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ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 8, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 8, 2004 Religion News Blog = religion news in context: • Most articles include links to previous news items that allow you to see
    Message 1 of 1 , May 8, 2004
      ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 8, 2004

      Religion News Blog = religion news in context:

      • Most articles include links to previous news items that allow you to see the current item in context.
      • Also provided are links to relevant research resources.
      • At the bottom of each article, click the "More stories on..." link to see more stories on the same subject.

      [Amway] In pursuit of the almighty dollar
      The more people they recruit, the richer they can get. And richer, and richer and richer. Sound too good to be true? We thought it did. In fact, it sounded a lot like another company that made news several years back. Amway, a hugely successful business that came under government scrutiny, was fined and ordered to stop making unrealistic promises about income to its distributors. To find out what Quixtar was up to, we took our hidden cameras to a recruitment meeting in New Jersey -- one of hundreds held around the country each week, and where hundreds of thousands of Quixtar faithful get their start. The first thing we hear is how easy it is to make it in Quixtar. [...] Short says the company acknowledged it had been aware of the problem for decades. How could that be? Remember when we said Quixtar sounded a little like Amway--a company which drew the ire of the federal government several years back for making false promises to recruits? Well it turns out Quixtar isn't just like Amway -- it was Amway. Quixtar is just its new incarnation with many of the same players.

      [Amway] Quixtar disputes TV report
      Quixtar rejected Dateline NBC's assertion that it runs a "scam" where few get rich and many lose money buying high-priced business support materials such as motivational cassettes and videos. [...] The former dealers claim Quixtar allowed a handful of its distributor network to develop a separate business selling "tools" and "functions" -- motivational material such as tapes, books and seminars designed to boost individual businesses. This business support materials trade became so big that high-level distributors, described in the lawsuit as "kingpins," developed BSM businesses that brought in millions of dollars more than their Quixtar business. [...] By backing and helping to propagate such a system, the plaintiffs allege Amway/Alticor/Quixtar violated anti-trust rules, and conspired to misrepresent the Amway business opportunity, according to the lawsuit.

      [Amway] Dateline NBC investigation of Quixtar's "get rich quick" scheme
      Amway and Quixtar are about to make national news with a Dateline NBC investigative report that promises to expose how well known Amway success stories really make their money. 24 Hour News 8 learned of the investigation Wednesday and worked with Dateline NBC to obtain pieces of their report today. NBC's report calls Ada based Quixtar, the mother of all get rich quick schemes. [...] Part of that Dateline investigation is a lawsuit in Missouri, that includes claims of anti-trust violations and conspiracy charges. It also claims all those millions made by successful distributors didn't come from selling the company's products, but rather, according to the lawsuit, from selling dreams.

      [USA] Rumsfeld: It gets worse
      A contrite Donald Rumsfeld apologized yesterday to Iraqi prisoners abused by their American captors, and warned that the outrage will worsen if other images of the actions of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison become public. "There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist," the U.S. Defence Secretary told the Senate armed services committee. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact. "I mean, I looked at them last night and they're hard to believe," he continued glumly, without going into detail. U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters yesterday that "the American people need to understand that we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience." He did not elaborate.

      [USA] Exporting America's Shame
      President Bush has asserted that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib "does not reflect the nature of the American people." "That's not the way we do things in America," he added. In terms of aspirations, Bush is certainly correct: Americans generally do not regard themselves as arrogant, abusive, violent, mean, petty and ignoble. As a matter of empirical, verifiable fact, however, the best social scientific evidence suggests that the president is simply wrong on both counts. [...] Over the last four decades, political leaders here at home have committed themselves to incarcerating inmates at rates that ultimately rivaled the former Soviet Union and repressive Middle Eastern regimes. Prisons have grown overcrowded and understaffed. At the same time, there has been no commensurate commitment to protecting prisoner rights or upholding even minimal standards. Both state and federal legislatures, with the complicity of federal courts, have continually trimmed avenues of legal redress for inmates subject to abuse. For its part, the public was fed the myth that prisoners were coddled, and accepted on faith that inmates were treated fairly. The public faith was interrupted only when graphic images materialized as evidence or by guards "rolling over." [...] So, what has been shown in Abu Ghraib that has not already been seen in the U.S.?

