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Religion News Report

November 23, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 288)

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Reno expresses Waco doubts

=== Falun Gong
2. 2 Falun Gong Members Die in Custody
3. Falun Gong Member Put on Trial
4. Chinese envoy to Sydney refutes Falun Gong practitioner's ''slander''

=== Scientology
5. Clearwater figure to sell downtown land

=== Hinduism
6. Shocking Deaths
7. Lower caste Hindu ''untouchable'' fined for touching goddess
8. A goddess and lucky numbers are allies in ethnic war

=== Hate Groups
9. Far-Right Party Alters March Route
10. Germany Studies Limits on Neo-Nazi Marches
11. Germany Reports Sharp Upturn in Hate Crimes
12. EU Anti-Racism Body Sounds Alarm on Violent Crimes
13. Racist group mails out new flier
14. David Duke, still in Russia, learns of raid at his home

=== Other News
15. Cult member makes bizarre confession
16. QC turns away as jury views snuff video
17. Aunt 'let girl die bound and naked in the bath'
18. Accused aunt weeps at girl's death
18a Accused killer practised 'weird' rituals'
19. Baptist Temple numbers fall as Week 1 ends

=== Death Penalty
20. Governor cancels N.C. execution
21. Death-penalty opponents hopeful
22. Clinton Allies Ask for Moratorium

=== Noted
23. Statistician gives grim accounting of modern-day martyrs
24. Letter From Cuba

=== The Intolerant Employer Around The Corner
25. Lawsuit over Worker's `Blessed' Greeting Rages on in Indianapolis Court


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Reno expresses Waco doubts
New York Post, Nov. 21, 2000
http://www.nypost.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno told kids in Brooklyn's Red Hook yesterday that ''in a way, I'll never know what the right thing to do was'' in ending the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco, Texas, in 1993.

But people have to ''live with [their] judgments . . . I've tried to do what is right,'' Reno said during a visit to the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

The nation's first female attorney general defended her decision to send in federal agents to end the siege of David Koresh's sect compound, which resulted in the Branch Davidian buildings catching fire and the death of more than 80 cult members.

She said advisers told her the situation inside the compound was deteriorating, and she called for it to be stormed.

But she acknowledged in response to a young girl's question that she had no way of knowing for sure if that was the correct decision.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

2. 2 Falun Gong Members Die in Custody
Associated Press, Nov. 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) -- Two more members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group have died in Chinese police custody and another will go on trial for spying, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Li Wenrui, a 37-year-old government trade official from the northeastern city of Harbin, died Nov. 9, three days after his arrest in Beijing for protesting the government crackdown on Falun Gong, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Police said Li killed himself by jumping out a window, but relatives said they suspected he was beaten to death, the Hong Kong-based center said.

Yang Guijin, 40, was arrested for distributing pamphlets and died Oct. 15 at a detention center in eastern Shandong province after a weeklong hunger strike to protest beatings by guards, the center said.

The deaths raise to 70 the number of Falun Gong followers who have died in detention since Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, the center said.
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3. Falun Gong Member Put on Trial
Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) -- A Beijing court held a secretive trial Thursday for a follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect accused of spying, apparently for gathering evidence on China's harsh 16-month-old crackdown against the group.
Teng Chunyan, a Chinese citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident, faced lengthy prison time if convicted of gathering intelligence and passing it to foreign organizations, said diplomats and a Falun Gong spokeswoman.

Represented by two lawyers but with her family members barred, Teng stood trial for three hours in Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court before judges recessed without issuing a verdict, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported.
(...)

Teng played a role in bolstering the group's defiance and publicizing the crackdown. She joined Falun Gong last year in New Jersey and her acupuncture clinic in New York City's midtown area became an informal clubhouse for the group, said Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York.

Under the pseudonym Hannah Li, Teng returned to Beijing in February. Off and on for several months she tipped off foreign journalists about planned protests and helped arrange interviews.

An indictment dated July 27 and later passed along to Teng's family accused her of causing ``serious damage'' to China, said Rachlin. Specifically it charged her with sneaking foreign reporters into a psychiatric hospital in suburban Beijing where sect followers were detained -- an accusation Rachlin said was true.

A copy of a second purported indictment, provided by the Information Center, gave a different version. It said on March 9 an accomplice surnamed Xu used a digital camera from Teng to photograph Falun Gong followers at a deprogramming center. Teng then allegedly gave the photos to foreign news media.

The purported indictment, dated Sept. 13, also accused Teng of taking foreign reporters to interview Falun Gong members in southwestern Beijing on Feb. 7. It said police detained her on May 13 and formally charged her two months later.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Chinese envoy to Sydney refutes Falun Gong practitioner's ''slander''
BBC Monitoring, Nov. 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by the Chinese news agency Zhongguo Xinwen She
Sydney, 20th November: Zhang Cuiying, a ''Falun Gong'' practitioner who illegally sneaked into China on three occasions, slandered China as a ''country without humanity, human rights, generally acknowledged truth or law''. To this, an official of the Chinese Consulate General in Sydney pointed out it is time to stop such a clumsy trick.

