Saturday, July 19, 2008

Barnaby's Vipassana Meditation Trip To India 2007 Vipassana Meditation long course in India, Jaipur in Feb 2007 with Barnaby De Palma.

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Guantanamo video released

A videotape of a detainee being questioned at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay has been released for the first time.

It shows 16-year-old Omar Khadr being asked by Canadian officials in 2003 about events leading up to his capture by US forces, Canadian media have said.

The Canadian citizen is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2002.

He is seen in a distressed state and complaining about the medical care.

The footage was made public by Mr Khadr's lawyers following a Supreme Court ruling in May that the Canadian authorities had to hand over key evidence against him to allow a full defence of the charges he is facing.

One of those lawyers, Dennis Edney, told the BBC his client was seen in a distressed state because he had been "abused" by his American guards.

"He was deprived of sleep by being removed from his cell and to another cell every three hours on a 24-hour basis for three weeks solid, followed by three weeks of deep solitary confinement," Mr Edney told the BBC.

Uncontrollable sobbing

Mr Khadr, the only Westerner still held at the jail, was 15 when he was captured by US forces during a gun battle at a suspected al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

During the 10-minute video of his questioning in Guantanamo a year later, he can be seen crying, his face buried in his hands, pulling at his hair and repeatedly chanting.

At one point he lifts his orange shirt to show the foreign ministry official and agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) wounds on his back and stomach which he says he sustained in Afghanistan.

"I'm not a doctor, but I think you're getting good medical care," one of the officials responds.

Mr Khadr says: "No I'm not. You're not here... I lost my eyes. I lost my feet. Everything!" in reference to how his vision and physical health were affected.

"No, you still have your eyes and your feet are still at the end of your legs, you know," a man says.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Mr Khadr tells the officials several times: "You don't care about me."

In an accompanying classified document describing the interrogation, Mr Khadr also says he was tortured while being held at the US military detention centre at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and that everything he had said previously was a "lie" because of the "torture".

Public outcry?

The White House maintains that the US has treated all detainees held at Guantanamo in a humane way.

File pic of Omar Khadr before he was detained at the age of 15

The Bush administration argues that it needs flexibility and those it calls terrorists cannot be treated as if they are simply criminal defendants.

But one of Mr Khadr's lawyers, Dennis Edney, said he hoped the video would cause an outcry in Canada and pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand that the US does not prosecute their client.

"I hope Canadians will be outraged to see the callous and disgraceful treatment of a Canadian youth," Mr Edney told the Toronto Star.

"Canadians should demand to know why they've been lied to."

Mr Harper reiterated last week that he would not interfere in Mr Khadr's military tribunal, due to begin at Guantanamo on 8 October.

The human rights group Amnesty International described the video as "disturbing".

"We've always said that anyone suspected of involvement in international terrorism should be brought to justice, but what we see on this video is a travesty of justice," said Amnesty International UK's Sara Mac Neice.

She added that the US should abandon its attempt to put Guantanamo prisoners in front of what she called "unfair military commission trials", instead allowing them "proper civilian trials in appropriate safe countries".

Mr Khadr, now 21, faces multiple terrorism-related charges, the most serious of which is murder. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The video was filmed secretly through an air duct, CLICK ABOVE LINK, IT TAKES YOU TO ANOTHER PAGE SO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE FIRST

Dhamma Podcasts from A Simple Path - Part 3

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Indians duped by air ticket scam

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Air India Airbus
The airline is offering discounts to stranded students

Dozens of Indian medical students who have been stranded in China after buying fake air tickets are being flown home, officials from Air India say.

The airline flew 12 of the students back to India on Monday.

Many students returning to India on holiday were left stranded in Beijing and other parts of China after they learnt their tickets were bogus.

Indian papers reported on Monday that the students were allegedly duped by a Bangladeshi travel agent.

The papers said that one of the students had filed a complaint with the Beijing police.

Air India spokesman Prasad Rao told the BBC that the airline would bring all the students back to India in the next two to three days.

"We have been approached by at least 30 students so far who are being brought back to India on regular flights from Beijing," he said.

On Sunday Emirates Airways and Malaysian Airlines were reported not to have accepted the students' e-tickets on the grounds that they were fake. They were prevented from boarding their flights.

Air India says more than 15 students are flying back on Tuesday and a batch of 20 will be put on a flight to India on Wednesday.

Mr Rao said they were giving priority to the stranded students but he said they were helping only those who were coming forward for help.

He clarified that the travel was not free and students were paying $631 (27,000 rupees) each, which is 15% less than the fares charged by other airlines.

Hundreds of Indian students travel to China and Russia to study medicine rather than sit stringent entrance tests in India.

Dhamma Podcasts from A Simple Path - Part 2

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today we bring you a 19 minute video with excerpts of an interview with S.N. Goenka while he was visiting the Vipassana Meditation Center in Belgium on August 10, 2002.

Copyright, 2002 Vipassana Research Institute

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I will be out of town, but a new S.N. Goenka Video will appear each day, metta gregor

The game igo or go, basic rules

Learn to play, visit for more info

Monday, July 14, 2008

Groom creates stir by wedding 'drop in'

By Sandeep Sahu
BBC News, Bhubanseswar

Shishir Mishra and comrades arrive for the wedding
Shishir Mishra arrived from the heavens to sweep his intended away

It was not only the bride who gasped when she saw her future husband arriving at their wedding in India.

So too did everyone who was invited and much of the population of Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

That is because the groom - Shishir Mishra, a top skydiver from India's air force - parachuted into his wedding.

Such stunts are unusual in India, where many people - especially in rural areas - have never seen a parachutist let alone a groom arriving by air.


Mr Mishra jumped at around 7,000 feet from a helicopter and landed in a crowded sports ground just a short distance away from his bride's home.

Shishir Mishra
The groom looked every inch the action man

He and three fellow skydivers freefell before opening their parachutes a few hundred feet from the ground.

As they neared the ground, a crowd of well over 1,000 loudly cheered them on. A beaming Mr Mishra shook hands with everybody.

The bride, Sweta Prusty, was there at the ground to receive her groom-to-be with a bouquet in hand.

"Not for a moment was I afraid... I knew he would pull it off without any hitch," she declared after her swashbuckling fiance landed smoothly on the ground.

Mr Mishra said that his novel way of arriving was not done solely to impress his future bride - he wanted to promote and popularise skydiving in the state.

"I have been thinking of a skydiving demonstration in Orissa for some time now. But the idea of doing something on the occasion of my marriage struck me after I read about a couple in Maharashtra getting married in a hot air balloon recently," he said.

He said that he did not know beforehand that his wife-to-be would be there at the ground to receive him.

"It was a pleasant surprise," he said.

Mr Mishra is one of India's top skydivers. His career spans over a decade and he has notched up more than 22,000 free fall jumps.

He has even entered the record books for freefalling from a height of 15,000 feet with the national flag in hand.

Mr Mishra, from the Nayagarh district of Orissa, has trained hundreds of skydivers from the air force, navy and the army.

Vipassana Meditation by S N Goenka

Two short, simple and clear introductory videos about Vipassana meditation - a type of mindfulness meditation which also stresses awareness of body reactions to feelings.

It is presented by Mr S N Goenka of the world wide network of Vipassana Centres which includes the centre in Woori Yallock Victoria

'Breakthrough' in malaria fight

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Three uninfected red blood cells surround a malaria infected cell
A sticky substance allows infected blood cells to stick to the blood vessels

Australian scientists have identified a potential treatment to combat malaria.

Researchers in Melbourne believe their discovery could be a major breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

The malaria parasite produces a glue-like substance which makes the cells it infects sticky, so they cannot be flushed through the body.

The researchers have shown removing a protein responsible for the glue can destroy its stickiness, and undermine the parasite's defence.

The malaria parasite produces the "glue" when it infects target red blood cells, enabling them to stick to the walls of blood vessels.

This stops them being pased through the spleen, where the parasites would usually be destroyed by the immune system.

Using genetic tests of the parasite, the Australian scientists identified eight proteins responsible for the production of the "glue".

Removing just one of these proteins stopped the cell from attaching itself to the walls of blood vessels.

Professor Alan Cowman, a member of the research team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, said targeting the protein with drugs could be a key to fighting malaria.

"If we block the stickiness we essentially block the virulence or the capacity of the parasite to cause disease," he said.

Malaria is preventable and curable, but can be fatal if not treated promptly. The disease kills more than a million people each year. Many of the victims are young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Living in a world without waste

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News


Zero waste: The Japanese island where the rubbish collectors never come

The Mayor of Kamikatsu, a small community in the hills of eastern Japan, has urged politicians around the world to follow his lead and make their towns "Zero Waste".

He told BBC News that all communities could learn from Kamikatsu, where residents have to compost all their food waste and sort other rubbish into 34 different categories.

Residents say the scheme has prompted them to cut down on waste generally and food waste in particular.

If the policy spread, it would reduce the amount of food waste, and so take some of the pressure off high food prices.

Kamikatsu may be a backwater in the wooded hills and rice terraces of south-eastern Japan but it's become a world leader on waste policy.

There are no waste collections from households at all. People have to take full responsibility for everything they throw away.

It's a good idea to send things back to the earth so I support it
Hatsue Katayama

Kitchen waste has to be composted. Non-food waste is processed either in local shops which accept goods for recycling or in Kamikatsu's Zero Waste Centre. There, people have to sort their unwanted items into 34 different boxes for recycling.

Residents have to sort plastic bottles (used for fruit juice, for example) from PET (polyethylene teraphthalate) bottles (used for mineral water) because PET is more valuable when it is separated out.

There are specific boxes for pens, razors and the sort of Styrofoam trays on which meat is often purchased. These have to be washed and dried.

The scheme was adopted when councillors realised it was much cheaper than incineration - even if the incinerator was used to generate power.

Winning idea

Many locals are enthusiastic participants. Take Kikue Nii, who strips labels off bottles then washes and dries them before sending them to recycling.

She takes her other everyday waste to the local shop where she receives a lottery ticket in return for a bag of cans.

Recyling at a local shop
The community uses incentives to encourage recylcing

She has won a £5 food voucher four times. It's not a huge amount but it's better than nothing.

She is also a big fan of composting.

"I think I produce less waste because I have to compost it," she says.

"When I can't use the whole vegetable or meat, I try to cook it again with wine and so on. It makes a very good soup. Everyone should have a composter if they can."

Her neighbours Fumikazu Katayama and his wife Hatsue are ardent composters, too.

Hatsue says: "I have to do it every day; it's certainty a bit of work. But it's a good idea to send things back to the earth so I support it. I just do it naturally now; it's part of the routine."

The Katayamas take the rest of their waste to the Zero Waste Centre for sorting - carrying the waste bag between them.

Global question

Questions remain about the scheme. Some of the composters are boosted by electric power, which creates greenhouse gas emissions.

And it's possible that the savings in greenhouse gases from recycling are negated by the need for people to drive to the Zero Waste Centre.

Yoko Kyoi  converts a silk kimono belt into a bag
Old curtains or kimonos are expertly converted into bags

Natsuko Matsuoka, one of the originators of the centre, disagrees - she says people generally tie in the journey with a weekly shopping trip.

A poll showed that although the Zero Waste policy has many admirers, 40% of people weren't happy about all aspects of the scheme.

The Mayor Kasamatsu Kasuichi is undeterred: "We should consider what is right and what is wrong, and I believe it is wrong to send a truck to collect the waste and burn it.

"That is bad for the environment. So whether I get support or not, I believe I should persuade people to support my policy."

Now he invites other politicians around the world to follow suit.

Islam and Hinduism's blurred lines

By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Ajmer, Rajasthan

Mehrats and Kathats gather at a local market in Rajasthan
Hindus and Muslims have co-existed within the same family for centuries

Forty-two-year-old Sohan Singh is delighted to call himself a "full-fledged" Hindu.

Recently he cremated his mother, defying a family tradition of burying their dead.

Mr Singh is a member of the Kathat community in Rajasthan and follows what his community believes is a pledge undertaken by their forefathers.

Legend has it that the Mehrat, Kathat and Cheeta communities - with a combined total of one million people in four districts of central Rajasthan - are the descendants of the Hindu ruler of the warrior caste, Prithviraj Chauhan.

The three communities also have strong Islamic connections, because many centuries ago, their forefathers undertook a pledge to follow three Muslim practices.

These include the circumcision for the newborn male children in the community, eating halal meat and burying their dead.

That is the tradition many have followed, keeping the word of their ancestors. But it has also led to them facing something of a faith-based identity crisis.

Mixed identity

At a bustling market in Masuda town, a large number of people from the Mehrat community gather every day.

A majority of them are poor and illiterate. They are people with a mixed Hindu-Muslim identity. And left alone, that is how they would like to be.

Deepa, 60, has a Hindu name but he thinks he is a Muslim because he follows Muslim practices.

"In my family, we celebrate Hindu festivals such as Holi and Diwali. But we also offer namaz (prayers) at (the Muslim festival of) Eid. We worship both local gods and Allah. This has been a tradition in my family. I do not know whether my ancestors were Hindus or Muslims."

Mange Ram
Mange Ram was a staunch Hindu, but he is a Muslim now

Another Mehrat member is Mahendra Singh who has a Hindu name.

"We don't care about being Hindu or Muslim. It is sheer politics," he says.

Barely, 15km (9 miles) from Byawar town, Rasool runs a tea shop. He says his great grandparents were Hindus. But somewhere along the line, they became Muslims.

"It wasn't such a big deal to be Hindu or Muslim," says Rasool. His son Shankar is named after a Hindu god but he says they consider themselves Muslims.

"We are clearly Muslims. Only one of my three sons has a wrong (Hindu) name. It's too late to change that. But it won't happen again in our family," says Madeena, Shankar's wife.

For 65-year-old Shanta - like many others in this area - religion has become an issue.

She has many relatives who are Muslims. But her son-in-law is associated with the Hindu hardline group, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and her decision to declare herself a Hindu has alienated her from many relatives.

"My son wonders, why are we born in this community where there is so much confusion? I have told my son to cremate me as Hindus would their dead. My relatives boycott us, but that's alright. I think our ancestors were forced to convert to Islam. We have to correct that," Shanta says.


Organisations such as the VHP say they are trying to end this confusion in the lives of the community by making them realise their true identity.

The group has organised several mass conversion events in the area in the past years under a programme called the "Homecoming" or "Ghar Wapsi".

"We remind them about their history, that they are actually the descendants of the Hindu warrior king Prithviraj Chauhan who lived in the 12th century and, therefore, they are Hindus," the VHP general Secretary in Byawar, Nitesh Goel says.

"Some ill practices have crept into their behaviour, but this can be purified and they can become Hindus again. These people are not Muslims, they only follow certain customs that are common to Muslims. They are Hindus at heart and, therefore, should return to the religion," he says.

Jamna, Mange Ram's daughter-in-law
Jamna is unhappy that her father-in-law has converted to Islam

Mr Goel insists his organisation is not carrying out any campaign for conversion or reconversion. "People contact us voluntarily," he says.

But the VHP's campaign has alerted Muslim groups in the area.

The state president of Jamaat-e-Islami, Salim Engineer, says until 20 years ago (when the VHP first began its campaign) Muslim groups were not even aware that there was any confusion with regard to their community.

"Many centuries ago, Mehrats declared themselves as Muslims. But they did not know what Islam was and so remained with the old culture. They do not follow Islam in an organised manner. The VHP is spreading hatred," Mr Engineer said.

He also justifies the campaign by Muslim groups like Tabliki Jamaat to "educate" Mehrats about Islam.

"We are doing what the government has failed to do. The Muslim community all over India is seeking modern education. Along with that, we are also educating them about their religion," he said.


This need to join organised religion is putting a lot of stress on families that have co-existed with members following their own customs. And religion so far has played little part in their lives.

Mange Ram Kathat was a staunch Hindu and then decided to become a Muslim because he felt a majority of his community were Muslims. He says he does not discriminate between the two religions but his daughter-in-law Jamna, a school teacher who follows Hinduism, is clearly upset.

Shanta praying
Shanta's decision to become a Hindu has alienated many of her relatives

"There is a lot of confusion in our household. There is tension between me and my husband because of my father-in-law," says Jamna.

She says that she also does not like her father-in law's Muslim outfit or his Islamic greetings.

"He should have remained a Hindu. Why did he do this?"

Though Mehrats are listed in the Other Backward Communities list and are as such entitled to benefits under the government's affirmative action policy, the community has little access to basic facilities such as schools or employment opportunities.

Barely 25 years ago, the community members had a lot more flexibility to switch between the religions.

But the harmonious mix of Hinduism and Islam which existed in the community for many centuries is now visibly under threat.