Daily Archives: November 19, 2009

Anger at ‘cloak of secrecy’ for Freemason judges

 

Independent | Nov 10, 2009

By Ben Padley

Jack Straw’s decision to no longer force applicants for the judiciary to declare if they are Freemasons was today branded a “disgrace” by a Labour MP.

Gordon Prentice (Pendle) said there would again be a “cloak of secrecy” following the move by the Justice Secretary.

Mr Straw said last week that a review had shown no evidence of “impropriety or malpractice” as a result of a judge being a Freemason and it would be “disproportionate” to continue with the practice, introduced in 1998.

The United Grand Lodge of England made representations to ministers in May and indicated it might seek judicial review of the policy.

At Commons question time today Mr Prentice asked: “Is it not a disgrace that you have decided to allow judges no longer to have to declare if they are Freemasons?

“We know that one in 20 of our judges are Freemasons. Why on earth the cloak of secrecy?”

Mr Straw replied: “There was no secrecy about my announcement, I made the announcement by way of written ministerial statement last week in the light of a European Court of Human Rights judgment against the state of Italy, which was made in 2006, and to which our attention was drawn by the Grand Lodge of Freemasons.

“It suggested that a continuation of a compulsory register…was likely to be unlawful. After legal advice I accepted that. It is open to any judge to declare that they are Freemasons.”

He added that there had been “no evidence” of any “unacceptable behaviour by Freemason judges.

Ministry of Justice figures indicate there are 3,808 judges in England and Wales and 205 or 5.4 per cent are Freemasons. There are also 29,702 magistrates, of whom 1,900 or 6.4 per cent are Freemasons.

Scientology faces allegations of abuse and covering up deaths in Australia

Irish Times | Nov 19, 2009

PÁDRAIG COLLINS in Sydney

THE CHURCH of Scientology in Australia was last night defending itself from a scathing attack by a politician using parliamentary privilege.

In a senate speech late on Tuesday, independent south Australia senator Nick Xenophon said: “Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

Mr Xenophon questioned Scientology’s tax exemption status and called for it to be investigated by the police and parliament.

The senator tabled letters he received from former Scientology members detailing claims of abuse, false imprisonment, forced abortion, embezzlement and the covering up of children’s deaths.

“One of the saddest correspondences I have received – and they are all sad – is from Paul Schofield,” said Mr Xenophon.

Mr Schofield alleges the cover-up of child abuse by Scientology and admitted being part of a campaign to cover up the facts surrounding the deaths of two of his daughters. “Lauren, who was 14 months old, was being babysat at the organisation’s building in Sydney when she was allowed to wander the stairs by herself and fall. She died in hospital two days later,” said Mr Xenophon.

Mr Schofield said he felt pressured by Scientology executives not to request an inquiry, and was told if he sought compensation he and his wife would be ineligible for any church services. “His second daughter, Kirsty, who was 2½, died after ingesting potassium chloride – a substance used as part of a so-called ‘purification programme’ run by the organisation,” said Mr Xenophon.

Mr Schofield says he perjured himself to the police in the inquest to protect the church.

A letter from former Scientologist Aaron Saxton said he was involved in coercing female followers to have abortions.

He said this was part of a policy designed to keep followers loyal and to allow them to continue working for the organisation.

The Church of Scientology said Mr Xenophon’s allegations were an abuse of parliamentary privilege.

“If these people had key issues, then how come they haven’t contacted the church officially? . . . I think it’s a bit disingenuous that someone stands up in parliament, where they can say whatever they want,” said Scientology spokeswoman Virginia Stewart.

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said Mr Xenophon’s speech contained “grave allegations”.

“I share some of those concerns but let us proceed carefully and look carefully at the material which he has provided before we make a decision on further parliamentary action,” he said.

Man says vaccine triggered deafness

Kentuckiana man says vaccine triggered deafness

WHAS11 | Nov 11, 2009

by Joe Arnold

The Metro health department says even after tens of thousands of doses of the H1N1 vaccine, they have received no reports of any illnesses or adverse reactions.

But, vaccines in general are not free of controversy or concern.