The official of the consulate general said this woman deliberately entered China illegally. Thus, she violated the law of China, committed a crime, and was put into prison for eight months. This served her right. After her return to Australia, she was unable to control herself any longer and started talking a lot of nonsense. Undoubtedly she was punished and fined for violating the law of China, but she said the Chinese government had ''no law''. When she came out of prison, she obviously had gained weight. However, she said she had been persecuted and turned into a bag of bones.
(...)

The official of the consulate general warned those who have ulterior motives: China today is a country with the rule of law. In the land of China, anyone who has violated the law and committed a crime shall be punished no matter what country's passport he or she is holding, and who defies the law can only blame himself or herself.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

5. Clearwater figure to sell downtown land
St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 22, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/NOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CLEARWATER -- Former city commissioner Fred Thomas, a longtime critic of the Church of Scientology, has offered to sell some of his downtown land to the church, a Scientology official says.

But church officials won't be buying, said church spokesman Mike Rinder.

Thomas would not confirm that he contacted church representatives. He did say he would consider any interested buyer, including Scientology -- because, he said, ''Downtown belongs to the Scientologists.''
(...)

Thomas, founder of the Pinch-a-Penny pool supply chain, doesn't consider that stance to be inconsistent with his past criticism of the church, which he has described as a business masquerading as a religion with ambitions to take control of the city government. Once, he urged the city to enhance commercial property values to prevent Scientology from acquiring land.

''I'll sell to whoever gives me the money when I sell it,'' Thomas said. ''When it comes to selling property in downtown Clearwater, the church is the downtown player, and 10 years from now that's the only player you'll see.''
(...)

Three years ago, Thomas said he took pride in tearing down two dilapidated buildings and creating his pool shop, restaurant and Freedom Park, where monuments portray the Ten Commandments and historic documents like the Declaration of Independence.
(...)

Thomas ultimately invested as much as $1-million in his downtown projects, according to a letter he sent residents this summer.

So what changed? Thomas said it's too difficult to attract shoppers to the city's Scientology-dominated core. He now believes the city should focus on redeveloping other areas like Clearwater Beach.

''Downtown belongs to the Scientologists in my opinion, and it would be a waste of the taxpayers' money to fund any kind of redevelopment,'' Thomas, 63, said. ''We're foolish to spend taxpayers' money so the Scientologists can have a better place to live.''
(...)

Ed Armstrong, an attorney who is the former chairman of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, finds it ironic that Thomas would even consider doing business with the church after years of criticizng Scientology.
(...)

Lee Regulski, a former commissioner who is running for a seat on the City Commission again next spring, saw Thomas' actions in another light.

''If (Thomas) said he would not sell to Scientologists, then he could be liable for discrimination,'' Regulski said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Occupied Clearwater - Exposing the criminal cult of Scientology in the Tampa Bay AreaOff-site Link


=== Hinduism

6. Shocking Deaths
ABC News/Reuters, Nov. 21, 2000
http://abcnews.go.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
D H A K A, Bangladesh, Nov. 21 - A Hindu woman in Bangladesh hacked her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter to death to please the goddess Kali, police said.

The woman, 35, killed the children on Saturday night after she was asked by Kali in a dream to make the ''sacrifices,'' police said.
(...)

Hindus worship many deities, of which the Kali is considered to be one of the most powerful. They make up about eight percent of the 128 million people in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Lower caste Hindu ''untouchable'' fined for touching goddess
AFP, Nov. 22, 2000
http://sg.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A Hindu lower-caste ''untouchable'' family in eastern India is to appeal to the human rights commission after being fined for touching a statue of the goddess Kali.

According to villagers, one family member, Malati Sith entered a Kali temple and touched the forehead of the statue, angering the upper caste Brahmin community in Pursurah village, near Calcutta.

The Brahmins called a special meeting and imposed a fine of 8,000 rupees (173 dollars) on the family to meet the cost of ''purifying'' the idol.

''We would have to sell off all our valuables to pay the fine,'' said Sith's husband Madan Mohon.

But the temple priests insisted they acted correctly.
(...)

Although discrimination on the grounds of caste is illegal in India, it continues in many forms.

Under the traditional Hindu social system, the shadow or touch of lower caste ''untouchables'' was considered unholy and dirty and they were barred from entering temples and sharing water or food with those higher up the social ladder.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. A goddess and lucky numbers are allies in ethnic war
UPI, Nov. 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A Hindu goddess and lucky numbers play a vital role in what some Asians call ''a dirty war in paradise.''

The 15-year fight of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for the independence of eastern and northern Sri Lanka was expected to move into high gear this week as the rebels began ceremonies to honor their dead on Tuesday.

