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March 31st, 2010
02:23 PM ET

Haiti Donor Conference under way in New York

A Haitian child carries food at a refugee camp in Port-au-Prince. (Getty Images)

A Haitian child carries food at a refugee camp in Port-au-Prince. (Getty Images)

AC360°

Earlier today, the United States and United Nations, in cooperation with the Government of Haiti, kicked off the first International Donor's Conference aimed at securing funding for rebuilding Haiti after the January 12 earthquake that rocked the already-impoverished nation.

The goal of the conference is to raise upwards of $3.8 billion in funding for Haiti's long term recovery. The United States has already pledged $1.15 billion. This money is expected to be the start of a 10-year, reconstruction plan that will total $10.5 billion.

The list of nations participating is headlined by Brazil, Canada, The European Union, France, and Spain. And speaking at the conference are participants such as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Various groups like the Haitian Diaspora will be presenting reports outlining specific needs for the future of Haiti.

You can read more of the Diaspora's report and other reports such as Haiti's national plan for recovery here.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Haiti • Haiti Earthquake • United Nations
March 31st, 2010
01:35 PM ET

Ex-members spar with Scientology over beating allegations

Note to readers and viewers: The Anderson Cooper 360 series "Scientology: A History of Violence," which reported competing claims and denials about violence at the top of the Church of Scientology has attracted a number of complaints from senior members of the Church of Scientology (including Mr. Miscavige) and the Church of Scientology itself.

The series is now the subject of a letter of legal complaint in the United Kingdom. The complainants strongly dispute the allegations and the assertions made against them and covered in the course of the series by former members of the Church of Scientology.

Ex-Scientologist Marty Rathbun says he was pressured to beat people by church leader David Miscavige.

Ex-Scientologist Marty Rathbun says he was pressured to beat people by church leader David Miscavige.
Ex-Jeff Hawkins, a former marketing manager for the church, says Miscavige attacked him several times.

Ex-Jeff Hawkins, a former marketing manager for the church, says Miscavige attacked him several times.

Anderson Cooper and Ismael Estrada
AC360°

Marty Rathbun used to beat people. He admits it. But he says he was pressured to do it by his boss.

Rathbun was once a senior official of the Church of Scientology, reporting directly to church leader David Miscavige. He says that Scientology's leadership fostered a culture of violence among its top ranks and that Miscavige "constantly pushed me to get physical with people" during his time among its top ranks.

"And I've got to tell you, I've admitted to some, to doing a few of those," Rathbun said. "But not like he did."

Rathbun broke with Scientology in 2004 after 27 years. Other former members support his accusation, telling stories about Miscavige kicking, punching and choking members of the Sea Organization, a religious order that is the church's international leadership team.

The church emphatically denies Miscavige abused anyone or encouraged anyone else to assault subordinates. The only abusers, it says, were two of today's accusers.

Meanwhile, in dozens of affidavits, e-mails and interviews, church supporters - including members of its leadership and the former wives of some of the accusers - are defending Miscavige and attacking the credibility of those who have spoken out. Church spokesman Tommy Davis said it was Rathbun's physical abuse of other church officials that led to him being removed from his job.

Tom DeVocht, a former construction manager for the church, says he left because of violence.

Tom DeVocht, a former construction manager for the church, says he left because of violence.

"The thing Mr. Miscavige is known for, and has been from the very beginning, is he cleans house," Davis said. "He is someone who makes sure that people who do things that shouldn't be done, they're removed."

Miscavige has led Scientology since the 1986 death of its founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Through a church spokesman, Miscavige declined to be interviewed for this report. There is no physical evidence to support the accusations against him, just as church affidavits attacking the accusers and supporting Miscavige cannot be independently verified.

But what both sides appear to agree on is that at least for a time, there were periodic beatings within Scientology's upper management. While they disagree on who was responsible for it, both sides say top officials used physical abuse as a means of discipline and intimidation.

During that period, no one called police.

Rathbun is the highest-ranking member of the Church of Scientology to speak against Miscavige. He was Scientology's "inspector-general" and part of the Sea Organization. Members live behind the guarded walls of Scientology's 500-acre international headquarters outside Los Angeles, provided with room and board and a $50-a-week paycheck. They sometimes wear naval-style uniforms, and their billion-year contracts with the church are a pledge not only for this lifetime, but for many others they believe are still to come.

But during that time, Rathbun and others said Miscavige - Rathbun's immediate superior - frequently assaulted subordinates. He said Mike Rinder, the church's spokesman until 2007, bore the brunt of the attacks. In a 2000 meeting, he said Miscavige pinned Rinder against a table "and was whacking him upside the head," then began choking him and eventually threw him to the ground by his neck.

"He had marks on his neck for a week," Rathbun said.

He's not the only one to describe Rinder being badly beaten. Amy Scobee, who helped run Scientology's Celebrity Center in Los Angeles, said she saw Miscavige choke Rinder during a meeting before she left the church in 2005.

"He grabs Mike around the neck, swings him around in one of the office chairs that swings around and is choking him, holding his neck, and Mike's just, like, grabbing the side of his chair, struggling, like, not knowing what was going on," Scobee said. "His face is turning red, and the veins are popping in his neck, and I'm going, 'What the hell is going on?' "

In 2007, the BBC asked Rinder about allegations that Miscavige had beaten him. He denied the reports, calling them "absolute rubbish." He left the church soon afterward and now corroborates Rathbun's account, telling CNN that Miscavige physically assaulted him about 50 times. He says he, too, got physical with subordinates.

Jeff Hawkins, a marketing manager for the church, said Miscavige attacked him several times, including once during a marketing meeting.

"He jumped up on the conference room table, like with his feet right on the conference room table, launched himself across the table at me - I was standing - battered my face and then shoved me down to the floor," Hawkins said.

Hawkins spent 35 years as a Scientologist before leaving the church in 2005. Tom DeVocht, a construction manager for the church, left the same year, because, he says, he could no longer accept Miscavige's violence.

"David asked me a question, and I couldn't tell you what the question is. Don't remember," DeVocht said. But, he added, "The next thing I knew, I have been smacked in the face and knocked down on the ground ... in front of all these people. This is the pope knocking me to the ground."

In addition to leaving Scientology, Rinder, DeVocht, Hawkins and Rathbun are now divorced. Their former wives, who remain high-ranking members of the Sea Organization, are joining Scientology leaders in painting them as "bitter" former employees who are now colluding against the church. All four spoke to CNN in a joint interview Monday, along with other church officials.

Rinder's ex-wife, Catherine Bernardini, said the only time she saw any sign that her husband had been beaten was when he was attacked "totally out of the blue" by Rathbun.

"I know every square inch of Mike Rinder's body," she said. "I know everything that's ever happened to him, every accident, every time he broke his wrist. I've been with him, we've been together all our lives - it's utterly ridiculous, and it isn't true."

Rathbun's ex-wife, Anne Joasem, calls him "a liar" and "totally psychotic."

"He's alleging that when he left in 2004, it was because he witnessed Mr. Miscavige beating somebody up or whatever. Right after he left, I'm the first person he called. He called me right away. And it never came up," she said.

DeVocht's ex-wife, Jennifer Linson, said she "never saw one scratch" on her husband.

"I never saw one bruise, I never saw one black eye - nothing," Linson said. "Nor did he complain about anything personally. And he would've told me, because any, anything that would happen, I would know about. And besides that, that's not the character of Mr. David Miscavige."

Hawkins' ex-wife, Catherine Fraser, said he "never mentioned one thing" about any abuse.

"To the contrary, he mentioned to me how much Mr. David Miscavige supported him, how much he believed in him," Fraser said.

Davis, who replaced Rinder as Scientology's spokesman, said that Rathbun was to blame for the beatings and that Miscavige stripped him of his authority as he learned of the problem in 2001.

Scientology officials say they tried to offer Rathbun counseling, but he refused their efforts and left the church three years later. After that, Davis said, Rathbun and other ex-members "ganged up" to take on their old religion.

The church says DeVocht was violent and wasted millions of church dollars during his time in the Sea Organization. It accuses Rinder of physically attacking his subordinates and says Hawkins has attended rallies with an anti-Scientology movement called Anonymous.

"These are individuals who have proven not only that they would lie, but that they will get other people to lie," Davis said. "It's not much of a stretch for them to all get together, corroborate their stories, find some other people who have left years ago to try and corroborate it even more, and then come to news media and attack the very person who removed them."

But Hawkins said that was "absolutely not true."

"David Miscavige was the one leading this whole physical violence kick, and it was him who was beating people up," he said.

Rathbun calls the accusations against him "outright lies."

"I didn't come in here saying I was Little Lord Fauntleroy and never did anything wrong," he said. "I said I'm no angel. I'm going to tell you I was involved in this. But for God's sake, to make it sound like I perpetrated the whole thing is just a complete and utter fabrication."

Rathbun said he never raised the issue with anyone besides his wife because of the power Miscavige wields, including excommunication. Hawkins said church members are "not going to say anything" critical of the chairman, and he would have lied to the police himself while he remained a member.

"It's like the battered wife," he said. "The police show up and say, 'Why are you all bruised?' And she says, 'I just fell down the stairs.' She defends the husband."

But the church's defense raises a question of who knew what, when and what was done to stop the abuses - which its leaders say is a matter Miscavige handled personally, and internally.

March 31st, 2010
01:34 PM ET

Haiti Donor's Conference webcast

Haitians depart Port-au-Prince on a Ferry. (Getty Images)

Haitians depart Port-au-Prince on a Ferry. (Getty Images)

AC360°

Earlier today the United the United States and United Nations, in cooperation with the Government of Haiti, kicked off the first International Donor's Conference aimed at securing funding for rebuilding Haiti after the January 12 earthquake that rocked the already-impoverished nation.

You can watch video from the conference via the webcast here.


Filed under: Haiti • Haiti Earthquake • United Nations
March 31st, 2010
01:28 PM ET

School bullying activist: I know the terror Phoebe felt

School bullying has claimed the lives of its victims.

School bullying has claimed the lives of its victims.

Jodee Blanco
Special to CNN

Once again, the nation is outraged that school bullying has claimed another victim. As news spread about the indictment of nine teens who are accused of relentlessly bullying 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to suicide this year, parents everywhere asked: "How could this have happened? Where were the adults?"

I couldn't help but wonder why it always takes a tragedy to get the world's attention. The suffering of millions of students all across America, some of whom are being bullied as badly as Phoebe and who have been crying out for help day after day, semester after semester, should be enough. Why are their voices not heard? What message are we sending these lonely, frustrated kids: that they might as well suffer in silence, because no one's going to take notice unless someone ends up dead?

Keep Reading...

March 31st, 2010
01:27 PM ET

More students disciplined following girl's suicide

Phoebe Prince, 15, who had recently moved from Ireland, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.

Phoebe Prince, 15, who had recently moved from Ireland, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.

CNN Wire Staff

More students have been removed from a Massachusetts school in the investigation of the alleged bullying campaign against a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, a school official said Tuesday.

Nine students at the school have been charged in what a prosecutor described Monday as a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of Phoebe Prince.

"We have taken disciplinary action with an additional small group of students and they have been removed from the high school," Christine Sweklo, assistant superintendent of South Hadley, Massachusetts, public schools said Tuesday in a news release. She did not provide details on the number of students, their identities or what involvement they might have had in events leading up to the suicide.

Keep reading...

March 31st, 2010
01:17 PM ET

Video: Police: Missing California family may have disappeared intentionally

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Police say it now appears that a southern California family missing since early February voluntarily left for Mexico.

But the apparent inactivity of bank cards, credit cards and cellphones since they vanished continues to baffle police and trouble family members.

"I've been in this business for over 35 years but never seen anything like this," Lt. Dennis Brugos of the San Diego Sheriff's Department told CNN.

"This whole thing doesn't add up," Michael McStay, the brother of Joseph McStay, said in a phone interview. "If they left, I don't need to know why. The bottom line is, I need to make sure they are OK."

Keep reading...


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
March 31st, 2010
12:53 PM ET

Mass. DA says ‘Enough’ to Phoebe Prince’s tormentors

Phoebe Prince, 15, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.

Phoebe Prince, 15, committed suicide in January in Massachusetts.

Rosalind Wiseman
rosalindwiseman.com

Today, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel is my hero. In a Northern Massachusetts community where a group of students felt they had the right to harass, stalk, and humiliate Phoebe Prince—a 15 year-old-girl in their school—until she killed herself, and then ridicule Phoebe’s Facebook memorial page after her death, someone with power must say, “enough.” Yesterday, Scheibel did.

Thank goodness.

Scheibel brought charges against nine young people in connection to Phoebe’s death.

Equally important in this situation is Scheibel’s straightforward description of the school personnel’s ineffective response. Without getting into a debate of the school’s responsibility to make its students safe, she lets their inaction speak for itself.

Read More...

March 31st, 2010
12:06 PM ET

CNN Poll: Economy tops environment as bigger concern

The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.

The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.

CNN

The recession and concerns about the economy have dampened public enthusiasm for policies to protect the environment, a new national poll indicates.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, 51 percent of Americans say that economic growth should be a higher priority than protecting the environment, even if the environment suffers to some extent, with 45 percent saying that protecting the environment tops the economy, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.

Keep Reading...


Filed under: Economy • Environmental issues
March 31st, 2010
12:03 PM ET

Scientology: Allegations of abuse

Note to readers and viewers: The Anderson Cooper 360 series "Scientology: A History of Violence," which reported competing claims and denials about violence at the top of the Church of Scientology has attracted a number of complaints from senior members of the Church of Scientology (including Mr. Miscavige) and the Church of Scientology itself.

The series is now the subject of a letter of legal complaint in the United Kingdom. The complainants strongly dispute the allegations and the assertions made against them and covered in the course of the series by former members of the Church of Scientology.

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

March 31st, 2010
11:51 AM ET

Excerpt: The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander

Editor's Note: More students have been removed from a Massachusetts school in the investigation of the alleged bullying campaign against a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide, a school official said Tuesday. Nine students at the school have been charged in what a prosecutor described Monday as a months-long campaign of bullying that led to the suicide in January of Phoebe Prince. Bullying is an issue in schools across the United States. Barbara Coloroso is an author and a consultant on parenting, teaching, positive school climate and nonviolent conflict resolution. She advised the school district on how to prevent bullying. Read an excerpt from her book below.

Barbara Coloroso
'The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander'

The bully, the bullied, and the bystander are three characters in a tragic play performed daily in our homes, schools, playgrounds, and streets. As the examples in the introduction make clear, the play is real and the consequences can be deadly. A child who is playing “the bully” dresses, speaks, and acts the part, as do “the bullied” and “the bystander.” It is the posturing, the words, the actions, and the consequences of these elements combined that is the concern of this book. Most young children try out all three roles and play each one with relative ease, then abandon the bully and bullied roles to become bystanders. Some children play both bully and bullied and move effortlessly between the two. A few get typecast and find it almost impossible to break out of the role they have mastered, with no opportunity to develop more constructive social skills.

Typecasting raises the issue of language. As a former teacher, I have seen how easy, efficient, and nonproductive it is to use language as a kind of shorthand to mold a diagnosis and a child into one entity and use that term as if it encapsulates that child’s entire identity. A child who has diabetes is identified as a diabetic, a child with epilepsy is an epileptic, a child with asthma is an asthmatic, a child with a learning disability is a learning-disabled child. It takes a bit more effort and a few more syllables to say a child who has epilepsy, a child who has asthma, a child with a learning disability. I think it is worth both more effort and more syllables to keep from defining a child by his or her illness or disability.

So why use the terms the bully, the bullied, and the bystander? Some argue that to label the participants of a bullying episode is to typecast them and prevent them from moving out of their negative character roles. These writers prefer to focus on changing behavior and avoid labeling participants: the person bullying, the person bullied, the person observing. The emphasis is on providing alternatives for those taking part in or subjected to bullying.

FULL POST

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