It’s now time for the blog to take its annual summer break.
I wish you all a really nice summer!
Tags: Body & Mind, books, health, meditation, psychology, Science, Spirituality
By Leonardo Vintini
According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, every time we learn or experience something new, hundreds of millions of neurons reorganize themselves.
Dr. Dispenza is known throughout the world for his innovative theory concerning the relationship between mind and matter. Perhaps best known as one of the scientists featured in the acclaimed 2004 docudrama What the Bleep Do We Know, his work has helped reveal the extraordinary properties of the mind and its ability to create synaptic connections by carefully focusing our attention.
Just imagine: In every new experience, a synaptic connection is established in our brain. With every sensation, vision, or emotion never explored before, the formation of a new relationship between two of more than 100 thousand million brain cells is inevitable.
But this phenomenon needs focused reinforcement in order to bring about real change. If the experience repeats itself in a relatively short period of time, the connection becomes stronger. If the experience doesn’t happen again for a long period of time, the connection can become weakened or lost.
Science used to believe that our brains were static and hardwired, with little chance for change. However, recent research in neuroscience has discovered that the influence of every corporal experience within our thinking organ (cold, fear, fatigue, happiness) is working to shape our brains.
If a cool breeze is capable of raising all the hairs on one’s forearm, is the human mind capable of creating the same sensation with identical results? Perhaps it is capable of much more.
“What if just by thinking, we cause our internal chemistry to be bumped out of normal range so often that the body’s self-regulation system eventually redefines these abnormal states as regular states?” asks Dispenza in his 2007 book, Evolve Your Brain, The Science of Changing Your Mind. “It’s a subtle process, but maybe we just never gave it that much attention until now.”
Dispenza holds that the brain is actually incapable of differentiating a real physical sensation from an internal experience. In this way, our gray matter could easily be tricked into reverting itself into a state of poor health when our minds are chronically focused on negative thoughts.
Dispenza illustrates his point by referring to an experiment in which subjects were asked to practice moving their ring finger against a spring-loaded device for an hour a day for four weeks. After repeatedly pulling against the spring, the fingers of these subjects became 30 percent stronger. Meanwhile, another group of subjects was asked to imagine themselves pulling against the spring but never physically touched the device. After four weeks of this exclusively mental exercise, this group experienced a 22 percent increase in finger strength.
For years, scientists have been examining the ways in which mind dominates matter. From the placebo effect (in which a person feels better after taking fake medicine) to the practitioners of Tummo (a practice from Tibetan Buddhism where individuals actually sweat while meditating at below zero temperatures), the influence of a “spiritual” portion of a human being over the undeniable physical self challenges traditional conceptions of thought, where matter is ruled by physical laws and the mind is simply a byproduct of the chemical interactions between neutrons.
Dr. Dispenza’s investigations stemmed from a critical time in his life. After being hit by a car while riding his bike, doctors insisted that Dispenza needed to have some of his vertebrae fused in order to walk again—a procedure that would likely cause him chronic pain for the rest of his life.
However, Dispenza, a chiropractor, decided to challenge science and actually change the state of his disability through the power of his mind—and it worked. After nine months of a focused therapeutic program, Dispenza was walking again. Encouraged by this success, he decided to dedicate his life to studying the connection between mind and body.
Intent on exploring the power of the mind to heal the body, the “brain doctor” has interviewed dozens of people who had experienced what doctors call “spontaneous remission.” These were individuals with serious illnesses who had decided to ignore conventional treatment, but had nevertheless fully recovered. Dispenza found that these subjects all shared an understanding that their thoughts dictated the state of their health. After they focused their attention on changing their thinking, their diseases miraculously resolved.
Addicted to Emotions
Similarly, Dispenza finds that humans actually possess an unconscious addiction to certain emotions, negative and positive. According to his research, emotions condemn a person to repetitive behavior, developing an “addiction” to the combination of specific chemical substances for each emotion that flood the brain with a certain frequency.
Dispenza finds that when the brain of such an individual is able to free itself from the chemical combination belonging to fear, the brain’s receptors for such substances are correspondingly opened. The same is true with depression, anger, violence, and other passions.
The body responds to these emotions with certain chemicals that in turn influence the mind to have the same emotion. In other words, it could be said that a fearful person is “addicted” to the feeling of fear. Dispenza finds that when the brain of such an individual is able to free itself from the chemical combination belonging to fear, the brain’s receptors for such substances are correspondingly opened. The same is true with depression, anger, violence, and other passions.
Nevertheless, many are skeptical of Dispenza’s findings, despite his ability to demonstrate that thoughts can modify a being’s physical conditions. Generally associated as a genre of pseudo-science, the theory of “believe your own reality” doesn’t sound scientific.
Science may not be ready to acknowledge that the physical can be changed through the power of the mind, but Dr. Dispenza assures that the process occurs, nevertheless.
“We need not wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon or go beyond what we have been told is possible. If we do, we make science another form of religion. We should be mavericks; we should practice doing the extraordinary. When we become consistent in our abilities, we are literally creating a new science,” writes Dispenza.
Tags: Culture, Society
by: Lola Akinmade-Åkerström
As diverse as Sweden is, there are a few societal norms that are distinctly Swedish. Understanding a handful of them will hopefully prepare you culturally before you relocate. When you’re invited home to a Swede, you’d better be on time and take your shoes off, writes expat Lola Akinmade-Åkerström.
For decades, Swedish culture has been boiled down to four stereotypes we know so well — ABBA, blondes, Volvo and IKEA.
Though the above are evident in Sweden’s society, the country is rapidly becoming richly diversified. Aspects of various foreign cultures are woven into everyday life — from music to food and fashion. With a relatively high quality of life, solid infrastructure, and basic access to healthcare and education, a steady number of people continue migrating to Sweden. As of 2008, there were roughly 200 nationalities represented in Sweden, making up 14 percent of the population.
That said, there are a few societal norms that are distinctly Swedish, and understanding some 20 of them will hopefully prepare you culturally before you move:
1. Start building your coffee tolerance
According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), Sweden ranks second in the world after Finland in terms of coffee consumption per person. Coffee drinking is fostered through a tradition called fika — in which friends, family and/or colleagues meet for coffee or tea.
Fika is often enjoyed with freshly baked pastries such as cinnamon buns (kanelbullar), collectively called fikabröd. What makes the concept of fika intriguing to foreigners is the sheer frequency at which it is observed each day. It’s not uncommon to grab a cup of coffee after breakfast, after lunch, before dinner and after dinner. This tradition is an opportunity for Swedes to set aside a few moments each day for quality bonding over coffee.
Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health
As the barometer rises, good hydration is key
By Mareya Ibrahim
Growing up in a warm country, a prerequisite for a blistering hot day—which was about 10 months out of the year—was to pay a visit to the juice bar around the corner from our apartment. The proprietor would stack the counters up with colorful pyramids of oranges, beets, mangoes, guavas and pomegranates, depending on what was in season.
Vases filled with rods of sugar cane and long carrots anchored the artful arrangements to create an edible landscape. Once the juicers started to whir, the sweet scent of freshness would dance through the steamy streets, luring customers in like a pied piper. The proprietor would create his own signature fruit and veggie “cocktails,” mixing beets with oranges, carrots and mangoes, a soulful blend of sweet and savory.
