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In a historic move, Biden to pick Michele Flournoy for Pentagon head

AP, Washington
US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a historic step and select a woman to head the Pentagon for the first time, shattering one of the few remaining barriers to women in the department and the presidential Cabinet.

Michele Flournoy, a politically moderate Pentagon veteran, is regarded by US officials and political insiders as a top choice for the position.

Her selection would come on the heels of a tumultuous Pentagon period that has seen five men hold the top job under President Donald Trump. The most recent defense secretary to go was Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Monday after pushing back on issues including troop withdrawals and the use of the military to quell civilian unrest.

If confirmed, Flournoy would face a future that is expected to involve shrinking Pentagon budgets and potential military involvement in the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

Democrats have long sought to name a woman to the top post in a department that didn’t open all combat jobs to female service members until about five years ago. Flournoy had been the expected choice of Hillary Clinton if she had won the 2016 election. Her name surfaced early as a front-runner for Biden’s Cabinet, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Seen as a steady hand who favors strong military cooperation abroad, Flournoy, 59, has served multiple times in the Pentagon, starting in the 1990s and most recently as the undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009 to 2012. She serves on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense contractor, which could raise concerns from some lawmakers. But her moderate views would likely ensure wide bipartisan support in a position that requires Senate confirmation.

Few other names have been mentioned, though former Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson was listed as a possible choice at one point. Choosing a woman would be consistent with Biden’s pledge to have a diverse Cabinet.

She has been outspoken on American foreign and defense policy, particularly over the past year. She favors closer international cooperation after four years of a Trump White House that touted an “America First” policy and was more distrustful and critical of allies.

“Whoever the next president is,” she said in March, “whether it’s a second Trump term or Vice President Biden or whoever it is, one of the top agenda items is going to try to, I think, repair some of that perception” that America may no longer be a reliable partner. “But I don’t think it’s going to be easy or happen overnight. I think it’s going to take a lot of work over a number of years to recover that trust and that standing.”

She has also cautioned against drastic, immediate changes.

“One of the most dangerous tendencies is for — after a change of administration, particularly when there’s a change of party — for the new team to come in and use the term ‘repudiation.’ But to come in and assume that everything their predecessors did was wrong, you know, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, basically, and they overcorrect in another direction,” she said in a Hudson Institute forum.

Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine two-star general and former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee under then-Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, said recently that he regards Flournoy as “incredibly well-qualified” to lead the Pentagon.

The Defense Department is one of three Cabinet agencies — the others being Treasury and Veterans Affairs — that have never been led by a woman. Some of the 28 men who have held the top defense job since it was created in 1947, including three who served in Trump’s administration — Jim Mattis, Esper and current acting Secretary Christopher Miller — have been military veterans. Flournoy did not serve in the military.

Like Mattis and Esper, Flournoy views China as the most significant long-term challenge to American predominance on the world stage. In July, she said the United States is losing its military technological advantage over key competitors like China and that reversing this trend must be the Pentagon’s top priority.

She has, however, also warned against abandoning the Middle East and instead advocates “more modest levels of continuous presence” there. As an example, she has backed a limited role in Afghanistan that focuses more on countering the terror threat and less on rebuilding the country.

“We want to reduce our commitment, but we want to do it in a way that’s smart and that safeguards our interests in the process,” she said in March about Afghanistan, adding that she hopes “we don’t just cut and run.” Trump has pushed for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the year, but so far the Pentagon has no orders to do that.

On North Korea, she said in an October online forum that while nuclear disarmament should remain the ultimate goal, she finds it “hard to see” Kim Jong Un agreeing to give up all his nuclear weapons, which she said he sees as his regime’s “survival card.”

On Iran, Flournoy has argued for a revised approach of deterring the Islamic Republic by breaking the familiar pattern of sending more American forces to the Gulf in response to Iranian provocations, as the Trump administration did in May 2019 after what it called credible threats to U.S. interests in the region.

Flournoy is a co-founder of Westexec Advisors, a consulting firm that provides advice and geopolitical risk analysis to corporate clients. She works with a mixture of former senior government officials — including Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and currently Biden’s top foreign policy adviser — and military experts such as retired Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, who led U.S. forces in Korea until 2019.

In 2007, Flournoy helped create a think tank, the Center for a New American Security.

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US Embassy resumes limited student visas for Bangladeshi applicants

News Desk, bdnews24
The US Embassy will accept new appointments for the applicants for F, J and M visas from Sunday on a limited scale, it said in a notice.

The F category is for academic and language students, while the J category stands for exchange visitors and M for vocational students.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the embassy limited the number of appointments it can schedule each day and the processing time may take longer, up to six weeks, it said on Friday.

The applicants must submit their applications well ahead of their proposed travel date, the authorities suggest.

Applicants need to log in, update their profile online at www.ustraveldocs.com/bd and schedule their appointments online after paying associated visa fees.

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COVID-19 is a stark reminder that no one is safe until everyone is safe: Hasina

Bd news,11 Nov 2020:
A sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects will never be possible without multilateral efforts at the global level, Sheikh Hasina has said.

The prime minister highlighted the threats posed by a ‘recent trend of protectionism and xenophobia in some countries’ in ending the pandemic at a virtual event organised by Spain on Tuesday.

Pedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain, and Stefan Löfven, prime minister of Sweden, also joined the event titled “Call for Action to reinforce multilateralism”.

Bangladesh’s GDP registered a 5.24 percent growth in 2019-20 fiscal year despite the pandemic thanks to the allocation of $14.14 billion, or 4.3 percent of the GDP, by the government to protect livelihoods, Hasina said.

“However, unless a multilateral effort is undertaken at the global level, global recovery will not commence and will never be sustainable.

“The recent trend of protectionism and xenophobia in some countries may bring further sufferings for the innocent people and adversely impact the peaceful multilateral environment,” she said.

She urged the global leaders to guard against “this type of activities which are detrimental to international peace, security and global development”.

“In today’s globalised world, constructive multilateralism is not an option; it is the only way-out for a rules-based international order and common progress of humankind,” Hasina said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” she said.

In order to reduce inequality, eradicate poverty and protect our planet by reducing carbon emissions, all the countries need to work together and reinforce multilateral efforts, the prime minister said.

Hasina said that multilateralism is at the core to face today’s unique challenges caused by COVID-19. “The significance of multilateral cooperation is now more evident than ever due to the current global pandemic,” she said.

She said world leaders laid emphasis on shared responsibility and collective efforts for unified prosperity in the Political Declaration adopted on Sept 21 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN. The adaptation of the declaration also aims to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement

“However, to achieve the benefits out of these international instruments and understanding, strong multilateralism is required,” Hasina said.

She noted that the spirit of multilateralism and international cooperation is enshrined in Bangladesh’s constitution, which states: “We may prosper in freedom and may make our full contribution towards international peace and cooperation in keeping with the progressive aspirations of mankind.”

Bangladesh is a flag bearer of multilateralism and strongly pursues international peace and security by its high presence in the UN Peacekeeping and peacebuilding process. We have adopted the ‘whole of the society’ approach in realising the SDGs, she said.

“We are equally committed to implementing the Paris Agreement. As such, Bangladesh has been honoured to be chosen to lead the 48-member Climate Vulnerable Forum for the second time. We have also qualified to be graduated from LDC status in which the UN system played a crucial role.

“It reflects our commitment and trust in multilateralism,” the prime minister said

“COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that global prosperity is embedded in collective actions, unity and international cooperation. History proves that any deviation from this united approach will only bring disastrous effects for the humankind,” she added.

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Bangladesh will announce school reopening decision ‘shortly’

Desk,29 sep:
The government will formally announce the decision about reopening of schools and colleges, and holding exams amid the coronavirus outbreak “very soon”, Dipu Moni has said.

The education minister spoke about the plan with reporters after a programme at International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka on Tuesday.

She said she will take questions from the journalists at a news conference scheduled for Wednesday.

Dipu Moni has called the news conference to brief the public about the “overall situation” amid concerns of students and parents over the coronavirus outbreak.

She is expected to talk about whether to extend the shutdown of institutions beyond Oct 3 and when to hold the postponed HSC exams.

The educational institutions have been shut since Mar 17 when the government confirmed the first cases of COVID-19.

With the end of the year nearing, students and parents are worried how the promotions to the next classes will take place and what will happen to the lost lessons.

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সরকারি কর্মচারীদের পেনশন সংক্রান্ত গেজেট প্রকাশ

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক,২০ জুলাই:

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Bangladesh reports 64 new virus deaths, a daily record; caseload crosses 145,000

Desk,30 June:
Bangladesh has registered 64 new deaths from the novel coronavirus infection, the highest in a single day, raising the body count to 1,847.

The caseload surged to 145,483 on the back of 3,682 positive tests for COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8am Tuesday, according to the health directorate.

Another 1,844 infected patients recovered at home and in hospital in the same period, taking the tally to 59,624, DGHS Additional Director General Nasima Sultana said in a media briefing. The recovery rate from the disease currently stands at 40.98 percent, while the mortality rate is 1.27 percent.

The latest fatalities include 52 men and 12 women. In terms of their ages, seven were between 31 and 40, six between 41 and 50, 21 between 51 and 60, 16 between 61 and 70, 11 between 71 and 80, while three were over 81 years.

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Average life expectancy in Bangladesh rises to 72.6 years: survey

The average life expectancy at birth in Bangladesh climbed to 72.6 years in 2019 from 72.3 in 2018, according to the national statistical agency.

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics published a report on the country’s vital statistics on Tuesday.

The average life span of men rose to 71.1 years, up from 70.6 in 2018. Women’s life expectancy also rose by seven months to 74.2 years, noted AKM Ashraful Haque, project director of the study.

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Govt reprimands GP, Robi for streaming ‘uncensored’ web series

The government has taken Grameenphone and Robi to task, asking the mobile telecom operators to explain why they were hosting “uncensored” and “indecent” video content on their platforms and networks.

A government statement said on Thursday that the information ministry had asked the chief executive officers of the companies to explain their action within seven days.

“It has come to the government’s attention that the recently uploaded and distributed content in a web series contained uncensored nudity, offensive scenes, story and dialogue,” a government letter sent to the CEOs read.

“The government wants to know whether you are officially registered or have any licence to upload and distribute such video content on your platforms and networks, and if so, what they are,” it added.

The government went on to say that the reaction towards the web series from the media and other quarters had been ‘extremely negative’.

The content, according to it, was uploaded and distributed in breach of law and goes against social values.

“Such uncensored and obscene scenes, stories and dialogues completely contradict laws such as Section 69 of Bangladesh Telecommunications (Amendment) Act, 2010, Sections 4 and 8 of Pornography Control Act, 2012, Digital Security Act, 2018, Penal Code, 1860 of Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006,” the government said.

The letter lamented that such activities were not expected of organisations as big as Grameenphone and Robi.

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Bangladesh loses four doctors to COVID-19 in a day

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Train services to resume at half capacity Sunday

Desk,30 may:
The government has decided to restrart inter-city train services at half the passenger capacity from Sunday as the country comes out of a two-month lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak.

Ticket prices, however, will remain unchanged, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Shujon said in a media briefing on Saturday.

All tickets must be purchased online.

“Eight pairs of trains will resume operations on Sunday in keeping with the usual schedule. Another 11 pairs of trains will start operating on June 3. A total of 38 trains will be in operation initially,” the minister said.

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Bangladesh to recruit another 2,000 doctors, 3,000 health workers to fight coronavirus

desk:29 may
The government is hiring another 2,000 doctors and 3,000 medical technologists, technicians and radiographers to tackle an aggressive coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the recruitment and the process of appointing medical technologists, technicians and radiographers has begun, Habibur Rahman, the director of management information system at the health directorate, told bdnews24.com on Thursday.

The recruitment will take May appointment counts for doctors and other health workers to a record 10,000.

Earlier, in the first week of May, the government recruited 2,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have started working at COVID-19 hospitals across the country as the recruiting process ended a week ago, Habibur said.

Dhaka Civil Surgeon’s office is providing them with training about the treatment of COVID-19 patients and hygiene protocols to keep them safe.

“The directorate is recruiting a record number of 10,000 doctors, nurses and health officials in a single month something the Directorate General of Health Services never experienced before,” Habibur said.

As many as 1,200 technologists, 1,650 technicians and 150 radiographers will be recruited to treat COVID-19 patients and they will be deployed in hospitals and medical laboratories once the situation becomes normal, he added.

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Bangladesh public transport services to resume May 31

Senior Correspondent, 28 May 2020 :
Bangladesh will allow public transport services such as buses, trains and launches to restart operations with a fixed number of passengers from May 31, the day after the nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak ends.

The public administration ministry on Wednesday announced that the lockdown, which has been in effect since Mar 26, will not be extended beyond May 30.

In an order on Thursday, the Cabinet Division said the government will outline the steps that will have to be taken to resume public transport services between May 31 and Jun 15.

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Banking hours will return to normal from Sunday

Chief Economics Correspondent, 28 May 2020

Bangladesh Bank has asked banks to shift back to normal transaction hours from 10am to 4pm from Sunday after two months of transactions for limited hours due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The banks in moderate- and high-risk zones will continue conducting transactions for limited hours – from 10am to 2:30pm, the central bank said in an order on Thursday.

Guidance on social distancing and other health safety rules will continue to remain in effect. The banks will have to report efforts to ensure the rules.

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How Covid-19 may affect the brain

Desk,18 april:
A pattern is emerging among Covid-19 patients arriving at hospitals in New York: Beyond fever, cough and shortness of breath, some are deeply disoriented to the point of not knowing where they are or what year it is.

At times this is linked to low oxygen levels in their blood, but in certain patients the confusion appears disproportionate to how their lungs are faring.

Jennifer Frontera, a neurologist at NYU Langone Brooklyn hospital seeing these patients, told AFP the findings were raising concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the brain and nervous system.

By now, most people are familiar with the respiratory hallmarks of the Covid-19 disease that has infected more than 2.2 million people around the world.

But more unusual signs are surfacing in new reports from the frontlines.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week found 36.4 percent of 214 Chinese patients had neurological symptoms ranging from loss of smell and nerve pain, to seizures and strokes.

A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine this week examining 58 patients in Strasbourg, France found that more than half were confused or agitated, with brain imaging suggesting inflammation.

“You’ve been hearing that this is a breathing problem, but it also affects what we most care about, the brain,” S Andrew Josephson, chair of the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco told AFP.

“If you become confused, if you’re having problems thinking, those are reasons to seek medical attention,” he added.

“The old mantra of ‘Don’t come in unless you’re short of breath’ probably doesn’t apply anymore.”

– Viruses and the brain –

It isn’t completely surprising to scientists that SARS-CoV-2 might impact the brain and nervous system, since this has been documented in other viruses, including HIV, which can cause cognitive decline if untreated.

Viruses affect the brain in one of two main ways, explained Michel Toledano, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

One is by triggering an abnormal immune response known as a cytokine storm that causes inflammation of the brain — called autoimmune encephalitis.

The second is direct infection of the brain, called viral encephalitis.

How might this happen?

The brain is protected by something called the blood-brain-barrier, which blocks foreign substances but could be breached if compromised.

However, since loss of smell is a common symptom of the coronavirus, some have hypothesized the nose might be the pathway to the brain.

This remains unproven — and the theory is somewhat undermined by the fact that many patients experiencing anosmia don’t go on to have severe neurological symptoms.

In the case of the novel coronavirus, doctors believe based on the current evidence the neurological impacts are more likely the result of overactive immune response rather than brain invasion.

To prove the latter even happens, the virus must be detected in cerebrospinal fluid.

This has been documented once, in a 24-year-old Japanese man whose case was published in the International Journal of Infectious Disease.

The man developed confusion and seizures, and imaging showed his brain was inflamed. But since this is the only known case so far, and the virus test hasn’t yet been validated for spinal fluid, scientists remain cautious.

– More research needed –

All of this emphasizes the need for more research.

Frontera, who is also a professor at NYU School of Medicine, is part of an international collaborative research project to standardize data collection.

Her team is documenting striking cases including seizures in Covid-19 patients with no prior history of the episodes, and “unique” new patterns of tiny brain hemorrhages.

One startling finding concerns the case of a man in his fifties whose white matter — the parts of the brain that connect brain cells to each other — was so severely damaged it “would basically render him in a state of profound brain damage,” she said.

The doctors are stumped and want to tap his spinal fluid for a sample.

Brain imaging and spinal taps are difficult to perform on patients on ventilators, and since most die, the full extent of neurologic injury isn’t yet known.

But neurologists are being called out for the minority of patients who survive being on a ventilator.

“We’re seeing a lot of consults of patients presenting in confusional states,” Rohan Arora, a neurologist at the Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital told AFP, saying that describes more than 40 percent of recovered virus patients.

It’s not yet known whether the impairment is long term, and being in the ICU itself can be a disorienting experience as a result of factors including strong medications.

But returning to normal appears to be taking longer than for people who suffer heart failure or stroke, added Arora.

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Carew & Co produce affordable hand sanitiser

carew_shikkhaSarup Das:
Demands for hand sanitiser and liquid soap has spiked following the global coronavirus outbreak. Against this backdrop, Carew & Co in Darsana is all set to mass-produce hand sanitisers to meet the growing demand.

The country’s only state-owned distillery has already produced hand sanitisers on a test basis and will start marketing it soon at affordable prices.

The company is now waiting for a nod from Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) to start their production. It will be marketed under the name ‘Carew’s Hand Sanitizer’.

“Our hand sanitisers consist of 60 to 70 percent rectified spirit, glycerine, colour and fragrance. Expert chemists have been involved with the production and this sanitiser can kill any virus instantly,” said Jahid Ali Ansary, managing director of Carew & Co.

“We are capable of producing as much as needed and we plan to sell it through our distribution points — 13 warehouses and three sales centers. We plan on setting up selling points in front of the corporation’s head office and in front of the industries ministry. It can also be sold through pharmacies across the country,” he said.

The company plans on charging Tk 60 for a 100ml bottle of hand sanitiser, which according to Ansary is much cheaper than the ones available in the market.

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