Feb 5, 2011

117 schools closed due to disease in Bangladesh

Local administration has declared all the 117 schools of Hatibandha upazila under Lalmonirhat District of Bangladesh closed for six days from Saturday to control the spread of unknown disease, sources said.

Meanwhile 24 people died where most of them are children beginning from 31st January 2011 in the two districts of the country-Lalmonirhat and Rangpur.  

Locals said the sign of the disease is very high fever which is going out of control and the patients embrace death. 

Unknown disease claims 24 lives in Bangladesh

Is it Nipah encephalitis? It is not sure till now as the death toll is out of control from the disease which has been continuing for the last six days beginning on 31 January 2011 in Bangladesh, local sources said.

The first case of death was happened at Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat district on Monday last (31st  January 2011 ). The deceased were identified as Sabina, 3, daughter of Mokbul Hossain of Saniazan Char village, Sajjad Hossain, 3, son of Belal Hossain of Tongvanga village, Rajjak Miah, 32, son of Abbas Ali of Genduguri village under Hatibandha upazila, and Aronno Ghos, 8, son of Ashok Ghos of 'bus stand' area of Hatibandha town.

As the symbol of the disease locals said, with high fever, they were taken to Hatibandha upazila health complex where Sabina died on Monday night. The patient gets high fever ranging from 103 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and it has no treatment except symptom management, IEDCR sources said.

More eight people died on 2nd February 2011. Of the diseased, seven -- Gourob Roy, 2, Nishad, 3, Yasmin Akhter, 4, Anonya Ghosh, 4, Kajol Islam, 8, Sadequl, 22, and Azizul Islam, 32, -- are of Hatibandha of Lalmonirhat District and Tamanna, 4, is of Pirgachha of Rangpur District.

The illness claimed four more lives in Rangpur and Lalmonirhat on Friday night and Saturday (5 February 2011), raising the death toll from the disease to 24.

Some of the newly deceased are Mansur Ali, 42, Swarna, 4, daughter of Jahangir, and Mahbub, 16, son of Nozir Ali of Dakshin Goddimari village in Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat and Insan Ali of Mirbag in Kaunia upazila of Rangpur.

Mansur was first taken to a local clinic, Modern Clinic, but was denied admission. Then he was rushed to Rangpur Medical College Hospital where he died at about 7:10pm.

Swarna died at Rangpur Medical College Hospital at 9:00pm Friday while Mahbub at 12:30pm Saturday, RMCH director Toufiqur Rahman confirmed.

Insan Ali breathed his last at his Mirbag residence at about 4:30am, said the local health officer.

Hospital sources said 24 encephalitis-infected people are now undergoing treatment at Rajshahi Medical College & Hospital (RMCH), Gangachara Upazila Health Complex of Rangpur and Hatibandha Upazila Health Complex of Lalmonirhat at present.

Condition of two patients admitted to RMCH is said to be critical, hospital sources said.

The government has confirmed the disease as Nipah encephalitis after a laboratory test, which mainly spread to the two districts.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), advised caution while drinking raw date juice as bats, which are natural hosts of the disease, usually drink date juice at night.

Feb 4, 2011

US employment rate marking economic recovery

Employment probably shifted into a higher rate in January to post a fourth straight month of gains, offering more evidence of a broadening economic recovery in United States of America (USA), though the jobless rate likely rose.

The government is expected to report on Friday that nonfarm payrolls grew 145,000, according to a Reuters survey, after adding 103,000 in December. But severe snow storms that slammed large parts of the nation could result in a much lower figure.

All of the anticipated job gains are expected to have been generated by the private sector and would add to other data suggesting that the manufacturing-driven recovery is now spreading to other sectors of the economy.

The Labor Department will release its closely watched employment report at 8:30 a.m. ET.

"All the signals are pointing to a much improved labor market compared with last year and a strong payrolls report would be a nice confirmation that things are certainly headed in the right direction," said Omair Sharif, an economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

Still, the employment gains would be insufficient to prevent the jobless rate from edging up to 9.5 percent from 9.4 percent in November and too slim to discourage the Federal Reserve from completing its $600 billion government bond-buying program to support the economy.

The labor market has lagged the broader economy, which grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday acknowledged the pick-up in the recovery, but said "it will be several years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level."

Economists believe the weather could have restrained payroll growth by 15,000 to 70,000 positions in January, although the way in which the government conducts its count could temper any storm-related impact.

For severe weather to reduce the payroll count, employees have to be off work for the entire reference pay period and not paid for the time missed. Workers who receive any pay, even if just for one hour, during the pay period that includes January 12 would be counted as employed.

"My view is that the storms interrupted the hiring process. They have not diminished the demand for labor, but made it that much more difficult for both the job seekers and employers to consummate the hiring transaction," said Patrick O'Keefe, head of economic research at J.H. Cohn in Roseland, New Jersey.

The jobless rate dropped sharply in December, but that partly reflected discouraged workers leaving the labor force. Economists viewed the decline as overstated and expect it rose a touch in January.

Further increases could be in store in the months ahead as the labor market gains strength, which could spur some discouraged workers to come back into the labor force.

"We have a lot of workers on the sidelines. They will come back it when the labor market recovers," said Stephen Bronars, senior economist at Welch Consulting in Washington. "The effect is that the unemployment rate is going to stay above a level we would consider acceptable for a longer period of time."

A persistently high unemployment rate could put in jeopardy President Barack Obama's chances of winning a second-term in office in the 2012 election.

The anticipated private employment gains of 155,000 were likely driven by the services sector, which accounts for more than 80 percent of jobs in the United States.

Payroll increases in goods-producing sectors were probably limited by the severe weather, whose impact was probably felt the most in construction. Manufacturing employment probably grew for a second straight month.

Government payrolls are expected to have dropped by about 10,000 in January, marking a third straight month of declines.

Feb 2, 2011

WikiLeaks nominated for 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

The whistle blowing and anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian politician behind the proposal said on Wednesday, a day after the deadline for nominations expired.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee accepts nominations for what many consider as the world's top accolade until February 1, although the five panel members have until the end of the month to make their own proposals.

Norwegian parliamentarian Snorre Valen said WikiLeaks was "one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency" in the 21st century.

"By disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes, WikiLeaks is a natural contender for the Nobel Peace Prize," Valen said.

Members of all national parliaments, professors of law or political science and previous winners are among those allowed to make nominations. The committee declined to comment on the WikiLeaks proposal or any other nominations.

Washington is furious at WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for releasing tens of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables which it says have harmed U.S. interests abroad, including peace efforts.

Assange, An Australian, faces extradition to Sweden from Britain for questioning in a sex case which he and his supporters say is a smear campaign designed to close down WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization funded by the public and rights groups.

Awarding WikiLeaks the prize would be likely to provoke criticism of the Nobel Committee, which has courted controversy with its two most recent choices, jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo and President Barack Obama a few months after his election.

The prize was endowed by Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, who said in his will it was to be awarded to whoever "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

In past decades the committee, appointed by the Norwegian parliament, has stretched Nobel's definition to include human rights, climate activism and even micro-financing, which have been a source of criticism from Nobel traditionalists.

Nobel watchers say a prize for WikiLeaks would highlight the growing role of specialist Internet sites and broad access social media in bringing about world change.

Sites such as Twitter and YouTube have played important roles in mobilizing people in countries with a tight grip on official media, such as Egypt where mass anti-government protests have been taking place.

Kristian Berg Harpviken of the PRIO peace think tank in Oslo agreed that innovative use of "new tools for bringing about peace" could be a major theme in this year's Nobel, but he said he expected the prize to go to a woman after a series of male recipients.

His strongest tip was the Russian human rights group Memorial and its leader, Svetlana Gannushkina.

The nomination deadline may make it difficult for Middle East nominees should mass protests there produce peace.

Egypt's Mohamed ElBaradei won the prize in 2005 as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Although theoretically possible, no individual has won the peace prize twice. The Red Cross has won three times.

Courtesy: Reuters. 

Yemen President Saleh expects to quit in 2013

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said he will not seek to extend his presidency when his current term expires in 2013.

Mr Saleh, who has been in power for three decades, also pledged that he would not pass on power to his son.

He spoke to parliament ahead of a rally in the capital on Thursday which, echoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt, has been dubbed a "day of rage".

Mr Saleh came to power as president of North Yemen in 1978.

When the country was united with South Yemen in 1990 he became president of the new republic.

Speaking during an emergency session of the country's parliament and the consultative council on Wednesday, Mr Saleh laid out his plans to move aside.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," he said.

"I present these concessions in the interests of the country. The interests of the country come before our personal interests."

He also called on the opposition to "freeze all planned protests, rallies and sit-ins".

He spoke ahead of the planned protests, organised by civil society groups and opposition leaders in a country which suffers from high population growth, 40% unemployment, rising food prices and acute levels of malnutrition.

Some 40% of the population lives on less than $2 (£1.25) a day and parts of the country have become a haven for al-Qaeda militants.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in January during days of protests urging Mr Saleh to step down.

After the revolt in Tunisia, which forced the country's president to flee into exile, Mr Saleh made a series of concessions - halving income tax and ordering his government to control prices. He has also pledged to raise the salaries of civil servants and military personnel by around $47 (£29) a month.

Mr Saleh's statement was welcomed by the country's largest opposition party but it said the planned rally would not be called off.

"We consider this initiative positive and we await the next concrete steps. As for our plan for a rally tomorrow, the plan stands and it will be organised and orderly," Mohammed al-Saadi, under-secretary of the Islamist Islah party said, according to Reuters.

"This is a peaceful struggle through which the people can make their voices heard and express their aspirations," he added.

In January, Mr Saleh had proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stand for re-election in the next presidential ballot in two years' time but, analysts say, he appears to have changed his mind after seeing the impact of public demonstrations across the region.

He made a similar promise to stand down before the 2006 presidential election, but eventually reversed this position.

Demonstrations for democracy in Egypt, 300 died

Clashes have erupted in the Egyptian capital between supporters of President Hosni Mubarak and demonstrators calling on him to step down immediately.

Rival groups of protesters are fighting pitched battles in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square. Many people have been wounded and shots have been heard.

Earlier, the army urged people to return home after nine days of anti-government demonstrations.

Mr Mubarak has pledged he will not stand for re-election in September.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands had protested across the country against Mr Mubarak, the culmination of more than a week of demonstrations that have left about 300 people dead according to UN estimates.