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US presidential race and USNI warning on BD

Sadeq Khan

A sea change is in the air about the global order in public debates and agitations through Western democracies. While in Europe it is more in the form of activists’ agitation on the streets, in the USA it has entered community assemblies and town-halls in the course of party political campaigns for nomination of Presidential candidates in the race for the White House, 2016.

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Sadeq Khan

A sea change is in the air about the global order in public debates and agitations through Western democracies. While in Europe it is more in the form of activists’ agitation on the streets, in the USA it has entered community assemblies and town-halls in the course of party political campaigns for nomination of Presidential candidates in the race for the White House, 2016.

In the first primaries in IOWA, two maverick candidates competing in the race on the lists on both sides, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, came close second, the latter neck to neck, with the candidate considered establishment favourite, i.e. former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In New Hampshire, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders resoundingly won presidential primaries, riding a wave of anti-establishment anger in the second key test of the long, unpredictable race.

Roller coaster riding
The runaway victory by Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist advocating nothing less than “political revolution,” spelled a deflating effect on the campaign of Hillary Clinton, who put a brave face on the loss and admitted she had work to do as the campaign moves south. On the Republican side, Trump’s visceral assault on American politics galvanized voters who brought him his debut victory in the fledgling race, keeping him in pole position despite his second-place showing in Iowa caucuses.
Ohio Governor John Kasich’s uplifting and positive message of renewal catapulted him into second place, a potentially critical result for him as the Republican Party works out which mainstream candidate could successfully challenge the billionaire tycoon Trump, who did what he had to do: secure a solid win after Iowa where his finishing second called into question his showmanship strategy and his brand as a winner.
With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Trump swept 35 percent of the vote to Kasich’s 16 percent, with Iowa winner Ted Cruz at 12 percent, narrowly ahead of former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Sanders, a US senator from Vermont who essentially treats neighboring New Hampshire as his home turf, crushed Clinton by 60 percent to 38 percent, with 93 percent of precincts reporting, and a record voter turnout.
Sanders addressed supporters at his victory rally saying his primary win signalled voters no longer wanted business as usual in US political life: “What the people here have said is that given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics and establishment economics. The people want real change. Together, we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California.”

Changing US politics
Timothy Stanley, a historian and columnist for Britain’s The Daily Telegraph, and author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics”, said in a CNN commentary on the message from the Republican voters: Trump is a real estate magnate who helped transform the New York skyline in the 1980s, before moving into casinos and a retail empire that includes a tacky clothes-line. When he entered the Republican presidential primaries, many of us wrote it off as a publicity stunt. The fact that it was such bad publicity should have told us we were wrong. Trump went after illegal immigrants — branding many of them as “rapists”, while asserting that “some, I assume, are good people” — and promised to surround the country with a wall. From that the pundits deduced that he was far-right, if not a nationalist, like Marine Le Pen of France. But his appeal proved more complex.
On some domestic issues he is more left-wing: health care, infrastructure spending and tax. On social issues, like immigration, his tough guy appearance strikes a chord with people who feel they’ve been betrayed by weak national leadership and silenced by political correctness.
They revel in the shamelessness of a man whose fortune means he’s beholden to no one and who doesn’t look like he cares whether he wins or loses. But he won in New Hampshire with an interesting constituency that includes self-described moderates and new voters. In other words, the Trump campaign poses a challenge to the Republican Party leadership and its conservative establishment.
About the common message from both sides, Timothy Stanley told CNN: “US politics is changing before our eyes. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump winning is not a big surprise. Both polled ahead for weeks. Yet these results feel revolutionary. These two men have defied their party establishment, done everything they were not supposed for do and still won victory with substantive lead. Politics will not be quite the same again.

Taking terrorist threats seriously
But the big shock is John Kasich in second place. First, Jeb Bush led the moderate pack, then Marco Rubio, now we have a third contender, a man who ran on experience, compassionate convention and refusal to sink to the lows led by Trump. Question is, does he have the structure and money to last longer? What is striking from the exit polls is how even more ideological both parties are than they used to be representing a polarised electorate.
Nevertheless, the strength of populist feeling is palpable. Perhaps people are looking for generational change and substantive differences between parties. Trump versus Sanders race would give them both. It will also probably give them Michel Bloomberg (New York billionaire) running as an independent and one of our most divided and definitive election since 1992.
Meanwhile in a written Statement for the Record on Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee by James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence on February 9, 2016, the following remarks were made about Bangladesh: “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s continuing efforts to undermine the political opposition in Bangladesh will probably provide openings for transnational terrorist groups to expand their presence in the country. Hasina and other government officials have insisted publically that the killings of foreigners are the work of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Bangladesh Jamaat-e Islami political parties and are intended to discredit the government. However, ISIL claimed responsibility for 11 high-profile attacks on foreigners and religious minorities. Other extremists in Bangladesh­ including Ansarullah Bangla Team and al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)­have claimed responsibility for killing at least 11 progressive writers and bloggers in Bangladesh since 2013.”
In the race for the White House, the front-runners so far as well the runners-up in line have all made clear that they take the ISIL threat anywhere on the globe seriously as an existential threat to the super power. The warning in the US National Intelligence assessment must not be taken lightly.


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Propriety of salary hike for govt. leaders themselves?

Faruque Ahmed

The government initiative to double the pay and allowances of the President, Prime Minister, Speakers, other Ministers and lawmakers is in progress regardless whether such pay hike is justified and affordable by the nation.
The legal and ethical question is also there whether the government leaders can increase the pay and allowances of their own by themselves. It is unacceptable in any working democracy while such ethical question is not applicable for pay rise of the government employees.

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Faruque Ahmed

The government initiative to double the pay and allowances of the President, Prime Minister, Speakers, other Ministers and lawmakers is in progress regardless whether such pay hike is justified and affordable by the nation.
The legal and ethical question is also there whether the government leaders can increase the pay and allowances of their own by themselves. It is unacceptable in any working democracy while such ethical question is not applicable for pay rise of the government employees.

Because a Pay Commission (PC) appointed by the government awards such pay hikes and it is generally believed that the PC examines the pay with cost of living and its positive impacts on the government employees’ efficiency in discharging their responsibilities and duties.

Status depends on pay?
However, question also remains whether the doubling of the pay and allowances of government employees by the stroke of a pen is justified without taking into consideration the overall financial conditions of the government and its ability to afford it. There is the question that the government employees need to be looked after well and unless they are able to live in peace they cannot deliver what is expected of them. But doubling of pay is not justified any way. 
It appears that the move by the government to double pays and perks of senior public leaders surfaced following the doubling of the pay of the government employees. The government leaders feel that they deserve the pay hike, if not to improve their quality of life since they are resourceful persons, they deserve it to maintain their social status above the government employees.
Under the new dispensation the president and the prime minister will receive Tk 1.20 lakh and Tk 1.15 lakh respectively per month followed by ministers, state minister and deputy ministers who will receive Tk 1.05 lakh, Tk 92 thousands and eighty six thousands respectively. President and prime minister’s air travel insurance cover will also rise to Tk 27 lakhs and Tk 25 lakhs respectively and others too will get the rise as per their status in the government.
What appears rather unusual is that the members of the parliamentary standing committee which deals with such pay rise have returned all four bills to the concerned ministry asking it to equally double their pay and perks in the new bill for them, because they said lower pay undermines their social status. Socialist lawmaker Moinuddin Khan Badal of JSD, who won the election on the ruling party ticket, highlighted the thinking of the MPs saying, they are peoples’ elected representatives who behold the sovereignty of the nation. Now if their pay and allowances remain far below that of senior bureaucrats it would be disrespect to the people.

Unknown cascading effect
So to uphold the respect for the people, lawmakers must get more than the senior bureaucrats who get Tk 86,000 per month at the highest. But the question is that what benefits the lawmakers have provided to the people so far except tall talks of governmental successes and development. No doubt the system has enabled the lawmakers and others to enjoy manifold unofficial facilities which cannot be explained in terms of money but people’s deprivation remains unattended.
But the cascading affect of doubling the salary is going to add to more inflation and fresh demand for enhancing wages in the private sector creating new pressure on employers.
This is going to be very difficult as the economy is already suffering from continued stagnation resulting from lack of investment and expansion of business activities. Despite these limitations the government will have no problem since it can always levy extra tax and penalize people to generate more revenue to pay themselves. But suffering to ordinary people will only multiply.
One estimate suggests that the government would require an additional Tk 17,000 crore this year to implement new pay scale. The pay hike for the government leaders would further push the budgetary burden this year to around Tk 60,000 crore at a time when the budgetary deficit stands at Tk 86,000 crore.
What appears highly disturbing is that nowhere in the world a government has ever doubled the pay and perks so indiscriminately based on political consideration to buy the loyalty of the public administration. Such practice is rare except under an authoritarian dispensation.
Looking at things plainly, the government leaders are already enjoying reasonable benefits in keeping with dignity of the leadership. And on top of it they are not expected to raise their own pay by themselves. It is no more secret that the government is using its unchallenged political authority without a viable opposition in parliament. The opposition in the streets also has been totally marginalized through repressive police actions.

Proprieties & ethical issues
It is seemingly using its absolute power to appease bureaucracy. But the lavish financial awards have accentuated the clash of interest and discord within the government machinery. At least 29 BCS cadre groups have joined hands against the administration cadre because of discrimination in pay scale demanding its correction.
BCS cadre services including physicians, engineers and agriculturists are agitating for removal of anomalies while government college teachers and public university teachers are observing frequent strikes for restoration of their lost status. Money is enough, but prestige is non-negotiable.
Former chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission Mr Gulam Rahman told this Correspondent that there are no doubt public leaders also need money for living, although they hold non-profit office to serve the people. But if they feel that their pay and perks as ministers or MPs deserve to be enhanced, they can only do it for the benefit of functionaries of the next government.
The fact is that when they contest election they do it knowing well what financial benefits they are entitled to and whether it would be enough for them during the upcoming period of their stay in power. So they can’t suddenly say that they are not paid enough.
But if they really feel that the financial benefits deserves to be raised for government  leaders in view of the high cost of living and cost of running office, they may bring a bill before the parliament and pass legislation to enhance the benefits.
But in that event, it would be applicable for the leaders in parliament or the executive branch of the government in the next administration. So raising the pay for themselves as the government leaders are doing now in Bangladesh is fraught with many ethical issues that they can’t be ignore.


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Indo-US collusion in South Asian geopolitics

Shamsuddin Ahmed

It is well known that India is the pivot of America in Southeast Asia.  The US administration entangles all the countries in this region with its pivot in a bid to check the rising clout of China. Therefore, America blindly supports its pivot India’s stance in countries of this region, which is essentially guided by its desire of expansionism.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

It is well known that India is the pivot of America in Southeast Asia.  The US administration entangles all the countries in this region with its pivot in a bid to check the rising clout of China. Therefore, America blindly supports its pivot India’s stance in countries of this region, which is essentially guided by its desire of expansionism.

The USA supports Indian actions, right or wrong, despite disagreeing on many issues relating to Indian’s policy towards its small neighbours—Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. The US sees the Southeast Asian counties through the Indian lens. Instances are many. But the blind support to India entails the US of the risk of losing support and respect of the people of the region for America.

US helping India to be pushy
Nepal is a small and poor landlocked country. It suffered terrible earthquake in April last year that left about 10,000 people dead and a trail of devastation and destruction. Instead of extending generous and liberal humanitarian assistance, the big neighbor India imposed undeclared blockade on Nepal restricting supplies of essentials including fuel oil, gas and medicines across the border.
Encouraged by the US, India continued the blockade for more than four months (latest report says blockade has eased partially), Delhi resorted to inhuman action in support of Mahdesi people who demand for Nepal’s constitutional guarantee for higher representation in parliament. Mahdeshi people came from Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Delhi is determined to protect their interest to serve its political purpose. Instead of asking India to withdraw the blockade the US has asked Nepal to take concrete steps to redress the grievances of the Madeshi people. Global Research wrote on February 5, echoing Indian stance US deputy secretary of state Blinken telephoned Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prashad Oli for early resolution of Madeshi problem. A Nepali commentator wrote, had a neighbor or any country imposed blockade against America, Pentagon would have blown up that country by bombing the following day. He
lamented that Nepal took the illegal blockade to the United Nations. But the US dominated UN body paid little heed to the cause of poor Nepal.
What appears to be even worse is that British news agency Reuters has released a report full of speculations on February 4 suggesting Nepal’s Prime Minister, a nationalist leader, may be toppled shortly. Why the supposedly independent news agency should circulate such a tendentious story is obvious: Nepal is not abiding by the Indian dictation and to teach them a lesson.

Threatening Maldives, Sri Lanka
What stake America has in tiny Maldives, a country of barely three lakh people in the Indian ocean? Nevertheless, America mounted pressures on the President of Maldives, Mohamed Yameen, for setting free ex-president Mohammad Nasheed who was jailed for 13 years last year on terror related charges. Nasheed is a blue eyed boy of India and America exerted influence on Delhi’s behest.
Nasheed who ruled Maldives about four years from 2008 had favoured India with unequal deals and attempted to import Indian secularism to his Islamic State where non-Muslims are barred from citizenship. Poor Yameen had no option but to yield to the American pressure. Nasheed was set free on January 18, on leave from prison for treatment in UK.
President Yameen had repeatedly asserted that the demand for Nashed’s release was an assault on the sovereignty of Maldives. USA has infringed on the sovereignty of Maldives not for its own benefit but for the Indian interest. How long Washington can command to get respect from the people of Maldives?
In Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa has publicly blamed Indo-US lobby for his defeat in the last year’s January 8 presidential election. He had defied Indian request for a ceasefire at the fag end of the war with LTTE. Colombo believed that Delhi was contemplating to give time to LTTE to regroup so that it could reorganize LTTE later. However, Rajapaksa took bold stand and finally defeated the LTTE in 2009 to India’s chagrin, especially its southern state of Tamil Nadu that nurtured, trained and armed LTTE. Again, India’s concerns turned into alarm in late 2014 when Rajapaksa allowed two Chinese submarines to pay a visit to in Sri Lanka. Soon Indo-US lobby set India’s spy agency RAW to orchestrate the fall of Rajapaksa through the election.

South Asia, India & US
RAW secretly organized Rajapaksa’s opponents, ensured defection of present President Mithripala from the Rajapaksa’s cabinet and put him up to contest against him in the election. RAW activities were caught in Sri Lankan intelligence radar and the Raw station chief in Colombo was expelled forthwith, which was widely publicized at home and abroad.  But it was too late. Sri Lankans were surprised at the unexpected defeat of strongman Rajapaksa who saved the country from the civil war waged by the Tamil Tigers.
Bhutan, a small Himalayan landlocked country is surrounded by India.  Independent but Bhutan’s economy, foreign policy and national politics are totally controlled by India. It is not allowed to establish diplomatic relations with any of the Big Five in UN, including next door neighbor China. Immediate past Prime Minister Thinely was toppled for taking attempting to establish diplomatic ties with China. The Indian action was supported by USA. Analysts say the role of USA in Bangladesh is apparently no different from that of India. The US will continue to do what it can for blocking any attempt for rapprochement between India and China or Japan and China. Because it knows that India is indispensable to maintain its dominant role in Asia. India is the indispensible US partner as experts consider it as a potential counterweight to the growing clout of China.
Geopolitical experts believe that it is unlikely that the US and its Asian allies including India would be able to block China’s rise. Once a close ally of the Soviet Union, India has now turned a close partner of the US. Who knows India might change its colour one day and shake hands with China if it fits into its scheme and serves its own interest. Beijing, however, does not appear to consider India as a threat.


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INDIAN MEDIA REPORT
Delhi pleased by Dhaka’s blocking of China’s ‘string of pearls’ bid

Shakhawat Hossain

The Times of India in a report published on February 8, revealed that with India’s relations with Bangladesh on an upswing, New Delhi has expressed interest in developing the neighbour’s newest deep sea port, Payra. It is being seen as a strategic move by India. Separately, Japan is already doing studies to develop a deep sea port at Matarbari, in Cox’s Bazar.
According to the Times of India report, Bangladesh has quietly killed the Sonadia project in Cox’s Bazar, which was to have been developed by China.

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Shakhawat Hossain

The Times of India in a report published on February 8, revealed that with India’s relations with Bangladesh on an upswing, New Delhi has expressed interest in developing the neighbour’s newest deep sea port, Payra. It is being seen as a strategic move by India. Separately, Japan is already doing studies to develop a deep sea port at Matarbari, in Cox’s Bazar.
According to the Times of India report, Bangladesh has quietly killed the Sonadia project in Cox’s Bazar, which was to have been developed by China.

For India, the Sonadia port, as the Hambantota (Sri Lanka) and Gwadar (Pakistn) ports, were deemed to be part of China’s much talked about “string of pearls” strategy to encircle India in its maritime neighbourhood.

Ten countries to build Payra
The Payra seaport, which is on the south-western corner of Bangladesh, is much closer to the Indian coastline. Dhaka has cancelled a port that China proposed to build at Sonadia, on the south-eastern corner of Bangladesh, which if completed would have brought the Chinese presence close to India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, claims The Times of India.
The Indian media report further revealed that while the official reason for cancellation of the Sonadia port was lack of (adequate data to determine) commercial viability, as the Japan-developed Matarbari is only 25km away. China had not only prepared a feasibility study for Sonadia, it had reportedly promised funding for the proposed deep-sea port. The cancellation of Sonadia is perceived to be a strategic decision by Bangladesh.
The Times of India suggested that decision was doubtlessly helped along by India, Japan and the US. The Payra port has gathered steam only since 2014, with a Payra Seaport Authority being setup under the Chittagong administrative authority. The Bangladeshi government has decided the port will be built on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis and a UK-based consultant is in the process of working out a feasibility study.
The port will take over seven years to build, but it’s not just the port, a deep channel would have to be cut through the heavily silted port to allow big vessels to come through. The (present) Chittagong port is so heavily silted that only small vessels, taking advantage of incoming and outgoing tides, can come in. Indian companies have reportedly started taking an investment interest in the Payra project. Bangladesh has also invited Chinese companies to build the port. Reports (received by The Times of India) from Dhaka say some 10 countries have expressed interest in the project, unlike Sonadia where designing, funding and building a port were proposed to be done by China all on its own, which would have a commercial as well as a potential military role.

