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INDIA, May 9, 2011 (North India Times): The Supreme Court on Monday ordered status quo on the disputed site of the Ramjanambhoomi/Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and stayed the judgment of the Allahabad High Court. This interim order will enable the devotees to continue worship at the makeshift temple built near the spot where the mosque stood till December 1992.

But the bench, consisting of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R M Lodha described part of the September 2010 judgment of the high court "strange", especially the division of the site into three parts. During the half-hour hearing in a crowded courtroom, the judges remarked that "a new dimension was given by the high court as the decree of partition was not sought by the parties. It was not prayed by anyone. It is a strange order," the Bench said.

"It is a difficult situation, the position is that it (the high court judgment) has created litany of litigation," the Bench observed.

The Wakf Board and Jamait Ulama-I-Hind want the whole high court judgment to be set aside.

The Ayodhya issue had raised communal passions for more than a decade and led to large-scale riots in several parts of the country, claiming hundreds of lives.

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NEW YORK, 23 April 2011 (BBC News): In a laboratory tucked away off a noisy New York City street, a soft-spoken neuroscientist has been placing Tibetan Buddhist monks into a car-sized brain scanner to better understand the ancient practice of meditation. But could this unusual research not only unravel the secrets of leading a harmonious life but also shed light on some of the world's more mysterious diseases? Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and adjunct professor at New York University, says he has been peering into the brains of monks while they meditate in an attempt to understand how their brains reorganise themselves during meditation.

"Meditation research, particularly in the last 10 years or so, has shown to be very promising because it points to an ability of the brain to change and optimise in a way we didn't know previously was possible." When one relaxes into a state of oneness, the neural networks in experienced practitioners change as they lower the psychological wall between themselves and their environments, Dr Josipovic says. And this reorganization in the brain may lead to what some meditators claim to be a deep harmony between themselves and their surroundings.

Shifting attention Dr Josipovic's research is part of a larger effort better to understand what scientists have dubbed the default network in the brain. He says the brain appears to be organized into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network. The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee. The default network churns when people reflect on matters that involve themselves and their emotions. But the networks are rarely fully active at the same time. And like a seesaw, when one rises, the other one dips down. This neural set-up allows individuals to concentrate more easily on one task at any given time, without being consumed by distractions like daydreaming

Dr Josipovic has found that some monks and other experienced meditators have the ability to keep both neural networks active at the same time during meditation - that is to say, they have found a way to lift both sides of the seesaw simultaneously.

Scientists previously believed the self-reflective, default network in the brain was simply one that was active when a person had no task on which to focus their attention. But researchers have found in the past decade that this section of the brain swells with activity when the subject thinks about the self. Dr Raichle says the default network is important for more than just thinking about what one had for dinner last night. "Researchers have wrestled with this idea of how we know we are who we are. The default mode network says something about how that might have come to be," he says. It's about self-reflection while interacting with the world.

Dr Raichle adds that those studying the default network may also help in uncovering the secrets surrounding some psychological disorders, like depression, autism and even Alzheimer's disease. "If you look at Alzheimer's Disease, and you look at whether it attacks a particular part of the brain, what's amazing is that it actually attacks only the default mode network," says Dr Raichle, adding that intrinsic network research, like Dr Josipovic's, could assist in explaining why that is. Cindy Lustig, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, agrees. "It is sort of the other piece of the puzzle that's been ignored for too long."

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NEW YORK, April 26, 2011 (by Mark Bittman for the New York Times): Kirt Espenson, who owns the E6 Cattle Company in western Texas, had his employees caught in the act, secretly videotaped performing acts of unspeakably sickening cruelty to cows. The video sparked a discussion that went two ways: one one hand, Esperson apologized and terminated the contract with those employees; but the other side was that people have mobilized to prevent this (the video, not the cruelty) to ever happen again. If some state legislators have their way, horrific but valuable videos like that one will never be made.

The problem is the system that enables cruelty and a lack not just of law enforcement but actual laws. Because the only federal laws governing animal cruelty apply to slaughterhouses, where animals may spend only minutes before being dispatched. None apply to farms, where animals are protected only by state laws.

And these may be moving in the wrong direction. In their infinite wisdom the legislatures of Iowa, Minnesota, Florida and others are considering measures that would punish heroic videographers like the one who spent two weeks as an E6 employee, who was clearly traumatized by the experience.

The biggest problem of all is that we've created a system in which standard factory-farming practices are inhumane, and the kinds of abuses documented at E6 are really just reminders of that. If you're raising and killing 10 billion animals every year, some abuse is pretty much guaranteed.

There is, of course, the argument that domesticating animals in order to kill them is essentially immoral; those of us who eat meat choose not to believe this. But in "Bengal Tiger," a Broadway play set at Baghdad Zoo, the tiger -- played by Robin Williams -- wonders: "What if my every meal has been an act of cruelty?" The way most animals are handled in the United States right now has to have all of us omnivores wondering the same thing.

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We are writing to you today because we are extremely concerned after hearing news reports which indicate that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan plans to force Afghan Hindus to wear labels on their clothing to differentiate them from Muslims. We urge you to immediately take steps that will convince the Taliban to withdraw this proposal. History has shown over and over that segregation of this kind can lead to genocide. This action alone is enough to raise that specter.
-- From a letter written by more than 100 US lawmakers to President George W. Bush urging him to intervene against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban in 2000, before 9/11

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