Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition

Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition
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Boodsabann Chanthawong works with her husband at her stall near her house, days after she ended her novice monkhood, at the Songdhammakalyani monastery, in Bangkok, Thailand, December 16, 2018. (REUTERS)
Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition
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A Thai woman devotee who ended her novice monkhood has her head cleaned by Dhammananda Bhikkhuni (R), 74, abbess at the Songdhammakalyani monastery, Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, December 14, 2018. (REUTERS)
Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition
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Thai women devotees wearing white robes return saffron robes after ending their novice monkhood at the Songdhammakalyani monastery, Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, December 14, 2018. (REUTERS)
Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition
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A devotee has her hair cut by a female buddhist monk during a mass female Buddhist novice monk ordination ceremony at the Songdhammakalyani monastery, Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, December 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 January 2019

Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition

Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition
  • There are about 270 female monks across Thailand and they were all ordained abroad, Dhammananda said, adding that her monastery houses seven of them

NAKHON PATHOM, Thailand: Boodsabann Chanthawong recently joined a growing number of women defying generations of Thai Buddhist tradition by becoming ordained as novice monks at an unrecognized all-female monastery outside Bangkok.
Leading a procession of 21 other women — from teenagers to senior citizens — to a chapel in the Songdhammakalyani monastery in Nakhon Pathom province, Boodsabann teared up as she prepared to exchange her white garments for the distinctive saffron robes otherwise seen almost exclusively on male monks.
“I’m going to overcome this obstacle and become ordained like I’ve always wanted,” the 49-year-old businesswoman said before the ceremony on Dec. 5, where she would have her head shaved. She stayed for nine days at the temple.

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Officially, only men can become monks and novices in Thailand under a Buddhist order that since 1928 has forbidden the ordination of women. The country does not recognize female monks or novices.
One option for devout Thai women is to become white-clad Buddhist nuns, who follow a less-strict religious regimen than monks and are often relegated to housekeeping tasks in temples.
In recent years, more Thai Buddhist women seeking to become full-fledged “bhikkunis,” or female monks, have been defying the tradition by pursuing the other option: getting ordained overseas, usually in Sri Lanka or India.
Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, the 74-year-old abbess of the Songdhammakalyani monastery, flew to Sri Lanka to be ordained in 2001 as Thailand’s first female monk.
Since then, she has helped women like Boodsabann join the Buddhist order as novices at the monastery’s ordination ceremonies every April and December.
“It’s been 90 years and the social context has changed, but they still don’t accept us,” Dhammananda told Reuters in an interview at the temple’s library, where an entire shelf is dedicated to books about women’s rights and role in religion.
“It’s a shame that women aren’t allowed to make decisions for their own lives. You have to rebel against injustice because this is not right,” she added.
While Dhammananda’s monastery ordains female novices, it cannot do the same for those seeking to become female monks. Such a ceremony would require not only 10 female monks but also 10 male monks, who are forbidden under Thailand’s 1928 order to participate in it.
There are about 270 female monks across Thailand and they were all ordained abroad, Dhammananda said, adding that her monastery houses seven of them. In contrast, Thailand has more than 250,000 male monks.
Efforts in the past by advocates to undo the 1928 order have been futile. It has been officially upheld during meetings of the Sangha Supreme Council, the council of top monks, in 2002 and most recently in 2014.
The government says this is not gender discrimination but a matter of long-held tradition, and women are free to travel abroad to be ordained, just not in their own country.
“Women can’t be ordained here, but no one stops them from doing that overseas. They just can’t be ordained by Thai monks, that’s all,” said Narong Songarom, spokesman of the National Office of Buddhism.


Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
Updated 7 min 27 sec ago

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
  • Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone
  • Former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many

BEIRUT: Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now owns a smartphone for the first time in 12 years, Israeli media reported on Monday.
Unseated as premier in early June, Israel Today said Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone across the country, highlighting that “today he is proud of the smartphone he has.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in cobbling together a government in the aftermath of Israel’s fourth consecutive election in two years.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister until Bennett’s government was sworn in last week, has yet to move out of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
The former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many except for a select few, the newspaper said.
Mentioning the issue of owning smartphones in 2014, Netanyahu was reportedly overheard exclaiming to his entourage prior to filming and interview with an American TV channel: “I do not understand the new world where everybody wants to click photos! When do you live?”
Reporters cited him as saying “everybody takes pictures, that is all what they do! Don’t take pictures, live your life! I lived mine without taking photos. I am the only person, who doesn’t have electronic devices. I am a free man and you are all slaves to your devices.”
According to the newspaper, a friend of Netanyahu claimed that the last time he owned a personal phone was in 2009.
Despite the fact that he has not used a smartphone for more than a decade, he remains one of the most followed people on social media, with over 2 million followers on Twitter and over 2.6 million followers on Facebook.


UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
Updated 20 June 2021

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
  • Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd
  • She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, after it finished a close second

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II was smiling broadly as she attended the final day of the Ascot races on Saturday, where environmental protesters urged the monarch to press politicians to act faster against climate change.
The 95-year-old queen, a keen racing fan and racehorse owner, has attended Ascot almost every year of her seven-decade reign. She was absent last year, when the event was held without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Her return came two months after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, at 99.


Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd as she arrived to cheer on four horses she owns that were racing on Saturday. She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, Reach for the Moon, after it finished a close second.
The annual racing meeting west of London is a heady mix of horses, extravagant headwear, fancy dress, champagne and strawberries with cream.
Protesters from environmental group Extinction Rebellion unfurled a banner reading “Racing to Extinction” at the racecourse on Saturday. The group said four women glued themselves to their banner and chained themselves to the fence in a protest intended to be seen by the queen. She was not nearby at the time.


Jordan battles to save rare tiny Dead Sea carp

Jordan battles to save rare tiny Dead Sea carp
Updated 18 June 2021

Jordan battles to save rare tiny Dead Sea carp

Jordan battles to save rare tiny Dead Sea carp
Jordan is racing against time to save a tiny rare fish from extinction as falling water levels partly triggered by global warming threaten to dry up its last habitat.
The Dead Sea toothcarp — scientific name Aphanius dispar richardsoni — has been on the red list of the International Union for Conversation of Nature since 2014.
The IUCN warns that the “exploitation of spring waters and climate change” are major threats facing the four-centimeter-long, silver-colored fish.
“This fish is threatened with extinction at the global level. It is endemic here and does not exist elsewhere,” said Ibrahim Mahasneh, the manager of the fish’s last home, the Fifa Nature Reserve.
Lying some 140 kilometers (85 miles) southwest of Amman in the Jordan Rift Valley and 60 kilometers south of the Dead Sea, the area is the lowest wet reserve on Earth.
Established in 2011, the reserve consists of some 20 square kilometers. It is located some 426 meters (1,400 feet) below sea level and is managed by an independent body, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).
Even though the Hashemite kingdom is primarily desert, this area of wetlands is criss-crossed by streams and is home to a variety of plant and wildlife species including birds.
“We have a plan to save and breed this fish... to create a natural habitat for it to breed and at the same time to mitigate the existing threat,” added Mahasneh.
“The reserve is the last home for this endangered species of fish,” said environmental researcher Abdallah Oshoush who works in the reserve.


The male fish also has a streak of blue along its sides, while the female has incomplete black stripes.
It is not known how many still remain, but “monitoring programs have warned of a clear decline in the presence of this fish in recent years,” Oshoush said.
Among the environmental threats causing numbers to drop is the “lowering water level due to low rainfall and the change in its environment, as well as the presence of other fish that feed on it and its eggs.”
Researchers are now preparing to open an artificial pond just for the toothcarp so they can grow safely and their eggs are not devoured by predators. Each season, a female produces around 1,000 eggs.
The aim is then to release the young fish back into the natural environment.
“In Jordan live two unique species of fish that do not exist anywhere else in the world. These are our precious treasures and they must be preserved for our ecosystem,” said RSCN spokesperson Salem Nafaa.
Two decades ago the RSCN succeeded in saving the endangered Aphanuis Sirhani fish in its only habitat in the Azraq reserve, about 110 kilometers (65 miles) east of Amman.
It got its scientific name from the Wadi Sirhan, which extends from the Arabian Peninsula to Azraq, but is commonly known in English as the Azraq killifish.
Only about six centimeters long, it is also silver but the female is spotted while the male has black stripes.

“In the year 2000, there were no more than 500 Azraq killifish in the oasis, which means it was on the verge of extinction,” said Nashat Hmaidan, the director of the RSCN Biodiversity Monitoring Center.
“It was declining sharply, and it reached just 0.02 percent of the number of fish in the oasis,” he said, blaming other predatory fish and migratory birds as well as a fall in water levels.
The RSCN studied the fish’s life cycle and determined it needed shallow water to lay eggs, and should be isolated from other species for the best chance of survival.
“We collected 20 fish over two years and put them in a concrete pond designated for breeding.”
After the first fish were released back into the waters the team saw its presence had increased from 0.02 percent to nearly 50 percent. It “was a great success,” he added.
Twenty years on, the Azraq killifish accounts for almost 70 percent of the fish in the waters. But he cautioned the goal now is that the numbers should “never drop below 50 percent.”
Hazem Hrisha, the director of the Azraq Wetland reserve, highlighted its important biodiversity, with more than 133 plant species and more than 163 species of invertebrates.
The reserve “is located on the most important bird migration paths,” he said, adding two thirds of the bird species found in the kingdom had been recorded in Azraq.

International Camel Organization announces North American association

International Camel Organization announces North American association
Updated 17 June 2021

International Camel Organization announces North American association

International Camel Organization announces North American association
  • Decision comes amid growth in camel ranches in the US

RIYADH: The International Camel Organization (ICO) announced on Thursday the establishment of the North American Camel Ranch Owners Association (NACROA) in the US.

Sheikh Fahd bin Falah bin Hithleen, the ICO’s founder and president, said the step was part of efforts to develop the camel sector.

It follows the setting up of the European Camel Ranch Owners Association in 2019.

 

 

The owners of camel ranches in America decided last year to unify their efforts in developing the camel sector through the ICO.

Aaron Scott Wendell, president of the association, said the increasing number of camel ranches in the US prompted them to establish the association.

He thanked Sheikh Fahd for his efforts and encouragement to establish the association.

His work will be reflected in the development of various aspects in the economic, cultural, medical and sports activities of camels, Wendell said.

Founded by Sheikh Fahd in March 2019, the ICO is a non-profit organization based in Riyadh. Currently it includes about 105 member countries from all continents and aims to develop and serve everything related to camels as a heritage.


Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai
Updated 17 June 2021

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai

Saudi chain ALBAIK opens in Dubai
  • ALBAIK was established in Jeddah in 1974 and has grown to more than 120 branches

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s famous fast-food chain ALBAIK opened their first branch in Dubai Mall on Wednesday, bringing its range of dishes to the UAE for the first time.

Following the opening of three branches in Bahrain at the end of 2020, ALBAIK was encouraged to open in Dubai. The new 355-square-meter restaurant will serve a wide array of chicken and seafood, grilled dishes, and vegetarian options.

ALBAIK was established in Jeddah in 1974 and has grown to more than 120 branches throughout Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Listed by CNN as one of the best eight fast-food chains around the world. ALBAIK has developed a community of fanatics across Saudi Arabia.