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Daniel A. Bell on “China’s Class Divide” May 21, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in News.
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An op-ed by Daniel A. Bell in today’s New York Times seeks to dispel myths about young students in China–and addresses the government’s moral obligation to help those in need:

A few days later, I was due to lecture on John Rawls’s theory of justice. By then, the huge toll of the earthquake had become apparent and the national mood had turned grim. Before the class, four students came to my office, raising doubts about the relevance of the “abstract” theories I was teaching and urging me to use more concrete examples. So I tried hard to think of an example that the students could grapple with.

Finally I came up with a good one (or so I thought). According to Rawls, the state should give first consideration to the worst-off members of the community. But which “community” matters? Do the state’s obligations extend outside national boundaries? For example, the cyclone in Burma caused more deaths than the Chinese earthquake. Should China help the victims of the Burmese cyclone, even if it means less aid for the rescue mission in China?

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The Biological Boon Behind Incense May 20, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in General, Meditation, News, Random Notes.
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A new study reveals one reason why incense and spiritualism go together like zendos and zafus. Beyond the symbolic tradition of burning incense lies a biological benefit: it can help ease anxiety and depression. When scientists administered incensole acetate, a compound found in incense, to mice, the compound affected them in “brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs.” Adds Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, “This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion–burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!” Read all about it over in Science Daily.

A Buddhist reponse to Cyclone Nargis May 20, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in Burma, News.
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From NPR: Alex Chadwick talks with Ashin Thitzana, a Burmese monk in the Los Angeles-area, for a Buddhist interpretation of the Myanmar cyclone tragedy.

“Where are the monks?” May 19, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in 1, Burma, News.
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“Before September, there were over 30,000 monks in Rangoon alone. Now there are 6,000. Where are the monks? That is the question.”

– Ashin Nayaka, visiting scholar at Columbia University and a founder of the Buddhist Missionary Society in Jackson Heights, in today’s New York metro. The article recommends visiting http://www.burmesemonks.org/ for more information; unfortunately, the story is not available online.

News in Brief May 16, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in Burma, News, Tibet.
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  • The junta in Burma has raised its estimated death toll to 78,000, with 56,000 missing. [CNN]
  • Harvard Professor (and former Obama aide) Samantha Power and Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt talk about Burma and the moral and political complexities of intervention. [NPR]
  • In China, at least 5 million people are left homeless in the aftermath of the largest earthquake the country has seen in 58 years. The country continues to struggle to recover the injured and dead while grappling with aftershocks and landslides. [Times Online]
  • The 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, makes his first visit to the United States. [New York Times]

“Sorry,” CNN tells China May 16, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in News.
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From the New York Times:

CNN apologized to China after the government strongly complained about remarks made on April 9 by the CNN commentator Jack Cafferty. During a broadcast that came after riots in Tibet, Mr. Cafferty said China’s leaders were “basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” China demanded an apology, and angry Chinese accused CNN of biased news coverage. An earlier apology was rejected. But recently China’s Foreign Ministry highlighted a second apology, saying it came in a letter sent by the CNN president, Jim Walton, to China’s ambassador to the United States.

Two Buddhists, Fifteen Feet May 15, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in News.
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Also in today’s NYTimes: a feature on Michael Roach and Christie McNally, two Buddhist teachers who consider themselves (celibate) spiritual partners. Roach, 55, who ordained as a monk in 1983, and McNally, 35, live in a yurt, say that they are never more than fifteen feet apart and “admit to a hands-on physical relationship that they describe as intense but chaste.” Okie dokie.

News on China and Burma May 15, 2008

Posted by Sarah Todd in Burma, News.
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Heartbreaking updates on China and Burma in today’s New York Times. In China, the Times notes, many of the dead appear to be children, “in a country where most families are allowed to have only one.” Meanwhile, farmers in Burma fear they will miss the fall harvest, having lost seeds, livestock, rice stock, and draft animals in the cyclone. The deputy country director for the World Food Program estimates that at least 50,000 tons of rice are needed for the next six months, and 50,000 more will be necessary if farmers are not able to plant within the next few weeks.

Kristof on Amdo May 15, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in News, Tibet.
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Nicholas Kristof on violence against monks in Amdo:

At Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, almost 10,000 feet high in the mountains, more than 220 Buddhist monks were arrested and beaten, local Tibetans said. The great majority have been released, but some are still hospitalized because of injuries. Some monks are hiding in the mountains, and they are all terrified.

“I was beaten for two hours with sticks, and kicked all over,” said a monk who was released after one night of imprisonment.

Last month, the Chinese authorities ushered a group of journalists here on a tightly scripted tour to show that Labrang was calm — and then 15 monks rushed up to the group. One was crying, and all said that their human rights were being systematically violated.

After the reporters left, those who joined that peaceful protest were imprisoned, beaten and in some cases subjected to electric shock torture, the monks here say. That is impossible to confirm, and Tibetan versions of events are sometimes exaggerated.

Nepal prepares to abolish the monarchy.

Tibetan Tectonics May 13, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma, News, Tibet.
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The twin disasters continue to unfold.

The storm is over in Burma but the humanitarian nightmare continues. And the constitutional referendum went ahead despite being “blatantly rigged.”

Meanwhile ABC says “Tibetan tectonics triggered China quake.”

The violent quake that shook China’s Sichuan province this week is linked to a shift of the Tibetan plateau to the north and east, researchers say.

Hmm. And some inside China didn’t take kindly to the cheery spectacle of the Olympic torch jogging along as if nothing were wrong.