Friday, November 23 2018

Proof that religion is a racket

From grumbling neighbours to witty memes of the Buddha imploring a man with speakers to “stop your noise”, the cacophony around Myanmar’s annual Tazaungdaing festival is revving up debate over the modern racket accompanying religious customs. Myanmar is 90% Buddhist, and October and November are packed with donation drives in the aftermath of Buddhist lent. The religious season culminates in the Tazaundaing festival, which ends late on Thursday with amusement park rides and block parties. But some residents in the commercial capital Yangon want the volume turned down as religious chants, sermons and entreaties for donations blared over speakers compete with electronic dance music, Burmese rap and rowdy evenings. In 2016, a Dutch tourist was arrested in Mandalay and spent three months in jail after unplugging a speaker relaying a late-night sermon. – AFP

That’s several hundred fewer doggie steaks

South Korean officials have begun to dismantle the country’s largest canine slaughterhouse complex, as animal rights activists push to end the custom of eating dog meat. About one million dogs are eaten a year in South Korea, often as a summertime delicacy with the greasy red meat – invariably boiled for tenderness – believed to increase energy. But the tradition has earned criticism abroad and has declined as the nation increasingly embraces the idea of dogs as pets instead of livestock, with eating them now something of a taboo among young South Koreans. The Taepyeong-dong complex in Seongnam city, south of Seoul, housed at least six dog slaughterhouses that could hold several hundred animals at a time, and was a major source for dog meat restaurants across the country. It will be cleared over two days and transformed into a public park, Seongnam city officials said. – AFP

Oldest Pearl Harbour survivor dies

The oldest surviving US veteran of the Pearl Harbour attack that plunged the IS into World War 2 died in California on Wednesday, domestic media reported. Ray Chavez, 106, died in his sleep early in a hospice, his daughter Kathleen Chavez told the San Diego Union Tribune. Chavez frequently attended commemorative events around the US, including a visit to the White House on Memorial Day weekend, the newspaper reported. The bombing of Pearl Harbour at 7.55am on December 7 1941 killed 2,390 Americans and the US declared war on Japan the next day. Fewer than 200 survivors of the attacks there and on other military bases in Hawaii were alive in 2016. Chavez was a member of the crew of the USS Condor, a minesweeper, at Pearl Harbour on the morning of the attacks. – Reuters

Some would call it a lotto nonsense

Superstition and looking for luck are a part of daily life in Thailand. In one temple in central Bangkok, visitors hope to find it hidden in the bark of an ancient tree. Hundreds flock to the Kunnatri Ruttharam temple every week to pay respects to the enormous dead tree trunk, which is draped in flowers and offerings from worshippers who believe rubbing its bark can reveal winning lottery numbers. The state-run lottery business is booming in the kingdom, with ticket vendors on almost every street corner and buyers poring over numerology charts to pick the luckiest sequence. The state lottery contributed 40.8 billion baht (R17bn) to government revenue in 2018, according to data, the highest of any state-owned enterprise and more than double that of the state energy company. – Reuters

Holocaust reminder Frankly overdue

Teenage diarist Anne Frank has long been a symbol of humanity amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, but the house where she hid from the Nazis is now trying to teach a “new generation” about anti-Semitism. After two years of work the museum in Amsterdam unveiled a fresh look on Thursday to make it more relevant to young people who may lack knowledge about World War 2, in an era when hate crimes are soaring. Dutch King Willem Alexander was the guest of honour as the museum, built around a secret annexe in the canalside house where the Franks hid from 1942 to 1944, showed off its “renewed” appearance. “Every year 1.2 million people visit the Anne Frank House and half of those visitors are under the age of 30, so we have a very young audience,” museum executive director Roland Leopold said. – AFP

Monks shed more than worldly possessions

Every morning Buddhist monk Pipit Sarakitwinon takes walks around his temple and does hundreds of arm exercises, part of a new regimen aimed at shedding pounds as a health overhaul for members of the clergy gathers pace in Thailand. Followers have been showering monks – who are deeply respected in the kingdom – with foods loaded with sugar, fat and oil, contributing to a brewing health crisis. With cases of diabetes, hypertension and knee problems skyrocketing, Thai health and religious officials last December published a “Monk Health Charter“, instructing members of the clergy to watch what they eat. Thais seeking to earn merit and honour their ancestors often provide food to monks on their daily rounds, but they can be generous to a fault. Heavy curries, sugary sweets, sodas and salty snacks are among the array of unhealthy alms. – AFP

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