More than One Million Covid-related Deaths in U.S.



News Desk, Barta24.com, Dhaka
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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The United States has passed more than one million Covid-related deaths, says the White House. The U.S. on Wednesday (11May) surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world's highest recorded toll from the virus.

The number — equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. — was reached at stunning speed: 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.

President Joe Biden said the country was marking "a tragic milestone" and each death was "an irreplaceable loss".

It's the highest official total in the world - although the World Health Organization believes the true death toll may be much higher elsewhere.

The U.S. has also recorded more than 80 million Covid cases, out of a 330 million population.

The first confirmed case was reported on 20 January 2020, when a man flew home to Seattle from Wuhan in China.

The 35-year-old survived, after 10 days of pneumonia, coughs, fever, nausea and vomiting. But deaths began to be reported just a few weeks later.

Mmeanwhile, more U.S. families are choosing cremation. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in the industry, some are taking it a step further and turning the ashes of their loved ones into diamonds.

Flourishing Democracy in Ukraine is Putin's Real Fear



Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Associate Editor, Barta24. com
Flourishing Democracy in Ukraine is Putin's Fear

Flourishing Democracy in Ukraine is Putin's Fear

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'The Journal of Democracy' has been covering Putin’s war on Ukraine since the invasion began. In an article tittled 'What Putin Fears Most' published in 'The Journal of Democracy' on April 2022, VOLUME 33, ISSUE 2, and jointly written by Rob Person and Michael McFaul mentioned, "Putin is terrified of the prospect of a flourishing democracy in Ukraine."

The article is highly appreciated for its academic values and received global attentions. The authors of the article, however, are well known for their skills, expertise and wisdom.

The lead author Robert Person is associate professor of international relations at the U.S. Military Academy, director of its international affairs curriculum, and faculty affiliate at its Modern War Institute. His next book, 'Russia’s Grand Strategy in the 21st Century', is forthcoming.

The co-author Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, is professor of political science at Stanford University, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His most recent book is 'From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia' (2018).

In their lucid and analytical article, the authors categorically claimed that the
Russian president Vladimir Putin wants you to believe that NATO is responsible for his February 24 invasion of Ukraine—that rounds of NATO enlargement made Russia insecure, forcing Putin to lash out.

This argument has two key flaws. First, NATO has been a variable and not a constant source of tension between Russia and the West. Moscow has in the past acknowledged Ukraine’s right to join NATO; the Kremlin’s complaints about the alliance spike in a clear pattern after democratic breakthroughs in the post-Soviet space.

This highlights a second flaw: Since Putin fears democracy and the threat that it poses to his regime, and not expanded NATO membership, taking the latter off the table will not quell his insecurity. His declared goal of the invasion, the “denazification” of Ukraine, is a code for his real aim: antidemocratic regime change.

Putin may dislike NATO expansion, but he is not genuinely frightened by it. Russia has the largest army in Europe, engorged by two decades of lavish spending. NATO is a defensive alliance. It has never attacked the Soviet Union or Russia, and it never will. Putin knows that.

But Putin is threatened by a flourishing democracy in Ukraine. He cannot tolerate a successful and democratic Ukraine on Russia’s border, especially if the Ukrainian people also begin to prosper economically.

That would undermine the Kremlin’s own regime stability and proposed rationale for autocratic state leadership. Just as Putin cannot allow the will of the Russian people to guide Russia’s future, he cannot allow the people of Ukraine, who have a shared culture and history, to realize the prosperous, independent, and free future that they have voted and fought for.

Although the chance of a stable ceasefire seems remote today, unprecedented sanctions and growing public dissent within Russia could, in theory, force Putin to the negotiating table. The fog of war is dense. But regardless of where the Russian invaders are stopped—be it Luhansk and Donetsk or Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Odesa, Kyiv, or Lviv—the Kremlin will remain committed to undermining Ukrainian (and Georgian, Moldovan, Armenian, and the list goes on) democracy and sovereignty for as long as Putin remains in power and maybe longer if Russian autocracy continues.

And the Ukrainian people have already proved their mettle: They will fight for their democracy until the day Russian forces leave Ukraine.

