Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why Atheists Don't Turn to Religion...

Atheists don't turn to religion when faced with death or disaster
Text by Greta Christina (AlterNet)

The notion, "There are no atheists in foxholes" is not only mistaken, it's bigoted and ugly. It's a denial of atheists' humanity and the reality of our experience with death.

Sure, you deny God now. But when you're looking death in the face -- when you're sick or in an accident or staring down the barrel of a gun -- you'll change your mind. You'll beg for God then. There are no atheists in foxholes.

This is one of the most common accusations that gets leveled against atheists. The idea seems to be that our atheism isn't sincere. It's naive at best, shallow at worst. We haven't really thought through what atheism means.

It's somehow never occurred to us that atheism -- and its philosophical companion, naturalism -- means that death is forever. As soon as the harsh reality of what atheism means gets shoved in our faces, we'll drop it like a hot potato.

Now, the most common atheist response to this accusation is to point out that it's simply and flatly not true. And it's one of the arguments I'm going to make myself, right now. This accusation is simply and flatly not true.... More>>

The Dangerous Atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris...
Please leave the Buddhists out of this. Buddhism didn't come into the Equation during WW II...

Buddhism on AlterNet

What is Wrong with the Muslim World? (WireTap)
"Buddhism gets the best press of any religion in the world," said Shaykh Hamza Yusuf... While it was the Tibetans who introduced the Mongols to Buddhism...

In Good Conscience (World)
In the ensuing months, Delgado became dedicated to Buddhism and its principles of pacifism. By April 2003, when he began his year-long tour in Iraq...
Blue Jean Buddhists (WireTap)
In the age of Eminem, "Scary Movie 2," and Instant Messenger, it's suprising that so many young people are incorporating a 2500-year-old faith tradition into...
Taliban Destroyed Statues, Not Buddhism
Outrage greeted the news that the Taliban in Afghanistan were going to destroy two very large statues of the Buddha. It is important, however, to recognize...
Readers Write: Atheist Sam Harris on Torture and Faith
His opinions on psychics, Buddhism, torture, and war seem very misguided... Sam Harris praises Buddhism for its way to enlightenment...
Psychedelics and Zen: Teach Your Children Well
Allan Hunt Badiner, the editor of "Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and..." Zen Buddhism continues to grow and attract new adherents as the one...
Sam Harris's Faith in Eastern Spirituality and Muslim Torture...
"The teachings about self-transcending love in Buddhism go on for miles," he says... Harris speaks of the value of nondualism as taught in the Buddhist... More>>

UFO files to be released by another country

Gregory Brewer (Examiner)
More photos (

New Zealand to release UFO Files? As many enthusiasts know, the time is drawing closer to a full out disclosure of UFO phenomena worldwide. Worldwide disclosure may not reveal all of the pertinent information related to the subject, such as the existence of extraterrestrials. But it will open the doors of confirmation that the technology exists.

Many people believe the truth should be released in increments so as to prevent panic and fright. This campaign should have been accelerated many years ago instead of covering it up. The next step may involve the truth regarding the acquisition of such technology, which ultimately leads to the existence of extraterrestrials and their interactions with the human race.

Note: Our investigative team and associates from other Web resources find it humorous when a recently released story discusses the long range search for aliens by NASA and other large organizations. The evidence presented by many who have come forward with evidence suggests ETs not only visit earth but have been here from the beginning.

In the past few months, nation after nation has released its UFO files to the public in an effort to inform the masses and attempt to strengthen trust and cooperation between governments and their citizenry. New Zealand is joining that campaign in hopes that the United States will finally supply a final explanation on the subject of UFOs. More>>

Buddhism is Appealing to Westerners

Buddhism is an Eastern Way of Life Appealing to Westerners
Jessica Porter (Ground Report)
Scarlett Sams works in a Presbyterian Church during the day, but on Thursday nights she attends a meeting of Tibetan Buddhist’s at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha in Richmond, Va. She is a part of a growing Buddhist movement in the United States of every day Americans finding comfort in this Eastern tradition.

“It’s a great community and they are my friends. They are genuine and if I need something, they are there for me. If I’m going through a crisis they are there for me. That is why I am a Buddhist,” Sams said. Although there are no exact statistics, the 2004 World Almanac estimates there are two to three million Buddhists in the United States. But that number includes not only converted Buddhists such as Sams, but Buddhist immigrants who have brought their religion from Eastern countries.

