Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Florida Mass Poisoning Taxes Local Hospitals

June 25, 2002
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Local hospitals are overburdened with victims of an incident that occurred over the weekend at the center run by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations. 119 persons became violently ill over the course of the afternoon Sunday during an outdoor festival. Their symptoms were all similar and included vomiting and diarrhea.

Public health officials first suspected salmonella, but that has now been ruled out due to the organization's strict vegetarianism. Yesterday a youth, aged 15, came forward and confessed that he had added cow dung ash to a batch of yogurt drink that had been served. He claims that he did not intend to harm anyone, but was only acting on the books of his senior authorities, which teach that cow dung burnt to ashes is pure and sacred. He reasoned that he was only making the sacred remnants of food and drink offered to his God even more sacred by adding this new 'secret ingredient'.

The youth was not charged, but the court has ordered that he report to a local mental health facility for psychological evaluation, pending a formal hearing. All of the victims are reportedly in fair to good condition and several have already been released. Mr. Ravindra Somanathan, spokesman for the sect made an official statement to the press on Monday, in which he stated: "We have never had a policy of serving cow dung, or any other kind of manure for that matter, to the public even if it is only ashes. The boy in question acted entirely on his own in this and was never authorized by an adult to engage in this type of activity."

The dung had apparently been used in a religious ceremony earlier in the day and police are considering charging the management of the center with criminal negligence and improper handling of hazardous waste.

Florida governor Jeb Bush this morning in an official press release said, "We do not have fanatical cults in this state. This was not another Waco. The situation is under control and no links to any Al-Qaeda operatives have been established. But I assure you that we are investigating all leads. I spoke with the President this morning and his prayers go out to the families of the victims."

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