Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Nicol David Calls It a Day

On Monday, Malaysian squash queen Nicol David (left) has called time on her illustrious squash career. 

The 35-year-old and eight-time world champion has decided to hang up her racket for good at the end of the 2018/2019 Professional Squash Association season in June. 

"After more than 20 years playing squash for Malaysia, competing on the professional tour and achieving the utmost best from my career being the only Malaysian athlete to achieve these accolades and to be recognised as the greatest female squash athlete of all time by my peers, I can proudly say that I am ready and happy to announce my retirement at the end of this seasonal tour", said David. 

"This is a moment that every athlete must go through – to explore fully on what more there is in store for them. I am now at this point in my life, ready to take on more beyond the pro tour. 

She added: "My mind and body have battled it out to stay at the very top of my game for such a long time that I feel that I only have this last big push left for the final season to give it all I have before I enter the next phase of my life". 

Her announcement comes before her participation at the World Championships in Chicago, USA from Feb 23 to March 02, 2019.

The Penangite ends her distinguished career with 81 PSA titles from 102 finals. 

And she has held onto the world No. 1 spot for a record 109 months consecutively from 2006 to 2015. 

Nicol Ann David, you’re the star, shining brightest!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Call for Longer Tenure for Senators

I guess times are hard under the Pakatan Harapan government – otherwise, why would Dewan Negara president Vigneswaran Sanasee (left) broach the subject of extending the current term for members of Parliament’s upper house from the current 3 years to five – just so they are guaranteed a full pension? 

It’s not about serving the rakyat but about their earnings that he was concerned about. He is merely selfish and self-absorbed.

Still he forgets that under the Federal Constitution, senators have robust tenures once they are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the prime minister’s recommendation. Meaning they cannot be removed with the dissolution of Parliament and in fact, they may remain for their entire three-year term, as provided by Article 45 (3) of the Federal Constitution. 

And if the government so desires, a senator can serve up to a maximum of two terms of three years each. 

Get lost, Vignes because you and the rest of BN senators are nothing more that UMNO's slippers! 

World Speech Day – Kuala Lumpur is still seeing registrations – and we now have participants from four countries:

Registration dockets are being issued to participants in batches of 10s – since Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Judicial Corruption and Impropriety Laid Bare

A massive earthquake measuring 8.5 on the Richter Scale struck Malaysian judiciary on Thursday when Court of Appeal judge Hj Hamid Sultan Abu Backer (left) made shocking claims in court papers, alleging scams between certain top judges and private litigants to cheat the government. 

The revelation was contained in his 65-page affidavit filed in support of an application by Sangeet Kaur Deo, to declare that the Chief Justice had failed to defend the integrity of the judiciary in court cases – including in the Court of Appeal’s decision in the late Karpal Singh’s sedition trial.

The filing, which went viral, alleged that some members of the judiciary have been working with private parties to scam the government. 

Hamid Sultan also reportedly claimed that a chief justice, referred to as “Antagonist of Rule of Law and Constitution (ARLC)” became a sort of a “Maharajalela” (tyrant), dictating what judges should do and write and he had even interfered with the promotion of some judges and those who made decisions contrary to his instructions had their career progression blocked. 

The said issues often whispered in court corridors that have been plaguing the independence of the Malaysian judiciary – and which have long been wilfully ignored, are now out in the open. 

The assertions of judicial interference are indeed grave and therefore, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into these serious allegations of judicial corruption and impropriety should be quickly established. 

A day later, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the government will study any proposal to establish an RCI into the claims of judicial misconduct. 

The Malaysian Bar too joined in the call for an immediate RCI to investigate the collusions between judges and litigants to pervert the cause of justice. 

Certainly, the honour of the Malaysian judiciary is very much at stake. 

Indeed, the proper administration of justice can only rest upon an honest Judiciary whose independence is absolute and unimpeachable, and upon individual judges whose integrity and impartiality are unsullied and unassailable.

Flash-Balls Take Aim at Yellow Vests

Tens of thousands of “yellow vest” protesters marched across France on Saturday – three months since the movement began, and in a week that has seen growing international concern at police treatment of the protesters. 

According to the interior ministry, 41,500 demonstrators turned out across the country for the fourteenth consecutive weekend, well down on the 282,000 peak during the protests’ early weeks. 

On Thursday, deputies in the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the disproportionate use of force against protesters – after a debate about the use of LBDs. 

Jerome Rodrigues (left), one of the movement’s better-known figures, is suing the police after being struck in the eye by a projectile he says was fired from a police Defensive Ball Launcher (LBD). 

The supposedly ‘less lethal’ gun that riot police use against protesters in France is really dangerous as it is known to cause serious injuries. 

In fact, LBDs are prohibited in riot control in most Western European countries – but French law enforcement had been equipped with them for decades. 

At least 20 people lost their eyes as a result of LBD fire and grenade shrapnel, according to anti-police brutality group Desarmons-Les! The group documented more than 120 cases of people they say were injured by police using so-called ‘less-lethal’ weapons, mostly LBD 40s and GLI-F4 instant tear-gas grenades.

