Next Page: 10000

          

Karma für den Staat

 Cache   
Karma für den Staat
In Süd(ost)asien wird Buddhismus ausschließend
Rosaly Magg 5 November, 2019 - 14:03

 

In Myanmar und Sri Lanka wurden in den letzten Jahren Übergriffe gegen Minderheiten buddhistisch legitimiert. Zu den Unterstützern fremdenfeindlicher Bewegungen zählen viele Mönche. Woher kommt diese ausgrenzende Strömung im Buddhismus?

 

Die Frage nach religiösem Fundamentalismus im Buddhismus erfordert die Definition beider Begriffe. Religion ist ein Glaubenssystem basierend auf einer Vision des Transzendenten und/oder besseren Lebens in einer anderen Existenz. Gleichzeitig ist sie ein soziales Phänomen, ein Kernelement menschlicher Gesellschaft, welches Menschen universell verbindet. Fundamentalismus (lateinisch fundamentum: Basis, Grundlage) hingegen bietet – scheinbare – Sicherheit in einer unsicheren Welt. Die vermeintliche Rückkehr zu den Wurzeln kann ausschließend werden, wenn nur eine Interpretation der Lehre zugelassen wird. Das führt häufig zum Rückzug aus der Welt und zu Isolation. Gewalt nach außen entsteht, wenn FundamentalistInnen andere Auslegungen bekämpfen. Wer sich auf die reine Lehre beruft, meint meist gar nicht diese, sondern spätere, politisch gefärbte Anwendungen.

Daraus kann sich die Religionisierung der Politik entwickeln: Der Staat soll religiöse Gebote unterstützen und das fromme Leben ermöglichen oder erzwingen. Die Übertragung religiöser Belange auf die politische Ebene dient häufig nicht nur dem frommen Leben, sondern heiligt Ausschlussprozesse. Sie können sich gegen ‚Andere‘ und Minderheiten richten, gegen kritische Stimmen und die politische Opposition.

 

Buddhismus und Herrschaft

Der Buddhismus gilt als tolerante, gewaltlose Religion, die für Fundamentalismus keinen Raum lässt, nicht zuletzt, da er als ‚gottlose‘ Religion gilt: Er vermittelt keine Heilsbotschaft. Ziel dieser Religion ist der Ausstieg aus dem Saṁsāra, dem Kreis von Werden und Vergehen, um das Nirwana, absolute Nichtexistenz, zu erreichen. Dies ist Mönchen vorbehalten. Hierzu muss man Karma vermeiden, also die Konsequenzen individueller Handlungen im nächsten Leben. Ahimsa oder Nichtverletzung ist davon ein wesentlicher Bestandteil.

Mönche waren auf den Unterhalt durch Laien angewiesen. Ihre Sicherheit erforderte eine zumindest rudimentär befriedete Gesellschaft mit ökonomischem Überschuss. Erstmals gelang dies dem indischen Kaiser Aśoka (304 – 232 v. Chr.). Er wurde in Südostasien zum Modell des buddhistischen Herrschers, der die Religion notfalls gewaltsam schützt. Damit war die Idee des gerechten Krieges zum Schutz der Religion geboren.

Dieser Pfad führte bis zu aktuellen rassistischen Übergriffen gegen Andersgläubige. Vor einigen Jahren äußerte sich ein hochrangiger Mönch in Sri Lanka wie folgt: »Was können wir tun? Wir müssen die Kinder töten. Sie werden LTTE-Kämpfer, dann töten sie uns und zerstören den Buddhismus.« Hier werden Tötungen tamilischer Sri Lankaner mit Verweis auf die tamilische Guerilla LTTE legitimiert. Die tamilische Minderheit wird als Feindin der singhalesischen Bevölkerungsmehrheit und des sri-lankischen Buddhismus definiert. Ein Zitat des Myanma-Mönches Sitagu Sayadaw relativiert ebenfalls das Tötungsverbot: »Obwohl du Millionen von Menschen getötet hast, waren es nur eineinhalb echte Menschen.«

Sind solche Äußerungen Ausnahmen? Legitimierung der Gewalt existiert in der mündlichen Überlieferung: Buddhas Schüler Ananda zeichnete angeblich dessen Predigten auf und verbreitete sie. Ananda erbot sich, unter Inkaufnahme schlechten Karmas die Religion auch gewaltsam zu verteidigen. Aus dieser Tradition wurden in Südostasien ausgedehnte Kriege und Raubzüge gegen andere buddhistische Reiche geführt, die angeblich nicht der Lehre genügten.

Eine Rechtfertigung religiöser Gewalt findet sich im buddhistischen Kanon, d.h. in den Lehrreden Buddhas, nicht, dagegen in einem singhalesischen Epos aus dem 5./6. Jahrhundert, dem Mahāvaṁsa. Es beschreibt die – angeblich auf Tatsachen beruhende – Befreiung Sri Lankas vom Tamil-Hindu König Elara durch Dutthagāmani (2. Jh. v. Chr.). Am Ende ist Dutthagāmani schockiert über die Kriegstoten. Aber die Mönche beruhigen ihn: Er habe nicht Menschen erschlagen, sondern nur Tiere; keiner der Toten sei Buddhist gewesen.

In Sri Lanka wurde das Mahāvaṁsa teilweise als Erzählung über die Etablierung eines singhalesischen Buddhismus gelesen. Dies ist etwa so, als betrachte man heutzutage Berichte über die Kreuzzüge als religiös fundierte und zum Handeln verpflichtende Texte. Wichtig ist die Umkehrung der Wahrnehmung: Im 19. Jahrhundert wurde die Erzählung als großes Narrativ nationaler singhalesischer Hegemonie gelesen. Heute wird sie als religiös-doktrinärer Text interpretiert, der nationale Ansprüche legitimiert.

 

Aufstieg und Fall des Säkularismus

Ostern 2019 verübten muslimische Selbstmordattentäter in Sri Lanka Anschläge auf Kirchen und Hotels mit hunderten Toten. Die Täter wurden rasch als lokale Muslims identifiziert. Für radikale buddhistische Gruppen rechtfertigten die Anschläge wiederum neue Gewalttaten gegenüber muslimischen, aber auch tamilischen und christlichen Menschen. Fundamentalismus einer Religion findet oft seine Entsprechung im Fundamentalismus einer anderen.

Fundamentalistischer Buddhismus wird heute sowohl in Sri Lanka als auch in Myanmar benutzt, um ethnische/nationale Identität religiös zu markieren. Dabei hatte bereits die Kolonialzeit in beiden Ländern antikoloniale Laienbewegungen zur ‚Rettung’ der Religion hervorgebracht. Von ihnen erhoffte man sich neben dem Kulturerhalt auch ganz dezidiert die Rückgewinnung der Unabhängigkeit. Die postkolonialen Verfassungen beider Länder waren allerdings säkular. Nach der Unabhängigkeit verbanden sich alte Feindbilder mit notwendig enttäuschten Erwartungen. Man benötigte Schuldige für die zerstörten Hoffnungen. Religiöse Identität wandelte sich in Feindseligkeit gegenüber dem ethnisch-religiös Anderen. Seit 1956 und während des Bürgerkrieges war es in Sri Lanka vor allem der Saṅgha, die Mönchsgemeinschaft, der Religion und Ethnie gleichsetzte. Konzessionen an die TamilInnen würden demnach den singhalesischen Staat und Buddhismus zerstören. Damit einher ging die Forderung, den Buddhismus zur Staatsreligion zu machen.

In Myanmar, damals Burma, erklärte Premierminister U Nu 1961, auch auf Druck des Saṅgha, den Buddhismus zur Staatsreligion. U Nu’s buddhistische Glaubwürdigkeit schützte ihn nicht vor dem Zorn radikaler Mönche, da die Verfassung weiterhin Religionsfreiheit vorsah. Die Unruhen infolge des Gesetzes führten zum Militärputsch 1962 und zur Gesetzesannullierung. Auch gegenwärtig liegt in beiden Ländern die Betonung auf der ethnisch-religiösen Einheit. Der damalige sri-lankische Präsident Rajapaksa betonte im Mai 2009, dass die TamilInnen in Sri Lanka nur mit singhalesischer Duldung existieren. In Myanmar wiederum traten 2015 die ‚Race and Religion Protection Laws‘ in Kraft, die Konversion und interkonfessionelle Heiraten erschweren und die Kinderzahl bestimmter Ethnien begrenzen.

 

Neue Kampfverbände und alte Mythen

In beiden Ländern entstanden im letzten Jahrzehnt radikale buddhistische Organisationen. In Sri Lanka war das etwa die Bodu Bala Sena (BBS/Buddhas machtvolle Armee), die den Sinhala-Buddhismus ‚schützen‘ will; in Myanmar MaBaTha (Verband zum Schutz von Rasse, Buddha und Religion). Beide zeichnen sich vor allem durch Angriffe auf die muslimische, in Sri Lanka auch auf die tamilische und christliche Minderheit aus und genießen erheblichen gesellschaftlichen Rückhalt. Dies beruht auf alten Ressentiments und neuen Ängsten. Letztere hängen teilweise mit realen Missständen zusammen, wie etwa die schlechten Arbeitsbedingungen sri-lankischer Hausmädchen in den sunnitischen Golfstaaten. Während die BBS hier keine Lösung anbietet, war es in Myanmar MaBaTha, die auf die Verabschiedung der ‚Race and Religion Protection Laws‘ drängte. Die verbalen und physischen Angriffe auf die Rohingya sind eine daraus folgende, obwohl nicht notwendige Entwicklung.

Hielte man sich nur an die Lehre, wäre religiöse Gewalt illegitim. Die Rechtfertigung von Gewalt wird aus lokalen oder regionalen Quellen gezogen, die dabei ihren herrschaftlichen Kontext einspeisen. Obwohl Buddhismus als Weltreligion verstanden wird, sind seine Manifestationen, sein Gebrauch und die Verwendung für politische Zwecke stark lokal oder ethnisch gefärbt.

Religionisierung der Politik entsteht aus der Lokalisierung von Religion zugunsten regionaler politischer und wirtschaftlicher Interessen und Ziele. Hier beginnt der Fundamentalismus, nämlich mit der Frage, wem das ‚gute und fromme Leben‘ zusteht. Das hat mit der Rückkehr zu den Ursprüngen von Lehre oder Glauben wenig zu tun. Vielmehr geht es um soziale und ökonomische Privilegien aufgrund ethnisch interpretierter Religionszugehörigkeit; und um Religion als öffentlichen Lebensstil und Moral. Religionisierung der Politik in Richtung Fundamentalismus ist eine Bewegung von unten, eine Bewegung tatsächlicher oder gefühlter VerliererInnen. Sie ist die Forderung an den Staat, das gute Leben für die Auserwählten zu sichern. Daraus folgt das Recht, diese Teilhabe nichtzugehörigen Gruppen zu verweigern. Hier liegt die Saat religiös geheiligter Gewalt gegen Ausgeschlossene, die in den genannten Ländern prächtig aufgegangen ist.

 

 

Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam ist Lehrbeauftragte in der Abteilung Südostasienstudien der Universität Passau sowie Mitarbeiterin beim Erasmus+ Projekt der Abteilung.

German

          

1/32 Consolidated B-24D Liberator

 Cache   
1/32 Consolidated B-24D LiberatorThis is a plastic model kit, which comes unassembled and unpainted. So glue, model paints and other basic modelling tools are additionally required.
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft Company ofSan Diego,California. Its mass production was brought into full force by 1943 with the aid of the Ford Motor Company through its newly constructed Willow Run facility, where peak production had reached one B-24 per hour and 650 per month in 1944. Other factories soon followed. The B-24 ended World War II as the most produced Allied heavy bomber in history, and the most produced American military aircraft at over 18,000 units, thanks in large measure to Henry Ford and the harnessing of American industry. It still holds the distinction as the most-produced American military aircraft. The B-24 was used by several Allied air forces and navies, and by every branch of the American armed forces during the war, attaining a distinguished war record with its operations in the Western European, Pacific,Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India Theaters.
Often compared with the better-known B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load; however, it was also more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. Popular opinion among aircrews and general staffs tended to favor the B-17's rugged qualities above all other considerations in the European Theater. The placement of the B-24's fuel tanks throughout the upper fuselage and its lightweight construction, designed to increase range and optimize assembly line production, made the aircraft vulnerable to battle damage. The B-24 was notorious among American aircrews for its tendency to catch fire. Moreover, its high fuselage-mountedDaviswing also meant it was dangerous to ditch or belly land, since the fuselage tended to break apart. Nevertheless, the B-24 provided excellent service in a variety of roles thanks to its large payload and long range.
The B-24's most famous mission was the low-level strike against the Ploesti oil fields, inRomaniaon 1 August 1943, which turned into a disaster due to attack waves getting out of sequence.
Detailed fuselage&wing w/accurate design.
- Finely detailed cockpit,gear cabin,.
- Grooved rubber tires.
- PE parts included

Buy Now
          

For Veteran's Day, "Aftershock:The Human Toll of War"

 Cache   
Claudia Cragg (@claudiacragg) speaks here for ChatChat with Richard Cahan (@Picturetweeter) about the book he has put together with Mark Jacob and Michael Williams, Aftershock:The Human Toll of War.  Richard Cahan is the author of 12 books including an acclaimed history of the federal court in Chicago, A Court That Shaped America. He served as the picture editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and is currently an independent scholar at the Newberry Library in Chicago. The world was in ruin at the end of #WorldWarII: from the #Blitz in London to the atomic bomb blasts in #Hiroshima and #Nagasaki. A small group of Army soldiers witnessed it all. They photographed Germany’s last push, the Battle of the Bulge, and they rode into Germany to witness unimagined destruction. They documented the Burma Road, which opened Mainland China to supplies, and saw war atrocities as far away as the Philippines. These soldier photographers are acclaimed for their war photographs, but their work showing the impact of total war has never been compiled in a book. As towns fell and the result of years of war were being laid bare, the world began to comprehend the impact of the war. Ruined cities were unearthed. The gates of concentration camps were flung open. Former prisoners, captured soldiers, and desperate refugees scoured the landscape for food and shelter. These GIs used cameras instead of guns, witnessing and capturing the loss and destruction on film. Their work is a remarkable record of pictures that is now housed at the National Archives. The photos they left behind are beautiful and brutal: cemeteries and churches. POWs and DPs. Surrenders and suicides. Liberators and prisoners. Many of the photos have never before been seen. None have been seen like this―scanned directly from original negatives for this book. Aftershock is a permanent record that shows what these soldiers saw. And it tells the story of these young photographers, whose lives were changed forever because of 1945.
          

Odgovorio/la: Pozivni brojevi drzava

 Cache   
+1 Kanada
+1 Sjedinjene Američke Države
+1 (242) Bahami
+1 (246) Barbados
+1 (264) Angvila
+1 (268) Antigva i Barbuda
+1 (284) Britanska Devičanska Ostrva
+1 (340) Američka Devičanska Ostrva
+1 (345) Kajmanska Ostrva
+1 (441) Bermudi
+1 (473) Grenada/Carricou
+1 (649) Turks i Caicos Ostrva
+1 (664) Montserrat
+1 (670) Severna Marijanska ostrva
+1 (671) Guam
+1 (758) Sveta Lucija
+1 (767) Dominika
+1 (784) Sveti Vincent i Grenadini
+1 (787) Portoriko
+1 (809) Dominikanska Republika
+1 (868) Trinidad i Tobago
+1 (869) Sveti Kristofor i Nevis
+1 (876) Jamajka
+1 (939) Portoriko

 

+20 Egipat
+212 Maroko
+213 Alžir
+216 Tunis
+218 Libija
+220 Gambija
+221 Senegal
Južni Sudan
+222 Mauritanija
+223 Mali
+224 Gvineja
+225 Obala Slonovače
+226 Burkina Faso
+227 Niger
+228 Togo
+229 Benin
+230 Mauricius
+231 Liberija
+232 Sijera Leone
+233 Gana
+234 Nigerija
+235 Čad
+236 Srednjoafrička Republika
+237 Kamerun
+238 Zelenortska Republika
+239 Sveti Toma i Princip
+240 Ekvatorska Gvineja
+241 Gabon
+242 Republika Kongo
+243 Demokratska Republika Kongo
+244 Angola
+245 Gvineja Bisau
+246 Diego Garcia
+247 Ascension
+248 Sejšeli
+249 Sudan
+250 Ruanda
+251 Etiopija
+252 Somalija
+253 Džibuti
+254 Kenija
+255 Tanzanija
+256 Uganda
+257 Burundi
+258 Mozambik
+260 Zambija
+261 Madagaskar
+262 Reunion
+263 Zimbabve
+264 Namibija
+265 Malavi
+266 Lesoto
+267 Bocvana
+268 Svazi
+269 Komori i Mayotte
+27 Južna Afrika
+290 Sveta Helena
+291 Eritreja
+297 Aruba
+298 Farska Ostrva
+299 Grenland

+30 Grčka
+31 Holandija
+32 Belgija
+33 Francuska
+34 Španija
+350 Gibraltar
+351 Portugal
+352 Luksemburg
+353 Irska
+354 Island
+355 Albanija
+356 Malta
+357 Kipar
+358 Finska
+359 Bugarska
+36 Mađarska
+370 Litvanija
+371 Letonija
+372 Estonija
+373 Moldavija
+374 Jermenija
+375 Belorusija
+376 Andora
+377 Monako
+378 San Marino
+379 Vatikan
+380 Ukrajina
+381 Srbija
+382 Crna Gora
+385 Hrvatska
+386 Slovenija
+387 Bosna i Hercegovina
+389 Makedonija
+39 Italija

+40 Rumunija
+41 Švajcarska
+420 Češka
+421 Slovačka
+423 Lihtenštajn
+43 Austrija
+44 Velika Britanija
+45 Danska
+46 Švedska
+47 Norveška
+48 Poljska
+49 Nemačka

+500 Folklandska Ostrva
+501 Belize
+502 Gvatemala
+503 Salvador
+504 Honduras
+505 Nikaragva
+506 Kostarika
+507 Panama
+508 Sveti Petar i Mikelon
+509 Haiti
+51 Peru
+52 Meksiko
+53 Kuba
+54 Argentina
+55 Brazil
+56 Čile
+57 Kolumbija
+58 Venecuela
+590 Francuski Antili
+591 Bolivija
+592 Gvajana
+593 Ekvador
+594 Francuska Gvajana
+595 Paragvaj
+596 Martinik
+597 Surinam
+598 Urugvaj
+599 Holandski Antili

+60 Malezija
+61 Australija
+62 Indonezija
+63 Filipini
+64 Novi Zeland
+65 Singapur
+66 Tajland
+670 Istočni Timor
+673 Brunej
+674 Nauru
+675 Papua Nova Gvineja
+676 Tonga
+677 Solomonska Ostrva
+678 Vanuatu
+679 Fidži
+680 Palau
+681 Wallis i Futuna
+682 Kukova Ostrva
+683 Niue
+684 Američka Samoa
+685 Samoa
+686 Kiribati
+687 Nova Kaledonija
+688 Tuvalu
+689 Francuska Polinezija
+690 Tokelau
+691 Mikronezija
+692 Maršalova Ostrva

+7 Kazahstan
+7 Rusija

+800 Međunarodni besplatni telefon
+808 Usluge s podeljenim troškovima
+81 Japan
+82 Južna Koreja
+84 Vijetnam
+850 Severna Koreja
+852 Hong Kong
+853 Makao
+855 Kambodža
+856 Laos
+86 Kina
+870 Usluga Inmarsat "SNAC"
+871 Inmarsat (istočni Atlantik)
+872 Inmarsat (Tihi okean)
+873 Inmarsat (Indijski okean)
+874 Inmarsat (zapadni Atlantik)
+878 Univerzalne službene telekomunikacije
+880 Bangladeš
+881 Globalni mobilni satelitski sistem
+886 Tajvan

+90 Turska
+91 Indija
+92 Pakistan
+93 Avganistan
+94 Šri Lanka
+95 Burma (Mianmar)
+960 Maldivi
+961 Liban
+962 Jordan
+963 Sirija
+964 Irak
+965 Kuvajt
+966 Saudijska Arabija
+967 Jemen
+968 Oman
+970 Palestina
+971 Ujedinjeni Arapski Emirati
+972 Izrael
+973 Bahrein
+974 Katar
+975 Butan
+976 Mongolija
+977 Nepal
+979 Međunarodne usluge s dodanom vrednošću
+98 Iran
+991 ITPCS
+992 Tadžikistan
+993 Turkmenistan
+994 Azerbejdžan
+995 Gruzija
+996 Kirgistan
+998 Uzbekistan
          

Syria offensive exposes Turkey’s disastrous counter-terrorism policy

 Cache   

Syria offensive exposes Turkey’s disastrous counter-terrorism policy

Components

Turkey's problematic counter-terror efforts in northeast Syria have left it using detained Islamic State (ISIS) fighters to threaten Europe and possibly increasing the Kurdish threat along its border while losing the support of key allies like the United States. 

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told reporters on Monday that Turkey would return captured ISIS members to their countries of origin even if those countries had revoked their citizenship.

Blaise Misztal, a fellow at U.S. think tank the Hudson Institute, saw Soylu’s statement as akin to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's repeated threat to “open the gates” and let refugees flood into Europe. 

“It’s hard to see how that is anything more than an extension of the sort of blackmail that Turkey has been engaging in on Syrian refugees,” Misztal told Ahval in a podcast. “This is really a veiled threat against European countries.”  

Also on Monday, Turkey demanded Germany take back 20 ISIS members. 

Some 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters and 11,000 of their family members are being held in Kurdish-controlled detention camps in northeast Syria. Soylu also said Turkey was holding 1,200 ISIS detainees in Turkish prisons and had captured 287 ISIS members in northeast Syria. 

Launched on Oct. 9, Turkey’s Syria operation has killed at least 250 people, mostly Kurds, and displaced some 300,000 people, leading to fears of ethnic cleansing by prominent observers, including former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. 

Turkey’s main military objective is decimating the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has led an insurgency in Turkey since 1984 and is labelled a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, as well as Turkey. 

Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Monday that a considerable blow had been dealt to the YPG and called on Western allies for support. 

“Turkey expects its allies, be it the U.S., EU or any other country, to assume a clear stance against all kinds of terror,” said Kalın. “Recognising the PKK as a terror group on paper is not enough. What you practice is important.”

U.S. forces visited the YPG in Qamishli, in northeast Syria, on Saturday and a source told Agence France-Presse that the United States planned to set up a military post there. The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. officials as saying a U.S. convoy on Sunday saw artillery strikes landing close to its position near the town of Tel Tamr where fighting had intensified between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

This followed a recent incident when Turkish forces fired on U.S. positions in Kobani. Also on Sunday, the aid group Free Burma Rangers said one of its workers was killed and another wounded by a Turkish drone strike near Tal Tamr on Sunday.

“What the United States wanted was to avoid a confrontation with Turkish troops, it did not necessarily want to end the counter-terrorism partnership with the SDF,” said Misztal, who sees frictions between U.S. troops and Turkish and Turkish-backed forces lingering and even increasing as long as the U.S. mission in northeast Syria remains ambiguous. 

President Donald Trump has said U.S. forces will be staying in Syria to protect Kurd-controlled oil fields, but U.S. forces have continued the fight against ISIS. After the U.S. killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last week, Bloomberg reported that the United States was looking into possible Turkish intelligence links to ISIS, particularly as the Turkish military has observation posts not far from Baghdadi’s hideout. 

Turkey’s focus on the PKK-YPG has left it blind to other forms of terrorism, said Misztal, pointing to an oft-ignored concern in regards to terrorism in northern Syria: what might happen to al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group with links to Turkey, once it is pushed out of Idlib by the forces of President Bashar Assad. “Where will they go? And what will (HTS’) relationship with Turkey look like?” he wondered. 

