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Bodhisattva Action Alert: How to Help the People of Joplin, MO

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New York Times photo by Patrick Fallon

The photos show a devastating reality — last night, the tornado that hit Joplin, MO, was the deadliest one in the U.S. since 1953. In a city with a population of about 48,000, nearly 100 people are dead so far with many more injured.

I picked up the following information from this page on the MSNBC website… it seems to be the most comprehensive list so far on how to help:

Donations

  • The American Red Cross has set up a page for Missouri tornado and flood relief.
  • The Joplin Red Cross could use some donations. You can contact it at (417) 624-4411 or info@redcross-ozarks.org in order to find out what supplies are most necessary.
  • The Missouri SEMA has set up a donation page.
  • A list of major non-profits that operate regularly in Missouri can be found on the National Donations Management Network website. You can also call (800) 427-4626 for further information.
  • The Missouri Interfaith Disaster Response Organization is taking donations for longterm recovery efforts.
  • The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks is in need of blood — particularly type O. A list of donation sites can be found here.

Volunteering

  • 211 Missouri is helping organize volunteers in the affected areas. More information can be found by calling (800) 427-462.
  • Nurses or doctors looking to help can call (417) 832-9500 for the Greater Ozarks chapter of the Red Cross.
  • Health professionals can register to volunteer through the Show-Me Response website.

Animal rescue

  • For those in the Joplin area: Emergency Pet Center of the Four States at 7th & Illinois near the Sonic is OPEN and accepting found/injured animals. Its phones are down at this time.
  • The “Animals Lost & Found from the Joplin, Mo tornado” Facebook page is tracking lost and found pets.

Safety Information

  • The National Americorp Volunteers are setting up a national hotline for residents to call to check on loved ones. The number is (417) 659-5464 and should be active later today.
  • The American Red Cross has set up a site on which you can check in, report on the safety of others, or look for information on loved ones.
  • The “Joplin people accounted for after the storm” Facebook page is helping people track loved ones who fell out of touch during the storm.
  • The St. John’s Health System has been updating its Facebook page regularly with information relevant to the aftermath of the storm.

49 Days Later…

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A friend on Facebook reminded me that today is the 49th day since the tsunami hit northern Japan, and the ensuing nuclear plant crisis. Forty-nine days is the length of time to travel through the bardo, that liminal space after death, and marks the end of a mourning period for many Buddhist traditions.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has changed his schedule in order to be in Japan tomorrow (Friday) to offer prayers.

According to this news story, nearly 26,000 people are believed to have been killed after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

As horrible as the natural disaster was, it’s the consequences from the man-made nuclear structures at Fukushima that are the most terrifying and traumatizing. I wonder if most of us are unable to even think about this much any more, given the ramifications of what’s happened and what will continue to unfold for hundreds of years.

How to respond? It almost feels futile to suggest anything. Even so, here are a few possibilities—

  • Pick up a copy of Quakebook – a Twitter-sourced Kindle e-book, with proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross. Quakebook is a collection of essays, artwork and photographs submitted by people around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it. Other contributors include Yoko Ono, William Gibson, and Barry Eisler. You can purchase a copy here through Amazon, who has made it possible for 100% of the proceeds to go directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
  • Support a Buddhist chaplain to be of service in Japan. Tenku Ruff is a Zen Buddhist monk and a trained chaplain. (I know Tenku personally; we both lived at San Francisco Zen Center in 2000-2001.) She speaks Japanese and her home temple is in the north of Japan. Tenku plans to travel to Japan to help feed refugees, offer spiritual care to people affected by the tsunami, join clean-up efforts, and assist with Buddhist ceremonies for the deceased. Your donation will allow her to pay for food and travel expenses, so as not create a further burden on the devastated areas. Because her needs are simple, she will leave all other donated funds directly with the people who need it most in Japan. You can find out how to support Tenku here.
  • Consider how we can wean ourselves away from the need for nuclear energy. I know there’s a certain camp of folks who keep insisting that nuclear power is one of our best bets for “clean” energy. I think that Chris Wilson, board chair of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, makes a good case about why this is a fallacy in this essay. I wrote more about this on my other blog, The Liberated Life Project, including some specific ideas about how to reduce our energy needs.

It’s all about reducing harm and alleviating suffering, folks. Simple, but not easy.

Bodhisattva Action Alert: Ways to Help Japan

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Member of Japan Self-Defence Forces carries a man in Natori city, in Miyagi prefecture March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Yomiuri

When disasters or crises hit Asian Buddhist countries, I believe that we as Western Buddhists are offered a way to re-pay the gift of dharma that has been shared with us so generously by our dharma brothers and sisters in the East.

Now, the people of Japan are in great need in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11. Some of my Buddhist blogging colleagues have collected lists of ways to help with the relief efforts in Japan:

If you’re looking for a reputable and respected Buddhist organization to support, I’d highly recommend making a donation to the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Tzu Chi is one of the world’s first socially engaged Buddhist organizations and they have done tremendous relief work at other natural disaster sites, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Tzu Chi has announced that it has set up a command center to prepare for launching relief aid to Japan.  You can learn more and make a donation here.

The Buddha and the Budget

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In which I offer you a couple of insights from wise people about what’s going on with the U.S. Congress and the federal budget, and share some ideas about what to do.

Quote #1, from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi


Speak up for the poor both in this country and abroad. The budget cuts made by the House will have devastating impacts on those most in need of help. Help make the U.S. a country of compassion, not of savage selfishness. Urge the Senate to preserve the funding allocations that can help the poor.

_________

Quote #2, from economist, Nobel Prize recipient, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

There are three things you need to know about the current budget debate. First, it’s essentially fraudulent. Second, most people posing as deficit hawks are faking it. Third, while President Obama hasn’t fully avoided the fraudulence, he’s less bad than his opponents — and he deserves much more credit for fiscal responsibility than he’s getting.

…by proposing sharp spending cuts right away, Republicans aren’t just going where the money isn’t, they’re also going when the money isn’t. Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed is a recipe for slower economic growth, which means lower tax receipts — so any deficit reduction from G.O.P. cuts would be at least partly offset by lower revenue.

The whole budget debate, then, is a sham. House Republicans, in particular, are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes — nutritional aid to pregnant women and very young children is one of the items on their cutting block — so they can pose, falsely, as deficit hawks….

The bottom line, then, is that while the budget is all over the news, we’re not having a real debate; it’s all sound, fury, and posturing, telling us a lot about the cynicism of politicians but signifying nothing in terms of actual deficit reduction. And we shouldn’t indulge those politicians by pretending otherwise.

What to Do

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”
~Ethiopian Proverb

Be inspired by the massive display of peaceful people power in Wisconsin. Make your voice be heard and be visible.

1) Sign this petition:

http://www.one.org/us/actnow/2011budget/?rc=2011budgetfb

2) Educate yourself and others on what’s really going on

Many Republicans in Congress are using this budget debate to their political benefit, as Krugman notes, and throwing up a smoke screen that obscures what else is going on.

For example, did you know that nearly two-thirds of U.S. corporations don’t pay any income taxes, instead using tax loopholes and offshore tax havens? This while many corporations enjoy record profits and taxpayer-funded bailouts.

If as much effort was made to increase revenue through collecting some of these corporate taxes as is being spent on cutting from those most in need, we’d be closer to a balanced budget.

Another great source of information is the National Priorities Project. Want to find out how your taxes are being spent? Try out this tool where you plug in the amount of taxes you paid and then can see what percentage goes toward things like military, health care, foreign aid, etc. Do these allocations align with your priorities and values?

3) Organize, organize, organize! February 26 Day of Action

The House of Representatives has voted on the budget. Congress is currently on a break; when the U.S. Senate re-convenes on February 28 it will discuss and vote on the budget. From now until then, it’s time to organize.

US Uncut is a new movement (inspired by UK Uncut) that is about taking action against unnecessary and unfair cuts to public services across the US. US Uncut is organizing an International Day of Action on Feb 26.

Check this web page to see if there is an action scheduled for your community. If not, you can sign up to start one and find lots of great resources on this page.

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If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

On Elephants, People, and Landmines

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Following up from my last post about elephants in Thailand, I wanted to share with you a short video taken by one of my travel companions, Mary Ann Bennett. At the bottom of this post, I suggest two important action steps you can take to help ban landmines.

The video shows one of the elephants at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital, near Lampang, who was a victim of landmines along the Thai-Burma border. She is being treated here by one of the technicians. If I remember correctly, she came to the hospital several months ago and we learned that it would take many more months for her foot to heal.

A warning — this video is heart-wrenching. But in the spirit of bearing witness, I invite you to watch it and keep in mind the many people and animals that are maimed by landmines across the world.

One source estimates that 721 Burmese civilians were casualties of landmines in 2008, and worldwide, 41% of all mine casualties were children. While many of the wounded die, the majority of victims survive (88% in Burma in 2008) but are left permanently maimed. (Information from Physicians for Human Rights.)

What can we do?

Action Alert: Help the Citizens of Crestone

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I received a message from Sean Young, a Tibetan Buddhist friend in Idaho, asking if I could pass this along to readers of The Jizo Chronicles. The letter below speaks for itself, for the most part — the town of Crestone, Colorado, is the home of a number of Buddhist temples and sanghas as well as other spiritual communities. Please note that the deadline for comments on this issue is November 15.

—————

Dear Noble Sangha and Friends,

The Air Force is proposing to use the mountains of Crestone as practice grounds for the war in Afghanistan. We are requesting you to send an email to the Air Force strongly urging them to not allow the Low Altitude Technical Navigation program to be allowed to fly in the San Luis Valley, home to our retreat center, Samten Ling (along with other Buddhist retreat centers).

If allowed to proceed, they would fly low altitude (200 ft.) “sorties” (groups of big, loud military planes) per night, 5 hours in duration each, half of that at low altitude.
The emails need to include what would be the significant impacts that would occur if this program is allowed to be implemented in Crestone. These can include spiritual practice, wilderness, quietude, enjoyment of the night sky, air quality, peace of mind, heart and body, health, economy, wildlife, agriculture, recreation. Here are some ideas for the main points, but the letters need to be individually composed:

1. Ask for an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS to be performed. This should be done rather than an EA (Environmental Assessment), which has much lower parameters.
2. Ask for an extended comments period, because many people who would be affected have not yet heard about it.
3. The level of noise could have extremely negative impacts on the economy here, which is based on spiritual retreats, [tourism, etc.]
4. We certainly want our pilots well-trained, but the bulk of this can be done by simulations.
5. In the not-so-unlikely event of a plane crash, the Air Force has stated that they would not be able to help fight any possible fires that could result.
6. Air pollution can come from many of the activities that they are planning– not just the act of their flying over the valley but also the pilots practicing mid-air fueling.
7. Wildlife would be negatively affected by the noise and the pollution. We have some unique ecosystems here that would be vulnerable. The Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 27.34 Aircraft) prohibits unauthorized operation of aircraft at altitudes resulting in harassment of wildlife, and the LATN proposal falls within these prohibited altitude levels.

Please address these emails to 27SOWpublicaffairs@cannon.af.mil.

They need to hear from as many of us as possible, and we need to highlight for them as many issues as possible, because what we express has to be recorded, acknowledged and addressed in the EIS or EA. The deadline for comments is November 15th. The preferred method of communication would be email; however, communications can be made by phone (575-784-4131), fax (575-784-7412), or mail (Cannon AFB Public Affairs, 110 E Sextant, Suite 1150, Cannon AFB, NM 88103). We urge you to take the time to write in the next few days in order to protect our sacred land as well as those of other spiritual communities.

Yours in the Dharma,
MSB Administration

San Bruno Explosion: How You Can Help

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Image via marlasinger333 on Flickr.com

This post is primarily for readers from the San Francisco Bay Area. If you want to help people who were affected by the terrible explosions in San Bruno, CA, here’s a list put together by Laura Mason of the website 7×7. At least four people were killed in the blast, caused by a gas line leak, and dozens have been left homeless.

Save San Bruno, Get A Haircut! On Wednesday, September 22nd, band together and help our neighbors by attending Save San Bruno: A Cut for Charity, an all-day hair-cutting extravaganza hosted by Johnny Bueno and his stylists Jeremy Jenks and Guf Gufler. Starting at 9am until 7pm, Johnny Bueno Color Studio will donate $75 or 100% of any haircut to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s efforts to help the San Bruno explosion’s victims. Clients can expect to be fully pampered with a new ‘do, along with helpings of Blue Bottle coffee and mini cupcakes from Miette. @ 166 Geary St., Suite 1005. (415)362-2668.

The SF Giants have big hearts. They’re dedicating tomorrow’s home game against the LA Dodgers to the victims of the San Bruno fire, and are donating $3 of every ticket to relief efforts. They will also be accepting donations from fans at that came to donate to the cause. Click here for details.

The Salvation Army got a head start on their relief efforts by sending out mobile kitchens to offer cold drinks and food for those fighting the San Bruno fires while providing counseling for displaced families. To keep their relief going strong, donate money so they can buy supplies most necessary for those in crisis. Needless to say, 100% of these Salvation Army San Bruno Disaster Relief Fund proceeds go to help those affected. Click here for ways to pledge money.

Wells Fargo and Safeway, both of whom have already contributed thousands of their own money, are accepting donations to give to the American Red Cross’ efforts to help affected families. Through the end of September, you can donate money to San Bruno’s families at all Wells Fargo ATMs in San Mateo County. To help out while grocery shopping, you can donate money at any Safeway checkout stand in one of their 80 participating stores around the Bay Area.

The Jewish Community Federation is also on the front lines of relief efforts with financial and volunteer assistance. They are accepting donations, all of which will go to the most effective service providers in the area. Click here to make a donation. If you live in the area and would like to donate supplies, bring diapers, blankets, shoes, towels, kid’s clothing to the San Bruno Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way in San Bruno.

If you want to donate blood, Blood Centers of the Pacific are accepting donations this weekend and in the following weeks for victims. They’ve extended their hours to accomodate the outpouring of recent donations. Two of their donation centers in the city are at Irwin Center at 270 Masonic Ave., and at Downtown Center at 250 Bush St. For additional donation centers and their hours around the peninsula and in the East Bay, click here.

Don’t Forget Pakistan

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Image from CNN website/Getty Images

As a number of bloggers have noted, the 3 million people left homeless by recent severe flooding in Pakistan have been all but neglected by the media and by the general public. That number is staggering — it’s about equal to the total population of San Diego, CA. The kind of overwhelming, heartfelt response that we saw in the aftermath of this year’s earthquake in Haiti and other natural disasters of recent years has been missing.

I have also been remiss in addressing this humanitarian crisis in Pakistan. So without further ado, here is a listing of how to help, compiled by Diane Herbst of the website Tonic:

  • UNICEF is providing help with water, sanitation, health and nutrition for displaced children and families. To donate, please click here.
  • Stamford, Conn.-based AmeriCares is sending medical and other aid to the hardest-hit areas of the flood. Readers can donate through the AmeriCares website.
  • CARE needs donations for its health teams, mobile clinics and distribution of food, which will help 100,000 flood victims. To donate, go to their website.
  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres is providing water, sanitation help, hygiene kits, cooking utensils and other items to Pakistanis. Doctors Without Borders has also prepared itself to care for patients in case of cholera outbreaks. To donate to Doctors Without Borders, give to its emergency fund.
  • The International Medical Corps (IMC) has sent mobile medical teams of doctors and paramedics to assist victims in the hardest hit areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in the northwest. To make a donation to the Santa Monica, Calif. based organization, founded by a UCLA doctor, go to the IMC website. The organization is also seeking doctors, nurses and trained professionals from a wide variety of fields. For more information and to volunteer, visit the Corps’ website.
  • Westport, Conn.-based Save the Children, dedicated to helping children worldwide, is already providing medical care, food and shelter kits. To donate to its Pakistan efforts, click here.
  • Mercy CorpsPakistan Emergency Fund supports Mercy Corps workers with their efforts in helping displaced families in the hard-hit Swat Valley. Visit the Mercy Corps website to donate to the Pakistan Emergency Fund.
  • American Red Cross seeks to raise $100,000 to aid its Pakistan equivalent — Pakistan Red Crescent — with teams on the ground providing food, other relief items and medical care. To donate, go to their website.
  • Oxfam hopes to reach 400,000 people affected by the devastating floods, supplying clean water and preventing the spread of waterborne disease. To support Oxfam’s efforts, go to the Oxfam America website. Those outside the US can donate to its UK emergency relief fund for Pakistan.
  • Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that Americans could text the word “SWAT” to the number 50555 to donate $10 per SMS message to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to provide tents, clothing, food, clean water and medicine to Pakistan.
  • BRAC has temporarily halted its normal operations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to provide relief work. Due to the acute food shortage, BRAC Pakisan has begun to deliver food packets containing such items at rice, lentils, flour and water purification tables. In the immediate future, the team will also be distributing Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and sending out a medical team to begin assessing health needs. To donate, click here.
  • Islamic Relief Worldwide, a relief organization based in Birmingham, England, has launched a £2 million (or $3.2 million USD) appeal to deliver clean water, food and health care. You can donate here.
  • The World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, is supplying food to the tens of thousands affected by the floods. To donate, visit the WFP website.
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