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Bangladesh opens first solar-powered food warehouse
27 February 2017 - Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated on Sunday the country's first solar-powered food warehouse with a capacity of 25,000 tonnes of grain in the northern part of the country. The modernised, multi-storey warehouse was built with financial and technical support from Japan. Food silos are crucial for natural disaster-prone Bangladesh to keep stocks safe from water and other threats. (more)

In rural Bangladesh, solar power dents poverty
4 October 2016 - In rural Bangladesh, especially the coastal southwest, it is common to see tiny solar panels embedded even in humble thatch-roofed huts. This is mostly the work of Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Idcol), a government-backed Bangladeshi energy and infrastructure group that claims more than 90 percent of the country's booming home solar market. (more)

Safety project cuts accidents on deadly Bangladesh highway
23 September 2016 - A pilot project that installed basic road safety infrastructure such as bus stops and speed bumps on one of the world's most dangerous highways -- the N2 between Dhaka and Sylhet in Bangladesh -- has cut road deaths by more than 60 per cent in the first year, according to a study. Almost 100 per cent of local people surveyed said they thought the road was safer than it had been before. (more)

Girls in rural Bangladesh take back their futures
9 July 2016 - Four years ago, Farzana Aktar Ruma, now 18, was almost married off without her consent. Her parents had settled on someone they considered a reasonably wealthy young man with a good family background, and did not want to miss the opportunity to wed their eldest daughter. Farzana was only 14 years old and did not want to get married, but she didn't know where to turn. Then Selina Aktar, who lives nearby, offered to help. Aktar is the facilitator of a seven-member Community Legal Services (CLS) organization that advises students, parents, and others on legal rights, including rights of adolescents. 'After several hours of discussions, we were able to convince Farzana's parents that an educated girl was more precious than a girl thought to be a burden for her family at her early age,' Aktar said. (more)

Rajshahi, Bangladesh: the city that took on air pollution - and won; and in Tezpur, India the air is getting cleaner
17 June 2016 - In Bangladesh, one of the world's most polluted cities has led the way globally in ridding itself of harmful PM10 particles. Once, Rajshahi's sweltering summers were made worse by a familiar problem on the Asian subcontinent: windows would have to be shut, not because of the wind or monsoon, but because of the smog. Then suddenly Rajshahi, in Bangladesh, hit a turning point so dramatic that it earned a spot in the record books: last year, according to UN data, the town did more than any other worldwide to rid itself of air particles so harmful to human health. The small city of Tezpur in east India has traditionally had little to brag about. The holy Brahmaputra river roars at its edges and the mighty Himalayan mountains adorn its skyline, but couched between these geographical marvels, Tezpur itself is little more than a layover stop for travellers in the state of Assam. But while many of India's industrial towns have reached peak pollution levels, Tezpur's air is getting cleaner. (more)

OECD upgrades Bangladesh country rating
5 July 2015 - The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has upgraded its rating for Bangladesh, in a move that should make it easier for local entrepreneurs and banks to secure credit, the country's central bank governor said on Sunday. The decision reflected the resilience of Bangladesh economy, which has delivered strong growth for over a decade despite political upheaval and weak external demand, Atiur Rahman told Reuters. (more)

Bangladesh to get $505 mln in loan from ADB for railway improvements
28 June 2015 - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Bangladesh on Sunday signed agreements for $505 million in loans to further improve the country's railways that will help the national economy and boost subregional trade. (more)

Boat schools bring classroom to Bangladesh's flood-hit children
9 March 2015 - Hundreds of students in the northern Bangladesh district are taught in floating schools, an initiative to make education available to children whose lives are complicated by regular flooding. 'Instead of the students going to school, the school reaches them,' said Mohammed Rezwan, founder of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, the non-profit organization that introduced the country's first floating school system. (more)

Bangladesh farmers turn back the clock to combat climate stresses
27 November 2014 - Indigenous varieties of rice are making a comeback in Bangladesh as farmers abandon high-yielding hybrid rice in favour of more resilient varieties that can cope with more extreme climate conditions, researchers say. About 20 per cent of the rice fields planted in the low-lying South Asian nation now contain indigenous varieties that can stand up to drought, flooding, or other stresses, said Jiban Krishna, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. (more)

How global brands are (finally) investing in factory workers
12 September 2014 - The HERproject reaches factory workers in developing countries through peer mentoring. The training includes health and preventive care and instruction on how to create a savings account and a family budget. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a nonprofit that encourages social responsibility in business, has made the case that teaching these life skills to workers goes beyond a nice corporate social responsibility campaign: It actually improves a company's bottom line. (more)


Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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A 'new idea': Application of Vedic Defence Technology in peacekeeping missions: Weekly Blitz reports
8 September 2011 - The word 'Vedic' comes from the Sanskrit word 'Veda,' which means 'pure knowledge.' Vedic Defense Technology as revived by the Vedic scholar Maharishi Mahesh Yogi involves applying the pure knowledge of Veda to protect society: to 'avert the danger that has not yet come.' Maharishi's preventive strategy includes establishing a permanent group of meditating peace-creating experts whose daily practice of his Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program creates a more coherent national and world consciousness, and thereby prevents negativity from arising in the nation. (more)


Flops
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Key radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh
3 July 2016 - The hostage crisis at a restaurant in Bangladesh's capital that left 28 dead, including 20 hostages and six militants, has focused attention on the radical Islamist attacks occurring in the moderate, mostly Muslim country in the past few years. Most have been claimed by the Islamic State group or by al-Qaida's local branch, but the government vehemently denies these transnational jihadi groups have any presence in the country. Instead, the government blames domestic militants and its political opponents of trying to destabilize the country. Authorities have cracked down on extremist groups by banning them from operating and arresting many of their members. The opposition parties deny the allegation that they're involved. A look at some of the main Islamic political parties and radical groups in the country: (more)

Hostage crisis leaves 28 dead in Bangladesh diplomatic zone
2 July 2016 - The dramatic, 10-hour hostage crisis that gripped Bangladesh's diplomatic zone ended Saturday morning with at least 28 dead, including six of the attackers, as commandos raided the popular restaurant where heavily armed attackers were holding dozens of foreigners and Bangladeshis prisoner while hurling bombs and engaging in a gunbattle with security forces. The victims included 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, and two Bangladeshi police officers. The attack marks an escalation in militant violence that has hit the traditionally moderate Muslim-majority nation with increasing frequency in recent months, with the extremists demanding the secular government set up Islamic rule. (more)

Bangladesh failing to spare millions from arsenic poisoning
6 April 2016 - An estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh are still being poisoned by arsenic-tainted water -- a number that has remained unchanged from 10 years ago despite years of action to dig new wells at safer depths, according to a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based rights group blames nepotism and neglect by Bangladeshi officials, saying they're deliberately having new wells dug in areas convenient for friends, family members, and political supporters and allies, rather than in places where arsenic contamination is highest or large numbers of poor villagers are being exposed. Arsenic also kills about 45,000 Bangladeshis every year. Scientists first discovered arsenic in Bangladesh's groundwater in 1993, sounding alarm bells worldwide about a massive public health crisis pouring from the millions of hand-cranked tube wells tapping water from underground. (more)

Bangladesh court upholds death sentences of 2 politicians
18 November 2015 - Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld death sentences given to two influential opposition leaders who were convicted of war crimes during the country's 1971 independence war against Pakistan. Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials ordered by the government are politically motivated, an allegation Hasina rejects outright, saying justice for victims' families is overdue. In Washington, leaders of U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed concern that 'democratic space is shrinking' in Bangladesh and that the war crimes tribunal was being used for political retribution. (more)

More Bangladeshis found in Thailand on human trafficking route
13 October 2014 - Thai police found scores of sick and exhausted boat people hiding on a remote island on Monday, and all but one of the 79 suspected human-trafficking victims were from Bangladesh, according to local officials. The high proportion of Bangladeshis cropping up on smuggling routes once plied mainly by Rohingya is consistent with what a leading Rohingya advocacy group says is an alarming rise in 'forced departures' from Bangladesh. Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which plots migration across the Bay of Bengal, said the group had learned that brokers in Bangladesh were abducting men and boys, or luring them by false promises of work, then shipping them to Thailand and Malaysia. Reuters reported last year how thousands of Rohingya were held and sometimes tortured by traffickers at jungle camps in southern Thailand until their families secured their release with ransoms of $2,000 or more. The discovery of the boat people, along with the detention of dozens more Rohingya last month, suggests that smuggling routes are still thriving in Thailand. (more)

