Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Khaleda Zia loses final battle

BNP chief Khaleda Zia has lost the final legal battle to win back her cantonment house.

The Appellate Division turned down three of Khaleda's four appeals regarding the house on Monday.

Khaleda's bid to seek permission to challenge a High Court verdict was turned down.

A regular bench headed by chief justice A B M Khairul Haque scrapped the petition around 11 am on Monday.A third appeal urging to return the house to her possession was also quashed by the court.The court, however, accepted the hearing of Khaleda's contempt of court petition which has been adjourned until Tuesday.

BNP-backed lawyers, immediately after the order, brought out a procession protesting the verdict. Meanwhile, the Awami League lawyers welcomed the judgment.

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam argued for the state while Supreme Court lawyers Khandaker Mahbub Hossain and Moudud Ahmed represented Khaleda.

Lawyers on both sides engaged in heated argument duing the hearing.

The court said, "It was decided to hear the issue 29 Nov (Monday) upon T H Khan's Nov 10 adjournment appeal. The leave to appeal, the stay order and the contempt of court appeals have been included as number three in the list of the court's Monday activities.

"T H Khan at the very beginning of the hearing requested to hear first the contempt petition. But as the day was fixed for the leave to appeal and the two others had derived from that, it will be heard first.

"T H Khan, however, repeatedly pleaded for hearing on the contempt petition first."

The court said, "We assured him that all the three subjects will be heard and settled one by one. He was also assured that barrister Rafiq-ul-Haque and Moudud Ahmed will be allowed to present their statements. As he (Khan) is the most senior lawyer, he will start the hearing."

It went on to say, "At this stage, he (Khan) requested to adjourn the leave to appeal hearing and said he needs more direction from his client [Khaleda]."

The court order stated that the counsels of the petitioner, Khaleda Zia, took 90 minutes at court and still did not start the hearing on the leave to appeal petition despite repeated urgings by the court.

So, the leave to appeal and the petition for an injunction on removal of structures and furniture from the premises and asking for the residence to be returned to her possession in the same condition was being rejected for not being presented to court.

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam, after the court verdict was delivered, told reporters, "Probably the appeal (leave to appeal) had no merits. It had only been filed to make it a political issue."
Regarding the chaos in the courtroom, Alam said, "Some lawyers loyal to BNP created similar commotions at the High Court."
Khaleda's counsel Moudud said, "T H Khan and Rafiq-ul-Haque requested the court to exclude the leave to appeal from the court's proceedings since Khaleda had been evicted from her house.

"This is why hearing on that appeal could be held later. But the court did not accept any statements. It had unexpectedly annulled two appeals without any hearing," Moudud added.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Rajuk's new projects fall under flood zone

Rajuks' Purbachal New Town and Jhilmil Residential projects fall under the designated 'flood flow' zone, according to the Detailed Area Plan.

"Both projects are situated in the flood flow zone and if developed, these will worsen living condition in Dhaka," Khandaker Ansar Hossain, a DAP consultant told

This plan aims to regulate Dhaka metropolitan's real estate development covering around 590 square miles. The area plan marks different zones of Dhaka and identifies the areas designated for different uses, for instance, real estate development, roads, parks and water bodies.

It stretches to the northern part of Gazipur municipality in the north, bank of the Dhaleshwari River to the south, Shitalakhya River and Tarabo municipality to the east and a larger part of Keraniganj.

"Water from the high lands of Madhupur and Dhaka flows through these areas and land development will seriously aggravate water logging problem in the city," Hossain said.

Rajuk, Dhaka's real estate regulator, has been engaged in unplanned real-estate development, blamed the urban planner.


Proposed "Purbachal New Town Project" is under Rupganj of Narayanganj with an area of 6150 acres (1 acre = 100 decimals), divided into 30 sectors. Development work is going on in 4500 acres and plot allocation has already started from 2009.

On the other hand, Jhilmil Project will be developed on 381 acres and the second phase will include 1,150 acres. It will be located along the Dhaka-Mawa Highway in Shubhadda, Chunkatia and Tegharia Mouja's low-land areas of Keraniganj.

"Both the projects will block water flow during the rainy season as these are on the flood flow zones," Hossain told

"The low-lying areas (like Badda) of the city will be worst effected as rain water will be trapped in this areas," the urban planner added.

However, Rajuk officials told that these projects were planned years before the DAP and Dhaka Structure Plan (1995-2015) was developed.

"All these government projects were planned in the 80's and were under development since then, these cannot be reversed instantly," Jahurul Hoque, director planning of Rajuk told

"DAP and Dhaka Structure Plan was made after the inception of the projects," Jahurul added.

But the urban planner begs to differ and stressed on the need for stopping development in the areas.

"Still there is time to stop developing these areas; in the Jhilmil Residential Project only earth-filling has been done Rajuk can stop it now," said Hossain.

"It has to be done if we want to save Dhaka."

Prince Charles suggests Camilla could be queen

Prince Charles has for the first time said his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, could become queen if he were to succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Asked in an interview with NBC television about the possibility of Camilla becoming queen if he is crowned king, Charles said: "We'll see and I don't know if I'll -- if I'll still be alive, but that -- that could be."

The hour-long interview is part of a program on the Prince of Wales set to air in the United States on Friday. NBC released a transcript of the interview with anchor Brian Williams before the broadcast.

In the interview, conducted in August, Charles also talks about his love of nature, his relationship with the media and his sons, Harry and William, who this week became engaged to his girlfriend, Kate Middleton.

Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, his long-time lover, five years ago after the death of his first wife, Princess Diana.

