Daily Archives: October 25, 2008

Shimon Peres to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth

Israel Today | Oct 24, 2008

Israeli media reported this week that the Israeli Embassy in London and Buckingham Palace are close to an agreement on having Queen Elizabeth confer honorary knighthood on Israeli President Shimon Peres when he visits the UK next month.

The appointment would make Peres a Knight Commander in the Order of St. Michael and St. George, a title usually reserved for British colonial affairs officials, foreign-service officers and high-ranking diplomats in Commonwealth countries.

However, the Queen has on numerous occasions appointed foreigners to the Order. Among some of the more famous are Bill Gates and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The honorary nature of the appointment means Peres would not be entitled to prefix “Sir” before his name.

Israeli Foreign Ministry sources cited by The Jerusalem Post warned that the Israeli media’s focus on the story could prevent Peres from being knighted during his upcoming visit, as opponents of the move will now try to scuttle it.


Shimon Peres mooted for honourary British Knighthood

Peres would join a distinguished list of personalities granted the honour, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, U2 singer Bono, former French President Francois Mitterand, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Madonna meets with Shimon Peres, saying she’s “an ambassador for Judaism”

Routine flu shot season used for biological warfare training

Jean Detrich, a registered nurse with the Dickinson County Health Department talks quietly with Dawn Allen of Abilene as she gives her a flu shot Thursday. Allen was one of the hundreds of people who came to a nine-hour walk-in flu shot clinic at the Abilene Community Center. (Photo by Carla Strand)


Flu shot clinic serves as drill

The Dickinson County health department partnered with Abilene Police, the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management and others and turned the clinic into a point of dispensing event that satisfied their yearly requirement to prepare for a public health emergency or a biological attack.

Abilene Reflector-Chronicle | Oct 25, 2008

Flu shots on rise since 9/11

By Carla Strand

Getting a flu shot each fall is routine for many people.

But for the nurses who gave the shots, the police officers who directed traffic in the parking lot of the Abilene Community Center and others, the nine-hour walk-in influenza clinic on Thursday, was a test.

For the first time, the Dickinson County health department partnered with Abilene Police, the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management and others and turned the clinic into a point of dispensing event that satisfied their yearly requirement to prepare for a public health emergency or a biological attack.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, federal and state agencies have set up programs to help protect the public in the case of a flu pandemic or anthrax attack.

“We have to be prepared,” said county administrator Brad Homman, who served as the public information officer for the joint exercise. “The state (of Kansas) requires every county to have one of these each year.”

The county’s emergency management team also participated in the day-long event and brought their communications command post trailer to the community center’s parking lot.

Even before the doors at the Community Center were unlocked Thursday morning, the training exercise was in full swing.

Homman said law enforcement officers brought in their dogs and searched the building before turning it over to the health department.

“In the case of a real attack, you want to make sure there is nothing (in the building) that would hurt people,” he said.

A few officers remained at the community center throughout the day, talking to people as they waited for their shots.

While the mood at the flu clinic was relaxed on Thursday, Homman notes that the training was important because it may someday save lives.

“We are vulnerable,” Homman said. “You don’t think that anyone would want to come to Abilene, Kansas, to launch an attack, but you never know.”

Vatican Knights Templar document arrives at Masonic lodge in western New York

700-year-old Templar document stops in Great Valley

Salamanca Press | Oct 24, 2008

By Chris Chapman

GREAT VALLEY – The Crusades, Templars, Charges of heresy. What do they have to do with a little Western New York town?

At the Great Valley Masonic Lodge Thursday night, plenty.

The facility hosted a piece of history that has been making its way through the state. A reproduction of a 700-year-old papal document, entitled Processus Contra Templarios (Trial against the Templars), made an evening visit with its caretakers, Thomas Savini, director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Great Lodge in New York City; and William Thomas, library trustee.

The document is believed to be the official transcript of the trial of the Templars as well as Pope Clemente V’s verdict in 1308.

Since the inception of Masonry in the United States, speculation of ties to the Knights Templar has surrounded the organization.

“Although it seems unlikely, there might have been philosophical influences on the formation of Masonry,” Savini said. “(The alleged ties between the two groups) is one of the reasons the library decided to purchase this document.

