Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Home-grown Terrorists

I must have missed this news article but it would seem that Malaysia has finally seen fit to establish the Special Task Force (Operations and Counter Terrorism) – set up since March 01, 2009 – and that The Star (July 10, 2013, p 08) carried the report that warned of a growing trend by home-grown extremists who took their causes to conflict zones abroad. Anyway, according to task force director Comm Mohamad Fuzi Harun, at least ten international terrorist groups were known to have carried out their operations in Malaysia since September 11, 2001. Among them were Al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), Darul Islam, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Hezbollah, Abu Sayyaf Groups and Tandzim al Qaeda. And ten Malaysians had been arrested for terrorism offenses outside Malaysia between 2008 and 2012 – four in Thailand, one in Indonesia and two in Syria. [I'm sorry, I am not even sure which of the two sets of figures are correct; both were published in the said newspaper. So is the final tally 10 or 7?]. He also added that police had nabbed 230 key militant figures since December 2001. This is indeed extremely worrying!

An EU-backed probe has named Indonesia and India as being the two biggest villains in the lucrative business of shark-hunting! The two countries account for more than a fifth of global shark catches, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

They head the list of 20 countries that together account for nearly 80% of total shark catch reported between 2002 and 2011.The others, in descending order, are Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, USA, MALAYSIA, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Yemen.

Shark numbers have been decimated by overfishing, caused in great part by a demand for shark fins in China.

TRAFFIC – an alliance between green group WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – said it had identified other countries that were major hubs for the trade in shark meat or shark parts.They include Bangladesh, Maldives, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates as exporters of shark fins, and Namibia, South Africa, Panama and Uruguay as exporters of shark meat.

I am glad I have already given up on shark’s fin soup. Have you?

Homosexual Orientation is Not Sinful

Pope Francis (left) has correctly said gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society. It is refreshing to hear him say that homosexual orientation is not sinful. 

As he puts it: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge them?"

Can we, please, follow his example?

This evening, I ventured into 'enemy territory'the MCA Petaling Jaya Selatan office!  I was there for a non-political reason. 

I was attending the Money Mastery Toastmasters meeting. I was privileged to evaluate Ken Chan who was "presenting the results” of his HPL (High Performance Leadership) project. I also took part in Table Topics. 

[All those who took part in this impromptu speaking session were given a 1Malaysia lapel pin (left pic)but with all due respect to the Table Topics Master who gave it away, I will not keep it. I don't buy Najib Razak's 1Malaysia rhetoric!]. 

Anyway, I was humbled when I was voted Best Evaluator and Best Table Topics Speaker. This meeting scored a 4 over 10 and only because it started five minutes late and finished nine minutes behind time.  Tsk, tsk, tsk! Toastmasters are tardy about time!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Apple Loses its Magic

Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone has sold well compared with Apple's iPhone 5. Photo: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Apple has lost its status as the world's most profitable maker of mobile phones, with strong demand for the Galaxy handsets pushing Samsung Electronics into the financial lead for the first time.

Korea’s Suwon-based company reported a record quarterly profit boosted by growing smartphone sales and a surge in earnings at its display panel division. Net profit was 7.8 trillion won ($7 billion; £4.5 billion) in the April to June quarter, a 50% jump from a year ago. 

Compare this with Apple which made an estimated $3.2 billion (£2.1 billion) profit from iPhone sales in the second quarter of 2013, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics, a marked drop from $4.6 billion in 2012.

The success of Samsung’s smartphone business has seen the company displace Nokia as the world's biggest mobile phone maker. Its market share in the sector has risen sharply. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Samsung accounts for almost 95% of the Android smartphone sector's profits.

Of course, critics may say that this is nothing great really since Apple makes only a few devices compared to Samsung’s constant flood of new smartphones in different formats, but it does indicate that Apple will have to work some magic into their next iPhone and iPad to go back to (and stay at) the top again.

However, the Korean multinational warned that the pace of growth of the smartphone business, a key driver of its recent success, may slow down.

And interestingly, the next growth chapter will move away from the developed markets and that itself, can be disadvantageous for Apple.

After five years of explosive expansion, sales of high-end smartphones have now hit a plateau and the flourishing $2 trillion (RM6.35 trillion) industry – telecom carriers, handset makers and content providers – is buckling up for a bumpier ride as growth shifts to emerging markets, primarily in Asia. I predict prices will continue to slide. Then perhaps, I will finally get myself a smartphone too.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Classified Information

The Pentagon has this list of terror groups that the USA believes itself to be at war with. They say that they cannot however release the names on that document because the information could be used by those same groups to boast about the fact that America takes them seriously, and thus drum up recruits! In other words, the information is classified!

US President Barack Obama had said again and again that his country is at war with "Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces." And at a May 2013 hearing, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat-Michigan, in fact, asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon did respond – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, Levin's spokesperson would only say that the department’s “answer included the information requested.” But a Pentagon spokesperson told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

Talk about transparency!

I think it is scandalous that Arsenal is putting a bid of £40 million plus £1 for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (above photo). Brendon Rodgers seems to be quite relaxed about the overture. I hope he is not planning to let Suarez go although it may be tempting. Liverpool stands to make a significant profit on the outlay since Suarez was acquired at £22.7 million from Ajax Amsterdam just three years ago.

Bruce Lee, The Legend

Bruce Lee statue at the Avenue of Stars on the Hong Kong waterfront. Photo by Rasheeda Bhagat

It’s been 40 years since the death of martial artist Bruce Lee. But even today, he had a legion of fans around the world.

Bruce Lee started as a teenage street fighter to become a twentieth century phenomenon in just over a decade. Sadly, he died at the peak of his career – on July 20, to be precise – aged just 32.

And this year, there is heated debate in Hong Kong – where Lee made his name – on why the government has not properly honored one of its most famous stars. In fact, it was proposed that a permanent museum be established in his honor. And many citizens are asking why the government could not even resolve the dispute with the present owner of Lee’s house in order to turn it into a Bruce Lee museum.

He’s a legend for a reason. Check out this ‘Top 10 Bruce Lee Moments’ video:

For those who have been following the Bradley Manning trial, it is noteworthy to mention here that in closing arguments, US government lawyers have portrayed him as 'a glory-seeking traitor, not a whistleblower' who set out to harm the US of A.

The verdict is due to be delivered on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, at least 40 cities around the globe including London, Frankfurt and Brussels have rallied in support of Manning:

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Image credit: Flikr account, savebradley

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Litter Killer

Midway Island, North Pacific Ocean is roughly "midway" between California, USA and East Asia, just east of the International Date Line. It is a tiny speck of land in the middle of nowhere. 

And yet the video shows albatrosses dying – the consequence of our reckless habit of throwing unwanted stuff into the sea. 

Will we ever learn to be more responsible? Please stop the killings Stop littering!

Yesterday morning, I went to the twenty-first floor of the AMODA Building in KL’s Jalan Imbi to attend the Premier Advanced Toastmasters meeting.

It was well-attended and as always, it was great to see familiar faces Bernard Louis, Jackie Loi, Eu Choi San, Cheah Tong Kim to name a few. Good speeches but even better evaluations. An 8 over 10 for this meeting!

View from the twenty-first floor, AMODA Building





Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tintillating Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga is always garbed in all kinds of bizarre and extravagant ensembles which never fail to surprise, stun and shock. This time around, the 27-year old is proving to be even more titillating in her latest photo shoot, which sees her stripping nude for V Magazine. Look out for the forthcoming September issue!

On Thursday, blogger couple Alvin Tan, 25, and Vivian Lee, 24, who have been in the news for their cyber-activities have been granted bail of RM30,000 each, with conditions attached. Case management is set for August 23, 2013.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Angry Parents Confront Kamalanathan

Photos by Kamal Sellehuddin

Kamalanathan (left, in dark suit) tries to placate angry parents at SK Seri Pristana on July 24, 2013. SUNPIX by Adib Rawi Yahya

On Wednesday, parents, protestors, politicians, reporters, Education Ministry bigwigs and NGOs converged at SK Seri Pristana, all eager to check out the "smelly venue for school recess" – read my blogpost two days ago. Even Deputy Education Minister II, P Kamalanathan, was compelled to visit the errant school twice in as many days. But this ‘hand-kissing’ politician tried vainly to brush off the parents' fury. His weak explanations did not satisfy anybody – there were "inconsistencies and self-contradictions in facts and events" surrounding the issue of non-Muslim primary school students being forced to eat their lunch in a washroom during ramadhan. Obviously he wasn’t too bothered about getting to the bottom of this brouhaha.

Then the school authorities put on a show for everybody to see – they “berbuka puasa” (break fast) at the same venue:

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And you might be forgiven if you assume the school was under a terrorist threat. Heavily armed police officers guarded the premise. Ptui! If this is not an overreaction, I don’t know what is!

Photo by Kamal Sellehuddin

On Thursday, the school shut down its makeshift dining room and re-opened the canteen! And it was all because of an outcry from one parent which snowballed into an artillery of protests.

Adrian Yeo Chartered Accountants cancelled their Toastmasters meeting yesterday and I went to the IEM Toastmasters meeting instead. I took part in Table Topics and I was even voted Best Table Topics speaker. I enjoyed the project speeches and evaluations too. This meeting scores a 7 over 10.