January 22, 2008

From Burma to Buxton to Bhutan

Things are going "downhill on all fronts" in Burma, says U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel:

The United Nations says at least 31 people were killed during the suppression of the protests, and 74 remain missing.

There was a terrible bus crash in Burma that killed 27 people and wounded ten more:

Myanmar, one of the world's poorest countries, depends on old cars and buses for transport as the military government has restricted vehicle imports from abroad, and safety standards are often poor.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962, and sanctions by the United States and Europe coupled with fiscal mismanagement during decades of military rule have battered its once-promising economy.

But Rambo's coming soon to fix everything. Says Stallone:

"Burma is the most savage, pumped up, brutal human rights violation in the world. Burma is the largest genocide in the world. The civil war's been going on for 60 years. As we speak people are going through hell.

"And I thought, If I'm going to do an action film, I'd also like to do something that sheds light on it. A cross between an action film and something real."

Yes, Rambo, Burma is "pumped up." Who's bombing Burma (if not Rambo)? The government blames insurgents and foreigners but everyone else blames the government.

Burma bans cars with Chinese license plates. Not sure what this means exactly but likely it is closing some loophole where a squeak of freedom made its way in-country. China's ready to "normalize" relations with Berlin after German Prime Minister Angela Merkel had the temerity to meet with the Dalai Lama in September '07. Ok, October, November, December, January -- now you know: meet with the DL and get a Beijing freeze-out for four months. The DL meanwhile called Gandhi his "teacher" and helped promote a book on Gandhi for kids. HH has also called for peaceful protests -- not an outright boycott -- during the Beijing Olympics in '08.

A Cambodian Buddhist temple, built two years ago but only now applying for a permit to hold religious services, has run into zoning problems in Buxton, Maine.

Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka are battling alcohol and tobacco use and consider this war more important than the one their government is prosecuting against Tamil rebels in the north. This issue has been well covered on other Buddhist blogs, but here's a snippet:

"At least 50,000 people have died due to the (Tamil separatist) conflict in the past 25 years. But, every year about 40,000 die in Sri Lanka due to illnesses from alcohol and tobacco use," observed Hadigalle Wimalasara Thera, a monk who is also a member of the National Heritage Party (JHU) which provides crucial support to the Rajapakse government.

"Those who talk about human rights are strangely silent when it comes to an issue like this which kills and harms much more people," added the Buddhist monk, taking a dig at the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have tagged the JHU as ‘extremist’ for the support it gives to the government to find a military solution to the ethnic conflict.

While refraining from alcohol and drugs is one of the five precepts (Panchasila) in Buddhism, consumption of alcohol in Sri Lanka is one of the highest in the world on a per capita basis. Thus, when the JHU entered parliament in 2004, the second private member’s bill it presented in the house (first was the anti-conversion bill to counter aggressive Christian evangelists) was the anti-alcohol and tobacco bill, which received full support from all religious leaders.

There's violence in Bhutan ahead of the March elections which would transform the hidden Himalayan kingdom into a hidden Himalayan democracy.

The public face of Buddhism, from the Casper (WY) Star-Tribune. The piece is from John C. Holt, a professor at Bowdoin College.

And Sprayblog, an arts and design blog, interviews Tricycle contributing editor Frank Olinsky. If you've seen the MTV logo, and who hasn't, you've seen his handiwork.

Last but not least, a NYT piece on the rise of oil prices -- cooking oil, that is -- and how hard it's hitting the poorest people in the world.

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