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Sunday, October 28, 2012

22,000 displaced in Myanmar unrest

Muslim refugees gather at Thechaung camp refugee camp upon arrival in Sittwe .Read history of Mynmar
 
Victims of Myanmar's latest explosion of Muslim-Buddhist violence fled to already packed displacement camps along the country's western coast Sunday, with a top U.N. official saying the unrest has forced more than 22,000 people from their homes.
 
State television reported the casualty toll has risen to 84 dead and 129 injured over the past week in nine townships in Rakhine state. The figures have not been broken down by ethnic group, but New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Rohingya Muslims bore the brunt of the unrest and the true death toll may be far higher.

On Sunday, wooden boats carrying some refugees arrived outside the state capital, Sittwe. The people trudged to the nearby Thechaung camp, a place already home to thousands of Rohingya who took refuge there after a previous wave of violence in June.

"I fled my hometown, Pauktaw, on Friday because there is no security at all," said 42-year-old fisherman Maung Myint, who arrived on a boat carrying 40 other people, including his wife and six children. "My house was burned to ashes and I have no money left."

Another Muslim refugee said she fled her village, Kyaukphyu, on Thursday after attackers set her home on fire.

"We don't feel safe," said 40-year-old Zainabi, a fish seller who left with her two sons, aged 12 and 14. "I wish the violence would stop so we can live peacefully."

Human Rights Watch released dramatic satellite imagery of Kyaukphyu on Saturday showing a vast, predominantly Rohingya swath of the village in ashes. The destruction included more than 800 buildings and floating barges.

There were no reports of new violence Sunday. It was unclear what sparked the latest clashes, but ill will between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state goes back decades and has its roots in a dispute over the Rohingya's origins. Although many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, they are seen as foreign intruders who came from Bangladesh to steal scarce land.

Today, the Rohingya also face official discrimination, a policy encouraged by Myanmar's previous military regimes to enlist popular support among other groups. A 1984 law formally excluded them as one of the country's 135 ethnicities, meaning most are denied basic civil rights and are deprived of citizenship.

Neighboring Bangladesh, which also does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, says thousands of Rohingya refugees have sought to flee there by boat. Its policy, however, is to refuse them entry.

Rights groups say Myanmar's failure to address the root causes of the crisis means the situation may get worse.

Over the weekend, Border Affairs Minister Lt. General Thein Htay traveled to the affected areas with the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, Ashok Nigam.
Nigam said 22,587 were displaced and they included both Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, but he gave no breakdown.

Speaking to The Associated Press on Sunday while visiting Thechaung camp, Nigam said getting aid to the new wave of displaced people will be a challenge as some fled on boats and others have sought refuge on isolated hilltops. Read more.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lance Armstrong steps down from charity, Nike drops him from sponsorship


Read Lance Armstrong Biography
Lance Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer support charity he founded, as Nike Inc dropped the disgraced cyclist over the doping scandal that will likely cost him his seven Tour de France titles.

Armstrong's Livestrong foundation is best known for the more than 70 million iconic yellow rubbery wrist bands that have been distributed worldwide, but the scandal threatened to overshadow the group's wider work with cancer patients. So far, donations have actually increased despite the scandal.

"To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship," Armstrong said in a statement on Wednesday. He will continue to serve on the board.

At around the same time that the foundation announced Armstrong's resignation, Nike posted a statement to its website saying the athletic apparel maker would still back the charity but could no longer sponsor the man behind it.

"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him," the company said.

Beer maker Anheuser-Busch said it too would end its relationship with Armstrong when his contract expires at the end of this year, though it would also continue to back the foundation and its athletic events.

Oakley Inc, the sunglasses brand also associated with Armstrong, said in a statement it was reviewing the reports into the cyclist's conduct and awaiting a final decision from the sport's international authorities. A Radio Shack spokesman said the electronics retailer remains a sponsor of Armstrong and Livestrong.

ESPN reported two other sponsors, Trek Bicycles and the energy drink maker FRS, were also ending their relationships with the cyclist. Representatives of the two companies were not immediately available to comment.

Armstrong, now retired, is set to lose his record seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published a 1,000-page report last week that said the American took part in and organized an elaborate, sophisticated doping scheme on his way to his unrivalled success.

Cycling's world governing body, the International Cycling Union, has yet to rule on the USADA report. They can either confirm Armstrong's life ban and strip him of his seven Tour titles or take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The report accused Armstrong, as head of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, of running "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." It included sworn testimony of 26 people, including 15 riders, who described years of performance drug use. 

'WHAT ARE YOU ON?'

Armstrong, 41, has always denied he took banned substances during his glittering career but decided not to challenge the USADA charges against him.

That defiance was such a part of Armstrong's personal brand that Nike made a commercial in the early 2000s featuring him being tested for drugs.

"Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?" Armstrong said in a voice over to the ad.

Before Armstrong, the most high profile athlete dropped by Nike was probably the football player Michael Vick, cut loose in 2007 amid charges he bankrolled a dog-fighting ring.

One analyst who follows the company dismissed the idea that separating from Armstrong would have any impact on Nike or its sales of Livestrong products.

"I am not sure the average Joe really cares. Nike and all sporting goods companies have a history of standing by their sponsored athletes," said Paul Swinand, a retail analyst at Morningstar. Read more

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