This is the essence of the article, with which many disagree, but its evaluation cannot be ignored. No doubt, further analysis of Russia's aggression in Ukraine will continue. The various parties will investigate the cause of the conflict from different angles. But in all discussions, the impact of Ukraine's democracy and independence-mindedness will be the major focul point that really Putin fears most.

Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Professor, Political Science, University of Chittagong and Associate Editor, www.barta24.com

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Malaysia: New Destination of Healthcare



Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Associate Editor, Barta24.com
Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), Malaysia

Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), Malaysia

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Generally India has been the first destination for Bangladeshis seeking treatment due to many factors including cost, quality, facilities, doctors, culture etc. It is also statistically true that a large number of patients are going from Bangladesh to other countries.  However, their experience is not always good. It is reported that in many cases, the quality of healthcare is declining and patients are suffering due to lack of proper attention, facilities and transparency in terms of billings.

In this context, Malaysia is emerging as a suitable option. Malaysia is fast becoming a strong competitor in the global health and medical tourism sector. Given the potential of health tourism as a foreign exchange earner, the Malaysian government has taken a series of proactive measures to enhance Malaysia as a preferred health tourism destination.

According to official policy, Health tourism in Malaysia consists of two main categories which are medical tourism and wellness programme. Patients can opt for medical treatments in one of Malaysia's internationally recognised hospitals, and stay on during the convalescence or recovery period. Or they can come for a holiday by exploring the various forms of wellness programmes that are available in Malaysia.

Global medical newspapers describe competitive medical fees and modern medical facilities are two vital factors that make Malaysia a popular destination among health tourists. Patients can undergo treatment and recuperate in any part of the country for much less than what it would cost them for a treatment in other countries. For example, a normal cardiac bypass surgery (CABG) in Malaysia would cost only between US$6,000 and US$7,000 equal to Bangladeshi Taka 5 to 6 lakhs.

Malaysia offers a wide choice of state-of-the-art private medical centres boasting an impressive array of sophisticated diagnosis, therapeutic and in-patient facilities. These establishments are well-equipped and staffed to ensure the highest level of professionalism, safety and care to patients. Most private medical centres have certifications for internationally recognized quality standards such as MS ISO 9002 or have been given accreditation by the Malaysian Society for Quality of Health.

Besides, Malaysia is not too much in terms of medical expenses.  Moreover, due to the many places of Muslim culture, modern facilities and trave destinations, Malaysia may be a suitable place for complex patients or health check-ups purposes.

However, not many people in Bangladesh know about Malaysian medical tourism due to lack of information and publicity. In fact, more than 500,000 people travel out to India, Thailand and Singapore for treatment due to unavailable service, misdiagnosis and improper treatments in Bangladesh. Thus, it is important for Bangladeshi patients to consider Malaysia as an lucrative option of seeking medical treatment.

When contacted,  Ms Nurul Hasyikin binti Adanan of Sunway Medical Centre (SMC), the largest private hospital in Malaysia told barta24.com, with 29 centres of excellence, 617 licensed beds, more than 60 specialities & sub-specialties and more than 200 specialists, SMC provides a comprehensive range of medical and surgical solutions. As a quaternary hospital, SMC specialises in the areas of cancer, blood diseases, nuclear medicine, orthopaedic, robotic assisted surgeries, gastroenterology, neurology, neurosurgery, cardiac and vascular, women and children. Kidney transplant, paediatric cardiac surgery, bone marrow transplant are also available in Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City. We also equipped with the latest technologies like Radixact-X9 Tomotherapy, Mako SmartRobotics, Leksell Gamma Knife Icon, Varian TrueBeam Stx, Philips Biplane Azurion 7 B12 (Angiographic System), Philips Biplane Azurion 7 I-Q Clarity B20/15 (Angiography System), 4-D PET/CT Scanner, da Vinci® Si Surgical System (3rd generation), da Vinci® Xi Surgical System (4th generation), Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT), SPECT-CT Scan, Brachytherapy and many others.

Sunway Medical Centre also is the biggest private hospital in Malaysia having sub-specialties like Paediatric in Dermatology, Neurology, Hematology & Oncology, ENT, Respiratory, Orthopaedic, Gastroenterology etc., she added.

