[Bangla Daily Star] Most businesspeople in the country are forced to pay a section of politicians for the sake of their lives and businesses, a top business leader has said.
"Most politicians feed on our money. We pay this money for our existence. We don't give it willingly," AK Azad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said yesterday.
According to him, it is the case now as it had been in the past.
Without naming any, Azad said: "We cannot respect politicians as we see one face of them before their becoming politicians and ministers and another face afterwards."
The top business leader was speaking at a seminar titled "Entrepreneurship: What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur" at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.
Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre, a platform of youths, organised the three-day event with a theme "Leading Bangladesh into the future: a journey of exploration."
Azad said the country's GDP growth would have increased by 2 percentage points if the politicians were honest.
Annisul Huq, former president of FBCCI and Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, echoed Azad's view, saying the society has become such a place where the business community has to "buy their own protection".
"You've to pay ransom to the influential people if you want to be an influential person. This is an open secret now," said Annisul.
He was also of the same view as Azad's that the young generation should come forward to cleanse the society.
Speaking on the state of media, Azad said there were two groups that ran the country's media organizations.
"While one section runs media outlets for raising voices against sufferings of the common people, the other group does it only to protect its businesses," he added.
The second group of people have thousands of acres of land, and the state machinery helps them grab more, alleged Azad, who is also the publisher of Bangla daily Samakal.
Geeteara Safiya Choudhury, chairman of Adcomm Ltd, and Salahuddin Kasem Khan, managing director of AK Khan & Company Ltd, also spoke on the occasion.
British policemen are all set to receive special training following a rise in witchcraft murders and attacks on children by their families and loved-ones across the country.
Witchcraft abuse and female genital mutilation are most often carried out by the religious and superstitious in Britain's immigrant communities.
The Metropolitan police have admitted its officers are rarely able to spot the signs that a youngster is in danger despite dealing with 81 sorcery cases in the last decade, the Daily Mail reported.
Its religious violence unit will now offer all the staff training in a pilot scheme that could be rolled out across the country following a spate of high profile cases.
Last month a woman was jailed for life for torturing her teenage brother to death after accusing him of witchcraft.
Magalie Bamu and her boyfriend Eric Bikubi inflicted over 130 injuries on 15-year-old Kristy Bamu over the course of a horrific four-day attack in Newham, east London.
"We're very well aware that usually the first person on scene is going to be the young cop with two or three years' service who probably has no understanding of this whatsoever," The Independent quoted Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, head of the Metropolitan Police's Religious Violence Unit as saying.
"We're not na´ve enough to think this is just happening in London. It is happening in Birmingham, it's happening in Leeds, Manchester and other big cities across the country."
Following this, a new booklet is to be handed to all officers and new recruits will get extra training. The paperwork will spell out language they should listen for when they enter homes and how to judge whether any child is at risk.
This summer the government will also send out similar advice to GPs, hospitals and schools to enable them to better spot the symptoms.
I wonder if they'll actually go through with this or are just planning to leverage something with it.
In a shift of U.S. policy, the White House said Friday that Taiwan does have a legitimate need for new fighter planes to address a growing gap with the Chinese military and pledged to sell Taiwan an "undetermined number" new U.S.-made planes.
The new White House position could spark a new crisis in the U.S.-China relationship on the very same day that blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng is rumored to have fled his house arrest to seek asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are also slated to visit China May 3 and 4 to hold the fourth round of the U.S. China Economic and Security Dialogue.
The White House policy shift was codified in a letter sent to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Friday as part of a deal to get the Texas senator to release his hold on the confirmation of Mark Lippert, a close confidant of President Barack Obama whose nomination to become the top Pentagon official for Asia has been held up since October over the issue of selling F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan.
"We are mindful of and share your concerns about Taiwan's growing shortfall in fighter aircraft as the F-5s are retired from service and notwithstanding the upgrade of the F-16A/Bs. We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490. We are committed to assisting Taiwan in addressing the disparity in numbers of aircraft through our work with Taiwan's defense ministry on its development of a comprehensive defense strategy vis-a-vis China," Robert Nabors, director of the White House office of legislative affairs, wrote in a letter today to Cornyn.
"This work will be a high priority for a new Assistant Secretary of Defense in his dialogue on force transformation with his Taiwan counterparts. The Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the inter-agency and the Congress, will play a lead role as the Administration decides on a near-term course of action on how to address Taiwan's fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new U.S.-made fighter aircraft."
The White House does not explicitly promise to sell Taiwan new F-16 fighter jets, as Cornyn wants, promising only to give the matter "serious consideration." But it does pledge an "underdetermined number" of new aircraft and the White House promised that Lippert would use the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Review Talks to conduct a full review of Taiwan's long-term defense strategy.
"Our decisions will continue to be based on an assessment of Taiwan's needs, taking into account what is needed to support Taiwan's overall defense strategy vis-a-vis China," the letter stated.
Cornyn praised the letter in a statement.
"I commend the Administration for recognizing that our friend and ally Taiwan's air force is woefully undersized and outgunned by Communist China, and their inability to adequately defend themselves poses a threat not just to their own security, but to that of the United States," he said. "I look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Administration and Taiwan as we move forward in this joint effort to ensure Taiwan has the new American-made fighter jets it needs to defend itself."
F-16 fighter planes are largely manufactured in Cornyn's home state of Texas and assembled by Lockheed Martin of Fort Worth.
Arms sales to Taiwan, especially offensive arms like F-16s, are a major irritant in the U.S.-China relationship, as China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and a core interest. The United States has maintained a balance between arming Taiwan and trying to avoid friction with China over the issue since the Taiwan Relations Act was signed in 1979.
Last October, the Obama administration decided to sell Taiwan upgrade packages for its aging fleet of F-16 A/B model planes but the administration never said whether it would sell Taiwan the newer, more advanced planes, claiming it was still under consideration.
At Lippert's November confirmation hearing, Cornyn pressed the nominee on the issue (watch the video here) and then introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill that sought to force the administration to sell Taiwan new F-16s. That amendment was voted down in the Senate.
Cornyn then wrote a letter threatening to hold the Lippert nomination unless he gets some satisfaction on the issue.
"I remain disappointed by your de facto denial of Taiwan's request to purchase 66 new F-16 C/D fighter aircraft, and I believe it sends a damaging message to nations in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond that the U.S. is willing to abandon our friends in the face of Communist China's intimidation tactics," Cornyn wrote.
In the administration's Feb. 16 response to Cornyn, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller wrote, "We believe the F-16 A/B upgrade effectively meets Taiwan's current needs." Today's letter changes that analysis.
The Lippert hold is not the first time Cornyn has used his power to hold nominees to press for selling F-16s to Taiwan. Last July, Cornyn held up the nomination of Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to make a decision on selling the fighter plane to Taiwan.
Lippert's nomination had also been stalled by an objection by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who wanted details on Lippert's reported feud with former National Security Advisor Jim Jones. Lippert was confirmed by the Senate late Thursday evening.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn has accused political allies of Nicolas Sarkozy of orchestrating the New York maid assault scandal that brought his bid for the French presidency crashing down.
Always someone else's fault...
The former International Monetary Fund chief said figures close to the French president and his ruling UMP party choreographed the fallout of the scandal, following accusations he assaulted Nafissatou Diallo.
"Bitch set me up..."
He said that while he did not believe his encounter with the Sofitel housekeeper was a set-up, he believes his rapid arrest on May 14 and the highly public criminal investigation that ended his presidential chances had been "shaped by those with a political agenda".
The former favourite to win the French presidential elections, which enters its second round on May 6, said of the scandal that "more was involved here than mere coincidence".
In an interview with an American investigative journalist for the Guardian, Mr Strauss-Kahn, 63, alleged that French intelligence had been eavesdropping on him weeks before he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting Miss Diallo. He accused agents linked to Mr Sarkozy of listening in to his phone calls and making sure Miss Diallo complained to the New York police, leading to an explosive international scandal.
Spain's sickly economy faces a "crisis of huge proportions", a minister said on Friday, as unemployment hit its highest level in almost two decades and Standard and Poor's downgraded the government's debt by two notches.
Unemployment shot up to 24 percent in the first quarter, one of the worst jobless figures in the developed world. Retail sales slumped for the twenty-first consecutive month as a recession cuts into consumer spending.
Standard and Poor's cited risks of an increase in bad loans at Spanish banks and called on Europe to take action to encourage growth.
The downgrade spooked financial markets, raising the interest rate fellow euro zone struggler Italy was forced to pay to sell 10-year bonds at auction. The yield was its highest since January as investors worried about the economic outlook in the bloc's indebted states.
As Italy attempts to chip away at its mountainous public debt, the government's austerity drive has found a new target -- the armed forces. Long considered a hallowed institution that was immune from reform, the top-heavy army, navy and air force now face swingeing cuts in budgets and manpower.
The number of generals and admirals will be cut by a third, one in five colonels will be axed and the armed forces overall will be reduced from 183,000 to 150,000. Civilian staff will be reduced from 30,000 to 20,000.
Italy is one of the largest European contributors to the Nato-led force in Afghanistan and also has peacekeepers deployed in Kosovo and Lebanon.
The cuts were announced to parliament by the defence minister, Giampaolo Di Paola, who is an admiral in the navy and a former military chief of staff.
It is highly unusual for Italian defence ministers to be serving officers, but Di Paola was appointed as part of an unelected technocrat government which replaced the conservative coalition of Silvio Berlusconi in November, amid market jitters over Italy's massive debt.
The cuts were of "fundamental importance" and needed the widest political support, the minister told parliament in Rome. They are part of a far-reaching defence spending review, with the military budget for this year slashed by nearly a third.
[Bangla Daily Star] Pakistain's prime minister refused to step down ...Hell no! The money's too good!... yesterday as he made a defiant appearance in parliament a day after his conviction over a corruption investigation into the president.
Just when you think Pakistan has become as surreal as is possible within the limits of reality, they somehow manage to break through to a new limit.
Yousuf Raza Gilani ... Pakistain's erstwhile current prime minister, whose occasional feats of mental gymnastics can be awe-inspiring ... faced opposition calls to quit after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt for refusing to write to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen a multi-million-dollar graft probe into President Asif Ali President Ten Percent Zardari ... sticky-fingered husband of the late Benazir Bhutto ...
His lawyer has said he will appeal against the verdict, which made him the first sitting premier in Pakistain's history to be convicted, and Gilani said only parliament had the authority to remove him from office.
"There is no law to remove an elected prime minister, parliament is the supreme authority and only this parliament has the authority to remove me," he said.
Nawaz Sharif ... served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister, heads the Pakistain Moslem League (Nawaz). Noted for his spectacular corruption, the 1998 Pak nuclear test, border war with India, and for being tossed by General Musharraf... , the head of the main opposition Pakistain Mohammedan League (Nawaz) said Thursday that Gilani should quit to avoid pushing the country into "further crisis".
"I am an elected prime minister, representing 180 million people. How can any body order an elected prime minister to go home?" Gilani said.
"Only the speaker of the house, who is the custodian of this house, has the authority to decide."
The conviction opened the way for proceedings to remove him as a politician, but addressing the speaker, Gilani said: "I will step down only if you de-notify me. I will accept if this parliament disqualify me."
Though it looks unlikely to bring down the coalition government led by Gilani's Pakistain People's Party (PPP), Thursday's ruling is likely to cause fresh uncertainty in a country already struggling with Islamist militancy and economic woes.
Legal experts say the process to remove Gilani from office, which involves the speaker referring the matter to the Election Commission, could drag on for months.
Gilani urged the speaker, who is a PPP member, to apply her "own mind" and "own legal assessment" on the case and said his conscience was clear over the Swiss letter.
The Zardari allegations date back to the 1990s when he and his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto ... 11th Prime Minister of Pakistain in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996. She was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of the Pakistain People's Party, who was murdered at the instigation of General Ayub Khan. She was murdered in her turn by person or persons unknown while campaigning in late 2007. Suspects include, to note just a few, Baitullah Mehsud, General Pervez Musharraf, the ISI, al-Qaeda in Pakistain, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who shows remarkably little curiosity about who done her in... , are accused of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million in bribes from companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
Gilani has always insisted Zardari has full immunity as head of state and last month said that writing to the Swiss would be a violation of the constitution.
The case has been highly politically charged, with members of the government accusing judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistain to complete an elected term.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.