LGRD ministry holds the key

LGRD ministry holds the key

It appears the mayoral by-polls to the DNCC have become uncertain following yesterday's High Court stay order. But the legal complexity can be removed and the LGRD ministry holds the key.

Newly added wards, the root cause for the polls process to grind to a halt, could be excluded from the Dhaka North City Corporation for the time being so that the elections could be held.

This will not be something new.

Sixteen years ago, the LGRD ministry swiftly removed all legal complexities over redrawn boundaries of three city corporations, including Dhaka, clearing the way for the polls.

The same ministry in 1998 increased the number of wards in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Khulna city corporations. In September 1998, the Election Commission redrew the boundaries of the wards issuing a gazette notification and moved for holding the polls.

But it faced legal hurdles. At least 10 writ petitions were filed challenging the new boundaries, five of the petitions were filed in Dhaka.

In response to those petitions, the HC stayed all work related to the elections and the stay order was extended several times. As a result, the polls to the three city corporations could not be held on time.

The first elections in the three corporations were held in January 1994 when the BNP was in power. Fresh elections were supposed to be held in 1999 when the Awami League was in power.

Assuming office on October 10, 2001, the BNP moved to hold the polls to the Dhaka City Corporation quickly, to unseat the then DCC mayor who was an AL leader.

It scrapped the LGRD ministry's circulars on redrawn boundaries of the wards to pave the way for the polls. Elections to Rajshahi and Khulna were also held along with the DCC on April 25, 2002.

After 16 years, the LGRD ministry and the EC are facing almost the same situation.

The ministry in July last year expanded boundaries of Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation by forming 36 wards with 16 union councils adjacent to the two corporations.

In this process, the number of wards in the DNCC increased to 54 from 36.

There was no move to hold the polls in those new wards. But the sudden death of Mayor Annisul Huq changed the situation.

The EC last week announced the schedule of the polls to fill the vacant mayor post and simultaneously declared elections for councillors in the 36 wards newly added to the two corporations.

But the legality of the polls schedule was challenged by two chairmen of union parishads, which have been included in the DNCC area.

In response, a High Court bench yesterday stayed for three months the by-election to the DNCC. It was scheduled to be held on February 26.

This development led the EC to suspend all work related to the polls.

Local government expert, Tofail Ahmed blamed the LGRD ministry and the EC for the situation. He said the EC announced the polls schedule keeping many legal loopholes.

New wards were included in the city corporation in the middle of last year. But the voter list is yet to be finalised. There were problems with boundary demarcations," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Tofail said union parishad chairmen were elected for five years and their tenure would expire on 2021. The LGRD ministry made no decision regarding them, he said, adding, "So, it was predicted that the election would be stayed.

EC acting secretary Helaluddin Ahmed seemed to be putting the blame on the LGRD ministry.

After being requested by the LGRD ministry, we made preparation for holding the polls. We found no legal complexities," he told reporters yesterday.

LGRD Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, however, held the EC responsible for the situation. He said his ministry's job was to declare the mayor post vacant after the death of Annisul. The EC is responsible for preparing the voter list and redrawing the boundaries of the wards, he said talking to reporters at his office at the secretariat.

He said he feels the necessity of electing a mayor as it is not possible to run a large city corporation without a mayor. He said the ministry would do whatever is necessary for holding the by-polls.

A major difference between the situation 16 years ago and now is that there is no mayor for the DNCC. Back then, the three mayors carried out the responsibilities until their successors were elected.

If the LGRD ministry considered the mayoral polls urgent, it might follow previous instances to clear the way for the election. For this, the circular, through which 18 new wards were added to the DNCC, has to be scrapped, making the writ petitions to lose effect.

Excluding the newly added wards would also get rid of another legal complexity the DNCC is facing. According to the law, at least 75 percent councillors (39, if the new wards are included) are need to form the corporation. The DNCC currently has 36 councillors.

Now, all depends on the LGRD ministry.

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They tried to kill me

They tried to kill me

Narayanganj city Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy yesterday alleged that an attempt was made to kill her from just “two yards away” during Tuesday's mayhem on Bangabandhu Road in Chashara.

I will take legal steps. 100 to 150 people were wounded. I suffered injuries in my leg. I was unarmed and so were my people," she told reporters at her Nagar Bhaban office.

The mayor was briefing journalists a day after supporters of local Awami League lawmaker Shamim Osman allegedly attacked Ivy and her followers over eviction of street hawkers, leading to a fierce clash. Ivy and around 50 others were injured.

Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the party high command summoned Ivy and Osman for explanation over Tuesday's incident.

Giving an account of the incident, Ivy said she did not go there to fight, rather she wanted to tell hawkers to clear the street and sell goods at the hawkers' market built by the city corporation.

We walked down the footpath to the press club to hold a press conference there. But we came under attack before we could reach there. Brickbats started raining down on us. An attempt was made to kill me from two yards away," she said.

A three-member body, led by Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) Jashim Uddin Haider, has been formed to probe the incident. It will submit a report within a week.

No case was filed as of last night. However, a general diary was lodged with Narayanganj Sadar Model Police Station over the brandishing of a firearm by Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, allegedly loyal to Osman.

Tension still ran high in the city yesterday with a large number of law enforcers deployed at various points. Hawkers were not spotted on the footpaths in Chashara.

At the press conference, Ivy said, "He [Osman] made an announcement the day before [Monday] and told police that 'this is my order, not a request, that hawkers will be on footpaths from 4:00pm'. And this man can do anything if he wants.

I am the mayor and he is my party lawmaker. He did this on his own and I don't know why he had done this.

Ivy further said she wanted to free Bangabandhu Road from hawkers as the city corporation built a hawkers' market that can accommodate 1,500 to 2,000 hawkers.

Footpaths and roads -- everything belongs to people. Don't I have the right to keep the footpaths clear for pedestrians? Why hawkers will sit there on the MP's order? Then why did I build the market for them? she added.

At a separate press conference at the Rifle Club yesterday, Osman claimed that shots had been fired from Ivy's procession on Tuesday.

It was not a fight between Ivy and I, rather it was a clash between the hawkers and Ivy. Some people were trying to distort the facts. No one is telling the truth. The shots were fired from Ivy's procession," he claimed.

The AL lawmaker said he stood by the hawkers because Ivy's decision to evict them would affect them and also the AL that gave her nomination for the 2016 mayoral elections.

I will work for the poor even if I have to leave my party," he said.

Defending Niazul who brandished a firearm during the clash, Osman said it was being reported that Niazul is his supporter.

But the truth is he [Niazul] is our party activist. He was beaten thrice while he was walking on the Bangabandhu Road. He had no choice but to pull out his pistol as he was being beaten for the fourth time. His pistol was lost during the incident.

The AL lawmaker, however, said that if Niazul had opened fire, there should be a probe into the matter.

Obaidul Quader yesterday warned of taking organisational action against the party men who were involved in Tuesday's incident.

I have talked to the prime minister [also the AL chief] in this regard. She said organisational steps will be taken against those involved in the incident,” Quader said at a press conference at the AL president's political office in Dhanmondi.

The AL general secretary said he requested the home minister to launch a probe into the incident and take legal action against the agitators if they had used firearms.

Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said jealousy and rivalry between Osman and Ivy led to Tuesday's clash, reports UNB.

Referring to the two Narayanganj leaders, the minister said, "Both of you are in power. What can we do if you fight each other?

About the eviction drive in Narayanganj, he said, "The person who launched the eviction drive is an elected mayor while the person who opposed it is also an elected public representative. But it is not right to do something using muscle power. Why will hawkers occupy footpaths?

The Narayanganj deputy commissioner issued a directive that the hawkers would be allowed to run business today on footpaths except for that on Bangabandhu Road.

Hawkers, however, refused to comply with the directive.

The hawkers will do business on the footpaths of Bangabandhu Road. Most of them sell goods there," said Asadul Islam Asad, convener of Narayanganj Zila Hawkers' Sangram Parishad.

Members of Narayanganj Press Club and Narayanganj District Journalists' Union yesterday formed a human chain and held a rally in front of Narayanganj Press Club in Chashara, protesting the attacks on journalists during Tuesday's mayhem.

At least 12 journalists, including Narayanganj Press Club General Secretary Sharifuddin Sabuj, were injured that day.

Yesterday, they demanded that Niazul and others responsible for this be arrested within 24 hours. Otherwise, they will boycott all programmes of the administration and politicians in Narayanganj city.

They will form a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital today.

Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan, former secretary general of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), Halim Azad, former president of Narayanganj Press Club, and Abdus Salam, president of Narayanganj District Journalists Union, among others, spoke at the programmes.

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HC halts DNCC mayoral by-polls

HC halts DNCC mayoral by-polls

The High Court's three-month stay on the process of Dhaka North City Corporation polls yesterday triggered a blame game between the Awami League and the BNP.

The voting was scheduled to take place on February 26.

The BNP held the AL and the Election Commission responsible for the situation while the ruling party claimed that the BNP was "guilty of the same crime".

The HC also questioned the legality of the schedule of the DNCC mayoral by-polls and the elections to 18 new wards under the city corporation on February 26. Besides, it issued two rules asking the authorities concerned of the EC and the government to explain in four weeks why the schedule should not be declared illegal.

The bench of Justice Naima Haider and Justice Zafar Ahmed came up with the order and rules following two writ petitions filed on Tuesday seeking the stay order.

Deputy Attorney General Mokhlesur Rahman told The Daily Star that the HC stayed the polls on the grounds that the ward councillors would be elected for five years while the mayor for over two years. There might be confusions over the fate of those 18 ward councillors when the next DNCC polls would be due after two years, he said.

The court also took into consideration the grounds mentioned in the petitions that the EC did neither publish the voter list of the 18 new wards nor provide the candidates with compact discs, containing the list, he said.

Jahangir Alom, chairman of Beraid union parishad, and Ataur Rahman, chairman of Bhatara union parishad, filed the two writ petitions with the HC.

Concluding hearing the petitions, the HC bench set yesterday for passing orders on them. Advocate Quamrul Haque Siddique appeared for Jahangir and barrister Mustafizur Rahman Khan and barrister Ahsan Habib Bhuiyan argued for Ataur.

Jahangir is also the general secretary of Badda Thana Awami League while Ataur is the treasurer of Dhaka North City BNP.

The BNP yesterday alleged that the EC staged an "election drama" on instructions from the government as the AL feared a defeat in the by-polls.

Party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the HC stay order proved that the EC was incompetent and irresponsible.

They [EC] announced the election schedule without even consulting anyone and without closing the loopholes," he told reporters.

Rejecting the allegation, AL Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif told The Daily Star, "If the writ petitioners filed the pleas based on their political identities then both the BNP and the Awami League should be held guilty of the same crime. The allegation from the BNP is baseless.

AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader said his party had nothing to do with the HC order. The government is not involved in this. We don't believe in dirty politics,” he said at a press briefing at the party president Sheikh Hasina's Dhanmondi office.

Soon after the EC announced the polls schedule on January 9, there were rumours that the AL would not want the elections months before the parliamentary polls, scheduled for the end of this year.

It's because the party morale would be down if its candidate faced a defeat, said party insiders, adding that the AL would probably not like to risk that right before the national polls.

The insiders also said although the AL officially said it had nothing to do with the elections, a section of party leaders felt relieved after the HC passed the stay order yesterday.

Those leaders believed the government would have to be in a dilemma over the polls. On one hand, it would have to ensure a free and fair polls and one the other, such an election might put the victory of the party candidate at risk, said the leaders.

Meanwhile, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain yesterday said the HC order would not have any negative impact on the regular activities of the DNCC.

He said panel mayor Osman Gani, president of Badda Thana AL, would be running the DNCC.

The post of the DNCC mayor fell vacant after Annisul Huq had passed away on November 30 last year. The Local Government Division declared the post vacant on December 1. The EC set January 18 as the deadline for filing nomination, while January 21 and 22 were set for scrutinising the nominations. Deadline to withdraw candidacy is January 29.

The AL-led government had split the Dhaka city corporation into two in November 2011.

In the last election held on April 28, 2015, BNP-backed mayoral candidate Tabith Awal boycotted the polls on the voting day, alleging widespread rigging.

This week, the Awami League named businessman Atiqul Islam while BNP Tabith Awal for contesting the mayoral polls.

Talking to The Daily Star over phone yesterday, Atiqul said, “I was ready to contest the polls and I still am. I will bring some changes to my election strategy now.

I am respectful to the court and the party. So I will abide by the decisions of the court and the party.

Tabith said, “It's painful. The possible candidates and the media had talked about the loopholes but the Election Commission did not take any initiative [to fix them]. I am hopeful that commission will take some steps [in this regard] immediately.

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UN cuts food for east Africa as Bangladesh gets priority

UN cuts food for east Africa as Bangladesh gets priority

Cuts in food rations for 1. 5 million refugees in east Africa, due to funding shortages, could increase school dropouts, crime and malnutrition, a United Nations official said on Wednesday.

said Peter Smerdon, the World Food Programme (WFP)’s east Africa spokesman.

As a result, refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda fleeing drought and conflict have had maize, beans and vegetable oil rations cut by almost a third over the last seven months, he said.

In my 15 years at WFP, I have never seen this number of refugees, at this time of year, having cuts to their food rations,” he said.

Needs have gone through the roof for the whole of the humanitarian system, and donors really can't keep up with these increased needs. And the longer they continue, the more likely people will fall through the cracks.

The four east African nations provide sanctuary for millions fleeing drought in the Horn of Africa and protracted conflict in Somalia and South Sudan - the world's youngest nation - where civil war has created the continent's biggest refugee crisis.

