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EDITORIALS

Politics of oil
Price cut not enough
B
Y reducing marginally the petrol and diesel prices, the UPA government has allowed Congress President Sonia Gandhi to claim credit for a people-friendly measure and project herself as a protector of the interests of the common man. Earlier when farmers were protesting against the forcible acquisition of their land for setting up special economic zones, she came to their rescue and told the government to have SEZs only on barren or single-crop land.

Not at courts’ cost
Retired judges can head inquiry commissions
T
HE Supreme Court has disbanded all commissions of inquiry presided over by sitting high court judges on various issues. A Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S.H. Kapadia has ruled that appointments already made should be cancelled. The order has come with the rider that it will not apply to commissions that have already reached the final stage of their work.





EARLIER STORIES

Rajnath again
November 29, 2006
Maya in the soup
November 28, 2006
Dam of discord
November 27, 2006
Career in the military
November 26, 2006
SC snubs Modi
November 25, 2006
Hu’s advice
November 24, 2006
India, China move forward
November 23, 2006
Blasting peace
November 22, 2006
Tackling the big fish
November 21, 2006
Neglected lot
November 20, 2006
Scope of judiciary
November 19, 2006
The Senate nod
November 18, 2006
Fighting terrorism together
November 17, 2006


LTTE opts for war
Colombo must fight for peace
T
HE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) virtually proclaiming a return to war comes as no surprise. Its chief V Prabakaran’s declaration that the 2002 ceasefire with the Government of Sri Lanka is defunct and that Tamil independence is the only solution was anticipated, more or less, in informed quarters.
ARTICLE

Are we fighting terrorism?
India’s approach can lead to nowhere
by G. Parthasarathy
T
HE External Affairs Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee, emphatically told the Lok Sabha on November 24 that Chinese territorial pretensions notwithstanding, Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. But does the Manmohan Singh government regard Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India in its composite dialogue with Pakistan? Is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir not as serious an offence as terrorism in other parts of India?

MIDDLE

The other woman
by Raj Chatterjee
M
Y earliest recollections of her go back to the time when I was a nipper in short pants and, by all accounts, a particularly odious one. She was a school-teacher in her mid-thirties, thin, with a sallow complexion, and her hair, streaked with grey, was always piled up in a bun on top of her head. I had often wondered why the bun wasn’t on the nape of her neck, like my mother’s, and why she seldom dressed in anything other than grey or brown or some such drab colour.

OPED

Democracy hijacked
The rich and criminals take to governance
by S.S. Johl

I
ndividuals
and societies often fall into despondency due to their exclusion from the process of governance, growth and development. The exclusion can be at three levels — financial, physical and mental.

Breast cancer ignorance is not bliss
by Susan Love and Sue Rochman
T
HE newspaper headline reads, ``Red meat causes breast cancer,'' and breast cancer experts across the country wince. We know what the day will bring: alarmed phone calls and e-mails. We will be stopped on the street with questions about the hazards of hamburgers.

Oxford dons reject VC’s reforms
by Sarah Cassidy

O
xford
dons inflicted a humiliating defeat on their vice-chancellor on Tuesday night when they rejected his plans to overturn 900 years of tradition and hand control of the university to outsiders from the worlds of business and politics.

 

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Politics of oil
Price cut not enough

BY reducing marginally the petrol and diesel prices, the UPA government has allowed Congress President Sonia Gandhi to claim credit for a people-friendly measure and project herself as a protector of the interests of the common man. Earlier when farmers were protesting against the forcible acquisition of their land for setting up special economic zones, she came to their rescue and told the government to have SEZs only on barren or single-crop land. The reversal of known policies makes the position of the Prime Minister a little embarrassing as he and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora had only recently ruled out any price cut despite a steep fall in the global oil prices from $78 a barrel to $56.8.

Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Mr Deora had fiscal considerations in taking their position on oil prices. Their calculations focussed on the loss to the government on every litre of diesel sold or on how oil speculation had hit India’s GDP growth. But for Ms Sonia Gandhi politics matters more than economics. She has to prepare her party for the coming assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

However, the oil price cut is not in keeping with the drastic fall in the global prices. The government needs to rework its petroleum price mechanism. The combined dose of Central and state taxation that comes with every drop of oil is quite stiff. The sharp rise in the prices of necessities can be partly attributed to the high oil prices. To reign in inflation, it is imperative to keep oil prices subdued. Luxury diesel car manufacturers can be made to pay more as they take advantage of the heavily subsidised diesel. The government reportedly plans to lower corporate taxes; instead it can pass the benefit of increased tax collections to oil users and this will benefit the corporate sector as well.

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Not at courts’ cost
Retired judges can head inquiry commissions

THE Supreme Court has disbanded all commissions of inquiry presided over by sitting high court judges on various issues. A Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S.H. Kapadia has ruled that appointments already made should be cancelled. The order has come with the rider that it will not apply to commissions that have already reached the final stage of their work. The Bench has observed that the use of sitting high court judges for such commissions has seriously affected the functioning of the high courts. The apex court’s rationale is simple: why appoint sitting judges when they are already overburdened with cases? When many retired judges of high courts are in good health, the state governments would do well to make use of their wisdom and experience in heading inquiry commissions.

Undoubtedly, the apex court was forced to disband the probe panels due to the lackadaisical attitude of the state governments. Earlier, the Centre sought information from the state chief secretaries about the utilisation of sitting high court judges for inquiry commissions. However, no state responded to the query. It is common knowledge that most probe panels were appointed for political reasons. The state governments used to appoint them on any issue, citing “public importance”. In fact, appointment of a sitting judge for a probe panel had become a simple affair. All that a state government needed to do was to take the consent of the chief justice of the high court concerned.

Moreover, such commissions took a very long time to submit their reports to the governments. Even so, their recommendations were very rarely implemented. Consequently, precious time and energy of the sitting high court judges were wasted in the whole exercise. The apex court has not only put a cap on such appointments but also wants to know from the states how many reports have been implemented so far. It would be interesting to wait for their response on this matter of far reaching importance.

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LTTE opts for war
Colombo must fight for peace

THE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) virtually proclaiming a return to war comes as no surprise. Its chief V Prabakaran’s declaration that the 2002 ceasefire with the Government of Sri Lanka is defunct and that Tamil independence is the only solution was anticipated, more or less, in informed quarters. For months before this explicit statement, the LTTE has been at war with Colombo. Recent developments — such as Sri Lanka’s supreme court holding the merger of the Tamil-dominated Northern and Eastern provinces to be illegal — have only exacerbated the climate in which hostilities had erupted and escalated. Mr Prabakaran’s ultimatum that the LTTE has no choice other than to return to war for an independent Tamil Eelam comes just a day before Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s meetings with the Government of India in New Delhi.

In the run-up to the presidential visit, there has been much activity with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon meeting Mr Rajapakse in Colombo and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan meeting Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in Chennai. Reports of these meetings suggest that Mr Menon conveyed New Delhi’s unhappiness at there being no progress towards realising the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. While New Delhi may have set itself against the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, its commitment to the rights of the Tamils is undiminished. This is a position on which Mr Karunanidhi does not differ with the Centre.

The war-like hostilities raging in Sri Lanka can now be expected to take a turn for the worse. Regardless of the LTTE’s record of terrorism and provocations, it is President Rajapakse who will be held responsible if the island republic slides back into another protracted military conflict. It devolves on him to pull back from the brink and at least sustain the “no-war, no-peace” situation that obtained since 2002. Even that would be a gain at a time when war clouds are looming large.

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Thought for the day

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. — Norman Douglas

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Are we fighting terrorism?
India’s approach can lead to nowhere
by G. Parthasarathy

THE External Affairs Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee, emphatically told the Lok Sabha on November 24 that Chinese territorial pretensions notwithstanding, Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. But does the Manmohan Singh government regard Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India in its composite dialogue with Pakistan? Is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir not as serious an offence as terrorism in other parts of India?

New Delhi has conveyed the impression to Pakistan that issues relating to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir will not figure in the meetings of the much-touted “joint terror mechanism”, whose discussions will be confined to terrorism only in other parts of India. Despite Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad asserting that infiltration across the LoC had doubled in the past year the Indian side did not raise the issue or instances of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir during the Foreign Secretary-level talks in New Delhi on November 14-15.

Speaking to political leaders from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) in Islamabad on November 21, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri and Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan said “matters pertaining to Kashmir will not be part of the joint mechanism to share intelligence on terrorism”.

The Convener of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference in PoK, Mr Youssuf Nazim, said after the meeting: “The Foreign Secretary told us that the Kashmir freedom struggle movement was not part of the decisions taken in the recent Indo-Pak talks”. No one should be surprised by these developments. Ever since the Havana meeting with President Musharraf, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to feel that government ministers and senior officials should not directly name Pakistan or Bangladesh while referring to terrorism against India sponsored from across its borders. The government appeared to develop cold feet on this score after General Musharraf accused it of “finger pointing”.

Dr Manmohan Singh also appears to have decided that while he will speak of “misguided elements” in our neighbours sponsoring terrorism, he will not blame General Musharraf or the ISI for such acts. The Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, unlike the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, also seems to believe that the Pakistan government should not be publicly accused of sponsoring cross-border terrorism. This was evident from the text of his address to senior police officials on November 22.

This astonishing approach to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is going to have disastrous consequences. Rather than focusing attention on macro-level issues like the need for Pakistan to ban terrorist groups and organisations like the Jamat-ud-Dawa and the Muzaffarabad-based United Jihad Council, our government will now be devoting all its time and effort to providing Pakistan with evidence on individual acts of terrorism, which will naturally be rejected by Pakistan.

More importantly, we will be ignoring the fact that unless we publicly take up these issues of ISI involvement and the nexus between Pakistani terrorist groups acting against us and those involved in terrorism in Madrid, London, Sydney, New York, San Diego and Virginia, we will be unable to get international pressure mounted on Pakistan to ban terrorist outfits acting against India. Dr Manmohan Singh’s approach to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is strikingly similar to that of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair who refuse to directly name the ISI for its support to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Is our approach to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism being unduly influenced by Washington and London?

Mercifully, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, and the Defence Minister, Mr A.K. Anthony, have made it clear that an authentication of actual ground positions on maps is an essential pre-requisite for us to even commence talking about pulling back our troops from the heights of the Saltoro range in the Siachen region. They realise that if Indian forces are pulled back from the strategic heights of the Saltoro range there is nothing to prevent General Musharraf from seizing the positions vacated and claiming, like he did in Kargil, that the “mujahideen” had captured the positions vacated by India. If and when this happens, we would have the Pakistanis looking down the Nubra and Shyok valleys at Indian defences in Ladakh, with the Chinese present at the Karakoram Pass. But pointing out such realities today would be regarded as a sacrilege to those who believe in constantly thinking “out of the box”.

Jammu and Kashmir evidently figured prominently in discussions between the Foreign Secretaries. This is a welcome development and is in no small measure due to the forthright position taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that while India would not accept any change on boundaries, it would work to transcend boundaries and make them “mere lines on map”. Speaking recently in Delhi, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has clarified in response to General Musharraf’s call for a “Joint Mechanism” for Jammu and Kashmir that India would not be averse to establishing a “cooperative mechanism” between democratically elected institutions of the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is now for General Musharraf to set up truly representative and empowered institutions in PoK and the Northern Areas before we can proceed ahead with his proposal for self-governance. Quite obviously, if there is to be a “cooperative mechanism” between the legislatures on the two sides of the Line of Control, there has to be a symmetry in the nature of self-governance and devolution on both sides.