These celebrations will reach a climax Sunday when Velupillai Pirabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers' elusive leader, turns 46.

Sri Lankan authorities are bracing for a spate of assassination attempts.

Pirabhakaran has a propensity for sending teenage girls as suicide bombers into Colombo, the nation's capital, and other parts of the world. On May 21, 1991, one of his female guerillas killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as he was campaigning in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, home to India's Tamils. In 1993, Sri Lanka's President Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed in a similar attack.

Among the many facets of this war, two stand out. One is ethnic. This is a conflict between two utterly different population groups who have shared the spectacularly beautiful island of Sri Lanka for thousands of years.
(...)

Then there are religious differences. The Singhalese are Buddhists, the Tamils predominantly Hindus. One particular feature of their faith appears to have an important influence on how Pirabhakaran fights his war.

In past interviews with this correspondent, former women guerillas reported that Pirabhakaran fervently worshipped the Hindu goddess Kali. They said the image of this beautiful black deity accompanied him from bunker to bunker in Sri Lanka's dense jungle.

Kali plays a dual role in the Hindu pantheon. On one hand, she brings blood, violence and destruction, especially of human life. On the other hand, she is also the giver of new life, and therefore a potent idol for guerillas fighting for what they believe is a just cause.

''As a result, those young girls willing to sacrifice themselves for the Tamil Tiger cause revere even Pirabhakaran as a kind of an incarnate deity whose mission it is to destroy life so that new life may emerge,'' Dr. Thomas Savandaranayagam, the Roman Catholic bishop of Jaffna, explained.

According to Savandaranayagam, who has met Pirabhakaran several times, Kali is only one aspect of the rebel commander's complex belief system.

''He is also a numerologist,'' the bishop said. ''He goes to great lengths to avoid the unlucky number eight in the conduct of his war,'' confirmed Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, until recently commander of government forces in northern Sri Lanka.

This superstition seems to conflict in his case with traditional Hindu mythology, where eight is considered auspicious.

''He has structured the entire LTTE army along multiples of 15,'' the general continued, ''and it's easy to see, why: no matter how often you multiply this figure, you never come up with an eight.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

9. Far-Right Party Alters March Route
AP, Nov. 22, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BERLIN (AP) - A German far-right party dropped plans to march through Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate this weekend and agreed to use an alternate protest route, city officials said Wednesday.

About 1,500 marchers are expected for a Saturday protest against government moves to outlaw the fringe National Democratic Party, which security officials view as a magnet for violent neo-Nazis.
(...)

About 500 of the National Democratic Party's supporters caused international outrage last January when they were allowed to march through the gate, once used as a backdrop for processions by Nazi soldiers. Interior Minister Otto Schily claims there is increasing evidence that the party is a danger to German democracy, fomenting neo-Nazi ideology and racism blamed for brutal attacks on minorities that have left at least three dead this year.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Germany Studies Limits on Neo-Nazi Marches
Reuters, Nov. 23, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BONN, Germany (Reuters) - German internal security officials met on Thursday to discuss proposals to ban neo-Nazi groups from holding marches in sensitive locations, such as by Holocaust memorials or Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

But while officials hope such a move would stop repeats of violent encounters between marchers and counter-demonstrators, they acknowledged it could infringe a fundamental right of assembly enshrined in the German constitution.

''The right of assembly...was hard fought for in German history over the past two centuries,'' said Fritz Behrens, Social Democrat interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

''Any limits must thus be considered very carefully,'' Behrens, chairman of a two-day conference of counterparts from Germany's 16 regions, told ARD television before talks started in Bonn.
(...)

The interior ministers meeting in Bonn were also due to discuss tighter policing of known right-wing extremists after a top security official warned on Wednesday that some members of Germany's small neo-Nazi scene were building up arsenals of powerful weapons that could be used in terrorist attacks.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Germany Reports Sharp Upturn in Hate Crimes
Reuters, Nov. 21, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WIESBADEN, Germany (Reuters) - The German government said on Tuesday neo-Nazi activity was on the increase, with more hate crimes ranging from displaying Nazi symbols to vandalism, beatings and murder.

The total of such acts attributed to far-right extremists hit about 10,000 in the first nine months of this year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said, compared to a similar number for the full 12 months in recent years.

''It is especially discouraging for me that there has been such a rise in the number of politically motivated crimes,'' Schily said during a meeting with senior police officials in the western town of Wiesbaden. ''But I am certain German society will not accept racism and violence directed at minority groups.''

Far-right violence has plagued Germany since its reunification in 1990.

Although a surge in such crimes, notably among disoriented youth in the ex-Communist east, has abated since the early 1990s, Germans have grown alarmed again this year by several high profile attacks.
(...)

Schily said that in future he wanted criminal statistics on racist violence compiled centrally by the Federal Crime Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden to ensure that the regional and federal governments do not publish conflicting figures.

Confusion over what constitutes a hate crime has led to conflicting figures.
(...)

