Thursday, May 26, 2016

Melting Roads

India’s on-going heat wave, which set a new record for the country’s highest-ever recorded temperature last week, is melting tarmac on the roads of some of India's busiest cities.
Pedestrians in the city of Valsad in Gujarat, had a nasty surprise on Saturday when they got onto city roads as temperatures rose to 36C.
Video footage from NDTV shows these residents struggling to free their shoes and sandals that got stuck to the melting tar:

Abandoned footwear are seen strewn across the sticky roadway and a woman falls over as she attempts to carry a heavy bag over the road.
Temperatures in parts of western India exceeded 50C on Friday. The record – a searing 51C – was set in the city of Phalodi, in the western state of Rajasthan. The previous high was 50.6C in 1956 in the city of Alwar, also in Rajasthan.
Indian weather officials have warned of more frequent heat waves as the scorching temperatures cause an increase in dehydration and heatstroke cases, as well as triggering widespread power cuts as surging demand overwhelms supply grids.
Hundreds of people have died as crops have withered in the fields in more than 13 states, forcing tens of thousands of small farmers to abandon their land and move into the cities. Others have killed themselves rather than go to live in urban shanty towns.
Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in many parts of the western states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The heat wave has struck as India contends with a major drought and worsening water shortages that have affected around 330 million people.
May and June are typically India’s hottest months and temperatures regularly exceed 40C in the run-up to the monsoon rains, but the severity of this year’s heat had been unprecedented.
I was at the TM Convention Center in KL’s Jalan Pantai Baharu to attend the Telekom Malaysia Toastmasters meeting last evening. There were no speaking slots available for me but I was given the Grammarian role instead.
It’s okay because I am working to complete my eleventh round of the CL manual. And my tenth round is almost done.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Singapore Shuts Down BSI Bank

The global investigations related to 1MDB have ensnared a 143-year-old Swiss bank.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore have acted against BSI SA’s unit in the city-state by imposing fines ($13.3 million for 41 breaches) and revoking their merchant banking license. Already, six senior bank executives have been referred to the prosecutor to establish if they had committed criminal offenses.
Yeo Jiawei is the first banker to be slapped with a total of seven charges including that for money laundering, cheating involving millions of dollars, perverting the course of justice and forgery – allegedly linked to Malaysia's troubled 1MDB.
The second individual charged in connection with the same probe is Kelvin Ang. He was charged last month under the Prevention of Corruption Act for bribing a research analyst of an equity research company S$3,000 to "expedite the preparation of a favorable valuation report".
Amidst the unsettling news, the Malaysian state fund are still insisting their fund investments have not been impacted by MAS’s move against BSI Singapore. It looks like they are in denial.
Anyway, previous 1MDB announcements showed that BSI Singapore hold about $1.1 billion (RM4.5 billion) of their funds in the form of “units”. The amount was part of $2.3 billion that 1MDB had placed with a Cayman Islands fund manager in 2012. No specific mention of the funds was made by 1MDB.
The MAS directive came after serious shortcomings were detected in BSI Singapore over the course of five years. A more intrusive third inspection by MAS in 2015 revealed multiple infractions of anti-money laundering regulations and a pervasive pattern of non-compliance.
Almost at the same time, the Swiss attorney-general office’s launched a criminal inquiry into parent bank BSI SA – after an investigation by Finma (Financial Market Supervisory Authority) found the said bank to be also in “serious breach” of anti-money-laundering requirements. Yesterday, BSI SA group CEO Stefano Coduri stepped down.
Finma had said in the case of 1MDB, BSI Singapore had executed many large transactions with unclear purpose over several years and, despite clearly suspicious indications, did not clarify the background to these transactions. Among other measures, Finma had ordered the seizure of profits amounting to Sfr95 million (RM394.7 million) from BSI SA.
1MDB will continue to stay in the news. Until somebody in Malaysia gets charged and goes to jail.
On Tuesday, I was in Bukit Damansara, KL to attend the MII Toastmasters meeting. I volunteered to be the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening. I generously filled the meeting room with so much energy that I uplifted the participants. Really, I did just that!
Needless to say, we had a good meeting!

