Daily Archives: April 13, 2008

Freemasonry celebrates its many female brethren

female bretheren

Now not only are there an estimated 20,000 women freemasons in Britain alone, but their male counterparts in the United Grand Lodge of England have decided to give the ladies a pat on the back by celebrating their centenary year with a special exhibition at their headquarters in Covent Garden, starting on June 4. It will be the first British exhibition on women and their involvement with freemasonry.

The Times | Mar 26, 2008

By Sarah Jane Checkland

Time was when the only way that women could become freemasons was for them to eavesdrop on the doings of this all-male preserve. But as Lady Elizabeth St Leger of Co Cork found out when she got caught in the act in 1732, this could be a high-risk strategy. As the rulebook of 1717 firmly states: “No Bondmen [ie, slaves], no Women, no immoral or scandalous Men” can ever join the brethren.

For two days, the story goes, Lodge 44 held Lady Elizabeth under lock and key while they debated what to do with her. Eventually they offered her a stark choice: death or full initiation. For generations Lady Elizabeth remained the only recorded female mason. But who knows how many ladies never lived to tell their tale?

Times have changed. Exactly 100 years ago a group of suffragettes led by Annie Besant and Lady Lutyens, wife of the architect Sir Edwin, burst into this all-male preserve by setting up the first lodge for both men and women. This didn’t last long because of objections from the all-male lodges. But the women persevered, setting up their own lodges.

Now not only are there an estimated 20,000 women freemasons in Britain alone, but their male counterparts in the United Grand Lodge of England have decided to give the ladies a pat on the back by celebrating their centenary year with a special exhibition at their headquarters in Covent Garden, starting on June 4. It will be the first British exhibition on women and their involvement with freemasonry.

But don’t believe for a moment that freemasonry is turning unisex. Women’s lodges remain separate from men’s lodges, apart from the occasional social evening or lecture.

And don’t expect the exhibition to reveal any arcane secrets. As Dr Iris Monica Oktabsova, past deputy grand master of one of the oldest branches, Lodge Equity 16, says: “Although we are not a secret society, we are a society with secrets.” No tips on secret handshakes, then. No clues as to what the “craft” actually entails.

Instead, the show will mainly include examples of their regalia, as well as paper records, such as that first rule book; as well as images of early women “brethren” as they refer to themselves, and theosophical tracts which inspired their early members. By the time they leave, visitors will also be fully appraised of the three main cornerstones of freemasonry. They are the grand principles of brotherly love (the requirement to behave “with kindness and understanding towards all”); relief (to undertake charitable works) and truth (to show integrity both private and public). Last but not least they must have a fundamental belief in a supreme being or God.

The Order of Women Freemasons itself will celebrate its own centenary on June 7 with a grand gathering of 5,000 members and guests at the Royal Albert Hall during which there will be processions, hymn singing and dance.
— Women and Freemasonry: The Centenary exhibition runs from June 4 until December 19, 2008, weekdays only; entrance free. The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ. http://www.freemasonry.london.museum , 0207-395 9257.

For information on the Order of Women Freemasons, contact http://www.owf.org.uk or write to the Secretariat (inquiries), 27 Pembridge Gardens, London W2 4EF.

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Sexual abuse suit accuses Jesuit order

Order didn’t stop abusive cleric, Nevada man says

Chicago Tribune | Apr 11, 2008

By Steve Schmadeke

New accusations of sexual abuse were leveled Thursday against a former Jesuit priest who, after being convicted in Wisconsin of child molestation, is facing abuse charges in Arizona and in federal court here.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, a Nevada man, 27, accused the recently defrocked Rev. Donald McGuire, 77, of abusing him repeatedly for nearly a year after his parents sent him to Chicago from Georgia in 1998 to help the prominent priest with his ministry.

McGuire, a former spiritual director for Mother Teresa, showed pornography to the boy, then 17, and forced him to provide full-body massages, according to the lawsuit.

The six-count lawsuit also accuses Jesuit leaders in Chicago of negligence, fraud and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The Nevada man is the sixth accuser to sue, his attorneys said.

“The Jesuit officials here in Chicago, who are in charge of [McGuire], are as criminal and responsible as this man who couldn’t control himself,” said Jeff Anderson, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys. “They allowed this wolf to prey on the innocent and vulnerable.”

The Nevada man’s attorneys said they had shared the allegations with Cook County prosecutors. A state’s attorney spokeswoman said Thursday that she was not aware of the new allegations and that the head of the sexual crimes unit was out of town.

