Northern Express Weekly

Marijuana Killings at Rainbow Farm

Were Grover (Tom) Crosslin and Rolland Rohm determined to become martyrs for the right to smoke pot?

If you believe the press reports on the shootings at the Rainbow Farm in Vandalia, Michigan, last month, that's the only conclusion that makes sense.

Unless, of course, the official version is as rubbery as the "facts" in the shootings at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and the Olympic Park bombing.

Farm owner Crosslin, 47, was shot after reportedly pointing a gun at an FBI agent on Labor Day Monday and refusing to drop it as ordered. His housemate Rohm, 28, died the next morning after pointing a rifle at a Michigan State Police trooper and again refusing to drop his weapon.

The two were under investigation for drug activities which took place at the 34-acre farm, home of the annual HempAid and RoachRoast festivals. They died in an apocalyptic setting, having set fire to the buildings on the farm, which was targeted for confiscation as part of the War on Drugs.

Last week, the press painted two views of the men: on one hand, they were described as generous, peace-loving hippie types who distributed Christmas presents each year to poor folks in Vandalia from the back of their pickup truck. On the other, they presided over what the Free Press described as an orgy of nudity, sex and drug use -- even involving children as young as seven years old smoking pot.

But whatever Crosslin and Rohm were, they clearly believed in their 4th Amendment right to privacy and the sanctity of the home -- a constitutional right which has been under fire so often this past decade. It's the right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure by the government in one's own home.

Unfortunately, they crossed the line of what is allowed under the 4th Amendment by breaking the law on their property in a highly public manner. You can't announce a pot festival statewide and not expect the cops to come calling -- it's like waving a red flag at a bull.

Yet so many questions remain unanswered in the shootings. Why weren't family members allowed to negotiate with the men early on? Why weren't non-lethal measures used, such as rubber bullets or tear gas? Why the head shots instead of a leg? Why didn't officers remain at a distance for a few days until tempers cooled down?

And most of all, why did Crosslin and Rohm commit virtual suicide by pointing rifles at officers on the scene? The two were unabashed supporters of marijuana, but friends and family members said they doubted either was inclined to die for their beliefs.

Yet, as a friend said, "You can push people until they break. I think they were pushed until they broke. That's not the people I knew."

Sometimes, as H. L. Mencken once said, "Even reasonable men are driven to raise the black flag and slit a few throats." As marijuana activists, Crosslin and Rohm probably weren't "reasonable" men as most citizens would define that term, but still, there has to be some doubt as to whether they were crazy enough to submit themselves to execution by FBI and State Police snipers.

Today, many arrests are routinely videotaped, and one can only imagine that an engagement involving both the State Police and the FBI was taped. We need to see those tapes at once to verify the facts of this case. We need to know that citizens aren't simply being executed willy-nilly whenever a 4th Amendment issue is at stake. Nothing less than our freedom depends on it.

Cult of the Fugitive

It was a hideous crime: Marilyn Sheppard, the pregnant wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard, was beaten to death in her home in suburban Cleveland on July 4, 1954. Her husband claimed that a "bushy-haired stranger" had done the deed, but the Lt. Gerard's of the day didn't buy his story. It seems that Dr. Sheppard had been in the midst of a love affair with a woman named Susan Hayes at the time of the murder.

If Dr. Sam Sheppard really did kill his wife in 1954, he probably never dreamed that the crime would spawn the fictional character, Dr. Richard Kimble, along with two television series, two films, a slew of documentaries and a thirsting public interest which seems as strong today as it did more than 45 years ago.

The original Fugitive sparked a "Trial of the Century" media frenzy similar to that of O.J. Simpson's. Dr. Sheppard was found guilty in the press; one Cleveland paper even ran an editorial, "Quit Stalling -- Bring Him In" before the physician was even arrested. An Ohio judge said the courtroom had the "atmosphere of a Roman holiday," due to newsmen who spiraled out of control.

Following Dr. Sheppard's conviction, the matter was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that he hadn't received a fair trial, due to the fact that "bedlam reigned at the courthouse, and newsmen took over practically the entire courtroom, hounding most of the participants in the trial, especially Sheppard." Every juror testified to hearing of Dr. Sheppard's guilt prior to serving in court. Dr. Sheppard's conviction was overturned and he was retried, only to be found guilty once again.

Dr. Sheppard died in 1970, still protesting his innocence. Since that time, his son has fought to clear his father's name. Last year, DNA evidence surfaced which may yet prove that the "bushy-haired stranger" was the true culprit.

Yet Dr. Sheppard's alter ego, the Fugitive, lives on, and has his hook (or is it that of the one-armed man?) lodged in our collective psyche. Where he goes, we will follow:

The Fugitive: Being the "Trial of the Century," the Sheppard case provided plenty of inspiration for Hollywood scriptwriters. The story bore fruit with one of the hottest TV shows of the '60s when "The Fugitive," starring jug-earred David Janssen aired from 1963-'67.

In the televised version, it was a mysterious one-armed man who killed the doctor's wife. The Fugitive drifted from town to town, employed in menial positions as a dishwasher or soda jerk, trying to track the villain down and clear his own name. Despite his lowly social status as a drifter (and middle-aged to boot), Janssen won the hearts of luscious blondes such as Tuesday Weld and Angie Dickenson in each episode by dint of his urbane manner and philosophical musings. And yes, he did catch the one-armed man when the series wrapped up in '67, making a believer out of even Lt. Gerard.

Harrison Ford reprised the role in the 1993 hit film and Ashley Judd did a female take with 1998's film, "Double Jeopardy," with Tommy Lee Jones playing the Lt. Gerard role in each film. We also see echoes of "The Fugitive" in reality-based cop shows such as "America's Most Wanted."

Currently, actor Tim Daly is filling Dr. Kimble's shoes on a new CBS show which has been deemed a runaway success by critics, if not viewers. Like the fugitives before him, Daly darts from town to town, seeking retribution for the killing of his wife while trying to elude the law and clear his name. His tormenter, police lieutenant Gerard (Mykelti Williamson) is relentless in his pursuit, forever disavowing clues that Dr. Kimble may in fact, be innocent.

Famous Fugitives and How They Fared:

Eric Rudolph: America's most notorious (and elusive) fugitive is still at large. An anti-abortion extremist, Rudolph has been linked to several bombings around the country, including those at abortion clinics, a gay nightclub, and the blast at Atlanta's Olympic Park in the summer of 1998.

Nurse Emily Lyons was standing just 12 feet away when a nail bomb went off on the morning of January 29, 1998 outside the New Woman All Women health care clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. The blast literally blew police officer Robert Sanderson to bits and ripped Lyon's body with hundreds of nails. Investigators believe that Rudolph was responsible for the blast, triggering it by remote control from across the street when the nurse and officer got in range.

Rudolph disappeared into the Appalachian wilderness in 1998, and despite a huge manhunt which included SWAT teams and tracking dogs, he was never found. Rudolph may have received assistance from residents of the area who looked upon him as a folk hero. Current speculation is that he either died in the wilderness, lives there still, or is living under an assumed name in the underground of the extreme right.

Abbie Hoffman: Founder of the anarchistic Yippies (Youth International Party), Hoffman was a professional prankster and rabble-rouser during the late '60s.

Hoffman was a hippie from New York's East Village who came to fame though a succession of spectacular stunts. He arranged an exorcism of the Pentagon, trying to levitate the building in protest of the Vietnam War, and was renowned for dumping dollar bills from the gallery of the New York Stock Exchange. He threatened to dose Chicago's water supply with LSD during the 1968 Democratic Convention, and he treated the notorious Chicago Seven trial as a circus. His books, "Revolution for the Hell of It," "Woodstock Nation" and "Steal this Book" were all bestsellers. A father, Abbie urged his followers to "kill your parents" and to steal and take drugs - restraint wasn't his cup of tea.

A coke bust and his political notoriety put Hoffman on the fugitive trail by the late '70s, when he disappeared underground and resurfaced as "Barry Freed" in upstate New York. As Freed, he became a relentless (and much more responsible) campaigner for the environment, working to save the St. Lawrence River. Although his extended family was under constant surveillance by the FBI and Freed was pictured a number of times in the newspaper, Hoffman was never captured. He surrendered to the authorities in the mid '80s, dying at the age of 52 in 1989. His memory lives on in the August, 2000 film, "Steal this Movie," starring Vincent D'Onofrio.

Patty Hearst: The most famous fugitive of the '70s started out as a victim of abduction by the revolutionary members of the Symbionese Liberation Party. Yet before her ordeal was through, Hearst became one of the most wanted fugitives in America.

Hearst was heiress to the newspaper fortune founded by William Randolph Hearst. After being abducted from her Berkeley apartment in 1974 as a "prisoner of war," she was locked in a closet for 50 days, undergoing brainwashing and sexual assault. The SLA slogan was, "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people." Her abduction resulted in the largest manhunt in U.S. history.

When Patty came out of the closet, it was as Tania, a born-again revolutionary who was photographed with a beret on her head, cradling a submachine gun in front of the SLA banner. The SLA forced her to participate in a bank robbery and to release statements of revolutionary mumbo-jumbo which enraged a previously sympathetic America.

Her SLA captors died in a fiery shootout with the law, and Patty was sentenced to seven years in prison despite pleas that she was victim of Stockholm Syndrome. She was released after two years by a pardon from President Jimmy Carter.

Most recently, Patricia Hearst Shaw starred in "Cecil B. DeMented," a John Waters film which depicts a group of "cinema terrorists" who kidnap a movie star to publicize their work.

The Weather Underground: Sixties' revolutionaries The Weathermen took their name from the Bob Dylan lyric, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." While most white, middle-class student "revolutionaries" were content to yell slogans like "Off the pigs!" and "Smash the state!", some members of the Weather Underground took their rhetoric to heart.

In March, 1970, a member of the group got his wires crossed and ignited 60 sticks of dynamite in a Greenwich Village townhouse, killing three members. Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson escaped the blast, living ten years as fugitives. Bernardine Dohrn and her husband Billy Ayers lived as fugitives for 11 years.

The last known action of the Weather Underground came in 1981 when Kathy Boudin and a radical group called the Family robbed a Brinks armored car, stealing $1,585,000. Two Nyack police officers were killed and one wounded in the resulting chase; Boudin, meanwhile, was captured.

Through the years, various Weathermen surfaced and surrendered, starting with Mark Rudd in 1977, followed by radicals such as Jeff Jones, Dohrn and Ayers. Boudin was sentenced to prison for 20 years to life, but many of her former revolutionaries are now back in the mainstream of society, some working as social activists.

Aaron Burr: There were many famous fugitives in the 19th century: John Wilkes Booth and the outlaws of the wild west come to mind. But perhaps the most colorful, and dangerous, was Aaron Burr, who served as Vice President under Thomas Jefferson.

In 1800, Jefferson and Burr tied for President in an electoral vote, with the tie broken by the House of Representatives. Burr got the cold shoulder as VP, however, and then had his political ambition to be Governor of New York derailed by Alexander Hamilton. He shot and killed Hamilton - the architect of federal power and the national bank - in a duel in 1804. Thereafter, Burr hatched a plan to invade Mexico with a private army in 1806 to create his own nation. Word of the conspiracy got out, however, and Burr was arrested and charged with treason. With the help of a political crony, Burr was released, fleeing the country before a second treason charge could be leveled. He lived as a fugitive for five years in France, trying to convince Napolean to invade America. The fugitive returned in 1812, living a life of wine women and song until 1836.

Sources: "The Movement and the Sixties" by Terry Anderson; "The Best of Abbie Hoffman" by Abbie Hoffman; "Crime and Punishment in American History" by Lawrence M. Friedman; "Don't Know Much About History" by Kenneth Davis.

Exorcisms-R-Us

"Now when (Jesus) stepped ashore, there met him a certain man who for a long time was possessed by a devil... Many times it had laid hold of him and he was bound with chains... but he would break the bonds asunder... And Jesus asked him, saying, 'What is they name?' And he said, Legion..." -- Luke 8:27-30

Let's face it, exorcism is a creepy subject, even if you don't happen to believe that there are 600 or so catalogued demons just itching to slip inside your body to make you flop around like a fish out of water. Even if you're a skeptic of levitations, talking in tongues and black-eyed little girls spewing vomit and obscenities, you can almost hear the clatter of cloven feet and whiff the stench of burning hair when your mind happens to wander down that unhappy path.

And just when you thought we'd turned a new millenium and left that medieval nonsense behind, up pops the Pope with an honest-to-God exorcism to remind us that old Scratch and his minions are never far from our thoughts. Never far, even, from the thoughts of one of the great world leaders...

Whoa! What's that thing looking over your shoulder!?! Whatever you do, don't look around... just keep reading, slowly, carefully. Let's be careful out there, people! Real careful! Because, you never know...

Exorcism 2000

"Get me the exorcist book, quick!"

Those are reportedly the words uttered by Pope John Paul II in mid-September, trying to cast out demons possessing a 19-year-old Italian woman who babbled in tongues and carried on in a state of hysteria at the Vatican, according to the Italian newspaper, "Il Messaggero." The paper claimed that the woman spoke "in a cavernous voice" and displayed "superhuman strength."

Rev. James LeBar, an exorcist and Catholic priest from Hyde Park, New York, said the incident actually happened, offering an account on the Newsweek.com website:

"According to the report I got from Rome, the woman had been having an exorcism by Father Gabrielle Amorth [the Pope's chief exorcist] the day before," Rev. LeBar told Newsweek.com. "And then she went into the audience, and when the Pope was giving the final blessing, that apparently it was too much for the demons and they erupted.

"She displayed great strength and spoke in languages that she wasn't studying. Afterward, the Pope brought her into another room. He spent about half an hour with her, praying... The next day, one of the bishops and Father Amorth continued the exorcism on the young lady."

