Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shireen's Making a Speech

Today I submitted my fifth and last batch of questionnaires – this time, a set of 13 questionnaires, and coupled with KY Leong’s 99 questionnaires – we should have enough to start working on our “Entrepreneurship” project paper.

It is always nice to be recognized – last night, Dr. Paul Chan sent an email thanking everybody for the successful realization of the Northumbria University collaboration with HELP. I also received a small mention because I introduced the University to Dr. Chan about a year ago. At least he remembered.

This evening, HICT Toastmasters had their meeting and it was great to see two key members returning to its fold. Shireen purposely took half a day off in order to attend the meeting – and in the process she delivered her long-overdue CC speech # 7: Research Your Topic titled “Please kill me”. In case, you are getting alarmed by this title – no worries, it is actually about euthanasia. By the way, I was her evaluator and this time, she seemed affected by a shiver of nervousness. Certainly, that can happen even to accomplished speakers especially when there is a long break between making speeches. Still, for those who know her, you can bet she won’t disappoint. And she didn’t. I told you so wad! The quality of her speechmaking was still intact and wondrous to my ears. Also I was glad to be back because I missed the last two meetings – prior engagements had prevented me from attending, that's why!

Overall, it was a marvelous meeting – Lorna Fisher (i.e. General Evaluator) and Vincent Soon (Evaluator for Alan Tan) were gracious enough to accept our invitation to come. And our new members picked up valuable tips from these eminent Toastmasters. A new Executive Committee is poised to take over tomorrow and I must say they are very gung-ho about it, which is fantastic! The other great piece of news is that HICT Toastmasters Club has finally achieved Distinguished Club recognition in only our second year of existence because we have fulfilled 6 of the 10 goals! For the 2010-2011 year, we should aim to achieve more goals and possibly, earn the President's Distinguished Club award. We have entrusted the leadership of this club to Mike Cheang and a new team and even as we put our faith in them – in my books, at least, they have already succeeded.

The Cost of Security

I chanced upon a copy of the Monday edition of the International Herald Tribune, and on page 18, there was a news story with this headline ”Canadians dismayed by meeting costs”! I certainly don’t believe anybody will be happy about meetings because they generally degenerate into talk-shops – if I was to base on my own personal experience. And I am talking about the personal cost of time and effort I make to meetings but yet, don't see productive outcomes that are beneficial.

Anyway, the newspaper was referring to the costs of holding the G-8 and G-20 summits in Ontario, Canada. The latest government estimate is $897 million for the three days of summitry. That comes to about $12 million per hour!

Don Davies, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament said, “The cost of these summits is completely out of whack and extravagant and exorbitant”.

Mark Holland of the Liberal Party called the conference “the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history”.

The escalating costs of these meetings can be attributed to the Battle in Seattle, the WTO summit meeting in 1999 in which violent street protests led to 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. And not to mention, the ever-present terrorist threats.

One has to wonder if any government should be given a blank check to protect leaders and at what cost? Should Canada deploy 20,000 soldiers, intelligence agents and police officers for security? Is there wisdom behind this massive mobilization of forces – in this specific case, they represent about 13 percent of the nation’s police officers and troops – just so that government leaders can meet in relative safety? Can we absolutely guarantee security for these leaders?

I reckon we should cease to coddle and cosset our political leaders. Political office like any other job carries its own set of risks – it comes with the territory. While we should provide the necessary security – let’s not go overboard and turn a meeting venue into something akin to an impregnable fortress! I reckon we can easily replace politicians but it is never easy to replace the ordinary citizen’s sense of freedom and liberty when he or she finds himself/herself in a closely guarded environment as we now find in the city of Toronto.

Worse, if a show of force – as demonstrated by the need for a large body of security minders – is for the purpose of feeding a leader’s egoistical sense of power. If we buy the idea of servant leadership, we will accept that leaders are not gods or demi-gods, but just ordinary human beings doing their national duty and serving their citizenry.

European champions Spain survived a stern test from neighbours Portugal to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup through David Villa's goal (63).

Don't Bet on Vincent Tan

On Monday, The Malaysian Insider drew my attention to Berjaya Corp head honcho Vincent Tan – he had publicly expressed his frustrations at the government’s U-turn over the sports betting license he said had been promised to his Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd. Tan is probably the sort of person who is used to having his way, but this time, he had underestimated the Prime Minister. The license he was expecting wasn’t going to materialize because cautious Najib prefers to playing it safe and had decided last Friday not to issue the said license to Ascot. You can say that Najib had capitulated to public pressure. And of course, Tan was not only peeved, but also upset. You can’t blame him for getting steamed up because he stands to earn RM525 million when he sells his 70% stake in Ascot to Berjaya Corp (according to a May 12 filing to Bursa Malaysia) – provided of course, he is awarded this license. Now it is just an empty boast. Hahaha!

But what is really funny is that Tan praised those people who had supported this avaricious endeavor of his by calling them “the true embodiment of 1 Malaysia”! I don’t even understand what he means by that. I mean, what has it got to do with 1 Malaysia? I suppose a BN crony is not averse to corrupting Najib’s 1 Malaysia concept for his own self-seeking ends!

