Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ebola: Deaths Across 3 Countries

Medical staff wear rubber gloves that must be regularly disinfected. Photographer: Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images

Health specialists in an isolation ward for Ebola-infected patients at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Guéckédou, southern Guinea. Image by: Seyllou / AFP

Image credit:,91144


The Ebola crisis in West Africa doesn’t look like it is under control; it continues to ravage countries, particularly Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Since March 2014, the death toll has reached 672, according to UN figures (BBC News, July 30, 2014).
Liberia is especially hard-hit. The BBC's West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says treatment facilities have reportedly been overwhelmed in the Liberian capital Monrovia. Some wards are so full that health workers are compelled to treat some patients in their homes.
Already, the government are closing down schools across the country. Some communities would be placed under quarantine as well. The Liberian football association cancelled games as fears grow of the spread of the Ebola virus. 
Tomorrow has been declared a non-working day – this is to permit for the disinfection of all public facilities. All non-essential government workers will be sent home for 30 days and the army is being deployed to enforce the measures.
Even the US Peace Corps said it was withdrawing 340 volunteers from the three countries because of Ebola. In fact, two of its volunteers had been isolated after being exposed to someone who later died from the virus.
Ebola is ruthless and it has a fatality rate of at least 60%. The disease has no known cure and no vaccine. It is the symptoms of Ebola that cause death. But if the patient can be kept alive long enough to develop antibodies in his/her system, he/she may survive the infection. Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery.
Liberia's Health Minister Walter Gwenigale wasn’t trying to be funny when he said on March 31, 2014 that people should abstain from sex because the virus could spread via bodily fluids.
Not just sex, mind you. Funerals are being shunned as a result of a fear of contagion by someone who has had contact with a corpse.
And the traditional handshake is no longer a part of salutations in Guinea as people are now really terrified of getting Ebola. An infected person, who may not show symptoms for up to 21 days, can pass on the disease through direct contact.
The outbreak – the world's deadliest to date – was first reported in Guinea in February before it spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Other countries are not taking chances. Ivory Coast barred buses from Liberia and Guinea. Brazil-based Vale SA (VALE5), the world’s biggest iron-ore producer, sent foreign workers in Guinea back to their homes in April. Senegal even closed its land borders with Guinea. And Ethiopia and Kenya have begun screening those who are arriving from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 
Airlines are taking precautions too. Air Mauritania is said to be refusing to fly Guinean passengers in transit in Dakar, Senegal’s capital to Conakry, Guinea’s capital on the grounds of the Ebola outbreak. Togo-based Asky Airlines suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone – this followed the death of one of its passengers from the virus after he flew from Liberia to Nigeria via the Togolese capital, Lomé. And Nigerian carrier Arik has ceased direct flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Doctors Without Borders said the way the virus has spread is unlike any previous Ebola outbreaks, raising alarm among health workers.
"Ebola is usually a localized, rural disease, but this outbreak has a broad geographic spread and is reaching cities too," wrote GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Tristan McConnell, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
So folks, put off that trip to West Africa until at a later date.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Air Travel is Still Safe

MH17 wreckage – still burning. Reuters, July 17, 2014 

The tail section of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 is pictured as rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage the morning after it crashed near the airport at Magong on the Penghu island chain. Photo credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images


Wreckage from Air Algérie flight AH5017 at the crash site, where the second black box was found. Photograph: SiaKambou/AFP/Getty Images 

Aisha Gani wrote on air travel in UK’s The Guardian on July 24, 2014. Or more precisely, she wrote that statistically-speaking, air travel is still safe. Especially in the light of four major disasters this year – two of them involving our very own Malaysian Airlines. 

MH370 has been missing since March 08. MH17 was shot down on July 17. Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways flight GE222 met its end on July 23 – it flew from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan and crashed while trying to land in the scenic Penghu archipelago in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China, taking 48 lives and injuring 10. And Air Algérie flight AH5017‬ from Ouagadougou, Burkino Faso to Algiers, Algeria also crashed on July 24, in a location 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the Burkina Faso border in the Malian town of Gossi and killing all 118 on board. 

One can be forgiven if we suddenly develop a fear of flying. It is as if this year is the season of aviation calamities. But there’s really nothing to worry. 

Last year, more than 3 billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights and there were only 81 aviation accidents, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That was below the five-year average of 86 accidents per year, and the equivalent of one accident per 2.4 million flights. 

And only twenty percent of these accidents caused fatalities; there were 210 fatalities from commercial aviation accidents in 2013, a reduction from the 414 people who lost their lives in 2012 – despite there being a record low of 75 accidents that year. There were 490 deaths in 2011 and a total of 92 accidents. There was a much higher figure of 786 fatalities in 2010, and 94 accidents. In 2009, there were 685 fatalities and 90 accidents. 

Statistics is useful when it is to inform us that we shouldn’t be so fearful because the probability of dying in an air crash is not significant! 

Of course, 2014 has not been a good year, particularly when we consider the lives lost. Seven hundred and one perished. (Note: The numbers include those in MH370).

Dogs Steal Glasgow Show

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Squash queen Nicol David (above pic, front left) was the flag bearer for the Asian countries at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Glasgow on July 23, 2014. She was given the honor of leading out the eight Asian countries during the said event – besides Malaysia, the others in the Asian contingent under the Commonwealth Games Federation are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Singapore and Brunei.
But she wasn’t the star. And it wasn't Susan Boyle, the Queen or Rod Stewart's metallic suit either. Rather the four-legged types were the ones which stole the show that Wednesday.

I was referring to the Scottish Highland terriers – all forty-one of them – which graced the said event. They all wore tartan dog coats with the name of each participating country team on them. They were brought in to introduce each of the 71 participating nations in the athletes' parade. Some of them even had to work a double shift.
And these dogs were accompanied by a Scots man or woman in tweeds. Check out the photos below:


Social media went wild for the tartan coat-sporting Scottie dogs, with many claiming them to be the highlight of Celtic Park.
Regrettably, they had earned the ire of some people from one country! Yup, you guessed it – Malaysia!
UK’s Daily Telegraph (July 28, 2014) reported that PAS deputy president, Mat Sabu had demanded an apology and said the dogs were 'disrespectful' to Muslims, especially as it happened during Ramadan.
Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali also called for an apology. "I think it is unbecoming. The hosts have not been sensitive enough – especially in a so-called knowledgeable and civilized society like Britain," he said. "It is shameful and has offended not only Malaysia as a Muslim country, but Muslims around the world."
However, a Glasgow C-Games 2014 spokesperson said there has been no complaints about the dogs from any of the countries taking part. Shame on these blinkered Malaysians!

PAS Ponder Power Grab in Selangor



Malaysian Chronicle, July 29, 2014
A leaked screenshot (above pic) of a conversation on the instant messaging application WhatsApp is fomenting turmoil in Pakatan Rakyat. It may even precipitate the break-up of PR. It indicates that PAS central committee leaders have been actively contemplating abandoning PR and discussing possible plans post-PR.

In one scenario, PAS research centre operations director Dr Mohd Zuhdi Marzuki (left) had stated that if PAS were to leave PR and join forces with UMNO, they will keep Selangor and Khalid Ibrahim still remains as menteri besar. All they require is another ADUN from PKR to cross over to PAS-UMNO and they will command a simple majority – meaning they can form the state government.
If that did not cause enough hurt, Zuhdi flaunted his Malay-Muslim chauvinism – he commented that his scenario would return political dominance to the Malays and that they could negate "DAP and non-Muslims”. Or as he put it "...we can just swat them away".
It looks like PAS is about to double-cross their PR allies. In spite of their Islamic values, they seem ready to embrace betrayal and treachery. I hope I am wrong – it will be disappointing to see PAS prostituting themselves to become very much like corrupt UMNO!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nicol David Wins C-Games Gold

Another piece of good advice.
Nicol David won Malaysia's second Commonwealth Games gold medal in emphatic fashion when she routed England world champion Laura Massaro on Monday, 12-10, 11-2, 11-5 in a one-sided final which lasted just 44 minutes.


Together in Grief


At an interfaith prayer session held last Friday at the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Kelana Jaya, Malaysia Airlines staff paid tribute to colleagues who had perished.
MH17 & MH370: The twin tragedies that claimed the lives of twenty-seven Malaysia Airlines crew.
I understand their feelings. Anguish. Distress. Pain.
I know their feelings. Sorrow. Sadness. Suffering.
I feel what they feel. Weep woefully. Cry copiously. Together, we mourn.



The Malaysian Insider pic, July 28, 2014
But, when there are no more tears to be shed, they must be strong.
When they don't think they can, hold on!
Courage isn't about having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nicol David in C-Games Women's Squash Final

This is good advice.

Malaysia’s Nicol David will face England’s Laura Massaro in the final of the Commonwealth Games women’s squash event.
In the semi-finals, reigning champion and world number one David triumphed over New Zealand’s Joelle King (World No. 4) in three games (11-6, 11-8 11-5) while world champion Massaro, beat fellow Englishwoman Alison Waters in four games (11-5, 12-14, 11-3, 11-8).
Compatriot Low Wee Wern was stopped in the quarter-finals when she lost to Massaro in 3 games.
In case, you didn’t know, the 2014 Commonwealth Games (officially the XX Commonwealth Games) are being held in Glasgow, Scotland, from July 23 to August 03, 2014. It is the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland with nearly 5,000 athletes from 71 different nations and territories competing in 17 different sports. [Scotland had previously hosted the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh]

Najib Razak: Negotiator Extraordinaire

Unlike the stinging barrage of stabbing criticisms that Najib Razak (left) found himself to be at the receiving end as a result of the fallout from MH370 this time insofar as MH17 is concerned, he is standing tall.
I am ready to give credit to Najib when credit is due. And I’m sure many Malaysians are ostensibly proud that our Prime Minister’s hush-hush phone diplomacy had been successful. On two occasions.
First instance, the 3-point agreement allowed us to get back MH17’s black boxes (one containing the flight data recorder and the other the cockpit voice recorder) – and which was surrendered to Malaysian investigators in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Monday; to retrieve victims’ bodies; and to let independent international investigators gain access to the disaster site.
(So far, the last item has not been fulfilled. The investigators have not been able to collect evidence due to on-going security concerns)

Pro-Moscow rebels displayed the flight recorders from the downed MH17 at a news conference with a Malaysian government delegation sent by Najib. Image credit: Robert Ghement/European Pressphoto Agency
As for the recovery of bodies, confusion still surrounds how many have been reclaimed. Pro-Moscow separatists mentioned handing over 282 bodies and more than 80 body parts, but Dutch officials estimate the tally to be far lower (The Telegraph, UK, July 23, 2014). The Malaysian Insider had mentioned 227 coffins and it gave credit to the Malaysian investigation team for the successful recovery of the remains of MH17 victims (July 28, 2014).
Second instance, permission for a multinational police force to enter the crash site of MH17 has been granted.
But fighting in and around the area between rebels and Ukrainian government forces is preventing it from happening. At the moment. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has ruled out a military mission describing it as “unrealistic”. He knows that he would need Ukrainian government support – the hitch is Najib only talked to the enemy!
I am sure our Malaysian Prime Minister feels otherwise. He know best. After all, Najib is smart. He didn’t negotiate with the Ukrainian government because he believed the rebels are the ones who are in control there, even if it is Ukrainian territory. Kiev is not in Najib's equation.
Besides, there’s no urgency anyway. Sixty-eight Malaysian police personnel will leave Kuala Lumpur for the crash site only on Wednesday as part of the international deployment. This is in spite of the fact that Dutch soldiers are ready and Australia says it already has 90 police in Europe ready to deploy.
In the meantime, there is fighting. The Ukrainian government said its forces are advancing towards the crash site to try to free it from the rebels, who have impeded the work of international monitors and whom Kiev accuses of tampering with evidence pointing to who shot it down.
At home, I am sure Najib is proud of himself. And he has been abundantly praised too. But are we missing the point here? He had cleverly reached out to Ukrainian separatists!
And Najib negotiated directly with rebel leader Alexander Borodai, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic.
This has prompted disquiet about whether the prime minister had lent unwarranted legitimacy to a man the Ukrainian government has condemned as a terrorist.
According to The New York Times, the Malaysian delegation in Ukraine has incurred the anger of many Ukrainians by using the honorific “his excellency” in referring to Borodai, who styles himself the leader of a breakaway republic. But, at least in public, Najib has not used the term, referring to the rebel leader only as “Mr. Borodai” (July 23, 2014).
And in case, there are sceptics amongst us who do not have the decency to acknowledge Najib’s contribution, it must be said that he did not make any concessions. Najib’s arrangements with Borodai did not contain any promise of formal diplomatic recognition or payment to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Or so we have been told.
All hail Najib Razak, negotiator extraordinaire!

Salam Aidilfitri 2014

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Here’s wishing all Malaysian Muslims and Muslims the world over Eid ul-Fitr or as we Malaysians refer it as “Selamat Hari Raya”!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

UMNO Wait Impatiently for PR Break-up

Pakatan Rakyat's inability to unseat Khalid Ibrahim may well work in favor of UMNO-BN – the latter now believe that they have a fighting chance of wresting control of Selangor from PR should snap elections be held.
Selangor opposition leader Shamsudin Lias said it as much when he told the Malay Mail Online that they have been diligently preparing for state polls – he saw it as a golden opportunity for UMNO and BN. I daresay, he sounded more than hopeful. More so when talk is swirling that PR may even break up.
Already, a fissure is flourishing between PAS and their PR allies, PKR and DAP, following Abdul Hadi Awang's (left) public support of Khalid Ibrahim to stay on as state menteri besar, despite the latter having lost favor with the two parties.
I know UMNO are happy to see this happening. And if PR tear apart, PAS may well end up in UMNO’s embrace. I cannot imagine PAS going it alone because then they will become quite insignificant.
If there are snap polls, the people of Selangor, must ONCE AGAIN ENSURE THAT UMNO-BN LOSE! Surely, we do not want the return of the UMNO era. The pre-2008 period should remain buried in the dustbin of history.
On Thursday, I was at Bandar Baru Sri Petaling to attend the Satu Hati Toastmasters meeting. I hadn’t planned on doing any speech beyond undertaking my meeting role as Table Topics Evaluator. But Aamir Javid’s eleventh hour pullout paved the way for me to deliver CC speech #3 titled “Women! Women! Women!” – Round 9 of Project 15. My evaluator was Division P Governor, Andrew Tan. After all, I wouldn’t miss a chance to give a speech if the opportunity presents itself.
Generally, it was a good meeting and I have always enjoyed Satu Hati meetings. A 7 over 10 score for this meeting.


BUK Admission

Military analysts said the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk as previously suspected. Image credit:

Damaged panels from MH17, which appear to show evidence of shrapnel and missile damage

Indeed, pro-Russian separatists had anti-aircraft missiles of the type that were used to bring down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Alexander Khodakovsky, the commander of the Vostok Battalion, admitted to Reuters Wednesday that anti-Ukrainian forces did have the BUK missile system at the time the plane was downed and, while he believed the BUK was smuggled into hiding in Russia – to remove proof of its presence – the weapon likely originated in Russia in the first place.

Khodakovsky of the so-called Vostok battalion – or eastern battalion – speaks during an interview in Donetsk, July 8, 2014. Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

Before the Malaysian plane was shot down, rebels had boasted of obtaining the BUK missiles, which can shoot down airliners at cruising height. But since the disaster, the separatists' main group, the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, has repeatedly denied ever having possessed such weapons.
Khodakovsky blamed the Kiev authorities for provoking what may have been the missile strike that destroyed the doomed airliner, saying Kiev had deliberately launched air strikes in the area, knowing the missiles were in place.
Six days after the crash, another pro-Moscow rebel had charged that his forces had shot down the passenger jet thinking it was a Ukrainian military plane.
The paramilitary, who refused to be named, said he was part of the Oplot unit fighting in the Torez area from where the missile is believed to have been launched. He said his commanders told the unit that 'we hit a plane from Kiev' before ordering them onto trucks to attack any survivors, according to UK's The Independent, which cited the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
And that was when he discovered the corpses of civilians. “I approached and saw the body of a little girl, not more than five years old. It was terrible”, he had said.
In fact, there were previous mentions being made that the rebels had already shot down 12 Ukrainian military airplanes. If this had been the case, why were commercial aircrafts still being allowed to fly across eastern Ukraine? Are the authorities stupid or what?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Khalid Ibrahim Dares His PKR Colleagues

Selangor’s Khalid Ibrahim (left) had on Thursday issued a dare to his fellow state assemblypersons to push a no-confidence vote against his leadership as menteri besar. (His party PKR had already decided to remove him from Selangor’s hot seat and they want Wan Azizah to take over).
Khalid had stood his ground and declared that he wants to complete his second term in office. He sternly reminded his PR state colleagues that he was appointed by the Sultan of Selangor.
Constitutional lawyers had said a snap election is possible if Khalid is defeated in a no-confidence vote in the state legislative assembly for defying his party’s move to replace him. They said the Sultan of Selangor could use his royal prerogative if Khalid made a request to the ruler to dissolve the assembly based on provisions in the state constitution and legal procedure. And word has it that HRH is likely to accede to the request.
Khalid must realize he owes his position as menteri besar to his party. Yet when he is told he is to be replaced, he still insists to cling onto his post. I suspect there is a hidden agenda here.
When UMNO Selangor throws their support behind Khalid, then you and I know Khalid’s time has expired. The problem is he is not going to leave willingly. Khalid Ibrahim is itching for a fight – that’s for sure. He has finally found his nerve.
On Wednesday, I made my way to Brickfields to deliver CC speech #4 “How to Say It” – my Round 13 of Project 15 and I was evaluated by Meyyappa. A good meeting and I would give it a score of 7 over 10.