Saturday, November 26, 2011
Hate crime charges filed in Amish beard cutting
Seven members of a breakaway Amish group in eastern Ohio were arrested on federal hate crime charges for allegedly shaving the beards and cutting the hair of individuals who refused to support their leader, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday.
One of the seven men is Samuel Mullet Sr., the leader of the breakaway sect and a man that local law enforcement and other Amish in the area consider a cult leader.
Mullet ruled the group with an iron fist, in some cases "forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop" and beating those "who appear to disobey" him, according to an FBI affidavit.
Mullet had been "counseling" married women in his sect, "taking them into his home so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy," the sworn statement from an FBI agent said.
Law enforcement officials believe he was behind the various beard and hair cutting attacks of the past few months. The men charged are said to have carried out "a series of assaults against fellow Amish individuals with whom they were having a religiously based dispute," according to the Justice Department.
The Amish who were attacked are believed to be former members of Mullet's group who left over various disagreements. Mullet wanted to "seek revenge and punish the departing families," the federal documents said.
"In doing so, the defendants forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, causing bodily injury to these men while also injuring others who attempted to stop the attacks," the Justice Department said. "In the Amish religion, a man's beard and head hair are sacred."
Several of the men have confessed their involvement to local investigators, according to a sworn statement by an FBI agent that was attached to the complaint filed in Cleveland.
The seven men were arrested as part of a raid on Mullet's 800-acre compound that went down "without incident" early Wednesday morning, according to Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Ohio.
A combination of "about 40" officials from various agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Jefferson County and Holmes County sheriffs, were involved in the raid, Tobin said.
The defendants appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon. A magistrate ordered them held until a detention hearing, Tobin said. No date has been set for the hearing.
Samuel Mullet's sect is made up primarily of his relatives living on and around the compound in a remote valley outside Bergholz, Ohio, officials say.
The alleged religiously motivated physical assaults were a violation of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Justice Department said Wednesday. If convicted, each man could face up to life in prison, it said.
Five of the men were arrested last month on charges of kidnapping and burglary stemming from an incident at the home of Myron and Arlene Miller in early October in which a group of men pulled Myron Miller out of the home by his beard, held him down, and cut off large portions of the beard.
The incident at the Millers' home was one of a handful of incidents in several counties in which as many as 30 men and women carried out similar attacks, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred J. Abdalla said.
When CNN asked the senior Mullet last month if he was behind the beard incident, he responded by asking rhetorically, "Beard cutting is a crime, is it?" He then denied the allegations that he was running a cult.
Asked about what was, at the time, the start of a federal investigation, Mullet said, "We're not guilty, so we have nothing to hide. If they want to come and check us out, we'd be glad to see them here."
New food bill in New Zealand takes away human right to grow food
In order to protect seed companies
I was shocked to learn from a friend on the weekend that a new Food Bill is being brought in here in New Zealand. The new bill will make it a privilege and not a right to grow food.
I find two aspects of this bill alarming. The first is the scope and impact the new bill has, and secondly that it has all happened so quietly. There has been VERY little media coverage, on a bill which promises to jeopardise the future food security of the country.
I read that the bill is being brought in because of the WTO, which of course has the US FDA behind it, and of course that is influenced by big business (Monsanto and other players). It looks like this NZ food bill will pave the way to reduce the plant diversity and small owner operations in New Zealand, for example by way of controlling the legality of seed saving and trading/barter/giving away; all will be potentially illegal. The best website to read about the problems with the new bill is http://nzfoodsecurity.org (I have no connection with this website)
Here are some snippets:
- It turns a human right (to grow food and share it) into a government-authorised privilege that can be summarily revoked.
- It makes it illegal to distribute “food” without authorisation, and it defines “food” in such a way that it includes nutrients, seeds, natural medicines, essential minerals and drinks (including water).
- By controlling seeds, the bill takes the power to grow food away from the public and puts it in the hands of seed companies. That power may be abused.
- Growing food for distribution must be authorised, even for “cottage industries”, and such authorisation can be denied.
- Under the Food Bill, Police acting as Food Safety Officers can raid premises without a warrant, using all equipment they deem necessary – including guns (Clause 265 – 1).
- Members of the private sector can also be Food Safety Officers, as at Clause 243. So Monsanto employees can raid premises – including marae – backed up by armed police.
- The Bill gives Food Safety Officers immunity from criminal and civil prosecution.
- The Government has created this bill to keep in line with its World Trade Organisation obligations under an international scheme called Codex Alimentarius (“Food Book”). So it has to pass this bill in one form or another.
- The bill would undermine the efforts of many people to become more self-sufficient within their local communities.
