Daily Archives: March 16, 2009

Lesbians subjected to “corrective rape” in South Africa

Lesbians living in South Africa are being subjected to “corrective rape” and severe violence by men trying to “cure” them of their sexual orientation, human rights groups have said.

Telegraph | Mar 13, 2009

A report by the international NGO ActionAid, backed by the South African Human Rights Commission, said the horrific crimes against lesbians were going unrecognised by the state and unpunished by the legal system.

The report called for South Africa’s criminal justice system to recognise the rapes as hate crimes in an attempt to force police to take action over the rising tide of violence.

The ferocity of the attack became clear in April last year when Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa’s national female football squad, became one of the victims. Miss Simelane, and equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian, was gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs.

But scores more women have been deliberately targeted for rape, the Guardian reports.

“Every day I am told that they are going to kill me, that they are going to rape me and after they rape me I’ll become a girl,” Zakhe Sowello from Soweto, told the paper. “When you are raped you have a lot of evidence on your body. But when we try and report these crimes nothing happens, and then you see the boys who raped you walking free on the street.”

Research shows 86 per cent of black lesbians from the Western Cape live in fear of sexual assault. Triangle, a gay rights organisation, said it deals with up to 10 new cases of “corrective rape” every week.

“What we’re seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them,” Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle, told the paper.

Support groups claim an increasingly macho political environment led to inaction over attacks.

A statement released by South Africa’s national prosecuting authority said: “While hate crimes – especially of a sexual nature – are rife, it is not something that the South African government has prioritised as a specific project.”

Human rights and equality campaigners are hoping that the public outrage and disgust at Miss Simelane’s death and the July trial of the three men accused of her rape and murder will help put an end to the spiralling violence.

NASA unveils green science commune dream

The Register | Mar 14, 2009

By Austin Modine in San Francisco

NASA is partnering with two Silicon Valley colleges to transform a chunk of its Ames Research Center in Mountain View into a prototype “environmentally sustainable” commune for scientists.

The space agency said today that it has inked a land lease with the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District to provide 75 acres of land of its California research compound.

The goal is to create a research and education village “dedicated to preparing the workforce of the future and conducting research at the forefront of science and technology,” according to UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal.

Their vision for the community includes housing, state-of-the-art research and teaching labs, classrooms, and accommodations for industrial partners. The village will be located on the scenic south side of NASA’s highly toxic Moffett Field Hanger One.

There, residents will have easy Zeppelin access and enjoy Google jets landing in their backyard. The Universities hope students attending the campus will become future employees of NASA to help the space agency “achieve its exploration objectives.”

NASA said the community will be designed to have a minimal carbon footprint and serve as a model to test and deploy new renewable energy and resource conservation systems.

With the space agency’s help, maybe we’ll get to see a community entirely consisting of piss drinkers – blessedly secluded from the judging eyes of non-scientific outsiders.

Collaborators hope to break ground by 2013 and begin shipping in unwitting test subjects occupants by 2015. The project is expected to cost more than $1bn, largely raised by external capital investment.

Obama calls G-20 “rift” over global crisis a “phony debate”

Obama today said there is no conflict between the goals of increased spending and greater regulation, calling it a “phony debate.”

Bloomberg | Mar 14, 2009

Obama Denies G-20 Rift Over How Best to Handle Global Crisis

By Kim Chipman

March 14 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama dismissed suggestions that the U.S. and some European allies disagree on how best to combat the deepening global recession as leaders of the world’s biggest economies prepare for a summit next month.

“There’s no conflict or contradiction between the positions of the G-20 countries and how we’re going to be moving forward,” Obama said today in a news conference with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “There’s going to be a difference in details. Those are being worked on right now. I expect to have a productive meeting.”

Finance ministers from the Group of 20, which comprises the biggest developed and emerging economies, ended a meeting today in London without making an explicit commitment to increased government spending to stimulate growth, as the U.S. had been urging. Instead, the group pledged a “sustained” effort to clean up the non-performing assets that are burdening the balance sheets of banks and freezing lending.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner approached the G- 20 meeting by lobbying his opposite numbers to follow the U.S. in injecting fiscal stimulus equivalent to at least 2 percent of their economy’s gross domestic product this year. European officials argued they had already spent enough, had bigger social safety nets and didn’t want to blow out budgets. European leaders have also stressed the need for greater financial regulation.

London Summit

The finance ministers’ meeting was held in preparation for a G-20 summit scheduled to take place in London on April 2. The group comprises the world’s largest developed and emerging economies.

Obama today said there is no conflict between the goals of increased spending and greater regulation, calling it a “phony debate.”

“I can’t be clearer in saying that there are no sides,” Obama said.

The Democratic president, who pushed a $787 billion stimulus package through Congress last month as part of his broader plan to jumpstart the economy with tax cuts and new government spending, stressed his support for rewriting the rules overseeing the country’s financial system.

“We have to do financial regulation, and nobody is going to be a more vigorous promoter of the need for a reform,” he said, adding that he expects such efforts will occur within individual countries as opposed to joint efforts.

“There’s going to need to be coordination between the various countries,” he said.

Monitoring Board

Obama noted that some European nations have increased spending in an attempt to boost their economies. He said there should be an international oversight board “that is accounting for how much stimulus is taking place out there.” That way, “various foreign ministries can keep track of what’s happening with respect to global demand.”

Officials within the Obama administration have repeatedly said they aren’t solely focused on a larger stimulus and seek to impose curbs on markets to prevent future turmoil.

White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers said in Washington earlier this week that the administration will announce details of its plan to overhaul banking rules in the next few weeks.

G-20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

Why so many camels and swords? The Shriners’ origins


The Kora Shrine Temple in Lewiston Maine

“They thought at the time that the Masonic fraternity was too staid and businesslike. They were looking where they could go, commingle and have fun, drink, and wine and dine with their ladies. This was created as the fun portion of the Masonic fraternity.”

Sun Journal | Mar 15, 2009

By Kathryn Skelton

shriner_logoEverywhere you turn in the Kora Shrine Temple there is a touch of the Middle East. Elaborate camel heads carved into the wood by the staircase. A mural of the pyramids at sunset over the dining-room bandstand. A crescent-shaped maroon altar upstairs. All Shrine Temples have a Middle Eastern theme, but not all have as strong and ornate a feel as Lewiston’s.


The Bektashi Begat the Shriners?

What’s with all the symbolism?

Frank Preble explains:

Back in the late 1800s, a New York Mason traveling abroad attended a lavish soiree thrown by French royalty, Preble said.

“All of the people were dressed in Arabic garb,” he said. “He was quite impressed with all that, the fezzes and the ornate stuff and the color of the garb they wore, and that’s how we ended up. He came back and created Shriners.

“They thought at the time that the Masonic fraternity was too staid and businesslike. They were looking where they could go, commingle and have fun, drink, and wine and dine with their ladies. This was created as the fun portion of the Masonic fraternity.”

And those leadership titles? Also, in all likelihood, a means of being different, David Lidstone said. The temple’s leader – the potentate – translates to being a company CEO. The chief rabban is a vice president, the assistant rabban is a second vice president and so on.

Potentates, responsible for everything that goes on at the temple, hold that title for one year. It used to be that men entered a leadership track that took 10 years to reach that top spot, Preble said. That’s since been cut to seven.

Lidstone is in line to be potentate in January 2010. Karl Finnimore is the current potentate.

By the numbers: Kora Shrine Temple

$100,000: Original construction cost in 1906-08

$400,000+: Cost of adding an elevator in 2000

2: Times a year Central Maine Medical Center takes over the dining room (one charity gala, one Christmas party)

7: Number of ovens in the kitchen (three gas, four convection)

10,000: Number of gallons of oil a year to heat the building

19,996: Number of members over the last 100 years (they’ll hit 20,000 this summer)

Interested in a tour? Just ask

The public is welcome to stop by during the week, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for a look inside. To arrange for a guided tour, call in advance: 782-6831

What is a Shriner?

Men who become “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” – Shriners – are Freemasons who have reached the high rank of Master Mason. According to KoraShiners.org, men can apply to their local lodge to become a Freemason if they’re 18 or over, wish to join the fraternity and believe in a god (any god – members are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and of other religious backgrounds).

Masonry “dates back hundreds of years to the time when stonemasons and other craftsmen gathered in shelter houses or lodges. Over the years, formal Masonic lodges emerged, with members bound together not by trade, but by their own desire to be fraternal brothers,” according to the site.

Shriners support 22 Shriners Hospitals that offer free care to children in need with issues including burns and orthopedic problems.

AIDS rate soars 22% in US capital

D.C. Officials to Release Report Showing 3 Percent of City Population Has Virus

ABC | Mar 15, 2009


Washington is the nation’s capital, home to the President and his family, and a tourist haven — but it has the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in the country.

City officials are expected to release a report Monday showing 3 percent of the city’s general population has been infected with the virus. It’s the first time the city has done a comprehensive analysis of infection rates in the district.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the definition of an epidemic is 1 percent of the population.

Washington’s rate of infection with HIV-AIDS is three times that.


HIV and AIDS cases rise 22 percent in D.C.

According to the report by the DC HIV/AIDS Administration, almost 1 in 10 of the city’s residents between the ages of 40 and 49 has the virus. It spreads three ways — through heterosexual sex, homosexual sex and through intraveneous drug use.

“D.C. is unique in that all of those three transmission rates is high, and they’re all in double digits,” said Jose Vargas, a Washington Post reporter working on a documentary about AIDS in Washington.

D.C. also has high concentrations of the groups most at risk — African Americans and gay men. But the report drives home the point that the virus is cutting across all demographics, increasing 22 percent from 2006, with epidemic proportions in all but one of the city’s eight neighborhoods.

Health officials blame the high rates on individual behaviors, but also on the city’s haphazard response to the crisis.

Shannon Hader is the 12th director of the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration and the third in five years. In a cover story for the Washington Post today she tried to put the rates into context.

“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” Hader said. “They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”

Vargas has been studying the city’s HIV-AIDS rates for the past six years.

“This didn’t just happen like that,” he said. “We didn’t just wake up and all of a sudden it’s here.”

Full Story