New Internationalist

Update

Issue 304

Update

TIBET

Deity banned
Outrage as Dalai Lama denounces Dorje Shugden

Buddhists picketed the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to the United States and Europe. They protested against the ban on the worship of the 350-year-old deity, Dorje Shugden, whom they say is one of the most revered in the Buddhist religion. In 1996 the Dalai Lama announced that worship of Dorje Shugden was banned and explained that his oracle, Nechung, had advised him that the deity was a threat to his personal safety and the future of Tibet.

The Tibetan Government-in-exile said its employees must stop worshipping the deity or be sacked. The office of the Dalai Lama told the superiors of the Sermey Monastic College in Bylakuppe, India: ‘If there is anyone who continues to worship Dorje (Shugden), make a list of their names, birthplace and class... Keep the original and send us a copy of the list.’

According to PK Dey, a human-rights lawyer from Delhi: ‘Those worshipping Shugden are experiencing tremendous harassment. It is not in a particular part of the country, but everywhere there are Tibetans. Dalai Lama supporters are going from house to house searching.’ For example, in Clementown, India, the house of a family of Shugden worshippers was stoned and then firebombed. Wanted posters describe people believed to be Shugden leaders as the top ten enemies of the state. The posters have been put up in monasteries, settlements and in Dharamsala by the Government-in-exile’s Department of Security.

Dorje Shugden worshippers say the ban and its implementation are in direct conflict with the proposed constitution of a free Tibet, laid down by the Dalai Lama in 1963. The constitution states that all religious denominations are equal before the law, and every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. But when Dorje Shugden worshippers challenged the ban, the Tibetan Government-in-exile stated that: ‘Concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it comes to the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the common cause of Tibet.’

During recent peace vigils a petition with 15,000 signatures was handed to the Dalai Lama stating the need for all Tibetan traditions to flourish. Protesters asked him to sign a declaration of freedom to worship Dorje Shugden. The Dalai Lama refused.

He says that he banned the worship of Dorje Shugden because it is a divisive deity that causes sectarianism among his followers, and is leading to the degeneration of Buddhism. But in doing so he has left many Tibetans confused. Gonsar Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama who has worshipped Dorje Shugden throughout his life, says: ‘I cannot accept this ban on Shugden. If I accept that all my wise and great masters are demon worshippers, then their teachings are wrong, everything they believe in is wrong. That is not possible.’

Sara Chamberlain

US property - Cotton seeds are patented.
JORGEN SCHYTTE / STILL PICTURES

Terminator
Genetic engineering will make cotton seeds sterile, under a new patent. The world’s largest producers of cotton seeds, Delta and Pine Land, in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture, have patented the process of seed reproduction. This means that each year farmers will have to buy new seeds from these companies instead of planting local seeds from the year before, creating further costs for poor farmers. The patented process has been named the Terminator.

For further information contact the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI):
Tel: +1 613 567 6880 Fax: +1 613 567 6884
email: rafican@rafi.ca

Green bullets?
The US Department of Defense (DOD) is developing ‘environmentally friendly’ munitions and weapons, including less toxic alternatives to lead bullets, missiles that spew less exhaust, and a paintless coating for fighter aircraft that will reduce dependence on paints and strippers containing hazardous chemicals.

‘Green’ bullets could save the Army up to $20 million a year and will reduce the problem of lead-contaminated soil at the firing ranges. But Sherri Goodman from the DOD assures that the military is not becoming an organization of tree-hugging pacifisits: ‘None of these efforts to green our weapons systems will reduce their performance.’

Mother Jones/March-April 1998.

Sexist Sarin
‘Nerve gas’ has greater long-term effects on women than it does on men, according to a study of the victims of a sarin attack at Tokyo’s underground. When the Aum Shinrikyo cult exposed commuters to the gas, 12 died and more than 6,000 became ill. A study, conducted a few months after the attack, of 640 sarin victims revealed no health problems. Then, six to eight months after exposure to sarin, the women could not stand up straight with their eyes closed. Men wobbled no more than usual. Researchers suspect women’s brains are more sensitive to the disturbance of the region which controls balance and that sarin gas damages this area.

New Scientist No 2121

ZIMBABWE

Remember me
Activists call for action against police violence

Under fire - Zimbabwe's 'trigger-happy' police are in trouble again.
TRYGVE BOLSTAD / PANOS PICTURES

Morememories Chawira, a student seriously wounded by an officer’s bullet during a Harare University protest, may prove to be the source of bad memories for local police. Zimbabwe’s police are under attack for allegedly using excessive force in handling the growing number of demonstrations over food price and tax increases.

Chawira was shot in the neck when police tear-gassed and then opened fire on a recent peaceful protest against the proposed privatization of the university catering and accommodation services. The incident fueled the reputation of the force as trigger-happy.

The Association of University Teachers condemned the police shooting and said it was concerned for the safety of people on campuses ‘when armed police next flout proper procedures’. The Association’s President, Dr Ian Love, said: ‘Chawira did not provoke the police, but was merely fleeing from the tear gas that had been fired by the police into the student union building which houses the central catering services.’

There have been other violent confrontations at tertiary institutions. In January at least five people were killed in protests over steep rises in the price of food. Eight died and some were wounded by police bullets, according to human-rights groups. The police admitted one of the shootings – of a 10-year-old girl from Gweru. Witnesses say she was shot while perched in a tree watching the food riots. Police say she was hit when warning shots were fired in the air. Further evidence of police brutality was aired by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which showed footage of officers using batons to beat people in disturbances at the National Sports Stadium.

Zimbabwe was removed at the last minute from the list of African countries recently visited by Bill Clinton. This was widely perceived as a signal of displeasure by the US over the way the authorities handled the January food riots. Britain has come under pressure to review its aid program which is to continue supplying equipment, including 1,500 Land Rovers, to the Zimbabwe police.

Leopold Hatugari/Gemini News Service.

[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Big Bad World POLYP cartoon POLYP cartoon POLYP cartoon POLYP cartoon [image, unknown]
INTERNATIONAL AID

Battered projects
Environmental agency under attack

Cameroon's lesson - aid does not protect rainforest.
MARK EDWARDS /
STILL PICTURES

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), an environmental aid agency, has attracted criticism. Even the agencies that supervise its projects – the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program – rate 12 per cent of GEF projects as ‘unsatisfactory’.

Since the Earth Summit in Rio, the GEF was adopted as the main source of funding for the projects arising from the UN conventions on biological diversity and climate change. Since then, with $1.6 billion donated by 34 countries, it has approved 230 projects throughout Asia, the Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Now an internal assessment cites the GEF Cameroon project as a failure. In 1995 developed nations agreed to invest $17 million over four years in the project to manage and improve Cameroon’s biodiversity. The internal assessment concludes the project is poorly conceived, badly managed and plagued by ‘incessant bickering and resentment over administrative failures’.

It was supposed to protect six different ecological areas in Cameroon, but there is no consistency in the conservation methods used in the different areas. And because few data on the species were collected at the start, there is no way to judge progress.

Developing countries say that the weakness of the GEF is that it addresses environmental problems of concern to the West. Anil Agarwal, Director of the Centre of Science and Environment in New Delhi, says the fund should listen to the right people. ‘The GEF is focusing mainly on government institutions and underemphasizing the role of small NGOs and community groups.’ And developing countries have dismissed the funding provided to the GEF as merely ‘chewing gum’, saying that around $125 billion dollars are needed.

An explicit aim of establishing the fund was to force organizations involved to adopt environmental sustainability. It was hoped the World Bank would think twice before investing in development projects that damage the environments GEF is supposed to protect. But between 1993 and 1997 the Bank invested $9.4 billion in fossil-fuel projects that will accelerate climate change, and less than $300 million on schemes to prevent it.

In Cameroon the World Bank is proposing to fund a 1,000-kilometre oil pipeline across the country to Chad. Korinna Horta, from the Environmental Defense Fund, says this will damage the very rainforests the GEF project is now trying to save. The GEF, she says, is just a ‘Band Aid for a battered planet’.

Rob Edwards & Sanjay Kumar/New Scientist No 2137.

Murdoch’s tax holiday
Tax investigators from Britain, the US, Canada and Australia have launched a secret joint inquiry to examine why Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire pays hardly any tax. Last year, while other international media groups, such as Walt Disney, paid up to 28 per cent of their income in tax, Murdoch’s News Corporation reported paying only 7.9 per cent – only $103 million from an operating profit of $1.3 billion. In 1989 an Australian investigation found that News Corporation had routed its profits through subsidiaries in low-tax countries such as the Cayman Islands.

World Press Review Vol 45 No 5

[image, unknown]
JM WINANTS /
STILL PICTURES

Smart solution
British criminals who kill badgers will find they are marked men. Badger baiting, in which a badger is pitted against fighting dogs, has been illegal since 1981 – but the ‘sport’ is still practised. By painting badgers with ‘Smart Water’, an invisible solution with a unique chemical fingerprint which marks those who touch it, police can now link suspects and their dogs to the crime. Shops and art galleries have used ‘Smart Water’ to prevent and detect theft.

New Scientist Vol 158 No 2130

Most important - Lenin.
SEAN SPRAGUE /
PANOS PICTURES

Heroes and history
A Russian poll indicates roughly equal numbers believe Stalin should be remembered for leading the country to victory in World War Two, feel he was a tyrant and think that it is too early to pass judgement. Lenin is ranked as the most important historical figure since 1917, followed by Stalin. Human-rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov came in third place.

Transitions Vol 5 No 4

Clams get cheap thrills
An American biologist from Pennsylvania says the antidepressant Prozac can make freshwater clams and mussels spawn. Some clam farmers are already using serotonin to make molluscs spawn in unison. Farmers can then raise a single crop that can be marketed at the same time. But at $22 a gram Peter Fong of Gettysburg College says it is ‘much too expensive for aquafarmers in the developing world’. Fong says Prozac has the same effect and may be cheaper than serotonin.

New Scientist No 2128

Diamonds are gone forever
Authorities at Alexcor, one of South Africa’s most lucrative diamond mines, have ordered all unregistered pigeons to be shot in an attempt to stop thieves using the birds to smuggle gems out of the complex. Mandla Msomi, chair of Parliament’s public enterprises committee, said diamonds valued at about $200 million were stolen from the mine last year, most of them strapped to well-trained homing pigeons. Each year mines on the Atlantic coast in the northern Cape spend millions of dollars hiring security companies. But security agents have failed to handle the ‘pigeon problem’.

Panafrican News Agency

Quote

‘The White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates.’

Johnnie Chung, who pleaded guilty to making
illegal donations to US President Bill Clinton’s election campaign.

Contents - this Issue     Magazines Home


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Update

Leave your comment