In a Tokyo detention house, Friday morning (7/6/18) Japan executed seven members of the notorious Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, the group responsible for the 1995 sarin gas subway attacks that killed thirteen and injured thousands.
Cult leader, Shoko Asahara, along with six followers were executed by hanging. They will not be missed.
Amnesty International said the executions “do not deliver justice.” In general, I understand their policy of clemency but in this particular case, I am 100% on the side of - these people didn’t deserve to live.
The cult members of Aum are not martyrs or heroes. They were murdering, lunatic, fanatic cultists molded from a time of the dark ages.
And I’m glad they’re dead.
What was the Aum Shinrikyo Doomsday Cult?
Well, it all started out innocuous enough. Shoko Asahara started a yoga and meditation class in his apartment. It steadily grew. By 1989 they gained official status as a religious organization and had attracted quite a few college graduates and alums from Japan’s elite universities, and gained the “religion for the elite” moniker.
Their religion blended ancient Indian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Hinduism, taking Shiva (the God of Destruction) as their main deity and finally incorporating doomsday ideas from Revelations and Nostradamus.
Its founding member changed his name from Chizuo Matsumoto to Shoko Asahara and then, as these things often do, he declared himself a messiah and claimed all sorts of supernatural healing powers up to and including - that he would be able to protect and save all members of the from the upcoming apocalypse. This “survival protection,” somehow convinced really, really smart people - doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers - to join the cult. And somehow, at one point they had ten thousand members in Japan and thirty thousand members in Russia!
Oh, and “what apocalypse?” - you ask?
Basically, their doomsday cult involved the “original” idea that in 1997 (remember this was in the early 90’s) a nuclear holocaust would wipe out humanity and the attack would originate from the U.S.. They also, “originally,” decided that Jews, the British Royal Family, the Freemasons and all rival religions had labyrinthine plots working against Aum’s holy doctrine.
And for some reason they hated the Dutch.
Like I said, these folks were lunatics. And if that wasn’t apparent, yet - check this out - Aum Shinrikyo followers believed that the entire world was to be cursed with bad karma and upon death all souls would end up in some hellish limbo (or something like that).
Aum cult members knew how to save us all!
They would bring about the end of the world and therefor save everyone from their inevitable sins! You see, we were all going to bad karma hell but if we were killed by members of Aum - well, that act of generous murder by their holy hands would prevent our souls from accumulating bad karma and - save our eternal souls in the afterlife!
So, we are all going to hell unless we are murdered by cult members in Aum. So they have to end the world. And kill us all. To save us.
I have to admit that’s kind of a genius level super villain plot. It’s also, obviously - totally, batshit insane.
To make a long story short, over several years they kidnapped and murdered and prevented people from leaving the cult by torture, fear and … well, more murder. They assassinated rival religious figures and targeted politicians working against them. No one really knows how many people they killed. But it was a lot.
Then on March 20th, 1995 Aum released sarin gas on the subway in Tokyo, the cult’s most infamous attack. In the months after they had several more failed terrorist attacks. Eventually, authorities zeroed in on their compounds and rounded them up. A few fugitives escaped and remained at large for years after, but they too soon ended up in jail.
While cult members have not actively confessed to everything or accepted responsibility for their crimes there was plenty of evidence to convict and all top Aum cult members, ended up on death row.
And, get this, when authorities breached Aum’s main compound they found not just more sarin gas but they also found Ebola and anthrax cultures, thousands of automatic weapons, and a stolen Russian military helicopter!
This was a legitimate doomsday cult. These fools were not playing around. They wanted us all dead. You know, in order to save us.
How these lunatics remained at large for so long is beyond me. And you would think that that was the end of their cult. Right? But, no. They just changed their name and become Aleph. And then Aleph split into two factions with one keeping said name and the second branching off to be called Hikari no Wa.
But don’t worry, they’ve made it clear that the remaining members, approx. 1500 people - are just fine now. They even dropped the most of the “controversial texts” from their reading doctrine.
