‘Toxic ship’ MV Asia Union leaves Bangladeshi waters

The suspected toxic ship MV Asia Union, which last week sought to enter Bangladesh, left the country’s waters in the last few days, officials say.

The ship’s agents wanted permission for the Chinese-owned vessel to be dismantled in Bangladesh.

But officials last week told the coast guard to turn it back after complaints that it may contain harmful chemicals and pose a health and safety threat.

Bangladesh has become one of the world’s leading ship-breaking nations.

Dozens of cargo ships and tankers from around the world are brought to yards – mostly in the Chittagong region – to be dismantled.

“As per the request of the department of environment, the Coast Guard acted and the ship left the territorial waters of Bangladesh. We are not sure about its next port of call,” Captain Nazmul Alam, deputy conservator of Chittagong port told the BBC.

The ship was anchored around eight nautical miles (12km) off the coast of the southern port of Chittagong.

Environmental groups said the vessel might possess hazardous substances including asbestos, toxic paints and chemical residues which are harmful to human health and the environment.

An official last week said a team would be sent to the ship to find out whether it contained any toxic material before taking a final decision. But Captain Alam said that nobody visited the ship.

Every year, dozens of old ships are brought to Bangladesh to be dismantled for scrap.

Ship-breakers say that recycled steel from dismantled ships supplies around 60% of Bangladesh’s total steel demands.

They say that the industry also provides jobs to thousands of people.

But environmentalists allege that many old ships come with hazardous materials which are dumped in coastal areas, posing a danger to the environment and to workers.

Bangladeshi mom, daughter to stay in US for now

The deportation letter arrived just as Nadia Habib was starting her junior year at Stony Brook University, its message straightforward and scary: Please report to our offices on Sept. 29, and be prepared to leave the country.

Habib, who moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh when she was a toddler, had known that she was an illegal immigrant since she was a teenager, her attorney says. But the knowledge that she would have to leave the country where she grew up — the place she calls home — was a horrible shock.

“It’s a crazy situation to be in for someone like her,” said her attorney, Aygul Charles. “To just kind of go through the motions and do the things that a normal college student would do, then have this letter sent to you that says ‘pack your bags.'”

Habib and her mother, Nazmin Habib, were granted a temporary reprieve Thursday as immigration officials postponed a final decision on their case, allowing them to stay in the U.S. for now. The two women arrived at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan for their deportation meeting prepared to say goodbye to their family and board a plane. But instead, they emerged from the courthouse smiling as about 100 supporters cheered and chanted “education not deportation!”

“We still have a lot of waiting and hoping to do,” Nadia Habib told supporters. “I’m just nervous. Tomorrow’s my birthday, so this is kind of a great birthday present.”

Immigration officials fingerprinted them, confiscated the Habibs’ passports and put them under an order of supervision, which requires them to meet periodically with an immigration officer while their case is being reviewed. They weren’t told when a decision would be made, though immigration officers said it was a high-priority case, Charles said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been working with immigration officials on behalf of the family, released a statement praising the decision not to deport them.

“I am thrilled that Nadia will be celebrating her 20th birthday tomorrow at home with her family and will be continuing her studies in the only country she’s ever known,” Gillibrand said.

The Habib family has taken a confusing legal path toward citizenship ever since they arrived in the U.S. in 1993 from Bangladesh with baby Nadia. Some details of the legal proceedings remain murky, as they have switched lawyers several times over the years. Charles was brought onto the case only a week ago, when Nadia Habib filled out an online form seeking help from the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an advocacy group that quickly took up her cause.

The problem began when Nazmin Habib became ill and missed a scheduled hearing in U.S. Immigration Court on April 26, 2000, according to a court document. The judge proceeded to conduct a hearing in absentia and denied her request for asylum based on past persecution in Bangladesh, Charles said.

When the Habibs tried to reopen the case by providing a doctor’s note, the judge said the note was not credible because the doctor was not found in the court’s registered list of physicians. Charles said this was a clerical error that was never corrected.

Nadia Habib’s siblings were born in the U.S. and are thus citizens, while her father successfully applied for his green card based on his relationship with his children, Charles said.

“His attorney at the time told him that he shouldn’t include his wife or Nadia in the application,” Charles said. “I’ve been told by other attorneys that that’s nonsense.”

Many immigrant children like Nadia Habib don’t learn that they are illegal until their teens, when they’re applying for a driver’s license or to college, Charles said.

The most famous example in recent memory was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who discovered he was an illegal immigrant in high school after emigrating from the Philippines in 1993. Vargas lied about his immigration status to employers for years until he wrote about his struggles in a magazine story earlier this year. He lost his driver’s license after the story was published, but has not been deported.

“This goes on throughout the country,” Charles said. “There’s so many kids in Nadia’s shoes.”

The family was not available for interviews on Thursday, and Charles was unable to provide the names of their prior attorneys. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Luis Martinez said the agency can’t discuss the case without a privacy waiver.

Sara Martinez, 22, was among those who came out to support the family.

“The immigration system is broken and flawed,” said Martinez, whose own family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a baby.

Habib, who previously attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, told reporters that she would be returning to class Monday at the state university on Long Island.

“Obviously, it’s a roller coaster. I’m just really grateful to be able to stay here longer,” she said. “I’m just gonna continue doing what I’ve been doing, living my life as I have. And wait for an answer.”

IBM beats Microsoft in tech giants ranking

For the first time since 1996 IBM’s market value has exceeded Microsoft’s.

IBM’s closing price on 29 September was $214bn (£137.4bn) while Microsoft’s was a shade behind at $213.2bn (£136.8bn).

The values cap a sustained period in which IBM’s share price has moved steadily upward as Microsoft’s has generally been in decline.

The growth means IBM is now the second largest technology company by market value. Apple still holds the top slot with a value of $362bn (£232bn).
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Since the beginning of 2011, IBM’s share price has made steady gains and is now 22% higher than at the start of the year, according to Bloomberg figures. By contrast, Microsoft’s value has dropped 8.8% over the same time period.

Analysts put the switch in the number two slot down to a decision IBM made in 2005 to sell off its PC business to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo to concentrate on software and services.

“IBM went beyond technology,” Ted Schadler, a Forrester Research analyst told Bloomberg. “They were early to recognise that computing was moving way beyond these boxes on our desks.”

By contrast much of Microsoft’s revenue comes from sales of Windows and Office software used on PCs. Also, Microsoft is between releases of Windows which can mean a fallow period for its revenues.

Windows 7 was released in 2009 and Windows 8 is not expected to be released until late 2012 at the earliest.

 

Many have also claimed that the rise of the web, mobile computing and tablets spells the end of the PC era. In early August, Dr Mark Dean, one of the designers of the original IBM PC, declared that the centre of the computing world had shifted away from the humble desktop.

 

BSF Submits Fresh List of Indian Insurgents in B’desh

The BSF has handed over to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) a fresh list of Indian insurgents hiding in that country and demanded action against them even as the latter ruled out presence of rebels in its soil.

“BSF has furnished a fresh list of camps and hideouts of Indian insurgents hiding in Bangladesh soil like National Liberation Front of Tripura, ULFA, All-Tripura Tiger Force, NSCN-IM, NDFB, HNLC, PLA, UNLF,” BSF Director-General Raman Srivastava said here today.

He told reporters that during a talk with his Bangladesh counterpart, Major General Anwar Hussain, at the biannual conference in Dhaka from September 25 to 30, the 21-member BSF delegation, led by him, demanded action against these Indian insurgents.

However, Srivastava said that the 23-member BGB delegation, led by Major Gen Hussain, argued that they found existence of no such camps or hideouts of Indian insurgents in Bangladesh.

The BSF D-G said they had also furnished before the BGB lists of suppliers of fake Indian currency notes, Bangladeshi touts involved in border crime, drug traffickers and the list of Bangladesh prisoners who were released from Indian jails.

