Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sleep Soundly

Whatever your age or current physical state, a yoga practice can exponentially improve your overall health. Moving your body, focusing your mind and opening your soul on the yoga mat transforms your life off the mat. Yoga's many benefits include stress management, breathing efficiency, awareness, bone strength, and improved posture just to name a few.

Yoga is not only for the young and flexible—you can modify poses to suit every body type and level of ability. In fact, Yoga Journal's "Yoga in America" study found that 2.9 million American yogis are 55 or older.

Beyond age, yoga is infinitely malleable and can be adapted to benefit everyone from students with temporary injuries to paraplegics in wheelchairs and people who are permanently bedridden. There are no boundaries to the benefits and benefactors of yoga.


Count on Yoga: 38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit

Forever Young

Yoga Does Every Body Good

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ban on India child fighters urged

Members of Salwa Judum militia in Chhattisgarh
Police in Chhattisgarh have in the past admitted recruiting children

Indian forces and Maoist rebels should stop using children in conflict immediately, a human rights group says.

Human Rights Watch says all parties in the central state of Chhattisgarh use children in armed operations.

The rebels admit they recruit children sometimes as young as 12, it says. The government denies recruiting children.

PM Manmohan Singh has described Maoists as the biggest threat to India. About 6,000 people have died in violence linked to the rebels over 20 years.

Maoist fighters are active in east and central India, in almost half of the country's 29 states.

They focus on areas where people are poor but there is great mineral wealth. The rebels say they represent the rights of landless farmhands and tribal communities.


The Human Rights Watch report is entitled "Dangerous Duty: Children and the Chhattisgarh Conflict",.

It says using children under 18 years in armed operations places them at risk of injury and death, and violates international law.

"A particular horror of the Chhattisgarh conflict is that children are participating in the violence," Jo Becker, children's rights advocate for HRW and the study's lead researcher, said in a press release.

"It's shameful that both India's government and the Naxalites [the Maoist rebels] are exploiting children in such a dangerous fashion."

The report says all sides in the conflict use children.

Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh
The rebels are accused of recruiting children as young as 12

"The rebels admit it is their official practice to recruit children above age 16 in their forces, and have used children as young as 12 in armed operations," the report says.

"I joined the rebels' military guerrilla squad when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was studying in a government-run residential school in eighth standard when Naxalites came to my hostel," a former member is quoted telling HRW in December last year.

"I didn't want to go. They said I could study until the 10th standard, but I should go with them. We got weapons training, learnt about landmines, and a little karate.

"Finally, I had an opportunity to run away. One year after I ran away, both my younger brothers [aged eight and 12] were killed [by the Naxalites in retaliation]. They beat my mother and broke her arm. They burned our house and took all our things," he said.


The report says that government-backed Salwa Judum vigilantes and the police, too, are guilty of recruiting children.

A teacher in a government school in Bhairamgarh told HRW that about 15 to 20 children - boys and girls - dropped out of high school in 2005 to become special police officers (SPOs).

"I live in Bhairamgarh and many of these children also stay there. Now they are all SPOs. Their entire schooling has been ruined - they can never go back to school because they have discontinued education for over two years," the report quoted him as saying.

HRW says the Chhattisgarh police admit that they had recruited children under 18 as special police officers due to the absence of age documentation, but claim that all children have been removed from the ranks.

"However, our investigators have found that underage SPOs continue to serve with the police and are used in counter-Naxalite combing operations."

In late 2007, the group says that Chhattisgarh police admitted that they had accidentally recruited underage SPOs, but claimed that they had since removed around 150 officers from the ranks, including children.

"While there is no evidence of new SPO recruitment since March 2006, both SPOs and community members confirmed that SPOs under age 18 continue to serve with the police," the report says.

It says many of the underage SPOs boasted in interviews with HRW that they continue to serve at the forefront of dangerous armed operations

In July, the Indian home ministry said the HRW findings were "absolutely false" and that no underage SPOs were recruited by the Chhattisgarh police.

"Instead of vacillating between admissions and denial regarding their use of children, India should act to immediately conduct age verification tests for all SPOs, remove those under age 18, and provide them with education and alternative employment," the report says.

In pictures: Bihar flood relief

A man displaced by floods is winched to safety by an Indian air force helicopter in Chakramibasa village in Madhepura district.

A man displaced by floods is winched to safety by an Indian air force helicopter in Chakramibasa village in Madhepura district.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Find Freedom with Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not something you do solely for the person who hurt you—it is something you must do for yourself. Holding grievances against others invokes a chain reaction of negative feelings on the neurological level, creating a cycle of harmful energy.

