Govt failing to address rights abuses

Govt failing to address rights abuses

Bangladesh authorities failed to respond to repeated and serious allegations of secret detentions, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, denying the abuses instead of holding perpetrators accountable, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2018.

Although the government did not enforce refoulement on Rohingya refugees seeking sanctuary from across the Burmese (Myanmar) border, Bangladeshi citizens themselves saw no reprieve in their quest for justice, the US-based global rights watchdog said in a statement on its website yesterday.

In the 643-page report, its 28th edition, HRW reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

Starting in late August, Bangladesh saw over 655,000 Rohingya refugees cross the border from Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar fleeing a campaign of rape, arson, and killings by the Burmese military that amounted to crimes against humanity.

While Bangladesh does not officially recognise the majority of the Rohingya as refugees, the government has allowed those seeking shelter to enter the country, the report says.

Bangladesh deserves credit for not forcibly returning Rohingya refugees, and for doing what it can with strained resources to provide safety for them for the time being,” Brad Adams, director of HRW Asia, said in the report.

However, recurring plans to move the refugees to uninhabitable islands or to return them to Burma without key citizenship rights and protections remained a concern.

In domestic rights concerns, scores of Bangladeshis remained victims of enforced disappearances, even as law enforcement authorities continued to target both opposition supporters and militant suspects, the report mentions.

Security forces responsible for serious human rights violations continued to be free and unaccountable, the report says.

Despite evidence of flawed trials and coerced confessions, the High Court upheld the death penalty against nearly 140 members of the Bangladesh Rifles, as the present Border Guard Bangladesh was formerly known, it adds.

Civil society groups and the media continued to face pressure from both state and non-state actors, while dozens of Bangladeshis were arrested for criticising the government or the political leadership on Facebook, it further says.

Although the official government policy is to eliminate child marriage, in February 2017 the government passed a law permitting girls under 18 years of age to marry under special circumstances -- effectively eliminating the minimum age for marriage in this exception.

The government also failed to take steps to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the report says.

Particularly as the country heads into general elections in 2019, it is vital to restore the rule of law, and end all efforts to silence dissent,” said Adams.

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One less park for Old Dhaka

One less park for Old Dhaka

Did you know that less than 0. 30 percent of land in all of Dhaka city is used for recreational purposes? This is according to the Regional Development Planning (RDP) survey. For those of us living in the ever-growing concrete jungle that we call home, the abysmal allocation of land for leisure activities will not come as a surprise.

An investigation conducted by The Daily Star in 2016 revealed that at least 10 of the 54 surviving parks in the entire Dhaka city had been replaced with community centres, kitchen markets, mosques, rickshaw garages or truck parking lots—that too, mostly by the city corporation(s) itself. Currently, Dhaka has 0. 7 acres of open place for every 1000 residents—the Dhaka Metropolitan Development Plan states that the optimal allocation is 0. 6 acres of open land for every 1000 people.

The latest park under threat is the Nababganj Park, located at Ward-23 of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The park already houses two infrastructure—a one-storey building that is used to provide medical services, and another two-storey structure that serves as a gymnastic centre, library, community centre and the ward commissioner's office. Earlier this year, the DSCC labelled these two buildings as “risky” and forbade people from using them. ile the community might have appreciated the city corporation's effort to renovate the unsafe structures, the announcement that a multi-storied building would be established replacing the park, angered locals and environmentalists.

And why not? The stark reality is that Nababganj Park has been serving as the only source of recreation for more than five lakh residents of Ward-23. There are no parks in Wards 24, 25 or 26 either—though there should be at least one park for each, as per the experts' suggestions.

Urban planner and the former chairman of University Grant Commission, Professor Nazrul Islam, highlights that every urban and regional plan must ensure adequate open spaces (depending on the size of the population). For example, the current Dhaka Structure Plan proposes 1. 5 acres of open space for every 12,500 of the population. This means that for a population of 26 million, we need at least 22,360 acres—constituting six percent of the total area of the capital.

Once a plan is made and a park is built, the municipality cannot make changes arbitrarily. If there really is a necessity, the whole urban structure plan needs to be changed accordingly, but with the direct participation of the public,” informs Islam.

What's an open space that's not… open?

Upon visit, a corner of the Nababganj Park was found “reserved” for WASA's pumping station in violation of the law. cording to a law passed in 2000 (lengthily titled: Mega city, Divisional Town and District Town's municipal areas including country's all the municipal areas' playground, open space, park and natural water reservoir Conservation Act, 2000), “playfields, open spaces, parks and natural water bodies which are marked cannot be used another way, it cannot be rented, leased or cannot be handover any other use.

If a service organisation, including the City Corporation, needs to build an infrastructure in a public property, it needs to purchase the land at the market price, informs Mohammed Salim, assistant secretary of an Old Dhaka wing of the environmental organisation Poribesh Bachao Andolon. When we asked them, they couldn't give us any satisfactory answer. It is unfortunate that the regulatory bodies themselves are violating basic provisions,” he says.

The authorities claim that the multi-storeyed building—which will continue to house the commissioner's office and community centre—will provide much-needed amenities to the public. wever, many locals as well as environmentalists feel that replacing an open space with a concrete building will do more harm than good.

Yes, community facilities are equally important, but you cannot create a new problem while solving another,” argues Iqbal Habib, architect and Member Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.

Some local residents also raise questions about the decision to mark the existing community centre—which was inaugurated in 1999—as risky. as it only done as an excuse to be able to do construction work in the park?

We have another community centre near the park, which was built five years before this one. They could've demolished that and rebuilt it as the multi-storied building they are planning for community services. Why choose the structure in the park? asks a local resident, Rafiqul Islam.

Ratul Ahmed, another local resident, is concerned about the environmental aspect. If a community centre is built here, they must arrange food for large parties, and people will use the remaining open space to park their cars. People go to parks to enjoy the nature—how is that going to happen then? says Ahmed.

Besides, we are hearing that the Sadarghat-Gabtali road which runs along a side of the park is going to be expanded to accommodate four lanes. If this happens, the size of the park will be reduced any way, so why take up space for a building? he adds.

Not all locals, however, oppose the move. Some believe that the addition of new facilities—as promised by the authorities—would add to the development of the community.

When contacted, Mohammed Humayun Kabir, Commissioner for Ward-23 informs that the multipurpose building will serve the needs of the community, with separate arrangements for sports for children and the elderly. When asked about the environmental aspects of replacing the park with a building, Kabir argues, “You cannot compare this park with the Suhrawardy Udyan or Ramna Park. We are going to implement the new project so that they can use it as a place to mingle with others.

When asked about the commissioner's office, he admits that it might be there. And we give the land to WASA, considering the necessity of local people”. We were unable to manage a place for the pumping station,” he adds.

According to Advocate and Policy Analyst Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, the way the smaller-sized open spaces are in danger of encroachment is a matter of great concern. In fact, the situation is so bad that in 2014, the High Court ordered the DCs to protect all the canals, playgrounds and parks of the country from illegal encroachment. But no significant changes have taken place in this regard,” he says.

The future of the Nababganj Park is easily foreseeable, if we look at some other old Dhaka parks that are almost disappearing in the name of development, like Narinda, Jatrabari or Bakshibazar Park. Having access to green spaces is a matter of equality—and it seems as if old Dhaka is getting the short end of the stick.

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Coach at the centre of BD-SL showdown

Coach at the centre of BD-SL showdown

Although it is all that people outside the two relevant dressing rooms seem to want to talk about, there has been a conscious effort from those inside to avoid making today's tri-series match about Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha taking on Bangladesh, his former charges, for the first time since switching sides.

Bangladesh are not playing against Hathurusingha; they are playing against Sri Lanka,” Sri Lanka batting coach Thilan  Samaraweera, another former Bangladesh support staff who took up a corresponding position in his native country, said yesterday ahead of the match that gets underway from 12:00pm at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur today.