“These were our fresh lists which we submitted to the BGB.”

Srivastava said the BSF delegation also raised issues of attacks and assaults on BSF personnel and Indian civilians by Bangladesh criminals.
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Bangladesh Petroleum Corp has received a syndicated loan of $200 million from foreign banks and financial institutions to help pay for oil imports.

Bangladesh BPC secures $200 mil from foreign lenders for oil imports.
BPC held one-to-one discussions with global lenders in Singapore this week and secured assurances from them, he said.

HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered arranged road shows in Singapore to woo foreign lenders and set up meetings with BPC for loans, he said.

International banks and financial institutions, including BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Natexis Banques Popularies, The Bank of East Asia, and Bank of India have agreed to finance BPC following discussions, Ali said.

New fund to stabilise stockmarket.

The private sector comes forward to pull up the sinking stock market with a “market stabilisation fund” that also aims to give a new lease of life to the financially affected retail investors.

AK Azad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), on Thursday announced a concept paper on the market stabilisation fund after a marathon meeting with private sector stakeholders, stock exchanges and a group of retail investors.

New cricket playing conditions.

The ICC’s amendments to playing conditions come into effect from October 1, meaning players will need to get their heads around the changes when international cricket resumes.

Proposals made by the ICC Cricket Committee at its meeting in London in May were approved by the ICC Executive Board in June, but will only get their first run-out in international cricket as series begin across the globe next month.

The first international match to fall under the new regulations will be the Twenty20 international between Bangladesh and West Indies on November 11, with the two teams set to play an ODI two days later.

One-day internationals will see two new balls used, one from each end, while the bowling and batting powerplays will only be taken between overs 16 and 40 in a continuing bid to make the middle overs more exciting.

Runners will no longer be permitted in any form of cricket, while batsmen will no longer be allowed to “significantly change” the direction in which they’re running “without probable cause”. The latter law was created in an attempt to stop batsmen from getting between the fielder’s throw and the stumps, and will be applied whether a run-out would have been affected or not.

Batsmen will also need to be more cautious about backing up, with a new playing condition reading as follows:

“The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.”

In Test matches umpires may now decide to play 15 minutes (a minimum of four overs) extra time at the scheduled lunch or tea interval of any day if requested by either captain if, in the umpires’ opinion, it would bring about a definite result in that session.

The luncheon interval had previously been immovable, but as has been the case with the tea interval, playing conditions now provide that if nine wickets are down at the time of the scheduled lunch break, the interval shall be delayed by a maximum of 30 minutes.

Finally, the minimum interval for an uninterrupted ODI match has been increased from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

Downturn giving microcredit second chance in U.S.: Yunus

The economic slump that has thrown millions of Americans out of work also jump-started the moribund U.S. microcredit sector, a Nobel laureate who pioneered nonprofit lending to the poor said.

The idea of using small, uncollateralized loans to help the poor had failed to catch on in the United States despite the efforts of backers like former President Bill Clinton, who helped get a microfinance venture up and running briefly in Arkansas when he was governor in the 1980s

But Muhammad Yunus, the founder of microlender Grameen Bank, said the brutal recession and lackluster recovery has made poverty alleviation a growth industry in the world’s largest economy.

Yunus said Grameen America — a separate, nonprofit he started in the United States — has established a firm foothold over the past three years, with branches now open in New York, Nebraska and Indiana.

Grameen America plans to expand next into San Francisco and, possibly, Detroit, where — as in so many cities — the disappointing economic recovery that followed the deep recession has pushed more Americans into poverty.

“People said, ‘Look, it will not work in this country,'” the 70-year-old told Reuters of the Grameen approach to finance, which is founded on the belief that even the poorest of the poor are credit-worthy.

“I said, ‘No. It will work in any country because the issues are the same whether it’s the United States or Bangladesh or Mexico. It doesn’t matter.”

Poverty has never been a problem confined to the developing world, but it has become a growing embarrassment in the United States. Just last week, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 46.2 million Americans are living under the poverty line, the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has tracked it.

BETTER THAN BANGLADESH?

Yunus said loan performance in New York City, where Grameen America now has four branches and 6,000 borrowers, has been as good if not better than he had seen back home in Bangladesh.

“The average loan,” Yunus said, “is $1,500 and the repayment rate is near 100 percent — 99 plus percent.”

The model Grameen America uses in the United States is quite different from the one Grameen Bank uses back at home, largely because U.S. banking regulations are stricter.

Unable to get a U.S. banking license because of high initial asset requirements, Grameen America has adopted a donor-supported model, opening branches in cities where local benefactors provide funding — typically at least $6 million — to get the poverty-alleviating lending program up and running.

Getting donors to pony up given the uncertainty haunting the global economy is tough. Adding to the challenge is the controversy that has come to surround Yunus, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, and microlending in general.

After criticizing the Bangladeshi government for corruption, Yunus was thrown out of his job earlier this year as managing director of Grameen Bank, an institution he founded 30 years ago and with which he shared the peace prize.

But he remains chairman of the board of Grameen America, a separate entity that seeks to do for urban areas of the United States what Grameen Bank has done in Bangladesh.

Associates of Yunus said his removal from the Bangladesh parent company was government retaliation after he briefly considered a challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The action against Yunus coincided with growing criticism of microlending in developing countries, where a controversial for-profit version of the idea has enraged borrowers by pursuing aggressive marketing and collection campaigns.

Yunus has also had to defend himself from claims made in a Norwegian documentary that Grameen Bank was dodging taxes.

Yunus has denied any financial irregularities and the Norwegian government found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Asked about the controversy in Chicago this week, where he was honored for his anti-poverty efforts by DePaul University, Yunus said his fight to clear his name — and regain his position at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh — was not over.

“It’s still on,” he said.

An overview of the present education policy


It has been announced that the students will get the books under new curriculum by January 1, 2013. By March 2012 the writing of books on the new syllabus and curriculum will be completed. The Education Minister disclosed this at a seminar held in the capital recently on the National Education Policy. A number of remarkable steps have already been taken to implement the present education policy. An implementation committee with 24 sub-committees has been formed to give it a momentum. A public examination on completion of Class V and Junior Certificate Examination for Class VIII, distribution of books across the country, distribution of computers, and introducing lunch in schools in some areas of the country to retain the students in school are some important steps taken by the government.

The present education policy states that the subjects which are taught as general subjects should be compiled keeping pace with the trend and culture of the country. Again, they need to be revised, rewritten and corrected where and when necessary. But a coordinated law is necessary to implement the policy. It needs to be enacted by the parliament without delay. Education as rights should be ensured for the backward people. The proposed education commission must be formed immediately. The constitution of the proposed accreditation council to ensure the standard of public and private universities should be done without delay, and a chief education monitor should be employed to monitor the process.

The Education Minister observed that the last curriculum was adopted eighteen years ago and was implemented in 1996. Lot many changes in the global arena have taken place since then. So revision, change and extension of the old curriculum are a must. The aim of our education is to equip our children to face the challenges of the 21st century and imbue them with the teachings of values, honesty, and sincerity and patriotism and to develop them as responsible and ideal citizens of the country. He added that everybody should not receive higher education, it is not necessary for all as well. Technical and vocational education is emphasised in the present education policy. To bring changes he stressed on the duration of teaching time, need for employment of dedicated and meritorious candidates in the teaching profession. The establishment of a separate commission to select the deserving candidates for teaching profession, however, is not moving fast. The minister informed that 75 books of secondary and four in the higher secondary will see change. After completing pre-primary and primary (up to Class VIII) a portion of students will be able to take admission in the secondary level and another portion in the vocational education. After the completion of secondary education students will have opportunity to receive vocational education or higher education. Even the vocational educators also have scope to receive higher education particularly those who are capable.

In the new curriculum from Class VI to Class VIII in general and madrasa system there will be 150 marks for English, Bengali 150, mathematics 100, Bangladesh and the World affairs 100, Science 100, Environment 50, ICT 50, total 700 marks. Moreover, 300-400 marks will be for their own system. In the secondary level from Class IX and Class X, there will be Humanities, Science and Business Education groups. For each group there will be 200 marks for Bangla, English 200, Mathematics 100, Religious Education and moral education 100, ICT 50, Education, Health and Games and Sports together 100 marks and total 750 marks compulsory and 400 for their own system.

In Eleven and twelfth grades Bangla will be taught for 200 marks, English 200, ICT 50 and Health Education and Games and Sports for 100 marks. Human qualities, morality, democratic values, discipline, patriotism, creativity, analytical capability, developing imaginative power are emphasised in all the systems and levels. The duration of class time will be increased from 35 to 50 minutes. Annual leave/vacation will be squeezed from 141 to 116 days. The time of SSC and HSC examinations will be lessened to utilise more time for teaching-learning purpose.

Finally, for the implementation of the present education policy financing, education administration, public awareness stands as key factors which call for serious thought. At present the education arena of the country sees only 2.3 per cent expenditure from national income. Other developing countries of the world already have been using 6.0 per cent of the GDP and Bangladesh promises to do so.

Till now most of the students of universities in Bangladesh belong to relatively higher economic class of society showing the opportunities are open for the affluent segment of population. In respect of higher education the emphasis should be given on infrastructure building, research capacity enhancement and technological uplift. Public universities should construct safety nets of the pupils coming from poor segment of population. The cost of education at private institutions is beyond the affordability of the poor families and thus the benefit of education is lesser for them. Still free education for the primary students fails to lure them to complete the circle because of timing. Most poor children have to spend the hours for earning money to support their families. Some NGO schools are running keeping this in mind which can be taken as role models.

Role of tourism in linking together world cultures.

World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated annually on September 27, aiming at fostering awareness among the international community of its social, cultural, political and economic value. The theme of WTD 2011 is “Tourism– Linking Cultures.” It has been chosen with the intention of highlighting tourism’s role in bringing the cultures of the world together and promoting global understanding through travel.

The Egyptian city of Aswan will host the official 2011 WTD celebrations, which include a high-level think tank on this year’s theme. Egypt, which is world famous for its rich history and cultural heritage, has rightly been chosen as the host for this year’s WTD celebrations.

In his message on the occasion, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Dr. Taleb Rifai, said that tourism helps bring millions of people from different cultures together and this interaction between people of different backgrounds and ways of life represents an enormous opportunity to advance tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. While terming culture as one of our precious assets, he stressed on the need for its preservation by asking people to conduct tourism in a way that preserves and enriches the cultural wealth of the world for future generations.

Tourism brings peace and cooperation among nations, and builds bridges. While speaking to more than 60 tourism ministers from Muslim countries in Baku, Azerbaijan in September 2006, Francesco Frangialli, the then UNWTO secretary-general, called on world leaders for strengthening tourism links to promote cross-cultural understanding, and to use the power of tourism to build new global gesture of understanding between states.

Tourism is also known as human history. Fa-Hien and Hiuen-Tsang, the earliest Chinese travelers to visit the Indian sub-continent during the rules of Chandragupta II (375-413) and Harshavardhana (606-647), respectively, have left us reliable accounts of the politico-socio-economic and religious conditions of the sub-continent during the period of their visits.

Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler, journeyed through Asia for 24 years, reached China and became a confidant of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became “the greatest travelogue.”

The Moroccan traveler Ibne Batuta, one of the greatest travelers of all time, journeyed through the entire Muslim world of his days plus Ceylon, Byzantium, China and south Russia for 29 years. We get an account of his journey from his famous Rihala, or The Journey, that he dictated to Ibne Juzayy on completion of his journey. From Rihala, we come to know about cultural variation of the peoples in the regions and countries he visited.

As for Bangladesh, she can take pride in her rich and vibrant culture. The archaeological sites at Mahasthangarh in Bogra, Paharpur in Noagaon and Mainamati in Comilla speak of the old civilisation that flourished in the geographical area that now constitutes Bangladesh.

