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Church of Scientology
since 1968

Earthquake Devastates Nepal;
Scientology Volunteer Ministers, and The World, Respond

On April 25, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked the Himalayan nation of Nepal. Within a week, the confirmed death toll exceeded 7,000, with more than 14,000 injured. Eight million people in the region are affected; a million children are in dire need of help.

Charities and nongovernmental organizations from around the world are responding with humanitarian aid—among them Scientology Volunteer Ministers. Within 24 hours, the Church of Scientology mobilized emergency response teams in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu.

The Volunteer Ministers—a multicultural assistance program created by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s—encountered a desperate situation when they arrived on the ground in the quake-ravaged nation.

“Areas of [Kathmandu] are like an eerie ghost town. Five-story buildings have been flattened to two, killing anyone inside—and the stench of rotting bodies is hard to swallow, especially when you can’t access them,” wrote Max Rantz-McDonald, a volunteer from the United States, in a dispatch from the disaster site. “There are shattered exterior walls threatening to collapse any second on every building.”

But by six days after the quake, Volunteer Ministers in Nepal—which include doctors, nurses and EMTs from the U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Italy and India—had established a base camp in central Kathmandu, and reported that, despite the grave circumstances, spirits are high in the Nepalese capital. There’s a steady flow of food and water, and the focus is on recovery.

Rantz-McDonald and his crew are using a pair of aerial drones they carried with them to Nepal to help evaluate and plan for the difficult work ahead. Volunteer Minister teams are also traveling to nearby hospitals and medical camps, to provide first aid and offer ’assists’—a Scientology procedure to allay stress in those suffering physical and emotional trauma.

Mike Savas, a Volunteer Minister from New York, attended a May 1 meeting of relief teams on the ground in Nepal, coordinated by the United Nations, to plan the next phase of the relief effort: Helping to get food, clean water, medical aid and supplies to survivors cut off in remote villages, where landslides and poor weather conditions have hampered the efforts of aid workers. “We’ve joined up with Firefighters Without Borders from Spain and a K-9 team from Canada,” Savas reports, “and are heading four hours east of Kathmandu to villages on the outskirts that no one has been to yet. People are still stuck and sending text messages asking for help.”

As Freedom went to press, more than 100 Volunteer Ministers are in Nepal.

For the latest on the work of the Scientology Nepal Disaster Response Team, see blog.volunteerministers.org.

Off by a Hair

A review of criminal trial testimony from examiners in the hair comparison unit at the FBI Laboratory—which represents the gold standard in forensic science—yielded chilling results in April. A shocking 26 of 28 FBI lab examiners overstated forensic matches in trials spanning two decades—giving faulty testimony that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of 268 trials. The cases reviewed involve 35 defendants on death row—14 of whom were either executed or died in prison before their execution date.

The review, conducted by the Department of Justice with the assistance of The Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, was launched after The Washington Post reported in 2012 that testimony about the FBI Lab’s analysis had potentially led to hundreds of wrongful convictions for murder, rape and other violent crimes going back to the 1970s, and that the Department of Justice knew for years that flawed forensic work may have contributed to wrongful convictions—but failed to carry out a thorough review or notify defendants.

Following the disturbing revelation last month, the DOJ and FBI issued a joint statement that both agencies are “committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance.”

Burn, baby, burn

Legislation pending in California seeks to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, ban electronic cigarettes anywhere actual smoking is currently prohibited, and slap an additional $2 per pack tax on cigarettes.

World’s Oldest Person Credits Faith

Jeralean Talley, the world’s oldest living person, celebrates her 116th birthday on May 23. Talley attributes her longevity to staying active, “trying to do the right thing,” treating “the other fellow like you want to be treated” and her faith. A member of New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Inkster, Michigan, outside Detroit, she advises: “Live. Love. Know God.”

Protests Mark Centennial of Armenian Genocide

The April 24 centennial of the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks sparked protests around the world, with demonstrators demanding that the mass killings carried out during and after World War I be recognized as genocide. Turkey maintains that the tragedy was the result of civil war, and not a systematic extermination. One of the largest marches took place in Los Angeles, where some 130,000 people took to the streets.

NBC News Faces More Scrutiny

First the Brian Williams exaggeration, now NBC News faces scrutiny over correspondent Richard Engel’s story about being kidnapped in Syria.

In 2012, Engel and a crew of five were kidnapped and held captive for five days before being freed by Sunni rebels. Once released, Engel reported on the terror of the incident, and identified those responsible as Shiite militiamen who were supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But a New York Times investigation has determined that Engel and his crew “were almost certainly taken by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.“

The Times does not suggest that Engel intentionally misled anyone or that the correspondent and his crew did not face real danger, but that NBC executives knew the hostages were being held at a chicken farm “widely known by local residents and other rebels to be controlled by the Sunni criminal group” and therefore, contrary to the evidence, later allowed Engel to falsely identify his captors as Shia—a story in line with how American politicians were characterizing the Shiite opposition.

Engel subsequently admitted the error, explaining that his captors disguised their identities, spoke in Shiite accents and “told us they were Shiite militiamen.”

“The group that freed us also had ties to the kidnappers,” Engel also wrote, after his own investigation. The release of Engel and his crew came after what appeared to be a gunfight between his captors (who claimed to be Shia) and a group of Sunni rebels. Now it appears Sunnis were working on both sides, and staged the gun battle.

NBC has issued no comment on the Times investigation.

Take two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), a bit of oxgall (bile from a cow’s stomach), add some wine, and then steep in a brass vessel for 10 days. That’s the recipe for a thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon salve microbiologists at the University of Nottingham were shocked to find “more effective than conventional antibiotic treatment” against MRSA, a dangerous antibiotic-resistant staph bacterium. Researchers found the recipe in a 10th-century volume of Bald’s Leechbook, one of the earliest known medical textbooks.