Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2012: 'Oddly enough, it's a Western preoccupation'

" ... Dozens of new books predict the end of the world or something just short of it on Dec. 21, 2012, now less than five years away.

At the root of the hype is a rare galactic alignment and a broadly interpreted end of the ancient Mayan calendar. Some interpretations: It's the grand finale. A signal to aliens. The start of a transition for better or worse. Or nothing at all.

Oddly enough, it's a Western preoccupation.

David Carey visits Guatemala, home to millions of modern Mayans, for field work every other year. Mayans he's met aren't preparing for the end.

"I hear much more about it here than I do there," said Carey, a University of Southern Maine history professor.

"When they're amongst themselves, they're not looking at it quite as seriously as they might otherwise convey to tourists who want to hear them talk about 2012 as this propitious date."

Nonetheless, his prediction: "It could be the end of the world for certain individuals who plan on it."

So what's this all about?

About 2,000 years ago, the Maya, skilled stargazers, figured out when the December solstice sun would line up with the center of the Milky Way galaxy, according to Colorado author John Major Jenkins. It's an alignment that only happens every 26,000 years.

Mayans took that date - Dec. 21, 2012 - and used it as the end of their Long Count calendar, a measure of 5,125 years.

It was intended to be very important. The ends of cycles of all different lengths have significance for that culture.

"Among the Maya there was worry that when the end of a particular cycle would happen, that the world could potentially end because it was a time of a lot of transition. If something major was likely to happen, then it could conceivably happen" then, said Steve Whittington, former director of the University of Maine's Hudson Museum.

There would be ceremonies and often sacrifices to make sure things went smoothly. Any bad happenings were often self-fulfilling, he said. For instance, nervous that you might be attacked, you might do something that triggered it.

At the end of a major cycle like the Long Count calendar, "They'd really be nervous. But what's happened is New Age people and people who are looking for more mystical things in their own lives who belong to our own society have taken on this idea of the danger of the end of a Maya cycle.

"The fact that they know at some point Maya civilization collapsed, there's a lot of mystery surrounding that. I think they've sort of projected their own need for something strange and dangerous onto somebody else's calendar," Whittington said. ... "

~ From Weird, Wicked Weird: The end of the world as we know it? ~


Monk's words stir the spirit of Myanmar's resistance

" ... On a recent night, a few thousand people filled a street in Yangon,
Myanmar's largest city, sitting quietly as they waited for the monk to

When he emerged from his SUV, people bowed their heads to the ground as he
made his way to a stage, where he sat cross-legged on a gilded chair as big
as a throne.

In large public gatherings such as these, when the generals' spies lurk in
the audience and listen for any hint of trouble, his lectures are often
built around the same lesson: Cruel rulers create bad karma. And they will
suffer for what they have done.

That's a moral not easily shrugged off by a government whose leader, Senior
Gen. Than Shwe, is intensely superstitious: He consults astrologers to make
important decisions.

The ruling generals also churn out propaganda images portraying themselves
as devoted Buddhists, receiving the blessing of sympathetic monks. If their
faith is true, they know their actions will determine their next life in
reincarnation's endless cycle of death and rebirth.

"They have to be afraid they'll be coming back as cockroaches," wisecracked
one Western envoy.
[ ... ]
Novices return to normal life with a profound respect for monks who were
their teachers. When thousands joined protest marches last fall, their
chants gave comfort to people who had known them since childhood.

"All of the monks who came out of the monasteries into the streets only
recited verses from the teachings of the Buddha," Kondala said. "The people
are suffering, they are getting poorer and poorer, so the monks wanted to
protect them against any danger."

Nyanissara said the region surrounding Sagaing is now home to one out of
every 10 of Myanmar's 400,000 monks, robed legions that listen carefully to
his lectures to see the right path ahead.

"It's a very big army," the monk said, and he laughed a little. But he
wasn't smiling. ... "

'One Bush Left Behind' by Greg Palast

" ... Here’s your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.”

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.

If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America? The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes.

Now we could see the incontrovertible logic in what appeared to be quixotic ravings by the President about free trade with Colombia, Pell Grant for Kids and the surge in Iraq. In Iraq, General Petraeus tells us we must continue to feed in troops for another ten years. There is no way the military can recruit these freedom fighters unless our lower income youth are high, hooked and desperate. Don’t say, ‘crack vials,’ they’re, ‘Democracy Rocks’!

