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India’s Home Minister Has Hurt Our ‘Pride’, Could Damage Bilateral Ties, Warns Bangladesh PM’s Aide

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Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has triggered a major row with Bangladesh after calling its citizens poor, saying that they were illegally migrating to India for jobs. Dhaka says that the Indian minister is damaging ties between the two South Asian neighbours by making “factually incorrect” statements about Bangladesh’s economic situation.

India’s federal Home Minister Amit Shah has “hurt” Bangladesh’s pride by calling Bangladeshis poor and saying that they migrate to India because there aren’t enough jobs in their own country, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury told Sputnik on Thursday.

“Such remarks damage bilateral ties between the two countries, at a time when we are enjoying such warm relations. Mr. Shah’s remarks have definitely hurt our sentiments,” said Chowdhury, pointing out that Prime Minister Modi had also made a visit to the country last month.

“The visit by Prime Minister Modi to commemorate the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence marked a warm chapter in bilateral relations. It signifies the deep historic and cultural bonds between Bangladesh and India,” said the aid to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister.

“Therefore, as the president of the (India’s governing) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shah should refrain from making statements that would impact the bonds between the people of our countries,” remarked Chowdhury.

Shah, often described as the “second-most” influential man in India after Prime Minster Modi, told the Bengali daily Anand Bazar Patrika in an interview on Tuesday that Bangladesh’s poor were still crossing over into India for jobs.

“The poor (in Bangladesh) still go hungry and cross over the border… And they are not just staying in Bengal. They are in different states, reaching as far as Jammu and Kashmir,” Shah told the newspaper.

“The BJP will stop this infiltration of Bangladeshis into India if we come to power in West Bengal (a border state currently polling to elect its government),” the BJP leader said about the illegal migrants from Bangladesh in India.

An advisor to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister said that he “understands” that Shah was making statements against Bangladesh for the “consumption” of residents in India.

“Whatever he says in the context of Indian politics is none of our business. But he should avoid making references to Bangladesh,” stated Chowdhury.

He also pointed out that Shah’s remarks were not only “unfortunate” but also “factually incorrect”.

“How could he say that Bangladeshis are dying of hunger. We rank above India in the Global Hunger Index and several economic parameters,” he said.

As per Global Hunger Index 2020, Bangladesh was placed at 75 in the rankings, compared to India’s 94th position, among 107 nations.

“Shah was talking about the Bangladesh of the past. Under Sheikh Hasina, we have made rapid economic advances in recent years,” said Chowdhury.

‘Unacceptable’, Says Bangladesh Foreign Minister

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen also slammed India’s Home Minister, stating that the reference to Bangladesh was “unacceptable”.

“There are many wise people in this world, some who don’t want to see even after looking. They don’t want to understand. But, if he (Amit Shah) has said that, I would say that his knowledge about Bangladesh is limited. Nobody dies of hunger in Bangladesh. There are no Monga (seasonal poverty and hunger in northern districts of Bangladesh),” Momen told the Bengali daily Prothom Alo on Tuesday, as he reacted to Shah’s remarks.

Shah’s remarks have not only triggered strong reactions from the Bangladeshi leadership, but have also prompted strong rebuttals in the media as well as angry reactions on social media.

“Shah has a long history of making hateful, insulting remarks about Bangladesh. On and off, he insults Bangladeshis, going as far as describing them as termites,” said a column in Bangladesh’s leading daily Dhaka Tribune.



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UK Pharmacists Warn Medicine Shortages Put Patients at Risk

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The issue first came to the fore in April, when shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs resulted in an outcry, with doctors warning that some women will resort to unorthodox methods to get the medication they need.

British pharmacists have expressed concern over medicine shortages in the UK, which they believe put patients at risk, a new poll has revealed.

A survey of 1,562 UK pharmacists for the Pharmaceutical Journal found that more than 54% of respondents said that patients had been put at risk in the last six months due to drug shortages.

The outlet cited an unnamed pharmacist from a children’s hospital in England as saying that problems pertaining to variable supply of nutritional products may pose threat to patients’ health.

“We had to ration it, and this has potentially put patients at risk of vitamin deficiencies,” the pharmacist pointed out.

A member of the London Ambulance Service (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.07.2022

UK’s NHS Faces Worst Staffing Crisis in its History

They were echoed by another hospital pharmacist, who voiced alarm about drugs being unavailable at the end of a patient’s life.

“There was no alternative for one patient who had to deal with an additional symptom in his last days of life due to lack of available treatment,” the source told the Pharmaceutical Journal.

The same tone was struck by Mike Dent, director of pharmacy funding at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, who said in an interview with the journal that they are “becoming increasingly concerned about medicine supply issues and the very serious impact this is having on both community pharmacy teams and their patients.”

A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care, in turn, stressed that they “take patient safety extremely seriously, and […] routinely share information about medicine supply issues directly with the NHS [National Health Service] so they can put plans in place to reduce the risk of any shortage impacting patients, including offering alternative medication.”

“We have well-established procedures to deal with medicine shortages and work closely with industry, the NHS and others to prevent shortages and resolve any issues as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.

The remarks followed the UK government issuing a number of “medicine supply notifications,” which highlight shortages of a whole array of key drugs, including live­-saving ones such as antibiotics, insulin and antidepressants.

