Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Government Bulldozes Peaceful Assembly Bill

On Tuesday, the Dewan Rakyat passed the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which bars street protests – only six adjustments to the original proposal were made – and after a walkout by the opposition as well as a protest march led by close to 600 lawyers. It is a sad day for the country that the BN government passed this Bill in indecent haste and disregarding dissenting voices.

“This Bill does not protect national security, only the security of BN leaders,” said PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.

Even before the lawyers began walking on Jalan Parlimen, a bashful group of 20 Malay youths was seen wearing plain yellow T-shirts, holding banners which read: “Free Sex Gathering 2.0″ and “LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Gathering 2.0″. These banners had the Seksualiti Merdeka logo printed on them. I am wondering if these miscreants wear yellow to fool the public - but then again, we are not witless as their masters are, right? How can anybody confuse Bersih yellow with cowardly yellow?

But when quizzed by reporters, many in the group hid their faces, shying from the cameras.

And then there was another equally bizarre counter-protest by a 20-strong anti-Seksualiti Merdeka group, gollering anti-gay slogans. “We are against free sex! We are against anal sex! We are Muslims, Allahukbar (God is great)!”

Just to illustrate the sheer stupidity of these demonstrators, one Razali Zakaria – supposedly representing Gerakan Memartabatkan Pejuang Negara (GMPN) – even claimed that the Bar Council was marching in support of “free sex”. He could say with a straight face that “the Bar Council’s gathering has elements of free sex. Gathering peacefully is one thing, but they (lawyers) are here because of free sex”! (Blogpage, accessed November 30, 2011). I am ashamed to know that there are Malaysians who are totally brainless!

BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty trumpeted the fact that Chelsea were again struck down by the curse of Kenny Dalglish as impressive Liverpool increased the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas with a comfortable Carling Cup quarter-final victory at Stamford Bridge. This 2-0 win maintains Dalglish's unbeaten record against Chelsea in 13 matches as Liverpool manager.

And Luiz Suarez was not even playing. Liverpool went ahead when Craig Bellamy broke clear down the right and crossed perfectly for Maxi Rodriguez to beat Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull comfortably at the far post (58). And in-form Bellamy's free-kick found Martin Kelly unmarked in the area and the defender took advantage to head past the exposed Turnbull (63).

Mahathir's Dementia

On Monday, the deranged Mahathir Mohamad proclaimed that too much freedom will destroy society, and saying that civil freedom should have its limits. Again, this schizo is advertising his dementia for all to see.

Of course, he is against freedom! This is common knowledge. This is, after all, the shameless man who launched Operation Lalang on October 17, 1987 and cracking down on social activists, church leaders and opposition leaders!

The flagitious exploit saw the indecent arrest of 106 persons under the ISA and the revoking of the publishing licences of English daily The Star, Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily and the now defunct Malay weekly Watan. [They were given back their publishing permits about six months later].

Among the prominent personalities arrested during Operation Lalang were the then Opposition Leader and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, his son Guan Eng, DAP strongmen Karpal Singh and the late P. Patto, trade unionist and DAP strongman the late V. David, the then PAS Youth secretary Khaled Abu Samad, Brother Anthony Rogers of the Catholic Church, university lecturer and pastor Dr Poh Boon Sing, religious teacher Jamaluddin Othman, the then Penang PAS Youth chief Mohamad Sabu, and Christian social activist Lim Chin Chin.

Mahathir has reminded us in timely fashion that we should not take freedom lightly! He has jogged our collective memory that he represents the oppression of the masses, the curtailment of democracy, the silencing of righteous voices. Mahathir is a bully. A tyrant. A despot.

As Malaysians and as citizens, we have rights. I certainly can’t recall ever surrendering my rights to any politician, least of all Mahathir and/or Najib!

Saurian Backpacks

I was at the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting last evening where I was the Evaluator for Kay Wong who delivered her Advanced speech from the Storytelling manual. She is a natural spinner of yarns and every story that she weaved never failed to capture my attention. Even one that had a simple storyline had me hanging on every word. It’s her speaking style – the manner in which she stitched words into her narration and then delicately embellished it with a scatter of French made me marvel at her skill as a wordsmith. Kay, incidentally, was voted the Best Assignment Speaker and Chrristine Ngiam the Best Evaluator. Actually, I liked all the speeches and even the evaluations were excellent. Rarely does one come across a Toastmaster meeting where both speeches and evaluations are first class. Definitely a meeting where the score can only be a pleasureful 8 out of a 10.

