2017年01月31日

今日はシューベルトの誕生日

 フランツ・シューベルト(1797〜1828)は31歳という若さで亡くなったウィーンの作曲家ですが、その短い生涯の間に何と600曲以上の歌曲を作曲しているのですね。
 ですから「歌曲の王様」と呼ばれています。
 そのうち 1815年、18歳の年には、1年で何と140曲もの歌曲を作曲しています。
 5日で2曲の割合で作曲していることになります。
 それではなぜそんなにたくさん作曲できたのでしょうか?
 それは、シューベルトの頭の中には次から次へと美しいメロディーがわき上がってきたからなのです。
 シューベルトが寝ているときでもどんどんわき上がってくるのだそうです。
 それを起きてすぐに楽譜に書き留められるように、シューベルトはいつもめがねをかけて寝ていたということなのですね。
 それほどまたシューベルトは目が悪かったようです。


NHK高校講座「音楽T」シューベルトの歌曲、学習メモ(講師:講師:渡邊學而)
https://www.nhk.or.jp/kokokoza/radio/r2_music/archive/3584_830.pdf

 このシューベルトが生まれたのが今日だったんですって。。。
 日本では1800(寛政12)年に伊能忠敬(1745〜1818)、蝦夷地を測量、と年表には書いてあります。

 まずは、Ave Maria - Luciano Pavarotti(1935〜2007):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGr6B6Rp4PU
 
 ペーター・シュライアー(1935年生まれ)で「きけきけ雲雀を」
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaq-6U7ZJt8

 Schubert: "Die Forelle" (Fischer-Dieskau、1925〜2012):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF9DrUXowBo

 音楽に寄せて(An die Musik)-シューベルト-ディートリヒ・フィッシャー=ディースカウ:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZZqZTKoFcM

 (ヤッホー君のような)『未完成』も:
Schubert - Symphony n°8 "Unfinished" - Berlin / Furtwängler(1886〜1954), 1953
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuN1xnv7Ogg

 クラシック名曲 シューベルトメドレー24曲:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmBRJqb9L4w

 おやすみなさい...

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New beginnings

Gracy Yap
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5K5Aa6zcSc#t=30.0935833

Gracy Yap is an Intuitive Master Numbers Therapist, Author, and a Teacher with a private numerology practice in Singapore. She holds a teaching qualification (with Distinction) from the University of Cambridge and is registered with the College of Teachers, Institute of Education, U.K.

Gracy has been featured for her numerology work on national TV in 2005 (in conjunction with the White Lotus Place), giving readings to celebrities and has been profiled in regional media. Clients from all walks of life and all races, religions and creeds have benefited from her sensitivity, warmth, guidance and spot-on readings.

Prior to embracing her life path as a teacher, Gracy was hired for middle to senior management positions and had various appointments that included Product Manager, Media Planner Head, Assistant General Manager and Account Director. In 1996, she left her illustrious career as an Account Director in one of Singapores top ten advertising agencies and turned to teaching. She is a published writer, editor and recently, an author with Barnes and Nobles publishing house.

Gracy by virtue of her birthright (birth date) is clairsentient and clairvoyant. She is a skilled practitioner of both Chaldean and Pythagorean systems of numerology. She has been an ardent student and disciple of Pythagoras in many life times.


In numerology, the ancient science of numbers, 2017 is a “Universal Year 1” (which begins on Jan 1, 2017), which promises new beginnings and spring, and also signifies new growth.

Abundance is also indicated, says Singaporean numerologist and bestselling author Gracy Yap.

In contrast, last year was a Universal Year 9, which is of endings, and it was ruled by the planet Mars, a warrior archetype.

Both the number 9 and Mars are associated with the Fire sign. This meant it was a challenging and competitive year.

Yap explains that a year of endings could denote a death in the family, an end to a relationship, job, business, etc.

“There is sadness with endings and letting go,” says Yap, author of the bestselling book Secrets Of Golden Numbers (2012).

Apparently, this year is a more hopeful one. She says of this year that it “is a year that will open new doors of opportunity”.

“This year is linked to the Tarot card of the Sun, and the Sun represents optimism and is, of course, the source of all life.”

The card of the Sun, she says, is also represented by the numeral 19, which is “a golden number signifying bright prospects”.

Yap practises Chaldean Numerology, which is tied to Tarot symbols. Therefore she cites the Tarot card of the Sun (19) that is associated with 2017 in the Gregorian calendar.

This year being associated with a Fire sign favours Fire personalities.

Yap explains that this means people born on the series of dates with 1, 3 and 9.

That is, their birthdays fall on 1, 10, 19, 28; 3, 21, 30; 9, 18 or 27 of any month.

This year is also a good year for those going through a Personal Year 1.

To get your Personal Year, the calculation is: day of birth + month of birth + 2017. Each set of numbers is then reduced to a single digit.

For example, if you were born on July 20, this is how you would calculate your Personal Year:

20 + 7 + 2017
2 + 7 + 1 (ie, 2+0+1+7 = 10; 1+0 = 1)
9 (ie, 2+7) + 1 = 10
1 (ie, 1+0 =1)

Yap also makes reference to Chinese astrology, and says 2017 is a Fire year; specifically, it is the Year of the Yin Fire Rooster, which begins on Feb 3.

“If your Four Pillars of Destiny (BaZi) chart has a Yin Fire or Yang Fire element, it is considered to be a more harmonious year for you,” she says.

July and August are stressful months this year.

“You can either have a windfall or suffer huge financial losses. So take profit (if any) and exit if you are in the stock market,” she says.

Keep an amethyst, the stone of meditation, near you to de-stress and practice excellent self-care during these months. Avoid over-working yourself.

February, September and November are good months for attracting money luck. Plant many good “seeds” in a Universal Year 1 so that you get a good harvest at the end of a nine-year luck cycle in numerology, she suggests.

Babies born in 2017 will be endowed with leadership qualities and intelligence. They will be active but also will have a temper (remember, it’s a Fire sign year).

As 2017 is ruled by the Sun, and Yang (or masculine) energy, it favours boys.

Girls born this year or born a number 1 will have behavioural traits of thinking like a man. Mothers are advised to avoid wearing red to activate the Fire energy if they are raising Fire personalities.


The Star2, Published: January 29, 2017
Numerology: A year of opportunities
By MAJORIE CHIEW
http://www.star2.com/living/viewpoints/2017/01/29/2017-a-year-of-opportunities/

 え〜い、こうなったらもうひとり Yapさんをご紹介しなくっちゃ。

This Rooster year, women are in a better position than men. Trust them to make better judgments, says feng shui master Yap Boh Chu.

“Female energy is superior to male energy this year. In general, females will have clarity of mind and are generally luckier than males. They are likely to be more correct in their opinions and decisions.”

On the downside, women will be subjected to more backstabbing and damaging gossip, he warns.

To offset this, he advises women to have proper feng shui in the home and office. Also, do not renovate or dig in the west sector of your home, or property, or the problem will get worse!

Yap also suggests that we make more friends this Rooster year.

“Friendships and networking are the best sources of wealth. Contentious issues can be resolved harmoniously, and in a win-win situation, if you have more friends and networking contacts,” he says.

He urges us not to rush, but pick and choose opportunities properly so that fortune can be made.

Yap gives us a month by month guide:
February: A good month to build relationships, whether personal, or in business. It is a good time to start planning and discussions.

March: Keep a low profile as this is a month where many quarrels will take place. It is best to avoid behaving badly as it will backfire on you.

April: Quarrels may break out between women or are caused by them. Be careful not to commit any serious offences or the long arm of the law will catch up with you.

May: A good time to travel to change one’s luck. One should also be patient in one’s endeavours as luck will change for the better.
Exert your leadership skills this month. Exercise a firm hand in business whether in actions or negotiations.

June: You will face many obstacles to your plans, making it difficult to carry them out. Maintain status quo and wait for another opportune time to execute your plans.

July: It is a month of law suits and relationship problems. Travel may change your luck. Women should beware of their health.

August: The problems and obstacles of the past months will clear and luck will change.
Men above 60 should take precautions with their health as their health star is weak.
It’s a good month to rediscover your spiritual path.

September: The good fortune of the previous month continues. Be careful. Even though you are enjoying good fortune, you may also face disasters. Friends can turn to enemies out of jealousy. Women have stronger luck this month.

October: The strong will be weak and the weak will be strong. Those who want to invest should do it in a conservative manner. There will be happiness in the family, births and weddings.

November: A time to act. Do not hesitate as quick action will be rewarded.
There will also be happiness in the family, in births and weddings. Quarrels and arguments can be resolved this month.

December: Wishes will be fulfilled. Those looking for fame and recognition will achieve it. Keep your focus and do not divert from your actions and thoughts.
Those with bad intentions will fail.

January, 2018: Luck will be maintained. It is a good month for entrepreneurs.
However, beware of bad luck at the end of the month. Try to avoid being distracted. Avoid outdoor activities.


The Star2, Published: January 28, 2017
More power to women in the Year of the Rooster
By MAJORIE CHIEW
http://www.star2.com/people/2017/01/28/more-power-to-women-in-the-year-of-the-rooster/

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2017年01月30日

New Year melody

 1月28日の土曜日が旧正月の元旦。
 日曜日の夜間飛行でマレーシアのペナンを飛び立ったヤッホー君。
 成田着は月曜の朝7時でした!
 関西沖の太平洋を1万2000m上空を時速1000Km超でマレーシア航空機は飛んでいましたが、うまいこと朝日を撮ることができました!

new_P1040447.jpg

new_P1040449.jpg

 旧正月でにぎわうマレーシアですが、よく流れるメロディがあります。どうぞ:

Gong Xi Gong Xi 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeWnkw20F8c

 ところがこの歌ができた背景にも目をそそがなくっちゃ、と思いを新たにしたのです:

Taipei: There are songs you must have heard at supermarkets or along any busy street in Taiwan, and while you might know that they’re about Lunar New Year, did you know they’ve been there for 70 years?

The oldest and the most popular of all is the Gong Xi Gong Xi song. Every Taiwanese can recite the first line- on every road and every alley, from every mouth, the first greetings when you meet, that is Gong Xi Gong Xi.

Gong Xi Gong Xi is the transliteration of congratulations in Mandarin Chinese, a blessing people sent to everyone during Lunar New Year.

While the song is now used for celebrations, its original version carried complicated sentiments of sorrow and happiness.

It was composed by Chen Gexin (陳歌辛、1913-1961) in 1946 at the end of the Japanese colonial period at the end of the Second World War.

Chen was detained for three months before the Japanese were defeated, and he made Gong Xi Gong Xi both to celebrate the first lunar new year after the victory and as a memorial to the soldiers and people who died fighting the war.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 28 January 2017
The true story behind ‘Gong Xi Gong Xi’ song
China Post
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/01/28/the-true-story-behind-gong-xi-gong-xi-song/

 ではその The China Post で台湾の旧正月を読んでみましょう:

Today is the eve of the Lunar New Year. For Taiwan, the island nation that is arguably the melting pot of most Chinese cultures, Lunar New Year celebrations differ from those of other Chinese countries.

As a result of mass migration during the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan has syncretized many of the Lunar New Year traditions that are observed differently across mainland China, and has since made the holiday unique in its own ways.

Unlike Southeast Asian countries with large Chinese populations like Malaysia and Singapore, Taiwan has a longer holiday to celebrate the festival and no longer observes the loud traditional music that one would see in the Southeast Asian countries.

While revelers in those countries marks the holiday by playing loud New Year music accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments like the gong, Taiwan observes the festival like any other holiday, whereby we skip the songs and simply anticipate the holiday as it draws near.

And unlike our Southeast Asian counterparts who actively work to visit as many relatives as possible in a short amount of time and decorate their houses entirely in red to fit the traditionally required color scheme, people in Taiwan more than often simply see the festival as a winter break and an opportunity for friends and family to gather for reunions and bond.

We are also different from Hong Kong, whose people still add shark fins in the New Year soup known as "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall." Most, though not all, of Taiwan has since abolished the consumption of shark fins as a result of environmental awareness.

But Taiwan could do even more to distinguish ourselves from our brethren in other nations, and that is to make our traditions greener for the sake of environmental progress.

While each and every Chinese nation has its own unique take on celebrating the Lunar New Year, one act is universally performed by every celebrant on the planet during the festival: pollution.

When it comes to celebrating the Lunar New Year, we will unavoidably commute sometime during the holiday, and in great masses. Although we do not pollute the air as severely as our mainland Chinese brothers do, with their long traffic jams that often paralyze traffic, our vehicles nonetheless create enough smoke in our cities that wearing masks to conduct family visits has become almost a necessity.

For a country as developed as Taiwan, we should rely more on our convenient public transportation, taking buses and trains to commute between cities instead of using personal vehicles to travel. Air pollution could be greatly decreased this way and travel time could also be shortened as there would be fewer cars on the streets.

Though at times they can be breathtakingly beautiful, fireworks should also be used at a minimum. Not only do fireworks contribute to sound and air pollution, people generally lack the proper knowledge and means to dispose of the leftover cartridges after they are done setting them off. Seeing firework litter on the streets is a common sight once the holiday is over, and the government is left to deal with cleaning up the garbage.

Our nation could also adopt some awareness on gift packaging. We often lay out food in our houses during the Lunar New Year in anticipation of visiting families and friends as a way to show our hospitality. We also often give food in gift boxes when visiting our friends and family to show politeness.

While the tradition of being hospitable should be applauded, we go too far in making our gifts look extravagant, and this results in a large amount of unnecessary packaging and subsequent trash. It is all too common to open an elegant box of celebratory treats only to find the snacks themselves then individually wrapped in even more plastic.

Taiwan has made great progress towards being viewed as a developed county in Asia. As such, we should live up to the title and progress, first by acknowledging and addressing the shortcomings of our culture, and then fixing it by altering the practices to make them less harmful to the planet. Traditions were established by humankind, so who's to say that we cannot improve on them?


The China Post, Published: January 27, 2017, 12:06 am TWN
It's time for a greener Lunar New Year
By The China Post news staff 
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2017/01/27/490475/p2/It's-time.htm

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2017年01月27日

Lunar New Year celebrations abroad

Shi Ying won’t be making the traditional pilgrimage back to Shanghai to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday with her extended family. Instead, they’re all going to Japan for shopping and sightseeing.

That new custom lets her family bypass the mobs, clogged roads and subways, lousy customer services -- and boredom -- that can mark holidays at home. During the past few celebrations, Shi and her relatives left China for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the U.S.

“The last thing my parents want for the Chinese New Year is a cheerless holiday with the three of us staying home in Shanghai,” said Shi, 30, who works for a non-governmental organization in Beijing. “Going overseas during the Spring Festival costs about the same as going to some domestic tourist spots.”

The essence of China’s seven-day holiday, also called Spring Festival, is morphing as rising incomes and an expanding network of international flights prompt more people to go abroad -- the equivalent of Americans choosing Bermuda over the Midwest for Thanksgiving. Outbound travel for the holiday break is expected to top a record 6 million passengers, with airlines hauling near-full loads to Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

“Chinese New Year is a major international peak for the Chinese airlines,” said Steve Saxon, a Shanghai-based partner at consultant McKinsey & Co. “For many, this is one of the only two opportunities to take a long holiday during the year.”

‘Swim in Money’

The Spring Festival shuts down the world’s second-biggest economy for a week as hundreds of millions of factory and office workers leave their adopted homes in Shenzhen or Beijing to reconnect with their ancestral ones, often on the opposite side of the country. Thousands more expatriates return.

This year’s celebration, from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, will see the biggest mass migration of people on Earth. More than 414 million Chinese will ride in planes and trains -- as if everyone in the European Union was on the move.

About 58.3 million people are expected to fly, representing a 10 percent increase from last year, according to estimates by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Chinese airlines generate about 20 percent of their revenue during this period, Saxon said.

Chinese will travel to 174 destinations outside mainland China for an average of 9.2 days during the holiday period, according to online travel service Ctrip.com International Ltd.

“Any airline should be able to swim in money during a Chinese traveling holiday,” said Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation.

GDP Growth

Fueling those excursions is an economy growing annually by at least 6.7 percent since 1990, giving people more money to spend. Disposable income for urban households rose 165 percent from 2006 to 2015, reaching about 31,195 yuan ($4,551), according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Instead of going back to her hometown in the northeast China forest, Xi Chunhui is going to Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong for 11 days with a friend.

“The Spring Festival celebration is the same old thing every year at home,” said Xi, 27, an editor for an internet portal in Beijing. “I don’t think me not being there with them will kill the mood.”

Going sightseeing abroad also is a consequence of the government’s generations-long policy restricting most families to one child, said Catherine Lim, a Singapore-based analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. A more-affluent younger generation now wants to see the world, she said.

“When your entire family size shrinks, there really isn’t much to do” at home, Lim said. “They want to spend more money -- particularly the younger generation -- on experiencing new destinations rather than buying the biggest Hermes bag.”

China is the biggest source of overseas travelers in the world, with 128 million people spending $292 billion on their trips in 2015, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Discounts Ending

That’s been a boon to the nation’s airlines, with demand running so high that discounts are ending as many as 50 days before takeoff, according to Ctrip.com. The top-dollar tickets help carriers make up for the massive price cuts offered during slow seasons.

China Southern Airlines Co., Asia’s biggest carrier, added nearly 3,600 flights during this peak travel season -- and expanded services to Australia and New Zealand, the Guangzhou-based airline said. Subsidiary Xiamen Airlines Co. is adding more than 100 flights to Southeast Asia destinations such as Bali and the Maldives, said Hu Nan, a manager for international business.

China Eastern Airlines Corp., based in Shanghai, added 400 flights starting this month mostly to connect second-tier cities with Okinawa, Japan; Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Cebu, Philippines.

“All the airlines in China, not just us, are throwing in all resources to brace for the Chinese New Year travel,” Hu said. “There is no slack there.”

Easier Visas

On the destination sides, Japan, Australia and even Israel are rolling out the welcome mats for Chinese tourists by offering multiple-year, multiple-entry visas to Chinese passport holders. The United Arab Emirates is going a step further by offering visas upon arrival, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese visitors to Japan jumped 28 percent last year to 6.4 million -- the most from any country, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

When they arrived, they spent 1.47 trillion yen ($12.8 billion), according to the separate Japan Tourism Agency. Chinese perceive Japanese electronics, luxury items and consumer goods like cosmetics and toothpaste to be of better quality than those made at home.

Shi’s family will fly to Japan on Jan. 27 for a seven-day trip in Kyoto and Tokyo. Besides the tourist attractions, they plan some serious shopping -- for cosmetics, clothes, rice cookers and high-technology toilet seats.

“My parents really get a kick out of traveling during the Chinese New Year,” she said. “Let’s hope I can cap my spending for the whole trip at 80,000 yuan.”

Bloomberg, Updated: January 24, 2017, 7:00 PM GMT+8
Chinese Are Celebrating Lunar New Year by Escaping China
With assistance by Dong Lyu, and Bruce Einhorn
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-23/-12-000-trips-abroad-replace-chinese-new-year-treks-to-grandma-s

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Australia's national day

Hundreds of people marching for Aboriginal rights have disrupted official Australia Day celebrations in the Melbourne CBD.

The group – holding Aboriginal flags and chanting "always was, always will be Aboriginal land" – followed the parade down Swanston Street, flanked by police.

The rally came after more than 100 special interest, sporting and cultural groups had marched from the Melbourne Town Hall to Kings Domain as part of the Australia Day Parade.

Thousands of spectators watched the parade, which began with a flag raising ceremony at town hall attended by Victorian Governor Alex Chernov, Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

The rally that followed was lead by two organisations: Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance and First Nations Liberation.

Organiser Meriki Onus, 27, said the group had earlier gathered at the steps of parliament house to lay flowers in commemoration of Aboriginal people who were killed during white settlement, the Stolen Generation and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

She said January 26 was a day of mourning for Aboriginal people.

"We don't celebrate Australia Day, because Australia Day celebrates genocide," Ms Onus said.

"Today is Invasion Day for Aboriginal people."

As the vocal group marched from Parliament to town hall and on to Birrarung Marr, people chanted "No pride in genocide" and "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land."

Placards carried in the procession included "End the NT intervention" and "Stop deaths in custody".

The rally came to a brief halt at the intersection of St Kilda Road and Flinders Street as members of the crowd burned gum leaves.

Ms Onus said the turnout for the rally was far greater than she had expected.

Djuran Bunjileenee, from First Nations Liberation, said it was important for the wider community to remember the events of January 26.

"Australia Day is the day our land was physically occupied by invaders," Mr Bunjileenee said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police were aware of an Invasion Day protest.

No arrests were made.

The Age, Published: JANUARY 27 2015
Aboriginal rights protest disrupts Australia Day Parade in Melbourne
By Allison Worrall
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/aboriginal-rights-protest-disrupts-australia-day-parade-in-melbourne-20150126-12ya7z.html

More read:
The Guardian, Last modified on Thursday 27 October 2016 01.14 BST

Australia Day is a time for mourning, not celebration

The refusal to celebrate Australia Day is part of an ongoing fight for the recognition of the abuse of Indigenous people's rights. If we give up on protesting, we might soon no longer remember the past

By Nakkiah Lui
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/26/australia-day-is-a-time-for-mourning-not-celebration

SYDNEY – Thousands of protesters have marked Australia's national day by cranking up pressure on the government to acknowledge indigenous suffering by shifting the date.

Australia Day celebrates the arrival of the first British colonists in Sydney Harbor on Jan. 26, 1788. The British never acknowledged the land was owned by the Aborigines and the lack of any treaty has long been a source of division.

Thousands of protesters staged largely peaceful Invasion Day rallies on Thursday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, while hundreds staged a sit-in outside Parliament House in the national capital, Canberra.

Ian Macfarlane, a former minister in Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's government who retired from politics last year, became a rare conservative voice to call for the date to be changed.

Turnbull has ruled out a change.


Fox News World, Published January 26, 2017
Thousands of protesters mark Australia Day celebrations
By Associated Press
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/01/26/thousands-protesters-mark-australia-day-celebrations.html

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India's annual Republic Day

Thousands gathered in New Delhi amid tight security Tuesday for India's annual Republic Day parade, a pomp-filled spectacle of military might featuring camels and daredevil stunt riders, with French President Francois Hollande the chief guest.

A contingent of French infantry in India for joint military exercises led the march down the capital's central Rajpath avenue, the first time foreign troops have ever taken part in the parade.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Hollande in a show of solidarity with France after Islamist attacks in Paris last November killed 130 -- recalling a 2008 assault on Mumbai that killed 166.

The two leaders agreed in talks Monday to deepen cooperation on counter-terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks and a deadly siege this month on an Indian air force base near the Pakistan border.

The mood on Tuesday was more celebratory, with Modi -- sporting a gold turban that rivalled the spectacular military headgear on display -- and Hollande chatting as they sat side by side in a bulletproof glass enclosure.

- Human pyramid -

An estimated 10,000 spectators braved thick smog and air quality levels classified as hazardous on the US embassy website to watch the display, the highlight of annual celebrations of the birth of modern India.

Delhi is the world's most polluted capital and levels of PM2.5 -- the tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream -- frequently reach 10 times the World Health Organization's safe limit.

But the skies remained dry, unlike last year when chief guest US President Barack Obama was forced to shelter under an umbrella throughout.

The two-hour showcase of military might and cultural diversity included everything from tanks and state-of-the-art weaponry to camels and traditional dancers.

The mounted camels of the Border Security Force -- an annual highlight -- put in an early showing, decorated in brightly coloured caparisons.

Traditional dancers representing some of India's diverse regional cultures performed on colourfully decorated floats showcasing selected states.

A dog squad drawn from the Army's Remount Veterinary Corps returned to the parade after a gap of 26 years to perform a march past wearing striped coats in their unit's colours.

They were followed by motorbike stunt riders performing a human pyramid, another annual tradition, before the grand finale of the event, a fly-past by Indian fighter jets.

India launched a nationwide security crackdown in the lead-up to the celebrations, which mark the adoption of the country's constitution on January 26, 1950 following independence from Britain in 1947.

Counter-terror police arrested a group of suspected Islamist radicals and seized bomb-making material in a series of nationwide raids last week, and some 50,000 police, army and paramilitary forces were deployed across the capital on Tuesday.

It was the fifth time a French president has been chief guest, the greatest honour India can bestow on a foreign leader.

Hollande was due to leave Delhi later Tuesday at the end of a three-day official visit that began in the northern city of Chandigarh.

His visit had raised hopes of a conclusion to a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar deal for New Delhi to buy 36 French Rafale jet fighters.

The two sides said they had not yet arrived at an agreement on the price, which experts say could reach around five billion euros ($5.6 billion).

Rafale manufacturer Dassault said after the announcement it was hopeful the price negotiations could be completed within the next four weeks.

India entered exclusive negotiations on buying 126 Rafale fighters in 2012, but the number of planes was scaled back in tortuous negotiations over cost and assembly of the planes in India.

On Monday the two men laid a foundation stone at the new headquarters of the International Solar Alliance, a 121-nation group launched by Modi at the Paris COP21 conference in November to expand affordable solar power.

MailOnline, PUBLISHED: 13:11 GMT, 26 January 2016
India marks Republic Day with camels and stunt-riders
By AFP
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3417327/India-marks-Republic-Day-camels-stunt-riders.html

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Asean secrets

NEW United States Pre-sident Donald Trump must be “fantastically” happy with a “wonderful” Asean because it is the only “great” regional organisation that has no military might and has not been at war. The problem is, he might not know about the grouping at all.

Here is a six-point dossier on the 50-year-old Asean and its top secrets.

First, Asean is not too weak and is not too strong as a regional organisation. It was established in 1967 out of a desire to prevent conflicts and wars, and to promote peace and stability.

After three days of “sports-shirt” diplomacy in Bang Saen in August five decades ago, as former Philippine President Fidel Ramos described it, the foreign ministers from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore signed the Bangkok Declaration.