A veteran wearing a Royal Hospital Chelsea hat, and in PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face mask, as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London  - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.08.2022

NHS Faces ‘Sprint’ to Tackle Threat of Flu, New COVID Wave & Cost of Living Crisis, Health Sec Warns

The issue first came to light at the end of April 2022, when a shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medication left some women in the UK sharing prescriptions and feeling suicidal. HRT is used to relieve most symptoms of menopause and it works by replacing hormones that are at a lower level.

According to the UK newspaper Express, drug shortages “are being caused by a shortage of raw ingredients used to manufacture medicines. These are often supplied by countries in the Far East. There are also rising costs set by pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers.”



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Cannabis: Canada to spend $200 million on medical marijuana for veterans | International

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The Canadian government is on track to spend CA$200 million (around $154 million) on medical marijuana for veterans, an increase of 30% compared to 2021 and 135% compared to 2019. Since 2008, Canada’s Veteran Affairs has been reimbursing former military personnel for what they spend on medically prescribed marijuana.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018 (the second country to make such a regulatory change after Uruguay). The government of Justin Trudeau justified the measure as a move to fight organized crime and ensure the safety of consumers. Marijuana for medicinal use, however, has been legal in Canada since 2001. The Canadian Health Ministry backed its decision on the grounds that studies show it can be beneficial for patients who suffer from problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

In 2008, after overcoming various legal disputes, Veteran Affairs approved a measure to reimburse war veterans for the cost of medicinal marijuana, although reimbursements were to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In 2011, the authorities simplified the procedure to make it accessible to more candidates. That year, 37 people were reimbursed for a total amount of CA$103,400 (81,000). In November 2016, the ministry modified its compensation rules, reducing the daily limit from 10 grams a day to three. The current maximum rate for refunds is $8.50 per gram.

Veteran Affairs stated that medical cannabis is “a developing area of treatment,” and it will continue to review information and “adjust the policy as necessary to guarantee the welfare of veterans and their families.” A Canadian Senate commission called for such a review in 2019, emphasizing the positive results of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, in particular as an effective substitute for highly addictive opioids against chronic pain. Senators also said that the maximum price needs to be constantly evaluated, as costs may exceed what some veterans can afford.

According to the latest data, some 18,000 ex-combatants were reimbursed for medicinal marijuana in 2021, which equated to CA$153 million ($118 million) in federal spending. While experts largely support the plan for veterans, they say it should be accompanied by psychosocial support, especially in cases of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Campaigners call on UN Women to pull out of BlackRock partnership | Women’s rights and gender equality

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The UN agency responsible for promoting gender equality is being urged to pull out of a partnership with BlackRock, the world’s biggest investment fund manager, over the company’s “record of prioritising profits over human rights or environmental integrity”.

Hundreds of women’s organisations and activists have written to UN Women demanding it rescind the partnership.

The letter, sent on Tuesday to Sima Sami Bahous, UN Women’s executive director, and her two deputies, Åsa Regnér and Anita Bhatia, said the partnership “gives BlackRock a veneer of feminist approval that it clearly does not merit”.

While details of the collaboration have not been made public, BlackRock published a statement on its website in May saying it had signed “a memorandum of understanding” with the UN agency “agreeing to cooperate in promoting the growth of gender lens investing”.

BlackRock has faced pressure from environmental activists to improve its climate action policies, given its vast holdings in fossil fuel companies, and wide global reach.

The asset manager has investments in some of the world’s largest weapons sales companies, the letter said, noting that BlackRock is “consistently” ranked among the worst performers on corporate accountability by civil society watchdogs.

From left to right: Pam Chan of BlackRock, UN Women representative Anita Bhatia and Isabelle Mateos y Lago of BlackRock at Davos this year.
From left to right: Pam Chan of BlackRock, UN Women representative Anita Bhatia and Isabelle Mateos y Lago of BlackRock at Davos this year. Photograph: UN Photo

The letter, signed by almost 600 groups and individuals, said BlackRock also holds large amounts of debt in Zambia and Sri Lanka. It was among the private sector lenders that refused to delay debt interest payments to prevent Zambia’s finances from collapsing. The country has had to cut health and social care spending by a fifth in the past two years to balance its budget, cuts that have disproportionately affected women and marginalised groups.

Sanam Amin, a Bangladeshi academic and activist, said: “We want this agreement to be rescinded. This will not have a positive outcome for UN Women or the feminist organisations it is working with.”

She said BlackRock was using UN Women for bluewashing and pinkwashing purposes, and that it was “a fantasy” to imagine that “gender-impact investment can keep investment bankers rich and also save the world”.

“This is an illusion and relies on the labour and resources of marginalised communities in a gendered fashion, in the global south and across global supply chains.”

This is not the first time UN Women has been criticised for partnering with the private sector. In 2015, after pressure from women’s groups, the organisation backed out of a deal with Uber to encourage 1 million women to sign up as drivers.

Emilia Reyes, a feminist activist, said a lack of money was driving the UN into partnerships with the private sector. “We are calling for member states to fulfil their commitments on funding for UN departments as a whole,” she said. “In the search for extra funding, [UN bodies] are undermining their mandate and pushing conflicts of interest inside the UN.”

A spokesperson for UN Women said it “understands the concerns of its civil society partners”, which “merit consideration”. They said the partnership had been “put on hold”.

BlackRock said the money it managed belonged to its clients, many of whom made their own investment decisions. It added: “We highly value UN Women’s leadership in advancing women’s empowerment around the world and respect their decision to put the agreement on hold while they review their strategy for private sector partnerships.”

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