Yesterday afternoon, I came across these saurian backpacks for kids on the go. A company called MadPax (Website
) does a colorful line of cool knapsacks that are covered in soft spikes and available in textured, lizardlike fabrics. I am sure they will look cool on adults too!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Norovirus in Oysters

On November 15, 2011, I blogged about some food that can be risky. One of them is oysters. Today, I read in UK’s The Independent that more than three-quarters of British-grown oysters contain norovirus. The study, conducted on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), discovered that 76% of oysters tested from UK oyster growing beds had traces of the infectious bug.

Low levels of the virus, which causes symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, were found in 52% of the positive samples, according to the data.

The FSA said it was "difficult" to assess the potential health impact of the findings, as researchers were unable to differentiate between infectious and non-infectious norovirus material in the shellfish.

However, it said the results of the study would be used as part of a review by the European Food Safety Authority, which is to advise the European Commission on what a legal safe level for norovirus in oysters should be.

Currently a safe limit for the highly infectious virus, commonly know as the "winter vomiting bug", has not been established.

And believe it or not, but between 600,000 and one million people in the UK catch norovirus every year. So oyster lovers – you are likely to take some risks every time you indulge in these molluscs!

Shahrizat To Address NFC Issue

Finally, on Monday, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil crawled out of the woodwork and said that she will address the NFC issue during UMNO’s general assembly this week, even though it has “nothing to do with me”! She is telling us that we can blame her darling husband and her adoring children; that really it is their business, not hers; that after all, she is not involved in NFC! Wow, the nerve of this woman! A true blue politician. If she is pushed into a corner – I bet you, she will even disown her family!

But Shahrizat cannot be hiding forever and so, faced with increasing public pressure, she knows she will finally have to come clean – although I very much doubt whether she will admit to anything.

I am wondering why she is using the Wanita UMNO platform to broach on the NFC subject. I don’t get it! She has a duty to explain the issue to all Malaysians and not only Wanita UMNO members. The NFC money belongs to us and not just her party members. This is the biggest problem with these UMNO rapscallions – they always seem to think that the public coffers is their personal piggy bank; that they can take whatever amount they want whenever they want it; that they have the sacrosanct right to the money as opposed to
other Malaysians.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Will Europe Save Itself?

This is that time of the semester again when I am drowning in paperwork – yup, marking assignments. Even with today being a public holiday, I must still be up early to toil on the tedious work that is before me. Actually I was grinding away at this laborious task since last week and I know I am supposed to finish everything by Tuesday (yipes, that’s tomorrow!) and after that the exams begin and then, another agonizing round of grading exam scripts. I hate it! Sigh! But there’s nothing I can do about it except to endure.

Yesterday, I referred to the depressing UK public sector situation. This is not just a British thing. It is playing against a worrisome backdrop of ongoing uncertainty that stems from the European sovereign and banking crisis, which it is feared will lead to broader contagion outside Europe and global credit markets.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has warned on Saturday that “citizens in many countries face ‘dire consequences’ without a quick solution, including more social unrest and major tax increases” (Bloomberg, November 26, 2011).

And Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan at the other end of the world complained on Sunday that “European Union leaders must act to stop the region’s debt contagion becoming a ‘slow-motion train wreck’ that is already crimping Australia’s economy”. He claimed that Europe has dragged on global economic growth and cut Australian government revenue, causing asset prices to fall and households to spend less (Bloomberg, November 27, 2011).

And things are only going to deteriorate. On Friday, S&P downgraded Belgium’s credit rating and the beleagured country follows Slovenia, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece in having their credit rating cut this year. Europe’s leadership must act decisively to save Europe – but will the Europeans find political will in quick time? As The New York Times said on Sunday: “The endgame for Europe is fast approaching”!

Of course, Najib’s Malaysia is living in its own world of make-believe, that everything is hunky-dory and Malaysians have nothing to worry about! If we trust Najib, we can also believe that we are inhabiting on another planet.

In this much-awaited EPL game, Vincent Kompany put Manchester City ahead in the 31st minute with a header but Liverpool equalized just two minutes later after Joleon Lescott deflected a Charlie Adam attempt into his own goal. And so the two teams had to be contented with a 1-1 draw.

The Two Mercks

On Friday, I read in BBC News Online that German drugmaker Merck KGaA has begun legal action against Facebook after discovering what its lawyer described as the "the apparent takeover of its Facebook page". The webpage is being used by a US company that goes by the name Merck & Co! This is the strange case of two companies with the same name. Which one gets to the Facebook page? Both, apparently, but not at the same time!