The government had been saying a total of around 30 people had been killed in race crimes in the last 10 years but has lately adopted the higher figure of about 100 favored by some private interest groups.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. EU Anti-Racism Body Sounds Alarm on Violent Crimes
Reuters, Nov. 23, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Violent crimes against ethnic minorities have risen in many European Union countries over the past year, but registered incidents represent only the tip of the iceberg, the EU's racism monitoring body said on Thursday.

In its annual report, the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia registered an increase in xenophobia linked to EU enlargement plans -- while noting that western Europe was set to need more and more immigrants.

It also expressed concern about the dissemination of racist ideas over the Internet.

''The whole scene in Europe has become much more violent, especially in France, Germany, Sweden and several other countries,'' Beate Winkler, the center's director, told a news conference called in Brussels to present the report.

''We know that Europe needs many more immigrants. Some reports say we need as many as 50 to 70 million in the next 50 years to help cover labor and skill shortages. Society must be prepared for this.''
(...)

The center gave no country-by-country breakdown of recorded incidents but said racism of all kinds -- from violent attacks to prejudice among police, employers and other institutions -- was widespread across the 15-nation bloc.
(...)

Asked about the possible impact of EU plans to admit up to a dozen, mostly poorer states from central and eastern Europe in the coming years, Winkler said: ''Our task will get bigger because the issue of racism and xenophobia is deeply linked to fears and feelings, not to data.

''If people feel insecure, they tend to be against foreigners.''

Many people in Germany and Austria fear a big influx of cheap immigrant labor from neighboring countries when they finally join the EU.

Winkler added that racial prejudice was sometimes greatest in areas with few or no immigrants or foreigners.

The report cited a big increase in use of the Internet by neo-Nazi and other racist groups, where it said they were able to peddle their propaganda with virtual impunity.

In its recommendations, the report urged EU governments to improve the effectiveness of legal and penal measures against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and, where necessary, to set up structures to monitor new legislation to ensure that it did not entail any kind of discrimination.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Racist group mails out new flier
The Spokesman-Review, Nov. 19, 2000
http://www.spokesmanreview.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SANDPOINT _ A racist flier mocking the state's latest human rights campaign and attacking local human rights leaders arrived in mailboxes around North Idaho on Saturday.

The mailing was the first since the trial against the Aryan Nations, which resulted in the foreclosure of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler's compound in Hayden Lake.

Vincent Bertollini of the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger sent the mailings to homes throughout Bonner and Kootenai counties. Bertollini has distributed other racist material through the mail in recent years.

The fliers are printed in red, white and blue. They show a map of Idaho and locate several of Idaho's human rights organizations.

The slogan of the flier is ''Idaho, the Hue Man Rights Jew Controlled Marxist Communist State,'' an apparent spoof of the new slogan promoted by the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force.
(...)

Bertollini shares Butler's Christian Identity beliefs and has produced a video of Butler that he also distributed by bulk mail.

Bertollini recently purchased a home in Hayden for Butler after a Kootenai County jury awarded $6.3 million to plaintiffs Victoria and Jason Keenan, bankrupting Butler. Butler also lost the rights to the name Aryan Nations.

Now he's preaching his racist views under another organizational name, the Aryan National Alliance. Mend received a mailing from the Aryan National Alliance postmarked Nov. 6.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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Should you receive one of Bertollini's mailings, you may want to visit this
link:

Association of Idaho RecyclersOff-site Link


14. David Duke, still in Russia, learns of raid at his home
CNN. Nov. 20, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- White supremacist David Duke finally called home from Russia to learn that federal agents raided his home last week and carried away boxes of materials, a spokesman said Monday.

''He was outraged at this invasion of his home,'' said Vincent Edwards, a spokesman for Duke's National Organization For European-American Rights.

The FBI is investigating whether Duke gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars he solicited from supporters of his white supremacist cause. He has not been charged with a crime.
(...)

Edwards said Duke was staying in an apartment in Russia that had no phone service and that Duke's cell phone was not working. Edwards said he did not know if Duke was in Moscow or some other Russian city.

He also said the former Ku Klux Klan leader planned to stay in Russia for several more weeks and that his plans after that were not known.

Duke has been in Russia to promote his new book ''The Ultimate Supremacism,'' in which Duke argues that Russia and the former Soviet bloc can save the white race from Jewish oligarchs and organized crime. The book is being published in Russian.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

15. Cult member makes bizarre confession
AAP (Australia), Nov. 21, 2000
http://au.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A member of a religious cult accused of raping and assaulting another cult member described his battle with forces of darkness in a bizarre home video confession played in court today.

The 29-year-old company director, who cannot be named, is charged with 15 counts of rape and nine of indecent assault on a clerical assistant who was a member of a small Gold Coast-based religious cult.
(...)

The homemade video begins with a sunrise in clouds and music playing, with lyrics that include ''going to hell again ... again''.