- Seed banks and seed-sharing networks could be shut down if they could not obtain authorisation. Loss of seed variety would make it more difficult to grow one’s own food.
- Home-grown food and some or all seed could not be bartered on a scale or frequency necessary to feed people in communities where commercially available food has become unaffordable or unavailable (for example due to economic collapse).
- Restrictions on the trade of food and seed would quickly lead to the permanent loss of heirloom strains, as well as a general lowering of plant diversity in agriculture.
- Organic producers of heirloom foods could lose market share to big-money agribusiness outfits, leading to an increase in the consumption of nutrient-poor and GE foods.
I will end the sicknote culture that acts as 'conveyor belt to a life on benefits', says British PM
A sicknote culture in the workplace is acting as a ‘conveyor belt to a life on benefits’, David Cameron warns today. At least one in five of those who are absent on long-term sick leave should either never have been signed off in the first place or could go back to work, the Government believes.
The Prime Minister, speaking to the Daily Mail, said he would press ahead with recommendations from an expert report to strip family doctors of the power to sign people off work long-term.
Businesses are being hit with a £9billion bill every year thanks to the 300,000 people who are slipping out of work and on to sick pay and then welfare handouts, he said.
Mr Cameron revealed he had asked ministers to draw up plans for an independent service which would assess workers’ fitness ‘more quickly and efficiently’.
An expert report for Downing Street suggested more than three-quarters of GPs admitted they had signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health.
It also found that public sector workers are almost twice as likely to go off sick as those in the private sector. While privately employed workers take an average four days off sick each year, those in the public sector take seven, with council workers taking nine.
Mr Cameron said that attempting to steer Britain through the economic ‘storm’ raging across Europe meant not just helping people get jobs, but ensuring that those in work stay in it too.
‘Part of that means getting a proper grip of sickness absence in this country,’ the Prime Minister said.
‘Every year more than 300,000 people fall out of work and on to health-related benefits. Many… fall ill, get signed off by their GP, their fitness isn’t checked again; and before they know it they’re on a conveyer belt to a life on benefits.
‘Of course some of these people genuinely can’t work, and we must support them. That’s only fair. But it’s also fair that those who can return to work should be supported to do so. We need to end the something for nothing culture.’
The Prime Minister said it was clear that the ‘whole system is a mess’ and ‘incredibly frustrating’ for everyone involved. ‘It’s frustrating for business, as it costs them £9billion a year, and it’s frustrating for GPs too, many of whom resent being asked to sign the sicknotes,’ he said. ‘They want to focus on making people better, not spend their time policing the benefit system.’
Mr Cameron said he was alarmed by evidence of the scale of the problem from a report by Dame Carol Black, a world-leading expert on health at work, and David Frost, the former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
‘While 90 per cent of sickness cases are short-term – that stomach bug or flu that we all suffer from occasionally – nearly half of all days lost to sickness absence are because of cases that last four weeks or more,’ he said.
He also expressed concern at the spiralling number of sickness claims from those with ‘manageable conditions like stress or backache where a life on benefits is not an inevitability and where early intervention can really make a difference in preventing needless job loss’.
Mr Cameron backed the idea of passing responsibility for signing workers off sick long-term from GPs to a new, independent service.
‘The independent service would be free to all employers from four weeks of sickness absence, with the option for employers to pay for it earlier,’ he said. ‘It would provide an in-depth assessment of an individual’s physical and mental function. So if they’re unable to work, they’ll be helped – but if they are fit, they’ll be identified and supported back into the workplace.
‘This doesn’t just mean better advice for employees and employers in making the adjustments necessary for a faster return to work. It’s also potentially a vital step in getting to grips with sickness fraud.
‘So, for example, in cases where a foreign worker comes here to get a job and then goes back home to be signed off sick and is never seen again – the employer could simply reject the foreign sicknote and refer the employee to the independent assessment. If the employee refuses to attend the assessment, he or she will get no sick pay and ultimately could be fired.’
Mr Cameron said he had asked welfare reform minister Lord Freud and employment minister Edward Davey to draw up a ‘robust and effective’ new system ‘as soon as possible’. ‘We can’t shy away from this problem. We have to end the sicknote culture in this country, and that is what we will do,’ he said.
The Prime Minister’s proposal is likely to prove highly controversial, with critics claiming it is a way of forcing sick people back to work. It is also likely to alarm some Lib Dem MPs who believe the Government’s welfare reforms are moving too quickly.
A similar independent scheme for assessing people on Employment and Support Allowance – the new name for incapacity benefit – has provoked a storm of protest from disability groups.