Still, Merck KGaA said it had entered into an agreement with Facebook for the exclusive rights to in March 2010. However, the company said that when it had checked the site on 11 October this year it had discovered it had lost control of the page, and that content on the site now belonged to rival Merck & Co.

Actually, the two drugmakers both stem from the same firm set up by a pharmacy owner in the German city of Darmstadt in 1668. The business was split in two after World War I as part of the reparations package imposed on Germany.

Merck KGaA has since filed a petition with the- Supreme Court of the State of New York.

"We took legal action versus Facebook to ask for information why a website we thought we owned isn't ours anymore," Dr Gangolf Schrimpf, a spokesman for Merck KGaA, told the BBC.

"We are just trying to learn what happened."

However, the court filing notes that: "Merck is considering causes of action for breach of conduct, tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with prospective business advantage, and/or conversion."

Merck KGaA stressed that it had not taken any action against its US counterpart at this stage.

Facebook was unwilling to make a comment beyond saying that it was looking into the case.

Branding experts say the case reflects a growing belief that social networks can offer firms a better way of reaching their customers than through their own websites.

"Company communication departments have realised that many of the people they want to reach and influence are already on Facebook," said Simon Myers, from the consultancy Figtree Network.

"As corporate content becomes more tailored and engaging, social media sites such as Facebook represent a brighter future of greater customer dialogue and interaction than the current corporate website with static content and pictures of people shaking hands."

This is going to be interesting!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sacrificing Public Jobs

Hundreds of thousands of public jobs are going to be sacrificed in order to meet the UK Government's spending cuts. Even with the tight-fisted austerity measures in place, PricewaterhouseCoopers' latest economic outlook (Webpage, published November 27, 2011) sees the UK's debt to GDP ratio climbing upwards as borrowing will hit £10.2 trillion by 2015 and this burden could slow growth for decades.

I wonder if this will become a reality in Malaysia too when similar conditions visit Malaysia in the not-too-distant future. Will we have the courage to slash the bloated civil service to save the country – irrespective of who controls the government by then?

Like it or not, the world economic outlook has darkened significantly and no matter what the government says, Malaysia will be adversely affected! And our debts will continue to pile up. Let us not kid ourselves!

Thailand's worst floods in half a century devastated vast areas of the kingdom and have left more than 600 people dead. Flood waters are now receding in many areas and the Bangkok city center has been spared. But elsewhere, Thais say they have been forgotten by authorities preoccupied with saving the shopping malls and skyscrapers of downtown Bangkok. As the floods swept south towards the capital following months of heavy monsoon rains, huge flood barriers made of giant sandbags were erected to keep the waters away from the city's commercial districts.

This tactic kept the center dry, but at a cost: the walls have held the waters back in northern and western areas, keeping them flooded since October. This means that many have endured the inundation for more than a month, without any significant relief from government agencies or charitable organisations. At its peak the water rose almost 2 meters and it is receding, if at all, only by a few centimetres a day.

While life is returning to normal in the protected parts of Bangkok, misery continues to wait on the others who live outside the perimeter of the sandbags. Many Thais are now asking: Why should Bangkokians have the privilege over those in outer and rural areas? The Thai government has a lot of explaining to do!

Detestable Ciggie Ad

I was browsing today’s entires when I saw this brief posting on a detestable L&M cigarette ad featured in the July 1962 Popular Science – a particularly despicable example of the genre, whose subtext is, "If you love your family, celebrate it by contributing to your own early death", to quote directly from the posting. I say it again, “Smoking kills”!

Celtic went on a rampage by scoring five goals against St Mirren. Georgios Samaras struck home first when he smashed a low shot from 10 yards at goal (4) and then he picked up a pass from Joe Ledley and his harefooted passing to Anthony Stokes on the left ensured that the latter let fly the ball across the face of goal that was tapped in by Gary Hooper (8). After the break, Stokes ripped through the Saints defence on the left wing and crossed for Hooper to score his second goal with a fine turn and shot (53). He then claimed his hat-trick when, 40 yards out, he cushioned a high ball and raced at goal – working a one-two with Stokes and was fortunate to get the break of the ball off a Saints defender before dinking the ball over Saints goalie, Craig Samson (57). Sub Dylan McGeouch capped Saints misery when he waltzed from deep through the red and black jerseys before despatching a low left-foot shot into the net (72) for Celtic’s fifth. This massive win takes Celtic to within four points of SPL leader Rangers.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Protests Against Proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill

Christmas came early this year! The HELP University Toastmasters Club had their Christmas meeting this morning. There were Toastmasters from Taman Indrahana, Speecom, Money Mastery, TTDI and UniRazak who came to Wisma HELP to be "merry"! I was one of three evaluators and l was tasked to evaluate Vincent Liew’s advanced speech and which he didn’t do that well. Jon Tan was the General Evaluator and staying true to his reputation, he didn’t mince his words. He identified eight areas of improvement! I am sure club members will act on the suggestions and become better as a Club as a result. I gave this meeting a score of an 8 out of a 10.

A body of concerned Malaysians assembled at the KLCC park to protest the proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011. Dressed in yellow and carrying yellow balloons, the group (including Klang MP Charles Santiago and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng) met at the park at about 2 PM this afternoon and chanted slogans against the proposed Bill. They left approximately 45 minutes later after being told to disperse by the police and KLCC security personnel.

Campaign organizer Wong Chin Huat deemed the Bill unconstitutional.

“We are here to illustrate that we as Malaysians can gather peacefully without disrupting public order,” he said.

In the evening, another group of citizens gathered at Dataran Merdeka for a candlelight vigil at around 8 PM. They then marched to the Bar Council about 200m away and dispersed 30 minutes later.

Who says Malaysians don't know how to protest peacefully?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mirzan Hogging the Headlines Again

Last evening, I went to Extol Corporation Bhd in Wisma UOA Pantai to attend the Kelab Pidato Kuala Lumpur – this is a Malay-speaking Toastmasters club. I must admit that it was a very different experience because everybody spoke in Malay and for the first time, I was lost for words. It has been a long, long time since I spoke Malay in a formal setting – the last time was when I did classroom teaching at Open University Malaysia in 2010 where I used both English and Malay, but predominantly the latter. Yesterday, I felt inadequate and only spoke when I had to. Anyway, I was requested to take on the role of time-keeper and I managed reasonably well. Needless to say, I collected my share of pauses and ‘speech crutches’ although on this particular evening, there was no ‘Ah’ counter.

I actually enjoyed this meeting. Kim Chow was outstanding in her role as the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening (“Pengacara Majlis” in Malay). I also liked the speech by Leong Oi Wah because it touched on the Obedient Wives Club or as she referred to in Malay as “Kelab Isteri Taat Suami” (KITS). And with Hadzrin Shah helming the Table Topics session (or as it is referred to as “Sesi Ucapan Spontan”), you can bet that it will be fun! All in all a good meeting – even if there were only nine of us!

ExxonMobil is selling off their interests in three downstream businesses in Malaysia to Philippine conglomerate, San Miguel Corporation for $610 million.

But this business transaction is not a simple deal as many have thought it to be. If we examine the sale individually – we will note that the two unlisted companies (i.e. ExxonMobil Malaysia Sdn Bhd and ExxonMobil Borneo Sdn Bhd) have much higher valuations than the listed vehicle (i.e. Esso Malaysia Bhd). San Miguel is expected to pay $206.02 million (RM614.25 million @ RM3.50/share for a 65% stake) for the latter as against $403.98 million (RM1,204.46 million) for 100% of the former! I am wondering why this is so? Also the latter operates the 88,000-barrels-capacity-rated Port Dickson refinery plus owning seven storage terminals and a network of 560 petrol service stations across the country. So far, I have no answer to this question!

San Miguel Corp has reportedly said that it will fork out another RM330 million to buy over the remaining shares from minority holders when the deal is completed. The price of RM3.50 per share is 1.07 times its book value but much lower than its market value! Why are minority shareholders getting a lousy deal?

The next question is who helped broker this deal? Yup, that same person whom I have highlighted in yesterday’s posting ("Mahathir’s First Son") – Mirzan Mahathir! He is the face of San Miguel in Malaysia. He was appointed director after acquiring 19.9 percent share in the corporation for RM2.9 billion. And although he has resigned from the board in April 2010, he surfaced as a director of Petron Corporation – an associated company of San Miguel Corp that owns a network of refineries and petrol dealership in Philippines – in timely fashion.

