Daily Digest: French protests, Sherpas, sweat lodges

by Jessica Van Berkel

Tuesday’s Daily Digest:

Parts of France are ablaze today as youth took to the streets in protest of an increase in retirement age proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy. Last week demonstrations began against the policy, which would raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 in an effort to save the country’s bankrupt pension system. Previous demonstrations were nonviolent, and Sarkozy has pledged to stop the “troublemakers” who began setting fires and clashing with police, the Associated Press reported.

Minnesotan Eric Larsen talked with Minnesota Public Radio this morning from the base of Mt. Everest. After summiting Everest with Nepali Sherpas and crossing both the north and south poles this year – a feat he claims he is the first to accomplish – Larsen said he has seen the effects of climate change firsthand. The polar explorer and Grand Marais native said thinning ice and disappearing glaciers stood out in his travels.

Sweat lodges – once the spiritual domain of Native Americans, the steam-filled shelters found their way into popular culture as a retreat hot spot. But The New York Times reports the number of “spiritual tourists” has decreased recently. It could be the economy. Or it could be the death of three tourists last October who attended a “Spiritual Warrior” retreat in Arizona lead by guru James A. Ray. The case has led to a slew of lawsuits from customers and Native American groups claiming the incident damaged a sacred tradition.