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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: China's White Dolphins, Pope's Blood and How to Meditate

Xiamen's White Dolphins

whatsonxiamen - Tourists throng to Xiamen, a world-famous resort in southeast China, for its seaside, sunshine and scenic cultural heritage sites. Now, Chinese white dolphins, as part of the city's oceanic landscape, may become the new sought-after attraction for tourists.

Xiamen is the only city in the world which allows people to see inshore dolphins on its beaches, whereas in other countries, such as Japan and Peru, people have to get to dolphins in the open sea after hours of ship-riding.

"In December, more than 30 dolphins appeared in one group in the Wuyuan Bay of Xiamen," Chen Bingyu, from the Xiamen Precious and Rare Marine Species Reserve Management Office, told Xinhua. "It's the first time in more than 20 years."

"In recent years, more and more dolphins have begun to appear in nearby sea areas," said Zhou Lumin, deputy chief of Xiamen Municipal Oceanic and Fishery Administration. "It's time for Xiamen to develop its dolphin-watching business."

The Chinese white dolphin, boasting the nickname of "giant panda in the sea" and living mainly in the sea areas around Xiamen and the Pearl River estuary in southern China, is a mammal guarded under the first-class state protection.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, it was not unusual for Xiamen citizens to enjoy watching groups of dolphins frolic in the sea.

"Unfortunately, the undue exploitation, pollution and consequent deterioration of the ecosystem around the area drove dolphins far away," said Chen.

As one of China's first four special economic zones, Xiamen has seen an unprecedented economic boom since 1980.

Twenty or thirty years ago, scenes of dolphins frolicking in groups faded out of sight and even out of mind of most Xiamen residents.

"The number of Chinese white dolphins is an important indicator for the ecological situation in the inshore sea areas," Zhou Lumin noted.

"Only when the oceanic ecosystem returns to normal, will the dolphin population rise again," Zhou added.

In 1994, Xiamen issued its first rules on the use of sea areas, regulations for oceanic environmental protection and regulations on conservation of the Chinese white dolphins.

Further, in 1997, the provincial Chinese white dolphin reserve of 5,500 hectares was set up in Xiamen to try to lure back the rare mammals.

"It's no easy task," said Zhou. "Dolphins feed on various kinds of fishes and shrimps and eat as much as seven kilograms of food at a time. They also require a high-quality water environment."

Meanwhile, "the environments suitable for dolphins are suitable for human beings as well," said Zhou.

Efforts have been made to improve and restore the marine ecosystem around Xiamen since the mid-1990s, with another 30-odd related laws and regulations issued following the 1994 rules and related public awareness campaigns built through media publicity.
Zhou divided the process of comprehensive management of marine ecology of Xiamen into three phases.

Firstly, pollution control. Waste materials were prevented from being directly discharged into the sea as more refuse disposal and sewage treatment plants were built.

Secondly, during the first decade of the 21st century, ecological reconstruction was put on top of the city's development agenda. Sea areas were allocated to more ecological and environment-friendly industries.

"Now we're in the third stage -- to restore the marine ecosystem of Xiamen," said Zhou, highlighting such projects as releasing fish fry into the sea, dredging silt from nearby sea areas and blasting part of the Gaoji Causeway to ease the water flow.

These efforts, said Professor Yu Dongsheng with the Xiamen-based Third Institute of the National Oceanography Bureau, had good results in conserving endangered animal species and expanding the living space of Chinese white dolphins.

"According to the data collected through marine monitoring stations, the number of dolphins around Xiamen has been increasing steadily since 2005," said Chen, adding that the population increase pointed to improvements in the quality of the marine ecosystem.

"When I was jogging along the beach one morning last October," Chen Wang, a citizen of Xiamen, recalled, "I saw three dolphins. And a month later, when I was on a boat, I saw five. Oh, they' re fantastic!"

More and more tourists will be able to share Chen Wang's excitement.

"We're going to set up some observation spots for tourists to watch dolphins more conveniently," said Zhou, hoping the move will also help people further understand the sea and act to protect it.

"Xiamen is a garden city in the sea. Isn't it wonderful to have dolphins around it?"


Sundance film explores cults

usatoday - One of the hot films at this year's Sundance Film Festival is Martha Marcy May Marlene, though its alliterative title can be hard to keep straight.

First-time director Sean Durkin's psychologically probing film about a girl who escapes from a cult in the Catskills had many people talking about the powerful performance of 20-year-old lead actress, Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the titular multi-named girl.

"I did lots of research into cults," said Durkin. "I wanted to do something about a cult that was contemporary, since so many times movies about them are set in the '60s and '70s."

In his research into a wide variety of cults, he found similar methods of manipulation and abuse, he said.

"It just seems there's a sort of consistency," he said. He also drew upon actual experiences of a friend who had left a cult and said it took her seven years to speak of her ordeal.

This film is about the difficult adjustment in the first couple of weeks after Martha (Olson) leaves the commune led by the creepily charismatic Patrick (Winter's Bone's John Hawkes).

