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Cults, or “New Religious Groups” as Sociologists prefer to call them now, have been around since the dawn of time. They start as splinter groups or small ideal-based sects that often have radical beliefs and practices. Some of these religions grow so large that they eventually become recognized as mainstream religion. What makes the modern iterations of these cults so terrifying is their ability to suck in the most reasonable and intelligent of people, and their reach often extends to your friends and family.

Many celebrities were or are currently in cults: Michelle Pfeiffer was a member of an obscure breatharian cult that believed you didn’t need to eat or drink to live and that you could get your sustenance from the sun. It wasn’t until her actor boyfriend at the time Peter Horton got a role acting in a movie about the followers of Reverend Moon of the Unification church that she realized she herself was in such an organization.

Indoctrination and brainwashing are part of what makes cults so influential on educated and rational people, but it’s what these cults do in their rituals and customs that makes them a threat worthy of a good scary movie. Let’s take a look at some of the craziest cults in America.

1. Branch Davidians

Branch-Davidians sign image

David Koresh was an outspoken member of the Seventh Day Adventists until he was expelled for his radical views. He thought that he was the messiah and all women were his spiritual wives. Following his split with the Seventh Day Adventists Koresh fled, to the now infamous Waco Texas, to establish their center of worship.

They lived on a large compound and stockpiled weapons and armor for the eventual end of the world, which they believed was drawing near based on Koresh’s visions. Their leader was speaking the word of god according to them, and they surrendered themselves wholly to him. Koresh ended up marrying many of the church members wives and children; many of them were very young.

Reports of the Branch Davidian’s hoarding of weaponry and child abuse finally spurred the newly appointed Attorney General Janet Reno to take action. In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms attempted to raid the compound. The raid ended in a disastrous withdrawal and 4 dead ATF agents along with 7 dead Branch Davidians. The ATF then engaged in a 51 day siege of the compound that culminated in tanks injecting tear gas into the buildings of the compound and a massive fire that killed 77 Branch Davidians including Koresh.


2. The Manson Family

The-Manson-Family black & white image

Charles Manson founded a bizarre cult around concepts he stole from Scientology, Satanism, and any other fringe religion that suited his motives. Though they practiced rituals in some form or other, they were largely focused on a prophesy Manson envisioned while listening to the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”

Manson believed there was an impending race war between African-Americans and all other races. He believed  African-Americans would win this war but following this be unable to govern their new society. The Manson “Family,” as they referred to themselves, planned to hide out during the war and emerge afterward to become the leaders of the victorious African-American race.

The Manson Family compound was, appropriately, in Death Valley. Manson ordered his followers to go to Los Angeles and murder nine influential people to frame African-Americans and ignite his prophesied race war. Coffee heiress Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski, were gruesomely murdered with Tate’s unborn child being cut out of her.

The murders enraged and horrified the entire country and Manson and his followers were quickly arrested. Manson was sentenced to life in prison, and most recently was engaged to be married. However, his bride to be apparently confessed to only marrying him to gain possession of his corpse following his death to use as a tourist attraction. Manson believes this a foolish idea, because he believes himself to be immortal.


3. Heaven’s Gate

Heavens-Gate cult symbol image

The book of revelations details the end of the world, it speaks of the signs and harbingers that lead to our fiery end. In chapter 11 verse 3, it specifies that there will be two witnesses to God’s eventual damnation. Marshall Applewhite, the eventual leader of Heaven’s Gate, had a heart attack in the early 1970’s and had a vision that he and his nurse, Bonnie Nettles, were these two witnesses.

Applewhite believed he was a direct descendent of Jesus, he merged Christian beliefs about salvation and the end of the world with more modern theories of evolution and even time travel. The end result of this quasi-Christian doctrine was the belief that the world was ending sometime near the second millennium.

Applewhite and Nettles referred to themselves as Bo and Peep, and cultivated a following of members to believe in their version of the end of days. In 1997, Applegate used the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet to spread the idea that a space ship was following behind the comet to take all of their faithful members to heaven.

