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Monday, 26 September 2011

P'chum Ben day!!!

P’Chum Ben or Prachum Benda, which means ‘gathering together to make offerings’ (prachum-gathering together and ben-offering), is a major holiday in Cambodia. It is held on the 15th day of the waning moon (Ronouch) during the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, Pheaktrobotr, and usually falls in the first half of September in the western calendar. This year it began on September the 14th and ends on September 28. The 15 day lead up, starting on the waxing moon (K’nert) with P’chum Touch (the ‘small festival’) and ending with P’chum Thom (the ‘big festival’), is a busy one. During the period between the big and the small festivals Cambodian Buddhists take turns offering the monks, who are supposed to remain indoors on a three month dharma retreat, food. Each of the 15 days has a name and a purpose.

HENG CHIVOAN Sek Yeam, 67, buys ansom chrouk, a traditional rice cake at O’russei Market on Sunday. (from the Phnom Penh Post)

Each day the devoted take turns to ready the temple grounds. Before sunrise on the day of the Kann Ben, (which means ‘hosting’) special food is cooked for the ancestral spirits. A variety of favourite dishes of assorted flavours and colours from the simple and traditional nom ansom (sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves with various fillings) to the more complex and rich coconutty amok (steamed fish marinated in an amalgam of herbs and spices). As a sign of compassion the hosts also prepare bai ben (balls of sesame seeds mixed into steamed sticky rice) which is tossed into shaded areas of the temple grounds as an offering to the hungry souls who have been forgotten or no longer have living relatives to provide them food.
Incense and candles are lit before noon and the food is offered to the monks. The urns of ancestors, which are kept on site, are polished and bought into the viheara (the main chanting room) and their names are recorded on an invitation list so that they can receive the offerings. The list is then read and burned to guide the lost souls to their families.
The host family then join the monks to be blessed with sprinkled water and then for chanting and meditation.

Best clothes and full tiffen

The 15th day of P’chum Ben is for the priad spirits. Cambodians believe that although most living creatures are reincarnated at death some souls, due to bad karma, are not reincarnated but remain trapped in the spirit world. Each year these souls are released to search for their living relatives, meditate and repent. Priads are afraid of light and so can only receive prayers and food on the darkest day of this cycle, the day of P’chum Ben. Their living relatives offer food to those unfortunate enough to have become trapped in the spirit world and pray in the hopes of reducing their bad karma and eventually releasing them to be reincarnated. After the ancestors are reincarnated, they can then accumulate good karma on their own and can begin to look forward to achieving a peaceful inner spirit, which is the greatest blessing a living relative can hope for their ancestors.
Devout Buddhists believe that if they do not bring food for their ancestors to seven pagodas during P'Chum Ben, they will be cursed with bad luck.

People offer rice during the first day of the Pchum Ben festival at a pagoda in Phnom Penh September 13, 2011. Cambodians visit temples during the 15-day Pchum Ben, or Festival of the Dead, to offer prayers to loved ones who have passed away. REUTERS/Samrang Pring
Buddhist monks sit inside a pagoda as they wait for food offerings from visitors on the first day of the Pchum Ben festival in Phnom Penh September 13, 2011. Cambodians visit temples during the 15-day Pchum Ben, or Festival of the Dead, to offer prayers to loved ones who have passed away. REUTERS/Samrang Pring
People light incense sticks from candles on the first day of the Pchum Ben festival at a pagoda in Phnom Penh September 13, 2011. Cambodians visit temples during the 15-day Pchum Ben, or Festival of the Dead, to offer prayers to loved ones who have passed away. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Thursday, 22 September 2011

បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ/본프쫌벤/pchum ben

Cambodian Pchum Ben or Soul Day

Cambodian Pchum Ben or Soul Day - Running for 15 days from the end of September into October, and the exact date determined by the lunar calendar, this festival is dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead, and is one of the most culturally significant in Cambodia.

Each household visits their Buddhist temple and offers food to the monks for their assistance in blessing the souls of late ancestors, relatives and friends. Pagodas are crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings, with many staying behind to listen to Buddhist sermons.

Cambodians believe that although most living creatures are reincarnated at death, due to bad karma, some souls are not reincarnated but rather remain trapped in the spirit world. Each year, for fifteen days, these souls are released from the spirit world to search for their living relatives, meditate and repent.

The fifteen-day observance of Prachum Benda, or Ancestors' Day, is a time for living relatives to remember their ancestors and offer food to those unfortunate enough to have become trapped in the spirit world. Furthermore, it is an important opportunity for living relatives to meditate and pray to help reduce the bad karma of their ancestors, thus enabling the ancestors to become reincarnated and leave the torment and misery of the spirit world.

ខ.ប្រៀបធៀបពីពិធីបុណ្យប្រពៃណីទាំងពីរ ១.លក្ខណៈដូច ៖ – ជាពិធីបុណ្យប្រពៃណីរបស់ជាតិខ្មែរដូចគ្នា។ – ឧទ្ធិសដល់វិញ្ញាណក្ខ័នបេតជនដូនគ្នា។ – ប្រជុំគ្នានៅក្នុងវត្តអារាមដូចគ្នា។ ២.លក្ខណៈខុសគ្នា បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ – គ្មានពូនភ្នំខ្សាច់។ – គ្មានលេងល្បែងប្រជាប្រិយ។ – គ្មានស្រង់ទឹកព្រះពុទ្ធរូបទេ។ – រយៈពេល ១៥ថ្ងៃ។ – ពុំមានជូនសំលៀកបំពាក់ដល់អ្នកមានគុណេទេ។ – បេតជនដើររកគ្រប់ ៧វត្តមានបាយបិណ្ឌ។ – ប្រវត្តរឿងប្រេតដែលជាញាតិជាញាតិព្រះបាទពិមិ្ពសារ។ – បង្សុកូលឧទ្ធិសកុសល។ – គ្មានការតុបតែងលំនៅដ្ឋាន គេហដ្ឋាន។ – គ្មានគ្រឿងបូជាទេព្តាទេ។ បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំ – មានពូនភ្នំខ្សាច់។ – មានលេងល្បែងប្រជាប្រិយ។ – ស្រង់ទឹកព្រះពុទ្ធរូប។ – រយៈពេលតែ ៣ថ្ងៃ។ – ជូនសំលៀកបំពាក់ដល់អស់លោកជាអ្នកមានគុណ។ – ពុំមានបាយបិណ្ឌ។ – ប្រវត្តិរឿកបិលមហាព្រហ្ម និងធម្មបាលកុមារ។ – អបអរសាទរផ្តាច់ឆ្នាំចាស់ផ្លាស់ចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី – មានការតុបតែងផ្ទះឬលំនៅដ្ឋាន។ – មានគ្រឿងបូជាចំពោះទេវតា។ គ.រួមសេចក្តីមកៈ ពិធីបុណ្យទាំងពីរខាងលើ សុទ្ធតែជាពិធីបុណ្យដែលពុំអាចអាក់ខានបាន ប៉ុន្តែសំរាប់ ពិធីបុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្យ គឺជាពិធីបុណ្យធំជាងគេរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ។

ចំនងដៃកមនាព្យ – អាទិត្យក្រហមខ្ចីឬចាស់ ចន្ទ័ផ្លាស់លឿងទុំស្វាយអង្គារ៍ ថ្ងៃពុធស៊ីលៀបសមសោភា ព្រហស្បត្តិប្រែជាបៃតងត្រួយខ្ចី។ – ពណ៌ខៀវក្រនៀវប្រើថ្ងៃសុក្រ ពណ៌និលព្រិលទុកសៅរ៍សិរី តែងខ្លូនតាមក្បួនលោកស្រដី ចំរើនសួស្តីជោគជ័យអើយ។

រូបថតៈ Antonio Graceffo ក្នុង

ព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាជាសាសនារបស់រដ្ឋ” ត្រូវបានចែងក្នុងមាត្រា៤៣ជំពូកទី៣ នៃរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញ
ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា ដែលសមស្របទៅតាមផ្នត់គំនិត ចំណង់ចំណូលចិត្តនិងប្រពៃណី
ទំនៀមទម្លាប់តាំងពីបុរាណកាលយូរលង់ណាស់មកហើយនៃដូនតាខ្មែរ ។អាស្រ័យដោយ
ព្រះពុទ្ធ បានក្លាយជាបុណ្យប្រពៃណីជាតិហើយបានក្លាយជាថ្ងៃឈប់សម្រាករបស់ជាតិ
ដោយស្របច្បាប់ ។ ពិធីបុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌជាពិធីបុណ្យដ៏ធំមួយក្នុងចំណោមពិធីបុណ្យធំៗ ជា
ច្រើននៅក្នុងពិធីបុណ្យប្រពៃណីជាតិខ្មែរដែលត្រូវបានប្រារព្ធ ធ្វើឡើងជារៀងរាល់ឆ្នាំមិន
ដែលអាក់ខានឡើយ ។

ប្រជាជនខ្មែរតែងប្រារព្ធធ្វើពិធីកាន់បិណ្ឌជារៀងរាល់ឆ្នាំ ដោយគិតចាប់ពីថ្ងៃ១រោចខែ
ភទ្របទ ទៅដល់ថ្ងៃ១៤រោចខែភទ្របទ គឺមានរយៈពេល១៤ថ្ងៃ (យើងតែង
និយមហៅថា ថ្ងៃបិណ្ឌ១បិណ្ឌ២…បិណ្ឌ១៤)និងថ្ងៃទី១៥ ជាថ្ងៃចុងក្រោយហៅថា”ពិធីបុណ្យ
ភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ” ។ រំលឹកតាមសង្ឃដីការបស់ព្រះសពសម្ដេចព្រះមង្គលទេពាចារ្យ អ៊ុំស៊ុម បានឲ្យយើងដឹងថា : តាំងពី
ដើមឡើយគេប្រារព្ធធ្វើពិធីបុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌរយៈពេល ៣ខែ ព្រោះដើម្បីជួយសម្រួលដល់ការលំ
បាកក្នុងការនិមន្តបិណ្ឌបាត្ររបស់ ព្រះសង្ឃនារដូវស្សាដែលពោរពេញទៅដោយភក់ជ្រាំ និង
ទទឹកដល់ស្បង់ចីវរ ។ប៉ុន្តែអាស្រ័យដោយមានបម្រែបម្រួលនិងបំលាស់ប្ដូរស្ថានភាពសង្គម
សេដ្ឋកិច្ចរបស់ប្រជាជនពីមួយថ្ងៃទៅមួយថ្ងៃ ពីមួយជំនាន់ទៅមួយជំនាន់ក៏បានធ្វើឲ្យការកាន់
បិណ្ឌចេះតែខើចទៅៗ រហូតនៅសល់រយៈពេល១៥ថ្ងៃប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។