WFP has only received about one-fifth of almost $360 million required to support refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in 2018, Smerdon said.

He warned that WFP would have to further reduce rations if funding did not come through.

If you a cut a refugee family's rations, they will take their kids out of school to save money on costs such as uniforms and books, and send them out to either find food or work,” he said.

In a refugee camp, crime is likely to go up as people are likely to go into debt as people are already pretty poor. Over the longer term, child malnutrition will go up.

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NKorea demands US apology for not using official name

NKorea demands US apology for not using official name

North Korea demanded an apology from the United States on Wednesday for what it called “insolent outrageous behavior” in refusing to refer to the country by its official name — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korean counsellor Ri Song Chol made the demand at a meeting of the UN General Assembly committee dealing with relations that the United States, calling the Trump administration’s action a serious political issue “related to sovereignty of an independent member state of the United Nations.

He said the administration is driven by “dishonest and impure motivation to politicise every single protocol issue.

Ri said his mission made a routine request to the US Mission to renew a tax exemption card for one of its diplomats in early December and was very surprised when a week later the new card came back with the country’s name as “North Korea. he cards allow UN diplomats to make purchases without paying tax.

The mission assumed it was a “technical mistake,” Ri said, but was shocked to hear from the US Mission that the State Department in Washington refused to change the country’s name to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He quoted a reply from the US Mission saying “our DC office” said names on credentials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “indicate North Korea which is the conventional short abbreviation . he tax card will remain the same.

Ri said the DPRK “strongly requested” the US “to correct the mistake at once with no further delay,” and to send a formal document clarifying its new protocol policy on using abbreviated names instead of formal official names.

He told The Associated Press that he and a desk officer from the DPRK Mission also met with a diplomat from the US Mission to try get the name changed. He said the DPRK desk officer exchanged more than 10 emails with the US diplomat.

But Ri told the Committee on Relations with the Host Country that the DPRK has not received a response “and the problem still remains (the) same without any progress.

However, Ri said that before the start of Wednesday’s meeting the US Mission told a diplomat from Cyprus who is a member of the host country committee “that they’re going to fix as soon as possible — please inform the DPRK delegate about their intention to fix the problem.

We are pleased to hear that, but we made our statement,” Ri said.

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2 killed as covered van hits motorcycle in Dhaka

2 killed as covered van hits motorcycle in Dhaka

The deceased -- Salauddin Rahel, 27, and Rasel Akon, 25, -- were going home from a wedding party at Lalbagh when the incident occurred around 2:00am, Sub-Inspector Bachchu Mia, in-charge of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) police outpost, told The Daily Star.

Soon after the accident, three injured motorbike riders were rushed to the DMCH where doctors declared Salauddin and Rasel dead, the SI said.

Hannan is undergoing treatment at the hospital.

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The fabulous story of NKorea's fabric made of stone

The fabulous story of NKorea's fabric made of stone

For much of the world, it's a niche product. In North Korea, where winter temperatures are frigid and which cannot produce enough cotton or wool for clothing, the synthetic fibre developed after nylon was glorified as a revolutionary invention.

Known outside North Korea as vinylon, it was christened "vinalon" by founder Kim Il Sung. He ordered it be developed to put clothes on people's backs.

It's a story which reveals much about the history of North Korea.

The state says the fibre symbolises its self-reliance, but diplomatic records show the project was less successful than Kim hoped - Pyongyang was more dependent on others than it claimed.

The North Korean government does not provide foreign media with a point of contact in Pyongyang and the state's delegation to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.

The global vinylon fibre industry was worth $443 million in 2016 and is projected to reach $539 million by 2022, according to Orbis Research. Swedish outdoor clothing company Fjällräven uses a form of vinylon, Vinylon F from Japan, in products including the Kånken backpack.

Fjällräven does not source material from North Korea, a company spokesman said.

Companies in Japan and China make vinylon based on petroleum. But North Korea has no oil reserves. Instead it makes vinalon from two commodities it has in abundance: coal and limestone.

The process starts with workers mining anthracite and breaking limestones.

Vinalon dates back to 1939, two years after DuPont of the United States introduced nylon, and with it affordable stockings, American glamour and movie stars.

At the time, North Korea was part of Japan and nylon was undercutting Japanese silk and cotton exports. A Korean scientist was on the team that developed an alternative fibre. His name was Ri Sung Gi.

Ri's invention starts out as hard, white crystals that look like sea salt. But once drawn out and spun into a thread, it acquires a texture like cotton. It is stiff and hard to dye, but strong.

It was promising. But two wars interrupted Ri's efforts to develop his fabric.

In 1948, after World War Two, North Korea became a Communist state.

The North Koreans invaded the South and in the ensuing three years, the U. S. bombed Pyongyang. Around 2. 5 million soldiers and civilians died on both sides, according to South Korea's defence ministry.

In 1953, the Korean War paused with a truce.

Ri wanted to help rebuild. He offered to develop his fabric in South Korea. The South, which was allied with the United States, was not interested.

At this time, all Soviet states were driving for technological prowess. The North was courting foreign scientists, and it did what it could to keep hold of them.

Ri defected. North Korea likened him to Marie Curie, the French chemist who developed the theory of radioactivity.

To bore a hole into the heart of U. S. imperialism, I have been peering through microscopes and shaking my test tubes with determination," Ri Sung Gi wrote in his memoirs.

JUCHE!

The Soviet Union was forging ahead. On April 12, 1961 Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin beat America to be the first man in space. Josef Stalin sponsored Kim Il Sung as founder of North Korea.

Under Japanese rule, the North had received more investment in heavy industry than the South and it had ample energy.

But North Korea needed overcoats for its people, Kim told the Soviet ambassador, A. M. Puzanov. If we do not solve the clothing problem it will be hard to compete with the South," he said, according to Puzanov's journal. The Soviet Union could not help supply cotton.

Ri had proven in lab tests that vinalon could be made. Kim saw the fibre as a political tool.

He created an ideology of self reliance known as Juche. The word translates literally as "subject," but stands for the notion that man is the master of his own destiny.

Kim said vinalon was the "juche fibre.

The vinalon industry is the shining fruition that the Juche idea of our Party was reflected in the field of chemical industry," Kim said in 1967.

On May 6 1961, he held an opening ceremony for the February 8 Vinalon Plant in Hamhung, in South Hamgyong province. Kim was telling his allies North Korea could produce 10,000 tonnes of vinalon a year and would soon be producing more than 300 million metres of textiles a year, according to documents in the Wilson Center archive.

The factory, built by a division of the Korean People's Army working on three shifts of 3,000 people, went up so quickly that the triumphal phrase "vinalon speed" emerged in state propaganda.

Looking at the first vinalon strands, Ri said they were "white as snow and lighter than a dandelion puff.

Kim Sung-hee, a North Korean who defected to the South, said she attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Inside the factory I saw pink and red jackets. Even after 15 years, the vinalon jackets did not get frayed, although the colours could change a bit," she said.

Defectors born before the 1980s said they used to wear jackets, school uniforms and socks made of vinalon.

The fibre was part of an industrial drive like the one Mao Zedong launched in China. North Korea's effort was known as Chollima. Embodied by a Flying Horse, it galvanised workers into skipping breaks to boost productivity, helped by slogans such as "drink no soup.

In 1961 Kim Il Sung met his Chinese comrade Deng Xiaoping and told him North Korea had "already succeeded" in producing vinalon to ease the country's clothing problem. Deng said the process demanded electricity. But Kim was not worried.

We won't need to use electricity in future. We can use oxygen," Kim said.

In the early 1960s, as an anti-Communist coup in South Korea and the Cuban missile crisis sent North Korea down a path of military buildup, the economy was growing fast.

An economist at Cambridge University in England, Joan Robinson, visited in 1964 and wrote that "all the economic miracles of the postwar world are put into the shade" by what she saw, including vinalon. She recorded the formula for making it.

The North grew faster than the South - a trend which continued into the 1970s, according to U. N. and CIA economic data.

In 1972, the CIA recorded figures from 1956-1971 which showed the North had produced 7 million more metres of textiles than the South. In the early years the North's output of fish products, coal, iron ore, steel, cement, chemical fertilisers and tractors also exceeded that of the South.

The CIA figures show that until the mid 1960s, the North consistently exported more than the South in dollar terms.

North Koreans called vinalon "the King of Fibres" and featured it in cartoons to teach children how independent and successful the country was.

A TV show from 1976 shows Vinalon Man win a race against Mr Nylon.

But in reality, the fabric's limits were emerging. It was not good at keeping people warm. And power was becoming a problem. By now, oil was cheap in the West and the outside world was using it in abundance for energy, transportation and synthetic materials.

North Korea had no oil reserves for making vinalon or powering its factories and Pyongyang depended on oil imports from the Soviet Union. Even so, Kim Il Sung said North Korea must be independent.

It may be cheaper and faster to produce the synthetic fibre using petro-chemistry . But, constructing industries dependent on other countries' raw materials is the same as having others grab you by the collar," he said.

To help make its fabric of stone, the North wanted nuclear power. For years, it asked its Soviet allies to help with generation facilities. It only secured one nuclear power station. In 1967, vinalon inventor Ri was made head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute in Yongbyon. Today, this houses the North's light water nuclear reactor.

In 1973, Kim Dong Gyu, a high-ranking North Korean official, told Romania's leader Nicolai Ceaucescu that North Korea was producing "70-80 tons" of vinalon, and finding that hard to increase.

Presently we are struggling to increase production in vinalon factories up to 50,000 tons per year," he said.

The Hamhung facility was expanded so it could make more calcium carbide, the coal and limestone compound on which vinalon is based. Soviet economies were driven by targets laid down in plans rather than the laws of supply and demand.

Calcium carbide can be used to make many things. Defectors from Hamhung told Reuters that it was thought to make chemical weapons - a claim others have also made and which is technically possible, but which no one has proven.

Every factory in North Korea, whatever factory that would be . had divisions for the Second Economy," said Lee Min-bok, 60, who worked as a researcher at the Academy of Agricultural Science and visited the first vinalon factory.

People in North Korea call the war industry the Second Economy. The first economy is called the People's Economy.

More recently, Western arms experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies suggested the vinalon plant might be used to help produce rocket fuel for missile tests. Scientists say this too is technically possible, but unproven.

As North Korea built up its military, its debts increased. It eventually owed a total of $11 billion to Moscow, most of which Russia was to write off in 2012. The North also accumulated debts in the West. They went unpaid year after year, totalling around $770 million in the 1970s.

Soviet support was declining, and China's new leader Deng Xiaoping was introducing market principles. He signed agreements on trade with North Korea in 1982.

North Korea started building a second vinalon factory in Sunchon in 1983, to achieve "a target 1. 5 billion meters of cloth.

The factory was to be the biggest chemical industrial complex in the country and be controlled by the military. Kim's talk of running it on oxygen never materialised. Despite the reported $10 billion investment, the complex was never fully completed.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, North Korea lost all its Soviet funding. Chinese imports entered ordinary North Koreans' lives. China has exported hundreds of thousands of tons of textiles and clothing to North Korea, customs data show.

In the 1990s, North Koreans relied mostly on Chinese fabric for their clothes. Since then, enormous amounts of Chinese fabric have been imported into North Korea," said Choi Goog-jin, a South Korean entrepreneur who tried to import North Korean vinalon in 2011.

On July 8, 1994, Kim Il Sung died from a heart attack. His son Kim Jong Il took over, but within a year, Pyongyang was forced to ask international humanitarian agencies for aid.

Hamhung was hit by a flood and received no coal. It suspended fibre production.

There was no work. Residents from Hamhung said vinalon became the basis of an exchange scheme to survive. It was a similar story across the country.

Famine killed as many as 3 million North Koreans. North Koreans still call those years the "Arduous March," a term introduced by the official media to stir the starving.

Defectors say people took machine parts, as well as pure nickel and copper from wires and pipes, to informal markets.

People ripped machines into metal parts from the vinalon factory, smuggled and sold them . some of them were publicly executed. Production lines stopped rolling . workers starved to death," said Jeong Jin-hwa, 53, who defected to the South in 1999.

By 1996, when vinalon's inventor Ri Sung Gi died, even party cadres loyal to the socialist system had turned to trading - a form of capitalist "self-reliance.

In 2001, Choi Goog-jin, the South Korean entrepreneur, created a company, Korea Vinylon Co Ltd, to import North Korean vinalon. After one year of sample tests and negotiations, the business failed.

Vinalon doesn't have competitiveness in clothing," said Choi. If you look at vinalon suits in North Korea, they are rough and heavy.

In 2002, in Onsong County, North Korea, a high school student also called Choi said he bought a fake Adidas t-shirt and short pants from a market. The blue clothes were made of vinalon.

I wore that fake Adidas kit until I came here," said Choi, now 30, who defected to the South in 2006. The colour did not change. It was quite sturdy.

We have this expression - socialism during the day and capitalism at night," Choi said. That is, politically and what is seen on surface is socialism but beneath the surface, everything people do is capitalistic.

In 2010, Kim Jong Il reopened the February 8 Vinalon Complex.

This is an extra-big event, as important as launching a new type A-bomb, and represents a great victory of socialism," he said.

The next year, he died suddenly on his private train. His son, Kim Jong Un, took over and in 2012 introduced economic changes, including turning a blind eye to the informal markets.

There was demand for vinalon - in those private markets.

Jung Min-woo, 29, served as a military officer before leaving North Korea in 2013. He said some ranking military officers bought custom-made shiny vinalon uniforms from private markets to look cool.

Many ranking officers wear them. but they are not good for a war," he said.

If war breaks out lots of sparks and bullets go back and forth. Cotton tends to melt and vanish but vinalon burns you because it sticks to your skin," Jung said.

Entrepreneur Choi agreed. The uniforms made of vinalon are not suitable for combat," he said. When it rains, the uniforms soak up water and become very heavy, which inevitably makes it difficult for soldiers to move. After a while, the uniforms turn very stiff.

By now, instead of producing vinalon, many North Koreans made clothes for China. Kang Eung Chan, who defected in 2013, said he hired 40 local seamstresses and used imported fabrics - including nylon - to make jumpers for Chinese customers. He paid locals $40-50 a month.

Who wears vinalon now? Almost no one," said Kang.

Even so, North Korea says it still produces the fibre. In his 2017 New Year's speech, Kim Jong Un laid out a plan to revamp the vinalon complex.

This sector should revitalise production at the February 8 Vinalon Complex, expand the capacity of other major chemical factories and transform their technical processes in our own way," he said.

If the new leader manages to drive North Korea's vinalon output with as much vigour as its missile tests, the fabric made of stone may yet find a new lease of life.

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Snowstorm, deep freeze leaves 4 dead in US South

Snowstorm, deep freeze leaves 4 dead in US South

A winter storm that caused at least four deaths in the US South brought record low temperatures on Wednesday to parts of the region, where it coated roads with ice, snapped power lines and prompted public school closures.

Frigid temperatures and snow were also forecast for the mid-Atlantic region and much of New England through Thursday. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued winter weather advisories and storm warnings for northern Georgia into Virginia and from Massachusetts to Maine.

In Austin, Texas, a vehicle plunged more than 30 feet (9 meters) off a frozen overpass late on Tuesday, killing a man in his 40s, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said on its Twitter feed.

An 82-year-old woman who suffered from dementia was found dead on Wednesday behind her Houston-area home, likely the victim of exposure to the cold, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.

In Georgia, two people were fatally struck by a car that slid on an ice patch near Macon, local media said.

At Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the nation's busiest with a typical volume of 2,700 arrivals and departures a day, about 470 flights had been canceled by Wednesday afternoon, according to tracking service Flightaware. com.

The sheriff's office in Oconee County, Georgia, east of Atlanta, tried humor to keep people off icy roads.

I know you need cigarettes, beer and wine to get you through having your kids at home. Can you just do without for a day? Stay home," the office said on its Facebook page.

Wednesday's storm was not the first this winter to bring a blast of frosty weather to the South, where parts of Florida and the Louisiana coast saw their first measurable snowfall in decades.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories were posted across portions of the Carolinas and southern Virginia.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana declared states of emergency because of severe conditions that made roads treacherous. In North Carolina, where more than 2,000 snow-plow personnel worked to clear roads, the state Highway Patrol reported nearly 1,600 traffic accidents during the first 12 hours of Wednesday.

More than 9 inches (23 cm) of snow has fallen in Durham, North Carolina, since Monday, with 6 inches (15 cm) or more measured at various locations across southern Virginia, the NWS said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned at a news briefing that cold temperatures Wednesday night would make travel conditions even more hazardous.

The snow is pretty but don't be fooled," Cooper said.

In Atlanta, many people appeared to be heeding Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's plea to stay off the roads as only a few cars crept along on typically packed highways.

A few people bundled up to go out in temperatures that were well below freezing in a city known for its sweltering summer heat.

We don't dare try to get the car out of the garage," said teacher Kimberly Hodges, 40, who was walking her puppy in the city's East Atlanta Village neighborhood. It's a mess out here.

The weather in Atlanta is not expected to get above freezing until Thursday afternoon. State government offices and many schools were expected to remain closed until at least then.

Wind chill advisories in the mountains of North Carolina warned that temperatures would feel like they had fallen to 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

In Houston, the nation's fourth most populous city, most freeways were closed on Wednesday morning after icing over, the city's Office of Emergency Management said.

In storm-hit North and South Carolina, more than 32,000 homes and businesses were without power by Wednesday afternoon, utilities data showed.

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Apple plans to open new US campus

Apple plans to open new US campus

Apple Inc will open a new campus as part of a five-year, $30 billion US investment plan and will make about $38 billion in one-time tax payments on its overseas cash, one of the largest corporate spending plans announced since the passage of a tax cut signed by US President Donald Trump.

The company has been under increasing pressure to make US investments since the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump targeted the iPhone maker for making products in Asian factories.

While Apple has announced no plans to change that practice and experts say it would be economically impractical to make iPhones in the United States, the company has begun to emphasise its US economic impact, from developers who sell software on its App Store to the tens of billions of dollars per year it spends with US suppliers.

Between the spending plan, hiring 20,000 people, tax payments and business with US-based suppliers, Apple on Wednesday estimated it would spend $350 billion in the United States over the next five years.

It did not, however, say how much of the plan was new or how much of its $252. 3 billion in cash abroad - the largest of any US corporation - it would bring home. In addition to the $38 billion in taxes it must pay, Apple has run up $97 billion in US-issued debt to pay for previous share buybacks and dividends.

Some investors said the US investments would give the company room to make more stock buybacks or pay dividends without criticism. Apple shares on Wednesday closed up 1. 7 percent to $179. 10.

Walter Piecyk, managing director for TMT Research at BTIG Research, said he could not yet tell whether the US expansion was an increase from a previous plan or meant investment abroad was being refocused in the United States. Reuters Breakingviews estimated that Apple could have increased US headcount by 24,000 in the last five years.

Trump described the move by Apple as a victory for his efforts.

I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States. Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Asked in an interview with ABC News whether the job creation announcements were directly related to the Republican tax plan, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook gave a measured response.

Let me be clear: There are large parts of this that are a result of the tax reform, and there’s large parts of this we would have done in any situation,” Cook said in the interview.

About a third of Apple’s new spending will be on data centers to house its iCloud, App Store and Apple Music services, a sign of the rising importance of subscription services to a company known for its computers and gadgets. Apple has data centers in seven states.

The announced U. S spending would be a significant part of Apple’s overall capital expenditures. Globally, the company spent $14. 9 billion in 2017 and expects to spend $16 billion in 2018, figures that include both US-based investments in data centers and other projects and Asian investments in tooling for its contract manufacturers.

If Apple’s overall capital expenditures continue to expand at the same rate expected this year, the $30 billion investment in the United States could represent about a third of its capital expenditures over the next five years.

The announced tax payment was roughly in line with expectations, said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. The tax bill requires companies to pay a one-time 15. 5 percent tax on foreign-held earnings whether they intend to bring them back to the United States or not.

Apple had set aside $36. 3 billion in anticipation of tax payments on its foreign cash, meaning the payment would not represent a major impact on its cash flow this quarter.

James Cordwell of Atlantic Equities said Apple’s US investment plan could make it easier for the company to give more cash to shareholders.

Being seen to just hand the cash back to shareholders could spark some political sensitivities,” and the spending announcement could be part of Apple’s efforts to manage this issue, Cordwell said.

Apple also said it would boost its advanced manufacturing fund, used to provide capital and support to suppliers such as Finisar Corp and Corning Inc, from $1 billion to $5 billion. Apple said it planned to spend $55 billion with US-based suppliers in 2018, up from $50 billion last year.

Apple joins Amazon. com Inc in scouting for a location for a new campus. Amazon finished taking applications from cities in October for its second headquarters.

Amazon set off a scramble between cities across the nation to host the headquarters, and Apple’s announcement stirred broad interest. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters on Wednesday, “We’re going to go compete and we’re going to put our best foot forward” to compete for an Apple campus. adelphia Department of Commerce spokeswoman said the city would submit a proposal if Apple opened the process for bids.

Apple has not said whether it had settled on a new campus location yet, and it did not make any commitments on the size of new spending or hiring specific to the campus. It did say it would initially house technical support for customers and would announce the location later this year.

The facility would be in addition to its “spaceship” Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California; a campus in Austin, Texas, that houses customer service agents and some manufacturing; and an Elk Grove, California, unit with several thousand customer service agents and iPhones refurbishing technicians.

Apple also has built its own data centers in North Carolina, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and a recently announced project in Iowa, and leases data center space in other states.

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India mulls nationalising river-linking plan

India mulls nationalising river-linking plan

The idea was discussed at the 14th meeting of the Special Committee for Inter-linking of Rivers held here on Wednesday when the funding issue in connection with the various projects under the inter-linking scheme came up, a senior official of the Water Resources Ministry said after the closed-door meeting.

Our New Delhi correspondent quotes him saying the meeting discussed giving inter-linking of rivers projects the tag of “national” projects would help not only expedite their implementation but also secure speedier flow of funds for them.

Gadkari said time has come for looking at new funding mechanisms, including loans from foreign agencies at low interest, for inter-linking projects and assured the states that his ministry will provide all help to the states for this.

Gadkari also called upon state governments to cooperate with one another and with the federal government to expedite the ambitious projects for interlinking of rivers aimed at transferring water from surplus to deficit areas, and to explore low-interest loans from foreign agencies for the same.

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