Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Disappearing Flora and Fauna

The world as we know it is coming to an end. If we don’t do something about it. 

I’m not referring to mankind but the flora and the fauna that we are sharing space with on this endangered planet. 

As the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) prepare to unveil a thorough diagnosis of the health of Earth’s plant and animal species, this is what we already know: 

Two species of vertebrate, animals with a backbone, have gone extinct every year, on average, for the past century. 

Scientists say Earth is undergoing a “mass extinction event”, the first since the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago, and only the sixth in the last half-a-billion years. 

About 41 percent of amphibian species and more than a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction. 

About half of coral reefs have been lost in the last 30 years. 

The global populations of 3,706 monitored vertebrate species – fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles – declined by nearly 60 percent from 1970 to 2012. 25,821 species of 91,523 assessed for the 2017 “Red List” update were classified as “threatened” – of which, 5,583 were “critically” endangered, 8,455 “endangered”, and 11,783 “vulnerable”.

There are an estimated 8.7 million plant and animal species on our planet. This means about 86 percent of land species and 91 percent of sea species remain undiscovered. 

Of the ones we do know, 1,204 mammal, 1,469 bird, 1,215 reptile, 2,100 amphibian, and 2,386 fish species are considered threatened. 

Also threatened are 1,414 insect, 2,187 mollusc, 732 crustacean, 237 coral, 12,505 plant, 33 mushroom, and six brown algae species. 

Annual economic losses as a result of deforestation and forest degradation alone may be as high as $4.5 trillion (RM17.7 trillion). 

The UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity held from October 18-29, 2010 in Nagoya, Japan had agreed on a 20-point plan to turn back biodiversity loss by 2020.  

The plan’s so-called “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation, preventing the extinction of species on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems. 

The ambitious targets to preserve and make sustainable use of the Earth's natural resources are just that. Ambition. 

Are we really serious? I really don't know.

Notes: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), due to bring out a major assessment on the health of the world’s species next week, is an independent body created by more than 100 countries in 2012. 

Its mission is to gather all the available science on the state of biodiversity, to project future changes, and advise governments on policies to better protect nature’s bounty. 

Presently, the IPBES has 128 countries as its members. The IPBES gets money from a trust fund replenished by voluntary contributions from member states.

It is not a UN body but was modelled on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose monumental reports helped alert the world to the dangers of global warming and paved the way for a 2015 global plan of action dubbed the Paris Agreement.

A Sample of Endangered Flora and Fauna:

Polyspora ceylanica, endemic to Sri Lanka, is on the list of Critically Endangered tea species. Photo credit: Anuradha Gunathilake. 

Puritan tiger beetle (Scientific name: Cicindela puritana) is found in a very small geographic area in north-eastern USA. In 2007, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service recommended the species to be uplisted to Endangered status.

The Emperor scorpion (Scientific name: Pandinus imperator) inhabits both tropical forest and open savannas of Africa. It was added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) due to concerns over the level of international trade in the species, and the potential effects on its populations. This listing means that international trade in the species should be carefully monitored and controlled.

The Critically Endangered Golden Mantella (Scientific name: Mantella aurantiaca) is facing severe declines in Madagascar. These tiny frogs need both healthy rainforests and clean freshwater ponds and these habitats are threatened throughout its range by logging, mining and slash and burn agriculture. 

The Roti island snake-necked turtle (Scientific name: Chelodina mccordi) is a Critically Endangered species that is endemic to Indonesia which has been largely threatened by collection for the international pet trade. 

The Hainan black-crested gibbon (Scientific name: Nomascus hainanus) is found only in the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island off of the coast of China. It is said that 95% of their original habitat has been lost. It is Critically Endangered and may be on the very brink of extinction. 

The Bornean orangutan (Scientific name: Pongo pygmaeus) faces an “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”. Hunting and habitat loss are rapidly decimating their numbers. Criitically Endangered. 

The Daggernose Shark (Scientific name: Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus) lives in shallow tropical waters off north-eastern South America from Trinidad to northern Brazil. In the last ten years, the Daggernose Shark has seen a 90% decrease in population as a result of commercial fishing, both for its meat and as a bycatch. Critically Endangered. 

The Cuban crocodile (Scientific name: Crocodylus rhombifer) can only be found in Cuba's Zapata Swamp and the Isle of Youth. A decline greater than 80% in the population over the last three generations has been inferred due to the decline in habitat quality, exploitation, and effects of hybridization. Also illicit hunting of the crocodiles for meat has increased causing the resultant population decline. Critically Endangered. 

The Siberian tiger (Scientific name: Panthera tigris altaica) is Endangered. Almost all wild Siberian tigers live the south-eastern corner of Russia in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range east of the Amur River.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Najib Razak's Step-son Agrees to Pay

Over in the US of A, another 1MDB-related event had taken place that may possibly give Najib Razak a bad headache. 

