News, Oct. 16, 2000
http://www.foxnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Digital Angel, Applied Digital Solutions' soon-to-be unveiled implantable
monitoring chip, raises some difficult new issues.

As technology has become more complex, so have the questions of privacy that
surround it. The power to track people bearing the Digital Angel chip via the
Global Positioning System (GPS) will surely add more fodder to the heated

''This whole privacy issue is on the table, anyhow,'' said ADS' CEO, Richard
Sullivan. ''I would hope that, being part of a free, democratic system, that
you have a government that wants to protect people.''

However, some experts caution against relying on the government to regulate
protection of privacy.

As far as Digital Angel violating personal privacy, Sullivan pointed out that
the whole system is voluntary.

Sullivan also quickly dispelled the notion that Applied Digital Systems could
be in cahoots with the government. ''We haven't been interested in contracts
or agreements with any government agencies because we have too many
commercial opportunities,'' he said.

However, technology seems to be progressing faster than the legislation that
governs it - a fact to which Dempsey has resigned himself.
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21. Scholars Consider a Messiah Before Jesus
AP, Nov. 6, 2000
http://wire.ap.org/Off-site Link
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Many liberal scholars, the sort who don't feel bound by what the Bible reports, think Jesus never saw himself as the Jewish messiah, nor did his original disciples; they think later Christians simply made this up.

These scholars argue that the Gospels' concept of a messiah would have been totally alien to Jews in that era. Christianity was far different from Judaism. Rudolf Bultmann, a supremely influential German scholar, defined the split in 1948: ``The idea of a suffering, dying and rising Messiah or Son of Man was unknown in Judaism.''

Conservative Christians disagree, contending there's no reason Jesus couldn't have been a different messiah from the one Jews expected.

Another tack is taken by the latest entrant in the debate, Israel Knohl, who chairs the Bible department at Israel's Hebrew University. Presumably, Knohl doesn't believe in Jesus' messiahship himself, since he's Jewish. He treats this as an issue of historical scholarship.

Knohl's ``The Messiah Before JesusOff-site Link'' (University of California Press) contends that Jesus did regard himself as the Messiah, and for that reason expected to be rejected, killed and resurrected.

Why conclude that? ``This is precisely what was believed to have happened to a messianic leader who had lived one generation before Jesus.''

This intriguing claim is based on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2,000-year-old Jewish manuscripts that were rediscovered in the Judean desert a half-century ago. Knohl's work is considered ``very significant'' by no less than Emanuel Tov, head of the official Dead Sea Scrolls team.

Knohl draws his theory from two odd, related hymns that appear in partially damaged condition on the ``Thanksgiving Scroll.''

Who was this unnamed messiah? Knohl's candidate is Menahem the Essene, a member of a Dead Sea community and counselor of Herod who was later excommunicated by the Jews and perhaps executed by the Romans. That part of Knohl's theory looks highly speculative, but his analysis of the Dead Sea messianic hymns should set Christian thinkers abuzz.

Knohl is not the only scholar proposing a messianic pioneer based on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Another forerunner to Jesus was proposed last year by Michael O. Wise of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., in ``The First MessiahOff-site Link'' (HarperSanFrancisco).

Wise's candidate is the unnamed leader of the Dead Sea community, the mysterious ``Teacher of Righteousness.'' He says the Teacher was a foe of the Pharisees, went into exile around 75 B.C., died shortly thereafter, perhaps by execution, and was expected to return in glory.

That sounds pretty much like Jesus, too. But Wise stresses that the religious teachings of the two men were radically different.
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=== Death Penalty / U.S. Human Rights Abuses

22. Court: Invoking God Was Prejudicial
Associated Press, Nov. 6, 2000
http://www.lasvegassun.com/Off-site Link
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal appeals panel overturned a death sentence Monday, ruling the prosecutor went too far in telling the jury that the death penalty was sanctioned by God.

Among other things, the prosecutor told jurors: ''You are not playing God. You are doing what God says.''

The appeals court said that closing arguments are to explain to the jury the evidence presented at trial. Invoking God was prejudicial, the court said.
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23. State Dept. Asks Texas to Review Capital Case
New York Times/Reuters, Nov. 7, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/08/national/08DEAT.htmlOff-site Link
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HOUSTON, Nov. 7 - The State Department asked Texas officials on Monday to give ''careful consideration'' to a clemency request from a Mexican citizen, Miguel Angel Flores, who is scheduled to die by injection on Thursday.

The department said in a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that the state might have violated an international treaty by not advising Mr. Flores of his right to notify the Mexican consulate when he was arrested.

Mr. Flores, 31, was convicted of the rape and murder of a college student, Angela Tyson, in 1989. His is the latest contentious death penalty case in Texas, the nation's leader in capital punishment.

The Mexican government has urged Gov. George W. Bush to commute Mr. Flores's sentence to life in prison or to postpone his execution to allow time for review.

Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Mr. Flores should have had the chance to contact the Mexican consulate immediately, but the Mexican government did not hear of his situation until a year after he was sentenced to die.

The State Department letter, written by its legal adviser James Thessin, said the United States government would express its ''deepest regrets'' to Mexico for failure to honor the treaty.

''In addition, the Department of State requests that the Board of Pardons and Paroles give careful consideration to the pending clemency request for Mr. Flores,'' the letter said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, Linda Edwards, said that the board and the governor's staff were reviewing the case but that a decision had not been made.
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* Note: US states frequently violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations - especially in death penalty cases.

=== Books

24. Minister wants Harry Potter expelled from school
Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Nov. 7, 2000
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Off-site Link
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INGLESIDE - Harry Potter should be kicked out of class because his adventures are laced with anti-Christian themes and his lightning-bolt scar harkens to a Nazi symbol, a Baptist minister says.

