Echo

First or last solution?  

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Bangladesh blogger reports that First Solution, a London based finance company has been accused of unethical business standards by a wide section of the British Bangladeshi Community. It cashed on the half a million strong British Bangladeshi community, who relied on it for sending money home or credit solutions.

Accusations and speculations against this company suggest, it may have encountered huge-losses in speculative currency trading.
Hope the accused company does not turn out to be the last solution for many.

Update: Its official. The New Nation reports:
First Solution Money Transfer, a London-based firm, owned by Fazal Mahmud, former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia’s political secretary Mosaddak Ali Falu’s business partner, has misappropriated remittances worth Tk 123 crore recently.
Update II: First Solution has a press release saying they were intentionally lynched by their competitor Bangla TV. One must say Bangla TV's coverage of the news seem far from fair journalism as they published personal informations before any police investigation. Please check the interesting discussions and updates in Drishtipat blog. A commenter predicts what happened and it sounds realistic:
It is common knowledge that Dr. Fazal Mahmood, Mr. Mahi and Channel S had a close relationship with Falu and gang. Channel S has been representing NTV in the UK for quite sometime.

It is possible that Falu was using First solution to launder money from Bangladesh to the UK and was paying higher than official rates in Takas back home.

FS was depositing UK Sterlings into Falu nominated UK accounts and Falu was supplying takas in Bangladesh. Falu didn’t mind paying a premium as he had endless supply of takas.

But everything changed with Falu’s arrest. The taka supply dried up and FS was not able to deliver money at the higher rate which it promised to it’s customers.
Thrilling stuff!

Update III: First Solutions protester group has called a protest rally tomorrow Sunday 8th July 2007) at Altab Ali Park, White Chapel Road, opposite Brick Lane, London. Bangla TV airs protests against First Solutions by Bangladeshi diaspora in England and in Italy.

Update IV: Thanks to a commenter (AB) we have the link of Last Solution blog, which was started by a person who lost money on First Solution. This blog has the latest news, video and information on First Solution.

Nuclear dreams  

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In an interesting development Bangladesh's caretaker government has acknowledged that it wants to build a nuclear power plant to tackle its electricity shortages. There is already an offer from South Korea to finance 60% of the project and The International Atomic Energy Commission, the global nuclear watchdog has approved it (report).

Blogger Shahzaman Mazumder says no to the move because it will be dangerous for Bangladesh for two main reasons:

1. Problems in disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste.
2. Bangladesh is the most densely populated place in the world and thus any nuclear disaster will claim scores of lives.

There is also a political aspect. Bangladesh is constantly being labeled by many quarters as a fundamentalist country (which in fact not). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El Baradei had claimed Bangladesh (among 30 other countries) could have the technology to develop nuclear bomb "in a very short time". This was particularly insane from an international organization like IAEA because Bangladesh has only one 20 year old research reactor and a neutron generator for research purposes and a 42 year old Graff accelerator (more). It is yet to have any Nuclear power plant. So we can imagine what the IAEA will think if Bangladesh ever manages a Nuclear power plant.

I think the government should think logically about all outcomes of the decision before implementing such initiatives.

Yellow Journalism: The state of Bangladeshi News papers  

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Ragib Hasan reports that Bangla Newspaper "The Daily Dinkal" photoshoped a picture to show that a huge crowd gathered at Ziaur Rahman's (BNP's founder and late President of Bangladesh) shrine. Please note the circles in the picture he posted which clearly shows the forgery. Here is the original article which boasts that millions of people did pay homage to him on that day.

How blogs can be used...  

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Zo people (Burma) or Zou people (India) are an indigenous tribe of Tibeto-Burman race living mainly in parts of Burma, India, Bangladesh and the world. In Bangladesh they are known as Lushai.

