Daily Archives: December 25, 2007

Freemasonry, Eager to Step From Cultural Shadows

Alexandria’s Masonic Temple has a role in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” (By Bill O’leary — The Washington Post)

Washington Post | Dec 24, 2007

By Daniela Deane and Kirstin Downey

When Hollywood comes knocking, that’s probably a clue the time has come to open the door. And the secretive, centuries-old order of Freemasonry seems to be picking up its cue.

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” which opened in theaters this weekend, is the second film in the adventure-fantasy series to shine a light on the mysterious and little-known world of the Masonic order.

And although the Masons play a much smaller part in the sequel than they did in the 2004 original, the first scene featuring the movie’s three male leads — Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight and Ed Harris — was filmed in Alexandria’s George Washington Masonic Memorial, one of the Masons’ most visible shrines.

Filmmakers and novelists have been mining the Masons recently, weaving their legends and symbols into such tales of conspiracies and secrets as the “National Treasure” films and Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” And filmmakers’ interest comes as the fraternal, often-controversial Freemasons pull back the curtain on themselves in an effort to update their antiquated image and replenish their dwindling ranks.

Director Jon Turteltaub says, “The ‘National Treasure’ movies are all about things we think are forgotten but are actually pieces of history that are still percolating around us and have a role in our current lives — a lot like the Masons.”

Footage was shot at some of the grandest buildings in the Washington area — the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial and Mount Vernon — for the sequel. (The Oval Office was a constructed set.) But filming also took place in the Masonic Memorial, known locally as the Masonic Temple, the Masons’ majestic hilltop shrine to their most prominent member, George Washington. The top of the temple reaches to 400 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in the Washington area.

Although the Masonic Temple is Alexandria’s most visible landmark — and one of Washington’s most intriguing and grandiose shrines — few Washingtonians know what goes on inside the ornate building or what the organization behind it is all about. For centuries, the all-male group’s eerie symbols and the exotic costumes have provoked speculation about the possibly strange doings inside their temples.

In the film, the Masonic Temple’s grand auditorium acts as a stand-in for a lecture hall. Other than providing what the director called a “gorgeous, extraordinary” set, the Masons figure little in the sequel — but their small part is significant. In a surprising twist, it turns out that the character Sadusky (Harvey Keitel), a Mason, is a better man than he seemed in the first film.

“When people don’t know an organization, they fear it,” says George Seghers, executive director of the Masonic Memorial. “If people don’t know what you’re doing, they think the worst.”

But Seghers — and other prominent Masons — are determined to change that. And being in a Hollywood movie is just a small part of that effort.

“We’re really trying to bring the memorial back into the community, not just be a fortress on the hill,” Seghers says. “We’re nothing to be afraid of.”

Masons say their organization is dedicated to “making good men better.” It donates about $2.5 million a day to medical research, health care, education and other causes, according to Richard Fletcher, a spokesman for the group. Masons are a staple of community parades, where they dress as clowns and ride in little cars to raise money for Shriners’ hospitals.

Fletcher says the Masons numbered 1.5 million in 2006, down from a peak of 4 million in 1959. He says the membership shrank rapidly as the World War II generation, which he described as a generation of joiners, has continued to age and die.

But now there’s a feeling in the group — not yet backed up by statistics — that the tide has turned and that a new generation is “looking for something beyond themselves, an anchor to stabilize their lives,” Fletcher says. He says younger men nowadays are part of a “generation of volunteers,” which he predicts will stabilize the downturn.

Others aren’t as optimistic.

“The lodges are in deep decline,” says UCLA historian Margaret Jacob, author of “The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts & Fictions” and an expert in Masonic history. “It’s no longer a vital societal organization, so it has become the subject of myth and legend.”

One prominent local Mason today is Stephen Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University. He says he initially joined out of deference to the group’s generosity in funding dozens of student scholarships. Trachtenberg says his membership makes him feel he’s experiencing something out of another era.

“I’m 70, and I lower the average age when I enter the room,” Trachtenberg says. He notes that it was like “being in a wonderful time machine, working with people who are transparently forthright. It’s a 19th-century endeavor looking to redefine itself in the 21st century.”

Like so many things about the Masons, even the organization’s origins are shrouded in mystery. Hundreds of books have been written about them, but little is certain, partly because the organization has been so secretive and partly because conspiracy theorists have spread a variety of tales about the Masons and their ceremonies.

In the 1700s and 1800s, members tended to be intellectual free thinkers, associated with Protestantism and scientific inquiry. Freemasonry spread from England throughout Europe, and Masons were frequently involved with revolutionary movements. American Freemasons included Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, James Madison, James Monroe, Paul Revere and John Paul Jones.

Members came to be viewed as dangerous rabble-rousers, particularly by those in positions of power. In 1738, Pope Clement XII declared that any group that operated in such secrecy was suspect, and that any Catholic who joined the group would be excommunicated. Adolf Hitler thought the Masons were engaged in a conspiracy with the Jews to dominate world affairs, and he persecuted European Masons and seized their libraries and archives.

Masons today say the group is not anti-Catholic and that it welcomes any man who believes in God and demonstrates good character. Their ceremonies contain religious references but are nondenominational and apolitical, they say.

The group is believed to have been started by medieval stonemasons working with softer material called freestone, hence the name. Since the group’s beginnings, its members have shared an intense interest in construction, and their ceremonies are still filled with architecture-related terminology and stories associated with the wonders of the ancient world. The group owns some of the most grandiose real estate in the country.

And the Masonic Temple in Alexandria isn’t the Masons’ only jaw-dropping Washington real estate. There’s also the formidable Temple of the Scottish Rite on 16th Street NW, a massive neoclassical building — flanked by two 17-ton sphinxes that can be puzzling to locals — along with 36 other lodges.

Local Masons spearheaded the effort to build the Masonic Temple in Alexandria to honor Washington and to house relics associated with his membership. It was completed in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression.

The temple’s construction was an event of enormous regional importance. President Calvin Coolidge laid the cornerstone, and President Herbert Hoover attended the dedication.

But the group now must overcome a long legacy of suspicion. Seghers says one of the main things he wants to do is update the exhibits at the Masonic Temple to tell a coherent story about his philanthropic organization.

Touring the Masonic Temple’s Cryptic Council and Grotto Rooms recently, Seghers pointed out Egyptian murals depicting scenes from the Old Testament, lotus and papyrus columns, alcoves filled with coins and artifacts, and rows of pictures of aging Masons wearing fezzes adorned with Arabic words written in glitter.

“These rooms confuse people. They can even scare people, ” Seghers says. “One woman asked us if she could leave. They don’t understand it. They say, ‘This is all very nice, but what is it?’ We need to change that.”

. . .

Related

The Shriners – Krafty Klowns

Wisconsin’s top cop is also top Mason

Secret Society is Eyeing College Students to Fill the Ranks

Shriners’ charity cash went astray

Shriners Accused of Widespread Financial Misdeeds

33° Scottish Rite Head spills the beans about the Masonic power structure

US author to unveil Washington’s Masonic past

Court rules Freemasonry a Religion

The Hermetic Code: Unlocking One of Manitoba’s Greatest Secrets

Italians still seek truth about Masonic terror bombing 27 years ago

Masons under anti-terror surveillance after UDA infiltrates Scottish lodges

Diebold & The Mormon Mason Handshake

The many secrets of ‘God’s Banker’

Inside a secret society: A gay African American Freemason’s story

Masons honor one of their own: Gerald R. Ford

Brother Gerald Ford, 33rd degree Mason of the Shrine

Michael Richards: Freemason, Shriner, Racist

Masons struggling to keep rituals secret

Freemasonry alive and well in 21st century

Illegal Immigration Made Easy By EU Rules

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.”

– Valery Giscard D’Estaing, former French president who wrote the EU constitution

Schengen will be ‘disaster for Britain’

ukipswindonsouth.blogspot.com | Dec 21, 2007

At a time when many people are calling for tougher border controls, the EU is set to make illegal immigration much easier.

Today, nine new countries join the Schengen Area which will result in the abolition of border controls between participating countries, the harmonisation of external border controls and a common policy on temporary visas.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage MEP said the removal of border posts and checks was “lunacy” and would result in an increase in illegal immigration and people-trafficking.

“We are now essentially neighbours with countries such as the Ukraine and Belarus, who have serious problems with organised crime and corruption,” Mr Farage said.

