Sep 29, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/29/2020

NXIVM, Legal, Australian Right-Wing Extremist, White Utopias, Burning Man, The World Wide Association of Specialty Programs, Heaven on Earth Inn's, Transcendental Meditation

"For more than a decade, Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, devoted her life to supporting a self-help group called Nxivm. She quit her equestrian career, moved to Nxivm's headquarters in upstate New York and poured millions of dollars into the group.

The organization has since unraveled over accusations that it was a pyramid scheme and a sex-trafficking cult, estranging Ms. Bronfman from her father and turning her into a felon.

And yet, as she awaits sentencing by a federal judge, Ms. Bronfman, 41, has not wavered in her loyalty to Nxivm's leader, Keith Raniere.

"Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and Nxivm, and that I have not is hard for them to understand and accept," Ms. Bronfman wrote in a letter last month to the judge. "However, for me, Nxivm and Keith greatly changed my life for the better."

On Wednesday, Ms. Bronfman will be the first defendant to be sentenced in the Nxivm case, which led to criminal charges against six of the organization's leaders and prominent members. After Ms. Bronfman and four others pleaded guilty, Mr. Raniere was the only defendant who went to trial, resulting in his conviction in June 2019 for racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes.

The United States attorney's office in Brooklyn, which investigated Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um), has asked the judge to sentence Ms. Bronfman to five years in prison, saying Mr. Raniere could not have committed his crimes without powerful allies like her."

"Australia's domestic spy agency has revealed a dramatic rise in the number of violent right-wing extremists under surveillance, while warning some groups are now employing Islamic State-style radicalisation tactics.

Key points:
• Up to 40 per cent of ASIO's counterterrorism case load is linked to right-wing extremism
• Some groups have been compared to Islamic State due to their propaganda outreach online
• ASIO says the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for extremists to radicalise more people

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has told Parliament's Joint Intelligence and Security Committee that far-right movements are also taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to bolster recruitment.

ASIO deputy director-general Heather Cook said up to 40 per cent of the agency's counterterrorism efforts are now focussed on thwarting violent plots by right-wing groups or individuals.

"Extreme right-wing violent extremism occupies approximately between 30 and 40 percent of ASIO's current caseload in our counterterrorism work — and that is an increase from approximately 10 and 15 percent prior to 2016," she said.

Ms Cook has also revealed that ASIO is concerned that right-wing extremists are now using the same strategies as Islamic extremists to bolster their ranks."
In 'White Utopias,' cultural appropriation at festivals like Burning Man goes under the microscope.

"In a geodesic dome in Joshua Tree, California, hundreds of festival-goers assemble for a workshop on prānāyāma, an ancient Hindu breathing practice. Amid an acoustic blend of drumming, chanting and birdsong, a workshop leader, flanked by "guardians" dressed in white, instructs participants to drop into their heart centers and prepare to be "introduced to the place inside (themselves) that is pure love." Many of the participants take these Hinduism-derived activities seriously. But most, if not all, identify as "spiritual but not religious" (SBNR) — a phrase-turned-demographic category that describes the growing number of Americans who are critical of organized religion but believe in something greater than themselves. And these festival-goers have something else in common: Nearly everyone at Bhakti Fest, a multi-day annual celebration of spiritual transformation through Indian cultural practices, is white.

To research her insightful new book White Utopias: The Religious Exoticism of Transformational Festivals, Amanda Lucia, a California-based scholar of religion who specializes in global Hinduism, immersed herself in SBNR communities in California, Hawaii, Australia, Nevada and elsewhere, attending 23 different "transformational festivals" — large-scale gatherings of people attempting to create enlightened selves within imagined utopian worlds. The festivals emphasize certain qualities — kindness, inclusion, mindfulness and the rejection of conventional understandings of the self — though they vary in the details of their utopic visions (and in their acceptance of corporate sponsorships). But Lucia, who attends without hiding her role as a researcher, is struck by their overwhelming whiteness. What makes them, as Lucia writes, such "safe spaces of white ethnic homogeneity"? The festivals are intended to facilitate spiritual transformation. But do the participants ever confront their own investment in whiteness? If not, how profound could their transformations be?"

"WWASP(S) – The World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (and Schools), or as it was known later, Youth Foundation Inc, was an umbrella corporation of associated teen behavior modification programs, boot camps and therapeutic boarding schools. Created by Robert Lichfield in the early 1990s, WWASP quickly became one of the largest troubled teen industry corporations, with dozens of facilities located in both the US and abroad in countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Samoa. Following investigations into a number of allegations of child abuse and unhealthy conditions at WWASP's various facilities since 2002, over 20 WWASP affiliated programs were eventually shuttered, and the organization itself was eventually dissolved. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company alleging abuse and fraud, the most notable being a joint action lawsuit on behalf of over 350 plaintiffs alleging physical and sexual child abuse as well as various acts of fraud and racketeering."

" ... What once was the continental United States' largest Holiday Innnow sits derelict and abandoned, towering over the southern edge of downtown. The formerly space-themed Days Inn got passed around between owners like a hot potato before finally settling into the hands of followers of the Beatles-aligned spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They rechristened the building as "Heaven on Earth Inn," planning to generate income and house members. Unfortunately for them, cults aren't known for having great bookkeepers and they were promptly evicted."

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