The cult member looks and talks directly into the camera. He introduced the title of the film as ''I rapist'' and then adds: ''This is a film of myself. What I have done. What I have done is f**king atrocious ... I don't know where to begin.''
(...)

During parts of the tape the man is close to tears while in other segments he appears calm and reflective.
(...)

He described feeling compassion for rapists and prisoners he'd seen in documentaries but said he was unable to feel pain for their victims.
(...)

He also talks of ''the day I invited the darkness in'' and describes revisiting ''the corpses and the victims of everything I have done ... to see it like the black dagger that it was that I stabbed into your heart.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. QC turns away as jury views snuff video
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Nov. 22, 2000
http://www.smh.com.au/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
For 35 minutes yesterday, a jury watched an explicitly violent video - scenes of suicide, backyard autopsies, killings and mutilation which gave teenage killer Matthew O'Grady a ''rush''.
(...)

As the jury of six men and three women then watched the excerpts from a four-part series called Traces of Death, prosecutor Mr Mark Tedeschi, QC, and his instructing solicitor, Ms Tania Panico, sat with their backs to the television screen, wearing earplugs.

O'Grady, 18, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 15-year-old Christopher Brown in the Blue Mountains last year on the grounds he was not in control of his actions. O'Grady has told the court the violence gave him a rush, and he particularly enjoyed the shooting scenes.
(...)

O'Grady has told the court he watched the snuff movies every couple of weeks before shooting Christopher Brown in the Wentworth Falls area on May 14 or 15 last year.
(...)

The court has been told he had been desensitised to human suffering from watching the videos, excessive drug use, repeated violent thoughts and hunting trips with his father.

O'Grady has said he watched the movies at the home of Mr Adrian Krook, an alleged Satan worshipper and neo-Nazi who was also his drug dealer, and used marijuana, speed, alcohol or magic mushrooms at the same time to intensify the experience.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Aunt 'let girl die bound and naked in the bath'
The Daily Telegraph (England), Nov. 21, 2000
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A girl of eight died of hypothermia after being tortured and abused by her aunt and the woman's boyfriend, a court was told yesterday.

Anna Climbie was punched, hit with a bicycle chain and kept tied hand and foot, naked in a bath in a cold bathroom for days at a time and forced to eat food ''like a dog'', the jury heard. Police and social services agreed that her injuries were accidental and consented to her release from hospital in August last year which ''unfortunately led to her death'', said Linda Stern, QC, prosecuting at the Old Bailey.

Anna's aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, 44, who denies murdering the girl and cruelty, sat in the dock clutching a Bible. She claimed that Anna suffered from ''witchcraft'' and that she had taken the child to several churches for deliverance prayers. Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning, 28, a bus driver, of Tottenham, north London, admits manslaughter and child cruelty but denies murder.

After her death, doctors found 128 injuries on Anna's malnourished body. She had been unable to straighten her legs because of being bound and kept in the bath. She died of hypothermia and neglect.
(...)

Kouao made no admissions to police and denied beating Anna, saying: ''I don't like beating children. If you hit her every time it could kill her, so I don't.'' She claimed Anna had inflicted the injuries on herself because of ''witchcraft''.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Accused aunt weeps at girl's death
This is London (England), Nov. 22, 2000
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A woman accused with her boyfriend of leaving her eight-year-old niece to freeze to death in a bath burst into tears today in court as the African girl's mother told of her delight when the defendant offered to educate the child in Europe.
(...)

Linda Stern QC, prosecuting, said that within two months of arriving in July 1999 at Kouao's tiny flat in Creighton Road, Tottenham, the little girl became a shadow of her former self and began showing signs of abuse.

Mrs Stern said Kouao, a member of a cult church, convinced herself that Anna was possessed by the devil and allowed exorcism ceremonies to be performed on her.

Anna was fed ''like a dog'' with scraps from a bowl, said Mrs Stern, whipped with a bicycle chain, punched and kept bound up in the bath for so long that her joints became deformed and she was unable to walk properly.

After Anna died on 25 February this year, she was found to have 128 separate injuries on her body including what appeared to be cigarette burns and belt buckle marks. A post mortem revealed the cause of death to be hypothermia resulting in multiple organ failure.

Kouao and Carl Manning, 28, both deny murder. Manning, a bus driver, has admitted manslaughter and cruelty. Kouao also pleads not guilty to cruelty.
(...)

Mrs Stern said that Kouao, who claims the cause of death was witchcraft, must have known what was going on. The case continues.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18a. Accused killer practised 'weird' rituals'
The Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Nov. 22, 2000
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PEMBROKE -- To hear Nancy Fillmore speak, the death of John Scott Dell was a New Age killing, with witchcraft and visions of angels accompanying wine spiked with a lethal dose of antifreeze.

''You mentioned about her (Cherrylle Dell) carrying out some sort of witchcraft rituals prior to giving the bottle to him?'' then Det.-Const. Ken Leppert asked Ms. Fillmore in a 1997 interview.