"I know that it's not that this fictional, exaggerated thing," Olson said after the film's premiere. " I know a few people who told me their parents had been in a cult and I know someone who was born in a cult. It's everywhere. It's not this crazy, outlandish idea. It's rooted in something that exists."

Durkin had made a short film called Mary Last Seen exploring the various methods used to draw people into cults. From there he worked on the script at Sundance screenwriter's lab last January and the director's lab in June, shooting the film over six weeks in August and September.

"I've always been fascinated about why people feel the need to be in a group" said Durkin.

Olsen said the cast lived together communally during shooting on the upstate New York farm where much of the action takes place. There were no cellphones, only a single land line. In the evenings they would pass a guitar around — not unlike the cult depicted in the film.

The film is shot intercutting Martha's past experiences living in the rural house with fellow cult members and her present living with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), who are unaware of what she's been through.

"She's haunted by this thing," says Durkin. "Experiences like this take years to get over."


Pope's blood built into alter

smh - A vial containing blood drawn from Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as a relic in a Polish church soon after his beatification this year.

Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Centre, said the vial would be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it should be shortly after John Paul's beatification at the Vatican on May 1.
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Mr Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow and a long-time friend and secretary of the late pontiff.

The blood was drawn for medical tests at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome shortly before John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Cardinal Dziwisz's possession, he said.

''It was the cardinal's proposal,'' Mr Sionko said. ''He is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church.''

The church in the Lagiewniki district is part of a centre that will be devoted to the memory and the teachings of the late pope - who was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, southern Poland, and spent decades in Krakow.

Catholics are rejoicing over Pope Benedict XVI's announcement last week that he will beatify John Paul, the last main step before possible sainthood.

However, the idea of displaying the pope's relics has met with some reservations.

''The tradition of relics comes from mediaeval practices of teaching the Bible through images and symbols,'' said the Reverend Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz who has publicly questioned the usefulness of displaying John Paul's blood. ''But in today's rationalised world the message should rather come through teaching about someone's life.''

After John Paul's death, some Polish officials said they hoped his heart would be removed from his body and returned to his homeland for burial.


UFO Disclosure

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Description: Some people swear they've seen, photographed and filmed UFOs. But all too often, government documents remain secret. France, England and Ecuador have all recently released documents about UFO encounters to the public. Even the Vatican has recently stated that the existence of UFOs does not go against the Catholic faith. Of the secret documents that are now available to the general public, the information from the Ecuadorian Government is the most significant and the most fascinating. Get the facts about these amazing new discoveries as we investigate UFOs In South America and UFO / ET disclosure by governments around the world.


How to Meditate by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Often we think about meditation as some kind of unusual, holy or spiritual activity. As we practice that is one of the basic beliefs we try to overcome. The point is that meditation is completely normal: it is the mindful quality present in everything we do.

The main thing the Buddha discovered was that he could be himself —one hundred percent, completely. He did not invent meditation; there was nothing particularly to invent. The Buddha, the awakened one, woke up and realized that he did not have to try to be something other than what he was. So the complete teaching of Buddhism is how to rediscover who we are. …

When we sit, we sit with some kind of pride and dignity. Our legs are crossed, shoulders relaxed. We have a sense of what is above, a sense that something is pulling us up the same time we have a sense of ground. The arms should rest comfortably on the thighs. Those who cannot sit down on a cushion can sit in a chair. The main point is to be somewhat comfortable.

The chin is tucked slightly in, the gaze is softly focusing downward about four to six feet in front, and the mouth should be open a little. The basic feeling is one of comfort, dignity and confidence. If you feel you need to move, you should just move, just change your posture a little bit. So that is how we relate with the body.

And then the next part —actually the simple part— is relating with the mind. The basic technique is that we begin to notice our breath, we have a sense of our breath. The breath is what we’re using as the basis of our mindfulness technique; it brings us back to the moment, back to the present situation. The breath is something that is constant —otherwise it’s too late.

We put the emphasis on the outbreath. We don’t accentuate or alter the breath at all, just notice it. So we notice our breath going out, and when we breathe in there is just a momentary gap, a space. There are all kinds of meditation techniques and this is actually a more advanced one. We’re learning how to focus on our breath, while at the same time giving some kind of space to the technique.

Then we realize that, even though what we’re doing is quite simple, we have a tremendous number of ideas, thoughts and concepts —about life and about the practice itself. And the way we deal with all these thoughts is simply by labeling them. We just note to ourselves that we’re thinking, and return to following the breath.

So if we wonder what we’re going to do for the rest of our life, we simply label it thinking. If we wonder what we’re going to have for lunch, simply label it thinking. Anything that comes up, we gently acknowledge it and let it go.

There are no exceptions to this technique; there are no good thoughts and no bad thoughts. If you’re thinking how wonderful meditation is, then that is still thinking. How great the Buddha was, that’s still thinking. If you feel like killing the person next to you, just label it thinking. No matter what extreme you go to, it’s just thinking, and come back to the breath. - Shambala.org