Active Sunspot

ACTIVE SUNSPOT: Sunspot AR1513 is crackling with impulsive M-class solar flares. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash from one of them at 0920 UT on June 29th:

This M2-class flare illuminated Earth’s upper atmosphere with a pulse of X-rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation. Waves of ionization rippled over Europe, altering the propagation of low-frequency radio signals around the continent. Using a receiver tuned to 60 kHz, Rob Stammes detected the sudden ionospheric disturbance over Norway. His antennas also picked up radio waves from the flare itself at 26 MHz and 56 MHz.

More ionization waves and solar radio bursts are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of continued M-flares during the next 24 hours.


Xinjiang, China Earthquake

Xinjiang, China earthquake – collapsed houses, +37 injured, 40 workers and 80 people trapped, 500 houses collapsed, 22000 people affected + more to come

Last update: June 30, 2012 at 10:38 am by By

Update 10:25 UTC
– The damage toll is getting heavier every hour
– Most of the houses in the area have cracks in the walls
– luckily no killed people so far, but based on our China experience and the remote areas still to be inspected, the current state of damage and injuries is only temporary.
– The Chinese seismological agency has recorded 13 aftershocks of M3.0 or higher. 2 aftershocks surpassed the 4 level, an M4.2 at 08:46 local time and a M4.3 at 15:35 local time. All aftershocks have epicenters in the same area and the depths are more or less similar than the mainshock.
– Water distribution, roads, electricity, classrooms, hospitals, offices and other public facilities have various degrees of damage. Relief work is underway.

Big rocks on State Highway 2017 after a landslide – image courtesy and copyright

Very important Update 06:47 UTC :
– a lot of houses collapsed during the shaking
– at least 37 people were injured
– As of 10:30 local time, there were 7223 households, containing 22000 people affected
40 workers have been trapped as well as 80 people when a landslide occurred at State Highway 217, Xinyuan county. The 40 workers were near a mountain top, and 80 people were at hot springs.70 police to the scene to conduct the rescue. An extra 40 soldiers and 10 local police were also sent later.
– 1650 rooms (around 500 houses) have been destroyed, 11300 rooms with moderate damage, and 8050 rooms with minor damage.
– 684 stalls have been damaged including 258 which collapsed killing 112 head of cattle and 245 sheep
– There have also been landslides reported given the torrential rain in the area combined with the shaking.
– temporary blackouts in a wide area
– emergency forces are currently trying to reach more distant locations. Chinese authorities have dispatched 220 assessment staff (analyzing what is needed and inspecting the damage) and 4500 specializeed SAR rescue troops.
– The quake also triggered landslides and caused cave-ins on several national and regional highways in Xinjiang, bringing traffic to a halt and making emergency help extremely difficult
– strong shaking was experienced in Urumqi, the capital of the province
– Two earthquakes measuring more than 7 on the Richter scale have jolted the region since 1900.

Emergency and rescue troops are helping a woman getting away from her partly collapsed house – image courtesy


Update 00:06 UTC :  We will have to wait at least another 3 to 4 hours before the assessment and emergency teams have reached the epicenter area. Trains have been stopped on various rails when the safety system enforced an emergency stop. Rails are currently being expected to avoid further problems (it is known that earthquakes often bend rails due to ground motion)

Update 23:52 UTC :  Emergency plans have been activated. The Chinese authorities are talking from a “larger earthquake disaster” although they have no detailed information yet.  Chinese media are indicating that SAR and assessment personnel has been rushed to the earthquake zone. They have the ability to help people and will tell the disasters offices what material they will need. Chinese will inspect EVERY house for eventual damage in the greater earthquake area. Chinese emergency forces are not perfect but based on what we have seen in the past earthquakes we have followed, ER calls them extremely well organized and disciplined people.

Update 23:48 UTC :  The area is considered in China as very scenic and has some tourist infrastructure. We expect the majority of tourists to be Chinese.

Update 23:30 UTCHongqiaolong looks to us the closest village to the epicenter. The epicenter is however poorly constrained (10 km more or less in another direction may be a big difference). This village and the nearby village of Wulan Hate, are called by ER at extremely high risk for damage and injuries is approx. 20 km from the epicenter. The village is located at an altitude of 2800 meter, the mountain range were the epicenter took place at approx. 3400 meter. The picture shows the traditional Chinese villages which we know are very vulnerable for earthquake damage.

The village of Hongqiaolong is at approx. 20 km from the epicenter. – Click on the picture to make it bigger

Update 22:58 UTC :  Chinese seismological services have reported 7 M+3 aftershocks so far.

Update 22:55 UTC :  Houses in a 50 km area are mostly simple and made from Brick, rocks and adobe. Generally spoken Chinese houses have little resistance against earthquakes. New constructions however are build with a very high earthquake resistance.

Update 22:53 UTC :  Some tourists living in the Xinjiang Nalati prairie cabins told the Chinese media that the earthquake duration was more than 20 seconds (numbers are very variable), and very strong shaking. Among the many residents in Urumqi, the capital was awakened by the earthquake, panic, people running down the stairs to escape (NEVER do this but remain in the house close to an inner wall until the shaking has stopped).

Update 22:42 UTC :  Blackouts are reported in the greater epicenter area.

Update 22:35 UTC :  the earthquake was strongly felt in Urumqi, Shihezi, Changji, Tacheng, Usu and Kuitun. People in these cities are standing in the streets out of fear for more aftershocks. None of these cities would have experienced a theoretical strong shaking (although people are talking different of course)

Update 22:25 UTC : People living in Urumqi (Urumqi  is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China) are reporting heavy shaking that lasted 1 minute.  This is an additional reason to be concerned. The longer a strong shaking is lasting, the more chance on severe damage. Urumqi is located at approx. 200 km from the epicenter.

Update 22:16 UTC : The Xinjiang seismological bureau is currently organizing SAR teams to be dispatched to the epicenter area. SAR = Search and Rescue teams

Update 22:15 UTC : At least (but probably a lot more) aftershocks have hit the epicenter area. The 2 strongest ones measured M3.9.

Update 22:12 UTC : Chinese authorities have updated the data and are reporting now M6.6 at a depth of 7 km.

Update 22:10 UTC : Chinese seismological staff is among the best trained staff in the world. These people are very well organized and take swift action whenever an earthquake happens. China has a long history of cruel earthquakes.

Update 22:07 UTC : It will take many hours before an in-depth damage report comes in as the epicenter area is very remote and as roads my be blocked by avalanches, damages road cover etc.

Update 22:04 UTC : The shaking has been well felt in the neighboring countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Update 21:58 UTC : The shaking MMI data given below are based on a Magnitude of 6.3. The Chinese authorities however are reporting a 6.7 magnitude at an even shallower depth.

Update 21:54 UTC : One of the biggest treats in this area are landslides.

Landscape approx. 15 km from the epicenter – image courtesy 老何

Update 21:53 UTC : There are luckily NO hydrodams or Nuclear Plants in the greater epicenter area.

Update 21:51 UTC : The landscape in the area tells us high slopes on a high plateau but also a lot of soft land in the area.

Update 21:45 UTC : USGS is predicting a VII MMI (very strong shaking for 1,000 people. 9000 people should feel a strong shaking.

Update 21:45 UTC : GDACS report that 5 people are living in a 5 km radius, 27 in a 10 km radius, 483 in a 20 km radius and 8664 in a 50 km radius. 183,832 in a 100 km radius. We call the 50 km radius at risk for this earthquake.

Update 21:42 UTC : calls a radius of 50 km at high risk for serious damage and injuries

Update 21:40 UTC : 150,000 people are living in a 100 km radius

Update 21:37 UTC : The Chinese seismological authorities reported a depth of 7 km at a Magnitude of 6.7.

The preliminary Magnitude reported at EMSC is 6.3 at a depth of 2 km
The preliminary Magnitude reported at USGS  is 6.3 at a depth of 2 km
The epicenter is located in the Xinjiang mountains at the crossroads between the O217 and G218. Nearest big city (at a safe distance) : Xinjuan

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : 6.3 (USGS) 6.7 (CEN)
UTC Time : Friday, June 29, 2012 at 21:07:32 UTC
Local time at epicenter : Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 05:07:32 AM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 9.8 km (USGS) 7 km (CEN)
Geo-location(s) :
Closest village / city Gongnaisigouxiang at approx. 25 km
99 km (61 miles) S of Dushanzi, China
Xinjuan at +100 km
151 km (94 miles) SW (230°) from Shihezi, Xinjiang, China

Xinjiang, China earthquake – 52 injured, 3000+ houses (7500 rooms) destroyed, 155000 people affected, $200 million US damage

Brazilian Farmers Defeat Monsanto

Five Million Brazilian Farmers Take on Monsanto and Win $2 Billion

15th June 2012

By  –

Five million Brazilian farmers have taken on US based biotech company Monsanto through a lawsuit demanding return of about 6.2 billion euros taken as royalties from them. The farmers are claiming that the powerful company has unfairly extracted these royalties from poor farmers because they were using seeds produced from crops grown from Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds, reports Merco Press.

In April this year, a judge in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, ruled in favor of the farmers and ordered Monsanto to return royalties paid since 2004 or a minimum of $2 billion. The ruling said that the business practices of seed multinational Monsanto violate the rules of the Brazilian Cultivars Act (No. 9.456/97). Monsanto has appealed against the order and a federal court ruling on the case is now expected by 2014.

About 85% of Brazil’s massive soyabean crop output is produced from genetically engineered seeds. Brazil exports about $24.1 billion worth of soyabeans annually, more than a quarter of its total agri-exports.

Farmers say that they are using seeds produced many generations after the initial crops from the genetically modified Monsanto seeds were grown. Farmers claim that Monsanto unfairly collects exorbitant profits every year worldwide on royalties from “renewal” seed harvests. Renewal crops are those that have been planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest. Monsanto disagrees, demanding royalties from any crop generation produced from its genetically-engineered seed. Because the engineered seed is patented, Monsanto not only charges an initial royalty on the sale of the crop produced, but a continuing two per cent royalty on every subsequent crop, even if the farmer is using a later generation of seed.

The first transgenic soy seeds were illegally smuggled into Brazil from neighboring Argentina in 1998 and their use was banned and subject to prosecution until the last decade, according to the state-owned Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA).The ban has since been lifted and now 85 percent of the country’s soybean crop (25 million hectares or 62 million acres) is genetically modified, Alexandre Cattelan, an EMBRAPA researcher told Merco Press. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer and exporter of soyabean. China is one of its biggest buyers.

Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers told the media agencies.

Source –


(Note:  While not necessarily a step towards banning GMO seeds, it does show that governments are becoming aware of certain illegal and predatory practices used by Monsanto.)

Lessons from A Taoist Monk

Nine Powerful Life Lessons From Studying with a Monk

29th June 2012

By Robert Piper –

When I was 18 years old, I suffered from anxiety and stomach problems. A compassionate physician and practicing Buddhist referred me to a Taoist monk who specialized in meditation and martial arts. I ended up healing myself of anxiety and stomach issues by doing meditation, and went on a great journey of self-discovery.

Here are 9 lessons I learned while studying with a monk:

1. Keep trying until you get it right.

The most important life lesson I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.

If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.

2. The answer to your question is inside of you.

As part of the original monastery training, a monk didn’t answer direct questions from a student unless it was a well thought-out question. A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

Some forms of Zen Buddhism use a very similar style of training. An old saying (by Taoist monks) goes like this: “In making a four corner table, the teacher shows the student how to make one corner. It’s the student’s job to figure out how to make the other three.”

They did this because they were preparing a student to deal effectively with problems in the real world.

I traveled to South Korea one time, and I found it fascinating how much you have to rely on your intuition when you don’t speak the native language of a country. I remember one instance, I had trouble explaining to the cab driver where my hotel was, and he didn’t speak English. So I had to get out of the cab and ask several people until I could find someone to tell the cab driver in Korean how to get to my hotel.

In life, whenever we try new things, we have to go into new places with only a small amount of information. The real world doesn’t give us all the answers. The greatest teacher is inside of us.

3. Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing.

Prior to starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.

I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.

I remember, when I first started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, its gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.

When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.

4. When you start to do meditation you recognize the egotistical mind.

Everything in the ego’s world is the result of comparing. I compared myself to other salesmen and would blame myself because I wasn’t making as much money as them.

When I started doing meditation, I began to build separation from this egoistical mind, which is consistently making these comparisons. A lot of us try something and get rejected, so we give up. Even worse, we blame ourselves for a long time and get depressed. When I started to do meditation, I began to identify my ego and was able to build separation from it.

That’s what happens when we meditate: We separate from the part of ourselves that dwells on comparisons, and start learning to live a life that isn’t driven by our egos.

5. We must be both compassionate and resilient.

The monk wouldn’t meet with me to train unless I called him a minimum of three times. I hated this part. I used to call and call and he would never answer. But this is how life is. How many times do you have to call or email someone to get something done in the real world? It’s usually several times.

Most of us blame ourselves when we try once to do something and fail. At the time, I hated this part of the training, but now I think it was the most important life lesson.

There’s a Taoist proverb that says, “Cotton on the outside, steel on the inside.”

It reminds us to be compassionate, but not weak.

6. Patience is a virtue.

The monk always made me wait—and I dreaded this.

For example, when I got to his house to train, he’d make me wait for a minimum of a half-hour, sometimes longer. We’d go out to dinner on Friday nights and he’d show up at the restaurant an hour late.

He’d tell me to meet him at a particular restaurant at 7:00. I’d get there and find out that he wasn’t there. So I’d usually be sitting in the restaurant by myself fumbling with my phone, acting like I was texting someone, while worrying about what everyone at the restaurant was thinking about me.

Keep in mind, it’s not like I could call him; I don’t think the guy ever turned his cell phone on. Then he’d show up at about 8:15 and act like nothing happened.

His first question was always, “How’s your mother and father?” (Of course in my head I’m thinking, “What do you mean, ‘How’s my mother and father?’ I just waited here for an hour and fifteen minutes.”)

But after a few years of this, it never bothered me; and not only that, it spread to every area of my life. Because of this training, I can honestly say that I very rarely get upset about anything. I never get agitated anymore when I have to wait in a long line or when someone cuts me off on the highway.

Patience is the gift of inner calm.

7. Detach from your ego.

At first, it’s hard to sit at a restaurant by yourself. You’re constantly worrying, thinking that people probably think you’re a loser because you’re sitting by yourself. But the reality is, you will never be happy if you care about what people think you!

Prior to starting meditation, I’d get upset over just about anything. Now, nothing really bothers me. Recently, I was in the airport and there was a several hour delay on my flight. I just used that time to do meditation. Ten years ago, I would have become extremely upset. An airplane delay would have ruined my day.

When you let go of your ego needs, it’s easier to accept and even benefit from whatever comes at you.

8. In Taoism, they say, “No self, No enemy.”

It’s the enemy within that causes all of our fears, worries, and insecurities. If you come to terms with this enemy within, it will impact every area of your life. It’s the identification with the “self/ego” that causes all of life’s problems.

How many times do we not go for something because of fear? Think about all the fears that we have conjured up in our minds that stop us from being truly happy. If you can conquer the enemy within yourself, you won’t have an enemy outside yourself.

9. Happiness come from within, and also comes from outside.

I learned this from observing the Buddhist Physician I met. He used to do meditation in his office before he would interact with his patients. He was one of the happiest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met.

By creating happiness inside, he was able to increase that emotional state by spreading it to others.

We must cultivate happiness from within, and work to spread it around to everyone we interact with. The monk used say, “Everyone has a purpose or a mission in life.”