''No. It was right after,'' Ms. Fillmore said. ''She got out her witchcraft books and lit candles and was saying all these weird, I don't know, what you call them, rituals or prayers or whatever.

''They don't make sense to me because that's not what I believe in,'' she said.

Several of Ms. Fillmore's videotaped statements to police were entered as evidence yesterday at the first-degree murder trial of Ms. Dell. The 46-year-old Killaloe woman has pleaded not guilty to killing her estranged husband, who was found dead in his home in late December 1995.

Mr. Dell, a 44-year-old man who had cancer, was found to have died after drinking wine laced with antifreeze. His death was originally declared a suicide, until Mrs. Dell was charged with first-degree murder in December 1997.
(...)

Mrs. Dell told him that she had had a dream that he would have spiritual visions after drinking wine and she gave him a bottle of Piat D'Or, Ms. Fillmore said.

''She said she was trying to help him on his spiritual journey,'' Ms. Fillmore told police. ''She was loaning him books and one of them was this (The) Celestine Prophecy, and it was about important coincidences in your life.

''So she used that in this dialogue ... 'this is an important coincidence -- I had a dream, you're supposed to drink some wine and have visions and I just happen to have a bottle of wine,' '' Ms. Fillmore said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Baptist Temple numbers fall as Week 1 ends
The Indianapolis Star, Nov. 21, 2000
http://starnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The holdout at the Indianapolis Baptist Temple dwindled to the faithful Monday -- church leaders, members and a handful of determined out-of-town pastors.

James ''Bo'' Gritz, a leader in the self-styled Patriot movement, packed up his radio show and left town, after a week of broadcasts from the church sanctuary.

At least one supporter, a Michigan man known to church leaders as Dave, was prodded to leave.
(...)

Monday's gathering -- at times there were fewer than three dozen people inside the building -- was in contrast to Sunday's service, which brought more than 700 people to the yet-to-be closed church.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker has ordered federal marshals to seize the church so that it can be sold in foreclosure proceedings to satisfy a $6 million tax judgment.

The judgment stems from the church's refusal on religious grounds to withhold employee income taxes and to pay the employer share of Social Security and other taxes. Both Barker and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the First Amendment's religious protections don't exempt the church from having to abide by these Internal Revenue Service rules.
(...)

So far, wishing to avoid any physical confrontation, the marshals have stayed away.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty

20. Governor cancels N.C. execution
UPI , Nov. 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 21 (UPI) -- North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt commuted the death sentence of a convicted killer Tuesday because of questions about whether Marcus Carter was given a fair trial eight years ago.

Carter, 32, was scheduled to die by lethal injection early Wednesday morning for the murder and rape of a 20-year-old North Carolina woman. Hunt commuted Carter's sentence to life in prison without parole.

''I cannot allow this execution to go forward,'' Hunt said.

It was only the second time that Hunt has granted clemency out of 14 requests made during his 16 years as governor. Hunt said that he still believes that the death penalty ''serves as a deterrent to the murder of innocent people.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Facts show the governor's beliefs on this issue to be incorrect.

There is no evidence anywhere in the world that the death penalty serves
as a deterrent to murder or any other crime.

''No one comes remotely close to our record on the death penalty -- 227 dead so far since 1982 -- more than the total of the next five death-penalty states combined. If this were working, Texas would have the lowest crime rate in the nation.

''As of the end of the year 1999, there were 706,600 Texans in prison, jail, parole or on probation, five percent of all adult Texans, one out of 20 are under some form of criminal justice supervision,'' says the Institute report. ''The scale of what is happening in Texas is so huge, it is difficult to contrast the size of its criminal justice system to the other states it dwarfs. There are more Texans under criminal justice control than the entire populations of some states, including Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska.'' - Even More Prisons Wanted In Texas, Sep. 5, 2000

''I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show
that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that
would substantiate that point,'' Reno said at her weekly Justice Department
news briefing.
- No Evidence Death Penalty Deters Crime, Reno Says.
Excite/Reuters, Jan. 20, 2000

» More about the death penalty


21. Death-penalty opponents hopeful
San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 20, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/
The American people and their elected representatives are not about to abolish the death penalty.

Nearly two-thirds of the population still back capital punishment, according to recent polls, and both presidential candidates support executions.

So why the air of optimism at the just-concluded four-day conference in San Francisco of about 800 anti-capital punishment activists from around the nation?

Chalk up some of it to the fervor of those who feel sure justice and history are on their side. But death-penalty opponents also believe the tide is finally turning in their direction, and that a freeze on executions, already in effect in Illinois, will spread throughout the nation.

''There's been an awakening in the American people,'' said Sister Helen Prejean, the nun from Louisiana whose work with death row inmates and victims' relatives has reached the bestseller list, the screen and the opera stage.

