Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bangladesh economy strong, rates should rise: IMF

The IMF Friday said Bangladesh's economy is set to remain healthy due to buoyant exports, strong remittance flows and reform measures, reports Reuters.
"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.
Read article

ex-dictator Ershad quits as party chief

Former military ruler HM Ershad yesterday quitted as the Jatiya Party (JP) chairman, tasking presidium member Anisul Islam Mahmud with deputizing for him till the council elects a new chief.
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

Diary: Week Thirteen

Parting with the Fellows definitely did not a bring a good feeling for me. This is the lone occasion, since my coming to the U.S., when I felt: "How fast time does fly!" I deliberately tried to shove the thought of beginning my works again.
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
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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dhaka world's fastest growing big city

Bangladesh's capital Dhaka is the world's fastest growing major city, drawing 300,000 to 400,000 mostly poor migrants annually, Reuters reports quoting a World Bank study.
These migrants provide critical manpower for the city's industries and services, but also put pressure on the city's infrastructure, public services, and habitable land, said the report which was distributed on Friday.

The study entitled "Dhaka: Improving living conditions for the urban poor" said urgent measures were required to address the vital needs of the rapidly growing urban poor.
Read article

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

many big rivers to cross

The Bangladesh experiment is entering a crucial phase. Probably the next 6 months will determine whether it is one of the few (perhaps the only) country apart from Turkey to return to full and unfettered democracy within two years of a military intervention, writes former US ambassador to Bangladesh William Milam.
"I found no quarrel across civil society with the view that the army had no alternative but to intervene on January 11, if civil strife, bloodshed, martial law were to be avoided," Milam, currently at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, writes in Pakistan newspaper Daily Times.
Read article

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

India seals itself off from Bangladesh

In a construction project that will eventually reach across 2,050 miles, hundreds of rivers and long stretches of forests and fields, India has been quietly sealing itself off from Bangladesh, its much poorer neighbor. Sections totaling about 1,550 miles have been built the past seven years, writes Associated Press Writer Tim Sullivan.
Read arrticle

Friday, June 22, 2007

Trading in death under shadow of govt

Former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman and several ex-BNP ministers directly patronised the outrageous operations of the JMB (Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh) in Bangladesh's northern district Rajshahi with the full knowledge of the then PM, Julfikar Ali Manik of The Daily Star finds in his investigation.
Then at the helm of home ministry, Lutfozzaman Babar also joined the bandwagon of JMB leader Bangla Bhai, pouring cold water on feeble attempts by a part of the civil and police administration to resist the terrorist activities.
Inspector General of Police Nur Mohammad, who had the memories of being a helpless deputy inspector general of Rajshahi then, only could endorse the The Daily Star finds gleaned from strenuous research and interviews with a number of officials, numerous socio-political workers and people, who witnessed the rise of dreadful Bangla bhai under cover of outlaw cleansing campaign that left at least 24 persons killed and 300 others repressed or injured between April 2004-January 2005.
Read The Daily Star
special story

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Diary: Week Eleven

Did I know beforehand it's gonna be my 'most glamorous' (according to some of my friends) week? No.
I was feeling, as usual, a little bit tension while preparing for my presentation before the Greater Reading World Affairs Council in Reading, Pennsylvania. Scheduled for June 13, my presentation on current political situation was quite a challenge as I knew that I would have to answer questions on broad range of issues. From my presentation in Indianapolis (April 18), I knew I cannot stop the audience ask any kind of questions. So, I returned to my apartment early on Monday to do some background study.
Surprise was awaiting me, and I had no way to minimize it. Although I knew I would attend a TV program with some other guest speakers Tuesday night at BCTV (Berks Community Television), the information that the program is a short one was wrong.

"It's a one-hour program," John Hoskyns-Abrahall told me as I reached the TV station few minutes before 9pm when the program was scheduled to begin.
"It's a live program and you're tonight's speaker," he gave me no time to surprise.
"I didn't know it, I'm not prepared for it," I told him in vain.
On a hurry to go to the studio, he just said: "I would ask you
some questions about background of Bangladesh and gradually shift to current situation."
"And people will call during the program," another blow to shake me further.
So far I've asked people questions and the arrow comes back to me, like boomerang! I thought.
But I am damn of a speaker, I didn't feel how one hour passed!

