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Messages - Muhammed Rashedul Hasan

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Bengal famine: Remembering WW2's forgotten disaster

In 1943, during World War Two, Bengal in British-run India was hit with a severe shortage of food.

Following the Japanese occupation of Burma, the Allied forces had halted the movement of food in the region.

No one knows how many people died but estimates range between 3m and 5m people.

Professor Rafiqul Islam was a child in Bengal at the time. He spoke to Witness about the little-known famine that claimed so many lives.

To hear from the witness click on:

English / Re: Brainy Quote
« on: April 05, 2015, 03:43:49 PM »
Very true...

Kenya mourns victims of Garissa al-Shabab attack

Kenya has begun three days of mourning for the 148 victims of an attack on students by militant group al-Shabab.
Easter ceremonies will be held to remember those who died in Thursday's attack on Garissa University, and flags are expected to fly at half-mast.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to respond to the attack "in the severest ways possible".

Sunni Islam's most respected seat of learning, Cairo's al-Azhar University, has also condemned the attack.

The Kenyan Red Cross says that so far 54 of the victims have been identified by relatives at a morgue in the capital, Nairobi.

Buses are transporting more than 600 students and about 50 staff who survived the attacks to their hometowns.

Many survivors have been reunited with their families at Nairobi's Nyayo National Stadium which has been set up as a disaster centre.

Eighteen-year-old Lavenda Mutesi, who jumped out of her dorm room window to escape the attack, told AP: "As much as I'm grateful, I wish my friends were here, because I wish they could share this moment with me, with their parents... I lost a whole lot of friends."

Almost all of the 148 killed were students and another 79 people were injured.

Four gunmen were killed, and officials say they are holding five people for questioning - one of whom is believed to be a university security guard.

United in grief

Both Christians and Muslims have denounced the attack. On Sunday, Sunni Islam's most respected seat of learning, Cairo's al-Azhar University, said it condemned the "terrorist attack".

Pope Francis is expected to use his traditional Easter Sunday message to describe the students as contemporary Christian martyrs.

In Kenya, people took the streets to protest the killings and reject the idea that al-Shabab had succeeded in dividing the country,

"What I can say is that here in Eastleigh [a Somali and Muslim Nairobi suburb] both Christians and Muslims are doing business together. There is harmony... There is no religion that says people should kill one another," one man told the BBC.

'Defend our way of life'

On Saturday, President Kenyatta said that al-Shabab posed an "existential threat" to Kenya.

He vowed to "fight terrorism to the end" and said the militants would not succeed in their aim of creating an Islamic caliphate in Kenya.

The president's address came as the relatives of victims queued at a morgue in the capital Nairobi to identify their loved ones.

The bodies were flown to Nairobi for identification, as local mortuaries have been unable to cope, and many of the students killed came from other parts of the country.

The bodies of the four gunmen who died remain in Garissa, where they were put on public display on Saturday.

Earlier on Saturday, a 19-year-old girl was found unhurt in a cupboard on the university campus, where she had hid for two days.

There has been criticism in Garissa, which is 150km (100 miles) from the Somali border, at how the security services dealt with the attack.

Only two guards were on duty at the time of the assault, despite official warnings that an attack on an institution of higher learning was likely.

Al-Shabab, which is based in neighbouring Somalia, has pledged a "long, gruesome war" against Kenya.

The group said its attacks were in retaliation for acts by Kenya's security forces, who are part of the African Union's mission in Somalia against al-Shabab.


Law / Re: right to privacy by UN
« on: March 29, 2015, 03:10:51 PM »
Thanks for sharing.

Lee Kuan Yew: Lessons for leaders from Asia's 'Grand Master'
Graham Allison, Special to CNN

The death of the founding father of Singapore last Monday is an appropriate occasion to reflect on nation building.

As prime minister for its first three decades, Lee Kuan Yew raised a poor port from the bottom rungs of the third world to the first world in a single generation.

As it prepares to mark its 50th anniversary as a nation, Singapore is today an ultra-modern metropolis of almost six million people with higher per capita GDP than the United States, according to the World Bank.

Lee's achievement in building a successful nation contrasts sharply with the results of Washington's expenditure of over $4 trillion and nearly 7,000 American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

Some say Singapore's story is sui generis: Something that could only happen in that time and place.

But its remarkable performance has less to do with miraculous conditions than with Lee's model of disciplined, visionary leadership.

