Friday, May 27, 2011

WHO in Overhaul as Body Faces Losses

The World Health Organisation (WHO) needs to be revamped, Director-General Margaret Chan said this week, as a drop in voluntary contributions by member states has burned a hole in the body’s finances.

“Reform is essential. And WHO is now embarking on the most extensive administrative, managerial and financial reforms, especially financial accountability,” Chan told delegates as the UN agency kicked off its 64th assembly in Geneva.

“When WHO was dealing mainly with germs, hygiene, medicines, vaccines and sister sectors, like water supply and sanitation, our job was much more straightforward,” she said.

“But that job has changed, gradually over time and then dramatically within the past decade. I see a WHO that pursues excellence, an organisation that is effective, efficient, responsive, objective, transparent and accountable.”

Dozens of health ministers and more than 1,800 delegates representing the 193-member body, part of the United Nations, gathered at the meeting that ends on May 24.

The WHO has previously said it expects a US$300-million deficit this year due to plunging voluntary contributions. Most of the organisation’s financing needs depend on such payments.

The WHO subsequently cut its bi-annual budget for 2012-2013 by about $1 billion and is expected to lay off 300 workers, about 12 percent of its workforce in Geneva.

“These are difficult times and the challenges keep getting more and more complex,” Chan said, noting that she was “most especially” referring to the 2008 financial crisis.

“At WHO, we have been advised by external experts to accept the financial crisis, not as a temporary disruption to be managed with temporary measures, but as the start of a new and enduring era of economic austerity,” she added.

“We have accepted this advice.”

She explained the cost-saving measures introduced after the crisis hit have forced cut backs in the organisation’s “traditional areas of work,” and were made with “deep regret.”

But, she made clear, the organisation is “most definitely not bankrupt.”

Despite the ongoing financial pressures she said the international community cannot afford to neglect health spending.

“We cannot allow the loss of essential medicines, essential cures for many millions of people, to become the next global crisis,” she said.

Swiss non-governmental organization Berne Declaration said: “To carry out its mission well, the WHO needs flexible and predictable financing.”

Filed under: Health

We’re Such Easy Targets

By Richard Boughton

According to a recent article in The Bali Times, “Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko acted this week to stop police unfairly targeting foreigners, especially those on motorbikes … following complaints of harassment.” It’s about time.

We all have our stories to tell. In my first four months in Bali I was stopped four times in traffic and paid Rp500,000 for the infraction of, well, being white.

The first time around you pay whatever the officer suggests, as you don’t know the game (the scam, that is). After that you learn to argue, ever more forcefully; you learn to negotiate; you learn to dicker. You learn to carry no more than Rp30,000 in your wallet, hiding the larger money elsewhere. You learn to speak more Indonesian. You learn to say, “No!”

The last time I was stopped, my wife happened to be riding on the back of my scooter. As soon as she took her helmet off, and the officer noted she was Indonesian, he said “Oh, okay,” and went on his way. One hardly needs to strain at conclusions here.

I can sympathise. One never knows what to say these days, when to say it or who to say it to. It’s a slippery slope is common conversation, a veritable minefield – I well remember sliding down this selfsame slope not so very long ago when I mentioned to my stepdaughter, after receiving my fourth traffic ticket here, that now I knew what it was like to be a nigger.

Yes, I used the “N” word, and given that my daughter is half black in skin colour and all black in allegiance, this was a mistake, a gaff, an affront of the first order.

“I can’t believe you said that to me,” she complained bitterly via instant messenger. “You of all people should know better.”

I should have known better? Shouldn’t it have been she who should have known? She whom I had raised since the time she was in grade school?

How is it that a child can grow and yet so completely forget? How can it happen that our efforts are so easily slain by mere slogans?

Well, I had made an assumption. I had assumed that the spirit of my words would be automatically conveyed on that invisible, that mythical, belt of relationship, that tale of the years, of love, of sacrifice. Yes, the tale told ultimately by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

What matters is skin colour.

But, wait – that’s exactly what I’m saying.

The officer here in Bali had made a series of assumptions as well – that I was an easy target, a stranger in a strange land and that it was likely, being a foreigner, that I could afford a substantial penalty for these unavoidable errors.

I can’t help but be reminded here of a Far Side cartoon I once saw. In the cartoon two deer are pictured conversing in the forest. One has a circular red and white target on his chest. The caption above his companion’s head reads “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.”

We Westerners wear our own targets in Indonesia, just as glaring, just as irremovable as that deer’s unfortunate birthmark.

Black or white or yellow or brown, being a target based on skin colour is creepy. It’s disheartening, maddening, frightening and insulting. You are reduced for the personal use of the man who misuses authority in his own greedy version of racial and cultural profiling -most especially because no ticket is ever actually contemplated nor given, for the only point is the transfer of the money in your wallet to his.

Filed under: Practical Paradise

Another Aussie Arrested over Drugs

DENPASAR

Bali Police  said on Monday they had arrested an Australian man with a small amount of methamphetamine and two ecstasy pills.

Ricky Rawson, 49, of Melbourne, could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted of possession of illegal drugs, police said.

He was arrested on Saturday at a villa in Seminyak. Police said Rawson was in Bali on holiday.

“At this stage we suspect that he is only an addict, not a distributor,” a police officer told reporters.

Rawson is the latest in a long line of Australians arrested in Bali over drugs, many of whom have been sentenced to long prison terms, while three are on death row.

Filed under: News Alerts

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Coffee Cuts Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer: Study

More is better when it comes to drinking coffee to ward off the risk of deadly prostate cancer, according to a major study released this week by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Men who drank six or more cups per day had a 60 percent lower risk of developing the most lethal type of prostate cancer and a 20 percent lower risk of forming any type of prostate cancer compared to men who did not drink coffee, it said.

Even just one to three cups per day was linked to a 30 percent lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer.

“Few studies have specifically studied the association of coffee intake and the risk of lethal prostate cancer, the form of the disease that is the most critical to prevent,” said Harvard associate professor and senior author Lorelei Mucci.

“Our study is the largest to date to examine whether coffee could lower the risk of lethal prostate cancer,” she said.

The effects were the same whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated, leading researchers to believe the lower risk could be linked to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of coffee.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in US men, but it is not always deadly.

A blood test can detect it early, and the cancer can be graded on what is known as a Gleason score; the higher the score the more likely the cancer is to spread.

There are 16 million survivors of prostate cancer worldwide, and one in six men in the United States will get prostate cancer during their lifetime.

Risk factors are typically linked to Western high-fat diets, heredity, alcohol and exposure to chemicals.

The study examined 47,911 US men who reported on how much coffee they drank every four years from 1986 to 2008.

Over the course of the study, a total of 5,035 cases of prostate cancer were reported, including 642 fatal, or metastatic, cases.

The lower risk seen in coffee drinkers remained even after researchers allowed for other factors that typically boost risk and were more often seen in coffee drinkers than in abstainers, such as smoking and failure to exercise.

Filed under: Health

The Sate Was Flaming Good

By Vyt Karazija

A large part of Bali humour tends towards the physical, sometimes bordering on slapstick. If someone gets slightly hurt, or at least discomfited, it’s even better. Any event that causes someone to be brought down a peg or two triggers an unseemly display of mirth from the locals. It really doesn’t seem to matter whether the butt of the joke is a local or a bule – everyone is fair game.

Ever tripped on one of those lethal Bali footpath bumps and sprawled in a painfully undignified heap into a nest of parked motorbikes? The rapidly glued-on masks of concern will be replaced by barely muffled chortling and streaming eyes as soon as your back is turned.

Ever ridden your bike through an innocent-looking puddle during a rainstorm? You know the ones – the mantraps that conceal half-metre deep sink-holes into which you and your steed suddenly plunge. You get thoroughly soaked if you’re lucky, and moderately contused if you’re not. If you have the presence of mind to look around after the event, chances are you will observe that you have become the object of borderline-enuretic peals of laughter from spectating locals. They even drag benches to the best viewing spots to ensure that not a single dunking is missed.

And so it happened that I was sitting on the porch of a little bar on Jl Legian one evening. On the other side of the street was an alcove of sorts, containing some tiny shops and an open-air stall manned by a purveyor of fine sates. A steady stream of locals was arriving and ordering their food. The sates were being cooked over a charcoal brazier, which required a careful monitoring and maintenance regimen to get the flames exactly right. The young gentleman involved in this process was attired in the usual Bali youth garb – an oversized tee-shirt and a huge pair of mid-calf pants of a style that only starts moving forward after their inhabitant has taken several steps.

As he was engaged in vigorous fanning of the coals with a large piece of cardboard, his attention was momentarily distracted by a customer who began pointing behind him and obviously asking a series of complicated questions. As he looked away from the flames to answer, for some reason the frequency and amplitude of his cardboard oscillations increased. This caused his tee-shirt to billow like a skirt on a motorbike and the flames to shoot higher. Naturally, he promptly caught fire.

The waiting customers, of course, collapsed in gales of laughter as the bottom of his shirt flared, watching him beat at the flames with his bare hands. Only one had the presence of mind to grab a bottle of water from the wares he had for sale, and pour it on his shirt. The others, on the ground by now, convulsing in fits of shrieking joy, just ribbed him mercilessly. And me? Mr Compassion? I watched all this from across the street, laughing like a drain and thinking it was better than any sinetron I’ve seen in Bali.

So maybe I’ve been here for too long. Maybe my erstwhile caring demeanour is being replaced by a Bali-like appreciation of farce, slapstick and physical humour. I now find things like this quite funny – as long as they don’t happen to me, of course.