This 752-word document, excluding their long names, has saved the region from the scourges of many potential wars.

Like the European Union, Asean should be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in the coming decade, given its long and impressive stretch of peace and stability. So, the US has one less region to worry about.

Second, Asean members talk a lot among themselves. Outsiders often describe the regional grouping as a talk shop.

Indeed, it is. But that is nothing to be ashamed of. Those talks have not been in vain as they have effectively prevented wars and promoted co-operation.

There would be less talk in the future, meaning fewer meetings, if the current Asean chairmanship, the Philippines, has its way. Manila wants to streamline Asean meetings.

On an average day, at least two or three meetings are being held. That makes it approximately 1,200 annually. Last year, Laos cut it down to less than 1,000 meetings.

The Asean members discuss and consult a lot until they reach a consensus – very few organisations have that kind of perseverance.

It is an open secret that sometimes when Asean members agree, they do so not because they thought it was the best solution but rather it was the lowest common denominator that all members would accept.

In Indonesia, it is called musyawarah, or the art of bringing everybody together to make decisions by consensus rather than choosing winners and losers, which has helped Asean survive without any “exit” from the 10-member grouping.

Asean seldom says “you are fired” because it prefers to say “you are hired” – to be inclusive and people-centred.

Third, Asean has a long standing tradition – it does not promise what it cannot deliver. It is a bit different from Trump’s style of leadership, which is to say it out loud first and then follow-up on those promises.

In Asean, action speaks louder than words – that is the reason the regional grouping has so many action plans. For the Asean Vision 2025, a total of 571 action plans have been identified for the next 10 years.

This explains why Asean goes slow before reaching any decision. It has to be sure promises can be delivered. Failure is not an option.

Quite often, outsiders don’t understand Asean’s way of handling challenges, whether they are disruptive or long-standing issues. A slow but sure approach is preffered.

Fourth, Asean is not a military alliance akin to the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Asean does not take any advantage of the US, but is an important US strategic partnership – a pillar of the US rebalancing policy.

It is not a military burden to the advance of American greatness nor does it pose any threat to the US.

Asean uses non-violent means to resolve conflicts, as well as its goodwill to connect major powers.

Former secretary general of Asean Dr Surin Pitsuwan often described Asean as a fulcrum for all major powers to meet and be engaged.

Asean prefers security co-operation rather than forming military alliances. Many Asean-led security dialogue platforms are designed to increase mutual confidence and promote preventive measures.

Now both foreign and defence ministers have their own ministerial level forums – the Asean Regional Forum and Asean Defence Ministerial Meeting Plus – to meet annually with their dialogue partners.

Fifth, Asean is good for Trump’s America, as it has created jobs both in blue or red states. US trade with Asean has already created 500,000 jobs for American people.

Asean is the fourth largest trading partner of the US worth about US$226bil (RM982.9bil) in 2015, and US companies are the biggest beneficiaries of the grouping’s prosperity and modern lifestyle.

More US companies want to invest in Asean, not stay away. In 2014, they pumped in nearly US$25bil (RM108.7bil).

With markets in new Asean members such as Vietnam and Myanmar growing, investment opportunities will augment even more.

As a group, Asean is Asia’s third largest economy after China and Japan and the seventh largest in the world with a combined gross domestic product of US$2.4 trillion (RM10.4 trillion). By 2030, it could be the fourth largest in the world.

Today, Asean has a total population of 646,352,702 persons and over 65% are under 35 years old.

Under the Obama administration, the US has been cleverly engaged in winning hearts and minds of the Asean youngsters.

The Young South-East Asian Leaders Initiative is a programme to promote people-to-people ties that will keep Asean-US ties in the hands of future generations.

Sixth, each year Asean hosts one of the world’s most important leader-only security forums, known as the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Leaders from Asean and dialogue partners, including the US, China, Russia, Japan and India will head to the capital of the Asean chair to forge common positions on critical global issues such as epidemics, terrorism and climate change.

This forum grows more dynamic and interactive, which could in the future transform into a new regional architecture.

If Trump decides not to attend the EAS at the Clark air base (he can easily find an excuse given his calibre) during his first year of presidency, it would be a big loss to US security interests. Other participants are eager as always to inject their ideas and energy into the emerging security framework.

The Star, Published: Friday, 27 January 2017
Asean secrets Trump must know
By Kavi Chongkittavorn, Regional Affairs Columnist for The Nation, Thailand, and former Assistant Group Editor of Nation Media Group
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/27/asean-secrets-trump-must-know-heres-a-handy-primer-on-how-the-regional-grouping-works-and-why-the-pr/

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Oscars more colour

There were few surprises and even fewer snubs among Tuesday’s diverse nominees for the 89th Academy Awards, which is exactly as it should have been.

There’s not a single undeserved nomination amongst the lot of them, even if academy voters rightly felt pressure to address the dearth of non-white actors in two previous years of nominations. Sometimes a little push is needed to get people to do the right thing.

As predicted by pundits and earlier wins, Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood ode La La Land topped the golden list with 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Actor (Ryan Gosling) and Actress (Emma Stone), tying Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) for the Oscar noms record.

The singing-and-dancing sensation also breaks the record for most nominated musical, set a half-century ago by Mary Poppins, which had 13 nods.

Tied as the closest challengers to La La Land, with eight nominations apiece including Best Picture and Director, are Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama Moonlight and Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi thriller Arrival.

The other six Best Picture nominees − Manchester by the Sea, Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water − make for a total of nine, one more than last year and all of them dramas.

Most significant of all is the large amount of diversity in the nominations, even if leader La La Land has a mostly white cast and features vanilla-hued Gosling as a defender of jazz, a musical form created by African-Americans and indigenous North Americans.

Seven of the 20 acting nominees are people of colour, while four of the nine Best Picture contenders − Moonlight, Fences, Lion and Hidden Figures − tell diverse stories with non-white actors in most of the leading roles.

After two years when people of colour were conspicuously absent from the Oscar leaders board, this is a welcome development, if also a completely expected one.

The nominations seemed to please April Reign, the New York writer and editor who coined the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter hashtag that helped push a foot-dragging academy into making needed changes to promote diversity, including increasing the number of non-white voters.

“Some surprises, some spot-on decisions . . . Things are changing because our voices are strongest together,” Reign wrote in a pair of tweets.

It was particularly gratifying to see Oscar nominations for Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, and also Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris in the respective Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories, three of the reasons why this wonderfully wise film topped my list of best movies of 2016.

It’s also great to see Meryl Streep get her record 20th Oscar nomination for playing a tone-deaf singer in Florence Foster Jenkins, a nomination she likely gained not only for her considerable talent but also in appreciation of her marvellous rip into Donald Trump’s xenophobic ways at the Golden Globes earlier this month, who retaliated by childishly calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.”

Also nice are the long-overdue Best Actress nod for Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Best Actor nom for Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), indicating that the academy is willing to recognize overlooked actors of any colour.

What few snubs there were − the acting MIA include Tom Hanks for Sully, Amy Adams for Arrival, Annette Bening for 20th Century Women − are fewer in number than in previous years and not unexpected in a year so rich with talent.

Oscar can’t get everything right. But at least this year, it got the most important thing right, by recognizing that talent doesn’t just come in one colour.

The Star, Published: Tues., Jan. 24, 2017

Oscar nominators found excellence: in every colour: Howell

Beyond La La Land, Oscar voters felt pressure to address the #OscarsSoWhite issue of recent years − and seemed to have no trouble finding worthy candidates.

By PETER HOWELL, Movie Critic
https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2017/01/24/oscar-nominators-found-excellence-in-every-colour-howell.html


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Docs need more solid footing

IN reference to the letter “Docs face uncertain livelihood” (The Star, Jan 24), I am writing in full support of the author’s proposal and suggestions to improve conditions for doctors.

I graduated from UKM in 2013. I went to medical school at a time when we were taught that Malaysia was short of doctors. We were told to expect long shifts, back-to-back calls, endless waiting lists and more.

We were all passionate about our work and were looking forward to serve for the betterment of our fellow men.

It was a strange situation to be in when we began to hear rumours that there were no more posts for new house officers. Many of us, like me, began to make arrangements for plan B in Singapore.

Some of my batchmates, especially those interested in surgery specialty training, decided to stay as one would get more hands-on training in Malaysia.

Those who left for Singapore were employed immediately. Registration and relocation was prompt and work started just six weeks after the final exam results were released.

Obviously, Singapore had the pick of the first fruits. The rest went back to their hometowns and were left waiting for news. The batch of UKM 2013 only received letters to report for duty six months after their final exams.

I have heard that my juniors who graduated in 2016 have been in limbo for nine months. The final waiting period is still uncertain.

The Government has proposed a three-year contract system in Budget 2017. This will bring more problems than it will solve. It does not address the long-term concerns of the affected doctor. There has been no mention on what would happen once the contract ends.

Senior staff leaving the service would never be able to create enough vacant positions.

With a finite number of posts and thousands of new doctors entering the government workforce yearly, most of the contract doctors will be forced to leave the government service.

The Government has not mentioned what will happen to those forced to leave.

Most doctors currently in service have graduated from public universities or are scholars from non-UK/Australia universities.

With the exception of the best few students from UKM and UM who are eligible for employment in Singapore, the rest are forced to work here as the degrees are not recognised anywhere else.

This does not mean that they are incompetent. Some of the brightest young men and women in my current department have graduated from a lesser known university. They have had no problems passing postgraduate exams and are only being denied reaching their full potential because of their primary degree.

This has trapped doctors in the workforce with no other avenue for employment. If a doctor is out of clinical practice for more than one year, clinical skills would be lost and they would never be able to return to the service.

That amounts to a loss of five years studying, three years working and all the hard work during an individual’s most productive years.

Some of the doctors may choose to take exams and find employment overseas. The process is costly. To practise in the UK, registration for taking the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) costs £1115, not including courses, books, flights or accommodation.

A few may join the pharmaceutical industry, but vacant jobs will be few and far in between as Malaysia is neither a regional nor international hub for pharmaceuticals. The bulk of individuals without the financial reserves would be forced to join the private sector as GPs.

It is unreasonable to think that they would go into a completely unrelated field as they have invested their youth in the pursuit of medicine.

If one is to assume that market forces would correct the situation I must rebut those arguments now. Free market forces can never be applied in the distribution of healthcare.

Healthcare is about how to distribute a service equitably and to create a system that works in the best interest of doctor and patient. Countries that have let the free market decide, such as the US, have left the most marginalised segments of society without healthcare. This group of people includes the poor, immigrants, and refugees.

Like it or not, the wave of junior doctors whose contracts end will be seen in two to three years’ time. It is best that we meet this challenge fully prepared.

Doctors must form associations now to create a robust nationwide GP system to fill in the role where the Government has failed. A strong network will not only create jobs for doctors but would also integrate pharmacists, nurses, and therapists.

The system first and foremost must be financially self-sustaining. Doctors must be compensated well enough that they can make clinical judgements without fear or favour. If that requires doctors to form unions and charge a minimum consultation fee of RM50 then so be it.

They need to be given enough financial security to fight the influence of unscrupulous pharmaceutical and insurance companies offering shady deals.

More importantly, doctors can issue medical certificates in a fair manner which would increase productivity and benefit our society as a whole.

We can still change the outcome and decide on the future of our profession. I am strongly in favour of Dr Sng’s proposal to strengthen the GP sector in Malaysia.

Letter to The Star, Published: Friday, 27 January 2017
Docs need more solid footing
By DR PAU CHEONG PING, Kuala Lumpur
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/01/27/docs-need-more-solid-footing/

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Jobless rate

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's jobless rate hit a six-year high in the fourth quarter, while total employment in 2016 grew at the weakestpace in over a decade, as labour market conditions softened amid a slowdown in economic growth.

The total unemployment rate rose to 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter from 2.1 percent in the third quarter, rising to a level last seen in the fourth quarter of 2010, preliminary data from the Ministry of Manpower showed.

While the rise in the unemployment rate is milder than what was recorded during economic recessions in the past, it raises concerns on the economy's outlook, analysts said.

"Consumption growth will slow further, which will impact things like retail sales, discretionary spending," said Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan.

For the whole of 2016, total employment was estimated to have increased by 16,400 or 0.4 percent, the weakest growth since 2003 when total employment shrank by 0.6 percent.

"The moderation in total employment in 2016 took place amid slower growth in the Singapore economy, slowdown in local labour force growth and continued tightening of the supply of foreign workforce," the ministry said.

Many economists see the risk of Singapore's economy slowing further this year, after growth slipped to a seven-year low of 1.8 percent in 2016.

Last year, employment in the manufacturing sector fell by 15,700, while construction sector jobs shrank by 11,300. Services employment grew by 43,800, down from a growth of 45,500 in 2015, the ministry data showed.

Job redundancies for the whole of 2016 rose to 19,000, the highest number of redundancies since 23,430 in 2009.

"Today's dismal labour print...reinforce our view that domestic cost pressures will be muted owing to a subdued labour market which will put a lid on wage growth", said Weiwen Ng, an economist for ANZ.

Yahoo News, January 26, 2017
Singapore Q4 jobless rate hits 6-year high as economy slows
By Reuters, Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/singapore-q4-jobless-rate-rises-031055728.html

TOKYO: Japan's jobless rate rose for the first time in almost a year in June, while the ratio of job offers to job seekers hit a 22-year high, official data showed Tuesday.

The unemployment rate edged up to 3.7% in June from 3.5% in the previous month, the internal affairs ministry said.

It was the first increase since August 2013 when the rate rose to 4.1%.

Markets had expected the June unemployment rate to remain flat from its May level of 3.5%, which was the lowest since late 1997.

A separate survey from the labour ministry showed the ratio of job offers to job seekers stood at 1.10 in June, meaning there were 110 job offers for every 100 job hunters.

It was the highest rate since June 1992, according to the labour ministry.

The rise in both job offers and joblessness suggests more people have started seeking work as they see the labour market improving, leading them to be counted as job-seekers, which pushes up the unemployment rate.

The internal affairs ministry also said household spending fell 3.0% year-on-year in June.

The fall was smaller than drops of 8.0% in May and 4.6% in April, just after the nation's sales tax was hiked for the first time in 17 years.

The tax was lifted to 8.0% from 5.0% on April 1 in a bid to help shrink Japan's mammoth national debt, one of the heaviest burdens among wealthy nations.


The SunDaily, Posted on 29 July 2014 - 01:25pm
Japan jobless rate ticks up, offer ratio at 22-year high
By AFP
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1126228

PETALING JAYA: Maybank IB Research is maintaining its unemployment rate forecasts at 3.2%-3.3% this year, amid slower economic growth and rising operating costs, due to factors like subsidy cuts/removals, weak ringgit and hike in minimum wage.

In a report released on Monday, its analyst Suhaimi Ilias said the research house believes that these factors will prompt employers to adopt a more cautious stance in hiring.

“Other notable news flow is the report that Petronas is in the midst of considering the retrenchment option in view of the continued slump in crude oil price to manage its operating expenditure, which is compounded by indications of capex (capital expenditure) cuts as Petronas called off the tender for the turnkey delivery of a central processing platform for the Kasawari field development,” he added.

Suhaimi noted that the official statistics on retrenched workers in the first quarter (Q1) to third quarter (Q3) last year were 8,690 persons, up 15.6% year-on-year (y-o-y), compared with 7,516 persons in the same period in 2014.

In comparison, he said 27,314 workers were retrenched in the three quarters between Q4 2008 and Q2 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.

However separately, the Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) claimed that a total of 20,000 workers were retrenched as of September last year and expected the figure to have reached 25,000 persons by end of 2015.

Suhaimi explained that the discrepancies in the official and MEF figures could be due to the “contract workers” factor, such as workers whose employment were discontinued following the end of their contracts which may well not be treated at “retrenched workers” under the official statistics.

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the discrepancies on the numbers of retrenched workers, the jobless numbers and the average unemployment rate have risen 3.1% to 21,200 in January to November 2015 versus 2.9% to 8,600 in 2014, indicating some deterioration in the job market condition,” he noted.

Suhaimi said the unemployment rate inched up to 3.2% in November 2015, but overall it has been steady at 3.1%-3.2% since May last year.

He said the unemployment rate has been relatively stable as the labour force expansion was partially absorbed by employment or jobs growth to 13.9 million.

“M-o-m (month-on-month), both labour force and employment were flattish at -0.01% (Oct 2015: +0.1% m-o-m) and -0.01% (Oct 2015: +0.2% m-o-m) respectively.”

“Nonetheless, the latest jobless rate is up from the low of 2.7% recorded in August to November 2014, whereby the number of unemployed rose 20.8% y-o-y and 0.6% m-o-m to 453,300,” he added.

The SunDaily, Posted on 28 January 2016 - 05:38am
Maybank IB Research keeps jobless rate forecast at 3.2-3.3%
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1678958
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2017年01月26日

the worst among major countries

Japan's government said on Wednesday that the primary deficit will worsen in coming years, even according to its most optimistic forecasts, because of falling tax revenue and weak consumer spending.

The forecasts, released by the Cabinet Office, show the government is falling behind two important fiscal discipline targets that were intended to eliminate the primary deficit, which excludes debt servicing costs and new bond sales.

Chances for a turnaround are slim, some economists say, because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year shifted policy to prioritize infrastructure spending over fiscal discipline, raising concerns that Japan's debt burden will worsen further.

Japan's primary deficit will total 8.3 trillion yen ($73.1 billion), or 1.4 percent of nominal gross domestic product in fiscal 2020, the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday.

In its previous forecasts published in July, the Cabinet Office said the primary deficit would be 5.5 trillion yen, or 1.0 percent of GDP, in fiscal 2020.

In fiscal 2018 the primary deficit will total 13.8 trillion yen, or 2.4 percent of GDP, worse than previous forecasts of 10.5 trillion yen and 1.9 percent, respectively.

Abe's government inherited a plan to achieve a primary surplus in fiscal 2020 to show Japan is trying to lower its debt burden, which is the worst among major countries at more than twice the size of its economy.

Abe's government set an interim target of reducing the primary deficit to 1 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal 2018, but economists widely expect the government to miss this goal after Abe delayed a nationwide sales tax increase.

Sources told Reuters last week the government could start debating whether to revise the target for fiscal 2020 because it was becoming less likely to be met.


Reuters, Published: Wed Jan 25, 2017 - 3:34am EST
Japan government: fiscal targets slip further as tax revenue falls
Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-economy-deficit-idUSKBN1590RY

安倍政権の政策路線はさまざまな角度から捉えることができるが、経済政策全体を貫く核心は明確である。
それは、
「巨大資本の利益が第一」
「ハゲタカファースト」
というものである。

安倍首相が代表質問への答弁で、
「社会保障費を削減したことが政策運営の成果である」
と述べたことに驚きを感じた国民は少なくないだろう。

消費税を増税し、法人税を減税し、社会保障費は削減して、公共事業やオリンピック関連の利権にまみれた政府支出は膨張の一途をたどる。

これが安倍政権の政策運営の姿だが、ここから読み取れることは、
「庶民を犠牲にして」
「大資本、政官業の癒着勢力を肥え太らせる」
という明確なスタンスである。

この日本政治を、主権者国民の側に引き戻すこと。
「主権者が日本政治を取り戻すこと」
が日本政治の最大の課題である。

米国では新大統領に就任したトランプ氏が、
「米国政治をワシントンの既得権勢力から米国国民に取り戻す」
ことを宣言した。

この宣言が着実に実行されるのかどうかは、今後の動向を見守る必要があるが、少なくとも基本方針としてトランプ氏はこのことを述べた。

日本のメディアはトランプ総攻撃の姿勢を示しているが、その理由は、トランプ氏の基本姿勢が
「既得権益勢力の打破」
にあるからだと考えられる。

日本国民はメディアのトランプ叩きの風潮に安易に乗ることを避ける必要がある。

そして、2017年の日本政治変革の具体的戦術を一刻も早く構築するべきである。


2017年1月25日(水)植草一秀の『知られざる真実』
2017年総選挙で日本政治にも変革旋風が吹き荒れる
http://uekusak.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/

トランプ大統領が次々と大統領令に署名して、その言行一致ぶりを誇示している。
 選挙公約をここまですばやく実行するとは驚きだ。
 その中でも、私が最も驚いたのは、メキシコとの国境に壁をつくる大統領令に署名した事だ。
 考えても見るがいい。
 トランプ大統領は1月27日のメイ英国首相との首脳会談に次いで、1月31日にメキシコのペニャニエト大統領と首脳会談を行うと発表したばかりだ。
 それにもかかわらず、その首脳会談を待たずに、メキシコとの国境壁をつくることを決定したのだ。
 しかもメキシコ大統領の同意もないまま、その経費はメキシコに払わせると繰り返している。
 これを要するに、トランプ大統領との首脳会談は意味がないということだ。
 一方的にトランプ大統領の要求を飲まされるだけのセレモニーでしかないということだ。

 それにもかかわらず、安倍首相はトランプ大統領との首脳会談を急いでいる。
 ついにきょう1月26日の読売は一面トップで書いた。
 日米首脳会談は2月10日にワシントンで開かれる方向で最終調整に入ったと。
 見ているがいい。
 この安倍大臣とトランプ大統領のはじめての首脳会談は、日米外交史の中で、究極の密約会談となるに違いない。
 なぜか。
 トランプ大統領が安倍首相に伝える事はすでに報道で明らかになっている。
 トランプ大統領は貿易・金融・為替問題で米国の国益を日本に押しつけてくる。
 トランプ大統領は在日米軍経費を含む防衛予算を大幅に増やせと迫って来る。
 それに対して安倍首相は断れない。
 断ったらトランプ大統領に怒られる。
 飲むしかないのだ。

 しかし、その事を正直に国民に伝えれば、さすがのおとなしい国民も黙ってはいない。
 だからトランプ大統領との合意は本当のことを公表できないのだ。
 その結果、2月10日に行われる日米首脳会談は、メディアが垂れ流す表向きの合意の裏で、国民を欺く多くの密約が合意される事になる。

 明らかに日本にとって不利な日米首脳会談を、口実をつけて遅らせるのなら立派な外交だ。
 そのうちトランプ大統領は行き詰って政権を投げ出すかもしれないからだ。
 ところが、安倍首相は喜んで急いでいる。

 どう考えても、飛んで火に入る夏の虫だ。
 こんな首相を持つ日本国民は世界一不幸な国民だ。


2017年1月26日、天木直人の公式ブログ
究極の密約会談となるに違いない安倍・トランプ首脳会談
http://天木直人.com/

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Rubbing shoulders with the stars

STRIPTEASE Queen Rose Chan once put to flight four kacang putih (peanut) extortioners with her flying kick.

The thugs thought she was an easy prey to get some cash from while she was at a coffee shop.

They were in for a shock. They never expected the unexpected to happen.

With years of experience wrestling with a python in her act, Chan (pic) had picked up the technique of martial arts.

She revealed this to me in our casual conversation during my stint with the National Echo almost five decades ago.

“When they tried to manhandle me, I gave them a flying kick and sent them packing. Years of striptease had given me some talent at kicking,” she said.

She also studied judo. Her ex-husband received a few stitches for a wound she inflicted on him in an argument.

It was a pleasant experience to converse with this Malaysian Striptease Queen at face value on a few occasions.

But she was not all softness as the thugs had learned.

She was tough. She had been bending spoons in her act. To prove her point, she asked me to feel her flesh on the spot where the spoon was always placed against her neck in her act.

To my surprise, it was as hard as the muscles on any man’s biceps.

Her demise, due to cancer, was a loss to the country. There can never be another Rose Chan.

Even if there were one, a striptease show would never be allowed to perform now due to the strict regulations.

Famous entertainer Sahara Yaakob was another artiste I admired as an ‘Iron Lady’ in her own way. She was sometimes regarded as the ‘Sahara Desert’ because her performance was always hot.

At 14, Sahara worked as a singer among prostitutes and gangsters in a nightclub, as her father was unemployed. For the sake of survival, she had no choice.

During her stint in a night club in Jakarta, an influential and well-to-do man pointed a gun at her after her performance.

“He had an ulterior motive. I resisted and challenged him to shoot me on the spot. He backed down. Later, we became good friends,” she said.

Being friends with my wife and myself, she was always fond of discussing religious topics despite her involvement in the entertainment world, both locally and overseas.

She once joined the Al-Arqam group (before it was banned) to get an in-depth knowledge of Islam. However, she left the sect later.

I still keep a signed photograph of her as a personal friend.

In addition to the ‘Iron Lady’, I also had the opportunity to interview the man with the golden voice – world famous singer Matt Monro of Walk Away fame, in 1978 in Penang.

Monro, who died in 1985, had 800 songs to his credit in his 21-year career as a singer.

“There is no restriction on how I keep my voice. I smoke heavily and do consume a lot of liquor,” he revealed.

He was also noted as a faith healer. He earned no side income and confined his practice only to his family and friends.

Monro had quite a number of favourite songs. Among them were Yesterday, Softly, When I Fall in Love and For All We Know.

These artistes were still humble despite their fame, with their feet on the ground.

I found life as a journalist was full of privileges. We are always on the front line, where others have no access.

I was able to fulfil my life as an intrepid adventurer and pen my memoirs for publication.

It is an unrivalled experience which other lines of work cannot offer. The 29 years in my career as a journalist were a “pot of gold” in terms of action-packed adventures.

I would not have traded for any other job, even one with an attractive salary.

I am no longer a dream-chaser. My dreams have all been fulfilled, thanks to journalism.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 26 January 2017
Rubbing shoulders with the stars
By A.R. Amiruddin, a former journalist with The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years
http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/views/2017/01/26/rubbing-shoulders-with-the-stars-career-in-journalism-opens-doors-to-meeting-the-people-behind-the-p/

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France's answer to Donald Trump

Imagine. Someone who has never hitherto stood for elected office is running strongly to be the next President of France. This is Emmanuel Macron, who is currently third in the polls with 20 per cent, not far behind Marine Le Pen with 26 per cent and François Fillon with 25 per cent. Voting takes place in April.

We can imagine, of course, because Donald Trump has just shown how it is done. But at least Trump had TV fame when he announced his decision to run. He had been the host of the popular American show The Apprentice for 14 seasons. But when Macron raised his standard, he must have been unknown to 90 per cent of French voters.

Nevertheless, a characteristic Macron shares with Trump is an ability to attract huge crowds to his meetings. When he announced he was running last November, some 15,000 people came to hear him speak at the Porte de Versailles in Paris. In the gritty, left-leaning city of Lille, 4,000 turned up. Earlier this month, 2,000 Macron supporters filled a hall in Clermont-Ferrand with 500 turned away. Three days later, one of the Socialist Party contenders, Manuel Valls, the former Prime Minister, found himself addressing 300 supporters in a half-empty gym in the same city.

Which party does Macron represent? He doesn’t. He has created his own party, ‘En Marche!’. Where does it fit into the political spectrum? It doesn’t. Its founder states that it is “neither on the right or on the left”. This lack of traditional positioning may even be one of its appeals. Nor was Trump very different in this regard. Before running he had given money to both the Republicans and the Democrats. He was officially the Republican candidate, but that seems to have been only a matter of convenience, like having a passport for a country where you have hardly ever lived.

There is another striking characteristic of Macron’s candidature. He presents himself as the anti-system candidate, yet in terms of education and career he is a perfect example of the French elites. He resembles a duke criticising the aristocracy.

Thus he attended the highly regarded Lycée Henri-IV school in Paris. He did a degree in public affairs at Sciences Po in the same city, whose nearest British equivalent is the London School of Economics. Finally he took a course at the École nationale d’administration, which is a finishing school for France’s ruling class. Among its graduates it counts three presidents, Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Chirac and François Hollande, and six Prime Ministers.

Naturally after this preparation, he went straight into the Ministry for the Economy and Finance. He left to work at the Rothschild Bank and then joined President Hollande’s staff at the Élysée. Finally he was appointed minister of economy, industry and digital data in August 2014. And then resigned in August 2016 to found his own party and run for the presidency.

This background could scarcely be more different from Trump’s and yet there is a similarity. The American President was also a member of an elite. He is a billionaire businessman. The front door to his offices in New York is a gold and diamond affair. If that is not elite, what is? It is just as distancing from everyday folk as Macron’s prestigious education.

However, the difference in policy positions between the two men is very great. Where Trump’s inauguration speech focused on putting up walls – America first, protectionism, keeping people out – Macron’s policies are largely directed to removing barriers. He calls for a “democratic revolution” and promises to “unblock France”.

Thus Macron would scrap France’s 35-hour working week for younger workers while at the same time making it easier for businesses to lay workers off. But he would balance that reform with establishing broader unemployment benefits. He believes that older workers should be able work for fewer hours. He also wants to increase state spending on schools in areas where there are large numbers of migrants. In sum, he is determined to change France’s post-war model, which, as he told the centre-left weekly magazine L’Obs, “has created deep inequalities by favouring mostly insiders, those with a permanent job contract and stable employment ... everyone else has been left aside”.

We seem, therefore, to have entered the age of political insurgency. Trump has succeeded; Macron is next to try. Who will follow? Is there a British candidate for this role or is Theresa May trying to play the part?

The Independent, Published: Monday 23 January 2017

It is Emmanuel Macron, not Marine Le Pen, who will come to be known as France's answer to Donald Trump

Which party does Macron represent? He doesn’t. He has created his own party, ‘En Marche!’. Where does it fit into the political spectrum? It doesn’t. Nor was Trump very different in this regard. Before running he had given money to both the Republicans and the Democrats

By Andreas Whittam Smith
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/emmanuel-macron-marine-le-pen-french-elections-donald-tump-a7540591.html

Read more:
https://en-marche.fr/

* French progressive and social liberal political organisation, formed by former Minister of the Economy and 2017 presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. The name of the movement shares Macron's initials.


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Donald Trump’s‘My Way’

THREE events last week showcased the likely tone and direction of Donald Trump's administration. Given the 45th US president's proclivity for combat on all issues, regardless of their importance, and for "alternative facts", the possibility that last week's theatrics could continue for four years is disquieting.

Congressional hearings of cabinet nominees, a strident America First inaugural speech and a disagreeable disagreement about the number who witnessed Trump's swearing-in highlighted the 45th president's feather-light concern about potential conflicts of interests, his singular view of the US and his single-minded obsession about media coverage.

Mostly ultra-rich, overwhelming male and singularly lacking in diversity, Trump's cabinet nominees include three billionaires, two women (one of whom is a billionaire), one black, one Asian American and no Latinos – the first time this has happened since the Reagan presidency.

Totalling 55 million, Latinos are the biggest minority, comprising about 17% of the US population.

Labelled the "Goldman Sachs and generals" cabinet due to these two group's over-representation, Trump's executive arm enjoys an estimated combined net worth ranging from US$6 billion to US$14 billion – a sum exceeding the GDP of the world's 39 poorest countries, Niamh McIntyre of The Independent newspaper notes.

Some cabinet picks appear to have been poorly selected and vetted. If confirmed, the privately-educated billionaire and presumptive education secretary Betsy DeVos will oversee nearly 100,000 public schools that provide education for 90% of American students.

During the Congressional hearing, DeVos didn't understand the difference between proficiency and growth. Unaware the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a federal law, she suggested compliance is best left to states.

Asked for her views on guns in schools, she said there were probably guns in schools in Wyoming to protect from grizzlies – an answer that triggered an avalanche of jokes in social media.

Equally contentious was Trump's pick for health and human services secretary, Tom Price. Last March, Price bought shares in Zimmer Biomet, days before he introduced legislation that would have directly benefited the world's leading manufacturer of knee and hip implants, an article by CNN says.

Unlike his predecessors who were award-winning scientists, Trump nominee Rick Perry is notable for proposing during the Republican primary debate in 2011 that the Energy Department be eliminated – the very same unit he has been selected to head.

Trump's inaugural speech was equally noteworthy.

"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidised the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military," Trump said.

Washington Post's fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee noted the US doles out about US$6 billion a year in foreign military financing, with the bulk going to two countries – Israel and Egypt. However, this aid must be spent on US hardware.

Challenging the notion of a depleted military, Globalfirepower.com wrote at end-2016, the US possessed 19 aircraft carriers while no other country had more than four.

"(We've) spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon."

Fact Checker notes foreign aid is less than 1% of the US budget. Only by including the cost of wars – for example the US$1.7 trillion Iraq war – will the figure hit a trillion dollars, it adds. With a GDP of US$18 trillion, the US economy is one-third larger than China, IMF data shows.

"We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs," Trump thundered.

Fact Checker pointed out Trump products are manufactured in 12 countries overseas.

"We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labour," Trump asserted.

Fact Checker cited one statistic showing the number of welfare recipients has declined. In October 2016, the number receiving food stamps totalled 43.2 million, far less than the 47 million in October 2013.

Last weekend's contretemps over whether Trump's inaugural audience was larger than that for Obama was astonishing.

In his first press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer read a statement asserting last Friday's crowd was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe." Offering no supportive evidence and refusing to take any questions, Spicer's statement was at variance with ridership data, independent crowd counts and Nielsen television ratings.

Other Trump aides defended Spicer on the basis of "alternative facts".

Possibly reflecting the 45th president's personal preference, Frank Sinatra's iconic song, My Way was chosen as the music for the first couple's inaugural dance.

While the overall theme mirrors Trump's penchant for doing things his way, the song's first line is ominous:

"And now, the end is near."

The SunDaily, Published: Last updated on 26 January 2017 - 08:23am
Donald Trump’s ‘My Way’
By Tan Siok Choo
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2141113

Read more:
CNN, Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT) January 20, 2017
Sinatra on Trump picking 'My Way': Remember the first line
By Caroline Kenny, CNN
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/19/politics/nancy-sinatra-donald-trump-my-way/

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2017年01月25日

Peace Walk

Guided by flameless candles flickering in weighted paper bags, about 50 people explored the labyrinth inside the downtown Armenian Heritage Park on Sunday evening, a journey intended to elicit peaceful reflection on the difficult year that is ending and the new year to come.

Participants gathered in the cold and high winds at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway to see friends and family, sing Christmas carols, and follow a path that many find inherently soothing.

Don Tellalian, 80, the architect who designed the park, attended Sunday’s third annual Candlelit Labyrinth Peace Walk with his wife, Barbara, who helped organize the event. He said he chose the labyrinth as a symbol of life’s journey but also as a way to engage visitors.

“Our hope is to bring people together on common ground,” said Barbara Tellalian, 76. “We are interested in creating as many opportunities as we can to bring people together and to celebrate life together, and the journey that we’re all on.”

Nearby, another organizer, Susan Deranian, helped visitors write wishes on ribbons and tie them to a “wishing tree.” Most called for peace, for kindness, for greater patience.

Deranian said the goal of the peace walk was “to promote everyone getting along, and inclusiveness, and the whole idea of the labyrinth meaning serenity, and what we need at this time of year.”

It’s the spirit of the holiday season, said the Peabody resident, 67, and a sentiment that is especially important in this fractious political climate.

“We’re in upheaval, and we need something to anchor us,” she said.

Bethany Adam, 23, came to the walk in solidarity with the Armenian people and in tribute to those killed in the Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1923.

“I think that events like this help us remember that we aren’t alone,” said the Somerville resident, who plans to study international human rights and civil liberties.

Anan Howsawi, 24, a UMass Boston student from Saudi Arabia, said she is alone in the city during the holidays and appreciated the warm welcome she received at the peace walk.

“It makes me feel like there is no difference between us,” she said. “We all need to feel something peaceful. That’s in every human, no matter what is their religion, no matter what is their situation.”

BOSTON GLOBE, Published: DECEMBER 19, 2016
Peace Walk brings people together in the holiday spirit
By Jeremy C. Fox
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/12/18/peace-walk-brings-people-together-holiday-spirit/jB8allksvkKehg4vdoj1UN/story.html


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Australia opens door to China

Sydney: Australia is working to recast the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without the United States and opened the door for China to sign up after President Donald Trump ditched the huge trade pact.

The deal included a dozen Asia-Pacific nations which together account for 40% of the global economy, but Trump declared on Monday he had “terminated” it in line with election pledges to scrap the “job killer” pact.

Canberra is floating a “TPP 12 minus one”, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying his government was in “active discussions” with other signatories including Japan, New Zealand and Singapore on how to salvage the agreement.

“It is possible that US policy could change over time on this, as it has done on other trade deals,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra, adding that the nominee for US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Republicans supported the TPP.

“There is also the opportunity for the TPP to proceed without the United States,” he added.

“Certainly there is the potential for China to join the TPP.”

The agreement, the biggest trade deal in history, was seen as a counter to China’s rising economic influence. It was signed last year but has not gone into effect.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said Australia, Canada, Mexico and others had canvassed for a pact without the United States at a World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Davos.

“There would be scope for China if we were able to reformulate it to be a TPP 12 minus one, for countries like Indonesia or China or indeed other countries to consider joining,” Ciobo told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“This is very much a live option and we are pursuing it and it will be the focus of conversations for some time to come.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English noted that Beijing “hasn’t been slow to spot the opportunity” to cast itself as a free trade supporter.

There was a willingness towards “making an effort to find out what we can do with TPP, rather than just dropping it and waiting and hoping to get a call (from Washington) about bilateral agreements sometime”, he told reporters in Wellington.

Trump said he would pursue bilateral deals with TPP signatories to secure terms more favourable to the United States. But English said a US-New Zealand pact would be challenging given Trump’s insistence that Washington would dictate terms. − AFP

Alan Oxley, the first Australian to chair the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade Organisation’s predecessor, said Chinese involvement in the TPP was unlikely at this stage since it had bigger issues to tackle.“China’s certainly interested in the long run... but the prospect of them tying into the TPP now, given their own domestic economic problems, has got to be considered very low,” Oxley, who heads the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT University, told AFP.

The most likely option for TPP nations was “let the dust settle” and wait for possible changes in US attitudes towards multilateral pacts.“There was support for the TPP from the leaders of both houses of Congress... and trade policy is settled by Congress and the Administration,” Oxley said.“It’s worth noting that (previous US president Barack) Obama in his first term opposed free-trade agreements, and in his second term switched positions.“So US politics on trade policy is more fluid, I think, than some outside the US realise.”

His view was echoed by analysts in Japan, even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- a big supporter of the accord -- has said the TPP would not make sense without the US.“Japan thinks it’s worth patiently maintaining the (TPP) framework even until the United States possibly comes back to it under the next administration,” Yoko Takeda, chief economist at Mitsubishi Research Institute, told AFP.“Also, it is still unknown if the Trump administration is really walking away from TPP or if it could be a negotiating bluff. It’s too early for Japan to change its stance.”

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Australia opens door to China in push to save TPP
By AFP
http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/01/25/australia-opens-door-to-china-in-push-to-save-tpp/

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Californian homeless

DANA POINT, Calif. − Brian Blackburn and Amir Yaghoubi share a soothing, perhaps enviable, ritual of daily renewal: meeting over coffee at picturesque Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.

Mostly it’s before sunrise, just after the park opens for the day and they’ve passed through the ranger station. Sometimes it’s near sunset, the case on a recent evening just before Christmas when they met at a picnic table at the south end of the sand. The spot is unofficially dubbed Blacky’s Camp, in honor of Blackburn, 57, whose nearby camper truck is something of a fixture here.

Blackburn tuned his portable radio to an easy listening station. Doolie, a scruffy white terrier mix, cuddled on Blackburn’s lap as he scooted his wheelchair in place. Yaghoubi, 51, arrived with cups of his specialty brew.

“I sit and stare at the ocean for hours,” Yaghoubi said, glancing across the darkening water. “This is where I get my sanity, with all the chaos.”

The friends − who initially bonded over their love of the guitar − are among about 40 regulars who sustain an enduring and growing homeless beachfront encampment on wheels: a scattering of well-traveled RVs and cars spread throughout several parking lots. They spend their days and evenings immersed in panoramic views, steps from the surfline.

Their $195 annual day-use passes are essentially the rent, affording them access from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

At night, they head out in search of a place to park until morning. Some go back to neighborhoods where they used to live. Others search out dark streets in nearby beach towns or find spots in warehouse and business districts.

Yaghoubi has a newish beige 30-foot motor home he and his wife once used for road trips. Now, he’s an Uber driver by day, he said, and spends mornings and evenings at the beach and nights in the RV, often parking near Blackburn in a San Juan Capistrano industrial area.

Blackburn said he lost everything when he broke his back and couldn’t work. He lives off a monthly Social Security check. His possessions are packed tightly into a work truck he has converted into a camper.

It’s far from an idyllic lifestyle, he said, but a sense of community comes with the waterfront vistas. “We’re all just trying to survive. We look out for each other.”

A magnet for homeless

Red Whisner, supervising ranger at Doheny, has watched an increasing number of mobile homeless gravitate to Doheny since 1998, when he started as a seasonal lifeguard.

Back then there were two − Harry Musante, a surfer who grew up in Laguna Beach, and a man known as the “Commander,” because he drove a Commander motor home. He walked his cat on a leash every day.

He eventually moved on, leaving Musante as the beach’s longest resident.

Typically, more than three dozen RVs, cars and trucks are parked in their regular spots, amid more than 1,200 parking spaces.

Rangers attribute the community’s growth to the unstable economy and the unusually warm weather in recent years that has made year-round beach-living comfortable.

Add to that word of mouth among campers and laws passed in surrounding cities such as Dana Point, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano that restrict neighborhood camping in vehicles.

“If you’re in that stage of life, trying to get back on your feet, there’s worse places to spend the day,” said Rich Haydon, state parks superintendent.

Doheny draws 1 million visitors annually. It’s also the most popular of the state beaches with the rolling homeless because of its flat topography, beachfront access and amenities such as bathrooms, food stands and a campground. Overnight stays there are limited to 12 consecutive days and no more than 30 stays a year. Other state beaches, including San Clemente, San Onofre, Huntington State and Bolsa Chica, have smaller numbers of mobile homeless regulars, Haydon said.

The day-use pass is meant to provide recreational opportunities at state beaches and parks. If the mobile homeless regulars abide by the rules, “there is no problem and there is nothing we can do,” Haydon said.

At the same time, parking can be a high-demand commodity on some days, he noted. And “on a busy Sunday when surf’s up and it’s sunny,” spaces taken by the homeless aren’t available for a few dozen occasional visitors wanting to enjoy a day at the beach, he said.

Over the years, Whisner has gotten to know the homeless regulars’ stories.

There’s Reuben, who always arrives at least 30 minutes before Doheny opens at 6 a.m. There’s John, a day trader. And there’s the venerable survivor, Musante.

“Harry’s a good dude,” Whisner said. “He doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. He just wants to do his own thing.”

Musante, a Laguna Beach High School graduate, was friends with Philip Nealon, a member of the community who died of acute bronchial pneumonia four months ago in the south parking lot.

Doheny is an oasis, Musante said.

“What’s not to like?” he said. “We live in a gated community with million-dollar views.”

Years back, Musante rented surf and bodyboards to vacationers at Sleepy Hollow Beach in Laguna. When multimillion-dollar mansions were being built in town, he shifted to construction work in the winter. But he said that took a toll on his body, and he opted for day camping at the beach as a lifestyle.

Now, he lives alone in his RV with his 18-year-old dog, Lucky.

Many of the homeless beach dwellers live off Social Security or disability, Whisner said. Some have military benefits.

“The ones that come to the beach and are down and out usually don’t last. They lose their vehicle, go to jail or realize the lifestyle is not for them.”

For the others, Doheny offers “a gated community with their own police service, bathrooms, sun, surf, and year-round lifeguards and medical personnel,” Whisner said.

Nighttime hardships

Nights are harder for the rolling homeless here. They try to limit their gasoline use or unnecessary driving.

Nearby communities have made it harder to find legal spots. Some of the men get jobs as night guards at local businesses. But most hunker down in alleys, neighborhoods or industrial parks.

Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Himmel oversees community services in Dana Point, which banned RV parking on city streets and in commercial parking lots in 2015. In the past two years, the department also has assigned a full-time deputy to deal with homeless-related issues in the city.

Himmel gets complaints from residents about RV campers dumping trash on neighborhood streets.

“It’s not a huge problem, but it’s a nuisance,” he said. “If someone pulls into a residential neighborhood and people call us, we’ll make contact and they’ll move on.”

Overall, calls for sheriff’s deputies to assist rangers at Doheny State Beach have been up in recent years, but unevenly so: 70 times last year, 82 times in 2015 and 54 times in 2014.

San Juan Capistrano City Manager Ben Siegel said that since overnight RV parking has been banned in residential and commercial areas, there has been an increase in camper parking on private property such as grocery store parking lots. Parking enforcement officers respond to complaints and issue citations when warranted.

“Their goal is to achieve voluntary compliance,” Siegel said.

Enforcing laws at Doheny

Whisner said he has had to issue citations to most of the mobile homeless at some point. Typically, it’s for minor vehicle violations, dogs off leashes or sleeping past the 10 p.m. checkout time, he said. Most of the mobile homeless know the rules and park codes.

“They try to comply because they don’t want to talk to us either,” he said.

The homeless who walk and bike into Doheny, attracted by meals provided by Welcome Inn Ministries, a Capistrano Beach charity, require more of his attention, he said.

Whisner estimates that a third of the 40 or so mobile homeless are “bad news.”

“There are sex registrants, drug addicts and parolees,” he said.

“Not all there are down-on-their luck folks. Some are old surfers, but some are criminals and parolees,” said Himmel, the sheriff’s sergeant. “They’re not the people you want to have a picnic with your family.”

An extreme case was Clarence “Bud” Butterfield, a Capistrano Beach handyman who lived at the park for three years, Whisner said. He shot his daughter who lived with him and stored her body in the freezer of the RV.

In 2008, he was stopped by Orange County sheriff’s deputies for a traffic violation, and deputies found he was wanted on a Las Vegas warrant, according to news reports. The motor home was ultimately taken to a San Clemente holding yard. The daughter’s body was found wrapped in a plastic trash bag inside the unplugged freezer in the vehicle. Butterfield was found guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances of torture and mayhem, Himmel said. Butterfield is serving a life sentence.

The Bulletin, Serving Central Oregon since 1903, Updated Jan 21, 2017 at 03:41PM
Californian homeless have surf and sand, but then nighttime comes
By Erika I. Ritchie
http://www.bendbulletin.com/lifestyle/4997010-151/californian-homeless-have-surf-and-sand-but-then


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Californian homeless

DANA POINT, Calif. − Brian Blackburn and Amir Yaghoubi share a soothing, perhaps enviable, ritual of daily renewal: meeting over coffee at picturesque Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.

Mostly it’s before sunrise, just after the park opens for the day and they’ve passed through the ranger station. Sometimes it’s near sunset, the case on a recent evening just before Christmas when they met at a picnic table at the south end of the sand. The spot is unofficially dubbed Blacky’s Camp, in honor of Blackburn, 57, whose nearby camper truck is something of a fixture here.

Blackburn tuned his portable radio to an easy listening station. Doolie, a scruffy white terrier mix, cuddled on Blackburn’s lap as he scooted his wheelchair in place. Yaghoubi, 51, arrived with cups of his specialty brew.

“I sit and stare at the ocean for hours,” Yaghoubi said, glancing across the darkening water. “This is where I get my sanity, with all the chaos.”

The friends − who initially bonded over their love of the guitar − are among about 40 regulars who sustain an enduring and growing homeless beachfront encampment on wheels: a scattering of well-traveled RVs and cars spread throughout several parking lots. They spend their days and evenings immersed in panoramic views, steps from the surfline.

Their $195 annual day-use passes are essentially the rent, affording them access from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

At night, they head out in search of a place to park until morning. Some go back to neighborhoods where they used to live. Others search out dark streets in nearby beach towns or find spots in warehouse and business districts.

Yaghoubi has a newish beige 30-foot motor home he and his wife once used for road trips. Now, he’s an Uber driver by day, he said, and spends mornings and evenings at the beach and nights in the RV, often parking near Blackburn in a San Juan Capistrano industrial area.

Blackburn said he lost everything when he broke his back and couldn’t work. He lives off a monthly Social Security check. His possessions are packed tightly into a work truck he has converted into a camper.

It’s far from an idyllic lifestyle, he said, but a sense of community comes with the waterfront vistas. “We’re all just trying to survive. We look out for each other.”

A magnet for homeless

Red Whisner, supervising ranger at Doheny, has watched an increasing number of mobile homeless gravitate to Doheny since 1998, when he started as a seasonal lifeguard.

Back then there were two − Harry Musante, a surfer who grew up in Laguna Beach, and a man known as the “Commander,” because he drove a Commander motor home. He walked his cat on a leash every day.

He eventually moved on, leaving Musante as the beach’s longest resident.

Typically, more than three dozen RVs, cars and trucks are parked in their regular spots, amid more than 1,200 parking spaces.

Rangers attribute the community’s growth to the unstable economy and the unusually warm weather in recent years that has made year-round beach-living comfortable.

Add to that word of mouth among campers and laws passed in surrounding cities such as Dana Point, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano that restrict neighborhood camping in vehicles.

“If you’re in that stage of life, trying to get back on your feet, there’s worse places to spend the day,” said Rich Haydon, state parks superintendent.

Doheny draws 1 million visitors annually. It’s also the most popular of the state beaches with the rolling homeless because of its flat topography, beachfront access and amenities such as bathrooms, food stands and a campground. Overnight stays there are limited to 12 consecutive days and no more than 30 stays a year. Other state beaches, including San Clemente, San Onofre, Huntington State and Bolsa Chica, have smaller numbers of mobile homeless regulars, Haydon said.

The day-use pass is meant to provide recreational opportunities at state beaches and parks. If the mobile homeless regulars abide by the rules, “there is no problem and there is nothing we can do,” Haydon said.

At the same time, parking can be a high-demand commodity on some days, he noted. And “on a busy Sunday when surf’s up and it’s sunny,” spaces taken by the homeless aren’t available for a few dozen occasional visitors wanting to enjoy a day at the beach, he said.

Over the years, Whisner has gotten to know the homeless regulars’ stories.

There’s Reuben, who always arrives at least 30 minutes before Doheny opens at 6 a.m. There’s John, a day trader. And there’s the venerable survivor, Musante.

“Harry’s a good dude,” Whisner said. “He doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. He just wants to do his own thing.”

Musante, a Laguna Beach High School graduate, was friends with Philip Nealon, a member of the community who died of acute bronchial pneumonia four months ago in the south parking lot.

Doheny is an oasis, Musante said.

“What’s not to like?” he said. “We live in a gated community with million-dollar views.”

Years back, Musante rented surf and bodyboards to vacationers at Sleepy Hollow Beach in Laguna. When multimillion-dollar mansions were being built in town, he shifted to construction work in the winter. But he said that took a toll on his body, and he opted for day camping at the beach as a lifestyle.

Now, he lives alone in his RV with his 18-year-old dog, Lucky.

Many of the homeless beach dwellers live off Social Security or disability, Whisner said. Some have military benefits.

“The ones that come to the beach and are down and out usually don’t last. They lose their vehicle, go to jail or realize the lifestyle is not for them.”

For the others, Doheny offers “a gated community with their own police service, bathrooms, sun, surf, and year-round lifeguards and medical personnel,” Whisner said.

Nighttime hardships

Nights are harder for the rolling homeless here. They try to limit their gasoline use or unnecessary driving.

Nearby communities have made it harder to find legal spots. Some of the men get jobs as night guards at local businesses. But most hunker down in alleys, neighborhoods or industrial parks.

Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Himmel oversees community services in Dana Point, which banned RV parking on city streets and in commercial parking lots in 2015. In the past two years, the department also has assigned a full-time deputy to deal with homeless-related issues in the city.

Himmel gets complaints from residents about RV campers dumping trash on neighborhood streets.

“It’s not a huge problem, but it’s a nuisance,” he said. “If someone pulls into a residential neighborhood and people call us, we’ll make contact and they’ll move on.”

Overall, calls for sheriff’s deputies to assist rangers at Doheny State Beach have been up in recent years, but unevenly so: 70 times last year, 82 times in 2015 and 54 times in 2014.

San Juan Capistrano City Manager Ben Siegel said that since overnight RV parking has been banned in residential and commercial areas, there has been an increase in camper parking on private property such as grocery store parking lots. Parking enforcement officers respond to complaints and issue citations when warranted.

“Their goal is to achieve voluntary compliance,” Siegel said.

Enforcing laws at Doheny

Whisner said he has had to issue citations to most of the mobile homeless at some point. Typically, it’s for minor vehicle violations, dogs off leashes or sleeping past the 10 p.m. checkout time, he said. Most of the mobile homeless know the rules and park codes.

“They try to comply because they don’t want to talk to us either,” he said.

The homeless who walk and bike into Doheny, attracted by meals provided by Welcome Inn Ministries, a Capistrano Beach charity, require more of his attention, he said.

Whisner estimates that a third of the 40 or so mobile homeless are “bad news.”

“There are sex registrants, drug addicts and parolees,” he said.

“Not all there are down-on-their luck folks. Some are old surfers, but some are criminals and parolees,” said Himmel, the sheriff’s sergeant. “They’re not the people you want to have a picnic with your family.”

An extreme case was Clarence “Bud” Butterfield, a Capistrano Beach handyman who lived at the park for three years, Whisner said. He shot his daughter who lived with him and stored her body in the freezer of the RV.

In 2008, he was stopped by Orange County sheriff’s deputies for a traffic violation, and deputies found he was wanted on a Las Vegas warrant, according to news reports. The motor home was ultimately taken to a San Clemente holding yard. The daughter’s body was found wrapped in a plastic trash bag inside the unplugged freezer in the vehicle. Butterfield was found guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances of torture and mayhem, Himmel said. Butterfield is serving a life sentence.

The Bulletin, Serving Central Oregon since 1903, Updated Jan 21, 2017 at 03:41PM
Californian homeless have surf and sand, but then nighttime comes
By Erika I. Ritchie
http://www.bendbulletin.com/lifestyle/4997010-151/californian-homeless-have-surf-and-sand-but-then


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Conservation of forests

THE Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is appalled at the decision by the Forestry Department of Kelantan to demolish another orang asli blockade in Gua Musang.

These blockades are set up by the orang asli to protect the forests and their customary lands from uncontrolled logging, causing among others, severe floods in several areas in Kelantan, as well as destroying properties belonging to the orang asli.

Suhakam is deeply concerned that this marginalised and vulnerable community who are among Malaysia's poorest minority have been targets of long-standing discrimination, exclusion and more recently, violence.

These blockades are a symbol of protest by them, opposing unrestrained commercialisation of the forests, which violates the many established principles on business and human rights, such as the duty of the state to protect, and duty of businesses to respect the rights of the orang asli.

Suhakam in its National Inquiry in 2013 found that the orang asli face substantial, discriminatory and unbearable obstacles to the exercise and enjoyment of their rights to own, possess and control their lands and territories despite international recognition and acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the fundamental rights of all human beings.

The basic rights of the orang asli remain without safeguards in government policies and legislation. The government must take concrete steps to expedite the implementation of the recommendations of the National Task Force Committee that has in principle accepted 17 out of the 18 recommendations by Suhakam. While these recommendations have been separated into three stages pending implementation, the Forestry Department and state government of Kelantan have failed to respect these government initiatives.

Despite clear evidence that the situation of the orang asli constitutes a serious derogation of Malaysia's obligations to respect, protect and fulfil their rights, the government has done little to meaningfully address their situation, and the orang asli continue to lose more land and with it the enjoyment of related rights.

The Department of Orang Asli Development as a government agency entrusted to oversee all affairs of the orang asli must fulfil its role by resolving their challenges.

Suhakam continues to receive complaints and the orang asli have expressed their disappointment towards the government for the slow progress on the implementation of the recommendations of Suhakam's National Inquiry.

Suhakam reiterates that major legislative and administrative reforms are needed to adequately define and protect the rights of the orang asli over their lands and resources, and decisive steps are necessary to urgently to find solutions that would allow the orang asli to recover their lands.

Suhakam also calls for a review of the National Forestry Act 1984.

The land rights of indigenous peoples play a key role in the protection of our rainforests.

The SunDaily, Posted on 24 January 2017 - 10:37pm
Orang asli play key role in conservation of forests
By Tan Sri Razali Ismail, Chairman, Suhakam
http://www.thesundaily.my/node/423470

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better healthcare system

ABOUT 20 years ago, there was an outbreak of severe febrile encephalitis among pig farmers in Malaysia. Initially, it was thought to be Japanese encephalitis (JE) despite the fact that its clinical characteristic and epidemiologic features were distinct from JE. That wrong assumption led to an ineffective mosquito control and JE virus vaccination programme to stem the spread.

Six months later, the outbreak spread southward to Bukit Pelanduk, Nipah, Negri Sembilan. Sadly, the whole outbreak took nine months to control and resulted in a total of 265 cases of Nipah encephalitis with 105 deaths. It was one of the most severe outbreaks of any disease in Malaysia.

Have we learned anything from that episode? Most of the time, our response towards crisis is often reactionary at best, and what makes it worse is a strongly held albeit wrong assumption when confronting the issues, as happened in the Nipah encephalitis outbreak, for example.

Our country has made impressive strides in healthcare since independence. For the 2015 World Health Organization 100 core health indicators, we have achieved significant decline in infant, perinatal, neonatal and maternal mortality, and life expectancy of Malaysians is higher.

This is an achievement to be proud of but should we not look beyond and modernise our healthcare by further improving in

areas such as accessibility, outcomes, range and reach of services, prevention, pharmaceuticals, safety, patients’ rights and information?

Malaysia prides itself in having the best medical care in the world and was crowned “Medical Travel Destination of the Year” in 2015 and “Best Country in the World for Healthcare” just recently. But does this translate to better access to treatment, and more equitable, effective, efficient and cheaper medical care for our own people? In 2015, 60% of outpatient medical visits and 77% of inpatient admissions were in government facilities.

Crisis management, such as the handling of the deadly Nipah virus outbreak, requires us to challenge our assumption about what we actually think we know and the scientific evidence of the day. Future planning for healthcare, for instance, requires us to look beyond facts and figures; it demands the capability to orient the present with the future, and separate mission from vision.

For example, in 2006, neurological diseases accounted for 6% of all patients seeking treatment at general outpatient departments of public health facilities, specialist clinics and emergency departments. This was the fifth leading cause of new attendances at Malaysian hospitals and was then expected to rise in the next 10 years, making it the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality after heart disease.

Stroke was already among the top five causes of death, consistently forming 10% of total mortality since 1995 and is currently the third highest cause of burden of disease measured in disability-adjusted life year. This is largely because there is a high prevalence of diabetes mellitus and hypertension among the adult population in Malaysia at 17.5% and 30.3% respectively. Does our current healthcare service have the necessary and adequate setting, personnel and facilities from

acute stroke service right down to rehabilitation programme nationwide?

Given the prevailing demographic trends, by 2020, Malaysians aged 65 and above will constitute about 7% of an estimated total population of 33.4 million and this is projected to increase to 12% by 2030. Are we ready to cope with this aging population demographic? Do we have enough resources to deal with the problem?

A decade ago, the Malaysian healthcare system compared well to countries of similar economic status in having a system that produced well-being at a low cost to society. But has it moved forward or at least kept its pace?

For 60 years, the nation has cared for its people tirelessly but the public still deserve better and our children should have the best from us. The country does not belong to us but to our children and their children’s children.

If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail. So, people can choose either to live happily, content in their current comfort zone with occasional pleasantries, celebratory pomp and ceremonies or strive for a better tomorrow for our future generation. The question is do we have the will?

Letter to The Star, Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Healthcare system needs to be better
By CHEAH CHUN FAI, Penang
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/01/25/healthcare-system-needs-to-be-better/

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Welcome to the Year of the Roaster

HOME baker Lim Shiau Shi deftly rolled green pea paste into ball shapes and brushed the top of the balls with egg yolk glaze before sprinkling poppy seeds on them.

“I brush the crust of my cookies with egg yolk to get a golden crust after that.

“It was my own idea to add poppy seeds for more texture and fragrance,” she said while making the green pea cookies at her home in Lebuhraya Nipah, Taman Lip Sin in Bayan Lepas, Penang.

The 29-year-old mother of two girls first started baking cookies for Chinese New Year seven years ago.

She said she bakes from early as 6am until around midnight daily.

The former clerk makes various types of festive delicacies including pineapple tarts, kuih bangkit, peanut cookies, walnut cookies, kuih kapit, nga ku (arrowhead) chips, sweet potato chips, crispy crab sticks and meat floss cookies.

“If I am going to the market to sell the cookies, I will get up very early around 4am.

“On those days, I get only two to three hours of sleep a day as I need to meet customers’ requests.

“I start baking cookies about two months before Chinese New Year,” she said.

Lim said she learnt how to make the cookies by following recipes on the Internet.

She also improvises to suit her tastebuds without compromising on quality.

“It all started as a hobby. I love baking very much and it remains my passion.

“I also bake birthday cakes, cupcakes, crepes and cream puffs,” said Lim, who prefers to make everything from scratch.

“With the help of my two workers and husband, I can make up to 100 containers of different types of cookies in a day.

“I try to meet everyone’s orders and usually stop baking only on the eve of Chinese New Year,” she said.


The Star Metro, Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Baking up Lunar New Year joy
By CAVINA LIM
http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2017/01/25/baking-up-lunar-new-year-joy-home-baker-prepares-100-containers-of-cookies-a-day-to-meet-demand/

GEORGE TOWN: This Chinese New Year, Shirin Aziha Shahidan is inviting those who wish to meet Uncle Ah San to attend a potluck gathering at her former neighbour’s home here.

Shirin, 29, will be organising the event on the first day of the New Year and has opened it to friends and family of 82-year-old Lim Kim Sung, better known as Uncle Ah San, and those who wanted to meet the octogenarian.

“I have put up the invitation on Uncle Ah San’s Facebook page.

“It will be a good time to meet everyone, including those who have been reading about him and keeping updated about his welfare.

“I am also eager to meet those who have been contributing much to help Uncle Ah San since news about him went viral on social media,” said Shirin, adding that she expected about 50 guests at the potluck do.

The heartwarming friendship of the public relations executive based in Kuala Lumpur, and the widower who has been suffering from elephantiasis, has no children and lives on his own, was well featured in the press and on social media.

She and Uncle Ah San made news in June 2015 when she took to social media to raise funds for Lim, whom she had known since she was 10, watching him struggle to cross Jalan Air Itam with his enlarged left leg as he pushed a tricycle full of used cardboard boxes to sell.

She even dropped in to celebrate Hari Raya with Lim.

In fact, she made it a point to visit Uncle Ah San whenever she could, besides during Chinese New Year.

Notably, Shirin was one of the 10 winners of the inaugural Star Golden Hearts Award by Star Media Group and Star Foundation in honour of individuals and groups who went out of their way to help others in need, regardless of their race, religion or status, in 2015.

Yesterday, Shirin was at Lim’s rented house in Jalan Gopeng here to brighten up the festive atmosphere as she hung a traditional embroidered red cloth over the main doorway.

She also brought a hamper and a box of fortune cookies.

“It has been a tradition for me to visit Uncle Ah San and hand over an ang pow during Chinese New Year,” she said.

A delighted Uncle Ah San said: “Shirin brought me so many Chinese New Year goodies and even took time to visit me.

“I am touched that a lot of people have come forward to help me.”


The Star, Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Malay lass hosts do for Uncle Ah San
By CAVINA LIM
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/25/malay-lass-hosts-do-for-uncle-ah-san-golden-hearts-winner-organises-cny-potluck-for-octogenarian-wit/

WELCOME to the Year of the Roaster.

You read that right but it’s wrong. Thanks to the popularity of a certain chicken-based fast food chain that sells roasters, we’ve seen a few Chinese New Year ads dedicated to the roaster instead of the rooster.

The rooster is, of course, a chicken. A roaster can mean a chicken but it actually refers to the method of cooking or a person who roasts coffee beans.

Come Saturday, the Chinese will celebrate the Year of the Ji which is Mandarin for chicken (or gai in Cantonese).

Like the word chicken, ji is gender-neutral. Yet somehow it doesn’t translate to the Year of Chicken in English.

I suspect it’s because there are rather negative or derogatory connotations with that animal. You call a person “chicken” to denote cowardliness, or “a headless chicken” because he’s in a state of panic and behaving illogically. More on that later.

Then there is the idiom, “chickens come home to roost” which refers to wrongdoing or bad deeds finally catching up with the perpetrator. But when it comes to its meat, that’s something else. We love it! The chicken has even been declared the “universal bird of the modern world”, supplying some 20% of all animal protein consumed by humans.

Chickens fall under the category of poultry that includes ducks, geese, quails, pigeons, turkeys, emus and ostriches.

When hatched, it is a chick. A female is called a pullet until it is full-grown and becomes a hen. A male bird is a cockerel; upon maturity which takes about a year, it’s called a rooster. The ji has been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Chicken bones were used in divination and live birds in funerals to scare away bad spirits.

Every part of the chicken from head (or rather, the brain) to innards to blood to feet is eaten. Chicken eggs are associated with fertility and eggs dyed red are distributed to celebrate a baby’s full moon. The bird itself is a popular dish at reunion dinners as it symbolises marriage and family unity.

When I was a teen, my parents raised chickens in our backyard with Dad building his own coop. We kids weren’t very fond of them as we thought of them more as pests than pets.

The coop needed daily washing and we had to watch our step in the garden to avoid their droppings.

Still, Dad got very fond of them – he was the only one – and when Mum decided to slaughter one, he refused to eat the meat.

Mum bravely did the killing but she wasn’t very good at it. Either she didn’t wield the knife properly or it wasn’t sharp enough but when she was halfway sawing the neck, the chicken managed to escape her clutches, flopped onto the floor and went off flapping, with its head dangling from its almost severed neck.

Mum caught it again and that was the end of it. This brings me, however, to the incredible but true story of the headless chicken that lived for 18 months.

This was Miracle Mike, a five-year-old rooster owned by farmer Lloyd Olsen in Colorado, United States, who decided to have it for dinner. Olsen beheaded it on Sept 10, 1945, but his axe missed Mike’s jugular vein, cerebellum and most of its brain stem.

Mike didn’t bleed to death, thanks to a blood clot. Amazingly, it recovered and continued to behave like a normal chicken because the brain stem could control its heart rate, breathing and basic motor functions.

Olsen figured how to feed Mike by using an eyedropper to drip water and food into his exposed oesophagus.

Mike became a freak show success and it earned Olsen a fortune before it died from choking on its mucus.

One thing Mike couldn’t do anymore was crow. Which leads me yet to another interesting nugget about chicken behaviour.

If you ever wondered why roosters crowed in the morning, so did a bunch of Japanese scientists in Nagoya University.

They conducted a series of experiments a few years back and found these birds do have their own internal clock, or the circadian rhythm, which tells them when to crow regardless of whether they can see the rising sun.

What is even more interesting is that if there are several roosters in the vicinity, they don’t crow at the same time. That’s because there is indeed a pecking order or social hierarchy among the flock. The most dominant male bird will crow first, followed by the next most dominant rooster and so on.

According to the researchers, who wrote their findings in the Scientific Reports journal, “Chickens are highly social animals, and (when) housed in small groups, the top-ranking rooster determined the timing of predawn crowing. Specifically, the top-ranking rooster always started to crow first, followed by its subordinates, in descending order of social rank.”

So now we know there is a real basis for this idiom, “cock of the walk”, that describes an overly confident man who thinks he is superior to others.

That’s where a shopping mall in China’s Shanxi province got it right when they erected a giant rooster with Donald Trump’s trademark hairdo and hand gestures.

Indeed, roosters are like lions. They rule the harem, comprising typically about 15 hens, strut around, pick fights with other males and generally aren’t that useful.

Because of that, hens are more valued than roosters in poultry rearing. Hens are raised for their eggs and meat. Male chicks are usually dispatched once their sex is determined.

Like lionesses, hens are the caregivers and protectors of their brood, hence, the more positive idiom, “mother hen”.

So logically, we should be celebrating the Year of the (useful, caring) Hen rather than the vain, pompous rooster. But what to do? Nature decrees that it’s the males in many species, especially birds, that have the better looks with manes, feathers, combs and more colour.

That is why, in my humble opinion, the rooster rules: he’s got the looks and of course there’s the age-old Chinese bias towards the male gender.

As for his traits, let’s hope those in leadership positions don’t emulate him and strut around, looking pretty without doing any real work.

But are we even celebrating the right bird? Because this is the Year of Hua Ji (Fo Gai in Cantonese) which translates to Fire Chicken which is what the Chinese call the turkey.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!


The Star, Published: Wednesday, 25 January 2017
A cock-a-doodle-doo story
By JUNE H.L. WONG
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/so-aunty-so-what/2017/01/25/a-cockadoodledoo-story-here-are-some-nuggets-about-the-worlds-universal-bird-as-it-struts-in/

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2017年01月24日

retired Britons in EU

Hundreds of thousands of elderly Britons living in Europe may be forced to return to the UK unless the government guarantees that their healthcare will continue to be reimbursed by the NHS, campaigners for British people settled in Spain and France have warned.

The House of Commons Brexit select committee was told on Wednesday that an unintended consequence of Brexit could be a surge in immigration of British migrants both working and retired.

Groups campaigning for the rights of Britons settled in Europe told the committee that many pensioners in countries such as Spain and France would not be able to afford private health insurance if the current system was jettisoned post-Brexit.

“They may have no alternative but to come back,” said Sue Wilson, one of the founders of the Remain in Spain group.

The committee was also told there could be an exodus of professionals whose right to practise law, medicine or other disciplines would no longer be recognised if a deal was not done. They heard that in Italy alone 383 professions were legally recognised.

When the UK pulls out of Europe that legal entitlement falls aways, said Gareth Horsfall, representing Britons in Italy. “It’s not just a right to stay; it’s also a recognition [of professional entitlements],” he said.

They were speaking a day after Theresa May declared she had sought to seal an early deal guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of Britons in Europe. She said “many countries” had supported this, but “one or two countries” had not.

But groups that have sprung up since the referendum to represent Britons in Europe say the onus is on May to make the first move.

“If it is UK that is triggering this process, it is not 27 states. Therefore, it would be a magnanimous gesture on the part of the prime minister, and a good way of opening negotiations, to begin by saying: ‘We are doing this for EU nationals in the UK; we call on you to do the same,’” said Christopher Chantrey, a Briton living in France, who is part of the Expat Citizen Rights in EU (Ecreu) group.

Wilson, who also called for a unilateral move, said it was needed “urgently” for retired people in Spain who were already suffering a reduced pension because of the decline in the value of the pound following the referendum.

There are 108,000 British pensioners in Spain out of an official British population there of around 300,000.

Retired Britons in receipt of a British pension and their dependents can access medical treatment for free, or near free, in countries such as Spain, France and Germany, with the cost reimbursed by the UK government. Some workers posted overseas can also avail themselves of the “S1” benefit.

“We have got to get away from this perception that they are all there having a good time. Many moved to Spain in the first place because it was cheaper to live there, because it was cheaper to buy a property,” Wilson told the committee.

“These people can’t wait for two and a half years to get a resolution” on Brexit talks, she said. Particularly vulnerable were people who had retired to the warmer climate for health reasons.

“Many of those people, if they were forced to return, not only would they be worse off financially and be a drain on the NHS and perhaps the housing market, they are also going to suffer with their health, so it’s not just a financial impact, it’s an impact perhaps with their life expectancy,” she said.

“A big concern is people wondering if they have free healthcare in future, particularly if you are elderly. If your only alternative was private, for most that would be the difference between staying in Spain and leaving,” she said.

Debbie Williams, who was giving evidence about Britons in Belgium, said the healthcare support provided by the Treasury could be “a dealbreaker for some people”.

If it wasn’t continued, she said, “there could be hundreds of thousands of people returning because of the healthcare issue”.

Earlier the committee heard from representatives of EU citizens in the UK including communities from eastern Europe.

It was told it was a myth that Polish people, Romanians and others came to sponge off the welfare system.

“It is virtually impossible to claim an abundance of welfare payments even if you are, say, in the terminal stages of cancer,” said Barbara Drozdowicz, chief executive of the East European Resource Centre.

She said the attraction of Britain was the ease with which people could set up businesses and be entrepreneurs, something that was not easy in former eastern bloc countries.

“Brexit came as a shock because people now have to question the future of their business. Welfare is not what people talk about, it is what will they do about their small plumbing practice,” she said.

In the only tense exchange with EU citizens, the Tory MP Peter Lilley described it as “absolutely extraordinary” that none of the witnesses were lobbying their “own governments” for their rights post-Brexit.

“The British government is our government,” retorted Nicolas Hatton, a French citizen and founder of the3million campaign group.

The Guardian, Last modified on Thursday 19 January 2017 10.54 GMT

Hundreds of thousands of retired Britons in EU 'may be forced to return'

Campaigners say pensioners in countries such as Spain will have to go back to UK if they can no longer get free healthcare

By Lisa O'Carroll
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/18/retired-britons-eu-return-campaigners-pensioners-spain-healthcare


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Women’s March in London

Protesters who took part in Saturday’s Women’s March in London are being urged to bombard Theresa May with letters and emails about her meeting with Donald Trump on Friday.

Organisers say it is the first small step in creating a global grassroots movement to address the widespread inequalities and economic divisions that helped power Trump to the White House and drive Britain out of the European Union.

They say they want to ensure that May does not “waiver” when it comes to re-asserting the UK’s commitment to equal rights when she meets the new president.

A variety of templates for postcards and emails which people can send to the prime minister have been posted on their website, with people asked to tell her why they are concerned. The postcard template reads: “Dear Theresa May, as a proud supporter of the #women’sMarchLondon movement I am concerned about the UK’s commitment to human rights. Here’s why:...

“I trust you will consider my concerns, and expect you to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to human rights when you meet with Donald Trump on Friday.”

Initially organised as a Washington protest against Trump’s denigration of women and his threats to reproductive rights, the marches have appeared to be a catalyst for a wider worldwide unease about future human rights for men and women.

With an estimated 5m men and women marching in more than 600 cities, organisers across the world are now challenged with finding a way of translating that into a sustained movement that can mobilise a broad spectrum of people in a way that other movements such as Occupy Wall Street did not.

On Saturday, David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s former chief campaign strategist, warned in a tweet: “This outpouring today is extraordinary and inspiring. But if all this energy isn’t channeled into sustained pol action, it will mean little.”

Micah White, the founder of Occupy, also warned that taking to the streets is not a lever of power. “Without a clear path from march to power, the protest is destined to be an ineffective feelgood spectacle adorned with pink pussy hats,” he wrote in the Guardian.

“It is all too easy to succumb to the false hope that a big splash is a transformative tsunami. Don’t be fooled. It is not. I’ve been there, as the co-creator of a raucous pro-democracy meme that inspired months of Occupy protests in 82 countries.

“I can tell you that raising awareness and getting media attention is never enough. Frankly, neither brings the people closer to sovereign power,” he said.

“In a sense, the legacy of the march is more important than the march itself,” said Wanda Wyporska from the Equality Trust, one of the organisations which supported the march in London.

Buoyed by the estimated 100,000 turnout, the half dozen women behind the march are now trying to capture that energy and use it to fuel a popular movement.

They are part of a Women’s March global initiative and the Theresa May letter-writing campaign mirrors the “10 actions over 100 days” campaign launched by the organisers in the US ,who are ostensibly already more galvanised. More suggestions for action will follow in the coming weeks and months.

In an energetic speech on Saturday, filmmaker and activist Michael Moore urged protesters to bombard Congress with daily phone calls. He also called on people to forms “regions of resistance” and to form small rapid-response groups who could protest physically or on social media when needed.

Kerry Haggerty, one of the organisers of the UK marches, said: “This had global roots and we are hoping now to get it down to grassroots level and hoping it will be a massive mobilisation. We are hoping to learn the lessons from Occupy and are looking for all the help we can get.”

Fellow organiser Emma McNally, who studied political philosophy, said organisers had set out to try to be party politically neutral and not about individual causes or people, Trump included.

“I am very interested in systems theory and network dynamics. What we are trying to do is build a horizontal structure. Centralised structure with power trickling down doesn’t work so we were scrupulous not to present this as an individual cause or to target an individual like Trump.

“We also chose not to have a manifesto. For example, if we had made this about reproductive rights or a single issue, we would have absolutely curtailed its potential as a much broader movement.”

That the vast majority of placards, bearing a multitude of slogans ranging from “This pussy grabs back” to messages about LGBT rights, were homemade was testimony to their policy that the march should not be hijacked by a single organisation. Going forward, “this is about division and inequality,” said McNally.

She said there was no point in making it an anti-Trump or anti-Brexit movement as these “triggers would generate a predictable response”. Instead, she said, it was important “to crate response to the conditions that allowed that division to come about” and ensure that all voices can be part of the movement.

There was also a feeling among organisers that charities advocating for minorities and human rights had to do so behind their “big brands” but that connecting them on one platform, in real life and in social media, could coalesce into a powerful movement to effect change.

The Guardian, Last modified on Monday 23 January 2017 19.43 GMT

Call for Women's March on London protesters to write to PM about Trump

Organisers say asking Theresa May to reassert UK’s commitment to equal rights when she meets president is first step in creating global grassroots movement

By Lisa O'Carroll
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/23/call-for-womens-march-on-london-protesters-to-write-to-pm-about-trump

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Our‘relatives’are dying

OUR closest relatives – apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are in danger and scientists say it’s our fault.

About 60% of the more than 500 primate species are “now threatened with extinction” according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.