A Kentuckiana man believes a pneumonia vaccine injured him.

As a thoroughbred trainer since 1972, Rick Hiles is an expert on horses, but concerning his own health, he relied on a doctor’s advice when he decided to get the pneumonia vaccine last year.

“He said it would only make your arm sore for a couple of days,” Hiles recalled, “and so after quite a bit of questioning, I said okay, if that’s all it’s going to do.”

Hiles says his arm was so sore the next day he could hardly lift it.

And then, “on a Sunday night, about ten days afterwards, I was sitting at home. All of a sudden I had a real loud noise in my ear, it was real loud and two seconds later I was completely deaf.”

His hearing in his left ear was gone. For the next week, Hiles says he got dizzier and sicker, and eventually got pneumonia. He recovered from the pneumonia.

But the hearing in his left ear is gone forever.

“When I’m in board rooms, I have to try to position everybody to my right side,” Hiles said, “Because I don’t hear anything on my left side.” “In my mind, the vaccine knocked my hearing for life.”

Hiles says – to be clear – he can’t prove that link, but he has now researched vaccine injuries on the Internet.

The very existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program implies some risk. But, the Metro Public Health Department’s Dr. Matt Zahn says the federal government assumes liablity so vaccines don’t become cost-prohibitive for pharmaceutical companies.

He says the program does not mean that vaccines are unsafe.

“The unanimous conclusion for these vaccines is that they are safe and effective and important,” Zahn said.

But, the stories of vaccine injuries, however isolated or unproven, seize just as much attention, such as the cheerleader-in-training seen on Inside Edition who began suffering uncontrollable muscle spasms ten days after a flu shot.

WHAS11 News has chronicled the struggels of the Riggle family of Louisville, who believes that mercury in a vaccine triggered their son’s autism.

“We are not so anti-vaccination as we are pro-information,” Emlyn Riggle explained.

“And knowing all the risks because you will risk something no matter what you choose.”

Hiles is also pushing for more disclosure about vaccine injuries.

“If I had known that going in, I might have thought twice about taking the shot,” Hiles explained.

The Centers for Disease Control says the pneumonia vaccine is “very safe and does not make you sick,” though some people get a little swelling and soreness. Other possible side effects that are listed are fever, rash, and allergic reactions.

And public health professionals say some conditions that might appear as side effects could just be random occurences.

“Right now we are in the process of vaccinating maybe 100 million people with h1n1 vaccine,” explained Dr. Matt Zahn of the Metro Health and Wellness Department.

“In the week or two week period after we vaccinate those 100 million people, a small number of them will get cancer, a small number of them will get hit by a bus, a small number of them will have an event happen where they lose their hearing.”

Zahn says when one thinks of the rarity of measles or mumps or polio in the United States, the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the “small risks.”

As for Rick Hiles? “I’m through with vaccines the rest of my life. No more vaccines,” he said.

Soldiers could get urban jungle uniforms tailored for streets of Canadian cities

A Canadian soldier of India Company from the NATO-led coalition looks for enemy combatants during a firefight against Taliban insurgents in Sangasar, Zari district in eastern Afghanistan. Photograph by: Finbarr O’Reilly, Reuters

“Should any operations be required, there’s a good probability that some of them will be taking place in urban environments.”

Soldiers could get uniforms for urban jungle

Camo tailored for Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver — but not Ottawa

Ottawa Citizen | Nov 18, 2009

By David Pugliese

OTTAWA — Future Canadian soldiers could be wearing new uniforms designed to provide camouflage on the streets of our largest cities.

The Defence Department will know by March what designs might work for what is being called a Canadian Urban Environment Pattern.

Those designs are to be based on the “unique requirements” of the urban settings of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, according to an outline of the project being co-ordinated by scientists at Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield, Alta.

Ottawa, the nerve centre of government and the military, was left off the list because it doesn’t rate as a major metropolitan centre.

“We’re not trying to slight any city in the country,” explained Scott Duncan, head of the soldier and systems protection group at DRDC Suffield. “We chose the three largest urban centres to have baseline data in this early development project.”

He said information gathered on what patterns might work best in those three cities could also have applications for other urban centres.

