Sea talks

MANILA/BEIJING (Reuters) - A decision invalidating China's vast claims in the South China Sea was a "crowning glory" that renews faith in international law, the Philippines' top lawyer said on Friday, in Manila's strongest comment yet on its sweeping win.

The remarks by Solicitor General Jose Calida follow two days of carefully calibrated responses from the Philippines and are almost certain to irritate China further.

Manila has so far been keen not to rock the boat in the hope of starting dialogue towards Beijing allowing it to exercise what the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled were its sovereign maritime rights.

"It confirms that no one state can claim virtually an entire sea. The award is a historic win not only for the Philippines ... it renews humanity's faith in a rules based global order," Calida told a forum on the South China Sea.

"The award opens a horizon of possibilities for all stakeholders. The award is a crowning glory of international law."

China has refused to recognise Tuesday's ruling and did not take part in its proceedings. It has reacted angrily to calls by Western countries for the decision to be adhered to.

China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said Beijing's position on the case had the support of Laos, the current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional bloc long dogged by discord over how to deal with China's maritime assertiveness.

The verdict was discussed on Thursday between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith ahead a regional summit in Mongolia.

"Thongloun said that Laos supports China's position, and is willing to work with China to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region," the ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not elaborate. Laos' foreign ministry has not responded to Reuters' request for comment on the ruling and its state media made no mention of Thongloun's comments to Li.

Land-locked Laos, which is boosting economic ties with China, will be hosting a key security meeting later this month at which the South China Sea is expected to dominate. ASEAN has not issued a statement about the ruling and its members have not said why.


China has said it has widespread support for its rejection of the case but many countries have stuck to cautious comments about resolving disputes peacefully and following international laws.

China claims much of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte ended his unusual silence at a private function late on Thursday and said he wanted dialogue with China and was considering sending former President Fidel Ramos to Beijing to get the ball rolling.

"War is not an option," he said. "So, what is the other side? - Peaceful talk."

Immediately after the ruling, the normally brash and outspoken Duterte privately told his ministers to be magnanimous and not to pique Beijing, according to one minister.

But the cautious tone appears to be changing in the Philippines, where there are signs of public disgruntlement with the subdued government response to a decision that most of the country was celebrating.

The United States, a key Philippines' ally, is urging Asian nations not to move aggressively to capitalize on the court ruling, according to U.S. administration officials.

The chief of its naval operations, Admiral John Richardson will discuss the South China Sea among other issues when he meets China's navy commander, Admiral Wu Shengli, from Sunday on a three-day trip to "improve mutual understanding", according to a U.S. navy statement.

The Star, Published: Friday, 15 July 2016, MYT 12:25 PM
China says Laos supports it on South China Sea case
By Neil Jerome Morales and Ben Blanchard

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he would send ex-leader Fidel Ramos to China for talks after an international tribunal ruled against Beijing's claims to most of the disputed South China Sea.

Duterte asked former president Ramos "go to China to start the talks" with Beijing after the UN-backed tribunal's ruling on the strategically vital waters, though he did not specify a timeframe.

"War... is not an option. So what is the other side? Peaceful talks. I cannot give you the wherewithals now," Duterte said at a college alumni meeting that was also attended by Ramos.

"I have to consult many people, including president Ramos. I would like to respectfully ask him to go to China and start the talks."

Duterte's remarks came after a UN-backed international tribunal on Tuesday ruled against China's claim to most of the South China Sea in what is widely seen as a diplomatic victory for the Philippines.

However the decision has also raised tensions with China refusing to recognise it and warning its rivals that too much pressure on the issue could turn the resource-rich waterway into a "cradle of war".

Ramos, who served as president from 1992 to 1998, is known to favour close ties with China. But the 88-year-old hinted he might not accept the offer, citing his age and other commitments.

Aides have said Duterte is now open to bilateral talks with China, suggesting the Philippines is in better position to negotiate following the Hague-based tribunal's decision.

The Philippines had initially refrained from asking China to abide by the verdict -- in line with Duterte's directive to achieve a "soft landing" with Beijing on the issue.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has said he wants better relations with China and to attract Chinese investment for major infrastructure projects.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, even over territory also claimed by the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Mail Online, Updated: 14:17 GMT, 14 July 2016
Philippines to send envoy to China over sea row

PETALING JAYA: China has questioned the neutrality and appointment of judges of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague which ruled in favour of the Philippines over their Spratly Islands dispute.

China Foreign vice-minister Liu Zhenmin questioned the “procedural justice” of the appointment and the operation of the tribunal, South China Morning Post reported.

The tribunal was formed after the Philippines filed a case with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITCLOS) in 2013 after a stand-off with China at the Scarborough Shoal the previous year.

Of the five judges, one was selected by the Philippines and the rest by Shunji Yanai (pic), the then president of ITCLOS, which was established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This was reportedly due to China’s refusal to take part or recognise the tribunal.

Yanai was not among the panel of arbitrators.

“Leaving aside the obvious violation of procedural justice, we can hardly make a better explanation of judge Yanai’s motivation and purpose other than that he did it on purpose,” Liu said.

Born in Tokyo on Jan 15, 1937, Yanai read law at the University of Tokyo.

He served in the foreign ministry and was Japan’s ambassador to Washington.

He was also chairman of a panel which advised Japan’s government to revise its constitution to allow military action overseas.

The arbitral tribunal on Tuesday ruled that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone through its large-scale activities in the South China Sea.

The tribunal arbitrators included Thomas A. Mensah of Ghana, Jean-Pierre Cot of France, Stanislaw Pawlak of Poland, Prof Alfred H.A. Soons from Holland and Rüdiger Wolfrum from Germany.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 14 July 2016
China questions neutrality of judges

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Peter Apps

I wrote last week that the risk of war in Europe was back. This week, unfortunately, the likelihood of confrontation in Asia seems to be spiking higher as well.

Two events in particular have driven this development, separate but subtly interlinked. On the Korean peninsula, the deployment of a new South Korean missile defense system and imposition of new U.S. sanctions on the north has nudged tensions higher. Now, an international court decision on China’s claims in the South China Sea could further amplify already growing posturing over disputed maritime boundaries (note).

For the United States, particularly in an election year, this is a pretty toxic brew. Washington might be the preeminent global military superpower, but it is now being pulled in multiple directions on a scale not seen in recent history. Nor is it truly in control of its own destiny – in Asia even more than Europe, its foes and allies are often calling the shots while the United States is inevitably left playing catch-up.

As with its dealings with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it faces a balance that is awkward and impossible to determine. If Washington looks too conciliatory, it risks being charged with weakness and may end up encouraging all other parties to take matters into their own hands. Try too hard to dominate the situation and deter potential adversaries, however, and the United States risks simply inflaming matters and ushering in the type of conflict it is desperate to avoid.

Take the North Korean example. Particularly since the accession of Kim Jong Un, the United States has faced a deadly quandary. Under the young Kim’s rule, Pyongyang has become more unpredictable, the human rights situation on the ground reportedly significantly worse. Most seriously from the perspective of outsiders, North Korea has been aggressively arming and moving firmly – if somewhat unsteadily – towards refining its nuclear weapons and missile systems until they pose a major threat in the region and beyond.

Just because it is working on such weapons does not mean Pyongyang necessarily has direct ambitions to use them. Most outside analysts believe its true aim in wanting such weapons is to deter outside powers from considering any Iraq-style regime change. Still, making solid predictions about the highly secretive country is far from exact science and it’s hardly surprising its neighbors want to take precautions.

That makes the decision to deploy the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea entirely reasonable. Missile defense systems like that, however, can themselves raise tensions even though they are defensive systems. In Europe, the deployment of a missile shield in eastern and southern Europe primarily to counter any threat from the Middle East clearly antagonized Russia, suddenly wary of losing its own long-held ability to strike European targets with nuclear and conventional weapons.

In that sense, it might not have been the best time to apply a new round of sanctions to North Korean officials and institutions. In response, Pyongyang has said it will close the one remaining diplomatic channel two U.S. officials via its UN mission. In the short term, the most likely consequence will be to make matters worse for the two U.S. nationals currently held by North Korea. It will also make handling any future crisis that much harder – and that cannot be a good thing.

The key to handling North Korea, however, has always been China. Beijing is Pyongyang’s only real ally and supporter, and while its ability to control North Korea’s activities has always been limited and imperfect, it does have multiple economic and other levers.

The problem, of course, is that relations between China, its regional neighbors and Washington are currently also seriously deteriorating. Outright conflict on that front probably remains less likely than a more limited war involving North Korea, although it would also be cataclysmic. As perhaps the world’s preeminent trading and exporting nation, Beijing has little appetite for international isolation on the scale of North Korea. But it also has very real ambitions, growing military capability and a government that has placed the quest for ever-growing geopolitical power at the heart of its domestic legitimacy.

In that sense, this week’s decision by the International Court of Arbitration in the Hague over China’s maritime boundaries may be something of a turning point, and not in a good way. China largely boycotted the process, which it said had little legitimacy. The problem for Beijing, however, is that most of the countries do take it seriously – and the court roundly rejected Beijing’s assertions to rights to most of the South China Sea.

Chinese regular and auxiliary maritime and other forces have already taken up a relatively assertive position on some of the disputed islands and shoals, and there seems little prospect of them are withdrawing anytime soon. The court judgment, however, may ramp up the confidence of nations like the Philippines to take a much more aggressive approach themselves, with potentially seriously destabilizing consequences.

It’s not necessarily all bad news. While the tribunal did conclude that Beijing had trampled on the territorial rights of the Philippines, it also suggested that some disputed areas such as Scarborough Shoal could be shared, for example when it came to fishing rights. That might offer a path to cooperation – or it could just make confrontation more likely.

Last year, a poll of leading national security experts put the risk of a conventional or nuclear war between the United States and China as marginally lower than the risk of a similar clash between NATO and Russia. That probably remains the case – but the risk of states like the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam -- many U.S. Treaty allies -- finding themselves in a fight may well be higher.

If peace is based around consensus, the direction of travel in Asia this year seems to be entirely the wrong way.

Reuters, Published: Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:15am EDT
Commentary: Can Washington prevent war in Southeast Asia?
By Peter Apps

In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Wednesday that it would reject any decision by the tribunal.

“China does not accept any means of third-party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China,” a ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said. “The Chinese government will continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and will continue to work with states directly concerned to resolve the relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, so as to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.’’

The case has become a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, an ally of the Philippines. China has mounted a global effort to round up countries to support its position that the tribunal represents outside interference in a dispute between the Philippines and China.

The Obama administration has encouraged China to abide by the tribunal’s ruling and has asked European and Asian countries to speak out in favor of it. The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Consistent with our longstanding policy, we support the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, including the use of international legal mechanisms such as arbitration,” the State Department said on Wednesday.

The court made its announcement on the eve of the inauguration of the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. His predecessor, Benigno S. Aquino III, took a hard line against China by initiating the arbitration after talks between the two countries failed. Mr. Duterte has adopted a friendlier attitude toward China.

New York Times, JUNE 30, 2016
Beijing Rejects South China Sea Case Ahead of July 12 Ruling

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Female leaders to the fore

It now seems extremely likely that by the middle of January 2017, three of the world’s six largest economic powers will be led by women.

Unless Donald Trump makes significant gains, the latest Reuters Ipsos poll still puts Hillary Clinton ahead of her Republican rival by 11 points in the race for the White House. German Chancellor Angela Merkel already has a strong case for being described as Europe’s most powerful woman, with an open argument as to whether she has more or less global influence than Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

And as the Brexit fallout settled, it swiftly became clear that Britain’s next prime minister would also be female. (It’s worth noting that this PM would have run the fifth-largest global economy had not the collapse in sterling after the UK vote to leave the European Union pushed France into that place.)

By Thursday last week, the fight to replace Prime Minister David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party had narrowed to two women. On Monday, energy minister and former banker Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the race, essentially handing Downing Street to Home Secretary Theresa May.

With no other challengers, May will now replace Cameron when he steps down later this week. Britain is not currently scheduled to have another election until 2020, although an incumbent prime minister can in theory call one at any time.

On the Labour Party side, the favorite to succeed embattled opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is Angela Eagle. Despite widespread dissatisfaction within the party, she has been the only one willing to put her head above the parapet as a challenger – although with Corbyn clinging on it still promises to be a tough fight.

These women have emerged from the most brutally savage spell in British politics in living memory. None of them owe their positions to tokenism. An entire generation of British male politicians has watched their reputations crash and burn since the June 23 referendum, and the women were the ones left standing.

Former interior minister May could yet prove as divisive a prime minister as Margaret Thatcher. At the Home Office, May took a controversially tough line on migration and has now sparked outrage even from diehard “leave” campaigners for a refusal to guarantee that EU citizens currently in Britain will be able to stay.

Even her critics, though, concede May is a tough, dogged, no nonsense campaigner and negotiator. It’s not hard to imagine her at the diplomatic top table.

America is hardly alone in never having had a female head of state, however – neither has France, China or Russia. (In the latter case, at least not since the reign of the tsars.) Putin, France’s François Hollande and China’s Xi Jinping may now find themselves balanced, however, by May, Merkel and (probably) Clinton.

In many respects, their achievements are striking given how underrepresented women are in national politics in all three countries. In Germany, only 37 percent of parliamentarians are female. In the UK, it is 29 percent; in the U.S. Congress it is as low as 19 percent. Only two countries, Rwanda and Bolivia, are above gender parity in national level political representation, with the United States ranking 96th worldwide.

When it comes to having female heads of government or state, a string of smaller and developing countries have arguably led the way. Sri Lanka became the first country to have a woman prime minister with the election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960. Golda Meir became Israel’s prime minister in 1969. Argentina’s Isabel Peron became the world’s first woman president in 1974. There have been female heads of state or government in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Turkey, Burundi, Central African Republic, Mongolia, and Haiti amongst others. Some were the daughters or wives of previous national leaders. But many were not.

In multiple cases, female leaders – such as Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto or Britain’s Thatcher – have become iconic figures.

Women leaders should not be, and are not, defined solely by gender – and it is never the most interesting thing about them. Nor do they like being pigeonholed that way. Back in 1995, Clinton famously told a United Nations conference in Beijing that human rights were women’s rights and women’s rights were human rights.

But as with whether a country features any women or minorities on its currency, these examples do make a difference. Inevitably, it colors both the realistic aspirations of other women at all levels in the country as well as the way men think about politics, power and agency.

There are stark limits to this. Just as the election of Barack Obama did nothing to stop African-Americans from being more likely to be arrested, jailed or shot by police, South Asia’s high-profile female leaders did not stop the widespread harassment and assault of women in their countries.

Ironically, the number of female national leaders worldwide has actually been shrinking. According to the website "Women in Leadership", there are currently 24 female world leaders. That’s the lowest in several years−and includes figurehead monarchs such as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Denmark’s Queen Margrethe.

That may not matter. With Britain now set for its second female prime minister and Clinton still the favorite for November, 2016 could well be remembered as the most important “Year of the Woman” yet.

Reuters, Published: Tue Jul 12, 2016 4:18am EDT
Commentary: May, Merkel, Clinton – the year of female leaders?

By Peter Apps
(Peter Apps is Reuters global affairs columnist, writing on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan, non-ideological think tank in London, New York and Washington. Before that, he spent 12 years as a reporter for Reuters covering defense, political risk and emerging markets. Since 2016, he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labour Party.)

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A different perspective

More than 50 years after Singapore arrested 113 Barisan Sosialis party leaders and labour unionists in Operation Coldstore, another of the former political prisoners has published his historical memoir.

Launched in both Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year, Dr Poh Soo Kai’s Living In A Time Of Deception has sold out. The English version, printed in Singapore, is now in its third run while the Chinese version, printed in Malaysia, is in its second run.

“I did expect good sales, but not this good,” says the 84-year-old, who spent a total of 17 years in prison. Four books by or about his fellow detainees had already been published in the first decade of this millennium.

“The momentum had been built up,” he explains in a recent interview. “I put the jigsaw puzzle together and made the connections.”

When the records of the British archives were partially declassified in 1994, for the period up to 1963, Poh headed to London’s Public Record Office to find “the facts to back up the stand that my friends and I took, that we were arrested under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance, and later the Internal Security Act, for political reasons and not on any account of security or subversion,” he writes in the preface to his memoir.

Poh was one of the founders of the University Socialist Club in 1953 (at the University of Malaya) and, as a member of the editorial board of its publication Fajar, was charged with sedition in 1954.

All of the eight who were charged were later acquitted. He and fellow socialists Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew published The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club And The Politics Of Postwar Malaya And Singapore in 2009.

The thrust of that book, however, “was against British imperialism and not directly at the PAP”, he writes.

But with encouragement from friends and additional material from Britain, Poh was inspired to write more about the “tumultuous events of the 1950s and 1960s” in which he was involved.

With historian Hong Lysa and academic Wong Souk Yee, he spent about five years on research for his memoir.

“We knew if we, who were non-mainstream, wrote, we would have to back up every fact or we would be hit hard, so we did,” he says.

And, he notes, there have been no contradictions since the book was published.

The retired medical doctor challenges the republic’s late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s version of the People’s Action Party’s early years.

For example, he writes about the anti-subversion Clause 30 in the draft Constitution during the second round of Constitutional talks in London in 1957. The clause prevented detainees – which included Bukit Timah member of Parliament and PAP assistant secretary-general Lim Chin Siong – from standing in the 1959 general election for self-government.

“Lee said he had opposed Clause 30 – when it actually came from him,” says Poh.

Documents from London’s Public Record Office “showed that Lee advised the British to see Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock and him separately, and that he was the one who asked Yew Hock to propose Clause 30 to the British”.

The Colonial Office’s initial reaction “was that there was no way that the secretary of state could ‘pull this chestnut out of the fire for them’,” writes Poh. “Detainees who were convicted of crime could not be prevented from standing in elections by any fiat of the secretary of state’s but only by the electoral laws of Singapore.”

Finally the British agreed, notes Poh. When the report about the second Constitutional talks was brought to the Legislative Assembly in Singapore, Lee said he would have Clause 30 removed before the new Constitution came into force. And in the Tanjung Pagar by-election that year (1957) he said he would remove the clause if he won, recalls Poh. “But he didn’t.”

When he was released from his second stint in prison in 1982, and after his father’s death, Poh moved to Canada as a permanent resident. “I never gave up my Singapore citizenship,” he stresses.

“I always wanted to come back. Singapore is my country and what I was fighting for, partly to set the record straight.”

He moved back to Singapore after 16 years and then to Malaysia through the Malaysia My Second Home programme in 2010; here, he helped to set up Pusat Sejarah Rakyat (People’s History Centre; pusatsejarahrakyat.org) “to provide an alternative history”.

Asked whether the socialist movement was too aggressive in the events that they planned, causing Lee Kuan Yew to take drastic action, Poh argues that they were too passive.

“We should have protested when the Lim Yew Hock Government arrested Chinese middle school students in 1957,” he points out. “And when left-wing PAP leaders Lim Chin Siong, James Puthucheary and S.S. Woodhull came out from prison in 1959, Lee promised he would release all the political detainees but he didn’t.

“We should have protested openly with rallies and a signature campaign, but we did nothing.”

In his memoir, Poh writes that one lesson learned was that anti-colonialists should have worked with as many parties and groups on as much common ground and as wide a range of issues as possible.

“The left wing was a weak, nascent organisation,” he says. “To get stronger, it needed to form a united front on a common minimum programme. If any of the parties in the front had betrayed that common minimum programme, then we should have fought that party, explained to the people and not kept quiet.”

But the left limited themselves to the PAP instead, he says, and, “That was a mistake”.

Today, two of the PAP members of Parliament are sons of former Barisan Sosialis leaders. Asked for his thoughts on this, Poh replies, “In Singapore today, the way to improve one’s economic and social position is to be an active member of the PAP.”

The Star 2, Published: July 15, 2016
Alternative history: A political prisoner’s view of Singapore’s early years

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Nobu-san, in a nutshell

Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s question stumps me: “What is white coffee?” he asks, before taking a sip of the iced drink.

The plastic cup in his hand bears the logo of a popular local kopitiam franchise. One of his staff members has just handed it to him, saying: “You had this the last time you were in KL. You liked it.”

The chef looks at me for an answer – which, for some reason, escapes me.

“You’re letting Malaysia down. For god’s sake, tell him what white coffee is!” I berate myself silently for my inability to enlighten Nobu-san.

After all, this is the Nobu-san we’re talking about – the man behind the successful Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants, the man who feeds and hangs out with Hollywood’s elite, and is a bona fide celebrity himself. Madonna once said that “You can tell how much fun a city is going to be if [a] Nobu is in it,” a quote often repeated by Nobu-san in interviews.

We are seated at Nobu KL on the 56th floor of Petronas Tower 3 on a quiet morning – the restaurant only opens at noon – and I still don’t have an answer for Nobu-san.

“It’s a popular coffee from Ipoh,” intercepts Nobu KL general manager Ai Sunaga. It’s not the complete answer, but I nod enthusiastically, and Nobu-san accepts the explanation with a smile.

The 67-year-old celebrity chef has a face that breaks into those smiles easily, and eyes that reflect their genuineness. He is happiest when talking about making other people happy, and that he does with his unique Japanese-Peruvian cuisine. Think of exotic South American flavours with clean-cut Japanese taste profiles. Nobu’s food is enticing, different, delicious and loved by many all over the globe.

“Nobu has grown in the last 20-over years, which means that the staff too is growing like a family. And I am happy to know that there are Nobu-inspired Japanese dishes around the world.

“As a chef, I like to see my customers smiling. This is my business, and when customers come to my restaurants and enjoy the dining experience, the money and success automatically follow.”

With his current estimated net worth of US$20mil (RM80mil), it is hard to believe that Nobu-san was once heavily in debt. He has admitted in several interviews that this dark period in his life had driven him to suicidal thoughts. But looking back today, he says that he wouldn’t do anything differently.

“If I could go back in time, I would advise my younger self to always try his best and not to give up. Even if you make mistakes, learn from them.”

For the love of sushi
Born and raised in Saitama, Japan, Nobu-san was seven when his father, a lumber merchant, died in an accident. He was 10 when he had his first sushi experience, and to say that he fell in love with sushi – and the idea of being a sushi chef – at first bite would not be incorrect.

After completing his secondary education, he moved to Tokyo, where he did a rigorous apprenticeship at Matsuei Sushi restaurant. It was only in his third year at Matsuei that Nobu-san was allowed near the sushi bar. Before long, a regular customer of Peruvian-Japanese descent approached Nobu-san and convinced him to pack up, leave Japan and open his own restaurant… in Peru!

There were two things that he wanted to do in his life – be a sushi chef and travel the world, and this gave him the opportunity to do both. So, despite his mother’s protests, Nobu-san left Japan.

“[My time in] Peru was the most important time of my life. I went at 23, and stayed there for three years. The country inspired me and my cooking in many ways,” Nobu-san reminisces.

Peru is the birthplace of the distinguishable taste of Nobu, as a lot of what he experimented with there became part of his repertoire later on.

“I learned to use ingredients like olive oil, garlic and coriander, which are foreign to Japanese cuisine,” he says. A dispute with his then-business partner led him to relocate to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where he stayed for a year before returning to Japan.

Knowing that he had to keep pushing the envelope in his cooking, Nobu-san moved his family of four to Anchorage, Alaska in the United States to open a sushi restaurant. On its 50th day, the restaurant burnt to the ground. This was when Nobu-san fell into depression, and entertained ideas about ending his life.

It was the thought of his two young daughters that kept the father going – and he decided to give his dreams a final shot.

In 1987, in Beverly Hills in California – nine years after the disaster in Alaska – Nobu-san opened Matsuhisa, which attracted the attention of one Robert De Niro, the venerable Hollywood actor. Long story short: Nobu was born.

“We know each other very well and have been good friends and good partners all this while,” he says of De Niro.

“Robert and I meet three to four times a year, travelling, and spend some time together. I like to keep the good relationship alive. I don’t request much from him, and just am happy with the way things are between us,” he says.

The evolution of Nobu
There are over 30 (and counting) Nobu restaurants in the world, but Nobu-san says that the idea and passion behind each restaurant is the same as when he opened the first Nobu in 1994, in New York.

“My personality, my character, and my mind have not changed. I don’t think about the money that the restaurants make. God gave me this job, and I appreciate it. I know many rich people who are not happy. The money can mean success, but it cannot guarantee a happy life. I want to be happy and make other people happy,” he says.

Nobu guarantees good food and service, and here they are of equal importance. “Taste is important, and visually, the food has to look good too.

“The best quality food comes from simple cooking. Here, food is made by hand. I always tell my chefs to cook from the heart because people will definitely feel it. Every-thing relates to passion, which is most important.”

While Nobu has the same signature dishes in all its restaurants across the globe, Nobu-san likes to highlight the local ingredients available in a particular city.

“For example, London has the best Dover sole, so we use the fish in our Nobu specials at our restaurant there,” he says. “Nobu KL is still pretty new, and I want to see more of what we have here before deciding on the local specials,” he says.

Nobu-san places priority on top quality and expensive ingredients at his restaurants, but doesn’t knock the cheap sushi found at supermarkets and elsewhere either.

“During my younger years, Japanese cuisine was a national heritage that wasn’t shared with many people, but now everyone is looking for Japanese food. More young people are wanting to learn about Japanese cuisine, and that is a good thing,” he says.

“Even if someone’s first experience with sushi is at a supermarket, that is actually an introduction to Japanese cuisine.

“The people who try sushi at a supermarket may go to a sushi restaurant to try it again – but this time, it’ll taste different. And they keep learning the new taste of sushi, until one day they decide to try sushi at Nobu. It’ll be like motivation for them… to eat at Nobu,” he says.

Chef at home
As a man who has worked almost every day of his life, Nobu-san appreciates his rare down time.

“I stay at home, and I don’t want to see anybody,” he says, with a big laugh.

One of Nobu-san’s favourite things to do is exercise every morning.

“I like to swim and think about what I should do for the rest of the day. I don’t want to have a too-tight schedule, so I use the morning to think about it.”

If you’re interested in that schedule by the way, just keep an eye out for Nobu-san’s Instagram posts.

The grandfather of two little girls is active on social media, and constantly posts photographs of his family, food, and of course, celebrity friends.

From De Niro to David Beckham to Martha Stewart, Nobu-san’s Instagram account is like a giant Hollywood photobook.

And because he loves Instagram, he understands his patrons’ obsession with photographing their food.

“I don’t mind people taking photos of their food, because I do it too. Although many restaurants don’t encourage that, it doesn’t bother me,” he says.

For the lucky ones, Nobu-san is also a chef at home.

He had a big celebration for Christmas last year, at which he prepared sushi for his family and friends at his home in Los Angeles.

But what about the dishes after the meal? Is he excited about reliving his dish-washing days at Mitsuei?

“Doing the dishes? That is not my job anymore,” he says, with a wave of his hand.

The interview comes to an end.

It is only after saying goodbye to Nobu-san that I remember that white coffee is made from coffee beans roasted lightly with margarine and without sugar. Oh well…

The Star2, Published: JULY 14, 2016
The chef who made Nobu a big name

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Mitsuru Yabe

I REFER to your front page report “Hazard in the hills” (The Star, June 23).

New residential developments are spreading quite rapidly on hills throughout Malaysia. When I arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Japan two years ago, I felt that li--ving in this environment flushed with greenery would be an amazing experience for me.

Since then, I have discovered that there are very worrying concerns for people living on slopes in the urban areas. There is the possibility of a landslide occurring without warning.

In Japan, where earthquakes occur frequently, the geological conditions and soil composition are very weak. A lot of sediment-related disasters occur every year due to frequent heavy rainfall and typhoons.

As such, legislation and techno-logies related to slope disasters have been implemented for the past 50 years.

There is a high possibility of landslides occurring within the residential areas on slopes and hilly terrains in Kuala Lumpur. The unfortunate tragedy of Highland Towers, which happened in 1993, is an example.

Having been involved as an engineer in work related to early warning systems on slope disaster for over 10 years, I would like to share my experience in slope disaster prevention and mitigation in Japan and my recent activities with residents and city councils in Malaysia.

Hilly terrains in Kuala Lumpur consist of hard rocks formed du--ring the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras. The rocks are hidden under a surface layer that’s about 30m deep, which is subjected to wea-thering specific to tropical regions.

During the rainy season, this weathering is made worse by the constant infiltration of water. Research conducted by Malaysian institutes such as the Southeast Asian Disaster Prevention Research Initiative of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia have shown this to be true.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to fully investigate the complex influence of weathering in deep ground despite having the newest technologies.

People who live on hilly areas in Kuala Lumpur must therefore recognise the potential risk of landslides in their neighbourhoods and pay attention to any change in the environment in their residential areas.

They must learn to detect signs of landslides by looking for cracks, sinkholes or groundwater springs after a heavy downpour and report to the relevant authorities where necessary.

Residents must also know the evacuation procedures and that it is important to share the basic information of slope disaster prevention and mitigation among themselves, authorities and the experts.

In Japan, a law on landslide prevention and mitigation came into force about 20 years ago.

Under this law, local governments must designate the areas prone to landslide and inform the residents concerned as well.

Data compiled by the rainfall observation network system in Japan, which was developed by the Japanese Meteorological Agency, is also communicated to people through the media.

But despite having this in place, a massive debris flow in Hiroshima two years ago still killed 70 persons.

One of the reasons behind this loss in human lives is the failure of the local government to warn the affected residents before the disaster occurred.

If the residents had received the information earlier, all would have evacuated in time, and no loss of life would have occurred.

After the Hiroshima disaster, various workshops and community meetings were held for the residents to teach them about the ha-zards of living on hilly terrains.

These activities and programmes can also be emulated in Malaysia. SlopeWatch, a well-known NGO here, has been conducting awareness activities on slope disasters for some time now.

A new community initiative on slope disaster prevention and mitigation has started with some Bukit Antarabangsa residents in collaboration with the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council in Selangor. This must be lauded and supported by the public.

Activities include a workshop where residents can obtain information on the hazards in their area and rainfall data through cloud sourcing.

A special app has also been developed to facilitate the sharing of information and to alert residents of imminent threats in real time. We are supporting these activities and have offered our technologies and experiences to develop the app with a local IT company.

This app can also be combined easily with the landslide early warning system (LEWS) which can be installed at certain sites and buildings.

LEWS is a common system in Japan that’s being introduced by local governments with the help of geo-technical consultancy companies.

It offers early warning on movement of ground and buildings to residents via mobile phones and email.

If the app and LEWS are used in Malaysia, residents will have better access to information in understanding landslides and ultimately avoid catastrophes such as the Highland Tower’s tragedy.

Letter to The Star, Published: Thursday, 14 July 2016
Sharing data is the best way
By MITSURU YABE, Chief Representative, Oyo Corporation, Kajang

EVERY time there’s a deluge of rain, residents of Bukit Antarabangsa brace for the worst. Infamous for its many landslides, the community has now developed a system which they hope can work as an early warning system.

The system is a mobile app, to be launched by the end of this month, that enables residents to report signs of landslides such as water ponding, uprooted trees and erosions via their smartphones.

Called SlopeMap, it will show a digital map of the hillside community on which digital volunteers can post sightings of signs.

The app is being developed by SlopeWatch, a community-based organisation focused on landslide and slope safety, in partnership with Japanese civil engineering company OYO Corporation which is providing free consultation.

SlopeWatch programme director Eriko Motoyama said it was a chance meeting that started the ball rolling on the project.

“During a conference on slope safety, we were approached by Oyo Corporation chief country representative Mitsuru Yabe, who asked us if we conducted slope monitoring during heavy rains.

“It made us realise that we only monitored after it had rained or as and when we were free.

“During heavy rains, I would send out SMSes to residents to be alert and look out for any possible signs of slope failure, but that was it.

“Yabe pointed out that there were different hazard signs during periods of heavy rains,” she explained.

She said a similar system could have prevented the 2008 Bukit Antarabangsa landslide which killed five people and destroyed 14 houses.

“Prior to the landslide, there were resident sightings of muddy water flowing down,” she said.

Using rainfall information and hazard sightings, the group hopes to find a correlation between the two sets of data to come up with an early warning system.

SlopeWatch chairman Abdul Razak Bahrom said the rainfall information would come from the group’s own rainfall gauge machine in Bukit Antarabangsa.

The app enables users to report landslides or signs of slope failure in their vicinity and collect user-acquired imagery (pictures and videos) showing the extent of damage.

“The system will be synced with the real-time rainfall data from the rain gauge. The more contribution to the system, the more data-rich we become. This will increase its accuracy as an early warning system,” said Razak.

He said the app worked similar to Waze, where users can sign in to report based on their location.

“For example, when it starts to rain, residents will get a notification that 20mm of rain is falling and a prompt to report any sign.

“We call this citizen signs because traditional monitoring or forecasting falls in the domain of government agencies where inputs come from sensors and instruments. But here we rely on humans as sensors, as a form of crowd sourcing,” he said.

Learning from the past
Citing the 2014 landslide disaster in Hiroshima, Yabe said the similar terrain to Bukit Antarabangsa could provide a learning opportunity for both countries.

Following torrential rain in which a month’s worth fell in a single day, several landslides were triggered near a mountain beside the city of Hiroshima. It was reported that 74 people lost their lives in that disaster.

“One of the main reasons why the landslide in Hiroshima occurred is that the residential area was developed close to the foot of the mountain, which can be prone to landslide.

“Also, residents were not aware of similar events in their area and did not understand the hazards or signs of slope failure.

“Combined with the high rainfall within a short period, these factors led to the high number of casualties during the disaster,” he said.

Following the disaster, Yabe said residents in the affected area had begun prevention and mitigation activities at community level.

“These activities include disaster drills, drills using hazard maps to check suitable sites in the event of a disaster, as well as lectures by experts to communicate correct knowledge on disaster prevention,” he explained.

“Because this area has the same physical conditions and built-up environment like Hiroshima, it is good to have a programme that can avert similar disaster,” he explained.

Community Hazard Mapping
In preparation for the release of the app, SlopeWatch conducted a community hazard mapping exercise in January with Bukit Antarabangsa residents association heads.

“Residents have indigenous knowledge where they are familiar with their surroundings. So, we asked them to plot out signs that they have seen and will see if any of these events match with a certain amount of rainfall.

“The workshop that we gave was for them to do a ‘brain dump’, where they note down all they knew about past events and what they perceived as hazards.

“They also marked out hidden streams, embankments and other physical features of the terrain,” said Eriko, adding that some 60 people from 20 neighbourhoods took part in the exercise.

Eriko said the next step would be to teach the community to use the app to start reporting when it rained.

“It is a way for them to contribute towards signs of landslide hazard community mapping,” she added.

From this, Eriko said they hoped to have an early response system in place.

“There has been some interest in resident-initiated evacuation or at least take some measures to protect ourselves from any potential situation. It is usually managed by the authorities, but it takes time for evacuation notices and first responders to arrive.

“That is why we are first targeting the heads of residents associations for the community mapping,” she said.

However, Eriko and Razak said the app was only as useful as the digital volunteers.

“Crowd sourcing is only as good as the numbers, so it is getting them to participate that will be a challenge,” they said.

For now, SlopeWatch and Oyo are collaborating on implementing the system in Bukit Antarabangsa.

“But if other communities are interested, we can teach them as the software can be modified to fit any location,” said Razak.

The Star Metro, Published: Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Digital volunteers to keep an eye on slopes
Bukit Antarabangsa community provides necessary information to help organisations develop landslide warning app

See more:

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Explosive learning tour

On our last family road trip to the Pacific Northwest, my wife and I drove a big loop with our daughter, then 6. We hit Seattle and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. On the way south toward Portland, we stopped at Walla Walla in southeastern Washington. Nice people, pleasant wineries.

At no point did I think, "Wait! We're only two hours from the cradle of the atomic bomb!"

But now that I've spent a few days nosing around the Hanford Site of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park − and now that my daughter is nearly 12 − I think differently.

I'd like to do that drive again and add the Hanford B Reactor (100 miles west of Walla Walla) to the itinerary. This is the reactor that made the plutonium that powered the bomb the U.S. dropped in 1945 on Nagasaki, Japan. The National Park Service and Department of Energy are working together now to reinvent the site as a sort of classroom, a place that will get families talking about World War II, the Cold War, physics, teamwork, politics, morality and perspective.

Wait, some readers may be tempted to say. If this is a national park unit, shouldn't there be a waterfall somewhere?

Actually, no. Alongside its dozens of vast beauty spots, the National Park Service operates a growing number of parks and monuments that are more about education than recreation.

Every one of the agency's Civil War battlefields raises questions just as grave as those found at Hanford. Then there's the national monument at Pearl Harbor, where Japan's attack forced this country into World War II, and Manzanar National Historic Site, where the U.S. confined Japanese Americans for the duration of that war.

To help us understand troubles of more recent vintage, there's Pennsylvania's Flight 93 National Memorial, where the park service opened a visitor center in September.

It's no easy job, teaching American history. But it's a responsibility the park service claimed decades ago, with backing from Congress and several presidents. And for parents whose kids are ready to start confronting the world's complexities, these historical parks are a chance to do that together.

Which brings me back to southern Washington. I wouldn't make it the centerpiece of a vacation. But as a side trip? Yes.

It's a pleasure to race the tumbleweeds across the wide plains near Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, Wash., to scan the vineyards on the rolling hills and see the sun glinting off the Columbia River. And if I had the whole family along, I'd be sure to remind them that just a few miles away, cleanup workers are coping with tons of radioactive waste, the byproduct of Hanford's atomic era.

