Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Pakatan Harapan Let-down This Merdeka

Malaysians embraced Hope. 
Malaysians wanted a New Malaysia. 
Malaysians voted Pakatan Harapan.

Malaysians are disappointed. 
Malaysians are disillusioned. 
Malaysians feel betrayed. 

Pakatan Harapan have failed Malaysians. 

My Wish on Merdeka Day 2019

No, no, none of the above! 

Malaysians just want back the Merdeka originally envisioned by Tunku Abdul Rahman, our first prime minister!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Even Zakir Naik is Not Above the Law

Muhyiddin Yassin, really, meh? You don't bluff Malaysians, okay?

We wait and see, okay?

The death toll from Democratic Republic of Congo's year-long Ebola outbreak has climbed to 2,006, government data showed on Friday – and which also showed the number of confirmed cases of the virus at 3,004. 

The outbreak has become the second deadliest on record, behind the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa. 

Despite the development of an effective vaccine and treatments, health workers have struggled to control the spread of the disease in remote and conflict-hit areas of eastern Congo, where many locals are wary of the response effort – and not to mention that responders have to battle to overcome community mistrust and widespread security problems. 

Uganda, meanwhile, reported another case of Ebola – a nine-year-old girl who traveled from the DRC with her mother on Wednesday – and who is now in isolation at a hospital in the Ugandan border district of Kasese. She was identified by a screening team at the Mpondwe border post. 

The girl exhibited symptoms including high fever and unexplained mouth bleeding, according to an Uganda's health ministry statement on Thursday. A sample of her blood tested positive for Ebola.

Scotland Breakaway

Scottish independence is no longer a distant dream. If things continue the way they are, it may be sooner than we think. 

Brexit is the game-changer. When 52 percent of British voters chose to leave the European Union in June 2016 – the Scots had other ideas. 

Scotland had voted to Remain by 62 percent versus 38 percent who wanted to quit. 

If you didn’t already know, in their manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish National Party had argued that “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” would justify a second vote on independence. 

Interestingly, an April 2019 Panelbase survey found that there was 53–47% lead for No in voting intention for a second referendum (excluding ‘don’t knows’) – however, the same survey found that in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, enough voters said they would change their vote that Yes had a hypothetical 52–48% lead. 

Brexit is playing into SNP’s hands. 

More than three years later, a divorce deal is yet to be agreed on, while the Brexit issue has become a political morass. 

This has led to the resignation of Theresa May as prime minister and the installation of Boris Johnson (right) as party leader to take her place. And he has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31. 

Johnson's 'Do or die' pledge means the most blatant disregard for the views of the Scottish people, who voted, lest we forget, to remain in the EU. They refuse to be railroaded out of it by a Westminster parliament run by a minority of English Conservative MPs, with a prime minister elected by 92,000 Tory party members, overwhelming, white, male, rich – and English. 

These Tories could scarcely have come up with a more “English” prime minister if they’d tried. Already Johnson is shoving Tories into a tight corner insofar as Brexit is concerned. 

The middle path has disappeared. No compromise. No concession. No accommodation. 

SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon (left) had declared that whatever happens over Brexit will have an impact on the decision about the timing of indyref2. 

She maintained it was not democratic to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose. 

Even Johnson’s own Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson is not totally with him on the Brexit conundrum. 

Sure, she had accepted the 2016 referendum result – but she favored a soft Brexit to protect Scottish industry. And for that stance, Davidson is branded a Remainer by Brexiteers. 

Never mind that – because on Thursday, Davidson (right) quit after eight years in the job. 

In her role, she was the most influential voice for Scotland remaining a part of the UK at a time when support for Scottish independence has risen amid widespread opposition to Brexit. 

And she has been widely credited with turning around her party’s fortunes in Scotland. She boosted the number of Scottish Tory MPs from one to 13 at the 2017 election, allowing May to remain in power (just). 

Johnson may come to rue her departure – more so, if an autumn general election is looking more likely by the day. 