“Buddhism in American is two camps. One is the Ethnic communities that have centers practicing their own variety of Buddhism. At those places they speak in Vietnamese, or whatever language,” Virginia Commonwealth University Religious Studies Professor Daniel Perdue said. “But by and large it is middle class to wealthy white folks who have adopted Buddhism in all varieties.”

Buddhism in America is very different from Buddhism in Eastern countries and there the reasons are two-fold. It is a lay person religion, meaning anyone can participate. There is not the same emphasis on monks and monasteries as there is in other parts of the world.

“[In Tibet] major monasteries had more than 10,000 monks in a country with only six million people. By the time of the fall of Tibet, about one out of three males was a monk. And about one out of four females was a nun,” Perdue said, emphasizing the monastic importance in the East.

Also, many Americans do not view Buddhism as a religion or as strictly as it is practiced in the East. It is more often viewed as a philosophy or lifestyle. More>>

Sri Lanka: Sangha will thwart any conspiracy

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera has said the Maha Sangha [Larger Monastic Community] will rise against any attempt to harm the country using foreign forces using the votes obtained by [failed candidate] Sarath Fonseka and TNA Leader R. Sampanthan at the presidential election in the North and East. Speaking at a press conference in [the capital] Colombo yesterday, Ven. Dhammaloka Thera said it is reported that [former army commander] Fonseka is canvassing the international community alleging that the presidential election was not free and fair. “We request Sarath Fonseka to stop harming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country by further involving the international community,” he said. More>>

Tibet's "Riot" was Staged by China

New evidence from raw footage proves the Lhasa protest was instigated and orchestrated by Chinese police. Police dressed as Buddhist monks and citizens to fabricate a pretext for clamping down, killing, and arresting protesters. China targets the West more than Tibet For by use of disinformation, propaganda, and brutality, China's communist government has created a war of terror aimed at killing innocents and insurgents alike. Then using its vast reach it has incentivized and intimidated media outlets into reporting Chinese talking points. Billions of readers worldwide are thereby misled, giving tacit approval and even active support to the administration for these fabrications. The same happens when other indigenous populations are involved, such as the Uighurs. These are not new tactics invented by China. They are military (PsyOps) and CIA-style methods used subvert civil dissent and human rights.

South Park Comparison
Han Chinese police/military impersonating Tibetans and Buddhist monks is as transparent as Cartman and Butters impersonating Chinese on behalf of America.

Dalai Lama hopes; China holds high ground

(WFP) You can't fault the Dalai Lama for optimism. I suppose that might come from being [a bodhisattva] born-again, the most recent in a long list of reincarnations that makes him the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, an inspiration of piety and pacifism to people around the world, as well as a huge hit among Hollywood actors. Only Scientology, it seems, appeals to more of these keen intellects than Tibetan Buddhism.

Wherever his hopefulness comes from, it certainly does not come from being the temporal ruler of Tibet... Every time, however, the Dalai Lama raises the issue, and he does it frequently, Beijing hammers it -- kind of like diplomatic whack-a-mole. Nevertheless, this week two Tibetan monks arrived in Beijing, sent by their leader [the Dalai Lama] to see if the Chinese might agree to open talks. China received them, but also set the Dalai Lama up for the inevitable disappointment. More>>

Blocking a frown keeps bad feelings at bay

Psychologists say if bodily sensitivity corresponded to size, a human would look like this.

(Times of India) Facial expressions not only reveal our thoughts but also affect our ability to comprehend written language related to emotions, according to a new study. According to study's first author, David Havas, a psychology Ph.D. candidate from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the interactions of facial expression, thoughts, and emotions has always intrigued researchers. During the study, researchers recruited 40 people who were treated with Botox (botulinum toxin). Tiny applications of this powerful nerve poison were used to deactivate muscles in the forehead that cause frowning. More>>

Obama looks to Zen master...

Obama looks to Zen master Jackson for political enlightenment
Seeking help in building bi-partisanship, President Obama reached out today to a noted advocate of Zen Buddhism: Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "I was hoping that, Coach, you were going to bring some books for Republicans and Democrats in Congress maybe to get them to start playing like a team together," Obama joked in honoring the pro basketball champions at the White House. Jackson, who applies Zen principles in his coaching, wrote a book called Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. More>>

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sarah Palin's tea party

The National Tea Party convention
Tea Party Convention loses speakers and steam as two lawmakers cancel appearances. Palin will still headline event. Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is one of two lawmakers who have cancelled appearances at the Tea Party Convention, scheduled for early February in Nashville, Tenn. Photo Gallery

NEW YORK - A planned convention of Tea Party astroturf (rather than grassroots) activists lost two prominent speakers Thursday, the latest sign of disagreement over how best to showcase the movement's growing political force.