This whole deal sucks big-time right from the beginning! Stafford T Kelly, Vice President of ExxonMobil Corporation had pre-empted everybody by announcing to the whole country that the deal to his preferred partner San Miguel was final even before the Malaysian authorities had a chance to consider the Foreign Investment Committee ruling. Is it wrong to infer that he knew something we didn’t? Guess who is the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry? Yup, Mirzan’s brother, Mokhzani and we all know that he has benefitted greatly from the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry through Kenchana Petroleum. [Mokhzani is Kenchana’s group chief executive officer and was appointed to the Kenchana Petroluem board of directors in 2004]. Did you manage to piece together the jigsaw puzzle? If you did, you need not have to wonder who helped to get the FIC approval so quickly.

Where is the government’s commitment to corporate governance?

And another thing! I bet you Mahathir is in the swim too!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tata's Nano

Last evening, I went to Brickfields to attend the MIA Toastmasters meeting. Although there were just seven of us, it was still a good meeting because speeches and evaluations were superbly satisfying. I particularly enjoyed the Table Topics because the topics chosen (speakers have to pick a color and speak on it) were simple yet they still challenge the speakers. And given that the two pillars of the club, Marcus Chee and Johnny Yong were present, you can bet that the meeting was complaisantly congenial. This meeting earned a 5 out of a 10 score. Oh yes, again, I had to assume the role of General Evaluator because the invited Toastmaster failed to make his appearance.

In 2009, India, amid great fanfare, presented the world’s cheapest motor car, the Nano – costing just 100,000 rupees ($1,979; £1,366). Tata owner Ratan Tata had described it as a "milestone" at the time.

But sales were slow and sluggish. Last December it was reported that sales of the Nano had plunged by 85% compared with a year earlier – refer to webpage, published November 21, 2011. Analysts pointed out that a series of fires in the Nano may have contributed. Tata offered free safety upgrades for the model.

More importantly, they are giving the Nano a makeover.

The 2012 Nano will be available in more colors and have more fancy interiors, as part of an effort to rejuvenate its appeal. The manufacturers also say the car will be more fuel-efficient. The engine will be increased by three horsepower to 38 and the company says the inside of the car will be quieter.

The modifications were made after feedback from Nano owners, Tata Motors' India operations director, PM Talang, is quoted by AFP news agency as saying. Tata is hoping the new model will help to increase sales. The price of the car will remain the same.

Tata Motors which manufactures British luxury cars Jaguar and Land Rover have only now found out that a cheap product does not necessarily equate to consumer acceptance and, therefore, translate to consumer demand.

The Nano was to be the answer to India's aspirational middle class but I think they got their positioning wrong! The middle class won’t be interested in India’s cheapest car. Would middle class Malaysians aspire to own a Viva? I don’t think so!

Well, maybe those who have everything and still have cash to spare may desire the “special edition”! According to BBC News on September 20, 2011, Tata put on display in Mumbai a “bling” version of the Nano model. Thirty craftsmen were involved in its creation, using 80kg of gold, 15kg of silver and countless gemstones. Now wouldn’t you aspire this car? I would.

Mahathir's First Son

India is waging a war against corruption and although it is going to be a long-drawn offensive, it is important to recognize that a serious (“I am being optimistic here!”) start is being made. Malaysians are belatedly finding out that their questionable business practices are drawing attention and they are being assiduously investigated.

The first case involves Ananda Krishnan (left) – a member of Malaysia’s billionaire club – who together with Maxis Communications Bhd director Ralph Marshall are being investigated by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act pertaining to the Aircel-Maxis deal. India’s telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanidhi as well as three companies (Astro, Maxis and Sun TV) were also implicated in the scandalous misdeed.

The second case concerns Mirzan Mahathir (left), first son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and who has been implicated in a deal gone bad. He was named in an Indian court affidavit – the filing by YS Vijayalakshmi, wife of Andhra Pradesh’s late chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy last month in the state's High Court – that is related to investigations in the Kakinada Port development project.

The 2,424-paged document revealed that a Mirzan-led International Seaports Consortium won the deep water seaport expansion venture in 1999. Delays bedeviled the project and because of the stalling, the state exchequer was alleged to have lost about RM33 million between 1999 and 2007.

Mirzan secured the project during the tenure of the state's former chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu. And based on the court documents filed, the High Court has now directed the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe all allegations against Naidu and his associates – including Mirzan.

I can see that Malaysians love doing business through rent-seeking and patronage. They lay money on “who we know” rather than “what we know” to win contracts. They do not really subscribe to good business ethics. They want to make money the quick and easy way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Old Laws in New Guises

I was at the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting yesterday and it was an exhilarative experience. The adjective "great" is best-suited to label the meeting because that is how I would describe the speeches, the evaluations, the fellowship and even the bubur cha cha! It was one of those meetings where everybody had a ball of a time. I liked Chan Weng May’s speech the best although I will readily admit that the other speeches were equally good. I was voted the Best Evaluator, so I don't need to blow my trumpet although the other evaluations were just as helpful and instructive. And I couldn’t help but mention that Chrristine Ngiam fed us authentic Nyonya dessert that tantalized and titillated our tastebuds! General Evaluator Subramaniam was correct when he said we didn’t need a Humor Master because the meeting itself was a coursing cascade of laughter. The humor was overflowing throughout. All in all, I enjoyed the meeting so much that I am giving it a score of nine out of a ten!

Yesterday’s newspapers said it all. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein declared on Monday that provisions for detention without trial will be retained in laws which will replace the Internal Security Act, supposedly in March 2012. This is disappointing news because repealing the ISA has become pointless. Shouldn’t we observe basic human rights? Why did Najib talk about giving Malaysians more freedom when we can still be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile? Shouldn’t we be entitled to fair and public hearings? Shouldn’t we be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Shouldn’t there be judicial scrutiny? The ISA is merely changing one garb for another!

And today’s papers highlighted the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 which is aimed at letting citizens exercise their right to organize or participate in assemblies peaceably. But don’t be fooled by the ‘assembly’ descriptor for it contains a host of restrictions and controls that – although it does away with the requirement to apply for a police permit to organize public assemblies – it is still oppressive and repressive in nature that DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said “it should have been called Illegal Assembly Bill” (The Sun, November 23, 2011, p 06). In fact, this bill stops people from assembling almost everywhere, from dams, reservoirs, water treatment plants, petrol stations, airports, public transport terminals, bridges, houses of worship and even schools and kindergartens. Be warned! This bill carries stricter and heavier penalties.

So Najib, where is this democracy that you are talking about? LIAR!!!

Najib's Second Son

In Monday’s announcement on Bursa’s website and also reported in The Edge Financial Daily yesterday, twenty-eight year old Nazifuddin Najib (left) – the second son of Prime Minister Najib Razak from his first wife Tengku Puteri Zainah Tengku Eskandar – has resigned as non-executive director of Harvest Court Industries Bhd as part of the company’s ‘change in boardroom’. This company is just a little known timber firm that became Bursa Saham’s top performer after reports that the son of the prime minister was brought into the said company. It sure didn’t make any sense at all, did it? Aiyah, I forgot – this is Malaysia and it involves Najib, that is obvious!

Nazifuddin and Harvest Court had been the talk of the town after it was first reported that the company’s share price rose to an 11-year high following his appointment to its board of directors on October 28, 2011. The share price hit RM2.14 last week, which was 2,575 percent more than the 8 sen registered in October – this fact was already reported in webpage, posted November 21, 2011).

And I discovered this one reliable blog (blogpage, posted November 17, 2011) that informs Harvest Court’s share price had skyrocketed 28 times or 2,740 percent over seven weeks and gained a whopping RM371.2 million in market capitalization in the process before the trading curbs were imposed.

According to Business Times today, Nazifuddin holds nearly four million Harvest Court shares while his business partner Raymond Chan Boon Siew (left) reportedly controls about 15.7 percent of the loss-making company. Even after the former has stepped down, Nazifuddin is still in cahoots with Chan because he is chairperson of a string of companies, including 1Green Enviro Sdn Bhd and Sagajuta (Sabah) Sdn Bhd. Of course, it comes as no surprise that Chan is the managing director of these two companies.

Maybe I should go into politics and join BN! There are rich pickings for politicians and their families, allies and business associates because in Malaysia, politics guarantees wealth.

Look at how lucky Shahrizat’s children are. Look at how lucky Najib’s son is. And we only read about those who did not escape the radar. In truth, it is never about luck – all you need to do is to secure yourself to BN and then you can decide how rich you want to be. I regret to say that nearly 50 percent of ordinary Malaysians are so stupid – still blindly believing in BN. People don’t realize that they will only get the discarded fruits that lie unwanted on the ground while the smart politicians and their business cronies will be diligently plucking the low-hanging fruits, the ripe and juicy ones strictly for themselves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Given the Sack Because of Facebook

We are all too familiar with Facebook – it is a popular platform of unprecedented scale and scope connecting just about everybody and everything. It is the rage because users can gripe, grouch and grumble as well as use it to send and receive updates and information – news, gossip, hearsay, and chat.

