Jul 8, 2017

Hobby Lobby Goes to the Black Market for Jesus



Note to Hobby Lobby: Please stick to arts and crafts and leave archaeology to the professionals.

Hobby Lobby purchased thousands of ancient artifacts smuggled out of modern-day Iraq via the United Arab Emirates and Israel in 2010 and 2011, attorneys for the Eastern District of New York announced on Wednesday. As part of a settlement, the American craft-supply mega-chain will pay $3 million and the U.S. government will seize the illicit artifacts. Technically, the defendants in the civil-forfeiture action are the objects themselves, yielding an incredible case name: The United States of America v. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty (450) Ancient Cuneiform Tablets; and Approximately Three Thousand (3,000) Ancient-Clay Bullae.

Under any circumstances, this case would be wild: It involves thousands of ancient artifacts that seem to have been stolen from Iraq, where the pillaging of antiquities has been rampant. The longstanding trade in antiquities of dubious provenance has become an especially sensitive topic in recent years, and a target of increased law-enforcement scrutiny: ISIS has made some untold millions—or billions—by selling ancient goods. While nothing in the case indicates that these objects were associated with any terrorist group, the very nature of smuggled goods means their provenance is muddy.

But the case really matters because of who’s involved. The members of the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby chain, are committed evangelical Christians who are probably most famous for their participation in a 2014 Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which helped dismantle certain birth-control-coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The Greens are big collectors of ancient antiquities; they’re also the primary visionaries and contributors behind the Museum of the Bible opening in Washington, D.C., this fall. Steve Green is the chairman of the board. The family’s famous name, now tied to a story of dealer intrigue and black markets, is likely to bring even further scrutiny and attention as they prepare to open their museum.

Jul 6, 2017

Vatican's Ticking Gay Bomb Goes Off



The Catholic Church has a gay problem. I'm not talking about its regressive, homophobic doctrine, but about the sheer hypocrisy. Openly gay, former friar Mark Dowd called it a "ticking gay bomb." By his estimation, about half of the men drawn to Catholic seminaries and monastic orders are gay. Leave say there have long been rumors of an underground gay scene for some time, even of a gay "lobby" at the highest levels. Now the implicit has become explicit with a widely publicized bust.

Vatican police raided a drug-fueled gay-sex party at an apartment belonging to an aide of one of Pope Francis’ key advisers, according to a new report.

The Holy Father is “enraged,” since the home, inhabited by Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s secretary, belongs to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith — the arm charged with tackling clerical sex abuse, the Italian paper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

Cops raided the apartment in late June after neighbors voiced concern about multiple people acting strangely while streaming in and out of the residence, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

Once police were inside the apartment, they said they found multiple men engaged in rampant drug use and homosexual activity.

Jun 24, 2017

The C of E Calls Itself to Account

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The Church of England has made a clean breast of it, but for the many victims of Bishop Peter Ball, it comes far too late. When it mattered, the Church enabled and colluded with a pederast who exploited young men and boys for years. When it mattered, they put the reputation of the Church before the emotional and spiritual well-being of the vulnerable.

The archbishop of Canterbury has asked his predecessor George Carey to step down as an honorary assistant bishop after a damning independent report found that senior figures in the Church of England colluded over a 20-year period with a disgraced former bishop who sexually abused boys and men.

Justin Welby said the report on the church’s handling of former bishop Peter Ball made harrowing reading. “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour,” Welby said.

“To the survivors who were brave enough to share their story and bring Peter Ball to justice, I once again offer an unreserved apology. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systemic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.”

Jun 15, 2017

Lyle Jeffs In Custody, Not Raptured

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Acting on a tip from a pawn shop in South Dakota, the FBI has captured fugitive Lyle Jeffs. It appears that the disgraced FLDS leader did not in fact experience "the miracle of rapture" as his attorney had speculated. He was found living in his car, not a heavenly chariot.

The owner of a small-town South Dakota pawn shop says Lyle Jeffs revealed who he was on Tuesday when he pawned two pairs of Leatherman pliers for $37 and provided identification.

River City Treasures and Pawn owner Kevin Haug says a store employee in the small town of Yankton notified him that Jeffs was wanted by the FBI after Jeffs had left the store.

Haug says Jeffs provided his last name as his first name, going by Jeffs Lyle Steed.

. . .

He says Jeffs during his first visit was fidgeting, seemed nervous and "acting like a freak."

May 20, 2017

Bleeding the Beast That Is Warren Jeffs




Members of the FLDS really don't like to pay taxes. They don't readily cooperate with the government, or acknowledge its authority. FLDS children are taught that Warren Jeffs is president of the United States. They will take financial support from illicit government forces, though, as we recently saw with the food stamp case, which ended in generous plea deals and the possible rapture of Lyle Jeffs. Their pattern of tax evasion and collecting millions in benefits is part of a "bleeding the beast" philosophy.

FLDS may be waging a slow war of attrition against the government, but it's one they appear to be losing. That sword cuts both ways. In fact, their lack of cooperation with federal and state government can mean that they're cutting off their noses to spite their collective face. Secular forces are gradually eating up their land and property wealth and it's their own refusal to cooperate with these forces, which in many cases are trying to help them, that could cost them everything.

Case in point, Short Creek, the FLDS stronghold made up of Hilldale, UT, and Colorado City, AZ,  is currently seeing an exodus of FLDS faithful. They would rather leave their homes than sign agreements and pay their property taxes.

