Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What killed Jesus Christ?

I sit at a computer and research and write all day long. Years ago my body responded with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In one stretch I sat before my machine for weeks, putting in 16 hour days. Sometimes holding my bathroom visits until I could not hold it any longer. My ankles starting filling with fluid. It started getting painful. Then one day it happened. My ankles were so swollen I could but barely walk. My wife and daughter talked me into going to the emergency room at our local hospital. The doctor gave me a powerful diuretic and I started eliminating a lot of fluid. Finally they let me go home, but gave me a prescription to see a battery of doctors as soon as possible. Heart doctor, pulmonary, vascular . . . They all said the same thing--get up frequently and take a walk or jog. My GP suggested I get a wireless keyboard so I could work from a lounge chair with my feet elevated, so I bought one--but it did not help [I never took it out of the box].

It was the vascular guy who made the impact. "You know what killed Jesus Christ don't you?" he had asked. I thought he was about to tell me a good joke. "The cross," I answered. "Yes, but what was actually the cause of death?" he responded. "Hanging there, upright, unable to move," he continued without waiting for a second reply, "his bodily fluids drained down to his lower extremities. This placed great strain on his heart and he had congestive heart failure." Well, I'd never heard that. I knew that position abuse was a powerful tool used in torture and brainwashing but I never knew it could be deadly!

On June 16, 2004 Senator Richard Durbin addressed his colleagues on the floor of the US Senate to propose an amendment that would outlaw the use of "position abuse" and other tortures on Moslem detainees in US military prisons. He noted that the US Supreme Court ruled against "position abuse" as late as 2002 in a case called Hope v. Pelzer. According to the magazine American Progress, "Hope, a prisoner, was handcuffed to a "hitching post'' for seven hours in the sun and not allowed to use the bathroom. The Court held that this violated the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment." The Court ruled:

"The obvious cruelty inherent in this practice should have provided [the prison guards] with some notice that their alleged conduct violated Hope's constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Hope was treated in a way antithetical to human dignity--he was hitched to a post for an extended period of time in a position that was painful, and under circumstances that were both degrading and dangerous."

But Senator Durbin is not just against using "position abuse" on Gulf War detainees. He is against using any types of tortures, including sleep deprivation. He talked about the 1944 case of Ashcraft v. Tennessee which also made it to the US Supreme Court. In this case the Supreme Court held that "a confession obtained by depriving a suspect of sleep and continuously questioning him for 36 hours was involuntarily coerced." Justice Hugo Black , giving the majority opinion, wrote:
"It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired [quoting the Wickersham Commission]. ..... We think a situation such as that here shown by uncontradicted evidence is so inherently coercive that its very existence is irreconcilable with the possession of mental freedom by a lone suspect against whom its full coercive force is brought to bear."
American Progress, quoting from Durbin's speech to the Senate, reported, "Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wrote about his experience with sleep deprivation in a Soviet prison in the 1940s:
In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little. ..... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it. ..... I came across prisoners who signed what they were told to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them ..... uninterrupted sleep!"
Position abuse and sleep deprivation are two tortures that were routinely employed at Mel and Betty Sembler's Straight program. Read what they did to Leigh Bright.
Leigh Bright was a Virginia teenager who was in Straight's re-education center in Saint Petersburg, Florida in 1982. Her story comes from her court testimony and from an accounting by Dr. Arnold Trebach in The Great Drug War. Ms Bright testified that she has arthritis and was having problems doing her exercises at Straight, Inc. in June 1982, so she was taken into a shower stall to exercise where she was marathoned [Bomb Squad] by staff and old comers who started pushing her around the stall. She testified that they picked her up and threw her to the floor. One girl pulled her up and down by the hair until her head was numb. She kept telling them she had to go to the bathroom, but they wouldn’t let her go. When they finally did, they kept trying to pull her off the commode as she was using it. When she had finished, she stated, a girl started twisting her arm until another girl told her to stop or she would break it. They made her use a paper towel to scoop her own feces out of the toilet.