And so, I came across this intriguing news story (Webpage, published September 07, 2011) when I was doing research on HRM issues. It is Facebook-related and it concerns how organizations view the conversations we have on this social networking site.

Anyway, in a first-of-its-kind decision, a National Labor Relations Board judge has ruled a New York nonprofit, i.e. Hispanics United of Buffalo – that provides social services to low-income clients – must re-hire five employees who were given their marching orders after complaining about their jobs on Facebook.

It all began on a Saturday morning, October 09, 2010, when one unhappy employee posted a comment to Facebook: "[A co-worker] feels that we don't help our clients enough at HUB. I about had it! My fellow co-workers: how do u feel?"

At 10:19 a.m., five minutes after the first post post, another co-worker posted: "What the f... Try doing my job; I have five programs."

According to documents sighted, a flurry of posts followed with co-workers defending their job performance, but criticizing working conditions, including workload and staffing issues. Within days, the Buffalo director of Hispanics United gave five employees on the thread the boot, alleging that their comments constituted harassment of the employee identified in the initial post. (The director spared her secretary, who also posted on the thread).

One of the five decided not to take this termination sitting down and took the complaint to the NLRB regional office. The latter called for a hearing based on the claim that Hispanics United had been "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of rights" guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Administrative Law Judge Arthur J Amchan said the employees' off-hours bitching about their working conditions was protected by the National Labor Relations Act – that theirs was a conversation among co-workers about the terms and conditions of employment, and that their conduct did not forfeit their protection under the law.

And so he instructed the nonprofit to reinstate the sacked employees and issue back pay because they were fired illegally. He further ordered Hispanics United to post a notice in Buffalo about employee rights under the Act.

Sure, Hispanics United has the right to appeal the decision to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington. But I am pleased to note that an individual’s right to self-expression is jealously guarded in the said country.

NFC Sponsors Umrah

Last evening, I was at the MAS Melor Toastmasters meeting where I was the Table Topics Evaluator. It was well-attended for a change and I was happy to see familiar faces like Jamilah Khan, Emil Anthony, Foong Weng Tuck and Chan Siew Peng.

And later I was at the 3rd Mile Square in Old Klang Road to attend the Money & You Toastmasters meeting. Although the meeting was somewhat sedate, enthusiasm still managed to sneak into the meeting room. I really did enjoy all the speeches, but Jo-Yee Cheong impressed because her delivery was delightfully riveting. And she had peppered her speech with humor which made it very enticing. By the way, I was voted the Best Table Topics Speaker because I too impressed!

Both meetings earned a comfortable score of 6 out of 10 points. A productive evening.

The scandal-tainted NFC continues to be dogged by a laundry list of allegations of corruption and fund misappropriation. This morning I read in The Sun (p 06) that
NFC executive chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail, Shahrizat’s husband, had ordered payment of RM31,580 from the NFC’s coffers to be made for his and his son Wan Shahinur Izran Mohamad Salleh’s haj pilgrimage in 2010. If this is true, their sins will only multiply – not that they care! But the image of Islam suffers.

Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution also raised the issue about the dubious transactions between the NFC and the National Meat and Livestocks Corporation and Real Food Company – both the NMLC and RFC are majority owned by Mohamad Salleh and his children Izran and Izmir. According to him, financial records showed that Singapore-based firms Global Biofuture Pte Ltd and Meatworks Singapore Pte Ltd, both of which are also owned by Shahrizat’s family, currently have debts with the RFC. As at June 2010, Global Biofuture, a firm in the food and fuel business, owed RFC RM939,495 and Meatworks, a luxury restaurant chain, was found to be owing RFC RM2,416,815.

Saifuddin added: “PKR believes that a sum of money was channelled from the RM250 million loan meant for NFC to these personal companies of Shahrizat’s family, including to set up Global Biofuture in Singapore”.

Now only do I painfully realize the extent of wealth that our Malaysian ministers and their family members have acquired at the people’s expense. To think that Malaysians toiled so that these BN politicians can amass bounty that rightfully belongs to us and that was stolen right under our very noses! I say, it is time that the guilty parties are thrown into jail! In Malaysia, they are the 1%!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shampoo Wonder

Photo: Andrea Ricordi/Spumador/

Wow, an island having a shampoo! Photographer Andrea Ricordi captured this photo of the Faroe Islands - an archipelago of eighteen islands that lies northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway.

