Anasagasti List - Unequal Time, Aida Anasagasti, Aidita Anasagasti









Reporting on the Folly of Faith,
the Aberrations of Belief,
the Ruse of Religion


VOLUME I ~ 2009

VOLUME II ~ 2010

noose coverage



to view vatican venom

Clickon Images at LEFT for full texts

Created by man, SUPERSTITIONS, all equal.













































"A sense of humor, properly developed, is superior to any
eligion so far devised."

Clickon Images @ LEFT for full original texts














Religious Groups Upset Over New Exhibit Set To Open At Brooklyn Museum
Gay-Themed Art With Controversial Video Clip Draws Ire Of Catholic Leader
CBS News: November 10, 2011

NEW YORK — Is it art, or is it sacrilege? There’s a controversy at the Brooklyn Museum over an upcoming exhibit.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said a sacrilege is about to go on display at the museum with the debut next week of “Hide/Seek,” an exhibit focused on gay-themed art. “You take any sacred thing, and make fun of it or treat it with disrespect, that’s sacrilegious,” DiMarzio said. “Since the population of Brooklyn is a good percent, Catholic, 40 percent, I think we should object,” DiMarzio said.

When Hide/Seek was shown last year in Washington D.C., it included a video called “A Fire In My Belly,” which briefly shows ants marching across a crucifix.

But it’s not just Catholic leaders who are complaining.

“There has to be lines of respect that are drawn. And like someone said, they wouldn’t do this to Mohammed. It’s just that Christians haven’t, you know, expressed outrage the way that some other communities would,” Christian Cultural Center Pastor A.R. Bernard said












In Georgia, Some Vote to Stay Dry on Sundays
The New York Times: November 11, 2011

ELBERTON, Ga. — The joke in Georgia after Tuesday’s election was that the most popular name on the ballot was Jack Daniel’s.

After years of debating whether to do away with a century-old law that banned selling alcohol on Sundays, Georgia politicians decided to let the people vote, city by city and county by county, on what they preferred in their communities. The results were resounding: 105 of the 127 communities that voted chose to end the Sunday restriction, often by huge margins. And before polls closed, supporters were announcing celebrations at liquor stores.

But here in Elbert County, a rural, deeply religious region of northeast Georgia, residents were not raising a toast. They voted to keep Sundays alcohol-free.

“The Bible says no to strong drink, and I’m proud that people around here agree,” said Jerry Beggs, 70, a retired machine technician, as he spelled out a message on Thursday on the marquee at Forest Hill Assembly of God Church, where he is a member. “Thanks for voting no to sell alcohol on Sunday,” it read.

Religiously motivated blue laws were once common across the Bible Belt. But over the decades, they have been struck down as anachronistic or unfriendly to business. Georgia was the last Southern bastion of a statewide all-day ban on Sunday alcohol sales in package or grocery stories.

Religiously motivated blue laws were once common across the Bible Belt. But over the decades, they have been struck down as anachronistic or unfriendly to business. Georgia was the last Southern bastion of a statewide all-day ban on Sunday alcohol sales in package or grocery stories.

“This nation has a trend of turning away from good morals,” said Patsy Scarborough, a retired secretary and a church pianist. “Americans need to be in church on Sunday, not out buying alcohol.”


















Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate
The New York Times: November 6, 2011

PLEASANTVILLE, Tenn. — After services at the Church at Cane Creek on a recent Sunday, a few dozen families held a potluck picnic and giggling children played pin the tail on the donkey.

The white-bearded preacher, Michael Pearl, who delivered his sermon in stained work pants, and his wife, Debi, mixed warmly with the families drawn to their evangelical ministry, including some of their own grandchildren.

The pastoral mood in the hills of Tennessee offered a stark contrast to the storm raging around the country over the Pearls’ teachings on child discipline, which advocate systematic use of “the rod” to teach toddlers to submit to authority. The methods, seen as common sense by some grateful parents and as horrific by others, are modeled, Mr. Pearl is fond of saying, on “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.”

Debate over the Pearls’ teachings, first seen on Christian Web sites, gained new intensity after the death of a third child, all allegedly at the hands of parents who kept the Pearls’ book, “To Train Up a Child,” in their homes. On Sept. 29, the parents were charged with homicide by abuse.

In May, Hana Williams, who was adopted when she was 11, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard of her home in Sedro Wooley, Wash. Her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, the coroner determined, and a sheriff’s report said that she had been beaten often, including on the day of her death.

Hana’s mother had praised the Pearls’ book and given a copy to a friend, the report said.

More than 670,000 copies of the Pearls’ self-published book are in circulation, and it is especially popular among Christian home-schoolers, who praise it in their magazines and on their Web sites. The Pearls provide instructions on using a switch from as early as six months to discourage misbehavior and describe how to make use of implements for hitting on the arms, legs or back, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line that, Mr. Pearl notes, “can be rolled up and carried in your pocket.”

The furor in part reflects societal disagreements over corporal punishment, which conservative Christians say is called for in the Bible and which many Americans consider reasonable up to a point, even as many parents and pediatricians reject it. The issue flared recently when a video was posted online of a Texas judge whipping his daughter.
















Population Control, Marauder Style
The New York Times: November 5, 2011

Last week, the United Nations announced that the world’s population had reached seven billion, but there have been times when it headed in the opposite direction, and not in pleasant ways. The savagery of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan may have culled the global population by about 11 percent; two bloody upheavals in China — the An Lushan Rebellion and the collapse of the Xin Dynasty — each may have felled about 6 percent of humanity. Those are but 3 of the 100 worst atrocities in history, as cataloged by Matthew White in “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things,” an amusing (really) account of the murderous ways of despots, slave traders, blundering royals, gladiators and assorted hordes. Estimating the tolls from such horrors is an inexact science, given war’s nature and the mysteries of antiquity. The deadliest “multicides” are more plentiful in recent centuries, given that there were more people to kill and better ways to kill them on a grand scale. Even so, killings as a percentage of all humanity are probably declining. Here is a look at the sweep of human brutality presented in a timeline.

(Full text)


The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities

Click on image to enlarge























Not Following the ‘Leader’
THE NEW YORK TIMES: November 2, 2011

Monday of this week, when the Supreme Court ducked yet another case on the constitutionality of the display of religious symbols on public land. This case (actually a pair of petitions appealing the lower court’s judgment) concerned the placement of a dozen 12-foot-high crosses along state highways in Utah to commemorate the deaths of state highway patrol officers in the line of duty.

A private group, the Utah Highway Patrol Association, erected and owns the crosses, each of which carries the name, rank and badge number of an officer along its six-foot-long crossbeam. The state permitted their placement along the public right of way so that they could be seen by passing motorists. A federal appeals court ruled that because the crosses “convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah is endorsing Christianity,” their placement amounted to an unconstitutional “establishment” of religion.

The Supreme Court doesn’t explain itself when it turns down a request for review. So the only way to know whether a petition even got the court’s attention before being automatically denied (denial is the court’s default mode, the fate of any petition that at least one justice doesn’t ask to discuss at the justices’ private weekly conference) is when someone publishes a dissent from the denial. In this instance, Justice Thomas published a 19-page dissent  from the denial of review in Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists, Inc.

The dissent was a vivid tour through the incoherent landscape of the court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

I had been watching this case since the summer, and I thought the court would find it hard to resist. That was a prediction, not a wish; unlike Justice Thomas, I think the lower court got this one right, and I find the argument for regarding a collection of 12-foot-high crosses along a state’s highways as anything other than an official endorsement of Christian belief to be almost laughably weak.

In fact, not that it matters, but just to be clear, Justice Thomas and I would disagree across the entire range of Establishment Clause cases. He holds a view that is unique among the justices (there’s that leadership thing again), namely that the Establishment Clause applies only to the federal government and not, as the court has maintained since 1947, to the states as well. He also believes that the clause prohibits only “actual legal coercion,” and not the kind of implicit official endorsement of religious practice that makes members of minority faiths, or nonbelievers, feel like outsiders.

The actual target of Justice Thomas’s dissent on Monday was not so much the denial of review in the Utah case as the court’s continued adherence to the approach it has evolved in recent years for discerning a line between the permissible and the forbidden in official recognition of religion. The current “endorsement” test was the creation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired nearly six years ago. Justice Thomas is probably correct in his speculation on Monday that this approach no longer commands majority support on the court.

The problem is, neither does anything else. Unless the court accepts either his view that anything goes, which it won’t, or the view advocated by another retired justice, John Paul Stevens, that almost nothing goes, which it also won’t, those determined to claim a corner of the public square in which to display their religious devotion will keep on doing it, and we appear doomed to be ruled in this realm, as in so many others, by the case-by-case exercise of human judgment.

A scary thought – perhaps one that scared the justices themselves as, contemplating whether to grant the Utah case, they stood on the brink with Clarence Thomas and decided not to jump.






















The Birth Control Solution
The New York Times: November 2, 2011

What if there were a solution to many of the global problems that confront us, from climate change to poverty to civil wars? There is, but it is starved of resources. It’s called family planning, and it has been a victim of America’s religious wars.

Partly for that reason, the world’s population just raced past the seven billion mark this week, at least according to the fuzzy calculations of United Nations demographers. It took humans hundreds of thousands of years, until the year 1804, to reach the first billion. It took another 123 years to reach two billion, in 1927. Since then, we’ve been passing these milestones like billboards along a highway. The latest billion took just a dozen years.

In 1999, the United Nations’ best projection was that the world wouldn’t pass seven billion until 2013, but we reached it two years early. Likewise, in 1999, the U.N. estimated that the world population in 2050 would be 8.9 billion, but now it projects 9.3 billion.

Traditionally, support for birth control was bipartisan. The Roman Catholic hierarchy was opposed, but Republican presidents like Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush provided strong support. Then family planning became tarnished by overzealous and coercive programs in China and India, and contraception became entangled in America’s abortion wars. Many well-meaning religious conservatives turned against it, and funding lagged. The result was, paradoxically, more abortions. When contraception is unavailable, the likely consequence is not less sex, but more pregnancy.

Contraception already prevents 112 million abortions a year, by U.N. estimates. The United Nations Population Fund is a bête noire for conservatives, but its promotion of contraception means that it may have reduced abortions more than any organization in the world.

Republicans are seeking to cut more money from global family planning — which, in poor countries, would mean more abortions and more women dying in childbirth. Conservatives have also sought to slash Title X Family Planning programs within the United States. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that in a year these domestic programs avert 973,000 unintended pregnancies, of which 406,000 would end in abortions.

Guttmacher calculates that these family-planning centers in the United States actually save taxpayers roughly $3.4 billion annually that would otherwise be spent on pregnancies and babies.

Finally, a ray of hope: A group of evangelical Christians, led by Richard Cizik of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, is drafting a broad statement of support for family planning. It emphasizes that family planning reduces abortion and lives lost in childbirth.

“Family planning is morally laudable in Christian terms because of its contribution to family well-being, women’s health, and the prevention of abortion,” the draft says.

Amen! Contraceptives no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain.

So as we greet the seven-billionth human, let’s try to delay the arrival of the eight billionth. We should all be able to agree on voluntary family planning as a cost-effective strategy to reduce poverty, conflict and environmental damage. If you think family planning is expensive, you haven’t priced babies.








































Push for ‘Personhood’ Amendment Represents New Tack in Abortion Fight
The New York Times: October 25, 2011

A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.

With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.

“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives.

The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.

The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles.

“This is the most extreme in a field of extreme anti-abortion measures that have been before the states this year,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group.

Opponents, who were handing out brochures on Saturday to tailgate partiers before the University of Southern Mississippi football game in Hattiesburg, said they hoped to dispel the impression that the amendment simply bars abortions — a popular idea in Mississippi — by warning that it would also limit contraceptives, make doctors afraid to save women with life-threatening pregnancies and possibly hamper in vitro fertility treatments.

The drive for personhood amendments has split the anti-abortion forces nationally. Some groups call it an inspired moral leap, while traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.


The ‘Personhood’ Initiative
The New York Times: October 27, 2011

A ballot measure going before voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8 would define the term “person” in the State Constitution to include fertilized human eggs and grant to fertilized eggs the legal rights and protections that apply to people. It is among the most extreme assaults in the push to end women’s reproductive rights.

The aim is to redefine abortion and some of the most widely used forms of contraception as murder, obliterating a woman’s right to make childbearing decisions under the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Besides outlawing all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest or when a woman’s life is in danger, and banning any contraception that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including birth control pills, the amendment carries many implications, some quite serious.

It could curtail medical research involving embryos, shutter fertility clinics and put doctors in legal jeopardy for providing needed medical care that might endanger a pregnancy. Pregnant women also could become subject to criminal prosecution. A fertilized egg might be eligible to inherit money or be counted when drawing voting districts by population. Because a multitude of laws use the terms “person” or “people,” there would be no shortage of unintended consequences.

A similar ballot measure was handily rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010. But, in Mississippi, which has already imposed so many burdensome restrictions that the state has only one abortion clinic, there is a real possibility that voters will not react as wisely. Voter approval could energize similar “personhood” initiatives in half a dozen other states, including Flo
rida and Ohio.

Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor in Mississippi have endorsed the measure, even though some traditional leaders in the anti-abortion battle, including National Right to Life, have declined to do so, viewing it as a reckless strategy that could lead to a defeat in the Supreme Court. This extreme measure would protect zygotes at the expense of all women while creating a legal quagmire — at least until the courts rule it unconstitutional, as they should.

(Full text)








Revolution Won, Top Libyan Official Vows a New and More Pious State
Abdel-Jalil Promises a Role for Islam in a New Libya

The New York Times: October 23, 2011

BENGHAZI, Libya — The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.

The most powerful force in the fledgling state, the armed groups remain a law unto themselves. The threat they pose was underscored with the discovery Sunday of at least 53 bodies, people who appeared to have been executed, possibly by anti-Qaddafi fighters.

Two strands — a new piety and all-purpose, freewheeling happiness — dominated the ceremony. When Mustafa Abdel-Jalil (left), the chairman of the Transitional National Council, pronounced the end of the uprising, the crowd reacted with shouts of “God is great.”

“We are an Islamic country,” he said as the sun descended. “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.”

Among other things, he promised that Islamic banks would be established in the new Libya. He also talked of lifting restrictions on the number of women Libyan men can marry, The Associated Press reported.

The comments reflected not only the chairman’s personal religious conservatism and the country’s, but also the rising influence of Islamists among the former rebels. The Islamists, who include some influential militia commanders, have warned that they will not permit their secular counterparts in a new government to sideline them.

Some of the secular former rebels contend that the Islamists have successfully exploited the country’s power vacuum, infusing the conflict with religion and criticizing those not considered sufficiently pious, including women who do not wear the head scarf.

Viewing Qaddafi's Body

As a form of celebration, camels were slaughtered

Wanted: an Atheist roommate
Weird but true
POST WIRE SERVICES: October 23, 2011

A Washington state woman will probably be more careful about whom she takes in as a roommate after her last one kidnapped her young sons because he believed the home was “infested with demons."

Shane Soares allegedly grabbed the 3- and 4-year-old boys from their beds after midnight one day last week. When he was caught, he told Grant County sheriff’s deputies that “the Lord told him” to do it, police said.

(Full text)




































At Front of Brooklyn Bus, a Clash of Religious and Women’s Rights
The New York Times: October 19, 2011

It does not take long to recognize that the B110 bus in Brooklyn is not like others in the city.

The exterior colors are different: red, white and blue. The price for a single ride is the same, $2.50, but MetroCards are not accepted. The bus does not run Friday night or most of Saturday.

But the most obvious sign that the B110 is different was demonstrated Wednesday by Gitty Green, a 30-year-old mother who boarded the bus on Wednesday with her three children and a stroller and headed straight to the back.

As her two older sons perched on the seats behind her, she looked ahead at the men seated in front, mostly Hasidic Jews in wide-brimmed hats, and said, because her religion dictates the separation of the sexes, she never wondered what it would be like to sit with them.

“It’s such a normal thing for us that women and men are separate,” she said. “Most of the ladies go to the back.”

The B110 bus, which runs between Williamsburg and Borough Park, has been run by Private Transportation Corporation since 1973, under a franchise with the city. And to many in the area, the bus’s tradition of separation comes with little surprise or indignation.

But this week, the bus’s practices gained widespread publicity after The New York World, a Columbia Journalism School publication, reported that a female rider was told by other riders that she had to leave the front. The story was quickly picked up by bloggers and even came to the attention of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, the mayor said that segregating men and women was “obviously not permitted” on public buses. “Private people: you can have a private bus,” he added. “Go rent a bus, and do what you want on it.”

A male photographer found it difficult to visit the back of the bus, filled with Hasidic riders loaded down with packages and the scent of freshly baked bread before the Jewish holiday Shemini Atzeret. The bus driver told him that only women were allowed there.

Guidelines, posted in the front and the back, said that “when boarding a crowded bus with standing passengers in the front, women should board the back door after paying the driver in the front” and that “when the bus is crowded, passengers should stand in their designated areas.”

The women riding in the back included several full-time mothers and an accountant who commutes into Manhattan each day. One woman who would identify herself only by her initials, M. M., said other buses that cater to the Hasidic community sometimes separate men and women by having one sex sit on the left and the other on the right. She said women could not sit in the front and men sit in the back because “they’re not allowed to see the women.” But she acknowledged that the B110 bus was not just for members of the Hasidic community and other Orthodox Jews.

While no male passengers sitting at the front of the bus explicitly told a female reporter to move, several riders said women did not belong there. One father who sat in the front with his son and daughter and declined to give his name said men and women “need to be separated.” He looked down at his daughter dressed in a bright red raincoat, with her blue eyes frozen in amazement, and said: “She’s small. When she’s big, she will sit in the back.”

Even if the buses allow women to sit in the front, it may take longer for male riders to feel comfortable. As Asaf Amitay, a 35-year-old regular rider on the bus, rode home to Borough Park, he made it clear that he did not believe that women should be seated in the front.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “The women is in the back. The men are in the front.”


Top to bottom:
Sam Mullet, Lester Mullet, Johnny Mullet, Levi Miller






































Amish Renegades Are Accused in Bizarre Attacks on Their Peers
The New York Times: October 17, 2011

BERGHOLZ, Ohio — Myron Miller and his wife, Arlene, had been asleep for an hour when their 15-year-old daughter woke them and said that people were knocking at the door.

Mr. Miller, 45, a stocky construction worker and an Amish bishop in the peaceful farmlands of eastern Ohio, found five or six men waiting. Some grabbed him and wrestled him outside as others hacked at his long black beard with scissors, clipping off six inches. As Mr. Miller kept struggling, his wife screamed at the children to call 911, and the attackers fled.

For an Amish man, it was an unthinkable personal violation, and all the more bewildering because those accused in the attack are other Amish.

The attackers, the authorities said, had traveled from an isolated splinter settlement near Bergholz, south of the Miller residence. Sheriffs and Amish leaders in the region, home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Amish, had come to expect trouble from the Bergholz group. It is said to be led with an iron hand by Sam Mullet, a prickly 66-year-old man who had become bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities and had had several confrontations with the Jefferson County sheriff.

But the violent humiliation that men from his group are charged with inflicting on their perceived enemies throughout this fall, using scissors and battery-operated clippers, came as a bizarre shock.

The assaults — four are known to the authorities — have stirred fear among the Amish and resulted in the arrests, so far, of five men, including three of Mr. Mullet’s sons, on kidnapping and other charges. Officials say that more arrests are possible.

In the first incident, on Sept. 6 in the town of Mesopotamia, a married couple who had left the Bergholz community four years ago, Martin and Barbara Miller, were attacked at night by five of their own sons and a son-in law, along with their wives, all of whom had elected to remain with Mr. Mullet, according to the victims.
The gang left the father with a “ragged beard,” as a sheriff’s report described it, then turned on their mother — who is Mr. Mullet’s sister — and chopped off large patches of her hair.

“The beard is a key symbol of masculine Amish identity,” said Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist and expert on the Amish at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The women view their long hair, kept in a bun, as their “glory,” Dr. Kraybill said, and shearing it was “an attack on her personal identity and religious teaching.”

Our Amish, Ourselves
The New York Times: October 20, 2011

Ashland, Ohio — BY the time I made my way to Mr. Stutzman’s farm to ask for his take on the renegade Amish of Bergholz, Ohio — a splinter group that includes several members recently arrested after participating in assaults on other Amish — I was too late to break the news. I knew I would be. Several of my fellow English (that is, non-Amish) residents of Ashland County had been to see Mr. Stutzman earlier that morning. All were eager to tell him of yet another Amish incident. And this was the best kind — a case of Amish-on-Amish violence.

English always stop by Mr. Stutzman’s place with news of the outside world, especially if the news reveals Amish indiscretion, or worse. A few years ago an Amish man in an adjacent county was sent to prison for sexually abusing his daughters. Traffic at Mr. Stutzman’s produce stand was heavy that day, he told me. Folks he’d never seen before stopped by to pick up a head of lettuce or a bushel of peppers. They stared hard into his face as they asked if he’d heard about the abuse. Springing bad news on our Amish neighbors is just something we do around here.

I live surrounded by the Swartzentruber Amish, widely considered the most conservative of all Amish. Around here, people seem either to love or hate them. Unlike those parts of America without large Amish populations that tend to romanticize the community, here things take on a more fundamental, some might even say practical, prejudice.

Around here people love to poke holes in the fabric of Amish solidarity.

The assaults and arrests in Bergholz seem to fit a convenient narrative for people seeking to discredit the Amish. There’s evidence of a doctrinal split, which is as common in the community as straw hats and hay wagons. Schisms and splinter groups are prevalent among the Amish that I know. Mr. Stutzman’s neighbor, Mr. Gingerich, also a Swartzentruber, recently broke off from Mr. Stutzman’s group over the issue of adding a second lantern to buggies. Mr. Gingerich is set to move to Maine later this month to start his own settlement.

All Amish seem to fall into the trap of believing their way is the true Amish way. So it comes as no surprise that the attacks in Bergholz, which included the forced cutting of hair, were the work of a splinter group that believed somebody had betrayed the true cause, if the attacks can be credited with such lofty motives.

Whatever the case, I know a few things for certain. The Swartzentruber Amish will continue taking baths only on Saturdays, believing this deliberate inattention to hygiene is evidence of living the true Amish way. I know that there will always be splits and schisms among the Amish. I know that many of the rural English of Ashland County will continue to dislike the Amish in general, even while maintaining genuine friendships with a few. I know that many Americans will continue to see the Amish as a backward cult of religious fanatics, but that many more will persist in mythologizing them, seeing in them what they need to see. I know that, as the writer Wendell Berry says, America’s view of the Amish is a “perfect blindness.”

Joe Mackall, a professor of English and creative writing at Ashland University, is the author of “Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish.”






Broadcast of an Animated Film Roils Tunisia Before Elections
The New York Times: October 17, 2011

TUNIS — In the final week of the first election campaign of the Arab Spring, political discourse here in Tunisia has been all but consumed by contention over the television broadcast of an animated film, “Persepolis,” which touched off accusations of heresy and censorship.

The episode began when a relatively small group of ultraconservative Islamists attacked the television station that had broadcast the 2007 film, about a Muslim girl growing up in post-revolutionary Iran, because of a scene in which she rails at God. He is depicted as she imagines him, violating an Islamic injunction against personifying him.

But it soon became clear that ultraconservatives were hardly the only ones offended. The broadcast has touched a nerve among a far broader section of Tunisia’s Muslims, even in the coastal regions where many pride themselves on their cosmopolitanism. “It is true we do not all fast, and we do not all pray,” said Saleh Mohamed Khoudi, 53, a director of technology at a private company. “But this is too much.”

Semiha Sehli, 33, who works in finance, said she wanted nothing to do with the Islamists and did not trust Ennahda. But even she was shocked when she saw the offending scene on Facebook. Sure, she acknowledged, all little children imagine a personified God. “You can imagine it, but you shouldn’t put it in a movie,” she said.

The liberal standard-bearer, the Progressive Democratic Party, sometimes known here as the Western party, raced to distance itself from the film. “We are against blasphemy,” said Ahmed Bouazzi, a member of the party’s executive committee. “And we respect the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of creativity. And we are against violence.”



















New Jersey High School Teacher Posts Anti-Gay Entry on Facebook
The New York Times: October 13, 2011

A New Jersey high school teacher became the center of a Facebook controversy on Thursday after writing on the site that “homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation” and complaining about a school display recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History month.

The teacher, Viki Knox, posted a photo of a display from the school, Union High School in Union Township, on her personal Facebook page last week. It included photos of Virginia Woolf, Harvey Milk and Neil Patrick Harris. When a friend asked if the school had really put it up, Ms. Knox wrote that it had, and “I’m pitching a fit!”

In subsequent posts, Ms. Knox, who teaches special education classes, defended her views in lengthy exchanges with other Facebook users, referring at times to God and her Christian beliefs.
In her Facebook posts, Ms. Knox wrote that while she had friends and loved ones who were gay, she believed that the way they lived was “against the nature and character of God” and that the high school was “not the setting to promote, encourage, support and foster homosexuality.”

Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, said in a statement, “Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her beliefs and comments are protected by the First Amendment.”

But Mr. Barocas added, “Because her postings raised questions about her conduct within school, the school district can and should investigate whether she is performing her job in accordance with school policies and the state’s Law Against Discrimination.”

Members of Garden State Equality, a statewide civil rights organization that advocates gay rights, sent hundreds of e-mails and made phone calls to the district on Thursday demanding that Ms. Knox be dismissed because of her comments.

Steven Goldstein (right), chairman of the group, said, “If these Facebook posts are from Ms. Knox, she should not be teaching our children in public schools.”

John Paragano (left), a lawyer and former member of the Union Township Committee, said he had been offended by Ms. Knox’s comments, and questioned her ability to enforce the state’s tough new anti-bullying law.

“Teachers are at the forefront of that, enforcing that,” Mr. Paragano said. “My concern is that if this teacher has these feelings, is she going to call out the bullying of a gay, lesbian and transgender person?”

“Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”


















Local Pastor: Comedian Carlin Said Too Many ‘Dirty Words’
To Get Street Name

Head Of Corpus Christi Church In Morningside Heights Frowns On Legend's Act
CBSNewYork: October 10, 2011

NEW YORK — There is a controversy brewing in Morningside Heights over renaming a street in honor of the late comedian George Carlin.

The local Catholic priest says it dishonors his church.

The late Carlin was a thinking man’s comedian and so some here where he grew up think it’s fitting to rename a stretch of 121st Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam, in his honor.

However, the pastor at the Catholic church and school Carlin attended says otherwise.

“Certainly he made his early work a mockery of this particular place — certainly a lot of people by name,” said Pastor Raymond Rafferty of Corpus Christi Church.

Rafferty said he does not want his school children, who would read Carlin’s name on a street sign directly across the street, to be exposed to his often profane brand of humor. “He also was an extremely vulgar person,” Rafferty said.

Carlin’s 1972 monologue “Seven dirty words you can never say on television” set new standards. Not only did Carlin’s seven dirty words make comedy history, they made legal history.

Broadcast in 1973 by New York radio station WBAI, the routine made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1978 effectively established the regulation of indecency in American broadcasting.

Indecent or not, many here say Carlin deserves the honor.

“George Carlin in another way spoke with an angry but very precise voice,” graduate student Rosalind Gnatt said.

“God always said you have free will. So George had some free will — voiced his opinion,” educator Tom Gilmore added.

“If overall he did more good than not good, then I see no harm in having a street named after him,” education administrator Fred Schnur said.

Rafferty is not having it. “My response to that? It would be fine, but not on this street,” he said. Rafferty said putting it here would be a slap in the face of the church.

The community board promises not to make a decision on renaming the street until it officially hears the church’s position in a public meeting.

(Full text)















In Georgia, a Lawsuit Over Guns in Church
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS : October 8, 2011

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, heard arguments last week on a lawsuit brought by a central Georgia church and the gun rights group claiming that a state law banning firearms in places of worship violates their constitutionally protected religious freedoms.

State lawyers said it was a small price to pay to allow others to pray without fearing for their safety. The panel of judges roundly criticized the suit after hearing arguments but did not immediately make a ruling.

Georgia is one of a handful of states with such restrictions — court papers say Arkansas, Mississippi and North Dakota have adopted similar laws — and court observers, religious leaders and Second Amendment groups are closely watching this case.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston, where the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins said he wanted to have a gun for protection while working in the church office. The judges also questioned how banning firearms in a place of worship violates religious freedoms.

The lawsuit involves a longstanding fight between gun owners and state
lawmakers over where firearms should be allowed. Most advocates for gun owners cheered in 2010 when Georgia lawmakers lifted restrictions that had long banned them from taking weapons to public gatherings.

But the overhaul left intact restrictions that banned guns from government buildings, courthouses, jails and prisons, state mental health facilities, nuclear plants and houses of worship. It also restricted owners from taking weapons into bars without permission from the owner.

Critics of the law argue that churches should not be included in the restrictions.

“We’re not trying to force churches to allow guns in their sanctuary,” said Kelly Kennett, a gun owner and president of “Churches should be treated like any other private property owner. Why are you treating people at churches differently than how you’d be treated at a store, at a bank, at a club?”

Then, let them pay TAXES.


Nepalese devotees lead a buffalo to sacrifice at the Dashain festival, Katmandu

Devotee of Jui Tui shrine, Phuket

Ultra-Orthodox Jew prepares to slaughter a chicken in
Kaparot ritual, Tel Aviv


Suicide Bomber Opposed Secular Studies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: October 6, 2011

Somalia - The suicide bomber who killed more than 100 people, including students seeking scholarships, in an attack near the Education Ministry on Tuesday was a dropout who had declared that young people should forget about secular education and instead wage jihad. The bomber, Bashar Abdullahi Nur, had given an interview before the attack, later broadcast on a militant-run radio station, saying that college students who study abroad “never think about the harassed Muslims.”

(Full text)


































Did Jesus die for Klingons too?
By Clara Moskowitz News:October 3, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The discovery of intelligent aliens would be mind-blowing in many respects, but it could present a special dilemma for the world's religions, theologians pondering interstellar travel concepts say.

Christians, in particular, might take the news hardest, because the Christian belief system does not easily allow for other intelligent beings in the universe, Christian thinkers said Saturday at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, a meeting sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to discuss issues surrounding traveling to other stars.

In other words, "Did Jesus die for Klingons too?" as philosophy professor Christian Weidemann of Germany's Ruhr-University Bochum titled his talk at a panel on the philosophical and religious considerations of visiting other worlds. "According to Christianity, an historic event some 2,000 years ago was supposed to save the whole of creation," Weidemann said. "You can grasp the conflict."

Here's how the debate goes: If the whole of creation includes 125 billion galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, as astronomers think, then what if some of these stars have planets with advanced civilizations, too? Why would Jesus Christ have come to Earth, of all the inhabited planets in the universe, to save Earthlings and abandon the rest of God's creatures?

Aliens and religion can still coexist

Weidemann, a self-described protestant Christian, suggested some possible
solutions. Perhaps extraterrestrials aren't sinners, like humans, and therefore aren't in need of saving. However, the principle of mediocrity -- the idea that your own example is most likely typical unless you have evidence to the contrary -- casts doubt on this, he pointed out.

"If there are extraterrestrial intelligent beings at all, it is safe to assume that most of them are sinners too," Weidemann (right) said. "If so, did Jesus save them too? My position is no. If so, our position among intelligent beings in the universe would be very exceptional."

Another possibility is that God incarnated multiple times, sending a version of himself down to save each inhabited planet separately.

However, based on the best guesses of how many civilizations we might expect to exist in the universe, and how long planets and civilizations are expected to survive, God's incarnations would have had to be in about 250 places simultaneously at any given time, assuming each incarnation took about 30 years, Weidemann calculated.

Religious food for thought

If God truly became corporeal and took human form when Jesus Christ was born, this wouldn't have been possible, Weidemann said.

Rev. Thomas Hoffmann (right), a protestant pastor in Tulsa, Okla., said that the issues Weidemann raised were "really on target." "If life is discovered elsewhere, unfortunately we need to have more discussion about it," Hoffmann said. "I think this is a very robust conversation we need to have."

While the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence would likely spur profound soul-searching for people of all faiths, many of the world's religions might have an easier time accommodating the knowledge than Christianity, said theologist Michael Waltemathe, also of the Ruhr-University Bochum. "It seems to be only a problem of Christianity," Waltemathe said.

In Islam, for example, Muhammad was a prophet, or messenger of God, not God incarnate, so additional prophets could have simultaneously visited other planets to save extraterrestrial species, he said. And Hindus already believe in multiple deities, so accommodating more to guard over alien civilizations may not be difficult.

"Ultimately, though, the discovery of intelligent aliens isn't likely to pose a serious crisis for Christianity, either," Hoffmann said. "After all, the religion has survived challenging scientific revelations before."

"Religion is essentially conservative," Hoffmann told "You can put almost anything in its face and it's going to shake out a little bit, and then it's going to drop right back down. We've seen this happen historically."

(Full text)







































Cooperation in Evil
The New York Times: October 1, 2011

MAYBE it’s the Mario Lanza in him. But Nino Scalia relishes being operatically imprudent.

The Supreme Court justice’s latest supreme lapse of judgment involves poking his nose in a local legal wrangle about the place where I slept for four years: the Catholic University dorms.

In a speech last weekend at Duquesne University Law School, a Catholic institution in Pittsburgh, Justice Scalia defended religion in public life.

“Our educational establishment these days, while so tolerant of and even insistent on diversity in all other aspects of life, seems bent on eliminating the diversity of moral judgment, particularly moral judgment based on religious views,” the devout Catholic said.

As an example, he cited the lawsuit filed by the “notoriously litigious” George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf (left) against Catholic U.’s new ban on coed dorms.

In June, the president of Catholic U., John Garvey (right), wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal explaining why, as a father of five, he felt the need to resort to a “countercultural” and “slightly old-fashioned remedy,” ending 25 years of coed dorms. He said he believed single-sex dorms would “improve the practice of virtue,” reducing binge drinking and “the culture of hooking up.”

Using a formula that’s the inverse of “Sex and the City,” Garvey wrote: “Rates of depression reach 20 percent for young women who have had two or more sexual partners in the last year, almost double the rate for women who have had none. Sexually active young men do more poorly than abstainers in their academic work.”

He made note of the sad slide from proud feminism to proud sluttiness. “I would have thought that young women would have a civilizing influence on young men,” he wrote. “Yet the causal arrow seems to run the other way.”

Banzhaf, who calls Garvey’s arguments “totally secular,” pronounced himself “astonished that a justice of the nation’s highest court would single out and prejudge a legal proceeding which could set an important precedent, and could one day even come before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

As the Supreme Court gets ready to go into session on Monday, its six Catholic justices were set to merge church and state by attending the traditional first-Sunday-in-October Red Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. (It’s hard to believe there’s no Protestant on the Supreme Court.) Through the years, the presiding clergy have aimed their homilies against abortion, gay marriage and “humanism.” Justices of other faiths have attended; but as Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (right) stopped attending the Red Mass altogether after hearing her very first homily, which she has described as ‘outrageously anti-abortion.’”

In 2007, there was a kerfuffle about Catholic dominance on the court because the five justices who pushed to uphold the ban on “partial-birth abortion” were all Catholic men appointed by conservative presidents.

The church has aggressively meddled in politics on abortion, trying to defeat candidates who support abortion rights and prevent some liberal politicians from receiving Communion. But American bishops have been inconsistent in preaching their values.

They do not try to bring down politicians who supported the Iraq war, even though Pope John Paul II spoke out against it and sent a Vatican cardinal to warn W. that the war would be a “disaster” that would “destroy human life.” They do not express outrage at Republican audiences that cheer for executions, or target pols who brag on the death penalty, even though John Paul issued an encyclical against “the culture of death,” saying modern states have so many ways to protect citizens that the necessity for executions is “very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

Scalia, confident in his own infallibility, dissented. As he wrote in a religious journal in 2002, he does not find the death penalty immoral, and he believes that as the “minister of God,” government has powers to get “revenge” and “execute wrath.” He’s clearly more an Old Testament guy than New, or he would know that some prisoners get falsely accused and nailed to the cross (Matthew 26:59-66).

Now Scalia has dissented from the opinion of a second pope on the issue. Pope Benedict sent Georgia state officials a letter last month asking for clemency for Troy Davis (left), but the very Catholic Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution.

In his Duquesne speech, Scalia said: “If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign. I could not be a part of a system that imposes it.”

My family priest, Father Kevin O’Neil, teaches about “cooperation in evil” in Catholic moral theology. If you facilitate something that has been deemed wrong, like taking a human life, are you cooperating in evil?

Maybe the Supreme Court should ask itself that question.

Are you “cooperating in evil,” Justice Scalia?

(Full text)

Rights Collide as Town Clerk Sidesteps Role in Gay Marriages
The New York Times: September 27, 2011

LEDYARD, N.Y. — Rose Marie Belforti is a 57-year-old cheese maker, the elected town clerk in this sprawling Finger Lakes farming community and a self-described Bible-believing Christian. She believes that God has condemned homosexuality as a sin, so she does not want to sign same-sex marriage licenses; instead, she has arranged for a deputy to issue all marriage licenses by appointment.

But when a lesbian couple who own a farm near here showed up at the town hall last month, the women said they were unwilling to wait.

Now Ms. Belforti is at the heart of an emerging test case, as national advocacy groups look to Ledyard for an answer to how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple.

Ms. Belforti, represented by a Christian legal advocacy group based in Arizona, the Alliance Defense Fund, is arguing that state law requires New York to accommodate her religious beliefs.

“New York law protects my right to hold both my job and my beliefs,” she said in an interview last week, pausing briefly to collect $50 from a resident planning to take 20 loads of refuse to the town dump. “I’m not supposed to have to leave my beliefs at the door at my government job.”

But the couple, Deirdre DiBiaggio and Katie Carmichael of Miami, are arguing that the law requires all clerks in New York to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The couple are being represented by a liberal advocacy organization, People for the American Way, based in Washington.


Saudi Arabia: 10 Lashes for Driving
Published: September 27, 2011

Two days after King Abdullah (right with Pope Benedict} granted women the right to vote and run for public office, starting in 2015, a court on Tuesday sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for violating religious rules prohibiting women in the kingdom from driving, activists and local news media said. The woman, Shaimaa Ghassaneya, was found guilty of driving in Jidda in July. Her sentence was unusually severe for the crime, which typically results in several days of detention. Activists said she planned to appeal. More women have been encouraged to violate the driving ban in recent months, as part of the social media-driven Women2Drive campaign. At least two more were expected to stand trial in the coming months.

(Full article)
































Mideast’ battle on subways
New York Post: September 21, 2011

A holy war is brewing on the city’s subways.

An controversial activist -- incensed at a slew of underground billboards denigrating Israel -- is threatening to sue the MTA if it doesn’t run her counter-ads likening enemies of the Jewish state to “savages.”

“This is an absolute free-speech issue,” said Pamela Geller. “We’re preparing the paperwork as we speak.”

Her inflammatory ad was sent to the MTA a week ago, but she has yet to receive a response. From past experience, Geller -- co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative -- said it usually takes a matter of hours for approval. But this isn’t just any advertisement.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ad states. “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The ad is meant as a response to more than a dozen subway-stations anti-Israel billboards put up in by a group called WESPACK since the beginning of the month.

Those ads feature pictures of smiling children with the message, “We are on the side of peace and justice. End US military aid to Israel.”
A less controversial rebuttal to those ads has already been approved by the MTA.

On Monday, the group Stand With Us will begin running its ads reading, “Israel Needs a Partner for Peace.”

The MTA declined comment.

WESPACK ( 'anti-Israel' billboard) ADS

(Full text)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001





























Omitting Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony Prompts Protest
The New York Times: September 8, 2011

The second Sunday after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, New York clergy members of many faiths joined elected officials at Yankee Stadium in a city-sponsored memorial ceremony that melded the sacred and the secular, replete with flags, prayers and tears.

Ten years later, any consensus that existed about the appropriate role of religion in public ceremonies marking a monumental American trauma has fallen apart.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has come under attack by some religious and political leaders for not including clergy members as speakers at Sunday’s official ceremony at ground zero on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Richard D. Land (left), president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in an interview that the planned ceremony only proved that New York was the “epicenter of secularism,” out of step with the rest of America.

“We’re not France,” he said. “Mr. Bloomberg is pretending we’re a secular society, and we are not.”

Congressman Randy Forbes (right), a Republican representative from Virginia and a co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sent Mr. Bloomberg a letter on behalf of the caucus members urging him to include prayer in the ceremony.

At the same time, some evangelical Christian leaders said they were outraged that an interfaith prayer service planned by the Washington National Cathedral did not include a Southern Baptist or other evangelical minister.

“In miniature, this is what’s happening to the whole country,” said Alan Wolfe
(left), director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. “9/11 was this moment that we came together, and it lasted about three-and-a-half minutes. The country went from a brief moment of something like unity, to complete Balkanization, and now we’re seeing it in religion and in politics, like in everything else.”

In a nation of unprecedented religious diversity, the United States once managed to navigate religion in public life with relatively generic acknowledgments of the sacred — a tradition often referred to as civil religion.

Ten years ago, the event at Yankee Stadium and a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral attended by President George W. Bush were conducted in that tradition, and they were held with no controversy to speak of. But now, Professor Wolfe said, “the civil religion, those informal kinds of agreements, can’t work if everyone is going to be litigious.”

“The structure for this program was designed 10 years ago, with the consultation of a lot of families of those who died, and it is primarily for the families,” Stu Loeser (right), Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, said.

It is wrong to say the ceremony excludes prayer or clergy members, Mr. Loeser said. Chaplains for the Fire and Police Departments and the Port Authority police often attend, and “we think most people use those moments of silence for reflection and prayer,” he said.

But these explanations have not prevented the controversy from becoming a galvanizing issue for conservative religious groups and media outlets and Christian talk radio.

On Thursday, the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera (left), who is a pastor in the Bronx, delivered what they said were 62,000 petition signatures to Mr. Bloomberg’s office calling on him to include clergy members in the ceremony.

The parallel controversy over the interfaith prayer service in Washington proves that
it is difficult to avoid criticism even when religious leaders are included in a public ceremony.

The controversy was fueled this week on Fox News when Gretchen Carlson (left), co-host of “Fox and Friends,” said that because of “political correctness,” the cathedral had included “fringe groups” like Buddhist nuns in the prayer service, but not Baptists.

“We’re going to have a Buddhist nun, which we didn’t even know existed,” she said.

Underlying the Washington debate is the divide between mainline and evangelical Protestants. The cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and some conservative evangelical figures say they are uncomfortable that the cathedral is often the site of major events in the national spotlight.

2001 ~ 2011

Ban On Clergy-Led Prayer At 9/11 Anniversary Draws Criticism
CBSNewYork/AP: September 2, 2011

NEW YORK — Christian conservatives are condemning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to bar clergy-led prayer at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the terrorist attacks, calling the program an insult. Others wonder whether the mayor is trying to dodge the potentially thorny issue of including a Muslim representative.

The mayor’s office says the annual event focuses on relatives of Sept. 11 victims and has never included clergy invocations. Bloomberg has said it would be impossible to include everyone who would like to participate.

Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, said the program was designed in coordination with 9/11 families and included readings that were “spiritual and personal in nature.”

Six moments of silence were planned for personal reflection and prayer.

Police and fire chaplains who work with the 9/11 families will attend.

“Rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate, we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died,” Erskine said.

“I just think a decision was made to give priority to the families. If this means more families will be attending, I think all of us can accept that,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Critics including the Catholic League and the Family Research Council, argue the program reflects prejudice against religion and ignores the central role religious groups played in the city’s 9/11 response.

“Nobody was turning religious leaders away from the scene 10 years ago. Why are they being banned from the 10th anniversary?” said the Rev. Richard Land, who leads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The only answer pure and simple is anti-religious prejudice.”

Bill Donohue (left), head of the Catholic League, said the Bloomberg administration seems to be arguing that clergy would detract from the event. The Washington-based Family Research Council, a conservative Christian public policy group, has posted a petition demanding Bloomberg reverse his decision. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., whose policy director [Bryan Fischer - right] argues that freedom of religion applies only to Christians [and claims that, not only was Adolf Hitler gay, but all his “Brownshirts” were too], called the exclusion of prayer an insult to “the faith of Americans and indeed to God himself.”











S.I. Congressman Wants WTC Steel Cross To Be National Monument
CBSNewYork/AP: September 6, 2011

NEW YORK — A Staten Island congressman has proposed legislation that would make the Sept. 11 cross-shaped steel beam a national monument. Rep. Michael Grimm said he was pushing for protective status for the 20-foot steel cross that was found amid the ruins of the World Trade Center site.

“The focus and goal of my legislation will be to make the cross a national monument. Therefore, once and for all, putting an end to whether the cross should be part of 9/11, whether it shouldn’t,” Grimm told 1010 WINS.

The proposed legislation was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Atheists, according to Grimm. The group argues that a “Christian icon” should not be included in the 9/11 memorial museum, slated to open next year.

Grimm called the group’s opposition reprehensible and said the cross was “so much more than a symbol of Christianity.”

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

. . . a GRIMM prediction.

Fashion Statement

Westboro Baptist Church to protest Fashion Week
The New York Post: September 9, 2011

Fashion Week supermodels are the height of style and elegance -- but to the vile Westboro Baptist Church, they’re nothing but “sluts” and “proud whores.

The crazed Kansas religious sect -- infamous for their heinous protests of military funerals -- is planning to rally tomorrow outside the tents at Lincoln Center to decry what they call fashion’s “Slutwalk extraordinaire.”

A spokesman for the Fred Phelps(right)-led “church” vowed yesterday to bring so much hate to Fashion Week that fashionistas will think John Galliano is in town.

“The whole thing is vanity!” roared Westboro mouthpiece Steve Drain (left). “You’re going to teach the women, especially the young women of this country, to doll themselves up ... All you are doing is teaching girls to be proud whores!”

He said the sect believes “the whole idea [of the] fashion industry is to make women look as whorish as possible and men look as effeminate at possible.”

Drain even offered up a little Bible-thumping fashion advice.
“Put some jeans on and fear God,” he told New Yorkers. “Forget about all this fashion nonsense.”

Drain also said the church would continue its relentless vile attacks on the gay community.

A recent Supreme Court ruling upheld their right to hold such demonstrations as protected by the First Amendment.

“The fashion industry is dominated by fags and fag enablers,” Drain said. “So we’ll preach to them.”

The Fashion Week visit will be by far the least offensive part of the church’s weekend in New York. They also plan to protest at several 9/11 memorial events on Sunday.

14 Are Killed in Muslim-Christian Fighting
REUTERS: September 6, 2011

Nigeria - At least 14 people have been killed in violence between Christian and Muslim youths in central Nigeria’s volatile Plateau State since Sunday night, the authorities said. With the latest deaths, at least 50 people have been killed in the ethnically and religiously mixed area in the last week. The authorities said the violence began when Christian youths attacked some Muslims as they gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. Plateau State straddles Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

(Full text)

Going holy hog: Hasidic bikers spread word
New York Post: September 6, 2011

Hells Angels they ain't. A tough-looking, leather-clad gang of Hasidic bikers who call themselves "Rebbe's Riders" are cruising the tri-state area, bringing God's word to other motorcycle-riding Jews they meet on the road.

The Riders -- members of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitch sect -- say their love of choppers gives them something in common with Jews who might have strayed onto the Highway to Hell.

"[Some fellow Jews] make comments that what we do is not a Jewish thing. They say, 'How can you ride bikes as Jews and say it's for a Jewish purpose?'" said Jonah Halper, 30, who founded the Riders earlier this year.

The Riders' moniker was inspired by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, whose thousands of disciples proselytize around the world.

"I get that the Hells Angels have a negative connotation, but there's not something inherently wrong with a motorcycle gang if there's a higher purpose," Halper said. "That's a good thing. Debauchery is a bad thing."

Officials Issue Warning Over Water Fights
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: September 5, 2011

Iran - Iranian officials warned Monday that “counterrevolutionaries” from abroad were behind the flash mobs of young people who have been holding boisterous water gun fights in public parks across the country. Gen. Ahmad Radan, the acting Iranian police commander, was quoted in newspapers on Monday as saying that a number of people were arrested at an Tehran park on Friday, and he vowed that police would act to prevent future water fights. Hard-liners see the water fights as unseemly and immoral, breaking taboos against the social mixing of men and women, and they worry that the gatherings could weaken adherence to Iran’s cleric-led Islamic rule or even build into outright protests against the ruling system.

(Full text)

German Officials Alarmed by Ex-Rapper’s New Message: Jihad
The New York Times: SEPTEMBER 1, 2011

The man German security officials call a major security risk looks like a figure from a rap video, especially with the tattoos on his hands. The right one says “STR8,” and the left one “Thug.”

“This is from the days when I lived the life of an unbeliever,” said the man, Denis Mamadou Cuspert, as he clenched his fists and looked at the tattoos. “Allah will erase them from me one day.”

Mr. Cuspert, once a popular rapper in Germany, today is one of the best-known singers of nasheeds, or Islamic devotional music, in German. Security officials say, though, that he is an influential figure who incites violence and unrest through inflammatory videos and fiery speeches that praise terrorists and attack the West.













Park’s Rules on Scarves Are Cited in a Melee
The New York Times: August 31, 2011

A scuffle broke out at an amusement park in Westchester County on Tuesday when a group of Muslims there to celebrate the end of Ramadan were told that women could not wear their head coverings on certain rides, park officials and witnesses said. Fifteen people were arrested.

The Muslim American Society of New York had arranged the trip to Playland Park in Rye, which was expected to bring some 3,000 people to the site from New York City, as well as surrounding suburbs like Yonkers and parts of Long Island.

About 2:30 p.m., the day took a sour turn when some of the female Muslim visitors, most of whom arrived in head scarves, were told they could not get on certain rides — including the Catch-a-Wave ride, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster and the Dragon Coaster (left) — because their heads were covered by the Muslim hijab.

Ola Salem, 17, of Coney Island, Brooklyn, was visiting with the group and wearing a pink and gray head scarf. She said she asked a park employee if she could join her 8-year-old sister on a ride.

“They said no because my of my ‘headgear,’ “ Ms. Salem said.

“I said, ‘It’s not my headgear, it’s my religion.’"

Ms. Salem said she asked to speak with a supervisor and was presented with a list of rides that would require her to remove her scarf. More than a dozen of the park’s rides, she said, were on the list.

According to park officials, disappointed customers were then offered a refund, and several people proceeded to the park’s main entrance to get back the $20 each member of the group had paid.

Then, the Parks Department said, about 20 members of the Muslim American group started fighting among themselves, there was pushing and shoving, so some park rangers intervened.

Some people who came to the park with the group said the fight began when a park employee touched a Muslim woman, at which point tempers flared. “We don’t have any knowledge of that at all from the police end or from the parks end,” said Peter Tartaglia, the deputy commissioner of the Parks Department.

County officials say that the ban on headgear [of any sorts] for some rides is a longstanding safety policy and that the organizers had been warned about it [and] blamed the trip’s organizers for not informing the guests that they would have to remove their headscarves.












A Family’s Wishes
The New York Times: September 8, 2011

Four years ago, the Bush administration issued a regulation to protect families of veterans distressed by the intrusion of volunteer honor guards offering unsolicited prayers and recitations at national cemetery funeral rites. The administration chose the only sensible course, directing that the family of the deceased — “and only they” — would identify any text to be read, not outside groups, however much they invoked God and country.

That regulation is being challenged in the Texas courts by some honor guards and a conservative legal group, the Liberty Institute. They have backed it up with a video and propaganda assault via the Internet against President Obama, not Mr. Bush. They claim, falsely, that the Obama administration has banned the mention of God and decreed “Jesus is not welcome” at veterans’ burials.

The truth is that all manner of ritual — from religious to secular — is being honored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but only according to each family’s preference.
Yet the lawsuit oddly invokes religious freedom in challenging the Houston National Cemetery’s attempt to follow policy.

The Veterans Affairs procedure under the regulation is to have funeral directors tell families that volunteer honor guards are available for services but that they are free to decline. Other veterans groups do not quarrel with this, as James Dao reported in The Times.

No one denies that honor guard volunteers, marching as dedicated veterans themselves, have offered great comfort to many families over the years. But the honor guards enjoy no claim to primacy at graveside. The wishes of a grieving family should never be overridden by outsiders, however well intentioned.

• • •
Final Resting Place, and Battleground
The New York Times: August 30, 2011

Every week, thousands of veterans are buried at national cemeteries, often to the sorrowful sound of a bugle. Yet even for families that quietly mourn their dead, these can be the most public of private affairs, taking on deep meaning — about politics, war and religion — to others, particularly other veterans.

So it is that in Houston, with one of the nation’s busiest national cemeteries, controversy exploded when the new cemetery director began enforcing a little-noticed 2007 policy that prohibits volunteer honor guards from reading recitations — including religious ones — in their funeral rituals, unless families specifically request them.

The new enforcement outraged members of local veterans organizations who have long infused their ceremonies with references to God. This summer, they filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs that has turned the national cemetery into a battleground over the role of prayer in veterans’ burials.

The plaintiffs, aided by a conservative legal group, the Liberty Institute, contend they should be allowed to use a Veterans of Foreign Wars script dating from World War I that refers to the deceased as “a brave man” with an “abiding faith in God” and that seeks comfort from an “almighty and merciful God.” The institute has publicized the dispute nationwide with slick videos and a Web site declaring that “Jesus is not welcome at gravesides.”

The lawsuit, which alleges religious discrimination by the government, and the videos have generated angry letters and Internet commentary against the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as demands from members of the Texas Congressional delegation, mostly Republicans, that the Obama administration fire the Houston cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say that the original policy, enacted under President George W. Bush, resulted from complaints about religious words or icons being inserted unrequested into veterans’ funerals. They noted that active-duty military honor guards, including the teams that do funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, say almost nothing during their ceremonies.

“We do what the families wish,” said Steve L. Muro, the under secretary for memorial affairs. “I always tell my employees we have just one chance to get it right.”

“The message was that the people in Houston should not do this V.F.W. ritual uninvited, and they did not want to hear that,” said Jim Strickland (right), a Vietnam-era veteran who runs a blog called

Yes, He Sold Fakes. They Are Supposed to Be Fake
The New York Times: August 24, 2011

The items, mostly copies of luxury objects, inside the little shop in downtown Manhattan are made of thin cardboard and might not even pass muster deep in the background of a movie set.

But that did not deter the police from arresting a shop worker on counterfeiting charges for selling several items, including Louis Vuitton and Burberry handbags.

There is just one problem: the items are supposed to be fake.

The store, Fook On Sing Funeral Supplies, on Mulberry Street along what is known in Chinatown as Funeral Row, sells traditional objects of mourning, mostly copies of luxury objects. The items are made of cardboard, paper and plastic, to be used at funerals as symbolic gifts for the deceased. The cardboard models are burned as part of traditional Chinese funeral practices.

The store sells a cardboard mansion for $400 and a cardboard flat-screen television for $40. There are stacks of money ($10,000 bills) for sale, as well as miniature sports cars, cellphones, double-breasted suits and even smiling dolls to act as servants in the hereafter.

“When people die, they feel they are going to need things in the next world,” explained one of the store’s owners, Amy Mak-Chan, who is the arrested man’s aunt. “They might want a car and a house and other nice things. People buy these things here, to give them as gifts at the funeral.”

Rabbi Fabricated Swashbuckling Tales of Saving Holocaust Torahs
The New York Times: August 24, 2011

He described himself as a risk-taking rabbi who had been “beaten up, thrown in jail and gone $175,000 into debt” on “expeditions” to Eastern Europe. He said his mission was to rescue and restore Torahs that had been “wrenched from their communities during the Holocaust” and place them with congregations that would look after them.

“I guess you could call me the Jewish Indiana Jones,”
he wrote in 2004.

But on Wednesday, the rabbi, Menachem Youlus, was arrested in Manhattan on fraud charges. Court papers said he had never gone to the far-flung places he talked about and had made up the stories he told about discovering Torahs at the sites of the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps — or in Iraq in 2007.

Instead, prosecutors accused him of selling fake Torahs and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars through Save a Torah, the nonprofit organization he co-founded in 2004. A postal inspector who investigated Rabbi Youlus’s dealings also challenged his tale of financial troubles, saying in court papers that the rabbi had never been deeply in debt.

The postal inspector, Greg Ghiozzi, said that Rabbi Youlus had taken more than $340,000 of the $1.2 million collected by the charity, including at least $145,000 he had diverted into his own bank account. Mr. Ghiozzi spelled out how Rabbi Youlus had used the money to pay for private school tuition for his children and for personal expenses, including meals and health care.

Florida Psychic and Her Family Cheated Clients of $40 Million
The New York Times: August 22, 2011

MIAMI — The promise of good karma did not come cheaply for devotees of a South Florida psychic whom federal prosecutors have portrayed as the matriarch of a fortune-telling family with a lust for luxury.

The government has charged the psychic, Rose Marks, 60, and nine others with cheating customers, including a best-selling author, of $40 million in cash, goods and property since 1991 by preying on them at vulnerable moments. Operating four shops in well-heeled Broward County neighborhoods, the family told clients that they should hand over their cash and goods to help wash away curses, cure health problems and change their fortunes.

But first the money and valuables had to be freed from evil spirits, prosecutors said clients were told. If the clients didn’t pay up, the government charged on Friday, they were told that terrible things would befall them. The Marks family then assured clients that all money and goods would be returned, a promise that was seldom, if ever, kept.

Instead, jewels were stashed away and millions of dollars were used to create a lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said. When federal agents searched the Marks family’s main house, they discovered hundreds of fancy rings (some with diamonds), watches and necklaces bearing brand names like Tiffany and Cartier. They found a trove of gold coins and seized about a dozen expensive cars, including a Bentley.

Ms. Marks and seven other suspects are in custody in Florida and New York, and face charges that include conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. A ninth suspect was scheduled to be in court in West Palm Beach this week, and the 10th was still at large. Their lawyer argued in court that they were running a legitimate business and that they provided counseling for distraught people.

Some Very Good Sense
The New York Times: August 19, 2011

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey often goes too far, whether it’s bullying teachers or rejecting much-needed federal financing for a tunnel under the Hudson. Last month, however, the bluster was aimed at the right targets: ignorance and religious intolerance. He erupted in outrage at critics who attacked his decision to nominate Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim lawyer, to be a state judge.

The nastiest commentary came in January when Mr. Christie announced his choice. One anti-Muslim blogger wrote that it meant New Jersey had “taken its first step toward becoming the Shariah state.” Another wrote that Mr. Christie (who insists he isn’t running for president) was “off the list.”

Some of New Jersey’s state senators bought into this irrationality, grilling Mr. Mohammed during his June confirmation hearing about his views on “jihad.” Fortunately, rationality finally prevailed and the Senate approved him as a Superior Court judge in Passaic County.

Mr. Christie’s response to all this, like a lot of his pugnacious moments, is available on YouTube. “This Shariah law business is crap,” he fumed. “It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” He praised Mr. Mohammed for his work as an attorney after Sept. 11, 2001, helping to free Muslims unfairly caught in the F.B.I.’s sweep of arrests. And he praised him for later working with law enforcement to combat future terrorist attacks, adding, “I’m happy that he’s willing to serve after all this baloney.”

We hope those words will shame his friends on the Republican right and finally quiet all the candidates who are cynically trawling for votes claiming, absurdly, that Muslim religious law is threatening to take over the American legal system.

As Mr. Christie said, it’s baloney.

(Full text)







































Christine O'Donnell walks out on Piers Morgan
CBS News: August 18, 2011

If you want to sell a book, and you seek out live television platforms to do so - particularly television news chat shows hosted by former tabloid editors - you had better be prepared to discuss the most contentious themes in that book.

Christine O'Donnell was not, and the tea party darling of Delaware was prepared to leave CNN host Piers Morgan in the lurch and call him rude to avoid discussing the hot-button issue of gay marriage on Wednesday night.

O'Donnell... is touting her new book, "Trouble Maker".

Her publicists clearly laid out ground rules for the interview with Morgan
- the former editor of one of Britain's biggest tabloids who's carved a tidy career out of spilling stars' salacious secrets - which likely banned any discussion of topics not in the book.

But Morgan either chose to ignore those ground rules, the rules failed to specify that only certain topics from the book were fair game, or O'Donnell's team failed to realize the book does, in fact, address the theme of gay marriage.

Following the "warm-them-up-first" trajectory, Morgan let O'Donnell speak about her topic of preference, the state of America's finances, before getting at the social issues which he knew would make for more compelling television. But it wasn't long before Morgan brought up O'Donnell's previous remarks about masturbation and her Catholic-rooted beliefs regarding homosexuality and marriage.

"I obviously want to talk about the issue that I talk about in the book," she warned Morgan.

"Do you answer that question in the book?" Morgan fired back.

"I talk about my religious beliefs, yeah," she said, before quickly attempting to re-shift the focus onto her book's goal of bolstering tea party members in their effort to "bring America back to the second American revolution. That's my goal, that's my focus right now."

It was not, however, what Morgan wanted to focus on, so he tried again on the gay marriage theme by asking O'Donnell whether she agreed with Michele Bachmann's stance on the military's soon-to-be-repealed "don't ask don't tell" policy.

At this, O'Donnell became visibly annoyed, but forced a laugh and refused to answer the question, again pointing out the fact that she was "not talking about policies" (at least, not the policies she didn't want to talk about) as she's not running for office.

Morgan's next question likely marked the beginning of the end of his interview:

are you being so weird about this?"

"I'm not being weird about this, Piers. I'm not running for office, I'm not promoting a legislative agenda. I'm promoting the policies that I lay out in the book, that are mostly fiscal, that are mostly constitutional. That's why I agreed to come on your show, that's what I want to talk about. I'm not being weird, you're being a little rude," she told the host.

"I think I'm being rather charming and respectful," retorted a seemingly confused Morgan, in a way that only an Englishman could.

"Don't you think as a host, if I say this is what I want to talk about, that's what we should address?"

"No," replied Morgan.

"Have you read the book?" asked O'Donnell.

"Yes, but these issues are in your book, that's my point. You do talk about them," he pleaded, but by this stage it was too late.

The camera on O'Donnell had pulled away, she was taking her microphone off, and the interview was over.

Here's the video. Please click






























































Neighbors Say Brooklyn Tent Revival Volume So Loud,
They’re Praying To God It Stops

DEP Called In To Measure Decibel Levels Of Gospel Tabernacle Church
CBS New York: August 17, 2011

NEW YORK — A church group in Brooklyn says they set up a tent in Flatbush to spread the word of God. But neighbors say the message is so loud, it’s keeping them up at night. Every night for the entire month of August the Gospel Tabernacle Church hosts a spiritual revival.

Some neighbors say they’re not bothered by the message. They are bothered by the volume of the message.

“Even with the windows closed, AC running, TV blasting, I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of the revival,” Stacie Williams told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

“My son who is 4 years old, says at night ‘I can’t go to sleep because I can hear the church,’” Janee Harvey added.

Harvey has complained to the church group, police, city officials, and even started a neighborhood petition to get the group to quiet down. Bishop Kingsford Bloomfield said his Gospel Tabernacle Church is addressing the problem.

“We have tried to keep our levels down, but still enough so the community can hear us,” Bishop Bloomfield said.

Neighbor Tobi Parks measured illegal levels on her meter. “Every night if this is what you had to face when you’re trying to go to sleep or you’re trying to have dinner with your family and you know you’re hearing noise coming out, you know it definitely starts to invade all parts of your life,” Parks said.




The Dutch of the Golden Age (XVII c.), who gave us oil paint, the art gallery, genre painting and still life, letter writing, the postal service, international trade, the stock market, the tulip and gin, also embraced religious tolerance, “freedom of religion” … and FROM it. While the they were free to believe or not in whatever got them through the night, it was to be done so privately. Banned were all outward manifestations and religious symbols.

No proselytizing, no problem, no noise.

August 17, 2011 at 9:08 am

doc in NJ


caught you. Blatant plagiarism! Give credit where it is due (even if this is only a comment blog on a news site). Mark Oppenheimer from the Times wrote your entire seemingly extemporaneous prose in Oct, 2010. I read your post and remembered reading those exact words somewhere….thus

Shame on you… I’ve read your comments many times thinking you were as cerebral as me… oh well, another “Google smarty pants.” I’ve lost my respect for you.
August 17, 2011 at 9:55 am


GOT ME!!!!! I’ have been OUTED! I must confess.

Plagiarism it is NOT. THAT IS ME, that comment is mine and all the links are from MY WEBSITE.


There I am with my Schnauzer, RODIN, who lets me use his e-mail address because his paws don’t allow him to type.

August 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

doc in NJ

@ Rodin

my apologies, dear knowledgeable Sir.
as an aside,
your erudite writing is most refreshing.
August 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Apologies accepted. No hard feelings.
Friendly advice: you shoulda done a search of my name. There are about 35,600 results on Google. I’m not exactly anonymous.

Good without god.

~ RC.

August 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm


PS -

I’m NOT erudite. I don’t know more than others. I just question more … and learn.
August 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Did not see this coming:
Psychic frauds busted after raking in $40M over 20 years, feds say

DAILY NEWS: Wednesday, August 17th 2011

Some psychics who the feds say are swindlers running a fortune-telling biz near The Plaza hotel didn't see this one coming.

The Secret Service busted nine of the Marks clan Tuesday - two in New York and the rest in Florida - after a probe revealed mystic skulduggery stretching from New York to Florida, prosecutors say.

The feds, who dubbed their investigation Operation Crystal Ball, say the family ran a psychic conoperation and raked in about $40 million over 20 years, according to The Miami Herald.

According to a 61-count indictment, the Marks clan offered tall tales of divine help - at a cost of a pretty penny.

Nancy Marks, who lived on W.58th St., squeezed a client for the partial cost of a Cartier watch, telling her she would use the timepiece to "turn back time and bring love back" into her life, The Herald reported.

The client wound up with an empty watch box.











Indonesian Assault Victim Gets Harsher Sentence Than His Attackers
The New York Times: August 16, 2011

DENPASAR, Indonesia — An Indonesian man who survived a deadly mob attack by Muslim hard-liners was sentenced Monday to six months in prison, prompting outrage from rights groups over a sentence harsher than those received by some of his assailants.

Deden Sudjana (left), a member of Ahmadiyya, a minority Muslim sect that many conservative Muslims consider heretical, was found guilty by a district court in Banten Province on charges stemming from the attack in February. Judges said that he had refused police orders to leave the scene and that he had wounded one of the attackers.

The judges rejected a charge of incitement leveled by prosecutors, who had sought a sentence of nine months.

The clash, in the remote district of Cikeusik, caused outrage after a graphic video of it surfaced online. It showed the police offering little resistance as more than 1,000 villagers descended on a home where 21 Ahmadis were staying, killing three of them and then beating and stomping on their mud-covered bodies.

The attack and trial that followed were widely denounced as evidence of declining religious tolerance in Indonesia, where the police, government officials and the justice system have often appeared reluctant to punish — and, in some cases, are accused of having colluded with — Islamic hard-liners, who have engaged in increasingly frequent attacks on Christian churches and on properties owned by Ahmadiyya.

Last month the same court sentenced 12 villagers, including a 17-year-old seen in the video bashing a man’s skull with a rock, to three to six months in jail for their involvement in the attack.

Prosecutors did not seek charges of murder or manslaughter.

Views of Imelda Marcos' closet with 2700 pairs of shoes

“It was a shameful exhibit"




















Criticized Philippine Art Exhibit Is Closed
Yhe New York Times: August 9, 2011

MANILA — Officials shut down a controversial art exhibition on Tuesday after a storm of public protest that included criticism from President Benigno S. Aquino III (left), who called the artwork offensive to the country’s Christian majority.

One of the artists whose work was on display at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Mideo Cruz (above right), criticized the action, saying in an interview that it would “become a freedom of expression issue” with far-reaching implications for artists and government-financed venues like the cultural center.

The exhibit, which opened in June, had been scheduled to close Aug. 21. Critics called it an affront to Christianity in a country whose population of 94 million is predominantly Roman Catholic. Among the works on display was a wooden cross with a protruding penis.

Although the cultural center’s board cited vandalism and threats as the reasons for the closing, Mr. Aquino said on Tuesday that he had told board members that the exhibition was inappropriate for a center that relies on public financing.

While he respected freedom of expression, the president said,
that freedom is not absolute.

The center’s board said in a statement on Tuesday that it would “continue to act as catalyst for free expression of Filipino artists” but that it had “reviewed its policies” and that it was “taking steps to enable its officers and staff to make more informed decisions in the future.”

On Monday, Imelda Marcos (below), the country’s former first lady, visited the exhibition and expressed her disgust at Mr. Cruz’s work, which featured religious images and icons mixed with images of pop culture figures. In one part of the installation, a used condom was draped on a cross.

Mrs. Marcos, who oversaw construction of the center during the rule of her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, said she had persuaded the board to close the exhibit. “It was a shameful exhibit, especially since it was placed in the Cultural Center of the Philippines,” Mrs. Marcos told reporters on Monday. “We built that to be the sanctuary of the Filipino soul and a monument to the Filipino spirit.”

Mr. Cruz is known for his irreverent installations, which he says are meant to raise questions about the “culture of idolatry” in the Philippines.









At Sentencing





Polygamist Leader Convicted

Texas - The polygamist sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was convicted of child sexual assault on Thursday, in a case involving two girls he took as brides in “spiritual marriages.” Prosecutors used DNA evidence to show he fathered a child with a 15-year-old and played an audio recording of what they said was him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. They also played recordings in which he was heard instructing young women on how to please him sexually. Mr. Jeffs, 55, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claimed that his religious rights were being trampled on and that God would seek revenge if the trial continue.

(Full text)

Polygamist Leader Gets Life in Prison for Assault

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs recorded everything he said. Thousands of pages, written with Biblical flourish, about God wanting him to take 12-year-old wives. About those girls needing to sexually please him. About men he banished for not building his temple fast enough.

Facing his last chance to keep his freedom, Jeffs didn't say a word.

He was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting one of his child brides — among 24 underage wives prosecutors said Jeffs collected — and received the maximum 20-year punishment on a separate child sex conviction. Jeffs, 55, will not be eligible for parole until he is at least 100 years old.

The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints made no plea for leniency. He ordered his attorneys not to call witnesses during the sentencing phase, and forbade them from making a closing argument Tuesday. Less than half an hour later, jurors returned with the harshest punishment possible.

"He's a pervert, and the crazy thing is, he perverted his own religion," his sister, Elaine Jeffs, said after the sentencing. Nearby, police escorted her brother into a waiting patrol car.

Despite the convictions and life sentence, Jeffs remains in control of the FLDS and its roughly 10,000 followers. His most devoted consider him God's spokesman on earth and a prophet, but his followers were absent in court for the bulk of the trial.

Prosecutors suggested that the polygamist leader told the girls they needed to have sex with him — in what Jeffs called "heavenly" or "celestial" sessionsin order to atone for sins in his community. Several times in his journals, Jeffs wrote of God telling him to take more and more young girls as brides "who can be worked with and easily taught."



























Seeking Balance on the Mideast
The New York Times: August 4, 2011

Congress periodically showcases the warts of democracy, occasionally even the deformities and disfigurements, and it might seem difficult to top the latest debt ceiling horrors. But there’s one area where Congress has been even more obstructionist: the Middle East.

Next month, Palestinians are expected to seek statehood at the United Nations. It’s a stunt that won’t accomplish much for anybody, but it’s more constructive than throwing rocks at Israeli cars — or, on the Israeli side, better than expanding illegal settlements. A prominent Israeli politician, Isaac Herzog, has shrewdly suggested that Israel actually offer, with conditions, to vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Yet the American House of Representatives voted 407 to 6 to call on the Obama administration to use its diplomatic capital to try to block the initiative, while also threatening to cut the Palestinians’ funding if they proceeded to seek statehood.

Similarly, when Israel stormed into Gaza in 2008 to halt rocket attacks, more than 1,300 Gazans were killed, along with 13 Israelis, according to B’Tselem, a respected Israeli human rights group. As Gazan blood flowed, the House, by a vote of 390 to 5, hailed the invasion as “Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Such Congressional tomfoolery bewilders our friends and fritters away our international capital. It also encourages the intransigence of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reduces the chance of a peace settlement.

In the last few years, a former government official named Jeremy Ben-Ami has been trying to change the political dynamic in Washington with a new organization — J Street — that presses Congress and the White House to show more balance. Ben-Ami has just published a book, “A New Voice for Israel,” that is a clarion call for American reasonableness in the Middle East.

“If things don’t change pretty soon, chances are that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will slip through our fingers,” Ben-Ami writes. “As that happens, the dream of the Jewish people to be a free people in their own land also slowly disappears.”

Ben-Ami, who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, comes from a long line of Zionists, and his ancestors helped found Tel Aviv. But he’s aghast at the way the United States is enabling hard-line Israeli policies that make peace less likely.

American Jews have long trended liberal,
and President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Yet major Jewish organizations, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, embrace hawkish positions.

That’s because those Jews who vote and donate based on Israel are disproportionately conservative (the same is true of Christians who are most passionate about Israel issues).

“What happens as Israel continues to become more religious and conservative, more isolated internationally and less democratic domestically?”
Ben-Ami writes. “What happens to the relationship between American Jews and Israel as the face of Israel shifts from that of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of the national religious settlers and the ultra-Orthodox rabbis?”

Whenever I write about Israel, I get accused of double standards because I don’t spill as much ink denouncing worse abuses by, say, Syria. I plead guilty.

I demand more of Israel partly because my tax dollars supply arms and aid to Israel

I hold democratic allies like Israel to a higher standard — just as I do the U.S.

Raphaelo Santi

Only half of Americans approve of God's job performance
The Daily Mail: 2nd August 2011


A survey says only half of Americans who believe in God approve of how he is handling the universe. Two in five said they were ‘unsure’ and nine per cent ‘did not approve’ in the pol. More than half support His animal kingdom governance.

Only half of Americans approve of God's job performance... but at least the Lord polled better than Murdoch and Boehner. The Deity did better than both political parties, each of which got a god awful rating of just 33 percent. A third back Boehner and Murdoch gets 12 per cent.


















Controversy Swirls Around Bronx Catholic School Principal Accused Of Having Racist Views
CBSNewYork: August 1, 2011

NEW YORK – A Catholic school principal is the focus of controversy in the Bronx after a published report revealed his writings and views were tied to white supremacy.

Frank Borzellieri was hired as the principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in 2009 by Rev. Eric Rapaglia. The two had previously worked together at St. Barnabas.

In 2004, Borzellieri authored a book called Don’t Take it Personally: Race, Immigration, Crime and Other Heresies.”

Borzellieri wrote “diversity is a weakness” and claims increasing black and Hispanic populations in the United States will lead to what he calls a “new dark age.”

Borzellieri has also written for the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.

“It offends me. I’m Puerto Rican and my children are half black — It offends me,” parishioner Ann Joseph told CBS 2.

As a school board member in District 24 from 1993 to 2002, Borzellieri reportedly tried to ban literature he called “anti-American” which included a biography on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fire an openly gay teacher.

“Honestly, I don’t know how he managed to slip through the cracks,” Carol Ann Joseph said.

“It’s ridiculous, I can’t understand why the church would allow this,” a parishioner said.

A day after the report was published, churchgoer Juan Varela, of Queens, was arrested after interrupting mass Sunday at the church to call for Borzellieri’s ouster. Varela was charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a weapon because he was carrying a knife.

Spokesman for the Archdiocese, Joe Zwilling, said there have been no complaints about Borzellieri during his two-year tenure at the school.

“The superintendent of schools office has been reviewing his books and discussing the matter with him and the pastor of the parish that hired him. The process is still ongoing,” Zwilling said.

Borzellieri could not be reached for comment.

The Archdiocese, which says Mount Carmel is known for its diversity, will now have to decide what the principal’s beliefs are regarding diversity and whether they conflict with church teaching.

(Full text)













Islamists Flood Square in Cairo in Show of Strength
The New York Times: July 30, 2011

A protester from a Salafist group, among the most conservative and puritan Islamist movements, shouted Koranic verses and held an Egyptian flag at a rally on Friday in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

A demonstration Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square
Khalil Hamra/Associated Press



























































Soldier Held Amid Claim of Terror Plot at Fort Hood
The New York Times: July 29, 2011

An Army private who had been absent without leave since earlier this month was arrested this week near Fort Hood with a gun and suspicious materials in what local law enforcement officials described on Thursday as a “terror plot” to kill other soldiers.

During questioning after his arrest, the soldier, Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, admitted that he specifically planned to attack Fort Hood, The Associated Press reported Thursday night. An F.B.I. spokesman said that he could not provide further details because it was a continuting investigation.

The police in Killeen, Tex., arrested Private Abdo in a motel room near the southern edge of the base on Wednesday, one day after a clerk at a local gun store alerted the police about a suspicious purchase, the police said.

According to a law enforcement official, among the items found in Private Abdo’s room at the time of his arrest were a military uniform with Fort Hood patches, a pistol, shotgun shells and an article on “how to make a bomb in your kitchen” from the English-language Qaeda magazine Inspire. He also had more than one wall clock, a cellphone, duct tape and a shopping list for what appeared to be explosive components, the official said.

At an afternoon news conference, Dennis M. Baldwin, the Killeen police chief, underscored what he felt was the seriousness of the situation: “We probably would be here giving you a different briefing had he not been stopped.” Private Abdo, who joined the Army in April 2009, gained national attention last summer when he refused to deploy with his unit to Afghanistan, insisting that his Muslim faith prevented him from serving. He fought his deployment since 2010 and gave multiple interviews.

“I was under the impression that I could serve both the U.S. Army and my God simultaneously,” he said in a television interview with CNN last summer. “As the time had come near to deployment, I started really asking myself and taking the question more seriously whether God would accept what I was doing and whether I was really meant to go to war as opposed to the peace that Islam preaches.”

Army officials said that Private Abdo was granted conscientious objector status in May, but his discharge was put on hold after the Army said it had discovered at least 34 images of child pornography on his computer.


Soldier Arrested in Suspected Bomb Plot Had
Series of Disputes With Army

The New York: July 29, 2011

KILLEEN, Tex. — The 21-year-old Army private arrested here this week made his first appearance in federal court on Friday, two days after telling investigators he planned to detonate explosive devices at a restaurant frequented by soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, the culmination of a series of disputes between the private and the military over his Muslim beliefs and his pending deployment to Afghanistan.

The private told F.B.I. officials that he planned to assemble two bombs in the hotel room “using gunpowder and shrapnel packed into pressure cookers to detonate inside” the restaurant, according to the federal complaint.

And while the legal papers gave no indication of Private Abdo’s motive, he offered a window into his thinking at his court appearance in United States District Court in Waco. At one point, Private Abdo shouted several remarks, including a supportive reference to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens of others at Fort Hood in November 2009.

He had been charged with possession of child pornography and was facing a trial in military court. He had sought and received conscientious objector status from Army officials, insisting that his Muslim faith prevented him from serving in Afghanistan. His discharge, approved in May, was placed on hold after the Army discovered the images of child pornography on his government-issued computer.

In an interview with The New York Times several months ago, Private Abdo said that when he joined the Army he had different beliefs. In February 2010, his brigade at Fort Campbell — the First Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division — was deployed to Afghanistan, but Private Abdo stayed behind to attend language school to learn Pashto, one of the national languages of Afghanistan.

He said he was eventually told he would join his brigade in June 2010. “Preparing for deployment made me investigate my religion,” he said. He said he had decided that “the price of refusing to go is much lower than facing my God,” adding that the only war justified by God is a just war. “If there is no divine inspiration, it is murder,” he said in the interview

Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for the Army, said the deputy assistant secretary concluded that Private Abdo had “satisfied the burden of establishing that he was a conscientious objector. The standard is that he was opposed to war in any form.”

The captain who initially reviewed Private Abdo’s application at Fort Campbell, James Bredeman, recommended in a 2010 memo that he receive objector status because he showed “a firm and fixed objection to participation in war in any form” and showed “sincere regret” for putting the Army before his religion.

Quoting the private, Captain Bredeman wrote that Private Abdo felt at the time that serving in the wars would “bring justice to those who were giving Islam a bad name.”

During basic training, Private Abdo said that his rapport with his peers was “horrible” and that he was harassed because of his religion. He also complained that he was unable to fast during Ramadan or say his prayers five times a day. By the time he reached Fort Campbell, he had developed “serious questions about his place in the Army,” the memo said.

In September 2004, the police in Garland, a city about 13 miles north of Dallas, arrested Private Abdo’s father after he tried to solicit sex from a detective posing over the Internet as a teenage girl. He was charged with solicitation of a minor with intent to commit sexual assault of a child, a police spokesman said.


Muslim Seminary Chief in India Is Fired for Pro-Hindu Interview
Published: July 24, 2011

NEW DELHI — India’s best-known Islamic seminary ousted its reformist leader on Sunday, less than seven months after he assumed the post, because he was quoted as speaking favorably of a Hindu nationalist suspected of fomenting deadly anti-Muslim riots.

The reformer, Mullah Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi (right), was appointed in January to lead the seminary, Darul Uloom, in the city of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh State. He had become popular in part because of the success of his madrasas, or Islamic schools, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra that bridged traditional Islamic education with the needs of the modern world by teaching students secular subjects like science and computer programming. He had hoped to bring those innovations to Darul Uloom.

But the effort was almost immediately derailed when he was quoted in an Urdu newspaper as saying that Muslims in Gujarat State needed to move beyond the 2002 sectarian riots there, one of the worst eruptions of religious violence since colonial India was partitioned in 1947. Hindus rampaged through Muslim areas of Gujarat, leaving about 1,000 people dead and leading to reprisals in some areas.

English-language newspapers and television stations
in India portrayed Mullah Vastanvi’s remarks as implicitly condoning the actions of Narendra Modi (right), the controversial leader of Gujarat’s government. Many Muslims blame Mr. Modi for the 2002 violence.

Government offices





















































































Police Say Oslo Suspect Admits to ‘Facts’ in Massacre
The New York Times: July 25, 2011

OSLO — The Norwegian man charged with attacks in and near Oslo, killing over 90 people, has admitted “to the facts” of the case, the police and his lawyer said on Sunday, and claims to have acted alone in a strike eerily foretold in a detailed manifesto calling for a Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination.

But, acting police chief Sveinung Sponheim told a news conference, “he is not admitting criminal guilt” and his claim to have acted alone contrasted with “some of the witness statements,” Reuters reported.

The attacks on Friday — a huge bombing in central Oslo closely followed by a bloody rampage against young people on nearby Utoya island — was the deadliest attack in this Nordic nation since World War II, and stunned many in a population of some five million used to seeing their land as a haven of peace.

The police said on Sunday that the toll had risen to 93 from 92 with the death of one of the 97 earlier reported as injured. Most of the bodies were found on Utoya island, where young people from the dominant Labor Party had gathered for an annual camp.

Police identified the suspect as Anders Behring Breivik, 32, a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, while acquaintances described him as a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threats of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.

Police divers were still searching the lake around Utøya island for bodies, and said there were fears the death toll could rise.

On Sunday, muted and shaken by the magnitude of the killings, many people gathered at the Lutheran cathedral here to mourn. King Harald V (top left) and Queen Sonja (center left), both dabbing away tears, joined Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (bottom left)and other dignitaries who attended a service inside while many more gathered outside.

In a 1,500-page manifesto, posted on the Web hours before the attacks, Mr. Breivik recorded a day-by-day diary of months of planning for the attacks, and claimed to be part of a small group that intended to “seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda.”

He predicted a conflagration that would kill or injure more than a million people, adding, “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come.”

The manifesto was signed Andrew Berwick, an Anglicized version of his name. A former American government official briefed on the case said investigators believed the manifesto was Mr. Breivik’s work.

The manifesto, entitled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” equates liberalism and multiculturalism with “cultural Marxism,” which the document says is destroying European Christian civilization.

The document also describes a secret meeting in London in April 2002 to reconstitute the Knights Templar, a Crusader military order. It says the meeting was attended by nine representatives of eight European countries, evidently including Mr. Breivik, with an additional three members unable to attend, including a “European-American.”

Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, said the manifesto bears an eerie resemblance to those of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders, though from a Christian rather than a Muslim point of view. Like Mr. Breivik’s manuscript, the major Qaeda declarations have detailed accounts of the Crusades, a pronounced sense of historical grievance and calls for apocalyptic warfare to defeat the religious and cultural enemy.
“It seems to be an attempt to mirror Al Qaeda, exactly in reverse,”
Mr. Hegghammer said.

Besides the manifesto, Mr. Breivik left other hints of his motives. A Facebook page and Twitter account were set up under his name days before the rampage. The Facebook page cites philosophers like Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill.

His lone Twitter post, while not calling for violence, paraphrased Mill — “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests”....

“Breivik feels that multiculturalism is destroying the society and that the enforcing authority is the prime minister and the Labor Party, the lead party of contemporary Norwegian politics,” said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies.

But the attacks, along with what appear to have been years of preparation, raised questions about whether the Norwegian security authorities, concentrating on threats of Islamic terrorism, had overlooked the threat from the anti-Islamic right.

[Mr. Breivik had been known as a polite and conscientious man by former colleagues. But his writings in the right-wing web site,,revealed another side, an abiding obsession with Marxists, Muslims and Norway's multicultural ideals.

Though he did not call for violence in the postings, he denounced the demographic change that he said had undermined Christian communities in Kosovo and Lebanon. Mr Breivik wrote: "Can you name ONE country where multiculturalism is successful where Islam is involved?"]

“This is the Norwegian equivalent to Timothy McVeigh (left),” the right-wing American who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, said Marcus Buck, a political scientist at the University of Tromso in northern Norway.

Mr. Romarheim,of the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, said in some ways the homegrown nature of the attack made it harder for Norwegians to accept. “With 9/11 in America, people could ask, ‘Who are they?’ and could pour their rage out on someone else,” he said. “But we can’t disavow this person, he’s one of us. [That's a sobering thought.”]

He added:
"It was international jihadism we feared, but what we have now is more painful in terms of a re-evaluation of ourselves."

[ ] Barckets mark additions from the NYT hard copy





JULY 25, 2011
Despite the Norway killings, Representative Peter T. King, the New York Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he had no plans to broaden contentious hearings about the radicalization of Muslim Americans and would hold the third one as planned on Wednesday. He said his committee focused on terrorist threats with foreign ties and suggested that the Judiciary Committee might be more appropriate for looking at non-Muslim threats.





































































Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.
The New York Times: July 25, 2011

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

In the document he posted online, Anders Behring Breivik, who is accused of bombing government buildings and killing scores of young people at a Labor Party camp, showed that he had closely followed the acrimonious American debate over Islam.

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer (right), who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

More broadly, the mass killings in Norway, with their echo of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by an antigovernment militant, have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.

In the United States, critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals.
The author of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism withdrawn by the department after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday his claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.


In 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security produced a report, “Rightwing Extremism,” suggesting that the recession and the election of an African-American president might increase the threat from white supremacists, conservatives in Congress strongly objected. Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, quickly withdrew the report and apologized for what she said were its flaws.

The revelations about Mr. Breivik’s American influences exploded on the blogs over the weekend, putting Mr. Spencer and other self-described “counterjihad” activists on the defensive, as their critics suggested that their portrayal of Islam as a threat to the West indirectly fostered the crimes in Norway.

Mr. Spencer wrote on his Web site,, that “the blame game” had begun, “as if killing a lot of children aids the defense against the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, or has anything remotely to do with anything we have ever advocated.” He did not mention Mr. Breivik’s voluminous quotations from his writings.

The Gates of Vienna, a blog that ordinarily keeps up a drumbeat of anti-Islamist news and commentary, closed its pages to comments Sunday “due to the unusual situation in which it has recently found itself.”

Its operator, who describes himself as a Virginia consultant and uses the pseudonym “Baron Bodissey,” wrote on the site Sunday that “at no time has any part of the Counterjihad advocated violence.”

The name of that Web site — a reference to the siege of Vienna in 1683 by Muslim fighters who, the blog says in its headnote, “seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe” — was echoed in the title Mr. Breivik chose for his manifesto: “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” He chose that year, the 400th anniversary of the siege, as the target for the triumph of Christian forces in the European civil war he called for to drive out Islamic influence.

[Mr. Breivik] quoted the American and European counterjihad writers by name, notably Mr. Spencer, author of 10 books, including “Islam Unveiled” and “The Truth About Muhammad.”

Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among Web sites. Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam who runs Atlas Shrugs, wrote on her blog Sunday that any assertion that she or other antijihad writers bore any responsibility for Mr. Breivik’s actions was “ridiculous.”

“If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists,” she wrote.

Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik’s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged.

"Well, they and their writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost-free.”



Lawyer Suggests Suspect in Norway Attacks Is Insane
The New York Times: July 27, 2011

OSLO — The Oslo police on Tuesday evening began a gradual release of the names of the dead in the Norway massacre, as the lawyer representing the man who admitted responsibility said he thought his client was insane and would spend the rest of his life incarcerated.

The lawyer, Geir Lippestad (left), declined to say whether his client, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, would plead insanity as a defense when his case finally reached the trial stage. But he described Mr. Breivik as “very cold,” distanced from the real world and believing that he was a warrior destined to die for the eventual salvation of European Christian values.

“This whole case has indicated that he is insane,” Mr. Lippestad said.

“I can’t describe him because he’s not like anyone.”


on rhetoric

Active 2008
Jim David Adkisson
Motivated by a desire to kill liberals and Democrats, fired a shotgun at members of the congregation at Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church.

Active 2010
John Patrick Bedell
Anarcho-capitalist libertarian, shot two Pentagon police officers at a security checkpoint in the Pentagon station of the Washington Metro mass-transit system in Arlington County, Virginia.

Active 1978 to 1995
Ted Kaczynski
Sent 16 bombs to targets including universities and airlines, killing three people and injuring 23. Authored a 35,000-word essay Industrial Society and Its Future. Part of Anders Breivik's manifesto was taken almost word for word from the first few pages.

Active 2011
Jared Lee Loughner
Charged with the January 8, 2011 Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed six people and left 14 others injured. He was known to believe, and to say, that women should not hold positions of power and instead conspiracy theories had a profound effect on him.

Active 1995
Timothy McVeigh

Infamous for detonating a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. He was a militia movement sympathizer, sought revenge against the federal government for its handling of the Waco Siege and hoped to inspire a revolt against what he considered to be a tyrannical federal government.

Active 1995
Terry Lynn Nichols
Conspired with McVeigh in the planning and preparation of the Oklahoma City bombin Developed anti-government views, attended meetings of anti-government groups, experimented with explosives and got more radical over time. McVeigh and Nichols were enraged by the attack on the the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texasand began to plot revenge on the federal government.

Active 2009
Scott Roeder
Anti-abortion activist shot and killed George Tiller, a physician from Wichita, Kansas who was nationally known for being one of the few doctors in the United States to perform late-term abortions, because "preborn children's lives were in imminent danger" during a Sunday morning service at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.

Active 2010
Joseph Stack
Flying his Piper Dakota, crashed into Building I of the Echelon office complex in Austin, Texas, killing himself and Internal Revenue Service manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others were injured, two seriously. In a suicide note, he begins by expressing displeasure with the government, the bailout of financial institutions, politicians, conglomerate companies, unions, drug and health care insurance companies, and the Catholic Church.
Active 2009
James von Brunn
A white supremacist and Holocaust denier who had written numerous antisemitic essays, created an antisemitic website called The Holy Western Empire, and is the author of a 1999 self published book, Kill the Best Gentiles. Perpetrated the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 2009. Security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns was killed in the shooting.










l Qaeda magazine pokes fun at fall of sexting pol Anthony Weiner
Thursday, July 21st 2011

WASHINGTON - Even terrorists are making Weiner jokes.

In Al Qaeda's latest edition of its chilling e-magazine, "Inspire," the terror network's Arabian Peninsula syndicate settles a score with former Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner, gloating about the sexter's salacious downfall.

A faux full-page ad in the summer issue bears a photo of a feisty Weiner speaking before the House of Representatives under the banner, "An angry Weiner head."

The fake ad in the Al Qaeda mag was "brought to you by a Cold Diss"
(at bottom of page).

Weiner landed himself on Al Qaeda's radar screen last year when he joined the chorus calling on YouTube to remove more than 700 videos featuring radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki
(left), still hiding out in Yemen.

The magazine's suspected publisher, former Queens resident Samir Khan (right), 25, apparently didn't forget what Weiner said about his boss.

Saintly Walmart Receipt


















South Carolina couple claims to possess Wal-Mart receipt with the face of Christ
NY DAILY NEWS: Thursday, July 21st 2011

A South Carolina couple claims to possess one heckuva of a saintly sales slip--a Wal-Mart check-out receipt with the face of Christ on it.

Gentry Lee Sutherland and Jacob Simmons got the blessed bill of sale upon paying for the development of 11 photos June 12 at a Wal-Mart store in Travelers Rest, S.C.

"People are going to believe what they want to believe," said Sutherland.
"There's tons of people who will say, 'Oh, we're in the Bible Belt,' but here's my question to the doubters, who else has the power to put their face on a check-out receipt but Jesus?"

It wasn't until three days after they paid for the photos that Sutherland and Simmons divined the two eyes and bushy beard and hair that is now so evident when they look at the receipt.

"When I got home, I laid the receipt for the film on the kitchen counter and three days later we went to church like we usually do on Wednesday night," said Sutherland.

The theme for that night's service at College Park Worship Center--a Christian church--in Berea, S.C., she said, was intimacy with God. "The message was getting to know God," Sutherland recalled. "The question they asked was, 'Would you know Jesus if you saw him?'" After the service, the couple returned to Sutherland's home to watch a movie.

"Right before we were about to start I noticed Jacob standing beside the counter. I said, 'What's wrong with you?'"

"He said, 'Look at this receipt.' I just looked at it and it looked kind of brown, and he said, 'No, Look at it.' So I took a second look and then I saw the face. The message we had just heard at church an hour before went through my mind."

Sutherland, 21, who attends North Greenville University and is engaged to Simmons, says that she was initially scared of the image.

"I always wondered why in the Bible when someone saw an angel they were afraid, but now I know," she explained. "We're human beings and we're not used to seeing that kind of thing.

"We're just sharing it with family and friends," Sutherland added. "To be honest, I'm just glad it's gotten out this fast. It's worldwide. We don't know what we're going to do with it. We'll pray about it. For now, we'll just share the love and blessing."

(Full text)
















Couple Sues a Vermont Inn for Rejecting Gay Wedding
Published: July 19, 2011

BOSTON — A lesbian couple is suing a Vermont inn, claiming it refused to host their fall wedding reception because of their sexual orientation.

Kate Baker and Ming Linsley filed the suit on Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court, accusing the Wildflower Inn of Lyndonville (left) of abruptly turning them away after learning they are lesbians.

They claim the inn violated Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prohibits inns, hotels, motels and other establishments with five or more rooms from turning away patrons based on sexual orientation. The law makes an exemption for religious organizations.

Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws. Greg Johnson, a law professor at Vermont Law School, said the suit could set a precedent as more states legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, all of which protect gay men and lesbians in their public-accommodations laws.

“I think this case could set an important precedent not only for Vermont but for other states with marriage equality,” Professor Johnson said, noting that lawsuits like this are rare.

In 2008, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ruled that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group, violated the state’s fair-accommodation law by refusing to allow a lesbian couple to hold a civil union ceremony on its beachfront pavilion.

The current lawsuit alleges that in October Ms. Linsley’s mother, Channie Peters, spoke with the events coordinator at the inn.... Ms. Peters said the coordinator referred to a bride and a groom while discussing the bridal suite; Ms. Peters said she corrected the woman and they continued their conversation.

“After our conversation,” the e-mail reads, according to the lawsuit, “I checked with my innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility.”

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims the inn turned away at least two other same-sex couples.

Central Islip pastor convicted of sex abuse dies behind bars
News 12: July 19, 2011

CENTRAL ISLIP – A Central Islip pastor who sexually abused young congregants has died while serving time.

Cops say John Gargano claimed to be the Archangel Gabriel to convince young people at the Eternal Tabernacle Church to have sex with him.

Gargano’s victims included a 14-year-old girl. Gargano was convicted of sex abuse in 1991.

Gargano died Saturday at a Westchester hospital.

(Full text)










Deaths in Syria Tied to Rift Between Sects
The New York Times: July 19, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon — At least six people have been killed in a wave of sectarian bloodshed in the central province of Homs, including three people whose bodies were mutilated, activists and residents there said Monday.

The violence signaled a dangerous turn in the four-month-old antigovernment uprising, as tensions seem to mount among segments of Syria’s religiously mixed society. Although most Syrians are Sunni Muslims, President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling clan belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Islam.

Residents and pro-democracy activists said the government has been enlisting thousands of plainclothes security men, known as shabiha, since March to help quell dissent. Most of the shabiha are Alawites, and resentment against them runs high: many people accuse them of killing thousands of unarmed civilians.

On Sunday, residents of Homs, Syria’s second-largest city, discovered the bodies of three Alawites mutilated and dumped in a deserted area, according to Omar Idlibi of the Local Coordination Committees, a group that helps organize and document protests. All three were armed government loyalists, he said.

News of the deaths enraged other Alawites, who went on a rampage, according to residents and activists. Three people were killed, including a mother of three, and scores of shops owned by Sunnis were burned and vandalized, Mr. Idlibi said.

“The reaction was so violent and quick that we suspect the regime had a hand in the killings,” Mr. Idlibi said.

Opposition figures have accused the government of fomenting sectarian tensions in order to present itself as the only authority that can maintain stability and protect minorities, which include religious groups like Shiites, Christians and Druze and ethnic groups like Kurds and Circassians. Many Syrians have voiced fears that the uprising could ignite sectarian warfare.

“It’s like a time bomb,” said a protest organizer.
“Sectarianism is the regime’s wild card.”

(Full text)


























Not Befitting a Democracy
The New York Times: July 17, 2011

Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.

The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament, effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.
It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.

The law has rightly drawn fierce criticism in Israel. The newspaper Haaretz called it “politically opportunistic and antidemocratic,” and warned that it and other recently enacted laws were “transforming Israel’s legal code into a disturbingly dictatorial document.” In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League — which strongly supports Israel and opposes boycotts against it — warned that the law impinged on the “basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

We are also opposed to boycotts of Israel, but agree this is a fundamental issue of free speech.

Israel’s conservative government is determined to crush a growing push by Palestinians and their supporters for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. Since last year, many Israeli artists and intellectuals, as well international artists, have canceled performances and programs in Israel and the West Bank to protest the settlements. The bill’s sponsor, Zeev Elkin (above), said his concern was that the calls for a boycott “increasingly have come from within our own midst.”

With peace talks stalemated, Palestinians are searching for ways to keep alive their dream of a two-state solution, including a push for United Nations recognition this fall. Israel risks further isolating itself internationally with this attempt to stifle critics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) should have exercised leadership and urged lawmakers against doing their country serious harm. While Mr. Netanyahu was absent for the vote, he eagerly insisted that it would never have passed
“if I had not authorized it.”

Advocates said the law was needed to prevent efforts to “delegitimize” Israel, but no country can be delegitimized if it holds true to its democratic principles. Opponents are already challenging the law in court. We hope they succeed, for Israel’s sake.

(Full text)

Britain: Church Bars Gay Priests With Partners From Being Bishops

Church of England bishops said Friday that they had temporarily barred priests in civil partnerships from being appointed as bishops. The church’s policy is that gay male priests who are celibate are eligible to become bishops. The statement from the House of Bishops said a review of civil relationships would be completed next year.

(Full article)

left: Canterbury Cathedral / right :Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury























Gay Marriage: Where’s Mr. Obama?
The New York Times: June 27, 2011

On Thursday night, when same-sex marriage in New York State was teetering on a razor’s edge, President Obama had a perfect opportunity to show the results of his supposed evolution on gay marriage.

Unfortunately, he did not take it, keeping his own views in the shadows.
The next night the Republican-led New York State Senate, of all places, proved itself more forward-thinking than the president on one of the last great civil-rights debates in this nation’s history.

Speaking to the Democratic Party’s LGBT Leadership Council at a fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Obama ran through the many efforts he has made on behalf of gay rights, including his decision to end the government’s legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The act should be repealed, he said, since marriage is defined by the states.

Mr. Obama’s legal formula suggests he is fine with the six states that now permit same-sex marriage, and fine with the more than three dozen other states that ban it. By refusing to say whether he supports it (as he did in 1996) or opposes it (as he did in 2008), he remained in a straddle that will soon strain public patience. For now, all Mr. Obama promised was a gauzy new “chapter” in the story if he is re-elected, and his views remain officially “evolving.”

Fundamental equality, however, is hardly the equivalent of a liquor law that can vary on opposite sides of a state line. Why is Mr. Obama so reluctant to say the words that could lend strength to a national effort now backed by a majority of Americans?

In the 2008 campaign, when Mr. Obama said he supported civil unions and believed marriage should be between men and women, he may have wanted to appeal to slightly more conservative voters who were wary of him.

After he took office, it became evident that Republicans intended to portray him as a radical, out-of-touch leftist no matter what he did. Supporting same-sex marriage at this point is hardly going to change that drumbeat, and any voter for whom that is a make-or-break issue will probably not be an Obama supporter anyway.

Firm support for gay marriage is, on the other hand, likely to help him among his cheerless base. Mr. Obama opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and is presiding over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He signed the United Nations declaration on gay rights, and allowed the Census to count same-sex relationships.

But he has been absent from the biggest and most difficult drive of all.

Public opinion has swung toward acceptance of gay marriage since 2008; five more states and the District of Columbia have lifted marriage bans. Thousands of gay men and lesbians now possess marriage certificates and many former skeptics have come to realize that the moral foundation of the country has been strengthened. It is long past time for the president to catch up.

He often criticizes discrimination with the memorable phrase, “that’s not who we are.” Favoring this discrimination should not be who he is.

(Full editorial)





















Florida Suit Says Arrests Are Retaliation for Atheism
The New York Times: June 25, 2011

MIAMI — An atheist in Central Florida filed suit in Federal District Court in Tampa on Friday, accusing the Polk County sheriff, an evangelical Christian, of harassing and unnecessarily arresting her as retaliation for not believing in God and for her efforts to keep prayer out of public meetings.

EllenBeth Wachs (left), the legal coordinator for the group Atheists of Florida, asked the court to prevent the sheriff, Grady Judd (right), from conducting any new investigations, arrests or complaints resulting from her “nonreligious, atheist viewpoint in the predominantly Christian-oriented Polk County, Fla.” The sheriff’s actions, including two arrests and searches of her house, violated her First Amendment rights and her right to due process, the suit states.

A vocal advocate for the separation of church and state, Ms. Wachs has attended several school board meetings where sessions began with prayer and asked that a moment of silence be observed instead. The sheriff is equally committed, to Christian values. He has received national attention for his focus on rooting out pornography as well as pedophiles and other sexual offenders. The suit states that the sheriff used Scripture in an agency newsletter, among other things.

The imbroglio between Ms. Wachs, 48, who lives in Lakeland, and Sheriff Judd dates to last year when the sheriff removed the basketball hoops from the Polk County jail and donated them to several local churches.

This angered Ms. Wachs, who filed several public-records requests on the matter. A nonpracticing lawyer, she signed the requests with the designation Esquire after her name. Sheriff Judd sent a team of officers to arrest her and charged her in March with illegally posing as a lawyer, a felony.

“This does not violate any bar rules,” said her lawyer, Lawrence G. Walters (left). “She is allowed to use esquire.”

Ms. Wachs was arrested a second time, in May, for moaning repeatedly in a sexual manner from an open window in her house, saying, “Oh, John,” in a crescendo, as a ploy to stop neighbors, including a young boy, from playing basketball. The moans followed a dispute with the neighbor. The sheriff’s office arrested her on a felony sex charge. The police searched her house and took away a safe, among other things.

Later that month, the police arrested her again and charged her with possession of marijuana, after saying they had found drugs in the safe.

The sheriff’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We are asking a federal judge to put a stop to this madness,” Mr. Walters said. “We want to try to stop a rogue sheriff who is abusing his authority as a law enforcement officer to punish a vocal atheist in town for her viewpoint and political beliefs.”

(Full article)

Chicken Heart

Woman Gets Probation After Bloody Chicken Sacrifice Ritual
CBS New York/AP: June 25, 2011

HACKENSACK, N.J. A Pennsylvania woman who made her daughter observe a bloody religious ritual in New Jersey has been sentenced to 18 months probation.

Yenitza Colichon (left) of Jamesburg pleaded guilty last month to child neglect and cruelty charges stemming from the May 2007 incident, in which she made her 7-year-old daughter watch an initiation rite in Paterson that included a chicken sacrifice and feeding the girl its heart.

Passaic County prosecutors say Colichon was about to start Army basic training and wanted to protect her daughter in the Palo Mayombe religion before she left. The religion originated in central Africa.
The girl later told a teacher that she was having nightmares and child welfare officials were contacted.

The couple who performed the ritual was allowed to enter a pre-trial program on Friday.

(Full article)


'Teacher Wang' fined for false prophecy
By News Desk in Taipei/The China Post | ANN: Fri, Jun 24, 2011

Taipei - The Nantou District Court has slapped Wang Chao-hung, known as "Teacher Wang," with a NT$40,000 (US$1,400) fine for causing widespread panic with his false doomsday prophecy last month.

The judge ruled that Wang, 55, had violated the Social Order Maintenance Law with his prediction that on May 11, 2011, mass devastation would consume Taiwan in the form of a deadly earthquake. The entries were made on his blog as early as November 22, 2010; two more were added on February 13 and March 15.

The blog posts were detailed and troubling, especially for the gullible. Wang "foresaw" a calamity-plagued Taipei City, with a death toll of 153,402 and 287,410 more injured. By the portentous May 11, "between one-third to one-fifth" of the world's population will be gone.

In a press interview, Wang claimed that at 10:42:37 on May 11, a magnitude 14 earthquake followed by a 170-meter tsunami would consume Taiwan, taking with it 1 million lives.

While the predicted "doomsday" came and went, one would not describe May 11 as "unceremonious;" by then, hundreds of Wang's followers had migrated to Nantou County's Puli Township, camping out in shelters made out of cargo containers.

When nothing, aside from a few temblors, occurred after a countdown, Wang was forced to admit that he made the premonitions under the influence of alcohol.

Although the false teacher tried to blame news media for hyping up his claims, the judge ruled that Wang maliciously fed upon the nation's fear of earthquakes and tsunamis. The baseless "prophet" had severely disturbed the social order, especially when one takes into account the numbers of plastic containers purchased upon Wang's urgent encouragements.

"Teacher Wang" was fined NT$40,000; he may appeal the case within five days of the Nantou District Court verdict.

(Full article)




















Closing door on church weddings
New York Post: June 21, 2011

Don't book the minister just yet.

Clergy across the state are divided over whether they'll perform same-sex marriages if they become legal.

The Catholic Church adamantly opposes gay marriage and would not perform same-sex nuptials. "One has to wonder why the proponents of this radical redefinition, who claim overwhelming popular support, would not consider a referendum on such a drastic departure from traditional values?" Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote on his blog.

The Catholic Church is joined by Greek Orthodox leaders, who have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage and last year supported a marriage-protection amendment to the Constitution.

The nation's Methodist churches are also against gay marriages, although some ministers have risked defrocking in defiance of the ban.

Episcopal churches in the state have expressed support for the legislation, but it wasn't immediately clear if they'd actually allow same-sex nuptials in their churches.

"The attitudes are much more varied about that than whether civil service takes place," said Nicholas Richardson, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of New York. "There are people among us not in support of church ceremonies to celebrate same-sex marriages."

In New York's Jewish communities, Orthodox groups have almost unanimously oppose same-sex marriage, while reform rabbis have been mostly supportive. Conservative groups are divided.

The bill does not compel clergy members to conduct same-sex marriages, but some Republican lawmakers are concerned the legal protection is not strong enough.

Republican Senate leader Dean Skelos said he wants churches to be protected from discrimination suits if they refuse to perform ceremonies or provide accommodations for gay weddings.

The Rev. Stephen H. Phelps (right), interim senior minister at Manhattan's Riverside Church, an interdenominational congregation, said, "The state must not continue to use its barriers and its laws to keep people from enjoying the privilege of marriage. It's flat-out discriminatory. There's no other word for it."

Even so, Phelps said he could not speak for the other ministers at his church. And, although he said he would officiate at same-sex marriages, he said he would prefer couples with strong Christian beliefs.

































































State Sen. REVEREND Ruben Diaz Sr. supports Anthony Weiner's perv sexting, yet is against gay marriage
DAILY NEWS: Thursday, June 16, 2011

Welcome to Ruben's World, where it's okay to be a perv congressman so long as you are heterosexual.

Just don't be two upstanding and loving gays hoping to get married.
The prospect of that has state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. at the forefront of the opposition as the state Senate comes within one vote of legalizing gay marriage.

"A slap in the face to millions of New Yorkers who support the moral, legal and traditional view of marriage as between man and woman," Diaz has declared.

At the same time, Diaz (D-Bronx) seems to think it's no big deal for a man who is married to a woman also to be a lying perv with any number of other women.

Take Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Sure, he sent an unbidden photo of his crotch to a young woman. Sure, he lied about it. Sure, he insulted reporters who dared to press him for forthright answers.

But, since Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) is married to a woman and not a man, he gets Diaz's full sympathy and support.

Here is what Diaz had to say after Weiner made his self-pitying sexting confession:

"The Bible teaches us to take care of others and to help others when they are down. ... It is shameful to see how many of Congressman Weiner's supposed friends have abandoned him as the media makes a total mockery of him."
Note that last bit.

In Ruben's World, a heterosexual congressman who sends around photos of his weewee is not making a mockery of himself. It's the media's doing.
Also note the bit about the Bible.

In Ruben's World, the Good Book commands the faithful to help and take care of a perv but shun gays who seek only to live in a relationship sanctioned by the law as well as by love.

Sexting young women, so what? Gay marriage, never!

Diaz cited his opposition to gay marriage as a pretext for joining three other state senators in hijacking the Legislature in 2009.

Of this quartet known as the Four Amigos, three have run afoul of the law.

First, Sen. Hiram Monserrate (right) (D-Queens) was expelled from the Senate after he was convicted of abusing his girlfriend.

Then, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. (left) (D-Bronx) was voted from office after he was indicted for theft. As the charges only involved siphoning money from the Soundview Health Center and not gay marriage, Diaz held a rally supporting Espada.

"Keep politics out of Soundview!" Diaz cried.

A third Amigo, Sen. Carl Kruger (right)(D-Brooklyn), was indicted for taking some $1 million in bribes. Diaz held no rally for Kruger, perhaps because it came out that this particular Amigo was living with a man prosecutors termed "an intimate associate."

Kruger this week became one of another Four Amigos - the state senators who previously opposed legalizing gay marriage but now pledge to vote for it. "What we're about to do is redefine what the American family is," Kruger said. "And that's a good thing. The world around us evolves."

The world around us is not to be confused with Ruben's World, where you can be a perv or a thief - so long as you don't want to marry somebody of your own gender.

(Full article)


For Many Immigrants, Marriage Vote Resonates

The New York Times: June 27, 2011

Throughout the debate over legalizing same-sex marriage, arguments against it were often articulated most forcefully by the single voice, in a thick Spanish accent, of State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr.

Some may have seen Mr. Díaz, a Democrat and a Pentecostal minister, as the Latino representative on the issue, but several same-sex couples in Queens — from Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — would debate that, if they were not so busy planning their weddings.

“He pretends to speak for all of us, for Latinos, and I really do not think he does,” said Ana Maria Archila (right), a Colombian who decided on Friday night to marry her longtime partner after the State Senate voted to make same-sex unions legal.

The news was celebrated over the weekend by gay immigrants just as it was by other gay groups. On Monday, after the dancing had slowed, many immigrants outside the gay community said that the victory carried a special resonance for them, as well, for they understood discrimination better than most.

Their relationship with gay advocacy groups is complex, even as some see similarities in their struggles. And because it is a state law and not a federal one, some of the benefits being sought, like citizenship for same-sex spouses, will not be forthcoming, and that has somewhat muted their response.
“Both groups are used to having to hide,” said Ms. Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group. “Each one of these movements is able to understand oppression in ways that other groups may not.”

Advocates for the two groups say that immigrants and gay people are among the last still fighting for basic civil rights. Progress for one, they say, will help the other.

Daniel Dromm (left), a gay city councilman from Jackson Heights, Queens, who is chairman of the Council’s immigration committee, said, “Immigrants’ rights and gay rights are integrally related.”

“I used to say that the last vestige of acceptable discrimination was against the L.G.B.T. community,” he said, using shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “I’ve come to feel that the last vestige of discrimination is against immigrants.”


National Organization for Marriage crusading against
gay nuptials in NY

DAILY NEWS: Sunday, June 12th 2011

A shadowy group run by religious fundamentalists is bankrolling a pitched crusade against same-sex marriage in New York.

Secretive and flush with cash, the National Organization for Marriage is igniting a culture war as it battles Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg in their campaign to legalize gay wedlock.

"If marriage is redefined, then New York schools will soon be teaching that it's just as good for Jimmy to grow up and marry Johnny as it is to marry Mary," says the group's $172,100-a-year president, Brian Brown. He warned of dire consequences if Albany, which nixed same-sex nuptials in 2009, reverses course.

Based in Princeton, N.J., and Washington D.C., the tax-exempt group
was founded in 2007 to defend traditional heterosexual marriage. Since then, its treasury has grown from $637,000 to $8.5 million in 2009 as it attacked same-sex unions across the country. In the last 18 months, donations have swollen to more than $13 million, sources say.

Where the cash comes from isn't clear. One backer is the Knights of Columbus, whose lobbying in the 1950s put the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance. The Knights raised $1.9 million for the group in 2008-09.























New Square Arson Victim Blames Attack On Community’s Religious Intolerance
CBS2 New York: June 8, 201

NEW SQUARE, N.Y. — After being the victim of a frightening arson attack, New Square resident Aron Rottenberg spoke from his hospital bed on Wednesday.

Rottenberg told CBS 2 that he blames the leaders of an Hasidic sect for creating the intolerant atmosphere that led to his injuries.

Rottenberg talked about the attack on his home that left him burned over half of his body on Wednesday. He told an investigator hired by his attorney how he tackled the masked intruder behind his home.

Rotteberg is a dissident in a community that values conformity. The Hasidic Skver sect under Grand Rebbe David Twersky (right) controls the village of New Square, and Rottenberg described his act of defiance.

“I’m going to pray outside New Square, to pray with the elderly and the sick,” he said.

Rottenberg said harassment followed his split with the rabbi, including the breaking of windows on his car and his home. It got so bad, in fact, that he installed infrared cameras to alert his family of danger.

The lights never came on at the property, and the arsonist – who was initially scared away – may have felt it was safe to return. That’s when, Rottenberg said, he came outside and hid behind a tree, then jumping the intruder and sparking an explosion of flame.

Police arrested 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer, described as a butler who lives in the grand rebbe’s home. He was hospitalized for burns to his hands, and is now free on $300,000 bail. Additional arrests were expected.

Rottenberg said that in the days leading up to the attack, the community ostracized his family. “They actually kicked my…daughter (Malki, right) out of school, also. Everything for the same reason,” Rottenberg said.

The girl found her desk and papers left on the front porch. Like the rest of the Rottenberg family, she said she’s terrified.


Within 24-Hours of this terrible tragedy, there were flyers all over town of New Square proclaiming that the man that was burned was not of the best quality.

The main points of the letter were:

1. He had marriage problems, his wife wanted to leave him, and only the community leaders saved the marriage years ago.

2. The man is not really religious, he never cared what his kids look like, and there for his kids look the way they do (off the Chasidic way).

3. While his father passed away, he did not say “Kadish” for his father and didn’t daven at all.


NS Victim's Family Shouted Down at Press Conference
Journal News

A press conference held today by family members of a man badly burned in an arson attack turned into a shouting match when a village man called the family's lawyer an anti-Semite for going against the grand rabbi.

Aron Rottenberg's son-in-law, Moshe Elbaum, was interrupted several times at the press conference by village resident Shulem Sofar.

Sofar refuted the family's claims and during a heated exchange said Sussman was “anti-semitic.” When Elbaum asked what his father-in-law had done wrong, Shulem replied: “It's the wrong thing to do against the rabbi.”

Click to watch news conferemce video




































































































Pols say selling 'sexist' Queens statue on craigslist would be a civic virtue
NY DAILY NEWS : Friday, February 25th 2011

A controversial Queens statue, featured as an "Eyesore Next Door" in the Daily News, should be sold through an online classifieds site, according to a group of elected officials.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner said the city should ditch the statue, "Triumph of Civic Virtue" [by famed turn-of-the-century American sculptor Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937) depicting a nude man representing 'civic virtue' trampling the twin sirens of 'vice' and 'corruption,'] because it is "sexist."

Some community leaders have tried for years to get the city to pay for the restoration of the decaying statue.

Weiner and City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Jackson Heights) - who want to sell the statue on craigslist to raise funds - said it is offensive because it depicts a nude man stepping on two women.

Some leaders don't want to tear the statue down.

"It's been one of the board's top priorities for years to have that statue restored," said Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9 in Queens. "We're not looking to destroy art."


Rep. Anthony Weiner says crotch photo posted via his Twitter was work of hacker
DAILY NEWS ;Sunday, May 29th 2011

WASHINGTON - Weiner jokes apparently never grow old.

Twitter followers of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) got an eyeful late Friday night when a hacker posted a lewd crotch-shot photo from his Twitter account.

The photo of a man's bulging gray briefs - no face visible - was sent to only one female Twitter user, but was visible to all 45,000 of the lawmaker's Twitter followers.

His staff-taking the matter seriously-said both his Facebook and Twitter accounts had been hacked.

"This is intended to be a distraction, and we're not going to let it become one. Anthony's accounts were obviously hacked. He doesn't know the person named by the hacker, and we will be consulting on what steps to take next," said Weiner's spokesman Dave Arnold.

The congressman noticed the hack almost immediately and removed the photo himself. But it had already been retweeted and grabbed by several followers and appeared on Conservative websites.

Weiner soon posted his own tongue-in-cheek response.

"Tivo shot. FB hacked. Is my blender gonna attack me next?" he joked, later adding: "Touche Prof Moriarity. More Weiner Jokes for all my guests!"
The web hijinks continued as Weiner's alleged "member" now has its own Twitter page and followers.

(Full article)


Rep. Anthony Weiner snaps at reporter asking about lewd picture that came from his Twitter feed
DAILY NEWS: June 1st 2011

WASHINGTON - Rep. Anthony Weiner got testy with reporters yesterday
who pestered him about a lewd photo posted on his Twitter feed - a pic he insists was a hacker's "prank."

In a heated exchange at the Capitol, Weiner barked at reporters that he was done talking about the drama that set the blogosphere abuzz over the weekend.

"If I were giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back threw a pie or yelled an insult, I would not spend the next two hours of my speech responding to that pie or that insult," he said.

Weiner called one reporter a "jackass" for repeatedly interrupting to ask if the Queens Democrat had really posted the photo.

He steadfastly refused to answer reporters' questions about why, if his Twitter account was hacked, he hired a lawyer instead of filing a complaint with the police.


Anthony Weiner Resigns: The congressman's rise and fall resembles Shakespearean tragedy
DAILY NEWS:Thursday, June 16th 2011

The rise and fall of Anthony Weiner is the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy - if the Bard had owned a laptop.

The congressman's two-decade trip from outer borough obscurity to front-page infamy ended badly Thursday, as his resignation capped his precipitous fall from grace.

The fault, as Shakespeare sagely observed in "Julius Caesar," was not in the stars but in Weiner himself.

The nerdy son of a city schoolteacher was born and raised in Brooklyn. The skinny, ambitious kid became a protegee of then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, spending six years working with the now-Senator.

Weiner, stepping out of Schumer's shadow in 1991, became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council at age 27.

When Schumer mounted his Senate campaign in 1998, Weiner was elected as his successor and moved onto the national stage.

The new Congressman courted publicity and earned a reputation for hard work. Like Schumer (right), he became known for his Sunday news conferences - putting himself front and center on a typically slow news days.

New York Magazine labeled Weiner "an ascendant force in New York politics," while the Daily News dubbed him one of the "Leaders of the Twenty-First Century."

The Forward called him one of the 50 most influential Jewish Americans....

"Nail up some indecency in plain sight over your door; from that time forward you will be rid of all respectable people,the most insupportable folk God has created."


Tree of Life

Sexting pol Anthony Weiner often seeks counsel with Rabbi to the Stars Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto
NY DAILY NEWS: Monday, June 13, 2011

Rep. Anthony Weiner might want to turn to his rabbi for more than spiritual support.

The embattled Queens-Brooklyn Democrat is a follower of Rabbi to the Stars Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a self-proclaimed kabbalah scholar who puts death curses on his critics.

The 37-year-old Pinto comes from a long line of Moroccan rabbinical royalty, only speaks Hebrew and refuses to meet with women. Weiner regularly stops by his classes and holiday gatherings, sources said.

In return, the rabbi has instructed his wealthy, largely Israeli, followers to hold fund-raisers for the pol, a staunch supporter of Israel and Jewish causes.

(Full article)

Israeli Prime Minister

Former Israeli
UN Ambasador












Israeli Soldiers Shoot at Protesters on Syrian Border
Published: June 5, 2011

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces fired at pro-Palestinian protesters on the Syrian frontier on Sunday as they tried to breach the border for the second time in three weeks, reflecting a new mode of popular struggle and deadly confrontation fueled by turmoil in the Arab world and the vacuum of stalled peace talks.

Wave after wave of protesters, mainly Palestinians from refugee camps in Syria, approached the frontier with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israeli soldiers opened fire on those who crossed a new trench and tried to attack the border fence near the towns of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights and Quneitra in Syria.

By nightfall, the Syrian news agency SANA reported that 22 protesters had been killed and more than 350 had been wounded. Israeli officials said that they had no information on casualties but suggested that the Syrian figures were exaggerated.

Even so, it was the worst bloodshed in the Golan Heights since Israel and Syria fought a war there in 1973.

The young protesters, disillusioned with the stymied peace talks and continued Israeli settlement building, say they believe they have hit on a new tactic that at least achieves something, if at a cost, and they intend to repeat it.

“The plan is to clash with the soldiers now,” said Muhammad Abu al-Nassar, 25, who was protesting at a West Bank checkpoint. “We believe that unarmed popular resistance is the best form of ending the occupation.”

Israeli officials, who say they tried every nonlethal method of crowd control at their disposal before resorting to live fire, worry about being cast as the villain but admit they are in a bind.

“What would any country do if people from an enemy country were marching on its borders?” asked Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. “We tried all other possible means to stop them.”

At the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not allow “extremist elements” to penetrate Israel’s borders. “I have instructed the security forces to act with determination, with maximum restraint, but with determination to maintain our sovereignty, our borders, our communities and our citizens,” he said.

Arkansas: Evangelist Loses Suit Over Beating Order

An evangelist who is serving a prison sentence for taking young girls across state lines for sex was ordered to pay two former members of his ministry more than $30 million for ordering them to be beaten. A jury on Thursday found the evangelist, Tony Alamo, liable in a civil lawsuit in Texarkana. Mr. Alamo’s lawyer, John Wesley Hall Jr., called the sums “outlandish” and said he would ask that they be reduced.

(Full text)

Heroin worth $1.3m concealed in SA bibles
Sydney Morning Herald/AAP: May 31, 2011

A 31-year-old Indian national has been charged with importing $1.3 million of heroin concealed in bibles sent to an address in Renmark, in South Australia's Riverland.

Australian Customs officials said on February 20 an international mail parcel containing 29 Bibles was examined by border protection officers at the Sydney international mail gateway facility.

Eight of the Bibles were found to be hollowed out and contained packages wrapped in carbon paper and plastic.

"Further investigations revealed the packages contained approximately 900 grammes of a light brown granular powder which tested positive for heroin," a customs spokesman said.

The drugs were estimated to have a street value of about $1.3 million, though tests were continuing to determine the exact weight and purity of the drugs.

The Indian man was arrested when he arrived at Adelaide Airport on Monday.

He was charged with importing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug and faces a maximum jail term of 25 years as well as a $550,000 fine.

(Full text)
















Crossing the Church-State Divide by Ark
The New York Times: May 31, 2011

The American landscape is dotted with tourist attractions created with the help of government subsidies bestowed in the name of economic development. Think of the cheese museum in Rome, N.Y.

A project just approved in Kentucky pushes the constitutional envelope.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority granted more than $40 million in tax incentives for a planned $172 million Bible-based theme park, featuring a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, complete with live animals.

Conceived by the Christian ministry that built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., the Ark Encounter park aims to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible by “proving” that Noah had room on his vessel to fit two of every kind of animal. Ark Encounter is owned by a profit-making company, of which the ministry is a part owner.

The project enjoys strong support from Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, who says it is an opportunity to create an estimated 900 jobs. We suspect he is also eager to please an important political constituency.

Under current Supreme Court doctrine, Kentucky’s support of the proselytizing theme park seems likely to withstand a possible church-state legal challenge, assuming state officials were scrupulous in applying the neutral financial criteria in the state’s economic development law. It is not even clear that the court’s conservative majority would find taxpayers have standing to sue.

But granting tax incentives to the explicitly Christian enterprise clearly clashes with the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion.

Public money is not supposed to pay to advance religion.


Kentucky’s citizens should certainly ask themselves if this is really the best use of taxpayer dollars.

(Full text)
















Egypt’s Christians Fear Violence as Changes Embolden Islamists
The New York Times: May 30, 2011

CAIRO — The headline screamed from a venerable liberal newspaper: Coptic Christians had abducted a young Muslim and tattooed her with a cross. “Copts kidnap Raghada!”

“They tied me up with ropes, beat me with shoes, shaved my hair,” Raghada Salem Abdel Fattah, 19, declared, “and forced me to read Christian psalms!”

Like many similar stories proliferating here since the revolution, Ms. Abdel Fattah’s kidnapping could not be confirmed. But for members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the sensational headline — from a respected publisher, no less — served to validate their fear that the Egyptian revolution had made their country less tolerant and more dangerous for religious minorities. The Arab Spring initially appeared to open a welcoming door to the dwindling number of Christian Arabs who, after years of feeling marginalized, eagerly joined the call for democracy and rule of law. But now many Christians here say they fear that the fall of the police state has allowed long-simmering tensions to explode, potentially threatening the character of Egypt, and the region.

“Will Christians have equal rights and full citizenship or not?” asked Sarkis Naoum, a Christian commentator in Beirut, Lebanon. A surge of sectarian violence in Cairo — 24 dead, more than 200 wounded and three churches in flames since President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall — has turned Christian-Muslim tensions into one of the gravest threats to the revolution’s stability. But it is also a pivotal test of Egypt’s tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law. The revolution has empowered the majority but also opened new questions about the protection of minority rights like freedom of religion or expression as Islamist groups step forward to lay out their agendas and test their political might.

OHOTO: Ed Ou for The New York Times

Long Island woman wins lottery day after son prayed for her to hit $1M jackpot
The New York Post: May 27, 2011

Not only does Jesus save -- he pays!

A Long Island man proved that although money doesn't grow on trees, it may sprout up in hymnals after he prayed for his mom to hit a jackpot the day before she won $1 million in the lottery.

And the divine intervention doesn't stop there -- the newly minted millionaire, a staunch Catholic, says the winnings have brought her heathen son back into the religious fold.

"God performed two miracles, a true miracle!"
a tearful Gloria Bentivegna declared yesterday, clutching her $1 million check from the New York Lottery.

Bentivegna, 61, of West Babylon, said that on Easter Sunday, she was on her knees at her parish church, praying for her son Sal, 28.

"I prayed, and I asked Jesus to help my son believe in the Lord," she recalled. "I prayed, 'Let him have a miracle in his life.' "


Witchy Town’s Worry: Do Too Many Psychics Spoil the Brew?
The New York Times: May 27, 2011

SALEM, Mass. — Like any good psychic, Barbara Szafranski, below, claims she foresaw the problems coming.

Her prophecy came in 2007, as the City Council was easing its restrictions on the number of psychics allowed to practice in this seaside city, where self-proclaimed witches, angels, clairvoyants and healers still flock 319 years after the notorious Salem witch trials. Some hoped for added revenues from extra licenses and tourists. Others just wanted to bring underground psychics into the light.

Just as Ms. Szafranski predicted, the number of psychic licenses has drastically increased, to 75 today, up from a mere handful in 2007. And now Ms. Szafranski, some fellow psychics and city officials worry the city is on psychic overload.

“It’s like little ants running all over the place, trying to get a buck,” grumbled Ms. Szafranski, 75, who quit her job as an accountant in 1991 to open Angelica of the Angels, a store that sells angel figurines and crystals and provides psychic readings. She says she has lost business since the licensing change.

“Many of them are not trained,” she said of her rivals. “They don’t understand that when you do a reading you hold a person’s life in your hands.”




















Serbian War Crimes Suspect, Ratko Mladic, Is Caught
xecutions Were Mladic’s Signature, and Downfall

The New York Times: May 26, 2011

With video cameras capturing the moment, Gen. Ratko Mladic’s bodyguards handed out chocolates to Bosnian Muslim children, promising terrified women that the violence was over.

“No one will be harmed,” the Bosnian Serb commander said on July 12, 1995, gently patting a young boy on the head. “You have nothing to fear. You will all be evacuated.”

As he spoke, thousands of his soldiers formed a vast cordon around the town of Srebrenica, a United Nations-protected “safe area” that had just fallen to his forces. Over the next 10 days, his soldiers hunted down, captured and summarily executed 8,000 men and boys from the town. Women were raped. And pleas for restraint from the international community were mocked.

“Over 500 victims of the Srebrenica genocide were boys under the age of 18,” said Hasan Nuhanovic, a survivor from Srebrenica whose father, mother and brother were executed by Mr. Mladic’s forces. “They were 16, 17 years old when they were executed.”

The mass executions around Srebrenica became Mr. Mladic’s ghastly trademark
— and his undoing. The anger and humiliation felt in Washington and in European capitals prompted the international community to act against Bosnian Serb forces after years in which Serbian forces systematically pushed Muslims and Croats out of areas they claimed belonged to the Serbian ethnic group. Within weeks, NATO airstrikes reversed the course of the war. Within months, a peace accord had been signed and Mr. Mladic was a fugitive.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Mladic supported President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia (right) as he reignited ethnic divisions and tried to turn the majority of the country into a “Greater Serbia” dominated by ethnic Serbs. In time, fighting erupted between Yugoslavia’s three main ethnic groups — Orthodox Christian Serbs, Roman Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians — in a series of overlapping civil wars.







Gays in Mideast fear new political era
Marginalized community worries about rise of Islamists in coming elections
Associated Press: 5/21/2011

CAIRO — While many of their compatriots savor a new political era, gays in Egypt and Tunisia aren't sharing the joy, according to activists who wonder if the two revolutions could in fact make things worse for an already marginalized community.

In both countries, gays and their allies worry that conservative Islamists, whose credo includes firm condemnation of homosexuality, could increase their influence in elections later this year.

"Our struggle goes on — it gets more and more difficult," Tunisian gays-rights and HIV-AIDS activist Hassen Hanini wrote to The Associated Press in an email. "The Tunisian gay community is still seeking its place in society in this new political environment."

Throughout the Arab world homosexual conduct remains taboo — it is punishable by floggings, long prison terms and in some cases execution in religiously conservative Saudi Arabia, and by up to three years imprisonment in relatively secular Tunisia. Iraq and Yemen each experienced a surge of killings of gays two years ago.

In Egypt, consensual same-sex relations are not prohibited as such, but other laws — those prohibiting "debauchery" or "shameless public acts" — have been used to imprison gay men in recent years.

A woman walks past a clothes shop in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham, central England
REUTERS: May 25, 2011


























From Oakland to the World, Words of Warning: Time’s Up
The New York Times/THE BAY CITIZEN: May 19, 2011

Inside the sprawling, threadbare Oakland headquarters of Family Radio Worldwide the staff has prepared for the end of the world this weekend — and it appears they mean it.

“There’s so little time left,” a smiling elderly woman said, hugging a colleague.

On Monday, the last day outsiders were welcome inside the gated compound, recording studios sat empty. Current programming for the independent Christian broadcast ministry was produced weeks ago. No more shows are needed.

This Saturday, May 21, is the apocalypse, according to the ministry’s charismatic leader, “brother” Harold Camping.

“I’m so glad that God’s in charge,” Mr. Camping, 89, said, looking gleeful.
Mr. Camping, a 1942 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, who started out in Christian broadcasting in 1958 with one San Francisco AM radio station that eventually became a broadcast empire, proclaimed the doomsday date in 2008.

Since then, the ministry has unleashed a giant effort to spread the word. The message has gone out over the ministry’s 216 AM, FM and low-power radio stations, plus two TV channels in the United States. And, there’s been an international effort with shortwave radio, satellite broadcasts, a Web site, 5,500 billboards (400 in India; 2,200 across the United States, including many around the Bay Area), and 100 million pamphlets in 61 languages, according to the ministry.

The ministry’s finances, however, are anything but downscale: an annual budget of $36.7 million in 2009, according to the organization’s most recent IRS financial disclosure filings. As a nonprofit, commercial-free broadcasting operation, the ministry is supported by listener donations — $18.3 million in 2009 alone.

The IRS records revealed $34 million in investments, $56 million in assets and $29 million in mortgages. Mr. Camping received no salary in 2009 — in fact, he loaned the ministry $175,516 that year. On Monday he said he was draining ministry reserves to pay for the May 21 campaign.

Tom Evans, a ministry spokesman, wouldn’t make the budget available, but said it was in the “tens of millions” of dollars.

Mr. Camping previously prophesied the apocalypse for September 1994 — a calculation he now admits was flawed.

Then and now, his predictions have received both worldwide attention and ridicule. Christian scholars, almost uniformly, say the Bible forbids such prophecies. Richard Dawkins (left), the atheist writer, has labeled the millions spent a “con” and Mr. Camping a “raving loon.”

At Family Radio headquarters, however, Mr. Camping’s followers expressed sincere devotion. People spoke of spending their final days with loved ones, or trying to maintain their normal routines until Saturday.

“I’m just doing, you know, everything exactly the way I always do it,” Robert Boyd, a radio producer, said.

“Let God end it,” Mr. Evans said.





































Your Palm’s Telling Me You Must Let Go. Of $27,000.
The New York Times: May 14, 2011

Can psychics see their own futures? If so, Sylvia Mitchell, 36, peering into her crystal ball on a busy corner of Greenwich Village, might have caught a glimpse of her driver’s license photo, blown up and attached to an unpleasant poster saying “Wanted” and “Grand Larceny” and “$28,000.” And so she apparently took off.

This city is up to its third eye in psychics and palm readers, and yet little is known about them. Called gypsies by the police, they are as structured as the Mafia, with a council of elders to solve their disputes over turf. The families are not named Luchese, Gambino or Genovese, but the relatively anonymous Eli, Evans, Miller and Johns.

Grand larceny is historically a clear-cut crime, like stealing a purse in a bar. Some psychic cases would seem harder to prosecute: The squad is also looking for a psychic named Angela from a West 18th Street parlor who detectives say persuaded a client to give her $9,000 for some magic coins that the two, in a cleansing ritual, later threw into an upstate lake.

Ms. Mitchell is wanted for questioning in a case that began unfolding in July 2008, when a middle-aged Manhattan woman entered the door marked “Zena” on Seventh Avenue South and Bleecker Street, a parlor far more elegant than the usual table-and-two-chairs setups for psychics. There were beaded curtains and hanging plants and lanterns, and a sign that said Zena kept offices in New York and Cannes.

Ms. Mitchell greeted her and read her palm and, $70 later, told her that there was “very important information that could help her change and better her life, but it would cost her $1,000,” a detective later wrote. The woman was going through a breakup and a job change, and, hungry for good news, paid up.

Her problem, Ms. Mitchell explained, was her attachment to money.

• • •

Psychic Apparently Fails to Predict Officers’ Approach
The New York Times: May 25, 2011

Sylvia Mitchell’s next available palm reading will apparently take place in a jail cell, as her own future involves a stack of police complaints that is approaching the size of a tarot deck.

Ms. Mitchell, 36, traded her crystal ball for silver bracelets Wednesday morning shortly before 9 a.m., far from the Seventh Avenue South address where she worked at the parlor of Zena the Clairvoyant.

In fact, the location of the arrest was almost too good to be true: that quaint little Connecticut village getaway called Mystic. Sylvia Mitchell was arrested Wednesday in Mystic, Conn.

The search for Ms. Mitchell, 36, began last month, when a Florida woman swore out a complaint against her, accusing her of taking $27,000 to help the victim address her attachment to money.

Ms. Mitchell promised to return the money upon request, but did not, the woman told detectives. Eventually Ms. Mitchell returned $10,000, but then disappeared. The woman hired a private investigator, Bob Nygaard, to try to find Ms. Mitchell.

A Crime Scene column addressed the case. Three days later, Mr. Nygaard received a call from an informant in the psychic realm, which has been a subject of his past investigations.

Psychics are apparently as quick to snitch on their competitors as anyone else, and this one said Ms. Mitchell had been seen at a large Maryland wedding.

State Police investigator Diana Benoit “Wouldn’t it figure,” Investigator Benoit said, “that a mystic would be in Mystic?”









St. Anthony's High School in Long Island bars lesbian student from bringing female date to prom
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Friday, May 13th 2011

A Long Island Catholic high school senior barred from bringing her ex-girlfriend to the prom can come by herself, find a male date - or just stay home.

Angelina Lange, 17, of Bay Shore, was turned down by St. Anthony's High School administrators when she asked about a same-sex couple attending the annual event.

Brother Gary Cregan, principal of the Roman Catholic school, said the decision was nothing personal - just a reflection of the school's religious tenets. "Our Catholic faith specifies that marriage involve a man and a woman, and our policies on dating must reflect that," Cregan told "We mean no malice or disrespect."

Lange, a good student who transferred into St. Anthony's as a junior, isn't challenging the school's decision - not that she would have much leverage.

As a private institution, St. Anthony's can enforce its own restrictions on school events. But local gay rights activist James Fallarino told that the decision was wrong-headed. "The message is that the school doesn't really care about its students, and that's not a good message," said Fallarino, of the Long Island Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Services Network.

(Full article)


Staten Island man pours life savings into ads
proclaiming doomsday on May 21

The New York Post: May 13, 2011

The end is nigh, insists Robert Fitzpatrick.

And he's put his money where his mouth is. If the world doesn't end on May 21, one week from tomorrow, he'll have wasted more than $140,000 on bus and subway advertising.

The 60-year-old Staten Island resident, a retired MTA employee, says he's spent at least that sum -- his life savings -- on 1,000 subway-car placards, and even more ads on bus kiosks and subway cars. They say:

"Global Earthquake: The Greatest Ever! Judgment Day May 21, 2011."

In a self-published book, "The Doomsday Code," Fitzpatrick says the Bible offers "proof that cannot be dismissed."

"Judgment Day will surprise people. We will not be ready for it," Fitzpatrick said in an interview with The Post yesterday. "A giant earthquake will render the earth uninhabitable," he added.

If you want to set an alarm clock, the quake will happen just before 6 p.m., he said.

"God's people will be resurrected. It is also the day that God stops saving anyone," he said. Fitzpatrick hopes he's one of the chosen ones, but he can't be really certain.

"There's just a little doubt," he said. "Most churches teach that if you just believe, you will be saved. It is not our choice. It is God's choice."

Fitzpatrick's book is based on the teachings of Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio host with a poor track record of end-of-the-world prophecies.
Camping also predicted the world would end on Sept. 6, 1994. When the sun rose per normal the next day, Camping went back to his Bible and tried to figure out why he was wrong.

Camping's group,, is buying billboards nationwide spreading his prophecy.

(R - NJ)

New Attacks on Women’s Rights
The New York Times: May 10, 2011

With the help of 16 Democrats, House Republicans passed a bill the other day with the narrow-seeming title of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

The measure, which came just weeks after the furor over failed Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, is a slightly modified version of a terrible bill proposed last year by Representative Christopher Smith, a Republican of New Jersey. It is far more sweeping than its title suggests.

Over all, the bill treats tax benefits as the equivalent of public expenditures for abortion. This equivalency is at odds with a reality in which individuals can deduct donations to religious institutions without running afoul of the constitutional bar of government support of religion.

Ultra-Orthodox Paper Erases Hillary Clinton From Iconic Situation Room Photo
CBSNewYork: May 9, 2011

NEW YORK - Something’s a bit different about Brooklyn-based Ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper Der Tzitung’s coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden.

The paper, whose name means “The Time” in English, ran the iconic image of President Barack Obama and key members of his administration sitting in the situation room as they monitored the raid on bin Laden’s compound. In the shot, Clinton’s hand is covering her mouth.

In the paper’s version of the shot, though, Clinton is entirely absent, having been edited out. Counter-terrorism analyst Audrey Tomasen was also apparently Photoshopped out.

No word yet from the paper why they edited the women out of the shot.

(Full article)
After Outrage Hasidic Newspaper Issues Statement On Altered White House Photo
Vos Iz Neias?: May 9, 2011

Brooklyn, NY - Der Tzeitung released the following statement today in response to the furor that has erupted regarding the altered photo:

The White House released a picture showing the President following “live” the events in the apprehension(?) of Osama Bin Laden, last week Sunday. Also present in the Situation Room were various high-ranking government and military officials. Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the “fine print” that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes. We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department.


Sathya Sai Baba, Guru With Millions of Followers, Dies at 84

PUTTAPARTHI, India — Sathya Sai Baba, a Hindu guru revered by millions worldwide, died Sunday near his ashram here. He was 84.

His death, after nearly a month of hospital treatment, was announced by the ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, in the south of India.

Sai Baba had ashrams in more than 126 countries, and his devotees in India included high-level politicians, movie stars, world-class athletes, and industrialists.

He was said to perform miracles, conjuring Rolex watches and “vibhuti” — a sacred ash that his followers applied to their foreheads — from his halo of frizzy hair.

Rationalist critics led campaigns against him, calling him a charlatan and his miracles fake. And several news reports accused him of sexually abusing followers — accusations that he denied, and for which he was never charged.

Sai Baba was also mired in controversy. A 2004 BBC television program featured interviews with American men who said he had fondled them and exposed himself to them while asserting that it was part of a healing ritual. Though he denied the accusations and was never charged with any crime, the reports led some followers to break with him.



Abilene Vice President for Student Life


Harding President



























Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity
Published: April 18, 2011

WACO, Tex. — Battles for acceptance by gay and lesbian students have erupted in the places that expect it the least: the scores of Bible colleges and evangelical Christian universities that, in their founding beliefs, see homosexuality as a sin.

Decades after the gay rights movement swept the country’s secular schools, more gays and lesbians at Christian colleges are starting to come out of the closet, demanding a right to proclaim their identities and form campus clubs, and rejecting suggestions to seek help in suppressing homosexual desires.

But in their efforts to assert themselves, whether in campus clubs or more publicly on Facebook, gay students are running up against administrators who defend what they describe as God’s law on sexual morality, and who must also answer to conservative trustees and alumni.

Facing vague prohibitions against “homosexual behavior,” many students worry about what steps — holding hands with a partner, say, or posting a photograph on a gay Web site — could jeopardize scholarships or risk expulsion.

“It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object,” said Adam R. Short(right), a freshman engineering student at Baylor University who is openly gay and has fought, without success, for campus recognition of a club to discuss sexuality and fight homophobia.

...the more typical response has come from Baylor, which with 15,000 students is the country’s largest Baptist university, and which has refused to approve the sexuality forum.

“Baylor expects students not to participate in advocacy groups promoting an understanding of sexuality that is contrary to biblical teaching,” said Lori Fogleman, a university spokeswoman.

At Abilene Christian University in Texas, several students are openly gay, and many more are pushing for change behind the scenes. Last spring, the university refused to allow formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.

“We want to engage these complex issues, and to give help and guidance to students who are struggling with same-sex attraction,” said Jean-Noel Thompson, the university’s vice president for student life. “But we are not going to embrace any advocacy for gay identity.”

At Harding University in Arkansas, which like Abilene Christian is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, half a dozen current and former students posted an online magazine in early March featuring personal accounts of the travails of gay students. The university blocked access to the site on the university’s Internet server, which helped cause the site to go viral in the world of religious universities.

At chapel, Harding’s president, David B. Burks, told students that “we are not trying to control your thinking,” but that “it was important for us to block the Web site because of what it says about Harding, who we are, and what we believe.” Mr. Burks called the site’s very name,, offensive.

Most evangelical colleges say they do not discipline students who admit to same-sex attractions — only those who engage in homosexual “behavior” or “activity.” (On evangelical campuses, sexual intercourse outside marriage is forbidden for everyone.)

Amanda Lee Genaro said she was ejected in 2009 from North Central University, a Pentecostal Bible college in Minneapolis as she became more assertive about her gay identity. She had struggled with her feelings for years, Ms. Genaro said, when she was inspired by a 2006 visit to the campus of SoulForce, a national group of gay religious-college alumni that tries to spark campus discussion.

“I thought, wow, maybe God loves me even if I like women,” Ms. Genaro recalled. In 2009, after she quit “reparative therapy,” came out on MySpace and admitted to having a romantic, if unconsummated, relationship with a woman, the university suspended her, saying she could reapply in a year if she had rejected homosexuality. She transferred to a non-Christian school.

Gay students say they are often asked why they are attending Christian colleges at all. But the question, students say, is unfair. Many were raised in intensely Christian homes with an expectation of attending a religious college and long fought their homosexuality. They arrive at school, as one of the Harding Web authors put it, “hoping that college would turn us straight, and then once we realized that this wasn’t happening, there was nothing you could do about it.”

“I’m lonely,” said Taylor Schmitt, in his second year at Abilene Christian after arriving with a full scholarship and a hope that his inner self might somehow change. By the end of his first year, Mr. Schmitt said, he accepted his homosexuality. He switched to English from the Bible studies department, which, he said, “reeked of the past deceptions and falsehoods I’d created around myself.”

Some of the gay students end up disillusioned with Christianity, even becoming atheists, while others have searched for more liberal churches.

David Coleman was suspended by North Central University in his senior year in 2005, after he distributed fliers advertising a gay-support site and admitted to intimate relations (but not sexual intercourse) with other men.

He calls the university’s environment “spiritually violent.”




For Passover, Quinoa Is Popular, but Kosher?
The New York Times: April 18, 2011

The big Passover questions are the same every year, and easy enough to answer, starting with “Why is this night different from all others?”

Little questions, though, sometimes arise that can stump even the experts. Like, what to do about the quinoa situation?

Quinoa is a grainlike South American crop newly popular among health-conscious North Americans. In the last decade, observant Jews have welcomed it with something like the thrill of seeing a new face at the Passover table after several thousand years of conversation with matzo and potatoes.

Tasty, gluten-free, protein-rich — and, by many accounts, kosher for Seders lacking in carbohydrate variety — it has become a staple of Passover cookbooks. Gourmet magazine hailed it in 2008 as the new “belle of the Passover ball.”

If only life were so simple.

As with most matters under the purview of Jewish law — from how to turn on the lights during the Sabbath, to what kind of cough syrup is certified kosher — a debate has emerged among rabbinical experts about quinoa’s bona fides as a kosher alternative to leavened-grain products like bread. And this has led to confusion and concern in many Passover kitchens around the country on the eve of the holiday, which begins on Monday evening.

“I went to hear two rabbis discussing the quinoa situation at my synagogue last week,” said Arlene J. Mathes-Scharf, a food scientist in Sharon, Mass., who specializes in kosher food and operates a popular consumer Web site, (Kashrut is the Hebrew word for kosher dietary law.)

“They had basically the same information, but they came to opposite conclusions,” Ms. Mathes-Scharf said. “Typical.”

Her hot line has received hundreds of “anxious inquiries” on the topic, Ms. Mathes-Scharf said






















A Strongman Found Support in Prominent U.S. Conservative Chridtians in the U.S.
The New york Times: April 12, 2011

The Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who was finally captured on Monday, defied nearly everybody: the United States, the European Union and the African Union. But right to the end, Mr. Gbagbo had defenders in the West, and they notably included several prominent conservative Christians.

It is impossible to know for sure if the group sided with Mr. Gbagbo because he is a Christian; his rival, Alassane Ouattara, recognized internationally as the winner of last year’s presidential election, is a Muslim. But to judge by the recent comments of Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster, and Glenn Beck, the Fox News television personality, religion did play a role in their support.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, Mr. Inhofe, a Republican, is known for his interest in African affairs. He visited Ivory Coast nine times and knew Mr. Gbagbo and his wife, Simone.

Asked about Mr. Inhofe’s interest in Ivory Coast, Jared Young, a spokesman, said Friday that “the Gbagbos have participated in the National Prayer Breakfast” in Washington “and Senator Inhofe is involved in the National Prayer Breakfast.”

Later on Friday, speaking by telephone, Mr. Inhofe said of Mr. Gbagbo, “We are both Christian, but I also have close relationships with a lot of presidents who are Muslim.”

Asked which Muslim presidents he was close to, Mr. Inhofe said, presumably to an aide, “Let’s see, go ask Mark which of the presidents is Muslim.” About a minute later, Mr. Inhofe mentioned two Muslim African leaders as “friends,” including Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania.

“He is a Muslim, and I am very close to him,” Mr. Inhofe said.

Asked about accusations that Mr. Gbagbo’s military supporters had committed atrocities, Mr. Inhofe said: “I don’t believe it. If you learn and know these people, you draw your own conclusions.”

Last Tuesday, Mr. Robertson said on “The 700 Club,” CBN’s main news program, that Mr. Gbagbo was the victim of voter fraud. “The U.N. has said the other guy won. Well, that may be, but the problem is, is that this is a country now that has been run by a Christian that is going to be into the hands of Muslims. So it’s one more Muslim nation that’s going to be building up that ring of Shariah law around the Middle East.”


Mr. Beck of Fox News is a Mormon, while Mr. Inhofe and Mr. Robertson are evangelical Protestants. He, too, put a religious spin on Mr. Gbagbo’s fight. Mr. Beck defended Mr. Gbagbo’s intransigence by saying that Mr. Gbagbo feared that Mr. Ouattara “is going to round up all” of Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters and “kill them all.”

Mr. Gbagbo, who was known for religious language in his speeches, identified himself as the Christian candidate, both in Ivory Coast and abroad. There were reports that after the November election, Mr. Gbagbo and his wife were advised by their pastors that only God could remove them from power.



Justice Kagan Dissents
The New York Times: April 9, 2011

In the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling about a school-choice program in Arizona, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion leaves intact a program that has disbursed almost $350 million of state funds, most of it to schools choosing students on the basis of religion.

The holding all but overrules a landmark decision of the Warren court, Flast v. Cohen. As Justice Elena Kagan says powerfully in her first dissent, “by ravaging Flast in this way,” the majority “damages one of this nation’s defining constitutional commitments.”

Justice Kennedy, in an opinion clearly intended to overturn legal precedent, says that the program’s financing comes from taxpayers taking advantage of this credit, not from the state, so the taxpayers bringing the lawsuit can claim no harm from the state and lacked standing to sue. To Justice Kagan, “this novel distinction,” has “as little basis in principle as it has in our precedent.” Whether a state finances a program with cash grants or targeted tax breaks, the effect is the same. Taxpayers bear the cost.

Since the Flast case, she writes, “no court — not one — has differentiated between these sources of financing in deciding about standing.” In five cases where taxpayers challenged tax expenditures, the court has dealt with the merits “without questioning the plaintiffs’ standing.” The court has relied on some of these decisions as “exemplars of jurisdiction” in other cases. (“Pause on that for a moment,” the justice entreats.)

When this case was argued last fall, the convolutions of the Arizona program seemed intended to mask its violation of the Constitution.

The court’s ruling is another cynical sleight of hand, which will reduce access to federal courts while advancing endorsement of religion.


Pastor Who Burned Koran Says He Was Duped Into Holding Back
The New York Times: April 16, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The pastor who stoked violence in Afghanistan earlier this month by burning a Koran in March produced a recording on Saturday that he said proved he was deceived last September when he agreed to cancel plans to burn 200 copies of the Koran.

The pastor, Terry Jones, played the recording — which he said was made on Sept. 9 on his assistant’s iPhone — of a conversation between him and Imam Muhammad Musri, an Islamic leader in Florida. At the time, Mr. Musri was trying to persuade Mr. Jones not to burn the Korans as part of a demonstration on Sept. 11.

After the Sept. 9 meeting, Mr. Jones announced that as part of a deal brokered by Mr. Musri to relocate a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, he would not burn the 200 Korans. But almost immediately after the announcement, Mr. Musri, who had attended a news conference with Mr. Jones, told reporters that he had made no such deal and no such promise. The pastor, he said, had backed down because of pressure from President Obama and the rest of the world.

“This does definitely prove he lied to the news media and has lied the whole time,” Mr. Jones said from behind his desk, on which rested a pistol, a Bible and a rental copy of the film “Se7en.”




























































at the
Dove World Outreach Center










Afghans Avenge Florida Koran Burning, Killing 12
The New York Times: April 1, 2011

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.

The dead included at least seven United Nations workers — four Nepalese guards and three Europeans from Romania, Sweden and Norway — according to United Nations officials in New York. One was a woman. Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials, said that at least two of the dead had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also killed.

The attack was the deadliest for the United Nations in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009, when Taliban suicide bombers invaded a guesthouse in Kabul.

Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters.

Friday’s episode began when three mullahs, addressing worshipers at Friday Prayer inside the Blue Mosque here, one of Afghanistan’s holiest places, urged people to take to the streets to agitate for the arrest of Terry Jones (right), the Florida pastor who oversaw the burning of a Koran on March 20.

Otherwise, said the most prominent of them, Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli, Afghanistan should cut off relations with the United States. “Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished,” he said.

U.S. Koran Tensions Erupt in Kashmir
September 2010

Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

Pastor Who Burned Koran Demands Retribution
The New York Times: April 1, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Before a Koran was burned at his modest church here on March 20, the pastor Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial of the holy book in which he presided from the pulpit as judge. The prosecutor was a Christian who had converted from Islam. An imam from Dallas defended the Koran.

Sitting in judgment was a jury of 12 members of Mr. Jones’s church, the Dove World Outreach Center.

After listening to arguments from both sides, the jury pronounced the Koran guilty of five “crimes against humanity,” including the promotion of terrorist acts and “the death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith.”

Punishment was determined by the results of an online poll. Besides burning, the options included shredding, drowning and facing a firing squad. Mr. Jones, a nondenominational evangelical pastor, said voters had chosen to set fire to the book, according to a video of the proceedings.

Mr. Jones said in an interview with Agence France-Presse on Friday that he was “devastated” by the killings of 12 people in a violent protest
in Afghanistan when a mob, enraged by the burning of a Koran by Mr. Jones’s church, attacked the United Nations compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. “We don’t feel responsible for that,” he told the news service.

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."

Deadly Protests for Koran Burning Reach Kandahar
The New York Times: April 2, 2011

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Violent protests over the burning of a Koran in Florida flared for a second straight day, with young men rampaging through the streets of this southern capital, flying Taliban flags and wielding sticks.

Nine people were killed and 81 injured in the disturbances, all from bullet wounds, according to Abdul Qayoum Pakhla, head of the provincial health department. One of the dead was a police officer. Kandahar has long been the heartland of the Taliban insurgency but has been relatively quiet in recent months since a surge of additional American troops arrived here.

The protests here came a day after a mob overran the headquarters of the United Nations in Mazar-i-Sharif Friday, killing 12 persons, seven of them international staff.
The mob gathered after three mullahs at Friday Prayer urged action in response to the Koran burning by a pastor, Terry Jones, in Florida on March 20

Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the rioters attacked the Zarghona Ana High School for Girls, burning some classrooms and a school bus. The school is supported by the United States Agency for International Development. The Taliban have opposed girls’ education.


Afghans Protest Koran Burning for Third Day
The New York Times: April 3, 2011

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghan protests over the burning of a Koran in Florida continued Sunday for a third day, with three more people killed here.

That brought to 24 the number of people killed in Afghanistan since Friday, when a mob overran United Nations offices in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing seven United Nations international staff members

Elizabeth Taylor reveals James Dean's childhood molestation
New York Post: March 26, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor
nearly took a James Dean secret to the grave -- but decided the bombshell that her "Giant" co-star had been molested by a boyhood pastor could be told after she was gone.

"I'm going to tell you something, but it's off the record until I die. OK?" the screen legend told writer Kevin Sessums in a 1997 interview. "When Jimmy was 11 . . . he began to be molested by his minister. I think that haunted him the rest of his life. In fact, I know it did."

Sessums published Taylor's quotes yesterday on The Daily Beast.

Over the years, several Dean biographers have claimed he had a longstanding consensual sexual relationship with the Rev. James DeWeerd, a Wesleyan pastor in Fairmount, Ind., who had a penchant for young boys.

Dean was 9 when his mother died of cancer and his dad sent him to live in Fairmount.

NYC Grandmother Pleads Guilty In Voodoo Ritual
CBS 2/AP: March 24, 2011

NEW YORK — A New York City grandmother of a 6-year-old girl who was severely burned in a voodoo ritual has admitted she did nothing to stop it.

Sylvenie Thessier (right), of Queens, pleaded guilty Wednesday to endangering the welfare of a child. Under a plea deal, she faces three years in prison.

Prosecutors said the child’s mother, Marie Lauradin (right), sprayed the girl with rum and set her on fire in June 2009 to rid her of evil spirits.

They said the 71-year-old grandmother later doused the girl with water and put her to bed without seeking medical help.

The girl’s mother was set to go on trial on charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

(Full article)
















'Pole dancing for Jesus' class mixes faith and fitness; Church going women offered free class
DAILY NEWS: Thursday, March 24th 2011

Women in Texas aren't pole-dancing for tips. They're pole-dancing for Jesus.

In a dance studio in the town of Spring, outside of Houston, women are taking on the now-popular fitness trend of stripper aerobics – but instead of moving to a pulsing beat, they're grinding along to Christian music.

"Pole Fitness for Jesus" was the brainchild of Crystal Deans, the owner and class instructor at of Best Shape of Your Life.

Deans, a former "dancer," told MyFox in Houston that she quit the pole-dancing business years ago.
"It's not something I felt very rewarded with … I decided I didn't want to do any more, so I decided to take the part that I liked about that and bring it here," she said.

She said her goal is to teach fellow female churchgoers how to get fit, work their legs and core and to make a connection with God. The goal is not to teach women to be strippers.

"We do the upbeat contemporary Christian music because people have to bring their church program to get into the class, so we basically are just continuing the whole worship thing here," she said.
According to the studio's website, the first eleven women that bring in their church program every 2nd Sunday of the month receive a free class.

On other days, the studio offers regular pole-dancing classes without a religious bent.

Mixing pole dancing and religion has raised some eyebrows. But Dean said that the Lord is the only person who can judge her choice of fitness routine.

"People who want to sit there and judge it, you know, like, 'Well, that is sacrilegious,' or you know," Dean told News KXAN in Austin.

"That doesn't make you a good Christian when you judge other people."


LES 'Porn' exhibit riles Jewish neighbors
The New York Post: March 17, 2011

A racy new exhibit on display at a Lower East Side art gallery is causing great tsuris among its Orthodox Jewish neighbors.

Members of a nearby synagogue and Hebrew school are outraged over the lurid artwork on display in the Allegra LaViola Gallery's new "Pornucopia" exhibit, which features a slew of sexy nude images of men and women, some having sex.

Some of the "porn" pieces are clearly visible through the East Broadway gallery's windows -- and people are fuming that kids are being exposed to smut.

"This is disgusting. This is absolutely unacceptable," said Miriam Katz, a teacher at the nearby Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem. "My students are innocent children, and they walk by and shouldn't be exposed to this disgrace. This is pornography.

"You see in quite detail the anatomy of women. There's a yeshiva there with boys who pass by every day."

Gallery owner Allegra LaViola, 30, last week defended "Pornucopia," saying people living in a cosmopolitan place like New York should be used to such displays.

"Then they asked if I would put a curtain up, I said . . . we actually live in New York City, not in the woods of Maine."

Governor of Tokyo

Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan
Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, tells reporters the disaster was
"punishment from heaven"

Associated Press: Mon Mar 14, 2011

TAKAJO, Japan –
A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Millions of people faced a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the northeast coast devastated by Friday's disasters. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity and its fuel rods were fully exposed, raising fears of a meltdown.

On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline. Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.
In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.

While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.

The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy.

at 3













Celestial Sales for Boy’s Tale of Heaven
Published: March 11, 2011

Just two months shy of his fourth birthday, Colton Burpo, the son of an evangelical pastor in Imperial, Neb., was rushed into emergency surgery with a burst appendix.

He woke up with an astonishing story: He had died and gone to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather; the biblical figure Samson; John the Baptist; and Jesus, who had eyes that “were just sort of a sea-blue and they seemed to sparkle,” Colton, now 11 years old, recalled.

Colton’s father, Todd (left), has turned the boy’s experience into a 163-page book, “Heaven Is for Real,” which has become a sleeper paperback hit of the winter, dominating best-seller lists and selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

On the New York Times best-seller list for paperback nonfiction last Sunday, “Heaven Is for Real” was No. 1. The book remains in the top spot this coming Sunday.

The book has sold just as strongly in national chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble as it has in Christian specialty shops, said Matt Baugher (left), the vice president and publisher of Thomas Nelson.

“We all are perhaps desperate to know what is on the other side of the veil after we die,” Mr. Baugher said, adding that his initial skepticism about the Burpo family’s story was short-lived. “This was a very down-to-earth, conservative, quote-unquote normal Midwestern family. We became fully convinced that this story was valid. And also that it was a great story that would just take off."

Todd Burpo wrote the book with Lynn Vincent
(right), who collaborated with Sarah Palin on “Going Rogue.” Mr. Burpo, the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, a farming community in southwest Nebraska, said in an interview that he had shouldered some criticism over it.
















Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message
The New York Times: March 7, 2011

FORT WORTH — Brigitte Gabriel bounced to the stage at a Tea Party convention last fall. She greeted the crowd with a loud Texas “Yee-HAW,” then launched into the same gripping personal story she has told in hundreds of churches, synagogues and conference rooms across the United States:

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”

Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of Long Island, will conduct hearings Thursday in Washington on a similar theme: that the United States is infiltrated by Muslim radicals. Mr. King was the first guest last month on a new cable television show that Ms. Gabriel co-hosts with Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT! and a Republican consultant who helped build the Christian Coalition, once the most potent political organization on the Christian right.

Ms. Gabriel, 46, who uses a pseudonym, casts her organization as a nonpartisan, nonreligious national security group. Yet the organization draws on three rather religious and partisan streams in American politics: evangelical Christian conservatives, hard-line defenders of Israel (both Jews and Christians) and Tea Party Republicans.

She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination. She has found a receptive audience among Americans who are
legitimately worried about the spread of terrorism.

Brian Fishman (left), a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said:

“When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”

Role Playing

Taliban spokesman






























Pashtun Boys’ Video Exalts Suicide Raids
The New York Times: March 6, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — Boys almost always look up to their elder brothers and their friends, but what if your brother is a suicide bomber or one in training — do you want to train, too?

A new and disturbing video posted on YouTube that has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times shows a group of Afghan or Pakistani Pashtun boys role-playing the last moments in the life of a suicide bomber. Whether it is meant as a rehearsal or as a form of propaganda for the Taliban is impossible to say, but the message is clear:

This is something to aspire to.

The 84-second video shows a boy dressed in black with a black scarf over his face embracing other boys, probably from his religious school, or madrasa, because several are wearing the round cap typical of Pashtun madrasa students in southeastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, said Afghans who had seen it.

When he finishes saying farewell, he walks resolutely toward a hatless boy in a white garment, who appears to represent an official. The boy in white holds up his hand as if to say stop, but the suicide bomber keeps going and the other boy stumbles backward.

Then the bomber kicks up a cloud of dust, to represent the explosion, and three other boys, who wear brown garments and appear to be playing members of the security forces, fall down with their arms outspread, as does the boy playing the official. The camera lingers over their faces, and in a reminder that this is playacting, one of boys is almost smiling, but then adopts a more sober look.

The music in the background is a favorite Taliban song:
My beloved is going to fight, so he has long hair
He carries his machine gun on his shoulder, which looks so fine on him.
He is going to battle, going to fight.

A Taliban spokesman said the insurgents did not make the video. And though he expressed regrets that such things had become reality even for children, he made it clear that the Taliban approved. “We are saddened that children are playing this game, but they should do it because this is a war that was imposed upon us,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman for the northern and eastern parts of the country.

Although Mr. Mujahid said that the minimum approved age for fighters was 18 or 19, boys younger than 18 have been arrested on the battlefield. A 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber from North Waziristan was recently apprehended by the Afghan National Directorate of Intelligence.

“The positive aspect of the video is that it motivates the children for jihadi ideas,” Mr. Mujahid said. “The negative point is that it affects their lives.

“It gives them courage for this kind of work, but children should not do this kind work at this age. But they should have an idea about jihad in their mind, and they should prepare themselves for sacrifice.”

Click to view

Seven-year-old gymnast balances religious faith and sports

NEWARK, N.J. — When 7-year-old Amalya Knapp took the beam at the New Jersey state gymnastics finals last month, her excellent performance symbolized a far more complicated balancing act.

Although she would have ranked fifth in her age group, eligible for a medal, her individual scores were discounted. She was unable to compete on a Saturday because of her Orthodox Jewish family's observance of the Sabbath.

"I was upset," Amalya said, "but my mother told me there are decisions you have to make."

USA Gymnastics made an effort to accommodate her and let her compete the next day, Sunday, Feb. 13, and permitted her scores to factor into her team's overall rankings.

But the national governing body held that because she hadn't competed at the same time as girls of her skill level and age group, her scores: 9.7 on vault, 9.575 floor, 9.5 beam and 8.75 bars — would not count toward individual medals or rankings.

The news disappointed the second-grader, a member of the US Gym team of the United States Gymnastics Development Center in Leonia, N.J. She had placed first in the all-around category in five previous competitions.

"She tried so hard, and practiced for months, and really put in her all, but just couldn't get that final award for her efforts," said Chavie Knapp, Amalya's mother. Knapp emphasized that her family appreciated USA Gymnastics' efforts to discuss the issue with them and try to reach a compromise.

"I wasn't bitter, and wasn't angry and worked with the organization and tried to work within the system," Knapp said.

Knapp said she and her husband encourage Amalya to engage in the sports and activities she loves, including ice skating lessons and playing for a Jewish youth soccer league that never practices or competes on Saturdays.

Amalya said she wants one day to be an Olympic gymnast.

If she had to choose again between competing or observing the Sabbath, she said, "I would do the religion things."

(Full article)

Star Mormon basketball player suspended from BYU team for having sex with girlfriend
DAILY MAIL: 4th March 2011

• 6ft 9in Brandon Davies violated BYU's honour code

• Team ranked third in the country before his suspension

• BYU lost to unranked team in first game without him

A star college basketball player at one of the country’s most respected teams has been suspended for having sex with his girlfriend.

Brandon Davies, a 6ft 9in centre for Mormon college Brigham Young University (BYU), violated the school’s honour code banning sex before marriage.

The college, in Provo, Utah, obliges students to live a ‘chaste and virtuous life’.

Davies, averaging 11.1 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds per game this season, was playing for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints school.

The team, ranked third nationwide before its shock 82-64 loss on Wednesday to unranked New Mexico, will now be without Davies for at least the rest of the season.

He admitted what he had done to officials on Monday and his coach Dave Rose (right) said the dismissal was a ‘surprise to everyone’, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

‘Brandon’s heart is in the right place,’ Mr Rose said. ‘I think that he wants to continue his education here at BYU. There are a lot of things that have yet to be determined.’

Davies is being allowed to remain in school while it reviews the situation, but his future there ‘has yet to be determined’, said a BYU spokesman.












DUI Priest Ignatius Kury offers oral sex to cops, invokes Oprah Winfrey March 3rd, 2011

Father Ignatius Kury of the Holy Ghost Ukranian Byzantine Catholic Church in Akron,Ohio went on a drunken rant after being arrested for Driving under the influence. The Priest went so far as to offer police officers oral sex in exchange for his release, and claimed that Oprah Winfrey was on her way to get him out of jail.

Early Monday morning Father Kury was arrested for Driving under the influence (DUI) after crashing his car in Brimfield Township, Ohio. After his arrest the priest became so erratic that officers decided to video record his activity while in a holding cell.

Brimfield Township Police Chief David Blough reports they began the video tape "Because of the fact that one of my officers walked by the holding cell and he was exposing himself."

Kury is heard on the tape saying, "I'll give you a sermon on the mount."

According to Chief Blough, the priest's rant lasted over 20 minutes during which he threatened and propositioned officers.

Kury is heard saying, "I'll pay you whatever you want. What do you want? Want me to give you a [blow job]? Is that what you want?" "Do you want me to be a sexual slave?"

Aside from offering police oral sex and service as a sex slave, the priest also promised that Oprah Winfrey would rescue him, and at one point even offered a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Ban

The Ethicist

A Faith-Biased Decision
The New York Times: March 5, 2011

I work at a wholesale distributor. One of our good customers from India asked if the holy man from his temple could stop by to bless our place of business. We accepted his offer. He then added this caveat: The holy man would prefer that no woman enter that area of the building during the ceremony. Some women on our staff were insulted by our willingness to abide by this restriction. The holy man ended up canceling, but we are still left with some bitterness. Should I have been more considerate? - NAME WITHHELD, CONNECTICUT

By asking those women to leave the premises and excluding them from the blessings, you in effect told them that you place a greater value on the comfort of some random visitor or on the business of a loyal customer — or perhaps on some religious beliefs that aren’t even your own — than you do on the feelings of the people who work for you every day. I can appreciate that you meant no offense, but you did cross a line. Consider this, then, an opportunity to learn more about your employees’ feelings, not from me but from them.

How about starting with: “Clearly what I did offended you, and I’m sorry. But to be honest, I don’t understand it as well as I’d like to. Explain it to me so I don’t make the same mistake twice.” That might get things started.

By the way, Judi Conti of the National Employment Law Project says that though your actions weren’t illegal, they could be used as evidence in any future sex-discrimination suit. But in this case, your employees’ own perspective is probably more valuable than that of the law.

(Full text)



Reverend is accused of stabbing another pastor in Paterson
The Associated Press: Thursday, March 03, 2011

PATERSON — Religious leaders in northern New Jersey are shocked after a pastor was accused of stabbing another.

Authorities say the Rev. Edward Fairley stormed into a Paterson home and stabbed the Rev. Simone Shields in the face and torso while she was getting her hair done Tuesday.

Authorities say they found Fairley on the street, soaked in blood with the knife in his hand. The 59-year-old is charged with attempted murder.

Shields is in critical but stable condition.

Police told The Record newspaper the pair worked at the Koinonia and Christian Ministries that Fairley started 15 years ago.

Police also told the newspaper at some point they were in a relationship. Fairley is married and Shields is single.

It's not clear if Fairley has retained a lawyer.

(Full article)

Cosmic Dance


March 2, 2011

A Hindu holy man smokes marijuana at Pashupati Temple in Kathmandu. Hindu holy men from Nepal and India come to the temple to take part in the Shivaratri festival which falls on March 2. It is one of the biggest Hindu festivals dedicated to Lord Shiva and is celebrated by devotees all over the world, with holy men smoking marijuana and some smearing their bodies with ashes and praying.


Council Speaker

NYC Mayor

Truth in Pregnancy Counseling
The New York Times: March 2, 2011

The New York City Council is about to vote on, and should pass, an important measure that addresses the problem of crisis pregnancy centers that masquerade as licensed medical facilities but are, in fact, fronts for anti-abortion groups that interfere with the ability of women to make timely, well-informed decisions about their reproductive health.

There are about a dozen such centers around the city. With examination rooms, and staff members dressed in medical attire collecting insurance information and administering pregnancy tests, ultrasound exams and sonograms, these centers create a phony impression that they are licensed medical facilities. They draw women in with advertising that appears to promise neutral abortion counseling.

In truth, they are not real medical clinics at all. Rather, they are operated by abortion opponents largely to talk women out of having one, often using inaccurate information, like the medically refuted assertion that abortions cause higher rates of breast cancer.

Sponsored by Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, a Democrat of Manhattan, and backed by Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the bill would provide a modest, though important, measure of consumer protection.

Crisis pregnancy centers masquerading as medical offices would be required to disclose in their ads and in signs posted in their waiting rooms whether they have a licensed medical provider supervising services and whether they provide or make referrals for prenatal care, abortion and emergency contraception.

All personal and health information they collect would be subject to confidentiality rules, with penalties imposed for unauthorized disclosures. A similar measure in Baltimore was recently struck down by a federal judge. But there’s ample reason to question the judge’s conclusion that its disclosure requirements interfered with First Amendment-protected speech. In any case, the bill now before the New York City Council differs in significant respects.

Approving the measure by a wide margin would aid women in New York City, and perhaps inspire other cities.

(Full editorial)

Church Youth Group Leader

Church Youth Group Leader Arrested for Raping 12-Year-Old 2/28/2011

The youth group leader of a small Long Island church has pleaded not guilty to charges he raped an unidentified 12-year-old girl, according to police and prosecutors.

Juan Carlos Amaya, 30, was ordered held on $250,000 bail at his arraignment in a Suffolk County court in Central Islip.

Outside court, Amaya's cousin and other supporters wept and said the charges were baseless.

"It's just not true," said Glenda Castillo, who also worked with the youth group.

Amaya met the victim in the youth group at Iglesia Evangelica Refugio De Salvacion church in Patchogue and became her mentor, said police.
"She would speak to him about daily life and the problems she was having,"said Detective Sgt. Dan Molloy of the Suffolk police department.

Last May, Amaya lured the girl to his Bellport home, police said, and raped her.

(Full story)

Fatal Brooklyn fire started by voodoo sex rite
The New York Post: February 26, 2011

A wild candlelit sex ritual between a Brooklyn woman and her voodoo priest got so hot and heavy, they ended up torching their clothes and sheets -- sparking the nasty fire that killed a retired teacher and left 100 people homeless last week, sources said yesterday.

The unidentified client was just looking for some good luck in her life when she forked over $300 to the horny holy man at his East 29th Street apartment in East Flatbush last Saturday, sources said. "She had problems in her life, and she wanted them taken care of," a law-enforcement source said. "He poured rum on the floor near the door to prevent evil spirits from getting inside," the source said. "[He told her] in order for it to work, they had to have sex."

The witch doctor and his voodoo doll then proceeded to romp on a bed that was perilously surrounded by a large number of ritual candles, sources said.

"She told them [fire marshals] that while she was having sex, she was getting aroused, she was getting into it and she didn't realize that their activity had knocked over some of the candles around the bed," the source said. The candles ignited linen and clothes on the floor, and the room quickly caught fire.

"The sex must have been so good they didn't see it coming," said one law-enforcement source. "Maybe they should have practiced safe sex."

David and Bathsheba




Brooklyn ‘Rabbi’ Accused Of Molesting Girl Since She Was 12
Community Upset By Charges Against Nechemya Weberman
By Pablo Guzmán, CBS 2 News
Associated Press: February 25, 2011

NEW YORK – A father was convinced his 16-year-old daughter was having a relationship with a 17-year-old boy, so the father set up a hidden camera in the house. What he recorded shocked him — what he saw the daughter doing to please the young man.

They are Orthodox Jews, in Brooklyn. The father had already taken the daughter to seek counseling with Rabbi Nechemya Weberman in years past. Just as he had taken her older sister. It is a common practice in the community for a respected person to be a counselor, or serve as a therapist. Weberman is affiliated, police said, with Brooklyn’s United Talmudic Community, a yeshiva.

Now, the father went to the Brooklyn DA’s office with the tape, and Rabbi Weberman. The Brooklyn DA’s office has set up special channels of communication to bridge cultural gaps that might be beneficial to both sides. However, the more that investigators talked to the parties involved — especially when they spoke with them separately — the more that there were questions which indicated something was not right. Around Feb. 16, the girl told a counselor at school that the rabbi has been raping her for years. The counselor reported it, and when the investigators talked to her again, she claimed there were at least 16 incidents at 263 Classon Avenue, in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, which serves as Weberman’s home and office. It is where the counseling sessions took place. The girl told investigators it began in 2007, when she was 12; and continued through 2010.

Detectives assembled sufficient preliminary evidence to start a case; and arrested Weberman on Wednesday. He was brought to Brooklyn Criminal Court that night, and told he was being charged with rape, endangering the welfare of a child, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct against a child, and engaging in a criminal sexual act.

The Orthodox Jewish community that has gone to Weberman as a therapist and counselor, especially for young people, are in shock. Reeling. The debate has even gone to blogs on the Internet. But Weberman’s lawyer, George Farkas, told me, people should not jump to conclusions, warning that this all began within what he called “a dysfunctional family,” referring to the father setting up the hidden camera and the possibility that the daughter is striking out in anger against her father, who is trying to shut down her relationship with her boyfriend and slam Weberman in the process.


Elderly Man Severely Burned After Catching Fire At Long Island Church
CBSNew York: February 24, 2011

HICKSVILLE, N.Y.— A Long Island priest was being credited with saving the life of one of his parishioners on Thursday after an elderly man accidently set himself on fire near the altar.

“When I got into the church the gentleman was on fire back towards the chapel area. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, put him out and tried to keep him calm until paramedics and fire department arrived,” Father Henry Reid.
A church regular, 89-year-old Vito Badalamente is now fighting for his life, after catching fire near the altar of Holy Family Catholic Church early Thursday morning.

Nassau County Police Detective Sgt. James Skopek said his clothes caught fire while lighting candles in the back of the church.

NY Man, 89, Burned In Votive Candle Fire Dies
Associated Press: February 27, 2011

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. — An 89-year-old New York man has died from injuries he suffered after his clothes caught on fire as he was lighting a votive candle in his wife’s memory.

Police say Vito Badalamente died late Friday night at the burn unit of Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. He had third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body and was hospitalized in critical condition.


Telangana Region
in the state of
Andhra Pradesh, India
Feb. 23, 2011

Indian pro-Telangana medical staff members of Gandhi Hospital perform death rituals over an effigy of India's central government.



Mother Of Girl In Anti-Abortion Billboard Wants Apology
CBSNewYork/AP: March 5, 2011

A New Jersey mother who was shocked to learn that her six-year-old daughter’s face was on a provocative anti-abortion billboard in SoHo said she’s angry she hasn’t received an apology from the group responsible for the advertisement.

Tricia Fraser (right with daughter Anissa), of Paterson
, told The New York Daily News she was outraged by the ad. It said, “The most dangerous place for African-Americans is in the womb.” The billboard was erected about a half-mile from a Planned Parenthood facility on Bleecker Street.

Fraser says the picture was taken at a modeling agency two years ago. She says she knew it could wind up being used as a stock photograph but didn’t expect anything like this.

The billboard was taken down after residents complained.

A spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group that created the ad, Life Always, says it won’t use the girl’s picture again.



NYC Council Speaker


NYC Public Advocate
















Controversial Anti-Abortion Billboard Causes Stir In SoHo
CBSNew York: February 23, 2011

NEW YORK A three-story high billboard put up in SoHo Tuesday night is causing quite a stir.

The billboard, located at the corner of Watts Street and Sixth Avenue, reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”

While the ad was intended to spark debate, for many, it’s simply sparked outrage. If the idea of advertising is to get your attention, the billboard doesn’t disappoint. It’s the combination of the girl and those words.

East Flatbush’s Daisy Frith’s initial reaction was typical.
“WHAT?” she said.

The billboard is part of a national campaign sponsored by the anti-abortion group “Life Always” and hangs about a half-mile from a Planned Parenthood facility on Bleecker Street. The Texas-based group claims Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods and that abortions among African-American women are three times that of the rest of the population.

“And I’m sure black women are going to respond, in large part, because they have only heard one side of the argumentation. They only see it from Planned Parenthood’s position of a woman’s right to choose, meaning that the only choice that a woman has is to abort the baby. That’s not the only choice!” said Pastor Stephen Broden from the anti-abortion group LifeAlways.

Pastor Broden said his group bought the billboard to get exactly this kind of debate going.

“That kind of billboard isn’t going to help you make an educated choice. It’s a little, emotionally planted,” said Taffeta Wood of Park Slope.

“Why in the world are they doing that in SoHo? If we had put it in Harlem, I guarantee you that we would have been ignored,” Broden said.
They have not been ignored.

“They are putting up a billboard sending … scaring women! Trying to make them fearful of a legal reproductive health care choice that they have in this country,” NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

The city’s public advocate, Bill Deblasio, called the billboard “grossly offensive” and wants it removed.

“It’s kind of a big scare tactic, it just doesn’t make sense,” one woman said, adding that a more constructive message could address social issues to reduce abortions.







Ad company pulls NYC anti-abortion billboard
Billboard pulled down after some black residents complained it was offensive
CBS/AP: February 24, 2011

NEW YORK - An outdoor advertising company has taken down a New York City anti-abortion billboard that showed a black girl along with the tagline, "The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb."

A manager for Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising confirmed Thursday the company had decided to take down the billboard. Some black residents said they found it offensive.

The Rev. Al Sharpton praised the decision and canceled plans to protest the billboard.

The removal was ordered three weeks before the billboard was scheduled to come down, CBS News station WCBS-TV in New York reports.

"They got a lot of attention, but they may not have gotten a lot of support," Sharpton told WCBS-TV.

The Texas-based group behind the billboard, Life Always, released a statement that it "strongly disagrees with Lamar Outdoor's decision to remove the billboard ... but the billboard's message holds true ... that abortion is outpacing life in the black community."













Demonstrations Held Outside King’s Office Ahead Of Hearings On Radical Islam
February 22, 2011

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. – Opponents and supporters chanted outside the district office of Long Island Congressman Peter King, who plans hearings on radical Islam.

About 200 noisy but peaceful protesters – split about evenly “for” and “against” – were watched by at least 30 police officers in Massapequa Park.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim opponents of the hearings had billed their event Tuesday as an interfaith “pray-in.”

“We stand here outside Peter King’s office because we believe that singling out an entire community, such as Muslim-Americans, is un-American,” one demonstrator said.

They’re urging the House Committee on Homeland Security chairman not to hold controversial hearings on what he calls the “radicalization” of some American Muslims.

“The nature of the investigation that representative King’s committee seeks to pursue has the potential of holding the Muslim community hostage to suspicion and fear mongering,” Rabbi Jerome Davidson said.

Protesters say the hearings, due to begin March 7, are nothing more than a witch hunt against Muslims.

“We need to heal divisions not create more separation,” Sister Jean Clark said.

Some protesters held up crosses or Muslim crescent symbols.

King supporters carried signs that read, “Don’t Tread on Me” and said the hearings will root out homegrown terrorists.

It wasn’t clear whether the Republican lawmaker was at his offi

(Full article)













4 Americans on hijacked yacht dead off Somalia
CBSNews:February 22, 2011

Four Americans taken hostage by Somali pirates off East Africa were shot and killed by their captors Monday, the U.S. military said, marking the first time U.S. citizens have been killed in a wave of pirate attacks plaguing the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean for years.

U.S. naval forces, who were trailing the Americans' captured yacht with four warships, quickly boarded the vessel after hearing the gunfire and tried to provide lifesaving care to the Americans, but they died of their wounds, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement from Tampa, Fla.

Two pirates died during the confrontation and 13 were captured and detained, the U.S. Central Command said. The remains of two other pirates who were already dead for some time were also found. The U.S. military didn't state how those two might have died.

The Quest was the home of Jean and Scott Adam (left), a couple from California who had been sailing around the world since December 2004 with a yacht full of Bibles. The two other Americans on board were Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle (right), of Seattle, Wash.

Adam, in his mid-60s, had been an associate producer in Hollywood when he turned in a spiritual direction and enrolled in the seminary a decade ago, said Robert K. Johnston, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and a friend of Adam's.

"He decided he could take his pension, and he wanted to serve God and humankind," he said.

Johnston and Adam worked together to start a film and theology institute. Adam also taught a class on church and media at the school.

Since 2004, the Adams lived on their yacht in Marina Del Rey for about half the year and the rest of the year they sailed around the world, often distributing Bibles in remote parts of the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America and French Polynesia, Johnston said.

Scott and Jane Adam documented their maritime missionary work on their website, S/V Quest Adventure Log.







Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics
The New York Times: February 21, 2011

TUNIS — The Tunisian revolution that overthrew decades of authoritarian rule has entered a delicate new phase in recent days over the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted here last week when military helicopters and security forces were called in to carry out an unusual mission: protecting the city’s brothels from a mob of zealots.

Police officers dispersed a group of rock-throwing protesters who streamed into a warren of alleyways lined with legally sanctioned bordellos shouting, “God is great!” and “No to brothels in a Muslim country!”

Five weeks after protesters forced out the country’s dictator, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are locked in a fierce and noisy debate about how far, or even whether, Islamism should be infused into the new government.

About 98 percent of the population of 10 million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes of the Arab world. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and women commonly wear bikinis on the country’s Mediterranean beaches. Wine is openly sold in supermarkets and imbibed at bars across the country.

Women’s groups say they are concerned that in the cacophonous aftermath of the revolution, conservative forces could tug the country away from its strict tradition of secularism.

Republican Speaker of the House

This Just In ...
The New York Times: February 20, 2011

Pressed by the show’s host, David Gregory, Mr. [John] Boehner [Speaker of the House] said — grudgingly — that an assurance from the government of Hawaii that Mr. Obama was born an American citizen was “good enough for me.” And that when Mr. Obama says he is a Christian, “I’ll take him at his word.” But he said it was “not my job” to try to do anything about it. “The American people have the right to think what they think,” he said.

Leave aside the fact that Mr. Boehner and other Republicans don’t hesitate to tell Americans what to think on any number of subjects, from evolution to prayer in schools. It is in fact his job to combat the ignorance, xenophobia and bigotry behind the birther faction.

If Mr. Boehner really wanted to lead, he could make this obvious but important point: Being a Muslim is not a disqualification for being president of the United States. This sort of racism stained American politics in earlier centuries. It has no place in this one.

U.S. Ambassador

Brazilian Ambassador

U.S.Blocks Security Council Censure of Israeli Settlements
The New York Times: February 19, 2011

UNITED NATIONS — The Obama administration vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Friday condemning Israeli settlement building in occupied territory as illegal, choosing not to alienate Israel and risking the anger of Arabs.

The lopsided vote in the Council, where among the 15 members only the United States voted no, as well as the more than 100 co-sponsors of the measure, underscored the isolation of the United States and Israel on the issue.

But the American ambassador, Susan E. Rice, said the veto should not be misconstrued as American support for further settlement construction, which the United States opposes.

Brazil’s ambassador, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, who holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, summed up the mood of the body by saying not only that settlements were an obstacle to peace, but also that adopting the resolution, which called for an immediate halt to further construction, would have “sent some key urgent messages.”

Among the messages, she said, were that further settlement construction threatens peace in the region, and that halting construction has been misrepresented as an Israeli concession while in fact international law requires it.



Message to Egypt From Qaeda’s No. 2
The New York Times: February 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda’s Egyptian-born second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, attacked secular rule in Egypt in an audio lecture released Friday, but the message appeared to have been recorded before President Hosni Mubarak stepped down last week.

Experts on the terrorist network have been eager to hear its reaction to the nonreligious demonstrations that led to the ouster of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt. But Mr. Zawahri’s lecture, though titled “A Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt,” referred to Mr. Mubarak as “the biggest Arab Zionist” and to his son Gamal as “the awaited leader,” suggesting that it was recorded before Mr. Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11.

Mr. Zawahri, believed to be hiding in Pakistan, was imprisoned and tortured in Egypt in the 1980s, shortly after Mr. Mubarak began his nearly 30-year rule.

(Full story)

Sectarian Clash Kills 5
REUTERS : February 11, 2011

Nigeria:Gunmen killed five people in central Nigeria late on Thursday when they stormed an agricultural college to steal cattle, the latest in a series of clashes between Christian and Muslim youths in the region. Youths from the Muslim Fulani ethnic group injured nine more people after breaking into a largely Christian farming college in the central Nigerian city of Jos, the police said. There have been almost daily clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau State, since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations, killing scores of people.

Sexy Iraqi














Mannequins Wear a Message for Iraq’s Women
The New York Times: February 8, 2011

BAGHDAD — Vendors around the Kadhimiya mosque in northern Baghdad sell all manner of women’s clothing, from drape-like black abayas to racy evening wear. But on a recent afternoon, Hameed Ibrahim ushered his family toward a different kind of fashion display.

On a raised stage between two shops, four mannequins in Western dress, their blond hir peeking out under colored scarves, stood amid crepe-paper flames. To one side was a banner featuring lust-crazed male ghouls; behind the mannequins, images of eternal suffering. And at the foot of the stage was a scripture from the mosque.
Whoever fills his eyes with the forbidden, on judgment day GOD will fill them with fire.”

For Mr. Ibrahim, it was a message that his wife and daughters — and all Iraqi women — sorely needed. “I brought them here so they can see this,” he said. “Maybe everyone has forgotten about God, and they say that this is progress. Well, I call it depravity.”

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, women’s clothing has served as a barometer not just of fashion, but of the current ascendancy of religious values in a once secular society.

On this busy thoroughfare, near Baghdad’s largest holy shrine, what might be called the mannequin salvo in the Battle of the Abaya — between secularism and Shariah law — incites heated views on both sides. If revolution in the Arab world is sweeping Cairo’s streets, the smaller strokes here represent forces no less urgent.

Mr. Ibrahim’s wife, who gave her name as Um Noor, or mother of Noor, approved of the exhibit, which has been up for about a month. Like many on the street, she wore a loose-fitting black abaya that covered everything but her face, and she dressed her four daughters in kind. “This is good because it will make women feel frightened and stop what they are doing and wearing,” she said. “There are some people who are not afraid of God. Let them come and see this.”

“We had this great idea after we saw the depravity and the way they dress and show their body,” said a representative of the mosque, who gave his name only as Abu Karar, or father of Karar. “This is a small stage to show the punishment of God if they wear these kinds of clothes, showing their breast, their butt, their body.”

The mosque, he added, offers free head scarves to women who agree to “keep their promise to God” and not wear clothes that will inflame men’s imaginations.

Right: Alia Al Shamari

Under Banner of Fiscal Restraint, Republicans Plan New Abortion Bills
The New York Times: February 8, 2011

WASHINGTON — All but invisible during the midterm elections, the abortion debate has returned to Congress.

Invoking the mantra of fiscal restraint that has dominated House action since lawmakers reconvened last month, Republicans began committee work this week on two bills that would greatly expand restrictions on financing for and access to abortions. Another bill, one that would cut off federal dollars to women’s health care clinics that offer abortions, is expected to surface later this year.

“This House is more pro-life than it’s ever been,” said Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania and the author of one of the bills to limit money for abortions.

Democrats in both the House and Senate immediately fought back Tuesday, working closely with reproductive rights advocates.

“This election was about the economy,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who joined with other Democratic senators Tuesday to decry the House bills Tuesday as needless and intrusive.

Republicans in the House are clearly energized about using their new majority to reopen debate on an important issue for conservatives, especially in the context of the health care overhaul.

On Tuesday, Representative Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader, described the new measures as “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.”

One bill, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” would eliminate tax breaks for private employers who provide health coverage if their plans offer abortion services, and would forbid women who use a flexible spending plan to use pre-tax dollars for abortions. Those restrictions would go well beyond current law prohibiting the use of federal money for abortion services.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, has drawn fire over language that undercuts a longstanding exemption on the ban on using federal money for abortions in the case of rape or incest; the measure narrows the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” a term that his office has never defined. Democratic lawmakers and others repeatedly hammered on the term, saying it suggested that victims of statutory rape and other crimes could not get abortions paid for with federal money.

Another bill, sponsored by Mr. Pitts, addresses the health care overhaul head-on by prohibiting Americans who receive insurance through state exchanges from purchasing abortion coverage, even with their own money. The bill is essentially a resurrection of a provision in the House version of the health care law but was not in the Senate version.
The bill would also permit hospitals to refuse abortions to women, even in emergency situations, if such care would offend the conscience of the health care providers.

“Both bills are designed to drive coverage for abortion out of health insurance plans, period,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.






















Goddess Worshipers and Tax Authorities Clash in an Upstate Town
The New York Times: February 9, 2011

PALENVILLE, N.Y. - During Palenville Pagan Pride Day in August, the agenda reflected the goddess-centered theology of the Divine Feminine, which members say has its roots 12,000 years ago in the Goddess Cybele (right: Cybele Fountain, Madrid) in Central Anatolia, in Turkey.

So after the opening ritual at 9 a.m. and sandwiched around “Lunchtime with the Priestesses,” the schedule at the old Central House inn included “The Goddess in Antiquity,” “Pagans in the Mundane World” and sessions on sacred drumming patterns, dragon rituals and the Cybeline Revival.

Still, it was the least celestial item that perhaps mattered most. That would be “Discussion of Maetreum of Cybele v. Town of Catskill, N.Y.,” a legal case dating to 2007 after the town first approved and then denied tax-exempt status for the group, which has been certified by the federal government as a tax-exempt religious charity. The goddess may rule the universe, but the lawyers will help decide whether the pagans of Palenville have a future in this historic old town just down the snowy hills from Hunter Mountain.

Built in the 1850s, the Central House functioned for most of its years as an inn in Palenville, a hamlet of about 1,000 in the Town of Catskill....

Thus, it was both somewhat jarring and not entirely impossible to imagine when four women, with interests in goddess worship and the idea of a women’s housing cooperative welcoming transsexual women, bought the increasingly decrepit inn in 2002. It eventually became the Catskills Phrygianum of the Maetreum of Cybele Magna Mater, their global headquarters and convent house. There it stands: yellow paint peeling, a pink bus in the snow, bright banners above the porch.

The group’s public face is Cathryn Platine, a stocky former certified nursing assistant and cabinet maker, who long ago lost a finger to a miter saw. Ms. Platine, 61, who describes herself as a lifelong pagan descended from a witch hanged at Salem and from John Quincy Adams, said her religion had been the only one singled out locally.

“We’re women oriented,” she said. “We’re goddess oriented. We’re gay and lesbian friendly. We’re witchy. We’re set up for communal living for priestesses. I think we set off a lot of buttons.”

She said the town’s legal case kept shifting, and the only constant seemed to be animus toward the group.

Queen Witch

False-Prophecy Penalty
ASSOCIATED PRESS : February 9, 2011

Romania - A month after the authorities began taxing Romania’s witches and fortunetellers on their trade, Parliament is considering a new bill that would subject them to fines or even prison if their predictions do not come true. Superstition is taken seriously in Romania, and officials passed the tax bill in an effort to increase revenues. The new bill would also require witches to have permits and provide their customers with receipts, and it would bar them from practicing near schools and churches.

Witches argue they should not be blamed for the failure of their tools. “They can’t condemn witches; they should condemn the cards,” said Bratara Buzea, above, a “queen witch.”

(Full article)


App Can’t Replace Confession, Vatican Says
The New York Times: February 9, 2011

A new application being sold on iTunes, “Confession: a Roman Catholic App,” cannot be used as a substitute for confession with a priest, the Vatican said Wednesday. The application was developed by American entrepreneurs with the help of two priests and the blessing of a bishop. It features a questionnaire of sins, and is promoted as a tool both to revive interest in confession and to help Catholics prepare for the sacrament. But some media reports cast the app as a “virtual priest” for Catholics who do not have time for church, prompting the Rev. Federico Lombardi (right), the Vatican spokesman, to respond, “One cannot speak in any way of ‘confession by iPhone.’”

(Full article)

Original story below































Forgive Me, Father, for I Have Linked
Published: February 8, 2011

Our Father, who art in pixels,
linked be Thy name,
Thy Web site come, Thy Net be done,
on Explorer as it is on Firefox.
Give us this day our daily app,
and forgive us our spam,
as we forgive those
who spam against us,
and lead us not into aggregation,
but deliver us from e-vil. Amen.

WASHINGTON - Nothing is sacred anymore, even the sacred. And even that most secret ritual of the Roman Catholic faith, the veiled black confessional box.

Once funeral homes began live-streaming funerals, it was probably inevitable. But now confessions are not only about touching the soul, but touching the screen.

With the help of two priests, three young Catholic men from South Bend, Ind., have developed an iPhone app to guide Catholics through — and if they are lapsed, back to — confession.

The trio got the idea, surprisingly, from the pope.

When I was little, the nuns urged us to find the face of Christ in pictures of landscapes — snowfalls and mountains. In a letter last May, Pope Benedict XVI urged priests to help people see the face of Christ on the Web, through blogs, Web sites and videos; priests could give the Web a “soul,” he said, by preaching theology through new technology.

“Confession: a Roman Catholic App”
is not a session with a virtual priest who restores your virtue with a penance of three Hail Mary’s and three extra gigabytes of memory.

Rather, its developers say, it’s a “baby steps” program that walks you through the Ten Commandments, your examination of conscience and any “custom sins” you might have, then after confession (purportedly) wipes the slate clean so no one sees your transgressions.

“We tried to make it as secure as possible,” said Patrick Leinen (left), a 31-year-old Internet programmer who built the app with his brother, Chip (right), a hospital systems administrator, and Ryan Kreager(below left), a Notre Dame doctoral candidate.

You still have to go into the real confessional at church to get absolution, and, hopefully, your priest won’t be annoyed that you’re reading your sins off of a little screen and, maybe, peeking at a football game or shopping site once in awhile.

“The whole point is to get you to go to church,” said Leinen. He and his fellow programmers got help from two priests, the Rev. Dan Scheidt (left), the pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Ind., and the Rev. Thomas Weinandy (right) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They also got an imprimatur — billed as the first for an iPhone and iPad app — from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne (right) in Indiana.

The app offers different questions depending on your age and gender.
For instance, if you sign in as a 15-year-old girl and look under the Sixth Commandment, one of the questions is: “Do I not treat my body or other people’s bodies with purity and respect?” If you sign in as a 33-year-old married man, that commandment offers this query: “Have I been guilty of masturbation?”

Children are asked if they pout or use bad language. Teenagers are asked if they are a tattletale or bully. Women are asked if they’ve had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion and if they’re chaste. Men are asked about the latter two, as well.

The app also tailors the questions if you sign in as a priest or a “religious.” For instance, if you say you’re a female and try to select “priest” as your vocation, a dialogue box appears that says “sex and vocation are incompatible.”

So much for modernity.

Under the Sixth Commandment, men and women are asked: “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” Priests, however, are not. They are asked if they flirt.

At least we know now that Nietzsche was wrong. God isn’t dead. His server may be down though.













Muzzammil Hassan convicted of beheading wife after only 50 minutes of deliberations
The New York Daily News: Monday, February 7th 2011

BUFFALO, NY -- [The founder of a Muslim-oriented suburban Buffalo television station was convicted yesterday of beheading his estranged wife in 2009. Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan never denied that he killed Aasiyah Hassan inside the Buffalo station the couple established to promote cultural understanding. -- New York Post]

[The] Western New York man was convicted of beheading his wife after the jury deliberated for only an hour on Monday.

Muzzammil Hassan used hunting knives to kill his wife of nine years, Aasiya Hassan (right) in February of 2009, six days after she filed for divorce.

The verdict came after a trial that featured Hassan defending himself and often going into long diatribes in his own defense.

While he never denied beheading his wife, Hassan claimed throughout the trial that he in fact was a battered spouse and had feared for his own life. In the middle of the two-week trial, he took the witness stand for four days, sputtering bizarre testimony about his marriage, according to the Buffalo News.

"All these people are hearing stories," he told the jury in closing arguments, the newspaper said. "They want you to believe stories are evidence. They have no witnesses."

Earlier in the trial, he dismissed his lawyer Jeremy Schwartz (left), who acted as his legal advisor through the duration of the trial, reported.

The television executive told the unconvinced jurors that the prosecution based their case on lies spread by his wife during the last two years of their marriage. After an hour of his closing statement, the newspaper reported that jurors began looking restless.

The prosecution slammed his case saying that as soon as Hassan realized his wife was leaving him, he chose to kill her. Their case was helped by testimony from two of the Hassan's children who testified that their father had become violent in the past, a local television station WIVB reported.

"Self defense? Not a chance, not even close," the prosecutor said. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is intentional murder beyond a reasonable doubt — quite frankly, beyond any doubt."

(Full article)








FBI probing allegations of human trafficking and enslavement in scientology
The New York Daily News: Monday, February 7th 2011

he FBI is probing allegations of human trafficking and enslavement in the celeb-magnet Church of Scientology, according to a blockbuster New Yorker (FOLLOWING BELOW)article.

The charges are based on complaints of mistreatment of church members who try to quit, and allegations that dozens of apostates were confined in "reeducation camps" doing manual labor - sometimes for years.

Since at least 2009, the FBI has interviewed numerous former Scientologists with harrowing tales of coercion and psychological abuse, according to the 26-page New Yorker article.

The accusations include allegations of physical violence by Scientology head David Miscavige (right).

church spokesman Mike Rinder previously told the St. Petersburg Times for an extensive Scientology expose two years ago that Miscavage beat him some 50 times and encouraged violence to keep employees in line.

The church brushed off word of an FBI probe, saying in a statement that it "has never been advised of any government investigation."

The New Yorker expose grew out of a profile of Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis, who left Scientology in 2009 after the St. Petersburg Times expose and is the most high-profile defector from the controversial organization. "I was in a cult for 34 years," Haggis told the New Yorker. "Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't."















The Apostate
Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology.

by Lawrence Wright

On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote.

Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman.” The proposition passed.

As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California—rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state—is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”

TOMMY DAVIS walks out of abc News interview
To watch "Inside Scientology" video
Click on image above



























The Siege of Planned Parenthood
The New York Times: February 5, 2011

As if we didn’t have enough wars, the House of Representatives has declared one against Planned Parenthood.

Maybe it’s all part of a grand theme. Last month, they voted to repeal the health care law. This month, they’re going after an organization that provides millions of women with both family-planning services and basic health medical care, like pap smears and screening for diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Our legislative slogan for 2011: Let Them Use Leeches.

“What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” demanded Representative Mike Pence of Indiana (left), the chief sponsor of a bill to bar the government from directing any money to any organization that provides abortion services.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t use government money to provide abortions; Congress already prohibits that, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (Another anti-abortion bill that’s coming up for hearing originally proposed changing the wording to “forcible rape,” presumably under the theory that there was a problem with volunteer rape victims. On that matter at least, cooler heads prevailed.)

Planned Parenthood does pay for its own abortion services, though, and that’s what makes them a target. Pence has 154 co-sponsors for his bill. He was helped this week by an anti-abortion group called Live Action, which conducted a sting operation at 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in six states, in an effort to connect the clinic staff to child prostitution.

“Planned Parenthood aids and abets the sexual abuse and prostitution of minors,” announced Lila Rose (right), the beautiful anti-abortion activist who led the project. The right wing is currently chock-full of stunning women who want to end their gender’s right to control their own bodies. Homely middle-aged men are just going to have to find another sex to push around.

Live Action hired an actor who posed as a pimp and told Planned Parenthood counselors that he might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from “one of the girls I manage.” He followed up with questions about how to obtain contraceptives and abortions, while indicating that some of his “girls” were under age and illegally in the country.

One counselor, shockingly, gave the “pimp” advice on how to game the system and was summarily fired when the video came out. But the others seem to have answered his questions accurately and flatly. Planned Parenthood says that after the man left, all the counselors — including the one who was fired — reported the conversation to their supervisors, who called the authorities. (One Arizona police department, the organization said, refused to file a report.)

There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.


9-Year Jail Sentence for Attack on Cartoonist
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: February 4, 2011

Denmark - A Somali man convicted of terrorism for breaking into the home of a Danish cartoonist was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison. After serving the sentence, he should be expelled from Denmark, the court ruled. The Somali, Muhideen Mohammed Geele, broke into the cartoonist’s home armed with an ax last year. The cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard (left), 75, who was unharmed, had drawn one of 12 cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 that incited violent protests across the Muslim world. Mr. Geele’s lawyer said he would appeal the decision.

(Full article)













Nun Mary Turcotte recants accusation of rape after police release sketch of made-up suspect
The New York Daily News: Tuesday, February 1st 2011

A Brooklyn nun from a fringe Christian [sedevacantist] sect has confessed to an unholy lie: telling cops she was sexually attacked and left unconscious in a snowbank, sources said Monday.

After a police search for a hulking black man was launched, the 26-year-old white woman from the Apostles of Infinite Love convent in East Flatbush recanted, the sources said.

She told cops she made up the story in an attempt to cover up a consensual sex romp with a bodega worker inside the Glenwood Ave. residence.

A woman in religious garb who answered the door at the convent said the nun, identified as Mary Turcotte, suffered an "emotional break" and made everything up - even her excuse.

"Nothing happened, none of it," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "It was all proven to be false. It wasn't her fault. She is going to move out and we are going to get her some help."

The convent appears to be linked to a Canadian-based religious order founded in the 1960s by a defrocked Catholic priest who ordained himself Pope.

Turcotte claimed she was headed there the night of Jan. 22 when a thug ambushed her, choked her until she passed out and dragged her - in her habit - eight blocks. She said she awoke in the snow with her underwear down and her breasts exposed. She said she was treated at a hospital and sought counsel from her Mother Superior.

Police were informed of the rape last Thursday, and put out an alert asking for the public's help in finding a suspect - described as black, 40 to 50 years old, 6-feet-4 and up to 250 pounds.

Cops released a sketch, but they were skeptical someone could have dragged or carried a woman in nun's gear through the streets without drawing notice.

When a penitent Turcotte recanted, her excuse was that she needed a story to cover up a real sexual encounter: bedding a shop worker she sneaked into the convent through the back door, sources said.

Police have not charged her with any crime.

No one at the convent would discuss the order's affiliation, but the Apostles of Infinite Love sect based in Quebec has been described as a cultlike group that has successfully fended off sex abuse allegations.

(Full article)






A Chicken Chain’s Corporate Ethos Is Questioned by Gay Rights Advocates
The New York Times: January 29, 2011

ATLANTA — The Chick-fil-A sandwich — a hand-breaded chicken breast and a couple of pickles squished into a steamy, white buttered bun — is a staple of some Southern diets and a must-have for people who collect regional food experiences the way some people collect baseball cards

But never on Sunday, when the chain is closed.

Nicknamed “Jesus chicken” by jaded secular fans and embraced by Evangelical Christians, Chick-fil-A is among only a handful of large American companies with conservative religion built into its corporate ethos. But recently its ethos has run smack into the gay rights movement. A Pennsylvania outlet’s sponsorship of a February marriage seminar by one of that state’s most outspoken groups against homosexuality lit up gay blogs around the country. Students at some universities have also begun trying to get the chain removed from campuses.

“If you’re eating Chick-fil-A, you’re eating anti-gay,” one headline read. The issue spread into Christian media circles, too.

The outcry moved the company’s president, Dan T. Cathy, to post a video on the company’s Facebook fan page to “communicate from the heart that we serve and value all people and treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect,” said a company spokesman, Don Perry.

Providing sandwiches and brownies for a local seminar is not an endorsement or a political stance, Mr. Cathy says in the video. But he adds that marriage has long been a focus of the chain, which S. Truett Cathy, his deeply religious father, began in 1967.











Iran Sees Rise of Islamic Hard-Liners
:The New York Times: January 29, 2011

TEHRAN — Hopeful that the protests sweeping Arab lands may create an opening for hard-line Islamic forces, conservatives in Iran are taking deep satisfaction in the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, where secular leaders have faced large-scale uprisings.

While the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confronted its own popular uprising two years ago — and successfully suppressed it — conservatives in Iran said they saw little similarity between those events and the Arab revolts, and instead likened the recent upheavals to Iran’s own 1979 Islamic revolution.

“In my opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran should see these events without exception in a positive light,” said Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights and one of the most outspoken figures among Iran’s traditional conservatives.

He made it clear that he hoped that the “anti-Islamic” government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (left), who was ousted in Tunisia, would be replaced by a “people’s government,” meaning one in which conservative Islamic forces would gain the upper hand, as they did when Iranian people overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (right), establishing a quasi-theocracy.

On the other side are the United States and France, he said, who are “doing everything they can to ride the wave and prevent the people from establishing the regime that they desire.”

“I am more optimistic about Egypt,” Mr. Larijani said in comments published Friday on the Web site Khabar Online, which is closely linked to his brother, Ali Larijani, the Parliament speaker.

“There, Muslims are more active in political agitation and, God willing, they will establish the regime that they want,” Mohammad-Javad Larijani said.


Bronx Minister Charged With Having Sex With Minor
Associated Press: January 29, 2011

NEW YORK — A Bronx minister has been charged with having a yearslong sexual relationship with a young girl who attended his storefront church.

Prosecutors say the Rev. Michael Clare has been indicted on first-degree rape and other charges. The pastor at Harvest Worship Center is being held on $50,000 bail. His lawyer’s name was not immediately available.

Clare was arrested in June after the girl told her family about the relationship. He was originally charged with second-degree rape, but a grand jury increased the charges Friday.

Prosecutors say the sexual relationship began in 2006 when the girl was 12 and ended when the girl was 16. They say she became pregnant at 15 and DNA evidence linked the baby to Clare.

Clare faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

(Full article)



Muslim Brotherhood Founder











With Muslim Brotherhood Set to Join Egypt Protests, Religion’s Role May Grow
Published: January 27, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Demonstrators in Egypt have protested against rising prices and stagnant incomes, for greater freedom and against police brutality. But religion, so often a powerful mobilizing force here, has so far played little role.

That may be about to change.

With organizers calling for demonstrations after Friday prayer, the political movement will literally be taken to the doorsteps of the nation’s mosques. And as the Egyptian government and security services brace for the expected wave of mass demonstrations, Islamic groups seem poised to emerge as wildcards in the growing political movement.

Reporters in Egypt said on Friday that, after rumors swept Cairo late Thursday that the authorities planned to throttle the protesters' communications among themselves, access to the Internet, text messaging services and Twitter was not possible on Friday morning in Cairo, Alexandria and possibly other cities.

Heightening the tension, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group in the country, announced Thursday that it would take part in the protest. The support of the Brotherhood could well change the calculus on the streets, tipping the numbers in favor of the protesters and away from the police, lending new strength to the demonstrations and further imperiling President Hosni Mubarak’s (right)reign of nearly three decades.

“Tomorrow is going to be the day of the intifada,” said a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood ....

The spokesman said that the group was encouraging members of its youth organization — roughly those 15 to 30 years old — to take part in protests.

But Islam is hardly homogeneous, and many religious leaders here said Thursday that they would not support the protests, for reasons including scriptural prohibitions on defying rulers and a belief that democratic change would not benefit them. “We Salafists are not going to participate in any of the demonstrations tomorrow,” said Sheik Yasir Burhami (left), a leading figure among the fundamentalist Salafists in Alexandria.

Executive Director of GOProud
Board Chairman

Dean of the Liberty University School of Law





Divisions on the Right Over Gays in Its Ranks
The New york Times: January 27, 2011

A bitter dispute over whether a gay conservative group should co-sponsor the conservative movement’s largest gathering of the year has led some prominent supporters to withdraw from the event next month.

Riding the winds of success in November’s midterm elections, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which is set to begin Feb. 10 in Washington, is expected to draw Republican presidential aspirants like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, as well as thousands of activists.

But some conservative pillars, including church-based groups like the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins, President,left), Concerned Women for America (Wendy Wright, president, right)and Liberty University and others like the Heritage Foundation, are refusing to participate. They are angry that the gay organization, GOProud, has been given a seat at the planning table. These groups are implacable opponents of same-sex marriage, which they say GOProud implicitly endorses by saying that the question should be left to the states.

At least one reputed presidential hopeful, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, has also declined to attend, expressing support for the boycotters.

GOProud is working to undermine one of our core values,”
said Mathew D. Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law (pictured in left column). Letting gay men and lesbians attend the conference is one thing, he said, “but they shouldn’t be allowed to be co-sponsors.”




















Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Is Beaten to Death
THE NEW YORK TIMES: January 27, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya — An outspoken Ugandan gay activist whose picture recently appeared in an anti-gay newspaper under the headline “Hang Them” was beaten to death in his home, Ugandan police said on Thursday.

David Kato, the activist, was one of the most visible defenders of gay rights in a country so homophobic that government leaders have proposed to execute gay people. Mr. Kato and other gay people in Uganda had recently warned that their lives were endangered, and four months ago a local paper called Rolling Stone published a list of gay people, and Mr. Kato’s face was on the front page.

He was attacked in his home Wednesday afternoon and beaten in the head with a hammer, said Judith Nabakooba, a police spokeswoman. But police officials said they don’t believe this was a hate crime.

“It looks like theft, as some things were stolen,” Mrs. Nabakooba said.

Gay activists disagreed and said Mr. Kato was singled out for his outspoken defense of gay rights. “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. Evangelicals in 2009,” said Val Kalende, the chairperson of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, in a statement.

“The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

On Thursday, Don Schmierer (left), one of the American evangelicals who visited in Uganda in 2009, said Mr. Kato’s death was “horrible.”

“Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that,” said Mr. Schmierer, who added that in Uganda he had focused on parenting skills. He also said that he had been a target of threats himself, recently receiving more than 600 hate mails related to his visit.

“I spoke to help people,” he said, “and I’m getting bludgeoned from one end to the other.”

Conservative Christian groups that espouse anti-gay beliefs have made great headway in this country and wield considerable influence. Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo (right), a devout Christian, has said “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

On Thursday, Giles Muhame (left), Rolling Stone’s managing editor, said he did not think Mr. Kato’s killing had anything to do with what his paper had published.“There is no need for anxiety or for hype,” he said. “We should not overblow the death of one.”

The New York Timres
Tussling Over Jesus
The New York Times: January 27, 2011

The National Catholic Reporter newspaper put it best: “Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.”

Yet the person giving Jesus the heave-ho in this case was not a Bethlehem innkeeper. Nor was it an overzealous mayor angering conservatives by pulling down Christmas decorations. Rather, it was a prominent bishop, Thomas Olmsted (right), stripping St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.

The hospital’s offense? It had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother. The hospital says the 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.

Bishop Olmsted initially excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision. That seems to have been a failed attempt to bully the hospital into submission, but it refused to cave and continues to employ Sister Margaret. Now the bishop, in effect, is excommunicating the entire hospital — all because it saved a woman’s life.












Archdiocese Unhappy About Newark Statue’s Placement
CBS 2: January 25, 2011

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J.— A statue of St. Patrick that has graced the sanctuary at Sacred Heart Church in Newark for more than 40 years now overlooks the dining room at Cryan’s Beef and Ale House.

Jim Cryan’s late father, John, bought the statue for the church in 1960. When the Archdiocese closed Sacred Heart in June, Cryan asked if his family could have the statue of Ireland’s patron saint. He eventually placed it in his family’s pub.

“It means a lot to my family. It means a lot to the parishioners that come in here,” Cryan told CBS 2?s Hazel Sanchez.

The Newark Archdiocese, however, is not happy about it.
“Certainly it’s very disappointing to us. It’s also not appropriate,” Jim Goodness of the Archdiocese said. Goodness said some parishioners have been complaining.

“We’re just very hopeful that several members of the family may be able to convince the other person who has it now that it belongs somewhere else,” he said.

Catholics who spoke with Sanchez Monday night were split in their opinions on the topic. “It’s not the right place,” Ignacio Martinez said.

“Maybe some business would need some kind of inspiration or guidance — probably that’s why they put it there,” Grace Matubis said.

Another man said he had “no problem whatsoever” with the statue being in the pub, adding “I don’t know why anybody would.”

“I was very surprised Mr Goodness never called me up and just said to me ‘hey Jimmy we would like the statue somewhere else.’ And it would have been done,” Cryan said.

So St. Patrick may soon be moving out of the pub and into a new home. Cryan said, however, it certainly won’t happen before St. Patrick’s Day.

(Photos/Stills: CBS 2)

(Full article)

Click on images at left for original with video








Many Choices on the Menu of Religious Fasts
Published: January 21, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After last Sunday night’s service at Celebration Church, where a 10-piece band played Christian rock for 1,600 worshipers, Stovall Weems, the pastor, met me in his “green room” and offered nibbles from a tray of kiwi, pineapple and melon slices.

For the rest of January, the pastor will not eat even that.
Mr. Weems has fasted periodically over the last 20 years, ever since, as a coke-snorting Theta Xi brother at Louisiana State University, he found Jesus and joined a group that encouraged fasting as a way to draw closer to God.

Twelve years ago, believing that God called him to Jacksonville, Mr. Weems founded the evangelical, nondenominational Celebration Church. As it grew to more than 10,000 worshipers a week, at 12 campuses, he always preached a combination of fasting and prayer for spiritual growth.

Mr. Weems, an avid weightlifter, talks about fasting as if it were an extreme sport. In the green room, he says that when he first fasted, in college, it was “an energy shot” in his relationship with God.
In “Awakening,” the book — which contains sentences like “Fasting hits the reset button of your soul” and exclamations of “Wow!” — Mr. Weems argues that Christian fasting is different from Old Testament, or what we might call Jewish, fasting.

In the Old Testament, Mr. Weems writes, fasting primarily “had to do with mourning or getting God to intervene in a crisis.” But “under the New Covenant,” he explains, “fasting is a way of celebrating the goodness of God and that because of Jesus we have already received God’s mercy, forgiveness and favor.”In the Old Testament, Mr. Weems writes, fasting primarily “had to do with mourning or getting God to intervene in a crisis.” But “under the New Covenant,” he explains, “fasting is a way of celebrating the goodness of God and that because of Jesus we have already received God’s mercy, forgiveness and favor.”

And such fasting, Mr. Weems believes, can take many forms. He writes of finding one’s “fast zone,” which is “the place where you feel light and spiritually true. Your mind is easily focused on God and spiritual things. You have an increased spiritual energy — you can feel the fast working.”

Tax-Exempt Ministries Avoid New Regulation
The New York Times: January 7, 2011

A three-year investigation into financial improprieties at six Christian ministries whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles has concluded with the formation of an independent commission to look into the lack of accountability by tax-exempt religious groups.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a report saying that “self-correction” by churches and religious groups is preferable to legislative or regulatory solutions.

But his report found that only two of the six ministries cooperated with his investigation and volunteered to institute reforms. The others continued to hide behind tax laws that allow religious organizations to operate tax-free with little transparency or public accountability — a status that sets them apart from other nonprofit groups and charities that must file detailed annual reports of expenditures to the Internal Revenue Service.

“The challenge is to encourage good governance and best practices,”
Senator Grassley said in a statement, “and so preserve confidence in the tax-exempt sector without imposing regulations that inhibit religious freedom or are functionally ineffective.”

In a move that is sure to spur controversy, Mr. Grassley recommended repealing or modifying I.R.S. rules that prohibit churches from endorsing political candidates.

Repeal has long been sought by groups on the Christian right
that regard the prohibition as an intrusion on their freedom of speech. But the suggestion outraged groups that advocate separation of church and state.
'Mass' disease feared
'Hepatitis' wafers
January 4, 2011

Hundreds of worshippers may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus while receiving Holy Communion at a Long Island Catholic church on Christmas morning, officials said.

An unidentified person who handled the communion wafers could have transmitted the illness to parishioners at two Masses on the holy day, authorities said.

The possible spread of the virus occurred at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Massapequa at the 10:30 a.m. and noon Masses on Dec. 25.
The Nassau County Department of Health said anyone who received the bread wafers should report for inoculation at the church this week. A department spokesman declined to provide details, citing privacy concerns.

"Individuals may be at risk," said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The church has about 7,500 parishioners, but it was not clear how many attended the Masses.

Hepatitis A is commonly spread by consuming food or drink that was handled by an infected person.

"It's not the Communion wafer itself," Dolan said. "It was somebody who handled the Communion wafers. There may have been a transmission there."

Casual contact is not enough, health officials said. Just attending one of the Masses but not receiving Communion would not put someone at risk.













For Tolstoy and Russia, Still No Happy Ending
The New York Times: January 3, 2011

MOSCOW — A couple of months ago one of Russia’s elder statesmen set out on a paradoxical mission: to rehabilitate one of the most beloved figures in Russian history, Tolstoy.

This would have seemed unnecessary in 2010, a century after the author’s death. But last year Russians wrestled over Tolstoy much as they did when he was alive. Intellectuals accused the Russian Orthodox Church of blacklisting a national hero. The church accused Tolstoy of helping speed the rise of the Bolsheviks. The melodrama of his last days, when he fled his family estate to take up the life of an ascetic, was revived in all its pulpy detail, like some kind of early-stage reality television.

Sergei V. Stepashin, a former prime minister here, sat down to write to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has become an arbiter of politics and culture. In painstakingly diplomatic language, acknowledging “the particular sensitivity” of “this delicate theme,” Mr. Stepashin asked forgiveness on behalf of Tolstoy, who was excommunicated 110 years ago.

The impulse had swelled up during a lonely visit to an unmarked mound of earth where Tolstoy is buried. Mr. Stepashin described the visit — made while he was director of the Federal Security Service, successor to the K.G.B. — as an emotional experience that he has never been able to shake off.

Ambivalence toward Tolstoy is new in Russia.

The Soviets planted him at the top of their literary pantheon, largely because of the radical philosophy he preached amid the early rumblings of the October Revolution. The publication of “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” made Tolstoy so famous that one contemporary described him as Russia’s second czar. He used that position to rail against the church, as well as the police, the army, meat eating, private property and all forms of violence.



Unequal Time for Theists

Inquisitorial News

Good News

ROBERT COANE 2011 © All rights reserved