Biggest, brightest Full Moon of 2010

Wolf moon: Biggest, brightest full moon of 2010 tonight

What can a lay Buddhist do even at home far from traditional Buddhist lands, temples, and societies? There are daily practices and periodic events on the Buddhist calendar. Out of the rich traditions found in Buddhist countries, here are three subjects: daily recollection or chanting to bring the Three Treasures to mind with some meditations; the Uposatha days along with the Eight Precepts practiced at those times; and the Rains-Retreat period of three months. Even where isolated Buddhists are fortunate enough to be near some Buddhist center, they will still benefit from these traditional practices, all of which are based on similar methods used in the East. Details>>

"Buddhism in the Modern World" (trailer)

Modern World Issues

Chakra Health (Deborah King)

Is your first chakra [survival] operating optimally? Also known as the root chakra, this is the center that holds the basic needs for survival, security, and safety. Learn the keys to maximizing your first chakra (Podcast 1/27/10) on Hay House radio show at 2:00 pacific. Call in live during the show at (866) 254-1579. Or see King at a workshop this weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts.

"Angels" in Buddhism

Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit

Are there deities -- beings superior in status to humans -- in Buddhism? Yes. Devas (Sanskrit, Pāli) in Buddhism are one of many different types of non-human entities who share the characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and in general living more contentedly than the average human being.

Other words used in Buddhist texts to refer to these angelic beings are devatā (deity) and devaputra (son of god), which simply indicates that one is reborn as a deva. Synonyms for devas in other languages include Chinese tiān, Japanese ten, Tibetan lha, Mongolian tenger, Khmer tep or preah, Korean cheon, Vietnamese thiên... The concept of devas was readily adopted in Japan partly because of its similarity to the indigenous Shinto concept of kami.

Powers of the Devas
From a human perspective, devas share the characteristic of generally being invisible to the physical human eye. But the presence of a deva can be detected by those who have opened the "divine eye" (Sanskrit, divyacakṣus; Pāli, dibbacakkhu), an extrasensory power by which one can see beings on other planes. Their voices can also be heard by those who have cultivated a similar power of the ear. Most devas are also capable of constructing illusory forms so as to manifest themselves to beings in worlds lower than their own. Higher and lower devas must also do this between each other.

Devas do not require the same food or sustenance as humans, although the lower kinds do eat and drink. Higher devas shine with their own intrinsic luminosity. Indeed, the word deva means "shining one." They are capable of quickly moving great distances, flying, although the lower devas sometimes accomplish this through flying vehicles (viman, or spacecraft). Bhumi or earthbound devas are sprites and elementals, whereas akasha or spacebound devas would seem to be extraterrestrial aliens (celestial travelers, "gods" from the heavens) who provided a great deal of useful information and technology but also caused war here.

Types of Devas (Buddhist cosmology)
The term deva does not refer to a natural class of beings. It is defined anthropocentrically to include all beings more powerful and more blissful than humans. It includes very different types of beings, who can be ranked hierarchically. The lowest classes are closer in nature to human beings than to higher classes of devas. For all their variety, they fall into three main classifications depending on which of the three realms (dhātus) of a world-system they are born.

  • Ārūpa-dhātu: no physical form or location, dwelling instead in meditation on formless subjects. They achieve this by attaining advanced meditative levels in previous lives. They do not interact with the rest of the universe.
  • Rūpa-dhātu have fine-material or subtle physical forms transcending gender (sexless), and they are passionless. They live in a large number of celestial worlds or "heavens." These deva-worlds rise, layer on layer, above the Earth and can be divided into five main groups:
    1. Śuddhāvāsa (Pure Abode) devas (anāgāmis such as Brahma Sahampati); the highest of these worlds is called Akaniṣṭha.
    2. Bṛhatphala devas born as a result of attaining the fourth jhāna
    3. Śubhakṛtsna devas resting in the bliss of the third jhāna
    4. Ābhāsvara devas enjoying the delights of the second jhānaBrahmā devas (or simply Brahmās), participating in the more active joys of the first jhāna, are more interested in and involved with the world below, so they sometimes intervene or intercede with advice and counsel.
    5. On the one hand, all of these deva-worlds contain different grades of inhabitants, and those within a single group are able to interact and communicate with each other. On the other hand, lower groups have no direct knowledge of the existence of higher types of deva. For this reason some of the brahmās (divinities) have become proud: They imagine themselves as creators of their own worlds and of all the worlds below them. It is said that this delusion comes about because these beings came into existence, due to their previous karma in preceding world-cycles, before those worlds came into existence. (It is a beginningless universe with evolutionary cycles of staggering duration and equally long periods of dissolution).
  • Kāma-dhātu: the sensual realm or sense sphere, extending from celestial worlds to grades of beings only slightly less dense than the human plane, with sexual differentiation and many passions:
  • The devas of the sensual realm have physical forms similar to, but larger than, humans. They lead the same sort of lives as humans but are generally longer-lived and much more contented. They are often absorbed in play, pleasures, and other diversions. Māra (lit. "killer," Cupid, Eros, a kind of devil or tempter figure in Buddhism) exercises the greatest influence over this sphere.

    The higher devas of the sensual sphere live in four celestial worlds leaving them free from contact with the strife of the lower world. They are:

    1. Parinirmita-vaśavartin devas, luxurious angels to whom Māra belongs
    2. Nirmāṇarati devas
    3. Tuṣita devas, among whom the future Budda Maitreya lives
    4. Yāma devas

    Lower devas live on different parts of the axis-mundi, the mythical mountain or pole at the center of this world-system, Mt. Sumeru. These devas are even more passionate -- as conceived of in Indian, Greek, and Roman pantheons -- than higher devas. In addition to sporting themselves and engaging in all kinds of diversions, they are also engaged in strife, petty jealousies, treachery, and fighting.

    • Heaven of the Thirty-three (Tāvastiṃśa) devas, who live on the summit of Mt. Sumeru like Olympian gods, ruled by Śakra (Indra, Zeus, Sakka "king of the gods")
    • Heaven of the Four Great Kings of the cardinal directions (Cāturmahārājikakāyika) devas, who include the rulers who guard the four directions of the sky above the Earth. Chief among them is Vaiśravaṇa. They all answer to Śakra. This group is very interesting because it also includes four types of earthbound nature-spirits: Kumbhāṇḍas, Gandharvas, Nāgas, and Yakṣas, and possibly Garuḍas (Suparnas).

    The Buddha suggested that rather than worshipping, supplicating, or asking boons from these unseen beings, one should instead "recollect the devas: 'There are the devas of the Four Great Kings, the devas of the Thirty-three..." [Ref] [196. Dh.]. The reason for this is that one is capable of becoming a deva through skillful karma. "Feeders of joy we shall be like the radiant gods (devas)."

    Sometimes included among the devas, but often placed in a separate category, are the Asuras. They are opponents of the preceding two groups of devas. As odd as it may seem for beings superior to humans, they are said to be continually engaged in war. The "war in heaven" mentioned in many religions and mythologies is therefore not entirely metaphorical.

    Interestingly, as this may all sound too amazing to believe, humans are said to have originally had many of the powers of the devas:

    • being longer-lived
    • not requiring food
    • able to fly
    • shining by their own light (which science confirms)
    • communicating by mind...

    But over time as humans began to eat solid foods, their bodies became coarser and their powers diminished.

    Devas vs. gods
    Although the word deva is generally translated "god" (or even angel) in English, the Buddhist conception of devas differs from the gods, God, or angels of Western religions past and present.

    • Devas are long-lived but not immortal; when they pass away, they are reborn according to their karma, which means they could end up anywhere else: another kind of deva, human, or worse.
    • They do not create, shape, or bring about the dissolution of the world. Like everyone else they come into existence based on their past deeds and are subject to the natural law (or regularity) of cause and effect.
    • They are not incarnations nor mere symbols of a few archetypal deities or manifestations of an all-embracing pantheistic One. Like humans they are considered distinct individuals with their own personalities and paths in life.
    • They are not omniscient. Their knowledge is inferior to a Buddha, and even some humans, especially lacking awareness of beings in worlds higher than their own.
    • They are far from omnipotent. Their powers tend to be limited to their own worlds, and they rarely intervene in human affairs. When they do, it is generally by way of quiet advice rather than by physical intercession.
    • They are not morally perfect. Even devas of the subtle form worlds, who lack human passions and desires, are capable of ignorance, prided, and arrogance. Lower devas of the sensual realm experience the same kind of passions as humans, including (in the lowest of these worlds), lust, jealousy, anger, and all manner of foolishness. Indeed, their imperfections have caused them to be reborn in these worlds.
    • They are not guides the way the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are regarded. While some individual devas may commnad great moral authority and prestige and thus be deserving of a high degree of respect, no deva can show the way of escape from Saṃsāra or control one's rebirth. Therefore, devas are frequently recorded as coming to Earth for this guidance. More>>

    "When Brute Force Fails" (listen)

    Crime may be down, but punish-ment remains a significant issue. It is compounded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s urging to privatize prisons. Nationally, one in every 100 men in the U.S. is incarcerated — the highest number in our history and the highest percentage of any country in the world.