A year ago, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., a lifelong death- penalty foe, couldn't find any other members of Congress interested in even discussing the subject. Now, he has four Senate cosponsors - including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., an avowed death-penalty supporter - for a bill that would suspend all executions in the United States, and insists he can foresee it becoming law in a few years.
(...)

The convention - a racially diverse gathering of religious and civil rights organizations traditionally opposed to capital punishment, and newer groups like Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation - saved its loudest acclaim for an unlikely ally.

In January, Republican Gov. George Ryan of Illinois stunned party colleagues and galvanized the anti-death-penalty movement by putting executions in his state on hold during a review of the system by a bipartisan commission.

The action followed the court-ordered release of the 13th inmate from Illinois' death row since 1987, one more than the state had executed during that period. Ryan said executions should not resume unless he is convinced to a ''moral certainty'' that no innocent people will die - and the commission will examine not only guilt and innocence but also abuse by prosecutors, racial discrimination and the adequacy of legal representation.

As a state legislator, ''I was a staunch death-penalty supporter,'' said Ryan, who was given a public service award by the conference. ''I spoke for the death penalty, I voted for the death penalty and I believed in the death penalty.''

Then he became governor and saw a condemned prisoner cleared by a DNA test; another freed by a ruling that found his conviction was based on dubious informant testimony; a newspaper expose of over- zealous prosecutors and incompetent defense lawyers; and, most jarring of all, a mentally retarded man who came within two days of execution, got a court reprieve, then was proven innocent of a 16- year-old murder by a Northwestern University journalism class.

''How on earth could we have come so close, 13 times, to putting fatal doses of poison in the veins of innocent persons?'' Ryan asked. He said his support for the death penalty has been shaken, and ''with any hope, maybe I can become an abolitionist.''
(...)

Feingold, one of the Senate's most liberal Democrats, said the issue crosses party and ideological lines, citing the Rev. Pat Robertson's endorsement of a death-penalty moratorium. The senator also told reporters that the Democratic Party in the past decade ''retreated on this and showed a lack of courage'' - which should be restored, he said, once lawmakers see they can oppose the death penalty and still win re-election.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Clinton Allies Ask for Moratorium
Associated Press, Nov. 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A group of President Clinton's allies are asking him to declare a moratorium on federal executions and spare a Texas man convicted of three murders in 1990 and 1991 as the boss of a marijuana importing ring.

``Unless you take action, executions will begin at a time when your own attorney general has expressed concern about racial and other disparities in the federal death penalty process,'' the group said in a letter Monday to Clinton.

Juan Raul Garza of Brownsville, Texas, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 12. That would make him the first person since 1963 to be put to death under federal criminal statutes prescribing capital punishment.

Garza, who is Hispanic, asked Clinton in September to commute his sentence to life in prison because of ``long-standing racial bias'' in capital punishment sentencing. The president already has postponed his execution once.
(...)

Among the 40 people signing the moratorium letter were U.S. Civil Rights Commission Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, former Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh and entertainers Barbra Streisand and Jack Lemmon.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

23. Statistician gives grim accounting of modern-day martyrs
UPI, Nov. 22, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Noted American historian statistician David B. Barrett says that as many as 165,000 Christians may be killed this year by repressive regimes around the world. According to Assist Communications, Barrett says that at a time when the United Nations has brought together leaders of all faiths to talk about peace and human rights, the killings continue.

He says that 28 countries still allow religious killings -- and not just of Christians. Jews and, in some areas, Muslims are targeted. Two dozen other nations, he claims, officially turn their backs on persecution of thought and religious belief.
[...entire relevant excerpt...]


24. Letter From Cuba
Washington Post, Nov. 20, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) The Afro-Cuban religion that most Americans know as Santeria is an everyday fact of life in Cuba, a constant presence as commonplace as potholed streets, afternoon thunderstorms or the laughter of children heading home from school.

First let's deal with the exotica: Yes, the occasional animal sacrifice is involved. But doing horrible things to a chicken or a goat (no worse, believers argue, than the horrors that meat-eaters vicariously inflict on the animal kingdom every day) is required only for certain ceremonies. The day-in, day-out practice of the religion is much more prosaic, taking place inside one's own home, quietly and reverentially, in the form of a conversation with the orishas, or guardians.

The religion, which comes from the Yoruba culture in what is now Nigeria, is as old as the hills. What's new is that here in Cuba the religion is striving to become more African, to connect more firmly with its ancient roots--and that more and more Cubans, in a time of economic crisis and wrenching change, have become believers.
(...)

''Man tends to want to believe when he sees his life falling apart,'' Robaina says. ''He tends to want superhuman intervention.''

Though not usually thought of in these terms, the religion of the orishas is one of the significant faiths of the New World. It is practiced not only by many Cubans and some other Caribbean islanders, but also by tens of millions of Brazilians. (In Brazil it is called Candomble or macumba,, and the rites and liturgy are somewhat different.)