Delhi’s strategic victory
The Times of India claimed that the Bangladesh decision to cancel Sonadia project was strategic victory for India’s hegemonic role in the Bay of Bengal, and suggested in the report that the loss of Sonadia for China comes after it lost its competitive edge in Sri Lanka with the loss of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government. In Bangladesh media, no confirmation of the cancellation of Sonadia Deep Sea port project has been reported yet.         
Although Matarbari as an alternative or additional deep-sea port site is under feasibility study by the Japanese, not only China but also other Gulf countries have expressed interest in the Sonadia project, which may be shelved for the time being, as the coal terminal project site in Matarbari which is proposed to be converted into a deep-sea port project is already in an advanced state of connectivity with internal transport and energy infrastructure of the country.
Sonadia can also be served by minimal extension of the same infrastructure. Both Sonadia and Matarbari are free from heavy siltation and suitable for deep-sea port construction. They will need instead under-sea structures to protect the harbour from high waves.      
Payra, on the other hand, being prone to siltation, would likely sustain running costs for dredging, and it is to be thoroughly examined whether Payra may in course of time meet the same fate of congestion as that of Diamond Harbour of Kolkata, India, from the silt carried to the estuary by our mighty Himalayan rivers.

Outsmarting China
From trade and connectivity point of view, Sonadia or Matarbari deep-sea port would tremendously benefit the whole of northeast India, with possible easy road, river and railway infrastructure building for Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura states, some of which are already in process under state-level initiatives. To block Sonadia simply to outsmart China looks like a ‘dog in the manger’ policy.
On the western side of Bangladesh, India may have some use a Bangladesh port in Payra to handle excess cargo traffic to or from Kolkata, Haldia, Visakhapatnam or other ports in its eastern coastline by lighterage connection. The potential of Payra port, for both Bangladesh and India, appear to be substantially less than that of a deep-sea port along the Maheshkhali channel in Cox’s Bazar, which may serve northeast India, Bangladesh, and northwestern China by expansion of current linkages.


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US presidency ‘16: Sanders outsmarts Hillary Clinton in primary 

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

The countdown seems to have begun for Democrats for the forthcoming US presidency poll but all powerful Mrs. Clinton is seen running way behind her fellow candidate Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist”. 
On February 09 increasingly popular Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary decisively, defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent, outperforming most pre-election polls and posting the largest vote and the widest margin of victory ever recorded in the state that traditionally holds the first US presidential primary.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

The countdown seems to have begun for Democrats for the forthcoming US presidency poll but all powerful Mrs. Clinton is seen running way behind her fellow candidate Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist”. 
On February 09 increasingly popular Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary decisively, defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent, outperforming most pre-election polls and posting the largest vote and the widest margin of victory ever recorded in the state that traditionally holds the first US presidential primary.

Signs of radicalism
The Clinton campaign was in deep crisis as she faced an unexpected near-tie in the first contest of the Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa on February 1 and former President Bill Clinton made a series of angry and disjointed attacks on Sanders over the weekend did not help his wife’s prospects. The Clinton campaign seeking to evoke a response among women voters on the basis of Clinton’s status as potentially the first female US president also did not work.
The candidature of Sanders has been approved by large section of the electorate in New Hampshire. Sanders improved on Obama’s showing across-the-board last time. Clinton won the 2008 New Hampshire primary in an upset over Barack Obama, receiving 112,404 votes to Obama’s 104,815. Sanders topped both those totals with 70 percent of the ballots counted, and is projected to reach 140,000. The only demographic groups where Clinton prevailed were voters over 65 years of age and those with incomes over $200,000 a year.
Sander is now the new front runner for the Democratic nomination as voters are rejecting American capitalism and perpetual war policies, though the role he seeks to play in safeguarding the Democratic Party and the political monopoly of the two-party system may not change. His indictment of Wall Street domination of the US economy and political system and his proposals for higher taxes on the wealthy is most welcome. But his foreign policy, to continue the Bush-Obama legacy is highly dangerous and without any sense. Sanders thus seeks to reassure both Wall Street and the US Pentagon -intelligence apparatus that his presidency, if that happens, would uphold the global interests of Neocons and American imperialism.
Clinton may not bring any change in US policies but Sanders might. A Boston Globe poll released Saturday found that more than half of those voters aged 17 to 34 described themselves as “socialist,” as well as 31 percent of all ages. Turning away from Clinton and growing support towards Sanders signifies a radicalization of the mood of American people, particularly the younger generation.

Racism dominates politics
Common Americans are yet to recover from the 2008 financial crash and the economic slump that continues to have a devastating impact on the jobs and living standards of these ordinary Americans who now support Sanders.  The overwhelming concerns of Democratic primary voters are economic inequality, jobs and health care, and these class issues entirely predominated over the hyped issues of “gender and racial identity” that the Clinton campaign sought to raise in the campaign.
Problems of common men seem to have made its impact on the US poll campaign. The fundamental issues like jobs played a key role in the Republican primary as well, albeit in a right-wing populist form, with the victory of billionaire Donald Trump, who won 34 percent, more than double the vote for the second-place finisher, Ohio Governor John Kasich. Other candidates—Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio—placed third through fifth, with 11 percent of the vote, while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trailed with 8 percent and was expected to end his campaign.
A new phenomenon in US politics is the Trump hate campaign represents the mobilization of a criminal element in the American elite, based on national chauvinism, militarism and the glorification of authoritarian rule. His thuggish persona and racist attacks on Muslims, Mexicans and others express openly a grotesque coarsening of politics. Trump’s attacks on Muslims, in particular, have evoked a response of a fascistic character.
One wonders if Trump has officially inherited the Indian Hindutva hatred mode and Israeli hate politics. But he has poisoned the American minds emboldened by the Obama regime attacking Muslims in Arab world. 
The corporate-controlled US political parties and the entire political system promoting militarism and war targeted policies clearly suit Trump and his media allies.
However, the New Hampshire result is just the beginning and the debates shall go on until a final candidate is agreed upon by the Democratic Party on the basis of their standings.


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SPREAD OF ISIS
Foreign Policy pleads to rein back social media censorship

Special Correspondent

“If the international community is concerned about the spread of IS in Bangladesh, it should pressure the government to provide a secure space for free media,” observed the US-based magazine Foreign Policy (FP). On February 5, 2016, Alexandra Stark in her article titled “To Counter IS in Bangladesh, Look To The Bloggers” has urged the International Community to put pressure the government to provide a secure space for free media, including providing enhanced security for all of the bloggers included on the “hit list,” and others who have been threatened by extremist groups, and to give up its occasional crackdowns on bloggers, publishers, and other moderate media voices. These attacks and arrests have a silencing effect, forcing moderates to cede ground to fundamentalist voices.

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Special Correspondent

“If the international community is concerned about the spread of IS in Bangladesh, it should pressure the government to provide a secure space for free media,” observed the US-based magazine Foreign Policy (FP). On February 5, 2016, Alexandra Stark in her article titled “To Counter IS in Bangladesh, Look To The Bloggers” has urged the International Community to put pressure the government to provide a secure space for free media, including providing enhanced security for all of the bloggers included on the “hit list,” and others who have been threatened by extremist groups, and to give up its occasional crackdowns on bloggers, publishers, and other moderate media voices. These attacks and arrests have a silencing effect, forcing moderates to cede ground to fundamentalist voices.

‘IS to revive jihad in Bengal’
The recent attacks in Paris and the Sinai brought attention to the Islamic State’s (IS) ability to perpetrate terrorist attacks around the world. In Bangladesh, IS has claimed responsibility for attacks against foreign nationals, including an attack on an Italian priest and the murder of an Italian aid worker, as well as a shooting in a Shia mosque. An article in a recent issue of Dabiq, IS’ online magazine, pledged to revive jihad in “Bengal,” and claimed that IS has appointed a regional leader in Bangladesh, Alexandra Stark said in her article.
However, those concerned with countering the influence of IS in Bangladesh should also pay special attention to other recent non-IS attacks in Bangladesh against secular, moderate Bangladeshi voices, like the four prominent Bangladeshi bloggers killed in 2015. These attacks coupled with the government’s crackdown on bloggers and on media freedom more broadly, have the potential to silence political moderates in the country — a scenario that can only benefit IS, she opined.
“By silencing bloggers and other voices that can counter violent extremist narratives, these attacks may help provide a fertile recruiting ground for radical groups like IS. To counter its growing influence, policymakers should foster an environment of media freedom and security.” This series of recent attacks against secular bloggers (the so-called “Atheist bloggers”) and their associates, likely perpetrated by radical Islamist groups, began in February 2015 when the well-known blogger Avijit Roy, an American citizen, was stabbed to death by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka. Since then, several bloggers who wrote for secular and humanist platforms — Oyasiqur Rhaman, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Niloy Neel — have been killed. On October 31, several publishing houses that had produced secular and atheist texts in the past were attacked. Anonymous extremists have circulated a “hit list” of 84 bloggers they claim they intend to attack, raising further fears within this community.

Political space polarized
The Foreign Policy (FP) article has also claimed that the violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh has also polarized the political space, putting pressure on secular and inter-faith voices. Incidents of violence against religious minorities may also be on the rise: the first two weeks of December saw a bombing of a Hindu religious gathering and an attack on a Hindu temple, both in northern Bangladesh. In late November, the Hindu leader of a multi-faith forum for religious minorities was attacked. An attack against a Shia mosque a few weeks ago, as well as a series of threats sent to Christian priests, may lead to further political polarization.
Rising violence in Bangladesh against bloggers and religious minorities has already curbed the participation of moderate voices in political debates. As Buzzfeed recently reported, many atheist bloggers plan to leave the country or have stopped writing altogether. Driving these moderate voices underground will diminish the influence of their counterparts in government, leaving space for fundamentalist voices to forward their views, leading to an increasingly fertile recruiting ground for foreign organizations like IS, said the article. The article explained: “The government’s crackdown on social media platforms over the past several months also provoked concerns about a wider pattern of media censorship. The government recently banned several social media sites for almost a month “in the interest of national security,” a government minister claimed. In a country where websites like Facebook are seen as a crucial source of information, such shutdowns are “part of a creeping pattern of censorship” that curtails media freedom.”

Rein back censorship
The FP article suggested the government of Bangladesh to reform laws restricting freedom of the press, including the criminal libel and blasphemy laws that have been used to restrict media freedom. The 1974 Special Powers Act allows the government to detain journalists for up to 120 days without trial, and has been used to target journalists who are critical of government policies.
Especially problematic is the 2013 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, which has been used by the government to target the atheist bloggers for arrest. The government recently proposed a new piece of legislation, the Digital Security Act 2016, that they claim is designed to counter cyber-crime. Yet the proposed legislation has only raised more concerns that it may be used to target journalists and further limit freedom of expression. Both the Special Powers Act and ICT Act should be abolished or substantially reformed. International pressure will be key in encouraging the government to reform media laws and to rein back its social media censorship, the FP article observed.


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Grounded, immobile

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

The sky over the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi was a cerulean blue, empty, silent.  Crows cawed as they scavenged deserted dining tables for scraps of food. White gulls with markings perched immobile in a row, grounded, as grounded and immobile as PIA’s aircraft at Karachi’s Quaid-e-Azam International airport.

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Fakir Syed Aijazuddin

The sky over the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi was a cerulean blue, empty, silent.  Crows cawed as they scavenged deserted dining tables for scraps of food. White gulls with markings perched immobile in a row, grounded, as grounded and immobile as PIA’s aircraft at Karachi’s Quaid-e-Azam International airport.

The strike by our national airline could not have come at a worse time for the organisers of the Karachi Literature Festival 2016.  Their carefully made plans to ensure that their participants for the three day festival would reach Karachi in time and leave without delay were suddenly thrown in limbo. A carefully structured showcase of Pakistan’s literary and cultural diversity stood in danger of becoming a national confessional, an admission to habits of such annual gatherings at Jaipur, Kolkata, Kasauli, and Kumaon, that visiting Pakistan is still a daunting dangerous challenge, a modern thirteenth Labour of Hercules.
That the Karachi LitFest 2016 could be begun on time, each of its sessions conducted within time, and could end on time would have inspired even Stephen Hawkings. Their productive combustion allowed new stars of talent to emerge, planets of intellect to rotate in their familiar orbit, and a constellation of Pakistan’s creative minds float towards each other, connect and continue, without colliding.
Whoever attended the Karachi LitFest 2016 – and there must have been over a hundred thousand this year – took away with them a moon-rock of memory, the precious recollection of an event they cherished above all.  For some it must have been a book launch, for others the panel discussions, for many the opportunity to accompany practitioners backstage while they explained their craft, for a few the opportunity to meet Pakistan’s Galileos, Shakespeares, Byrons, George Eliots, Jane Austens, Voltaires, Marco Polos, and Machiavellis all under the same awning.  If one was forced to choose the best of the best of the Karachi LitFest, it would have to be the session when the poetess Zehra Nigah permitted the audience to meander with her as a guide through the chambers of her mind.  She would pause to recite one of her compositions. It might be something reflective, on the loneliness of being in company, on the unkindness of old age, or about the savage assault on a village housewife – itself, a brutal haiku on rape. Her stature deserves a discussant of proportionate skill, and she found one in Saif Mahmood, an Indian.
Neither of them needed to remind their audience that while Urdu may be our official language and spoken with varying accuracy here, it is truly valued and preserved across the border, in India.
Inevitably, the Indian participants at the LitFest attracted inordinate attention. Former Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid demonstrated that while manners may be inherited (he is the grandson of India’s first Muslim president Dr Zakir Hussain), discretion is a lesson self-taught. He avoided making any statements or observations that could be converted into bullets by the BJP and used against him in the rifle range of domestic politics. His compatriot Barkha Dutt - the redoubtable Medea of the Indian media – was introduced as enjoying an access to prime ministers that even their wives might envy. She then proved the point by flying suddenly to Islamabad for an unscheduled interview with prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Airline strikes are intended to discomfit commoners, not prime ministers. He has behaved towards the PIA strike with the same regal disdain that the French Louis XVI exhibited when disaffected Parisians in 1789 stormed the overcrowded Bastille. “Is it a revolt?” he asked. “No, Your Majesty”, the courtier replied. “It is a revolution.”
To spite Nawaz Sharif, his nemesis Imran Khan joined the PIA strikers in Karachi in an act of assurance. Astute as this move may be politically, the PTI leader may find himself in the same hot water one day.        Revolutions have insatiable appetites. The French Revolution devoured both Louis XVI and his critic Jean-Paul Marat.     
There must be some who wonder at the sudden, eruptive emergence of the PIA Joint Action Committee, a body that has exercised the disruptive power that the Karachi Shipyard Union did during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s prime ministership.   Those strikers were led by the firebrand Kaneez Fatima – the Helen of Keamari who could stall a thousand ships in Karachi port. Her exhortations today drive the windmills of trade union seminars.
This action by PIA’s JAC must come as a surprise to a young generation of Pakistanis who have never experienced the paralysis a nation-wide strike can cause. It certainly came as a shock to the participants of the Karachi LitFest 2016, as Pakistani delegates struggled to find seats on alternative airlines, and foreigners richoted home via Dubai. Each wondered whether Pakistan, like the grounded PIA and the immobile Karachi seagulls, would ever be airborne.
Courtesy: DAWN, Karachi


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Padma Bridge conspirators would be tried: PM

Special Correspondent

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told parliament that conspirators who tried to scuttle the Padma Bridge project would be put on trial under the existing laws of the country.
“The Anti-Corruption Commission has already carried out an investigation against those who tried to create obstacles to the implementation of the Padma Bridge project at that time,” Hasina said while replying to a scripted question from Jatiya Party lawmaker Kazi Feroz Rashid.

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Special Correspondent

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told parliament that conspirators who tried to scuttle the Padma Bridge project would be put on trial under the existing laws of the country.
“The Anti-Corruption Commission has already carried out an investigation against those who tried to create obstacles to the implementation of the Padma Bridge project at that time,” Hasina said while replying to a scripted question from Jatiya Party lawmaker Kazi Feroz Rashid.

Without mentioning the names of the conspirators and the time of the trial, the prime minister said, “In the ACC investigation, the allegations of corruption in the Padma Bridge project have been proved baseless.”
About the expansion of gas pipeline to the southern region, she said necessary measures have been taken to install gas transmission pipeline of 30” radius along the Padma Bridge under the ongoing project.
“The government has a plan to extend gas pipeline to the southern region in phases and on availability of gas and financing in the pipeline project,” she said, adding the government would also set up a land-based LNG terminal at Paira sea port.
On the implementation of CHT peace accord, Hasina said her government has been working sincerely to fully implement the agreement soon. Responding to a question of independent lawmaker Ushatan Talukdar, she said the CHT accord is divided into four chapters having 72 clauses.
Of the total clauses, 48 have been implemented fully, 15 clauses partially and nine others are in the process of implementation. All the clauses will be implemented fully, she said.
Hasina said the peace accord was not signed overnight. “Whenever any incident took place in the CHT, I used to go there. As I was aware of the problems, I have worked for a long time to resolve the crisis,” she said.
“After assuming office in 1996, we resolved the crisis through negotiations,” she added.
She also said the BNP-Jamaat opposed the peace accord vehemently. The BNP had even enforced a hartal to foil the arms surrender programme.
Elaborating on the projects and programs taken by the government to develop the CHT after the peace accord, Hasina hoped that the Land Commission would be able to play its role effectively to protect the rights of land of this area.
Replying to another question, the prime minister said the police have been working relentlessly to ensure security of the people and maintain law and order. About harassment by the police, she said every complaint against any member of the police is being investigated and action taken accordingly.
She also said the accused fire-bombers who are now on bail are under close watch so that they cannot indulge in such anarchy again. “Drives to nab the fire-bombers are being conducted following specific allegations,” she said.


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