الأربعاء، 5 أغسطس 2015

Lust and Kung Fu: Shaolin’s ‘C.E.O. Monk’ Is Under Fire

DENGFENG, China — Incense drifting through ancient cedars. Saffron-robed monks, limbs a blur of movement, making quick work of imagined enemies. The boing of a giant bronze bell calling the faithful to prayer.
This is the scene at the fabled Shaolin Temple, a cradle of kung fu and Zen Buddhism nestled in the forests of the central Chinese province of Henan, where legend has it monks have trained in martial arts for centuries. But in recent days, another sound has been wafting across its hallowed grounds: the snickering of tourists trading the latest news about the abbot of Shaolin and his reportedly less than virtuous ways.
Over the past week, much of the nation has been transfixed by salacious allegations that the famed abbot, Shi Yongxin, known as China’s C.E.O. Monk for transforming Shaolin into a global commercial empire, is a swindler and serial philanderer who secretly fathered children with two of his lovers, vows of celibacy notwithstanding.
The accusations — new tidbits have appeared almost daily in the Chinese news media — are mostly based on documents released by a self-described former monk at the temple who says the abbot owns a small fleet of fancy cars, has embezzled millions of dollars from a temple-run corporation and has funneled some of the cash to a mistress now living in Australia.
Beyond the obvious legal repercussions, the abbot’s apparent lust for women, money and bling runs counter to the virtues of chastity and austere living that he has long sought to personify as one of the most prominent figures in Chinese Buddhism. To his growing legion of critics, the scandal has heightened public cynicism about a society in which greed and crass materialism often seem to trump morality, especially among those in positions of power.
The informer, a mysterious figure using a name that translates as “seeker of justice,” has told reporters he is fed up with the abbot’s hypocrisy and wants to see the “grounds of Shaolin purified again.” He declined interview requests and has yet to appear in public, saying he is afraid for his safety following threats from what he called “Shi Yongxin’s henchmen.”
“We want the outside world to know that the Shaolin abbot, using Buddhism as a cloak, is a maniacal womanizer and corrupt ‘tiger’ who brazenly exploits Shaolin’s assets and tarnishes its reputation,” he wrote in a statement last week that pleaded for a government investigation.
Among the evidence he has made public to support his accusations are police depositions and photographs of a woman said to be one of the abbot’s lovers, a Shaolin nun who appears dressed in brown monastic robes while holding the baby she says was fathered by Shi Yongxin. Another supposed mistress claims to have physical evidence of his lechery: semen, collected in a condom, that she sent to a doctor for safekeeping. Over the weekend, she used a social media account to post a photo of the underwear she says she wore during sex with the abbot.
Read more »

الثلاثاء، 4 أغسطس 2015

Réunion Debris Is Almost Surely From Flight 370, Officials Say

PARIS — Investigators and the families of those who were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 now have what they have sought for more than a year — the first tangible trace of the vanished airplane.
There are “very strong presumptions” that the airplane part that washed ashore last week on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean came from the missing Boeing 777, an official said on Wednesday at a Paris news conference after experts inspected the object.
A few minutes before the news conference, Prime Minister Najib Razak ofMalaysia went further, declaring that the object definitely came from the plane, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people aboard.
A person involved in the investigation said, however, that experts from Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board who had seen the object, a piece of what is known as a flaperon, were not yet fully satisfied, and called for further analysis.
Their doubts were based on a modification to the flaperon part that did not appear to exactly match what they would expect from airline maintenance records, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
French and Malaysian officials did not share the American hesitation, not least because no other Boeing 777 is unaccounted for.
“Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Réunion Island is indeed from MH370,” Mr. Najib said in a televised statement broadcast in the early hours of Thursday in Malaysia.
At the news conference, Serge Mackowiak, the deputy Paris prosecutor, discussed what officials and experts from France, Malaysia, Australia and the United States had learned from examining the flaperon part in an aviation lab in Toulouse, France.
He said representatives from Boeing had confirmed that it came from a Boeing 777, based on its size, color, joint structure and other technical characteristics. He also said that “technical documentation” provided by Malaysia Airlines had enabled experts to establish “common technical characteristics” between the debris and Flight 370’s flaperons.
Boeing said in a statement that its technicians were assisting in the analysis of the part, but declined to comment on the results of the examination.
The person involved in the investigation said no serial or other unique number had been found, making the job of conclusively identifying the object more complicated. The person also said that so far, no burn marks or other evidence of physical damage had been found that might provide clues to the circumstances in which the plane went down.
In any case, experts have cautioned that the discovery of the object is unlikely to tell investigators enough to determine exactly what happened to the plane.
Read more »

الاثنين، 3 أغسطس 2015

Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors Pass Their Stories to a New Generation

