Saturday, March 31, 2018

California Coffee to Carry Cancer Warning

In the US of A, a California judge on Wednesday has ruled that coffee requires a health warning. 

The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny non-profit group and Big Coffee. 

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said that the coffee industry hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail – and so, they should have to post a cancer cautionary. 

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing – like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago – or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs/labels. 

The industry, led by Starbucks Corp, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risk(s) are outweighed by benefits. 

The suit was brought against Starbucks and 90 other companies under a controversial law passed by California voters in 1986 that has been credited with culling cancer-causing chemicals from myriad products and also criticized for leading to quick settlement shakedowns. 

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, better known as Proposition 65, requires warning labels for about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. It allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of civil penalties for failure to provide warnings. 

The defendants have a couple weeks to challenge the ruling before it is final and could seek relief from an appellate court. 

If the ruling stands, it could come with a stiff financial penalty and could rattle consumers beyond state lines. 

The judge can set another phase of trial to consider potential civil penalties up to $2,500 per person exposed each day over eight years. That could be an astronomical sum in a state with close to 40 million residents, though such a massive fine is unlikely. 

California's outsized market could make it difficult to tailor packaging with warning stickers specifically to stores in the state. That means out-of-state coffee drinkers could also take their coffee with a cancer warning. Cream and sugar would still be optional. 

On Thursday, I was in Putrajaya for a Toastmasters meeting. In fact, I received the invitation that morning itself from Zarina Abu Bakar, who is that club’s mentor. 

She was kind to arrange for me to give a 10-minute presentation on D51 Annual Conference 2018 and on top of that, I was also given the task to evaluate an Ice Breaker speech. Btw, I was voted Best Speech Evaluator.

Only an eight-month-old club, the PTD Toastmasters Club of Putrajaya – which held its meeting at the Ministry of Higher Education – showed its commitment and more importantly, energy and enthusiasm that were all so self-evident. I enjoyed the meeting very much! 

PPTD is Persatuan Perkhidmatan Tadbir dan Diplomatik Malaysia.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Redelineation Report Tabled, Passed and Gazetted

The Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday passed the redelineation of electoral boundaries with a bloc-vote of 129 against 80. 

A day later, the King gave his consent and it was thus, gazetted. This, in effect, means that the new electoral boundaries took effect yesterday. 

Ninety-eight parliamentary seats were affected. State seats too.

The Malaysian government claimed it did not interfere with the Election Commission’s work and accepted its report without reservation. 

And the EC has been taken to court over the recommendations – but the courts had decided in support of the EC. 

Of course, the Opposition have always held the conviction – and rightly so – that the tabling of EC’s redelineation report was bulldozed through Parliament by the federal government. All it took was one day to table and pass the said report. Super-fast! 

In any case, the redrawn boundaries are expected to benefit BN. We all know that because the redelineation makes it so plainly obvious.

Malaysiakini was quick to concur. On Wednesday, the news portal came out with the grim prediction that in GE14, the federal Opposition would lose seven seats in Selangor to BN. 

The losers will be PKR as well as PAS. The former is expected to lose the three state seats of Ijok, Pelabuhan Klang and Sementa, while the latter will stand to lose the four state seats of Morib, Selat Klang, Sijangkang and Dusun Tua. 

So what's the issue? PH will still govern Selangor wad. 

Malaysians already know we will not have a level playing field. 

Complain if you must. Oppose if you must. Resist if you must. But more importantly, let's show BN that we can still win, no matter what.

Anyway, the delineation exercise merely reflected UMNO's insecurities.

On Wednesday, I was at the premise of Unipac Engineering (M) Sdn Bhd in Jalan Jurubina U1/18, Hicom-Glenmarie Industrial Park in Shah Alam, Selangor for their Toastmasters club meeting. 

I was the General Evaluator. And I was impressed. 

Overall, a good meeting because members were not afraid to challenge themselves. A meeting where chirpy confidence met up with cheery congeniality. 

That’s why learning in a fun environment makes a Toastmasters meeting that extra special.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Varsity Students Protest for UUCA Abolishment

Image credit: 

Malaysia Outlook, March 27, 2018

It may be a small turnout – but I salute the 20-plus university students who on Tuesday marched in the pouring rain to Parliament to demand the abolishment of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971. 

They had wanted to enter the Parliament compound but were barred by the police. 

The group then gathered on the road outside while holding up placards calling for UUCA to be abolished and chanting “Hidup, hidup mahasiswa. Hancur hancur kezaliman” (Long live university students. Crush tyranny). 

Representatives from the protesters, led by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia student Asheeq Ali later met Opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. They also met an aide to Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh to set an appointment to see him. 

“We sent our memorandum many times to the authorities but nothing happened. This time, we have spoken to both the government and the opposition, and we want them to commit to abolishing UUCA”, Asheeq told reporters. 

The student activist said Malaysian undergraduates would go to every state to speak to the people, particularly students on how UUCA had muted their freedom of speech. 

I wish there were more students – it is time they wake up and realize that their future is in their own hands. It is time to step out and step up. It is time to join in the fight for a better Malaysia.  

Otherwise, wither are we heading as a nation? 

Yesterday, I was at Menara ExxonMobil in KL's Jalan Kia Peng where I attended the Tiger Toastmasters meeting. There I was so privileged to be the speech evaluator for Mala Ganasan. 

Just to listen to her speak  her words dripping like honey  was enough to put me under her spell.

Gosh, I just can't get over it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fake Democracies are Frightened of Fake News

On Friday, fourteen citizen groups banded together to oppose the fake news law. 

“Laws presented as attempts to protect the public from misinformation can often act as tools for governments to restrict the presentation of dissenting views or ideas, and ultimately violate the right to freedom of expression”, the collective said. 

Indeed, they voiced concern that the law would be used as a 'dragnet' to criminalise reporting on alleged government misconduct and critical opinions that do not favour the government. 

They drew attention to a deputy minister’s remarks that information on 1MDB from sources other than the Malaysian government would be considered “fake news”. Meaning this gives the government the last word on what constitutes the truth. 

[Kindly check out my post “Fake News on 1MDB” published March 13, 2018 @]. 

The fake news law is nothing more than a blatant attempt to stifle debate on issues that do not put the government in a good light. It is a nefarious instrument to hide all manner of sins. It is about silencing dissent. 

Of course, the government looks at it differently.

“We don’t want fake news to spread,” Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) had reportedly said. “This does not mean we control the internet. The Internet is free but the freedom must exist with some element of accountability” (FMT, January 31, 2018). 

He doesn’t seem to realize that nobody believes him anymore. 

Zaid Ibrahim (right), lawyer turned politician and a former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of legal affairs and judicial reform attested that “the Malaysian government wants to enact laws to curb online news portals and bloggers”. 

We all know that Donald Trump (left) conveniently applies the label “fake news” to any reporting he wants to discredit. 

Thanks to Trump, this affords other governments the easy way out to exploit this circumstance by using it to obstruct and even suppress civil society. 

‘Fake news’ helps to create narratives that justify the introduction of more constraining measures that control and coerce – at the expense of trust-building, openness and engagement, the three important elements in fighting the spread of disinformation. 

What is mind-boggling is that these governments proudly brand themselves a 'democracy'. I think the more correct term to give them is 'fake democracy'.

[The fourteen are Article 19, Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran), Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Diversity Malaysia, GERAK (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia), Justice for Sisters, PELANGI – Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor, Projek Dialog, Pusat KOMAS, Sinar Project and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)].