Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jacob Zuma Keeps on Spending

South African President Jacob Zuma (left) didn't just use 200 million rand ($21 million) of taxpayers’ money to upgrade his Nklandla home in KwaZulu-Natal province – he used it to protect himself.
 
Or at least that's the conclusion of a report authored by South Africa's police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko who was appointed by Zuma himself to investigate the latter’s profligacy.
 
Zuma had no choice because last year, South Africa's ombudswoman suggested that the Zuma family had "unduly benefited" from extensive enhancements to their private family home, and encouraged the president to repay a reasonable amount of the money to the exchequer.
 
On May 28, 2015, Nhleko gave a two-hour press conference to announce that the home improvements were "in accordance with the physical security requirements" and explained in detail why just about everything the ombudswoman had identified were in fact legitimate security features.
 
The swimming pool was the best source of water in case of fire – Nhleko showed a video that spotlighted a fire hose attached to the swimming pool and four policemen demonstrating how this security feature worked; the kraal (animal enclosure) was a cultural necessity and also a protected space, so the animals won't set off motion detectors while they wander the grounds; the visitors’ center provided privacy for meetings; and the amphitheater served as the family’s emergency assembly area.
 
That was not all. Nhleko added that there were upgrades recommended for the president’s residence by security practitioners which had not yet been installed, as work on them had ceased due to ongoing investigations. And when asked how much the extra security features would cost the taxpayers, the public works minister Thulas Nxesi said he didn’t know.
 
In South Africa, more than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. You can imagine the scandal surrounding Zuma's home has fed into a long line of caustic criticism against the ruling African National Congress that they haven't done enough in the post-apartheid era to improve the fortunes of the country's many poor people.
 
The scandal has further reinforced perceptions of Zuma as a corrupt leader. Shortly before his 2009 election, South African prosecutors dropped more than 700 corruption charges against him. And not including allegations of racketeering and money laundering stemming from a 1999 arms deal.
 
And it looks like Zuma probably won't have to pay back a single cent.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Najib Razak is Caught Out

An incriminating document that was made available to Malay Mail Online showed that the prime minister has the final say over any “financial commitment” undertaken by 1MDB, according to the Memorandum and Articles of Association agreement for the firm’s precursor Terengganu Investment Authority.  

1MDB was incorporated in 2009, after Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) announced the decision to turn TIA into a federal agency. Clause 117 of the agreement inked on February 27, 2009, indicates that Najib must give his written approval for any of 1MDB’s deals, including the firm’s investments or any bid for restructuring.
 
The clause states that for any avoidance of doubt, none of three things can be executed “without the written prior approval of the prime minister”. This includes “any financial commitment (including investment), restructuring or any other matter which is likely to affect the guarantee given by the Federal Government of Malaysia for the benefit of the company, national interest, national security or any policy of the Federal Government of Malaysia”.
 
Other matters which need the PM’s approval are amendments to the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company and appointments and removal of directors and senior management team of TIA/1MDB.
 
Najib, you have been unmasked. Cut the crap. And stop the stonewalling.  

Coffee drinkers, please take note! Did you know that the worst times to drink coffee are between 08:00-09:00, 12:00-13:00 and 17:30-18:30?
 
The best is about an hour after waking up, regardless of the time.
 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ireland Say Yes to Marriage Equality







Image credit: http://www.her.ie/entertainment/im-not-better-off-without-you-irish-students-pen-emotional-track-in-support-of-marriage-equality/203921

On Saturday, Ireland have become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular national vote. The historic referendum showed 62 percent of votes were in favor and 38 percent against in a country where being gay was a crime until 1993.
 
The predominantly Catholic country showed the way on marriage equality, joining nineteen other countries and a large majority of American states. Although I must add here that the others that moved to make the change have done so through parliamentary or administrative means.
 
Young voters played a pivotal role and so did social media. This paradigm shift is the result of a calculated campaign by gay activists to stick to a single message that this was about equality and the coincidental decline of the Catholic Church.
 
The question of marriage equality is not one of morality or religious dogma, but of human rights. Making a legally recognized marriage unobtainable to people based on their sexual orientation is discrimination, period.
 
Champions Celtic ended the Scottish Premiership season 17 points clear at the top when they thrashed Inverness Caley Thistle 5-0 on May 24, 2015. The goals came from Stefan Scepovic (5, 70), Stefan Johansen (18), Leigh Griffiths (80) and Kris Commons (90).
 
Stoke humiliated pathetic Liverpool 6-1 when the latter were outclassed and outwitted from start to finish, also on the same day. The last time Liverpool conceded six or more goals in a top flight game was in 1963, 7-2 against Spurs.
 
The Reds finished the EPL season sixth in the table. It was enough to still secure a Europa League third qualifying round spot. But the fact remains that Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool have let the fans down! Didn’t I say to sack the manager?
 
And Steven Gerrard (left) endured a nightmare send-off in his final game for Liverpool – although he did manage to mark his last match with a seventieth minute goal after a composed low finish.
 
Steven Gerrard's Liverpool career: 710 appearances, 186 goals, 10 trophies. A Liverpool legend.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

To the Dandenongs and then Home
























Today is my last day in Melbourne. In the morning, I took the train to Belgrave, 35 km east of Melbourne's CBD and a major town located in the Dandenong Ranges  to meet up with David and Nancy.

 














Iced Chocolate, A$6.00 @ Belgrave Chocolate Sensation in Belgrave
 
And then a stopover at the Emerald Lake Park, a premier park and tourist attraction. Approximately an hour's drive east of Melbourne, it is also one of the destination points for the iconic Puffing Billy.













































Puffing Billy is Australia's favorite steam train and one of the finest preserved steam railways in the world. The Railway is the major survivor of four experimental lines used to develop rural areas in the early 1900s.









































To me, what was really amazing is that more than 900 dedicated volunteers operate this major tourist attraction all year round except Christmas Day.









 





Lunch is a roast beef sandwich and a A$3.40 latte @ Belgrave Bakery in Belgrave 

BTW, I also had my first gulp of Coca-Cola Life – not available in Malaysia as yet – which is 35% less sugar and kilojoules.
 
Coca-Cola Life, first created in Argentina and Chile in 2013, is sweetened from natural ingredients rather than artificial sweeteners essentially cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, which is native to South America.

Coca-Cola truly refreshes!
 
I had dinner in Melbourne. At Grill’d in QV Melbourne in Swanston Street.


 












Grilled Beef Burger, A$9.90
 
And then to the airport for the flight home.















 
 
Pure Blonde, A$9.80 my favorite beer!
 
I'm going to miss the Melbourne weather! And the city too!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saying Hello to Australia's Native Species

No plans for Wednesday – and so I took in the sights and sounds of Melbourne:
 












































I don’t think you can say you’ve been to Australia if you haven’t said hello to the country’s native species. And I, finally, did it today! 


 








 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 







 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 








 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
It’s always good to end the day with a nice dinner! This time, I went to The Meatball & Wine Bar at 135 Flinders Lane: 



 
 
 

 
 
 
 


Mini Meatballs with 3 Dipping Sauces, A$14.00
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Beef Balls with Italian Tomato Sauce and House Pasta, A$22.00
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Mildura Brewery Stefano’s Pilsner, A$10
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Choc Hops Chocolate Stout, A$11