The sting in this little tale? As I was leaving the scene, still chuckling, the sate vendor was engaged in an argument with the guy who saved him from self-immolation. Apparently he was insisting that the Good Samaritan pay for the bottle of water he used to douse the sizzling sate man.

Filed under: Vyt's Line

The Medicine of Selflessness

In Tibet we say that many illness can be cured by the one medicine of love and compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and need for them lies at the very core of our being.

Unfortunately, love and compassion have been omitted from too many spheres of social interaction for too long. Usually confined to family and home, their practice in public life is considered impractical, even naïve. This is tragic.

In my view, the practice of compassion is not just a symptom of unrealistic idealism but the most effective way to pursue the best interest of others as well as our own. The more we – as a nation, a group or as individuals – depend upon others, the more it is in our own best interests to ensure their wellbeing.

Practicing altruism is the real source of compromise and cooperation; merely recognising our need for harmony is not enough. A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir – a constant source of energy, determination and kindness. This is like a seed: when cultivated, it gives rise to many other good qualities, such as forgiveness, tolerance, inner strength and the confidence to overcome fear and insecurity.

The compassionate mind is like an elixir; it is capable of transforming bad situation into beneficial ones. Therefore, we should not limit our expressions of love and compassion to our family and friends. Nor is the compassion only the responsibility of clergy, healthcare and social workers. It is the necessary business of every part of the human community.

Whether a conflict lies in the field of politics, business or religion, an altruistic approach is frequently the sole means of resolving it. Sometimes the very concepts we use to meditate a dispute are themselves the cause of the problem. At such times, when a resolution seems impossible, both sides should recall the basic human nature that unites them. This will help break the impasse and, in the long run, make it easier for everyone to attain their goal.

Although neither side may be fully satisfied, if both make concessions, at the very least, the danger of further conflict will be averted. We all know that this form of compromise is the most effective way of solving problems – why, then, do we not use it more often?

When I consider the lack of cooperation in human society, I can only conclude that it stems from ignorance of our interdependent nature. I am often moved by the example of small insects, such as bees. The laws of nature dictate that bees work together in order to survive. As a result, they possess an instinctive sense of social responsibility. They have no constitution, laws, police, religion or moral training, but because of their nature they labour faithfully together. Occasionally they may fight, but in general the whole colony survives on the basis of cooperation.

Human beings, on the other hand, have constitutions, vast legal systems and police forces; we have religion, remarkable intelligence and a heart with great capacity to love. But despite our many extraordinary qualities, in actual practice we lag behind those small insects; in some ways, I feel we are poorer than the bees.

For instance, millions of people live together in large cities all over the world, but despite this proximity, many are lonely. Some do not have even one human being with whom to share their deepest feelings, and live in a state of perpetual agitation. This is very sad.

We are not solitary animals that associate only in order to mate. If we were, why would we build large cities and towns? But even though we are social animals compelled to live together, unfortunately we lack sense of responsibility towards our fellow humans. Does the fault lies in our social architecture – the basic structures of family and community that support our society? Is it our own external facilities – our machines, science and technology? I do not think so.

I believe that despite the rapid advances made by civilisation, the most immediate cause of our present dilemma is our undue emphasis on material development alone. We have become so engrossed in its pursuit that, without even knowing it, we have neglected to foster the most basic human needs of love, kindness, cooperation and caring.

If we do not know someone or find another reason for not feeling connected with a particular individual or group, we simply ignore them. But the development of human society is based entirely on people helping each other. Once we have lost the essential humanity that is our foundation, what is the point of pursuing only material improvement.

To me, it is clear: a genuine sense of responsibility can result only if we develop compassion. Only a spontaneous feeling of empathy for others can really motivate us to act on their behalf.

Filed under: The Dalai Lama

Forecasts for week beginning Saturday, May 22, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

In the old days, astrological alignments were considered benign or malefic, good or evil, positive or negative. This didn’t leave much room for free choice. You weren’t expected to shrug off trouble and thrive regardless. If an undesirable influence beset your horoscope you were just supposed to quake in your boots and pray! Astrologers of yesteryear were also oblivious to knife-edge alignments. These create circumstances that are irritating one moment, delightful the next, such as this week’s “quincunx” from Mars to Saturn. Expect tensions that can neither be resolved or ignored… yet nor need they be feared!

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
You do not like half-measures. You hate woolly compromises and airy-fairy fudges. You are a go-getter, a hard-hitter, a mover, a shaker and a wholehearted move-maker.  You are now under some pressure to ease up. Some people seem to think you are trying too hard and pushing too far. They are wrong. You are not yet making enough effort! You know what you want to achieve and you need to try your best. Throw yourself into your task and don’t be talked out of it. You’ll yet be amazed by what you accomplish.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
Why can’t your dearest dream come true? Stop! Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. What’s more, if you do attempt to answer it, you will merely be compounding the obstacles. Every time you list the reasons why progress cannot be made, you will drum those difficulties a little deeper into your brain. Don’t, this week, ask why something can’t happen – ask why it can. Better yet, ask HOW it can. List all the positive possibilities. Then start to believe in them. If you now make enough effort, with enough faith, over a sustained period of time, you can work wonders.

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
Who is the person best placed and most motivated to help you? We could answer that question with “yourself”? There are, though, others who are equally, if not better able to assist. Trust your judgement this week; and where judgement tells you that it doesn’t know enough in order to make a judgement, trust the advice of people who are at least a little better informed. Be wary, though, of theories, opinions and guesses, delivered in an overly-confident manner. You need facts, gained through experience, not ideas that have emerged from an imagination or an assumption.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
We all want to be held, stroked, comforted, cosseted and sweetly reassured. Considering how much we all want this, it’s strange how rarely any of us actually get the experience of it. We will reach out to children and offer them such succour, but we feel as if we are not entitled to speak to our fellow adults in this fashion. Thankfully, every so often, the universe finds a way to stroke our brow for us. It shows us that our fears are unfounded and that we are safe to relax. And that, indeed, is what it is about to show you.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
What’s wrong with a win-win situation? Nothing. But what if the other party is winning slightly more? If that’s so, doesn’t the one who’s winning slightly less become the loser? With spurious logic like this, great opportunities are squandered. We become parsimonious when we ought to be displaying magnanimity. Who is the real winner in any negotiation? The person who does not care whether they win or lose because they appreciate that life is about more than petty victory. That’s all you need to remember this week.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
It’s time to get smart. You have talents you are not using – yet you are in a situation where those talents are sorely required. You have either, so far, refrained from offering your services – or you have put them forward in a quiet and unassuming way. You have mumbled something helpful and, in the loud melee of other voices, this has gone unheard. It may now be time to make a more forceful case. You are needed. And by a piece of serendipitous synergy, you need what being needed in this situation can bring you!

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
Some seek enlightenment in Himalayan caves. Some join ancient orders and become renunciates. Do they succeed? Well, the trouble is, people who put a lot of energy into anything almost always insist that it has been worthwhile. They don’t want to concede that they have been wasting their time. It has been said, though, that the best way to attain enlightenment is to sit still and let it come to you. That may yet happen for you this week. Prepare to understand something you have never understood before and to benefit greatly.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
Recent intense alignments have cleared a path. You may still feel as if you are caught in a jungle of confusion and complication, but you have at least one route out of all this difficulty. It may not seem to be going in exactly the direction that you most want to head off in – but, then, recent events have left you feeling pretty dizzy. You can’t be entirely sure that your inner compass is functioning accurately. Accept your most inviting, encouraging option. Trust it. Follow it. Give it a chance to surprise you this week.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December)
You can’t afford it! Indeed, you can’t even afford to think about whether you can afford it. You have other things to focus on. These require all the time and energy that you can spare – and then some. You must, of course, be cautious and pragmatic. Every photon of your etheric being is urging you to pay close attention to your responsibilities. But Saturn insists that if you can now throw your energy and attention into the search for a sensible solution – rather than the hunt for an extreme escape route – you will do far better.

CAPRICORN (December 22  – January 20)
Flour, water, salt. Put them together and what have you got? The answer to this question rather depends on whether you are a cook or a craftsperson. It is possible to make a kind of modelling clay from these ingredients. It is also possible to make a delicious crisp-bread. Here, as in life generally, what counts is not so much what you’ve got as how you intend to use it. If you are happy with your situation this week, you need do nothing. If you are unhappy, you really need not feel trapped. Just turn all you’ve got to hand into something else.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
Soon, you will get a chance to change some aspect of your life forever. Is there something you are sick of? Have you had enough of a particular situation? Do you yearn for a life that contains less hassle and more hope? Do you wish you could communicate more easily with a particular individual – or that your emotional life could become less complicated? I cannot promise an instant transformation in all of the above areas, but I can predict that you will be able to take some distinct steps in the right direction this week.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
We all feel good when things seem to work out just perfectly. We always feel bad when our plans appear to be falling apart. Really, we ought to be more cautious about connecting our feelings to these unreliable indicators of success and failure. Often, things that look perfect on the surface are not really so ideal. Often, too, apparent problems are great blessings in disguise. This week brings you a development that may not seem obviously impressive. It is, though, due to bring you true, lasting benefit.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth, or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign, visit www.cainer.com.

Filed under: Week Ahead

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The New Arab Spirit

By Mahmoud Amin Hishmeh

Over the past few years, we have often heard about a new Middle East, as envisioned by the United States and its allies. What is happening in the Arab world now, however, is a new Arab spirit generated by Arabs themselves. This positive change first started in Tunisia, but we don’t know yet how far it will spread.