After three hours of this she was forcefully taken to stand before the GROUP of 600 Straight kids where kids would stand up and say she was no good. One old comer yelled for the GROUP to leave her alone when Straight’s national clinical director, Reverend Doctor V. Miller Newton went over and started screaming at the girl. Two girls came up and put their hands over Leigh’s mouth so she couldn’t breathe. Dr Newton, who was an ordained minister, in front of 600 kids, grabbed Ms. Bright by her hair and threw her to the floor stating, "I want this girl the fuck out of my GROUP." She was taken into the intake room where Dr Newton told the old comers to keep her awake until Monday night. Since this occurred on a Saturday, Ms Bright was kept awoke for 80 hours, during which time girls would push her and make her stand for 12 hours at a time all the while calling her a whore. Finally on Monday night she was allowed 3 hours sleep.

On another occasion Ms Bright testified she had to stand through an entire rap with her back bent half-way to the GROUP. When she tried to bend her legs to relieve the ache five girls restrained her by putting her on the floor and sitting on her for over and hour.

Ms Bright testified that she had a bladder infection when she entered Straight in May but Straight wouldn’t let her go to a doctor. Finally in June Straight let her see a doctor because she had doubled over and started crying. The doctor gave her a prescription for a vaginal infection but Straight did not give her the medicine until July. On another occasion she reported she had excruciating pain in her ears whenever she opened her mouth but again Straight would not let her see a doctor. When Straight finally did let her see a doctor, he said she had a bone problem and needed to see an orthodontist. In the meantime he told her to eat soft foods. Straight did not give her soft foods nor they let her see an orthodontist.

Ms Bright remembered another girl who was not allowed to see an orthodontist. That girl, Ms. Bright reported, had such a bad problem with her braces that she went around with the entire wire sticking out of her mouth! [In an unannounced site visit by officials from Virginia’s Department of Mental Health conducted on February 14-15, 1990 client interviewee # 3 reported that she had had orthodonal surgery just prior to entering Straight and usually sees an orthodontist once a month, but had not seen an orthodontists in four months at Straight. Her teeth bleed when brushing, she reported, because she did not have a special toothbrush to use with braces. She reported to authorities that she believed she could not see an orthodontist until she made Phase 2.]

One day, Ms. Bright says, she related to her old comer that she wanted to commit suicide [not surprisingly]. Later, her old comer stood her up in front of GROUP and announced that Leigh wanted to commit suicide, whereupon GROUP started mocking her. After that, for almost a week, she was made to wear a blue shirt with he words PSYCHOTIC written on it. Whenever parents were around like at Open Meeting, Straight would make her take the shirt off. After that, Ms Bright estified, she never talked about suicidal thoughts to anyone.

Dr. Newton has written a sworn statement acknowledging that he did once restrain Ms. Bright, but only because she had become "physically vicious". "I used only recognized restraint techniques, including a grip on the hair, which causes a person to release anything she is holding or biting," Newton declared.[1] Read here the log of complaints against Dr. Newton when he fled Florida in 1983. Read here about Dr. Newton's $11 million in settlements with former clients for abusing them in New Jersey. A watchdog group for abusive priests of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America lists Father Cassian (formerly known at Straight and Kids as Reverend Doctor Doctor V. Miller Newton).

Last month, in a PumpGate court deposition, Betty Sembler made this incredible statement about Miller Newton, "[Miller Newton is] a very close and dear friend and a valued one." Then she calls him "an outstanding individual." Mr. Newton is even a participant on the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse, a front group for Betty's Drug Free America Foundation.

In his June speech, Senator Durbin reminded the gathered Senators that, "Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chair of the U.N. Commission that produced the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration states unequivocally, "No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'' " Just six months later on December 10, 2004 on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Ambassador Melvin Sembler, AO wrote an Op-Ed for La Nazione/Il Resto del Carlino/IL Giorno in which he stated, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a revolutionary document when the United Nations passed it in 1948. It remains so today. Americans take a justifiable pride in the central role that Eleanor Roosevelt played in its drafting and passage." He continued, " Its opening words resonate around the world in 2004 with the same force they did in the wake of World War II, and bear repeating: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equality and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

Menachem Begin had been tortured before the UN Declaration, Leigh Bright after. How dare Mr. Sembler make such a hypocrtical, public statement in opposition to torture!!!