Little did we know that fresh pressed juice provided us with pure goodness in a glass. Packed with live enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, fresh juice also helps boost metabolism, fight infection, build tissue and strong bones … and help everything move along the way it’s supposed to, if you know what I mean.
Before you reach for that diet soda or mega-can energy drink, you might want to think before you drink. Caffeine and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives can zap you of vital nutrients that keep your system running smoothly.
Now that the barometer is rising, it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated. But before you reach for that diet soda or mega-can energy drink, you might want to think before you drink. Caffeine and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives can zap you of vital nutrients that keep your system running smoothly.
How does proper hydration keep you fit and healthy? One of the most important features is to keep the body cool. When you’re active—hiking, biking, riding, swimming—it’s even more essential to keep replacing fluids lost through sweat. You may not feel thirsty but your body needs it. Try these simple tips to sip and quench your thirst for better hydration for the whole family.
Drinking half your weight in ounces of clear liquids each day is key to keeping everything running smoothly. In fact, every cell function requires hydration, but most people wait until they’re thirsty before they drink.
- Carry a lightweight, reusable water bottle everywhere. Pick a BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free model and make it part of your repertoire. My favorite is called the Bobble, and it has a filter inside, so you can fill it from any tap and enjoy clean, fresh water while doing your part for the environment. You can get the equivalent of 300 water bottles from one Bobble filter!
- Ditch the energy drinks. Most of the options out there are filled with stimulants and artificial colors and flavors that actually zap your body’s ability to recharge itself. Options like coconut water contain more give you a real pick-me-up while helping to regulate blood pressure and heart function. O.N.E. Coconut Water comes in a variety of flavors and kids’ varieties, mixed with juice in aseptic containers with straws for on-the-go convenience.
- Try rainforest superfruits instead of coffee. Açaí blends offer a natural kick along with an army of antioxidants to help raise immunity and fight disease. Smoothie packs make a refreshingly cool pick-me-up. Sambazon makes their blends ready to drink along with frozen smoothie packs so you can create your own delicious drinks.
- Make time for tea. Getting green tea and flavored water into your daily routine is a good way to keep it fresh. I love the Takeya Flash Chill Tea Maker and Fruit Infuser for an elegant, easy way to enjoy great iced tea and fruit-infused water with the beautiful pitcher system.
- Get your nourishment from Mother Nature. If the heat zaps your appetite, fill up on fruit and veggies along with a good quality protein powder—like Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake—into a glass. Fruit and veggies have a high water content and help keep you hydrated. Add watermelon, spinach, cucumber, and celery to your blender and get your daily supply of produce in a snap! Cucumber is also high in potassium, so it’s a good electrolyte replacement.
Mareya Ibrahim is The Fit Foody, an award-winning chef on ABC’s Emmy-nominated show “Recipe Rehab,” and author and founder of EatCleaner.com. Her book “The Clean Eating Handbook,” a guide on how to eat cleaner and get leaner, was released in May 2013.
More in Fitness & Nutrition
Tags: archaeology, Culture, Science, Society, technology
By Leonardo Vintini
Many people think modern technology is very advanced, but according to Dr. Peter J. Lu, post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University, Chinese people in 4,500 B.C. did a better job making flat and smooth surfaces than we can nowadays with our best polishing technologies.
Dr. Lu, who worked with his team in the study of four ancient Chinese axes discovered in the 1990s, knows well what he’s talking about when he mentions polishing. The researcher submitted the Neolithic artifacts to a number of scientific tests, determined to come to the conclusion that the axes only could have been made using advanced techniques involving diamond.
Belonging to the Sanxingcun and Liangzhu cultures, the four ceremonial axes were dated between 2,500 and 4,500 B.C. Although in the beginning it was believed that the material used for the polishing was quartz, Lu’s team demonstrated that this is an erroneous idea.
The axes were submitted to electronic ultrasound examination, radio-graphical diffraction, and examination by electron microscope. It was determined that 40 percent of the axes was composed of corundum, a rock also known as ruby when it is red. Corundum is well known for being the second hardest material on the planet. The fine polishing work exhibited on these artifacts could have only been achieved by employing the one material harder than corundum—diamond—which had previously been believed to be first used in 500 B.C. in India.
To confirm the hypothesis, Lu took samples of the oldest axe and used a modern machine with diamond, albumin, and silica to polish them.
To the amazement of the scientists, the electron microscope confirmed that the polishing that resembled the ancient axes most closely was the one done with diamond. In fact, the craft that was carried out on the axes centuries before our era was more exquisite than the work done with modern precision instruments.
Through the study of these ceremonial Chinese axes, scientists now possess a more solid knowledge about the polishing techniques of antiquity, enabling them to explain the abundance of finely carved objects like jade. Nevertheless, many questions still exist in regard to how Chinese “cavemen” could have made the finest and smoothest axes history has ever known.
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Tags: art, Culture, funny things, picture of the day
People are asking, prompted by a new special on Mermaids, whether mermaids exist or not.
A look over the years shows that many people around the world have sighted or even directly experienced mermaids. Here’s a timeline of some of the major sightings and experiences, including Christopher Columbus, John Smith, and William Shakespeare.
First Century AD: Pliny the Elder writes about Nereids, or women with rough, scaly bodies like fish. They are “sitting upon dolphins, or ketoi, or hippocamps,” in some cases, he writes in Natural History.
Pliny describes how the legatus of Gaul wrote to the late Emperor Augustus about “a considerable number of nereids” being “found dead upon the seashore.” Further, “I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man,” Pliny writes, according to a translation by the University of Chicago.
Fifth Century AD: In the book Physiologus, which is said to have been written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, there is a portion dedicated to “The Nature of the Mermaid” that is translated by graduate student Mary Allyson Armistead as follows:
“In the sea there are many marvels.
The mermaid is like a maiden:
In breast and body she is thus joined:
From the navel downward she is not like a maid
But a fish very certainly with sprouted fins.
This marvel dwells in an unstable place where the water subsides.
She sinks ships and causes suffering,
She sings sweetly —this siren—and has many voices,
Many and resonant, but they are very dangerous.
Sailors forget their steering because of her singing;
They slumber and sleep and wake too late,
And the ships sink in a whirlpool and cannot surface anymore.
But wise and wary men and are able to return;
Often they escape with all the strength they have.
They have said of this siren, that she is so grotesque,
Half maid and half fish: something is meant by this.”
Sometime between 1040 and 1105: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi, describes mermaids in the Talmud.
“There are fish in the sea with which half is in the form of man and half in the form of a fish, called sereine in Old French,” he wrote.
Also, not too long after, the Moshav Zekeinim, a commentary on the “Torah” by the medieval Tosafists, explains mermaids while calling them sirens, according to the book Sacred Monsters.
“This refers to the creature in the sea which is similar in part to a person, from the navel upwards, and it is similar to a woman in all aspects, in that it has breasts and long hair like that of a woman, and from the navel downwards it is a fish,” it is written in the commentary. “And it sings beautifully, with a pleasant voice.”
13th Century: Bartholomew Angelicus, in De Propietatibus Rerum, describes a mermaid, and tells of her stealing sailors from their ships.
Middle of 13th Century: Speculum Regale, or The King’s Mirror, is written in Old Norse, a translated version appearing several centuries later.
In the book there is a description of a creature found off the shores of Greenland.
“Like a woman as far down as her waist, long hands, and soft hair, the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to be long, and the fingers not to be pointed, but united into a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail, and fins. This shows itself, especially before heavy storms. The habit of this creature is to dive frequently and rise again to the surface with fishes in its hands. When sailors see it playing with the fish, or throwing them towards the ship, they fear that they are doomed to lose several of the crew ; but when it casts the fish from the vessel, then the sailors take it as a good omen that they will not suffer loss in the im-pending storm. This monster has a very horrible face, with broad brow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin.”
1389: The book Eastern Travels of John of Hesse is published, in which many perils during a voyage are relived. At one point the author writes: “We came to a stony mountain, where we heard syrens singing, mermaids who draw ships into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible monsters and were in great fear.”
1403: A mermaid drifts inland through a broken dyke on the Dutch coast during the heavy storm. She was spied by some local women and their servants, “who at the first were afraid of her, but seeing her often, they resolved to take her, which they did, and bringing her home, she suffered herself to be clothed and fed with bread and milk and other meats, and would often strive to steal again into the sea, but being carefully watched, she could not.”
The mermaid later learned how to sew but never spoke. She died 15 years after she was discovered. John Swan, an English minister, describes the story in the 1635 book Speculum Mundi.
The book also includes the following describing mermaids:
“Transform’d to fish, for their bold surquedry :
But th’ upper half their hew retayned still,
And their sweet skill in wonted melody
Which ever after they abused to ill,*
T’ allure weake travellers whom gotten they did kill.”
1493: Christopher Columbus spots three mermaids rise high from the sea. Columbus wrote in his ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” He also noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.
1560: According to Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould: “Near the island of Mandar, on the west of Ceylon, some fishermen entrapped in their net seven mermen and mermaids, of which several Jesuits, and Father Henriques, and Bosquez, physician to the Viceroy of Goa, were witnesses. The physician examined them with a great deal of care, and dissected them. He asserts that the internal and external structure resembled that of human beings.”
1590: William Shakespeare is believed to have written Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1590 and 1594. In it, he writes:
“I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song;
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.”
Soon after, he continues. “Come over here, Puck. You remember that time I was sitting on a rocky coast when I head a mermaid? She was riding on a dolphin’s back. Her singing was so sweet and pure that the rough sea grew calm and stars sot madly about the sky on hearing the sea-girls song.”
1608: Explorer Henry Hudson recounts an experience in the ship’s journal that happened on June 15, while sailing through the Bering Sea off the top of Norway.
“This morning one of our company, looking overboard, saw a mermaid, and calling up some of the company to see her, one more came up, and by that time she was come close to the ship’s side, looking earnestly on the men. A little while after a sea came and over- turned her. From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s, as they say that saw her ; her body as big as one of ours ; her skin very white, and long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel. Their names that saw her were Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayney.”
Later, in the mid 1800′s, in an analysis of the incident in The Romance of Natural History, naturalist Philip Henry Gosse says that the usual claim of sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids won’t work here.
“Whatever explanation may be attempted of this apparition, the ordi-nary resource of seal and walrus will not avail here. Seals and walruses must have been as familiar to these polar mariners as cows to a milkmaid. Unless the whole story was a con-cocted lie between the two men, reasonless and objectless, and the worthy old navigator doubtless knew the character of his men, they must have seen some form of being as yet unrecognized.”
1614: Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, sees a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts.
He writes that “the upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman, and she was swimming about with all possible grace near the shore.” It had “large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.”
1619: Two senators in Norway capture a merman, according to Adventures in Unhistory. The senators, Ulf Rosensparre and Christian Hollh, decided to release the merman back into the sea.
1739: The Gentleman’s Magazine describes in an issue an experience with a creature.
“Some fisherman near the City of Exeter drawing their nets ashore, a Creature leap’d out, and run away very swiftly, not being able to overtake it, they knock’d it down by throwing sticks after it,” the description reads, according to Adventures in Unhistory.
“At their coming up to it, it was dying, having groan’d like a human creature: Its feet were webb’d like a duck’s, it had eyes, nose, and mouth resembling those of a man, only the nose somewhat depress’d; a tail not unlike a salmon’s, turning up towards its back, and is four feet high.” It was publicly shown in the city.
1797: William Munro, a schoolteacher in Scotland, writes a letter to a Dr. Torrance in Glasgow, which is published in The Times of London on Sept. 8, 1809.
“About twelve years ago when I was Parochial Schoolmaster at Reay, in the course of my walking on the shore of Sandside Bay, being a fine warm day in summer, I was induced to extend my walk towards Sandside Head, when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour. The resemblance which the figure bore to its prototype in all its visible parts was so striking, that had not the rock on which it was sitting been dangerous for bathing, I would have been constrained to have regarded it as really an human form, and to an eye unaccustomed to the situation, it must have undoubtedly appeared as such. The head was covered with hair of the colour above mentioned and shaded on the crown, the forehead round, the face plump. The cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man; the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive. It remained on the rock three or four minutes after I observed it, and was exercised during that period in combing its hair, which was long and thick, and of which it appeared proud, and then dropped into the sea, which was level with the abdomen, from whence it did not reappear to me, I had a distinct view of its features, being at no great distance on an eminence above the rock on which it was sitting, and the sun brightly shining.”
“Immediately before its getting into its natural element it seemed to have observed me, as the eyes were directed towards the eminence on which I stood. It may be necessary to remark, that previous to the period I beheld the object, I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them person whose veracity I never heard disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then, like many others, I was not disposed to credit their testimony on this subject. I can say of a truth, that it was only by seeing the phenomenon, I was perfectly convinced of its existence.
If the above narrative can in any degree be subservient towards establishing the existence of a phenomenon hitherto almost incredible to naturalists, or to remove the scepticism of others, who are ready to dispute everything which they cannot fully comprehend, you are welcome to it from,
Your most obliged, and most humble servant,
1801: Dr. Chisolm recounts a visit four years prior to the island of Berbice in the Carribbean. The residents call mermaids mene mamma, or mother of waters. Governor Van Battenburgh gives the following description to Chisolm:
“The upper portion resembles the human figure, the head smaller in proportion, sometimes bare, but oftener covered with a copious quantity of long black hair. The shoulders are broad, and the breasts large and well formed. The lower portion resembles the tail-portion of a fish, is of immense dimension, the tail forked, and not unlike that of the dolphin, as it is usually represented. The colour of the skin is either black or tawny. The animal is held in veneration and dread by the Indians, who imagine that the killing it would be attended with the most calamitous consequences. It is from this circumstance that none of these animals have been shot, and, consequently, not examined but at, a distance. They have been generally observed in a sitting posture in the water, none of the lower extremity being discovered until they are disturbed; when, by plunging, the tail appears, and agitates the water to a considerable distance round. They have been always seen employed in smoothing their hair, or stroking their faces and breasts with their hands, or something resembling hands. In this posture, and thus employed, they have been frequently taken for Indian women bathing.”
1822: A young man, John McIsaac of Scotland, testifies under oath that he saw an animal that had a white upper half with the shape of the human body, while the other half was covered with scales and had a tail, according to a story in the London Mirror. The sighting took place in 1811. McIsaac describes the creature as having long, light brown hair, being between four and five feet long, and having fingers close together.