No Dice

Unfortunately, the demons refused to vacate the premises. Rev. LeBar said the Pope and his crew had to be content with subduing the devils for the meantime. "Exorcism is a process; it doesn't work just in one moment here and there. It sometimes takes a long time. The Pope was part of the process."

What about the young lady? The exorcisms continued, with Rev. LeBar noting that demons can be "very stubborn" about giving up their turf. He added that it can take a number of priests, working in shifts over several days to get a demon to move on. Time magazine reports that it was the third exorcism conducted by the Pope since the late '70s.

Rev. LeBar has personally been involved in 40 exorcisms and estimates that an average of 25 occur each year in New York City alone. This year, a bishop in Chicago authorized the city's first exorcism in years, and Time claims that the practice is gaining a revival nationwide.

Nor is the Catholic Church alone in conducting exorcisms. The priest confirms that Protestant churches conduct even more of the casting-out rituals than Catholics. "You have some of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and what I would call splinter churches doing exorcisms right and left."

The ABC's of Exorcism

Exorcism seems to be as old as religion itself. Shamans conducted exorcisms before the advent of organized religion, intervening in the spirit realm on behalf of their followers. In some cultures, illness and bad luck were thought to be the work of demons which could be cast out by a holy man.

There are also records of exorcisms conducted in ancient Babylon and Assyria. "In one, the exorcist made a figurine of the demon and uttered special word while destroying the image. In another, the exorcist made a figurine of the possessed person and asked the demon to leave the body of the person and instead occupy the figure," reports the Reader's Digest Illustrated Dictionary of Bible Life and Times.

The Bible mentions numerous exorcisms, with the most famous practitioner being Jesus Christ. "And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly," reports Matthew in his book, 17:18. In another case, Jesus cures a possessed man who babbles a pig-like language. He also gave the power of exorcism to the Apostles who roamed the ancient world spreading the gospel. Casting out demons was popular throughout the first century, A.D., reports the Dictionary of Bible Life.

Today's Catholic exorcism ritual dates back to the 14th century, reports Rev. LeBar. Major revisions of the ritual were made in 1614, with minor changes made in 1962, at which point the English language was allowed in lieu of Latin.

Those Darned Demons

Prior to the life of Jesus, demons were considered free-ranging evil spirits. But with the dawn of Christianity, demons came to be seen as the forces of Satan -- literally bad angels who had been cast out of heaven in a war against God and his loyal angels. Satan (Lucifer) and his fallen angels were angered that they had been given second-banana status by God, who favored of an inferior creation: human beings. In what plays out like a bad case of sibling rivalry, the fallen angels insisted that humans worship themselves instead of their Creator. This war was the subject of John Milton's epic poem, "Paradise Lost."

Exorcism goes to the heart of Christian theology because after the death and resurrection of Jesus, God exalted his son above the angels, according to the Catholic and Protestant catechisms. The exaltation of Jesus gave him authority over the angels -- including the evil angels, or demons.

In Christian exorcisms, the demon is commanded in the name of Jesus to state his name and the hour and date of his departure in a ritual which can take several days. Obtaining a name and departure time is sort of like forcing the demon to "say uncle" and admit that possession is a lost cause. The use of holy water, incense and incantations may also be involved.

Unfortunately, demons can be obstinate about their eviction notices, and picky about who's in charge. The biblical book of Acts notes that when a non-Christian exorcist tried to cast out a devil, "the evil spirit said to them in reply, 'Jesus I know... but who are you?'" (Acts 19:15).

The Devil & Mental Illness

"Modern commentators have theorized that episodes of possession by demons actually involved illnesses like epilepsy, but the authors of the Gospels would not have drawn such a distinction," notes the Dictionary of Bible Life.

Just as tribes of the Congo and Central Africa still attribute disease with hundreds of evil, mean-spirited gods lurking in every tree, rock and animal, so too did ancient exorcists find demons to be a handy way of explaining mental illness and convulsive disorders.

Because of sensitivity towards mental illness (schizophrenics are notoriously affected by religious hysteria), the Catholic Church requires that every candidate for an exorcism receive a complete psychological and psychiatric evaluation. Priests wishing to conduct exorcisms must also receive the go-ahead of their bishop.

Still, there are critics who feel that religious practitioners are messing with something best left to the mental health profession:

"Most, if not all, cases of alleged demonic possession of humans probably involve either people with brain disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome, or people whose brains are more or less healthy but who are unfortunate enough to be sucked into playing a social role with very unpleasant consequences," claims author Robert Todd Carroll in The Skeptic's Dictionary. "In any case, the behaviors of the possessed resemble very closely the behaviors of those with electrochemical, neurochemical or other physical disorders."

