A bizarre cult has recently drawn heightened media attention in Japan through its strange behavior, reports BBC.

The group is called “Pana Wave,” led by 69-year old Hiroko Chino, a woman who began drawing a cult following during the 1970s.

Pana Wave overwhelmed and temporarily obstructed an isolated roadway near Giffo, Japan.

Their actions were prompted by a paranoid conspiracy theory, which claims there is an ongoing plot to kill their leader with a “weapon using electromagnetic waves.”

It appears Chino is dying from terminal cancer. And rather than accept that illness, she has spun a paranoid world of lurking enemies to maintain control and manipulate her followers further through fear.

Members of the group wore all white, including facemasks, to protect themselves from “harmful electromagnetic waves.” Even their vehicles were covered with white cloth.

Pana Wave members believe that white cloth blocks out the suspected destructive transmissions.

Chino has predicted the earth’s end is near. And Pana Wave reportedly has about 1,200 adherents.

One pamphlet states that if the leader dies cult members should “exterminate all humankind at once,” reports Reuters.

After the devastating gas attack of Tokyo’s subways in 1995 by another doomsday cult called Aum, the Japanese view such cult threats very seriously.

Police surrounded, questioned and eventually dispersed Chino’s followers. But the group remains under investigation.

Doomsday groups like Pana Wave are relatively common within the world of cults. And their leaders often manipulate members through fear of annihilation.

Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh and Jim Jones all used such dire predictions of coming catastrophe to draw their followers into compound life, within an insulated and isolated world of dread.

Rather than seeking to block out “electromagnetic waves,” Chino actually seems to be engaged in an ongoing process of blocking an outside frame of reference, which might provide her disciples with accurate feedback.

But historically as such a leader’s physical and/or mental well being unravels, a situation of high risk may develop.

Cult followers are often deeply dependent upon their leader to determine and/or define reality. They also typically allow that leader to do much of their thinking for them.

Given the history of destructive cults and Chino’s reported deteriorating health, the Japanese authorities have good reason to be concerned and monitor Pana Wave closely.

The legacy of Iraqi Information Minister Mohamed Said Al-Sahhaf keeps growing and has drawn considerable attention within the Arab world.

“The man himself remains mysteriously absent, memories of his gung-ho statements live on, providing material for an endless stream of jokes and cartoons in both Arabic and English, reports Al-Ahram Weekly.

The man with the mouth that drew a “cult-following” not only has his own website created by his devoted fans, but has developed quite a following within the Arab world too.

Arabs had a somewhat different view of the minister though, at least at the beginning of the war.

One Arab journalist explained, “I believed him because, like all Arabs, I wanted to believe what he said.”

However, in the end the columnist admits Al-Sahhaf became synonymous with the “brainwashing tactics of the Iraqi regime.”

Mocked as the “minister of misinformation,” Al-Sahhaf’s invective became infectious.

As Baghdad fell he claimed Americans were “committing suicide by the hundreds at the gates of Baghdad.” And added the now famous quip that then “their stomachs grilled in hell.”

He later stated at one of his last press conferences, “We made them drink poison last night, and Saddam Hussein’s soldiers and great forces gave the Americans a lesson which will not be forgotten by history. Honestly.”

The next day the regime was gone, including the good minister often called “comical Ali.”

But a cult following soon sprang up around Al-Sahhaf, which now fatuously attributes him with an array of statements on almost every subject.

“Comical Ali” is credited with saying, “Surgery? Child abuse? Never! Michael Jackson is the most normal person on this planet. It’s you who are twisted. What you remember Michael looked like was a conspiracy of the media.”

And this observation, “Global warming…[is a] myth invented by eco-criminal infidels.”

Talk show host David Letterman recently offered one-liners from the “minister of misinformation” to titillate his late night audience.

As he showed photos of Saddam’s statues being pulled down Al-Sahhaf supposedly says this is a “cleaning project” and elaborates that only the dictator’s “doubles” are being removed.

Though the legend of “comical Ali” lives on, no one knows for sure where the man actually is.

But Al-Sahhaf’s son who lives in Ireland insists that his father is amongst the living.

Some say he may have fled to Iran.

Perhaps the former Iraqi minister can become an Iranian spokesman promoting “the land of religious freedom.”

It appears doubtful that Al-Sahhaf will be charged with war crimes. After all, it’s not a crime to make jokes, whether they are intentional or not.

However, if prosecuted and convicted, “comical Ali” certainly has the potential as a great stand-up act to entertain almost any prison population.

Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf has won a “cult following,” reports ABC News.

The man with the mouth has now become a pop icon for his famous invective.

“Sahafomania” has reportedly taken off and exploded.

Now known as just “M.S.S.” to his fans, no one knows where the Iraqi spin-doctor has gone, but the legend lives on.

When armored columns entered Baghdad he said these immortal words, “They’re coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks.”

Before abruptly leaving the Iraqi capital M.S.S. offered this parting and piercing analysis, “[The Coalition is] in a state of hysteria and haste…These villains will not win.”