The general opinion is that an early election would have been problematic for Scottish Tories even with Davidson at the helm – but no one would have a better chance of cushioning the blow than her. 

The prospect of 'No Deal' is fueling support for a second 'exit UK' referendum and for a breakaway! 

It is noteworthy to mention that very telling numbers of Britons of all political shades oppose leaving the EU without hammering out a deal with the bloc beforehand. 

But the Tories are something else. 

According to a highly significant YouGov poll, 63 percent of their membership would rather Brexit takes place – even if it meant Scotland leaving the UK. 

As I have reiterated before, independence for Scotland to me is about national pride and self-determination. 

Brexit has made the choice that much clearer for the Scots. 

Undeniably, Brexit will soon be at our doorstep, like it or not – and it is going to turn the Scotland-England relationship into an acrimonious affair. 

As Sean O’Grady wrote in The Independent on August 05, 2019: “The marriage is over, even if the two parties can’t quite believe it. They will both be poorer and they won’t agree on the divorce terms. It will end in tears. Sounds familiar”. 

Anyway, we will know soon enough. A bad Brexit will surely ensure independence for Scotland! 

Yesterday, Celtic thumped AIK 4-1 in Stockholm, Sweden and therefore, secured a 6-1 aggregate to progress in the Europa League. 

James Forrest started the ball rolling with his genius shot in the 17th minute – although that goal was cancelled out by a Sebastien Larsson penalty (33). This was followed by an own goal from goalkeeper Oscar Linner (34), and strikes from Christopher Jullien (87) and Lewis Morgan (90+3) – to give us an emphatic victory. 

This is the second time in successive seasons Celtic have competed in the Europa League group stage after dropping out of the Champions League qualifiers.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Najib Razak's Second Trial Starts

Finally, yesterday, we saw the commencement of the biggest trial of the 1MDB financial saga that had almost bled Malaysia to a slow and agonizing death. 

Najib Razak (left) faces 21 charges of money laundering and four charges of abuse of power for allegedly receiving illegal transfers of at least RM2.3 billion ($550.8 million) between 2011 and 2014. His second trial.

The prosecution’s opening remarks made to High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah pointed to the former prime minister as having liberally abused his power to misappropriate 1MDB funds "to obtain gratification for himself". 

And that he took active steps to evade justice when he interfered in the investigations into the case after it had surfaced in July 2015. 

Also, he effected a cover up of his criminal acts. The prosecution said they will show that the accused had the requisite mens rea when the offences with which he was charged were committed. 

It had been said too that Najib had not acted alone – and he colluded on multiple occasions with fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or more familiarly known as Jho Low (left). 

"If you place the accused before a mirror, you will see Jho Low. And if you place Jho Low before a mirror, you will see the accused", lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram had let out.

Wednesday's proceedings began a day after prosecutors had wrapped up their case against Najib in the SRC International trial. 

Lawyers for both sides are expected to submit their closing arguments for the said hearing in October, followed by a ruling by the trial judge on November 11 on whether to acquit Najib or call for him to enter his defense. 

Last evening, I was in Bandar Puncak Alam in Selangor to give a talk on “The Business of Storytelling” to staffers @ Eco Grandeur – an EcoWorld township project that has been described as “An Urban Eden”. 

A good session of sharing.

Also, EcoWorld Toastmasters Club president finished her ACG assignments. She has now completed her Communication track. Well done!

Donald Trump and His Bedbugs

Pets can come in many shapes and sizes.

As for me – it’s the cockroach. And my fellow Toastmasters never fail to flinch and cringe and yet, still produce uneasy and skittish laughter when I tell them I love cockroaches. Really.

Of course, if they had followed my speeches at club meetings, they would know that I breed them, play with them and yes, I even eat them – when I’m hungry. 

Besides, they are what I would call low-maintenance pets! 

So, what’s wrong if Donald Trump too, decides to keep bedbugs? I'd say, to each his own. 

The media pounced on the fact that he had a host of them at his golf haven in Florida, USA: Trump National Doral.