The plan would have been clearer if Mr. Bush had kept in his speech the line from his original draft which read, “I have ordered 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year – and I am proud to say my military-age kids are not among them.”

Of course, there’s an effective alternative to Mr. Bush’s plan – which won’t cost a penny more. Simply turn it upside down. Let’s give each millionaire in America a $20 bill, and every poor child $287,000.

And, there’s an added benefit to this alternative. Had we turned Mr. Bush and his plan upside down, he could have spoken to Congress from his heart. ... "

~ Full article ~



Vermont town's anti-Bush petition elicits vitriol after making the rounds on the Internet

A Vermont town's petition making President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney subject to arrest for crimes against the Constitution has triggered a barrage of criticism from people who say residents are "wackjobs" and "nuts".
In e-mail messages, voice mail messages and telephone calls, outraged people are calling Brattleboro's measure the equivalent of treason and vowing never to visit the state.
"Has everyone up there been out in the cold too long?" said one.
"I would like to know how I could get some water from your town," said another. «It's obvious that there is something special in it.
The petition -- with more than 436 signatures, or at least the 5 percent of voters necessary to be considered -- was submitted Thursday and the town Select Board voted 3-2 Friday to put it on the ballot. It goes to a town-wide vote March 4.
It reads: «Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities and shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and prosecute or extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them.
News of the measure made the rounds on the Internet, and soon people started calling and writing. The Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce got about 60 e-mails Monday, all of them negative, said Executive Director Jerry Goldberg.
A day later, he said, "We had three or four calls in a row that were very positive. One even volunteered to help".
The petition has no legal standing, since the town attorney has no authority to write an indictment and the police have no authority to arrest Bush or Cheney if either visits Brattleboro.
Anger at the Bush administration is hardly new in liberal Vermont. The state Senate voted last year to support impeaching the president. Anti-war rallies are regular occurrences, and "Impeach Bush" bumper stickers are common.
The petition prompted Brent Caflisch to go to his computer in Rosemount, Minnesota. "Maybe the terrorists will do us all a favor and attack your town next, our country would be much safer with several thousand dead wackjobs in Vermont," he wrote.
It went on to say terrorists could kidnap the three Select Board members who voted in favor, "cut their heads off, video tape it and put it on the internet.
Caflisch, who confirmed sending the e-mail, said Tuesday he did it out of disgust after reading about the measure on the online Drudge Report.
A few messages were positive (``Arrest Bush and Cheney? You go, Brattleboro!" wrote one man) but most were critical.
"Be American, not a sniffeling liberal town that sleeps under the shield of safety provided to you by your President," said another e-mail. "Vacation to VT CANCELLED"
The reaction caught town officials off guard, and left some workers on edge.
"We have some concerns about safety," said Town Clerk Annette Cappy. "After reading some of these e-mails, you can't help it".
Acting Police Chief Eugene Wrinn said any threats would be taken seriously and possibly prosecuted. So far, no threats have been made, he said.
"If someone is concerned for their safety, if there's a threat of harm, we will look at that seriously," he said.
Resident Kurt Daims, who submitted the petition, said late Tuesday he was chagrined that the town and its employees were subject to ridicule.
"I feel bad for people who are loyal to Bush who have lost a son or had one in the service and it's hard for them to admit the utter waste of it, and that it was caused by this man in the White House," he said.
On the Net

Hoax behind The DaVinci Code

Cudos to The Busybody. The sole debunker in a tv documentary was Tony Robinson (who appeared as 'Baldrick' in the 'Black Adder' series). It appears the revelation of a hoax in a sequel to 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' failed to deter both its authors and subsequent generations of fans from persisting with this intruiging fantasy.

From 'Top 20 Literary Hoaxes'
9. Pedigree of the Merovingian dynasty, recorded by Godfrey de Boullion in the 11th century. Fabricated by Pierre Plantard in the 1960s, along with other forged manuscripts relating to the "Priory of Sion", all of which were placed in the Paris National Library between 1965-1967. Discredited in the 1980s. Thoroughly debunked in a 1996 BBC documentary. This hoax has had lasting influence in the conspiracy theory promoted in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which in turn was used as a basis for the blockbuster novel, The DaVinci Code.

promoting "faith-based investing through dharmic religion."