“You [Tan’s supporters] are rational realists and true leaders of our multi-cultural and multi-religious society. You are not a hypocrite nor a humbug nor a holy pious pretender but a true God-fearing devotee of a Better Malaysia,” he said in a text message to his supporters according to a statement from Ascot Sports (Webpage He sure sounds pompously imperious. And mindlessly fatuous.

And guess what? The people who are supporting him and his money-making schemes are from MCA, Gerakan, PPP and even some elements in UMNO – the latter had the smart ass audacity to imply that gambling is part of Chinese culture!

Mohd Nazri Aziz had said “…There are things that sometimes non-Muslims do, for example, gambling,” he was quoted by The Malaysian Insider. “It is their culture, their way of life and we have to respect their rights” (Webpage, posted June 20, 2010).

Rais Yatim also said, “...that betting is a way of life for the non-Muslims. We have to respect that, and just adding one more does not hurt".

Even ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had added, “The Chinese always gamble, it isn’t haram for them. Why stop them?” (Blogpage, posted June 24, 2010).

How demeaning! How offensive! How disrespectful!

In this penultimate knock-out match, Paraguay and Japan were both playing a mainly defensive game – the aggression was largely missing! A scoreless draw at full-time and even after extra-time pointed to the unavoidability of a penalty shoot-out. And so the final score was 5-3 in Paraguay’s favor and they’re in the quarter-finals of the WC for the first time in their history. Hard luck to Japan!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monroe's X-rays

I stumbled upon this bit of news (BBC News, posted June 28, 2010) that a set of three X-rays of Marilyn Monroe's chest taken during a 1954 hospital visit could fetch $45,000 (£29,900) in Las Vegas. The X-rays, sold at a movie memorabilia auction at Planet Hollywood, had a $3,000 (£2,000) pre-sale estimate. Well, I have an X-ray of my chest taken during my last medical check-up. I do not mind selling it for RM10,000. Any takers?

And talented Brazil were just too good for Chile as the latter were unceremoniously brushed aside to allow Brazil to now meet Netherlands in the quarter-finals. Juan (34), Luis Fabiano (38) and Robinho (59) scored in a 3-0 win as Chile's entertaining World Cup run came to an abrupt end.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Build and Demolish

In yet another instance of fiscal wastefulness, yesterday’s Sunday Star (p N16) glibly reported Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen as saying that the controversial Penang Botanic Gardens arches costing RM150,000 will be demolished. And her daffy reason for this turnaround? She said the decision was made after a majority of the people who visited the place voiced their views that the arches should be removed. The truth is, many people, especially those from Penang had protested at these grotesque concrete aberrations early on but they were promptly ignored. Is she stupid or what? At the beginning stage, she refused to listen. Now she changed her tune and she listened. What’s her point again? I suppose calling her stupid would be a grave insult to stupid people!

Sunday Star had published the results of an opinion poll – conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia at the site from June 12 to 18 – of which 71% or 873 out of 1,225 respondents wanted the arches to be demolished.

The arches, which are part of the gardens’ RM7 million expansion project, have drawn intense criticism from NGOs like the Friends of Penang Botanic Gardens Society and the Consumers’ Association of Penang – who felt that the arches had marred the beauty of the place. See for yourself the arches in the photo below – the inspiration must have come from the big black hole that is Ng Yen Yen’s barren mind!

Photo credit: Sunday Star, June 27, 2010, p N16

Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch chairman Kanda Kumar said “If the authorities had listened to us earlier, they would not have spent so much money to put it up and now to pull it down”. Is he ignorant or what? The government needs to spend money even if it is lavish – just so to help the Malaysian economy along! After all, if taxpayers continue to stupidly vote for BN, it means that we have given these people the license to spend our money any way they wish, any time they want!

In the WC game between Slovakia and Netherlands, the former lost 1-2 to the latter – the Dutch scoring a goal in each half through Arjen Robben (18) and Wesley Sneijder (84) – a victory which puts them into the World Cup quarter-finals. Slovakia’s goal came from a penalty in the dying seconds of the match through Robert Vittek (90+4).

Yellow Brick Road

It escaped me when I first read it, but then I only just realized that the extravagance of the palace is one ‘sore’ thing, but we are also building an elevated highway to the main entrance of the palace – awarded to Ahmad Zaki Sdn Bhd – that is going to cost taxpayers another RM130 million (Sunday Star, June 27, 2010, p N5). Wow, this must be the Malaysian version of the ‘yellow brick road’, the proverbial pathway to kingly opulence. Then, I remembered reading Art Harun’s Friday blog posting, where he too did gripe about our government’s unrestrained spending – and mentioning that he actually visited the Jalan Duta site and estimated that this dedicated road is at the most 3 kilometers long. This works out to RM43.3 million per kilometer of asphalt. Isn’t this outrageously overpriced? Maybe the road builder did intend to pave the road with gold after all?

