Feòrag: July 2002 Archives

July 31, 2002

Bugger off

New Zealand: A campaigner has his most recent complaint rejected by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and been ordered to pay costs. Paul Schwabe has made nine complaints in two years about the use of the word 'bugger', and this complaint was about the use of the phrase 'bugger all' by a mentally impaired farm worker during the Country Life radio show.

Mr Schwabe has complained about: A One News story about a horse named 'Bugger Me' (Feb 2000); the phrase 'bugger the international media' during a Holmes item (Feb 2000); the word 'bugger' in a National Radio play (July 2000); the use of `bugger' twice in the Tux Super Dog Challenge (Nov 2000); the phrase 'it's going to be a bugger to lose that shop' in a One News item about Deka's closure (March 2001); the Toyota ad (April 2001); the use of 'bugger' in documentary Inventions from the Shed (June 2001); the use of 'miserable buggers', National Programme (July 2001); the use of 'bugger' in an Assignment item (Oct 2001) and its use in a Lions documentary (Nov 2001).

In New Zealand, 'bugger' is an extrememly mild term and its use is considered acceptable by 75% of the population. Moaner gets the message: Bugger off - The Dominion Post (via Stuff), 31st July 2002.

July 30, 2002

One way of finding out.

One Texas man has shot another during an argument over which of them was going to Heaven, and which to Hell. The pair were part of a group which had been pub-crawling and started to argue about religion:

The talk became heated when the subject turned to who would go to heaven and who would go to hell.

Stoker said he would settle the argument and went into a house and returned with a shotgun, which he loaded and placed in his mouth, Alford said the witness reported.

The victim Joslin then took the gun out of Stoker's mouth, saying, 'If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me,' Alford said, citing the witness report.

The shotgun went off, hitting Joslin in the chest and killing him.

Clayton Frank Stoker, 21, has been charged with first-degree murder over the incident. Heaven-or-hell argument ends with shotgun slayingReuters (via CNN), July 29th 2002.

Pastoral support

Priests are often at the centre of disasters, using their pastoral skills to comfort and console people. According to eyewitness reports in Lviv's local newspaper, Postup, Ukranian priests are less helpful:

In Kuk's words, when the show began, many priests came to the aerodrome, but when the tragedy occurred, they vanished. Other witnesses say, the priests were jumping over dead bodies with their frocks up; all commanders began hiding.

Generals were drunk as cobblers at the Lvov aerodrome - Pravda, July 30th 2002.

July 17, 2002

A new tactic for Earth First!

Nigeria: One of Nigeria's main oil terminals has stopped production after a group of women threatened to remove their clothes in protest at the behaviour of western oil companies. Stripping is considered to be extremely insulting by the people who live along the Niger Delta.

This time it was Chevron's Escravos (Slaves) Terminal which was practically shut down as tens of women blocked the nearby airstrip and helipad and threatened to strip naked. Their leader, Helen Odeworitse, declared Our weapon is our nakedness.

The women have two basic demands. One, that a percentage of the oil revenue be spent on improving the living conditions of the local population and two, that the local menfolk be employed by the oil companies, so that the local people can benefit from the local resources in Nigeria's poorest region.

Bare women bar oilPravda, July 17th 2002.

Virgin Mary and the horse's dong

A bronze statue of a horse has been forced to don iron underpants in case another statue - of the Virgin Mary - is offended by its anatomincal accuracy. The local anti-vivisection league in Catania, Sicily, has complained. Representative Alfio Lisi said:

Covering a bronze statue's genitals is a thoroughly irresponsible and inconceivable act. Someone should explain to the municipality that we're not living in the Middle Ages anymore. Acts like this have been done in the past, but don't they realise that it was God who created all the creatures as they are, including their genitals? I don't think that the Madonna's statue will be embarrassed by the sight of bronze genitals and above all, art shouldn't really be censored whatsoever.

Iron pants cover horse statue's genitals for religious procession - Ananova, July 17th 2002.

July 15, 2002

Rare magical coins found

Archæologists investigating a mediæval hospital and priory at Spitalfields, London, have uncovered a collection of seven rare 15th century 'angel' coins. The gold coins were thought to ward off evil spirits, and were buried in the floor of a building demolished in the 1530s. Hazel Forsyth from the Museum of London said:

Only one gold angel has been found before by archaeologists in London, so to find seven is extraordinary. It could have been that they were used for clinical purposes in the hospital. Gold was used in the preparation of some treatments. It is also possible that the coins were someone's life savings and that they were temporarily stored in the floor for safety. The owner may have died before having a chance to retrieve them.

