Saturday, May 19, 2012

For God’s sake, let Alfred Nobel rest in peace

ALFRED Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer and later industrialist, invented firstly dynamite and a decade later more powerful but smokeless ballistite, which enabled him to earn fortunes through his global interests in explosives and acquire large holdings in the Baku oil fields in Russia.

Fortunes thus earned fomented whisperingly in the ears of the unmarried man as Alfred Nobel was to make a will for Nobel Prize before his death in 1896.

By dint of the will, five Nobel Prizes were established in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and peace. The Royal Academy of Science, Stockholm, was to award Nobel in physics and chemistry, the Royal Caroline Medico Institute for Medicines, Stockholm, medicine, the Swedish Academy for Literature, Stockholm, literature, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, peace. In 1969 the Nobel Prize for economic science was added in memory of Alfred Nobel by the Bank of Sweden.

In pursuance of the will, the Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and joint administrator along with the awarders of six prizes. The will further specifies that awards are to be made annually ‘to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.’

Alfred Nobel, basically a pacifist, witnessed devastating effects due to the rampant use of his inventions in warfare. He was literally moved and shocked and felt the need to do something about peace. Peace activist Bertha von Suttner, Nobel’s acquaintance, did also influence him immensely for world peace. Having regard to the development of global peace, Nobel added peace prize through inclusion in his will, ‘The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have done to the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for holding and promotion of peace congresses.’

Proposals for all Nobel prizes need to be submitted by February 1 every year and the final decision after due process by the committees of awardees is to be finalised by November 15. The peace prize has, however, been singled out to include not only individuals but also institutions.

Until 2011 the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 101 individuals inclusive of 15 women, and 20 institutions. However, no award could be given for various reasons for 19 years. Apart from war effects and promotion of Peace therefore, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded within the purview of the ‘Will’ for reasons, other than warfare issues, the following list (mentioned only a few) will suffice for justification and judiciousness in order to award the Nobel Peace Prize for:-

Founding Red Cross.

Founding Inter Parliamentary Union.

Formulating general principles of science of international law.

Providing leadership in Peace movement.

Promotion of arbitration.

Dovetailing Peace societies with various nations.

Helping creation of League of Nations.

Helping to cope with famine.

Efforts to involve church, not only in work for ecumenical unity but also for world peace.

Social reform work and leading the Women’s International League for Peace and freedom.

Aiding refugees.

Companion for others through friends services and to desire to help them.

Founding International Relief Organisation.

Struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Protection of human rights in the ICRC’s 100 years existence.

Campaign for civil rights without violence.

Contribution to the green revolution.

Founder of Missionaries of Charity.

Non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

Social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples
Contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Advancement of economic and social opportunities for the poor, especially women, through pioneering microcredit.

Disseminating greater knowledge about man-made climate change and how to tackle it.

Non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for their rights to full participation in peace-building work.

We have now arrived at the core issue of awarding of Nobel Peace Prize, 2006, to Prof Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, in consideration of advancement of economic and social opportunities for the poor, especially women through pioneering micro-credit.

Point to be noted here is that all other Nobel Prizes are awarded in retrospect often two or three decades after the awarded achievements, whereas the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded for more recent or immediate achievements.

Microcredit means small long term loan on easy terms for self-support of the poorest people, especially women, who have no means to provide security - a visionary concept of microcredit duly conceptualised by Prof Muhammad Yunus. More than 100 countries have now been trying to follow this concept. By 2006, the Grameen Bank had seven million borrowers with average loan amount of Tk 7000, the recovery rate being over 95 per cent. It is thus clear that of the above list shown as justification for consideration for Peace awards, microcredit stands out most. Nobel Peace Prize is a matter of high repute now-a-days globally, but a dismal picture has been hovering over the blue sky of Bangladesh. By now we have made the Nobel Peace award most un-peaceful, bitter and unwelcome, by uttering, bickering and jittering, that may be summed up as follows :-

Peace agreement with Chittagong Hill Tracts people should have the priority over all others to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, - so was claimed at the premises of the Supreme Court by a responsible officer of the govt. Perhaps, the core points of time frame, implementation and happiness enjoyed and so expressed by all concerned parties have been overlooked in such a claim. The Hill Tracts people have been raising hue and cry for package implementation. In factm there has been an aggravation in the matter as the govt has shown its inclination to changing the present nationality of ‘Bangladeshi’, conceptualized by Ziaur Rahman, to encompass all and sundry regardless of their mother tongue and local dialects, to ‘Bangalee’.

A minister’s simplified formulation of lobbying, attending parties, having cheese sandwich and white wine so on and so forth in various cosmopolitan capitals of the globe which would, in turn, enable some one to be entitled to Nobel Peace Prize has shown virtually fathomless depth of knowledge, in such a naive formulation. One may raise two, inter alia, valid questions:-

    (i) Why don’t you do the same for a peace award for Hill Tracts agreement?
    (ii) Are we not dwarfing the tall image of Nobel Laureates like, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, 

Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Albert Lutuli, Rigoberta Menchú, Wangari Muta, Leymah Gbowee and a host of other stalwarts?

(c) A technocrat minister has invited Prof Muhammad Yunus and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of BRAC to test their popularity by joining politics. The purposeful meaning of democracy is that you have to listen to the views of all and sundry whether they are in politics or not, for we know politicians shake the hands of the voters before vote and shake the bodies of the voters after the casting of votes. The minister’s invitation is tantamount to tuning Shivas’s songs while husking, the most irrelevant and unbecoming, though.

While the world is progressing we are falling apart with myopic vision that speaks of pulling down the ascender rather than ascend thyself.

It may also be pointed out here that Sir Fazle is the only Knighthood recipient since Bangladesh came into being, a great honour for Bangladesh as well. Sir Fazle, a UK-educated professional accountant who was earning handsomely in the late 1970’s, having been heavily shocked at the death of millions in 1970’s tidal bore in the coastal area of Bangladesh gave up his job and single-handedly formed Bangladesh Rural Advancement Centre, BRAC, as an NGO and over time turned it into the biggest NGO of the globe. Let us pull ourselves, and move heaven and hell to win another Nobel Peace Prize for Sir Fazle, a Magsaysay recipient, as such option seems to be bright and prospective.

Can we disprove presently the nature’s theorem as composed by Poet Swift’s line on poetry? :

‘So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind
Is bit by him that comes behind.’
-Well, May I Say – ‘May God Help us’.


What will Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy be?

She's just come from convincing Chinese leaders to free blind dissident Chen Guangcheng. Soon she'll cajole India's leaders to reduce oil imports from Iran. But at the moment, Hillary Rodham Clinton is renewing old friendships in one of the world's poorest nations.

"Two of my favorite men in the world!" she gushes as she sits down to chat with Muhammed Yunus, a pioneer in providing microcredit to the poor, and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the world's largest development organization.

This is vintage "Hillary," as the headlines here dub her: part tough-talking diplomat, part back-patting politician. As she prepares to leave the national stage after a 20-year run, Clinton is winning bipartisan respect at home and admiration abroad for her role as the nation's 67th secretary of State.

"You have got a beautiful smile," says Nabila Hossain, 25, a lecturer at American International University here, who nabbed the best front-row seat for one of Clinton's signature town hall events this month. "You're maybe the most influential woman in this world."

How she uses that influence as she approaches 100 countries and 1 million miles — this 18,932-mile jaunt tied her with Madeleine Albright's record 96 countries — is the story of a natural-born politician in diplomat's clothing.

Ah, the clothing. The "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits," as Clinton calls it, captivates people wherever she goes, along with her changing hairstyles and on-again, off-again glasses. On Page 6, The Telegraph of Kolkata, India, calls her "the most powerful woman in the world." On Page 17, it notes her power is coiled inside "a black pantsuit, finished with white detailing, a white crew neck tee and patent black shoes with an inch of block heel."

At 64, the former first lady and U.S. senator from New York cannot escape the stereotyping she has spent a lifetime combating. Instead, she uses it to make her case for gender equality, one of the paramount causes of her career.

The book on Clinton may not be complete if she tries to become the first secretary of State since James Buchanan in 1856 to win the White House (something she says she will not do). But the chapter on her tenure at Foggy Bottom is largely written, and the reviews are in: Indefatigable. Innovative. And indentured, some say, to a president who has made the major foreign policy decisions himself.

Eight months before her self-imposed retirement, Clinton is piling up awards and accolades faster than clear-cut achievements. She hasn't done anything as momentous as opening the door to China like Henry Kissinger or assembling the first Gulf War coalition like James Baker. Still, the liberation of Libya, establishment of diplomatic ties with Burma and the assembly of a coalition against Iran bear her imprimatur.

Clinton's goal, exemplified in her dealings this month with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is to pull allies and even adversaries into more and deeper alliances so that as the world turns, U.S. values and interests are advanced.

"We want a seat at every table that has the potential for being a partnership to solve problems," Clinton said in an interview with USA TODAY. "I think it's a smart but necessary approach in the 21st century, where we are all so networked and where we don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. We have to be engaged everywhere."

Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, credits Clinton with restoring "diplomacy that's so sure-footed, you don't notice."

"That has everything to do with her presence and stature on the one hand, and her sheer doggedness and ability to master her brief on the other," Hurlburt says.

Clinton has done it while dealing with her share of professional and personal complications, from the Arab Spring and the Wikileaks breach of diplomatic correspondence to her mother's death, husband's heart surgery, daughter's wedding and her own broken elbow, which postponed trips to Italy, Greece and Russia.

Americans are supportive: 66% view her favorably in a USA TODAY-Gallup Poll taken May 10-13, the second highest mark in her two-decade Washington career. She's been rated the most admired woman in the world in Gallup polls for 16 of the past 19 years.

What stands between Clinton and the great diplomats of the past, some say, are two things: a landmark accomplishment and a free hand from the White House to carve her place in history.

Perhaps the biggest omission from Clinton's résumé is advancing Middle East peace. "She hasn't picked up the ball, and neither has President Obama," says Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "To me, it signals that they just don't have a policy any longer when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians."

Clinton defends her all-in approach. "It would be, I think, malpractice to say, 'I'm only working on this thing, and I'm just going to beat it into the ground. Everything else can just wait,' " she said. "Because we just can't wait."

Republican diplomats who served in the Reagan and two Bush administrations have been incredulous that, given Clinton's stature and work ethic, she hasn't been given more free rein. "The president has really wanted to be his own secretary of State," says Elliott Abrams, who served at the State Department and National Security Council during Republican administrations.

Clinton has only the highest praise for her relationship with the president and the White House. "We have intensive discussions," she said. "We don't always agree in the Situation Room, but I think it's quite remarkable we close ranks because we think we're all on the same team."

'A lot of singles'

From her first days on the job, Clinton refused to take the advice she said she received from a predecessor: Don't try to do too much.

"It seemed like a wise admonition, if only it were possible," she said at the time. Her in-box, she said, included two wars, conflict in the Middle East, threats of violent extremism and nuclear proliferation, global recession, climate change, hunger and disease. Later, she was handed an earthquake in Haiti, a tsunami in Japan and Arab uprisings from Tunisia to Egypt's Tahrir Square.

Her solution: Get the State Department involved in everything. She created an emphasis on economics, insisting that deputies and embassies go to bat for U.S. businesses operating overseas. She started a global counterterrorism forum to boost countries' abilities to fight terrorists. She linked her department to the Pentagon, trading staff members and ideas as part of a "smart power" initiative linking diplomacy, development and defense. She worked to advance Internet freedom around the world and use the latest technologies to aid U.S. diplomacy.

"It's a question of whether you see a lot of singles equaling a home run," says Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "She's had a lot of singles."

Clinton has been perhaps the administration's central player, outlasting many of her counterparts and forging key partnerships with Obama's two Defense secretaries and two national security advisers. She and Obama, once rivals for his job, have meshed as sober, careful and pragmatic policymakers.

Perhaps more than anything else, Clinton has reached beyond heads of state to town halls, local TV, social media, women's groups and the young people who represent more than half the world's population. While working behind the scenes in Beijing for Chen's freedom and before the cameras to advance U.S.-Chinese relations, she took time to attend a "People to People Exchange" session and a demonstration of clean cook stoves to prevent widespread deaths among the world's rural poor.

"You really have no choice," she said about her hectic travel schedule. "Even though we live in the age of so-called virtual reality, where I could do a videoconference with anybody in the world in government, I could even be satellite-beamed into a personal appearance somewhere … nothing substitutes for showing up."

Dennis Ross, a veteran diplomat who has worked for both Clinton and Obama at the State Department and the White House, cites Clinton's outreach to average citizens as a "signature of her stewardship … I wouldn't underestimate the impact of that over time."

Foremost among those citizens have been women. Perhaps her best-known speech was delivered as first lady in Beijing in 1995, when she declared, "Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights, once and for all." At State, she established an at-large ambassadorship for global women's issues and the Women in Public Service Project, which works with five women's colleges.

"It is in her DNA," says Claudia Fritsche, Liechtenstein's ambassador to the United States, who attended a recent dinner in Clinton's honor despite representing a country so small that it cannot host the secretary's blue-and-white 757 and entourage. "I have never seen her without passion and compassion on gender issues."

Geographically, Clinton's top achievements have come in Asia. She broke with tradition by traveling there instead of Europe on her first trip in February 2009 to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. She has been at the forefront of Obama's effort to re-establish the United States as a Pacific power and block China from dominating the important military and economic travel lanes in the South China Sea.

Clinton's historic visit to Burma last December marked the first by a secretary of State since John Foster Dulles in 1955. Kurt Campbell, her assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, recalls the moment when Clinton and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally embraced.
"I've been waiting so long to meet you," Clinton said.

"Me, too," the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner responded.

Clinton played a leading role in Libya, lining up Arab partners for the military effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi and serving as an invaluable intermediary to prevent the coalition from fraying. "Without America's cajoling, hand-holding and occasional arm-twisting, that coalition never would have come together or stayed together," she said recently.

Speaking in Qatar days after the Arab Spring sprang roots in Tunisia in January 2011, Clinton issued a prophetic warning to the region's autocratic leaders. "Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries' problems for a little while, but not forever," she said. "If leaders don't offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum."

Even so, she stuck with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak until the end, calling his government "stable" weeks before it collapsed.

Clinton has worked with allies to isolate Iran, economically through tough sanctions and diplomatically at the United Nations. With Obama in 2009, she helped to rescue a Copenhagen summit on climate change from failure, eventually leading to an agreement by developing countries to help reduce carbon emissions. She was instrumental in getting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff election in 2009 that gave him more credibility, but the relationship remains rocky.

'I've lost track of time'

On the road, Clinton combines a diplomat's cool with a mother's warmth. The exhaustion that comes with having traveled 777,721 miles over the equivalent of 70 full days and nights shows only with occasional absent-mindedness. Signing the guest book at Kolkata's Victoria Memorial, she turns to a reporter for help.

"I have no idea what day it is," she says. "I've lost track of time."

Little wonder. Clinton missed an entire Tuesday, flying from Washington to Beijing. She flew on consecutive days to Dhaka, Kolkata, New Delhi and back to Washington. The transcontinental flights were interrupted only by naps in her private suite and tarmac strolls during refueling stops in Alaska, Japan and Germany.

"She seems to be living in an airplane," says Barkha Dutt, a popular TV news anchor at NDTV in New Delhi. "And yet not once does she show signs of any flagging energy."

•In China from May 2-5, Clinton faced a delicate dance: how to negotiate not one, but two successive deals on behalf of Chen, 40, the dissident whose refuge in the U.S. Embassy for six days had drawn howls of protest from Chinese authorities, while participating in the 4th annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the world's two most influential nations.

The dueling agendas were on display during meetings with China's top leaders. While Clinton and her counterparts wrestled with trade and security issues and the world's hot spots, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell pounded busily on his Blackberry.

She left with Chen's path to the USA agreed upon but not completed, and pleased that the conference had gone off without a hitch — a sign, she said, of the maturing relationship between the world's largest developed and developing nations.

"We had a very difficult challenge in dealing with Mr. Chen, which was made, I believe, more possible of a positive outcome because we had this other set of activities going simultaneously that both of us, the Chinese and the U.S. sides, were invested in," she said.

•The stop in Bangladesh was "personal," Clinton said, coming 17 years after she and daughter Chelsea first visited in 1995. Her female counterpart, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, put it this way: "Hillary Clinton has been something of a household name in Bangladesh."

That was obvious from the throngs of people standing four to five rows deep along Dhaka's dusty riverbanks and railroad beds. A sign along the motorcade route read, "Heartiest congratulation to our beloved U.S. foreign minister Hillary Clinton."

"We want to see Bangladesh succeed. This is personal for me," she said. "I remember the faces of the men and women I met in the villages."

•In India, Clinton became the first secretary of State to visit Kolkata, but it wasn't her first trip. She had been there in 1997 for Mother Teresa's funeral.

This time, her schedule included a private meeting with the new chief minister for West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who replaced decades of communist rule. The next day's headline in The Economic Times of New Delhi told it all: "Ego massaged by U.S. secretary of State, Banerjee positive on U.S. investments."

Her stop included an event designed to draw attention to India's problem of sex trafficking, where Clinton donned a green elastic bracelet with the phrase, "Cool Men Don't Buy Sex."

"We're still struggling to make it a mainstream issue," she told representatives of 10 organizations fighting the problem. "It has no place in a modern India."

Clinton was forced to field occasionally hostile questions during the trip. Is the United States anti-Muslim, asked a man in Bangladesh. Why isn't it tougher on Israel, asked a woman in Kolkata. In each instance, she refuted the premise and defended government policies. Israel, she said, must protect itself from Iran — "a regime that has a history of aggressive behavior, and I don't think you deal with aggressors by giving in to them."

More often, the questions focused on her role as a powerful woman and her future plans. In China, Zhou Yuting, 22, a university student fresh from studying abroad in New York City, said Clinton provides "a gentler, milder image" of America than her male counterparts. In India, Hena Gorsia, president of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, said, "Whether she breaks through that invisible ceiling in 2016 or not, she's going to leave behind footprints."

Clinton demurred every time the White House was mentioned. "I'm very flattered, but I feel like it's time for me to kind of step off the high wire," she said in Kolkata.

"Well, we hope you change your mind," Dutt interjected — echoing the sentiment expressed a day earlier in Dhaka by Ejaj Ahmed, director of the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center.

"Hopefully the next time you visit Bangladesh," he said, "you'll be on Air Force One."

First Bangladeshi woman scales Everest

Nishat Majumder has become the first Bangladeshi woman to scale Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

She reached the summit at 9:39am Bangladesh time on Saturday, Enam Ul Haque, the president of Bangla Mountaineering and Trekking Club, told The Daily Star.

The club organised the adventure while Plan Bangladesh, a non-government organisation (NGO), co-sponsored it under a campaign titled "Because I Am a Girl".

Another Bangladeshi mountaineer, MA Mohit, accompanied Nishat during her adventure, Enam Ul Haque said.

Mohit is the first Bangladeshi who scaled the Everest twice, he added. 

Musa Ibrahim is the first Bangladeshi who conquered the Mount Everest on May 23, 2010.

Nishat, a 31-year-old accountant, on April 9 started the adventure from Kathmandu to the base camp of the Mount Everest to hoist Bangladeshi flag atop the highest mountain.

On April 6, Nishat flew from Dhaka for the adventure, a press release of Plan Bangladesh said earlier.

Wasfia Nazreen, another Bangladeshi girl, has also reached the Everest base camp to scale the highest mountain. 

Three Sherpas – Lakpa Sherpa, Premba Sherpa and Mingmaa Sherpa – helped Nishat conquer the Everest, said Enam Ul Haque. 

Nishat and her associates stayed a while at the peak of the Everest and have started descending to the base came, the president of the club said.

The mountaineers are expected to reach the base camp in a day or two, he added.