Zo Aw, a monthly magazine from Guwahati, Assam, India has been trying to promote news the voices of the Zo people since the early 1980s. Now Zo Aw publications have a blog and are urging to start using blogs to make it a toll for integration of the Zo people. Here is the blogger Carey Suante's views:

"One of the main problems of integration of Zo people is the lack of communication. Lack of communication creates lack of understanding and suspicion between two villages, between two tribes, between two towns, between two churches etc. We live in three different countries excluding hundreds in Europe and the Americas and in different states within the same country. So blog is our most viable and affordable option to bridging the gaps that has been going on for decades and even centuries. Through blogs we can post informations about our own villages, towns, communities and churches. We can post news from our own localities and receive feedbacks from Zo people living around the world.

Imagine if there is a blog for each village, town, locality, church etc from Zo inhabited areas in India, Burma and Bangladesh and also from other countries. There will be more interaction and understanding of each other and thus creating mutual respect and empathy among the Zo people. We will be able to find useful informations about any village, person or event online. Watch Zo singers and movies and download songs and videos and documents.

One may ask is it possible for villages where there are no internet services or where people have never even seen a computer. My answer is still yes. I am almost sure that there is a person living in some town or city with internet connection who originally comes from a village where there is no such facilities. This person can sure put up a blog with his or her village's name and post everything that he knows about his village. He can get updates or news from his friends or family in the village and post it on to the blog where Zo people around the world can see and read them. This is also true for every church, community, organisations that we have, every shop or business enterprise and hotel owners and so on and so forth. There are limitless possibilities!

What we are creating is a virtual Zoland where we live and interact as a nation. This I am sure can transform our thoughts and views of each other and give us opportunity to think as a people. People doing research and studies on any Zo related subjects would then be able to get their information easily from anywhere and everywhere in the world."
Wow! What an interesting idea! More power to Blogs. I hope Carey becomes successful as it is really possible.

"How effectively a society is able to cope with the challenges it faces depend largely on its culture."
Shahzaman Mazumder tries to find the cultural roots of Bangladesh and provides a good analysis on the Bangladeshis:
"Mostly fishermen, weavers, potters, and small farmers inhibited the territory that is today called Bangladesh, an extremely fertile delta. The many rivers and even more tributaries, marshes, and canals isolated communities and never allowed large indigenous political organization.

This isolation among apparently nearby communities is evident from the various dialects of Bangla. The fertile soil that allowed relatively easy living conditions was also an effective barrier assisting isolation-the people had no incentive to venture out."
He then carries on to discuss the psychological traits of the Bangladeshis which include small horizon of thinking, non-aggressive, intellectual, social and submissive. The isolation in small communities had never helped develop complex institutions inside the region. Many Bangladeshi institutions, which are emulated from the West fail as they ignore these cultural properties and thus fail to succeed.

Being a populous country and limited resources are also the main drawbacks of the country. Utsay Dot Net lists the challenges average Bangladeshis face which definitely put them up for a record setting. And they still survive:
Can’t figure it out? Well this is a record we already hold, each and every one of us. The fact that we still survive and the population manages to grow everyday even though we consume so many toxic materials in our food everyday is a miracle. No other race of people can claim to stomach so many different types of poison and still live to tell about it. We rule…
Many Bangladeshis had the notion of looking down upon anything Bangladeshi. Dhaka explains:
When I was young (and it is quite far off and not as recent as I like to pretend), there was this distinct feeling in the air that "Made in Bangladesh" was somehow not good enough. Given two equally good choices between a Deshi and a bideshi (foreign) product, most of my generation would choose the bideshi one. Most of the time of course, we were given a choice between a far superior foreign product and a very mediocre MIB (Made in Bangladesh) product.
But now Bangladesh is pushing forward overcoming the hurdles and growing in confidence. From garments industry to personalized home pages, products made by Bangladeshis are setting their landmarks.
Bangladesh pretty much clothes the entire world (now). What we don't do is make Armani shirts. Maybe we do, but "they" put in the logo and reap the profits when our elites buy them.

...(Pageflakes) is a personalized home page, with different modules known as "flakes" allowing you to build it up from scratch and individualize it to your heart’s content.

