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India's Parliament May Soon Have Smoke Free Zones, Movies Next?

Posted on 2003/6/3 9:48:02 ( 995 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, June 2, 2003: Nicotine-addicted MPs may soon be confined to a smokers' den in Parliament as part of a national drive against public smoking. A report quoted Health Minister Sushma Swaraj as saying that her ministry was planning to declare the upper and lower houses, main lobby and the Central Hall used for joint sessions as smoke free. "We have proposed to construct small chambers for smokers so that they can remain in their chambers and continue harming themselves and not others," Swaraj was quoted as saying. India accounts for a third of the world's smoking-related deaths. A World Health Organization report released three months ago accused Indian film stars of enticing teenagers to light up and urged the industry either to kick the habit or issue warnings. In February, the Cabinet approved legislation banning tobacco advertisements and seeking to regulate production and sale of tobacco products. The Anti-Tobacco Act was endorsed by Parliament and on May 30, President Abdul Kalam signed it into law. One of the main objectives of the law is to protect adolescents and passive smokers from the hazards of smoking. Other reports quoted Swaraj as saying the act would soon be implemented in Parliament. "If we have the consent to do this, we will not let anyone smoke in the corridors of Parliament," Swaraj said. HPI adds: The government might want to investigate whether the Indian film stars are being paid for smoking in movies. Americans were astounded to learn in the midst of the huge tobacco lawsuits in this country that Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky") had been paid US$500,000 to use Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation products in his next five films from 1983. You can read the original court document by clicking here and scrolling down. And you can learn more about the ways American movies are used to promote smoking by clicking here.

Temple Chariot Displays Exquisite Art But in Desperate Need of Repair

Posted on 2003/6/3 9:47:02 ( 926 reads )


THIRUKKOVILAR, INDIA, May 30, 2003: Many temples around Thirukkovilar are in a state of disrepair, often lacking in simple supplies such as oil for lamps. At a temple dedicated to Lord Siva, a temple chariot catches the eye for it is decorated with marvelous art depicting Hindu legends and stories. The chariot was last used 15 years ago in a procession and while one finds classic art carved and painted on the chariot, a few of the carvings have already been stolen. The front, known as Kodungais and Chendu, are marvelous pieces of art. On one side of the car the story of Markandeya is told in four frames. In another frame Lord Nataraja is depicted performing the cosmic dance while Nandi plays on the maddalam. Other frames depict stories from the Ramayama, and epics about Lord Krishna. Because there is no protection from vandals, this special car with artistic marvels is being defaced, as well as decaying.

Americans Twist Yoga into Some New Shapes

Posted on 2003/6/3 9:46:02 ( 992 reads )


WASHINGTON D.C., U.S.A., May 29, 2003: Americans are making yoga stand on its head with creative innovations and marketing muscle in what appears to be the second coming in the United States of the ancient Indian practice. The number of Yoga practitioners in the US has tripled from 5 million in 1998 to 15 million, according to a survey to be released next week by the California-based Yoga Journal. "It's not just plain old yoga anymore, although the original hatha yoga remains the most popular form," says Dayna Macy, communications director of the California-based Yoga Journal. There is Aqua Yoga, Dance Yoga and Power Yoga, and in some cases, individuals are devising new yoga practices as in Bikram Yoga (after the Indian guru Bikram Choudhury, who has patented doing yoga in heated rooms). Yoga has gone from the social fringes to the mainstream by melding it with popular American culture. Typical of the culture is also relentless marketing of yoga products, from yoga mats to "Yogi Tea." Most Americans are now accessing yoga through their regular gyms and fitness centers. Some are combining yoga with American dance forms like hip hop and disco, while others are imparting specialized instructions to niche segments as "yoga for would-be moms," "yoga for have-been moms," and "yoga for breast cancer survivors." Two major national yoga magazines and 24 registered yoga associations cater to this resurgence.

Yoga is Compulsory in Udupi Schools

Posted on 2003/6/2 9:49:02 ( 897 reads )


UDUPI, INDIA, May 28, 2003: The President of the Udupi Zilla Panchayat, B. Bhujanga Shetty, has said yoga, moral education, and the activities of the Seva Dal (a group committed to do social service) will be made compulsory in government and private schools in the district. Mr. Shetty said the zilla panchayat (village council) had directed the heads of schools in the district, through the DDPI, to reserve two periods every week for yoga, moral education, and for the activities of the Seva Dal. Since it would be difficult for students coming from rural areas if these were taken up after regular school hours, the school heads had been instructed to reduce the number of periods for physical education.

Notices Sent to Leaseholders of Temple Lands

Posted on 2003/6/2 9:48:02 ( 927 reads )


SRIKAKULAM, INDIA, May 30, 2003: The state government has issued notices canceling the deeds of leaseholders of temple lands. Notices were served to beneficiaries who had lease agreements with Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple in Amadalavalasa on Thursday. The decision was taken after the government found that the revenue earned through such lease deeds was minimal. It was found that some temples charge as little as US$.63 per acre per year and most of these lands were being leased by political leaders and the rich. It was also found that though the beneficiaries were reaping rich harvests, they were avoiding payment of lease money to the temple on the pretext of drought and crop failures. The government identified about 11,000 acres belonging to various temples that were given on lease and put them under the jurisdiction of the Orissa government. Apart from the open lands, buildings worth several million dollars were also given on lease. All the beneficiaries in the district were served with cancellation notices, an endowment official said. The government evaluated the lands belonging to Arasavalli, Sri Kurmam, Srimukhalingam and Mallikarjuna Sway and found that the income generated from these temples was as little as $3,800, but the value is put at several million dollars. After cancellation of lease agreements the land would be evaluated anew and would be given on lease at a public auction. Sources said that petitions were filed in the court seeking stay orders.

India's Invitro Fertilization Centers Promote Male Choice

Posted on 2003/6/2 9:47:02 ( 901 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, May 31, 2003: Cutting edge technology meant to detect genetic abnormalities before conception is now being used for the ethically questionable practice of selecting the sex of a child, usually a son. Invitro fertilization (IVF) clinics are now offering would-be parents the means to have a son, and this could have a lasting impact on the increasingly skewed sex ratio in India. A leading infertility expert, Dr Aniruddha Malpani, who has assisted in the birth of over 1,000 IVF babies over the last 11 years, says parents have the right to choose the sex of the child even though it is an offense. "There is technology now available which makes this possible, but the government doesn't allow this and I think it is unfair," says Dr Malpani. IVF clinics have a wide range of techniques to preselect gender even before conception. The sperm selection method chooses sperms containing the Y or male chromosome. The pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) method identifies male embryos after fertilization. Each attempt costs as much as US$2,100, but that does not deter couples desperate to have a child. "The reason IVF clinics flourish is on the tacit promise of providing male children. It's a huge business particularly in a country where you have an obvious gender bias which modern technology is helping to continue or even propagate," says Dr Vani Subhramanian Saheli. The PNDT act do not include these new reproductive techniques. "Doctors fly in from other cities and do a couple of cases and do not conduct a follow-up of the embryos. It is a total racket," says Dr. Anoop Gupta.

Karnataka Temples Conduct Pujas for Rain

Posted on 2003/6/1 9:49:02 ( 1026 reads )


BANGALORE, INDIA, May 31, 2003: Faced with acute water scarcity and the prospect of the monsoon being delayed, the Karnataka government is asking temples to conduct pujas to bring rain. Places of worship will reverberate with prayers on June 4 and 5, seeking the assistance of the Gods to solve the crisis as drinking water sources are fast dwindling because the rains have failed for the last three years. Karnataka Minister for Rural Water Supply K. B. Koliwad told a press conference in Bangalore on Saturday that he has asked all elected representatives to organize prayers at all places of worship and mobilize people to pray for rain. This is not the first time the Karnataka government has undertaken such a step. The late R. Gundu Rao made such an attempt in the 1970s directing "the Muzrai department" to ensure that bells rang out in temples and prayers rent the air to gain the help of the Gods. In 1988 after the state was devastated by three successive drought years, the government performed a puja at the Thippagondanahally reservoir, which supplies drinking water to one-third of the city, to bring rain. While the much publicized puja performed by late Shivabalayogi failed to bring rain immediately, in the next two years the Thippagondanahally reservoir was filled to the brim following copious rain in the Arkavathi river catchments area. Koliwad said in Ranebennur district he would visit all the places of worship on both days and offer prayers. Karnataka's Chief Minister, S. M. Krishna, has already worshiped near Mangalore, Sringeri, Thirupathi, Chamundi Hills and M. M. Hills, where his family deity is worshipped.

Panchamuka Anjaneya Murthi to be Installed

Posted on 2003/6/1 9:48:02 ( 959 reads )


PAPPANCHAVADI, INDIA, May 30, 2003: The installation of the 36-foot high Viswaroopa, Jayamangala, Panchamuka Sri Anjaneya Swami idol and the Panchamuka Hanumath Yantra in Panchavati Kshethram, popularly known as Pappanchavadi on the Tindivanam-Pondicherry highway via Kilianur, will take place between 10:30 a.m. and 12 noon on June 11, according to S. Ramani Anna, managing trustee, Sri Jayamaruthi Seva Trust and Panchamuka Jayamaruthi Charitable Trust. The unique statue, with the faces of Anjaneya, Narasimha, Varaha and Garuda on four sides and that of Hayagriva above them, has been carved out of a single boulder, weighing 150 tons, brought from the hills of Pazhaiyaseevaram, in the Swarnam Silpakalaikkoodam in Kelambakkam on the old Mahabalipuram road. Dinakar Sarma of Kumbakonam, Vaidhyanatha Sastrigal of Pudukkottai and Sundaresa Josyar of Maruthuvakkudi will conduct the homas and pujas.