In these circumstances, Pakistan’s strategy will be to force its proxies like the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference to demand more and more autonomy, virtually bordering on independence, while continuing with cross -border terrorism and threatening to kill those Kashmiri leaders who do not listen to it. We thus have today leaders from even “mainstream” political parties in J&K who are demanding that the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir should be appointed by the state legislature and that J&K should not be subject to the provisions of Article 356 of the Indian Constitution. Surely, no government in New Delhi can agree to such demands, given its implications for demands one hears from elements in other states in the country.

There is thus need to see that there is a measure of symmetry between the progress we make in arriving at a framework for the settlement of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in discussions with Pakistan on the one hand and the “internal dialogue” that the government has embarked on with different sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir on the other. Failure to do so can have serious implications for the nation.

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The other woman
by Raj Chatterjee

MY earliest recollections of her go back to the time when I was a nipper in short pants and, by all accounts, a particularly odious one.

She was a school-teacher in her mid-thirties, thin, with a sallow complexion, and her hair, streaked with grey, was always piled up in a bun on top of her head. I had often wondered why the bun wasn’t on the nape of her neck, like my mother’s, and why she seldom dressed in anything other than grey or brown or some such drab colour.

She was my mother’s younger sister but she wore no wedding ring and was always addressed by outsiders as Miss ..., this being my mother’s family name. Our neighbours looked upon her as a saintly woman and I think they felt sorry for her because she wasn’t married.

At twelve or thirteen I was a keen stamp collector so, one day, when the postman brought a letter with a foreign stamp on the cover I pounced on it. My aunt quickly grabbed it from my hand but not before I had read the addressee’s name, which was unfamiliar to me, at least the surname was. The first name was my aunt’s preceded by ‘Mrs’. Taking the letter from me, she went up to her bedroom and locked the door.

My parents were in the living room. I asked them if my aunt was a married woman and, if so, why was she always addressed as “Miss”.

My father mumbled something unintelligible and hid himself behind his newspaper. My mother looked uncomfortable. “Well, you see” she said, “she got married when she was very young. Then her husband went away to England”.

“But doesn’t he ever want to see auntie, or any of us?” I persisted.

My mother’s embarrassment was plain to see. “I suppose he does,” she said, “but his work keeps him away”. Then she shut up like a clam and I never raised the subject again being engrossed in other things.

Ten years later, I bid a sorrowful goodbye to my aunt. I had grown very fond of her and regarded her as a second mother. By then, the family skeleton was out of the cupboard. My aunt had married a fellow who turned out to be a rotter. He had spent the small dowry she had brought with her on riotous living and had then bought himself a one-way sea-passage to England. That was the last she had seen of him. The letter I had intercepted years before was from him, begging her for money which, on my father’s strong advice she had declined to send him.

As my aunt embraced me she slid an envelope into my hand. “There’s something in it for you” she whispered. “Open it when you’re on the plane”. I did. Inside were five one-pound notes and a slip of paper on which she had written a man’s name and address followed by the message. “Do go and see him when you happen to be in London. He may be of some use to you”. The name was that of my runaway uncle.

After settling down in my digs at (Cambridge, I decided to go up to London one Sunday to see my uncle, more out of curiosity than anything else.

I found myself outside a grimy block of flats in Clapham. I pressed the bell. It was opened by a toothless old man wearing a tattered dressing gown. When I gave the name he directed me to a room on the third floor. I climbed the creaking, uncarpeted staircase along a wall ugly with strips of plaster.

The door of the room whose number I had been given, was opened by a woman in her late ‘40s who looked as if she had just tumbled out of bed. Here untidy hair was part carroty, part grey. She was largebosomed and heavy-hipped. There was an unpleasant smell about her, an amalgam of stale tobacco, cheap scent and sweat.

“Wot yer want?” she asked me, her hands on her ample hips. I said I was looking for Mr. .... She yawned in my face and said, “Likely as not, you’ll find ‘im in the pub round the corner. And if yer do, tell ‘im that if ‘ee aint ‘ere in arf-an-hour ‘ee won’t get no dinner. I’m ‘is missus, see?”

In the event, I didn’t go to the pub. Nor did I make another attempt to see my uncle all the time I was in England.

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Democracy hijacked
The rich and criminals take to governance
by S.S. Johl

Individuals and societies often fall into despondency due to their exclusion from the process of governance, growth and development. The exclusion can be at three levels — financial, physical and mental.

If exclusion is pervasive enough to involve all the three elements, the situation becomes disquietening and despondency develops at an exponential rate. This is where a large majority of the people in India stand today.

Exclusion from governance is the mother of all other types of exclusion. Indian democracy has progressively degenerated to involve the character of a democracy with all the hues of a functional anarchy.

Functionally, democracy in India can be defined as “government by the people, of the bureaucracy, for the politicians”. People as voters are the vital statistics only. They are periodically wooed, misled, cajoled and bribed for appropriating their votes and are then left to fend for themselves.

Ironically, this symbolism is projected as a largest functioning democracy of the world tested over a period of six decades. But, what is the reality beneath the surface! In reality the people have no choice.

The political class, irrespective of the parties, has ganged up and formed an exclusive group in which party tickets and plum positions are distributed within their circles and in most cases are inherited.

Raw-hand youngsters and children of the aging and demised politicians are inducted to pass on the inherited business of politics. The entry of outsiders is effectively blocked through making elections a prohibitive money matter, a battleground of muscle power and loud mouths with little scruples.

Jawaharlal Nehru rightly surmised way back in the fifties that if the people were not vigilant, governance in our democracy would pass into the hands of the strong-muscled and loud-throated criminals. It has come true.

Whether we admit it or not, today an assembly election costs crores of rupees. The candidates pay for tickets to the parties and supply intoxicants and bribe illiterate, poverty-ridden voters. The expenditure limits put by the Election Commission are exceeded with impunity and the code of conduct is flouted with abandon. All this expenditure comes out of black money only. Muscle power plays its role unfettered and the filthy language remains no bar.

Under this unwholesome situation and vitiated political environment, no civilised service-minded person would dare to step in for elections. Whenever such persons offered themselves for the purpose, they failed miserably.

A live example is of our intelligent, gentle and honest Prime Minister. He dared to contest elections from South Delhi and lost. The system could not absorb this fine piece of a man. Today he occupies the position because of very peculiar circumstances.

The electoral battle ground has become the monopoly of moneyed bigwigs and in most cases of hard-boiled criminals and bad characters.

Often voters are blamed for not making a right choice of representatives. This is an absolutely misplaced blame. What can a voter choose out of equally undesirable candidates. Someone very aptly said that political parties put rotten apples before us and give us the option to chose any one of them!

The rot has gone so deep that even the Rajya Sabha (House of Elders) has not been spared from their depredations. Young wards of senior politicians have been placed in the Rajya Sabha.

During the last Akali- BJP regime in Punjab, three defeated MLAs were kicked upstairs to the Rajya Sabha and one of them remained a Cabinet minister for five years. The Congress regime was not to be left behind. They sent two defeated MLAs to the Rajya Sabha.

One wonders as to what moral grounds and justification the political leadership of any party has to elevate a person to occupy a seat in the Upper House when he or she has been rejected by the electorate in assembly elections!

Unfortunately, it works in the Indian version of democracy where moral grounds and political ethics find no place.

Within the parameters of such a vitiated political environ, dispassionate governance and people-oriented administration take the back seat. Politicians in power become money hungry and scheming tricksters.

The bureaucracy becomes self-serving and unresponsive to the needs of society. Law and order goes haywire and corruption seeps down into the very nerves, veins and blood of society. Every pot and place start stinking. This is where we are placed today.

We have fallen from the sacred heights of a healthy democracy into the vortex of sick democracy, wherein the service and welfare of the people lag behind the self-interest, family promotion, greed, crafty manipulations and unhealthy mechanisations of politicians.

Except for the persons who are attached to the political parties out of their self-interest, for the general public it matters little who comes to power. They acquiescent and are reconciled to the fact that all the politicians are equally corrupt and self-centred and they have to suffer them in any situation.

This is the primary reason the educated class has largely withdrawn itself from the election process and it is mostly the poor and people living in shanties and innocent villagers who look forward to the elections that fetch them sops and intoxicants.

Political parties suffer from the illusion of well-attended rallies, “sangat darshans” or “vikas yatras”. They know it, yet refuse to accept it that these are almost the same hired crowds that attend the rallies of opposing political parties carried through impounded and hired vehicles. Such shows of political strength are more or less spurious and have no meaning on the day of reckoning.

Now the million-dollar question is: how can this drift be stopped and who will do it? This can be done if the state assemblies and Parliament become the framers and custodians of law only and members are restrained from holding offices of profit of any shade.

But the well-entrenched present-day politicians cannot be expected to bring about such a change in the system against their own mean interests. Crystal-gazing, therefore, shows the malignant democracy dimming the lights of healthy democracy. Is there anyone listening!

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Breast cancer ignorance is not bliss
by Susan Love and Sue Rochman

THE newspaper headline reads, ``Red meat causes breast cancer,'' and breast cancer experts across the country wince. We know what the day will bring: alarmed phone calls and e-mails. We will be stopped on the street with questions about the hazards of hamburgers.

Women fear breast cancer more than any other disease. Not even heart disease, which more women die from, brings with it the same sense of anxiety. That's probably because we feel we have tools to prevent heart disease -- diet, exercise and even drugs -- while a breast cancer diagnosis can strike like a lightening bolt from the blue.

Doctors don't know what causes it, or how to prevent it. Most women who get it have no risk factors. So every news story, every celebrity diagnosed and every research study sends panic through the whole female population.

The sense that breast cancer is increasing isn't necessarily wrong. The absolute number of women with cancer is rising as the huge baby boom generation ages. But the rate of new cases -- the percentage of women with breast cancer -- dropped after 2001, following years of rapid run-up. In the 1980s and 1990s, as mammograms were introduced, the numbers went up; of course, the more breast cancer you look for, the more you find. The number has stopped ballooning now that mammograms are accessible to nearly all women who want them.

Reduction in the widespread use of long-term hormone replacement therapy also might have slowed the increase in tumors. Before we celebrate, however, it is important to recognize that breast cancer takes a long time to develop. Exposures happening today could reverse the downward trend in cancer rates in the years to come.

With so much unpredictability, it's worth looking at some facts and misconceptions in an attempt to reduce the chronic state of panic.

-- Bras cause breast cancer: If you haven't gotten an e-mail that pronounced the evil of bras during the last couple of years, you're probably not online. The genesis of this Internet rumor is a 1995 book that claimed that bras impede lymph flow in the breast, causing cancer. In fact, lymphatic fluid from the breast drains directly back toward the chest wall and the armpit, not underneath the breast where the bra might be tight. Too bad. It would be great if cancer prevention were as easy as burning our bras.

-- Antiperspirants cause breast cancer: Another e-mail-driven myth purports that antiperspirants are a leading cause of breast cancer because they keep the body from purging toxins in sweat from the armpits or, alternatively, because they are absorbed into the body after shaving. A 2002 study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found no link between using antiperspirant, with or without shaving, and breast cancer risk.

-- Pesticides, plastics and cosmetics cause breast cancer. These all have the same basis. It is well established that estrogen is related to breast cancer. Many chemicals found in the environment -- organochlorides, parabens -- have estrogenlike effects on breast cancer cells grown in petri dishes. Scientists then rightly postulate that exposure to these potential carcinogens might explain some of the increase in breast cancer.

But any chemical links probably aren't so simple. The post-menopausal hormone story, for instance, turned out to be quite complex, with the combination of estrogen and progestins more important than estrogen alone. Undoubtedly, taking these chemicals out of the food we eat and the products we use can only be good, but we have to remember that an actual correlation hasn't been shown.

We panic over environmental exposure because it is beyond our control, yet throughout our lives we willingly take pharmacological estrogens, such as birth control pills, fertility drugs or hormone replacement therapy.

Yet even if there were a cause-and-effect established, that would mean that a 30-year-old woman who ate meat more than once a day would have an 8 in 1,000 chance of getting breast cancer in the next 10 years, as opposed to 4 in 1,000. A diet higher in fruits and vegetables is a good idea for all women, but it's not going to put much of a dent in breast cancer numbers.

-- Regular exercise prevents breast cancer: Finally, a positive thing we can do. Observational studies have found that exercise decreases breast cancer risk in pre-menopausal women. Maintaining a healthy weight after menopause helps too, because fat is a source of estrogen, and therefore increases risk. Reducing alcohol to fewer than three drinks a week will also have a benefit. As will having your first child before age 35.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Oxford dons reject VC’s reforms
by Sarah Cassidy

Oxford dons inflicted a humiliating defeat on their vice-chancellor on Tuesday night when they rejected his plans to overturn 900 years of tradition and hand control of the university to outsiders from the worlds of business and politics.

The poll of Oxford's "parliament of dons" rejected the proposals from John Hood by 730 votes to 456, prompting speculation that he could be forced to resign.

Dr Hood, a New Zealander, former captain of industry and the first outsider to run Oxford, has been unpopular with dons for attempting to push through a raft of reforms, including performance-related pay, since joining the university in 2004.

Academics rejected his controversial plans to have a majority of lay members on the proposed new University Council - in effect a board of governors which would oversee the running of Oxford. The proposals sparked a storm of protest from academics who feared that the uniquely democratic nature of Oxford would be lost.

They argued that the reforms would place too much power in the hands of business people and politicians with little understanding of Oxford who would merely follow the orders of the vice-chancellor.

The issue had led to a bitter battle. But yesterday's victory for the rebels is not necessarily the end of the dispute - although it is a clear indication of the overwhelming opposition to the proposals. A postal ballot of all 3,700 members of Congregation - the university's parliament of academics - is now likely to be held to enable all those who could not attend the debate to have their say.

Nearly 1,200 members of the Congregation packed into Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre to debate Dr Hood's governance "white paper" before voting to reject the controversial plans. Dr Hood's proposals had been supported by many senior Oxford figures including the university chancellor, Lord Patten.

The former governor of Hong Kong had warned that without the reforms it would be much harder to raise the private money the university will need to support more students from poor backgrounds.

But the rebel dons, who had called for the plans to be thrown out, argued that the reforms would undermine the university's standing and called for Oxford insiders to retain control of the council.

Nicholas Bamforth, a law fellow at The Queen's College, told yesterday's meeting that Dr Hood's proposals would not solve any of Oxford's problems and would actually do more harm than good.

"The proposed statute will also leave us worse off," he said. "Oxford thrives as it does precisely because it is a diverse, decentralised academic community. There are plenty of things that are wrong with the university's present administrative processes. But these are best resolved by administrative reform - not by the wholesale ripping up of our present constitution."

Donald Fraser, a professor of earth sciences and Fellow of Worcester College, spoke against the plans in the debate. "A university is not a corporate enterprise where we are all disposable units of production in an integrated academic factory," he said. "The success of the governance of Oxford and Cambridge is that both allow freedom, pluralism and democracy."

By arrangement with The Independent 

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