FOOTNOTES
1 St. Petersburg Times, 1-30-83, p. 1B.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Late Great Straight Holocaust and starvation by peanut butter

Just one example this time--Starvation. An important part of Thought Reform is food deprivation. In Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pot's Cambodia, Sadam's Iraq and Amen's Uganda federal authorities were able to starve people because they did not have to answer to anyone. The dictator was the law. But food deprivation of a minor in a democracy presents a problem, since it is illegal. So how do you legally starve a child in a democracy?

[The Church of Scientology(TM) has a program called the Rehabilitative Project Force that its adult parishioners may attend. Church critics say it is a brainwashing center. But brainwashing requires starvation and RPF folks are feed all the beans and water they can eat. Now beans are a leguminous plant chocked full of protein. One thing about eating leguminous plants -- they give off gas. The gas expands in one's stomach and can give a bloated feeling of being more filled that one really is. But the greater issue is this: I love Navy beans. But if you give them to me for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for several days there will come a point that I'll tell you, give me one more bowl of beans and I'll vomit. I'll stop eating. And I'll lose weight. ]

How did Straight implement food deprivation? Peanut butter -- that's how. Peanuts are a leguminous bean plant full of protein. And what kid does not like peanut butter? It bloats one full of gas. Straight gave many kids what they called peanut butter choker sandwiches. Sandwiches thich with peanut butter. But after a few days of nothing but peanut butter, a child becomes tired of that. Give me another thick peanut butter sandwich and I'll be sick. The kid doesn't eat and so loses weight. If the kid's family sues, you tell the judge, hey your Honor, we gave that kid all the peanut butter he could eat. It's not our fault he refused to eat it. In 1985 Straight-Atlanta paid former client Susan White $37,000 in an out-of-court settlement. Ms. White claimed she was put on a diet of peanut butter and water for 29 days because she would not admit to having a drug problem she did not have. Her suit was handled by the ACLU.

Straight was preceeded by a federally funded program called The Seed. The Seed lost its federal funding and virtually closed after the US Senate accused it of using North Korean brainwashing methods on children. The man who managed the federal grant to The Seed was National Institue on Drug Abuse (a subsidiary of NIH) director Dr. Robert DuPont who was also the second White House Drug Czar. After Dr. DuPont left federal service, he became a paid consultant for Straight boasting that he encouraged Nancy Reagan to get involved with Straight and that it was his suggestion that Straight go national. Straight got sued all over the place and, invaribly, Dr. DuPont was used as an expert witness for Straight. The fact is the more people who sued Straight, the more money DuPont might stand to make defending Straight. Listen to his deposition for the Michael Daniels trial on April 6, 1988 where he is asked about peanut butter diets (pp. 69 - 70).

Q. “Do you feel that if a person were placed on a peanut butter diet for any length of time that could not in any way be considered mental abuse?

A. “I think it’s unpleasant. I would put it in the category of being unpleasant, not more than that. You have to understand that peanut butter is a mainistay in my diet, but of course I select it.”

Q. “Doctor, you don’t eat peanut butter all three meals of your day, do you?”

A. “It comes close sometimes but--”

Q. “Do you ever eat peanut butter for all three meals of your day?”

A. “No, but probably two.” “...If a person were allowed to eat nothing but peanut butter and that went on for even a period of days when there was no other food offered to that person, that would be upsetting. Now, abuse, I don’t know. I think it’s distressing, let me put it that way. I wouldn’t go beyond that.”

The point is if you want to deprive a kid of food in a democracy, you need a trick and it wouldn't hurt to have big gun expert witnesses too.

According to The Simon Wiesenthal Center in LA, The SS called Dachau a "re-education centre". Now that's important because Straight calls its camps "re-acculturation centers." Jews in Hitler's concentration camps were made to defecate publicly like cats and dogs. Straight kids eliminated and wiped publicly before an oldcomer. These things are important because Walter Loebenberg, president of Straight Foundation, founded the Florida Holocaust Museum. On the board of directos are or have been Mel Sembler, Betty Sembler and Straight board members Jay Synder and Dr. Bruce Epstein. Dr. Epstein has been director of the museum. Many Straight survivors feel that the Museum is just a smoke screen to hide their work at Straight, and so they have protested Museum functions.

In April 1998 Stephen Goldman who was then director of The Florida Holocaust Museum said, "There's no irony in it being here. Our lessons are those of tolerance and breaking down of barriers." He was talking about hosting "Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America." Well I take exception to that. In 1978 Florida’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance released a report on Straight finding that in its first 18 months of operation Straight had enrolled 450 youths but only one had been black. Five years later Straight's national clinical director admitted that out of 260 young clients at Straight - St. Petersburg there were no blacks! How can you run an institution that abuses children and then start a Holocaust Museum. How can you treat just white kids because they have more money, and then have a display to a great American baseball player because he is black!

So you see the difference Victor. You can not feed an American kid fish head soup, or worse, nothing at all because the police will take you to jail. But in Nazi Germany it was the police themselves who fed people fish head soup. Who's going to arrest them. Time and space limits my argument just to the starvation issue; there are so many more. Straight is not just a step in the direction of what happened in Germany; it is a GREAT leap in that direction.

Victor, God love you, I could never be able to comprehend how you feel and your point is soundly taken -- Straight is not as bad as Hitler's Germany and absolutely NOTHING can even begin compare to THE HOLOCAUST. Still 75,000 American kids had their civil liberties and human rights violated. What do you call it? The Straight Incident? That's fine. But as for me I'll continue to call it The Late Great Straight Holocaust.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Clary report: Did Mel Sembler quash a state attempt to close an abusive drug rehab?

The Clary Report, Ambassador Mel Sembler, Florida state Senator Donald Sullivan, MD and his wife Judge Irene Sullivan

Straight closed its flagship program in Saint Petersburg on April 13, 1993 amidst an investigation of Straight being conducted by Lowell Clary, Acting Inspector General for Florida’s Department of Health and Human Services (HRS) now called the Office of Children and Family. Mr. Clary had begun his investigation back in December because of damaging documents about Straight's operations which he had received from Richard Bradbury. Mr. Clary released his findings on May 19, a month after Straight, Inc. had closed. His report, which is presented below in its entirety, insinuates that Melvin Sembler and " unnamed state senators" probably pressured HRS to grant Straight-Saint Petersburg a license in 1989 when an on-site inspection team was preparing to deny the license. According to the report Harry Moffitt, an HRS senior program specialist, said that deputy assistant secretary Linda Lewis questioned why Florida would continue to let Straight operate in spite of allegations of withholding medication and food from clients, depriving them of sleep and using excessive force against them. That when Ms. Lewis brought this up to Ivor Groves, an assistant secretary to HRS, she had been told that she would be fired on the spot if she did not do as told. Groves denied the conversation and Lewis did not recall it. The report also revealed a definite pattern of abuse or excessive force used against clients at Straight facilities. See the five page report here:

Post Clary: Straight's Dr. Donald Sullivan, MD oversees Florida's Office of Children and Families--the office that would investigate Sembler--if an investigation was ordered

Donald C. Sullivan, MD is a respected orthopedic surgeon in Saint Petersburg, Florida. In 1992 he was successfully elected to the Florida state Senate as a Republican. One thing that former Senator Sullivan can be credited for is making Saint Petersburg Community College a full four year college. [ Betty Sembler sits with Florida's drug czar Jim McDonough on on the advisory board of the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training (MCTFT)--a program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Florida National Guard and hosted near Betty's house at Saint Petersburg Junior College. MCTFT is the federal government's program to train law enforcement officers, nationwide, in counter drug task force efforts.] Besides his work in education, Senator Sullivan served on the state Senate's Children and Families Committee which oversees Florida's Office of Children and Families, the very same office that the Clary Report insinuates was prepared to deny Straight's license in 1989 when political pressure was put on it to grant a license. This all occurring, of course, before Senator Sullivan came aboard.

Former Senator Sullivan says he had been persuaded into running for the state Senate in 1992 by his friend, then state Senator, John Grant, a Republican from Tampa. (Between 1994 and 1996 Senator John Grant got $4,000 from eight separate $500 donations from the Sembler clan. Joseph Garcia, former Chairman Straight Executive Committee and former Executive Vice President and Treasurer of Drug Free America Foundation contributed $250 to John Grant's 1996 campaign. [Source: Florida Department of State Division of Elections]) Interestingly, Wesley Pennington, the president of Straight, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state assembly in 1992. Interesting because according to a document submitted by Straight Foundation to the IRS as part of its tax package, in May 1992 Donald Sullivan, MD was the secretary of the board of directors of Straight Foundation, Inc. Check out the 1996 annual report for Straight Foundation (which now calls itself the Drug Free America Foundation) in which the state's office of corporations is instructed to remove Donald Sullivan from its list of officers.

Post Clary: Dr. Sullivan's wife Irene Sullivan becomes a Sixth Circuit judge

In the preface to an article written by Saint Petersburg Times reporter William R. Levesque on October 29, 1998, Mr. Levesque writes: "Critics say the endorsements blur the line between party politics and non-partisan judicial campaigns." He writes: "In two fliers, the Republican Party of Pinellas County urges residents to vote the party ticket, . . . Included in the list are Irene Sullivan, a candidate for circuit court judge, and George Brown. . ." Irene Sullivan, who is the wife of Dr. Donald C. Sullivan, got her judgeship. (Irene Sullivan received $1,000 from Mel and Betty Sembler in four separate $250 donations between 1997 and 1998. Walter Loebenberg donated $500 to Ms. Sullivan's campaign in 1998 and $250 in 1997. Former Straight board members or advisory board members attorneys Guy Perenich and Myron Mensch, Dr. Bruce Epstein and wife Amy (Amy is not a former board member), and Mel Gross and Raymond Bourgholtzer threw in $650 combined. DFAF Advisory Board member Susan Latvala and her husband state senator Jack Latvala donated $550 between 1997 and 1998. Irene's husband and former Straight Foundation secretary Donald Sullivan, MD gave the maximum allowed of $500. But all of this pales to insignificance compared to what Irene Sullivan donated to her own campaign fund. She gave $99,000 of her own money to become a judge. [Source: Florida Department of State Division of Elections])

For Betty Sembler's 70th birthday everybody gathered at Gratzzi's Italian restaurant to wish her well. Judge Irene Sullivan was there. Instead of gifts Betty had asked everyone to contribute to the DFAF.

The Clary finding is not the only time Mel Sembler's cronies put heat on state licensing officials either. Straight had opened in 1976 and by 1978 was in danger of being shut down because of numerous allegations of serious child abuse. The man who led the investigation had been Robert G. Marshall, district director of the state's licensing authority for drug rehabilitation programs in Pinellas County for the state office of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). Naturally, a special citizen's committee called Parents Associated Inc. had been created to investigate--the investigator, Bob Marshall. Prominent on that citizen's committee had been Pinellas County Judge Jack Dadswell and Mack Vines who would be the chief of police by 1980. (Terry Hensley, another Saint Petersburg Police Chief, would later become the executive director of the Straight Foundation under its new name the Drug Free America Foundation.) A spokesperson for HRS Secretary William J. "Pete" Page, Jr. has admitted that Straight officials had called to complain about Marshall. Straight board member John White said that on one occasion a Straight official complained to Page about Marshall, but he did not know who it was. Even Melvin Sembler confirmed that some Straight officials had contacted Mr. Page about the HRS investigation of Straight, but, according to a newspaper account of the time, like Senator Curt Kiser 10 years later, he can't remember who they were. In any event Straight did not close but the investigator Bob Marshall was fired!

An interesting thing happened after the man destined to be the chief of police for Saint Petersburg investigated HRS' Bob Marshall. One of his assistants, Lt David Milchan, who had headed the Youth Services Division of the St. Petersburg Police Department, had frequently referred families to Straight. In fact he was on the Straight Advisory Committee. Well it seems he just got tired of being a police officer after all those years of service. No he didn't bother retiring. He just up and quit and took a job with HRS. So now Straight had managed to get Bob Marshall fired for investigating Straight and get a former board member working for HRS to boot. Well after a bit David Milchan decided that he wanted to be a policeman after all, and so he went back to law enforcement. But not as a mere lieutenant. He went to Saint Petersburg Beach which is the city of residence for Straight co-founder Joseph Zappala and, in 1981, was given the job of Chief of Police! The Saint Petersburg Beach Lions Club annually awards the Joseph Zappala Policeman of the Year Award.

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