As author Blaine Harden writes in "A River Lost," this stretch of the Columbia is "a fine place to see an eagle hunt, deer graze, or fish spawn. But best not to drink the groundwater for a quarter million years."

On the floor of the B Reactor, a docent would tell us about physics, logistics and the vast power of the atomic weapon. And I would throw some grown-up questions at my daughter:

Would you drop a bomb that could kill 150,000 people? What if it might save 300,000 others? How about 3 million others?

What if you learned after the fact that you had helped build the first atomic weapons? What if you built deadly weapons that led to a delicate global balance that has lasted decades? Would that make them instruments of peace?

Up to now at Hanford, thorny questions about casualties and ethics haven't been encouraged by the Department of Energy, which owns the site and will continue to share responsibilities here. On my visit in March, I heard park service interpretive specialists nudging Hanford's docents (many of them retired Hanford scientists and engineers) to reach beyond the protons and neutrons − and still avoid personal opinions.

It was fascinating to hear. Then within days of my return from Washington, Shigeko Sasamori gave me her perspective on Hanford − a ground-zero perspective.

Sasamori was a 13-year-old in Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. As she recalls it, she spotted the American bomber in the morning sky and was pointing it out to a friend when the bomb called "Little Boy" detonated.

Her friend was killed − one of an estimated 140,000 people who died in the short term. Sasamori suffered burns on more than 25% of her body. She endured dozens of skin grafts, some paid for by charity campaigns in the U.S.

She eventually became a nurse, mother, grandmother and peace activist in the U.S.

Now 83, she lives in Marina del Rey. She told me that she likes the idea of a Manhattan Project historical park − "if they make people understand how dangerous radiation is." But if the tours focus only on physics and American teamwork, she said, "that's a horrible thing."

The message Sasamori would deliver? "Evil weapons made here. So don't make any more."

This got me thinking. What if guides in the U.S., Hiroshima and Nagasaki teamed up to tell stories together, or to build electronic links between locations? What if rangers rotated between Hanford and Pearl Harbor?

I'll hope for programming that provocative. Although I know the Manhattan Project park will never match the attendance at the parks with epic mountains and charismatic beasts, it's a great American opportunity to visit a place like this, stretch beyond our usual horizons and perhaps even learn what it's like to stand at both ends of an atomic bombing mission.

If a family can fit a day like that into a week of sixth-grade vacation, why not? On the way back south, Yosemite will still be there.

Hanford Site of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park
Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
The Hanford Site in Washington state is one of three locations in the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. "Fat Man," the atomic bomb that detonated on Aug. 9, 1945, over Nagasaki, Japan, originated here. Pictured: control room panels at B Reactor.

Los Angeles Times: Published: APRIL 24, 2016
Facing difficult questions at the Manhattan Project's Hanford Site

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ghost towns

ENTERING the Fukushima red zone, I feel a burning sensation in my eyes and there’s a thick chemical stench in the air.

Safety measures? I have a full gas mask to protect my eyes and reduce inhaling air in the red zone.

I have been wondering what it would be like in the Fukushima exclusion zone, to be the only person walking in the town and have 100% access to every shop in the ghost town and to explore at will. And now, here I am.

Before going in, I am told by the authorities that I need a special permit from the local council.

That is too much bureaucracy for me, so I just sneaked in through the forest to avoid the police on the road and it is amazing!

I just have GPS and Google Maps to guide me, walking in the woods at 2am, getting into the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie in the Fukushima prefecture.

It is eerie; how towns once filled with people now lie empty.

All the shops are unlocked – the supermarkets, goldsmiths, banks, bookstores and restaurants.

There is still electricity.

The traffic light changes from green to red even with no cars around.

It feels like being in a post-apocalyptic movie like I am Legend or in the Fallout video games, but with no zombies!

Animals, mostly stray dogs and wild boars, hang around the shopping malls and supermarkets fora-ging for food.

The radiation levels are still very high in the red zone. Not many people have been in this town in the last five years; it’s like it vanished.

I find food, money, gold, laptops and other valuables in the red zone.

I’m amazed that nobody has looted this town.

Though the red zone is untouched, there are obvious signs of looting or items moved by animals in the yellow zone.

(Residents are allowed by the authorities to return to their homes for a limited time every month to reclaim items left behind.)

There are digital boards which measure radiation levels on the main road where the police patrol.

There are also safety booths at the yellow zone where I go for a check before leaving.

The scan rates me as “normal”.

I am careful not to overstay so I believe the trip will not cause me any serious health problems.

I got a flu later but I think it is probably due to the cold weather and not from any radiation.

photo -1
Stuck in time: A calendar at a shop in the Fukushima red zone lies undisturbed from the time the nuclear meltdown happened following the tsunami and earthquake in the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 13 July 2016
A trek through ghost towns
By Keow Wee Loong

Keow spoke to The Star Online on the passion that fuels his daring acts.

The law graduate from University of London completed his first climb up the Shanghai Tower in April 2014.

Q: What prompted your first climb up the Shanghai Tower in April 2014? What or who inspired you to start rooftopping?

I was in Shanghai on vacation and someone told me that two people climbed that building in February, so I was curious and decided to try it out during a public holiday in China, the Qing Ming Festival.

Q: Why do you do this? Is it for the adrenaline rush? Or to take photos from the top of the buildings?

It is no different than people who wanted to conquer the tallest mountain while carrying their country name. I am the only Malaysian who does this. A lot of people think only Europeans or Americans can do these crazy things. But why not an Asian? Why not a Malaysian?

I also enjoy climbing to the top of the building and capturing an image that is so rare that no one can duplicate. Is it worth risking my life to capture the perfect photo? As a photographer, I will say yes, it is worth it.

The view from the top is so great that I want to share it with people all around the world. When I stand on top and look down, I feel that what we do sometimes is just so insignificant. Everything seems so small up here. We are just a dust in the universe.

I am always trying to inspire others to do what they want and say yes to all the opportunities life presents to them. It takes great courage to take the first step.

Q: What kind of preparation do you do before ascending a building?

I cycle, swim, jog and climb mountains. Nothing big and I don’t do these all the time.

Q: Your attire when you climb the buildings has always been black T shirt, shorts and sandals, and you always have your face covered. Why?

Well, it is easier to climb with T-shirt and shorts. I wear black because it doesn’t get dirty easily. It is also easier to blend in with the shadow so I don’t get spotted at night when I climb. It will be very obvious is you are wearing pink or other bright colours at night.

I cover my face when I climb the buildings because I don’t want people to recognise me in public. It will make it very difficult for me to move around.

Q: In July last year, you were fined RM1,000 for climbing 1 Sentrum Tower. This hasn't stopped you from scaling skyscrapers. Why? Were you not afraid of the possible punishments?

I am only producing art – which are the photos – and I am not hurting anyone, so why should I stop doing it? I enjoy climbing and taking photos from above. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do in life. If you want something in life, go get it. No one will give it to you if you don’t put in effort to get it yourself.

Q: You climbed the Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzhen on New Year's eve. Can you describe this experience for us?

I chose Ping An International Finance Centre because it is the second tallest building in the world. I visited Shenzhen specifically for that. It was really cold that time and I was just wearing shorts. It normally takes me one-and-half-hours maximum to reach the top of any buildings, but for this climb it took me 23 hours because I was evading the guard and construction workers.

Besides using the stairs – which were only built until Level 97 then – I climbed from the outside, on the steel frame of the building to get up to the crane. It was freezing on top.

I bumped into a guard at Level 55, who then alerted the other security guards on the ground floor. They were looking for me floor by floor, so I just hid for eight hours until they changed shift before moving up again. It was like looking for a fish in the ocean for them because the building has 115 storeys. They beefed up the security later, but I managed to get out in one piece.

I was doing this alone.

Q: People would say what you do as crazy and dangerous. What’s your response to this?

My dad actually knew about this and he is very supportive. Well, it is only crazy and dangerous if you don’t know what you doing, like flying a plane without any knowledge or skydiving without knowing how to open your parachute. While other people see it as crazy and dangerous, it is normal for me.

I don’t really care what people think as I don’t need their approval to do what I enjoy doing. I smile at them, and ask how often do you get to do what I do?

Q: The label of "Spiderman" – like it or hate it?

Seriously, I hate that title. Other international media also used “daredevil” or “adrenaline junkie” in the story headlines. I always tell them I am a photographer from Malaysia, but somehow the editors got creative and changed everything.

I am okay if you call me a rooftopper, but I prefer to be known as a photographer rather than Spiderman. I am just a normal human being.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 17 March 2015 | MYT 10:51 AM
Malaysian rooftopper hates to be called Spiderman

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No-go area

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian freelance photographer Keow Wee Loong says he sneaked into the Fukushima district in Japan last month to highlight the dangers of depending on nuclear power.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 struck the Tohoku region, triggering a massive tsunami which resulted in a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Reconstruction is taking place but the Fukushima exclusion zone is sealed off.

Police patrols block visitors from going in and because of fears of picking up radiation, special permission is required to enter for just five hours.

Keow said in an interview that the process of applying for and obtaining such permission would take nearly a month and as such he sneaked in through the woods around the Tamioka township at 2am on June 4.

“All the roads are guarded by cops and there are police patrols along the road in, so I kept to the woods.

“However, the towns themselves were deserted.”

Keow, who lost his credit card and most of his cash when he dropped his wallet earlier, said he could not afford a safety suit.

He had to settle for a gas mask and hoodie for protection.

Travelling with a friend, they tracked over 26km across Fuku-shima, spending only 13 hours in the red zone to minimise their exposure to radiation.

Although the earthquake and tsunami caused untold damage, Keow said there were still electri-city and cellular connectivity when they went in.

As such, he said they were able to use GPS to guide themselves through the woods and small towns.

Keow has shared the photographs he took there on his Facebook page.

Responding to online criticism that the trip was a publicity stunt and that he was trespassing, Keow said he did it to highlight the dangers of depending on nuclear power.

“I didn’t loot the houses or hurt people. What I ‘stole’ were photographs ... so I can live with that,” he said.

photo - 1
No-go area: Police have set up barriers such as this to restrict access across much of the Fukushima exclusion zone that is believed to still have significant levels of radiation five years after the nuclear disaster.

photo - 2
Food for thought: Keow looking at the shelves of an abandoned supermarket with grocery items strewn all over the aisles in the Fukushima district. Food for thought: Keow looking at the shelves of an abandoned supermarket with grocery items strewn all over the aisles in the Fukushima district.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Risking it to show nuke dangers
By Qishin Tariq

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Helping Nepalis

JOHOR BARU: A software engineer and his friends are using their passion for photography to help rebuild a small mountainous village in Nepal that was devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake last year.

Wilson Teo, who took up the hobby when he was 16, said their passion for photography usually took them to many exotic destinations and the road less travelled.

One such trip, led by his mentor Maxby Chan, was to the village of Laprak in Nepal.

After learning that the earthquake had destroyed the village, the group decided to lend a helping hand by adopting it.

“Since then, we started raising funds in Malaysia and collecting donated items to help rebuild the small village.

“With the funds, we purchased construction materials and solar panels for the villagers to rebuild their houses and instal the panels to help provide water and electricity,” Teo, 50, said in an interview.

As the village is slowly being rebuilt, the father of three is happy that he and his friends are able to contribute in the rebuilding process.

Teo, who juggles his hobby and running his own software development company, is active in the local and international photography scene, taking part and winning in numerous competitions in Bosnia, India, Russia, England, China and Canada.

Recalling his teenage years seeing his friends showing off their cameras in school, Teo said he felt envious as he came from a poor family with six siblings. His father, a contractor, could not afford to buy one for him.

“It was only when I was 21 and studying at the Ohio State University that my then-girlfriend, now-wife, gave me my first camera as a present that I began exploring in the field,” he said.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Helping Nepalis rebuild after quake
By Yee Xiang Yun

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With a heart

KUALA LUMPUR: Summer days are all about fun in the sun but Malaysian-born Ella Pung sat outside her garage all day in Austin, Texas, to raise funds to rebuild houses for poor Malaysians.

The 11-year-old girl with a big heart, who has lived in Texas for nine years, spent the time selling sodas to raise funds for Projek Wumah, a home-grown initiative that helps to rebuild dilapidated homes of the hardcore poor.

“I feel sorry for people who don’t have enough food or a house to live in like I do. I wanted to help. And I realised a drink sale was something I could do by myself,” said Pung in an e-mail interview.

Ella was inspired by her grand-uncle, radio personality and actor Patrick Teoh and Projek Wumah founder David Wu, who embarked on a cycling journey to China to raise funds for the project.

Teoh has completed his stint while Wu is enroute to Guangzhou.

“My mum donated the sodas for the sale. I offered to pay her back but she wanted to do her part, too,” said Ella.

From 6.30am, Ella set up her stall – a cooler full of drinks and a handmade sign detailing what she was doing – and sat waiting, in the heat.

“At first, there were no people. My generous older brother Ian gave me five dollars and I gave him a soda. He was my first customer.

“A couple of neighbours bought a Sprite and a Dr. Pepper. And a painter, who only spoke Spanish, was driving past – he donated a dollar without even taking a drink. We didn’t speak the same language but we both wanted to do our part.

“After that, I had no customers until my mum put my story on Facebook and my friends and neighbours came to the rescue. They bought drinks and even donated extra money. A few of my friends drove straight from the airport just for that.”

Ella raised US$51 (RM204) from her soda sale, which she promptly donated to Projek Wumah.

Previously, she has taken part in the Austin Crop Hunger Walk, which raises funds to feed the poor.

“I walked two miles and collected donations from sponsors. Now I’m going door to door around my neighbourhood, collecting for the food banks,” she said.

Ella’s story reached Malaysia when Teoh shared it on Facebook. This led to many Malaysians commenting that they were touched by the kind deed halfway across the world.

Ella’s mother Corinne Teoh, 49, said: “Sometimes, I feel like God put her in our lives because He needed her to teach us to be better human beings and to love the world.”

In the meantime, Ella wants to continue her fund-raising activities.

“My plan for tomorrow is to continue selling drinks to earn more money for the cause. This time, I’m selling drinks at my mum’s workplace,” she said.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Girl with a heart for charity
11-year-old sells soda in Texas to raise funds to rebuild houses for poor M’sians

by suzanne lazaroo
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Second Wave

Last night, Mr Yahho visited the movie house to watch the Old French Movie. This is the part of "Bastille Day Special" in collaboration with Alliance Française de Penang".

This vibrant three-hour epic was made during the German occupation by director Marcel Carné, poet Jacques Prévert and designer Alexandre Trauner, the chief creators of the so-called poetic realism that dominated French cinema in the late 1930s. The film then enjoyed a triumphant reception at its premiere in March 1945, just two months before VE Day, when it helped assert the indomitable spirit of French culture and restore national pride.

The Nazi regime forbade direct reference to the war or any currently controversial matter, so the setting is the Parisian theatre of the 1830s, which is given a Balzacian social scope and dramatic vigour. Pierre Brasseur and Jean-Louis Barrault play rival actors, one a Shakespearean star, the other a brilliant mime, both of them in love with the cool, graceful Arletty's much-sought-after courtesan, who's also admired by a charismatic criminal and an aristocrat.

The movie was shot in extraordinary circumstances at Nice's Victorine studios and can be read as an allegory about mid-20th-century France. The final sequence of Barrault being swept away in a swirling crowd as Arletty is driven off in her coach is one of the peaks of romantic cinema. This carefully restored version is accompanied by two first-rate documentaries about its production and significance.

Guardian, Published: Sunday 23 September 2012 00.05 BST
Les Enfants du Paradis
(Marcel Carné, 1945, Second Sight, PG)

By Philip French

On Saturday, he visited also the Star Pitt to watch the Japanese movie, "Fireworks from the Heart (2010)":

Where Fireworks from the Heart works extremely well is when it explores this familial bond. Where the film runs into trouble is when the narrative decides to focus intently on Taro’s relationship towards his community members and away from his family. This happens primarily within the last act of the film, where we see Taro begin to interact with his peers in a manner that remedies his affliction of being a hikikomori. While not totally deviant from the emotionally riveting first half of the film, it becomes increasingly centered on rather trite circumstances that don’t necessarily develop Taro as a character in a realistic fashion. For someone such as Taro to have faced such dire circumstances with his family, it just seems somewhat too easy for writer Masafumi Nishida and director Masahiro Kunimoto to end the film on an overly sentimental note that doesn’t necessarily reflect the strength of family offered throughout the film. With an overextended focus on the Katakai Fireworks Festival towards the end, it simply appeals as a way to nicely wrap up Taro’s development as a character, a move that removes the originality of his character seen in the beginning. A more subtle realization on part of Taro would’ve worked out much better during this portion of the film, allowing the audience to sympathize more with his difficult journey rather than his newfound status as a social individual.

Besides the rather excessively melodramatic conclusion, Fireworks from the Heart is still a relatively strong film for its focus on a family dealing with the trials and tribulations of an uncertain future. Actor Kengo Kora and actress Mitsuki Tanimura give wonderful performances throughout the film, each to bringing to life the struggle their characters face in a plausible light. Dealing with the issue of hikikomori, the film doesn’t downplay the significance of the problem, but rather tackles in a way that is authentic in regards to it being a family issue and not simply a personal dilemma. With a rather simple narrative structure, the film doesn’t indulge too much on the sentimentality easily brought about by its premise−except perhaps for the ending−but it relies more on the strength of the familial bonds shared by the characters, which provides the film some novelty. This is what makes Fireworks from the Heart stand above many similar films that deal with such issues, in turn making it a thoughtful and emotional experience.
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Director: Masahiro Kunimoto
Writer: Masafumi Nishida (screenplay)
Stars: Kengo Kôra, Mitsuki Tanimura, Mayumi Asaka


IN little more than a month’s time, aspiring Malaysian filmmakers under the age of 25 will be able to test their movie-making skills while learning from some top names in the region.

But that’s only if they’re selected for the awesome Next New Wave film-making workshop, which is back for its second year.

The brainchild of director Tan Chui Mui (note), the workshop focuses on six elements of the craft – producing, directing, production design, cinematography, editing and sound.

“You can only learn film-making by making films,” said Tan. “That’s why workshops like these are important.”

The workshop, sponsored by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia, will hold its second edition from Aug 19-26 with the objective of encouraging young
Malaysians to develop their artistry and expose them to South-East Asian cinema.

It’s also important for filmmakers to build a supportive community, said Tan.

The Star 2, Published: Tuesday 12 July 2016
Behind the scenes
Aspiring filmmakers get excited: film director Tan Chui Mui shares what it takes to make it in showbiz.