The coins will be displayed in the Museum of London. Rare 1460s gold 'angel' coins unearthed in London - Ananova, July 15th 2002.

July 14, 2002

Racist vandalism in Wales

Vandals have broken into a Swansea synagogue and desecrated it. They wrote Nazi references on the walls, destroyed valuable scrolls and tried to burn the building down. According to Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust:

A window was forced and the synagogue was entered. The scrolls were taken out into the garden and were destroyed. A swastika was drawn on the walls. There was a big sign saying T4 which we believe is a reference to the Nazi euthanasia programme in the concentration camps. Excrement was left and there was a failed attempt to set fire to the place. People in the community are distressed. It's a very small community, but it's an old community. It's impossible to put a financial value on it. The scroll was very very valuable. It was hundreds of years old. It's a distressing attack on a place of God by people who clearly have no respect for the house of God.

South Wales Police are treating the incident as racially-motivated. Nazi symbols daubed on synagogue - Ananova, July 12th 2002.

Family values

A Kenyan televangelist will appear in court on August 2nd to face charges that she conspired to kill her businessman husband and three brothers in law.

[Mrs Eunice Wambui Kuria], who preaches for a popular television evangelist mission, (Kuna Nuru Gizani), had allegedly tried to pay three police officers Sh 50,000 to commit the heinous act. She was released on a Sh 100,000 bond, with a surety of similar amount.

Preacher in 'Death Plot' - East African Standard, July 12th 2002 (via allAfrica.com).

July 12, 2002

Excessive religious demands

The Hindu gods seems to be in a bloodthirty mood at the moment. A 20-year-old Lucknow man described as a "Shiva devotee" has offered himself as a sacrifice to the god by cutting his own throat:

The lone eye-witness to the incident, Radhe Lal, the priest at Chandrika Devi Mandir in BKT said that he was offering Pooja around 9:30 am when he spotted the youth entering the temple. Instead of approaching the main temple, the youth walked upto the Shivling besides it. He sat besides the Shiv Ling as if he was offering prayers, Radhe Lal said.

In his early twenties, the youth kept sitting there for quite sometime as I walked out of the temple to the staircase. Minutes later when I returned I found blood gushing out from the slit on the throat of the youth. The victim had embraced the Shiv ling with both his arms as he breathed his last and lay dead. A blood stained knife was recovered from near him.

Shiva devotee sacrifices himself LucknowThe Times of India, July 12th 2002.

A few days ago in Karnataka, South India, a 38-year-old man chopped off his own hand with an axe and offered it to a goddess as penance for beating up his wife and three children. Visitors to the Devi Temple found him praying in front of the deity with his severed hand.

Explaining his action later, Narasimhaiah said: Recently I had a dream in which the god appeared and told me that he was disappointed with the way I had conducted my life so far. She asked me to do something to show that I was sorry for my actions. That's when I thought of giving up the hand. I am now very happy.

Locals later buried the hand and persuaded the man to shed his hair as that was why he was so unhappy. Man offers his chopped hand to deityAnanova, July 9th 2002.

Unusual Japanese shrines

Japan: Mainichi Daily News WaiWai republishes articles from Japan's "wild weeklies". Japan's religious oddities -- from 2 meter woodies to temple of the mount, from Spa! looks at some of the more unusual Shinto and Buddhist shrines to be found around the country.

Kanayama Jinja Shrine in Kawasaki plays a similar role. Its grounds contain myriad phallic statues adorned with prayer boards written by followers whose fears about fornication give them the willies.

Craftsmen who used fire or iron during the Edo Period (1603-1868) had a deep belief in the god Kanayama. People soon made the link between tools that spark fire and harmony among couples,the shrine's chief priestess Kimiko Nakamura tells Spa!. The shrine is said to answer the prayers of those seeking lots of offspring and prevent venereal diseases. Recently, it's said to ward off AIDS and ensure the success of sex change operations.

Other shrines focus on traditional fertility problems and on getting people together in the first place.

July 10, 2002

The bottom line

Germany: A blind clairvoyant in Germany has pioneered a new technique—buttock reading.

