Cabinet clears Surcharge Management Policy to control tobacco

first_imgThe cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the ‘Health Development Surcharge Management Policy-2017’, aiming to control tobacco use, prevent non-communicable diseases as well as create mass awareness against the bad impacts of tobacco.The approval was given at a meeting of the cabinet held at the Prime Minister’s Office with prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.Briefing reporters after the meeting at the Bangladesh Secretariat, cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said a law is already there for controlling tobacco use and the policy has been formulated as a guideline in this regard.Shafiul Alam said some specific suggestions have been incorporated in the policy regarding tobacco control and its use to establish Bangladesh as a smoking-free country by 2040 as declared by the Prime Minister.The cabinet secretary said surcharge has already been imposed and the Ministry of Health is getting nearly Tk 300 crore a year while the fund is used for implementing various purposes of the health sector, particularly the tobacco control and checking non-communicable diseases.He said the fund will be used in 14 specific sectors to help ensure long-term management in the health sector, especially to create awareness among people against tobacco, prevent farmers from cultivating tobacco and create alternative employment opportunities for them.Besides, research and training will be conducted as well as monitoring and evaluation would also be accomplished under the new policy.The cabinet also approved the draft of ‘The National Academy for Planning and Development Bill, 2017’ translating the original law of 1979 into Bangla.Describing the new law as a prototype one, Alam said there will be board of governors of the institution like other bodies.The proposed law mentioned formation of a 15-member board of governors and relevant minister and state minister will be made the chairman and vice-chairman of the institution, while its director general will act its member secretary.The cabinet also approved in principle the draft of the ‘Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Council (BCSIR) (Amendment) Bill, 2017’.The cabinet Secretary said the law was first enacted in 2013 where there was a provision of retirement age of 67 years for those researchers who have special talents and qualifications.But, with the passage of time, some difficulties were created since the Policy in this regard was not framed. Under the circumstances, the cabinet approved a proposal for amending the law to delete that section.At the very outset of the meeting, the cabinet adopted a felicitation motion as prime minister Sheikh Hasina has been regarded as ‘Star of the East’, ‘The Mother of Humanity’ and was compared with ‘Raoul Gustaf Wallen-berg’.last_img read more

New gas reserve discovered in Bhola

first_img-Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Ltd (Bapex) has found a reserve of natural gas in Bhola.It is anticipated that the gas reservoir has around 700 billion cubic feet, said cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam in a press conference on Monday at the secretariat.The gas reserve has been found near the Shahbazpur gas field in Bhola. Both the fields might have had around one trillion cubic feet gas, the secretary told newsmen.last_img

Rohingyas flee no mans land after repatriation talks

first_imgIn this file photo taken on October 19, 2017 Rohingya refugees who were stranded walk near the no man`s land area between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Palongkhali area next to Ukhia. Hundreds of desperate Rohingya Muslims still pour over the Myanmar border into Bangladesh camps every week, six months into the refugee crisis. AFPThousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled a strip of land on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh after the two countries met to discuss resettling them, an official and a community leader said.The United Nations refugee agency has expressed concern that some 5,300 people who were staying in the area – outside of Myanmar’s border fence but on Myanmar’s side of a creek that marks the international border – would be forcibly returned without due consideration for their safety.Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh after insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 sparked a military crackdown that the United Nation as has said amounted to ethnic cleansing, with reports of arson attacks, murder and rape.Major Iqbal Ahmed, a senior Bangladesh border guard official said on Tuesday evening that roughly half of the people who had been staying in no man’s land had entered Bangladesh and made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh in just over a week.“They are leaving the place in fear,” Iqbal Ahmed told Reuters. “Now there are roughly 2,500-3,000 people in the no man’s land. We talked to some of them and asked them to go back, but they said they can’t.”Local officials from the two sides met on Feb. 20 and visited the area.Dil Mohammed, a leader among the people who have been staying in no man’s land, told Reuters that a meeting with community leaders promised by Myanmar officials had not materialised, confirming that several hundred families had moved into Bangladesh since Feb. 20.“We are in constant fear. We are not going to the camps,” he said, referring to temporary camps Myanmar has established to house possible returnees under a repatriation agreement it signed with Bangladesh in November.“There’s no guarantee for life. We need security and all basic rights including citizenship like other communities are granted by the Myanmar government,” said Dil Mohammed.Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters on Wednesday that the area was Myanmar’s territory.“According to the rules they cannot stay there, 150 feet from the borderline. They stay there to create a situation where Myanmar security forces and government official will remove them.”“The media, especially Reuters, and human rights organisations would put pressure and make accusations that they are being cleared,” he said. “It is a trap to put more pressure on Myanmar, to make more criticism of Myanmar.”After the Feb. 20 meeting, Zaw Htay was quoted in Myanmar-language media saying some of the people staying in the border area were “terrorists” linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that attacked Myanmar security posts on Aug. 25.“We got information that terrorists are there,” Zaw Htay told Reuters. “This place will become a safe house or a haven for terrorists, and they can do terrorist acts on both sides.”last_img

Khaleda shown arrested in arson case again

first_imgBNP chairperson Khaleda Zia being taken to jail. File PhotoBNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has been shown arrested for the second time in a case filed over the 2015 arson attack on a bus in Chouddagram upazila here that left eight people dead.Cumilla’s senior judicial magistrate Judge Mustain Billah passed the order as Khaleda did not appear before it on Sunday.The court also fixed April 10 for the next hearing, said Khaleda Zia’s lawyer Kaimul Haque Rinku.Showing her arrested in the case, the court on March 12 last asked police to produce Khaleda before it on 28 March 2018.However, Khaleda who is now in Dhaka old central jail did not appear before the court for her illness, said the lawyer.Eight people were killed and at least 20 others injured when miscreants hurled a petrol bomb at a bus at Jogmohanpur in Chouddagram during the BNP-led alliance’s movement on 3 February 2015.Two cases — one under the Explosive Substances Act and another for murder — were filed over the incident.Sub-inspector Nururzzaman filed the murder case against 77 people, including Khaleda.On 9 October 2017, a Cumilla court ordered the arrest of Khaleda Zia and 45 other leaders and activists of her party in the case filed under the Explosive Substances Act over the arson attack.last_img read more

Thailand can be gateway to SE Asia for Bangladesh

first_imgThai Minister Kobsak Pootrakool at Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) office on Wednesday. Photo: UNBThailand’s economic reforms and investment minister Kobsak Pootrakool on Wednesday said his country can be the gateway to Southeast Asia for Bangladesh and vice-versa.He made the remarks during his visit to Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) office in the city, reports UNB.BEZA executive chairman Paban Chowdhury received the minister and Thai business delegation at its office.The Thai delegation took a great interest in the incentives and offerings of the BEZA saying it offers great opportunity to investment.Considering Bangladesh as an attractive investment destination, the Thai minister agreed to consider a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between BEZA and Thai Industrial Promotion Unit proposed by Bangladesh.The Thai minister is leading a high-profile 30-member business and investment delegation to Bangladesh.This is the largest ever Thai business delegation to Bangladesh including Secretary General of Thailand Board of Investment and high officials from Royal Thai Government which will explore new areas of cooperation until 4 May.Commissioned under the political directives of Thailand prime minister Prayut Chan o-cha, the official visit by Kobsak, minister attached to Thai Prime Minister  office, is being considered politically most significant in the trade and economic relations between the two Bay of Bengal countries.It also indicates Thailand  new economic interests in the Bangladesh market.During his visit, the Thai minister and his large entourage will be visiting few industries and special economic zones organised by Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and BEZA to explore potential areas for Thai investments.The high-powered delegation will also attend business dialogues and business matchmaking with Bangladeshi businessmen organised by apex business body FBCCI and the Bangladesh-Thai Chamber of Commerce Industry (BTCCI) to explore possible new product lines for exports and Thai investment in Bangladesh.Apart from the business and investment engagement, Thai minister Pootrakool will make courtesy calls on commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and state minister for finance and planning MA Mannan during the visit.Terming the visit as historic in trade and economic relations between Bangladesh and Thailand, Bangladesh ambassador to Thailand Saida Muna Tasneem said the Royal Thai Government is taking a renewed interest to strengthen economic, trade and connectivity relations with Bangladesh.This visit reflects a new dynamic era in relations between the two BIMSTEC governments following successful high-level meetings in Dhaka last year including the 7th Joint Commission between foreign ministers and 4th Joint Trade Committee meeting between commerce ministers of the two countries in Dhaka, she added.Kobsak Pootrakool looks after economic reform, National Board of Development and economic zones and Board of Investment under the direct guidance of Thai prime minister Chan-o-cha.He has in his agenda a Free Trade Agreement, Coastal Shipping MOU and road connectivity with Bangladesh.last_img read more

Freedom fighters quota reform not possible PM

first_imgPrime minister Sheikh Hasina is addressing her valedictory speech in the 21st (budget) session of the current parliament on 12 July. Photo: PIDPrime minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said it is not possible to reform freedom fighter quota in government jobs as there is a High Court verdict to continue it, reports UNB.”There’s a High Court verdict for maintaining the freedom fighter quota. How can we violate the High Court verdict? …We can’t do this,” she said at her valedictory speech in the 21st (budget) session of the current parliament.The prime minister said, “Earlier, I had said to cancel the entire quota system. But, now there’s a High Court verdict in this regard. If I violate the verdict, I’ll face the contempt of court. No one can do this.”Sheikh Hasina, however, said the vacant posts under quotas will be fulfilled with candidates from the merit list. “This process has been continuing for the last several years.”last_img read more

BCL activist killed in ALBCL clash

first_imgAn activist of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) was killed during a clash between BCL and Awami League workers at Fultoli Bazar in Chattogram’s Fatikchhari upazila on Sunday night, reports UNB.The deceased is Faisal Titumir alias Ali AKbar, 22, son of Abbas of Hokkarghat at Khiram union.Quoting locals, officer-in-charge of Fatikchhari police station Babul Akhter said two local Awami League men—Taher Miah and Mona Miah—locked into an altercation with two BCL boys—Faisal and Akkas—around 8:00pm which later turned into a clash.Faisal and Akkas received serious stab injures in the clash.They were taken to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where physicians declared Faisal dead around 10:00pm.A case was filed.last_img

Iraqis vote Saturday seeking stability

first_imgAn Iraqi security member casts his vote at a polling station two days before polls open to the public in a parliamentary election in Baghdad, Iraq on 10 May. Photo: ReutersFor the first time since driving out Islamic State, Iraqis go to the polls on Saturday in an election that will shape attempts to heal the country’s deep divisions and could shift the regional balance of power.Iraq’s three main ethnic and religious groups, the majority Shi’ite Arabs and the minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds, have been at loggerheads for decades and the sectarian rifts are as apparent as ever 15 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.The election of a new prime minister and parliament also takes place the same week US president Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, raising tensions between Iraq’s two main allies: Tehran and Washington.Whoever wins the 12 May election will face the challenge of rebuilding Iraq after four years of war with Islamic State, jump-starting a flagging economy, balancing the interests of powerful foreign patrons and maintaining the country’s fragile unity in the face of sectarian and separatist tensions.“We want security. We have killings, theft, kidnappings. We never had this before. In the past 15 years the people have been destroyed,” said 29-year-old Khalid Radi, a laborer in Baghdad.Incumbent prime minister Haider al-Abadi is considered by analysts to be marginally ahead but victory is far from certain.Related CoverageEven though he announced Islamic State’s defeat during his first four-year term, diffused sectarian tensions enflamed by his predecessor, and maintained Iraq’s unity in the face of a Kurdish independence bid, he faces a tough battle.Three-way RaceAbadi has faced criticism about persistent government corruption, tough economic conditions and the austerity measures his cabinet introduced after the slide in global oil prices and to help pay for the fight against Islamic State.He also cannot rely solely on votes from his community as the majority Shi’ite voter base is unusually split this year. Instead, he is looking to draw upon support from other groups.Many, but not all, Sunnis see Abadi as a less sectarian alternative to his two main Shi’ite rivals and credit him with liberating their areas from Islamic State.There’s bad blood between Abadi and the Kurds, however, after Baghdad imposed sanctions on the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region following its failed independence bid last year.Even if Abadi’s Victory Alliance list wins the most seats he still has to navigate the long-winded and complicated backroom negotiations required to form a coalition government.His two main challengers are his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia commander Hadi al-Amiri.Both have a more passionate voter base than Abadi, who is mostly appealing to more pragmatic voters who see him as having better relations with the outside world and a cross-sectarian appeal needed to avoid further bloodshed and attract investment.Like Abadi, Amiri is running on a platform highlighting the victory against Islamic State, though the militia leader’s narrative is more compelling as he was a frontline commander and is viewed as war hero by many Shi’ites.Maliki, who was sidelined after eight years in office in 2014 after losing a third of the country to Islamic State, is looking to make a political comeback.In contrast to the cross-sectarian message of Abadi, Maliki is again posing as Iraq’s Shi’ite champion and is proposing to do away with the country’s unofficial power-sharing model in which all the main parties have cabinet representatives.Coalition Horse-tradingEver since Saddam fell in 2003, ending decades of dominance by the Sunni minority, senior government positions have been unofficially split between the country’s main groups.The post of prime minister has been reserved for a Shi’ite, the speaker for a Sunni, and the ceremonial presidency has gone to a Kurd – with all three being chosen by parliament.More than 7,000 candidates in 18 provinces, or governorates, are running this year for 329 parliamentary seats.The Iraqi constitution sets a 90-day deadline for forming a government after the election results are formally announced and the horse-trading can be protracted.The new government will also have to cope with the simmering tension between the United States and Iran.As prime minister, Abadi has won praise for his deft juggling of the competing and colliding interests of his two main backers. While his government maintains good relations with Iran, he is seen as balanced and Western diplomats say he would be the easiest candidate to work with.Maliki, who pushed for U.S. troop withdrawals and Amiri, who speaks fluent Farsi and spent years in exile in Iran during the Saddam Hussein era, are both seen as much closer to Tehran.Divisions All RoundThe election is also taking place in an atmosphere of division and disillusionment within Iraq’s three main groups.The Shi’ite vote is split as many are unhappy with their leaders after 15 years in power that have only yielded violence and unemployment and left the country’s infrastructure crumbling.But if the Shi’ites are split because they have too many leaders, Sunni Arabs are divided because they have none.Sunnis are at their lowest point yet. Millions languish in displacement camps, many are out of pocket and trying to rebuild destroyed homes in cities reduced to rubble – and they feel collectively branded as Islamic State sympathizers.The Sunni politicians that have held positions in government are largely discredited and there is no national Sunni leadership or party structure.Iraq’s Kurds, meanwhile, blame their leaders for gambling away hard-won autonomy in the failed independence referendum and might punish them by voting for non-traditional parties, which in turn could undermine the historically unified Kurdish bloc’s position as kingmakers in parliament.Voters go to the polls on Saturday, though security forces and Iraqis abroad started voting on Thursday. The electoral commission has said results will come “hours” after polls close.Islamic State has threatened to attack polling stations amid a recent uptick in security incidents in areas retaken from the militants while many voters simply do not feel the election will bring any change.“I propose the state just cancel parliament. Shake it and uproot it,” said 27-year-old mechanic Mustafa Tabbar using a popular Iraqi phrase meaning radical change.last_img read more