Minority Biharis under pressure in Bangladesh
21 July 2014 - The recent violent attack on Urdu-speaking Biharis in the Bangladeshi capital highlights this minority's ongoing protection needs: Community leaders allege political collusion in the attack. Clashes broke out on 14 June between Biharis and Bengalis, who make up the majority of Bangladesh's population, in Mirpur on the outskirts of Dhaka. Ten Biharis were killed and houses were torched; no arrests have been made to date. Anwari Begum, 50, told IRIN she was injured during the clash when a police officer hit her with his baton; she believes the police did too little to stop the violence. There are 300,000 Muslim Biharis scattered across 116 squalid camps in Bangladesh today. Many came from the Indian state of Bihar, and moved to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during and after partition in 1947. The West Pakistan-based government's preferential treatment of Urdu speakers seeded tensions between Biharis and Bengalis, which were further stoked when many Biharis sided with the Urdu-speaking Pakistani army in the bloody 1971 war of liberation. A 2008 landmark High Court decision recognized Biharis as Bangladeshi nationals, but citizenship rights have yielded minimal gains, and most remain on government-owned land, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and political manipulation. (more)

Rising wages squeeze Bangladesh garment makers as factories await upgrades
14 April 2014 - Bangladesh garment factory owners say they are soaking up much of the cost of nearly doubling wages as some global retailers balk at price hikes, leaving less money for safety improvements urged by apparel chains after last year's Rana Plaza disaster. The task of coping with a 79 per cent increase in the minimum monthly wage to $68 (40.63 pounds), imposed last December at the urging of some retail chains, comes as competition intensifies among emerging markets producing garments for stores like Walmart and Zara. That is squeezing sales in Bangladesh's main export industry. At Dhaka-based clothing company Simco Group, one of the thousands of businesses the sector comprises, chairman Muzaffar Siddique said that before the wage increase his net profit margin was a little more than 2 per cent. Now he's losing money on orders, and reckons four out of every five garment makers in the world's second-biggest clothing exporter after China are in the same boat. Nearly a year after the eight-storey Rana Plaza building collapsed in Dhaka's Savar district, killing more than 1,100 workers, Bangladesh's garment export growth has slowed to the lowest rate in 15 years. Some buyers have shifted orders to countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia because of concerns about workshop safety, higher wages, and political uncertainty. (more)

Reforms slow in Bangladesh's toxic tanneries
2 March 2014 - The tragedy that killed 1,135 people in a garment factory in Bangladesh finally forced Western retailers into action. But there are few signs of reform at Bangladesh's leather industry, where conditions are equally atrocious and business is booming thanks to the West's growing demand for cheap leather items. 'In these tanneries, death comes slowly,' said activist Rizwana Hasan, referring to respiratory problems, cancers, skin diseases, and other illnesses that doctors blame on long hours and few safety precautions. An AFP reporter recently saw children as young as 14 working inside one tannery, whose floor was awash with chromium effluent, and where cow and goat skins caked in salt were stacked in piles. Tanneries are also deadly to the environment: every day, they collectively dump 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste, including cancer-causing chromium, into the Buriganga -- Dhaka's main river and a key water supply. The area, once a pleasant, semi-rural district, has been transformed into a patchwork of toxic swamps, garbage landfills, and mountains of decomposing leather scraps. (more)

Bangladesh garment factories intimidate workers over unions: group
6 February 2014 - Bangladeshi garment factory owners use beatings, the threat of murder, and intimidation to stop workers from forming trade unions, a human rights group said on Thursday. Bangladesh amended its labour law in July to boost worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions, after a factory complex collapsed in April killing more than 1,100 garment workers, sparking debate over safety and rights. But New York-based Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 47 workers in 21 factories in and around the capital, Dhaka, from October and it said many of the workers described abusive practices. 'The workers claimed that some managers intimidate and mistreat employees involved in setting up unions, including threatening to kill them,' the rights group said in a statement. Rock bottom wages and trade deals with Western countries have turned Bangladesh's garments sector into a $22 billion industry, that accounts for four-fifths of its exports. (more)

Bangladesh releases first GM food
24 January 2014 - Authorities in Bangladesh have released the country's first ever genetically modified crop to farmers amid criticism from environmental groups, officials said Friday. Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) has begun distributing the seedlings of four types of genetically modified aubergine following approval from the government's biosafety regulator. But environmentalist groups say the government has released the seeds hurriedly and without enough research. With the release Bangladesh has become the 29th nation to grow genetically modified (GM) crops and the first to grow GM aubergine, known locally as brinjal. The Philippines and India have dropped plans to introduce genetically modified aubergine in the face of public protests. (more)

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