Monthly Archives: April 2008

World Masonic Leaders Converge on Washington, D.C. May 7th, 2008


Grand Lodge of Free And Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia Hosts 9th Annual World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges

PRWEB | Apr 25, 2008

(Vocus/PRWEB ) April 25, 2008 — For the first time ever, the Grand Lodge of Free And Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia will play host to a historic and grand event, the 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges, at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel, May 7th, 2008 through May 10th, 2008.

This conference will bring together international Masonic leaders comprised of high-level officials in government, business and civic service. Specifically, large delegations from Africa, Latin America and Europe are expected to be in attendance. Masonic leaders will discuss how the Society of Freemasonry can utilize its position to promote universal understanding, enlightened ideas, and goodwill globally.

Members of the press are invited to cover keynote speakers, banquets, the World War II Memorial wreath-laying and Masonic award ceremonies. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) is to be honored at a reception on Thursday, May 8th in the Cannon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill for his lifetime dedication to civil rights. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) will be honored during the May 10th banquet with Freemasonry’s Medal of Freedom for his commitment to preserving freedom and liberty across the globe. A number of educational scholarships will also be presented at the May 10th closing banquet, with college scholarships being awarded to 15 D.C. public high school graduating seniors as well as two current American University students.

On May 10th, at 11:00 a.m., a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at the National World War II Memorial to recognize all Freemasons killed during World War II.

As the world’s oldest and largest fraternal society with more than half of its membership in the United States, Freemasonry has a rich history of involvement in the founding of America and her development for over two centuries. The 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges will be the largest international public gathering of Freemasons in Washington D.C. since the laying of the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building by President and Freemason George Washington on September 18, 1793.

For more information about all events please contact 202-686-1811. Media must RSVP due to security.


9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges

Mozambique police allowed to torture and kill people at will with impunity

BBC | Apr 29, 2008

Police in Mozambique have been accused of killing and torturing people with near total impunity.

The human rights group Amnesty International has published a report saying the Mozambique police appear to think they have a licence to kill.

The group says officials have responded to rising crime rates with often lethal force, but that they almost never face criminal proceedings.

Police in the southern African nation refused to comment on the report.

Amnesty’s report was published just a day after Mozambique’s League for Human Rights said the country’s human rights situation had deteriorated in 2008.

Changes needed

“Police in Mozambique seem to think they have a licence to kill and the weak police accountability system allows for this,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty’s Africa Programme, in the report, entitled “Licence to Kill”.

“In almost all cases of human rights violations by police – including unlawful killings – no investigation into the case and no disciplinary action against those responsible has been undertaken, nor has any police officer been prosecuted.”
Amnesty’s report highlights individual cases including that of Afonso Penicela, who was allegedly grabbed from his home by police, beaten up, shot in the back of the neck and set on fire.

He survived long enough to tell his family what had happened to him, before dying in hospital from his injuries.

No police officer has been arrested over Mr Penicela’s death.
In February, police opened fire on a group of people protesting in the capital Maputo about increased transport fares, Amnesty’s report says.

Three people were killed and around 30 injured in the incident.
Amnesty has recommended urgent changes to police codes to bring them into line with international standards.

UN covered up peacekeeper crime and corruption

The 18,000-member force in Congo is the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation. It has been plagued by sexual abuse and corruption scandals.

Telegraqh | Apr 29, 2008

By Our Foreign Staff

The United Nations covered up evidence that peacekeeping troops were involved in smuggling gold and ivory and trading arms with rebel fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has been claimed.

UN peacekeepers in Congo are accused of smuggling gold and trading in arms.

A BBC investigation claims to have obtained new witness accounts which contradict UN claims that no weapons transfers occurred.

The UN launched an investigation into the Pakistani and Indian peacekeepers after the allegations were first aired last year, and although there were indications that a Pakistani soldier had been involved in drug smuggling, no evidence of arms trading turned up.

The BBC’s Panorama programme, returning to the region to follow up its original report, said it found witnesses who backed claims of arms trading between the UN and militia in the mining town of Mongbwalu.

They said weapons were given to militias there to guard the perimeters of gold mines and to secure the region. A former militant, who was not named, told the BBC he saw seven boxes of ammunition being brought from a UN camp to resupply a militia called the Nationalist and Integrationist Front during a battle.

Former leaders of the militia jailed in the capital, Kinshasa, also claimed they received weapons from UN peacekeepers.

A previous BBC report also claimed that a separate contingent of Indian peacekeepers had flown a UN helicopter into Congo’s Virunga National Park to trade ammunition for ivory with a Rwandan rebel group whose commanders directed Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

In July, the UN said it had opened an investigation into charges that Indian peacekeepers sold arms to Congolese militias near the Rwandan border.

The BBC said “confidential UN sources” said they had been blocked from thoroughly investigating the allegations of arms trading for “political reasons”, saying this suggested that reports were buried to avoid embarrassment to key allies in US anti-terrorism efforts and major contributors to UN missions.

The UN has said it was looking into charges that the probe by its internal watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, was obstructed by peacekeepers.

A UN spokesman in Congo said the BBC report did not appear to raise new allegations, and added that investigations are continuing into accusations of misconduct. “It is clear that there were cases of unacceptable conduct by individuals, but there is no proof to establish the traffic mentioned,” said Kemal Saiki, a spokesman.

He said UN investigations had yet to turn up “irrefutable proof” of weapons or munitions transfers. Pakistan denied the previous allegations against its peacekeepers, and spokesmen for the country’s Foreign Ministry and its military could not be reached for comment on the latest claims.

The Indian Army told the BBC that the previous UN probe showed nearly all allegations were based on hearsay.

The 18,000-member force in Congo is the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation. It has been plagued by sexual abuse and corruption scandals.

US recession will be a really bad one according to Warren Buffett

ABC Australia | Apr 28, 2008

By Michael Rowland

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has repeated his view that the US is in recession and the slowdown will be more severe than most people expect.

Mr Buffett, the world’s richest man, says Americans are being hurt by rising food and petrol prices and the US recession will be longer and deeper than most people think.

“My feeling from what I see in the economy is this, it will not be short and shallow,” he said.

Economic growth figures due out in the US this week are expected to confirm the extent of the slowdown.

The US Federal Reserve is also poised to make another cut to official interest rates to help stimulate the flagging economy.

Overnight confectionery giant Mars said it was set to buy US chewing gum firm Wrigley’s for $24.5 billion, with Mr Buffet taking a minority share in Wrigley’s once the deal is completed.

Clinton-Obama camps vow to unite in the fall


Bush says Clinton will be Dem nominee

Gingrich predicts Clinton-Obama ticket


UPI | Apr 27, 2008

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) — Campaign officials for U.S. Democratic presidential rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said Sunday their party will unite against the GOP this fall.

Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Howard Wolfson of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign said he thinks the primary season battle between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama “has been great” for the party.

Regardless of the outcome, he said, “we’re going to come together as a party, we’re going to go behind whoever is the nominee, and we’re going to do everything we can to elect that person because the stakes are that high.”

David Axelrod of the Obama campaign agreed.

“We understand that the continuation of these Republican policies would be disastrous for people across Indiana, across North Carolina, who are sitting there this morning, watching this program and going through their bills and wondering how they’re going to pay them and know that we can’t afford more of the same Bush economic policies,” Axelrod said.

Both said they will tout the qualities they believe make their candidate the stronger of the two Democrats against the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

German Jewish leader wants ‘Mein Kampf’ republished

AFP | Apr 27, 2008

BERLIN (AFP-EJP)—A top figure in Germany’s Jewish community said he wants Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” — banned in Germany since 1945 — to be republished, but together with an accompanying commentary.

“In principle I am in favour of the book being made public with a commentary,” both in normal book form and on the Internet, Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews, told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk radio on Friday.
Hitler penned “Mein Kampf” (“My struggle”) in the 1920s, combining elements of autobiography and setting out his views on Aryan racial purity, his hatred of Jews and his opposition to communism.

He dictated the work to his aide Rudolf Hess while in prison in Bavaria following the failed Munich “Beer Hall” putsch of 1923.

Kramer said the Central Council of Jews was ready to help write the commentary and to negotiate with the government of Bavaria, which owns the publishing rights until 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death.

In Germany, it is illegal to distribute the tome except in special circumstances. Nazi symbols like the swastika and performing the stiff-armed Hitler salute are also outlawed.

Purchasers who can prove an academic purpose may secure an existing copy. Otherwise though, sales are banned and Bavaria, which was granted the German rights to the book by the postwar occupying powers, refused to authorise new copies.

Deutschlandfunk said Bavarian authorities had rejected the idea of loosening the restrictions on publication.

“(To do so) would get enormous political attention worldwide, and probably be met with incomprehension,” it quoted the Bavarian Finance Ministry as saying in a statement.

Torture ‘relevant’ Bush lawyers say

UPI | Apr 27, 2008

WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) — The U.S. Justice Department sought to expand the legal boundaries of harsh interrogation tactics against alleged terrorist suspects, a letter indicates.

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, said in a letter obtained by The New York Times.

Staff from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee leaked the letter to the press in seeking more information from the Justice Department.

The Geneva Conventions ban “outrages upon personal dignity” but the Benczkowski letter implies interrogation methods should be weighed against the threat to national security by considering the Geneva Conventions on a “sliding scale,” The Washington Post said Sunday.

U.S. President George Bush signed an executive order in 2007 outlining new guidelines for interrogations, but while it bans practices such as sexual degradation, it does not specify what techniques are permissible.

Lawmakers passed a measure last year that restricted interrogation methods further, but Bush vetoed the bill arguing harsh interrogation tactics thwarted several undisclosed terrorist attacks.

Report: Stop drugging Alzheimer’s patients

The medications have side effects which accelerate mental decline, triple the risk of stroke, and double the chances of premature death.

Telegraph | Apr 28, 2008

Ministers should step in to stop inappropriate prescriptions of powerful antipsychotic drugs for Alzheimer’s patients, an influential group of MPs said today.

Up to 105,000 people with dementia in Britain are wrongly being treated with the drugs, which are used to control behavioural symptoms such as aggression, they claim. Research has shown that the medications have side effects which can accelerate mental decline, triple the risk of stroke, and double the chances of premature death.

They are intended for psychotic patients suffering from delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Yet the drugs continue to be used as a first resort to address the challenging behaviour of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, according to the MPs. A report from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on dementia demanded Government action on the problem and urged the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the health watchdog, to carry out a review.

The report, A Last Resort, points out that no audit or regulation of such prescriptions exists. Jeremy Wright, the group’s chairman, said: “Antipsychotics can double risk of death and triple the risk of stroke in people with dementia, (can) heavily sedate them, and (can) accelerate cognitive decline.

“The Government must end this needless abuse. Safeguards must be put in place to ensure antipsychotics are always a last resort. We need to include families in decisions, give people with dementia regular reviews, and equip care staff with specialist training.”

The inquiry was told that 150,000 people with dementia were prescribed antipsychotic drugs in British care facilities. Psychiatric experts said 70 per cent of these prescriptions were inappropriate.

Neil Hunt, the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said more than 70 per cent of dementia patients exhibited challenging behaviour.

“More often than not this is an expression of unmet need, not a symptom of dementia, and there is no excuse for reaching for the medicine cabinet,” he said.

Children to decide punishments in ‘kid court’

Children as young as 11 will form a “jury”, listen to evidence, and hand down a sentence.

Telegraph | Apr 28, 2008

By Auslan Cramb

Children will be allowed to sentence each other for minor crimes such as vandalism under plans for Scotland’s first “kid court”.

The scheme will be trialled in the Borders and will deal with young offenders who have admitted their guilt to the police, but whose offences are not serious enough to merit appearing before a Children’s Panel.

At the moment, such cases are dealt with in the form of a warning from the police.

Under the plan, which is similar to a scheme operated in New York, children as young as 11 will form a “jury”, listen to evidence, and hand down a sentence that could include repairing any criminal damage.

Other possible punishments involve writing letters of apology, saying sorry in person and listening to the victim explain the impact of the crime on them.

However, one former judge described the scheme, which is due to being approved by officials at Scottish Borders Council, as a “crackpot idea”. Lord McCluskey added: “It’s not always appropriate to bring in ideas from the United States, they have a very different situation from us.”

But John Scott, a criminal defence lawyer, said it was “worth trying”, adding: “Sometimes young people can get through to young offenders in a way that judges, lawyers and social workers can’t.” Officials who support the move believe that children who are sentenced by their peers are less likely to re-offend.

The children’s court plan is based on a scheme that has run for more than a decade in New York city, where youngsters from the age of 14 sit in judgment on each other.

The US scheme gives jury members ten weeks of training and swears them to secrecy. It also selects jurors from schoolchildren of various backgrounds and academic levels as well as former offenders to avoid accusations of class bias.

It avoids restricting courts to individual schools to reduce the chances of the accused and jurors knowing each other.

The Scottish version will see members of the panels supported by adults in the council’s youth justice team.

The local Children’s Reporter will advise on appropriate cases.

Jeremy Purvis, Lib Dem MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, said: “These youth panels will give an opportunity to nip offending behaviour in the bud.

“It won’t be appropriate for everyone, but there will be a significant number who will listen to their peers rather than some person in a suit. The disapproval of their peers confronts offenders in a way that a lecture from a much older person doesn’t.”

An estimated 37,000 offences are committed in Scotland each year by children under the age of 16.

Britain’s super-rich get even richer despite worsening economic climate

Sunday Times Rich List defies credit crunch

Telegraph | Apr 28, 2008

By Rob Davies

Britain’s super-rich are getting even richer, adding nearly £53
billion to their collective wealth last year.

Despite the worsening economic climate, Britain’s billionaires have continued to prosper, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

The collective worth of the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country stands at more than £412.8 billion, up 14.7 per cent on last year, at a time when the credit crunch is forcing families and people on low incomes to cut their spending.

At the top of the list for the fourth year is Lakshmi Mittal, the 57-year-old Indian steel magnate, whose wealth increased 44 per cent to £27.7 billion.

Foreign-born businessmen, including Mr Mittal and Roman Abramovich, the Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, make up seven of the top 10.

The Russian oil and industry magnate saw his fortune increase from £10.8 billion to £11.7 billion this year.

Forty of Britain’s 75 billionaires come from countries such as Israel, Russia and India.

A brace of new entrants figure in this year’s top 10. Alisher Usmanov, a steel and mining magnate, comes in fifth place with £5.726 billion.

One place below are Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli. The former Miss UK winner and her husband sit on a fortune of £5.65 billion built on pharmaceuticals. Mrs Bertarelli is the highest placed of the 94 women in the list.

Overall, Britain’s wealthiest have prospered, continuing a trend which has seen the wealth of the richest 1,000 increase by 317 per cent since 1997.

It comes as the rest of Britain faces a worsening financial situation.

More than four out of 10 people believe they will be worse off this year as the credit crisis bites, according to a report from consumer group Which last week.

Groceries, council tax, utility bills and mortgage payments have increased by more than the rate of inflation.

But even some stalwarts of the Rich List have seen their fortunes diminish. The Duke of Westminster remained steady in third place with £7 billion but Sir Philip Green, the Top Shop boss, saw his worth sink to £4.33 billion, while Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin boss, is down £400 million on last year, leaving him with £2.7 billion.

It was also a difficult year for budget airlines, with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and family down to £812 million from last year’s £1,290 million. Ryanair has also suffered. Declan and Shane Ryan, the heirs of co-founder Tony Ryan, have sustained losses of £83 million, leaving them with assets worth £827 million.