The result was “a bigger wake-up call” than previously thought, said researcher Paul Garber of the University of Illinois.

Primates, which include apes, monkeys and humans, have forward-facing eyes and grasping ability that set them apart from other mammals. Scientists study them to learn about human behaviour and evolution.

There are a huge variety of primates, ranging from the tiny Mouse lemur of Madagascar (which weighs just 31g) to the gorilla, the largest primate species, that is a whopping 250kg.

Loss of forests

Of all the threats, the biggest is the expansion of agriculture said Garber, as plantations, logging and livestock farming are wiping out millions of hectares of forest.

A critically endangered ape, the Sumatran orangutan, lost 60% of its habitat between 1985 and 2007. There are only about 14,000 left in the world.

In China, the expansion of rubber plantations has led to the near extinction of the Hainan gibbon, of which only about 30 animals survive. Twenty-two out of the 26 primate species in China are endangered. More rubber plantations in India have hit the Bengal slow loris, the western hoolock gibbon and Phayre’s leaf monkey.

The researchers said primates are culturally important to many people, play a significant role in forest systems (such as by dispersing seeds), and offer insights into human evolution, biology, behaviour and the threat of emerging disease.

Habitat loss as the result of logging, plantations, road building and mining, along with hunting and illegal trade in animals, is often tied to high rates of poverty of communities living nearby, Garber said.

Addressing poverty

“Addressing local poverty and easing population growth is a necessary component of primate conservation,” he said. “Building economies based on the preservation of forests and their primate inhabitants, and broadening educational opportunities for women would begin to address some of the greatest threats to these animals.”

About 94% of the lemur spe-

cies in the world are endangered, especially in Madagascar, which is one of the hardest-hit places for primate population loss.

While there’s hope that some species can be protected, many will disappear in the coming decades, said co-author Eduardo Fernandez-Duque of Yale University.

Mining has also hurt primates, either directly, or by opening up access to forests. On Dinagat island in the Philippines, extraction of gold, nickel and copper endangers the Philippine tarsier. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), hunters working around the tin, gold and diamond mine industry are the greatest threat to the region’s Grauer’s gorilla which has dropped from a population of 17,000 in 1995 to just about 3,800 now.

The illegal trade in bushmeat – killing apes and monkeys for their flesh – is also decimating the animals, as is changing climates and diseases spread from humans to apes. In Nigeria and Cameroon, checks on 89 market sites found 150,000 primate carcasses from 16 species traded annually as bushmeat.

Urgent action needed

The various plantation and mining industries inside tropical forests are expected to be connected with over 25mil km of roads by 2050, further fragment- ing the primates’ habitats.

Then there is wildlife smuggling., which threatens primates such as langurs in Asia, orangutans in South-East Asia, gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa and the Javan slow loris.

Some species are more resilient and can adapt to the loss of traditional habitats, but survival in patches of forest and urban areas is unlikely to be sustainable, the researchers write. One of the more unusual threats facing lemurs and chimps who come into contact with humans is infection with diarrhoea-causing bugs.

Just four countries – Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the DRC – have two-thirds of all primate species, making these countries priorty targets for measures to halt the global primate extinction trend, the researchers report.

Despite being signature species for conservation, only a “revolution” will stop apes and monkeys going extinct, the authors write.

“We need to look at (population losses) almost as signals. They’re the ‘canary in the coal mine’ telling us something about our future,” Garber said. “This truly is the 11th hour for many of these creatures.”

“Governments, non-governmental organisations, corporations and citizens have to come together to change business as usual,” he said. “Now is the moment.”

The Star2, Published: 24/1/2017

Our ‘relatives’ are dying

The Year of the Monkey ends with bad news for our primate cousins: over half of them may soon be extinct.

A ring-tailed lemur at a zoo in Duisburg, Germany. This species joins other primates on the endangered list.

By AP
http://www.pressreader.com/malaysia/the-star-malaysia-star2/20170124/281621010047225

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crowd size

It's also going to be impossible to gauge how many people exactly attended Trump's inauguration as opposed to the Women's March Saturday organized as a direct rebuttal to Trump the previous day.

But there's going to be a lot of conjecture about it. Trump himself talked about his massive crowds during an appearance at the Armed Services Ball Friday night.

It's clear that both events attracted many people. Below are pictures from 12:15 p.m. ET on each day from the EarthCam website.

Trump talked about crowd size during an appearance at the CIA Saturday and argued the size of his crowds had been misrepresented.

"We had a massive field of people," he told the US intelligence agency. "You saw that. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I'm like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said,

Donald Trump did not draw well," the President said.

"It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument and I turn on, by mistake, I get this network, and it showed an empty field. Said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that's not bad. But it's a lie. We had 250,000 people," he said.

It wasn't clear which outlet Trump was referring to. CNN has not reported a specific size to the crowd since there has been no official estimate.

Trump took the oath of office just before noon Friday and then gave his inaugural address. A rally associated with the march was slated for between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Some differences to note: Trump's speech was on the West Front of the Capitol, which was at capacity on Friday. It was cordoned off and empty on Saturday as protesters gathered on the Mall.

On the other hand, the Women's March filled the streets around the mall. Those streets were closed to Trump supporters.

His inauguration was on Jan. 20, because of the Constitution, which this year occurred on a Friday. The Women's March was on Saturday, when more people are off work.

Metro, Washington's subway system, tweeted Saturday there were 275,000 trips taken Saturday by 11 a.m.

On Friday, there were 193,000 trips by 11 a.m., according to Metro.

Another important point: Both events are occurring in an area opposed to Trump. Washington, D.C. voted overwhelmingly against Trump last November. He got just 4.1% of the vote in the nation's capital. He also lost the surrounding states of Maryland by 25 percentage points and Virginia by nearly 5 percentage points. It would be a longer trip for a critical mass of Trump supporters than for a critical mass of marchers.

It should also be noted that marchers took to the streets in other cities, nationwide, and in cities around the world.

"Sister marches" also took place in Chicago:

And New York:

And in Boston:

Here are some of the best pictures from American cities:

And images from other countries, too:

CNN, Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT) January 21, 2017
Comparing Trump's inauguration crowd to the Women's March
By Z. Byron Wolf, CNN
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/21/politics/womens-march-donald-trump-inauguration-sizes/

Read more his article :
More than 1 million marched against Trump in US -- and that's without counting DC
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/21/politics/one-million-marchers-outside-washington/index.html

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Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

I WAS at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. this past Saturday. I have lived in the city for seven years, but I have never seen anything like it.

Turnout estimates ranged from 500,000 to one million. These numbers are staggering, eclipsing the estimates for the crowd at the Presidential Inauguration the day before.

Together with the hundreds of sister marches throughout the country on the day, it may have been the largest mobilisation in US history.

Not only was it a march of unprecedented proportions, but it was achieved by a crowd that by my eyeball estimates was overwhelmingly female. I saw women from all walks of life.

Coming from across the country, they were young, old, and of all ethnicities. Some came with children in tow, others in wheelchairs, or with walkers and walking sticks.

Together, we marched from the US Capitol to the White House. Many wore pink cat-eared knitted hats as a sly retaliatory reference to salacious remarks made by Donald Trump in a leaked 2005 Access Hollywood tape.

A few women wore American flag headscarves as their hijab – a statement that being Muslim did not make them any less American.

The core message of the march was “Women’s Rights are Human Rights, and Human Rights are Women’s Rights”. March co-founder Tamika Mallory emphasised in earlier reports that the effort was more about being pro-women than anti-Trump.

But it was clear that it was impossible to separate the two. Where does anti-Trump stop and pro-women begin, with marchers holding up signs that said “You’re So Vain You Probably Think This March Is About You”, and “You Can’t Combover Sexism”? But everyone was welcomed, not just women.

A large contingent of men, and transgender people, were there, too. One call-and-response chant – “Show me what Americans look like/This is what Americans look like!” – truly captured the diversity of the American people that the marchers wanted to celebrate.

The march started with a rally near the Capitol at 10am, where celebrities like Janelle Monae and Scarlett Johansson spoke to the crowd. I was not at all aware of it until I read news reports after the march was over, due to the sheer size of the rally. But, like me, the crowd was not bothered that they missed out on the celebrities.

They were there for themselves, for their loved ones, and to stand up for what they believed in.

Tara Sarathy, a non-practising lawyer and proud Washington, D.C. resident who described herself as a married mother of two, marched to proclaim that America is her “children’s country and their future”.

Recalling her maternal Jewish immigrant heritage, Tara said she had also marched for her mother, who could not be there due to arthritis. She also did it for her father, who is an immigrant from India. Tara was fearful that a Trump administration would encourage an intolerant climate towards minorities, and felt scared for her “brown father and half-brother”.

Jen and Megan LaPorta, a married couple from Brooklyn, drove to D.C. the night before. They could have more conveniently gone to the sister march in New York.

But Megan said she wanted to be at the “epicentre” of the movement to physically show her “outrage for Trump and his administration on their doorstep”. Jen added that she wanted to be where the politicians make the decisions, and have them see that people would travel to the city “to make their voices heard”.

The marchers were there for serious reasons.

But the atmosphere remained positive throughout the day, almost celebratory. I saw women dancing to strains of Hall and Oates’ Maneater, the lyrics Oh Oh Here she comes/Watch out boy she’ll chew you up! sounding their protest.

I also heard men chanting “Her body, Her choice!”, with women calling out “My body, My choice!” in response, throwing their weight behind demands to preserve reproductive rights. Other men I know, including my husband, stood in solidarity in other ways: by staying at home with the children so mothers could go out to march.

Clark Johnson, a father of two daughters, also could not be there, spurring him to donate to the cause.

He did it to remind the President that he lost the popular vote, and therefore “does not speak for the majority” of the American people whom Clark saw as a “diverse group that supports civil rights for all”.

By 2pm, my friends and I neared the endpoint of the march, within sight of the Washington Monument.

Looking back, I saw an unending sea of people pouring through from all the side streets to join the primary march route. Someone in the crowd must have also seen what I did, and said out loud what I was thinking, “This is amazing!”

Now, a day later, the real fight begins. It is time to galvanise the momentum of the marches in D.C., across the country, and worldwide.

As one marcher’s sign I saw said: “Pantsuit up. There’s work to do.”

(photo)
Marching for rights: Narissa (centre, in pink hat) posing for a picture during the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 24 January 2017
More pro-women than anti-Trump
By Narissa Rahan

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To curb baby dumping

AN average of 100 babies are dumped nationwide in Malaysia every year and more than half of them are found dead, according to Police statistics.

In January 2016, media reports quoted the Women, Family and Community Development Minister saying that out of the 104 babies dumped in 2015, 61 were found dead. In 2014, 75 were found dead (out of 103 cases) and in 2013, only 32 out of 90 babies abandoned were found alive.

Police statistics show that 407 babies were dumped nationwide from 2005 to 2010, averaging about 80 per year. Selangor, Johor and Sabah were the states with the highest cases recorded.

These recorded cases could be just the tip of the iceberg as many may be buried or thrown away in places where their little bodies can never be found.

What is Malaysia’s solution to these human tragedies and acts of desperation by girls and women who had to resort to doing such unthinkable deeds?

Most suggestions and solutions are reactive to reports of babies being abandoned and many, although good, lack political will and public support to implement once the furore recedes.

Sex education in schools is among the solutions that are being undertaken. This is done through various programmes such as the National Policy and Plan of Action on Reproductive Health and Social Education introduced in 2009, the Reproductive and Social Health Programme (Pekerti) introduced in 2012 and a Training for Trainers course in September 2014.

These programmes were implemented in various schools at various levels but were mainly limited in numbers and lacked nationwide impact. Teaching of pregnancy prevention methods seems to be excluded too.

Lack of impact of these programmes is evident in data about teenage sexual behaviour and knowledge. The Malaysian Population and Family Survey 2014 showed that many teenagers in Malaysia are still clueless about reproductive health. The survey also showed that 42.9% admitted they have been exposed to obscene material and 9.9% said they have had sexual intercourse.

The Risk Factor and Protection for Youth Sexual And Reproductive Health Study 2013 conducted in Sabah and Sarawak found that the minimum age for first time sex among students in Sarawak was 15.3 years. A similar study among secondary school students in Negri Sembilan found that the mean age of first sexual intercourse for male students was 14.9 years old.

Another study in the Klang Valley reported that among those adolescents who had premarital sex, 72% did not use any contraception at first intercourse.

Baby hatches have also been set up to offer desperate mothers a safe place to put up their newborns instead of abandoning them in the open. Malaysia’s first baby hatch was launched in 2010 by OrphanCare. Since then, more have been set up in other parts of the country.

It was reported at the end of 2015 that 207 babies were saved by the baby hatches. However, the number of babies dumped yearly up to 2015 did not show a corresponding reduction.

By and large, the baby hatch is a harm reduction programme that has met with limited success due to its end-of-line solution in tackling the root cause of the problem.

Another solution proposed was criminalising baby dumping and imposing harsher punishments on the perpetrators, including their male partners. This normally comes after another sensational case of baby dumping is reported by the media and is typically made by politicians.

Police have also proposed setting up a DNA data bank to trace the perpetrators.

Other calls by NGOs include reinforcing religious education and character building, holding morality-themed campaigns like “Stop Valentine or New Year Day celebrations”, and proposing for increased frequency in monitoring of illicit sexual activities in hotels or dormitories.

A boarding school for pregnant teenagers was also set up in Malacca as a strategy to reduce baby dumping. Nevertheless, these proposals or “solutions” were reactions and do little to solve the real problem.

For tangible change to occur, we must accept and acknowledge the following:

1. Behind every baby being dumped is an unplanned pregnancy;

2. Sexual activity among the young and adolescent will occur increasingly as they transition through the different age groups to adulthood;

3. Criminalising what is the tragic end result of natural human biology would not stop the natural order of things;

4. Knowledge and access to contraceptives and pregnancy prevention methods have never been shown to increase sexual activity among the young; and

5. The public, parents, teachers and civil society must take ownership and push for real change rather than leaving everything to the Government or authorities.

To do these, we need to:

1. Implement age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in all schools nationwide immediately. CSE includes imparting critical knowledge about human reproduction and pregnancy prevention methods;

2. Provide access to contraceptives for those who are already sexually active;

3) Soften cultural taboos about single motherhood and place greater acceptance and support for single mothers or teenagers;

4. Enact an anonymous childbirth system supported by a comprehensive set of policies and services for handling babies that may potentially be abandoned. (This is in line with the international charter of child rights and presents an opportunity for child and mother to meet later in life); and

5. Amend the laws and regulations that will facilitate the four proposals.

We could continue to turn a blind eye to the tragedies, offer ad hoc, half-hearted, politically and culturally acceptable “solutions” or take the bold resolve as a nation to face the facts and offer real life-changing solutions that will build a better world for our future generations.

Letter to The Star, Published: Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Take bold steps to curb baby dumping
By DR JOHN TEO, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Kota Kinabalu
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/01/24/take-bold-steps-to-curb-baby-dumping/

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Docs face uncertain livelihood.

I WRITE in my personal capacity as a senior member of the medical profession and not as president of the Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia.

It saddens me very much to see the decline in this sacred and noble profession over recent decades. A key principle in safeguarding any highly esteemed profession in society is that members of such a profession must be financially stable and secure and need not worry about their rice bowl.

It is this aspect of the medical profession that is indeed being severely threatened in recent years.

The fresh young doctor begins his or her career waiting for months and even up to a year to get a job. Those who need to feed their families are forced to find temporary jobs as a waiter, cab driver or clinic assistant. Some may see this as a good humbling “job experience”.

But in truth, it is shameful and demoralising after five to six intense years of training and with great expectations. Finally, the doctor gets a job, a short-term contract that has no security, reduced benefits and a “constant threat” of termination hanging over his head.

The rigorous training period of two years is already very challenging with a drop-out rate of 20%. With a short-term contract, the young doctor will face added pressure, especially under severe and strict conditions, and the potential of abuse by autocratic bosses.

While the authorities may say that this is a good thing that will push the doctors to perform better, the environment of uncertainty where a doc-eats-doc attitude is needed to succeed is unhealthy for such an esteemed profession.

Allowing doctors to enter public service on contract is a bad precedent and a sad beginning for the career of the doctor.

Is there any other public service office being offered “contract staff” as a group with the Government?

The answer should have been to create more posts and find the resources and finances to accommodate the doctors whom we have agreed to train over the past decade.

If we have made the mistake of training too many doctors, we should bear the brunt of it by finding them jobs.

Unavoidably, a good percentage of these doctors will have to join the private sector as general practitioners (GP) before they are trained as qualified family practitioners. The so-called market forces, hand-in-hand with the fee regulations, now cap the consultation fee at a mere RM25. A recent press release stating that GPs were “agreeable” to reducing consultation fees to between RM10 and RM15 is indeed shocking and certainly a misrepresentation of the poor struggling GP.

Agreeing to such a reduction will definitely be the death knell for the GP or family practitioner.

Simple mathematics will show that no solo GP can survive with such a low consultation fee. Currently, a practice’s overheads range from RM12,000 to RM20,000 per month.

At RM10 per consultation, the doctor needs to see 2,000 patients per month to break even, which is about 70 patients a day.

This is absurd. No doctor should work under those conditions where he or she is forced to find other forms of income, apart from consultation fees.

With consultation fees at RM10, companies and insurance organisations would push the panel doctor’s fee even lower to RM8 or RM9.

Have we forgotten that the graduate has to repay his PTPN loans? Also, many parents have forked out between RM300,000 and even up to a million ringgit to pay for their children’s education.

Add all that in and the GP has become a slave to his job from day one.

Looking back to 60 years ago when I was a child, my mother was already paying RM10 to RM15 as total consultation fee for medical treatment.

A haircut at the barber and a bowl of mee were both only 50 sen then.

Thus, reducing a doctor’s consultation fee to that of a current barber’s fee or two cups of coffee is an insult to the medical profession.

A plumber or electrician charges no less than RM50 for a visit. Proportionate to a specialist’s consultation fee, the GP’s consultation should be no less than RM50.

How do we address the fact that poorer segments of society may not be able to afford healthcare costs? One is that the public sector must continue to bear the burden for the poor. Secondly, doctors are always charitable and have always been giving discounts and even free treatment to the poor.

The doctor, however, cannot afford to give free treatment unless he is able to pay his rent, utility bills, bank loan repayment and his staff comfortably.

Bundling the doctor’s fees and thus reducing the consultation fees will effectively bundle the solo medical practitioner out of existence eventually, leaving only the strong and financially astute group practice to survive.

The general medical practitioner will always have a major role to play in society. They have served almost everyone who was unwell at one time or another.

We are always thankful that the 24-hour clinic is open. Specialists owe their livelihood to referrals from the GPs.

The family and GPs form the foundation and platform for primary healthcare and should eventually be the first stop and gate-keepers to see the sick, screen them, educate them and refer them when necessary.

Please allow the GP to earn a decent living. Paying RM50 for a consultation is a decent amount for those who eat out, go to the movies, own a car and go on holidays.

Different forces of “progress” have chiselled away at this noble profession and the respect and recognition of the doctor continues to dwindle in society so much so that his worth has been reduced to a mere cup or two of coffee.

Letter to The Star, Published: Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Docs face uncertain livelihood
By DR SNG KIM HOCK, Kuala Lumpur
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/01/24/docs-face-uncertain-livelihood/

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2017年01月23日

Trump Attacked Media

WASHINGTON − President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency intended to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.

He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.

Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where Mr. Spicer scolded reporters and made a series of false statements.

He said news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday in an attempt to sow divisions at a time when Mr. Trump was trying to unify the country, warning that the new administration would hold them to account.
Continue reading the main story

The statements from the new president and his spokesman came as hundreds of thousands of people protested against Mr. Trump, a crowd that appeared to dwarf the one that gathered the day before when he was sworn in. It was a striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency, usually a time when the White House works to set a tone of national unity and to build confidence in a new leader.
...
President Trump and his press secretary disputed estimates of attendance at his inauguration, but footage from Friday’s event, compared with those from President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, showed a different story.


The New York Times, Published: JAN. 21, 2017
With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/us/politics/trump-white-house-briefing-inauguration-crowd-size.html

Photographs of the National Mall in Washington DC and public transport figures for the city flatly contradict Sean Spicer’s angry insistence that Donald Trump drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”.

In his blistering debut as White House press secretary on Saturday, Spicer accused journalists of reporting inaccurate crowd numbers and using misrepresentative photographs “to minimise the enormous support” that he claimed the new president enjoyed at his swearing-in.
...

The Guardian, Published: Sunday 22 January 2017 09.36 GMT

Trump's inauguration crowd: Sean Spicer's claims versus the evidence

White House press secretary’s angry declaration that the media faked low attendance does not stack up against photos, videos and public transport figures

By Elle Hunt
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/22/trump-inauguration-crowd-sean-spicers-claims-versus-the-evidence

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Madonna spoke to an audience of more than 500,000

Madonna told a crowd of more than half a million that she thought about “blowing up the White House” during an impassioned speech at a massive anti-Trump protest in Washington.

The singer, who often makes sensational political statements, made the exaggerated remark to illustrate her anger at the shocking electoral college win of minority President Donald Trump.

“Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House,” she said. “But I know this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.”

The Women’s March on Washington brought people from across the US to protest the Trump administration, a day after the new president was sworn into office to a significantly smaller crowd of people. Madonna reflected on the monumental attendance, referring to the event as the beginning of a revolution.

“Welcome the revolution of love. To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny,” Madonna, 58, said. “Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalised people.

“Where being uniquely different right now might be truly considered a crime.”

Before performing “Express Yourself”, Madonna issued her call to action: “Today marks the beginning of our story. The revolution starts here. The fight for the right to be free to be who we are to be equal.”

Early projections anticipated a 200,000 turnout for the event – which attracted countless supporters in all 50 states and major cities around the globe – but more than 500,000 people arrived in the nation’s capital this morning.

Madonna is one of a significant number of high-profile entertainers and social justice advocates who delivered passionate speeches in the jam-packed National Mall.

“We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war,” said actress America Ferrera. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the President is not America. … We are America, and we are here to stay.”

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who served as honorary co-chair of the Women’s March, warned Mr Trump of the power of numbers during her speech.

“The Constitution doesn’t begin with, ‘I, the President’,” she said. “It begins with, ‘We, the people”. So don’t try to divide us!”

Reflecting on the lackluster attendance of the inauguration, Ms Steinem added: “I have met the people, and you are not them. We are the people. Just this march in Washington today required 1,000 more buses than the entire inauguration.”

The Independent, Published: Sunday 22 January 2017

Women's March: Madonna said she thought about 'blowing up White House' but 'chose love' instead

The singer spoke to an audience of more than 500,000 – twice as many that appeared at Trump inauguration

Feliks Garcia, New York
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/madonna-blow-up-white-house-womens-march-washington-donald-trump-president-protest-latest-a7539741.html


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global anti-Trnmp protests

Washington (AFP) - Led by women in pink "pussyhats," hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Washington and cities across the United States in a massive outpouring of defiant opposition to President Donald Trump.

Roused by fiery speeches, the protesters sent out a resounding message of resistance the day after the Republican hardliner took office with a vow to roll back the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama.

"I know that we can do better, we have to fight for the change we want to see," said Michelle Phillips, a 45-year-old recent American citizen, who said she came to take a stand against Trump's "platform of hate and bigotry."

A sea of women and men -- teens, pensioners, parents with toddlers on their shoulders -- swarmed up the streets around the White House in a good-natured but determined show of unity.

"Women won't back down," "Women's rights are human rights" and "Thank you Trump -- you turned me into an activist," read some of the hundreds of handmade signs held aloft in the capital.

Organizers estimated the turnout for the "Women's March on Washington" at half a million, double initial expectations, with huge crowds reported at sister marches nationwide, from Chicago to New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Saturday's rallying cry was heard far beyond America's shores, with organizers saying over 2.5 million people signed up to take part in one of more than 600 marches being held worldwide.

One of the largest was in London, where tens of thousands of women, men and children marched chanting "Dump Trump."

The human tide flooding the US capital appeared to dwarf the throngs of Trump supporters in red "Make America Great Again!" caps who the day before had cheered his swearing-in.

Washington's Metro stations were overwhelmed as trains packed to bursting ferried cheering, clapping marchers into the city -- many wearing knitted "pink pussyhats" in an allusion to Trump's videotaped boasts of grabbing women's "pussies" with impunity.

By 11 am, the city's Metrorail system said it had moved 275,000 people, eight times a typical Saturday.

Trump's defeated rival Hillary Clinton tweeted her support to the protesters, while former secretary of state John Kerry was spotted in the crowd -- a day after leaving office -- with his dog on a pink leash.

And Pop diva Madonna, wearing a black pussyhat of her own, made an impromptu appearance on the protest's main stage near Washington's National Mall to deliver an expletive-laden indictment of the president.

"Welcome to the revolution of love," the 58-year-old intoned. "To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny."

- Trump's first full day -

For his first full day in the world's most powerful office, Trump attended a multi-faith service at Washington National Cathedral before visiting the headquarters of the CIA, an agency he feuded with bitterly before taking office.

"I am with you 1,000 percent," Trump said in a short address to CIA staff -- during which he also complained about media coverage of his inauguration which he said played down the turnout.

Trump's inaugural speech on Friday set the tone for his presidency: proudly populist, fiercely nationalist and determined to break with Obama's legacy.

His first act in office -- signing an executive order aimed at freezing Obama's signature health care law -- was a potent gesture in that direction, with more such actions expected to follow.

But if Friday was Trump's day -- marred by sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and more than 200 arrests -- Saturday belonged to demonstrators with fresh memories of his fat-shaming a former beauty queen, sex assault allegations and a controversial stance on abortion.

Filmmaker Michael Moore, a march organizer, noted that his copy of the Washington Post was bannered with the headline "Trump Takes Power."

"I don't think so. Here is the power," he said, gesturing to the crowd.