(note) Tan, born 1978, was born in Sungai Ular, a small fishing village in Kuantan, Malaysia:
Filmmaker Tan Chui Mui credited her career to Yasmin’s timely assistance. She first met Yasmin in 2004 when she had to run an errand for a friend. She brought some of her short works to Yasmin’s office. Yasmin liked her documentary Hometown and encouraged her to make more films. When Tan came up with the script for A Tree In Tanjung Malim, she needed RM2,000 to shoot the short film.

“Yasmin told me to go to her office to get the money from her. Just like that,” said Tan.

A Tree In Tanjung Malim went on to win the Principal Prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany in 2005.

“That was life-changing for me, and it was what made me decide to make films full-time,” said Tan. “Yasmin’s help was very important for my career. She did a lot to help nurture new talents.”

Inspired by Yasmin’s charitable nature, Tan decided to “pay it forward” and used the prize money from Oberhausen to fund films by other filmmakers, most notably Liew Seng Tat’s award-winning Flower In The Pocket.

The Star, Published: Friday, 23 July 2010 | MYT 12:00 AM
A heart of gold
By Allan Koay

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Japan election



自民   56
公明   14
おおさか  7
こころ   0

民進   32
共産    6
社民    1
生活    1
無所属   4









北海道、秋田を除く東北、長野、新潟、山梨の面積は日本全体の44.8%を占めており、東日本で 反自公勢力が優勢、西日本で 自公勢力が優勢となった。







      得票率   絶対得票率
自民   35.91  19.63
公明   13.52   7.39
おおさか  9.20   5.03
こころ   1.31   0.72

民進   20.98  11.47
共産   10.74   5.87
社民    2.74   1.50
生活    1.91   1.04

改憲4党に投票した人は 32.77%





2016年7月11日 (月)植草一秀の『知られざる真実』

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Singapore-born Shu Han Lee

Fresh out of the oven is this bubbly, irresistible cookbook from neophyte author Shu Han Lee. Shu’s only 25, and the look and feel of her debut cookbook reflect her age. The pages are peppered with cute illustrations that Lee did herself (she is also a talented graphic designer) and exude peppy youthfulness from the get-go. The DIY spirit is also reflected in the photography and food styling, which she also did herself.

The recipes are reflective of South-East Asian cuisine but also make use of the fresh seasonal produce available in the United Kingdom, where Shu now resides.

You’ll find all sorts of delectable recipes for things like sambal roasted aubergines, cold dressed tofu and fennel and minced pork. The fact that Shu makes use of local ingredients means that she employs innovation in her recipes and isn’t inflexible, which is in keeping with modern cooking trends – although purists might disagree with this somewhat.

Shu has also included lots of useful tips on ingredient variations, in case certain items cannot be found, which is especially helpful if you’re new to South-East Asian cuisine. At the back of the book, you’ll find a super-cute glossary (with illustrations) that offers practical information on Asian produce. Most of the recipes aren’t too technically difficult, so if you’re looking for a cookbook that offers a pain-free, fuss-free toe-dipping introduction to South-East Asian cuisine, this is your best bet.

Chicken and Rice: Fresh and Easy Southeast Asian Recipes From a London Kitchen
Author: Shu Han Lee
Publisher: Fig Tree
Price: RM110

The Star 2, Published: July 10, 2016
Cooking the books: Good enough to eat
By Abirami Durai

Can you tell us a bit more about your cookbook?

Chicken and Rice is a collection of Southeast Asian recipes with a strong focus on local seasonal ingredients – basically the way I cook! Growing up in a food-obsessed nation, and inspired by all that I learnt from working part-time at the farmers’ market in my student years, I’ve learnt to adapt traditional recipes with the best of what the UK has to offer that time of the year.

What excites you about the British food world at the moment?

Britain never was really known for food; I, for one, wasn’t thrilled about the food prospect when I first moved here. I think the general attitude in the past used to be one of apathy and what’s changed now is that people actually get excited about their food, and celebrate new flavours and techniques from other cultures. London, especially, has become such a fantastic melting pot of cultures from all around the world that we don’t bat an eye when we see things like kimchi on the menu.

What’s your comfort food?

Congee. It’s the best thing the day after a crazy night out, or after a holiday with too much rich indulgent foods.

If we had a look in your fridge, what would we be bound to find?

Coriander, miso, fermented shrimp paste, some kind of pickle, and leftovers from the night before because I always cook too much.

Are you from a family of great cooks? How did you get interested in cooking and food?

My mum is a brilliant cook. Being the eldest daughter, she started cooking for her whole family at the age of 10. I wish I could say I grew up throwing things into woks and pounding spice pastes, but Mum never let us into the kitchen. Like all Asian mums, she believed time should be spent on studying and the piano; and any chance I got to help her in the kitchen only came as a reward after I’ve finished my homework. I really only learnt to cook when I moved to London for my studies at Central Saint Martins. It’s a mixture of greed, hunger and curiosity that led me to cooking. I’m obsessed when I find something I’m passionate about, and would do long Skype sessions with Mum, or test 8 recipes for a dish till I find one I like.

Ten minutes with By Lottie Huckle – 15 Feb. 2016 10:12 AM
Exclusive Interview: Shu Han Lee's Chicken and Rice

Shu grew up in food-crazed Singapore, and continues her nation's obsession with food in London, where she writes and takes too many photos of food. She first moved here for her graphic design training at Central Saint Martins College, and by some inevitable force, ended up twirling noodles and pinching herbs to make food look and taste beautiful. By that same inevitable force, a lot of her design projects and products feature the edible.

Her food writing, styling and illustrations have appeared in Cereal Magazine, Delicious Magazine, The NY Times Diner's Journal, Great British Chefs, Honeycombers Asia, among other publications and platforms; and she has been named one of Britain's best food bloggers by The Sunday Times.

Her 'Noodles' classification system has appeared on Hong Kong Tatler, and her designs related to sustainable eating have been featured by The British Library. Shu went on to work as Wholegood's creative director to expand their brand presence in the London organic food market. She has also worked with various design studios for clients such as BBC, David Loftus, Natoora, and Yeo Valley Organic. Shu is currently pursuing her Business Masters at Imperial College London to merge her design and direction capabilities, and possibly stick her toe in future foodie ventures.

Once a month, or whenever she’s got too much energy, she puts on a chef's apron and finds herself hosting supperclubs, popups and workshops. Influenced by her old weekend job managing a farmer's market, she tends to cook with what's seasonal and local, even while making dishes from home. Her debut cookbook, Chicken and Rice (Fig Tree, Penguin Books), will be released in May 2016. Shu is already looking for the next fun delicious thing to work on.


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Football analyst Manar Sarhan

Manar Sarhan disinfects her hands after filling a patient's tooth, readying to catch the Euro 2016 match and analyse it for a newspaper as Egypt's first woman in mainstream football punditry.

Sarhan, 27, appears weekly on the private CBC television channel to comment on matches in the competition, a rare sight in a field monopolised by former football players, all of them men.

"I chose dentistry as a career with my mind, but football is my passion and love," Sarhan tells AFP in a private clinic where she freelances as a dentist.

"I tried to play football in the beginning but I didn't find a good opportunity in Egypt and I think specialising in analysing football makes up a lot for it," she says after examining a patient.

Sarhan began working in journalism as a volunteer in 2002, using a basic camera to capture footage for the website of her favourite Egyptian club: Zamalek.

Sarhan began writing for the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper and the popular Fil Goal website before she was picked up by satellite sports programmes.

By day, Sarhan works in a government medical centre and chips in at a clinic owned by one of her friends. At night, she clears her schedule to follow games and to read the latest in the world of football.

"I'm a dentist by day, and a football commentator by night," Sarhan says, laughing as she packs her medical instruments.

"The effort put into commentary is more in spite of the return being lower," she says.

A profitable profession, dentistry is respected by Egyptians. It was not easy to enter the sports commentary world, especially as a woman.

"The field is already difficult for male youths, so what about a girl?" says Sarhan, who decorates her bedroom with posters of Egyptian and European football players.

"I was mocked in the beginning. They would tell me 'Girls belong in kitchens'," she says.

Her large following on Twitter suggests otherwise.

- Dream beyond Egypt -

Top European clubs and their games are popular viewing in Egypt, and Sarhan has proven to be an expert in the field.

Ibrahim Fayek, an anchor at CBC, says hosting Sarhan was "very strange" in the beginning because she is "a lady and a dentist".

Now, he says, he is doing his best to keep her on his show as competitors try to poach her.

"Manar has an expansive and deep understanding of football and she presents a different type of football analysis. Her explanation of the different teams' plans and tactics surprised me," Fayek tells AFP.

At home, Sarhan sits close to a large screen broadcasting Belgium against Wales, jotting down statistics on passing and the players' movements.

Nearby lies an old copy of Britain's World Soccer magazine, with the cover featuring Zinedine Zidane, who she said inspired her love for Real Madrid.

"I would watch a match twice before writing any comprehensive technical analysis," she says.

Her passion for football inspired Sarhan to learn Spanish so she could track La Liga and the club she supports from original sources.

She plans to also learn Italian and Portuguese to expand the sphere of European football that she can follow.

Sarhan also follows Spanish youth matches and teams that are less well-known to be able to keep abreast of up-and-coming talents.

In one corner of her house rests a ball which her mother says Sarhan still kicks around in the hallway.

"Manar has loved football since she was a child. I wanted her to continue her studies in her profession, but she is happy commentating," her mother Magda al-Hawary says with evident pride.

Sarhan's dream goes beyond Egypt's borders.

"My dream is to work in the field of European football in Spain itself, to become international."

Mail Online, Updated: 03:22 GMT, 9 July 2016
Dentist breaks ground for Egyptian women as pundit

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Friends of the Orangutans

DESPITE our Government’s promises to protect our forests and the environment, deforestation is occurring on a destructive scale. As you read this letter, forests in Kedah are being devoured on a daily basis, and this needs to be stopped.

The Star exposed rampant deforestation in the Ulu Muda forest reserve recently. Ulu Muda is a vital water catchment area as it supplies water to over two million Malaysians. It is also teeming with wildlife. Destroying Ulu Muda will not only severely disrupt supply of water but will lead to increased illegal wildlife trade, which is taking place at an alarming rate, to say the least.

In recent years, the Kedah state government approved logging leases in the virgin forests of the Ulu Muda forest reserve, and just over the past four years at least 10,000 hectares of forests have been logged in the area. So let’s not blame the forces of nature alone when water supply in Kedah, Perlis and Penang is severely affected.

Apart from Ulu Muda, the pristine Gunung Inas forest reserve is also being destroyed, including the steep slopes. In 2012, SIRIM QAS, one of two forest management auditors of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), stated that deforestation in Gunung Inas had stopped after it was exposed by The Star. However, earlier this year deforestation simply resumed, including in forests above 1,000m above sea level.

Is it not the case that our government policies prohibit clearance on steep slopes and in forests 1000m above sea level?

Clearing has also been spotted in the Chebar Besar forest reserve. Forests cleared here would most likely qualify as high conservation value (HCV) forests.

The primary forests inside the Pedu forest reserve have not been spared either. Hundreds of hectares were cleared in 2012 and open burning to clear land continued into 2014. Bukit Perangin forest reserve has also been affected.

Is there no end to this avaricious madness? Most of the forests cleared above are primary or high conservation value forests. Villagers in the areas surrounding the reserves mentioned are at risk of water pollution/shortage, landslides and flooding.

The Government must take immediate action and stop all deforestation in Kedah.

To make matters worse, the Kedah state exceeded its annual allowable cut (AAC) by 283% between 2009 and 2014.

One might ask what happens after logs have been cleared from the forest reserves.

They would be marketed globally with the MTCS label, meaning that the timbers originate from sustainably-managed forests. Malaysians know that this is a farce but, even locally, the voices of dissent are being ignored.

Letter to The Star, Published: Friday, 8 July 2016
End rampant logging of forest reserves
By UPRESHPAL SINGH, Director, Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia)(note)


GENEVA (AFP): The Bornean orangutan is on the verge of extinction, a top conservationist body said Friday, also warning that the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, and a hammerhead shark species were endangered.
In an update to its “Red List” of threatened species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said growing human pressure was driving the three species ever closer to destruction.
“It is alarming to see such emblematic species slide towards extinction,“ Jane Smart, head of IUCN’s Global Species Programme, said in a statement.

The Bornean orangutan, which along with its cousin the Sumatran orangutan are Asia’s only great apes, has moved from being classified as “Endangered” to

“Critically Endangered” -- “only one step from going extinct,” IUCN said.

“As orangutans are hunted and pushed out of their habitats, losses to this slow-breeding species are enormous and will be extremely difficult to reverse,“ Erik Meijaard, an IUCN assessor of the species said in the statement.

Around 100,000 of these great apes are estimated to live on the island of Borneo, which is divided between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, down from 288,500 in 1973 and with their numbers expected to shrink to 47,000 by 2025.

The majestic creatures have seen their habitat shrink dramatically as the island’s rainforests are increasingly turned into oil palm, rubber or paper plantations.

Compounding the loss of habitat, surveys indicate 2,000 to 3,000 of the orangutans have been killed every year for the past four decades by hunters and sometimes villagers who view them as pests.

That represents a loss of as many as 66,570 individuals over a span of 40 years, IUCN said, warning that the great apes could be extinct within 50 years.

IUCN also warned that the slow-moving whale shark, which has been known to measure up to 12.65 metres (41.5 feet), had been placed on the “Endangered“ list.

The shark is fished for its meat as well as its fins which are used to make soup in some parts of Asia, but is also often caught by accident by fishermen casting nets for tuna.

IUCN said unregulated fishing was also behind the fast-falling numbers of the winghead shark, a distinctive species of hammerhead shark, which had also been moved from being considered “Near Threatened” to “Endangered”.

The small brownish grey shark, which has an exceptionally large “hammer“ that can be as wide as half the shark’s length, is particularly prone to getting entangled in fish nets due to its shape, IUCN explained.

The group said it was difficult to estimate how many of the sharks remain, but said there is a sharp drop in the numbers turning up.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 10 July 2016 MYT 9:44 AM
Bornean orangutan, whale shark sliding towards extinction: conservationists

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'these kind of people'

THE most sarcastic couple I have seen in years took the table next to us.

The restaurant was quiet, save for the clinking of utensils and chirpy chatter of patrons.

This middle-aged couple made a commotion about the ‘poor and bad service’. Louder and louder came their grouses and exasperated mutters.

Like a child crying for attention, she whined to the man with arms flailing.

She had a ‘soprano voice’, but the kind that easily becomes whiny.

‘Soprano voice’ went on about how her drink was not served when she saw it at the kitchen counter.

Her man, arms crossed and frowning in annoyance, declared aloud that restaurants should not be left to “these kind of people”.

He stalked to the kitchen counter and balked at a waiter having his dinner standing up.

“Wah! Can suddenly eat in the middle of service one, ah?” He chuckled condescendingly, making no effort to keep it down.

A waitress brought their drinks minutes later and explained that there might have been a misunderstanding.

The man shook his head and muttered loudly under his breath.

Their antics left my friends and I baffled. It seemed as if the couple was just putting the workers down deliberately.

They ate on with sour faces and the occasional sarcastic burst.

Personally, the service was not that bad. Our waiter, the guy having his dinner standing up, was quite attentive.

But even if service was bad, they did not have to act like all hell broke loose and kick up a fuss when all the workers were being as fast as they could.

They were not wrong to complain, but all they needed to do was ask nicely instead of hurling sarcastic remarks.

Effective communication would have probably worked in their favour had they made known their grouses decorously.

Like everybody, I love a good service too. I, too, would find it irritable if my food comes late or the waiters were slacking. But this was not the case.

I observed the workers and they were not resting on their laurels.

They had their hands full, rushing to meet every customer’s request at peak dinner time.

They were so busy, they had to squeeze time for their own meals standing up. I watched that waiter gobble down his food.

You can complain of bad service but there’s no need to be rude about it.

Being a customer does not mean we have a licence to be unreasonable. If we have third class mentality with a demandingattitude, then that is a real sad situation.

As someone who has never worked a day in the service line, I try to be more understanding of those who do.

There can be long, fatiguing hours.

One of my friends put it after seeing that middle-aged couple: “Sometimes, people get so self-entitled, they forget how to be humans”.

I cannot agree more.

The StarMetro, Published: Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Waiters are human too
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Life is like a book

IT was a breeze travelling on the roads and highways in the Klang Valley this past week – a real pleasure for motorists who remained in the city when nearly everyone else had balik kampung.

It brings to mind one of Lat’s iconic cartoons showing rodents sunbathing on a street in Kuala Lumpur during the festive period.

Although my movements are somewhat limited these days for medical reasons, I took advantage of the low traffic conditions to venture further from my home to catch up with friends.

Besides dropping in briefly on a few Hari Raya open houses, I was able to explore the practically empty Lake Gardens located in the heart of KL city, officially known as Perdana Botanical Gardens.

Strolling along the spacious tree-lined pathways and beautifully manicured gardens brought back many pleasant memories of a time when I used to frequent the park.

I was even brave enough to attempt an outing to a popular mall – something I would not usually do on a public holiday to avoid the stress of looking for a parking lot – and had an enjoyable time.

In fact all my trips this past week went smoothly, without the usual jams. I’m rather sorry that that will soon come to an end as office workers and schoolchildren get back to the grind tomorrow.

At times like these, I cannot but realise how much stress we have to deal with during normal working days. We have learnt to live with the reality that travelling from Point A to Point B will stretch on to an hour or more.

But doing the same route in mere minutes during the festive break made me wonder what it all actually adds up to, not only in terms of fruitless time spent on the road, but in terms of our life choices.

As I travelled along clutter-free roads this past week, it made me wonder if for some of us there may be options which have not been fully explored to simplify our lives.

How many of us have cluttered up our days so much that we sometimes feel that we are stuck in a perpetual jam?

Our diaries are filled with back-to-back appointments. Every hour of the day demands something of us, and there seems to be no getting out of it.

Author and management consultant Manfred Ket De Vries wrote, “In today’s networked society we are at risk of becoming victims of interaction overload. Introspection and reflection have become lost arts as the temptation to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out that’ is often too great to resist.”

He contends that people associate “doing nothing” with wasting valuable time, and are constantly checking e-mails, Facebook and texting.

But the biggest danger, he says, is not so much losing connection with each other, but with ourselves.

De Vries notes that setting aside regular periods of “doing nothing” may be the best thing we can do to nurture our imagination and improve our mental health.

I have long subscribed to that wise counsel. As poet William Henry Davies put it so eloquently:

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Of late, I have found myself in a position where I am regularly forced to “stand and stare” – well sit and stare actually – for all the hours it takes to complete each chemotherapy session.

But in those hours, I have seized the opportunity to commune with friends who drop by, with myself and with my Creator. And I can honestly say I am so much richer for it. Indeed, “doing nothing” has done me a world of good.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 10 July 2016
'Doing nothing’ achieves a lot ;
In our fast-paced life, taking time off to stand and stare is critical for the well-being of the soul.
By Soo Ewe Jin

IT has been said that life is like a book. And there are many motivational quotations that revolve around this.

A friend recently posted on her Facebook one that goes, “Life is like a book. There are many chapters and (sometimes) many volumes. It can be sad (or scary) to end a chapter, but also exciting to see what the next chapter entails.”

She has just been given a new position with a different function and I can understand both the anxiety and the excitement over what lies ahead. But she will do well, that I know.

Among the books in my home library is the English version of the Chinese classic Romance of The Three Kingdoms which comes in two volumes. The chapters are short and always end with an interesting statement like,

“Read the next chapter and you will know the fate of Cao Cao.”

I remember in my growing up-years this classic tale being transmitted over Rediffusion and it just went on and on with a new episode every day. It kept us riveted by the speaker, wondering how the story was going to end.

Fast forward to today and the Three Kingdoms has spread far and wide through video games, TV series and hit movies like John Woo’s Red Cliff.

It’s the same with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings classic. The version I bought in the 1980s is a thick book in small print. The version I bought for my sons comes in a box set of three volumes, released after the movie trilogy hit the big screen.

I am glad they read the books from cover to cover, although I must confess I now prefer to watch the trilogy on my widescreen TV.

Life is indeed like a book. In a way, this column is like my life story as I also weave in aspects of my personal journey. It has its ups and downs.

There are many milestones to cross and whatever we may think, we really don’t know what the next chapter will unveil.

I write this on Friday, the morning after my chemotherapy session, which is still an ongoing process.

I have been asked when this will stop and I don’t know the answer. Even my oncologist cannot be sure when.

I have chosen not to focus on my ailment but to persevere in my journey of faith.

I know that if I choose only to see the medical side of things, I will cease to live life to the fullest.

So, as I have written in previous weeks, I am most joyful that milestones like my elder son’s wedding and my wedding anniversary can continue to be celebrated, albeit with some adjustments.

But it is not just happy moments like these that are being written into my journey of life. There have also been many sad moments, too, for instance when some co-sojourners have passed away.

Yet others fight on with hope. I was especially glad that the day before my chemo session, I was able to visit a friend in hospital and we mutually encouraged and prayed for each other.

Not so long ago, when I was up and about, I used to regularly visit the sick and the elderly. Now I find that though my circumstances may be different, I can still connect in different ways.

Like in a story book, the journey of our life will not be complete if it does not include the supporting characters like the heroes and the villains, the wins and the losses, the epic cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.

When I hear people complain about work, I remind them, “Life is more than just work. There is so much more to life and changing your focus will help you keep these problems in perspective.”

Some years back, during a group discussion, a friend was complaining about a strained finger due to playing tennis, not aware that I was going through a cancer journey then.

Another colleague chided him, “You complain about your finger. Our friend here has a bigger problem.” We all had a good laugh.

I have laughed much in my journeys, even in difficult times, for I believe that laughter is indeed good medicine. I have also cried, and I have had my anxious moments.

That’s what life is about, after all, and not just for those going through cancer or some other serious ailment. Whether the day brings sunshine or rain, live life to the fullest and treasure the gems you find along the way.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 3 July 2016
Live life to the fullest
By Soo Ewe Jin

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Indonesian 'Brexit'

Twelve people have died after being stuck in a three-day traffic jam in Indonesia at an intersection known as “Brexit”.

The traffic stretched for more than 13 miles (21km) at the junction for Brebes, a town on the main island of Java, as millions of people headed home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Locals refer to the toll gate at the intersection as Brexit, short for “Brebes exit”.

Indonesia’s roads are choked every year at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, but the chaos at Brexit was particularly acute this year as tens of thousands of cars crammed on to the arterial highway, said Hemi Pramuraharjo, a transport ministry spokesman.

“In terms of this ‘Brexit’ case, there’s been a total of 12 victims over different days,” he said. The deaths occurred between 3 and 5 July.

Pramuraharjo said several victims were elderly, while others died from fatigue and other health complications. Local media reported that a one-year-old was killed by fumes.

More than 400 motorists have died on Indonesia’s roads during the holiday season, including those in the Brexit jam, Pramuraharjo said.

Accidents are common during this time on Java’s potholed roads. The island is home to 144 million people.

Motorists posted pictures on social media showing cars stuck in miles of queues near the junction. Aerial photos captured a sea of motionless vehicles, with some drivers looking for respite from the jams away from their cars.

Pramuraharjo said roadside vendors and crowded markets near Brexit had compounded the chaos. “There is a bottleneck there, where there’s a petrol station very nearby and many people queue,” he said. “There’s no space on the road. We don’t have a solution.”

The Indonesian health ministry denied earlier reports that the Brexit victims had died in one day, and urged motorists planning a long journey to rest and to take necessary precautions.

Achmad Yurianto, a spokesman for the ministry, said the heavy use of air conditioning could also lead to an increase in carbon dioxide levels in people’s cars.

The Guardian, Published: Last modified on Friday 8 July 2016 22.00 BST
Twelve people die in traffic jam in Indonesia at junction called 'Brexit'
Multiple deaths reported over three days, with queue stretching back 13 miles as millions headed home to celebrate Eid

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John Lennon

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

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"We stood alone in 1940; we can do it again!" said Bryan Neely, a 91-year-old World War II pilot now battling for Britain to leave the EU.

The sprightly veteran is turning his fire on doom-mongers who claim Britain could not thrive outside the European Union, saying it is time to vanquish the bureaucrats "destroying" identity across the continent.

"We can't do it? That's a load of rubbish. Of course we can do it. Have some spirit! Have some guts!" the former Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot said.

Neely is a vehement supporter of leaving the EU in the June 23 in-or-out referendum on Britain's membership.

Ever since he joined the "Veterans for Britain" campaign, his smartphone has been buzzing every five minutes as he travels around the kingdom to rally the troops.

"I do love Europe. It's a wonderful place," he told AFP over a cup of tea in the neat little garden of his flat in west London's chic Notting Hill district.

"All the nations in the European continent have their own history and I don't think that history, that culture should be in any way destroyed by bureaucrats."

"Who are these people in Brussels? Wait until they get up in the air and have their cockpit shot through.

"The plutocrats, money crunchers and politicians... they have no clue about culture, history."

- British resilience -

Neely recalls being a teenager observing the Battle of Britain in 1940, seeing a wave of 25 German planes being chased away from the River Thames by three British Spitfires.

"I felt really, really proud," he said.

Neely had dreamed of becoming a plastic surgeon but "went straight from a schoolboy into fighting".

He joined the RAF and flew his first raid over Germany at the age of 19 in a Lancaster bomber.

His last mission was to drop blockbuster bombs on Adolf Hitler's Alpine retreat in 1944. The mission was turned around in mid-air because the Nazi German dictator was in Berlin.

The wartime years left Neely feeling that Britain possesses a unique character: a blend of pride, strength and resilience.

"In 1940 at Dunkirk, Europe was flat on its back," he said, recalling the Allied retreat from the continent to Britain as Nazi Germany overran western Europe.

"We stood alone for 18 months before America came in. We did it once, we can do it again."

That Prime Minister David Cameron, world leaders like US President Barack Obama and international institutions think otherwise gets Neely's dander up.

"The financial people, they know nothing. Where the hell were they in 1940?" he asked.

"It was all doom and gloom... but one man stood up: Winston Churchill.

"We wouldn't be in this position if Churchill was still alive."

The wartime British prime minister, who died in 1965, proposed a "kind of United States of Europe" in a 1946 speech -- though Britain, tied to its Commonwealth, would play no part in it.

- Mass immigration 'submerging' Englishness -

After the war, Neely was the double for lead actor Donald Houston in the 1949 film "The Blue Lagoon" and launched his own charter flights firm.

He continued to fly for 50 years, travelled the globe, met Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and transported crayfish from Ireland to France.

Born in India, he spoke Hindi before learning English and watched as the British empire evaporated.

Now he fears for the identity of England itself. Unrestricted mass immigration from the rest of the EU is the issue dominating the referendum campaign.

"We as a nation are losing our character. Our immigration is completely submerging the Englishness," said Neely.

"Our norms, our way of life, our culture is being slowly destroyed.

"I'm not against immigration but I am very much for controlled immigration.

"If Europe wants England, let England be England."

Neely reckons the rest of Europe also needs to ditch the EU set-up.

"Let's start again. We want to work together but not under a system of bureaucrats," he said.

"All the people I was flying with, they all had guts. Get some guts back into this! Think properly -- really think properly.

"We can build something better."

GlobalPost, Jun 16, 2016 at 11:10 AM
WWII pilot fights one last Battle of Britain

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Brexit; the death of a dream

THE English defeat to Iceland and exit from the Euros raises an inte-resting parallel with the United Kingdom’s referendum held a few days earlier, where they chose to leave the European Union.

In both cases, the unthinkable happened. And it happened partly on the misguided, hubristic idea that England is a lot stronger than they actually are.

How could it be that Iceland, which has the population of Kajang, could beat the 1966 World Cup winners? Ah, and there lies the problem does it not?

That was 50 years ago and furthermore it was the one and only major trophy that the English football team has ever won. Yet somehow the Jules Rimet trophy held aloft in Wembley is seen to be some sort of the footballing equivalent of Excalibur, endowing the holder with a kingly right to victory.

The truth is a lot more sobering: English football had a moment of glory but that does not mean that it is a powerhouse.

The same can be said about the nation as a whole. What is the country without Europe?

The Commonwealth is little more than an excuse for men and women from various former colonies to draw large pay cheques in Marlbo--rough House whilst speaking in the public school accents of their former masters. The Empire is long dead and since the Second World War, the UK is not anywhere near to being the superpower it once was.

And yet there are those who believe that they can stand alone. With perhaps a little help from their “special partner”, the Americans.

This is strange because those who are so averse to being bound by Brussels seem to be happy to be subservient to the United States. But then, when has logic come into this Brexit move?

Promises by the Leave campaign have been found to be hollow. The massive injection of cash into the Na--tional Health System that was pro--mised is now already being denied by those who made those promises.

The magic disappearing of Euro--pean immigrants so despised by the electorate has proven to be merely wishful thinking. And the supposed strength of the British economy has also been shown to be a vain hope as the pound tumbles, the markets crash and investors already start looking elsewhere.

England by itself is little more than a small nation state. They have good things going for them of course, but compared to the juggernauts that are America and China, what are they?

Regional pacts are necessary for countries to ensure peace and economic survival. Just as Asean is necessary to give us small South-East Asian nations a bit more punch, so is the EU to the UK.

But all that is drowned out by populist promises that could never be kept and by appealing to the lowest common denominator, a racist and bigoted fear of the other as a trump card.

It is always so easy, isn’t it? When in doubt, find a scapegoat that looks and speaks differently from you, and say that they are the cause of all your problems.

This racist posturing and the eventual victory of the Leave campaign has opened a huge can of worms. Racist incidents in the UK have spiked and it is not aimed merely at the Eastern European communities but also other non-white communities as well.

And why not? In any country you will find the despicable and the ra-cists, but when they are legitimised by those who are the nation’s lea-ders, then they feel empowered to make their stand public by proudly displaying their bigoted mind-set through words and deeds.

And if I may make a slight detour here; this is why the statements made by the Mufti of Pahang and then the subsequent defending of those statements by Putrajaya is so dangerous and must be opposed.

The declaring of the legitimacy (at least from one man’s perspective of theology) of killing people who oppose a proposed law, can easily justify bigoted acts, which although they may not be as dramatic as bloodshed, will at least give rise to more discrimination and ethnic hatred in a country already toxic with such attitudes.

However, back to England. Why should I care about what happens six thousand miles away?

Well, partly it is because I am ra--ther fond of that little island nation. It had its moments of wickedness but it also tried to ensure free health for all, a social security net and a sound education system; with an underlying belief in the ideals of the rule of law and civil liberties.

They were not perfect and one wonders if these ideals will still be around in the next 50 years, but the thing is, the experiment was at--tempt-ed and there was an aspiration of a nation that had a capitalistic economy tempered by socialistic principles.

This aspiration is based on the idea that a community lives and grows together. The strong and the weak, the powerful and the powerless.

On a larger scale, was this not also the ideal of the European Union? But instead of a community of individual people, it is a community of nations. Growing and helping one another and by so doing, trying to ensure peace and econo-mic prosperity.

The EU has some serious pro-blems: it is criticised as being overly bureaucratic and corrupt. It needs to be fixed.

But by abandoning the experiment, Britain has given up on the post-World War dream of a world where cooperation is the way forward, and not self-interest. That is the greatest tragedy of Brexit; the death of a dream.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 6 July 2016
There’s strength in numbers
As a small nation state, Britain is finding out the hard way that the European Union sum is greater than its parts.
By Azmi Sharom

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European Championship

FRENCH PAPERS - Fri. 08.07.16: French papers are ecstatic about beating Germany 2-0 in the Euro Cup semi-final last night. Striker Antoine Griezman is applauded as the hero of the night. Les Bleus will now take on Portugal in the Euro Cup final on Sunday in Paris.

France 24, Latest update : 2016-07-08
France beats Germany: 'Pure ecstasy'!

It’s all over! England have been eliminated from Euro 2016 by Iceland. For the second time in a week, England suffer an ignominious exit from Europe. They’ve been awful tonight and thoroughly deserved to lose. Hats off to Iceland, though. They’re a limited team, but played to their own strengths and thoroughly deserved their win.

The Guardian, Published: 28 Jun 2016 21:52
England 1-2 Iceland

PARIS − Yes, it is cute but, no, it is not safe.

UEFA explained Tuesday why it does not want players' children to join in post-match celebrations at the European Championship.

The scenes of toddlers in full Wales kit joining their dads on the pitch after another Euro 2016 win has added to the surprise semifinalist's feel-good story and delighted spectators.

However, UEFA has asked for no more on-field family scenes when Wales plays Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday.

"It is a European Championship not a family party," UEFA's tournament director Martin Kallen said at a briefing.

"A stadium is not the most safe place for small kids," Kallen said. There could be problems if fans invaded the field, and stadium staff operating machinery on the playing surface could also be an issue.

Among the most vivid and defining images of Euro 2016 was Wales star Gareth Bale laughing and chasing his three-year-old daughter, Alba Violet, across the Parc des Princes pitch in Paris after a 1-0 win against Northern Ireland in the round of 16.

"To be able to share it with my daughter and my family was emotional for me," Bale said later. "Obviously I haven't seen them for four or five weeks now. It's an amazing experience, one I'll never forget."

Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff sided with UEFA, saying: "For me it's a bit too much at times. I think the notion that you take to the pitch as a team and stay as a team is not wrong.

"The circle (of team associates) is always getting bigger and it reaches a stage where you can't miss it. From that point of view, I can understand such a decision or suggestion from UEFA," said Bierhoff.

After stunning Belgium in the quarterfinals last Saturday, an entire team's worth of Welsh players' children had a kickabout in the goalmouth in front of the Wales fans in the stadium at Lille.

"It is nice pictures," Kallen acknowledged. "We are not 100 percent against it but we are cautious."

UEFA's request to the Wales football federation was first reported on Monday by The Associated Press.

The Wales team is following a recent football tradition of players celebrating with their children, especially after cup finals. In France, the children of several team players, including from Portugal and Croatia, have appeared on the pitch.

"It is getting more and more a habit that entire family members would like to go on the pitch or into the technical area," Kallen said. "The principle is how far you go with having other people on the pitch than the players. People with accreditation cards should be on the pitch and not more."

Kallen said UEFA has a responsibility to identify risk and ensure safety inside stadiums.

"Small kids of five, six years − if something happened, what do you do afterwards? What do you say?" he said. "From our side there should be a certain order."

The New York Times, Published: JULY 5, 2016, 6:00 A.M. E.D.T.
UEFA Asks Players to Keep Their Children Off the Grass

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The idea of the West

OCCIDENTALISM: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (2004) appeared 10 years before the Islamic State/the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS/ISIL) burst on to the international scene.

The authors, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, would have easily zeroed in on the group had they published the book much later.

The authors draw attention to hostile views of the West. As such, they concluded that the West cannot afford to close its societies as a defence against those who have closed theirs.

They feared “we would all become occidentalists, and there would be nothing left to defend”.

While the West is a career, unbeknown to many − in all its manifestations, they must now represent themselves − but not necessarily in the spirit of Edward W. Said’s critique in Orientalism (1978).

The authors do not use Said’s book as a model of counter reflection on the non-Western view of the West.

Rather, it partook a simplified and hostile view of the West through generalisations and prejudices by others.

The authors called for understanding the West by the West.

In Malaysia and the rest of Asia, we take the West for granted.

This has always been so, beginning with our encounters with the Feringghi (Portuguese) during the Malay Malacca Sultanate period.

But popular culture and the popular media − the ubiquitous social media as primary conduit − in its eclectic mode, have reinforced our views of the West.

Occidentalism unveils the other discourse on globalisation and world politics, of the virulent intellectual type − of ideologies, values, perceptions and images.

Of much relevance to global diplomacy (or its failures) and international relations, the book traces the intellectual, ideological and theological roots of terrorism and extremism.

Its explains the rationale for kamikazes and al-Qaeda, and provides a reason for the rest of the world to hate the West.

Most revolts against Western imperialism, and its local offshoots, are borrowed heavily from Western ideas.

The French Revolution is legendary.

The book cites Robespierre and the Jacobins as inspiring heroes for Arab radicals.

Also for extremist and violent groups.

More disastrous, they argued, were the emulation of Benito Mussolini’s Italy, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union by Arab nationalists.

To the radicals and the extremists, Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and Karl Marx and Mao Zedong, were Occidentalists because they opposed the idea of a liberal free democratic society.

Bad ideas about the West came from the West itself − those cultured in European thought and the Enlightenment.

Occidentalism opened its arguments with an event in Japan seven months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in July 1942.

It was the gathering of distinguished Japanese scholars and intellectuals at a conference in Kyoto.

Those who participated comprised the literati of the so-called Romantic Group and philosophers of the Buddhist/Hegelian Kyoto School.

Their topic of discussion was “how to overcome the modern”.

They were thinkers, not unschooled brutal killing machines.

To many, the “modern”, was a “European thing”.

And Japan was very early in soaking up all things Western, given the Bunmei Kaika (Civilisation and Enlightenment) of the Meiji period between 1868 and 1912.

The Japanese came to adapt (and adopt) everything Western, from the natural sciences to literary realism, to Prussian constitutional law, British naval strategies, German philosophy, American cinema and French architecture.

It paid off handsomely. But then, Japan suffered from intellectual indigestion.

Things had to be undone. The West had to be overcome, history had to be reversed, and the spiritual past idealised.

It was, as the authors maintained, an attack on the Western mind, “seen as idiot savant, mentally defective but with a special gift for making arithmetic calculations”.

The Western mind is seen to be incapable of non-discursive thinking.

The Russian soul is antithetical to the Western mind, the latter, represented by excessive rationalism.

If the human mind is likened to a university, structured into many faculties, than the Western mind has only one functioning faculty − that of reason.

Through Occidentalist eyes, the guilt of the West is that of rationalism − the only faculty enabling man to know everything that there is to know. And so the world wages war against the West − in the name of various secular and religious ideologies − Communism, the Russian soul, the German race,

State Shinto and Islam. False gods are everywhere. But then, we need to conceive anew the production and consumption of ideas in our intellectual and global landscapes.

The measure of what we know is more than Reason.

New Straits Times, Published: 12 June 2016 at 11:00 AM
The idea of the West
By Datuk Dr A Murad Merican - a professor at the Centre of Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia
Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/06/151342/idea-west

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senseless demolition

IT was a tragic day for all art lovers and practitioners when Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) demolished the sculpture Puncak Purnama by Seniman Negara (national art laureate) Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal (1929-2011).

This senseless and inane action by DBKL is tantamount to desecrating the memory of a Malaysian art icon.

Syed Ahmad Jamal is not just an artist but also a philosopher, art administrator and activist, and profound writer thinker and critic. His artistic prowess extends into the realm of theatrical presentations by way of set designs for Tok Perak, Alang Rentak Seribu and other plays by Syed Alwi, another national laureate and artiste.

Syed Ahmad Jamal’ writings, paintings and sculpture feature prominently in the art history and appreciation curriculum of our universities. This is the artist who inspired a generation of scholars, teachers and art practitioners.

With his contemporaries, Ismail Zain, Redza Piyadasa, Mazli Matsom, Idris Salam, Ismail Hashim, Eric Perez, Leong Thien Shih, Chung Kan Kow, Latif Mohideen, Krishen Jit and Sulaiman Isa, he created such a vibrant art scene that challenged

both the lay and informed public through their art works to experience a different dimension of existence beyond the mundane of reality. Therefore, demolishing his seminal sculpture is an atrocity at best, a criminal act at worst. It is a mutilation of not only the physical work but also the soul of the artist, and it is an affront and insult to Malaysia’s art community.

It is an act of blasphemy that could be likened to the destruction by the Taliban of the statues of Buddha in Bamiya, Afghanistan in March 2001.

What manner of bureaucrat sanctioned this atrocious act? It is obvious that the perpetrators do not have the slightest inkling of the importance of art works as non-verbal expressions that not only record the phenomena of existence for posterity but challenges the perception of existence itself as well.

For all intents and purposes, these bureaucrats seem to be merely focused on material gains and have scant knowledge of the visual and performing arts as the pride and heritage of the nation.

There is, therefore, a need to educate these bureaucrats on the importance of the arts in town and country planning, not only as architectural monuments but also as an economic product with turnover and multiplier effects.

At the same time, this situation begs a question of the role of the National Arts Gallery and the Department of Heritage and the Cultural Department (JKKN) of the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry.

Have they been derelict in discharging their duties as the custodian of arts/heritage by way of preservation, conservation and transformation?

One gets the impression that their responsibility is to house art works (National Art Gallery), undertake event management (Cultural Department JKKN), and to identify works with heritage value.

They have missed the most important aspect of their tasks which is to educate and reeducate the public, especially students and administrative officers, to appreciate the importance of the arts in our lives in both the physical and intellectual environments.

At the same time, our education system is also liable to this lack of knowledge of the arts. Art subjects in schools and universities are relegated to the lowest possible priority as emphasis is on science and technology. As a result, our graduates who later become administrators, bureaucrats and politicians do not have the slightest inkling of the role and function of both visual and performing arts in the architectonic structure of our lives. The demolition of Syed Ahmad Jamal’s Puncak Purnama is the consequence of abject ignorance in art appreciation and creation.

The arts community mourns the demise of both the physical structure and the desecration of the memory of Syed Ahmad Jamal as well as the official attitude of affront and indifference to the intrinsic moral, religious and ethical values of art.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 4 July 2016
Senseless demolition of iconic work
By MOHAMED GHOUSE NASURUDDIN, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang

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Sabah' past

KOTA KINABALU: Dr Lim Pitt Kent’s collection of old photographs of north Borneo has now been compiled into a book titled North Borneo: A Collective History (note).

It contains the physician’s collection of black-and-white photos, many of them never published before, and those amassed by other history buffs.“Old photographs are usually small in size. We managed to get some of the original negatives that were put on sale in eBay so that we could have them enlarged,” said Dr Lim, who is with a medical centre here.

He has been collecting old photographs and postcards of Sabah for the past decade.

The book features about 200 pictures that gives a glimpse of Sabah’s history.

“It is a collection of art and history. This project involves items not held by museums or archives.”

Dr Lim edited the pictorial book with photographs from other contributors such as historian Ross Ibbotson, Professor Bruce Blanche and Dr Ravi Mandalam.

The book, which is described as a handbook of collective history, has brief write-ups and also provides an insight into the life of Dr Valentine Alexander Stokes, the flying doctor who was killed during the Japanese occupation.

The book is priced at RM196 and there are only 450 copies printed by Opus Publication.

It was launched by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat on Saturday.

Chong said that publishers should not fear going into the book business in this digital age as good books would remain in demand in years to come.

History books, he said, would also give the public a sense of nostalgia.

“As you can see from these photographs, Sabah in the old days already had the harmony, unity and love that is synonymous with the state now.

“The photos of the multiracial people reflect just that,” he added.

Opus Publishing managing director Datuk C.L. Chan said an upcoming project would be a book on Sandakan based on photographs taken before World War II.

The Star, Published: Monday, 4 July 2016
Pictorial book reflects on Sabah’s past
By Muguntan Vanar

KOTA KINABALU: Books will be around for years to come especially for those who love the touch, smell and feel of a new book.

Don’t be fearful of the digital age as books, real books will still be here for 100 years,” former Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said when launching a book on the history of North Borneo titled ‘North Borneo: A collective History’ published by Opus Publication here yesterday.

He pointed out that nothing can beat the feeling of holding a book and assured the publisher that real books will not be consumed by the digital era.

Touching on the book which was edited by Dr Lim Pitt Kent who contributed some of the photographs together with other contributors such as historian Ross Ibbotson, Nicholas Tan, Professor Bruce Blanche and Dr Ravi Mandalam, Chong said it made him nostalgic and reminisce about his days growing up in Kudat.

“As you can see from the photographs, Sabah in those days of North Borneo had already the harmony, unity and love that it is synonymous for now. The photos of the multi-racial people reflects just that,” he said adding that the book is a perfect gift for Sabahans who are now living abroad so that they can have a piece of the state’s history with them.

“The history and nostalgia is captured in this book. This is why projects like this book must continue,” Chong said after regaling those present at the launching ceremony with stories of his experiences when growing up.

For Dr Lim who edited the book and contributed most of the photographs from his private collection, he is happy to see two of his interests combined into the project.

“I am a collector of photographs of North Borneo and I love history so basically it’s a combination of both history and art. We came up with the idea for this book to document history. This particular project involves the history of items not held by the museum or archives.

“There are a lot of private collectors so hopefully we can make use of their collections of photographs of North Borneo for future projects,” he said adding that the project took two years to complete.

Meanwhile Opus Publishing Managing Direcor Datuk CL Chan said that they only printed 450 copies as they did not expect the response to be overwhelming.

“We have no intention to reprint it,” he said adding that the book is a very important documentation for North Borneo as it contains photographs and information which have never been published before,” he said.

Chan also spoke of Opus’ future projects which will be a book on Sandakan based on the photographs of the Kwan brothers taken just before the outbreak of the Second World War and in early post war Sandakan.

The Borneo Post, Published: July 3, 2016, Sunday
Digital age no threat to ‘real books’
Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/07/03/digital-age-no-threat-to-real-books/#ixzz4DVmdsqpJ

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YouTube overtakes TV

SAN FRANCISCO - A media revolution is taking place, and most people over 35 years of age aren't tuned in.

Millennials and their successors are shunning old-school television in favour of watching what they want whenever they wish on Google-owned YouTube or other video platforms like Dailymotion or Facebook.

"Young people don't really watch TV anymore; they watch online videos that are shorter and more talent-driven," says Fabienne Fourquet, a former executive at A&E Television and France's Canal+ who now heads the multichannel network 2btube.

"They don't want to be Hollywood stars when they grow up, they want to be YouTubers. There is this whole other world."

The new multichannel networks, or MCNs, are talent agents of sorts for creators of videos shared at online venues.

They help creators, often referred to as YouTubers, with video production and promotion along with finding partners or sponsors in return for a percentage of revenue.

Fourquet said popular subjects include music, comedy, sports, video games, fashion and beauty.

She noted that three-quarters of her viewers were younger than 34 years of age, and half were under 25.

"There are very few of us old people," Fourquet quipped.

Monday 4 July 2016 - 8:29am
YouTube outshining old school TV

Young people are spending more time playing and socialising online than watching television programmes, according to an annual survey tracking children's media behaviour in the UK.

Young people online
3 hours
amount of time 7-16-year-olds spend online each day
4.8 hours
time 15-16-year-olds spend online
2.1 hours spent watching TV each day - down from 3 hours in 2000

60% watch TV via a phone, tablet or laptop
38% do most of their TV viewing on demand

Source: Childwise Monitor report 2016

On demand
This year's findings from Childwise are being claimed as a tipping point with children switching from conventional television to spending time online.
The average time spent online is now three hours per day, compared with 2.1 hours watching television.

End of the CD player
Apart from YouTube, other popular online destinations are Snapchat, Instagram, Minecraft and Facebook.

The study also suggests the technologies that are disappearing. A shrinking number of young people listen to music via a CD player, with mobile phones now the leading medium.
It also warns that printed magazines are losing their appeal, with diminishing numbers of regular readers.

Simon Leggett, Childwise research director, said that this year's survey showed that "TV viewing has been redefined".

"Growing access to the internet at any time and in any place, and a blurring of television content across channels and devices, brings a landmark change in behaviour this year.

"Children are now seeking out the content of their choice. They still find traditional TV programmes engaging but are increasingly watching them online and on-demand or binge watching box sets."

BBC News, 26 January 2016
Time spent online 'overtakes TV' among youngsters
By Sean Coughlan

The popular video-sharing platform − which was acquired by Google in 2006 − reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds in America than any U.S. cable network, said Google’s chief business officer, Omid Kordestani, during an earnings conference call on July 16.

Despite increasing competition from Facebook, YouTube has seen a steep increase in its user engagement metrics. Visitors to YouTube’s homepage are now up over three times year-over-year, per Kordestani. Meanwhile, “watch time” − how much time users actually spend viewing videos − is up 60 percent, the fastest growth rate the company has seen in two years.

Much of the site’s traction comes from mobile, Kordestani said: The average viewing session on mobile devices has more than doubled compared to last year, rising to a record 40 minutes per session.

YouTube’s increasing popularity among the younger demographics is part of what Kordestani called a revolution of “the television experience for the digital age.”

For younger audiences in particular, the video-sharing website has become a platform to discover new content, thanks to new features such video suggestions and auto-play.

According to a recent study by Miner & Co. Studio, tablets and smartphones are replacing television as kids’ screen of choice. Fifty-seven percent of parents say their child prefers a device other than TV to watch video content, and nearly one in two parents say they punish their kids by taking away their smartphones and only allowing them to watch TV.

The Huffington Post -US -, Updated Jul 21, 2015
YouTube Is Crushing Cable TV, According To Google
YouTube sees stunning growth in coveted demographic.

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Thailand and Japan

BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand is smitten by Japan: Sushi restaurants fill the malls, Issey Miyake’s luxury “Bao Bao” bags are all the rage and Thai tourists are flocking to Japan in record numbers to visit a country many view as a role model.

“I love Japan. They really put their heart into whatever they do,” says Aunyawee Sahachalermphat, 26, who has traveled to Japan more than a dozen times since studying there five years ago and owns at least 10 Comme des Garcons shirts, another popular brand that sounds French but is actually Japanese.

Like many Thais, she loves Japanese food and admires the quality of its products and its advanced, orderly economy that retains a respect for tradition. “We look up to them,” she says.

Japan, too, has a soft spot for Thailand, although it doesn’t loom nearly as large in the public mind. It’s seen more as a warm, easygoing tourist spot - a welcome break from Japan’s often onerous social codes - and a vital production and export hub for more than 4,500 Japanese companies, including behemoths such as Toyota, Honda and Canon.

All this has resulted in a mutual affection between these two nations that’s rare in Asia, where historical, political and territorial tensions often complicate ties.

Typical of many in her generation, Aunyawee traces her positive feelings to watching Japanese cartoons such as “Doraemon” and “Sailor Moon” as a child. As an adult, she instinctively trusts anything “Made in Japan” and admires the courteous, subdued manners of many Japanese - widespread sentiments among Thais.

Economic and bureaucratic changes have helped foster these ties. Three years ago, Japan waived visas for Thais for up to 15 days, prompting tourist numbers to surge to nearly 800,000 last year, up five-fold from 2011.

As Thai incomes have grown and budget carriers such as AirAsia have intensified competition, trips to Japan have become more affordable. Likewise, Japanese tourists can now fly from Tokyo to Bangkok for about the same price as to Okinawa, in southern Japan.

There seems to be a cultural affinity between these two peoples - a gentleness, an aversion to conflict and an emphasis on proper etiquette - that creates a sense of familiarity and safety.

Yet there are still enough intriguing differences to make the other culture appealing in a non-threatening way.

Buddhism, for example, has influenced both countries, although in Thailand it plays a more overt role and it is epitomized by brilliantly colored temples and monks in orange robes, while in Japan it takes on a more subdued form. Both countries have royal families, although the Thai king holds greater sway over society than the emperor does in Japan.

“There’s a kindred feeling” with Thais, more so than with other Asians, said Mariko Uehara, an English instructor from Chigasaki, southwest of Tokyo, who recently visited Thailand for a second time since 2012. “We have something in common that makes us feel secure.” Some 1.38 million Japanese tourists came to Thailand last year, a similar level to previous years.

Japan and Thailand aren’t encumbered by historical baggage that has strained ties with their respective neighbors.

Tokyo’s ties with China and South Korea are tainted by territorial disputes and lingering resentment over Japan’s aggression before and during World War II. After briefly resisting Japanese troops, Thailand formally became an ally of Tokyo during most of the war and served as a supply base and so suffered less. Japan’s infamous “Death Railway” in western Thailand was built by British, U.S. and Australian POWs and thousands of other Asians.

Japan’s rosy image here has been partly shaped by popular books, TV dramas and movies.

“Khu Kam,” a novel that has been made into movies many times - titled “Sunset on the Chaophraya” in English - depicts a wartime romance between a Japanese naval officer and a Thai woman in the resistance. He manages to win her over before being killed.

Japanese food, once considered a delicacy in Thailand, has become more affordable and popular as more than 2,300 Japanese restaurants have opened up across the country, tripling since 2008.

Now a top reason Thais want to go to Japan is to eat authentic Japanese food - in Japan.

Chaitee Tandhanskul, a 29-year-old manager in his family’s chemical business, says he makes bookings at restaurants in Japan weeks ahead of time, and bases his itinerary around those reservations.

“I’ve traveled many times to Japan just for the culinary experience,” he said.

Japan is more popular than previous favorites Hong Kong or Singapore because “it’s much more exotic” and less “robotic,” said Chaitee, who also roams the country taking pictures.

Taking their cues from Thai fashion magazines and websites that highlight the latest Japanese styles, Thai women line up in Tokyo to buy Issey Miyake’s “Bao Bao” brand bags, which can cost several hundred dollars and have become a staple of Bangkok’s fashion elite. Shiseido cosmetics, Kenzo shoes and Casio G-Shock watches are also hot.

Many Thais also like Japan because it is safe and they believe they won’t get cheated by shopkeepers or taxi drivers, said Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior fellow at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.

The two countries’ economies have become increasingly intertwined.

Thailand’s importance to Japanese manufacturers was made plain when severe flooding here in 2011 swamped many factories and suppliers, disrupting markets as far away as Chicago and London, Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima said in an interview.

“We need to think in terms of being in the same boat as they are - that whatever Thailand is doing well is good for Japan, too,” said Sadoshima, who was surprised to find a big “Ippudo” restaurant in Bangkok serving ramen noodles native to his home island of Kyushu.

“It’s bigger and grander than the main shop in Japan,” he said.

Japan’s official development aid to Thailand shows up prominently in places like the “Thai-Japanese Bridge” sign - with national flags - on a flyover at a major Bangkok intersection. Assistance from Tokyo helped build 14 of the 21 bridges across the Chao Phraya River that runs through the capital. Officials from the two countries are doing feasibility studies on three high-speed railway lines that would cross the country, the ambassador said.

Bangkok has a large Japanese community, many of whom live clustered in an area that resembles parts of Tokyo, with Japanese eateries and yakitori shops lining side streets and Thai hostesses calling out in Japanese. There are at least a couple streets of go-go bars devoted to Japanese customers.

Each country offers something appealingly different to the other.

The very discipline and proper etiquette that Thais admire about Japanese culture can become an enormous burden to some Japanese who find Thailand’s easygoing, accepting ways a welcome refuge.

Kazue Takenaga moved with her three children to Bangkok two years ago to escape the growing educational and social pressures facing her family, especially her 11-year-old daughter. Her husband had car parts factories in Thailand, so she decided to move here and enroll her children in an international school because the country and environment seemed more accepting and diverse than Japan, and yet also familiar.

“It’s so good that we came to Thailand,” she said. “Our family’s overall health is much better. The lifestyle is much easier here. The thought of returning to Japan is daunting.”

Thais, meanwhile, want to see and experience things in Japan they can’t at home, like snow, cherry blossoms and colored autumn leaves - without traveling all the way to Europe or North America, said Tanong Prakuptanon, who runs a “Japanthaifanclub” Facebook page, which has tips for travelers and more than 230,000 followers.

“It’s different, but not too foreign,” he said. “It’s a dream destination.”

Washington Times, Published: Sunday, July 3, 2016
Thailand, Japan share mutual affection that is rare in Asia
By MALCOLM FOSTER - Associated Press

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Conquering a giant

Singer-songwriter Juwita Suwito is no stranger when it comes to songs and stories. After all, the 40-year-old is known for travelling the country and performing to Malaysian communities from all walks of life in communal setting.

But Juwita does something more than that. She likes meeting people and listening to their stories. This an exercise Juwita truly treasures.

Interestingly, this is precisely what local writer and graphic designer Gina Yap Lai Yoong does. Well, except for the singing bit. She, too, travels around the country, sharing stories and collecting stories while she conducts writing workshops.

“We thought to ourselves, why are we doing the same thing and passing by each other and not doing something together? So one day we decided that we should collaborate to present the stories that we gather from the local community to a wider audience.

“We see that by gathering stories from Sabah and Sarawak, from the city and from the kampung … the different cultures and lifestyles and real-life stories helps Malaysians to know one another better and we hope that this will unite us as a country and help us understand each other better as Malaysians,” says Yap.

What transpired out of this was Songs & Stories, an initiative to discover inspiration in everyday people and places throughout Malaysia. In other words, it aims at highlighting the intangible resources and riches of our land.

Songs & Stories is presented through inspirational posts and factual nuggets on social media, short videos, episodic videos, music album and story booklet as well as community events featuring guest talents.

The recently released The Kinabalu Call is Songs & Stories’ pilot episode. Available on Four Forty Records’ Youtube channel, the video chronicles Juwita, Yap and singer-songwriter Tony Leo as they climb Mount Kinabalu and gather stories from the local community in commemoration of the 2015 Sabah earthquake.

The 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Ranau, Sabah last year, leaving the whole country in shock and disbelief. Eighteen people were killed on Mount Kinabalu, hundreds were left stranded and one of the mountain’s peaks known as the Donkey’s Ears was broken off.

Soon after their initial meeting with Dr Jamili Nais, the director of Sabah Parks, the duo knew immediately the quest to document the post-earthquake restoration stories is the right project for Songs & Stories’ pilot episode.

With only three months to meet the one-year anniversary mark, Juwita contacted Tony to join their adventure, for whom it’d be a walk down – or rather a climb up – memory lane. Nine years ago, Tony had his own life-changing discovery on Mount Kinabalu.

By conventional standards, Tony was a healthy guy. An avid sportman and regular gym-goer, he’d be the last person to struggle through the climb. But he did.

Devastated by extreme fatigue approaching the 4.5km mark of his first ascent, Tony went for a medical check-up upon his return to Kuala Lumpur and was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

“It was a life-saving experience. I sort of lost my life up there,” he recalls.

So when Juwita invited him, he knew he wanted to face the mountain again.

“I was prepared mentally but it was tough physically,” Tony tells.

While making the video, they met with Sabah Parks officials who led the rescue operations and implemented new infrastructure and improved safety procedures. They also got to know various individuals who were affected by the earthquake in different ways.

Calling the whole affair a “mad journey and a mad race”, Juwita shares that one prominent theme which repeated itself was how “the Ranau community is so intertwined with the mountain”.

The Songs & Stories team is on the lookout for stories for their upcoming episodes. Visit songsandstories.com.my to get in touch with them.

To watch The Kinabalu Call, click goo.gl/3v8abv.

The Star2, Published: July 4, 2016
Remembering Sabah earthquake in this Kinabalu climb
One writer and two singer-songwriters climb Mount Kinabalu and collect inspiring stories along the way

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Brexit blues

LONDON (AFP) - Sadness, insomnia, frustration and confusion: the Brexit blues have gripped many European Union supporters since Britain's shock decision to leave the bloc last week.

"I would say I am currently suffering from anxiety and/or depression," EU backer Mick Watson, 41, told AFP.

"I hadn't felt anything like this before Friday's referendum result. I am worried, very worried.

"I am constantly online, my work and home life has suffered. I feel like my way of life is threatened and that's scary," added the University of Edinburgh researcher.

The seismic vote has forced Britain to recognise the deep divisions within its society, a profound realisation that heralds a turbulent and uncertain future.

Around 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, while 16.1 million voted to stay, leaving huge numbers fearful of life outside the bloc.

"Our reactions are multiple. The first is shock and a sense of betrayal felt by Remain voters, many of whom feel that they no longer recognise the UK they live in," explained Jay Watts, of Queen Mary University of London.

"It has shattered people's sense of what British values are."

Brexit proponents argue it is similar feelings of alienation and powerlessness - ignored for decades - that saw so many working class communities voting to leave the EU, and resent the blame cast upon them.

"Many Leave voters feel at times angry that they are being rubbished as ill-informed and racist," she said. "The main emotion for everyone is uncertainty."

Remain supporters have compared the trauma to a relationship breakdown, or a death in the family.

"The main feeling is of irreversibility, so in that sense its worse than a divorce, and more like an avoidable death," explained Will Davies, from Goldsmiths, University of London "It feels like a terrible accident, that should have been foreseen and should have been prevented."

British-US actor David Schaal, star of "The Inbetweeners" and "The Office," said the result had triggered a bout of introspection.

"I am waking up in the night, worried about the future of the country and how I personally fit in," he said.

Straits Times, Published: Jul 3, 2016, 10:22 am SG
Sadness, insomnia, and frustration: Britain dealt a dose of the Brexit blues


BREXIT has advantages and disadvantages for Malaysians. For families with children studying in Britain, the fall of the sterling versus the ringgit is good news. Malaysians in-ten--ding to holiday there will also find it cheaper.

Malaysians owning property in Britain may suffer from a likely fall in housing prices (especially calculated in ringgit terms), at least for a while until the market picks up again. But those intending to buy will benefit from the cheaper pound and the possibly declining prices.

Likewise, Malaysian companies and funds that invested in British property and businesses can expect falling values and reduced earnings in ringgit terms. Investors looking for profit opportunities may find Bri-tain an in--teresting place to pick up bargains but should bear in mind that this is risky business.

As a country, Malaysia will not experience many adverse direct effects but like other countries may suffer indirect effects.

Although Britain will no longer be part of the EU, the terms of its trade with Malaysia will probably remain the same in terms of the tariffs charged on both sides. If Malaysia signs a free trade agreement with the EU, then Britain would have to sign a separate FTA with Malaysia to enjoy the same terms as the EU.

Britain is a significant trade partner of Ma--lay--sia, but not the top 10 countries. So even if there is a British recession, it would not be that significant a hit for us.

However, the indirect effects could be quite serious. Brexit is predicted by many to have a dampening effect on British, European and world economic growth. The chances of glo-bal financial turmoil have also increased.

There are signs already of a financial “flight to safety”, which includes capital moving out of emerging markets. Malaysia could be affected.

The impacts of Brexit on Britain itself and Europe are already very serious. Since the re--ferendum, Britain has been go-ing through one big political event after ano--ther, including the leadership crisis in the Conservative and Labour parties, and the pos--sibility of Scotland quitting the United Kingdom. Those politicians who won the Brexit re--ferendum don’t seem to have a well thought-out plan on what to do next.

Boris Johnson and other Leave leaders say they want Britain to remain in the EU common market. But the EU summit last week made clear that if Britain wants free access to European trade, services and financial servi-ces, it must also subscribe to the fourth freedom – free movement of people.

But the leaders of the Leave camp pre-mised their successful campaign on precisely the opposite – achieving freedom from ha--ving to follow the EU rules on immigration.

Unless Britain accepts free movement of people, the EU 27 countries will not grant it free access to goods, services and financial markets, which will especially hit London’s financial centre.

An interesting article from London gives the view that Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation will pass on a poisoned chalice to his successor. Why should he, who led the Remain campaign, have to be tied up in the mess of negotiating Britain’s exit, which he is against?

The next PM will have to face the probably hostile 27 remaining EU countries, European Commission and European Parliament. He or she will most likely fail to achieve the impossible goal of getting free access to the EU markets while denying the inflow of European migrants according to EU rules.

Perhaps this was one reason Johnson deci-ded not to contest for the Tory leadership. He did not want to receive the poisoned chalice.

Besides trade, finance and migration, there will also be a whole range of other issues that the new Britain will have to grapple with and reinvent, including many laws and regulations.

The negotiations of leaving will, in themselves, be a nightmare. The EU 27 will not give Britain an easy time. The new trade and other arrangements with the EU may take many years to complete. And it will have to nego-tiate new agreements also with non-EU countries.

The impact of Brexit on Europe will also be serious. The extreme right, with its anti-Europe, nationalistic and anti-immigration sentiments, see Brexit as the fall of the first domino, with other countries following. Some European leaders and analysts fear there will be an eventual break-up of the EU itself.

Perhaps this is part of what the president of the European Council Donald Tusk meant when he predicted on the eve of the British referendum that if the pro-Brexit camp won, it would be the beginning of the destruction of Britain and of European civilisation.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, this prediction may come back to haunt Europe and the world. The uneven effects of globalisation and the worsening of inequalities are also widely seen as further reasons for the referendum outcome.

The exit vote was the ordinary working people’s way of expressing their frustration with having to bear the costs of globalisation while London and the elite, especially the bankers and financial sector, became bloated with the spoils.

The neo-liberal policies initiated by Margaret Thatcher and continued in diluted form by New Labour under Tony Blair, and later by the Conservatives under Cameron, widened the divisions in British society.

It became easy for the anti-EU camp to link the entry of East European migrant workers to the increased competition for jobs, housing and health services and the forces of globalisation. The Brexit vote was an anti-esta--blish--ment statement.

What happened in Britain has parallels in the rest of Europe and indeed the world.

The extreme opening up of economies leads to unequal outcomes among countries and within societies, for different strata of society.

It is not only the xenophobic far right but also new left wing parties that have been bolstered by the unpopular austerity policies that are part and parcel of the neo-liberal policies.

The economic and political ramifications of Brexit have so far been a lot more unpredic-table and wide-ranging than anyone expected, and this is only the beginning. How this will evolve and where it will eventually end up no one can properly foretell.

What we do know is that Brexit was let loose by, and will itself let loose, some large and fundamental forces which are now difficult to control.

The Star, Published: Monday, 4 July 2016
Brexit: What happens next? ;
The shock of Britain voting to leave the European Union is wearing off. What happens next, and what are the effects on Malaysia, Britain and Europe?
By Martin Khor

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Tengku Nur Qistina Petri

In my last column, I spoke of Asian culture possibly appropriating Western culture. In this article, I aim to discuss the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural diffusion. And so, I’ll continue with my nasi kandar story to supplement your Mamak visits. Cultural diffusion, as we know it, differs from cultural appropriation, as it is the spread of a culture from one group to another. The very idea of a spread instead of a “borrowing” suggests the difference between the two: one being organic and the other not so much. Did the West lend their culture of ladies’ clothing to our baju kurung? And, did we culturally appropriate the long dresses and make them “modern” baju kurung? Look to the stores (online, especially) and you’ll probably notice the variety of baju kurung − not just the ones with a teluk belanga neckline, one that identifies a Malay woman back in the 1960s. Walk into a local designer’s store and very rarely do you see the traditional baju kurung on the shelves. I admit it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is cultural diffusion. Malaysia is a multicultural country, in a multicultural region where there is bound to be cultural diffusion between every Asean country. We share at least some similarities with our neighbouring countries. Our wayang kulit has its brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. The food that whets our appetites and reminds us of home when we set off to foreign lands, share similarities with those of our neighbours. And, the name nasi kandar itself comes from the Indian community who would sell lunch as they “kandar” the Indian food on their shoulders. The nasi kandar craze in itself, one enjoyed by Malaysians of every race, is evidence of a cultural diffusion. Char koay teow and even the participation of different races in open houses every time a festival comes along is evidence of cultural diffusion. But then again, Malaysia’s own culture is based on an understanding of cultural diffusion. As history tells us, we were once under the British. Look around you and you can see that today’s Malaysia is built largely on foundations laid by the colonialists. When the British packed their bags in the 50s, they could not take everything with them because they came and left us with something: their culture. Today, people of different religions celebrate Christmas − it’s no longer just the Christians who do so. Christmas has grown to be a symbol of gatherings and celebration for different races. A scroll through Instagram revealed evidence of this: My Buddhist friend organised Christmas parties for her Hindu, Christian, atheist and Buddhist friends. They dined together with their Christmas hats on, right after having their fair share of fun with their Christmas crackers. Be it from the direct influence of the British culture, or the acceptance of a general Western culture of celebrating Christmas, the presence of Christianity itself in our culture too, signifies cultural diffusion. Malaysia, as everyone knows, is a melting pot of cultures. Its geographical location between strong economies, even in history, has indeed contributed to the formation of what we call Malaysian culture. As much as we attempt to strive for a singular identity, we must realise that the Malaysian identity is a conglomeration. The differences and influences from various cultures, and even our openness and warmth towards foreign cultures is what defines Malaysian culture. Our fusion food, our channelled innovation towards the one thing we love the most: food. The passing food trends that come and go (currently it’s salted egg pastries, especially salted egg croissants, and cronuts) is evidence of this. Simply said, when it comes to culture (in this case, I mean food, as an example of a very strong Malaysian culture), Malaysians are always open to something new, tasty and innovative. Especially if we can appropriate it, diffuse it with our own local taste, give it a little twist of our culture, the Malaysian way, while still allowing every party to appreciate it. Compared to the culture of allowing for appropriation to offend, and diffusing to forget, Malaysians will do so. But probably only to make it tastier!

New Straits Times, 6 February 2016 at 11:01 AM
Gift for blending best of cultures
By Tengku Nur Qistina Petri
Read More : http://travel.nst.com.my/news/2016/02/126038/gift-blending-best-cultures

It has washed up on our shores. Almost. Like most millennials, I grew up learning of the consequences of terrorism. I would not know much or imagine living in the shadow of the Cold War because it was all about the 9/11 attacks. If there was one word that would summarise the weekend, it would be one: Fear. Warnings have been issued for places that would find us spending our weekends in − Bangsar, Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur City. After the terrorist attacks in Jakarta last week, terrorism has gotten too close for comfort for us Malaysians, especially those in the capital city. The day the attacks happened, I remember being glued to news channels. It was a terrorist attack, but it did not have the same effect the attacks on Paris or London did. The attack was too close for comfort. Everyone said it was slowly knocking on our doors. Despite the fear that gripped Indonesia’s neighbouring nation(s), the Indonesians retaliated, they responded by saying “Kami Tidak Takut” (We are not afraid). This is obviously in retaliation to the main aim of the terrorists: is to instill fear and to keep everyone indoors. Photos of an Indonesian man selling satay on the very same street where the bombs went off could not have been a better example. In this case, actions are stronger than words. In the recent months, Malaysians have to admit to a turmoil of events that have captured us and put a majority of the people in anguish. There is a threat to our financial stability, but now we have a threat to our personal safety. Albeit, this threat lies within a certain population (the whole 1.7million of them), but the possible spread of terrorism in our homeland and the possibility of a home-grown terrorism would pave the way and give an inclination towards the possible acceptance of terrorism. That, in itself, is a threat to the ethics and culture of us Malaysians. It is a part of our culture to be accepting and tolerant, given the multiple faiths and culture that exist. Terrorism is nothing new in Malaysia. We found independence while facing the threat of the communist insurgency. Not too long ago, Lahad Datu was attacked. It’s safe to say our government has had its fair share of experience against terrorism, and on both accounts, we won. But, it is nothing compared to the impending threat that we face now. Firstly, it threatens our capital city. The very concentrated space that homes 1.7 million people. The capital city is also synonymous to the definition of Malaysia – the skyscrapers, the food and the people. As I write this, messages have circulated about the beefed up security, and the risk of certain areas. I send messages to my loved ones to stay at home. But, I think of the reaction the Indonesians had when they were attacked − #KamiTidakTakut and wonder if I should feel scared. It makes me think of the reaction that we, as Malaysians, should have. After all, terrorism is nothing more than a psychological warfare. But, the fact remains that our personal security and safety is threatened, as so we voluntarily paralysed our lives to accommodate the threat of terrorism on our shores. When the most unpleasant thing happens to us, Malaysians, how will we react? We know what the government will do, but what will we do in our homes? Will we retract into our homes in the days and months to come, and be afraid of the terrorists, allowing them to fulfil their aims, or will we unite as Malaysians and tell them that we do not fear them, as how the Indonesians did? Do we allow the fear of an attack to control us, or do we move on with our lives to show the terrorists that they have failed in their mission? It was the same sentiments that I collected when the plane disasters happened two years ago. Getting on a plane became scary for us Malaysians. But after two years, the fear is slowly fading. Because, life has to go on. The psychologists call this the “Terror Management Theory” where the awareness of the inevitable death of self affects our behaviour. On that Sunday, KL saw the change in behaviour of Malaysians because the places that were normally crowded with families having their Sunday lunches were not anymore. But, should this continue to give the terrorist control over our fear? Of course, not. We must realise that the terrorists want nothing but control over us through fear. We must do what we can within our capacity to show them just that. We may not be army-men, we may not be a part of the Malaysian intelligence, but we are laymen, and we fight them within our own capacity. We are doing as much as we can to be vigilant while we walk around the streets, we block the websites that might recruit and spread terrorism, we try to stop those who have fled the country. We hope that nothing would happen to us, but if it does, there is nothing more to say to the terrorists, but “Kami tidak takut”.

New Straits Times, Published: 21 January 2016 at 11:01 AM
Fight or flight?
By Tengku Nur Qistina Petri
Read More : http://travel.nst.com.my/news/2016/01/123225/fight-or-flight

Cultural appropriation is normally seen through the lens of the Western world. A quick Google search would lead to only the Western take on the topic, and criticisms of Western culture appropriating South American, or even Asian cultures. Even the definition of cultural appropriation shines a negative light: “Adopting aspects of a culture that is not one’s own.” For example, the practise of yoga (Note: yoga was deemed an insensitive instance of cultural appropriation by Canada’s Ottawa University). Are “fine dining” foods cultural appropriation? What about the use of local sources to create food that has been inspired by Western influences? Looking at Malaysia, products of cultural appropriation surround me. I think that sometimes, they disguise themselves as remnants of our colonial past. The presence of a colonial building, in itself, might actually be an example of cultural appropriation; not one of a Western appropriation of an Asian culture, but rather, the other way around: Asian appropriation of a Western culture. The Asian appropriation of Western culture comes served to us on a plate. I, for one, have grown accustomed to, and grew up eating, fusion food. Maybe it is in Malaysia’s tradition and history that we consume fusion food. After all, we are a melting pot of different races, different histories and different traditions. Many Malaysian favourites, such as roti canai, murtabak and roti John, are examples of our take on cultural appropriation, or rather, cultural diffusion. Cultural appropriation, defined by the Western world, normally connotes a negative impact. However, since we are viewing things from a localised, and Asian, perspective, we should also view things from a different and more positive view. Roaming the streets of Bangsar, Pudu, or even the “old city” of Kuala Lumpur, I feel a strong sense of familiarity with the three years I spent abroad. The concept of revitalising the old ruins and historical past of colonial buildings and turning them into cafes, echoes my days roaming around Manchester’s Northern Quarter, famous for its “hip” and “cultural” scene. The comparison between the two is enough to encourage a thought of cultural appropriation in me. How much cultural appropriation do we, as Malaysians, participate in? Would we be able to say that we have culturally appropriated ourselves to the Western world since the colonial period? Or is it cultural diffusion? We adopt their political system, we have adopted their clothes. We have also adopted their food, and their celebrations: Christmas and New Year play an important role in Malaysian communities: many of my non-Christian friends celebrate it with much joy, and even more so than Chinese New Year. Is that our example of cultural appropriation? Or is it cultural diffusion? Or is it just because we were once a colonised nation? When visiting restaurants, being the foodie that I am, I have found new restaurants being innovative with their cooking. Too often, the food they make is called “fusion food”, but, there is a sense of cultural appropriation in them. Having a Quinoa Lemak (a modern, healthy and possibly Western take on our traditional nasi lemak) is definitely fusion, and culturally appropriated from a healthy Western favourite for the Malaysian palate. Similarly, when I visited a famous Malaysian restaurant in Manchester, famed for its “authentic” Malaysian dishes, I found neither the curries nor the char kuey teow as spicy or as flavourful as at our local ‘Uncle’s’ at the hawker stall; so much so that some would say it is not how kuey teow as it is meant to be, but a Western take on our local favourite. The emergence of fusion food obviously comes from the availability of resources; but right now, we are importing Western resources into our local culture and food. Would food, then, be an example of cultural appropriation, or cultural diffusion? In trying to figure out, and expand on ideas surrounding a Malaysian take on cultural appropriation, I will try to draw the lines between cultural appropriation, cultural diffusion and simply being a country with a colonial past. In the next few articles, I will attempt this, in hopes that, as we Malaysians walk past buildings, or have lunch, we are more aware of the origins of our food, and our past. And maybe then, our nasi kandar will taste a lot better with that little bit of historical spice that comes with it.

New Straits Times, Published: 2 January 2016 at 11:00 AM
Malaysia's borrowed culture
By Tengku Nur Qistina Petri
Read More : http://travel.nst.com.my/news/2016/01/120108/malaysias-borrowed-culture

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Brexit lessons for Malaysians

The past week, nothing else has been dominating discussions other than Brexit.

The United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU) has shaken the world − economically, politically and socially.

Socially, because immigration has come to be the centre of the motivation for the “Leavers”, those who voted to leave the EU, who have wanted to put a stop to the immigration of Europeans, amongst other things.

Brexit, in itself, connotes the rise of nationalism in the UK.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, nationalism can be said to be on the rise with Donald Trump representing the Republicans in the United States’ presidential elections.

A year ago, in this globalised world, no one would have predicted neither Trump, nor Brexit, to dominate the headlines.

Today, however, it has become the reality. In this article, I would aim to discuss the relationship between nationalism and globalisation, specifically multiculturalism and its impact on Malaysia.

There is no denying that nationalistic sentiments are on the rise in the Western world.

The irony is that the countries that used to propagate multiculturalism are now perceived to be turning their backs on it.

The very countries that are known to be the beacon of freedom, liberty and equality have racism, xenophobia and bigotry associated with them strongly.

It could be that the growing sentiments of bigotry, racism and xenophobia are a rejection of the globalised world, and a liking towards familiarity, and the growth of fear towards unfamiliarity.

It is definitely a complete rejection of a united “European nation”, as Brexit proves that people would rather be grouped by the word “English”, not even “British” anymore.

The same could be said with the wide definition of “American”.

This is, at least the truth for Trump supporters, and some of the Leavers.

Reading the news on the racist remarks on the streets of the UK, and in Manchester, has made me nostalgic for the time when I thought of England being highly accommodative and embracing multiculturalism.

I had celebrated Hari Raya in a Somalian mosque with Somalian asylum seekers, and I had spent time in London, walking through the financial district and witnessing the life that goes on for everyone else in Canary Wharf − a rare sight for a Malaysian walking around London in a baju kurung on the first day of Syawal, as I am always used to the country being on a holiday to welcome the first week of Syawal.

While I try to understand and digest the new information of a Britain being more openly hostile towards the non-British (as racism would still occur from time to time in the UK), there is no doubt that fear overwhelms me of the precedent Brexit might make.

Borrowing the ideas of rejection of integration from the rise of Trump and Brexit, one cannot help but wonder what the fate is for developing nations like Malaysia that seem to strive towards integration and globalisation.

Would we be faced with the same problems in 20 years’ time?

As it is, we face some, if not, a few of the problems that encouraged Brexit − housing prices and the employment market.

We have been faced with a few problems akin to that of the EU.

Last year, we faced the issue of Rohingyas, and we were met with varied results.

Of course, there were sympathisers who urged the government to allow them into the country.

However, there were also those who were against any notion of the government allowing them in.

The issue of 1.5 million migrant workers from Bangladesh, too, had invited a similar response from our society, as some had responded in a hostile manner towards the news of it, urging the government to respond to the news.

While the varied responses are highly understandable, it makes for an observation whereupon we fear a consequence of globalisation that we strive for.

Given the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), we might see the integration of an Asean common market in the Southeast Asian region.

With the rising dominance and prominence of Asia, too, we might see the movement of Third World (not defined in economic terms, but instead as a non-Asean citizen) persons into the country.

And unfortunately for us, the “pull” factor of the movements of people would be job opportunities.

Racism, xenophobia and bigotry are not something that Malaysians are shocked with, as they have been dominating our headlines since long before.

While the Western world is unsure of its future right now, we might re-think and re-calibrate our understanding of our own future.

However, it is surely faith that I have − despite the years of racism dominating and being accused upon our own Malaysians − we have managed to survive and embrace the different cultures between us.

Although for now, the global future might be uncertain, but perhaps, our embedded roots and Malaysian culture that is exemplified in our festivals, might shine through, and the domino effect of Brexit, might never catch on to our dear Malaysians.

New Straits Times, Published: 2 July 2016 at 11:01 AM
Brexit lessons for Malaysians
By Tengku Nur Qistina Petri

Tengku Nur Qistina Petri, a granddaughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, is a fresh law graduate trying hard to find her place after spending some time at The University of Manchester in northern England. Always probing into discussions, she most often regrets not doing Politics, Philosophy and Economics

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/07/156222/brexit-lessons-malaysians

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Malala Fund

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage education activist who survived a near-fatal attack by the Taliban, and her family have become millionaires in under four years due to sales of a book about her life and appearances on the global speaker circuit.

Yousafzai, 18, the youngest person to win the Nobel peace prize, shot to international fame after emerging defiant from the assassination attempt on a school bus in Pakistan's Swat valley in October 2012 to continue her fight for girls' rights.

Yousafzai, who received medical treatment in Britain where she now lives, is in constant demand globally, charging $152,000 per speech compared with Desmond Tutu's reported $85,000, according to U.S.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

Her memoir, "I Am Malala", published in 2013, has sold 287,170 copies in Britain with a total value of about 2.2 million pounds ($3 million) and over 1.8 million copies worldwide, according to a spokesman from Nielsen Book Research.

While Yousafzai has set up the Malala Fund to support girls' education projects in developing countries, her family also established a company, Salarzai Ltd, in 2013 to protect the rights to her life story.

Publically available information shows that the London-based company, owned by Yousafzai, her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, and her mother, Toor Pekai, has a net worth of 1.87 million pounds in August 2015, up nearly 65 percent from the previous year.

"Since the publication of Malala's book, Malala and her family have donated more than $1 million to charities, mostly for education-focused projects across the world including Pakistan," Yousafzai's family said in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Earlier this year Malala urged world leaders at a conference in London to commit $1.4 billion to give Syrian refugee children access to education.

Malala told a crowd in London's Trafalgar Square last week at a memorial for murdered British lawmaker Jo Cox that the opposition Labour MP "showed us all that you can be small and still be a giant".

Cox, a strong supporter of refugee causes and staying in the European Union (EU), was shot and stabbed to death in her constituency in northern England a week before Britain voted to leave the EU.

($1 = 0.7398 pounds)

Reuters, Wed Jun 29, 2016 12:57pm EDT
Price of fame: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala joins millionaires' club (note)
(photo) Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks flanked by 17-year-old Syrian refugee Mazoun Almellehan (R), during the first focus event on education at the donors Conference for Syria in London, Britain February 4, 2016.
BY Will Kerry

Malala Fund is the official organisation led by Malala Yousafzai focused on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education.


Although we are from different countries, Pakistan and Syria, we both know what it means to be denied education because of wars and conflicts. We share a deep hope to see all Syrian refugee children back in school, so that their dreams and gifts are not lost to the world for good.

We first met in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, where Syrian girls as young as 12 and 13 are being married off to older men. For these girls’ families, marriage is seen as a way to protect their daughters from poverty and violence.

Among refugee families living in Jordan, rates of child marriage have doubled in the past three years,and most of those girls will never go into a classroom again.

Five years ago, things were very different for our sisters. Before the war in Syria, all children could attend 12 years of school for free, and the country had a 90% literacy rate.

We have been doing our best to persuade parents and girls that education is the best way to protect their futures.

In a few days’ time, we will step forward to persuade world leaders of the same thing. We will go together to the Supporting Syria conference in London to remind our leaders that the future of these children is in their hands. Without significant increases in funding, thousands of Syrian young people will remain out of school again this year.

Every year that’s missed will cost them dearly in terms of lost opportunities for themselves, their families and their country.

Border countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq are opening their doors and their schools to Syrian children, but they don’t have resources to help every child. The world’s richest countries encourage refugees to stay in the region instead of coming to Europe, while not providing the funding border countries need to deal with the crisis.

Guardian, Last modified on Friday 27 May 2016 07.31 BST
Syrian children need an education – rich countries must give $1.4bn to pay for it
By Malala Yousafzai and Muzoon Almellehan

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Rohingya community

THIS is the first time in years that Bulsk Abdullah will have an easy Ramadan.

The 27-year-old Rohingya said that back in her home country Myanmar, where the Rohingya were persecuted, she and her family had always faced the fasting month in adversity.

“Sometimes you only had porridge and water to break your fast with.

“Here, you can break your fast with anything,” Bulsk told StarMetro, adding that she and her two children were happy to have escaped her home country.

She said in Myanmar the Government had made life unbearable for the Rohingya.

“The Government harrassed us, you can't go out, it's hard to find work, you are always fearing for your life,” she said.

She said she felt safe in Malaysia but was concerned about one of her children that she left behind in Myanmar.

“I feel free and happy here. I am grateful to Malaysians (for accepting us),” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri. “I want to buy meat and cook many dishes for the celebration," she said.

Bulsk was one of 800 Rohingya and Myanmar Muslims who attended a buka puasa (breaking of fast) event on Saturday at the Saidina Uthman Ibn Affan Mosque in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras.

Oganised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)(note 1) and non-governmental organisation HUMANiTi Malaysia (note 2), the buka puasa event saw hampers and duit raya distributed to the Rohingya and Myanmar Muslims in attendance.

OIC special envoy and HUMANiTi Malaysia president Tan Sri Dr Syed Hamid Albar said the event was meant to show the Rohingya and Myanmar Muslim community here that they were welcomed by all Malaysians.

“It is our responsibility as human beings to help other humans who are suffering,” said Syed Hamid in his speech.

He acknowledged the hardships and persecution that their community was facing in Myanmar and that action needed to be taken to solve the situation as it had escalated into a regional crisis.

"There needs to be a dialogue (to address the crisis)," he said, adding that the dialogue needed to be inclusive.

The Starmetro, Published: Monday, 27 June 2016
Rare treat for Rohingya community ;
They receive hampers and duit Raya at event hgosted by OIC and M'sian NGO.
By Hanis Zainal

(note 1)
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 states spread over four continents.

The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and ensuring to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

The Organization was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco on 12th Rajab 1389 Hijra (25 September 1969) as a result of criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.


(note 2)
Humaniti Malaysia, he said, is a non-governmental organisation established in December 2014 that focuses on humanitarian and education causes. It is also linked to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“We are active in Myanmar, where we provide food and medicine to those in need, as well as in Malaysia, where we provide school supplies and volunteers to teach Myanmar refugees,” said Ahmad Tarmizi.

Humaniti Malaysia president Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, who is the special representative to the OIC on Rohingya Muslims, presented the learning packs sponsored by the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development.

Syed Hamid urged the Malaysian government to create an identification system for the Rohingya or issue cards similar to those given to refugees from Syria, Cambodia and Aceh.

“Having some form of identification would give them access to public health and education as well as look for jobs,” he said, adding that the Rohingya cannot even register deaths due to lack of documentation.

“This limits their freedom of movement and puts them at risk of social problems, including criminal activities.

“The worst part is that a majority of those at risk are women and children,” said Syed Hamid.

The Starmetro, Published: Friday, 20 May 2016
NGO donates learning packs to 115 Rohingya children from Knowledge Garden Learning Centre
by Jade Chan

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In conflict-stricken Syria

The Ramadan, a radio station in Syria’s capital Damascus presented cash-strapped listeners with a challenge: plan a meal to break the fast for just 1,500 Syrian pounds or US$3 (RM12.30).

Diala Hasan’s cooking show on Sham FM used to feature recipes for sumptuous Ramadan feasts.

But in government-held parts of Syria, where a five-year war has devastated the currency and unemployment is rife, listeners’ budgets are stretched to the limit.

“We decided to make a programme that demonstrates thrifty recipes costing 1,500 Syrian pounds to match peoples’ incomes,” said Hasan, 26, as she prepared to record the show at a studio in Damascus.

“We’re not using lamb, expensive spices, or even almonds,” she said.

Throughout the holy month, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours and sit down to a feast – known as iftar – once the sun goes down. But in Syria, many struggle to scrape together ingredients even for a basic meal.

Salaries in areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have dropped dramatically with the 92% devaluation of the Syrian pound since the war began.

A UN report published in April estimated 83.4% of Syrians live below the poverty line, compared with 28% before the war.

Hasan has even changed the name of her show from “Bread and Salt” – an Arabic saying referring to friendships forged over a meal – to “Ramadan of the poor”.

Handouts double

Rida Saleh and his wife Umm Hassan are among those whose quality of life has plummeted since 2011.

On a recent evening they broke their fast around a little table in a cramped apartment where they settled after fleeing the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta. They sat down to a modest meal: a few stuffed courgettes, some potatoes, a bowl of salad and a plate of beans – normally used as appetisers but now their main course.

“There are so many dishes and drinks that have become for us just a distant memory,” said Rida, 49.

“It’s the first year we don’t have dessert.”

Umm Hassan agreed.

“Even fruits are now a dream for us. We used to be able to buy apples by the kilo, today the whole family just shares two little apples,” she said.

Living costs have risen so much that charities have nearly doubled the number of iftar meals they distribute to the needy during Ramadan.

“We distributed 130,000 meals in 2013 compared to 230,000 in 2015. But this year, we may reach as many as 500,000,” said Issam Habbal, who heads the charity “Saed” (Help).

“The crisis didn’t spare anyone. If even the rich have been affected, you can imagine how those that were already unfortunate have been devastated,” he said.

In the shade of the famous Umayyad mosque in the Old City of Damascus, about 100 Saed volunteers cooked and distributed large pots of rice with meat.

Men and women were hard at work chopping cucumbers to add to a mix of lettuce and carrots.

“With each additional year of war, we need more volunteers because there are more poor people,” said Tareq, 24.

Every month is Ramadan

Desserts and syrup-covered sweets are an integral part of iftars across the Middle East and are a special delicacy in the Syrian capital.

But today, they have become too expensive for many Damascenes.

In Midan, a neighbourhood in southern Damascus, Ahmad Qaysar tended his bakery, which sold a mix of Arabic sweets. But few customers were buying.

“I inherited this trade from my father and my grandfather. We’ve never had a season like this,” the 30-year-old said.

Our sales have dropped by half because of the rising prices for pistachios, margarine, semolina, and flour, indispensable ingredients for delicious oriental sweets, Ahmad said.

In another shop, Shawkat Qornfola, 67, said he won’t be able to buy desserts for his grandchildren this year.

“My grandchildren adore sweets but I can’t afford a kilogram of maamoul at 20,000 pounds,” he said, referring to cornmeal pastries stuffed with pistachios, dates, and walnuts.

“I’ll have to just stick to barazek,” he said, referring to crunchy biscuits made of pistachios and sesame seeds.

The price of food also makes it hard to invite guests.

“Before the war, we used to invite everyone over each Friday, but now we don’t have the means,” said Riad Mahayni, who works at the national water service.

He makes 30,000 pounds, which amounted to US$600 (RM2455) before the war but now is worth just US$65 (RM266).

Leaning against the wall of Damascus’s citadel, Mohsen, a pistachio seller, said every month is Ramadan now in Syria.

“Because of the rising prices, we fast the whole year,” he said.

The Star2, Published: July 1, 2016
It’s a frugal Ramadan for cash-strapped Syrians ;
In conflict-stricken Syria, sumptuous food for breaking fast is a distant memory as food prices skyrocketed.
By Maher Al Mounes – AFP

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GPIF, World’s Biggest Pension Fund

Japan’s $1.3 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund is suing Toshiba Corp. for losses on its investments after an accounting scandal sent the conglomerate’s shares plunging.

GPIF is seeking damages of about 900 million yen ($8.6 million), said Shinichirou Mori, a spokesman for the fund. The losses relate to shares bought by GPIF’s external fund managers in 2009 through a secondary share offering, he said. The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier on Thursday.

“We bought the shares seven years ago and that’s how much we’ve calculated our losses on those holdings to be,” Mori said on the phone on Thursday. GPIF has previously sued other companies including Seibu Railway Co. and Livedoor Inc., he said.

Toshiba has been plagued by record losses and executive resignations after unveiling years of padded profits at the conglomerate, which makes everything from computers to nuclear power equipment. Shares have tumbled more than 40 percent since April 2015, when it withdrew its earnings forecast and announced an accounting probe that was later expanded.

GPIF has sought to bolster its stewardship of the nation’s pension savings amid a broader push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make investors more engaged with the companies that they invest in. The country introduced guidelines for shareholders in 2014, which GPIF has pledged to follow, and started a corporate governance code last year.

Pressure Others

“Having such a big presence behind this lawsuit is going to pressure others to follow, and also make company executives more aware of governance at their firms,” said Takashi Aoki, a fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. “It’s also going to put off other institutional investors from buying Toshiba shares.”

Japan Trustee Services Bank Ltd., which holds the Toshiba stock on behalf of GPIF, filed the suit at the Tokyo District Court on May 6, Mori said. JTSB representatives attended the first hearing at the court on Tuesday, he said. Toshiba spokeswoman Yuu Takase confirmed that JTSB filed the suit and declined to comment further as the case is pending.

In 2005, GPIF sued Seibu Railway after shares slumped following revelations it falsified financial statements. The fund sought 18.5 billion yen in damages and won 14.2 billion yen in July last year, Mori said. The retirement manager also filed a suit against Livedoor in December 2006 and won 4.4 billion yen in March 2012, he said.

Toshiba shares climbed 0.7 percent on Thursday in Tokyo.

Bloomberg, Updated on June 23, 2016 − 2:48 PM HKT
World’s Biggest Pension Fund Sues Toshiba for Profit Scandal
GRIF makes move after plunge in share price.
By Anna Kitanaka, Kiyotaka Matsuda






朝日新聞デジタル 7月1日(金)7時35分配信
年金の運用損、昨年度5兆円超 GPIF公表は参院選後





























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