" ... The global trend towards socially responsible investing has gone religious in India, with Dow Jones Indexes and its US-based partner investment firm Dharma Investments Ltd launching the Dow Jones Dharma India Index in Mumbai on January 15, the first major faith-based investment product in South Asia.

The Dharma India index is the latest addition to the 130,000 stock indexes Dow Jones publishes globally, including the US, Britain and Japan versions of The Dow Jones Dharma Index.

The Dharma India Index, with 250 Indian companies, features stocks compliant with the code of moral conduct according to Hinduism, teachings of the Buddha and which also incorporate principles of the Sikh and Jain religious tenets - together, ways of life with billions of followers in Asia and forming nearly 20% of the human race.

The index license is sold to asset managers and others wishing to commercially use the Dow Jones Indexes information to market investment products or for publication in the media, such as television and the Internet.

According to a Dow Jones presentation in Mumbai, socially responsible investing (SRI), including faith-based investing, accounts for US$4 trillion worth of assets under management, a figure growing 20% annually.
[ ... ]

The launch of Dow Jones Dharma Indexes comes as stocks compliant with the Islamic code of conduct, or sharia, are attracting more attention worldwide, with the Islamic investment market estimated between $400 billion to $500 billion.

The 51 Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes, the world's first faith-based ethical investment products, made their debut in 1999, with input from an independent advisory Sharia Supervisory Board with a member each from from Syria, Pakistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Malaysia.

Data available from the Dow Jones Indexes website says the DJ Dharma India Index of 250 companies has a total market capitalization $919 billion, compared with $1.6 trillion among 415 companies in the Dow Jones Dharma Japan Index.

The DJ Dharma US Index features 1,065 companies with a total $5.3 trillion in market capitalization. The full list of companies in the Dharma Indexes is made available only to their licensees, which denies an independent chance to verify how accurate their filtering mechanisms are.

For instance, the Indian companies Dow Jones gave out as examples in their Dharma India Index - ICICI Bank Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Ltd, Infosys Technologies Ltd, Housing Development Finance Corp and Bharti Airtel Ltd - did not include any units of the $70.3 billion Tata Group, India's most respected corporate house, India's largest corporate taxpayer and among the world's most socially responsible companies.

Philanthropic trusts own about 66% equity capital of Tata Sons, the primary promoter, making Tata Group possibly the largest corporate group of its kind in the world where the majority shareholder is Messrs Compassion and Charity.

"Until now, faith-based investing has been restricted to Islamic and Christian religions only," Nitesh Gor, chief executive of Dharma Investments, told the media. "But 20% of the world population consists of dharmic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The idea [of the Dow Jones Dharma Indexes] is to promote faith-based investing through dharmic religion." ... "

'How much more of the world's artifacts do we need?'

" ... In old lhasa, holy city of Tibet, stands the sacred Jokhang Temple. Inside Jokhang is a golden statue of Buddha, the most revered statue in Tibet. It was brought as a dowry from China in the 7th century, when a Chinese princess married a Tibetan king. The statue marks not only the wide-scale introduction of Buddhism to Tibet but a crucial union in a long history of alliances and wars between two nations.

Pilgrims by the thousands arrive daily in Lhasa, masses of them walking in the same sacred direction around Jokhang. The fact that the statue is still there to worship is a surprise. Tibet, like so many places, has been scraped out like a gourd, its antiquities smuggled away.

There are plenty of buyers, and most of them are not in Lhasa. The biggest sellers of Asian artwork in Japan, Europe and the U.S. have dealers handle all the logistics, ushering artifacts through customs so collectors don't have to.

Last week, federal agents raided four Southern California museums, seeking artifacts and records linked to the owner of the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles and to an alleged art smuggler. The gallery has been a favorite of celebrities and discerning nabobs, offering a large selection of Ming and Qing dynasty Buddhist statuary as well as pieces from across East Asia, including Tibet. ... "

Italy reported for crimes against humanity

" ... In a matter of weeks (on February 20th) the Italian Government will have to appear before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). A result EveryOne Group - in collaboration with ERCC (European Roma Rights Centre), La Voix des Rroms, Sucar Drom, Osservazione and other international organizations who are fighting for the rights of the Rroma and Sinti people - obtained after the presentation of the international denunciation for crimes against humanity which accused the Italian central and local authorities of carrying out persecutory measures against the Rroma in Italy.
Yesterday our request was formally accepted, by the International Criminal Court of the Hague too, which has assured us, in a letter addressed to the leaders of EveryOne, the first signees of the document, that it will give the case its maximum attention when assessing it.

