Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bangladesh mutiny spreads, PM urges rebel surrender

by Shafiq Alam DHAKA (AFP) --
A mutiny by thousands of Bangladesh's border security guards spread outside the capital Dhaka Thursday, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the rebels to surrender immediately.

In a televised address to the nation, Sheikh Hasina, who took office less than two months ago, warned the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) guards not to remain on a "suicidal route" with an uprising that officials say may have already cost 50 lives.

"Just give up your arms and return to barracks right now," she said.

"Don't take the suicidal route. Don't compel me to take tough action. We are aware of your problems. Please help us."

Her message came as the mutiny, which began early Wednesday at the Rifles headquarters in Dhaka, spread to a number of other BDR posts outside the capital.

Police chiefs across the poor and chronically unstable South Asian nation said rank-and-file BDR members had revolted in 15 border districts -- roughly a quarter of the zones where border security forces are stationed.

"They are firing indiscriminately," said one of the police chiefs, from the northeastern Moulivibazar district. "Their commanding officer told me that he has fled the camp."

Another local police chief, Kamrul Ahsan from the southeastern town of Satkania, reported "heavy fighting" at a BDR training centre.

In an effort to stem any further spread, the Bangladesh telecoms authority ordered all the country's six mobile operators to shut down their networks.

In Dhaka, the initial mutiny had appeared to be petering out following the earlier offer of an amnesty, but fresh, heavy gunfire erupted on Thursday and sent thousands of people around the BDR headquarters running for cover.

However, the mutineers set free more than a dozen women held hostage since their revolt began.

Officials said tensions in the BDR had been simmering for months but exploded into violence when senior officers dismissed appeals for more pay, subsidised food and holidays.

Sheikh Hasina had made her amnesty offer on Wednesday and also promised to address complaints over low pay and working conditions.

Deputy law minister Kamrul Islam said that the situation remained tense because thousands of armed troops were still believed to be inside the BDR headquarters.

"The BDR troops began surrendering arms in our presence. But there are some 15,000 of them -- around 12,000 could have weapons," Islam told AFP. He added that at least 50 officers held hostage were feared dead.

So far, a total of 11 people have already been confirmed dead and dozens more wounded.

A rebel guard said he doubted a surrender would take place smoothly.

"They told us to surrender arms. But we have reports that army troops have attacked our camps outside the capital. We want peace but not bloodshed," the guard told AFP.

The unrest is the first major crisis to face Sheikh Hasina since she took office after a landslide election victory that ended two years of army-backed rule.

"Keep the peace and stay patient for the sake of the nation. I urge everyone to be patient. I seek cooperation of all," she said in her televised address.

The stand-off highlights the frustrations felt by many in the impoverished nation, which suffers from high food prices, a slowing economy and rampant corruption within the ruling classes.

Bangladesh has had a history of political violence, coups and counter-coups since winning independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The country was run by military dictator Hussain Mohammad Ershad from 1982 to 1990, before democracy was restored in 1991.

In January 2007 the army again stepped in, cancelled elections and declared a state of emergency following months of political unrest.

Democracy was only restored with elections last December.

State Alum Tim Clark Tees Off Against Tiger Today in Accenture Match Play

Many of you folks may not follow professional golf, but it’s interesting to note that today at 2:02pm EST, NC State alumnus Tim Clark tees off against Tiger Woods in the second round Accenture Match Play tournament. They will play an 18-hole match, with the winner advancing and the loser going home. Woods, arguably the greatest athlete of our generation, is returning from re-constructive knee surgery after an 8-plus month layoff. He easily defeated #64 Brendan Jones, and just behind his match, #32 Clark was closing out former US Open and fellow South African Retief Goosen. This set up today’s showdown. Coverage will be on Golf Channel.

For those of you unfamilir with Clark, don’t be so quick to count him out in his match against Woods. Playing Woods is not a totally unfamiliar situation for the South African, who counts the 2006 Masters among his six career runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour; in fact, Clark has won just about everywhere but the U.S. So far. Clark has over twelve million dollars in official earnings, and seven wins globally, including last year’s Australian Open.

Expect Clark’s alma mater to be mentioned several times during the telecast, which is good news for NC State’s golfing program generally. It never hurts to have an alumnus squarely in the spotlight of their sport, and Clark will certainly have that today. Coupled with the new Lonnie Poole Golf Course on Centennial Campus that is slated to open in late spring of this year, it’s fair to say that things are looking up for one of our key non-revenue programs.

Additional note: if you watch today’s telecast of the tournament, keep an eye out for the “Sunshine and Lollipops” Nike commercial that focuses on Tiger’s return to competitive golf. At the very end, NC State’s Carl Petterson is the guy who lets out the long sigh. It’s pretty funny stuff, and Petterson was a good sport (and a well paid one too) to be in that spot.

Obama's Budget: $4 trillion in spending, a $1.75 trillion deficit, and another $750 billion bank bailout

President Obama's national debt busting first budget projects a $1.75 trillion deficit so Obama can spend nearly $4 trillion in fiscal year 2010 and "creates space" for another $750 billion bank bailout.

The White House will formally release Obama's budget boondoggle overview at 11:00 a.m., but at FoxNews, Major Garrett provides a preview:

Senior administration officials would not disclose a precise figure for the entire budget, but said it would likely fall between $3.8 trillion and $4 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

As we reported yesterday, the Obama budget will also set aside a $634 billion health care "reserve fund" as a down payment of the estimated $1trillion cost of Obama's so-called "health care reform."


Bush tax cuts allowed to expire at the end of 2010.

Phase out of direct payments to farms with sales revenue of more than $500,000 per year - projected to save $9.8 billion over 10 years.

Abolish payments for the storage of cotton - projected to save $570 million over 10 years.

Eliminate the President Bush's Federal Mentoring Program - projected to save $500 million

Eliminate the "Advance" Earned Income Tax Credit - projected to save $880 million over 10 years.

Increase investment managers tax rate 135%, from 15% to 35 percent.

Hire additional IRS agents to collect more taxes.

Significant undisclosed savings from Pentagon procurement - Obama code for defense cuts.

So Obama is going to spend $4 trillion, run a $1.75 trillion deficit and offer the banks another $750 billion bailout but Obama can only find a measly $1.164 billion in annual savings in the entire Federal budget, not counting his "significant undisclosed" defense cuts.

Like Obama said, he won. It's becoming clear that means we lose.