ពាក្យថា”ភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ”មានន័យថា ការប្រមូលដុំបាយឬការពូតដុំបាយដែលយើងតែងហៅថា
”បាយបិណ្ឌ”។ចាប់តាំងពីថ្ងៃបិណ្ឌ១ ប្រជាជនខ្មែរមួយចំនួនភ្ញាក់ពីព្រលឹមឬ នាំគ្នាទទួលទាន
ដំណេកនៅទីវត្តអារាមតែម្ដង ដើម្បីងាយស្រួលក្នុងការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌ ដោយការដើរជុំវិញព្រះ
វិហារប្រទក្សិណបោះពីទិសខាងជើងទៅទិសខាងត្បូង ព្រោះគេមានជំនឿថាវិញ្ញាណរបស់បងប្អូន
ជីដូនជីតា ញាតិមិត្តដែលស្លាប់បាត់បង់ជីវិតទៅនោះក៏បានក្លាយទៅជាប្រេត ហើយជារៀងរាល់
១ឆ្នាំម្ដង ប្រេតទាំងនោះត្រូវបានគេដោះលែងឲ្យមកទទួលយកនូវអានិសង្ស ដែលបងប្អូនសាច់
ពន្លឺថ្ងៃ ប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ ក្រៅពីការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌគេក៏នៅមានធ្វើចង្ហាន់ប្រគេនព្រះសង្ឃ ចូលបច្ច័យ
បង្សុកូល ពូនភ្នំខ្សាច់ដើម្បីឧទ្ទិសមគ្គផលទាំងនោះឲ្យបានដល់បព្វការីជននិង មានអ្នកខ្លះទៀតគេ
ជូនប្រាក់កាសនំចំណីដល់ចាស់ទុំជនក្រីក្រ អ្នកសុំទានជនពិការឬយាយជីតាជីដែលនៅសំណាក់
ធម៌ថែរក្សាក្នុងទីវត្ត អារាម នោះ ។ ក្នុងរយៈពេល១៥ថ្ងៃនៃពិធីកាន់បិណ្ឌនិងបុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌនេះ
ប្រជាជនខ្មែរតែងតែឆ្លៀតពេលទៅវត្តយ៉ាងហោចណាស់ក៏បានទៅវត្តចំនួនម្ដងដែរ ទោះបីជាមាន
ការមមាញឹកក្នុងការងារចិញ្ចឹមជីវិតយ៉ាងណាក៏ដោយ បើពុំនោះទេអ្នកទាំងនោះនិងត្រូវបងប្អូន
ជីដូន ជីតា ដែលបានស្លាប់ទៅជេរដាក់បណ្ដាសា ឲ្យរងទុក្ខវទនា ក្រីក្រលំបាកព្រោះប្រេតទាំង
នោះត្រូវដើររកកុសល ផលបុណ្យមានជាទានម្ហូបអាហារនៅតាមទីវត្តអារាមនានាបើមិនឃើញទេ

ហេតុដូចនេះហើយទើបនៅទីវត្តអារាមនានាទូទាំងប្រទេសតាំងពីព្រលឹមគេ ឮសូរតែសម្លេងខ្ញៀវ
ខ្ញារ សម្លេងសូត្រធម៌របស់ព្រះសង្ឃយ៉ាងគួររីករាយក្នុងសន្ដានចិត្ត ជ្រះថ្លាគ្រប់ៗគ្នា។ ភ្ជាប់ជា
មួយនឹងការធ្វើចង្ហាន់មានបង្អែម ចម្អាប គេតែងនិយមវេចនំអន្សម នំគម ផងដែរ ព្រោះនំប្រភេទ
នេះអាចរក្សាទុកបានយូរទៅថ្ងៃមុខ(មតិខ្លះអះអាងថា ជាឥទ្ធិពលពីសាសនាព្រាហ្មណ៍ ព្រោះនំ
អន្សម នំគមជាតំណាងឲ្យលិង្គព្រះឥសូរនិងយោនីនាងឧមាដែលជាគ្រឿងសក្ការៈ សម្រាប់គោរព
បូជាក្នុងសាសនាព្រាហ្មណ៍) ។

ជារៀងរាល់ឆ្នាំ ឆ្នាំណាក៏ដូចឆ្នាំណាប្រជាជនខ្មែរគ្រប់រូប ដៃកាន់ចង្ហាន់ទៅទីវត្តអារាមក្នុងទឹកមុខ
ញញឹមនិងមានសង្ឃឹមក្នុងចិត្តថា នឹងបានវេចប្រគេនចង្ហាន់អុជធូប ឧទ្ទិសបន់ស្រន់រំលឹកគុណ
សូមឲ្យបងប្អូនញាតិមិត្តទាំងអស់មកទទួលយកនូវ កុសលផលបុណ្យដែលខ្លួនបានឲ្យ កុំឲ្យឈរ
មើលគេ កុំឲ្យដណ្ដើមម្ហូបចំណីរបស់គេ ហើយក៏សុំឲ្យជួយថែរក្សាកូនចៅដែលនៅរស់ប្រកប
ដោយសេចក្ដីសុខចម្រើនតរៀងទៅ ៕

បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌត្រូវបានហៅឈ្មោះផ្សេងៗគ្នាទៅតាមតំបន់ ដោយតំបន់ខ្លះហៅថា “បុណ្យភ្ជុំ
បិណ្ឌ” ខ្លះហៅថា “បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ” និង “បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌ” ហើយនៅតំបន់ខ្លះហៅថា
“បុណ្យដូនតា” ។វចនានុក្រមខ្មែររបស់សម្តេច ព្រះសង្ឃរាជ ជួន ណាត ទំព័រ៣៣៧បញ្ជាក់
ច្បាស់ថា បុណ្យនេះហៅឈ្មោះថា “បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌ ឬ ហៅថា កាន់បិណ្ឌ
ឬ ដាក់បិណ្ឌ ក៏បាន” ។

បុណ្យ កាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌ ជាបុណ្យប្រពៃណីរបស់ពុទ្ធសាសនិកនិកាយថេរវាទនៅ
ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ហើយបុណ្យនេះមិនមានធ្វើនៅប្រទេសដែលគោរពរាប់ អានព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា
ថេរវាទដទៃដូចជាប្រទេសថៃ ឬ ភូមាឡើយ ព្រោះវាមិនមែនជាបុណ្យនៅក្នុវិន័យបញ្ញត្តិ ។
បុណ្យនេះ ត្រូវបានពុទ្ធសាសនិកខ្មែរធ្វើឡើងរៀងរាល់ឆ្នាំចាប់ពីថៃ្ង១រោច ដល់ថៃ្ង១៥រោចខែភទ្រ
បទ(ចន្លោះខែកញ្ញា ) ។ ប្រជាពុទ្ធសាសនិកខ្មែរធ្វើបុណ្យនេះដោយការ យកទេយ្យទានផ្សេងៗ
មានអាហារជាដើមទៅផ្គត់ផ្គង់ព្រះសង្ឃនៅក្នុងវត្ត ដែលកំពុងគង់ចាំវស្សា រយៈពេល១៥ថៃ្ងគត់ ។

ដោយហេតុពុទ្ធសាសនិក មានការមមាញឹកចំពោះកិច្ចានុកិច្ចប្រចាំថៃ្ង និងដើម្បីធានាថា ព្រះសង្ឃ
ត្រូវបានផ្គត់ផ្គង់ជាទៀងទាត់នោះ ទើបគេចែកជាក្រុមៗ ដាក់វេណគ្នា យកទេយ្យទានទៅប្រគេន
ព្រះសង្ឃរយៈពេល១៤ថៃ្ង ចាប់ពី ថៃ្ង១រោចដល់ថៃ្ង១៤រោចខែភទ្របទ ហើយអោយឈ្មោះថា
“វេណទី១….វេណទី១៤” ។ រយៈពេល១៤ថៃ្ងនេះ អោយឈ្មោះថា “បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យ
ដាក់បិណ្ឌ” ។ ចំណែកថ្ងៃ១៥រោច ដែលជាថ្ងៃចុងក្រោយនោះ ពុទ្ធសាសនិក ពីគ្រប់វេណទាំងអស់
បានមកជួបជុំគ្នា ធ្វើទានចំពោះសង្ឃជាមួយគ្នាដើម្បីបញ្ចប់បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ។ ថ្ងៃទី១៥ ត្រូវនឹងថ្ងៃ
១៥រោចខែភទ្របទ ដែលជាថ្ងៃចុងក្រោយនេះអោយឈ្មោះថា “ភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ ឬ ថ្ងៃភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ” ។

១. ដើម្បីទំនុកបំរុងដល់ព្រះសង្ឃដែលកំពុងគង់ចាំវស្សា ដោយហេតុរយៈពេលនេះ ជាពេលដែល
មានភ្លៀងធ្លាក់ជោគជាំខ្លាំង នាំអោយមានការលំបាកសំរាប់ព្រះសង្ឃក្នុងការត្រេចចរបិណ្ឌបាត្រ ។
ហេតុនេះ បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌ នេះ ត្រូវបានធ្វើឡើងដើម្បីសម្រាលដល់ជីវភាព
របស់អ្នកបួសក្នុង ព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា ។

២. ដើម្បីសន្សំកុសល ឬ សេចក្តីល្អ តាមរយៈការធ្វើទាននាឱកាសនេះ ជាពិសេសដើម្បីបង្កើតនូវ
សាមគ្គីភាព និង ឯកភាព ឬ ភាពចុះសម្រុងនៃប្រជាជាតិទាំងមូល ។
គេជឿថា គេអាចរួមចំណែកដ៏សំខាន់ និង យ៉ាងសាមញ្ញក្នុងការស្វែងរកភាពចុះ សម្រុងគ្នាតាំងពី
ថ្នាក់បុគ្គល រហូតដល់ថ្នាក់ជាតិបាន តាមរយៈបុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌនេះ ។ ដោយ
សារតាមរយៈបុណ្យនេះ ពួកមនុស្ស ដែលមកពីគ្រប់និន្នាការ និង ពីគ្រប់ជីវភាព មកជួបជុំគ្នានៅទី
វត្តជាមួយគ្នា បរិច្ចាគទានជាមួយគ្នា សាងក្តីល្អជាមួយគ្នា សមាទានសីលជាមួយគ្នា បរិភោគ
អាហារជាមួយគ្នា ចែករំលែកគំនិតយោបល់ និង រកដំណោះស្រាយជាមួយគ្នា ចំពោះបញ្ហាទាំង
ឡាយណាដែលគេមិនចុះសម្រុងគ្នានៅក្នុងជីវិត និង តួនាទី ការងារប្រចាំថ្ងៃ នៃបុគ្គល និងបុគ្គល
គ្រួសារ និងគ្រួសារ ឬ សហគមន៍មួយ និងសហគមន៍ផ្សេង ដោយមានចាស់ព្រឹទ្ធាចារ្យអាចារ្យ
គណៈកម្មការ ឬព្រះសង្ឃ ជាអ្នកសំរបសំរួលដោយយកធម៌ និងវិន័យរបស់ព្រះពុទ្ធ ជាខ្នាតរង្វាស់
ក្នុងការវិនិច្ឆ័យ ព្រោះហេតុនេះ ទើបបុណ្យនេះត្រូវបានកំណត់ពេល វេលាជាក់លាក់សម្រាប់ប្រ
ជាពលរដ្ឋទូទាំងប្រទេសធ្វើក្នុងរយៈពេល ដូចគ្នា ប្លែកពីបុណ្យផ្សេងៗមួយចំនួនដូចជាបុណ្យ
បំបួសកុលបុត្រជាដើមដែលគេ អាចធ្វើនៅពេលណាក៏បាន។

