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He wants your soul and your vote.

Seated in a window booth inside an Elizabeth luncheonette calmly discussing social issues and foreign policy, it’s easy to forget for a moment that Jonathon Sharkey is a vampire.

With his ankle-length black cloak hanging on a peg at the end of the booth, Sharkey speaks almost eloquently about solving the homeless problem, improving care for America’s veterans and breaking the stranglehold of special interest groups in Washington. Then, about halfway through a diatribe on the Iraq war, Sharkey’s crystal blue eyes turn cold and any semblance of a typical politician shatters.

“I have real ideas to make this country better, but I’m still a Satanist, I’m still a vampire, I still follow the Goddess Hecate and practice the art of black magic,” Sharkey says, pushing back his long black hair to reveal a crimson pentagram embroidered on his golf shirt. “So if you cross my line, I have no problem vanquishing you.”

To prove his point, Sharkey raises his bare forearm to his mouth and sinks his lower canines into his flesh, drawing just enough blood to take a quick drink.

This is “The Impaler,” and he wants to be your next president. Today, the 42-year-old former professional wrestler will officially launch his campaign in his native Elizabeth at Martin’s restaurant on East Jersey Street. The Toms River resident plans to run the campaign from Cranford.

The candidate of the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans Party, Sharkey has a Web site extolling his 13-point platform, an eclectic mix of old-fashioned populism and outright lunacy.

Topping the list is a pledge to personally impale all terrorists, child molesters and other criminals with his 8-foot impaling stake.

“I’m going to make America safe for all Americans,” he said.

As for how he plans on convincing voters to hand over the reins to an ordained Satanic dark priest who “feeds” daily on the neck of his 19-year-old bride, Sharkey said he hopes voters will be open-minded.

“It’s like JFK said, `Are you going to vote against me because I’m Roman Catholic?'” Sharkey asked. “The campaign shouldn’t be about religion.”

Sharkey has been an Army recruiter, stock car driver and professional wrestler named Rocky Flash. He’s been married six times, is about to have his fourth child and lives off disability benefits from a 1982 parachuting accident he suffered while in the Army.

Mostly, though, Sharkey has sought to make his mark in politics. He served as a Republican district leader in Elizabeth in the 1980s and launched his first bid for elected office in 2000, when he vied for his party’s nomination in the 10th Congressional District.

Election records show that Sharkey raised close to $6,000 that year, but lost the nomination and never appeared on the ballot. He tried to reach Congress again the following year in Tampa, Fla., but never appeared on the ballot there either.

“He was a character and enjoyed being a character,” said Elizabeth GOP Chairman Daniel Nozza, who remembers Sharkey from his days in Elizabeth. “He was entertaining, like a Hollywood person.”

When Sharkey resurfaced in Minnesota last year to run for governor, it wasn’t as Rocky Flash the Republican wrestler, but as the spear-wielding Impaler.

Sharkey’s run fizzled when he was arrested on a pair of open Indiana warrants, one for stalking and the other for escape. Still, the campaign spawned the documentary film “Impaler,” which debuted earlier this year in Australia and is currently on the independent film festival circuit.

Tray White, the film’s director, followed Sharkey for eight months while making the movie and says he still isn’t sure how much of the Impaler routine is real and how much is crafted for the camera.

“Sometimes I think he’s completely insane and needs mental help, and other times I think he’s a lot smarter than people give him credit for and he knows what he’s doing,” White said.

It is totally worth putting the whole story here. It’s novel and insightful and paints a unique picture of American politicians, raising also the issue of separating religion and politics.

Topping the list is a pledge to personally impale all terrorists, child molesters and other criminals with his 8-foot impaling stake.

My elected national leader stalks the night putting people on large wooden spikes. Does yours?

MIDDLESEX
He’s got a big stake in presidential future – Vampire/Satanist `The Impaler,’ gears up for a good old blood and guts campaign
JONATHAN CASIANO
STAR-LEDGER STAFF
30 March 2007
The Star-Ledger
MIDDLESEX
(c) 2007 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

There are many, many stories written about the culture of Iran and the issues considered newsworthy have been tackled from a great number of perspectives. So for every single news article referenced in this post you can be sure that there are hundreds like it.

Like this story about how women are treated.

Or perhaps this one printed 12th of april about sunni insurgents.

This website will be your greatest resource in monitoring news about Iran. http://www.iranfocus.com
Just for fun, search “hanged” on the website and see how many stories you get.

Jesus is really, really pissed — at Hollywood, at the media, even at most Christians. But BattleCry, the nation’s largest and most radical youth crusade, is recruiting a new generation of Christian soldiers to fight back.

must remain relatively impartial, must remain relatively impartial, must remain re………

49 hours later

..latively impartial.

Ron Luce want’s YOU to denounce the evils of your decadent and sinful society (this society is America by the way, for the moment at least) and join your chums in his war against comercialism+. Join Battlecry and become one of the thousands of other teenagers donning crucifix resplendant tabbards and hefting longswords in the name of God.

Although mere novices compared to the muslim extremists of today, christian extremism works in it’s own particularly mysterious ways.

The article I bring into question demands reading.

I have to wonder to myself how it is that I want to discuss the three main elements of the story; Ron Luce, the movement that is Battlecry and of course the legions of faithful kids. Without, of course, bringing in personal opinion. So let’s look at how the journalist seems to feel.

The story itself is as interesting as it is disturbing, which is very desirable.

Luce lays out cooked statistics, images, assertions. He doesn’t explain — he warns. To the crowd of watery-eyed teens he recites letters he says their peers have sent him, souls lost to what he calls, over and over, the “pigpen” of secularism. It’s a reference to the sorry fate of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke, who wound up tending hogs until he submitted to the authority of God and was restored to his riches. There’s an unnamed girl who left Jesus and then “got date raped.” There’s “Emily,” who dated a non-Christian boy — “now she works in pornography and lives a bisexual lifestyle.” Luce sneers: “pigpen.” There’s “Heather,” who wrote to Luce to complain that “my father is passive, and my mom is controlling.” “Pigpen,” Luce says, his voice filled with sorrow for the girl with the sissy dad…

This is during the “aquire the fire” events that Luce organises to spread his messages.

The quote contains some rather emphatic words and short snappy sentances,

Luce sneers: ‘pigpen.’

It is hard to believe that the journalist approves of Luce’s methods for healing our sick and weary society. He choses to interview people like 12 year olds Hanneh and Mallory:

Hanneh has straight blond hair; Mallory’s a redhead with curls. Mallory wants to borrow my pen. “I have to write a message to MTV,” she says. She hunches over in her seat, her hair hiding her hand as she scratches it out. “Dear MTV,” she reads aloud, “leave those kids alone!”

Then she adds a kicker: “Repent.” I ask her what she means. She giggles as if I’m teasing her. “Ron Luce said so!”

There is a definite narrative element to this story, the journalist going out of his way to describe the hair of the two girls and then quoting them in their innocent devotion to Ron Luce with a deliberate aim to get a response from readers. However he is portraying the truth of the events, he is not manipulating the quote from the little girl or even creating the poignant scene, he is showing it to us.
Afterall the only people he has to quote are either the radicals or the people opposed to them and the radicals tend to undo themselves in public eye better than the arguments of the opposition.

Radicals are a great source of news, but need to be followed up with a heady dose of novelty else the readers will be left pondering some difficult questions and hell we all know how much they hate to do that.

Here is their webiste http://www.battlecry.com/

The second life phenomenon began in 2003 under the direction of Linden Lab. The idea is to create a platform for users to create the world around them and when people bring their imaginations to a virtual space they bring their religions as well.

This article from USA TODAY is huge and totally worth the read. What seemingly begins as a novelty piece soon develops into a seriously investigated and thought provoking article about faith reaching beyond the realms of reality. The article would be a good place to get into some heavy theological debates if you weren’t already involved in them. The impetus for the story is the coming of easter where people are practicing religious acts in virtually created chruches and then broadening out into the impact of religion on Second Life.

“I put my avatar in praying position and I pray at the same time. My prayer in my room is valid and my prayer online is symbolic,” says Sten Muhammed Yussif Widhe, 63, of Fagersta, Sweden.

An officer in Second Life’s Islamic Society, Widhe says his online prayer community, which prays in a replica of a 10th-century mosque in Cordoba, Spain, is bigger than the one in his small hometown two hours from Stockholm.

Budhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Scientologists, Matrixists, Jedi and many other religiously inclined organisations make there mark in Second Life. “Avatars of Change” is one such group that encourages theological discussion between its religiously diverse members.

You can read the article yourself and sift through its content making up your own ideas about its validity or significance, but as far as news stories go this shows some real integrity and depth of research and really becomes enmeshed in the issue. Look at it.

Only I can see whats wrong with the world and prevent forrest fires.

As far as I am concerned this story is pure freaking gold.
I have chosen three news articles to get a broad picture of the events within the story and also for the purposes of the assessment.

Right at this very moment an 18 year old boy is in the control of the Chinese government. But hey, he’s used to it, he has been a prisoner since he was 5 years old. His name is Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and the Chinese government hid him away from the world when the Dalai Lama proclaimed him to be the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, whose significance to Tibetan Bhudism is comparable with the Dalai Lama. Gedhun is being called the world’s youngest political prisoner. He and his family have not been seen since, Beijing claims that they are not held against their will.

This article from the Independant tells us what has happened and why it has happened. This is the good part:

The plan is simple. In the Tibetan system the Dalai Lama is the sun, the Panchen Lama the moon. The Dalai Lama is 71. His health is good but he cannot live forever. Once he goes, the most senior figure will be the Panchen Lama, whose duty then will be to identify the next Dalai Lama. That’s the way it has worked for at least three centuries, a sort of holy leapfrog down the ages. A puppet Panchen Lama will name a puppet Dalai Lama and, just as the current Dalai Lama has been the incarnation of Tibet’s aspirations for an independent or at least autonomous future, by putting his reincarnation in their pocket the Chinese will kill off the Tibetan independence movement for good. They hope.

Que maniacal laughter and pan out from a crumbling gothic castle silhouetted against a moon that is just way to big.

The puppet lama (who at some point will need to have an epic sword fight with the panchen lama, during which it will be revealed that they are brothers) is a boy of 17 years whom the Chinese government declared to be the true Panchen Lama soon after Gedhun was taken care of, his name is either Gyaltsen Norbu (as it appears in most publications) or Gyaincain Norbu (as it appears in one of the other articles I will mention). Which is odd enough.

Info about what they have been doing with the puppet lama:

They installed Gyaltsen Norbu in a heavily guarded villa near Beijing. And now that he, too, is approaching manhood, the Chinese roll him out from time to time to test the waters. When he was nearly 12 he made his first visit to Tibet, to the monastery of Tashilhunpo that is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, in the town of Shigatse. Security was heavy; evidence of popular devotion was absent. A year ago he made his debut before an international audience, speaking at the World Buddhist Forum, a government-sponsored jamboree devoted to the theme, “a harmonious world begins in the heart” (and from which the Dalai Lama was absent). The authorities describe the lad as “Buddhism’s most senior leader”.

“Defending the nation and working for the people is a solemn commitment Buddhism has made to the nation and society,” this child of the Party told the gathering.

As you can tell support has not been overwhelming for Mr. Norbu who was elected through the ancient and mysterious method of a lot drawing ceremony between three candidates all chosen by the central government.

This article is large in size and I encourage you to read it all, it provides a great deal of very balanced and objective information on the surrounding context of Tibetans desire for independance.

