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Gender, death, monkeys and cows at Pashupatinath and Swayambunath

Linda Solomon WoodEli Krag
Jun 4th, 2011

At Pashupatinath on  Bagmati River, hundreds of monkeys roam freely while groups of mourners wash the feet of recently departed loved ones in the river and prepare them for cremation.

Like the Ganges in India,the Bagmati is  a sacred Hindu river. Devotees believe that a ritual bathing or even cremation in this river will break the cycle of samsara (or rebirth) and take them to the afterlife. 

Other monkeys below were photographed at Swayambunath (Monkey temple), high on a hill overlooking Kathmandu.

My fourteen year old son, Eli, loves animals.  We traded the camera back and forth.  He photographed the monkeys and cows.  He couldn't get enough of the monkeys.  They completely engaged him.  I was interested in the families and friends of the departed, the fact that only men were allowed to surround the body, and that women had to sit together well away from the dead. 

Air pollution in Kathmandu off the charts

Linda Solomon Wood
Jun 4th, 2011

A sadhu in Kathmandu poses for a chunk of change. Photo by Linda Solomon.  Polluted Kathmandu pictured in a photo by Eli Krag.

By 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it the most polluted city in Asia. It didn't take more than a minute of breathing it to conclude that over time, Kathmandu's air could kill you.  A WHO report confirms this.

WHO scientists estimate 537,000 people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific die prematurely each year due to air pollution. The level of PM10 in the air of Kathmandu is 120 microgram per square meter. As per the standard of the World Health Organization, the level of PM10 should be 20 microgram per square meter. The level of PM10 is higher than the official standard in most of the places of Kathmandu valley.

We had known to expect pollution. But the experience exceeded the expectation.

We'd travelled two days, spent sixteen hours total in an airplane and had crossed the dateline, to get here.

We dropped our backpacks onto the floor of the clean, stark room in Schechen Guest House, a hotel run by a monastery. 

Dogs of Kathmandu

Linda Solomon Wood
Jun 3rd, 2011

Photograph by Eli Krag

This is the first in a series of pictures and stories from a recent trip I took to Nepal with Kina Social Ventures. It's about girls. It's about beautiful, intelligent women with no opportunities. It's about pollution, monkeys, dogs, Buddhism, Kina Social Ventures, The Small World, cell phones, loud speaker systems made out of Pringle containers, goats grazing on marijuana plants, but more than anything else, this blog is about how desperately children in poor countries must struggle to get an education. It's about Kina's efforts to "empower girls to rise above". 

Blogger given three year sentence in Egypt for dissent

Linda Solomon Wood
Apr 12th, 2011

Is this the form of democracy we must expect from the new Egypt?

A military court has passed a three-year jail sentence on the blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, Reporters Without Borders, says.  Sanad  took aim at the army for how it behaved during the Egyptian revolution this year.   Reporters Wiithout Borders says Sanad "is the new government’s first prisoner of conscience."

Reporters Without Borders went on to say that:

The sentence was issued discreetly yesterday in the absence of Sanad’s defence and his supporters, who had previously demonstrated outside the court. No appeal is possible. Detained since 28 March, he was tried on 7 April, after several postponements, on charges of insulting the military, publishing false information and disturbing public security.

Breaking news on the Huffington Post?

Linda Solomon Wood
Apr 1st, 2011

It's  April Fool's Day, and Arianna Huffington is spoofing The New York Times' new digital pay wall, but is it funny?  

The Wall Street Journal didn't think it was funny.  James Taranto slams into her in his article, Keep your day job, Arianna with this:

"Today . . . we introduce digital subscriptions for employees of The New York Times," boasts Puffington Host hostess Huffington in a Puffintgon Host post. It's April Fool's Day, of course, and Huffington is having some fun--or trying, anyway--at the expense of the Times and its porous paywall."

Why the site crashed yesterday and other VO news

Linda Solomon Wood
Mar 17th, 2011

Yesterday, the site shut down for five hours. This happened under the pressure of a huge surge in traffic.  Finally, we upgraded to a larger server and acquired new speed and capacity.  We've been drawing an audience of about 5, 000 people a day. I hope the new system will keep us up and running for the forseeable future. If you can't get onto VO, it means we're down, and that means traffic is up. 

Keith Ellison's America

Linda Solomon Wood
Mar 10th, 2011

Rep. Keith Ellison with President Obama

It all came back to me as I watched Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, testify in front of The House Homeland Security Committee. The committee is embarking on an "inquiry" the "radicalization of the Muslim community." 

Ellison gave a long and compelling talk about how wrong it is to blame a community for the actions of an individual. He spoke about the contribution made by individual Muslims in fighting terrorism in America. Ellison turned to the story of Mohammed Salman Hamdi, a 23-year-old Muslim American firefighter who died while saving others during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. He spoke of how Hamdani’s friends called him Sal. As he recounted how Sal had grown up watching Star Wars, Ellison was overwhelmed with emotion.

CRTC digs in heels on UBB

Linda Solomon Wood
Feb 7th, 2011

We need an internet hero, says CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein is pictured above as the hero OpenMedia hopes he will be.

A letter from this morning explains that the fight against internet usage billing isn't over. Here's what you can do about it. asked Canadians to send Ottawa a message about Internet metering (usage-based billing), and wow did you ever respond – over 420,000 have signed the petition!

We’re excited that we’ve come this far, but the issue has been put back before the CRTC and they’re digging in their heels.  When the CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein was dragged before politicians, he said the CRTC still wants to “find economic ways to discipline the use of the Internet”

To win, we urgently need to encourage Konrad to be an Internet Hero. Send a message to the CRTC HERE.

Stop the meter on internet usage

Linda Solomon Wood
Jan 14th, 2011
As you know, VO relies on the Internet to provide you with a unique mix of local news and views. We've just found out that thanks to the CRTC, big Internet Service Providers (like Shaw and Telus) are now allowed to force new Internet usage fees on all Internet users including you and VO. They are also imposing this billing scheme on indie service providers, so we'll have no choice but to pay up. 

This means we're looking at a future where Internet providers will charge per byte, the way they do with smart phones. If we allow this to happen Canadians will have no choice but to pay more for less Internet.

This could severely limit independent media projects like ours, and will also mean much higher Internet bills for all of you that purchase person Internet access.  

Luckily our friends at have started a campaign to reverse this decision. 

Sarah Palin Facebook wall rages with recrimination after Giffords shooting

Linda Solomon Wood
Jan 8th, 2011

First Sarah Palin targeted her on her website, putting Rep. Gabriel Giffords in a rifle crosshair.  Today, Palin's most recent Facebook status update issues condolences to Gifford's family, after a twenty two year old man turned a semi-automatic on the Arizona Democrat and shot her in the head.  A federal judge and a nine year old girl died at the scene and, as Giffords struggles for her life in a Tuscon hospital, Palin's wall streams comments.  More than 4,000 people have weighed in so  far.  

Most support and defend Palin (it is her page). Others hold her accountable.

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