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Thursday, March 19, 2009

34 000 Children Die Every Day

It is difficult to comprehend, but we live in a world where 34 000 children under the age of five die every day due to hunger and preventable diseases. That's 500 busloads of children, simply dumped the same way large companies dump tonnes of perfectly good food to keep prices up.

The terrible thing is that we are so desensitised that news stories such as Britney Spears' haircut or Paris Hilton's new $5000 dress get more attention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Four AU/UN Peacekeepers Wounded at El Geneina

This photo was taken by me in July 2006 when I was stationed at El Geneina. It shows a Grizzly APC, which is used by Canada and has been given to the AU to use during patrols. The Grizzly is capable of withstanding .50 calibre rounds and is mainly used to escort Military Observers and NGO's (if the NGO's ask for an escort, which they usually avoid).

Four Peacekeepers wounded in Darfur Attack

KHARTOUM, March 10 (Reuters) - Darfur gunmen ambushed United Nations and African Union peacekeepers, wounding four, officials said on Tuesday, in the first serious violence since an international arrest warrant for Sudan's president was issued.
The joint UNAMID peacekeeping force said the attack marked a worrying escalation in attacks against its troops.
Unknown armed men opened fire late on Monday on a UNAMID patrol returning to el-Geneina, the main town in west Darfur close to the border with Chad, said spokesman Noureddine Mezni.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir earlier this month, accusing him of war crimes during nearly six years of fighting in Darfur.
Some analysts have said the warrant could spark more violence in the western region, where peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of a conflict involving rebels, government militias, bandits and rival tribes.
"There have been numerous car-jackings and attempts to steal in west Darfur," said Mezni. "But this attack on our peacekeepers marks a worrying escalation. We are in Darfur to keep the peace and this is totally unacceptable."
The four soldiers, one reportedly in a serious condition, were flown to the peacekeepers' base in El Fasher, North Darfur for treatment, he added.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Discuss Religion

For those who are not South African, recently a storm broke over what some would term blasphemous cartoons run in the UCT Rag magazine Sax Appeal. As an ex-Christian I agree that some of the cartoons may have been blasphemous to Christians, but now those who were discussing religion freely in the past are standing back as they are afraid of the way Christians will act towards them questioning the Christian Religion. Think about it; the day we stop discussing religion is the day when we too have turned into a Fundamentalist Christian/Islamic/Jewish (insert other religions here) Society where one group of people decides for everybody. Not in my lifetime in this country.

Please discuss religion and ignore those who go out of their way to prove others wrong in a hateful manner. The day we see the similarities between us instead of our differences is what we should be aiming for. It is probably going to be a long painful process, but I for one believe someday, maybe in a century, maybe in a millennium that is where we will be; unless of course we have wiped ourselves out with nuclear weapons before then.

Remember that the central message of all major religions is love.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Gods of Greed

Their greatness lost in an age past
Values exchanged for golden glint
Belief not in life of mother, or soldier
Freedom lies massacred for freedom sake
Black gold now the new god praised
God's tears no effect on pained hearts

Divine words diluted by the greedy
Kneel before the golden calf they whisper
Ignored remains the cries of the newborn
Ignorance in their greatness maintained
So they live; so they die - the gods of greed
Not destined to find, only to seek; forever

Give me highs or give me death?
They now tend graves of caring and truth
Gods of thunder protecting their crumbling walls
Out of trust protecting the walls of the greedy
Notice not the bloody rivers of the innocent
The innocent massacred so far from home

The angel weeps for her lost children
Her love never to die, but still ignored
They ignore her love as they seek her love
Greed for gold leads to more greed they find
Come back to me all you of the land
For the path you follow leads to more pain

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ambition to Meaning - Dr Wayne W. Dyer

Last night I was fortunate to have honoured my invitation to Port Elizabeth where I watched a screening of Dr W. Dyer's new movie entitled Ambition to Meaning.

The way the movie is presented really appealed to me. It did not consist of Dr Dyer speaking into the camera the whole time, but made use of varying filming techniques to prevent the viewer getting bored and losing interest. Not that it was boring.

It was basically a message as to how one can change the life you are used to where the important things to you are money and what people think of you to a life of real meaning that leaves you deeply satisfied. I would recommend Ambition to Meaning to any person who realises life has much more to it than what you may think, but I would especially recommend it to those who think they have everything and are not happy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

More than $1 Trillion US spent on the War in Iraq

It is estimated that by 2006 the war in Iraq had cost the American tax payer $1 Trillion ($1 000 000 000 000) or a $Million Million. Imagine what the cost is at today already. In the illustration it shows what an amount of $1 000 000 000 000 looks like in pallets with $100 bills. Notice that the pallets are double stacked in the third illustration and the illustration of the man for scale is the tiny speck at the bottom left of the picture.

