Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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How We Fuelled the Deadliest War in the World — and It’s Starting Again

There are two stories about how this war began — the official story, and the true story. The official story is that after the Rwandan genocide, the Hutu mass murderers fled across the border into Congo. The Rwandan government chased after them. But it’s a lie. How do we know? The Rwandan government didn’t go to where the Hutu genocidaires were; not at first. They went to where Congo’s natural resources were — and began to pillage them. They even told their troops to work with any Hutus they came across. Congo is the richest country in the world for gold, diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, and more. Everybody wanted a slice – so six other countries invaded.

These resources were not being stolen to be used in Africa. They were being seized so they could be sold on to us. The more we bought, the more the invaders stole — and slaughtered. The rise of mobile phones caused a surge in deaths, because the coltan they contain is found primarily in Congo. The UN named the international corporations it believed were involved: Anglo-America, Standard Chartered Bank, De Beers and more than 100 others (they all deny the charges). But instead of stopping these corporations, our governments demanded the UN stop criticising them. …

How We Fuelled the Deadliest War in the World — and It’s Starting Again – Yahoo! News


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Buddhism is Calling … on Your Cell?

The Buddhist gold-plated cell phone is meant to appeal to the largely Buddhist population of China complete with jade adornments, traditional Buddhist instrumental music, and Buddha-vision which offers an always available video image of the great Buddha. The battery is even embossed with a likeness of Buddha. Fitted with a lot of fabulous tools and options this technology is certainly bridging into new territory.

[Click the link for larger pictures. You won’t regret it.]

Buddhism is Calling … on Your Cell? – Luxist


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From the Environment News Service


FUTUREGEN, WORLD’S CLEANEST COAL PLANT, SITED IN ILLINOIS

WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2007 (ENS)A consortium of some of
the world’s largest coal companies and electric utilities has selected
the small east-central Illinois town of Mattoon for FutureGen, a $1.4
billion coal-fueled power plant that is planned as the cleanest in the
world. The FutureGen Alliance today announced that Mattoon was chosen
over three other sites in Tuscola, Illinois; Jewett, Texas; and Odessa,
Texas.


http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2007/2007-12-18-01.asp



TWO NEW MAMMALS FOUND IN REMOTE NEW GUINEA

ARLINGTON, Virginia, December 18, 2007 (ENS)A miniscule possum
and an enormous rat were recorded by scientists as probable new species
on a recent expedition to a remote and virtually unknown area of
Indonesia in the pristine wilderness of western New Guinea’s Foja
Mountains. “It’s comforting to know that there is a place on earth so
isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature,” said
Conservation International Vice President Bruce Beehler, who led the
expedition.


http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2007/2007-12-18-03.asp



SENATE PASSES FARM BILL STRONG ON BIOENERGY, CONSERVATION

WASHINGTON, DC, December 17, 2007 (ENS) – The U.S. Senate Friday
approved a $286 billion farm bill shepherded through by Senator Tom
Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Agriculture Committee. The measure
improves farm income protection and makes investments for the future in
energy, conservation, nutrition and rural development initiatives. The
final vote count was 79-14, more than enough to turn back a veto threat
by President Bush.


http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2007/2007-12-17-01.asp



COUNTRIES AGREE TO WRITE NEW CLIMATE ACTION PACT

NUSA DUA Bali, Indonesia, December 15, 2007 (ENS)Governments
meeting in Bali today agreed to launch negotiations towards a
strengthened international climate change pact as a successor to the
Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012. “This is a real
breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to
successfully fight climate change,” said Indonesian Environment
Minister and President of the conference, Rachmat Witoelar.


http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/dec2007/2007-12-15-01.asp


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Schwarzenegger says he will declare fiscal emergency

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said he would declare a fiscal emergency in California so he and state lawmakers can start cutting programs before shrinking tax revenue from the collapsed housing market leaves the state with up to a $14 billion shortfall over the next year-and-a-half.

The emergency will likely mean cuts to schools, colleges, prisons and aid programs for the poor, elderly, and out-of-work that have already spent nearly half their promised funding for the year.

Schwarzenegger says he will declare fiscal emergency


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Is a Hummer more energy-efficient than a Prius?

Some wonderful urban legends have sprung up about the Prius and its battery, the most colorful being this claim about the hybrid being less ecofriendly than a Hummer. Some of the more thrilling chapters originated in one study done by a marketing company that was not peer-reviewed but, unfortunately, was widely quoted in the media. Writer George Will, who is syndicated in 450 papers, penned an April column on the topic, headlined “Use a Hummer to Crush a Prius.” The story was also pumped into the Internet-disinformation pipeline by gleeful bullies for whom size is apparently quite important, and before long the Prius had morphed into a sort of traveling toxic-waste dump trailing clouds of diabolical fossil-fuel exhaust.

You can disprove most of the false claims by doing a bit of math. … Mr. Green


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Not Pissed About the Sub-prime Crisis Yet? This Should Do It.

An analysis for The Wall Street Journal of more than $2.5 trillion in subprime loans made since 2000 shows that as the number of subprime loans mushroomed, an increasing proportion of them went to people with credit scores high enough to often qualify for conventional loans with far better terms.

