WND: Pine Trees at Ground Zero a Sign that God Will Destroy USA

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah has a new enthusiasm – a book entitled Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn of the Jerusalem Center-Beth Israel Congregation in Wayne, N.J. Cahn has found examples of a couple of (Democratic) politicians using a Bible verse out of context, in a way that Farah believes (or purports to believe) is of wider spiritual significance:

“…I am persuaded God is trying to tell America something and Rabbi Cahn has found the key to unlocking the message.”

The misused text is Isaiah 9:10:

“The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”

These words were first uttered by leaders in Israel and in response to a limited strike by Assyria on the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – an attack the prophet makes clear is actually part of a limited judgment by God against apostasy. It wasn’t meant to destroy the nation, but to awaken it, according to most commentaries.

But, says Cahn, Israel didn’t take the cue. Instead, the response from the people in Isaiah 9:10 is one of defiance. The brick buildings were toppled, but they vowed to build bigger and better. The little sycamore trees may have been uprooted, but they vowed to plant bigger and better cedars in their place.

In the wake of 9/11, the verse was quoted by Tom Daschle, and three years later by Senator Jonathan Edwards:

“Like Daschle, Edwards thinks he’s invoking inspirational and comforting words from the Bible, but he’s actually inviting judgment on America,” says Cahn. “He’s repeating the vow that provoked God to bring calamity on ancient Israel.”

WND helpfully provides footage of both quotes, overlaid some with brooding Philip Glass music for extra sinister effect.

Of course, quote-mining the Bible in a way that does violence to authorial intent and context is a commonplace vice (indeed, Farah is himself a frequent offender), although it’s depressing to see such a howler from supposedly well-educated public figures. One could make a sensible point about the shallowness and self-serving nature of what passes for a good deal of public religion. However, Farah and Cahn tell us that it’s more than that, as they read occult significance into a couple of details around the redevelopment of Ground Zero:

There was actually a very famous sycamore tree felled in the attack on the World Trade Center. It was replaced by trees in the same genus as the cedar. There have been many plans made to rebuild the twin towers bigger and better and a large “hewn stone” was actually quarried out of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and brought to Ground Zero as a cornerstone.

The new trees at the site are pines are rather cedars, and it’s unclear how they “replace” the famous sycamore that stood near St Paul’s Chapel, but apparently we can dispense with literalism when it suits.

UPDATE: WND has now knocked out a second article on the subject. The article clarifies that the apocalyptic tree is a conifer planted in St Paul’s Churchyard as a “Tree of Hope” in 2003, and that the Hebrew word erez, usually translated as “cedar”, is also used to mean the pine tree. It’s still moronic, though: the Biblical verse refers to trees in the plural, yet Cahn can’t make his mind up whether the “Tree of Hope” in particular or the pine trees in the general vicinity are of eschatological significance.

Perhaps its also worth spelling out a more general point: Isaiah 9:10 and its adjacent verses are an interpretation of the destruction of the ancient northern kingdom of Israel. The author is not interested in a terrorist attack happening thousands of years later on a distant land mass he had no inkling even existed.

Pakistan Blasphemy Law Continues to Victimise Christians and Others

Release International reports from Pakistan:

A Pakistan Christian has received death threats for blasphemy after speaking out against the assassination of a government minister, himself killed for opposing the blasphemy laws. This latest death threat ratchets up the risk to Christians in Pakistan, where militants regard even questioning the blasphemy laws as blasphemous.

36-year-old Arif Ferguson and his entire family have had to go into hiding, following death threats by the Pakistan Taliban and others.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for killing Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, describing him as a blasphemer of Mohammed. The same group is now threatening to kill Arif Ferguson.

This is, of course, just one incident among many in Pakistan, where the blasphemy laws and blasphemy accusations regularly lead to state repression and vigilante violence. Just a few days ago, the Express Tribune reported that

Shahdara police have arrested a Christian man after a charged mob blocked GT Road for three hours demanding that he be booked in a blasphemy case for burning pages of the Holy Quran.

The police registered an FIR under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code against Khurram Masih on the complaint of Zulfiqar Ali and arrested him on Monday night. Masih was produced before a judicial magistrate on Wednesday and remanded in judicial custody.

A mob of about a thousand people wielding sticks took to GT Road at Shahdara Chowk and blocked traffic with burning tyres on both sides of the road.

Being left to the mob or taken into custody can be equally dangerous; in September it was also reported that

A Christian man accused of blasphemy died in a Pakistani prison on Sept. 9, the International Christian Concern announced Tuesday.

Aslam Masih died of a “treatable disease” after officials denied him proper medical care, ICC reported.

He had reportedly died of Dengue virus, an infectious tropical disease.

…Masih was reportedly arrested in 2010 after having been accused of blasphemy by two members of the Tablighi Jammat, an Islamic missionary group.

…The incident added to a row of deaths and arrests related to the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. According to ICC, another Christian man, Qamar David, died in the Pakistani prison in March. Though the authorities cited a heart attack as an official cause, it is believed that he might have been murdered, according to ICC.

In some cases, blasphemy accusations are levelled against a Christian business rival or in relation to a private dispute. Other cases, however, reveal anti-Christian animus or even a Salem-like hysteria at work; in September it was reported that a 13-year-old Christian schoolgirl and her family had gone into hiding over a spelling mistake:

[She] was sitting an Urdu exam which involved a poem about the prophet Muhammad when she dropped a dot on the Urdu word naat (a devotional hymn to the prophet), accidentally turning it into lanaat, or damnation. Spotting the error, her teacher scolded her, beat her and reported the matter to the principal. The news soon flamed through her community in Havelian, 30 miles north of Islamabad.

Mullahs raged against Bhatti in their sermons; a school inquiry was hastily convened to examine the matter. Bhatti was expelled; her mother, a government nurse, was banished to another town, and the family has since fled Havelian in fear of their lives. All over a missing dot.

However, Christians are not the only victims of blasphemy accusations; last month it was reported that

An Ahmadi student from Lahore (Punjab) was expelled from her university in her senior after she was accused of blasphemy. Students affiliated with Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (TKN) accused Rabia Saleem of ripping up a poster with anti-Ahmadi content.

…TKN-affiliated students announced that “Ahmadi students would not be allowed” on campus, and that anybody who tried to resist them would be killed. The university and the education ministry reacted to the threat with total silence.

Inevitably, accusations are also now even deployed opportunistically against mainstream Muslims; at the weekend the Express Tribune reported that

Complainant Hafiz Ghulam Hasan, the prayer leader at Jasmia Masjid Chiragh Din, Hundal village, has accused Amjad alias Haji Toka and his wife Samreena in a complaint filed at the Saddar police station of blaspheming about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

…Saddar police station house officer, Inspector Hameedullah, told The Express Tribune the suspects were sent to a prison on a judicial remand to avoid an untoward incident that could have occurred had they been held at the police station.

He said an investigation into the incident had revealed that the complainant and several other villagers had obtained loans from the suspects and defaulted on repayment. He said Hafiz Hasan had recently leased a motorcycle from Amjad’s business.

Islamists organised a national strike in defence of the blasphemy laws at the end of last year; the New York Times noted commentary from Mehdi Hasan of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan:

“I call it a natural result of religious extremism that is on the rise in Pakistani society… The liberal and democratic forces in the country have retreated so much that it has created an ideological vacuum that is now being filled by the religious extremists.”

Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was murdered a short time after this, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti two months after that; both had criticised the blasphemy laws and defended the Christian Asia Bibi, who remains on death row following a blasphemy conviction (and even she were to be freed, she risks being murdered). The Muslim judge who sentenced Taseer’s killer to death has reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia with his family, although there is some dispute over whether this is correct or whether he has gone there on hajj.

The appointment of Sherry Rehman as the new ambassador to the USA also highlights how difficult it is to change the law; Tom Wright at the Wall Street Journal reports:

…Ms. Rehman… has been in the spotlight in recent months for her championing of efforts to overturn Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which sanction the death penalty for people found guilty of blasphemy against Muhammad, Islam’s holy prophet. For a while this year, she went into hiding after receiving death threats for her plans to bring legislation to parliament to amend the laws. She later withdrew her amendments, which [Mohammad Waseem, a professor of political sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences] said happened under pressure from the government as it was fearful of stirring up protests from Islamist groups.

Yesterday, Wright reported that the International Crisis Group in Brussels has published a report with recommendations for curtailing Islamist power:

The problem is that few in Pakistan are listening.

To an outsider, the report’s recommendations seem common sense: regulate better the network of “madrassas,” or religious schools, these parties run; prosecute people for speeches that incite violence against religious minorities; require Islamist parties to disband their militant wings; and, most importantly, work to repeal the blasphemy law and other legislation that discriminates against non-Muslims.

But Pakistan’s secular political parties, including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, remain cowed by what they view as the power of the Islamist parties to wreak havoc through violent protests across the country in defense of their religious prerogatives.

Paul Ray Reveals Details of 2009 EDL Planning Meetings

Back in October, I blogged on a feud between three former Defence League activists: Alan Lake, Lena Andreassen, and Paul Ray. Lake has accused Andreassen of giving his real name to a journalist, and Lake and Ray have accused each other of influencing Anders Behring Breivik. Ray has also used his blog to publicise Lake’s real name – Alan Ayling – and to give alleged details of early English Defence League planning meetings which were held in Lake’s flat in London. Ray was one of the founders of the EDL in 2009, but he was quickly sidelined.

Ray returned to public attention in the wake of Breivik’s massacre; his blog postings apparently caught the eye of the Sunday Times, which yesterday published a report by Dipesh Gadher and Robin Henry entitled “Unmasked: Wealthy Backers Behind Far-Right League”:

A Sunday Times investigation has revealed that Ann Marchini, a mother from Highgate, north London, and Alan Ayling, a former director of an investment fund, have sought to mould the thuggish anti-Muslim group into a credible political force.

They are both linked to the murky world of the online “counter-jihad” movement from which Anders Behring Breivik drew ideological inspiration before committing his massacre in Norway in July. They have remained in the shadows until now by using aliases on the internet to mask their true identities.

…Ayling, 57, has been operating under the alias “Alan Lake”. He is an IT expert and was a director of Pacific Capital Investment Management until January this year. The fund was dissolved in August. (1)

Lake’s flat was the location of an EDL planning meeting in July 2009:

Ray regards the… meeting as “pivotal”. “It was the key people being brought together,” he said. “It was bringing together the ideological and political side with the boots on the ground.”

Ray has had further details on his blog since July 2011:

The very first meeting in London when Steven Yaxley-Lennon aka “Tommy” assumed the leadership role of the English Defence League with Chris Knowles (CLA) and others present whose names I have, Jeff Marsh [see here  -RB] aka Joe Cardiff from Wales was due to attend the meeting but Chris Renton EDL alias John Sheridan prevented him from attending by arranging to meet him about buying hooligan books on the same day.

…It is not going to be very long until the Norwegian police know everyone in Alan Lakes little London flat that day, and who the professor talking about military strategies was. I am sure he was not English, I might be mistaken though, but I think he came from a Scandanavian Country. Chris Knowles of Civil Liberties Alliance knows each of them because I invited him and he invited them, which includes him inviting Lake to the EDL table. 

Somewhat confusingly, Ray also describes two meetings as having taken place:

Ann/Gaia, Alan Lake, Kinana, ‘Richard the Lionheart’ and myself were all present at that first discussion strategy meeting in Alan Lakes flat.

At the second meeting there was Gandalf of the Up Pompeii blog, who is the military strategist/tactician professor, Kinana, Alan Lake, Chris Knowles, Ann/Gaia, myself and Yaxley/Tommy, Kevin Carroll and another one of their family members.

“Kinana” is a friend of Lake, as discussed here. The reference to a “Richard the Lionheart” being present is  a new development:

Below is a screen shot of an email sent to me by Kinana in July 2009 after the first meeting in Lake/Ayling’s London flat before the founding EDL meeting a couple of weeks later.

…As you will see there was a man present at that meeting who called himself ‘Richard the Lionheart’, it is the same man who posts on Jihad Watch under that alias. He is a big ginger haired guy from London, and if my memory serves me correctly he was more militant about the anti-jihad movement…

It was whilst going through my emails to confirm the dates, events taking place and certain individuals being present at the meetings that I came across Kinana’s email. I was shocked and stunned at what I read and amazed how I had totally forgotten.

This is of some interest because Breivik claims to have had a “mentor” who uses the name Richard the Lionheart; however, the name is an obvious moniker for anyone interested in drawing on Templar and Crusader imagery (indeed, Ray himself uses the name “Lionheart”).

Returning to the Sunday Times report:

Two days after the meeting, Ray received an email from “Dominique Devaux”, using the account “gaia2600@hotmail.com”. “Still very interested in helping EDF [sic] grow as a movement,” it stated. It was signed off by “Ann”.

Ann Marchini denies that she is this person, although the Times presents circumstantial evidence to the contrary. She lives in London and owns a number of buy-to-let properties; Ray “says he had previously stayed for ‘a few months’ at one of her rental flats [in]… east London.” “Gaia” recently posted a report at Gates of Vienna about the EDL’s new link-up with the British Freedom Party.

UPDATE: Dagbladet has picked up on Ray’s publication of the Kinana email which mentions “Richard the Lionheart”; the police are looking into it, but not giving any details.


(1) A 2008 report from Business Today shows that PCIM was involved in multi-million pound “convertible note” dealings in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. However, although Sunday Times reveals that Lake lives in a flat in a desirable part of central London, it looks to me that previous reports calling him the “millionaire financier” for EDL were indeed exaggerated – he maintains that he only ever donated £200 or so to the EDL, and documents relating to PCIM confirm his occupation as being an IT manager (as he stated to  Dagbladet last week).

Jerry Boykin to Address Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast

From the Ocean City (Maryland) Dispatch:

The commander of the infamous Black Hawk Down has been announced as this year’s Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast speaker.

Ocean City Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast Director Bruce Spangler expressed excitement this week about Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin of the US Army, retired coming to Ocean City next month.

“Talking to people that know this guy, they say he’s a soldiers-soldier … he isn’t somebody that lives from behind but is upfront leading,” Spangler said.

…“He is an expert on Islamic history,” Spangler said.

Right Wing Watch adds a bit more context to this report:

In reality, Boykin is an anti-Islam activist who believes that Muslims do not deserve First Amendment protections and should not be allowed to build mosques in America. He also says that not only can there be no interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, but that Christians must go on the offensive against Islam.

He also believes that George Soros and the Council on Foreign Relations intentionally collapsed the US economy in order to help elect President Obama, who is now using health care reform legislation to create an army of Brownshirt soldiers loyal only to him.

Boykin is particularly associated with the neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner, and with Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries and Oak Initiative.

The Dispatch also gives a bit of general background:

Twenty-two years ago, Spangler was approached by two friends of his who organized the Easton Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and the Delaware Governors Prayer Breakfast. After approaching Ocean City’s mayor at the time, Fish Powell, the concept of the resort’s Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast was created.

(“Fish” was apparently a nickname). In 2010, the speaker was Steve Young from Campus Crusade for Christ International; according to the Dispatch,

“We have in between 400 to 500 people who attend,” Spangler said. “Professional people, business people, people in the community. People come to me and say, what a great way to start a day.”

…Tickets can be purchased at City Hall, Long and Foster Realty on 120th street, Cropper Oil Company on Route 50 in Berlin, and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce on Route 50 in Ocean City.

That last detail caught the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which made a  complaint to current Mayor Rick Meehan

…urging the city to discontinue the use of city resources and taxpayer funds to “plan, organize and promote” a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.

…A city attorney responded that tickets will no longer be available for purchase at city hall.

According to a 2009 report in Ocean City Today,

Past speakers have included a missionary injured in Iraq, a firefighter injured in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and a man who was on death row for murder.

The reference to a “man who was on death row” was perhaps a botched reference to Maury Davis, who spoke at the Prayer Breakfast in 2008; the young Davis killed a middle-aged woman in 1975 (almost decapitating her with a knife), but thanks to an insanity plea and a juror who believed in demonic possession he was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. Now a wealthy evangelist, Davis recently hosted an “anti-Shariah conference” in Nashville, as I blogged here.

Spangler told Ocean City Today that he

started the annual breakfasts because he wanted to bring the word of God back to the Ocean City and Worcester County community, not in a church setting but in the real world where real people could share their experiences. Every year he searches for engaging speakers with interesting stories of how the Lord touched their lives.

“You can see the miracles the Lord has done through our speakers. I think it gives people hope and helps them to develop a relationship with God,” Spangler said.

Spangler is the co-director of Peninsula Professional Services, an investigative agency; his business partner, Doug Cymek, is a member of the City Council and supportive of the Prayer Breakfast.

In April, Boykin will be the Keynote Speaker at the NRA Prayer Breakfast in St Louis.

Alan Lake Discusses Anders Behring Breivik

A few days ago, Dagbladet published an interview with Alan Lake, an activist formerly associated with the English Defence League. Lake has come to wider attention after being identified as a possible ideological influence on the mass killer Anders Behring Breivik; Breivik claimed to have been part of a larger group and to have had a mysterious “mentor”, and Lake and Paul Ray have both accused each another of having had this role.

However, it is most likely that the “mentor” is a figment of Breivik’s imagination, and even if such a person exists neither Ray nor Lake fit the profile. This may not be immediately evident to journalists delving into unfamiliar territory, but I have explained here why Ray could not be the mentor, and Lake has no interest in Breivik’s “Templar” fetishism. Ray travelled to Norway to be interviewed by police there during the summer, and Lake has now been interviewed by British police with a Norwegian observer present. As I wrote in October, these counter-accusations may seem farcical, but it should be remembered that they are clogging up an extremely serious and distressing police investigation.

The Dagbladet interview (published in Norwegian – see note below) begins with Lake discussing his interaction with police:

They asked me about [being Breivik’s mentor], but also about much else. I have to say we had a long and interesting conversation. We talked for several hours. I find it flattering that they believe that I’m so important and view me as a kind of expert witness.

The self-regarding tone here is perhaps unfortunate, but he goes on to confirm that he has never had any contact with Breivik, and he claims that had he done so he would have been able to “crush” him through argument:

If I inspired him, he misunderstood. I’m not responsible for how people stupidly misinterpret what I write.

He also believes that Breivik ought to be executed as a murderer.

However, Lake also ruminates on Breivik’s motivation, in a way that appears sympathetic:

I believe Breivik looked around and wondered what he should do. Then he thought “Talking doesn’t help – what I say will be abused. The media will make me look like a villain. And I’ll lose my job.” That’s why he skipped the democratic process and discovered that this was the only way he could get things done. My point is; if you gag people, worse things can happen.”

…Because it’s no longer possible to discuss nation’s right to preserve their own culture, we end up with a Breivik. But he’s special. There aren’t many people who are intelligent, have access to money and instead of impressing beautiful women, retreat to a remote place and make bombs. Rather than a superterrorist like Breivik, we’re going to see hundreds of others who carry out less spectacular actions. Because they can’t think of any other way to express their frustration.

In conclusion, Lake again clarifies that rather than having been the EDL’s “millionaire businessman financier”, he in fact donated just £100-200 to the organisation and is a salaried IT worker.

The interview does not touch on Lake’s disputes with Ray or with Lena Andreassen, former head of the Norwegian Defence League.

UPDATE: On a 4Freedoms discussion page, Lake writes that:

Surprisingly, a correspondent told me that the article went down well in Norway.  Well, I just told it like it is, if people like it or not, its up to them.  It must have been funny to read someone speaking in such a politically incorrect way as mine!

NOTE: Because the interview was published in Norwegian, the quotes may not be Lake’s exact words. I made use of an unofficial translation back into English (cross-referenced with Google Translate) here.

Mary Whitehouse’s Table

Last night’s Antiques Roadshow on BBC 1 had a curious collection: an old kitchen table used by Mary Whitehouse for her “Clean Up TV” campaign, along with some of her paperwork and a portrait by John Bratby. The items were brought to Layer Marney Tower, near Colchester, by her son Richard Whitehouse, who recalled how the table would be “strewn with papers”. He also discussed, in a dryly jocular manner, the difficulties faced by him and his siblings:

We certainly felt sidelined and secondary to the campaign. It was rather unfortunate that she started the campaign when we were young teens… Yes, you know, “No sex and violence”, when that’s the only thing we were really interested in… She used to watch a lot of porn and violence, and I began to wonder.

Mary Whitehouse’s granddaughter was also on the show, and gave her own assessment:

I don’t particularly believe in what she stood for, I don’t really agree with the campaign particularly. I just think she’s a remarkable woman because she stood up for what she believed in, really, which is quite amazing.

The AR expert, Paul Atterbury, declined to put a price on the table and paperwork beyond it being “a valuable social archive”, although he valued the Bratby painting – which Richard Whitehouse keeps “behind the door” – to probably more than £5,000, “because she’s quite an important subject”.

Richard Whitehouse has spoken about his mother previously – in 2008 he gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph.

The programme was broadcast from 8pm to 9pm – viewers could then switch over to Channel 4, where there was a satirical drama in which the Prime Minister of the UK is obliged to have sex with a pig on live television in order to save the life of a kidnapped princess.

“A Cross between Donald Trump and Buddha”

I’ve just caught up with Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, a BBC observational documentary on what might be called the “wealth guru” subculture. The programme, by Venessa Engle, included interviews with several of the gurus:  Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame, T. Harv Eker, who divulges Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and – from the UK – Marcus De Maria. However, the main focus was on the followers, including those who have found success (and in turn become “wealth mentors” themselves) and those who are still aspiring to the millionaire lifestyle – racking up thousands of pounds of credit card debts in the process, as they attend seminars and conferences and pay for financial mentors.

The “secret” appears to boil down to “get a property portfolio and some shares”, and reviews of the show unsurprisingly drip with disdain. From the  Guardian:

“We’re going back to feudal times!” Kiyosaki tells his loving fans. “When you had the rich and you had the peasants!” On this evidence, they look more like they’re actually going back to the wild west, where roving merchants peddled the curative properties of snake oil, and gullible, wounded souls with nothing else to hope for fell for their spiel hook, line and sinker.

The Independent, meanwhile, called the programme “quietly devastating”:

It turns out wealth creation is big business, from “how to” books to pricey seminars to a board game named Cashflow (a tongue-removed-from-cheek Monopoly). It’s a nasty web where self-help-speak, capitalist theory, and religious cultishness meet. And the wealth gurus squat in the middle like greedy spiders while poor, credulous individuals get themselves completely tangled up.

As for Eker – the self-described Trump-Buddha mashup:

This odious little man is one of those responsible for Janice [a nursery teacher] believing that if she rubs her earlobes while repeating “I am a millionaire”, she’ll soon be rolling in it. He’s fond of booming over a microphone to his many wide-eyed event attendees that the universe “owes” them a million pounds. 

The overlap with religion was of particular interest: one woman from New Romney explained how she became drawn into the scene when a young relative received a terminal diagnosis and she turned to the writings of a medium:

The very first book I read on self-development, or looking beyond “what is”, was by Betty Shine, and she was a medium, and then You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay was a huge impact on me… Then I discovered Robert Allen’s Multiple Streams of Income… Just because you have money it doesn’t mean you can’t be spiritual, and I mean, money’s passive, it doesn’t come with emotions, money is just a tool, and it’s up to us how we use it.

This sounds rather like a New Age version of the Prosperity Gospel: self-help, motivationalism, an optimistic spiritual message, and a dose of magical thinking.

Perhaps the most depressing interviewees were two teenage Kiyosaki acolytes. While some of the contestants on shows like The Apprentice have inflated views of their own business acumen, at least they tend to understand the need to come up with and develop actual business ideas. By contrast, these two were under the impression that the road to riches is a shopping trip to the estate agent with a couple of “wealth coaches” in tow.

Meanwhile, a professional investor named John T. Reed has a website rating – and debunking – a number of financial gurus here.

Blurb Fail

The book blurb for Terry Waite: Why was He Kidnapped?, by Gavin Hewitt (Bloomsbury, 1991):

Meanwhile, on page 197:

Greek Cleric Asks Vladimir Putin to “Provide Assistance to Our Country”

The website of the Government of the Russian Federation has an English-language transcript of Vladimir Putin’s recent meeting with Ephraim,  Archimandrite of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos and custodian of the Mother of God’s belt. The belt has has just completed a tour of Russian cities; it is believed that the relic has the power to help women conceive, and the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which brought it to the country, is hopeful that it will promote “family values” in Russia. I blogged on the background to the tour here.

Ephraim explained the relic’s power to Putin:

Archimandrite Ephraim: …I am certain that the belt of Virgin Mary has made your people’s faith even stronger. We receive telephone calls all the time, with people sharing their miraculous experiences, such as having a child after ten years of marriage. There have been 20 such cases already. There will certainly be a book on all these miracles that have occurred during the relic’s journey around Russia.   

Vladimir Putin: If this helps to solve our demographic issue, it is most welcome.

The two men also discussed Greek-Russian cooperation:

Vladimir Putin: Your efforts certainly show the bonds between our nations and will strengthen them. This will undoubtedly give an impetus for further development of the relations between our countries. Thank you very much.

Archimandrite Ephraim: Mr Putin, I am very glad to have been by your side all this time… Greece is going through a difficult period and I ask you to provide assistance to our country wherever possible under these challenging conditions. 

I’m sure that Putin will be more than willing to oblige; as I’ve quoted more than once previouslyTime magazine  in 2007 described the Russian Orthodox Church as Russia’s “main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument”.

I previously blogged on Ephraim in 2008, when Vatopedi became mired in a land-swap scandal involving the Greek government. The St Andrew the First-Called Foundation is headed by Putin confidant Vladimir Yakunin, and in July the Foundation’s “World Public Forum” held a conference on the need to protect Mount Athos from tourists and women.