Everything Zen (and Violent)
July 9, 2019
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Gautama Buddha
Don’t Rub This Buddha’s Belly
Westerners may have oversimplified the notion of Buddhism as an inherently pacifist religion. Buddhist teaching has never prohibited believers from fighting in defense of a just cause. To that end, a politically powerful network of charismatic monks are inciting Buddhists to enter the era of militant tribalism, to become ‘spiritual warriors’ who must defend their faith against an outside force — Islam.
Sri Lanka and Myanmar are two countries on the forefront of this radical religious-nationalist movement. For the past several years Buddhist mobs have waged deadly attacks against minority Muslim populations, even though Buddhists constitute overwhelming majorities in those countries and three more — Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
A campaign of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar forced most of the country’s Muslims to flee, and yet Buddhist monks still warn of an Islamic invasion. Especially for followers who subscribe to the purist strain of Theravada Buddhism, the fear that Islam poses an existential threat continues to be paramount.
Part of what’s driving the fear is the reality that Buddhists make up just seven percent of the global faithful, while Muslims make up 25 percent. And according to the Pew Research Center, Buddhism is the world’s only major religion whose population is not expected to grow over the next few decades, while the number of Muslims is growing rapidly, spurred by youthful demographics and high fertility rates. Nonetheless, social media is definitely playing a corrosive role, with experts claiming “it is clear that Facebook is what has been driving their hate.”
Deep Space Monetization
- Ever since a rocket carrying the first module of the International Space Station blasted off from Kazakhstan in November,1998, NASA and its international partners have spent years and more than $100 billion to make the station a reality.
- Currently NASA spends between $3 billion and $4 billion annually operating the station and flying people back and forth — about half the agency’s budget for human exploration of space. There’s too much invested for the partners to agree to just ditch the station, so NASA came up with a money-saving idea to free up funds for further space exploration: Turn the space station over to the private sector.
- NASA officials held a big press event a few weeks ago to float the thought at the Nasdaq stock market’s MarketSite in New York City. “NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities,” said the agency’s CFO. “The commercialization of low Earth orbit will enable NASA to focus resources to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, as the first phase in creating a sustainable lunar presence to prepare for future missions to Mars.” (NPR)
- Robots, Not Humans, Are The New Space Explorers (NPR)
Air Pollutants Are Really In(doors) Right Now
- Scientists are warning that indoor levels of carbon dioxide may be affecting cognition and causing kidney and bone problems.
- Less research has been done on the health effects of CO2 than air pollutants such as tiny particles and nitrogen oxides. But the authors of a new study say there’s a growing body of research suggesting carbon dioxide levels in bedrooms, classrooms and offices could be having harmful effects on the body, including affecting cognitive performance. (Guardian)
- “In America, we spend, on average, ninety per cent of our lives indoors.” From The Hidden Air Pollution in Our Homes: Outdoor air has been regulated for decades, but emissions from daily domestic activities may be more dangerous than anyone imagined.” (New Yorker, $)
Cancelling The Tea Party
- Turkey’s economic crisis is continuing on a downward spiral. Recently multinational giant Lipton scrapped production at one of its three tea processing factories close to Arhavi, Turkey. The company also slashed purchases of tea from local farmers, depressing commerce in surrounding villages and towns. (NYT)
My Big Greek Election
- In national elections Sunday Greek voters elected as their new prime minister the scion of a powerful political dynasty, conservative opposition party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The election was a rejection of the country’s left-wing government, which voters saw as being too slow in improving the economy after a long financial crisis.
- “Mitsotakis proved more adept than his political rivals, even within his own party, at realizing that after nine years under economic adjustment programs, Greeks wanted to look forward,” said one political analyst. (NPR)
Additional World News
- Nuts in Norway: How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours (BBC), Man Who Posed as Girl to Lure Hundreds of Boys Online Gets 16 Years (NYT, $), and Norway Politician Forced Sex on Asylum Seekers, Court Finds (NYT, $)
- People in Japan are renting cars but not driving them (The Verge)
- Operator, me too: For Recording Her Boss’s Lewd Call, She, Not He, Will Go to Jail (NYT, $)
- Blockchain & Bitcoin: boom or bust? Depends on the day of the week. How important will blockchain be to the world’s economy? (BBC)
An All Too Common Abu$e Of Power
- Monday morning prosecutors in the Southern District of New York indicted wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein on one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking. The multimillionaire is accused of creating a network that allowed him to sexually abuse dozens of girls as young as 14, and of paying victims to recruit other underage girls to his Manhattan mansion and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
- 12 years ago Epstein was charged with recruiting girls as young as 13 for massages and sex at his Palm Beach mansion. At that time US attorney Alex Acosta agreed to an extraordinary plea deal with defense lawyers that gave Epstein immunity from federal prosecution and let him plead guilty to lesser state charges.
- Epstein’s connections included celebrities, academics and politicians; his relationship with President Trump dates back over 15 years. Acosta now serves as President Trump’s labor secretary. (NPR)
- Jeffrey Epstein: Seizure of Photos of Nude Girls Deepens Questions About Earlier Deal: The new indictment of the financier could prompt a reckoning for the Justice Department, which has been accused of mishandling the 2008 case. (NYT, $)
- Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest shows the power of one newspaper’s investigation (CNN)
The Surveillance State is Here: 2019 is 1984
- Newly released documents show that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials used facial recognition technology to mine the driver’s license databases of at least three states that offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
- Unbeknown to motorists, millions of photos were analyzed in Utah, Vermont and Washington. A privacy expert at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology expressed outrage, saying: “States have never passed laws authorizing ICE to dive into driver’s license databases using facial recognition to look for folks. This is a scandal.” (NYT)
- “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” – George Orwell, 1984
Additional USA News
- American geography is political destiny manifested: The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them: While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. (Mother Jones) and It’s Not Just the White House in 2020. The Power to Draw Maps Is Also at Stake. (NYT, $)
- Does America need a Statute of Inhumanity: Migrant children held in Texas facility need access to doctors, says attorney: ‘Inhumane’ conditions for detained children amount to ‘emergency public health crisis’, says attorney who visited center (The Guardian)
- Anchorage Had Never Reached 90 Degrees. That Changed This Week.(NYT, $)
Looking Up Is Hard To Do
- A whole quasi-cottage industry — screen-weaning consulting — has grown up around the concept of coaching parents on how to raise children who are not continually glued to smartphone screens.
- In Seattle, Gloria DeGaetano launched the Parent Coaching Institute, a network of 500 coaches and a training program aimed at detaching families from screens.
- Emily Cherkin quit teaching middle school to open Screentime Consultant and Screentime-Alternative: activities that introduce kids to things like playing with blocks and painting. Cara Pollard, a parent coach in Chicago, reminds people to try remembering what they did before they began entertaining themselves with a phone. “I say, ‘Just try to remember what you did as a kid….[but] it’s so hard…they’re very uncomfortable….’” Some coaches go so far as to suggest getting a kid a dog. (NYT)
- South Korean internet addiction camp: What is life like there? (BBC)
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”- James Baldwin
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