“It continued above water for a few minutes, and then disappeared,” according to the article. “The Minister of Campbeltown, and the Chamberlain of Mull, attest his examination, and declare that they know no reason why his veracity should be questioned.”
1830: Villagers at Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland saw a small woman on shore. They tried capturing it, but failed, so they pelted it with rocks. A few days later,its corpse washed ashore, according to Hidden Animals. They then examined it. “The upper part of the body was about the size of a well-developed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast. The hair was long, dark, and glossy, while the skin was white, soft, and tender. The lower part of the body was like a salmon, but without scales.” The creature was buried in a coffin later on.
1842: Phineas Barnum, of Barnum and Brothers fame, got connected with what was said to be a mermaid who had been caught near the Feejee Islands in the South Pacific. There is much debate whether the mermaid was a mermaid or something else.
On the supporting side, the New York Sun had a review which in part said: “We’ve seen it! What? Why that Mermaid! The mischief you have! Where? What is it? It’s twin sister to the deucedest looking thing imaginable—half fish, half flesh; and ‘taken by and large,’ the most odd of all oddities earth or sea has ever produced.”
In a portion of an autobiography written by Barnum, published by the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, Barnum says that he obtained the specimen from the estate of a dead sailor, who had purchased it from Japanese sailors.
Barnum recounts going to his naturalist to ascertain the “genuineness of the animal.” His naturalist tells him that he cannot conceive of how it was manufactured, “for he never knew a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands, etc., nor had he knowledge of a fish with such peculiar fins.”
Writes Barnum: “Then why do you suppose it is manufactured?” I inquired. “Because I don’t believe in mermaids,” replied the naturalist. “That is no reason at all,” said I, “and therefore I’ll believe in the mermaid, and hire it.” Barnum showed the animal in his museum in New York and got out of it quite a bit of money.
Others say that the whole thing was a hoax, and that it was created by Japanese artisans.
1857: The Shipping Gazette reported that Scottish seaman had spotted a creature off the coast of Britain.
“We distinctly saw an object about six yards distant from us in the shape of a woman, with full breast, dark complexion, comely face, and fine hair hanging in ringlets over the neck and shoulders. It was about the surface of the water to about the middle, gazing at us and shaking its head. The weather being fine, we had a full view of it and that for three or four minutes,” said John Williamson and John Cameron.
1947: A old fisherman in Scotland reported that he had seen a mermaid in the sea about twenty yards from the shore, sitting combing her hair on a floating herringbox used to preserve live lobsters, according to Sir Arthur Waugh in The Folklore of the Merfolk. “Unfortunately, as soon as she looked round, she realized that she had been seen, and plunged into the sea,” he writes. “But no questioning, says Mr Maclean, could shake the old fisher- man’s conviction: he was adamant that he had seen a mermaid. So one never knows!”
2008: A sighting of a mermaid happened in Suurbraak, a village in the Western Cape of South Africa, reported Aldo Pekeur, a correspondent for the New Zealand Herald. A resident of the village, Daniel Cupido, said he and his friends were next to the river around 11:30 p.m. when they heard something like someone “bashing on a wall.” Cupido went toward the sound, and found a figure “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water”.
Cupido said he tried to help the woman but the woman made “the strangest sound,” which Dina, Cupido’s mother, said was so sorrowful “my heart could take it no more.” The creatures are described as Kaaiman, or half human and half fish creatures living in deep pools. Suurbraak tourism officer Maggy Jantjies said she knew the people who saw the Kaaiman well, and that they did not misuse alcohol.
2009: The reports from dozens of people of seeing mermaids spurred the town council in Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, to offer $1 million to anyone who can prove by photo or capture that mermaids do exist.
“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News. “People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears.”
2012: An official in Zimbabwe said that mermaids were hounding government workers off dam sites in several different areas. Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate committee in March that traditional chiefs were going to perform rituals to get rid off the mermaids believed to live in reservoirs in Gokwe and Mutare, where workers are afraid to go, according to Voice of America. Some workers reportedly went missing while others have refused to go back to install water pumps.
Traditional leader chief Edison Chihota of Mashonaland East told the media outlet that mermaids exist. “As a custodian of the traditional I have no doubt,” chief Chihota said. “For anyone to dispute this is also disputing him or herself.”
Daniel He contributed research to this article
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Tags: Body & Mind, health, Nature
The deep-golden petals of the common marigold Calendula officinalis have been used for millennia as an antiseptic in creams, ointments, poultices, washes, and tinctures. Everyone from soccer moms to mountaineers should have some on hand for occasions when an accident leads to cut or grazed skin, a burn or scald, or crushed body tissue of any kind.
Calendula ointments or creams can bring about such quick healing that it will amaze you. Even in severe trauma, calendula can eliminate any signs of inflammation, throbbing, and infection as early as the following day, without the development of scar tissue.
It is not only the main antiseptic ointment used by herbalists throughout the world, but also the petals contain resins that are anti-fungal as well. It acts to stimulate the lymphatic circulation, reducing swelling in lymphatic nodes and also mobilizes white blood cells, helping to fight infection.
Herbalists use calendula tincture or ointment instead of proprietary antiseptics and iodine tincture, which can be very harsh on the sensitive areas of the body. Since calendula can be applied to sensitive body areas, it is much more useful and effective for conditions such as diaper rash, bed sores, and ulcers of the elderly, or any itchy skin rash.
Making Your Own
While there are many creams and ointments on the market that contain calendula, I find that the best results are obtained from calendula cream or ointment that I have made myself. I use calendula that I have either grown myself or sourced locally so that I can be guaranteed of the amount and its freshness.
If you have not made your own creams or ointments before, calendula is an easy one to start with. Harvest the flower petals after the morning dew has dried and just after the flowers have opened in summer. Dry them at a low temperature and then mix well into the base of your choice—glycerin for creams and beeswax for ointments.
Marigolds are easy to grow, and once they are established in your garden, they will self-seed readily. The flower heads open and close with the rising and setting of the sun, and open flower heads in the morning forecast a fine and sunny day.
Plant marigolds in springtime in a sunny spot in well-drained soil without too much temperature variation. They are well-suited to growing in pots and window boxes. Plant in a standard potting mix combined in equal parts with composted fine bark. Deadhead or harvest the flowers regularly for your creams, as this will encourage continuous flowering.
Be careful not to confuse the medicinal calendula with the African marigold (Tagetes species). If you are unsure, check with your local nursery before attempting to make your own medicines.
A Long History
Calendula has an extremely long history, being first used in Indian and Arabic cultures. The Egyptians made use of its beneficial properties as did the Greeks, who flavored their food with the petals.
This long record of traditional use has commonly included the addition of the petals in soups for their taste, color (used instead of saffron), and of course medicinal properties.
In 17th century Britain, the peasantry considered the petals so important to the making of broth that none were considered well-made without the addition of dried marigold. Among its many other virtues, it was also said to strengthen and comfort the heart.
Traditionally, its principal internal use was for viral infections of the liver and the treatment of varicose veins. But this would have been prescribed with caution, as calendula can stimulate liver function too quickly and lead to nausea.
