Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie are deeply involved in a controversial group called the “Kabbalah Centre,” which some people say is a “cult.”

One of the most bizarre aspects reported about the group is its heavily promoted “Kabbalah Water.” It is hyped as “dynamic ‘living’ water” with “a highly organized structure, crystalline formations and a fractal design.”

Jeanette Walls at MSNBC reports it’s the water “Madonna swears by.”

But one street-wise New Yorker just told the following:

“I was walking down 48th Street past the Kabbalah Centre, when going in through the service entrance what do I see, but a delivery person bringing in the ‘holy water.’ The kicker is that each carton was clearly stamped ‘product of Canada’ and sported a popular brand name.”

So what’s up?

Does the Kabbalah Centre use two brands of water, or is there really just one with different labeling?

Maybe Madonna is buying less than she bargained for?

Has the “Material Girl” paid a big mark up for bottled water that she might have easily picked up at the corner store?

Yehuda Berg the son of the Kabbalah Centre’s founder claims, “We charge the water with positive energy, so that it has healing powers.”

But where do they “charge the water,” inside a bottling plant in Toronto?

An Oregon-based group called “Friends Landing” is apparently branching out from its insular compound, reports The Oakland Tribune.

A “holistic education center” called “Sea Touch” run by Peggy Vittoria in Hayward will soon be renamed “Spherical Reality Life Coaching Institute.”

Spherical Reality is the brainchild of WhiteWind Swan Fisher, previously known as Susan Kilborne Musumeci. She is the founder, “shaman” and leader of Friends Landing, located outside Springfield, Oregon.

Fisher has a troubled history of litigation, bad debts and bankruptcy. She was sued by a former counseling client for personal injury. And in Springfield Friends Landing has had zoning problems and been the subject of community hearings.

One family said WhiteWind “brainwashed” their son through her teachings and programs.

Now Ms. Vittoria is bringing Fisher’s teachings to Hayward.

She claims that classes in Spherical Reality will help people “figure out what they want in their life.”


Sounds like Hayward may have some potential problems brewing downtown.

President Bush has recently appointed David L. Caprara his new director of VISTA, reports The Washington Post.

Caprara’s previous job was heading an organization closely associated with Rev. Sun Myung Moon called the “American Family Coalition.” Just one of a myriad of front organizations ultimately controlled by the founder of the Unification Church.

A quick perusal of the American Family Coalition website reveals they heavily promote “faith based programs.”

Will Mr. Caprara become Rev. Moon’s mole at VISTA?

Caprara also did well during the last Bush administration. The first President Bush made him an official within the Housing and Urban Development Department.

The Bush family has longstanding ties to Rev. Moon, who has paid Bush Sr. millions of dollars to show up and speak at various venues, which ultimately promotes the public persona of Moon.

What’s up now with the second Bush White House?

Is the son following in his father’s footsteps and doing a little “Moon-walking”?

Bill Clinton was the best friend in the White House Scientology ever had.

Is the Bush family now picking its own special “cult” to be friendly with? Or is this all just a strange coincidence?

Last year at Oscar time former daytime TV star Rosie O’Donnell was angry with a “cult” that used her to do voiceover for its small-documentary, which was later nominated for an Oscar.

They lost.

But what made Rosie mad? The openly lesbian celebrity didn’t appreciate the group trading on her name, when she found out later that they had a history of discrimination against gays and blacks.

The group called “The Work,” is led by an aging former actress named Sharon Gans, but was once known as the “Theater of all Possibilities” in San Francisco, before leaving the Bay area amidst allegations of abuse.

Last year O’Donnell said, “What is my luck that of all the theater groups in the world, the one I pick would be a cult?”

What a difference a year makes.

Sharon Gans has apparently decided to liquidate some assets. And up on the block is a $1.45 million dollar estate in upstate New York.

The “estate,” or what some might see as a “cult compound,” was only just recently completed for the nonprofit corporation Gans controls called “The Hudson Valley Artists Association.”

It is located near the town of Pawling and is surrounded by 20 acres of “beautiful countryside,” touts the sales ad, which can now be viewed on-line.

Paid for by Gans’ devotees is a main house with 4,800 square feet. And that three- bedroom main residence boasts a ballroom that can accommodate a hundred. The compound also includes a guesthouse, caretaker cottage, two duplex studio buildings, a large workshop and a heated inground swimming pool with a “deep end.”

It looks like “cult” members may have taken a dive into the “deep end” on this property. Public records show they put up more than a million dollars, seemingly to please their “teacher.”

However, Gans has now apparently decided she’s had enough of Pawling.

And why not?

The “cult” leader still controls other properties worth millions of dollars in Manhattan and Montana. Her sprawling ranch/compound near Kalispell has more than a hundred acres. It not only has a heated pool, but a sauna too.

Members toiled for years to remodel and improve this “ranch” for their leader.

Ms. Gans still has yet another private estate in New York near Croton, which was put up for sale not long ago.

Gans is almost 70, maybe she is engaged in estate planning and/or rearranging her portfolio?

So if some cult leader is looking for a compound, there is one just waiting for devoted sycophants and ready to occupy. Of course chain link fencing and guard gates are not included, but this might be negotiable for the right buyer.

However, Pawling residents are probably hoping cult leaders will pass up this buying opportunity and instead a new owner might opt for some better use.

The real estate agent suggested that the compound could become an “Inn” and/or “restaurant.” Certainly, this would be a more benign purpose for the property that might actually raise neighborhood home values.

What about an Inn with ballroom dancing and gourmet dining? Someone should be able to put together a menu featuring better fare than what Sharon Gans has been serving.

A 35-year-old white supremacist allegedly recruited teenage boys as young as 13 in Wisconsin and offered them weapons training, reports WISN News in Milwaukee.

