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New Jersey to consider bikini waxing ban

March 27th, 2019

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Friday, March 20, 2009

New Jersey is considering a state-wide ban on Brazilian waxes, the removal of hair from the bikini area.

Although genital waxing has never really been allowed in the state, the New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling plans to propose a ban with more specific legal wording, in response to two women who reported being injured during a wax. The board will consider the proposal at their next meeting on April 14.

If the measure passes, New Jersey may become the only US state to ban the practice outright.

Although millions of Americans engage in bikini waxes, which generally cost between $50 and $60 per session, the practice comes with risks. Skin care experts say the hot wax can irritate delicate skin in the bikini area, and result in infections, ingrown hairs and rashes.

Waxing on the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms would continue to be permitted in the state under the proposed ban. Although New Jersey statutes have always banned bikini waxing, the laws were unclear and seldom enforced.

As a result, many salons from around the state have offered bikini waxing for years. Many salon owners spoke out against the proposed ban, which they said would severely damage their business.

“I really don’t know if the state can stop it at this point,” said Valentia Chistova, owner of the Monmouth County salon Brazil. “I know a lot of women who are really hooked.”

 This story has updates See New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban 
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US prisoner in North Korea ‘attempts suicide’

March 26th, 2019

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

File:North korean leader.jpg

According to the North Korean government, a US citizen, Aijali Mahli Gomes, has attempted suicide in a North Korean prison. In April, Gomes was sentenced to eight years of hard labour for illegally attempting to cross into the reclusive country in January, though his reasons for doing so remain unclear.

In addition to the prison term, the man was also fined the equivalent of US$700,000 for a “hostile act”.

“Driven by his strong guilty conscience, disappointment and despair at the US government that has not taken any measure for his freedom, he attempted to commit suicide,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported. This report did not specify where and how Gomes attempted suicide, or his state at present, only adding that Gomes “is now [being] given first-aid treatment at a hospital”, and that Swedish diplomats at their Pyongyang embassy who handle diplomatic affairs between the US and North Korea have been made aware of Gomes’ condition.

Gomes was an English teacher in South Korea before trying to cross into the North. Gomes had also attended rallies that supported human rights activist Robert Park, who crossed into the North to protest the Communist country’s poor human rights record. Park was later expelled from North Korea 40 days after he entered.

North Korea’s international relations remain tense after the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, and this report was issued just hours before the United Nations Security Council was expected to pass a resolution censuring the explosion of the Cheonan. North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the warship and has declared that any sanctions from the international community will lead to war.

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March 26th, 2019

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Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds

March 26th, 2019

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Controversy has arisen over the reported presence of blue asbestos on the MV Freewinds, a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology. According to the Saint Martin newspaper The Daily Herald and the shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, the Freewinds was sealed in April and local public health officials on the Caribbean island of Curaçao where the ship is docked began an investigation into the presence of asbestos dust on the ship. Former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft supervised work on the ship in 1987, and attested to the presence of blue asbestos on the Freewinds in an affidavit posted to the Internet in 2001. Woodcraft, a licensed architect by profession, gave a statement to Wikinews and commented on the recent events.

According to The Daily Herald, the Freewinds was in the process of being renovated by the Curaçao Drydock Company. The article states that samples taken from paneling in the ship were sent to the Netherlands, where an analysis revealed that they “contained significant levels of blue asbestos”. An employee of the Curaçao Drydock Company told Radar Online in an April 30 article that the Freewinds has been docked and sealed, and confirmed that an article about asbestos ran in the local paper.

Lloyd’s List reported that work on the interior of the Freewinds was suspended on April 27 after health inspectors found traces of blue asbestos on the ship. According to Lloyd’s List, Frank Esser, Curaçao Drydock Company’s interim director, joined Curaçao’s head of the department of labor affairs Christiene van der Biezen along with the head of the local health department Tico Ras and two inspectors in an April 25 inspection of the ship. “We are sending someone so that they can tell us what happened, where it came from, since when it has been there,” said Panama Maritime Authority’s director of merchant marine Alfonso Castillero in a statement to Lloyd’s List.

The Church of Scientology purchased the ship, then known as the Bohème, in 1987, through an organization called Flag Ship Trust. After being renovated and refitted, it was put into service in June 1988. The ship is used by the Church of Scientology for advanced Scientology training in “Operating Thetan” levels, as well as for spiritual retreats for its members. Curaçao has been the ship’s homeport since it was purchased by the Church of Scientology.

According to his 2001 statement, Lawrence Woodcraft had been an architect in London, England since 1975, and joined Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” (Sea Org) in 1986. He wrote that he was asked by the Sea Org to work on the Freewinds in 1987, and during his work on the ship “noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance approximately 1 ½” thick between the paint and the steel wall,” which he believed to be asbestos. He also discovered what he thought was blue asbestos in other parts of the ship, and reported his findings to Church of Scientology executives. Woodcraft discussed his experiences in a 2001 interview published online by the Lisa McPherson Trust, a now-defunct organization which was critical of the Church of Scientology.

The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards.

Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw responded to Radar Online about the asbestos reports, in an email published in an article in Radar on May 1. “The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards,” said Pouw. She stated that two inspections performed in April “confirmed that the air quality is safe,” and asserted that the inspections revealed the Freewinds satisfies standards set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Pouw told Radar that “The Freewinds will be completing its refit on schedule.” The Church of Scientology-affiliated organization Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) had been planning a cruise aboard the Freewinds scheduled for May 8, but according to Radar an individual who called the booking number for the cruise received a message that the cruise had been delayed due to ongoing work on the ship. Citing an article in the Netherlands Antilles newspaper Amigoe, Radar reported on May 6 that a team from the United States and supervised by an independent bureau from the Netherlands traveled to Curaçao in order to remove asbestos from the Freewinds.

…if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff.

“I stand by everything I wrote in my 2001 affidavit,” said Lawrence Woodcraft in an exclusive statement given to Wikinews. Woodcraft went on to state: “I would also comment that if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff. Also panelling as well, basically strip the ship back to a steel hull. Also blue asbestos is sprayed onto the outer walls and then covered in paint. It’s in every nook and cranny.”

Many Scientologist celebrities have spent time aboard the Freewinds, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley, Catherine Bell, Kate Ceberano, and Juliette Lewis. Now magazine reported that Tom Cruise has been urged to seek medical attention regarding potential asbestos exposure, however a representative for Cruise stated he has “absolutely no knowledge” of the recent asbestos controversy. Cruise, Holmes, Travolta and Preston have celebrated birthdays and other events on the Freewinds.

There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.

In a May 15 statement to the United Kingdom daily newspaper Metro, a representative for the Church of Scientology said that “There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.” The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center notes that agencies have recommended anyone who has spent time on the Freewinds consult with their physician to determine if possible asbestos exposure may have affected their health.

Raw blue asbestos is the most hazardous form of asbestos, and has been banned in the United Kingdom since 1970. Blue asbestos fibers are very narrow and thus easily inhaled, and are a major cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which can develop in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium sac surrounding the heart. The cancer is incurable, and can manifest over 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

“This is the most dangerous type of asbestos because the fibres are smaller than the white asbestos and can penetrate the lung more easily,” said toxicologist Dr. Chris Coggins in a statement published in OK! Magazine. Dr. Coggins went on to note that “Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim has six months to a year to live. It gradually reduces lung function until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies.”

David S. Touretzky discusses Scientology, Anonymous and Tom Cruise

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David S. Touretzky discusses Scientology, Anonymous and Tom Cruise

March 24th, 2019

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

David S. Touretzky, prominent free speech activist and critic of Scientology, discussed his opinions on the recent Internet backlash against the Church of Scientology in an interview with former Scientologist and Wikinews reporter Nicholas Turnbull. The recent conflict on the Internet between critics of Scientology and the Church has been spurred on in declarations by a nebulous Internet entity using the name Anonymous that the Church of Scientology “will be destroyed”. Anonymous has directed recent protests at Scientology centres across the world, which have attracted significant numbers of individuals supporting the cause. In recent e-mail correspondence with Wikinews, a representative of the Church of Scientology declared that the Church considers the activities of Anonymous to be illegal, and that Anonymous “will be handled and stopped”.

Touretzky, a research professor in artificial intelligence and computational neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, has been a prominent critic of the Church of Scientology since mid-1995, and has been protesting against Scientology vociferously since then; he has also run websites that publish material that Scientology wishes to keep suppressed from the public eye, such as extracts from Scientology’s formerly-confidential Operating Thetan (OT) materials. Touretzky views the actions of the Church of Scientology as being “a threat to free speech”, and has endured harassment by the Church of Scientology for his activities.

The Church of Scientology continues to suffer damage to its public reputation through increased exposure on the Internet and vocal protests by Scientology critics such as Prof. Touretzky. A recent event that focused intense attention on Scientology’s totalitarian attitude was the leak of an internal Church of Scientology propaganda video to the Internet video sharing site YouTube, in which celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise spoke heavily in Scientology’s jargon and stated that that “we [Scientology] are the authorities” on resolving the difficulties of humanity. The declaration of war by Anonymous followed shortly after this leak, in the form of a video posted to the Internet.

The ongoing dispute, cast by some as Scientology versus the Internet, brought Scientology terms such as “SP” (Suppressive Person, an enemy of Scientology) and “KSW” (Keeping Scientology Working) into general usage by non-Scientologists from the late 1990s onwards; increased attention has been drawn to Scientology by the release of the Cruise video in addition to media coverage. This focus has caused an even greater propagation of these terms across the outside world, as Touretzky comments in the interview.

Wikinews asked Prof. Touretzky about the impact that the activities of Anonymous will have on Scientology, the public relations effect of the Tom Cruise video, the recent departure of individuals from the Church of Scientology’s executive management, the strategies that Anonymous will employ and Touretzky’s experiences of picketing the Church.

Australian health workers to close intensive care units in Victoria next week

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Australian health workers to close intensive care units in Victoria next week

March 24th, 2019

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Members of Australia’s Health Services Union (HSU) will go on strike in Victoria next week in a dispute over stalled wage and career structure negotiations. Over 5000 physiotherapists, speech pathologists and radiation therapists will walk off the job next week, effectively closing the state’s 68 largest health services.

The strike will force the closure of intensive care units and emergency departments across the state.

It is feared the strike could continue into Easter.

National secretary of the HSU, Kathy Jackson said admissions would be crippled, while intensive care patients would have to be evacuated to New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia as hospitals will not be able to perform tests or administer treatment.

“When an ambulance shows up you can’t admit a patient without an X-ray being available, you can’t intubate them and you can’t operate on them,” she said.

“If something goes wrong in an ICU you need to be able to X-ray, use nuclear medicine or any diagnostic procedure,” said Ms Jackson.

Ms Jackson said the HSU offered arbitration last year, but the state government refused. “They’re not interested in settling disputes, they hope that we are just going to go away.”

“We’re not going away, we’ve gone back and balloted the whole public health workforce in Victoria, those ballots were successful, 97 percent approval rating,” she said.

The HSU is urging the government to commence serious negotiations to resolve the dispute before industrial action commenced.

The government has offered the union a 3.25 per cent pay increase, in line with other public sector workers but the union has demanded more, but stopped short of specifying a figure.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said the claim would be settled according to the government’s wages policy. “The Government is always willing and wanting to sit down and negotiate with the relevant organisations . . . we have a wages policy based around an increase of 3.25 per cent and, above that, productivity offset,” he told parliament.

The union claims it is also arguing against a lack of career structure, which has caused many professionals to leave the health service. Ms Jackson said wages and career structures in Victoria were behind other states.

Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said he was not in support of the proposed strike and called on the government to meet with unions. “There could not be a more serious threat to our health system than has been announced today.”

“We now have to do whatever is possible to stop this strike from proceeding,” he said.

The opposition leader will meet with the union at 11:30 AM today.

Victorian Hospitals Industry Association industrial relations services manager Simon Chant said hospitals were looking at the possible impact and warned that patients may have to be evacuated interstate if the strike goes ahead.

Spreading floods in Pakistan worsen, at least 1600 dead

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Spreading floods in Pakistan worsen, at least 1600 dead

March 24th, 2019

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Since last reported, the flooding in Pakistan has spread and has now struck more than four million people. The UN reports it has left at least 1,600 people dead. The floods have been confirmed as the worst in eighty years.

Heavy monsoon rains led to the flooding of the huge Indus River, destroying homes in the north of the country and causing a large amount of damage in the north-west frontier province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Manuel Bessler of the United Nations said: “What we are facing now is a major catastrophe. We are afraid it will get worse.”

Army and government forces have rushed to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from parts of the Punjab province of Pakistan, where the disaster spread to yesterday, and from Sindh province, where the flood is expected to reach by the weekend.

The flooding is now in its second week and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon, especially since in many parts of the country there is still torrential rain, with more forecast. In other parts of Pakistan the water has receded, but this leaves a layer of mud and slime and this covers very large areas. For those affected by the floods, disease is the biggest problem now. The insanitary conditions have already caused diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Cholera and other water-borne diseases may appear if sanitary conditions for those displaced by the calamity are not established. Medical supplies are desperately needed for doctors to keep a pandemic or epidemic of a water-borne disease from infecting the victims of the flooding.

Relief has been hardest to provide in the north-west where many bridges and roads have been washed away. Whole towns have been cut off and this makes providing aid to those areas a very difficult task.

Air force pilots have been volunteering to fly aid missions to badly hit areas, transporting medical supplies, clean water and food to where it is needed. The transport planes carry enough foodstuffs to feed one hundred families for a month. Motivation for the missions among pilots is very high, as is the tension in the transport planes as they fly at 36,000 feet over the flood-hit country. Only from the air is the full extent of the damage visible. Pilots have been flying the maximum number of hours allowed and pushing the limits of their endurance to give the victims of the flood food, water and everything they need to survive.

Many foreign governments and aid agencies are contributing to the disaster relief effort. The U.S. Army has been flying relief missions, airlifting people from areas where they are stranded. The first mission involved four U.S. Chinook helicopters landing in the tourist town of Kalam in the Swat Valley, north-west Pakistan. The resort had been cut off for more than a week, according to a reporter there. The Chinooks flew hundreds of people to safer areas lower down. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said that 800 people had been evacuated and relief goods had been distributed.

The U.S. government pledged 10 million dollars in assistance following the first reports of the disaster. Yesterday the country promised a further 25 million dollars in aid. A spokesperson from the Embassy said: “The U.S. is making a new contribution of 25 million dollars in assistance to flood-affected populations, bringing its total commitment to date to more than 35 million dollars.” The money will go to international aid organisations and established Pakistani aid groups to provide food, health care and shelter to people displaced by the floods.

Malaysia has also decided to contribute US$1 million for relief efforts in the form of humanitarian aid. The Foreign Ministry said the aid was a manifestation of the government and the people’s concern and sympathy. “The government of Malaysia hopes the contribution will help alleviate the suffering of flood victims in Pakistan.”

In Britain, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organisation representing 13 of the leading UK humanitarian agencies, has been coordinating relief efforts and has launched an emergency appeal for public donations to help the victims of the crisis. Charities and aid agencies have been quick to respond to the disaster, sending aid and response teams to the worst hit areas. Food, water, shelter and medical supplies have been provided but much more is needed.

Patrick Fuller of the Red Cross (the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), who has been based in the country for a few days, described the situation on the ground as “desperate” and said the worst hit areas are “totally dependent” on outside help. He said the Red Cross movement is working with local partners to get aid packages, containing cooking tools and shelter such as tents and blankets, to 35,000 families.

The Red Cross alone has distributed 10,000 food packs and 1000 tents across the affected areas so far. However, figures for the amount of aid distributed are constantly changing as this is an ongoing relief effort.

Fuller reported that in Nowshera, which is in the north-west of the country close to the Indus River, “80% of homes have been badly damaged or destroyed, all the mud-brick houses have been washed away.

“In the most remote areas – where roads are cut off – donkeys are making eight-hour hikes to reach people.

“We are trying to move people into temporary camps – giving them timber, roofing sheets and basic shelter – but there is the added complication that many are reluctant to leave whatever homes they have left.”This has also been a problem in the south of the country in Sindh province, where the flood is expected to reach by the weekend. Evacuations have been going on to move people out of the path of the flood but many will not join the mass exodus and have chosen to brave the waters.

“Many people rely on open wells, which have been contaminated, so access to clean water is a problem. We are worried about communicable diseases, like respiratory infections, skin diseases, diarrhoea,” Mr Fuller said.

