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#14 Bangladesh

Hello, everyone! Thanks for being here. We're back with our regular programming this week.

In 1971, the third war between India and Pakistan led to the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent state of Bangladesh. This week's newsletter is about that country on the Bay of Bengal. The name Bangladesh means Bengali country, and it's sometimes said to be the only country in the world that fought for independence primarily due to a language dispute. Still, I'm sure it's more complicated than that, as most things are.

Welcome to the 195 series, where I take you on a mini-tour of every country (and maybe some places that want to be countries). Each week I'll feature a new location. Some you may have heard of, while others may be new to you. The point is to learn and nurture our curiosity about the wider world. Maybe you'll find a new artist or musician you like, too.

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Country Info:

Population: Roughly 166 million.

Current government: From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

While Bangladesh’s constitution of 1972 specifies a parliamentary form of government under a prime minister and a president elected by a national assembly, its implementation has been interrupted by coups. In 1975 a military coup led to a regime of martial law, and, though the form of government that followed was a mixture of presidential and parliamentary systems, power effectively remained with the army. The country experienced additional upsets and periods of martial law in the 1980s, but in 1991 a parliamentary system was restored, with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government.

The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Sheikh Hasina Wazed. She is the daughter of the founding father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and she has been in her role since 2009.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister during a visit to London, from Creative Commons

The organization Freedom House says that Bangladesh is "partly free," but the ruling "Awami League (AL) has consolidated political power through sustained harassment of the opposition and those perceived to be allied with it, as well as of critical media and voices in civil society."

Languages spoken: Most people speak Bengali, but some of the country's indigenous groups have their own languages and dialects. Many are Tibeto-Burman languages.

Religion: Sunni Muslims comprise around 89% of the population, and approximately 10% of the population practices Hinduism.

Standout artist: Cubist painter Qayyum Chowdhury.

Standout film: Brihonnola (বৃহন্নলা), a 2014 film that explores themes around religious and racial prejudice. You can watch the whole movie here.

A surprising thing: The world's largest garment factory collapse took place in the capital Dhaka in 2013.

The Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, housed five garment factories. At least 1,132 people were killed, and over 2,500 more were injured when the building collapsed. The event occurred just months after over 100 workers died after being trapped inside the Tazreen Fashions factory on Dhaka's outskirts when it caught on fire.

According to the International Labor Organization, these incidents are still considered some of the worst industrial accidents to have occurred.

Story of the week: NPR has an article on how Bangladesh went from an economic miracle to needing help from the International Monetary Fund. The piece reads:

In 50 years, Bangladesh went from what U.S. diplomats once called a "basket case" to what the World Bank now calls "an inspiring story of growth." Its garment factories helped pull millions out of poverty, especially first-time female workers. Life expectancy rose by more than 50%. Infant mortality declined by almost 90%. But all of that is now threatened.

What I'm writing:

• I wrote about whether Florida’s transition from a purple to a red state could create opportunities for the Biden administration to pursue détente with left-wing governments in Latin America.

• As Democrats prepare to hand over control of the House, they squeezed in a briefing about Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has forged close ties to the American right.

• My colleague Brian Dabbs and I wrote about how the Biden administration is failing to support a bill to empower the Justice Department to sue OPEC over its decision to slash oil production.

• AND FINALLY, a fight over how to compensate victims of terror attacks could occupy busy floor time on Capitol Hill during the lame-duck session.

What I'm reading:

• Polish President Andrzej said the explosion that killed two people within Poland's borders was most likely an accident caused by Ukrainian air defense responding to a Russian missile strike, NBC reports. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later said the same thing, according to the New York Times.

• Officials briefed on initial U.S. assessments said it appears the missile that killed two people in Poland originated in Ukraine, even though it was Russian-made, CNN reports.

• Russian forces launched another barrage of missiles across Ukraine on Thursday, targeting the capital Kyiv and other cities and killing at least 15 people, the Wall Street Journal reports.

• Biden administration officials continue to state publicly that Washington won’t press Kyiv to negotiate with Russia. But most believe talks should be considered sooner rather than later, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

• U.S. intelligence suggests Russia may have delayed announcing its withdrawal from Kherson partly to avoid giving the Biden administration a political win ahead of the midterm elections, CNN reports.

• Slovenia elected its first-ever female head of state. Nataša Pirc Musar, a lawyer linked to former U.S. first lady Melania Trump, ran as an independent with the backing of Slovenia’s center-left government, the BBC reports.

• The U.K. and France signed a new agreement to reduce the number of migrants crossing the channel in small boats. Under the agreement, the U.K. will pay France 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) between 2022 and 2023. In exchange, France will increase security patrols on its northern beaches by 40 percent.

• The United Arab Emirates has made extensive efforts to manipulate the American political system, a new classified U.S. intelligence report shows. The Washington Post has the report.

•  American private investigators are being hired under false pretenses by authoritarian governments like Iran and China to surveil dissidents living in the U.S., the New York Times reports.

• The FBI is concerned about reports that secret “police stations” linked to China were set up across the U.S., Reuters reports. The stations are allegedly part of Beijing’s efforts to pressure Chinese nationals or their relatives to return to China to face criminal charges. They are also reportedly linked to the activities of China’s United Front Work Department, a body charged with spreading the Communist Party’s influence and propaganda overseas.

• Tens of thousands of people attended a demonstration in Mexico City to protest President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to overhaul the country’s electoral authority, the Associated Press reports. The vast turnout signaled a defense of democracy in the face of a reform agenda that critics say will threaten the independence of the country’s National Electoral Institute.

• Legend has it that the Mexican cities of Madero and Tampico are protected from hurricanes by an alien base called Amupac. VICE gives us a look inside the Mexican city that believes it's protected by aliens.

• Turkey accused the U.S. of complicity in an Istanbul terror attack that killed six people on Sunday, the New York Times reports. The accusation, made by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, was rooted in the longstanding U.S. partnership with the Syrian Democratic Force, a Kurdish-led militia in northeastern Syria formed to battle the Islamic State.

• The Biden administration declared that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should be considered immune from a lawsuit over his role in the killing of a U.S.-based journalist, a turnaround from Joe Biden’s passionate campaign-trail denunciations of Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the brutal slaying, the Associated Press reports.

• Iranian shopkeepers are striking in solidarity with the anti-government protest movement sweeping the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.

• The U.S. Navy intercepted a “massive” shipment of explosive material in the Gulf of Oman. The material was transiting from Iran along a route that has been used to traffic weapons to Yemen’s Houthi group, Reuters reports.

• The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the Associated Press reports.

• At least 21 people - including ten children - were killed by a fire in a building in a densely populated refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, the Washington Post reports.

• Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan rebels agreed to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to those in Tigray and neighboring regions, AFP reports.

What the State Department says:

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