Sunday, June 30, 2019

Nancy Shukri Bitches

Nancy Shukri is a bitch. 

It is a shame when the rakyat looks to owning a roof over their heads – and yet, we have a worsening situation of a growing number of completed but unsold residential units in the country and which Malaysians cannot afford to purchase. 

Over a five-year period between 2014 and the end of 2018, the number of unsold completed residentials grew from 11,816 units to more than 45,000 units by the end of 2018, including serviced apartments and small offices home offices (SoHos). 

This translates to a rise of 281% over the period. 

In ringgit value, the rise is even greater. The value of residential overhang snowballed by a massive 635%, according to the National Property Information Centre (Napic) records. 

The residential overhang was valued at RM4 billion at the end of 2014. It grew to RM29.7bil by the end of 2018, Napic records showed. 

This double increase coincided with the escalation of property prices over a 10-year period starting from 2009/2010. Property prices remain high today. 

And the situation is expected to exacerbate – it seems a further 123,234 residential and commercial ‘unsold’ units are under construction as at the end of 2018. 

Napic defines an overhang as completed properties that have been certified for occupation but remain unsold nine months after their launch. 

So, work-in-progress, or those under construction, will mean even more properties are becoming available – but they will still remain beyond the reach of many Malaysians. 

That is just scandalous. 

Lady Gaga @ Stonewall Day

Lady Gaga (right) delighted crowds on Friday when she appeared at a New York City celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a gay rights watershed moment. 

"I really, really hope you celebrate every inch of who you are today", said the pop superstar, long beloved by the LGBTQ community, at the bash in Manhattan, NYC in the US of A. 

"You were born this way and you are superstars", she shouted to applause, referencing the title of her 2011 hit Born This Way that became a gay rights anthem. 

The June 1969 riots, sparked by repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn – a well-known gay bar in Christopher Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan – proved to be a turning point in the LGBTQ community's struggle for civil rights. 

"I look at the older generation and how you have fought to create a safe, more tolerant space for our youth", said Gaga, clad in thigh-high glittering rainbow platform boots, denim booty shorts with rainbow fringe and a rainbow jacket over a black bandeau bra. 

"It used to be unheard of to even come out of the closet", the 33-year-old continued, saying that today many children "are aware of their ability to discover and name their own sexual identities; their own gender identities. They are finding themselves and they are not as afraid". 

She acknowledged: "You did that! You created that space". 

Stonewall Day comes before a weekend featuring performances by Madonna, Alicia Keys and Grace Jones, along with appearances by Donatella Versace, Chelsea Clinton and Whoopi Goldberg – they’re all part of World Pride NYC, which culminates on June 30 with the annual NYC Pride March on Fifth Avenue. 

It will be the sixth edition of World Pride, which began in Rome in 2000 and brought together droves of people from across the world.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Climate Apartheid

A UN expert has highlighted a possible "climate apartheid", where the rich pay to escape from hunger, "while the rest of the world is left to suffer". 

Even if current targets are met, "millions will be impoverished", cautioned Philip Alston (left), the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty. 

He criticized steps taken by UN bodies as "patently inadequate". Certainly, he was adamant when he said, "ticking boxes will not save humanity or the planet from impending disaster". 

The Australian native is part of the UN's panel of independent experts, and he had submitted his report – which is based on existing research – to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

A key message is that the world's poor are likely to be the hardest hit by rising temperatures – and the potential food shortages and conflicts that could accompany such a change.

Developing nations are expected to suffer at least 75% of the costs of climate change – despite the fact that the poorer half of the world's population generate just 10% of emissions.

Those "who have contributed the least to emissions... will be the most harmed", he said, warning that the effects could undo 50 years of progress on poverty reduction.

On the other hand, Alston cited examples of how the wealthy in Western nations already cope with extreme weather events.

An image of New York City's blackout on October 29, 2012 – when Hurricane Sandy came a-visiting. Image credit: Eric Chang/The Atlantic

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in October 2012, most citizens were left without power, yet "the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator." 

Similarly, "private white-glove firefighters have been dispatched to save the mansions" of the wealthy. 

This "over-reliance" on the private sector would likely lead to what he termed "climate apartheid" – where the rich "escape overheating, hunger, and conflict". 

As far back as 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had underlined that the "poorest of the poor in the world... are going to be the worst hit". 

Alston's report denounced the lack of action, despite such warnings, over the past decades. 

Among those coming in for censure are Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, (left) for opening up the rainforest to mining, and "weakening" environmental protections. 

US President Donald Trump (left) also comes under fire – for placing "former lobbyists in oversight roles", "actively silencing and obfuscating climate science", and rolling back environmental protections. 

Yet Alston's scorn is not only for politicians, but also for the UN Human Rights Council to which he submitted the report. 

"The Human Rights Council can no longer afford to rely only on the time-honored techniques of organizing expert panels, calling for reports that lead nowhere, urging others to do more but doing little itself, and adopting wide-ranging but inconclusive and highly aspirational resolutions", he wrote. 

Instead, it must commission an urgent expert study on the possible options available to avert disaster, and "propose and monitor specific actions", Alston said. 

"The human rights community, with a few notable exceptions, has been every bit as complacent as most governments in the face of the ultimate challenge to mankind represented by climate change", the report said bluntly. 

He said that the entire human rights community had failed "to face up to the fact that human rights might not survive the coming upheaval". 

Alston’s admonishment mustn't be ignored and we are well-advised to pay heed to it.

Burger Pizza

Hell Pizza had covertly served "fake meat" on pizzas – but they denied they were misleading customers and instead, maintained they were raising awareness. 

The New Zealand-based pizza chain launched their Burger Pizza on June 21, 2019 featuring a "medium rare burger patty" as a pizza topping. I read that more than three thousand pizzas were sold. 

They revealed on Thursday that the burger was actually plant-based and meatless patties by Beyond Meat.

“A lot of people are instantly put off by the idea of fake meats, so we made the call to not reveal its meat-free origins because we were so confident people would enjoy it”, said Ben Cumming, their General Manager.

Some people accused the brand of deceiving or endangering customers. "This is straight out pure deceit. There are people who have reactions to certain vegetable-based products", said one post on Facebook. 

"Not impressed. Having a son with 6 allergies sand intolerances I would be furious if someone decided to fool me on what I ate", another said. '

Others praised the move. 

"Pizza was tasty, was pleasantly surprised to discover it was meat free", one person said. 

Hell Pizza said the product was well-received in real life, saying "customers who tried the pizza show the true public reaction better than the debate on social media". 

And their online survey revealed (1) 80% of people said they were pleasantly surprised or unfazed to find out it was plant-based; (2) More than 70% say they would buy it again, and (3) 70% of people said the patty tasted just like meat. 

They have now updated their website to reflect that the Burger Pizza is "loaded with chunks of medium rare Beyond Meat Burger" patties.

When will Beyond Burger and/or Impossible Burger make an appearance in Malaysia, I wonder? 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Twin Threats to UN Climate Change Initiative

Climate change is already here. 

Regretfully, NOT everybody is united behind the agenda to tackle climate change. 

I just read a BBC report published Wednesday that recalcitrant countries are derailing UN efforts and therefore, putting the whole world in peril.

Last December at the Katowice COP24 meeting in Poland – four countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and the US of A objected to moves to welcome the findings of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C. 

That study, regarded as a landmark, had two clear messages. 

It showed that there are massive benefits in keeping temperature rises this century to 1.5C compared to a world that warmed 2C or more. 

It also said that keeping the world below 1.5C was still possible – if drastic cuts in emissions were initiated by 2030. 

To the distressing frustration of a huge majority of countries, the objections of the four major fossil fuel producers, meant that the scientific report was not formally recognized in the negotiations. 

The battle over the 1.5C report has carried over from Katowice to Bonn, Germany. 

Normally, this mid-year meeting is concerned with technical questions but this time the issue of the IPCC has re-emerged as a huge fault line between nations. 

Many environmental campaigners see the Saudi forceful pressure on the IPCC as part of a deliberate campaign to discredit the science. 

As Dr Jeni Miller from the Global Climate and Health Alliance says: "This report was requested by the UN, by these countries themselves, so to not accept the findings of the report is a rejection of science, and if you are rejecting the science there is not a way forward to address this problem". 