By opening the heart and allowing grudges and anger to move through this boundless space, powerful healing can occur through meditation and prayer. Although it is not easy to move immediately or seamlessly from injury to pardon, practice and patience will lead you on the road to true forgiveness.

True, deep forgiveness accesses the recognition that all humans, however terrible or hurtful their actions, exist with basic goodness. This realization can transcend into an acknowledgement that we are all intertwined as part of a greater whole, and when we forgive someone else we are forgiving another part of ourselves.


Bare Your Heart

Forgiveness Heals

Fresh India nuclear talks begin

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
Approval required from 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group
US Congress to approve deal before President Bush signs it into law
All this to happen before Mr Bush's tenure expires in January 2009

The group of countries which regulates global nuclear trade is meeting in the Austrian capital, Vienna, to discuss a landmark Indian-US nuclear deal.

A waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group would help India finalise the deal.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has already backed the controversial accord.

India's government says the deal is vital to meet its energy demands.

Critics of the deal say it creates a dangerous precedent - allowing India access to fuel and technology without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other countries must do.

Those opposed to lifting the ban say it would undermine the arguments for isolating Iran over its nuclear programme.

The two-day meeting in Vienna will consider a revised US proposal to lift the ban on nuclear trade with India, a key element of the landmark deal.

Reports say that some members of the NSG had expressed concern that the revisions were cosmetic and did not help in clearing the air about whether the deal would enable India to subvert agreements meant to stop production and testing of nuclear weapons.

'Huge difference'

Following the latest meetings, an unnamed diplomat was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency that the "outlook for consensus is dim because India and the US won't accept any references in the waiver text to automatic cessation of trade in case India tests another nuclear weapon".

Separately, a report in the Washington Post newspaper said that the Bush administration had told the US Congress in a "secret" letter that the US had the right to stop nuclear trade with India should the latter conduct a nuclear weapons test.

The letter to the late Tom Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of non-proliferation commitments."

Communists demonstrate against nuclear deal
India's communists oppose a partnership with the US

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communists - former allies of the governing Congress party who withdrew support for the government over the nuclear deal - have said the contents of the letter show the government is "deceiving" the country.

"There is a huge difference between what the US government is telling its Congress and what our government is telling us," BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told reporters.

Indian officials made a presentation to explain India's policy to NSG members during the last round of meetings last month.

The nuclear deal is being strongly pushed by the Bush administration and must also be ratified by the US Congress.

The deal would allow India to enter the world market in nuclear fuel and technology - as long as it is for civilian purposes.

It had previously been banned from doing so under the terms of a 30-year embargo imposed because of its testing of atomic bombs and refusal to join the NPT.

In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

Correspondents say that 14 of India's 22 existing or planned reactors would come under regular IAEA surveillance if the deal goes ahead.

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

Critics fear assistance to India's civil programme could free-up additional radioactive material for bomb-making purposes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Have More Fun

Playing with dance, acrobatics, and more, innovative yogis build trust and create connections.

By Diane Anderson


You wanna fly? AcroYoga cocreator Jason Nemer asks me. What a question—who doesn't dream of flying? But, truth be told, I'm a scaredy-cat.

I'm watching Nemer and his partner, Jenny Sauer-Klein, perform their acrobatic yoga feats. A small crowd of spectators oohs and ahhs over their breathtaking moves. This "flying" looks like fun, but I'm considerably larger than Sauer-Klein. I'm certain I'll hurt Nemer or fall flat on my face. I hesitate. But Nemer smiles. "You'll be fine, I promise," he says. So I consent.

Nemer becomes my base: He's on his back, feet up in the air, and I lean over and lay my torso on his feet, ready to play airplane like a kid. For a moment before liftoff, I question how I got here, why I would choose to trust a stranger this way. But I sense that Nemer, who studies with master yogi Dharma Mittra, is strong and stable, so I relax. Before I know it, I'm in the shape of Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), but upside down: Nemer's feet are pressed into the top of my thighs, holding me up, while my head dangles. His hands move along my spine, treating me to a mini-Thai massage. Then he calls out another pose.

The transition is thrilling. I'm not sure how I flip over, but now his feet are on my low back, my head near his chest, my feet on the level of his knees. I'm grabbing my ankles in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), but since I'm upside down, this backbend feels more like Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)—but with more ease, more freedom. It's a pose I've done a gazillion times, yet this circle is totally new, relaxing, liberating. Each time we move into a different pose, I experience a split second of worry and I fear I'll plummet, but somehow I don't. At one point, Nemer laughs, Sauer-Klein laughs, and I laugh, too.

