The NewsFuror

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monks return to streets of Burma

More than 100 monks have marched in central Burma, the first time they have returned to the streets since last month's bloody crackdown on protests.

The monks chanted and prayed as they marched through Pakokku, the site of an incident last month that triggered pro-democracy protests nationwide.

The government said 10 people died during the crackdown, but diplomats believe the toll was much higher.

Thousands more - many of them monks - were thought to have been detained.

Separately, the Human Rights Watch organisation has accused the Burmese army of forcibly recruiting children to cover gaps left by a lack of adult recruits.

Envoy's return

Pakokku is a centre of Buddhist learning about 630km (390 miles) north-west of Rangoon.

Reports that soldiers had beaten up monks there on 6 September gave momentum to protests that had begun on 19 August to demonstrate against fuel price rises.

Witnesses at Wednesday's march said the monks did not make any overt political statements but that the rally was clearly in defiance of the junta.

In the wake of the crackdown on protesters last month, public gatherings of monks in Burma have been banned and many monasteries remain deserted.

According to the BBC's Asia correspondent Andrew Harding, there is no way of telling whether this new demonstration is the start of another wave of protests.

One monk who was on the march told the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based radio station run by dissident journalists: "We are continuing our protest from last month as we have not yet achieved any of the demands we asked for.

"Our demands are for lower commodity prices, national reconciliation and immediate release of [pro-democracy leader] Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political prisoners."

Aung Nyo Min, the Thai-based director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, said of the rally: "This is very significant... we are very encouraged to see the monks are taking up action and taking up peaceful demonstrations in Burma."

'Systemic abuse'

There are hundreds of thousands of monks in Burma. They are highly revered and the clergy has historically been prominent in political protests.

The crackdown on protests sparked international action, with the US and EU imposing sanctions and embargoes.

United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari is expected to return to Burma this weekend for talks with the military government in the wake of the crackdown.

I do think this sort of economic and political frustration that is within the population will manifest itself again in the coming months
Mark Canning,
UK ambassador to Burma

A Western diplomat told Agence France-Presse news agency Mr Gambari would be in Burma from 3-8 November.

Mr Gambari last visited on 29 September, just three days after the bloody crackdown began, and met junta chief Gen Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi.

He has been on a six-nation Asian tour to try to increase pressure on the generals.

British ambassador to Burma, Mark Canning, told that he expected further unrest in the country.

"I do think this sort of economic and political frustration that is within the population will manifest itself again in the coming months."

Meanwhile, in a move that will add further pressure to the ruling junta, the campaign group Human Rights Watch has released a report saying children as young as 10 are beaten or threatened with arrest to make them enlist in the military.

The government insists it is opposed to the use of child soldiers, but Human Rights Watch says the abuses have been extensive and systemic.

Be thin to cut cancer, study says

Even those who are not overweight should slim down if they want to cut their risk of cancer, a major international study has claimed.

The World Cancer Research Fund carried out the largest ever inquiry into lifestyle and cancer, and issued several stark recommendations.

They include not gaining weight as an adult, avoiding sugary drinks and alcohol, and not eating bacon or ham.

Everyone must also aim to be as thin as possible without becoming underweight.

People with a Body Mass Index (BMI), a calculation which takes into account height and weight, of between 18.5 and 25, are deemed to be within a "healthy" weight range.

Cancer is not a fate, it is a matter of risk, and you can adjust those risks by how you behave. It is very important that people feel that they are in control of what they do
Professor Martin Wiseman
Report author

But the study says their risk increases as they head towards the 25 mark, and that everyone should try to be as close to the lower end as possible.

There is no new research involved in this document: the panel examined 7,000 existing studies over five years.

The result, they say, is the most comprehensive investigation ever into the risks of certain lifestyle choices.

Limit red meat
Limit alcohol
Avoid bacon, ham, and other processed meats
No sugary drinks
No weight gain after 21
Exercise every day
Breastfeed children
Do not take dietary supplements to cut cancer

They see body fat as a key factor in the development of cancer, estimating its significance to be much higher than previously thought.

The report's authors say they have produced a list of recommendations, not "commandments".

"But if people are interested in reducing their cancer risk, then following the recommendations is the way to do it," said Professor Martin Wiseman.

"Cancer is not a fate, it is a matter of risk, and you can adjust those risks by how you behave. It is very important that people feel that they are in control of what they do."

Making cuts

However, two-thirds of cancer cases are not thought to be related to lifestyle, and there is little people can do to prevent the disease in these circumstances.

Nevertheless, more than three million of the 10 million cases of cancer which are diagnosed across the world each year could be prevented if the recommendations were followed, Professor Wiseman indicated.

The main message I would have is not to worry about it, to enjoy life, if you like a glass of wine have it, and a small amount of meat is not going to harm you
Karol Sikora
Cancer specialist
In the UK alone, there are 200,000 new cases of cancer each year.

Cancers of the colon and breast are some of the most common forms of the disease, and the report says the evidence is "convincing" that body fat plays a key role in the development of these tumours.

The report also links the kind of food consumed to cancers, especially colorectal ones.

In particular, researchers say people should stop eating processed meats, such as ham, bacon and salami, and limit the consumption of red meat to 500g a week - although this still means you could eat, for instance, five hamburgers each week.

From a cancer perspective, all alcohol should be avoided, although researchers accepted drinking small amounts could have protective benefits for other diseases.

The recommendation is therefore no more than two drinks a day for a man, and no more than one for a woman, slightly less than current UK government guidelines.

Sugary drinks meanwhile should be avoided, as these make you fat, and fruit juice consumption should also be reduced.

The report is also the first to urge breastfeeding as a means to protect against cancer, arguing that it may reduce breast cancer in the mother and prevent obesity in the child - although this has not been proven.

Commenting ahead of the report's release, cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora said: "There's absolutely nothing magic about 10 bullet points to prevent cancer.

"The main message I would have is not to worry about it, to enjoy life, if you like a glass of wine have it, and a small amount of meat is not going to harm you."

Microsoft buys stake in Facebook

Microsoft will also sell internet ads for Facebook outside the United States as part of the deal that took several weeks of negotiating.

Microsoft already provides banner advertising and links on the US site.

Mark Zuckerberg started the online social networking site in his Harvard University dorm room less than four years ago.

Mr Zuckerberg, 23, has indicated he would like to hold off on an initial public offering for at least two more years.

He rebuffed a $1bn takeover offer from Yahoo last year.

Advertising magnet

Facebook hopes to become an advertising magnet by substantially increasing its current audience of nearly 50 million active users.

Facebook allows users to set up personal web pages and communicate with each other.

Google and Microsoft have crossed horns before for hot Internet properties.

Google beat Microsoft with a $1.65bn acquisition of online video sharing site YouTube last year.

Facebook expects to make a profit of $30m this year so on conventional valuations a $15bn price tag would look expensive.