Throughout British history, the wife of a king becomes queen and is given the title Queen Consort, which has no constitutional powers. But at the time of the marriage, it was officially decided that Camilla would have the title Princess Consort if Charles becomes king.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Eid-ul-Azha being celebrated

Dhaka, Nov 28 -- around the country are celebrating Eid-ul-Azha, or Festival of Sacrifice, the second largest festival of the Muslim community.

Thousands upon thousands of people scrambled to get out of the capital of Dhaka to celebrate Eid with their near and dear ones at home.

A rush of commuters clogged the city's streets, ferries were full to bursting and trains crammed full. The police have taken special security measures in the capital. The Dhaka City Corporation has also taken initiatives to remove refuse of the sacrificial animals.

The main congregation of Eid-ul-Azha was held at the National Eidgah at 8am on Wednesday.
President Zillur Rahman, acting chief justice Mojammel Hossain, cabinet members, leaders of different political parties and diplomats along with thousands of common people said their Edi prayers at the main congregation.

Mohammad Salahuddin, khatib of Baitul Mukarram mosque will preside over the main congregation as the imam (priest).

The DCC made separate arrangements for women in the National Eidgah with separate entrances on the south side. Arrangements for ablutions and temporary toilets were set up at the Eidgah.

The National Mosque—Baitul Mukarram—held five prayers at 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am and 10:45am.

Dhaka University Central Mosque hosted two prayers. The first one was held at 7am and the second at 9am. Prayers were also held at 8am at Salimullah Muslim Hall Mosque and at the lawn of Shahidullah Hall.

The DCC arranged 361 congregations around the city in its 90 wards and another at the Dhaka University Sports Grounds.

The city was decorated beautifully on the occasion of the Eid. National flag was hoisted atop government and non-government offices including the Bangabhaban, prime minister's office, parliament building, secretariat and the High Court in the early hours of the Eid day.

Main city streets were also decorated with flags imprinted with 'Eid Mubarak' in Bengali and Arabic.

Like the preceding years, a special menu was served in hospitals, jails, state-owned children's shelter homes, other welfare centres, and shelter homes for the destitute.

President Zillur Rahman, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia issued separate messages wishing peace and prosperity of the people of the country and the Muslim community all over the world.

President Rahman will exchange greetings with notable personalities and diplomats at presidential palace—Bangabhaban.

Hasina is exchanging Eid greetings at the prime minister's official residence—Ganabhaban—with central Awami League leaders, activists of different levels and well-wishers from 10am to 11am.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sakiba new Bangladeshi drama actress in Gulshan Avenue

akiba is a newcomer actress in Dhallywood. She's model in popular Dhallywood site. Sakiba now actress in Drama, full drama, half drama television actress. also she is now TV presenter in different hot new programs. Bangladeshi television Bangla Vision new drama Gulshan Avenue is a running 500 episodes. Here is Sakiba acting very gorgeous and Awesome.

SIDDIKUR MAKES HISTORY at Singapore Open Golf 2010 successa

Siddikur Rahman became the first Bangladeshi golfer to win on the Asian Tour after the 25-year-old held his nerve to edge out Jbe Kruger in a play-off to win the Brunei Open at the Empire Hotel and Country Club.

Starting the day tied for the lead with Ben Leong, Siddikur carded a four-under-par 67 to finish 16-under. However, a bogey at the last when he missed a 15-foot putt proved costly as Kruger went one better with a 66 to force the play-off.But there was no repeat as Siddikur parred the 18th, the first extra hole, to take the title after Kruger missed his putt from 10 feet.

"It is very exciting. I'm the first Bangladeshi to play on the Asian Tour and in the two years that I'm on Tour, I have won a tournament. It is unbelievable," said Siddikur.

"I didn't expect to win. Thankfully, everything in my game clicked and I was able to win. I hope to inspire more people to take up the game of golf in Bangladesh. This is a good victory for me and my country."

Adam Scott hopes his third Singapore Open title triumph on Monday will act as a springboard for an assault on golf's four major tournaments next year.

The Australian completed a final-round 68 after the tournament went into a fifth day following weather disruptions, finishing on 17-under-par 267 -- three shots clear of Denmark's second-placed Anders Hansen.

The victory, his first at Sentosa since the Asian Tour event became co-sanctioned by the European Tour last year, launched him back into the top-20 of golf's world rankings.

Khaledar Birudde ak Kuttar Kotha - November 16, 2010

The Daily Amadershomoy - November 16, 2010

More than 2 million Muslim pilgrims began haj

Nov 15 - At least 2.5 million Muslims began the annual haj pilgrimage on Sunday, heading to an encampment near the holy city of Mecca to retrace the route taken by the Prophet Mohammad 14 centuries ago.

Travelling on foot, by public transport and in private cars, the pilgrims will stream through a mountain pass to a valley at Mina, some three km (two miles) outside Mecca. The path is the same as the Prophet himself took on his last pilgrimage.

The haj, one of the world's biggest displays of mass religious devotion lasts for five days. In the past it has been marred by fires, hotel collapses, police clashes with protesters and deadly stampedes.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said on Wednesday the kingdom could not rule out an attack by Al Qaeda's regional wing, although the kingdom's forces were ready to combat any such operations.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday denied it had any intentions of targeting Muslim pilgrims at haj.

Islam is now embraced by a quarter of the world's population and haj is a duty for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it. Many wait for years to get a visa.

"I can't explain the feeling of being here," said Mahboob Bangosh, a Canadian pilgrim from Toronto of Afghani origin.

To minimise the risk of overcrowding and to lessen congestion on the roads the authorities will for the first time be operating a Chinese-built train that will call at haj sites.

The $1.8 billion railway project has tracks that are 18 kilometres long and will transport 180,000 passengers this year, said Habib Zein Al Abideen, assistant minister for municipal and rural affairs.

"We will have a capacity of 72,000 passengers per hour next year. This year we operate at 35 percent capacity. Next year we could have 500,000 to 600,000 passengers," Abideen said.

Due to its limited capacity, the train will this year only carry residents of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf Arabs and next year will open to others nationalities, he said.

"It will be big improvement. Tickets cost only a symbolic amount," said Walid al-Mushawer, a Saudi pilgrim.

Saudi Arabia has worked hard to improve facilities to ease the flow of pilgrims at haj. In 2006, 362 people were crushed to death.

Malaysia's first homosexual movie to test public acceptance

Malaysia's first gay-themed film, which will open in cinemas in February, is set to raise eyebrows in this conservative, mainly Muslim Southeast Asian country, where homosexuality remains a taboo subject.

The Malay language ...Dalam Botol (... In a Bottle) tells the story of the relationship between Ruby, a transsexual Muslim man, and her wayward male lover Ghaus.

The movie offers no racy love scenes to survive scrutiny by the country's strict film censors, but will set a precedent in a nation where sex between males is a legal offence under the country's criminal laws, and where homosexuality is rarely discussed in public.

"This is the first movie in Malaysia about gays, and it's going to get attention because it's something different," said Wan Raja, who plays Ghaus, after a preview screening of the movie in the capital city.

Malaysia only allows films to feature homosexuality if the characters repent or are killed off, and those charactors are usually minor. This is the first movie with an entire gay theme.

Producer Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman said the movie was based on the life of a friend and that her intention was to offer a glimpse into the life of a transsexual.

She submitted her script not only to the country's national Censorship Board for approval, but also to Malaysia's official Islamic authority for advice.

"I told them the title of the film was Penis in A Bottle and that it was a gay movie about a transsexual, and they said why are you doing this?" said Raja Azmi.

The Islamic authority ultimately approved the script as it included Ruby's eventual regret over her sex-change operation. But the original title, which refers to how Ruby keeps her removed male genitalia in a bottle, was rejected.

The censorship board, which forbids local movies from showing unmarried Muslim couples kissing and hugging, allowed the film to screen with some cuts to shorten a bedroom scene between Ruby and Ghaus.

"It is a gay movie and love story, but for the intimate bedroom scenes we don't have to compete with Hollywood. We can show things our own way," said Wan Raja.

Public reception to the movie is not yet known as the film has yet to be widely reviewed, but the subject of homosexuality has often drawn anger among conservative groups in Malaysia.

Last month the country's Islamist opposition party protested against US singer Adam Lambert's concert in the country last month, accusing the singer of promoting "gay culture".

Monday, 15 November 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi begins long-awaited freedom

Nov 14 ( - Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi began her first day of freedom in seven years on Sunday with plans to meet her defunct political party after military rulers released her from house arrest.

The Nobel peace prize laureate spent the night in her family villa after greeting more than 1,000 supporters from over its iron gates, struggling to be heard over the roar of cheers.

Her latest house arrest term expired on Saturday and the military government gave no indication she would be freed until police withdrew from outside her home and removed barricades holding back supporters chanting for her release.

Suu Kyi could give Myanmar a strong pro-democracy voice days after a widely criticized election and could revive a debate over Western sanctions on the resource-rich country of 50 million people nestled strategically between China and India.

The 65-year-old daughter of assassinated independence hero General Aung San planned to meet at lunchtime with members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which scored a landslide election victory in 1990 which the junta ignored.

She was then due to address her supporters and hold a news conference.

The NLD, Myanmar's strongest democratic force, was dissolved by the junta in September for failing to register for an election it dismissed as unfair and unjust. The party has since been declared an "unlawful association" and will play no official role in the new political system of the former Burma.

It was not clear whether Suu Kyi would face any restrictions on her movements, although her lawyer last week said she would not agree to any conditions as part of her release.

Analysts say Suu Kyi is still seen as a threat by the military because of her huge popularity. Her release could take the shine away from the formation of a new government and her supporters are concerned she could be rearrested if she provokes the military, in power for five decades.


She has yet to reveal what role she intends to play, but analysts expect she will meet diplomats and push for an easing of the sanctions she once backed but now believes are hurting the Burmese people rather than the generals.

"There are areas where she can play a considerable role if given the opportunity and the West will try to use her in this sense," said Derek Tonkin, a former British ambassador to Thailand and prominent Myanmar analyst.

World leaders welcomed her release but urged the junta to free all estimated 2,100 political prisoners.

President Barack Obama said her release was "long overdue" and British Prime Minister David Cameron described her detention as "a travesty." As is typical in Myanmar, the reclusive generals made no comment.

Her release may give the junta a degree of international legitimacy after the November 7 election, the first in 20 years.

Khaleda Zia said"I was forced out" by Gov.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia broke down once again as she described how she had been, allegedly, dragged out of her cantonment house associated with most "intimate memories" of her life on Saturday. "They've uprooted me from my age-old memories," said Khaleda, referring to the eviction from her residence of 38 years from where she saw her husband, the military strongman Ziaur Rahman's rise and fall. She claimed that the defence personnel had insulted her when she was being driven out of her house. In a press conference at her political office on Saturday evening, the two-time prime minister claimed she was not given enough time to pack her belongings. BNP secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain, before her speech, had alleged that she was dragged out of the house, although the army said Khaleda Zia was leaving the house of her own volition. Khaleda said, "I've been living in that house for the last 40 years; a lot of memories of good and bad times are attached to that house." "After president Zia gave his life for this country, the memories around that house became more vivid to me." "Today, they have evicted me from that place full of nostalgia," she continued. Terming the eviction an atrocious act, the opposition leader said that she felt insulted and horrified by the "inhuman behaviour". "They even did not hesitate to hit my family members." "If this is the way they treat the main opposition leader, you can well imagine what the situation of the common people is," she said. The BNP chief claimed that law enforcers rammed the main entrance of her house. "They have dragged me out after smashing my bedroom door." Bursting into tears, Khaleda said law enforcers shoved her into the car. "They [the government] are claiming that I left the house voluntary, which is nothing but a total lie."

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Jatiya Sangshad body says to stop margin loan in DSE

The parliamentary standing committee on finance voiced Tuesday its concern over "overheated" stock market and asked the securities regulator to take steps to stop margin loan facility.

Investors are entitled to 1:1 margin loan facility but under the new margin maintenance formula they do not get more than 50 per cent of their equity.

The committee also asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to initiate an investigation to identify the manipulators, who allegedly twist prices at the cost of small investors.

The government is going to amend Value Added Tax Act, 1991 and it will be introduced by next fiscal and the NBR is also working on Income Tax Act, said committee chairman AHM Mostafa Kamal Tuesday.

Mr Kamal said a "vested group" is active in the market and it is trying to reduce stock prices of listed state-owned enterprises, when the government has decided to offload their shares.

"We asked the SEC to detect manipulators before shares of state firms hit the market," he said after a standing committee meeting.Mr Kamal said share prices of companies with small capital base are mostly manipulated and the committee found "the behaviour of the market to be abnormal."
The meeting, attended by finance minister AMA Muhith, dwelt on the capital market and performance of NBR in the first quarter of the current fiscal.Mr Kamal said the Jatiya Sangshad (JS) committee was of the view that the market is flush with massive liquidity and the SEC should rethink the margin loan facility.

"It should ask the brokerage houses not to provide any margin loan to squeeze the supply of liquidity in the market," he said.

The committee chairman said the capital market is not being used for productive purposes and new companies should be given incentive to raise funds from the stock market.

The standing committee also asked the government to revisit the tax-holiday scheme and provide newly listed companies with the rebate facility for a certain period, Mr Kamal said.

The committee recommended that 'tax-holiday' scheme should be used as an incentive for floating initial public offering of non-listed business houses.

There should be a continuous awareness programme to educate investors so that they can make intelligent investment, he said, adding, "We also asked DSE and CSE to publish all its publications in Bengali so that most of the investors can read it."

In the first quarter of the current fiscal, he said income tax achieved 25 per cent growth, VAT 33 per cent while import duty 19 per cent growth rate, Mr Kamal said adding, "It is a good performance."The government is going to table VAT Act amendment before the parliament and it will be introduced from the next fiscal.
"There is a growing need to simplify income tax laws and the NBR is working in this regard," he said, adding, "One page tax return has been introduced for small businessmen."

NBR will also introduce one-stop service from the next fiscal and it will continue its endeavour to boost revenue collection, Mr Kamal said.

Michael Jackson new album vocals genuine, Sony says

Sony Music on Friday Nov 8 released a brief "teaser" of a new Michael Jackson single and insisted that the vocals on an upcoming new album were genuinely those of the late "Thriller" singer.

But controversy over the December album release of "Michael" was stoked by a representative of Jackson's father Joe, who said the perfectionist performer would never have wanted his unfinished material to be released.

A short clip on the official web site for "Breaking News" -- a song that Jackson is said to have recorded in 2007 -- consisted of TV news soundbites on Jackson's June 2009 death, followed by a faint scream of less than two seconds.

The full song will be released on Monday. The new album "Michael" will be released December 14.

"Michael" is the latest commercial venture by Jackson's official estate and the first album of new material from the singer since his "Invincible" album in 2001.

Sony has declined to say how much production work was done on the album after Jackson's sudden death from a prescription drug overdose, or how many tracks it contains.

"If Michael had wanted this music released he would have done so before his death," Brian Oxman, a lawyer for Joe Jackson, said in a statement on Friday.

"The songs which are being released on the new Michael Jackson album were unfinished and incomplete tracks that Michael said over and over many times he never wanted released. We should honor Michael Jackson's wishes," Oxman added.

Earlier this week, celebrity website said that Jackson's mother Katherine, and his two eldest children, Prince and Paris, believe that the voice on some of the album tracks is not Michael's.

But a spokeswoman for Sony's Epic Records said on Friday that the label has "complete confidence in the results of our extensive research as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael that the vocals on the new album are his own."

The Jackson family's misgivings follow an embarrassing debacle last year when "This Is It," a new Jackson single touted as his first posthumous release, turned out to have been first recorded 18 years earlier under a different title by an obscure Puerto Rican singer.

Sony said "Breaking News" was recorded by Jackson at a friend's place in New Jersey in 2007 and "recently brought to completion."

Other tracks were recorded at studios in Las Vegas and Los Angeles with various unidentified collaborators, Sony Music said. At the time of his death, Jackson was reported to be working with hitmakers like R&B star Akon and Lady Gaga collaborator RedOne.

The executors of Jackson's estate have sanctioned a number of projects to pay off the singer's debts and to provide for his mother and children. They include a Jackson-themed Cirque du Soleil tour that will open in Montreal next October, and a dance videogame due in stores later this month.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Padma Oil, Atlas, Usmania dropped from govt's share offloading list

the MoF last week asked the power ministry to increase the shares of Padma Oil in the capital market through issuing one right share for one existing share at a face value of Tk. 10 each.

The government has dropped the plan to offload shares of three of its companies---Padma Oil, Atlas Bangladesh and Usmania Glass-- listed on the bourses as 49 per cent of their stakes are already held by private investors, a top official in the Ministry of Finance (MoF) said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently approved a proposal of the MoF on offloading certain portion of shares of nine public sector companies listed on the stock markets, keeping the government control over at least 51 per cent stake of each of the companies, the official said.

Besides, the Prime Minister also approved offloading up to 49 per cent stakes of the enterprises fully owned by the government.

Presently, the government holds 51 per cent stake in both Atlas and Usmania, while 50.35 per cent in Padma. Usmania was listed in 1987, Atlas in 1988 and Padma Oil in 1976.

"There is no scope to offload stakes of three listed state-owned enterprises (SoEs) as 49 per cent shares of these companies have been already sold to public through stock exchanges," a top finance official told the FE.

"We will not lose our majority share holding in already listed state firms or would- be listed ones," he added.

According to the latest decision of the government, another nine listed companies will undertake efforts to offload certain portion of government's stakes latest by this month.

The percentage of government's shares to be offloaded by the listed state firms are-Rupali Bank 24 per cent, Bangladesh Shipping Corporation Ltd 17.5 per cent, Power Grid 16.25 per cent, DESCO 15 per cent, Titas Gas 15 per cent, Meghna Petroleum 17 per cent, Jamuna Oil 17 per cent, National Tubes 1.94 per cent and Eastern Lubricants 17.30 per cent.

The finance ministry last week asked the companies concerned through their administrative ministries to implement the decision of the government within the stipulated timeframe.

"We will offload up to 49 per cent stakes of the government in nine SoEs in phases," another MoF official said.

However, a top official of one of the nine SoEs said the offloading would not be possible by November as it will take at least two to three months to complete the necessary formalities for going public. The formalities include approval from the board of directors and the controlling ministries, appointing issue managers and getting approval from Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, the MoF last week asked the power ministry to increase the shares of Padma Oil in the capital market through issuing one right share for one existing share at a face value of Tk. 10 each.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Obama rejects view of India as "land of call centers"

MUMBAI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama hailed India on Saturday as a vital source of U.S. growth and jobs as his administration announced relaxation of U.S. export controls to spur trade between the two countries.

"As we look to India today, the United States sees an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest growing markets in the world. For America this is a jobs strategy," Obama said as he kicked off a 10-day tour of Asia.

Obama's Democrats lost control on the U.S. House of Representatives in congressional elections on Tuesday as voters punished the party for high U.S. unemployment after a campaign marked by criticism of China and outsourcing hubs like India.

Acknowledging that anger, Obama said India was still seen by many Americans as "a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs," but he rejected that view.

"It is a dynamic, two-way relationship that has created jobs and growth and higher living standards in both our countries and that is the truth," he told business leaders.

In an address to a business summit, the president said U.S. companies were finalizing deals worth around $10 billion.

"Today's deals will lead to more than 50,000 jobs in the United States," he said.

Deals include previously announced transactions involving General Electric for aircraft engines and gas turbines, and Boeing for 737 passenger planes. But details on a key $4.5 billion sale by Boeing of C-17 military transport planes were still being ironed out.

White House aide Michael Froman told reporters Obama would ease export controls imposed after India's 1998 nuclear tests, and support Indian membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

"This really includes India as a major player in a non- proliferation world... and it recognizes the nature of the strategic relationship we now have with India," Froman said.

The four regimes are the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australian Group, which aims to reduce the spread of chemical and biological weapons, and the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multinational effort to control the transfer of conventional arms dual-use technology.

Obama will remove almost all of the remaining Indian defense and space organizations from a list of entities maintained by the U.S. government to curb proliferation, and relax so called dual-use rules for Indian firms that regulate technology with both civil and defense applications.

"We will end up treating India similar to other close allies and partners other than as a country of concern," Froman said.

Hurricane Tomas powers up, bears down on Haiti::Nov 3

Tomas has strengthened back into a tropical storm as it steams toward Haiti.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch have been issued for the island nation. Tropical storm watches are also in effect for parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

The center of the storm is expected to approach Haiti on Friday.

Winds have increased to near 45 mph and the National Hurricane Center says Tomas could be near hurricane strength as it gets closer. The storm had earlier been downgraded to a tropical depression.

Tomas is about 305 miles (490 km) south-southwest of Port Au Prince, Haiti, and about 250 miles (405 km) south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.

McMillen became a bullying victim after she challenged the Itawamba School

The lesbian who successfully challenged a rural Mississippi school district's ban on same-sex prom dates says she wept when she read about the recent spate of gay teen suicides linked to harassment.

McMillen, who was recently named one of Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year 2010," told The Associated Press that she became a bullying victim after she challenged the Itawamba School District over a policy that prohibited her from bringing her girlfriend to the prom and wearing a tuxedo.

McMillen, 18, said she became emotional after reading about the suicides of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, of California, who hanged himself outside his home after enduring taunts from classmates, and of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after his sexual encounter was secretly streamed online.

"I read it on Facebook. I was so upset about this that I could not sleep," McMillen said. "I knew it had to be terrible for them to choose death as a way to escape what they were living in."

McMillen said she has had her own suicidal thoughts.

"But I never really considered it to the point where I almost did it," she said. "Everybody thinks about it when times get hard."

Growing up in the small town of Fulton, Miss., McMillen said she wasn't bullied until school officials canceled the prom rather than allow McMillen and her girlfriend to attend as a couple.

"I went through a lot of harassment and bullying after the lawsuit, and I realized how bad it felt being in that position," she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the district, which paid $35,000 to settle the lawsuit and also agreed to follow a non-discrimination policy, though it argued such a policy was already in place.

Glamour magazine recently honored McMillen for her fight against intolerance, and she's now in the company of entertainer Fergie, actress Julia Roberts, designer Donatella Versace and Queen Rania of Jordan.

Cindi Leive, Glamour editor-in-chief, said McMillen was selected by an advisory panel of past honorees, including Jennifer Lopez and Katie Couric. The main measure for honorees is that they help make the world a better place for others, Leive said.

Obama begins 10-day overseas tour in India:: 6 NOV' 2010

US President Barack Obama flew into India's commercial capital on Saturday aiming to boost ties and seal big-ticket business deals to secure jobs and exports days after voters punished his Democrats in mid-term elections.

Obama will also visit Indonesia, South Korea and Japan on a 10-day tour that will see Washington push to prevent countries unilaterally devaluing currencies to protect their exports, a top theme at the Group of 20 heads of state meet in Seoul next week.

In Mumbai, Obama's first stop will be the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, where he will pay respects to the victims of the 2008 attacks at one of the primary targets of gunmen who slaughtered 166 people.

One of the first diplomatic tests for Obama will be at the Taj. Indians will want a strong statement against Pakistan for fostering militants, but Washington must tread a fine line between appeasing New Delhi and supporting its regional ally.

Across town, police have removed coconuts around Mani Bhavan, where Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi stayed while in Mumbai and which now serves as a museum that Obama will visit on Saturday.

He will then attend a meeting with hundreds of US and Indian business leaders. He arrives in New Delhi on Sunday.

Obama's Saturday-to-Monday trip to India started just four days after his Democratic party sustained big election losses tied to the weak economy, raising some doubts over how much the trip can yield given the pressures at home.

But Obama clearly outlined that his goal was to strike "billions of dollars in contracts that will support tens of thousands of American jobs", and stated his intent to "reduce barriers to United States exports and increase access to the Indian market".

"It is hard to overstate the importance of Asia to our economic future," Obama wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times on Friday.

"It can be tempting, in times of economic difficulty, to turn inward, away from trade and commerce with other nations. But in our interconnected world, that is not a path to growth, and that is not a path to jobs. We cannot be shut out of these markets."

Intl' community not doing enough::Rushanara Ali, a Labour MP

The incumbent British government is not focused enough on the issue of climate change, said Rushanara Ali, a Labour MP and junior shadow minister.

"Unfortunately, the government [of Britain] is not talking about climate change as much as we would like them to," the Bangladesh-born UK MP told a press conference on Friday.

Ali arrived in Dhaka on Thursday to observe the proceedings of climate change tribunal organised by Oxfam International.

The tribunal, coordinated by an NGO alliance titled Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL), is scheduled to be held on Monday at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

The 'Shadow Climate Tribunal' aims to find ways to safeguard victims of climate change in a legal context, says a statement by the organisers.

The opposition MP came down hard on the incumbent UK government, saying it decided not to increase aid for the next two years.

"But, the government has committed aid up to 0.7 percent of the gross national income by 2013 and said it would increase aid in the third year," she added.

The shadow minister for international development told that the previous Labour-run government was a lot keener on the issue of climate change.

"Britain under Labour has passed the world's first Climate Change Act, which includes legally binding carbon emission targets," she said.

Touching on her role as a member of the shadow cabinet, Ali said that they would work to keep building the profile of climate change. "It's very important that climate change doesn't go off the agenda."

The Labour Party will continue to support climate change adaptation programmes and push to make the funds meaningful, said Ali.

"I hope to use my position to promote steps to support countries, like Bangladesh, which are affected the most by climate change."

Replying to a query, Ali admitted that the international community was not "doing enough".

"Developed and wealthy nations have a better role to play and they need to be encouraged to do more," she said, apparently supporting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent comment on international community not being serious enough as regards climate change.

She, however, disagreed on the matter of providing opportunities to people of the country affected by climate change to migrate to developed nations.

Finance minister AMA Muhith, in an interview with the Guardian, had said that the developed nations should allow victims of climate change to migrate to their countries, as they are mostly responsible for climate change. "Migration can't be the answer to climate change," Ali said adding that the priority is to make sure that "preventive measures are adopted."

In May 2010, Rushanara Ali was elected a Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow, where the British-Bangladeshi community constitutes one-third of the population.

She is the first person of Bangladeshi origin to have been elected to the House of Commons and jointly one of the first three Muslim women MPs elected in 2010.

Friday, 5 November 2010

First Babies Born In IVF Genetic Screening

Two women have given birth to healthy babies from eggs screened for genetic defects before being implanted in the womb, in a study of a new technique that could improve the success rate of in-vitro fertilization.

Twin girls born in Germany in June and a boy born in Italy in September are the first deliveries in a pilot study of a technique called comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) by microarray, European scientists said on Friday.

The technique is a new way of screening eggs and embryos for genetic defects to increase the odds a woman achieves a healthy pregnancy from in-vitro fertilization (IVF), when eggs are fertilized with sperm in a lab dish and implanted into her womb.

The births were part of a "proof of principle" analysis on whether this method of screening of oocytes, or egg cells, and embryos before transfer in IVF can help to increase birth rates.

"We have learnt from more than 30 years of IVF that many of the embryos we transfer have chromosome abnormalities," Luca Gianaroli, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and one of the scientists who worked on the study, said in a statement.

Gianaroli said two out of every three embryos implanted by doctors into a woman's womb during IVF fail to develop into a pregnancy, often because of these abnormalities.

"The whole world of IVF has been trying to find an effective way of screening for these abnormalities for more than a decade," Gianaroli said. "Now we have a new technology...and our hopes are that this will finally provide a reliable means of assessing the chromosomal status of the embryos we transfer."

The study was conducted in Bologna, Italy, and Bonn, Germany and designed and organized by the ESHRE to find out the clinical value of CGH.

Cristina Magli, an embryologist who worked on the study at the SISMER Center in Bologna said in a statement that all three babies and their mothers were "doing very well in terms of weight and overall developmental performance."

The scientists said the next step is for the pilot study to be upgraded to a large-scale international clinical trial which is expected to start in 2011.

If it proves successful in larger trials, experts say the new CGH screening is most likely to be used to help women over the age of 37 who undergo IVF, or those with a history of miscarriage or a record of unsuccessful IVF treatments.

All of these conditions are associated with a higher than average rate of embryonic chromosomal abnormality.

The technique is also likely to be important in countries such as Germany where interfering with or freezing of embryos is banned but analysis of oocyte or egg cells is allowed.

One in six couples worldwide experience some form of infertility problem at least once during their reproductive lifespan. EHRE says the current prevalence of infertility that lasts for at least 12 months is estimated to be an average of 9 percent worldwide for women aged 20-44.

US and Japanese scientists win Nobel prize for chemical

A US and two Japanese scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Wednesday for inventing new ways to bind carbon atoms with uses that range from fighting cancer to producing thin computer screens.

Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki shared the prize for the development of "palladium-catalysed cross-coupling", the Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

"Palladium-catalysed cross-coupling is used in research worldwide, as well as in the commercial production of, for example, pharmaceuticals and molecules used in the electronics industry," the committee said.

Such chemicals include one found in small quantities in a sea sponge, which scientists aim to use to fight cancer cells. Thanks to the scientists' chemical tool, researchers can now artificially produce this substance, called discodermolide.

Heck, now with the University of Delaware in the United States, developed his work on palladium as a catalyst in the 1960s and early 1970s, while the other two came through with their variants of the same process in the late 1970s.

Negishi, who is at Purdue University in the United States, said he was sound asleep when the academy telephoned him at 5 a.m. local time, but was extremely happy to be woken.

"This means a lot. I would be telling a lie if I wasn't thinking about this. I told someone that I began thinking -- dreaming -- about this prize half a century ago."

Suzuki, of Hokkaido University in northern Japan, was also pleased and said science was important for his country.

"I don't know how much longer I'll live, but I want to continue to work to help young people," he told a news conference in Hokkaido.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan welcomed the news his two countrymen had won the prize. "I hope this encourages more young people and children to say 'I'll work hard to win a Nobel prize'," he told reporters in Tokyo.

Joseph Francisco, president of the American Chemical Society and himself a professor at Purdue, said the three worked in parallel for years. "They have just played off of each other," Francisco said in a telephone interview.


"Professors Negishi and Suzuki and Professor Heck have developed new catalysts for doing specific types of reactions that connect new atoms and connect new functional groups to allow a broader array of new compounds to be made."

"It revolutionises the kinds of techniques that chemists have available to make new medicines and new plastics and new materials," he added.
The prize does not come as a surprise, Francisco said, because the work is so fundamental and significant.
The main problem the scientists overcame was how to make atoms of carbon, a very stable substance, more active and thus likely to link together to make bigger, more useful compounds.

Using palladium in the reaction meant fewer byproducts were made, giving a more precise and efficient tool for scientists.

BNP rejects ' free' transit

BNP has called upon the government to decide on transit for India after assessing its economic benefits. The opposition party has no qualms if it is beneficial to the country.

The opposition on Thursday also claimed that the government is vague on the matter of transit and trans-shipment. It called for a politically unanimous decision on the issue.

BNP leader M K Anwar, who is known for his political rhetoric against transit, clarified the opposition's stand on the matter at a press conference at the party's Gulshan office.

The clarification came two days after finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith gave a statement in support of transit, but only if Bangladesh charged fees for the facility. "Government's decision to allow free transit to Indian goods is unacceptable. It makes Bangladesh look like an Indian state, like West Bengal or Assam. This is yet another step towards selling out our sovereignty."

The finance minister on Tuesday said that Bangladesh could not charge VAT on transit. "Transhipment may have such duties. However, we may charge a fee for transit since we are allowing use of our territory." Citing examples from international laws and policies, ex-minister Anwar said, "European and ASEAN nations charge duties and service charges for transit of neighbouring countries' goods."

Anwar asked the government to conduct a research to judge costs and benefits of transit. "If the research shows that transit will be of use to the country, BNP will have no objections." When asked whether BNP had moved away from its earlier stand of opposing transit, Anwar replied in the negative.

"BNP has always said that it does not endorse anything that is against the interest of the country. Benefits of transit-transhipment and port usage to India have to be analysed. It is unacceptable that the government is taking steps without prior assessment."

Anwar accused the government for not paying any attention to obtaining the Tk 240 billion required to develop roads and infrastructure for the transit.

"The prime minister has been pressurised into the agreement while visiting India. Chittagong port usage, changing the route of the Asian Highway, all these are being done to protect Indian interests.

Mount Merapi erupts again over Indonesia

Pic-1:Massive molten lava and searing ash clouds shoot from the crater of Mount Merapi.
Thousands more people were evacuated from villages around Indonesia's Mount Merapi as The volcano erupted again, shooting ash and heat clouds high into the sky. The 2,914-meter-tall Merapi is a sacred landmark in Javanese culture whose name translates as "Mountain of Fire." Forty-four people have died.
Pic-2::Villagers ride on a truck as they leave their homes on a street covered by volcanic ash
A view of Mount Merapi from a passing airplane.

Monday, 1 November 2010

India: Land of many cell phones, fewer toilets

The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.

And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.

When U.S. President Barack Obama visits India Nov. 6, he will find a country of startlingly uneven development and perplexing disparities, where more people have cell phones than access to a toilet, according to the United Nations.

Businessman Mukesh Ambani, the world's fourth-richest person, is just finishing off a new $1 billion skyscraper-house in Mumbai with 27 floors and three helipads, touted as the most expensive home on earth. Yet farmers still live in shacks of mud and cow dung.

The cell phone frenzy bridges all worlds. Cell phones are sold amid the Calvin Klein and Clinique stores under the soaring atriums of India's new malls, and in the crowded markets of its working-class neighborhoods. Bare shops in the slums sell pre-paid cards for as little as 20 cents next to packets of chewing tobacco, while street hawkers peddle car chargers at traffic lights.

The spartan Beecham's in New Delhi's Connaught Place, one of the country's seemingly ubiquitous mobile phone dealers, is overrun with lunchtime customers of all classes looking for everything from a 35,000 rupee ($790) Blackberry Torch to a basic 1,150 rupee ($26) Nokia.

Most of the slumdwellers are ragpickers who sort through heaps of trash for scraps of plastic, glass, metal, even bones, anything they can sell to recyclers for cash. A pungent brew of ripe garbage and sewage blows through the trash-strewn streets, as choking smoke from wood fires rolls out the doorways of windowless huts. Children, half clothed in rags, play hopscotch next to a mysterious gray liquid that has gathered in stagnant puddles weeks after the last rainfall.

Just beside the shacks, men and women defecate in separate areas behind rolling hills of green foliage that have sprung up over the garbage. Children run through those hills, flying kites.

Khatija Sheikh, 20, splurges to use a pay toilet in another neighborhood 10 minutes away, but is never sure what condition it will be in.

"Sometimes it's clean, sometimes it's dirty. It's totally dependent on the owner's mood," says Sheikh, whose two young children use the street. Her home is less than five feet from an elevated outhouse built by a neighbor that drops sewage next to her walls.

Since there are no water pipes or wells here, residents are forced to rely on the water mafia for water for cooking, washing clothes, bathing and drinking. The neighborhood is rife with skin infections, tuberculosis and other ailments.

A large blue barrel outside a home is filled with murky brown water, tiny white worms and an aluminum drinking cup. To fill up two jerry cans costs between 40 ($.90) and 50 ($1.10) rupees a day, about one-third of the average family's earnings here.

"If the government would give us water, we would pay that money to the government," said Suresh Pache, 41, a motorized rickshaw driver.

'Saw 3D' Movie takes top box-office slice with $24.2M

Lionsgate's "Saw 3D," billed as the final installment in the series about Jigsaw's legacy of bloody terror, debuted as the Halloween weekend's No. 1 movie with $24.2 million, according to studio estimate Sunday.

That was $10 million more than the debut of last year's "Saw VI," the first dud in the annual horror franchise."Last year, a lot of people said, 'OK, that's it. Put a fork in it, it's done,'" said David spitez of distribution for Lionsgate. "The following week, we were all disappointed and thought, what can we do to reinvigorate the franchise? So we shot the movie in 3-D and said this is the final chapter."

It paid off, though "Saw 3D" still brought a modest return compared to earlier chapters in the "Saw" series, whose second, third, fourth and fifth movies all topped $30 million over opening weekend.

"Saw 3D" also had a soft debut compared to the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Paramount's "Paranormal Activity 2," a newer fright franchise that opened with $40.7 million. "Paranormal Activity 2" slipped to No. 2 this weekend, raising its total to $65.7 million.

Police block sex abuse survivors near Vatican

Victims of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests demonstrated near the Vatican on Sunday night, holding up placards demanding that the church punish those responsible for cover ups and do more to protect children.

Some 75 victims and their supporters from the United States and several European countries had wanted to march to the Vatican with candles but were blocked by police because they did not have a permit.

The candlelit protest was the first significant demonstration in the shadow of the Vatican by people who had been raped and molested by priests as children, and organizers said it would be repeated until the Holy See takes decisive action to ensure children are safe.

"Today what began as quiet whispers are whispers no more," organizer Gary Bergeron told the crowd, which included about 55 deaf Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona where dozens of students say they were sodomized by priests.

Organizers had tried to stage the march on Vatican soil but were forced to hold it nearby after the Holy See denied permission. It is standard Vatican practice to ban non-Vatican-sponsored events from St. Peter's Square.

Sunday's protest kicked off with the unexpected arrival of the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who said he had wanted to greet the organizers and had prepared a statement he hoped to read. He beat a hasty retreat to his office after a protester shouted "Shame, shame" in Italian.

Lombardi said later he left when he saw "it wasn't going to be easy" to meet with the organizers.

Bergeron met with Lombardi later inside his Vatican office and told him that abuse survivors had been "waiting a lifetime to be able to stand up and speak out."