Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another funny e-mail in the office inbox :)

Today has to be the international day of funny e-mails. Unfortunatley the other post is probably true, but what do you say about this one:)

From the Desk of
National Security Adviser to the President
Omar Bongo of Gabon Republic.
Dear Friend,
I am Paulin Obame N’Guéma, National Security Adviser to President Omar Bongo Federal Republic of Gabon. I decided to contact you because of the prevailing security report reaching my office and the intense nature of policy in Gabon. This is to inform you about our plan to send some funds to you via cash delivery. This system will be easier for you and for us. We are going to send a payment of US$10 Million to you via diplomatic courier service.
Note: The money is coming in two sealed security proof boxes. I will use my position as the National Security Adviser to the President to send this fund to you. Please you don't have to worry for anything; the boxes are coming with a Diplomatic agent who will accompany the boxes to your house address. All you need to do now is to send to me your full house address and your identity such as, international passport or drivers license including your contact phone numbers, The Diplomatic attaché will travel with the boxes and he will call you immediately he arrives your country's airport. I hope you understand me. Please don't send money to anybody in Gabon, also, I will let you know when the air-lift takes effect.
Note: The diplomat does not know the original content of the boxes. What l declared to them as the content is Sensitive Photographic Film Material. I did not declare money to them. If they call you and ask you of the contents please tell them the same thing Ok, I will let you know how far I have gone with the arrangement. I will secure the Diplomatic immunity clearance certificate that will be tagged on the boxes to make it stand as a diplomatic consignment. This clearance will make it pass every custom checkpoint all over the world without a hitch. Confirm the receipt of this message and send the requirements to me immediately. If you need more information about this, I will give you the contact of the diplomatic agents for more information on how to carry out the plan. Please I need urgent reply because the boxes are scheduled to leave as soon as we hear from you.
Best Regards,
Lt. Gen. Paulin Obame N’Guéma
National Security Adviser to the President
Federal Republic of Gabon
MY OFFICE NUMBER; +24105335190

The Global Village.....

Internet has been a bit slow the last couple of days here in Dhaka. I would never argue that I am very updated on the latest within information technology, but I have to admit to being a bit surprised to get the follwoing e-mail today from our office internet provider :) What about nanotechnology and satelites?

Dear Valued Subscribers

Greetings from CITech CyberNet Ltd.

The SEA-ME-WE4 submarine cable has been cut in Alexandria of Egypt Wednesday, suspending the BTTB's internet connectivity with the Europe and USA, a BTTB official said.

The BTTB official could not confirm how long it will take to restore the link.

In a statement, the BTTB said the mishap in Alexandria took place at 10:15am Bangladesh time. But the cause of the mishap remains unknown to the authorities. Currently the western hemisphere-bound internet traffic is diverted via Singapore across the Pacific, the official said. But the low capacity of the interim route has caused congestion and slowed the internet speed across Bangladesh.

The mishap at Egypt's Mediterranean coast snapped BTTB's four units of STM4 or 620 megabits per second bandwidth of international internet links.

But the Singapore route is capable of bearing half of the load, the official explained. Both ends of the Suez Canal are infamous for cable cuts due to high maritime traffic. Yet it remains the submarine cable operators'
favourite to link Asia and Africa with the Europe and US, in terms of costs.

"That's why all the neighbours of Bangladesh have connected themselves with the numbers of transpacific submarine networks," a telecoms analyst said.
The telecoms ministry has also been sitting on a similar proposal for three months.

"Bangladesh must have an alternative submarine cable route to span the globe for full redundancy," he said.

"Otherwise, the country will keep suffering from the mishaps such as Alexandria's," the BTTB official said.

Thank you for using CITech CyberNet.s Internet Service and for your cooperation.

CITech CyberNet Ltd.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Social Capital – Thoughts from Traffic in Dhaka

Many students of political science, sociology and development economics are familiar with theories on social capital. In short the argument goes something like this: In a society which has a large degree of social capital people tend to help each other out more. According to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, social capital can de defined as “the collective value of all social networks and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other”. Further, Putnam argues that societies or nations with high degree of social capital are more prone to have democratic governance.

2008 will be an important year for Bangladesh. From January 2007 the country has been under the rule of a military backed care-taker government. Both former prime ministers have been put behind bars on corruption charges; together with many of the country’s other former political leaders. There is a ban on all political activities. In August last year students of universities throughout the country started violent protests against the military rule in place. They had the support of distinguished professors who during the protest were jailed together with students on charges of violating the emergency power rules. Yesterday the professors were pardoned by the chief adviser and they could leave prison. Still, many students are awaiting their sentences and silent protests have been carried out at Dhaka university campus.

The actions of the professors showing support for their students and the support networks for the professors could be seen as signs of social capital. Risking repressions from the military and police, young people still choose to stand up for their political rights. On the other hand, Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world with the highest rate of corruption, in contradiction to most theories on social capital.

Last week I witnessed a traffic incident that got me thinking about the social capital issue. In an intersection of a busy but rather small street (rd 11, Banani for you familiar with Dhaka) a small car hit a rickshaw (one of those bicycles with a seat that fits two-four persons). The rickshaw was hit very lightly with no damage done to the vehicles, the driver and customer of the rickshaw or of course anyone in the car. I had a sigh of relief. Then suddenly the driver of the car just deliberately started driving again, slowly smashing the rickshaw under his front wheel. The rickshaw driver and his customer had to jump of the rickshaw not to be injured and the rickshaw was totally destroyed. The rickshaw puller tried to rescue his rickshaw, pulling it out from beneath the car. He stared angrily at the driver of the car while at the same a police officer approached the situation. The incident was disturbing traffic and the police officer made the not so intelligent decision of starting to abuse the rickshaw puller both verbally and physically with his wooden stick. All this while the driver of the car drove off. It should be added that rickshaw pullers most often rent their rickshaw for a daily, weekly or monthly fee. They earn very little and work extremely hard and are often the subject of abuse from tired and overworked traffic police officers. The rickshaw puller in this incident probably lost an entire day income if not more for the reparation cost and the loss for the time of reparation. The driver of a car is generally much better off than a rickshaw puller.

For me the above situation is just such a clear example of a giant lack of social capital. Of course there are a million counter examples of when the opposite happens, when people instead help each other out. But in Bangladesh the most vulnerable are many times horribly badly treated by their fellow nationals who are better off. It comes on all levels; from rich politicians hiding wealth instead of paying the much needed tax, garment factory owners building large estates while not paying even the ridicules low salaries to the factory workers on time and in incidents such as the one above.

Hopefully, a national spirit very distant from the one presented here will rise and prosper, and social capital will somehow grow stronger in Bangladesh to create an environment where true democratic forces can be created and voted in power in the elections that should be held as promised during 2008. Next time I write I will try to be in a more optimistic mode, writing about one of the millions of great examples of people showing each other solidarity and respect as you also see often here in Dhaka.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Challange!

Check out your travel IQ - Asia:

Try out the test, it's fun!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in Bangladesh

Back in Bangladesh after three weeks of wonderful vacation.

Wish you all a Happy New Year! Posts will start coming soon.

Hope you all had fantastic holidays and are full of new energy for 2008.

Hope to hear from you all!