Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Death toll in political violence rising

The number of killings due to political violence rose sharply across the country in the first half of the current year compared to the corresponding period last year, said rights group Odhikar.

According to information gathered by Odhikar, some 83 persons were killed and 8,508 others injured due to different types of political violence in between January 1 and June 30 this year. The figure was 65 and 5,513 respectively in first six months of 2011.

On the other hand, 177 incidents of internal violence in Awami League claimed 12 lives and injured 2,144 others while 61 incidents of internal violence within BNP claimed life of one person and injured 639 others during the period this year.

There has been an increase in attacks on journalists this year when three journalists were killed, 76 injured, 46 threatened, four attacked and 35 others assaulted in between January 1 and June 30.

Some 76 journalists were injured, 34 threatened and 19 abducted during the same period last year.

There was virtually no decline in the extrajudicial killings in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year as those continued despite repeated assurances by the government to put a halt to it.

A total of 47 persons were killed allegedly by law enforcement agencies in the last six months till June 30 this year when on an average seven persons were killed in every month. The figure was 49 in first six months of 2011 when on an average, one person was killed every four days allegedly by the law enforcers.

Of the 47 ‘executed without justice’ this year, two were members of Gano Mukti Fouj, four businessmen, two youths, one bus helper, one convicted prisoner in Natore District Jail, one fruit vendor, one farmer and 35 alleged criminals.

Incidents of lynching also showed a declining trend in last six months when 62 people were allegedly killed by extrajudicial mob. The figure was 75 during the same period last year.

During January–June period this year, a significant number of women fell victim to rape, dowry related violence, acid violence, domestic violence and sexual harassment though the number of such incidents declined compared to same period last year.

A total of 247 girls and women became victims of sexual harassment. Among them, 11 committed suicide, one was killed, 16 were injured, six assaulted, two abducted, 28 suffered attempted rape and 183 sexually harassed in various ways in the last six months this year.

During the first six months last year, a total of 345 girls and women fell victim to sexual harassment. Among them, 17 committed suicide, one was killed, 35 injured, 59 assaulted, 8 abducted and 09 became victims of attempted rape.

Seven men were killed, 98 men and 23 women injured by stalkers as they protested against acts of sexual harassment.

Killings of Bangladeshi nationals allegedly by Indian BSF along the India-Bangladesh border have been continuing this year but the number of killings declined during the first six months this year compared to same period last year.

According to documentation gathered by Odhikar, during this period, 14 Bangladeshi citizens were killed, 48 injured and 25 abducted allegedly by the BSF. The figure was 17, 49 and five respectively during the same period last year.


Space satellite tender : Sufficient evidence to trigger FBI corruption probe: US lawyer

The FBI should consider conducting an investigation into whether a US company, which won a contract to assist the Bangladesh government in launching the country’s first space satellite named Bangubandhu 1, had committed offences under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a senior US corruption lawyer told New Age.

Dan Pickard, a partner in the Washington-based law firm, Wiley Rein LLP, and a specialist in US business corruption offences, said that the evidence about the $10 million deal, disclosed by New Age in a series of articles published in May, was sufficient to ‘trigger’ a US police investigation even though there was no evidence of corrupt payments.

‘In my view the circumstances that appear to exist in relation to this tender concerning the Bangladesh space satellite, where a US company has won a contract even though it reportedly did not meet the minimum tender requirements, itself should be enough to trigger an FCPA investigation,’ he said. ‘It is certainly reasonable to expect them to conduct an investigation.’

New age’s articles published in May showed that Space Partnership International not only failed to meet the minimum tender requirements but won the contract despite receiving a significantly lower score in the technical evaluation compared with another US company, Globecomm Systems Inc, which was then improperly disqualified.

The articles also revealed a network of family and business connections in which the vice-president of the winning company was related to Farid Khan, who is both the brother of minister Faruk Khan and also the director of Summit Communications which was a junior partner in the deal.

Both Space Partnership International and Farid Khan deny any wrongdoing. The company has stated that the selection process was ‘conducted properly’ and ‘we were  selected because we were the most qualified.’

Earlier, in response to a written parliamentary question about the tender, the posts and telecommunications minister, Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, also denied that there was any ‘corruption and irregularities’ in the selection of the consultant. He pointed to a review panel of the Central Procurement Technical Unit which had concluded, after receiving a complaint from one of the losing consultants, that ‘the tender process was completed in an appropriate manner.’

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which became law in 1988, makes it an offence for any US citizen or company to give bribes or offer any inducement to a government official of another country in order to obtain or retain business.

The US embassy, whose ambassador was present at the signing of the agreement between the government and Space Satellite International, has refused to comment on whether it has referred the case for investigation. ‘We do not comment on possible ongoing cases and matters of investigation,’ Kelly McCarthy, the embassy’s Press and Information Officer, told New Age.

‘The US embassy takes seriously any allegations regarding violations of US law, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,’ she added. ‘We evaluate these allegations on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the evidence presented justifies a referral for further investigation.’

The Department of Justice also declined to comment.

Pickard, a corruption law expert who has written a manual about the legislation concerned, said that an FCPA investigation could be started even though there was ‘no smoking gun of evidence of a corrupt payment or an offer to pay.’

‘I wouldn’t be surprised if they investigate a case like this, particularly considering that Bangladesh is a country which has a high corruption rating by such organisations as Transparency International,’ he said.

However, another lawyer was more cautious. ‘What sometimes happens in these situations is that contracting rules are violated simply to award the contract to a friend or relative, but there are no “under the table” payments involved, and hence no FCPA implications,’ said Scott Thomas, the head of the political law practice at Dickstein Shapiro.

‘So, while I think there certainly are bases for investigation here — violation of contracting rules, conflict of interest rules, and providing false information rules — I’m not seeing a basis for an FCPA investigation yet,’ he told New Age.

The call for an FCPA investigation is likely to increase as New Age can reveal that in signing the contract with Space Partnership International, the Bangladesh government appears to have paid over $3 million more than the bid made by Globecomm, the company which was improperly disqualified after receiving the highest technical score.

A Globecomm official told New Age that its bid was about $6.5 million compared with Space Partnership International’s offer of around $10 million.

The claim could not be independently confirmed as its bid was not opened by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.

The claim, however, does correspond to the signed statement made by Globecomm to a procurement review panel that looked into the deal. This stated that ‘the company understands that the financial offer of SPI, USA is much greater than [Globecomm] has quoted in its financial offer.’

The company official also told New Age, ‘$10 million is a large amount of money for the actual amount of work that needs to be carried out.’

The Department of Justice has made enforcement of the FCPA one of its priorities.

In November 2011, assistant attorney general Lanny A Breuer told a conference, ‘The Justice Department has been vigorously enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and achieving strong results. … [J]ust two weeks ago, we secured the longest prison sentence — 15 years — ever imposed in an FCPA case.’

Iftekharuzzamn, the executive director of Transparency International, told New Age that he supported a ‘credible investigation by the relevant US authorities, such as the FBI, to establish whether [Space Partnership International] was involved in any irregularities like influence peddling and conflict of interest with or without kickbacks.’

Two former officials of the large Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin, seeking a consultancy contract supervising the construction of the Padma bridge, have recently been charged in Canada for corruption offences similar to those contained in the FCPA. The officials are accused of trying to bribe Bangladesh government officials.

The World Bank formally cancelled its financial support for the project recently alleging ‘a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials’.

Here's why male and female orgasms are poles apart

A new study has tried to shed light on the evolution of the female orgasm, which has remained a mystery among evolutionary biologists.


For the last 40 years biologists have been debating whether female orgasm evolved to give women a reproductive boost, or whether it is simply a by-product of male orgasm evolution.

 Brendan Zietsch at the University of Queensland, Australia, and Pekka Santtila at Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, think they can help to answer the question.

If female orgasm is a simple by-product of male orgasm, they argue, then similar genes would underlie orgasmic function in both men and women.

As a consequence, opposite-sex twins and siblings will share more similarities in their susceptibility to orgasm – “orgasmability” as Zietsch calls it – than pairs of unrelated people.

To measure this orgasmability, the researchers used survey data from just under 5000 sets of identical and non-identical twins and pairs of regular siblings.

The questionnaire asked about the time to orgasm in men and the frequency and ease of orgasm in women.

In keeping with previous findings, Zietsch and Santtila found that same-sex identical twins had more orgasmic similarity than same-sex non-identical twins and siblings, showing that genes do play a role in orgasmic function and apparently providing some evidence that the by-product scenario might be correct.

However, contrary to the expectations of the by-product scenario, the two researchers found that opposite-sex twins and siblings had virtually no correlation in orgasmability.

“This indicates that the genes that influence orgasmic function in men are not the same as those in women,” a science weekly quoted Zietsch as saying.

In other words, male and female orgasm evolved through different genetic routes, and the by-product hypothesis is incorrect.

Source :


Archeologists to examine Kuakata 'antique' boat

A three-member team from Department of Archaeology of Khulna Division set off Tuesday morning for Kuakata where an ancient wooden boat recently surfaced from beneath the sandy beach.

The ancient boat which is believed to be belonging to the first Rakhine settlers from Arakan province in Myanmar over 200 years ago was found on June 29 during the low tide.

As soon as the ancient boat surfaced, a group of local people started looting precious brass sheets from the boat joints, a The Daily Star report said on June 4.

Abdul Baten, regional director (acting) of Department of Archaeology, Khulna Division, told The Daily Star on Tuesday that on seeing the report and informed by the locals from Kuakata, the Khulna division office sent three experts to assess the importance of the wooden boat.

Research Assistant Md Golam Ferdous is leading the team with draftman Md Jahandar Ali and photographer Md Abdus Sama along. 

The team was assigned to send a thorough report detailing their findings to the Khulna division office, the regional director informed.

“We responded quickly as soon as we got the information about surfacing of an ancient boat. We corresponded with the Thana Nirbahi Officer (TNO) in Kolapara to get updates on the situation. But first, our team needs to assess and submit a report on the boat,” he said.

“We will forward the report to our headquarters in Dhaka for further direction,” he added.

The director, however, did not comment on the antiquity of the boat saying “We are yet to see the report from our team.”

“You know the boat is quite large and it is partially buried under the sandy beach. It is technically difficult to heave up the boat. We may have to wait till winter for the water to recede,” he said.

“Then it comes to budget. A venture like this needs a budget and planning,” the director said adding that all these await the report and direction from the head office in Dhaka.

Yves Marre, the initiator of a traditional boat museum under the banner “Protection and Preservation of National Naval Heritage of Bangladesh told The Daily Star that if the boat is 200 years old, it is a national treasure. 

“Reports suggest that it is a boat used by the first Rakhaine settlers who escaped from war-torn Myanmar 200 years ago. It is a treasure that must immediately be protected and preserved,” Marre said. 

French born Bangladeshi, Marre with his project has so far replicated 65 types of traditional wooden boats of Bangladesh and exhibited those boats in France and other European countries. 

Talks are underway to open an exhibition of those boats in the naval museum of Greenwich in London soon, he said. 

Consisting of a timber made of Gorjon tree, the boat is 72 feet long and 22.5 feet wide and only two feet of its upper portion has emerged from the sandy beach near the tamarisk garden in Kuakata.