This came to light when he began to enthusiastically promote his place for the next venue for the G-7 meeting of global leaders in 2020. 

I repeat, if I can keep roaches, why can't Trump keep his bedbugs?

I suppose not everybody would understand that what they consider as "pests" are actually "pets"  at least, to him. 

You and I know very well that his detractors would jump at any opportunity to criticize and worse, crucify him.

So, poor Trump was obliged to deny the story. A work of fiction. 

But the fact of the matter is the media had highlighted a 2016 lawsuit brought up by a New Jersey insurance executive named Eric Linder  in which the latter had alleged an infestation of these bloodsucking bugs at the Doral location. 

He had claimed in court papers that he woke up at the resort’s $300-a-night Jack Nicklaus-themed villa to discover “welts, lumps and marks over much of his face, neck, arms and torso”. Photographs had appeared to back up Linder’s assertion. 

Doral’s management hit back, maintaining Linder had “conducted himself so carelessly and negligently that his conduct was the sole proximate cause or contributing cause” for the insects’ attack. 

Still, a year later, the Trump retreat purportedly settled the lawsuit! 

Reports about the common bedbugs (Scientific name: Cimex lectularius) resurfaced Tuesday after Trump touted the Miami sanctuary’s charms at the G-7 summit in France. 

And the hashtag “#TrumpBedBugs” quickly trended on Twitter. 

Trump’s response to all of the above was predictable. He tweeted. 

“No bedbugs at Doral. The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!” 

Surely, we know by now that Trump is obdurate, persistent and unshakable. 

The bedbug issue hadn’t discouraged him one bit from continuing to beat the drum for the said property – even in an apparent violation of rules against profiteering from the presidency. 

The US president (left) had insisted he won’t profit off the 2020 event. “In my opinion I’m not going to make any money”, Trump said. “I don’t want to make money. I don’t care about making money”.


[As a side note, for those of you who do not understand the acronym ROTFL – it means "rolling on the floor laughing"]. 

Trump also contended aides had toured the country in search of a better location and came up empty. “They went to places all over the country and they came back and said, ‘This is where we’d like to be’”, Trump said and he put on his poker face. 

ROTFL a second time!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Donald Trump Suggests "Nuking Hurricanes"

News media are having a field day on Monday drawing attention to Donald Trump’s reported suggestion – which was said to have been made on more than one occasion – that the US military should bomb hurricanes in order to disrupt them before they make landfall. 

According to US news website Axios, the US president (left) said in a meeting with top national security and homeland security officials about the threat of hurricanes: “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” 

“They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” 

Quoting unnamed sources who were present at the meeting, Axios report that the response from one official was “We’ll look into this”. 

The news and technology company had recounted that Trump had raised the same issue on another occasion with a senior administration official. This conversation was apparently recorded in a 2017 national security council memo which used the term “nuclear” in reference to the conversation. 

Axios quoted a senior official who defended Trump’s ability to ask tough questions: “His goal – to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland – is not bad. His objective is not bad”. 

It’s an appealing thought, especially when, during hurricane season, Americans are annually reminded of the immense destruction wrought by these massive storms. 

And I read that every year for the past six decades, government agencies have received missives from concerned citizens, urging pre-emptive attacks against hurricanes using nuclear weapons. 

“Needless to say, this is not a good idea”, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in what is, arguably, one of the most succinct understatements on record.

Yet because the “nuke a hurricane” myth won’t die, NOAA maintains a web page exclusively devoted to debunking this proposal. 

The fact that America already has the hydrogen bomb, which is a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan during WW11, begets the question: Couldn't this energy be unleashed as a hurricane killer? 

In fact, Jack W Reed, a meteorologist at Sandia National Laboratories thought so. Actually, he came up with the idea while studying the atmospheric effects produced by America’s first detonation of a hydrogen bomb, which had lifted a massive column of air more than 20 miles into the sky. 

Reed had the opportunity to present his research at conferences, notably the 1959 symposium on the Plowshare Program – a government initiative to develop “peaceful” uses for nuclear weapons in science and industry. 

(One of the most infamous Plowshare proposals included plans to use nukes to create an instant harbor on the coast of Alaska). 

In his paper, Reed speculated that a submarine could travel underwater to penetrate the eye of a hurricane, where it would launch and detonate one or more nuclear missiles. The ensuing explosion would loft most of the relatively warm air in the hurricane's eye high above the storm into the stratosphere. The warm air would then be replaced by colder, denser air—reducing the wind speed and weakening the storm. Reed calculated that a 20 megaton explosion could slow a storm with 100-knot peak winds to 50 knots. 

But Reed didn’t find any takers for his idea. 

The research would require setting off multiple nukes at several million dollars a pop. Government officials expressed concern that bombing hurricanes would conflict with US efforts to end atmospheric nuclear tests. 

In the words of Robert Nelson, a physicist who studies nuclear weapons – “It’s just wacky”! 

For starters, as NOAA observes, there’s the issue of radioactive fallout, which would “fairly quickly move with the trade winds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems”. 

Besides, it wouldn’t work. 

The key obstacle is the amount of energy required. The heat release from a hurricane is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes, NOAA calculates. In order to shrink a Category 5 hurricane into a Category 2 hurricane, you would have to add about a half ton of air for each square yard inside the eye, or a total of a bit more than half a billion (500,000,000) tons for an eye 25 miles in diameter. 

“It’s difficult to envision a practical way of moving that much air around”, NOAA says. 

Today, international law prohibits us from even trying. The Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty, signed and ratified by the United States in 1990, limits the yield of weapons for non-military purposes to 150 kilotons – a formal acknowledgement that you can’t fight Mother Nature, especially with nukes. 

To be fair to Trump, though, there was a time when scientists and government agencies were themselves seriously considering the nuclear option. 

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club on October 11, 1961, Francis W. Riechelderfer, the head of the US Weather Bureau, said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea”. (Although, comfortingly, he added that the Weather Bureau would not begin acquiring its own nuclear arsenal “until we know what we’re doing”). 

On Monday, Trump denied he even made the suggestion, calling it "ridiculous". LOL, when it concerns Trump, when is it ever not ridiculous?!?!

Anyway, I don't think news from Uncle Sam would be as interesting and intriguing as it is today if Donald Trump is not the President of the United States of America. He entertains us regularly and at times, scares and spooks us too  in a way, it's like riding on an emotional roller-coaster. 

More than that, given his disposition for bizarre ideas and thoughts which he regularly does not keep to himself  we get ample opportunities to freely mock him. And laugh at him. Heartily.

Human Skin Books

I came across this interesting piece published on August 21, 2019 on BoingBoing – and I became fascinated with Dr Lindsey Fitzharris (left), author and medical historian who discusses the dark history of "anthropodermic bibliopegy" – the bizarre practice of binding books in human skin. 

Please do check out her YouTube video series Under the Knife  this particular one is about human skin books:

I am sharing the above because I am seduced by the grotesque idea of human skin books. 

I know skin is skin. 

But I can't help thinking that it would be really cool if I can have one of my favorite books bound in my own skin. I am thinking of my collection of horror novels by Ryu Murakami, Stephen King and/or Graham Masterton.

Last evening, I was in Block D-5-1 at the Parkland Commercial Center in Kelana Jaya, Selangor. I was supposed to be there last month – but I couldn’t attend. 

Anyway, this time around, I made it for the MDA Toastmasters meeting where I presented my CC#8 speech titled The Dentist’s No. 1 Ally.

It was a topic appropriate to their members who are all dentists! 

Of course, if you know me, I made reference to my favorite beverage, i.e.  Coca-Cola! Epic sweetness!

BTW, this was for my Competent Communication manual, Round #61. 

Photos of the said meeting:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Daughter's Turn Next

And now, it is the turn of Najib Razak's daughter!

Thirty-one-year-old Nooryana Najwa Najib has been sued by the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN) for RM10.3 million in unpaid income taxes from 2011 to 2017. 