I've just gotten a taste of one form of fun being had by yogis who are letting loose—combining their love of asana with a passion for off-the-mat physical activities like circus arts, theater, dance, and outdoor adventure. These new yogic art forms—AcroYoga, Yoga Trance Dance, and yoga slacking among them—cultivate risk taking, trust, connection, and playfulness. Dabbling in them, I find myself laughing, feeling exhilarated. They bring back the excitement I felt back when I first started practicing—when I fell in love with the way asana made me feel playful and free. Somewhere along the way, my practice has become more introspective and solemn, and I've lost some of the sheer joy I once felt. So here I am, checking out these new forms. And I have to say, they're inspiring.

Circus Circus

AcroYoga founders Nemer and Sauer-Klein were both serious yoga practitioners who had been through teacher trainings when they met in 2003. But they were much more than that: He was a competitive acrobat; she was a musical theater major who taught circus arts to children. After meeting through a friend, they came together at San Francisco's Circus Center, where a kind of alchemy took place as they found themselves combining yoga with acrobatics. It doubled their fun and opened them to new ways of expanding their practices. Over time, they also incorporated Thai massage into the AcroYoga practice, and the couple now sees their unique art form as an attempt to combine the spiritual wisdom of yoga, the loving kindness of Thai massage, and the dynamic strength of acrobatics into one powerful practice.

"There are purists and there are blenders. We're blenders," says Sauer-Klein. She learned to dance, then discovered Ashtanga and completed her first teacher training with leading Ashtanga teacher David Swenson. Later, she developed an affinity for vinyasa flow; putting together poses in a different order from the standard Ashtanga sequence was "totally freeing" for her. Now, she says, she's fallen in love with Anusara Yoga.

Sauer-Klein isn't just a dabbler. She's a believer in the idea that a yoga practice should change and evolve, that a solid foundation is important but that it shouldn't keep anyone from exploring new things.

Nemer agrees. After all, the great master of modern yoga, Sri T. Krishnamacharya—teacher to such luminaries as T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyengar, and K. Pattabhi Jois—drew on many disciplines, including gymnastics and wrestling, as he developed asana practices that continue to influence most of the yoga taught today.

Nemer and Sauer-Klein aren't the only ones whose love of yoga is matched by a love of high-flying circus acts. Some acrobatically inclined yogis have taken the practice to the sky. Michelle Dortignac, a certified OM Yoga instructor in New York, teaches Unnata Aerial Yoga using tissu, the silky fabric used in circus arts, which can be twisted to form a soft harness. She finds that it helps the body make better use of gravity, so that it can get into poses more deeply than it would on the ground. Dortignac opens class with Sun Salutations done in a circle, so everyone can make eye contact. "People lighten up, smile, and relate to one another," she says.

Sauer-Klein and Nemer, too, emphasize communication and a community connection in their classes, which begin with a chance for everyone to introduce themselves and share how they're feeling. And then the real fun begins.

In the first activity, everyone might stand in a circle, looking at the back of the person in front of them and sitting Utkatasana-style on the "chair" made by the lap of the person behind. It's a small exercise in trust and being there for one another that leads naturally into the awareness of yourself and others that is necessary for practicing AcroYoga. Sauer-Klein and Nemer say that their goal is to cultivate connection, playfulness, and trust—and even a single class offers a chance to experience all three.

Sauer-Klein adds that the internal experience is key to AcroYoga. "You need to know your center, figure out what you need, express it," she says. "You have to be true to yourself." Overcoming fear is crucial, too. Working on these things in AcroYoga can teach people to develop the same abilities in other areas of their lives. "We are all so mind-centered. We tell ourselves that we can't do certain things," says Nemer. "AcroYoga is a chance for adults to explore and see what's possible."

Clearly, people are into it. In the year since Nemer and Sauer-Klein began training other acroyogis, they have certified more than 25 teachers. Earlier this year, the pair made an AcroYoga world tour (the clothing company Prana purchased wind power credits to offset the carbon emissions created by their trip), which took them to China, Japan, Thailand, India, Spain, Holland, and Germany to spread their unique form of playfulness.

"We're meant to play," says Nemer. "And we're convinced self-discovery is possible through play." (To find a class near you, check out

Bathe in Ritual Waters

I'm entering a huge hotel ballroom with my six-year-old daughter, Story Frances. She's excited to be staying up late for "the dance party," and her eyes widen as we take in the scene: A few hundred people are sitting cross-legged on the floor singing mantras; kirtan leader Jai Uttal is onstage, pumping the harmonium; a life-size statue of Nataraj (the dancing form of Lord Shiva) sits in the center of the room; and all around us the walls are alive with ever-changing slides of Indian children, saints, sacred cows. It's the prelude to an evening Yoga Trance Dance session led by vinyasa flow teacher Shiva Rea.