Leaders of other aspiring-to-develop nations, and even the U.S., should take pages from Lee Kuan Yew's playbook to address current challenges.

'Grand Master's' lessons
We know many of Lee's lessons on the role of government leadership in development because my co-authors and I asked him directly two years ago to reflect on them -- points we captured in our book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World.

Five stand out.

First, Lee insisted that governance was first and foremost about results.

In his words, "the acid test of any legal system is not the greatness or the grandeur of its ideal concepts, but whether, in fact, it is able to produce order and justice."

About the core purposes of government, he was crystal clear. In terms America's founding fathers would recognize, he believed that "the ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people, plus enabling the maximum of personal freedoms compatible with the freedoms of others in society."

Moral leadership
Second, superior performance requires superior leadership.

Lee demanded of leaders both intellectual and moral superiority. Contrary to modern Western democratic theory that emphasizes citizens' participation in governance, his views were closer to Plato's conception of the "guardians," or China's historical Mandarins.

Good government requires most of all leaders who put the public good unquestionably above their own personal interests.

He was disappointed by many of his counterparts who failed that test.

Equal opportunity
Third, successful societies guarantee strict equality of opportunity for all individuals, but are realistic about the fact that this will yield substantial inequalities in outcomes.

For Lee, the essence of a successful society was intense competition on a level playing field that allows each individual to achieve his or her maximum.

Few things offended him more than denial of equality of opportunity on the basis of caste (India), class (Europe), race (the U.S. during segregation), sex, or other irrelevant attributes.

As he put it, the leader's objective was to "build up a society in which people will be rewarded not according to the amount of property they own, but according to their active contribution to society in physical or mental labor."

Discipline, not democracy
Fourth, about democracy, particularly Western liberal democracy, Lee had serious reservations.

In part, this attitude stemmed from his own experience, but it also reflected a deeper philosophical aversion to ideologies.

As he liked to say, "the acid test is performance, not promises.

The millions dispossessed in Asia care not and know not of theory. They want a better life. They want a more equal, just society."

Lee enjoyed engaging American critics who insisted that without democracy Singapore could not develop an advanced economy.

In contrast, he argued that what most countries needed was more "discipline," rather than democracy.

He noted that the U.S. had been building democracy and giving aid to the Philippines for over a century.

But, he asked, how many people from Singapore sought to leave it for the Philippines?

Many people in the Philippines, he noted, wanted to move to Singapore.

On one occasion, with a broad smile, he continued, "and you will notice that since the Vietnam War and the Great Society, the U.S. system has not functioned even for the United States."

Stability and strength
Fifth, which leaders did he most admire? From the recent past, he focused on three: Charles de Gaulle, Deng Xiaoping, and Winston Churchill.

"De Gaulle, because he had tremendous guts; Deng, because he changed China from a broken-backed state, which would have imploded like the Soviet Union, into what it is today; and "Churchill, because any other person would have given up."

On the current scene, the leader who impressed him most was the new president of China, Xi Jinping.

As he said just before Xi took office: "I would put him in Nelson Mandela's class of persons. A person with enormous emotional stability who does not allow his personal misfortunes or sufferings to affect his judgment. In a word, he is impressive."

As China's leaders attempt to follow in Lee's footsteps in building a Mandarin-Leninist led nation that overtook the U.S. last year in GDP (measured by PPP) to become the world's largest economy, and democratic India seems poised to grow at rates that will compete with China, we can reflect on lessons from Lee Kuan Yew and place our bets.

Governing a nation in which two of every three citizens believe their country is headed in the wrong direction -- and have believed so under Democratic and Republican Presidents for all of the 21st century -- American leaders should ask whether it is time to focus on the acid test of performance rather than the litmus test of ideology.


Lee Kuan Yew: How did Asia remember him?
By Jonathan Head
BBC South East Asia correspondent

"Anyone who thinks he is a statesman ought to see a psychiatrist."

That comment, from Lee Kuan Yew, the most quotable of Asian leaders, must have been made with his tongue at least partly in his cheek. His exceptionally long tenure on the diplomatic stage, his brilliant intellect and ruthless pragmatism earned Lee the accolade of "statesman" from more world leaders than any other personality in the Asia Pacific region.

But what about closer to home, in South East Asia? There, Lee Kuan Yew's image is more complex.

"Some countries are born independent. Some achieve independence. Singapore had independence thrust upon it," he wrote in 1998. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, Lee Kuan Yew was pessimistic about its prospects.

He was acutely conscious of its vulnerability, a small, largely Chinese island-state sandwiched between two much larger Muslim countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which were hostile. He was also worried about the consequences of American reverses in Vietnam.

American ally
A self-professed Machiavellian, Lee believed raw power determined the fate of nations, and Singapore had little.

He wanted the might of the US to anchor his country, but expected its Soviet rival to challenge this in Asia. Early on, he anticipated the rise of China, which, he believed, would inevitably view South East Asia as its own backyard.

So the formation of Asean (the Association of South East Asian Nations) in 1967, at the prompting of the then-Thai and Indonesian foreign ministers, was initially regarded with some scepticism by the Singaporean leader, although he also saw that it was essential his country play a leading role, in the hope of advancing Singapore's acceptance as an equal player in the region.

Lingering disputes over territorial waters and many other issues continued to dog relations with Indonesia and Malaysia for several years. There were also differences between Singapore and its neighbours over a Malaysian proposal to establish a zone of neutrality in Asean, which would have required an end to all foreign bases. Lee wished to preserve his country's close military ties with the US.

Pragmatic interlocutor
But with his first visit to Indonesia under President Suharto in 1973, Lee Kuan Yew showed one of his abilities to great effect: to build strong working relationships with other South East Asian leaders. He was quick to understand the enigmatic Indonesian general, and establish a pragmatic, trusting rapport with him, which lasted until Suharto's death in 2008.

He was later able to form a similar, though less warm and trusting, relationship with long-standing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, whom he recognised as a man who, for all of his animosity towards the Chinese of Singapore, shared Lee's ambition to move his country forward.

They also both rejected Western criticism of their approach to human rights in the 1990s, leading to the vaguely articulated notion of "Asian values", which prioritised stability and economic progress over individual freedoms.

His other great contribution to Asean was as interlocutor with the rest of the world, in particular the US and China.

Regional spokesperson
His clear-headed strategic views influenced a succession of US presidents and officials, in particular the Cold War Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz. He made a ground-breaking visit to China in 1976, when the rest of Asean was still deeply suspicious of Beijing's role in sponsoring insurgencies, and received Deng Xiaoping in Singapore two years later, as he led his country out of its international isolation in the late 1970s.

The new Chinese leader was fascinated by Singapore's blend of authoritarian rule and entrepreneurial success, and Lee used his ties with China to persuade it to take a more conciliatory approach towards South East Asia. More than anyone else, he was able to articulate Asean's concerns to the great powers - in his view, "to ensure its interests were taken into account".

As Jusuf Wanandi, one of the architects of Suharto's pragmatic New Order wrote following the Singaporean's death: "Lee, with his sharp thinking, especially on the future of East Asia and Asia Pacific, had become the spokesperson for the region, in particular to the West, and that was indeed an important role for him to play. And regarding the future strategic development of the region, no one can replace him."

Free-trade advocate
It was however the US defeat in Vietnam in 1975, and then the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in late 1978, that compelled Asean to elevate itself to more than just a talking-shop for easing internal disputes and building trust, which is largely what it was until 1975. Lee Kuan Yew now played a central role in constructing a more robust Asean architecture.

First, because of his conviction that political stability came out of economic progress, he took every opportunity to promote trade within Asean, raising the idea of a free trade area as early as 1973.

This suited Singapore, which had pinned its survival on having one of the world's freest trade and investment regimes, but it proved far more difficult to overcome the suspicion and vested interests of neighbouring countries. The Asean Free Trade Area finally came into effect only in 1994.

Second, with his conviction that Asean could never be militarily strong or cohesive enough to provide for its own security unaided, he pushed for a framework that would keep the superpowers engaged and in dialogue with the region. This eventually gave rise in the 1990s to the Asean Regional Forum, a unique, annual gathering that brings together the foreign ministers of China, the United States, Russia, Japan, the European Union, North and South Korea, among others, to hammer out international security issues.

"You cannot replace the reality of power by just talk," he said in 1993. "You may diminish suspicions and fears - and that is a very great achievement."

Outsize role
Blunt-spoken and stubborn in his convictions, Lee was not always able to overcome differences with his Asean partners. Indonesia and Malaysia were uneasy about his rapprochement with China, although he did give a private assurance that Singapore would not normalise relations with Beijing until Indonesia did, and honoured that promise.

Likewise, he worried about those two countries' approaches to Vietnam during the stand-off over Cambodia in the 1980s, fearing that the Soviet-backed Vietnamese would undermine Asean unity. He harboured no long-term enmity towards Communist Vietnam, he said, but stuck to the principle that invading other countries was unacceptable. The Vietnamese seemed to accept that explanation, honouring Lee with the role of an official economic advisor in 1992 after the Cambodia issue was settled.

In later years some of Lee's outspoken comments about his neighbours continued to cause friction. Relations with Indonesian Presidents BJ Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid were frosty after he cast doubt on their leadership abilities. His continued criticism of the pro-Malay Bumiputera policy in Malaysia sparked a war of words with Dr Mahathir. He viewed Thailand as a capricious and unreliable partner.
As he often said, he cared little whether he was liked or not.

But the eulogies to Lee Kuan Yew from neighbouring countries are not insincere. He played an outsize role in building the stability and prosperity of this region, and will long be remembered for that.


Lee Kuan Yew: Singapore holds funeral procession

Singapore is bidding farewell to its founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday aged 91.

Despite torrential rain, thousands lined the streets to view the funeral procession carrying Mr Lee's coffin from parliament, where it has been lying in state, across the city.

A state funeral attended by world leaders is now taking place, ahead of a private family cremation ceremony.
One million people have visited tribute sites this week, say local media.

More than half a million people - 12% of Singaporean citizens - visited Parliament House to see Mr Lee's coffin, while at least 850,000 others went to community sites to pay tribute.

In his eulogy, Mr Lee's son and the current Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, said his father had "lived and breathed Singapore all his life".
"The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished," he said.

The funeral procession began on Sunday at 12:30 (04:30 GMT) as Mr Lee's body was taken from Parliament House on a gun carriage.
A 21-gun salute sounded, echoing across the city, as the procession moved on into the business district and Tanjong Pagar, the docklands constituency Mr Lee represented for his whole political life.

Military jets flew overhead while two Singaporean navy vessels conducted a sail-past of the Marina Bay barrage - the massive water conservation project spearheaded by Mr Lee.

The country will observe a minute's silence in the afternoon before singing the national anthem. The private cremation is taking place at the Mandai crematorium.


Journalism & Mass Communication / Re: Globalization of Health
« on: March 28, 2015, 07:06:42 PM »
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Remembering Howard Zinn
Noam Chomsky
Resist Newsletter, March/April 2010

It is not easy for me to write a few words about Howard Zinn, the great American activist and historian who passed away a few days ago. He was a very close friend for 45 years. The families were very close too. His wife Roz, who died of cancer not long before, was also a marvelous person and close friend. Also somber is the realization that a whole generation seems to be disappearing, including several other old friends: Edward Said, Eqbal Ahmed, and others, who were not only astute and productive scholars but also dedicated and courageous militants, always on call when needed -- which was constant. A combination that is essential if there is to be hope of decent survival.
Howard's remarkable life and work are summarized best in his own words. His primary concern, he explained, was "the countless small actions of unknown people" that lie at the roots of "those great moments" that enter the historical record -- a record that will be profoundly misleading, and seriously disempowering, if it is torn from these roots as it passes through the filters of doctrine and dogma. His life was always closely intertwined with his writings and innumerable talks and interviews. It was devoted, selflessly, to empowerment of the unknown people who brought about great moments. That was true when he was an industrial worker and labor activist, and from the days, 50 years ago, when he was teaching at Spellman college in Atlanta Georgia, a black college that was open mostly to the small black elite.

While teaching at Spellman, Howard supported the students who were at the cutting edge of the civil rights movement in its early and most dangerous days, many of whom became quite well-known in later years -- Alice Walker, Julian Bond, and others -- and who loved and revered him, as did everyone who knew him well. And as always, he did not just support them, which was rare enough, but also participated directly with them in their most hazardous efforts -- no easy undertaking at that time, before there was any organized popular movement and in the face of government hostility that lasted for some years. Finally, popular support was ignited, in large part by the courageous actions of the young people who were sitting in at lunch counters, riding freedom buses, organizing demonstrations, facing bitter racism and brutality, sometimes death. By the early 1960s a mass popular movement was taking shape, by then with Martin Luther King in a leadership role, and the government had to respond. As a reward for his courage and honesty, Howard was soon expelled from the college where he taught. A few years later he wrote the standard work on SNCC (the Student non-violent Coordinating Committee), the major organization of those "unknown people" whose "countless small actions" played such an important part in creating the groundswell that enabled King to gain significant influence, as I am sure he would have been the first to say, and to bring the country to honor the constitutional amendments of a century earlier that had theoretically granted elementary civil rights to former slaves -- at least to do so partially; no need to stress that there remains a long way to go.

On a personal note, I came to know Howard well when we went together to a civil rights demonstration in Jackson Mississippi in (I think) 1964, even at that late date a scene of violent public antagonism, police brutality, and indifference or even cooperation with state security forces on the part of federal authorities, sometimes in ways that were quite shocking.

After being expelled from the Atlanta college where he taught, Howard came to Boston, and spent the rest of his academic career at Boston University, where he was, I am sure, the most admired and loved faculty member on campus, and the target of bitter antagonism and petty cruelty on the part of the administration -- though in later years, after his retirement, he gained the public honor and respect that was always overwhelming among students, staff, much of the faculty, and the general community. While there, Howard wrote the books that brought him well-deserved fame. His book Logic of Withdrawal, in 1967, was the first to express clearly and powerfully what many were then beginning barely to contemplate: that the US had no right even to call for a negotiated settlement in Vietnam, leaving Washington with power and substantial control in the country it had invaded and by then already largely destroyed. Rather, the US should do what any aggressor should: withdraw, allow the population to somehow reconstruct as they could from the wreckage, and if minimal honesty could be attained, pay massive reparations for the crimes that the invading armies had committed, vast crimes in this case. The book had wide influence among the public, although to this day its message can barely even be comprehended in elite educated circles, an indication of how much necessary work lies ahead.

Significantly, among the general public by the war's end, 70% regarded the war as "fundamentally wrong and immoral," not "a mistake," a remarkable figure considering the fact that scarcely a hint of such a thought was expressible in mainstream opinion. Howard's writings -- and, as always, his prominent presence in protest and direct resistance -- were a major factor in civilizing much of the country.

In those same years, Howard also became one of the most prominent supporters of the resistance movement that was then developing. He was one of the early signers of the Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority and was so close to the activities of Resist that he was practically one of the organizers. He also took part at once in the sanctuary actions that had a remarkable impact in galvanizing antiwar protest. Whatever was needed -- talks, participation in civil disobedience, support for resisters, testimony at trials -- Howard was always there.

Even more influential in the long run than Howard's anti-war writings and actions was his enduring masterpiece, A People's History of the United States, a book that literally changed the consciousness of a generation. Here he developed with care, lucidity, and comprehensive sweep his fundamental message about the crucial role of the people who remain unknown in carrying forward the endless struggle for peace and justice, and about the victims of the systems of power that create their own versions of history and seek to impose it. Later, his "Voices" from the People's History, now an acclaimed theatrical and television production, has brought to many the actual words of those forgotten or ignored people who have played such a valuable role in creating a better world.

Howard's unique success in drawing the actions and voices of unknown people from the depths to which they had largely been consigned has spawned extensive historical research following a similar path, focusing on critical periods of American history, and turning to the record in other countries as well, a very welcome development. It is not entirely novel -- there had been scholarly inquiries of particular topics before -- but nothing to compare with Howard's broad and incisive evocation of "history from below," compensating for critical omissions in how American history had been interpreted and conveyed.

Howard's dedicated activism continued, literally without a break, until the very end, even in his last years, when he was suffering from severe infirmity and personal loss, though one would hardly know it when meeting him or watching him speaking tirelessly to captivated audiences all over the country. Whenever there was a struggle for peace and justice, Howard was there, on the front lines, unflagging in his enthusiasm, and inspiring in his integrity, engagement, eloquence and insight, light touch of humor in the face of adversity, dedication to non-violence, and sheer decency. It is hard even to imagine how many young people's lives were touched, and how deeply, by his achievements, both in his work and his life.

There are places where Howard's life and work should have particular resonance. One, which should be much better known, is Turkey. I know of no other country where leading writers, artists, journalists, academics and other intellectuals have compiled such an impressive record of bravery and integrity in condemning crimes of state, and going beyond to engage in civil disobedience to try to bring oppression and violence to an end, facing and sometimes enduring severe repression, and then returning to the task. It is an honorable record, unique to my knowledge, a record of which the country should be proud. And one that should be a model for others, just as Howard Zinn's life and work are an unforgettable model, sure to leave a permanent stamp on how history is understood and how a decent and honorable life should be lived.


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