៣. ដើម្បីឧទ្ទិសកុសលដល់បុគ្គល (អ្នកខ្លះសំដៅលើប្រេត) ដែលបានលាចាកលោកនេះទៅ
ហើយ ។ ឯកសារនានាក្នុងព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាអោយដឹងថា បុណ្យនេះត្រូវបានធ្វើឡើងតាំងពីក្នុង
សម័យពុទ្ធកាលមកម្ល៉េះ ប៉ុន្តែសម័យនោះគេមិនហៅថា បុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌ ឬ បុណ្យដាក់បិណ្ឌ
ឡើយ គឺគេហៅថា “បុណ្យបវរណាបច្ច័យបួន ឬ បុណ្យទំនុកបំរុងបច្ច័យបួនចំពោះព្រះសង្ឃ”
ដែលពុទ្ធបរិស័ទទាំងឡាយនាសម័យនោះមាននាងវិសាខា និង មហាសេដ្ឋី ឈ្មោះ អនាថ-
បណ្ឌិក ជាដើម ធ្វើឡើងរយៈពេល៣ខែគត់គឺនៅក្នុងអំឡុងពេលដែលព្រះសង្ឃកំពុងគង់ចាំ
វស្សា ។

នៅប្រទេស កម្ពុជា យើងមិនបានដឹងច្បាស់ ហើយក៏មិនទាន់ចុះសម្រុងគ្នាថា បុណ្យនេះត្រូវ
បានធ្វើឡើងតាំងពី សម័យណាមកទេ ប៉ុន្តែគេអាចឃើញមានការលេចចេញជារូបរាងពេញ
លេញជាផ្លូវការនៃបុណ្យ នេះឡើងនៅក្នុងសម័យព្រះបាទហរិរក្សរាមាធិបតី អង្គឌួង ព.ស
២៣៩១-២៤០៤ គ.ស១៨៤៨-១៨៥៩ (រាជពង្សាវតាកម្ពុជា) ។


រូបថត : Pring Samrang/CSH ក្នុង

ការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌ (ការបោះដុំបាយ) ជាសកម្មភាពមួយដែលមិនទាន់មានឯកភាពគ្នានៅក្នុង
សង្គមពុទ្ធសាសនិក នៅឡើយ ដោយអ្នកខ្លះបានចាត់ទុកការបាយបោះបិណ្ឌជាកិច្ចដ៏សំខាន់
មួយមិន អាចខានបាននៅក្នុងរដូវបុណ្យកាន់បិណ្ឌនេះ ខណៈដែលអ្នកខ្លះបានអះអាង និង
រិះគន់ថា ការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌជាទង្វើមិនត្រឹមត្រូវ ជាភាពខ្ជះខ្ជាយ ជាការធ្វើមិនគោរពទាន
ជាដើម ។

អ្នកដែលជឿថាបោះបាយបិណ្ឌមានប្រយោជន៍ គិតថាបោះបាយបិណ្ឌគឺបោះអោយពួកប្រេត
ហេតុនេះទើបនៅតំបន់ខ្លះមិនហៅបាយបិណ្ឌទេ តែហៅថា“បាយប្រេត” ។ ចំណែកអ្នកពុទ្ធ
និយមខ្លះទៀតបានអះអាងថា ការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌជាការធ្វើទានមិនត្រឹមត្រូវតាមការបង្រៀន
របស់ព្រះពុទ្ធឡើយ ។

ភិក្ខុ ព្រះញាណវង្ស ឃឹម សន ព្រះបាឡាត់រាជធានីភ្នំពេញ និង ជាព្រះគ្រូសូត្រស្តាំប្រចាំ
វត្តបទុមវត្តីរាជរារាមបានមានព្រះថេរដីកាថា“ ការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌត្រូវបានគេធ្វើឡើងដើម្បី
អនុគ្រោះដល់ពួកប្រេតដែលមានបាបកម្មធ្ងន់ មិនអាចទទួលយកចំណែកបុណ្យដែលគេឧទ្ទិស
អោយបាន ” ។

នៅក្នុងសាស្ត្រាអានិសង្សបិណ្ឌ មានដំណាលអំពីប្រេតប្រភេទខ្លះដែលមានកម្ម ក្រាសខ្លាំង
មិនអាចទទួល អនុមោទនានូវបុណ្យដែលគេឧទ្ទិសអោយបាននោះ បានកាឡាខ្លួនជាសត្វល្អិត
ដូចជាស្រមោចចង្រិត កណ្តូប និង ចាបដូនតាជាដើម ហើយទៅនៅតាមរបងវត្ត និង ខឿន
ព្រះវិហារជាដើម និងចាំបរិភោគបាយបិណ្ឌដែលគេបោះឲ្យនោះ ។ យើងមិនហ៊ានអះអាងថា
មានប្រេតកាឡាខ្លួនជាសត្វទាំងនោះមែនឬអត់ឡើយ ប៉ុន្តែនៅក្នុងព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាបានអះអាង
ថា សត្វដែលកើតនៅក្នុងអបាយភូមិ គឺភូមិ ឬកំណើតដែលមានតែក្តីទុក្ខនោះមិនមែនមានតែ
ប្រេតទេ គឺមាននរក, ប្រេត, តិរច្ឆាន និង អសុរកាយ ។ ក្នុងបរិបទបាយបិណ្ឌនេះ យើងលើក
នរក និង អសុរកាយ ទុកដោយឡែសិនចុះ យើងនឹងធ្វើការពិភាក្សាតែប្រេត និងតិរច្ឆាន ។

ព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាអះអាងថា សត្វដែលកើតជាមនុស្ស និងតិរច្ឆាន មិនអាចទទួលបុណ្យកុសល
ដែលគេឧទ្ទិស អោយបានទេ ព្រោះមនុស្ស និងតិច្ឆានជាសត្វមានរូប ចំណែកបុណ្យកុសល
ដែលជារបស់អរូប។ យើងគ្មានអ្វី សង្ស័យទេថា ការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌមុខជាបានជាប្រយោជន៍
ដល់ពួកសត្វតិរច្ឆាន ។ យើងអាចសន្មតបានថា ប្រសិនបើ បុគ្គលណាទៅកើតជាសត្វ តិរច្ឆាន
ដូចជា សត្វស្រមោច ចង្រិត កណ្តូបកណ្តុរ និង ចាបជាដើមនោះ ពិតជាអាច បរិភោគបាយ
ដែលគេបោះនោះ បានដោយផ្ទាល់តែម្តង ហើយពួកសត្វខ្លះទោះជាបាយដែលមិនមែនជា
បាយគេបោះក្តី ក៏អាចបរិភោគបានដែរ ។

មកដល់ដំណាក់កាលនេះប្រហែលជាមានសំនួរផ្សេងទៀតសួរថា“ចុះបើយើង គិតថា មាន
មែននោះ ហេតុអ្វីបានជាយើងត្រូវបោះដុំបាយ ម្តេចក៏មិនរៀបចំទុកដាក់ក្នុងចាន ឬភាជន៍ជា
ដើមអោយបានត្រឹមត្រូវថ្លៃថ្នូរ ព្រោះសត្វតិរច្ឆាន ឬប្រេតទាំងនោះប្រហែលជាសាច់ញាតិ ឬ
អ្នកមានគុណរបស់យើងផង? ” ។នៅក្នុងព្រះពុទ្ធ សាសនា បានដំណាលរឿងប្រេតពួកខ្លះ
ដែលមិនអាចទទួលបរិភោគរបស់ល្អបានឡើយ គឺថា ឃើញរបស់ល្អដូចជាអាហារដែលគេ
រៀបចំស្អាតបាតនោះ ពេលទៅចាប់យកដោយសេចក្តីស្រេកឃ្លានជាពន្លឹក ដុំបាយនោះក៏
រលាយបាត់ទៅ ។ពួកប្រេតទាំង នេះអាចទទួលបានតែរបស់ណាដែលជាទីខ្ពើមរអើម ដូចជា
លាមក, ខ្ទុះ, ឈាម, ភក់, ជ្រាំ ជាដើមប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ បែបនេះមកពីបាបកម្មរបស់ពួកប្រេតជំពូក
នេះ កាលនៅរស់ជាមនុស្សដែលចូលចិត្តរស់នៅប្រព្រឹត្តតែអំពើអាក្រក់,កាប់សំលាប់, បង្ហូរ
ឈាម រស់នៅដោយការជិះជាន់កេងប្រវ័ញ្ច បឺតជញ្ជក់ផលប្រយោជន៍អ្នកដទៃដែលជនទូទៅ
យល់ថាជាអំពើលាមក គួរអោយស្អប់ខ្ពើម….មិនដែលចូលចិត្តទាល់តែសោះក្នុងការ ធ្វើអំពើល្អ
ដូចជាចំណាយធនធានដើម្បីជាប្រយោជន៍សាធារណៈ ប៉ុន្តែចូលចិត្តណាស់ និង រកវិធីគ្រប់យ៉ាង
ក្នុងការចំណាយទ្រព្យយ៉ាងខ្ជះខ្ជាយក្នុងការធ្វើ អំពើលាមកគ្រប់យ៉ាង ដូចជាជួលគេអោយ
ចាប់ស្រី ឬសំលាប់មនុស្ស និងចាប់ជំរិត ទារយកប្រាក់ជាដើម។ ដោយសារអំពើបាបទាំងនោះ
ជាដើមទើបបុគ្គលទាំងនោះ ពេលទៅកើតជាប្រេត ក្រៅពីរងទុក្ខជាអនេគ និង រងក្តីស្រេកឃ្លាន
រាប់ម៉ឺនឆ្នាំទៅក៏នៅមិនអាចចាប់កាន់យករបស់ ឬ អាហារ ដែលល្អបានឡើយ គឺអាចបរិភោគតែ
របស់ដែលជាទីខ្ពើមរអើមប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ ការណ៍នេះសមដូចពុទ្ធភាសិតមួយឃ្លាថា“ដរាបណាបាប
មិនទាន់អោយផល ជនអ្នកសាងបាប អាចរីករាយដោយអំពើបាបនោះ លុះណាតែបាបកម្មអោយ
ផល គេនឹងទទួលទុក្ខ”។

ទោះយ៉ាងណា អ្នកសិក្សាទាំងឡាយចូរចាំថា ព្រះពុទ្ធមិនបានបង្រៀនយើងអោយធ្វើទានដោយ
ការបោះ បាយបិណ្ឌដើម្បីអនុគ្រោះដល់ពួកប្រេត ឬសត្វតិរច្ឆានណាមួយឡើយ ។ ព្រះពុទ្ធបាន
បង្រៀនថា ដើម្បីឧទ្ទិស កុសលដល់អ្នកដែលបានស្លាប់ទៅ ហើយនោះ ត្រូវយកទេយ្យទាន
ទៅអោយអ្នកមានសីល អាចជាអ្នកបួសឬជាគ្រហស្ថដែលរក្សាសីលក៏បាន ។ ចំណែកការបោះ
បាយបិណ្ឌនេះ ជាប្រពៃណីសុទ្ធសាធ ហើយធ្វើឡើងតែនៅប្រទេសកម្ពុជាប៉ុណ្ណោះ ចំណែក
ប្រទេសផ្សេងៗ មិនមានឡើយ ប៉ុន្តែមានបុណ្យស្រដៀងគ្នាដែរ ដូចជានៅប្រទេសជប៉ុនមាន
បុណ្យមួយ ឈ្មោះថា “ឧល្លំបន”។ ប៉ុន្តែព្រះភិក្ខុ ឃឹម សន មានព្រះថេរដីកាថា ការបោះ
បាយបិណ្ឌនេះមានផលវិជ្ជមាន និង អវិជ្ជមានដែរគឺៈ

