QAnon and such other conspiracy mongers have entirely devoured rational America

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Photo by Jose M. on Unsplash.

What does it tell about a nation that believes in such bizarre lies!

“Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring.”

“Michelle Obama is secretly a man.”

“Special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t really investigating the Trump campaign — he’s actually working with Trump to take down a cabal of deep-state plotters and pedophiles.”

“The attack on Sandy Hook School in December 2012 that killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, was ‘completely fake’ and a ‘giant hoax.’”

“The UN plan to flood America with 600 million migrants.”

A long-overdue tribute to Alex Meerburg who died on a mission to rebuild the war-torn country

With contribution from Daniel Lough

It was the evening on February 3, 2005, when my phone rang. A clear female voice spoke in English. “I am Alex Meerburg’s mother. BBC TV is showing the news of a plane crash in Afghanistan.” I wasn’t aware of any such incident yet. “My son was on that flight,” she continued. It took me a few seconds to grasp the information, just told her that I would check and get back as soon as possible. She hung up.

I immediately called our Islamabad office. They confirmed both; there was a plane crash near Kabul, and Alex was on that ill-fated flight. …

Beijing and the Tatmadaw both need Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but for conflicting reasons. And Suu Kyi needs both to remain in power.

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Aung Sang Suu Kyi at the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference on 24 May 2017. Bringing peace among ethnic groups has proven difficult because of powerful actors with opposing interests. Photo by A. N. Soe of VOA. Public Domain.

Myanmar’s all-powerful Tatmadaw — comprising the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Police Force — took over the country through a coup d ‘état in 1962. It has since been its de facto ruler, directly until 2011, then in the guise of civilian governments till today. The Tatmadaw is above any civilian oversight and reports only to the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) headed by the President.

Beijing had a keen interest in its southern neighbor since the 13th century when the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan led the first invasion there. Myanmar is crucial to China because of the shared border, its vast natural resources, and the access it provides to the Bay of Bengal. China is using commerce and conflict to maintain its influence on Myanmar, reports the International Crisis Group. …

But will that bring about any real change?

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Suu Kyi at the peak of her fame. US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Yangon, November 2012. By Pete Souza — White House (P111912PS-0985), Public Domain,

It was a landslide victory in 2015 for Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, National League for Democracy (NLD). Suu Kyi secured it with support from the most potent groups in Myanmar: the Tatmadaw (combined Armed Forces and the Police), and the Bamars (the ruling ethnic group). The minorities — more than 135 according to official estimates — held their breaths in high hope for a better future. Rohingyas — the most persecuted people in the world — sighed in relief. Her numerous admirers in America and elsewhere were euphoric.

But within merely two years, Suu Kyi’s scorecard was already abysmal, as the New York Times reported in 2018. With cold-blooded apathy, she dashed the hopes of millions and drove the country further towards violence, autocracy, and persecution. What did she wish to achieve by winning political power, then? To find the answer, let’s reflect on some relevant events. …

For Beijing, it’s all about rectifying the historical wrongs

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The famous Terracotta Army. A collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China (reign 247 BC — 221 BC). Approximate date 210–209 BCE. Photo taken by the author in 2016.

History defines a nation. Few nations demonstrate it better than China, a proud heir to its 5000-year-old traditions. Its subjugation at the hands of Britain, Japan, France, and Russia during the 19th and the 20th centuries forms the founding narrative of modern China. In its history, it is the “Century of Humiliation,” spanning from 1839 to 1949, when it lost large parts of its territory to these colonial powers.

The Century of Humiliation ended with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) taking control of the country in 1949. However, there remained several vestiges which the Chinese leadership believes they must rectify for the victory to be complete. Rewriting the colonial era agreements — such as the border agreements with British India — that was imposed by the foreign powers is one of them. Alison Kaufman, an Asia analyst at America’s Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), explains it elaborately in the testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing in 2011. The current state of geopolitics and China’s emergence as a great power has made it even more visible in the way it is engaging with India along their shared border. …

But it may come at a massive cost to the Afghan people.

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Kabul kids in 2002. Many hoped for a better life for them after the fall of the Talibans. Even after two decades of bloody conflicts, it is yet to be fulfilled — photo by author.

America’s recent peace agreement with the Talibans in Doha makes many ponder whether it has lost the war. However, before coming to such a conclusion, we should revisit the aims of this decades-old bloody conflict.

According to President Bush Jr., its mission was “to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.” But the Talibans are still a formidable foe, and the terrorists have spread to far-flung countries. …

You should start long before you graduate

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I often get the question from university students and recent graduates on how to get the first job. Every employer asks for work experience without which you won’t get a job. But without a job, you can’t get experience. It’s a vicious circle. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.

I will try to explain below how you can build up experience, little by little, and prepare yourself for the job or career you want. It will also show you how every experience counts, whether related or unrelated to your field of study. You can start with any type of job at any age. …

They have quickly adapted to the changing paradigm

Tara (not her real name) from our Finance recently rang me on a late afternoon for online approval of a bank transaction. It was unusual because we encourage people to complete their works during regular hours. I overheard her only daughter, 4, saying something to the dad in the background. Clearly, the mom was enjoying her family life and her daughter was having fun with the dad. I felt happy for her. …

A review of “The Anarchy — The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire”, By William Dalrymple, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1st Edition, 2019, London, 521 pages, ISBN 978–1–5266–1850–4.

This is a gripping story of the East India Company’s conquest of the Mughal India within a period of fewer than 50 years. It also narrates how the Company’s unregulated power led to extreme violence, large scale pillage, economic destruction, and terrible famines, causing many millions to perish.

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Cover of “The Anarchy — The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire”. Courtesy:

William Dalrymple needs no introduction. A master storyteller, he has made reading history an immense pleasure through a number of his works, including The Last Mughal (2006), The White Mughals (2002), and Return of a King (2012), not to mention many of his essays and live talks. This well-researched book is the latest in his long list of works. Apart from the fluid writing style, the main strength is the personal experience Dalrymple has gathered in the book by extensive traveling, research, and interviews. …

Brilliant is an understatement to describe him.

I am one of those few fortunate students of Professor Doctor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, or JRC Sir — as we lovingly address him — who had the opportunity of working with him closely. On completion of my studies, I went to work for the industry. But somehow or other, destiny frequently brought me close to JRC Sir. And every time I received something new from him.

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JRC Sir, an icon and guiding star we have just lost, speaking at a seminar on Karnaphuli Tunnel Project at the University of Asia Pacific in Dhaka in November 2019. Photo courtesy the University of Asia Pacific.

My first meeting with JRC Sir was not very promising, although amusing as I look back today. It was 1981, my second year of undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). A friend of mine and I were getting impatient in the classroom because we were not enjoying the lectures. After the roll call, we two sneaked out through the rear door. Those days we didn’t know much about JRC, except that he was the Head of the Department. As we stepped out, we bumped right into JRC Sir. Unbeknownst to us, he was walking along the corridor, perhaps expecting a few truants. …


Sayeed Ahmed

Travels and writes as a hobby on history, culture, politics, and contemporary issues.

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