Known for his endless wit, Saddam’s master of the one-liner offered delicious diatribes for almost any occasion. He called the allies everything from “louts of colonialism” to “wild donkeys.” And once said, “God will roast their stomachs in hell.”

This man obviously has a future as a professional pundit, if only a good agent could find him.

As statues of Saddam came down all over Iraq, a website was built honoring M.S.S. And it has as many as 500,000 visitors in a single day.

The latest info at the site says this master of spin may now be in Syria.

M.S.S. fans seem to resent that their icon was snubbed and didn’t make it into that notorious deck of cards, which includes the Iraqis most wanted by the US.


How many of those bad boys have their own fan site, with coffee mugs and T-shirts?

At the M.S.S. website you can even pick up a barbecue apron emblazoned with what else, “God will roast their stomachs in hell,” his unforgettable motto.

What a guy!

Every war produces its own unique and memorable characters.

The man known for one of the worst scandals amongst evangelical Christians during the 20th Century, is now attempting to make a comeback in the 21st.

Disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker 63, convicted for fraud and sentenced to prison for cheating 150, 000 “lifetime members” of his former PTL Club, has resumed his TV career.

After making parole in 1995 Bakker immediately attempted to resurrect his seemingly dead vocation. First he worked quietly away from the cameras, apparently hoping to resuscitate his credibility.

But now with the help of a still loyal fan he is back on television. The “Jim Bakker Show” is currently being broadcast from a café in Branson, Missouri, reports the Charlotte Observer.

The TV preacher apparently is hoping for miraculous success. He claims, “Everywhere you look, there’s a miracle,” reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But it will probably take a really big one to sustain interest in this fallen minister, who seems hopelessly past his prime.

In an understatement Bakker admitted, “I know there are some people who won’t like me.”

What happened to the other half of the dynamic Bakker duo, which once graced televangelism?

The flamboyant Tammy Faye Bakker divorced her husband during his prison term and moved on to another man once associated with their ministry.

But she did remain faithful to the over-application of mascara, that is her trademark. A recent documentary chronicled her bizarre life, titled “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

The senational film received decidedly mixed reviews. One critic said, “I came away with the same trashy opinion I had of her before this ‘mock’ documentary.”

The former Mrs. Bakker now over 60 has developed a “cult following” within the gay community, who apparently find her over the top appearance and “drama queen” status appealing.

Tammy Faye took her act on tour and she has a road show called “Doing it My Way.”

There was a bit of a glitch though regarding millions of dollars owed in back taxes, but the Bakkers seem to have somehow miraculously overcome that problem.

“Jay” Bakker, Jim and Tammy Faye’s son, went into the traditional family business. He calls his style of preaching “coffee house” evangelism. Maybe he will grab a cup at his Dad’s café set soon?

Bakker Jr. went through a booze binge before he repented and reformed. He says, “If sins could keep us out of heaven, no one would go.”

Many Christians that the Bakkers bilked would agree and seem willing to forgive them.

However, though Jim and Tammy Faye may doctrinally expect salvation in the hereafter, is there really any earthly reason they should receive respect?

Did the Baath Party and Iraq itself become a “cult” under the rule of Saddam?

The Baath political party is described as “entrenched in Saddam’s cult of personality,” by the China Post.

It is interesting to note that though there were 2 million Iraqis who claimed affiliation with the Baath Party, only 40,000 were actually “full members.” And that status required a multi-level process before final acceptance.

But rather than this process being based upon “cult brainwashing,” it is more likely that loyalty to Saddam was created through fear and greed.

The Baath Party that began in Damascus during 1947, eventually spawned two dictator families, one led by Assad in Syria and another controlled by Saddam.

Once upon a time Baath ideals were “unity, freedom and socialism.” But much like its Soviet predecessor, the party quickly devolved into little more than Stalinism. A dictator-driven centrally controlled hierarchy of elite loyalists ran everything.

One Iraqi in exile still defended this organizational structure explaining, “The [Baath Party] is accused of being a dictator party. It [had] to be. How else can you rule a country with six different ethnic and religious sects?”

However, many dictators have explained a need for totalitarianism with similar rationalizations, from Napoleon to Hitler. They too wanted a “united Europe” of desperate peoples, but under their rule.

The grand palaces and plentiful monuments of Saddam enveloped Iraq. Everywhere were statues and the likeness of the “great leader,” who became seemingly the personification of the country.

In many ways Saddam appeared to reflect the same megalomania typically associated with cult leaders.

Often when such charismatic leaders die their cult following or movement disintegrates.

Will there be an Iraq without Saddam?

Unlike North Korea, where the “Great Leader” has become a cult of religious devotion, Saddam ruled Iraq by “fear and favor,” not faith.

Though the Iraqi despot had his inner circle of sycophants and retainers who have now fled, the immediate looting that is taking place in Baghdad and Basra now that the enforcers are gone, is very telling.

Where is the “cult” of devotion now?

“The party became…[a] security system,” said one exiled Baathist.

But this is hardly a religion or cult.

The same former member outlined Baath priorities as informing on anyone “to protect the state,” anything could be done to “justify…the state” and those that deviated from “this path [would] be killed.”

This certainly describes the standards of a police state.

He concluded, “That was the end of any ideology.” And it seems the beginning of Saddam’s so-called “cult of personality.”

But after all the rhetoric, Saddam’s Iraq only turned out to be a “security system” run by thugs. And rather than “entrenched” the Iraqi people seem anxious to move on.

A one-time Falun Gong follower has apparently decided to end her association with the group and spoke out recently against the “cult,” reports the South China Post.

The Chinese-born American resident was locked up in China for almost three years due to a Falun Gong related conviction and did an interview upon her release from prison.

Apparently disillusioned she said, “Falun Gong is purely an evil cult.” And added, “It has a definite political aspect.”

That “political aspect” is not lost on the Chinese who have always suspected “cult” leader Li Hongzhi of seeking power beyond simply his cult following within China.

There are still others who sadly are willing to follow Li Hongzhi and do his bidding, even when that means criminal acts.

Two Chinese-Americans were recently ordered deported due to sabotage, reports the South China Post.

While Hongzhi sits safely and comfortably in the United States his followers suffer the consequences of their leader’s self-centered agenda. Some have even committed suicide in demonstrations of fanatical devotion.

Hongzhi has been repeatedly exposed as a racist, bigot and apparent delusion-ridden megalomaniac.

Fresh from the oven and conveyer belt, Krispy Kreme donuts have been a spectacular commercial success. The company has also proven its savvy marketing skills and developed a cult following.

However, some market analysts say it’s time to dump the donut stock, while others claim this cult phenomenon has “staying power,” reports Knight Ridder.

Krispy Kreme sold more than a half billion donuts to its faithful last year alone, which represented a 27% sales increase over the previous year.

Can there be any doubt that these donut devotees are diehards? And does this mean that Dunkin Donuts is doomed?

Sarah Michelle Geller, has decided to make this the last season for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” reports Associated Press.

Seven years is a long run and Geller knows that after only five syndication residuals start rolling in. Geller 25, was only a teenager when she started in her role as Buffy, which quickly made her a star.

The show will certainly have a lucrative afterlife though through re-runs.

No doubt Buffy’s demise will dissappoint the cult following of devoted fans that the series developed over the years.

Pundits and reviewers have regularly mused if there was some deeper significance to the show’s success, such as “girl power” and/or a fascination with “witchcraft.” This has even been a focus for academic research, reported the University of Warwick in Britain.

However, the success of the show was not unlike any other television series, largely it was about well-defined and likable characters. And the vivid special effects certainly didn’t hurt its ratings.

But now it’s time for Geller to hang up her stake and move on. She will probably always be remembered as Buffy, even if she eventually marries her real life “angel” and becomes Mrs. Freddie Prinze Jr.

Ayn Rand only wrote two books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and died more than twenty years ago. But her idiosyncratic philosophy called “Objectivism” lives on and seems to perennially draw a renewed cult following amongst many college students.

Rand’s books still sell 300,000 copies annually.

However, when Modern Library surveyed publishers for its top 100 books of the 20th Century, Rand wasn’t even mentioned. But when they asked everyday readers to make their picks she came in number one, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Interestingly, sci-fi writer and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard had three books in the top ten of that same popular listing.

What does this mean? Did the publishers somehow neglect or ignore the genius of these authors?

Some might conclude that the pop picks only reflected the devotion and organized efforts of those obsessed with their personal favorites.

Author of the Sun article and Pulitzer Prize winner Ray Jenkins points out the dark side of Rand. This includes, “megalomania,” self-centered indulgences and a humorless, dogmatic driven nature.

Does this sound familiar?

Is it possible that Ayn Rand actually had more in common with purported “cult leader” L. Ron Hubbard, than authors like Hemmingway or Joyce?

Wait a minute. No one is “deprogramming” Rand’s rapt readers.

But it’s interesting to note the parallels between “cults” and some aspects of Rand and her erstwhile acolytes.

“Elvis priestly” was apparently more than the staid hierarchy of the Anglican Church in Canada was willing to endure, reports The Anglican Journal.

That nickname reflects the cult-like devotion of Rev. Dorian Baxter, Anglican priest and Elvis impersonator.

But Baxter’s church leader felt that the priest should be more focused on the “King of Kings,” than the “King of Rock.”

Popular amongst his flock for dressing up as Elvis to perform his vocation, Baxter’s bishop nevertheless dressed down the Anglican priest. He is now “officially on leave” from his assigned church.

Undaunted, the “Rockin’ Reverend” decided to create his very own “Graceland Independent Anglican Church,” through which he will continue his “Elvis ministry.”

This is not the first house of worship dedicated to Presley, others have sprung up since the star’s death.

Many Elvis fans make a yearly pilgrimage to their icon’s fabled mansion Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

Now Presley’s cult following can stop off in Toronto too, and experience Graceland the church.

Perhaps there they will share an ultimate communion, facilitated by a minister equally enthralled with the object of their enduring devotion.

And the King said, “Love me tender.”