Indeed, it is Sri Lanka taking on Bangladesh and there are things other than the Hathurusingha saga to focus on, such as Sri Lanka badly needing a win to move past an unexpected defeat to Zimbabwe on Wednesday. On the other hand, this tri-series is the first time Bangladesh are favourites in a multi-team international event, not just because they are the home side but because they are the highest ranked team on display. With a handsome eight-wicket win over Zimbabwe to kick off the tri-series on Monday, the Tigers will want to consolidate their unfamiliar position of frontrunner today.

However, it will be hard to look past the Hathurusingha factor if only because his exit from Bangladesh was so recent that, in his first press conference as Sri Lanka coach on Sunday, he absentmindedly used the pronoun 'we' while talking about Bangladesh. Then there is the hint of acrimony surrounding the timing and manner of his resignation -- two years before the end of his contract with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and midway through a disastrous tour of South Africa, without much communication with the board or the players.

Last but not least, it will also be interesting to see which team will benefit from this very recent shift of personnel -- will Hathurusingha's local knowledge gleaned over three years give Sri Lanka the edge, or will the Tigers' insight into the Sri Lankan's strategic proclivities be the difference-maker, or will they cancel each other out?

Before the tournament opener Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and technical director Khaled Mahmud had, like Samaraweera and Hathurusingha himself, sought to play down the Hathurusingha angle, saying that the players and not the coach do the deeds on the field and also that insight into the other camp is a two-way street.

Yesterday, however, while saying that they had moved past Hathurusingha, Mashrafe let slip a missive towards his former coach, saying that it would have been interesting if the Sri Lankan had stuck around after the South Africa tour to see if the ship could be turned around. But he chose to go to Sri Lanka,” Mashrafe added, the implication being that Hathusuringha took the easy way out in a time of strife.

That is likely to be the overwhelming feeling in the Bangladesh camp in today's blockbuster clash and even though Hathurusingha has wished Bangladesh well publicly, it is a match that both camps will be desperate to win.

There will be a temptation for Bangladesh to retain the team that played so well to beat Zimbabwe, but with Sri Lanka having more left-handers in the top order, left-arm spinner Sunzamul Haque may make way for off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. For Sri Lanka, the main concern will surround the availability of skipper Angelo Mathews. Samaraweera said yesterday that they were monitoring the all-rounder, who sustained a suspected hamstring injury in Wednesday's game against Zimbabwe, and will decide today whether he is fit to play.

In the context of the tournament, Sri Lanka need to win this match more than Bangladesh, who already have a win in the bag. In a wider context however, Bangladesh's players will want to show that they can thrive in the post-Hathurusingha era.

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It's all for money

It's all for money

Tuesday's mayhem in Narayanganj was all about money.

A section of ruling party leaders loyal to local MP Shamim Osman and some unscrupulous police officials control the footpaths and collect tolls from the hawkers, generating around Tk 1. 35 crore a month, claimed about 20 hawkers of Narayanganj city who talked to The Daily Star.

The feud between NCC Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and AL MP Shamim Osman over the eviction of hawkers had nothing to do with politics; it is totally about the money paid by around 4,500 hawkers, they said.

The money collected is shared among the leaders of AL, AL-affiliate organisations and Chhatra League of Narayanganj and police officials of Chasara Police Camp and Narayanganj Sadar Police Station, the hawkers claimed.

The money is collected by 25 linemen on Bangabandhu Road alone, they said.

Talking to The Daily Star, a number of hawkers said they have to pay from Tk 20 to Tk 300 every day to “police and a section of local influential AL leaders who get a portion of the money”.

The amount depends on the size and location of their makeshift stalls.

Hawker Narayan Chandra said the hawkers who sit around Zia Hall intersection, Shaheed Minar, in front of Khaja Market and on Bangabandhu Road have to pay from Tk 100 to Tk 300 per day.

Just paying the toll is not enough. He said the hawkers are forced to join rallies and processions of Shamim Osman in Narayanganj and Dhaka.

You will see no hawkers or only a few hawkers on Narayanganj footpaths the day Shamim Osman holds a rally,” Oli Ahmed, a hawker who sits on Bangabandhu Road, told The Daily Star.

A tea vendor on Bangabandhu Road said either a policeman or a lineman takes Tk 20 from him every day.

The plainclothes policemen kicked me on several occasions when I failed to pay or haggled with them,” he said, adding, “Even the homeless and beggars cannot escape the police and the linemen. saw police take Tk 10 from them many times.

If they fail to pay, they are slapped,” he said, requesting not to be named and declining to name the police personnel and linemen fearing repercussions.

Asad Mia, convener of Hawkers Sangram Parishad, said there were around 4,500 small cots or tables on city footpaths and three quarters of them were on Bangabandhu Road.

Several hawkers claimed that for placing a two by three feet cot or table on the pavement, they have to pay Tk 5,000 to Tk 7,000 to local leaders close to Shamim Osman.

Narayanganj City Jubo League President Shahadat Hossain Bhuiyan Shajnu and Convener of Narayanganj City Chhatra League Habibur Rahman Riad, who are close to Shamim Osman, dealt with the hawkers, they claimed.

They mentioned a few other names of similar post holders in AL and Chhatra League but this paper could not get in touch with those leaders.

Refuting the allegations, Shahadat Hossain told The Daily Star that he had heard that some AL leaders took money from hawkers. Several times I have pressed hawkers to know the names but they told me that no Awami League leaders took money from them.

Habibur Rahman Riad said they had asked the administration and the city corporation to take actions if anyone took money from the hawkers in the name of Chhatra League.

Several witnesses of Tuesday's mayhem claimed that these AL, AL-affiliate and Chhatra League men were in the front line during the attack on NCC Mayor Ivy. The Daily Star could not verify their claims.

Chashara Police Camp In-charge Gazi Mizanur Rahman said, “Hawkers' trade on footpaths had been stopped several weeks ago. So, the allegations of taking money against police personnel are not right.

Asked whether the policemen collected toll before, he said he had no idea about the matter.

Acting officer-in-charge Abdur Razzaq of Narayanganj Sadar Police Station told The Daily Star that the allegation against police was nothing but exaggeration.

Asked to elaborate what he meant by exaggeration, Razzaq said after he took charge as the OC, he did not get any complaint that policemen collected tolls from hawkers.

He, however, said his predecessor was closed to the police lines as he had not taken proper steps to evict hawkers.

We have taken a hard line against hawkers after sir [his predecessor] was closed,” Razzaq added.

On January 15, Shamim Osman at a rally of hawkers at Chashara said he had ordered, not requested, that hawkers would sit on footpaths from 5:00pm from January 16, if the city corporation did not take any measures for their rehabilitation.

Mayor Ivy had said that she would not allow hawkers to occupy footpaths causing city dwellers to suffer. She also said she would make alternative arrangements for the hawkers at the hawkers' markets.

Many city dwellers hailed the city corporation's move to free the footpaths from illegal occupation. They told The Daily Star yesterday that despite repeated attempts over the last one year, the authorities failed to evict the hawkers due to local influential Awami League leaders and a section of police officials who take money from them.

On Tuesday, NCC Mayor Ivy and around 50 others were injured as supporters of local AL lawmaker Shamim Osman attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to a clash on Bangabandhu Road.

No case was filed over the clash as of last night and police could not arrest Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, who was seen brandishing a firearm during the clash, even though he himself filed a general diary with Narayanganj Sadar Model Police Station in connection with attempt on his life and attempted snatching of his arms.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday said action would be taken against those who had brandished firearms during Tuesday's clash.

I give you assurance that no one will be spared. Those who have broken laws, will face the music,” the home minister told journalists in Tejgaon.

We are doing what is required. We have footages. We are looking into those who brandished firearms and took the law into their own hands,” Asaduzzaman said, adding that they were enquiring into the “unfortunate incident”.

The home minister said he personally talked to Shamim Osman and Selina Hayat Ivy after the incident on Tuesday and told them that the prime minister did not like what had happened.

I told them if you don't stop, we have to take action,” he added.

Ivy was admitted to LabAid Hospital in Dhaka after her blood pressure dropped yesterday afternoon. She is in the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital.

Ivy became sick when she was at the city corporation office around 4:00pm, reports our Narayanganj correspondent.

She had trouble breathing and had cardiac complications, said Narayanganj General Hospital Medical Officer Asaduzzaman.

Abul Hossain, Ivy's personal secretary, said Ivy visited the injured of Tuesday's clash at Narayanganj General Hospital after lunch yesterday.

She became sick around 20 minutes after she had returned to her office.

A doctor of LabAid said, “She will be kept under observation for the next 24 hours. Her condition is stable now.

Lawmaker Shamim Osman neither received phone calls nor texts of this paper.

Some hawkers yesterday opened up shops at Chashara on Bangabandhu Road defying the local administration. Police evicted the hawkers a few hours after they had sat there.

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Obesity multiplies risk of cancer disease, especially in women

Obesity multiplies risk of cancer disease, especially in women

New European research has found that being overweight or obese exponentially increases the chance of suffering from heart disease or cancer, with the risk even greater for women than men.

The findings come from the Spanish Risk Function of Coronary and Other Events (FRESCO) study led by researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and doctors from Hospital del Mar, who analyzed 54,446 people over a 10-year period.

Participants were men and women aged 35 to 79, with 46. 5% of participants classed as overweight and 27. 8% classed as obese.

Only 26 percent of the participants were considered to be a normal weight, with a body mass index (BMI) below 25.

The team found that being obese posed the greatest health risks for women, who were five times more likely to suffer a cardiovascular disease, and 12 times more likely to develop cancer than women who were a normal weight.

Women who were classed as overweight but not obese still had twice the risk of heart disease and four times the risk of cancer than those who were normal weight.

Although obesity was found to double a man's likelihood of developing some type of cancer, unlike women it did not appear to have a significant influence on cardiovascular diseases.

proportional increase in the risk of adverse health events," with the team describing the results of the study as "concerning.

It is necessary to find strategies for promoting a healthy diet, doing physical activity, screening for diseases, and establishing prevention policies that affect the entire population in order to decrease the prevalence of obesity," commented Dr. Jaume Marrugat, principal investigator of the study. The improvements in cardiovascular risk factors achieved over the last 20 years are dramatically neutralized by the obesity epidemic.

The researchers added that even small weight reductions can bring huge health benefits. In a country where the average life expectancy is 80 for example, overweight people who lose 5 kilos in their 40s and do not put the weight back on can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 20 percent. Women would also benefit from a 20 percent reduction in the risk of cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates that obesity affects more than 650 million people across the globe, a number which has tripled since 1975.

As well as cardiovascular disease and cancer obesity is also linked to a variety of other health conditions including diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders.

The findings can be found published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

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Apple to release software update for iPhone slowdown

Apple to release software update for iPhone slowdown

Apple will release a test version of its iOS software next month that shows users the health of their batteries and will let them turn off a phone-slowing feature meant to prevent sudden shutdowns in iPhones with older batteries, Cook said in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday.

Cook said the phone-slowing software, released last year, was intended to make sure that iPhone users did not get cut off in the middle of an important call or text message because of an old battery.

We will tell somebody we are reducing your performance by some amount in order to not have an unexpected restart, and if you don’t want it, you can turn it off,” Cook said. e don’t recommend it because we think that people’s iPhones are really important to them and you can never tell when something is so urgent. r actions were all in service of the user.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Cook’s remarks or say when the update would be available to consumers.

Apple confirmed on Dec. 20 that software in iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE models to deal with dangers from ageing batteries could slow down the phone’s performance. Within days, Apple faced lawsuits over the phone slowing.

The issue struck a nerve on social media, where many voiced a theory that Apple intentionally slows down older phones to encourage customers to buy new ones. No credible evidence has emerged that Apple has ever done so. On Dec. 28, Apple issued a public apology to customers over the battery issue and said it has never purposely shortened the life of its products.

Apple also lowered the price of battery replacements for affected models from $79 to $29. The lower price could prod many consumers to replace their battery instead of buying a new phone, which in turn could lead to lower iPhone sales for 2018, Barclays analysts said in a note earlier this month.

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Blood test to detect 8 cancers early gives promising results

Blood test to detect 8 cancers early gives promising results

Scientists are reporting progress on a blood test to detect many types of cancer at an early stage, including some of the most deadly ones that lack screening tools now.

Many groups are working on liquid biopsy tests, which look for DNA and other things that tumors shed into blood, to try to find cancer before it spreads, when chances of cure are best.

In a study Thursday in the journal Science, Johns Hopkins University scientists looked to see how well their experimental test detected cancer in people already known to have the disease. The blood tests found about 70 percent of eight common types of cancer in the 1,005 patients. The rates varied depending on the type — lower for breast tumors but high for ovarian, liver and pancreatic ones.

In many cases, the test narrowed the possible origin of the cancer to one or two places, such as colon or lung, important for limiting how much follow-up testing a patient might need. It gave only seven false alarms when tried on 812 others without cancer.

The test is nowhere near ready for use yet; it needs to be validated in a larger study already underway in a general population, rather than cancer patients, to see if it truly works and helps save lives — the best measure of a screening test’s value.

We’re very, very excited and see this as a first step,” said Nickolas Papadopoulos, one of the Hopkins study leaders. ut we don’t want people calling up” and asking for the test now, because it’s not available, he said.

Some independent experts saw great promise.

It’s such a good first set of results” that it gives hope this approach will pan out, said Dr. ter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who consults for a gene testing company. Anything close to 50 percent or 40 percent detection is pretty exciting stuff,” and this one did better than that, he said.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, was encouraged that the test did well on cancers that lack screening tests now. If a blood test could find 98 percent of ovarian cancers at an early stage, as these early results suggest, “that would be a significant advance,” he said.

But he cautioned: “We have a long way to go to demonstrate its effectiveness as a screening test.

The test detects mutations in 16 genes tied to cancer and measures eight proteins that often are elevated when cancer is present.

It covers breast, colon and lung and five kinds that don’t have screening tests for people at average risk: ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal. Prostate cancer is not included. A blood test already is widely used — the PSA test — but its value for screening is controversial.

Researchers tried the new test on people whose cancers were still confined to where it started or had spread a little but not widely throughout the body. It detected 33 percent of breast cancers, about 60 percent of colon or lung cancers and nearly all of the ovarian and liver ones. It did better when tumors were larger or had spread. It did less well at the very earliest stage.

The test probably will not work as well when tested in a general population rather than those already known to have cancer, researchers say. Hopkins and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania have started a study of it in 10,000 Geisinger patients who will be tracked for at least five years.

The work was financed by many foundations, the Mayo Clinic, the National Institutes of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which provides The Associated Press with funding for health and science coverage. Many study leaders have financial ties to gene testing companies, and some get royalties for patents on cancer detection methods.

Researchers say the test could cost around $500 based on current materials and methods, but the ultimate goal is to commercialize it, so what a company would charge is unknown.

Also this week, Taiwan-based CellMax Life gave results on its liquid biopsy test, which looks for whole tumor cells shed into blood, at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.

Researchers tested 620 people getting colonoscopies or with confirmed colon cancer at a hospital in Taiwan. The company said its test had an overall accuracy of 84 to 88 percent for detecting cancer or precancerous growths and a false alarm rate around 3 percent.

The company’s chief executive, Atul Sharan, said U. studies should start this year. The test is sold now in Taiwan for $500, but should cost around $150 in the U. S. he said.

Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the oncology society, said results are encouraging, but the test needs more study, especially to see if it gives too many false alarms.

The last thing you’d want is a test that tells you you might have cancer if you don’t,” he said.

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IDN TAKE: The Baltic States: Gained Dependence

IDN TAKE: The Baltic States: Gained Dependence

by Adomas Abromaitis

Future of Europe is still uncertain. Though security is the real priority for all countries, each of them understands the process of achieving security by its own.

Lithuanian and Latvian authorities increased political activity and intensified preparing to NATO summit that will take place in Brussels in July 2018. It is

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