    What’s at the root of this problem, and what are the most cost effective means of fixing it? Author Mark Kleiman joins Patt Morrison with his book When Brute Force Fails.

    Listen Now - Download

    Mark A.R. Kleiman (Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results & Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control) is professor of public policy at UCLA.

    Howard Zinn: an American mahatma (video)

    (RT) The death of Howard Zinn has prompted reflection on the historian, philosopher, and activist. Best known for A People's History of the United States, Zinn's thinking influenced a generation of Americans. His last published work was highly critical of Barack Obama, whom he predicted would have a failed presidency.

    David Zirin remembers Howard Zinn, who had an independent take on American history as a genuine scholar and activist who put himself on the line for social justice.

    Alan Maass discusses Howard Zinn's legacy with Kristine Frazao.

    Howard Zinn describes himself and his work with civil rights throughout his life. He helped end apartheid in South Africa and was a major voice opposing the Vietnam war. He is best known for A People's History of the United States.

    Man Given Second Chance to Ruin World

    The U.S. Senate votes to give Ben Bernanke a second term as Chair of the Federal Reserve.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Buddhism in America (NBC News)

    J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) Dies

    Author behind Holden Caulfield died yesterday as did America's historian Howard Zinn

    • Catcher in the Rye author dies at 91
      J.D. Salinger, the reclusive American author whose classic novel of adolescent angst and discovery The Catcher in the Rye, was required reading for (Belfast Telegraph) More>>

    Buddha Boy (multilingual subtitles)

    (Supreme Master TV) Buddha Boy, aka Ram Bahadur Bomjan, Tapaswi Palden Dorje: The Meditating Buddha Boy from Nepal (English/Nepalese), Part I.

    Coping with Death

    (Experience Festival) "According to Hinduism, when a person dies, one either travels to heavenly worlds or to the ancestral worlds depending upon one's previous deeds.

    "We are told that the departed souls can be elevated to higher planes of existence and pushed further [along] on the scale of evolution if their direct descendents on Earth, especially the male progeny, perform some annual rites and make sacrificial offerings to them. With such rites, not just one but the entire family of ancestors would be benefited and spiritually uplifted."

    While the same cannot be applied to Buddhism, it looks like that's what was happening here. It was kind of intense. Mourners walked out of the temple as a Buddhist monk was ringing a gong lightly and chanting softly. The family walked to a furnace and placed three medium sized bags in before lighting them on fire. It was hauntingly cool.

    Translated message to the world by "Buddha Boy," Palden Dorje, Halkhoriya Jungle, Nepal

    "Forgiveness" in Buddhism? (video)

    (The Young Turks)

    Richard Eskow: "You know what I love about this is of course it fits in with what we all know about the Dalai Lama, which is he's the most unforgiving S.O.B. you could ever meet, because forgiveness has no place in his ideology. You cross that guy, you're dead! That's number one."

    Michael Shure: "There's no forgiveness in Buddhism."

    Richard Eskow: "No forgiveness. I'm a contributing editor to a Buddhist magazine. So I've written a lot about the Buddhist blogosphere."

    NOTE: This is an ironic and humorous exchange to make the point that Brit Hume (Fox News) is absurd to take his stand against Buddhism on the basis of forgiveness -- as if there were no forbearance in the tradition when, in fact, it's fundamental and evident in the behavior of its prominent figures.

    Buddhism and Human Consciousness

    Bhikkhu Bodhi

    Since my presentation is entitled "A Buddhist Response to Contemporary Dilemmas of Human Existence," I should begin by spelling out what I mean by the expression "contemporary dilemmas of human existence."

    Our root problem, it seems to me, is at its core a problem of consciousness. I would characterize this problem briefly as a fundamental existential dislocation, a dislocation having both cognitive and ethical dimensions.

    That is, it involves both a disorientation in our understanding of reality, and a distortion or inversion of the proper scale of values, the scale that would follow from a correct understanding of reality.

    Because our root problem is one of consciousness, this means that any viable solution must be framed in terms of a transformation of consciousness. It requires an attempt to arrive at a more accurate grasp of the human situation in its full depth and breadth.

    [And it requires] a turning of the mind and heart in a new direction, a direction commensurate with the new understanding, one that brings light and peace rather than strife and distress.