Mahasthangarh, the oldest archaeological site of the country, is an imposing landmark in the area, having a fortified long enclosure. Beyond the fortified area, other ancient ruins fan out within a semi-circle of about 8 km radius. Several isolated mounds surround the area. According to Banglapedia, Mahasthangarh is not only the one city site among the mostly religious sites in Bangladesh but also a city going back to the distant past (3rd-2nd century BC). It is contemporary with the early historic sites of the Gangetic valley — Vaisali, Pataliputra, and Kausambi to name only a few.

Somapura Mahavihara, built by Pala king Dharmapala in the eighth century at Paharpur, is among the best known Buddhist viharas in the Indian subcontinent and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Bangladesh. It was an important intellectual centre for Buddhists, Jains and Hindus alike.

About 8 km to the west of Comilla lie the low hills known as MainamatiLalmai ridge, an extensive centre of Buddhist culture. It houses a treasure of information about the early Buddhist civilisation, spreading over five centuries starting from the 8th century.

Star mosque and Husaini Dalan in Dhaka city, Kantaji temple at Dinajpur, Adinath temple at Moheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar are among the important religious sites of the medieval period to attract tourists.

Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha are the two most important religious festivals of the Muslims whileDurga puja is the most important religious festival of the Hindus of the country.

Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla year, is celebrated in a festive manner. The 21st February is observed in remembrance of the sacred souls of the martyrs of language movement of 1952. These are secular celebrations widely participated in by the people of all religions in the country.

The music and dances of the ethnic minority groups like Chakma, Marmas, Tripuras and Murangs in three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari and of Tripuras, Manipuris , Khasis and Mandis (Garos) in Sylhet region are our valuable cultures.The tourism industry of the country has not yet been able to exploit the rich cultural heritage to make Bangladesh an important tourist destination. It has not yet succeeded in establishing an effective bridge between Bangladeshi culture and the world cultures, and thereby attracting tourists from abroad. This is due to a number of factors, which include poor image of the country as a tourist destination, poor infrastructural facilities, comparatively poor knowledge of the policy makers about the prospect of tourism, insufficient investment from public and private sectors, etc. The earlier we can address these constraints, the better it will be for our tourism industry.

Study Says:South Asia most dangerous for sea turtles.

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The waters around India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are home to the world’s most endangered sea turtles, according to a study released Thursday aimed at setting a blueprint for global conservation.

While it was well known that almost all sea turtle species face extinction, the study by 30 scientists was the first to identify specific populations around the world that were most at threat, Conservational International said.

It identified the 11 most threatened populations around the globe, five of which were on the beaches or in the exclusive economic zones of Indian Ocean countries India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Asia in general was found to be a particularly dangerous region for sea turtles, with Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia also named as having some of the most threatened populations.

In contrast, the study found the healthiest sea turtle populations in Australia, the South Pacific and Latin American countries including Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil.

The main threats for sea turtles, stunning creatures that have been in existence for at least 110 million years, are getting caught in the nets and long lines of the commercial fishing industry, the study said.

Other major threats are the gathering of turtle eggs and the eating of their meat by local communities. Coastal development, shipping and increasingly climate change are also endangering these populations, the study found.

Scientists involved in the study said it would play an important role in mapping out conservation plans for the must vulnerable sea turtles.

“We are excited by the clarity this new study provides by identifying areas around the world that are most important for sea turtle conservation,” said Claude Gascon, chief science officer at the US-based National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“This report is a guide for scientists, conservationists, policy makers, and funders to determine where conservation resources can be allocated to improve the status of these threatened populations.”

Conservation International scientist Bryan Wallace emphasised in a blog that strong conservation efforts had proved to be successful, offering hope for the future.

He cited the example of green and olive ridley sea turtles — once widely harvested particularly in Mexico for their eggs and meat — but which now have some of the world’s healthiest sea turtle populations.