What really got me interested is the fact that their Chief Technology Officer is (a) Bangladeshi. 3rd world view reports that 18 Bangladeshis currently work for it, while Patricia from Underdogs Fight Back tells us that 3 Bangladeshi engineers were the original core developers.
The blogger urges the Bangladeshi readers to consider Bangladeshi products over other foreign ones not only because they are competitive but also they make Bangladesh proud.

Sri Lanka vs. Bangladesh Live cricket Links  

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Check out this live sopcast link.

This is one test I decided not to follow.

Today's Links  

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* Bangla’s musical conquest in Germany.

* Drunken driving, unlicensed gun and Joy.

* World’s longest beach hidden in Bangladesh.

* Muslim face of the US Marines.

* It’s true! Four Asians land in jail for cannibalism.

Bangladesh hearts USA  

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I think in 2005 I wrote about Bangladesh Post office (govt. owned) booths in rural areas offering services to customers (who want to emigrate to USA) to help applying online for DV Lottery. One can imagine that it may be a government ploy to tackle the overpopulation in the country.

Hermie, a Dutch expatriate in Dhaka points to another instance:

Two days before our travel, we were told, that from that day onwards, we would have to e-register through a special website. There was no choice: from today, the website was accessible and thus, e-registration mandatory. It took me almost half a day to register all six of us, but well, then it was done at least. The website boasted that it was created for “better service of customs to foreigner’s” (including spelling mistake).

Two weeks later, the url address of the website appeared to have changed. One week after that, the whole procedure was abolished for lack of success. The old website has a new objective: to help Bangladeshi people immigrate into the USA.

Wasted investment opportunities  

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According to the Bangkok post Thai Airways unilaterally scrapped a 10 year long agreement to manage the Shah Amanat Airport in Chittagong. The reasons cited were delays in handing over the management due to "protests from Biman Bangladeshi Airlines employees and opposition from Bangladeshi politicians".

It remains to be seen who benefited from the cancellation.

Ps: Interestingly an identical article appeared in Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury's Weely Blitz. I am wondering whether this was done with consent or simply a copyright violation.

Where time stands still  

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I am back from the small village KleinArl in Salzburg state of Austria after a long holiday. The retreat was superb as it was a lovely place. It was a treat for the eyes- the picture perfect houses in a height of about 1000 meter above sea level and some were even clinging on hill slopes. It is primarily a ski-attraction and a Winter holiday heaven.

Probably its a bit boring now for many because of limited activities in Summer. The empty hotels and guest houses will certify this. But for us - the people from the tropical area this is a dream location -a lot of greeneries and of course being surrounded by the Alps mountain range. I have seen how clouds engulf the hills like a wrap of mist and then the sun appears after sometime. The only sound in the calm quiet town is the gentle chirping of the streams flowing downhill and running alongside the highway. We stayed in a 104 year old house and the owners were extremely excited to let it out to a group of people coming from a far away place like Bangladesh. We encountered the question several times-"how did you find the place?"

The people of KleinArl (population 1000) are very friendly. Everyone knows each other. It boasts of no crimes. So as to speak no phonebooth, let alone public internet booth. The buses are infrequent and ceases at around 6 PM. I did not see more than one grocery store, one saloon, one bank, one Kindergarten and you can walk from one corner to another in 25 minutes (actually it disperses from a long highway). The topmost attraction Jägersee (lake) was a disappointment though. It turned out like a small pond like watery. But the restaurant at the lake served the traditional Austrian delicacy Kaiserschmarrn (emperor's mishmash) and the pancake tasted great with apple sauce. The same can be said about the pancake with stuffed raspberry we had in Weissenhofalm, a restaurant 1770m above sea level. These restaurants are on almenweg, a special connecting road for trekkers who cross these alps mountains on foot. They have a traditional flag indicating that they are open to serve the trekkers. But we went with taxi as we had elderly and kids. The road for four wheels is steep, narrow and open to limited number of people.

The cable car in Kleinarl village will be in operation from tomorrow and we missed that. So we went to the next village Wagrain to ride on the flying Mozart, a cable car to the middle station of the mountain Grießenkareck (1991m). To our disappointment it was not going to the top. But the view was lovely (see above).