Do's & Don't's

Speaking of mental illness: in 1995, an Ontario woman was found guilty of killing her two-year-old granddaughter by forcing water down her throat in an attempt to exorcise a demon. The woman believed the girl was possessed because the child's estranged father wore a ring with two snakes on it and had "the light in his eyes" which signified demonic possession.

Then there's the 1998 case of the Argentine soccer team which conducted an exorcism on its playing field to drive out the demons which stood in the way of making it to the championships... Some things may be difficult to explain in psychological terms, however. The Roman Ritual of the Catholic Church offers some "General Rules" for exorcists:

"... The exorcist should not believe too readily that a person is possessed by an evil spirit; but he ought to ascertain the signs by which a person possessed can be distinguished from one who is suffering from some illness, especially one of a psychological nature. Signs of possession may be the following: ability to speak with some facility in a strange language or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition; and various other conditions which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence."

Don't Read This...

... if you're planning to see the re-release of the film, "The Exorcist."

In "The Exorcist," a bestseller by William Peter Blatty, a Jesuit priest named Father Damien Karras is summoned after all medical and psychiatric hope is lost for curing a possessed child named Regan. Father Karras enters the girl's bedroom, "almost flinching backward at the pungent stench of moldering exrement that hit him in the face like a palpable blast."

It's a bad scene, with Regan having been tortured and scratched by the devil inside her.

"... Then his eyes locked, stunned, on the thing that was Regan, on the creature that was lying on its back in the bed, head propped against a pillow while eyes bulging wide in their hollow sockets shone with mad cunning and burning intelligence, with interest and with spite as they fixed upon his, as they watched him intently, seething in a face shaped into a skeletal, hideous mask of mind-bending malevolence. Karras shifted his gaze to the tangled, thickly matted hair; to the wasted arms and legs; the distended stomach jutting up so grotesquely; then back to the eyes: they were watching him... pinning him..."

Although he's been warned of the persuasive powers of the devil by the Roman Ritual, Father Karras enters into a dialogue with the demon possessing Regan and is tortured by the monster's knowledge of his family secrets. The demon even has the ability to read the priest's mind. They enter into a battle of wits and logic, discussing history, theology and the future.

After a monumental but fruitless struggle with the demon possessing the girl, Father Karras draws the devil into his own body and -- well, read the book or see the film if you want to know how it ends. And hope to God you never need an exorcism.

The simple exorcism text of Pope Leo XIII can be found on the web at www.truecatholic.org/exorcismsimple.htm.

Secrets of a Telephone Psychic

Ever wondered just how accurate those telephone psychics are? You've probably seen the TV commercials: a bunch of women chatting it up on a couch, boasting about their psychic abilities, urging viewers to call their own "personal psychic." Just who are these people anyway? I decide to find out.

The first step is getting the phone number. I watch TV for a couple of days straight hoping the commercial will come on. Of course, it doesn't. So I search the Internet and turn up hundreds of web sites for psychic hotlines. I dial the 900 number for the "Psychic Friends Network" and reach a recorded message.

"Welcome to the Psychic Advisor Line, where you can get answers about love, money, success and more. The cost of this call is only $3.99 per minute, and you must be 18. The average length of this call is 10 minutes. If you are under 18 or do not wish to be billed, please hang up. Billing will begin in 3 seconds."

Silence. "Please hold on while we connect your call. Stay on the line and one of our psychics will be right with you." More silence. "If you know the psychic advisor you would like to speak with, please enter their 4-digit number now, or stay on the line while we select one for you." More silence. "You are now connected to your psychic advisor." Some new age music plays for about 25 seconds -- $1 worth of my psychic time. "You are now connected to your psychic."

At long last, my personal psychic comes on the line. A pleasant female voice says, "Hello, my name is Sandy."

"Hello," I say, thinking that since she's psychic, she'll automatically know my name.

"Hi there."

"Hi."

"What's your name?"

"Uh, Jane..."

"Hi, Jane. How are you today?"

"Good."

"And what can I do for you today?"

I wasn't prepared for this. "Well...I don't know...I just thought I'd give it a try..."

We both laugh. "Give it a shot and see what's up," she says.

This seems like a good time to probe her for information. "Are you really psychic?" I ask.

"I'm a card reader," she says. "I have a lot of psychic ability, which I think anybody who does any type of reading has to have. I prefer to call myself a spiritual counselor. A lot of it's just kind of being in tune with people. And I have a tremendous amount of mileage in life because I'm older."

When I ask, Sandy reveals that she is 55. She says that most card readers use Tarot cards; however, she prefers a regular old deck of cards. "I've tried to learn how to do the Tarot cards and they mean nothing to me," she notes. "And yet I can turn over a regular deck of cards and get some kind of information about 95 percent of the time."

