Jan 31, 2018

Alleged doomsday cult members face even more charges

Samuel Warren Shaffer
Pat Reavy
Deseret News
January 31, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — Two purported members of a doomsday sect in southern Utah have been charged with more crimes.

Amended charges were filed Tuesday against Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, of Cedar City, and John Alvin Coltharp, 34, of Spring City. Both men now face child bigamy charges.

Shaffer was charged with conspiracy to commit child bigamy, a second-degree felony. He was previously charged in 6th District Court with two counts of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; and lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor. He is also charged with two counts of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and four counts of intentional child abuse causing injury, a second-degree felony.

Colthrap is now charged with child bigamy, a second-degree felony, in addition to sodomy of a child, a first-degree felony, in one case; and child kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and obstructing justice by concealing a person, a class A misdemeanor, in another.

Court documents say Shaffer — the alleged leader of a religious group, the Knights of the Crystal Blade — and Coltharp, one of his followers, "married" each other's underage daughters.

According to the new amended charges, on or about July 1, 2017, Shaffer "knowing he had a wife, did knowingly and willingly purport to marry a person under 18 years of age," while Shaffer agreed "to engage in" child bigamy.

Both men were arrested in December after Coltharp's ex-wife hadn't heard from him or her children for weeks, prompting a search by authorities. They were found in a remote area of northern Iron County living in a "compound," that consisted mainly of storage units, according to police. Coltharp's two girls were found hidden in a plastic 50-gallon water barrel that Shaffer had made them stay in for at least 24 hours in subfreezing temperatures, charging documents state.

Shaffer's two daughters were also found "in poor health" in an abandoned mobile home "in deplorable living conditions," charges state.

Shaffer told police he was "betrothed" to Coltharp's 8-year-old daughter, according to a search warrant. Additionally, Shaffer allegedly said Coltharp was "betrothed" to Shaffer's 7-year-old daughter.

Coltharp's ex-wife described Shaffer as a "doomsday prepper who believes that the world will soon come to an end." She said he is the "prophet" of the church Coltharp had joined.

A preliminary hearing for Coltharp is scheduled for Feb. 20, and Shaffer's is Feb. 21.



Daniel Kokotajlo’s intelligent, gripping drama is set among a close-knit community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oldham
28 February - 1 March
Glasgow Film

Daniel Kokotajlo’s intelligent, gripping drama is set among a close-knit community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Oldham. Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) is a true believer and has raised two teenage daughters to follow her values. Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) is at college and facing bad influences and irresistible temptations. Fears for her younger daughter Alex (Molly Wright) prompt Ivanna to arrange a match with church elder Adam (Robert Emms). Tensions slowly grow in a powerful, strikingly restrained story of the clash between blind faith, family and freedom. 

Utterly absorbing... a supremely intelligent and gripping drama - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

A daring, devastating debut - Guy Lodge, Variety

Director: Daniel Kokotajlo

Cast: Molly Wright, Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson
Certification: N/C 15+
Running time: 1h35m
Country: UK
Year: 2017


Catherine Oxenberg Is Writing a Book About the Group She Claims 'Brainwashed' Her Daughter

Catherine Oxenberg
January 31, 2018

Three months after first revealing the story of her daughter India’s involvement with the group NXIVM, Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg has decided to write a book to share her story with the hope it can also help others.

Her memoir, CAPTIVE: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult, cowritten by Natasha Stoynoff, will be released in Fall and will recount Catherine’s estrangement from her 26-year-old daughter, India, and her attempt to rescue her from what she believes is a dangerous group.

“I was completely ignorant about these sorts of the dangers and traps associated with these so-called Personal Growth Self Help groups. It’s an $11 billion, completely unregulated industry, so I reached out to a lot of experts for guidance,” Catherine tells PEOPLE. “What I learned along the way could help others [and] prevent them from falling into the same trap, know what warning signs to look for, and also to give hope to those parents that are struggling and who have lost children to similar situations.

“So many people reached out to me when I went public saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the same situation. I’m heartbroken, I’ve lost my child. I don’t know what to do,” she adds.

India was 20 years old and a burgeoning entrepreneur when she and her mother attended a meeting as part of a leadership seminar organized by NXIVM in 2011. While the meeting was supposed to provide methods for self-improvement, Catherine told PEOPLE she found the organization “weird and creepy.” India didn’t have the same hesitations and immersed herself in the organization over the next few years.

NXIVM has been around for 20 years, with approximately 16,000 people paying thousands of dollars for experiences like executive-coaching workshops. Run by Keith Raniere, 57, who is known as “Vanguard” to members, NXIVM has offices throughout the country and in Mexico.

“The mission of NXIVM is to help transform and, ultimately, be an expression of the noble civilization of humans,” the organization states on their website.

Not only do former followers dispute this claim, many have shared horror stories of allegedly having their skin branded with Rainere’s initials and describe the group as a “cult.”

Last April, Catherine claims she learned her daughter was also in potential danger.

Her friend, Bonnie Piesse, 34, had left the group and warned Catherine that India was taking part in what Catherine calls a “secret sisterhood.”

“You need to save your daughter,” Piesse told her, according to Catherine. “You need to save India.”

In December, the New York Times reported that Justice Department has opened an investigation into NXIVM.

But that doesn’t ease Catherine’s immediate concerns for her daughter.

Catherine previously told PEOPLE that she learned India was on a restrictive diet, suffered hair loss, and hadn’t had her period in a year. Now she says she’s told that India is eating more because “they’re trying to look more normal,” but says she’s still worried.

After Catherine decided to go public with her allegations in October, India became angry and further withdrew from her. Catherine tells PEOPLE that India was recently in Los Angeles, but wasn’t willing to see her.

“She was in L.A. and I was hoping that was a good sign, and I was very distressed when she flew back,” Catherine says. “Even is she’s not willing to see me, the fact that she’s outside of their sphere of influence physically gave me hope.”

Though India isn’t always at the NXIVM headquarters in Albany, New York, Catherine thinks they still keep a “tight leash” on her.

“I’m assuming they kept her on a tight leash so that they still had a lot of influence over her,” she says. “Because if she [leaves the group], that’s a tremendous blow to [NXIVM] considering she’s been such a public figure for them. I think that that could be the death blow and I think they’re doing everything they can to keep her in.”

As India becomes more entangled in the controversial group, Catherine is writing the memoir in another attempt to save India.

CAPTIVE will reveal the steps Catherine has taken to extract her daughter from what she considers a “dangerous, mind-controlling cult” in which she claims the women are treated like “slaves.” She also draws on interviews from former members and cult experts.

“I’ve grown as a person through this experience [and] I’ve become more inclusive,” Catherine says. “It’s no longer just about my daughter. It’s about helping everybody who has suffered through this.”


Jan 30, 2018

Shunning of a Minority Faith

 A protest in Brazil on behalf of Baha'i prisoners in Iran.

The Baha'i have been excluded from basic civic functions like pensions and education. They're publishing the proof.

Eli Lake
January 30, 2018

A protest in Brazil on behalf of Baha'i prisoners in Iran.

Usually the Iranian regime’s assault on its people’s dignity is measured in its political prisoners, its laws mandating modest dress for women, its prosecutions of gays and its stage-managed elections. An under-reported aspect of this story, though, is the state’s treatment of the Baha’i, a small monotheistic faith that was founded in Iran in the 19th century and that honors Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. In Iran, this minority faces systemic discrimination reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg laws or China’s treatment of the Falun Gong.

Its followers are denied government services, pensions and representation in the government. In every sense they are second-class citizens. And yet their fate is rarely discussed in the context of Iran’s freedom movement.

This will hopefully change soon. Earlier this month, the Baha’i International Community established a new internet archive of official documents, news articles, audio recordings and other primary sources that document Iran’s decades-long campaign against followers of the religion. State-sponsored discrimination against the Baha’i was a feature of the Iranian government under Shah Reza Pahlavi. But the persecution intensified under the Islamic Republic that unseated him in 1979. One letter from the archive shows how a Baha’i citizen’s property was denied a connection to fresh water supply because of his faith. Others show lenient sentences meted out for Iranians convicted of heinous crimes against Baha’i citizens.

A particularly damning document in the new archive is a Feb. 25, 1991, secret directivefrom the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. He writes that as a general policy the Baha’i will not be arrested, exiled or imprisoned without reason. Nonetheless, “The government’s dealings with them must be in such a way that their progress and development are blocked.”

He then lays out what that means. For example, he says Baha’i citizens can be enrolled in schools, so long as they do not self-identify as Baha’i. Universities must not let in Baha’i citizens, or must expel such students once their religious beliefs become known. He ominously writes, “A plan must be devised to confront and destroy their cultural roots outside the country.”

Khamenei says they may be permitted to obtain work permits, rations cards and passports, “so long as it does not encourage them to be Baha’is.” But no high-status positions should be given to Baha’i citizens, even if they remain in the closet. “Deny them any position of influence, such as in the educational sector, etc.,” he writes.

That was more than 25 years ago, but the new archives show that they remain second-class citizens. A 2013 letter for example to Manouher Baghdadi says he is not eligible to receive his pension because “the individual is a follower of the perverse sect of Baha’ism.”

It’s almost impossible to know how many Baha’i live in Iran today. The regime disbanded the Baha’i official governing council in 1983. Iran’s census does not bother to count them. The Baha’i International Community estimates that there are 300,000 Baha’i in Iran.

James Samimi Farr, a media officer for Baha’is of the United States, said the new archives was established this month to respond to “rising international interest to understand the situation for Baha’is of Iran.”

That timing also coincides with the latest uprisings against a regime that has enriched elites and further strangled the political freedoms of its average citizens. Let’s hope this movement ends the rule of the current clerics and terror masters. But that alone will not be enough. Iran’s next leaders must also end the state-sponsored discrimination against the Baha’i and make amends for the century of persecution authored by both the shahs and the mullahs.


RTL News about sexual child abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses.

RTL News (Netherlands)
January 26, 2018

Story about child sexual abuse within the community of Jehovah's Witnesses,
English subtitles included.

The woman who fooled the world

The Woman Who Fooled the World, Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano, Scribe, paperback, 336 pages.
Simon Caterson on a book that shines a light on the shadows of Belle Gibson, the Australian hoaxer who shot to global fame with claims she had beaten terminal cancer without any medical intervention.

Simon Caterson
January 7 2018

Non-fiction: The Woman Who Fooled the World, Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano, Scribe, paperback, 336 pages.

There can be few Australians detested more bitterly and in as many countries as Belle Gibson. The Melbourne-based 29-year-old fake-cancer sufferer and charity fraudster enjoyed a meteoric rise to international fame and fortune as a "wellness" guru who preached against the toxicity of modern life.

Gibson's spectacular ascent was followed by an equally rapid fall into infamy after her hurtful and financially damaging scams were exposed in 2015. She and her former publisher have since been fined heavily under Australian consumer protection laws, with her misconduct excoriated from the bench of the Federal Court. To date, she has yet to face criminal charges.

The Woman Who Fooled the World is a balanced and authoritative account of Gibson's career. Apart from the light it sheds on the substantial areas of shade in Gibson's life and character, the book is essential reading for anyone seeking an understanding of how so many people could have fallen for her pernicious lies.

Co-authors Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano are award-winning investigative journalists whose reporting on this complex and multifaceted story for The Age newspaper in Melbourne played a pivotal role in exposing the scandal.

Gibson didn't just lie big time and use the leverage the lies gave her to misappropriate a large amount of donation money. Also unpardonable was the false hope she gave to the real-life cancer sufferers and their loved ones persuaded by Gibson that this cruel disease could be treated effectively without medical intervention.

No breakthrough in medicine is longed for more than a cure for cancer, yet a cure remains elusive. As one senior neuro-oncologist quoted in the book observes in relation to brain cancer: "People often refuse to accept that there is no answer".

Cancer sufferers can thus be highly susceptible to purported remedies that have no clinical standing. The authors note in passing that the late Steve Jobs, the mercurial head of Apple who died from pancreatic cancer in 2011, chose to delay conventional medical treatment in favour of alternative therapies. It was a decision Jobs told his biographer he later regretted.

As historian Philippa Martyr demonstrates in Paradise of Quacks, false health claims of one kind or another are nothing new in Australia. In the rogue's gallery of contemporary health hoaxers, Gibson takes her place alongside such notorious Australian con artists as Peter Foster, who promoted dodgy weight-loss schemes at home and in the UK, where notoriously he became associated in property dealings with Cherie Blair, the wife of former prime minister Tony.

Belief in quackery begins with the charm and guile of the quack. Like many world-class liars, Gibson began practising to deceive at an early age while growing up in the Brisbane suburb of Wynnum.

As the authors recount: "Those who knew her describe a melodramatic girl with a tendency to imitate others, who was prone to lying. She'd say things about her life and about her family that seemed totally unbelievable. Over the years, she told a number of people that she was in a witness-protection programme. One classmate recalls Gibson claiming she was a test-tube baby."

Adapting to audience feedback and refining her shtick, Gibson's lies coalesced around imaginary medical problems. A sizable number of the people who knew Gibson personally did not believe the yarns she spun about overcoming severe illness.

"On the internet, though, something different was starting to happen. In a chat room about rock band The Flaming Lips, her stories of astonishing medical miracles were beginning to be believed. There were some doubters, but also huge outpourings of sympathy and support. Here, Gibson's biggest, most prolific, and most dangerous lie was born."

Gibson's claim to have tamed terminal brain cancer through the "self-empowerment" of certain dietary practices fell on fertile ground when propagated via social media. The foundational falsehood on which Gibson built a reputation as a plausible wellness warrior was lent plausibility by her carefully crafted presence on Instagram, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers.

Later came a bestselling smartphone app that received a major award from Apple, which in turn was joined by a slickly presented recipe book published by Penguin. The Belle Gibson show thus received substantial backing from two highly respected global brands. "Gibson, for a while, was untouchable", the authors note. Many people - including celebrities, prominent business people and other influential figures - associated themselves enthusiastically with Gibson. In our culture nothing, it seems, succeeds like success.

And 2014 was the champagne year for Belle. With cash pouring in from sales of the app and book, Gibson embraced the lifestyle of the rich and famous, buying a luxury SUV to complement her lavishly furnished upmarket apartment in the posh Melbourne bayside suburb of Brighton. She hired a personal trainer and had her teeth fixed.

The vast "wellness" industry had warmly embraced Gibson, and for a while it seemed nothing could stop her from becoming her own global brand. Only after scrutiny from serious journalists such as Donelly and Toscano, among other principled sceptics, was Gibson exposed as a con artist.

One former friend spoke to the authors of a sense of utter betrayal, no doubt giving voice to the feelings of many others similarly duped: "I admired her and loved her. Now I feel like an idiot."

Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based writer and author of Hoax Nation: Australian Fakes and Frauds

Indo Review

Jonestown Survivor to Speak on Cult Leadership Styles, at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at SDSU, March 29

JANUARY 24, 2018

How do you distinguish quirkiness from insanity in a leader? What are the red flags to watch for? What are our expectations of a leader? A fluke-survivor of the Peoples Temple and decade-long resident of Synanon — an alternative community in Santa Monica, Calif. that disbanded in 1991 — will share her analysis of both cults, as part of the Love Library Series through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at SDSU.

Laura Johnston Kohl will compare and contrast the styles of leaders Jim Jones and Charles E. Dederich, both of whom were drawn to California and had their greatest success here. She will also reflect on the members who were drawn to join each group — why did Peoples Temple members mostly join as extended families, and Synanon members join as individuals?

Kohl feels that to properly understand the Peoples Temple, it needs to be considered in the historic perspective of the 1960s and ‘70s.

“In less than a decade, we had Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, John Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers all killed by vigilantes,” said Kohl. “So by 1970, I really felt that I needed to take charge and not be a victim and see our democracy go down the drain.”

Like many others, Kohl joined out of disillusionment for society, and the desire to create a better world. Then, on Nov. 18, 1978, at the command of Jim Jones, 917 residents of Jonestown lost their lives. Kohl happened to be in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, on church business.

“We know so much about him, yet there are 917 people who need to have their stories told too,” said Kohl. “So I don’t want the story to die because it’s so uncomfortable or difficult. I think we really have to investigate it. … I’ve lived in two cults over my lifetime and I have a perspective now of why Peoples Temple was able to gain so much power, and a sense of what leadership styles seem to draw people in.”

Kohl is happy to answer questions, and even invites them. “I think I’ve been asked every question over the last 39 years and I’ve survived those too.”

Leadership Styles in Famous/Infamous Cults: Peoples Temple and Synanon is on Thursday, March 29, from 1–2:50 pm, at the SDSU Love Library. Following Kohl’s presentation, participants will view the Peoples Temple at Jonestown Special Collection, held in Special Collections and University Archives. The cost is $15. OLLI membership ($30) is required to register. Every semester, OLLI at SDSU offers intellectual and literal adventures for adults age 50 and better, but participants of all ages are welcome to this special lecture. To register, call (619) 594-5152.


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Exposed - Transcendental Meditation (video)

CALL FOR POSTERS - ICSA 2018 Annual Conference, Philadelphia


The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) is conducting its 2018 Annual International Conference with Info-Secte/Info-Cult of Montreal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 5-7, 2018 (preconference workshops on Wednesday July 4th). The conference theme is the global challenge of young people born, raised or recruited into extremist groups, abusive religious organizations, or coercive/exploitative relationships. The conference committee is especially interested in considering poster sessions from students.

Please submit your research, including research in progress, and be part of a growing and exciting international community of researchers in the field of cultic studies, religious studies, and sectarianism, undue influence, and new religious movements.

Your poster can focus on one or more of the many areas in this diverse and emerging field including, but not limited to:

  • social psychology or sociology of influence
  • study of harm or treatment of victims
  • history, anthropology, and culture of cults or sects
  • demographic studies on the prevalence of new religious or other movements
  • policy and political science of cultic groups
  • individual subjectivity, agency, and creativity in cultural groups
  • Boundaries between the individual and society in group and other contexts.

Your proposal should consist of an abstract of 300 words or less. We also welcome group research project submissions. We also need a short biographical sketch. If you already have one on our people profile page, let us know if it is okay or needs changing. If we do not have a bio, please send one. Send your proposal to mail@icsamail.com.

In a poster session, one explains one’s paper on a poster placed on an easel or a table or a wall. Typically, the poster presenters will pin or tape pages (e.g., an abstract with a large font) from their paper. You should also have either copies of your paper to hand out or a business card attendees can use to e-mail a request that you send them a copy of your paper. Attendees pass through the poster area, examining the posters and speaking with authors individually. In a poster presentation, one does not formally present to a group; however, one has an opportunity for quality interactions and followup with those who are most interested in your work. ICSA will contact poster presenters about logistical details as the conference draws near.

ICSA is NOT accepting proposals for speaking, only for posters. The deadline for speaking proposals is long past.

Deadline for abstracts and bio information: May 1, 2018

How a Brisbane Artist Became a Priest for a UFO Pleasure Cult

Luke standing beneath one of his sculptures in Brisbane
Luke Roberts
Julian Morgans
January 18, 2018

Luke Roberts is a Raelian: "the only religion with female, gay, and transgender priests."

The man in the photo above is an artist named Luke Roberts. He’s standing beneath a piece of public artwork he built for the Brisbane City Council, which he says was designed to look like a UFO to symbolise the city’s migrant population. But after a pause he admits it also looks like a UFO because he believes extraterrestrials spawned the human race.

I’ve come to Brisbane to learn about this belief system, known as Raelism, and to meet Luke, who is probably Australia’s most prominent member. He’s been a Raelian for the best part of two decades, although he says it’ll be the next two that are probably the most eventful. That’s because Earth has until 2035 to build an embassy to receive humanity’s extraterrestrial ancestors, or face extinction.

We’ll come back to that. But first we’ll start with the Raelian movement, which all began in France.

In 1974, a sports writer and race driver named Claude Vorilhon published an account of meeting an extraterrestrial. In The Book Which Tells the Truth, Claude claimed he was walking to work one morning when he saw a tall, Asian-featured humanoid exiting a UFO. The humanoid told Vorilhon it was part of an ancient race called the Elohim, and they’d designed humanity via DNA synthesis. They’d then watched us from afar over the eons, occasionally sending visitors who had been misinterpreted as angels or prophets. And now the Elohim wanted to return, but only if Earth was sufficiently peaceful.

Claude Vorilhon says he was also asked to start calling himself Rael, which means “Ambassador of the Elohim,” and an ambassador is what he became.

Rael began preaching love, peace, and equality through a series of books, and slowly gathered up followers. By the early 1990s membership was in the tens of thousands, and two French brothers named Jarel and Alcy Aymonier (sons of Vorilhon’s original book publisher) travelled to Australia to set up a branch here. They began by hosting talks around Sydney and Newcastle, but as the group grew talks were held around the country. This was how in 2001 Luke Roberts became involved.

“It was a philosophy that just made sense to me,” he says. “An understanding of total equality with a scientific background.”

By this point in the story, Luke and I had moved to a café to find some shade. We sit in a courtyard, drinking juice and sweating, and Luke speaks softly with lots of pauses to get his words right. I look at his necklace, which features a Star of David around a Swastika. It’s a pretty intense symbol, but Luke tells me the Swastika predates the Nazis by a long way. It’s actually “an ancient symbol of love, peace, and infinity,” he says, which is why the Raelians use this Star of David/Swastika mashup as their emblem.

He then tucks his necklace inside his shirt and we move on.

Luke tells me he was raised as a Catholic in a tiny Queensland town called Alpha, knowing he was gay from a young age. “I was brought up to believe homosexuality was a sort of disease, to be eradicated from the planet,” he explains. “So when it came to a religion, I wasn’t going to put up with any nonsense related to homosexuality.”

He found that the Raelian movement was pretty open to his sexuality, which makes sense if you consider the human race was spawned by genderless humanoids who don't care who shags who.

“It is the only religion that has female, gay, and transgender priests,” he says. “It’s the most tolerant religion you’re ever likely to find.”

Today Luke estimates there are around 250 baptised Raelians around Australia, but admits that it’s hard to keep tally as their activities mostly take place online or overseas.

“We had more local followers in the early 2000s,” he says. “In terms of people who are actually active today I think maybe it would be between 50 and 100.”

In essence, the Raelian Movement these days has a two-pronged focus on propagating international peace while trying to build an embassy. Without global peace (or the embassy) they say our ancestors won’t return, so you can understand why these things need to be done before 2035.

In terms of trying to achieve global peace, Raelians spent much of 2017 lobbying governments to ratify the treaty for the abolishment of nuclear weapons. Their leader, Maitreya Rael—who published the original Raelian text and now lives in Japan—has written extensively about how nuclear weapons represent the largest threat to humanity, and therefore prevent us from meeting our makers.

Then there’s another peacekeeping initiative, this time in Africa, which at first seems a bit more bizarre. The Movement runs a medical clinic in Burkina Faso called Clitoraid, which performs reverse female-circumcision operations. “Female circumcision is about suppressing women,” says Luke. And Clitoraid is about empowering women by undoing these operations.”

But of course their most ambitious project, after world peace and disseminating sexual equality, is to build a UFO embassy in Jerusalem. The Raelians believe that if humanity were to make this happen, the feat would signal our preparedness to meet our ancestors. But so far the difficulty of securing four square kilometres of prime Israeli real estate has proven difficult.

Luke explains there have been several requests to the Israeli Government for land but all have failed. One possible reason is that that Raelian Star of David/Swastika symbol thing is offensive to everyone in Israel. Luke says this is a reason that Raelians in Israel have been using a different, sanitised version, which Luke wears on his finger as a ring. But in any case, Maitreya Rael announced in 2015 that Jerusalem might not be the right place after all.

“Ideally it was to be built in Jerusalem,” Luke says, “but it now appears to be the last place where the Elohim want the Embassy to be, mainly because of Israel’s behaviour towards Palestine.”

So they’ve since broadened their search to any country that is prepared to contribute sufficient land. For a while Russia was on the shortlist, but apparently the Elohim prefer a warm country, “ideally.”

At this point, I have to ask what the backup plan is if the embassy doesn’t get built. Oddly, he seems apathetic. “Most probably, no one will be alive on Earth to worry about it,” he says. “We’re on the edge of a nuclear catastrophe. The UN’s ban treaty has been open for ratification since September 2017 and Australia, as well as a list of nations, is totally ignoring it.”

It’s a problem that feels very much part of the zeitgeist. It’s stuff that keeps me awake too but I consider myself too cool for religion or UFOs—so I’m doing far, far less than Luke. And in this way I quite admire the guy. He makes art. He has a belief system. And he’s managed to combine the two in a way that makes him happy while doing his best to help.

We finish the afternoon at his latest sculpture, which is a giant steel flower topped with LED petals that glow red at night. He tells me that it’s a poinsettia, which is the floral emblem of Brisbane, and then he spends a few minutes dusting off its base. “What does it mean?” I ask, watching him.

“It aims to inspire optimism,” he says. “That and to evoke a sense of the transcendental.”

And then the lights started to come on and like his other sculpture; the whole thing looks a bit spacey. Spacey and transcendental, right in the middle of Brisbane.


Check out “Transcendental Deception Trailer” from Aryeh Siegel on Vimeo.

Check out “Transcendental Deception Trailer” from Aryeh Siegel on Vimeo.

The video is available for your viewing pleasure at: https://vimeo.com/253376693

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain

January 29, 2018

New book examines TM's poorly designed and over-hyped science, hidden agendas, and its campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion.

LOS ANGELES (PRWEB) January 29, 2018

Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular. It is secular and rooted in scientific research, widely practiced in schools and in the workplace. But not all meditation is created equal. In the new book, Transcendental Deception, author Aryeh Siegel exposes the hidden world of the enormously wealthy and highly secretive Transcendental Meditation organization.

Author Aryeh Siegel was first introduced to TM in the early 1970s. What began as a casual interest in meditation to relieve stress would morph into an all-encompassing way of life for nearly ten years. Siegel became a TM teacher, participated in small meetings with TM's guru and founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and even had a place in Maharishi's entourage in 1975 when he appeared twice on the Merv Griffin Show.

While primarily working at TM's U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, Siegel was involved with some early studies that were supposed to demonstrate the power and efficacy of the TM approach. He also participated in what was called the "TM-Sidhi program" which promised that meditators could learn to levitate, become invisible, develop miraculous powers, and achieve permanent perfect health with eternal life.

Over time, Siegel became disillusioned with both his TM practice and the organization. He didn't need his Ph.D. coursework in behavioral science at UCLA to understand that the so-called research TM was pushing was biased, poorly designed, and flawed. He came to believe that much what passed for science in the TM world was too often a form of contrived promotion. Although Siegel seriously practiced TM and the Sidhi program for years, he experienced no miraculous powers, no flying or levitating, just wishful thinking and hype. It became increasingly obvious to him that TM was a poorly adapted form of Hinduism, a religion, yet falsely promoted to the public as secular and scientific. Siegel further experienced the TM organization as becoming increasingly authoritarian and cultic.

Transcendental Deception, the first comprehensive look at the TM movement written by a former insider, accomplishes the following:

Deconstructs the practices and philosophy of the Maharishi and the TM organization, demonstrating just how much it is a religionAnalyzes TM's secret religious ceremony – the Puja – and explains why the TM movement keeps its content hidden, preventing the public, students and teachers from understanding the true meaning of the Sanskrit ritualExplores how TM continues to maintain the fantasy that it is not a religion, but instead endlessly repeats the narrative that it is secular and scientificAnalyzes key research on the TM's supposed benefits and demonstrates how most of it is preliminary, inconsequential or biased

For many people, this book will be a surprise, even shocking. Over the decades, millions have started TM, most looking for a simple form of meditation to reduce stress. Some people clearly benefit, but that's a result of many types of meditation, not just TM. Most people who practice TM know nothing about the organization and what goes on behind the scenes. Many celebrities who practice TM have also been deceived.

Author Aryeh Siegel says, "To be clear, I am not against meditation, mindfulness, or Hinduism. In America, anyone is free to practice any religion, but no religion has a place in our public-school system. Also, what concerns me is the deception at the heart of TM. TM has falsely promoted itself for decades, so it is important that people know the truth. That's why I wrote this book."

Transcendental Deception is available from Amazon.

Aryeh Siegel is available for interviews. For further information, please visit http://www.tmdeception.com or send an email to info@tmdeception.com


Jan 28, 2018


January 25, 2018

An Irish priest has put out an urgent call for backup to help with the growing demand for exorcisms in the country, according to reports.

“It’s only in recent years that the demand [for exorcisms] has risen exponentially,” Father Pat Collins said, adding that anyone who doesn’t see the need for more exorcists is “out of touch with reality.” Collins wrote an open letter to Irish bishops asking them to begin training more priests to deal with exorcisms, and he cited the International Association of Exorcists’ belief that demonic activity has increased substantially in recent years.

Each Catholic diocese in Ireland is required to have a trained exorcist who can identify whether a person is suffering from mental illness or has been possessed.
A pastor presses a crucifix on a believer’s head to evict a supposed demon during an exorcism ritual.

Collins has been speaking out about the activities of what he has called “the evil one” for years. He is widely considered Ireland’s most prominent exorcist, and he has also advocated for the church to take a more active role in demon hunting.

The number of Catholics in Europe is dropping as young people leave the church and become more secular.“Adult millennials, defined by the Pew Research Center as people between the ages of 18 and 33, are leaving the Catholic Church rapidly. A 2013 study by the Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, revealed that 65 percent of Catholic-raised young adults say they are less religiously active today than they were at age 15,” a 2014 Pulitzer Center report revealed.But exorcisms are still occasionally performed in majority-Catholic countries like Ireland and Italy. A 2016 documentary, Deliver Us, about modern-day exorcists, reveals how much the profession has changed over the years. For example, it shows a priest performing an exorcism via mobile phone. In the film, priests complain about being “bombarded by possessed people.”


Sam Mullet, Amish bishop who orchestrated beard-cutting attacks, asks judge to overturn his convictions

In this Oct. 10, 2011, file photo, Samuel Mullet Sr. stands in front of his home in Bergholz. Mullet has filed a motion to vacate his convictions, following the Supreme Court decision's not to take up his case.(AP file photo)
Samuel Mullet Sr.
Eric Heisig
Jan 12, 2018

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Amish bishop Sam Mullet is asking the Cleveland federal judge who sent him to prison to overturn his convictions for orchestrating a series of beard and hair-cutting attacks on his enemies.

Mullet argues in a motion filed Friday that his former attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Ed Bryan, made a series of errors while representing him at his 2012 trial, and through two appeals. Had Bryan not committed the errors, Mullet's trial may have ended differently, the motion says.

Bryan, who has worked as a federal defense attorney since 1997, admitted to these errors in an affidavit included in the motion.

This includes not arguing on Mullet's second appeal that federal prosecutors were out of line in noting Mullet's alleged sexual misconduct to the jury.

"Although we diligently represented Mr. Mullet at trial and on appeal, we did not represent Mr. Mullet error free," Bryan wrote in his affidavit.

Mullet is now represented by former federal prosecutor Richard Blake. He is asking U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland to overturn his convictions, a high bar to clear legally since Mullet has already lost an appeal.

Mullet also asked to leave prison pending the outcome of his newest challenges.

(You can read the full motion here or at the bottom of this story.)

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Tobin declined to comment.

Mullet is the leader of a breakaway sect of an Amish community made up of 18 families in the village of Bergholz, located about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland. They were convicted of several crimes in September 2012 for carrying out five nighttime raids in 2011.

Members of the community rousted five victims out of bed and chopped off their beards and hair with horse mane shears and battery-powered clippers. The attackers documented the attacks with a disposable camera.

Men's beards and women's hair have spiritual significance to the Amish.

Prosecutors brought hate-crime and obstruction charges against 16 members of the Amish community. They said the attacks were carried out at the behest of Mullet against the bishop's enemies. Witnesses portrayed him as a fire-and-brimstone preacher who imposed strict, and often bizarre, discipline on his flock.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned the hate-crime convictions, citing faulty jury instructions. Polster re-sentenced all of them to shorter sentences in March 2015 -- with Mullet's sentence being reduced from 15 years to 10 years, nine months in federal prison. The judge noted that it was clear the attacks were religiously motivated.

The 6th Circuit rejected Mullet's appeal in May 2016 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his case in February.

Mullet is the only defendant who remains in prison.

The motion to vacate his convictions relies on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. It says Polster improperly allowed the jury to hear evidence of Mullet's sexual activities, which prosecutors said showed how much control he had over his community. Bryan objected before trial, and a 6th Circuit judge raised the testimony as problematic during Mullet's first appeal, but Bryan did not bring it up the second time around, the motion says.

Mullet also argues that Bryan should have objected to problematic testimony by a government's expert. Donald Kraybill was only supposed to testify generally about the Amish and about the significance of beards for Amish men and long hair for Amish women. Instead, Kraybill talked about how Mullet lead by "coercion and force and threats and intimidation," according to the motion.

Mullet also took issue with Bryan's lack of a specific objection to prosecutors' use of a 2011 article by Associated Press reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins that contained an interview with Mullet. Prosecutors treated the article as a confession at trial and used a quote of Mullet's from the article out of context, according to the motion.

After serving part of his sentence at a prison in Texarkana, Texas, Mullet is being housed at a federal prison in Lisbon, Ohio.


Nithyananda cults abusive videos: Complaint lodged for use of minors to attack Vairamuthu

(Picture from nithyananda.org)
In multiple videos, doing the rounds on social media, girls and boys are seen using expletives that are sexual in nature as they question the lyricist's comments on Andal, an Alvar saint.

Priyanka Thirumurthy
The News Minute
January 22, 2018

Even as lyricist and poet Vairamuthu alleges that his words have been twisted in regard to the Andal controversy, more abuse has come his way over the last two days. This time however the source of malice is shocking - children who are part of the ‘Swami’ Nithyananda Ashram.

In multiple videos, doing the rounds on social media, girls and boys are seen using expletives, many sexual in nature, as they question the lyricist's comments on Andal, an Alvar saint. This has generated anger amongst the general public, which has found the use of children in such a manner objectionable. Following this, prominent activist Piyush Manush has written a complaint to the Karnataka police demanding that action be taken under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Nityananda’s main ashram is situated at Bidadi in Ramanagara district of Karnataka.

In a 19 minute video, a teenage girl dressed in saffron says, "I got up and finished puja. So I decided to specially add something on Vairamuthu. A crowd here is waiting to abuse you (Vairamuthu)."

The crowd that she refers to is in fact younger girls who are looking into the camera eagerly. When the teenager pans the phone to show these minors, they begin shouting expletives at the phone.

The teenager then comes back on frame to say, "He (Vairamuthu) has 10,000 mistresses. There are people who don't even have one. I am asking you, you are making 16 year old girls talk like this..."

The minor that she refers to then says, "We should hit their (Vairamuthu's) women in the middle of the road to teach them a lesson."

In another video posted in the second week of January, she introduces herself as the ‘princess’ of Nithyananda ashram and says that she is a 16-year-old.

A video compilation of abuses from his followers, shows two young boys using explicit language which is sexual in nature. Someone facing them seems to be further prompting them through the tirade. The young boys say "What if we talk this way about your mother?" before going on to use objectionable language.

Other videos show older disciples taking turns to abuse the lyricist. In his complaint to the Director General of Police (Karnataka) Piyush says, " I am writing this with deep distress after watching a few videos being circulated in the social media widely featuring children and others housed and schooled in Swami Nithyananda ashram, Bidadi, Karnataka. I am attaching a FB link for your good offices to purview the link and examine for yourself the sexually explicit content in which children have put to use to perform in acts that they in their age will never be able to comprehend the effects thereof. Even if it is claimed that it is a willful act of the children the said institution needs to be taken to task as custodians of the young minds."

He has demanded that a case be filed against the ashram and Nithyananda. In addition to this, he has asked the police to also consider the Misuse of Religious institution Act.

"In the publicly circulated material they have attacked individuals and their families, misused their permissions of conducting educational activity, violated laws pertaining to disturbing peace and tranquility amongst communities as they have been asking and inducing people to act against Muslims and Christians etc.. Above all the acts that children have been filmed to be engaged in makes it makes a clear case for the institution of Swami Nithyananda," says the complaint.

An expert TNM spoke to said that making children do such videos is liable for prosecution under Section 23 of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

What is also disturbing are the comments posted by people under these videos uploaded on Facebook, YouTube etc. Many have posted sexually loaded comments targeting these minors. In another video, the 16-year-old Nithayananda disciple points out that the reactions to her video can be considered as child sexual abuse.

When TNM contacted BJP sources over their views on this malicious campaign against Vairamuthu, a leader on the condition of anonymity says, "They are lowering the impact of our campaign. The overwhelming majority of people from the BJP are critical about what the Nityananda disciples are doing. They represent the extreme Hindu fringe groups and bring a bad name to Hinduism. There are so many videos and the intention seems to be to gain some mileage. It is unfortunate and reflects badly on the religion."

Another BJP leader further says, "We don't want anything to do with them and have always kept our distance."

BJP leaders however agree that Nithyananda could be trying to gain some political capital by trying to side with the BJP and other Hindu groups against Vairamuthu.

Prominent writers, actors and several others have, however, openly condemned the activities of the Ashram.
In a tweet on Sunday, actor Prasanna said, "Honestly the ones degrading the Hindu religion are the followers of Nithyananda. This is a group that must be destroyed. Sudikodutha sudarkodi (Andal) must burn these people."


Waco, Texas: How a 51-day standoff between a Christian cult and the FBI left more than 80 dead and divided America

Waco, the aftermath: David Koresh and 75 followers died on 19 April 1993 when the FBI tried to storm their Mount Carmel Centre compound. More Branch Davidians had died in the 28 February ATF raid that started the siege Alamy
As a Paramount TV drama may show, almost every aspect of the Waco siege that pitted sect leader David Koresh against the federal government is contested - and the controversy may have played a part in shaping today's America

Adam Lushe
The Independent
January 26, 2018

The siege had endured for 51 days.

For 51 days, for hour after hour, the FBI negotiators had sought agreement with a sect leader who veered between cracking jokes and threatening to start World War Three, between lucid civility and incoherent rambling about the scriptures. About the Book of Revelation in particular.

To himself and to his followers in the Branch Davidians sect, David Koresh, 33, was the almighty Lamb of God, commanding men to surrender their wives to him, fathering babies with children as young as 12, preparing them all for the imminent apocalypse.

Confronted by snipers and combat vehicles, facing an armed siege that had come to resemble the final cataclysmic battle with the government that their leader had prophesised, the Davidians refused to desert either Koresh or their squalid compound near Waco, Texas.

Instead they held children up to the windows and unfurled a sign proclaiming: “Flames Await”.

And so, wittingly or unwittingly, the Davidians foretold the denouement.

On the morning of Monday April 19 1993, with the FBI team still seemingly divided about whether force or negotiation was the answer, law enforcement agents went in, to the accompaniment of military-grade tear gas being fired from Army-issue combat vehicles.

Only nine sect members emerged alive.

Somehow, a fire was started. Fanned by a 30-mile-an-hour wind, the flames destroyed the Davidians’ compound, the Biblically-named Mount Carmel Centre.

That day saw the deaths of 76 Davidians, including Koresh, 24 followers who were British citizens, and more than 20 children.

Women and children, huddling under wet blankets for protection from the blaze, were killed by falling debris. Many others were killed by smoke inhalation.

Some, though, were found shot in the head at close range. Several young children were shot and one toddler died from a stab wound to the chest.

It seemed that as the flames and federal agents approached, some Davidians followed their leader Koresh’s order to commit suicide, and took the children with them.

That, at least, is one account of the siege of Waco.

Almost every aspect of it could be, and indeed has been challenged.

And now a new American miniseries, its first episode broadcast on Wednesday, is again stirring the embers of Waco.

If the TV drama Waco is attracting enormous attention, that’s hardly surprising.

The Waco siege was never just about a bizarre sect, a failed negotiation and a disastrous raid.

In some ways, it was a fatal collision of things that have helped make, and occasionally threaten to break America.

Waco combined God and guns - the right to religious freedom and the right to bear arms - with the fear that federal government would remove those rights, and federal government’s fear of its more extreme citizens.

It saw a government acting partly out of fear of domestic terrorism embark on a siege that would come to support narratives later exploited by domestic terrorists.

Because in some quarters, Koresh and the Davidians were martyrised as a community of God-fearing if unconventional Christians whose freedoms should have been guaranteed by the US Constitution, but who were instead killed by an ever more controlling government.

And two years to the day after the end of the Waco siege, such views were taken to perverse extremes. On April 19 1995 Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh claimed to be avenging the Davidians when he killed 168 people in his attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Small wonder, then, that from how it started, to how it finished and beyond to its aftermath, everything about Waco is contested.

The Paramount Network miniseries seems to be leaning towards a view that Koresh and his followers were without violent intent, and misunderstood.

And that’s not totally implausible. The Davidians were well-known locally, and maintained friendly relations with outsiders, earning some of their income from a scrupulously legal retail gun business called the Mag Bag.

According to this version, the 80 armed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operatives were the ones acting excessively - and firing first – when they embarked on the botched raid of February 28 1993 that left four agents and five Davidians dead, and started the siege.

According to FBI evidence later presented in court, however, the fears informing the original ATF search warrant – that semi-automatic guns were being illegally modified to fire in fully automatic mode - were justified. The FBI’s experts testified that 46 illegally modified assault rifles were among the hundreds of weapons found at the Davidians’ compound.

And looming behind the official worries about modified weapons was an even greater fear: that the Branch Davidians weren’t just a sect, but an abusive doomsday cult positively itching for the Apocalypse.

The day before the ATF raid, some of these fears were made public by an explosive report in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Headlined ‘The Sinful Messiah’, it claimed that Koresh “rules Mount Carmel by virtue of the belief that he alone can open the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation, setting loose catastrophic events that will end mankind and propel [him] and his followers into heaven.”

It was said that Koresh had “claimed the divine right to take every man’s wife” and established a harem of at least 15 women, producing children who were supposedly destined to “rule the Earth with him after he and his male followers slay the unbelievers”.

Initially, Koresh might not have seemed like charismatic leader material. Born Vernon Howell, to a 15-year-old mother and a 20-year-old father she never married, he had been a lonely child, who dropped out of high school aged 17 and then drifted in the hope of becoming a rock star, marrying a 14-year-old in his early twenties.

But from an early age Koresh had found solace in the Bible, apparently memorising the New Testament by the time he was 12. He was baptised as a Seventh Day Adventist aged 20, but expelled from the church two years later for being “a bad influence on the young.”

Shortly afterwards, in 1981, Koresh joined the Branch Davidians, and found a far more receptive audience.

Here, an October 1993 Department of Justice (DOJ) report noted, Koresh could find people of such “low self-esteem” that he could elevate himself to “near God-like status.”

The US government report seemed to confirm many of the Waco Tribune-Herald claims.

“Koresh,” it said, “Preached that as the ‘Lamb of God’ only his ‘seed’ was pure, meaning that only he could have sex with the over-puberty aged girls and women in the compound, and that none of the men could have sex.

“Koresh even convinced [his second-in-command Steve] Schneider to give up his wife, Judy. Koresh would humiliate Steve Schneider by talking about his sexual experiences with Judy in front of all the Davidians at their Bible study sessions.”

Nor did the official report flinch from allegations of Koresh’s sexual abuse of girls.

Using his original surname Howell, it cited the testimony of former compound resident Jeannine Bunds that “Howell had fathered at least 15 children with various women and young girls at the compound. Some of the girls who had babies fathered by Howell were as young as 12 years old. She [Bunds] had personally delivered seven of these children.”

And if Koresh got his followers to accept this kind of abuse, surely he could also convince them the Apocalypse was nigh, that it would come with the US government killing him, before he and the “exalted” who died alongside him rose again?

“They believed Koresh was the ‘Lamb’ through whom God communicated to them,” said the DOJ report. “They also believed the end of the world was near, that the world would end in a cataclysmic confrontation between themselves and the government, and that they would thereafter be resurrected.”

“The February 28 ATF raid,” the report added, “Only reinforced the truth of Koresh's prophetic pronouncements in the minds of his followers.

“Koresh had … planned for the predicted apocalyptic showdown by massively arming himself and his followers beginning in early 1992 and continuing through early 1993.”

But come April 19 1993, the final day of the Waco drama, was Koresh still determined to go through with it?

Was he, still, as one FBI-commissioned analyst put it, planning to bring the siege to a “magnificent end” that would “take the lives of all of his followers and as many of the authorities as possible."

The letter that Koresh had sent to the FBI on April 9, telling them the “heavens are calling you to judgement”, was heavily analysed from the moment it was received, but the experts were unable to agree on whether Koresh was determined to have a suicidal, apocalyptic last battle.

And so the subsequent media reports have tended to disagree. Some have stressed the military-style training at the camp, the firearms drills, the sewing of specially designed vests with pockets for extra ammunition clips, the school bus that was buried to serve as a bunker.

Others have suggested that Koresh was planning to surrender after writing down his interpretation of the Seven Seals, only to be interrupted by the FBI’s attempt to storm the compound.

The DOJ, though, said Koresh had repeatedly “lied” about leaving the compound. On March 2 he said he would come out peacefully “immediately” a 58-minute recording he had made was broadcast over the radio. After the recording was transmitted, Koresh told the FBI negotiators that God had ordered him to wait.

And one Davidian who was allowed out of the compound mid-siege told the ATF that Koresh hadn’t been planning to leave peacefully on March 2. The sect member’s testimony, the DOJ report stated, was that: “Koresh planned to exit the compound with [follower] Greg Summers, who would have an explosive device strapped around his waist so that they would blow themselves up in front of the FBI.

“In addition, the people inside the compound planned to blow themselves up so that ‘We would all go to heaven that day’.”

Such testimony may also seem to prove that the Davidians were indeed intent on mass suicide. Again, however, the evidence does not offer a clear picture.

Koresh and his followers inside the compound told the FBI negotiators that they did not intend to kill themselves, since this would be against the leader’s teachings.

That, though, did not rule out some sort of ‘suicide by cop’.

As the siege was ongoing, former sect members told the ATF that Koresh's teaching was that law enforcement officers had to be the ones who killed him. His prophesy wouldn’t be fulfilled if he simply took his own life.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that some evidence points to more active plans for suicide.

The DOJ said Kiri Jewell, a teenager who left the compound shortly before the siege told the FBI that the Davidians had discussed mass suicide by shooting or by cyanide.

The investigations that followed April 19 also appear to have been inconclusive.

The FBI has always maintained that none of its agents fired their weapons, despite some being fired on. But if that is the case, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that the gunshot wounds on some Davidian bodies are evidence of mass suicide.

When a Frontline documentary team investigated, they said they were told by coroner’s office and FBI sources that the positions of most of the bodies found with gunshot wounds on April 19 were inconsistent with mass suicide.

Some have suggested the shootings were “mercy killings”, the Davidians preferring a quick death from a bullet over a lingering one from flames and smoke inhalation.

But there is an even grimmer possibility. As one Department of Justice report put it: “It is possible that some people were shot [by their fellow sect members] to prevent their escape from the compound.

“It is not certain whether a substantial number of the persons who died in the compound on April 19 remained inside voluntarily, were being held in the compound against their will or were shot in order to prevent their escape from the fire.”

It is also possible that those who weren’t shot actually welcomed the fire, choosing to die alongside their leader as prophesied.

Koresh, though, was not one of those killed by the flames. He was found with a bullet wound to the forehead. And if it wasn’t the FBI that did the shooting, who fired the bullet?

One theory has it that his loyal lieutenant Schneider, finally realising that the man who had so humiliatingly taken his wife was a fraud, shot Koresh and then turned the gun on himself – a kind of justice, perhaps, albeit not necessarily of the divine sort.

The Waco siege lived on, in lawsuits. Survivors and relatives of the Davidians sued the government and claimed the fire in which so many died was caused by one of the combat vehicles knocking over a lantern.

Arson investigators, however, concluded that the Davidians themselves started the blaze, setting the compound alight in at least three different locations.

Listening devices, smuggled in by the FBI inside milk cartons offered to the Davidians, also picked up sect members saying things like “start the fire” and “spread the fuel”.

So the October 1993 Department of Justice report was able to come to a conclusion that was reassuring, for officialdom: “Probably the most important observation that can be made about the Waco standoff is that after all is said and done, after all the analysis, investigations, hearings, and so forth, nothing would have changed the outcome because the people who remained inside had no intention of leaving.”

As the new miniseries seems to suggest, many remain unconvinced.

Indeed in some accounts, it is not Koresh, but the federal government – a federal government then led by President Bill Clinton – that remains the villain.

Some choose to minimise or dispute the child sex abuse allegations: “a disgruntled parent involved in a custody case, and we all know how that goes.”

In these accounts the Branch Davidians become a “multi-racial community, made up of Christians who played music, worked on their cars, conducted a legal arms business, and loved their children”.

Federal government should have left these people alone, the theory goes. Instead, in the form of the ATF, it sought to abuse their civil and religious rights, and in so doing started a calamitous siege.

In the Nineties such arguments bolstered a freedom-loving, gun-bearing, sometimes survivalist suspicion of government, of “Washington”, and of politicians like Clinton.

Today, perhaps you could be forgiven for wondering what small part Waco might have played in shaping the destiny of America.

In the reactions to what happened 25 years ago, is it possible to glimpse a flicker of sentiments that would help pave the way for another controversial leader – a man who also encouraged distrust of traditional government, and who promised to “drain the swamp”?


The Manson Curse: why former cult follower Leslie Van Houten was denied parole

Leslie Van Houten speaks to the Parole Board at the Institution for Women in Corona, California, in 2002. (DAMIAN DOVARGANES AFP/Getty Images)
Leslie Van Houten 

Brent Bambury
CBC Radio

January 26,2018

Listen 7:53

It's an unlikely friendship between a convicted former member of the Manson Family and a journalist who wrote about her trial.

Linda Deutsch is now retired from the Associated Press, but she spent two decades reporting about Charles Manson and his followers, the murders they committed, and their ensuing trials.

But throughout, Deutsch wrote extensively about one specific member of the so-called Manson Family: Leslie Van Houten.

She was "different," says Deutsch.

"She was the youngest involved in the killings," Deutsch tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "She was the most incomprehensible participant in this."

Van Houten, despite being recommended for parole multiple times, has remained in jail for 48 years.

After her retirement as a journalist, Deutsch paid her a visit. The pair shared their thoughts on aging and what's changing in the world.

"We were two women talking about a lot of things — not just the killings … we got to be friends, basically."
Manson reporter

As an AP reporter, Deutsch covered the Manson trials throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

"This is crazy," she recalled saying to another reporter.

Manson's trial lasted from late 1969 to 1971, but it wasn't only the cult leader who interested Deutsch. She was also interested in Van Houten, a young woman "brainwashed" by the killer.

"She was not present at the Sharon Tate murders, which were the most publicized," says Deutsch. "She was ordered by Manson to go and do whatever Tex Watson told her to do. He was the Manson lieutenant who led the group and he told her to stab Mrs. [Rosemary] LaBianca."

Van Houten claims that LaBianca was already dead when she stabbed her. Regardless, Van Houten was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, which was later changed life in prison.

"It's the felony murder law. Basically if you're there and you participate you're as guilty as everyone else."
Parole denied

Van Houten has served 48 years in prison and became eligible for parole in 1979. Earlier this month, she was denied parole for the 20th time despite a parole board recommendation. The decision came down to the state's Governor Jerry Brown.

"Even today, five decades later, Van Houten has not wholly accepted responsibility for her role in the violent and brutal deaths of Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca," Brown wrote in his decision.

'The prosecutors eventually said that she would be the first one released but that just has not happened.'- Linda Deutsch, former AP reporter

But this isn't necessarily the case, says Deutsch.

"She has many times said in her parole hearings — she said to me — that she does accept responsibility. But she does place some blame, as she must, on Manson," Deutsch says.

"She has said to me: 'I could not have lived if I did not pay for what I did.'"

Brown's decision came as a surprise for some. California's parole board recommended Van Houten be released in three consecutive hearings and the 68-year-old is said to be a "model" inmate.

Van Houten has completed two degrees in prison — a Bachelor's and a Master's degree — and, according to Deutsch, she counsels women.

"The prosecutors eventually said that she would be the first one released but that just has not happened."
Unlikely friendship

Deutsch made headlines when she retired as a crime reporter for the Associated Press in December 2014. Those headlines caught the attention of Van Houten.

"I covered the original trial, the second trial, the third trial until she was convicted and then I went to all the parole hearings. We never spoke," Deutsch recalls.

From jail, Van Houten reached out.

"She sent me a letter and said she wanted to thank me for being fair to her over the years in my coverage," says Deutsch. "And she said some of the stories stung, which she said they should because, 'I deserved that.'"

Never one to reject a scoop — she says both O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson reached out to her after their respective trials — she asked to meet.

"I went and we sat and talked for about four hours. We had gone through this saga together, basically, but had never met."

Both being close in age, their meeting sparked an unlikely friendship.
Politics at play

As a reporter, Deutsch says she never picked sides in the trials she covered. But now retired, she's spoken up about Van Houten's parole denials.

In the L.A. Times, Deutsch wrote: "I believe that Van Houten, who was just 19 at the time of the killings and is now 68, has earned her freedom."

Now, she says, there's only one thing keeping her behind bars: it's the name Manson.

Van Houten's parole was denied by Brown for political reasons, Deutsch says. The longstanding Democratic governor is soon to leave office and she speculates that he doesn't want his legacy to be the release of a Manson Family member.

But, with Charles Manson dead, she wonders why his impact continues to affect Van Houten.

"It's like he's haunting the justice system, even in death."

To hear the full segment with Linda Deutsch, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.


Charles Manson's grandson makes court plea to get body out of morgue

Charles Manson died at 83 on Nov. 19, 2017. Each of the parties that have come to court all have said they want to collect Manson’s body so he can be cremated or properly buried, though some have suggested others have less noble motives, such as selling cadaver photos or carving off Manson’s tattoos for sale or display.  (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO)
“My grandfather has been on ice over 60 days,” Freeman blurted in court as he choked up.

Toronto Star
The Associated Press
January 27, 2018

LOS ANGELES—The fight for the corpse of Charles Manson was thrown out of a Los Angeles court Friday, as another potential heir stepped into the case and the grandson of the cult leader made an emotional plea to a judge.

In a hearing to determine the venue for legal battles over Manson’s estate and the disposition of his remains, Jason Freeman, whose father was born by Manson’s first wife, echoed the frustration of several parties who have been trying to get control of the notorious criminal’s body since he died in November.

“My grandfather has been on ice over 60 days,” Freeman blurted in court as he choked up.

Judge David Cowan divided the two duelling Manson cases, deciding that litigation over the potentially lucrative estate should remain in Los Angeles because that’s where Manson was living when he was arrested and convicted in the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

Cowan said the case over the remains, however, belongs in either in Kings County, Calif., where the cult leader was imprisoned, or Kern County, Calif., where he died at 83 in a Bakersfield hospital on Nov. 19. A hearing is already scheduled Wednesday in Bakersfield and the Kern County coroner, which has the body, requested the case be decided there.

Each of the parties that have come to court all have said they want to collect Manson’s body so he can be cremated or properly buried, though some have suggested others have less noble motives, such as selling cadaver photos or carving off Manson’s tattoos for sale or display.

Freeman, an oil worker and former pro mixed martial arts fighter, said he got to know Manson in the last eight years of his life through phone calls and letters. He said it was not an easy or smooth relationship and that Manson had urged him not to get involved in his affairs, but that he felt it was his mission.

“I’m here to claim my grandfather, have him cremated, spread his ashes and do the right thing,” Freeman said. “And put this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn’t have been blown up as big as it was for all these years, now that he’s passed (away), I want to help bury it.”

So far, three parties have staked claims in court to collect Manson’s body from the morgue and take control of any assets, which could include rights to any property he left behind, the commercial right to use his image or royalties to songs he wrote. Guns N’ Roses recorded a Manson song, “Look at Your Game, Girl,” and the Beach Boys, who Manson was acquainted with, recorded a variation of a tune he wrote.

Freeman is being challenged by Manson’s longtime pen pal, Michael Channels, who holds a will that names him as executor and sole beneficiary.

A lawyer for a purported son of Charles Manson appeared in court Friday for the first time and said he was representing Michael Brunner, whose mother was an early member of the infamous “Manson family.” Mary Brunner was in jail when Manson’s followers slaughtered Tate and friends, and a wealthy grocer and his wife, over two nights in August 1969.

Representatives for another alleged son, Matthew Lentz, who claims he was fathered by Manson during a Wisconsin orgy, have said he would appear in court, but he’s been a no-show at two hearings and has yet to file court papers. However, a will purportedly signed by Manson leaving everything to Lentz, his “one living child,” was filed with the Kern County coroner.

Attorneys for Freeman, Brunner and Kern County have all questioned the validity of the two wills.

Brunner’s lawyer, Daniel Mortensen, said Manson acknowledged his client as a son, but they didn’t have a close relationship. He said Brunner, a military veteran, would cremate the remains and dispose of them immediately in a dignified way “that does not appeal to culty people.”

“He wants to as quickly as possible end the circus,” Mortensen said. “He doesn’t want anything ghoulish to go on with the body.”