Thursday, July 31, 2008

Herbivorous and carnivorous humans will never understand each other’s eating habits

Vegetarianism has become extremely popular nowadays. This diet obviously has its advantages, although disadvantages are quite numerous too.

Scientists proved that vegetarians hardly ever suffer from obesity and increased cholesterol. In addition to that, vegans can boast of better state of health and longer lifespan.

However, it still unknown whether vegetarians live longer strictly because of their dietary regime. It is not ruled out that the number of smokers is smaller among those who prefer to stay away from meat dishes, which may explain a longer lifespan.

Adversaries of vegetarianism say that those, who do not eat meat, suffer from the shortage of zinc, iron, B12 vitamin, protein, iodine and calcium. The Food Research Institute of Slovakia found out that the children of vegan parents do experience a shortage of protein. Such children also have a lower level of iron in their blood.

Some believe that the human digestive system is not adjusted to the digestion of meat. Allen Carr, who is known for his Easyway To Stop Smoking Method, says that meat is a surrogate which does not have the required nutritive value. The human intestines are too long, whereas meat decomposes rather quickly. That is why, the specialist believes, meat becomes poison for a human body.

Adversaries of vegetarianism assert that human beings have been predatory for thousands of years. Scientists of the Catalonian Rovira i Virgili University discovered remnants of an ancient European male. The find was over one million years old. Primitive weapons and animal bones found near the body of the ancient human-like creature testified to the fact that our ancestors ate animal meat.

It is generally believed that only educated and socially responsible individuals can become vegetarians. Specialists of Britain’s University of Southampton concluded as a result of many years of research that children with higher IQ may become vegetarians more often as they grow than children with lower IQ.

It is an open secret that vegetarians replace meat with soy products. Specialists of the University of Oxford determined that this product, which serves as the source of amino acids for vegetarians, may produce a negative effect on memory. The specialists concluded that those eating a lot of pickled tofu have a lower brain activity.

Vegans believe that it is immoral and cruel to eat other creatures’ meat, especially when there is no vital necessity in it. Indeed, some people become herbivorous just because of this very assumption. Many say no to animal meat after they see what happens in slaughter houses.

Some believe that vegetarianism is a luxury lifestyle that can be affordable only in warmer countries. Needless to say that northern countries do not have the sufficient variety of fruit and vegetables for food, that is why it is merely impossible for people living in northern countries to become vegetarians.

Vegetarians say that one should not simply strike meat out of daily rations to become a vegan. The veggie diet can be only harmful in this case. A healthy and reasonable approach to one’s state of health and financial possibilities is extremely important for the right kind of diet. First and foremost, it is rather expensive to be a vegetarian in a country where winter is three times longer than summer. Secondly, a sudden and significant change in the diet can be very harmful healthwise.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fish lowers heart attack risk in Japan

Scientists believe fish-rich diets protect Japanese against heart diseases despite the fact that they smoke much more than Americans.

Previous studies had reported that while hyperlipidemia, hypertension and type-2 diabetes are similarly prevalent in the US and Japan, Japanese men are at a lower risk of developing artherosclerosis leading to heart attack and stroke.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, individuals living in Japan eat an average of 3 ounces of fish every day, while the majority of Americans have no more than two servings of fish per week.

Findings show that the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in men living in Japan are two times more than those of Japanese or non-Japanese males living in the US.

Scientists concluded the high omega-3 content of fish is responsible for the reduced risk of plaque formation, atherosclerosis and subsequent coronary heart disease in the Japanese. The American Heart

Association recommends individuals especially those suffering from heart disease to take at least 1 gram of omega-3 daily.

Moderate exercise helps keep slim

American scientists believe that exercising five days a week for an hour is the key to shedding unwanted weight and keeping slim.

According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, while thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise is recommended for general health, individuals seeking to lose weight must exercise for longer periods.

The study showed that exercising for an average of 275 minutes per week is effective in reducing 10% of one's weight but more exercise is needed for maintaining it. University of
Pittsburgh researchers believe moderate exercise, ranging from brisk walking to gardening, is an activity that makes individuals feel slightly out of breath.

Similar studies had found that walking every day for about 45 minutes helps diabetic individuals to not only better control their blood glucose levels but also reduce their weight.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cancer risk in smoke-filled temples

Joss sticks as bad as cigarettes, says study

Staff and people who pray at temples and shrines filled with smoke from joss sticks are prone to lung cancer due to long-term exposure, a study by Chulabhorn Research Institute has found. The study was conducted over the course of the past two years at three famous temples in Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao and Samut Prakan.

The researchers collected blood and urine samples from 40 people working in the temples to compare them with samples from 25 people living in a joss stick smoke-free environment.
Manoon Leechawengwong, a research team member, said joss stick smoke contains high level of cancer-causing substances, including benzene, butadiene and benzo(a)pyrene.
Air quality measured at the smoke-filled temples found dangerously high levels of these carcinogenic substances, said Dr Manoon.

According to the study, released yesterday, the air at these temples contained 94 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m) of benzene, against a safety standard of 1.7 ug/cu m, 11 ug/cu m of butadiene against a safety level of 0.33, and 2.52 nanogrammes per cubic metre of benzo(a)pyrene, the safety standard for which is at 0.25.

''One joss stick creates the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals as one cigarette,'' said Dr Manoon.

Urine tests on 40 temple staff also detected monohydroxybutenyl-mercapturic acid, an indicator of cancer-causing chemicals in the body, he said.

Moreover, the study found that the abilities of the bodies of the people exposed to a joss stick smoke-concentrated environment to repair damaged DNA was lower than among other groups.
''Crowded shrines in Yaowarat are of the most concern since the temples and shrines are filled with smoke all day, every day. Traffic pollution has worsened the air quality in Yaowarat,'' he said.

The situation could lead to residents developing cancer, he warned.
To ease air pollution from joss sticks, the doctor suggested that temple staff and people who pray blow them out after prayers are finished.

Smoke from joss sticks also contributes to global warming, the research found.
One tonne of joss sticks burned reportedly emits 325 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide and 7.2 kg of methane.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Soy foods 'reduce sperm numbers'

A regular diet of even modest amounts of food containing soy may halve sperm concentrations, suggest scientists.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found 41 million fewer sperm per millilitre of semen after just one portion every two days.

The authors said plant oestrogens in foods such as tofu, soy mince or milk may interfere with hormonal signals.

However, a UK expert stressed that most men in Asia eat more soy-based products with no fertility problems.

Animal studies have suggested that large quantities of soy chemicals in food could affect fertility, but other studies looking at consumption in humans have had contradictory findings.
The Harvard School of Public Health study looked at the diets of 99 men who had attended a fertility clinic with their partners and provided a semen sample.

The men were divided into four groups depending on how much soy they ate, and when the sperm concentration of men eating the most soy was compared with those eating the least, there was a significant difference.

The "normal" sperm concentration for a man is between 80 and 120 million per millilitre, and the average of men who ate on average a portion of soy-based food every other day was 41 million fewer.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, who led the study, said that chemicals called isoflavones in the soy might be affecting sperm production.

These chemicals can have similar effects to the human hormone oestrogen.
Dr Chavarro noticed that overweight or obese men seemed even more prone to this effect, which may reflect the fact that higher levels of body fat can also lead to increased oestrogen production in men.

Worried men
However, the study pointed out that soy consumption in many parts of Asia was significantly higher than even the maximum found in these volunteers.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology from the University of Sheffield, said that if soy genuinely had a detrimental effect on sperm production, fertility might well be affected in those regions, and there was no evidence that this was the case.

"Many men are obviously worried about whether their lifestyle or diet could affect their fertility by lowering their sperm count.

"Oestrogenic compounds in food or the environment have been of concern for a number of years, but we have mostly thought that it was boys exposed in the uterus before birth who were most at risk.

"We will have to look at adult diet more closely, although the fact that such large parts of the world have soy food as a major part of their diet and don't appear to suffer any greater infertility rates than those on western diets suggests that any effect is quite small."

Too much water may become killer poison for human being

Neither doctors, nor dietitians know why the general public believes that a human being ought to drink not less than two liters of water a day. They do know, however, what consequences the abundance of water in the body can lead to.

Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old resident of California, a happy mother of three, won a radio contest which involved drinking large quantities of water without urinating. The woman won a Nintendo Wii game console. The winner did not have a chance to use her prize: she suffered from a very strong headache and intestinal spasms when she came home. Her mother found Jennifer dead in her home.

Two US marines died in a similar way when they drank several liters of water after exhausting physical exercises.

Water intoxication was the cause of death in both of the above-mentioned cases. This phenomenon is also known as hyperhydration, water poisoning or the drinking disease.

“Water intoxication may occur during the excessive consumption of fresh drinking water. In this case water does not go through kidneys, which are responsible for the fluid-and-electrolyte balance, and flows to other organs, which in their turn begin to swell. The brain experiences the biggest difficulty at this point. The swelling of brain cells causes cramps, coma, respiratory standstill and death,” professor Alexander Karabinenko of the Russian Medical University said.

Incidents of water intoxication are quite rare in the world. A healthy human body is capable of filtering up to 1,000 milliliters of water an hour. Symptoms of hyperhydration occur more frequently with athletes, habitu├ęs of bars and night clubs. Women, who prefer to suppress the feeling of hunger with water, may have such symptoms as well. Drug addicts also make the risk group list. Drugs intensify thirst, and a person may take a lethal dose of water – over two liters in an hour.

Dietitians say that a person should drink one liter of water per 1,000 calories. As a rule, a person takes 2,000 calories daily. However, they take about one liter of water with food – soup, fruit and vegetables, which mainly constitute of water (up to 90 percent). There is a lot of water even in bread – over 40 percent. Additional two liters of water would only create hard conditions for human organs.

Too much water also dilutes gastric juices, which stop being a natural barrier for intestinal infections.

The body needs excessive amounts of water in the cases of poisoning, kidney stone disease, urinary infections, acute infectious diseases, as well as during plane flights, intensive physical exercises and hot weather.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Black tea to tackle Alzheimer's

Singaporean scientists have claimed that drinking two cups of tea a day halves the risk of developing cognitive decline and memory loss.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking two to three cups of tea every day cuts the dementia risk by 55%. The risk is reduced by 63% in heavy tea drinkers.

Findings showed that coffee does not have similar effects on reducing the risk of dementia, suggesting that antioxidant compounds in black tea are responsible for its anti-dementia effects.

The study revealed that tea's polyphenol content is effective in fighting the cerebral plaques that characterize Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Previous studies had reported that the high flavonoid content of tea helps fight several cancers and cardiovascular diseases, relieves headaches, and provides a calm mental state.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Diabetes increases tuberculosis risk

American scientists have suggested that diabetic individuals are three times more at risk of developing active tuberculosis (TB).

According to a study published in Public Library of Science journal (PLoS) Medicine, diabetes predisposes individuals to TB as it impairs their ability to fight the infection.

Harvard School of Public Health claimed that diabetes is the underlying cause for more than 10% of TB cases in India and China.

Scientists concluded that making more attempts to diagnose and treat diabetes can reduce the heavy TB rate and therefore help meet the global TB challenge.

About one-third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis, an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks.


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Mom's nutty diet ups child asthma risk

Dutch scientists say children whose mothers eat nuts or nut products during pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing asthma.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, potent allergens found in certain nuts make the fetus 50% more susceptible to certain allergies and asthma.

The study revealed that maternal consumption of peanuts during pregnancy is strongly linked to childhood asthma.

Findings showed that having a diet rich in fruits during pregnancy has small effects on the child's risk of developing asthma.

University of Utrecht researchers concluded that expectant women should follow a healthy diet in order to give birth to children in good physical shape; however, the findings of this study do not propose a low allergen or restricted nut diet for pregnant women.

Previous studies had suggested that while genetics play an important role in developing asthma, environmental factors also contribute to the disease.

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PM Lee says public sector should embrace entrepreneurial culture

SINGAPORE: The public sector must embrace entrepreneurial culture and find new ways of delivering its services.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this at the 5th BlueSky Conference, organised by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, a Singapore organisation that promotes entrepreneurship.
It used to take five days and S$1,200 to incorporate a business in Singapore. Now, this can be done in just 15 minutes and at a quarter of the previous cost.
This is one example how Singapore's public sector can be more supportive of start-ups. Prime Minister Lee said: "Public sector entrepreneurship requires officers to take risks, because new methods and technology may fail to work. But, when they do, when they work, they can bring very significant benefits to Singapore.
"Therefore, it's imperative that the public sector creates an environment where officers feel safe to experiment and take the chance of failure, just like in the private sector."
Beyond getting the public sector to think more like businessmen, Mr Lee also felt that Singapore companies should get together when taking on new overseas markets.
Business leaders who have done so clearly see the benefits. Jocelyn Chng, managing director of Sin Hwa Dee Foodstuff Industries, said: "We actually moved much faster, penetrated into the market much faster, the buyers there are more willing to accept Singapore products because we move together." Other established Singapore-grown companies are also seizing new opportunities to fly the Singapore flag in global markets.
Charles Wong, managing director of Charles & Keith International, said: "US online business is big. If we can have just 10 per cent of people buying online from us, easily, it's millions of people. If you are selling 30 US dollars, that's like 30 million US dollars immediately."
Another key area is educating the young about running a business. So far, some 32,000 students have benefited from a series of workshops conducted by industry players. Schools, too, are imparting business skills in the classrooms.
This may be why over the last five years, the number of start-ups in Singapore has gone up by 30 per cent and the number of patents filed has climbed 26 per cent.
For Singapore - which has long lamented the lack of entrepreneurs - Prime Minister Lee also said the city-state needs to have the right environment to attract international entrepreneurial talent.

- CNA/ir

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Black and white twins born to German mixed-race couple

BERLIN, July 17 (RIA Novosti) - Black and white twins have been born to a mixed-race couple in Germany, the Die Welt newspaper reported on Thursday.
Their mother, Florence Addo-Gerth, 35, from Ghana, has dark skin, and the father, Stephan Gerth, 40, from Potsdam in Germany, is white.

Ryan, who came first, weighing 2.650 kgs, has light colored skin, blue eyes, and dark hair. His brother Leo, weighing 2.606 kgs, looks like his mother, with dark skin and dark eyes. Ryan has been described by his mother as 'noisy,' while Leo is a lot calmer.

"None of us could believe it," said the Lichtenberg maternity ward's head doctor, Birgit Weber, adding that "both kids have definitely the same father."

Florence was quoted by as saying: "I imagine sitting in a playground where the other mothers will call me crazy when I tell them the boys are twins."

The twins were delivered by Caesarean section in a Berlin hospital on July 11, but were kept from the public for six days.

The probability of different colored twins being born even to a mixed-race couple is extremely rare. Doctors believe that the 'genetic surprise' might have occurred as one of the mother's ancestors was white or one of the father's ancestors was black.

Monday, July 14, 2008

China designs special toilets with no toilet paper for Beijing Olympics

China continues to make Olympic preparations trying to show the best side of its capital, Beijing.
Only beautiful and tall girls will serve Olympic athletes and tourists during the Summer Games.
In addition, Beijing authorities teach city residents to greet all guests not to offend foreigners.

China designs special toilets with no toilet paper for Beijing Olympics
The preparations to the Games (opening August 8) include a suggestion to reduce the traffic fee on public transportation and even restrict the traffic to decrease the level of environmental pollution in the city. It will be forbidden to spit in the streets of Beijing during the Games. An illegal spit will now cost a Beijing resident $7.

Restaurants providing food to tourists will be obliged to offer non-smoking halls, which will create certain difficulties to restaurant owners. Additionally, dog meat dishes, which are traditionally considered a local delicacy, will be removed from all menus.

Beijing authorities believe that it is necessary to teach Beijing residents politeness and good manners. “When you meet guests, you have to scrub your house clean and behave well,” a senior spokesman for the city administration said.

Many tourists in Beijing have already noticed that the streets and public toilets in Beijing have become unusually tidy and clean. No wonder, the city has spent $57 million on that. It was not a hardship at all to find a public toilet in Beijing before: the typical smell of it was showing the right direction. Now a foreign tourist will need direction signs.

However, even up-to-date Chinese toilets leave much to be desired. Styled as European bathrooms, they miss the most important thing – toilet paper. Those tourists, who already stay in Beijing, advise others to always take toilet paper along.

Beijing authorities also make city residents learn at least several phrases in English. “Welcome to Beijing” is something that any waiter, driver, etc must know how to say.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

PM speaks on budget deficit, inflation and natural resources

A reluctance to increase the budget deficit and plans to control inflation were two major parts of a speech by the Prime Minister to the National Assembly on Friday.

PM Bouasone Bouphavanh was responding to an NA suggestion that the government increase the deficit to invest more in human resource development.

Mr Bouasone said the government did not want to increase state debt because Laos already had significant domestic and foreign debt. But if there was a project in an essential area the government would consider this option, he said.

Mr Bouasone said inflation was rising due to increasing oil prices, which also drove up the price of other goods. It was not caused by economic mismanagement.

To lessen the impact of rising oil prices and reduce Laos ' reliance on oil, the government will promote the development and use of renewable energies.

The government has permitted two companies, one from Canada and another from Vietnam , to survey oil and gas deposits in northern and southern Laos .

Mr Bouasone said a taskforce would be formed to prevent merchants from unreasonably increasing the price of fuel and other basic commodities, and state departments and organisations would be instructed to use all resources economically.

Mr Bouasone also spoke about the conservation of natural resources throughout the country.
“We need to ensure sustainable and effective use,” he said.
“Without natural resources and energy, we can not achieve development.”

Mr Bouasone had been questioned about the environmental impact of constructing hydropower plants along the Mekong River . He said the benefits of these projects would far outweigh any negatives.

In the rainy season, he said, water in the Mekong River flowed at rate of 55,000 cubic metres per second. In the dry season this slowed to 2,500 cubic metres per second, and branches of the river were gradually drying up.

Constructing dams in the river would prevent water from flowing into the sea, and river levels could be kept at the same height as in the rainy season. If flooding became a concern, water could be released from the dam to prevent this from occurring.

He agreed with an NA suggestion that revenue generated by such dams could be used to develop human resources and address slash and burn cultivation.

Mr Bouasone also said the government would continue to reform the national education system, particularly by raising the standard of teachers and improving curriculum in vocational schools to produce skilled labour to meet local skills shortages.

NA President Thongsing Thammavong also spoke on Friday to conclude the government reporting phase of the session.

He highlighted a number of challenges for the government to improve.

He said the 111 priority projects had not produced fruitful enough results and promotion of Party ideology did not receive enough effort.

Mr Thongsing said state administration and management had not been effective and education against corruption was not done properly.

Goods production and the sale of natural resources like timber and minerals did not meet potential. NA members agreed the management of forestry resources and timber businesses were still chronic issu es.

He said the government was slow in implementing solutions for rural development, poverty reduction, permanent job provision and the eradication of slash and burn cultivation.

Mr Thongsing said management of foreign labour and foreign expatriates had not been done well. Labour skills development was not efficient and government revenue was still going missing.

The use of loans, grants and state investment was not highly effective and debt disbursement had not been done in accordance with NA approved plans, he said.

Miss Venezuala wins Miss Universe 2008

Miss Venezuela Dayana Mendoza, a former kidnapping victim, has beaten 79 of the world's most beautiful women to be crowned Miss Universe 2008.
Mendoza, 22, was once kidnapped in her homeland and she told reporters that experience taught her to keep cool under pressure, news agency Associated Press reported.
She told the Miss Universe website: "I was once kidnapped in what in my country is known as an express kidnapping. It was a very hard experience.
"I learned to remain calm in a very stressful situation and to try to reach to the human part of our abductors."
Mendoza, who had been the favourite of many pageant watchers and online bookmakers, clinched the diamond-studded gold crown after answering a question on the difference between men and women.
"Men think that the fastest way to go to a point is to go straight," explained the trilingual beauty from Amazonas state. "Women know that the faster way to go to a point is to go to the curves." she
The pageant was held in the seaside town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, and was hosted by Spice Girl Mel B and talk show host Jerry Springer.
It was marked by a bad fall by Miss USA Crystle Stewart, who tripped and fell during the evening gown section of the competition.
The 15 semi-finalists named at the beginning of the show were from Venezuela, Kosovo, Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Colombia, Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the United States and Spain.

Friday, July 11, 2008

President Souphanouvong remembered

July 13 marks the 99 th anniversary of President Souphanouvong's birth.

His deeds for the country remains alive in the hearts of all Lao people as one of the key men who gave birth to the Lao PDR.

He will forever be remembered as a wise royal child who treated himself without pretence, an excellent student who spoke seven languages, a construction engineer who built several bridges in Indochinese countries and a royal politician who decided to forgo his comfortable place in society for a remote jungle, to join the revolutionary movement that liberated the nation in 1975.
For several decades, he stood as a symbol of Lao unity, his royal status and public charisma appealed to the hearts of Lao people. His citizens knew that the revolutionary movement was the only way to free Laos from the colonialist intentions of imperialists.

Born on July 13, 1909 in Luang Prabang, as the son of the Viceroy, he had two sisters and two brothers Princes Phetsarath and Souvannaphoumma, born from a different mother. All of these men influenced the movement to free Laos from France in the 1940s.

Although he was a royal child, he never considered himself a special person. He liked to go outside the palace to play with commoners. This allowed him to see the terrible living conditions of the Lao people who had to work under horrendous conditions to serve French officials.
After his primary graduation in 1920, President Souphanouvong travelled to Vietnam for his higher education. In secondary school he was a diligent student, excelling in many areas including languages, arts and literature. He also enjoyed playing sport and was a talented musician.

From Vietnam , he went to study in France where he obtained a degree in civil engineering. He took this opportunity to travel throughout Europe and Africa where he learned many languages and was able to communicate with the citizens of the countries he visited.
Upon returning to Asia in 1938, President Souphanouvong gained employment as a civil engineer in Vietnam . During his time in that country, he married Ms Viengkham, a Vietnamese woman. At that time, citizens of Indochinese countries of Laos , Cambodia and Vietnam were able to travel and work freely in these countries because they were under the control of French imperialists.

He took part in several construction projects in Indochinese countries, ranging from bridge building to irrigation and was highly respected by his colleagues due to his excellent knowledge and ability. It was during this period that he was confronted with the harsh reality of living under the occupation of foreigners. The Indochinese people had to work hard to serve the occupying French, whilst never having a chance to determine the fate of their own nations.
Although his royal status and education could have allowed him to spend the rest of his life in comfort, he was inspired by the Indochina Freedom Movement and travelled back to Laos to help fight for Lao independence. The Lao people are eternally grateful for the sacrifices he made and the risks he took in joining the movement to liberate the nation from the yoke of French colonialism.

After Lao independence, he was granted the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Lao Freedom Government. This marked his first entry into political life and saw him change careers from engineering to politics.

Unfortunately the Lao Freedom government did not last very long. With the return of French imperialists he had to leave Laos for Thailand , where he established the Lao government in exile until 1949. When the leaders of the Lao Freedom Government surrendered to the imperialists, he decided to go to Vietnam to meet President Ho Chi Minh to discuss the future freedom of countries in Indochina .

In a battle against returning French forces, President Souphanouvong commanded a revolutionary troop in Thakhek, Khammuan province and was injured while aiding in the troop's escape to Thailand .

In 1950, he was one of the Lao revolutionaries, who arranged the first congress of Lao people representatives. This congress agreed to establish the Lao Freedom Front and a resistance government in the revolutionary stronghold of Huaphan to fight against the puppet government in Vientiane , which was controlled by imperialists.

At the congress, he was elected as Prime Minister of the resistance government. In 1953, he was accepted as a member of the Indochinese Communist Party. At this time, President Souphanouvong had shown himself to be a patriotic revolutionary who later played an important role in the independence movement.

For more than 40 years (1945 to 1975), President Souphanouvong played a significant role as a political symbol of the Lao revolution. He was considered a foundation of Lao solidarity, one who appealed to the hearts of Lao people to join the national liberation movement against the imperialist and puppet government of the Lao kingdom.

In 1954, the French imperialists signed an agreement in Geneva to restore peace in Indochina and recognise the independence of Laos , Cambodia and Vietnam . But sadly the peace did not last long before American imperialists replaced the French in Indochina .

Civil war broke out between the revolutionary troops and Vientiane troops who supported the American dominated government. The American-led troops launched a massive invasion against the revolutionary stronghold, but were defeated in 1957, resulting in peace negotiations and the establishment of the first national coalition government in the same year.

President Souphanouvong led Lao revolutionary troops to join the coalition and was named as a minister in the new government. But he was arrested by the government led by Phoui Sananikone. In 1960, President Souphanouvong and other revolutionary leaders successfully escaped from prison at Phonkheng in Vientiane to areas controlled by revolutionaries.

In 1960, Captain Konglae staged a coup d'etat to overthrow the Vientiane puppet government to restore the coalition government but in 1964 the coalition was overthrown again. The president who led the Lao revolutionaries in the government left to go to the revolutionary strongholds and secretly create a new strategy in the fight for national liberation.

The civil war in Laos was at its peak between 1964 and 1969, but with the clever leaders of the Lao People's Party, including President Souphanouvong, the revolutionary forces defeated the Vientiane puppet army in several battles and enabled the revolutionary troops to arrange a new coalition government in 1973.

In 1974, he joined his brother Prince Souvannaphoumma to travel to Luang Prabang to request King Sisavangvatthana to form a new national coalition government with Souvannaphouma as Prime Minister. It was proposed that a mixed national political council also be created with Souphanouvon as its president.

On December 2, 1975, the Lao people's representative congress was held to accept the abdication of King Sisavangvatthana and the establishment of the Lao PDR.

President Souphanouvong was the first president of Laos and held this role until 1989 when he became ill. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 86. Although he left us more than a decade ago, he is well remembered by Lao people as a man who sacrificed his personal comfort and safety for the cause of national liberation.

Historical information contained in this article was sourced from “An Outstanding National Hero and Brave Revolutionary Patriot” published by the Lao Propaganda Training Board.

Govt commits to four focus areas for development

The government has adhered to four main areas of focus to ensure national development is carried out in accordance with determined goals, according to Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh.

The PM made these comments on July 7, at the National Assembly's fifth ordinary session of the sixth legislature in Vientiane .

He was speaking about the implementation of the government's action plan during the 2007-2008 fiscal year and the upcoming tasks for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Mr Bouasone said the government had firmly committed to four areas of focus.

Firstly: a commitment to the maintenance of political stability, social peace and security, and the creation of favourable environment for development.

Secondly: committing to development by taking an economic focus. This would involve the active implementation of the Party's economic guideline in order to realise a continual annual growth rate of 7.5 percent or more. This would link closely with social and cultural development, eradication of poverty and the enhancement of social justice.

Thirdly: a commitment to the development of the solidarity of all Lao people and the improvement of governance systems with the aim of promoting better service delivery and preventing corrupt practices.

Fourthly: committing to the expansion of good relationship with all nations and international organisations based on mutual benefit. This is also aimed at ensuring regional and international integration.

Mr Bouasone reported that by committing to the above mentioned areas, the government had achieved successes in development during the two past fiscal years.

During 2005/2006 gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 8.1 percent. In 2006/2007, GDP grew 8 percent and per capita income amounted to US$669, which was higher than the predicted target of US$619.

The industrial sector grew rapidly and the agricultural sector also increased, thanks to the increase in the production of rice and other food products. The service sector grew steadily as a result of the rapid expansion of tourism. At the same time, the value of exports became higher than imports, collected revenue was higher than expected and the average annual rate of inflation was 4.1 percent.

The Prime Minister said there was a different economic environment during the 2007-2008 fiscal year, and this influenced the implementation of the socio-economic development plan and the state budget plan. Oil prices were continually increasing and the value of the US dollar was decreasing.

The prices of rice, other food products and raw materials have also increased gradually. Price fluctuations in these areas have affected the growth and stability of the world economy. Some countries have faced social unrest caused by the rising cost of living.

“Our country cannot not avoid this impact, but the external situation has not yet significantly affected our country,” Mr Bouasone said.

During the first six months of this fiscal year the GDP grew at a rate of 7.9 percent, which is slightly lower than the predicted 8 percent. The service sector grew by 9.9 percent, which exceeded the predicted rate of 7 percent. Average per capita income has reached 7.4 million kip (about US$810 per person), which is higher than the predicted target of 7.2 million kip (aboutUS$728).

The value of the national currency remains stable, foreign monetary reserves have increased and the liquidity of the banking sector has improved.

Trade and tourism have expanded, particularly exports of goods, which have already reached 52 percent of the annual target. The trade deficit and budget deficit remain low, and average inflation during the first six months was 6.26 percent.

Inflation has gradually increased during the past two to three months and reached 10.32 percent in May. The rate of inflation during the first five months of 2008 averaged at 7.58 percent.

Rising inflation is caused by the increasing price of consumer goods, driven by high oil prices. It creates a negative impact on economic growth and contributes to rising living costs.

The government has already adopted various policies to minimise these problems and will continue to do so. The policies will aim to ensure political security and macro-economic stability, prevent any deterioration and maintain peace and safety. They will also attempt to mobilise the potential of economic sectors to boost production of goods and services in order to promote the growth of the economy and realise the targets set in the socio-economic development plan and the budget plan for 2007-2008.

The government acknowledges achievements have been low in relation to the implementation of the five-year socio-economic development plan for 2006-2010.

Mr Bouasone said the growth achieved so far relied mainly on natural resources and labour intensive projects.

Poverty eradication linked to rural development has been progressing at a slow pace, which leads to increasing disparity in income and development between urban and rural areas.

Measures to readjust this gap have not yet been effectively carried out.

Development in the social and cultural fields is still faced with many problems. More attention is needed to educational reform, personnel capacity and skills improvements and the promotion of the national culture.

Mr Bouasone said the government fully acknowledged these shortcomings and would make efforts to resolve the problems gradually. At the same time, it will also try to further strengthen the outcomes achieved during the past two-and-a-half years.

For the 2008/2009 fiscal year, the government will continue to maintain the macro-economic targets at the same level as in 2007/2008.

GDP shall grow by 8 percent. This growth will be achieved sector by sector as follows: agriculture (3.4 percent), industry (1.58 percent) and services (9.9 percent). Average per capita income is predicted to rise to 8.35 million kip, revenue is projected to be 16.4 percent of GDP, budget expenditure shall be 19.7 percent of GDP and the budget deficit will be 3.3 percent of GDP. Exports are predicted to increase and it is hoped foreign exchange rates and inflation will continue at a stable level. Bank deposits and credit will be expanded by at least 38 percent and 26 perc ent respectively.

Mr Bouasone also presented a report on the overall policies and measures in the economic, financial, commercial and investment fields. This included administrative, educational, ideological and psychological measures for promoting continual growth while preventing any increases in inflation.

PM confirms to maintain economic stability

(KPL) The Government tries to further push forward the national economic growth by strongly keeping stability of macro-economy in which commodity price control and inflation prevention.

This was confirmed by Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh on the first day of the National Assembly meeting on 7 July. He said this policy and measure on national economic control would be taken into account.

The economic controlling policy and measure will be taken into action the government is strongly to spur and promote the productivity and services by facilitating to all levels of business units, including small-medium enterprises.

This is to create those businesses manufacturing new products and have more income to their families. In the implementation of appropriate policy on promotion it is necessary to reduce production costs and facilitate services in line with unstable conditions of energy.

The Government will inject more funds into the improvement of irrigation system nationwide which links the investment of rice production and foodstuff. Along with the construction of national rice reserve to ensure foodstuff safety and adjust the food price appropriately.

This key is able to control rice and food price. So the Government will issue a regulation for managing the factor of production and raw materials price for agriculture production practice such as hybrid seeds, fertiliser and animal feeds.

The Government will seek some subsidised policy on energy to encourage the rice and foodstuff production, and releasing credit loan for planting crops and livestock production. This should be looked back about the loans have been done so far, particularly in term of loan and other service fees.

Dispatching technical officials to help local farmers in focal seven plains and 14 small plains, other government’s project on agriculture development projects should be paid attention.

In order to raise the production capacity of energy and mining, it needs to talk with investors for creating all conditions for supporting them operating other exploring projects. This prompts to employment and income for locals.

For the ongoing projects of production activities, such as hydroelectricity, gold, copper, lignite and coal, the need is to help increase production.The implementation of renewable energy projects in substitution of petrol is critical. It should be done urgently.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scientists suddenly find water on Moon

Scientists have found evidence of water on the Moon. A new analysis of volcanic glass which was recovered from the Moon during the Apollo mission of the 1970s showed that the rocks contain water molecules. The research thus challenges the notion that the Moon is absolutely dry.

The discovery suggests that water was present in the Earth’s natural satellite when the pebbles were formed during lunar eruptions about 3.6 billion years ago.

“Most people believed that the moon was dry. People had tried to measure for 40 years and couldn't see any evidence for water ... they were not convinced we were doing something worthwhile,” said Alberto Saal at Brown University in Rhode Island, who was part of the team that did the research.

Alberto Saal other scientists of the group used a highly sensitive technology to analyze the rocks recovered during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 and 1972. The scientists found traces of hydrogen along with chlorine and fluorine which can be found in rocks from explosive eruptions.

The discovery of hydrogen alongside other elements suggested to scientists that water came from inside the moon and not from an external source, such as a comet. Based on the amount of hydrogen found in the pebbles, scientists estimated the lunar magma contained 260 to 745 parts per million of water, similar to what is found in the Earth's upper mantle. The discovery is highly important taking into consideration future intentions to build a base on the Moon.

The finding throws at least a little water on the currently favoured hypothesis concerning the moon's origin. Many scientists think that the moon was formed when a large proto-planet slammed into Earth, sending into space molten debris that eventually became the moon. Scientists have long assumed that the heat created by the collision would have vaporised any water present and that the small gravitational field of the primeval moon would not have been strong enough to recapture the vapour.

On January 14, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush called for a plan to return manned missions to the Moon by 2020. NASA is now planning for the construction of a permanent outpost at one of the lunar poles. The People's Republic of China has expressed ambitious plans for exploring the Moon and has started the Chang'e program for lunar exploration, successfully launching its first spacecraft, Chang'e-1, on October 24, 2007. India intends to launch several unmanned missions, beginning with Chandrayaan I in February 2008, followed by Chandrayaan II in 2010 or 2011; the latter is slated to include a robotic lunar rover. India also has expressed its hope for a manned mission to the Moon by 2030. The U.S. will launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008. Russia also announced to resume its previously frozen project Luna-Glob, consisting of an unmanned lander and orbiter, which is slated to land in 2012.

Blood pressure linked to dementia

Researchers claim that middle-aged individuals suffering from hypertension are six times more prone to developing memory problems.

According to a study conducted by the Alzheimer's Society, high blood pressure increases the risk of vascular dementia, the second most common memory problem after Alzheimer's, by 600 percent.

Scientists believe that treating high blood pressure in the elderly not only reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney damage but also lowers the dementia risk.

A similar study published in the Lancet Neurology journal showed that treating blood pressure patients with a diuretic with or without an ACE inhibitor reduces the risk of death due to stroke or other causes.

The study also reported that blood pressure drugs reduce elderly dementia risk by 13%.

Previous studies had reported that a low-salt diet and exercise along with taking appropriate medication and quitting smoking can effectively lower blood pressure.


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Too much coffee reduces fertility

Dutch scientists have suggested that drinking too much coffee and alcohol can lower pregnancy chances in women with poor fertility.

According to a recent study, drinking more than four cups of coffee a day reduces the likelihood of conception chance by 26%, as caffeine has toxic effects on the ovaries and sperm.

Radboud University researchers reported that drinking alcohol at least three times a week has similar effects in the pregnancy process to excessive caffeine intake.

Findings show that smoking more than one cigarette per day and being overweight also impede pregnancy.

The study revealed that IVF success rate drops from 15% to 5% in a 36-year-old overweight woman who smokes and drinks too much coffee and alcohol. Researchers concluded that patients can increase the chance of spontaneous IVF pregnancy by following a healthy lifestyle.

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Diabetes-detecting protein found

Scientists have suggested that higher serum levels of a protein known as fetuin-A increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), individuals with high serum levels of fetuin-A, a protein expressed by the liver and secreted into the blood stream to inhibit insulin action, are 1.7-fold more prone to diabetes.

UCSD School of Medicine researchers claimed that fetuin-A binds to muscle and fat tissue insulin receptors, resulting in insulin resistance which leads to type-2 diabetes.

The study revealed that the effect of fetuin levels on the development of diabetes is independent from other disease risk factors such as physical activity or inflammation.

Researchers believe fetuin-A can be used as a screening tool to identify individuals at a higher risk of diabetes. They are also optimistic that the protein can help find new treatments for the condition.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why did you kill me, mother?

Abortion is not something to be proud of. Abortion is not the best thing that can happen to a woman, no matter whether she treats it as a common medical procedure or a sinful action that kills an innocent life inside her.

Abortion is a social phenomenon. It is very simple to accuse women of this problem, although it is the society that should carry responsibility for it. One can dwell upon the ethics of abortions, about women destroying their own lives, about problems with the public morality, etc. However, nothing can cancel the right of a woman to take her decision, to receive high-quality medical and psychological aid and become a happy person in the future.

Most of those pro-life groups may come up with their objections here. They remind women of fire and brimstone and sufferings of unborn children destined to be slaughtered in the mother’s womb. They distribute anti-abortion leaflets with slogans like “Why did you kill me, mother?” All of that is apparently done to make a woman suffer after she decides to terminate her pregnancy.

When an 18-year-old attempts to commit suicide a week after her abortion, those who whispered “murderer” to her at hospital and showed her pictures of aborted fetuses do not feel any responsibility at all. Such incidents, when young women commit suicide being unable to cope with their post-abortion tortures, are rather frequent.

It goes without saying that abortion is evil. It obviously affects the woman’s health and her ability to become a mother in the future. However, if abortion happens, a woman should not be punished for it. She needs to be rendered all possible help to survive the sad experience with minimum of damage.

Women terminating their pregnancy may become infertile or have serious problems with the next pregnancy. The termination of pregnancy may lead to secondary infertility in 10 or 15 percent of cases.

An abortion may lead to a whole bouquet of diseases. Like any other surgery, an abortion can be dangerous. No one can be insured against inflammations, hemorrhage or other complications.
The termination of pregnancy may result in the termination of a family. An abortion may often become a consequence of family problems. It is a very serious test of relationships, although the birth of a baby or any other serious changes in life could become a similar test for a family.

No one can guarantee you that you will never regret any of your decisions. This is a risk of freedom; this is a matter of responsibility for everyone. In addition, if a woman is certain that she has committed a crime, which she is supposed to be punished for, she is perfectly capable of turning her life into hell.

Women make abortions to avoid the consequences of delivering unwanted babies. To put it in a nutshell, an abortion is a way of solving a social and moral problem. The wish of overcoming a serious problem can quickly be replaced with post-abortion depression, which can arise from the unbalance between women’s true desires and the social realm. Those women, who wanted to keep their baby, but were forced to have an abortion, suffer most at this point. If such a woman has difficulties with her next, wanted pregnancy, she suffers from the feeling of guilt again.

If you harbor strong feelings against abortions and would like to decrease their number, find a girl from a difficult family and tell her about contraception. Help a woman who decided to have an abortion just because she has no place to live and who already raises children. Of course, it is very easy to make “Why did you kill me, mother?” leaflets that will make young women suffer from the feeling of guilt. It is a lot easier to insult and humiliate those women and not even wonder why they decided to have an abortion.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Asian sites win UNESCO world heritage status

QUEBEC CITY: A Hindu temple in Cambodia, two historic Malaysian trading towns and an early agricultural site from Papua New Guinea were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List on Monday.

Honored were the 11th century Preah Vihear temple site, perched on a mountaintop on the Thai-Cambodia border; the cities of the Straits of Malacca, Melaka and George Town in Malaysia, and the Kuk Early Agricultural Site in Papua New Guinea, marking the country's first entry on the list.

The UNSECO committee has been meeting in this oldest of Canadian cities since Wednesday to consider adding to its coveted list of protected architectural and natural wonders.

A total of 45 new sites are vying for inclusion on the list this year at the meeting which ends on Thursday, but few are more controversial than the Preah Vihear temple.

Last week, Cambodia deployed riot police to protect the Thai embassy for fear that a border dispute over the temple could spark violent protests.

The move came after Thailand suspended its endorsement of Cambodia's bid for the UN cultural agency UNESCO to grant the long-disputed Preah Vihear temple World Heritage status.

Security forces were also mobilised to protect Thai-owned businesses in the capital Phnom Penh.

In 1962, the dispute over the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple went before the World Court, which ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although the main entrance lies at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.

The long-standing row appeared resolved last month, after Thailand endorsed Cambodia's plan to seek World Heritage status at a UNESCO meeting in Canada this week. But the deal sparked a political controversy in Thailand, and last week Cambodia closed the mountaintop temple after more than 100 Thais marched to the compound to protest the deal.

A Thai court then forced the government to suspend its endorsement of the plan. To date, 862 sites in more than 140 countries have been designated UNESCO world heritage sites. The Kuk agricultural site in the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea are some 1,500 meters above sea-level, and excavations have shown they have been continuously worked for some 7,000 years, and maybe up to 10,000.

"It is an excellent example of transformation of agricultural practices over time, from cultivation mounds to draining the wetlands through the digging of ditches with wooden tools," UNESCO said in a statement on its website. As for the Malaysian towns which developed over 500 years of trading, "the influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible," UNESCO said.

"The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia."

Also on Monday, the committee included 12 examples of the 17th century military architecture of the Marquis de Vauban, who built or upgraded more than 300 fortifications in France.

His radical and influential designs include the pentagonal fortress. Other sites added at this week's session include the Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr, the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan and now the first World Heritage site in Saudi Arabia; and the Morne Cultural Landscape, a rugged mountain jutting into the Indian Ocean in southwestern Mauritius used as a shelter by runaway slaves in the 18th century.

China's Fujian Tulou property of 46 houses built between the 12th and 20th centuries as homes for entire clans in south-west of Fujian province, inland from the Taiwan Strait, and the Armenian Monastic Ensembles in Iran, joined the list too.

The German city of Dresden, meanwhile, has been given another year to halt construction of a new bridge across its Elbe Valley, dotted with monuments and parks from the 16th to 20th century, or face being struck off the list.

- AFP/yb

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Too much tofu linked to dementia

Scientists suggest that frequent consumption of certain soy products particularly tofu, increases the risk of developing memory loss.

According to a study published in Dementias and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, a soy-rich diet worsens memory function by 20 percent, particularly among individuals over 68 years of age.

Loughborough University researchers claim that soy products are rich in an estrogen-like hormone called phytoestrogen, a micronutrient that promotes cell growth in the ageing brain and therefore makes the elderly more prone to brain damage.

While previous studies had reported that phytoestrogens offer neuroprotection effects to the middle-aged and young, the present study reveals that they increase the risk of developing dementia and brain damage in the elderly.

Findings also show that eating tempe, a fermented soy product made from the whole soy bean, is associated with improved memory function, possibly due to its high folate content.

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Green tea reduces heart disease

Greek scientists have found that regularly drinking green tea can significantly reduce cardiovascular-related morbidity and mortality.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, green tea improves the function of endothelial cells that line the blood vessels and prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.

Athens Medical School researchers believe that the high flavonid content of green tea is responsible for improved endothelial function.

Findings reveal that compared to black tea, green tea flavonoids are more potent antioxidants as they do not undergo oxidization.

Previous studies had reported that drinking green tea has various health benefits; it is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and certain malignancies, particularly prostate cancer.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Laos-Thailand trial train run starts today

(KPL) The Lao National Railway Authority and the State Railway of Thailand will start a trial train run between Nongkhai train station, Thailand, and Vientiane’s Thanaleng train station until 15 July (except weekend).
The Public Works and Transport Office said yesterday the trial was in preparation for the rail transport between Laos and Thailand.
During the trial period, a locomotive with three bogies will run twice a day including Nongkhai-Thanaleng (9:10-9:25) and Thanaleng-Nongkhai (10:05-10:20), and Nongkhai-Thanaleng (16:20-16:35) and Thanaleng-Nongkhai (17:05-17:20).
The construction of the railway from the First Mekong Friendship Bridge to Thanaleng has been completed by the Lao National Railway Authority and the State Railway of Thailand to develop the transport between the two neighbours.

Draft media law ready for NA coming ordinary session

(KPL) The draft media law will be put into discussion in the upcoming fifth ordinary session of the National Assembly (sixth legislature), scheduled on 7-26 July, for endorsement.

The draft media law has been drafted, commented and amended since 1990 by veteran academics, representatives of the mass media, legal technical officials and officials from authorities concerned, said Mr Vanthong Phonchanheuang, Director of the Mass Media Department.

This draft is aimed at determining obligations, duties, roles and rights of the mass media, and framework of the mass media as a representative of people in exercising rights to speech and writing freedom through the mass media.

The media is a sharp tool and important means of the Party in implementation of leadership, a necessary mechanism of the government for social administration and a platform for people in the enhancement and implementation of their own rights, said Mr. Vanthong to a press conference held here on 1 July.

The issuing of media law is significant because it would ensure the performance and activities of the mass media, and to help develop the media, lead to great benefit to nation and ethnic people as well as a representative of the Party and Government.

This draft media law contains 10 chapters, 64 articles have completely prepared and ready for proposing to the upcoming national assembly.

The draft has been proposed to cabinet meeting for times and then the draft has been approved by the Government meeting.

Minister of Finance proposes civil servants’ salaries increase

(KPL) The Ministry of Finance has revealed a proposal to increase civil servants’ salaries- by 250 kip per index and offer fuel allowance to each.

Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy said at the July monthly meeting of the National Assembly held on 2 July in Vientiane that the proposal would be presented to the government and the National Assembly for consideration and approval.

According to the proposal, from October this year the minimum salary of civil servants will be about 400,000 kip, up from 370,000 kip now.

The President of the National Assembly, Mr. Thongsing Thammavong, asked the Standing Committee of the National Assembly to carefully consider details of the proposal before submitting to its 5th ordinary session.

Govt proposes spending increase

The government wants to increase government spending to counter rising inflation.
Ministries and other state bodies made the suggestion during a meeting with the National Assembly this week.

National Assembly standing member Mr Ounkeo Outhilath yesterday said it was a reasonable request.

“The state sector is upholding its duty to the nation, so why the request for an increase in expenditure?” he asked.

“The reason is because funding levels used in the past are insufficient. To be able to perform their tasks fully and effectively, they need to increase expenditure.”

The NA wants to increase its expenditure from 5 billion kip to 6.7 billion kip. The Prime Minister's Office requests an increase from 67 billion kip to 87 billion kip for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Ministry of Public Security asked for an increase to 66 billion kip.

The Vientiane Administration Office asked for a total budget of 130 billion kip. Some of this money would be spent on celebrations to mark the 450 th anniversary in 2010 of the transfer of the capital of Laos from Luang Prabang to Vientiane .

Officials from the Ministry of Finance argue that an increase in government expenditure could spark an economic downturn. Finance Ministry Deputy Office Head Paya Paseuth warned there would be financial consequences from increased spending.

“We should not increase national expediture in accordance with our desires,” he said.
“I think we should prioritise work that needs to be done urgently.”

Mr Paya is against increasing national debt as it would affect currency exchange rates and financial stability.

A financial expert, who asked not to be named, says the country already has very high levels of spending.

“We set the national budget without being certain we can meet the revenue targets. But our expenditure is 100 percent certain,” he said.

“If we cannot meet revenue targets we have to find money from other sources, including borrowing from other countries, at the cost of increasing national debt.”

The national revenue in 2006-2007 was more than 4,000 billion kip (about US$424 million) and increased to 5,800 billion kip (about US$667 million) in 2007-2008. The Finance Ministry hopes to generate more than 7,000 billion kip (US$818 million) in 2008-2009.

Mr Paya said some ministries did not report revenue on time and this made it difficult for the Finance Ministry to report accurately to the National Assembly.

According to the law, all expenditure must be approved by the National Assembly.

Some officials have suggested raising taxes on luxury goods, particularly tobacco, to generate additional revenue. They also suggest strengthening fiscal management.

Protect our forests, officials urge

The country's 21 national protected areas (NPA) will improve management and allocate more forest conservation areas in a bid to protect natural resources, biodiversity and wildlife.

The move is part of government efforts to restore forest cover to 53 percent of total land area by 2010 and to 70 percent by 2020. At present only about 40 percent of land is forested, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Several factors have caused widespread deforestation in Laos . These include growing population pressure and a sharp increase in the number of industrial tree plantations.

Land concessions to domestic and foreign companies growing trees on a commercial basis has led to the destruction of thousands of hectares of land in NPAs, Deputy Head of the Division of Forest Resource Conservation, Mr Savanh Chanthakoumman, said.

He was speaking at a national forest conservation management meeting held in Vientiane on Thursday and Friday.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Ty Phommasak and senior forestry senior officials from provinces around the country.
Mr Savanh said Laos was rich in natural resources such as forestry and biodiversity, which were a source of food, traditional medicine, energy and trade and a source of income for many Lao people.

He said natural resources were vital to the country's socio-economic development and the survival of rural communities.
“We should all join hands to solve any problem that arises in the protection of our natural resources and their management so that they continue to exist well into the future,” he said.
Dr Ty said “If we want to establish Laos as “the battery of Asia ” we first have to protect our forests.”

Over the years the government had paid closer attention to issuing various orders, announcements and decrees to each go vernment sector involved in forestry and forest conservation, he said. Dr Ty said the government had recently approved forestry, aquatic and wildlife laws as a tool to implement forestry resource management.

He advised all participants at the meeting to have a greater understanding of the importance of forests and the value of natural resources, saying it would add to the success of their work.
He called on each section concerned to designate forest areas that could be protected and agricultural land that could be farmed.

The proper use of natural resources would help to boost gross domestic product and enable people to earn a living. This was especially the case in the tourism sector, where local people could help tourists to access natural resources and earn an income in the process, Dr Ty said.

Participants also heard reports on management and conservation in NPAs such as Nakai-Nam Kading, Nam Aaed-Phou Leuay and Phou Khaokhuay.

Juicy watermelon can be as miraculous as Viagra

Watermelon produces an effect similar to that of Viagra, researchers say. A slice of juicy watermelon contains citrulline that can trigger the production of a substance that relaxes the body’s blood vessels. A similar effect is produced when a man takes a Viagra pill.

Citrulline reacts with enzymes of the human body when consumed in large quantities. Afterwards, the substance changes into arginine – an amino acid that benefits the circulatory and the immune system.

Researchers of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center say that watermelon can be a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side effects. However, the vegetable is not so organ-specific as Viagra. In addition, the scientists said that anyone who takes Viagra should not be expecting the same results from watermelon.

The organic compound citrulline is an amino acid. Its name is derived from citrullus, the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated in 1930. It is a key intermediate in the urea cycle, the pathway by which mammals excrete ammonia.

Citrulline is made from ornithine and carbamoyl phosphate in one of the central reactions in the urea cycle. It is also produced from arginine as a by-product of the reaction catalyzed by NOS family (NOS; EC Arginine is first oxidized into N-hydroxyl-arginine, which is then further oxidized to citrulline concomitant with release of nitric oxide.

Although citrulline is not coded for by DNA directly, several proteins are known to contain citrulline as a result of a posttranslational modification. These citrulline residues are generated by a family of enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs), which convert arginine into citrulline in a process called citrullination or deimination.

Proteins that normally contain citrulline residues include myelin basic protein (MBP), filaggrin, and several histone proteins, whereas other proteins, such as fibrin and vimentin are susceptible to citrullination during cell death and tissue inflammation.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis often have detectable antibodies against proteins containing citrulline. Although the origin of this immune response is not known, detection of antibodies reactive with citrulline (anti-citrullinated protein antibodies) containing proteins or peptides is now becoming an important help in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Citrulline in the form of citrulline malate is sold as a performance-enhancing athletic dietary supplement which is said to reduce muscle fatigue.

Low HDL levels linked to memory loss

Scientists claim that low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the middle-aged can increase the risk of dementia later in life.

According to a study published in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology journal, HDL levels lower than 40 mg/dL are predictors of declining memory by the age of 60 and increase dementia risk by 53 percent.

The study reported no significant difference in terms of good cholesterol levels and the severity of memory loss between the two genders.

Findings also revealed that statins (drugs used to increase HDL and/or lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels) do not influence the course of memory loss.

Scientists concluded that high HDL cholesterol levels not only protect against heart attack but also prevent from the formation of beta-amyloid plaques which characterize Alzheimer's disease.

In order to increase HDL and lower LDL cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association recommends individuals exercise regularly, reduce their intake of fats, particularly trans and saturated ones, and instead consume monounsaturated fats such as olive, canola and peanut oils.

My favorite song

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Public urged to use fuel economically as price rises

The government has approved a further increase in fuel prices, which poses challenges regarding the management of inflation in Laos .

According to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the government has approved fuel price increases per litre of 100 kip for premium petrol, 260 kip for regular petrol, and 150 kip for diesel. This will apply to petrol stations throughout the country.

The price at the pump for one litre of premium petrol is now 12,620 kip, up from 12,520 kip. Regular grade petrol costs 11,880 kip, up from 11,620 kip, and the cost of diesel is now 11,790 kip, up from 11,640 kip, according to the ministry.

Domestic Trade Department Director General Santisouk Vilaychareun said yesterday the government's decision to raise fuel prices was based on rising global fuel prices.
“ Laos is not the only country to raise fuel prices; other countries have made the same decision,” he said.

Mr Santisouk said the government would not cut taxes on fuel to keep prices lower because it would send the wrong signal to consumers about using fuel economically and cutting back on energy use. He said the government wanted to encourage consumers to use fuel as economically as possible.

The government does not see a reduction in taxes as a solution to stabilise fuel prices, Mr Santisouk said, and was already providing fuel subsidies of 300 to 400 kip on every litre.

“You can get a picture of the extent to which the government is subsidising fuel prices; in one day people in Laos consume about 1.2 to 1.3 million litres of fuel.”

The government pays about 520 million kip in fuel subsidies every day, according to trade officials. Mr Santisouk expressed concern over rising fuel prices, saying it would drive inflation even higher.

Inflation reached 10 percent in May, driven by rising oil prices. Inflation stood at 8 percent in April and 6 percent in February, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment's Statistics Dep artment.

Mr Santisouk said higher fuel prices caused higher transportation costs, which was one of the main factors driving up the price of goods in local markets. He said the increase in the price of consumer items and construction materials would have a negative impact on the growth of the economy.

The best way to lower inflation was to encourage people to consume less fuel by using energy economically and efficiently, he said. He urged government leaders and officials to set an example to the public in this respect.

“From now on, we have to think about what we can do to use less fuel, to look at which cars use less fuel,” he said.

He also advised Lao people to change their buying habits and purchase more items that were locally produced.

Economists say the government's policy to curb lavish spending is good but officials must make it clear in which areas the public should cut their spending. It is undesirable to encourage people to spend less overall, because this would slow economic growth.

Coordinator of the Lao Petroleum and Gas Group under the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Phet Chanthamaly, said petroleum importers had recorded an increase in fuel consumption from 462 million litres in 2006 to 627 million litres in 2007.

Laos paid US$243 million for fuel imports in 2006 and US$452 million in 2007, he said.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy (Latest Update July 3, 2008)

MM Lee says centre of gravity in global affairs shifting to China, India

SINGAPORE : Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said the centre of gravity in global affairs is shifting to the East, particularly to China and India.

Mr Lee said this has resulted in a permanent change in world consumption and is already large enough to have shifted fundamentals in the world economy.

He added that China's key to success lies in its need to educate and change the mindset of the people.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia’s Chief Editor Debra Soon, Mr Lee shared his insights on the Chinese leadership today, how China has changed and its impact and influence on the world. In 1978, two years after breaking up the leftist Gang of Four, China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping embarked on economic reforms and set China on a historic journey forward.

It was the same year Deng visited Singapore and met the then prime minister Lee. And 30 years on, MM Lee has met every Chinese top leader since Mao Zedong.
When asked if he thought the West is open to accepting China as a modern nation, Mr Lee said: "I don't see what the choice is. Whether you want to accept or (not) is not dependant on whether you like or don't like China.

"The question is - will China make the grade? If (China) doesn't get tangled up in any conflict with America, Japan, Russia or India, and has no intention of getting tangled up with any conflicts, unless it's over Taiwan, then she is going to grow.

" It is this growth - the demand for commodities such as food, consumption, cars, travel - that has become a "durable trend", and resulted in the rise in food and oil prices.

Mr Lee rejected the idea that China could implode, should wealth be distributed unevenly between the provinces. He added that China has a stable system of political succession in place.

He said: "It's a very entrenched system of rotating talented people at the top, so that nobody develops a warlord attachment to any single province. As long as the centre remains strong, that will not happen, because they knew what happened during the warlord years. "

Now, the army is rotated, the police force chiefs are rotated, the party officials and the government officials are rotated. So you (don't have a) fixed permanent group at the top. It's always a changing combination of many different groups from different parts of the country."

- CNA /ls

Long Term Pass card to be issued to foreigners residing in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Singapore will introduce a new Long Term Pass (LTP) card to all foreigners residing in Singapore on Student’s Pass (STP), long term visit pass, Employment Pass (EP) and Dependant’s Pass.

The move is part of the government’s initiative to enhance the national security of the country, said the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The LTP card will replace the current stamp endorsement on the travel documents and the paper-laminated Disembarkation/Embarkation card issued to long-term pass holders. The LTP card will bear the photograph and fingerprint of all cardholders aged 15 and above.

With the added personal identifiers, government agencies will be able to verify the cardholder’s identity through face and fingerprint matching.

The LTP card boasts better security features compared to the present card, containing biometric features to provide more secure means of identifying individuals and facilitate travel, while deterring forgery and fraudulent use of the card.

All new long term visit pass and STP holders will be issued with LTP cards in the second half of 2008.

MOM will also open a new Employment Pass Services Centre in 2009 to register and issue the new cards to those currently holding on to the various types of employment passes.

The ministry said they will transit to the new cards from the second quarter of 2009 during renewal of their passes. They will be informed when and how to register.

- CNA/yb/vm

The latest FIFA Top 10

The latest FIFA Top 10: 1. Spain (1,557 points); 2. Italy (1,404); 3. Germany (1,364); 4. Brazil (1,344); 5. the Netherlands (1,299); 6. Argentina (1,298); 7. Croatia (1,282); 8. the Czech Republic (1,146); 9. Portugal (1,104); 10. France (1,053).

PS: 13. Russia (1,023)

Mom's poor diet results in diabetic kids

British scientists claim following a poor diet during pregnancy or breastfeeding can cause long-lasting health problems for the child.

According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, an unhealthy diet during pregnancy increases the risk of obesity along with elevated cholesterol and blood sugar levels in the offspring.

The study showed female mice that ate fatty processed foods gave birth to pups with higher levels of fat in their blood and around their major organs, making them more prone to type-2 diabetes.

Findings also revealed that the offspring of mothers who indulged in junk food craved for similar snacks during their adolescence.

Scientists reported that while the male pups of mothers on an unhealthy diet had higher levels of insulin and normal blood sugar, obesity-linked genes were more active in female pups.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Academics propose land concession regulations

Academics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will recommend changes to regulations governing agricultural land concessions by the end of this year.

Group head, Dr Linkham Du angsavanh, said the government had assigned the group to conduct a study and produce regulations, particularly for investment in industrial tree plantations. The group has been conducting research for the past two years and expects to finish by the end of 2008.

The government suspended land concessions last year after people living in areas with agricultural investment projects complained their lifestyle had been negatively affected.
The National Assembly has urged the government to increase land concession rates, saying existing rates are too low.

Dr Linkham said research showed land concession rates for industrial tree plantations were not properly regulated.

He said researchers agreed the existing land concession fee was too low, ranging from US$6 to US$9 per hectare per year. The group will propose the government lift it to US$20 to US$30 per hectare per year.

“We do not make the new rate without proper study,” he said.
“We have looked at our neighbouring countries including Vietnam 's land concession fee.”

Dr Linkham said the group studied industrial investment formats including the “two plus three” format. This format creates a partnership between local people and investors because investors supply funding, technical support and a ready market for products, while local people offer their land and labour.

The proposed regulations will encourage these sorts of partnerships and aim to protect villagers from being exploited.

Provincial authorities can grant permission for an investment if its value is less than US$5million. Some provincial authorities consult current investment promotion laws when deciding whether a project should be approved, but Dr Linkham said this law was not specific enough.

The group is also researching land potential to produce information about which kinds of crops would grow best in different areas.

This information will be given to the government to be used as a tool in determining what types of projects are approved.
“We have undertaken land zoning,” Dr Linkham said.
“The government wants us to finish the zoning as soon as possible but I cannot confirm when we will finish the work.”

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo (Latest Update July 2, 2008)

India, Israel and Pakistan supposedly own about 300 nukes

The Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons also referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), was signed in New York on July 1, 1968. The document divided the countries of the world into two groups: those which possess A-bombs and those which do not and must not have A-bombs.

The document appeared during the Cold War era. The USSR, the USA and Great Britain became the first countries to sign the Treaty. US President Lyndon Johnson submitted the NPT to the US Senate for ratification on July 9, 1968. However, the Senate refused to ratify any agreements with Moscow after the Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia in August of that year. USA’s new President Richard Nixon submitted the document for ratification again only in the beginning of 1969. The Senate approved the Treaty on March 13, 1969, whereas the President signed the draft law about the NPT coming into effect on November 24, 1969. The Treaty came into effect in March 1970 as an international legal document.

The NPT determined that France and China could join it as full-fledged nuclear powers. The elite club welcomed all countries which had tested A-bombs before January 1, 1967 . However, Beijing and Paris did not mean to hurry with that. The Chinese administration described the Treaty as the conspiracy of two superpowers aimed to preserve the nuclear monopoly of the USSR and the USA. Beijing believed that the prohibition of nuclear weapons development would be effective only if the superpowers liquidated their nuclear arsenals

The Treaty has three basic goals: non-proliferation, disarmament and the right for the peaceful use of nuclear technologies. The goals seem to have been partially achieved as the nuclear race between the USA and the USSR ended with the end of the Cold War period. However, the world stands too far from the complete nuclear disarmament, which gives NPT critics a reason to reproach nuclear superpowers of hypocrisy and their aspiration to uncompromisingly dictate their will to other nations.

There are positive examples, though. South Africa tested nuclear weapons in the 1970s, but then destroyed them and signed the NPT in 1991. This is a unique example when a country turns down its A-bombs made on the base of the national scientific and industrial base. Western experts like to remind of the time when Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan refused to keep the Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories after the three countries obtained independence. It is true, but one should bear in mind the fact that it was only Russia that could technically play the role of the nuclear successor of the USSR.

Not all countries dealing with nuclear developments aspired to become NPT members. India actively participated in NPT negotiations, but eventually refused to join it having referred to a nuclear threat from China. Pakistan acted similarly and referred to India’s decision. Israel also decided not to tie its hands with the Treaty.

All of that was not so dangerous during the 1970s and the 1980s against the background of the bipolar world order formed as a result of the opposition of two systems. Nowadays, nuclear programs in the Middle East and South Asia threaten to develop into the regional arms race. India, Israel and Pakistan supposedly own about a hundred A-bombs each.

Non-nuclear states are entitled to develop peaceful nuclear power under the NPT and build their own nuclear power plants under the control of international supervisors. In this case there is no reason to ban such countries from enriching uranium for those purposes. The situation with Iran has unfolded into a major international problem. Iran is a member of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty; the nation cooperates with the IAEA, although the West is still deeply concerned about the Iranian nuclear program.

NPT members agreed in May 1995 to indefinitely prolong the document. However, the decision does not remove the internal conflict between the members of the Treaty. The USA is concentrated on the problems of Iran and North Korea, whereas other countries continue to ask questions about the promised total nuclear disarmament. To crown it all, Washington’s wish to solve international problems with the use of the military force can only strengthen the wish of USA’s opponents to develop an A-bomb.