To achieve the ultimate ascension the group donned matching outfits with matching white Nike’s, and all 39 members drank poison while covered in ceremonial purple shrouds awaiting their heavenly transport.


4. Peoples Temple

Peoples-Temple jones the mad man image

As with many of the cults on this list, Jim Jones started with beliefs bastardized from a more mainstream religion, in this case Pentecostal dogma. Jim Jones’ preaching style appealed to the masses and he became an instant hit from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, particularly among the African- American community, due to his progressive stance on racial equality. By the mid 70’s Jones’ evangelical preaching had gained a following all along the west coast, which had granted him a certain level of political clout.

In 1977, Jones relocated his congregation to “The Commune” in Guyana. The cult rose the hackles of the political elite by moving to a communist nation. Congressman Leo Ryan flew to Guyana to meet with Jones in person, and just before the congressman boarded the plane to return to the US Jones’s followers shot and killed him. Knowing retribution would follow, Jones decided to go out in spectacular fashion and convinced over 900 of his closest followers (some at gunpoint) to commit suicide by poison.


5. Scientology

Scientology sign on building image

Think the people that make the pilgrimage to Comic-Con in San Diego every year and dress up in costume are a little obsessed? Well, Scientology was founded by one of the early writers of the Science Fiction Genre: L Ron Hubbard and his followers are among the most mysterious and obsessed fanatics in the world.

Supposedly, the founder of the religion was drinking in a bar with fellow author Robert A. Heinlein and the latter bet Hubbard that he couldn’t start his own religion. Well, Hubbard won the bet and is quoted as saying “if a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” Despite all this, Scientology remains one of the largest cults in existence and its members are unerring in their devotion.

Scientology bases its primary tenants on a “science” called Dianetics that Hubbard developed as an alternative to modern psychology. Its members are encouraged to sign over most of their earnings to the church where they progress up many levels, only learning certain truths about the universe as they level up. The basic story, according to its ostracised former members, is that the universe was created by a race called Thetans and the life force of the universe can be manipulated by church elders to make them all think more clearly. The highest echelon members learn of Xenu, a maniacal tyrant who rules the Galactic Confederacy and will reign terror on all of creation. Tom Cruise maintains, along with several nations, that Scientology is a legitimate religion.


6. Unification Church

Thousands of newlyweds attend a mass wedding ceremony of the Unification Church at Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, about 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Seoul February 17, 2013. The Unification Church founded by evangelist reverend Moon Sun-myung in Seoul in 1954, performed its first mass wedding in 1961 with 33 couples. Approximately 3,500 couples attended the mass wedding on Sunday.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ORG XMIT: SEO206

Thousands of newlyweds attend a mass wedding ceremony of the Unification Church at Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, about 60 km (37 miles) northeast of Seoul February 17, 2013. The Unification Church founded by evangelist reverend Moon Sun-myung in Seoul in 1954, performed its first mass wedding in 1961 with 33 couples. Approximately 3,500 couples attended the mass wedding on Sunday. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA – Tags: SOCIETY RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ORG XMIT: SEO206

An offshoot of Presbyterian Christianity, Sun Myung Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. The North Korean national fled to the United States following an imprisonment in a North Korean prison camp, and started his cult believing that Christ had not completed his mission on earth of having “perfect children.”

Moon told his followers that only he could choose their mates, becoming infamous for his mass wedding ceremonies. Eventually renaming his cult the Unification Church, Moon moved to New York and became a very successful businessman, but parents of his new recruits became suspicious and began filing lawsuits claiming he was brainwashing their children.

Finally in 1982, Moon was convicted of tax evasion and went to prison for a short time. The Unification Church continues today, Moon was even crowned the Messiah at a Senate office building in Washington D.C. in 2003. Moon died in 2010, but his Unification Church continues to be run by his children.


7. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Bhagwan-Shree-Rajneesh cult image

A non-traditional Hindu mystic and guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh became as famous for his indulgences as he was for his fanatical cult. At one time, Rajneesh owned 93 Rolls Royces, the largest collection in the world, and he advocated for a lavish lifestyle of sex and debauchery. The rise of AIDS in the 80s put a stop to those practices, but the cult continued after establishing a community called Rajneeshpuram in Oregon.