Moreover, Malaysia offers a wide choice of state-of-the-art private medical centres boasting an impressive array of sophisticated diagnosis, therapeutic and in-patient facilities. These establishments are well-equipped and staffed to ensure the highest level of professionalism, safety and care to patients. Most private medical centres have certifications for internationally recognized quality standards such as MS ISO 9002 or have been given accreditation by the Malaysian Society for Quality of Health.

Most private medical centres in Malaysia also offer comfortable accommodation ranging from private rooms to suites for single occupancy or more. Room charges, inclusive of meals, vary at medical centres but are attractively priced. Some medical centres even provide highly qualified and trained private nurses and personal butlers at a reasonable cost.

In brief, factors that contribute to making Malaysia a centre of medical excellence in the region are listed below:

  1. a) Safe and politically stable country
  2. b) Wide choice of world class infrastructure facilities e.g. National Heart Institute and Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital, Sunway Medical Center (SMC).
  3. c) Competitive and affordable pricing and favourable exchange rate
  4. d) Highly qualified, experienced and skilled consultants with internationally recognised qualifications
  5. e) Tolerant multi-cultural and multi-racial Malaysian society accommodates patients of different cultures and religions
  6. f) Communication is easy - English speaking medical staffs
  7. g) State-of-the-art technology, such as MRI, 64-Slice CT Scan, PET Scanner for early detection of cancer and other diseases, cyberknife which is able to radiate tumours without damaging adjacent vital structures
  8. h) Quality and safety system in place, such as ISO and accreditation by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH)
  9. i) Recently, the Ministry of Health, Malaysia has set up a Corporate Policy and Health Industry Division to promote medical tourism and related healthcare products including traditional medicine, etc. As such, the Ministry's promotional efforts are more focused with the support from relevant government agencies and private sector
  10. j) Attractive and affordable packages during recuperation period.

To ease entry formalities for patients, the Immigration Department of Malaysia has implements the Green Lane System at main entry points which expedites custom clearance for medical travellers. Accompanying family members or friends of the patient can take advantage of their visit to sample Malaysia's various interesting tourist attractions. Cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang offer a truly comprehensive range of both health and tourism services, all within easy reach.

Interested person can find more information in  Sunway Medical Centre (SMC) website at

https://www.sunwaymedical.com

or write to ([email protected]).

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The War in Ukraine Will Not End Soon



News Desk, Barta24.com
The War in Ukraine Will Not End Soon

The War in Ukraine Will Not End Soon

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Analysts expect the war in Ukraine to continue at a high level of intensity through 2022, and at a greater or lesser tempo for years to come. According to many experts the war is still at a relatively early stage, and they envisage several possible outcomes, including Russia’s annexation of more territory, a further rout of Russian forces and a negotiated settlement.

However, war specialists expect several factors to prolong the war. The first is that the issues at stake for Ukraine and Russia are existential and are not susceptible to compromise. Ukraine is fighting for its right to self-determination. Its government and people have shown that they are prepared to make great sacrifices to defend their national sovereignty. As long as Russia is occupying Ukrainian land, it will be difficult for any Ukrainian government to make concessions on this fundamental issue.

Meanwhile, Russia has presented its invasion as a “special military operation” to protect Russians in Ukraine against a Nazi-type regime. Backing off from completing what it presents as an existential mission is almost impossible. Putting aside its outlandish claims, Russia’s real aim appears to be to put a stop to Ukraine’s integration into Western institutions such as NATO, which it regards as a security threat. For Vladimir Putin’s regime, winning the war in Ukraine, or being seen to win, has become vital to its future survival.

Besides, the war in Ukraine is not just a regional conflict: it has become a much larger confrontation between the West and Russia. In this sense, it has some of the characteristics of a proxy war, with the West standing four-square behind Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Western leaders have said that they will not become directly involved in the war, but their provision of military aid and intelligence to Ukraine carries the risk of their being drawn inadvertently into the conflict. The longer the war drags on, the greater the risk of the West being pulled in, either as a result of a military miscalculation by either side or of the war accidentally spilling over into a NATO member state. Such an unplanned event would pose the risk of a much more serious global conflict.