Stephen Komie, McGuire’s attorney, said he could not speak specifically about the complaint because he had not seen it, but said his client has denied all allegations of abuse.

McGuire is being held without bail by sheriff’s police at Cermak Hospital after suffering a “cardiac episode” the day he was arrested on the Arizona charges, Komie said.

His client blames the episode on circumstances of his arrest—being startled by an Arizona police officer pounding on the door of his Oak Lawn home and then being placed into handcuffs. Komie said the arresting officers refused to take him to the hospital. An ambulance was called to Central District headquarters and McGuire was taken to Mercy Hospital, he said.

McGuire is not likely to go to trial on the federal charges until September and has a May 1 hearing on extradition to Arizona, Komie said.

A Jesuit spokesman said the order’s attorney had not yet seen the lawsuit so he could not comment.

The Nevada man’s parents told Jesuit officials in a 2000 letter that McGuire had exposed their son to pornography and talked to him “about sexual matters every waking minute,” according to a copy released by the man’s attorneys.

The Masonic Mysteries of Colorado’s Great Seal

Colorado seal

The famous “Eye of God” on the pyramid top within a triangle, still stands. Below the triangle is a Roman fasces bearing upon a thin tying band of red, white, and blue the words “Union and Constitution”.

Rocky Mountain News | Apr 11, 2008

by Jerry Kopel

The keepers of the 225-year-old Great Seal of the United States recently told Rocky Mountain News readers what were myths and what were truths about the seal, such as “the seal using several Freemasonry symbols was a myth.”

Well, Colorado has its own Great Seal which dates back to 1876, when we became a state, and an almost identical prior seal dated in 1861 when Colorado officially became a separate territory.

And Colorado’s Great Seal has a real mystery. At the bottom of the territorial seal, there are no stars around the date 1861 and no mention of any stars in the statute passed Nov. 6, 1861 describing the territorial seal in the very first territorial legislative session.

In our state constitution adopted in 1876 by the voters, the legislature was told the territorial seal continued to be the seal until the legislature acted to create a Great Seal. That happened March 15, 1877 and the description of the Great Seal really didn’t change much from the territorial seal.

There was “1876” where “1861” once appeared. The Latin phrase “Sigillum Territorii Coloradenesis” (meaning “seal of the territory of Colorado”) was changed to the English words “State of Colorado”.

The territorial and state motto remained the same “Nil Sine Numine” meaning either “Nothing Without Providence” or “Nothing Without Deity”. The famous “Eye of God” on the pyramid top within a triangle, still stands.

Below the triangle is a Roman fasces bearing upon a thin tying band of red, white, and blue the words “Union and Constitution”. The Roman fasces during the Roman Empire consisted of a bundle of wooden rods with an axe head hanging down from the bottom of the bundle. Ours more resembles a spear entering on the left of the bundle of rods and an axe head coming out on the right.

Below the fasces is a Heraldic shield that is as up-to-date as if it had been created in 2008 instead of 1861. At the top of the shield are three snow-capped mountains, even higher than clouds. It is an excellent reminder to tourists of why they visit Colorado.

Below the clouds, separated by a thin yellow line, are a pickaxe and sledgehammer of a miner. They lie partly on golden ground and partly on brown soil.

Mining gold, silver, and coal offered the potential to make the territory and young state rich – – just as mining oil, gas, and oil shale, if equitably taxed, could greatly benefit Colorado’s state budget.

Today, at the bottom are six gold stars, three on each side of the gold letters “1876″. But our state statute doesn’t mention the six stars.

A research analyst at the State Historical Society found for me a Denver Post article written in 1958 describing a group of young students being shown a copy of the seal at the state museum and asking what the six stars stood for.

No one knew what the stars stood for, or where the stars came from, even after that newspaper did weeks of research. And the stars are still there in 2008, but never ever described in the state statute which lays out the Great Seal.

Well, the Denver Post failed. Perhaps the Rocky Mountain News can solve the mystery.

Do Not Challenge Diana Verdict, Warns British Prime Minister

Telegraph | Apr 9, 2008

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter

Gordon Brown has put pressure on Mohamed Fayed not to challenge the findings of the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, saying he does not want to see a “re-run” of the six-month hearing.

Mr Fayed maintains that the Princess was murdered by MI6 and does not accept the inquest jury’s verdict that she was killed unlawfully through the gross negligence of the paparazzi who followed her car before it crashed in 1997 and of its driver, Henri Paul.

The Harrods boss, who is unhappy that the coroner did not give the jury the option of deciding that the Princess and his son Dodi died in a “staged” accident, spent Tuesday in talks with lawyers “to see if there’s anything more that can be done”.

He refused to rule out applying for the verdicts to be set aside and a new inquest held, but the Prime Minister said it was time to “draw a line” under the tragedy.

He said: “I think the Princes, William and Harry, have spoken for the whole country when they say it is time to bring this to an end.

“I believe also that our security services, who have co-operated with the inquiry to the fullest, have or would continue to be diverted from the important work they do if we had to have another re-run of this. So I think it’s important we draw a line.”

The former bodyguard Trevor Rees, the sole survivor of the crash in the Alma tunnel in Paris, also called on Mr Fayed to give up his legal fight, saying: “I agree with the jury’s verdict, and welcome the end of the inquest process. I hope that this now represents a point from which everyone involved can move on.”

Mr Rees was singled out for praise by Princes William and Harry in a statement which followed Monday’s verdicts. They thanked him for giving evidence despite the “painful” memories it would have brought back for him.

Asked about Mr Rees’s requests for people to “move on”, Mr Fayed said: “Don’t you think I do? Don’t you think I do? This last six months has been like going through a very, very dark tunnel and the whole of the last 10 years has been terrible.

“Of course we all want to move on but I think there can be no untied up loose ends, but all we’re doing today is trying to see if there is anything more that can be done.”

Mr Fayed had said under oath at the inquest that he would accept the jury’s verdicts, but his spokesman said he made that promise before the coroner barred the jury from considering the possibility that MI6 agents staged the accident.

His spokesman, Katharine Witty, said Mr Fayed was aware of the Prime Minister’s comments but would continue to reflect on the verdicts with his lawyers, possibly for several days.

“He is well aware that there is pressure to draw a line under this, and he takes that seriously,” she said.

“But he has to do what he thinks is right.”

World food riots spread

‘What’s happening with subsidies in some countries is just criminal’

The poor should protect themselves with subsistence agriculture

The Times of S Africa | Apr 13, 2008

By Brendan Boyle, Adele Shevel, Don Robertson and Marcia Klein

Higher and higher food prices are on the menu

Manuel calls for calm, while Vavi warns of looming crisis in South Africa.

“Don’t panic,” Finance Minister Trevor Manuel urged yesterday as food riots spread around the world.

Worldwide Food Riots

While global financial leaders have declared an international food emergency, South African labour federation, Cosatu, planned country-wide protests against price collusion and rampant inflation in the country’s food industry. The ruling ANC has also called on the Competition Commission to investigate the causes of high food prices. The price of a loaf of bread in September this year is likely to be at least 25% higher than it was a year ago.

Speaking to Business Times from the annual spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, Manuel branded the behaviour of some richer countries who subsidise farmers to produce cereals for biofuel rather than for food as “criminal”.

He urged Opec, the oil producers’ cartel, to slash the incentive to divert food to fuel by pumping more oil.

He said the current economic squeeze, which has forced the Treasury to lower the growth forecast to 4% of GDP this year, would not interfere with the social safety net on which at least one in five South Africans rely to stay alive.

But he said poor South Africans should be encouraged to protect themselves by resuming the subsistence agriculture that was a part of the country’s heritage.

“The food crisis was triggered by the shift of food into biofuels, especially in the US, where about a third of the maize is being converted into bio-ethanol,” he said.

First World farm subsidies, based on the current record cost of oil, price staple grains out of the reach of the world’s poorest people. Rich motorists outbid the world’s poor so that maize goes to fill empty fuel tanks rather than empty tummies.

“What’s happening with subsidies in some countries is just criminal,” Manuel said, without naming the US, where subsidies are highest. The IMF released a map showing the countries that benefit from the food price escalation. SA is amongst those moderately affected, but most of Africa is in the most affected category.

Western nations benefit from the higher prices as trade balances swing in their favour.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the labour federation would begin a series of protests outside Eskom and Pick n Pay premises on April 17 to press for negotiations on food prices. “We’re moving towards a food crisis in this country because people cannot afford it.

“We want to force negotiations between the farmers, the food processors, the retailers and the government on this issue. They say the prices are because of the rising price of oil, but we want to see the figures,” Vavi said.