Misztal also cited reporting that ISIS cells still exist in Turkey today, that thousands of foreign fighters traveled through Turkey to join ISIS, and that Turkish intelligence sent weapons to rebels in Syria.  

“ISIS is a major national security threat for Turkey,” Yusuf Erim, political analyst for Turkish state broadcaster TRT World, told Ahval. "While many have tried to downplay Turkey's contributions in the fight against the terror group, the truth is Turkey has neutralised more ISIS terrorists than any other country.”

State-run Anadolu news agency said Turkey had killed 3,500 ISIS terrorists and arrested 5,500. Yet the annual U.S. State Department country report on Turkey, released on Friday, warned that it remained a transit point for foreign fighters and could serve as a corridor to replenish ISIS. 

The Turkish presidency condemned the report for not mentioning the SDF or YPG, and presidential adviser Fahrettin Altun announced early Tuesday that Turkey had captured the sister of ISIS leader Baghdadi. 

“There’s a certain myopia in the Turkish government about who’s really a terrorist,” said Misztal, pointing out that Baghdadi was killed in Idlib province, which is controlled by HTS. 

This shows the moral bankruptcy, said Misztal, of Turkey’s argument that it is laser-focused on the YPG and terrorism. Now, instead of having its ally, the United States, partnering with the YPG, Turkey faces the prospect of the Syrian Kurdish militia controlled by less friendly governments in Moscow and Damascus. 

“You’re not going to see Syria and Russia really want to stamp out the YPG in a way Turkey would want to,” he said, pointing out that Russia and Syria both made common cause with the PKK against Turkey in the 1990s. “Sometime down the road, they’re probably going to be more willing to arm the YPG, more willing to support the PKK inside Turkey, than the U.S. ever was.”

Already, SDF Commander Mazloum Kobani is now sitting at the negotiating table with the United States and Russia. "Turkey is not completely happy as there are still YPG elements in the region," said Erim, adding that Ankara reserves the right to resume military operations as needed.

Misztal pointed out that Erdoğan supported rebels seeking to topple Assad for years, and still supports Syrian opposition forces like HTS in Idlib. 

“It stands to reason that Assad will want to pay him back in kind, and have his own proxy force that he can deploy against Turkey,” said Misztal. “I think in the long-term Turkey is making its situation on the Syrian-Turkish border worse. It’s creating the conditions to enable the very thing it wants to prevent, which is the further strengthening of the PKK.”


          

A mechanistic model of meditation by Kaj_Sotala

 Cache   

Med­i­ta­tion has been claimed to have all kinds of trans­for­ma­tive effects on the psy­che, such as im­prov­ing con­cen­tra­tion abil­ity, heal­ing trauma, clean­ing up delu­sions, al­low­ing one to track their sub­con­scious strate­gies, and mak­ing one’s ner­vous sys­tem more effi­cient. How­ever, an ex­pla­na­tion for why and how ex­actly this would hap­pen has typ­i­cally been lack­ing. This makes peo­ple rea­son­ably skep­ti­cal of such claims.

In this post, I want to offer an ex­pla­na­tion for one kind of a mechanism: med­i­ta­tion in­creas­ing the de­gree of a per­son’s in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, and thus lead­ing to in­creas­ing psy­cholog­i­cal unity as in­ter­nal con­flicts are de­tected and re­solved.

Note that this post does not dis­cuss “en­light­en­ment”. That is a re­lated but sep­a­rate topic. It is pos­si­ble to pur­sue med­i­ta­tion mainly for its or­di­nary psy­cholog­i­cal benefits while be­ing un­in­ter­ested in en­light­en­ment, and vice versa.

What is in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness?

In an ear­lier post on in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, I dis­t­in­guished be­tween be­ing aware of some­thing, and be­ing aware of hav­ing been aware of some­thing. My ex­am­ple in­volved that of a robot whose con­scious­ness con­tains one men­tal ob­ject at a time, and which is aware of differ­ent things at differ­ent times:

Robot’s thought at time 1: It’s rain­ing outside
Robot’s thought at time 2: Bat­tery low
Robot’s thought at time 3: Tech­nolog­i­cal un­em­ploy­ment protestors are outside
Robot’s thought at time 4: Bat­tery low
Robot’s thought at time 5: I’m now recharg­ing my battery

At times 2-5, the robot has no aware­ness of the fact that it was think­ing about rain at time 1. As soon as some­thing else cap­tures its at­ten­tion, it has no idea of this ear­lier con­scious con­tent—un­less a par­tic­u­lar sub­sys­tem hap­pens to record the fact, and can later re-pre­sent the con­tent in an ap­pro­pri­ately tagged form:

Time 6: At time 1, there was the thought that [It’s rain­ing out­side]

I said that at time 6, the robot had a mo­ment of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness: a men­tal ob­ject con­tain­ing a sum­mary of its pre­vi­ous thoughts, which can then be sep­a­rately ex­am­ined and acted upon.

Hu­mans are not robots. But I pre­vi­ously sum­ma­rized the neu­ro­science book Con­scious­ness and the Brain, and its global neu­ronal workspace (GNW) model of con­scious­ness. Ac­cord­ing to this model, the con­tents of con­scious­ness cor­re­spond to what is be­ing rep­re­sented in a par­tic­u­lar net­work of neu­rons—the global workspace—that con­nects differ­ent parts of the brain. Differ­ent sys­tems are con­stantly com­pet­ing to get their con­tents into the global workspace, which can only hold one piece of con­tent at a time. Thus, like robots, we too are only aware of one thing at a time, and tend to lose aware­ness of our ear­lier thoughts—un­less some­thing re­minds us of them.

In what fol­lows, I will sug­gest that like robots, hu­mans also have a type of con­scious con­tent that we might call in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, which al­lows us to be more aware of our pre­vi­ous men­tal ac­tivity. (I am bor­row­ing the term from the med­i­ta­tion book The Mind Illu­mi­nated, which dis­t­in­guishes be­tween in­tro­spec­tive at­ten­tion, in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, and metacog­ni­tive in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness. I am elid­ing these differ­ences for the sake of sim­plic­ity.)

In­tro­spec­tive aware­ness is also a skill that can be de­vel­oped. Con­scious­ness and the Brain in­cludes the fol­low­ing ex­cerpt, on rea­sons why some in­for­ma­tion in our brains might not be­come con­sciously available. In short, be­cause there has to be some way of rep­re­sent­ing that in­for­ma­tion in the global workspace, which re­quires ded­i­cated neu­rons that do so:

… a fourth way in which neu­ral in­for­ma­tion can re­main un­con­scious, ac­cord­ing to workspace the­ory, is to be diluted into a com­plex pat­tern of firing. To take a con­crete ex­am­ple, con­sider a vi­sual grat­ing that is so finely spaced, or that flick­ers so fast (50 hertz and above), that you can­not see it. Although you per­ceive only a uniform gray, ex­per­i­ments show that the grat­ing is ac­tu­ally en­coded in­side your brain: dis­tinct groups of vi­sual neu­rons fire for differ­ent ori­en­ta­tions of the grat­ing. Why can’t this pat­tern of neu­ronal ac­tivity be brought to con­scious­ness? Prob­a­bly be­cause it makes use of an ex­tremely tan­gled spa­tiotem­po­ral pat­tern of firing in the pri­mary vi­sual area, a neu­ral ci­pher too com­plex to be ex­plic­itly rec­og­nized by global workspace neu­rons higher up in the cor­tex. Although we do not yet fully un­der­stand the neu­ral code, we be­lieve that, in or­der to be­come con­scious, a piece of in­for­ma­tion first has to be re-en­coded in an ex­plicit form by a com­pact as­sem­bly of neu­rons. The an­te­rior re­gions of the vi­sual cor­tex must ded­i­cate spe­cific neu­rons to mean­ingful vi­sual in­puts, be­fore their own ac­tivity can be am­plified and cause a global workspace ig­ni­tion that brings the in­for­ma­tion into aware­ness. If the in­for­ma­tion re­mains diluted in the firing of myr­iad un­re­lated neu­rons, then it can­not be made con­scious.
Any face that we see, any word that we hear, be­gins in this un­con­scious man­ner, as an ab­surdly con­torted spa­tiotem­po­ral train of spikes in mil­lions of neu­rons, each sens­ing only a minus­cule part of the over­all scene. Each of these in­put pat­terns con­tains vir­tu­ally in­finite amounts of in­for­ma­tion about the speaker, mes­sage, emo­tion, room size . . . if only we could de­code it—but we can’t. We be­come aware of this la­tent in­for­ma­tion only once our higher-level brain ar­eas cat­e­go­rize it into mean­ingful bins. Mak­ing the mes­sage ex­plicit is an es­sen­tial role of the hi­er­ar­chi­cal pyra­mid of sen­sory neu­rons that suc­ces­sively ex­tract in­creas­ingly ab­stract fea­tures of our sen­sa­tions. Sen­sory train­ing makes us aware of faint sights or sounds be­cause, at all lev­els, neu­rons re­ori­ent their prop­er­ties to am­plify these sen­sory mes­sages. Prior to learn­ing, a neu­ronal mes­sage was already pre­sent in our sen­sory ar­eas, but only im­plic­itly, in the form of a diluted firing pat­tern in­ac­cessible to our aware­ness.

De­haene sug­gests that learn­ing to e.g. no­tice smaller de­tails in our sur­round­ings, is based on tap­ping into in­for­ma­tion which is already available in the brain. As one prac­tices look­ing at smaller and smaller de­tails, the brain builds up spe­cial­ized cir­cuits for ex­tract­ing, re-en­cod­ing and re-pre­sent­ing pat­terns which would oth­er­wise have been ig­nored. Gilbert, Sig­man & Crist (2001) write:

Psy­chol­o­gists and psy­chophysi­cists have known since be­fore the turn of the cen­tury that train­ing can im­prove the abil­ity to make dis­crim­i­na­tions in a wide va­ri­ety of sen­sory modal­ities; tasks in­volv­ing vi­sual acu­ity, so­matosen­sory spa­tial re­s­olu­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion of hue, es­ti­ma­tion of weight, and dis­crim­i­na­tion of acous­ti­cal pitch all show im­prove­ment with prac­tice [...] Train­ing can im­prove the dis­crim­i­na­tion of small differ­ences in the offset of two lines (vernier acu­ity) even though ini­tial thresh­olds are already in the hy­per­acu­ity range [...] the spa­tial re­s­olu­tion of the vi­sual sys­tem, at least in the realm of hy­per­acu­ity, can im­prove with prac­tice [...] Other vi­sual per­cep­tual tasks that im­prove with train­ing in­clude the abil­ity to dis­crim­i­nate ori­en­ta­tion [...] the di­rec­tion of mo­tion [...] the differ­ences in the wave­forms of two sinu­soidal stim­uli [...] and the abil­ity to seg­re­gate el­e­ments of the vi­sual scene us­ing tex­tu­ral cues [...] Train­ing has been found to in­crease the abil­ity of ob­servers to de­tect small differ­ences in the depth of two tar­gets [...] as well as the abil­ity to per­ceive depth in ran­dom-dot stere­ograms.

If we have ac­cess to some sen­sory chan­nel which car­ries with it in­for­ma­tion, train­ing can cause our brains to draw upon in­for­ma­tion which has always been pro­cessed, but never be­fore con­sciously ac­cessed. And we seem to have sen­sory chan­nels which give us in­for­ma­tion about our thoughts—oth­er­wise we would have no idea of what we were think­ing.

Richard’s ther­apy session

We saw an ex­am­ple of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness in my post on the book Un­lock­ing the Emo­tional Brain. In the tran­script, a man named Richard has been suffer­ing from se­vere self-doubt, and is asked to imag­ine how it would feel like if he made con­fi­dent com­ments in a work meet­ing. The fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion fol­lows:

Richard: Now I’m feel­ing re­ally un­com­fortable, but-it’s in a differ­ent way.
Ther­a­pist: OK, let your­self feel it—this differ­ent dis­com­fort. [Pause.] See if any words come along with this un­com­fortable feel­ing.
Richard: [Pause.] Now they hate me.

The ther­a­pist is ask­ing Richard to fo­cus his at­ten­tion on the feel­ing of dis­com­fort, gen­er­at­ing mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness about the dis­com­fort. No­tice that Richard be­comes more thought­ful and less re­ac­tive to the anx­iety as he does so. My guess of what is hap­pen­ing is some­thing like this:

When Richard is feel­ing anx­ious, this means that a men­tal ob­ject en­cod­ing some­thing like “the feel­ing of anx­iety” is be­ing rep­re­sented in the workspace. This ac­ti­vates neu­ral rules which trig­ger the kinds of re­sponses that anx­iety has evolved to pro­duce. For ex­am­ple, a sys­tem may be trig­gered which at­tempts to plan how to es­cape the situ­a­tion caus­ing the anx­iety. This sys­tem’s in­ten­tions are then in­jected into the workspace, pro­duc­ing a state of mind where the feel­ing of anx­iety al­ter­nates with thoughts of how to get away.

In­tro­spec­tive aware­ness is its own type of men­tal ob­ject, pro­duced by a differ­ent sub­sys­tem which takes in­puts from the global workspace, re-en­codes them in a for­mat which high­lights par­tic­u­lar as­pects of that data, and out­puts that back into the workspace. When a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an anx­ious state of mind is cre­ated, that rep­re­sen­ta­tion does not by it­self trig­ger the same rules as the origi­nal anx­iety did.

As a re­sult, as rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the anx­iety be­gin to al­ter­nate to­gether with the anx­iety, there are pro­por­tionately less mo­ments of anx­iety. This in turn trig­gers fewer of the sub­sys­tems at­tempt­ing to es­cape the situ­a­tion, mak­ing it eas­ier to re­flect on the anx­iety with­out be­ing both­ered by it.

When Richard’s ther­a­pist asks him to feel the anx­iety and to see if any words come along with it, the sub­sys­tem for in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness was primed to look for any con­tent that could be re-pre­sented in ver­bal form. As Richard’s anx­iety had been pro­duced by an emo­tional schema in­clud­ing a pre­dic­tion that be­ing con­fi­dent makes you hated, some of that in­for­ma­tion had passed through the workspace and been available for the aware­ness sub­sys­tem to cap­ture. This brought up the ver­bal­iza­tion of what the schema pre­dicted would hap­pen if Richard was con­fi­dent—“now they hate me”.

Ther­a­pist: “Now they hate me.” Good. Keep go­ing: See if this re­ally un­com­fortable feel­ing can also tell you why they hate you now.

Ac­cord­ing to the GNW model, when a par­tic­u­lar piece of con­tent is main­tained as the cen­ter of at­ten­tion, it strength­ens the ac­ti­va­tion of any struc­tures as­so­ci­ated with it. As Richard’s ther­a­pist guides him to fo­cus on the ver­bal con­tent, more in­for­ma­tion re­lated to it is broad­cast into the workspace. The fur­ther prompt guides the aware­ness sub­sys­tem to look for pat­terns that feel like the rea­son for the hate.

Richard: [Pause.] Hnh. Wow. It’s be­cause… now I’m… an ar­ro­gant ass­hole… like my father… a to­tally self-cen­tered, to­tally in­sen­si­tive know-it-all.

The ther­a­pist then takes a pat­tern which Richard has brought up and helps crys­tal­lize it fur­ther, and throws it back to Richard for ver­ifi­ca­tion.

Ther­a­pist: Do you mean that hav­ing a feel­ing of con­fi­dence as you speak turns you into an ar­ro­gant ass­hole, like Dad?
Richard: Yeah, ex­actly. Wow.

In this ex­am­ple, we saw that hav­ing more mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness was benefi­cial for Richard. As as­pects of his mo­ment-to-mo­ment con­scious­ness were made available for other sub­sys­tems to ex­am­ine, the emo­tional schema caus­ing the anx­iety was iden­ti­fied and its con­tents ex­tracted into a for­mat which could be fed into other sub­sys­tems. Later on, when Richard’s co-worker dis­played con­fi­dence which oth­ers ap­proved of, a con­tra­dic­tion-de­tec­tion mechanism no­ticed a dis­crep­ancy be­tween re­al­ity and the pre­dic­tion that con­fi­dence makes you hated, al­low­ing the pre­dic­tion to be re­vised.

Un­der this model, the sys­tem which pro­duces mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness is a sub­sys­tem like any other in the brain. This means that it will be ac­ti­vated when the right cues trig­ger it, and its out­puts com­pete with the out­puts of other sys­tems sub­mit­ting con­tent to con­scious­ness. The cir­cum­stances un­der which the sys­tem trig­gers, and its prob­a­bil­ity of suc­cess­fully mak­ing its con­tents con­scious, are mod­ified by re­in­force­ment learn­ing. Just as prac­tic­ing a skill such as ar­ith­metic even­tu­ally causes var­i­ous sub­sys­tems to ma­nipu­late the con­tent of con­scious­ness in the right or­der, prac­tic­ing a skill which benefits from in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness will cause the sub­sys­tem gen­er­at­ing in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to ac­ti­vate more of­ten.

Med­i­ta­tion as a tech­nique for gen­er­at­ing mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive awareness

Just as there are differ­ent forms and styles of ther­apy, there are also differ­ent forms and styles of med­i­ta­tion. All of them in­volve in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to at least some de­gree, but they differ in what that aware­ness is then used for.

In the ex­am­ple with Richard, his ther­a­pist asked him to imag­ine be­ing con­fi­dent and to then bring his aware­ness to why that felt un­com­fortable. In con­trast, a more be­hav­iorally ori­ented ther­a­pist might not have ex­am­ined the rea­son be­hind the dis­com­fort. Rather, they might have taught Richard to no­tice his re­ac­tion to the dis­com­fort, and then use that as a cue for im­ple­ment­ing an op­po­site re­ac­tion. Both kinds of ther­a­pists would ask their clients to gen­er­ate some in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, but aiming that aware­ness at differ­ent kinds of fea­tures, and us­ing the aware­ness to trig­ger differ­ent kinds of strate­gies. The re­sults would cor­re­spond­ingly be very differ­ent.

Like­wise, sys­tems of med­i­ta­tion differ in how much in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness they pro­duce, what kinds of fea­tures the aware­ness-pro­duc­ing sub­sys­tem is trained to ex­tract, and what that aware­ness is then used for. For this ar­ti­cle, I have cho­sen to use the ex­am­ple of the sys­tem in The Mind Illu­mi­nated (TMI), as it is clearly ex­plained and ex­plic­itly phrased in these terms. (Again, TMI has a more pre­cise dis­tinc­tion be­tween in­tro­spec­tive at­ten­tion and in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, which I am elid­ing for the sake of sim­plic­ity.)

In TMI’s sys­tem, as in many oth­ers, you start with try­ing to keep your at­ten­tion on your breath. In terms of our model, this means that you want to keep sen­sory out­puts cor­re­spond­ing to your breath as the main thing in your con­scious­ness.

The prob­lem with this goal is that there is no sub­sys­tem which can just unilat­er­ally de­cide what to main­tain as the cen­ter of at­ten­tion. At any given mo­ment, many differ­ent sub­sys­tems are com­pet­ing to make their con­tent con­scious. So one sys­tem might have the in­ten­tion to fol­low the breath, and you do it for a while, but then a plan­ning sys­tem kicks in with its in­ten­tion to think about din­ner. Such plan­ning has tended to feel re­ward­ing, so it wins out and the in­tent to med­i­tate is for­got­ten un­til five min­utes later, when you de­cide what you want for din­ner and then sud­denly re­mem­ber the thing about fol­low­ing your breath.

TMI calls this mind-wan­der­ing from for­get­ting, and the first step of prac­tice is just to no­tice it when­ever it hap­pens, con­grat­u­late your­self for hav­ing no­ticed it, and then re­turn to the breath. Be­ing able to no­tice for­get­ting re­quires hav­ing a mo­ment of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness which points out the fact that you had not been fol­low­ing your breath. When you take satis­fac­tion in hav­ing no­ticed this, your aware­ness-pro­duc­ing sub­sys­tem gets as­signed a re­ward and be­comes slightly more likely to ac­ti­vate in the fu­ture. “Have I re­mem­bered to fol­low my breath or not?” acts a feed­back mechanism that you can ex­plic­itly train on.

As the aware­ness-pro­duc­ing sys­tem starts to ac­ti­vate more of­ten and ping you if you have for­got­ten to med­i­tate, pe­ri­ods of mind-wan­der­ing grow shorter.

Now, even if you stop get­ting en­tirely lost in thought, you still have dis­trac­tion: con­tent from other sub­sys­tems that is in con­scious­ness to­gether with the sen­sa­tions of the breath and the in­ten­tion to fo­cus on the breath. For ex­am­ple, you might be hav­ing stray thoughts, hear­ing sounds from your en­vi­ron­ment, and ex­pe­rienc­ing sen­sa­tions from your body.

To more ex­clu­sively fo­cus on the breath, you are in­structed to main­tain the in­tent to both at­tend to it and also to be aware of any dis­trac­tions. The sub­sys­tems which out­put men­tal con­tent can, and nor­mally do, op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently of each other. This means that the fol­low­ing may hap­pen:

Sub­sys­tem 1: I’m med­i­tat­ing well!
Sub­sys­tem 2: Hmm, what’s that smell.
Sub­sys­tem 1: I’m med­i­tat­ing well! No dis­trac­tions.
Sub­sys­tem 2: Smells kinda like cook­ies.
Sub­sys­tem 2: Mmm, cook­ies.
Sub­sys­tem 1: Con­tin­u­ing to med­i­tate well!
Sub­sys­tem 2: Say, what’s for din­ner?

That is, a sys­tem which tracks the breath can con­tinue to re­peat­edly find the breath, and re­port that your med­i­ta­tion is pro­ceed­ing well and with no dis­trac­tions… all the while the con­tent of your con­scious­ness con­tinues to al­ter­nate with dis­tracted thoughts, which the breath-track­ing sub­sys­tem is failing to no­tice (be­cause it is track­ing the breath, not the pres­ence of other thoughts). Worse, since you may find it re­ward­ing to just think that you are med­i­tat­ing well, that thought may start to be­come re­warded, and you may find your­self just think­ing that you are med­i­tat­ing well… even as that thought has be­come self-sus­tain­ing and no longer con­nected to whether you are fol­low­ing the breath or not!

There are all kinds of sub­tle traps like this, and re­duc­ing the amount of dis­trac­tion re­quires you to first have bet­ter aware­ness of the dis­trac­tion. This means more mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness which are track­ing what’s ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in your mind:

Sub­sys­tem 1: I’m med­i­tat­ing well!
Sub­sys­tem 2: Hmm, what’s that smell.
Sub­sys­tem 1: I’m med­i­tat­ing well! No dis­trac­tions.
Sub­sys­tem 2: Smells kinda like cook­ies.
Sub­sys­tem 2: Mmm, cook­ies.
Aware­ness sub­sys­tem: Wait, one train of thought keeps say­ing that it’s med­i­tat­ing well, but an­other is to­tally get­ting into the thought of food.
Sub­sys­tem 1: Oh. Bet­ter re­fo­cus that at­ten­tion on the breath, and spend less time think­ing about the con­cept of fol­low­ing the breath.

This kind of a pro­cess also teaches you to pay at­ten­tion to pat­terns of cause and effect in your mind. In this ex­am­ple, the smell of cook­ies caused you to think of cook­ies, which in turn made you think of din­ner, which could have ul­ti­mately led to for­get­ting and mind-wan­der­ing.