    Before I discuss some of the responses that religion might make to the outstanding dilemmas of our age, I propose to offer a critique of the existential dislocation that has spread among such significant portion of humankind today.

    Through most of this century, the religious point of view has been defensive. It may now be the time to take the offensive, by scrutinizing closely the dominant modes of thought that lie at the base of our spiritual malaise. More>>

    Zen'sational photographs

    Yin and Yang, crouching tiger versus hidden dragon (919510)

    Zensational is about love for this beautiful world with its incredible nature and wonderful people, the daily joys of urban and rural life, art and architecture, nature and the environment. That includes all that's around us, simplicity in our midst and our innermost spirituality, not only Zen but all faiths, philosophies, and worldviews. Join to celebrate the planet's multiculturalism and diversity. Upload up to two photographs a day.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    PSA: Hollywood Vegetarianism

    (Rosary Films) This is a short public service announcement created for the University of Rochester's cable TV station. Did you know that nine-time Olympic gold medal winner Carl Lewis made the switch to a vegetarian diet? How about Alicia Silverstone? Or Albert Einstein?

    Hollywood Celebrities turning to Vegetarianism
    Many Hollywood celebrities are flocking to vegetarianism for health and ethical reasons, besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions to save the environment. In an interview in the recent issue of Stylist magazine in London, Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman, who has been vegetarian for 20 years, said: “Part of my reason for being vegetarian was because it practices respect and love for life all through the day, so three times a day you make a decision not to eat things that have been killed.”

    Besides Portman, other celebrity vegetarians include Grammy-winning country singer Carrie Underwood, Golden Globe nominated Tobey Maguire ("Spiderman"), and so on. Rajan Zed argued that there was extensive protection of life in Hinduism. Ahimsa (nonviolence, harmlessness) was a command. All the major religions of the world were opposed to killing, he added. Zed urged more world celebrities to come out in support of vegetarianism, thus contributing to a healthier world and helping the environment.

    Beatle Sir Paul McCartney’s recently put his weight behind the "Meat-Free Monday" movement, which aims at persuading the public to go vegetarian once a week to slow global warming. Other celebrity proponents reportedly include actors Kevin Spacey and Woody Harrelson, actresses Pamela Anderson, Joanna Lumley and Laura Bailey, singers Sharleen Spiteri, Chris Martin, and Sheryl Crow, comedians David Walliams, Matt Lucas, and Ricky Gervais, media personality Kelly Osbourne, industrialist Sir Richard Branson, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, scientist Sir David King, Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, socialite Zac Goldsmith, chefs Giorgio Locatelli, Oliver Peyton, Arthur Potts Dawson, Yotam Ottolenghi, and Skye Gyngell, food writers Mark Hix and Nigel Slater, restaurateur Oliver Peyton, and so on. Source

    Cambodia to destroy all Ecstasy stocks

    Prak Chan Thul (Reuters)

    Cambodia is cracking down on a raw ingredient for the club-drug Ecstasy by wiping out stocks of an oil made from the roots of a rare rainforest tree, an official said on Thursday. Cambodian authorities, with help from Australian police, will destroy 14 tonnes of sassafras, an ingredient for cosmetics but also a precursor chemical to make MDMA (methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine), the party drug Ecstasy.

    The amount represents all known stocks of sassafras oil in Cambodia and will be the second largest volume destroyed since the authorities made the oil illegal in 2007, said Cambodia Police Major General Meas Vyrith. "It is dangerous," Meas Vyrith told Reuters. "It would make people become victims of the drug." The crackdown is also aimed at preserving a rare tree found deep in Cambodia's jungles. More>>
    These brain scans show the amount of serotonin activity over a 40-minute period in a non-MDMA user (top) and an MDMA user (bottom). Dark areas in the MDMA user's brain show damage due to chronic MDMA use.

    Science breaks new ground in cell renewal

    Scientists have reached yet another milestone in the goal to produce replacement cells for any tissue type in the body. A team from Stanford University in California have converted cells from a mouse’s tail directly into brain cells.

    While much research remains to be done to confirm the breakthrough, the research team believes they have come up with effective way to produce any of the many tissue types in the body. The goal as ever is to be able to produce healthy replacement cells as a treatment for conditions such as motor neuron disease and Parkinson’s. The method is much simpler to achieve than that developed in 2006 by Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University.