Red Granite Pictures, which Najib's step-son Riza Aziz (right) co-founded had settled the civil lawsuit pertaining to DoJ’s asset seizure demands by agreeing to pay $60 million. 

The company had no choice really since FBI investigations had showed that their movie assets had been funded by money laundered in the country and which were actually proceeds stolen from 1MDB. Riza was one of those under federal scrutiny. 

In fact, this agreement was made last September that they had “reached a settlement in principle” with the US government – but they did not reveal the financial penalty at the time. 

According to a filing in a California court on March 07, 2018, the company will make redress via 3 installments, i.e. $30m within 30 days, $20m within the next 180 days and $10 million 180 days after that.

I don't pretend to know how the $60 million was calculated in the first place. 

But it is noteworthy to mention that according to Box Office Mojo – one of the said movies, The Wolf of Wall Street had a production budget of $100 million and its box office receipts worldwide total $392 million.

Anyway, isn't agreeing to pay already an admission of guilt? Why pay if you are really innocent? 

So, there we have it. The Prime Minister may deny everything, and yet Rosmah Mansor’s son is paying up! 

We only need to join the dots and we can see the whole picture. That’s 1MDB, a story of deceit. Of money laundering. Of grand theft.

Btw, today is St Patrick's Day.

It is nice to know that more than 70 million people around the world claim links to the island of Ireland. And of course, St Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to reconnect them with their heritage. 

From Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi, and Rome to China, more than 250 landmarks and sites around the world will once again glow a shade of shamrock green for St Patrick’s Day this year.

Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland lights up in green for St. Patrick's Day. Courtesy of Tourism Ireland 

The Colosseum in Rome turns green. Courtesy of Tourism Ireland 

And Niagara Falls too. Image credit:

Joining long-time participants like The Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome, Italy and Niagara Falls in Canada are newcomers like the Space Needle in Seattle, USA and the fountains of Trafalgar Square in London, UK.

What about Malaysia, I wonder?

Note: I have more photos of iconic places bathed in green in my blogpost dated March 18, 2014

Friday, March 16, 2018

Auntie Club Padang Rengas

Padang Rengas MP Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (left) is one politician who is not afraid of confrontation. 

He made headlines (again) when he put down his BN ally MCA by pointing out that the party do not represent the Chinese but DAP do. 

That, of course, is an indisputable fact. DAP did win almost all of the Chinese-majority seats at the last elections. If at all, MCA still hold onto seats – they know very well that this was due to Malay votes. 

(I predict that going into GE14, MCA will be wiped out!)

Even when staring at this truth, the MCA president (left) demonstrated what an asshole he is because on March 03, 2018, he stubbornly insisted that MCA represent the Chinese and daringly refuting Nazri’s claim. 

In any case, Liow Tiong Lai would do well to remember that the DAP never claim to represent the Chinese – but rather all Malaysians. 

The MCA must have been badly stung when Nazri even openly admitted that “he enjoyed cordial relations with DAP as the party had won most of the Chinese votes in GE13 and received the mandate to rule Penang” (FMT, March 02, 2018). 

With GE14 approaching, one would think that politicians would be more careful about the fights they pick. But not Nazri. 

Two Fridays ago, he had confessed that the MCA division in his constituency had boycotted him since 2013. 

The bad blood between Nazri and MCA is believed to have arisen during the time when Chua Soi Lek helmed the Chinese-based party, and the two feuded with each other in the Chinese media just before GE13. 

Nazri told China Press that the MCA division would continue to snub him. “So, MCA is not my friend”, Nazri had declared. 

Still, his staying power is formidable. FYI, he has held the Padang Rengas seat for 3 terms, and his GE13 majority (2,230) was actually higher than in GE12 (1,749). 

And just because he is not able to draw support from the local MCA doesn’t mean there will be zilch Chinese votes for him. 

It seems that he has the strong backing of another powerful Chinese group – the Auntie Club Padang Rengas.

Image credit:

Auntie Club Padang Rengas Facebook page

This is a social club in which Nazri had a direct hand in setting up about three years ago. He organized the Chinese aunties when he saw that these women were usually left out of most state-hosted programs. 

Though it is named “Auntie Club”, there’s actually no gender restriction to joining. 

Members of the club not only go on free local trips together – but they also arranged social welfare activities like gotong-royong and fundraisers for the needy in the Chinese new villages in Padang Rengas, Perak. 

Nazri and the Auntie Club share a special relationship. He even joked about how they will 'hit the road' to go to his house whenever he returns to his constituency.

“When I’m here at weekends, I told them they could come and relax at my house. They would come like a group of gangsters in their motorcycles”, he had joked. 

As he cozies up to the Chinese aunties, he knows that he has 600-something sure votes from members of the Auntie Club. Maybe that just about represents the right number of votes he would need from the said community. 

MCA can only gape in wonderment!

Note: With nearly 30,000 registered voters, Padang Rengas is 75% Malay, Chinese 15% and Indian 10% (The Coverage, March 04, 2018). 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

They Don't Belong to Us

FMT pic, December 14, 2017

Equanimity and CHF104 million have been in the news because both are linked to 1MDB. 

In fact, ten days ago, I had blogged about it  my post was titled "Mega-Yacht in Indonesia and CHF104M in Switzerland".

And yet, the Malaysian government and/or 1MDB show nil interest in them. They seem to have nary a concern. In fact, they conveniently forget that Equanimity and CHF104 million belong to us. 

The US Department of Justice’s seizure of the super-luxury mega-yacht Equanimity was based on the claim that Jho Low had bought the yacht with funds linked to 1MDB. 

But Malaysia’s attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali had already spoken out on March 01, 2018 that the government would not be making a claim on the yacht. We are not the rightful owner, he had said. 

Besides our police investigations into 1MDB found absolutely no grounds to connect Jho Low to the state-owned strategic development company – added Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun six days later. 

Exactly a week after that, 1MDB came out to disavow the CHF104 million (RM430 million) held by the Swiss Federal Treasury, insisting the sum is not theirs. The money, they explained, is actually a fine imposed on banks which have allegedly breached Swiss laws. 

They bragged that they have not lost any money and their books are all in order – at least that is what they want Malaysians to believe. 

LOL! If 1MDB money is fully accounted for, why haven't the sovereign fund made any full disclosure of their accounts since 2014?

I can tell you that disbelief swiftly spread across my face. 

I tried to make sense of this. I guess they had no choice but to deny; otherwise, MO1 cannot claim innocence. 

We know of the link between Najib Razak and Jho Low – but for Malaysians comfortably cocooned in defiant denial, they prefer to close their eyes and cover their ears. Even eat their own brains so they can become zombie-stupid. They just want to “buat tak tau” (do not want to know). 

I shake my head. I am flustered knowing that except for those in MO1's inner circle and his clique of salivating toadies  all of whom have been stuffed full with "dedak"  the rest of the Malaysians who persist in believing that there's no wrongdoing in 1MDB seem to have taken leave of their senses.  

It's very sad. For these people, calling them stupid would be an insult to stupid people. 

Just thinking about it and I am feeling really depressed.

On Wednesday, world-acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking (left) famed for his work on black holes died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, UK. He was 76. 

As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In fact, he was given just three years to live. 

This rare medical condition had impaired his body functions and limiting him to flex a finger and voluntary eye movements – meaning it left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser. Fortunately, his mental faculties were unaffected. 

No matter what, his physical limitations could not stop him from his quest to answer “the big question: Where did the universe come from?” 

I love this quote of his: “I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth”.  

(For sure, I know it applies to the 47.38 percent of Malaysians who voted for Najib Razak and BN in GE13!)

Farewell, Stephen Hawking (1942-2018). Cosmologist. Visionary physicist. Greatest mind of our time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Soundtracks from the Dollars Trilogy

I grew up on a diet of Spaghetti Westerns. 

Spaghetti Western, also known as Italian Western is a subgenre of Western films (i.e. depicting the American Old West) that emerged in the mid-1960s. 

The term was used by American critics and from other countries because most of these Westerns were produced and directed by Italians. 

The best-known Spaghetti Westerns were directed by Sergio Leone and scored by Ennio Morricone, notably the three films of the Dollars Trilogy, which starred Clint Eastwood (left) as the main character: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). They have been consistently listed among the best Westerns of any genre. 

And I can still fondly remember the soundtracks: 

A Fistful of Dollars

For a Few Dollars More

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I was fortunate to be able to locate the above video clips. 

They surely brought back memories of some of my favorite gunslinger movies. 

Thanks to The Danish National Symphony Orchestra (DR Symfoniorkester) with help from The Danish Concert Choir (DR Koncertkoret) for performing these soundtracks live on January 2018. 

I was right about crime in Malaysia.

Crime has been identified as one of two reasons why Kuala Lumpur is edged out of the 100 most liveable cities list – in an annual ranking by ECA International. 

Malaysia’s capital city is now at a lowly 126th position in the latest Location Ratings survey published by the global mobility expert. 

At one time, Kuala Lumpur was placed 25th on the list. 

How we have fallen! 

ECA’s Location Ratings system evaluates a host of factors to form an assessment of the overall quality of living in over 480 locations worldwide. The system helps companies establish appropriate allowances to compensate employees for the adjustment required when going on international assignments. 

Factors assessed include climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities, isolation, access to social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure, personal safety, political tensions, and air quality. 

If you must know, Singapore is in first place. Brisbane is second on the list while Adelaide, Sydney and Osaka share third spot.