A controversy started when the community attempted to add votes to their population by busing in homeless people to “share houses” in order to influence the local elections. When this resulted in dissent among its members they turned to more radical methods. They launched the first ever bioterrorism attack in the U.S. poisoning the members of the town of Dalles, Oregon with Salmonella to limit the number of voters going to the polls. Rajneesh was deported from the US and exiled until his death in 1990, however, his teachings still continue to inspire followers across the globe.


8. Children of God

Children-of-God cult members image

Founded by David “Moses” Berg in the late 1960’s, this cult gained followers after Berg moved into seclusion in Texas where he wrote prolifically about his beliefs. Espousing himself as a devout Christian, Berg advocated for the damnation of what he called “moral decay,” which for him included belief in evolution, mainstream religion, western capitalism, the Jewish people, and the criminalization of sex with children.

Berg even encouraged his followers to recruit new members by using flirtatious sex acts and called it “Flirty Fishing.” Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan were raised in the cult and both have spoken out about the atrocities that occurred in the cult including beatings, isolation, and exorcisms. Berg died in 1994, but his teachings continue on with his wife and her concubine that Berg hand picked for her now leading the church.


9. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Latter-Day-Saints cult members image

A splinter group from another arguably cultish religion, The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was led by infamous criminal and current federal inmate Warren Jeffs. FLDS separated from the Church of Latter Day Saints in the early 20th century due to a conflict over the practice of polygamy. FLDS members practice multi-partner marriages wholeheartedly and the LDS Church denounces the practice formally.

Warren Jeffs came under scrutiny by the FBI when he evaded charges in Utah by fleeing. He was accused of arranging marriages between his male followers and underage girls as well as participating in rape. He made the FBI Ten Most Wanted List in 2006 and has been in and out of prison since then.


10. Raȅlism

Raelism sect cult image

Founded in 1974, by Claude Vorilhon this cult could be featured on the History Channel show “Ancient Aliens.” The followers of Claude Vorilhon formed a worldwide cult, now named Raȅl, and believe that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of Aliens named the Elohim.

Raȅlians believe that when these extraterrestrial forefathers visited us in early times they disguised themselves deliberately to resemble humans claiming to be angels who led us through each age. According to Raȅl, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, and Joseph Smith and others throughout history have been messengers of the Elohim.

Their doctrine describes the Garden of Eden as a large laboratory on an artificial island, Noah’s Ark as a spaceship with genetic information to clone animals, the Tower of Babel was a rocket, and the Great Flood as a byproduct of a nuclear bomb. Raȅlians currently number over 70 thousand and  are apparently halfway to their 20 million dollar fundraising goal to build a landing site and embassy for extraterrestrials. Oh and they also claim to have cloned a woman.


11. Creativity Movement

Creativity Movement cult sign image

A new age all white religion, the Creativity Movement was founded by Ben Klassen in 1973 to promote above all else: that what is good for the white race is the highest virtue, what is bad for the white race is ultimate sin.

The church’s main enemy is the Jewish race and they actively plot ways to further their goal of populating the earth solely with white people. They have been accused and convicted of several terrible acts including the shooting spree in 1999 undertaken by church member Benjamin Nathaniel Smith who killed 2 people and injured 9 others all of ethnic backgrounds. Smith then killed himself and today is celebrated by the Creativity Movement as a soldier of god.


12. Chen Tao [The ho ho ho television prophet]

Old grungy Vintage TV with clipping path over a white background

Old grungy Vintage TV with clipping path over a white background

This cult famously predicted that at 12:01 am on March 31st, 1998 God would be seen all across North America (their version of a holy land) on every TV on channel 18. They moved all their 160 plus members to Garland, Texas in preparation for the event, reportedly because the name of the town sounded kind of like God-Land.