If you do not come here with a car then your movement becomes restricted to the village only as the bus service is infrequent and the taxis are costly. We had to cancel our plans to visit the ice cave (Eisriesenwelt werfen) and other attractions in Salzburg. But we caught a glimpse of the castle Hohenwerfen on the way from Kleinarl to Salzburg.

This was the kind of retreat where time stands still and you enjoy the tranquility.

This Blog is on vacation  

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Natural disaster and the responsibilities of bloggers  

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Last Monday rain-triggered mudslides buried dozens of hillside shanty homes in Chittagong killing at least 134 people. This is just another piece of tragic news that we read everyday. As a blogger how do you respond to it?

Arild Klokkerhaug is an entrepreneur, blogger and the man behind the largest Bangla blogging platform "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj". Once again he led from the front to show how the blog community could mobilize in a tragic situation like this. He asks in his blog:

how many bloggers do we have in chittagong? can we have local bloggers reporting and sharing information with us? can bloggers of chittagong unite and start a campaign? mobilize people to share food and clothes with the victims? take your blog posts to the press, suggest direct action, be there and participate for help and report back from the disaster area what is going on. i think we can.

He calls for action:

this is the potential power of our blog community, and this is a cause to unite for! come on bloggers, lets unite for a campaign and participate with coverage and help.

Supporting Arild's call Arif Jebtik slammed the bloggers for being not responsive:

আমরা সেই দুর্গত অসহায় বৃষ্টি ভেজা মানুষদের কথা বলতে ভুলে যাইকারন তারা আমার সুরুচি আর সুক্ষ তর্ক জ্ঞানের বিষয় নয়আমার কাছে দেশে মানেই একটি বিশাল বিষয়,দেশের মানুষ আমার কাছে গুরুত্ব পায় না

We forget to talk about those helpless rain-drenched people. Because they are not the subject matter of our rhetoric, our artistic debates. Our homeland is a big issue to us, however the people of the land are not.

These statements did made a great impact. Bloggers like Bokolom started talking about ways to save the water-clogged people in Chittagong, stop cutting hills which caused the mudslide, and how to help the affected families.



Arild and some other bloggers went to Chittagong and reported about the situation. Bangladeshi Bloggers, students from all over the world started raising funds for the victims. Trivuz suggested how a person could save money from the victims, from cigarette, tea consumptions or curtailing telephone call durations. He also reports about the activities of the second team of bloggers in action including photographs here.

Arild points towards some more potential:

the blog community can stand united and mobilise both your online and offline networks, to help some of the affected people. they will need help for a long time. we will see humayun tomorrow, but who will see him next week, next month and next year. can he take the place of his mother for his younger brothers? will he be able to build them to be the men their mother wanted them to become? that is what the blog community can do here through giving time, advice and small help to the many humayuns which are out there among the land slide victims and the victims of disasters to come.

As a blogger are you aware of your social responsibilities?

(Photo: courtesy Trivuz)


Update: Rumi calls the disaster a cold blooded murder.

Picture of the day  

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Ryanair ad: "Nein zum Lufthansa Kerosinzuschlag" (No to Lufthansa kerosene surcharge) - trying to get attention of German customers.

London allures  

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I hope you have noticed the lack of post in my blog recently. I had an exam yesterday in London and I hate exams for the amount of pressure it creates on a person.

I am writing from my friend's place near Bethnal Green in Tower hamlets, which is also known as Banglatown. The next street is the famous Brick Lane. You feel so much at home here (photos coming soon). Its normal here that your friend comes down to the street to greet you in his Lungi. London's financial hub is Liverpool street and it is located about 10-15 minutes walk from Banglatown. You will see a totally different environment there, people in complete suits, posh buidings. The great thing about London (especially these parts) is the mixture of cultures, races. They blend so well here, absolutely friction free.