The charity have been setting up mobile medical teams to better combat disease and infection.

Though the relief effort at the moment is focused on the survival of those hit by the catastrophe, on those who “had their lives swept away in seconds”, the relief effort is expected to last a full six months.

Those who will be most affected in the long term by this disaster will be the poorest. They will have had everything washed away from them so they will have to start from scratch. Sadly, for those living in the poorest areas in the north and centre of Pakistan, the fight for survival is only just beginning and though they may feel they are enduring much at the moment, getting their lives back together after the first stages of this calamity are over is going to be even harder.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has said it has managed to give aid to 300,000 people so far. Many UK charities have been distributing food and medicine, as well as water purification tablets, cooking tools, shelter and hygiene kits. They have been using rafts, boats and donkeys. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said: “These devastating floods have left millions fighting to survive with little food, clean water or shelter.”

The DEC has appealed for donations from the public of the UK to help the victims of this crisis. The appeal is to allow the charities to continue relief work in the worst hit areas of the country.

Following a television appeal by the DEC, £2.5 million was raised and this has enabled the 13 charities the committee represents to reach 300,000 people with emergency supplies.

U.S. classifies record number of documents in 2004

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U.S. classifies record number of documents in 2004

March 23rd, 2019

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Monday, September 5, 2005

OpenTheGovernment.Org, a coalition of conservative and liberal nonprofit groups, released a 2005 report (PDF, 12 pages) saying that all branches of the U.S. Federal Government are being significantly more secretive, and spending significantly more money on document secrecy. In 2004, federal officials classified 15.6 million new documents, which is 81 percent more than in 2001. Over the same period, the cost of classifying those new documents rose from $4.7 billion to $7.2 billion. These figures do not include documents classified by the CIA, as that agency’s information is itself secret.

The report is also critical of the fact that only $48.3 million was spent on declassifying old documents in 2004. They concluded that for every dollar spent on declassification, the federal officials spent $148 creating and storing new secrets, more than in any previous year. It is estimated to cost $460 to classify one document.

The state secrets privilege allows the executive branch to classify federal court hearings and documents. On average, the Bush administration has used this privilege 33 times more per year than cold war administrations (1953-1976), and nearly three times the 1977-2001 average. The report sees other measures of government secrecy, such as the number of secret patents on the rise as well.

The report does not explore the larger economic impact of the increase in secrecy per se. However, it observes that taxpayer savings due to whistleblower activity is on the rise despite the elimination of traditional whistleblower protections.

It also notes that 64% of advisory meetings were closed to the public. Such meetings provide lawmakers with advice on scientific and technical matters which are supposed to be free of special interest. Legislation covering such meetings states or assumes that they are open to the public, but some agencies, like the Department of Defense, have traditionally been permitted to hold closed meetings. Once such agencies are excluded, the report finds a threefold increase in closed meetings since 2001.

The report is critical of poor funding for processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, with which the majority of federal agencies surveyed can not keep up. There is concern that more of the financial burden for such requests may be being born by those organizations making the requests, instead of the agencies holding the classified documents. FOIA requests increased by 25% between 2003 and 2004, to 4 million, while funding for processing such requests increased by only 5%.

How much of this secrecy directly relates to various current events, such as the War in Iraq or terrorism, is unclear. In 2004, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved 1,754 requests from law enforcement officials last year to conduct surveillance on foreign nationals within the United States, double the number issued four years ago.

The report is also critical of the rise of “sensitive but unclassified” information, as well as new state based secrecy initiatives.

1960’s guru icon Maharishi Mahesh Yogi dies

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1960’s guru icon Maharishi Mahesh Yogi dies

March 23rd, 2019

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Indian guru who taught some of the 20th century’s most famous celebrities and created a multi-billion dollar spiritual empire has died. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, died at his home in the Netherlands. He is believed to have been 91 years old.

Known for his long white beard and tendency to giggle, he became a well-known counter-culture figure in the 1960’s. Members of the Beatles rock music band made repeated pilgrimages to the Himalayan foothills to study his meditation technique, known as TM.

Little is certain about the yogi’s early life in central India. His given name and birthday are disputed. It is known he studied physics at Allahabad University.

A professor of psychology at the school, Emmanuel Ghosh, says the guru’s academic training, combined with study under a Vedic swami, helped to make him accessible to those in the West seeking alternative answers to life’s questions during the socially tumultuous 1960’s.

“He had a rational approach,” said Ghosh. “He had a scientific background and he could tell the West that ‘You could test my theories through science.’ He was the first one who started this whole system of reducing stress by breath control, by meditation and you could measure it in objective terms.”

Maharishi also tutored other pop musicians, Hollywood actors and film directors. His TM movement attracted millions of followers worldwide who paid hundreds of dollars to receive a personal mantra to recite for 20 minutes, twice a day.

Professor Ghosh at Allahabad University says, despite his fame and success overseas, Maharishi was just one among many gurus in his native India.

“His influence in India has been negligible. Every guru is independent to propagate his own method of salvation or nirvana,” said Ghosh. “So he took off for a while [in India] as long as he was appreciated in the West.”

Perhaps his biggest legacy in India is the country’s largest chain of privately owned schools. Other institutes and universities based on his teachings also exist in the United States and Europe.

In later years, some of the guru’s projects and beliefs earned him ridicule, such as hoping to raise $10 trillion to achieve world peace and banish poverty and encouraging followers to learn what he called “yogic flying”. While many adherents praise Maharishi for propagating a scientifically verifiable ancient method to help them deal with the stress of modern life, some disenchanted followers considered TM a quasi-religious cult more interested in raising funds than spirits.

Billy West, voice of Ren and Stimpy, Futurama, on the rough start that shaped his life

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Billy West, voice of Ren and Stimpy, Futurama, on the rough start that shaped his life

March 23rd, 2019

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This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ren and Stimpy. Bugs Bunny. Philip J. Fry and Professor Hubert Farnsworth on Futurama. Sparx. Bi-Polar Bear. Popeye the Sailor Man. Woody Woodpecker. You may not think you have ever heard Billy West, but chances are on a television program, a movie, a commercial, or as Howard Stern’s voice guru in the 1990’s, you have heard him. West’s talent for creating personalities by twisting his voice has made him one of a handful of voice actors—Hank Azaria and the late Mel Blanc come to mind—who have achieved celebrity for their talent. Indeed, West is one of the few voice actors who can impersonate Blanc in his prime, including characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and other characters from Warner Bros. cartoons.

What is the fulcrum in Mr. West’s life that led him to realize a talent to shape personalities with his voice, and how did the discovery of that gift shape him? Wikinews reporter David Shankbone found that like many great comedians, West faced more sour early in life than he did sweet. The sour came from a physically and emotionally abusive alcoholic father (“I could tell you the kind of night I was going to have from the sound of the key in the door or the way the car pulled up.”), to his own problems with drug and alcohol use (“There is a point that you can reach in your life where you don’t want to live, but you haven’t made the decision to die.”).

I’m telling you stuff that I never said to anybody…

If sin, suffering and redemption feel like the stages of an endless cycle of American existence, West’s own redemption from his brutalized childhood is what helped shape his gift. He performed little bits to cheer up his cowed mother, ravaged by the fact she could not stop her husband’s abuse of young West. “I was the whipping boy and she would just be reduced to tears a lot of times, and I would come in and say stuff, and I would put out little bits just to pull her out of it.”

But West has also enjoyed the sweet. His career blossomed as his talent for creating entire histories behind fictional characters and creatures simply by exploring nuance in his voice landed him at the top of his craft. You may never again be able to forget that behind the voice of your favorite character, there is often an extraordinary life.

Below is David Shankbone’s interview with renowned voice actor Billy West, who for the first time publicly talks about the horrors he faced in his childhood; his misguided search for answers in anger, drugs and alcohol; and the peace he has achieved as one of America’s most recognizable voice actors.

Contents

  • 1 The use of celebrities for voiceovers
  • 2 Iconic characters and choosing projects
  • 3 Discovering his talent
  • 4 “It was a horror chamber where I grew up”
  • 5 West moves to Boston after his parents divorce
  • 6 How West dealt with his father’s abuse
  • 7 Rehabilitation and sobriety
  • 8 Is West glad he experienced addiction?
  • 9 West on his career
  • 10 West on politics
  • 11 Billy West on modern American society
  • 12 Billy West on telling it like it is
  • 13 Source