The 39-year-old, who's been blind since he was three, says the bottom is more "intense" than the hand.

He says a reading can give information about his clients' personalities as well as their future wealth, happiness and health.

Psychic 'reads people's futures by feeling naked buttocks'Ananova, July 9th 2002.

Sparing the rod

United States: A Texas pastor and his twin brother have been arrested after allegations that an 11-year-old boy was beaten unconscious during a Bible class.

The alleged beating took place July 3, according to reports. The brothers thought the boy did not take his Bible verses seriously enough during a church-sponsored summer camp for Spanish-speaking students, officials said.

The alleged abuse took place at a private home, said Bobby Taylor, the child's attorney. They ... cut a branch off a tree, made my client lay on the bed, and beat him, Taylor said.

Court records obtained by Reuters alleged that the beating lasted for 90 minutes, broke blood vessels and caused the boy's kidneys to fail. The brothers allowed the child to take a break in the restroom during the reported beating, documents said.

According to the documents, Pastor Joshua Thompson (22) of Capitol City Baptist Church, Austin, beat the boy while his twin brother Caleb held him down. They took the child home and told his parents he needed more discipline. They took him to hospital and called the police instead.

Texas boy beaten, hospitalized over Bible studyCNN, July 9th 2002 (via Wren's Nest on the Web).

Update: if you are wondering, this story has been brought up to date here.

July 9, 2002

Oops - we lied

United States: The Parents' Television Council is a US-based conservative group which seeks to clean up television - a bit like MediaWatch (neé the National Viewers and Listeners Association, i.e. Mary Whitehouse's mob).

A couple of years back, they turned their sights on professional wrestling and claimed that children were killing other children because they imitated the moves they saw on the telly. In particular, they claimed that the well-publicised murder of Tiffany Eunick by Lionel Tate was influenced by his seeing professional wrestling. WWE Entertainment and an organisation called Wrestling Fans Against Censorship sued. A few days ago, the PTC issued a humiliating retraction.

we were told by a source that Lionel Tate was watching a WWE program when he assaulted Tiffany Eunick. In fact, Lionel Tate was watching the "Flintstones" and a cartoon entitled "Cow and Chicken." We were also told, by a source, that Lionel Tate killed Tiffany Eunick while executing a wrestling move unique to a WWE character called the Stone Cold Stunner.
We have since learned that this was not true, nor was there any evidence that it was true. It is now well documented that after the Tate trial concluded, the presiding Judge said it was inconceivable that Tiffany Eunick's injuries were caused by Lionel Tate mimicking wrestling moves.
Indeed, since the trial ended, Lionel Tate's new lawyers have filed court papers in which they admit that the wrestling defense was, in their words, bogus.
Given these facts, WWE was within its rights to be angry at the MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and I for contacting WWE's advertisers to go beyond complaining about WWE content but passing along accusations which we now know were false. Because I feel a simple retraction is not sufficient, I have personally extended my apology to Vince McMahon and the WWE on behalf of MRC, PTC, Dr. Tucker, Mr. Honig and me.

Bozell, PTC apologizes to WWE - The Miami Herald, 4th July 2002 (via Boing Boing).

July 8, 2002

Murdered boy 'was the devil'

A Philadelphia man told detectives that he killed his eight-year-old son because the boy was really the devil. George O'Hara told investigators the child had been calling him all kinds of names.

The guy was giving me problems. That is why I kill him. Sir, what if he really is the devil? O'Hara asked homicide detectives, [Assistant District Attorney Jodi] Lobel said.
Do you believe that your son is the devil? Police Detective Raleigh Witcher Jr. asked.
Yes, responded O'Hara, whose shoes, pants and sweater were soaked in his son's blood during police questioning after his arrest, according to investigators.
He is a devil. Don't tell anybody. That is between me and you. But he is a devil, O'Hara said, according to Lobel.

The child was stabbed over 100 times. Man said his son was the devil - The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3rd 2002.

Signs of distress

Two Siberian men have received shrapnel wounds when the anti-semitic sign they were removing exploded. A hand grenade placed behind the sign was rigged to go off if the notice was tampered with. This is the fifth such incident, and the second time someone's been injured. Russian anti-Jewish sign explodes - BBC News, July 8th 2002.

