Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cold-blooded Murders in Bangladesh

Last year, Bangladesh witnessed prominent secular bloggers being attacked and killed by religious extremists. With impunity.
The killings continue, unabated.
On April 06, 2016, Nazimuddin Samad – who had expressed secular views online – was hacked with machetes at a traffic junction and then shot. The 28-year-old law student at Jagannath University in Dhaka was reported to have been an organizer of the Ganajagran Manch, a secular campaigning group.
On April 23, 2016, AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58 – an English professor at Rajshahi University in Rajshahi, north-western Bangladesh – died after he was attacked with machetes by unidentified assailants while on his way to the university from his home.

The two slain bodies of the gay activists. Photo: Abir Abdullah/EPA
Two days later, six attackers murdered Julhas Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar, two LGBT-rights activists in Dhaka.
There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus. And two foreigners, an Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and a Japanese national Kunio Hoshi, were also shot dead late last year, in seemingly random attacks.
The so-called Islamic State group have said they carried out many of the attacks – but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country.
Bangladesh is becoming intolerant. Secularists and liberals have been marked for death. Really, it would appear that nowhere is safe in the country. And the police are helpless.
On May 07, Malaysia's largest state goes to the polls. Team Adenan and BN are expected to win big! But I am still hopeful.

Still, I find this whole election thing uninspiring, even boring. It's the same old, same old. Personality politics. Promises galore. Epic hype. 

Japanese Ettiquette for China Tourists

The Hokkaido Tourism Organization, which represents Japan’s northern-most island, published a downloadable brochure on their website, with polite instructions on everything from public bathing to using a Japanese toilet. They even dedicated an entire section to protocol for avoiding bodily functions – public “belching or flatulence”. Or if that is not avoidable, to do them as discreetly as possible.
“Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding causing discomfort or nuisance to others,” the guide points out.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that the Chinese-language guide – originally entitled “Common Sense When Travelling in Hokkaido” – upset a Chinese resident who angrily claimed the diagrams featuring examples of bad tourist behavior were offensive.
The complaint prompted a new, foreigner-friendly version with softer explanations of Japanese customs.
In the updated guide available in Chinese and English, gone are the large ‘X’-marks next to cartoon illustrations of tourists committing from a Japanese perspective, embarrassing gaffes, such as putting used toilet paper into the waste bin – the general custom in China – instead of flushing it away.
According to The Japan Times newspaper, the original booklet was first published last August and was targeted at Chinese tourists, including a reminder not to open products before buying them when shopping – a habit also seen in China.
Already, China has said it will monitor the behavior of their unruly tourists abroad and punish them on their return home after being shamed by a string of well-publicized incidents.
Reports of disruptive behavior have tarnished the country’s reputation, such as passengers scalding a flight attendant with hot water and noodles or a holidaymaker fined in Thailand for washing her feet in the washbasin of a public toilet.
In any case, the Chinese tourist dollar is very much-welcomed. Research by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that more than 100 million Chinese tourists went abroad in 2014, spending some $164 billion (RM639 billion).
On Monday evening, I was in Bangsar to attend the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting. I had no meeting role and this is fine by me too.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gucci Paper Offerings

A store selling paper replicas of items used as offerings for deceased relatives and displaying paper luxury bags in Hong Kong, on April 29, 2016. Photo: AFP

A handbag paper offering bearing a logo similar to Gucci's. Photo: Apple Daily

Gucci has sent legal letters to Hong Kong shops selling paper replicas of its products as offerings to the dead.
According to Hong Kong Free Press, citing Apple Daily, the Italian luxury goods maker stated the said items bearing similar logos were a copyright violation.
Still, the shopkeepers need not be worried. In a statement to the BBC, Gucci Hong Kong said there were no plans to take legal action because they “respect the funeral context” and that the shore owners did not have the intention to infringe Gucci’s trademark.
Gucci had explained: “Thus a letter was sent on an informational basis to let these stores know about the products they were carrying, and by asking them to stop selling those items.”
Paper offerings that resemble everyday items like mansions, cars, iPads and luxury bags are burnt in Chinese culture because it is believed the dead can use them in the afterlife.
HKFP had pointed out that Gucci’s hands are tied anyway. In a 2011 case, papier-mâché offering businesses were sued in Chinatown, Manhattan in New York City, USA for copyright violation after they distributed paper replicas of Gucci products. The court eventually ruled that the businesses were not guilty on the grounds that paper offerings were a part of Asian culture.
Naturally, Hong Kong residents have reacted with their usual acerbic wit on social media.
The BBC quoted a Facebook user called Vincent Charles as saying, “Does Gucci want to open branches in the underworld?” while another by the name of Sammi Ng said: “Maybe Gucci should launch their own paper offering products.”
Swansea City beat Liverpool 3-1 in today's EPL match. The Reds’ only goal came from Christian Benteke in the sixty-fifth minute.
Jurgen Klopp had made eight changes as he fielded his youngest starting XI in the Premier League era with an average age of 23 years 218 days. The European commitments must have weighed heavily on his mind – hence this experimental side.

A day earlier, in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic defeated Hearts 3-1.