“The Templars had a belief in the integrity of a man, and many died for that belief. It is that same philosophy that is a vital part of Masonry,” Savini said.

The documents were thought to be lost to history, only to be found by a researcher for the Vatican’s Secret Archives in 2001.

“The documents were in the pages of another book,” Thomas told those assembled.

Upon discovery, the documents were found to be in tremendous condition, according to Savini.

“It’s a lot like when you stuff the paid bill in the drawer,” Savini said. “Sometimes you jam the paper into the drawer once, twice, seventeen times because it doesn’t go in right.

“We were lucky that these documents were printed on parchment and folded the way they were – parchment is meant to last,” Savini said of the preservation.

The collection came into the possession of the Library through a bequest of a Mason that passed away. According to Thomas, it was the wishes of the man to have the Library purchase rare items and documents that have significance to Masonry.

“We have talked with members of his lodge and have been told that this is exactly what he would have wanted,” Savini said.

The reproduction of the papal work is number 355 of 799 numbered copies made by the Vatican’s publishing house, Scrinium. A total of 800 copies were produced, mold impressions, water stains and all. The last copy, unnumbered was presented to Pope Benedict XVI.

Of the 799 sets sold by the Holy See, only three reside in the United States. Cornell University and the House of the Temple in Washington D.C.

The collection is complete with reproductions of the three wax seals found on the original documentation.

The sets were sold for $8,375 in 2007, six years after their rediscovery, when the Vatican announced the find and released it to the world.

The Templars have carried a sense of mystique since their creation during The Crusades, into modern day on the pen of authors like Dan Brown, and movies like National Treasure. The latter playing on the tie between the Holy Warriors and contemporary Masonry.

The Templars were accused of several heresies, to include the practice of mathematics, and association with Saladin’s armies and Muslims in the Middle East.

Although shrouded in mystery, the initiation rite of the group formally known as the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, is believed to have included ceremonial spitting on a cross, supposedly as a practice, should the Muslim armies capture the Templar.

After the death of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, recorded lineage of the Templars was lost. He was believed to be the last Grand Master of the group.

Conspiracy abounds as to the actual demise of the Templars.

Some theories say the knights traveled too the British Isles and fought with Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Bannockburn, a major turning point against the British forces.

Other theories have the knights climbing aboard their vast navy and sailing to present-day Canada, establishing a temple in North America.

The documentation left its Manhattan home Oct. 19 and has been across the state, going to schools and Masonic Lodges. It will complete its journey Friday with a trip to three locations in Buffalo before returning to the Livingston Library.

UN announces green ‘New Deal’ plan to rescue world economies

Telegraph | Oct 22, 2008

By Paul Eccleston

A global green ‘New Deal’ is needed to transform the world’s economies, according to a new UN report.

It would be similar to Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal which helped the US recover from the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But it would be aimed at a fundamental restructuring of economies weaning away dependence on oil and towards cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy.

The Green Economy Initiative from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) calls for global economies which invest in better care and management of the Earth’s natural resources such as rainforests and oceans.

Rather than more boom and bust cycles and the continued asset stripping of dwindling resources, the new green system would nurture and re-invest in them.

It would refocus the global economy, create growth, trigger a 21st century employment boom and at the same time combat climate change, it is claimed.

Launching the report in London Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, said the worldwide financial crisis had created an historic opportunity to replace a system which had seen the world’s GDP double between 1981-2005 but which had resulted in 60 per cent of the Earth’s ecosystem being degraded while 2.6bn people were still living on less than $2 per day.

He said the financial, food and fuel crises of 2008 had been caused by speculation and a failure by governments to regulate markets but they were also part of a wider market failure which was eating away the world’s natural resources.

The system was also over-reliant on a finite amount of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which were often subsidised.

“The flip side of the coin is the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits likely to arise from combating climate change and reinvesting in natural infrastructure – benefits ranging from new green jobs in clean teach and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises,” he said.

Mr Steiner said that even though the world’s focus was on the financial crisis, the pressing problems of food, fuel, energy and especially climate change had not altered and the world had no alternative but to reach a deal at the climate conference in Copenhagen next year.

“We need to accelerate towards a green economy. We are talking about nothing less than the transformation of our economies in effect a global green New Deal,” he said.

“There will be challenges in bringing about this transformation but there are enormous opportunities and potential and it pays us to do so but governments need to change the signals about how the markets work.”

The report has identified six keys areas which would underpin the New Deal:

* Clean energy, cleaner technologies including recycling

* Rural energy including renewables and sustainable biomass

* Sustainable agriculture

* Ecosystem infrastructure

* Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation.

* Sustainable cities including planning, transport and buildings.

Pavan Sukdhev, a banker seconded to UNEP, who is leading an attempt to draw up an ‘inventory’ of the Earth’s resources and what they are worth, said current economic models were now at the limit of what they could deliver.

“Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy – the question is whether they go into the old, extractive short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike.”

The UNEP is developing a tool-kit for transforming economies which it will deliver to governments within the next two years.

Voodoo dolls, zombies and France’s president

Taking a stab at Sarkozy. An voodoo kit being put to use at a store.


Dolls only tiny part of a complex belief system of mysterious religion

MSNBC | Oct 24, 2008

By Heather Whipps

A controversial voodoo doll is proving to be quite the pain in the side of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The doll, which features Sarkozy’s likeness and is being sold in some French stores, comes with a set of pins and an instruction manual on how to inflict voodoo curses on him.

Sarzoky is now suing the producer of the doll, which he says is an affront to his reputation and a misuse of his personal image.

It is unlikely that the publisher or Sarkozy have thought much about voodoo’s ancient roots during the doll fiasco, but the practice is in fact just one insignificant part of a complex belief system that makes up the mysterious religion, which is still practiced in many parts of Africa, Haiti, Jamaica and Louisiana, among others.

Vodoun, as the official religion is called by most of its practitioners, has little to do with the black magic, as its detractors suggest.

It does, however, have a lot to do with zombies.

The precise beginnings of voodoo are unknown, but the West African country of Benin is considered the birthplace of the religion, most historians agree.

Voodoo means “spirit” in the local language, and probably evolved there from ancient traditions of animism, or the belief that otherworldly spirits can inhabit the body of humans and animals.

Relationships with spirits is the central tenet of voodoo, whose followers believe in one supreme God in addition to a number of spirits representing the deceased soul of a once-living person.

Anyone can become possessed by spirits, who offer help to the living in the form of good fortune and protection from evil, according to voodoo myths. Voodoo priests guide the interaction between the living and the dead, and can call upon certain spirits depending on the community’s need, it is believed.

While voodoo continued relatively unabated in West Africa — it is still an official religion in Benin with more than 4 million followers there alone — it left African shores in the 17th century with the slave trade.

Once spread throughout the Caribbean, the southeastern United States and parts of South America, displaced Africans felt a common thread through voodoo, though the religion morphed to include elements of Christianity to appease Catholic slaveholders.

Voodoo thrived most potently in Haiti, where it remains a common belief system to residents while shrouded in mystery to outsiders.

It’s that mysterious element of the religion that allows black magic myths such as the use of voodoo dolls to proliferate in popular culture, experts say.

In actuality, voodoo dolls were unheard of or very rare in Africa and Haiti, and had only a small surge in popularity when voodoo migrated from Haiti to New Orleans in the early 1900s. Even then, the dolls were often used for benevolent purposes, such as helping an infertile couple conceive. The concept of pinpricking-for-pain style voodoo dolls is mostly a product of Hollywood.

Something that has been found to exist in voodoo culture, however, is zombies, according to research done in Haiti by anthropologist Wade Davis in the 1980s.

Most Haitians believe that a dead person can be revived as a zombie, even after burial, Davis found, though few had ever admitted to seeing the real thing.

Investigating further, Davis uncovered several cases of individuals who had been put into a trance-like zombie state not by some magical incantation, but by a powerful poison administered by a voodoo priest. The poison, which contained toxins drawn from the Japanese puffer fish, can make its victim appear dead for several days, leading many victims to be buried alive before “awakening” in a zombie-like haze.

Getting “zombified” is sometimes used secretly as a punishment for doing wrong within the community, Davis said.