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Hiromi Hasai was being trained to make machine gun bullets when the flash from the atomic bomb that destroyed his city lit up the already bright morning sky. Just 14, he had been pulled from school a week before to help Japan’s failing war effort.
Mr. Hasai, now 84, has often talked publicly of his experiences that day, 70 years ago Thursday, when the first of the only two nuclear weaponsever used in war ultimately killed more than 100,000 people. The victims included hundreds of his classmates, who were still at their school near the blast’s epicenter. The bullet factory, 10 miles out of town, was paradoxically a haven.
Yet the things that Mr. Hasai saw and felt that day are not recounted by him alone. The person who knows his story best, after Mr. Hasai himself, is Ritsuko Kinoshita, a woman 25 years his junior who is serving as his “denshosha” — the designated transmitter of his memories. It is part of an unusual and highly personal project to preserve and pass on the experiences of atomic bomb survivors, whose numbers are dwindling rapidly.
Mr. Hasai, a retired university physics researcher with a quick and infectious laugh, is still healthy, as are many of the survivors. But the object for Ms. Kinoshita and roughly 50 other volunteer denshosha is to keep telling the stories they have inherited once the witnesses become too frail to do so, to keep alive memories of a traumatic event that has anchored the pacifist sentiment that has pervaded the country ever since.
Today, however, the depth of that sentiment is being severely tested. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese leader born after the war, is working to loosen restrictions on Japan’s military power imposed by the victorious Allies. He is not the first prime minister to seek more freedom of action for Japan, but he is taking the project a step further than his predecessors. Three generations after the conflict, he argues that Japan has earned the right to be a more normal country.
Read more »

الأحد، 2 أغسطس 2015

Malaysian Leader: Debris Found on Island Is From Flight 370

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A piece of a wing found washed up on Reunion Island last week is from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that vanished last year, Malaysia's prime minister announced Thursday, saying he hoped the news ends the "unspeakable" uncertainty of the passengers' families.
Yet authorities in France, the U.S. and Australia were more cautious, stopping short of full confirmation. Some relatives said the mixed messages were causing them yet more confusion and anxiety.
The disappearance of the Boeing 777 jetliner 515 days ago while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, has been one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. Officials believed it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people aboard, but it is unknown why the plane went down.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed MH370," Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. The French territory is thousands of miles from the area being searched for wreckage from the flight.
U.S. and French officials involved in the investigation were more cautious, stopping short of full confirmation but saying it made sense that the metal piece of the wing, known as the flaperon, came from Flight 370.
The Australian government, which leads the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, was also less certain than Malaysia, saying in a statement that "based on high probability, it is MH370."
Australia, which has sent an official to France to help examine the flaperon, has said the find will not affect its sonar search of a 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) expanse of seabed more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) east of Reunion Island.
That search, which began in October, has covered almost half that area without finding any clues.
"The fact that this wreckage does now look very much like it is from MH370 does seem to confirm that it went down in the Indian Ocean, it does seem very consistent with the search pattern that we've been using for the last few months," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Melbourne Radio 3AW. "Let's hope we can turn something up."
Intact and encrusted with barnacles, the flaperon was found on a beach and sent to France for scrutiny by the French civil aviation investigation department known by its acronym BEA, and members from its Malaysian and Australian counterparts.
"We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean," Najib said.
"The burden and uncertainty faced by the families during this time has been unspeakable. It is my hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people onboard MH370," he said.
Read more »

السبت، 1 أغسطس 2015

Push for Retribution in Egypt Frays Muslim Brotherhood

CAIRO — A veteran leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was so alarmed by the rising calls for violence from the group’s youth that he risked arrest to urge the movement to stay peaceful.
Already hunted by the police for his role in a banned organization when he released his online manifesto in May, the leader, Mahmoud Ghuzlan, conceded that shunning violence in the face of the government crackdown on the Brotherhood was “like grasping a burning coal.” But, he said, history taught that “peacefulness is stronger than weapons, and violence is the reason for defeat and demise.”
It was a losing argument, or so it now appears. The police in Cairo soon found and arrested him. A chorus of Islamists mocked him on social media as naïve, unrealistic and hypocritical.
And his manifesto for “peacefulness” was quickly drowned out by official statements that have come closer to endorsing violence than anything the organization has said or done in more than four decades — an ominous turn for both Egypt and the West. Not only is the Brotherhood Egypt’s largest political organization, its long history gives it unique influence among Islamists beyond the Middle East to Europe, North America and elsewhere.
Brotherhood officials insist that the group still opposes violence as immoral and counterproductive. There are no signs that it is seeking to start an armed insurgency or ally with others who have done so — such as the Sinai arm of the Islamic State.
But some in the Brotherhood also acknowledge privately that the demands of young members for “retribution” against participants in the military takeover two years ago are threatening to stretch the group’s ideology toward violence, widening a generational split at a time when the Brotherhood’s discipline is fraying and many young members blame their elders for bungling the Arab Spring revolt and their chance to govern.
“The aggrieved party has the right to fight back against the aggressor,” more than a hundred Muslim scholars wrote on May 27 in an open letter, “The Egypt Call,” that the Brotherhood formally endorsed the next day.
Labeling President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government a “murderous regime,” the scholars wrote that Islam prescribed that those who collaborated with him — such as “rulers, judges, officers, soldiers, muftis, media professionals and politicians” — should be punished as “murderers.” All are “murderers according to religious law,” they wrote. (More than 620,000 other people have since endorsed the statement online.)
Newly formed groups with names like Revolutionary Punishment and Popular Resistance, which receive online support from many social media accounts that also back the Brotherhood, have already claimed responsibility for small-scale bombings on police stations, empty businesses and electric utilities in recent months.
At the end of June, the Giza chapter of Popular Resistance also claimed responsibility online for a remotely detonated bomb that killed the country’s top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. (The group’s initial statement was later deleted without explanation, but no one else has since taken responsibility.)
Read more »