      NOTE: Amnesty International's Rights For All report on U.S. human rights abuses includes a section on prison issues: http://www.amnestyusa.org/rightsforall/

      [Stanford Prison Experiment] Stanford experiment foretold Iraq scandal
      To one Bay Area expert, the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison should have been predictable. "The key is this: Once a prison has a veil of secrecy around it, which most do, it's just open for corruption," said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University. "If you know nobody can get in, nobody can know what you're doing." Zimbardo said the report on Abu Ghraib prepared by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba describes a prison that was the perfect petri dish in which the culture of guard violence could flourish. It was a culture that Zimbardo said should have been well understood, based on decades of psychological research and his own famous -- some would say infamous -- Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971.

      [Stanford Prison Experiment] 1971 experiment showed fine line between 'normal' and 'monster'
      In 1971, researchers at Stanford University created a simulated prison in the basement of the campus psychology building. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks. Within days, the "guards" had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners' heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts. The landmark Stanford experiment and studies like it give insight into how ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, do horrible things - including the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. [...] Philip Zimbardo, a leader of the Stanford prison study, said that, while the rest of the world was shocked by the images from Iraq, "I was not surprised that it happened. "I have exact, parallel pictures of prisoners with bags over their heads," from the 1971 study, he said.

      [Twelve Tribes] Religious sect set to expand business
      A controversial religious sect hopes to expand its presence in town and is negotiating to buy another downtown building and open a cafe. Twelve Tribes, a group described by critics as a cult, has a tentative agreement to buy the building that's been home to Stevens the Florist for 28 years.

      [Hate Groups] Extremist and hate websites rise by 300 per cent
      Websites expressing extremist, racist or religious-hate views have shown a huge increase since the start of this year, according to new figures.
      Sites promoting hate against American, Muslim, Jewish, homosexual and African-American people have increased by 26 per cent since this January - almost as much as the 30 per cent rise during the whole of 2003, according to web- and mail-filtering firm SurfControl. Websites offering anything from scholarships to dating services for white supremacists, sites promoting the murder of homosexuals, revisionist versions of 9/11 history and other extremist content have grown by about 300 per cent since SurfControl began monitoring the sites in 2000. However, while the increase in such sites may seem astronomical, at least part of the rise can be attributed to an overall rise in internet subscribers - in the fourth quarter of 2003, 12.1 million UK households could access the internet from home, compared to 2.2 million in the same quarter of 1998.

      [Jews for Jesus] Judge dismisses suit claiming defamation by Jews for Jesus
      A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit from a woman who sued a religious movement for claiming she converted to the organization's beliefs.
      In her lawsuit, Edith Rapp claimed her stepson wrongly proclaimed in a Jews for Jesus newsletter that she tearfully converted to the movement at her husband's bedside. But attorneys for Jews for Jesus claimed that calling Rapp "a Jewish believer" was not defamatory because it is not "highly offensive to a reasonable person." Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday, but she did not rule out the possibility that the suit could proceed.

      [USA] Donald Rumsfeld Should Go
      It is time now for Mr. Rumsfeld to go, and not only because he bears personal responsibility for the scandal of Abu Ghraib. That would certainly have been enough. The United States has been humiliated to a point where government officials could not release this year's international human rights report this week for fear of being scoffed at by the rest of the world.

      NOTE: In March, 2003, George Monbiot highlighted the US Defence Secretary's double standards when Rumsfeld suddenly remembered the Geneva Convention - albeit only when captured American soldiers were paraded in front of the Iraqi television cameras. Mobiot writes that Rumsfeld "immediately complained that 'it is against the Geneva convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is humiliating for them'. He is, of course, quite right. Article 13 of the third convention, concerning the treatment of prisoners, insists that they 'must at all times be protected... against insults and public curiosity'. This may number among the less heinous of the possible infringements of the laws of war, but the conventions, ratified by Iraq in 1956, are non-negotiable. If you break them, you should expect to be prosecuted for war crimes. Rumsfeld had better watch his back. For this enthusiastic convert to the cause of legal warfare is, as head of the defence department, responsible for a series of crimes sufficient, were he ever to be tried, to put him away for the rest of his natural life. His prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where 641 men (nine of whom are British citizens) are held, breaches no fewer than 15 articles of the third convention."