Despite the fact that the new Arab spirit is as of yet undefined, and that Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen are witnessing high levels of violence, change is happening. One can see changes in economies and policies, as well as in the responses of Arab government to the demands of their citizens, clearing the way for effective democracies in countries where revolts have been successful.

This new spirit is founded on the idea of self-sacrifice for others. It began after one Tunisian citizen, Muhammad Bouazizi, set himself on fire. His act became a symbol of the need for revolution, and it continues to be a rallying cry for thousands of other citizens, taking to the streets daily throughout several Arab countries to raise their voices for change. They are well aware of the dangers, but they still risk being arrested or even shot, because they believe that through their sacrifice their fellow citizens will be able to gain dignity and freedom.

Among the most prominent features of the new Arab spirit is respect. Those who participated in the Egyptian revolution cleaned up the litter left in Tahrir Square after protests, showing respect for their environment. And then there’s respect that extends to concern for others, which was evident when Christian Egyptians locked arms and built a human wall between Muslims worshippers and any would-be attackers during a protest. And prior to the revolution, Muslims defended a Christian church and its occupants from potential attacks, demonstrating the same spirit.

In Libya and Yemen’s revolutions, tribal leaders have set aside their weapons out of respect for the peaceful nature of the revolutions they are participating in. In these countries, men normally wear a weapon – such as a rifle or small sword – as a symbol of their masculinity. But in recent demonstrations they have been leaving their weapon behind as a way to show peace and respect for fellow demonstrators.

The most prominent features of the new spirit in the Arab world, however, are the changes that are taking place on a government level, especially regarding laws and constitutions.

In Egypt, for example, an interim constitution has been written. It consists of 62 articles, including eight articles of the 1971 constitution that were amended as a result of the 19 March public referendum. One article reduced the presidential term from six to four years. In Tunisia, the people will elect an assembly on 24 July to reform their constitution. And in a historic speech the Moroccan King Mohammed VI said he would give up his right to appoint the prime minister, who would instead be chosen by parliament.

Economic and social changes also show the shift that is happening in the Arab world. To avoid demonstrations in some countries, authorities have started to try to improve the lives of their citizens.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the wages of all government officials were increased and a minimum wage was established – at $800 per month – when previously there was none. Saudi Arabia, like other countries that have made similar efforts, is trying to avoid upsetting the status quo through such changes. However, despite being positive, these changes should be more drastic and allow for a shift toward a democratic political system.

Ultimately, this new spirit in the Arab world has shown global society’s recognition of, and belief in, the current young generation and its leadership of the revolution. This recognition comes after they have long been marginalised, and perceived as being primarily concerned with more self-serving endeavours, such as their love lives and spending time on the internet. In fact, countries that have been in the midst of these revolutions now refer to those events as the Youth Revolutions.

There is a new wind in the Arab world. Democracy is on its way.

Mahmoud Amin Hishmeh is Director of the East and West Center for Developing Human Resources in Jordan.

Filed under: Opinion

Forecasts for week beginning Saturday, May 22, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

In the old days, astrological alignments were considered benign or malefic, good or evil, positive or negative. This didn’t leave much room for free choice. You weren’t expected to shrug off trouble and thrive regardless. If an undesirable influence beset your horoscope you were just supposed to quake in your boots and pray! Astrologers of yesteryear were also oblivious to knife-edge alignments. These create circumstances that are irritating one moment, delightful the next, such as this week’s “quincunx” from Mars to Saturn. Expect tensions that can neither be resolved or ignored… yet nor need they be feared!

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
You do not like half-measures. You hate woolly compromises and airy-fairy fudges. You are a go-getter, a hard-hitter, a mover, a shaker and a wholehearted move-maker.  You are now under some pressure to ease up. Some people seem to think you are trying too hard and pushing too far. They are wrong. You are not yet making enough effort! You know what you want to achieve and you need to try your best. Throw yourself into your task and don’t be talked out of it. You’ll yet be amazed by what you accomplish.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
Why can’t your dearest dream come true? Stop! Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. What’s more, if you do attempt to answer it, you will merely be compounding the obstacles. Every time you list the reasons why progress cannot be made, you will drum those difficulties a little deeper into your brain. Don’t, this week, ask why something can’t happen – ask why it can. Better yet, ask HOW it can. List all the positive possibilities. Then start to believe in them. If you now make enough effort, with enough faith, over a sustained period of time, you can work wonders.

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
Who is the person best placed and most motivated to help you? We could answer that question with “yourself”? There are, though, others who are equally, if not better able to assist. Trust your judgement this week; and where judgement tells you that it doesn’t know enough in order to make a judgement, trust the advice of people who are at least a little better informed. Be wary, though, of theories, opinions and guesses, delivered in an overly-confident manner. You need facts, gained through experience, not ideas that have emerged from an imagination or an assumption.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
We all want to be held, stroked, comforted, cosseted and sweetly reassured. Considering how much we all want this, it’s strange how rarely any of us actually get the experience of it. We will reach out to children and offer them such succour, but we feel as if we are not entitled to speak to our fellow adults in this fashion. Thankfully, every so often, the universe finds a way to stroke our brow for us. It shows us that our fears are unfounded and that we are safe to relax. And that, indeed, is what it is about to show you.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
What’s wrong with a win-win situation? Nothing. But what if the other party is winning slightly more? If that’s so, doesn’t the one who’s winning slightly less become the loser? With spurious logic like this, great opportunities are squandered. We become parsimonious when we ought to be displaying magnanimity. Who is the real winner in any negotiation? The person who does not care whether they win or lose because they appreciate that life is about more than petty victory. That’s all you need to remember this week.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
It’s time to get smart. You have talents you are not using – yet you are in a situation where those talents are sorely required. You have either, so far, refrained from offering your services – or you have put them forward in a quiet and unassuming way. You have mumbled something helpful and, in the loud melee of other voices, this has gone unheard. It may now be time to make a more forceful case. You are needed. And by a piece of serendipitous synergy, you need what being needed in this situation can bring you!

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
Some seek enlightenment in Himalayan caves. Some join ancient orders and become renunciates. Do they succeed? Well, the trouble is, people who put a lot of energy into anything almost always insist that it has been worthwhile. They don’t want to concede that they have been wasting their time. It has been said, though, that the best way to attain enlightenment is to sit still and let it come to you. That may yet happen for you this week. Prepare to understand something you have never understood before and to benefit greatly.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
Recent intense alignments have cleared a path. You may still feel as if you are caught in a jungle of confusion and complication, but you have at least one route out of all this difficulty. It may not seem to be going in exactly the direction that you most want to head off in – but, then, recent events have left you feeling pretty dizzy. You can’t be entirely sure that your inner compass is functioning accurately. Accept your most inviting, encouraging option. Trust it. Follow it. Give it a chance to surprise you this week.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December)
You can’t afford it! Indeed, you can’t even afford to think about whether you can afford it. You have other things to focus on. These require all the time and energy that you can spare – and then some. You must, of course, be cautious and pragmatic. Every photon of your etheric being is urging you to pay close attention to your responsibilities. But Saturn insists that if you can now throw your energy and attention into the search for a sensible solution – rather than the hunt for an extreme escape route – you will do far better.

CAPRICORN (December 22  – January 20)
Flour, water, salt. Put them together and what have you got? The answer to this question rather depends on whether you are a cook or a craftsperson. It is possible to make a kind of modelling clay from these ingredients. It is also possible to make a delicious crisp-bread. Here, as in life generally, what counts is not so much what you’ve got as how you intend to use it. If you are happy with your situation this week, you need do nothing. If you are unhappy, you really need not feel trapped. Just turn all you’ve got to hand into something else.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
Soon, you will get a chance to change some aspect of your life forever. Is there something you are sick of? Have you had enough of a particular situation? Do you yearn for a life that contains less hassle and more hope? Do you wish you could communicate more easily with a particular individual – or that your emotional life could become less complicated? I cannot promise an instant transformation in all of the above areas, but I can predict that you will be able to take some distinct steps in the right direction this week.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
We all feel good when things seem to work out just perfectly. We always feel bad when our plans appear to be falling apart. Really, we ought to be more cautious about connecting our feelings to these unreliable indicators of success and failure. Often, things that look perfect on the surface are not really so ideal. Often, too, apparent problems are great blessings in disguise. This week brings you a development that may not seem obviously impressive. It is, though, due to bring you true, lasting benefit.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth, or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign, visit www.cainer.com.

Filed under: Week Ahead

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jakarta-Bound Plane Makes Emergency Singapore Landing

SINGAPORE

An engine fire forced a Jakarta-bound Cathay Pacific Airbus to make an emergency landing in Singapore shortly after it took off from the city-state on Monday, airport officials said.

All 136 passengers on board the Airbus A330-300 were unharmed, the airline said.

Changi Airport’s emergency services met the plane on the tarmac and extinguished a fire in one of the engines, airport authorities said in a statement.

“A Cathay Pacific flight, CX715, bound for Jakarta, departed Singapore Changi Airport at 0112 hours today.

“Due to an engine-related issue, the aircraft turned back to Changi Airport and landed safely at 0157 hours.”

The airport had to close a runway for more than an hour due to the incident.

Singapore broadcaster Channel NewsAsia quoted a passenger as saying he heard loud bangs mid-flight as the plane shook violently before the lights went out.

The passenger also said he detected a burning smell and that many of those on board prayed before the landing.

A video on Channel NewsAsia showed the pilot, Captain Bradley Chic, speaking to the passengers after the landing, praising them for their composure.

“The best that we can ever ask of passengers is to just stay cool, stay calm, listen to the directions of the cabin crew, which you all did, and for that we thank you,” Chic said to applause from the passengers.

