Joseph Stalin and the curse of the blue elephant

first_imgSince Stalin’s purges and since the fall of communism, Buryat shamanism has been rediscovered and reinvented, in some ways for the better. To make up for the loss of historical continuity, practitioners have constructed ever more elaborate stories of their origins.Humphrey tells of one modern Buryat who claims descent from 42 shamans on his mother’s side, and from the 12th Dalai Lama and Attila the Hun on his father’s side. All Buryats claim ultimate descent from a sky-god called Father Bald Head, through one of his three daughters, a swan.The Buryat myths have a pleasing ring about them, and they are no more fanciful than the lore of better-known religions. As for the attempt to diminish Stalin’s guilt by blaming his crimes on a blue elephant’s curse, that would not be my own choice of argument. But it makes more sense to me than the claim, heard elsewhere in Russia, that Stalin was a great man whose crimes were not that bad in the first place. Robert Cottrell is Central Europe correspondent for The Economist. The protest comes in response to Latvia’s calls for Russia to reappraise the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which preceded the Second World War and the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States which followed it. “We will give those Balts hell,” one of the organisers promises.Personally, I am disappointed. Not so much because I think the Latvians are right, which I do, but because I would have expected the Buryats to come up with something more picturesque than shouting and vodka.After all, Buryatia is one of the weirdest places on earth, home to a cult of shamanic Buddhism merging pantheist deities and rituals with Buddhist practice. The supreme divinity is the Eternal Blue Sky, beneath which flourish 99 lesser Tengri, or spirits, 44 of them spiteful and 55 good. They include the four Tengri of the compass points, the five Tengri of the wind, the seven Tengri of the thunder, and Erlig Khan the Tengri of the Dead. With a cosmology like that at their back, the Buryats might have managed something more awe-inspiring than a rubber doll for this special occasion. Even if Erlig Khan the Tengri of the Dead is otherwise engaged, one or two of the Tengri of thunder could surely have come and rumbled.On the other hand, perhaps the Buryats’ hearts are not quite in it. Like Latvia, Buryatia suffered terribly under Stalin. Buryats were deported and murdered, their monasteries closed.According to Carolyn Humphrey, a lecturer in anthropology at Cambridge University, Buryat villagers later explained Stalin’s crimes to themselves by means of a myth depicting the Soviet leader as the third reincarnation of a blue elephant which had first lived in ancient India.The elephant was worked to death in the building of a Buddhist temple, without so much as a word of blessing from the local lama. It swore to destroy Buddhism three times in future lives. Stalin was the last of those lives, say the Buryats.Humphrey showed how this myth allowed the Buryats to see Stalin as a wise and even a religious man. He had accumulated great merit in his first life as the blue elephant. He was attacking the Buryats almost despite himself, bound by the elephant’s curse.last_img read more

Signs of a stalling housing market

first_imgAs the latest round of monthly housing market indicators spills new insight into the pot of understanding the figures seem to support earlier suggestions that both activity and prices are stalling.The pattern is varied regionally and confused by the General Election, pre-Budget anticipation over the increases in Capital Gains Tax for second home owners, the suspension of Home Improvement Packs and the ripples generated by the changes to stamp duty.But the overall trend does now seems to suggest that the resurgence in the market that followed the sharp decline in 2008 is petering out.Last week we had Rightmove figures pointing to a slackening in the rise in asking prices and so far this week we have had both the Hometrack and Nationwide surveys suggesting that prices rose by just 0.1% in June.We also had the release last week of the Land Registry figures for May suggesting that house prices fell by 0.2%.And a fortnight or so ago the figures produced by Acadametrics, used by the Financial Times, showed a continuation in May of the downward path in prices which started in March.The Halifax index has also been on a downward path of late.And commentators appear to be much of a like mind in suggesting that the upswing in the market is flagging.Here’s a comment from Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide’s Chief Economist: “The month of June presented a picture of broad stability for the housing market.And a comment from Richard Donnell, Director of Research at Hometrack: “Following strong market conditions over 2009, demand started to falter over the first quarter of 2010 – a trend that has continued with June seeing a modest 0.1% increase in new buyers.”One key factor influencing the market is the shifting balance of buyers and sellers, a trend picked up by many recent surveys. According to Hometrack since March the supply has grown three times faster than demand.But we have also seen other lead indicators looking depressed. The data on the number of mortgage approvals has remained suppressed after the surge at the end of last year, when many buyers were looking to cash in on partial suspension of Stamp Duty.This effect also caused a spike in the number of homes bought and sold. And this market activity appears to have helped boost house prices late last year and into the early part of 2010.However we now see both mortgage lending slumped and transactions slumping. The latest data from HMRC on transactions shows a seasonally adjusted figure for the number of transactions in the UK residential properties worth more than £40,000 dropped to 71,000 – about 10% down on the average over the previous six months.And the latest data from the Bank of England released this week on lending shows the number of mortgages for house purchases remains suppressed. In the three months to the end of May the level of mortgage lending was down more than 10% on the level of the final six months of 2010.One graph that I have been updating with curiosity of late is one showing the Halifax monthly seasonally adjusted house price index against Bank of England mortgage lending and HMRC transactions, both lagged. Here is the latest incarnation.It will be interesting to see where the Halifax puts its next cross on the graph when it reports its June figures next month.For those that are curious here is what the graph looked like in March and we can see that so far the pattern has been broadly going in line with expectations.It is too early, however, to suggest that we are on the verge of another downward slide in prices or whether this is a temporary pause an upward slope.But for the industry the key concern is probably the number of eager buyers out there and that is once again looking a bit worryinglast_img read more

