Aug 21, 2018

Korean cults and religious movements

Beverley O'Connor speaks to Ji-il Tark, who is a professor of church history at Busan Presbyterian University, where he studies Korean cults and religious movements.

ISKCON50 Academic Conference at Harvard University

This video is about an academic conference that took place at Harvard University, in April 2016, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. A video by Karuna Productions.,1620/

Aug 18, 2018

Spiritual Leader Sadhguru Takes Baba Ramdev For a Ride On a Ducati

Watch Video

Baba Ramdev and Sadhguru also shared their experience in a video uploaded on Youtube with a title “Biker Dudes”.

Ayushmann Chawla
August 17, 2018

Who doesn’t love a good motorcycle ride and that too on a Ducati, well we have a video that can represent that joy as recently spiritual reformer and author Jaggi Vasudev, commonly known as Sadhguru was seen riding a Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled with Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev. The two popular Indian spiritual leaders also shared their experience in a video uploaded on Youtube with a title “Biker Dudes”. The two rode the bike at the foothills of Velliangiri which is near the outskirts of Coimbatore, along the Western Ghats. In the video, Baba Ramdev shares his experience where Sadhguru told him “Don’t take both your hands off” as they were riding at pretty good speed. You can watch the video below.

Baba Ramdev also told about the moment where he took his hand off a little and lost balance and how he recovered and held Sadhguru tight after that. Both the spiritual leaders are an idol to their followers and riding a motorcycle without helmet and safety gear doesn’t convey a good message.

Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled was launched in India last year and is powered by a 803cc oil cooled engine, as on the standard scrambler, that churns out 74 bhp and 68 Nm of peak torque. It also gets full 200 mm extended travel on the front and rear suspension, higher seat off-road style footpegs with removable rubber.

The bike comes with 19-inch front and 17-inch rear spoked wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres and Brembo braking system that features a Bosch 9.1 MP ABS system with pressure sensor.

Fourth-generation Kentucky snake-handling pastor bitten by snake 4 years after father killed by rattlesnake

Hope Schreiber
Yahoo Lifestyle
August 17, 2018

Even if you have found yourself in the hollers of the Appalachian Mountains, you still may not have come across one of America’s snake-handling churches. While it’s estimated that there are about 125 churches that use snakes during their sermons, most are tucked away in rural areas and serve small congregations that have been involved in the churches for generations.

The churches use the venomous snakes to show their devotion and trust in God, and are inspired by the biblical verse in Mark 16:17-18, which reads: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

These types of churches aren’t usually in the public eye — except when a pastor is bitten.

Cody Coots is a fourth-generation snake-handling pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Namechurch in Middlesboro, Ky. In a new documentary, “My Life Inside: The Snake Church,” which premiered on Friday on the YouTube channel Barcroft TV, Coots is seen holding a snake during one of his sermons, which generally has 14 parishioners in attendance each week, when the serpent suddenly bites his ear.

His father, Jamie Coots, was 42 years old when he was handling a rattlesnake at the church in 2014. He was bitten on the hand and died “within probably 10 minutes,” according to Cody.

In the documentary footage, Cody continues to preach as blood rushes out from his ear. He tells his congregation to “keep playing” their music. “I’m not worried at all,” he says. “God’s a healer, I’m not worried.”

Then, Cody begins to choke and asks to be taken to the mountaintop, where he says God will decide whether he lives or dies. Instead, a man named Big Cody carried him out of the church and drove him to the hospital.

Doctors told Cody that he could have been “killed,” as the snake was close to severing his temporal artery. He is reportedly reevaluating his life after the incident.

Letter on Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi connection to be auctioned in UK

Press Trust of India
Business Standard
August 17 2018

A letter from ex-Beatle musician John Lennon's aunt to a fan questioning the famous 1960s band's trip to India to spend time at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh is among a series of memorabilia to be auctioned in Liverpool next week.

Lennon's aunt, Mimi Smith, who brought up Lennon and remained close to him until his death in 1980, expressed her doubts about the Maharishi long before the Beatle himself was to question his methods of transcendental meditation in the song 'Sexy Sadie'.

I don't understand why they need an Indian, or India to meditate. That can be done here without any fuss. The basic teachings of their church will give them all they seem to be looking for, Smith wrote on September 7, 1967, to a fan she regularly corresponded Eileen Read.

The Beatles had been lured by the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and had joined him at a conference in Bangor, north Wales, in August 1967, along with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. After listening to a lecture on the form of silent mantra meditation, the Beatles held a press conference in which they renounced the use of drugs.

It came in the wake of the death of the group's 32-year-old manager, Brian Epstein, who was found in his London home after overdosing on sleeping pills.

Smith adds in her letter, "The boys have not 'given up drugs' simply because they have never been drug takers. They tried LSD because there was so much talk about it. They, at least John, will not do so again. I'm sure they have decided against any form of stimulant".

The Beatles travelled to India in February 1968 in search of a kind of spiritual reawakening through meditation but became disenchanted following allegations of sexual misconduct against the Maharishi.

Lennon's aunt's letter, which has an estimated guide price between 500-600 pounds, is set to go under the hammer at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool next Saturday.

The other lots in the 'Liverpool Beatles Auction' include handwritten notes by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono, with estimated guide prices of up to 2,000 pounds and a rare signed Beatles Scottish tour programme, expected to fetch up to 4,500 pounds.

Aug 17, 2018

CultNEWS101's Move of God Article Collection

Publications related to Move of God - adapted from Counter Cult Coalition.

Books and Articles

The Move is On, Cara Lewis, 2016

Monster under the Bed, Richard Kiers, 2008

To the Wilderness and Back, Sheryl Leonard, 2005

Wilderness Blues, T.B. Botts, 2007

Cult Child, Vennie Kocsis, 2014
The Still Before Dawn, Suzanne McConnell, 2013

Immortalization: Sam Fife, Albert James Dager, 2005?

Memorial to My Sister Mindy, Kendall, Child, Inc., 2001

Excerpt from Wilderness Blues;
Alaska Attracks all manner of people, adventureres, nature loves, entrepreneurs and criminals. It also appeals to those who are trying to escape the influences of the modern world. This book is about such a group and the hardships they faced as they tried to carve out a life in the wilderness, all under the teachings of a self-proclaimed prophet. Grandmothers and babies, musicians, a banker, a baby food  salesman and others all worked together to create a home in the last frontier. When Mother Nature and human nature collide, the results can be volatile. This is one man's perspective of life on an end-time farm.


Survivor Voices Series,, February 2018

Last Day at the Farm, Jane Robbin;,  August 2012

One Survivor Among Many, Suzanne McConnell;, January 2014

Interview for Move Forward, Angie Kocsis;,  January 2014

Saved by His Life 1 of 8, Buddy Cobb, Move of God Bowen’s Mill Convention, July 2008

Saved by His Life 7 of 8, Buddy Cobb, Bowen’s Mill Convention, July 2008

Booklets and Official Letters

Letter to the Father Ministry, extensive documentation of illegal activites by leaders to the top brass.

Unmasking the Move, a booklet examining the Move's teachings and beliefs, Johhny Enlow, 1986

Cultnews101 Move of God Collection

View Collection

The Billionaires and The Guru: How a Family Burned Through $2 Billion

Malvinder Mohan Singh, left, and his brother Shivinder Mohan Singh at their residence in Gurgaon on Dec. 31, 2003.
The Singh brothers were heirs to a health-care empire.
Ari Altstedter
August 16, 2018,

Along the river Beas in North India sits a sprawling spiritual commune that’s somewhere between a traditional ashram and a Florida gated community. There’s a grand meeting hall with tiered spires and pearl domes, but also tract housing and an American-style supermarket. It’s home to 8,000 devotees of the 
Master: Gurinder Singh Dhillon.

His group, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas, says it has more than 4 million followers worldwide. Many call him a God in human form. But in the secular world of money, Dhillon, 64, is a key character in one of the most dramatic collapses in the annals of Indian business: The unraveling of the financial and health-care empire owned by the Singh brothers, Malvinder and Shivinder.

Over the years, the brothers’ main holding company loaned about 25 billion rupees ($360 million) to the Dhillon family and property businesses largely controlled by them, according to documents and people familiar with the matter. Some of those outlays were financed with money borrowed from the Singhs’ listed companies, and when combined with other Singh investments gone bad threw their empire into a debt spiral, a Bloomberg News analysis of public records and interviews with 10 people familiar with the finances of both camps showed.

Heirs to a generations-old business house once worth billions, the brothers have in the last six months seen a dramatic fall in their fortunes. They’ve had their public shareholdings seized by lenders. They’re under a criminal probe by financial authorities over 23 billion rupees missing from their listed companies. They owe $500 million over fraud allegations related to the 2008 sale of drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories. They’ve also lost the family mansion. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Dhillon is a cousin of the Singhs’ mother, and he became a surrogate father to them after the death of their own in the late 1990s. Since then, the finances of the spiritual leader and the brothers have grown intertwined, with money flowing from the Singhs to the Dhillon family via loans through shell companies and an array of arcane financial instruments, according to the documents and people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because of the ongoing legal probes. Dhillon hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.

All members of the spiritual commune, including the guru, are expected to support themselves financially, and the sect’s representatives said the Master’s business dealings are a personal matter separate from his role at the spiritual group.

The Singhs’ downfall comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes to increase transparency and attract more foreign investment to the world’s fastest growing major economy. But the brothers’ story is a cautionary tale to anyone doing business in India, offering a window into the opaque corporate structures common in the family dynasties that dominate Indian commerce.

“This opacity makes for risk,” said Arun Kumar, an economist with the New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences. “Legitimate business people may not want to come to India.”

The Singhs are famous for expanding their two public firms – hospital operator Fortis Healthcare Ltd. and financial firm Religare Enterprises Ltd.—at breakneck speed after reaping $2 billion from the Ranbaxy sale. Less known is the massive debt they took on to do so, all while they were financing a real-estate portfolio largely owned by their guru’s family.

Malvinder, 45, and Shivinder, 43, haven’t been charged with any crimes. The brothers acknowledge having financial ties to Dhillon, and in written comments said they are in dialogue with the Dhillon family and its companies to address the money owed to them.

But they also said it would be “untrue” to suggest that the guru was a cause of their group’s financial troubles. “Malvinder and Shivinder are unequivocal about this: Mr. Dhillon is their spiritual Master,” the brothers wrote. “He has only ever acted out of love and has only ever had their best interests at heart.”

They’re less generous to another follower of the spiritual group, Sunil Godhwani, whom they say was appointed to lead Religare at Dhillon’s recommendation. They say Godhwani was also in charge of their holding company, RHC Holding Pvt., and often took decisions without informing them. They say he was the architect of the financial structures, including the loans to the Dhillon family and companies, that led to their financial troubles.

Bloomberg News has been unable to independently verify the Singhs’ claims that Godhwani ran their holding company in the period between 2010 and 2016, when most of the major borrowing, loans, investments and routing of funds occurred. RHC says he was president there between 2016 and 2017. Godhwani declined to comment, and he left his role as chairman of Religare in 2016.

For his part, Dhillon also declined to be interviewed. A statement from J.C. Sethi, secretary of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, said Dhillon played a role helping the Singhs assert control of their father’s businesses following his death, and in guiding them after. But since 2011, ill health, including a battle with cancer, caused the guru to step back to focus on his spiritual duties, he said. “The Master can advise but he cannot make a choice for you,” he added.

Representatives for the spiritual group said the Master has no role in its administration or finances.

What the Singhs Did With Their Fortune

Note: Only major cash deployments are shown. * Estimates based on sources familiar with the family's finances.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that the Singhs had taken 5 billion rupees from Fortis without board approval and that a New York investor had filed a lawsuit accusing the brothers of siphoning 18 billion rupees from Religare.

The Singhs say they didn’t do anything illegal. They say Godhwani was in charge of both Religare and RHC at the period in question. The movement of funds at Fortis were part of normal operations at the time, and only later became related-party transactions, according to the brothers.

India’s stock market and fraud regulators launched investigations into financial irregularities at both companies, although they are yet to report their findings. Both agencies didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Singhs’ rise as businessmen in their own right began in 2008, when they sold Ranbaxy, then India’s largest drugmaker, to Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo Co. The sale occurred just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started raising questions about the Indian firm’s manufacturing practices and the safety of its drugs, although Ranbaxy denied the allegations at the time.

The brothers went on to use their cash reserves aggressively to build up Fortis and Religare—which would each top $1 billion in market value as India’s demand for health and financial services surged. They took their father’s place in Delhi high society among other old business families, becoming patrons of Indian artists and socializing at exclusive clubs.

Then in 2013, Ranbaxy pleaded guilty to criminal felony charges in the U.S. and faced $500 million in fines. In an arbitration tribunal in Singapore, its new owner, Daiichi Sankyo, accused the Singhs of concealing the extent of its regulatory problems during the sale. The Singhs say they didn’t conceal any information.

By that time, Dhillon was playing a big role in the Singhs’ finances. He was their “central father figure” after their own died in 1999, they wrote in their statement. Sect members held key positions in the Singh empire: One became chairman of Ranbaxy’s board, helping ensure Malvinder’s swift rise to the top. Another devotee, Godhwani, led Religare.

The Dhillon family would eventually become Religare’s second-largest shareholder, after the Singhs, with money lent to them by the brothers, according to people familiar with the matter. Godhwani consulted with Dhillon regularly on Religare, as would the Singhs on Fortis, the people said.

In 2015, the younger brother, Shivinder, briefly took a hiatus from the business to work at the spiritual group full time.

A photograph on the sect’s website shows Dhillon with a white beard, white turban and flowing white tunic. But several people who know him say he’s fond of self-deprecating jokes, and in private is more charismatic everyman than ethereal mystic.

As many as 500,000 devotees sometimes visit the ashram at once to listen to his teachings of how meditation, vegetarianism and high moral values can help one escape the cycle of death and rebirth.

He emphasizes community service. On a recent Tuesday at the commune, a battalion of women volunteers sat at giant wood-fired griddles, making chapatis, the Indian flatbread. Some days they roll out more than 80,000 an hour to feed hungry pilgrims.

Still, Dhillon hails from a family of major landowners in Punjab, and was himself a businessman in Spain prior to his ascension at the spiritual group. So he took an active interest in the Singhs’ holdings, the people said.

“I think he’s a businessman in his mind first, and a guru second,” said Brian Hines, an American who was a member of the sect’s U.S. community for 35 years and has visited Beas. He now blogs critically about it, having since left.

By 2010, another business opportunity emerged. Towns outside India’s capital, New Delhi, were experiencing a property boom that was turning farmers into millionaires. The Singhs’ resources were marshaled to help the Dhillon family build a real-estate empire.

Two companies, Prius Real Estate Private Ltd. and Lowe Infra and Wellness Private Ltd., were set up by people close to the guru, and although partly hidden by layers of shell companies, the Dhillon family had ownership interests in both, people familiar with the matter said and filings show.

Over the next two years, these firms together received about 20 billion rupees in zero-interest loans from the Singhs’ private holding company or its subsidiaries, according to the people and the documents. Funds were then disbursed to other companies controlled by the Dhillons. The Singhs owned a 51 percent stake in Lowe.

These loans proved costly to the Singhs, coming on top of other major financial commitments that were underway. From 2011 onwards, the brothers’ holding company went on to sink at least 12 billion rupees to cover losses at their investment banking venture Religare Capital Markets Ltd. Other loans went to Ligare Voyages Ltd., a money-losing charter airline.

The Singhs’ holding company also loaned at least 7 billion rupees to cover losses at a firm that had been spun out of Religare to manage the financial firm’s administrative costs. The loss-making firm’s biggest expense was rent, much of which was paid to buildings owned by the guru’s family, according to documents and people familiar with the matter.

In some cases, Religare had no use for all the space it was leasing from the guru’s buildings and large parts sat empty, the people said and internal documents show.

RHC, the holding company, also made personal loans of 5 billion rupees to Dhillon family members, via a network of shell companies, people familiar with the matter said.

The Singhs funded all these outlays to the guru’s businesses and to their own ventures with borrowing. And a substantial portion came from Fortis and Religare, often through the same network of shell companies used to lend to the guru’s family, people familiar with the matter said.

Taken together, the zero-interest loans to Dhillon firms and Singh investments gone bad created a crushing debt load that required even more borrowing to service. Their total borrowings hit about $1.6 billion by March 2016, filings show.

As things deteriorated, funds at the two primary public companies controlled by the Singhs, Fortis and Religare, were continuously routed back and forth via shell companies to deal with cash shortages elsewhere in the Singh family empire, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

How the Money Moved


Sources: Ministry of Corporate Affairs, RHC Holding, Bloomberg reporting

Note: Monetary values are investments and loans since 2009.

Then came the final blow. In 2016, the Singapore tribunal sided with Daiichi Sankyo in its long-running suit against the brothers, awarding the Japanese firm about $500 million in damages and interest. The Singhs are appealing the ruling. But with the added liability, outside lenders to the brothers were reluctant to keep the taps open, even as the brothers offered up their family home and company shares as collateral.

By 2016, they couldn’t pay back the latest in the series of loans that had been going in and out of Fortis for four years, which amounted to about 5 billion rupees. When India’s central bank discovered 18 billion rupees taken from Religare had gone to subsidiaries of the Singhs’ main holding company, it demanded it be paid back, but it still hasn’t been.

Finally, banks seized assets backing their loans, including the majority of their shares in Fortis and Religare. They had to sell the home they grew up in to pay back another lender. The Singhs have said they are working to resolve issues with stakeholders.

Minority shareholders took over at Religare. A bitter takeover battle kicked off for Fortis and Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare Bhd in July agreed to take control of the hospital operator.

The New Delhi property boom Dhillon’s family companies invested in has since gone bust. And those real-estate companies have their own debt beyond what was lent by the Singhs, according to people familiar and documents.

Between personal loans and complicated company structures, it’s hard to tell exactly how much Dhillon still owes his nephews and what assets they still hold. For the Singhs’ other lenders, Daiichi Sankyo, or law enforcement seeking penalties, recovering this money from the Singh empire may depend on the terms of arcane debt securities, which aren’t public and can be changed with the consent of both parties.

Complicating matters is that ancient ties of clan and religion are hard to shake in India. Asked what the Singh brothers would do for their Master, one person who knows the family answered in one word: “Anything.”

— With assistance by Alyssa McDonald, and Brent O'Brien

CultNEWS101's ​The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article Collection

CultNEWS101's ​The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article Collection
CultNEWS101's ​The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article Collection

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CultNEWS101's Psychic Article Collection

CultNEWS101's Psychic Article Collection
CultNEWS101's Psychic Article Collection

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Do Psychics Ever Really Break the Case?

Psychics often try to help police solve crimes, but how many times have they been successful? RGSTUDIO
How Stuff Works
August 15, 2018


Psychics often try to help police solve crimes, but how many times have they been successful?

With so many unsolved missing persons cases in the United States, it's hard to imagine that law enforcement officers wouldn't be willing to use any methodology necessary to locate one of them — or to capture a killer. Perhaps even clairvoyance?

While it's a fairly common scenario on television, it's pretty rare to hear about police actually reaching out to psychics to help them solve cases — but it does happen. And that's exactly what Stuff They Don't Want You To Know hosts Ben Bowlin and Matt Fredrickson talk about in this episode of the podcast: Have Psychics Solved Any Actual Crimes?
As we stated earlier, it's not too common for law enforcement to turn to clairvoyants for help on their cases. More often than not, it's the psychics who reach out to law enforcement offering tips and assistance. That was the case when 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart went missing from Salt Lake City in 2002. After Smart's kidnapping, Salt Lake police were inundated with tips from psychics telling them where to find her body and who might have killed her.

Of course we all know now that Smart was not dead, and she was still in Salt Lake City. She was found nine months later, spotted by two couples who suspected they had seen Smart. Not one psychic guessed that she had been kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell, who had been holding Smart captive as his second wife for months, right under everyone's noses.

When Chandra Levy disappeared in May 2001, from Washington, D.C., psychics told authorities everything from she'd died in a botched abortion in Nevada to she died in a suicide bomb in Israel. Her body was found a year later in Rock Creek Park in D.C.

One of the most famous psychic detectives, Sylvia Celeste Browne, has had some spectacular failures in the past, incorrectly predicting that 6-year-old Opal Jo Jennings had been sold into slavery in Japan. She wasn't. Unfortunately, the girl — who was kidnapped from her home — was found dead a few days later just down the street. Celeste Browne also said Amanda Berry was dead. That, thankfully, turned out not to be true when Berry escaped the house in Cleveland, Ohio, where she'd been held captive with two other women for 10 years.

Even so, sometimes law enforcement bows to pressure from citizens to enlist the help of a psychic. That's what happened in 1980, when the Atlanta Police Department was desperate for leads that could help with the capture of the killer responsible for the Atlanta Child Murders. At that time, 10 black children had been killed, four more were missing, and noted psychic Dorothy Allison's book had just come out, detailing her work helping detectives with cases like Patty Hearst and John Wayne Gacy. Atlanta residents flooded city hall begging them to talk to Allison. Allison gave APD 42 possible names, none of them Wayne Williams, the man ultimately convicted with the crimes.

Seems pretty cut-and-dried that these psychics didn't solve any crimes. But there have been some strange occurrences. In Australia, one psychic led the family of a missing person directly to his body. Another psychic predicted, within a mile, where the body of a missing woman would be found. And what about yet another psychic that dreamed of the location of a missing child's body, but when authorities got there, they found something entirely different but equally shocking, instead. What did they find? And are the police not giving psychics enough due? You'll have to listen to the entire podcast to find out.

LDS Church wants everyone to stop calling it the LDS Church and drop the word 'Mormons' - but some members doubt it will happen

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Russell M. Nelson announces the church will no longer have home teachers or visiting teachers during the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference on April 1, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson
Peggy Fletcher Stack
Scott D. Pierce
Salt Lake Tribune
August 16, 2018

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really, truly, absolutely wants to be known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Not the LDS Church. Not the Mormon church.

It made that clear Thursday — even though the last attempt to eradicate those nicknames for the Utah-based faith flopped.

The new push came from God to President Russell M. Nelson, the church said in a news release Thursday.

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name he has revealed for his church,” Nelson is quoted as saying, “even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The faith’s headquarters in Salt Lake City and Latter-day Saints across the globe have much “work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with his will,” the 93-year-old Nelson said in the statement. “In recent weeks, various church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so.”

Thursday’s statement — released on — referred readers to the “updated Newsroom style guide,” which calls on news organizations to follow these instructions:

  • Use the full name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — on first reference.
  • Refer to “the Church,” the “Church of Jesus Christ” or the “restored Church of Jesus Christ” in shortened or subsequent references.
  • Avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the church’s name, as in "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • Refer to members as "members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Latter-day Saints," not “Mormons.”

The new guidelines also state that “'Mormonism" is inaccurate and should not be used,’” and that the term “'the restored gospel of Jesus Christ' is accurate and preferred.”

The style edict says “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture, or when used as an adjective in historical expressions such as “Mormon Trail.”

Still, many believing observers are skeptical that this drive will be any more successful than a similar effort to jettison “Mormon” that launched before the 2002 Winter Olympics. That attempt ended a decade later with a return to the long-standing and, in some quarters, beloved nickname “Mormon.”

Rocky Anderson, who was Salt Lake City’s mayor from 2000 to 2008, diligently followed the dominant church’s request back then — even using the “Church of Jesus Christ” on second reference, which sometimes earned a jeers even from faithful Latter-day Saints.

“It was really awkward,” Anderson said Thursday. “I did find it a mouthful.”
What’s in a name?

For authorities such as Nelson, the faith’s name is more than branding.

After its founding in 1830, the church was known variously as The Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ and even The Church of the Latter-day Saints. In 1838, it became The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when church founder Joseph Smith received what was recorded as a revelation from God:

“For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Smith declared in Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.

Blogger Steve Evans, founder of By Common Consent, sees Nelson’s effort as “fighting for the divinely revealed name of the church in the hearts and minds of the members.”

In a 1990 speech (a year after former church President Ezra Taft Benson sang “I'm a Mormon Boy” from the pulpit), Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the importance of using the church’s full name.

“He views it as something sacred, which I respect,” Evans said. “But the initiative won't succeed — if success means getting everyone to stop using the terms ‘Mormon’ or ‘LDS Church.’”

Evans predicts this undertaking will only “confuse outsiders,” he said. “I don't think it substantively alters external perspectives of the church, but I do think it makes us look a little persnickety.”

The church already has “a popular brand — why not embrace it and use it? … We should be leveraging those names instead, while simultaneously teaching the real name of the church and reinforcing why it is something holy to us.”

LDS blogger Jana Riess, a senior columnist for Religion News Service, also believes the drive may fail.

“It would be extremely unlikely for the majority of journalists to adopt this new style,” she said, “in part because the church has not provided a single-word term that is as descriptive as ‘Mormon’ or ‘LDS.’”

When people plug “the Church of Jesus Christ” into a Google search, Riess said, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “is not going to come up.”

And Latter-day Saints themselves likely will continue to use the only monikers they’ve used their whole lives, she said, but now “might feel guilty about it.”

In academia, “Mormonism” is by far the preferred term, said Patrick Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.

In addition to Claremont, there are three other professorships in “Mormon studies” — at the University of Utah, Utah State University and the University of Virginia.

“I cannot imagine a university approving a professorship in ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Studies’ or ‘Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ Studies,’” Mason wrote in an email. “‘Mormonism’ and ‘Mormon’ will continue to be dominant in the academy.”