Catch­ing the train of thought af­ter “mmm, cook­ies” meant that three “pro­cess­ing steps” had passed be­fore you no­ticed it. If you prac­tice trac­ing back trains of thought in your mind, you seem to teach your aware­ness-sys­tem to col­lect and store data from a longer pe­riod, even when it is not ac­tively out­putting it. This means that at the “mmm, cook­ies” stage, you can query your aware­ness to get a trace of the im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing thought chain.

You no­tice that you started to get dis­tracted start­ing from the smell of the cookie and can then use this as fur­ther in­put to your aware­ness sys­tem. You are es­sen­tially tak­ing the re-pre­sented smell of the cookie which the sys­tem out­put, and feed­ing it back in, ask­ing it to pay more at­ten­tion to de­tect­ing “things like this”. The next time that you no­tice a smell, your in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness may flag it right away, let­ting you catch the dis­trac­tion at the very first stage and be­fore it turns into an ex­tended train of thought.

Note that there is noth­ing par­tic­u­larly mys­te­ri­ous or un­usual about any of this. You are em­ploy­ing es­sen­tially the same pro­cess used in learn­ing any skill. In learn­ing to ride a bike, for ex­am­ple, at­tempt­ing to keep the bike bal­anced in­volves ad­just­ing your move­ments in re­sponse to feed­back. When you do so, your brain be­comes bet­ter at de­tect­ing things like “tilt­ing to­wards the right” in the sense data, in­creas­ing your abil­ity to ap­ply the right cor­rec­tion. After you have learned to iden­tify tilt­ing-a-lot-but-not-quite-fal­ling, your brain learns to back­trace to the pre­ced­ing state of tilt­ing-a-lit­tle-less, and ap­ply the right cor­rec­tion there. Once its pre­ci­sion has been honed to iden­tify that state, you can fur­ther de­tect an even sub­tler tilt, un­til you au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply the right cor­rec­tions to keep you bal­anced.

Essen­tially the kind of a learn­ing al­gorithm is be­ing ap­plied here. In­creased sen­sory pre­ci­sion leads to im­prove­ments in skill which al­low for in­creased sen­sory pre­ci­sion. (See also this ar­ti­cle, which goes into more de­tail about TMI as a form of de­liber­ate prac­tice.)

Uses for mo­ments of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness

I should again em­pha­size that the pre­ced­ing ex­pla­na­tion is only look­ing at one par­tic­u­lar med­i­ta­tion sys­tem. There are other sys­tems which work very differ­ently, but they all use or de­velop in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to some ex­tent. For ex­am­ple:

  • In Shinzen Young’s for­mu­la­tion of “do noth­ing” prac­tice, you have just two ba­sic in­struc­tions: let what­ever hap­pens, hap­pen and when you no­tice an in­ten­tion to con­trol your at­ten­tion, drop that in­ten­tion. This trains in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to no­tice when one is try­ing to con­trol their at­ten­tion… but it is also a very differ­ent sys­tem, since main­tain­ing an in­ten­tion to no­tice when that hap­pens would also be an at­tempt to con­trol at­ten­tion! Thus, one is in­structed to drop in­ten­tions if one spon­ta­neously no­tices them, but not to ac­tively look for them.

  • In not­ing prac­tice, you are try­ing to con­sciously name or no­tice ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in your con­scious­ness. In­tro­spec­tive aware­ness is trained to very rapidly dis­t­in­guish be­tween ev­ery­thing that hap­pens, but is not trained to main­tain at­ten­tion on any par­tic­u­lar thing.

  • In vi­su­al­iza­tion prac­tice, you might cre­ate a vi­sual image in your mind, then use in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to ex­am­ine the men­tal ob­ject that you’ve cre­ated and com­pare it to what a real image would look like. This gives the sub­sys­tem cre­at­ing the vi­su­al­iza­tion feed­back, and helps slowly de­velop a more re­al­is­tic image.

Go­ing back to TMI-style in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, once you get it trained up, you can use it for var­i­ous pur­poses. In par­tic­u­lar, once you learn to main­tain it dur­ing your daily life—and not just on the med­i­ta­tion couch—it will bring up more as­sump­tions in your var­i­ous schemas and men­tal mod­els. Think of Richard pay­ing at­ten­tion to the as­sump­tions be­hind his un­wanted re­ac­tions and mak­ing them ex­plicit, but as some­thing that hap­pens on a reg­u­lar ba­sis as the re­ac­tions come up.

Romeo Stevens de­scribed what he called “the core loop of Bud­dhism”:

So, what is the core loop?
It’s ba­si­cally cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral ther­apy, su­per­charged with a men­tal state more in­tense than most phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.
There are two cat­e­gories of prac­tice, one for cul­ti­vat­ing the use­ful men­tal state, the other uses that men­tal state to in­ves­ti­gate the causal link­ages be­tween var­i­ous parts of your per­cep­tion (phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions, emo­tional tones, and men­tal re­ac­tions) which leads to clear­ing out of old link­ages that weren’t con­structed well.
You have phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions in the course of life. Your ner­vous sys­tem re­acts to these sen­sa­tions with high or low valence (pos­i­tive, nega­tive, neu­tral) and arousal (sym­pa­thetic and parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem ac­ti­va­tion), your mind re­acts to these now-emo­tion-laden sen­sa­tions with ac­tivity (men­tal image, men­tal talk) out of which you then build sto­ries to make sense of your situ­a­tion.
The key in­sight that drives ev­ery­thing is the knowl­edge (and later, di­rect ex­pe­rience) that this sys­tem isn’t wired up effi­ciently. Im­por­tantly: I don’t mean this in a nor­ma­tive way. Like you should wire it the way I say just be­cause, but in the ‘this type of cir­cuit only needs 20 nand gates, why are there 60 and why is it shunt­ing ex­cess voltage into the anger cir­cuits over there that have noth­ing to do with this com­pu­ta­tion?’ way. Re­gard­less of pos­si­ble ar­gu­ments over an ul­ti­mately ‘cor­rect’ way to wire ev­ery­thing, there are very low hang­ing fruit in terms of im­prove­ments that will help you effec­tively pur­sue *any* other goal you set your mind to.

Again, we saw an ex­am­ple of this with Richard. He had ex­pe­rienced his father as act­ing con­fi­dent and as caus­ing suffer­ing to Richard and oth­ers; sen­sa­tions which his mind has clas­sified as nega­tive. In or­der to avoid them, a model (story) was con­structed say­ing that con­fi­dence is hor­rible, and be­hav­iors (e.g. nega­tive self-talk) were cre­ated to avoid ap­pear­ing hor­rible.

Now, this caused prob­lems down the line, mak­ing him mo­ti­vated to try to ap­pear more con­fi­dent… mean­ing that there was now a mechanism in his brain try­ing to pre­vent him from ap­pear­ing con­fi­dent, and an­other which con­sid­ered this a prob­lem and tried to make him more con­fi­dent, in op­po­si­tion to the first sys­tem. See what Romeo means when talk­ing about cir­cuits that only need 20 gates but are im­ple­mented us­ing 60?

The ar­ti­cle “tune your mo­tor cor­tex” makes the fol­low­ing claims about mus­cle move­ment:

Your mo­tor cor­tex au­to­mat­i­cally learns to ex­e­cute com­plex move­ments by putting to­gether sim­pler ones, all the way down to con­trol of in­di­vi­d­ual mus­cles.
Be­cause the pro­cess of learn­ing hap­pens or­gan­i­cally, the re­sult­ing ar­chi­tec­ture of neu­ral con­nec­tions (you can think of them as “hid­den lay­ers” in ma­chine learn­ing terms) is not always perfectly suited to the task.
Some lo­cal op­tima of those neu­ral con­figu­ra­tions are hard to get out of, and con­stantly re­in­forced by us­ing them.
There is some pres­sure for mus­cle con­trol to be effi­cient, and the mo­tor cor­tex is do­ing a “good enough” job at it, but tends to stop a fair bit from perfec­tion.
By re­peat­ing cer­tain move­ments and po­si­tions over and over again (e.g. dur­ing sit­ting work), we in­vol­un­tar­ily strengthen con­nec­tions be­tween move­ments and mus­cles that don’t make much sense lumped to­gether.
E.g. con­trol of shoulders might be­come spu­ri­ously wired to­gether with con­trol of thighs (both are of­ten tense dur­ing sit­ting).

There are var­i­ous men­tal mo­tions which are learned in ba­si­cally the same way as phys­i­cal mo­tions are:

  • You learn to calcu­late 12*13 by a tech­nique such as first mul­ti­ply­ing 10*13, keep­ing the re­sult in your mem­ory, calcu­lat­ing 2*13, and then adding the in­ter­me­di­ate re­sults to­gether.

  • You learn that a par­tic­u­lar mem­ory makes you feel slightly un­pleas­ant, and that flinch­ing away from any­thing that would re­mind you of it takes the pain away.

  • You learn that this also works on un­com­fortable chores, teach­ing you to keep push­ing the thought of them away.

  • You learn that your father’s be­hav­ior is painful to you, and that any con­fi­dence re­minds you of that, so you learn nega­tive self-talk which blocks you from act­ing con­fi­dent.

  • You learn that say­ing “no” to peo­ple re­minds you of be­ing pun­ished for say­ing “no” to your par­ents, but that say­ing “yes” too of­ten means that you are con­stantly fulfilling promises to other peo­ple—so you learn to avoid situ­a­tions where you would be asked any­thing.

  • You learn that there’s some­thing you can do in your mind to stop feel­ing up­set, so you start ig­nor­ing your emo­tions and any in­for­ma­tion they might have.

  • You learn that if you feel bad about not get­ting the re­spect you want, think­ing “if only I was good enough at per­sua­sion, I would get what I want” gives you a sense of con­trol—even though this pat­tern also makes you feel per­son­ally at fault when you don’t get what you want.

  • You learn that it’s re­ward­ing to pun­ish peo­ple who have wronged, so you always want to pun­ish some­one when some­thing goes wrong—even if there is no­body but re­al­ity to pun­ish.

  • You learn that it feels good to men­tally pun­ish some­one who is munch­ing too loud, but ac­tu­ally com­plain­ing about it would feel petty, and you’ve learned that pet­ti­ness is frowned upon. So you also learn to block the im­pulse to say any­thing out loud, but con­tinue to get in­creas­ingly an­gry about the sound, caus­ing an es­ca­lat­ing cir­cle of both the an­noy­ance and the block­ing ramp­ing up in in­ten­sity.

As with phys­i­cal move­ments, these can form lo­cal op­tima that are hard to get out of. Many of them are learned in child­hood, when your un­der­stand­ing of the world is limited. But new be­hav­iors con­tinue to build on top of them, so you will even­tu­ally end up with a sys­tem which could use a lot of op­ti­miza­tion.

If you have more in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness of the ex­act pro­cesses that are hap­pen­ing in your mind, you can make more im­plicit as­sump­tions con­scious, caus­ing your brain’s built-in con­tra­dic­tion de­tec­tor to no­tice when they con­tra­dict your later learn­ing. Also, get­ting more feed­back about what ex­actly is hap­pen­ing in your mind al­lows you to no­tice more wasted mo­tion in gen­eral.

One par­tic­u­lar effect is that, as Un­lock­ing the Emo­tional Brain notes, the mind of­ten makes trade-offs where it causes it­self some minor suffer­ing in or­der to avoid a per­ceived greater suffer­ing. For ex­am­ple, some­one may feel guilt in or­der to mo­ti­vate them­selves, or ex­pe­rience self-doubt to avoid ap­pear­ing too con­fi­dent. By em­ploy­ing greater in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness, one may find ways to achieve their goals with­out need­ing to ex­pe­rience any suffer­ing in or­der to do so.

Of course, Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion is not the only way to achieve this. Var­i­ous ther­a­pies and tech­niques such as Fo­cus­ing, In­ter­nal Fam­ily Sys­tems, In­ter­nal Dou­ble Crux, and so on, are also meth­ods which use in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to re­veal and re­fac­tor var­i­ous as­sump­tions. In­creased in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness from med­i­ta­tion tends to also boost the effec­tive­ness of re­lated tech­niques, as well as re­veal more situ­a­tions where they can be em­ployed.

If in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness is so great, why don’t we have it nat­u­rally?

As with any­thing, there are trade­offs in­volved. Hav­ing more in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness can help fix a lot of is­sues… but it also comes with risks, which I as­sume is the rea­son why we have not evolved to have a lot of it all the time.

First, it’s worth not­ing that even for ex­pe­rienced med­i­ta­tors, in­tense emo­tional re­ac­tions tend to shut down in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness. If one of the func­tions of e.g. fear and anx­iety is to cause a rapid re­sponse, then ex­ces­sive amounts of in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness would slow down that re­sponse by re­duc­ing cog­ni­tive fu­sion. Many emo­tions seem to in­hibit many com­pet­ing pro­cesses from ac­cess­ing con­scious­ness, so that you can deal with the situ­a­tion at hand.

Another con­sid­er­a­tion in­volves trau­matic mem­o­ries. In the be­gin­ning of the ar­ti­cle, I sug­gested that anx­iety is a spe­cial kind of men­tal ob­ject which ac­ti­vates par­tic­u­lar be­hav­iors. In gen­eral, differ­ent emo­tional states have spe­cific kinds of be­hav­iors and ac­tivi­ties as­so­ci­ated with them—mean­ing that if you have some mem­o­ries which are re­ally painful, they can be­come over­whelming, mak­ing it nec­es­sary to block them in or­der to carry on with your nor­mal life. Med­i­ta­tion can be helpful for work­ing through your trauma, but it can also bring it up be­fore you are ready for it, to the point of re­quiring pro­fes­sional psy­chother­apy to get through. If you are bet­ter at notic­ing all kinds of sub­tle de­tails in your mind, it also be­comes eas­ier to no­tice any­thing that would re­mind you of things you don’t want to re­mem­ber. A de­crease in in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness seems to be a com­mon trauma symp­tom, as this helps block the un­pleas­ant mem­o­ries from be­ing too eas­ily trig­gered.

I have also heard ad­vanced med­i­ta­tors men­tion that in­creased in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness makes it difficult to push away pangs of con­science that they would oth­er­wise have ig­nored, caus­ing prac­ti­cal prob­lems. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple have said that they are no longer able to eat an­i­mal prod­ucts or tell white lies.

On the other hand, ex­tended con­cen­tra­tion prac­tice can also make it eas­ier to block things which you would be bet­ter off not block­ing.

So far, this ar­ti­cle has mostly fo­cused on us­ing in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to no­tice the con­tent of your thoughts. But you can also use it to no­tice the struc­ture of the higher-level pro­cesses gen­er­at­ing your thoughts. Part of how you de­velop con­cen­tra­tion abil­ity is by main­tain­ing in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness of the fact that be­ing able to con­cen­trate on just one thing feels more pleas­ant than hav­ing your at­ten­tion jump be­tween many differ­ent things. This can give you an im­proved abil­ity to choose what you are con­cen­trat­ing on… but also to se­lec­tively ex­clude any­thing un­pleas­ant from your mind.

For ex­am­ple, there was an oc­ca­sion when I needed to do some work, but also had in­tense anx­iety about not want­ing to; in­tense enough that it would nor­mally have made it im­pos­si­ble for me to fo­cus on it. So then I tried to work, and let my in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness ob­serve the feel­ing of head-split­ting agony from my at­ten­tion al­ter­nat­ing be­tween the work and the de­sire not to… and to also no­tice that when­ever my at­ten­tion was on the work, I felt tem­porar­ily bet­ter.

After a while of this, the anx­iety started to get ex­cluded from my con­scious­ness, un­til it sud­denly dropped away com­pletely—as if some deeper pro­cess had judged it use­less and re­voked its ac­cess to con­scious­ness. And while this al­lowed me to do the work that I needed to, it also felt in­ter­nally vi­o­lent, and like it would be too easy to re­press any un­pleas­ant thoughts us­ing it. I still use this kind of tech­nique on oc­ca­sion when I need to con­cen­trate on some­thing, but I try to be cau­tious about it.

The nega­tive side of be­ing able to get bet­ter feed­back about your men­tal pro­cesses, is that you can also get bet­ter feed­back on ex­actly how pleas­ant wire­head­ing feels. If you like to imag­ine pleas­ant things, you can get bet­ter and bet­ter at imag­in­ing pleas­ant things, and ex­clud­ing any wor­ries about it from your con­scious­ness. Med­i­ta­tion teacher Daniel In­gram warns:

Strong in­sight and con­cen­tra­tion prac­tice, even when that prac­tice wasn’t ded­i­cated to the pow­ers, can make peo­ple go tem­porar­ily or per­ma­nently (or for the rest of that life­time) psy­chotic. The more the prac­tice in­volves cre­at­ing ex­pe­riences that di­verge sig­nifi­cantly from what I will crudely term “con­sen­sus re­al­ity”, and the longer one en­gages in these prac­tices, the more likely pro­longed difficul­ties are. It is of note that a sig­nifi­cant num­ber of the pri­mary prop­a­ga­tors of the Western mag­ickal tra­di­tions be­came mod­er­ately nuts to­wards the ends of their lives.
As one Burmese man said to Ken­neth, “My brother does con­cen­tra­tion prac­tice. You know, some­times they go a lit­tle mad!” He was talk­ing about what can some­times hap­pen when peo­ple get into the pow­ers. [...]
I re­mem­ber a let­ter from a friend who was on a long re­treat in Burma and was sup­posed to be do­ing in­sight prac­tices but had slipped into play­ing with these sorts of ex­pe­riences. He was now fas­ci­nated by his abil­ity to see spirit an­i­mals and other su­per­nor­mal be­ings and was hav­ing reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions with some sort of low-level god that kept tel­ling him that he was mak­ing ex­cel­lent progress in his in­sight prac­tice—that is, ex­actly what he wanted to hear. How­ever, the fact that he was hav­ing sta­ble vi­sion­ary ex­pe­riences and was buy­ing into their con­tent made it abun­dantly clear that he wasn’t do­ing in­sight prac­tices at all, but was lost in and be­ing fooled by these.

Now, it should be pointed out that “be­ing able to ex­clude any­thing un­pleas­ant from your con­scious­ness” is only go­ing to be a worry for ad­vanced prac­ti­tion­ers who spend a lot of time on the kind of prac­tice that in­clines you to­wards these kinds of risks. Be­fore you get to the point of some­thing like this be­ing a risk, you will get to re­solve a lot of in­ter­nal con­flicts and old is­sues first.

Here is Cu­ladasa, the au­thor of The Mind Illu­mi­nated, be­ing in­ter­viewed about this kind of a “first you re­solve a lot of is­sues, but then you can get the abil­ity to push down the rest” dy­namic:

Michael Taft: … and you’re us­ing the med­i­ta­tion prac­tice to help work with your stuff. But what about the other case that we both know of where peo­ple have reached very high lev­els of med­i­ta­tive ca­pac­ity, they’ve got a lot of in­sight, maybe they’re at some level of awak­en­ing, and they seem to have, in a way, missed a whole pocket of ma­te­rial, or sev­eral pock­ets of ma­te­rial. It’s like they think they’re do­ing fine, but maybe ev­ery­one around them is aware that they’ve got these be­hav­ior pat­terns that do not seem awake at all. And yet the med­i­ta­tion has some­how missed that.
Cu­ladasa: Yes, yes. [...] … there seems to be a cer­tain level of the stuff that we’re talk­ing about that it’s nec­es­sary to deal with to achieve awak­en­ing, but it’s sort of a min­i­mal level. [...] What I think that is in­dica­tive of is that if that hasn’t been suffi­ciently dealt with ear­lier, it has to get dealt with in one way or an­other at that point. That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that it’s go­ing to get re­solved; it may just get re­buried a lit­tle more deeply.
Michael Taft: Pushed out of the way.
Cu­ladasa: Yeah, pushed out of the way, or by­passed in some way. That al­lows a per­son to go ahead and [progress] and it’s un­re­al­is­tic to think that ev­ery­thing has been re­solved. [...] a lot of the things that change [...] ac­tu­ally help to push these things aside, to by­pass them in one way or an­other, whereas be­fore some­body has [made as much progress] these would have been suffi­ciently prob­le­matic in their life that, in one way or an­other, they would be aware of them, whether or not they did any­thing about them or were at a place of just tak­ing for granted that I have these, quote, “per­son­al­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics” that are a bit difficult.

I used to be very en­thu­si­as­tic about TMI’s med­i­ta­tion sys­tem. I still con­sider it im­por­tant and use­ful to make progress on, but am slightly more guarded af­ter some of my own ex­pe­riences, hear­ing about the ex­pe­rience of a friend who reached a high level in it, read­ing some cri­tiques of its ten­dency to em­pha­size aware­ness of pos­i­tive ex­pe­riences [1 2], and con­sid­er­ing both the in­ter­view quoted above and Cu­ladasa’s sub­se­quent ac­tions. (That said, the fo­cus on pos­i­tive ex­pe­riences can be a use­ful coun­ter­bal­ance for peo­ple who start off with an over­all nega­tive stance to­wards life.)

I con­tinue to prac­tice it, and would gen­er­ally find it safe un­til you get to around the sixth or so of its ten stages, at which point I would sug­gest start­ing to ex­er­cise some cau­tion. Off the couch, I mostly don’t do much con­cen­tra­tion prac­tice (ex­cept in a con­text where I would need to con­cen­trate any­way). Rather I try to fo­cus my in­tro­spec­tive aware­ness to­wards just ob­serv­ing my mind with­out ac­tively in­terfer­ing with it, In­ter­nal Fam­ily Sys­tems -style prac­tice, and other ac­tivi­ties that do not seem to risk ex­clud­ing too much un­pleas­ant ma­te­rial.

Fi­nally, de­vel­op­ing too much aware­ness into your mind may cause you to start notic­ing con­tra­dic­tions be­tween how you thought it worked, and how it ac­tu­ally works. I sus­pect that a part of how our brains have evolved to op­er­ate, re­lies on those differ­ences go­ing un­no­ticed. This gets us to the topic of en­light­en­ment, which I have not yet dis­cussed, but will do in my next post.

Thanks to Maija Haav­isto, Lumi Pakka­nen and Romeo Stevens for com­ments on an ear­lier draft.


          

Five Ex-Leaders of Myanmar Naga Group Jailed for Unlawful Association

 Cache   
Five ex-leaders of the NCSN-K Naga armed group—all of whom were playing a role in the peace process—jailed for 2 years with six other members for unlawful association.
          

Free Burma Rangers: The people here must decide their future

 Cache   
Dave Eubank from the Free Burma Rangers spoke to ANF at length about the comittment of his medical team and the death of one of his medics, on 2 November.
          

A mechanistic model of meditation

 Cache   
Published on November 6, 2019 9:37 PM UTC

Meditation has been claimed to have all kinds of transformative effects on the psyche, such as improving concentration ability, healing trauma, cleaning up delusions, allowing one to track their subconscious strategies, and making one’s nervous system more efficient. However, an explanation for why and how exactly this would happen has typically been lacking. This makes people reasonably skeptical of such claims.

In this post, I want to offer an explanation for one kind of a mechanism: meditation increasing the degree of a person’s introspective awareness, and thus leading to increasing psychological unity as internal conflicts are detected and resolved.

Note that this post does not discuss “enlightenment”. That is a related but separate topic. It is possible to pursue meditation mainly for its ordinary psychological benefits while being uninterested in enlightenment, and vice versa.

What is introspective awareness?