Marketed as 'less-lethal' or 'non-lethal,' the original LBDs were developed by the French firearms company Verney-Carron. The police got the first batch of 500 LBDs in 1995. They fired ping-pong-sized balls and were intended to counter urban violence. 

The LBD "delivers punches like Mike Tyson", its creator, ballistic expert Pierre Richert, said at the time. He claimed that the projectiles "hurt but do less damage than a police pistol". 

The current Swiss-made model, LBD 40, was adopted by the French police back in 2009. It shoots 40mm (1.6-inch) rubber or foam slugs at a speed of up to 100 meters per second. It can also launch tear gas and stun grenades. 

Known as 'Flash-Balls', they grew to symbolize the weapon of choice in the fight against the yellow vests. 

The police have used LBDs more than 9,200 times since the Yellow Vest protests began in November. Initially a grassroots movement against planned fuel-tax hikes, the rallies grew to include calls for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. They sometimes descended into fierce street battles with police, with multiple injuries on both sides. Recent rallies saw protesters denouncing 'Flash-Balls,' which have become the symbol of police brutality. 

I wonder aloud how long can the yellow vests continue with their protests. 

I must mention that a poll of 1,001 people published by Elabe on Wednesday suggested for the first time that most people (56%) would like the protests to end, even if a majority (58%) still support what the movement stands for.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Making the Planet Greener

NASA satellite data reveals the Earth is greening, with China and India jointly responsible for a third of the increase. 

A NASA study based on extensive satellite imagery and published in the journal Nature Sustainability, has, in so many words, complimented two countries for doing their part to make the Earth greener and leafier – even as it faces a climate crisis. 

They are India and China and despite having the world's biggest populations – they are also responsible for the largest increase in green foliage. 

Since the turn of the new millennium, the planet's green leaf area has increased by 5%, or over two million square miles. That's an area equivalent to the sum total of the Amazon rainforests, NASA says. 

But researchers emphasized that the new greenery does not neutralize deforestation and its negative impacts on ecosystems elsewhere.

And if you must know, a third of that leaf increase can be attributed to the two countries, due to the implementation of major tree planting projects alongside a vast increase in agriculture.

In any case, they encompass only 9% of the planet's land area covered in vegetation – which is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation. 

Between 2000 and 2017, a NASA sensor known as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) gathered high-resolution data of the Earth's surface from aboard two satellites, the Terra and the Aqua. 

Using the MODIS data, researchers discovered that China is the source of a quarter of the increase in green leaf area, despite possessing only 6.6% of the world's vegetated area. Forests account for 42% of that increase, while croplands make up a further 32%. 

China's increase in forest area is the result of forest conservation and expansion programs, NASA said, established to combat the impacts of climate change, air pollution and soil erosion. 

India has contributed a further 6.8% rise in green leaf area, with 82% from croplands and 4.4% from forests. 

Thomas Pugh, an associate professor at the University of Birmingham's School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the NASA report expands scientists' understanding of the causes behind global greening – but cautioned against making an assumption that an increase in global greening can lead to a decrease in the adverse impacts of climate change. 

He added: "What green surfaces do less ambiguously is increase the fraction of energy that goes into evaporating water, rather than heating the surface, so they tend to cool the surrounding area, which can offset some of the impacts of climate change".

Climate Strike in the UK

Young demonstrators hold placards as they attend a climate change protest organised by ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’, at Whitehall in central London on February 15, 2019. AFP pic

Students from around the UK went "on strike" on Friday as part of a global campaign for action on climate change. 

Hundreds rallied in London’s Parliament Square. And children of all ages chanted “save our planet”, cheered as flares were lit and clambered onto statues in the shadow of Big Ben to call for action, and to raise awareness. 

All around the country, students walked out of schools to call on the government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem. Organizers Youth Strike 4 Climate said protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities, including Brighton, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford – with an estimated 15,000 taking part. 

They waved makeshift placards, some reading: "There is no planet B", “Make Earth Cool Again”, “Don’t Mess With My Mother”, “We Stand For What We Stand On” and “I’m Getting Detention For This”. 

“As humans, we got ourselves into this predicament, it’s our responsibility to get out of it”, said 15-year-old Hal, who normally attends a school in Hammersmith, west London. 

“As well as being a message to the politicians, it’s a way to spread awareness to everyone”, added the teenager, who was wearing his school uniform “to accentuate the fact that I should be at school”. 

Fifteen-year-old Scarlet, from Suffolk, is part of the UK Student Climate Network – she said: "We want the UK government to declare a climate emergency and make moves to achieve climate justice, prioritising this above all else”. 

She stressed: "We're demanding the government listen to us and we will continue to make a noise until they do so. It can't be about behaviour change any more; it has to be about system change". 

Many of the children said their schools had shown them leniency in attending the “Youth Strike 4 Climate” event, part of a Europe-wide movement that has seen walkouts in Belgium, France, Germany, and Sweden. 

The movement, of course, was inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl who held a solitary protest outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm last year.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz and his Alleged CIA Ties

It looks like Bachok MP Nik Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz is sinking deeper in the quicksand. 

Yesterday, Amanah Youth lodged a police report against the PAS central committee member over the audio clip – refer to Wednesday's blog post. 

In the police report, Amanah Youth alleged that in the recording, Nik Abduh had said, "Ana boleh bercakap dengan CIA Amerika tu, yang sentiasa berhubung dengan ana (I can talk to that American CIA, who always contacts me)". 

It was clearly an admission from the PAS central committee member – and therefore, the authorities are duty-bound to probe his alleged links with the US’ Central Intelligence Agency.

Celtic have a mountain to climb to salvage their Europa League dream after Valencia coasted to a 2-0 victory in Glasgow on Thursday. 

In a below-par performance the Scottish champions rarely troubled their visitors in the last 32 first leg. 

Celtic have to go all out to win decisively in the second leg next week if they are still serious about reaching the last 16.

Yesterday, I was at the USG Boral Toastmasters meeting. I didn’t have a role at all – but I still went to give support to the speakers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

From Macedonia to North Macedona

Workers change boards at the border between (North) Macedonia and Greece, near Gevgelija, a town located in the former on February 13, 2019

The Macedonian government announced Wednesday it had officially informed the United Nations of the country’s new name following its historic agreement with neighbouring Greece. 

Skopje and Athens buried a 27-year dispute in agreeing in June last year to rename Macedonia as North Macedonia. 

The new name has come into force on Tuesday after constitutional changes were published in the Official Gazette and Skopje’s foreign ministry said both countries had informed the UN by letter that the change is now in force. 

Since 1991, Greece had objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name that lies just across the border from the latter.

And the former has used the name since the times of Alexander the Great. 

Moreover, there is the suspicion that Macedonia, the country may have territorial claims on the Greek region of Macedonia.
Overcoming opposition of hardline nationalists in both countries, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras managed to strike a deal which both parliaments ratified last month. 

Antagonism and hostility all because of history. History is best left in the past because .

On Tuesday, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang (left) claimed he is unperturbed by anything Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown – whom he had sued for defamation before withdrawing the lawsuit – writes about him and/or PAS. 

Despite going the distance of suing the Briton in the UK, he now claims her opinion(s) did not matter as she is not a Malaysian voter. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Audio Recording That Cannot Be Muted

Malaysians would know about the leaked audio recording last year – of a voice, previously alleged to be Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz (left), confirming that PAS had indeed received money from UMNO. 

Back then, he had vehemently denied it was his voice and dismissed the recording as “nonsense and slander”.  I remembered it was sometime in April. 

Last week, he maintained that the issue was revived to quash the blossoming alliance between UMNO and PAS. 

Anyway, the recording resurfaced after PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang (left) settled out of court his defamation suit against Sarawak Report – for background info, please read my post PAS' Abdul Hadi Awang Settles Out-of-Court published February 03, 2019.

Yesterday, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan attested that it was Nik Abduh’s voice in the recording but said the issue was not portrayed in the proper context. 

And today, the latter finally came clean by admitting that yes, it was his voice in the said recording. In a lengthy Facebook post, he justified his disavowal by saying it was done with Hadi’s blessings. 

This whole episode has morphed into a comedy. What’s next, I wonder. 

Today, I was at The Pinnacle in Bandar Sunway for the Roche Toastmasters meeting. I was there as Table Topics Evaluator.

And among the speeches I heard, the best – at least in my opinion – came from a non-Toastmaster guest, Michael! Hmmm...

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Katy Perry Shoes Evoke Blackface

Katy Perry (right) and her eponymous shoe line, Katy Perry Collections, are taking heat for two designs that have been described as racist. 

The "Rue Face Slip On Loafers" and "Ora Face Block Heel Sandals" – both of which featured faces on the top of the shoes – are part of a collection that was released last summer in 9 different colorways (black, blue, gold, graphite, lead, nude, pink, red, silver) and envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism. 

And now they are being pulled from stores due to the backlash. 

The singer says she is "saddened" that her design – blue eyes and red lips on black leather – was compared with "painful images" of blackface by fans and critics online. 

In fact, they expressed repugnance that the singer would have the shoes up for sale in the first place. 

I wonder why this keeps happening with 'luxury' brands. I hope it is not because they don’t care. 

I was at the BDO Toastmasters meeting at Menara Centara in Jalan TAR, Kuala Lumpur this evening. 

Thanks to Ng Swee Weng, I presented my CC #9 speech titled Dare to Speak. And I was also an evaluator for Ng’s Pathways’ HPL speech.

I must have done well because I was voted Best Speaker and Best Evaluator.

And I had my yee sang again. My third Prosperity Toss for this Lunar New Year: