Monday, November 22, 2010

Police eye death of boy who fell at Staples Center

LOS ANGELES – The family of a 2-year-old boy was posing for pictures in a luxury suite high inside Staples Center when he managed to scale a clear safety barrier and fell about 30 feet to his death, police said on Monday.

Lucas Anthony Tang suffered head injuries Sunday when he landed on rows of seats minutes after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 117-89, police said. The boy later died at a hospital.

"Somehow the child went over the edge of the section," Officer Julie Sohn said.

Police were releasing few details about the incident as they tried to determine what happened.

Sohn said the boy's family was taking photographs at the time of the fall.

The Los Angeles Times, citing unidentified police sources, said the toddler's family was looking at digital photographs and lost track of him. He somehow got over the top of the glass barrier, the newspaper reported.

Sohn, however, said she could not confirm those details.

The luxury boxes have tiers of seats, fronted by concrete walls. Atop the walls are glass barriers. The barrier varies in height but at its lowest point is about the height of an adult's waist, said Michael Roth, a spokesman for Staples and owner, AEG.

Roth said the toddler fell into a general seating area about 30 rows up from the court.

Initial estimates put the child's fall at about 50 feet, but Roth later said the third tier of boxes is three stories up, or about 30 feet.

Witnesses said the boy was moving his arms, legs and head when paramedics put him in an ambulance, Roth said.

The 950,000-square-foot stadium opened in 1999 and has 160 luxury suites on three levels.

"In 11 years, we've never had an incident like this," he said.

The building is in compliance with city codes, Department of Building and Safety spokesman David Lara said.

Building regulations require guardrails that are at least 26 inches high in front of seats, he said. Guardrails in front of stairs must be 42 inches high.

The police department's juvenile division, which has investigative responsibility when a victim is under age 11, was handling the probe. "It's procedural" and did not necessarily indicate that a crime was involved, Sohn said.

The arena was conducting its own investigation, Roth said.

Roth declined to release details about the boy's family but said the luxury box — as with most suites — probably was owned by a corporation.

"Our condolences and prayers go to the Tang family," Roth said a short prepared statement.

The Lakers organization issued a statement expressing shock and sadness at the tragedy.

"To go from a moment of happiness and enjoyment, to the loss of this boy's life, is tragic and heartbreaking. We would like to ask Lakers fans to join us in keeping Lucas and his family in our thoughts and prayers," the statement said.

Roth said Monday night's game between the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets would go on as scheduled.

The arena is home to the NBA's Lakers and Clippers, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Adjacent to the popular LA Live entertainment complex, Staples is also one of the city's major venues for concerts and special events such as the Grammy Awards.

See also:

LA County coroner aims to revive gift shop sales

LOS ANGELES – The morgue is about the last place you would think of to go shopping, so it's perhaps unsurprising that sales at Los Angeles County's coroner gift store are next to dead.

Tucked as unobtrusively as possible in a closed-door room off the coroner's lobby, the store is jam-packed with mortality-mocking merchandise: Water bottles marked "bodily fluids," boxer shorts dubbed "undertakers," toe tags, crime-scene tape and beach towels bearing the county coroner's trademarked symbol of a body outline.

Trouble is, few people know about the tongue-in-cheek store and its related website, "Skeletons in a Closet." The shop's biggest customers? No shock here — homicide detectives.

"Most people know it through word-of-mouth," said Craig Harvey, the department's chief of operations. "But we are mentioned in guidebooks and we get tourists."

County auditors, however, say given the unique nature of the trinkets — the department is believed to be the nation's only coroner with a trademarked merchandise line — the 17-year-old business could be a robust moneymaker if infused with marketing lifeblood.

They recommend the coroner hire an outside firm with an eye to marketing the merchandise in high-traffic tourist areas, such as Hollywood Boulevard and Los Angeles International Airport.

Harvey is first to admit the merchandise has potential. It just hasn't been a priority for a department that prides itself as one of the top forensic science units in the country, as well as the busiest.

"There is a mystique about the LA County coroner, something people identify with. People want to know what we do and how we do it," Harvey said. "We can do government services very well, but business is another thing."

A management audit released earlier this year found the store's losses totaled $270,000 from 2003 to 2008, and was in effect being subsidized through surplus funds from a drunken driving educational program.

Noting that retailing is not part of a coroner's mission, Harvey said the department is open to expanding the operation but is awaiting a forthcoming fiscal review from the county controller-auditor to develop a plan.

At one point, the department contracted a company to market the items in Japan, but the project was dead soon after arrival — with little consumer interest, Harvey said. The department hasn't sought new ventures since.

Still, the marketing opportunity is clearly there, given the department's unrivaled profile in a largely unheralded field.

Over the decades, some of the world's most captivating morbid mysteries have played out under the prying scalpels of Los Angeles pathologists.

There are the deaths of the famous such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean; killings that led to charges against the famous such as O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector; and the victims whose killers became famous such as the Menendez brothers, Charles Manson, and the victim herself, the Black Dahlia.

Numerous TV shows have added to the cachet, including the long-running 1976-83 drama "Quincy M.E.," in which Jack Klugman played a curmudgeonly crime-solving coroner, and the more recent documentary-style "North Mission Road," named for the department's street location.

"There's a definite interest in this," said Scott Michaels, who owns Dearly Departed Tours, which offers tours of LA's celebrated death landmarks. "Every other store along Hollywood Boulevard has LAPD and LAFD T-shirts. The LA coroner would be a natural."

The store has always been somewhat of a barebones operation. It evolved from a few coffee mugs and T-shirts the department had printed up to use as giveaways at conferences. Then people started requesting them and the department opened a small shop in a supply closet in 1993.

A following developed for the items that poke fun at death — there's nothing gory or bloody — and it landed in tourist guidebooks as a stop for unique souvenirs.

Tour buses stop there and tourists do seek it out. However, the shop's success has been limited by its location on the eastside of downtown Los Angeles amid a grimy strip of auto-glass businesses. The shop lacks a sign outside the coroner's office, a red-brick, century-old former hospital.

It makes for a lot of lonely hours for store manager Edna Pereyda, who had no customers during a recent visit.

The department has deliberately downplayed the store, mindful that most people who seek out the coroner's department are bereaved relatives. "They're really not in the mood for this stuff," Harvey said.

After a 2002 audit noted the store lost $100,000 in 2000-01, the department tightened up operations considerably with better inventory and cash controls, and limits on officials' using merchandise as gifts. The audit noted that officials gave away $2,600 worth of stuff over a four-month period.

In 2008, losses narrowed to about $55,000 on the $175,000 per year operation.

Marketing experts said the merchandise would likely be popular, although it could perhaps reinforce foreigners' perception of American cities as breeding-grounds for violence.

"It is part of the makeup of people's view of large cities in America," said Bill Baker, author of "Destination Branding for Small Cities." "But if this is more of a humorous thing, it could be a 'I survived it' sort of mentality. It'll possibly sell well."

See also:

Searchers seek gunman in Utah ranger shooting

MOAB, Utah – Searchers combed the rugged red rock terrain near Moab for a third day Monday in their hunt for a possibly armed and dangerous man they believe was involved in the shooting of a Utah park ranger.

The target of their manhunt was Lance Leeroy Arellano, 40, who officials believe may be wounded and in need of medical help after the shootout late Friday. Authorities have recovered a rifle, backpack and a tattered, bloody T-shirt while searching for Arellano over the weekend in a canyon along the Colorado River.

The ranger, Brody Young, 34, suffered injuries to an arm, leg and his stomach area, and underwent surgery over the weekend, Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said. A spokeswoman for St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., said Monday that Young is listed in serious condition.

The shootout occurred after Young stopped a vehicle near the Poison Spider Mesa Trail southwest of Moab near the Colorado River. The scenic trail, among Utah's best-known biking runs, rises more than 1,000 feet into the surrounding countryside.

Authorities have not yet been able to interview Young, and it remained unclear what sparked the violence.