Duncan said the $25,000 study to come up with camouflage patterns did not necessarily mean a new uniform would be produced for the Canadian Forces anytime soon. Once the patterns are determined, the results will be presented to the Canadian military and it will be up to the leadership on how to proceed, he added.

“If you were to refer back to the Canada First Defence Strategy, one of the principal mandates that has been given to our military is that they must provide protection to the citizens of Canada and help exercise Canadian sovereignty,” Duncan said.

“Given our large urban population, should any operations be required, there’s a good probability that some of them will be taking place in urban environments.”

However, Eric Graves, the editor of Soldier Systems Daily, a U.S. website that reports on the uniform and equipment industry, questioned whether it made sense to have camouflage based on the landscape of Canadian cities. Various studies indicate the world’s population in developing nations is becoming more focused in urban areas and military officers often talk about future warfare being in those areas.

“It makes zero sense for the Canadian military to produce an urban pattern based on their own cities unless they plan on fighting there,” Graves noted.

“If that’s the case, then it is the perfect choice.”

Still, Graves said, if the Canadian military strategy is to continue supporting the United Nations and NATO on its operations, “the answer is that they have to take a broader look, and develop a pattern more suited to use in ungoverned or under-governed areas that are rapidly urbanizing.”

The contract for the Canadian camouflage pattern was awarded to HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. in Maple Ridge, B.C.

The original contract requirement from DRDC Suffield noted that the current military uniform to protect against chemical, biological and radiological substances was available in only the desert and temperate woodland patterns.

Clement Laforce, deputy director general for DRDC Suffield, said the patterns that would be produced are not just for chemical or biological protective suits, but also for general use for the Canadian Forces.

An urban camouflage uniform was designed in the U.S. in the 1990s based on slate grey patterns. It is used by some U.S. police tactical teams, U.S. special forces on urban missions and a number of foreign special forces and law enforcement units.

However, Duncan said uniforms designed for a U.S. urban environment might not work in a Canadian setting. “There’s factors such as light, the amount and types of vegetation and weather patterns,” he said. “These are all parameters you take into consideration when you develop these patterns.”

Secret CCTV cameras fitted INSIDE people’s homes to spy on neighbours outside

The high street in Addington, Croydon. The London borough has become the first to test out placing CCTV cameras inside homes

Daily Mail | Nov 18, 2009

Town halls are installing cameras inside suburban homes to spy on the neighbourhood.

The Big Brother tactic – which is allowed under the anti-terrorist Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – is being used by Croydon council in South London to catch those suspected of ‘anti-social behaviour’.

The CCTV cameras are placed inside the house of a willing resident, but trained on the street.

If deemed successful, the £1,000 cameras could be installed across the country to catch low-level offenders.

Charles Farrier, of the campaign group No-CCTV, said: ‘There is no evidence they act as a deterrent and we should be concentrating on the root problem anyway and working to gel our communities.’

Simon Davies, of Privacy International, said: ‘Unless the public are aware of where these cameras are, I believe this council should be taken to court for a breach of human rights.’

Critics say the scheme has echoes of the East German Stasi secret police, which recruited members of the public as spies.

The cameras cannot be seen from the street, and officials have refused to say in which areas they have been installed. Evidence gleaned from the cameras can be used to take people to court.

Croydon councillor Gavin Barwell said: ‘We’ll be working together with the police to put them to best use.’

But some local residents have backed the idea. Kirenna Chin, 30, said: ‘Louts use my hedge as a bouncy castle and urinate in my front garden. It’s very intimidating.

‘It’s a fantastic idea to fit hidden CCTV. If they offered me one I would definitely take it.’

Croydon has one of London’s most advanced CCTV networks.

The control room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are 77 fixed cameras, a rapid-response mobile unit, and three wireless units.

Hong Kong shivers in coldest November in over 120 years

SIFY | Nov 19, 2009

Hong Kong recorded its coldest Nov 18 in 120 years as a winter monsoon continued to send temperatures falling, authorities said Thursday.

Temperatures fell to 9.7 degrees Celsius in the sub-tropical city Wednesday morning – the lowest Nov 18 reading since records began in 1883.

In rural areas close to the border with China, it was even colder, falling as low as 6.6 degrees.

The previous coldest Nov 18 was in 1976 when the temperature was 11.9 degrees.

The Observatory warned the cold spell, which has brought snow to some parts of southern China, would continue until the weekend as the northeast monsoon brought wintery weather to southern China.

However, it is expected to get warmer over the weekend, bringing temperatures to around 20 degrees next week.

Hong Kong is in a sub-tropical belt at the southern tip of China and never has snow. Occasionally, traces of frost are seen on high ground on the coldest days of the winter.

Fort Hood: Hasan’s Supervisor Warned Army In ’07

An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month. U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences/Getty Images

NPR | Nov 18, 2009

by Daniel Zwerdling

Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan’s incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. NPR has obtained a copy of the memo, the first evaluation that has surfaced from Hasan’s file.

Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.

Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army’s most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.

Related

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The Damning Memo

On May 17, 2007, Hasan’s supervisor at Walter Reed sent the memo to the Walter Reed credentials committee. It reads, “Memorandum for: Credentials Committee. Subject: CPT Nidal Hasan.” More than a page long, the document warns that: “The Faculty has serious concerns about CPT Hasan’s professionalism and work ethic. … He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism.” It is signed by the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, Maj. Scott Moran.

When shown the memo, two leading psychiatrists said it was so damning, it might have sunk Hasan’s career if he had applied for a job outside the Army.

“Even if we were desperate for a psychiatrist, we would not even get him to the point where we would invite him for an interview,” says Dr. Steven Sharfstein, who runs Sheppard Pratt’s psychiatric medical center, based just outside Baltimore.

Sharfstein says it’s a little hard to read the evaluation now and pretend that he doesn’t know that Hasan is accused of shooting dozens of people. But he says if he had seen a memo like this about an applicant, Sharfstein would have avoided him like the plague.

The memo ticks off numerous problems over the course of Hasan’s training, including proselytizing to his patients. It says he mistreated a homicidal patient and allowed her to escape from the emergency room, and that he blew off an important exam.

According to the memo, Hasan hardly did any work: He saw only 30 patients in 38 weeks. Sources at Walter Reed say most psychiatrists see at least 10 times that many patients. When Hasan was supposed to be on call for emergencies, he didn’t even answer the phone.

Warning Signs

Sharfstein says the memo doesn’t suggest that Hasan would end up shooting people, but it warns that Hasan was “somebody who could potentially put patients in danger.”

“There are all kinds of warning signs, flashing red lights, that, in terms of just this paragraph, you’d say, ‘Oh, no, this is not somebody that we would take a chance on.’ ”

Sharfstein says that in the 25 years he has been supervising and hiring psychiatrists, he has seen only a half-dozen evaluations this bad.

The memo does have a couple of qualifications that say something positive about Hasan. It says, “He is able to self-correct with supervision.” And Moran writes, “I am not able to say he is not competent to graduate.”

Officials at Walter Reed told NPR that those statements were very carefully worded. What they convey is that when Hasan’s supervisors read him the riot act — when they gave him intensive supervision — he would improve just enough so that they had to tell their commanders: “Hasan is capable of doing better.”

But officials say nobody has the time to supervise a doctor that closely.

Alerting Fort Hood

“I would never, ever hire a physician with this kind of a record,” says Judith Broder, who runs the Soldiers Project, an award-winning private therapy program for troops in Southern California.

Broder says that soldiers seeking therapy may be falling apart, filled with rage and a distrust of authority. What those soldiers need, she says, is a psychiatrist they can trust completely — not a therapist who fails to show up and abandons his patients.

“This kind of behavior could, in fact, set off a stress reaction” in a patient, she says. “It could be a trigger to a post-traumatic stress reaction.”

Moran and Pentagon spokesmen declined NPR’s requests for interviews for this story. Officials at Fort Hood would not comment, either.

But sources say that when the Army sent Hasan to Fort Hood earlier this year, Walter Reed sent the damning evaluation there, too. So commanders at Fort Hood would know exactly what they were getting.