1MDB not as critical as Dry Taps

Najib Razak is an idiot!

Gombak MP Mohamed Azmin Ali (left) had, on Monday, asked the government a straightforward question in Parliament. 

He wanted to know why the interest on the nation's debts had increased over the years and whether the financial woes of 1MDB had any implication on the current financial situation. 

PM Najib brushed aside the question and instead, with an acerbic tone, asserted that the water crisis in Selangor was more critical than the 1MDB issue. 

He even mocked Azmin: “…why is Gombak hot under the collar when 'water' is mentioned? I wonder why?" 

This is the Prime Minister firing a cheap shot at a fellow parliamentarian – just to let everybody know how low he can stoop. 

When Azmin protested, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia (right) was quick to show his support to Najib. 

"This is the speciality of Parliament. When a question is asked with a different meaning as the basis, then the answers will also be based on a different basis. That is politics. Just as long as it does not violate the standing orders”, he crowed. 

And he cawed to Azmin's chagrin: "The question was whether the position of 1MDB is critical and the answer was the water issue is more critical. So both are critical". 

Another idiot. 

1MDB is a serious subject of considerable concern to Malaysians. So it shouldn't be trivialized. 

On a separate note, Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming had already highlighted the fact that questions had been raised and motions had been filed with regard to 1MDB – but Amin Mulia had not allowed them on so many occasions in the past three years (The Malaysian Insight, March 13, 2018). 

Still, Najib, who is also Finance Minister finally did respond. He maintained that the national debt is well managed, and then added that it wasn't about the size of the debt, but the capability to repay it. 

After which he gloated: “So we have an unquestionable capability to repay debts because international rating bodies have rated Malaysia as A category". 

Sigh, our misfortune to have Najib as our Prime Minister! 

[Note: Water disruption in Petaling, Klang, Shah Alam, Gombak, Hulu Selangor and Kuala Langat was originally scheduled to last for 3 days starting March 6, 2018 to facilitate critical equipment repair works at the Sungai Selangor Water Supply Scheme Phase 3 (SSP3) water treatment plant. 

However, the Surge Vessel System at the plant burst on Tuesday and this resulted in more than 500,000 households in Selangor having to make do with dry taps for an insufferable four days and still counting. 

The Selangor government are in the process of taking over Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH), which handle the water treatment plant, from the federal government. Therefore, until this is a done deal, incidents at the water plant are beyond their control]. 

Image credit:

Residents from Taman Tasek Tambahan in Ampang Jaya, Selangor fill their pails with water during the water disruption, March 6, 2018. Picture by Hari Anggara

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fake News on 1MDB

Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari on Sunday labelled foreign reporting on 1MDB as fake news. 

This is part of an agenda to damage Prime Minister Najib Razak's reputation ahead of the 14th general election, he pointed out. 

Among the media identified as purveyors of fake news include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and MSNBC, according to Sinar Harian quoting Jailani.

He stoutly maintained that Malaysia's own investigations into 1MDB proved that the allegations of abuse and loss of money were untrue. 

There was no abuse and no loss of money! 

Just in case the rest of the world doesn’t understand – the message from Malaysia is loud, clear and explicit: 1MDB is clean and doing good. 

Everything else about it is fake news. 

Putrajaya confirmed (again) in Parliament that jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will be released on June 08 this year, the date given by the Prisons Department. 

Note: Anwar is serving a five-year jail term after losing his appeal at the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015, to set aside his sodomy conviction. 

[The calculation of the release date can be found in my blogpost “Anwar Ibrahim’s Get Out of Jail Card” dated January 08, 2018].

Anyway, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Monday that the sentence and release date can still change if a prisoner violates prison rules leading to the disqualification of his remission under the Prisons Regulations.

Is this a subtle threat, Ahmad Zahid?

Action Figures Come to Life

Japanese photographer Hot.kenobi is a collector of figurines.

And when he combines it with his love of photography – he creates fun situations where action figures seemingly come to life. 

As you can see below, they feature a lot of movement, perfectly supplemented by special effects and a healthy dose of humor.

I am admitting that not all Malaysians are clever as I thought. Many are content to remain dumb. Happily dumb. 

Otherwise, how else do you explain the Malaysians who are still in denial over 1MDB? I am referring to those dumbbells in UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the other BN allies, who persist in continuing to support Najib Razak? 

I mean, I thought they have a bit of intelligence at the very least – but clearly, I was wrong. Very wrong. 

These Malaysians may have had brain cells but methinks they had stopped functioning. They probably expired a long time ago. 

I reckon these are the dimwits whose birth certificates are not the documents you and I have – but they are actually letters of apology from the condom factory! 

Never mind lah! I am not giving up just yet. 

Here’s another attempt – this time by CNBC – to educate these donkeys so they can get the full picture about 1MDB: