Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

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This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or
at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even
more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by
those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign
enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time
over the next four years, we’re screwed.
~ David Brooks

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Brazil becomes antipoverty showcase

The country’s Bolsa Familia program – which pays poor mothers to keep their children in school and follow healthcare rules – is reducing poverty.

Brazil becomes antipoverty showcase |

Of course, it costs too much for the richest country in the world to do anything like that.  Besides, who wants poor people who can read, write, think for themselves and see through lies?

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Literacy Is The Next Big Step Toward A True Democratic Election In The US

Forget Red vs. Blue — It’s the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda | Media and Technology | AlterNet

We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and cliches. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.

The illiterate rarely vote…. AlterNet

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Cloning Breakthrough Interesting, But No Miracle

“There is hope in bringing Ted Williams back, after all,” cloning and stem cell expert John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania said in an e-mail. The family of Williams, the Boston Red Sox hitter, had his body frozen by cryogenics firm Alcor after he died in 2002.

Gearhart was only half-joking and said the study “may now stimulate the small industry of freezing parts of us before we die to bring us back in the future.”

Frozen mice cloned – are woolly mammoths next? | Reuters

While this is unquestionablye another breakthrough in biochemical science that will certainly have (presently unknown) applications, the above statement is nonsense.  No one can be “brought back” by cloning.  At most, one could produce a similar-looking person with identical genetics.  Individuals, however, are a product mostly of their environment and the way they are raised, and there is no way to control those all-important factors to reproduce a famous ballplayer — or a saint.  Nutritional differences alone would prevent it, among literally billions of other things.

Scientists who make remarks like this (even in jest) do a great disservice by further misinforming an already ignorant public who are afraid of processes they don’t begin to understand properly.  They also raise the hopes of people who need to be working through their grief, not prolonging it.

I wonder if this guy has money in one of those companies?  Hmmmmm?

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Broker turned monk offers home truths to needy

Five years ago, after failing to find happiness in the life he lived, the Christian Orthodox who hadn’t practiced as a child quit the New York-based market for a dilapidated Bulgarian monastery that once served as a communist labor camp.

Retaining one luxury — a mobile phone, which connects him with both potential donors and former trading colleagues — he has brought the rigor of his broking experience to his faith.

Broker turned monk offers home truths to needy –

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Buddhism in the Classroom

Kahane hopes his lessons will connect with his audience in a very personal way.

That’s why he brought principles adapted from Zen Buddhism into the lecture hall. Large undergraduate sessions in particular can be alienating for students, he says. In the age of the iPod, a professor has to find creative strategies for engaging his audience.

Kahane’s class may begin with meditation, transition to a discussion about fair-trade coffee and end with a period of free writing.

Although not every student feels comfortable with the unorthodox approach, there’s always a waiting list to get into one of Kahane’s courses.

Great teachers deserve — and get — recognition

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Palin V.P. Nomination Puts Pentecostalism in the Spotlight

From the time she was a teenager until 2002, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attended a church affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal Christian denomination in the U.S.

Pentecostalism emphasizes such practices as speaking in tongues, prophesying, divine healing and other miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit, which it believes are as valid today as they were in the early Christian church. Prominent Democrats, including CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee Leah Daughtry and Director of Religious Affairs for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign Joshua Dubois, also are associated with Pentecostal Christianity.

The Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in the summer of 2007, makes it possible to examine the demographic, religious and political characteristics of Pentecostals in the U.S.

Pew Forum: Palin V.P. Nomination Puts Pentecostalism in the Spotlight

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Racism, pure and simple…

A recent article by Jacob Weisberg in Slate opines that the only reason Obama may not be elected is racial prejudice. I think he’s right. What do you think?

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world’s judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn’t put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

Read the whole article »

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Webcast of Buddhist Retreat

Konchong Norbu, an American Buddhist monk living in Mongolia, is on retreat in the US this month. He shares the following on his blog, Dreaming Of Danzan Ravjaa

Update: Hey, here’s something cool I just discovered. They’re offering live webcasts of practices and teachings from the retreat! Click here for schedule and broadcast site.

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In The Footsteps of the Buddha

Tricycle are pleased to announce their upcoming pilgrimage to India, In the Footsteps of the Buddha, taking place January 5-20, 2009. This exciting trip, Tricycle’s fourth to India, will focus on Buddhism’s beginnings and the places where the Buddha lived, taught, and practiced. To request an Information Packet, or to register, please contact Development Assistant Alison Spiegel at 212-645-1143 or Early registration is encouraged, as space is limited.