When Idris Jala declared on May 27 that Malaysia may possibly go bankrupt by 2019 – perhaps his own colleagues in Government were not listening!? Idris, will you kindly rap their knuckles for not paying attention?

And the WC game between Mexico and Argentina saw the latter disposed of the former to seal a quarter-final tie against Germany. Argentina’s 3-1 win came from Carlos Tevez (25, 52) and Gonzalo Higuain (33). And Mexico’s consolation goal came from Javier Hernandez (71).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Palace Shame

Photo credit: Sunday Star, June 27, 2010, p N1

Sunday Star’s front-page headline is "Cry for help" and it refers to the foreign workers’ plight in the Istana Negara project. These workers hired to build the RM800 million Palace are claiming that they have not received three months’ wages from some project sub-contractors despite working seven days a week. There are supposedly over 1,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam hired by 130 sub-contractors working at the project site.

The Star, responding to an SOS call had visited the site in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur and found the workers living in frustration and fear as many do not have work permits or cannot afford to renew their permits which have expired.

What is disgraceful is that the Public Works Department is overseeing the project on behalf of the Government and they have a presence in Jalan Duta. At the PWD site office, construction manager Aidzil Adzahar Ahmad said Maya Maju Sdn Bhd, the main contractor for the palace project was responsible for the workers.

The Star reported that when they visited Maya Maju’s site office, also in Jalan Duta, project manager Abdul Razak Mat Yunus said they paid their contractors on time and it was up to them to pay their workers; that it was their responsibility. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I call it “passing the buck”.

According to workers interviewed by the Star, some employers threatened to call the police when they persisted in asking for their wages. Several workers even claimed they were harassed by the police and Rela officers and that their possessions like mobile phones, cigarettes and canned drinks were confiscated.

When contacted, Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam said he would ask the Labor Department to investigate the matter and take immediate action.

Indonesian Punawi, 32, who does plastering work, said he had not been paid for five months and barely had any money left for food. “I only manage with one meal a day and that’s because the foodstall owner allows me to eat on credit. My work permit has expired and I don’t have RM3,000 to renew it,” he added.

Photo credit: Sunday Star, June 27, 2010, p N5

Jatim, 37, said their employer would hold back their wages for three to four months and they would subsequently be paid a month’s salary.

Some employers, he claimed, would extend loans of RM50 to RM100 per week to the workers, leaving them in debt.

Such stories (pp N1, N5) are nothing new and yet, the authorities have so far, not been able to stop this blatant exploitation of foreign workers. Or are they unwilling to do so because there is so much abuse and corruption in the system – that no one wants to stick his or her neck out for this maligned group of foreigners? Why do we persist in building imposing and impressive edifices on the sweat and tears of these workers whom we are milking so scandalously?

We, Malaysians should be ashamed of ourselves!

Today, the match between England and Germany saw my fave team outplaying the Three Lions to produce a fabulous 4-1 win. Germany has proven to be too quick, too mobile, too intelligent for England! Germany’s scorers were Miroslav Klose (20), Lukas Podolski (32), and Thomas Mueller (67, 70) whilst England’s only goal came from Matthew Upson (37). Congratulations to Germany – they were magnificent!

England fans should take note that – other than on home soil, when England went on to win the WC in 1966 – they have never won a knockout match against any of the teams that have won the World Cup!

Still on the Same Ad Story

I was again checking out The Nut Graph’s postings this morning and came across another one (a June 07, 2010 posting) that is also related to Rosmah’s ad – which begets more questions than answers. The New York Times, it seems, have retracted their statement that an advertisement in their paper, congratulating Rosmah Mansor for an award, was placed by the Malaysian government!

New York Times’ director of public relations Abbe Serphos said in an email sent out on June 01, “In our internal systems the ad was reserved as a Government of Malaysia ad, but in fact the ad was not placed by the Government of Malaysia. The ad was signed by ‘Family and friends in the USA and Malaysia.’”

When pressed further as to who exactly had paid for the ad, Serphos said in an email sent on June 02: “It is not our practice to release the names of those who place ads. We can tell you that the ad was not paid for by the Government of Malaysia.” Serphos had earlier sent out a two-line email on May 28 requesting a correction to the article without providing any clarification.

Her second email, sent out on 1 June, was in response to The Nut Graph‘s request for further clarification. The Nut Graph had asked why it took the newspaper 18 days after the former’s report, which stated the ad was placed on behalf of the Malaysian government by an ad agency, to realize they had made a mistake and alerted The Nut Graph.

The Nut Graph‘s original story about the ad quoted McNulty, who is New York Ttimes' executive director of community affairs and media relations. McNulty appears to outrank Serphos!

According to The Nut Graph, they also contacted the Prime Minister’s Office but the government continues to keep mum. Definitely, something fishy is going on here...

In the second match in the knock-out stage between Ghana and USA, the former beat the latter 2-1 in extra-time to make the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history and ensure an African team will figure in the last eight of the competition. The Ghanaians scored through Boateng (5) and Gyan (93) while the Americans’ only goal came from a penalty in the 62nd minute, courtesy of Donovan.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ad Saluting Rosmah

Remember the two-page spread in the New York Times, costing thousands of US dollars and featuring the prime minister’s wife – well, the Nut Graph reported last month (May 11, to be exact) that it was placed on behalf of the Malaysian government. In an email response to questions from The Nut Graph, the American newspaper said: “The advertisement was placed by an ad agency on behalf of the Malaysian government.”