More than 160 law enforcement officers spent the weekend searching a 15-square mile area near eastern Utah's Dead Horse State Park. Nyland has said the area's rugged terrain likely has given Arellano the "upper hand" in avoiding capture.

"He pretty much knows where we are at all times because of the number of people we have," Nyland said at a press conference.

Authorities have confiscated and searched Arellano's 1999 silver Pontiac Grand Am, which was found parked in the brush several miles south of the shooting site.

Nyland said he thinks Arellano is still in the contained search area and "there's not any possible way for him to leave the area without us knowing."

"We consider this individual armed and dangerous. As we're tracking him we have to keep that in mind — the security of the trackers — and we're having to move pretty slow," Nyland said. Arellano has a criminal history that includes assault and drug charges.

The shooting comes in the wake of the killing earlier this month of a 31-year-old game warden in Pennsylvania who was shot while trying to apprehending an armed poacher.

See also:

Feds OK 2nd human study of embryonic stem cells

NEW YORK – For only the second time, the U.S. government has approved a test in people of a treatment using embryonic stem cells — this time for a rare disease that causes serious vision loss.

Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company based in Santa Monica., Calif., said the research should begin early next year, following the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Just last month another biotech company, Geron Corp., said it had begun preliminary testing in people for treating spinal cord injuries by injecting cells derived from embryonic stem cells.

Scientists hope to use stem cells to create a variety of tissues for transplant. But human embryos have to be destroyed to harvest those cells, which has made their use controversial.

ACT's experiment will focus on Stargardt disease, which affects only about 30,000 Americans. But the company hopes the same approach will work for similar and more common eye disorders like age-related macular degeneration, which affects millions.

Stargardt is an inherited disorder that attacks central vision used for tasks like reading and recognizing faces. Some patients go totally blind, even losing peripheral vision, while others are severely impaired and can only perceive light or see their hands moving in front of their faces.

The disease typically starts in adolescence. The key problem is that impaired scavenger cells fail to remove toxic byproducts from the eye, allowing them to build up and kill other cells. There is no proven treatment.

In the new study, 12 patients will be treated with healthy scavenger cells, created in a laboratory from human embryonic stem cells. This early phase of the research is primarily to test the safety of various doses, injecting only one eye of each patient.

"We're also hoping to see some improvement in visual acuity, but that's a bonus," said Dr. Robert Lanza, ACT's chief scientific officer.

The research will be performed at medical centers in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon, ACT said.

Stephen Rose, chief research officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, said his group is "very, very glad" that ACT has permission to begin the study.

See also:

TSA head sorry for pat-down causing urine spill

ROMULUS, Mich. – A bladder cancer survivor from Michigan says the head of the Transportation Security Administration called to apologize for an airport pat-down that caused a bag of the traveler's urine to soak his clothes.
Sixty-one-year-old retired special education teacher Tom Sawyer says the rough pat-down happened before he caught a flight to Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 7.
The Houghton Lake man tells that the experience left him "absolutely humiliated."
Sawyer tells the Detroit Free Press that TSA chief John Pistole called him Monday and "apologized on behalf of the TSA."
Sawyer says he accepted Pistole's apology. The newspaper says it couldn't immediately reach the agency for comment.
Earlier, Pistole said on CBS' "The Early Show" that he's concerned about people such as Sawyer who've had uncomfortable experiences with agents.

See also:

Security protest could disrupt Thanksgiving travel

CHICAGO – As if air travel over the Thanksgiving holiday isn't tough enough, it could be even worse this year: Airports could see even more disruptions because of a loosely organized Internet boycott of full-body scans.

Even if only a small percentage of passengers participate, experts say it could mean longer lines, bigger delays and hotter tempers.

The protest, National Opt-Out Day, is scheduled for Wednesday to coincide with the busiest travel day of the year.

"Just one or two recalcitrant passengers at an airport is all it takes to cause huge delays," said Paul Ruden, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, which has warned its more than 8,000 members about delays resulting from the body-scanner boycott.

"It doesn't take much to mess things up anyway — especially if someone purposely tries to mess it up."

Body scans take as little as 10 seconds, but people who decline the process must submit to a full pat-down, which takes much longer. That could cause a cascade of delays at dozens of major airports, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

"I don't think it would take that much on the busiest day of the year to slow things down," said Gerry Berry, a Florida-based airport security expert. "If I was an airport guy, a screener, a traveler — I'd be concerned."

Not all airports have the machines, which resemble large refrigerators. And not all travelers are selected for scans. But Berry estimated that up to 20 percent of holiday fliers will be asked to use the full-body machines — meaning tens of thousands could be in a position to protest.

The full-body scanners show a traveler's physical contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches.

The protest was conceived in early November by Brian Sodergren of Ashburn, Va., who built a one-page website urging people to decline the scans.

Public interest in the protest boomed this week after an Oceanside, Calif., man named John Tyner famously resisted a scan and groin check at the San Diego airport with the words, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." A cell-phone video of the incident went viral.

Other groups have since taken up Sodergren's cause.

"I had no idea what was being started and just how upset people were," said Sodergren, a health industry employee. "I'm just a guy who put a website up."

The Transportation Security Administration has a new pat-down procedure that includes a security worker running a hand up the inside of passengers' legs and along the cheek of the buttocks, as well as making direct contact with the groin area.

Pat-downs often take up to four minutes, according to the TSA's website, though that could be longer if someone requests it be done in a room out of public view or if an ill-at-ease traveler asks for a full explanation of the procedure beforehand.

Factoring in those time estimates, it would take a total of around 15 minutes to put 100 people through a body scan — but at least 6 hours to pat down the same number of travelers.

The TSA's Chicago spokesman, Jim Fotenos, would not disclose how many travelers are normally selected for scans. He said only "a relatively small percentage" normally need pat-downs.

Fotenos declined to say if the agency was taking precautionary steps ahead of the protest, saying only that passengers can make their experience better "by coming prepared and arriving early."

On Friday, TSA head John Pistole told CBS's "The Early Show" that the close-quarter body inspections are unavoidable in a time of terrorist threats.

Pistole acknowledged the public distaste for more intense security, particularly hand pat-downs, and called it a "challenge" for federal authorities and airport screeners.

Also Friday, the TSA agreed to allow airline pilots to skip security scanning and pat-downs. According to pilot groups, pilots in uniform on airline business would be allowed to pass security by presenting two photo IDs, one from their company and one from the government, to be checked against a secure flight crew database.

David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry, declined to speculate whether the protest would trigger delays.

"It is impossible to assess how many people will take part, but we would be disappointed if many travelers did participate on one of the busiest days of the year," Castelveter said.

He said airlines always urge customers to show up early during peak holiday travel times and were not suggesting any changes specifically because of the protest.

Delta Air Lines planned to have extra staff in place as it normally does during a holiday travel period. Spokeswoman Susan Elliott said the company was not taking any extra precautions in case of widespread protests.

Southwest Airlines Paul Flaningan said only that his company was "aware of what is being talked about, and we are in constant communication with the TSA."

He said Southwest was not bringing in extra workers specifically because of the threatened protest.

Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Department of Aviation, which oversees O'Hare and Midway airports, would say only that the airports planned to bring in extra workers for the holiday, but she declined to address the potential effect of the protest.

Sodergren sounds much less strident than many critics of screening procedures. And he says he's not trying to cause disarray at airports.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," he said "I don't think it will be chaos. And I have no desire to slow the system down."

But some protesters are aiming to do just that.

Another participating organization called "We Won't Fly" features a blurb at the top of its website that says, "Jam TSA checkpoints by opting out until they remove the porno-scanners."

Organizer James Babb of Eagleville, Pa., agreed many travelers would see the pat-down as equally intrusive or more so. But he's still recommending the pat-down because, he says, it would create more disruption and send a stronger message.

"They won't have the manpower to reach into everyone's crotch," he said.

Passengers cannot opt out of both the scan and the pat-down once they have been selected for the enhanced searches, according to TSA rules. If they then try to evade the measures, they could face an $11,000 fine.

Even if someone in a security line becomes frustrated and decides not to fly, TSA rules require they submit to a scan or pat-down. If people were allowed to walk out, the agency says, would-be terrorists would have an easy escape.

At least some entrepreneurs are offering passengers other forms of protest.

One Las Vegas company is selling designer rubber patches to cover body parts that travelers do not want screeners to see. One patch for the crotch area includes text written in fonts associated with Las Vegas billboards that reads, "What Happens Under Here — Stays Here."

And for anyone who wants to express displeasure with pat-downs, Tyner's confrontation has spawned online sales of T-shirts, bumper stickers and even underwear emblazoned with the words, "Don't Touch My Junk!"

Ironically, one person who will not take part directly in Wednesday's protest is its instigator, Brian Sodergren. He said his wife is too uncomfortable with the prospect of either a body scan or a pat-down, so they are driving the several hundred miles to a relative's home.

See also:

DeLay jurors weigh mostly circumstantial evidence

AUSTIN, Texas – Prosecutors in ex-U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay's money laundering trial made a final pitch to jurors Monday to connect the dots among the mounds of circumstantial evidence and find him guilty.
DeLay's attorneys said prosecutors needed jurors to infer DeLay's guilt because they'd presented no proof the ex-lawmaker committed a crime.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours after closing arguments without reaching a verdict. They will resume their deliberations Tuesday.
They sent several questions Monday to Senior Judge Pat Priest, including a request for clarification on the definition of money laundering. Priest told jurors he would answer their questions about money laundering on Tuesday.
Prosecutors had focused on summarizing the volumes of e-mails and other documents they presented during DeLay's three-week trial in an effort to prove DeLay used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate money into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.
DeLay, a once powerful but polarizing Houston-area congressman, has denied wrongdoing. The Republican is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors Gary Cobb and Beverly Mathews said the circumstantial evidence in the case, when put together, showed DeLay took part in a scheme with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to get corporate money to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate donations can't go directly to political campaigns.
"What was Tom DeLay's motive to do this? His motive was redistricting, pure and simple," Mathews said.
Prosecutors claim the corporate money helped Republicans elect candidates and take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 — and strengthened DeLay's political power.
Prosecutors say the corporate money was laundered through an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The money was exchanged for the same amount in individual donations, which can be used in Texas campaigns.
"You can logically infer anything from the evidence. That is what circumstantial evidence is. You don't have to have an eyewitness to figure out what went on here," Mathews said.
But Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lead attorney, restated what he had often said throughout the trial: that prosecutors had failed to prove the ex-lawmaker committed a crime and the money swap was legal.
Throughout his closing arguments, DeGuerin repeated one phrase in particular: no corporate money went to candidates in Texas. He even included the sentence — in bold, black letters — in a slide show he presented to jurors.
DeGuerin argued DeLay was being punished for his political views and that prosecutors tried to "make politics dirty." Trial testimony from prosecution witnesses often focused on how money is raised in political campaigns, particularly from corporations.
"I don't agree with tearing down someone because of what their beliefs are," DeGuerin said.
The case had been originally brought by a Democratic district attorney who is now retired.
The strongest evidence prosecutors presented was an audio interview in which DeLay said he knew beforehand about the money swap. DeLay says he misspoke in the interview with prosecutors in 2005, just before his indictment.
DeLay has said Ellis told him about the money swap on Oct. 2, 2002, after it had been approved. At trial, prosecutors focused on a Sept. 11, 2002, meeting Ellis had at DeLay's Washington office. Prosecutors told jurors that an hour before Ellis was in DeLay's office that day, he received a blank check from the PAC's accountant in Austin. That check was later sent to the RNC and filled out for $190,000. Two former DeLay staff members testified DeLay would have been too busy to be at the Sept. 11 meeting.
During closing arguments, both prosecutors and defense attorneys played excerpts from the audio interview. Prosecutors said it proved in DeLay's own words that he knew about the money swap before it happened. DeGuerin argued it proved DeLay didn't propose the transaction and had little if any involvement in how the PAC was run.
Prosecutors presented more than 30 witnesses during the trial that started Nov. 1. In contrast, only five witnesses took the stand in DeLay's defense.
At trial, prosecutors also presented records showing the seven Texas candidates got more donations from the RNC than all other state legislative candidates around the U.S.
The criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of DeLay's ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department probe into DeLay's ties to Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.
Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.
DeLay, whose nickname was "the Hammer" for his heavy-handed style, runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. In 2009, he appeared on ABC's hit television show "Dancing With the Stars."

See also:

Feds are investigating drinking glasses with lead

LOS ANGELES – Federal regulators launched an investigation Monday into lead levels in themed drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters, declaring them children's products subject to stricter standards than those intended for adult collectors.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was collecting samples of all glasses cited in an ongoing Associated Press investigation into dangerous metals in children's merchandise, generally those containing the more-dangerous toxin cadmium.

The company that imported the Chinese-made glasses depicting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from "The Wizard of Oz" such as Dorothy and the Tin Man announced it would voluntarily recall them, despite its insistence that they were marketed to adults.

In all, about 160,000 glasses were recalled by two companies since the AP disclosed Sunday that laboratory tests it commissioned showed that colored designs in a range of glasses contain high levels of lead or were made in such a way that lead or cadmium could escape and contaminate the hands of someone handling them.

The agency said its own inquiry would extend beyond the superhero and Oz glasses to include others cited by AP "that have decorations that children would be attracted to," said spokesman Scott Wolfson.

Federal regulators have worried that toxic metals rubbing onto children's hands can get into their mouths.

The concern is longtime, not immediate. While the superhero and Oz glasses had high levels of lead in their design colors, they did not release enough to hurt anyone. The issue is whether the glasses, made in China and purchased at the Warner Bros. Studios store in Burbank, Calif., comply with federal limits on lead in children's products.

The AP testing revealed that the Oz and superhero glasses contained lead up to 1,000 times the federal limit; the enamel used to color the Tin Man glass was more than 30 percent lead, compared with a federal limit of 0.03 percent. The items also contained lesser but still notable amounts of cadmium.

Soon after Wolfson said Monday that the CPSC considers the glasses children's products, Warner Bros. said it would stop selling them, and the importer, Utah-based Vandor LLC, said it would pull them from the broader market.

If regulators had concluded the glasses were not children's products, they wouldn't be subject to strict lead limits.

Both Vandor and Warner Bros. said in separate statements that their decisions were made in "an abundance of caution." Vandor said the "themed glassware falls within legal limits for lead and cadmium content," and insisted that adult collectors were their intended audience.

Last week, while commenting on AP's test results, Warner Bros. said, "It is generally understood that the primary consumer for these products is an adult, usually a collector."

However, on Warner Brothers' website, the superhero glasses were sold alongside a lunch box and children's T-shirts with superhero images. An online retailer,, described the 10-ounce glasses as "a perfect way to serve cold drinks to your children or guests."

Vandor CEO Tom Russo said his company would "work with the CPSC to develop a recall plan." Details of the recall will be posted on when available, the company said.

The company said that about 18,000 total four-glass sets have been sold — split almost evenly between the Oz set and the superhero set.

In addition to the Vandor recall, the Coca-Cola Co. voluntarily recalled 88,000 glasses that shed cadmium during separate AP testing that recreated what could escape from decorations during regular handling. The glasses came in sets of four and were designed to look like cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Sprite.

Coke said late Sunday that the all-red Coke glass prompted the recall "for quality reasons." The company said it saw no problem with the other three designs.

The company said the red glasses had been tested and passed; then, after AP brought its results to Coke, the company did a second round of tests that it said "indicated some cadmium in the decoration on the outside of the glass, (but) the low levels detected do not pose a safety hazard or health threat."

The manufacturer of the Coke glasses, French-owned Arc International, emphasized in a statement attributed to CEO Fred Dohn that the glasses "are safe for their intended use and meet all applicable regulatory standards for cadmium."

The latest AP testing was prompted by a recall this summer by McDonald's of 12 million glasses because cadmium escaped from designs depicting four characters in the latest "Shrek" movie.

Arc International officials said in June that the "Shrek" glasses, made at its New Jersey plant, were manufactured according to standard industry practices, which includes the routine use of cadmium to create red and similar colors.

To gauge how widespread the use of lead and cadmium has been — and whether their use poses potential health hazards — AP bought 13 new glasses, plus 22 old glasses dating from the late 1960s to 2007.

Those glasses were subjected to a battery of tests at ToyTestingLab of Rhode Island, which is accepted by the CPSC as an accredited laboratory for a range of procedures. The tests looked at whether glasses would shed lead or cadmium from their decorations during normal handling, as well as how much of the toxic metals those decorations contain.

AP's testing showed that while the Chinese manufacturer of the superhero and Oz glasses loaded the decorations with lead, very little came out of the decorations during testing. Overall, 25 of the 35 glasses tested safe — their decorations shed very low or no detectable amounts of lead or cadmium.

The other 10 glasses shed small but notable levels of lead, cadmium or, in two cases, both. The concern with these metals in glassware is routine exposure over weeks or months, even if any one dose that goes from a kid's hands to their mouth on food or by licking is small.

Lead has long been known to damage young brains; recent research suggests cadmium can do the same. Cadmium also can harm kidneys and bones, especially if it accumulates over time.

See also:

Man in past jogger attacks guilty of Levy slaying

WASHINGTON – A man imprisoned for attacking two female joggers was found guilty Monday of murdering Washington intern Chandra Levy, wrapping up a murder mystery that took down a congressman and captured the nation's attention a decade ago.

Ingmar Guandique was convicted of first-degree murder for attacking Levy while she exercised in Washington's Rock Creek Park in May 2001. Her disappearance made headlines when she was romantically linked to then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif. Condit was once a suspect, but police no longer believe he was involved in her disappearance.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Levy's mother said she'll never be free from the pain of losing her daughter.

"I have a lifetime sentence of a lost limb missing from our family tree," Susan Levy said after the hearing. "It's a lifetime of a broken heart."

Investigators eventually focused on Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, and brought formal charges last year. Prosecutors acknowledged they had little direct evidence but said Levy's death fit a pattern of other crimes committed by Guandique in the park.

The defense argued that the 29-year-old Guandique (gwahn-DEE'-kay) became a scapegoat for a botched investigation. Levy's body was found about a year after she disappeared.

In a telephone interview, Condit's lawyer Bert Fields said the verdict represents a vindication that comes too late to repair the damage his client's career. Still, trial testimony that Condit's DNA was on underwear at Levy's apartment bolstered the idea that the married politician had an affair with the intern.

"At least Gary Condit can find some measure of closure to this nightmare," Fields said. "It's a complete vindication, but that comes a little late. Who gives him his career back?" Fields said his client, whose primary loss in 2002 was largely blamed on negative publicity from the case, wasn't going to speak to reporters.

The jury deliberated over parts of four days before returning with a verdict shortly before noon Monday. Guandique was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, one alleging death as part of a kidnapping and one alleging the death as part of an attempted robbery. Jurors had the option of convicting him on a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Guandique could be sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison. Sentencing was set for Feb. 11.

Defense lawyer Santha Sonenberg declined comment on whether Guandique would appeal the verdict.

Guandique stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, and he shook his head as he left the courtroom. As he has throughout the trial, he wore a turtleneck that covered gang tattoos.

Levy's mother squinted and took notes during the hearing, then craned her neck to observe Guandique's reaction to the verdict.

Susan Levy had been outspoken in her suspicions of Condit during the investigation, even openly speculating about Condit's involvement in the weeks before the trial.

On Monday she indicated that she believed the jury's verdict was correct.

"It makes a difference to find the right person who is responsible for my daughter's death," she said.

While she was glad to have attended nearly every day of the trial, she added: "I can certainly tell you, it ain't closure."

Prosecutors Amanda Haines and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez obtained a conviction even though they had no eyewitnesses and no DNA evidence linking Guandique to Levy. And Guandique never confessed to police. Prosecutors hung their hopes in large part on a former cellmate of Guandique, Armando Morales, who testified that Guandique confided in him that he killed Levy.

Morales said Guandique was worried about being labeled a rapist by fellow inmates if word got out that he was a suspect in the Levy case. According to Morales, Guandique admitted killing Levy as part of an attempted robbery, but said he never raped her.

The government also presented testimony from two women who were attacked by Guandique in May and July of 2001 in Rock Creek Park. In both cases, Guandique attacked the women from behind while they jogged on isolated trails but ran off after each woman fought him off.

Defense lawyers argued that Morales concocted the confession story to curry favor with prosecutors. While Morales has not received any benefit for his testimony, prosecutors could seek to reduce his jail time in the future.

The defense also pointed to DNA from an unknown male that was found on Levy's black running tights. The DNA matched neither Guandique nor Condit, and the defense said it was powerful evidence that the wrong person was on trial. Prosecutors argued the DNA was the result of contamination during the testing process.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, whose department was criticized for overzealously pursuing Condit, told reporters Monday that "detectives ... can sometimes discover things that were not discoverable in the beginning. The lesson is: Never give up."

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said "today's verdict does send a message that it's never too late for justice to be done."

Juror Linda Norton said the panel went through all of the evidence "in a very deliberate manner" and discussed everything thoroughly. No single piece of evidence stood out in jurors' minds, she said. Those comments were echoed by fellow juror Susan Kelly, a journalist, who said "we were very careful to evaluate all the evidence, and it was a decision based on everything that we had."

The monthlong trial featured testimony from Condit himself, who denied any involvement in Levy's disappearance or death. But as he has for the past decade, he refused to answer whether he had an affair with Levy.

However, during the trial an FBI forensic expert testified that Condit's DNA was found on Levy's underwear recovered from her apartment, but was not found anywhere at the crime scene where her remains were discovered.

Condit's father, the Rev. Adrian B. Condit, said the family was relieved at the verdict.

"I'm sure that this will lighten the load for Gary and the entire family. He's been under all the pressure of this," Adrian Condit said in a telephone interview from his home in Modesto, Calif.

The elder Condit said he was frustrated that authorities took so long to zero in on Guandique, but he said he was confident they found the right man.

And Gary Condit's children, Cadee and Chad Condit, issued a statement Monday saying that "Chandra Levy and her family deserved justice. That it took this long is unforgivable. Our father will tell his story at the appropriate time."


Associated Press Writers Jessica Gresko in Washington and Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.

See also:

Bangladeshi law has weakest role xin budgetary process in S Asia

The Bangladeshi legislature has the weakest role in the budgetary process among all South Asian countries, and its score in the Open Budget Index remained unchanged in 2010, though budgetary transparency has gradually increased over the last three years.
That is according to the Open Budget Index 2010 report released by Unnayan Shamannay, a civil society think-tank, at a press conference held at its conference room Monday.
The Open Budget Index, an initiative of the Washington-based International Budget Project, is produced by 94 civil society organisations and research institutions across 94 countries.
The main reasons behind the low legislative score are that the legislature does not have sufficient power to amend the executive’s budget proposals, legislators cannot bring any amendments to the budget over the course of the fiscal year, sufficient time is not given for budget deliberation, and that the legislature doesn’t allow the public to give testimony at public hearings on budget discussions, according to the findings.
The OBI scores for Bangladesh were 39, 42 and 48 in the year of 2006, 2008 and 2009, respectively. Bangladesh’s performance indicates that the government provides only some information to the public in its budget documents.
Bangladesh’s 2010 score of 48 is above the median score of 42 for the 94 countries that were surveyed. First place is occupied by South Africa, with 92.
Bangladesh would greatly strengthen public accountability by producing and publishing pre-budget statements, citizens’ budgets, mid-year reviews and year-end reports, and empowering the supreme audit institutions to publish summaries of audit reports.
All this can significantly boost public participation as well as the executive’s accountability in the budget process, says the report.
The government recently enacted a law titled ‘Public Money and Budget Management Act 2009’. As per clause 15(4) of the law, the finance minister shall place a quarterly report before the parliament explaining the budget status effective from FY 2009-2010.
Two quarterly reports have already been published before the parliament. This will increase Bangladesh’s score in the next Open Budget Survey, it is said.
In terms of adequacy and availability of eight key budget documents, Bangladesh now publishes only three documents — executive’s budget proposal, enacted budget and in-year reports.
The report observed that Bangladesh does not prepare pre-budget statement (though the finance ministry officials sit with businesspeople, economists and civil society to gain their inputs), citizens’ budgets, mid-year reviews and year-end reports.
M Abu Eusuf, associate professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka, who conducted the study in Bangladesh addressed the press conference as a keynote speaker.
AHM Mustafa Kamal MP, chairman, parliamentary standing committee on ministry of finance was present as chief guest. Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, Emeritus Fellow, Unnayan Shamannay and chairman, Bangladesh Krishi Bank, presided over the event.
The index rates countries on a scale of zero to 100, depending on whether their respective governments have provided ‘extensive information, significant information, some information, minimal information or scant/no information’ to their citizens on their national budget.
The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey assesses the availability in each country of eight key budget documents, as well as the comprehensiveness of the data contained in these documents.
-New Age