      [USA] Iraq Scandal Opens U.S. to Charges of Double Standards
      The extent of the U.S. administration's embarrassment following the publication of photos showing torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib is evident in the fact that Washington has postponed the release of the State Department's annual report on human rights abuses worldwide. The official reasons for the eleventh hour postponement have not been disclosed. [...] The report usually takes aim at virtually every country, most in the developing world, for human rights excesses while excluding U.S. abuses from its pages. The question now being asked is: can Washington afford to take a holier-than-thou attitude when it beats up the rest of the world every year in the annual report? [...] ”Internationally, there is little U.S. credibility on human rights issues,” says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington. She attributes the lack of U.S. credibility to two primary factors: ”the blatantly political motives of human rights criticisms (largely ignoring abuses in U.S. ”client states” like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and especially protecting Israel from the consequences of its human rights violations), and because of U.S. denials in the past of its own human rights abuses”.

      [USA] A president beyond the law sets a bad example
      We are told that there was a failure of military leadership. Officers in the field were lax. Pentagon officials didn't care. So the worst in human nature was allowed to flourish. But something much more profound underlies this terrible episode. It is a culture of low regard for the law, of respecting the law only when it is convenient. Again and again, over these last years, President George W. Bush has made clear his view that law must bend to what he regards as necessity. National security as he defines it trumps American commitments to international law. The Constitution must yield to novel infringements on American freedom. One clear example is the treatment of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [...] The violation of the Geneva convention and that refusal to let the courts consider the issue have cost the United States dearly in the world legal community - the judges and lawyers in societies that, historically, have looked to the United States as the exemplar of a country committed to law. Lord Steyn, a judge on Britain's highest court, condemned the Bush administration's position on Guantánamo in an address last autumn - pointing out that American courts would refuse even to hear claims of torture from prisoners. At the time, the idea of torture at Guantánamo seemed far-fetched to me. After the disclosures of the last 10 days, can we be sure? Instead of a country committed to law, the United States is now seen as a country that proclaims high legal ideals and then says that they should apply to all others but not to itself. That view has been worsened by the Bush administration's determination that Americans not be subject to the new International Criminal Court, which is supposed to punish genocide and war crimes.

      [Islam] French deny Muslim visa over scarf rule
      As a devout Muslim and international businesswoman, Nashida Subhi has worn her head scarf into corporate offices around the world. But now she has learned she will no longer be welcome in France unless she takes her scarf off for a photograph. The French Consulate in Houston recently denied Subhi's request for a visa to visit the country on business, she said. Subhi was told that French regulations require her to bare her head for an identifying photograph -- something she is not willing to do. A representative of the French Consulate could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. But the consulate told the Associated Press French law forbids anyone from wearing anything that obscures the view of the head in a visa photo.

      [Hate Groups] Lessons in hatred
      Worried teachers say that the BNP is recruiting children as young as nine to its cause. Ian Herbert reports on the rise of the right in schools

      [Islam] Australian Islamic hardliner pays $2.6m for mosque
      Supporters of one of the nation's most hardline Islamic clerics have paid $2.65 million - about $850,000 higher than the nearest rival bid - for a mosque in Sydney's southwest. It is understood the mosque was bought for Sheikh Abdul Salam Mohammed Zoud and his growing congregation, who flock to a small prayer hall above a busy arcade in Sydney's southwestern suburbs. ASIO and other counter-terrorism agencies closely monitor the prayer hall and members of its congregation - one of whom has been charged with planning a terrorist attack with French terror suspect Willie Brigitte. Brigitte has allegedly told French interrogators that Sheikh Zoud has terrorist links worldwide and was a recruiter for jihad in Australia.

      [Islam] Muslim extremist group expands recruitment effort in Denmark
      Muslim extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir is waging a large-scale recruitment campaign. In recent days, the group has passed out leaflets in residential areas, a metro station, and an area football club Muslim fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir has pulled out all the stops in a recruitment campaign to lure young immigrants to a meeting on Sunday at Copenhagen's Nørrebrohallen.

      [Cargo Cults] Cargo cult's feud with Prophet Fred's sect splits Pacific island
      It has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster - a smouldering volcano, a jungle battle, a bizarre cult and a self-styled messiah called Prophet Fred. But the feud which has broken out between two villages in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu is all too real for the dozens of men in hospital with axe and spear wounds. It has split one of the world's last surviving cargo cults, one of the strangest legacies of the European colonisation of the South Seas.

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