Congressman Mark Foley’s Maltese priest implicated in a third sex abuse case in Miami

Father Anthony Mercieca, shown in an undated photo, has apologized to Mark Foley and said he should “let bygones be bygones.”


Just a Quiet Retiree Leading Mass in Malta

Fr Mercieca first came to the attention of the media in October 2006 when he acknowledged having inappropriate encounters with disgraced US Congressman Mark Foley.

Times of Malta | Oct 21, 2008

Gozo priest implicated in third sex abuse case in Miami

By Claudia Calleja

An elderly Gozitan priest who has been involved in two sex scandals in the US has now been implicated in a third case, this time involving a 15-year-old boy in Miami.

Court officials are expected to travel to Malta next spring to take his deposition.

Jeffrey Herman, the lawyer who is representing the alleged victim, filed a lawsuit in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court against the Archdiocese of Miami claiming it allowed Fr Anthony Mercieca, a retired priest of the Archdiocese, to sexually abuse the boy in 1977.

Fr Mercieca, who is in his 70s and resides in Gozo, was at the time stationed at St James church in north Miami.

“The law suit is against the Archdiocese and we allege that they were aware Fr Mercieca was abusing boys. Even though the case is against the Archdiocese, and Fr Mercieca is (now) in Malta, we intend to come to Malta to take his deposition in March or April,” Mr Herman told The Times when contacted at his Miami office.

“In this case, this man alleges that, when he was a boy, he went to St James church for confession and met Fr Mercieca. He is alleging that, in the confessional, Fr Mercieca started to touch him and began sexual abuse that went on for years,” Mr Herman added.

Fr Mercieca first came to the attention of the media in October 2006 when he acknowledged having inappropriate encounters with disgraced US Congressman Mark Foley. The priest admitted he had had encounters, which Mr Foley may have perceived as sexually inappropriate, 40 years ago.

After the Foley case made world headlines, the Archdiocese had asked any possible victims of inappropriate behaviour or abuse by the priest to come forward or contact a law enforcement agency. Within days, a second American made similar claims.

The man, also represented by Mr Herman, claimed that Fr Mercieca molested him in the church bell tower in north Miami after a bicycle ride together when he was 13 in the 1970s. This case has been settled out of court.

Reacting to this new suit, on Thursday the Archdiocese of Miami released a statement where it outlined that Fr Mercieca’s faculties were removed in October 2006 after he was accused by Mr Foley.

“A priest without faculties cannot perform or dress as a priest. The Archdiocese of Miami’s policies clearly outline how it deals with such allegations when Church clergy, employees or volunteers are accused of such crimes.

“All claims of sexual abuse are reported to the State Attorney’s office, an offer of pastoral and psychological counselling is made to the alleged victim and the Archdiocese’s Review Board conducts a review of the allegations while respecting any investigation by state authorities,” the Archdiocese said.

Italian police to drive 200mph Lamborghini patrol cars

The quarter million dollar patrol cars will be based in the Lazio region around Rome. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Italian police unveiled the latest weapon in their war on speeding motorists yesterday – a muscular, blue and white Lamborghini capable of travelling at 200 miles per hour.

Telegraph | Oct 24, 2008

By Nick Squires in Rome

The new Gallardo, which boasts a 560-horsepower engine, will prowl Italy’s autostradas in search of the country’s notoriously lead-footed drivers.

The custom made sports car is equipped with a specially designed mini fridge, which will be used to transport organs and plasma to help save the lives of traffic accident victims. It also comes with a defibrillator for use in emergencies.

It will be based in the Lazio region around Rome but will be deployed all over Italy. Its formidable speed will ensure nervous glances in rear view mirrors from drivers across the country.

An elite team of 30 police officers will be trained in how to handle it by Lamborghini. “Our best test drivers will give the selected policemen a special course,” said a company spokeswoman.

The Gallardo, which costs £140,000, will replace an older Lamborghini which the police have been using since 2004.

The car, named after a famous breed of fighting bull, made its debut at this year’s Geneva Auto Show. The 4 at the end of its model number, P560-4, refers to its permanent four wheel drive system.

Lamborghini continues to make cars in Italy but the firm is now owned by Audi of Germany.