In 2005, the peak year of the subprime boom, the study says that
borrowers with such credit scores got more than half — 55% — of all
subprime mortgages that were ultimately packaged into securities for
sale to investors, as most subprime loans are. The study by First
American LoanPerformance, a San Francisco research firm, says the
proportion rose even higher by the end of 2006, to 61%. The figure was
just 41% in 2000, according to the study. Even a significant number of
borrowers with top-notch credit signed up for expensive subprime loans,
the firm’s analysis found.  Subprime Debacle Traps Even Very Credit-Worthy – WSJ.com


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A deeply green city confronts its energy needs and nuclear worries — and money

FORT COLLINS, Colorado: This city takes pride in being green, from its official motto, “Where renewal is a way of life,” to its Climate Wise energy program, which helps local businesses reduce the carbon emissions that scientists say can contribute to global warming.

But now two proposed energy projects are exposing the hard place that communities like this across the country are likely to confront in years to come as the tangled nuances of thinking globally come back to bite.

Both projects would do exactly what the city proclaims it wants, helping to produce zero-carbon energy. But one involves crowd-pleasing, feel-good solar power, and the other is a uranium mine, which has a base of support here about as big as a pinkie.

A deeply green city confronts its energy needs and nuclear worries – International Herald Tribune


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Target Stores to Phase Out Vinyl Plastic Products

The retail chain is been persuaded by the arguments of the New York-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice and a coalition of health and environmental organizations that mounted an anti-PVC campaign in October 2006, complete with a blowup plastic yellow duck that is displayed at protest actions in front of stores

Testing has detected toxic lead and phthalates and in a broad range of PVC consumer products, including toys, lunchboxes, baby bibs, jewelry, garden hoses, mini blinds, Christmas trees, and electronics.

Target Stores to Phase Out Vinyl Plastic Products

There are even more cogent (although less compelling) arguments against PVC.


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Carbon Offsets: The New Cure for Enviroguilt

Airlines from Virgin Blue to Quantas have been touting new ecofriendly programs under which passengers paralyzed by enviroguilt over all of those jet-fueled carbon dioxide emissions can pay an extra carbon offset fee for tickets. The money these passengers pay — sometimes as little as $1 — is supposed to go to renewable energy or unspecified green causes and therefore make airline travel carbon neutral.

Carbon offset fees may be new, but the underlying notion goes back to the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church sold wealthy people indulgences to offset the spiritual cost of their sins and assure a place for them in heaven.

AlterNet: Environment: Carbon Offsets: The New Cure for Enviroguilt


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A restaurant with no checks

Some folks may wonder why I so often link to the Christian Science Monitor.  It’s simply one of the best deep-reporting newspapers in the world, is why, and those folks understand dharma, whether they know it or not.  Witness this article…

Berkeley, Calif. – Patrons of Karma Kitchen don’t need to fight for the check at the end of a meal. There isn’t one. Instead, the “guests” of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, “Have a lovely evening.” Inside a bookmarker-sized card states: “In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!”

A restaurant with no checks | csmonitor.com


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Think Outside The Bottle — Take The Pledge

Bottled water corporations are changing the very way people think about water. Though many bottled water brands come from the same source as public tap water, they are marketed as somehow more pure. What’s more – bottled water corporations sell water back to the public at thousands of times the cost. Plastic bottles also require massive amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport. Billions of these bottles wind up in landfills every year.

You can help reverse this trend. At events and over online networks tens of thousands are supporting the efforts of local officials to reduce the social impact and environmental harm of bottled water by prioritizing public water systems. Taking the Think Outside the Bottle Pledge is quick, easy, and sends the message that water is a human right, not a commodity.    Take the pledge!


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Surge in exports buoys U.S. economy

The largest US exports last year: nuclear power plants, followed by electrical machinery, vehicles, airplanes, and medical equipment. The trade situation has shifted so dramatically, Mr. Zandi says, that the US is now exporting lumber to Canada for the first time in 25 years. 

Why does this not strike me as a good thing, with the exception of the medical equipment?  The US, as usual, is on the cutting edge of despoiling the planet.

Surge in exports buoys U.S. economy | csmonitor.com


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A Conversation With Sir Richard Branson

In the midst of their conversation on the TED stage, Richard Branson tells Chris Anderson a surprising fact: He’s dyslexic, and did terribly at school. The revelation from this entrepreneur and billionaire touches on a common TED theme: the many ways we can succeed, and the many ways there are to be educated.

Richard Branson: Life at 30,000 feet
When Richard Branson was at school, his headmaster predicted he would wind up either a millionaire or in jail. Since then, he’s done both. Here he
talks to TED’s Chris Anderson about the ups and the downs of his career, from his multibillionaire success to his multiple near-death experiences. Watch this talk >>


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The Geopolitical Foundations of Blackwater

By George Friedman

For the past three weeks, Blackwater, a private security firm under contract to the U.S. State Department, has been under intense scrutiny over its operations in Iraq. The Blackwater controversy has highlighted the use of civilians for what appears to be combat or near-combat missions in Iraq. Moreover, it has raised two important questions: Who controls these private forces and to whom are they accountable?

The issue is neither unique to Blackwater nor to matters of combat. There have long been questions about the role of Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, in providing support services to the military. The Iraq war has been fought with fewer active-duty troops than might have been expected, and a larger number of contractors relative to the number of troops. But how was the decision made in the first place to use U.S. nongovernmental personnel in a war zone? More important, how has that decision been implemented?
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