Thou shalt annoy others

The Church of England has decided that it's a Christian duty to annoy people by actively 'evangelising' people of other faiths. Muslim groups have already expressed concern and Anglicans in interfaith groups can expect to treated with extreme suspicion in future. Church of England agrees conversion crusades - Ananova, July 7th 2002.

Ding, dong! The witch is...

July 5, 2002

Bargains of the Day: Holy water spray

Eternal Word Television Network has a supporting organisation, EWTN Religious Catalogue, Inc to sell all sorts of Catholic stuff to viewers. As well as the expected books, rosaries and figurines, they sell a Guardian Angel Holy Water Atomizer for a mere $20 (US):

This unique holy water atomizer can be either hand held or wall mounted. When wall mounted you can press on the top to take a spray of Holy Water and say a prayer as you leave your home. When you return you can take another spray and another prayer. This gives a wonderful peace of mind. This one has a gold plated guardian angel on it. Measures 4.5 inches.

Also available - a watch depicting the Virgin Mary urging you to PRAY PRAY PRAY. (via Pop Culture Junk Mail).

Going out in style

A Glasgow shipyard worker turned minister has built what he describes as the world's first fully-enclosed motorcycle sidecar hearse. The sidecar, attached to a Triumph Speed Triple motorbike, has enough room for a large coffin and flowers on top, and a fan has been fitted to prevent condensation forming. Faster pastor's hearse power - BBC News, July 5th 2002.

New on the blogroll

The Jesus Museum is a website so named to display the silliness perpetrated in the name of that infamous dead wino.

Speaking of dogma, all religions are mind-numbing delusions, and their supporters are draining resources and delaying human progress. I make no exceptions when it comes to people who build lives around imaginary beings, but I choose to focus on Christianity because it's prevalent where I live (America). It's also the most corporate and techno-savvy of all cults, so it's that much easier to find its websites.

Current links on the site include some rather gruesome statues of Jesus and an organisation that's decided to preach to people who have taken vows of silence in protest at a lack of protection is schools.

July 4, 2002

Make love, not war, on terror

Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has told Americans he can end world terrorism with love for a mere $1 billion (US). The money would be used to train 40,00 "Vedic Pandits", expert meditators who, according to the Times of India, would generate enough good vibes to save the world. The guru has shunned the public eye recently and is apparently unaware of the current troubles in his native India:

I have confidence that India will be the lighthouse for total knowledge. From there this total knowledge will radiate in the whole family of nations ... that would generate a powerful influence of peace that would spread throughout the whole world and neutralise the stress, the hatred and tensions that fuel terrorism and war today.

Give me $1 bn, I'll give you peace: Maharishi Yogi - The Times of India, July 4th 2002.

Wet patch causes excitement

A damp stain on the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem has attracted a lot of attention. Two Jewish men have tried to climb the wall because they think that the wall is crying - a sign of the coming of the Messiah. The men were led away by police and the rabbi in charge of the wall is looking for a leak. Leak may be causing water stain believed to hail the Messiah - Ananova, July 3rd 2002.

Jesus was not God

James Kirkup's banned poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name will be published in leaflet form and read out in London on Thursday 11th July. The date is the 25th anniversary of Gay News' conviction for blasphemy for publishing the poem. Several people, including gay rights activist Peter Tatchell and author Iain Banks, have put their names to the publication with the challenge arrest us or abolish the blasphemy law. Peter Tatchell said:

The blasphemy law gives the Christian religion privileged protection against criticism and dissent. No other institution enjoys such sweeping powers to suppress the expression of opinions and ideas.

The protest will take place at 11am on the steps of St Martins-in-the-Field Church, Trafalgar Square. St Martin's was chosen because it has been traditionally associated with dissent, protest and free speech. Blasphemy Law Defied - Bid for Abolition, Press release from Peter Tatchell, July 3rd 2002.
British Humanist Association.
National Secular Society.
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
Rationalist Press Association.

July 3, 2002

Crime prevention

How do you prevent the murder of people suspected of witchcraft? Do you make sure people have access to modern medicine and education? Do you make sure the murderers are arrested and dealt with according to the law? Well, if you're the Indian Information Minister, you ask the television stations to stop mentioning it.

The government will appeal to television managements to stop telecasting serials highlighting witch practices like banamati, chetabadi, and other blind beliefs as part of its awareness campaign, according to information minister S Chandramohan Reddy.