"The Crick" is managed through a trust called the UEP (United Effort Plan). Originally set up by Warren Jeffs, the UEP was seized by the State of Utah, which argued that it was being egregiously mismanaged. Among the problems, those who were excommunicated were made homeless. As a state run trust, the UEP no longer applies a religious test, and some FLDS "apostates" have been able to reclaim homes in their old community, alongside those who remain devoted to "Prophet" Warren Jeffs. But FLDS members are in arrears.

Feb 28, 2017

Is Pope Francis Too Soft on Pedophile Priests?

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Over the weekend, I read that Pope Francis is backtracking on pedophile priests, trimming their sentences and showing them "mercy." I was saddened. I am not Catholic. I have never particularly "liked" a pope, but there is much about this one that I admire. I like that he takes his vows of poverty seriously. I like his compassion for the poor and disenfranchised. I like that, although he has not significantly changed Church policy on LGBT issues, he has urged compassion and lack of judgment. I have not cared for his stance on women in the priesthood and I have not been impressed with the pace or tenor of his approach to the sex abuse crisis. So when I saw these words, my heart sank.

Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope’s own advisers question.

Worse, his leniency has already backfired, according to the article.

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

But the more I read, and I read several articles, the less substantive this story seemed to be. The new charges against Rev. Inzoli appeared to come from new information, not from re-offense. In fact, there is no evidence that these changes have put any children at risk.

Feb 1, 2017

James Arthur Ray's Alternative Facts




Yesterday James Ray went before a judge to argue that he was unfairly burdened by his felony conviction and that it should be set aside. But unlike the recent documentary Enlighten Us, that enabled Ray to play the victim without challenge or rebuttal, the judge allowed the family members of his victims to speak. It did not go his way. Some of his civil rights were restored, but his conviction was not vacated and his travel restrictions remain in place.

A victory and a defeat for convicted self- help entrepreneur James Arthur Ray.

A Yavapai County Superior Court judge restored Ray’s civil rights, except his right to carry a gun, but he denied Ray’s request to have his convictions set aside.

. . .

Ray told the judge he wanted his convictions set aside because the international travel restrictions on him were limiting his ability to rebuild his self-help enterprise.

“It will help me in some countries and it will help me in Canada. That's why I’m asking for this,” Ray told Yavapai Superior Court Judge Michael R. Bluff.

In James Ray's alternate universe, his work was never on trial. (It was.) And his conviction for "negligence" means he didn't kill anyone. (He was convicted on three counts of negligent HOMICIDE.)

Jan 19, 2017

Her Philia?

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In a recent blog post, Teal Bosworth Scott Swan leveled some pretty serious allegations against the "hate group" conspiring to shut down her new retreat center.

To add to it all, the collective hate group which is so vehemently opposed to my career as well as me as a person has been dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to trying to destroy this retreat center. Essentially, the minute that we announced this retreat center, they began planning how to shut it down. This began with them collectively turning me into the FBI and the local police. Now their efforts are aimed at planning to attend so as to sabotage what we are doing here from the inside. They have been targeting both attendees and teachers of the retreat. And they have been doing a damn good job if I don’t say so myself. We had one teacher not only resign from doing a retreat here because of the amount of Anti-Teal 'Danger' propaganda sent to her when she announced that she was working with me... but also turn directly against me and refuse to talk to any one of us to resolve the situation. The teacher of the current retreat and many of the prospective attendees have confessed that they too felt deeply insecure coming here because of it. Essentially, the principal strategy of my haters is to “befriend” people associated with me and then turn them against me.

Lately it has been a real frustration being told by some that I should just ignore it all (which can’t happen if they are taking tangible steps to sabotage me as opposed to just slandering me). And on the other hand being told by others that they need my help and response in order to feel less terrified of me and my whole movement. These hate groups have managed to make people who were dedicated and enthusiastic pull away from me and everything associated with me just to avoid the conflict and pressure of the controversy that surrounds me.

This dynamic has made my career MUCH less enjoyable this year. When I used to meet people, the overwhelming majority looked at me with this look like I was a gift sent straight from the divine universe into their lives. Now, the overwhelming majority looks at me like I am a dragon... Something both wonderful and terrifying. They look at me like they feel the overwhelming benefits of what I have brought to their lives, but that because of all of the fear propaganda they’ve been fed this year, they are not sure if I’m going to suddenly turn onto a fire-breathing monster. This hate group has the exact same energy and dedication as the anti-abortion protestors who stand outside abortion clinics.

See? She was divinely sent, but now she's "wonderful and terrifying." She dug deep for a negative way to describe herself and came up with more vanity.

Jan 10, 2017

Plea Deals in FLDS Food Stamp Case



The FLDS food stamp fraud case ends with a whimper, as the State brokers a range of plea deals and dropped charges. Both sides are declaring victory in the highly publicized case. But there is still the small matter of fugitive from justice Lyle Jeffs, currently on the FBI's most wanted list.

For a case that began with FBI raids in the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., it is ending quietly with nearly all of the defendants taking plea deals. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged an uphill battle if the case went to trial, where FLDS members were expected to claim a religious right to consecrate all they have to their church.

Defense attorneys have said the First Amendment religious freedom rights allows for FLDS members to live the "law of consecration," which includes communal living and giving of all they have. They also argued federal law is silent on whether SNAP benefits could be shared.

As he left the courthouse, Hyrum Dutson told reporters: "We won."

...

"It's like Vietnam. The government declared victory and got out and everyone's benefitted for it," said Aric Cramer, an attorney for Kristal Dutson. "It's a good deal."

...

Asked if he knew where Lyle Jeffs is, Hyrum Dutson replied: "It wouldn't matter if I did."