Thankfully, the Japanese government monitors the group now and will probably do so forever.
Interestingly, Japanese authorities do not notify any of an upcoming execution. And so, without fanfare, Aum’s leader and six of his cultist followers were hanged to death on the morning of June 6th, 2018. Seven more members of the cult remain on death row.
On Monday, June 23rd - the Wild Boar youth soccer team and their coach left their bikes chained at the entrance to the Tham Luang Nang Non in northern Thailand and ventured forth in what they expected to be a two(ish) hour adventure. But the cave flash flooded and the 12 young players and their coach vanished.
Nine days later rescuers from Thailand, China and Australia found them. Other than minor scrapes, miraculously, all 13 of them were safe. Here is the first video of rescuers reaching the boys. The boys didn’t have any food and were in complete darkness but stayed alive by drinking pooled rainwater.
Finding them was step one but rescuing them, it appears, is going to be a daunting task. The boys are estimated to be trapped about 2 kilometer into the cave and approx. 1 kilometer underground. Rescuers are trying to figure out the best way to get them through a labyrinthine series of flooded caves linked together by narrow passageways with zero visibility for most of the swim.
Thai Navy seals have even drained 120 million liters of water out of the caves in order to keep the water levels down to help the rescue. It appears as if rescuers have no great option in how to get the boys out. Some believe that the boys should be trained in underwater cave swimming, which is no easy feat. CNN spoke with Anmar Mirza, of the US National Cave Rescue Commission recently in this interview. From the interview:
"Cave diving is incredibly dangerous for people who are very experienced doing it. And now you're looking at taking people who have no experience or very little experience with diving, and putting them into a complete blackout situation, where they have to rely on a regulator and the tanks with them to breathe.”
Some believe that the boys should continue to be supplied until the rain season is over and the water levels drop and then rescued - something that could take four months.
For now Thai Navy SEALS, a doctor and a nurse are down with the boys. A communication director from the Navy told reporters:
"We have now given food to the boys, starting with the food which is easy to digest and provide high energy. Minerals are also provided. We have taken care of those boys following the doctor's recommendations, so do not worry. We will take care of them the best we can. We will bring all of them to safety. We are now planning how to do so.”
And just today, July 6th, the rescue operation has claimed it's first life, Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy diver tragically died while delivering air tanks down to the boys. This further illustrates how difficult it will be to get untrained divers, all kids mind you, out of the caves. And with monsoon season approaching, rescue workers don't really know how much time they have before the entire caves flood. A 3 mile oxygen line is now being rushed in along with power and phone cables.
Great news! On July 10th it has been reported via multiple sources that all 12 of the boys and their coach has been rescued. Fearing that the monsoon season would flood the rest of the caves rescuers had no choice but to move forward with a rescue operation. It took thousands of people rescuers more than a week to get them out safely. Here is the first video of the boys' rescue.
All of the boys and their coach have lost weight but are in pretty good shape. One of them has a lung infection but it sounds as if treatment is working well for him. The boys will be in quarantine for about 30 days to protect them from other people. Their immune systems have been weakened and doctors are taking no chances. It sounds as if they are all on the road to a full physical recovery.
UPDATED: July 11th.
UPDATED: July 10th.
UPDATED: July 6th 10:00 am.
Twenty five people have died, and 45 others are suspected to be infected with Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed and reported the outbreak of Ebola on May 8.
This latest outbreak began in villages near Bikoro. New cases later surfaced miles away in Mbandaka, an urban city with a reported population of 1.2 million, located along the banks of the Congo River.
Vaccination has begun with ZMapp, a treatment used in the 2014 outbreak that shows promise as a prophylactic measure.
Dr. Karen Duus, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Touro University Nevada, explains, “The vaccine is a recombinant Ebola virus protein vaccine that causes a similar type of neutralizing antibody response (as the ZMapp treatment). The neutralizing antibodies coat the virus particle and keep it from binding to the target cells and infecting them.” Its efficacy, however has not been extensively tested.