Crude bombs blasted at 6 spots in Jashore

first_imgMap of JashoreMiscreants blasted crude bombs at six different places of the town, including in front of the residences of Jashore-3 MP Kazi Nabil Ahmed and some other senior leaders of ruling Awami League, early Sunday creating panic among the locals, reports UNB.Nobody was injured in the attack, said Apurba Hasan, officer-in-charge of Kotwali police station.Police recovered remains of the blasted crude bombs from the scenes, he added.The first blast took place in front of the residence of Kazi Nabil Ahmed MP around 2:30am. Then the miscreants exploded bombs near Hotel Jabir Intl, owned by district Awami League general secretary and sadar upazila chairman Shahin Chaklader.The bombs were also blasted in front of Chaklader filling station in Kazipara of Puratan Kasba and in front of the house of acting general secretary of city Awami League Imam Hasan Lal in Sankarpur area.Police have been investigating all the incidents, the OC said.last_img read more

BL College teacher killed in Khulna road crash

first_imgRoad Accident LogoA teacher of Khulna BL College was killed when a truck ran him over on Khulna-Jashore road in front of Damodor Government Primary School in Phultala upazila on Tuesday, reports UNB.The deceased is Kishore Kumar Paul, 55, an assistant professor of Botany department of the college and resident of Gilatala village in Rampal upazila of Bagerhat.Phultala police station officer-in-charge Monirul Islam said the Jahore-bound truck knocked down the teacher around 3:30pm while he was crossing road, leaving him dead on the spot.Kishore, who was living at Tank Road in the city, met the tragic end of his life while going to Phultala for visiting his relative’s house.last_img

BNP worried as Khaleda yet to be taken to BSMMU

first_imgBNP chairperson Khaleda Zia. Prothom Alo File PhotoBNP on Thursday voiced deep concern as there has been no visible step for ensuring the proper treatment of their ailing chairperson Khaleda Zia, even after the home minister’s assurance, reports UNB.”The home minister on Tuesday announced that Khaleda Zia would be admitted to BSMMU for her better treatment. A lower court also asked the authorities concerned to ensure proper treatment to her as per the High Court’s directives,” said BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.He further said, “Three days have elapsed, but there’s no effort in sight in this regard. Neither the minister’s assurance nor the court’s order has been implemented. We’re passing our every moment with deep worry over our leader’s (Khaleda’s) health condition.”A six-member BNP delegation, led by party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, met home minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his secretariat office on Tuesday.After the meeting, Fakhrul told reporters that the minister assured them of taking whatever steps are needed for ensuring proper treatment of the BNP chief.The home minister also told journalists that the BNP chairperson will soon be taken to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) for medical checkup and tests.Rizvi alleged that the government is not allowing Khaleda’s family members to meet her for nearly a month. “Why are you showing such vindictive attitude towards her? We also went to jail, and our family members met us every week.”He said family members can meet a prisoner every week as per the jail code, but the government is not following any rules and regulations regarding Khaleda.Stating that Khaleda’s relatives met her last on 10 February, the BNP leader said the jail authorities did not permitted them to meet her again on 28 February and 3 March.He also said BNP senior leaders have been trying to meet their chairperson for over the last two months, but the authorities are not giving them permission.Rizvi urged prime minister Sheikh Hasina to take steps for releasing Khaleda from jail considering her age and illness.He also called upon the prime minister to allow Khaleda taking treatment at any specialised hospital.last_img read more

Policemen beat trader to death

first_imgA meat trader was allegedly beaten to death by policemen in Gopalpur upazila on Friday.Eight policemen were attached to district police lines last night for their suspected involvement in the incident.The deceased was Abdul Hakim, 55, son of Abul Qasem of Jhawail village.Gopalpur police station’s in-charge Hasan Al Mamun said a team led by sub-inspector Abu Taher and assistant sub-inspector Ashraful Alam conducted a drive on Jhawail Technical College playground in the afternoon.”They caught four men while gambling. Hakim tried to flee and suffered a heart attack. He died while being taken to hospital by his relatives,” Mamun claimed.But it is unclear why the policemen did not take the man to hospital themselves.Locals said that Hakim fell sick after being beaten up by police. He was rushed to Gopalpur Upazila Health Complex where the physicians pronounced him dead.His relatives blamed police for his death and demanded exemplary punishment for the killers. Agitated locals demonstrated on Gopalpur-Jhawail road on Friday night after Hakim’s death.The OC said that the situation was under control.last_img read more

Women who are likely nightmare for Modi in Indias election

first_imgPriyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of India`s ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on 22 April 2014. — Photo: ReutersThree powerful women politicians, each from a very different section of Indian society, may pose a big threat to the chances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning a second term in a general election due by May.Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, part of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India for much of the time since its independence from the British in 1947, joined the struggle in January, when the opposition Congress party made her its face in the nation’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.Two other senior female politicians – the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, and Mayawati, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister – are also plotting to unseat Modi’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition by forming big opposition groupings, though there is no firm agreement between them as yet.“The opposition has more powerful women leaders than the NDA, and therefore they will be able to carry conviction with voters generally, and with women voters, in particular,” said Yashwant Sinha, 81, a former finance minister who quit Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dominates the NDA, last year.“They should be very worried, especially after the defeat in the three major Hindi heartland states,” he said, referring to BJP’s losses in recent state elections.The entry of Priyanka – she is usually referred to by just her first name – into the political fray drew a gushing reaction from much of the Indian media.There were pictures of elated supporters dancing, a lot of talk of the 47-year-old’s resemblance to her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and comments about her gifts as a speaker able to connect with voters. That contrasts with her brother, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who in the past has been criticised for lacking the common touch.TRIPLE CHALLENGEThe other two women seen threatening Modi’s grip on power have a lot more experience than Priyanka, and both could be seen as potential prime ministerial candidates in a coalition government.Mayawati, a 63-year-old former teacher who goes by just the one name, last month formed an alliance between her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – which mainly represents Hinduism’s lowest caste, the Dalits – and its once bitter foes, the Samajwadi Party that tends to draw support from other lower castes and Muslims.Then there is 64-year-old Banerjee, who has twice been railways minister in federal governments. Last month, Banerjee – who built her All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) party after leaving Congress in 1997 – organised an anti-BJP rally in Kolkata that attracted hundreds of thousands.Party colleagues of the three women leaders said they were not available for comment.To be sure, Modi remains, for now, the most popular leader in the country, opinion polls show.Modi also cannot be accused of ignoring women’s issues during his first term. He has launched a government campaign – Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, or “Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter” – and called for the eradication of female foeticide. His campaigns to provide toilets and subsidised gas cylinders for poorer Indians are often promoted as ways to empower women.He has six women in his 26-strong cabinet, though a lot of power is centralised with Modi and a couple of senior male lieutenants.The BJP said it would seek votes on the basis of achievements under Modi and the opposition did not have a “positive alternative to the government, and its activities”.PERSONAL TIESCongress has said it wants to form a post-poll partnership with Mayawati’s BSP and SP alliance, though it will be fighting against it in 78 seats. The alliance will not contest two Gandhi strongholds won multiple times by Rahul and his mother Sonia.Mayawati told a press conference announcing the alliance with the SP that Congress was not part of it because they did not think “there would be much benefit in having them with us before the election”.The BSP, however, backs Congress-led governments in the northern states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.There is no formal alliance between Banerjee and Congress, though she does know Rahul and Priyanka.Dinesh Trivedi, a former federal minister and a close aide to Banerjee, said she enjoys a good personal relationship with Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch of the dynasty and a former Congress president, and so working with her two children would not be a problem.“In terms of experience, Mamata Banerjee is far ahead,” Trivedi said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi would look at Mamata Banerjee as somebody who could really inspire them.”The strength of Priyanka, Mayawati and Banerjee as a potential opposition alliance is that they can appeal to different parts of the electorate.Two Congress sources said the formal entry into politics of Priyanka could help rejuvenate the party in Uttar Pradesh, where it is a marginal player. Coming from what is India’s first family, they said she could appeal to upper caste voters in the state who typically vote for the pro-business BJP.A Congress leader close to the Gandhis said she would attract women, young people, and floating voters.Priyanka is far from a political neophyte, having supported her brother and mother during previous election campaigns. She has also experienced political and personal tragedy, as Rahul Gandhi stressed in a speech last week.“You have to understand my relationship with my sister – we have been through a hell of a lot together,” he said.“Everybody is like ‘look, you come from this illustrious family, and everything is easy’. Actually it’s not so easy. My father was assassinated, my grandmother was assassinated, huge political battles, wins in political battles, losses in political battles.”“NATIONAL LEADER”BSP spokesman Sudhindra Bhadoria said Mayawati’s gender did not matter.“She has managed a party from scratch to this level. The important fact is that she has organised large numbers, both men and women, Dalits, other backward castes, the poor, minorities,” Bhadoria said. “I don’t fit them in the straightjacket of male-female. I think she’s a national leader.”She is regarded as ambitious. A US diplomatic cable in 2008, among many thousands leaked by Wikileaks two years later, described her as “first-rate egomaniac” who “is obsessed with becoming prime minister”.But Mayawati has also been credited with empowering oppressed lower caste Hindus.Banerjee, who defeated a 34-year-old communist government in West Bengal in an election in 2011, is known for her streetwise political skills and portrays herself as a secular leader in a country polarised under the BJP.last_img

Blast as police try to defuse new bomb found in Colombo

first_imgDead bodies are being carried by Sri Lankan men outside the St Sebastian`s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo on 21 April, 2019, following a bomb blast during the Easter service that killed at least 290 people. Photo: AFPA blast hit near a church in Sri Lanka’s capital on Monday as police tried to defuse a new bomb found by the site, a police spokesman said.There was no immediate information on injuries in the blast, or how large it was. The explosion happened around 50 metres from the St Anthony’s Shrine, one of three churches targeted in a string of suicide bombs on Sunday that killed nearly 300 people.The Sri Lankan government believes a local Islamist extremist group called the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) was behind the deadly suicide bomb attacks, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said Monday.Senaratne, who is also a cabinet minister, added that the government was investigating whether the group had “international support”.”We don’t see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that,” he said.”We are now investigating the international support for them, and their other links, how they produced the suicide bombers here, and how they produced bombs like this.”Documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a warning on 11 April, saying that a “foreign intelligence agency” had reported NTJ was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.Not much is known about the NTJ, a radical Muslim group that has been linked to the vandalising of Buddhist statues.A police source told AFP that all 24 people in custody in connection with the attacks belong to an “extremist” group, but did not specify further.last_img

At least 6 killed in road crashes

first_imgRoad AccidentAt least six people were killed in two road accidents in Dhaka’s Dhamrai upazila and Cumilla’s Chouddagram upazila on Wednesday, reports news agency UNB.In Savar, three people were killed after a bus rammed into a van on the Dhaka-Aricha highway at Sutipara in Dhamrai upazila.The deceased are van-puller Abdul Jabbar, Samad, and Abdul Fakir, of the upazila’s Dharia village.The accident took place around 9:00am, said Dipak Kumar Saha, officer-in-charge (OC) of Dhamrai police station.The OC also said a speedy bus hit the van from behind, killing its driver and two passengers on the spot.Police recovered the bodies and sent them to a local hospital for autopsy, he added.In Cumilla, a cattle-laden truck overturned on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway on early Wednesday, killing three people and six cows.The deceased are Anwar Hossain, Samiul Islam and Khokon Mia. They are residents of Jhenaidah’s Maheshpur upazila.The accident took place at Chiura of Chouddagram upazila around 6:00am.The men were killed on the spot, said Abul Kalam, in-charge of Miabazar highway police camp.Police recovered the bodies and sent them to Cumilla Medical College Hospital for autopsy, the cop added.last_img read more

Cambodia building collapse kills 7

first_imgRescue workers remove a victim from the debris after an under-construction building collapsed in Sihanoukville on 22 June 2019. At least three people died when an under-construction building collapsed at a Cambodian beach resort early on 22 June, officials said, with fears an unknown number of others may still be buried in the rubble. Photo: AFPAt least seven people died Saturday when an under-construction building owned by a Chinese company collapsed at a Cambodian beach resort, officials said, as rescuers scoured the giant rubble heap for survivors.The building went down before sunrise in the casino-resort town Sihanoukville in southwestern Cambodia, a rapidly developing tourist hotspot awash with Chinese investments.Four people have been arrested in connection with the accident, including the Chinese building owner, the head of the construction firm and the contractor. A Cambodian landowner has also been held at provincial headquarter for questioning.The seven-storey building was almost 80 per cent complete when it crashed down early Saturday, the deadliest such accident in recent years in Cambodia.”Now the death toll from the building collapse is seven,” Sihanoukville city police chief Thul Phorsda said, after officials earlier pinned the number of dead at three.At least 21 people were reported injured — several critically — and at least three of the dead were Cambodian, including two workers and a translator.Rescue workers in hard hats pulled people from a mountain of concrete, wood and twisted metal.Medical workers attended to a shirtless injured man as concerned crowds built up around the site, while scores of soldiers and police joined the search for survivors.”Teams continue to search for more victims,” a provincial official statement said, adding that an investigation into the accident had been launched.There was no confirmation of precisely how many people were at the building at the time of the collapse, though earlier officials said 30 people were feared trapped.Around 50 workers would normally have been on the site at the time, Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said.The building belonged to a Chinese national who rented the land from a Cambodian owner. The construction firm and contractor were both Chinese-owned as well.Sihanoukville was once a sleepy fishing community before being claimed first by Western backpackers, and then wealthy Russians.Chinese investment has flooded in in recent years, spurring a construction boom in a resort town known for its casinos which pull in mainland tourists.There are around 50 Chinese-owned casinos and dozens of hotel complexes under construction.Between 2016 and 2018, $1 billion was invested by Chinese government and private businesses in the Preah Sihanouk province, according to official statistics.Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, has notoriously lax safety laws and labour protections. Accidents are common at its building sites.last_img read more

How has war rattled Syrias oil and gas sector

first_imgA convoy of Turkish military vehicles heading toward the northern Syrian Idlib province passes through the town of Atareb in Syria`s northwestern Aleppo province late during the night, on 7 July 2019. Photo: AFPSyria’s eight-year war has seen the Damascus regime lose control of key oil fields and caused state hydrocarbon revenues to plummet by billions of dollars.Weak production has forced President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to import oil, but Western sanctions on Damascus and Tehran are hampering incoming tankers.Here’s an overview:Who controls what?In 2013, Syria’s oil reserves were estimated at 2.5 billion barrels, and gas supplies at 241 billion cubic metres (8.5 trillion cubic feet).Control of these is split between the regime and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who have been fighting the Islamic State group.The US-backed SDF control Syria’s largest oil field in Al-Omar in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, as well as the nearby Tanak and Jafra fields.They also hold the Rmeilan field in the northeastern province of Hassakeh, as well as other smaller ones there and in the northern province of Raqa.The Russia-backed regime, meanwhile, holds the country’s largest gas field in Shaer, as well as those of Sadad and Arak.It also controls some oil fields in Deir Ezzor, Raqa, and the central province of Homs.What’s the damage?Before the war, oil and gas were key to the country’s economy.In 2010, they contributed about 35 percent of export earnings and 20 percent of state revenue, the Syria Report economic publication says.After war broke out in 2011, production plummeted as fighting and bombardment destroyed infrastructure, and the government lost control of its largest fields.International oil companies suspended activities, including to comply with Western sanctions on the regime.Up to $74.2 billion in revenue has been lost in the war, Oil and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Ghanem has said.Crude oil production plunged more than 99 percent between 2010 and 2016, from 385,000 barrels per day to just 2,000, according to figures provided by Ghanem in April.Natural gas production fell 69 percent from 21 million cubic metres per day to just 6.5 million over the same period.But since the regime took back Homs oil and gas fields from IS jihadists in 2017, production has increased to 24,000 bpd for oil and 17 million cubic metres for gas, according to the minister.But this is just 20 percent of Syria’s oil needs, and between 60 and 70 percent of its gas requirements.Are sanctions biting?After production plummeted Damascus had to resort to importing hydrocarbons to fulfil its needs.The Syrian government turned to ally Iran, who opened up a credit line to supply it with oil.But Western sanctions on oil shipping, as well as US punitive measures against Iran, have complicated imports.In November, Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran, accusing it of creating a complex web of Russian cut-out companies and Syrian intermediaries to ship oil to Damascus.From October 2018 to the start of May this year, no oil tanker reached Syria, pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper has reported.A fuel and gas crisis hit regime-held areas this winter and spring, causing the government to take austerity measures.Damascus also accuses Egypt of having closed the key Suez Canal shipping lane to vessels heading to Syria.Last week, Britain detained a tanker carrying Iranian oil on suspicions it was heading to Syria, but Tehran on Sunday denied that was its final destination.Last month, Damascus accused an unnamed foreign entity of “sabotage” of underwater pipelines to its Banyas oil refinery on the Mediterranean.What options for Damascus?With the country’s most important oil fields in the far east still out of reach, Damascus faces two options: strike a deal with the SDF, or military reconquest.The Kurdish-led forces have in the past insisted that any deal with the regime would have to ensure an equal sharing out of oil and gas.Before the war, crude extracted in the east was transferred to either Homs or Banyas to be refined, whereas Syria’s Kurds only have small refineries designed to meet just local needs.Yet the regime taking back military control of the eastern oil fields would allow Syria to be self-sufficient in all petroleum products, according to the oil minister.During the conflict the regime has bought oil from Kurdish and IS-held areas to secure part of its needs, several sources have said.Analysts say revenues from the oil and gas sectors are likely to be key in rebuilding Syria should a peace deal be struck and sanctions lifted so exports can resume.last_img

US sanctions Irans foreign minister Zarif

first_imgIranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. AFP file photoThe United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, effectively slamming the door on the country’s top diplomat.The sanctions freeze any of Zarif’s assets in the United States or that are controlled by US entities, the government announced, saying it also will curtail his international travel.”Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world. The United States is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behavior is completely unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.The designation of Zarif under the same sanctions earlier applied to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the latest blow by President Donald Trump to the Obama administration’s attempt to end nuclear tensions through negotiations.But in a mixed message to Tehran, Washington Wednesday extended waivers for three Iranian civil nuclear projects, to avoid upsetting the other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement — China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain.”This is a short 90 day extension,” said White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy towards Tehran.”We are watching those nuclear activities very, very closely, they remain under daily scrutiny,” he told Fox Business.Zarif has been at the heart of complex talks with foreign capitals over Iran’s nuclear power industry, which Tehran says is peaceful, but Washington and regional allies including Israel insist is cover for a secret weapons program.But a senior Trump administration official said that Zarif’s diplomatic image — bolstered by his fluent English, self-effacing humor and background as a US-educated academic — was false.”The key issue is that he has had this veneer… of being the sincere and reasonable interlocutor for the regime. Our point today is that he is no such thing,” the official said on condition of anonymity.”Today President Trump decided enough was enough,” the official said, accusing Zarif of functioning as “propaganda minister, not foreign minister.”Zarif shot back, tweeting that Washington is trying to silence Iran on the international stage.”The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world’ Is the truth really that painful?” he tweeted.Short leash at UNIn addition to attempting to freeze assets, Washington will also squeeze Zarif’s ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat. He is expected to be able to continue to visit the United Nations in New York, albeit under tight restrictions.”The United States will continue to uphold our obligations,” the administration official said.In mid-July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Zarif would be issued a visa but would be limited to the area reaching six blocks around the UN headquarters.Trump last year left the 2015 denuclearization accord negotiated by Zarif with six nations including the United States under former president Barack Obama and imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran’s economy, also vowing to curb Tehran’s regional influence.With tensions escalating in June, Trump says he issued a last-minute cancellation of military strikes on Iran after it shot down a US drone.Critics question the legal or diplomatic rationale for targeting Zarif, however, saying that sanctions will all but end the possibility of dialogue.”If you sanction diplomats you’ll have less diplomacy,” Republican Senator Rand Paul tweeted.The senior administration official insisted that Washington still wants talks — only not with Zarif.US diplomats “do not consider him to be our primary point of contact,” the official said. “If we do have an official contact with the Iranians, we want someone who is a significant decision maker.””The United States continues to seek a diplomatic solution that addresses the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior. The only path forward is a comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of its threats,” Pompeo said in a statement.”Until then, our campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue,” he said.Zarif, meanwhile, sought to minimize the sanctions’ impact on him, tweeting that they have “no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”last_img read more

BP MS 150 Ride Canceled On Day 2 Due To Weather Forecast

first_imgBP MS 150The annual bike ride from Houston to Austin benefits multiple sclerosis patients.The second leg of the ride from La Grange to Austin has been closed. Organizers for the BP MS 150 Houston to Austin Bike Ride made the call on Friday. The forecast for Sunday predicts severe weather, lightning, heavy rainfall and flooding along the route. Day one will continue as planned. The finish line will be in La Grange. About 13,000 riders are expected to take part in this year’s BP MS 150. The 180-mile bike ride from Houston to Austin raises money for multiple sclerosis research and programs. The 2015 ride had a record breaking year raising $20.3 million, according to the website.Typically the BP MS 150 is a two-day fundraising bike ride, but for the past two years a day has been canceled because of severe weather. Last year, it was day one. This year it will be closed on day two. Organizers are issuing updates online, on the BP MS 150 Facebook page, and through text message alerts.  Sharelast_img read more

North Korea Threatens Ultimate Measures Over New UN Sanctions

first_imgAhn Young-joon/APSouth Korean army soldiers patrol on Monday along the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea.As global pressure ratchets up against North Korea with a new package of sanctions, the rogue nation is blaming the United States and threatening “ultimate measures” in response.The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the new sanctions over the weekend, which are aimed at cutting roughly a third of North Korea’s annual export revenue. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called the package the most stringent in a generation. It was introduced in response to North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.North Korea has responded to the sanctions with characteristically strong rhetoric.“We will balance the U.S.’s felonious crime against our country and our people with something thousands of times worse, and if the U.S. does not retract its attempts to crush us to death and behave prudently, we will be ready and not hesitate to take ultimate measures,” the government said in a statement published by the state-run KCNA news agency.U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, currently visiting the Philippines’ capital, Manila, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum, told reporters Monday that there is one clear way for North Korea to improve relations with the international community:“We’ve not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. So I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send to us, is to just stop these missile launches. Obviously we have other means of communication open to them, to certainly hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk.”President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had an hour-long phone call on Sunday evening, as NPR’s Elise Hu reports, adding that Moon “reiterated on the call that there cannot be another war on the Korean Peninsula and called for a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the issue.”According to the White House, “the two leaders affirmed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world.”North Korea’s top diplomat is also participating in the security forum in Manila, and had a rare meeting with the South Korean foreign minister on the sidelines of the forum, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.“South Korean media report the two shook hands and spoke only briefly,” Elise reports. “China, which is Pyongyang’s closest ally, said the North did not entirely reject proposals by the South to engage in talks.”It’s particularly notable that China voted to back the U.N.’s sanctions package. But Elise adds that there’s a bigger question here: Will the sanctions even be effective?“Will it get North Korea to come back to the table and change its position on its nuclear development? A lot of observers in this region doubt it, because North Korea pins its very survival, its domestic legitimacy on its deterrence capabilities. So a decade of sanctions we’ve seen now, they really haven’t yielded the intended result of getting North Korea to the table. Instead it’s kind of the opposite — North Korea has been improving its capabilities.”Robert Daly, China specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center, tells NPR that China wants to be “seen as a responsible global leader,” and “the fact that China is taking a public leadership vis a vis North Korea, that’s an important change.”China shares a more than 800-mile border with North Korea, and Daly adds that during previous sanctions regimes, “China either wouldn’t or couldn’t enforce them fully.”Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Sharelast_img read more