The report from Dame Carol and Mr Frost suggested that ‘more generous’ sick pay on offer in the public sector was likely to be a factor in high sickness rates, as was the high level of trade union activity.
Civil servants, it said, took an average 8.2 days off sick last year. But while those at the Treasury took just 3.2 days, those at the Northern Ireland Office took 12.1 days.
The highest rates were found among ambulance staff and healthcare assistants who took almost 14 days a year off sick on average. By contrast, nurses and midwives took 2.3.
The study found that overall, sickness costs the economy £15billion a year, with 140million working days lost. Of those who move on to health-related state benefits, two-thirds are men over 50.
Portrait of Waterloo hero that has hung in a court for generations 'must be removed as he approved torture as colonial governor'
As one of the Duke of Wellington’s most skilful generals, he fought on the frontline of some of the bloodiest Napoleonic wars and was the highest ranking officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo.
So it is perhaps unsurprising that, to celebrate Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton’s military heroism, a large portrait of the Welshman hangs inside the court house in Carmarthen, South Wales.
But today it emerged that a row has broken out about the painting, which lawyers claim is offensive and should not be displayed behind the judge’s chair in Carmarthen Crown Court.
They say Sir Thomas’s reputation as a cruel and brutal colonial governor – he was military governor of Trinidad at the turn of the 19th century, where he was accused of torturing a young slave girl - mean his image should not be associated with modern equality and justice.
However, Carmarthenshire Museum, who own the 8ft x 4ft portrait, disagree and say it was specifically commissioned for the court house, where it has lived for the past 182 years, and should stay.
Criminal lawyer Kate Williams, who is among those calling for the painting to be taken down, said: 'I appreciate the painting for historical purposes and that he (Picton) was a figure of note.
'But I find it very offensive that someone who was not only a known slaver, but also allegedly tortured a slave, should have his picture in a place where the values of justice are served.
'It’s fair to say he has a murky past and it is inappropriate to have his picture in a modern court of law, where we are supposed to represent the principles of equality and justice for all.
'I think people might misread the prominence of the picture as saying he has done something worthwhile to contribute towards justice, which really isn't the case.'
Sir Thomas, who was born in Poyston, Pembrokeshire, in 1758, was appointed military governor of Trinidad following the British victory in 1797 where he oversaw the production of sugar by slaves on the island’s plantations. But he operated a brutally authoritarian regime which lead to accusations of slave torture, false imprisonment and execution.
In 1806 he was called back to Britain and faced trial in London over claims he authorised the torture of a 13-year-old girl, Louisa Calderon, who was accused of robbery, by forcing her to stand on a sharpened wooden peg while suspended from the ceiling.
This form of torture was dubbed 'Pictoning' at the trial and, although he was found guilty, Sir Thomas later overturned his conviction on appeal and went on to resume his military career.
His greatest successes came in Spain, where he was instrumental in the Battle of Vitoria, helping Wellington eventually claim victory in the Peninsular War.
Sir Thomas was killed after being was shot through the temple by a musket ball at the Battle of Waterloo, where, Welsh folklore contends, he fought in his top hat and tails because his uniform had not arrived at the frontline in time.
His military reputation was so high after his death that several colonial frontier towns in Canada, Australia and New Zealand were named after him and he remains the only Welshman to be buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
His statue is among 12 'Heroes of Wales', in Cardiff’s City Hall, a comprehensive school in Pembrokeshire is named after him and there is also another monument to him in Carmarthen.
The portrait, by Sir Martin Archer Shee, was presented to the former Carmarthen Borough Council on September 2 1829. It was placed in the town’s Guildhall – which is now used as a court – and has been hanging in the same spot ever since.
Ann Dorset, a spokeswoman for the museum, said that although Sir Thomas was a 'cruel and brutal' governor of Trinidad, he was a 'a man of his time' and should not be judged by today’s standards.
'Picton was a very well respected general but on the other hand he was regarded as a rough and tough man and a great disciplinarian. 'He was a great leader of men and these wars were tough. 'It was hand to hand fighting and they were not like the battles of today. He would have been right in the middle of it. 'I think we have to accept Picton warts and all and not judge him by today's standards.'
Richard Goodridge, former mayor of Carmarthen, said removing the painting would be churlish. He said: 'Louisa Calderon suffered no ill effects from the treatment she received and required no medical attention afterwards. 'After she was released from custody she walked more than a mile to the store where the crime took place, smoking a cigar.
'In February 1810 the court ordered Picton's recognisance and no further action ever took place. He was, and remains to this day, innocent of all the charges.
'Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, despite what history may think of his unconventional ways, was an extremely popular officer and was killed in action at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 — the most senior officer to die for his country.'
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.