Monthly Archives: April 2008

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

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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.

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9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges

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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

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Bush says Clinton will be Dem nominee

Gingrich predicts Clinton-Obama ticket

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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.