Experts on the faith say it is on the rise in the United States, especially in cities with large Caribbean immigrant communities such as Miami and New York. Like every religion with such widespread appeal and staying power, it has a well-elaborated theology, a powerful mythology and a set of workable prescriptions for how to integrate spirituality with daily life.

The faith is a syncretism of beliefs held by West African slaves and the Roman Catholicism of the slave masters who brought them here. As it is practiced in Cuba, each of the many orishas--who are lesser deities, depicted in human form--is associated with a specific Catholic saint. For example, the warrior Chango, who rules lightning and thunder and virility, is equated with Saint Barbara; Eleggua, a messenger with dominion over roads and doors, is linked to Saint Anthony. The most devout believers undergo a three-month initiation--dressing all in white and observing certain proscriptions--to dedicate themselves to a particular orisha, who then enters the person's life and becomes a constant presence, almost an alter ego.

While the orishas are revered, there is but one supreme being--Olodumare, creator of the universe. Olodumare is always depicted in the abstract, a recognition that the infinite is by definition indescribable.

To believers, the orishas offer self-knowledge, guidance and support. The orishas are represented by statues; believers offer them prayers, much as Roman Catholics pray to the saints, but also place before them gifts of food and, during certain ceremonies, make animal sacrifice. The orisha acts as a protector, helping the believer make his way past the dangers and uncertainties of life. Through the babalawo, the believer can have his questions answered--from the specific (''Should I marry my girlfriend?'') to the cosmic (''What is the purpose of my life?'').

There was a time when, at least in Cuba, the religion was practiced mostly behind closed doors.
(...)

Nowadays, though, everywhere you turn in Havana you see someone wearing a beaded bracelet or necklace or some other sign of the Yoruba faith--not only in places like Guanabacoa, where the babalawo Jose Lino lives, a gritty suburb long known as a center of the faith, but also on university campuses and in office buildings.
(...)

The change is partly due to the fact that the Cuban government is now more tolerant of religion in general--there is no stigma attached to spiritual belief, although government officials do not go around wearing beaded bracelets. Another factor, clearly, is the economic situation.

A third factor, much more difficult to quantify, has to do with the Yoruba faith's significance as an expression of blackness--not as something that belongs exclusively to black Cubans, since many whites also believe and practice, but as an expression of Cuba's African heritage. Evidence of this shift lies in the fact that despite leaving the old continent centuries ago, the faith is now trying to return to its deepest roots, trying to become explicitly more African.
(...)

That kind of overtly African influence has been streaming into the faith in recent years.
(...)

Rafael Robaina, the anthropologist who studies Regla de Ocha, is tall, thin, brown-skinned, intense, outgoing, generous and brilliant.
(...)

''It is an anthropocentric religion, meaning it puts man at the center of the universe. Man lives and dies, and all existence is within that space. There is no before and no after. It is about living, and about living according to your individual way of life.

''It isn't a church. It doesn't have canonical clarity, it doesn't have organization. There is no church at the center of the religion. It puts man and his way of life at the center. It puts great importance on the need for everyone to express individuality and respect individuality. . . . And it's not only a matter of just believing. Music, chants and ceremonies that must be performed are also important. It isn't exclusive. Anyone is welcome. . . .
(...)

''It gives me great confidence and well-being to know how my life should be and how I should live it.

''In this religion, the real god is man.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== The Intolerant Employer Around The Corner

25. Lawsuit over Worker's `Blessed' Greeting Rages on in Indianapolis Court
Knight Ridder/Tribune, Nov. 17, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...More offbeat stories...]
Nov. 17--A federal judge conducted a six-hour hearing Thursday to determine whether an Indianapolis employer can prohibit a worker from wishing people a ''blessed day'' while on the job.

U.S. District Court Judge John Tinder said he will decide with ''deliberate speed'' whether to issue a preliminary injunction against USF Logistics, a shipping and warehousing firm based in Illinois.

But he noted that such injunctions are rare in employment law cases.

Liz Anderson, who works at the company's Indianapolis facility, is suing USF. She alleges that she has suffered religious discrimination and retaliation on the job -- charges her employer denies.

She testified for three hours, saying the ''blessed day'' greeting is a religious practice and ''part of her relationship with Jesus.''

''It just means I am trying to live a Christian life in my walking and in my talking,'' Anderson said.

USF attorney Nina Stillman questioned, however, whether it is a true religious practice or merely a personal expression. She noted in her questioning that Anderson previously had told reporters the practice was ''not that religious'' and was the equivalent of wishing folks a ''happy day.''

Anderson's attorney, Kevin Betz, argued that USF's swift response to Anderson's use of the phrase in company correspondence was evidence that it considered it a ''religious expression.''

The company twice reprimanded Anderson for continuing to use the phrase after a customer at Microsoft objected to it.

A supervisor then issued a sweeping policy that prohibits employees from using personal, political or religious language in verbal or written communication with customers or co-workers.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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