And I have seen the struggles of some Bangladeshis students here. London is an expensive city and more alluring are the attractions of money. Students come here to study and when they hear the sound of penny and pounds from their part time jobs they get distracted easily. One pound equals 135 Bangladeshi Taka. If they can save 50-100 pounds a month they can support a family back in home. So they try to work as much as they can. But visa restrictions don't allow more than 20 hours a week to do a legal job, which should be enough for a human being to sustain him/herself here. Some find other ways to earn money and their education becomes less important. Their study gets prolonged and so is the time of stay here. Their ultimate goal is to stay here for 8-10 years so that they can apply for permanent residency. There are so many educational institutions (dubbed visa colleges) here who are willing to enroll you for a fee but don't bother whether you are actually studying or not.

Just providing you with a scenario of how the students live. A rented duplex house accomodates 5 students. X & Y are a married couple, X is an architect from Bangladesh and studying masters now. Y is doing a PhD which cost her £9000 a year. They both work hard to sustain and its common not to see them in the house before 10 O'Clock. P is studying law and can afford to live in a 40 sft room only. She has changed a lot since she came here first. She has no option than to do a part time work but study is still priority for her. Q & R are bachelors and live a stressed life trying to balance job and study. They all share works in the home, cook for themselves, and share only one toilette.

In a few years of time they will have a good degree and probably some well paid jobs to live more comfortably. And London makes it possible for them, because they feel close to home. As a citizen of a Commonwealth country they are eligible to vote in Great Britain from day 1 (unlike Germany where even after gaining permanent residency you are not allowed to vote). London has been named the world's top business center this year.

"We all need money, but there are degrees of desperation."

Dr. Yunus in the Vision Summit 2007 in Berlin  

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Explaining entrepreneurship for all. (Source)

Quote of the day  

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"Bangladesh is one of the richest lands, rich on cheerfulness." - Anusheh Anadil, lead singer of Bangla band in the Deine Stimmen Gegen Armut Concert in Rostock.

"Anusheh has a strong foothold on classical music having trained in Indian raga music from a very young age. Anusheh also writes her own lyrics and found a lot that she could relate to in the traditional spiritual folk songs of Bengal.It was the content which first attracted her, and naturally with her love for vocal music, she was soon singing these traditional songs but with a unique new style of her own. Anusheh is naturally creative and runs her own Crafts Shop called, ‘JATRA – A Journey into Craft’ in Dhaka which is an extremely popular haunt of the young and trendy looking for craft and casual wear made by local artisans with Bangladeshi material, believing in ‘ being Bangladeshi, and buying Bangladeshi products’."

- More on Anusheh and Bangla band in Congo Square

Bangla (Band) @ Stimmen Gegen Armut 07.06.2007 in Rostock  

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Ami Takdhum Takdhum bajai Bangladesher Dhol

More videos of Bangla band (lead Anusheh) from a GIG in India.

Verboten  

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The Abendzeitung had an interesting article last month (15.May.2007) describing all the minor misdemeanors that are "verboten" (forbidden) under local Munich law.

As foreigners here we often joke about how the Germans love their rules and regulations. From the tone of this article it seems that even the Germans themselves get surprised at how many petty laws they've instigated.

Here are some examples of the more interesting regulations, together with the fines you have to pay if caught breaking them:

*Spitting chewing gum onto the street - €10 for first offenders, €15 thereafter.
*Spitting on the street - without chewing gum this costs even more, €15 to €50.
*Climbing trees in public areas, both as an adult or child - €50.
*Using a mobile phone while cycling - €25.
*Cycling while under the influence - even with 0.3% blood alcohol you risk losing your driver's license. Presumably it's just a fine if you don't have a license. With 1.6% you risk up to a year in jail regardless of whether or not you caused an accident.
*Feeding pigeons - €15 to €35.
*Feeding swans is even more offensive - €40.
*Swimming in the Eisbach, surprising, because everyone does it anyway - €25 to €35.
*Wearing a bikini on Karlsplatz - this is against the "Ordnungswidrigkeit engesetz" . Apparently it's not illegal until someone complains. Funnily enough, however, nobody has yet complained.
*And finally, crossing the street on the little red man. At €5 a pop this is a bargain basement fine.