And if that is not worrisome enough, the European Union's inability to reach consensus on cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 has thrown a spanner in the works.

Just last week, four countries: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Estonia, refused to support the plan. 

The Secretary General, António Guterres called a special summit on climate change to be held in New York in September with the express purpose of getting countries to increase their existing targets. The EU's proposed net zero goal, therefore, was key to making this a success.

With the rejection by the four, the EU will be put under a Brobdingnagian cloud of acute embarrassment if they go with what they just have now. 

Ulriikka Aarnio, from the Climate Action Network said sarcastically: "...they would be going from leader to loser if that was the case". 

Obviously, we cannot leave it to the politicians to ensure the survival of our world as we know it – it's time for the people to take direct action! 

For the sake of planet Earth. For our sake and for our children's sake.

Kim Kardashan's Kim-Oh-No

Reality star Kim Kardashian proudly tweeted on Tuesday that she has named her line of shapewear Kimono – and it got people really pissed. 

The kimono (着物, きもの) is nothing like the full-body fat flattener that Kardashan was referring to. 

The traditional Japanese garment is imbued with cultural significance that Kardashian is ignoring for the purpose of a confusing pun. 

Kardashan’s version is actually an underwear, designed to supposedly create smooth lines under clothing. 

Critics are taking to social media to call Kim out for cultural appropriation, with comments ranging from "My culture is not your plaything" to "My culture is not your brand name generator". 

People are also sharing pictures of themselves in actual kimonos as a reminder about where the name originates from. 

This is Kim Kardashian’s kwest to kapitalize on kultures not her own. I call it ‘disrespect’.

I don't think Kardashan (right) gives two hoots about the protests directed at her Kimono Intimates.

Yesterday, responding to an SOS, I helped out at the Petronas HRM Upstream: Speak Up With Confidence workshop.

When it involves Public Speaking, it is always a satisfying experience – irrespective of who the participants are, whether schoolchildren, university students and/or professionals – when they transform to become better communicators and knowing I had played a part.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi Collects 33 Additional Charges

Just when I thought that’s it – today, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (left) was slapped with another 33 corruption charges totaling RM42.76 million involving the foreign visa system two years ago.

He faces 26 counts under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 and seven counts under Section 165 of the Penal Code relating to offences involving receiving bribes in multiple currencies. 

For offences under the MACC Act, Zahid allegedly received a total of SGD$9,320,000 (RM2,8563,470). For the remaining offences under the Penal Code, he allegedly received RM3,125,000; SGD$1,150,000 (RM3,524,462); €15,000 (RM70,740); and $15,000 (RM62,257). 

Again, the former deputy prime minister pleaded not guilty. 

Altogether, he is facing a whopping total of 87 criminal charges:

Avengers: Endgame Re-release

LOL! All in the name of box office records! 

On Tuesday, Marvel announced plans for a re-release of Avengers: Endgame – they are including bonus material and hoping to attract die-hard fans.

Those attending what Marvel is calling the “Bring Back Event” at participating US cinemas will also receive limited-edition Avengers artwork – a statement on the company’s website announcing the move featured a poster with Tony Stark’s catchphrase “We Love You 3000”. 

The main motivation, of course, is the fact that the megahit draws agonizingly close to breaking the global box office record.

Avengers: Endgame pulled in $2,751,033,067 around the world, according to Box Office Mojo as at June 25, 2019 – the second-highest haul of all time, closely trailing Avatar by just $36.4 million. 

And the James Cameron epic had yielded a $2,787,379,087 haul in ticket sales in its 238-day run in cinemas worldwide. 

I am not too surprised by Marvel's move – let's see if it can help the movie become the all-time No. 1. 

Yesterday, I was in Petaling Jaya, Selangor – to keep a date with the MIMPJ Toastmasters Club. FYI, this arrangement was made since April 18 this year! 

Whatever it is, I delivered my 765th assignment, a CC#5 Your Body Speaks titled The Dead Don’t Die – this time, it is for my Competent Communication manual, round #60. 

I was voted Best Project Speaker.

At the meeting, I also took up the role of the Grammarian.