Mason has a personal stake in this. He has just published a book called “What Is Mormonism?” Still, the LDS scholar concedes that Mormonism “has always been a fraught and imprecise term.”
Beyond the main body

Does “Mormon” apply equally to members of the mainstream LDS Church, the Community of Christ, the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and all other religious descendants of Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saint movement, Mason asked. “Or just to the LDS Church?”

Some people are upset when Mormonism is used synonymously with the LDS Church and its members — as if they are the only “Mormons,” and all the other groups don’t exist, he said, while members of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) say “they don’t want to be called ‘Mormons,’ because they associate the term with the Utah-based LDS Church.”

Such confusion may have been part of the reason for this move, said historian Matthew Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.”

“This strikes me as a move toward boundary maintenance, in both the manner of its presentation and the fact of it,” Bowman wrote in an email. “Nelson's language asserts his revelatory authority and implicitly contrasts that authority with the common vernacular of the world. He frames language use here as a matter of discipline and loyalty. The nomenclature he offers stresses the uniqueness of the church.”

Bowman said that, in the end, “this effort seems to me an attempt to emphasize the distinctiveness of the church.”
A global faith

Wilfried Decoo, a Latter-day Saint writer and professor in Belgium, understands his faith’s desire to be seen as “Christian” by urging everyone to use its full name.

By rejecting “Mormon” as short for the church, Decoo wrote in a 2011 essay, “we give up the key element of our international brand name, recognizable in all languages.”

In another language, for example, “Latter-day Saints” is translated as: “I am a Holy Being of the Almost Final Period.”

“This policy kind of shows how parochial-American someone at the top thinks without any clue of international semantics,” he said Thursday from his home in Europe. “I don't think it will have any effect outside of the church, and even inside .... It's just impossible to enforce.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, who became church president in 1995, understood the dilemma.

“The Mormon church, of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed,” he preached in the October 1990 General Conference. “I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon church, and so forth.”

Hinckley recalled a member in England telling him: “While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the church which bears his name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.”

When someone asked him about it, the man replied — “Mormon means ‘more good.’”

Hinckley knew that wasn’t the actual meaning, but adopted the man’s thinking about the tag.

“We may not be able to change the nickname,” the affable leader concluded, “but we can make it shine with added luster.”

After all, Hinckley said, Mormon is the “name of a man who was a great [Book of Mormon] prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psychic accused of scamming clients out of $800K arrested again

Ann Thompson Erik Thomas/NY Post
Ann Thompson
Rebecca Rosenberg
NY Post
August 16, 2018

She should have seen this coming.

A Midtown psychic already charged with swindling $800,000 from two clients was re-arrested Thursday for scamming more than 10 additional victims.

Ann Thompson, 42, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court to 17 counts, including scheme to defraud, grand larceny and forgery.

Prosecutor Michael Lumley said that Thompson had duped over a dozen victims into handing over more than $1 million in the last five years.

She operated out of the storefront “Psychic Zoe” on West 35th Street near Seventh Ave, telling her marks that they “suffered from a number of psychic maladies which she could cure,” according to the complaint.

The New Jersey native swindled a Canadian woman for $740,000, insisting that she purchase gold coins to be placed in a makeshift temple to “help protect [her] from danger,” the complaint says.

Lumley called Thompson a “con artist” who preyed on vulnerable customers and asked Justice Gregory Carro to hike her $50,000 bail.

Defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb called her a “spiritual adviser” and argued that many of her clients refused to cooperate with the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation because they viewed her as a friend.

The attorney said she wasn’t a flight risk and almost never traveled out of state, but Lumley, who has poured over five years of her financial records, challenged that assertion.

“There are expenditures out of state all the time,” he said. “They go to casinos. They go to Atlantic City all the time.”

The judge said that the new charges could expose her to a significant prison sentence and ordered her held on $250,000 bond.

Aug 16, 2018

Former Salvation Army chaplain found guilty on 18 sex offences

The 86-year-old’s victims were all connected to the Salvation Army in some respect, and the ­offences occurred where he was posted around NSW.

The Australian
August 7, 2018

The father of a senior Australian international Salvation Army ­officer has been found guilty in the NSW District Court of 18 historic sexual assault charges, some committed against children as young as four, after two separate trials spanning six weeks.

Former Salvation Army chaplain Raymond Maurice Pethybridge was taken into custody last week after a jury found him guilty of five counts in one trial — against adult victims — and 13 counts in the other, against children. The ­offences took place between 1958 and 1987.
The 86-year-old’s victims were all connected to the Salvation Army in some respect, and the ­offences occurred where he was posted around NSW, including Wallsend, Sydney, and Orange.

The child victims were aged between four and 11, and assaults took place in a swimming pool, a car, a child’s room and a Salvation Army prayer meeting, among other places.

As the offences took place between the 1950s and the 80s, Pethy­bridge was charged with ­offences as they were at the time.

For his child victims, Pethybridge was found guilty of one count of attempted rape, one count of sexual intercourse with a person under 16, indecent assault against a person under his authority, two counts of sexual intercourse with a person under 16, and eight counts of assaulting a female under 16 and committing an act of indecency. For his adult victims, he was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and committing an act of indecency, and three counts of assaulting a female and committing an act of indecency.

The charges came after an investigation by Strike Force Bulwer, which was created in May 2014 by officers from Surry Hills Police Area Command and was led by now-Detective Acting Inspector Paul Grace.

“I won’t comment specifically on this matter prior to sentencing, but in general terms, convictions are important for victims who have lived for so many years with the impact of abuse and betrayal by persons in positions of trust,” Inspector Grace said.

“The road to recovery is long and hard. Being believed and receiving justice through a conviction can be an important part of this process.”

Pethybridge’s son, Lieutenant Colonel Kelvin Pethybridge, was appointed chief secretary in charge of the church across NSW, Queensland and the ACT. Earlier this year he was moved to the Salvation Army’s Eastern European division based in Moldova.

According to the Salvation Army’s Others magazine from January, lieutenant colonels Kelvin and Cheralynne Pethybridge, both officers for 35 years, were looking forward to their “adventure” in Eastern Europe.

Salvation Army spokesman Steve Speziale said Pethybridge did not receive support, “financial or otherwise”, related to the trial.

“The Salvation Army will withhold comment until after the court passes sentence,” he said.

Pethybridge will face a sentencing hearing in the NSW District Court on August 31. The Salvation Army was the subject of three case studies by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, one for the Eastern Territory, one for the Southern Territory and one for ­institutional responses to abuse.

According to the royal commission’s final report, there were 294 survivors of abuse in Salvation Army institutions and the average age for their first abuse was 10.3 years.

Aug 15, 2018

Leading figures in banned Christian sect go on trial in China

Beijing regards the Church of Almighty God as a dangerous cult

Defendants on trial for the murder of a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in eastern China in 2014. Her attackers claimed she was a demon when she refused to hand over her mobile phone.

Clifford Coonan in Beijing
The Irish Times
August 15, 2018

China has put leading members of a banned religious group, the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, on trial as part of a major crackdown on what the government regards as a dangerous cult.

The Christian sect, which is also known as Eastern Lightning, was founded in the early 1990s and claims to have millions of members.

It believes that Jesus Christ has been resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, mistress of the group’s founder Zhao Weishan, a former physics teacher. Ms Yang is now on Earth to wreak the apocalypse, the group believes.

The pair were reportedly granted asylum in the US in 2001 and they now direct the organisation from New York.

The secular Communist Partykeeps a tight grip on all religions and it has come down particularly hard on religious groups it considers cults, which it sees as a threat to stability.

Eastern Lightning has said it wants to end communist rule and refers to the party as the “great red dragon”.

In 2014, church members beat a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant in eastern China, claiming she was a demon when she refused to hand over her mobile phone.

Dozens of followers of the church, known as Quannengshen in Chinese, have already been sentenced.

The trials have been taking place in Daqing, in China’s northeast Heilongjiang province, since July 31st, the state news agency Xinhua reported.

The cult recruits members among less-educated women with family problems. Members were banned from using mobile phones, watching TV and reading fiction, a police officer told Xinhua, with only videos for brainwashing purposes allowed.

“In the beginning, new recruits were not forced to donate or attend gatherings, but after becoming a convert they were manipulated into leaving their family and devoting everything to the cult,” the officer said.

Xinhua cited Huang Chao, a researcher on cults from Wuhan University, saying that the movement has been extremely violent over the years, with more than 100 violent incidents and dozens of violent efforts to resist arrest.

“In 2012, some cult members attacked police stations, damaged vehicles and injured officers,” he said.

The only religions officially tolerated in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism, all of which are controlled by state religious authorities.

Cults and renegade religious organisations have proven powerful over the years – both the Boxer and Taiping rebellions in 19th century China were originally religious groups.

The campaign against Eastern Lightning has parallels with the similar crackdown in the mid-1990s on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which China has labelled an “evil cult” and jailed thousands of practitioners.

Aug 14, 2018

US supports evil cults to destabilize China: expert

Liu Xuanzun

Global Times

August 14, 2018

Expert rebukes US for supporting cults to destabilize China

The US is trying to destabilize Chinese society by supporting evil cults in China, and its accusation that the Chinese government is restricting religious freedom is a pack of lies, a Chinese expert said on Tuesday.

Article 36 of China's Constitution states that citizens of China enjoy freedom of religious belief, "but an evil cult isn't a religion," Li Anping, former deputy secretary-general of the China Anti-Cult Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Cults call themselves religions, but are in fact reactionary organizations that disrupt social stability," Li said.

On the contrary, Li noted, "cracking down on cults is protecting religious freedom and human rights."

Li's remarks came after a statement released by the US Embassy in China last month, accusing China of restricting religious freedom and naming the illegal cult Falun Gong as a victim of repression and discrimination.

The US accusation was "a pack of lies. It cannot be accepted," Li said.

Falun Gong is not the only cult that has US backing. 

Almighty God cult leader Zhao Weishan escaped to the US in 2000 and controls the cult in China remotely, China Central Television reported.

From November 2016 to March 2017, the cult transferred 140 million yuan ($20.3 million) abroad, Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.

In 2014, five Almighty God members murdered a woman at a McDonald's restaurant in Zhaoyuan, East China's Shandong Province.

Cults must be cracked down upon to maintain social stability and ensure people's safety, according to Li.

Accused Nxivm sex slaver Allison Mack wants to go to work, school and church

Emily Saul
Page Six
August 14, 2018

Former “Smallville” star and accused Nxivm sex trafficker Allison Mack is asking a judge to ease up on her bail conditions.

Mack is currently subjected to GPS-monitored detention at her parents home in Los Alamitos, Calif. — but she is allowed to travel locally to meet with her attorneys, and jet to Brooklyn for court appearances.

The 35-year-old’s lawyers now want Brooklyn federal court Judge Nicholas Garaufis to let her leave home for work, schooling and once-weekly religious services.

“While the instant charges have deprived her of pursuing her acting career, Ms. Mack nevertheless is interested in contributing to society,” read the court papers. “These activities not only will allow Ms. Mack to use her time productively while awaiting trial, but will also assist with her reintegration into society if she is vindicated of the charges or even in the unlikely event that she is convicted after trial.”

Mack has been out on $5 million bond since her April arrest, when she was charged with sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and attempted human trafficking.

The onetime actress is accused of helping Keith Raniere, known to his followers as “Vanguard,” mastermind an upstate cult that presented itself as a women’s empowerment group, but, prosecutors say, was actually a secret group of starved and branded sex slaves for Raniere to bed at his leisure.

Mack allegedly recruited women to join the inner group, called DOS, and credits herself with the group’s horrifying practice of branding the women with a symbol composed of her and Raniere’s initials.

Garaufis has yet to rule on the motion.

Mack and Raniere are expected to face trial in January.

Allison Mack’s secret sex cult NXIVM was simply ‘a little edgy’, say lawyers

Rebecca Lewis
August 14,  2018

Smallville star Allison Mack’s secret sex cult NXIV was simply ‘a little edgy’, lawyers for the defendants have claimed.

Mack and founder Keith Raniere have been charged with sex trafficking and forced labour conspiracy after claims emerged that Mack had been involved with supplying slaves to 57-year-old Raniere, the leader of an American self-help ‘sex cult’ organisation called NXIVM.

Raniere allegedly blackmailed women into becoming sex slaves, and the pair allegedly branded victims’ skin with their initials.

Mack and Raniere as well as four others have also been charged with racketeering conspiracy, while Raniere, Mack and Lauren Salzman were also being charged with wire fraud.
They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

However now Raniere’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo has claimed that Raniere ‘didn’t enjoy the branding’ and that ‘it was something that the women wanted to do and that he thought was not inappropriate if that’s what they wanted to do’.

‘These women wanted to be part of DOS,’ said Agnifilo.
‘It was a little extreme, it was a little dangerous, it was a little edgy, it was all those things. That’s why they wanted it.’

Speaking to Megyn Kelly in a Dateline episode that aired on 6 August, Agnifilo also suggested that he didn’t ‘know why anyone could feel that they’re physically threatened by Keith Raniere or anyone in Nxivm’.

‘Keith Raniere is a remarkably — he might get mad at me for saying this — soft man.’

In 1998, Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman founded Nxivm, offering ‘Executive Success Programs’ that have attracted thousands of people into its classes.

The organisation, which claims to use ‘rational inquiry’ to facilitate personal and professional development and growth, began to be referred to as a cult by outsiders – mainly because Raniere demanded followers address him as ‘Vanguard’ and Salzman as ‘Prefect’.

Over the years, many accused Nxivm of being a pyramid scheme, taking money in exchange for Raniere’s seminars and claiming they could only grow by paying for more workshops, which cost $5,000 a pop.

However it was the deeper world of NXIVM that shocked many when it came to light in court in recent months, as according to the complaint, Raniere ‘maintained a rotating group of fifteen to twenty women with whom he maintains sexual relationships’.

‘These women are not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Raniere,’ it said.

‘Some of the Nxivm curriculum included teachings about the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.’

Mack, 35, was allegedly the leader of a subgroup within Nxivm called DOS (or The Vow), for which she allegedly recruited female members to engage in sexual acts with Raniere.

The complaint against Mack alleges that she would recruit new members, who had to hand over compromising videos, photographs or information to join. As well as DOS members being used for sex, they were also allegedly forced to cut their calorie intake as Raniere preferred thin women, and were not allowed to remove their pubic hair.

Aug 13, 2018

'I was kidnapped in London and trafficked for sex'

Sarah McDermott
BBC World Service
August 8, 2018

Anna came to London from Romania intending to study, but first she needed to earn some money. She took temporary jobs - waitressing, cleaning, maths tutoring. Then one day in March 2011 she was snatched off the street, flown to Ireland and put through nine months of hell.

Anna was nearly home. There was just enough time to nip inside and eat lunch before leaving for her next cleaning job. She was wearing headphones and listening to Beyoncé singing I Was Here as she walked down the street in Wood Green, north London. She was just a few doors away.

She reached into her bag to pull out her keys when suddenly someone grabbed her by the neck from behind, covered her mouth, and dragged into the back of a dark red car.

There were three of them, two men and a woman. They were slapping her, punching her, and screaming threats in Romanian. Her ears were ringing. The woman in the passenger seat grabbed her bag and pulled the glasses from her face. If she didn't do what they told her, they shouted, her family in Romania would be killed.

"I didn't know what was happening or where they were taking me," Anna says. "I was imagining everything - from organ harvesting or prostitution, to being killed, to God knows what."

The woman was going through her bag, looking in her wallet, scrolling through the recent calls and Facebook friends on her phone, looking at her papers. Her passport was there - she carried it everywhere after her previous one was stolen from her room.

Anna could see there was no point trying to escape from the car, but when they arrived at an airport and she was left alone with just one of the men, she began to wonder if this was her chance. Could she appeal to airport staff for help?

"It's hard to scream when you feel so threatened," she says.

"They had my papers, they knew where my mum was, they knew everything about me."

It was a risk she couldn't bring herself to take.

At the check-in desk, she was crying and her face was red, but the woman behind the counter didn't seem to notice. When the man presented their passports, she just smiled and handed them boarding cards.

Trying to pretend they were a couple, he rushed Anna through security to the boarding gates, and took seats right at the back of the plane. He told her not to move, not to scream and not to cry, or he would kill her.

Anna heard the captain announce that they were flying to an airport in Ireland - she'd never heard of it. Her face was wet with tears as she walked off the plane, but like the woman at the check-in desk the air stewardess simply smiled.

This time Anna had decided that once in the airport she would run, but it turned out to be no bigger than a bus station and two more Romanian men were waiting for them.

The fat one reached out for her hand, smiled and said, "At least this one looks better." It was then that she realised why she had been kidnapped.

"I knew, at that point, that I was going to be sold," she says.

Media caption'Anna' spoke about being held captive by sex traffickers on the BBC's Outlook programme

The men drove her to a dirty flat, upstairs, not far from a bookies. The car broke down on the way.
Inside, the blinds were closed and the air smelled of alcohol, cigarettes and sweat.

Men smoked and looked at laptops in the living room. On the table more than a dozen mobile phones rang, buzzed and vibrated constantly, while girls wearing little or nothing came and went between rooms.

Anna's clothes were ripped from her body by a woman wearing a red robe and flip flops, assisted by some of the men. And from then on she was brutalised.

Pictures were taken of her in underwear in front of a red satin sheet pinned to the wall, so that she could be advertised on the internet. She was given more names than she can remember - she was Natalia, Lara, Rachel, Ruby. She was 18, 19, and 20, from Latvia, Poland, or Hungary.

She was then forced to have sex with thousands of men. She didn't see daylight for months. She was only allowed to sleep when there were no clients but they came round the clock - up to 20 of them per day. Some days there was no food, other days maybe a slice of bread or someone's leftovers.

Deprived of food and sleep, and constantly abused, she lost weight fast and her brain stopped working properly.

Customers paid 80-100 euros for half an hour, or 160-200 euros for an hour. Some left Anna bleeding, or unable to stand, or in so much pain that she thought she must be close to death.

Others would ask her if she knew where she was, if she'd been out to hear the traditional music in the pubs, if she'd visited the local beauty spots.

But she says they knew that she and the other girls were held against their will.

"They knew that we were kept there," she says. "They knew, but they didn't care."

It was obvious from the bruises which covered every inch of Anna's body - fresh ones appearing every day where older ones were beginning to fade away - and it didn't bother them.

She hated them all.

In July, four months into Anna's captivity, the races were on and the phones were ringing more than ever. Then one day the police crashed into the flat and arrested all the girls. Mysteriously, the men and the woman who ran the show, had disappeared in advance with the laptops and most of the cash. Anna wondered how they had known the police were coming.

The police took pictures of the flat, of the used condoms and the underwear and told Anna and the other three trafficked women to get dressed. She told them that they didn't have any clothes and that they were being held there against their will.

"You could clearly see there were signs that we had no power over anything - no clothes, no identity papers," she says. "I tried to tell them, nobody listened."

She was glad to be arrested, though. She felt sure the police would eventually realise that they were victims. But still they didn't listen.
The four women spent the night in a cell and were taken to court the following morning. A solicitor explained there would be a brief hearing, they would be charged with running a brothel, fined, and freed a few hours later. It wasn't a big deal, he said. It was just part of the routine when the races were on - sex workers and sometimes pimps were arrested and released again.

When the women left the court Anna had an impulse to run, though she knew she had nowhere to go and no money. She was given no chance, anyway - her captors were waiting for them outside, holding the car doors open.
In Romania her mother read the headlines about the young women running a brothel in Ireland, her own daughter's name among them.

By that stage she'd already seen the photos the men had posted on Anna's Facebook account too - images of her naked or in ill-fitting lingerie, covered in bruises. Alongside them were comments in which Anna boasted about her new life and all the money she was making as a sex worker in Ireland. More lies, typed out by the men on their laptops.

Not only had her mother seen these photographs, the neighbours had seen them, Anna's friends had seen them. None knew that she had been trafficked and was being held against her will.

At first, her mother had tried to do something. But when she called her daughter there was never any answer.

"My mum went to the police in Romania," Anna says. "But they said, 'She's over the age of consent and she's out of the country, so she can do whatever she wants.'"

Eventually, Facebook deleted her account because of the indecent images and if anyone looked for her on social media it would have seemed that she no longer existed.

After the police raid, the four girls were moved around a lot, staying in different cities in different flats and hotels. But their lives remained as bad as ever - they continued to be abused at all times of day and night. Anna didn't think her situation could get any worse until she overheard her tormentors making plans to take her to the Middle East. She had to get away.

"I still didn't really know exactly where I was," she says. "But I knew that I had a better chance of escaping from Belfast, or Dublin, or wherever they had me, than escaping from somewhere in the Middle East."

She took the woman's flip flops and opened the door. She had to go very quickly and very quietly. She hadn't run or properly stretched the muscles in her legs for months, but now she had to move fast.

What saved her was the fact that men occasionally asked for one of the women to be taken to them, rather than visiting the flat where they were held.

Anna found these call-outs terrifying.

"You didn't know what crazy person was waiting for you or what they would do to you," she says.

"But any time I was out of that flat I would make mental maps of where I was. While they were transferring us from one point to another I would form maps in my mind - remembering the buildings, the street signs, and the things that we passed."

There was also one man - Andy, a convicted drug dealer on a tag - who never wanted to have sex, only to talk. A friend of his was trying to break into the brothel-keeping business and he wanted information.

"I had to gamble at that point," Anna says. "I didn't trust him, but he offered me a place where I could hide."

Relying on her incomplete mental map, Anna made it to Andy's address, only there was no answer. There was nothing to do but wait and hope that the pimps would not find her.

The gamble paid off. Andy had to return before midnight because of his tag. And he let her stay.

One of the first things Anna did was to call her mother.

The phone rang, and her mother's partner answered. As soon as he realised who was calling he began urging her never to call again, and never to visit. They'd received so many threats from the pimps and traffickers, her mother was now terrified, he said.

"So I said to him, 'OK, I'll make it easy for you. If anybody rings you and threatens you just tell them that I'm dead to you and to my mum,'" Anna says.

He hung up on her.

At this point, despite having no papers or passport, and despite her experience of the brothel raid - when she had been prosecuted instead of rescued - Anna decided to contact the police. And this time, fortunately, they listened to her.

It turned out that Anna was now in Northern Ireland, and she was told to attend a rendezvous with a senior policeman in a coffee shop.

"He took one of those white paper napkins and asked me to write down the names of the people who did this to me on it," she says.

When she pushed it back to him across the table she could see that he was shocked. He'd been looking for those people for years, he said.

A two-year investigation followed. Eventually Anna's former captors were arrested, but she was so worried for her own safety and her mother's that she decided she couldn't testify against them in court.

Another girl she'd known from the flat did give evidence, though, and the gang were convicted of human trafficking, controlling prostitution and money laundering in Northern Ireland.

Each of them was sentenced to two years. They served six months in custody before they were sentenced, then eight months in prison after being convicted, with the remainder spent on supervised licence.

They had already served two years in a Swedish prison on the same set of offences involving one of the same victims.

"I was happy that they were arrested but I wasn't happy about the sentences," she says.

"I guess nothing in this life is fair."

Where to get help

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, contact the police - call 999 if it's an emergency, or 101 if it's not urgent.

If you'd prefer to stay anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you want confidential advice about trafficking before calling the police, there are a number of specialist organisations you can talk to:

The Modern Slavery helpline 0800 0121 700, is open 24 hours a day.

If you think a child is in danger of trafficking you can contact the the NSPCC's helpline 0808 8005 000.

Later, with other women, Anna gave testimony to the Unionist politician, Lord Morrow, who had become so concerned about the increasing number of stories he heard about children and adults forced to work in brothels, farms and factories that he put forward a new bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act, passed in 2015, made Northern Ireland the first and only place in the UK where the act of buying sex is a crime. The act of selling sex, by contrast, was decriminalised.

Anna takes satisfaction from her role in this process.

"This law helps the victim and it criminalises the buyer and the trafficker," she says. "So it destroys the ring."

If even a small percentage of the men who used to pay for sex are now discouraged from doing so, that's still a success, Anna argues.

And people like her who are trafficked can live without fear, she says, because instead of being criminalised for being involved in prostitution, they're now more likely to benefit from support.

In 2017, it also became illegal to buy sex in the Republic of Ireland, where Anna's horrific ordeal began.

Her nine months in sexual slavery have left her permanently injured. Men damaged her body in the places where they penetrated her. Her lower back and knees constantly ache, and there's a patch at the back of her head where her hair stopped growing because it was pulled out so many times.
She suffers from terrifying flashbacks. Sometimes she cannot sleep, and when she does sleep she has nightmares. And sometimes she still smells that smell, the alcohol, mixed with the cigarettes and the sweat, the semen, and the breath of her abusers.

But she's looking forward now. She shopped the people who sold her body, she's helped change the law, and after years of not even speaking, her relationship with her mother is good.

"Me and my mum had to go on a really long journey to get her to understand what happened to me," she says. "She had to learn from me and I had to learn from her, but now we are fine."

Anna started a degree course in the UK but had to drop out because she couldn't afford the fees and didn't qualify for any funding. She now has a job in hospitality and it's going well.

"I would love with all my heart to return to my studies at some point," she says. "But for now I have to work, work, work, and keep focused."

All names have been changed.

Illustrations by Katie Horwich.
Slave, published by Ebury Press, is out now.