Even if such a scenario is avoided, the war marks a geopolitical watershed. It will result in Russia’s exclusion from the Western economic and political order. Sanctions will remain in place indefinitely, and Russia will become a no-go area for Western businesses. The Kremlin will come to rely increasingly on China and the developing world. The West will have to reorganise its global supply chains, including for commodities supplied by Russia. Ukraine and the wider region will remain a zone of instability for many years to come.

The war could very well turn into a protracted stalemate because neither side is capable of defeating the other. Having suffered major setbacks in the first months of the war, it is unlikely that Russia will succeed in subjugating Ukraine. Russia’s invasion has turned the Ukrainian population irrevocably against it, including in areas in the east that were traditionally pro-Russian. This means that even its lesser aims, such as forcing neutrality on Ukraine and obtaining Ukrainian consent to territorial losses, will be very difficult to achieve unless the course of the war changes dramatically.

Despite its undoubted military superiority over Ukraine, several factors have undermined Russia’s ability to press home this advantage. Its war planners badly miscalculated the willingness of Ukrainians to fight and the preparedness of their army. Ukraine has mobilised the entire country behind its war effort, whereas Russia is suffering from a manpower shortage and has so far eschewed a full mobilisation.

In addition, Russia’s army is fighting on hostile terrain, appears to be badly led and trained and suffers from low morale.

Finally, Russia’s military may be technologically superior to that of Ukraine, but it has proved no match for NATO’s advanced weapons systems, which Ukraine now has at its disposal.

In contrast, Ukraine’s army is fighting on its own territory against a foreign invader, is strongly motivated to fight and appears to be well-led. It can draw on advantages such as the support of the population and knowledge of the terrain.

In addition, Ukraine is receiving considerable intelligence, logistical, military, political and financial support from the West. Nevertheless, even with Western weapons, Ukraine is unlikely to be able to inflict a decisive defeat on Russia. Ukrainian forces have already routed the Russians in their attempted advance on Kiev. Large number of experts suggest that Ukraine could inflict a similar defeat on Russia’s army in the Donbas. However, Russian forces are well-established and better supplied in the east, and it will be difficult for Ukraine to drive them out. This cannot be ruled out entirely, but, given the Kremlin’s determination to do whatever it takes to obtain a result that can be framed as a victory, Ukraine is unlikely to be able to deliver a knock-out blow to Russia’s military.

In this context, the war in Ukraine will not end soon, according to a large number of experts.

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Joe Biden Arrives in Asia



News Desk, Barta24.com
Joe Biden Arrives in Asia

Joe Biden Arrives in Asia

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U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Asia for the first time as president. He’s traveling to South Korea and Japan, but the subtext of the trip is that it’s all about China.

Joe Biden touched down in Asia on May 20 for the first time in his presidency, kicking off a high-profile trip meant to bolster ties with regional allies and launch a new trade initiative.

During the four-day long tour, Biden will have a key opportunity to reinforce partnerships with South Korea and Japan and reaffirm the region’s longstanding importance to U.S. foreign policy—especially with regard to China.

“China fits into this as a primary target, there’s really no better way to put it,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center, who noted that Beijing has remained a top priority on Washington’s national security agenda. The “U.S. is trying to strengthen its coordination and cooperation with allies and partners in order to deal with China more effectively,” she said.

Biden’s first stop is Seoul, where he will meet with the new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol; from there, he will head to Japan for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The tour will culminate with a Quad summit in Tokyo, convening Biden, Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the winner of Australia’s Saturday election.

In Tokyo, Biden is also expected to officially unveil the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a new U.S.-led initiative that would be designed to strengthen trade and supply chains in the region.

“The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can look like if the democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road,” said U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think

Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.” 

But neighboring North Korea could disrupt hopes for a smooth trip. Both U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that Pyongyang could be plotting to conduct a nuclear or missile test to coincide with the tour, and Sullivan said the White House is bracing for the worst-case scenarios. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” he said.

If Pyongyang conducted a test during the trip, it “will add another layer of urgency,” said Sun. But at the same time, she added, “a North Korea provocation is not going to be a big surprise because even before the Biden administration, I think people were anticipating that North Korea is going to act out.”

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