Cathay said in a statement that the aircraft’s crew received “a stall warning from the No. 2 engine” shortly after it took off.

“The crew shut down the Rolls-Royce engine when they received the alert (and) an emergency landing was declared,” the statement said.

“The aircraft stopped on the taxiway and sparks from the No. 2 engine were reported. They were doused by fire extinguishers.”

Cathay Pacific and Rolls-Royce are investigating the incident, which has been reported to the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department, the airline said.

Two Qantas jets — one of them an Airbus A380 superjumbo — made emergency landings at Changi Airport within the space of two days in November last year.

Filed under: Headlines

A Human Approach to World Peace

As the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet prepares to retire from politics, The Bali Times is publishing a series of articles by His Holiness on his thoughts and teachings. This is the last of a three-part article.

There are two primary tasks facing religious practitioners who are concerned with world peace. First, we must promote better interfaith understanding so as to create a workable degree of unity among all religions. This may be achieved in part by respecting each other’s beliefs and by emphasising our common concern for human wellbeing. Second, we must bring about a viable consensus on basic spiritual values that touch every human heart and enhance general human happiness. This means we must emphasise the common denominator of all world religions – humanitarian ideals. These two steps will enable us to act both individually and together to create the necessary spiritual conditions for world peace.

We practitioners of different faiths can work together for world peace when we view different religions as essentially instruments to develop a good heart – love and respect for others, a true sense of community. The most important thing is to look at the purpose of religion and not at the details of theology or metaphysics, which can lead to mere intellectualism. I believe that all the major religions of the world can contribute to world peace and work together for the benefit of humanity if we put aside subtle metaphysical differences, which are really the internal business of each religion.

Despite the progressive secularisation brought about by worldwide modernisation and despite systematic attempts in some parts of the world to destroy spiritual values, the vast majority of humanity continues to believe in one religion or another. The undying faith in religion, evident even under irreligious political systems, clearly demonstrates the potency of religion as such. This spiritual energy and power can be purposefully used to bring about the spiritual conditions necessary for world peace. Religious leaders and humanitarians all over the world have a special role to play in this respect.

Whether we will be able to achieve world peace or not, we have no choice but to work towards that goal. If our minds are dominated by anger, we will lose the best part of human intelligence – wisdom, the ability to decide between right and wrong. Anger is one of the most serious problems facing the world today.

INDIVIDUAL POWER

Anger plays no small role in current conflicts such as those in the Middle East, Southeast Asia the North-South problem and so forth. These conflicts arise from a failure to understand one another’s humanness. The answer is not the development and use of greater military force, nor an arms race. Nor is it purely political or purely technological. Basically it is spiritual, in the sense that what is required is a sensitive understanding of our common human situation. Hatred and fighting cannot bring happiness to anyone, even to the winners of battles. Violence always produces misery and thus is essentially counterproductive. It is, therefore, time for world leaders to learn to transcend the differences of race, culture and ideology and to regard one another through eyes that see the common human situation. To do so would benefit individuals, communities, nations and the world at large.

The greater part of present world tension seems to stem from the “Eastern bloc” versus “Western bloc” conflict that has been going on since World War II. These two blocs tend to describe and view each other in a totally unfavourable light. This continuing, unreasonable struggle is due to a lack of mutual affection and respect for each other as fellow human beings. Those of the Eastern bloc should reduce their hatred towards the Western bloc because the Western bloc is also made up of human beings – men, women and children. Similarly those of the Western bloc should reduce their hatred towards the Eastern bloc because the Eastern bloc is also human beings. In such a reduction of mutual hatred, the leaders of both blocs have a powerful role to play. But first and foremost, leaders must realise their own and others’ humanness. Without this basic realisation, very little effective reduction of organised hatred can be achieved.

If, for example, the leader of the United States and the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly met each other in the middle of a desolate island, I am sure they would respond to each other spontaneously as fellow human beings. But a wall of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding separates them the moment they are identified as the “President of the USA” and the “Secretary-General of the USSR”). More human contact in the form of informal extended meetings, without any agenda, would improve their mutual understanding; they would learn to relate to each other as human beings and could then try to tackle international problems based on this understanding. No two parties, especially those with a history of antagonism, can negotiate fruitfully in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and hatred.

I suggest that world leaders meet about once a year in a beautiful place without any business, just to get to know each other as human beings. Then, later, they could meet to discuss mutual and global problems. I am sure many others share my wish that world leaders meet at the conference table in such an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding of each other’s humanness.

To improve person-to-person contact in the world at large, I would like to see greater encouragement of international tourism. Also, mass media, particularly in democratic societies, can make a considerable contribution to world peace by giving greater coverage to human interest items that reflect the ultimate oneness of humanity. With the rise of a few big powers in the international arena, the humanitarian role of international organisations is being bypassed and neglected. I hope that this will be corrected and that all international organisations, especially the United Nations, will be more active and effective in ensuring maximum benefit to humanity and promoting international understanding. It will indeed be tragic if the few powerful members continue to misuse world bodies like the UN for their one-sided interests. The UN must become the instrument of world peace. This world body must be respected by all, for the UN is the only source of hope for small, oppressed nations and hence for the planet as a whole.

BEYOND BOUNDARIES

As all nations are economically dependent upon one another more than ever before, human understanding must go beyond national boundaries and embrace the international community at large. Indeed, unless we can create an atmosphere of genuine cooperation, gained not by threatened or actual use of force but by heartfelt understanding, world problems will only increase. If people in poorer countries are denied the happiness they desire and deserve, they will naturally be dissatisfied and pose problems for the rich. If unwanted social, political and cultural forms continue to be imposed upon unwilling people, the attainment of world peace is doubtful. However, if we satisfy people at a heart-to-heart level, peace will surely come.

Within each nation, the individual ought to be given the right to happiness, and among nations there must be equal concern for the welfare of even the smallest nations. I am not suggesting that one system is better than another and all should adopt it. On the contrary, a variety of political systems and ideologies is desirable and accords with the variety of dispositions within the human community. This variety enhances the ceaseless human quest for happiness. Thus each community should be free to evolve its own political and socioeconomic system, based on the principle of self-determination.

The achievement of justice, harmony, and peace depends on many factors. We should think about them in terms of human benefit in the long run rather than the short term. I realise the enormity of the task before us, but I see no other alternative than the one I am proposing – which is based on our common humanity. Nations have no choice but to be concerned about the welfare of others, not so much because of their belief in humanity, but because it is in the mutual and long-term interest of all concerned. An appreciation of this new reality is indicated by the emergence of regional or continental economic organisations such as the European Economic Community, the Association of South East Asian Nations and so forth. I hope more such trans-national organisations will be formed, particularly in regions where economic development and regional stability seem in short supply.

Under present conditions, there is definitely a growing need for human understanding and a sense of universal responsibility. In order to achieve such ideas, we must generate a good and kind heart, for without this, we can achieve neither universal happiness nor lasting world peace. We cannot create peace on paper. While advocating universal responsibility and universal brotherhood and sisterhood, the facts are that humanity is organised in separate entities in the form of national societies.

For renewal of human values and attainment of lasting happiness, we need to look to the common humanitarian heritage of all nations the world over. May this essay serve as an urgent reminder lest we forget the human values that unite us all as a single family on this planet.

Filed under: The Dalai Lama

Man Shows off First US Full Face Transplant

A young father who was badly disfigured in an electrical accident showed off his new look this week alongside doctors who performed the United States’ first full face transplant.

Visibly moved as he described how his young daughter called him “handsome” and how the first whiff of hospital food was so tantalising, 26-year-old Dallas Wiens said there were no words to thank the anonymous donor and his family.

“I can never express what has been done, what I have been given,” said Wiens at a press conference on Monday with doctors who performed the operation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the northeastern city of Boston.

The world’s first full face transplant was unveiled last year by doctors in Spain, a European feat that followed the first partial face transplant in 2005, carried out on a French woman who had been mauled by a dog.

Wiens, who lives in Texas, burned his face off in November 2008 after the left side of his head touched an electrical wire while he was working up high in a cherry picker.

The high voltage electrical wire destroyed his nose and lips and blinded him. Wiens lost his left eye in the accident and has no light perception remaining in his right eye.

The hospital said Wiens was not likely to resemble the donor.

“The underlying facial bones and muscle of the recipient will change the shape of the facial tissue graft from the donor and will largely determine its shape and final appearance,” it said in a statement.

At the press conference, Wiens wore black sunglasses and a dark goatee beard, and appeared swollen on one side of his face.

“To me the face feels natural. It feels as if it has become my own,” said Wiens, acknowledging that he still feels numb in some places and needs to continue rehabilitation work to rebuild nerve function.

Plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahac led the team of physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists who worked for more than 15 hours to replace Wiens’s nose, lips, facial skin, nerves and muscles.

“He was quite literally a man without a face,” said Pomahac.

The operation was done in March by a 30-strong team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which hailed the first full face transplant performed in the United States as a sign of medical progress.

“In plastic surgery this represents, at least in my mind, a new frontier of reconstructive surgery, of what is possible now,” said one of his doctors, Jeffrey Janis of Parkland Hospital.

“This really opens up an immense amount of doors, and represents a lot of hope where maybe before there was none.”

Elof Eriksson, chief of plastic surgery at Brigham and Women’s hospital, said Wiens has been through the first three steps – the initial workup, the surgery and the post-operation healing.

“Dallas has successfully gone through the first three stages, but still has to regain nerve and muscle function,” said Eriksson.

Two years ago, doctors at the same hospital performed a partial face transplant on a patient named Jim Maki who was making progress, Eriksson said.

“He has regained almost normal sensation in the skin of the transplanted part and appears to have normal function of the muscle in his lips as well as other muscles of facial expression,” Eriksson said.

The world’s first full face transplant took place in Spain, and doctors at Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona showed off their work to the public in July 2010.

The 31-year-old recipient, identified as Oscar, was injured in a shooting accident and spoke at a televised news conference with considerable difficulty. He could not close his mouth and his face appeared swollen.

The first successful partial face transplant was performed in France in 2005 on Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old woman who had been mauled by her dog.

Since then about a dozen face transplant operations have been carried out in China, the United States and Spain.

Wiens also spoke to reporters with some difficulty, but said he has already begun to regain his sense of smell.

“The first thing I was able to smell was hospital lasagna. You wouldn’t imagine it, but it smelled delicious,” he said.

“The ability to breathe through my nose normally, that in itself was a major gift,” he said.

Now he is considering university education and is looking forward to leading a more normal life with his young daughter, who was delighted by his new look.

“She actually said ‘Daddy, you’re so handsome,’” he said.

Filed under: Health

Rules Made to Be Broken

By Novar Caine

If I had to be a prisoner anywhere in the world, I’d opt for Bali, I said to my sister, as I relayed the latest prisoner shenanigans to an incredulous mind. Not only Bali, mind you, but anywhere in Indonesia.

We had the spectacle last year of am incarcerated taxman bribing his way out of detention for weekend jaunts in Bali and around Southeast Asia. He may even have gone as far as South America and back. The millions Gayus Tambunan stole from the state greased equally corrupt wheels and more than paved his way. And who’s to say that since he’s been sentenced to 10 years’ jail the same isn’t happening, now that the media spotlight has dimmed?

Elsewhere, convicts pay witless staff to pretend they’re them and serve their terms, and those that are behind bars, most usually for graft, turn their enclosures into grand hotel-like suites.

What a great charade.

In Bali, no stranger to these extraordinary machinations, a drug prisoner allegedly paid to get out of Bangli Prison at the weekend – for a drugs deal at the island’s main Sanglah Hospital after a booze-up at a Kuta nightclub, with the prison chief, who has been fired and is under investigation.

If that series of events seems shockingly abhorrent to you, it’s because it is. There appears to be little, if any, accountability, and whoever has cash gets his or her way, a tarnished existence that’s also traceable to the courts.

Australian media has for years been trying to confirm that Australians in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison enjoy the same liberties as their Indonesian counterparts. A TV crew turned up at this reporter’s office one day asking for an on-camera interview for thoughts on whether drug convict Schapelle Corby was getting out for nights on the town, as rumours had been saying. (They got their interview, but no confirmation.)

Just how President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono kept a straight face at an international corruption conference in Bali this week is anyone’s guess.

Our head of state told delegates that the foundation of his government was fighting corruption, though you’d be hard pressed to find much evidence of such an endeavour.

In hyperbolic fashion, the president told the meeting: “This gathering is truly a corrupter’s worst nightmare!” We all know these talk-shops are little more than that, and largely – though there are exceptions, such as climate change roadmaps (hah!) and people-smuggling agreements (huh?) – don’t devise instruments to tackle whatever it is they’re supposed to be battling. Were the many corrupters the length and breadth of the nation to be cowering in fear over a grouping of anti-graft officials gathered at a luxury resort?

Our Yudhoyono continued, however: “Thank you for taking part in this very important conference, to talk about combating bribery in international business transactions.” That’s nice – cordial – and, yes, just talk.

Officers from the country’s embattled Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) were in attendance, and one wondered what they made of the president’s words. Their former chief is in jail for murder and two top officials are in a see-sawing corruption-scenario fracas, with some saying the powerful vested interests in Indonesia want the organisation severely weakened so they won’t come under scrutiny for their (alleged) nefarious activities.

The public is sick of all this carry-on, but what can people do? The electorate voted in Yudhoyono – twice – because he told them his priority was eradicating corruption, the biggest problem this country is mired in. It’s worse even than terrorism, because it leads to untold deaths due to stolen funds that were destined to feed impoverished mouths, educate and build up our crumbling infrastructure so that Indonesia could, finally, start to advance along a par with its wealthy neighbours.

But no, the good of the nation is continually usurped by a collective of officials who put their own needs first and have not a care for the reputation of the country.

If our leaders want to do more than talk, they could start with real fundamentals in battling corruption. They could begin with paying state workers a salary they can actually live on. It’s possible to believe the Bangli Prison chief felt uneasy about allegedly accepting a bribe to let a prisoner out; but it’s understandable if he was in desperate need of cash because pocket-money wages just don’t put food on the table.

Filed under: At Large

Indonesians Prefer Suharto to Yudhoyono, Poll Indicates

Late former dictator Suharto is more popular than current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a poll found on Monday, despite his regime’s reputation for corruption and repression.

The Indo Barometer poll of 1,200 people found just over 40 percent of respondents believed “conditions were better” under the rule of the military strongman, while nearly 23 percent favoured the liberal ex-general Yudhoyono.

Suharto, who died of natural causes in 2008 aged 86, is remembered fondly by many Indonesians as a strong leader who oversaw growth and stability, despite rights abuses and the alleged theft of billions of dollars.

More than one-third of those polled picked him as their favourite president and 40 percent considered him to be “most successful in carrying out duties as an Indonesian president.”

Only 20 percent rated Yudhoyono as their favourite, while four other former presidents including founding president Sukarno each garnered less than ten percent support.

The nationwide survey, which was carried out between April 25 and May 4, polled rural and city dwellers aged at least 17.

It found most respondents felt politics, the economy, security and social welfare were better during Suharto’s 32 years of autocratic rule, which ended in 1998.

More than half of the respondents were dissatisfied with the reform era, presided over by Yudhoyono. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.

“It’s ironic to see that the regime that people wanted changed is now considered to have been better,” the poll centre’s head Muhammad Qodari was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe daily.

“It’s also a blow to everyone who thought that the onset of reform would lead to sweeping improvements,” he added.

Yudhoyono has won two elections on the back of promises to stamp out chronic corruption but his reform efforts have stalled amid opposition from vested interests including lawmakers and police.

His Democratic Party won 20 percent of votes in the 2009 legislative polls, to become the strongest party in parliament.

Filed under: Headlines

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forecasts for week beginning May 15, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

Are all Full Moons created equal? In one way, yes. But if a Full Moon is also a Lunar Eclipse, it will have an electric edge. As too, if it coincides with another important alignment or it touches a sensitive spot in an individual’s horoscope. This week’s Full Moon will have a strong impact on people born around October 20, any year – or in January 1992, December 1984 and December 1979, to pick just a few examples. Remember the old saying, “a full Moon is the enemy of an empty heart.” Fill yours with love and you’ll be fine.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” So goes the song. Oh, if only it were consistently true. Some folk do smile back but others become seemingly overwhelmed with an unconscious urge to “wipe that cheerful look off your face.” How dare you smile, when they feel they have so much to frown about? Still, though, when you are smiling, your thoughts tend to be clearer and your ideas become more constructive. Whatever makes you smile this week can be made to keep you smiling for a long time to come. Just keep smiling!

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
You are experiencing a strong emotional pull. Someone (or something?) is tugging on your heartstrings making it hard for you to reach objective decisions. You know what makes most logical sense – yet you do not feel inclined to prioritise this. Instead, you are being led by your feelings towards what seems like a doubtful destination. Ask yourself what advice you would give to someone else in your position. If none of this works, just relax and do what it seems you cannot avoid doing. That destination may not be as doubtful as you fear.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
If you walk to the right, you will tread on one person’s toes. If you lean to the left, you will step on another set of sensitive feet. Is this because you are stomping around with hobnail boots on? Hardly. It is because you are in tricky territory, surrounded by extra sensitive people who keep putting their feet in places where you are soon likely to tread! You’re dealing with volatile and emotive issues. Be delicate and discreet by all means, but don’t start apologising for things that you are perfectly entitled to be doing, saying and feeling. It’s time to be strong.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
Try talking to a caterpillar. Take it aside and tell it what its future holds. Describe the comfort of a cocoon and then the amazing moment of metamorphosis. Impress upon it that one day, this gruesome grub will become a beautiful butterfly. Do you think it would believe you? I’m having a similar problem at the moment. I cannot stress strongly enough how glorious your long-term outlook is and how much positive change it contains. Yet I still suspect that you are not convinced of this. Just remember that powerful positive transformation is a real possibility.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
Numbers, like people and situations, can give deceptive impressions. At school, they tried hard to teach us that two and two would always make four, regardless of the nature of the items being counted. In one way this is very true. But in another, well two carrots plus two cabbages make… a coleslaw. Two small children plus two more make… a kindergarten! Don’t worry too much about the numbers this week. Just put together the “components” now available to you and you will come up with something far greater than the sum of its parts.

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
Even the things that happen all of a sudden don’t really come from out of nowhere. Various forces and pressures build up over a period of time, but they do so subtly and invisibly. Everything is quiet and seemingly still… until, at one crucial moment, a tipping point is reached. For some while now, you have been edging ever closer to a moment of truth. It has all but arrived and this is catching you off guard. You may say that you weren’t expecting this – but in one way you were! Don’t be put out by what’s happening now. Be excited. It is right.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
They say it is not possible to be all things to all men. Actually, they are wrong. This is why the art of horoscope reading is tricky. Contained within the chart of each individual is the ability to summon any resource or develop any talent. This exists within us all in the same way as there is an oak tree within every acorn. Usually, though, we do not grow our entire inner tree. Great sections of it tend to lie dormant. You may, though, soon experience the emergence of a power you did not even know you had. Prepare to release amazing potential.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December)
What are you capable of? How clever can you be when you make an effort? How much experience do you have, how much insight have you gained, how many impressive tricks do you have up your sleeve? To all these questions, there’s just one answer: more than you realise. Others are aware of the contribution you are capable of making. You are in demand and under pressure, but you also command a great deal of respect. Soon you will discover many new reasons to feel glad and proud. Don’t waste time doubting yourself this week.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 20)
What if you work hard and your effort goes to waste? What if someone tells you, soon after you have completed your task, that it didn’t really need doing – or that it is going to make no difference? Then, you had better have been enjoying yourself. Activities that make us feel happy are always worthwhile, regardless of what they lead to. Apply your energy in the spirit of dedication, inspiration and the desire for personal satisfaction, today. Then, you will feel (and be) completely secure, regardless of whether you achieve a particular result.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
“There’s no business like show business…” So goes the old Irving Berlin hit. It describes the courage with which all entertainers must put aside their cares and woes as they prepare to walk on stage with a big beaming smile to greet their audience. Are you in show business? In one way, yes – we all are. This week, the last thing you probably feel like doing is putting on a show. You may as well do, though. If you fake what you can’t feel for real, it will actually help you to believe it… and to solve your greatest current problem more swiftly.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
“If we are bold, / love strikes away the chains of fear / from our souls.” These words come from a poem called Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou. Is your life due to be touched by an angel this week? To some extent, yes… if that doesn’t sound too poetic. The more you’re willing to act out of love rather than fear or anger, the more that angel will be able to do for you. Be inspired. Be motivated. Be kind. Be imaginative. Be hopeful. Be loving. Be of good cheer. Be full of faith. Somewhere in the heart of your life something wonderful is happening.

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
Few things are completely impossible, but many are very difficult. When we take on a tough task or set ourselves an ambitious target, we have to try to make sure that our other commitments are relatively easy to keep up. Even the most powerful magicians can cast only one significant spell at a time. To get what you are after now, you may have to compromise the quality of some other aspect of your life. This may yet have more repercussions than you realise. Think hard before you decide. Remember, it’s better to do one thing well than two, badly.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth, or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign, visit www.cainer.com.

Filed under: Week Ahead

Not Wanted

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika waded into the sensitive issue of foreign hotel managers this week when he warned there were simply too many of them at the expense of Balinese and other Indonesians.

The subject is delicate for a number of reasons, not least the perceived vast salaries such foreigners running the many star-rated hotels here enjoy, and also the rising feeling in local officialdom that foreigners are taking over the island, in activities ranging from building villas to opening new businesses.

The governor asked if Indonesians were “capable” of running Bali’s top-level hotels, and if not, why, especially as the island has long since turned out competent hospitality employees from its tourism colleges. Put simply: Why is a foreigner more able to run a hotel than an Indonesian?

We might ask that of the Indonesian partners of major hotel chains that establish themselves in Bali, as they are the de facto employers of foreign general managers. Do these businesspeople, many of whom are from Jakarta and others parts of the country, not think their fellow citizens are capable of administering their hotels?

Or is it that the hotels’ guests, chiefly comprising foreigners themselves, expect an outsider at the helm, that he or she would be more understanding of their needs? That may be the case as seen from management level, but for anyone who has stayed at smaller hotels in Bali that are run by Indonesians, it is not true.

Whatever talents are required to smoothly and efficiently run a hotel, we are sure Indonesians have them; it is not a foreign phenomenon. We are equally confident that tourists who come to Bali from every part of the world do so with the intention of mixing with the culture and its people – and that includes managers of the hotels they stay at.

We, like the governor, are not suggesting foreign hotel managers be entirely replaced by Indonesians, but there should be a more equal mix, given that currently 98 percent of such posts are occupied by foreigners. Pastika wants a 50-percent equilibrium.

Let’s get rid of the negative stereotype that see some segments of our society as incapable, and work together for the betterment of all.

Filed under: Editorial

Team to Investigate Lombok Land Sales

MATARAM

A central government team has arrived in Lombok to investigate claims that 13 offshore islands have been illegally sold to individual investors, including foreigners, for tourism development.

The Bali Times earlier reported that officials from the West Lombok government alleged that the ownership certificates for the islands were apparently issued in contravention of regulations by officers at the local branch of the National Land Agency (BPN).

Ownership of land by individual foreigners is forbidden in Indonesia, and on the government-owned islands off Lombok’s southwest peninsula a 1966 bylaw restricts individual holdings to five hectares and does not allow freehold ownership.

Two officials from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries flew into Mataram late last week to conduct a probe.

Ispan Junaidi of the West Lombok government told reporters last week that BPN had issued freehold title deeds for several of the islands, with individual owners – including Bali residents – identified as sole owners of whole islands in excess of the 5-hectare limit.  There are indications that some of the islands have been bought by foreigners.

“There is a possibility that the islets are owned by foreigners. If so, they might be using local nominees in order to secure a certificate,” he said.

A BPN spokesman has denied malpractice and corruption, but the agency has issued no explanation of why ownership certificates were issued for the restricted government land on the islands.

Filed under: Headlines

Policemen Sentenced for Gambling

DENPASAR

Two police officers arrested as members of an illegal gambling ring have been given suspended custodial sentences at Denpasar District Court.

I Ketut Gadra Adnyana, 39, and Ida Bagus Putu Suputra, 49, were arrested in September 2010 along with two other men — I Made Sudiarta, 60, and Made Mardiata, 60 — and a woman, 45-year-old Ni Nyoman Leli Setianingsih, during a raid on a house in Denpasar to break up a gambling party.

All five were given a five-month suspended prison sentence last Wednesday on 10 months’ probation under Article 303 of the Criminal Code on gambling.

“The sentence does not need to be put into effect unless the defendants repeat their actions within 10 months,” said judge Jhon Tony Hutauruk.

Hutauruk explained that the five had avoided automatic jail terms because their gambling party had not been run for commercial purposes.

“What mitigated their sentences was that they were gambling purely for entertainment purposes after a ceremony,” he said.

Filed under: Headlines

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Villas and Hotels in Ubud

by Barrie | May 5th, 2011  

If you drive for about an hour and a half north-east of Kuta you will find the bohemian cultural centre of Bali, Ubud. Famed for its arts, Ubud is a cool area of Bali and home to many expats. Located in the district of Gianyar, the town of Ubud is central and surrounded by a group of villages: Padang Tegal and Nyuhkuning are to the south, Peliatan and Kutuh are to the east, Campuhan, Penestenan and Sayan are to the west and Sanggingan and Kedewatan are to the north-west.

Ubud is peaceful. It is a place where you could spend your entire holiday in Bali and it is also a great place to base yourself for exploring the rest of the island. There are many levels of accommodation in Ubud ranging from losmens to upmarket luxury resorts and villas, in fact, too many to list here and so here is a selection:

Kupu Kupu Barong Villas
Komaneka at Bisma
Pita Maha Resort & Spa
Uma Ubud
Maya Ubud Resort & Spa
Kamandalu Resort
Alila Ubud
Komaneka at Monkey Forest Road
Bali Spirit Hotel & Spa
Champlung Sari Hotel
Hotel Tjampuhan & Spa
Ubud Village Hotel
Villa Chempaka Ubud
Pertiwi Resort & Spa
Ananda Cottages
Sri Ratih Cottages
Ubud Hanging Gardens Resort
Alam Indah

Merpati Black Box Found

JAKARTA

The black box flight-data recorder from a Merpati Nusantara plane that crashed into the sea at the weekend killing all 25 passengers and crew has been located, officials said on Monday.

“We found the data recorder yesterday and our team at the site is now trying to retrieve its cockpit voice recorder (CVR) from below the sea,” Transport Safety Committee chairman Tatang Kurniadi said.

The MA-60 turbo-prop plane operated by Merpati, one of a number of Indonesian airlines banned from European airspace, crashed into the sea as it was attempting to land during a heavy downpour on Saturday, officials said.

It was flying from Sorong to Kaimana airport in West Papua province.

Data from the black box will be sent to laboratories in China for clues about why the plane crashed, Kurniadi said.

“The investigation is still ongoing. We need time to listen to the CVR and to analyse it,” he said, adding that four investigators were still at the crash site.

Merpati spokesman Imam Turihi said it was too early to say why the plane crashed.

“We’re now focusing on taking care of the victims’ bodies, before they are sent to their families,” he said, adding that 22 bodies including two babies had been recovered.

He revised down the total number of people on board to 25, from 27 as initially reported, and confirmed that there were no foreigners among the passengers or crew.

In 2009 a Twin Otter plane also operated by Merpati Nusantara crashed into a mountain in remote Papua province, killing all 16 people on board.

Another of the airline’s planes overran a runway after landing in Manokwari in West Papua in April last year, breaking into three pieces and injuring 44 of the more than 100 people on board.

The European Union banned all Indonesian airlines from entering its airspace in 2007, but relaxed the ban on some carriers two years later after it said safety issues had been resolved.

Filed under: Headlines

Govt Says No To Grounding Merpati-Type Crash Plane

JAKARTA

The central government has rejected calls for Chinese-made planes operated by state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines to be grounded following a fatal crash at the weekend.

An MA-60 turbo-prop plane manufactured by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation crashed into the sea off Papua on Saturday as it was attempting to land in heavy rain, killing all 25 passengers and crew on board.

Officials have refused to comment on the cause of the accident, pending the result of ongoing investigations including examination of the black box flight data by Chinese authorities.

“We’re not barring the Merpati MA-60 planes from flying,” Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said on Wednesday.

“We’re confident of the airworthiness checks carried out by the Indonesian civil aviation authorities,” Ervan said, adding that the audits were in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.

Besides the wrecked plane, Merpati has acquired 12 other MA-60s since 2006, he said.

The crash was understood to be the first fatal accident involving an MA-60 anywhere in the world, but not the first scare for the aircraft’s operators in Indonesia, Ervan said.

“There were two previous incidents. In one case, the plane overshot the runway. Investigations are still ongoing for those cases,” he added.

Lawmakers on Wednesday urged Merpati – one of the Indonesian airlines banned from European airspace since 2007 – to ground its fleet of MA-60s until they could be fully audited.

“We think the management should stop all MA-60 flights,” lawmaker Achsanul Qosasi was quoted as saying by the Detikcom news website.

He cited the recent example of Qantas, which grounded its six Airbus A380s for intensive safety checks after a mid-air engine blast over Indonesia on November 4.

Ervan said no Merpati planes would be grounded but a “special safety audit” would be carried out in the near future.

Merpati does not fly outside Indonesia and serves mainly short-haul flights between the massive archipelago’s main islands, including Bali.

Filed under: Headlines

Bashir Escapes Most Serious Terror Charge

JAKARTA

Prosecutors dropped the most serious terror charges on Monday against radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for lack of evidence, leaving him facing a possible life sentence instead of death.

Prosecutors at his trial in Jakarta said the charge of providing firearms and explosives for terrorist acts, for which the 72-year-old preacher could have faced the death penalty, “could not be proven convincingly.”

The charge of inciting acts of terrorism was also dropped, leaving only the accusation of providing funding of more than US$62,000 to a terrorist group, for which the prosecutors sought a maximum life sentence.

Hundreds of Bashir’s radical followers erupted into chants of “Allahu akbar” (God is Great) in support for the man who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader of Southeast Asian jihadists.

Bashir said as he was led away that he rejected the charges and condemned the prosecutors as “friends of the devil.”

“Friends of the devil are always like that, always at war with people who try to defend Islam,” he said.

“Such insolence. These people should be called terrorists, may Allah immediately send them a disaster.”

He said the charges were bogus. “I should have been freed,” he added.

About 2,500 police backed by armoured vehicles surrounded the Jakarta courtroom as the cleric appeared in his usual white robes to face the sentencing recommendations.

He told reporters before the hearing that he expected prosecutors to seek his execution.

“It is normal that they will seek the death penalty…. I’ve been turned into an icon as if I’m Osama the terrorist,” he said, referring to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed by US special forces in Pakistan last week.

He praised bin Laden as a “holy warrior” who would be richly rewarded in paradise, and warned US President Barack Obama to repent or become a “dog of hell.”

The US-trained Detachment 88 anti-terror police squad was on hand and members of the public were patted down for hidden weapons or bombs as they entered the court.

Bashir is the withered but often smiling face of militant Islam in the country.

The so-called Al-Qaeda in Aceh group he allegedly funded was planning Mumbai-style attacks using squads of suicide gunmen against Westerners, police and political leaders, according to police.

Its operations leader, Indonesian bomb maker Dulmatin, was killed by police in March last year. Scores of other members of the group have been killed or captured.

Although his former students read like a who’s who of Indonesian jihad, Bashir denies any involvement in terrorism and claims he is being framed by the United States and its allies including “the Jews.”

Filed under: Headlines

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Clash of Cultures

The day began badly. A notice from a nearby housing development announced that non-estate residents should cease using a particular private road which links nicely to several public roads.

Despite its blind hills and corners, the private road gives much less perilous access to most places than the public route which involves tricky negotiation of a major Ungasan intersection at which a local retailer has sponsored the insanely impractical placement of a temple which further obscures driver vision and obstructs traffic flow.  What idiocy.

Desire to conserve an existing but poorly placed temple is understandable; hazardous placement of a new and blatantly commercial one is daft and reckless. Both the road and temple are small but irritating examples of insufficient thought for the future.

Our life-preservation policy is to continue to use the shortcut rather than drive blind through the chaotic crossroad. Besides, if they close the private road, how will the estate residents get out? Tee hee.

We headed from Ungasan to Canggu on an 85-minute nightmare drive marked by congestion and outrageous risk-taking, especially by helmet-less child bike-riders intent on snatching the lead. It seemed to be the first truly warm day for months, and our aircon failed to fire.

Our sodden clothes dried during the open-air meeting and later, as we relaxed under a shady palm, I showed the Playmate a tiny bird ambitiously collecting relatively huge strands of dried grass for its nest. “Oh look, it’s dropped it,” I murmured at the precise moment at which I heard and felt the plop, splatter and oozing of a large deposit of purplish, fruit-based avian waste all down my long, white sleeve. Yuk.

We braced ourselves for the sweltering, nerve-wracking safari home during which traffic on Sunset Road leading to Simpang Siur was at a standstill and an obnoxious truck smashed our side mirror, and I said sorry to placate the glassy-eyed, offended perpetrator.

Home at last, shaken but unscathed, our housekeeper announced a changed work schedule to accommodate the Rp4 million ceremony her balian (practitioner of traditional magic) had decreed must occur because he’d cured her daughter of fever by sprinkling the child’s head with holy water and instructing mum to purchase various expensive temple offerings. Mum’s part-time salary is Rp700,000 a month. For the ceremony, Rp500,000 will buy a suckling pig; Rp1.5 million will buy other food and offerings; and Rp2 million will reward the balian, she said. The family had just hosted two pricey weddings. How do the Balinese cope with the cost of their culture?

We decided to cope with the tensions of our own day by enjoying a quiet dinner in the calming environment of a local cafe. We’d just settled into sofas on the terrace when a minivan at the garden’s edge spewed out eight Bintang-wielding, excessively raucous, beachwear-clad and highly inebriated Australians. It’s a mystery of linguistics that their confused and slurred rantings maintained that sharp Aussie twang that pierces the eardrums. “If the air was Edam,” said the Playmate, “it would be in shreds.”

The cafe’s host sensibly drove the unruly herd into the back room and shut them away, out of sight but still within earshot. However, needing an audience, and help in reading the menu, they executed an uncoordinated escape during which they staggered about, yelling, knocking over furniture, daring the women among them to remove their bikini tops, which one did, and removing the clothing of a male who was less capable of resistance than a jellyfish.

“Not a good look, Fred,” sighed the cafe’s delightful Sumatra-born proprietor, sinking into my sofa. “I have a headache. I have never had this behaviour before. Why do they do it?” Because it would not be tolerated in their own country, we suggest.

The loathsome party carried on, spoiling the evening of the other visibly edgy guests and creating such an appalling scene that they immobilised the entire staff, who stood about open-mouthed, wide-eyed and rigid with disbelief. The Australians’ parting gesture was to demand eight separate bills and then get the owner to total the eight so they could split it evenly.

Everyone relaxed as the beer-brandishing Aussies tumbled into their van. Take them to Kuta next time, I willed their driver. While the experience was excruciating, it gave us a chance to develop the theme of culture with the owner.

If I’m not wrong, I ventured, Balinese culture is protected because its young woman almost all want to marry Balinese men. “It’s changing,” he said. “It’s attractive for Balinese to marry into non-Hindu religions because the marriage costs are much lower.” What a travesty – that the financial requirements of some priests and balians, the very upholders of Balinese Hinduism, are driving people from their religion and weakening their culture, already under threat from Bali’s changing demographics due to inter-island migration.

Wake up, guys. Obsession with your personal pocket is putting culture and religion at grave risk. The superstitious nature of many Balinese will prohibit them from containing the costs of their ceremonies and the price of their spiritual advice. It’s up to their leaders to introduce ceilings to make Balinese Hinduism affordable and sustainable.

LCFiled under: ILAND

Too Much TV Puts Children’s Hearts at Risk: Study

Children who spend too much time watching television increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in later life, an Australian study has shown.

In what was declared world-first research, the University of Sydney found that six- to seven-year-olds who spent the most time watching television had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes.

This increased their chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes when they were older.

“Parents need to get their children up and moving and off the couch,” said Dr Bamini Gopinath, the lead author.

The study examined 1,500 six- and seven-year-olds in 34 primary schools in Sydney.

On average, the children studied spent 1.9 hours a day watching television and 36 minutes a day in organised physical activity.

Those with the highest levels of physical activity – just over an hour or more – had significantly wider retinal arteries on average than those who spent less than half an hour a day being physically active.

“We found children with a high level of physical activity had a more beneficial microvascular profile compared to those with the lowest levels of physical activity,” said Gopinath.

“This suggests unhealthy lifestyle factors may influence microcirculation early in life and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.”

Gopinath, senior research fellow at the Westmead Millennium Institute’s Centre for Vision Research, added that excessive screen time leads to less physical activity, unhealthy dietary habits and weight gain.

“Replacing one hour a day of screen time with physical activity could be effective in buffering the effects of sedentary lifestyles on the retinal microvasculature in children,” he said.

“Free play should be promoted and schools should have a mandatory two hours a week in physical activity for children.”

The study is reported this week in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Filed under: Health

An Elemental Home

By Richard Boughton

I do some writing here for a certain magazine. I guess you would call it a tourism magazine. You know, one of those glossy little packets with slippery pages, slippier prose and full-colour photography featuring white-washed villas, green garden paths, verandas and pools and beach-front vistas overlooking the azure sea. Jimbaran stuff, right? Nusa Dua destinations.

I make no money in this venture – my services being purely gratis – but it gives me a chance to see some of the island, as well as to meet some of the island’s people, though not many, mind you, as most of the people I meet live in castles that may as well be somewhere else. In fact, for all practical purposes, they are somewhere else.

And so I began to think one day, during a staff meeting concerning what sort of story we could do for a German home-appliance supplier that had just bought a full page advertisement, about the sort of real-world story we could do instead. One about Bali – the actual place as opposed to the brochure dreamland.

And so, reader, I make a bit of a departure below. No villas here, no Ming Dynasty vases, no gazebos or gardens or gothic towers -none of the usual glitz and glimmer. Rather, we shall visit the island of Bali, and hope, if only for a moment, to impart a new, more down-to-earth taste for the palate of our typical reader.

Here, then, is the classic Balinese homestead. This simple one-room dwelling is made completely of stone on the outside. It is also made of stone on the inside. In fact, the stone on the inside is the backside of the stone on the outside. It is, in short, the same stone, inside and out.

Within these understated walls we find furniture in the well-loved antique style, cleverly constructed from aged planks of pre-used lumber found in the pristine field out back (which is where the pre-used nails were found as well). On the armoire, brightly nostalgic in the classic red and yellow hues of 1950s plastic-ware, sits grandma’s unfinished bowl of fried noodles, although grandma herself has not been seen for several months, and may, it is thought, have succumbed to dengue fever.

From the square, eco-friendly front window (for it has no glass or other impediment to the cooling breeze), we turn and take three steps to the far side of the house, careful not to stir the dust along the way. There in the corner sits a tiny crutch, propped just so, waiting for its tiny owner to return. And a chicken. Beside the crutch and the chicken are a few pellets of chicken dung, as well as one dog turd.

Lighting throughout this classic-style home is unobtrusive, as indirect as a tongue-in-cheek comment – none of those glaring overhead globes, which do, after all, require electricity, not to mention money for payment of the electricty bill. Therefore, we are inclined to call the interior lighting here a suggestion rather than a shout, a rumour rather than an actual fact.

Mother’s bed is on the eastern wall, nestled beneath several rather artistically imperfect stones that jut from the wall and serve as convenient, natural nightstands. Or handholds, if need be. Father’s bed is there, too. As are the beds of junior and his two brothers.

A short distance further into the interior of the home (and I do mean short), we find we are actually in the backyard. In fact, we find ourselves standing in the bathroom. It is a sharing of space, a dialogue with nature, a marriage of the elements inside and out – air, greenery, light, earth and stone. Again, the accent is on simplicity, on an intimate relationship with the land.

And the evidence of this relationship is all about.

Filed under: Practical Paradise

A Human Approach to World Peace

As the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet prepares to retire from politics, The Bali Times is publishing a series of articles by His Holiness on his thoughts and teachings. This is the first in a three-part article.

When we rise in the morning and listen to the radio or read the newspaper, we are confronted with the same sad news: violence, crime, wars and disasters. I cannot recall a single day without a report of something terrible happening somewhere.

Even in these modern times it is clear that one’s precious life is not safe. No former generation has had to experience so much bad news as we face today. This constant awareness of fear and tension should make any sensitive and compassionate person question seriously the progress of our modern world.

It is ironic that the more serious problems emanate from the more industrially advanced societies. Science and technology have worked wonders in many fields, but the basic human problems remain. There is unprecedented literacy, yet this universal education does not seem to have fostered goodness, but only mental restlessness and discontent instead. There is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering.

We can only conclude that there must be something seriously wrong with our progress and development, and if we do not check it in time there could be disastrous consequences for the future of humanity. I am not at all against science and technology – they have contributed immensely to the overall experience of humankind; to our material comfort and wellbeing; and to our greater understanding of the world we live in. But if we give too much emphasis to science and technology we are in danger of losing touch with those aspects of human knowledge and understanding that aspire towards honesty and altruism.

Science and technology, though capable of creating immeasurable material comfort, cannot replace the age-old spiritual and humanitarian values that have largely shaped world civilisation, in all its national forms, as we know it today. No one can deny the unprecedented material benefit of science and technology, but our basic human problems remain: we are still faced with the same, if not more, suffering, fear and tension. Thus it is only logical to try to strike a balance between material developments on the one hand and the development of spiritual, human values on the other. In order to bring about this great adjustment, we need to revive our humanitarian values.

I am sure that many people share my concern about the present worldwide moral crisis and will join in my appeal to all humanitarians and religious practitioners who also share this concern to help make our societies more compassionate, just, and equitable. I do not speak as a Buddhist or even as a Tibetan. Nor do I speak as an expert on international politics (though I unavoidably comment on these matters). Rather, I speak simply as a human being, as an upholder of the humanitarian values that are the bedrock not only of Mahayana Buddhism but of all the great world religions. From this perspective I share with you my personal outlook – that:
1. Universal humanitarianism is essential to solve global problems;
2. Compassion is the pillar of world peace;
3. All world religions are already for world peace in this way, as are all humanitarians of whatever ideology;
4. Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs.

TRANSFORMING ATTITUDES

Of the many problems we face today, some are natural calamities and must be accepted and faced with equanimity. Others, however, are of our own making, created by misunderstanding, and can be corrected. One such type arises from the conflict of ideologies, political or religious, when people fight each other for petty ends, losing sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a single human family. We must remember that the different religions, ideologies and political systems of the world are meant for human beings to achieve happiness. We must not lose sight of this fundamental goal and at no time should we place means above ends; the supremacy of humanity over matter and ideology must always be maintained.

By far the greatest single danger facing humankind – in fact, all living beings on our planet – is the threat of nuclear destruction. I need not elaborate on this danger, but I would like to appeal to all the leaders of the nuclear powers who literally hold the future of the world in their hands, to the scientists and technicians who continue to create these awesome weapons of destruction, and to all the people at large who are in a position to influence their leaders: I appeal to them to exercise their sanity and begin to work at dismantling and destroying all nuclear weapons. We know that in the event of a nuclear war there will be no victors because there will be no survivors! Is it not frightening just to contemplate such inhuman and heartless destruction? And is it not logical that we should remove the cause for our own destruction when we know the cause and have both the time and the means to do so? Often we cannot overcome our problems because we either do not know the cause or, if we understand it, do not have the means to remove it. This is not the case with the nuclear threat.

Whether they belong to more evolved species like humans or to simpler ones such as animals, all beings primarily seek peace, comfort and security. Life is as dear to the mute animal as it is to any human being; even the simplest insect strives for protection from dangers that threaten its life. Just as each one of us wants to live and does not wish to die, so it is with all other creatures in the universe, though their power to effect this is a different matter.

Broadly speaking there are two types of happiness and suffering, mental and physical, and of the two, I believe that mental suffering and happiness are the more acute. Hence, I stress the training of the mind to endure suffering and attain a more lasting state of happiness. However, I also have a more general and concrete idea of happiness: a combination of inner peace, economic development and, above all, world peace. To achieve such goals I feel it is necessary to develop a sense of universal responsibility, a deep concern for all irrespective of creed, colour, sex or nationality.

The premise behind this idea of universal responsibility is the simple fact that, in general terms, all others’ desires are the same as mine. Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt a self-centred approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question.

In their quest for happiness, humans have used different methods, which all too often have been cruel and repellent. Behaving in ways utterly unbecoming to their status as humans, they inflict suffering upon fellow humans and other living beings for their own selfish gains. In the end, such short-sighted actions bring suffering to oneself as well as to others. To be born a human being is a rare event in itself, and it is wise to use this opportunity as effectively and skilfully as possible. We must have the proper perspective that of the universal life process, so that the happiness or glory of one person or group is not sought at the expense of others.

INTERCONNECTEDNESS

All this calls for a new approach to global problems. The world is becoming smaller and smaller – and more and more interdependent – as a result of rapid technological advances and international trade as well as increasing transnational relations. We now depend very much on each other. In ancient times problems were mostly family-size, and they were naturally tackled at the family level, but the situation has changed. Today we are so interdependent, so closely interconnected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and an understanding and belief that we really are part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence – let alone bring about peace and happiness.

One nation’s problems can no longer be satisfactorily solved by itself alone; too much depends on the interest, attitude and cooperation of other nations. A universal humanitarian approach to world problems seems the only sound basis for world peace. What does this mean? We begin from the recognition mentioned previously that all beings cherish happiness and do not want suffering. It then becomes both morally wrong and pragmatically unwise to pursue only one’s own happiness oblivious to the feelings and aspirations of all others who surround us as members of the same human family. The wiser course is to think of others also when pursuing our own happiness. This will lead to what I call “wise self-interest,” which hopefully will transform itself into “compromised self-interest,” or better still, “mutual interest.”

Although the increasing interdependence among nations might be expected to generate more sympathetic cooperation, it is difficult to achieve a spirit of genuine cooperation as long as people remain indifferent to the feelings and happiness of others. When people are motivated mostly by greed and jealousy, it is not possible for them to live in harmony. A spiritual approach may not solve all the political problems that have been caused by the existing self-centred approach, but in the long run it will overcome the very basis of the problems that we face today.

On the other hand, if humankind continues to approach its problems considering only temporary expediency, future generations will have to face tremendous difficulties. The global population is increasing, and our resources are being rapidly depleted. Look at the trees, for example. No one knows exactly what adverse effects massive deforestation will have on the climate, the soil and global ecology as a whole. We are facing problems because people are concentrating only on their short-term, selfish interests, not thinking of the entire human family. They are not thinking of the earth and the long-term effects on universal life as a whole. If we of the present generation do not think about these now, future generations may not be able to cope with them.

Filed under: The Dalai Lama