In an earlier post on introspective awareness, I distinguished between being aware of something, and being aware of having been aware of something. My example involved that of a robot whose consciousness contains one mental object at a time, and which is aware of different things at different times:

Robot’s thought at time 1: It’s raining outside
Robot’s thought at time 2: Battery low
Robot’s thought at time 3: Technological unemployment protestors are outside
Robot’s thought at time 4: Battery low
Robot’s thought at time 5: I’m now recharging my battery

At times 2-5, the robot has no awareness of the fact that it was thinking about rain at time 1. As soon as something else captures its attention, it has no idea of this earlier conscious content - unless a particular subsystem happens to record the fact, and can later re-present the content in an appropriately tagged form:

Time 6: At time 1, there was the thought that [It’s raining outside]

I said that at time 6, the robot had a moment of introspective awareness: a mental object containing a summary of its previous thoughts, which can then be separately examined and acted upon.

Humans are not robots. But I previously summarized the neuroscience book Consciousness and the Brain, and its global neuronal workspace (GNW) model of consciousness. According to this model, the contents of consciousness correspond to what is being represented in a particular network of neurons - the global workspace - that connects different parts of the brain. Different systems are constantly competing to get their contents into the global workspace, which can only hold one piece of content at a time. Thus, like robots, we too are only aware of one thing at a time, and tend to lose awareness of our earlier thoughts - unless something reminds us of them.

In what follows, I will suggest that like robots, humans also have a type of conscious content that we might call introspective awareness, which allows us to be more aware of our previous mental activity. (I am borrowing the term from the meditation book The Mind Illuminated, which distinguishes between introspective attention, introspective awareness, and metacognitive introspective awareness. I am eliding these differences for the sake of simplicity.)

I will also explore the idea that introspective awareness is a sensory channel in a similar sense as vision and sound are. The experience of sight or sound is produced by subsystems which send information to consciousness; likewise, introspective awareness is produced by a subsystem which captures information in the brain and then sends it (back) to consciousness.

We can train our other senses to become more accurate and detailed. Gilbert, Sigman & Crist (2001), reviewing the neuroscience or sensory training, list a number of ways in which discrimination can be increased in a variety of sensory modalities: among other things, "visual acuity, somatosensory spatial resolution, discrimination of hue, estimation of weight, and discrimination of acoustical pitch all show improvement with practice"; even the spatial resolution of the visual system can be deliberately increased by training.

If introspective awareness is a sensory channel, can it also be practiced to improve the number of details it will pick up on? One may feel that I am stretching the metaphor here. But in fact, Consciousness and the Brain suggests that all sensory training is in a sense training in introspection. The additional information that we get by training our senses has always been collected by our brain, but that information has remained isolated at lower levels of processing. To make it conscious, one needs to grow new neural circuits which extract the lower-level information and re-encode it in a format which can be sent to consciousness.

Thus, the brain already has the ability to take normally unavailable subconscious information and make it consciously available by practice. What is needed is a way to point that learning process at the kind of information that we would normally consider "introspective", rather than on an external information source.

From Consciousness and the Brain:

... a fourth way in which neural information can remain unconscious, according to workspace theory, is to be diluted into a complex pattern of firing. To take a concrete example, consider a visual grating that is so finely spaced, or that flickers so fast (50 hertz and above), that you cannot see it. Although you perceive only a uniform gray, experiments show that the grating is actually encoded inside your brain: distinct groups of visual neurons fire for different orientations of the grating. Why can’t this pattern of neuronal activity be brought to consciousness? Probably because it makes use of an extremely tangled spatiotemporal pattern of firing in the primary visual area, a neural cipher too complex to be explicitly recognized by global workspace neurons higher up in the cortex. Although we do not yet fully understand the neural code, we believe that, in order to become conscious, a piece of information first has to be re-encoded in an explicit form by a compact assembly of neurons. The anterior regions of the visual cortex must dedicate specific neurons to meaningful visual inputs, before their own activity can be amplified and cause a global workspace ignition that brings the information into awareness. If the information remains diluted in the firing of myriad unrelated neurons, then it cannot be made conscious.
Any face that we see, any word that we hear, begins in this unconscious manner, as an absurdly contorted spatiotemporal train of spikes in millions of neurons, each sensing only a minuscule part of the overall scene. Each of these input patterns contains virtually infinite amounts of information about the speaker, message, emotion, room size . . . if only we could decode it—but we can’t. We become aware of this latent information only once our higher-level brain areas categorize it into meaningful bins. Making the message explicit is an essential role of the hierarchical pyramid of sensory neurons that successively extract increasingly abstract features of our sensations. Sensory training makes us aware of faint sights or sounds because, at all levels, neurons reorient their properties to amplify these sensory messages. Prior to learning, a neuronal message was already present in our sensory areas, but only implicitly, in the form of a diluted firing pattern inaccessible to our awareness.

Richard’s therapy session

We saw an example of introspective awareness in my post on the book Unlocking the Emotional Brain. In the transcript, a man named Richard has been suffering from severe self-doubt, and is asked to imagine how it would feel like if he made confident comments in a work meeting. The following conversation follows:

Richard: Now I’m feeling really uncomfortable, but-it’s in a different way.
Therapist: OK, let yourself feel it - this different discomfort. [Pause.] See if any words come along with this uncomfortable feeling.
Richard: [Pause.] Now they hate me.

The therapist is asking Richard to focus his attention on the feeling of discomfort, generating moments of introspective awareness about the discomfort. Notice that Richard becomes more thoughtful and less reactive to the anxiety as he does so. My guess of what is happening is something like this:

When Richard is feeling anxious, this means that a mental object encoding something like “the feeling of anxiety” is being represented in the workspace. This activates neural rules which trigger the kinds of responses that anxiety has evolved to produce. For example, a system may be triggered which attempts to plan how to escape the situation causing the anxiety. This system’s intentions are then injected into the workspace, producing a state of mind where the feeling of anxiety alternates with thoughts of how to get away.

Introspective awareness is its own type of mental object, produced by a different subsystem which takes inputs from the global workspace, re-encodes them in a format which highlights particular aspects of that data, and outputs that back into the workspace. When a representation of an anxious state of mind is created, that representation does not by itself trigger the same rules as the original anxiety did.

As a result, as representations of the anxiety begin to alternate together with the anxiety, there are proportionately less moments of anxiety. This in turn triggers fewer of the subsystems attempting to escape the situation, making it easier to reflect on the anxiety without being bothered by it.

When Richard’s therapist asks him to feel the anxiety and to see if any words come along with it, the subsystem for introspective awareness was primed to look for any content that could be re-presented in verbal form. As Richard’s anxiety had been produced by an emotional schema including a prediction that being confident makes you hated, some of that information had passed through the workspace and been available for the awareness subsystem to capture. This brought up the verbalization of what the schema predicted would happen if Richard was confident - “now they hate me”.

Therapist: “Now they hate me.” Good. Keep going: See if this really uncomfortable feeling can also tell you why they hate you now.

According to the GNW model, when a particular piece of content is maintained as the center of attention, it strengthens the activation of any structures associated with it. As Richard’s therapist guides him to focus on the verbal content, more information related to it is broadcast into the workspace. The further prompt guides the awareness subsystem to look for patterns that feel like the reason for the hate.

Richard: [Pause.] Hnh. Wow. It’s because… now I’m… an arrogant asshole… like my father… a totally self-centered, totally insensitive know-it-all.

The therapist then takes a pattern which Richard has brought up and helps crystallize it further, and throws it back to Richard for verification.

Therapist: Do you mean that having a feeling of confidence as you speak turns you into an arrogant asshole, like Dad?
Richard: Yeah, exactly. Wow.

In this example, we saw that having more moments of introspective awareness was beneficial for Richard. As aspects of his moment-to-moment consciousness were made available for other subsystems to examine, the emotional schema causing the anxiety was identified and its contents extracted into a format which could be fed into other subsystems. Later on, when Richard’s co-worker displayed confidence which others approved of, a contradiction-detection mechanism noticed a discrepancy between reality and the prediction that confidence makes you hated, allowing the prediction to be revised.

Under this model, the system which produces moments of introspective awareness is a subsystem like any other in the brain. This means that it will be activated when the right cues trigger it, and its outputs compete with the outputs of other systems submitting content to consciousness. The circumstances under which the system triggers, and its probability of successfully making its contents conscious, are modified by reinforcement learning. Just as practicing a skill such as arithmetic eventually causes various subsystems to manipulate the content of consciousness in the right order, practicing a skill which benefits from introspective awareness will cause the subsystem generating introspective awareness to activate more often.

Meditation as a technique for generating moments of introspective awareness

Just as there are different forms and styles of therapy, there are also different forms and styles of meditation. All of them involve introspective awareness to at least some degree, but they differ in what that awareness is then used for.

In the example with Richard, his therapist asked him to imagine being confident and to then bring his awareness to why that felt uncomfortable. In contrast, a more behaviorally oriented therapist might not have examined the reason behind the discomfort. Rather, they might have taught Richard to notice his reaction to the discomfort, and then use that as a cue for implementing an opposite reaction. Both kinds of therapists would ask their clients to generate some introspective awareness, but aiming that awareness at different kinds of features, and using the awareness to trigger different kinds of strategies. The results would correspondingly be very different.

Likewise, systems of meditation differ in how much introspective awareness they produce, what kinds of features the awareness-producing subsystem is trained to extract, and what that awareness is then used for. For this article, I have chosen to use the example of the system in The Mind Illuminated (TMI), as it is clearly explained and explicitly phrased in these terms. (Again, TMI has a more precise distinction between introspective attention and introspective awareness, which I am eliding for the sake of simplicity.)

In TMI’s system, as in many others, you start with trying to keep your attention on your breath. In terms of our model, this means that you want to keep sensory outputs corresponding to your breath as the main thing in your consciousness.

The problem with this goal is that there is no subsystem which can just unilaterally decide what to maintain as the center of attention. At any given moment, many different subsystems are competing to make their content conscious. So one system might have the intention to follow the breath, and you do it for a while, but then a planning system kicks in with its intention to think about dinner. Such planning has tended to feel rewarding, so it wins out and the intent to meditate is forgotten until five minutes later, when you decide what you want for dinner and then suddenly remember the thing about following your breath.

TMI calls this mind-wandering from forgetting, and the first step of practice is just to notice it whenever it happens, congratulate yourself for having noticed it, and then return to the breath. Being able to notice forgetting requires having a moment of introspective awareness which points out the fact that you had not been following your breath. When you take satisfaction in having noticed this, your awareness-producing subsystem gets assigned a reward and becomes slightly more likely to activate in the future. “Have I remembered to follow my breath or not?” acts a feedback mechanism that you can explicitly train on.

As the awareness-producing system starts to activate more often and ping you if you have forgotten to meditate, periods of mind-wandering grow shorter.

Now, even if you stop getting entirely lost in thought, you still have distraction: content from other subsystems that is in consciousness together with the sensations of the breath and the intention to focus on the breath. For example, you might be having stray thoughts, hearing sounds from your environment, and experiencing sensations from your body.

To more exclusively focus on the breath, you are instructed to maintain the intent to both attend to it and also to be aware of any distractions. The subsystems which output mental content can, and normally do, operate independently of each other. This means that the following may happen:

Subsystem 1: I’m meditating well!
Subsystem 2: Hmm, what’s that smell.
Subsystem 1: I’m meditating well! No distractions.
Subsystem 2: Smells kinda like cookies.
Subsystem 2: Mmm, cookies.
Subsystem 1: Continuing to meditate well!
Subsystem 2: Say, what’s for dinner?

That is, a system which tracks the breath can continue to repeatedly find the breath, and report that your meditation is proceeding well and with no distractions… all the while the content of your consciousness continues to alternate with distracted thoughts, which the breath-tracking subsystem is failing to notice (because it is tracking the breath, not the presence of other thoughts). Worse, since you may find it rewarding to just think that you are meditating well, that thought may start to become rewarded, and you may find yourself just thinking that you are meditating well… even as that thought has become self-sustaining and no longer connected to whether you are following the breath or not!

There are all kinds of subtle traps like this, and reducing the amount of distraction requires you to first have better awareness of the distraction. This means more moments of introspective awareness which are tracking what’s actually happening in your mind:

Subsystem 1: I’m meditating well!
Subsystem 2: Hmm, what’s that smell.
Subsystem 1: I’m meditating well! No distractions.
Subsystem 2: Smells kinda like cookies.
Subsystem 2: Mmm, cookies.
Awareness subsystem: Wait, one train of thought keeps saying that it’s meditating well, but another is totally getting into the thought of food.
Subsystem 1: Oh. Better refocus that attention on the breath, and spend less time thinking about the concept of following the breath.

This kind of a process also teaches you to pay attention to patterns of cause and effect in your mind. In this example, the smell of cookies caused you to think of cookies, which in turn made you think of dinner, which could have ultimately led to forgetting and mind-wandering.

Catching the train of thought after “mmm, cookies” meant that three “processing steps” had passed before you noticed it. If you practice tracing back trains of thought in your mind, you seem to teach your awareness-system to collect and store data from a longer period, even when it is not actively outputting it. This means that at the “mmm, cookies” stage, you can query your awareness to get a trace of the immediately preceding thought chain.

You notice that you started to get distracted starting from the smell of the cookie and can then use this as further input to your awareness system. You are essentially taking the re-presented smell of the cookie which the system output, and feeding it back in, asking it to pay more attention to detecting “things like this”. The next time that you notice a smell, your introspective awareness may flag it right away, letting you catch the distraction at the very first stage and before it turns into an extended train of thought.

Note that there is nothing particularly mysterious or unusual about any of this. You are employing essentially the same process used in learning any skill. In learning to ride a bike, for example, attempting to keep the bike balanced involves adjusting your movements in response to feedback. When you do so, your brain becomes better at detecting things like “tilting towards the right” in the sense data, increasing your ability to apply the right correction. After you have learned to identify tilting-a-lot-but-not-quite-falling, your brain learns to backtrace to the preceding state of tilting-a-little-less, and apply the right correction there. Once its precision has been honed to identify that state, you can further detect an even subtler tilt, until you automatically apply the right corrections to keep you balanced.

Essentially the kind of a learning algorithm is being applied here. Increased sensory precision leads to improvements in skill which allow for increased sensory precision. (See also this article, which goes into more detail about TMI as a form of deliberate practice.)

Uses for moments of introspective awareness

I should again emphasize that the preceding explanation is only looking at one particular meditation system. There are other systems which work very differently, but they all use or develop introspective awareness to some extent. For example:

  • In Shinzen Young's formulation of “do nothing” practice, you have just two basic instructions: let whatever happens, happen and when you notice an intention to control your attention, drop that intention. This trains introspective awareness to notice when one is trying to control their attention… but it is also a very different system, since maintaining an intention to notice when that happens would also be an attempt to control attention! Thus, one is instructed to drop intentions if one spontaneously notices them, but not to actively look for them.
  • In noting practice, you are trying to consciously name or notice everything that happens in your consciousness. Introspective awareness is trained to very rapidly distinguish between everything that happens, but is not trained to maintain attention on any particular thing.
  • In visualization practice, you might create a visual image in your mind, then use introspective awareness to examine the mental object that you’ve created and compare it to what a real image would look like. This gives the subsystem creating the visualization feedback, and helps slowly develop a more realistic image.

Going back to TMI-style introspective awareness, once you get it trained up, you can use it for various purposes. In particular, once you learn to maintain it during your daily life - and not just on the meditation couch - it will bring up more assumptions in your various schemas and mental models. Think of Richard paying attention to the assumptions behind his unwanted reactions and making them explicit, but as something that happens on a regular basis as the reactions come up.

Romeo Stevens described what he called “the core loop of Buddhism”:

So, what is the core loop?
It's basically cognitive behavioral therapy, supercharged with a mental state more intense than most pharmaceuticals.
There are two categories of practice, one for cultivating the useful mental state, the other uses that mental state to investigate the causal linkages between various parts of your perception (physical sensations, emotional tones, and mental reactions) which leads to clearing out of old linkages that weren't constructed well.
You have physical sensations in the course of life. Your nervous system reacts to these sensations with high or low valence (positive, negative, neutral) and arousal (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activation), your mind reacts to these now-emotion-laden sensations with activity (mental image, mental talk) out of which you then build stories to make sense of your situation.
The key insight that drives everything is the knowledge (and later, direct experience) that this system isn't wired up efficiently. Importantly: I don't mean this in a normative way. Like you should wire it the way I say just because, but in the 'this type of circuit only needs 20 nand gates, why are there 60 and why is it shunting excess voltage into the anger circuits over there that have nothing to do with this computation?' way. Regardless of possible arguments over an ultimately 'correct' way to wire everything, there are very low hanging fruit in terms of improvements that will help you effectively pursue *any* other goal you set your mind to.

Again, we saw an example of this with Richard. He had experienced his father as acting confident and as causing suffering to Richard and others; sensations which his mind has classified as negative. In order to avoid them, a model (story) was constructed saying that confidence is horrible, and behaviors (e.g. negative self-talk) were created to avoid appearing horrible.

Now, this caused problems down the line, making him motivated to try to appear more confident… meaning that there was now a mechanism in his brain trying to prevent him from appearing confident, and another which considered this a problem and tried to make him more confident, in opposition to the first system. See what Romeo means when talking about circuits that only need 20 gates but are implemented using 60?

The article “tune your motor cortex” makes the following claims about muscle movement:

Your motor cortex automatically learns to execute complex movements by putting together simpler ones, all the way down to control of individual muscles.
Because the process of learning happens organically, the resulting architecture of neural connections (you can think of them as "hidden layers" in machine learning terms) is not always perfectly suited to the task.
Some local optima of those neural configurations are hard to get out of, and constantly reinforced by using them.
There is some pressure for muscle control to be efficient, and the motor cortex is doing a "good enough" job at it, but tends to stop a fair bit from perfection.
By repeating certain movements and positions over and over again (e.g. during sitting work), we involuntarily strengthen connections between movements and muscles that don't make much sense lumped together.
E.g. control of shoulders might become spuriously wired together with control of thighs (both are often tense during sitting).

There are various mental motions which are learned in basically the same way as physical motions are:

  • You learn to calculate 12*13 by a technique such as first multiplying 10*13, keeping the result in your memory, calculating 2*13, and then adding the intermediate results together.
  • You learn that a particular memory makes you feel slightly unpleasant, and that flinching away from anything that would remind you of it takes the pain away.
  • You learn that this also works on uncomfortable chores, teaching you to keep pushing the thought of them away.
  • You learn that your father’s behavior is painful to you, and that any confidence reminds you of that, so you learn negative self-talk which blocks you from acting confident.
  • You learn that saying “no” to people reminds you of being punished for saying “no” to your parents, but that saying “yes” too often means that you are constantly fulfilling promises to other people - so you learn to avoid situations where you would be asked anything.
  • You learn that there’s something you can do in your mind to stop feeling upset, so you start ignoring your emotions and any information they might have.
  • You learn that if you feel bad about not getting the respect you want, thinking “if only I was good enough at persuasion, I would get what I want” gives you a sense of control - even though this pattern also makes you feel personally at fault when you don’t get what you want.
  • You learn that it’s rewarding to punish people who have wronged, so you always want to punish someone when something goes wrong - even if there is nobody but reality to punish.
  • You learn that it feels good to mentally punish someone who is munching too loud, but actually complaining about it would feel petty, and you’ve learned that pettiness is frowned upon. So you also learn to block the impulse to say anything out loud, but continue to get increasingly angry about the sound, causing an escalating circle of both the annoyance and the blocking ramping up in intensity.

As with physical movements, these can form local optima that are hard to get out of. Many of them are learned in childhood, when your understanding of the world is limited. But new behaviors continue to build on top of them, so you will eventually end up with a system which could use a lot of optimization.

If you have more introspective awareness of the exact processes that are happening in your mind, you can make more implicit assumptions conscious, causing your brain’s built-in contradiction detector to notice when they contradict your later learning. Also, getting more feedback about what exactly is happening in your mind allows you to notice more wasted motion in general.

One particular effect is that, as Unlocking the Emotional Brain notes, the mind often makes trade-offs where it causes itself some minor suffering in order to avoid a perceived greater suffering. For example, someone may feel guilt in order to motivate themselves, or experience self-doubt to avoid appearing too confident. By employing greater introspective awareness, one may find ways to achieve their goals without needing to experience any suffering in order to do so.

Of course, Buddhist meditation is not the only way to achieve this. Various therapies and techniques such as Focusing, Internal Family Systems, Internal Double Crux, and so on, are also methods which use introspective awareness to reveal and refactor various assumptions. Increased introspective awareness from meditation tends to also boost the effectiveness of related techniques, as well as reveal more situations where they can be employed.

If introspective awareness is so great, why don’t we have it naturally?

As with anything, there are tradeoffs involved. Having more introspective awareness can help fix a lot of issues… but it also comes with risks, which I assume is the reason why we have not evolved to have a lot of it all the time.

First, it’s worth noting that even for experienced meditators, intense emotional reactions tend to shut down introspective awareness. If one of the functions of e.g. fear and anxiety is to cause a rapid response, then excessive amounts of introspective awareness would slow down that response by reducing cognitive fusion. Many emotions seem to inhibit many competing processes from accessing consciousness, so that you can deal with the situation at hand.

Another consideration involves traumatic memories. In the beginning of the article, I suggested that anxiety is a special kind of mental object which activates particular behaviors. In general, different emotional states have specific kinds of behaviors and activities associated with them - meaning that if you have some memories which are really painful, they can become overwhelming, making it necessary to block them in order to carry on with your normal life. Meditation can be helpful for working through your trauma, but it can also bring it up before you are ready for it, to the point of requiring professional psychotherapy to get through. If you are better at noticing all kinds of subtle details in your mind, it also becomes easier to notice anything that would remind you of things you don’t want to remember. A decrease in introspective awareness seems to be a common trauma symptom, as this helps block the unpleasant memories from being too easily triggered.

I have also heard advanced meditators mention that increased introspective awareness makes it difficult to push away pangs of conscience that they would otherwise have ignored, causing practical problems. For example, people have said that they are no longer able to eat animal products or tell white lies.

On the other hand, extended concentration practice can also make it easier to block things which you would be better off not blocking.

So far, this article has mostly focused on using introspective awareness to notice the content of your thoughts. But you can also use it to notice the structure of the higher-level processes generating your thoughts. Part of how you develop concentration ability is by maintaining introspective awareness of the fact that being able to concentrate on just one thing feels more pleasant than having your attention jump between many different things. This can give you an improved ability to choose what you are concentrating on… but also to selectively exclude anything unpleasant from your mind.

For example, there was an occasion when I needed to do some work, but also had intense anxiety about not wanting to; intense enough that it would normally have made it impossible for me to focus on it. So then I tried to work, and let my introspective awareness observe the feeling of head-splitting agony from my attention alternating between the work and the desire not to… and to also notice that whenever my attention was on the work, I felt temporarily better.

After a while of this, the anxiety started to get excluded from my consciousness, until it suddenly dropped away completely - as if some deeper process had judged it useless and revoked its access to consciousness. And while this allowed me to do the work that I needed to, it also felt internally violent, and like it would be too easy to repress any unpleasant thoughts using it. I still use this kind of technique on occasion when I need to concentrate on something, but I try to be cautious about it.

The negative side of being able to get better feedback about your mental processes, is that you can also get better feedback on exactly how pleasant wireheading feels. If you like to imagine pleasant things, you can get better and better at imagining pleasant things, and excluding any worries about it from your consciousness. Meditation teacher Daniel Ingram warns:

Strong insight and concentration practice, even when that practice wasn’t dedicated to the powers, can make people go temporarily or permanently (or for the rest of that lifetime) psychotic. The more the practice involves creating experiences that diverge significantly from what I will crudely term “consensus reality”, and the longer one engages in these practices, the more likely prolonged difficulties are. It is of note that a significant number of the primary propagators of the Western magickal traditions became moderately nuts towards the ends of their lives.
As one Burmese man said to Kenneth, “My brother does concentration practice. You know, sometimes they go a little mad!” He was talking about what can sometimes happen when people get into the powers. [...]
I remember a letter from a friend who was on a long retreat in Burma and was supposed to be doing insight practices but had slipped into playing with these sorts of experiences. He was now fascinated by his ability to see spirit animals and other supernormal beings and was having regular conversations with some sort of low-level god that kept telling him that he was making excellent progress in his insight practice—that is, exactly what he wanted to hear. However, the fact that he was having stable visionary experiences and was buying into their content made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t doing insight practices at all, but was lost in and being fooled by these.

Now, it should be pointed out that “being able to exclude anything unpleasant from your consciousness” is only going to be a worry for advanced practitioners who spend a lot of time on the kind of practice that inclines you towards these kinds of risks. Before you get to the point of something like this being a risk, you will get to resolve a lot of internal conflicts and old issues first.

Here is Culadasa, the author of The Mind Illuminated, being interviewed about this kind of a “first you resolve a lot of issues, but then you can get the ability to push down the rest” dynamic:

Michael Taft: … and you’re using the meditation practice to help work with your stuff. But what about the other case that we both know of where people have reached very high levels of meditative capacity, they’ve got a lot of insight, maybe they’re at some level of awakening, and they seem to have, in a way, missed a whole pocket of material, or several pockets of material. It’s like they think they’re doing fine, but maybe everyone around them is aware that they’ve got these behavior patterns that do not seem awake at all. And yet the meditation has somehow missed that.
Culadasa: Yes, yes. [...] ... there seems to be a certain level of the stuff that we’re talking about that it’s necessary to deal with to achieve awakening, but it’s sort of a minimal level. [...] What I think that is indicative of is that if that hasn’t been sufficiently dealt with earlier, it has to get dealt with in one way or another at that point. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get resolved; it may just get reburied a little more deeply.
Michael Taft: Pushed out of the way.
Culadasa: Yeah, pushed out of the way, or bypassed in some way. That allows a person to go ahead and [progress] and it’s unrealistic to think that everything has been resolved. [...] a lot of the things that change [...] actually help to push these things aside, to bypass them in one way or another, whereas before somebody has [made as much progress] these would have been sufficiently problematic in their life that, in one way or another, they would be aware of them, whether or not they did anything about them or were at a place of just taking for granted that I have these, quote, “personality characteristics” that are a bit difficult.

I used to be very enthusiastic about TMI’s meditation system. I still consider it important and useful to make progress on, but am slightly more guarded after some of my own experiences, hearing about the experience of a friend who reached a high level in it, reading some critiques of its tendency to emphasize awareness of positive experiences [1 2], and considering both the interview quoted above and Culadasa’s subsequent actions. (That said, the focus on positive experiences can be a useful counterbalance for people who start off with an overall negative stance towards life.)

I continue to practice it, and would generally find it safe until you get to around the sixth or so of its ten stages, at which point I would suggest starting to exercise some caution. Off the couch, I mostly don’t do much concentration practice (except in a context where I would need to concentrate anyway). Rather I try to focus my introspective awareness towards just observing my mind without actively interfering with it, Internal Family Systems -style practice, and other activities that do not seem to risk excluding too much unpleasant material.

Finally, developing too much awareness into your mind may cause you to start noticing contradictions between how you thought it worked, and how it actually works. I suspect that a part of how our brains have evolved to operate, relies on those differences going unnoticed. This gets us to the topic of enlightenment, which I have not yet discussed, but will do in my next post.

Thanks to Maija Haavisto, Lumi Pakkanen and Romeo Stevens for comments on an earlier draft.



Discuss
          

Lot Currency Japan Philippines WWII Occupation Notes Burma Circulated Poor 8

 Cache   
$9.95
End Date: Wednesday Nov-27-2019 6:03:21 PST
Buy It Now for only: $9.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

          

World: U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at a "Celebrating World Humanitarian Day" Event

 Cache   
Source: US Agency for International Development
Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, United States of America, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), World, Yemen

For Immediate Release
Monday, August 20, 2018 Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC
August 20, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Dan, for that kind introduction and thanks to all of you for being here to help mark this very important occasion.

As we begin, as we call it in Congress, I'd like to start with a point of personal privilege. I'd like to take this opportunity this morning to express our sadness over the death of Kofi Annan. He was a giant who has spent his entire life advocating for peace, and the for the protection of humanitarian workers, something that we'll be talking about today. As he so often said, "People, not states, should be at the center of what we do." His passing makes this World Humanitarian Day even more poignant.

This morning, on behalf of USAID, I hope to convey two important messages to all of you. The first is, as Dan was alluding to, relates to the rapidly-evolving nature of humanitarian relief and assistance.

The second, as we mark this day, is simply our deep, deep admiration and gratitude for the many heroes of our humanitarian work. They, and many of you, are truly extraordinary and heroic.

I have to say that before I joined USAID, I didn't really appreciate the scope and range of what it is that we do in our humanitarian work. You can see it in some of the numbers. In 2017, USAID responded to 53 crises in 51 countries. For only the second time in our agency's history, we had six DART teams, Disaster Assistance Response Teams, deployed simultaneously around the world. The first time that happened was the preceding year.

At this very moment, we have pre-positioned resources and experts in just about every part of the world. We have seven emergency stockpiles in places like Djibouti, South Africa, and Malaysia. We have full-time response staff in 30 countries. We have six regional offices and 11 adviser offices, located with partners like the military's combatant commands.

One of my most vivid memories from my first year as Administrator was, essentially, a crash course in how some of this works. One day, during last year's UN General Assembly meetings, we received word of a terrible earthquake, the second one that had struck Mexico City. One evening that week, I was walking down the street between back-to-back dinners with two different mobile phones: one with the White House, one with the DART team leader.

I was dodging pedestrians, I'm sure looking ridiculous, while the disaster professionals were helping me navigate something much more serious: how to rapidly mobilize an emergency response team to Mexico City to help our neighbors to the South respond to its second earthquake in just a few weeks' time.

The government said to us that they'd welcome the assistance of a highly-specialized type of international search and rescue team, something really hard to find, especially in a hurry. But, thanks to the White House, our talented team here in D.C., our network of first responders, and the DOD, we were able to transport and stand up just such a team in Mexico City before breakfast the next morning. I'm honored to be part of a network, which includes many of you, that can make something like that happen.

But, as we gather to mark World Humanitarian Day this year, we have to acknowledge that natural disaster responses no longer epitomizes today's humanitarian work. We still do that, to be sure, and I think we do it well. But, these days, we face vast other challenges all around the world.

Our humanitarian resources are increasingly being deployed, not for storms and quakes and the like, but for man-made disasters, from conflict-driven displacement to tyranny-driven economic collapse.

Our DARTs are more likely to be deployed for those types of crises, and by far, most of our humanitarian assistance dollars are being allocated for those kinds of needs. There's the ongoing tragedy in Syria, a horrific conflict in its seventh year and one of the most complex crises of our time. Over 13 million people, more than 80 percent of the current population, need humanitarian assistance. There's the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan, where 3.3 million people need humanitarian assistance. A recent upturn in violence has claimed 1,700 civilian lives this year alone.

A dozen or so years ago, I travelled to Afghanistan as a congressman. And, in those days, our presence was measured by the tens of thousands of military boots on the ground. These days, we still have some troops there, but our boots on the ground are increasingly humanitarian and development workers, some of whom have been back to work in Afghanistan two, three, and even four times.

Nine hundred aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan in the last decade.

There's South Sudan, the most dangerous place of all for humanitarian workers. Seven million people in South Sudan, including 1 million living on the brink of famine, depend on international assistance just to survive.

Then there are the man-made crises far closer to home. One of the most underreported catastrophes in the world today is what's happening in and around Venezuela. More than 2.3 million Venezuelans have already fled. It's the largest single mass exodus in the history of the Western Hemisphere. And it's ongoing. I saw this first hand when I visited Cucuta, in Colombia, and the Bolivar Bridge last month. Five thousand new migrants enter Colombia each and every day. They're desperately seeking food and emergency medical care. They're seeking survival.

This isn't merely Colombia's challenge. Venezuelans are fleeing to places like Brazil and Ecuador, as we read over the weekend, and northward to the Caribbean. The list of man-made, conflict-caused, and regime-driven humanitarian crises goes on and on. After all, there are roughly 70,000,000 displaced people in the world today.

Since humanitarian needs and crises are changing, we're doing our best our to change and to respond to them, with the best tools and ideas that we can find. We're applying lessons learned over and over again. And we're fostering innovation.

This past February, USAID and our British cousins, DFID, joined in launching the first-ever Humanitarian Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenge mechanism is a way for the world's best thinkers, from organizations large and small, for-profit and non-profit, business, academia, to offer new ideas in helping (inaudible) relief to the most vulnerable, hardest to reach communities in the world.

It's a chance for us to identify and invest in the best and the brightest. We've already received 615 applications from 86 different countries, including a third from women and nearly half from lower and middle income countries. We're excited to see and mobilize the results, and they're due out this fall.

Given how much of our humanitarian response is in conflict zones and fragile states, we're paying more attention than ever to the obstacles and challenges that factions, gangs, militias, and corrupt officials are throwing at relief teams. Case in point. In April of this year, a leading humanitarian agency reported that it had encountered no fewer than 70 checkpoints on the 300-mile trip from Aden to Sanaa, in Yemen. I'm sure those were just helpful citizens offering directions along the way.

But it's the kind of situation that caused us to launch the Strengthening Field Level Capacity on Humanitarian Access and Negotiations program last August.

It's aimed at helping relief team members better understand practical negotiation techniques and safe, effective field-level decision making.

Because there is nothing more important to us, nothing more important to me, than the safety and security of our humanitarian network, that's the area that we're especially focusing on. We must stay ahead of threats and potential threats. So we're supporting organizations dedicated to improving security standards and training for NGO staff. We're modifying our policy so that security, costs for equipment, staff, training and site enhancements can be more easily built into your contracts and grant budgets.

We're investing in new tools to help us map and minimize risk to operations at the most basic level, the level of, for example, moving food from a plane to a truck, to a warehouse and distribution center. But, let's face it: we can take every possible step to minimize risk. We can't make it go away.

And many of you here know that all too well. One of the most inspiring and humbling parts of my job is getting to meet the heroes who know the risks but carry on just because they care.

I saw firsthand, when I visited IDP camps just outside of Raqqa. I heard stories of challenges that humanitarian heroes face each day, as they strive to bring water and food and medical care to those who've been victimized by the years of conflict. With Assad's regime still holding sway in parts of the country, there's no real, legitimate government partner with whom to work. And their path is riddled with unexploded ordinance, which is going off at the rate of, roughly, three dozen per day.

The shelters they sleep in at night shake with the dropping of bombs each and every day. And yet, somehow, because of their commitment to others, they wake up the next morning and they do it all over again. These are the heroes that we hold high this World Humanitarian Day.

People like Iraq's Salam Muhammad. When Anbar and Kirkuk were liberated from ISIS at the end of last year, humanitarians were the first ones on the ground, providing food, water, and medical care. Iraq staff with the U.S.-funded NGO spend their days clearing mines and educating their neighbors about the dangers the ordinance poses.

Salam decided to joint this particular NGO after witnessing several tragedies that left some of his relatives and friends injured, or killed. He was one of the NGO's first recruits in Iraq. Every day is challenging for the de-miners; any accident can be fatal. But Salam and his staff love their jobs and show up for work every day filled with passion because they know what they're doing matters.

There's Jay Nash, a regional adviser who has lived and worked for USAID in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the past 20 years. The DRC is, as you know, no stranger to aid worker attacks, with 210 people being killed, wounded, or kidnapped since 2000.

In 1999, while visiting a university in the DRC, Jay was ambushed by a mob of students who thought he was a spy for neighboring Rwanda. The mob torched the U.S. embassy vehicle he had been driving, but Jay escaped after a group of brave students made a ring around him, guarding him until they were able to duck him into the girls' dormitory.

Sitting in that dorm, trapped for hours with a mob threatening to break down the doors, Jay said he had one thought: he thought of the children with disabilities that he was helping in his free time. DRC has a higher than average rate of disability. And he thought to himself, if he died in that girls' dorm, who would take care of those kids?

After eight hours, he made a run for it, and he didn't look back. Not only did he stay in DRC working for USAID, in 2001, he started his own NGO called StandProud. It provides treatment and equipment to young people with disabilities, helping them gain dignity, mobility, and independence.

There's Fareed Noori, one of the victims of last month's attack on a government building in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The blast killed 15 people. Fareed had been working in Afghanistan since 2010 for a USAID partner the International Rescue Committee, as a water, sanitation, and hygiene engineer. As his colleagues noted, whenever there was an emergency, Fareed was the first in the field to help with whatever was needed.

Fareed was in an emergency meeting at the time of the attack. He was killed doing the work of helping others, to which he had committed his life. Fareed leaves behind four children, two girls, two boys, all under the age of 9.

Another victim of that attack was Bakhtawara; it's a pseudonym, a bright and impressive 22-year-old woman. She was working for the International Organization for Migration, another USAID partner. She had married very early and had a child by the age of 16. But, despite being a young mother in a conservative community, she fought for her education and learned English. After school, she knew she wanted to help people. She convinced her family to let her, not just get job, but get a career as a humanitarian.

When her husband was killed in a bombing three years ago, she continued working as a 19-year-old single mother. Her job took her to the very government offices that were often targeted by insurgents. On the day she was killed, she was attending one of the meetings that she had hoped would help her find better ways to deliver aid to people in need. The building was bombed and then overrun with gunfire. She died doing what she focused her life on, helping people build a brighter future.

Extremist insurgents in Afghanistan like to target these workers. There's a special place in hell...

There's the story of the seven aid workers killed in South Sudan in March of this year. They were killed when their car was ambushed along the 185-mile route of the badly rutted roads in South Sudan's remote east. Their vehicle had been labeled as belonging to an NGO right down to the license plates. It didn't matter. Six of the seven worked for a small Sudanese NGO called the Grass Roots Empowerment and Development Organization, GREDO, which is supported by USAID and worked to promote sustainable development at the grassroots level.

Three of the victims were helping to build a youth center. Two taught English. One was also a driver and the father of a newborn. Three were new recruits. Humanitarian heroes, one and all. And there were thousands of others. And I stand in awe of what they do.

Final thoughts. Why do they do it? What causes them to go out and take these risks? I learned the answer, and (inaudible), when I visited Bangladesh and Burma with Secretary Pompeo earlier this year. In Bangladesh, I went to a Cox's Bazaar, and I saw the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who are barely surviving in that camp.

They are vulnerable to monsoons and cyclones and without the humanitarian workers, life would be very different. It's bad enough already.

And then I went to Burma, and I travelled to an IDP camp near Sittwe. And what I saw there was the most disturbing thing I have ever seen in development. I saw young families trapped. I saw young families unable to go to school and completely dependent upon the emergency food assistance that we provide.

So, those workers take the risks because they are all that is standing between an even worse catastrophe and death in these young people, these victims. Today we celebrate them. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. (inaudible) I'm also the director of the Humanitarian Agenda, as Dan mentioned, which is what this event is a part of, it's a new partnership as as we have this conversation. Firstly, I want to ask you -- well, one, congratulations; it's been about a year now since you've been appointed, and you've been back one year? So, happy anniversary.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Pretty close. Thank you -- ask my staff.

MODERATOR: (inaudible) We're all very happy that you were chosen to be in this position because, as Dan alluded to, your deep background in international developments. One of the things that you said a lot in this position is talking about, "The purpose of foreign aid is to end the need for its existence." It's one of your key messages that we hear time and time again. So, I want you to elaborate on sort of how that squares with humanitarian assistance. Right? There's a big difference of international developments for, you know, economic growth and being self-reliant. But humanitarian assistance is so often, as you mentioned, driven by tyranny and regimes, and it's about saving lives. So, how do you marry those two?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first off you're right. What I've said since the day that I was first announced is that the purpose of our foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist. And what I mean by that is, we should look every day at ways of helping people take on their own challenges. Not because we want to do less or walk away, but because we believe in human dignity, and we believe in the innate desire of everyone -- every individual, every family, every community, every country -- to want to craft their own bright future.

In the area of humanitarian assistance, what I always say is, look, we will always stand with people when crisis strikes because that is who we are, that is in the American DNA. But at the same time we'll also look for ways to foster resilience so that we can help countries and communities withstand future shocks. And we've seen promising results in places like Ethiopia. You mentioned on the food security front, Ethiopia's a country that's had six consecutive years of drought and yet not falling into full famine. And that obviously is about much more than the work we're doing, but I think we're making a difference in helping Ethiopians build their ability to withstand consecutive years of drought.

So, I see the two as fitting very well together, and the other piece to it is, on the humanitarian front, again, we have natural disasters and man-made disasters. The man-made disasters are coming at us fast and furious. It's also about preventing the next generation of crisis and conflict. I'm often asked what it is that keeps me up at night, and what keeps me up at night are our children being born in camps, and growing up in camps, and getting educated in camps. And when, God willing, the walls come down and the gate opens up, the question is, are those young people going to be prepared to take on the challenges of the world? Are they connected to the communities around them?

And so with the humanitarian work that we do in many of these places, it's really aimed towards the future. And so I think it fits in well; it's a longer term of view, but I see them -- really is all going in the same direction.

MODERATOR: I'm actually headed out to Nigeria in a few weeks and doing some research looking at Feed the Future portfolio there, but really looking at the nexus between that humanitarian and development assistance, you know, how that would work in an unstable environment. So, I'm anxious to see what I learn from that as well. You know, the Trump administration has called for reduction, of course, of U.S. foreign assistance, but, regardless of that, the U.S. continues to be -- and dominate as the largest donor worldwide.

When you're talking to your colleagues in this administration, what is it that you talk about in terms of why it's so important for us to sustain this leadership? I mean, I could throw out numbers and I'll do a little bit.

In 2018, the U.S. pledged 29 billion foreign assistance. Five billion of that was dedicated to humanitarian assistance. I was looking this morning at how that compares to others, and, I mean, the UK -we're event twice what they do. So, you know, we're such a leader in this space. Why is that so important? Why should we dedicate American tax dollars or more importantly to cleaning up other people's wars?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first off, you're correct; we're far and away the world's humanitarian leader, and, quite frankly, two or three or four of them together don't really add up to what we're doing. We need other countries to do more because, with those challenges that I laid out, those man-made challenges, I don't see an end in sight, quite frankly, in any of them. So, these are open-ended challenges, and while we are proud to be the world's leader, we need others to step up to the plate. I will tell you, what I worry about is, because these man-made disasters, man-made, often regime-driven disasters, because they are open-ended, there's a real risk that it will begin to take up so much of our budget that it threatens our ability to do some of the development investments that we all want to do, including quite frankly, some of the resilience work that we want to do.

So, we do need others to step up to the plate. But in terms of, you know, what I say to the rest of the administration, it's not a hard cell, you know, pushing them to open a door. The administration is very supportive of our humanitarian work; we continue to be the world's leader; that's not going to change. And I think it's really -- the arguments for it fall on a number of different fronts. Number one, this is an expression of American values. This is who we are and always have been. It is a projection of the American spirit, in my view. So, I think that is very much alive and well in the American psyche, in the American DNA.

But secondly, it's in our interest. Just take for a moment the assistance that we're providing to Colombians, supporting Venezuelans who have fled the border, doing the same thing in some other countries. There is great American self-interest in supporting the ability of these communities to withstand this migration, to help afford some of those costs, because the instability that results from not being able to provide support, I think, is an issue, is a diplomatic issue, is a national security issue. And, as you heard me mention, I think particularly what is happening in the Western Hemisphere is completely underreported.

When I was at the Summit of the Americas, I heard from a number of countries, including Caribbean states, that they were starting to feel the presence of Venezuelans fleeing. And while they're all supportive of their neighbors, clearly it's not without a cost. But the same thing is true in many other parts of the world. So, the investments that we make on the humanitarian front are oftentimes in our self-interest. I look at the work that we're doing on the humanitarian front with an eye towards providing a lifeline so that those who've been displaced in parts of the Middle East can return. That's in our interest. That's a stated foreign policy priority. So, you know, yes, there is certainly -- I think the morality that we -- the expression of values that we've always supported. But I also believe it's in our interest and our national security interest.

MODERATOR: And thank you for reminding us in your speech about humanitarian heroes and what World Humanitarian Day is about. You talked about the unfortunate situation that in today's crises a lot of the time aid workers are targeted specifically. So, I want to ask you whether you feel like there's an erosion of international humanitarian law over, you know, that you talked about the evolution of humanitarian assistance. And so as the world gets more and more disorderly, we see more and more protracted conflicts. Do you feel that both governments and non-state actors alike are violating this law, and is there anything that we can or should be doing more I guess, particularly from the donor or U.S. government perspective, to hold them more accountable?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first off, we in the U.S. demand adherence to international law, international humanitarian law. So, we demand that unfettered access is provided, for example, in Rakhine, in Northern Rakhine in Burma. So, that's always been important for us. But if you're asking whether some non-state actors like ISIS are breaking international law, yeah. Having been to both Raqqa and Northern Iraq, what has been done there by ISIS is truly evil. There is simply no other word to describe what they've done: the desecration of graves, the desecration of churches, the disappearances of Yazidis. It's staggering and truly evil. Of course they are breaking every standard that we all know.

Yes, it is a challenge to international law; one of the best ways that we can respond is to say that, and to say it often, and to keep coming back to it. Because I do think the American opinion matters. And to say all across the political spectrum here in this country that we stand united and demand adherence to those standards and that what is happening is unacceptable.

MODERATOR: You brought up demanding unfettered access. I want to let our audience know that the Humanitarian Agenda will be going to the capitol this fall, and we're focusing specifically on the issue of humanitarian access. You brought up, of course, in Yemen, that's 70 choke hold points that David Miliband also talked about when he was here in Yemen -- in April on Yemen. I also want to say we're publishing a policy piece on Yemen here at CSIS that will come out this week.

I have many more questions, but I think we'll turn to the audience, so that we can engage them as well. So, if you have a question, please raise your hand. We will take it in rounds of threes, so announce yourself and where you're from. Please keep it concise, and at the end of it, there should be a question mark. So, who has a question? Yes, sir, right over here. Thanks, gentlemen.

QUESTION: I'll ask a real fast question, my name is Rob, I work for USAID, thank you, sir. My question is about the environment, I'm just back from the Congo, where Ebola is happening and I was just in Madagascar where there was a plague outbreak. A lot of the disasters you talked about have an environmental component, and we're doing some in the United States, but some people think we really need to do more, and that's a little bit against maybe some people in the administration, so I would love for you to talk about your thoughts about that.

MODERATOR: Great question. More? Let's do Julie Howard right there.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Administrator, thank you for your comments. Could you comment on the recent story in the Washington Post about the potential pullback of $3 billion in foreign assistance funds and how that may affect our ability to respond to humanitarian as well as the resilience opportunities you described?

MODERATOR: And, Julie, will you introduce yourself for those that don't know you?

QUESTION: Sorry?

MODERATOR: Would you introduce yourself?

QUESTION: Oh, yes, okay. So, I'm a non-resident senior adviser here at CSIS, thank you.

MODERATOR: Julie and I are also going to be travel partners when I go to Nigeria. It's actually Julie that is leading that study. Let's take one more question right back here. Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: Hi, my name's (inaudible) a reporter from Voice of America. There are a number of humanitarian assistance and also food aid to North Korea spended by the United States Government. What are the key principles that all the United States Government providing assistance to North Korea and under which scenario can assistance to North Korea be resumed?

MODERATOR: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure.

MODERATOR: Easy questions, right?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: On North Korea, simply put, there have been no discussions that I'm aware of regarding assistance into North Korea. I certainly haven't been part of any such discussions.

Secondly, on the pullback, while we haven't received official notification of anything, I've heard of nothing that would change our status as the world's leader in humanitarian assistance. I haven't seen anything. Third, on -- first off, it's interesting that you visited Ebola country and you talked about conservation, because their linked, obviously.

I think that's one of the reasons we've seen the outbreak of Ebola in other formerly, entirely rare diseases in some of the areas where we've seen deforestation and such. What we're trying to do at USAID, many of you are aware, we're developing metrics that are aimed at helping us to better understand a country's capacity and commitment in a number of sectors, and conservation's one of them.

So, we're looking at things like biodiversity and how resources are managed, because we think it's important, and it's something that we hope to be able to incentivize in the future and have conversations around. I have a personal interest in the conservation front and as you know, we recently made some announcements regarding assistance to Colombia and helping them in their natural resource management. So, I think it's an important area that shouldn't be divorced from the rest of development.

We think it is one of those key areas that needs to be assessed and looked at as we help countries, in what we call, as you know, probably ad nauseam as I talk about the journey to self-reliance. One of those areas is, in fact, conservation, biodiversity, and the capacity to manage resources.

MODERATOR: Let's take another round of questions. Raise your hand high. Joel?

QUESTION: Joel (inaudible) from Norwegian Refugee Council, thank you Administrator Green for your excellent remarks. I'm afraid I have to follow up on the rescission question. We're not going to let you off so easily.

What's been reported is that there's going to be a cut of a billion to UN peacekeeping operations, and that has the potential to not only disrupt work in South Sudan and Somalia and the Congo, but it also has the potential to disrupt, through further chaos in refugee flows, neighboring countries that we care about that are our allies, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and so on.

I guess -- the argument is that, even if USAID itself doesn't lose funding or doesn't lose out through the rescission, the work will lose out, I feel, if this really goes ahead. So, if you could just offer more thought on -- I mean, you said you're pushing on an open door when it comes to international work, and, honestly, it's not always obvious to see that from the outside. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Joel. Let's do these two right here in the front, Haley, yep.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, good morning. Nicole (inaudible), I'm a senior associate here at CSIS. Thank you, Administrator Green, for your great comments. You mentioned briefly -- you touched on young people and so, given the disproportionate (inaudible) of people in these countries and how often humanitarian crises can disproportionately affect children and young people, can you talk a little bit more about some of the focus that you're keeping in these initiatives and on the work that you're doing to remedy the situation for youth? Thanks.

MODERATOR: Great, and I think there was a question right behind you if there still is, yeah.

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Jessica (inaudible), and I'm a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You mention in your remarks about the man-made nature of a lot of the ongoing conflicts, and I was wondering if you could speak to USAID's role not only in providing humanitarian response in that context, but also the active role that the agency is taking in countering and preventing ongoing violent extremism.

MODERATOR: Great question.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: That's a great question. Joel, on the budget front, I really don't have much more that I can provide. Part of it is I'm not attempting to duck, I just literally don't have more, I'd refer you to OMB quite frankly. But again, you know, they is simply looking at the numbers of the last year and what we're doing on the humanitarian front. There is simply no argument that we have backed away from our role as the world's leading humanitarian assistant. Just objectively, we are far and away the largest humanitarian donor.

We're the largest humanitarian donor in Syria; we're the largest humanitarian donor in conflict after conflict. I do think it is fair for all of us to talk about how it is that these resource needs can be met in the future. I don't mean just the immediate future, but the open-ended nature of these conflicts and this instability and this displacement is staggering.

It is what worries me, because these conflicts that we're seeing -- South Sudan; Yemen -- you and I have talked about Yemen a great deal in recent months. It's open-ended, and I do worry about that. I do worry about our ability to meet resource needs and, you know, the world meeting these resource needs. They're significant.

On the question of young people, particularly in displaced settings, we are looking at a number of ways of accelerating crisis situation education, conflict community education. We've received generous support from Congress, along with generous directives from Congress, in the area of education. What we've been trying to do, and Congresswoman Lowey has long been a great leader on this front, is to try to make sure that we are able to prioritize these crisis needs, and I do think that it's a crisis. It does worry me a great deal.

So, we're looking at some of the use of innovative technologies to see if that can help us in these settings, but it is a very focus and as we develop our basic education strategy going forward, I think you'll see a particular focus on those areas, because it is, as you suggest, very important for the future.

In terms of preventing violent extremism, we have, as you know, an important role under the National Security Strategy. We are investing in trying to identify the drivers of violent extremism.

One of my strong beliefs that comes, actually, from my time at International Republican Institute is that we shouldn't jump to conclusions and try to draw global assumptions and lessons. Instead, we need to look at local drivers. Experience shows us that it's often local drivers, community drivers that become flashpoints for extremism. And so, we're certainly investing research there, and some of the preventative tools that are there; from my days as an Ambassador in Tanzania, I often point out that after the terrible bombing, embassy bombing, the work that we did with our Tanzanian partners in the wake of that, to take on some of the drivers of poverty and despair, I believe was an important down payment for preventing violent extremism. So, I'm a big believer in tackling those drivers and tackling that which can lead to despair. So, that will always be a key part of our work.

MODERATOR: Mr. Green, at Davos this year, you talked about the importance of tapping into the creativity of the private sector, and how innovative financing mechanisms and other innovative technologies can really create better development outcomes. In your speech today, you talked about the Humanitarian Grand Challenges. Are there any specific companies or partnerships or technologies that you're most excited about right now. The things that you see that are happening in the field, you've been in in this career -- I mean, you've had a career for decades that are all related to development --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Don't say decades.

MODERATOR: Okay, sorry -- you're very young. The last year that you've been an administrator, what are the -- what are the cool, new technologies that we should know about, that are out there, that the mainstream audience has no idea how we're delivering (inaudible) humanitarian assistance?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, there are countless. During global innovation we -- which we had last fall, whenever it was, and I had a chance to walk through the marketplace at the Ronald Reagan Building, and take a look at some of the innovations. Everything from lunchbox-size solar batteries allowing us to power work in refugee and displaced persons camps to some of the weather forecasting stations that are created with 3D printers. You go through there and it's extraordinary. And it fills you with great hope for our ability to reach out and touch more people in more settings than ever before. In the area of financing -- we announced in India last fall, the world's first Development Impact Bond for maternal and child health, and the largest development impact bond of its kind. So, what we did through that is to set outcomes that we needed to see in order to repay the investment, but in terms of the means, we turn the private sector loose.

And in the follow-up conversations that we had, you can see that our partners, some of whom are based here in D.C., were terribly excited. Because for the first time they didn't have us micro-managing each step along the way, but saying, "Look, these are the outcomes that we need, you go get them." And really tapping into the private sector, nonprofit and for-profit. Also, in the area of displaced communities on World Humanitarian Day, the use of biometrics to establish identification of refugees and IDPs as well as some of the digital technologies for delivering resources -- assistance so that recipients have modest purchasing power in surrounding communities, thereby not only providing assistance, not only holding onto human dignity and allowing them to make some decisions, but also providing a tangible benefit to those host communities which are often placing a disproportionate burden by those who are there. So, it -- it's really using business principles, human nature, and I'd like to say there are new technologies, but my kids will tell me very quickly they're old technologies, just new to someone like me. Tapping into these, I think, creates enormous, enormous hope for reaching into places we haven't before.

MODERATOR: I want to continue on that "hope" trend for a minute. So, you know, when you think about the crises, many of which are located in Syria, Yemen, in South Sudan --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Is that the whole part?

MODERATOR: Now, I know. Well, this is where I'm kind of heading with this. Is there a crisis that you have your eyes on that you do see any reversal in terms of reversal trends, or any progress? Is there a place that you do think we're going to be able to see some positive outcomes in the next -- I should say decade there, because I know it takes time. But is there one that you see not going the wrong direction?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, sure. There are lots of promising stories. I think Ethiopia and Eritrea provide tremendous hope. One of the challenges, again, as an old democracy guy, one of the challenges that I saw was the enabling environment, for civil society and NGOs in a place like Ethiopia, and with the transition to a new government, we're having conversations that we didn't have before, in ways that I think will be very helpful. Also, I think that their willingness to partner with us more and more will help us make some investments in those areas -- in those resilience areas that will not only help Ethiopia and Eritrea, but also, quite frankly, I think will save us money in the long run. So, there are lots of stories like that, I think all around the continent of Africa and elsewhere. But there are -- every hopeful story is replaced by a new challenge. None of these challenges are inevitable, as problems. But they do require us to be innovative. They do require us to be engaged, they do require us to invest up front, and to be innovative in those procuring methods and how we partner. All of those things need to be done if we're going to turn -- either prevent the challenges from becoming crises, or turn problems into solutions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I lived in Ethiopia for three years, and I have to say it's quite exciting to see the change that's happening there. I'd like to just turn it onto -- are there any more burning questions? No hands are shooting up; let's do one more right here in the front.

QUESTION: Hi, this is Chris (inaudible) with the State Department. Thank you so much for your leadership of USAID and development. I have a question regarding the nexus between humanitarian assistance, you've been mentioning the nexus with conflict development stabilization -- how does humanitarian assistance fit in, or is it just a one piece element that is disassociated from political issues?

MODERATOR: Great, and as you answer that and any other final remarks you'd like to make as well.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure. Thank you and again, thanks to all of you. So I think from the National Security Strategy, you see -- also the Stabilization Assistance Review, you see, I think, a clear multi-agency, multi-department approach to many of these challenges. Our relationship with the State Department is as close as it's ever been. I've received nothing but support and affirmation from Secretary Pompeo. We are working, as you know, closely because all of these challenges touch each of us in different ways and we each have different capacities.

You know, I think it's probably never been more clear than in a place like the Burma-Bangladesh crisis. So, you know, when Rohingya in one place their IDPs and when they're in another place, they're refugees, and then of course we all look at that and say, "forget the labels, they're people who we need to help out," and invest in, and so we do. Also, I would say that both State and AID have as close of a working relationship with DoD as we've had in a very long time. As many of you know, we have a couple dozen detailees over at the Pentagon and the Combatant Commands. DoD has made it clear that they don't want to do what we do or State does, and we certainly don't want to do what they do. So, I would think those seamless teams and close communications are helping us. And going back to the budget question, they have to; there's not enough money for duplication. There's not enough money for bureaucracy. We just have to stay in constant communication.

As to (inaudible) final remarks, I really would like to leave off with where my remarks, my opening remarks left off -- or left off. On this World Humanitarian Day, I would ask that we all think of those men and women who are in places in far places in world, in conflict zones, in fragile settings, day after day, delivering emergency medical assistance, food assistance, water and hygiene under the most trying of circumstances, difficult security situations. They do it because they care. They're my heroes. I'm sure they're your heroes. They are patriots. And what a wonderful expression of values and our priorities that with what they're doing each and every day. Thank you.


          

WANTED! Antique/ old Buddha figures/ statues

 Cache   
Private collector buys antique/ old Buddha figures. I'm looking for figures from India, Nepal, Myanmar/ Burma, Thailand, China, Tibet, Japan. I buy whole collections. If you have any questions regarding antique Buddhas feel free to get in touch.
          

Myanmar Labor Attaché in Thailand Charged with Corruption

 Cache   
The Anti-Corruption Commission of Myanmar has charged the government’s labor representative in Thailand over claims he took thousands of bribes.
          

CCTV Evidence Disappears in Myanmar Toddler Rape Case

 Cache   
Lawyers from both sides in the high-profile Naypyitaw toddler rape trial are demanding a probe into why vital video evidence has gone missing.
          

Karenni Youth Jailed for Calling Govt Officials Criminals, ‘Enemies of Ethnic Unity’

 Cache   
Six Karenni youth activists have been sentenced to six months in prison over a statement against state officials regarding their support for a statue of General Aung San in Loikaw.
          

Monk Gets Bail After Condemning Myanmar’s Army ‘Robbers’

 Cache   
A Mandalay-based monk says he will not be silenced by the military for criticizing a payment to a Buddhist nationalist group.
          

Free Burma Rangers: The people here must decide their future

 Cache   
Dave Eubank from the Free Burma Rangers spoke to ANF at length about the comittment of his medical team and the death of one of his medics, on 2 November.
          

11/04 Links Pt2: Poll: Almost 50% of UK Jews will 'seriously consider' leaving if Corbyn wins elections; Historian: New evidence shows FDR’s bigotry derailed many Holocaust rescue plans; Ray Charles in Israel

 Cache   
From Ian:

Poll: Almost 50% of UK Jews will 'seriously consider' leaving if Corbyn wins elections
Britain's Jewish community so deeply concerned by the prospect of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn winning the next general election that community leaders have launched a campaign to undermine his premiership candidacy.

A recent poll by the Jewish Leadership Council, a British-Jewish advocacy group, found that 47% of British Jews would "seriously consider" emigrating if Corbyn is elected prime minister.

Some 87% of British Jews believed Corbyn to be anti-Semitic, and 90% said they will not vote for Labour, the poll found.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the general elections, set for Dec. 12, following his failure to push the Brexit deal through Parliament. Johnson's promise to have the UK leave the European Union by Oct. 31 had been a key element in the Conservatives' leadership bid, which brought him to power in July.

Corbyn has been repeatedly lambasted for his failure to tackle anti-Semitism within Labour. In 2018, the party received 863 complaints of anti-Semitism but took action in only 101 of those cases. Worse, Labour members who have publicly made statements such as "Jews are the problem" have remained in the party despite complaints against them.


According to the Jewish Chronicle, prominent British Rabbi Jonathan Romain has even taken the unprecedented step of urging congregants to vote against Labour, warning that a Corbyn-led government "would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it."

"I should stress that the problem is not the Labour Party itself, which has a long record of fighting discrimination and prejudice, but the problem is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks, or at worst, has encouraged it," Romain wrote in a letter to the 823 families who are members of his Berkshire shul.

"This has never happened under any previous Labour leader … so the finger of responsibility really does seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn. I am therefore suggesting we should each put aside all other considerations and vote for whichever party is most likely to defeat Labour in whatever constituency we are in – even if we would never normally vote for that party."

Israel Advocacy Movement: Why vote Labour?
In the upcoming election, a vote for Labour is a vote for:
☠️ Terrorism supporters
🇻🇪 An economy like Venezuela
🚫 Racism
A vote for Labour is a vote for insanity… watch the election video Labour don't want you to see.


Jewish Caller Tells Maajid Nawaz He Would Emigrate If Corbyn Elected
A Jewish caller told Maajid Nawaz that he would close his business and leave the UK if Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister because of anti-Semitism.

David, from Hendon, said: "I will leave the country as soon as Corbyn comes in, God forbid that he should.

"I will not stay in a country where anti-Semitism is now accepted because I think, brilliantly, he and his PR people just didn't answer really, just deflected old accusations.

Now people are fed up with hearing the word so it's almost as if it's accepted and whether that's the case or people are actually anti-Semitic in this country... I hope not but I'm beginning to have my doubts."

He also explained that he would shut down his business of 53 people.

He said: "I will leave, I will close down all of my businesses which I can. I've been nervous of this, I'm in the position where I'll be able to close them down.

"These people won't be employed anymore and that's fine. I'm looking after myself and I'm sure people, some of your viewers or listeners will be saying 'good riddance, let's get rid of the guy'.

But there are hundreds of people like me, and not all of them are Jewish, there are hundreds of wealthy people who have built up businesses who know that in the end Mr. Corbyn will take it all away from us because he doesn't appreciate people who work hard."




Historian: New evidence shows FDR’s bigotry derailed many Holocaust rescue plans
Not only was US president Franklin Roosevelt perfunctory about rescuing Jews from the Nazis, but he obstructed rescue opportunities that would have cost him little or nothing, according to Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff.

FDR’s role in preventing the rescue of European Jewry is detailed in a new book called, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust.”

Published in September, Medoff’s book includes new archival materials about the relationship between Roosevelt and Rabbi Stephen Wise, who the author sees as a sycophantic Jewish leader used by Roosevelt to “keep the Jews quiet.”

Wrote Medoff, “Franklin Roosevelt took advantage of Wise’s adoration of his policies and leadership to manipulate Wise through flattery and intermittent access to the White House.” In return for visits to the White House and Roosevelt calling him by his first name, Wise undermined Jewish activists who demanded the administration let more Jewish refugees into the US.

According to Medoff, Roosevelt’s policies toward European Jews were motivated by sentiments similar to those that spurred him to intern 120,000 Japanese Americans in detention camps as potential spies.

“Roosevelt used almost identical language in recommending that the Jews and the Japanese be forcibly ‘spread thin’ around the country,” Medoff told The Times of Israel. “I was struck by the similarity between the language FDR used regarding the Japanese, and that which he used in private concerning Jews — that they can’t be trusted, they won’t ever become fully loyal Americans, they’ll try to dominate wherever they go.”
Gil Troy: Mark Twain’s ‘Innocents Abroad’ explains our Israel obsession
Twain offered his pragmatic American explanation for Palestine’s desolation: “Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition – it is dream-land.” Twain feared that Palestine induced so much stargazing no one ever rolled up their sleeves to produce anything there.

Fortunately, the Zionist movement was starting to tap into old-new Jewish dreams to motivate hardy, hardscrabble, hardworking pioneers – much as the American dream drove Twain’s fellow Americans. This pre-Zionist book offers a core Zionist message. The Palestine Twain saw highlights the modern miracles Zionism created that we take for granted.

STILL, IF dreams can motivate or paralyze, mythmaking can inspire – or disappoint. Sarna has long shown how Palestine as dreamland boosted modern Israel in American and Jewish eyes. Many Americans, especially American Jews, echo the pilgrims’ naivete. They romanticize Israel, falling in love with what Sarna calls a “mythical Israel,” more indicative of “American Jewish ideals” than “Israeli realities.” The Zionist dream, American-style, long celebrated an Israel that was even more progressive than America – defined by kibbutz workers, not Wall Street investors; built by new brawny Jews, not traditionally brainy Jews.

Beware: too much mythmaking about any country – especially the world’s only Jewish state trying to survive in a Middle East hostile to Jews and democracies – is risky. As with any romance, some idealization during courtship greases the wheels of love. And Israel’s “dreamland” still dazzles most Americans. But, today, with Israel in middle age, the toxicity of faded romance often triggers an overly harsh counterreaction. Somehow, many of Israel’s jilted leftist lovers still love America while hating Donald Trump. Yet when they detest an Israeli policy or prime minister, they give up on Israel and Zionism.

Mark Twain’s memories of being a Missouri non-Yankee in King Solomon’s court helps explain our modern obsession with Israel, too. Twain emphasizes how foundational Palestine is to the West. “Crowded with historical interest,” filled with “elegant fragments,” it still dominates our collective imaginations.

But heed Twain’s warning. Those who believe Israel can do no right – along with those who believe Israel can do no wrong – are often telling us more about the “verdicts they brought with them” rather than their fair assessments of this rich, complex, modern democracy.

Clearly, we have some Mark Twain-like “unlearning” to do, especially about Israel.
Revisionist Author Tries to Distort the Record of David Ben-Gurion
Tom Segev’s well-written biography of Israel’s first prime minister, A State At Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion, is undercut by the author’s biases and penchant for narrative.

It would be hard to imagine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publishing an op-ed in The New York Times on Buddhism. But back in April 1962, the first Israeli premier, David Ben-Gurion, did precisely that — but only after spending weeks studying with religious scholars as a personal guest of the prime minister of Burma, today’s Myanmar. Ben-Gurion even insisted, much to the consternation of his teachers, “that he had discovered a self-contradiction in the Buddha’s doctrine that no one else had ever noticed.” It turned out that he was wrong; it was a translation error.

As Segev makes clear, Israel’s founding father was both exceptional and eccentric. And nearly five decades after his passing, Ben-Gurion remains iconic, with a legacy and career that are arguably unmatched in the small nation’s modern history.

As his private secretary, Yitzhak Navon, once observed, “Without Ben-Gurion, the State of Israel would not be in existence — and this I can say about nobody.” Indeed, long before he was making history, Ben-Gurion was its avid student.

As Segev notes: “He saw himself, and was seen by others, as an incarnation of history.” To a great extent, this was the result of the tremendous willpower that he displayed throughout his life.
New Book Tells a Holocaust Family Mystery
I just finished reading an extraordinary new book, House on Endless Waters by author Emuna Elon.

From start to finish, I found it to be well-written, touching, and chock-full of character development; there were so many stories I could relate to.

The book is a family mystery ripe with great plot twists. It explores one man’s quest — a renowned Israeli author — to visit his birthplace in Amsterdam, despite promising his late mother that he would never return to that city. And during a visit to that city’s Jewish museum, he sees a picture of his mother, pre-war, holding a child he doesn’t recognize. The book explores his adventures through Amsterdam — past, present, and future — replete with dreams, visions, and more, all in beautifully written prose.

Throughout the book, I had memories of growing up in a home where my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and my mom (z”l) spent so much time researching, reading, and studying about the history of our many family members who were murdered by the Nazis. She attended conferences, discovered obscure files, and spent days at Yad Vashem. In the last few months of her life, my mother learned that her father, Morris Waga, had been married with a family before he married my grandmother. He lost that wife and a three-year old daughter in the camps to the Nazis. Yet, throughout his entire life, he never told my mother or her younger brother.

The book discusses underground networks that hid Jewish children during the war, and the burdens faced by those who survived. The scars of the Holocaust haunt families and people for generations.
Jonathan Tobin: Can Joe Biden save the day for pro-Israel Democrats?
The problem here for pro-Israel Democrats is that, out of necessity, they’ve hitched the fate of their cause to what right now looks like a fading star. Biden, who hasn’t won a competitive race on his own (being Barack Obama’s running mate doesn’t count) since Richard Nixon was president, has so far been a disappointment to his backers. With a focus on the effort to impeach Trump dominating the headlines this winter, it may also remind voters of his son’s questionable behavior further dragging him down.

Nor, it should be added, is Biden coming to the issue with entirely clean hands. He was part of Obama’s eight-year-long pressure campaign against the Israeli government, as well as an ardent supporter of the disastrous 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which he still defends.

Biden may be instinctively supportive of the Jewish state in ways that eclipse those of Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg; however, the tenor of his dialogue with Israel has always been that of an American who thinks he knows the Middle East better than Israelis. Biden received a devastating – and completely deserved – tongue-lashing from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at a Senate hearing in June 1982. In response to Biden’s threats of aid cuts that were hardly different from the statements of the primary opponents he now considers “outrageous,” Begin slapped him down by telling him that he was “not a Jew with trembling knees,” and that Israel would defend its principles, “and, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

In a competition with far more extreme critics of Israel than he ever was, Biden is the best that pro-Israel Democrats, who once dominated their party yet now seem unable to muster sufficient support for censoring or shunning anti-Semites like Omar and Tlaib, can muster. It is on his aging and uncertain shoulders that the fate of the Democrats as a pro-Israel party rests. That’s a prospect that should scare friends of the Jewish state, no matter which party they support.
Michael Lumish: Are Arabs indigenous to Judea?
Of course, Arabs are not indigenous to Judea / Israel. Arabs are conquerers indigenous to the Arabian peninsula. If one cares about "the conflict" -- or what I call The Long Arab / Muslim War against the Jews of the Middle East -- then one must recognize the Jews as indigenous and the Arabs and Muslims as imperialists and colonialists.

And, yet, the progressive-left and the Democratic Party honestly believe that the Jewish defenders of Jewish children and Jewish land are the aggressors. They honestly believe that Arabs have every right to kill Jews as a matter of "resistance." It is an intelligent rhetorical strategy on par with the propaganda skill of the National Socialists.

The brilliance behind Arab and Muslim imperialism is that they actually managed to convince the arrogant and ignorant Euros that they are the indigenous population in the lands that they conquered.
Corbyn, a cause for concern
Meanwhile, Johnson's main rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also isn't assured of restoring his party to power for the first time since 2010. Corbyn's ideological extremism is attractive to certain strata of British society but is also a deterrent to others. Some polls find Corbyn to be the "least popular Opposition leader of the past 45 years." Even if he doesn't win, it's still theoretically possible for him to establish a "resistance coalition" against Johnson and Brexit, which would include the Liberal Democrats and Scottish separatists who oppose leaving the EU.

Even if Labour is weakened in the upcoming election, in such a manner that Corbyn is forced to resign, he will have left behind a party that is fundamentally different than the one he inherited four years ago. Labour's far-left faction has effectively consummated its takeover of Britain's main Opposition party, essentially ridding it of all internal dissent. Under the guise of its anti-Israel and anti-Zionist worldview, Labour has normalized anti-Semitism as part of the British political landscape. Even if Corbyn goes, the devastation he leaves in his wake will be absolute.

All efforts by the country's Jewish community and Labour's own Jewish MPs to foster dialogue with Corbyn's circle about banishing anti-Semitic activists within its ranks have floundered amid their refusal to recognize the importance of the matter. There have been cosmetic initiatives, mostly for public relations purposes, but little else. Labour under Corbyn's leadership has legitimized anti-Semitism and shown Jews that the party that first welcomed them to Great Britain – no longer cares for them.

With a sense of humor that under the current circumstances has taken a darker turn, British Jews have altered Labour's slogan from "For the many, not for the few," to "For the many, not for the Jew." If Labour rises to power, this joke could have serious implications for all of Britain.




Also in October: A selection of other antisemitic Incidents that we did not cover
A swastika was spray-painted on a sign near a Jewish school in Gateshead. The graffiti appeared on the corner of High West Street and Gladstone Terrace on 7th October.

A swastika and the words “Lewis is a Jew” were carved into the glass panel of a bus stop in East Leeds. Anyone with information should contact West Yorkshire Police on 101 referencing log number 243.

On Shabbat, 19th October at the Clapton Common and Oldhill Street junction in Stamford Hill, three males accosted Orthodox Jews walking home from synagogue with antisemitic slurs including “Heil Hitler”.
Alison Chabloz fails to overturn conviction over Holocaust denial at High Court, leaving no further avenue of appeal
Moments ago, notorious antisemite and Holocaust denier Alison Chabloz has had her application for a judicial review denied by the High Court following her landmark conviction on three charges of sending grossly offensive communications via a public communications network.

Ms Chabloz had sought to overturn her conviction on technicalities relating to the meaning of what constituted sending communications online, but the High Court denied her appeal and upheld the earlier judgment. There was confusion over the way that the case had proceeded to court as Ms Chabloz’s case was brought before judges by her barrister, Adrian Davies, who maintains his record of losing cases for neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.

Ms Chabloz had sought to overturn her conviction on technicalities relating to the case began as a private prosecution by Campaign Against Antisemitism, which was then continued by the Crown Prosecution Service. The charges related to three self-penned songs in which Ms Chabloz denounced a supposed Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world and attacked the Holocaust as a fraud perpetrated by Jews for financial gain.

The conviction set a new precedent in British law, effectively delivering a landmark precedent verdict on incitement on social media and on whether the law considers Holocaust denial to be “grossly offensive” and therefore illegal when used as a means by which to hound Jews.
Boston University set to hire anti-Israel professor
Sarah Ihmoud, a postdoctoral associate at Boston University, is currently under consideration for a teaching position at the university, Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) reported.

According to APT, the university has not yet made an offer to Ihmoud, but the offer is "imminent."

Education Without Indoctrination (EWI) called for action to prevent Boston University from becoming "a platform for Jew-hate."

Ihmoud, co-author of Sexual Violence, Women’s Bodies, and Israeli Settler Colonialism, presented the paper to BU. In it, she claims that "rape and killing of Palestinian women was a central aspect of Israeli troops' systematic massacres and evictions during the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948" and describes Nazi-like actions, including the shooting of pregnant women and the murder of children.

The paper also claims that that both brutality and sexual violence against Palestinian Authority women is an ongoing tactic of the IDF.
Major Jewish Groups Applaud Twitter for ‘Belated’ Shut Down of Hamas, Hezbollah Accounts
Major Jewish groups applauded the micro-blogging website Twitter on Sunday for suspending a series of accounts affiliated with the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

“Thank you @Twitter for suspending the accounts of Hamas and Hezbollah,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted.

Referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Greenblatt added, “US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations do not belong on the platform. Let’s hope all platforms follow @jack’s lead.”

The American Jewish Committee also weighed in, pointing out that while Twitter has accepted that there is no difference between the “military” and political wings of terrorist groups, the European Union continues to separate the two.


The Simon Wiesenthal Center responded by tweeting, “Belated but welcome anti-terrorist moves by @Twitter — hope others will follow.”
BBC ignores Twitter’s terror groups suspensions
To date, those searching for coverage of that story under the BBC News website’s ‘social media’ and ‘Twitter’ tags will find nothing.

Perhaps the BBC is having difficulty working out how to square that quote from Twitter with its own euphemistic portrayals of Hamas as a ‘militant Islamist group’ and Hizballah as a ‘political, military and social organisation’.
Indy egregiously misleads on Gaza power shortages
A Nov. 3rd article in the Independent on the use of solar power in Gaza grossly misled readers as to the extent and origin of the strip’s electricity shortages.

The article, “Meet the Gazan woman turning rubble into building blocks and sunlight into power”, by their deputy international editor Gemma Fox, begins thusly:

For Samar, Gaza’s crippling blackouts used to mean a daily, panicked rush to take her son to the nearest hospital so that his lungs wouldn’t fail.

He suffers from a lung disease that has left him dependent on a machine to breathe. But the machine depends on electricity – something in critically short supply in Gaza.

Samar’s story is far from unique, with the enclave’s two million residents forced to try to survive on roughly three hours of electricity since Israel imposed a blockade in 2016.

Hospitals and other buildings rely on generators to keep the power on during the cuts, but they are expensive, and until recently, a luxury that Samar was unable to afford.


First, Israel imposed their blockades of Gaza, due to Hamas’s takeover of the strip, in 2007, not 2016.

Also, it was both Egypt and Israel who imposed a blockade. In Israel’s case, the only items that have generally been restricted are military related (or dual-use) goods.

Additionally, the Indy gets their figures on the daily availability of electricity in Gaza wildly wrong. Palestinians in the strip get around twelve hours a day, not three, as a detailed report and graph by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) makes clear.
BBC WS radio amplifies claim that a country called Palestine “existed”
Despite the claims from Hills and Lefrak, as we noted when BBC World Service radio previously promoted the museum and its founder back in June, it is essentially the continuation of a project that is very much political – even if Lefrak fails to identify it as such.

Lefrak: “Museum founder Bshara Nassar says his goal is to create a space that’s more personal than political.”
Nassar: “We want to really transform the story and put Palestinians in the light that we’re human beings, right? We’re artists, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re in politics and we contributing a lot to the US as immigrants as well.”
Lefrak: “Nassar immigrated to the US from the West Bank in 2011. When he came to Washington he saw a city full of museums but he didn’t see one that reflected him.”
Nassar: “Really I could not see a place where the Palestinian story can be told.”
Lefrak: “So he decided to open a travelling exhibition that would eventually become the museum. One of the objects in the collection is a 1946 passport for the Palestine Mandate. It was rendered useless the following year after the United Nations voted to establish the State of Israel. Curator Nada Odeh wants visitors to understand that history.”


That passport was of course in fact “rendered useless” in May 1948 when the British terminated their administration of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine – the purpose of which was to create a Jewish national home. In 1947 the UNGA passed a resolution (181) recommending that the area then still under British administration should be partitioned between Jewish and Arab states – a recommendation accepted by the Jews but rejected out of hand by the Arabs and hence never implemented. BBC world Service listeners heard nothing of that history – or the Arab attacks which followed that UN vote – but they did hear the ‘non-political’ museum’s Syrian-born head curator promote the falsehood that a country “called Palestine” used to exist.


German Cardinal: Antisemitism is an attack on us all
A prominent German cardinal of the Catholic Church has pledged that Jews and Christians will stand together in the fight against rising antisemitism in the country.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference and serves as the archbishop of Munich and Freising, said on Sunday night that “Christians and Jews will never separate again,” in the face of new antisemitism.

He made the comments during a panel discussion on antisemitism at the Catholic Academy in Berlin hosted by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany.

Among prominent figures who attended were Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism; Armin Laschet, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia; and Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

A statement released by the German Bishops’ Conference quoted Marx as calling for stronger social commitment and better cohesion in society “in the face of resurgent antisemitism in Germany and Europe.”

He stressed that he was “very worried” about the direction society is heading because there are “more and more blogs and ideologies from people that cannot be taught, who indulge in conspiracy theories and soon unite as a sounding board for... slogans of antisemitism.”
Outrage in Germany over neo-Nazis’ political ‘kill list’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Monday strongly condemned death threats against two leading Green party politicians by a neo-Nazi group, as concern mounts over a rise in right-wing extremism.

Greens lawmaker Cem Ozdemir, who has Turkish roots, revealed at the weekend that police were investigating an email he had received from a neo-Nazi group saying he was at the top of their kill list.

“We are currently planning how and when to execute you. At the next rally? Or will we get you outside your home?” the email read, according to the Funke newspaper group.

Fellow Greens MP Claudia Roth received a message saying she was second in line to be killed.

Both emails were sent on October 27 and signed with “Nuclear Weapons Division Germany” (AWD), apparently a German offshoot of a notorious US-based neo-Nazi group.

“The German government clearly condemns any kind of threats or violence against politicians,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters.

“We cannot and will not accept these attacks on our free democratic system,” she said, vowing to use the full force of the law against the perpetrators.
White supremacist charged with planning to blow up Colorado synagogue
US authorities have arrested a known white supremacist on suspicion that he planned to blow up a synagogue in Colorado, local media reported Monday.

The suspect, named as Richard Holzer, 27, reportedly met an undercover FBI agent on Friday at a motel with explosives that he allegedly intended to use to attack Temple Emanuel in the city of Pueblo.

Holzer told an undercover FBI agent that he had previously been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and had become a skinhead, according to the Denver Post.

Holzer said he was preparing a “holy war” and claimed to have poisoned the water at the synagogue with arsenic and was planning to do so again, The Denver Post reported, citing an affidavit filed on Saturday at the US District Court in Colorado.

According to the affidavit, when asked what if people were in the building when the bomb exploded, “Holzer stated that he did not think anyone would be there, but that if they were, Holzer would not care because they would be Jews.”
Men dressed as Jews hand out Holocaust denial fliers at Colorado mall
A group of men wearing large white yarmulkes and fringed prayer shawls handed out fliers promoting Holocaust denial and hung up cards bearing anti-Semitic canards on a pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado.

The fliers handed out at Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall by the men who appeared to be posing as Jews claimed the Holocaust was “impossible.”

The men also hung notes on index cards around the mall that claimed “Academia is dominated by Marxist Jews,” Jews run the porn industry,” and “Jews ran the Atlantic slave trade,” the Daily Camera newspaper reported.

The men livestreamed their actions, according to the report.

As of Sunday morning, no reports were filed with police about the fliers, Boulder police told the newspaper.


City of Poway, CA, set to rename street after Chabad shooting victim
The city council in Poway, Calif., will consider a proposal on Nov. 5 to change the name of a short street in memory of Lori Lynn Gilbert-Kaye, the only fatality in the shooting earlier this year at Chabad of Poway.

Under the proposal, Eva Drive would become Lori Lynn Lane. It is located near where the 60-year-old congregant lived with her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, about a mile from the synagogue.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said that people associated with Chabad approached the city to propose the street-name change.

“They did all the groundwork, and our team got the obstacles out of the way,” he said. “It should have unanimous and enthusiastic support.”

Three people, including senior Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, were wounded on April 27 when lone gunman John Earnest shot at worshippers during Shabbat-morning services.

Earnest has pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges, including 113 federal hate crime-related counts.
Karish natural gas field off Israel’s shore found to be much bigger than thought
Energean Oil and Gas plc, a Greek gas producer focused on the Mediterranean, said Monday that its appraisal of the Karish North discovery offshore Israel has revealed 0.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable natural gas resources plus 34 million barrels of light oil or condensate.

The appraisal “significantly” increases the resource volumes discovered by Energean at the Karish and Tanin leases off Israel’s shore, the statement said.

The firm had already discovered 2.4 tcf of natural gas at the Karish and Tanin fields, along with 33 million barrels of light oil. Energean has already signed accords to sell 4.7 billion cubic meters a year of the fuel to Israeli customers.

Light crude oil is a liquid petroleum that has a low density and low viscosity than heavy crude oil. Natural gas condensate is a mixture of hydrocarbon liquids that are present in the raw natural gas produced at gas fields.

Israel, a nation traditionally starved of natural resources, believes the discovery of natural gas reserved off its shores in the Mediterranean will lead it to energy independence and make it an exporter of gas. The Karish and Tanin natural gas fields sit alongside the larger Tamar and Leviathan deposits in Israel’s economic waters in the Mediterranean.
Israel-Egypt gas pipeline deal expected in coming days
A deal that would transfer control of a natural gas pipeline between Israel and Egypt is expected to be closed in the next few days, the companies said on Sunday.

Texas-based Noble Energy (NBL.N), Israel’s Delek Drilling (DEDRp.TA) and Egyptian East Gas Co have partnered in a venture called EMED, which last year agreed to buy a 39% stake in the subsea EMG pipeline for $518 million that will carry Israeli gas exports to Egypt.

In a regulatory filing in Tel Aviv, Delek said the shares have already been transferred to the buyers while the funds are currently being held in a trust. It noted that no closing conditions remained.

“Upon the transfer of the full amount of the consideration to the sellers, which is expected to be performed in the coming days, the EMG transaction will be closed in practice,” Delek said.

Partners in Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar offshore gas fields had agreed to sell $15 billion worth of gas to a customer in Egypt — Dolphinus Holdings — but last month the deal was amended to boost supply by 34% to about 85 billion cubic meters, or an estimated $20 billion.
Elbit Systems Lands 5-Year, $50 Million Portuguese Defense Ministry Contract
Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems announced over the weekend that it has been awarded a $50 million contract to supply the Portuguese Air Force with a complete electronic warfare suite and customer logistics support for the new KC-390 multi-mission aircraft. The contract is to be completed over a five-year period.

Under the contract, Elbit will supply the Portuguese Air Force’s KC-390s with Radar and Laser Warning Systems, an IR Missile Warning System, Countermeasures Dispensing System, a Directional IR Countermeasures system and Active ECM (AECM) POD system.

“The Portuguese Air Force is a long-standing strategic partner of Elbit Systems and we are proud of this contract award to provide enhanced survivability for their new fleet of KC-390 aircraft,” said Edgar Maimon, executive vice president and general manager of Elbit Systems’ Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence Unit.

Last week, Elbit announced that it had been selected by the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport to provide the Swiss Armed Forces with an army-wide tactical Software Defined Radio (SDR) solution under the Telecommunications Armed Forces (TK A) program.
Ray Charles in Israel
“I had always heard that I was popular in Israel, but I didn’t get over there until the early seventies,” the soul genius Ray Charles recalled. “Some people asked me to do a documentary. I liked the idea. I’d never done anything like that before. The film people knew I wasn’t a scholar or a theologian, but they had heard that I had a decent working knowledge of the Bible. They had also heard that the Israelis liked me, and they hoped the two things would blend.”

Ray Charles, accompanied by his five backup singers, the Raelettes, arrived in Israel in early December 1972. In the first two weeks of that month they performed at five wildly successful concerts. Israeli fans of the “Genius of Soul” thronged the concert halls of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Fans cheered the musicians in the streets and the press gave their concert tour wide coverage.

The musicians spent two weeks performing and touring in the country. It was, Charles remembered, an opportunity to “look around and learn. … It was all so old, so incredibly old, that I couldn’t help but shake my head in wonder. I could smell history in the streets.”

By the early 1970s, Ray Charles and the Raelettes had given concerts all over the world. In Japan, they had encountered particularly enthusiastic audiences. But in terms of enthusiasm none of these concerts prepared Charles and his ensemble for the reception they received in Israel.

That many Israelis liked Ray Charles and his music was an understatement. I was living in Jerusalem at the time and I remember vividly the excitement that his visit generated. I also remember that by the time I made it to the concert hall box office the two Jerusalem shows were completely sold out. I never got to hear him on that tour, but news of it was in all of the Israel newspapers. It seemed that by missing that concert I had missed more than the music.

The riveting story of the Jerusalem concert is best told by the genius himself: In his autobiography, Brother Ray, (co-written with David Ritz) Charles wrote that, “In thirty years on the road, I had never experienced anything like this. We were supposed to do two shows, but the first one had the crowd so crazy and happy that they wouldn’t leave. The second crowd was due any minute, but the first crowd wasn’t about to move.”


The Jewish roots of French icon Asterix the Gaul
The iconic adventures of Asterix the Gaul may be most famous in the French-speaking world, but their inspiration is decidedly Jewish.

One of the most famous characters in French comics, and considered by many to be a French national hero, the adventures of Asterix and his sidekick Obelix are popular all over the world. The comics were translated to over 100 languages, including Latin, Welsh and Hebrew. It has inspired 10 movies, the most recent one the 2018 Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion.

But could Asterix be Jewish? While the answer is obviously no – Asterix is literally a Gaul, after all – Ateret Yerushalayim rosh yeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Aviner argues that the Jewish inspiration is clearly there.

It is important to note that the original writer behind Asterix, René Goscinny, was undoubtedly Jewish, having been born in Paris in 1926 to two Jewish immigrants from Poland. His father accepted a job in Argentina after he was born, unknowingly ensuring their family won't be harmed by the Nazi occupation of France, to which he returned in 1946.

Speaking in an interview reported by Srugim, Rabbi Aviner, who is French himself – after mentioning that this isn't as important as studying Rashi, a medieval Jewish scholar who was also French – reaffirmed Goscinny's Jewishness.

"His father was born in Warsaw, and his grandfather was a rabbi," he explained. "His Jewish identity was strong."
Jewish astronaut snaps space pics of Israel, salutes late father
Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir, who made history last month as one half of the first all-female spacewalking team, on Friday posted pictures of Israel snapped from space with a caption saying the country was part of her father’s journey.

“My father’s globe spanning journey as a surgeon from the Middle East, to Europe, and eventually to the U.S. was an inspiration to many in my immediate and extended family. #TheJourney,” Meir wrote.

Meir’s late father was born in 1925 in Baghdad, and in 1931 the whole family left Iraq as a result of anti-Semitism and settled in pre-state Israel.

He was in medical school at the American University of Beirut when the 1948 War of Independence broke out and returned to Israel, where he drove an ambulance during the war. He then went to Geneva to finish medical school before taking a job in Sweden, where he met Meir’s mother, a nurse who was raised in a Christian Swedish family.

Her parents then moved to the US.




We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.
          

This Day in WWII 7 November 1939 - 1944

 Cache   
Alcoa Aluminum Ad - November 1942 1939: The Belgium and Dutch Monarch's emphasize their country's neutrality, but offer to act as peace negotiators. Hitler rejects the proposal, as do both Britain and France. 1939: Paul Thummel, a double agent, passes details of the German plans for the western offensive to the Czech government-in-exile. *Esther Williams 1940: The Royal Air Force attacks the Krupp munition works in Essen. Esther Williams - YANK Pin-up Girl Oct. 12, 1945 1941: The RAF bombs Berlin with 169 aircraft, but 21 are lost. 1941: Speaking from Red Square in Moscow, with the spearheads of the Wehrmacht less than 100 miles from the capital, Stalin predicts that 'the Fascist German invaders are facing disaster'. The German High Command decides to resume the advance on Moscow as soon as possible, although by now it is estimated that 80 Russian divisions stand in their way. Alcoa Aluminum Ad - November 1943 1943: British troops launch a limited offensive along the coast of Burma. 1944: President Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term in office, defeating Thomas E. Dewey. Esther Williams *Born in Los Angeles, California, on August 8, 1921. Sometimes called "America's Mermaid," Esther Williams helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and 1950s. The youngest of five children, she suffered a great personal at an early age when her older brother, Stanton, a promising actor, died at the age of sixteen. Soon after his death, Williams found a respite from her sadness by learning to swim. She even got a job at a local swimming pool near her house to earn free swimming time. As a teenager, Williams was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team. She won several national swimming competition events in 1939 and hoped to compete at the 1940 Olympic Games. But the Olympics were canceled because of World War II. Disappointed, she took a job at an upscale department store. But she did not stay on land for long. Producer Billy Rose asked to audition for his swimming and diving show called "Aquacade" in San Francisco. She landed the lead role opposite Johnny Weissmuller, best known as Tarzan in the popular Tarzan film series. After the show ended, Williams returned to Los Angeles and eventually landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios. Around this time, her brief first marriage to Leonard Kovner ended. She made her film debut in Andy Hardy's "Double Life" with Mickey Rooney in 1942. Williams made a bigger splash, however, with her first swimming movie, 1944's "Bathing Beauty" with Red Skelton. To film the elaborate synchronized swimming scenes, a special pool was built with all sorts of cranes and lifts to capture the action on film. It became one of the most popular films of that year. The next year she married singer and actor Ben Gage. Esther Williams Although not an especially good actress, Williams was a sight to see in the water. She starred in a number of aquatic musicals, including "Thrill of a Romance", "Neptune's Daughter", and "Million Dollar Mermaid". People around the world flocked to movie theaters to see the graceful Williams work her magic on screen, making her an international superstar. Unfortunately, her life both professionally and personally hit a rocky period in the late 1950s. Her marriage to Gage ended in divorce, and she had some misses at the box office. In the 1960s, Williams had almost completely stepped out of the limelight. At request of her third husband, actor Fernando Lamas, she stopped acting. The couple stayed together until his death in 1982. Instead of performing, Williams focused business interests. After endorsing swimsuits in 1940s and 1950s, she designed her own swimsuit line, the Esther Williams Swimsuit Collection. She also put her name on a line of backyard swimming pools. Both businesses are still thriving today. Now in her eighties, Williams remains active despite a recent health setback. In 2007, she told Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer during a television interview that she had suffered a stroke, but that did not slow her down for long. In time, she recovered and returned to swimming. She had three step-children, from Lamas: Cristina, Alexandra "Alex," and Lorenzo. She has three children from her second marriage to Ben Gage. Esther Williams lived in Beverly Hills, California, with fourth husband Edward Bell, until her death at age 91 in her sleep on June 6, 2013 in her home in Los Angeles, California. TRIVIA: Measurements: 36-26-36 (as a champion swimmer), 38-27-34 (filming Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine) Height: 5' 10" (1.78 m) Camel Cigarettes Ad - November 1944
          

This Day in WWII 6 November 1939 - 1945

 Cache   
Curtis Wright Ad - November 1943 1939: First big air battle on Western Front. 1939: The Gestapo rounds up 183 professors of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and sends them to Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. In Soviet occupied Poland, Ukrainian peasants murder 200 Polish refugees after offering them food and accommodation. *Shirley Patterson 1940: Under-Secretary for War announces measures to give Home guard more permanent shape and better equipment without changing its 'local and friendly character'. 1940: Royal Canadian Navy destroyer Ottawa and Royal Navy destroyer Harvester sink Italian submarine Faa di Bruno off Ireland. 1940: Britain promises financial assistance to Greece, starting with £5 million advance. Shirley Patterson 1941: The German blockade runner 'Odenwald' which is disguised as a US merchant, is captured by the US cruiser Omaha and the destroyer Somers. 1941: US gives Russia $1,000m interest free loan. 1941: Finnish advance halted on the Northern Front. Walter Kidde & Company Ad - November 1943 1941: Stalin claims Axis casualties on Eastern Front now 4.5 million, when actually less than 700,000. First cases of frostbite in the German Army recorded. 1941: The Japanese Southern Army is ordered to prepare detailed operational plans for the up and coming offensive. Shirley Patterson 1942: Halted before Ordshonikidse in the Caucasus, the 13th Panzer Division is fighting to prevent itself being cut off by superior Soviet forces attacking its flanks and rear. In a speech to the Congress of Soviet Deputies, Stalin warns the United States and Britain that 'the absence of a second front against Fascist Germany may end badly for all freedom loving countries, including the Allies themselves'. He declares that 'the aim of the coalition is to save mankind from reversion to savagery and mediaeval brutality'. 1942: Further progress made by the Eighth Army with 20,000 further Axis prisoners being claimed. 1943: The Russians take Kiev and split the Fourth Panzer Army into three. 1943: The Japanese land reinforcements North of Empress Bay. Bendix Ad - November 1943 1944: Middelburg is surrendered by the 2,000 Germans. 1944: Tito's forces take Monastir in southern Yugoslavia and now control the whole border with Greece. 1944: The Chinese 22nd Division crosses the Irrawaddy in northern Burma. Shirley Patterson 1945: Foreign Commissar Molotov announces that Russia will soon have the atomic bomb. 1945: The first landing of a jet on a carrier takes place on USS Wake Island when an FR-1 Fireball touches down. Shirley Patterson *Shirley Patterson, sometimes billed as Shawn Smith, was born on December 26, 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Patterson began her acting career after being a beauty contestant in pageants in California in 1940. She graduated from the Mar-Ken School in Sherman Oaks, California in 1941, and shortly thereafter she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. Her career spanned forty films, a small quantity of television appearances, and a serial. Her movie and TV roles beginning around 1953 she was credited as "Shawn Smith". A beautiful woman in her youth, Patterson played the role of Linda Page, the heroine and Bruce Wayne's girlfriend in the fifteenth chapter of the "Batman" serial (1943). In 1944 she starred in "The Vigilantes Ride" alongside Russell Hayden and Bob Wills. In 1946 she accompanied Eddie Dean and Roscoe Ates in the film "Driftin River", and starred with them again that same year in "Tumbleweed Trail". Two of her last films was the 1957 movie "The Land Unknown", and the 1958 Sci-Fi film "It! The Terror from Beyond Space", which also starred Ray "Crash" Corrigan who played a monster from outer space. Patterson had a long fight with cancer in her later years, and died on April 4, 1995 (aged 72) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Buick Ad - November 1943
          

This Day in WWII 5 November 1940 - 1944

 Cache   
Lockheed Aircraft Corp. Ad - Nov. 1942 1940: Armed merchant-cruiser Jervis Bay sunk by pocket-battleship Admiral Scheer in attack on Atlantic convoy. 1940: Roosevelt is elected as President of USA for an unprecedented third term with 54 percent of the popular vote. He defeats Republican Wendell L. Willke. *June Duprez 1941: Japanese war plans agreed on at an imperial conference, with a deadline of December 1941. The US ambassador to Tokyo, Joseph C Grew, warns that war might come very suddenly. 1942: The British attack Rommel's rearguard, which is now almost 100 miles to west of El Alamein. A peace treaty is signed in Madagascar with the Vichy French. June Duprez 1943: The US Fifth Army reaches the Sangro river in southern Italy. 1943: China's Wang Chingwei, Thailand's Wan Waithayakon, Manchukuo's Chang Chinghui, Burma's Adipadi Ba Maw, India's Subhas Chandra Bose, and the Philippines Jose Laurel attend the "Greater East Asia Family Conference" of November 5-6, 1943 in Tokyo. The Filipino delegate urges the Asian quislings to "extend all possible material and spiritual support to Japan." 1943: US Navy carrier planes cripple a Japanese Naval Squadron at Rabaul, forcing six cruisers (Atago, Maya, Chikuma, Mogami, Takao, and Suzuya) to withdraw North to Truk for repairs. Camel Cigarette Ad - November 1942 1944: 174 Lancasters of No. 5 Group, RAF, breach the Dortmund-Ems Canal, one of Germanys main transport arteries. 1944: The German 4th Army recapture the town of Goldap in East Prussia. June Duprez 1944: British forces land at Salonika, in Greece. 1944: U.S. planes pound the harbor at Manila in the Philippines and also destroy 249 Japanese aircraft. June Duprez *June was born in Teddington, England during an air raid on May 14, 1918. Her father, Fred Duprez, was an American vaudevillian who found stage and film work in England. She herself picked up an interest in performing and eventually joined the Coventry Repertory Company to gather the necessary stage experience. She made her film debut as an extra in 1935. June married at a young age and her career was initially encouraged by her first husband, a Harley Street doctor. But once she started flirting with stardom, he became increasingly envious and possessive and their marriage fell apart. True enough, her sultry and exotic appearances in such British films as "The Spy in Black" (1939), "Four Feathers" (1939) and, especially, Alexander Korda's "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940) made a star out of her and she was quickly ushered to Hollywood to capitalize on this newly-found fame. Although she stayed in America throughout WWII, both Korda and June's agent set her price too high -- at $50,000 per picture. This pretty much put her out of contention and she found herself working very little in the next few years. Her most notable American picture during that time was "None But the Lonely Heart" (1944) opposite Cary Grant. June subsequently left Hollywood in 1946 and discovered a few roles on the Broadway stage. She retired altogether when she married for a second time in 1948 to a well-to-do sportsman. They had two daughters but divorced in 1965. June lived in Rome for a time, then returned to London to live out the remainder of her life. She died on October 30, 1984 at age 66 following an extended illness. Lockheed Aircraft Corp. Ad - Nov. 1943
          

Gaana Music- Hindi Tamil Telugu MP3 Songs Online

 Cache   
Gaana is the one-stop music streaming app for all your Music needs. Gaana offers you free, unlimited online access to all your favorite Hindi Songs, Bollywood Music, Regional Music & Radio.Enjoy millions of Hindi, English*, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Malayalam, Odia, Rajasthani, Bengali, Assamese & Bhojpuri Songs from a plethora of collection ranging from New Songs to Old Classics, Bollywood songs, Indian Regional songs,for free. Download songs of your favourite artists or from popular albums. Browse through our top charts such as Top 50 Bollywood Songs, International Top 50, Punjabi Top 50 & much more. Also explore new and old songs depending on your mood or liking through the discover section and listen to curated playlists; 90’s Romantic Hits, Sad Songs, Bhangra, Devotional, Rock, Rhymes, Bhajans & Ghazals. You can also play Gaana Online Radio for an endless stream of your favorite genre. Listen to songs of famous artists like Arijit Singh, Atif Aslam, AR Rahman, Badshah, Guru Randhawa, Lata Mangeshkar, Neha Kakkar, Kishore Kumar, R D Burman, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan and others only on Gaana music app. You can also listen to English tracks of popular artists like Ariana Grande, Jonas Brothers, Avicii, Maroon 5, Martin Garrix, Ed Sheeran, David Guetta, Charlie Puth, Sia, Drake, Pitbull, Eminem, Enrique Iglesias, Bryan Adams, Justin Bieber. Gaana music app offers the latest songs from Hindi movies such as Kabir Singh, Bharat, De De Payr De, Jabriya Jodi, Kesari, Kalank, Luka Chuppi and many more. If you are a fan of Telugu songs, you can listen to the Telugu Patalu such as Psycho Saiyaan, Ismart, Dimaak Kharaab, Undipo, Rowdy Baby, Inkem Inkem Kaavale, Bharat Ane Nenu and many more. We also have a notable collection of Tamil songs like Kathari Poovazhagi & Polladha Boomi from ASURAN, Anbae Peranbae, Kannaana Kanney, Marana Mass, Adchithooku, Kannamma and many more Tamil Paadal. Gaana Music app offers:+ Access to over 30 million Bollywood & English MP3 songs + High quality music streaming+ Thousands of playlists created by Experts & Users + Save your favorite songs, playlists, albums and artists+ Listen to Non-stop Radio & also 20 Radio Mirchi stations.+ Music updated daily for Hindi, English, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Kannada & other regional languages+ Enjoy Lyrics of your favorite songs + Experience the app in 10 different languages+ Ability to enjoy music in black and white themeGaana Plus offers:+ Download unlimited mp3 songs for offline listening+ Ad free Music experience+ Music in high definition audio quality+ Sync downloads on 5 devicesExplore interesting music and listen to bollywood songs, featured artists, latest trending songs, popular playlists and more on Gaana app. Download the app to play music on the go.Subscribe to Gaana Plus for INR 99 per month (within India) or $3.99 per month (outside India) Your Gaana Plus subscription will automatically renew each month through your Google Play account. You can cancel auto-renewal at any time from the subscription list in your Google Play account. Cancellation of the current subscription is not allowed during the active subscription period.We need permission to read SMS to offer seamless phone number login by reading OTP sent via SMS. Please go to http://gaana.com/privacy_policy.html and http://gaana.com/terms_and_conditions.html for more informationLike us on Facebook: facebook.com/gaana.comFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/gaanaFollow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gaanaSubscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFu4MmcRqMsXrkWiD32h9HASend Feedback: feedback@gaana.comAll content available on this application is legitimate and duly licensed to the publisher* for use.*Publisher - Times Internet (Times of India Group)*English songs are currently available in India only*Offline content is only playable from Gaana app, till you are an active Gaana+ subscriber
          

Frontierland 1978 Selection

 Cache   
It's time for another collection of vintage Frontierland scans from the Mysterious Benefactor! All of these are from 1978.

Here's an interesting view from "Walt's balcony" according to the file name; this was years before the Disney Gallery allowed mere mortals to get this same perspective. It's cool to see the Gullywhumper and the Bertha Mae on the river together. Like John Lennon and Paul McCartney playing guitar together after the Beatles broke up! Yes, just like that. The strange layered gradations in the upper left are a mystery to me.


I love that pontoon bridge (but do I love it more than the suspension bridge?). Folks are crossing in an orderly manner, except for that rambunctious kid in to the left - he is going straight to Disney jail! The Mark Twain is heading straight for us, ramming speed. What is that thing on the shore to our right? A billboard for Burma Shave?


Ah, beautiful Tom Sawyer Island, pre-Fantasmic. Audio-Animatronic flowers line the shore; there's more raft and Mark Twain action in the distance.


Smart guests remembered to bring a bag of dried corn with them; Disneyland CMs were always happy to grind it into meal for corn muffins, johnnycakes, or (my favorite) corn gruel.


How's this for a beautiful sight? It appears that riders are de-planing from the Mark Twain, but I would be in line for the next evening voyage around the Rivers of America - one of my all-time favorite experiences at Disneyland.


Thank you, Mysterious Benefactor!


          

Syria: Funeral held for Myanmar medic killed in shelling in northeastern Syria

 Cache   
A funeral was held for Zau Seng, a Myanmar medic and member of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) humanitarian group, who died in a mortar attack near Tal Tamr, northeastern Syria, o...
          

June Sekiguchi and Lauren Iida at ArtXchange Gallery by Susan Noyes Platt

 Cache   

A river flows through the center of the ArtXchange Gallery. June Sekiguchi’s poetic exhibition, “The Pulse of Water,” features a river constructed by the artist of fiber board intricately cut on a scroll saw. As we immerse ourselves in the swirls and patterns of the river that flows down the wall and across the gallery, we can feel the spirit of the river as it moves from the purity of the mountain stream to the siena browns of the lowlands. 

Fourteen years ago June Sekiguchi traveled on the Mekong River for two weeks, “Floating down the river in a long narrow boat slows the pace of life—I could just BE. As I meditatively floated, the riverboat captain was vigilantly reading the river—there are not many rapids, but bubbling whirlpools in constant motion indicate there is something beneath the surface. Trees, rocks, and all kinds of human-made things have been swallowed by the river. I saw the Mekong as a metaphor for our human selves. One may detect hints on the surface, but underneath is where our stories are submerged.” The Mekong river begins in Tibet, flows through South China, forms a border between Burma and Laos, as well as Laos and Thailand, then flows on through Cambodia and Vietnam where it ends in the famous Mekong delta. 

In Sekiguchi’s installation the swirls of the river in many colors and patterns seem alive and perhaps struggling, as the dark colors and the pure clean white patterns overlap and interact. The artist also created a bamboo bridge across her river about which she states “Every year the bridge is washed away by the monsoon. Each year, the people rebuild the bridge.” Those many patterns though also refer to the threats to this precious river, the source of food for millions of people. It is rapidly being dammed for hydroelectric power, starting in China, and now further South in Laos. The entire ecosystem of the river is under threat. As we well know from our experience here, dams are devastating to migrating fish. So as we look at this celebration of the poetry of water flowing freely, we also can feel the threat to the river.
 
Sekiguchi recently created “Akha Headdress” to honor the Akha people, a tribal hill people that span from the Yunnan province of Southern China, as well as Thailand, Laos, Burma, and China. Their traditional farming land is also threatened by governments taking their land, although eco-tourism seems to be helping them survive. In China, the Akha people grow Puer and other types of sought-after tea (as well as coffee) and have been integrated into the world economy.
 
Other works in the “Pulse of Water” include mandalas, bells, and kites, all created on scroll cut wood. The scroll saw moves up and down with a spiral blade, and Sekiguchi frequently works with 1/8 inch thick low grade fiber board that has no grain, allowing her to create intricate designs.
 
Also at ArtXchange is an exhibition by Lauren Iida, “100 Aspects of the Moon.” Iida creates delicate images with hand cut paper, watercolor, and sumi ink that suggest a fragment of a story. Lauren Iida’s grandparents were detained during World War II at Tule Lake. As a Japanese American, this personal history has profoundly affected her art and her view of the world.
 
Japanese woodblock artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) “100 Aspects of the Moon” inspired the current series. In his case, the themes are taken from Indian and Chinese legends, famous musicians, poets, and heroes of classic novels and plays. Iida chooses to represent personal events for her family as well as to depict scenes from the life of her friends in Cambodia. The moon in each image in both series represents the connections among people no matter who or where they are. Iida suggests a meditative moment in each work, whether it be those waiting for a family member who is detained or a young man standing alone in a field.

Iida has been based in Cambodia since 2008. Deeply engaged with social projects she sponsors the nonprofit The Antipodes Collective which creates illustrated books in both Khmer and English for Cambodian children. Open Studio Kampot takes place in her house which she has opened up to youth artists, including many with disabilities. Her story suggests her deep feeling for those who struggle to survive, but she doesn’t just feel concern, she collaborates with people who might seem to have no way forward to help them create viable lives.

Lauren Iida and June Sekiguchi make a perfect pairing of exhibitions that give us insights into an area of the world that shares the same ecological concerns as Seattle, but of which we hear very little. ArtXchange Gallery plays a crucial role in Seattle in exhibiting both contemporary Asian and Asian American artists.
 
Susan Noyes Platt
Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog www.artandpoliticsnow.com and for local, national, and international publications.

“The Pulse of Water” exhibit by June Sekiguchi and “100 Aspects of the Moon” exhibit by Lauren Iida are on view through November 30 at the ArtXchange Gallery located at 512 First Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. For information, visit www.artxcahnge.org.


          

Free Burma Rangers activist and medic killed by Turkish drone strike in Syria

 Cache   

The conflict in northern Syria has faded from the headlines but Turkish proxies are continuing their advance south into Syria.
          

Remind Me: Damage done in San Francisco in six days

 Cache   

I am lucky enough to have a sister living out in San Francisco, and to be able to work out of our offices there. Below is a hit list of the places I ate at and visited in the span of six days. My stomach has finally recovered.

Wineries (Sonoma County):

Both of us are lucky enough to have been through Napa several times, so we decided to venture into Sonoma County. The last item in that list is an unsuspecting general store off of Dry Creek Road in Heldsburg which has an incredible sandwich list. This area turns Napa on its head, with a much more family-run low-key atmosphere. There is none of the pretense of visiting a large production winery such as Mondavi or the herds of people who visit Duckhorn.

To Eat:

I cannot recommend every one of these places enough. Izakaya Sozai serves killer ramen. Yank Sing serves dim sum on weekend mornings that melt in your mouth. Shuck your own oysters at Hog Island (we learned in about 30 seconds) at the farm while sitting on benches along Tomales Bay. Mission Chinese blasts gangster rap while you gorge yourself on craveable Chinese food.

Go, eat, recover later.


          

Free Burma Rangers: La gente de aquí debe decidir su futuro

 Cache   
Dave Eubank, de la organización Free Burma Rangers, habló largo y tendido con ANF sobre el compromiso de su equipo médico y la muerte de uno de sus médicos, el 2 de noviembre.
          

The Oddly Autocratic Roots of Pad Thai

 Cache   
When authoritarian leaders obsess over a particular food, it can change how a country eats and drinks for generations. This week, we’re looking at five cases of dictator food projects and what they reveal about the power of food. Previously: how Mao made China mad for mangoes and how Nazi Germany sought whales to turn into margarine.

As World War II approached, Thailand was in a precarious position. For years, the country’s leaders had clutched their independence closely, worried about the French and English, who had colonized neighboring Cambodia, Laos, and Burma. Now, Japan was expanding imperially into East Asia, having invaded China in 1937.

In response, Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s government took action. As part of a national campaign called “Noodle is Your Lunch,” the Public Welfare Department gave Thais free noodle carts and distributed recipes for a new national dish: pad Thai.

At the time, the dish was little known, and no one called it “pad Thai.” In rice-centric Thailand, then known as Siam, the dish seemed more Chinese—similar noodle dishes likely arrived in Thailand centuries earlier with Chinese traders. But Thailand’s prime minister, who first rose to power as part of a military coup against the longtime monarchy, had spoken. As part of his strident nationalism, he wanted all Thais to eat pad Thai.

A noodle project may seem trivial in the context of world war. But Phibunsongkhram, better known as Phibun or Pibul in the West, thought it was the very seriousness of the situation that demanded this response.

article-image

Phibun believed that a strong national culture, including pad Thai, was key to Thailand remaining independent. Thailand was surrounded by colonies that European powers had justified on the basis of civilizing and modernizing their populations. Plus, Japan, which coveted control of natural resources, was creating an empire in East Asia. “We must be as cultured as other nations,” Phibun told his ministers in a speech. Otherwise, “Thailand would be helpless and soon become colonized. But if we were highly cultured, we would be able to uphold our integrity, independence, and keep everything to ourselves.”

This was the highly charged atmosphere in which Phibun pursued his noodle project. Phibun, who liked to compare himself to Napoleon, cast himself in the mold of fascist leaders such as Mussolini and mandated fawning coverage of himself as “The Leader.” As noted in Priceonomics, he pursued Thai nationalism by banning the Chinese language from schools, removing ethnic Chinese people from prominent posts, and having Chinese food vendors kicked off the streets.

article-image

“[Phibun] was determined that his most important objective was a cultural revolution,” wrote Thamsook Numnonda, author of Thailand and the Japanese Presence, 1941-45. “The heart of“[Phibun's] campaign was to instill a love for Thailand and to stir up pride among the people in all things Thai.”

A new national dish was just one part of the revolution. Eager to signal a break from the country’s feudal, monarchical past, he made sweeping changes that ranged from switching the country’s name to Thailand to dictating how Thais should dress. Wearing traditional Thai clothing, instead of the trousers for men and hats for ladies that Phibun preferred, could result in a fine. (He had thoughts on color choices too.)

Many national dishes represent long histories of local ingredients, immigration, and symbolism. But pad Thai’s culinary coronation was more a matter of chance. According to Penny Van Esterik, author of Materializing Thailand, Phibun “simply had this particular version of a Thai noodle that was made by his housekeeper in his kitchen, and he really liked it.” Phibun’s son, Nitya Pibulsonggram, told Gastronomica in 2009 that his parents “actually made pad Thai popular during the War.” While he doesn’t recall who exactly introduced the dish to the household, he said that his father and the government “thought it would be useful to popularize it because it is so nutritious.”

To Phibun, ensuring Thailand’s greatness required raising its standard of living, and officials were concerned about the Thai diet. Pad Thai, with its hearty mix of ingredients and the emphasis on cooking it in clean pots, fit the nation’s updated, modern nutritional guidelines. Like many Asian leaders, Phibun had studied in Europe. He associated Western ways with modernity, hence his desire to stamp out traditional Thai clothes in favor of European suits and skirts. But he also aimed to unify his diverse country around national pride.

In 1941, Japan attacked Thailand, and Phibun agreed to an alliance that gave Japanese troops free movement throughout the country. After the war, Phibun defended his cultural mandates as necessary to prevent Thailand from fully falling under the influence of much-more-powerful Japan. Near the end of World War II, Phibun was driven out of office. But while the new government rolled back much of his cultural revolution, there was no backlash towards pad Thai.

article-image

Generations later, the Thai government found itself once again promoting pad Thai. To boost international awareness of the country and promote tourism, Thailand made it easier to export Thai ingredients, gave loans to Thai restaurateurs abroad, and established visas specifically for Thai chefs in countries such as New Zealand. The smashingly successful Global Thai program sent tourism soaring and dramatically increased the number of Thai restaurants globally.

In Thailand today, there’s little sign of pad Thai’s origins as a bureaucratic project. Its best iterations draw crowds of enthusiastic eaters. It also has to compete within a rich food scene without government boosting and support, which is why it’s often outshone by dishes such as khao soi, the curry noodles of Thailand’s gastronomically rich north.

Abroad, though, Phibun’s original aim has been realized. Like a designated dignitary, pad Thai’s sweet noodles, tofu, egg, fish sauce, bean sprouts, and lime tell the world that Thailand is a place worth visiting, with a rich and distinct culture. Even if pad Thai is a curious choice of representative.


          

Abschied von Gefallenen in Dêrik

 Cache   
In Dêrik sind sieben Gefallene des Widerstands in Rojava beerdigt worden. Der Leichnam des Arztes Zau Seng von den Free Burma Rangers wurde zur Bestattung in seinem Heimatland verabschiedet.
          

General Elections in Myanmar from the Perspective of Inter-Ethnic Relations: Contest and Adaptation

 Cache   
Paper

Myanmar is still a country full of political crisis and ethnic conflict. The latter is the main factor hindering its political development. In the period of feudal dynasties, the Bamar and ethnic minorities fought against each other and established states dominated by the Bamar several times.

The British, after it colonized Myanmar, implemented the policy of divide and rule. With this policy, it divided Myanmar into two independent political entities, namely "Burma Proper" and “the Frontier”1 , resulting in the estrangement between the Bamar and the ethnic minorities. After independence, successive Myanmar governments have carried out the policy of Burmese Chauvinism, which led to increasingly fierce ethnic conflicts in Myanmar. Some ethnic minorities turned to armed struggle and organized their own military forces to resist the rule of the central government. The war continues to this day. This is the main line of ethnic relations in modern and contemporary Myanmar and the focus of scholars studying Myanmar.

(Read the full paper at the link above)

This paper was originally published in Chinese. It was translated and posted with permission from the author.

 

Zhu Xianghui is Associate Research Fellow at the Myanmar Research Institute & Center for China’s Neighboring Diplomacy Studies, Yunnan University, China.




Next Page: 10000

© Googlier LLC, 2019