The Malaysian Government as the plaintiff filed a writ of summons and statement of claim through the LHDN on July 24 at the Shah Alam High Court in Selangor, naming her, as the defendant. 

According to the statement of claim, the Malaysian Government allege that Nooryana Najwa (left) had failed to submit the Individual Income Tax Return Forms to the LHDN, under Section 77 of the Income Tax Act 1967, for the years of assessment 2011 to 2017. 

The Government of Malaysia said that an assessment under subsection 90(3) of the Tax Act including penalties had been raised through Notices of Assessment dated March 15, 2019 – and this was very similar to the situations faced by her father and half-brother. 

The breakdowns are RM2,807,452.42 (2011), RM30,738.28 (2012), RM6,943,811.07 (2013), RM313,967.02 (2014), RM56,048.65 (2015), RM158,922.46 (2016) and RM24,352.46 (2017). 

The Malaysian Government is seeking from the defendant a sum of RM10,335,292.36, interest on the sum of RM10,335,292.36 at a rate of 5% per annum from the date of judgment to the date of realisation, costs, and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Notwithstanding LHDN's action, Nooryana took to social media to complain:  Why tax me when I only received money from wealthy hubby?

Malaysians must beware of Bersatu because if those in the party are all like Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman  then we know they are snakes in the grass!

NUS Warn of Falling Education Standards

The National Union of Students have forewarned of a devaluation in the quality of education in British universities. 

Zamzam Ibrahim (left), in one of her first interviews since taking up her post as NUS president in July 2019, put a spotlight on overstretched academics teaching classes of more than 150 students, who pay up to £9,250 a year on tuition fees. 

Moreover, she said the removal of the student numbers cap has increased the competition between universities to recruit – forcing them to prioritize the “dollar” over student experience. 

Speaking to UK's The Independent – the interview was published on August 26, 2019 – Zamzam highlighted that universities are spending money on marketing and making sure their offers are “more attractive” in a fierce fight for survival. 

She warned that some universities would have to close down in the near future amid financial pressures – which she argued are a result of the “marketization of education”. 

I happen to think it is more the case of the McDonaldization of education, rather than the marketization of education. 

If we market responsibly – more so because this is the education industry – there must be a social responsibility component which we incorporate in our marketing. Therefore, our marketing efforts must focus on appealing to our “consumers” (students) who want to make a positive difference with their “purchases” (university education). 

Zamzam’s remarks came after a private higher education provider went into administration, leaving thousands of students looking for alternative places to study.

GSM London (formerly Greenwich School of Management) which have been providing degree programs to over 20,000 students over the last 39 years, had announced a couple of weeks ago that they would shut their doors as they had not been able to “recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students to generate enough revenue to be sustainable”. 

The priority should be on students – but this had shifted towards making money above everything else. As such, Zamzam's contention that we are corrupting the education system. 

Competition between the tertiary institutions to recruit students to courses has intensified as there are fewer 18-year-olds in the population and yet student numbers at universities remain uncapped. 

This means more popular universities are taking higher numbers of students, while other institutions are struggling to fill their courses and generate enough income to be sustainable. 

Some universities, it is said, are reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy amid declining student numbers. 

Zamzam also expressed her concerns for the academics. She worried that they are under more pressure and are having to cover more lectures than they would on a normal day – and therefore, there is a real danger that this will negatively impact on the quality of education. 

“That is a reality that most institutions are facing because they don’t have the money to be able to keep all the academics they would like”, she added. 

One of her tasks as NUS president is to campaign for a fully funded education system – and she is planning to hold a national student strike to call for free education for all. 

Jo Grady (left), general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “We share the concerns of NUS when it comes to a lack of resources, the damage marketization is doing to higher education and the pile ’em high, teach ’em cheap approach. Despite the formidable efforts of staff, they cannot keep giving more for less”. 

She continued: “To ensure students can receive the very best education, universities have to invest resources in their number-one asset – their staff”. 

It appears the Brits are also getting their priorities in education all amiss – just like in Malaysia.