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Buddhism grows beyond religion in America

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Akash Shukla

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path… and so began the spiritual entourage of Florida native Michael Paul Schlosser. The blue-eyed and fair-skinned native was ordained as one-of-the-first Anglo American Buddhist monks in the country.

“26 million Americans are influenced by Buddhism in their daily lives. I went to Houston and I was pleased to see that a lot of people in temples were happy to witness an American monk,” Schlosser revealed. One of the most fascinating beliefs about Buddhism is that there is no Creator or God.

The founder of Buddhism was a young prince of Nepal, Gautam Buddha. After gauging that wealth and luxury do not guarantee inner peace, he set out to find inner peace. Even after devoting his 16 years to the grind in public relations, Schlosser failed to plug the void within. ‘Unfulfilled’ as he felt and rattled by the rat race around, he said, “The transition didn’t happen overnight. He began to read and notice the difference between Eastern and Western philosophies. Encounter with Buddhism made me feel that I have reached the spot,” he revealed in spiritual satiety.

At SGI-USA, another strong Buddhist practitioner Michelle Riofrio recollected that she felt tangled between her two noxious emotions: one, being robbed at gunpoint and the second having fear of expressing the same to her conservative catholic parents. After seeing no way out of this quagmire, she resorted to win it all with Buddhist practice and she claimed that ‘it summoned her to put forth her courage’.

Michael Paul Schlosser, who has served as a resident monk at Buu Mon Buddhist temple since November of 2006 as Bhante M Kassapa, and Michelle Riofrio are not the only Americans who have chosen the Buddhist trail of spirituality in America: As per the statistics and an ABC 13 bulletin, Buddhism currently ranks as the fourth largest religion in the world.

Buddhism, which is 350 million strong, continues to grow as we speak the faith and read the depths of non-theistic religion. Emmett Till Justice Campaign  Civil rights activist Alvin Sykes sought out Mamie Till-Mobley to talk to her about her son. Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, had been brutally beaten and murdered. His offense: allegedly whistling at a white woman. While Till’s killing turned one of the events that energized the booming American Civil Rights Movement, his killers were acquitted of the crime. Although they later admitted their guilt, they remained free.

In January 2003, Sykes and Till-Mobley kicked off the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. Till-Mobley succumbed two days later.  Sykes helped craft the legislation, which creates two positions– one in the FBI and the other in the U.S. Justice Department– to investigate these unsolved cases. The bill also sets aside up to $135 million over 10 years for investigations.

The activist’s life changed at the age of 18 when he encountered Nichiren Buddhism at a Herbie Hancock concert. The life-changing philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism includes chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. His practice and analysis of Buddhism fortified his determination to fight for justice and enhanced his faith in the might of dialogue to bulldoze walls and achieve results that otherwise seemed impossible.

While Buddhism continues to shape lives of countless Americans in more ways than one, SGI-USA perennially puts forth unique experiences of neo-Buddhists in US who relentlessly lend voice to the unsung. In an earlier incident, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist Dalai Lama was discharged from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Evidencing the popularity boom of Buddhism in US, many local newspapers reported that dozens of Tibetans draped in ethnic clothes greeted the Dalai Lama at the Mayo Civic Centre.

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

“His life means the world to us,” said a US national of Buddhist told the newspapers and added, “We follow his footsteps. He touched our faces. It was a blessing.” Amid all the furore over Tibet and against China’s warning to stop interference, US President Barack Obama met Dalai Lama at the White House and reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s rights.  Situation as is playing out for US is more of a fence-sitting sort…  “US supports Dalai Lama’s middle-way approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.

However, Buddhism and its peace-loving agenda continue to prevail over this political turmoil. Despite the upsurge in hate and race crimes in US, Buddhism among natives is gaining momentum.

(With inputs from SGI-USA)

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Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of the US

Gurbir S Grewal has been nominated to be the next attorney general of US and would be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position in United States

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Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of US.
Gurbir S Grewal nominated to be the next attorney general of US. Facebook
  • Gurbir S Grewal is nominated to be the next attorney general of US
  • He would be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position

In a historic first, a distinguished Sikh public prosecutor “who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand” has been nominated to be the next attorney general of the US state of New Jersey.

If Gurbir S. Grewal’s nomination by Democrat Governor-elect Phil Murphy is approved by the State Senate early next year, he will be the first Sikh to assume the top state law enforcement position in the United States and the second Indian-American, after Kamala Harris, who held the position in California before her election to the US Senate.

Announcing the nomination in the state capital, Trenton, on Tuesday, Murphy said: “In light of all that is being thrown at us by the president, we need an attorney general unafraid to join our fellow states in using the law to protect all New Jersey residents.”

Grewal, 44, is the prosecutor of Bergen County, an important district across the river from New York city. He was appointed to by the current Republican Governor Chris Christie and that is likely to mute any opposition the senate.

Symbolic of the public acceptance of minorities despite scattered incidents of bigotry, two Sikhs were elected mayors last month, Ravi Bhalla in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Preet Didbal in Yuba City, California.

Vin Gopal, who became the first Indian-American to be elected to the New Jersey State Senate last month, said that Grewal is someone “not only eminently qualified, but who will bring a perspective to the office that is diverse and long-overdue.”

After Murphy made the announcement, Grewal said: “I wanted to give back to a country that has given us and other immigrant families like us so much.”