BTW, this club has a Best Role Player award and yesterday, I won it. And I picked up a 12-year old-plus Toastmaster magazine!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Body Art from Melbourne, Australia

Check out this sixteen-year-old self-taught body artist, Lara Wirth of Armageddon Painted who used her stunning set of skills to create a wonderfully bizarre collection of body paintings depicting all sorts of both creepy and gorgeous creatures:

Image credit:

In case, you didn’t know, some words have fallen into disuse:

Monday, May 23, 2016

1,000 Medical Graduates Quit as Doctors

As reported by The Star on November 09, 2015, over one thousand medical graduates quit their ambition to become doctors because of poor English proficiency.

According to Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Malacca chapter president Prof Dr M Nachiappan, they had already completed their two-year housemanship in public hospitals.

More than six months on, this news is still a trending topic on the web. It is a testimony to the sorry state of the nation today. It is bad enough that education standards are declining but when so-called professionals can’t even communicate in English – it is indeed, a sad state of affairs!

Universities and colleges – I call them ‘degree factories’ – continue to churn out graduates, who are armed with supposedly impressive qualifications. And just in case you doubt them, they can show you their testamurs that print out their academic achievement.

But when they speak, you realize soon after that their English is lamentable. And so, communication suffers.

Ii does not come as a surprise that on campuses, English is not widely spoken. Even when the medium of instruction is English.

If we don't have the discipline to speak English, don't expect English to be spoken well.

I was at the University Malaya Toastmasters meeting this evening. My gratitude to club president, Jacky Wong for being generous – he offered me a speaking slot when I told him only a day earlier that I intended to visit his club.

And today, I delivered CC#9 speech titled “Call Me Precious” and I was voted Best Speaker.

Halal is Everything

Methinks Malay Muslims are becoming incredibly silly because of their obsession with everything labelled “Halal”.
There is a smartphone that is “blessed” with Islamic values and virtues. Supposedly developed by dubious scholar Dr Zakir Naik, it is called the Peace Mobile 2. The phone claims to be “the world's only authentic Islamic android smartphone” and offers Islamic themes for its hundreds of wallpapers, ringtones and over 80 hours of the popular Mumbai-based televangelist’s talks through its PeaceTV application in three languages, including English.
And if believers are anxious about safeguarding their fragile faith online, they can opt for a “Syariah-compliant” web browser that aims to steer them away from the sins and temptations of the Internet. Dubbed the “Salam Browser”, the free-to-download program claims to filter out websites with content incompatible with the Muslim religion.

Image credit:

There are also halal speed dating, halal mineral water (“Lumin Spring”) and the latest, halal eggs.
On Saturday, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) even described the egg fixation – which went viral on social media – as silliness that has gone overboard.
And what about ice cream made up of blessed ingredients, Quran-recited chickens and modesty diapers for childbirth?
You will also remember halal trolleys, halal train service and halal airline ("Rayani Air").
Of course, by now you would have known that Malaysia’s first syariah-compliant airline flopped after only a couple of months. There were multiple cancellations, an inability to print boarding passes, delays, non-payment of salaries, pilots refusing to fly and maintenance problems.
The Department of Civil Aviation must be foolhardy to have allowed Rayani Air to take to the skies. And the mind cannot even begin to fathom how the company could receive the go-ahead, despite not having sufficient funds to operate beyond the first few months.
All this hullabaloo over "halal" labelling means that many of the adherents have only a superficial understanding of Islam.

Businesses quickly smell profits. And so these Malay-Muslims become easy prey when commercial ventures creatively come up with goods and services that purportedly make the Malays believe they would be “more” Islamic. Naive. Impressionable. Exploitable.