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     Volume 6 Issue 12| March 30, 2007 |

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News Notes

Degrees of freedom
Thirty-seven years after the Pakistani occupation forces launched a dastardly act on innocent unarmed civilians that triggered an armed uprising of the Bangalis, 37-years after we achieved Independence, freedom--both economic and political--remains a far cry for most Bangladeshis. The country is yet to liberate its own citizens from the shackles of poverty and economic deprivation, literacy rate is an exiguous 43.1 percent, so much so for a nation that once fought to uphold its right to language against the might of the Pakistanis.
Corruption is also gnawing at the social and economic fabric of the country. More than three decades after getting independence the country has not yet been able to establish an independent judiciary, let alone an election commission free from the manipulation of the ever-pervasive politicisation that we have been witnessing in the last couple of years. The restoration of democracy--our greatest achievement since the Liberation war-- is being also tarnished by squabbling and greed of some politicians. They, along with some depraved bureaucrats have given birth to a culture of unabated corruption and shameless nepotism, a society where belonging to a certain political clique will earn you a million.
In the midst of this, a piece of good news, like a breeze of fresh air, has reached ordinary Bangladeshis: team Bangladesh have made its way into the Super Eight of the Cricket World Cup, overwhelmingly beating India and Bermuda. What the country can take pride in is the fact that almost all of the members of the team are in their twenties. Like cricket, the country's future lies in creating young leadership; it is time for the old to understand this.

Dark Shadow on the World Cup
Just when the adrenaline started flowing through cricket lovers around the world, shocking news from the World Cup camp put a dent on the cheerful tournament celebrations. On March 18, 2007 just after the Pakistan team lost to a comparatively weaker team Ireland and consequently lost a place in the Super 8s, Bob Woolmer, the coach of the Pakistani side was found dead in his hotel room. Although initially it was assumed to be a heart attack, further investigations revealed foul play.
There were claims that the 58-year-old had scratches on his neck and blood on his cheek inconsistent with a heart attack or diabetic collapse. The immediate suspicion was that a "betting mafia" had been responsible for Woolmer's murder. The police interviewed the Pakistani players and the hotel guests the following morning. The Pakistan team gave DNA samples on Friday but the team management stressed this was routine in such an inquiry. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman said none of its players were suspects. Other teams had also been at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston where Woolmer was murdered were also questioned.

Bird Flu Mania
More and more chickens from poultry farms are being culled due to the recent outbreak of bird flu or Avian Influenza virus, first detected last week in the Phoenix Poultry Farm located in Savar. When 5,000 fowls died in the farm officials sent two dead chickens to the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute and also to the National Institute of Animal Health in Bangkok for confirmation of the cause of death. The results showed that the chickens were infected with the virus.
In a meeting chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed the government outlined several preventive measures. These measures entail destroying poultry birds in the infected areas; restricting the movement of poultry birds within 10-kilometre radius of the affected area; chemo-profiling of people who handle the birds; training doctors to handle situations related to the bird flu virus; and controlling and monitoring cells in the health and fisheries and livestock ministries.
Since the government has taken these measures in order to protect people from being infected with the bird flu, infected chickens have been culled from poultry farms all over the country. For example, a poultry farm in the Jirani area of Gazipur, which has now been declared an infected area for three months by the Bangladesh Animal Diseases Law 2005, has culled over 3,000 chickens, 962 of which were chicks and destroyed about 31,000 eggs. Another poultry farm in Gazipur culled 3,000 chickens. A total of 4,000 chickens were collectively culled from three different farms in Jamalpur and about 2,000 were culled in Naraynganj.
Meanwhile it is almost inevitable that Bangladesh's poultry industry is going to be hit hard as a result of the bird flu outbreak, according to the leaders of World Poultry Science Association Bangladesh Branch (WPSA BB). This is bad news for poultry growers that had recently started exporting poultry products to some Middle Eastern countries, the north-eastern region of India and Nepal.
Previously Bangladesh's reputation being free from the bird flu virus had allowed a few entrepreneurs to tap into new poultry markets that included Europe; These organisations that had provided loans to such entrepreneurs may now face a recovery crisis when their creditors fail to pay the installments because of failed businesses. It is estimated that around 10 million people are directly involved in the poultry sector.
There are 7,135 farms for layer birds and 5,336 farms for broiler chickens in five upazillas in Gazipur. The total number of broiler and layer birds is more than 2.71 crore. The domestic market is also suffering. The panic regarding bird flu is spreading among customers bringing down the prices of broilers eggs and broiler chickens.

Observing SAARC
If the reader remembers, the people of Dhaka had a atrange experience last year, with the Saarc summit which had taken place in the country. Not only was it cancelled twice after weeks of preparations, the whole city was put under special security and literally closed down for the summit. There was more to the circus of course that many of us think back upon fondly.
It is time for the 14th Saarc summit to take place, in New Delhi this year. For the very first time in the history of Saarc, the five observers, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the European Union will attend all the meetings of the summit in New Delhi on April 3-4 when Bangladesh hands over the Saarc chairmanship to India, where Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed will lead the Bangladesh delegation. The observer have been asked to deliver a four-minute speech in presence of the heads of state and government at the inaugural function of the summit on April 3.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Song Min-soon, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher and the European Union's Deputy Director-General of External Affairs for Asia and Latin America Herve Jouanjean will attend as well as address the summit.
Last year at the 13th Saarc summit held in Dhaka, amongst many of the new ideas and issues that were introduced and approached, China and Japan were approved as observers while the South Asian leaders also decided to include Afghanistan as the eighth member of the grouping.

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