Aug 31, 2016

PAPER TRAILS: Tony Alamo, Katy Perry's nod to Little Rock musician, Arkansan actor's next star turn

Arkansas Online

August 28, 2016

HE'S BACK ... Just when you think you've heard the last of Christian evangelist Tony Alamo ... you haven't. Yes, he's been serving a 175-year prison stint in Tucson, Ariz., since 2009, when he was convicted of 10 counts of transporting minors across state lines for the purposes of sex.

In 2014, seven women who had sued, alleging that he had sexually abused them while they were children, were awarded $525 million by an Arkansas judge. That was after Alamo's various properties were seized.

And yet last week, a glossy brochure arrived in the mail, addressed to this columnist. It was titled, "My Commutation," and contained a plea for help in obtaining clemency.

It appears Alamo's followers are holding down the fort and are fairly tech-savvy.

The envelope had a return address of The Alamo Christian Church in Tulsa. The flier included contact info for Tony Alamo Christian Ministries Worldwide in Hollywood, Calif. -- a post office box and numbers for a fax and a "24-hour prayer and information line." There are website and email addresses. He once was based in Hollywood, before moving to Alma and then Fouke in Arkansas.

In the brochure, complete with photos of Alamo with various celebrities, he updates us on his health.

"I'll be 82 on September 20, 2016. I am totally blind, I'm in a wheelchair, I have diabetes, and I died once with a heart attack." After listing his accomplishments and proclaiming his innocence, Alamo explains:

"It is far more advantageous for people in the area and in the world that I be released so that I can continue in the ministry of the Gospel. They're trying to label me a 'predator,' but I'm too old and too sick to be a predator."

He concludes by noting he would appreciate anything that the recipient can do to "help me get out of here."

"God bless you, and I'm waiting to hear from you."

Contact Linda S. Haymes at (501) 399-3636 or


Corpses, Pythons, Sleep Deprivation: Meditation Rituals in Thailand Can Be Intense

What in the World

A decomposing body may not seem like an ideal meditation aid, but at some of Thailand’s tens of thousands of Buddhist temples, it is common to find monks reflecting while seated before a rotting corpse.

The practice of corpse meditation, largely limited to Thailand today, is an ancient concept in Buddhism, sanctioned by the Buddha himself. There are centuries-old murals and manuscripts depicting scenes of meditation next to different types of cadavers, some infested with worms, others cut in two or being picked at by crows.

The unpleasant sight and overpowering stench of flesh decaying in tropical heat can impart lessons about important Buddhist precepts, like nonattachment to one’s body and the impermanence of everything, said Justin McDaniel, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

The ritual is viewed as a powerful way to learn selflessness, Professor McDaniel said, “and the more selfless you are, the closer you are to nirvana.”

The corpse is often that of a child or young adult who has died unexpectedly. A family will donate the body to a temple, hoping something good can come from the tragedy.

The monks see the deceased young people as “representing the best of humanity,” Professor McDaniel said. “They’re innocent — not so selfish and greedy and ambitious. If something so beautiful can decay, why are you so proud and vain? You’re even uglier.”

The abbots who run Thailand’s temples, or wats, have tremendous leeway in adopting innovative approaches to meditation, and certain practices may be limited to a single sanctuary.

At one temple in Nong Bua Lamphu Province, a monk meditates in what appears to be hot oil. At another temple, Wat Tham Mangkon Thong, nuns meditate while floating in a pool. At Wat Pai Civilsai, meditation has taken place in a box with pythons. Monks also meditate in caves and coffins, where the absolute darkness enhances concentration.

So-called forest monks who observe strict ascetic practices known as dhutanga are said to meditate while walking for weeks without ever lying down, even to sleep.

It is not only monks who meditate in ways that may seem extreme.

Julia Cassaniti, an anthropology professor at Washington State University, was walking in the woods of a Thai monastery when she heard screams coming from a hut. The laypeople inside were using meditation to interact with their past lives, a struggle that adherents describe as painful.

A mediation technique that both monks and laypeople practice is a 10-day period of total silence. Some temples offer meditation retreats for tourists and encourage visitors to remain awake for the final three days.

“The sleep deprivation is seen as worth it to get to the first stages of enlightenment,” said Brooke Schedneck, a lecturer in Buddhist studies at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The goal of meditation for all Buddhists is to gain insights into spiritual truths. These more extreme practices, Professor Cassaniti said, can “heighten the access, so you get there a little faster or more intensely.”

A version of this article appears in print on August 31, 2016, on page A7 of the New York edition with the headline: Meditation, With Corpses and Pythons.


Food stamp fraud trial postponed amid disputes over polygamists' religious beliefs

By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune

Aug 30 2016

A federal judge on Tuesday postponed the trial for 11 members of a polygamous sect who are accused of misusing food stamp benefits.

The trial had been scheduled to start Oct. 3 and last four weeks, but federal prosecutors and the FBI have said in court filings that they are still gathering all the evidence to provide to the defense.

Judge Ted Stewart did not set a new date Tuesday. Instead, he scheduled a three-day hearing to begin Oct. 4.

That hearing will tackle one reason the trial was postponed. Defense attorneys want Stewart to consider dismissing the indictments on grounds that they violate the tenets of their clients, who are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The defense attorneys say FLDS leaders counsel parishioners to consecrate their belongings to the church, and that's what the defendants were doing when they gave food purchased with food stamps or sometimes the government-issued debit cards themselves to the FLDS' storehouse. But to demonstrate those beliefs, the defendants may have to testify in the October hearing.

Jim Bradshaw, one of about a dozen defense attorneys who attended Tuesday's hearing in person or by telephone, stood to explain to Stewart that the criminal case against the FLDS members is unique, and Stewart needs to set limitations on what prosecutors could ask the defendants on cross-examination.

Otherwise, Bradshaw, who represents defendant John Wayman, said prosecutors could ask defendants intrusive questions about their religion that would also incriminate them.

"We're plowing some new ground here," Bradshaw said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund countered that the defense seems to want to be able to argue both that their clients are protected by religious freedoms and that they didn't commit the fraud. If the suspects want to make an affirmative defense, Lund said, then the law requires them to admit to the allegations in the indictment.

"They can't have it both ways," Lund said.

All 11 defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy related to the donations, and a second count of conspiracy related to how some food stamp benefits were converted to cash to buy cars and heavy machinery.

Kristen Angelos, an attorney representing former FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs, who absconded in June and for whose capture a$50,000 reward has been offered, tried to clarify that she wants to argue that the donations are part of the FLDS' faith, and that her client didn't convert any benefits to cash.

At one point, Stewart went around the room, asking defense attorneys whether their clients planned to testify at the October hearing. Some said yes. Others, including Bradshaw, indicated that they were waiting to see what limits Stewart put on the cross-examinations. Stewart is expected to make that decision before the hearing.

There was a round a laughter when Stewart asked Angelos whether her client will testify.

"There's 50,000 bucks in it for you," defense attorney Scott Williams quipped through the laughter.

Twitter: @natecarlisle


The History of Fake Meat Starts With the Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Atlas Obscura


AUGUST 17, 2015


Veggie burgers and imitation meat are downright common these days, but it took a long time for meat analogues to earn respect at the table.

But eventually, it happened. These days, fast food chains like Burger King and Subway sell veggie patties. The veggie dog is common in most baseball parks—both minor and major league—and if you're on one of the coasts, it's not too hard to find a restaurant that's willing to sprinkle a little Gardein onto your nachos in lieu of the ground beef. Research by Mintel in 2012 showed that the meat alternatives industry was worth a whopping $553 million in the U.S. alone.

But this whole business of fake meat becoming really popular didn't come out of nowhere. For that, we have 19th-and-20th-century adherents of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to thank.

The church, a Protestant sect that encourages members to practice vegetarianism, had a prominent adherent in the form of John Harvey Kellogg.

Kellogg, now of supermarket aisle fame, was a well-known health advocate in his hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan. He initially started experimenting with meat analogues as a way to assist local residents in sticking to their vegetarian diets. Kellogg soon opened the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a health resort which emphasized the value of healthy living based on Adventist principles. While experimenting with different kinds of food, he managed to invent the modern form of cereal basically by accident.

John Harvey and his younger brother, Will Keith, discovered that some boiled wheat they left lying around flaked up really well. The older sibling was on the hunt for foods good for chewing, which he considered a way to help indigestion and tooth decay, and decided to offer it to Sanitarium residents. It didn’t even strike the duo, however, that the toasted wheat flakes might be a fitting breakfast food—until, that is, the Sanitarium residents got a hold of it and added milk.

In the process of Toasted Wheat Flakes’ sudden success, John Harvey got into a bitter feud with his more traditional brother—who eventually turned those cereal products into a hugely successful company, minus the heavy focus on health care.

But while the older Kellogg was feeling spurned, he found an opportunity to create a company of his own, the Battle Creek Food Company. This company focused almost entirely on fake meats, with perhaps the best known of the time being something called Protose.

That product—a combination of wheat gluten, peanuts, and soy—was one of the first efforts to create a meat analogue in the modern era. While pure wheat gluten (now known as seitan) and soy bean curd (better known as tofu) have been around for generations, Kellogg's effort proved fairly inspirational in the conception of fake meats as we think of them now.

While John Harvey Kellogg created the seed, it was the work of another group of Seventh-Day Adventists that turned his creation into something resembling burgers and hot dogs. A few fans of Protose in Worthington, Ohio came up with the idea of making the veggie foods more realistic-looking, and using seasonings similar to meat. (One of those innovators, Dr. George Harding, was a relative of Warren G. Harding. It remains unknown whether the former president–or his secret family–ever tasted a fake steak.)

These early efforts led to the creation of Worthington Foods, which released two canned imitation meat products in 1949: Soyloin Steaks and Meatless Wieners. If you want to check out what midcentury veggie meat tasted like, you can still buy a variation of Meatless Wieners today, sold in packs of 20-ounce cans.

After a few decades of Worthington's early work on this front, they ended up selling the company to a firm called Miles Laboratories. That firm launched a sister company whose name you might recognize: Morningstar Farms. Morningstar took the groundwork from Worthington's patents and created a line of products, like the famous Chik Patty, that finally took off in the mass market.

Over the years, Worthington changed hands again multiple times—eventually, coming full circle by falling into the hands of its former blood rival, the Kellogg company. Earlier this year, Kellogg palmed Worthington off on a natural foods company, but held onto the successful Morningstar Farms brand.

While veggie burgers have become a relatively simple way for restaurants to cater to the 3.2 percent of Americans that are vegetarians, it took nearly three-quarters of a century to get them on board.

The groundwork for was laid in 1895, with the founding of "Vegetarian Restaurant No. 1" by New York City's Vegetarian Society. On its first night, the restaurant served fruit soup and Graham bread—the latter being a good fit, due to the fact that Graham crackers were originally invented as a form of vegetarian fare.

But while these efforts grew in earnest, with eateries such as the Schildkraut chain of 15 NYC-based vegetarian restaurants (run by husband and wife team Herman and Sadie Schildkraut) and Chicago's Mortimer Pure Food Café gaining momentum, they ultimately struggled to sell to Middle America.

Reputations were even ruined in the pursuit of making vegetarian food appeal to a crowd that wasn’t ready for it. In the late 1920s, William Childs, a vegetarian who had built one of the country's first national restaurant chains, tried to move his company to an all-vegetarian menu. His aim? To encourage better health for his customers and not burden their wallets in the years leading up to the Great Depression. That plan didn't work out so well for him, and after some disastrous sales, he lost control of the corporation.

