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     Volume 6 Issue 3 | January 26, 2007 |

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News Notes

The General in his Labyrinth
Seventeen years after his ouster in a mass upsurge deposed military dictator HM Ershad is trying hard to assert a new identity in Bangladeshi politics; the seventy plus dictator, who has served prison sentences for corruption, now talks about democracy and rule of law. Though he has apologised publicly for his demonic past, some old habits, it seems, die hard.
From the all-powerful general that he once has been Ershad has turned into a mere pawn in local politics; whenever the major political parties need his support, they try to lure him with inducements, and the proverbial stick is used in instances when the mule refuses to budge. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) opted for the latter when Ershad and his party had declined an offer of joining the beleaguered Four-Party Alliance. Interestingly, this time round, according to a newspaper report, both the BNP and the Awami League leaderships have tried to buy Ershad's support; and like a sly businessman he has accepted the offer that yields the highest on maturity.
When Prothom Alo a leading daily ran this story, Ershad was understandably furious. His cronies have urged the army to close down the daily. The question that this demand, however ludicrous it is, raises is: Why the Jatya Party leaders have begged the military to ban a popular newspaper while a constitutionally mandated government is in power? We come across double irony here; everyone knows it for a fact that Ershad is a corrupt politician, and the government, using the army, is supposed to start launching a drive against politicians and businesspersons like him.
Though the deposed despot believes he is having a new lease of life, the situation will turn grave for him if his party, after the hype, does not fare well in the next election. He may end up in the prison, if not in the dustbin of history, where he has always been.

Milk a Health Hazard!
The advertisements on TV might make you think your child is getting the best nutrition from your desired brand of powdered milk but according to a research by Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) that couldn't be further from the truth.
BCSIR has found 100 percent pasteurised milk and 86 percent powdered milk available in the markets are below the standard set by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI). Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) said the information was available when the Institute of Food Science and Technology of BCSIR examined the specimens of milk powder of 15 brands and pasteurised milk of three brands, which were collected from different city markets.
CAB Treasurer Khalilur Rahman Sajal said the reasons for the below standard of this major share of the marketed milk of different brands are different ingredients of milk, including lactic acid, fat, protein and moisture, are either less or more than that set by BSTI.
According to Bangladesh Specifications (BDS), the amount of lactic acid in powdered milk should not be more than 1 percent, but it was found more than that in powdered milk of 13 brands, while milk fat that should be at least 26 percent was found less than that in milk of six brands.
On the other hand, the amount of total milk solids that should be at least 96 percent was found less than that in 10 brands of milk, while the protein that should be at least 23 to 27 percent in milk was found less than that in milk of three brands.
It is also possible that milk is sold even after the dates of expiry are over, he said, suggesting that the dates of production and expiry must be printed on the milk packets so that consumers can check them before buying.
According to CAB there are many milk companies, which are not even registered with BSTI, but are selling products in the market.
This is frightening news, especially for children and the elderly for whom milk is the main source of their nutrition.

Fuel crisis
For the past few months, CNG-run vehicle owners have been facing a serious crisis of gas shortage in the country. In fact, a shortage of gas supply has also affected homes where supply of cooking gas is stopped for a few hours every day. This may be because of the country's first offshore gas field Sangu, one of the costliest of all fields, which is now facing a premature rapid depletion with its daily production already almost halved.
Cairn, the gas field's British operator, however, is trying its best to increase the production by drilling the 10th well at the site and repairing two of the existing nine wells. Where the company has already invested $555.95 million in the field till 2005, a $20 million will be added to the expenses now. By repairing two troubled wells, Cairn hopes to raise production up to 125 mmcfd by (million cubic feet per day) the end of this month. But Petrobangla believes that it might go up to 110 mmcfd at best.
According to Petrobangla and Cairn, it is natural that a gas field's production would gradually decrease over the years but the present state is somewhat surprising. An energy ministry high official said many of the problems of Sangu field could have been avoided if Petrobangla had allowed Cairn to conduct a three-dimensional (3-D) seismic survey. Cairn's proposal to do one such survey was refused a few years back. However, a Petrobangla official said that they did not take most of the operational decisions on Sangu, based on the original appraisal report on the field.

The Anti-crime Crusade

A relative takes the wailing daughter of BNP leader Abdul Kader Milon from Chittagong Medical College Hospital after doctors declared Milon dead. Milon died allegedly in army custody.

The army's crusade to free the country of terrorists has so far resulted in five deaths (till Jan 21). In the latest joint raids across the country, law enforcers seized 20 firearms, 27 other weapons, 16 bullets and five crackers. On January 21 alone, 2,265 people were arrested across the country, including 24 fugitive convicts, while 1,074 others are now facing arrest warrants. Of the five dead, three died while in army custody. Abdul Kader Milon was a former joint secretary of Chittagong BNP and a former ward commissioner. Army personnel held him at a restaurant he owns in the port city. The next morning, he had to be taken to Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) where the doctor on duty declared him dead. Abdul Kuddus, the victim's brother, told reporters that his brother's body had marks of multiple injuries when it was brought to the hospital. According to the army, Milon was injured falling from a hill when a team of army and police took him to one of his hideouts after the arrest. Milon was accused in several cases. The second victim, Nayan Kazi was a Jubo Dal activist and an ex-sepoy in Barisal. He apparently fell sick during interrogation and was rushed to the upazila health centre where he died an hour later. Nayan's family claimed that he died due to torture in custody. Brother of BNP municipal unit joint secretary Firoz Kazi, Nayan was a listed criminal and stood accused of extortion, torture and attacks on journalists. Yet another victim of army torture was Rubel. When his family went to the army camp to find him, he had already been taken to the local hospital where he died. The last two victims apparently died while trying to flee during the raids. Mohammad Shafique, joint convenor of Shariatpur municipality unit of Jubo League sustained critical injuries as he jumped out of the army van following his arrest and hit a tree. He later died at Damudia Hospital. Zakir Hossain, an employee of Bijoy Nagar Residential Hotel in Dhaka, jumped off the third of the five-storied hotel during an army drive in the city's Kakrail area. He later died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.


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