The Tibetans themselves aren’t just sitting around letting this happen (What did the Chinese expect? That they would just be like “well you sure got us!”). Not to say that they have attacked anything, they have skipped straight to the next step: running.

In an attempt to gain internation support for their plight a symbolic marathon was organised, according to my second article “Tibetans in exile in India join symbolic run to celebrate Panchen Lama’s 18 birthday”.

Participants ran with statements like “‘Run for Panchen Lama” attached to their shirts and called for the immediate release of the true Panchen Lama. The Chinese government responded:

“The child is growing up like other youths, other teenagers in China today and living a free life,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing on Tuesday, although he gave no details.

International activists, support groups and Tibetans obviously are not happy with that:

“Gendun Choekyi Nyima will be tuning 18 years of age … He shall be considered mature to take his own decision on whether he needs the protective custody that the Communist Party of China claims of providing him,” four Tibetan non-governmental groups organizing Wednesday’s run said in a statement.

Whether the Chinese Government will respect Nyima’s maturity remains to be seen.

Tibetans in exile in India join symbolic run to celebrate Panchen Lama’s 18 birthday
By ASHWINI BHATIA
Associated Press Writer
25 April 2007
Associated Press Newswires
(c) 2007. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

So what are the Chinese Government putting in their newspapers?
The national media organisation Xinhua News Agency have a story to tell:

BEIJING, April 27 (Xinhua) — The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu, currently the highest ranking figure of Tibetan Buddhism in China, on Friday visited two space science research institutes in Beijing.
At the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, the bespectacled 17-year-old, wearing a Tibetan Buddhist robe, walked through the research facilities and listened to briefings on China’s aerospace science development.
The institute is responsible for developing spacecraft and satellites for remote sensing, telecommunications, meteorology, earth resources and navigation.
He later visited the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center and met with China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei.
The young Panchen lama said he had always had a keen interest in aerospace science and felt enormously proud at the thought of China’s manned spacecraft roaming around in outer space.
He said he would, as a religious figure, remain concerned about the country’s development and make greater efforts in scientific studies in order to contribute to the development of the motherland.
Gyaincain Norbu was born on February 13, 1990 in Lhari County of Nagqu Prefecture in northern Tibet. In November 1995, he was approved by the central government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989, after a lot drawing ceremony among the three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa

This was the article where he was refered to as Gyaincain and not Gyaltsen which I can only assume is an error of translation. So anyway, the bespectacled puppet lama is learning about space.

The articles opening sentance is quick to point out that he is without a doubt the 11th Panchen Lama and that he is “currently the highest ranking figure of Tibetan Buddhism in China.” They are painting an image of an intellectually and spiritually minded youth who gazes at the stars in budhist robes. He is also fiercly patriotic and his concern is for the technological development of the motherland. The fact that this is in English shows that they want this understood internationally.

Panchen Lama visits space science institutes
27 April 2007
Xinhua News Agency
(c) Copyright 2007 Xinhua News Agency

So this is a complex situation and would make for a good novel, let alone a news story. We got currency, conflict, prominence, human interest, impact and even a little novelty. We see objective reporting of the news in the first article, in contrast news as reported by a government for social control in the last article and in the second article we have the media being used to generate attention and support for a cause.

Ultimately however, this is just another chapter in a long tale.

1980 a family tomb was discovered with graves labled Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

For the past couple of months people have been talking a great deal about James Cameron and his film about the above discovery. If the editors of newspapers have a view on this news then they are voicing it through the quotes of others. Countless opinion pieces claiming absurdity and how this does not destroy their faith, plenty of articles about people debating the issue and torrents of religious officials responding to or condeming the documentary and all those associated with it. Definately hard to find anything written in papers supporting or defending the film, its subject and its creator. But maybe i’m not looking hard enough.

There aren’t going to be any quotes here because you can imagine what they would be.