As a privately held company, Modern Evil is not required to publicly report on any of its operations or activities. This blog is a faint reflection of our interests and opinions. Thank you.

~ Dr. Archibald T. Staph, Ph.D, President


Far-Flung-Faith Tours

CATEGORY: Extreme Religion, Fundamentalism, Fanatacism

DIVISION: Modern Evil Products

NOTE: Ever wanted to experience the rush of extreme religious fanatacism but didn't know where to begin? Now you can take a taste of the zealous life with the Modern Evil Far-Flung-Faith Tours. How about a Wild Wahabi Weekend, a Rollicking Rapture Retreat, or the stoning-thrill of a Strict Sharia Sabbatical?! The ululating excitement of toe-dipping into a foreign worship without soiling your own beliefs is for everyone. Book Now!

Woman Buried to Neck and Stoned to Death for Adultery

From Correspondents in Mogadishu, Somalia

THOUSANDS of people gathered to witness 50 Somali men stone a woman to death after an Islamic court found her guilty of adultery, witnesses say.

Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow, who had been found guilty of extra-marital intercourse by a court in the southern port of Kismayo, was buried in the ground up to her neck while the men pelted her head with rocks today, the witnesses said.

"Our sister Aisho asked the Islamic Sharia court in Kismayo to be charged and punished for the crime she committed," local Islamist leader Sheikh Hayakallah told the crowd.

"She admitted in front of the court to engaging in adulterous sexual intercourse," he said.

"She was asked several times to review her confession but she stressed that she wanted Sharia law and the deserved punishment to apply."

The execution was carried out in one of the city's main squares.

The port of Kismayo was seized in August by a coalition of forces loyal to rebel leader Hassan Turki, and the Shebab, the country's main radical Islamist insurgent organisation.

The new administration began implementing a strict form of Sharia (Islamic law).

"This afternoon we are telling the people of Kismayo that we are practising a punishment that is rare in this region and was carried out in Kismayo for the first time," Sheikh Hayakallah said.

Cameras were banned from the public stoning but print and radio journalists were allowed to attend.


Hail to the Freaks

CATEGORY: Ugly, Beauty, Freaks

DIVISION: Modern Evil

EDITORIAL: True ugliness is the human equivalent of a car-crash; tragic and captivating at the same time. We need the ugly - to point our finger at, to feel better about ourselves, and to use as an avoidance guide in our quotidian lives. The ugly, the gimpy, the smelly, the fat, the stupid - all necessary evils. Without them, we would be lost in a visceral vanilla of bland-land. All hail the Freaks!

Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly Is Here


IT would be close to impossible to tally all the magazine articles, scholarly treatises and philosophical works, reality shows and Internet sites, college courses, lectures and books devoted to the subject of beauty.

But what about ugliness?

It is an awkward topic, a wretched concept, really, and, of course, a terrible insult when flung in your direction.

When a woman once told Winston Churchill he was drunk, he is said to have replied: “And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober tomorrow, whereas you will still be ugly.”

Ugliness is associated with evil and fear, with villains and monsters: the Wicked Witch of the West, Freddy Krueger and Harry Potter’s arch-meanie, Lord Voldemort, with his veiny skull, creepy slits in his nose for nostrils and rotten teeth.

There are the gentle souls, too, plagued through no fault of their own by their disturbing appearance: Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the Elephant Man and Shrek, who is ugly and green but in a cute way.

Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself, in some small part because of the success of television’s “Ugly Betty,” which ABC promoted with a “Be Ugly” campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women. Sociologists, writers, lawyers and economists have begun to examine ugliness, suggesting that the subject has been marginalized in history and that discrimination against the unattractive, while difficult to document or prevent, is a quiet but widespread injustice.

Researchers who have tried to measure appearance discrimination, or “uglyism” and “looksism,” and the impact of what they call the “beauty premium” and the “plainness penalty” on income, say that the time has come for ugly to peek out from beauty’s shadow.

“It hasn’t been politically correct to talk about uglyism,” said Anthony Synnott, a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, who is publishing a paper next month on ugliness. “But there’s no reason for us to think that beautiful people are actually good and ugly people evil, yet we do.”

One pioneering study, “Beauty and the Labor Market,”; published in the American Economic Review in 1994, estimated that unattractive men and women earn five to 10 percent less than those considered attractive or beautiful, and that less attractive women marry men with less money.

Another study, in 2005, determined that the discrimination was consistent across occupations, so that even a computer programmer buried behind a desk could suffer from the plainness penalty.

“People who are physically attractive might develop better communication skills because the tendency is that from an early age they get more attention from all their caregivers, including their own mothers onward,” said Tanya S. Rosenblat, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, and an author of the 2005 study, “Why Beauty Matters,” published in the American Economic Review. The study tested how volunteers, in the role of employers, rated the ability of “employees” to complete computer mazes. The volunteers predicted that the more attractive employees could complete more of the mazes.

The study authors concluded that because attractiveness has no bearing on the ability to complete computer mazes — unlike a job in which beauty may be an occupational asset like retail sales — discrimination based on looks occurs across occupations.

Few laws prohibit employment discrimination based on lack of attractiveness, although some plaintiffs have pursued cases under broader statutes: a Vermont chambermaid who was missing her front teeth and was fired won a case against her employer when in 1992 the State Supreme Court upheld her suit, ruling that she was protected by the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act.

Some cities, including Washington, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., have passed ordinances banning discrimination based on looks. But legal action on behalf of the unattractive can be complicated.

“One pitfall is the distinction between people’s identities as members of a race or a religious group or gender versus as a member of a group of ugly people,” said Sherry F. Colb, a law professor at Cornell. “Because of successful identity politics, people have come to identify profoundly with other kinds of groups — ‘I am a Jew,’ or ‘a French person.’ But it’s not likely with ‘I am an ugly person and let’s have a meeting of all ugly people.’ Most people in general would want to disclaim membership. It’s like declaring yourself a member of the clueless.”

Defining ugliness is difficult. Beyond a predictable visceral response to cartoon ogres or Halloween witches, is there any agreement on what makes someone or something ugly? Warts and scars? Hook noses and beady eyes? Social scientists investigating beauty have found that people across age groups, races and cultures tend to agree on what constitutes facial attraction; but there is no corresponding body of study that measures homeliness. Dr. Synnott of Concordia University, who has written and taught courses on beauty for more than a decade, was recently contacted by an online journal to contribute another article on the topic. But he suggested instead that he write about the neglected topic of ugliness.

In his article, “Ugliness, Visibility and the Invisible Prejudice,” to appear next month in the first issue Glimpses Journal, Dr. Synnott notes that judgments about appearance imply values about good and evil — the “halo-horns effect.” These conclusions are “false, unfair, dangerous and silly; yet it is perpetuated by our language, literature, media, many philosophers and our simple binary perspectives,” Dr. Synnott writes in his paper. Many colloquialisms, like “beauty is only skin deep,” suggest that there is collective acknowledgment that the fixation on physical beauty is superficial,” Dr. Synnott writes.

By contrast, the phrase “ugliness is only skin deep,” is rarely heard, Dr. Synnott said, adding that the booming cosmetic surgery industry underscores the plainness prejudice.

“Beautiful people are considered to be more intelligent, sexier, more trustworthy and they have more partners,” Dr. Synnott said. “And this implies that ugly people are assumed to be less trustworthy and less intelligent.”

Last year, the Italian novelist and critic Umberto Eco published “On Ugliness,” a 450-page book largely devoted to ugliness in art.

“In every century, philosophers and artists have supplied definitions of beauty, and thanks to their works it is possible to reconstruct a history of aesthetic ideas over time,” the author writes in his introduction. “But this did not happen with ugliness. Most of the time it was defined as the opposite of beauty but almost no one ever devoted a treatise of any length to ugliness, which was relegated to passing mentions in marginal works.”

In “On Ugliness,” Mr. Eco addresses the fascination in painting, sculpture, poetry and literature with the grotesque and disgusting, chronicling formulations of ugliness from Plato to punk rock. His subjects include witches and monsters, as well as “the Avant-Garde and the triumph of ugliness,” in which he points out that the general public was once scandalized by the deformed images of women in Picasso’s paintings and other art works, but eventually they gained universal acceptance.

“What will be appreciated tomorrow as great art could seem distasteful today,” Mr. Eco writes.

The popularity of “Ugly Betty,” which made its debut in 2006, has spawned a wide conversation about whether the show portends a greater tolerance in society for the unattractive. ABC’s “Be Ugly” campaign last year, urged women and girls to “Be real, be smart, be passionate, be true to yourself and be ugly.”

More recently, the producers of “Shrek the Musical,” which is coming to Broadway, adopted another up-with-homely tagline, “Bringing Ugly Back.”

Researching the phenomenon of “Ugly Betty,” Madeleine Shufeldt Esch, an adjunct assistant professor in communications at Tulane, contributed a paper, “Ugly Is the New Beautiful,” to a meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Media.

“The show’s willingness to challenge conventional notions of beauty has been championed by audiences and television critics,” Ms. Esch wrote. “It has been pegged as part of a larger shift away from the unreal perfection of stick-thin and airbrushed models and the fashion fetishism of the ‘Sex and the City’ set.”

“Anytime that there are images that show diversity of acceptable appearances, that’s a positive thing,” Ms. Esch said. “Even if Betty isn’t what we could call ugly, by any objective standard.”

Indeed, the show’s star, America Ferrara, is universally considered attractive. She makes a Cinderella transformation from a frizzy-haired character with braces and too-tight clothing into a conventional Hollywood beauty whenever she appears on a red carpet or magazine cover.

For this reason, some critics have labeled the “Be Ugly” campaign as a marketing ploy, and they argue that the show has done little to increase acceptance of the homely. On the contrary, American society continues to move aggressively in the opposite direction, critics say, placing an ever-higher importance on beauty.

Dr. Synnott, among others, attributed the growth of the $13 billion cosmetic-surgery industry, in part, to a deep and widely held fear of ugliness. The distaste is reinforced by the increasing possibility of altering the appearance of one’s face and body through medicine, hygiene and nutrition. A ceaseless stream of mass media imagery extols physical perfection, they say.

Dr. Synnott, Ms. Esch and others said that despite growing attention to discrimination based on appearances, the majority of messages in society continue to shout, in essence, “Don’t be ugly.”

“I think there was a brief ugly moment,” Ms. Esch said. “But it may have been a passing fancy.”


Legal Voodoo and Other Mumbo-Jumbo

CATEGORY: Sarkozy, Voodoo Doll

DIVISION: Modern Evil Products

COMMENT: Not that it was ever a problem before, but now even the courts have given voodoo dolls their blessing [and ruling] as being a legitimate expression of satire and religion. So its full steam ahead for the Modern Evil line of custom effigies. Remember to attach at least 2 photographic images of the person, animal or thing you want printed on your "voodoo doll" when you order. And shop early for the holidays.

Sarkozy Loses Fight to Ban Voodoo Doll

by Angelique Chrisafis

A Nicolas Sarkozy voodoo doll which became a bestselling cult classic when the president tried to have it banned, is to remain on sale, after a French court yesterday threw out the ban attempt.

A judge ruled that Nicolas Sarkozy: The Voodoo Manual, which features a doll, a set of pins and a book explaining how to put the evil eye on the president, fell within the boundaries of "free expression" and the "right to humour".

The president's lawyer had argued that, like any French person, Sarkozy owned the right to his image, which was violated by the sale of the doll.

The highly litigious president was ridiculed by his critics for launching the legal action - his sixth lawsuit since his election - and the doll instantly became a sellout.

The Socialist Ségolène Royal, who was the subject of a similar voodoo doll but did not sue, hailed the verdict as a victory for the freedom to "caricature the world's most powerful". Royal, who once filed a legal complaint against someone who hit her with a custard pie, said she did not sue over her doll because she had a sense of humour.

The lawyer for the doll's makers said he was pleased the judge had recognised the existence of a "right to humour".

It is not known whether Sarkozy will appeal.

Guns, Anger and Infomercials

CATEGORY: Obama, Infomercial, President, United States

DIVISION: Modern Evil

EDITORIAL: For the many Americans wanting to bomb, kill or otherwise harm Barak Obama, a quick reminder that he will air his Presidential Infomercial tonight at 8 PM Eastern. So grab your 12-gauge from your Back-Up rack and enjoy a round of target practice on your 42" plasma. Guns, anger and infomercials - together at last. God bless America.

Obama Infomercial, a Closing Argument to the Everyman


Senator Barack Obama will use his prime-time half-hour infomercial on Wednesday night to make what is effectively a closing argument to a national audience of millions. At times he will speak directly into the camera about his 20-month campaign, at others he will highlight everyday voters, their everyday troubles, and his plans to address them.

Mr. Obama’s campaign agreed to provide The New York Times with a minute-long trailer for the 30-minute program, which is to run on four broadcast networks at 8 p.m. It will be the first time in 16 years that a presidential candidate has bought network time, in prime time, for a prolonged campaign commercial.

The trailer is heavy in strings, flags, presidential imagery and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim, whose father was the campaign documentarian of Robert F. Kennedy. As the screen flashes scenes of suburban lawns, a freight train and Mr. Obama seated at a kitchen table with a group of white, apparently working-class voters, Mr. Obama says: “We’ve seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history and on American lives; much that’s wrong with our country goes back even farther than that.”

Then, while standing before a stately desk and an American flag, Mr. Obama, in a suit, says: “We’ve been talking about the same problems for decades and nothing is ever done to solve them. For the past 20 months, I’ve traveled the length of this country, and Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives.”

Jim Margolis, Mr. Obama’s senior advertising strategist, said the program would then go on to feature “the stories of four different Americans, or American families, and kind of what they’re confronting.”

He said the stories would highlight “the challenges people are facing and what we should do in terms of solutions.” He said Mr. Obama would also share the story of his mother, “who struggled through her bout with breast cancer and the difficulty she had with her insurance company, to help viewers understand why his health care reform program is what it is.”

It will also have a live component, featuring Mr. Obama at a rally in Florida. The infomercial has been under production for weeks in the Virginia office of Mark Putnam, whose firm, Murphy-Putnam, is part of the Obama advertising team.

The program is to be shown on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC and two cable networks that cater to African-Americans, BET and TV One. Ross Perot, the last presidential candidate to run similar programming, broadcast eight long infomercials to an average of 13 million viewers, with one of them getting 16.5 million viewers.

Costing the campaign more than $3 million, the infomercial is the ultimate reflection of Mr. Obama’s spending flexibility. Mr. McCain, with far less money in the bank, has been unable to produce a similar commercial.

The McCain campaign has seized on the advertisement as excessive, with Mr. McCain pointing to reports that Mr. Obama’s infomercial would bump back the World Series on Fox by 15 minutes. “No one will delay the World Series with an infomercial when I’m president,” he said, in Hershey, Pa.

(Fox executives have said that they, and not the Obama campaign, had initially asked Major League Baseball to move the start of Wednesday’s game to 8:35 p.m. from 8:20, to make way for his infomercial. But as it turns out, such a delay was not necessary anyway; none of the World Series games has started before 8:30, and two started after 8:35.)

For its part, Mr. Obama’s campaign said it was not worried about turning off viewers.

“Many people have 150 channels; they’ve got plenty of other choices,” Mr. Margolis said. “Or they can drop into a video game.” Then again, Mr. Obama is advertising in video games, too.

Smile! It's Serf 63 for You and Me!

CATEGORY: Rex 84, Round-Up, Raids, Repression

DIVISION: Modern Evil

COMMENT: The real question is what to do AFTER a Rex 84 Round-Up with all the thousands and thousands of people deemed "subversive"? Since idle hands are the devil's playground, we welcome the Whitehouse Adminstration's proposed addendum to Rex 84 - Serf 63; the auto-declaration of all roundees as labor assets of FEMA. In short, people [forcibly] helping people. Crisis really does bring out the best in us.

Rex 84

Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, is a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of civil unrest or national emergency.

Exercises similar to Rex 84 happen periodically. Plans for roundups of persons in the United States in times of crisis are constructed during periods of increased political repression such as the Palmer Raids and the McCarthy Era. For example, from 1967 to 1971 the FBI kept a list of persons to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the "ADEX" list.

The Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan; otherwise known as a continuity of government plan), indicates that FEMA in association with 34 other federal civil departments and agencies conducted a civil readiness exercise during April 5-13, 1984. It was conducted in coordination and simultaneously with a Joint Chiefs exercise, Night Train 84, a worldwide military command post exercise (including Continental U.S. Forces or CONUS) based on multi-emergency scenarios operating both abroad and at home.

In the combined exercise, Rex-84 Bravo, FEMA and DOD led the other federal agencies and departments, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Veterans Administration through a gaming exercise to test military assistance in civil defense.

The exercise anticipated civil disturbances, major demonstrations and strikes that would affect continuity of government and/or resource mobilization. To fight subversive activities, there was authorization for the military to implement government ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels, the arrest of certain unidentified segments of the population, and the imposition of martial law.



CATEGORY: Flat Belly Diet, Self Image, Perfection

DIVISION: Modern Evil Products

EDITORIAL: The truly wonderful evil of any modern society is "the diet". The schizophrenia of gorging and purging whipsaws the rat-running populace into a never-ending frenzy of personal perfection. And we applaud it.

Coming Soon: Eat Younger - The Fountain of Youth Diet and BBQ + Beer Battle Baldness.

The Flat Belly Diet

Prevention magazine is the country's most authoritative, trustworthy, and innovative source for practical health, nutrition, and fitness information. Now, its editors bring you a weight-loss plan that's specifically designed to target your number-one trouble spot: BELLY FAT.

For women over 40, belly fat is incredibly stealth and incredibly stubborn. It's also the most deadly, contributing to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and chronic illness than any other type of fat on your body. Finally, science has helped uncover a key dietary weapon in the fight against belly fat. Monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, help dieters lose more weight--in their bellies specifically--and keep it off longer.

Flat Belly Diet! will lead you step by step, day by day, meal by meal toward a flatter belly...and a longer, healthier life.


Let's Move the Poltergeist Curse

CATEGORY: Curse, Movies, Hollywood

DIVISION: Modern Evil PR

COMMENT: Frustrated by the inflexibility of the movie industry, we at The Modern Evil Company are creating a lobby group with one focus - to move the Poltergeist Curse to the Saw series. Really, what better LEGAL way is there to get rid of Donnie Wahlberg?

To support the lobby, email - Modern Evil PR with "Let's Move the Curse" in the subject line.

The Poltergiest Curse

The Poltergeist curse is the rumor of a supposed curse attached to the Poltergeist motion picture series and its stars.

The rumor is superstition largely derived from the fact that four cast members died in a relatively short span of time (six years) between the release of the first film and the release of the third, with one dying during production of the second film. Two of them died at young ages, 12 and 22. It is not clear that these particular films are atypical in the number or nature of the deaths of their actors, and at least two of the supposed victims had serious health problems before becoming attached to the film series.

The actors who are supposed victims of the curse include:

Dominique Dunne, 22-year-old actress who played the oldest sibling Dana in the first movie, died after being choked by a jealous boyfriend in 1982. The boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, was later convicted and sentenced to six years in prison, though initially he only served two and a half years.

Julian Beck, 60-year-old actor who played Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died in 1985 of stomach cancer, with which he was diagnosed before he had accepted the role.

Will Sampson, 53 years old, who played Taylor the Medicine Man in Poltergeist II, died of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems in 1987.

Heather O'Rourke, actress who played Carol Anne in all three Poltergeist movies, died in 1988 at the age of 12 after what doctors initially described as an acute form of influenza but later changed to septic shock after bacterial toxins invaded her bloodstream. At the time, she had suffered acute bowel obstruction, initially diagnosed as Crohn's disease, which may have been the cause of death.

Return to Owner - Goat Heads

CATEGORY: Goat Heads, Sacrifice, Offerings

DIVISION: Modern Evil

EDITORIAL: Even though chickens are the most common religious sacrifice, goats rate a strong second, with pigs and rabbits tying for third. So finding errant goat heads, prepped and ready for ceremony, should not be surprising - especially on a beach in Florida - given the popularity of Santeria worshippers throughout the Caribbean. We suggest the local authorities post the sacred items as "Lost and Found" on Craigslist.

Beheaded Goats Each Found in Bag with $5 on Fort Pierce Beach

By Will Greenlee

FORT PIERCE — Two beheaded goats and a third dead goat with its head still attached were found Sunday by a lifeguard and appear to have washed up on the beach, according to a police report released Monday.

The first beheaded goat was in a bag along with its head and five $1 bills, found by a lifeguard on a beach along south A1A. Another goat discovered nearby also was beheaded and found in a trash bag with a $5 bill, while another goat not in a bag was found still with its head attached.

The hooves of all three goats were bound with string, and all three had tags attached to their ears.


Artists and Their Skulls - A Love Affair

CATEGORY: Skulls, Art

DIVISION: Modern Evil Products

NOTE: The second everyone signs the deal, the Modern Evil Company will be offering for sale authentic, limited-edition replicas of the Art Skulls created by Steven Gregory and Damien Hirst. These one-of-a-kind collectibles will dramatically increase in value over their lifetime. They also make memorable gifts.

No Bones About It, These Skulls Are Different

by Charlotte Higgins

To those without finely tuned aesthetic judgment, the similarities between the works seem obvious; but to the artists such comparisons are lacking in imagination.

"My skulls and his are very different objects," says Steven Gregory, who has until now kept silent on the apparent congruities between the malachite, pearl or lapis lazuli skulls he has been making since 2001 and Damien Hirst's dazzling sculpture, For the Love of God, produced last year. "What Damien has done is to cast a skull in platinum and encrust it with diamonds. What I do is completely different: I follow the surface of the skull exactly, usually covering it with semi-precious stones."

Yet Hirst and Gregory seem be treading surprisingly similar paths. "About two weeks before there was a piece in the press saying that Damien was doing his skull, I was talking to De Beers [the diamond dealers] about the possibility of my using uncut diamonds on a skull," says Gregory. "It never went anywhere. They weren't interested."

He says the works tell completely different stories. "I put eyes in mine - so the skulls look back; you interact with them. Damien's is very different: with the diamonds there is so much glare coming off, it's as if you can't quite get your eyes to focus on the surface."

And there's undeniably a difference in the price tag. Hirst's skull piece was reportedly sold for £50m. A Gregory skull will cost you £25,000.

Hirst, who declined to comment for this article, is a fan and supporter of Gregory's work. In 2002 he bought some of the first embellished skulls that Gregory made and showed them in the Serpentine Gallery exhibition of his personal art collection in 2006. Hirst also contributed a foreword, and an interview with Gregory, for an exhibition catalogue in 2005.

They share a no-nonsense approach to the use of human remains as materials for their art (Gregory sources his bones from a dealer in scientific antiques, using skeletons once used as teaching aids for medical students).

In his interview with Gregory, Hirst said: "I think if people are being stupid enough to leave their skulls lying around where they can be picked up and start changing hands then it's, you know, it's their own fault, what do they expect? Anything goes." And Gregory said: "I think the taboos to do with bones and skeletons are learned in adulthood, as I've had kids in my studio spending hours playing with [...] beaded bones."

Hirst gave him an early look at For the Love of God ("I really wanted to pick it up and feel it, but Damien said it was a bit awkward because of the security.")

Does Gregory believe Hirst owes him a debt of inspiration? He indicates a postcard in his London studio of 7,000-year-old decorated skulls. "What I am doing is no different from what has been done in the past and what will no doubt be done in the future," he says.

An exhibition by Gregory includes nine skulls, a bronze love seat cast from human bones and a sculpture of an orchid made from beaded bone. He might move away from skulls, he says. "I don't want to be the guy who does the skulls. It seems there's a big fashion for them at the moment."

Harvesting Organs Homestyle

CATEGORY: Organ Harvesting

DIVISION: Modern Evil

COMMENT: Those who equate organ-harvesting with taking candy from a baby are not far off. The problem comes later when evidence of all those sweet breads piles up on the homestead. "Clean as you go" - the simple rule of kitchen workers everywhere would have helped, but if you've turned the whole house into an operating room..., well, maybe a post-war re-location for a fresh start should've been the plan.

Family Denies Organ Harvesting Allegations

By Renate Flottau

Outraged, a family has denied rumors that during the Kosovo war organs were removed from Serbian prisoners in their house and sold for transplants. But doubts remain.

Burrel seems to be under a curse. Nothing is left of the old caravanserais in the mountains north of the Albanian capital Tirana, which once served as way stations en route to the Adriatic Sea. The city is home to 18,000 people who live in run-down, communist-era apartment blocks. In the past, most of them earned their living in the surrounding mines.

Driving to Burrel is an ordeal of negotiating tight serpentine curves and dodging crater-like potholes. Countless memorial plaques line both sides of the road. Many of the dead were gangsters, explains the Albanian driver, Fatmir. In the late 1990s, he says, Burrel was the most dangerous city in Albania. Three competing Mafia families terrorized the local populace, until the gangs destroyed one another. Most of the killings, according to Fatmir, happened on this steep and lightly traveled road.

Albania's notorious dictator, Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985, was also inspired by the city's remoteness. He had his most dangerous political enemies locked up, usually for life, in 1.5 square-meter (16-square-foot) cells in a grim prison in the center of the town. Burrel was considered synonymous with hell on earth, and not much of that has changed.

Now the town and its surroundings are suspected of having been the site of a Dr. Frankenstein-like laboratory, where people are believed to have been essentially slaughtered and disemboweled as part of a lucrative organ exporting trade. This, at least, is what Carla Del Ponte, the Swiss former chief prosecutor of the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, claims in her recent book published in April, on the legal processing of the wars that marked the break up of Yugoslavia.

Del Ponte reports that, "according to reliable information," after the Kosovo war ended in June 1999 rebels with the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) took up to 300 prisoners, mostly Serbs, to the northern Albanian cities of Kukes and Tropoja, where they were locked into warehouses and barracks. From there, the youngest and strongest men were taken to a village near Burrel, according to Del Ponte.

Eight supposed eyewitnesses described, independently of one another, similar details of a yellow house with a room on the ground floor that was used as a makeshift operating room. According to these accounts, a doctor, a Kosovar from Pec with a "noticeable hooked nose," removed the organs from up to 50 prisoners in this house. The organs were allegedly then taken to the airport in Tirana and flown to other countries, where well-to-do patients were already waiting for transplantation.

However, the sensational story, the most gruesome part of Del Ponte's memories, came to nothing. The Swiss government ordered the lawyer, who is her country's ambassador to Argentina today, not to discuss the case. Her former press secretary distanced herself from Del Ponte, claiming that she had been spreading rumors and lacked evidence.

It seemed time to visit the scene.

The village near Burrel is called Rribe, and it can only be reached via a rough gravel road. The alleged house of horrors is not just at the end of the village, but literally marks the end of civilization. Behind the building, the road ends in a steep slope covered with bushes and undergrowth. At the bottom of the slope is a riverbed, which the residents of the house seem to use as a garbage dump. Behind it is a seemingly endless landscape of hills and mountains.

Abdulla Katuci, the owner of the house, feels unwell. A horse kicked him in the back, says the 77-year-old man, as he crosses his legs into a traditional Albanian position and sits down on a carpet in the living room on the first floor. He seems appalled by the suspicions that have descended upon his house.

Using animated gestures, he describes his life. He says that he was a fanatical supporter of King Zogu, and yet later become a devoted communist soldier who wept for half an hour after Stalin's death. But a few years ago, he says -- to be precise, on Feb. 4 and 5, 2004 -- a new, terrible chapter of his wretched life began, and it hasn't ended yet.

He says that he was tending sheep in the mountains when his wife came to him and called out, in great agitation, for him to come home quickly, because the entire house was full of heavily armed policemen and foreigners. The foreigners turned out to be investigators with the UN War Crimes Tribunal, and they had brought along their experts from Kosovo. According to Katuci, an Albanian public prosecutor was also present. They were there to collect evidence of the supposed crime for Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte.

Village Slander?

"For two days they turned our house upside down, rummaging through our clothing and collecting the garbage, even the cigarette butts," says the outraged old man. The investigators, according to Katuci, sprayed chemical substances into the rooms to find traces of blood. The family, including a one-month-old granddaughter, was forced to spend two nights outside in the cold. His entire family, says Katuci, and that of his eldest son Mersim, 48, who also lives in the house, suffered as a result of the intrusion.

The UN team concentrated, among other things, on a suspicious room on the ground floor, where a polished, black cement floor differed markedly from all the other floors in the house. The forensics experts were suspicious about the many cracks in the floor. No one, to this day, knows what is beneath that floor. The investigators had wanted to break it open, the old man recalls, but he told them: "Only if you compensate me for it." Then the men and women who, as Katuci says, were from seven countries, changed their minds and left.

The Albanian claims that it was not until April, after the publication of the Del Ponte book, that he discovered what the UN team had been looking for in his house. If he were not so poor, says this frail man, raising his index finger threateningly, he would bring an action against this woman at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He says that a village resident must have slandered him, and if the district attorney does not bring the culprit to trial, says Katuci, he will take the law into his own hands. The story, he says, is a long way from finished.

The old man produces a letter from Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, whom he begged for help. Berisha replied in early August, asking Katuci to be patient. He wrote that he had given the district attorney's office two months to respond to the accusations.

Was it all a lie? Was the story about trading in human organs nothing but a conspiracy theory from the deepest reaches of the Balkans, local factionalism among Albanians gone awry? Maybe not.

There are oddities and inconsistencies, even during this visit.

Whenever the old man has trouble explaining things, his grandchildren are quick to jump in.

There are questions Katuci cannot answer. For example, he is unable to explain the purpose of the syringes, bandages, empty infusion bottles and muscle relaxant solutions the investigators found in the riverbed.

In areas like this, which lack suitable medical care, it is perfectly normal for people to administer their own injections in emergencies, says 26-year-old Dashurie. But her explanation seems unconvincing.

And what is the source of the streaks of blood the investigators identified? A woman living in the house gave birth here, says another granddaughter. Besides, she adds, this room is used to slaughter animals on Islamic holidays. This could be true -- or not. Forensics experts had to admit that they lacked the technical ability to determine whether the blood had come from human beings or animals.

But the real proof that the Katucis are at least not telling the whole truth is obvious to any visitor. The house, which eight witnesses consistently described as yellow (in 1999 and 2000), is painted a bright white.

At first, the family claimed -- and told the UN investigators four years ago -- it had always been white. But the UN team quickly found remnants of yellow paint under the new coat of paint.

Suddenly granddaughter Dashurie "remembers" that the family had wanted to spruce up the house for a wedding in 2001 and painted the walls yellow up to about one meter off the ground. Later on, she says, they returned the house to its original color.

Investigation Shelved

But even this admission is dubious. One of the UN investigators says that he has a photograph, taken in 1999, that shows the entire building painted a muted yellow.

How much can go unnoticed in a place like Rribe? At the village bar, about 400 meters (1300 feet) from the Katucis' house, hardly anyone is willing to talk about the case. A muscular man in a black T-shirt, clearly a government intelligence agent, listens to all conversations with a grim expression on his face. No, the bar owner quickly assures us, nothing unusual occurred nine years ago. It happens to be normal here, he says, to paint the houses every year. Given the poverty of village inhabitants, this too seems extremely doubtful.

In 2004, when the UN investigators wanted to have a few graves on both sides of the path to Rribe exhumed, the villagers objected. The witnesses had claimed that several victims of the organ removal scheme had been buried there under Albanian names.

Since then, the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has shelved the investigation. On the one hand, it lacked the mandate to investigate crimes committed after the war in Kosovo had ended. On the other hand, the evidence gathered to date was insufficient to support an indictment.

Nevertheless, the circumstantial evidence was impressive, says one of the members of the 2004 investigation today. However, he adds, the case was probably greatly exaggerated. He says that he does not believe that highly sensitive organs like hearts and livers were removed from the victims, as the tabloid press reported. Given the primitive conditions, the investigator finds it difficult to imagine anything more complex than the removal of kidneys.

The 2004 witnesses, says the investigator, seem to have "disappeared from the face of the earth." At any rate, he says, he doubts that they would be willing to make any further statements today. The men, most of them involved in the alleged crimes themselves, apparently accused former KLA leaders as well as high-ranking politicians in present-day Kosovo of having been behind the organ trade.

For this reason, says the investigator, they are afraid that "any further testimony would be a death sentence for them." Most were taken to Italy for their protection and have since disappeared.

Any remaining hopes that the events will be brought to light after all rest with Dick Marty, 63, the special investigator for the Council of Europe. He is now expected to investigate the allegations over the next two years.

The zealous former prosecutor from the Swiss canton of Ticino has already headed investigations into secret CIA flights and prisons in Europe, although in those cases his reports contained questionable evidence devoid of sources. As a result, he was accused of being a missionary for whom convictions are sometimes more important than facts. Whether Marty, given his background, will manage to find usable evidence remains to be seen.

Finding evidence could prove difficult. Neither the traces at the presumed scene of the crime nor the graves in question were ever secured.


What We Just Learned from "Sweetest Day"

CATEGORY: Concocted Promotions, Lobby Groups

DIVISION: Modern Evil PR

EDITORIAL: How has this brilliant bit of sweet-tooth manipulation eluded us for so long?! Sweetest Day - this Saturday, October 18th - is a day created by the candy-makers retailing/lobbying association for the sole purpose of increasing sales of candy. And the genius of it all is that everyone goes along with it.

Well, you can see where this is going.

The Modern Evil Company officially announces "The Truly Evil Day" - [date to be announced later] - the day when everyone is encouraged to do something bad.

All of us have at least 1 rotten thing inside of us that we'd love to inflict on a deserving jerk, right? So here's the chance to do a bit of evil AND have it sanctioned.

After we co-ordinate with the major players such as Hallmark, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch, we'll let you know the exact date for the new annual celebration - Truly Evil Day.


NOTE: The Modern Evil Company is currently testing it's social networking settings. This is only a test.