The community became restless when 20 homes suddenly were snapped up by a group of people all wearing the same clothes and claiming to have two children who were the reincarnated souls of Jesus and Buddha. When the fateful moment came and nothing happened their leader, Hon-Ming Chen, a former university professor volunteered to be stoned to death or crucified. The members of the cult rather sheepishly shrugged off the event and left their leader alive while simultaneously returning to their old lives.


13. KKK

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The Ku Klux Klan was started in the 1860’s by a group of ex-Confederate soldiers and was originally a social club that focused on campaigning against carpetbaggers; entrepreneurs from the North that these southern men saw as a threat. However, due to their frightening costumes and military bearings they caused quite the commotion in town when congregating and they soon took advantage of this to terrorize the African-American community.

They preyed upon the collective southern fear that the freed slaves would eventually revolt and kill their former white masters. The original iteration of the cult lost power soon and was largely gone by the late 1800’s. The Klan was revitalized in the 1920’s and began a reign of terrorism that continues to this day, resulting in racial tension and thousands of deaths.

At their core, they espouse Christian ideals but their undeniable brutality mocks the typical religious devotion. It is estimated that at one time the KKK had nearly 4 million members and today it has more groups in existence than at any other time in its history. The KKK is believed to be responsible for between 8 thousand and 10 thousand deaths.


14. The Church Universal

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original file name 8_25_03.tif from Tom Miller’s CD
“fractual enlargement. ver #28” RGB

This cult, originally called the Summit Lighthouse was founded by Mark Prophet and his wife Elizabeth Prophet. The group believes that the leaders communicate with “Ascended Masters,” or spirits of saints, and wise men from other religions and the past.

The group hit some hiccups in the 80’s and 90’s during the cold war, because they began hoarding weapons and building fallout shelters. Families of the members kidnaped them back from the clutches of the cult and reconditioned them to normal life, resulting in stories of severe punishment and isolation. Summit Lighthouse lost much of its following in the wake of the death of its founders, but it continues to this day to evangelize traditions from almost every major religion.


15. Fellowship of Friends

Fellowship of Friends cult members image

This “Church” located in California wine country is home to a large winery and art museum. Its central tenets include an extremely strict set of rules that its followers must abide by. The list of rules includes what to eat and wear and how much to sleep. No swimming, no joking, and definitely no smoking.

They live in fear of an armageddon that has been predicted by their founder Robert Earl Burton who claims to be an angel and has been accused multiple times of child sexual abuse of little boys. Members are expected to either work for pennies in the church’s businesses or sign over the majority of their salaries to the church itself.


16. The Remnant Fellowship

Remnant-Church cult image

There’s no doubt this cult is very strange. Its founder Gwen Shamblin is a dietitian and promoter of certain weight loss self-help methods. When she noticed that many of her clients were gaining back weight they had lost, she searched for another answer because she couldn’t accept that it was her teaching that had been at fault.

She turned to the bible, specifically the Book of Ezra chapter 9, versus 8 and 9, that describe a “faithful remnant” that believe in the literal truths of scripture. She saw the people gaining weight as a sign that they believed, and because they had been saved they had a license to sin(eat). The bizarre twisting of weight loss and theology has led this church to grow from its founding in 1999 to having over a hundred “centers” throughout the world now.


17. The Movement for the Restoration of the 10 Commandments

10-Commandments cult image

This cult was founded by a prostitute named Credonia Mwerinde after she had several religious visions involving the Virgin Mary. The group followed the 10 commandments so strictly that they refused to talk to avoid bearing false witness.

Mwerinde prophesied that the world would end on January 1st, 2000 and when the day passed uneventfully its members’ faith was shaken. To avoid a mass exodus from the church, the leaders predicted another doomsday on March 17th that year. To celebrate the reckoning, they threw a party for all their members. Then they blew them all up.  It was found that many of the victims had been poisoned, shot, or strangled before the explosion. A church that brought about its own end.


Whether you know it or not cults hide in plain site. The combined members of the cults mentioned in this article number above 5 million members, so chances are you know someone connected at least remotely to one of these insidious and manipulative organizations.




Henry Sapiecha


The use of the digital cryptocurrency bitcoin is hindering police investigations.

The use of the digital cryptocurrency bitcoin is hindering police investigations. Photo: Getty Images

It’s not only outlawed motorcycle gangs and other hardened criminals using virtual cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin for illicit purposes. “Mums and dads” are also using them to buy illicit narcotics and synthetic drugs, the Australian Crime Commission has told a senate inquiry examining virtual currencies.

“…You are seeing large volumes of mums and dads purchasing illicit commodities over the internet and we’re seeing organised crime groups such as [outlaw motorcycle gangs] in recent media reporting using bitcoin as a standard way to move value,” Dr John Moss, national manager of intelligence at the Australian Crime Commission, told the senate inquiry on Wednesday.

"Mums and dads" are using digital currencies to buy drugs, according to Dr John Moss of the Australian Crime Commission.

“Mums and dads” are using digital currencies to buy drugs, according to Dr John Moss of the Australian Crime Commission.

Appearing surprised at the revelation, Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan asked Dr Moss to confirm that “mums and dads” were in fact purchasing illicit commodities using digital cryptocurrencies and the types of goods and services they were acquiring.

“The primary detection is around narcotic importation [and] new synthetic drugs,” Dr Moss said.

Responding to a Fairfax Media request for further evidence, Dr Moss said he was talking about “everyday” Australians using bitcoin for illicit purposes.

“Clear evidence of this can be seen by the nature of illicit drug purchases from illicit marketplaces on the dark-net,” Dr Moss told Fairfax Media.

“For example, small scale purchases, low in volume, sent to Australian residential properties or PO Box addresses.”

Although not all related to bitcoin, he said the Australian Crime Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report for 2012-13 showed a record 86,918 seizures of illicit drugs — a 66 per cent increase on the previous decade.

The senate inquiry into digital currency is examining how to develop an effective regulatory system for virtual currencies in Australia, the potential impact of digital currency technology on the Australian economy and how Australia can take advantage of digital currency technology.

But law-enforcement agencies told the inquiry that digital currencies being used for illicit purposes were making their investigations into criminal matters more difficult.

“The main challenge for the [Australian Federal Police] operationally is the anonymity associated with bitcoins and the lack of regulation,” said Jarred Taggart, team leader of the AFP’s Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce, who added that there was a real challenge in determining the true owners of bitcoins and other digital currencies.

“So … while [that] may not be something that is a significant issue for us at the moment, it’s more in the future space where things like this, if there were predictions that say [these currencies] may become more popular and more user friendly, [then] that could become an issue if there wasn’t an ability for us to understand the true ownership behind bitcoins,” Mr Taggart added.

Hamish Hansford, national manager of strategic intelligence and strategy at the Australian Crime Commission, also told the inquiry it wasn’t only cryptocurrencies preventing investigations.

“I think it’s fair to say that across a whole range of different areas it’s becoming more and more difficult to investigate and prosecute crime and this is just another type of encryption … on a whole range of different areas,” he said, noting the use of encrypted ways of communicating and the use of “darknets” on the internet, which make it difficult to identify offenders.

“So the way in which law-enforcement responds to a digital currency issue needs to change over time and … it’s becoming more difficult to investigate with the higher levels of encryption.”

But Daniel Mossop, director of the Attorney-General’s Department’s financial crime section, told the inquiry it was important to try to regulate the currencies in a way that didn’t “stifle their growth”.

“We do realise that there is a range of useful and worthwhile purposes for digital currency,” Mr Mossop said.

“It obviously has … the ability to vastly increase the financial inclusion for people who are currently unbanked [without bank accounts]. It’s [also] a relatively cheap and effective way for people to hold and store value and move it around easily … with relatively limited fees. So it’s something that we would like to see used in a positive way but also in a way where we can try and mitigate those risks [of criminal activity occurring with their use ].”


Henry Sapiecha

Judge rejects trustee

preferred by Ginia Rinehart


The NSW Supreme Court has rejected a proposed replacement trustee put forward by Gina Rinehart’s daughter Ginia Rinehart on the basis that it was too late to allow her siblings to investigate her proposal.

The decision was made by Judge Paul Brereton on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after he refused to let Bianca Rinehart to nominate as replacement trustee of the $5 billion family trust due to the delay.

Friday’s judgment means the only remaining possible replacements are Bruce Carter, put forward by the plaintiffs, or John Hancock if he chooses to stand. Christopher Withers, John and Bianca’s barrister, said he needed to take instructions on that.

Ginia Rinehart has suggested an independent trustee be appointed under a more complex structure. The judge said it would be “highly desirable” to allow both Bianca and Ginia’s suggestion to stand if the parties would agree to that, but that otherwise he rejected both.

“We seem to be getting rid of them all very, very quickly, and we will end up with a default solution effectively,” Justice Brereton said.

The rejection of Bianca on Thursday was at the request of Ginia, who has sided with her mother in the dispute over the trust, set up for the­ ­children by their grandfather Lang ­Hancock.

Bianca has stood alongside her brother John for the last two years, fighting their mother over her management of the family trust and accusing her of deceiving them.

It was not until Tuesday morning that a last-minute tactical decision was made to nominate Bianca as replacement trustee – a move supported by John, who withdrew his nomination for the coveted position.

Bianca’s decision was vigorously fought by Ginia, who argued that she would need time to investigate and gather evidence on whether her sister would be suitable, and that could not be done in the space of a few days.

Justice Brereton agreed and said that to allow Bianca to stand would create an “unacceptable injustice” to Ginia.

Henry Sapiecha
gold dollar sign line

US authorities have seized $3.6 million worth of the digital currency bitcoin as part of a bust that shut down ‘Silk Road’, an online black market for drugs, hitmen and hacker tools, US authorities said Wednesday.


Silk Road had used bitcoin in transactions as a way to protect identities of buyers and sellers in the nefarious marketplace.

During the bust, the website’s founder, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested.

“[Ulbricht] deliberately set out to establish an online criminal marketplace outside the reach of law enforcement and government regulation,” said FBI Special Agent Christopher Tarbell in the legal filing.

“The criminal complaint revealed that the site had collected revenues of some 9.5 million bitcoin since 2011, the equivalent today of $1.2 billion in sales and $80 million in commissions for Ulbricht,” Tim Fernholz wrote for Quartz.

“For a single company to dominate the US dollar the way Silk Road does bitcoin, it would need to have earned $8,745 billion in revenue over the two and half year period, or $3,498 billion a year.”

“To put that in perspective, the number one company in the Fortune Global 500, Dutch Shell, earned $481.7 billion last year, less than 5% of what it would take to equal Silk Road’s position.”


gold dollar sign line

JULIAN ASSANGE has lost his High Court battle to avoid extradition to Sweden but is likely to make a final appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court to avoid facing allegations of sexual assault against two women.

The 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder, wearing demure glasses and a conservative, short cropped haircut, showed no emotion as judges ruled he should be sent to be questioned over allegations of rape against one woman and the molestation of another woman in Stockholm last year.

It is understood that Mr Assange and his team knew they had lost the appeal last week and that the four arguments raised by his new legal team failed on all grounds.

Rejected ... WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves The High Court after losing his appeal.Rejected … WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves The High Court after losing his appeal. Photo: Getty Images

However, the High Court has stated that it will reconvene in 21 days – leaving him on the same bail conditions – to decide if he has the right to appeal to Britain’s highest tribunal, the Supreme Court.

This will be possible only if his new legal team, led by the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, can persuade the High Court that his case is representative of issues of wider ”public importance” and is not merely a matter of a strict legal decision.

Appeal judges Sir John Thomas and Justice Ouseley said the decision by Swedish authorities to issue a European Arrest Warrant could not ”be said to be disproportionate”.

”In any event, this is self-evidently not a case relating to a trivial offence, but to serious sexual offences,” the judges said.

Assange had also claimed in his appeal that the alleged offences would not have been regarded as crimes under English and Welsh law, a stance the judges rejected.

”There can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged,” the ruling said.

Legal sources told the Herald that if a final appeal to the Supreme Court granted, it would potentially allow Assange to remain on conditional bail in the UK while the arguments are formulated and heard, probably not until early next year. The Royal Courts of Justice were packed once again and Assange was accompanied and supported by several backers including the activist and journalist John Pilger, and his protector and host over the past 11 months, the former British Army captain Vaughan Smith, who provided refuge in his 10-bedroom country estate after bail was granted under strict conditions and night curfew.

The decision was handed down nearly four months after an appeal in July, when Assange’s lawyers argued the arrest warrant should be deemed invalid because there were major discrepancies between the statements of the two women who allege sexual assault and the claims in the warrant.

The verdict will add to WikiLeaks’ supporters’ burgeoning anxiety about the future of the whistleblowing website which its founder says may have to close by year’s end after credit card companies and major banks worldwide decided to block payments and donations

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Assange in crosshairs of Congress

Ewen MacAskill

January 5, 2011

Julian Assange ... in southern England last month.
Julian Assange … in southern England last month. Photo: Reuters

The Republican Party in the USA is planning a congressional inquiry into WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

The party, which was due to wrest control of the house today, has included WikiLeaks in a list of high priorities for investigation.

The move is partly political, aimed at the Attorney-General, Eric Holder, who the Republicans claim has been too slow and too lethargic in reacting to the leaks. Last month he said the Justice Department was looking at what action could be taken against Mr Assange but that lawyers were struggling to find applicable legislation under which the Australian national could be prosecuted.

Darrell Issa, who will take over as chairman of the House of Representatives oversight committee and is calling for Mr Holder’s resignation, said of Mr Assange in an interview on Sunday: ”If the President says, ‘I can’t deal with this guy as a terrorist,’ then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal. Otherwise the world is laughing at this ineffective paper tiger we’ve become.”

On Monday the Politico website published areas Mr Issa’s committee intends to investigate, including WikiLeaks.

The committee, whose remit covers fraud and waste, can subpoena witnesses from the highest reaches of political life. Hearings could begin in the next few weeks.

Mr Issa said his committee would investigate WikiLeaks ”so the diplomats can do their job with confidence and people can talk to & interact with our government in confidence”.

The new Congress would have to introduve legislature to try to prevent similar acts of whistleblowing.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Groupon entering Australia

& daily deals sites ignite

Julian Lee

December 29, 2010

THE world’s largest daily deals website, Groupon, which Google tried to buy this month for $US6 billion, has confirmed it is entering the Australian market.

The company is recruiting people to sign up to its email database before a launch next month into a market that is becoming crowded. The No. 2 player, Living Social, abandoned plans to start from scratch in Australia, opting instead for a joint venture with an existing company, Jumponit. 

But because an existing Australian deals company has had its application to use the Groupon name in Australia approved, the Chicago company has been forced to use the domain name of Stardeals in Australia.

Groupon has engaged the lawyers Clayton Utz to take action against Scoopon, a Victorian company that has been offering online deals on products and services in Australian cities for more than four years.

Groupon lodged an intellectual property action in the Federal Court in Victoria in August and is due to go for mediation on January 21 or, failing that, to the courts on February 4.

Groupon is also taking Scoopon to court in its home state of Illinois, claiming federal trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices, even though Scoopon’s business is limited to Australian shores.

Do a deal a day websites offer discounts from local retailers, merchants and leisure operators, thereby restricting their operations to local businesses and consumers.

A Groupon spokeswoman, Julie Mossler, said: “The [Stardeals] site is live to accept subscribers but we are not yet offering deals currently. We hope to do so in the next month.”

An intellectual property lawyer, Trevor Choy, said Groupon was paying the price for failing to register its trademark or name as it expanded globally. The US case was doomed to fail, he said. “Groupon’s lawyers should have known that US trademarks can’t be enforced outside of the US against a company not doing business there.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha