Saturday, August 31, 2013

LUCT's Generosity with Honorary Degrees

On Tuesday, visiting South African President Jacob Zuma (left) was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanity from Malaysia’s Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

That was also the same day his country’s highest court ruled on a case about the right to vote him out of office for being a bad leader. Already many South Africans considered the “obscene” spending on Nkandla – R270 million was spent during tough economic times to build Zuma’s ‘palace’ at Nkandla – and other aspects of Zuma’s presidency indefensible, e.g. rampant corruption and the abuse of public funds for personal gain. In many ways, South Africa is very much like Malaysia.

Anyway, a university that gives out honorary degrees to personalities whose supposedly larger-than-life achievements are suspect, cheapens itself to the point where the paper the degrees are printed on are probably worth even less than the cost of toilet paper.

This is the university that also awarded honorary degrees to unsavory Malaysians. You and I know them very well. Najib Abdul Razak was conferred the Honorary Doctorate of Social Transformation in 2008. Mahathir Mohamad received his Honorary Doctorate of Humanity in 2009. And then it was Rosmah Mansor’s turn – in 2011, she was presented with the Honorary Doctorate of Innovation in Human Capacity Development.

My 2013 progress report on my Toastmastering activities after eight months – I have now attended 145 regular meetings at 59 different Toastmasters clubs. This is a measure of my commitment and dedication to Toastmasters!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Merdeka 2013

Image credit:

I don’t know about you but this year’s Merdeka appears quiet and subdued. A BN government is still entrenched in power and unfortunately, we have a Prime Minister who is clueless. And sure, things are not looking that great in the country at the moment. Still I believe Malaysians are hopeful and I remain optimistic.

This Petronas commercial to celebrate Merdeka (August 31) and Malaysia Day (September 16) says a lot about you and I, about  us, about Malaysians – that we are united by the same values, aspirations and dreams. We are Malaysians after all!

UK MPs Reject Military Action Against Syria

Summoned back to debate the Syrian exigency on Thursday, the UK House of Commons distinguished itself. This is an important lesson about how the legislature is holding the executive to account and rightly so. (Malaysian parliamentarians can learn from this!). The coalition Tory-Lib Dem government was prevented, by a remarkable 285 votes to 272, from mounting a premature and foolish attack on Syria. As The Guardian editorial correctly said: “Parliament, so often sneered at, did its job when it mattered”! 

I was not surprised that British MPs are wary of getting tangled in other countries’ wars. The gaping wounds from the Iraqi and Afghan debacles have not even started to heal.

During the eight-hour debate, the government’s case to strike at Syria had been found wanting. Some MPs wanted more intelligence to be published before making a decision, others wanted a clearer military strategy. A number simply did not want to be involved in "mission creep" that would drag Britain further into a war in the Middle East. And the outcome was that thirty nine coalition MPs voted against their own leaders. 

Early estimates suggested 30 Tories rebelled and another 31 did not vote, while nine Liberal Democrats voted no and 14 did not vote, despite a compulsory three-line whip to vote with the coalition. This led to the government defeat by just 13 votes.

The US of A is isolated and President Barack Obama must decide if his country would go it alone. The UK is not taking up the deputy sheriff role this time around.

Yesterday, I was at the IEM Toastmasters meeting. It was a good meeting because there were five speeches in all including three practice speeches delivered by the club Humorous Speech contest winners. 

Shuhaimi Baba Threatens

Shuhaimi Baba, the Tanda Putera director has issued an ultimatum: “Show Tanda Putera or risk cancellation of licenses”! She pointedly told cinema operators that they cannot cancel the screening without her permission or that of the National Film Corporation Malaysia (Finas) – according to The Star's Malay news portal mStar Online. 

According to the Finas website, the compulsory screening scheme mandates that films under this scheme must be screened in the biggest hall of every cinema for 14 consecutive days. But cinemas could screen the film in a smaller hall if certain criteria are met, for example, if the viewers in the initial hall were less than 30 percent of its total sitting capacity for the first four consecutive days of its screening. A cinema could also withdraw the film from screening if the same criteria were met, but a report must be submitted to Finas to justify this decision.

Films that qualify to be on the scheme are local films or films made by joint-venture companies where Malaysian citizens are the largest shareholders.

It is said that the above warning was given because the Penang state government had issued an advisory that cinemas in the state do not screen the film, which opposition leaders claim distorted history.

Still, I think that is a wrong move by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (left) because it gives too much credit to the film in the first place. 

Besides, the state's role is not to decide what movies we watch, music we hear or books we read – but it has a duty to provide space for diverse perspectives. Only then can we strive to become a better society.

Liverpool saw off Notts County in the Capital One Cup with a hard-fought 4-2 win on Tuesday. The Reds opened the scoring in the fourth minute through a fine solo effort from Raheem Sterling. Daniel Sturridge then made the most of a defense-splitting pass from Steven Gerrard to put Liverpool 2-0 up in the 29th.

But Notts County replied with a headed goal in the 62nd minute from Yoann Arquin. And again, when they snatched an equalizer through substitute Adam Coombes with six minutes of normal time remaining.

Sturridge stroked in his second goal of the night in the 105th minute and Jordan Henderson cut through the Notts County defense to wrap up the win in the 110th minute.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yellow Duck Gets Roasted

A 16.5 meter-tall (54-feet) inflatable “Rubber Duck” turned Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour into a bathtub on May 02, 2013. Rave reviews greeted its arrival.

Now Shanghai has served up a "roasted" version of Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman’s beloved yellow Duck, complete with drumsticks and crispy brown skin. It was unveiled on the Huangpu River, which forms its waterfront Bund district.

"The design process took place during Shanghai's scorching hot summer days, so we just thought: 'Let's roast it'," designer Han Beishi told AFP.

Shanghai's duck is actually a working ferry boat which state media reported Tuesday will carry passengers and host cultural performances including poetry reading.

Celtic successfully qualified for the Champions League group stage after a dramatic 3-2 aggregate win over Shakhter Karagandy. It took an agonizingly long 45 minutes before Kris Commons gathered from Georgios Samaras and sent a powerful shot past goalkeeper Alexandr Mokin from 25 yards. And then three minutes after the break, Samaras scored a second goal for battling Celtic. And Glaswegians (including I) erupted into joyful ecstasy when Anthony Stokes set up James Forrest to fire home (90) for a deserved, if nervy, 3-0 win.

Victory took Celtic, who reached the last 16 last season, into the group stages for the second year running! 

The SK Seri Pristana Saga Continues

Still remember the SK Seri Pristana issue? It is still hogging the limelight. The primary school in Sungai Buloh landed in the limelight after photographs showing non-Muslim students eating in the shower room emerged on Facebook. 

On Monday, a parent V Kumancan whose child attends the school had allegedly threatened the school headmaster, Mohd Nasir Mohd Noor, who then reported to the police. He was promptly arrested and released on bail, and is expected to be charged with criminal intimidation on Sept 09, 2013. 

Police action was speedy and swift. Why don’t they show the same zeal and zest when Guneswari Kelly lodged a police report that she had received death and kidnap threats against herself and her daughter, who used to attend the school before the shower canteen incident came to light?

Previously, Kumancan had also lodged a police report against Mohd Nasir for allowing an unidentified man to take photographs of his daughter in school. Not only that but some parents are alleging that their children were questioned by police without parental consent. The parents said some of the children were traumatized. They cry at the sight of police personnel and now refuse to go to school, prompting the parents to apply to transfer their children out.

Why should this be the case? There are laws which protect the rights of minors. In fact, the headmaster or the senior assistant should have contacted the parents upon being informed or discovering that the police were going to speak to the children.

Anyway, parents of ten pupils want out from SK Seri Pristana. Thus far, three have already been transferred while seven other transfers are pending.

But wait, get this! On Tuesday, Sungai Buloh district police chief Junaidi Bujang had insisted that "no instructions" were given to question the children.

"There is no such thing. There was never any instruction on my part. I did not ask any officer to do so. In any case, what would the children know?" he had told Malaysiakini when he was asked about the probing.

Just one day later, the police admitted to querying the pupils, but said they were not taking official statements from them nor were the children harassed. Junaidi said they were "just talking to the students" to ask them more about the shower room used as a makeshift canteen. And he challenged the parents that if the children were "frightened" as claimed, then they should lodge a police report on the matter!

If I may comment, the police are bumbling fools!

I was in Bukit Jalil yesterday for the AFC Toastmasters Club Humorous Speech & Speech Evaluation Contests. There were six and seven contestants in the respective categories. I only managed to be first runner-up in the Humorous Speech Contest, losing to a worthy opponent, Lee Chen Choon (second photo middle). As for the Speech Evaluation Contest, the judges did not deem me good enough and so I wasn’t placed. I suppose 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! After all, I did win the MIMKL and Taman Indrahana contests. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New York Sues Trump University

It seems that very few people were actually shocked to know that “Trump University” has been sued by the New York State attorney general’s office for illegal business practices. The suit seeks $40 million in restitution and accuses Trump and his staff of running an unlicensed educational institution and making false claims about its course offerings. That’s a polite way of saying that “Trump University” is nothing more than a money-making scam, a fraud, a deception. 

According to complaints from students, the “online university” mostly operated as a series of marketing pitches, with “upsells” at every stage. The “school” would lure people in with the promise of a free 90-minute seminar about real estate investing that, according to the lawsuit, “served as a sales pitch for a three-day seminar costing $1,495.” This three-day seminar was itself “an upsell,” the lawsuit said, for increasingly costly “Trump Elite” packages (supposedly personal mentorship programs) costing between $10,000 to $35,000 to get individual instruction until they make their first real estate deal. The lawsuit charges that the program failed to deliver on its promises and in some cases did not stop billing students even after their courses had ended.

The suit also accused the organization of false advertising, claiming that Trump had personally hand-picked the instructors and designed the curriculum; in reality, the lawsuit alleges, Trump’s involvement was mostly a matter of putting his name on the scheme. But what is even more bizarre was that students were misled into thinking they would meet the man himself! Instead they were treated to the opportunity to have their photo taken with a life-sized picture of Trump!

This is marketing that is unethical and very wrong. Trump University, with Donald Trump’s knowledge and participation, relied on Trump’s name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand.

Of course, the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star responded to the above by declaring that the lawsuit was false and politically motivated. He even lashed out at Attorney General Eric Schneiderman by saying the latter went after him because Trump had refused to give him a campaign contribution!

Trump’s attorney Michael D Cohen told The Associated Press on Saturday that Trump and his university never defrauded anyone. He even said that Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program and said 98 percent of students in a survey termed the program "excellent"!

Postscript: The New York Education Department had told Trump to change the name of his enterprise years ago, saying it lacked a license and didn't meet the legal definitions of a university, and in 2011, it was renamed the “Trump Entrepreneur Institute” which means as an institute, it can pretty much do any damn thing it pleases.

I continue with my monthly capture of photos of the Sunway University academic building taken this morning: 

MCA Admits to GE13 Snafu

I suppose it’s better late than never. Chinese-only party MCA has admitted that its explicit method of opposing PAS through scare tactics actually worked against it. MCA Youth chief Wee Ka Siong (left) confessed in an interview with Free Malaysia Today and published on August 26, 2013 that hudud is not a concern and the Chinese are not afraid of it. 

Therefore, the strategy of hammering home the point that “DAP is PAS” and “A vote for DAP is a vote for hudud” backfired on the MCA, to the point that the party was almost annihilated in GE13 – managing to win only 19 out of the 127 Parliament and state seats it contested. 

Last evening I had participated in the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters Club Humorous Speech & Speech Evaluation Contests. I was one of six contestants for the former and one of nine contestants for the latter. And yes, I was the champ for both contests.

It was good to see three Sunway University Toastmasters (i.e. Nawal Lyana, Mirosha Somasundram and Sharif Ahmed) dropping in to watch the "performances". There was much to learn.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nicol David on August Man Malaysia Cover

Malaysian squash player Nicol David shows a different side of her on this month’s cover of August Man Malaysia! There is supposedly a 10-page spread that features the 30-year old looking gorgeous and glamorous in a seductive series of high-fashion looks, ranging from Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, and accessorized with Cartier, Killer Dolce and Jimmy Choo. 

Below check out the mag cover that portrays David in a Dior tuxedo jacket and pants: 

The magazine is currently out on newsstands and I managed to get a copy at the Sunway University bookshop. It's only RM10!

Also, check out an upcoming event of the Sunway University Toastmasters Club that is not to be missed: 

The Operating Room of the Future

Have you heard of a company called Insightec, the pioneer and global leader in MR guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery (MRgFUS)? InSightec developed ExAblate, a product which pioneers the use of MRgFUS, and provides a personalized non-invasive treatment that can replace invasive procedures and offer therapeutic alternatives to millions of patients with serious diseases around the globe. 

Below are the interviews with Technion alumni Dr. Kobi Vortman, Founder and President as well as with Baruch Avruch, Vice President of Operations from InSightec:

This procedure provides these benefits: (1) Short recovery time, fast symptom relief, (2) No incisions, scars, post-operative complications or long-term sequelae, (3) No hospitalization, usually one session treatment, (4) Uses non-ionizing radiation, and (5) Low level of adverse event. 

The operating room of the future is here and we must thank the Israelis for it!

I was at the Sime Darby Healthcare Toastmasters meeting where I took on two roles – as Humor Master and Evaluator for CC speech #5. There were just ten of us and overall the quality of the speeches and evaluations – maybe with one exception – leaves much to be desired. The meeting also started ten minutes late but it finished in under an hour. A whirlwind of a meeting. Score: 1 over 10.