Here’s a great interview with anthropologist Gustaaf Houtman, an expert on the big, messy world of the Burmese military. It’s from Irrawaddy News Magazine. Quick take:

Q: But surely, secular politicians, such as Aung San, never approved of Buddhism as a political instrument?

A: Approving of Buddhism as a political instrument is one thing: understanding by means of Buddhist concepts how disorder arises and order may be established, and what kind of political intervention might be necessary, are another.

To proclaim that Buddhism here serves as a political instrument would be to grossly oversimplify what has been going on. In raising fuel prices to unaffordable levels, the regime has made it impossible for the laity to support Buddhist monastic practice and so has politicised Buddhism.

Kate Wheeler’s article “Cave With a View” from the Summer 2007 issue of Tricycle has been selected for the book The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008. The book comes out in February 2008 but is available for pre-order now. Kudos to Kate!

Insight Meditation teacher and author Joseph Goldstein is doing a Q & A on the Tricycle site. Please drop by and ask him a question, and vote on the questions of others. He’ll answer the top three questions in early December.

Gem traders aren’t worried about the turmoil in Burma. Gems account for 10% of Burma’s exports in monetary terms, making them a critical crutch for the regime. (Imagine losing 10% of your salary.)

Certainly, some companies are not eager to conduct business-as-usual with the Burmese regime following the crackdown against peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September. For instance, Cartier has announced that it will stop buying gemstones mined in Burma. And the Jewelers of America, a national association of jewelers, has urged Congress to amend a law enacted in 2003 that bans all imports from Burma, because the ban has a loophole allowing gemstone traders to import Burmese gemstones if they have been cut and polished elsewhere.

And Michael Caine believes in reincarnation. That’s a good thing because he and Jude Law are trying to resurrect reincarnate the film Sleuth (1972 and 2007.)

– Philip Ryan, Web Editor

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