“The small island with a cap of clouds is called Litla Dimun,” says Ricordi, who saw the photo go viral after it was posted online via the social news site, Reddit. “It was early morning and the sky was unusually clean except the stubborn clouds that hid the top of the island” (Webpage, accessed November 21, 2011).

Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez crowned a sweeping passing move (33) to give the Reds their first goal in this EPL game against Chelsea but substitute Daniel Sturridge equalised in the 55th minute.

Glen Johnson made his spectacular intervention against his former club just as the points looked set to be shared, taking Charlie Adam's pass in his stride before cutting through the hosts' defence from the right-hand side to beat Chelsea goalie Petr Cech (87).

Villas-Boas and Kenny Dalglish left £85m of striking talent on the bench as £50m Fernando Torres missed out on the chance to start against his former club and Andy Carroll was excluded from Liverpool's starting line-up. They only made late appearances, with Torres introduced (84) in a vain attempt to win the game for Chelsea and Carroll emerging (89) as Liverpool tried to ensure they would hang on to their lead – although this didn’t change anything.

But I am really glad that Liverpool won 2-1!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hollywood's Leading "Women"

Exactly nine days ago, I uploaded the videos of the SUBS vaudeville in my blog here. All of us at SUBS had a hearty laugh at the costumes that some of us donned. I thought it’ll be a good idea to put together a gallery of some of Hollywood’s leading men who wore dresses and put on make-up too for memorable movie roles:

Michael Caine as Bobbi in "Dressed to Kill."

Dustin Hoffman as Dorthy Michaels in "Tootsie."

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire in "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Tony Curtis as Josephine and Jack Lemmon as Daphne in "Some Like it Hot”

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Terence Stamp as Bernadette, Guy Pearce as Felicia and Hugo Weaving as Mitzi in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

Wesley Snipes as Noxeema, John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi and Patrick Swayze as Vida in "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar."

Marlon Wayans as Marcus Copeland and Shawn Wayans as Kevin Copeland in "White Chicks."

Adam S
andler as Jill in "Jack and Jill."

And do check out Victor in “Supergirl” (photos in my blog posting dated October 08, 2011 and “Pussycat Balls’ (video clip and photos in blog postings dated November 07, 2009 and November 01, 2009 respectively) – in addition to the video clip (i.e. Part 2) in my blog posting dated November 11, 2011. Even if you already have, check them out again!
And laugh out loud!!

Police Brutality

Image credit: Jon Tayler

NYPD cracked down on OWS protesters near the New York Stock Exchange on the November 17 Day of Action in NYC. The above photo is yet another example of police brutality.

Image credit: Wayne Tilcock of

At the University of California at Davis on Friday, police again showcased their viciousness. The calm and collected manner in which Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis Police walked down a line of protestors seated quietly on the ground in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience and pepper-sprayed them all at very close range is both ruthless and bestial. It was as if he was dousing a row of bugs with insecticide.

Ten people in this particular scene were arrested, nine of whom were current UC Davis students. At least one woman was reported to have been taken away in an ambulance with chemical burns.

Looks like the police have embraced fascism and become the defenders of the 1%. There is no option but to dismantle the global financial system that is already plagued by avarice and rapacity. We must curb the financiers, bankers and the others who are exploiting the 99%.

In the SPL, Anothony Stokes scored two second-half goals to give Celtic victory against Inverness on Saturday. The first goal came when Stokes finished off a neat passing move involving James Forrest and Gary Hooper (61). And the second goal came when the striker volleyed in from an acute angle (72) to wrap up the points.

Burlesque-themed Dinner

On Saturday, I was at the MIMKL Toastmasters Club meeting to deliver my tenth speech for my CC manual – my fifth round. It was a good speech (titled “Dare to Lose”) although I didn’t have much time to rehearse. I have my usual excuse! I didn’t have time. I gave Yeow Honn the speech title on late Thursday morning. I typed my first draft on Friday afternoon. I made a major revision on Saturday morning. I delivered it on the same day. I am claiming it was a good speech because I did win the Best Assignment Speaker ribbon for my effort. Jamilah Samian was my evaluator and she gave a thorough evaluation that also had two pointers for improvement. It was a good meeting and I would give it a score of an 8 out of a 10.

And Sunway University’s School of Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure Management organized a Burlesque-themed dinner. Their students created a flamboyant dining experience accompanied by a song-and-dance show that was entertaining: