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     Volume 4 Issue 7 | August 6, 2004 |

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News Notes

Khaleda's Hiatus in Thailand
The public may have been a little outraged by the Prime Minister's departure to Thailand while her country has been floundering in flood waters. But this visit may actually be of some benefit to Bangladesh.
The meeting between Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on the sidelines of BIMST-EC summit, resulted in the agreement of forming a joint taskforce to start an elevated expressway in Dhaka. A technical expert committee will be set up to speed up the process by constructing a road linking Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.
What's more, Thaksin after inquiring about the flood situation, has offered 1,000 metric tons of rice for the affected people. The Thai PM also said his country would buy 10 lakh jute bags from Bangladesh for distribution of rice among the flood affected. Thailand also offered to supply chickens on credit as part of an aid package.

Outlaws Threaten Barisal Journalists
Outlaws have sent letters to four journalists of Barisal with death threats. The letters signed "Azrail" were sent to Kazi Nassiruddin Babul, editor of Dainik Ajker Barta, Syed Dulal, editor of Dainik Ajker Paribartan, M A Matin, editor of Dainik Dakhinanchal and Akter Faruk Shahin, who is the news editor of Dainik Ajker Barta and Barisal correspondent of The Daily Star. The letters were all received through mail last week.
The sender expressed his extreme anger about the publication of reports concerning the outlawed Sarbohara Party in the letters. It threatened to blow up the journalists and their homes with explosives. The letters urged the targets to "consume sufficient food and get ready to die." The journalists lodged a general diary on July 28 with the Barisal Shadar Police Station and sought security from the administration while Barisal Press Club, the Barisal Reporters Unity and Barisal Journalist Union condemned the incident of sending death threats and demanded the culprits' punishment.

Hoodlums Drive Headmistress Out of Home
Local hoodlums forced the headmistress of the famed Khastogir Government Girls' High School in Barisal to take refuge in the school building. It was a denial on the part of the headmistress to take in students in the middle of the school year that spurred the local mastans to threaten the teacher of severe consequences. In a general diary with the Kotowali Thana, Setara Banu accused the mastans of pressuring her for admission of students.
On July 19, two of the mastans, who claimed to have belonged to the ruling party, came with the proposal of admission of two students, one in Class 7 and the other in 8. While they were sitting in the office of the headmistress, a third man called on the phone to threaten Setara Banu after she refused to flout the admission regulations. On the evening of that very day, the two who earlier visited the school office came to her house and threatened her, forcing her to take shelter in a neighbour's house. The day after the two mastans re-emerged, and this time it was again the intervention of the neighbours that saved the headmistress. It was on July 20 that Setara Banu left her house thinking that the school would be a safer place than her house.
She told a Prothom Alo newsman that a gang has been active in the town who are using their political connections to pressurise the authorities of the few famed schools to take in candidates of their choice. She stressed that it is a practice with clear mercenary motives by an organised ring that is making the situation worse day by day.
Meanwhile, the OC of Kotowali Thana told a reporter that, while police are having a hard time bringing to the book the well-known criminals, why pursue the more obscure names?

Bangladesh Among Top Finishers in US Visa Lottery
Bangladesh, Nigeria, Poland and Ethiopia were the top finishers in the US visa lottery, which granted 50,000 permanent residence visas, or "green cards", allowing recipients to live and work in the United States, the US State Department said Thursday.
The "diversity lottery", held each year under the US Immigration and Nationality Act, distributes the visas to residents of countries which have low immigration rates to the United States.
Applicants were selected at random from a total of some 9.5 million applications submitted from November 1 to December 30, 2003, said the State Department.
Bangladesh got 7,404 visas, Nigeria 6,725, Poland 6,211 and Ethiopia 6,060.
Countries with heavy immigration to the United States, including Canada, China (minus Hong Kong and Taiwan), Colombia, Pakistan, The Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Britain (minus Northern Ireland) and Vietnam, were excluded from the lottery.

Green Card Lottery Entries Drop
There have been less than half the usual number of entries for the green card lottery this year, and immigrants' advocates blame a new rule requiring hopefuls for the permanent resident cards to apply by computer.
As the December 30 deadline nears, the government has received 5 million applications, compared with as many as 13 million in previous years, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Government officials say the new computer-only policy has prevented fraud and duplicate applications, resulting in the lower number of entries.
But advocates argue that potential applicants do not have access to the computers, scanners and Internet connections needed to enter. They say some are afraid of having their identities in a computer database, especially if they are living in the United States illegally.
"The information is not being collected to look for people to deport," Stuart Patt, a State Department spokesman, told the Times. "It's not being done as a tool for enforcement, it's being done for administrative improvement."
The newspaper said that when pressed, Patt added, "Would we make that information available if Homeland Security would make the request? I'm not saying we would deny it."
Only people from countries that have sent relatively few numbers of immigrants in the past five years can apply for the lottery, which gives invitations to apply for a visa to about 110,000 winners. About half are deemed unqualified or do not complete the process in time.

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