In addition, you can blame outsiders for the problem:

Reddy told the public, a majority of whom were students, that some people, particularly those coming from Karnataka, were fooling the people here in the name of banamati. Banamati was also being used by some anti-social elements to settle scores with rivals, and mostly dalits were victimised in such cases, he said. These elements fool people suffering from mental disorders and hysteria that somebody had practised banamati (black magic) on them, he said.

Govt plans campaign against withchcraft (sic.) - The Times of India, July 3rd 2002.

July 2, 2002

Curse of the dinosaurs

Five women have been exorcised by a mor phii, a Thai traditional healer, after they collapsed during a visit to a dinosaur fossil site. A week ago, 15 students collapsed at the same site.

(Professor Panya Lertkrai, of Rajabaht Institut) said old people nearby believed supernatural powers were present at the camping site.
They could have been upset by the students' behaviour. Some might have taken dinosaur remains home he said.
To make everyone feel better he and the students would return to the camping site and ask the guardian spirits there for forgiveness.
Local villagers said the cave was a former communist base and a burial site for those killed in the government crackdown. It could have been the work of those spirits one villager said.

5 collapse on visit to dinosaur fossil site - Bangkok Post, July 2nd 2002.

July 1, 2002

Council bans Humanists

A Humanist group in Maryland has been banned from using a county office building for a meeting about whether a monument in a local park depicting the Ten Commandments violates the separation of church and state demaded by the U.S. Constitution.

The commissioners said they wanted to avoid the appearance the county endorsed any views contradicting the validity of the Ten Commandments as a contemporary moral code.

The first two (or one, depending on how you read them) Commandments insist on the worship of the Jewish God and ban the worship of any other. County tells humanists, 'Not here' - The Frederick News-Post, July 1st 2002.

You know what they say about statistics

A US ministry has produced its own survey to 'prove' that reading Harry Potter leads to an interest in the occult. To this end, they asked teenagers which occult activities they had particpiated in.

To see how many teen-agers were dabbling in psychic-occult experimentation, researchers listed a variety of activities and asked teens which ones they had participated in. The list included: palm reading, fortune telling, going to a spiritual medium, calling or visiting a psychic, playing with a Ouija board, playing a game that featured witchcraft elements, participating in a séance, trying to cast a spell and trying to mix a potion. One in four teens had experimented with three items on the list; one in 20 had done all the items and met a profile Matlock labeled as heavily involved.

The proof of the nefarious effects of Harry Potter is that Out of all the teens that had either seen the Harry Potter movie or read the books, 74 percent told researchers they had tried at least one item on the list. Without any information on whether the 'experimentation' started before or after exposure to Harry Potter, this statistic only suggests that young people with an interest in the occult are attracted to the Harry Potter books.

An additional possibility is that the teenagers are lying in order to look cool. A similar effect has been found in research into children's exposure to 'video nasties'. For example, the Parliamentary Group Video Enquiry report Video Violence and Children from the early 80s was used to rush through some regressive legislation. It claimed that 45% of 7-16 year olds had seen a video nasty, and this figure was obtained by giving kids a list of 113 titles and asking them which they had seen. Later, researchers at Aston University repeated the survey, but added some fictitious titles ot the list. They found that 68% of children claimed to have seen one or more of the fake titles! (Cumberbatch, Guy. 1994. Legislating mythology: Video violence and children, Journal of Mental Health, 3, 485-494)

As researchers interested in the field we were puzzled at these survey results since it had proved difficult to obtain many of the titles and so we began to suspect the methodology. On obtaining the original questionnaire used in schools it became clear how such an inflated figure could have been produced. The questionnaire was far longer than desirable and the key questions came on the last five pages where 113 video titles were listed. At the beginning of this section children were asked if they had seen a film listed to rate it on a three point scale. This scale read great, just all right and awful. At the top of each page above each scale was a cartoon face corresponding to the judgement. Unfortunately instructions even if initially understood can quickly become forgotten and our hypothesis was that children might well have begun to rate the films even if they hadn't seen them. To test this, the original questionnaire was faithfully reproduced but with some non-existent titles substituted for the video nasties. These fictitious titles such as Blood on the teeth of the vampire were checked in specialist film guides to ensure that no similar sounding film existed. The results from five classes of eleven year olds indicated that two thirds (68%) of them had seen films which do not exist!

Study: Potter readers more occultic, WorldNetDaily, June 30th 2002.

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