brad brace

10/31/2006

Belize barrier reef suffers, global warming blamed

Filed under: belize,global islands — admin @ 6:41 am

CAYE CAULKER, Belize, Oct 30 – A rainbow-hued parrot fish nibbles on a veined purple sea fan in the tranquil waters of Belize’s barrier reef, the largest in the western hemisphere.

But the fish stays well away from a large patch of dying coral, a white skeleton amid the bright colors of spectacular ocean life along the coast.

Much of the 200 miles (320 km) of Belize’s coral reef has been “bleached” in the last decade and some scientists warn it is likely to die, a victim of global warming.

Reefs around the world are in peril with people damaging the delicate ecosystems and endangering some 1 million species of animals and plants that call the coral home.

Scientists estimate over 27 percent of the world’s coral has been permanently lost and at current rates of destruction, another 30 percent will disappear over the next three decades.

Reefs across the Caribbean have been hit particularly hard, making them vulnerable to deadly diseases.

Greenhouse gas emissions raise the sea surface temperature and increase the acidity of the ocean, hurting the reef, said Melanie McField from the World Wildlife Fund in Belize City, and the damage is almost impossible to control.

“Other effects of development like pollution and over-fishing are caused by locals and can be mitigated. But with bleaching nothing is off limits,” she said.

Belize lost nearly half of its reef, a World Heritage Site, in 1998 when global warming and the “El Nino” weather phenomenon combined to cause the highest sea temperatures ever recorded worldwide.

Experts say 16 percent of the world’s coral was wiped out that year and the damage was made even worse off this Central American nation by Hurricane Mitch, which ravaged the reef with huge waves and covered it with silt and sand.

In July, environmental organizations petitioned the World Heritage Committee to sanction big polluters for harming reefs in Belize and Australia and speeding the melting of glacier parks in Nepal, Peru and the Rockies.

The United States fought the measure and the U.N. body put off labeling the sites as endangered, a title usually reserved for monuments threatened by wars.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force gathered in St. Thomas last week, focusing on management challenges for reefs in the eastern Caribbean.

STARVED TO DEATH

Reefs, often called the rainforests of the ocean, are home to over a quarter of all marine life in the world, even though they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor.

In Belize, a dip of a snorkel mask into the crystal clear water reveals black and yellow striped angel fish, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and sea turtles all bobbing along in the mild current.

Found in tropical and subtropical oceans, the reefs depend on algae called zooxanthellae to give them nutrients and brilliant color.

“Even a slight increase in water temperature disrupts the relationship between the coral animal and the algae,” said Richard Aronson a marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

“The coral actually pukes out 90 or 95 percent of the algae and those that are left are ill,” said Aronson, who studies the bleaching of coral reefs worldwide. With no algae to sustain them, the coral basically starves to death, he said.

The coral can recover by taking up new algae from the surrounding water but if temperatures stay high and the coral stays “stressed”, it can become vulnerable to disease and die.

“It’s like a boxing match,” say McField. “You can get hit by one big pow that knocks you out or you can be punched over and over again until you go down.”

SMALL ISLANDS SUFFER

Tiny islands, like the cayes of Belize, suffer the brunt of global climate change, said Kenrick Leslie the director of a regional climate monitoring center in Belize’s capital, Belmopan.

“The United States contributes more than 25 percent of the greenhouses gases in the world while Caribbean islands produced altogether less than 0.1 percent. But we are suffering the major impacts,” said Leslie.

Many islands like the idyllic Caye Caulker, a sliver of sand just four and a half miles (7.5 km) long and 40 minutes by boat taxi from Belize City through a floating mangrove forest, are completely dependent on tourism for survival.

On Caye Caulker, motorized golf carts circle its three sandy streets lined with clapboard guest houses and lobster restaurants.

Tor Bjuland, a brawny blonde medical student, traveled for almost two days from his home in Norway to snorkel here and see a school of electric blue hamlets swim by or a spotted moray eel peak its head out of a crevasse.

“In Norway, it used to snow all year round, which is good for skiing. Now the snow melts early and we have to find somewhere else to go on vacation,” he said, pointing out global warming’s perils for both arctic and tropical climates.

Close to a third of Belize’s 230,000 tourists last year visited the Hol Chan Marine reserve, a coral reef park near the cayes. Income from fishing and travelers is a lifeline for poor residents.

“If the coral disappears, we’ll have to see what else we can do,” said Carlos Ayala a 40-year-old guide with his own boat and tour company who has taught groups about the reef wildlife for 15 years. “It’s hard to imagine.”

Kenya: Uproar of Exam Leak Scandal

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 6:33 am

Nairobi

Faced with glaring evidence of massive Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination leakage, top officials of the examining body returned to their offices on a weekend to re-assure furious parents and teachers that the exam was still credible.

There were angry reactions from across the country, with all stakeholders calling for the overhaul of the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC).

And police in Kilifi, the epicentre of the leakage, moved swiftly and arrested 10 people, including a secondary school principal and five candidates suspected of playing a key role in the exams leakage scandal .

Deputy officer commanding Kilifi police division, Mr Nehemia Lang’at, confirmed his officers had arrested the principal and the candidates from the same school.

Reporters bought English and Physics papers

Lang’at said the police were also holding a manager and three employees of a local bureau in Kilifi, where some papers of the leaked examinations were impounded.

In a faxed statement KNEC Secretary Mr Paul M Wasanga said police, the Ministry of Education and KNEC had commenced investigations and the culprits, if convicted, would face imprisonment, fines or both.