“Because our own checks are so flimsy, it is going to make it much easier for someone to get into Western Europe and Britain from these former Soviet countries because there will be so few controls.”

The nine countries are Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic

Mr Farage said: “We will still hear our politicians bleating about controlling immigration and the horror of people-trafficking, yet at the same time, they are making it much easier for people to come to this country illegally and for criminal gangs to exploit desperate people who want to work in the West.

“We are now relying on the border police of the enlargement countries such as Hungary and Slovakia to check for false passports and papers and people being smuggled over borders.

“Even though we are not a part of the Schengen Area, this will be a disaster for Britain.”

It is not only UKIP that is seriously concerned. German politicians and and top police officers warn that unresolved security problems could mean a rise in crime and illegal immigration

Security expert Wolfgang Bosbach says there are significant weaknesses on the eastern borders of the extended Schengen zone and forecasts that gangs of people-smugglers in Ukraine and Belarus will become much more active.

. . .

Related

Europe’s border-free zone expands

Security fears as EU drops borders

Foreigners are taking 80 per cent of new jobs in Britain

German Police protest at ‘threat’ of open borders

EU superstate “should expand beyond Europe” into Russia, Africa and the Middle East

EU spends $7.6 billion on propaganda to brainwash children and sceptics

Blair’s final act of betrayl was to deny public referendum on EU superstate

OPPONENTS OF EU TREATY ACCUSED OF BEING ‘TERRORISTS’

Swedish athletes tout GPS chip implants

Carolina Klüft (left): “I wouldn’t have any complaints about surveillance of this kind. In fact, I think we have an obligation to go along with most things.”

Related

The War on Terrorism Brings Mass Surveillance – In Sweden

The Local | Dec 19, 2007

Swedish athletes Carolina Klüft and Stefan Holm have caused a stir on the home front by proposing radical measures to ensure that top level competitors refrain from taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Klüft and Holm, reigning Olympic champions in the heptathlon and high-jump events, both agreed that competitors at the highest level should either have computer chips implanted into their skin or GPS transmitters attached to their training bags to help keep track of their movements at all times.

According to Klüft, today’s system – whereby athletes provide quarterly advance reports of their probable whereabouts – is not sufficient to tackle the sport’s problems with doping.

“I have previously proposed that we should have computer chips surgically implanted into our skin. But it might be just as good if everybody at a certain level had a key ring with a GPS transmitter on their training bags. That way everybody involved knows where we are at all times and can find us for tests,” Klüft told Svenska Dagbladet.

“I wouldn’t have any complaints about surveillance of this kind. In fact, I think we have an obligation to go along with most things. Doping is terrible, which means it is important we have an open mind and are brave enough to discuss and debate the issue,” she added.

The Swedish superstar, who has not lost a single heptathlon or pentathlon event since 2002, also revealed that the mere thought of consuming a banned substance filled her with dread. If ever she failed a doping test, Klüft said that her life would not be worth living and she would have to leave Sweden.

Stefan Holm, gold medal winner in the high jump event at the 2004 Olympics, said he was open to his compatriot’s suggestions.

“Honestly, why not? [A GPS transmitter] might be radical and it sounds brutal but sometimes it feels like a good solution to avoid being treated with suspicion for no reason. But it’s hard to be one hundred percent sure without having a chip surgically implanted into the skin,” he told Svenska Dagbladet.

Since athletes are already observed very closely, Holm argued that increased surveillance in the form of a computer chip would make little difference to the top performers.

“They really do want to know where we are at any given moment and in a way it would be the easiest way to keep track of us athletes, however science fiction and absurd it may sound,” Holm added.

. . .

Related

A scary and stupid “solution”

British Ministry of Defence to open UFO X-files

“Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government.”

– Henry Kissinger speaking at Evian, France, May 21, 1992 Bilderberg meeting. Unbeknownst to Kissinger, his speech was taped by a Swiss delegate to the meeting.

“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien threat already among us?”

– Ronald Reagan, speech to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21st, 1987

Top-secret details about UFO sightings are to be released to the public

Telegraph | Dec 23, 2007

By Aislinn Simpson

Top-secret details about hundreds of sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects are to be released for public viewing in response to the nation’s continuing fascination with the subject.

The Ministry of Defence will release a total of 160 files dating back to that time to the National Archives in Kew.

The first files will be made available in Spring 2008 and the process is expected to take three years.

The MoD has received reports of over 10,000 UFO sightings since the UFO project was set up in 1950.

After investigation, around 5 per cent remain unexplained. According to Nick Pope, who ran the Ministry of Defence UFO project from 1991 to 1994, some of the sightings are “highly credible”.
advertisement

He decided to speak out about the failure to seriously address the issue after resigning from his MoD post at the Directorate of Defence Security last year.

He claimed that he and his staff spent their time releasing documents in answer to Freedom of Information requests from the media or members of the public instead of interviewing witnesses to more credible sightings

It is understood that the MoD has decided to release the documents because it receives more FoI requests on the subject that on any other.

Mr Pope said that while he was initially sceptical about UFOs, access to the classified files and investigation of a series of spectacular UFO sightings – mainly by police and military personnel – had changed his mind.

One such sighting was of a “vast, triangular-shaped craft” firing a narrow beam of light onto the ground and emitting a low-frequency humming sound that was spotted flying over RAF Cosford in the West Midlands and RAF Shawbury in Shropshire in 1993.

In another incident, at the Twin Bases of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk in December 1980, RAF staff were sent to investigate a suspected plane crash after bright lights were reported emanating from nearby woods.

They found a kind of lunar landing module standing on three legs, decorated with strange hieroglyphic-type markings, which then flew off.

The indents it left in the ground were examined the next morning with a Geiger Counter and emitted ten times the normal levels of radiation.

However, the Ministry of Defence does not attempt to identify such aircraft unless it sees “evidence to suggest that UK airspace has been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity”.

When the French government released all its UFO files earlier this year, the dedicated website promptly crashed due to the number of people trying to access the information.

Mr Pope said he expected to see similar a flurry of interest in the files, which he predicted would convert some sceptics.

“Whatever people think about UFOs, these documents are fascinating and show how the MoD has researched and investigated this mystery for nearly 60 years, without an answer,” he said.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed the documents would be released from next year. “There has always been a great deal of interest in this subject,” she said.

. . .

Related

The Architects of Fear

Uniting the world against a common enemy…

a group of scientists decide to physically transform one of their own members into an alien being and stage a fake invasion of Earth.

“The Architects of Fear” is an episode of the original The Outer Limits television show. It first aired on 30 September 1963, during the first season.

Although no specific era is indicated within the story, the plot revolves around a Cold War setting in which a nuclear holocaust appears to be imminent. In an attempt to stave off a confrontation between military superpowers through uniting the world against a common enemy, a group of scientists decide to physically transform one of their own members into an alien being and stage a fake invasion of Earth.

See video (iTunes)

Police accused of firing Taser into head of innocent man

Information Liberation | Dec 20, 2007

by Robert Booth

Police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the head of a 45-year-old company director who later proved to be unarmed and innocent. Daniel Sylvester, the owner of an east London security firm employing 65 staff to guard council offices, pubs and nightclubs, was driving home on October 20 when he was stopped by armed police because of “firearms related intelligence”.

According to Sylvester, he got out of his car and was surrounded by officers, at least two of whom were carrying automatic weapons. Without warning, one officer fired a Taser into the back of his head which made him drop to his knees, he said. A second shock caused him to fall on his face, breaking a front tooth. A further six shocks made him wet himself and left him lying in the road in pain while the officers and sniffer dogs searched the car and found nothing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has started an investigation and David Lammy, Sylvester’s MP in Tottenham, north London, has written to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, to say he is “deeply concerned”.

The incident was part of Operation Neon, a crackdown on guns on London’s streets by using armed response units to stop and search cars. Sylvester said the incident had left him traumatised and he now suffered from short-term memory loss. He doubts the police would have stopped him had he not been black. A spokesman for the Met said: “Just after midnight, officers on an intelligence-led operation stopped a car in Bounces Road, N9. The driver got out of the vehicle and was subsequently Tasered. Our information is the Taser was deployed once.”

Sylvester had been followed by police cars for about three miles through Tottenham before they boxed him in.

“Armed police jumped out and opened my car door,” he said. “I said OK, I’m coming. I asked what was going on and as soon as I stepped out of the car I felt something touch me on the back of the head and then I was on my knees. Then it happened again and I was on my face and I felt somebody pressing my head down with their foot. By the fifth time I realised officers were pinning my arms together. It was like they were trying to break my arms and I was in pain, screaming out.

“I was shocked eight times altogether and I had urinated on the floor. It was like being tortured. It went on and on and I felt they were going to kill me.”

According to guidelines set by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers, Tasers should be deployed “where officers are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves and/or the subject(s) of their action”. Tasers have been used 47 times in London this year, with black people accounting for almost two-thirds of those stunned.

The government extended the right to use Tasers for all firearms officers in England and Wales this summer.

Knife At Lunch Gets 10-Year-Old Girl Arrested At School

Information Liberation | Dec 20 2007

OCALA, Fla. — A 10-year old Ocala girl brought her lunch to school and a small kitchen knife to cut it. She now faces a felony charge after being arrested. The school and the sheriff’s office disagree on the reason for the arrest.

School officials say the 5th grader was brown-bagging it. She brought a piece of steak for her lunch, but she also brought a steak knife. That’s when deputies were called.

It happened in the cafeteria at Sunrise Elementary School. The 10-year-old used the knife to cut the meat.

“She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn’t pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature,” explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian.

But a couple of teachers took the utensil and called the sheriff. When deputies arrived, they were unable to get the child’s parents on the phone, so they arrested her and took her to the county’s juvenile assessment center.

“And we didn’t handcuff her or treat her like a criminal. But, we took her to the assessment center to be assessed,” said Capt. James Pogue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

School officials said it doesn’t matter what the knife was being used for. They said they had no choice.

“Anytime there’s a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don’t want to take any chances, regardless,” Christian said.

But the sheriff’s office said the extreme measures in what some may say was a harmless incident had to do with school policy, not theirs.

“But once we’re notified, we have to take some type of action,” Pogue explained.

The student now faces a felony charge for the possession of a weapon on school property and the principal suspended her for ten days. The parents of the girl could not be reached for comment.

The sheriff’s office has turned the case over to the State Attorney’s Office.

Anger over plan to broadcast Muslim call to prayer on loudspeaker in Oxford

 

Outrage: Proposals for loudspeaker Muslim calls to prayer in central Oxford have been attacked by local residents

Daily Mail | Dec 24, 2007

Muslim plans to broadcast a loudspeaker call to prayer from a city centre mosque have been attacked by local residents who say it would turn the area into a “Muslim ghetto”.

Dozens of people packed out a council meeting to express their concerns over the plans for a two-minute long call to prayer to be issued three times a day, saying that it could drown out the traditional sound of church bells.

But a spokesman for the Central Mosque said that Muslim’s also have the right to summon worshippers.

Dr Mark Huckster, who lives in Stanton Road and works at East Oxford hospice Helen House, told the Oxford Mail: “The proposal to issue a prayer call is very un-neighbourly, especially in a crowded urban space such as Oxford.

“I have lived in the Middle East and a prayer call has a very different feel to church bells and I personally found the noise extremely unpleasant, rather disturbing and very alien to the western mindset.”

He added: “If an evangelical Christian preacher proposed issuing sermons three times a day at full volume there would be an outcry.

“There could be a sense of ghettoisation of East Oxford. Cowley Road would have a Muslim flavour and could become a Muslim ghetto which is contrary to what we want in a multicultural society.”

Dr Huckster was among six residents speaking in opposition to the plans, revealed in the Oxford Mail in November.

Allan Chapman, who lives in East Oxford, said: “We are concerned with civil liberties and civil peace and the right to be able to live in our own space.

“I do not want preaching at. It is not the tradition of this country or the tradition I subscribe to.

“I find this totally, utterly unacceptable and I plan to do whatever I can to stop it.”

David Hutcheson, of East Avenue, said: “I’m very happy for people to practice their own religion but very unhappy about the thought of having a loudspeaker broadcasting any messages into my private space.”

After the meeting, Sardar Rana, a spokesman for the Central Mosque, said he would be happy to clarify any issues and invited anyone to come to the mosque so he could satisfy their concerns.

He said: “The call is going on in so many places in the UK, and we must get the same right as everybody else.

“When they ring the bells in church, we respect it but that is also a call to prayer.

“We don’t want to do anything that will disturb the people or upset the people.”