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விவசாயி விக்

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  1. நன்றி அண்ணா வணக்கம் பெருமாள், விழித்துகொண்டே இறந்தேன் : தவளை கல்லும் சிவப்பு நிலாவும் என்ற தலைப்பில் எழுதி வருகிறேன். எமது நவீன கண்களை திறக்க வைக்கும் முயற்சி பாகம் இரண்டு.
  2. வணக்கம், நான் அய்யா என்று அழைத்து மரியாதை தரும் அளவு வளராத காக்கொத்து உங்களது கருத்தை படித்த போது "விடயம்" தெரிந்தவர் என்று தெரிந்திருந்தது. உங்கள் கேள்விகளையும் கடந்த ஒரு வருடமாக அசை போட்டேன். இந்த கதையின் பாகம் இரண்டை இந்த நவம்பர் வெளியிடுகிறேன். அதில் உங்கள் கேள்விகளுக்கான பதில்கள் உண்டு. நீங்கள் கூறும் சுப்பர் கொன்சியஸ் என்பது ஸ்கிட்ஸோ வருத்தம் உள்ளவர்களுக்கு கிட்ட கொண்டுவந்துவிடும். நாம் நிசம் என்பது மாயை. நிசத்தை பார்ப்பது, உணர்வது எல்லோராலும் முடியாது. பயந்து விடுவார்கள். பயம் இல்லாதவர் ஞானி. அந்த நிலையில் எம்மை சுற்றி எவ்வளவு சக்தி இருக்கிறது என்று தெரியும். அதிலும் பார்க்க ஒவ்வொருவரும் எவ்வளவு சக்தி வாய்ந்தவர்கள் என்று தெரியும். அப்போது ஒருவரை சுற்றிஇருக்கும் சக்தி வளையம் தெரியும். சாது பார்வையால் மட்டுமில்லாது தன்னை சுற்றி சேர்த்து வைத்த சக்தியையும் வைத்து உங்கள் நண்பருக்கு அனுபவத்தை வழங்கியிருக்கிறார்.
  3. வணக்கம் விவசாயி உங்களை தற்சமயம் யாழில் காணமுடிவதில்லை, நலமாக இருக்கின்றீர்களா

  4. Farmer Suicides in Rainfed Areas of India Correlate with Genetically Modified Bt Cotton Adoption: Study New study deconstructs hype around GM Bt cotton; shows widespread problems with the technology An important new paper by respected researchers deconstructs the false hype around Bt insecticidal cotton in India. The study shows that: * Bt cotton, introduced in 2002 to control bollworm and other pests, is grown on more than 90% of the cotton area * By 2013 insecticide use was high – back to 2000 levels (before the introduction of Bt cotton) * Yields have plateaued nationally, and farmer suicides have increased in some areas * Pink bollworm causes damage in irrigated cotton, but not in rainfed cotton unless infested from irrigated fields. Therefore use of Bt cotton seed and insecticide in rainfed cotton is questionable * Bt cotton may be economic in irrigated cotton, whereas costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton * Inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills * Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs) * High-density short-season non-GM cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton * Policy makers need to conduct a holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development. The lead researcher on the study, Andrew Paul Gutierrez, is a professor at UC Berkeley and an expert in agroecological systems as well as GM crops. Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Luigi Ponti, Hans R Herren, Johann Baumgärtner and Peter E Kenmore Abstract Background: Cotton with coevolving pests has been grown in India more than 5000 years. Hybrid cotton was introduced in the 1970s with increases in fertilizer and in insecticide use against pink bollworm that caused outbreaks of bollworm. Hybrid Bt cotton, introduced in 2002 to control bollworm and other lepidopteran pests, is grown on more than 90% of the cotton area. Despite initial declines, year 2013 insecticide use is at 2000 levels, yields plateaued nationally, and farmer suicides increased in some areas. Biological modeling of the pre-1970s cotton/pink bollworm system was used to examine the need for Bt cotton, conditions for its economic viability, and linkage to farmer suicides. Results: Yields in rainfed cotton depend on timing, distribution, and quantity of monsoon rains. Pink bollworm causes damage in irrigated cotton, but not in rainfed cotton unless infested from irrigated fields. Use of Bt cotton seed and insecticide in rainfed cotton is questionable. Conclusions: Bt cotton may be economic in irrigated cotton, whereas costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton. Inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills. Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs). High-density short-season cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton. Policy makers need holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development. http://www.globalresearch.ca/farmer-suicides-in-rainfed-areas-of-india-correlate-with-genetically-modified-bt-cotton-adoption-study/5457355
  5. Former Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister Granted Bail Basil Rajapaksa, shown in this 2012 photo, is accused of misappropriating billions of Sri Lankan rupees from a government-subsidized housing program. By Uditha Jayasinghe June 15, 2015 11:00 a.m. ET COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—Sri Lanka’s former minister for economic development, Basil Rajapaksa, was granted bail Monday after spending seven weeks in custody as part of sweeping antigraft investigations by the South Asian nation’s new government. Basil Rajapaksa, the youngest brother of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is accused of misappropriating billions of Sri Lankan rupees from a government-subsidized housing program. Basil Rajapaksa denies the charges. Basil Rajapaksa was appointed by his brother during the former president’s nine-year rule of Sri Lanka, which ended in January when he was ousted by Maithripala Sirisena in a surprise election defeat. Despite crushing a long-running separatist Tamil insurgency in 2009, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government lost support after it worked to end presidential term limits and accusations of corruption emerged. Since coming to power on a ticket of investigating allegations of corruption, Sri Lanka’s new government has appointed new investigative bodies, including the Financial Crimes Investigation Department, which is handling charges against the former president, his wife, sons and brothers. A separate body, the Bribery and Corruption Commission, has said it has received more than 300 complaints of embezzlement against the Rajapaksas, as well as other officials of the former government and the new government. A third presidential commission has delayed work on 600 other complaints against former officials of the Rajapaksa government and others because it is short of investigators. Basil Rajapaksa, a U.S. citizen, left Sri Lanka for California three days after his brother’s election defeat but returned in April to face several charges, including allegedly misusing funds in his ministry and diverting money to fund his brother’s re-election campaign and financial collusion in development programs carried out by his former ministry. “Justice has finally been given a chance. Mr. Rajapaksa has not personally benefited from public money. It was clearly a problem with the way funds were handed out,” Basil Rajapaksa’s lawyer, U.R. de Silva, said. Basil Rajapaksa oversaw large-scale rebuilding in the north and eastern regions that were at the center of Sri Lanka’s 27-year civil war. Three other officials who served under him were also arrested. They deny the charges and were also granted bail Monday. A second brother of the former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was defense secretary, is under investigation over his role in a $10 million purchase of four MiG 27 jets from the Ukrainian government in 2006. He is also being investigated over allegations he exploited legal gray areas in Sri Lanka’s arms-import legislation to form a private company to provide piracy-combat services to international corporations. The former defense secretary, also a U.S. citizen and one of the most powerful officials in his brother’s administration, slammed the probe as a “puerile attempt…to sully my integrity.” Gotabaya Rajapaksa is also accused of abductions that human-rights groups say were aimed at silencing detractors. Gotabaya Rajapaksa denies involvement in the abductions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his tour of the country in early May offered to help recover assets, which Mr. Sirisena says will be brought back to Sri Lanka for public investment. Rajapaksa supporters, including parliamentarians, have called the investigations a politically motivated “witch hunt,” a charge denied by government officials. Despite government allegations, the former president remains popular. Protests have been held against the summons of Rajapaksa family members and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s eldest son led a sit-in in Parliament, refusing to leave until officials rescinded a summons to question the former president. Mahinda Rajapaksa is considering a possible return to power as prime minister by running in parliamentary elections expected later this year. “Sirisena’s mandate was given to clean up corruption. But now the government has to ensure due process and communicate its steps clearly to the public to avert voter disappointment,” Bhavani Fonseka, a senior researcher at Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the government will persist. “As a government that respects the rule of law we cannot just throw them (Rajapaksas’) in jail. The process will take time but we will do it. We are not afraid.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/former-sri-lankan-economic-development-minister-granted-bail-1434380440
  6. Romesh Ranganathan headed for Sri Lanka to discover his roots in new TV show Monday, June 15, 2015 - 01:03 PM Comedian Romesh Ranganathan is being sent packing by his mum – to Sri Lanka, where she wants him to get in touch with his roots. The Mock The Week star was born and bred in Crawley and freely admits to having no idea about his cultural heritage, not being able to speak a word of Tamil, and having no real desire to visit Sri Lanka where his family are from. He says he has been embarrassed about his lack of knowledge but has felt no drive to do anything about it – until now, when his mum has arranged for his cultural education to begin thanks to BBC Three series Romesh’s Return Ticket. Romesh said: “I am both excited and nervous to be exploring the country of my heritage. My mum has long been frustrated with my lack of cultural understanding, and I am looking forward to her finally telling me that she loves me.” The series, due to air later in the year, will see each of the six episodes revolve around one of Romesh’s Sri Lankan relatives or friends, who will take him to must-see sights and school him in important cultural issues while he visits the country. Commissioning editor for BBC Entertainment Ed Sleeman said: “We are delighted to commission Romesh to front this show where the audience is really going to get to know one of the finest comedians in Britain. Across the series, we will watch the man from Crawley explore his heritage in Sri Lanka… whether he likes it or not. I can’t wait to see what happens!” http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/entertainment/romesh-ranganathan-headed-for-sri-lanka-to-discover-his-roots-in-new-tv-show-682084.html
  7. Ontario restricts use of pesticides blamed for decline of bee populations The Ontario government has unveiled North America’s first agricultural restrictions on a widely used class of pesticides blamed for the decline in bees and other pollinators. The controversial regulations aimed at reducing the use of neonicotinoid insecticides made by Bayer AG and Syngenta AG by 80 per cent within two years goes into effect on July 1. The rules, which are intended to improve the health of insects responsible for pollinating about $900-million worth of crops, require that farmers who use neonic-treated seeds to grow corn and soybeans show they have insect problems, and that seed vendors be licensed. The province said on Tuesday it wants to reduce the overwintering death rate of honey bees to 15 per cent from an average of 34 per cent by controlling the planting of seeds treated with the three most commonly used neonicotinoids. Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, said the rules are “highly workable” and address farmers’ concerns while reducing damage from neurotoxic pesticides that are persisting in streams and soil and affecting everything from birds and bees to butterflies and aquatic life. Vendors of other pesticides require licences, and the new Ontario rules simply add neonics to that regime, he noted. Sponsor Content Will factories of the future need human workers? Establishing, administering and enforcing the licensing and planting system will cost $3-million to $4-million a year, said Mr. Murray, conceding there is little to prevent anyone from purchasing the treated seeds in the United States. “We know [farmers] to be honest people,” he said in an interview. “A certain amount of this works on a trust system, frankly.” Neonics, as they are called, are used by Ontario farmers on almost all corn for grain and about 60 per cent of soybeans. They are applied to the seeds before planting and are designed to protect the crop as it grows from a range of insects and worms. Growers and the chemical companies that sell the seeds say they are safe if used properly, and are less harmful to people than the types of pesticides neonics have replaced over the past decade. Pierre Petelle, a spokesman for CropLife Canada, which speaks for the pesticide makers, said the restrictions “lack scientific foundation” and will spur the companies to invest in countries that have been more willing to listen and collaborate. “The uncertainty created here will certainly have an impact on new technologies being brought to Canada,” Mr. Petelle said in an interview. “We fully expect that innovation pipeline is going to be affected.” Mr. Petelle did not have neonic-treated seeds sales figures for Ontario, which grows most of Canada’s corn, but said the Canadian market is about 2 per cent of North America’s. The Grain Farmers of Ontario did not respond to an interview request. The most popular varieties of neonics are nearing the end of a two-year ban in Europe and are being reviewed by Health Canada. The U.S. government has halted approval of new uses for neonics, and recently released a report showing the pesticide offered no improvement in crop size for soybean growers. There is a long list of studies linking neonics to honey bee deaths. Chronic exposure through pollen and water has also been shown to limit bees’ abilities to forage and navigate, and makes them less able to withstand virus-bearing mites, long winters and habitat loss. “To have a significant impact on improving pollinator health, over the coming months, we collectively need to focus on three additional contributors: habitat and nutrition, disease and pests as well as weather and climate change,” said Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The regulations, first reported by The Globe and Mail last summer, are opposed by the large seed sellers and some farm organizations. In the battle for public opinion, they have bought ads in newspapers and launched a campaign called Bees Matter that describes the life of a honey bee and the many factors that affect its health. Greg Sekulic, a spokesman for Bees Matter and an agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada, said in a recent interview honey bees are thriving, pointing to the rising number of managed hives. “We’ve got a very very mutually beneficial relationship with bees and beekeepers and we want to make sure that continues,” Mr. Sekulic said. According to Statistics Canada, the number of honey bee hives rose by 38 per cent between 1994 and 2014. During the same period, honey production rose by 8 per cent, a gap beekeepers and a scientist at University of Guelph say is due to the methods used to combat the ill effects of pesticides and viruses – splitting sick hives. According to the rules released on Tuesday: For the 2016 growing season, farmers can use neonic-treated seeds to grow 50 per cent of their corn and soybeans. To exceed the 50 per cent, they must submit a pest assessment to their seed seller. For the 2017 season, farmers cannot use any neonics unless they show they have an insect problem, sign a declaration and take a pest management course. Neonic-treated seed sellers must obtain a licence beginning August, 2015, submit annual sales reports to the province and ensure farmers meet the requirements to use treated seeds. “Assuming Ontario hits its target of an 80-per-cent reduction by 2017, this will be the most important pollinator-protection policy on the continent – and a major contributor to food security,” said Gideon Forman of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, a group that has campaigned against the blanket use of neonics. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ontario-unveils-first-restrictions-on-class-of-pesticides/article24874268/?service=mobile
  8. Could psychedelic drugs make smokers quit? BBC Nicotine patches, chewing gum, cold turkey. Giving up cigarettes can be tough, but there are many strategies smokers can try. Matthew Johnson wants to add another: he says he can help smokers quit by giving them another drug – psilocybin – that has been illegal for years in much of Europe and North America. And yes, he realises that sounds unconventional. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150615-could-psychedelic-drugs-make-smokers-quit
  9. Could psychedelic drugs make smokers quit? Nicotine patches, chewing gum, cold turkey. Giving up cigarettes can be tough, but there are many strategies smokers can try. Matthew Johnson wants to add another: he says he can help smokers quit by giving them another drug – psilocybin – that has been illegal for years in much of Europe and North America. And yes, he realises that sounds unconventional. “The idea that this research sounds counterintuitive, it makes sense to me,” he tells me as we sit in his office at Johns Hopkins’ Behavioural Pharmacology Research Unit in Baltimore. It's been off limits for all the wrong reasons – Matthew Johnson, pharmacologist Johnson is a behavioural pharmacologist who has been researching the relationship between drugs, the brain, and human behaviour for more than 20 years. The last 10 of those have been spent here at Johns Hopkins, where he and his team have focused on psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic and the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’. Illegal it might be, but if psilocybin is given to smokers a few times in a carefully controlled way, it can be a remarkably effective aid to help them kick the habit, he says. “Most people will naturally assume that we're looking at substitution therapy in the spirit of methadone for heroin addiction or nicotine patch or nicotine gum to replace smoking. [but] we're not talking about putting someone on psilocybin or mushrooms every day. It's not trading one addiction for the other.” This new research has been inspired by work done in the 1950s and 60s that looked at using psilocybin and LSD as treatments for addiction. Although results back then were hugely promising, the research hit a dead end as use of these substances spread from labs and into the emerging drug counter-culture. The drugs were criminalised, and clinical research became impossible to conduct. “It's been off limits for all the wrong reasons,” Johnson explains. “We know [these substances] continue to be used, and because of not wanting to encourage uncontrolled recreational use, we've been so restrictive that we haven't allowed research. We're really playing a catch-up game. This stuff should've been done in the mid 70s…the whole research agenda was just put in deep freeze for multiple decades.” In 2008 Johnson co-authored a paper entitled 'Human hallucinogen research: guidelines for safety’, which outlined how to responsibly conduct medical trials with psilocybin and other hallucinogens. It included recommendations on how to screen potential volunteers, prepare them for the experience, and how to conduct the drug-taking sessions safely. The paper signalled a change in attitude towards researching these compounds, reflected by the fact that more than 460 psilocybin sessions have now been conducted at Johns Hopkins alone, ranging from investigating its use by cancer patients through to its effects on meditation. But it’s the Smoking Cessation programme, which has just finished its pilot stage, that has attracted the most recent attention. It begins with a mantra... The programme seems deceptively simple at first. Fifteen volunteers, all long time smokers from the Baltimore area who have tried and failed to quit smoking multiple times, start with a course of cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT is the standard psychological approach to quitting smoking, encouraging subjects to reflect on their established thinking patterns. A vital part of the Hopkins programme’s CBT approach is the writing and reciting of a personal mantra; a simple phrase that each volunteer creates that encapsulates why they want to quit. “This is really our mission statement. If you had one sentence that you could remind yourself down the road why you quit. We’ve had some people for whom it’s about family: ‘I want to be there for my granddaughter.’ For other people, it's more philosophical, ‘The air that I breathe. I want it to be free.’” (Credit: Thinkstock) The therapy begins with simple cognitive behavioural therapy, but then gets more unusual (Credit: Thinkstock) This mantra becomes even more central on the day they take their first psilocybin. After four sessions of CBT, the volunteers smoke what is meant to be their last cigarette. For some this is the night before, for others it’s literally just before the session. “We've had people smoke in the parking lot right before they come in here,” Johnson tells me. Then, it’s time for the drug. Albert Garcia-Romeu, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, who ‘guides’ the volunteers through the CBT and the psilocybin sessions, describes how it works: “We have them self-administer the capsule. We take their cell phone. We take their shoes. We give them some slippers. We want them to relax into the day and feel almost like they're in a spa. They don't have to go to work. They don't have to do their normal day-to-day thing.” “We practice before. Give them our hand so that they have the support if they need it,” explains Mary Cosimano, another of the guides who has been working in the field for more than 15 years. “We tell them, ‘We're here for you as much as you like’.” “Once the drug effect starts to kick in, we encourage them just to lie down,” continues Garcia-Romeu. “They put on headphones. They cover their eyes. We have them just lay back and watch and wait.” We usually discourage them from getting too chatty From this point, the researchers step back. “What we do here is psychedelic therapy,” explains Garcia-Romeu. “That's high-dose. That's generally not a talking therapy. We usually discourage them from getting too chatty because it can be really easy to get absorbed in the interesting sensory things that are going on. We try to encourage them to go inward and that's really where a lot of the important work happens. I'm mostly just there as a safety-monitor.” (Credit: Thinkstock) Participants are encouraged to have internal experiences, rather than talk to their guides (Credit: Thinkstock) The aim, the team explains to me, is to give the volunteers a ‘profound’ or ‘mystical’ experience that causes them to reassess their relationship with smoking. That might sound like exactly the kind of New Age drug talk that made people take this kind of research less than seriously in the past, but Garcia-Romeu explains it to me in a way that sounds much more grounded. “[Research shows there’s a] 71% success rate for people who quit smoking just after they had a heart attack,” he explains. A heart attack would certainly qualify as a profound experience, but it’s not something you can go around triggering in people in order to stop them from smoking. Instead the aim is to use a powerful psychedelic trip to trigger a similar effect… an intense, abstract experience that changes the patient’s perspective. It’s this that the team refer to as a ‘mystical experience’.” This experience might range from images of God, to powerful personal memories about their own life or childhood, he explains. The person is made to feel as safe as possible The secret to triggering this kind of experience is setting and context, Johnson explains. “Our clinical impression is that those experiences are most likely to happen under conditions where the person is made to feel as safe as possible, that they've developed a very strong rapport with the people that they're with.” Also, the team has found that making the act of taking the drug a ritual seems to help. The drug is the same as found in magic mushrooms, but they are not administered this way (Credit: Thinkstock) “We ask them to bring pictures of themselves over the years, family, people, places, and things. We've had people who have filled the room with pictures,” explains Cosimano. “Things that could be important to them, objects. People have set up altars. People bring stuffed animals or a blanket. Things that can make them feel comfortable, safe, cosy, meaningful.” To enhance the feeling of ritual, the researchers also put the capsule in a wooden goblet with incense, and ask participants to repeat the mantra they developed during the cognitive behaviour therapy. Garcia-Romeu and Cosimano show me the session room, the place where these rituals take place. It’s pretty much exactly as they’d described it to me – a small, cosy room, softly lit with a comfortable couch. They let me sit on it, and hand me the wooden goblet used by their volunteers. Books on Michelangelo and Van Gogh are scattered around. There’s an undeniable feeling of safety and comfort in the almost womb-like room, where volunteers spend up to six hours until the drug’s effects have worn off, after which they are taken home by a member of their family. (Credit: Thinkstock) Though the trial was small, the majority of smokers quit after taking the drug (Credit: Thinkstock) Talking to the team is fascinating – they’re all incredibly friendly, resolutely professional, and clearly passionate about their work – but it’s still hard for me not to shrug off the feeling that the work seems counterintuitive. Perhaps it’s my own prejudices about these drugs, but I remain sceptical. Still, the trial program – small though it is – has produced tantalising results. Out of the 15 people, 12 were still smoke-free six months following the trials, according to the researchers. “We think and hope that there is something new going on here,” says Johnson. “We've had people in this study, a couple of which claimed extraordinary things, like that they don't feel nicotine withdrawal and they've been smoking for pack a day for 40 years. Just seeing that in one person is pretty profound.” I push him a little more on why he thinks psilocybin in particular might work in this way: is it purely just a psychological effect, or does he think the drug itself is affecting the brain’s chemistry? “We can best understand it at this point from a psychological perspective,” he replies. “This isn't a drug that, in a simple way, affects the brain’s nicotine receptors. Does this drug under the right conditions eventually change the way that the brain itself is interacting with its own nicotine receptors? That's something that very well could be happening. We don't know.” Johnson is not the only person looking at psychedelic therapies. Anthony Bossis is part of a team at New York University conducting similar trials into using psilocybin to combat anxiety in cancer patients. He’s impressed by Johnson’s preliminary results. “These therapeutic approaches certainly warrant additional and careful scientific study.” The key is to give the smokers a 'mystical' experience (Credit: Thinkstock) The key is to give the smokers a 'mystical' experience (Credit: Thinkstock) And that’s what Johnson and his team are focused on now, the next round of studies. The study sample has been expanded to 80, and volunteers will undergo MRI brain scans before and after the sessions so the team can get a better idea of what neurological effect the psilocybin is having on smoking, if any. There are clearly still years of work to be done, but Johnson is positive, and believes it could be used to treat a variety of psychological and behavioural conditions, not just addictions. There are many hurdles to overcome before treatments become widespread There are, of course, other hurdles that would need to be passed before these treatments become widespread. The main issue is working out who would develop these compounds commercially, says Thomas Insel, director of the US government’s National Institute of Mental Health. The pharmaceutical industry usually takes the lead in that sort of work, he says, but they generally have less interest in developing drugs for brain disorders. “That said, a version of ketamine — which also was a drug of abuse – is being developed by Johnson and Johnson as an antidepressant.” And then there are legal questions too. “These drugs are being used in the context of psychotherapy, and we don’t have a clear regulatory framework for [that yet],” says Insel. These drugs are clearly a long way from becoming widely available in medicine. “But that’s not a reason to avoid [developing the therapies],” he says. Ultimately, the early success of these small trials might not be repeated on larger scales. Yet after decades where psychedelic therapy was never investigated at all, scientists like Johnson and his team are now at least trying to dig deeper into the unexpected effects of this notorious drug. Follow us on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Disclaimer All content within this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150615-could-psychedelic-drugs-make-smokers-quit
  10. Can reconciliation heal Sri Lankan war wounds? PALAI VEEMANKAMAN, Sri Lanka — When Parameswari Uthayakumaran saw her house last month for the first time in 25 years, she stood in the rubble and wept. All her belongings, the doors, even the tiled roof had been stripped away. She had last seen the house in November 1990, when her family fled from Sri Lankan gunships bearing down on her neighborhood, firing from the sky and littering the grass with leaflets telling Tamil families to leave the area. She had time to grab only a bit of sugar and tea. The Sri Lankan army declared the area a high-security zone, and the government only allowed families to return in April, six years after the end of the civil war that claimed more than 80,000 lives. “The moment I saw this I couldn’t control myself,” Uthayakumaran said on a recent hot day, weeping anew. “The whole area had grown up, just like a forest.” Since taking office in January, Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has said that reconciliation in the country’s north and east — rent by nearly three decades of conflict between military forces­ and a violent insurgency of ethnic minority Tamils — is among his administration’s top priorities. Parameswawri Uthayakumaran sits inside the remains of the house she grew up in as many come back to an area that used to be a high security zone. (Paula Bronstein/For The Washington Post) Speaking at an event honoring soldiers last month, Sirisena said that although the damaged buildings and destroyed roads have been rebuilt, there has been no reconciliation process to “rebuild broken hearts and minds.” Sirisena’s government has begun returning land to families whose property is still being used by the military, as well as resettling those remaining in displacement camps or living with relatives — officially about 13,000 families, although civil society activists say the number is higher. He has pledged a domestic inquiry into the wartime behavior of the Sri Lankan military and their opponents, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that fought for years for a separate homeland. Sirisena’s government successfully argued, with the support of the United States, to delay until September the release of a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights report on possible wartime atrocities so it could better cooperate with investigators. And it is setting up an office in the north to help thousands of war widows like Uthayakumaran. But Tamil leaders are not convinced that these efforts will be enough to unify the Tamil and Hindu north and east with the majority Sinhalese Buddhist south. They say that they are concerned that Sirisena’s moves are symbolic and don’t address issues such as the Tamils’ desire for greater autonomy and the withdrawal of troops. “It’s too early,” said Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a law lecturer at the University of Jaffna and a spokesman for the Tamil Civil Society Forum. “Unless you address these issues head-on, you’re not going to see any true progress.” New bricks have patched up the walls of the historic fort in Jaffna, the largest city in the island nation’s north, where the civil conflict was centered. But the darker outlines of the original bombed-out structure remain. In the six years since the Sri Lankan army defeated the rebels on a beach in Mullaitivu 70 miles away, a measure of stability has returned. The “war tourists” who used to arrive by busloads have been shooed out of the railway station, where they once spent the night. The station has a fresh coat of paint and receives the region’s new north-south train, the Queen of Jaffna, which made its inaugural run in the fall on tracks that had been closed since 1990. The country’s previous president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, poured millions into reconstruction and allowed provincial council elections for the first time in years in 2013. But critics say Rajapaksa — an autocrat in power for nearly a decade — did little else to salve the deep wounds. Likely abuses by both sides In 2011, a U.N. panel found likely human rights abuses by both sides in the conflict, particularly in the waning days of the war when an estimated 40,000 civilians died. The Sri Lankan army repeatedly shelled no-fire zones, hospitals and supply lines, while the LTTE used civilians, including children, as human shields and forced them into military ranks, according to the report. The Sirisena government pledged to set up a “domestic mechanism” to investigate these alleged abuses and said it will accept “technical assistance” from the United Nations. But the Tamil minority is skeptical because earlier panels have borne scant fruit and the victims have not been consulted on the process, Guruparan said. Meanwhile, an investigation into the thousands who disappeared during the fighting is continuing. And the government is trying to find ways of helping the large number of war widows — among 31,000 female heads of household in the Jaffna district alone, according to Navaratnam Udhayani, Jaffna’s district coordinator for women. Many of them can’t find suitable jobs to support their families and must deal with cultural norms that frown upon remarriage. Sivapalu Levathiammah, 57, a war widow, lives in a three-room house with a corrugated tin roof in a small village on the outskirts of Jaffna. She has struggled to support her children, pickling seafood since her husband died in the conflict. She is continuing to search for her son Sivanasan, a fisherman she believes was taken by the army in 2009. “I have dreamed my son came to see me, hugged me and asked for rice and curry,” she said. “I have this dream at least two times in a month.” Complicated process The government’s process of returning land has been complicated, with only about 1,000 acres returned so far. That’s a small fraction of the nearly 10,000 acres of private land the government estimates is still in the hands of the military, according to Ranjini Nadarajapillai, the secretary for the country’s Ministry of Resettlement. Activists think this number is higher. The process has been complicated by the fact that the Rajapaksa-era military went on its own building spree after the war’s end, erecting new camps, beachfront hotels and even golf courses for its own use. Since the government permitted Uthayakumaran and her neighbors to return to their homes in April, the neighborhood has taken on a new life. Residents come from far away every day to clear the land of brush. The sound of chain saws rings through the air. The government is supposed to have given these returnees about $280, but so far they say they have received only $100 to clear their own land. Here and there, warning posters containing photos of land mines are placed on fences, including telephone numbers to call if the objects are found. Uthayakumaran said she is hopeful that her neighbors will also return to the once-prosperous community of cement factory workers, teachers and other middle-class residents. “I’m so much happier now that I’ve come to my own house,” she said. Every day, a local Hindu priest comes to do the traditional “puja” blessing at the neighborhood’s small temple, crowning the elephant head god Ganesh statue with flowers, burning incense and chanting ancient mantras. When K. Ganeshamoorthy Sarma, 70, first arrived April 21, the lot was so overgrown it could be reached only by a cattle trail to a nearby pond. He was relieved to see the 350-year-old banyan tree and the worn granite Ganesh still tucked in its massive roots. Now, the returning neighbors come by for his blessing, the first step toward rebuilding their community. The government has promised to provide them water and electricity, he says, “so they feel there is hope.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/can-reconciliation-heal-sri-lankan-war-wounds/2015/06/13/77926772-0ebd-11e5-a0fe-dccfea4653ee_story.html
  11. Sri Lanka PM to face no-confidence motion Sri Lankan Opposition has handed over to the Speaker a no-confidence motion signed by more than 100 lawmakers against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a move likely to hasten the dissolution of the parliament. United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Bandula Gunawardane said the no-confidence motion, seeking to unseat Wickremesinghe, was handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa at his residence last night. Advertisement He said the motion was signed by 112 opposition lawmakers of the 225-member Sri Lankan parliament. The no-confidence motion deals with several matters, including the controversial treasory bond issue, surrounding Wickremesinghe and accuses him and his United National Party (UNP) of political high-handedness. The bond scandal involved Sri Lanka's Central Bank chief's son-in-law's firm. It was alleged that the firm had benefited from inside information on Central Bank's decision to sell 10 billion rupees (USD 76 million) worth of bonds. The issue had rocked the Sri Lankan parliament as the Opposition had demanded a probe. President Maithripala Sirisena appointed Wickremesinghe the minority Prime Minister after he defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election in January. However, Rajapaksa loyalists in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party now led by Sirisena demand that Wickremesinghe be sacked and replaced by a Rajapaksa loyalist. Sirisena, who pledged to dissolve the current parliament by April 23, has held back the decision until he could finish his democratic reform agenda. The motion against Wickremesinghe will be debated at a future date to be decided once it enters the order book in parliament, officials said. http://wap.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/sri-lanka-pm-to-face-no-confidence-motion-115060500833_1.html
  12. The US-Sri Lanka Lovefest Continues – For Now The US-Sri Lanka Lovefest Continues – For Now Richard E. Hoagland, principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, recently spoke at the Washington International Business Council. He began by speaking about Nepal and then moved on to address improved U.S.-India ties. He also spoke about Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Central Asia, U.S. business interests, and the commercial advocacy work undertaken by the U.S. government. This was a pretty standard speech and Hoagland even managed to find a few nice words for China. Regarding U.S.-Sri Lanka relations, Hoagland said the following: Democratic elections have also brought about a sea-change in our relationship with Sri Lanka, a mere 35 miles across the Palk Strait from India’s southeast coast, where the new president has moved the country away from divisive politics and crony capitalism toward a new path of reconciliation and inclusive development. We plan to do a lot to support Sri Lanka’s pursuit of that new path, to strengthen its governance, especially its judicial and financial institutions. This new path will be a boon for the Sri Lankan people, but also for U.S. interests: we can now work together with Sri Lanka to promote good governance and human rights abroad, as well as improve maritime security in the Indian Ocean. The above paragraphs may constitute the most optimistic part of the speech. Indeed, the Obama administration shows no signs of ending its lovefest with Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena. Hoagland’s reference to Washington’s support for Sri Lanka’s judicial and financial institutions deals directly with the range of corruption investigations (for actions which occurred when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power) which are currently underway. To some extent, the possibility of the recently ousted Rajapaksa making a comeback remains the elephant in the room. Sirisena is still having trouble controlling the political party which he leads, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). This is a chaotic time in Sri Lankan politics. The fact that the opposition has just delivered a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe underscores that point. The motion was delivered to Chamal Rajapaksa, the speaker of parliament, on Thursday. There have been reports that Sirisena will dissolve parliament and hold important parliamentary elections in August. Speculation is swirling that Sirisena could dissolve parliament as early as this week. On the other hand, transparency hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of the Sirisena administration and, in theory, the current parliament could run until April 2016. With U.S. government assistance, streamlining corruption investigations would be one way to tarnish Rajapaksa’s brand in the run up to those polls. Sirisena has made it clear that he would not let Rajapaksa run as prime ministerial candidate for the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the political alliance which is led by the SLFP. Nonetheless, many SLFP members would like to see Rajapaksa contest and so there has been some talk that the former president may break away and form a different political force. Sirisena’s performance as president has been decent, although not great. It’s tough to predict how things will play out in the coming months. For now, at least two things are clear. First, that Sirisena needs all the help he can get, especially as it relates to support from within his own party. Second, that no matter what happens, Sirisena is not Rajapaksa. And since that’s the case, it looks like the honeymoon period of renewed U.S -Sri Lanka relations will continue for some time yet, especially if Washington’s continued support undermines a Rajapaksa comeback. *A version of this piece first appeared in The Huffington Post. Taylor Dibbert is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. and the author of Fiesta of Sunset: The Peace Corps, Guatemala and a Search for Truth. Follow him on Twitter @taylordibbert. http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/the-us-sri-lanka-lovefest-continues-for-now/
  13. Sri Lanka holds talks with Tamil diaspora in London Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was also present during the dialogue, the country’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, said. Sri Lanka’s new government has held talks with Tamil diaspora groups in London, discussing at length needs of those displaced during the war against the LTTE. Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera was also present during the dialogue, the country’s main Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance said in a statement on Monday, welcoming the move. “The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) continued their informal dialogue over the last two days in London with various stakeholders to enhance confidence building measures between all communities within and outside Sri Lanka,” the party said. It said the need for constructive engagement by the Sri Lankan diaspora was discussed, including the needs of displaced people. It was agreed that a further meeting will be called to present the requirements to the Colombo-based diplomatic community with the aim of raising funds for housing of over 2,000 families. “The release of prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in the light of the review by the Ministry of Justice was also discussed. The TNA and the GTF further raised the issue of listing of diaspora organisations and individuals by the previous government. “Ideas of ways in which the Sri Lankan diaspora could assist by bringing its exceptional capacity and capabilities were explored,” the release added. Both the government and the diaspora groups had earlier denied speculation that talks in London were aimed at discussing the U.N. Human Rights Council action on Sri Lanka. The rights body is due to present its report on the international investigation into alleged war crimes blamed on both government troops and the LTTE during the nearly three decade-long war. The previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa had designated some 424 individuals and 15 Tamil diaspora organisations as terrorists and terror groups, respectively, in 2014. The new government has pledged to review the list in the light of some goodwill measures taken to address Tamil grievances. http://m.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lanka-holds-talks-with-tamil-diaspora-in-london/article7295059.ece/
  14. Asylum seekers should not be sent back to Sri Lanka yet, say religious leaders Sri Lankan religious leaders say it is too early to send asylum seekers back to the country, despite the recent change of government. “My general view of the countries holding asylum seekers: please do not send them back immediately,” says Catholic priest and lawyer Fr Veerasan Yogeswaran. “There are positive developments. But at the same time these are not signs that everything is good and everything is democratic now.” Last month, Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection, Peter Dutton, visited Sri Lanka for the first time since the Rajapaksa regime was defeated in January’s presidential elections. “Australia and Sri Lanka have and will continue to work closely together to detect, disrupt and return people-smuggling ventures and combat other transnational crimes,” Dutton said. Both Labor and Coalition governments had built strong ties with the Rajapaksa regime, in large part to stop Sri Lankans seeking to come to Australia by boat. Refugee and human rights activists argued that it was unsafe to return Sri Lankan asylum seekers to a country that, even after the end of the bitter civil war in 2009, remained under the strong-arm rule of President Rajapaksa and his family. Despite serious human rights concerns successive Australian governments enthusiastically returned Sri Lankan asylum seekers. There is evidence that in doing so Australia has breached its international obligations not to return refugees to situations in which they may be persecuted. Shortly after coming to power, Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said Australia was successful in getting agreement from the Rajapaksa regime to return asylum seekers to Sri Lanka because it remained silent on human rights abuses. Yogeswaran, speaking in the eastern city of Trincomalee where he runs the Centre for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, said the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remains unresolved and uncertain. “The minority communities are of the opinion still that we do not feel safety and security in this island. And that is one of the reasons that they are also fleeing. There may not be abductions but there can be constant harassment and intimidations,” he said. On the other side of the island, in Mannar, Bishop Rayappu Joseph agreed. He said the country’s criminal investigation department remained an unwelcome presence in many communities “Even now, the people are living in fear,” he said. Both Joseph and Yogeswaran said the ongoing military presence remains a significant cause of insecurity for minority communities. “That’s why the north and east are calling to demilitarise these areas,” Yogeswaran said. “Remove excessive army camps and remove army or armed forces’ influence over the civilian life. The government is still not addressing these issues. The government says we will not move any military settlements or military camps. And they are increasing it again, here and there. All that shows that we are living in an occupied land under intimidation and threat and therefore the people feel insecure and security is threatened. So they are not leading a normal life as the other Sri Lankans [are].” Instead of returning asylum seekers, the religious leaders said Australia should focus on engaging with Sri Lanka on the problem of how its minority communities can live peacefully as part of the Sri Lankan nation. The best way for Australia and other countries to stop people from Sri Lanka leaving on boats, according to Joseph, is “to involve themselves in the political formation of this country and create a situation where the people feel that they are wanted and that they are equal citizens of this country and that they can rule and develop themselves as a nation. “Those countries must be involving themselves to get the Sri Lankan government solving this issue – a hundred year problem – the political rights of the Tamil people. This is a multinational, multiracial, multilinguistic, multicultural, multireligious country. They must accept that fundamentally in the constitution, this is the political reality of the country.” Dutton has said Australia supported the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. “The Sri Lankan government’s commitment to advancing democratic reforms, improving human rights and pursuing reconciliation is fundamental for Sri Lanka’s long-term stability and prosperity,” he said. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jun/08/asylum-seekers-should-not-be-sent-back-to-sri-lanka-yet-say-religious-leaders