''I'm just trying to sound an alarm bell for parents,'' says Rev. Ken Lonsdale, the pastor of Emmanuel Osnabruck Baptist Church, about 80 kilometres east of Ottawa.

Rev. Lonsdale, a former biker with a pair of large tattoos on his forearms, intends to raise the issue with the school council at Rothwell Osnabruck, a nearby public school with 540 pupils.

The minister said he had never heard of Harry Potter until 10 days ago when he saw a television report about the reading at SkyDome by British author J.K. Rowling.

She attracted about 20,000 young people for a 30-minute reading, part of the worldwide literary phenomenon that has resulted in more than 50 million sales of the four Potter books.

After being alerted to concerns from a handful of parents, Rev. Lonsdale said he read portions of two of the books and began making notes.

He said his impressions were supported by an analysis from an American group, Freedom Village USA, which distributed literature on the Rowling books under the heading: ''Satan's ABC's of Child Destruction.''

The series of four Rowling books is not part of the school curriculum -- there is a copy of one in the school library -- but the minister says parents have reported that Harry Potter is discussed in the classroom.

Incoming school council chairwoman Cathy Grant said she plans to read her first Harry Potter book on the weekend, after being alerted to the controversy on Friday.

''I've talked to several people today who've read them and they say they're great books,'' said Mrs. Grant, who professed to be uncomfortable with censorship.

''If you've got 25 students in a class and 24 approve of the book, but one doesn't, where do you draw the line?''

Ms. Rowling has frequently been asked about any connection to Satanism in her books. At SkyDome, she called such criticism the work of ''lunatics.''
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25. Book review: Frankly, he's skeptical
Martin Gardner continues his long battle against pseudoscience
Savannah Morning News, Nov. 5, 2000
http://www.savannahmorningnews.com/Off-site Link
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(...) Martin Gardner has long fussed about the emperor's new clothes. Nearly 50 years ago, his ''Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science'' jabbed at the day's crackpots; in scores of books since, he's cast a cold eye on seers, spoon-benders, astrologists, Bigfoot mavens, Tarot readers, Scientologists, numerologists, palmists, ''psychic surgeons,'' channelers, creationists, firewalkers, ghostbusters and a host of other credulous souls. The author for 25 years of the ''Mathematical Games'' column in ''Scientific American,'' he was also one of the founding fathers of CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.) ''Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?'' is culled from his column in the ''Skeptical Inquirer,'' CSICOP's monthly magazine.

Biblical bellybuttons, we learn in the title essayOff-site Link, have sparked no small fuss over the centuries.

The other subjects here are extravagantly diverse. One essay disparages the dream theories of Sigmund Freud (''essentially a pseudoscientist without the foggiest notion of how to confirm his conjectures,'' snipes Gardner). Another centers on the pitiable Heaven's Gate UFO cult, giving us a bit of background on the two nutcases, Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, who led their deluded followers into mass suicide in 1997.

Other essays discuss the batty beliefs of Louis Farrakhan (he claims that an enormous human-built planet, the Mother Wheel, is now in orbit around the Earth and says he visited it in 1985); the alchemical researches of Isaac Newton; the dubious benefits of urine therapy; the widespread (and silly) notion that you can balance an egg on its end more easily on the vernal equinox; the pseudo-anthropology of Carlos Castaneda; and the peculiarities of Thomas Edison, usually portrayed in aw-shucks Horatio Alger garb, who was actually a bit of a conniver and a confirmed sucker for occult flim-flam.

Another new Gardner collection, rather gawkily titled ''From the Wandering Jew to William F. Buckley, Jr.Off-site Link,'' draws together such miscellanea as book reviews and introductions to other books. Here we find not only the title essays (with Gardner in the latter instance inquiring into the nature of Buckley's elusive religious beliefs), but pieces on ''psychic surgery,'' wordplay in the works of L. Frank Baum; reviews of books on Christian Science; introductions to works by H.G. Wells; and a look at those amusing latter-day Elmer Gantrys, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

The points Gardner makes in these volumes are familiar to his longtime readers. An accomplished magician, he stresses how much of the ''psychic'' phenomena wowing the gullible - Uri Geller's spoon-bending, for instance - are really just elementary sleight-of-hand. A host of other paranormal pursuits, he points out, dissolve like wet tissue under scientific scrutiny - the same scientific method that has led to incalculable progress since Galileo. As any credible investigator knows, too, he reminds us, eyewitness testimony to ''paranormal'' events is notoriously unreliable; people's imaginations, given the slightest impetus, run wild.

We clearly need skeptical voices such as Gardner's crying in the wilderness.

Even as we can appreciate Gardner's enduring battle against pseudoscientific folly, though, these volumes also remind us of his limitations.

Frankly, for example, though I've read his books for decades, and have profited much from their wide-ranging screeds against mortal tomfoolery, I still sometimes find myself numbed by Gardner's essentially style-free prose. Too often, in language as flat as Kansas, his pieces aren't much more than observations strung together, without the lilt and twinkle, rise and fall of the first-rate essay. His judgments, too, sometimes seem snap, as if he were content to ridicule rather than contest paranormal claims, even when a few well-placed sentences could demolish their pretensions.

But we quibble. No one has challenged silliness on so many fronts - Gardner has written books on everything from testing ''psychics'' to alleged prophecies of the Titanic sinking to the Urantia cult to the fevered life of Mary Baker Eddy. In an age of occult twaddle, when New Age volumes vastly outnumber science title in bookstores and ''documentaries'' about alien autopsies draw rapt viewers, Martin Gardner is still fighting the good fight.