- 'Railroad' -

Jennifer Behr, a 42-year-old accessory designer, rode a packed train from Baltimore to make her voice heard.

"It's important we assert our majority and we have a large physical presence to show Trump and the Republicans that they cannot railroad our country," she said.

While Trump won 42 percent of the women's vote, millions who did not vote for him worry that gender rights and other progress on women's health, contraception and abortion could be chipped away.

The Women's March began with a simple Facebook post from Hawaii grandmother and retired lawyer Teresa Shook to about 40 of her friends -- but word travelled quickly and the event took on a life of its own.

Dozens of progressive groups backed the march, as well as Amnesty International and Planned Parenthood, the women's health care provider that is a Republican target because of the abortion services it provides.

Yahoo 7 News, January 22, 2017, 12:22 pm
Women lead mass anti-Trump marches across US
AFP
https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/34241648/anti-trump-protesters-set-to-flood-washington/


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Stress can make you stronger

If you could do something to decrease your risk of memory failure, to increase your self-confidence, to be a better public speaker, to improve your brain, to help you deal with back pain, to bust out of your comfort zone, to make your children more resilient ... would you do it?

What if it involved embracing what we all to our utmost to steer clear of -- namely, stress?

Yeah, always a catch. Think about it though -- which Irish psychologist Ian Robertson, author of The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper, has done as well as studied quite extensively. And you might remember quoting, oh once or twice, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

The statement, Robertson says, "has always intrigued me." He's also fond of quoting golfer Tiger Woods: "I've always said the day I'm not nervous playing is the day I quit."

Granted, stress before a golf tournament isn't exactly a life-or-death situation, but the premise is along the same lines.

"All performers and musicians and sports performers know you need that edge," says Robertson who, as the T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist at the Center for BrainHealth, spends part of his year at the University of Texas at Dallas institute and part in Ireland.

"Whether it's an opportunity or stress is hugely under our control."

Think about it: A pounding heart, dry mouth, sweaty skin, churning stomach could be signs of anxiety -- or of excitement, fear, anger, sexual attraction, he says. "We only know what emotion we're having by interpreting these nonspecific arousal symptoms in context."

The takeaway? If you're about to give a presentation or take a new class or face another challenge, instead of saying, "I am anxious," say out loud, "I am excited." That switches the brain from avoidance mindset into challenged mindset, he says.

As he says in an interview with Brain Matters, the Center for BrainHealth publication, "moderate stress, properly handled, increases alertness, which in turn helps brain circuits function more efficiently."

He's not, he emphasizes, talking about "severe and prolonged stress." He's instead talking about the kind that's inherent with being human. Job problems. Relationship problems. Social setbacks. Money worries. Trying something new. And, in the case of his best friend, being run over by a bus while cycling. The accident cost Robertson's friend his right arm, smashed both his knees, and almost took his life.

"The morning he woke up after surgery," Robertson recalls, "I flew in from Dublin and found myself putting my head on his forehead and saying, 'What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.'"

The act, Robertson says, was "totally unpremeditated." But later, his friend told Robertson "it was like a surge of electricity through his brain, that it electrified him. He was barely conscious. I remember him struggling up, his head barely off the pillow, and saying, 'I'm going to beat this.' "

His friend is now long-distance cycling again. And while Robertson emphasizes that he takes no credit for the "amazing, amazing journey" to health, that episode -- along with Robertson's self-described "Pollyanna" nature and his extensive research into brain damage and subsequent rehabilitation -- led to the writing of his latest book.

"Strangely enough," he says, "the brain needs to be challenged to be improved."

He cites as an example a study of people in their 70s who were experiencing the beginnings of memory failure. Two years later, follow-up tests showed a steep decline in memory -- except for one group: those "who had had one, two or three stressful life events during that period," he says.

"Severe stress does cause impairment in memory," Robertson continues. "But in this group, moderate stressors actually preserved cognitive function, so over the two years, they did not show a decline."

His hypothesis: "If you're in your 70s and living quite a sedentary way of life, things are predictable and routine; you're not challenged. But if your wife or husband has a stroke, as horrible as that is, you're being challenged and called upon to solve all sorts of new problems," he says.


And when that happens, your brain is called upon to generate more of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. "It is a chemical sprayed into our brain when unexpected things happen and you have to disengage to be open to new possibilities, including the frightening and the positive," he says. "It's sprayed out if someone is frightening us, sexually attracted to us, says something unexpected. It's our brain shaking out of the hum-de-dum."

"Stress, properly conceived of, is a challenge that can be incredibly enriching for the brain."

Which is something we parents need to take to heart. Because despite how much we want to shield children from life's pressures, doing so does them no favors, Robertson says.

"Children or adolescents who have little or no adversity, little or no stress, end up more emotionally vulnerable, more likely to be depressed and not enjoying life," he says. "People who have very little adversity and those who have very severe have similar levels of emotional disturbance later in life," he says.

Those who have moderate stress end up more emotionally tough, he says. He gives an example of young people working in a job in which they get ribbing or taunts by a coworker.

"You'll learn it's not the end of the world if you feel humiliated, not the end of the world if you fail at something, not the end of the world if you're not the much admired, glowing center of someone's world."

Plus, crazy as this may sound, how adults deal with back pain can be related to stress they did or didn't experience during childhood. Those who had "little or severe stress," he says, "are more likely to be off work, on painkillers or functionally disabled by back pain. Those with moderate stress have lower doses of painkillers, are less likely to off work long-term and are less likely to be disabled by back pain."

So what can we do to leverage stress to its utmost advantage? It can be as easy as breathing, Robertson says.

"I tell people to take five long, low breaths in and out," he says. "Then I ask, 'Do you feel any different?' Ninety percent of the time they say yes. I say you've just changed the chemistry of your brain."

Affecting that chemistry, he says, "will help you build confidence and believe in your ability of control."

Here are a few other ways:

Set goals for yourself that stretch you a little, he says, "goals that are neither too easy nor too difficult. Successful people, who inevitably believe have control over their own minds, are people very, very skilled at setting goals in the Goldilocks zone." It could be as seemingly small as getting out of the house and walking 200 yards down the street -- something that challenges you to a degree and gives you a feeling of accomplishment to have completed.

Stand up straight. When you feel low and depressed, your body hunches, he says. "If we adopt a posture associated with defeat or anxiety, our brains will create an internal state corresponding to that. that's why standing straight, standing tall, let's fake it till we make it is what we need to do. Trick your brain into creating corresponding emotions.

Gently squeeze your right hand. "The go-forward anticipating network in the brain is in the left frontal lobe," Robertson says. "The right hemisphere is more active and inhibits the goal-setting part of the brain if you're depressed or anxious. One way to give the left frontal part of your brain a boost is to squeeze your right hand for 45 seconds, release it for 15. Combined with posture, breathing and goal setting, you increase the changes of having a challenged mindset rather than retreating."

Think about stressful situations you'll face in the next month, he says. A difficult conversation with a partner maybe, or a presentation.

"Visualize it. Hear yourself," he says. "Be in it to the extent that your heart is beating, your stomach churning. Feel it now and start practicing those techniques. Practice them in an imagined situation so when you actually come to that, you won't have to try to remember how to handle it. It will be a habit."

The Dallas Morning News, Published: Jan 9
Who needs stress? We all do. Here's why
By Leslie Barker, Staff writer
http://www.dallasnews.com/life/healthy-living/2017/01/09/needs-stress

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Bahoons point to origin of speech

isten closely to those baboon calls. They may tell you a thing or two about human speech.

Scientists who studied baboons’ wahoos, yaks, barks and other vocalizations have found evidence of five vowel-like sounds − a sign that the physical capacity for speech may have evolved over much longer timescales than previously thought.

The findings, described this week in the journal PLOS One, could have significant implications for our understanding of the development of human speech and the emergence of language.

Scientists studying the evolution of speech are in a tricky bind because, unlike bones or shells, spoken words leave no fossil imprints in the geological record. How do you study the development of something as insubstantial as a sound?

Luckily, there are physical structures we can study − the mouths that make those sounds. By comparing the vocal tract of humans and their close primate relatives, researchers can get a sense of which particular traits were necessary for the emergence of speech. They might even identify physical characteristics that would have impeded it.

Speech “engages anatomical traits that might leave fossil clues, as well as overt anatomical, physiological, and behavioral aspects for which parallels can be sought in living primates,” the study authors wrote.

In large part, human speech uses vowels as the kernel of a sound and places consonants around those vowels. So the number of different vowels you can make is important, because it means you can make a greater variety of potentially meaningful chunks of sound.

Think about “cat,” “kit,” “cut,” “coat,” “coot,” “keet,” and “caught” − seven words with distinct meanings. Each has a “k” sound at the beginning and a “t” at the end; what separates them is their vowels. Without each of those subtly distinguishable vowels, English speakers wouldn’t be able to tell those words apart.

Languages have different inventories and patterns of vowel and consonant usage, but they all rely on roughly the same vocal tract shape. And for a long time, many researchers assumed that nonhuman primates couldn’t make vowel-like sounds because their larynxes (or voice boxes) sat much higher in the neck than human larynxes do. That assumption had major implications for theories on the emergence of language, which remains a uniquely human ability.

“This theory has often been used to buttress the theoretical claim of a recent date for language origin, e.g. 70,000-100,000 years ago,” the study authors explained. “It also diverted scientists' interests away from articulated sound in nonhuman primates as a potential homolog of human speech, and thus lent support to less direct explanations of language evolution, involving communicative gestures, complex cognitive or neural functions, or genetics.”

But recent research has begun to challenge that assumption about the larynx, the study authors wrote.

Lowered larynxes have been found in other animals that have no ability to make vowel sounds. And human babies, who have very high larynxes, can still generate the same vowel range as adults. Scientists have begun to realize, thanks to computer modeling work, that the movement and control of the tongue’s position is actually much more important in making vowel sounds than the height of the larynx.

To test this idea, a French-led team of scientists studied vocalizations from 15 Guinea baboons (12 females and three males) living in an outdoor enclosure at the National Center for Scientific Research’s primate center in Rousset-sur-Arc, France. They focused in particular on the half-hour before feeding, when the baboons were particularly vocal, and avoided recording during the dinner hour, when they were busy munching on their meals.

The scientists analyzed the recordings looking for “formants.” These are concentrations of acoustic energy around key frequencies in human speech, and their distribution is defined in part by the shape of our vocal tract.

The individual formants found in a vowel can tell you the configuration of the mouth that made it − for example, whether the lips are rounded, how high the tongue is, and whether the tongue is pushed forward toward the teeth or back in the mouth.

In human speech, each vowel has a particular blend of formants that make it a unique, easily identifiable sound.

The scientists focused on five types of baboon vocalizations that also appeared to feature formants − grunts, wahoos, barks, yaks and mating calls. After analyzing the 1,335 spontaneous vocalizations (and after splitting the wahoos into their wa- and -hoo subunits), the researchers concluded that the recordings held 1,404 “vowel-like segments.”

The scientists also verified that the baboons were physically capable of making these sounds by dissecting and analyzing the tongues of two baboons who died of natural causes unrelated to the study. For the ability to make specific vowel-like sounds, it seemed that tongue position really was more important than the larynx’s height.

Many scientists have thought that human speech may have evolved recently − within the last 100,000 years or so. In part, that guess was based on the assumption that humans’ primate ancestors didn’t have vocal tracts that were physically capable of generating speech.

But the new findings show that this isn’t true: The ability to articulate vowel-like sounds, necessary for the development of human speech, was probably shared by the last common ancestor of both humans and baboons some 25 million years ago.

The scientists suggest that the ability to create distinct vowels using the vocal tract became more sophisticated over time in the ancestors of modern humans.

“Whatever the course of the emergence of language and speech, the evidence developed in this study does not support the hypothesis of the recent, sudden, and simultaneous appearance of language and speech in modern Homo sapiens,” they wrote.

The Los Angeles Times, Published: Jan 11, 2017 - 7:20 PM
Vowel sounds made by baboons show that the roots of human speech may go back 25 million years
By Amina Khan Contact Reporter
http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-baboons-speech-vowels-20170111-story.html

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the gap between the very rich and poor

WHAT a damning commentary on the international community, governments and businesses that the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men today owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people.

That’s according to anti-poverty organisation, Oxfam which released its findings last week at the dawn of the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

In fact, the gap between the very rich and poor is far greater than just a year ago, when the same report said that the richest 62 people on the planet owned as much wealth as the bottom half of the population.

And more alarmingly, the gap could be even greater given the shameless ability of the rich and powerful elites to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, vividly exposed last year in the so-called “Panama Papers,” which revealed details on offshore accounts that helped such individuals to shelter their wealth.

That gap, or economic inequality, is the difference found in various measures of economic well-being among individuals in a group, among groups in a population or among countries.

Economists generally focus on economic disparity in three metrics: wealth, income and consumption. However, the broader issue of inequality encompasses, among others. notions of equity; equality of access and ability to gainfully utilise opportunities, resources, benefits, amenities and services; the right to participate freely and fairly in the political and developmental processes; and equality before the law.

Leaders in all walks of life must recognize and genuinely address the issue of inequality in its widest sense - rather than pay lip-service and deceptively seek popularity and profit for themselves.

If not, Oxfam warns, public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes akin to last year’s election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

No country is spared from the throes of poverty. Globally, one in 10 people survive on less than USD$2 a day. That is almost 720 million, in this day and age, living in poverty!

And with the rapid spread of technology, information and access to literacy, any segment of a community or nation languishing under the weight of poverty is a sure recipe for fracturing our societies and undermining democracy itself.

Some additional measures to help reduce inequality are:

> Higher taxes on wealth and income to ensure a more level playing field;

> Funding investments in public infrastructure and services and to promote job creation especially through resources, incentives and support to micro, small and medium-enterprises;

> Enhancing greater female particiation in the economy, in particular in the service and high tech sectors;

> Increased public-private partnerships to boost business, more and better jobs and better facilities for the community;

> Greater cooperation among governments on ensuring workers are paid decently; and

> Business leaders should commit to paying their fair share of taxes and a living wage to employees.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 23 January 2017
A gulf of shameful economic inequality
By RUEBEN DUDLEY, Petaling Jaya

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Happy Chinese New Year!

KOH Kok Yong is 38 days older than me. We lived a kilometre a part.

His father owned a sundry shop in Pekan Parit Yusof, Muar. He has nine siblings; he is number two.

We went to Peserian Primary English School together in 1960. There were a few of us who attended English school at the time.

In fact, we were temporarily using a religious school before a proper school was built in Semerah.

Sarang Buaya, where the temporary school was situated, was flood-prone. When it rained and there was a high tide, the entire compound was flooded.

Teachers would then conduct classes by the roadside and classes were dismissed earlier. We prayed for floods every day.

There were an equal number of Malay and Chinese students in my class. Both Kok Yong and I were always at the bottom of our class.

After all, we went to an English school with only a handful of English words. Kok Yong was the mischievous one, popular among the classmates as the one who can solve any problem, the MacGyver of our time, except pertaining to studies.

Our classmate Koh Cheng Joo lived next to a Buddhist temple. His mother took care of the temple.

When the Wayang Cina (Chinese opera) troupe came to town, it meant extra money for Kok Yong and me.

We were always around after school helping the actors and stage hands to buy cigarettes and such.

I was assisting “Tupai” (literally squirrel), the lead performer. We never knew his real name.

He was an excellent performer with the right mannerisms, etiquette, style and voice to play either a decent lady (qingyi) or questionable ones (huadan). He was a good singer, too, and played many musical instruments including the yangqin (a string instrument), xialuo (the drum) and erhu (fiddle).

Life on stage was tough. Tupai went through hours of make-up to prepare him to play an empress or a dowager. Women characters were played mostly by men in Wayang Cina.

He was always grumpy, smoking and swearing non-stop during the make-up session. In sweltering heat, he needed someone to fan him. For 20 sen a session, I was the one with the big fan.

Tupai was a different person in front of his audience – engaging them with style and finesse, like a true dowager of the great era of Chinese empires.

Back then Wayang Cina or potehi was popular with the Malays, too.

TV was years away and Bangsawan (Malay opera) came probably once a year. Wayang Cina was entertainment for all.

The performances were less rigid. Dialogues were improvised and the language used was Hokkien with a mix of Malay, to appease the audience. How can I forget the beauty, stylisation, exaggeration and extravagance of the wayang?

In a small class like ours, there was no boundary and few differences. We were school boys and girls enjoying ourselves.

Religiosity had yet to rear its ugly head. We were living with each other harmoniously.

We realised our racial and religious differences but we accepted them as part of our lives.

I grew up among my kampung Chinese boys and girls who mostly went to a Chinese school. At Peserian I had Kok Yong, Cheng Joo, Poh Yong, Chin Hock and many others. We were in and out of their houses and they in ours at the slightest excuse. Those were better days in race relations. My early encounters with them shaped my perspective of unity in this country.

Like me, Kok Yong didn’t do too well in his MCE examinations. He went to Singapore to learn his trade in marine automation. It was hard work all the way. Many years later he set up his own company that deals with service, repair and maintenance. He seldom goes back to Parit Yusof. His father’s shop has closed. Only one of his siblings is still staying there.

Kok Yong spends more time in Johor Baru now. We meet occasionally, trying to trace our friends, many of whom we have not met since 1970.

We are all greying now. Some of our classmates have passed away. Age is taking its toll on everyone.

Some, like Kok Yong, are still soldiering on; others are pensioners and a few have illnesses of all kinds. We do keep in touch, and of late, thanks to WhatsApp, we have a small group from the Class of ’60.

At least that keeps us abreast of each other’s news. And we are still playful like we were many decades ago. Some have understandably gone religious. But that has not stopped us from talking about almost everything under the sun, without fear or favour.

And more importantly, reminiscing about the time we were young and happy, free of encumbrances, enjoying ourselves tremendously without even thinking what race we belonged to or what religion we professed. How things have changed around us.

Like many among our generation we are asking what actually went wrong. Decades after Independence, we should be a cohesive entity of Malaysians as expected by our founding fathers. Yet, we are playing racial politics and appeasing the gallery and championing our respective “causes”. Which is a pity.

It is futile to find fault now. It is about moving forward.

Kok Yong will not be back to his birthplace this Chinese New Year.

But I am sure he has fond memories of what Chinese New Year meant for his classmates back then. It was always a joyous time among friends of all races.

To all my Chinese readers, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

The Star, Published: Monday, 23 January 2017
Of years living together as friends
By JOHAN JAAFFAR
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/the-bowerbird-writes/2017/01/23/of-years-living-together-as-friends-the-writer-and-his-class-of-60-reminisce-about-the-harmony-of-th/

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2017年01月22日

Speak artfully

WAS there really a riot in Sabah in 1986 following the state election? Yes, there was, but it is so rarely talked about that the event is sometimes dubbed the Silent Riot.

Nadira Ilana, an independent filmmaker from Sabah, did not know about it either until she heard a vague mention by a family member sometime in 2012. She was then 25.

When she asked older members of her family about it, they were initially nonchalant. Only when they began retelling the story did something seem to awaken in them, she says.

“It feels amazing to me how people had never talked about it before then,” she says.

She later turned her research into a documentary on the riot, which erupted in March 1986 in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan in Sabah following a turbulent state election in the previous year.

Her film, Silent Riot, won the top award at the Freedom Film Festival organised in 2012 by Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (Komas), a Kuala Lumpur-based non-governmental organisation (NGO). Screened numerous times since then, the film has been well received.

In 2015, after making several short films, Nadira filmed a documentary featuring a small village called Bongkud-Namaus in Ranau, Sabah. Big Stories, Small Towns, part of an Australian venture, premiered in March last year. Last month, she was working on Wilderness, a feature film set in Kota Kinabalu, which has the rare distinction of being a film about Sabah directed by a local.

Nadira, 29, is among the rising number of young-ish Borneans who have captured the public’s imagination with the way they are bringing forth previously untold stories of Sabah and Sarawak through art forms such as film, handicrafts, photography and music.

Since Malaysia was formed through the merger of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak (and briefly Singapore) in 1963, the Bornean side has largely been invisible in the Malaysian narrative, officially or otherwise. It is barely featured, other than in tourist literature, partly because of its geographical distance; there is also a lack of interest and familiarity.

It is only in recent years that Bornean voices are being heard much more, through the likes of Nadira, Sabahan artist Yee I-Lann, woodcut printing artists’ collective Pangrok Sulap, Sarawakian musician-artist Alena Murang and handicraft group Tamu Tamu Collective, as well as many others.

Their works are diverse. Pangrok Sulap, for instance, takes an overtly sociopolitical focus, often incorporating themes such as economic and social injustice in their wonderfully intricate woodcut prints. Pangrok means “punk rock”, while Sulap refers to a hut usually used as a resting place by farmers.

Others tell stories of their homeland – Alena through the sape or traditional lute, and Tamu Tamu through handicrafts that incorporate heritage arts.

While the stories might appear to be simple, they push forward the unmistakable message that Malaysia is much bigger than the Malay-Chinese-Indian triumvirate that dominates the standard narrative but mostly reflects the social, economic and political life of peninsular Malaysia.

“It challenges the long-held concept of the Malaysian identity that is peninsula-centric, and ideas that many grew up with. Suddenly, all these Borneans are saying, ‘look, we are here, too’,” says Nadira.

With their thought-provoking works, these artists have captured considerable attention in peninsular Malaysia, also referred to as West Malaysia, and are often invited to show their works here.

In a way, this has helped to get a conversation going between the two halves of Malaysia, which are separated by more than just the South China Sea. As law lecturer Azmi Sharom, an associate professor at Universiti Malaya, notes: “Peninsular and Borneo Malaysia are, in many ways, also emotionally separated.” (Dr Azmi writes the fortnightly Brave New World column in The Star.)

“We have a lot of frustration and closeted feelings here,” Nadira says. “But it’s not easy to highlight the inequality between West and East Malaysia without feeling like we are also antagonising West Malaysians.”

Things changed when Sabah and Sarawak were suddenly thrust into the limelight as political king-makers following the turbulent 2008 general election – their votes were what helped to keep Barisan Nasional afloat, then and now. With this, interest in all things Borneo surged, and it suddenly found greater space in the media, both mainstream and alternative. And its artists gained a new platform.

Dr Azmi notes that NGOs such as Komas, which funded Nadira’s Silent Riot, and organisers of independent arts festivals and other events play a significant role in providing a platform for Bornean voices to be heard through the arts.

Another example is the Borneo Art Collective, which helps promote the work of Nadira and Pangrok Sulap. The organisation plans to explore and document Borneo’s art and cultural heritage via a 1,500km road trip through Borneo this year, and is seeking to raise £3,000 (RM16,000) for the project through kickstarter.com.

Political analyst Arnold Puyok, from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s social science faculty, says the young and creative have led the way because of their generally wider exposure to higher standards of good governance in other countries, gained through greater travel and education as well as social media.

Their youthful idealism is also accompanied by a spirit of experimentation and creativity that can get messages across in ways that stand out.

Pangrok Sulap has become a popular fixture at Kuala Lumpur’s pop-up events, where it attracts many visitors who are drawn by the beauty of the works displayed and then become curious about the strong messages behind the woodcut prints.

One of its three members, Jerome Manjat, 32, always makes time to explain things to anyone who asks, having discovered that Borneo’s issues are generally unfamiliar to peninsular Malaysians.

The situation is a little bit better now. There is certainly a higher level of awareness here about Borneo, although perhaps it is still confined to those living in KL. The Federal Government has also pledged to relook the rights of Sabah and Sarawak, and has allocated much larger sums for their development.

But Jerome hopes it will go beyond that. He notes that, while people might know more about Sabah (and Sarawak) now, they also think “oh, well, that’s in Sabah (or Sarawak)”.

Dr Azmi agrees. “To a West Malaysian, Sabah and Sarawak are so far away,” he says.

“There’s still a great sense of separation among the people, who don’t relate to each other emotionally.”

A small start has been made, but progress is slow, with as many steps backwards as forwards.

Sometimes, some peninsular Malaysians are annoyed when these artists insist that the Bornean perspective should be heard. They feel that such views are divisive.

But Nadira does not see it that way. “If anything, I want the idea of Malaysia to be fully realised. We have our own Borneo identity – we don’t want to have to trade that to fit into someone else’s idea of what it means to be Malaysian.

“But that doesn’t make us love this country or our countrymen less,” she says.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 22 January 2017

Speaking artfully

Peninsular Malaysia is paying more attention to Sabah and Sarawak – and not only for political reasons. Artists from those states are reaching out to new audiences to tell stories of the‘other Malaysia'.

By CAROLYN HONG − The Straits Times
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/22/speaking-artfully-peninsular-malaysia-is-paying-more-attention-to-sabah-and-sarawak-and-not-only-fo/

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A clarion call to defend global order

WITH the clock ticking down on his last 48 hours in office, Joe Biden delivered a rallying call to government and business leaders in Davos to keep up their fight to defend the liberal global economic and political order that has come under pressure from populist challengers in recent months.

Leaders in Western countries, led by the United States, had to defend the liberal global order that their forefathers had shown “foresight, audacity and big-heartedness” in building. Institutions and initiatives such as the United Nations, Nato, the European Union, Marshall Plan and Bretton Woods had helped secure the decades of peace and prosperity that the world has enjoyed, the then US Vice-President told his audience at the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently.

Urging leaders not to lose sight of the years of effort it took to build these institutions and foster the community of values that underpinned them, he added that leaders in the West “could not wait for others to write the future they want to see”.

They should reject the impulse to “hunker down, shut the gates, build walls, exit at this moment”, in the face of challenges thrown up by globalisation, from growing income inequalities to a deepening sense of insecurity among voters that the system would deliver on the promise of better lives for their children, he said.

Noting the unease felt around the world following recent events, he addressed the Republican elephant that has been hanging about the WEF’s cavernous Congress Hall for the past two days. Although he insisted his remarks were not directed at the then upcoming Donald Trump administration - mention of which prompted a loud boo from someone in the crowd - he set out in plain terms what he thought the world wanted to see from an American leadership.

As is his style, he did not mince his words. He pointedly called out Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, he said, “has a different vision of the future”.

He charged that Putin was behind cyber attacks and misinformation to influence electoral outcomes in Western democracies, including the recent US elections. He said the Russian leader also aimed to undermine Western alliances like Nato, seeking instead to build a world divided into spheres of influence where regional players, like Russia, would hold sway.

The US, for its part, had stood for an international order where countries were free to decide their own futures and associate with others as they saw fit.

“That was our position, is our position, and should be our position,” Biden asserted, noting that he had chosen to deliver his last speech in Davos, in much the same vein as he had set out the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda in Europe, in a speech in Munich, soon after taking office eight years ago.

These were welcome words for the crowd gathered in this Swiss Alpine resort for the annual WEF meeting, who gave him a standing ovation. There was a note of wistfulness about the passing of the baton to a new team in the US whose commitment to the liberal order seems in doubt, following recent remarks by incoming president Trump, who has called Nato “obsolete” and the EU a “vehicle for Germany”.

Just as disconcertingly for observers in Asia, he has said he was ready to bargain with Beijing over the US’ one-China policy, and also seemed headed for a confrontation with China over trade.

Against this backdrop, it was little wonder that, a day earlier, delegates here had clung to the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hit all the right notes in voicing his support for the liberal economic order.

In a speech on Tuesday, Xi rejected protectionism, urged against a “trade war in which there are no winners”, and pledged that China would keep its economy open to the world.

It was pointless blaming globalisation for economic challenges, he said, as this was “not the case, and would not solve the problems”. He also likened protectionism to shutting oneself in a dark room, which might keep out the wind and the rain but also block out the sunshine.

He went on to outline China’s proposals for collaborative projects, from its much vaunted One-Belt-One-Road initiative to foster trade links between Asia and the West, to long overdue structural reforms to “Western- centred” international institutions.

Xi made history by being the first president of China to address the WEF, which rolled out the red carpet for him. He was given top billing for a keynote address on Day One of the week-long conference. He later also witnessed the signing of a “strategic partnership” between China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the WEF to deepen their collaboration over the next 10 years.

Responding to Xi, WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab hailed his address as a “very important speech at a historic time”. He welcomed China’s efforts to support, as well as reform, the present institutional system and be a “driving force in the world for globalisation”.

Schwab’s sentiments seemed to be shared by delegates, many of whom appeared delighted at the Chinese leader’s robust defence of globalisation at a time when some of its usual champions in Washington and the West seem to have lost faith in the project.

There have been, after all, many calls from these quarters for China to pitch in to uphold the rules-based system that has enabled it to make such rapid progress through international trade and economic co-operation.

The irony, however, of the liberal capitalist order being given a much-needed booster shot by the leader of a nominally Communist state, once itself deeply suspicious about signing up to it, was not lost on delegates.

In discussions afterwards, there were some sceptical voices raised about what a “globalisation with Chinese characteristics” might entail for the world.

Which explains why Biden’s farewell speech was such a hit with the crowd. With a new US leader just sworn in, just as proceedings here will be winding down, many remain deeply unsure if the clock was not also winding down on the globalisation project they have long supported, and benefited from.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 22 January 2017
A clarion call to defend global order
By The Straits Times
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/01/22/a-clarion-call-to-defend-global-order-government-and-business-leaders-were-urged-to-stand-up-for-lib/

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Do not say NO to our future

“YOU can be unhappy with Malaysia today, but this should not stop us from building a better future.”

During a dinner gathering with the media, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin set the tone for the 2050 National Transformation (TN50) narrative.

From his body language, I could see his powerful passion for this project and expectations for the future.

Among so many of our government leaders, Khairy is perhaps the most qualified minister to talk about a “future”.

He is young, only 41, and has a long time in government service to look forward to compared with others.

The mandate given to him to lead the TN50 initiative shows Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s faith in him.

Actually, Khairy conceived TN50 and it was later adopted by the Prime Minister.

As such, TN50 could be said to be Khairy’s “baby”.

“TN50 wants to lead the nation to transformation, not just economic expansion, and explore future development, such as the needs in areas like environmental protection, population ageing, public transportation, employment and manpower.

“For example, automation will take over human labour, reducing job opportunities in the future.

“What if our young people become jobless?

“Our life span is getting longer and the population ageing problem is becoming increasingly serious.

“How are we going to cater to the needs of our senior citizens?

“How are we going to maintain a healthy lifestyle if the quality of our environment and medical care declines?”

How is the country going to deal with problems of the future?

To be frank, we aren’t that much different from any other country in the world.

Some of these problems have already occurred in other countries.

Population ageing in Japan has taken a heavy toll on its development while many young people are jobless in Europe as a result of economic transformation.

All these issues will inevitably crop up in our country’s future.

But the thing is, Malaysians seem to be indifferent to the dramatic changes now taking place in the rest of the world, but have instead engrossed ourselves in non-stop arguments over domestic issues, in particular ethnic and religious controversies.

Sure enough, this is what we have to come to terms with in a multi-cultural society.

I asked Khairy whether TN50 would deliberate the racial and religious issues Malaysians have not been able to agree on for decades.

“We can’t evade such issues. TN50 will look into these aspects.

“We will adopt a different approach, and try to be more accommodating and focus on what we all have agreed on.

“Our objective is to think for our future so that we can move on towards the future and discuss with sound reasoning and wisdom.”

During Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Japan in 1978, he was asked how to resolve the Diaoyu Islands conflict (China and Japan were battling for control over the islands).

Deng replied, “Our generation lacks the wisdom such that we cannot strike an accord on this issue.

“Our future generations will be more intelligent than us and they will certainly find a solution acceptable to all.”

Perhaps Deng’s method can be applied to our own racial and religious problems.

Let’s put all the arguments aside for the time being and concentrate on the country’s development, especially its economy, the people’s living standards and the environment.

This is where TN50 can come into play.

Once the country has developed to the level of developed nations and when most of our people are in the middle class, we will become more accommodating and mature in thinking. Racial and religious controversies will then be watered down.

While many of us have a lot to grumble about and have grown disenchanted with Vision 2020 or 1Malaysia, please don’t kill our hopes for the future.

TN50 is a future national framework formed out of discussions among individuals, experts and the Government.

Whether you like it or not, you must not stay out of it completely.

The younger generation of Chinese Malaysians, in particular, should make an effort to actively participate in and discuss it through all the various channels available.

This is the future we all will embrace.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 22 January 2017

Do not say ‘no’ to our future

It’s the younger generation that has to embrace the way forward. Let us put aside arguments and concentrate on the country’s development especially its economy and living standards.

By TAY TIAN YAN − Sin Chew Daily
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/22/do-not-say-no-to-our-future-its-the-younger-generation-that-has-to-embrace-the-way-forward-let-us-pu/

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It's good to laugh at life.

At the time of writing, former architect-turned-cartoonist Charles “Chaz” Hutton has over 163,000 followers on his Instagram account (@instachaaz), all eager to see what sketches he will come up with next – on sticky notes.

Chaz was encouraged by friends to share his hilarious, bite-sized musings online and, after amassing a huge number of social media fans, the London-based Australian has published a book, A Sticky Note Guide To Life (HarperCollins). The book contains hundreds of relatable drawings across a number of themes such as work, home, and technology, providing large doses of laughter with each page turn.

In an e-mail interview with Star2, Chaz tells us how his ideas and book came about, and gives his reaction to the incredible popularity of his work, which began as a means to “waste as much time as possible” in his former 9-5 job.

Anyone who buys this book thinking it’ll guide them through life will likely feel lost (though heartily amused!) by page 10. How would you describe your book?

I’d like to point out that I willingly jettison that “guide to life” claim within the first paragraph of the first page! While people might indeed feel “lost” by page 10, I do hope they’ll at least feel like they’re not the only ones who are lost.

Most of the drawings deal with the kind of day-to-day mundanity that we all encounter; to know that you’re not the only one encountering it can sometimes be quite cathartic, I think.

What was the inspiration behind your drawings? How did it all start?

My own experiences serve as most of the inspiration. Conversations that touched on subjects would then become graphical representations, and Post-It notes just seemed to be the closest thing at hand on which to draw them. The Instagram started after a few friends convinced me to start putting those drawings onto an Instagram. I told them it was a terrible idea and that nothing would come of it.

When did you realise your collection of sketches could be made into a book?

When some publishers e-mailed me and said they thought my collection of sketches could be made into a book, haha.

How long does it take you to come up with your ideas? Do you sketch one at a time, or do they come in batches?

Some of them come to me quickly and I can get them onto paper in 10 minutes or so. Others will loiter around in my mind for months at a time before I eventually figure out how to get them to work.

Your social media has gained an incredible following and reaction to your work. Did you ever expect it to reach such heights?

Absolutely not. I thought 5,000 followers was pretty amazing when I got there, so the number of followers now is a little overwhelming to say the least.

You’ve mentioned previously that you moved from Melbourne to London to escape having to be beholden to any major responsibilities – are you really a grand master of procrastination?

I don’t know if it was a means of escaping responsibility. My thought process at the time was that, if you’re in a stable job and a comfortable place, nothing really happens. However, if you throw yourself into an unfamiliar environment with no job, then interesting stuff will probably happen to you.

(As it turns out, this is not the case – in actual fact, you spend a lot of time living in relative poverty with no friends.)

In your introduction, you mention that your book offers a lot of “general idiocy”, which trumps any good advice which we probably wouldn’t take anyway. Why do you think we struggle so much to get to grips with everyday life?

The whole idea of Generation Y or millennials having existential crises and “struggling at life” is actually a myth. While it’s certainly harder to get ahead thanks to the cost of higher education and the housing market (a gripe for another time) now, the idea that we’re all suffering some kind of inability to grow up is a misguided one.

I think that’s just a standard human trait, on a par with going grey or the fact that you can’t deal with hangovers quite as well as you used to. Everyone feels those doubts, or anxiety and general fear, and anyone who claims they don’t is probably lying.Why do we feel it’s a larger question? I guess the world is a much bigger place than it used to be, and thanks to the Internet you’ve now got access to a larger pool of people in the world with which to compare yourself, and ultimately feel like you’re “failing” in comparison.

When I was growing up, architecture seemed like an awesome career to have – one of the more grown-up, responsible choices that meant you could shop in fancy supermarkets. It looks like you got plenty of support on your decision to focus on your sketch-drawing at the expense of your career. Was there any point you thought that it might be a crazy path to take?

Architecture is one of the few careers to have all the appearances of being a well-paid, respectable job – while not possessing any of those qualities. In actual fact, it’s generally a low-paying slog of a job, which, if you’ve got the tenacity to deal with, can result in some amazingly rewarding work.

However, I never really had that commitment to it so, if anything, discovering I could get paid drawing nonsense on Post-It notes was more of a relief than anything else.

Do you have any plans to create a themed series of “Sticky Note” guides (eg, surviving networking events, navigating first dates)?

I do actually! I’m in the early stages of trying to put together a weekly newsletter e-mail that would be a themed take on a subject. (You can sign up for it at tinyurl.com/star2-chaz.)

Now that you have a completed book and an impressive following, do your friends (to whom you insisted nothing would come of your sketches) gloat much or take the opportunity to say “We told you so”? Also, have you felt obliged to shout them a few drinks following your success?

Funnily enough, they’ve never once said “I told you so”, but rather continue to suggest other things I should be doing which, given their advice to date, I should probably listen to. As for buying them drinks, all the drinks in the world wouldn’t be payment enough! (But I’ll try.)

Star2, Published: JANUARY 22, 2017
Hilarious ‘guide’ to life – on sticky notes
By SANDY CLARKE
http://www.star2.com/culture/books/book-news/2017/01/22/hilarious-guide-to-life-on-sticky-notes/#iMGwY1Qh050pPEgx.99

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The best healthcare system

A recent article in a foreign magazine named Malaysia as one of four countries having “the best healthcare” in the world.

The story, which also said we had some of the region’s “best-trained doctors”, was highlighted by the health minister, who naturally welcomed the recognition.

I know of others, though, journalists included, who were rather incredulous. “Best” is certainly contentious, especially from the view of waiting lines in unglamorous public hospitals. But then, the article was written from the angle of medical tourism (and based on the affordability of medical procedures).

I wade warily into these waters because the subject of healthcare can be bewilderingly complex and politically explosive. But we need to set the record straight. Malaysia does have a darned good healthcare system. For those who think otherwise, go spend some time in other middle-income countries. It’s all relative, of course, so don’t compare us with a rich nation.

The numbers, though, don’t lie. Our health indicators – which provide benchmarks on health system performance – are pretty good, some even on par with developed nations. Our maternal and child mortality rates are so impressive that Malaysia is considered a model for other developing countries. The chance of a woman dying from childbirth has drastically dropped since Independence, from more than 500 deaths per 100,000 live births compared with less than 30 today (which ranks us pretty close to the United States).

In terms of the health system itself, we also do well, going by indicators set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). People usually can get care, and decent care, at an affordable rate. The poor usually don’t go broke paying for treatment. And we roughly spend the recommended proportion (though perhaps a little on the low side) of our GDP on healthcare.

In a 2013 report on universal health coverage, the international poverty reduction organisation Oxfam cites Malaysia as a success story. The health systems of Malaysia and Sri Lanka “provide citizens with some of the highest levels of financial risk protection in Asia”, it says. Now this is Oxfam, mind you, a leading global charity, not some expat magazine.

An awful lot of people in this world fall into poverty paying for healthcare. According to Oxfam, some 100 million – or three people every second – become poor this way. This doesn’t just happen in India or China but even in the United States. This is why providing affordable healthcare is important to end poverty.

Of course, our healthcare system is far from flawless. There’s plenty of room for improvement – in, for example, waiting times, quality of services, and infection control. The system is overloaded, and a growing private sector has emerged. Which means we’re heading into a divided system, where the rich get private care and the poor get public care. Also, specialists are leaving the public sector for the private sector. And many people paying for private care directly from their own funds. These “out-of-pocket” costs are worrying, because that’s what pushes people into debt and poverty.

In the long-term, as the population ages and lifestyle diseases increase, our current system looks rather fragile. The Government is actually already weighing future options and studying healthcare systems in other countries. It’s a huge task.

Perhaps, though, we need to also turn the whole system on its head. Rather than focus at the top end of care in hospitals, we should look at how to prevent not treat disease.

“We have done well in structure and systems”, but we need to shift to preventive care where “way of life is key”, says former Universiti Sains Malaysia vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, who has been an advisor to the WHO on drug policy.

To do this will require empowering people and communities to govern their own health through education, he says. This would apply to lifestyle diseases and drug use, and even dengue, which requires community engagement to prevent it.

That’s right, people, it’s up to us. The “best” healthcare system is one that involves you and me. It hasn’t happened yet. But it will do, it has to, in the future.

The Star2, Published: JANUARY 22, 2017
Does Malaysia really have the best healthcare?
By MANGAI BALASEGARAM
http://www.star2.com/living/viewpoints/2017/01/22/healthcare-its-up-to-you-and-me/

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We all (should) know nothing.

Because 2016 was the year of fake news, a trend which seems to be continuing into 2017, I have to ask the question that, basically, we’re all thinking: Are people getting dumber?

That seems a bit harsh to conclude but how else can you explain people hearing the fake news of Hillary Clinton running a paedophile ring out of a pizza shop – a “story” that sounds more like a bad sketch on Saturday Night Live than actual news – and sharing this false news on the Internet until eventually one poor sad-sack believer of this fakeness got worked into such a frenzy that he went into said pizza shop and shot the place up because he wanted to save the children. Yes, this happened. (Thankfully, no one was injured.)

My immediate reaction is that people must be getting dumber. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. I’m citing only one person who acted out, but keep in mind millions of people shared and liked similar fake news that helped incite this lone-gunman-saviour-of-fake-children-that-never-existed. This is a problem.

Are we getting dumber?

Some researchers think so.

An Icelandic study reported in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week says we might be headed on a “downwards spiral into imbecility” (props to science editor Ian Sample for that phrasing). Researchers at deCODE, a genetics firm in Reykjavik, identified “education genes”, genes that predispose humans to becoming more educated, and noted that there has been a decline over the past 65 years – meaning that the genes that make us want to get educated are becoming rarer.

The study went on to hypothesise that the reason this education gene is becoming less prevalent is that educated people have fewer children. This phenomenon, which has been noted numerous times and is the basis for the 2006 film Idiocracy (which becomes more relevant now as a possible window into a future fake news could create) is known as dysgenic fertility. Dysgenic fertility, of course, being a fancy term for “smarter people have fewer kids”.

The reasoning goes that smarter people expend more energy on creative and industrious pursuits and thus have less energy for having children. If this is true, what would happen is that the brightest people over time would be passing on their genes at a lower rate than the less intelligent, resulting in a dumbing down of the population over time.

Is there any proof of this?

Possibly. One study states that IQs have declined by over 13 points between 1889 to 2004. The study does note that the late 1880s, or the Victorian era, was marked by innovation and genius so maybe we shouldn’t feel bad being dumber than that bunch. Ever seen a Victorian period piece? Those folks sound uber intelligent.

But if we’re going to talk about declining IQs it’s worth discussing the range of IQs.

Basically, an IQ of around 70 would be on the low end of intelligence and an IQ of 160 is Einstein. Literally. Einstein’s IQ was 160. An average IQ is between 90 and 110. If you’re over 120 you’re considered bright, over 130 gifted, and over 145 – congratulations, you’re a genius.

(In an aside, I did numerous IQ tests and didn’t score over 145. My stupidity ensues. So I did more and more online IQ tests and found my score rising as I got used to the sort of questions asked in the tests. Does that mean I was getting smarter? Nope. Just means I was getting better at answering those kinds of questions.)

But the legitimacy of IQ as an accurate measure of intelligence aside, it certainly could be perceived that humans are getting dumber in the long run.

Does this mean we’re headed for a world where the new news is simply a collection of reports that people want to hear?

I hope not.

One explanation for the proliferation of fake news is a human blind spot known as the “knowledge illusion”, meaning “people are ignorant of their own ignorance”. to look something up means you need to realise that you don’t already know the answer.

In addition, fake news is more likely to be accepted if it fits an individual’s world view. That is, if you want to believe Hillary Clinton is abusing children in a pizza parlour, you’ll believe it; or, by contrast, if you want to believe Donald Trump is paying prostitutes to soil a bed because that’s how he rolls, you’ll believe that too.

I guess it all comes back to Socrates and his search for the smartest person on the planet, a search that ended with himself, which seems a little narcissistic but ultimately isn’t as bad as it sounds: After talking with leaders and scholars of his day who all claimed to know everything, he concluded he was the wisest because “I know one thing, and that is, I know nothing”.

Wise words, especially in this era of post truth.

The Star2, Published: JANUARY 22, 2017
Science is telling us that we’re getting dumber
By JASON GODFREY
http://www.star2.com/living/viewpoints/2017/01/22/were-getting-dumber-the-scientists-say-so/

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Penmanship

I had told my old friend Dilla that I would not be free that Saturday afternoon but her voice over the phone was almost pitifully pleading and so I said that I would meet her for tea.

When I arrived at the restaurant where we usually met, I saw her sitting in the darkest corner studying her cup of tea. There was a worried look on her face and the usual animated ‘greeting’ smile was missing.

“So what’s wrong,” I asked her as she stirred the plastic spoon in her almost empty cup.

It took a few minutes of persuasion and another teh tarik before she finally said: “It’s no use. It’s getting worse all the time. There’s no way back for sure. It’s all over for me.”

“What are you talking about?” I was seriously alarmed by now.

“I’ve forgotten how to write. I’ve said it out aloud. It’s slipping away, my ability to write. Soon it will be gone, all gone.”

“And I will become like the rest of you, tap -tapping all day on the computer, forming impersonal letters, uninspired boringly perfect, machine-produced strokes.”

It turned out that after a long period of only typing on the computer for all her writing purposes, Dilla had tried to personalise some greeting cards by hand with a pen.

To her utter dismay, despite her best attempts, her handwritten messages had come out sloppy and untidy. This was somewhat of a blow to Dilla who had always prided herself on her penmanship.

She had always had beautiful handwriting – in fact she had the best handwriting I had ever seen. Her handwritten name-lists in the students’ register was a joy to behold. “It’s practically an art-piece,” we used to joke. “You should frame it up.” Getting a handwritten card or message from her was an experience in itself.

The way Dilla made the letters of your name swirl and came together perfectly against the white paper background, made your name seem all the more important to you.

But with the advent of the digital age, all the writing that needed to be done by teachers slowly began to be taken over by typing on the computer keyboard. There began to be less need for manuscripts or for teachers to write anything by hand.

And just like many other skills that lose their touch due to lack of practice, Dilla’s wonderful penmanship skills began to suffer.

Come to think of it, I had been wondering why her writing on the greeting card she had sent me this year was not up to her usual standard.

“Hmm ...” I said. I couldn’t think of saying anything else.

“Hmm? That’s all you can say? How would you feel if one day you woke up and found that you couldn’t do something you used to do so well anymore?”

She was still upset so I assured her that whatever else happened and even if the skill of writing by hand became completely out of style and outdated, she would, in my opinion, still remain the best of all.

“And look,” I said, “ one day when all of us have forgotten how to write by hand, perhaps forgotten even how to hold a pen, then you will be famous. You will be a celebrity. People will clamour for writing lessons from you, for penmanship, the lost art. You will go down in history as the teacher who had the most beautiful handwriting.

“Imagine how proud I will be when I tell everyone that you are my friend. In fact, pieces of your work may become much sought after collectors’ items. In fact, why don’t you write something on this paper napkin right here. Twenty years from now I could sell it and make a fortune.”

“Very funny,” Dilla said frowning at me, but I could see that she was feeling better.

Penmanship had never been my forte in primary school. Way back then we had report cards that folded in the middle and were actually made from manila card. Those thin cards were very often absolutely the most frightening school-related object.

In our term reports, apart from the grades for subjects like English and Mathematics, there was also a separate section for ‘writing’ which actually referred to penmanship – a column in which I achieved a consistent “C” grade.

I could never get those cursive letters right, not like Jenny, the girl next to me who made beautiful cursive letters that just flowed into each other with her finely sharpened 2B pencil. My page in contrast was full of smudges, eraser marks and occasionally a hole in the paper if I had erased a little too hard. My parents, though not thrilled with my “C” for writing, were not too upset as long as I got “As” for all the other subjects. As the years passed and we went on to secondary school, to my glorious joy, cursive writing was not such a big deal anymore and our teachers didn’t mind what form we used as long as it was reasonably neat and legible. But I must say that my handwriting did improve after all the penmanship exercises I had to endure in primary school.

When you think about it, it is strange how so many skills that were once considered an absolutely essential part of learning are not as relevant anymore.

Like Dilla, sometimes you may wonder what to do with all those skills.

I think of some of the best teachers I have known who used teaching methods that would by today’s standards be considered teacher-centred and incompatible with students’ needs. Yet, they inspired many students deeply and made huge impacts in their lives. The times have changed, to be sure and yes, we need to be relevant and keep up with the pace of all that’s happening around us.

But at times I can’t help thinking that surely there must be a place or situation where those “antiquated” teaching methods are still applicable and where they are still worth something. Just like cursive writing and penmanship exercises.

“Hey Dilla,” I said just before we left. “I read this somewhere. Did you know that writing something down by hand stimulates your brain? So going by that, you must be a really smart person. What do you think of that? Dilla, Dilla, “ I called after her but she pretended not to hear.

The StarEducate, Published: Sunday, 22 January 2017

An almost forgotten art

There was a time when learners were graded for good handwriting which was essential, but times have changed and such skills aren’t necessary. Still, they are relevant and applicable in some situations today.

By DR G. MALLIKA VASUGI
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/01/22/an-almost-forgotten-art/

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Social worker

WE read the headlines: Wife runs away from home after years of abuse. Bruised toddler warded. Aged parent found abandoned at bus terminal. These cases often become statistics of domestic abuse. But behind the figures are real people who need help to get on with life after their files are closed. Who can they turn to?

The social worker.

This group of people work quietly behind the scenes, helping victims and people in need deal with what has happened in their lives, adjusting and adapting to the changes and moving on in the best way possible.

Social workers often delve into the root of the problem affecting the victims, an approach that can sometimes place them in dangerous situations. But often, it is the daily things they do that help bring about marked changes.

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, a trustee of the Foundation for Community Studies and Development, believes that a child who is not doing his assignments and habitually late for school is a cause for concern. The school may send him to the discipline teacher or student counsellor, but often, the problem stems from home, he points out.

So, a social worker can step in here to visit the child’s family to find out more about what’s behind the child’s problems.

“It is not just about defining the problem from an individual point of view. They look at the bigger picture,” he says

Dr Jayasooria points out that people often underestimate the profession and assume that social work can be carried out by just anyone who has the time and is willing to lend a hand.

“(People think) all you need is compassion, like wanting to give the needy food. But we don’t just want to give them food, we want to empower them so they will be able to earn their own living.”

Such work utilises psychology and an understanding of human behaviour, and takes on a sociological approach: social workers understand the family and the society around him, and are able to analyse and look at structural problems.

And social problems in Malaysia, he adds, have been increasing, a situation that many link with the increasing rate of development.

Issues such as abuse, suicide, human trafficking, bulimia, paedophilia, terrorism, aneroxia and poverty are increasing by the day. Therefore the need for good social workers is more dire now than ever before.

More than a job

We often view social work as something done on a voluntary basis – caring people visiting homes or donating time and money to various organisations and causes.

But there is a small number of professional social workers, those who have chosen to pursue it full-time as their career. They may not get the same pay or recognition as those in many other jobs, but these people trudge on, hoping to make a difference in the lives of others and expecting nothing in return.

Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) secretary Elsie Lee stumbled into the social work field by chance when she was encouraged to do a diploma course in the field by her boss while working as a clerk at University Hospital in Universiti Malaya. Now over four decades on, she is still at it.

After graduating, Lee worked as a medical social worker at UH (now known as Universiti Malaya Medical Centre) for over 20 years, helping patients come to terms with their illness, treatment, disability and loss.

“I worked in different clinical areas and gained so much experience and knowledge and met all sorts of people,” she says.

Lee admits that although it was quite draining sometimes because she was dealing with patients and their problems every day, she has never let that dampen her spirit.

“I was blessed that I didn’t have the issues they had, so I felt I had to help them,” she says.

Hwa Hui-En, on the other hand, knew she wanted to be in this field since she was 18.

“When I was doing my A-levels in Singapore, I heard about someone studying social work and I was like, ‘Wow, you can study that?’” she says.

So she signed herself up and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science from the National University of Singapore in 2009, then worked at Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health for four years before returning to Malaysia.

Hwa has been with Malaysian Care, a Christian non-profit organisation that helps empower poor and needy communities irrespective of religion and ethnicity for over two years now and is currently working on rural development in Sabah. “I’ve always liked helping people and because of my Christian faith, I feel what I have received is free, so it’s meant to be shared,” she adds.

“Sometimes, you think you don’t really know what you are doing, then someone comes forward to say how the course has changed their lives.”

Among some of the projects she has been a part of is conducting financial literacy management courses to help people manage their funds and address issues that hamper saving, such as betting and overspending. “(These communities) have been living from hand to mouth their whole lives so they don’t really know how to help themselves. But after a while, the people who come for the course start to have hope that things can be different. Now, they are able to save and buy school bags for their children,” she says.

Lee has seen her share of success stories, citing battered women as an example.

These victims are constantly told that they are useless by their husbands and that they cannot survive on their own.

“Every time a battered woman comes in, they tell you the same old story. But the more you talk to them, they begin to realise they can do a lot of things and want a better life. Slowly, they gain the confidence and strength to eventually move on,” she shares.

We are not breaking up marriages, Lee quickly points out, and adds that if they want to remain in the relationship, they must know how to protect themselves. “We give them access to services that would help them gain a better understanding of their situation, such as lawyers who can inform them of their rights and legal options,” she says.

While it is easy to just ask them to leave their abusive husbands, social workers are trained not to impose their views onto others.

It has to be their decision because its their lives, explains Lee.

“We are taught not to judge and discriminate, and impose our values onto others. And when you have respect for an individual, they’ll respond,” says Lee.

Dr Jayasooria puts it another way: Social workers do not take over a person’s problem. They empower them to solve it on their own.

He notes that as the majority of the clientele are poor and come from marginalised communities, we tend to condone poor quality services when it comes to social work. Therefore, the need for professional training is crucial.

“Malaysia is at the stage of development where social workers can be key to the country’s transformation agenda. “They are there, but they are not recognised,” Dr Jayasooria says.

But there is not enough help going around and a lot of concerns are not being addressed, Hwa says. She believes that a lot of young people would like to make a difference but are held back by family members who might not look at social work as an appropriate job.

“In Singapore, for example, social work is mostly tied to the government so they generally have better resources and are more organised. The salary there is better as well. But I get very sad when I see Malaysian social workers going there to work because we have so many more problems here,” she says.

On why she does it, Hwa says that the most fullfilling thing about a job in the social work field is seeing lives being changed and seeing the strength and resilience in people.

“It’s a privilege when people share their stories with you,” she adds.

The StarEducate, Published: Sunday, 22 January 2017

An understanding of human behaviour

Social work is more than compassion and kindness as there is a need for theoretical and procedural knowledge, and an understanding of the field.

By OOI MAY SIM
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/01/22/an-understanding-of-human-behaviour/


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2017年01月21日

“literary legacy”

The blogosphere has been awash this month with reviews of Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Silence. The film represents a powerful reworking of the novel of the same name by the Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo and I, for one, shall never forget one of my first meetings with the author.

It was towards the end of 1994. Following weeks of speculation that this was somehow Japan’s year to win the Nobel Prize for Literature – with Endo and Kenzaburo Oe, his contemporary on the literary scene, as the overwhelming favourites – the announcement had just been made that the award had gone to Oe. I had had a few dealings with Endo during the course of my attempts to translate two of his lesser-known novels, but I could not help but be impressed by the typical good grace with which he took the decision. And, given the fact that he had also recently been confronted with a terminal medical diagnosis, our conversation soon turned to discussion of what might loosely be termed his “literary legacy”.

Endo had only recently published his final novel, Deep River (1993), at the time of our conversation – and this latest work had yet to garner the reviews that would ultimately place it on a pedestal with his early novel Silence (1966). He had also just come from a meeting with the director Martin Scorsese – and was happy to confirm that, in light of the author’s well-documented disapproval of Masahiro Shinoda’s earlier movie version of Silence (1971), Scorsese had agreed to create a new version of the novel for the screen.

More specifically, Endo was at pains to explain his displeasure with the way in which Shinoda had rendered the all-important fumie (crucifix) scene. This is the scene in which the protagonist Rodrigues, a Jesuit priest who slipped into Japan in the 1630s in open defiance of the prohibition on all preaching of the Christian gospel, is ultimately confronted with the order to step on a crucifix as an outward act of renunciation of his faith. He must do so not only to save his own life, but also those of the poor Japanese peasants who are being threatened with ongoing torture until their priest apostatises.

To Shinoda, Rodrigues’s decision to trample the crucifix represented a relatively straightforward act of apostasy – he saw Rodrigues as ultimately cracking under psychological pressure and renouncing all that his life to date had stood for. Shinoda chose to make this point by ending his movie with a portrayal of Rodrigues, the “fallen priest”, apparently living on following his renunciation of holy orders by taking the Japanese wife who is offered to him by the authorities as reward for his act of cooperation.

But Shinoda was not alone in this interpretation: much has been made of the fact that Pope Paul VI once urged his flock, in a sermon at Nagasaki cathedral shortly after publication of the novel, not to read Silence. He depicted the novel as tantamount to a vindication of blasphemy.

It is not difficult to see where such readings are coming from. The crucifix scene does indeed portray Rodrigues as terrified at the realisation that refusing to renounce his faith will lead to the murder of the Japanese peasants he had converted (even though, he is reliably informed, they have long since renounced the faith) and disturbed at the seeming absence of any kind of divine response to his desperate prayers. So when God appears to break his silence with the simple command that Rodrigues “trample!” on the crucifix that has been placed before him, the words on the page do seem to sanction an act of heresy.

But such a reading fails to do justice to the message between the lines. Endo was, after all, writing literature not theology. And, like Dostoevsky, Mauriac and so many other artists who have struggled to give voice to issues of faith in a literary work, he writes about doubt too, and hints that his protagonist is possessed of a more profound, more personal faith following his outward show of apostasy than before. Why else would Endo make a point of concluding this crucifix scene with a cock crowing – with all its overt resonance with the biblical account of Peter denying Christ three times, before going on to recognise the resurrected Christ and move into deeper relationship with him?

More significantly, Endo chooses to end his work not with the crucifix section (as it is all too often portrayed), but with a focus clearly on Rodrigues assailed with doubts, but agreeing to hear the confession – in his capacity as “the last priest in the land” – of his erstwhile betrayer, Kichijiro. The book ends some 30 years later, where we see Rodrigues, now renamed as Okada Sanemon, still deprived of his freedom by the authorities and still being forced to write formal documents renouncing his faith.

Scorsese has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that his movie does justice to the deep theological questions explored by Endo in the text. Far from committing a straightforward act of “heresy”, Scorsese’s Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) embodies the terrifying struggle between faith and doubt, a struggle with which Endo himself was familiar, and which arguably lies at the very heart of what it means to be human.

Endo’s Rodrigues can perhaps be described as one seeking to be faithful, seeking to make sense of life and faith in a complex and shifting world. My feeling is that, in seeking to capture this, Scorsese too has been faithful – to the text and to the deep questions within it. Suffice it to say that I can picture Endo looking down on Scorsese with a deep sense of gratitude for a job well done.


The Independent, PUblished: Tuesday 10 January 2017

Martin Scorsese's Silence: He has been faithful to Shusaku Endo's text and to the deep questions within it

Scorsese's latest film 'Silence' is admirably faithful to the original 1966 Japanese novel unlike Masahiro Shinoda’s earlier movie version in 1971

By Mark Williams, professor of Japanese studies, University of Leeds
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/martin-scorsese-silence-film-end-sh-saku-novel-adaptation-a7518086.html

Martin Scorsese’s Silence is a film about the purity of faith, its – for better or worse – unshakeability and its resilience to attack.

And no character in it possesses a devotion quite as ironclad as Mokichi, a villager whose strength sustains protagonist Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) for much of the film. Garfield and Adam Driver’s performances in their lead roles are very fine indeed, but it was that of Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays Mokichi, that had me transfixed during what is an incredibly intense viewing experience.

Mokichi, an impoverished villager in 17th century Japan, is an already broken man who is further broken as he is asked to renounce his faith. Creating him was a challenge and required a good deal of focus from Tsukamoto.

“While I was on set in Taiwan I never went sightseeing,” he tells me, “I was very stoic.

“A villager at that time would not have been eating well so I had to lose a lot of weight, plus speaking English [Shinya’s second language] while wearing a mouthpiece that made my teeth look worn was extremely difficult. But preparing my body in such a way really helped me shape my spirit and my mind into the character.”

Mokichi and Rodrigues form a strong bond in the film, and Tsukamoto knew it was important that he and Garfield do the same on set.

“I did my best to develop an intimate relationship with Andrew,” he recalls. “On set we were truly in character and even when the camera was on Andrew and only on the back of my head [for a close-up shot of Garfield] I really gave everything I had so that I might be able to really reach Andrew emotionally, because I understood that the connection between Mokichi and Rodrigues was very critical to the story.”

Tsukamoto is himself a prolific director and developed a strong cult following through his Tetsuo films, but he had no problem taking off his directing hat and firmly donning his acting one, as it were – especially for a director he admires as much as Scorsese, for whom Silence was a passion project.

“Marty was very tenacious on set,” he says, “he would do many takes until he was completely satisfied that all the cast members had given everything. It truly was a passion project, he was very passionate indeed.”

One of the film’s most brutal scenes (medium-sized spoilers ahead) sees Mokichi tied to a cross and subjected to the waves of the ocean until he is dead. While he was never in peril, Tsukamoto really was drilled by successive waves in what was a scary and demanding scene to shoot.

“For the low tide we shot at an actual ocean on a beach but for the high tide it would have been too dangerous so we filmed in a tank that can generate actual waves and control their height,” he explains.

“It was quite physically challenging because the waves were big as you see in the film and between the waves I had to figure out how to say the next line. It was a pretty terrifying scene to film.”

Faith might be absolutely central to Silence, but the actor-director believes it is very much an experience non-believers can learn and benefit from too.

“Silence really says something much bigger about humanity,” he muses. “Throughout the centuries there have always been people who bleed in certain religions or movements of thought and then there have always been people who have tried to persecute them through violence.

“It happened back then in Japan but it’s still happening today, so it feels like a warning. It brings a question to a modern audience by telling a story of a group of people who believed in something, who had strong faith, and people who tried to suppress them through force. So, I think it really does go beyond religion.”


The Independent, Published: Friday 13 January 2017

Shinya Tsukamoto interview: We spoke to the real star of Martin Scorsese’s Silence

The cult actor-director had to lose weight, toil in mud and be blasted by waves for his role

By Christopher Hooton
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/shinya-tsukamoto-interview-silence-mokichi-character-tetsuo-death-scene-martin-scorsese-a7525986.html

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Be happy and live longer

Sustained happiness in older age is linked to a longer life, a study has found.

The report, by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) at University College, London (UCL), claims that over-50s who experience feelings of satisfaction about their life are more likely to live to an older age.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, contradict those of a major study released a year ago, which found no link between happiness and long life.

At the time, Sir Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, said that “happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates.”

But the Director of the ELSA, Professor Andrew Steptoe, is confident in their results, and says the study is different from previous efforts because it examines a person's happiness over time, not just at one point in time, when the results “could be dependent on all sorts of circumstances.”

Older studies, he said, “used a very basic measure of happiness - ‘how happy are you? - on one occasion.”

To really understand how happiness affects you in your old age, he said, “you need these more detailed measures, focused on issues around wellbeing”.

The ELSA report asked four questions across a range of topics, on three separate occasions between 2002 and 2006. The questions covered a participant’s family life, social circle and their working life. It found the more participants claimed to have experienced “sustained wellbeing” over time, the lower their risk of death.

A quarter of participants in the study said that they experienced “no high levels of enjoyment of life” any of the three times they were asked. “These people never enjoy the things they do, or they rarely enjoy them,” Mr Steptoe said.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “It’s good news that maintaining a positive outlook can help us live longer, but it's sad that this report shows nearly a quarter of older people feel they have no enjoyment in their day to day life. We know that a chronic lack of social care support is making life a misery for millions of older people and more than 1.2 million older people are lonely. These issues have a major impact on people’s life expectancy as well as their happiness."

The study involved 9,365 participants, 1,310 of whom died during the study’s follow-up period. Compared with those who said they experience “no levels of high enjoyment,” there was a 17% reduction in overall mortality for those who said they experienced two such levels of satisfaction over the four years, and a 24% reduction for those who said they experienced three.

The Independent, Published: Wednesday 14 December 2016

Being happy makes you live longer, report claims

'People who don't experience much enjoyment are linked with higher mortality,’ study says

By Robert Trafford
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/bmj-study-happiness-makes-you-live-longer-wellbeing-mortality-a7472466.html

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Manglish getting more mangled

PETALING JAYA: “Before you cross the strict, use your ase”.

Understand that? Not likely, because even Manglish is getting mangled in Malaysia.

In case you’re wondering what the sentence means, it was a student wanting to say: “Before you cross the street, use your eyes.”

There are other examples.

“The school are so many teacher and friend. I can read the book in this school.”

“We in deed very conscent of student safety...” and “It is beyond our limit as it held at outside of campus”.

The last two were excerpts from a press release from the student representative council of a local university.

If local universities are that bad, one can figure that sentences churned out by secondary school students have left volunteer teachers horrified.

These teachers found that some students struggled to write their own name.

“Some even felt the need to produce their MyKad just to write their name and IC number. This shows that they have difficulty managing the alphabet and numbers,” said MYReaders government and external relations officer Alex Lim.

MYReaders is a non-profit organisation set up in 2015 to help many Malaysian students learn to read in English using a structured, research-based programme.

It has estimated that 10% of students in half the secondary schools are illiterate in English.

Lim said many of the students were reading at kindergarten level even while they are in upper secondary classes.

There were possibilities that some of these students faced learning difficulties such as dyslexia, he said.

“In a lot of cases, many of them just cannot read. This is more prevalent in the rural areas,” said Lim, who was a fellow with Teach For Malaysia.

Teach For Malaysia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that aims to end education inequity in the country by sending teachers to high-need schools.

He said having a low self-esteem affected the students greatly and they hated to be reminded that they cannot read.

Lim said one of the best remedial steps he had tried was to remove these students and tutor them one-on-one.

“In a group setting, they will just become more withdrawn. The best thing for them is peer tutoring. And that only works if the mentor is committed enough.

“Our vision is that students should be able to read,” he said, adding that our SPM and national syllabus required students to be able to answer comprehensive questions.

“Are they able to answer them? Are they able to even understand?”

Tay Sue Yen, who taught in an urban school, said most students were able to understand simple spoken English but were not able to spell or write in the language.

There was a lack of solid basic foundation in literacy at the primary school level, she said.

“The parents or guardians and the community also have low English literacy level. Besides, some classes are too big with more than 40 students,” she said.

Tay, who is in charge of training and programmes at MYReaders, suggested that the learning process should be fun and relevant for the students as it would be more effective when they were engaged and motivated to learn English.

EduNation Malaysia head of education and learning Cheryl Ann Fernando, who once taught in a rural area under Teach For Malaysia, said some of the students were at least six to seven years behind their actual reading years.

“In urban areas, there are pockets of students who have the same problem.

“One of the biggest issues is our automatic entry into the next level. For example, those who cannot read in Year Three are automatically promoted to Year Four.

“This leads to huge learning gaps and the issue of literacy is never addressed,” she said.

Fernando, who is also the co-founder of Literacy Malaysia (LitMas), added that she had Form One students who could barely spell their own name and for students in the urban area, some would even struggle to read “this is an apple”.

LitMas is a simple literacy programme that Fernando and her colleague came up with to help students read and write in English.

“We also do not teach grammar in isolation but incorporate it into our modules to help students better make sense of the language,” she said.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 21 January 2017
Manglish getting more mangled
By ROYCE TAN
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/21/manglish-getting-more-mangled-teachers-horrified-at-students-terrible-command-of-english/

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Food hunt

LAST Sunday morning, I was looking for food at the Malay stalls in SS19 Subang Jaya. I was craving sautéed beef liver.

At one of the stalls, a Chinese woman was photographing some dish in front of a Caucasian. “Another food-lover indulging in food porn,” I sarcastically thought.

The stall was Warung Terengganu. It served nasi dagang and nasi minyak. It was crowded. “Food must be good; I must try,” I thought.

While ordering nasi dagang, I noticed people taking photographs of the Caucasian.

“Siapa tu? (Who is that?),” I asked a pakcik (uncle) lining up to pay.

“He’s on YouTube,” the 50-something man said in Malay.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“I don’t know. But I have seen him on YouTube,” he said.

A Warung Terengganu owner told me the Caucasian was a YouTuber who hosted The Food Ranger channel. While the Food Ranger was eating, I took his photograph and tweeted it.

The Food Ranger is Trevor James, a friendly 28-year-old Canadian. And the photographer was his co-host Chuchu, a China national. Trevor is probably famous in this country because of his “My First Time Eating Penis Soup in Malaysia” video clip.

The two-minute-39-second video has about 466,000 views (not counting the viral clip shared on WhatsApp and Facebook). He had Sup Torpedo (bull’s penis soup) at Sup Hameed restaurant in Penang.

The Food Ranger was in the city for six days to shoot a comprehensive 20- to 30-minute documentary on “Malaysian street food tour in Kuala Lumpur. He picked Warung Terengganu as a The Food Ranger subscriber recommended it as “one of the most local nasi dagang you can get in Kuala Lumpur”.

Trevor’s rating for the place is ... “I haven’t decided, probably 8.5 or 9 out of 10”.

Later in the afternoon, I met Trevor in Chocha Foodstore in Petaling Jaya. I wanted Apsara, my eight-year-old daughter, to meet the famous YouTuber as she wants to be a YouTuber too. His advice to her was – to quote Apsara – “to take videos of interesting stuff that will make people watch.”

In 2014, after graduating from the University of British Columbia in Canada, the forestry graduate decided to move to Asia to shoot food videos so that he could share his love for food and travel.

Trevor’s first destination was Kuala Lumpur in June 2014 as he had heard about Malaysia’s amazing food culture.

“I had heard (mostly from watching YouTube) about how Malaysians talk about food. It is like love. They go hunting for the best spots. And the locals debate among each other over which place has the best food and they take pride in it. The standard here seems to be pretty high for food culture,” he said.

His first The Food Ranger video clip was shot at hawker stalls in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. At that time, his channel had about 2,000 subscribers. Now it has 461,126.

His three months of ranging for food in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca was amazing. He loves Malaysian food because of the strong flavours – spicy curries, durians ... “things that make your whole mouth alive”.

“It felt as if wherever I went there was some local speciality,” he said.

His favourite Malaysian food was musang king durian (really sweet and buttery), laksa (“so much going on there – sweet, spicy, sour and salty”) and char kway teow (wok hei which is Cantonese for breath of the wok or smokiness of the wok).

“Where’s your favourite place for char kway teow?” I asked. Trevor laughed and said: “One thing I discovered in Malaysia is, if you used the word ‘best’, people are going to disagree. I learnt the hard way. I made a The Food Ranger video in Penang and I said, this is the best char kway teow in Penang. And the locals said, ‘no way, you went to the tourist spot’.”

“Were they right?” I asked.

“I’m sure they were right. But for me as a non-local, it was still so delicious. It still tasted amazing. I haven’t reached the level to be able to distinguish the slight differences,” he said.

Trevor also fell in love with the multi-culturalism in Malaysia. “Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures mixed together for me – looking at it as a non-local – is really enjoyable to have all that together. It seems everyone is accepting of each other,” he said.

After his three months in Malaysia, Trevor moved to Chengdu where he is currently based. He went full time with his food channel in December 2015.

The Food Ranger is planning to range for food in Sarawak and Sabah in July.

“What do you know about Sabah and Sarawak?” the Sabahan in me asked.

“I have to be honest. I haven’t done a lot of research for that trip yet. But I heard the food is another world there. The goal of all our vi--deos is to find food – that is food ranging.

We try to film the local people serving the food and being friendly and changing the people’s perspective of the place,” he said.

I’ll bring Trevor to my mum’s house in Kampung Pogunon, Penampang, near Kota Kinabalu.

She’ll prepare hinava (Kadazandusun raw fish) for the Food Ranger.

Opoto! (Kadazandusun for delicious).

The Star, Published: Saturday, 21 January 2017

What’s not to love about M’sian food?

Our wide range of spicy, sweet, sour and salty local specialities has bewitched a famous YouTuber.

By PHILIP GOLINGAI
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/one-mans-meat/2017/01/21/whats-not-to-love-about-msian-food-our-wide-range-of-spicy-sweet-sour-and-salty-local-specialities-h/

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Hope Malaysia would not be a place where the rich can oppress the poor.

MY peaceful Thursday night was totally spoiled by a scene I saw on TV news of a man in red being beaten up by several other men.

My mother and I were literally shouting at the television while we watched the scene. We were so shocked at how ruthless those men were as they took turns to kick the helpless man in red.

It broke my heart to see this behaviour. I am not naïve; I read the news and I know there is a lot of awful things happening in this world but that doesn’t make this incident any less important or any less significant.

And this was in Malaysia with Malaysians involved in such an act of brutality. The scene was so shocking I now wish I could “unsee” it.

After reading a few articles online, I found out that the man in red was a lorry driver who had accidentally reversed into a Mercedes-Benz. Some of the articles mentioned that the men who attacked the lorry driver were the car owner’s bodyguards. I do not want to discuss the incident or who is at fault but the way it was handled, which bothered me.

When I first saw the scene on TV, the thing that immediately came to my mind was “mob”. A mob is a large crowd of people who usually gather to cause trouble. In this incident, it was not a mob but just a few men who behaved like a mob.

I believe that the scariest thing about a mob is how they act as one; a crowd of people with one mind guided by rage. You could give a command to a mob and it would be spontaneously carried out.

I tried to reason out why they could beat a man into pulp but I simply couldn’t. Did they not realise it was a person they were beating? That man is someone’s son, father, husband, or even best friend. How traumatic would it be to see footage on TV of your father being beaten up with no ounce of mercy?

I read that both parties decided not to lodge a police report as they decided to “settle matters amicably”. I hope the authorities will not let this incident pass just like that. I strongly believe no one should be allowed to “buy” their way out of this kind of behaviour.

I wish for justice to be served on the man in red and for his child to know that his country (legal system) has not betrayed him. I also hope Malaysia would not be a place where the rich can oppress the poor. Remember, it was injustice to the poor that led to the French Revolution.

Letter to The Star, Published: Saturday, 21 January 2017
Shocked to the core by brutal act
By MARNI SYAHIDA MOKHTAR, Puchong

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Beijing and WHO

Beijing: China and the World Health Organization agreed to jointly implement a Belt and Road Initiative that focuses on health.

The WHO is the first global organisation of the United Nations to have agreed to such a project.

“China welcomes the WHO to jointly establish a health Silk Road,” said President Xi Jinping, adding that China would like to work more closely with the WHO in fulfilling the UNs 2030 sustainable development goals and assisting developing countries.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan spoke highly of China’s contributions to the work of the WHO and the country’s leading role in global health governance

“The WHO would like to work with China to improve the health of the people along the initiatives route”, she added.

The agreement is a result of decades of successful partnership between China and the WHO in global health cooperation, the WHO China office said in a statement.

This includes sending 1,200 medical workers in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and China’s contribution to WHO efforts to distribute medical supplies in Syria and to WHO emergency medical teams, as well as a newly established programme to ensure a more rapid emergency response.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 21 January 2017
Beijing and WHO iron out ‘Health Silk Road’ move
By China Daily
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/01/21/beijing-and-who-iron-out-health-silk-road-move/

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Japanese troops to engage in combat overseas

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will carry out a tabletop exercise next week to simulate its response in the event of a military clash between China and Taiwan, Japanese media said.

The Self-Defence Forces will conduct drills from Monday through Friday with the US military participating as an observer, a Japanese government source told Kyodo News.

The exercises, which do not involve actual troop deployments, assume that the US and Japan are responding to a military conflict, Kyodo said in its Thursday (Jan 19) report.

A Japanese defence ministry spokesman declined to comment.

China's foreign ministry said Japan should keep out of what it called an "internal affair".

"I think this reflects that some people in Japan have a certain mentality that the last thing they want is a stable world," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday (Jan 20).

"I want to emphasise that the Taiwan issue is an internal affair of China, and we hope that Japan will be very cautious with its words and actions...and not do anything that would undermine regional peace and stability."

Relations between China and self-ruling island Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province, have become increasingly strained since Donald Trump's November election as US president.

China was incensed by a protocol-smashing phone call between the billionaire and Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen.

It was further angered by Trump's suggestion that the "one China" policy could be negotiable and demanded Washington ban Taipei's delegation from the inauguration.

Next week's drills will test Japan's military after a new law expanded its powers beyond strict self-defence - a condition of a pacifist postwar constitution.

The legislation, which took effect in March, technically allows Japanese troops to engage in combat overseas if Japan's security is threatened.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: JAN 20, 2017, 4:51 PM SGT
Japan to conduct simulated drills for China-Taiwan clash
By AFP
http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/japan-to-conduct-simulated-drills-for-china-taiwan-clash-report

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