Turning to his three daughters, Kyrpa, Mayher and Mahek, who were with him, he said: “As someone who has experienced hate and intolerance first-hand throughout my life, I wanted to work to ensure we all live in and that the three of you grow up in a fair and just society.”

Grewal added: “I wanted to perhaps also show people that while I and others like me may look different or worship differently, that we, too, are committed to this country.”

Hailing Grewal’s nomination, Rajwant Singh, the co-founder of the National Sikh Campaign, said: “These are exactly the kind of role models our youngsters need to feel proud of being a Sikh and an American.”

“While America could be seen having a very polarized situation politically and yet there are some very shining moments to show that people of all backgrounds can aspire for top positions,” he added.

South Asian Bar Association President Rishi Bagga, said: “The decision to appoint a visible minority as the chief law enforcement officer for New Jersey reflects the diversity of the state and of the US, and is especially important in a time where minorities and immigrants have often felt targeted by law enforcement.”

Attorney General is a very powerful position New Jersey heading the Department of Law and Public Safety, which includes the state police.

Grewal has earlier served as an assistant federal prosecutor in New York and in New Jersey, where he was also the chief of the Economic Crimes Unit.

In the administration of former President Barack Obama, Indian Americans have held senior law positions. Neal Kumar Katyal was an Acting Solicitor General.

Sri Srinivasan, now a federal appeals court judge in Washington, did a stint as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General.

Vanita Gupta was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and headed the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

US President Donald Trump has appointed Uttam Dhillon to be his special assistant and associate counsel. (IANS)

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Will sexual misconduct scandals make Men more cautious towards Women?

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Sexual scandals may wary men's behavioral instincts
FILE - In a Feb. 3, 2015, file photo, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is photographed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Some women, and men, worry that the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about harassment could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Sandberg recently wrote that she hoped the outcry over harassment doesn’t “have the unintended consequence of holding women back.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Sexual Scandals are the new low in business industry
  • Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work
  • Gender comes as a barrier in interaction

Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues.

Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Think twice before a high-ranking man mentors a young female staffer.

“I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women,’” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a recent post .

“So much good is happening to fix workplaces right now. Let’s make sure it does not have the unintended consequence of holding women back,” said Sandberg, author of the working women’s manifesto “Lean In.”

Sexual Scandals
From left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accompanied by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois., and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, speaks at a news conference where she and other members of congress introduce legislation to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Gillibrand and fellow female Democratic senators have united in calling for Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ana Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business “are terrified.”

“There’s a feeling of this wall that wasn’t there that is suddenly up because they don’t know what’s appropriate anymore — it’s disconcerting,” Quincoces said. “I feel that they’re more careful, more formal in their relationships with co-workers. And I can’t say I blame them, because what’s happened is pervasive. Every day there’s a new accusation.”

She said many of the men she knows are now avoiding one-on-one social occasions that were normal in the past.

“This is going to trickle down into all industries. … It’s going to become the new normal,” Quincoces said. “It’s a good thing because women are not afraid anymore, but on the other side, it’s a slippery slope.”

Americans were already edgy about male-female encounters at work: A New York Times/Morning Consult poll of 5,300 men and women last spring found almost two-thirds thought workers should be extra careful around opposite-sex colleagues, and around a quarter thought private work meetings between men and women were inappropriate.

But in a season of outcry over sexual misconduct, some men are suddenly wondering whether they can compliment a female colleague or ask about her weekend. Even a now-former female adviser to the head of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party suggested on Facebook that men would stop talking to women altogether because of what she portrayed as overblown sexual misconduct claims.

Certain managers are considering whether to make sure they’re never alone with a staffer, despite the complications of adding a third person in situations like performance reviews, says Philippe Weiss, who runs the Chicago-based consultancy Seyfarth Shaw at Work.

Philadelphia employment lawyer Jonathan Segal says some men are declaring they’ll just shut people out of their offices, rather than risk exchanges that could be misconstrued.

“The avoidance issue is my biggest concern, because the marginalization of women in the business world is at least as big a problem as harassment,” Segal says. A recent report involving 222 North American companies found the percentage of women drops from 47 percent at the entry level to 20 percent in the C suite.

Vice President Mike Pence has long said he doesn’t have one-on-one meals with any woman except his wife and wants her by his side anywhere alcohol is served, as part of the couple’s commitment to prioritizing their marriage. The guidelines have “been a blessing to us,” the Republican told Christian Broadcasting Network News in an interview this month.

Employment attorneys caution that it can be problematic to curb interactions with workers because of their gender, if the practice curtails their professional opportunities. W. Brad Johnson, a co-author of a book encouraging male mentors for women, says limiting contact sends a troubling message.

“If I were unwilling to have an individual conversation with you because of your gender, I’m communicating ‘you’re unreliable; you’re a risk,’” says Johnson, a U.S. Naval Academy psychology professor.

Jessica Proud, a communications professional and Republican political consultant in New York City, said it would be wrong if this national “day of reckoning” over sexual misconduct resulted in some men deciding not to hire, mentor or work with women. She recalled a campaign she worked on where she was told she couldn’t travel with the candidate because of how it might look.

“I’m a professional, he’s a professional. Why should my career experience be limited?” she said. “That’s just as insulting in a lot of ways.” VOA

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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)