Calendula also contains high amounts of carotene, which can also be upsetting to the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas if taken in high doses. The plant contains high amounts of potassium, calcium, and sulfur, which together have a tonic effect on the liver, kidneys, muscles, and the heart, while also indirectly affecting the blood-flow rate.
Certainly the herb requires care when prescribed internally, and herbalists only rarely do so.
If you want to experiment with calendula, there are many recipes that include it, and many advise using it the same way the Greeks did—adding it as a garnish to either savory or sweet dishes.
The place it is most useful, however, is as an ointment in the medicine cabinet—the first remedy you should go to for first aid.
Luke Hughes is a classical Western herbalist and horticulturist based in Sydney, Australia.
More in Alternative Health
Tags: Body & Mind, Science
By Leonardo Vintini
This is the second part in a II part series. Click here to read Reality: A Mere Illusion (Part 1)
“To them, I say, the truth would be nothing more than shadows of the imagination.”—Plato, from “The Republic”
Shadows and colors of light are crude projections of a “more real” reality. The universe that we live in presents itself as something even more illusory, where bodies, minds, and planets are parts of a great magic trick without a magician or an audience.
Scientists in Hanover, Germany, working on the GEO 600, which is an instrument that detects gravitational waves, believe they have discovered a “granulation” in space-time that indicates that our universe is nothing more than a giant hologram.
Those responsible for the GEO 600 believe that, in the same way a digital image loses resolution with significant increase in its size, the captured interference in the detector could be interpreted as the universe’s limited resolution of what it’s capable of providing to human eyes. There’s an exact point where the hologram of reality begins to “pixelize” itself.
The scientists suspect that the precision of the GEO 600, capable of detecting variations in longitudinal waves at the subatomic scale, served to discover the tiniest grains that compose the three-dimensional holographic universe, projected from the bidimensional confines of its interior.
You and I, Only Holograms
The idea of a holographic universe isn’t new. In the 1990s, scientists Leonard Susskind and Gerard Hooft suggested that the same principal that makes a two-dimensional image on a flat surface look three-dimensional could be applied to the entire universe.
Then, why do our senses perceive reality in such a distinct and “voluminous” way if we appear to be no more than shadows on a flat screen? The problem could be that our human eyes and our powerful telescope lenses conform to the reality of such a hologram of the rest of the universe.
The second point to consider is that our organic brain can also be found in the illusion, never being able to interpret a universe with a greater or fewer number of dimensions than can be perceived.
Neurophysiologist Karl Pribram, founder of the Center of Cerebral Research at the University of Radford in Virginia, thinks that our brains are holograms interpreting the hologram universe, mathematically constructing a reality interpreting frequencies that come from another dimension—a domain of significant reality that transcends time and space.
Nevertheless, the theory of a holographic universe of only two special dimensions conflicts with multidimensional theories arising from the roots of the superchord theory. Before this mark of a disparate hypothesis, many scientists already suspected that the universe is a hologram or illusion created by particles in the emptiness. However, all of the scientific efforts to comprehend the truth amid the mirage have become trapped in a frustrating array of unprovable theories.
Many vanguard theorists think that the disturbing breach in the field of quantum physics and relativity could explain historically argued phenomena in the scientific field, like those in which the mind doesn’t seem to be associated to the brain—such as near-death experiences, remote vision, and precognition.
In whatever case, Plato’s allegory of the cave would seem to be the most rational option now for explaining these vivid daily experiences that our brains interpret as being real appearances of the world.
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More in Beyond Science
Tags: Body & Mind, health
NEW YORK—The average American takes only 5,117 steps a day—that’s just shy of 1.5 miles. While New Yorkers’ walking habits are poorly studied, anyone who lives in the city knows the distance of their daily trek is well above the national average.
Walking is certainly great for cardiovascular health, mood, and longevity. But before you laud yourself, think of how many of those numerous steps are taken in poorly constructed shoes, hobbled in torturous high heels, or are simply causing you pain.
“Your feet have to last you a lifetime of travel,” said Dr. Paul Betschart, a podiatrist at Midtown Podiatry. “In New York, you have to walk or you go broke—you can’t take a cab everywhere.”
The Foundation of a Healthy Body
“The more steps you take, the more strains you put on your feet, and the more the little problems people have are going to be magnified,” Betschart said. A search on WebMD’s directory turns up 821 podiatrists in the five boroughs, a testament to that statement.
As with anything, the health of any one part of the body is not isolated. Foot problems affect our posture, attitude, and range of motion, which in turn affect everything else.
“Quite often we have people who are overweight, they have foot problems, and can’t exercise,” Betschart said. “If we can get their foot pain under control, they can get their weight under control. If they get their weight under control, they get less foot pain, too.”
Not everyone has such pressing issues related to foot health, but everyone can benefit from taking some preventative measures. Heel pain is the most common complaint, followed by bunions, corns and calluses, and fungal infections—all of which are preventable.
Getting Properly Shod
“You need a shoe that allows you to walk comfortably without injuring yourself,” Betschart said.
Sounds pretty common sense, right? But many women (and men too) sacrifice function for form. Top shoe no-nos are too tight of a toe box, lack of arch support, inadequate cushioning, and improper balance.
The Louboutin-lovers out there don’t have to give up their collections; but do limit heel wear for short distances or indoor use.
“Back 40, 50 years ago, women used to walk around all the time in high heel shoes. Now we’re starting to wear flats more, and wear sneakers to get to and from work if they have a long walk,” Betschart said. “Heels in small doses are probably not too bad.”
But flats aren’t categorically better. Flip flops and ballet-style slippers that don’t provide protection and support for the foot’s structure can also lead to pain and injury.
A Note on Heel Pain
Heel pain is the most common complaint, but is also low-hanging fruit in the realm of solvable problems. For people whose jobs require them to stand or walk all day, it’s a bit harder to prevent, but for the rest of us, it all comes down to protecting the foot, and learning to prevent further harm while reversing the damage.
Heel pain, also known as plantar fasciitis, is an inflammation of the connective tissue that stretches from the base of the toes, across the arch of the foot, to the point at which it inserts into the heel bone. Walking on the edge of the foot is most common cause of plantar fasciitis. Over time, this causes inflammation.
Podiatrists use a variety of methods to correct this. For starters, anti-inflammatory medications and ice packs reduce the pain; orthotic devices adjust the position of the foot; and most importantly, the patient is taught to walk properly with stretching exercises and physical therapy.
Cautions and Considerations
1. Exercise builds up muscles in the feet and legs and improves circulation, which is especially important if you’re getting older or have diabetes.
2. Make sure to dry between the toes to prevent athlete’s foot and other fungal infection.
3. Posture is affected by the foot. Find out whether you have unequal limb length, scoliosis, and other structural strains that might be contributing to foot pain.
4. Summer’s coming—it’s OK to wear sandals, but make sure they provide proper support. Opt for walking shoes for long periods of walking.
5. Use the proper footwear for your sport.
“If you are a runner, wear a running shoe; don’t run around in your Keds—it’s not enough support, not enough cushioning. If you’re playing basketball or tennis, you have to have a court shoe that provides lateral stability [when you’re moving] side to side. A running shoe that has some heel raise to it can cause ankle instability if you’re doing lateral motions,” said Betschart.
6. The barefoot—martial artists, modern dancers—tend to get impact injuries. “People aren’t used to being barefoot in modern society, so the foot is more tender.” Betschart is not against shoes like Vibram Five Fingers, which promote a barefoot feel, but warns that the body needs to transition to a new way of moving. He recommends his colleague Dr. Emily Splichal, who trains people to run barefoot without injury.
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Tags: CCP, Children, China, Society
By Annie Wu
Theoretical legacy of former regime leader Jiang Zemin, the Three Represents, given a silent rebuff.
China’s Ministry of Education on Monday published a directive on its website ordering local education agencies and Party organizations at universities across the country to strengthen the ideological and political education of young university instructors.
The circular, which carried the imprimatur of Party Central in Beijing, was aimed squarely at young people. It highlights the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) growing unease with their prolific use of the Internet, and facility in harnessing social media to expose the misdeeds of officials and join together for common causes.
The notice comes in the wake of an internal Party order to university administrators and professors known as the “7 Don’t Speaks,” which listed topics that were prohibited from being discussed in class, including issues like civil rights, civil society, and freedom of the press. The order was posted and widely circulated on China’s microblogging service, Sina Weibo, earlier this month.
“Both the seven taboos and the latest 16 advisories are new measures of stability maintenance the top leaders introduced because they are realizing there is an unprecedented political crisis, with the young generation being the most powerful threat that could topple the communist regime,” commentator Zhang Lifan told the South China Morning Post.
The recent educational directive, which listed 16 recommendations, noted that “strengthening and improving young teachers’ ideological and political thinking” is imperative because “young university instructors are close in age to their students, frequently interact with them, and have more direct influence on their thinking and actions.” It was jointly issued by the Organization Department of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Education, and the Propaganda Department on May 4, but was published online this Monday.
Constant reference was made in the notice to “improving political thought work” and “strengthening the study of political theory.” These are watchwords of communist doctrine that refer to inculcating strong adherence to and belief in Communist Party precepts, and loyalty to its rule.
These two recent directives targeting the youth population suggest the Chinese regime’s unease with their exposure and growing awareness of issues that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) disapproves of—given the youth’s prolific use of the Internet.
“Both the seven taboos and the latest 16 advisories are new measures of stability maintenance the top leaders introduced because they are realizing there is an unprecedented political crisis, with the young generation being the most powerful threat that could topple the communist regime,” commentator Zhang Lifan told the South China Morning Post.
Wen Zhao, a Canada-based analyst of Chinese affairs with NTD Television, told The Epoch Times that this move by the CCP is to demonstrate that the Party still asserts its control over public opinion. “First, this is a kind of declaration, that is, the Chinese Communist Party will not only stubbornly hold onto its control over expression and ideology, but will continually strengthen its control. This is displayed for the rest of society to see, but also to those elements within the Party who are not resolute and firm in their Party ideology and loyalty.”
However, Wen believes that while the CCP’s attitude is more aggressive as of late, the Party does not enjoy a corresponding increase in its ability to control and censor. “From the Southern Weekend incident earlier this year, to the Masanjia [Labor Camp] being exposed in April, this year has shown that the CCP’s ability to control expression and ideology has been constantly challenged and weakened.”
In the first incident, journalists and editors at the iconic newspaper went on strike after the provincial propaganda chief overstepped the boundaries of acceptable censorship; in the second, a lengthy investigative report was published about torture at one of the most notorious labor camps in China, which primarily targeted practitioners of Falun Gong—discussion of which remains political taboo.
Wen Zhao said that as the CCP faces more challenges, more frequently, it will feel the need to test its grip over public opinion with such orders.
The prevalence of such ideological rhetoric is also raising doubts over the ability of the regime’s new leader, Xi Jinping, to bring about true reform, despite his calls for rule of law and upholding the constitution since taking power last November. “In front of the public, Xi Jinping wants to portray an open-minded image, but to certain people within the party, he will display a conservative side… Since he took power, his primary task is actually to promote economic reform in order to ease societal tensions, while consolidating his power.”
Scholars noted that in the first of the 16 points, reference was made to Marxist and Leninist ideology, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping notion of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and former Party leader Hu Jintao’s “scientific development concept.” But no mention was made of previous regime leader Jiang Zemin’s trademark theoretical contribution to the communist canon, the enigmatic “Three Represents.”
Yu Maochun, a scholar of Chinese politics, strategy, and history at the U.S. Naval War College, said he was “very surprised” by the omission. “Jiang Zemin’s work style was flamboyant, undisciplined, and boastful,” he said, adding that Xi Jinping may be distancing himself from such traits by leaving Jiang’s theory off the list. Ding Li, a researcher with Chinascope, a news service that translates and analyses Communist Party propaganda, said it was “extremely weird.” He added: “If this is not a mistake, the missing of the mention of the ‘three represents’ is equivalent to saying that Jiang Zemin is no longer qualified to leave his legacy in the Party’s history.”
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Tags: archaeology, Chinese culture, funny things, Science, technology
In the early 1900s, divers looking for sponges in the Antikythera area between Crete and Greece came upon one of the most mysterious discoveries the world has ever seen—the Antikythera Mechanism.
The device was being carried on a Roman ship that was wrecked between 80 and 60 B.C. The ship was believed to have been sailing to the Anatolian Peninsula (also called Asia Minor) to what is now Turkey and was carrying some of the finest works of art of its day. The divers found over 200 amphorae, or ceramic jars, which were still intact on the sea floor.
After the device was found, it wasn’t until 50 years later that an Australian archaeologist using X-rays began to discover that there was a lot more to the mystery piece than was originally thought. However, due to limited technology at the time, the actual function of the Antikythera Mechanism wasn’t known until decades later.
In 2005, using sophisticated software and technology, it was finally discovered that the Antikythera Mechanism was an astronomical device, and by using it, one could navigate one’s position at sea by charting the stars in the skies.
It was also an astrological device. By setting it to a particular day, such as a person’s birth date, one could see how the stars and planets would line up for that person. Using it as a timeline, one could then tell that person’s future by looking at the planets’ alignment for decades to come.
The device could also predict lunar phases, lunar eclipses, and the positions of the sun and moon for years to follow. Later it was also found that the device could predict the motion of the planets, and cast horoscopes for planning future festivals and events in the ancient world.
Mathias Buttet, director of Research and Development at the Swiss watchmaking company Hublot, said, “It includes ingenious features which are not found in modern watchmaking.” Buttet has managed to recreate a smaller version of the device the size of an average wrist watch.
Altogether, the Antikythera Mechanism used about 30 gear wheels, with very sophisticated and intricate parts that all interconnect. Researchers are still not sure who created the device or what its true purpose ultimately was.
The Antikythera Mechanism, along with other artifacts found at the shipwreck, can be viewed at the exhibition “The Antikythera Shipwreck: the Ship, the Treasures, the Mechanism,” which will continue to run at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece, from now through Aug. 31, 2013.
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- Reality: A Mere Illusion (Part 1)
- Chinese Axes Polished Better in 4,500 B.C. Than Today
More in Beyond Science
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, censorship, China, environmental issues, Food, health, Society, sustainable development
By Gu Chunqiu
Following outrage among netizens, demands by Beijing attorneys, and media pressure, the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources recently issued a report on the quality of the nation’s groundwater. The report has failed to address the scope or the severity of the problem, say critics.
Concern about groundwater seized the public’s attention in early February after blog posts by the journalist Dong Fei about the pumping of industrial waste water underground in eastern China’s Shandong Province. Chemical and paper plants in Jiangsu Province, just south of Shangdong, and in Huabei (a region of several provinces in northern China) were also reported using wells to dispose of their waste water.
By mid-February 2.9 million netizens published posts with pictures of water pollution in their hometowns in response to a request from Dong.
Three Beijing attorneys then publicly requested that the authorities publish official data on China’s groundwater pollution and media in China took up the issue.
In later March, a 400-page report titled “2011 Data on Groundwater Quality at Nationally Monitored Sites” appeared.
Environmental scientist Zhao Zhangyuan , a retired member of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the state-run Jinghua Times (a subsidiary of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily) that the report used outdated 1993 standards, which do not test for many organic pollutants that make up the bulk of modern pollution.
The Nanjing Survey Center of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences monitored groundwater near the Yangtze River Delta—a heavily urbanized area in eastern China that includes Shanghai—and found that it contained cancer-causing chemicals such as dichloroethane and dichloromethane, and other organic chemicals known to affect the nervous system, kidneys, and liver, such as toluene and chloroform. None of these chemicals are covered under the 1993 standards.
Available evidence suggests that China suffers from groundwater pollution on a much larger scale than the authorities have been willing to disclose.
Studies done by the China Geological Survey since 2006 show that in the Huabei region, only 22.2 percent of the region’s groundwater was safe to drink. Groundwater makes up the bulk of the region’s drinking water supply.
The study found that throughout the region, groundwater at shallow levels was found to be heavily polluted. Although the groundwater at deeper levels was found to be cleaner, 12.86 percent of it was found to be polluted as well.
According to the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, a Shenzhen-based think tank, China will increasingly turn to groundwater sources for its drinking water supplies between now and 2017, due to the country’s relative lack of water resources.
The research institute projects that approximately 70 percent of the Chinese population, or over 400 out of China’s 660 cities, will draw their drinking water primarily from groundwater sources.
China’s rural population draws most of its drinking water supplies from wells, which tap into shallow-level groundwater sources. However the indiscriminate use of fertilizer and pesticide has severely polluted groundwater in the countryside.
“Cancer villages” have appeared in Henan, Anhui, Sichuan, Guangdong, Heilongjiang, and Shandong provinces.
According to a Voice of America report, groundwater in the Huabei region has been found to contain heavy metals far exceeding allowable limits, including mercury, chromium, cadmium, and lead.
In addition, organic substance pollution has appeared in: the southern suburbs of Beijing; Shijiazhuang, the capital of northern China’s Hebei Province; Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province; and the Yuxi Plain in Henan Province. The main pollutants are benzene, carbon tetrachloride, and trichloroethylene, all of which can cause cancer and other health problems.
Besides these pollutants, at least 100 million people in China are drinking groundwater with dangerous levels of arsenic, which can cause cardiovascular problems and an increased risk of cancer, as well as fluorine, which is known to cause bone deformities in children and kidney problems.
According to the Voice of America report, companies throughout China have been digging wells for the sole purpose of discharging industrial effluent into the groundwater for the past 20 years.
Chinese netizens have since gone online to express their unhappiness over the issue. On Sina Weibo—a popular microblog service similar to Twitter—a user named Wang Pan wrote, “Large businesses are heartlessly pumping pollutants into our groundwater supply, and yet the government, blinded by political goals, has ignored and even openly tolerated this.
“Our rivers and streams suffer from the pollution of surface water, but our very water sources suffer from the pollution of groundwater. How is this different from nuclear waste? This will end the lives of our future generations. When there is no more clean water left in China, what will be the use of having GDP?”
Wang Pan’s account was removed shortly after the comment was posted, showing the regime’s unwillingness to allow free discussion of the problem.
According to Fan Xiao, a geologist and chief engineer at the Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, China currently lacks official regulations on the discharge of wastewater into groundwater sources, and state agencies lack the capability to enforce regulations.
“[We] are heavily reliant on our groundwater sources, and if they become polluted, cleaning them up will be virtually impossible,” Fan said.
Rapid urbanization has driven the growth of both the extent and severity of mainland China’s groundwater pollution problems. Key to this is the communist regime’s single-minded pursuit of GDP growth.
According to the 2012 Chinese Cancer Registry Annual Report, due to extreme levels of environmental pollution, there are 3.5 million new cases of cancer in mainland China every year, resulting in 2.5 million deaths annually. This is the equivalent of 8,550 new cases of cancer being diagnosed every day.
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Tags: Body & Mind, books, CCP, censorship, China, Culture, human rights, Society
A former senior editor for the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda mouthpiece collected the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize Wednesday night.
The book award is given by the libertarian-leaning think tank to acknowledge recent works that “best reflect Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty.” It comes with a $50,000 cash prize.
Chinese journalist and historian Yang Jisheng’s book, “Tombstone,” was published in English last year; it is a comprehensive account of the Great Chinese Famine from 1958 to 1962, during which his father starved to death among over 36 million other peasants.
At the time, Chairman Mao attributed the tragedy to “the three years of natural calamities,” but Yang, through his own experiences and 15 years of research while working for Xinhua, learned the truth: to exponentially increase grain and steel production during the so-called Great Leap Forward, Mao expended the lives of countless rural workers.
As grain was sent to the cities and abroad, Chinese in the countryside were prevented from leaving to find food. Desperate, they tried to subsist on things like clay, elm bark, and bird droppings; some parents even ended up eating their own children.
“Mao’s powers expanded from the people’s minds to their stomachs,” Yang recently told the Wall Street Journal. “Whatever the Chinese people’s brains were thinking and what their stomachs were receiving were all under the control of Mao. . . . His powers extended to every inch of the field, and every factory, every workroom of a factory, every family in China.”
In his 1944 book “The Road to Serfdom,” Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek had called this approach the “fatal conceit” of socialism, contrasting it with a free market, which allows producers to match prices to consumers’ preferences without coercion or waste of human and natural resources.
Hayek’s book was translated into Chinese in 1962, but could only be read by Party leaders wanting to study a critique of socialism. Years later, a censored version became available to the Chinese public, which greatly influenced Yang’s thinking on events that had unfolded since the Mao era.
Manhattan Institute founder Sir Anthony Fisher spoke with Hayek on how to reverse the erosion of freedom, who advised beginning “on the battlefield of ideas.”
In “Tombstone,” Yang said that the totalitarian regime was the root cause of the famine. In a more open system, people would have realized immediately, and leaders would have modified mistaken policies, he said.
During the event in New York, Yang explained the significance of the name he chose for the book. “There are four levels of meaning to the book title–first it’s the tombstone of my father, who died of starvation during that time; second it’s the tombstone of the 36 million Chinese, who died during those three years of starvation; third I hoped it would be a tombstone for the system that allowed so many people to die of starvation; and fourth, due to the danger I was in while writing, I thought it might be my own tombstone.”
Although he supports democracy and freedom of information, Yang questions how soon these can come to China while the Communist Party still holds power.
“If a people cannot face their history, these people won’t have a future,” he told the Journal. “That was one of the purposes for me to write this book. I wrote a lot of hard facts, tragedies. I wanted people to learn a lesson, so we can be far away from the darkness, far away from tragedies, and won’t repeat them.”
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Tags: Body & Mind, health, psychology
NEW YORK—No doubt you have personally experienced the benefits of a well-designed building—just as you have also been troubled or frustrated by one that is designed poorly, even if you couldn’t put your finger on why. Research shows that the design of a building could affect your health or even be an aid in your healing process.
Age-old design concepts aim to provide better living and work environments. Basic design principles include natural lighting, proper ventilation, and something as simple and obvious as a good view. A lot of these principles have been ignored over the past 50 years, mostly for financial reasons, lack of interest, and simplistic beliefs such as “bigger is better.”
Sustainable design has been of growing interest to architects and clients across the building industry. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines have played a key role in reprioritizing the importance of healthily designed buildings. More evidence is coming forth to prove the effectiveness of a well-designed building.
Anastasia Harrison, director of Sustainability at design firm Gensler Associates, has more than 22 years of professional experience in architectural design and LEED consulting. At a recent seminar, she talked about research in to the benefits of green buildings. For example, 80 percent feel more comfortable and more at home in green buildings; 29 percent have a higher satisfaction rate and are hence more actively engaged; and the number of sick days in green buildings are reduced by 2–5 percent per year.
A Good View Is Good for Your Health
Views are also proving to aid the healing process. A study conducted by scientist Robert Olbrich over 10 years compared patients. One-half had views of brick walls while the other half had a view of nature. The latter were able to heal faster, and their stay time was one day shorter, according to Harrison.
Harrison described the considerations that went into designing a cancer institute in Arizona. They asked themselves, “How can we take people to the outside, or bring the outside into them. … So there are interior gardens and exterior gardens?” Simple design considerations that orient toward views include gardens on site, and those that alter the building form to allow views from deeper within the buildings make a difference.
Other psychological studies by Thomas Joseph Doherty were able to prove that the effect of well-designed buildings could lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, lower stress, sharpen mental states, and lessen hyperactivity experienced by children while suffering.
These concepts are actually not groundbreaking. These are simple concepts that we have known for centuries. Consider the courtyard castles and monasteries of Europe, or the classic buildings of Rome surrounding open forums. All these enable greater connection to the outdoors, natural light, and good ventilation.
As environmental conditions worsen and health problems abound, there is more of an effort to find the causes. Reintegrating simple environmental considerations in today’s buildings is one solution.
“Improving the health of our planet is intrinsically linked to our own health. … The unprecedented developing drive over the past 50 years is putting unsustainable pressures on our planet and our health,” said Breeze Glazer, who works in architecture and design firm Perkins + Will.
Tags: Body & Mind, Economy, Society
SAN FRANCISCO—At age 31, Ashish Thakkar has gone from being a penniless civil war refugee to heading a multi-million dollar pan-African conglomerate. He has enough wealth to be known as Africa’s youngest billionaire. But when it comes to wealth and business, Thakkar has his own view.
Thakkar’s parents, originally from India, were forced to leave Uganda in 1972 during the expulsion of Asians by then-president Idi Amin. They fled to the United Kingdom, and this is where Thakkar was born. When he was 12, his parents decided to sell their business and move the family to Rwanda.
But a peaceful life didn’t last long. When the Rwandan genocide broke out in 1994, Thakkar and his family were forced to flee the country—through the now famous hotel Rwanda—to Uganda.
“It was, of course, horrific … Today, I’m probably thankful I got to see that, because it was an experience which has reshaped my thinking and my philosophy,” said Thakkar in an interview with The Epoch Times in San Francisco.
In Uganda, Thakkar and his family started to pick up their lives again. Eager to start his own business, Thakkar convinced his parents when he was 15 to allow him to drop out of school and start his own business. His parents consented. He managed to borrow $6000 and rent a small store in a nearby shopping mall where he started to sell computers. He frequently flew back and forth from Uganda to Dubai to purchase the computer supplies he sold in Uganda.
Eventually Thakkar settled in Dubai where he founded the Mara Group. Thakkar has proven to be extremely proficient in business. He has grown the group to now operate in 26 countries, 19 of them in Africa, and to employ more than 7,000 people. It’s ten subsidiaries operate in the communication technology, real estate, hospitality, and manufacturing sectors.
But despite heading a multi-million dollar conglomerate and ambitions to become a defining force in strengthening Africa’s business power, Thakar is not your average entrepreneur.
A ‘Clean Intention and Clean Heart’ in Business
At the center of his personal and professional vision are what he describes as the core values of “truth, love, and compassion.”
“People should never underestimate these values. It’s so important; they were applicable a hundred years ago, and they are still applicable today,” he said.
“When you do things with clean intention and clean heart, it always works out. I am a strong believer of that.”
They are values that Thakkar relates back to his spiritual belief as well as what he went through in Rwanda as a teenager. It helps him in dealing with the problems he encounters in doing business.
“Some things don’t work out, and they’re not meant to work out. And the things that do, are meant to … I think honesty, being transparent, being truthful is the key thing,” he said.
While the first few years of his career were all about the bottom line, Thakkar says that has now transformed into the idea of making a difference and how to “really move the needle on a global scale” for Africa.
And it is this needle that Thakkar is now tirelessly trying to move—hoping to give young African entrepreneurs the same opportunities he had.
“If you’ve been given the tools to help others, then you must now help others,” he said.
Supporting African Youth
A report published earlier this month by the United Nation’s International Labor Organisation (ILO) states that on average 12 percent of youth in Africa are unemployed, a number that exceeds 50 percent in some individual African countries. It’s a number that the ILO doesn’t expect to change anytime soon.
Thakkar believes that the answer for Africa lays in its small- and medium-sized businesses. While these private enterprises have the potential to provide a large number of jobs, many fail. Thakkar wants to improve the success-rate of these businesses by guiding them and setting them up for success.
In 2009, Thakkar created the Mara foundation to provide young entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to succeed in Africa, as well as to empower and inspire them. Part of the foundation’s program connects successful entrepreneurs as mentors with new entrepreneurs.
“I’m a home product, I’m made in Africa. So I’m not someone who has done it in Silicon Valley, who quickly made an amazing amount of money by creating the right app. This was hardcore training on the ground in Africa,” he said.
But the last thing Thakkar wants to see is wealth become a goal in and of itself for these young entrepreneurs.
“The measurement of wealth is the worst thing … The driving force being just purely wealth, I don’t get it. It doesn’t excite me,” Thakkar said.
According to Thakkar, impact, not wealth, should be the defining factor what inspires young entrepreneurs. “I want to celebrate the people who are creating the most impact,” Thakkar said.
Thakkar is now frequently called “Africa’s youngest billionaire,” a title he himself calls unfortunate. “Some things you can control, some things you just can’t,” Thakkar said about the lists published on the internet that list him as a billionaire. When asked whether the statement is true in essence Thakkar declined to comment.
“We were on the top philanthropists in Africa list, that is more of an exciting thing for me. That inspires others, you know I want to be on that list.”
Thakkar said he believes that the fact that wealth is not an exciting factor for him comes from what he and his family went through.
“No matter how much money I would have had, I would have still been a refugee. … I wouldn’t have been able to stop that with my wealth … I still could have got shot in crossfire,” Thakar said. “Money can’t buy everything.”
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