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     Volume 4 Issue 23 | December 3, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   In Retrospect
   A Roman Column
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   Straight Talk
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News Notes

Dengue Strikes Back
More than 230 people in the capital have been positively diagnosed with dengue last week alone. Apparently, the time is just right for the breeding of the Aedes mosquito just before winter sets in. The patients that are being treated in various hospitals and private clinics are all diagnosed with the classical case of dengue that is not life-threatening, not dengue haemorrahagic fever (DHF), a deadlier version that leads to internal bleeding. Since January this year, a total of thirteen people have died of the deadly dengue infection in Dhaka while a total of 3,830 people have so far reported being treated for classical dengue. The Dhaka City Corporation had taken necessary steps to curtail this virus during the dry season. They sprayed special insecticide in key breeding grounds. Still the transmission of the Aedes virus is continuing. Experts say that random spraying is of no use unless the activities of Aedes population are closely monitored. From 2001 surveys, areas like Nawabpur, Islampur, Bongshal, Lalbagh, Kalabagan, Dhanmondi and Nilkhet had a very high density of the Aedes mosquitoes.

Trash Books as Reference
Books the government has supplied to school and college libraries around the country are of "very low standerd" and have no bearing in the intellectual growth of students, according to the parliamentary standing committee on the planning ministry.
The committee at a meeting on November 28 observed that the libraries are stuffed with books eulogising the leaders of the party in power. Books supplied to the libraries consist of cheap novels, mostly unsuitable for young students and have little relevance to their studies. The committee noted that the book selection committee of the government often includes books on the author's insistence. The parliamentary committee expressed dissatisfaction at the whole affair and decided to collect a list of books supplied to different libraries and send the list to the education ministry with its observation. The committee also expressed concern over education ministry's imposition of a statutory regulatory order (SRO) changing the structure of governing bodies of private schools and colleges.
The SRO dictates that no member of Parliament should sit on more than four college governing bodies or school management committees. Upazilla nirbahi officers (UNOs) and deputy commisioner (DCs) will nominate other members of the bodies. However the standing committee observed that the order will effect the education system, as the UNOs and DCs will not be able to pay much attention to the schools, given their other responsibilities. As for books that will go to nurture the future generations of this nation, books that stimulate the young and impressionable minds are scares and political maneuvering only worsens the situation.

GDP Growth Decreases
Largely because of this year's devastating flood and international oil price hike, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has slumped considerably. The GDP growth target was set six percent for the year 2004-2005. But, now Bangladesh Bank's (BB) annual report has revised the target and has put it between 5.5 to 5.75 percent.
The adverse impact of the floods and oil price hike will be partly offset by improved outlook of exports and remittances in the current fiscal year. The overall export earnings registered a robust growth of over 26 percent in the first two months of the current fiscal year over corresponding period in the previous fiscal year. Based on the performance during the first quarter and indications received from the private exporters, it appears that in FY05 overall exports are also projected to grow at double-digit rate, much higher than envisaged earlier, the report said.
Though agriculture saw a sharp decline, the industrial sector attained a 7.3 percent growth in this fiscal year.
The central bank projects 6.5 percent inflation rate in the current fiscal year, which was 5.83 in the last quarter. Though the BB suggested a gradual decline in consumer spending, many observers think if the rising inflation is not tamed soon, it might spell more misery for the commoners.

US Missions in India
Put on High Alert

American missions in Delhi and India's commercial capital, Mumbai were put on high alert perceiving a terrorist threat "in the near future". The Mumbai consulate that caters to visa requirements from western India was kept closed for days last week.
The US government says it has information that terrorists may be planning attacks on US interests in India in the near future and because Al-Qaeda has indicated in so many words that the American interests in New Delhi and Mumbai could be targeted.
This became clear after the American centre in Kolkata faced a terrorist attack last year, a source in the US Embassy in India told the Bangkok-based Asian Tribune. The attack, however, did not cause much damage, but all the missions and American resource centres went through a phase of security upgrading.
By a strange coincidence, the alarm announced by the US mission here has coincided with the arrival on a two-day visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Another Killing Fire
Even before the debris of Bangabazar's devastating fire could be swept away, another fire struck in Jurain killing a 35 year old woman, her two children and another seven-year-old girl. Again it was a Sunday when apparently the fire started at around 11:30 pm, from an earthenware slum at the Tularbagh Rail Line slum in Jurain. At least 150 makeshift houses were burnt down, leaving more than 600 residents homeless. The flames spread quickly as there was a strong breeze and soon caught up with the flammable bamboo sheets of the shanties. Some people, finding no way to escape, saved themselves by jumping into the adjacent water body while others ran to the rail tracks. Workers of a nearby factory came to help the people which is why most of the residents except the unfortunate four, survived the fire. Fire-fighting vehicles, meanwhile, came after half an hour of the incident but as the neighbourhood was far from the nearest road and fire fighters had a tough time getting the waterpipes into the area in the dark. While the local mosque has extended a helping hand by providing food amongst the victims, the government has not (at the time of the report 30.11.04 The Daily Star) yet made any gesture of support for these helpless people.

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