Cold-related diseases rising with changing weather

The number of patients suffering from cold-related diseases has increased in the country due to the change in the weather, health experts said on Sunday.
People catch these diseases at this time of the year as the temperature varies a lot between day and night, they said, adding that common cold-related diseases like pneumonia, cough, running nose, fever, and diarrhoea had been spreading fast in the past few days.
‘We have received reports of pneumonia and diarrhoea cases from different parts of the country,’ Mahmudur Rahman, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told New Age.
He said mainly the hospitals in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar had been taking in children suffering from pneumonia. But, there is nothing to be worried about as the flow of patients is quite normal for this season, he added.
‘Some common cold-related diseases like cough, running nose, and fever are spreading now,’ said Mohammad Shahidullah, a professor of neonatology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
He also said that they also had received an increased number of patients suffering from typhoid and jaundice, especially those with hepatitis A, in the past few weeks both at BSMMU hospital and their private chambers.
Shahidullah, also the pro-vice-chancellor of the BSMMU, attributed the spread of the diseases in the city mainly to dry weather and polluted drinking water.
The number of blood dysentery cases is also on the rise, he added.
Shahidullah said people should drink pure and safe water and eat safe food for protection against the water-born diseases.
The physicians also advised the people to wear warm clothes, avoid dust, and be extra careful about personal hygiene. They recommended that parents should keep their babies covered with such warm clothes that did not produce sweat, bathe them in warm water regularly, and, if a baby caught cold, sponge its body with warm water.
-New Age

Govt won’t procure Aman paddy this year

The government has decided to not procure Aman paddy in the ongoing season with the view of keeping food prices stable in the domestic market.
“If we procure Aman paddy from the local market, the price of rice might increase. By importing rice, the government will control rice price,” Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque told reporters after a meeting of the Food Planning and Procurement Committee at his office on Monday afternoon.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan and Cabinet Secretary M Abdul Aziz, among others, attended the meeting.
Addressing the press briefing, Razzaque said if the government buys Aman paddy from local market, the price of rice may increase due to high production cost.
“The government is committed to keep the food prices at an affordable level for 40 percent of the population who live below the poverty line,” he said.
About the country’s food grain reserves, the Food Minister said there is no food crisis in the country. About six lakh tonnes of rice and two lakh tonnes of wheat are reserved at the government’s warehouses now while eight lakh tonnes of food grains were imported.
He said although the government has decided to not procure Aman from the local market, the farmers will not face any suffering.
Razzaque predicted that about 135 lakh tonnes of Aman paddy will be produced in the ongoing season.
-Daily star

WB commits $1.9b to cut recession impact

The World Bank (WB) pledged to lend out a total US$1.9 billion during 2008 and 2009 fiscal years to help Bangladesh ward off the impact of the global economic crisis, according to a new study.
The study by Independent Evaluation Group, an agency responsible for watching the bank, said in 2009, the Washington-based lender's commitment from its soft-lending arm amounted to $1.1 billion, while it was $0.8 billion in 2008 financial year.
The actual disbursement during the period totalled $1.1 billion, the IEG assessment estimated.
Bangladesh saw its growth rate wipe out by 0.68 per cent due to the global crisis as the economic growth pared back to 5.73 per cent in 2009 fiscal, down from 6.42 per cent in the pre-crisis fiscal year of 2007.
The bank estimated that the economic downturn left an estimated 50 million more people in extreme poverty last year and some 64 million more will fall into that category by the end of 2010 across the globe.
"Even in a financial crisis, the WB needs to support the crucial requisites for long-term results-fiscal and debt sustainability, structural reforms, environmental and social sustainability, and actions to reduce risks related to climate change," the IEG said in its report.
In 2009-10 fiscal, the bank also channelled $130 million in development policy loans to support Bangladesh's efforts to minimise the impact of food crisis and improve the social safety nets.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the bank's private sector lending arm, was also active in Bangladesh to help the nation cope with the global crisis.
The corporation's investment in six areas reached $164 million from fiscal 2009 through the third quarter of 2010.
Vinod Thomas, who heads the IEG, said: "The World Bank Group's response has fitted the nature of the crisis-which called for a fiscal expansion to compensate for sharply declining trade and private capital flows. The financing from the WB and other IFIs (international financial institutions) has helped in the worldwide effort to avert what might have been a harsher global downturn."
"The ensuing challenges are with emerging fiscal imbalances, higher debt levels and financial sector vulnerabilities-and with ensuring that the increase in spending produces sustainable results."
The World Bank disbursed a record US$80.6 billion during 2009 and 2010 fiscal years to respond to the global economic crisis-more than any other international financial institution.
The IEG's evaluation sought to achieve three objectives: support the most vulnerable, maintain long-term infrastructure investment and sustain the potential for private sector-led growth.

Dhaka stocks fall amid volatility

Dhaka stocks fell amid volatility Monday, triggered by the securities regulator's credit tightening measures, dealers said.
Some, however, said the impact of the regulator's move was far from expected, as a lot of buyers were still present in the market.
The benchmark DSE General Index (DGEN) was down by 0.89 per cent or 77.11 points to end at 8,521.05, scaling down from previous day's all-time peak of 8,598.17.
The fall also snapped up sixth straight session of gains.
The broader DSE All Shares Price Index (DSI) ended at 7,081.27, shedding 0.77 per cent or 55.17 points. The DSE-20 including blue chips index dropped 1.40 per cent or 72.47 points to 5,074.64.
On Sunday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halved the loan margin ratio to 1:0.5 from 1:1, in an apparent move to tame the overbought market.
"Regulator's latest credit tightening move pushed the market down," said a stockbroker.
Investors sold off shares to book profits expecting further fall of the market but late modest buying helped it recover some points, he said. The market lost more than 90 points in the morning.
Turnover decreased slightly to Tk 27.45 billion from previous session's Tk 28.24 billion. Out of 245 issues traded, 135 closed positive, 107 negative and three remained unchanged.
"Impact of the regulator's move on the market was far from expected as a lot of buyers were present," said Akter H Sannamat, managing director of Prime Finance and Investment Ltd.
The move also confused the investors to differentiate between bad and good stocks as prices of bad stocks gained ground on the day, he said.
Sannamat said, "Main panacea to stabilise the market is to increase share supply."
All the major sectors declined. Banks lost 2.22 per cent, non-banking financial institutions 0.78 per cent, telecommunications 2.04 per cent, fuel and power 1.29 per cent, cement 1.83 per cent and pharmaceuticals 0.19 per cent.
Two new stocks - Active Fine Chemicals Ltd and IFIL Islamic Mutual Fund-1 - made debut.
The former was the top gainer as it closed at Tk 132.60, gaining 1262 per cent from face value of Tk 10 while the latter was the day's top loser as the fund closed at Tk 9.30, down seven per cent from its issue price of Tk 10.
Beximco Limited topped the turnover leader with shares worth Tk 1.12 billion traded.
Other turnover leaders were UCBL, Peoples Leasing, NCC Bank, Shinepukur Ceramics, Shahjalal Bank, AB Bank, Bextex, Pubali Bank and National Bank.

RMG exports rise as demand buoyant

Garment exports went up by more than 37 percent in the first four months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period a year ago, according to government data.
The growth came due to a higher demand for Bangladeshi textile products abroad and the success of the country in exploring new markets.
In the July-October period, the country fetched $6.8 billion from exports.
The latest data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) shows that Bangladesh exported knitwear items worth $2.88 billion, a 37.97 percent rise, during the period.
Woven items logged in $2.34 billion with a growth of 39.45 percent.
Jalal Ahmed, vice-chairman of EPB, said exports from Bangladesh are increasing mainly because of higher shipments to the new destinations and a rebound in exports of some items such as leather and leather goods.
"We are also maintaining a good export growth in China and Japan," Ahmed said.
India has also become a good market for Bangladesh, and so apparel export is growing, he said.
Ahmed said export of leather and leather goods faced a serious setback a few months ago due to anthrax scare, but such exports are rebounding now.
He said some non-traditional items like plastic waste have entered the export basket.
Habibur Rahman, acting president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, attributed the export growth to a shift in orders from other competing countries, especially China, the world's largest apparel supplier.
"The knitwear sector is receiving a significant number of orders as those were diverted from China to Bangladesh due to higher production cost there," Rahman said.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the global financial meltdown was a blessing for Bangladesh.
"Many international buyers have shifted their orders to Bangladesh from other countries for higher cost of production during the global recession," Murshedy said.
Stable cotton prices and smooth operations of Chittagong Port are necessary to ensure a sustainable growth of apparel exports, he said.
-Daily Star

Popy is back to her action girl image

Actress Popy
Popular actress of the big screen Sadika Parvin Popy, after seven long years, has agreed to get under the skin of action heroine.
In her next movie ‘Aghataan’ the sex-bomb will be seen as an action girl. This will also be her first appearance against action hero Zayed Khan.
In the meantime Popy has created an image of an actress who is ready to adapt herself to any challenging role.
She says, ‘In the last couple of years I have acted, among other notable films, in ‘Rani Kuthir Baaki Itihash’, ‘Megher Kole Rode’ and ‘Dariapaarer Daulati.’ None of these were action films. Seven years back I have acted in my last action movie ‘Bostir Rani Suraiya’ which was directed by my first director Mantazur Rahman Akbar. Recently, he has proposed me to do another action performance and I have readily accepted it.’

Bangladesh's game starts today

Mohammad Ashraful's boys start their campaign in the first-ever men's cricket competition of the Asian Games today when they meet Malaysia in a quarterfinal match in Guangzhou.
In the absence of India, three established Asian powerhouses -- Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- go straight into the quarterfinals.
Malaysia set up the quarterfinal clash with formidable Bangladesh side after they handed an 89-run defeat to hosts China.
Bangladesh sent a strong side to the competition that comprises nine national caps.
Before departure, captain Ashraful told that winning the gold was very much possible for his team if they could play up to their potential in the T20 competition.
The Bangladesh team, which is likely to meet Sri Lanka in the semifinals, got the opportunity to accustom to the condition as they reached the Chinese city five days ago.
Mohammad Ashraful (captain), Shamsur Rahman (vice-captain), Naeem Islam, Faisal Hossain, Shahadat Hossain, Mahbubul Alam, Nazmul Hossain, Nazimuddin, Sohrawardi Shuvo, Dollar Mahmud, Rony Talukder, Nasir Hossain, Mohammad Mithun, Shabbir Rahman and Shuvagata Hom.
-Daily Star

Captaincy set to change hands

A change at the top looks likely as the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has decided to select the captain for the five-match one-day series against Zimbabwe only after the selectors name the squad.
During Sunday's board meeting, there was some discussion on the captaincy issue and it was made clear that the naming of the captain would probably be done when board president AHM Mustafa Kamal approved recommendations from the technical committee, informed BCB director Gazi Ashraf Hossain.
“It was decided in the board meeting that the selectors will pick the squad first and then let the technical committee make the recommendation [regarding the captaincy],” said Gazi Ashraf yesterday.
“The board president is the final authority to approve and he can do it without the board meeting,” he added.
After Jamie Siddons's forthright admission that Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, the incumbent, would have to fight his way back to the squad, it became slightly clear that the Bangladesh team would be selected keeping the 'right combination' in mind.
“Of course performance and fitness are the two most important things we look at before selecting a player,” said chief selector Rafiqul Alam.
Rubel Hossain, who won the man-of-the-match award in the final one-dayer against New Zealand, showed improvement with the old ball and was in good form as was Shafiul Islam. The Bogra lad did not exactly have spectacular figures with the ball, but did the job whenever he was given the ball.
Mashrafe, who joined the Tigers in Chittagong on Sunday night, acknowledged the competition and is well aware of the pressure attached to holding down a place in the side.
“It is not right to come to the field thinking that there won't be any pressure, especially when I have played for so long and at this level,” said Mashrafe during practice at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium yesterday.
“This competition is always good for everyone. There is no set place for anyone and one can't expect that there won't be any pressure for one's place. Because of this, even an average player would want to perform better,” added the man who has played 36 Tests and 114 ODIs.
Mashrafe bowled with a full run-up yesterday for the first time since injuring his ankle back in early October and the fast bowler looked to be hurrying the batsman with his inswing.
“I bowled with a full run-up today [Monday], and I didn't have any problem. I started bowling with a shorter run-up earlier but the physio told me to see out the six weeks required for recovery before bowling with a full run-up,” said Mashrafe.
The Narail Express, however, expects a good fight from Zimbabwe and did not make the mistake of counting them out.
“First of all, nobody expected that we'd beat New Zealand 4-0, did they? Everyone expected us to lose the series and maybe win one or two games. But we beat them 4-0. If you see it from that angle, then Zimbabwe is nothing.
“But if you think of the situation before the New Zealand series, then Zimbabwe will play much better cricket than what New Zealand played against us.
“They have two good spinners, their batsmen are in form and they have played here often,” explained Mashrafe.
-Daily Star

'PM wants e-voting'

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the Election Commission to introduce electronic voting system in the national polls, a commissioner said Monday.
"The prime minister expressed her hope that the e-voting system will be successfully used in the next national election," said M Sakhawat Hossain, speaking to reporters at his office on Monday.
The commissioner said the prime minister had assured the EC of all support in this regard.
Sakhawat said that her suggestion came during an informal discussion on the Armed Forces Day, when she directed the CEC to take necessary measures to launch EVM system for all the elections across the country.
She said that transparent ballot boxes will not be needed if the system is launched, the commissioner added.
On June 29, during the parliament's 2010-11 budget discussion, the prime minister had expressed her hope that e-voting would be introduced in the country.
The Election Commission, with the help of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), tested e-voting at Ward 21 during the Chittagong City Corporation elections.
The EC expects to try e-voting at three wards in the next Dhaka City Corporation elections, Sakhawat said and added some 400 e-voting machines (EVM) have already been procured for the purpose.
He said the EC was also considering introducing e-voting in the upcoming union council and municipality elections.
The commissioner said the system, when introduced, will ensure that no one will be able to snatch vote boxes. "It will make no difference even if the boxes are snatched.
"We have to talk with the Machine Tools Factory in this regard. If the necessary machinery is imported, EVMs can be made with the help of BUET."
A team of BUET researchers is already working in this regard, he said.
"A memorandum of understanding can be signed with Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory to make standard e-voting machines which should be easy to carry. These issues will be discussed in details at the regular meeting of the commission," Sakhawat added.

Face politics with political strategy: Shahara

Home minister Shahara Khatun has denounced the opposition activities urging them to fight politics with political strategies. She made the request while exchanging Eid greetings with reporters at her office on Monday.
Claiming that the BNP was on a lying spree, the home minister added, "One habit that the opposition is yet to overcome is their lying mentality."
Shahara came on hard on Khandker Delwar Hossain and his statement made earlier on the bomb blast at the chief justice's residence. The home minister said that the BNP secretary general was fabricating when he claimed that the home minister had reached the spot immediately after the blast occurred.
Refuting Delwar's allegations, Shahara said she had reached the spot around 10.45pm. Different newspaper reports were enough to verify her claim. She also said that the case was filed at 12:30am and not at 9pm as was claimed by Delwar.
"The copy that BNP is showing is not of a general diary, but a preliminary diary (which the officer of a police station writes down before heading to the incident spot)," she added.
Shahara requested the opposition to refrain from lying without verifying information.
When asked what measures will be taken to tackle the anti-government movements that BNP was threatening to wage, Shahara said, "You'll all have to wait and see. People will reply if any anti-people stance is adopted."
She however added that whatever steps the government take will be following a democratic path.
As regards linking five BNP leaders' names in the blast case, the minister said that the case was filed by the police and not the government. The government had nothing to do with it. "The facts will be known only after the probe takes place."
Shamsul Haque Tuku, along with other top-ranking officials of the ministry were also present there.

2 ACC probes find merit to sue Khaleda for graf

The Anti-Corruption Commission has claimed to have found "convincing" evidence that former prime minister Khaleda Zia had shown fake sources of funds for establishing Zia Charitable Trust.
Nearly Tk 2 crore spent on the establishment of the Trust came from unknown and fake sources, said a commission official referring to the findings of an ACC probe into corruption allegations against Khaleda.
The probe did not find any involvement of Khaleda's sons Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman Koko in the corruption.
Meanwhile, another ACC investigation found lack of diligence on the part of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia in the allocation of Tk 100 crore for construction of the Bhairab bridge, said a source at the commission.
The ACC is now looking into the legal aspect of the probe reports to find whether they have any flaws or loopholes.
Probes into the corruption allegations against Khaleda were initiated early this year and the findings came about two months ago. But the matter came to prominence following the growing acrimony between Awami League and BNP over the evacuation of Khaleda Zia from her cantonment residence.
The print and electronic media ran reports and programmes based on the rumour that the government might move to file cases against Khaleda and her two sons to compel BNP to drop its plan for anti-government programmes.
ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman however brushed aside any possibility of the government using the commission for the purpose.
"The commission will file a case only after it is totally convinced that the case would lead to punishment of the accused," he said.
"The Anti-Corruption Commission has no connection with the government. It works independently and makes its own decision," the chairman said.
Senior ACC lawyers are going through the findings to determine whether ACC should go ahead as filing of any cases against Khaleda might evoke a controversy.
The ACC also initiated investigation into two corruption allegations against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina but it did not find evidence against her.
Since there was no known source of Tk 2 crore spent on the establishment of the Trust, the money must have been laundered, said a source at the commission.
A money laundering case could be filed in this connection, the source said.
Of the amount, Khaleda did not mention anything about Tk 1 crore she spent for purchasing land for the Trust.
Documents show that 45 decimals of land was purchased for about Tk 6 crore at Purana Paltan for Zia Charitable Trust. But the Trust actually paid Tk 7.5 crore to buy the plot, said the source.
The probe found that most of the money spent on establishment of the trust came from accounts of BNP leaders including late Mannan Bhuiyan.
Moreover, the Trust received Tk 1 crore through different pay orders. But during the probe, people, who supposedly issued the pay orders, denied sending the money to the Trust. It proves that Khaleda had shown fake documents, the ACC source said.
The commission has enough evidence to prove the allegations. But it is dealing the matter carefully since it involves private property, said an ACC high-up.
In another investigation, the ACC found that Khaleda allocated additional Tk 100 crore to Natal Group without due diligence for construction of Bhairab Bridge.
Construction of the bridge began with a budget of Tk 400 crore in 1999 during the tenure of the AL government. UK-based firm Natal Group got the contract and completed construction within the deadline of 2002.
"It is under debate whether a prime minister should be accused in a case for giving approval to a project although the investigation found that Khaleda allocated Tk 100 crore without due diligence," the ACC high official said.
-Daily Star

Huda clings on to hope

Nazmul Huda still hopes to run with a BNP ticket in the next elections. This he said a day after his expulsion from the party. He said his relationship with the party went very deep. "I do not accept this expulsion. No one can sever that bond."
He accused the pro-BNP Bangladesh Nationalist Lawyers' Forum's 'Noakhali quarter' for his expulsion from BNP where he was a vice chairman. Huda has been in a power struggle with Moudud Ahmed who he blames for what he suggests the fiasco over his party chief Khaleda Zia's cantonment residence.
Also a lawyer, Huda was expelled from the main opposition party in line with a decision of the top policymaking forum of the party on Sunday night at a meeting chaired by Khaleda. The party said it was compelled to make the harsh decision as the maverick vice chair ignored repeated warnings.
Last year, a similar action was taken against a standing committee member Chowdhury Tanvir Ahmed Siddiky who was accused for violating party discipline.
In a press conference at his Dhanmondi residence on Monday, Huda said, "Speaking against the Noakhali quarter in control of Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum caused my doom. I believe that the quarter manipulated Madam (Khaleda Zia) to expel me."
He expressed hope that the BNP chairperson will withdraw the decision on her own account once she grasps what is going on.
"Moudud is a champion of Noakhali, not the country," he said jokingly, "We have to come away from this kind of regionalism because if it spreads to Dhaka the country won't last long."
Huda expressed his frustration over the current situation in the Supreme Court. "Supreme Court has become a place for political mischief. High Court decreed that there should be no political activities on Supreme Court premises, but politically aligned lawyers refuse to comply. Then how will the court operate independently?"
Huda went on to say that the party chairperson has withdrawn such decisions in the past but he will not urge the party for withdrawing his expulsion.
Huda said he intended to create a new, politically neutral organisation, which he called Independent Lawyers' Forum, and said that his key concern was to build public support for a union between the ruling and opposition party chiefs.
Huda was quite critical of the nation's political culture.
"Arguments over the 'Father of the Nation' and 'Declarer of Independence' take up 60 percent of parliament sessions. These petty squabbles have turned the country into a failure."
The ex-BNP leader reminisced on his arrival in politics under the BNP founder and said, "Ziaur Rahman gave me a lot of respect. I was made a member of the nine-member committee that drafted BNP constitution. I was also the youngest member of the first standing committee and also its member secretary."
Nazmul Huda expressed his gratitude to Khaleda Zia. "She was very generous to me," Huda said referring to his portfolios under the BNP governments. "But she held back from putting me on the standing committee within the party."
The former BNP vice president defended his public criticism of the party stance saying, "Opinions are expressed at the standing committee. However, I was not given a place there. So, I expressed my opinions to the media."
"But I did not disrupt party discipline," he said.
He also expressed hope of running in the next elections for BNP.
"But how will I meet the [Khaleda Zia]? It is hard to arrange a meeting through all her cronies," he said when asked about whether he would be meeting with the party chief in future.
Huda reiterated his stance against BNP's last strike, saying that it had unwise considering that it was a few days before the Eid and had caused a lot of sufferings to the homebound vacationers.
"Madam should have show-caused those who called that strike. But they coaxed her into expelling me."
When asked about his earlier statement about suing the party, he said, "I'm scrutinising the matter. But notices are obligatory before legal actions, I believe."

Huda's expulsion “erratic act” :Obaidul Qader

Awami League (AL) Presidium member Obaidul Qader yesterday called the overnight expulsion of BNP vice chairman Barrister Nazmul Huda as an “erratic act” saying it reflected the lapses of democratic exercise in the main opposition party.
“It appeared as a wayward and erratic act . . . such a 'tughlagi kando' is possible only in BNP,” said Qader, also the chairman of parliamentary standing committee on information ministry, as he was speaking at a discussion on good governance.
He said BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia could strip someone off his party membership and reinstate him in the party with a stroke of pen as the party lacked practice of internal democracy.
Qader recalled that once renegade BNP leader Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury was expelled from the party in that “wayward and erratic manner” but he returned to BNP in the same way.
“This is not possible in Awami League,” he told the discussion organised by Janatar Protyasha, social organization, at Dhaka Reporters Unity auditorium with its convener MA Karim in the chair.
The speakers called upon BNP to return to parliament and discuss issues related to public interest, as it is the centre for debate and resolving of all issues.
AL's Organising Secretary Ahmmad Hossain, Dhaka City AL Health Secretary Dilip Roy, Muktijoddha Shamannoy Parishad Vice President Akram Hossain and Krishak League leader Khandokar Shamsul Haque also spoke at the function.
Urging the opposition BNP to refrain from destructive programmes like hartal, Qader said the agitation programme on the street would not bring good for the people. This would rather enhance sufferings of the people, he said urging the opposition to join parliament session and play their due role.
“Awami League and BNP are not each other's enemy. We are just political rivals while our common enemies are poverty, militancy and corruption,” he said.
-Daily Star

Hasina may hold talks with Putin, Wen Jiabao today

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to hold bilateral meetings with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, on the sidelines of the high-level meeting of the International Forum on Tiger Conservation.
Official sources said that the Prime Minister is expected to request Putin to expedite Russian financial and technical assistance to set up the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
During the anticipated meeting between Hasina and Wen Jiabao, bilateral matters, particularly Chinese assistance for infrastructure development in Bangladesh, and the planned deep seaport may figure prominently. Hasina arrived here Monday afternoon.

Govt’s popularity nose-diving: NAP’s ‘grand rally’

The leaders of the National Awami Party’s faction led by Mozaffar Ahmed, a partner of the Awami League-led alliance, on Monday said that the country is facing serious political crisis and the AL-led government has failed to meet the aspirations of the common people.
Senior leftist leader and president of the party, Mozaffar Ahmed, said at a grand rally of the party in Muktangan that the common people of the country are finding it almost impossible to maintain their families because of the price hikes of essential commodities.
The government has failed to control the prices of essential commodities, to solve the nagging problem of the acute shortage of power and water, and to stop criminalisation, extortion and tender manipulation by the AL activists, said Mozaffar.
As a result the popularity of the AL-led government has started nose-diving throughout the country, he opined.
In our country the gap between the poor and the rich is increasing day by day and the poor are becoming poorer and the rich are getting richer, said NAP’s president.
He called on the ruling AL to do the politics of principle and said that politics without principles cannot solve any of the country’s numerous problems.
Mozaffar said that the people are becoming frustrated at the role of both the ruling party and the opposition.
He called on both the ruling and opposition parties to make the Parliament the focal point of discussion, and to discuss the issues of gas, coal and transit to India in the Parliament.
NAP would continue its struggle for establishing the rights of the poor people, said Mozaffar.
The USA is pressuring the government to let foreigners use the natural resources of the country, so the government must decide whether it will work to safeguard the national interest or be exploited by the imperialists.
The rally, chaired by Mozaffar Ahmed, was addressed by the party’s general secretary Enamul Haque, presidium members Amena Ahmed and Lutfar Rahman, central leaders Abdur Rashid Sarkar and Paritosh Debnath, along with others.
Hasanul Haq Inu, president of a faction of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Pankaj Bhattacharya, presidium member of the Gana Forum, Bimal Biswas, member of the Workers Party’s politburo, and the joint convener of the Communist Kendra also addressed the rally.
Several hundred party leaders and activists from across the country took part in the grand rally.
-New Age

Transit to India cannot benefit Bangladesh: Jamiruddin Sircar

Former speaker and opposition BNP lawmaker Jamiruddin Sircar said on Monday that Bangladesh would in no way gain out f transit given to India.
He said that the Awami League government gave transit to India to link its regions through Bangladesh territory disregarding opinion of the people in the country.
Speaking at a discussion at the National Press Club Jamiruddin Sircar, also a standing committee member of the party said that a section of the intellectuals and some foreign envoys jointly brought one eleven for which democracy in Bangladesh has gone back by 20 years.
‘One eleven was unnecessary,’ he said.
The discussion on ‘The Conspiracy from 1/11 to Now: Tarique Rahman and future politics in Bangladesh’ was hosted by Swadhinata Forum at the Press Club to mark the 46th birthday of BNP senior joint-secretary general Tarique Rahman.
Sircar said that the Awami League led government was giving all jobs seeing their political background.
He said that the late president Ziaur Rahman and BNP established rule of law in Bangladesh and ‘impersonal functioning of the state.’
He urged party men and all those who love Zia and Tarique to counter all propaganda against them and the BNP.
Another BNP standing committee member Goyeshwar Chandra Roy described one-eleven as ‘a stain on national politics.’
He criticised the role of the one-eyed civil society leaders during the two-year rule of the military backed emergency caretaker government.
He called for ‘strong unity’ of the nationalist forces to foil all anti Bangladesh conspiracies.
BNP senior joint secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir debunked an international conspiracy out to depict the past four-party alliance government as ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘communal’.
He said that the Awmi League led government ‘is giving transit to India but what about the ‘water’ issue.’
He said if any Indian bus or truck goes through Bangladesh, India would have to allow similar facilities to Bangladesh to go to China and Nepal.
Chaired by the Forum president Abu Naser Muhammad Rahmatullah, the session was addressed, amongst others, by BNP chairperson’s advisor AZM Zahid Hossain and Jatiyatabadi Mohila Dal president Shirin Sultana.
-New Age

BNP calls hartal for November 30

The main opposition BNP on Monday called countrywide dawn-to-dusk general strike for November 30.
Earlier on November 14, it enforced a nationwide daylong hartal protesting the ‘eviction’ of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from her disputed house in the Dhaka Cantonment.
BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain announced the programme emerging from the meeting of its national standing committee at the party's Gulshan office.
The main opposition BNP at about 8:30 in the evening started the meeting of its highest policy-making body for the second consecutive day with its Chairperson Khaleda Zia in the chair.
The committee on Sunday adjourned the meeting till Monday evening.
On the first of the meeting, the body expelled BNP vice-chairman barrister Nazmul Huda from the party.
-Daily Star

Dhaka, Delhi to sign protocol soon to conserve Royal Bengal Tigers

Bangladesh and India will sign a protocol very soon to conserve the endangered species of Royal Bengal Tiger.
State Minister for Environment and Forests Dr Hasan Mahmud yesterday said this while speaking as the chair of the plenary session of the Tiger Summit being held at Saint Petersburg in Russia.
The draft of the protocol has already been prepared and it will be finilised very soon, Dr Hasan said.
Heads of the governments and environment ministers from 13 tiger range countries including Bangladesh, China, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, India and Indonesia are taking part in the four-day summit.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina will speak in the high segment of the summit.
Dr Hasan called for stronger collaboration among the tiger range countries to conserve the habitats of the wild cats to double their population by 2022.
Terming the habitats of the tigers as the haven of the bio-diversity, Dr Hasan said, “We have to identify the tigers' habitats and take all efforts for their protection”.
Eco-tourism could be promoted through conservation of tigers and involving local people with the initiative, he said adding that all habitats of tigers must be brought under close vigilance so that none can take the tiger killing as a leisure pursuit.
Dr Hasan also urged for strong collaboration among Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Interpol and other international agencies to stop illegal trafficking of tigers, their skin and body parts.
The state minister highlighted the initiatives undertaken by Bangladesh for conservation of tigers and said the government is implementing a nine year Bangladesh Tiger Action Plan in this regard.
Besides, he said the government with the support of Global Tiger Initiative has prepared a National Tiger Recovery Programme (NTRP) to increase the population of tiger.
He said Bangladesh Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh are jointly working to reduce the tiger human conflict in the villages around the Sundarbans, a habitat of Royal Bengal Tiger.
-Daily Star