Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mixed feelings about India's future

Chetan Bhagat
By Chetan Bhagat

Indian man
'The present generation is more determined'

I have mixed feelings about India on the 61st anniversary of our independence.

The fact remains India became independent due to the efforts of the people two generations ago and we are lucky to be born in a free country.

The next generation has let the country down a little, but the current one seems more determined than ever, leading to this mixed feeling.

Economic statistics are cyclical and is one issue, but so much needs to be done.

We have to accommodate the hundreds of millions of ambitious young people who are going to become adults and deserve the best opportunities to bring out their talent.

Let's build roads first, castles in the air later

If that doesn't happen, ambition will turn to frustration. Yet, the country with the average age of 25 years continues to be run by 75-year-old people more interested in hoarding and keeping their power than understanding the country's needs.

New leadership

Yes, we need new leadership. We also need young people not to shy away from discussing politics in college canteens. If we can discuss Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif and Ashwariya Rai's dresses, we can discuss party ideologies. Yes, I know discussions won't change anything but it helps build consensus.

Politics is an option for me, but there is no point jumping in the fray without a support base. God has chosen my destiny and if it is part of the plan, I will join politics someday.

But I'm upbeat about the future too.

I am optimistic because the sheer numbers of the young population will make them an important voice in running the country eventually.

Young Indians at a rock concert
'The young will be an important voice in running the country eventually'
This generation is also more homogenous in their purpose. They more focused on their own and thereby, India's progress rather being lost in issues of religion, caste and regionalism which frankly have cost the country a lot.

The power of the internet will bring young people together, and don't be surprised if there is another social revolution in India in the next 20 years.

After all, China had one and only then it went on a path of true progress.

The biggest positive is that more and more people have tasted the benefits of economic growth and realise that it is the only way forward. This consensus is our biggest strength.

While money can't buy everything - it can buy India a lot.

Division between people

Imagine if India was a developed country, our biggest problems - poverty, healthcare, infrastructure, child labour- will be gone. Alongside, there will be lesser religious tension or caste differences. If you have a nice home and a Toyota Corolla, it is unlikely you will go and riot on the streets.

There are countries in the world where everyone has a car - and now for the first time in India's history, people are saying 'Why can't it be my country?'

The biggest negative is the division between people.

There is still a clinging on to one's caste, region and religion between people. The feeling of One India is there, but it doesn't override the other aspects of one's identity.

Politicians love this, as this gives neat little clubs to claim support from and people fall for it every time.

Indian street urchins
'India is not likely to be a superpower in near future'

Until all of us are ready to say "India first and the rest is secondary", not just in lip service but from the heart, things will not change. This is what depresses me.

We should also remember India is not a superpower and is not likely to be in the near future.

And we should stop putting these tags on India every time the stock market gives good returns because it reeks of low self-esteem.

Let's build roads first, castles in the air later.

Comparing India with the rest of the world is not a healthy exercise. We should put our heads down and work for a better country for the next 30 years.

Hopefully, we will no longer be one of the poorest countries in the world and become a developed one.

And if we can do that, we would have matched up to the coolest Indian generation who got us free.

Hopefully, we will have another 15 August sometime in the future, when not only India but Indians will become free.

When that happens, we will take our rightful place in the world which we have been denied for the last few centuries.

Chetan Bhagat, 34, is the biggest selling English author in India. His latest novel is The 3 Mistakes Of My Life.

Los Angeles: John Edwards, the Downward Dog

I couldn't resist posting about the pop-culture, political scandal du jour involving Rielle Hunter and John Edwards, especially after it was reported that the former Presidential contender's paramour was once a Los Angeles yoga teacher.

Admittedly, I found the revelation unfortunate (and a little funny in the absurd, everyone loves a good trashy story way) but also a little sad (and upsetting) since it turned out to be more than just tabloid fodder.

We all know yogis aren't perfect (hey, we're human too) but the cliche about a woman named Lisa Druck, once a party girl muse to Jay McInerney, who changed her name to Rielle (pronounced Riley) , moved to Los Angeles for spiritual enlightenment and fame, was just too juicy to pass up.

So here are the tidbits, I've gathered. A very good profile from Edward's home state paper, the Raleigh News and Observer.

An excerpt from an interview Hunter did with McInerney in the now defunct yoga lifestyle magazine Breathe, where Hunter said she was, "a seeker of truth."

And my favorite, a piece in the Los Angeles Times by Sarah Miller, who wrote about meeting Hunter:

Rielle padded in and out in Ugg boots and flared yoga pants, and in a voice that contained strange elements of surfer-ese and lockjaw, gave unasked-for information about her life's journey and personal health. She would tell us how she'd had an amazing yoga practice that day, or give an elaborate description of some braised root she'd eaten for lunch. I think I said to my friend once, "What a wack job," but that was the extent of my relationship with Rielle.

Then five years later, Miller's next encounter with the soon-to-be Edwards political "webisode producer":

"I am going to be famous," Rielle said. "Rich and famous. I am going to meet a rich, powerful man."
...."Wow," I said. "How are you going to do that?"
Rielle slid a toe out from under the tip of her flared yoga pants and poked me with it, playfully. "I'm going to manifest it," she said.

It seems manifest is destiny.

Pakistan rupee falls to new low

Pakistan trader
Investors are nervous in light of Pakistan's political uncertainty

Pakistan's currency has hit a record low against the dollar on speculation that President Pervez Musharraf might be on the verge of resigning.

The Pakistan rupee fell to 76.9 to the dollar on Friday, the fourth consecutive trading day it has hit an all-time low.

The currency has weakened on fears that the president faces impeachment.

Inflation in Pakistan is at its highest in 30 years, the trade deficit is widening and reserves have fallen.

The value of the rupee has dropped by 23% this year.

"It's panic and the central bank is not doing anything," one trader told the Reuters news agency.

Some investors say intervention by the central bank is needed to bolster the currency, but given its lack of capital this would be hard.

Mr Musharraf, who was involved in a coup that toppled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, is being threatened with impeachment by Pakistan's new ruling alliance.

Friday, August 15, 2008

August 15, 2008

Back-to-School Lunch Tactics

Yoga might have taught you that mindful eating is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Even so, it can be difficult to convince your kids to eat nutritious foods—especially when they're at school.

Luckily, if you keep the right ingredients on hand, you can pack a nutritious lunch in minutes. Try nuts, fresh or dried fruit, cheese sticks, baked tofu, guacamole, carrots, mini-bell peppers, hardboiled eggs, pita bread, and hummus. It also helps to make your kids part of the lunch process. Bring them to the grocery store and have them pick out a few nutritious items.

In the end, though, the yogic notion of nonattachment should prevail. If despite your best efforts, your kids' food comes back untouched, let it go. Intention counts, and your child will still be nourished—if not by a sandwich, then by love.


Tasting Mindfulness

What's for Lunch

The Ultimate Speed Bump

The local government in ShanXi province, China, decided they had enough of people speeding on their highways.

In an effort to stop speeders once and for all, they built a 100 foot long and 2 foot high winding speed block in the middle of the Jing Zhuang highway.

china-street01 The Ultimate Speed Bump picture

Unfortunately for the drivers, the speed bump is so narrow that a large number of cars end up scraping against the side even when driving careful. The speed bump has also taken the 2 lane highway down to a single lane, which has resulted in daily traffic jams.

china-street02 The Ultimate Speed Bump picture

So all you Chinese speeder better “Slon Doon.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

India's poor urged to 'eat rats'
By Amarnath Tewary
BBC News, Patna

It's argued that rats are a good source of nutrition

An official in the Indian state of Bihar has come up with a new idea to encourage low caste poor people to cope with food shortages - rat meat.

The Principal Secretary of the state's Welfare Department, Vijay Prakash, said that he was advancing his proposal after "much survey and ground work".

Bihar's extremely poor Musahar community are rat-eaters by tradition.

The Musahar are on the bottom strata of the caste system with the lowest literacy rate and per capita income.

Less than one percent of their 2.3 million population in Bihar is literate and 98% are landless.


Mr Prakash says his proposals to popularise rat meat eating are intended to uplift their social-economic condition.

Vijay Prakash [Photo: Paras Nath]
People now prefer to eat rat meat instead of chicken or goat as it comes cheaper and is more tasty and healthy
Vijay Prakash

"There are twin advantages of this proposal. First, we can save about half of our food grain stocks by catching and eating rats and secondly we can improve the economic condition of the Musahar community," he told the BBC.

According to Mr Prakash, about 50% of total food grain stocks in the country are eaten away by rodents.

He argues that by promoting rat eating more grain will be preserved while hunger among the Musahar community will be reduced.

He said that rat meat is not only a delicacy but a protein-enriched food, widely popular in Thailand and France.

"Rats have almost no bones and are quite rich in nutrition. People at large don't know this cuisine fact but gradually they are catching up."

However he may find it difficult to popularise such a strategy in a conservative society like Bihar and other north Indian states.

Mr Prakash says that he has recipes to make rat eating a delicacy, which he now wants to distribute to all the hotels in Bihar.

He also wants to encourage rat farming in the same way that poultry is farmed.

While eating rat meat is still stigmatised in urban areas of the country, Mr Prakash says that his research has revealed that it is a popular food item in some parts of Bihar where it is known at roadside hotels by the name of "patal-bageri".

This is not the first time that the department secretary has come out with such an innovative idea.

Earlier, he proposed to recruit eunuchs as security guards to maternity wards in hospitals.

"Yes, that proposal is in its advance stage and we'll very soon engage them in various social activities of our department," he said.

And the welfare secretary's next plan?

"I'll make snake catching popular for the economic value of its venom," he said.

Tamil Tigers, Sri Lankan Government Endangering Lives
of Tens of Thousands of Newly Displaced Persons
Reports Amnesty International
Human Rights Organization Reports 70,000 Fled Their Homes Since May 2008

WASHINGTON - August 14 - Thousands of families who fled the recent fighting between Sri Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) must be allowed to move to safer areas and to receive necessary humanitarian assistance, Amnesty International said today.

“These people are running out of places to go and basic necessities,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher. “The Tigers are keeping them in harm’s way and the government is not doing enough to ensure they receive essential assistance.”

Government aerial bombardment and artillery shelling since May has forced more than 70,000 people to flee their homes, primarily in Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu districts.

Amnesty International has estimated that a third of these families are living without shelter. Some families have been forced to move several times. Many cannot receive food, tarpaulin for temporary shelters or fuel. This is due to a lack of access into LTTE-controlled areas and restrictions on goods going through Omanthai - the crossing point between government- and LTTE-controlled territories.

Lack of cement to build adequate toilets and washrooms has forced people to use open bathing facilities. The lack of adequate privacy for women and girls has led to a notable increase in reports of sexual and gender-based violence.

In the LTTE-controlled Wanni area, the Tigers have impeded the movement of thousands of families to safer places by imposing a strict pass system and, in some instances, forcing some family members to stay behind to ensure the return of the rest of the family. These measures seem designed in part to use civilians as a buffer against government forces -- a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The LTTE has also engaged in forced recruitment.

Amnesty International has also received reports that the government housing for those who escaped LTTE areas often operate as de facto detention centers. Witnesses from Kalimoddai camp in Mannar district told Amnesty International that more than 200 families held there cannot exit the camp for any reason (except to go to school) without obtaining a pass from the government’s security forces.

“Both sides to this long conflict have again shown that they will jeopardize the lives of thousands of ordinary people in the pursuit of military objectives,” said Yolanda Foster. “In the absence of independent international monitors, Sri Lankan civilians lack protection and remain at the mercy of two forces with long records of abuse.”


The Sri Lankan military has launched a major offensive to reclaim areas of the north and east previously controlled by the LTTE. Families have been displaced multiple times. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of June 30, there are some 467,000 individuals displaced by conflict in Sri Lanka’s north and east. This figure includes an estimated 194,900 persons who were displaced after the fighting intensified in April 2006.

Coca-Cola Plant Shut Down in India
Community Welcomes Decision,
Company Cites 'Unbearable' Financial Losses

NEW DELHI - August 14 - The India Resource Center can confirm that the Coca-Cola company has shut down another bottling plant in India - in Sinhachawar in Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh.

A community-led campaign had demanded the closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Sinhachawar because of indiscriminate pollution by the bottling plant as well as illegal occupation of land.

The India Resource Center had led a fact finding team to the plant in June 2007 and found shocking incidences of pollution that were in complete violation of environmental laws and regulations in India.

While the community knew that the plant had been un-operational since the fact finding visit, this is the first official confirmation of the closure.

The bottling plant in Sinhachawar was a Coca-Cola franchisee owned unit operated by the Brindavan Bottlers Limited, which is owned by India's largest bottler of Coca-Cola, the Ladhani Group of Companies.

In a letter to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board dated October 27, 2007, Brindavan Bottlers informed the Board about the closure of the plant due to "huge" and "unbearable" financial losses.

The letter was dated three days after a major protest at the plant.

"We welcome the official closure of the bottling plant which we had demanded. We will now hold Coca-Cola accountable for the damages they have caused in the area because of their negligence," said Mrs. Chinta Dewi, sarpanch (head of the village council) and member of the locally based Coca-Cola Bhagao, Krishi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (Get Rid of Coke, Save Farming Struggle Committee).

Another Coca-Cola bottling plant - in Plachimada in Kerala - has been shut down since March 2004 due to community opposition.

"Community campaigns in India have shut down Coca-Cola bottling plants in Plachimada and in Balia, and now we will ensure that Coca-Cola bottling plants in Mehdiganj and Kala Dera also meet the same fate," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, a community group challenging Coca-Cola's operations in Mehdiganj, near Varanasi. Lok Samiti worked very closely with the community in Sinhachawar towards the plant's closure. The Coca-Cola company is also the target of intense community campaigns in Mehdiganj and Kala Dera in India for creating water shortages and pollution. The company was forced to agree to an assessment of its bottling operations in India as a result of a sustained international campaign. The assessment, released in January 2008, was a damning indictment of Coca-Cola's water management practices in India. The assessment recommends that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling plant in Kala Dera because the plant contributes significantly to water shortages in the area.

"The Coca-Cola company has chosen to embark on an ambitious public relations drive to paint a green image of itself globally. But Coca-Cola's track record on the ground in India is one of dismal environmental and human rights problems, and no amount of public relations can solve the problems it continues to create in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that works directly with communities in India to challenge Coca-Cola.

The fact finding team in June 2007 found several cases of pollution, including:

* The bottling plant has indiscriminately dumping its sludge, considered to be industrial hazardous waste, across the plant premises, in complete violation of the laws regarding handling and disposal of industrial hazardous waste in India.
* The Effluent Treatment Plant was non-operational, and the bottling plant was discharging its wastewater into surrounding agricultural fields and a canal that feeds into the river Ganges.
* The plant did not disclose the amount of hazardous waste being used and generated, as required by the Supreme Court of India for all industrial units in India that deal with hazardous waste.

The full report with images can be found at, in Hindi at

For more information, visit

August 14, 2008
A Family Affair

Want to make yoga a family affair? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Set Up. Find a quiet spot in your home or yard to set up your mats.

Communicate. Chat with your child about yoga. Let her know that it's a physical practice and that breathing deeply is important. Listen to her concerns and ideas. As you practice, compliment your child on her efforts. Create a sense of lightheartedness, and convey that yoga is meant to feel good and be fun!

About the sequence. During the practice, remind your child often to breathe deeply through her nose. Hold poses for about 2 to 5 breaths. And check in every so often by asking her how a pose feels or where she is working hardest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poverty still grips millions in India

By Kumar Malhotra
BBC News

Children in India
Not everyone in India faces a bright future

Every now and then, India gets a stark reminder that the feel good factor created by high growth rates in recent years eludes millions of its people.

One came earlier this month when Unicef said that India had some of the worst rates of child survival in the world. In 2006, 2.5 million children under five died in India and China, of whom 2.1 million were in India.

When you talk to officials and experts in India, they say poverty in is in decline.

"In the decades of the 1980s, there was a very rapid reduction in poverty," according to Dr Pronab Sen, chief statistician for the Indian government.

"The decade of the nineties and the beginning of the two thousands - the last 15 years - has been a little slower, but there's still been a perceptible decline."

Jayati Ghosh
People tend to forget that in all this talk of India Shining, that our development project is still very incomplete
Economics professor Jayati Ghosh

The most recent government figure is that about 26% of India's population are officially classed as poor - that is people getting less than the minimum number of calories regarded as necessary for survival .

Data from other sources such as the World Bank support the notion that absolute poverty is in decline, although there always seems to be some variation between different sets of figures.

But some experts like Jayati Ghosh, an economics professor at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, believe that the poor in India are far more numerous that these figures suggest.

"We are not including people who do not have access to running water, sanitation, schooling, health and education. They may well not have any of these things, yet still not be considered poor because they earn enough to have the minimum calorie requirement."

Impoverished farmers

This is the key part of being poor in today's India - a lack of access to basic services and infrastructure. It all points to the need for massive intervention by the state.

Beggar in India
Poverty alleviation programmes are blunted by corruption

This does happen in India - and has done for many years through anti-poverty programmes and schemes to develop both rural and urban areas.

Quite how much difference they can make is often debated. In the budget this year, the government announced a plan to help out impoverished farmers by writing off huge debts they have no hope of repaying.

It was certainly headline grabbing, but critics argue that its impact is limited because it doesn't amount to fresh money being spent in rural areas - just banks writing off bad loans.

Generating more growth in the rural economy has to be a priority, if only because some 70% of the 1.1bn population lives there.

It has lagged behind the manufacturing and especially the service sector. The government is currently rolling out a huge rural employment scheme, guaranteeing some work for the poorest households.

But if the rural poor do manage to earn money, they don't want to rely on the state to provide the services they need. This is illustrated by education, where the poor take their children out of barely functioning public schools so they can educate them privately.

Blunted by corruption

"This is the tragedy of Indian policy: the government is sitting there paying its teachers and they don't turn up to school," says Surjit Bhalla, an investment manager and economic analyst in Delhi.

The same neglect can be seen in the health sector. The World Bank says that less than 10% of public spending on health goes to the poorest 20% of the population.

When we talk about rural roads, irrigation, rural telecommunications, we really need to carry those through much, much faster than we are doing now
Pronab Sen, chief statistician

Poverty alleviation programmes can also be blunted by corruption, often colluded at by self-interested bureaucrats and unscrupulous politicians at various levels.

The result is that India now shows stark inequalities - often along caste, religious and gender lines. And in some ways, this has become a vicious circle.

"What is happening is that as the country prospers, the willingness of educated and skilled people to stay in the villages is going down," concedes Pronab Sen.

Does the current approach need to be rethought? Some would argue in favour of a greater focus on the small-scale sector in towns and villages across India to create more jobs.

This should be combined with a massive increase in spending on health and education as well as physical infrastructure like electrification, water supplies, irrigation, roads and so on.

The debate over poverty and inequality is a crucial one for the future of India's social and political stability.

Economic progress is creating huge opportunities for boom areas and more privileged classes. But those left behind look unlikely to catch up without sustained and carefully targeted intervention.

August 13, 2008
Family Meditation

Introducing children to yoga, meditation, and spirituality is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. It can set their future on a nourishing and creative course. But how do you present this knowledge so that children of different ages will receive the most benefit from it?

When we teach meditation to children, we need to choose age-appropriate techniques that foster their total growth and development. Meditations for children cannot be the same as those taught to middle-aged business people or spiritual aspirants seeking higher knowledge. Rather, in this context, meditation is a process that supports the growth of the body-mind of the child, fosters the development of each child's own unique personality, and supports creativity and expression.

Meditation techniques for children can help them relax and focus better during school, so that they can concentrate and memorize more effectively. From the spiritual perspective, good meditation techniques teach children self-awareness, encourage them to be themselves, and help them face life with greater belief in their potential.

Teaching Meditation to Children
Meditation 101


The Science of Mindfulness Meditation
The Science of Mindfulness Meditation

by John M. Grohol, Psy.D., Psych Central,

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- A fascinating new study by UCLA researchers combines modern neuroscience with ancient Buddhist teachings.

The scientists believe they have discovered the first neural evidence for why the ability to live in the present moment, without distraction — seems to produce a variety of health benefits.

When people see a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they have increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which serves as an alarm to activate a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger. Scientists see a robust amygdala response even when they show such emotional photographs subliminally, so fast a person can even see them.

But does seeing an angry face and simply calling it an angry face change our brain response. The answer is yes, according to Matthew D.Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience. When you attach the word angry,you see a decreased response in the amygdala," said Lieberman, lead author of the study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

The study showed that while the amygdala was less active when an individual labeled the feeling, another region of the brain was more active: the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This region is located behind the forehead and eyes and has been associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences. It has also been implicated in inhibiting behavior and processing emotions, but exactly what it contributes has not been known.What we're suggesting is when you start thinking in words about your emotions —labeling emotions — that might be part of what the right ventrolateral region is responsible for Lieberman said.

Mindfulness meditation, which is very popular in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, originates from early Buddhist teachings dating back some 2,500 years, said David Creswell, a research scientist with the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. Mindfulness is a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and lets it go.

One way to practice mindfulness meditation and pay attention to present-moment experiences is to label your emotions by saying, for example, "feeling angry right now" "feeling a lot of stress right now" or "this is joy" or whatever the emotion is, said Creswell,lead author of the study, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, a leading international medical journal for health psychology research.Thinking, this is anger is what we do in this study, where people look at an angry face and say, "this is anger" Lieberman noted.

Creswell said Lieberman has now shown in a series of studies that simply labeling emotions turns down the amygdala alarm center response in the brain that triggers negative feelings. Creswell, who conducted the mindfulness research as an advanced graduate student of psychology at UCLA, said mindfulness meditation is a potent and powerful therapy that has been helping people for thousands of years.

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is effective in reducing a variety of chronic pain conditions, skin disease, stress-related health conditions and a variety of other ailments, he said. Creswell and his UCLA colleagues — Lieberman, Eisenberger and Way — found that during the labeling of emotions, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was activated, which seems to turn down activity in the amygdala. They then compared participants responses on the mindfulness questionnaire with the results of the labeling study. "We found the more mindful you are, the more activation you have in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the less activation you have in the amygdala" Creswell said. "We also saw activation in widespread centers of the prefrontal cortex for people who are high in mindfulness. This suggests people who are more mindful bring all sorts of prefrontal resources to turn down the amygdala."

These findings may help explain the beneficial health effects of mindfulness meditation, and suggest, for the first time, an underlying reason why mindfulness meditation programs improve mood and health.

"The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex can turn down the emotional response you get when you feel angry," he said. "This moves us forward in beginning to understand the benefits of mindfulness meditation. For the first time, we are now applying scientific principles to try to understand how mindfulness works. This is such an exciting study because it brings together the Buddhas teachings — more than 2,500 years ago, he talked about the benefits of labeling your experience — with modern neuroscience", Creswell said.

"Now, for the first time since those teachings, we have shown there is actually a neurological reason for doing mindfulness meditation. Our findings are consistent with what mindfulness meditation teachers have taught for thousands of years."

China Faked The Olympics Opening Ceremonies

I want to say this is shocking, but as China has learned to fake just about anything, including eggs, why should the Olympics be any different.

china-olympics-singer02 China Faked The Olympics Opening Ceremonies picture

During the opening ceremonies, the most beautiful voice could be heard coming from little LinMiaoke, a 9 year-old girl who sang her heart out for all the Olympic attendees.

LinMiaoke became an overnight hero in China and across the world, but she quickly fell from her new found fame when it was learned that she was not actually singing at all.

Almost identical to the “Milli Vanilli” scandal, LinMiaoke was chosen to lip sync for the real singer because of her cute face.

The real singer was YangPeiYi, a 7 year-old from Beijing.

china-olympics-singer01 China Faked The Olympics Opening Ceremonies picture

Apparently YangPeiYi’s beautiful voice wasn’t enough to earn her a spot on stage at the Olympics celebration.

ZhangYiMou, the director, thought that YangPeiYi was not pretty enough to perform because of her chubby face and crooked teeth.

They recorded her voice so the 9 year-old could lip sync during the opening ceremonies.

The Chinese government claimed it was better for the image of China.

After the news spread, Yang was interviewed on CCTV. When the reporter asked her how she felt that she wasn’t the one on the stage actually singing, the 7 year-old YangPeiYi said “I’m happy to have my voice in the opening, that’s good enough for me.”

'Winnie the pooh' attacks onlookers
Winnie the Pooh, generally known for his love of honey rather than violence

Japanese police have arrested a 20-year-old man who attacked and robbed two people after they stared at his Winnie-the-Pooh costume.

Masayuki Ishikawa was hanging out on a Tokyo street corner after midnight last month while wearing the costume, accompanied by two friends dressed as a mouse and a panther, when he took offence at being stared at, police said.

'It's uncommon to see people dressed up like this, so the victims were watching them. Then the perpetrator came up and said "What are you staring at?"' a police spokesman said.

Ishikawa and his friends beat up the two victims and stole $160 from them, the spokesman said, adding the group had apparently donned the unusual garb because they had run out of clean clothes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Abhinav Bindra: Reticent champion

By V Krishnaswamy

Abhinav Bindra
Bindra showed promise from an early age

Ace shooter Abhinav Bindra, India's first individual Olympic gold medallist, says he has been "punching holes on black paper" for the last 10 years.

This obsession fetched the reticent 25-year-old a gold medal in the men's 10m air rifle shooting contest on Monday in Beijing.

Bindra was a child prodigy, representing India at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, while just 16.

In 2000, he was not yet 18 years old, when he went to the Sydney Olympics. He was the youngest in the contingent.

But within a year he was winning medals around the world and in 2002 he became a Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

New chapter

Not the most loquacious of speakers, Bindra does write an occasional blog.

Four days ago, he wrote: "So yesterday was the welcoming ceremony where they officially raise the flag in front of your building and play the national anthem... it is really an emotional moment especially for us athletes who have early events and never attend the opening ceremony.

"So for us in some way this was the small and intimate 'cutting of the ribbon' and makes you feel proud that you are representing an entity so much larger than self."

The anthem has been played for his winning the gold medal. And he can be satisfied that what he had come for has been attained and a new chapter in Indian sports history has been penned.

Aiming for gold medals, Bindra did shoot down World Cup medals of lesser hue in 2001 and 2003.

The flurry of medals in Europe and elsewhere in 2001 and 2002, too, marked him out to be a champion waiting to blossom.

Even then it might have seemed a trifle too early for him to be conferred with India's highest sporting award - the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

Abhinav Bindra
Abhinav Bindra beat Olympic champion Zhu Qinan to the gold

Four years ago, Bindra, looked all set for an Olympic medal.

He strolled into the final at Athens with a score of 597 out of 600 and was third. He was shooting like a dream and looked cool as a cucumber.

But in the final, things didn't go his way. He shot his worst series of the day and crashed to seventh position.

Questions arose about his ability to take the pressure of a final.

After the event at Athens, the youngster denied being under pressure, but did say: "An Olympic medal is my goal and I will not be satisfied till I get it."


The next two years were a struggle, first to keep going with the same level of determination after the Athens agony.

Then he had a struggle with his back, which was giving him a lot of problems.

It was a situation where he had to ask himself whether he wanted to shoot at all with so much pain. He did get to the World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2006 despite the pain.

And he held his nerve in the crucial final, which he entered as a joint leader in the qualification round. Into the final, needing a shot close to perfection, he achieved just that and became the first Indian to win a World Championship gold medal.

The back problem had now assumed career-threatening proportions.

He opted out of the Asian Games in Doha to keep his Olympic dream going for he had booked his berth to Beijing by winning the Zagreb gold.

Abhinav had every facility at his beck and call - his family in the northern state of Punjab has spent millions of rupees to fuel his dream of an Olympic medal.

Abhinav Bindra with his coach
Bindra with his coach

Maybe that added to the pressure on the young man, who seldom smiles or drops his calm look.

Yet, he did have the determination, which those close to him saw and which prompted his father, AS Bindra, to liken his own son a "silent killer".

His affluent family - he himself runs one of the businesses, Abhinav Futuristics, named after him - backed him to the extent that he had a private shooting range at home.

His father spared no effort to ensure the best of everything from equipment to coaches to training stints and tournaments for exposure.

The government, too, kept faith in him with a number of grants.

Asked how his life would change after the gold medal, Bindra says: "For me life will go on. I sincerely hope that it changes how Olympic sports is viewed in India.

"Right now Olympic sports don't seem to be priority and I hope that changes. As for shooting, I am sure it will grow stronger from here."

Speak Your Mind

Explore without limits the Big Mind within you.


Find a quiet place away from distractions and interruptions. Spend a few minutes breathing slowly and deeply, settling into a calm and spacious awareness.

Sit in an upright posture and ask to speak to Big Mind. Then identify yourself as Big Mind by saying, "I am Big Mind."

Pause for a moment. What does it feel like to be Big Mind?

As Big Mind, look within and see if you can find just how big you are. See if you can find any boundaries, any limits, any borders to this Big Mind that you are.

If you find anything that is beyond or outside of this Big Mind, ask yourself, "What is beyond Big Mind?" and then ask to speak to that. It might be God, it might be the universe, or it might be the whole cosmos.

Then say, "May I speak to the universe; to the cosmos; to that which has no boundaries, no borders, and no limits?"

Look within and see that, as Big Mind, you are completely free and liberated. There is nothing extra, nor is there anything lacking as this vast empty Mind.

Ask yourself, as Big Mind, "Is there anything I have to fear?"

Look within and see that this Mind knows no fear or suffering. It cannot be hurt or destroyed.

It has never been apart from you, and it cannot be lost. Ask to speak to Big Mind once again, and it will be here. It is always here.

Thich Nhat Hanh video of conversation with Ram Dass

Students for a Free Tibet condemns assault of nonviolent protesters by Chinese consular officials in San Francisco

By: Students for a Free Tibet

San Francisco, CA, Aug. 9, 2008 - Activists were outraged Wednesday morning August 6th when Chinese Consulate officials cut the climbing rope of a young Tibetan woman engaged in a nonviolent protest at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, causing her to fall more than 15 feet, striking a balcony below.

Twenty-two year-old Nyendak Wangden fell more than 15 feet from the consulate roof to a balcony below after consular officials appear to have cut her climbing rope. Wangden was staging a symbolic mock-hanging from the consulate roof to draw attention to China's occupation of Tibet and its brutal crackdown against Tibetans in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On the ground below, three women, Sabba Saleem Syal, Megan Swoboda and Tenzin Khando, had chained themselves to the entranceway of the building, and held a banner reading "Tibetans are dying for freedom."

On the roof to ensure the safety of Wangden was Brihannala Morgan, 26, of Oakland. Shortly after Wangden rappelled over the edge of the roof, Morgan was accosted by three male consular officials who struck her with a metal pipe. The assault was captured on video taken from a neighboring building. Morgan was on the roof to support Wangden and repeatedly explained to the officials that they were nonviolent protesters and that Wangden's life would be in danger if they cut the rope.

Officials ignored Morgan's pleas and a female consular official on the roof then made cutting motions on Wangden's climbing rope. The rope then went slack and Wangden plummeted to the balcony below. Wangden was removed from the balcony by San Francisco city rescue crews using ladders and a stretcher after consular officials refused them entry into the building. The climbing equipment bears incisions consistent with being cut by a sharp implement, according to Derek St. Pierre, Wangden's lawyer and an experienced rock climber himself.

Wangden was taken to the hospital by paramedics and miraculously suffered only a fractured wrist. Both women were held overnight in federal prison and then released on bond. They face federal charges with maximum sentences of 6 months in prison and a fine.

Students for a Free Tibet is relying on the US government to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter and believes that Chinese officials should be held accountable for this act of life-threatening violence against a peaceful protester. The deliberate act of cutting Wangden's rope reflects the attitude that Chinese officials maintain towards peaceful protesters and towards Tibetans in and outside Tibet. Right now in Tibet, Tibetans are suffering under a brutal Chinese government crackdown, and at least 1,000 Tibetans remain missing since a widespread popular uprising in March.

Monday, August 11, 2008

India fetes first gold medallist

Gold winner Abhinav Bindra of India celebrates on the podium following the men"s 10m air rifle shooting finals
Bindra is a hero in India

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lavished praise on Abhinav Bindra, the country's first individual Olympic gold medallist.

Mr Singh said that Bindra's achievement- he claimed the men's 10m air rifle shooting title - was a "golden performance".

The Indian President, Pratibha Patil, has also lauded Bindra's feat.

India, winners of eight hockey gold medals, had never won an individual Olympic title before Bindra's success.

Bindra's win has led news on Indian TV channels and websites, which have described it as "historic".

He did tough commando training in Germany for three weeks prior to the Olympics
AS Bindra, father

Journalists descended on the Bindra family home in Chandigarh in the northern state of Punjab as soon as news of the win came in.

Reports said that the shooter's family had organised prayers ahead of his contest in Beijing.

"We are very proud of our son. He has done a great thing for the country. We will be rushing to [the capital] Delhi to receive him when he returns on Thursday," news agencies quoted his mother Babli Mishra telling reporters.

Mrs Mishra said the family would visit Punjab's famous Golden temple to "pay obeisance for his success".

The gold medallist's father said his son had worked hard to achieve the feat.

"He paid a lot of attention towards physical training despite his back injury. He did tough commando training in Germany for three weeks prior to the Olympics," said AS Bindra, who is a businessman.

Members of India's governing parties also announced cash rewards for Bindra.

The federal railway minister was reported to have announced the shooter would be receiving a free travel pass.

Off topic, but I love drumming,
PS Where is the video? I understand that some one has copyrighted it and ONLY viewers in Italy can watch it. I thought that the Olympics were for WORLD UNITY. PLEASE POST THE DRUMMERS, MUCH METTA, gregor

2,008 drummers beat countdown to opening

Bill Savadove
August 09,2008

These percussionists were among some 15,000 performers who took part in a dazzling show at Bird's Nest, which highlighted China's ancient history and its rise as a modern power. Photo: AFP

When Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics, it fielded 2,000 musicians for the opening ceremony. Beijing on Fridayupped the ante by eight, and that was before the official ceremony started.

A total of 2,008 musicians created a field of drums on the floor of the National Stadium last night, beating out a thunderous countdown to the exact moment for the start of the Games, accompanied by a roar of approval from the crowd.

Dancers and actors, pulling humorous faces, do their bit to add a touch of levity to the opening ceremony proceedings.
The musicians used identical, table-sized Chinese drums called fou - a clay vessel with a skin stretched over the top. But the drums had a modern twist: they lit up in the dark, and percussionists used red luminous sticks to play.

At the Athens Games in 2004, two drummers - one in the Olympic stadium and the other projected on a screen from ancient Olympia - launched the opening ceremony.

The sheer number of drummers reflected the penchant of director Zhang Yimou for mass performances, seen throughout the opening ceremony. It also recalled a scene in the 1984 movie Yellow Earth, for which Zhang served as cinematographer, of drummers performing in unison on a dusty plain.

Traditional instruments made appearances throughout the opening bash. A musician plucked a stringed instrument called a guqin, a type of zither, at the beginning of the artistic programme.

For the "Rite of Music" segment, musicians displayed pipa, pear-shaped stringed instruments that resemble lutes.

Pianist Lang Lang, 26, whom The New York Times has described as the "hottest artist on the classical music planet", ushered in the modern age for the cultural performance.

Born in China, the musician and performs on concert stages worldwide.

Buddha Quote

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

Sakya Muni Buddha
(The Anguttara Nikaya/The "Further-factored" Discourses)

Back-to-School Yoga

Children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, incessant lessons, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We usually don't think of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. The bustling pace of our children's lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—and usually not for the better.

Luckily, yoga can help counter these pressures. When children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfillment, they can navigate life's challenges with a little more ease. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that's noncompetitive. Fostering cooperation and compassion—instead of opposition—is a great gift.

Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.

Found these at "Shadows of Love" at:

They Speak Volumes of Truth

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jimmy's quest for high-rise honey

By Christina Holvey
BBC Natural History Unit

Jimmy studied the locals and then hung over the cliff himself

We were on a mission to film a honey bee so colossal it can survive at incredible altitudes in the Himalayas.

To make things more difficult, these bees have a sting to match, and they build their huge three-metre-long nests high on sheer cliff faces.

Every year, the local people of Nepal risk their lives to harvest wild honey from the cliffs, climbing long bamboo ladders, and collecting the combs in a traditional, but very precarious, manner.

For reasons which should have been obvious, these bees have only ever been filmed from a great distance - our grand plan was to capture their little display rituals and dances in glorious full-blown high-definition… but that was only the half of it.

Our presenter Jimmy Doherty, himself a keen bee-keeper, had been invited to not only witness the harvest, but to join in too!

Honey hunter (BBC)
These people risk their lives to farm their local honey

This meant he would be dangling off a tiny ladder over a 60m cliff, surrounded by over two million giant angry bees.

Sat by the river bank at the foot of a bee cliff, surrounded by smoke and the toxic smell of local rice wine, we all craned our necks to watch the tiny figure perched high above us on a bamboo rung, surrounded by a black cloud of buzzing.

Jimmy was sitting beside me watching intently, desperately trying to absorb the technique this local honey hunter was using - for tomorrow it would be his turn up the ladder.

The honey hunter held a long pole, which he was using as a simple cutting tool to slice through the brood comb, a huge two-metre-long, bright-yellow waxy lobe, behind which the honey was kept.

Suddenly there was a loud shout from above, and I saw a door shaped yellow object hurtle towards the ground and crash square on to the head of a man stood directly below.

The impact was so colossal it completely floored him, and honey splattered all over the place, enveloping him like a big sugary, gloopy parcel.

Jim and honey hunter (BBC)
Jimmy had to share the experience

Everyone jumped up. Our on-location doctor ran forward to help, seeing him lying on the floor absolutely up to his eyeballs in one of the most expensive honeys in the world. I actually thought he was dead.

Two men helped him to his feet, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. I have never seen a honey-glazed man before; but suddenly there was one staggering unsteadily towards me, his eyes bloodshot but smiling cheerfully, and licking himself all over.

When I asked the doctor later if the man had suffered any concussion, it turned out the wobbliness and bloodshot eyes had less to do with the bonk on the head, and rather more to do with copious amounts of local brew.

Jimmy and the Wild Honey Hunters is broadcast on BBC One at 2000 BST on Sunday 10 August.

India monsoon rains kill dozens

A view of houses immersed in flood water due to heavy rains in Hyderabad, India

Heavy monsoon rains in southern India have destroyed houses and flooded parts of Andhra Pradesh, killing at least 40 people over the weekend, officials say.

Floods swamped the state's capital, Hyderabad where 14 people were killed, when they were crushed by the collapsing roofs of their homes.

More than 150,000 people have been moved to makeshift camps in the state's coastal belt, reports say.

Monsoon season generally lasts from June to September.

This year it has killed some 100 people, mostly in the country's east and north-east.

Yoga and Religion?

Today, many yoga practitioners assert that yoga is not a religion, in their minds. This begs the question: If hatha yoga is not a religion, what is it? Is it a hobby, a sport, a fitness regimen, a recreational activity? Or is it a discipline, such as the study of law or the practice of medicine? The odd truth is that there are ways in which the practice of yoga resembles all of those pursuits.

Perhaps it would be helpful to consider the difference between the word "religion" and another word commonly associated with it, "spirituality." Spirituality, it could be said, has to do with one's interior life, the ever-evolving understanding of one's self and one's place in the cosmos—humankind's "search for meaning." Religion, on the other hand, can be seen as spirituality's external counterpart, the organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual processes: the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the congregations that come together to share them.

The fact that so many yogis report spiritual experiences in their practices indicates how we might best view the ancient art. While many Westerners come to yoga primarily for its health benefits, it seems safe to say that most people who open to yoga will, in time, find its meditative qualities and more subtle effects on the mind and emotions equally (if not more) beneficial. They will, in other words, come to see yoga as a spiritual practice. But, without credos or congregations, it can't properly be regarded as a religion—unless we say that each yogi and yogini comprises a religion of one.