Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
At least one person died and 100 others were hurt as riots spread across the country since erupting on Monday some soldiers manhandled some students at Dhaka University during a football match.
The government shut down all universities in the country and colleges in the metropolitan cities sine die, asking students to vacate halls and appealed for calm.
"This is a temporary measure. The curfew will be lifted as soon as the situation improves," Fakhruddin Ahmed, head of Bangladesh's interim government, said in an address to the nation over state-owned radio and television.
"Showing utmost patience in the evolving situation, the government has taken measures, including the imposition of curfew, to protect public life and property and to stop illegal activities," he said.
Prior to ordering the curfew, the caretaker government appealed to all concerned to maintain peace and discipline in public life and refrain from disorderly acts and cautioned stern action against the perpetrators in order to bring back normalcy and protect life and property of the citizens.
It also warned tough action against trouble makers and asked the media to play “responsible role” in projecting news so the government does not require to impose censorship under the emergency rules.
"We don't like to impose censorship, but that does not mean we will not do it if necessary… We've confidence in the press and seek cooperation from them," he told newsmen yesterday.
Students now demand an end to emergency rule, imposed on January 11 following weeks of street violence by major political parties.
Police with loudspeakers urged people to stay home as the curfew came into effect at 8 p.m. Security forces were seen patrolling the deserted streets.
The curfew order came after students took their protests from university campuses to the streets of the capital, burning cars and buses and battling with security forces.
Clashes were also reported elsewhere in the country, including Sylhet in the north and the port of Chittagong in the south.
Students also clashed with police in three other cities.
Huge public and private properties were destroyed.
Wednesday saw the first death in three days of mayhem during day-long clashes between police and thousands of students in and around northeastern Rajshahi University (RU) when around 200 including police and journalists were injured.
The violence poses the most serious challenge to the emergency government since it took power six months ago.
Read The Daily Star reports:
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Students across Bangladesh fought with riot police yesterday and today in what is the most serious challenge yet to the military-backed government. (Read The Daily Star article)
To protest the attack on students and to demand withdrawal of army camp from Dhaka University where the clash took place , students of seven universities and many colleges in and outside the capital burst into protest yesterday, bringing academic activities to an abrupt halt.
More than 150 students and four police were injured in the confrontations in which police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as well as using water cannons and repeated baton charges.
Students pelted police with stones and bricks. Police beat up Dhaka University's Acting Vice-chancellor Prof AFM Yusuf Haider, Proctor AKA Firoz Ahmed, the acting VC's personal assistant, and other DU employees in the Central Shaheed Minar area.
Five on-duty journalists of different dailies were also injured during the clashes.
The untoward incident erupted yesterday at around 3:30pm (BDT) when army personnel mercilessly beat three DU students and humiliated a teacher over a petty dispute concerning comments passed by spectators watching a soccer match on the university gymnasium ground where an army camp is situated. Violence erupted on the second day today on the DU campus when hundreds of students confronted police at different points on the university premises.
The angry students are fighting running battles with police as the riot police charged dozens of tear gas shells on the students following yesterday's clash that left more than 150 students and four policemen injured.
The DU Teachers' Association has backed the protesting students and threw an ultimatum to the university authorities to pullout the army camp from the campus by tomorrow noon.
Thousands of students at DU fought running battles with police last night demanding removal of an army camp from the campus and an apology from the army for beating up three students earlier in the afternoon.
Taking positions in took positions inside their dormitories, students pelted police with stones and brickbats. They put tires and other things on fire at places to save themselves from the tear gas.
The demonstrators burnt effigies of the army chief and other flammable items like chairs and tables. They put up barricades on the road in front of some two dormitories with big branches of trees.
Today, at least two police personnel were injured today when students and police confronted amid an indefinite student strike at DU protesting yesterday's police and army brutality. The strike is being observed by boycotting classes.
The disgruntled students also vandalised nearly 100 vehicles at Shahbagh intersection and Aziz Super Market as the overnight battle raged on. They also set fire to an army jeep and beat up an army personnel in front of Aziz Super Market.
Teacher-Student Centre (TSC), Mall Chattar and Register Building areas virtually became battleground as chase and counter-chase took place between police and students.
Students of different other universities and colleges brought out processions chanting slogans against the army, wore black badges, vandalised vehicles and blocked vehicular movement on roads protesting the incident.
Due to the protest, academic activities came to a halt at at different major educational institutions including Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, Kustia University, Jagannath University, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Carmichael University College in Rangpur and Barisal Govt Brajo Mohan College.
Photo: BBC News
Sunday, August 19, 2007
"When I spoke to her from the deck of the small motor launch we had hired for a trip up the Jamuna River, Panu Begum was sitting on the roof her house.
"She had been living on the small strip of corrugated tin for five days. The water below was too deep to stand in," BBC reporter John Sudworth writes about a Bangladesh flood victim. (Read full BBC article Disease stalks Bangladesh flood victims)
Badly devasted by the fury of the second phase flooding, the country struggles to feed millions of hungry marooned people who are also catching waterborne diseases.
Bangladeshi newspapers reported 587 deaths due to flood-related incidents like drowning, waterborne diseases and snakebites.
Experts apprehend more death due to scarcity of drinking water and fast spread of waterborne diseases across the flood-ravaged country.
Bangladesh government today asked the donors for $150 million additional budgetary support and food aid to cope with the emergency caused by the devastating floods that have blighted millions of lives across the country.
The floods over the past few weeks have damaged crops worth about Tk 2,000 crore in 262 upazilas of the 39 flood-hit districts. The flood-affected people, who were preparing to return home following the devastating floods, are now trapped again as many areas were freshly inundated by rain-fed rivers.
Rise of the three major rivers -- Padma, Jamuna and Meghna -- water at many points and several rivers in the northeastern region following heavy rains in the upstream is threatening another fresh flooding in the country.
Vigorously active monsoon over the eastern part of Bihar, West Bengal and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and the Ganges and Brahmaputra and Meghna basins, both in India and Bangladesh, have caused the fresh rise of water levels in rivers.
The Daily Star Photo: (top) A woman watches in despair her flood-ravaged vegetable field in Narsingdi. Most of the farmers lost all their produces on hundreds of acres in the district; (bottom) Five children of a family sleep on the pavement as their parents left them in search of food. The family recently took refuge in the capital after flood washed away their home in Mymensingh.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Had the seemingly untouchable former bigwigs who ruled Bangladesh like kings had even thought for once they might face such treatment? I have doubt. Had they thought about it, they would definitely had a limit.
The Daily Star has an update what they are doing now behind the bars.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
"May we suggest with all due respect your high office demands and deserves, that if the Supreme Court had played such a role in the recent past then we would not be where we are today. Why after 15 years of democracy, however flawed, we needed an emergency to bring about the reforms that the nation needs so badly, which regrettably are becoming increasingly doubtful?" Mahfuz Anam asks.
"Permit us to recall the writ petition challenging the legality of President Iajuddin Ahmed assuming the post of the chief adviser, clearly violating the constitution that specified the steps necessary to be taken before the president may assume that crucial post. Unquestionably the subject of the writ petition was one of the most important there could be before the higher courts. Not only as an interpretation of the constitution but also as a crucial matter facing the nation at that moment in time, the writ petition merited a hearing. The hearing on the writ petition was proceeding and the honourable judges of the High Court Bench had announced that they would pronounce their ruling the following day. But just when they were about to do so, a note from the then chief justice, hand carried by the attorney general, informed the judges concerned that the whole proceeding had been stayed. It is indeed very rare that a CJ stays a hearing while it is in progress. Rarer still is the staying of the case when the bench was about to pronounce its ruling on it. We all recall the chaos that the stay order led to, including the converging on the chief justice's chamber, vandalism, burning of cars on the court premises, and the arrest warrants against eminent lawyers. All of that left the judiciary tainted and the image of the CJ tarnished.
"Tell us My Lord, was that an example of saving the nation from a crisis or throwing it into a deeper one. A proper judgment on that writ petition could have saved our democracy from entering the current emergency phase with its concomitant dangers."
Read full commentary
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
And as I near the ending of the fellowship, I started getting excellent story ideas but, alas, it's too late to do all of them. I have less than two weeks and several other things to do, like buying gifts, packing up my personal stuff and those at my apartment, seeing all the friends I have here, settling bills, and above all, doing official things like diaries, essays etc.
One of the fellows told me it's time now to stop working since we've such short time for doing all these, and I agree. But, my wife would say it's still a long time.
I also have other things to do: preparation for workshops in Bangladesh. As my mentor and I are planning for it, we decided to talk with the leaders of some departments in the Post-Gazette to know about PG strategies in running the departments.
We started it last week when we held meetings with the PG Advertising Director Randall Brant and New Media Manager Mary Ann Brown.
This week, we held meetings with marketing director Tracey D'Angelo and circulation marketing manager Tom O'Boyle.
When I was thinking about a primary outline for what would be my role and what Greg's in our workshop, the points I noted down for discussion includes, other than the reporting, writing, revision, internet use etc skill, newspaper industry in the U.S., it's development, role in the society, state of it's freedom, overall operation, gradual slide in print edition circulation and strategies to cope with it, and digital convergence.
Greg will have to speak about most of these. Greg will also talk about his own side, the OpEd/Forum page.
But he also has other things to do: talking about newspaper management that includes editorial policy, new media development, marketing, advertisement and circulation.
As I am also interested about these, we planned to hold meetings with the leaders of the departments who won't share their strategies with anyone from other newspapers in the U.S. And that's the reason I also don't want to put these here.
But is is very interesting to see changes in all their strategies after newspaper circulation started falling down.
I did not write any new story this week, and my editor gave me two story ideas on the last day of the week. I'm going to write a story on abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Crowded into impoverished shanty camps across Bangladesh, they are remnants of the mass migration that accompanied the break-up of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines at independence from Britain in 1947, Associated Press Writer Julhas Alam writes.
Bangladesh is often the forgotten third country of partition. The departing British lumped what is now Bangladesh together with Pakistan because of their shared Islamic religion. But the two regions are more than 1,600 miles apart on either side of India and have a different languages, cultures and histories.
Read full article
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
One of the most surprising findings of the study was the percentage of people who continue to be duped by phishing scams, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes quoting Jeff Fox, technology editor for the magazine.
Phishing schemes trick people into divulging personal data using phoney e-mails designed to look as if they are coming from a company the person does business with, such e-Bay or a bank. Full Post-Gazette article
Read related articles: Nothing 'cool' about this eBay 'cat'
Gumshoe chases Internet villains in Eastern Europe
To catch crooks in cyberspace, FBI goes global
And with a 'high' mood I worked on the Bangladeshi chemist's invention of arsenic removing filter. It took me more than a week to complete because Prof. Abul Hussam was traveling and did not have all the papers and documents I needed with him.
I at last got him Tuesday over phone and interviewed him for a long time about his present works. It's quite interesting that George Mason University, where he is working as an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has launched a foundation, named Abul Foundation after him, to assist the research for clean water. It is also going to launch a Center for Clean Water and Sustainable Technologies soon.
When I started writing, I came across several other things and had to go back to Dr. Hussam several times. And every time I made it sure that I do not forget to tell him that I would call him again.
When I submitted the story on Thursday, my editor was happy with it. To give it a better look, I collected a drawing of the arsenic filter. With two photographs, a drawing and a fair content, I hope the story will have a good display.
I don't want to say more about it because it's coming out Wednesday.
I was on a hurry to finish it by Thursday because my sister-in-law from Indianapolis were coming to my place that afternoon. I was waiting for them eagerly because we would go to Niagara Falls on Friday.
And everything happened as planned and it's simply mesmerizing. I felt I can stare at the water falling down for hours. I just kept on pressing the shutter button of my camera the whole time I was there. I saw Niagara through the view finder of my camera.
We took a boat ride and I took the risk of taking photographs braving the splashes that made us wet.
And I couldn't help going up the stairs to touch the water falling down from the U.S. side. I've never been to heaven (!) but had a heavenly feeling there.
Nature hugs you there, takes you to her bosom, makes you hers.
We came back to Pittsburgh the same day.
We drove to Washington, D.C. Saturday because My nephews -- Rio and Ilham -- and their mom want to see Capitol Hill and White House. One of our Bangladeshi friend working with University of Maryland was very sincere to entertain us as best as he could at his house.
Although we were exhausted, we didn't have lack of enthu to go to Ocean City in Delaware the next morning. Three other Bangladeshi families joined us.
Once we were there, I was a little bit frustrated because I didn't think it to be so small. But I enjoyed the waves there -- strong and can be dangerous if you are not alert. Several of our team members had bruises in their whole body as the strong current threw them to the sea-bed and rolled them.
Atlantic is always tricking the humans there. You need to know the character of the waves. They are your friend if you can read them and act accordingly. You can easily go to their top and slide down on their back smoothly if you know swimming and have good timing sense.
But you should also have respect for this giant mighty innocent force. A tall and handsome African American man who appeared to be a good swimmer was showing tricks to his friends, most of who are women. The ocean didn't like it much maybe because he was doing it for a long time. And the Atlantic sent a strong wave to pull his shorts to his feet. Tons of water also brought as much laughter.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
This latest move, sudden and widely debated, has once again brought to the fore discussions about the future of jute, globally and in Bangladesh, Inam Ahmed writes in The Daily Star.
"And at the centre of the debate lies a number of critical issues -- slow productivity in the jute industry complicated by even slower to come technological improvement, lack of domestic support for jute and rather incentive for discarding jute farming, the immediate global jute trade pattern that shows an uncertain situation but somewhat rosier picture in the long term, the diversification of products and so on."
Detained Awami League President Sheikh Hasina will be disqualified from contesting the polls, if she is punished on charge of corruption under the Emergency Power Ordinance rules. The authorities are also preparing to file corruption cases against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
One will be disqualified from contesting any polls including the parliamentary election if he or she is convicted by the trial court.
Read The Daily Star story
Monday, July 30, 2007
As I said in my last diary, I took a long time to finish the story on Attention Deficit Disorder as the patients, parents and doctors responded very lately. But I was happy when I filed a comprehensive story.
After starting editing, the copy editor, who was given the task as my editor was out of town on vacation, came to my desk and said he did not find why should we run a story on ADD now, what's new there in the story.
I also had the same problem when I started writing the story because it is not a new disease or the book I focused on is also not new. The book was first published in 1989 and the second edition came out in September last year. However, while giving me the assignment, my editor told me it was a new book and the focus would be writing on the book and a little bit about the author who is from Pittsburgh. In fact, my editor didn't know it was an old book.
With all these well in my mind, I tried to make the story interesting by turning it into a story on ADD with latest information available on it, parents, patients and physicians' comment about the treatment method of the Pittsburgh physician, Dr. Craig B. Liden, comments about the book and Dr. Liden's story about people with ADD.
It doesn't matter how many stories have so far been written about ADD, the readers may need one more story that would give them good insight about the problem, I thought. It is because I, like many people, did not find very good easily-to-read and -understand materials for lay persons about the whole thing. The write-ups available on Websites are either vague or too overwhelming to get what you want to know straight.
So I tried to blend it with whatever I found to make it interesting, but failed to convince the copy editor that there may be one more story on ADD in my newspaper which would 'really' inform people about it.
He held the story for my editor to decide it's fate, and I was also happy thinking that my editor would get my point.
And I was right. My editor appreciated my effort and just added a clause with my intro about starting of new school year. She also called one of the parents to convince her to use her full name in the story but for no result.
I was sure that she was going to cut the story drastically because it was longer than average major stories, but she didn't do so. She also agreed that people would love to read such a story. Bingo!
I started working on the Bangladeshi scientist who received $1 million Grainger Award in February for developing filter that removes arsenic from drinking water. The filter is working very well in Bangladesh which is facing crisis for arsenic in groundwater a lot since the 1990s. Abul Hussam also has a connection with Pittsburgh: he earned doctoral degree in analytical chemistry at Pittsburgh University in 1982. I sent him an email requesting him to send me materials on his works and whether he has any plan to work in the United States because some parts of the U.S. also have the same problem. In reply, he sent me some scientific reports on his work. But these are academic stuff, people won't love to read these "hard" things. I wrote him that I need to know his follow up works, what he is doing now. I got information from Bangladesh that his team is working to make filters for use at community and industrial level. If that's true, it would make a good story. Although I wrote him last week, he is yet to respond as he was busy preparing his presentation which he was going to make at a scientists' seminar in New York.
Though I didn't get any story published this week, I had a good weekend with Bangladeshi people living in Pittsburgh.
I attended a dinner at the house of one of their house Saturday. The party soon turned into a place for political discussion and took a bad turn when three of them got emotional at one stage. One of them shouted at the top to the two others as they told something about the political party he supports, and stormed out of the house.
But I had a diversion there as I was singing in the living room. Since I was the singer of the day, I had to sing as long as I could. We also had some chorus on folk songs.
Although it's not winter, I had a great time visiting mountain resort Seven Springs. Located approximately one hour's drive southeast of Pittsburgh, it's a year-round resort and convention center offering skiing/snowboarding, snow tubing, sleigh rides, golf, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Bangladeshi cardiologist Dr. Shamsher Bakth took me there and I'm grateful to him for showing me such a beautiful place. It's stretched over a huge area and has houses near the top from where the skiers start. Dr. Bakth has a beautiful house there with a great view (photo 1 taken from his house).
And the day ended with happy tunes: facing the mountain, we sat at the Seven Springs hotel where a singer with great "bass" performed several beautiful numbers.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Aminul Huq, telecommunications minister in the emergency-ruled country's most recent elected government, and 24 others were convicted and sentenced by a court in the northwestern town of Rajshahi in the first-ever judgment of a case for patronising Islamist militants.
They were found guilty of aiding and abetting the militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in extorting and torturing people in Bagmara upazila of the district in 2004.
The JMB, that banged to the fore by blating 400 bombs in all but one of the impoverished country's 64 districts on August 17, 2005, has been believed to be the brainchild of some ministers on the cabinet of the immediate past elected government headed by Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The militants said their campaign was aimed at forcing Bangladesh to replace its Muslim but secular legal system, which dates back to the British colonial period, with traditional Islamic law.
Since the open rise of Bangla Bhai-led militant organisation Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in northern Rajshahi in 2004, The Daily Star in its continuous investigation in the past few years has revealed Aminul's role from the forefront as one of the key patrons of the militants.
Aminul, also former lawmaker of Rjshahi-1 constituency, and Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, former lawmaker of Natore-2 and former deputy minister for land, jointly patronised the JMB in the region.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Bangladesh police today filed formal extortion charges against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, now in a special jail, along with her sister and a former cabinet colleague who is also her cousin.
Hasina's younger sister, Sheikh Rahana, lives in London, while her cousin, Sheikh Selim, is also now in jail.
Hasina, leader of the Awami League, was arrested at her home in Bangladesh capital Dhaka on July 16 and sent to a house converted into a prison inside the parliament compound.
Selim, former health minister who was arrested in late April, confessed to extorting ($435,000) from a businessman and sharing it with Hasina.
Read The Daily Star article
Popular support for suicide bombings has dropped sharply across the Muslim world in what could suggest a rejection of Islamist militant tactics among Muslims, Reuters reports quoting a global survey released today.
The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey, based on polling data from 47 countries, also showed waning confidence in al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden among Muslims but said the United States is viewed as the biggest threat by a majority of people in Muslim countries.
Read article published in New York Times.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
A pagoda-shaped metal urn containing Guatam Buddha's hair was given to a Sri Lankan delegation by custodians of an ancient Buddhist monastery at a festive ceremony at Chittagong Buddhist Monastery as monks in saffron robes chanted religious texts.
"This is a sacred relic of Lord Buddha. We will carry it with high veneration," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said after receiving the invaluable relic Bangladesh Foreign Affairs adviser Iftekhar A. Chowdhury.
In return for the relic, called Kesho Dhatu -- which will be kept at a monastery in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, for Buddhist pilgrims to pay homage -- Sri Lanka presented a stone slab imprinted with Buddha's footprint and a statue to the monastery.
Ajit Ranjan Barua, chairman of the Bangladesh Buddhist Association, said a Tibetan monk brought the hair to Chittagong in 1930. The relic was preserved in a glass box at the monastery, about 135 miles southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
The barely visible strands of hair can be viewed by devotees only once a year, during a festival commemorating Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. In the past, parts of the relic have been given to Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Buddha, born as a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, founded the Buddhist religion more than 2,500 years ago in what is now parts of Nepal and India.
Buddhists now make up less than 2 percent of Muslim-majority Bangladesh's 145 million people.
I was trying deliberately to reach some ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) patients, physicians, psychologists and teachers as I started the week to finish my story on ADD, which I began by the end of last week. I had a good list of patients and doctors.
Since it's a complex issue and there are myths and misconceptions about ADD, which is also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I was trying to write a comprehensive story and present it in an interesting way.
Although I tried my best to reach them, I called each on the list several times and left messages, no-one of them responded till last Wednesday. And, above all, I did not find their information that much interesting.
I luckily came in touch with the mother of a child patient who turned out to be very helpful and useful.
When I submitted it Friday, I think I submitted a good story.
My wife's sister, who live in INdianapolis, was supposed to come to my place and her family and pick me up this weekend. We're supposed to go to Niagara Falls. And this is the reason I had to cancel my plan to go to NY with Aresu and Yi Lou.
I was looking for such an opportunity to go to NY and could not catch it when it reached my door. When everything was set, my relatives told me they can't come this week, we needed to defer the tour.
And I lost both.
Monday, July 16, 2007
As there was a huge outcry across the country against the arrest, head of Bangladesh's army-backed interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said no-one in the country was above law.
"Anyone involved in corruption will be tracked down and prosecuted," he said yesterday after the arrest.
Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh's assassinated Liberation Was hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is facing graft cases besides corruption allegations revealed by her top party leaders which say she misused power during her stint as prime minister while her party Awami League was in power (1996-2001).
"She has been arrested on ... charges of extortion and the law will take its own course," Mainul Husein, an adviser to the interim government and head of the law and information ministries, told reporters.
Hasina, who has been leading the party since 1981, has denied the charges and found reasons to consider the arrest as a conspiracy.
"It's a sheer conspiracy to expel me from politics. Neither myself nor my family were ever involved in any sort of corruption," a lawyer quoted Hasina as telling the court.
While Hasina was on a U.S. tour, the government, on April 18, banned her return to Bangladesh. They however withdrew the an in face of local and international pressure and Hasina returned to the country in May.
When Hasina a day before Hasina was supposed to fly to the U.S. to see her expecting daughter, the government put restriction on her flying out of the country, and she was virtually remaining under house-arrest.
After her arrest, police searched Hasina's home, seized her bullet-proof vehicle, two computers and various documents relating to her bank accounts and party publications.
Hasina supporters clashed with police in the capital and tried to stop a motorcade taking her to jail.
Read The Daily Star story
I began the week in North Side of the city. I went to interview a local ward commissioner, Peter Ferraro, in Ross Township Monday. One of the nine commissioners of the township, Ferraro has been elected the president of state ward commissioners' association this year.
"I was a democrat just before I became a commissioner," Ferraro said as he was describing his joining Republicans to win in the commissioner election in 1989. While he was protesting against the then local commissioner's move to construct a huge building, the commissioner asked him to settle the matter after emerging out winner against him, and Ferraro took the challenge. And he joined Republican bloc as the man was a democrat and came out successful. Since 1989, Ferraro is the commissioner of Ward No. 8.
Our (Post-Gazette's north zone reporter Len Barcousky and I) focus of interview was to about the commissioner's future plan about the area and what he wants to do as the president of the state commissioners' association. We were excited that one from our locality became president of the state association. We, however, found out later that another one from Pittsburgh was elected president a few years ago.
I went to a meeting of Ross township in the night to see how the local units of government work here in the U.S. I was literally amazed to see the decision-making process in the local government level. Most of the agendas were related to housing: construction of garage, splitting a land into two, getting building plans approved, use of certain land for business purpose etc.
Besides the parties whose matters were to be discussed and their neighbors who may be affected for the projects were there ordinary people. After presentation by the parties, the neighbors can have their floor if they want to make any point.
Then the township, chaired by one of the commissioners who has been elected to chair the meetings for one year, would discuss whether the projects need more works or can be approved. A member of local planning commission, who is an expert about legal aspects and has a very good knowledge about planning, is always there.
If anyone thinks it can be approved, he proposes a motion while another commissioner seconds it. The 'house' then take decision through voting.
You will not find this practice in Bangladesh. The parties do not have access to such meetings let alone their neighbor or ordinary people. And the decisions come, in many cases, through under-table dealings.
I was also taking photographs for the assignment.
I started working for another story -- this is for the health section -- the next day. This time I was working on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a very common biological difference that makes people distracted, has contribution in lack of focusing, hyperactivity etc.
In fact, I got the idea when I found a newly published book on ADD, Pay Attention, by Dr Craig B, Liden, a Pittsburgh-based doctor who has been dealing such patients for more than 25 years.
"I've seen over 9,000 patients with attention deficit disorder problem and say it that people do not have clear idea about the problem," Dr Liden said Wednesday as I was interviewing him at the office of Translation, Dr Liden's publishing house dedicated to work on ADD.
The interesting thing is people have misperception that it is found only among the children and can be understood when they cannot focus in their classes.
"But the fact is, it is found among people of all ages, though it can be noticed easily among the children," Liden said, adding that 40 percent of his patients are adult.
Although it is a pervasive problem, little literature is available on it. And often times people mistake it for 'Bipolar Disorder'.
ADD cannot be totally cured and if it is not treated during the childhood, it can create further health hazards. Obesity, bad food habit, lifestyle, alcoholism are associated with ADD and worsen it.
Saying that only medication is not enough for ADD treatment, Dr Liden is advocating a three-pronged treatment that also includes counseling and involving the family, caregivers and colleagues in the process of treatment.
I had surprise waiting for me by the end of the week. A Bangladeshi cardiologist called me Thursday over my cellphone to invite me to a music evening at his house in Oakmont the next day. They Bangladeshi community has brought in an Indian Bangalee singer, Shantanu Roy Choudhury, from Kolkata to perform at the program. When I went there, I found myself surrounded by all the Bangladeshi people. They had a lot of questions about current political situation in Bangladesh and I had to answer it because I 'know it better as a journalist.'
However, most of them know about me before I went there by reading my article in Post-Gazette about eBay fraud story. Some of them called me at my office and one of them wrote me email. It was interesting. It was a good evening.
The next evening, I attended Gharoa, a monthly program of Bangalee people from Kolkata where the sing songs, eat dinner together and then again sing songs most of which are chorus in the second part.
As some of them knew beforehand that I sing Lalongeeti, I had to sing two. My audience was very pleased listening to my songs, although I think it was not that good because I didn't sing in last five months at all. These people's sincerity and love for Bangalee culture touched me greatly. They are nice people.
And most important thing is this kind of function or get together strengthens the bond between people of this community. As if they were hugging each other lovingly.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The class eight student, who was being forced to marry against her will, was finally saved from marrying off at the tender age.
It was a unique sight for the people of the small town, when some 50 schoolgirls took to the street yesterday demanding that the wedding of their classmate Habiba Sultana, be called off.
Next, they submitted a memorandum to the officer-in-charge (OC) of Sadar Police Station urging him to take action to stop the child marriage.
Read The Daily Star story
Monday, July 9, 2007
"Their concern is compounded by a realisation among al-Qaida leaders of the value of individuals who can enter western countries easily. All eight people arrested in Britain over the failed bomb attacks in London were doctors or medical students and all entered the country legally.
"The arrest in Australia of an Indian-born doctor related to two brothers arrested in Britain show how far links between potentially dangerous individuals are spreading, Whitehall officials say.
"British counter-terrorist officials recently visited Bangladesh to brief their counterparts there, the Guardian has been told. Officials say the number of Britons of Bangladeshi descent apparently prepared to consider carrying out terrorist acts marks a new and worrying development.
"It coincides with the increasing number of young Britons travelling to Pakistan via South Africa in an effort to avoid being noticed by British security officials. Recent terrorist trials have shown how the Britain-Pakistan link has been crucial, with many convicted terrorists having trained in camps in Pakistan.
"The advantage, say intelligence analysts, is that British citizens do not require visas to enter South Africa. Furthermore, the country is regarded as a good market for identity and travel documents. South Africa's intelligence chiefs have played down the country's role as a potential transit route for British-born al-Qaida sympathisers travelling to Pakistan.
"However, Kurt Shillinger, of South Africa's Institute of International Affairs, warned that the country's passport is "one of the world's most abused, available on the streets for as little as £10". In an article titled South Africa: Transit Point for International Jihadists? for Britain's Royal United Services Institute Mr Shillinger warns that intelligence officials privately admit they cannot monitor accurately a swelling immigrant community and the smuggling of people to Pakistan.
"In north Africa Ayman al-Zawahari, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has announced the setting up of al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb with the idea of embracing other extreme groups, including Algeria's Salafist movement. In an internet video this week al-Zawahari urged fighters to "hurry to Afghanistan, hurry to Iraq, hurry to Somalia, hurry to Palestine".
"However, Pakistan remains the country posing the greatest threat to Britain's security, Whitehall officials say. One of the problems is the sheer number of Britons of Pakistani descent who visit the country every year - more than 30,000 between the ages of 18 to 35, the group most likely to be influenced by al-Qaida ideology, according to intelligence officials. Another problem is the pressure on the Inter Services Institute, whose priority is to keep the country together and President Musharraf alive rather than monitor British-born Pakistanis."
Sunday, July 8, 2007
I felt some a kind of hesitation to tell anybody that my birthday was on Friday and thought let it be a different one. The day began with a sweet tune. When I was reading poems of WB Yeats Thursday evening, I fell asleep. And I had a dream where I saw all my childhood characters some of whom have started fading a little bit from my memory. I woke up happy, still holding Yeat's books, and saw the 15 minutes of the new day, my birthday, has passed.
I got two of my story cleared that day. One was my piece on eBay fraudulent seller which I wrote for Saturday Diary page. It came out Saturday. My mentor Greg Victor, who is in-charge of the page, is a good editor.
I worked half day and watched movie rest of the day, chatted with my wife and some other friends in Bangladesh and one each in Ivory Coast and Switzerland.
As the week began, I continued my work for the story on Pittsburgh-based charity organization Brother's Brother Foundation which has so far sent donations medicine, medical supplies, seeds and books to 121 countries. I was writing a feature on this organization's recent receipt of a huge consignment of surgical instruments worth about $4.8 million. They have already sent the instruments to 28 countries. They are starting distributing Crocs shoes this year among people in need in 30 countries.
When I began working for for the story, my editor told me not to make it a big one. But when I submitted a 730-word story to her Thursday morning, she told me to explain several points, write more about the volunteer doctors and the president of the organization. As I reminded her of her instruction to keep it small, she said it's not going to be that big! And when I added the info, it stood 980 words. It was not still that big!
If I submit a story of this size to my bosses in my home newspaper, they'll yell on my face and throw it away. We have instruction not to write more than 500 words if the story is a major one. Otherwise it won't be more than 350 words.
After submitting my story that day, I asked my editor to let me know when she would edit it. I've decided that I would observe editing of my stories closely to find my mistakes. It's more effective and useful for a writer than reading the story after it comes out. The editors explain to you what they want, what not and what they avoid. Besides, you'll also learn about the newspaper policy.
When I sat with her for editing Friday morning, I realized once again that I can't overcome the British tone in my writing. I told her that I have tried all my life to learn and write in British style. In fact, I always have to struggle to forget it when I am writing for my newspaper here. At the same time I have to beware that I don't forget it because I'll have to follow British style when I am back to Bangladesh.
My editor made some changes to make it more like conversation. I love this writing style of U.S. newspapers although there is little scope, unless it's a soft story, to do it in Bangladesh newsrooms. The editors will yell at you: "Can't you say anything straight? Get to the point directly." And you'll have to be economic in terms of using words. You are always and strongly instructed to keep it as small as you can.
However, the story is coming out in the Health and Science page this Wednesday.
With my interest for photography growing, I took another online photojournalism course , again one offered by News University. It's Best of Photojournalism, a course that uses the photos and interviews and video of judges for the Best of Photojournalism 2006 contest, held every year by National Press Photographers Association.
I found the course to be very useful because it lets you know what judges look for to find excellence in the field.
As the judges put their heads together to select a few images from among hundred of photos from across the globe on 25 contest categories including general news, disaster news, domestic, celebrity, environment, international, sports and photo illustration to find the winners and finalists, they make it clear what they look for.
"Every photo must do something to the audience. It would either make you laugh or cry or make you unhappy, make you question what’s going on. It'll speak to u, crawl down your throat," said James Colton, photography editor of Sports Illustrated who is one of the nine judges.
"I would say content, composition and lighting," said another judge, Ricardo Ferro, director of photography EFE News Service while talking about the three most important thing judges look for in each photo.
"Before taking the shot, every photographer needs planing which lens to use. Which angle would be best, which corner to stand and how he would use the shadow. Although sometimes it is reactive, a photographer needs to have planning," he said.
On lighting, he said the photographers have to create volume with light, so that "the photo jumps out of the page."
The best thing is the judges' comment on the outstanding aspects of some of the best photos. Besides the scrutiny, the huge collection -- more than 1200 world's best images -- is a rich library you get for free!
I feel good and more confident after finishing the course. I think I would take it several times more.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
These are still early days, except for a few political hiccups which may be excusable given the political naivety of any military brass in any country, favourable signs point to the "Bangladesh model" becoming a third world success story, an achievement the military can be proud of.
Lessons certainly have been learnt from the Pakistan experience, they have till now generally avoided the mistakes committed. Genuine democracy can only be achieved if the military aims for impartial accountability across the board, the spine of justice duly stiffened by its unobtrusive supportive presence. Secondly, an impartial election commission must carry every eligible voter on the electoral rolls, he (or she) getting the opportunity to vote without any external influence guiding his (or her) choice. Thirdly, an absolute majority of votes cast in any constituency must elect a candidate, the first two candidates having the most votes going head to head with the outright winner getting more than 50 per cent of the votes cast. Lastly and most importantly, the army should stay away from politics. If you are a professional soldier, you may be a brilliant A or B, you will still not know anything of politics.
Accountability being carried out in Bangladesh is not selective but across the board. And it is being done intelligently! A very credible election commission is engaged in an emergent but pragmatic exercise to correct the electoral rolls i.e. add the voters left out in each constituency and remove 'ghosts' who managed to populate those rolls in the thousands. An interaction with Mr Shamshul Huda, the chief election commissioner, and two members of the EC, was extremely informative; one was struck by their sincere commitment and pragmatic approach. When you bring integrity to intellect, you get positive results.
On January 11, 2007 (or 1/11 as it is known) the country was paralysed and close to anarchy. With no hope of reconciliation between the two major political parties, the army reluctantly moved to restore the ultimate authority of the constitution. The BNP-appointed president was "encouraged" to be "born again". Some of the major crooks in the country are behind bars, facing investigation, prosecution and incarceration, the rest of the crooks are in limbo, a doomsday clock ticking away relentlessly. December 2008 is the target date for cleansing the country and for the electoral rolls to be ready, a pragmatic time-table to which both the intelligentsia and the masses agree to, most of them happily, some purists reluctantly. Freed from political dictatorship, the political parties are themselves talking party reform. Only those who want to escape accountability disagree, not enough to have any nuisance value.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Pakistan did excellent work in the beginning. Overly staffed by serving and retired military officers, it ran into difficulties about one year or so into its inception, rumours of corruption became rife. NAB faced a credibility problem because the armed forces and the superior judiciary were kept out of its purview; the "plea-bargaining" concept further eroded its credibility. The final shred of respectability was lost with "selective accountability" targeting only recalcitrant politicians or those businessmen/bureaucrats without good contacts in the regime. Amjad, a brilliant professional of known honesty and integrity, opted out instead of compromising his principles. Despite such discrepancies and a limited horizon, NAB continues to do excellent work.
In a PROBE magazine-sponsored seminar "Fighting Corruption" in the Dhaka Press Club on June 30, one had a chance to "share the Pakistan experience". While Professor Mahbullah gave a sound theoretical analysis, Professor Shamsher Ali made practical suggestions for implementation. Professor Hossain Zillur Rahman eloquently focused on the real issues, his lucid analysis closely approximating the successes and failures of any anti-corruption drive. Major General (Retd) Ibrahim gave an emotion-packed appeal for success of the accountability process. As the Coordinator of the National Coordination Committee for Combating Crime and Corruption (or NCC as the mouthful is known), Lt General Masud Uddin is the point-person designated by the army to lead the extremely successful anti-corruption drive in Bangladesh. Someone once said, "Read between the lines, it tires the eyes less!" Unlike the previous speakers who chose to speak extempore, Masud read out an 18-page statement that seemed to signal an intention to remain engaged over the long-term.
Bangladesh has gone after white-collar criminals without looking at their antecedents, or being impressed by their connections. While General Masud clarified that his task forces (TFs) included specialists from different civilian departments, his insistence on TFs being led by army officers was extremely disappointing. The army has to keep its rank and file from getting involved in civilian functions. The army is inadvertently playing into the hands of criminals who want the streets to react. The mention about "monitoring units" was scary because that is exactly how everything started to go wrong in Pakistan, the army creeping into every conceivable post that a specialist civilian could do far better.
One got unfortunate vibes that Masud, at the cutting edge of one of the most successful accountability in the third world history, represents a school of thought in the army who see themselves as "avenging angels" with a long-term mandate. With limited resources (and limited knowledge) the army has to conserve and concentrate rather than disperse its potential. The "Bangladesh model" will remain successful by focusing only on major criminals, 5000-6000 core individuals involved in the governance or benefiting from it during the last 15 years. The army should also target those in the police, income tax, customs etc who have corrupted the process. Deterrent effect should be the major force! Let us not forget those who have given bribes unless they come forth with evidence, also perjury needs to be targeted. The concerted attack that the army's recalcitrants can make will not be political but economic, the streets reacting to food shortages and rising prices. Hardened white-collar criminals will go scot-free if the army is unfortunately diverted from its primary focus as it tries to cope.
One gets apprehensive if the real intention of the army is different from what has been publicly stated by its COAS General Moeen Ahmed, a man of great professionalism and commitment, and a person one admires for being steadfast in his resolve to keep the army out of politics. Even the present step forward by the army needs a strategy for safe exit. The "Bangladesh model" will make history if the army remains focused and not get inextricably involved.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
"The recent pickup in inflation could become entrenched in the absence of corrective policies," the IMF said in its annual health check of Bangladesh's economy, also suggesting the authorities raise rates in the wake of higher inflation.
Inflation has picked up to over 7 percent reflecting increases in both food and non-food prices, the fund said.
A former military chief, Ershad assumed power in a bloodless coup in March 1982 and ran the country nine years before he was forced to step down on December 6, 1990.
While announcing his decision at a press briefing in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka yesterday, the former dictator also declared that he would not contest for the apex post, which he occupied since he launched the party in 1986, in the next council.
The announcement came hot in the heels of his wife Rawshan Ershad's Tuesday's declaration that she had taken control of the party.
"Lately, the political trends have changed and my initiative is the acknowledgement of the new current of thoughts," he observed.
Ershad said he has taken the decision because his leadership has been called into question and some people think his being there might get in the way of reforms.
Read The Daily Star story
I had several ideas for reporting for the health section. I had discussed, before I went to the Midterm Seminar, with my editor about two ideas. And I had thought I would not waste a single moment after I come back. But I just felt the opposite.
I don't why I started feeling that I am falling behind my colleagues in my home newsroom and others in Bangladesh. And I went to the website of different Bangladeshi newspaper and started reading their stories, both new and old. I know my root is there and I sometimes wonder how I can stay outside my country for such a long time. Now I feel how many days make six months. It's too long.
I was so homesick that I was truly not feeling very well. It's funny but I felt I would go home if Susan and Katie ask me by any chance. And for the first time, I saw my two youngest brothers in my dream. Poor little kids, I miss you. I miss my beloved wife, my family, my friends there.
It's ridiculous, but it comes from my heart.
My mentor Greg Victor saved me on Sunday. He called me in the morning to say whether I am interested to go rowing in Allegheny river. I immediately agreed.
Greg, his sons Nik and Peter picked me up from my apartment. And it was a very nice experience. It's totally different from rowing in my river, Karatoa, which passes half a kilometer off my village home in Bangladesh, which always carry my childhood with her. Karatoa is small river but beautiful, passes through our villages to meet our one of the biggest river Jamuna.
You'll have a great view when you row in Allegheny river. The city looks far more beautiful from the river. I was especially amazed when I neared the fountain at the Golden Triangle where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to create Ohio river. And the fountain was 'live' after a long time that day. I've never seen it trying to throw water to the sky before.
Happy moments always vanish quickly. When they left, I felt lonely and sad.
However, I started writing my analysis on Bangladesh the next day. It's for Greg's page Forum, which comes out every Sunday. I worked Monday and Tuesday to finish it.
On Thursday, I started working for my story on Brother's Brother Foundation, a charity organization that collects medicine, medical supplies, surgical instruments, books and seeds from donors in the U.S. and distribute those among people of 121 countries in the world who are truly in need of those. An anesthesia specialist Dr. Robert Hingson founded it in 1958 with some of like-minded doctors and his students.
The volunteer surgeons of the Foundation could not give me time before Friday. I visited their office Friday afternoon, interviewed them and took photographs. They have a big , 25,000 square feet, warehouse in North Side of Pittsburgh.
I've started taking photographs at the events I cover. Although my editor asked me to take photos, I'll show these to the photo section chief to know his comments and suggestion.
Let me see whether I can find the job of a photographer when I am back to my country.