“We wish to inform the public that any person who gains access to the examinations material and knowingly reveals the contents, whether orally or in writing shall be guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment or fine or both”, said Wasanga.

KNEC did not deny exclusive reports by our sister publication,The Saturday Standard, in which we detailed how a cartel of greedy people was selling KCSE examinations papers at prices ranging between Sh5,000 and Sh15,000.

Our reporters bought English and Physics examination papers hours before they were given to the candidates. They were assured that they could get any other paper so long as they had the money.

Papers have been on sale since exams started

Wasanga did not explain how the examination papers had been sneaked out of the 567 strong rooms countrywide, which are guarded around the clock.

The examinations, we established, are usually leaked long before they are distributed to the countryside. Sources indicate that the examinations are usually leaked by examiners during the proofreading stage.

Although Wasanga said the leaked examination papers were sold on Thursday, our investigations reveal that the KCSE papers have been on sale since the exams started.

Lang’at said the arrest of the 10 people and the ongoing crackdown would assist police to arrest all suspects behind the circulation and selling of the examination papers.

He said police officers on Friday stormed the secondary school and carried checks on the students who were sitting the chemistry theory paper.

The officers found one student had a paper with hand written answers .

Another student was arrested after he attempted to swallow a paper which also had answers for the same paper.

10/29/2006

12 killed, 2,000 hurt as violence hits country

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:37 am

At least 12 people were killed and about 2,000 wounded, many by bullets, as activists of outgoing BNP-led four-party coalition government and Awami League-led 14-party opposition combine clashed in an escalation of violence across the country yesterday.

Reports came that seven were killed while over 1,400 injured in clashes between the activists of the two alliances at different places outside the capital. Five were killed in Dhaka.

The political activists vandalised and set fire to offices and houses of rivals as they came out on streets with vengeful programmes a few hours after curtain fell on the coalition government.

Local administrations imposed section 144 on political gatherings in different parts of the country to check violence, but the political activists carried on with their programmes defying the ban.

The dead include two activists of Awami League (AL) and Jubo League killed in Kushtia and Meherpur, a Jamaat-e-Islami member in Magura, an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader in Kurigram, and three BNP men in Narsingdi and Bagerhat.

10/28/2006

Recent Films Studied

Filed under: art,Film,General — admin @ 9:45 am

Whale Rider • Bladerunner • Bicycle Thief • Until the End of the World • Wings of Desire • Blue Velvet • Pulp Fiction • Rear Window •
L-Avventura • The Machinist • Shadow Magic • American Splendor • Lolita • Vertigo • A Story of Floating Weeds • La Strada: Special
Edition • Fitzcarraldo • Umberto D. • Aquirre: The Wrath of God • Open City • Gummo • Even Dwarfs Started Small • Ossessione • Rocco
& His Brothers • La Terra Trema • Crazed Fruit • Tony Takitani • Lessons of Darkness • Wheel of Time • Grizzly Man • The Flowers of St
Francis • Knife in the Water • Le Notti Bianche • Why Does Herr R. Run Amok • Chinese Roulette • Favela Rising • Cobra Verde • Control
Room • The Trial • Heart of Glass • Rollerball • The Pornographers • The Thomas Crown Affair • In the Heat of the Night • NIghts of
Cabiria • Touch of Evil • Derrida • Basquiat • Pollock • Ali: Fears Eats the Soul • Bombay • Mother India • Voices of Iraq • Andrei
Rublev • The Third Man • The Killers • Red Beard • Chinatown • On the Waterfront • Sholay • Ran • Pyaasa • The Life of Birds • Dev •
Miss India • Twin Peaks • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas • Naach • Sarkar • Maya • The Motorcycle Diaries • Bold • Born into Brothels
• Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi • Anand • A Passage to India • Taxi Driver • The Terrorist • India: Kingdom of the Tiger • Yasujiro Ozu’s Good
Morning • How to Draw a Bunny • Salaam Bombay • Nayagan: Tamil • Veer-Zaara • Gandhi • Foxy Brown • Visions of LIght • Arakimentari • Rashomon • Blood of a Poet • Inch’ Allah Dimanche • A Soul Haunted by Painting • I Dreamed of Africa • A Panther in Africa: POV • Mama
Africa • Africa: The Serengeti • Out of Africa • Africa Blood and Guts • The American Friend • National Geographic: Africa • Run Lola
Run • Hidden Fortress • Breathless • La Dolce Vita • The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia • Children of Paradise
• Lost Boys of Sudan • La Notte • Tokyo Story • L’Eclisse • Lolita • Citizen Kane • Battleship Potemkin • Man with the Movie Camera •
Legend of 1900 • L’Avventura • La Belle Noiseuse • Nowhere in Africa • 8-1/2 • The Battle of Algiers • The Idiot • The Bad Sleep Well •
Pi: Faith in Chaos • Ikiru • Eraserhead • M • City of God • Hotel Rwanda •

Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema

Filed under: art,Film,General — admin @ 9:23 am

“LESSONS OF DARKNESS”

1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail.” Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.

7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.

8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can´t legislate stupidity.”

9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.

10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn´t call, doesn´t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don´t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species – including man – crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

Minneapolis, Minnesota April 30, 1999
Werner Herzog

Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema

Filed under: art,Film,General — admin @ 9:23 am

“LESSONS OF DARKNESS”

1. By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.

2. One well-known representative of Cinema Verité declared publicly that truth can be easily found by taking a camera and trying to be honest. He resembles the night watchman at the Supreme Court who resents the amount of written law and legal procedures. “For me,” he says, “there should be only one single law: the bad guys should go to jail.” Unfortunately, he is part right, for most of the many, much of the time.

3. Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.

4. Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.

5. There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.

6. Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.

7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.

8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can´t legislate stupidity.”

9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.

10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn´t call, doesn´t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don´t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species – including man – crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

Minneapolis, Minnesota April 30, 1999
Werner Herzog

10/27/2006

Four Rameswaram fishermen missing

Filed under: global islands,india — admin @ 6:53 am

Rameswaram, Oct 26: Four fishermen who had ventured into the sea from here, despite the rough weather yesterday, have not returned, Additional Director of Fisheries Velpandian said today.

In a complaint lodged with the Fisheries department by the kin of the missing persons, they had gone in a mechanised boat along with nearly 2,000 fishermen in 589 boats. Others, however, returned late last night or early this morning.

Velpandian said the sea was rough throughout the night and added Coast Guard personnel have been asked to search for the missing fishermen, Jerome, Selvam, Syed and Ryon.

Heavy rains lashed Ramanathapuram district for the second night yesterday with Ramanathapuram town recording 96.7 mm rain, Mandapam 66 mm, Rameswarm 45.3, Thangachimadam 23 mm and Pamban 20.9.

Officials said traffic on the Rameswaram highway was paralysed as the rainwater inundated the road. Water was flowing two feet above the road near Paramakudi town last night. Most parts of Paramakudi town were flooded, they added.

Ramanathapuram had received a record rainfall of 280 mm on Wednesday night.

Bridge over Moheshkhali channel opens

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:49 am

BSS, COX’S BAZAR
Oct 21: The long-cherished bridge constructed over the Moheshkhali channel in the district was inaugurated today.
The Roads and Highways Department constructed the two lane Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Bir Uttam bridge at a cost of Taka 27.4 crore.
The bridge is 347 meter long and 7.32 meter wide with eight spans and seven pillars.
Construction of the bridge has fulfilled the dream of thousands of islanders of Moheshkhali that was detached from the mainland for a natural channel for hundreds of years.
From now on Moheshkhali people will be able to go anywhere in the country directly by road.
State Minister for Communication Salahuddin Ahmed inaugurated the bridge. Alamgir Muhammad Mahfujullah Farid, MP, and local leaders were present.
Salahuddin said the four-party alliance government fulfilled the dream of the people of Moheshkhali and Cox’s Bazar through constructing the bridge.
The bridge will bring dynamism to trade and the economic activities of Moheshkhali, an island upazila, which is famous for the production of shrimp, salt and battle leaf.

10/25/2006

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands,india — admin @ 7:08 am

20 cm rainfall in Mandapam

Filed under: global islands,india — admin @ 7:06 am

Rameswaram, Oct. 24 : Mandapam town in this district recorded a very heavy rainfall of 20 cm last night, flooding low lying fishing colonies in the coastal villages.

Rameswaram island also recorded a heavy rain of 12.2 cm.

The villages of fishermen in the island were inundated and scores of huts were damaged in the floods. Thangachimadam and Pamban recorded 9.7 cm and 9.6 cm rain.

Ramnad recorded 2.8 cm rain.

10/24/2006

Many drown as Bangladesh ferry sinks

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:46 am

At least 15 people have died after a passenger ferry carrying dozens of Muslims travelling home for the Islamic festival of Eid sank in Bangladesh after colliding with a cargo vessel.

Four children and six women were among those who died after the small vessel sank in the Meghna river, about 40km southeast of the capital, Dhaka, officials said on Monday.

Witnesses said the ferry was carrying more than 100 people going home for Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

Rescue workers are attempting find 35 other people who remain missing and also salvage the ferry which is about 20 metres under water.

“The ferry MV Baba Shahparan sank immediately after the collision,” an official of Bangladesh Water Transport Authority said.

‘Lax rules’

Half of those on board were either rescued or managed to swim to safety.

Ferry accidents, often blamed on lax rules and unsafe navigation, are common in the delta nation of 144 million people.

Last year, more than 300 people died in such incidents.

About 20,000 cargo and passenger vessels operate in the South Asian nation, about half of which fail to meet basic safety standards or illegally take on passengers, according to an independent study last year.

More than 2,000 designated ferries carry about 100,000 passengers a day across the country’s 7,000 km river routes, the study said.

Thailand: Islamists bomb Buddhist monks

Filed under: global islands,thailand — admin @ 7:17 am

News from the Nation, Agence France Presse and the Bangkok Post reports that in Narathiwat province in the troubled south, a five kilogram bomb was detonated this morning.

The bomb was hidden in a garbage can in front of an electronics shop in downtown Muang. It was triggered at 6.30 am local time by mobile phone as five Buddhist monks were gathering alms, accompanied by thirteen soldiers who were acting as an escort. The bomb was triggered as they passed the shop, and all five monks and the soldiers were injured in the blast.

The monks came from Wat Promniwat. Three were seriously injured. Three civilians were also injured. After the wounded were transported to hospital, one of the soldiers died from his injuries. 22-year old Private Pramote Wannasuk, from a Chon-Buri-based taskforce, became the 28th person to have died in the violence since last Sunday. This week is said to have been the bloodiest week in recent memory.

The current insurgency began on January 4, 2004, and has claimed 1,700 lives. The governor of Narathiwat province, Pracha Therat said Allah punished people who committed violent acts. Pracha is a Buddhist. He said that the bomb could have been placed in the garbage can during a power blackout. This had gone on for several hours, as a result of heavy rains which have been pounding the southern provinces.

Yesterday, premier Surayud Chulanot was in Indonesia, and said that he would use the example of Aceh as an example for containing the violence in the south of Thailand, which affects the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as two districts of Songkhla.

The Thai academic Ahmed Somboon Bualeng poured scorn on the suggestion. He said that yje government of Indonesia knew who the rebels were – representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). In Thailand, although groups of rebels are engaged in preliminary peace talks, it is unknown who is still perpetrating the violence.

There are other reasons to suggest any parallels with Aceh and Thailand’s predominantly Muslim south are preposterous. Most importantly, Aceh’s road to peace involved an agreement to introduce Sharia law. With 20 percent of Thailand’s southern residents being Buddhists, such a measure will only increase inter-faith distrust and conflict, as it has done in the north of Nigeria between Muslims and Christians.

On July 31 this year, almost a year after peace was signed between GAM and Indonesia, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group reported on the problems that sharia has caused. As AKI described it, sharia “is creating a conflict between the civilian and religious authorities and is also penalising women and the poor.”

In Aceh, the wilayatul hisbah enforces “vice and virtue” law. Effectively they are vigilantes. In April it was announced that in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam district of Aceh, non-Muslims would also have to be subjected to Islamic law.

There are already worrying signs that the leader of the coup which took place on September 19 is seeking more involvement from Muslim countries in solving the problems in the south. This individual, General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, is a Muslim. Boonyaratkalin appointed the current Thai prime minister who is now eulogizing the Aceh process. Should Islamic law be introduced to Thailand, the Buddhists in the south would become alienated and denied the normal rights of citizenship.

Thailand: Islamists bomb Buddhist monks

Filed under: global islands,thailand — admin @ 7:17 am

News from the Nation, Agence France Presse and the Bangkok Post reports that in Narathiwat province in the troubled south, a five kilogram bomb was detonated this morning.

The bomb was hidden in a garbage can in front of an electronics shop in downtown Muang. It was triggered at 6.30 am local time by mobile phone as five Buddhist monks were gathering alms, accompanied by thirteen soldiers who were acting as an escort. The bomb was triggered as they passed the shop, and all five monks and the soldiers were injured in the blast.

The monks came from Wat Promniwat. Three were seriously injured. Three civilians were also injured. After the wounded were transported to hospital, one of the soldiers died from his injuries. 22-year old Private Pramote Wannasuk, from a Chon-Buri-based taskforce, became the 28th person to have died in the violence since last Sunday. This week is said to have been the bloodiest week in recent memory.

The current insurgency began on January 4, 2004, and has claimed 1,700 lives. The governor of Narathiwat province, Pracha Therat said Allah punished people who committed violent acts. Pracha is a Buddhist. He said that the bomb could have been placed in the garbage can during a power blackout. This had gone on for several hours, as a result of heavy rains which have been pounding the southern provinces.

Yesterday, premier Surayud Chulanot was in Indonesia, and said that he would use the example of Aceh as an example for containing the violence in the south of Thailand, which affects the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala, as well as two districts of Songkhla.

The Thai academic Ahmed Somboon Bualeng poured scorn on the suggestion. He said that yje government of Indonesia knew who the rebels were – representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). In Thailand, although groups of rebels are engaged in preliminary peace talks, it is unknown who is still perpetrating the violence.

There are other reasons to suggest any parallels with Aceh and Thailand’s predominantly Muslim south are preposterous. Most importantly, Aceh’s road to peace involved an agreement to introduce Sharia law. With 20 percent of Thailand’s southern residents being Buddhists, such a measure will only increase inter-faith distrust and conflict, as it has done in the north of Nigeria between Muslims and Christians.

On July 31 this year, almost a year after peace was signed between GAM and Indonesia, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group reported on the problems that sharia has caused. As AKI described it, sharia “is creating a conflict between the civilian and religious authorities and is also penalising women and the poor.”

In Aceh, the wilayatul hisbah enforces “vice and virtue” law. Effectively they are vigilantes. In April it was announced that in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam district of Aceh, non-Muslims would also have to be subjected to Islamic law.

There are already worrying signs that the leader of the coup which took place on September 19 is seeking more involvement from Muslim countries in solving the problems in the south. This individual, General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, is a Muslim. Boonyaratkalin appointed the current Thai prime minister who is now eulogizing the Aceh process. Should Islamic law be introduced to Thailand, the Buddhists in the south would become alienated and denied the normal rights of citizenship.

Fearing war and Islamist rule, Somalis pour into Kenya

Filed under: global islands,kenya — admin @ 7:08 am

IFO, Kenya – Somalis are fleeing their homeland in the greatest numbers in years as Islamic militants seize control of more territory and edge closer to a military showdown with the weak interim government.

The new arrivals say Islamist militias are imposing harsh laws within hours of taking over towns, including banning the popular narcotic plant khat, a mainstay of Somali commerce. Refugees said the militias had banned the sale of charcoal for environmental reasons and curtailed key transport routes north to Mogadishu and south to Kenya.

“They came and said they were in control of business and I had to stop selling immediately,” said Mohammed Hussein Abdi, a khat dealer in the southern port of Kismayo, which the Islamists seized last month.

To drive home the point, Abdi said, militiamen tied his hands and beat him for several minutes with sticks and the butts of their guns.

Islam forbids the use of narcotics, but some strict Islamist groups, including the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon, have tolerated and even profited from sales of drugs to non-Muslims.

As many as 14,000 Somalis have crossed into neighboring Kenya since September, according to United Nations estimates. That brings the total for the year to 34,000, the biggest influx since the early 1990s, when the collapse of Mohammed Siad Barre’s dictatorship opened a decade and a half of anarchy that made the Horn of Africa country the world’s best-known failed state.

The new arrivals now huddle alongside 130,000 other Somalis in refugee camps that sprawl across the sandy scrubland of eastern Kenya. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, and aid agencies are concerned about high rates of malnutrition and the threat of diseases from over the border, where there’s no functioning health-care system.

Last week, a 3-year-old Somali girl in the camps was diagnosed with polio, the first case of the crippling disease in Kenya in more than two decades. The U.N. has appealed for $35 million in emergency aid to handle the influx.

The rise of the Islamists, who in June took control of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, has spawned fears that a hard-line regime akin to the Taliban in Afghanistan is taking root in the Horn of Africa, where militants loyal to al-Qaida are thought to operate.

The threat of civil war has grown in recent days as the Islamists’ powerful militias advance on the government’s base of power in the provincial town of Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu. On Monday, the Islamists took control of a strategic town 30 miles outside Baidoa when the government withdrew its troops.

Fears of a broader regional conflict also have mounted. The Islamists declared jihad against neighboring Ethiopia for sending troops to back the government. Regional analysts say Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia are aiding the Islamists.

The scene at the main border checkpoint about six miles inside Kenya has been chaotic at times, the limited number of relief workers far outmatched by the numbers of refugees, who must register before they’re sent to one of three camps around the market town of Dadaab.

Refugees often wait several days in the camps to receive plastic sheets, food and other assistance. The region is on the equator, and as the short spring rains fall many new refugees are spending nights in the open or huddled with other families under wobbly wooden shelters covered by thin swatches of fabric.

Last week, Kenya’s government ordered a temporary halt to the arrivals so that screening procedures could be improved after U.N. officials expressed concern that as many as 30 percent of the new arrivals were “recyclers,” refugees coming from the camps to reregister in order to receive more aid.

Despite the conditions, refugees said they had no choice but to flee.

“There will be civil war,” said Habiba Abdi Hassan, 70, who left Kismayo after the Islamist takeover.

Like many Somalis who clung to life in their collapsed society, Hassan was a hardy merchant who’d evolved a way to survive. For 20 years she sold rice, sugar and other staples, paying off a succession of warlords to keep her small business afloat.

She refused to leave, even after her husband and son were killed three years ago in a shootout between rival warlords. But now the threat of war is too great, she said.

She and other former residents of Kismayo huddled in Kenya’s Ifo refugee camp said their livelihoods would have suffered under Islamist rule. In some parts of Somalia, hard-line clerics have outlawed business during prayer times, including much of the holy month of Ramadan.

Many of the refugees are Somali Bantus, descendants of black Africans who spent decades as slaves and whom Arab clans long have persecuted.

“They discriminate against us,” said Mohammed Salad Aden, 32, a farmer from outside Kismayo. “They say you’re not a pure Somali.”

10/23/2006

Five People Attacked With Acid In Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:30 am

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Five people received severe burns when they were attacked with acid following a feud among brothers in a jewelery shop at Mirpur in Dhaka on Sunday.

The injured include Mohammad Ayub, 38, and his brother Monir, 32; the owners of New Hasan Jewelers; as well as customer Azmil, 32, his wife Hamida, 22, and son Imon, 7.

Sources confirm that they have been taken to the acid burns unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to locals, Ayub and Monir had a conflict with their elder brother, Shahjahan, over business matter

10/21/2006

Record number on death row in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:50 am

DHAKA: The number of people on death row in Bangladesh has risen to a record 860, an official said yesterday, with fast-track courts expediting cases as part of a government crackdown on violent crime.

Fast-track courts, introduced by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Islamist-allied coalition government, have sentenced about 400 people to hang since they were created in November 2002.

“The number of people on death row has crossed 860. It is the highest figure ever recorded,” Inspector General of Prisons, Brigadier General Zakir Hassan, said.

Zia’s government came to power in October 2001 with a mandate to improve law and order, and quickly introduced nine courts known as Speedy Trial Tribunals.

Crime is a major political issue in the impoverished South Asian nation, which is also beset with corruption.

Human rights groups and legal experts have expressed concern at the number of death penalties imposed by the special courts.

10/20/2006

Wild elephants kill five people in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:54 am

DHAKA, Bangladesh A herd of wild elephants rampaged through a village in southeastern Bangladesh early Thursday, killing five people from the same family, police said.
 
The dead, including two children, were asleep in their thatched hut when the elephants trampled them to death at Bashkhali village in Chittagong district, the area’s police chief Zahirul Islam said.
 
Islam said a herd of about 12 elephants had been foraging in a nearby forest when they approached the village, 216 kilometers (136 miles) southeast of national capital, Dhaka, and destroyed more than a dozen huts.
 
Villagers used fire-lit torches to scare the pachyderms away, he said.
 
It was not clear what caused the rampage. Several hundred elephants make their homes in Bangladesh’s tropical forests, but their habitat has been reduced in recent years due to human development.
 
That occasionally causes elephants to invade residential areas for food, according to a Bangladeshi wildlife expert.
 
Ainun Nishat, country representative of the IUCN-The World Conservation Union, told The Associated Press that elephants sometimes wander into residential areas in search of food, but usually do not attack “without a valid reason.”
 
“Maybe once the area was a source of food, or somebody from the localities had caused injuries to one of the elephants,” Nishat said, adding that elephants have “very sharp” memories. He said elephants often become angry when they find homes or other establishments at the places once they used to roam.
 
About 30 to 40 wild elephants live in forests near the scene of Thursday’s incident, Nishat said. The country has about 250 wild elephants in its forests, he said.
 