Divide an amount of $1 500 000 000 000 (what the war could cost by today) and divide it by 300 Million, which is the population of the United States and you will find that every person in the USA could have had $5000 if the money had gone to them.

What a price to pay for no Weapons of Mass Destruction; not even counting the cost in lives, destroyed families and seriously injured men and women. I really hope some good comes out of this.

Illustrations from Page Tutor.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lion Cub

Here I was holding a lion cub. Shortly after this photo was taken it buried its sharp little claws in my shoulder. What beautiful cats they are. We saw quite a few fully grown lions as well and their graceful power was impressive and also scary.

Dozi and Lassie

Dozi the Tiger and Lassie the Sheepdog are inseparable friends for now. They were playing for the entire weekend and when they were not playing Dozi was practicing his stalking on us. My ankle happened to be one of his victims.

Tigers at Olivia Game Lodge

This weekend I was at Olivia Game Lodge about thirty kilometres North of Bloemfontein. I got this photo on Saturday. One does not realise how beautiful and powerful these animals are until you see them up close. What a shame that there are idiots in the world who think that Tiger body parts can make them sexually more potent or whatever other fantasy they live under. Sometimes I wonder who the real animals are.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who will Catch El Bashir?

Omar El Bashir has been singled out as a war criminal and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

There is a school of thought that maybe this will spark renewed violence against his citizens and there is a good chance that is exactly what will happen, but I think the question should be asked of those people who are the victims of the violence. Do they want him arrested at the threat of violence to them or leave him be and endure decades to come under his regime?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Remove a dictator or bad leader and there is a vacuum that needs to be filled like we saw in Iraq. Although Saddam Hussein was an oppressive leader he did ensure that things remained in order. After the Americans removed him from power, well look what we have today, one of the worst and most violent places in the world to live in.

The question I think should first be asked is who will go and fetch Bashir? Not the UN and certainly not the AU have the guts for the job. He will probably remain in power for some time still. I also think it might be a good idea for African Leaders to actually stop supporting El Bashir. I mean what kind of message are they sending? The other problem their support creates is that it makes it tougher for the UN to bring pressure to bear on the man.

Allow him to be arrested and to stand trial. Maybe he is innocent, but it can only be proven in the International Criminal Court.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Real Johannesburg

I have always known that Johannesburg is not the crime central people make it out to be. I mean come on, if so many people are killed in Johannesburg why is Washington DC called the Murder Capitol of the World? The following is an article by Jeremy Clarkson, which I found both telling and humorous:

From: The Sunday Times - London March 1, 2009

I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies

It's the least frightening place on earth, yet everyone speaks of how many times they've been killed that day

Jeremy Clarkson

Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in the tourists and the investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you think of New York, you think of shopping; and when you think of London - despite the best efforts of new Labour to steer you in the direction of Darcus Howe - you think of beefeaters and Mrs Queen.

Rome has its architecture. Sydney has its bridge. Venice has its sewage and Johannesburg has its crime. Yup, Jo'burg - the subject of this morning's missive - is where you go if you want to be carjacked, shot, stabbed, killed and eaten.

You could tell your mother you were going on a package holiday to Kabul, with a stopover in Haiti and Detroit, and she wouldn't bat an eyelid. But tell her you're going to Jo'burg and she'll be absolutely convinced that you'll come home with no wallet, no watch and no head.

Jo'burg has a fearsome global reputation for being utterly terrifying, a lawless Wild West frontier town paralysed by corruption and disease. But I've spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years and I can reveal that it's all nonsense.

If crime is so bad then how come, the other day, the front-page lead in the city's main newspaper concerned the theft of a computer from one of the local schools? I'm not joking.

The paper even ran a massive picture of the desk where the computer used to sit. It was the least interesting picture I've ever seen in a newspaper. But then it would be, because this was one of the least interesting crimes.

"Pah," said the armed guard who'd been charged with escorting me each day from my hotel to the Coca-Cola dome where I was performing a stage version of Top Gear.

Quite why he was armed I have absolutely no idea, because all we passed was garden centres and shops selling tropical fish tanks. Now I'm sorry, but if it's true that the streets are a war zone, and you run the risk of being shot every time you set foot outside your front door, then, yes, I can see you might risk a trip to the shops for some food. But a fish tank? An ornamental pot for your garden? It doesn't ring true.

Look Jo'burg up on Wikipedia and it tells you it's now one of the most violent cities in the world . . . but it adds in brackets "citation needed". That's like saying Gordon Brown is a two-eyed British genius (citation needed).

Honestly? Johannesburg is Milton Keynes with thunderstorms. You go out. You have a lovely ostrich. You drink some delicious wine and you walk back to your hotel, all warm and comfy. It's the least frightening place on earth. So why does every single person there wrap themselves up in razor wire and fit their cars with flame-throwers and speak of how many times they've been killed that day? What are they trying to prove?

Next year South Africa will play host to the football World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be played in Jo'burg, and no one's going to go if they think they will be stabbed.

The locals even seem to accept this, as at the new airport terminal only six passport booths have been set aside for non-South African residents.

At first it's baffling. Why ruin the reputation of your city and risk the success of the footballing World Cup to fuel a story that plainly isn't true? There is no litter and no graffiti. I've sauntered through Soweto on a number of occasions now, swinging a Nikon round my head, with no effect. You stand more chance of being mugged in Monte Carlo.

Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand - about £7. But when I said, "Okay, let's go and get one", no one had the first idea where to start looking. And they were even more clueless when I asked about bullets.

As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of the best and worst places to live and say: "Why do you keep banging on about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo'burg's way better."

Instead, however, I sat down and tried to work out why the locals paint their city as the eighth circle of hell. And I think I have an answer. It's because they want to save the lions in the Kruger National Park.

I promise I am not making this up. Every night, people in Mozambique pack up their possessions and set off on foot through the Kruger for a new life in the quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets of Jo'burg. And very often these poor unfortunate souls are eaten by the big cats.

That, you may imagine, is bad news for the families of those who've been devoured. But actually it's even worse for Johnny Lion. You see, a great many people in Mozambique have Aids, and the fact is this: if you can catch HIV from someone's blood or saliva during a bout of tender love-making, you can be assured you will catch it if you wolf the person down whole. Even if you are called Clarence and you have a mane.

At present, it's estimated that there are 2,000 lions in the Kruger National Park and studies suggest 90% have feline Aids. Some vets suggest the epidemic was started by lions eating the lungs of diseased buffalos. But there are growing claims from experts in the field that, actually, refugees are the biggest problem.

That's clearly the answer, then. Johannesburgians are telling the world they live in a shit-hole to save their lions. That's the sort of people they are. And so, if you are thinking about going to the World Cup next year, don't hesitate.

The exchange rate's good, the food is superb, the weather's lovely and, thanks to some serious economic self-sacrifice, Kruger is still full of animals. The word, then, I'd choose to describe Jo'burg is "tranquil".

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Terrorism Cannot be Stopped with Violence - Terrorism Feeds on Violence

This morning's attacks by terrorists on the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan should be a wake-up call once again to the powers that be in the world that there is no military way to prevent terrorism. High Explosive answers to terrorism leads to civilian deaths and more terrorism. Our current solution reminds me of someone who tries to distinguish a house fire with a can of petrol.

Invincible Defence Technology is a scientifically proven way to prevent the tension and thus prevent enemies arising against a state based on the natural laws of The Unified Field Theory. More than 600 studies by 200 different universities confirm this. If it seems far-fetched have your own study so that we can then say the effect of IDT has been proven in 601 studies.

Case studies such as conducted in Washington, DC in 1993 as well as the Senegalese Prison revolution proves it works to mention but two cases. In Senegal the prisons were overcrowded as 90% of those prisoners released returned again making prison riots a regular occurrance. After introducing the practice of meditation in the prisons of that country the amount of prisoners who returned was reduced to 6% and within years three prisons closed down. The man in charge of security in Senegal was seen appearing on their national television and in a very emotional speech told the country how meditation had solved the problem in their prisons.

How much more proof do we want that meditation reduces tension and stress?

Double Murder Rocks Grahamstown

Yesterday this incident shocked this quiet town. The man who was killed is somebody we all knew. Most people are shocked.

Double murder rocks G’town

A well-known local businessman and his domestic worker were killed here on Monday in a shocking afternoon attack at their Cradock Heights home which also left his wife and a passer-by who tried to assist them seriously injured, writes Adrienne Carlisle.

A 21-year-old suspect has been arrested in connection with the incident.

Superintendent Monray Nel said the man and his wife, whose names are being witheld until their families had been informed, arrived home shortly before 2pm yesterday for lunch.

Police suspect the domestic worker had already been overpowered and killed seconds before the couple arrived home.

“When he found the assailant in his home, the home owner then chased the suspect out of his house and into the open road in front of the home,” said Nel.

“The suspect turned on him and his wife and attacked them with two knives in his possession.”

At some point during the fatal melee a passer-by in a bakkie had stopped to assist and he was also attacked and injured.

The young attacker had tried to escape in the passer-by’s bakkie but local security firm Hi-Tech had, by now, arrived on the scene and apprehended him.

The homeowner died at the scene. Nel said the man who had assisted the couple was stable in hospital and the woman was “out of immediate danger”.
The young couple own a local business and are well-liked in the town.

Yellow police tape and two traffic police vehicles blocked off the one and only road into the relatively new suburb on the outskirts of town.

Their presence was the only sign of any trouble in the usually peaceful area poised high above the town in among dense bush.

The modern facebrick home of the couple, with its surrounding high wall topped by electric fencing looked impenetrable from a distance. Behind it is a hill covered in dense bush.

Three domestic workers who work in the same suburb, Eunice Mxube, Cynthia Papu and Cynthia Nogobo on Monday expressed shock at the crime.

“But I am careful. I usually lock the door when I work here,” said Mxube.

“The bush is thick and we worry about our safety even when walking to work because you can’t see who is in the bush,” said Papu.

Ngobo said she would definitely be more careful in future. “Now I feel so unsafe,” she said with tears in her eyes.

The local SPCA arrived and took the couple’s pets, including two large dogs, away for safekeeping.

Superintendent Nel appealed to the Daily Dispatch to not reveal the names of couple or the domestic worker to give the police the opportunity to inform their next of kin.

He said that within the next few days the suspect would appear in court.

“He will be charged with the double murder, two attempted murders and housebreaking.”

The news of the vicious double-killing spread like wildfire through Grahamstown.

“It seems so pointless,” said a local resident who did not wish to be named. “At least two families have been totally devastated by this and for what?”

How to Relax - Dr Herbert Benson


We live in a world where all people are under stress and we are constantly looking for quick fixes to these stress-related problems. Soldiers especially are under incredible amounts of stress. I stumbled upon this article from Turning Point Now and thought it important enough to post here.

By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / February 5, 2009

Nearly 35 years ago, Herbert Benson wrote the book on how to battle stress. Today, he says, it's as relevant as ever. Benson, author of the ''The Relaxation Response,'' has made stress - and the relieving of it - his life's work.

By the time they're 73, most doctors are thinking about hanging up their stethoscopes, if they haven't already. Not Dr. Herbert Benson, though, whose medical specialty - stress - is a growth industry these days.

Benson is the guru of relaxation and busier than ever. Nearly 35 years ago the Harvard cardiologist became a kind of medical rock star with his best-selling book "The Relaxation Response." It outlined a pioneering and irresistibly simple approach to relieving stress and a host of medical conditions related to it. Breathe deeply, repeat a word or phrase, and keep it up for 10-20 minutes, twice a day.

The book leaped to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and earned Benson international acclaim as one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters. He met a dozen times with the Dalai Lama. He testified before Congress about the relationship between body and mind.

His book came out during a tumultuous time in this country, though the kind of anxiety he was addressing in 1975 seems quaintly low-voltage today. Women faced "conflicting expectations and suppositions." Men were adjusting to a new role "that may mean more responsibility for family and household."

But that was long before the pace of life accelerated thanks to e-mail, BlackBerries, and multi-tasking. Long before banks tanked, retirement funds evaporated, and thousands lost jobs every day.

You wanna talk stress? Benson wants to talk stress. It's his work, his passion, his "hobby," he said. The way he sees it, stresses are piling up around all of us. People feel helpless, and it's hurting their health. Adults are getting high blood pressure. Kids are turning to drugs and alcohol. But Benson has an answer. And it's easy! And it doesn't cost anything! And it's been around for millennia!

You can almost feel his sense of urgency. "These are trying times," Benson tells a dozen doctors, nurses, and other health care workers. He's leading a lunchtime session for Massachusetts General Hospital employees to teach them the relaxation response. "People do not have faith it will get better."

He reassures them that it will get better if they do his focusing techniques once or twice a day. One caveat, though: It won't eliminate stress, only "change our reaction to stress," Benson said.

He is director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, which offers courses, services, and therapy, and conducts research. It's a busy time: The institute has been inundated with calls from schools across the country looking for ways to help students reduce anxiety in their lives. It has heard from the Department of Defense, which is interested in helping wounded soldiers deal with stress. Twice a week, Benson and his colleagues conduct anti-stress workshops at MGH. Lately, the hospital has been offering information sessions about retirement planning during times of financial turmoil. The sessions include the relaxation response.

"It is nothing new," Benson tells the hospital staff, reassuringly. "People usually bring it out by repeating a word, a sound, or a prayer. It can be secular or religious. Your choice. It could be 'love,' 'peace,' 'calm.' If you're Catholic, you have it made. You can say 'Ave Maria,' or 'Hail Mary, full of grace.' "

Benson believes the relaxation response is more relevant than ever today. He elicits it himself every morning (not disclosing his word), and it seems to work pretty well, judging by how calmly he responds when he accidentally spills a glass of water on his desk, soaking some papers and trickling down on his pants. "It doesn't matter!" he said cheerfully, mopping up the mess. "It will dry!"

He is a compact, dapper man in a blazer and tie emblazoned with little elephants; he has the affable, avuncular manner of a television doctor. His professional path has been anything but traditional though, taking him down a road where, three decades ago, self-respecting physicians dared not go, namely the interface of medicine and the mind.
His clinical vocabulary is sprinkled with terms that would still cause the blood pressure of some doctors to spike, like "self-healing" and "the power of belief." He likens his approach to medicine to a "three-legged stool," balanced equally by traditional interventions like medication and surgery, and by "self-care" approaches like the relaxation response.

Benson was first drawn to this field in the late 1960s when he was a cardiologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School. He was curious about why so many people's blood pressure was higher in their doctors' offices than it was when they measured it themselves at home. He speculated it was because they were nervous, and that there might be a relationship between stress and high blood pressure.

His theory might not seem radical now, but his colleagues thought he was "bizarre," said Benson, who still sounds a bit miffed. "It was a different world then, a time when the phrase 'it's all in your head' was a pejorative in medicine."

He decided to do a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School's physiology department to investigate the link between stress and high blood pressure. His theory took a big leap forward when he did experiments with practitioners of transcendental meditation. "The facts were incontrovertible," Benson wrote in his book. "With meditation alone, the T.M. practitioners brought about striking physiologic changes - a drop in heart rate, metabolic rate, and breathing rate - that I would subsequently label 'the Relaxation Response.' "

He defines this as "an inducible, physiologic state of quietude," a way to become focused, keep the mind from racing, and decrease the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and ultimately relieve a host of stress-related conditions from migraines to asthma to depression.

It was a hard sell among medical academics, and so for years Benson had two parallel careers - cardiology and teaching "to maintain respectability," and mind-body research to satisfy his passion. "They thought he was nuts," said Ann Webster, a health psychologist at the Benson-Henry Institute, who has worked with Benson for 22 years. "I'd give talks about [the mind/body effect] and I had people in the audience - mostly medical people - almost shout at me. Or they would get up and walk out."

Not anymore. "I don't think you could say that the entire house of medicine is completely on board with [the mind/body connection]," says Dr. Bruce Auerbach, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. "But I think people generally accept there is a relationship."

Benson, however, is always looking for converts to his approach, of "slowly, inexorably spreading it through the hospital." He interrupted an interview in his office to make his case. "Let me show you how I teach the experiential component," he said, without preamble.

Declining doesn't seem to be an option. He tells me to pick a word, short phrase, or prayer to repeat silently. "Close your eyes," Benson continues, in the same practiced way he addresses the hospital personnel. "Relax your feet, your calves, your thighs. Shrug your shoulders, roll your head around and sit at ease, without movement, and breathe slowly."

On each "out" breath, I am to silently repeat my focus word. "You will find other thoughts coming to mind," he predicted correctly. He's right. Like how I managed to lose control of this interview. "They are normal, they are natural, and should be expected. Just say, 'Oh well,' and return to your repetition." I started eliciting the response, but thoughts intruded again. I don't have time for this, I was thinking. Oh well.

I tried again, repeating my focus word. What's he doing while I'm doing all this breathing? Oh well. I got my answer 10 minutes later when the exercise was over: Benson had been counting my breaths. He reported they were down from 14 per minute when I began the exercise to 10 per minute at the end.

"This should be done once or twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes," Benson prescribed. "I predict you'll have more clarity of mind, be calmer, and feel more in control."
My mind was clearer, and so I posed the question that I'd been thinking about since I read his book. Who has time to close their eyes for 20 minutes, once or twice a day?
"Those minutes will pay off in efficiency," Benson said, deftly sidestepping the question. "Isn't that worth 10 to 20 minutes?