(Source : an email from Fahim)

World Bank's versatile expertise  

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Now they are helping find "stolen assets" of Bangladesh. They just can't stop poking their nose in the developing countries.

Globalization  

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From English Russia Blog:

"Remains of Bangladesh Air Forces helicopters are towed around Russian city St. Petersburg and nobody seem to care."
See the pics.

Netherlands in a day  

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Goethe once said that traveling is like gambling. Because if you expect less, you receive, more or less than what you hoped for and you win.

I did not know what to expect when I planned the one day trip to the Netherlands. We had some relatives from Bangladesh who were keen to visit a neighboring country. I promised them that I will take them to the land of the flowers. But they were just a month late for the tulip season. Still they had Netherlands in mind and I was not sure whether the one day trip will be worthwhile.

So I gambled and invested in a portable satellite navigation system. Believe me if you are a stranger driving in a land you have never been before it is the best companion you could ever wish for. It could navigate to almost all of the remotest of destinations I entered from the ADAC (automobile club) tour guide tips.

We started from Berlin in the morning and the sky was gloomy. It drizzled in some parts as we drove through the middle of Germany. But the sky cleared up as we approached the Netherlands border. You will hardly notice the border crossing because there is only a tiny board welcoming visitors to Netherlands. And you will soon notice the difference. Drivers get very indulged in driving fast in Germany thanks to limitless Autobahns in many parts. As soon as you enter the Netherlands, the speed limit 120km/h in highways seem suffocating. My navigator was frequently screaming "watch out" as the speed limit warning mode was on. But thanks to it I did not get a ticket.

We arrived at a hotel near Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) on around 4:00PM. After relaxing a bit, we headed for Haarlem, nicknamed 'Bloemenstad', the city of the flowers. We wanted to go to the Grote Markt. But the navigator got a little confused because of limited access in the narrow roads. It was Sunday evening and almost everything was closed but we enjoyed the scenic view of the city. The old architecture and the serenity of lives around the canal were simply superb. Until the 16th century the water for the famous beer industries was taken from this canal.

So we proceeded to our next destination Ijmuiden, the main town of the municipality of Velsen. It was not a tourist destination until recently. There is a marina and there are some beautiful Dutch architectures and landscape sceneries. We stopped at the Ferry terminal for some tea and got the glimpse of this ocean liner. The port activities were pleasing. Everybody posed in front of the liner as if we will be boarding on it soon.

But the best part of the road from Ijmuiden towards the beach town Zandvoort were the painting perfect houses. I have seen many houses fresh from the canvass of a famous painting in some rural parts of Netherlands. Some houses (like the one in the picture) had customized flora and fauna which can easily win competitions. I wished I were not driving and recording this all with the camera. But I am sure even cameras won't be able to replicate the beauties my eyes have seen.

Next stop Zandvoort is famous for its sandy beach and its famous automobile racing circuit. The interesting thing of this beach is it has private houses along the beach where you can spend the holiday and watch the waves through glass wall of your living room. The marine drive was pleasing. We learnt later that it also has a nudist beach. Then we proceeded for the Tulip gardens situated near the town Lisse. We tried to go near Keukenhof, the center of famous tulip gardens but our navigator lost its way somewhere. Nonetheless we saw some vacant tulip gardens which are overall in the locality.

We headed for the hotel as our tour ended for the day. The ubiquitous Mcdonalds took away our worries about looking for a dinner in a Sunday night.

The next morning started with the tour of Amsterdam. The town looked less attractive than those beauties we saw yesterday. And its more like going through the motion as a typical tourist. Watching the Queens palace being restored with building equipments was not something you would expect.

I so longed for a boat ride along the canals of Amsterdam (something I missed during my last trip to Amsterdam). But my entourage declined as they had kids suffering from cold. So probably this will bring me back to Amsterdam again. We had so little time and could not visit any museum. Our venture was only limited to pure sightseeing and roaming around souvenir shops. We stopped briefly in Prinsen Gracht and Margere bridge. We had to return on Monday. So at around noon we started towards Berlin.

On the way we touched Almere, a city on the reclaimed land, several meters under sea level. The dam on Ijsselmeer made this reclamation possible. Although though for using these lands for agriculture, it is now used as a city. It brags to become a metropolitan like Amsterdam some day. The first house was finished in 1976 and the architecture are modern. We saw offices of multinationals like IBM and Pioneer there.

We came back to Berlin at around 8:00 PM and the 1500 km journey in 36 hours had ended. I have won the gamble.

The true faces of corruption  

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If one wonder why corruption persists in Bangladesh (or any other country) they need to look at the traits of human beings. In a social system where the might and rich are right and have less accountability they want either less corruption, or more chance to participate in it.

Bangladesh is rattling with the recent discoveries of corruptions. If you want to have an idea then read about the Forest King, whom BBC named as cash hoard. This man's wife was changing models of cars many times a year and yet his mother lived in poverty in his village.

Arrested politicians tell about buying support of rival MPs, ex-ministers confessing about taking bribes. Even the ex-home minister took 200 million Taka for saving a businessman's son from murder charge. More shocking facts of extortion were confessed.

Although people question the method but they have full support in the Caretaker Government's efforts to fight corruption.

I hope accountability is established again in Bangladesh and the rot in politics are finally removed. Otherwise the whole society will be infected with the cancer of corruption.

Himal South Asian features Bangladesh's current situation  

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Himal South Asian is Southasia’s first and only regional magazine published and distributed by The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal.

According to Himal its May issue was censored by authorities in Bangladesh.

"The issue has been allowed to be distributed only after the pages containing the editorial 'Khaki Politics in Dhaka' and the article 'The Dhaka Regime's Messy Surgery' were removed."
Those who do not know about the screening system of the authorities, prior to distribution, every foreign publication has to get a clearance from the Special Branches of Police by submitting the copy. One of my friends father was importer of international magazines like Times & Sananda(India) and they used to open the L/C for import only after the issue is cleared. In numerous cases disputed contents were censored earlier. So this is nothing new.

Himal's June issue features Bangladesh. It has seven articles under the heading "Under the emergency: seven takes". Blogger Mash being writer of one of the articles wonders whether the current issue will be allowed to be distributed in Bangladesh.

My take on this is that the readership of this magazine is very few in Bangladesh. Even if the magazine is banned, it is available via internet. And banning something creates more publicity and the readership increases. So if the content is really harmful for Bangladesh, the wisest way is to protest, write clarifications negating propaganda. I hope the authorities use discretion in handling the press.

Today's Links  

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* Phantom of the opera.

* Conversation with photo-journalist Shahidul Alam.

* Bangladesh: Photography students receive death threats.

* Bangladesh: Will Hasina throw in the towel?

* Former Bangladeshi PM held for possession of alcohol.

* Some parting comments of Whatmore on Bangladesh cricket & Bangladesh.

Towards a meaningful and representative global conversation  

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Global Voices recently announced its new outreach project 'Rising Voices'.

This project will try to fix the imbalance in the so called global conversation:

"..certain regions of the world and certain demographics within those regions have benefited from the boom in citizen media more than others. Most bloggers and podcasters still tend to be middle or upper-middle class. Most have a college-level education. Most live in large cities. And of the 70 million weblogs now tracked by Technorati, 95% of them are written in just 10 languages. The truth is, what we often call the ‘global conversation,’ is a privileged discussion among global elites."
'Rising Voices' is currently developing a curriculum of multilingual, how-to learning modules which will assist workshop leaders and citizen media evangelists who want to explain to friends and peers how to start blogging, podcasting, and video-blogging.

And it has just called for applications for its first micro-grant ($1000-$5000) for outreach projects across the world.

The digital divide is narrowing but the participation gap is expanding. We need representations of more voices in more languages to stop the gap in the global conversations.