Story is wiggly and giggly, and it's way past her bedtime. I briefly consider taking her home. But when I hear Rea's inviting voice, something softens inside me, and I realize this is the perfect outlet for Story's expressive energy. "Momma, dance with me!" she calls.

Trance Dancers don't face the teacher. Instead, everyone forms a circle. Rea often begins by demonstrating a few moves, encouraging folks to feel their center of gravity and move from the hips. Tonight, she asks those of us gathered to close our eyes and bathe ourselves with imaginary water to prepare for the shared ritual. I pretend we're in a shallow pond and lift the water, splashing my own face and rinsing myself, then helping Story pour some over herself, too.

Dance Like No One Is Watching

As the music builds an energetic arc, it feels as if anything can happen. And that's the wonder of it. First-timers and devotees alike report feeling alive for days afterward. "In that alive state, you're in a more creative place to deal with life and the world," Rea says. "It's a joyous way to be."

I watch my daughter's lithe little body twirling with delight and remember how I once loved to dance. In her exuberance, I see myself. Inside all of us is the seed of expression; this event is an opportunity to let it out. And I can sense that everyone here feels simultaneously self-conscious and eager to move.

The words of my friend and yoga teacher Janet Stone come to me: "If you close your eyes, nobody can see you. It's magic." So I close my eyes, and my self-consciousness melts. I am aware that others can see me and are likely to think I look ridiculous, but I stop caring. I'm starting to let loose.

"High school asana!" Rea calls out, doing a funky disco move. It's as if she's asking us to celebrate our own absurdity, our embarrassing moments, the inherent pain that accompanies the joy of making our way through this life. Now everyone looks a little ridiculous, and we're having fun with it. Woo-hoo!

My daughter and I dance, swing, sway, and laugh together, as the crowd slowly moves out of the circular formation and into a free-for-all of dancing, yoga moves, whatever inspires them. I see friends laughing, making funny faces, having real fun. Story skips away from me. When I fear I've lost her, I see that she's rocking out with a friend, and they both boogie back toward me. Finally, we wear ourselves out and leave the scene elated.

For Rea, mixing yoga, ritual, and dance feels natural. She explored yoga on her own at an early age, inspired by the name her father gave her. Later, she took courses in dance anthropology at UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures, then studied dance in Africa and Asia. The seeds of Yoga Trance Dance were planted during Rea's first visit to Africa, when she heard drums beating. "It was like hearing the soundtrack to the next chapter of my life," she says. "Every important occasion there was accompanied by dance."

Some have likened Yoga Trance Dance to a rave, but without the drugs. "I'm fine with that," Rea says, "but it's really about so much more. The intention is what makes the difference."

Yoga can be a great physical workout; when done with intention, it becomes a catalyst for personal development and spiritual awakening. Same goes for Yoga Trance Dance. Rea wants people to experience movement as a healing art and to connect with the earth and each other. That's why proceeds from YogaTrance Dance events go to the nonprofit Trees for the Future. (Find out more at

"Dance has helped me expand my living experience of yoga," says Rea. "It isn't an either-or proposition. The two are very complementary."

Others who have blended dance with yoga agree. "Yoga postures can be quite linear and boxlike," says musician and yoga teacher Wade Imre Morissette. Morissette, the twin brother of pop star Alanis, travels the country promoting Bliss Dances (his version of Yoga Trance Dance). He finds that "the dance element allows for a greater inner rhythm to be expressed and more authenticity. Every body moves differently; there's no right or wrong way to dance."

Rea conducts her Yoga Trance Dance rituals in darkened rooms. And at New York's Jivamukti Yoga School, a yogi named Parashakti blindfolds participants in monthly "Liberation Lounge" experiences, so they can move without having to think about how they look.

"We don't dance enough, you know? What—maybe, like, once a year? At a wedding? So we tell ourselves we can't," Rea says. "But when the lights are dimmed, you can connect with your spirit." She loves how that experience is universal; she's seen people of all ages, sizes, and shapes throw off inhibitions and become part of the free-flowing movement.

Walk the Line

I watch Sam Salwei and Jason Magness, the YogaSlackers, doing poses while balancing on a slackline—a length of flat nylon webbing about an inch wide. It looks like a tightrope but with more bounce, and it's strung only a foot or so off the ground. With their curls and dreadlocks and well-worn threads, Magness and Salwei look like Burning Man attendees. But these nomads are contemplative athletes.

Balancing on the slackline, Magness says, demands core strength and attention to breath. It forces you to draw on inner sources of calm. Salwei calls it "meditation for ADD people" because you have to go inside yourself to find stillness. "You can't be thinking about anything else," he says.

"The slackline is humbling—it totally destroys your ego," Magness says. "We don't like to try new things, as adults, unless we're already good at them. You have to approach the slackline with a child's mind and be willing to risk and play."

And yoga slacking is fun and participatory, with spectators commenting and offering tips. "On the line, we're discovering and inventing all the time," says Salwei. "You do your own thing, but we're like kids encouraging each other, offering pointers, laughing, trying things out. It's social and it's playful."

Magness, an athlete, credits pranayama for his improved rock climbing, triathlon, and adventure-racing performances. In 2000, a friend introduced him to traditional slacklining, a kind of moving meditation that can be done as an art in itself or as preparation for activities such as climbing and gymnastics. But he didn't immediately take to it.

Magness and Salwei met in 2002, when Magness opened a rock-climbing gym in North Dakota. Salwei showed up the first day and, as the pair tell it, never left. Magness hired Salwei and eventually introduced him to yoga.

The beginning of their slackline partnership happened at the Yoga Journal Colorado Conference in 2005. "We were studying with {B.K.S.} Iyengar and these incredible masters for over six hours a day," says Magness. "So we'd go outside and play on the slackline as a means of release."

Fall, and Get Back Up

Since the two friends camp often, they usually set up the line between a couple of trees. Standing up is the first pose to master and is a lot more difficult than it looks. But these two have gotten to the point where they can take shapes on the line, moving into poses like Tree, Eagle, Lotus, and Warrior—45 poses in all. And they've taught yoga slacklining in India, New Zealand, and Thailand. There's even a YogaSlackers instructional DVD. (Order it from

Magness and Salwei want their passion to benefit the planet too. In January, they hooked up "kites," or sails, to snowboards and used nothing but the wind to move them across the state of North Dakota. Their hope was that this expedition (learn more at would raise awareness of the unharnessed power of the wind as an alternative energy source.

Watching them on the line, I think, "I can do that!" But when I try standing up, I immediately fall. I get back up and try again. I can see that yoga on a slackline is not so different from other forms of yoga: It's about stilling the mind so the body follows suit. To do that, it really helps to let go of any need for control. Yet you have to be mindful of how you hold yourself. You also are forced to come to terms with how distractible your mind is.

As the boys say, it's really challenging, but it can be a lot of fun. Once again, my daughter, Story, is a natural. She's all gung ho to try it. The beautiful thing about watching her? Her pride isn't so tied up in her performance. When she falls, she laughs and climbs right back up.

While I'm most comfortable with a practice that combines asana and meditation, I love experimenting with these wildly diverse new forms. These styles of yoga coax you out of solitary introspection and invite you to celebrate sangha, community. AcroYoga tests your ability to trust and communicate; Yoga Trance Dance helps you connect to yourself and your community; the slackline forces you to let go. All of them can be exhilarating and fun, perhaps attracting newcomers to yoga through a different door.

The best thing about these new forms is that they allow us to respect yoga's traditions while still branching out. I'm with the folks who think that, for yoga to stay alive as a discipline and practice, it needs to evolve along with the people who are doing it. "Who's to say that a certain way of practicing isn't meaningful?" says veteran teacher Judith Hanson Lasater. "I think it'd be sad if the tradition became rigid. If the people doing it find spiritual connection to themselves and don't do harm to self, planet, or others, great. It isn't classic, but so what?"

Diane Anderson is senior editor at Yoga Journal.

India flood stranded still wait


Aerial footage shows the extent of the flooding that has devastated Bihar

Up to half a million people are still stranded by flood waters in the Indian state of Bihar, aid workers say.

Monsoon rains caused the river Kosi to change course, severely affecting areas in Bihar not normally prone to floods.

The authorities have been criticised for failing to rescue flood victims well over a week after the scale of the flooding became apparent.

Meanwhile monsoon waters have been causing havoc in India's Assam state, as well as in Nepal and Bangladesh.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Bihar, Mandan Bharti Jagriti Samaj (MBJS), told the BBC News website that 500,000 people still needed to be rescued.

"They are on the roofs of concrete buildings like schools... they are crying in the wilderness," the MBJS' Narenda Kumarjha said.

"People's dead bodies are floating in the water along with the corpses of cattle. People are forced to drink that same water."

In one of the worst affected districts, Supaul, some 280 villages are still completely cut off, the NGO said.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas travelled on one small rescue boat in the district of Madhepura and saw submerged villages and railway lines. He says the flood waters stretched more than 100km (62.5 miles). "The rescue effort simply isn't very organised," he says.

People were being taken to dry areas and simply left to fend for themselves, our correspondent says.


Hundreds of villagers in Madhepura ransacked a food warehouse while police ran for cover, the Reuters news agency reports.

The looters also attacked government vehicles carrying food. "We cannot stop [these] incidents despite our best efforts," Bihar relief official Bijendra Prasad Yadav told Reuters.


On Monday, the Indian army sent more soldiers, doctors and medical equipment to help with the rescue efforts.

So far about half a million people have been evacuated in Bihar. The official death toll is 75, but aid agencies say many more people have perished.

Tens of thousands of survivors have crowded into unsanitary relief camps, where tensions are growing over the desperate lack of emergency supplies.

With the numbers of people in the camps expected to nearly double in the coming days, there are fears that poor conditions could lead to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

The United Nations warned that "the heat, combined with limited supplies of safe drinking water and poor hygiene conditions, poses a great risk of water and vector-borne diseases".

The temporary camps are being supported by volunteers and community groups, but a lack of central co-ordination is hampering efforts.

In the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, monsoon rains have caused the Brahmaputra river to burst its banks, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

More than 100 villages have been completely submerged, officials said.

Man made disaster?

Arguments have developed over whether the Bihar flooding could have been prevented.

Stranded villagers wait on a roof for help
Stranded villagers wait on a roof for help

The disaster began on 18 August when the Kosi broke its eastern bank further north in Nepal, where the river is often called the Saptakoshi.

The river's flow is regulated by a barrage - on the Nepalese side of the border - which was built in the late 1950s.

Under a joint agreement India agreed to pay for the work and be responsible for its maintenance.

Some analysts point out that the structure was built only as a short-term solution, meant to last 20 or 30 years.

Others accuse the Indian government of having failed in its duty to maintain and repair the defences. If they had, they argue, the river could have been kept on course.

Indian engineers say the Nepalese authorities did not give them the safe access they needed to carry out the work and that there were labour problems.

Massive natural silting is also a major problem. Critics say joint efforts to control that silting were also inadequate this year.

In Nepal itself, officials say hundreds of people have been hit by illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and an estimated 50,000 are homeless.

They say nearly 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed, and that power supplies and transport have been severely affected.

The costs to the economy are now estimated at one billion Nepalese rupees ($14.25m).

In Bangladesh, tens of thousands of villagers are reported to be cut off and there are fears that conditions will get worse.

See Video:

Monday, September 01, 2008

MUMBAI, India, Sep. 1, 2008 (Reuters) — The Dalai Lama left hospital in Mumbai on Monday morning after being treated for abdominal pain, smiling and waving to waiting photographers.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama waves at the end of a teaching conference in Nantes, western France, August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Stephane

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader put his hands together in a traditional greeting before getting into a white Ambassador car and being driven away to a hotel, accompanied by police vehicles.

"He is feeling good and he will be resting for the next few days," his aide Chhime Chhoekyapa told Reuters, adding that the Dalai Lama would stay in Mumbai for a while.

The Dalai Lama was admitted to hospital last week after complaining of "fatigue" and cancelling two foreign trips.

After he was admitted, doctors said the 73-year-old had abdominal discomfort but there was no cause for concern.

In recent years, doctors have carried out more frequent medical checks to ensure that the Dalai Lama was in good health, but the spiritual leader said last November the examinations showed he was "good for another few decades."

He took part in a fast for peace on Saturday from his hospital bed, aides said, along with thousands of Tibetans in other parts of India.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner had recently returned from an 11-day visit to France. The visit focused on lectures on Buddhism, but he also criticized Chinese policies in Tibet.

Many Tibetans fear the death of the current Dalai Lama would be a major setback in their fight for more autonomy within China or independence, creating a leadership vacuum that Beijing is expected to exploit.

In a bid to circumvent this, the Dalai Lama has long suggested his reincarnation would be found outside China.

He has also suggested Tibetans should start to consider how they wanted to address the succession issue, perhaps by electing a senior lama to succeed him or doing away with the institution altogether.

China maintains that the next Dalai Lama will be born in Tibet and chosen by them.

The Dalai Lama, who was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, has been living in exile since 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

(Reporting by Arko Datta and Nishika Patel and Abhishek Madhukar in Dharamsala; Editing by Simon Denyer and Paul Tait)

India battles devastating floods

The flood waters have swamped large areas of Bihar

Pressure is building on the Indian government to do more for half a million people stranded by devastating floods in the state of Bihar.

A BBC correspondent reports chaotic scenes as soldiers try to reach those cut off and people attempt to scramble from rooftops into rescue boats.

With 1.2 million people homeless, India is struggling to cope with the crisis.

The flood waters are spreading to new areas, and conditions in relief camps are overcrowded and unsanitary.

The floods are known to have killed at least 75 people in Bihar - but the death toll could climb once the situation in remote areas emerges.

Large areas remain totally submerged, with reports suggesting that some villages have simply been washed away by strong currents.

Tens of thousands of people have also been displaced in neighbouring Nepal, where some of those who have lost their homes are camping under plastic sheets.


Fights have been breaking out among people desperate to board 800 overcrowded army boats - each of which can carry between one and two dozen people - that have been deployed to help the evacuation process.


The temporary relief camps are being supported by volunteers and community groups, and a lack of central co-ordination is hampering the relief process.

Visiting the Bageecha relief camp in Purnea, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder could find no camp co-ordinator or government official in charge of distributing aid.

Trucks and vans carrying relief material stood parked on the highway as volunteers waited to be organised.

Several tonnes of aid had arrived but the volunteers were not quite sure how to distribute it.

The situation was symptomatic of what was happening across Bihar's flood-affected areas, our correspondent says.

Massive costs

The disaster began on 18 August when a dam burst on the Saptakoshi river in Nepal.

The Saptakoshi, which becomes the Kosi when it enters India, subsequently broke its banks in Bihar.

Officials in Nepal say hundreds of people there have been hit by illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and an estimated 50,000 are homeless.

They say nearly 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed. Power supplies and transport have been severely affected.

The costs to the economy are now estimated at one billion Nepalese rupees ($14.25m).

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Welcome to Dumb Little Man! Each week we provide a handful of tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane.

Attract More Prosperity Into Your Home with Feng Shui

Written on 8/26/2008 by Evelyn Lim. Evelyn is a certified NLP practitioner and life coach. She wants to be rich, not monetarily, but in life, love, health, etc. Visit her popular blog at Attraction Mind Map. Photo Credit: ldcross

Many people today have heard of Feng Shui, but most do not totally know exactly what this means. Feng Shui is the ancient Asian art of the placement of objects and furniture in your home or office, to benefit your life. Feng Shui can be used for love, harmonious family, encourage a pregnancy, career success as well as to attract greater prosperity.

Feng Shui is a technique that is gentle and subtle. But its effects can be quite profound. If you have a home that gives you a great sense of comfort, you may have already unknowingly applied some Feng Shui tips. If not, get ready to move that couch – and perhaps do a little painting!

Here are a handful of ways you can change the feel of your home:
  • Clear out the clutter to free excess energy
    Karen Kingston, an expert in this field, discusses the importance of clearing out clutter in her book Sacred Space. Clutter affects us on a subtle, psychic level. It can be the reason for depression or even a “stalled” feeling in your life. Clearing out clutter can improve your prosperity and other areas of your life.

  • Bless your space to set an intention
    Kingston also states you should bless any space you inhabit (live or work in). You can say a prayer or a blessing, offer flowers, light a candle – anything that feels the most comfortable to you.

  • Use the Bagua to locate the wealth corner
    The Bagua is used by Feng Shui masters to divide any home and/or room into sections to show what parts of the room represent what parts of your life. When you walk into your home, the farthest left corner is the “wealth” corner. As you walk into EVERY room, the farthest left corner is also the “wealth” corner for every room.

  • Enhance the wealth corner
    To improve your prosperity, you must enhance your wealth corner. Adding gold coins or green jade can be classic symbols of prosperity. Or a healthy plant that you tend to, as the plant will represent the growth of your wealth.

  • Add color to the rooms
    Think of colors that mean wealth to you such as gold, green and burgundy. Adding touches of these such as a velvet pillow or even new shades for the room. Color can have a great impact.

  • Use symbols that say “wealth” to you
    It is not just the classic symbols that are important; it is what symbols are meaningful to you. If you have a picture of a sailboat – and to you this is the ideal image of prosperity, then add this to your wealth corner. Use symbols that resonate for you emotionally for best affect. If you are lacking in ideas, then by all means fall back on the classic symbols like paintings of goldfish, running horses and Chinese calligraphy of the prosperity word.

  • Create more light
    A home that is dark with not enough windows is definitely going to convey a more eerie and dense feel. Hence, you should either install a window or find ways to allow more light to come in. Allow a continuous flow of air and brighten up the room. Your mood also gets a natural uplift. Positive energy is needed to attract the vibes of wealth and luck.
Even if you have doubts as to whether this form of ancient art really works, there is really no harm in incorporating Feng Shui elements into your life. On the other hand, if you have a home office, then I would recommend considering them seriously. Most of what is required will not cost you an arm and leg. In fact, a lot of its teachings can be construed as common sense, because they serve to improve the flow of Qi or energy in your home.