"Cool!" I said to myself, as we finished the program.
John is also damn of a interviewer, he asked me everything which can be asked about Bangladesh, from issues dating back to 1757 to current situations, even what might happen in coming days.
The audience at my presentation the next day had written on their faces how it was. I also felt as I was answering the questions.
I've noted down the points for presentation, but at neither of the two presentations I could see those. Audiences' face writing always guided me through the presentations.
I was overwhelmed when president of the Council Mike McCarthy presented me a large box of Tom Sturgis Pretzels.
Dan Kelly, a staff writer/columnist of main local newspaper Reading Eagle showed me the whole city before taking me to their office. I talked with the editor, news editor and some reporters.
Talking with crime reporter Jason Kahl, I learned that there are many incidents of shooting in the city, which lost many of its residents over the last decades due to fall of industries, especially textile industries.
Tom McMahon, Reading Mayor, has undertaken several projects to give the city new look to attract people. Law and order improvement is one of the his key strategies and challenge too. They're constructing a large theater building to house several theaters with IMAX. I am sure the city will become full of life again soon.
The newspaper published an
article on my presentation the next day.
After dinner at a retired people's community, Keith and Carol Orts, a very lively and happy nice couple who are actively involved with the world affairs council, they drove me to Harrisburg where I passed the night to catch my flight back to Pittsburgh next morning.
"Have I seen you earlier?" an elderly woman asked me as I was coming out of community building after dinner.
"No way, I'm here for the first time in my life," I said.
"Have you been to the TV station?" she asked.
You see, how famous I've become!
Coming back Thursday, I took preparation for midterm seminar. I was very excited and impatient to meet the other fellows, Susan and Katie, my only kins in this land thousand miles away from home.
I didn't know how and when they have come so close to my heart.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

welcome to the past

Don Barnes would give several options for those looking for a journey back to the past and would also take a ride with them. Guessing from the external look of his Harlansburg Station that it is just a railway station would be a mistake because the visitors can also embark on a voyage by planes, riverboats or automobiles, though virtually, there in small town of Harlansburg.
"I've tried to put things in a way that those seem still operational," the retired US Air pilot, now 70, said as he was talking about his venture of presenting how people of past days lived through.
His love for collecting antiques, which he felt in his childhood, now provides the new generations an opportunity to get idea not only about old day trains, planes, riverboats and automobiles but also about old teletype machine, cumbersome phones and even present day police motorcycle. "We are more than just trains."
In his museum, past does not grow old. You will hear the sound of steam engine, hear train whistle, get old garage smell, find age old automobiles, now-no-more railcars, riverboats, Second World War pilots' uniform. Just make sure you don’t stop seeing the red light after entering the museum. Don welcomes visitors to share his joy and take a dip into history.

Diary: Week Ten

My week in North Side did not really began Monday as Len Barcousky, who was supposed to take me out with him, came to office 3:00 p.m. and told me we would work on Thursday and Friday on a story.
With Katie's visit still two days away, I decided to use the time writing a piece for the Saturday Diary as Greg said he had place for it. In fact, I got the idea of writing a piece for the page when I met Greg to know who I could talk with about writing a story about fraud on eBay, to be specific, about fraud sellers who use eBay page to deceive innocent buyers.
I myself have the experience of meeting some fraud sellers one of whom was about to trap me had I not be cautious. He was trying to reach a deal with me outside eBay to sell a Nikon D200 camera with 4GB memory for $600 and sent me a fake eBay invoice using an eBay email address. As I was suspicious about this seller and aware about fraudulence, I verified the email with eBay and came to know it had not come from eBay.
While sniffing for some more such case, I came in contact with some other fraud sellers who are very eager to sell item through private auction and would always ask buyers to use the payment method which are not covered by eBay buyer protection policy.
Pretending that I could not understand any of their motives, I continued exchanging emails with some of them to know about their 'mode of operation'.
Hearing the incident, Greg asked me to write for his page, and I was more than happy. It's Greg! I submitted him the story Tuesday.
I had a great time Wednesday when Katie visited me. After she reached her hotel, which is very close to my office, I asked her yo wait there and got out to take her to my office. I was very happy to see Katie after this long time.
And the lunch was great, for its mountaintop location of the restaurant, if not only for the food. You'll have a great view o Golden Triangle and the downtown as well as both North and South sides. Definitely I couldn't help pressing the shutter of my camera to capture city view through the glass wall. Another attraction there was the sculpture of George Washington talking with an Indian leader. Greg, Katie, our city editor Lillian Thomas and my cricket team partner and Editorial staff Reg Henry lined up as I asked them to go near the sculpture.
Karie and I walked by the Allegheny river before I showed her my apartment. We went out in the evening to watch "Poseidon" at Schenley Park in Oakland. We, however, could not finish the movie due to chilling cold.
Thursday morning, Len Barcousky picked me up from in front of my place and we went to small town Harlansburg to visit a transportation museum which a retired U.S. Air pilot built himself. His collection of transportation memorabilia including airplanes, riverboats, automobiles, railcars, old age telephone , teletype machine, telephone booth, airmail pick up, traffic signals, two-person balloon etc shows how much enthusiasm and love a person can have for antiques, which stemmed from his love for history and an urge to transport his knowledge to next generation.
As Len did this most of the interviewing part, I learned how to get every detail about one's personal life. During the interview, I also learned a little bit about the history of American rail and automobiles.
It was easy for us to get information about his collection, which he started in his childhood, as Don Barnes loves to tell story.
Len later took me to North Side office.
The weather was very bad Friday which we spent for writing the story.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friend of ex-PM's son jailed for 3yrs

A controversial businessman and close friend of former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman was awarded three-years imprisonment yesterday for not submitting wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Giasuddin Al Mamun extorted many businessmen and was behind many corruption in the country between 2001-2006 using the influence of Tarique, and amassed a huge wealth.
Read The Daily Star story.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Diary: Week Nine

I really enjoyed the week as I worked in the photography section to learn the basics of photojournalism.
It was a coincidence that the started on Memorial Day. Although it was holiday, I chose to work that day to hang out with our senior photographer Darell Sapp who took me McKeesport to photograph Memorial Day parade. It was for the first time in my life that I, while shadowing Darell, was taking photographs like a professional photographer going to different corners as the formal salute was in proceed. We took photos of the war veterans, salute and then the parade.
A good photographer keeps his eyes open to other things taking place around: it's a lesson. We took photos of people sitting and standing on both sides of the road the parade was scheduled to march by. I also noted down details of people who I photographed.

I learned and practiced was paying attention to individuals while en event is on.
"A good photographer never concentrates only on his assignment, he always searches for something more on his way," he said as he took me to a bike trail near Boston Park area. Parking our car, we walked a little bit along the trail, photographed several bikers and talked with an elderly man who was riding a bike with a hood which he made himself.
Darell would use the photos for feature.
Then Darell took me to Homestead to show me a closed
Carnegie steel mill, which has been turned as a museum, with a history of the steelworkers' movement. An address to the public by the advisory committee, the Knights of Labor and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steelworkers is put up right there.
On Tuesday, we went to McAnnulty Elementary School to photograph Debbie Simeone, who served 24 years Baldwin Whiteball School District and started program to recognize students for good manners three years ago.
We went to photograph her because she is retiring. The school board will continue the program and name it after her and the next year's certificate will bear her name. I learnt how to do portrait photography in an working environment. Like Darell, I took her photos with the kids taking their lunch behind.
It was another good day when I went to the Market Square at the PPG to photograph book reading for kids as part of "Fridays! KidsPlay Market Square" program.
I learned how to take photographs of kids without spoiling letting them do what they're doing. "You do not go very close to them, it may draw their attention too much," Darell said. He was using a pretty tele lens.
Here also I learned to pay attention to get individual details while I also take photos of the entire event. Kids are always good subject and you'll always find some of them brighter, smarter, more curious and brave than others and that's the moment you wait for. "Let them do it unhindered and press the shutter timely," Darell told me.
Shadowing Darell, I also went to Southside to photograph geese in the Monongahela river as a reporter was writing a story on geese's laying eggs in the river.
As photography always remained a subject of much interest to me, I was eager to work in the photo section. It made me confident to shoot any event as
I learned the basic rules. Before starting the week, I did a short online course on language of the image.
While working with Darell, I also learned when to use the zoom, when tele lens, when to take a close-up and when not to use flash.

AL chief used to receive money from magnates

Awami League general secretary Abdul Jalil, who was arrested during anti-corruption crackdown on May 28, told interrogators that his party chief Hasina regularly received money from several industrialists and businessmen, usually Tk 50 lakh to Tk 1 crore from each ofthem before launching any political programme or a movement.
"Jalil also confessed that before the recently stalled general election, established businessmen and other wealthy people competed for AL tickets, and it was not a problem for people with illegally earned money to win party nominations," The Daily Star reports quoting sources.
Meantime, Abdul Awal Mintoo, a former president of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries who was also arrested on March 28, told investigators that Korean company Daewoo bribed the then prime minister Sheikh Hasina Tk 10m to close a deal for a frigate. Daewoo handed over the frigate on May 2, 2001.
The Tk 10m was deposited to an account which she supposedly has been using for the purposes of her party politics on her own discretion, said Mintoo, who was the local representative of Daewoo.