The response from New York Times executive director of community affairs and media relations, Diane McNulty, reveals that the ad was not placed by private individuals, as suggested by the last line in the ad’s congratulatory message.

If you can recall, the ad was placed on 16 April 2010, on the last day of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to the US, to congratulate Rosmah on her being conferred a little-known International Peace and Harmony Award.

The ad welcomed Rosmah as Malaysia’s “First Lady” to New York, and carried the message: “In recognition of your effort to promote peace, harmony and understanding among the people of Malaysia and your courageous acts in making a difference to the lives of people and children around the world. Malaysia is proud of you.” If this is not pompous exaggeration, I don’t know what is!

And the farcical message was signed off: “Best wishes from family and friends in USA and Malaysia.” By the way, the ad did not name the Business Council for International Understanding, the outfit that gave Rosmah the award.

Against a backdrop of controversies surrounding the hiring of media relations firm Apco Worldwide, and Rosmah’s alleged interference in government matters, the two-page ad has stirred up gossip and blog postings about who paid for it.

McNulty, however, declined to disclose how much the ad cost, saying the company never discusses the cost of an individual ad as there are many variables and rates involved. These include the kind of schedule the ad purchaser has with the company, as well as the advertising category it falls within.

However, research on previous full-page ads taken out in the New York Times suggests that the cost of such advertisements ranges from USD$180,000 to USD$230,000. This works out to between RM580,000 and RM740,000 for a one-page ad. A two-page color spread such as the one featuring Rosmah Mansor (below) is expected to cost far more.

It has also been noted that while Rosmah was prominently featured in the ad in a respected and established newspaper, US media coverage of Najib’s visit and meeting with President Barack Obama was scant.

The New York Times‘ McNulty would not reveal which ad agency placed the order for the ad on behalf of the Malaysian government in her paper. But if the Malaysian government has hired an ad agency, why is taxpayers’ money being used to promote Rosmah and an obscure award in the US, instead of the prime minister and the country? Yes, why indeed? But then we easily forget that this is Bolehland, and Najib or is it Rosmah that always gets his/her way?

Uruguay and South Korea began the first of the World Cup's knockout matches today, with the former persevering to win the game 2-1. Uruguay’s Suarez in shirt No. 9 scored the two goals (8, 80) for his team and Lee Chung-Yong replied for South Korea (68). The latter could have won but for poor finishing...

Origins of the Vuvuzela

What's plastic, a meter long, brightly colored and sounds like an elephant? It's the vuvuzela, the noise-making trumpet of South African football fans, and it's come to symbolize the sport in the country.

It's an instrument, but not always a musical one. Describing the atmosphere in a stadium packed with thousands of fans blowing their vuvuzelas is difficult. Up close it's the trumpeting of a thundering herd of elephants, sure, but en masse the sound is more like a massive swarm of very angry bees. This fitting description is taken from webpage, accessed June 26, 2010.

No one knows for sure the origins of the vuvuzela. According to the website for FIFA, soccer’s governing body, it’s commonly believed the instrument is related to the kudu horn, used to summon African villagers to meetings.

Another story tells of the popularity of the trumpet at football matches in the late 1990s that a company, Masincedane Sport, was formed in 2001 to mass-produce it. Made of plastic, they come in a variety of colors – black or white for fans of Orlando Pirates, yellow for Kaizer Chiefs, and so on – with little drawings on the side warning against blowing in the ear!

And of course, there have been popular attempts to link the origins of the vuvuzela to the penis sheath (also referred to as koteka, horim or penis gourd), traditionally worn by native male inhabitants of some (mainly highland) ethnic groups in New Guinea to cover their genitals.

There's also uncertainty on the origin of the word "vuvuzela". Some say it comes from the isiZulu for – wait for it – “making noise". Others say it's from township slang related to the word "shower", because it "showers people with music" – or, more prosaically, looks a little like a shower head.

The announcement, on 15 May 2004, that South Africa would host the 2010 FIFA World Cup gave the vuvuzela a huge boost, to say the least – some 20,000 were sold on the day by enterprising street vendors.

It's a noisy thing, so there's no surprise some don't like it. Journalist Jon Qwelane once quipped that he had taken to watching football matches at home – with the volume turned low – because of what he described as "an instrument of hell".

The infamous loud drone produced by the horn has proved unpopular with many visiting football fans in South Africa and even more watching on television around the world. FIFA officials did not enforce any rules on the use of the instrument but FIFA CEO Dr Danny Jordaan stated that "2010 will be the loudest world cup ever; South Africa hopes that the Vuvuzela will be recognized as a unique part of what will be a very special African world cup celebration."

The Oil Still Flows!

In photos: Two months later, the oil still flows!

Photos credit:

European champions Spain finished top of Group H after their 2-1 win over resilient Chile – and both these teams qualified for the WC knockout stages. The other game between Switzerland and Honduras ended in a scoreless draw, and which was unfortunate – the former could have displaced Chile but that they needed a 2-goal win in order to guarantee a place in the last 16 and the Swiss under-performed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Malaysian Cartoons Banned

In Malaysia, the mainstream press is on a tight leash. Books are also regularly banned. And now cartoons too. Today, Singapore’s The Straits Times reported that Malaysia had banned three works of political cartoons that criticized the government, but one of the artists said on Friday he was obligated to highlight issues other cartoonists would not. The government said the cartoons in two books and a magazine posed a security threat.

“All three publications have been banned for their contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies,” said a really lame statement by Home Ministry Secretary General Mahmood Adam on the official news agency Bernama. “The contents are not suitable and detrimental to public order,” he said and as is expected, he did not elaborate (Webpage, posted June 25, 2010). Printing, distributing or possessing prohibited material is punishable by up to three years in jail. Believe it or not, but all Malaysian publications require government-approved licenses that must be renewed annually.

The said works are mainly collections of comics by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, and other local cartoonists, questioning current events, such as police shootings and the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. “In Malaysia, the government is like this. They won’t allow alternative views. You can do cartoons, you can do whatever art work you want, but it must be in line with the government (view),” explained Zunar who has been a cartoonist for more than 20 years.

This latest ban is certain to spark complaints that the government is disallowing critical views. What’s new?

In South Africa, Ivory Coast dominated the WC match against a defensive North Korea and did manage to extract a 3-0 win but this effort just wasn’t good enough. Instead the other Group G match between Portugal and Brazil ended in a goalless draw in “the most unthrilling fashion imaginable” – as described by one sports commentator – and yet, these two teams have earned qualification in the round of 16. Now you know why I refused to watch this lifeless game?! The entertainment value would be zilch.

Where is the Justice?

Anwar Ibrahim suffered a body blow in his sodomy trial on Friday after he was denied access to statements by his accuser which he hoped would force the case to collapse (Webpage
Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed nearly twelve years ago, on trumped-up charges of sodomy and corruption, and subsequently put through two trials which were condemned around the world as manifestly flawed and politically motivated, has a new charge of sodomy hanging over his head – after a police report was lodged by Saiful Bukhari, a junior aide in his office, alleging incidents of sodomy without consent.

His lawyers have applied for all statements that Saiful has made about the alleged incidents, but the bid was denied by the High Court in May and the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Friday.

"This is a serious miscarriage of justice. My client will suffer serious injustice," Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair told AFP. "The statements would have shown clear contradictions (in Saiful's testimony)," he said, adding that they could see Saiful impeached and force the entire case to collapse. The lawyer said the defense will appeal against the ruling.

Anwar has lost a series of legal maneuvers, including efforts to get access to medical reports and clinical notes on his accuser and the defense has said this would hamper their cross-examination.
Ominously, the main members of the prosecution team were all involved in the earlier cases, which involved fabrication of evidence and suppression of evidence favorable to the defendant, but an application to disqualify this tainted prosecution team met with failure.

In the present case, the alleged victim is known to have had contact (and in fact testified in court) with senior police officers and high-level UMNO politicians, including the prime minister and his lovely first lady, before he made his police report against Anwar.
Where is the justice?

Liar, liar!

I choked with disbelief when I saw in page N27 of yesterday’s Star that Prime Minister Najib insisted that his Government never pledged to do programs for the people during by-elections! I don’t wish to comment anymore on this issue, other than to scream at him Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Netherlands and Japan representing Group E will now progress to the last 16 of the World Cup. The former produced a 100% winning record by defeating Cameroon 2-1 while Japan scored two stunning first-half free-kicks to secure a well-deserved 3-1 win over Denmark.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Italy: From Heroes to Zeros

Koh Tsu Koon disclosed in Parliament yesterday that the number of complaints made in 2009 through the Public Complaints Bureau increased by 57.2% as compared to the year before. And Police top the list of complaints against the Government and its agencies (Star, June 24, 2010, p N28). I do understand that the public is becoming more assertive and even vocal, and so the Police especially should be on their toes and perform their duties conscientiously and diligently. Koh should be more proactive – don’t just state the facts, but that he should ask himself, what is he going to do about it? He is so reticent and restrained that sometimes I wonder if he is invisible?! Is it any wonder that his party Gerakan is so inconspicuous to the point that it has become pointlessly irrelevant?

And defending champions and four-time WC winners Italy suffered a shock 2-3 defeat to Slovakia in this Group F match. In the other game, Paraguay and New Zealand played to a goalless draw. So Slovakia and Paraguay book their places in the last 16!

FIFA Loses

I was at the Metro Toastmasters club meeting this evening and I began the fourth round of CC assignments – today’s Ice-breaker speech was titled “QSR”. My evaluator was Yee Kim Foong and although he was specifically told by the GE to give me a hard-hitting evaluation, he was generally full of praise although he did highlight that my ending was a wee bit abrupt. I was also the evaluator for Kenny Lee, a visiting Toastmaster from Penang, who was presenting the last of his ACB-qualifying speeches. By the way, I also participated in Table Topics and I won the Best Table Topics Speaker award. For sure, it was a great meeting!

Barbara Castelein and Mirthe Nieuwpoort, two of the 36 women who starred in Bavaria beer’s guerilla marketing stunt at the Holland game last week, are free after a court decided they should not face jail after all (The Sun, June 24, 2010, p 5). And no, they didn’t wear the body-clinging orange mini-dresses to court, nor were they attired in standard issue orange-colored prison uniforms.

Meanwhile, there are already five thousand orange mini-dresses that were sold over the Internet – at least according to blogsite, posted June 19, 2010.

Lucky England

Yesterday, I was invited to attend the UNITAR (since March 15 of this year, they're called UniRazak) Toastmasters club meeting, and I was the evaluator for Jefferey Tang who was doing his speech assignment # 4: How to Say It. It's a topic that was close to his heart: "Maxis Customer Service" for the simple reason he works there as a part-timer. Good speech although he missed out on one of the objectives – the use of rhetorical devices. Sorry, he did use them – just once (i.e. "triads"). Still overall it was a good speech and he was duly voted Best Speaker! And I was also voted Best Evaluator – although the GE was right – I should avoid using the Q&A format for evaluation.
News on the FIFA World Cup 2010. Argentina won their third straight game (2-0) to top Group B and eliminated a Greek side which according to BBC Sport “paid for their almost complete lack of ambition”. The other match saw South Korea battled to a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Nigeria – which was enough for them to secure second place in Group B. The Asian side have previously never been past the opening stage of a World Cup held outside of their own country. Meanwhile, yesterday, England sealed their passage to the last 16 of the World Cup after beating Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Jermain Defoe's first-half goal. Lucky England – but then, Slovenia wasn't really offering opposition. USA also came through when they beat Algeria 1-0 which demonstrably tells you that Group C is an easy Group consisting of mediocre teams. And then, Germany and Australia won their respective Group D matches against Ghana and Serbia (1-0 and 2-1 scores) and although Germany made it to the last 16 by topping Group D, it was.Ghana (having finished level on Australia with four points) who sneaked in by virtue of their superior goal difference. Poor Socceroos!

At Bernard’s where I watched the England game, they served the beer that made FIFA see orange! Yes, we did sample Bavaria beer – it was an ordinary, okay beer with a fair hint of bitterness in the finish. I don’t think I will drink this beer again though!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

France Exits

I was preparing for my Strategy class and the issue of “contingency planning” came to mind. In any dynamic environment, it is always advisable to have alternative strategies in case the “unexpected” (i.e. a contingency) occurs. So even in the case of England’s World Cup campaign – Capello has been magnificently myopic that England’s success will come from Rooney and that he has not even considered what might happen if he does not score goals. If there is only Plan A, then what happens when it does not work? That’s where Plan B comes into play. The fact of the matter is that in this World Cup month, Capello’s England have scored just one goal (thanks to Gerrard) in 180 minutes of largely forgettable football. If Capello had attended my Strategy class – certainly he will have a Plan B. And England may not have found herself in dire straits right now!

Today was also Taman Indrahana Toastmasters’ last club meeting for this term. There were no project speeches, but instead, Kay Wong had decided to have one marathon session of Table Topics. I was the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening – a last-minute replacement for Dr. Choong.

South Africa defeated dispirited France 2-1 and thereby ensured that the latter made a disgraceful exit from the WC tournament. And because Uruguay beat Mexico 1-0, this also means that South Africa will similarly exit the tournament because of inferior goal difference to Mexico. So Uruguay and Mexico are into the last 16 of the World Cup. Hmmm, with France gone, that leaves me with just Germany to support.

Ibrahim Disagrees with Nazir

Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali rebuffed yesterday Nazir Razak’s criticisms of the New Economic Policy (NEP) by pointing out that the CIMB chief was also a product of affirmative action policies.

Speaking to The Malaysian Insider, Ibrahim urged the Prime Minister's brother to be fair in assessing pro-Bumiputera policies in Malaysia. In other words, Ibrahim wants Nazir to temper his criticism of the NEP because the former prefers to see his connected Malay bethren to continue to remain backward and become dependent on patronage and cronyism.

And yes, Spain beat Honduras 2-0 as the former got their WC campaign back on track with this comfortable victory over Honduras. The Spaniards showed spunk this time around and dominated proceedings from the outset while the Hondurans were plainly not good enough.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Capello Blames Pressure

I didn’t watch the Portugal-North Korea game because I was attending the KL Advanced Toastmasters club meeting – the last meeting for this term. Besides, I was the Timekeeper today. Oh well, I know I couldn’t watch every match, but I will certainly endeavor to select those matches that I am particularly keen on, especially those involving France, Germany and England.

And the news just came in that Chile beat Switzerland 1-0. BBC Sport reported that on one or two occasions, Chile even had 10 men permanently camped inside Switzerland's half – but they just couldn’t score until the 74th minute, that is.

England manager Fabio Capello – FA expects Capello to quit if England make early exit – gave a very unimaginative excuse when he blamed pressure for their stuttering World Cup campaign. "It is a mental thing. Absolutely. When you are under pressure, big pressure, sometimes the legs do not work normally," Capello told BBC Sport (Webpage, posted today). What BS! We are talking about experienced star-players such as Rooney, Lampard, Terry and Gerrard – if they cannot handle pressure and therefore, they are not performing, Capello should just sack them all! Or is he gutless?

Nazir Calls for NEP Review

The Malaysian Insider yesterday echoed CIMB chief Nazir Razak’s call for a review of the New Economic Policy (NEP), adding that the policy has been unfair to the majority of Malays. Nazir, who is also a younger brother to Prime Minister Najib Razak, said the time has come for the government to protect the interest of the majority of the Malays and not just a select few. I would use the word ‘privileged’ and the so-called ‘select few’ of course, refers to the UMNO cronies.

Najib will do well to heed this advice. Even if he does, it is improbable that UMNO will. Maybe as Lim Guan Eng suggested, Najib should form a new party and call it 1Malaysia since he claims to be so passionate about 1Malaysia. I sensed too that Najib’s public expressions are not congruent with UMNO members’ sentiments. But then again, this is politics – is Najib to be believed? Or is he faking it? Putting aside my own personal feelings about him – only Time will tell whether I am right or wrong about him.

On Sunday night (or early morning in Malaysia), Brazil convincingly beat Ivory Coast 3-1 to qualify for the Round of 16. If we care to study the WC results so far, nobody has been able to beat Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, or Uruguay.

And today, I just heard the news – I couldn’t watch this game, much as I wanted to – that Portugal ripped North Korea apart to claim their first win of this World Cup in grand style by scoring 7 goals to nil. The two sides were only separated by Raul Meireles' goal at half-time, but Portugal gave a scintillating attacking display after the break to score six goals and spark their tournament into life.

Hayward Got His Life Back

BP officials on Saturday scrambled yet again to respond to another public relations challenge when their embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward was reported to have spent the day relaxing off the southern coast of England for the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, a yacht race around the Isle of Wight.
Tony Hayward’s yacht is on the left.

Said Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff: "...To quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back”. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby called Hayward’s yacht outing the “height of arrogance,” in an interview with Fox News. “I can tell you that yacht ought to be here skimming and cleaning up a lot of the oil,” he had said. “He ought to be down here seeing what is really going on” (The New York Times, June 19, 2010).

The general sentiment is that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting!

Results on three WC matches are as follows: Denmark whipped Cameroon 2-1; Paraguay scalped Slovakia 2-0; and Italy and New Zealand produced a 1-1 tie.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lamb Shank

Yesterday (i.e. June 19, 2010), I resumed my visit to the MIMKL Toastmasters club meeting – on this occasion, the meeting carried a military theme. Thanks to Ahmad Fahkri, new terminology was created, e.g. Ah counter became the Ah-ssassinator; club president became Commander-in-Chief. I played two roles – as a grammarian (or word-sniper) and evaluator for Geoff Andrew. Even the word-of-the-day that I selected was appropriate, i.e. “guard”. As expected, it was a great meeting.

And in the evening, I was in Bangsar (Café Barbera, to be precise) to attend the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club Installation Nite. The company was exemplary, the food exceptional (especially the lamb shank), and the proceedings solemn. Foong Weng Tuck and Bernard Louis were noticeably chirpy – knowing they will be standing down as Club President and Vice President Education respectively in eleven days’ time. Nancy Liew and Peter Siew are set to assume command and as for me, I am taking on the position of Vice President Public Relations 2010-2011. And importantly, Lee Wei Seong ensured there was a generous supply of red wine to keep our "spirits" up.

WC Saturday matches saw Netherlands beat Japan 1-0 while Ghana drew 1-1 with Australia. I didn’t watch these two matches but by the looks of their scores, they were likely to be matches that did not titillate nor thrill football fans.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Condo Cocoon

I went to this absorbing play last night at the PJ Live Arts in Jaya One, PJ. Speakers Dream Toastmasters club members had staged a play titled "The Condo Cocoon". This is an original Malaysian play written and directed by K Loghandran (World Award Winner in Public Speaking) and based on a true character. It tells of Angela, a straight ‘A’ student who is set up by her own ex-schoolmates to marry a playboy lawyer. The marriage predictably ends in divorce. Years later, when Angela meets an ex-convict, Sam, and learns the truth, she plans her revenge. These acting Toastmasters include Lolitha Chin, Vijay V, Chow Mun Yuen, Larry Hoo and Lay Choo. Among the motley group of talented play-actors, I liked Larry’s characterization of Golan, the condo spirit the best. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this play!

Serious questions must now be asked why a £5m-a-year manager and his vast coaching staff could not take England forward. See the photo on the left and see Capello’s befuddlement.

Tax Relief for Middle-Income Earners?

I thought this press report that appeared in the Star yesterday is timely because it makes a lot of sense. Ram Holding Berhad group chief economist Dr Yeah Kin Leng had said, “Middle-income groups affected by the high cost of living in cities should be given tax relief to ease their burden (p N4). Hear, hear!

And WC matches were really disappointing for the teams that carry the favorites’ tags. Germany was stunned 0-1 by dogged Serbia. Thereafter, USA drew 2-2 with Slovenia. And finally, England drew 0-0 with Algeria after an unimpressive display in their second World Cup match, leaving Fabio Capello's side facing a challenge to reach the knockout stages.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Les Bleus Seeks a Miracle

I am still talking about my favorite subject of Marketing and I am referring to the “wear orange” antic. Is it just me, or has FIFA completely missed the point here? Nobody realized that this was a publicity stunt for Bavaria NV – so can we deduce that it was a lemon of a flop? And then the whole world came to know of this stunt when FIFA and the Johannesburg police put it under the spotlight. Therefore, it has now succeeded spectacularly and earned the company a fortune's worth of free global advertising. Does anybody at FIFA understand marketing?

France are close to being eliminated from the World Cup after losing 0-2 to an impressive Mexico side in Polokwane, S Africa. Both teams showed greater endeavor than in their drawn opening games, with France in particular looking livelier, but for long periods neither possessed the cutting edge to really punish their opponents. In the end, when the few opportunities presented themselves, Mexico took their chances and scored the two important goals to secure a well-deserved victory.

France coach Raymond Domenech told French television channel TF1, “I’m lost for words. It’s a real disappointment for those who believed in us. We did try but there was always something that didn’t work” (Star, June 18, 2010, p SE3).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saville Report on Bloody Sunday

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday unreservedly made an apology for the deaths of 14 people on Bloody Sunday (i.e. January 30, 1972). The long-awaited Saville Report ruled that all the victims fired on by the Army were completely innocent. And the paratroopers were condemned for running amok and losing control during the civil rights demonstration in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in that fateful year (Webpage, posted June 15, 2010).

This tragedy drove hundreds of new volunteers into the illegal Irish Republican Army (IRA) armed group, which stepped up its campaign of bombings and shootings. It was not until 1998 that a peace deal was brokered in Northern Ireland.

"Unjustified and unjustifiable," said Cameron. "What happened should never have happened."

The report, 5000 pages and 10 volumes long, painted a picture of the British paratroopers going out of control as they encountered stone-throwing protesters in the wake of the march against internment without trial.

The exhaustive, minute by minute examination of the chaotic event showed soldiers in "a state of fear or panic", shooting dead people who were, in the main, running away from them. Shots were fired "without warning" at unarmed civilians, the report concluded.

The truth has finally prevailed.

In the second Group B fixture between Greece and Nigeria today, the former thumped the latter 2-1 – a first ever WC finals win for Greece. I didn’t want to watch this match but ii was important for Greece because this win kept alive their hopes of qualifying from Group B.

FIFA's Orange Monopoly

According to BBC News posted June 16, 2010, Bavaria board member Peer Swinkels had told Reuters news agency that FIFA's reaction to the "wear orange" caper was "ridiculous". He had said, "FIFA does not have the monopoly on orange and people have the freedom to wear what they want".

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) lost another high-profile case today when former Federal Territory Umno Youth leader Mohamad Norza Zakaria was freed from two graft charges by the Sessions Court here due to “uncooperative witnesses”. In fact, the MACC had charged three witnesses in the case for perjury.

Even the simplest of minds can figure out what has happened. Undaunted, the MACC will resolutely move on and investigate and then lose cases. After all, what’s new? Nothing. And you still think the MACC has got even a half molecule of credibility in the eyes of the public?

This evening at Tom, Dick & Harry's at TTDI, I witnessed the Argentina-South Korea match. This has got to be the most exciting game so far – with both sides playing good attacking football. Still, the former whipped the latter 4-1 and with two wins out of two in Group B, Argentina signalled that they are one of the teams to beat in South Africa.

Flooding in Singapore

Malaysian are talking about being prudent and today, I read in the Star (June 17, 2010, p N19) that the cost of the brand-new palace for the Malaysian king is now about RM812 million – as informed by Deputy Works Minister Yong Khoon Seng to Parliament on Monday – and not RM400 million as announced in 2006 by then Works Minister Samy Vellu.
Already the Government’s outrageous attempt to build a new Parliament House in Putrajaya for RM800 million had met with vociferous objections from the public at large.
It is obvious that Malaysian politicians love to spend their productive time dreaming and thinking of grandiose projects that will burn big holes in Malaysian taxpayers’ pockets. I think we should just line up these people against a wall and shoot them between the eyes. This crime of fiscal recklessness must be stopped!

Photos credit:
Singapore’s famed Orchard Road came under water as torrential rains caused flash floods that engulfed the premier shopping district – almost 100 millimeters of rain fell from around 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. yesterday morning, more than 60 percent of the average monthly rainfall for June – and damaging stores and forcing firefighters to rescue people from stranded vehicles.