These are links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.
The Palaces of Memory by Stuart Freedman, review of a coffee table book of photographs of worker-owned coffee houses in India, by Peter Nitsch for The Cutting Edge of Creativity.
When a diminutive but instantly recognisable figure steps on to the stage of the O2 in London before a near-capacity audience on Saturday, the mood permeating the vast arena is likely to be markedly different from that of last week’s Heavy Duty boxing tournament or next week’s gig by the standup comedian Michael McIntyre.
Dressed in his customary wine and saffron coloured robes, the Dalai Lama will – if he sticks to form – start by telling the audience: “I am a human being, just one among the 7 billion alive today.”
His message of compassion, humanity, love, harmony, forgiveness, tolerance and peace – delivered amid beaming smiles – is guaranteed a rapturous reception. At the end of a two-hour performance, he may clasp the hands or caress the faces of a lucky few who will go home feeling blessed.
Dalai Lama: ‘religious rock star’ to spread message of peace at O2 by Harriet Sherwood for The Guardian.
Osama bin Laden hid out here for months, if not years. But in the hills surrounding Abbottabad in north-western Pakistan, residents say they face a far scarier menace than terrorists.
With descriptive stories that bring to mind mythological tales of man against beast, Abbottabad residents claim to be locked in a terrifying battle against Pakistan’s endangered population of leopards. The big cats – referred to as common leopards to distinguish them from their smaller cousins, snow leopards – lurk in the Himalayan foothills.
In north-west Pakistan, big cats are feared more than global terrorists by Haq Nawiz Khan and Tim Craig for The Guardian.
Twenty-five years ago, lush forests covered 73 percent of Cambodia’s land area. By 2010 this figure had shrunk to 57 percent as a result of harmful practices like illegal logging, mining, slash-and-burn agriculture, and land grabbing.
Now, U.S. satellite data confirms that forest loss in Cambodia has accelerated at a faster rate than in any other nation over the past decade, the Cambodia Daily reports. More than 14,000 square kilometers of forest were lost between 2001 and 2013—and much of this deforestation occurred inside protected lands, including wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas
Cambodia’s Forests Are Disappearing at a Rapid Pace by Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss.
Last Friday evening, numerous people in Jakarta, Indonesia reported and recorded mysterious, low trumpet-like sounds in the sky. Listen for yourself below. Scientists often try to explain away these strange noises as “Earth sounds” caused by shifting tectonic plates, atmospheric phenomena, geomagnetic activity, or the like. But we all know it’s really the trumpets of the apocalypse.
Trumpet sounds heard across Jakarta signal the end of the world (or not) by David Pescovitz for Boing Boing.
“Sectarianism” is a a slippery term, now used to describe everything from Saudi Arabian foreign policy to the daily functioning of Lebanese politics to the rhetoric of the Islamic State. In this episode, historian Ussama Makdisi takes on the history of both the term “sectarian” and the kinds of communal political divides it is often used to describe in the late Ottoman Empire and the 20th century Middle East, reflecting on his former work and offering a preview of his forthcoming scholarship.
Rethinking Sectarianism in the Middle East by Ussama Makdisi for the Ottoman History Podcast.
Three million people from all over the world are expected in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage, which is starting amid tight security.
The Saudi authorities are deploying 100,000 security personnel, including members of the counter-terrorism and the emergency civil defence units, and 5,000 CCTV cameras.
As well as fears of a possible terrorist attack, there are massive logistical crowd and traffic control issues in handling the world’s biggest pilgrimage, which lasts about five days.
Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia begins amid ramped-up security by Harriet Sherwood for The Guardian.
In India, A Baby Elephant Goofs Off Under the Watchful Eyes of Its Massive Bodyguards by Cheryl Eddy for io9
Nepal adopts constitution born of bloodshed and compromise by Ross Adkin for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“An AirBnB for home-cooked meals around the world” gets $870K in funding by Xeni Jardin for BoingBoing.
Damzen Lane: a Street and its Story by Deepanjan Ghosh for The Concrete Paparazzi in Calcutta.