We have to find happiness within, and also find our purpose on the outside.

About the Author

Robert Piper is a meditation instructor & the creator of He studied with a Taoist monk for 9 ½ years & traveled to Asia & Australia in search of other meditation teachers. Robert is currently writing a book on meditation to make it more accessible for stress relief, health & happiness.


Advantages of Hemp — Time for a Re-evaluation

Ten Great Reasons to Kill America’s Ban on Growing Hemp

30th June 2012

By Scott Thill –

America’s industrial ban on hemp is “a poster child for dumb regulation,” argues lazy ass pothead! Wait, sorry, scratch that. Make that Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, introducing an amendment last week to the densely contested 2012 Farm Bill, which is either a subsidies and sustainability savior or callous food austerity, depending on who you ask. But if you ask Wyden, “the best possible Farm Bill” is one that repeals a ban on industrial hemp the United States is already quite busy, and expensively, importing from the few feet it takes to cross the Canadian border.

“I will be urging my colleagues to support this amendment,” Wyden announced last week on the Senate floor, reminding the assembled elected that his plan won’t cost American taxpayers a dime. “I want [them] to know I will be back at this again until there are smarter regulations in place.”

“America needs to get real about hemp, and fast, even if the country continues to fight about ending cannabis prohibition,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) executive director Allen St. Pierre told AlterNet. “There is virtually no one on earth who intellectually opposes farmers cultivating industrial hemp, other than anti-cannabis bureaucracies, politicians, drug testing companies and the U.S. law enforcement community.”

That’s some stacked opposition. But the list below provides more than enough firepower for encouraging an overdue repeal of the ban on industrial hemp, cannabis sativa’s low-THC strain.

1. America buys hemp from Canada anyway.

Maybe we should just burn money, too? “We’re already importing a crop that the U.S. farmer could be profitably growing right here at home, if not for government rules prohibiting it,” Wyden argued, reminding listeners that in 2010, Canada subsidized its hemp industry with over $700,000 more in funding, increased crop sizes and “fortified the inroads the Canadians are making in U.S. markets at the expense of our farmers.” All while our hemp imports have grown 300 percent in the last decade, and 35 percent since 2009. Meanwhile, Canada’s cropland devoted to industrial hemp doubled from 2011 to 2012, Wyden added, remarking that his local Portlanders who manufacture hemp products are doing brisk business, thanks very much.

2. Everyone is growing hemp and laughing at us. 

Besides Canada, Australia is enjoying an agricultural rebound because of hemp production. Over 30 countries permit its production, and as usual, resourceful China is the world’s largest producer with nearly 80 percent of global tonnage. Instructively, China has been around for thousands of years, so who on Earth is going to tell them shit about the future? Not the United States, which remains the only industrialized nation to forbid its farmers from growing industrial hemp. Cue the giggle track.

“Canada, France, China, Russia and the United Kingdom all have cannabis prohibition laws in place,” St. Pierre told AlterNet. “And yet, they still allow their farmers to cultivate and prosper from industrial hemp.” Speaking of…

3. We’re not talking about cannabis here. But who cares if we were?

Both should be legalized anyway, and everyone knows it. But even cannabis paranoiacs need to chill: THC levels of hemp are under .03 percent, which couldn’t get a tobacco lobbyist high. Under Wyden’s amendment, hemp production would be regulated, but by the individual states’ permitting processes rather than the federal government that has made a Kafkaesque mess of medical cannabis. Nine states have already put similar legislation in place.

“Why can’t the US government and its law enforcement community be as pragmatic and practical as other countries regarding making the logical ecological and economical distinction between ‘hemp’ and ‘cannabis’?” St. Pierre asked. “Is it that American narcs are less intelligent, or is it that they can’t be as educated about hemp as police in the UK, China or Canada?”

4. Hemp is green. 

As any naturalist or historian will tell you, the uses for hemp — from paper, textiles and clothing to health products, biodegradable plastics and biofuels — are diverse and widely documented. But it’s a much more sustainable crop than most: It needs less fertilizer than King Corn, can be grown in several consecutive years in the same fields (monocultural!), rarely needs pesticides (if at all), and, irony of ironies, it’s a weed killer. Thanks to its fibrous density, it’s a construction material just begging for an increased American market. Wyden claimed that North Carolina builders are using hemp to make their structures stronger and greener, while Minnesota’s Original Green Distribution promotes it as the “perfect building material” — non-toxic, non-flammable, mold and mildew resistant, and cash-positive. The argument against local hemp production? A house of cards.

5. Hemp is patriotic. 

Our lionized Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it, and they helped create the nation. Hemp has been cultivated and consumed across the planet for millennia, from China’s Neolithic Age to New England’s Puritans and Virginian farmers — who were instructed by a House of Burgesses’ Act to sow it on their plantations. Americans even created a World War II propaganda film called Hemp For Victory, despite the destructive, embarrassing Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which criminalized commercial use of hemp or cannabis. Whether that legislation, supported by progressive hero and president Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a back-door favor to the competing and eventually triumphant industries of his friends and sponsors Mellon, Hearst and DuPont, or just post-Mexican Revolution immigrant xenophobia, is ancient history now. This is a new century. We’re past it.