CERD will have to ascertain the violations of articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.” Italy, in fact, is accused of carrying out a series of measures, both on a national level and on a local level, aimed at hitting the Rrom and Sinti communities on Italian territory - from the 14 security packages to the emergency expulsion decree for EU citizens put forward by Giuliano Amato. The International Criminal Court of the Hague will evaluate the actions carried out by the Italian institutions against the Rroma to determine whether – and to what extent – any crimes against humanity were committed. In the document drawn up by EveryOne Group, which is being examined by the international committees for the protection of human rights, we read: The oppression of the gypsies is taking place in many forms: by denying them the right to be protected as an ethnic minority recognised by international conventions, and by denying them assistance and programmes of integration necessary for obtaining access to the world of labour and decent living conditions. Gypsies are also being persecuted in the only activities which – in the conditions of marginalization they are relegated to – would allow them to survive, such as begging and street peddling (thus pushing them to activities which, if they were a free choice, would be considered unlawful). There have been frequent press campaigns carried out with the aim of criminalizing gypsies [...]; The government has carried out camp clearances similar to pogroms that are razing their makeshift shelters to the ground and turning innocent families out into the street, families who are then forced to undertake tragic “death marches” towards nowhere. The authorities have failed to investigate racial attacks against individuals and Roma families, and has violated the laws that guarantee free movement of citizens of the Union in the territory of the Member States, [...] There has also been an attempt to censor and ignore the laws that protect the gypsies in Italy, among which the Resolution of the European Parliament of November 15th, 2007 regarding the application of Directive 2004/38/CE [...]

The document then analyses the security package passed on December 28th, 2007 – with particular reference to the unlawfulness of the law that foresees expulsion from the country for EU citizens who have no means of supporting themselves (in obvious contrast with the European Parliamentary Directive 2004/38/CE) - the lowering of the average life expectancy for a Rrom to 42, the unmotivated harshness of the authorities and police force during the camp clearances and expulsions. The document then quotes the Italian Constitution, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of peoples, the charters that protect the rights of ethnic minorities (among which the Copenhagen Convention of 1993) and the United Nations Resolutions (particularly the UN Resolution 1992/65, “Protection of the Sinti and Rroma peoples, art 1) and the European Parliament (Resolution 2005/2008/INI). EveryOne Group has detected in the racial and persecutory policies, in the ethnic cleansing and the deportations being carried out by the central and local authorities, evidence of crimes against humanity aggravated by premeditation and reiteration, in spite of the warnings received from the international authorities and the human rights organizations. ... "

Vermont town to vote on Bush-Cheney war crimes indictment

" ... Residents of a Vermont town will put on its March ballot whether to indict President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes.

Winning the approval of the Brattleboro Select Board on a 3-2 vote, the meeting will allow town residents to vote on whether or not the president and the vice president should be arrested on charges of war crimes, perjury, or obstruction of justice. A decision to indict them would result in their immediate arrest should they ever set foot in the town. ... "

Read more... ~


Bin Laden's Peace Activist Son

" ... Omar Osama bin Laden bears a striking resemblance to his notorious father except for the dreadlocks that dangle halfway down his back. Then there's the black leather biker jacket. The 26-year-old does not renounce his father, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, but in an interview with The Associated Press, he said there is better way to defend Islam than militancy: Omar wants to be an "ambassador for peace" between Muslims and the West.

Omar -- one of bin Laden's 19 children -- raised a tabloid storm last year when he married a 52-year-old British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took the name Zaina Alsabah. Now the couple say they want to be advocates, planning a 3,000-mile horse race across North Africa to draw attention to the cause of peace.

"It's about changing the ideas of the Western mind. A lot of people think Arabs especially the bin Ladens, especially the sons of Osama are all terrorists. This is not the truth," Omar told the AP last week at a cafe in a Cairo shopping mall.

Of course, many may have a hard time getting their mind around the idea of "bin Laden: peacenik."

"Omar thinks he can be a negotiator," said Alsabah, who is trying to bring her husband to Britain. "He's one of the only people who can do this in the world."

Omar lived with the al-Qaida leader in Sudan, then moved with him to Afghanistan in 1996.

There, Omar says he trained at an al-Qaida camp but in 2000 he decided there must be another way and he left his father, returning to his homeland of Saudi Arabia.

"I don't want to be in that situation to just fight. I like to find another way and this other way may be like we do now, talking," he said in English. ... "

~ Read more... ~


The Taoist monk who pacified Genghis Khan

" ... The power in yoga means the power to extinguish one's anger like that of taming a wild tiger, for instance. It means the will to overcome temptation and thereby altering the mental state of one who may approach a yogi with passionate thought.

It is the power of Buddha whereby he converts Angulimala , the dreaded robber who cut off his victims' fingers and wore them as a necklace round his neck. The Buddha walks into the robber's lair and says "Come along, monk!" and helps transform the marauder into a monk instantly. The latter follows him like a tiger that has been tamed. That is true power.

The power of yoga is that of ahimsa whereby one abandons in all possible manner, at all times, towards all beings, any inclination to hurt or harm. With that power one may approach two combating armies, stand between them and through sheer power of presence, make them lay down their arms. Alexander had massacred many in battle during his conquests. Yet, he gave up violence after meeting with monks who advocated ahimsa.

Chengiz Khan established a large empire by sheer force of violence. When he reached what is now called Afghanistan, he began to have doubts; he questioned the meaning of his life. He invited a Taoist master to talk to him.

The Taoist master's spiritual guidance convinced Chengiz Khan to stop his conquests and instead, set about consolidating what he had, peacefully. There is a painting depicting this in a Taoist temple in Beijing. ... "
" ... In the winter of 1219, Genghis Khan of Mongolia sent Zhaba'er and Liu Zhonglu, carrying an imperial edict with them, from the Naiman State in the Western Region for Qiu Chuji. Qiu Chuji knew that the Mongolian army had been notorious for its ruthless killing. In order to dissuade this army from brutal massacres and running amock, he willingly accepted Genghis Khan's invitation. In the second lunar month in the early spring of the next year, Qiu Chuji took 18 of his disciples along to embark upon their westward journey to prevent the killing.

Qiu Chuji stayed in Yanjing, Dexing Prefecture, Xuande Prefecture and other places for one year before he went out of the Pass and headed west in 1221. On his departure, people stopped his horse and asked about his date of return. He replied with emotion, "Within three years".

Qiu Chuji and his companions went west out of the Juyong Pass, passed through today's Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Central Asia, traveled across desolate prairies and deserts, precipitous mountains and ridges, and came to the city of Samarkand for the winter.

I In 1222, Qiu Chuji finally arrived at Genghis Khan's temporary abode. Genghis Khan rose to greet Qiu Chuji, while the latter folded his hands and made deep bows in return. Genghis Khan called Qiu Chuji an "immortal", and asked whether there existed means of extending life. Qiu answered, "There are only ways of nourishing life, but no elixir of obtaining immortality." Genghis Khan expressed appreciation for his frankness. 

I In the following better part of a year, Genghis Khan often consulted Qiu Chuji on Daoism. Qiu Chuji pointed out that Heaven treasures life and disapproves of killing, and explained the principles that honoring Heaven and loving people were the foundation of governing people, and that having a pure heart and few worldly desires was the essential of nourishing life. Genghis Khan showed great consent. He ordered Yelu Chucai to compile their talks into the Record of the Auspicious Gathering with Daoists and educated his descendants with it. 

Qiu Chuji took leave in 1223. Before long Genghis Khan ceased his western expedition. Afterwards, the strong Mongolian cavalry went down south massively and defeated the troops of the Jin dynasty with crushing force. The Mongolian soldiers had always been plunderous and bloodthirsty. However, thanks to Qiu Chuji's sermon of "no killing" and the protection from the Complete Perfection tradition, the people in dozens of prefectures and commanderies in the area of the Central Plain escaped severe suffering.

[ ... ]

In his seventies, braving sand storm and severe cold, hardships and dangers, Qiu Chuji had traveled long distances to meet Genghis Khan. He "stopped the killing just with a few words", thus saving the common people from the ravages of war. Qiu Chuji's achievements will be remembered forever. Moved by his deeds, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty wrote an antithetical couplet: "Living forever, but without eating clouds or pursuing secret instructions; one word to stop killing, which proves his outstanding merits in benefiting mankind ... "

From Tale of Quchuji




Bai Yun Guan, White Cloud Temple


image from

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