Dominicans urged to help curb littering

first_imgLocalNews Dominicans urged to help curb littering by: – October 28, 2015 Image via: dreamstime.comMinister for Tourism and Urban Renewal, Senator Robert Tonge has made another appeal to citizens and resident of Dominica to help maintain a clean and pristine environment.Mr Tonge issued the following statement late Wednesday 28 October 2015: “Fellow Dominicans our beloved Dominica has recently been devastated by Tropical Storm Erika. As a result, plans for a widespread clean-up campaign and beautification project by the MOTUR [Ministry of Tourism and Urban Renewal] has had to be halted and modified. Currently we are in the tourism season and we should bear in mind that tourism is everyone’s business. Our resources are limited; however, I am urging you, in the spirit of nation building, to work with us to keep Roseau and the rest of the island clean. We plan, as is customary to continue working closely with: the Roseau City Council who are charged with the responsibility of keeping the city clean as well as the Solid Waste Management Corporation, who are charged with the responsibility of collecting and disposable of the garbage island wide. Although we have these two entities who are responsible for ensuring that the Capital, Roseau remains clean and green, our sense of pride in country should be the guiding force in curbing the problem of littering which we face.It starts with practicing to place personal garbage in public trash cans, installed around the city. This will begin to resolve the prevalent eyesore on our streets. I would like to take this opportunity to implore with Residents and Business Owners to place garbage out at designated drop off sites at the stipulated times. It is amazing how such a simple gesture will help in transforming our beloved Dominica. We should work together to set an example to our fellow man and our children, in an effort to attract more visitors. We should make this part of the everyday. Pride in self, and pride in country should come naturally.The recent Brea report highlights that much is to be done about the cleanliness of the city and our beautiful country. Therefore it is imperative that all Dominicans adhere to the commitment to eradicate litter from our streets. There are laws in place for imposing fines on persons who litter; this measure of fining will be employed if persons insist on not adhering to the rules. Currently the vessel Celebrity summit is stationed on our shores, after which we expect the Free winds on the 1st and the 2nd and Britannia on the 4th. These visits come during the peak period of our independence celebrations. At this time we have a lot of rich culture to offer. Let us present to the tourist the beauty of our culture. I must commend the various stakeholders on their efforts to date; however, we expect only the best in customer service. Let us aim to meet and exceed our customers’ experience at every occasion. A smile, a warm greeting or friendly conversation all goes a long way. I am kindly urging every Dominican to make tourism your business. Let us work together to present a tourism product that is unsurpassed in our niche. Let each one of us as Dominicans, help make the tourism experience an exceptional one”. Sharing is caring! 118 Views   one comment Sharecenter_img Share Share Tweetlast_img read more

Orioles eyeing more with trade deadline approaching?

first_img(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)Already more active than most contending clubs with the non-waiver trade deadline just a few days away, the Orioles reportedly may not be finished dealing.The additions of pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez have helped bolster their starting rotation and bullpen respectively, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette could be eyeing even bigger names, according to several media reports. The Orioles are looking to add a front-end starting pitcher and are among the teams interested in White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.The 32-year-old Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 earned run average in 13 starts this season and has a $13.5 million salaries in 2013 and 2014 and has a player option of $15 million for the 2015 season.Other pitchers who are candidates to be traded include Houston’s Bud Norris — a starter the Orioles will see on Tuesday — and Kansas City’s Ervin Santana, but Heyman also discussed the possibility of Phillies starter Cliff Lee being dealt. However, Lee is making $25 million in 2013 and the two seasons that follow and a $27.5 million vesting option for the 2016 season, making it virtually impossible to think a team like the Orioles would have any real interest.Lee would provide the most dramatic upgrade to any rotation as he is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 20 starts this year, but it remains unclear whether the Phillies will actually trade him for the right offer.The Orioles may also be in the market for another bat as Twins designated hitter Justin Morneau has been discussed as a possible acquisition, according to The Sun. The 2006 American League MVP is 32 and will see his contract expire at the end of the season, meaning the Orioles would only be on the hook for roughly $5 million or so of his $14 million salary in 2013.Morneau is hitting .267 with eight home runs and 53 runs batted in this season.Other DH options who could be potentially available include Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, and even the currently-injured Michael Morse of Seattle. ESPN’s Buster Olney has also mentioned San Diego outfielder Carlos Quentin as a possibility, but he is owed a combined $17.5 million in 2014 and 2015 and has a long history of difficulty staying on the field due to injuries.While the Orioles could stand to upgrade the DH spot that’s been an albatross all season and add a starting pitcher as Jason Hammel once again struggled on Sunday, it’s difficult to envision Duquette gaining the clearance from owner Peter Angelos to add much more payroll to what’s already an estimated $92 million club.In addition to the money, the Orioles just traded infield prospect Nick Delmonico — not a can’t-miss talent, mind you — for Rodriguez and have given no indication that they’re willing to deal the likes of pitcher Kevin Gausman or infielder Jonathan Schoop in order to acquire premium — and expensive — talent. The commodities to acquire top talent just aren’t there unless the Orioles want to completely strip a farm system they’re trying to build through the draft and international scouting.The lineup has struggled of late, but the Orioles entered Sunday ranked third in the majors in runs scored, fourth in batting average, and first in home runs. Paying the price in both prospects and money for a decent lineup upgrade in Morneau wouldn’t seem to be the best use of resources if it’s possible to find an improvement for the starting rotation as Hammel has struggled all season after taking the ball for manager Buck Showalter on Opening Day.Of course, none of these reports mean the Orioles will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal, but the names being tossed around certainly don’t seem to fit with the Orioles’ philosophy and payroll in recent years.last_img read more