    Mr. Yamanaka astounded the world’s science community by developing a way to take ordinary skin cells and make them revert to a cell type found in the developing embryo, pluripotent stem cells. These cells have the capacity to change into any of the more than 200 distinct cell types in the body. More>>

    Chocolate and Yoga

    Eating Chocolate During Yoga Now a Good Idea?
    The latest Times trend piece looks at a new combination of exercise and indulgence that is taking the city by storm: foodie yoga. Yes, combining the ancient and often holy practice of yoga with [pig] and [fermented sugar] has become extremely popular.

    One yoga teacher, Sadie Nardini, claims it is a backlash against the "yogier than thou" mentality that purists hold.But is eating while doing yoga pushing the "anything goes" idea a little too far? While people have indulged in both yoga and food trends for decades, many studios are bringing the food into the classroom. Exhale Spa offers a "Yoga for Foodies" class... More>>

    What is Chocolate?

    (Wisdom Quarterly) Did you know that chocolate grows on trees? It is the seed of a tropical fruit tree (mixed with a sweetener). It is the most popular food in the world that most people have never eaten. The reason for that is that what people eat is often a synthetic compound (flavoring) or a burned, fermented extract stripped of its amazing oils, which are replaced by cow fats, wax, and poisonous hydrogenated trans fats. For the Aztecs, as its Latin binomial Theobroma cacao reveals, chocolate is "cocoa, food of the gods [devas]." Try the real thing, raw and unadulterated: Naked Chocolate: The Astounding Truth About World's Greatest Food

    Pentagon Going "Green"?

    Nathan Hodge

    The Greening of the Pentagon’s Master Strategy Review
    Climate change may be an “accelerant of instability” in future conflicts, and the U.S. military needs to plan for possible environmental catastrophes and resource wars, according to the Pentagon’s soon-to-be-released master strategy document. The crew at Inside Defense (subscription only) got their hands on a “pre-decisional” draft of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the congressionally mandated, once-every-four-years review of defense policy. The much-anticipated document, slated for release on Monday, is supposed to be a broad “statement of purpose” for the Defense Department. Defense contractors, policy wonks, and other national security types will be reading it closely for any possible shift in priorities. More>>

    Climatology, Earth Science, Global Climate Change, Military and Defense Policy, Nature and the Environment

    10,000 Buddhist monks bless president

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A special religious ceremony to bless Sri Lanka's re-elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa took place today at the Sugathadasa Inddor Stadium in the capital Colombo with the participation of 10,000 Buddhist monks. More>>

    Senior Abbot warns Sri Lanka president
    A Mahanayake Thero (chief incumbent) says the state media's behavior might lead to the breakdown of rule of law. The chief incumbent of the Malwatte chapter [of the Sangha] in Sri Lanka has warned the president that non-compliance with supreme court orders might lead to the deterioration of law and order. The elder monk, Ven. Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera, in a letter has drawn the president's special attention to the state media...

    Buddhist monk killed in grenade blast
    Two persons including a Buddhist monk (bhikkhu) were killed in a blast in Gampola, Sri Lanka yesterday. Police spokesman SSP I.M. Karunaratne stated that police were conducting investigations to find out if this was an incident connected to politics. He stated that the blast went off in front of Sri Bodhirajaramaya Buddhist temple at Thambiligala in Gampola following a clash between two groups. The senior monk, Ven. Matara Vimalananda Thera, was killed in the incident. Six other persons received severe injuries in the blast and were admitted to Gampola hospital. The Gampola Magistrate has ordered a postmortem on the bodies of the victims.

    Bigfoot in America (Sasquatch)

    American Bigfoot investigator finds new footprints
    Sasquatch print: Not everyone agrees with Bothell-area man

    Bigfoot believer shows his proof
    TACOMA, Washington - One night 54 years ago, Cliff Crook says, he stared into the face of a Northwest boogeyman. He called it a "woods giant." Today, it's better known as Bigfoot. "I had a real terrifying encounter," says Crook, now 69. "It's not something that goes away." He remembers the towering size, the ape-like face, the gurgling sound in the dark. He remembers the dog that charged into the bushes and then was tossed out and crashed onto the ground.

    He remembers running away with three younger camping buddies. They arrived home a mile away, their bare feet bleeding. His friends’ parents weren’t too happy with him. “They didn’t want them around me anymore,” Crook recalled last week. The encounter fueled a lifelong obsession by Crook with the hairy ape-like creature.

    He calls himself “America’s first Bigfoot investigator.” Others call him a hoaxer and an attention grabber. Crook appeared on the front page of The News Tribune in 1990 when some mushroom hunters found possible Bigfoot footprints near the Nisqually River. Crook found the prints credible. He called The News Tribune recently to announce more Bigfoot footprint news, what he called the biggest find in 30 years. More>>

    Big Foot filmmaker sets sights on Humboldt
    Franklin Stover (Humboldt Beacon)
    A resident of Nevada City, California, William Barnes is a modern-day explorer whose strong sense of wonder fuels his drive to uncover age-old mysteries that have haunted humankind for centuries. While some have written off Big Foot as a corny hoax after the Roger Patterson film of 1967 was widely discredited, many go on in search of the allusive man-beast, undetered in their quest for cryptozoological truth.

    Having seen the creature with his own two eyes, Barnes is convinced there is something to the stories, and is determined to set out in July to capture photographic proof of the creature. To help rally support around the investigation, Barnes set up a website ( and described his search as “the most penetrating search for Sasquatch/Bigfoot ever conducted in North America.” More>>

    Could Bigfoot be on Sand Mountain?
    Lionel Green (The Reporter)
    A new Bigfoot research group is forming in Alabama. Hawk Spearman, who co-founded the now-defunct Alabama chapter of the Elusive Primates of North America, is helping launch the Southeastern Crypto Society. Oneonta residents Hawk and his wife, Karen, are avid Bigfoot enthusiasts... The old group had investigated some areas of Sand Mountain. The new group spent some time investigating strange reports near Weiss Lake in DeKalb County two weekends ago. “We heard a few vocalizations pretty far off in the distance,” Hawk said. More>>

    • Museum exhibit explores history of Sasquatch
      "Giants in the Mountains: The Search for Sasquatch" does not attempt to prove or disprove the existence of Sasquatch. Instead, it looks at how and why the story is so ingrained in the cultural fabric of the Northwest. The story of Sasquatch certainly goes far beyond the 1987 movie "Harry and the Hendersons" or recent beef jerky TV commercials. It has been told for centuries among Northwest Indian tribes. That mix of ancient mythology and modern commercialism is the focal point of a Sasquatch exhibit that opened Saturday at the Washington State History Museum.
    • Bigfoot and God
      “I Found Bigfoot” (Jan. 14)... “Things” did roam California early on. When I was a girl playing in a Sierras forest, I came upon a 12-foot granite rock that had the head of a crocodile and an oval back, with a broken-off tail. Whatever legs it once had were melted away, but the curve of a shoulder showed near its short neck. A baby snuggled alongside. I conjecture that it was a concretion of an ancient saurid.

    Faith and charity in Indian temple town

    Sanjoy Majumder (BBC News)
    Inside a Jain temple: Palitana is a sleepy town in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Perched high on a hill overlooking the town is a network of 1,500 exquisite temples. For followers of the Jain faith this is a place of major significance. It is the world's highest concentration of Jain temples; they are packed in dense clusters to enable barefoot pilgrims to move around easily. Every year more than half a million Jain pilgrims (of approximately 10 million Jains worldwide) make the journey to the stone and marble shrines at Palitana. Non-violence and compassion towards every living being is at the core of Jain belief. And this year their spiritual quest in Palitana has manifested itself in a project which will help some of India's 20 million people with disabilities. VIDEO>>
    • Museum exhibit celebrates the intersection of... "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway," a new exhibit at the Burke Museum, combines fossils "some never before on exhibit" with whimsical art to explain the complexities of evolution, extinction, and early life on Earth.
    • Dino tail feathers were carrot colored, study says Scientists have for the first time confirmed color in a dinosaur. Don't think purple Barney, but reddish-orange Conan O'Brien. The first solid proof of pigmentation has been spotted in the fossilized tail feathers of a [125 million-year-old] dinosaur found in China according to the journal Nature.
    They deserve a good life: Treat the poor with respect and generosity.

    The Ahimsa Way: Reinforcing life…always
    Usha Jesudasan (The Hindu)

    For over a year now, we have been exploring different ways in which we can live a nonharming (ahimsa) life. Recently, my brother Ramesh died suddenly. As we reeled with the initial shock and pain, I realized that death — whether through war, violence, sickness, or just suddenly — is a final act of harm (himsa). Himsa shatters and destroys lives and causes much suffering. Ahimsa restores and reinforces life…always.

    In Haiti, Earthquake Victims left to Forage for Food
    John Burnett (National Public Radio)
    Despite the outpouring of international aid, there are still severe problems with food distribution to tens of thousands of homeless Haitians. NPR visited seven of the largest tent cities in three different areas of Port-au-Prince. Victims said food distribution is irregular, inadequate, and often violent.