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     Volume 7 Issue 20 | May 16, 2008 |

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The Food Crisis
It is the biggest fear of all, the fear of hunger that is gripping the entire world, especially the developing world and threatening to rock whatever little food security it had previously achieved. The number of food riots in many parts of the world is increasing, a forewarning of the dire situation we may be headed for unless countries take immediate action. The whole complicated array of reasons behind the food crisis includes a total reduction in supply because of crop failures, lack of support in the agricultural sector in developing countries and too much (in the form of subsidies) in food-producing developed countries, diversion of crops to produce ethanol instead of food, hoarding of rice stocks by importing countries, rise in petroleum prices, depreciating dollar against the euro and so on.
According to C. Peter Timmer, a visiting professor with the Program on Food Security and Environment, Stanford University, India, Thailand and Vietnam the three largest exporters to the world rice market are all more-or-less withdrawn from the market, and importers such as the Philippines and a number of countries in Africa are increasingly desperate to lock in supplies. Timmer suggests in an article published in The Daily Star, that there is a need for a high-level forum to get all countries to agree to keep their borders open to rice imports and exports, even in times of crisis.
The article cites Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank who has underlined the potentially serious consequences of sustained high food prices which includes the possibility of 100 million individuals being pushed below the poverty line, thus wiping out seven years of gains against poverty.
Timmer concludes "unless major exporters and importing countries can arrive at an agreement to cool the hoarding and speculative binge, the prospect is that high food prices, perhaps near current levels, will be a market reality for many years".

Barring War Criminals
Finally, the Chief Adviser announces the holding of the long-stalled ninth parliamentary election in the third week of December this year. On the same day, in a bid to permanently disqualify war criminals from contesting any election, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda said that the commission would collect records of war criminals' trials under the now defunct collaborators act. According to the EC's proposal, an individual will be permanently barred from contesting in the parliamentary elections if that person was convicted of war crimes by any national or international tribunal. This is to be proposed for the local government elections as well. This time, a contesting individual will have to submit an affidavit of personal information of eight categories including one for criminal cases filed against that person, and the verdicts in those. Officers in charge of the recruiting will need the war crimes trial records to scrutinise the nomination papers. Before anything else, it is important to find out if the candidate has hidden or suppressed information about war crimes cases filed against him or her. And, if proven guilty of hiding such information, even after the person is elected to an office, that election will be cancelled.
This step, if followed through, may significantly help to filter out war criminals who may appear as candidates.

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