Colin Kazim-Richards opened the scoring for the former in the seventeenth minute and then Abiola Dauda levelled in the fifty-seventh minute. Patrick Roberts (66) and then Leigh Griffiths (85) won the game for Celtic. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Celaka UMNO" is not Seditious

Today in George Town, Penang, the Sessions court acquitted and discharged DAP lawmaker RSN Rayer (left) of a sedition charge over his “celaka UMNO” (Damn UMNO) remark.
Justice Roslan Hamid said the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against the Seri Delima state assemblyperson. “While the prosecution has proved that he has said those words in a speech, it has failed to prove the seditious element as UMNO (are) not a racial group but a political group,” he had said.
The court also found that the prosecution had no case against Rayer for an alternative charge, under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.
Rayer was charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948 for allegedly uttering “celaka UMNO” during a Bukit Gelugor by-election ceramah at Jalan Delima on May 22, 2014. He also faced an alternative charge under Section 504 of the Penal Code for the offence.
In spite of being vindicated, Rayer still faced yet another sedition charge for uttering a similar “celaka, celaka, celaka UMNO” remark made on May 20, 2014, during the state legislative assembly sitting. He was charged under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948 and is liable to be jailed up to five years or fined RM5,000 or both if found guilty.
The trial for this case has already begun and a judgment is expected in June 2016.
Common sense has won. For now.
I watched the first leg of the Europa League live early this morning (3:00 AM Malaysian time). Liverpool and Villarrreal were to end the match 0-0 – until injury time, when one disorganized moment and precise counter-attack saw the former concede a goal. Adrián López’s ninety-second minute winner leaves the Reds in need of another Anfield recovery next Thursday's return leg.

Villarreal players celebrate their victory.
Liquid Gold Advanced Toastmasters Club has achieved 5 DCP points – thus making us a Distinguished Club. In just 6 months.


The BRT-Sunway Line: Passengers Shy Away

On June 08, 2015, I had blogged about the seven-station BRT Sunway Line – Malaysia’s first ever Bus Rapid Transit service that was launched in June last year, and meant to benefit half a million people in Bandar Sunway and USJ Subang Jaya.
Star Online carries an interesting report today that steep fares are keeping passengers away. Sunway Group chairperson Jeffrey Cheah himself had said 13,000 people rode the BRT when it was free during its initial months in June and July 2015 but this number had dramatically declined to 4,000 when the fare was introduced.
The BRT line runs 5.4 km from one end to the other, and the ticket price for that is RM5.40! A crazy fare, if you ask me.
And I also didn’t know it had cost RM634 million and that the BRT-Sunway line was 70% funded by Prasarana, 15% by Sunway Bhd and 15% by the Government’s public-private partnership facilitation fund called UKAS.
So this whole project was about making money and serving the community was never their intention at all. Hasn’t Prasarana heard about corporate citizenship?

Nicol David (right) crashed out of the 2016 Women’s World Championship squash, despite home ground advantage yesterday, ending her dreams of a ninth world title.
The Malaysian ace was dispatched by fifth seed Nour El Sherbini of Egypt 14-12, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 in the quarterfinals.
David, one of the game’s all-time greats, is a national icon – her matches this week have been played at the Nicol David Arena. The 32-year-old was seeking to win the PSA World Championship on home soil in Malaysia for the first time after falling short on two other attempts.
Nicol David had enjoyed a far easier second-round outing to set up a rematch with Nour in the quarter-finals. She had clinched an 11-9, 11-3, 11-5 win over world No. 11 Alison Waters in the second round on Wednesday. And a day earlier, she had survived a five-set scare against Australia’s Rachael Grinham in the first round.
Low Wee Wern, the world number 45, playing under a wild card ticket, however, failed to advance beyond the first round after losing to world number nine Joelle King of New Zealand; 9-11, 6-11, 7-11. It is tough for her because she has been almost out of action for a year after recuperating from a knee surgery.
I was in Wisma Naza at No. 12, Jalan Sungai Besi, KL  to attend the Metro Toastmasters meeting yesterday.

I was the Grammarian. In addition, I presented my CC #5 speech titled “My Nerves Got the Better of Me”.
A good speech, both speaker and evaluator reckoned. Yet, KF Yee was brutally honest when giving his feedback and identified at least three areas of improvement for me to consider. It was comprehensive, cogent and compelling! BTW, I had told him I wanted a ‘no-holds barred’ evaluation.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Police Chief Suspended to Restore Confidence

Unlike us Malaysians, the Brits are quick to act.
Yesterday, South Yorkshire’s police chief was suspended in a bid to restore confidence after an inquest found the force was partly responsible for Britain’s 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings, the elected official in charge of policing in the northern English region, said he had suspended David Crompton “based on the erosion of public trust and confidence”.
“I have been left with no choice other than to suspend David from his duties as chief constable of South Yorkshire police,” he said.
“I have reached this decision with a heavy heart following discussions with David both in the run-up to and following the delivery of the Hillsborough verdicts".
The inquest outcome on Tuesday found that ninety-six Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed following a series of police errors at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Opposition Labour home affairs spokesperson Andy Burnham, a long-time campaigner for the disaster’s victims and who had called for the chief constable’s resignation in parliament earlier yesterday – said the police could have apologized during the inquest.
“But they didn’t and they put the families through hell once again,” he said.
In Malaysia, this outcome is never expected because it will never happen!
Our politicians and public service officials are always in denial and even if the evidence point out that they are in the wrong – they have this super-ability to pretend as if nothing is amiss! And then, we have the cover-ups and everything is back to being normal. Malaysia Boleh!
I was in Brickfields and thanks to Johnny Yong’s kindness, I was given a speaking slot.
I delivered my CC #4 speech titled “The Sound of Silence” and among the five project speakers last evening – I was voted Best Speaker.

Note to self: Six more speeches before I complete my CC manual, Round 35.

Additionally, I was the Table Topics Evaluator and for part of the meeting, I was also the Grammarian.
It was great to see twenty-seven of us gracing the MIA Toastmasters meeting! And t’was good to see Lee Min Onn – the (just-retired) Senior Partner of KPMG – as the General Evaluator. It has been a long time!