Simply put, the broader culture hadn't caught up, not even in New York City, where many adherents of vegetarianism were Jews doing it for religious reasons. During World War II, even The New York Times took jabs at vegetarians, especially around the turkey-stuffed holidays.

"Even the vegetarians are preparing to be bold trenchermen this Thanksgiving, although without the benefit of turkey, stuffed or otherwise, "the newspaper wrote in 1941 about a dinner held by the Vegetarian Society of New York.

Perhaps William Childs and Sadie Schildkraut were simply early to the game. The big turning point came in the early 1960s, when in London, an all-vegetarian restaurant called Cranks launched in 1961.

It proved hugely popular with the public at large and was seen as a major influence in the rise of vegetarianism in the U.K., soon attracting big-name celebrities like Linda McCartney and Princess Diana.

While the restaurant got things moving, it didn't stick around long enough to see the trend all the way through: The chain, which had struggled to shake off its hippie-ish image, mostly closed up shop in 2001 and lives on as a line of boxed sandwiches with colorful names such as Eggstacy and Hey! Pesto.

The problem with veggie food these days is not the abundance of it, but whether those mass-marketed imitation burgers and dogs meet the high levels of health-food consciousness that consumers expect.

Kellogg's is actually seen as sort of the bad guy in this case—now owning Morningstar Farms, the company has taken to using genetically modified organisms in its food a little more aggressively than many of the products you might find at Whole Foods. In 2001, Greenpeace called out the company after it found that some of its soy-based meats had a large percentage of GMOs.

The company said it was an accident, but Greenpeace didn't buy the defense.

"It's very hard to explain 50% of the soy [in a product] being genetically engineered as just a slip up," Greenpeace's Charles Margulis told the Los Angeles Times. "This seems to be a company that just doesn't care."

More recently, a 2014 study from Consumer Reports found that two varieties of Morningstar Farms fake meats tested positive for GMOs, along with a variation of Boca Burgers. If you don't like your foods with GMOs baked inside, your options might be a little more limited.

It's safe to say we've come a long way from John Harvey Kellogg and Protose. Kellogg's itself stopped making Protose back in 2000, around the time that Kellogg purchased Worthington. 

But that hasn't kept some enterprising folks from making their own versions of the seitan, peanut, and soy mash-up. One person who has gone out of their way to create it says it's tasty, but mushy; another was non-plussed about the result the first time around but loved it after trying again.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of mixing your own soy, peanut butter, and gluten together, there is one other option: Another company that traffics in imitation meat, Cedar Lake, produces a food called Proteinut, which is about as close as you're likely to get without traveling in time to stay at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

It's hard to get the real deal when you're eating fake meat.


'Cultural Mormons' Adjust The Lifestyle But Keep The Label

August 28, 2016

On a recent evening in Manhattan's Upper East Side, a group of women have gathered to chat. They're seated in the living room of a cozy one-bedroom apartment.
"I consider myself a cultural Mormon," says Christy Clegg, who grew up active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I don't attend regular church services on Sunday, but I very much identify with my Mormonism."
The group is called Feminist Home Evening. It's a play on words. Mormon families are encouraged to have Family Home Evening — a night at home — once a week.
Like Clegg, these women represent a spectrum of belief, but it is their Mormon background that unites them.
"The thing that's interesting is I can see another person that grew up Mormon and no longer attends or whatever their level of connection is, and there's that automatic connection," Clegg says.
This group was started about two years ago in response to some high-profile excommunications within the LDS church — specifically, Kate Kelly, a prominent feminist advocate.
"I think at that time we had to talk and process," says Ashley Groesbeck, who has coordinated many of the group meetings. "It is a safe place to be connected to your Mormonism."
The meetings are held monthly, and the number of women ranges from 10 — the number present this evening — to about 20. Occasionally there's a guest speaker, but most often a member of the group will begin the meeting with a short welcome and they'll jump into a discussion.
The topics of conversation can be serious at times. Like the recent change to church policy that prevents the children of gay parents from being baptized. As a therapist, this change really affected Groesbeck.
"I was still working for the church last November when the inclusion policy, or the exclusion policy, rather, for gay members of the church came out," Groesbeck says. "I knew I could not stay. I couldn't live with it anymore, and I quit."
Other topics aren't quite as heavy and might even seem trivial.
"Coffee is a complicated relationship," says Heather McGee Teadoro, who is 25 years old and grew up in Utah. She admits she loves coffee and always has.
As a teenager, McGee Teadoro drifted away from the LDS church, and her coffee habits weren't an issue, but she's recently decided to return. Now, that craving is more problematic.
Mormons don't drink coffee. At least, they're asked not to. They're also asked not to drink alcohol or smoke or shop on Sundays.
Traditionally being called a "Mormon" means you live by these standards. Not doing so raises questions about your faith.
"I'm self-conscious among Mormons holding a cup of iced coffee," says Kate Cowley, 34, a film producer who lives in Manhattan with her husband and three young children. "I would feel, you know, I would feel uncomfortable."
Cowley and her family still pray together, read scriptures and attend church pretty frequently.
"I feel like when we're walking down the street in New York City and I have three kids all on a stroller, I look very Mormon in this community where, [with] three kids, I might as well have a million," she says.
But Cowley doesn't agree with much of what the church teaches. For example, she is deeply unsettled by the fact that women are not ordained to the priesthood. Over the past few months she's become more honest and open with her disagreements, but she doesn't want to leave her faith behind.
"I am determined," Cowley says. "I am hellbent on sticking around and being like, yeah, deal with me."
Others at this Feminist Home Evening feel liberated by their decision to leave.
Stacey Woodward remembers a pivotal moment for her. It was on a Sunday morning. She woke up in time to go to church.
"And as I was getting ready, I just had this real clear thought, voice in my head that said, 'What is your intention behind this? Why are you doing this?' " she says.
Woodward felt uncomfortable with her answer.
"I didn't want God to withhold blessings from me," she says. "I didn't want to bring shame on my family that was so well-respected."
Woodward gave herself permission to walk away, but she admits it wasn't easy.
"I'd never navigated this course. I'd never seen anybody navigate this course, and it was a very painful, lonely place to be," she says.
This loneliness makes sense to Jana Riess, a senior columnist at Religion News Service. Riess is also Mormon; she converted to the church in her 20s, and she knows all about the expected lifestyle that comes with membership in the church.
"There is definitely an expected kind of culture in the church," she says, "and it can be painful when you don't meet those kinds of norms."
She says it's common for religious minorities — like Mormons — to feel that one member represents the church as a whole. And that creates pressure.
"More orthodox members of that minority faith will say we need to have boundaries," Riess says. Those orthodox members might say, "We need to more firmly declare who we are and what we stand for."
For the past six years, Riess has written about her struggles with Mormonism in an online column aptly named "Flunking Sainthood." Initially she got a lot of flack from her Mormon readers. More recently, she's noticed a shift.
"We're a little more accepting than we were six years ago," she says. "And now we're seeing maybe a bigger umbrella, a bigger definition of what it means to be Mormon."
What it means to be Mormon is beyond belief for these women. It's family, it's culture, at times it can even seem like its own language. Ultimately, it's about where you come from.

Aug 30, 2016

Student Academy Award Winners Unveiled

The Hollywood Reporter
August 29, 2016

The winners of this year's Student Academy Awards were announced on Monday, with honorees coming from AFI and USC, as well as DePaul University and Michigan State University.

This year, 1,749 films were received from 286 domestic and 95 international colleges and universities. First-time honors include Maharishi University of Management, DePaul, Michigan State and the Polish National Film, Television and Theater School.

All of the Student Academy Award winners will be allowed to submit in the 2016 documentary short subject, animated short film or live action short film category.

The group joins past Student Academy winners including Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, John Lasseter and Spike Lee.

The 43rd Student Academy Awards ceremony will take place Sept. 22 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

See the full list of winners below.


All These Voices, David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute 
Cloud Kumo, Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
The Swan Girl, Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

The Long Search for the Missing Child Brides of a Mormon Polygamist Sect

By Nate Carlisle
August 30, 2016

Brandon S Blackmore listened carefully. He had to hear past the hissing sound in the recording, and the panting. One voice on the recording was unmistakable, though—the soft, monotone tenor of Warren Jeffs, the deranged leader of North America's largest polygamist sect.

Just a year earlier, Brandon had been a member of Jeffs's flock, a Mormon splinter group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Jeffs—whose followers believe he is a prophet and the voice of God—even officiated Brandon's 2004 wedding, near the FLDS headquarters in Colorado City, Arizona. As Brandon would later learn, just a few minutes before that ceremony, the FLDS leader had also been married, taking Brandon's 13-year-old half-sister, Millie Blackmore, as one of his plural wives. Jeffs was 48 years old at the time.

Now it was August 2013. Jeffs was in prison, serving a life sentence on multiple counts of child rape, and two investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had asked Brandon to listen to a recording of the FLDS leader having sex. They wanted to know if he heard Millie on the tape. Though her name was never said aloud, Brandon could tell by the voice that the woman Jeffs was having sex with was his half-sister. Yes, he told the investigators. It was Millie.

"He was asking her how it felt and a bunch of weird things," Brandon told VICE in a recent interview. He said the investigators told him the tape was made sometime around 2004 or 2005 at a motel in New Mexico. Brandon declined to elaborate further on what else he heard on the recording, the existence of which has not been previously reported.

The RCMP wanted confirmation of Millie's voice as part of a case they were building against Millie's parents, Brandon J Blackmore and his wife, Emily Gail Crossfield Blackmore, whom Canadian authorities claim took their pre-teen daughter across the border to marry Jeffs in Colorado City in 2004. In 2014—the year after the Mounties asked Brandon to listen to the recording— the couple was charged with one count each of removing a child from Canada for the purposes of sex.

The prosecutions are believed to be the first time parents have been held criminally responsible for the 1,100-mile child-bride pipeline that FLDS members ran for decades between the Canadian polygamist enclave in Bountiful, British Columbia, and the sect's headquarters in the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, collectively known as Short Creek.

According to a 2011 count from Stop Polygamy in Canada, an anti-polygamy nonprofit based in Alberta, Canada, at least 50 Canadian girls between the ages of 12 to 17 were married to FLDS men in the United States between 1990 and 2006, when Jeffs was arrested in the US on sex-crimes charges.

In 2014, at the same time charges were filed against Millie's parents, Canadian authorities also charged two former FLDS bishops from British Columbia, Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler, with polygamy. The cases against the four Canadian FLDS members are still pending.

Since his arrest, Jeffs has halted all marriages among the FLDS, and it is not clear if his followers have continued the cross-border transport of child brides. But recent interviews conducted by VICE revealed that Canadian law enforcement have continued to question FLDS defectors in the US and Canada in an attempt to learn more about how the sect's bride pipeline worked and whether there is evidence to charge anyone else with a crime.

As recently as last fall, investigators with the RCMP had traveled to the US to speak with relatives and former associates of Jeffs. And law enforcement in both the US and Canada are monitoring the border for signs of human trafficking or other crimes committed by members of the sect, according to interviews and documents obtained by VICE.

In an interview, RCMP sergeant Terry Jacklin, a Mountie in southeastern British Columbia who has been on the trail of the Canadian FLDS polygamists since 2011, confirmed that his agency continues to investigate the sect's marriages, and that more criminal charges may be filed against FLDS members in Canada. Although he would not provide details about the investigation, Jacklin told VICE that the RCMP is working with law enforcement in the US, and that he and his partner may travel to Utah again "within the next couple of months."

The Mounties are also trying to find Millie and two other Canadian women, Alyshia Rae Blackmore and Nolita Colleen Blackmore, both of whom were married to Jeffs at the age of 12. The three brides, all of whom would now be in their early to mid 20s, are thought to still be loyal to Jeffs. They're presumed to be living on one of the FLDS compounds in the American West, or at secret locations known among members as "Houses of Hiding," where FLDS followers have been hiding out, waiting for God to free Jeffs from his prison cell in Texas.


Though the current charges against the Canadian polygamists weren't filed until 2014, the case actually begins more than a decade earlier, in Short Creek. By that point, Jeffs—who took control of the FLDS church after the death of his father, Rulon Jeffs, in 2002—was already accumulating wives, including one of Millie's sisters, Annie Mae Blackmore.

In 2004, Jeffs sent word to the girl's father, Brandon J Blackmore, that he wanted to marry Millie as well, and asked that the teenager be brought to Colorado City from her home in Bountiful, BC. A journal entry dated March 1, 2004, dictated by Jeffs to one of his wives and later seized by US authorities in Texas, describes what happened next:

"I sat down with Brandon [J] Blackmore and his wife and his daughter, gave a training on the redemption of Zion in brief, in summary, and this girl was called on a mission, and they received it joyfully," the entry reads. "And there Mildred Marlene Blackmore, age 13, was sealed to Warren Steed Jeffs for time and all eternity." The entry also notes that Brandon J Blackmore witnessed the wedding.

It wasn't the only marriage ceremony that took place in Short Creek that day. Brandon S Blackmore, Millie's half-brother, had also been called to make the 16-hour drive from Bountiful, though he traveled separately from his father and half-sister. When he arrived, he met the woman he was assigned to marry, and Jeffs performed their wedding ceremony, shortly after his own marriage to Millie.

The younger Brandon Blackmore claims he didn't know that Millie also got married that same day, or even that she was in Colorado City at the time. But shortly after his wedding, he told VICE, he went years without seeing Millie around Bountiful; members of the community were told she was on a mission for the church, he said. In reality, Millie was traveling with the Jeffs family, including his estimated 81 plural wives, moving among secret FLDS locations across the western US, as authorities began their hunt for the polygamist prophet, who was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in 2006.

In an interview, Rachel Jeffs, Warren's 32-year-old daughter from his second marriage, confirmed that during the early 2000s, a series of teenage girls—including Millie— arrived in the Jeffs household without any explanation. When she asked, Rachel told VICE, she was told that the girl was her father's new wife. Rachel, who left the FLDS in January 2015, said she was angry, but never confronted her father about marrying girls so young.

"If you do, then you lose your place in the church," she explained. "I wasn't so worried about losing my place in the church. I just would never get to see my family again."

Rachel said she remembers Millie crying a lot, and that things got worse for the young girl after Warren married the two Canadian 12-year-olds, Alyshia Rae Blackmore and Nolita Colleen Blackmore, in December 2005, at the Yearning for Zion ranch, an FLDS compound near Eldorado, Texas. "I saw her struggle emotionally a lot," Rachel said of Millie. "She wasn't really stable."

After Jeffs's arrest, FLDS leaders frequently moved his wives and closest children to keep them away from authorities. Sometimes the family members would be stashed in one of the FLDS communities; other times they would be separated and put up in one of the sect's Houses of Hiding. Often, Rachel said, members of the family didn't even know where they were. She recalled that she and Alyshia were once taken in the middle of the night to a House of Hiding in Idaho—she doesn't know where exactly, since the women weren't allowed to go outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

Then in 2008, local, state, and federal law enforcement in Texas raided the FLDS compound near Eldorado, responding to what turned out to be a bogus tip about a girl being held against her will. Inside, they found pregnant teens and teens with babies, as well as the temple where Jeffs reportedly engaged in orgies with the girls.

Texas rangers also found hundreds of thousands of documents, including ledgers, Warren's journals, family rosters, and family photos, which revealed the names of the sect's underage sexual abuse victims and their perpetrators, as well as dates and other details about the abuse. The raid, and the trove of evidence it uncovered, changed the way law enforcement across North America investigated the FLDS, turning what had been a relatively unknown group of polygamists into a household name.

Brandon S Blackmore says he saw his half-sister Millie again near the end of 2009, when she returned to Bountiful in the wake of the Texas raid. The following summer, Brandon said, as they sat on a rocking bench in the yard of Brandon's home near Bountiful, the conversation turned to his wedding day, and Millie told him she had watched the ceremony from an adjoining room through a double-sided mirror. Then she revealed that she too had gotten married that day, to Jeffs.

Her half-brother was stunned: After the Texas raid, FLDS leaders in Bountiful had told followers that authorities were lying about the evidence they'd uncovered. Casting the incident as yet another example of their religious persecution, they defended Jeffs and insisted that the church had not been marrying off underage girls.

As he listened to Millie's account, Brandon realized all this had been a bald-faced lie.

In an interview with VICE, Brandon said that though he and Millie didn't discuss her marriage or relationship with Jeffs much, it was clear that his half-sister remained loyal to the FLDS leader, who by that time had already been incarcerated for four years.

Millie vanished again later that summer. Two years later, Brandon left the FLDS sect, divorcing his wife who remains loyal to Jeffs, and with whom he shares custody of their four children. In August 2013, he went to the RCMP to offer his help in their investigation into the FLDS. It was then that the authorities played him the audio recording of Millie and Jeffs, which had apparently been uncovered during the US government's investigations of the sect.

"I don't want my dad going to jail if I can help that, but it has got to stop," Brandon said. "This marriage of underage girls has got to stop."

While he said he believes the case against his father and stepmother should move forward, he also expressed some sympathy. At the time of Millie's marriage, he explained, the couple faced tremendous pressure from inside the FLDS. Had they refused to marry their daughter to Jeffs, Brandon added, they would have been excommunicated—a fate that would have meant separation from their families and denial of the faith that they continued to believe in.

In the end, Brandon's father was excommunicated anyway, after FLDS leaders got wind of the RCMP investigation into Millie's marriage. The younger Brandon Blackmore assumes that the church was trying to avoid paying his father's legal fees.

"They're not going to gain anything by prosecuting him," he said of the Canadian investigation into his father. "It's not going to stop the FLDS."

The father and son now live two blocks from each other in a hamlet about 30 minutes east of Bountiful. The elder, Brandon J Blackmore, who once had five wives and has 40 children, now lives alone. When I visited his residence on a recent trip to Bountiful, he would not talk about the charge against him, saying repeatedly, "I don't know anything."

Brandon S Blackmore explained that while he doesn't believe his father condones Jeffs's crimes, he also doesn't talk about it much.

"He would have to confront that he made a big mistake," he said.


To understand these conflicting allegiances, it helps to understand the community of Bountiful, nestled in the Creston Valley, at the southern reaches of the Columbia Mountains just north of the Idaho border in British Columbia. Since the 1940s, the settlement has been an outpost for breakaway Mormon polygamists. Most of its 600 or so inhabitants are descended from just a handful of men, creating a community with so few surnames that it tends to be easier to refer to people by only their first names.

For years, Bountiful aligned itself with the FLDS, existing as a sleepy northern outpost of the sect led by Jeffs's father, Rulon. But in 2002, in an event known locally as the "Split," The Jeffs'excommunicated the top FLDS leader in Bountiful, Winston Blackmore. The reasons behind the excommunication are not known, but it was one of hundreds of culls Warren Jeffs initiated to neutralize rivals within the sect and scare members into remaining obedient.

The excommunication divided the local polygamist community in Bountiful, which numbered as many as 1,000 at the time of the Split. On one side, there are the Warrenites, who remained loyal to Jeffs; on the other are the Winstonites, who broke away from the main FLDS sect to follow Winston Blackmore, who built his own meetinghouse and chapel in Bountiful. Both Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler, the leader of the Warrenites in Bountiful, are named in the 2014 polygamy indictment. (Oler was also charged with removing a child from Canada for the purposes of sex.)

The groups are friendly with each other. Virtually everyone in Bountiful has relatives in both camps, and members of both groups—as well as polygamous residents who remain neutral in the schism—are beneficiaries of the Utah-based land trust that holds Bountiful's 300 acres and the 55 homes on it. Winstonites, who dress in secular, if modest clothing, and those unaffiliated with either group serve on civic boards together, and many of their children go to the same schools. The Warrenites, in their mono-colored, Little House on the Prairieoutfits, don't mix much, but are nevertheless a visible, and mostly neighborly, presence in the town.

It's a marked contrast to the atmosphere in Short Creek, where those deemed disloyal to Jeffs are banished and bullied, and divisions between FLDS followers and apostates have pushed the community to the brink of civil war. From the Texas prison where he is currently serving a life sentence, Jeffs continues to exert control over his flock, demanding the near-total isolation of the sect, and imposing a series of bizarre restrictions, including banning dietary staples, like dairy and oatmeal, forbidding sex between spouses, and demanding that followers only turn on bathroom faucets with their right hands.

The Canadian polygamists have also had far fewer legal problems than their American counterparts. Since the 2008 raid on the FLDS compound in Texas, the US branch of the FLDS has faced intense government scrutiny, including charges of money laundering and food stamp fraud, and fines for child labor violations; earlier this year, a jury in Arizona found that the towns of Hildale and Colorado City had violated the civil rights of nonbelievers living there.

But apart from the 2014 charges, the FLDS followers in Bountiful have largely avoided prosecution, despite allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse against many of the sect's leaders there.

In Bountiful, interviews with former Warrenites indicate that the branch's numbers have declined since Jeffs's conviction in 2011. Former Jeffs followers in the community, like Twyla Quinton, are dismayed at the direction the FLDS has taken. Once a true believer, Quinton was married at age 16 in a mass wedding ceremony officiated by Jeffs's father, Rulon.

"We were sort of given a choice," Quinton told VICE. "It was definitely encouraged to get married. All of my friends were getting married. I had finished all the school available to me. It was the next step in life. So I approached Winston, I did, and I told him I wanted to get married.

"I was happy to be getting married," she said, adding, "I know that's not the same for all the girls."

Quinton, who is now unaffiliated with either of the sects in Bountiful, credits her husband Ron—who is also married to her younger sister—with getting their family out of the church. The FLDS members in Bountiful are "awesome people," Quinton said, but she wishes the Warrenites would "behave like normal Canadians" and stop allowing Jeffs to dictate their lives.


People in Bountiful see the RCMP's child-bride investigation as part of the Canadian government's broader pursuit of Winston Blackmore, who at last count had 27 wives and 145 children, the youngest of whom was born this past April, according to Blackmore and several of his relatives. In 2014, six months before his indictment in Canada, Winston testified in a deposition for a civil case in Utah that at least a few of his wives were 15 or 16 when he married them, though those weddings apparently occurred before Canada set 16 as a minimum age for marriage in 2008.

"He is the king stud of Canada," said Nancy Mereska, founder of Stop Polygamy in Canada, which has been openly critical of the Canadian government's failure to crack down on the polygamists in Bountiful. "They were putting people in prison [in Texas], and we were just wanting things to go ahead in Canada."

Canada's efforts to nail Winston date back several decades, and the FLDS leader said in an affidavit submitted to a British Columbia court that he first became aware that the RCMP was investigating him for polygamy in 1990. That first investigation did not result in charges. But according to Zelpha Chatwin, who says she is Winston's eighth wife, an RCMP investigator visited Bountiful as far back as 2005, asking general questions about polygamy and the community there.

Chatwin told VICE that about a year after that first visit, another group of Mounties came to Bountiful and began questioning women in the community. According to her and other women VICE spoke to in Bountiful, the law enforcement officials wanted DNA samples from them and their children, and asked women a range of personal questions, including the names of their husbands, their children, and when their marriages were consummated.

But it wasn't until 2009 that Canadian authorities finally charged Winston and Jim Oler with polygamy. That case was stayed over questions about the British Columbia attorney general's selection of a special prosecutor. Charges were filed again in 2014, at the same time that Brandon J Blackmore and Emily Gail Crossfield Blackmore were charged in the case related to their daughter, Millie. The couple's trial is scheduled to begin November 14 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, according to a spokesman for the province's Ministry of Justice. Trial dates have not been set for either Winston or Oler.

In the meantime, the Canadian government has pursued Winston in other ways. In 2013, a federal judge there ruled that the polygamist leader had underreported income from his logging and trucking businesses by about $1.8 million (Canadian) over a six-year span, and ordered Winston to undergo a reassessment and pay $150,000 in penalties. A Canadian appeals court affirmed the decision in 2014.

Neither Winston nor his attorney responded to VICE's requests for an interview. However, at the Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium, a gathering of followers from both mainstream and fundamentalist Mormonism held in Utah this July, Winston complained about the government's continued efforts to prosecute him.

"Those suckers are after me by day and by night," Winston told the audience. "I've got to go another round with them."


In the years after his meeting with the RCMP—and after hearing the tape of his half-sister having sex with Jeffs—Brandon S Blackmore tried to look for Millie himself, traveling to places where the FLDS have enclaves or compounds. In Short Creek, as well as in Pringle, South Dakota, and Mancos, Colorado, he would sit outside the sect's properties, hoping to catch a glimpse of his missing sibling.

"More than anything, I wanted to see how she was," he said, "if she's still alive."

The Mounties have taken a more systematic approach to finding Millie and the other two Canadian brides. In the fall of 2015, Jacklin and Constable Shelley Livingstone, the RCMP investigators, visited Rachel Jeffs in Montana. They also visited Salt Lake City, according to people with knowledge of the investigation. In an interview room at the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building, the Mounties met with another one of Warren's daughters who lived with the Canadian brides and asked her to identify photographs of the girls and to help them interpret some of her father's journals. Roy Allred, one of Jeffs's former drivers and family caretakers, has also said that RCMP investigators requested to meet him, near his home in Elko, Nevada, but did not return messages from VICE to confirm that the meeting had occurred.

Canadian authorities are also monitoring the border to see which members of the sect are traveling between Bountiful and FLDS enclaves in Idaho and other Western states. Willie Jessop, a former Jeffs bodyguard and FLDS spokesman who has since become a witness in multiple legal proceedings against the sect, acknowledged in an interview with VICE that the RCMP occasionally calls him to ask about people crossing the US-Canadian border. Jessop said they have also asked if specific crossers are still loyal to Jeffs and, if so, what role those individuals have in the church.

Neither Jacklin nor Livingstone would confirm whom they have spoken with in Utah. In his recent interview with VICE, Jacklin did say that the RCMP is working with US authorities on its investigations, though he declined to specify which agencies are collaborating. "We are still building, we are still gathering evidence," he said, "and we are still in the process of providing more information to our prosecutor in respect to additional charges against additional people."

According to Jacklin, the RCMP first obtained the Texas evidence in 2011 and began its investigation into the child brides that year. Asked why the process has taken so long, Jacklin cited the tremendous amount of evidence investigators have had to sort through; the evidence acquired from the Texas raid alone amounts to six terabytes of data.

Jacklin also acknowledged another, more complex obstacle—one that additional manpower or overtime hours won't be able to solve. "Some of these girls don't see themselves as victims," he said. Jacklin didn't say how many former child brides the RCMP has approached, or whether the investigation includes additional women besides Millie, Alyshia, and Nolita.


In Bountiful, the RCMP's investigation into underage marriages has raised uncomfortable questions for people like Twyla Quinton, who continues to live in the community despite no longer aligning herself with either Jeffs or Winston Blackmore.

Determined to share her frustration with what's happened to the FLDS, Quinton and her 16-year-old daughter, Bianca, hiked into the mountainside above Bountiful last summer, where someone has sprayed "KEEP SWEET" on a boulder along the trail. It's a shortened version of a popular message in Bountiful, "Keep Sweet No Matter What," which FLDS leaders attempt to ingrain in their followers. The subtext, Quinton said, is that people—particularly women and children—should do what they're told and shut up about it.

Armed with spray paint cans, Quinton and Bianca covered the slogan in white paint. Then, in red, they wrote their own message: "BE AWESOME." It was a striking act of defiance in a community where such acts are exceedingly rare. But while Quinton told VICE that she doesn't support teenage marriages—although hers has been a good one—she also questioned the Canadian government's determination to punish someone for the practice.

"A little girl getting married is not OK, but whose fault is that?" she told VICE. "If you're going to save a child bride, do it when she's still a child."

Nate Carlisle reports on polygamy for the Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter.

Judge to decide dispute over Trout Run records request

By Danielle E. Gaines
August 30, 2016

A judge will decide whether Frederick County government must turn over emails to attorneys representing the Church of Scientology’s real estate arm.

The church has two open court cases against the county relating to its effort to open a group home for drug and alcohol abuse treatment operated by Narconon, a program based on the writings and techniques of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder.

Frederick County Circuit Judge Scott Rolle heard arguments Monday in one of the cases, a dispute over a Maryland Public Information Act request.

At issue are 54 county records — emails or parts of emails — dealing with an application from Social Betterment Properties International for a historic designation of Trout Run, a 40-acre Catoctin Mountain fishing camp.

SBPI operates as a nonprofit organization that develops and maintains properties for the church’s social betterment programs. It purchased the land at Trout Run in September 2013.

The property is zoned for resource conservation use, which would prohibit the land’s use as a group home. However, if the county included the property on its Register of Historic Places, Trout Run would qualify for a special exception and Social Betterment could open the center.

In June 2015 and again in April of this year, a majority of the County Council voted against the historic designation, effectively stopping the center from opening.

