The 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’.
-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.
BNP 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.
Thai 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.
Prime 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.”
An 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.
An 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.
Map 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.
Road 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.
BNP 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.
A 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.
Road 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.
Rescue 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.
Iranian 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.”
BP 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. Share
Ahn 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/. Share