He said Cosatu supported the expansion of Competition Commission investigations beyond the milk and bread industries, where collusion has already been proven to other food sectors and would press for jail sentences for company directors responsible for price-fixing.

Manuel declined to say whether he would back prison terms for price fixers, but said he was strongly in favour of tougher competition regulation.

He said he supported the right of workers to engage in legal protest, but cautioned that campaigns such as Cosatu’s needed to be focused on credible goals and should not undermine the economy on which everyone depends.

“We’re in this together and I think the premature identification of enemies would be costly to the economy,” he said. “There are huge panic reactions in respect of countries who are now deciding to ban imports and exports of various crops. There is a lot of panic reaction and panic tends to drive prices up further,” he said.

Manuel insisted there was no immediate alternative to the globalised market economy that sets the prices of fuels and foods and cautioned that attempts to isolate small countries behind tariff and other barriers would backfire.

“To merely suggest right now that whatever is happening is because of some evil plot by these terrible capitalists is not the most useful of issues,” he said.

IMF and World Bank leaders have made the food price crisis the main feature of their Washington meeting this week, saying the price spiral has set the fight against poverty back at least seven years. Official figures showed that the price of wheat had more than doubled in the past year and the African and Asian staples — maize and rice — are up nearly 80% in the same period.

While there is no crisis facing people in the rich G-8 nations, including Britain, Japan and the US, millions in the developing world are having to spend up to four-fifths of their total family income on food. The World Bank estimates that 33 countries around the world face social unrest because of food and fuel price rises. Deadly food riots have already broken out in Egypt, Indonesia, Cameroon, Peru and Haiti.

Manuel said he hoped SA would not go down that road, but stressed that firm and swift international action was needed to break the price spiral.

ANC spokesman Jessie Duarte said while the party understood that food prices were influenced by exogenous factors, it did not understand how some prices went up exponentially in a country where those items were grown and manufactured locally.

Cooking oil has increased almost fourfold in 18 months, for example. “Our concern is how this impacts on the urban poor, in particular those who cannot do subsistence farming,” she said.

Standard Bank group economist Goolam Ballim said SA had the money to help should things deteriorate further, but he added that the country had never been as globalised as it is now, and it was as vulnerable to global successes as it was to global threats. The food price issue was an example.

Nico Hawkins, economist at Grain SA, said some prices, including those of wheat, had doubled in a year.

Hawkins added that the higher price of wheat was based on import parity pricing. SA produces a crop of about 1.6 million tons but requires about 2.8 million tons. Grains grown locally are priced the same as the imported ones.

Rabbi, wanted for child torture, hiding in Canada

Israel to seek extradition for radical, so-called spiritual mentor of a group involved in systematic torture of children

Globe and Mail | Apr 8, 2008

By MARK MACKINNON

JERUSALEM — A radical rabbi once linked to a plot to fire a missile at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, is hiding in Canada, Israeli police said Monday, announcing that he is wanted for his alleged role in a series of ghastly abuses of his followers’ children.

Israeli officials have issued an international warrant for the arrest of Rabbi Elior Chen, and were planning to ask Canada to extradite him.

“He left [Tel Aviv’s] Ben Gurion Airport. He flew to Canada. We know that he’s in Canada at the moment,” said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

Mr. Chen, who is in his late 20s, hasn’t yet been charged but he has been described as the “spiritual mentor” of a group involved in the systematic abuse of children, allegedly using his status as a rabbi to convince a mother of eight that her children’s shortcomings could be beaten and burned out of them.

“He visited the families themselves, and the children visited him. He was actively involved in causing mental and bodily harm to the children,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “It’s very disturbing in terms of what happened to the children and the fact that these people, who consider themselves respectable, were involved in it.”

For days, Israel’s media have been filled with the gruesome details of the case. Two of the eight children, aged 4 and 5, were hospitalized in serious condition two weeks ago after Mr. Chen allegedly ordered two of his followers to, among other acts, hit the children with hammers and light their fingers on fire, as a way of “correcting” their behaviour.

The four-year-old is still in a coma. Despite multiple operations, he has not regained consciousness, and doctors believe he may remain indefinitely in a vegetative state.

Police photographs of some of the instruments used – including hammers, spikes, knives, wrenches and alcohol – were on the front page of nearly every Israeli newspaper Monday.