Michael Faust was arrested after authorities found illegal weapons stashed at his grandmother’s farm.

The racist was reportedly teaching teenagers to fire weapons at a nearby field.

Faust previously served prison time for attempted murder.

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about with drugs, drinking and sexually transmitted diseases, they may now need to add racist recruiters to their list.

But Faust could pull 60 years for his latest offense. That sounds about right, to help families keep their children safe by taking the racist off the streets, at least until he’s too infirm to walk them.

Showtime began airing a reality television program devoted to exposing unproven claims, pseudo-science, supposed “psychics” and “spirit mediums,” amongst other assorted and/or apparent mumbo-jumbo.

Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller are the hosts and they promise to debunk everything from claims about the dangers of second hand smoke, to global warming.

The show is titled, “Penn & Teller: Bulls—t.”

Some journalists already have begun sniping or snickering, such as LA Times reviewer Brian Lowry and NY Times critic Ron Werthemir.

The two journalists didn’t seem to like the show. Lowry called it “humbug,” while Werthemir describes the program as only “mildly interesting.”

Let’s face it, titillating and sensational claims often draw better ratings than a dose of reality. And this type of “Reality TV” may just be a little too real for many within the viewing audience.

But maybe its time for a show that features some cynical scrutiny? Shouldn’t it be a welcome addition to the growing roster of reality-driven TV programming?

The debunking team’s first target was the so-called “performance art” known as “cold reading.” That is, someone sifting around and asking general questions, then holding forth and giving even more general answers, until someone is convinced they posses “psychic power” or “paranormal ability.”

Sound familiar?

Pen and Teller went after the likes of cable guru John Edward and his show “Crossing Over.”

But pessimistic former magician and fellow debunker Randi said, “No amount of evidence is going to shake them,” a reference to the diehard fans of such sensational paranormal shows.

Maybe so, but it’s good to see some semblance of balance coming to television in this area.

A purported “cult” leader’s previous criminal conviction was overturned yesterday by Taiwan’s High Court, on the grounds that his conduct warranted the “constitutional protection for religion,” reports The Taipai Times.

The so-called “mystic” Sung was convicted for bilking his followers through a scheme largely based upon supernatural claims supported by doctored photographs.

However, a court later decided, “There is no evidence to prove that Sung cheated his followers and forced them to donate.” And that the man’s crimes were actually protected as a “religious activity.”

It appears that if a con artist employs a religious ruse to perpetrate a fraud in Taiwan, that activity may be considered a legally protected act and therefore enjoy immunity from prosecution.

Get ready for more “cults” to set up shop in Taiwan.

The court has certainly cleared the way for a comfortable and promising business environment, within which they can thrive.

Once women became “Hookers for Christ” for the “cult” called the “Children of God,” now known as “The Family.” They engaged in what their leader “Moses” David Berg referred to as “flirty fishing.” That is, using sexual attraction to lure and then hook new members.

Berg died in 1994. And “The Family” claims it has abandoned such practices.

But apparently the Japanese “cult” Aum, now known as Aleph, is following in Berg’s footsteps.

Female Aum members are allegedly luring men to meetings, but eventually attempt to introduce them to theit “cult” leader, reports The Mainichi Daily News.

But the latest twist to “flirty fishing” it seems, is to cast the hook out on-line through the Internet.

Aum’s desperation to find new recruits has apparently caused it to embrace an old “cult” tradition.

Jeffrey Hadden 66, who taught religious studies at the University of Virginia, died this past Sunday of cancer, reports Associated Press.

The AP says the professor’s “work promoted religious tolerance.”

However, Hadden can instead easily be seen as a “cult apologist” who focused much of his energy in later life on defending groups called “cults.”

Hadden worked closely with Rev. Moon’s Unification Church and was recommended as an expert by Scientology.

However, Hadden insisted that such groups not be called “cults,” but instead “new religious movements.”

A confidential memo written by Hadden during 1989 and later made public revealed a network of academics, scholars and related operatives who sought to neutralize and/or discredit criticism of cults. Hadden hoped that these efforts might be funded by “cult” organizations.

Academics like Hadden, became increasingly controversial and some scholars saw them as a source for potential “public scandal.”

Rutgers Professor of Sociology Benjamin Zablocki said, “The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied…in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant, and its influence on research findings and positions taken on scholarly disputes is largely unknown. This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.”

Jeffrey Hadden was the recipient of such “sums of money.” One example is his defense of Scientology as a paid expert in court.

Hadden’s website, which the AP refers to as a “comprehensive” resource about “religious movements,” was actually a part of the professor’s ongoing effort to defend “cults” and discredit their critics.

The AP claims Hadden believed in “tolerance and freedom,” but he was often intolerant of former cult members that exposed abuses and his confidential memo does not seem to encourage freedom of expression, at least not for those who disagreed with his views.

During the 90s as acts of cult violence, scandal, suicide and/or abuse became more commonplace, Hadden’s apologies rang hollow. And subsequently his importance and influence as an objective serious scholar waned.

In the end, though some “cults” may lament the loss of a friend and defender, much of Jeffrey Hadden’s work as an academic scholar seems suspect.

In the Philippines children were initially taken out of a “cult” called “Salva Me,” due to claims of abuse and neglect.

However, later Judge Pampio Abarintos ordered them returned to their families, despite their involvement in the strange cult.

But the judge warned cult members, “Do not neglect your children. Your children are not your personal property. If your beliefs interfere with their rights to live normal lives, the government will certainly intervene,” reports The Manila Bulletin.

These words clearly define what can easily be seen as the limits of religious freedom regarding many cults. That is, religious expression does not excuse child abuse, neglect and/or other illegal activities.