Jennifer Kneeland, an attorney representing Social Betterment, said seeing the redacted portions of the records in the Public Information Act dispute could help the organization understand whether there was discriminatory intent behind the council’s decision to deny the historic designation.

Kneeland questioned the county’s basis for redacting the information, saying the county didn’t meet the state’s standard for withholding the information under the exceptions for deliberative process, interagency communications or executive privilege.

She pointed to one withheld record that had been disclosed by a different county attorney in the other court proceeding.

Linda Thall, senior assistant county attorney, said that missed disclosure was an error and the county would not contest handing over a second copy of the record.

She said Social Betterment’s information request was very broad, yielding more than 1,300 pages of records from the county from before, during and after the council’s decisions.

Some of the documents in question are emails between council members. Others include interview requests from members of the media, and internal discussions about executive branch policy changes during and after the council’s decision.

Thall said the scope of the request — and the documents that resulted — allowed Kneeland to cloud the decisions on what information to redact. She said the county still believes that the 54 records discussed in Monday’s hearing should remain undisclosed.

Kneeland asked Rolle to release all of the information to her clients, or, at the very least, allow Rolle to review the information and decide whether the redactions were appropriate.

Rolle ruled that he would review the documents in his chambers and issue a written opinion in the case within 30 days.

Thall will deliver the unredacted documents to Rolle within the next seven days.

A second lawsuit remains pending in Frederick County Circuit Court. That case was originally filed after the council’s 2015 decision and alleged religious discrimination, among other things, by the County Council.

Frederick County Circuit Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. heard arguments in that case, but remanded the matter back to the council, requiring them to issue written findings of fact to support the majority decision.

After a 5-2 vote on those written findings in April, the case was reopened by attorneys for Social Betterment.

Aug 28, 2016

Alamo flier seeks help for release

Linda Haymes
Arkansas Online
August 28, 2016

HE'S BACK ... Just when you think you've heard the last of Christian evangelist Tony Alamo ... you haven't. Yes, he's been serving a 175-year prison stint in Tucson, Ariz., since 2009, when he was convicted of 10 counts of transporting minors across state lines for the purposes of sex.
In 2014, seven women who had sued, alleging that he had sexually abused them while they were children, were awarded $525 million by an Arkansas judge. That was after Alamo's various properties were seized.
And yet last week, a glossy brochure arrived in the mail, addressed to this columnist. It was titled, "My Commutation," and contained a plea for help in obtaining clemency.
It appears Alamo's followers are holding down the fort and are fairly tech-savvy.
The envelope had a return address of The Alamo Christian Church in Tulsa. The flier included contact info for Tony Alamo Christian Ministries Worldwide in Hollywood, Calif. -- a post office box and numbers for a fax and a "24-hour prayer and information line." There are website and email addresses. He once was based in Hollywood, before moving to Alma and then Fouke in Arkansas.
In the brochure, complete with photos of Alamo with various celebrities, he updates us on his health.
"I'll be 82 on September 20, 2016. I am totally blind, I'm in a wheelchair, I have diabetes, and I died once with a heart attack." After listing his accomplishments and proclaiming his innocence, Alamo explains:
"It is far more advantageous for people in the area and in the world that I be released so that I can continue in the ministry of the Gospel. They're trying to label me a 'predator,' but I'm too old and too sick to be a predator."
He concludes by noting he would appreciate anything that the recipient can do to "help me get out of here."
"God bless you, and I'm waiting to hear from you."

Raelians promote Go Topless Day in Vancouver and more than 50 other cities on Sunday (August 28)



by Charlie Smith on August 27th, 2016 

The website has a simple slogan: "Free your breasts! Free Your Mind!"

And this message is encouraging women in nearly 60 cities, including Vancouver, to remove their tops on Sunday (August 28) as part of Go Topless Day.

Go Topless Day was founded a decade ago by Raelians, who are followers of their prophet, Rael. He was a French motor-sports journalist formerly named Claude Vorilhon before claiming to have had an encounter with an extraterrestrial. This prompted him to found the Raelian movement in 1974.

The Vancouver event is open to men and women and begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday outside the Safeway store at the corner of Robson and Denman streets.

"The right to be topless in parks, on beaches, around the pool, etc. must be equal for all, or for none!" the organizers say on aFacebook page. "In Vancouver it is legal to do so but not everyone knows and not everyone is respecting this right. In order to make our point, we are asking men to wear either an X over their nipples or a bikini top or bra."

They argue that it's not fair for women to be forced to cover their breasts in many cities when men aren't subjected to the same rule.

"No woman should be humiliated or harassed because she takes a quiet sunbath topless, while men are allowed," the group insists. "The more women that exercise their right freely, the less other will react around them."

Raelians embrace nudity, use the swastika on top of the Star of David as a symbol of peace, and believe that human beings were created by "Elohim". This, they say, is a species of extraterrestrials.

"Since its founding it has grown steadily and now counts more than 85,000 members in 104 countries and about 170 Guides who lead the activities of the Movement under the direction of the Prophet RAEL," the organizations states on its website.

This summer, Raelians held protests against Roland Emmerich's movie, Independence Day: Resurgence, maintaining that it promoted hatred against extraterrestrials.

Raelians pay attention to prophesies espoused by the founder. In a recent bulletin to members, Rael revealed that the 60 wealthiest people on Earth "are now secretly building an underground complex that can withstand any nuclear, chemical or biological world war or world revolution".

"This complex will have room for the 60 richest people and their families for a total of 480 people; plus 240 top scientists, especially geneticists and agronomists; 60 medical people representing all the specialties; 120 military commandos to keep order and protect the complex from any force trying to enter it (plus batteries of remotely controlled missiles and drones); and 60 of the most beautiful young women to repopulate the earth after the cataclysm ends and the atmosphere is clean again," the statement declared.

There was no word on whether Donald Trump will be one of those admitted into this elaborate bunker.