About three dozen people have been killed over the past few years by the wild elephants in the country’s northern Sherpur district, which is close to the forested border with India. Residents in many Bangladeshi villages along its border with India use firecrackers at night and beat drums to scare away elephants, which have been known to attack villagers, damage crops and flatten trees.
 
A similar incident occurred last week in Malaysia, when wild elephants reportedly rampaged through a plantation district, trampling more than 1,000 banana and rubber trees.
 
At least four elephants believed to be foraging for food ventured out of a jungle Friday and tore through a rural plantation in the northern state of Kedah, shocking villagers whose livelihood depends on the crops, The Star newspaper reported.

10/14/2006

Will tomorrow be better than today?

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:46 am

(Part three of a series published Oct. 31, 1993)

Life is a struggle, every day of it.

There are times when Anwara Begum and her husband don’t have enough rice. The family eats just one meal and goes about its work, hoping the next day will be better.

The rains cause damage every year. And if there are no floods, droughts wither harvests.

Then, there are always debts gnawing away at families. Money must be borrowed, to start a little business, to buy food in lean times, to get medicines when someone in the family is sick, to marry off children. And the slightest wobble caused by misfortune sends people tumbling yet again into a pit of destitution.

Disasters continually derail Bangladeshis’ journey to progress, yet they pick up the pieces of their lives and prepare for the next day, the next harvest season. Hardships are a staple of life. People cope.

Years ago, when she needed money to buy medicines for her sick husband, Bulbuli got herself sterilized for $2.50 and a piece of cloth.

In lean times, villagers borrow money and pledge to repay it in harvest times (when the demand for their labor is high) by working on their moneylenders’ farms. The rate agreed on is sometimes half the minimum wage of about $1 a day, but they have little choice. They can take it or leave it. No banks will lend to a penniless person. The landlords and moneylenders are their only resort in times of need, and they try to remain on good terms with them, even though the help offered is exploitive.

Foreign aid has made little difference in their lives. Thousands of Bangladeshi villages have no water, electricity, schools or clinics.

The poorest of the poor live with no guarantee that tomorrow might be better than today, or that they might have enough to eat and a roof over their heads.

They know they can vote, and always turn out in droves to do so. But their hopes are frustrated every time. Corruption is widespread. Wealthy landowners and traders stand for election because they have money to buy support. They have funds to campaign. And they can easily awe villagers who are illiterate and have little idea how the political system works.

The poor remain poor because they have no power to change their lives.

The government in far-off Dhaka needs their votes to operate a British-style parliamentary system whose workings they cannot comprehend. But it doesn’t serve them.

Still, they survive. They raise decent families. Their children are ragged, but they smile, work hard and labor alongside their parents to better their lot.

“Their endurance comes from their celebration of life, their will to survive,” says Syed Hashemi, a sociologist who has written several studies on poverty. “They never give up. It’s a situation where nature is against them, the political system is antagonistic toward them, and still they survive. They never give up hope.”

Bangladesh: Land of water

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:41 am

(Part two of a series published Oct. 27, 1993)

“One Billion Sold,” the King of Spades rug announces in Robert Ciszewski’s office. The burly American plays this card in an unlikely sales success in this illiterate, conservative Islamic country.

Raja (or king) is the best-known brand name, recognized in the remotest hamlet. It is also the best-selling condom in Bangladesh. Born as a generic rubber in a Tennessee factory and reincarnated and packaged in Bangladesh, Raja has become a synonym for “condom” in a country where 20 years ago most people didn’t even know what a condom was.

You can see the King of Spades everywhere. On billboards and T-shirts, in cigarette kiosks and corner stores, on the backs of rickshaws, and until genteel viewers recently objected, you could even see Raja advertised on TV.

The campaign has worked, even though seven out of 10 Bangladeshis would not be able to read the word Raja.

“People may be illiterate, but everyone plays cards, whether they’re in the city or a village,” says Ciszewski, a U.S. aid-sponsored consultant. “The poorest person plays cards and knows what this symbol is when he sees it.”

When Ciszewski came to Bangladesh in 1974, only 8 percent of couples used birth control. Now, 40 percent do.

There is a long way to go, but Ciszewski is elated. One evening, after the prayers at the local mosque concluded, 5,000 villagers sat down on a school field and did something that would be improbable in America. Men, women, teenagers and young children together watched a series of short films that repeated one message again and again: People with small families, people who use condoms and pills, are healthier and happier.

“This is the only country in the world that’s done this without being a Taiwan or Korea,” he says. “It flies in the face of all the things we had heard about ignorant, backward and superstitious people. Bangladesh is so far ahead of the United States. People take family planning seriously. They talk about it openly. You don’t find the hypocrisy that you do in America.”

To appreciate how far Bangladesh has come, consider that population experts have always maintained that people limit family sizes only after first attaining a modest standard of living. We think of large families as more mouths to feed. Poor people think of many children as more hands to work. If people expect disease and hunger to wipe out most of their family, they better their odds by having more children.

Bangladesh skipped this step. Here, public awareness has come before prosperity. The population growth rate has been halved to 2 percent. People still have an average of four children compared to six a few years ago, but change has begun.

The agent of this change is “social marketing.” You sell a socially beneficial idea or product just as you would a brand of toothpaste, but at a price poor people can afford.

In Bangladesh, U.S. aid helped found the Social Marketing Company, a Bangladeshi company with Ciszewski as one of its advisers. It unleashed an education and publicity blitz that saturates people with information about the benefits of pills, condoms and oral rehydration salts (which help prevent infant deaths from diarrhea). An extensive marketing network makes sure that these products are available in far-off villages and are affordable even for people whose monthly income is $10.

People are likely to value something more if they buy it instead of getting it free. So instead of giving out contraceptives, the company sells them at the highly subsidized rate of 1 taka (2.5 cents) for three condoms or a cycle of pills.

As contraceptives and information about them have become available, villagers are eager to use them. Pills and condoms are available cheaply at the remotest village kiosk, but there is a strange contradiction about this: If villagers need aspirin for a simple headache or medicine for a child’s illness, there is none to be had, even for money. There are no pharmacies for miles.

Other than a few overcrowded hospitals miles away to treat serious illnesses, rural Bangladeshis have no regular health care. The suspicion and resentment villagers sometimes harbor toward birth control is understandable. The government sends family planning workers to go from door to door in villages, persuading people to use birth control. But it has nothing to offer them when they are ill. Shouldn’t basic health care precede birth control? “Undoubtedly,” Ciszewski agrees.

But that is the Bangladeshi government’s responsibility, as is family planning, and the government doesn’t have the political will or the wallet to provide either. Family planning is a small enough slice for foreign aid agencies to bite into – and it is a popular cause, financed by nearly every country’s foreign aid program.

As in many Third World countries, Bangladesh’s government is corrupt and bankrupt. It maintains just enough law and order to stay in power, and it has turned over virtually every aspect of the country’s development to foreign aid agencies.

Ciszewski, a former pharmaceuticals salesman, came to Bangladesh with a hankering to do something more meaningful than being another aid worker continually handing out food to poor people. Most foreign aid workers in Dhaka sneer at social marketing as American commercialism run amok, but they cannot deny that it has reached out to more people, and its commonsense approach has changed lives more effectively than their grandiose plans that have never taken off.

Bangladesh was not an easy market to crack. How does one sell contraceptives in a country whose people are too shy and fearful to try these foreign devices, whose clergy threatens to expel users from mosques, and whose government is too inefficient and too edgy about political fallout to support such a sensitive issue?

Most Bangladeshis live in cramped quarters that afford virtually no privacy. Attached bathrooms are for the affluent only. Sex is quick and furtive, and contraceptives would seem to be an added encumbrance. In rural areas, even married couples shy away from going to see the occasional movie together. They are afraid the rest of the village will titter at them.

The Social Marketing Company recruited top sales managers from private corporations and wedded sociological research with a savvy sales pitch. The result was Raja, the condom brand, and Maya (meaning love, but also a popular female name) birth control pills.

Why choose the King of Spades instead of the King of Hearts as the symbol for Raja? “The King of Spades has a mustache,” says A. A. M. Anwar, the company’s sales director. “He’s the most powerful of all the kings.”

Raja may be a macho man, but the selling of birth control in Bangladesh has nothing to do with sexual freedom or enjoyment as it does in America. This is a country where people would get arrested if they held hands in public. The way contraceptives are distributed conforms to the strict moral tone of Bangladeshi society. Every condom pack carries a warning: “For use by married couples only.”

When family planning workers go from door to door with pills, they give them only to married women, and that too with the consent of husbands.

“We emphasize the health aspect, not sex,” says Anwar, who formerly sold Philips light bulbs. “If people have less children, their standard of living is better. The closeness between the husband and the wife is better. The health of the woman is better than if she was in childbirth every year.” This is also a reason there is no squeamishness about the very public discussion of birth control in Bangladesh, Anwar says. “If a child asks his parents, `What is Raja?’ they don’t feel embarrassed. They simply explain that it is some medicine grown-ups use for their health.”

Although Raja and Maya’s effect on a couple’s relationship are only broadly hinted at, they have transformed lives, especially women’s lives.

“When you no longer have to be terrified that you’ll get pregnant every time you are with your husband – that makes life different,” Ciszewski says. Couples can plan their lives. Bangladesh’s booming garment factories have for the first time recruited women into industry, and birth control has helped them hold on to these well-paying jobs.

Once created, Raja and Maya relentlessly filled every corner of the country with their likenesses. “We wanted to make them so familiar that people didn’t feel embarrassed to talk about them and use them,” explains Ciszewski.

They appeared next to cigarette packs in village shops. Boat sails carrying the logos drifted by villages, so that men catching fish or women fetching water could see them. Roving folk singers warbled their virtues.

During the intermission in village dramas, magicians would entertain crowds by producing reams of Raja condoms from nowhere. Airplanes showered villages with leaflets advocating birth control.

“But we had to stop that,” Anwar says. “Some of them fell inside the mosque, and the priests got very angry.”

The support of the clergy was gradually won over by generous travel grants to Islamic universities in Egypt. There, they learned that family planning didn’t go against the teachings of the Koran. At first, clerics had railed against people who used artificial means to block the wishes of Allah. But they came around.

A song celebrating the importance of “maya” in a family became a national hit. “It’s more popular than the national anthem,” Anwar boasts. Once, a group of primary school girls demurely sang the Maya theme song at a school ceremony, to the horror of their parents.

A radio soap opera about the life of a family planning worker – who were once hated as callous government workers – was also a smash. It was a warm portrayal of a caring worker, showing her dealing with love triangles and scheming landlords, and it melted away the hostility of villagers.

Films screened with outdoor projectors in villages show life stories people can identify with. The skits are unsophisticated and their messages obvious. A boatman struggling with his overcrowded ferry loudly wonders that a large family is a similarly heavy burden on the man who supports it. A bride is told by her friend not to make the same mistake she did in having several children. “All this sounds corny to you and me,” Ciszewski says, “but when a crowd of villagers is sitting there watching these films, you can see they’re completely into it. There’s complete silence because they’re watching their own lives.” Such persuasion wouldn’t work as well in America, where people are saturated with information. In Bangladesh, people are starved for it. Most of the people in the country haven’t seen television. Only four out of 100 people own radios.

The company’s efforts to sell Raja and Maya have been so successful that its 84 salespeople have cornered three-fourths of the market. They outsell the government’s 25,000 family planning workers who hand out contraceptives free. Last year, they sold 117-million condoms and 10-million cycles of pills. Although Bangladesh’s government says family planning is a priority, it spends little of its money and attention on it. The market in this country of 114-million people is huge, but neither the government nor any private company manufactures contraceptives. The government continually pleads poverty, and businesses won’t cater to a market unless they can turn a profit. Most rural Bangladeshis earn less than $150 a year and would be unable to afford contraceptives if they weren’t subsidized by aid.

Even the one taka (2.5 cents) a villager spends on contraceptives is a powerful indicator of progress in a poor, hungry country, Ciszewski says. “That’s really quite a statement that instead of buying some more rice, you use that one taka to buy a packet of Raja.”

World Bank plan to stop floods horrifies Bangladeshis

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 5:35 am

(Part one of special report published Oct. 24, 1993.)

To stop the floods, simply spend $10-billion over 20 years to build a system of levees. That’s the view of the World Bank and some Western experts.

No, say many Bangladeshis. The floods bring life. The billion-dollar plan to check them is yet another example of high-tech projects run amok in an impoverished country where most people work with hand plows, live in mud huts and earn less in a year than many aid consultants earn in an hour.

It is a clash of two world views – how they view rain and floods and how to cope with them.

Every year the Jamuna River rises and several feet and hides the silt island Sourabh Hossain lives on, covering his rice fields, slipping inside his thatch house. It goes on for about three months – longer than the 40 days and 40 nights of the Biblical deluge.

For millions of Bangladeshis, such flooding is a fact of life, year after year.

“You take a piece of plastic, cover your head with it and sit in a corner till it stops raining,” Hossain says.

Every year, 80 percent of his rainy season rice crop is destroyed. But Hossain is resigned to this loss. For the rest of the year, he says, he gets abundant harvests of rice, lentils and vegetables.

The World Bank and French and Dutch aid consultants say they have a plan that might stop the yearly flooding. The proposed Flood Action Plan involves building thousands of miles of embankments along the banks of Bangladesh’s major rivers to contain floods.

Although Bangladesh’s government seems eager to go ahead with this experiment, Hossain and tens of millions of Bangladeshi peasants are horrified.

“It’s going to destroy us more than the floods do,” Hossain says. “How can they do this to us?”

In a country that has for the last two decades grown used to being bottle-fed a variety of foreign aid formulas – none of which have helped it develop – the Flood Action Plan has sparked a nationwide protest, uniting farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and intellectuals.

They are appalled at the degree to which the country’s geography, and the way people live, eat and move around would change. And they question the plan’s secrecy (which isn’t unusual, given that multibillion dollar contracts are involved for the country whose bids win).

Rivers define the way Bangladeshis live, the rice and fish they eat every day, the poetry they write. Should technology be allowed to change all this?

“A destructive flood comes once in 10 or 40 years, and it goes away after seven days,” says Mujibul Huq Dulu, who administers a village development project. “But these dams and embankments, we will have to live with these for life.”

Some people say the whole problem began in 1988, when Bangladesh experienced one of its worst floods. Bangladesh is a low, flat delta criss-crossed by three large rivers and hundreds of streams that overflow every year. The Ganges and Jamuna rivers originate in India and Nepal, and these countries divert their own floodwaters into them during the rainy season. All this water flowing turbulently through flat land makes floods inevitable.

Its geography curses it in another way: Bangladesh sits like a funnel by the Bay of Bengal, sucking in seawater during the rainy season, when swollen tides lash its shore. For a week in 1988, half the country stood under 10 feet of water.

The floods reached even Dhaka, filling swimming pools in the luxurious diplomatic enclaves where embassy officials and aid workers live.

Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French president, happened to be visiting at the time. She toured the countryside, and French television broadcast her appeals that something long-lasting should be done to help Bangladesh.

France’s aid agency came up with the Flood Action Plan, and other countries including the Netherlands and the United States quickly conducted studies of their own. (The United States concluded that small-scale efforts at controlling floods would help more.)

The general opinion of foreign experts is that to control Bangladesh’s rivers, they must be walled in.

But Bangladeshis say the remedy might be worse than the disease. The floods in Dhaka streets were themselves caused by an embankment that surrounds the city and prevented rainwater from escaping.

“It is going to create jobs for consultants and engineers and aid agencies in the West, but it will make poor people over here even poorer,” says Saleem Samad, a writer who specializes in rural development. He predicts that the plan will ruin the country’s ecosystem and agriculture, worsen its debt and make it even more dependent on foreign aid.

The yearly floods are essential for dispersing fish roe into ponds and growing rice and jute, which need several feet of standing water. Build embankments, and river water won’t drain out, and flooded rainwater won’t have any outlets to drain into. The wealth of silt and fish eggs rivers carry will flow out into the sea.

The intricate network of streams that feed off their rivers provide transportation for rural Bangladeshis, who would otherwise be isolated because their country has few roads.

Most Bangladeshi farmers don’t buy fertilizer. The silt deposited in their fields is richer in nutrients than manure. They don’t buy fish, either. They get it free from these streams.

And the poorest of the poor live on the riskiest land – beside river banks, or on fragile silt islands, where they can grow just enough rice and catch enough fish to keep body and soul together. They are most likely to suffer if embankments are built.

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