The 38-year-old mother, whose name has been withheld by police, was indicted on child abuse charges on Sunday. The mother is alleged to have locked her two youngest children in a suitcase for three days, letting them out for only brief periods during that time. She also allegedly shook and beat them, burned their hands with a lighter and a heater, made them take freezing showers and forced them to eat their own feces. The goal, according to police, was to beat “devils” out of the children.

According to the indictment filed in Israeli court, the woman’s marriage broke down last year and her husband left her. At that point, Mr. Chen, who was close to the couple, and two other men are reported to have taken over the education of the children.

The mother and the other two “educators” are also suspected of pouring salt on the burn wounds, gagging the children with a skullcap, and forcing them to drink alcohol until they vomited.

Police have arrested one of the other men, 22-year-old David Kugman of Jerusalem, while the other man, identified by police as Shimon Gabai, is still at large.

It’s believed that Mr. Chen, 29, fled to Canada with at least one of his followers, identified by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as Joseph Fisher. Mr. Fisher is not considered a suspect by Israeli police.

Mr. Rosenfeld said Mr. Chen flew to Canada on a flight from Ben Gurion Airport shortly after the mother’s arrest.

A friend quoted in Haaretz Monday said Mr. Chen and Mr. Fisher believed that “only in very exceptional cases does Canada extradite.”

Chris Girouard, a spokesman for the Canadian Justice Department, confirmed Monday that Canada has a bilateral extradition treaty with Israel.

According to Israeli media reports citing friends of Mr. Chen, he began studying Kabbalah Judaism at the age of 11. He left his yeshiva in Jerusalem because he considered it too “open” and began studying the writings of extremely conservative rabbis. Eventually, he became the spiritual leader of a group of ultraconservative students, who called themselves “Pitzuei HaNachal,” or “the wounded of the river.”

In 2005, members of Pitzuei HaNachal were arrested in relation to a plot by Jewish extremists to attack Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, site of Islam’s holy Dome of the Rock, to protest against Israel’s decision to withdraw its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. Police alleged that Mr. Chen urged the plotters to take a loan from the bank to buy explosives, and promised to introduce them to army veterans who would train them to use the devices.

Police searched Mr. Chen’s apartment on Thursday, and discovered journals documenting the violence.

Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper said the raid uncovered 30 notebooks of correspondence between Mr. Chen and his followers, in which he explicitly spelled out how the children should be tortured.

The notebooks explain how to bind the children in either “six ties” or “eight ties.” The notebooks describe how to prepare special drinks for the children, made of alcohol, salt, pepper and turpentine. The children were forced to drink the liquids until they vomited. “You see, they vomit the Satan inside them,” a letter tells the mother.

The notebooks also detail how to beat the children with batons and then pour alcohol on their wounds, describing in exact detail how much time to leave the burning liquid on the body of the sufferer. All these acts, the notebooks say, were necessary “in order to remove the ghosts from the children.” The notebooks also direct followers to put hot stones on the children.

In the correspondence Mr. Chen’s followers never refer to him by name, calling him instead “His Honor the King of the Messiah.” The writings are conversational, as if Mr. Chen’s followers did not speak to him and were only allowed to communicate in writing.

It’s unclear whether there are other cases of child abuse linked to Mr. Chen’s teachings. Mr. Rosenfeld said it was difficult to classify Mr. Chen and his followers.

“It wasn’t a widespread or vast [network], but we know there were a number of individuals that were connected to him,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “It’s difficult to put this into context, whether it’s a cult, whether he’s an extremist or some kind of psycho.”

German Parliament marks 75th anniversary of Hitler’s Enabling Act

Earth Times | Apr 10, 2008

Berlin – The German parliament Thursday marked 75 years since the law was passed that enabled Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler to rule by decree for his 12 years in power. Hans-Jochen Vogel, a former justice minister for the Social Democrats (SPD), called for democracy to be energetically defended in modern Germany.

Pointing to the persistent phenomenon of neo-Nazi groups, Vogel said: “Those who look the other way or shrug their shoulders are weakening democracy.”

The German parliament passed the so-called “Ermaechtigungsgesetz” by a two-thirds majority over the opposition of the SPD on March 24, 1933, just a month after a fire had badly damaged the parliamentary building, the Reichstag.

Valid for four years, the act, formally known as the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Nation,” was renewed in 1937 and remained in force until World War II ended in 1945.

Under its terms, Hitler and his henchmen could ignore the civil liberties provisions in the German constitution and issue decrees without having them passed by parliament.