The DRC had a small outbreak last year but it was contained within 42 days.
The West African Ebola epidemic spanned from the end of December 2013 to 2016 infecting over 28,000 people and killing over 11,300. The epidemic was one of the worst in Ebola’s history and its high mortality rate took countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia by surprise. A vaccine was not available, and medications such as ZMapp were experimental and not in great supply. Hospitals were not stocked with protective clothing able to prevent the minutest of exposure to the deadly virus. Travel bans were difficult to institute and top that off with a lack of education on what we were dealing with and it was unfortunately the perfect storm for one of the deadliest outbreaks in recent history.
Ebola however emerged far before this. Ebola was named after the Ebola River in Zaire and was first recognized in 1976 when it caused two outbreaks affecting 318 and 284 people respectively. Multiple small outbreaks have occurred since then, according to the CDC:
1995 – Democratic Republic of Congo – infected 315
2000 – Uganda – infected 425
2007 – Democratic Republic of Congo – infected 264
And multiple smaller sporadic cases occurred in the years between.
In January 2016 health officials declared the Ebola outbreak had ended, however cases continued to smolder.
Why this occurs is the virus may not leave the body completely. Its been found to live in semen up to a year and some survivors can suffer a reinfection months later. For example, in 2015 Dr. Ian Crozier successfully fought Ebola but two months after discharge, suffered a severe eye infection which turned out to be Ebola lurking in his eye.
A study in 2015 found Ebola be able to survive outside a human body for days and longer if within a liquid such as water or blood. Mosquitoes are not known to transmit the virus however it can live in bats as well as monkeys and apes. Pets have not been known to contract Ebola from their sick owners but its been postulated that pigs could, if in contact with a victim.
Dr. Duus states that although the virus reservoirs are not clear, “people are most likely infected by butchering or eating infected animals.”
Ebola is a virus from the Flavivirus family that causes a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms of sudden fever, myalgias, headache and sore throat. It could then progress to nausea and vomiting, liver and kidney issues and internal and external bleeding, ultimately resulting in death in 90% of cases.
For better or worse, Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) begins. In the morning of March 29th, 2017, the British representative to the EU handed in the UK’s separation papers to the President of the European Council in Brussels. You see, the institutions of the EU are headquartered in Brussels, a city now famous for three things: Belgian Beer, Mr. JCVD himself (the “Muscles from Brussels”) and the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the EU.
Once such point of bureaucracy is Article 50 from the 2009 Lisbon Treaty which lays the groundwork for any EU member to, “withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements … shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.”
Until now, no state within the EU has invoked Article 50. Greece debated the idea as recent recessions, three recent public healthcare meltdowns and bailouts that seem to have done Greece more bad than good. It seems reasonable the Greeks would want change, but they never actually invoked Article 50. (New York Times coverage Explaining Greece’s Debt Crisis).
As for Brexit, England and Wales, they voted “yes.” Northern Ireland and Scotland voted “no:” Why not let England and Wales leave the EU and the other two countries remain? That seems fair. Not that fairness has much to do with the complex international treaties that govern the EU but, whatever. So, here we are, and now the United Kingdom has two years to negotiate its exit.
I also have no doubt that the immediate impact of the withdrawal will be felt first and foremost by the poor and the disenfranchised. A Scotsman recently turned me onto the plight of the Roma when he said, “... Roma families here rely on EU funding to assist their children getting proper support and education, as we are culturally so prone to isolating and pushing out Roma people they are often forced into poverty”. Precursory interneting shows me the Roma are a group of people so marginalized and maligned I am reminded of the sad history between the United States and the Native Americans.
So then, who actually benefits from Brexit? Well, if Brexit were a crime, Batman would be able to solve it by asking his two crime-solving questions:
1) Who benefits from the crime?
2) Where does the money go?
Fair enough, Batman. Who does benefit? Where does the money go? Abandoning the EU ends free trade between the UK and all other other members of the union. Do the words “abandon free trade” sound like they will lead you to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? I’m pretty sure it’s easier to move money and products around Europe with, you know, free trade. In fact, it seems to be the only thing economists actually agree on. Will the UK benefit by abandoning open borders? Will it be more secure from terrorism? No. Terrorism is way more of a law enforcement issue than a border issue. Also, I’m no Batman, but I suspect an influx of immigrants fuels an economy and helps pay for public services.
The enormity of the negotiation deal is way beyond the scope of one snotty American opinion. Obviously, some people will benefit, some people will not. Which people will fall into which category? And what will the ratio of benefited to not benefited be? Will Brexit do the most good for the most amount of people in the UK?
I guess we’re about to find out.
Yes! To the best of my Googling skills, Brexit happened, well, the same way these things always seem to happen -- bumbling politicians! You see, as a last ditch effort to save his political ass, former Prime Minister David Cameron proposed an independence referendum to -- I don’t know appease the rising populist movement? Then, obviously, he turns right around and actively campaigns against it! Propose it. Campaign against it. Genius!
How hard did he campaign against it? Imagine Captain America punching a Nazi in the f**king face (because Cap hits hard)! That’s how hard Cameron campaigned against the yes vote to Brexit.
Only Cameron’s plan didn’t work out so well. As we all know, due to the rise in populism, the “yes” vote to Brexit won by a narrow margin and former Prime Minister Cameron stepped down. In 2016, Theresa May became head of Her Majesty’s Government. May, despite having also campaigned for a “stay in the EU vote,” is now tasked with overseeing Brexit. In fact, May publicly warned voters, Brexit would damage the economy, harm security, erode the kindness of dogs, cause the sky to turn a sickly pink-green color and altogether obliterate the taste of strawberries. (I might have made some of those examples up).
Weather Brexit will destabilize the EU or become disastrous to the UK economy remains to be seen. As usual, when any huge political change is announced, the day the “yes” vote passed, the UK stock market took a hit but slowly climbed back up in following months. I believe the pound is still a bit down in value versus both the U.S. dollar and the Euro, making travel to the UK a tad less expensive, but predictions of economic crisis, recession, a huge rise in unemployment and the “Tasteless Strawberry Apocalypse” have not proven accurate. Yet.
The UK now enters unknown territory and pundits on both sides of the political spectrum, and all over the world, have wildly opposing utopia/dystopia predictions. I suspect Brexit results will land somewhere within the usual parameters of, “the poor suffer, the middle class pays for it all” and the wealthy “get some more tax breaks.” Business as usual.
Prime Minister May was correct about one thing, though. May predicted that a yes vote to Brexit would piss off the Scots and that they would vote for another independence referendum. If you recall, way back in 2014 AD, the Scots voted on an independence referendum to break from the UK. At the time, the Queen, the fine folks of England and a whole bunch of wealthy, elite, old, white Scots told the world, “This is a terrible idea! We’re stronger together!” The independence vote failed.
Guess what? That next Scottish independence vote May feared? Well, as of Tuesday, March 28, 2017, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (of Scotland) won a Parliamentary vote for a new referendum. In fact, First Minister Sturgeon promised “endless independence campaigns.”
We all know what that means. England was the driving force behind Brexit and now believes that sometimes you must dissolve a partnership in order to move forward, which is why they will be completely sympathetic and understanding about Scottish independence this time around. England will cast off thousands of years of English imperialism and will cooperate fully with the Scots independence. England will, in no way, spend massive political capital and crushing amounts of money on a propaganda, smear campaign against Scottish independence. Finally, England will totally give up their entitled ownership over all that Scottish oil in the North Sea.
I predict the new Scottish Independence Referendum will be a smooth-sailing, easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy walk in the park victory for the Scots. I mean, that’s all obvious to you too, right? Countries don’t control other countries just because of entitlement, imperialism and/or oil money!
We’re all on the same page here, right?
If you like this article, you might enjoy the GCN Live talk show: Free Talk Live