Sandy has been doing readings for about ten years, the past four as a telephone psychic. But these clairvoyants are not sitting around on a couch chatting, as we've been led to believe. They're spread across the country, in their own basements and living rooms. Sandy wasn't even sure which psychic hotline she was hooked up to. She explained that when she goes online, she calls a number, keys in a code and is then hooked up to a computer somewhere.

Sandy operates her psychic hotline out of her house in California, in conjunction with her watercolor painting. "I have my cards all lined up and ready to go, and in between calls, I do the watercolors," she explains. "Today I've been pretty busy. Yesterday I was on for a couple of hours and didn't get anybody."

Still, she seems to enjoy it. "You get to talk to people from everywhere, like you and I, and just have nice conversations and hopefully help some people," she says. "You also find that as you do it, you help yourself, because you begin to see yourself there and it helps to answer a lot of your own questions."

Most people call about love, relationships or money, she tells me, and the cards give her a good starting point. "We just kind of tell you some different paths that are open. Of course, the choices are up to you, because it's still free will...most people have their own answers."

Although my personal psychic is costing me $4 a minute, Sandy reveals that she makes only 20 cents a minute. "We're 1099. They don't take our taxes," she explains. "And this company is very good about paying. They pay us once a week."

Because of all my questions, she assumes that I'm interested in being a telephone psychic and gives me a number to call, along with her extension. "If we get a referral, we get a pat on the head," she remarks.

"So do you have to have psychic ability to do this, or is there some kind of training people can take?" I ask.

"I guess you have to have psychic ability," she says. "My personal belief is that psychic ability is just kind of listening very carefully. Most people just don't have the clarity. I think people in general become more psychic as they get older, because the everyday living stuff gets out of their way."

Ah ha...so I'm paying $4 a minute for someone to listen to me. This brings to mind the scene in "Crocodile Dundee" where Dundee explains to his over-analyzed girlfriend that whenever anyone in his Australian territory has a problem, they just tell Wally and Wally tells everyone else and voila, no more problem!

Anyway, back to my personal psychic. Since I don't know exactly what to say, I just tell Sandy I'm in a rut. She wants to know the color of my hair and eyes. Red hair and hazel eyes. Am I married or divorced? Married.

From this information (and, presumably, all the questions I asked about being a psychic), the cards are telling her that I'm lost and looking for a new direction. That I'm experiencing some kind of separation. That she sees some instability and a temporary home in our lives. This last part is astonishingly accurate, as we recently moved into our own home after living with my parents for several years.

But the cards also say some pretty vague things that could just as well apply to an 80-year-old sheep-herder in Bolivia. Like: we've reviewed our plans and are trying to figure out where we're going, but the plans are on firm footing. That I shouldn't waste my energy looking for answers elsewhere. I have all the answers within me. I just need to restore my self-confidence. I'm on the verge of striking a nice balance in my life. There's another move in store for me. Hey, wait a minute. This grabs my attention.

"What do you mean?" I ask worriedly. "Like a physical move?" (I don't intend to move ever again.)

She calms me down by saying it doesn't necessarily mean a physical move. It could be a career move or something else. Even though I don't know this woman, she has a pleasant voice that is somehow comforting to me.

"I see a lot of movement of energy now," she goes on. "For a while, it seems like you've gone over hill and dale, but you're coming into a very positive phase. You are about to come out the victor, although for this particular moment, you may not feel that way. Everything for personal happiness is right within your reach. It may get just a little bit darker before it gets brighter, but it's a temporary thing."

Blah blah blah. I am growing weary of all this vague stuff. Then she gets specific. Says my husband will have some business dealings with two people -- a fair-haired man and a practical man with brown hair and brown eyes, possibly an olive complexion. Hmmm...my husband's family is olive-complected. And very practical.

But there are some obstacles to overcome, some entanglements, she continues. At this point, we get cut off. Oh no! Since she had given me her extension earlier, I call her back. She says the company automatically cuts us off after so many minutes, so that some psychically- obsessed person doesn't run up a humongous phone bill.

Sandy continues by giving me information about my husband that I already know: he's an entrepreneur, has a good spirit, a good sense of humor, and a positive attitude.

Since the clock is ticking and she's not telling me about the entanglements, I sort of hurry her along at this point. She says that overall my cards look good. "Everything looks really good for you. You're doing really well."

I don't need a psychic to tell me that. But, you know, it's kind of comforting and reassuring to hear it from someone. Unfortunately, I don't think it makes any difference whether I hear it from my personal psychic or my next-door neighbor. Good thing for the phone psychics that a lot of people don't know that.

Fiber-Optic Fortune Telling

Fortune tellers used to ply their trade in carnival tents, using tea leaves and crystal balls. But the traditional tools of the trade have been replaced by fiber optics and 900 telephone operators. Thanks to modern technology, psychics are now available 24 hours a day at the touch of a button. And Americans are pushing that button by the millions.

Fiber-optic fortune-telling has become so hot that calls to psychics now constitute one third of all 900 numbers called. The Psychic Friends Network alone receives some 10,000 calls a day. And thanks to television infomercials hosted by celebrities, psychics have become downright respectable. As an article in the Los Angeles Times put it, television infomercials have taken psychics "out of the shadowy, hocus-pocus world of the supernatural and marketed them as friendly advisers on a brightly-lit talk show."

So who's dialing the numbers? Lonely people. People in trouble. Women call to ask if they're pregnant. Men call from jail, asking for legal advice. One woman called to ask if her husband would continuing beating her ironically, for running up a huge phone bill calling psychics.

For some, the calls become an addiction. A paralegal secretary named Christine Winer was sent to prison after embezzling $30,000 to pay for calls to Psychic Friends. Worried about her future, Winer says she became "obsessed" with the need for psychic advice.

In other words, people are calling to get some sense of control and predictability in their lives of insecurity and heartache.

And who is on the other end of the line? Anyone with some spare time and a phone line in their home. Donna Kenworthy, author of "A 1-900 Psychic Speaks," says she spent the last three years giving psychic advice to people over the phone -- often while she was in the nude.

The 53-year-old Kenworthy says the worst part of her job wasn't trying to predict the future in her birthday suit, it was trying to fit household chores in between the 10 to 12 hours she spent each day giving readings.

And not everyone who called Kenworthy wanted psychic advice. One customer freaked her out by confessing to a murder, while another caller was a Satan worshiper who spent 30 minutes asking for advice about casting spells.

In "Secrets of a Telephone Psychic," author Frederick Woodruff details his years as a telephone psychic. "Short of suing people as a way to maintain a lucrative, self-employed status, working as a phone psychic can provide a decent level of cash flow," he says.

According to Woodruff, lots of people make a substantial living working for some of the busier psychic lines. "One woman I know is bringing home a decent two thousand dollars a month by making the lines her main source of income," he says. "Other friends who work part time as artists or writers or full-time students enjoy the convenience of setting their own hours and working from their homes to bring in an extra $300 a week."

Requirements of the job, he says, include a good speaking voice that can project emotion and enthusiasm, as well as the ability to find creative solutions to unexpected problems.

Maybe those clairvoyants in the carnival tents with their crystal balls weren't so bad after all. At least they made an effort to create an aura of psychic phenomenon.

Prisoners of Conscience

On December 19, 1999, four anti-war activists were arrested and charged with breaking through a fence at a Maryland Air National Guard Base and damaging two A-10 "Warthog" jet assault planes. Baltimore police said the activists hit one of the A-10's with hammers and then splattered the plane with what appeared to be blood.

The four -- members of the pacifist group Plowshares -- are faced with malicious destruction of property, trespassing, and second-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The group not only risked imprisonment, but actually seemed to welcome it. Why? They had their reasons.

The Warthogs are used by the Pentagon to deploy weapons made with depleted uranium (DU). The Plowshares felt justified in taking action -- the first specifically against DU weapons -- claiming that they're not only part of the lethal U.S. war arsenal, but also a danger to the environment for years after use in battle. The Warthogs are capable of firing up to 4,000 rounds of DU-reinforced shells per minute, and have been used in both Iraq and Yugoslavia.

The Disappeared

Thousands of "prisoners of conscience" are sitting in jail cells around the globe -- including the United States -- because of their religious, political or ideological beliefs. Many are held without charge or trial and, in some countries, torture and the death penalty are commonplace. In some cases, men, women and children have "disappeared" after being taken into official custody. Still others have been killed without any pretense of legality.

While some prisoners welcome the support of groups like Amnesty International, others actually seek out and revel in their prison terms, hoping to draw attention to injustices that are not noticed or solved by mere talk.

That's the case with the Plowshares group, who feel strongly about the use of weapons and violence. Sara Flounders, editor of the "Metal of Dishonor," called the Plowshares' civil disobedience "a courageous action that will help bring increased awareness of the dangers posed by this weapon."

Flounders demanded the authorities release the Plowshares activists, noting, "The real criminals are those who make the $8 million Warthogs and those who use them to spread warfare and radioactivity around the world."

This isn't the first time the Plowshares have taken action they believe to be justified. The first took place in 1980, when Philip and Daniel Berrigan and six others hammered on nuclear nose cones at a General Electric plant in Pennsylvania.

For Those Who Cannot Speak...

Countless numbers of people are imprisoned every year for things like breaking into labs to rescue lab animals, causing damage to leather goods stores, or trying to free mink and other animals from fur farms.

On May 6, Josh Ellerman will be sentenced for his alleged use of pipe bombs to destroy the Utah Fur Breeder's Co-op. Ellerman caused over $1 million in damages. The maximum sentence for his offense is 35 years in prison.

On April 11 in Big Sky, Montana, two women displayed a 20' x 50' banner which read, "Racicot's Buffalo Slaughter Kills Tourism" on the ten-story Big Sky Conference Center Hotel. Graphic depictions of two bloody buffalo heads were lavishly painted on the huge banner, which was hung as part of an all-day rally organized by the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) to call attention to the hypocracy of Governor Racicot's conflicting stances on tourism and the bison who draw tourists to the region.

The activists, who were suspended from ropes anchored to the building's top floor, were arrested after construction workers opened windows, reached outside, and destroyed the banner.

"Governor Racicot epitomizes the perfect politician," said BFC spokesperson Tiffan Brown. "He placates the tourism lobby with one hand while the other shoots buffalo to satisfy the appetites of the powerful livestock industry."

According to the group's Web site, Montana has slaughtered 2,136 buffalo since Racicot took office. "Governor Racicot's buffalo slaughter kills not only wildlife but tourism. People spend thousands of dollars to come to Montana and see buffalo," said BFC volunteer Alison Lovejoy, "The state's actions are a slap in the face to tourism and show how cozy the relationship between Racicot and the livestock industry really is."

Freedom of Speech?

Many people have been thrown into jail simply by speaking their mind -- something that is often taken for granted in the United States. Such was the case for Esber Yagmurdereli of Istanbul, who, in 1997, declared "'It is all very clear. I am going to prison," as he was carted off to begin a 23-year jail sentence.

Yagmurdereli, 53, was arrested as he left the national Kanal D radio studios after joining a talk show on "freedom of conscience." Although his imprisonment has caused an uproar in the country, Yagmurdereli, who is blind, refuses to accept special privileges and has formally stated that he will not accept a pardon on the grounds of either ill health or disability.

In 1998, the Vietnamese government released 11 prisoners of conscience in Hanoi, as part of a mass presidential pardon for over 5,000 prisoners. But hundreds of others remained imprisoned for their religious or political activities.

The mass amnesty, which included two prominent political dissidents, Doan Viet Hoat and Nguyen Dan Que, as well as three high-ranking Buddhist monks, has gained Vietnam widespread approval from foreign governments and human rights groups. However, human rights activists point out that while the Vietnamese constitution assures basic human rights, these are often scoffed at in practice.

The Same Old System

Not every prisoner who is pardoned is willing to walk. A 1998 report in the International Herald Tribune noted that about 20 of the 100 long-serving political prisoners in Seoul, Korea did not walk to freedom, although the government had officially released them.

Led by 69-year-old Woo Yong Gak, in prison for 40 years, the group refused to sign a pledge to abide by South Korean laws, according to activists fighting for their unconditional release.

"Prisoners of conscience think it's the same as the old system when they were asked to sign statements of "conversion from communism," said Oh Wan Ho, director of Amnesty International in South Korea. "This system does not meet international human rights standards."

The refusal of many prisoners of conscience to sign the pledge posed a major embarrassment for President Kim Dae Jung as he prepared to offer clemency to several thousand prisoners of all types. The clemency, including pardons for about 1,650 prisoners and release on parole for another 2,100, was intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea.

17 Years in Tibet

Then there are the Tibetan political prisoners made famous by actor Richard Gere. Included in the 1,042-plus political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are 278 women, 51 children, and several nuns -- like Phuntsok Nyidron and Ngawang Sangdrol, serving prison sentences of more than 17 years for expressing their political views.

Tibetans inside Tibet have continued to speak out against Chinese exploitation of Tibet as a land and the Tibetan people as a race. These protests are carried out in the form of peaceful demonstrations, usually conducted around the Jokhang (the main cathedral) in Lhasa, which most often result in the arrest and indefinite detention of the demonstrators. In 1995, more than 230 known arrests of Tibetan demonstrators were recorded and, in 1996, there were 204 Tibetans known to have been arrested for the peaceful expression of their political views.

Biding Time

Then again, not all prisoners of conscience are broadcasting massive human or animal rights violations. Gary Avey spends his days at the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Idaho. A judge said that Avey can leave whenever he decides to get a driver's license. But Avey refuses. According to the U.S. Constitution, he notes, a driver's license is an infringement on his right to travel.

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