6. Hemp has carbon-negative promise. 

Those remaining hemp naysayers will eventually change their minds when global warming starts downsizing the planet’s arable land. Because it has significant climate change upside, whether you’re talking renewable energy, carbon sequestration or just food. (Yes, you can eat hemp.) According to the Hemp Industries Association, the U.S. Department of Energy considers hemp a biomass fuel alternative that could ameliorate our addiction to fossil fuels, as well as an alternative to toxic petrochemicals involved in plastic production. In fact, there are over two millions cars on the road right now — from Ford, GM and Chrysler to Mercedes, BMW and beyond — housing hemp in their interiors. And it’s a naturally occurring carbon sink too. Unlike more traditional concrete, Hempcrete is carbon-negative, storing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The HIA also claims that hemp proper produces more pulp per acreage than wood pulp, which is great because we really need to stop cutting down forests so they can continue to suck all the carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the air before the world as we know it ends before we know it.

7. Nuclear apocalypse? Hemp has an app for that.

Even if we jump back onto hemp’s historical bandwagon and dodge catastrophic climate change with the help of other green alternatives, we still might nuke ourselves like idiots. But hemp can even give us a hand with that irradiated lunacy. Thanks to its sprawling canopy, it’s already a powerhouse weed suppressor, as well an impressive mop crop capable of sopping up contaminants and even radiation. The Princeton-based company Phytotech and others even planted hemp in Chernobyl alongside sunflowers and other impressively extractive plants. It’s logical that planting more phytoremediation-friendly crops will help us clean up proliferating chemical and nuclear dumps. Hemp is a phytoremediator just waiting for the innovation that repealing a lame ban on industrial cultivation can bring.

8. Hemp can help the sick.

The medicinal and rehabilitative value of cannabis is already well-known, despite certain compromised parties still claiming the science isn’t in. But once the ban on industrial hemp is inevitably repealed, expect stories about the healing properties of hemp oil to percolate above the subculture that presently contains them. American integrative medicine physician Andrew Weil has found that “some cancer patients have found it to be a superior remedy for the nausea caused by chemotherapy, and some people with multiple sclerosis are grateful for its relaxant effects on spastic muscles.” But repealing the ban on industrial hemp will put these contentions to the test for true believers and skeptics alike, once hurdles to cultivation and innovation are removed. It’s not an accident that more seniors are signing on with cannabis and hemp to deal with the ravages of age. It’s also no accident that my late, great father-in-law, who passed last year no thanks to Parkinson’s, extended and improved his deteriorating state with cannabis, or that his children who suggested it to him are mostly doctors.

9. Hemp means jobs.

As you may have heard, we’re mired in an ongoing recession with unemployment hovering near 10 percent and going nowhere. So why would we trash an economically logical, environmentally friendly crop whose industrial production could increase jobs and revenue? (Hey wait, is this why the Pentagon is built atop Uncle Sam’s hemp farm?) In 2010, U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products passed $400 million, and there’s likely a good reason that how much America pays annually to import hemp isn’t just a click away. But It doesn’t take 300 economists, including some Nobel laureates, arguing that decriminalizing cannabis and hemp could save us $7 billion a year to realize that domesticating hemp production will bring jobs back across the borders to unemployed Americans. Who then might just turn around and buy more hemp products with their hard-earned pay. No-brainer, bean counters.

10. Hemp can be a peacemaker. 

Bipartisanship haters, take notes. Senator Wyden’s reasonable amendment has been cosigned by the sometimes unreasonable Tea Party favorite, Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, whose controversial father Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced a similar measure earlier this year. Whether or not it immediately works should not overshadow the fact that it is Wyden and Paul who have brought legislation favoring hemp to the congressional floor for the first time since the ’50s. Not should it be forgotten than industrial hemp was once the second largest crop, after tobacco, of Kentucky’s antebellum economy, which grew more than any other state before its criminalization. Plus, legal hemp will stop pointless enforcements, like that of David Bronner, the fair-trade, sustainability entrepreneur and activist, who was recently arrested in front of the White House protesting the industrial hemp ban while locked in a metal cage alongside his plants.

Optimists with faith in humanity cannot help but look into the future and see more cannabis and hemp cultivation and consumption, as lab-rat mutations like soda, cigarettes and antidepressants finish off what’s left of the evolutionary skeptics. We can’t believe, for a second, that last century’s superpower could stoutly march right off a cliff, armed with pharmaceutical marketing and a very unhealthy disrespect for earthly reality.

About the Author
Scott Thill runs the online mag His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.


On Opening the Compassionate Heart

Pursuing the Awakening Warrior

Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion, holding a piece of lapis lazuli at his heart representing the quality of Bodhichitta.

30th June 2012

By Rob Preece –  Wake Up World

In a world where sickness of heart is a cultural normality, it’s a long road to the heart of the Bodhisattva

When some of my Tibetan teachers first began to visit the West and teach Westerners, they were surprised or perhaps even shocked by something they experienced in us. When they described it in their own terms, they called it sok lung, a damage or blockage of the primary life supporting “energy-wind” or lung (in Sanskrit: prana ) within the heart chakra. What they recognized in this was that something about our way of life in the West was putting a kind of pressure in the heart that led to a deep yet subtle level of pain and depression of the energy there. One of the ways this manifests is in subtle yet deep insecurity and anxiety.

If we translate this into a more Western, psychological language, what we begin to understand is that there is something about the stresses and pressures we grow up with in the West that has a dramatic impact upon this very subtle energy in the heart. One of the most significant aspects of this problem is that we experience a much more accentuated sense of insecurity and alienation in the West because of the very nature of our culture and its expectations on us from a very early age. From early in our life we are more likely to experience separation from the mother and a far greater expectation to be independent and self-reliant. We grow up into a world that then demands that we survive and become an individual in an extremely competitive environment where the pressure to succeed is endemic. If we add to this the absence of a supportive sense of community and the often dysfunctional nature of the nuclear family, insecurity, anxiety and fear become a root emotional drive.

Is it any wonder that this alienation has an impact on the heart and the energy of the heart? The consequence is that we experience deep-rooted wounding to our sense of self, and our ego-identity is built on shaky ground from the very beginning.  It was this wounded sense of self that my Tibetan teachers recognized and as a result were at first somewhat at a loss as to how to address it in us. What becomes particularly problematic is that with the degree of wounding we have in the west it has become normal to be self-preoccupied and solely oriented to personal gain and personal gratification at the expense of others. Our culture seems to see the ruthless attainment of one’s own needs in a competitive world as something of an accolade. In the cutthroat political and corporate world being able to achieve and satisfy one’s own aspirations for power and status at the expense of others’ is encouraged. Our sickness of the heart has become a cultural normality.

From a Tibetan Buddhist point of view this wounding to the heart causes a contraction and closing around the heart chakra that cuts us off from a deep essential quality that is innate within us all. This is a quality of mind known in Sanskrit as Chitta. Chitta is often translated as mind, heart or essence and is a quality of mind that dwells in the heart chakra. But this is not our ordinary worldly conceptual mind, it is a deep quality of mind that is essentially clear, peaceful and pervaded by a natural compassion and loving kindness. Indeed it is our ordinary mind with its emotional entanglements and wounds that obscures this essential heart mind.

In the Tantric tradition this essential nature of mind is also known as clear-light mind and has a number of significant characteristics, one of which is its innate clarity and emptiness and the other is a potent innate vitality that brings with it a felt quality of joy, happiness and bliss. Our problem, if we like to see it as such, is that while this natural quality has never been defiled, it is, however, obscured by our gross ordinary mind and its emotional proliferations. As a result it is largely inaccessible to us. It has been described as being like a golden statue wrapped in filthy rags. From a Buddhist point of view if we are able to gradually clear these obscurations, then what naturally manifests is what could be called bodhichitta or the awakening mind or heart.

Our innate heart potential is the deep vitality of our mind’s natural, undefiled and clear nature. So long as we are still caught up in our primary wounds of the heart it is going to be extremely difficult to begin to awaken qualities such as compassion and loving-kindness. If I have deep-rooted feelings of low self-worth, lack of self-acceptance, feeling I am not good enough and so on, then these close the heart leading to Sok lung.

It is very easy to speak of opening the heart and having spiritual ideals of love and compassion, but if we have not addressed our essential wounding these will just be a kind of veneer of spiritual correctness burying deep wounds. To open the heart we must first begin to heal our sense of self. To do this we need to develop compassion and acceptance towards ourselves with all of our failings as well as gifts and qualities. The contraction around the heart then begins to soften, and the innate energy within the heart starts to awaken.  This may not always be comfortable because as we soften the contraction in the energy around the heart we re-awaken our wounds, but as we go deeper we can begin to feel the natural chitta that lies in the heart.

The term bodhichitta, which is often translated as the “awakening mind,” emerges from an opening of the heart and brings a deep compassion for the suffering of all beings. It also awakens a powerful quality of intention that is willing to dedicate life to the welfare of others. Bodhichitta is sometimes called the “great will,” but this is not the will of the ego but a deeper intention that requires that we surrender to the process of awakening to the state of wholeness or Buddhahood for the sake of all beings. It is like the shift from “I will” to “thy will be done.” While this “awakening mind” lies at the heart of Buddhist life it is something that emerges only when we have begun to heal our own wounds so that there is the fertile ground for its growth. Once present, as a quality of the heart, it will underlie everything we do in life, like a steady flowing river moving us towards the ocean of full awakening. It will then be natural to wish to dedicate our life to the welfare of others and indeed to the planet that so unconditionally supports us. Bodhichitta is the heart of the Bodhisattva, often translated as “the awakening warrior,” one who with courage engages with the journey of life to transform adversity into the path of awakening for the welfare of others.

About the Author

Rob Preece, author most recently of The Courage to Feel (Snow Lion, 2009) is a psychotherapist, spiritual mentor, leader of Tibetan mediation retreats, and an initiated Granicero (weather work) in the Nahua tradition.


Mayan Text Mentioning 12/20/2012 Date Found

Ancient Text Confirms Mayan Calendar End Date

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 28 June 2012
A carved block from La Corona

Carved blocks uncovered at La Corona show scenes of Mayan life and record a political history of the city.
CREDIT: David Stuart

A newly discovered Mayan text reveals the “end date” for the Mayan calendar, becoming only the second known document to do so. But unlike some modern people, ancient Maya did not expect the world to end on that date, researchers said.

“This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy,” Marcello Canuto, the director of Tulane University Middle America Research Institute, said in a statement. “This new evidence suggests that the 13 bak’tun date was an important calendrical event that would have been celebrated by the ancient Maya; however, they make no apocalyptic prophecies whatsoever regarding the date.”

The Mayan Long Count calendar is divided into bak’tuns, or 144,000-day cycles that begin at the Maya creation date. The winter solstice of 2012 (Dec. 21) is the last day of the 13th bak’tun, marking what the Maya people would have seen as a full cycle of creation.

Now, researchers exploring the Mayan ruins of La Corona in Guatemala have unearthed a second reference. On a stairway block carved with hieroglyphs, archaeologists found a commemoration of a visit by Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’ of Calakmul, the most powerful Mayan ruler in his day. The king, also known as Jaguar Paw, suffered a terrible defeat in battle by the Kingdom of Tikal in 695.

Historians have long assumed that Jaguar Paw died or was captured in this battle. But the carvings proved them wrong. In fact, the king visited La Corona in A.D. 696, probably trying to shore up loyalty among his subjects in the wake of his defeat four years earlier. [See images of the carvings]

As part of this publicity tour, the king was calling himself the “13 k’atun lord,” the carvings reveal. K’atuns are another unit of the Maya calendar, corresponding to 7,200 days or nearly 20 years. Jaguar Paw had presided over the ending of the 13th of these k’atuns in A.D. 692.

That’s where the 2012 calendar end date comes in. In an effort to tie himself and his reign to the future, the king linked his reign with another 13th cycle — the 13th bak’tun of Dec. 21, 2012.

Hieroglyphs on Mayan carved block.
A detailed look at the carvings on Block 5, found at La Corona in Guatemala. The carvings tell a political history of the city and its allies and enemies.
CREDIT: David Stuart

“What this text shows us is that in times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse,” Canuto said.

La Corona was the site of much looting and has only been explored by modern archaeologists for about 15 years. Canuto and his dig co-director Tomas Barrientos Q. of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala announced the discovery of the new calendar text Thursday (June 28) at the National Palace in Guatemala.

The researchers first uncovered the carved stone steps in 2010 near a building heavily damaged by looters. The robbers had missed this set of 12 steps, however, providing a rare example of stones still in their original places. The researchers found another 10 stones from the staircase that had been moved but then discarded by looters. In total, these 22 stones boast 264 hieroglyphs tracing the political history of La Corona, making them the longest known ancient Maya text in Guatemala.


Sherry Baker on Body Perception

5 Ways to Leave Your Body

Want to teleport through space or travel the world 
at will? Out-of-body technology can alter your sense of place and set you free. (Article preview; full text for subscribers only.)

by Sherry Baker

As you read this story, perhaps you are sitting in a chair in your living room or on an airplane bound for Cancún. Now dig a little deeper, focus inward, and ask yourself this: What is the location of your internal being, your sense of self, that most essential I? Sure, you exist in your body, in your head presumably, itself ensconced someplace particular in the world. But what if all that were secondary? What if your perception could be altered so that you could be anyone and anyplace at all—leaving without traveling?

Those are real possibilities now posed by neuroscientists studying the locus of self-
perception in the brain. The research suggests that our concept of self, along with a related quality called presence (the sense of being immersed in a location or environment), need not be tied to our physical bodies. Although most of the current research is still lab-based, scientists have already imbued test participants with the sense of moving from their own bodies into another form, such as a Barbie doll, or watching themselves from a distance in a willful out-of-body experience. The new body-swapping and teleportation techniques illustrate the incredible imaginative potential of the brain and the malleability of perception.

1. Raise Your Third Hand

Humans were long assumed to have an unshakable innate body plan, meaning that our brains and hard-wired sense of self could never accept having anything other than one head, two arms, and two legs. But in 1998, University of Pittsburgh psychiatrists Matthew Botvinick and Jonathan Cohen conducted the now-classic “rubber-hand illusion,” which showed the brain could feel ownership of a body part that was not truly its own. In that experiment, a research subject’s real hand was stroked while a prosthetic hand was also stroked in exactly the same way. In less than two minutes, most participants felt that the rubber limb was part of their own body, provided their own hand was hidden while the rubber one stayed in view.

(ok, so this is just one, and you have to subscribe to read the rest, but you might want to check it out and do some research.)



On Going with the Flow

How to Flow When the Torrents are Raging

27th June 2012

By Trinity Bourne

Walking an Authentic Path in Life

Walking an authentic path in life can often be confusing.

We might at times find ourselves torn whilst swirling in the torrent of life’s choices.

How do we navigate the path and unleash our true beingness?

The following story, originally by Chuang Tzu, offers a profound metaphor for life and the true nature of what it means to ‘go with the flow’.

Essential reading for all awakened souls…

Chuang Tzu’s story of the swimmer
 Confucius and his students went on a hike out in the countryside. He was thinking of using the opportunity to engage the students in a discussion about the Tao when one of them approached and asked: “Master, have you ever been to Liu Liang? It is not far from here.”

Confucius said: “I have heard about it but never actually seen it with my own eyes. It is said to be a place of much natural beauty.”

“It is indeed,” the student said. “Liu Liang is known for its majestic waterfalls. It is only about two hours’ trek from here, and the day is still young. Master, if you would like to go there, I would be honored to serve as your guide.”

Confucius thought this was a splendid idea, so the group set off toward Liu Liang. As they were walking and chatting, another student said: “I grew up near a waterfall myself. In summertime, I would always go swimming with the other children from the village.”

The first student explained: “These waterfalls we will see aren’t quite like that. The water comes down from such a great height that it carries tremendous force when it hits the bottom. You definitely would not want to go swimming there.”

Confucius said: “When the water is sufficiently powerful, not even fish and turtles can get near it. This is interesting to ponder, because we are used to thinking of water as their native element.”

After a while, they could see the waterfall coming into view in the hazy distance. Although it was still far away, they could see that it was indeed as majestic as the first student described.

Another hour of walking brought them even closer, and now they could clearly hear the deep, vibrating sound it made.

They topped a rise and were able to see the entire waterfall. Then they gasped collectively, because at the bottom of it, they saw a man in the ferociously churning water, being spun around and whipped this way and that by the terrifying currents.

“Quickly, to the waterfall!” Confucius commanded. “He must have fallen in by accident, or perhaps he is a suicide. Either way, we must save him if we can.”

They ran as fast as they could. “It’s useless, Master,” one the students said. “By the time we get down there, he’ll be too far gone for us to do him any good.”

“You may well be right,” Confucius replied. “Nevertheless, when a man’s life is at stake, we owe it to him to make every effort possible.”

They lost sight of the man as they descended the hillside. Moments later, they broke through the forest to arrive at the river, a short distance downstream from the waterfall. They expected to see the man’s lifeless body in the river. Instead, they saw him swimming casually away from the waterfall, spreading his long hair out and singing loudly, evidently having a great time. They were dumbfounded.

When he got out of the river, Confucius went to speak with him: “Sir, I thought you must be some sort of supernatural being, but on closer inspection I see you are an ordinary person, no different from us. We sought to save you, but now I see it is not necessary.”

The man bowed to Confucius: “I am sorry if I have caused you any grave concerns on my behalf. This is merely a trivial recreational activity I enjoy once in a while.”

Confucius bowed back: “You say it is trivial, but to me it is incredible. How can it be that you were not harmed by the waterfall? Are there some special skills that you possess?”

“No, I have no special skills whatsoever,” the man replied. “I simply follow the nature of the water. That’s how I started with it, developed a habit out of it, and derived lifelong enjoyment from it.”

“This ‘follow the nature of the water’ – can you describe it in greater detail? How exactly does one follow the nature of water?”

“Well… I don’t really think about it very much. If I had to describe it, I would say that when the powerful torrents twist around me, I turn with them. If a strong current drives me down, I dive alongside it. As I do so, I am fully aware that when we get to the riverbed, the current will reverse course and provide a strong lift upward. When this occurs, I am already anticipating it, so I rise together with it.”

“So you are working with the water and not just letting it have its way with you?”

“That’s right. Although the water is extremely forceful, it is also a friend that I have gotten to know over the years, so I can sense what it wants to do, and I leverage its flow without trying to manipulate it or impose my will on it.”

“How long did it take for you to make all this an integrated part of your life?”

“I really can’t say. I was born in this area, so the waterfalls have always been a familiar sight to me. I grew up playing with these powerful currents, so I have always felt comfortable with them. Whatever success I have with water is simply a natural result of my lifelong habit. To be quite frank, I have no idea why this approach works so well. To me, it’s just the way life is.”

Confucius thanked him and turned back to his students. He smiled, because he suddenly knew exactly what they could talk about on their trip home.

The metaphors of life

In this story, the mighty waterfall and the river symbolise the divine flow of the universe echoed in our daily lives. We are powerless to stop the flow. It may often seem unforgiving and harsh, yet these times are our greatest teachers in offering the opportunity to evolve beyond our self imposed limitations.

We are inseparable from the flow. Confusion happens when we mistakenly believe that we are somehow separate from it. Chaos follows when we try to control or manipulate either the flow or our response to it. Attempting to fight the river of life or when we shout out our perceived injustices, we simply become exhausted from the struggle, getting nowhere.

The swimmer in the story offers us a profound message. Contrary to many spiritual misconceptions today, he is NOT blindly allowing the flow to take him. ‘Trusting the universe’ is not about letting the flow ‘take’ you without regard for what is going on. This would simply rip us to sheds.

The swimmer is purely present. He is aware of every instant, the nature of the water and the nature of the universe. Because of this awareness, he realises that once he approaches the bottom of the riverbed, the energy will propel him back to the surface. He is able to use the energy of the universe to simply flow through the river of life. Without such presence, he would either be in a state of fear or blind acceptance – either way would ensure that he would miss the opportunity to flow. Rather than blindly accepting ‘whatever goes’ (which in this case would tear him apart) he accepts that he is powerless to change the flow and uses it like a divine dance to carry him onwards and upwards unscathed.

It takes time to master the flow of the universe. The man in this story represents someone who has achieved an advanced state of evolution. However he reflects the opportunity within each of us to become who we truly are. The story offers an important tenet to unleashing our true beingness, achieved through absolute commitment. At times we are going to make ‘mistakes’, but we all know that there are no such things as mistakes as long as we learn by them; becoming increasingly aware and eternal students of the divine flow.

Here’s our invitation to become at one with the divine flow, just like the swimmer in Chang Tzu’s story.

In Love and Light,


Openhand Foundation