-ធ្វើអោយមនុស្សចេះនឹកគុណដល់បុគ្គលដែលបានចែកឋានទៅហើយ ក៏ដូចជាអ្នកនៅរស់មាន
ឱពុកម្តាយ ជាដើម។
-អោយមនុស្សចេះបំពេញសេចក្តល្អ និង អនុគ្រោះដល់ពួកសត្វតិរច្ឆានទាំងឡាយ ។

-ធ្វើអោយការបោះបាយបិណ្ឌទៅជាមានទោស ដោយសារធ្វើដោយក្តីប្រមាទ ។
-ដោយសារអ្នកទៅបោះបាយបិណ្ឌមួយចំនួនទៅបោះបាយដោយសារតែចង់សប្បាយ ។
-ធ្វើអោយមានក្លិនឆ្អេះឆ្អាបដល់ទីវត្តអារាម ។
-មិនសូវបានផល ព្រោះជាការធ្វើទានដោយសេចក្តីទ្វេស ឬ មិនសូវគោរពទាន ។

មានសំនួរមួយសួរថា ហេតុអ្វីទើបគេបោះបាយបិណ្ឌតែពេលទៀបភ្លឺ មិនបោះនៅពេលថៃ្ងផង ។
អ្នកខ្លះឆ្លើយថា ព្រោះថាបាយបិណ្ឌគេបោះអោយពួកប្រេត ហើយពួកប្រេតខ្លាចពន្លឺថៃ្ង ពេលណា
ត្រូវពន្លឺថៃ្ងនឹងរលាយរូបបាត់ទៅ មិនអាចទទួលបាយបិណ្ឌបានឡើយ ។ ចំលើយនេះក៏នៅមិន
ទាន់អាចទទួលយក ជាផ្លូវការណ៍បាននៅឡើយទេ ហើយក៏ត្រូវបានលើកសំនួរឡើងមួយទៀតថា
មិនបោះនៅពេលថៃ្ងព្រោះប្រេតខ្លាចពន្លឺថៃ្ង ចុះហេតុអ្វីមិនបោះនៅពេលព្រលប់ ឬពេលអាធ្រាតផង
ព្រោះពេលនោះក៏មិនមានពន្លឺថៃ្ងដែរ ។ ព្រះបាឡាត់រាជធានីភ្នំពេញ ឃឹម សន មិនបានលើកយក
បញ្ហាប្រេតខ្លាចពន្លឺថៃ្ងជាមូលហេតុទេ ប៉ុន្តែព្រះអង្គបានលើកឡើងថាវាជារឿងដើម្បីបង្កភាពងាយ
ស្រួលរបស់ អ្នកបោះទៅវិញទេ ។ ព្រះបាឡាត់រាជធានីភ្នំពេញបានមានព្រះថេរដីកាថា “ព្រោះ
ទៀបភ្លឺ ជាពេលដែលព្រះសង្ឃ នមស្សកាព្រះ រតនត្រៃ និង សូត្របរាភវសូត្រ ហើយប្រជាពុទ្ធសា
សនិកតែងតែនាំគ្នាទៅវត្តដើម្បីស្តាប់ ព្រះសង្ឃសូត្រធម៌បរាភវសូត្រនោះផង និង ស្តាប់ការផ្តល់
ឱវាទផ្សេងខ្លះផងរបស់ព្រះសង្ឃ ។ នៅតំបន់ខ្លះ ពេលបោះបាយបិណ្ឌរួច អាចារ្យតែងដឹកនាំ
ពុទ្ធបរិស័ទ ចាត់ចែងរាប់បាត្រប្រគេនចង្ហាន់ព្រះសង្ឃ ដែលងាយស្រួលសម្រាប់ប្រជាពុទ្ធបរិស័ទ បំពេញកុសលជាបន្តបន្ទាប់ជាប់ៗគ្នាតែម្តងកុំអោយខាតពេលធ្វើដំណើរទៅ មកច្រើនលើកច្រើន
សារ ។ ម្យ៉ាងទៀត ពេលទៀប ភ្លឺជាពេលដែលមនុស្សគ្រប់រូបដល់ពេលល្មមក្រោកពីដំណេកមិន
ងោកងុយផង ។ការបោះ បាយបិណ្ឌទៀបភ្លឺនេះ ក៏ជាវិធីមួយដែលធ្វើអោយមនុស្សធ្លាប់តែមាន
ទំលាប់ទទួលទានដំណេកទ្រ មក់ រហូតដល់ថៃ្ងរះទើបក្រោកនោះ អោយ ហាត់ពត់ខ្លួនរៀនក្រោក
ពីដំណេកពីព្រលឹម កុំអោយខ្ជឹលច្រអូស ស្ពឹកស្រពន់នឹងដំណេកពេកផង” ។

លោក សៀង ណាត ជាអតីតសមណនិស្សិតពុទ្ធិកសាកលវិទ្យាល័យព្រះសីហនុរាជ បញ្ចប់ថ្នាក់
បរិញ្ញាបត្រផ្នែក ទស្សនវិជ្ជាព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនា បានអះអាងស្រដៀងគ្នានឹងព្រះភិក្ខុព្រះញាណវង្ស
ដែរដោយលោក លើកឡើងថា“បើបោះបាយបិណ្ឌ នៅពេលព្រលប់ ឬ ពេលអាធ្រាតក៏គ្មាន
កំហុសអ្វីដែប៉ុន្តែដែលបុរាណាចារ្យ ដូនតាខ្មែរបានទំលាប់បោះបាយបិណ្ឌនៅ ពេលទៀបភ្លឺនោះ
ព្រោះពេលព្រលប់ឬ ពេលអាធ្រាត ជាពេលដែលមនុស្ស គ្រប់គ្នាត្រូវការសម្រាកបន្ទាប់ពីបាន
បំពេញការងារពេញមួយថៃ្ងមក ។ ម្យ៉ាងបើធ្វើនៅពេលព្រលប់ ឬ ពេលអាធ្រាតនោះ នាំអោយ ខាតពេលក្នុងការធ្វើដំណើរទៅមកព្រោះព្រឹកឡើងគេនៅតែត្រូវមកវត្តដើម្បីប្រគេនចង្ហាន់ព្រះ
សង្ឃ និង ចង់ក្រោកទៅស្តាប់ធម៌បរាភវសូត្រនៅទៀបភ្លឺដដែល ” ។

Cambodian Pchum Ben or Soul Day

ពាក្យថា “ ភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ” មកពីពាក្យ “ ភ្ជុំ” រួមគ្នាជាមួយពាក្យ “ បិណ្ឌ” ដែលមានន័យថា : ភ្ជុំគឺការប្រមូលផ្តុំ ឬប្រជុំបិណ្ឌ (មកពីភាសាបាលី) “ ដុំបាយ” ដូចេ្នះ​យើង​អាច​សម្គាល់​ពាក្យ​នេះ តាមវិធីងាយបានថា គឺជា “ ការប្រជុំ ឬប្រមូលផ្តុំដុំបាយ” ​(ការពូតដុំ បាយជាដុំៗ​ដែល​យើង​ហៅថា “ បាយបិណ្ឌ” ) ។

បើ ​តាម​តម្រា​ចារ​តាម​ប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រ​នៃ​ប្រទេស​ កម្ពុជា​យើង​ បាន​បង្ហាញ​ថា​ ពិធី​បុណ្យ​ភ្ជុំ​បិណ្ឌ​គឺ​កើត​មាន​តាំង​ពី​បុរាណ​កាល​មក​ម្ល៉េះ។​ ប៉ុន្តែ​ទាស់​ត្រង់​ថា​ កាល​ពី​សម័យ​មុន​គេ​មិន​ហៅ​ថា​ បុណ្យ​ភ្ជុំ​ទេ​ ដោយ​នៅ​ក្នុង​ពិធី​នេះ​គេ​មាន​បែង​ចែក​ចេញ​ជា​ពីរ​ថ្នាក់។​ ថ្នាក់​ដំបូង​ គឺ​គេ​ចាប់​ផ្ដើម​ធ្វើ​ចាប់​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​១​រោច​ រហូត​ដល់​ថ្ងៃ​១៤​រោច​ ជា​វារកភត្ត​ (ភត្ត​ធ្វើ​តាម​ថ្ងៃ)​ ជា​បន្ត​បន្ទាប់។​ ចំណែក​មួយ​ថ្នាក់​ទៀត​គេ​ធ្វើ​នៅ​ថ្ងៃ​១៥​រោច​ ដែល​គេ​ហៅ​ថា​បុណ្យ​ភ្ជុំ។​ ពិធី​បុណ្យ​ទាំង​ពីរ​ថ្នាក់​នេះ​ បច្ចុប្បន្ន​ត្រូវ​បាន​យើង​បូក​បញ្ចូល​គ្នា​ ហើយ​ហៅ​កាត់​ថា​ ពិធី​បុណ្យ​បិណ្ឌ​ភ្ជុំ​នេះ​ឯង។

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Analysis: Gold stocks to outsparkle gold in post-QE2 world

(Reuters) - Gold's performance has eclipsed that of gold mining stocks this year, but gold equities now are likely to take the upper hand as the flow of cheap U.S. cash slows and miners boast juicy margins and good growth prospects.

Gold's status as a quasi-currency and safe haven has helped pushed the price of the metal up about 20 percent since the start of the year to above $1,520 an ounce, making it one of the top performing asset classes of 2011.

That compares with an 8 percent drop in the ARCA Gold Bugs index, which includes shares in some of the world's largest gold miners.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's $600 billion bond-buying program, which has kept down interest rates and the dollar; the disaster in Japan and the violence in the Middle East, which have shaken investor confidence; and evidence of sluggish U.S. growth and concerns about China have all boosted gold but dented global stocks. And gold shares have not been immune.

Now that the Fed's easing program has come to an end, Japan is recovering and China has managed to stave off some of the biggest fears about price pressures, there is some doubt that gold can keep up that strong performance.

Gold stocks, meanwhile, are supported by a gold price near record highs and may benefit from improving sentiment for equities markets. They also appear relatively cheap at the price.

Catherine Raw, who helps manage BlackRock's $4.7 billion Gold & General Fund, said the rise in the gold price has outpaced cost inflation in the industry, meaning that gold miners are likely to see their margins and their profits increase this year.

"I, as an investor, would say that in the end, given that believe the world isn't going to collapse, while there maybe a good few months of volatility left, if you're prepared to be patient, then I would see now as a very good buying opportunity," she said.

"The fundamentals of gold companies have improved, and yet their shares have fallen, and you've seen valuations now much more comparable to the rest of the mining sector. So you're not having to pay a ridiculous premium as you would have done say five or six years ago, and yet margins are growing significantly, in a way that they weren't five or six years ago," Raw added.


Shares in Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold miner, trade at nearly 14 times anticipated earnings, while second-largest Newmont and third-largest AngloGold Ashanti trade at roughly 12 times expected earnings.

This compares with base metal producer BHP Billiton, which trades at nearly 17 times expected earnings, or Anglo American, which trades at 40 times earnings.

HSBC Global Asset Management, which recently unloaded most of its holdings of physical gold in favor of gold shares, said gold equities are two-thirds shares and one-third gold price.

An environment of uncertainty, negative real interest rates and turbulent stock markets will cause gold equities to underperform, even while they benefit from a rise in the gold price, HSBC said.

Historically, gold has outperformed gold mining shares in times of financial market stress and instability. The ARCA Gold Bugs fell by 29 percent in 2008, the low-point of the global financial crisis, while the gold price rose by 6.05 pct.

The index fell 44 percent in 2000, when the bubble burst, while spot gold fell by just 6.3 pct in that time.

But over the past 10 years while gold has been consistently rising, for a gain of over 400 percent, the Gold Bugs index has risen by 770 percent.

Daniel Sacks, who co-manages Investec's $750 million Global Gold Fund, said gold miners are generally looking much healthier than they did in 2008, because many have issued equity to cancel out debt.

He added that gold miners, as a rule, tend to avoid taking on debt as their lenders encourage them to hedge their future production as some form of guarantee.

"They still don't compare to high-yielding industrial or financial stocks, but compared to their history, gold shares are yielding a lot more than they used to. It's just an indication of the width of their margins," Sacks said.

Sacks said gold equities tend to outperform in the northern hemisphere summer months, largely because of the lull in consumer buying of physical gold. This was not the case last year when the eruption of the euro zone debt crisis prompted an investor push into gold and out of equities.

In summer 2009, however, gold rose 7.7 percent compared with a 31 pct rise in the Gold Bugs index. In 2007, as the extent of the credit crunch was becoming apparent, gold rose 12.6 pct between June and September, while gold stocks gained 18 percent.

"After a rip-roaring 2010 as the metal went mainstream, gold has become the gift that has stopped giving for some investors," said JPMorgan Chase in a recent note. "We feel gold still has a very significant role in portfolios. However, it has become apparent that the metal and the equities act differently."

The U.S. bank added, "Gold equities will remain under pressure while investors remain fearful. Once investors feel that the risk of another leg down in general markets passes, or after a downswing in the markets, we feel the gold equities will do some catching up."

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dolphins In The Military

Dolphins In The Military

British Air Marshal Brian Burridge, head of the U.K. Contingent, talks about the dolphins used in the Gulf to clear mines during a briefing at the Coalition Media Center in Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar March 27, 2003. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Members of the Deep/Shallow Water Mark 7 crew from Commander Task Unit deploy a Miller Pen that will house a bottlenose dolphin operating near the USS Gunston Hall March 17, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. CTU-55.4.3 is a multinational team consisting of Naval Special Clearance Team-One, Fleet Diving Unit Three from the United Kingdom, Clearance Dive Team from Australia, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units Six and Eight (EODMU-6 and EODMU-8). These units are conducting deep and shallow water mine counter measure operations to clear shipping lanes for humanitarian relief. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Dolphins In The Military

Staff Sergeant Justin Roberts escorts K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3 in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) back to the well deck and holding areas aboard the USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Signalman 2nd Class Diver Harlold Bickford, a mammal handler from Commander Task Unit (CTU-55.4.3), brushing the teeth of a bottlenose dolphin in the well deck aboard the USS Gunston Hall March 17, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Hefi, a bottlenose dolphin belonging to Command Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, receive a routine medical evaluation on the well deck aboard USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Sergeant Andrew Garrett watches K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin attached to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3, leap out of the water while training near the USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003 in the Persian Gulf. (Photo by U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Dolphins In The Military

British Air Marshal Brian Burridge, head of the U.K. Contingent, talks about the dolphins used in the Gulf to clear mines during a briefing at the Coalition Media Center in Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar March 27, 2003. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Members of the Deep/Shallow Water Mark 7 crew from Commander Task Unit deploy a Miller Pen that will house a bottlenose dolphin operating near the USS Gunston Hall March 17, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. CTU-55.4.3 is a multinational team consisting of Naval Special Clearance Team-One, Fleet Diving Unit Three from the United Kingdom, Clearance Dive Team from Australia, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units Six and Eight (EODMU-6 and EODMU-8). These units are conducting deep and shallow water mine counter measure operations to clear shipping lanes for humanitarian relief. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Dolphins In The Military

Staff Sergeant Justin Roberts escorts K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3 in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) back to the well deck and holding areas aboard the USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Signalman 2nd Class Diver Harlold Bickford, a mammal handler from Commander Task Unit (CTU-55.4.3), brushing the teeth of a bottlenose dolphin in the well deck aboard the USS Gunston Hall March 17, 2003 in the Arabian Gulf. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Hefi, a bottlenose dolphin belonging to Command Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, receive a routine medical evaluation on the well deck aboard USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003. (Photo by Brien Aho/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Dolphins In The Military

Sergeant Andrew Garrett watches K-Dog, a bottlenose dolphin attached to Commander Task Unit 55.4.3, leap out of the water while training near the USS Gunston Hall March 18, 2003 in the Persian Gulf. (Photo by U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Euro lifted by Trichet's Portugal comments

(Reuters) - The euro gained against the dollar for the first time in three sessions on Thursday after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said the central bank would relax rules and keep providing liquidity to struggling Portugal, helping allay worries about Europe's debt crisis.

At a news conference after the central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.50 percent, the European Central Bank's chief said the ECB had decided to suspend the application of the minimum credit rating threshold in Portuguese collateral.

"While to some extent this is a reaction to the recent downgrade of Portuguese debt, it also does show that the ECB position remains flexible, which could be important for ongoing discussions on a Greek debt rollover," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York.

While Trichet did not use the term "strong vigilance" when speaking about monetary policy, a wording historically used by the central bank to communicate another rate hike is near, he did use the phrase "monitor very closely," which indicates further tightening could emerge in months ahead.

In late morning New York trade, the euro was at $1.4342, up 0.2 percent on the day and far above the session low of $1.4219 hit immediately after Trichet started his news conference.

"The ECB chief is clearly trying to walk the tightrope as the central bank attempts to normalize monetary policy for the core euro zone where real rates remain negative while at the same time providing liquidity for the troubled periphery economies," said Boris Schlossberg, director of currency research at GFT Forex in New York.

Analysts said that while the decision on Portugal is not entirely surprising, it indicates some degree of flexibility on the part of the ECB as euro zone policymakers struggle to reach agreement on solving the region's spreading debt crisis.

Portugal's debt has come under scrutiny after Moody's this week downgraded the country's credit rating to junk.

Meanwhile, U.S. private employers stepped up hiring in June and the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits fell last week, strengthening views the economy is positioned for a pick-up in the second half.

"What is good news for risk and the U.S. economy is bad news for the yen, as this currency pair (dollar versus yen) is largely driven by interest rate differentials," said Andrew Cox, G10 strategist at CitiFX, a division of Citigroup in New York.

"The data certainly backs the risk-on trade and revisions higher in Friday's payrolls report can be expected."

The dollar was up 0.4 percent at 81.28 yen. Against a basket of currencies .DXY the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 74.974.

Prior to the ADP employment report on private sector payrolls, the U.S. government had been expected to report on Friday that non-farm payrolls increased 90,000 last month, according to a Reuters survey, after rising only 54,000 in May. However, the ADP report had some economists bumping up their forecasts.

The euro rose 0.8 percent to 1.2116 francs, holding above a record low of 1.1800 francs on June 24. The dollar last traded up 0.6 percent to 0.8442 francs.

The safe-haven Swiss franc had benefited smartly from the flare-up in sovereign debt concerns but tends to fall as investors embrace risk.

(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou and Steven C. Johnson in New York and Nia Williams in London; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wall Street suffers worst selloff in two years

Investors fled Wall Street in the worst stock-market selloff since the middle of the financial crisis in early 2009 in what has turned into a full-fledged correction.

The Dow and the S&P tumbled more than 4 percent on Thursday and the Nasdaq lost 5 percent on fear the United States is staring at another recession and that Europe's sovereign debt crisis is swallowing two of its largest economies.

Analysts predicted further losses even though stocks have fallen on nine of the last 10 days. Two-year Treasury yields fell to a record low as investors sought safety in short-term government bonds.

"People are throwing in the towel because they can't find relief on any front," said Milton Ezrati, market strategist at Lord Abbett Co. in Jersey City, New Jersey, which manages $110 billion in assets.

The S&P 500's drop puts it more than 10 percent below its April 29 high, considered a correction. Nearly 14 billion shares changed hands, the busiest trading day in more than a year. Decliners beat advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by about 19 to 1.

The market's recent malaise stems from a number of factors. U.S. economic data has worsened, suggesting slowing growth from already sluggish pace in the first half. Europe's sovereign debt crisis has defied remedies and threatens to engulf large euro-zone economies Spain and Italy.

"The debt troubles in Europe, especially with the yields on Italian and Spanish government bonds soaring, are making investors gather as much liquidity as possible," said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 512.46 points, or 4.31 percent, at 11,383.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 60.21 points, or 4.78 percent, at 1,200.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 136.68 points, or 5.08 percent, at 2,556.39.

Some 13.92 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, the highest since June 25, 2010, and well above the daily average of around 7.48 billion.

Losses occurred in all sectors. Among stocks hitting new 52-week lows were Bank of America, down 7.4 percent at $8.83, Citigroup, down 6.6 percent at $34.81, and Hewlett-Packard, down 5.1 percent at $32.54.

Among sectors, losses in energy and materials outpaced others, with S&P energy down 6.8 percent and materials down more than 6.6 percent.

U.S. crude futures settled down $5.30 to $86.63 a barrel in New York.

The CBOE Volatility index jumped 35.4 percent to 31.66, its highest since July 2010. It was the biggest rise since February 2007.

Overseas, the European Central Bank signaled it was buying government bonds in response to a deepening European debt crisis. In Japan, the government intervened in currency markets to stem recent gains in the yen.

On Friday the government releases July's payrolls report, a closely watched number to gauge the U.S. economy.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Additional reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

Special report: How Washington took the U.S. to the brink

(Reuters) - The world's largest economy was headed toward an unprecedented default, and all Washington wanted to talk about was the manner in which the president had left a room.

A White House meeting in mid-July between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders had ended with sharp words as Obama clashed with the brash Republican House majority leader, Eric Cantor.

Now Cantor was back on Capitol Hill, dishing details to a scrum of reporters -- a shift from the terse, vague statements that usually followed such meetings.

"He said to me, 'Eric, don't call my bluff. I'm going to the American people with this,'" Cantor said in his Southern drawl. "I was somewhat taken aback."

Republican aides filled in the gaps. Obama had "stormed out of the room," one said. At the White House, aides pushed back. One official demonstrated to reporters exactly how Obama had ended the meeting -- lightly pushing his chair back from the table, standing up deliberately, walking away calmly. "He didn't storm out. He just got up and walked into his office," one said.

That evening -- July 13, 2011 -- was one of the lowest points in the struggle to avert fiscal disaster and put the nation's budget on a sustainable path.

Congress needed to extend the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before Tuesday, August 2, the date the Treasury Department would begin running out of cash to cover the country's bills. But Republicans and Democrats were deadlocked.


As the deadline drew closer, the two sides abandoned a series of efforts to reach agreement, searching for the right combination of policies and personalities to get a deal done. In the end, it fell to two consummate Washington insiders to prevent the talks from collapsing.

A Reuters examination of the months-long showdown over the debt ceiling found that:

* Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell emerged as critical players in the final stretch of the talks, as theirs was the only cross-party relationship built on decades of trust.

* Despite a belief among many rank-and-file Republicans that the government could muddle through a default, party leaders never doubted the Treasury Department's warnings that economic catastrophe was a real possibility if they didn't reach a deal by August 2.

* Although House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, was eager to strike a bold deal with Obama, it was ultimately necessary for Boehner to distance himself from the White House to convince his House Republicans to back the final deal.

* The business community played an important behind-the-scenes role, with two White House foes -- Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce -- rallying support for a compromise backed by Obama.

This account of America's journey to the brink of default is based on interviews conducted over the past six weeks with dozens of elected officials, business lobbyists and aides in the House, the Senate and the White House.


The U.S. congressional elections in November 2010 set the stage for confrontation over the congressionally mandated cap on the outstanding total of federal government borrowings. Republicans had harnessed voters' anxiety over the economy and soaring deficits to capture the House of Representatives.

Accusing Obama of overreaching with his stimulus package in 2009 and his drive for healthcare reform, Republicans vowed to slash spending and rein in the federal government's size.

A campaign document -- the "Pledge to America" -- promised to cut spending by $100 billion in the first year alone, back to the levels in place in Republican President George W. Bush's last year in office.

The newly elected Republicans, 87 in all, were not interested in compromise. Many felt a greater obligation to the grassroots Tea Party activists who had sent them to Washington than to the party elders who ran the place.

In a budget fight with the Democratic-controlled Senate that took the government to the brink of a shutdown in April, Republicans managed to cut spending by $38 billion, the largest domestic cut in U.S. history.

Still, 59 House Republicans voted against the bill because it did not go far enough.


That was a mere skirmish. The big battle lay ahead as the government was fast running up against its $14.3 trillion credit limit and would need Congress to raise it further. In early May, Boehner laid out his conditions for a debt-ceiling increase: spending cuts would need to exceed the amount of new borrowing authority.

Instead of billions of dollars, the debate would be measured in the trillions.

It would be a chance for Boehner to show his new troops that he could use the levers of Washington to get results.

An avid golfer and a chain-smoker, the 61-year-old Boehner is from an older generation than many of the Tea Party conservatives whose election to Congress made it possible for him to become House Speaker.

The seasoned legislator and former businessman grew up in Ohio from a family of modest means and worked as a janitor to help put himself through college.

Obama, 49, had a comfort level with fellow Midwesterner Boehner despite their philosophical differences. The speaker reminded the president, a former state senator from Illinois, of Republican legislators he used to play poker with in Illinois and with whom he forged bipartisan deals.

Both men are even-tempered and view themselves as Washington outsiders. Each has ambitions of transforming Washington and making a big mark on policy.

Those aspirations drove their on-again, off-again talks aimed at a far-reaching, bipartisan "grand bargain" that would put the United States on sounder fiscal footing for years to come.

On a golf outing in mid-June, the two agreed to work together on a broad deficit-reduction deal. "Let's give it a try," Obama told the speaker.

The following week, at a secret White House meeting, they agreed to have their staff draw up options. The aim was to craft a plan that would cut deficits by roughly $4 trillion over 10 years.


The challenges were steep. Democrats would have to agree to rein in cherished social programs like the Medicare health plan for retirees and the disabled. Republicans would have to accept a tax-code overhaul that would increase revenues through the elimination of tax breaks and deductions.

Boehner's enthusiasm for the "grand bargain" was not shared by his colleague, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell had confided to Vice President Joe Biden that he thought it was unrealistic to try to accomplish such a sweeping deal in the weeks before August 2 deadline.

The Senate Republican leader worried it would lead to a dead end when pressure was building to resolve the debt-limit standoff. Rating agencies were warning they might downgrade the country's top-notch credit score and, while there was no sign of panic yet in financial markets, investors were growing nervous.

McConnell, 69, had served in the Senate since 1985 and witnessed firsthand the divided-government battles of the 1990s, when Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and an earlier generation of firebrand conservatives went toe-to-toe with Democratic President Bill Clinton.


That confrontation led to a shutdown of the federal government and provoked a public backlash against Gingrich and his party. With the Republican brand tarnished, Clinton sailed to re-election in 1996.

McConnell, whose party is a minority in the closely divided Senate, viewed the 2012 elections as a chance to gain dominance in the chamber.

He feared the debt-limit fight would put that in jeopardy while also bolstering Obama's re-election prospects.

If Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's warnings were right -- and both McConnell and Boehner believed they were despite skepticism among their rank-and-file -- the fallout from a debt default would be calamitous, causing stocks and the dollar to sink and interest rates to surge.

Mortgage rates and business borrowing costs would spike, potentially sending the economy into another recession. That would mean Republicans -- whom Democrats had accused of intransigence over the debt limit -- would share in the blame for the economy's woes and suffer voter wrath as a result.

Many in the White House viewed McConnell as more of a tactician than a visionary and someone more focused on party politics than on setting policy. In the quest for a grand bargain, Boehner would make a better partner, they thought.

But in the end, after Boehner twice broke off talks with the White House, administration officials relied heavily on McConnell as an emissary to the speaker, and came to view him as a crucial player.


The administration's chief link to McConnell was Biden, 68, a 36-year veteran of the Senate with rock-solid Democratic credentials who nonetheless had a strong rapport with the Republican leader.

The two seemed to speak the same language from their years in the Senate together. Their bond grew closer when they worked together on a tax-cutting deal just before Christmas late last year, according to people who know both men.

"C'mon Mitch, you know what I'm dealing with here," Biden would sometimes tell McConnell -- Senate-speak to describe the pushback he would face from Democratic Party activists if he gave too much ground.

According to a former Biden aide, McConnell seemed to appreciate that Biden understood the GOP leader faced similar constraints within the Republican Party.

In April, Obama tapped Biden to lead a panel of lawmakers that would lay the groundwork for a deal. In an ornate corner room just off the Senate floor, the group pored through stacks of government and private-sector reports to identify more than $1 trillion in mutually acceptable spending cuts.

As the talks stretched into June, Biden gradually built up a rapport with Cantor, the House majority leader, who was leading the Republican side.


In less than 10 years in Washington, Cantor had quickly climbed to the top rungs of Republican leadership. But his sharp elbows had earned him enemies -- some from within his own party.

He and Boehner had a cool relationship, say people who know both lawmakers. The rift extended into the lobbying community, where Republicans identified themselves as "Boehner people" or "Cantor people."

At the end of June, Cantor abruptly walked out of the Biden talks, saying the two sides could not agree on taxes. The "principals" -- Obama and Boehner -- would have to take it from there.

Even before the Biden talks began, members of Boehner's office dismissed them as political theater.

"This thing will ultimately get decided by Boehner and Obama," a Boehner aide said.

After weeks of back-channel negotiations with Obama, Boehner decided on July 22 that he could not work with the White House and would have to forge a deal with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The two sides had come tantalizingly close to a deal, but stumbled again over the tax question.

Boehner felt the White House had shifted the goalposts at the last minute.

White House officials believed Boehner's departure stemmed from an unwillingness -- or an inability -- to take on the conservative rebels in his party. If Boehner had been willing to shake hands publicly with Obama on a "grand bargain," they said, there would have been a way to woo enough mainstream Republicans and Democrats to pass the bill.

They also disagreed with any suggestions that they had shifted the goalposts.


"Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of Jell-O," Boehner said angrily at a press conference that night.

Obama called him back to the White House the following day and told him he should not be left out of the process.

"Mr. President, as I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws. You get to decide if you want to sign them," Boehner responded, according to his aides.

The action moved back to Congress. Like the deal that Boehner and the White House had abandoned, the latest plan would separate the relatively easy decisions -- curbs on annual discretionary spending -- from the difficult reforms to benefits and the tax code.

It wasn't the "grand bargain" Obama and Boehner had sought, but it would deliver trillions in savings and cover the nation's borrowing needs past the November 2012 elections.

There was one catch. The plan would require another debt-ceiling vote in a few months to ensure Congress would sign off on the second set of savings, and Obama had already ruled that out.

Around 10 p.m., on Saturday, July 23, Obama called Boehner to tell him he would veto the bill if it reached his desk. But he suggested that they could find another way to ensure Congress would actually follow through with the tax and benefit changes envisioned by the plan.


Congressional staff continued work on the plan the next day. Boehner told Fox News he would press ahead with his own legislation if the two sides could not agree. With no progress made on the enforcement mechanism, known as a "trigger" in Washington-speak, that appeared to be the case.

Boehner told Republicans he would unveil his version of the plan on Monday, July 25, while the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, decided to advance a rival plan. Another effort had failed.

The final week would put Boehner's leadership to the test.

Boehner unveiled his plan to Republicans that Monday in a meeting room in the bowels of the Capitol. It wouldn't tie a debt-limit increase to the balanced-budget constitutional amendment, as many of them wanted, but it would deliver more than $2 trillion in savings. A vote was set for Wednesday, July 27.

Boehner launched a two-front lobbying blitz, alternating between in-person meetings with wavering lawmakers and phone calls to conservative media figures like talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and columnist Charles Krauthammer.

On Monday night, he touted the plan directly to a national audience, as television networks granted him air time to respond to a prime-time speech by Obama.


Boehner's rally continued on Tuesday morning at the Capitol Hill Club, a social club for Republicans. Boehner's lieutenants took the lead. Cantor bluntly acknowledged that "the debt limit sucks." Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican whip, or lead vote counter, showed a clip from "The Town," a 2010 movie about bank robbers.

"I need your help," said a character played by Ben Affleck. "You can never ask me about it later and we're gonna hurt some people."

"Whose car are we going to take?" asks another character.

The message: it was time to get the job done, no matter how messy. The film clip appeared to win over at least one convert.

Representative Allen West, an outspoken Tea Party-aligned freshman, stood up and shouted: "I'm ready to drive the car!"


But momentum shifted as the day wore on. Outside conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation urged a vote against the bill.

At the White House, aides were batting away suggestions that Obama had been sidelined.

"He's working tirelessly, meeting with his economic team, doing a lot of outreach, exploring all opportunities for compromise," said senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Obama worked the phones, talking strategy with Democratic leaders and developing options for the final endgame.

Jarrett, one of the administration's envoys to the business community, said her phone was ringing off the hook with calls from retailers and other business owners worried about the prospect of another debt-limit fight in December if Obama was forced to accept Boehner's two-step plan.

The White House was also actively reaching out to the business community to spell out the dire consequences of a default.

The administration found an ally in the Chamber of Commerce, a group traditionally aligned with Republicans, who now urged the party to back the bill.

The financial services industry was also on the same page as the administration on this issue, despite its many skirmishes with the White House during the debate over Wall Street reform in 2010.


In his public address on Monday night, Obama had implored Americans to intervene directly by calling, emailing or posting messages on Twitter to their lawmakers.

Telephone circuits on Capitol Hill seized up, email messages bounced back and Web sites crashed under the load.

The anxiety at the White House was building.

"It's fair to say that nobody here had any doubt that this was going to go right up to the line, even as we urged Congress not to take it right up to the line," one administration official said. "That's just the way Congress works."

Still, the path toward a deal was far from clear.

Over at Treasury, Geithner was trying to figure out what to do if Congress failed to reach a deal in time.

Should the government make debt service a top priority to prevent a meltdown on Wall Street? That could delay paychecks to soldiers, benefit checks to retirees, and payments to government contracts, sending ripples through the economy.

Back at the Capitol, Boehner's troubles mounted.

Representative Jim Jordan, a leader of the Republican Party's right wing, predicted Boehner wouldn't get the votes he needed from his own party. Democrats united against his bill.

The Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper, said it would only deliver $850 billion in savings, rather than the $1.2 trillion it claimed. Late that evening, Boehner decided to rewrite the bill to make sure it complied with the party's vow to extract spending cuts greater than the size of the debt limit increase. That put off a vote until at least Thursday.


The acrimony spilled into the open Wednesday morning, July 27, in the party's basement meeting room.

Representative Greg Walden, a Boehner ally, read aloud an email from a Jordan staffer that urged outside conservative groups to convince undecided members to vote against the bill. Many lawmakers in the room viewed the message as a betrayal of the Speaker. As the Jordan staffer stood uncomfortably against a wall, lawmakers chanted, "Fire him! Fire him!"

The usually jovial Boehner turned the screws. "Get your ass in line," he said. There was laughter, but the message was unmistakable.

As the meeting adjourned, lawmakers predicted the bill would pass. But a large number remained on the fence. Boehner spent the day listening to their concerns -- the cuts weren't big enough, the special committee might raise taxes, the balanced-budget amendment has been watered down.

Thursday morning, July 28: another meeting, another chance to rally the troops over fruit and doughnuts and signs that read "Play like a champion." Representative Mike Kelly, an alumnus of Notre Dame University, drew upon his school's storied legacy as he urged members to "put on your helmet, buckle your chin straps, run out onto the field and beat the shit out of your opponent!"

Doubters like Jordan stayed silent. As the meeting adjourned, they told reporters that their opposition had not changed.

With the rewritten bill ready to go, Republican leaders scheduled a vote for late Thursday afternoon. As debate started on the House floor, Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and Whip McCarthy continued to meet with doubters, making the case that the party needed to stick together if it wanted an acceptable final product.

At 5:25 p.m., the Republican troika abruptly yanked the bill from the House floor with only one minute left of debate. They didn't have the votes.


As floor action turned to naming post offices, Boehner summoned the holdouts to his office just off the Capitol rotunda. Whatever he was doing wasn't changing any minds.

"I'm a bloodied and beaten 'no,'" said Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, one of several conservatives who had downplayed the consequences of a technical default, as he left the office.

At the beginning of the year, Republicans had enacted a ban on earmarks, the pet spending projects that had come to symbolize waste and corruption in the public imagination. That meant that Boehner had fewer carrots to offer reluctant members -- no highway overpasses.

"It is the most refreshing thing in the world to see what is going on here. These kinds of negotiations a couple of years ago would have cost $20 billion," said Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose anti-spending stance had made him an outcast in the party in the past decade.

The five Republicans who represent South Carolina headed from Boehner's opulent suite to the Capitol's small, private chapel to pray.

As they knelt beneath a stained glass window depicting George Washington, they weren't praying for guidance, just strength to maintain their stand.

"I think divine inspiration has already happened. I was a 'lean-no,' now I'm a 'no,'" said Representative Tim Scott.


The action moved downstairs to McCarthy's office. The jovial 46-year-old Republican whip, from California's dusty interior, was a novice vote counter. He had presided over a few embarrassing setbacks earlier in the year. Now he was facing a true disaster.

As the night wore on, 19 boxes of pizza from Al's Pizzeria disappeared into McCarthy's office.

The holdouts weren't looking for pork-barrel spending or other favors -- though they didn't refuse the pizza. Instead, they wanted to strengthen the balanced-budget clause. That would certainly doom the bill in the Senate, but at that point Boehner just wanted to get it out of the House.

Even with that change, Boehner still appeared to be short of the 217 votes he needed. At 10:30 on Thursday night, the House adjourned without a vote.

House Republicans met in their basement clubhouse again on Friday morning, July 29. The holdouts came under more pressure -- this time from other rank-and-file members who said they were undermining the party's negotiating position. But a final count showed that the votes appeared to be there.

"I love you guys," Boehner said in a moment of levity.

The bill passed Friday evening on a vote of 218 to 210 -- just one vote more than needed. The Senate defeated it two hours later, and the House retaliated on Saturday by defeating a proposal put forth by Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Another week had elapsed, and Congress was no closer to consensus.

While the legislative chess game played out, Biden called McConnell on Wednesday and Friday.


Out of loyalty to Boehner, the Senate Republican leader had refrained from talks with the White House for most of the week.

On Friday morning, McConnell told Biden there was "no daylight" between the two Republicans, but told the vice president to try later in the day.

"Call me back after these votes and I will tell you what it will take to get my support," McConnell said, according to a Republican aide.

Biden and McConnell spoke again Friday evening and in the early afternoon on Saturday. Negotiations began in earnest around 3 p.m., after the House defeated Reid's bill.

Tuesday, August 2, was three days away.

White House chief of staff Bill Daley's office became Grand Central Station for a rolling series of meetings among White House staff. The meetings moved on Sunday to the vice president's office and later to the Oval Office.

On Saturday, Obama asked Biden's chief of staff, Bruce Reed, whether his wife was angry that he was spending his wedding anniversary at the office.

"Previously, I was on negative watch but I've now been officially downgraded," Reed deadpanned.


After months of high-profile meetings, nearly all of the negotiations on the final weekend took place by phone.

In the big gatherings, participants tended to emphasize "talking points" because of the expectation that the conversations would spill out into the public. Smaller meetings allowed participants to cut to the chase, according to an administration official, and details could remain private.

On Saturday night, a media report surfaced that there was a tentative framework for a deal.

White House reporters seeking an update chased a top communications aide toward the Oval Office, only to be told later that the two sides had not arrived at a deal yet.

Indeed, the negotiations ended up going down to the wire.

At 5 p.m. on Sunday night, White House officials discussed whether Treasury Secretary Geithner should make a statement to the financial markets that evening or perhaps the following morning.


Geithner, in his former role as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was one of the chief financial firefighters during the global markets meltdown triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Asian markets were about to open. The crisis had already roiled U.S. debt markets and taken a toll on the dollar and Wall Street stocks.

Administration officials feared worse bloodletting if investors returned to their desks at the start of the week without clarity on whether there would be a deal.

Geithner and a small team of aides had been quietly working on contingency plans in case Congress missed the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Treasury had planned to brief markets on those plans no later than Monday.

Private-sector analysts believed that in a worst-case scenario, Geithner would be prepared to tell markets he would put a priority on paying the government's debt in order to avoid default -- even if that meant taking the politically explosive step of delaying payments to Social Security recipients and others.


But the Treasury secretary never had to show his hand.

The final sticking point in the talks centered on the terms of the deficit-cutting "trigger." Democrats wanted automatic cuts in military spending if Congress balked at the second round of deficit reduction.

Biden and McConnell spoke four times on Saturday, five times on Sunday, circling around the two stumbling blocks that remained -- the nature of the "trigger" and the size of the defense cuts that Democrats wanted. McConnell kept in contact with Boehner.

On Sunday, July 31, there were less than two full days before Default Day. As Obama's budget director, Jack Lew, crunched numbers on the Republican defense cut proposals, the White House feared it might not get a deal. Biden spoke with Boehner around 4 p.m. and said, "We just can't get there."

McConnell floated a compromise to widen the trigger to all security-related programs -- the State Department, veterans' care, nuclear security -- and not just the Pentagon.

At 8:15 p.m. Sunday, Obama made a final call to Boehner as White House aides listened nearby.

"Do we have a deal?" Obama asked.

There was a moment of suspense, then: "Congratulations to you, too, John."

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Rachelle Younglai, Laura MacInnis, Dave Clarke, Alister Bull and Jeff Mason; Editing by Jackie Frank)

UK lawmakers pressure Piers Morgan on hacking claims

(Reuters) - - British lawmakers called on Thursday for CNN talk show host and former tabloid editor Piers Morgan to return to his native Britain to answer questions about phone-hacking after allegations made by the ex-wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney.

The claim by Heather Mills that a journalist had listened to voicemail messages on her mobile phone has added fuel to the flames of a scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire and much of the British establishment.

In an interview with the BBC Wednesday, Mills said a journalist working for British publisher Trinity Mirror, owner of the Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper, had confronted her with details of a message left by McCartney on her phone in early 2001 following an argument.

She said the senior journalist -- who was not Morgan -- had admitted hacking her phone. Morgan was the editor of the Mirror at the time.

So far, allegations about the hacking scam have been mainly limited to the News of the World newspaper, owned by News Corp's British newspaper arm News International.

The Sunday tabloid was closed last month amid public fury after it emerged that hacking victims included a missing schoolgirl later found murdered and other victims of crime.

The claim by Mills widened the hacking scandal to other titles and turned the spotlight on Morgan, who edited the News of the World from 1994-95 and the Mirror from 1995-2004.

Morgan said in a 2006 article for Britain's Daily Mail newspaper that he had listened to one of Mills' phone messages.

Trinity Mirror and Morgan, now a chat-show host for CNN in the United States, issued statements denying any wrongdoing.

"Heather Mills has made unsubstantiated claims about a conversation she may or may not have had with a senior executive from a Trinity Mirror newspaper in 2001," he said, describing her claims as "somewhat extravagant."

"To reiterate, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone," he added.


Therese Coffey, a Conservative legislator who sits on a parliament's Culture, Media and Sport committee which is investigating phone-hacking, said Morgan needed to do more than simply issue statements.

Fellow committee member Jim Sheridan said it would be "helpful" if Morgan could clear up the allegations.

"If the evidence suggests the Mirror group, Piers Morgan or indeed anyone else has been involved in phone-hacking then the police have to contact them and make sure that their nest is clean," he told BBC TV.

"I am deeply suspicious that this doesn't stop at News International."

Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party, said Morgan had questions to answer and that detectives, who are probing the hacking allegations as well as claims reporters paid bribes to police for information, should leave no stone unturned.

"It's not good enough for Piers Morgan just to say he's always stayed within the law," she said in a statement.

However, the chairman of the committee told the BBC there were no plans to formally call Morgan to give evidence, and that the committee was focusing on suggestions News International executives had given them misleading evidence.

Two former senior News International figures have contradicted evidence provided by Murdoch's son James. It is likely the committee will recall him to clarify his earlier testimony.

NY seeks to intervene in BoA $8.5 billion pact

LinkNew York's attorney general will oppose Bank of America Corp's $8.5 billion settlement over repurchasing toxic mortgage loans, joining a growing number of unhappy mortgage bond buyers now fighting the pact reached with some of the largest institutional investors in the country.

In court papers filed late Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought to intervene in order to "protect the marketplace and the interests of New York investors, the vast majority of whom otherwise are not present before the Court in this proceeding."

The filing comes a day before a scheduled court hearing in the case that's expected to address when parties opposing the deal can seek discovery.

In late June, BofA settled an eight-month dispute with outside investors who bought Countrywide Financial Corp mortgage bonds.

The investors -- including Pacific Investment Management Co, or PIMCO, and BlackRock Inc -- requested the bank repurchase toxic home loans that comprised a series of mortgage-backed securities.

BofA, the investors and securities trustee Bank of New York Mellon agreed to an $8.5 billion settlement that applies to all investors in nearly all Countrywide Financial-created mortgage bonds, but the deal must be approved by a New York court.

The attorney general said in a filing the accord may interfere with his ability to pursue claims against the banks involved, and claims that BofA and Bank of New York may have violated their fiduciary duties in reaching the agreement.

In court documents, Schneiderman echoed complaints from other investors who have said that the deal was done in secret and was rife with conflicts. He called the proposed settlement "both procedurally and substantively flawed."

Schneiderman argued that Bank of New York was conflicted during the negotiations with Bank of America because Countrywide agreed to indemnify it for claims arising out of its role as trustee.

"As trustee, BNYM owed and owes a fiduciary duty of undivided loyalty to trust investors, and its direct financial interest in the consummation and approval of the settlement violates that duty of strict loyalty," said Schneiderman in court filings.

A spokesman for Bank of New York said in a statement that the allegations are "outrageous" and "baseless."

"We are confident that we have fulfilled in all respects our responsibilities as Trustee," he said. "The AG's action is misguided and fails to comprehend the role of the Trustee and the benefit the settlement would provide to investors.

Bank of America declined to comment.

The objection is the latest wrinkle in BofA's push to rid itself of mortgage issues stemming from the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

The bank inherited many of its current problems from Countrywide Financial Corp. BofA bought the largest U.S. subprime mortgage lender in July 2008, months before the global financial crisis peaked.

This year, BofA has agreed to a series of settlements to remove the specter it may have to repurchase billions in soured mortgages.

In January, the bank settled with U.S. government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for $2.8 billion.

In April, it settled with bond insurer Assured Guaranty for $1.6 billion.

The case is In re: The Bank of New York Mellon, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 651786/2011.

Jobs, retail sales data support recovery hopes

(Reuters) - The number of Americans claiming new unemployment benefits was steady last week and heavy discounting lifted sales at retailers in July, hopeful signs for the sputtering economy.

Initial claims for state jobless benefits edged down 1,000 to 400,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had expected claims to rise to 405,000 and the dip last week indicated an easing in layoffs, which have weighed on employment in the past two months.

"While the economic slowdown appears to be stretching into the third quarter, what really matters is jobs," said Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.

"The pace of job losses has eased relative to what it was a few weeks ago and that is important because it could reflect positively on confidence going forward."

There was also more encouraging news for the economy, whose growth pace stalled in the first half of this year.

Retailers, including Limited Brands and teen apparel chains Hot Topic Inc and Wet Seal, reported healthy monthly sales increases in July as deep discounts and unusually warm weather lured shoppers to malls.

Twenty-five retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters reported a 4.4 percent gain in July sales at stores open at least a year, just above expectations of a 4.3 percent rise.

But the reports failed to ease investors' fears over the stalled recovery, which were exacerbated by Europe's inability to tame its spreading debt crisis.

U.S. stocks tumbled in their worst sell-off in two years, while Treasury debt prices soared. The dollar rallied broadly after the ECB kept interest rates on hold and the Bank of Japan intervened in the market to curb the yen's rise.

U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual pace of 1.3 percent in the second quarter after a negligible 0.4 percent rate in the January-March period.

Data so far show the anemic growth pace persisted early in the third quarter, with manufacturing hitting a two-year low in July and the services sector expanding at its slowest pace in nearly 1-1/2 years.


"We expect economic activity to improve in the second half of the year, which should result in better labor market conditions," said Michael Gapen, a senior economist at Barclays Capital in New York.

"Still, the full unwinding of the high gasoline prices and supply chain disruptions stemming from the Japanese earthquake, which led to much of the softness in second-quarter, will take time, but appears to be proceeding."

The slowdown is not confined to the United States.

Sovereign debt problems in Europe have clouded the economic outlook and on Thursday, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet warned of risks to growth from financial markets and energy prices.

The claims data came before Friday's release of the government's comprehensive employment report for July, which will be scrutinized for signs of how quickly the economy can regain its momentum.

Nonfarm payrolls likely increased 85,000 last month, according to a Reuters survey, after rising only 18,000 in June. The jobless rate is expected to hold steady at 9.2 percent.

"The economy remains in a questionable phase and employers are well aware of it," said Jim Baird, a partner at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

"While a strong rebound in the July numbers is unlikely, some improvement in job creation for July or upward revisions to the June numbers could alleviate some of the market's concerns (of double-dip), at least temporarily."

Jobless claims are hovering around 400,000 and need to break decisively beneath that level to signal a sustainable improvement in the labor market.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell to its lowest level since mid-April.

BNY Mellon imposes fee on rapidly growing deposits

(Reuters) - Bank of New York Mellon Corp told some of its biggest depositors this week it does not want their money.

BNY Mellon said it is charging a fee to big corporate and asset management clients that deposit more money than average, because it has been overwhelmed by deposits.

Global economic turmoil -- including the Greek debt crisis and the U.S. debt ceiling debate -- has driven BNY Mellon's large clients to sell riskier assets and move the proceeds to deposit accounts.

The flood of cash is likely to raise BNY Mellon's U.S. deposit insurance fees and could weaken capital ratios, which are partly based on liabilities such as deposits.

BNY Mellon said in a letter to clients that the big increase in deposits is likely "transient," meaning the funds cannot be invested.

"Past history shows that once the storm passes, these deposits quickly return to the markets," its letter said.

The fee is nominal -- just 0.13 percentage points a year, or less than $200 a day on an excess balance of $50 million-- and it applies only to clients with average deposits of more than $50 million who exceed their average levels in June. High-net worth clients are not subject to the fee.

The decision to impose a charge, however, reflects how pressed banks feel to control costs as interest rates wallow near zero in an economy that shows little signs of recovery.

The decision to charge for deposits contributed to soaring demand on Thursday for U.S. Treasury bills, traders said, as bank depositors redeployed cash into government securities. One-month T-bill rates dipped below zero.

The bank encouraged clients "to consider a variety of cash investment options to minimize any effect" of the new charge.

BNY Mellon, like other trust and custody banks, manages cash for companies and handles back-office processing of securities and banking transaction for fund managers, among its other businesses. The bank does not have retail branches.

The company's move to impose deposit fees was not matched by rivals State Street Corp, or Northern Trust Corp.

BNY Mellon's deposits are rising in part because companies have been maintaining higher cash balances during the recent financial and economic turmoil. Similarly, investment managers have been selling risky assets and plowing proceeds into bank accounts to ensure they can meet investor demands for redemption.

Marty Mosby, a banking analyst at Guggenheim Partners, said BNY Mellon has more corporate clients than many of its rivals and therefore attract more deposits.

The bank is imposing the new fee on customers whose monthly average balances after August 8 are more than 10 percent above their average in June and the extra fee only applies to the portion of the balance that is at least 10 percent above the average.

The fee is 0.13 percentage points annualized, which is adjusted if one-month Treasury bill rates fall below zero.

The bank said the fee is intended to apply to a small number of clients and will likely be rescinded as markets return to normal.

Higher deposits could raise U.S. deposit insurance fees assessed quarterly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, based on banks' daily average deposit and asset levels.

(Reporting by Dan Wilchins and Emily Flitter; additional reporting by Richard Leong and Jed

It’s all about the jobs

By Laura Tyson
The opinions expressed are her own.

Reuters invited leading economists and writers to reply to Larry Summers’ op-ed on his reaction to the debt ceiling deal. We will be publishing the responses here. Below is Tyson’s reply. Here are responses from Benn Steil, Russ Roberts, Donald Boudreaux, Robert Frank and James Pethokoukis as well.

I share many of Professor Summers’ reactions to the debt limit deal — the so-called “Budget Control Act of 2011.” Like him, I am deeply relieved that the deal averted a default and its destabilizing effects on global financial markets and the global economy. Yet, also like him, I am cynical that the deal will lead to significant deficit reduction.

The deal claims to contain about $900 billion in spending cuts over the next decade. But the fanfare of the Tea Party notwithstanding, the deal does little more than confirm the low spending levels already negotiated for 2011 and 2012 and establish a cap for 2013 spending. Almost half of the $900 billion comes from cuts in security spending, primarily cuts in defense spending consistent with the anticipated reduction in US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The deal also calls for an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade to be determined by a special congressional committee and to be sent to Congress for an up or down vote with no changes allowed. The committee will be evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans selected by leaders of Congress and is charged with developing a deficit reduction package by Thanksgiving. Congress can reject the committee’s package but that would trigger automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion, about half of which would come from defense.

Given the unprecedented partisan divide and rancor in Congress, it is highly unlikely that the committee will be able to agree on a deficit reduction package or that such a package would win Congressional approval. It is even more unlikely that the trigger mechanism, which would require additional savage cuts in defense spending, would ever be allowed to take effect. Trigger mechanisms have been tried before and have a poor track record. In the past Congress has used ingenious loopholes and budgetary tricks to get around them. Moreover, as Professor Summers observes, the Congress that comes into power after the 2012 election can simply decide to reformulate the debt deal and drop the trigger mechanism and its automatic cuts altogether. This is by far the most likely outcome.

Super congressional committees and automatic triggers are undemocratic mechanisms for making tough budgetary choices. We need a balanced multi-year deficit reduction package that includes both revenue increases and spending cuts and that contains credible mechanisms for slowing the growth of health care spending. The deficit-reduction plans embodied in the debt deal fail to satisfy these conditions.

I also share Professor Summers’ anxiety about the US economy. Like him, I believe that the immediate problem facing the economy is jobs, not the deficit. Growth in the first half of the year was less than 1 percent, and the odds that the economy will slip back into recession have increased sharply over the last few months. The official unemployment rate currently stands at 9.2% and a growth rate of more than 2.5% is necessary to keep it from rising further.

The jobs gap and faltering recovery warrant additional temporary fiscal measures to increase private demand and promote job creation. I believe that the government should extend some of the targeted tax measures enacted at the end of 2011, including the payroll tax cut for employees and the capital investment expense deduction. It should go further and cut payroll taxes for employers on all new hires including hires by new businesses, and these payroll tax cuts should stay in effect until the unemployment rate falls below 6%. In addition, the government should invest more in infrastructure maintenance and expansion. Infrastructure investment raises demand, creates jobs and increases the growth potential of the economy. I am not optimistic that any of these measures will be enacted.

Professor Summers argues that the debt deal does no immediate harm to the economy. He may be right. But the means by which the deal was achieved has done significant harm to our global reputation and to our politics. The Tea Party Republicans have succeeded in shifting the political debate from the jobs crisis to the size of government. And they have used irresponsible threats and tactics to win a legislative and ideological victory. Given their success, they are likely to try to use the same tactics in the future, reducing the odds that we will get the economic policies we need to address our immediate jobs gap or our long-term deficit.