National Geographic Carries Article On India's "Untouchables"

Posted on 2003/6/1 9:47:02 ( 1257 reads )


UNITED STATES, May 20, 2003: The June issue of National Geographic carries an article on India's "untouchables." The on-line home page has drawn criticism for linking the subject of untouchables back to Hinduism as the underlying cause that mandates caste injustice. It is not known whether the article mentions that caste discrimination is perpetrated in India by Christians and Muslims as well as Hindus, or if coverage is given to any of the positive initiatives that have been taken to combat this social problem at multiple levels. However, as one Hindu pointed out, as long as Hindu society fails to stop the practice, it will be open to rightly deserved criticism.

Singapore Troops Use Video Games to Hone Fighting Skills

Posted on 2003/6/1 9:46:02 ( 947 reads )


SINGAPORE, May 21, 2003: The Singapore army is using computer games, some of them based on commercially available software, to help sharpen the combat skills of its troops, officials said Wednesday. "As part of its continued emphasis to leverage on technology to augment its training, the Army has introduced the use of personal computer (PC) gaming and PC-based simulation to hone the fighting skills of its soldiers," the defense ministry said in a statement. Among the new training tools introduced at the Army Officers' Advanced School is Joint Conflict And Tactical Simulation, which trains commanders in various combat scenarios and joint operations. Full Spectrum Command, focusing on urban warfare and developed in partnership with the US Army, was also launched. Off-the-shelf games like Operation Flashpoint, a popular product which has sold more than a million copies worldwide, are being modified to simulate Singaporean weapons, vehicles and soldiers. "Although PC games are traditionally deemed as entertainment tools, the Army and its key technology partner the Defense Science and Technology Agency, recognize that they can effectively complement the conventional training methods such as field training," the ministry said. Some of these same games are readily available to consumers and are often viewed by kids as harmless video games. HPI adds: Critics of these killing games point to the military use of such games as additional proof that the games are unsuited to children. One US Army special forces expert said that the repeated action of shooting and killing, shooting and killing, in these realistic game settings, even if "make believe," makes it easier for a child -- or a soldier -- to kill for real.

McDonald's: Where's the Beef? Just About Everywhere, Including the Fries!

Posted on 2003/6/1 9:45:02 ( 1023 reads )


KAUAI, HAWAII, June 1, 2003: An HPI reader asked a logical question upon hearing about the $10,000,000 settlement and apology coming from McDonald's for misleading vegetarians into thinking the company's french fries were vegetarian. He asked, "Did they take the meat out?" The answer is no.

On their list of ingredients ("source" above) is this: "Large French Fries: Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor (beef source), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (to preserve natural color). Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). TBHQ and citric acid added to help preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an anti-foaming agent."

Prior to the lawsuit, this list just said "natural flavor" without any further qualification, and vegetarians often assumed the flavor was not meat-derived.

So, what can a vegetarian eat at McDonald's? Not much. A scroll through the list of ingredients reveals vegetarian lettuce and tomatoes (hard to change that), maybe a Big Mac bun, but not the Big Mac sauce (egg yolks). Forget the "Creamy Herb Sauce" and "Tartar Sauce" (both with egg yolks) as well as "California Cobb Salad (without chicken)" but with chopped cooked eggs. You can -- but would you? -- eat the mustard (out of the packet), the ketchup, the dried onions and the pickle slices. You might be tempted by the "Ceasar Salad (without chicken)" except for the part about Paramesan Cheese, cheese culture and "enzymes," any of which could contain rennet (an enzyme derived from calf's stomach, but also produced artificially, used to make cheese). It does appear -- but we make no guarantee -- that the "Side Salad" and the "Butter Garlic Croutons" along with "Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vianaigrette" salad dressing, might be vegetarian, but not vegan, what with the "butter oil" in the croutons.

Have a nice lunch. The coffee's OK.

Hinduism Today Benefits from McDonald's Settlement on Beef-Tainted Fries

Posted on 2003/5/29 9:49:02 ( 1006 reads )

Hindu Press International

KAUAI, HAWAII, May 29, 2003: McDonald's corporation is settling a lawsuit brought by vegetarians who were misled into believing McDonald's french fries were vegetarian when, in fact, they were flavored with beef (see HPI, May 27). Out of the US$10 million, $250,000 was allotted to the Hindu Heritage Endowment (www.hheonline.org/) to endow 1,000 complimentary subscriptions to Hinduism Today magazine in the United States. The money will be put in a conservative investment fund and the proceeds used to pay for the subscriptions. The principle, however, remains intact forever. This is the same fund which holds the money paid for lifetime subscriptions to Hinduism Today. HHE was founded by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, also founder of Hinduism Today and Hindu Press International, as a permanent endowment for the benefit of various Hindu institutions and causes. The total endowment has recently passed $3.3 million. Thousands of Hindus have donated to it, and some have established their own special funds within it to endow projects of their choice to the benefit of Hindus and Hinduism. The terms of the settlement required, among other things, that the recipient organizations be dedicated to the values of Hindu, Sikh and other beef-less dietary rules, vegetarianism or Kosher dietary rules, or children's nutrition or hunger relief. Hinduism Today qualified for its consistent and on-going advocacy of vegetarianism.

Over 3,500 pilgrims to Take Part in Amarnath Yatra

Posted on 2003/5/29 9:48:02 ( 938 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, May 29, 2003: Over 3,500 pilgrims are expected to take part in the annual Amarnath Yatra that will commence July 12, official sources said here on Thursday. Base camps for the month-long yatra at Nunwan and Baltal will start functioning on July 5. Of the 3,500 pilgrims who will take part in the yatra, 2,700 are scheduled for the traditional route passing through Pahalgam, while 800 yatris will take the shorter Baltal hill track. Drinking water, diesel generator sets, sufficient quantities of food grains and firewood will be available for the pilgrims. Medical camps will be set up at all stages of the yatra, besides the mini-hospitals at Nunwan, Pahalgam and Baltal. BSNL will install telephone booths at Pahalgam, Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Panchtarni, the Amarnath Cave itself, Baltal Sonamarg and Manigam, and the police telecommunication department would provide wireless facilities for coordination along the hill track. The authorities said the ban on polyethylene bags, plastic crockery and pitching plastic tents at all stages of the yatra will be strictly enforced to prevent pollution hazards.

Yoga Craze In UK Offers New Avenues For Indian Designers

Posted on 2003/5/29 9:47:02 ( 903 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, May 27, 2003: Yoga has been in vogue for some time among celebrities, but this month it officially goes mainstream in Britain. It's a come-on cue for yoga instructors in India and fashion designers like Rohit Bal, Adarsh Gill and Ritu Beri. Yoga expert Aina Wethal attracts at her Pineapple Fitness Center at Coven garden in London disciples who are as keen on fashion as much as they are on yoga. She believes that clothes must flow when one is doing yoga, so they must be light and breathable. High Street chains led by Marks and Spencer (M&S) have realized not only the craze for yoga's "inner strength and realization of peace" but also women's desire to wear comfortable clothes. M&S are about to launch a Yoga and Pilates range of clothes, called Mind and Body, in stores throughout Britain. Reportedly, the range will go to their Indian stores in the near future. Julia Robson, fashion writer, said yoga clothes are fueling a fitness-gear scramble not seen since Jane Fonda's Workout topped the video charts in the 80s. Other chains from French Connection to Gap are featuring clothes in their ranges that are apt for yoga. They now join the sportswear brands like Nike's and Adidas.

Navaratri Festival Called a Cultural Not Religious Event by U.K. Gujarati Community

Posted on 2003/5/29 9:46:02 ( 993 reads )

U.K. Newsquest Regional Press

LONDON, ENGLAND, May 23, 2003: This year's Navaratri Festival may receive no funding because of council guidelines not to support events which have the primary purpose of promoting religion. The Sarvoday Hindu Association has sent the grant appeal back to the committee which rejected it in hopes of changing the decision. The contention was whether the event was primarily religious or not. More than 60 members of the Gujarati community argued it was a cultural event with people from all religions as well as nonreligious Gujaratis attending. They said the only religious part of the festival is a 15-minute prayer said each night which is as much a part of their culture as the dance, dress and food associated with the event. Navaratri is a nine-day festival associated with the worship of the Goddess in the form of the Universal Mother, but many younger residents spoke about the relative insignificance of the religion and the importance of the event socially and culturally with people from all walks of life attending. Speaking after Tuesday's meeting, grants and awards chairman councilor Rolson Davies said, "I can understand and appreciate the argument being put forward by the representatives of the community as to why they felt it was a cultural event. The allocation of a grant depends on whether the panel decides the cultural element outweighs the religious element." HPI adds: It is unfortunate that the Gujarati community made such a declaration, that one of the most holy festivals of Hinduism is a mere "cultural event." Perhaps it has been reduced to such in England, but in India the religious aspect of it remains intact. If the city council were to have accepted their request, the council would also have to fund Christmas, which, with the decline of belief in Christianity, has become as much or more a social observance than a religious one.

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