Feng Shui experts agree that making changes to your space can be exciting as people start to see results, but that making too many changes can be overwhelming. Try making one or two changes and then wait several weeks. See if you like the results and then consider adding other changes one or two at a time. If you implement changes all at once, you are not able to track which one has been most effective in attracting prosperity.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

New flood relief efforts in Bihar

Displaced woman and child in Bihar, India (31 August 2008)
Many of those who found solid ground are still awaiting food

Relief efforts are increasing in the Indian state of Bihar, hit by some of the worst flooding in years.

Authorities say they have so far rescued more than 300,000 people left stranded after heavy monsoon rains caused the Kosi river to flood.

However, more than twice that number are still homeless and in urgent need of aid, and relief is being hampered by extensive damage to roads.

The waters have affected vast numbers of people in India and Nepal.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder, in Bihar, says extra boats have been pressed into service and additional troops deployed.

Rescue teams are still to reach some remote villages and have been dropping aid to from the air to those affected.


In some areas the water level has begun receding but the floods have also spread to other districts, affecting yet more people.

The forecast is for more rain in the coming days and the continuing bad weather is hampering efforts to get aid to about 2.5 million people who have been displaced.

More than one million people are now being housed in relief camps, where they are being given cooked food, water and medicines.

But many of the camps are already overflowing and there are more people streaming in by the hour, our correspondent says.

Aid workers estimate that many will have to live in temporary shelters for months until their homes and villages are rebuilt.

Burst dam

Amid relief efforts, the suffering of many of those affected continues. On Saturday at least 20 people were killed when a boat capsized while carrying dozens of police.


Damian Grammaticas describes the scene as people flee towns and villages

Indian PM Manmohan Singh, who visited the affected areas in Bihar on Thursday, said the flooding was a "national calamity".

He has announced an aid package worth $230m (£115m).

But aid agencies say many of the victims are being moved to temporary shelters which lack basic amenities.

A report released by Unicef says there are fears of infectious diseases at the camps.

Army and air force helicopters are continuing to provide aid to the flood-ravaged parts and 600 boats are helping with the relief and rescue work.

But the floods have washed away roads and railway tracks, and water and electricity supplies have been affected in many areas.

"This situation is beyond comprehension," Bihar resident, Arshad Khaqani, told the BBC News website.

The Kosi river flows from Nepal where it is called the Saptakoshi river.

On 18 August a dam on the Saptakoshi burst, triggering the subsequent flooding in Bihar.

Officials in Nepal say hundreds of people there have been hit by illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia and an estimated 50,000 are homeless.

They say nearly 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed. Power supplies and transport have been severely affected.

The costs to the economy are now estimated at one billion Nepalese rupees ($14.25m).

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Stinky Tofu: And the Same To You Too!

stinky-boy Stinky Tofu: And the Same To You Too! pictureWhat is stinky tofu and why is it such a popular treat in Taiwan, Indonesia and China?

Stinky tofu, which is actually a form of fermented tofu, is manufactured and prepared in a myriad of ways depending on the region where it is sold.

The strong odor is formidable to say the very least and not for the faint of heart. Stinky tofu is a very popular snack in East and Southeast Asia where it is easily found with no place to hide at night markets or roadside stands.

The words, “stinky tofu,” are a direct translation from the Mandarin term, ‘chou doufu’. Chou does not translate negatively, like stinky, and is considered a description rather than a judgment of the unmistakable odor.

Usually marinated in a brine made from fermented vegetables for as long as several months, the potent marinade can also include greens, bamboo shoots, herbs and dried shrimp.

stinky-tofu01 Stinky Tofu: And the Same To You Too! picture

Once, stinky tofu was a military staple for soldiers patrolling China’s borders.

From a distance, it is said that rotting garbage is as close as one can come to describing the smell of stinky tofu. Some also say “baby poo” and “hellacious” come a bit closer.

Its flavor is very mild, and some claim it is similar to blue cheese (on non-garbage, pick-up days), Afficianados swear that the worse it smells, the better the flavor.

Stinky tofu can be steamed, eaten cold, stewed or fried, which is the most common form of preparation. Usually served with a chili sauce on the side, the color of stinky tofu varies from golden fried to the black typical of Hunan-style preparation.

In Hong Kong, stinky tofu is a trademark street food along with fish and beef balls, which are deep fried and eaten with hoisin sauce. Sold by the bag, it is guaranteed to contain almost enough grease to oil a diesel truck.

Is stinky tofu for you?

I guess that all depends.

How do you feel about perfume and deodorant?