Investigator #86 showed that a dedicated cigarette smoker would spend, on cigarettes in his lifetime, the cost of three low-end-of-the-market houses.

House and land prices have escalated since #86. A cheap house (including land) in Adelaide now costs $150,000 and the average house $300,000.

The Advertiser recently reported: "By 65, the average 20-a-day smoker will have puffed on 400,000 cigarettes. By the time they die 500,000 will have been smoked. This costs each smoker about $300,000." (May 9, p22)

The "average…smoker" therefore now puffs away the equivalent of an average house, or of two cheap houses, in his lifetime.


"His Holiness" Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died, aged 91, in February at his home in Holland.

The guru shot to international attention when the Beatles visited him in the Himalayas in 1968 to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM). His fame grew with each new age preacher and Hollywood film star that sought his guidance.

Donations and fees to learn TM gradually financed the construction of meditation centres known as Peace Palaces around the world. Then followed a multi-million dollar business empire, universities and schools, huge real-estate dealings, marketing of Ayurvedic medicine and cosmetics, and entrance into politics. And 5 million followers cited mantras for 20 minutes every morning

The movement's "Natural Law Party" contested elections in many countries. It taught "Yogic Flying", a course originally billed as teaching people to fly, but which involved sitting in the lotus position and practicing to bounce. Other courses supposedly taught people to be invisible and to pass through walls.

Maharishi claimed to be laying the foundations for world peace. The election promises of his "Natural Law Party" — promoted via full-page ads in respected magazines — included that "Nature's Government" would end crime, sickness and poverty. (Investigator 41)

Maharishi was born Mahesh Srivastava in central India, January 12, 1917.

He studied physics at Allahabad University — training which later enabled him to dress occult notions in seemingly scientific language.

He introduced TM to the world during a world-tour in 1959 during which he also visited America.

The Maharishi moved to the Dutch village of Vlodrop near the German border in 1990. During his last months he isolated himself in a wooden pavilion even from his close advisers, and spoke to followers via videos. (The Australian 2008, February 7, p9)


Self-designated "prophet, and founder of the True Russian Orthodox Church" Pyotr Kuznetsov (b. 1964) attempted suicide after his followers began emerging from a hillside cave in April.

35 cult members stocked the cave with food and moved into it last November to await the world's end in May 2008. The cave had underground wells, kitchen, and sleeping cells. Cultists threatened to detonate gas cylinders when police and priests tried to persuade them to come out.

A Russian tabloid quoted a cult member: "It was God who told us to act this way, a book about us is being written in heaven."

After melting snow partly collapsed the cave, 17 cultists came out on April 2 and 3. (The Advertiser 2008, April 4, p35)

The cult was founded in 2005. Kuznetsov, a divorced architect from Belarus, claimed to be the "Jesus of Siberia". He barred his followers from watching television, listening to the radio and handling money. Members also rejected processed food and considered bar codes to be satanic symbols.

Kuznetsov wandered across Russia preaching impending apocalypse, and settled in the village of Nikolskoye (near the Volga 650km SE of Moscow). Cult members gave up employment and stopped sending their children to school.

Kuznetsov did not join his followers in the cave. Authorities charged him with setting up a religious organization associated with violence and brought him to the cave to help persuade members to come out. He was present when the 17 emerged.

He then attempted suicide by hitting himself on the head with a log, was taken to a hospital, and declared to be suffering from schizophrenia. Nine women and two men remained underground.

Many of those who left the cave resumed their wait for the end of the world at Kuznetsov's wooden cottage in Nikolskoye. They were given a cow because they avoid milk from cartons with bar codes.

The Weekend Australian, May 17-18, reported: "The final members … quit the cave … after the stench of rotting corpses threatened them with intoxication … nine survivors emerged…"


The New York based "Human Rights Watch" (HRW) appealed in February to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to void the conviction of a woman, Fawza Falih, condemned to death for witchcraft.

The Courier Mail (2008, February 16) quoted Joe Stork, Middle East director of HRW: "The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes, like witchcraft, underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations."

The Courier Mail continued:
"Falih had retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and that as an illiterate woman she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.

At one point, she had to be put in hospital as a result of beatings at the hands of the religious police, called the "mutaween".

HRW said a man who claimed to have been bewitched had become suddenly impotent but authorities had not asked if this could have had natural causes."


In April the Texas Department of Protective Services removed over 450 children from the Texas compound of a polygamous cult and about 140 women left voluntarily.

Girl members of the cult were allegedly "groomed" to accept sex with middle-aged "spiritual husbands" at puberty and boys were indoctrinated to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the Mormons, is accused of marrying girls as young as 12 or 13 to middle-aged men. One 16-year-old already had four children although Texas law prohibits marriage of girls under 16.

Texas Department of Public Safety troopers did a week-long search of the 700ha grounds to find computer records and documents related to marriages after a16-year-old girl told a family violence centre that her 50-year-old husband raped and beat her. (The Australian 2008, April 11, p9)

In May the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the removal of the children was unwarranted because it was not proved the children were in "immediate" danger.

The high court upheld this decision and ruled: "The Family Code gives the district court broad authority to protect children short of separating them from their parents and placing them in foster care."


British shop-worker Emma Gough, 22, died hours after giving birth to twins when her husband, Anthony, 24, refused to permit a life-saving blood transfusion. She had time to bond with the newborns before she died and her parents, also JWs, were present.

JWs believe that "consumption, storage and transfusion of blood" is equivalent to eating blood which was condemned in the Law of Moses. (The Sun 2007, November 5)

It's been argued that the anti-transfusion doctrine originated because JW president Rutherford taught in the 1930s that "vaccination is an injection of animal matter" and therefore "against the law of Jehovah God". After Rutherford's death the new leaders realized that blood transfusion can also be seen as an "injection of animal matter" and therefore, after World War II, banned JWs from accepting transfusions. (Investigator 12, p. 20)

In 1952 the leaders cancelled the "law of Jehovah" against vaccinations because that "law" was hindering their international travels.

However, some JWs had already died needlessly from blood loss and to change that part of the "law" would have meant loss of credibility and increased defection from the cult. Therefore the ban on transfusion remained and was justified with increasing sophistication.   

The leaders have changed thousands of their theological interpretations and made false predictions for about thirty dates — yet have let thousands of followers needlessly die from blood loss rather than change this particular doctrine.


Astronomers have discovered a familiar solar system 5000 light years away. Two gas giants, comparable in size to Jupiter and Saturn, orbit OGLE-2006-BLG-109L a red star half the size of our Sun.

Over 280 planets have now been discovered outside the Solar System but this is the most similar solar system to ours found so far. Scientists used a technique called "micro-lensing" which measures changes in the brightness of stars.

Some think that finding ever more planets is a step to finding alien intelligent life. But Paul Davies, director of the Beyond Centre for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University, says scientists don't know the conditions required for life to evolve: "Nobody knows how life began, so nobody can put odds on it." (The Weekend Australian 2008, April 12-13, p24)


The Sunday Times (UK) reported:
A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith…was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.

Pollsters asked 3,500 people what they considered to be the worst blights on modern society…

Many participants said religion divided society, fuelled intolerance and spawned "irrational" educational and other policies…

However, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said he was "extremely pleased".

"Britain has had it with religion," he said. (April 20, 2008