Many people live with chronic pain with no hope of relief. But others have apparently had better luck relieving their suffering. Some notes on Vicodin and that family of painkillers from the AP:

More than 200,000 pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine were purchased at retail stores during 2005, the most recent year represented in the data. That is enough to give more than 300 milligrams of painkillers to every person in America.

I don’t really know how much 300 milligrams is in terms of painkillers per person, but it sounds like a lot. I think the average dose is around 5 or 10 milligrams? No word on whether Rush Limbaugh was included in the counting. If so that might explain why the figures skew so high. As of April 2006 he was still in treatment. Best of luck to him. He always showed such compassion and sensitivity to others facing his affliction.

Is atheism another form of fundamentalism? Judging from the recent discourse, as a movement it has its share of absolutism and intolerance of dissent. Arguing against that is a request for rational atheism from Scientific American. (Have you heard about one of the most popular atheist gods? Apparently she arose from a Usenet conversation in 1990. See the collection of odd tattoos from that first link using the logo, which itself has a nerdy story behind it — now if you see one of these things on the car in front of you, look out! It may be an atheist behind the wheel. But it could also be a theist who borrowed the atheist’s car. Best to exercise some doubt and discretion here.)

India and Japan are working on tightening trade and tourist ties. Good idea, with the dragon in the room. Japan has woken up to the fact that China is within sight of usurping Japan’s position as the economic heavyweight in Asia and so is taking steps to circle the wagons. If you’re interested in this (it’s more of a business issue with a small bit of military interest than anything else) some links on India-Japan ties are here, here , and here.

Are Buddhists free to worship openly in Tibet? Based on his recent trip, the BBC’s Michael Bristow says there is “at least some level of religious freedom.” The weather is often bad at the recently re-opened pass at Nathu La between Sikkim / India and Tibet / China, hampering the limited cross-border trade allowed there. And it’s “a new age” for tourism in Lhasa according to the LA Times:

The holy city of Lhasa is remote no more; a multibillion-dollar drive to develop tourism has made getting to Tibet easier than ever. The world’s highest railway between Beijing and Lhasa was inaugurated last year. Highways crisscross the Tibetan Plateau, and even the rough road to Everest base camp is being smoothed so the bearers of the Olympic torch can announce next summer’s Beijing Games from the roof of the world.

Won’t that be a sight. And I apologize well in advance for comparing the spectacle of Beijing 2008 to Berlin 1936. I don’t mean China is going to start a war, but all the stretching and muscle flexing and rhetoric rings certain bells:

The Olympics is giving the country a coveted international spotlight reserved for the world’s leading nations. China intends to use that spotlight to display to the world its re-emergence as an economic, cultural and military giant, echoing its ancient dynastic greatness.

“The Chinese have a psychological problem. We want to prove ourselves to the whole world. We are strong and we can be stronger,” said Huang Yaling, director of the Olympic Research Center at the Beijing Sport University. “We need a stage to show this, and the Olympics is that international stage. It is a precious chance.”

And the louder the U.S. crows about being the lone superpower, the deeper China’s “psychological problem” gets.

A rare public demonstration against the government (about fuel oil, naturally) in Burma / Myanmar. Also in the Times, the Dalai Lama’s teaching were recently used to explain Wikipedia.

– Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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