REAMS of articles have detailed why UK Prime Minister Theresa May's electoral gamble failed.

Prompted by a 20-point lead in opinion polls, amid fevered expectations she could possibly win a three-digit parliamentary majority, in April this year, the Conservative party leader called an election three years ahead of time.

Not only did May lose the super-slim majority of five seats the Tories held before polling day on June 8 this year, her political ineptitude caused a hung parliament.
Although the Conservatives triumphed in 318 seats and secured 42.4% of the vote – equalling Margaret Thatcher's record tally in the 1983 and 1987 general elections – the Tories won eight seats less than the required majority of 326 seats.

Last Monday, the Tories won the support of 10 MPs from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party on major issues like security and Brexit – shorthand for Britain's exit from the European Union – in return for £1 billion in additional funding for Northern Ireland.

May's electoral debacle offers several pointers that Malaysian politicians should study given widely-held expectations that a general election is likely to be called later this year.

First, the biggest losers in the UK June 8 poll were smaller political parties, in particular the Liberal Democrats (LD). Highlighting the LD's continuing decline, its share of the vote plunged from a high of 23% in 2010 – just six percentage points behind Labour's 29% – to just 7.2% in April this year.

For the first time since the 1970 general election, votes for the Conservatives and Labour exceeded 40% – underscoring the return of the two-party system after seven years.

Second, politicians from the ruling Barisan Nasional and their opposition counterparts should note negative campaigning in the US presidential election last November and in the UK was a washout.

Just as Hillary Clinton's demonisation of Donald Trump failed to win the Democrats the White House, May's attempts to disparage Jeremy Corbyn didn't gain traction with the majority of voters.

Third, May's political ineptitude was a contributory factor. Not only was the Conservatives' election manifesto poorly conceived, May's refusal to jeopardise her seemingly-strong political standing by participating in a TV debate was a mistake.

Alex Hunt and Brian Wheeler wrote in an BBC article: "Mrs May might have performed badly in the debate, but she arguably took a far bigger reputational hit by not taking part, as it opened her up to accusations she was running scared, or that she was complacently assuming victory."

Equally disastrous was May's U-turn on caring for the elderly. A Tory proposal that older Britons who own property exceeding £100,000 in value should contribute to the cost of their home care – a suggestion that reinforced the belief Conservatives care more for fiscal prudence than for voters.

Capitalising on this misstep, Corbyn labelled this proposal the "dementia tax" while some critics described it as a stealth inheritance tax. Unlike the Tories' promise of continuing austerity, Corbyn promised massive giveaways – more funds for the National Health Service and education plus writing-off outstanding student loans.

Fourth was the impact of the youth vote. Alan Travis wrote in The Guardian the "youthquake" (*) was a key component of Corbyn's 10-percentage point jump in Labour's share of the vote – a surge that bettered even Tony Blair's nine-percentage point gain in his first 1997 landslide win.

A NME-led exit poll suggested the April turnout among the under 35s rose by 12 percentage points to 56% compared with the 2015 elections, Travis noted.

Fifth was Labour's highly effective use of social media. The Conservatives focused on sharp paid-for attack ads on Facebook, Mike Wendling wrote in a BBC article. In contrast, Labour appeared to opt for filter bubbles – tight online communities created by algorithms, generally closed to the public, and filled with "Corbynistas", Wendling noted.

A major electoral asset was Momentum, a grassroots campaign group. Its website "My Nearest Marginal" enabled Labour activists to easily find and target battleground seats.

Advised by Bernie Sanders' staff who hoped the US Senator would become the Democrats' presidential nominee, Momentum texted instead of emailing supporters. This switch resulted in almost 100% of messages being opened and a markedly improved reply rate of 40%, Momentum claimed.

Sixth, only one opinion poll predicted the election outcome. Published on May 30, nine days before polling day, YouGov's experimental poll suggested the Conservatives could lose 20 seats resulting in a hung parliament. Publication of YouGov's forecast triggered massive criticism.

Unlike traditional pollsters, YouGov interviewed 60,000 individuals each week without worrying whether the respondents matched the UK population profile. To correct this possible mismatch, YouGov used a statistical procedure known as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) to adjust the results to better reflect UK voters.

In short, over-confidence and playing it safe – as May did – could be a vote-losing strategy in Malaysia.

SunDaily, Last updated on 29 June 2017 - 12:11pm
Lessons from May’s electoral debacle
Tan Siok Choo

IN a democracy, power lies with the people as they elect their representatives. Voting is a chance for every eligible citizen to be heard. More than a right, voting is a duty.

But how far can a vote go? And this feeling of scepticism is not always unfounded as cash handouts are not unfamiliar especially when an election draws near.

Given the perceived nature of elections, it is not a question that people seem to be uninterested to vote. The ballot then appears to be meaningless for the result is believed to be predetermined.

But if that is the case, if there is not a glimmer of hope that a power shift could take place, then why are politicians across the spectrum investing their time, energy and money to win the people's hearts? This tells us that people's votes do matter.

Assuming that the practice of democracy – particularly elections – is observed in a free but not fair manner, at the very least, every eligible citizen should put the vote to use. A single vote might be dismissed as insignificant, but the essence of democracy lies in the collective power, determined by each and every vote. The candidate we voted for might not win, but voting for the person whom we trust to be able to represent us expresses our sense of responsibility.

However, with scepticism as the biggest hurdle, it is a challenge to make people see voting as a responsibility. But the people are not solely to blame for thinking that voting is a farce.

Such thinking is partly rooted in their perception of how the government is run. If the people are informed of important national matters, their level of trust would increase, subsequently convincing them to vote. The calculation is not as simple considering other factors, but upholding integrity is one way of making people want to vote. In doing so, a few matters need to be straightened out.

To keep elections clean, we need candidates who are clean. Without fear or favour, shady candidates should be scrutinised, and weeded out. This is where the integrity of the powers that be is put to test. In a mature politics, the interests of all the people come first. When citizens see this happening they will be encouraged to cast their vote.

But the people cannot be passive either; they need to exert pressure on the authorities to see that the required action is taken. It is not suggested that people rebel against the authorities; rather, it is about optimising the right that the people have over having the right candidates working for them.

Other than equipping ourselves with information about the people running our affairs, we should use the opportunity to choose our representatives based on their social, economic and political aspirations, and, of course, their track record. There is no guarantee that our candidates will win, but voting itself is a manifestation of power of the people.

Citizens should never underestimate their power, which grows stronger when people come together.

SunDaily, Posted on 29 June 2017 - 12:29pm
Do your duty, register as a voter
By Nur Adilah Ramli

# The Guardian, Friday 9 June 2017 13.11 BST
The youth for today: how the 2017 election changed the political landscape

Young people flex political muscle to real effect as surge in Labour and Tory votes marks return of two-party system

By Alan Travis, Home affairs editor

# The Guardian, Last modified on Sunday 25 June 2017 19.46 BST
Young people on the general election: 'Corbyn’s on our side, not like May'

The ‘youthquake’ was reportedly a key component of Jeremy Corbyn’s advance in the polls. We asked some young people why they voted Labour

By Carmen Fishwick and Guardian readers

# The Guardian, Last modified on Sunday 25 June 2017 19.44 BST
'Youthquake' behind Labour election surge divides generations

Authoritative Ipsos Mori figures suggest biggest age gap between parties since 1970s as over-55s swing behind Conservatives

By Alan Travis, Home affairs editor and Caelainn Barr

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Trump's business partner

Indonesian authorities have imposed a travel ban on tycoon and politician Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who is building resorts to be managed by Trump hotels, over an investigation into allegations he threatened a prosecutor via a text message.

Tanoesoedibjo has been given a 20-day overseas travel ban starting on June 22 based on a request by Indonesian police's criminal investigation unit Agung Sampurno, a spokesman at the immigration directorate said on Wednesday.

The Indonesian billionaire "is under investigation related to a violation of the information and electronic transactions law," Sampurno said.

Tanoesoedibjo, whose MNC Group controls businesses ranging from media to property, has been named a suspect for allegedly sending a threatening message to a prosecutor investigating a case involving Mobile 8, a telecommunications company previously owned by MNC Group.

Tanoesoedibjo's lawyer could not be reached on Wednesday but in an earlier statement dismissed the allegations. "The content of Hary Tanoesoedibjo's SMS is general and idealistic and does not threaten anyone," his lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea said.

Part of Tanoesoedibjo's text message read: "If I am the leader of this country, then that's where Indonesia will be changed and cleared of things that are not as they should be," according to the statement from the lawyer.

Tanoesoedijo has also denied the allegations in media reports. Breaching the law can carry a maximum jail term of four years and a maximum fine of 750 million rupiah ($56,000)

The tycoon, who in the 2014 election ran as a candidate for vice president, founded his own a political party in 2015 and said in January he would decide before the end of next year whether to run in the 2019 presidential election.

He described U.S. President Donald Trump's victory as inspiring for candidates with little political experience and attended Trump's innauguration in Washington in January.

His company is currently building two luxury resorts in the island of Bali and in West Java, which would be managed by Trump Hotel Collection.

In an interview with Reuters ahead of Trump's inauguration, Tanoesoedibjo dismissed concerns by ethics officials that Trump's overseas business deals might be vulnerable to conflicts of interest.

Tanoesoedibjo also said in February that while his relationship with the U.S. president has been focused on business he could help ties between the nations "if needed".

Several leaders in Muslim-majority Indonesia have expressed concerns over Trump's tough immigration stance.

($1 = 13,325 rupiah)

Reuters, Published: Wed Jun 28, 2017 - 5:53am EDT
Indonesia imposes travel ban on Trump's business partner
Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Cindy Silviana; Editing by Ed Davies and Michael Perry

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Making Ivanka Trump shoes

GANZHOU, China − A worker with blood dripping from his head marked a low point in the tense, grinding life at a southeastern China factory used by Ivanka Trump and other fashion brands. An angry manager had hit him with the sharp end of a high-heeled shoe.

Workers from the factory, including one current and two former employees who spoke to The Associated Press, reported overtime that stretched past midnight, steep production quotas and crude verbal abuse at Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. They said beatings were not unheard of, but the shoe attack, which all three say they witnessed last year, was violent enough to stand out.

“He was bleeding right from the middle of the head,” the current worker said.

“There was a lot of blood. He went to the factory’s nurse station, passing by me,” said a second man, who said he quit his job at Huajian because of the long hours and low pay.

The three workers are the first people with direct knowledge of conditions at the Ganzhou factory to speak with the media. All three spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution or arrest.

Last month, three men investigating conditions at the Huajian Group factory in Ganzhou were detained, accused of illegally using secret recording devices to steal commercial secrets. They, like one of the three men AP spoke with, worked with China Labor Watch, a New York group that has been investigating Ivanka Trump’s Chinese suppliers for more than a year. The group said the men were released on bail Wednesday, the final day of their legally mandated 30-day detention period limit.

Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, describes Huajian’s Ganzhou factory as among the worst he has seen in nearly two decades investigating labor abuses. His group says pay can be as low as a dollar an hour, in violation of China’s labor laws. According to China Labor Watch investigators, until recently, workers might get only two days off − or less − per month.

China Labor Watch said the company forced workers to sign fake pay stubs with inflated salary numbers and threatened to fire workers if they didn’t fill in questionnaires about working conditions with pre-approved answers. Workers also said the company pressured people not to speak with outsiders about conditions at the factory.

In comments to the AP, the Huajian Group declined to respond to specific questions, but broadly denied all allegations, calling them “completely not true to the facts, taken out of context, exaggerated.” The company said it operates lawfully and that China Labor Watch “invented so-called ‘facts’ by illegal means of buying undercover work, which has already affected the enterprise’s normal business seriously and affected the survival and employment of tens of thousands of staff.” The company noted its significant contribution to the economy and to society, particularly through its employment of disabled people.

Before taking on an official role as adviser to her father, Ivanka Trump stepped back from day-to-day management of her brand, but she has retained her ownership interest.

In Washington on Tuesday, she spoke at a ceremony unveiling the annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, in which China was demoted to the lowest ranking over its human trafficking record. She said the report is “clarion call into action in defense of the vulnerable and the exploited.”

She has not commented, however, on the detentions or the reports of poor working conditions at one of her brand’s suppliers. Her spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said “the integrity of our supply chain is a top priority and we take all allegations very seriously.” The company says its products have not been made in the factory since March, but China Labor Watch said it had an April production schedule indicating that nearly 1,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump shoes were due in May.

In the past, some brands have used China Labor Watch’s reports as a tool to help keep their supply chains clean. Walt Disney Co., for example, investigated and ultimately decided to sever its relationship with at least one supplier following reports of poor conditions, and sought to improve labor practices at others.

China Labor Watch outlined its findings in letters sent in June to Ivanka Trump at the White House and to other brands. So far, the group says it has gotten no response.

The group said it also sent Ivanka Trump a video taken inside the factory in May. That video included a clip in which a manager threatened to rough up a worker who had apparently arranged shoes in the wrong order.

“If I see them f---ing messed up again,” the manager yells, “I’ll beat you right here.”

The video has not been released to the public, but it was shown to AP at China Labor Watch’s office in New York.

Marc Fisher, which has made shoes for Ivanka Trump and Easy Spirit at the Ganzhou factory, has said it would look into the allegations.

G-III Apparel Group, which produces shoes for Karl Lagerfeld, said it had not received a letter but “fully supports the independent monitoring of global supply chains.”

“When workplace safety and fairness issues are brought to our attention, we take them very seriously and work with our partners to resolve them,” G-III spokesman Chris Giglio said in an email.

Ann Taylor spokesman Shawn Buchanan also said the company takes the allegations “very seriously” and is “actively conducting an investigation to assess this facility’s compliance with our code of conduct and applicable laws and regulations.”

The Kendall & Kyle brand said its “footwear manufacturer works with many footwear production factories and all factories are required to operate within strict social compliance regulations.”

Other brands identified by China Labor Watch as customers of the Ganzhou factory include Nine West, Naturalizer and the Camuto Group, which makes shoes for BCBG Max Azria, Jessica Simpson and Tory Burch. None responded to requests for comment.

The current Huajian employee who spoke to the AP said life at the factory has changed since the arrests of the three investigators brought the glare of public attention.

Overtime was radically reduced this month, he said. Shifts used to run from 7:10 a.m. until after 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., and sometimes after midnight, with two daily breaks, he and a former employee both said. But for the last few weeks, workers have been released before 7 p.m.

They’re also starting to get every Sunday off, which is standard under Chinese labor law, said the current employee, who also moonlights for China Labor Watch.

City government officials turned up recently, he said, and the factory gave everyone an egg to eat in the middle of their afternoon shift.

Life inside Ganzhou Huajian is focused on a single number: the monthly quota of shoes that must be produced, according to China Labor Watch investigators and workers. A single production line of 50 workers may need to produce close to 30,000 pairs of shoes, depending on seasonal demand, the current employee and one former employee told AP.

Those who miss their targets do not collect the full salary, said the current employee.

“It is impossible to meet the target, actually, because it just keeps on going up,” the former employee said.

The new abbreviated working hours are a mixed blessing, the current employee said, because they haven’t been able to meet production targets.

Huajian, meanwhile, has been moving production to Ethiopia, where workers make around $100 a month, a fraction of what they pay in China, according to Song Yiping, a manager at Huajian’s Ethiopian factory, who spoke to the AP in January. He said he’s heard President Trump talk about bringing jobs back to America, but he doubts that will happen with shoes. Even Chinese vocational school dropouts don’t want to work for Ethiopian wages.

“The American clients push down the price,” Song explained. “Consumers want to buy cheaper shoes.”

In this June 18, 2017, photo, people walk inside the factory of Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co., which has made shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand, in Ganzhou in southern China’s Jiangxi Province. Chinese who have worked at the factory, that also makes shoes for other brands, say they’ve faced 16-hour days, low pay and verbal abuse. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The Washington Post, Published: June 28 at 7:48 AM
Making Ivanka Trump shoes: Long hours, low pay and abuse
By Erika Kinetz, AP

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A BOMBSHELL has again been dropped, hardly two months after my colon cancer surgery.

However, it failed to “detonate” due to some mechanism default. It remains passive.

A CT scan indicated that I was the victim of a deadly liver cancer this time.

Although it was a tiny tumour, it was considered Stage 4 in medical terms.

Water retention also occurred in my lungs during the first colon cancer surgery.

Surgeons made a swift decision that a second operation should be performed on the liver to prevent the tumour from spreading.

A liver specialist surgeon from Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah, Alor Setar, even came over to advise me on the need for such a move.

A chemotherapy session would be done after the surgery to remove the cancerous “perpetrators” in the liver.

I acknowledged all this calmly. But there was a “knee jerk” reaction.

I am still very weak. I am worried about whether my body could endure the stress of a second surgery.

I am still reeling in pain from the previous colon surgery. Both my thighs are still numb from the side effects.

To the question I put forward, the liver specialist answered: “Without chemotherapy, the chance of the cancer recurring is higher”.

I am now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either way, the consequences could be disastrous.

So far, I have climbed a 10-storey car park in my flat four times, as part of my exercise to regain my endurance.

This excluded another 10 flights of steps to reach the open-air roof top.

Here, I enjoy watching the greenery and contours of the nearby hills. I inhale the fresh air to escape from my “prison domain”.

The climb is snail-paced, with the help of my walking stick.

I am confident of securing a gold medal if it is taken into account as a Paralympic Games event!

I had to strain every single muscle in my frame. It was worth the effort, as I am keen to explode into life again.

Doubt is now lingering in my mind. I may be unable to turn my dreams of conquering Mount Everest Base Camp to reality.

Cancer has not shaken my faith. But it has robbed me of my hope that I can achieve my aspirations. I just want to bottle up my energy. These are the thoughts that will carry me to the horizon.

I do not want to let this fatal disease destroy my spirit even as a septuagenarian.

I have yet to complete my mission in life. I refuse to carry my dreams to the grave.

I am a fighter by nature. I am always keen to weather the storms in life – whatever the cost is.

I always believe that the sun will shine after every storm. It will not fail you.

Cancer has shortened my time frame. It is not a barrier. There is always an avenue to pass through the loophole.

Since my colon cancer surgery on April 25, I lost 10kg, dropping from a consistent 76kg to 66kg.

I hope it will not drop further. I do not want to be a “living scarecrow”.

Why do the majority shudder at the word “cancer”? It has become a phobia - a killer of pain and struggle.

Cancer is the most feared fatal disease the world over. The word is taboo to some.

To me, pain is a wonderful motivator and a great teacher. It has humbled me in the face of adversity.

To be a cancer victim in my twilight years is something beyond my expectations. But I have to accept destiny.

As much as I can, I do not let the fear and worry enter my mental chamber.

Although age has taken a toll on me, I just want to burn the bridges behind me and move forward to a brighter future.

I want my heart to vibrate with peace. This way, life will smile on me.

As Joseph Addison said: “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity”.

I will continue to smile although the curtain will soon be drawn down. Still I am full of gratitude to our Supreme Being.

My family and I have decided that I will not opt for the liver cancer surgery followed by chemotherapy.

I still want to see the beauty of our planet before I leave this world.

I was born free. I also want to go back free, as free as the birds fly.

More importantly, this will give me quality time to focus on His commandments and to repent for my wrongdoings.

My time frame is short. I have to make this drastic decision before the curtain comes down.

I do not want to be a “living zombie”. Peace be upon all of us.

The Satr, Published: Thursday, 29 June 2017
Cancer can also be a great teacher

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Penang's founder Sir Francis Light

GEORGE TOWN: Approvals for movie filming at heritage sites here come from the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), said the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI).

GTWHI general manager Ang Ming Chee said this to theSun when asked about a mock tomb constructed at the old Protestant cemetery in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah where Penang's founder Sir Francis Light is buried.

"We monitored the site last week during filming and have advised the film company to respect the site," she said.

The tomb was used for a scene in a Hong Kong movie that was filmed at the cemetery.

It was reported in a local daily that Hong Kong actress Charmaine Sheh and film crew were at the cemetery to film a movie last week.

Heritage activists are upset over the mock tomb issue.

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) council member Clement Liang, in a Facebook posting, took to task the action of certain quarters in building a mock tomb inside the historical cemetery.

He said the tomb made of solid black marble with cement mould popped up over the long Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday for the shooting of a Hong Kong movie.

"Inscribed on the tomb is a Chinese named Danny Song who is supposed to die on 2018.08.01. Is someone playing a joke in this Category I heritage site?" he asked.

Another activist, Mark Lay, also queried the authorities' lack of monitoring in the historical cemetery which resulted in the appearance of the mock tomb.

He asked whether this shows lack of heritage conservation management of the Category I heritage site.

Another activist, A. Kumar, also questioned on the need to construct the tomb and urged MBPP and GTWHI to clarify whether permission was given.

He welcomed foreign production crew to film movies or dramas here but the sensitivities of locals and heritage need to be respected at all cost.

Checks at the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) Discussions group on social media showed many netizens condemned the tomb issue.

Ehsan Zolkifly stated it should be reported to the police and related authorities for stern action to be taken.

"This in invasion of privacy of a cultural and heritage place," he said.

An official from GTWHI, meanwhile, said the tomb structure has since been removed on Monday afternoon.

Attempts to reach MBPP for a response were futile at time of writing.

The Sun Daily, Last updated on 28 June 2017 - 10:25am
Movie filming at Penang tomb upsets heritage activists
By Edmund Lee

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Hello, hello, anyone home?

GEORGE TOWN: Some RM20mil worth of residential properties in upper class neighbourhoods of Penang island have been left unoccupied for many years, turning them into eyesores.

The dilapidated buildings at Jalan Masjid Negeri and Lebuh Bukit Jambul have become dumpsites or breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A woman employee of a development firm next to an abandoned house in Jalan Masjid Negeri, who wished to be known only as Loo, said the place has been left idle for more than seven years.

“During the durian season, trespassers help themselves to the fruits.

“Many real estate agents had shown interest in helping to sell or rent out the place but nobody knows the owner.

“Even my boss was interested to buy the house.

“This is considered a prime area. Our rental here is RM5,500 but I believe this house would definitely fetch more as it’s a corner unit,” she said.

Estate broker Lee Hock Hin said property along Jalan Masjid Negeri and Lebuh Bukit Jambul could easily fetch between RM3mil and RM4mil.

He said it was quite difficult to find buyers for the dilapidated houses.

“It’s more for the land only,” said Lee, who has over 30 years of experience in the business.

A Penang Island City Council spokesman said the owner of the unoccupied property in Jalan Masjid Negeri has not defaulted on the yearly assessment payment.

“If the house is occupied by a tenant, we will collect the assessment from the tenant.

“If it’s not paid within 18 months, the house will be seized and auctioned off,” he said.

The assessment is between RM600 and RM1,000 depending on the size of the land, built-up area and location.

He said if the dilapidated buildings posed a danger to the public, action would be taken against the owners.

“We will seal the premises and bill the owners.

“Usually, action is taken if there’s a complaint from the public.

“Once a complaint is filed, we will take action within three days,” he said.

On the reason why some unoccupied houses could not be sold, he said it was usually due to dispute involving family members or associations.

“If the property is sold, the previous owner or the new buyers will have to pay the arrears before any change of ownership is allowed,” he said.

One of the three abandoned houses along Lebuh Bukit Jambul was auctioned off by a bank for slightly over RM3mil recently, the spokesman added.

“Although they are vacant, the owners still pay the annual assessment without fail,” he said.

The Star reported in October last year that eight heritage property in George Town, worth almost RM10mil, were stuck in a legal limbo.

A community of about 180 mah-jeh bought the property during the 1950s to 1970s but with all of them having passed away, their shares have remained under their estate or willed to heirs who may be here or in China.

This rendered the property having too many joint owners to feasibly sell them.

No one’s home: A neglected house along Lebuh Bukit Jambul and a dilapidated corner house (below) along Jalan Masjid Negeri.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 29 June 2017
Homes worth RM20mil left unoccupied in Penang

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Ramadan is over!

Left with memories now that Ramadan is over and traders have packed up

THE pleasant smell of ayam golek filled the air and tugged at my nose as I got out of my car parked 30m from the famous Bayan Baru Ramadan bazaar in Penang.

Racks of whole chicken, generously doused with a unique sauce, were being spun over charcoal embers.

The heat was not searing but oh so slowly, it cooked the birds into juicy succulence.

Every year, Ramadan bazaars offer a sumptuous array of delicacies that draw a hungry crowd without fail.

Gripe all we want about our country but the fact is we live in a land of plenty and most of us can go to bed with our tummies filled and our appetites appeased.

I was at the bazaar to hunt for my favourites ayam golek, murtabak and air bandung.

Visiting these bazaars reminds me of my university days in Terengganu.

During Ramadan, my housemates and I would cycle to the nearest Ramadan bazaars 200m away from our house to buy dinner.

We would go from stall to stall over and over again before settling on our choices for dinner.

Some days, we had satay and other days, we had fried koay teow, burgers and roti John. We were spoilt for choice!

Ramadan bazaars are never dull and are packed with visitors.

Some traders at Ramadan bazaars are also good at improvising and in Malaysia, at least, we can see that these bazaars are melting pots of culture.

I once saw a Chinese Muslim selling authentic and pure halal Hainanese chicken rice at a bazaar. That same hawker sold the rarely found chi pow kai (Cantonese for paper-wrapped chicken).

This delicacy is rare even in Chinese eateries.

Richly marinated pieces of poultry are wrapped snuggly in oil-resistant paper and then deep-fried.

The heat of the oil sears the meat but thanks to the protective paper, the oil is largely kept at bay.

This leads to tender and juicy chicken that tastes like they are deep-fried in a rich sauce, minus the oil.

And now, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! But where are the hawkers? I haven’t even tried everything. There were so many hawkers at the Ramadan bazaars that I had yet to sample everyone’s ingenious dishes.

Needless to say, business at Ramadan bazaars is really good.

Now that the fasting month is over, so are these bazaars.

It makes me wonder where the traders go after operating at the bazaars for a month. Do they have permanent jobs somewhere else and took time off during the fasting month to sell their delights at the bazaars?

Or are they hawkers from somewhere else and converge only during Ramadan?

Do I have to wait a whole year before eating halal chi pow kai again? Sigh.

We have pasar malam (night markets) in Penang but nothing compares to the busy Ramadan bazaars. I say we should have these bazaars nationwide at least once every month.

Let all our Ramadan food artists assemble monthly so that we may all enjoy.

Let us show how this country is special in having various races come together as one to eat in peace.

Can you imagine the tempting aroma of the ayam golek at this Ramadan bazaar in Penang?

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Already missing bazaar treats

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Big Raya crowds

BALIK PULAU: It’s like the Pied Piper but of aroma as durian orchards here lure travellers despite it not being the peak season yet.

Tourists from as far as the Middle Kingdom are following their nose to the durian trail.

Chinese nationals Guo Xin and his wife Xing Zhi Yun, both 32, were among the many foreign holidaymakers whose mission here was solely to savour the thorny fruit.

“This is our first time to Penang. We came here just to eat durians. In China, there are durians imported from Malaysia but they are very expensive.

“Thai durians are not as pricey but we prefer the taste and fragrance of those from Malaysia,” Guo said when met at a durian farm here.

Guo, who is from Dalian, and Xing arrived in Penang on Thursday. They will be here for a week.

Another couple from China were also spotted enjoying durians with coffee at the orchard.

Wei Chan Fang, 39, said she and her husband Zhan Xiang, 38, were durian lovers and they especially loved the Musang King variant.

“We travelled to Penang just for durians,” she said.

She said that durians from Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia were available in her country.

“But in my opinion, the ones from Thailand and Vietnam lack the aroma of Malaysian durians.

“The durians from Malaysia, especially Musang King, have become very expensive in China, so much so that ordinary people cannot afford to buy them. So we rather travel here to enjoy the best of the fruits,” she said.

For Indonesian Martin Suhartono, 29, eating durians with a group of people was a new experience.

“Back in my hometown, there’s no practice where people gather together to eat durians like this,” said Martin, who is from Bandung but works in Singapore as a logistics manager.

Bao Sheng durian farm owner Chang Teik Seng said this year’s peak season was expected to be from July till early August.

“The durian season is usually around May to July every year.”

“The durian supply this year is also expected to be low, with an average of 100 fruits per day in July as compared with 400 to 500 fruits per day during May and June in previous years when weather conditions were better,” he said.

Chang said that the fruits started to drop three days ago.

“The number of fruits is expected to increase from now on before slowing down in August.”

Aromatic delight: The foreign visitors enjoying durians during their visit to the farm. With them is Chang (right).

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Orchards drawing in durians lovers from afar

HOLIDAYMAKERS took advantage of the week-long Hari Raya break to head to popular destinations in Penang.

The George Town heritage enclave, Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple were throbbing with visitors.

Mohd Alif Solihin Izhar Ali, 15, from Baling, Kedah, said his family visited the Rainbow Skywalk at The Top@Komtar and had a hearty nasi kandar lunch.

“We are now planning to hang around the heritage enclave to admire the old buildings with their unique structures,” he said when met in Armenian Street on Sunday.

Mohd Alif said his family would be heading to Baling next for their yearly gathering.

“This is my third time in Penang and I always look forward to coming here,” he said.

At Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam, businessman Rick Lim, 31, from Kuala Lumpur, said his family came to Penang in two cars.

“We stopped over in Ipoh before coming here. It is always nice to get a long break.

“We try to visit various places in the country but Penang is always on the top of our list,” he said.

Lim’s entourage included his parents, sister and her family.

“We’ll be going up Penang Hill before visiting the heritage enclave.

“We’re going back to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday,” he said.

Student Chun Qing Qing, 19, from Ipoh, was enjoying her day trip to Penang and looking forward to a visit to Penang Hill.

“I am here with my family for the school holidays. It is always nice to go on a holiday together,” she said,

“This is the first time my nephews will be taking the Penang Hill funicular train. I am excited for them.”

A long line of visitors thronging the Penang Hill train station.

Mohd Alif and his aunt Ana Izhar, 43, shopping for some souvenirs in Armenian Street.

Lim (in black) posing with his family at the Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Tourists enjoying an exciting break on Penang island

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Bnakrupt Takata

TOKYO (AFP) - Takata executives faced angry investors Tuesday after the company at the centre of the world's biggest auto safety recall filed for bankruptcy and said it was being bought by a US company.

The filing all but destroys any value left in the Japanese airbag maker's shares, which will be delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange next month.

Many who attended the shareholder meeting Tuesday expressed outrage at how the auto parts giant handled the crisis caused by a defect in the firm's airbags that has been blamed for at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries.

"I'm resigned to it now that my anger has subsided. That time has passed," said one 48-year-old investor who declined to give his name, outside the meeting, which was closed to media.

"Why couldn't they have addressed these issues faster, when the recalls first emerged back in 2008 and 2009?"

On Monday, Takata said it has filed for bankruptcy protection and would be bought by US auto parts maker Key Safety Systems (KSS), which is owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, for $1.58 billion.

Tuesday's meeting was held to reappoint the company's board as the business changes hands.

Takata's chief executive Shigehisa Takada, whose grandfather started the company in 1933 as a textile maker, has said he will resign once the transition is completed.

"I want to ask the president how he feels about his responsibility" for the crisis, said 66-year-old Minoru Matsuo.

Millions of airbags produced for some of the world's biggest automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, are being recalled because of the risk that they could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the occupants.

Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the recall.

Takata, which is facing lawsuits and huge recall costs, has been accused of hiding the problem with its airbags for years, even as deaths and injuries linked to the crisis mounted.

Honda, a major Takata customer, first sounded the alarm that there might be a problem in 2008.

But the scandal reached a peak only in 2014 when earlier deaths started getting more media attention and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration became involved in the ballooning recalls.

Takata has already agreed to pay a billion-dollar fine to settle with US safety regulators over its airbags.

But its liabilities are reportedly set to top 1.0 trillion yen ($9 billion) in what is the biggest bankruptcy filing for a Japanese manufacturer.

Trading in Takata shares was suspended Monday after a week of wild volatility.

"I put in quite a lot of money into this company," said 36-year-old Takata shareholder Kenichi Asahi.

"Now the shares are nothing more than trash."

A defect in Takata's airbags has been blamed for at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries

France 24, Published: 27 June 2017 - 07H20
Bankrupt Takata faces angry shareholders

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WWII Zero fighter

Salvaged from the Papua New Guinean jungle, a restored World War II Japanese Zero fighter has taken to the skies over the land that gave birth to the once-feared warplane.

The aircraft -- emblazoned with tell-tale rising sun symbols -- is one of just a few airworthy Zero fighters left in the world, nearly eight decades after they struck fear into the hearts of Allied pilots.

The plane flew near Tokyo this month, watched by businessman and aviation buff Masahide Ishizuka who bought the plane for 350 million yen ($3.1 million) in 2008.

The badly damaged aircraft was originally found in the 1970s in dense jungle where it had crashed decades earlier. It later ended up in the United States -- Japan's chief World War II adversary.

Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Zero planes took part in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, while "kamikaze" suicide pilots crashed them into US ships in the later stages of the war.

"Since it was born in Japan 75 years ago, this baby has been travelling around the world," Ishizuka told AFP after the recent flight.

"I wanted to bring it back to its home country and keep it flying in the sky."

There are believed to be just four airworthy Zero fighters in the world today -- more than 10,000 were made in all.

Kazuaki Yanagida, the first Japanese pilot to fly the plane, got a feeling for the wartime conditions in its cramped cockpit.

"Sitting here, I felt as if the souls of dead pilots are looking over me," he said.

Despite its fearsome reputation, Yanagida and the plane's owner said they don't want the restored fighter to stir controversy.

"The sin doesn't rest with the Zero -- it was the people who fought each other," Yanagida said.

Mail Online, UPDATED: 10:45 BST, 27 June 2017
Dreaded WWII Zero fighter takes to the skies over Japan
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Obama in Indonesia for holidays

UBUD, Indonesia (AFP) - Barack Obama has kicked off a 10-day family holiday in Indonesia that will take in Bali and Jakarta, the city where he spent part of his childhood, officials said on Saturday (June 24).

The casually dressed former president arrived in the resort island of Bali with his wife Michelle and their two daughters, a local military commander said.

"They arrived late last night and went straight to the hotel in Ubud," a local military commander, I Gede Widiyana, told AFP.

Obama woke up early and did some exercise in the lush green riverside resort, Widiyana said, but it was not known how the family would spend their time in the quiet and artsy Ubud area.

Next week, the family is slated to depart for Yogyakarta, where they are expected to visit ancient Borobudur temple. They will spend two days there before flying to Jakarta.

Obama spent four years until 1970 as a boy in the then sleepy capital of Indonesia after his divorced mother married an Indonesian.

Many Indonesians felt a strong bond with Obama because of his exposure to Indonesia and its culture, even making him a 2m bronze statue that was placed in his former school.

The statue of "Little Barry" - as Obama was known to his Indonesian school friends - depicts the boy Obama dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with a butterfly perched on his hand.

Indonesia's foreign ministry said Obama's visit to holiday in Indonesia came after several invitations from President Joko Widodo.

While in the capital, Obama will meet the president on June 30 and give a speech at an Indonesian diaspora convention the next day.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: JUN 24, 2017, 2:36 PM SGT
Barack Obama kicks off tropical holiday in Indonesia's Bali

Former United States president Barack Obama and his family have reportedly visited several tourist attractions during their Bali holiday so far, including the Agung Rai Museum of Art, the Jatiluwih rice terraces and Ayung River.

Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters arrived in Bali on Friday evening for a five-day vacation on the Island of the Gods.

On Saturday, the family visited Agung Rai Art Museum (ARMA). Located on Jl. Raya Pengosekan, Ubud, the museum exhibits collections of both traditional and modern paintings from foreign and local artists, including Ida Bagus Made and Anak Agung Gede Sobrat.

During their museum visit, the Obamas were also welcomed by Pendet and Tumbuk Padi dance performances. According to tempo.co, the former president expressed an interest in a 1930s painting by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.

The next day, the Obamas reportedly went to Jatiluwih village in Tabanan. Known for its breathtaking views of rice terraces, the area is located around 54 kilometers from Denpasar and is included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Obama and his family reportedly walked through the 500-meter hiking route circling the paddy fields. They then visited Pura Subak, meeting local farmers.

On Monday, Obama and his family members made their way to Ayung River in Bongkasa Village, Badung, which is located a stone’s throw away from their hotel, the Four Seasons Resort Ubud. Kompas.com reported that Obama and his entourage spent two hours cruising the river, using six boats accompanied by five professional guides.

Obama is scheduled to leave Bali on June 28. The former first family will also visit Yogyakarta and Jakarta.

Former US president Barack Obama (second left), his wife Michelle (third left) and his daughters Sasha (front center) and Malia (second right) go rafting at Bongkasa Village in Badung on Bali island on June 26. Barack Obama kicked off a 10-day family holiday in Indonesia that will take place in Bali and Jakarta, the city where he spent part of his childhood.

Former US president Barack Obama (center) and his entourage take a break after a walk through the field while visiting the Jatiluwih tourist site in Tabanan on Bali island on June 25.

The Jakarta Post, Published: Mon, June 26, 2017 - 07:39 pm
Obama’s Bali trip includes museum visit, rice terraces, rafting adventure
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Nuclear weapons

A United Nations-backed panel has publicly released a draft treaty banning the possession and use of all nuclear weapons.

The draft treaty is the culmination of a sustained campaign, supported by more than 130 non-nuclear states frustrated with the sclerotic pace of disarmament, to prohibit nuclear weapons and persuade nuclear-armed states to disarm.

Nine countries are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. None has supported the draft plan.

The draft treaty obliges state parties to “never under any circumstances … develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices … use nuclear weapons … [or] carry out any nuclear weapon test”.

States would also be obliged to destroy any nuclear weapons they possess and would be forbidden from transferring nuclear weapons to any other recipient.

Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN, Elayne Whyte Gómez, who chaired the treaty drafting conference, said she expected revisions and there was “a good level of convergence among the delegations, especially on the core prohibitions”.

Disarmament advocates say the draft treaty, supported by dozens of countries, is now on track to be discussed at a second session in New York in mid-June that could end with the document’s adoption as a UN treaty in July.

The US and other nuclear powers have argued states should strengthen and improve the 47-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty instead of adopting a total ban.

US officials have cited the threat posed by North Korea, which has conducted a series of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests this year, as reason why nuclear deterrence – and gradual nuclear disarmament – is still needed.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons (Ican), said the draft language was strong in categorically prohibiting nuclear weapons.

“We are particularly happy the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and that it builds on previous prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.”

Fihn urged nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states to join discussions over a ban treaty, as demonstration of their commitment to disarmament.

“Nuclear weapons are ethically unacceptable in the 21st century. Intended to indiscriminately kill civilians, this 1940s technology is putting countless of lives at risk every day. Their continued existence undermines the moral credibility of every country which relies on them. A treaty to ban them, as a first step towards their elimination, will have real and lasting impact.”

The efficacy of a ban treaty is a matter of fierce debate.

Support has been growing steadily over months of negotiations but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states, which include the veto-wielding permanent five members of the UN security council.

Critics argue that a treaty cannot succeed without the participation of the states that possess nuclear weapons, or the alliance states that enjoy their protection.

Australia, citing the deterrent effect of the US nuclear umbrella, has been the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.

During months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.

But proponents say a nuclear weapons ban will create moral suasion – in the vein of the cluster and landmine conventions – for nuclear weapons states to disarm, and establish an international norm prohibiting the development, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

Non-nuclear states have expressed increasing frustration with the current nuclear regime and the piecemeal progress towards disarmament.

With nuclear weapons states modernising and in some cases increasing their arsenals, instead of discarding them, more states are becoming disenchanted with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and lending their support for an outright ban.

A UN draft treaty would ban the possession and use of nuclear weapons but the US says the threat posed by North Korea shows why nuclear deterrence is still needed

The Guardian, Last modified on Friday 23 June 2017 20.52 BST

UN panel releases draft treaty banning possession and use of nuclear weapons

States would have to destroy any nuclear weapons they have and would be forbidden from transferring them

By Ben Doherty and agencies

The US has joined Russia, China and several other nuclear states in sitting out of the latest UN talks on banning nuclear weapons.

Supporters of nuclear disarmament say it is time to push harder to eliminate the weapons than nations have done in the nearly 50 years since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed.

But the nuclear powers say an outright ban would not work and they should stick with the gradual approach.

The treaty, signed in 1968, recognised five nuclear states – the US, the UK, the USSR (now Russia), China and France – and agreed to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the gradual decommissioning of atomic weapons.

But India and Pakistan are also believed to have nuclear weapons and refused to sign it. Israel, another a non-signatory, remains deliberately opaque about its nuclear status and has never carried out a public test, but is believed to have at least some weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and has been carrying out nuclear tests with increasing frequency over the past few years.

More than 100 countries voted for a UN General Assembly resolution last year to start discussions, with nations including Austria, Brazil and Ireland leading the effort.

With international tensions rising while public awareness of the nuclear threat has waned, “the need for progress on nuclear disarmament has rarely been as urgent as it is today”, UN under-secretary general for disarmament Kim Won-soo said as the talks opened.

US ambassador Nikki Haley said that “as a mother, as a daughter” there was “nothing I want more” than a world without nuclear weapons but they had “to be realistic”.

She joined colleagues from the UK, France and around 20 other nations, including non-nuclear states, in gathering outside the UN General Assembly Hall in New York to show opposition to the talks.

Ms Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who was appointed by Donald Trump in January, said the move would mean disarming nations that were “trying to keep peace and safety” while “bad actors” could continue on unchecked.

She said: “North Korea would be the one cheering, and all of us and the people we represent would be the ones at risk”.

Opponents of the ban say gradual disarmament has made a difference. The US has reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85 per cent under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Ms Haley said, and the UK has cut its nuclear forces by over 50 per cent since the height of the Cold War, according to ambassador Matthew Rycroft.

"Our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability," French deputy ambassador Alexis Lamek said.

Chinese and Russian representatives did not join the boycotters’ news conference but said they would not participate in the talks.

The negotiations aim to create "a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination". Backers hope a document will be produced by July.

Any treaty would bind only nations that ratified it, but despite the opposition from key nuclear players, supporters of the ban feel it could help create a new international norm of rejecting atomic arms.

More than 2000 nuclear tests have been carried out across the world

The Independent, Published: Tuesday 28 March 2017 09:07 BST

US boycotts 'dangerous' UN talks on unilaterally banning nuclear weapons

US ambassador Nikki Haley says ban would mean 'bad actors' could develop weapons unchecked

By Caroline Mortimer

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Trump's lies

JAN. 21 “I wasn't a fan of Iraq. I didn't want to go into Iraq.” (He was for an invasion before he was against it.)

JAN. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine − and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.)
JUNE 1 “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (The agreement doesn’t allow or disallow building coal plants.)

JUNE 1 “I’ve just returned from a trip overseas where we concluded nearly $350 billion of military and economic development for the United States, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.” (Trump’s figures are inflated and premature.)

JUNE 4 “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” (The mayor was specifically talking about the enlarged police presence on the streets.)

JUNE 5 “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” (Trump signed this version of the travel ban, not the Justice Department.)
JUNE 21 “They all say it's 'nonbinding.' Like hell it's nonbinding.” (The Paris climate agreement is nonbinding − and Trump said so in his speech announcing the withdrawal.)

JUNE 21 “Right now, we are one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (We're not.)

President Trump’s political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama's birthplace).

His lack of truthfulness has also become central to the Russia investigation, with James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testifying under oath about Trump's “lies, plain and simple.”

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths.

Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers.

No other president − of either party − has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

We have set a conservative standard, leaving out many dubious statements (like the claim that his travel ban is “similar” to Obama administration policy).

Some people may still take issue with this standard, arguing that the president wasn't speaking literally.

But we believe his long pattern of using untruths to serve his purposes, as a businessman and politician, means that his statements are not simply careless errors.

We are using the word “lie” deliberately.

Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump's part.

But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes.

He is lying.

The New York Times, Published: JUNE 23, 2017

T r u m p ’ s L i e s

Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies.
But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them.

So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.


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Money games in Malaysia

Poor wealth management experiences fuel money games

OVER the past 2 months, it was virtually impossible to pick up any newspaper and not read reports about the money game phenomenon that has taken the media by storm.

It is as if the Pandora’s Box had been suddenly flung open by the exposé of JJPTR, leading to other similar schemes coming to light.

The victim profile ranges from white-collared professionals and savvy businessmen to senior citizens and housewives. It would appear as if just about anyone from different walks of life could be susceptible to these money schemes.

It is easy for observers and bystanders to pin the blame on the investors for getting themselves in a sticky situation. After all, if we apply the caveat emptor (buyer beware) principle to other types of goods and services, the investors should have clearly known the risks of subscribing to these money games and therefore should have been aware of the possibility of losing their investments.

So, what caused groups of people to lose their common sense when it comes to money games?

Scams come in many shapes, sizes and forms but look closely and you will see that they all have many things in common in terms of the modus operandi and the people they seem to attract. From JJPTR and MBI International right at our doorstep to China’s Nanning investment scheme and the most notorious Ponzi scheme of all times – the Madoff scandal, all these scams preyed on innate human weaknesses and appealed to investors’ desire to grow their wealth.

Many would be quick to label these investors as greedy or gullible, but I beg to differ. I see nothing wrong with wanting to achieve financial freedom and get higher investment returns. The people who invested and lost in these scams are not multi-millionaires with ample financial resources. They are average Malaysians who have worked hard and saved their money for a rainy day, only to see their nest egg disappear into thin air. What drove them to place the precious results of their blood, sweat and tears into unregulated investment schemes?

I am convinced that the reason stems from the investors’ poor experience with regulated investment product providers.

The so-called ‘push’ factor

There is a mismatch of what consumers need and what financial institutions are trying to sell. Consumers want guidance on how to use regulated investments as a means to grow their wealth with high certainty and achieve financial freedom.

The general public sees banks as an easy, accessible channel to obtain advice on personal finance and investment matters via wealth management services. There is no issue with legitimacy as the array of financial products and services available through banks are duly approved by the regulatory authorities.

The problem arises when investors are not getting what they need, which is advisory support, from their current wealth management providers. More often than not, investors feel overwhelmed by the choices available in the market. Worse still, investors do not know what action to take when their investments lose money. It is not uncommon to find that the wealth management providers are very attentive and proactive in recommending options; but once the sales is concluded, the investor is basically left to his or her own devices.

As a result of the lack of hand-holding or after-sales service, some investors may find that rather than growing money, they end up losing 20%-30% of their capital. The sheer irony of it is that because of the experience of losing money, they now perceive regulated investments as highly volatile and uncertain, and ultimately lose faith. I have personally encountered clients who harbour such misgivings about unit trusts, that they would bluntly tell me right from the initial meeting, not to propose such options to them.

I realised then the extent to which poor experiences with wealth management providers can lead to misplaced biases against certain investment vehicles even though investors could benefit from the right ones. When disillusioned investors turn their heads elsewhere, this is when they discover “alternative” investment options. And many end up falling for money games because they are sold on the idea of fixed return investments perceived to be low risk, coupled with the promise of better returns.

In this instance, the “push” factor, i.e. the unmet financial needs of consumers, which contributed to investors subscribing to shady schemes, has equal bearing to the “pull” factor (attraction) of these money scams.

“I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand.” – Al Capone, American mobster

As with most goods and services that are detrimental to our well-being (e.g. junk food, cigarettes, gambling, etc), it is consumers’ demand for them that drives their industry and makes them thrive. Without customers, these shady businesses would naturally die off.

The ability of the money games to proliferate boils down to the “smart” business acumen of the operators to “fill the gap” so to speak. By offering an alternative investment scheme at a time when the market is slow and when many investors are experiencing losses, these money games are seen as a sudden golden ticket towards becoming rich. However, as we have seen, the golden ticket eventually loses its shine and the investors are left holding nothing but a worthless scrap of paper.

Therefore, there would be fewer victims of money games if the wealth management industry as a whole were to step up and reinvent themselves into a genuine one-stop financial centre to help their clients address all financial and investment issues at various points of their lives.

When the grass on one side is always greener, the rest will not matter

In order to ensure that they are seen by clients as the “go-to” person for all financial and investment related concerns, wealth management providers will need to exceed expectations and to a certain degree, over-deliver on their current role.

Wealth managers could assist clients to evaluate various investment proposals to determine its suitability and guide clients to use regulated investment vehicles to invest in various asset classes such as equities, bonds, REITs and foreign investments to grow their money effectively.

They could also play the role of a financial bodyguard to help investors fend off scams and illegitimate investments.

In an ideal world, wealth managers will set aside sufficient time and effort to understand the client’s financial position in a holistic manner. They will prepare a tailored and dynamic plan with milestones and checkpoints to help monitor and review progress.

To my peers in the wealth management industry, I would say, cut the lip service and let’s get serious about managing and growing wealth for our clients.

When more and more investors realise that they are able to count on their wealth management providers for all the required support they need to achieve their financial end game, then money games will no longer have room to take root.

Easier option: Poor experience with regulated investment product providers may be the reason for investors to go for ‘alternative’ investment options such as money games.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 24 June 2017
Money game scourge

Yap Ming Hui is a bestselling author, TV personality, columnist, coach and host of Yap’s Money Live Show online.
He feels that the financial world is getting too complicated for everyone, and initiated a weekly online show to address the issues.
For more information, please visit his website at www.whitman.com.my


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Southern Philippines

There’s more than one reason for the violence, and there is a major reason why we should monitor the situation closely.

“YOU are going to Mindanao? You are not afraid of the Islamic State?” asked a Filipina waitress working in a sushi restaurant in Sunway Pyramid, Petaling Jaya, two days before I travelled to the restive southern Philippines.

Interesting, I thought. Previously, when I told Filipinos in Kuala Lumpur and Manila, that I was heading to places like Jolo, Zamboanga City or Cotabato City in the southern Philippines, they would say, “You are going to Mindanao? You are not afraid of Abu Sayyaf?”

The IS terror group has replaced the Abu Sayyaf as the bogeyman in the Philippines.

The May 23 attack on Marawi City in Mindanao, propelled IS to become Filipinos’ greatest fear.

The war in the only Islamic city in Catholic-dominated Philippines blew up when the military and police tried to capture Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who pledged loyalty (bai’ah) to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The military miscalculated the strength of Hapilon’s group, that was backed by the Maute group based in Marawi City.

I organised the sudden, quick four-night trip to Zamboanga City, Davao City and Manila, to meet contacts familiar with the terror threatening their country.

Rather than being an armchair observer, I wanted to be on the ground to check the implications of the on-going battle for Malaysia.

Inevitably, my hometown in Sabah is connected to the terror in the southern Philippines because of proximity.

Going to Marawi City was not possible, given my time limit. One of the closest airports was Cagayan de Oro, 103km away, or two and a half hours’ drive.

Plus, it is a war zone. You need courage and lots of dollars (to pay for fixers and transport) to enter it.

Mindanao is under martial law. President Rodrigo Duterte declared 60 days of martial law on the day security forces failed to apprehend Isnilon.

But there was not much difference between the Zamboanga City I visited last week and the one I visited in January 2016.

It was not as if there was a heavy military presence.

This was the softer version of the martial law imposed by Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986.

(According to The Philippine Star, enforced disappearances, tortures, killings and other forms of human rights abuses marked Marcos’ regime after he declared martial law on Sept 21, 1972.)

The same for Davao City.

Life goes on. For example, on Saturday, I attended, together with my good friend Edith Ging Z. Caduaya, a book launch of Alab, the Awakening of Filipino Nationalism, a collection of essays by OFW (overseas Filipino workers) on their life working overseas and also their support for Duterte.

I took a photograph with a full-sized cardboard cut-out of Davao’s most beloved resident Duterte, signed several Alab books, took a wefie with Davao media personalities and Alab essayists and ate lechon baboy (roasted pig).

Life goes on. For example, out of curiosity, I visited a night club in front of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, where I was staying. And I had read on the internet that it was THE place to go.

I paid 50 pesos (RM4.20) to enter the night club. Unfortunately, the dancers did not have hot legs but had thunder thighs.

Life goes on, but there is a lingering fear. I met a 30-something contact in the lobby of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, which Edith recommended as it is where Duterte holds most of his press conferences.

The contact asked if it was okay if she could bring her friends along for dinner. I said okay. Four tough-looking men accompanied her.

“How come you have people guarding you?” I asked.

“You know there is a threat here,” she whispered as we waited for a pickup truck to pick us up.

“What threat?” I said, playing dumb.

“They might target Davao City,” she said, referring to IS.

The fear of attack was also whispered to me by my contacts in Zamboanga City.

“Jolo town might be the next Marawi City,” said another contact as we had dinner at Garden Orchid Hotel in Zamboanga City.

“What have you heard?” I said.

“There are text messages from the Patikul group that they are planning to target Jolo town after Hari Raya,” said the 30-something woman who lives in Jolo town, referring to Abu Sayyaf groups based in Patikul municipality, adjacent to Jolo town.

“They want to turn Jolo into Marawi City. They can’t make money from kidnapping in Sabah as the borders are closed. They are desperate. They hate Duterte.”

“How possible is this attack?” I asked, worried as when there’s trouble in Jolo island it might spill over to Sabah.

“The military is on full alert. There’s a 50% possibility that they can do it. Not impossible as they’ve got the arms and 500 gunmen and other Abu Sayyaf groups from Indanan and Talipao might join in.”

I checked her information with an academician based in Jolo.

“The situation in Jolo is different from Marawi,” he said.

“In Jolo, the residents who are armed will fight back. The local politicians will also fight back. Also, there are not many high buildings in Jolo town for snipers.”

Before my trip to the Philippines, I thought that the Marawi City siege was only related to IS.

It is actually a combination of several factors such as the Islamic State influence and narco politics – a defeated Marawi City politician who is allegedly a drug lord with connections with the Maute family.

Listening to the why of the war in Marawi City reminded me of the Tanduo intrusion in 2013.

There were several reasons for it – from micro to macro. Plus, depending on whom you talked to, the reasons differed.

I was reminded of that when I met Dayang Dayang Sitti Krishna Kiram, the half-sister of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III and Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the intrusion.

“They came to look for jobs, Philip,” said Abraham Idjirani, Sitti Krishna’s husband and secretary-general of the so-called Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo when we met at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.

Some of the gunmen holed up in Marawi are abandoning the city, according to several of my contacts, to start a war in other parts of the southern Philippines. Hopefully, they won’t, as Esscom warned, end up in Sabah.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 24 June 2017
In southern Philippines, it’s complicated

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A female Japanese politician


東京新聞 2017年6月22日 21時27分
豊田議員、園遊会でもトラブル 母親入場させようと

TOKYO (AFP) - A female Japanese politician has resigned after an audio tape emerged of her violently attacking a male secretary, and reportedly threatening to crush his head with a lead pipe.

Mayuko Toyota, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate and up-and-coming member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), can be heard screaming at the unnamed aide, saying he should die as she mocked his thinning hair.

Her 55-year-old secretary can be heard repeatedly apologising and begging the lawmaker to stop kicking and beating him.

"Don't damage my reputation anymore," Toyota screams, apparently in response to a mistake she claims the man had made.

Major Japanese media, including public broadcaster NHK, named Toyota as the woman heard on the tape. No one picked up the phone at her office on Friday (June 23).

The secretary recorded the exchange, which took place last month inside a car that he was driving, according to a weekly magazine that was given the tape and uploaded on YouTube.

The magazine wrote a story that claimed Toyota had threatened to crush the man's head with a pipe in a separate incident, and made references to the hypothetical rape and murder of his daughter.

An LDP official said Toyota submitted a letter of resignation on Thursday, but it was not clear if it would be accepted.

Toyota has been hospitalised due to an "unstable mental condition", an LDP official said - a not uncommon turn of events for a Japanese politician at the centre of a crisis.

The incident marks the latest in a string of scandals involving younger LDP members, including one who quit over an extramarital affair and another who quit over his financial dealings.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: JUN 23, 2017, 6:31 PM SGT
Female Japanese politician Mayuko Toyota resigns after attacking male aide

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I am not Abe.





ジャーナリズトの高野孟氏は、週刊ポストが「不潔な、あまりに不潔な 安倍政権の恥部」と題する安倍首相批判記事を掲載したことを紹介し、安倍政治を取り巻く潮流に明確な変化が生じているとの認識を示した。

官邸での記者会見で菅義偉官房長官に執拗に質問を浴びせかけた東京新聞の望月衣塑子記者が駆けつけて登壇し、前川喜平前文部科学事務次官に対するインタビュー内容を詳細に語った (*)。








雷でも落ちたかのような大きな拍手はしばらく鳴りやまなかった。聴衆は救世主を間近で見る喜びに沸いた ―




 市民たちはトラメガで「記者の皆さん、報道しなくて恥ずかしくないのですか? 安倍首相の拡声器ですか? プロとしての記事を書いて下さい」などと訴えた。


望月衣塑子記者。政治部ではなく社会部の所属だ。東京新聞はアベ寿司友のメンバーではない。菅官房長官を追及できた理由がここにある。=21日、参院会館 撮影:筆者=

聴衆は望月記者(後ろ姿)に惜しみない拍手を送った。=21日、参院会館 撮影:筆者=

国会記者会館前に集まった市民たちは新聞・テレビに対して「森友疑惑をちゃんと報道して」と抗議した。=2月、永田町 撮影:筆者=

2017年6月22日 21:51, 田中龍作ジャーナル
― メディアの使命果たす東京新聞・望月記者に万雷の拍手 ―


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Battle of Okinawa

NAHA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Okinawa on Friday marked 72 years since the end of a fierce World War II ground battle that claimed more than 200,000 lives, nearly half of them civilians.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga are among the officials to take part in the memorial service for the war dead at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, the site of the final stage of the Battle of Okinawa.

The central and local governments remain at odds over the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the southern prefecture, with the governor demanding that the base be moved out of the prefecture.

Resentment over base-hosting lingers among the residents following a series of accidents and incidents involving the U.S. military.

In December last year, a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft made a water crash-landing off Okinawa, the first major accident involving the tilt-rotor transport aircraft in Japan. The aircraft, deployed in Futenma base, is seen in Okinawa as accident-prone for its record of fatal accidents overseas.

The alleged rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawa woman by a U.S. civilian base worker in April 2016 also deepened anti-base sentiment in the prefecture.

This year, the names of 54 war dead were newly inscribed on the Cornerstone of Peace in the park, bringing the total to 241,468, irrespective of nationality and military or civilian status.

The monument was erected by Masahide Ota, a former Okinawa governor who died on June 12 at the age of 92.

Ota was governor when large protests erupted over the rape of a 12-year-old local girl by U.S. service members in 1995, bringing national attention to the disproportionately large U.S. military presence in the island prefecture and heightening tensions between the prefectural and central governments.

U.S. military bases in the prefecture were built on land expropriated from islanders during the postwar U.S. occupation that lasted until 1972, resulting in the prefecture accounting for some 70 percent of the total area of U.S. military facilities in the country.

The Battle of Okinawa began in the spring of 1945, when U.S. forces landed on the main island of Okinawa and other islands in the area. Some 94,000 civilians, or about a quarter of the residents of the prefecture, died in the three-month battle between Japanese and U.S. troops. Overall, more than 200,000 lives were lost, including those of Americans.

Family members of those died in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa offer flowers and drinks to the cenotaph for the war dead at the Peace Memorial Park in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Itoman, on June 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

Mainichi Japan, Published: June 23, 2017
Okinawa marks 72nd anniversary of fierce WWII ground battle

Read more: Battle of Okinawa By Ted Tsukiyama
The Battle of Okinawa has been called the largest sea-land-air battle in history. It is also the last battle of the Pacific War.

Three months of desperate combat leave Okinawa a "vast field of mud, lead, decay, and maggots."

More than 100,000 Okinawan civilians perish, with over 72,000 American and 100,000 Japanese casualties.

Americans of Japanese Ancestry During WWII
Takejiro Higa

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America has a water crisis no one is talking about

Access to clean water is a basic human right. Yet for 14 million US households, or 12 percent of homes, water bills are too expensive. And as the cost of water rises, even more Americans are at risk of not being able to pay their monthly water bill.

According to a paper from researchers at Michigan State University, water prices will have to increase by 41 percent in the next five years to cover the costs of replacing aging water infrastructure and adapting to climate change. That will mean that nearly 41 million households − or a staggering third of all US households − may not be able to afford water for drinking, bathing, and cooking by 2020.

There is no law that guarantees water access for poor Americans. And most financial assistance is left to the discretion of individual water utilities. So customers who have fallen behind in payments can have their water services abruptly shut off.

More than 50,000 households in Detroit have lost water services since 2014 because they couldn’t pay their bills. Flint, Michigan, which is still in the throes of a lead poisoning crisis, is now threatening to terminate water services for more than 8,000 people who haven’t paid their bill.

But it’s not just the Michigan urban poor who are at risk.

The researchers found thousands of other census tracts around the US where the median income was low enough to put people at risk of not be able to afford their water bills as water prices continue to rise.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended that water and wastewater services should not make up more than 4.5 percent of a household’s income. So the researchers considered places where the median income was less than $32,000 in 2014 to be high risk (in dark blue), while places where the median incomes range from $32,000 to $45,120 (in light blue) were at risk. In all, we’re looking at a huge number of areas across the US where millions of households are struggling to pay their water bill.

A third of American households might be unable to pay their water bill by 2020
According to the American Water Works Association, on average we pay less than half a penny for a gallon of water. But “it doesn’t mean there aren’t families that struggle to pay,” said Greg Kail, the communications director at AWWA.

And people in poorer states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, and Arkansas are especially at risk of not being able to pay their water bills, according to Elizabeth Mack, a researcher at Michigan State and the co-author of the paper, which appeared online in the journal PLOS One. In Mississippi, nearly 75 percent of the state was either at high risk or at risk. But the problem wasn’t concentrated in just rural areas either. Mack also found 81 percent of high-risk census tracts were located in metropolitan areas.

And if water rates increase by 41 percent in the next five years (as Mack thinks they will), the number of households unable to pay their water bill will nearly triple, from 14 million to 41 million.

The 6 percent increase reflects the actual change in water costs between 2014 and 2015, and the 41 percent increase is how much water prices rose from 2010 to 2015. (Mack is assuming water rates will increase at the same clip as they did from 2010 to 2015 and that median household income will remain flat − reasonable considering household income has seen no real growth in the past 20 years.)

“I don’t know why people haven’t paid more attention to this,” she said.

The huge costs of repairing water infrastructure is forcing water rates up
After World War II, America went on something of an infrastructure kick, building an expansive network of water pipes in cities across the country. But now these pipes are more than 60 years old and in many instances are in desperate need of repair.

Federal funding for water infrastructure has fallen from more than 60 percent in the late 1970s to just 9 percent now. And civil engineers estimate the price tag for overhauling America’s drinking water system and bringing it up to code will be at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years. Add to that the estimated $14 billion to $26 billion needed to adapt water systems to climate change by 2050.

Tracy Mehan, executive director of government affairs at AWWA, has pushed for an increase in federal funding but says we can’t avoid higher water rates. “We’ve coasted for decades in most places around the country. Our rates are half that of northern European cities,” he said. “Rates are going up and need to go up.”

Just how far up? Mack thinks annual water bills will increase by nearly $600 over the next five years to around $2,000, or $169 per month. (The average annual bill is currently $1,440, or $120 a month.)

What’s more, Mack says her estimates are conservative compared with those of Circle of Blue, a nonprofit focused on issues of water affordability. Circle of Blue found cities like Austin; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago; San Francisco; and Tucson, Arizona, all experienced water rate hikes greater than 50 percent within the past five years.

This means for a family of four making $32,000 in Atlanta, an annual water bill of $3,912 eats up more than 12 percent of their income − and again, that’s three times what the EPA recommends a family should be paying for water.

Some cities are restructuring water rates based on income, which could help struggling families
One possible solution that Mack said is gaining traction to help low-income Americans address affordability issues is restructuring water rates based on income.

Restructuring water rates involves determining the number of gallons a customer can use each month for a prenegotiated fee. If a customer uses more than the set amount, they pay a penalty or overage fee. Recent research shows that when utilities restructure rates, it can help offset the rising costs of water service.

But as cities move to restructure rates and redistribute costs, it’s important they implement lower cost rate structures for low-income households. Otherwise, restructuring rates can backfire and poorer households can end up with an even higher bill than what they were paying before. Mack says a food stamp equivalent program for water services or some kind of low income subsidy could help.

“People could think about setting up lower fees for different income brackets,” she said. “Set a minimal level of necessary water use [for lower-income households] and if you use more than that, from that point you pay more.”

And some cities like Philadelphia are already moving to implement a rate structure that offers low-income families reduced water rates. In July, the city is rolling out a tiered rate structure for customers whose incomes fall at or below 150 percent of the poverty line.

With a third of Americans at risk of not being able to pay their water bill by 2020, we need to move quickly to invest in infrastructure and restructure water rates in a way that doesn’t negatively impact low-income customers. Otherwise we could be looking at a national crisis similar to what’s playing out in Detroit and Flint − thousands of families losing their water because they can’t afford their bill.

Vox, Published: May 9, 2017, 8:30am EDT

America has a water crisis no one is talking about

Outdated infrastructure is making water too expensive for millions of families.

Updated by Sarah Frostenson

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Clean Water

Water is one of the most important and common liquids on our planet. Whether it’s for cooking, drinking or showering, water is an essential part of our everyday lives.

Although we consume water everyday, how much do we really know about it? The ocean, the world’s largest body of water, is one of the world’s biggest mysteries. To date, the ocean is largely unexplored, with some estimating that approximately only five percent has been explored.

With that in mind, how much do you know about water? Test your knowledge with this quick quiz and maybe learn some new facts along the way.

While many of us have easy access to water, there are many who aren’t able to access water as easily. We don’t have to look too far for these people at all – there are many remote Orang Asli villages in Malaysia that do not have any access to clean water supplies.

The Orang Asli living in remote villages have to rely on wells, nearby rivers and mountain for drinking, cooking and other household chores. Sometimes, even that may not be enough as they may encounter problems like heavy water usage by nearby plantations that decreases their water supplies.

Wanting to help the Orang Asli community, Coway Malaysia (*) recently collaborated with the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) to carry out its first instalment of a long-term corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative called Happy Water Project.

The aim of the project is to provide 1,000 Orang Asli families across Malaysia with access to clean water within five years.

As part of their initiative, Coway reached out to help 327 residents from 73 Orang Asli families living in the remote area of Kampung Sungai Tiang, Cameron Highlands.

Coway installed rainwater harvesting systems that are specially designed and developed to offer ease of use, complete with a pump to accommodate water usage in the mountain. The systems are also easy to use without the need to rely on skilled labour.

Over the next five years, Coway will continue to collaborate with JAKOA to help provide the Orang Asli villages with access to clean water.

Coway Malaysia managing director Kyle Choi Ki-Ryong (right) and marketing director Ryan Jung posing with the Orang Asli children of Kampung Sungai Tiang.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017 - MYT 10:00 AM
How much do you know about water?

(*) Coway Malayasia

KUALA LUMPUR: For hundreds of millions of people on earth, their pursuit of happiness is the ability to drink clean water to quench their thirst.

Despite the fact that 70 per cent of the earth is covered in water - about 300 trillion litres of water - the world is dying of thirst.

This issue became the focus of the talk by H2GO Global chief executive officer Dr Rajiv Bhanot at the Global Transformation Forum 2017 (**) today during a session titled 'Entrepreneurial Innovation: Small ideas can be transformational'.

"Believe it or not, in this day and age, it is a privilege to be able to drink sanitised water because 2.5 billion or about 1/3 of the world's population do not have access to clean water.

"To put things into perspective, in a hall of 3,000 people like this, 1,000 of you will be forced to drink filthy and contaminated water or forced to go thirsty. This is the reality and a very cruel irony," he told the audience.

Dr Rajiv who is a medical practitioner then relayed an anecdote about a housewife in a rural village in coastal Borneo, whose family has been burdened with the constant fear of waterborne diseases caused by drinking contaminated water.

"Radu is not alone in her struggle. In 46 countries around world, half of the people do not have access to clean water.

"It is a sad fact that every nine seconds, an innocent life is lost due to poor sanitation. (That means) every year, about 3.5 million human lives - about double the population of Kuala Lumpur - are lost," he pointed out.

To address this issue, Dr Rajiv and his colleagues at H2go have in the past five years developed their patented British nanotechnology which could convert filthy contaminated water into safe drinking water without the use of electricity, chemical additives or ultraviolet treatment.

"Just by turning on a tap, we can get clean water which has a production cost of less than 1 sen per litre of water.

"We have been to the most interior and inaccessible parts of the world and transformed the lives of 2 million people globally," he said.

However, Dr Rajiv said this figure has only scratched the surface of the crisis.

"Today we have the technology, know-hows and resources to be changemakers but the only thing that is lacking is human will.

"About 650 million people are now trapped in water poverty and our journey has barely begun.

"We have worked with governments, non-governmental organisations as and big corporate entities because we believe that nobody should die from water poverty. It is our collective responsibility to engage the world," he said.

The New Straits Time: Published: March 23, 2017 - 11:36am
Providing clean water for all, one household at a time

(**) A medical practitioner by profession, Dr Rajiv Bhanot:

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Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease has an unusual distinction: It’s the illness that Americans fear most − more than cancer, stroke or heart disease.

The rhetoric surrounding Alzheimer’s reflects this. People “fade away” and are tragically “robbed of their identities” as this incurable condition progresses, we’re told time and again.

Yet, a sizable body of research suggests this Alzheimer’s narrative is mistaken. It finds that people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia retain a sense of self and have a positive quality of life, overall, until the illness’s final stages.

They appreciate relationships. They’re energized by meaningful activities and value opportunities to express themselves. And they enjoy feeling at home in their surroundings.

“Do our abilities change? Yes. But inside we’re the same people,” said John Sandblom, 57, of Ankeny, Iowa, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago.

Dr. Peter Rabins, a psychiatrist and co-author of “The 36-Hour Day,” a guide for Alzheimer patients’ families, summarized research findings this way: “Overall, about one-quarter of people with dementia report a negative quality of life, although that number is higher in people with severe disease.”

“I’ve learned something from this,” admitted Rabins, a professor at the University of Maryland. “I’m among the people who would have thought, ‘If anything happens to my memory, my ability to think, I can’t imagine anything worse.’

“But I’ve seen that you can be a wonderful grandparent and not remember the name of the grandchild you adore. You can be with people you love and enjoy them, even if you’re not following the whole conversation.”

The implication: Promoting well-being is both possible and desirable in people with dementia, even as people struggle with memory loss, slower cognitive processing, distractibility and other symptoms.

“There are many things that caregivers, families and friends can do − right now − to improve people’s lives,” said Dr. Allen Power, author of “Dementia Beyond Disease: Enhancing Well-Being” and chair for aging and dementia innovation at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging in Canada.

Of course, the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are enormously difficult, and resources to help caregivers are scarce − problems that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Still, up to 80 percent of people with dementia are in the mild and moderate stages. Here are some elements of their quality of life that should be attended to:

Focus On Health

One notable study analyzed lengthy discussions between people with dementia, caregivers and professionals at six meetings of Alzheimer’s Disease International, an association of Alzheimer’s societies across the world.

Those discussions emphasized the importance of physical health: being free from pain, well-fed, physically active and well-groomed, having continence needs met, being equipped with glasses and hearing aids and not being overmedicated. Cognitive health was also a priority. People wanted “cognitive rehabilitation” to help them learn practical techniques for promoting memory or compensating for memory loss.

Up to 40 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from significant depression, and research by Rabins and colleagues underscores the importance of evaluating and offering treatment to someone who appears sad, apathetic and altogether disinterested in life.

Foster Social Connections

Being connected with and involved with other people is a high priority for people with dementia. Based on research conducted over several decades, Rabins listed social interaction as one of the five essential elements of a positive quality of life.

But fear, discomfort and misunderstanding routinely disrupt relationships once a diagnosis is revealed.

“The saddest thing that I hear, almost without exception, from people all over the world is that family, friends and acquaintances desert them,” said Sandblom, who runs a weekly online support group for Dementia Alliance International, an organization for people with dementia that he co-founded in January 2014.

Adapt Communication

Not knowing how to communicate with someone with dementia is a common problem.

Laura Gitlin, a dementia researcher and director of The Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, offered these suggestions in an article in the International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation: Speak slowly, simply and calmly, make one or two points at a time, allow someone sufficient time to respond, avoid the use of negative words, don’t argue, eliminate noise and distraction, make eye contact but don’t stare, and express affection by smiling, holding hands or giving a hug.

Also, understand that people with dementia perceive things differently.

“You have to understand that when you have dementia you lose a lot of your natural perceptions of what others are doing,” Sandblom said. “So, a lot of us get a little nervous or suspicious. I think that’s a natural human reaction to knowing that you’re not picking up on things very well.”

Address Unmet Needs

Needs that aren’t recognized or addressed can cause significant distress and a lower quality of life. Rather than treat the distress, Power suggested, try to understand the underlying cause and do something about it.

Which needs are commonly unmet? In a study published in 2013, Rabins and colleagues identified several: managing patients’ risk of falling (unmet almost 75 percent of the time); addressing health and medical concerns (unmet, 63 percent); engaging people in meaningful activities (53 percent); and evaluating homes so that they’re safe and made easier to navigate (45 percent).

Respect Autonomy And Individuality

Rabins called this “awareness of self” and listed it among the essential components of a positive quality of life. Sandblom called this “being seen as a whole person, not as my disease.”

At the Alzheimer’s Disease International meetings, people spoke of being listened to, valued and given choices that allowed them to express themselves. They said they wanted to be respected and have their spirituality recognized, not patronized, demeaned or infantilized.

In a review of 11 studies that asked people with dementia what was important to them, they said they wanted to experience autonomy and independence, feel accepted and understood, and not be overly identified with their illness.

None of this is easy. But strategies for understanding what people with dementia experience and addressing their needs can be taught. This should become a priority, Rabins said, adding that “improved quality of life should be a primary outcome of all dementia treatments.”

Kaiser Health News, Published: April 20, 2017
How To Help Alzheimer’s Patients Enjoy Life, Not Just ‘Fade Away’
By Judith Graham

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Home alone...

The 84-year-old man who had suffered a mini-stroke was insistent as he spoke to a social worker about being discharged from the hospital: He didn’t want anyone coming into his home, and he didn’t think he needed any help.

So the social worker canceled an order for home health care services. And the patient went back to his apartment without plans for follow-up care in place.

When his daughter, Lisa Winstel, found out what had happened she was furious. She’d spent a lot of time trying to convince her father that a few weeks of help at home was a good idea. And she’d asked the social worker to be in touch if there were any problems.

Similar scenarios occur surprisingly often: As many as 28 percent of patients offered home health care when they’re being discharged from a hospital − mostly older adults − say “no” to those services, according to a new report.

Understanding why this happens and what can be done about it is important − part of getting smarter about getting older.

efusing home health care after a hospitalization puts patients at risk of a difficult, incomplete or slower-than-anticipated recovery. Without these services, older adults’ odds of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 or 60 days double, according to one study.

Why, then, do seniors, resist getting this assistance?

“There are a lot of misperceptions about what home health care is,” said Carol Levine, director of the United Hospital Fund’s Families and Health Care Project, a sponsor of the new report.

Under Medicare, home health care services are available to older adults who are homebound and need intermittent skilled care from a nurse, a physical therapist or a speech therapist, among other medical providers.

Typically, these services last four to six weeks after a hospitalization, with a nurse visiting several times a week. Some patients receive them for much longer.

Many seniors and caregivers confuse home health care with “home care” delivered by aides who help people shower or get dressed or who cook, clean and serve as a companion. The two types of services are not the same: Home health care is delivered by medical professionals; home care is not. Nor is home care covered by Medicare, for the most part.

This was the mistake Winstel’s father made. He thought he was being offered an aide who would come to his apartment every day for several hours. “I don’t want a babysitter,” he complained to Winstel, chief operating officer of the Caregiver Action Network.

Like many other seniors, this older man was proud of living on his own and didn’t want to become dependent on anyone.

“Older adults are quite concerned about their independence, and they worry that this might be the first step in someone trying to take that away,” said Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a San Francisco geriatrician and creator of the website Better Health While Aging.

Other reasons for refusals: Seniors see their homes as sanctums, and they don’t want strangers invading their privacy. They think they’ve been getting along just fine and have unrealistic expectations of what recovering from a hospitalization will entail.

Or there are circumstances at home − perhaps hoarding, perhaps physical neglect − that an older adult doesn’t want someone to see. Or the patient’s cognition is compromised and he doesn’t understand his needs or limitations. Or cost is a concern.

Robert Rosati, vice president of research and quality at Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, New Jersey’s largest private home health care provider, said about 6 percent of seniors who’ve agreed to receive home health care from his organization after a hospitalization end up refusing services.

Often, a breakdown in communication is responsible. Patients haven’t been told, in clear and concrete terms, which services would be provided, by whom, for how long, how much it would cost and what the expected benefit would be. So, they don’t understand what they’re getting into, prompting resistance, Rosati said.

Kathy Bowles, director of the Center for Home Care Policy & Research at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, suggests a plain-language, positive way to convey this information. For example: “A nurse will check your medications and make sure they’re all in order. She’ll assess if you need physical therapy to help you regain your strength. And she’ll teach you and family members how to care for you once home care is over.”

“A lot of resistance arises from pride,” said Bowles, also a professor of nursing excellence at the University of Pennsylvania. “The conversation has to change from ‘Look, we think you really need help,’ to ‘We want to help you take care of yourself.’ ”

Emphasizing that a physician has recommended home health care can also be helpful. “In my experience, if a doctor says ‘I’d like a nurse to come see you and check that you’re feeling better,’ people are fairly responsive,” Kernisan said.

Instead of arguing with an older adult who says “I don’t want any assistance,” try to follow up by asking “Tell me more. What are you concerned about?” Kernisan suggested. “People really want to feel listened to and validated, not lectured to.”

This isn’t to suggest that persuading an older adult to accept unwanted help is easy. It’s not.

Last year, Winstel’s father had a medical device implanted in his spine to relieve pain from spinal stenosis − an outpatient procedure. Once again, he declined postoperative help.

Two days later, Winstel got a phone call from her dad, who had collapsed and couldn’t get up from the floor. Winstel said she’d call 911. “No, I don’t want someone coming in and finding me like this,” her father insisted. “You have to come.”

Later, at the hospital, doctors diagnosed an adverse reaction to medication and a surgical site infection on her father’s back. “He lives alone. He can’t reach back there. He wasn’t caring for the wound properly,” Winstel explained.

Extensive, heated conversations followed, during which her father insisted he was never going to change. “For him, living independently carries risks, and he’s willing to accept those risks,” Winstel said.

She hopes the new report on seniors refusing home health care will jump-start a conversation about how to bring caregivers into the process and how recommendations should be conveyed. “As the daughter of someone who has refused care, understanding that this is something lots of people go through makes me feel a little less crazy,” Winstel said.

Kaiser Health News, Published: June 15, 2017
Leaving Hospital, Older Patients Resist Home Help At Their Peril
By Judith Graham

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Bangladeshi Amatullah

In Bangladesh, where morality tales top bestseller lists, the real-life transformation of Naznin Akter Happy from an actress embroiled in scandal to a fully-veiled ultra-conservative Islamic preacher has proved sensational.

An expose shedding new light on the 22-year-old's moment of revelation is flying off shelves in the conservative country, where a stricter interpretation of Islamic morals has gradually taken root in recent years.

"From Happy to Amatullah" -- or female servant of Allah -- is a rare, extensive interview with the reclusive young woman who today only surfaces to preach a puritanical vision of Islam on social media.

Readers hungry for celebrity intrigue and divine intervention have rushed bookstores to snap up a copy, with thousands sold since its release in June and publishers scrambling to reprint.

"We've been swamped by orders for the book from all parts of the country," said Mohammad Obaidullah, owner of Maktabatul Azhar, a publishing house specialising in Islamic books.

"Everyone wants to know what prompted her to quit the celebrity lifestyle for the ordinary life of a devout Muslim."

Happy was a star in Dhallywood, the Bengali-language film industry, shooting to fame in her 2013 debut "Kichu Asha Kichu Valobasha" (Some Hopes, Some Loves).

But it was the controversy surrounding shock rape allegations she levelled against star fast bowler Rubel Hossain in late 2014 that made Happy a household name across cricket-mad Bangladesh.

Happy alleged she was involved in an "intimate affair" with the then 25-year-old cricketer, whom she accused of walking away from a promise of marriage.

The revelations proved scandalous in the Muslim-majority country, where sexual relationships outside marriage are frowned upon and allegations of coercion can be seen to restore honour.

Rubel claimed he was being blackmailed but was remanded in custody. He was released a few days later to play in the World Cup, and a court later found no evidence to convict him.

Every twist received saturation coverage, spurring gossip long after Happy dropped the charges, saying she had forgiven Rubel.

- Erasing her past -

After so long in the public eye her sudden appearance in the black burka worn by only the most devout Bangladeshis fanned even greater curiosity about the young woman's life.

Happy was weathering the Rubel scandal and part-way through shooting a new movie when the actress claims she had an "epiphany" that altered her life.

Overnight, she committed to joining Tablighi Jamaat -- a Sunni Islam evangelical movement that boasts millions of adherents in Bangladesh -- and began severing all ties to her past life.

"That night she started deleting thousands of photos of herself she posted on Facebook. She then cut ties with the movie world," said Abdullah Al Faruque, who co-authored the book with his wife Sadeka Sultana Saqi, who was granted access to Happy for the interview.

"She renamed herself Amatullah. She started to wear a full-veiled burka and now even covers her hands and toes with socks."

Happy turned her back on her fans and a stunned film industry to embrace the austerity of a missionary's life, retreating to a madrassa to study the Koran where nobody would see "even the nails of my fingers".

Determined to erase her past entirely and cement her pious makeover, Happy even fought unsuccessfully to stop the release of her final film "Real Man", arguing it starred a completely different person.

"I felt like a newborn baby," she wrote in the book, about the moment she donned the burka and abandoned her former name and identity.

"Now, I have no ties with my previous life. That's the tale of a different person."

- Turning a new page -

The entire incident involving Rubel has been airbrushed from the book by the authors, who said they did not want to "embarrass" Happy, who is now married.

"She has turned a new page since then. She no longer wants to dwell on the past," Al Faruque said.

But even without these details the moral lessons implied -- that Happy was seeking some sort of redemption in the scriptures -- have resonated with Bangladeshi readers.

The moderate Islam practised in Bangladesh for generations has been slowly replaced by a more orthodox version of the faith in recent years.

The burka most associated with the rigid Islam of Afghanistan and the Gulf is becoming more commonplace, new mosques and madrassas are flourishing and hardliners have won symbolic victories in their push to overhaul Bangladesh's secular constitution.

"From Happy to Amatullah" is just the latest addition to a thriving genre of Islamist literature in Bangladesh, where authors have captivated readers weaving piety into plots lamenting modern women and Western lifestyles.

Kasem bin Abubakar, who pens chaste love stories tinged with Islamic values, is one of the country's best-selling authors.

Suggestions Happy's transformation could be a publicity stunt destined to end as quickly as it began have been denied by her promoters.

"We asked her whether she would go back to the glamour world. She said she won't jump into that hellfire again," said Al Faruque.

The transformation of Naznin Akter Happy, shown in her movie star days, from actress embroiled in scandal to ultra-conservative burka-wearing Islamic preacher has fascinated Bangladesh

AFP, Published: 21 JUN 2017
Bangladeshi actress' film to faith tale proves smash hit

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Clinics closed due to poor business

PETALING JAYA: As many as 500 clinics run by general practitioners (GPs) were estimated to have closed between 2014 and 2016 due to poor business.

And the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is worried that the situation may worsen.

Its president Dr Ravindran R. Naidu said a study involving 1,800 GPs revealed widespread concern over the financial sustainability of their clinics.

The findings from Study on the Health Economics of General Prac-titioners in Malaysia: Trends, Chal-len-ges and Moving Forward in 2016 revealed that the expenses for ma--na-ging GP services had increased over the years due to changes in po--licies as well as the involvement of the unregulated third party administrators (TPAs), said Dr Ravindran.

The findings showed almost 70% of clinics saw fewer than 30 patients a day, while the operating cost of a clinic in an urban area ranges from RM50,000 to RM60,000 a month.

“With the drop in number of patients and increasing cost, it will eventually lead to the natural death of the GP practice,” said Dr Ravin-dran, adding that prior to this, instances of clinics closing down were rare as they would typically be sold or passed on to others to run should the doctors retire or migrate.

Dr Ravindran argued that TPAs must take the main share of the blame as they had removed some patients from GPs.

“They negotiate with companies and take away patients from one cli--nic and pass them to other cli-nics,” he said, adding that TPAs place restrictions on consultation fees, types of medication prescribed, while charging GPs a fee for every patient they see.

Contributory factors, said Dr Ravindran, include the overproduction of doctors and the introduction of the contract system for those in public service.

He said as the Government would only take 50% of the doctors after a four-year contract, the rest are likely to become GPs, thus saturating the sector even further.

The solution to this, argued Dr Ravindran, is that the Government has to cut down on the number of students studying medicine as there were 5,000 medical students graduating each year.

“The other alternative is to build more hospitals while all medical colleges should have their own hospitals,” he said.

The vice-president of the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia, Dr M. Raj Kumar, agrees that clinics seeing below 30 patients a day were unsustainable.

“A clinic needs at least 30 patients, depending on locality,” he said, adding that operating costs have skyrocketed in recent years such as the various licences needed for the practice, medicine costs that in--crease every six months, the introduction of GST, and rise in wages for nurses and assistants.

“The poor economy is also for-cing the public to visit government clinics,” he said.

Many doctors, especially solo practitioners, end up joining emergency rooms in hospitals, take up locum stints or join pharmaceutical companies.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 22 June 2017
Clinics closed due to poor business

KUALA LUMPUR: A general practitioner who is in the midst of winding down his practice at Taman Sri Sentosa along Old Klang Road plans to venture into medical tourism in Japan.

Sole proprietor Dr Jim Loi, 49, said he will be closing his clinic here in two years.

“No choice. It has been difficult to sustain it,” he said of his clinic in a rented shoplot that he has operated for the last 17 years.

Dr Loi said he used to get 100 patients a day before 2014, but these days, he usually sees only 15 to 20 patients.

From a nett monthly profit ranging from RM18,000 to 20,000 in 2014, Dr Loi now averages RM7,000 to RM10,000.

He said the clinic next to his had also folded.

He said the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax beginning April 2015 also did not help.

With the purchasing power of Malaysians dropping, many had asked him to write referral letters for them to go to public health facilities, he said.

Dr Loi added that third party administrators (TPAs) also posed a challenge as not only do they cap doctors’ fees, they also do not dispense payments promptly, with some doctors having to wait six months, and sometimes up to a year, to get their money.

“Most gave up because of frustrations,” he said, adding that the sociopolitical climate of the country was also “discouraging”.

Dr Loi is in the process of opening a homestay in Kyoto to promote medical tourism, while some of his general practitioner friends had gone overseas to further their studies and work in hospitals there.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 22 June 2017
Doc winding down practice to pursue medical tourism in Japan

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To live compassion-driven lives

IT was only last month that I wrote about the tragic death of a teenager, Thaqif, due to abuse in school. I never thought that I would feel compelled to write another piece on another teenager who was a victim of another abuse.

T. Nhaveen, a bright-looking lad of 18 years, who was brutally beaten up and sexually abused by a group of young thugs, died last week after lying “brain dead” for several days in Penang Hospital. He did not recover from his coma to tell what actually took place. That story will remain with him and we will be left guessing; although apparently this was not the first time he had been bullied and harassed.

As expected many expressed their sadness, anger and outrage after the fact, though this may not make much difference to the deceased and his loved ones. I do not mean this in an “unappreciative” way but more to express the “unhappiness” that not enough has been done to safeguard our teenagers especially those of the schoolgoing age. Namely on matters of personal security and safety in a broader sense.

If Thaqif’s case tells us that the school environment can lead to life-threatening abuses, Nhaveen’s case reminds us that it can be equally deadly outside school. In fact, taking into account the UPNM tragedy where a naval cadet died a few weeks earlier from torture wounds, it gives an impression that these are not isolated incidents.

They are more than the tip of the iceberg that has not been given the utmost level of urgency that they deserve. Let me give an analogy: almost every day issues of security and safety are bandied around in the media with a focus on “terrorism” (read: violence). Malaysia seems to be an active participant in this, regionally if not globally. Its involvement ranges from taking part in joint military exercises to the setting up of an international peace centre sponsored by another nation. All this sounds well and good to give a sense of urgency in the effort to bolster security and safety. Hundreds of millions are being spent on this, indeed, reportedly billions have been earmarked for the peace centre. It is money to be well-spent assuming that the partnership is well-brokered and the “enemies” are well-defined. These two points are crucial because to most people “peace” is a mere absence of war and violence although the “enemies” are still lurking around clandestinely. At times (more frequently nowadays) we are our own “enemies” in various ways for not walking the talk!

Here is where the case of Nhaveen and the like come to the fore. First, what level of security and safety are they provided? Are these the highest of standards that money can buy? For that matter how much money is available to make this the best there is? Second, what sort of training and awareness are teachers and other staff being exposed to? Are these compatible with our ways and lifestyles? It is not just to safeguard the school environment and atmosphere but also to live it in creating a peaceful milieu for effective learning? Third, how much of knowledge is imparted on “how to live together” as part of learning to nurture peace in practical and impactful ways? In other words, being streetwise and able to cope with “aggression” as part of living skills?

There are many more of course, but these are enough to indicate if we are our own “enemies” or otherwise! If we are indeed our own “enemies” then we can expect more violent deaths; even more frequent and brutal attacks which seems to be the trend because we have not cared enough. Soon the time will come when it is translated into a local brand of “terrorism” across the land. This is when the three basic Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic are rendered to producing rogues, ruffians and rascals as the human capital, thanks to the widespread and hidden abuses.

And the very moment they get access to another set of 3Rs – revolvers, repeaters and rifles, we will then have a full-blown home-grown problem to deal with like in the US where schools become “shooting galleries” every so often. Meaning that the millions spent to spruce up national security and safety will eventually come to nought, undermined by the latent “enemies” within. With the high level of corruption as exposed by MACC, the situation can easily swing out of control.

Given this possibility, we must contemplate on the deep-seated message and warning that the recent tragedies are impressing upon us. As the situation in fighting “terrorism” gets more dire, it can no longer be strategised in isolation or be compartmentalised from other forms of “violence” (including bullying), thinking that they are decoupled. This is simply not the case any more as we have learnt how youngsters get “radicalised”.

In short, long before we can create and sustain an international peace agenda, we must first secure internal (homeland) peace collectively. This in turn depends on the state of inner peace in each individual which lies at the very heart of the education process. In this sense, Nhaveen and Thaqif remain epitomes of how much more must be done before questions like that allegedly posed by Nhaveen’s mother (“Will he be the last to die like this?”) could ever be convincingly answered. Only then will “real” justice be seen to be done.

While remaining hopeful, with a deep sense of accountability and sadness, we bid goodbye to beloved Nhaveen. May you rest in peace.

The Sun Daily, Last updated on 21 June 2017 - 10:46am
Keeping our teenagers safe
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

Do more students have to die before we start implementing long-term solutions to prevent bullying?

BULLYING in schools and colleges is wrong. Call it what you will, call it ragging or call it initiation: the fact remains that it is wrong, especially when children or youths wind up hurt or even killed.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I said something very similar last August when I spoke up about this. Indeed, certain incidents last year proved that systems of protection were needed before someone was seriously injured or killed due to the acts of bullies.

In fact, I would argue that the incidents that surfaced last year clearly showed that measures were needed to ensure the safety of students, regardless of whether the bullying happened at a primary school, secondary school or outside school grounds, in Penang or at the Malay-sian National Defence University.

And having said that, look where we are now. We are once again up in arms screaming for action to be taken and justice to be done as 21-year-old Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain and 18-year-old T. Nhaveen are now dead due to brutal acts described as bullying that have shocked and disgusted so many of us as the alleged details of the vile acts are splashed across the pages of our newspapers and on our screens, be it on news portals or through social media.

Yes, we are once again calling for justice to be done, this time because two lives were cut down in their prime. Yes, we are once again calling for measures and safeguards to be put in place to ensure our children, teens and youths can grow and learn in a safe environment.

However, having said that – how do we create such an environment? How do we begin the process of ensuring our outrage at the deaths of Zulfarhan and Nhaveen will bring lasting change instead of being a bright flash of outrage that will then die down until the next horrible case emerges?

If you were to ask me, I’d say that we need to begin by really recognising bullying for what it is – an act of “purposeful cruelty”, to borrow the words of Malaysian Psychological Association president Dr Goh Chee Leong.

In fact, he went on to say that a 2007-2008 Unicef study he participated in showed that the environment of an institution played a big role in instances of bullying.

“It’s usually done in a context where the environment is either actively encouraging or is complicit in the act,” said Dr Goh.

From this, we can then begin to address the root causes that motivate our youths to act in such a manner, which from my experience of being bullied in school seems to stem from fear and hatred that emerges due to a clear lack of compassion and empathy for those who are in some way different from the norm, whatever that “norm” may be.

With that in mind, how do we address this fear and hatred? At this point, I’ll put forward my suggestion that we can do this by stimulating empathy and compassion, and I feel we need to do this to help create safe, conducive spaces for learning for our children and youths.

Indeed, I believe this empathy needs to be actively cultivated from an early age, right from the first day of Year One, if not earlier.

And having said that, don’t just take my word for it. Indeed, this was the advice I got from a veteran primary school teacher on this very issue when I asked her how she addresses cases of bullying. In fact, she said the first step is to talk to the pupils to get them to see the impact of their actions.

“We normally talk to the pupils who are doing the bullying, and we get them to imagine what it is like on the receiving end.

We also try to get them to think about what benefits they would get from bullying in the long run and help them see that it isn’t beneficial for anyone or healthy in the long run,” she said.

Listening to her, I’d trust what she’s talking about. After all, she has over 30 years of experience and used to keep bullies away from me more than 20 years ago.

And as I went online to search for more possible solutions, I learned that she’s not alone in this approach, as this is the path taken by middle school teacher and erasemeanness.org founder Eric Johnson, who also applies a similar approach.

“To teach kindness, ask kids how they want to be remembered. Do you want to be remembered as a bully, as a bystander ... or as a kind and thoughtful hero? Questions like this one can make it easier for students to ‘get’ the consequences of their everyday actions.

Challenge student’s pre-existing thinking on what is a bully and what makes a hero,” he said when interviewed by Ted-Ed and on www.erasemeanness.org.

Ultimately, I’d say the time has come for us to make a decision and stop making excuses for bullying. We have to stop seeing bullying – or ragging – as a rite of passage. We have to stop using lines like “kids will be kids” and we have to let go of the perception that it’s a necessary evil as it helps children “toughen up”.

No, it is not a case of “being cruel to be kind” at all. We all have to work together to help our children, our teens and our youths see what real heroism is and live compassion-driven lives.

The time has come for us to stand together to ensure there’ll be no more deaths like Zulfarhan’s or Nhaveen’s.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 22 June 2017
Teach kids compassion and kindness
Senior writer Tan Yi Liang’s In Your Face aims to prove that people have more positive power in their hands than they realise, and to challenge them.

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Unpleasant news from Penang

AVETERAN DAP lawmaker expressed his disappointment over the changing coastline, pollution and the fast diminishing greenery in Balik Pulau.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Kepong member of parliament Dr Tan Seng Giaw lamented what he had witnessed during a drive in Balik Pulau.

“Going around Penang island today, we find the coast is changing, and Balik Pulau is less green. The population of 850,000 require houses and employment. The priority is to preserve the forest and the green.”

When contacted by the New Straits Times about his observation, Dr Tan said he took the drive to observe changes that had taken place, especially in rarely-visited areas.

“Balik Pulau used to be covered with nutmegs, cloves and durian plantations, not to mention forest reserves. It saddens me to see how most of those have disappeared.

“The changes in Balik Pulau are not for the better. Instead, there is pollution, and unplanned development has caused concerns in the area,” Dr Tan said.

Although he admitted to the complexity of the problem, which was not confined to Penang alone, he said that such issues seem to be more prevalent in the northern state.

Dr Tan said plastic bags or items were commonly discarded in the sea, affecting the livelihoods of fishermen and the quality of their catch.

“People must think of how to dispose of plastic properly. They discard tonnes of such items into the sea every day, and it affects the fishermen and their catch, which we eat every day,” he said.

Dr Tan also said he noticed that the price tags of houses were too expensive for the people of Balik Pulau.

“How can they afford it? What would happen to unsold properties in the area?”

He said it was high time the state’s “think tanks” came up with solutions on how to develop an area without jeopardising its environment.

“The authorities must study how to build and take care of the environment simultaneously.

“We must use environment-friendly construction, which does not need to be too expensive.”

The New Straits Times, Published: June 20, 2017 - 9:48am
Unpleasant changes in Balik Pulau

DENGUE has robbed a man of his wife after she succumbed to the illness at the Penang Hospital.

Rafiqah Abd Rashid, 31, a Penang National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK) employee, passed away on June 6, two days after she was admitted to the hospital. She was the sixth dengue victim in Penang this year.

Her husband of three years, Zawahir Abd Rahim, 28, said he never suspected her of having dengue at all.

“She only had a slight fever, a few days before that, but she recovered the next day.

“There were no red spots or any swelling on her body and I did not suspect anything amiss,” said the Tenaga Nasional Berhad worker at his home in Bayan Lepas on Sunday.

Zawahir said his wife was admitted on June 4 after she complained of body ache.

He said she was then found positive for dengue, and her condition worsened on the day she was admitted.

“She also had some difficulty breathing before she passed away two days later.”

Zawahir was speaking to reporters after receiving financial assistance from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Batu Maung assemblyman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim.

Lim urged the public to be cautious as dengue is a ‘silent killer’ and had taken the lives of numerous victims.

“Even staying in clean areas is not protection against dengue. Please visit the doctor if you have a fever.”

State Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin, who was also present, said at the moment there are two dengue hotspots on the island namely in Sri Wangsa 2, George Town, and Taman Bukit Jambul in Bukit Jambul.

“Penang has recorded seven dengue deaths up till June 8.

“The total number of dengue cases reported this year up till June 17 is 1,110 cases.”

Meanwhile, drinks stall operator Mohd Nasir Darit, 39, said life would never be the same after he lost his daughter Nur Farisya Nabila, 10, to dengue on June 8.

He said his daughter had just requested for a jubah outfit for Hari Raya celebration.

“She never asked for a specific attire. This was the first time she asked for one but she will never get to wear it now,” he said.

Mohd Nasir said he took Nur Farisya Nabila to a private clinic where she was given medication for fever on June 4.

“They failed to detect that shehad dengue, and we did not think much of it as my wife was also unwell.

“We thought it was just a common flu bug.

“She was active and even helped shower her two-year-old cousin.

“But three days later, she collapsed and we rushed her to the hospital.

“It was then we were told she was down with dengue but we did not realise how severe it was as she did not show signs of bleeding.

“The red spot and bleeding only occurred after she passed away,” he said after receiving financial aid from Lim and Abdul Malik at their home in Mutiara Perdana, Bayan Lepas, on Tuesday.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 22 June 2017
Seven succumb to dengue in Penang

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80th anniversary of the 1937 "July 7 Incident"

BEIJING, June 19 (Xinhua) -- China unveiled a historical book series on Monday to disclose the atrocities of Japanese forces, as the 80th anniversary of the 1937 "July 7 Incident" approaches.

The 51-book series collects data such as cipher telegrams and secret documents from the Japanese military and government at the time.

The editorial committee selected, categorized and photocopied more than 20,000 pages related to the July 7 Incident and the full invasion, according to Tang Zhongnan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The series is a series of confessions regarding Japan's militarism and "ironclad proof" of Japan's criminal invasion, according to the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression.

The museum organized the publication to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the nation's resistance against Japanese invasion.

China was the first nation to fight against fascist forces.

The struggle started on September 18, 1931, when Japanese troops began their invasion of northeast China.

It was intensified when Japan's full-scale invasion began after a crucial access point to Beijing, Lugou Bridge, also known as Marco Polo Bridge, was attacked by Japanese troops on July 7, 1937.

Xinhua, Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017
China publishes book series on Japan's invasion of China

China’s government has ordered that all Chinese history textbooks be rewritten to extend the second Sino-Japanese war by six years, a move likely to inflame relations with Japan.

The conflict, which has been known for generations in China as the “eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression”, is usually recorded as starting in 1937 and ending in 1945. However, in a statement on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping’s government renamed the conflict the “14-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression” and has ordered that textbooks be revised to record it as lasting from 1931 until 1945.

The decision means China officially considers that the second Sino-Japanese war started in autumn of 1931, when the Imperial Japanese army invaded Manchuria, rather than six years later during the Marco Polo Bridge incident, when Japanese and Chinese troops fought along a rail line south-west of Beijing. This event has traditionally been considered by historians everywhere as the start of full-scale conflict between the two countries.

In recent years, President Xi has worked hard to promote the achievements of the communists during the second world war, despite many historians arguing that it was the Chinese nationalist party, not the communists, who did most of the fighting and led efforts to negotiate a truce with Japan before 1937.

The Communist party has not previously emphasised its role in the country’s conflict with Japan before 1937, a period when communist forces were engaged in a civil war with the Kuomintang nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek. It was not until 1937 that the communists and nationalists joined forces to fight the Japanese army.

Historian Antony Beevor told the Guardian that while there has long been a debate about the start of the war, China’s decision to revise the dates “does show weakness rather than strength”.

“The Communist party did very little to resist the Japanese during 1931-37, so why try to pretend otherwise? I can only imagine that this is an attempt to reverse the recent tide of historiography, which has recognised that Chiang Kai-Shek and the nationalists had been very unfairly treated not just by Chinese communist dogma, but also by the US administration and journalists of the time,” he said.

Beevor, whose book The Second World War begins with Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, said it was hard to tell how Japan would react.

“The invasion of Manchuria was brutal colonialism, but the Sino-Japanese war from 1937 was a semi-genocidal war, comparable only to Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union,” he said.

Zhang Lifan, a historian in Beijing, told the New York Times that while revising the dates was justified in terms of historical accuracy, the decision would have been motivated by the possible political benefits for the Communist party and may encourage anti-Japanese sentiment.

“Chinese leaders still have a cold war mentality,” he said. “They’ve tried to conjure up imaginary enemies in the world.”

Yasuhisa Kawamura, press secretary for the Japanese ministry of foreign affairs, said on Thursday that China did not have the power to decide when the conflict started. “It is important that Japan and China should demonstrate they do not focus excessively on the unfortunate past,” he said.

Japan’s government has been criticised in the past for attempts to revise school textbooks to remove or downplay instances of Japanese military aggression, which critics fear may push the country farther from its postwar pacifism. In 2007, Shinzo Abe’s conservative government ordered history books change all references to forced suicides during the second world war.

In 2013, plans were mooted that would require all Japanese textbooks to include viewpoints of nationalist scholars on contentious historical data, including the death toll of the 1937 massacre in Nanking of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers. China’s official estimate is 300,000, but most Japanese scholars say that figure is a vast exaggeration.

Chinese propaganda posters photographed during the Sino-Japanese war

The Guardian, Last modified on Tuesday 2 May 2017 18.29 BST

China rewrites history books to extend Sino-Japanese war by six years

In a move expected to anger Japan, government orders amendment of school texts to move back war’s official outbreak from 1937 to 1931

By Sian Cain

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Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

KUALA LUMPUR: Criticisms and claims by the Opposition about foreign direct investment (FDI) are reckless, baseless and had some racist undertones, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

He said investors should disregard what the opposition said about FDI because as far as the government is concerned, it will continue to be investor-friendly.

He added that Malaysia is an attractive destination for FDI and will continue to welcome investors.

"We want foreign investors to work with Malaysian businesses for the benefit of both the investors and the locals," he said.

Najib pointed out that FDIs from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United States or Singapore added value to the economy, created jobs and brought new technologies.

"The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) was formulated to create economic opportunities worth RM1.3 trillion and to lift Malaysia to high income status by 2020. This should create 3.3 million additional jobs and attract US$44 billion (RM188 billion) worth of investments.

"Foreign investors are certainly very welcome to invest in Malaysia," he said in his speech when officiating the ground-breaking ceremony for the Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) and Mitsui Shopping Park LaLaport KL (LaLaport KL) development.

Najib said other global corporations world would be able to see that Malaysia continued to be an attractive investment destination.

He added that the government had taken seriously the challenge facing the public transport system that had been neglected by one of his predecessors.

Najib said besides expediting the completion of the LRT, the government had also undertaken the construction of the MRT system.

"By the time the BBCC opens its doors an integrated network of KTM, LRT and MRT as well as the city centre monorail will transport commuters around the city, Greater KL, Klang Valley and beyond," he said while noting that BBCC will contain its own purpose built transit hub to connect to the nearby LRT, MRT and Monorail stations.

BBCC, sited on 3.8ha where the former Pudu Prison once stood, will be a fully integrated lifestyle and business centre.

LaLaport KL, which is a key component of the development with a net lettable area of 0.9 million sq ft, will become the first LaLaport KL branded shopping mall in Southeast Asia when it opens in 2021.

Najib said BBCC was a significant national-level development as it was a successful example of the kind of public-private collaboration that the government was keen to encourage.

He said he was happy to note that the BBCC project, together with the impressive Mitsui Mall, was yet another mode of how the ETP was bearing fruit in terms of attracting foreign investments while helping Malaysian companies to grow and expand at the same time.

Najib said he was certain this iconic development will draw people from near and far, with Malaysia's investor friends from Japan working in partnership with local developers.

He added that he was confident that BBCC will succeed in further uplifting the image of Kuala Lumpur as an international modern metropolis.

The SunDaily, Posted on 20 June 2017 - 09:06pm
Najib: Opposition criticism and claims about FDI baseless
By Rajvinder Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: The groundbreaking ceremony of the Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) and a retail mall marks the start of the ambitious transformation of an iconic landmark in the city.

The BBCC and Mitsui Shopping Park (LaLaport KL) projects have entered its construction stage with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak performing the groundbreaking yesterday.

The Prime Minister said the BBCC was a successful example of public-private collaboration which the Government was keen to promote.

“BBCC is also an example of the key projects which support the Government’s focus under the Economic Transformation Programme for Greater KL and Klang Valley,” Najib said in his speech.

Also present were Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, Urban Development Authority (UDA) Holdings Bhd and BBCC Development Sdn Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Shafei Abdullah and Eco World Development Group Bhd chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin.

Najib said the site was historical as it was where the old colonial-era Pudu Prison used to be, adding that it would be transformed into a world-class integrated development by 2020.

“With the scarcity of land in a developed capital city like Kuala Lumpur, it is essential that re-development of the city centre’s brownfield sites is done carefully and very well.

“I am pleased that the BBCC consortium has a spectacular masterplan to regenerate this historical location,” he added.

The BBCC sprawls over 7.85ha and will have a total gross built-up area of 6.7 million sq ft with a gross domestic value of RM8.7bil. The project is spearheaded by UDA, Eco World and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) board.

Phase one, scheduled to be completed by December 2020, will comprise a retail mall, entertainment hub, a four-star hotel, strata office and two blocks of serviced apartments.

The LaLaport KL retail project is a joint venture between Mitsui Fudosan Asia and BBCC Development Sdn Bhd and will have a built-up area of 1.4 million sq ft.

Poised to be the new centre of attraction for Malaysians and tourists, it will be the first LaLaport branded shopping mall in South-East Asia as well as Mitsui’s flagship project in the region.

The BBCC, said Najib, would also have its own purpose-built Transit Hub to connect to the nearby LRT, MRT and monorail stations.

“From early on, the Government has taken very seriously the challenges of our public transport system.

“Besides expediting the completion of the LRT extension, the Government has rapidly undertaken the construction of the MRT system.

“By the time BBCC opens its doors, an integrated network of KTM, LRT and MRT lines, as well as the city centre’s monorail, will be efficiently transporting commuters around the city, Greater KL, Klang Valley and beyond,” said Najib.

Calling it an iconic development, Najib is certain the project will draw people.

“With our investor friends from Japan working in partnership with the Malaysian joint developers, I am confident that BBCC will succeed in further uplifting the image of Kuala Lumpur as an international modern metropolis,” he said.

Najib said the BBCC project, with its fully integrated retail, leisure and entertainment attractions, the unique Malaysia Grand Bazaar initiated by UDA and Zepp KL Concert Hall by Sony Music Japan, will contribute significantly towards efforts to make the country a tourism hub.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017
BBCC set to transform KL

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Ageing Japan

According to a 2016 OECD report, Japanese social spending as a percentage of GDP stands at 23.1 percent, lower than other developed countries with high percentages of elderly people, such as France and Italy.

Kanemasa Ito compares caring for his wife Kimiko to waging a daily war with the devil. The woman he loved has all but disappeared -- lost to dementia, she can no longer eat, bathe, or go to the toilet alone.

"There is a demon inside her head," Ito told AFP, articulating the dramatic change in the person he'd built a life with, while she babbles nonsensically.

One of the world's most rapidly ageing and long-lived societies, Japan is at the forefront of an impending global healthcare crisis. Authorities are bracing for a dementia timebomb and their approach could shape policies well beyond its borders.

By 2025, one in five of the over 65s -- around 7.3 million people -- in Japan will have dementia, the health ministry estimates, up from around 4.6 million now.

Alzheimer's Disease, a syndrome in which cognitive ability, emotional control, and social behaviour deteriorate, accounts for the majority of cases.

Ito's wife was just 54 when she was first diagnosed. Now some 15 years on, he is close to breaking point trying to care for her and manage the disease.

No longer able to discern what is harmful from what is safe -- Kimiko has previously tried to drink cleaning products, unaware of the hazard of ingesting them -- she needs constant supervision.

"It exhausts me," the 73-year-old confessed in an interview at their Kawasaki home.

- Global health crisis -

Their story is becoming increasingly common in a country where a lack of resources and caregivers means the burden falls increasingly on spouses and children.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to increase the number of nursing homes and raise care worker wages to tackle the problem.

There is also a goal to ease the burden of family caregivers and reduce the number of people who quit work -- such as Ito -- to care for dementia-stricken relatives -- from 100,000 a year to zero.

Dementia is a major global health issue with cases soaring as people live longer. The World Health Organization estimates a new case is diagnosed every four seconds.

Many developed countries are already facing challenges on how to fund care, but Japan's issue is pronounced because its population has aged at a faster pace.

According to a 2016 OECD report, Japanese social spending as a percentage of GDP stands at 23.1 percent, lower than other developed countries with high percentages of elderly people, such as France and Italy.

"Japan has run its social welfare system on the premise that family members would take charge," said Katsuhiko Fujimori, chief research associate at Mizuho Information & Research Institute.

The government, he said, simply can't achieve its goals without more money.

But a cash injection seems unrealistic given that Japan's public debt is already more than twice the size of its economy.

And with a shrinking and ageing population and workforce, some elderly with higher incomes are already being forced to pay more out of pocket for nursing care expenses under the national insurance scheme.

- 'I might kill her' -

The overwhelming mental, physical and economic burden of caregiving has led to tragedy.

The total number of cases of abuse of the elderly rose to 16,384 in the fiscal year 2015 -- up from 12,623 in fiscal 2006, the majority of which involved relatives, according to figures from the health ministry.

The reality of caring for a incapacitated loved one can push people to the brink.

One 50-year-old Tokyo resident who has been taking care of his 85-year-old dementia-stricken mother for six years, told AFP he had murderous thoughts about her.

"I seriously want to manage my anger because I might kill her if I explode," said the man, who requested anonymity.

"I can imagine her being dead in front of me," he added. "It scares me."

Between 1996 and 2015, there were 754 murder-suicide cases involving family caregivers, mostly men, in Japan, according to a study by Etsuko Yuhara, an associate professor of welfare at Nihon Fukushi University.

Ito, who had closed a convenience store he used to run to take care of his wife, said he hopes the government will create a better environment for caregivers.

"Every day is a battle," he said, referring to how Kimiko resists getting dressed in the morning and having her hair washed at night.

He regularly takes Kimiko out for a walk in a nearby park and grocery shopping, but it is hard to know if she is aware of what is happening.

Ito added: "It's really tough to accept."

One of the world's most rapidly ageing and long-lived societies, Japan is at the forefront of an impending global healthcare crisis. Authorities are bracing for a dementia timebomb and their approach could shape policies well beyond its borders.

Mail Online, PUBLISHED: 04:13 BST, 2 June 2017
The dementia timebomb: Ageing Japan faces healthcare crisis

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Give trees proper love and care

TREES being uprooted during thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence.

They block roads and cause traffic jams, damage cars and property, and sometimes also bring electric lines and telephone cables down.

Fresh in the public’s minds is the latest incident on Nov 13 in USJ, Subang Jaya, when 51 trees were uprooted in a hailstorm.

Malaysian Society of Arborists (*) Mohd Zailani Jamil believes that trees cannot withstand the weather because they are not cared for properly by the local councils.

“Trees are unique. They react to what they face, such as the weather.

“Local councils should prepare the trees to face winds of high velocity, and then only will they be able to stand strong during thunderstorms,” he said.

A report by the Malaysian Meteorological Department showed that the strongest wind gust recorded by the Subang Meteorological Station on Nov 13 was 47km per hour at about 3.50pm.

“If a geographical area is often hit by strong winds within a certain span of time, the trees should be ‘trained’ accordingly to face such harsh weather.

“However, if it is only an isolated incident, it is considered an act of God,” Zailani said.

“Training” the trees does not involve arming the trees with knowledge on how to dodge strong winds, but maintaining them properly.

However, Zailani lamented that not many people in the industry know how to do this.

He said he felt very sad whenever he saw people pruning trees the wrong way.

“They are killing the trees,” he said.

Irresponsible pruning can be detrimental, especially “topping”, which refers to chopping down the leaf-bearing crown of the tree.

“You are butchering the tree if you do that but it is widely practised here. Not only are you removing the leaves that produce food for the tree but you are encouraging rapid

growth of shoots at each cut.

“An area is ‘weak’ when it has too many branches fighting for space. When wind blows, the branches will snap easily due to the movement and friction between them,” Zailani explained.

Such dangerous co-dominant areas − where stems originate at about the same position − put stationary and moving targets below the trees at risk.

Before pruning a tree, Zailani recommends looking at its species, appearance and the location.

Normally, one-third of a tree should be trunk and two-thirds canopy. Common pruning operations include lifting, cleaning and thinning.

“Lifting is removing the lower branches of the crown while cleaning involves removal of unwanted and dead branches.

“Thinning means reducing the density of the canopy. This way, the tree will not have to resist the wind since the wind can go through the leaves and branches.

“It reduces the risk of the tree falling and also allows a tree to reduce the speed of the wind,” Zailani said.

Dead and diseased parts must be taken away, too. A giveaway of dead branch, for instance, is fungal growth.

“It is a bad sign because the mushrooms will start attacking the other living tissues of the tree,” he said.

He also added that we should always start “training” a tree when it is young and not wait until it is too large.

One of the common problems identified by him is a lack of space for the trees to grow.

“You must match the tree to the location, not the location to the tree.If the tree falls, then it shows that its roots have failed. Perhaps the tree was planted at a small space and the roots did not have enough space to grow sidewards,” he said.

The space can be measured by depth and surface area. The depth of the roots is usually one to three feet because they will not penetrate further due to a lack of oxygen.

“We need to give them enough surface area to grow. We often see trees planted next to drains and roots cannot penetrate through concrete. A small space will not result in strong roots,” Zailani said.

He stressed that unlike human beings, trees do not have a life span.

“Trees will only die when they want to. They react to how they are treated and will flourish if cared for properly.

“As long as their roots are still working, there will be new shoots even though the trees are felled.

“There is no need to remove an old tree as long as you maintain it properly,” he said.

However, the age of the trees must be taken into consideration when trimming the trees.

“Old trees are weak. If it is pruned heavily, there will be too many wounds and the food producing leaves taken away.

“A tree needs to use a lot of energy to seal its wounds. An old tree might die from this,” he said.

At the moment, Malaysian Society of Arborists, which is an associate organisation of the International Society of Arboriculture based in the United States, has over 40 arborists and tree enthusiasts as members.

Zailani said it is not mandatory for local councils to have arborists and some only consult the professionals when they have problems.

“They mostly solve complaints rather than conduct regular tree maintenance. We are in the process of preparing a set of guidelines on the proper way to care for trees with the National Landscape Department.

“Hopefully the guidelines will be adopted by the local councils in Malaysia,” he said.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 30 November 2011 | MYT 12:00 AM
Trimming trees right to face harsh weather

TO-DATE, there are only 75 certified arborists in Malaysia, a stark contrast to the 400 certified arborists (as listed in the website of the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology) in neighbouring Singapore.

In comparison, Malaysia measures 329,758sq km in area and has a population of 28.3 million while Singapore has a land area of 714.3sq km and a population of 5.3 million. There are 300 parks and four nature reserves, two million trees and 2,800 trees per sq km in the island. (Source: app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/sg-facts).

Malaysian Arborist Society president Dr Ahmad Ainuddin Nuruddin, who is also the deputy director and associate professor of the Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (Introp), Universiti Putra Malaysia, attributes the lack of arborists to a late start.

“Malaysia started late in getting arborist certification. The first group of certified arborists was in 2005 and that was with the help of a project funded byDanida (Denmark Aid), which brought a certified arborist from the USA for a two-week course on Arboriculture.

“This first group took the certification exam. Singapore, by that time, had many certified arborists,” he said.

Cost is one of the reasons; it costs RM4,500 for the exam and preparatory course.

Dr Ahmad Ainuddin said to increase the number of arborists, our society must acknowledge that tree care and maintenance work was highly complex and required the knowledged-based occupation.

“Therefore, people who are taking care of the trees must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitude required to perform the job.

“The agency and local authorities must ensure that the job to maintain and manage trees must be given to the people who are equipped and trained to do this task so that the task can be executed successfully and professionally,” he said, adding that the arboriculture industry must also educate the society of its services in caring for the trees.

He said the awareness of the need for arborists was higher in Selangor, compared to other states.

He noted that in other countries such as Singapore and the US, the awareness was higher.

“In the US, there is an arborist in every municipality to care for the trees in the township,” he said.

Currently, not all councils in Selangor have arborists in the respective landscape departments. For example, Putrajaya Corporation has nine and DBKL has four; but some other councils such as MPKj admitted that they do not have any arborists.

Certified arborists Mohd Afendi Hussin and Ahmad Azaruddin Mohd Noor feel that all local councils should have an arborist.

Ahmad Azaruddin said there must be better interaction between departments in councils and agencies to have a better understanding of each other’s roles when dealing with trees affected by development/construction works.

“An arborist must be involved in the early stage of (town) planning and development that involves preserving existing trees and greenery.

“Sometimes, the services of arborists are sought when it is too late and the trees are damaged beyond repair,” he said.

Mohd Afendi, who is also known as the “tree whisperer”, noted that trees were affected by development, especially the construction of drains or road-widening works.

“Usually the tree is compromised. If severe, the tree may die.

“It is also important to use the right tools to prune trees,” he said.

They stressed that it was important to ensure that young and newly planted trees had good structures.

Ahmad Azaruddin said, “Structural defects in old trees can be due to the lack of structural pruning at an early stage, hence, it is important to implement structural pruning for young trees. Young trees react better compared to old trees.”

Mohd Afendi added, “Control the form of the tree in the early stages and get good branch formation to reduce pruning problems in the future.”

Dr Ahmad Ainuddin added that once the trees were old, they needed to be maintained, pruned and even removed, if they were hazardous to the public.


− An arborist is someone who is trained in the planting, maintenance and management of trees.

− In Malaysia, arborists are trained as horticulturists, urban foresters or landscape architects and they take a specialised course in tree care such as tree pruning, tree health care, tree care safety and other related arboriculture courses.

− Those who pass the exam offered by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) are called certified arborists.

− Roles of the arborist:

・Choosing and planting suitable trees;

・Maintaining and monitoring to ensure they will grow into healthy trees, providing benefits to the urban ecosystem;

・Removal of fallen trees;

・Care for heritage trees; and

・May appear in court to give legal testimony and advice

− Job opportunities: arborists can be hired by local councils, developers, golf clubs and individuals.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Arborists in short supply

(*) Malaysian Society of Arborists ;

International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) :

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Refugees camp

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The number of recorded suicides and attempted suicides has soared at Thailand's largest camp for refugees from Myanmar, the International Organization for Migration said on Monday as it called for urgent action to treat high levels of distress.

Twenty-eight refugees in Mae La camp have killed themselves and 66 have attempted suicide in the last two years, more than three times the global suicide rate, according to an IOM study published on the eve of World Refugee Day.

"The number of suicides is very alarming, and we urgently need to address this," said Harry Smith, IOM's project officer in Thailand.

"There is a high level of distress in the camps which results from myriad reasons including lack of freedom of movement, uncertainty about the future, economic hardship and a lack of educational opportunities."

Mae La is the largest of nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border which are home to about 100,000 people. Many have spent their entire lives in the camps in what is one of Asia's most protracted refugee crises.

There were 14 suicides in Mae La in the last year compared to one in the period June 2014 to May 2015. But the IOM said the jump could be due to a change in data collection.

Men under 50 were most at risk, but one child had also taken his life and three had tried to.

Nearly four in 10 deaths were from drinking weed-killer which is widely available in the camps where residents grow food.

Family problems were a factor in nearly half of suicides. Alcohol and substance abuse played a role in more than a third.

IOM's recommendations included training aid workers in suicide prevention and setting up a family counseling unit.

It also suggested deploying a psychiatrist and a counselor with expertise on suicide in the camp, and limiting access to herbicides.

Refugees in the camps are feeling increasingly uncertain of their future amid a fall in resettlement to third countries and a decrease in support from the international community.

Most are ethnic Karen from eastern Myanmar who fled conflict and often persecution during decades of military rule.

A civilian government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, took power last year.

But Smith said many refugees were not confident of security if they returned, and worried about a lack of jobs and their children's education.

Reuters, Published: Mon Jun 19, 2017 - 12:04pm EDT
Suicide rate "alarming" in Thai camp for Myanmar refugees - study
By Emma Batha

Thousands of refugee woman and children are living in limbo in Greece, waiting for the day they will be reunited with their families in other European countries.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says nearly 75,000 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Western Balkans are at risk of "psychological distress" caused by existing in a prolonged state of transit.

About 60,000 refugees and migrants, mostly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, have been stuck in Greece for over a year after border closures in the Balkans halted the onward journey many planned to take to central and western Europe.

More than a quarter are children and over half the new arrivals have been women and children, according to U.N. data. Men were the first family members to flee to Europe in previous years, leaving others to follow.

"Despair is haunting me at the moment," said Soha, a 23-year-old Syrian who lives in a tent on the island of Chios with two her two-year-old daughter and other Syrian women.

In the camp, next to the ruins of an ancient castle, overcrowded tents are pitched on the edge of the pebbled shore, and rats roam among the garbage. Women say they are too scared to leave their tents at night, fearing harassment.

Like other women, Soha declined to give her last name or be identified in photographs, fearing it could affect her application to join her husband in Germany.

Family reunification can take between 10 months and two years, UNICEF says, making life particularly hard those left behind.

The uncertainty caused "significant psychological distress and anxiety for children and their families, setting them back for years to come", UNICEF Regional Director Afshan Khan said.

"I spend most of the day alone," said Farhiya, a 23-year-old Somali who lives in a volunteer-run camp on Lesbos island.

"The other refugees don't speak English and I don't speak Arabic. It's hard to live alone," she said. Farhiya applied to join her husband in Austria seven months ago while still pregnant, but has not heard back, she said.

In Athens, 36-year-old Khalissa, who fled Syria with her three young children, spends her days in a drop-in center run by a UNICEF partner, a brief respite from her problems.

She colors in hearts representing her feelings about the past, present and future. The past is blue for sadness, the present brown for fear and the future, in which she hopes to reunite with her husband after two years, yellow for happiness.

Ultimately, she longs to go home.

"If Syria becomes as before the war, I will return home," she said. "We must return home."

Faten 25, (L) from Syria, sits at the edge of the beach beside her sister-in-law near their tent outside the Souda refugees camp in Chios Island, Greece, June 10, 2017. 'It's taking too long. This slowness to reunite families scares me,' Faten said. 'We have nothing to do all day long, we just sit by the tent which I share with my sister-in-law, a friend and her daughter.' REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Reuters, Mon Jun 19, 2017 - 1:51pm EDT
In Greece, refugee women and children live in limbo
By Zohra Bensemra, CHIOS, GREECE

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black magic by sorcerer

YANGON − AFP: A self-proclaimed “sorce-rer” was sentenced to death by a Yangon court for killing three children in an exorcism ritual he believed would banish evil spirits that possessed them.

Black magic practitioner Tun Naing was convicted of beating to death two toddlers and an eight-month-old baby late last year in a tiny village outside the capital.

Witnesses said he told villagers the children were possessed by evil spirits before attacking them as their spellbound families watched.

Court police officer Myat Soe said yesterday Tun Naing had been given a death sentence for the killings as well as jail time for the charge of grievous bodily harm of another child caught up in the rituals.

Myanmar still has capital punis-hment on the books but has not executed anyone for decades, so the sentence may end up being commuted to 20 years in jail.

The case of the three children in October shocked many in Myanmar, where belief in the magical is part of the fabric of everyday life.

Hospital workers alerted authorities after the father of another little girl who had been beaten brought her to hospital covered in bruises.

Speaking outside a court hearing in November, Tun Naing told reporters he had been possessed by a “dark spirit” when he attacked the children.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017
‘Sorcerer’ sentenced to death for child murders

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Verbal bullying

IN February 2011, I enrolled in a fully residential school (sekolah berasrama penuh) after doing well in my PMR exams the year before. On my first few weeks there, everyone seemed nice and I was greeted with the warmest smiles ever. I felt delighted and content.

My room mates were helpful too. There were seven of us: two in Form 5, myself in Form 4, one in Form 3 and Form 2 respectively and two in Form 1.

But things started to change a month later, specifically after the mid-semester break in March. People started to call me names during prep time (8pm class).

“Hey gnotos,” someone called out from the other block and the rest of the students there started to shout too.

One of my classmates took a piece of paper and wrote on it the word “gnotos” which had been inverted from “sotong” (a term for someone who is a bit effeminate). I was stunned and embarrassed.

When I went to my room after prep ended, my senior who was on his bed said, “Here comes the gnotos, everybody”. Those who were in the room laughed out loud.

I cried that night; I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I thought the name-calling would eventually end but it happened again and again for the next couple of months! Everyone in the school seemed to isolate me just because I was slightly different. Even my classmates hardly spoke to me.

During lunch one day, one of the dishes served was sotong masak kari. I was totally devastated when one of the seniors called out: “Hoi, gnotos, are you going to eat your own kind?” and the dining hall erupted into laughter.

In my previous school, I was a cheerful and bubbly person. I became someone else in the boarding school. I seldom talked and became a quiet person. I had no friends and stayed in the library most of the time.

There were several times when I thought about suicide because I couldn’t stand the verbal insults which were being hurled at me by the whole school. If 13 Reasons Why had been shown at that time, I would most likely have done what Hannah did. Luckily, it wasn’t.

I only lasted there for three months because I really couldn’t stand the abuse. I couldn’t focus on my study at all.

So in June 2011, I went back to my old school, and guess what? After a few days there, I became my true self again! It felt like a huge stone was lifted from my chest and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

To date, I am still traumatised by the word. The experience at boarding school has left a huge scar in me.

Physical bullying will leave wounds but as the time passes, the wounds will heal. Verbal bullying will stay for good.

I pray this situation will stop once and for all. The tragic deaths of T. Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain should serve as a lesson for us all.

The Letter to The Star, Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Verbally abused in school just for being different
By ASHRAF SAHIMUN, Law student, Kuala Lumpur

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Balancing act

LOS ANGELES -AFP : Adonna Ebrahimi is stretched out on her yoga mat, struggling to maintain a cobra pose -- and her composure -- as a couple of baby goats do a balancing act on her back.

Welcome to “Goat Yoga,” the latest fitness craze sweeping the United States, where young and old are lining up for the popular classes that leave participants not only saying “namaste” but also in stitches.

The new workouts taking place on farms across the country involve Nigerian Dwarf goats -- miniature goats of West African origin -- roaming about as yogis practice their exercise routines.

“At first, it was a bit scary because I didn’t know the goats were going to jump on my back,” Ebrahimi, 53, said on a recent afternoon after completing her first “Goat Yoga” class outside Los Angeles.

“But then they were there and you felt the warmth of the animal and you’re on the straw, in the sun, with the trees and the blue skies around you, and it just felt so calming and peaceful.”

Some 20 people and 15 goats -- 11 kids and four moms -- took part in the class that was organized outdoors in a pen covered with straw.

As yoga instructor Meridith Lana encouraged participants to “exhale,“ “pull your navel to your spine” or “watch your posture,” the sound of bleating reverberated in the background, the nimble animals skipping about, jumping on people’s backs, munching on their hair or a beard and licking their faces.

A few also answered the call of nature.

Priceless therapy

“They’re adorable and they’re friendly,” said Lana after the class. “They do eat your hair, they do leave you presents on your mat but it’s all in fun.

“The therapy you get here is priceless.”

Danette McReynolds, whose family owns the goats, said she decided to host the classes to raise money for her 16-year-old daughter and a friend who are planning to showcase the animals at a farm show in Wisconsin this summer.

“We didn’t know how it was going to go but it’s taken off, we’re booked solid,” she said.

“People love it. They decompress, they cuddle the goats and relax.”

Lana said interacting with the goats is an experience similar to playing with a pet, which has clinically been proven to relieve stress and improve well-being.

“The happiness the goats bring is great,” she said. “All animals are therapeutic but there is something about these goats that is just incredible.

“You can be in a child’s pose position and the next thing you know, you don’t want to get up because there is a goat on your back.

“If there’s anything these goats allow you to be it’s conscious.”

Several of her students said while the goats did admittedly get in the way of the yoga stretches and poses, they were a welcome distraction that had everyone giggling and vowing to come back for more.

“It was a pure release of tension, a pure release of frustration,” said Judy Waters, who attended a class with her husband and several other friends, one of whom was celebrating her birthday.

“You can’t really be upset when you’re around a bunch of baby goats climbing around and being silly.”

There was also one added bonus, she said.

“I didn’t think about the administration in Washington once during this entire hour,” Waters chuckled. “I would love to do this every week if I could.”

This photo taken on June 4, 2017 shows Shabnam Afari during a "Goat Yoga" class organized by Lavenderwood Farm in Thousand Oaks, California.

This photo taken on June 4, 2017 shows Adonna Ebrahimi struggling to maintain her concentration as a baby goat balances on her back during a "Goat Yoga" class organized by Lavenderwood Farm in Thousand Oaks, California.

The Star, Published: Thursday, 15 June 2017 - MYT 1:24 PM
Yoga with goats craze takes off in US
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Climate Resistant Farms campaign

Q: How are farms and farmers dealing with climate change?


A: Agriculture may well be one of the industries hardest hit by the effects of global warming. The non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental advocacy group, reports that warming-related drought and flooding is already behind tens of billions of dollars in American agricultural losses annually.

Given this growing threat, more and more farmers are looking to incorporate tools and techniques − let alone switch up what crops they grow − to be prepared for the big environmental changes already underway.

According to Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources, some of the most promising warming-friendly farming technologies and practices include:

■ Conservation tillage, which stirs up the soil less.

■ Precision agriculture, which employs information technology to monitor crop development, refine soil inputs and optimize growing conditions.

■ Improved cropping systems, by refining the sequence of which crops follow each other on a given piece of land.

■ Anaerobic digestion of organic wastes, via capturing methane waste and turning it into usable energy.

The NRDC has been working on sustainable agriculture for decades, and recently launched its Climate Resistant Farms campaign to focus on helping farmers roll with the punches of global warming through implementation of some of these new techniques. The group works directly with farmers to develop and share some of these best practices regarding soil health and water use.

“Climate change and extreme weather will likely have detrimental impacts on crop production, but farmers can use cover crops and other soil stewardship practices to make their farms more resilient to the climate change impacts already being felt and those likely to come in the years ahead,” reports the NRDC.

“Such practices can also help to reduce and capture the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.”

The NRDC analyzed the carbon capture and water-holding benefits of soil stewardship methods to increase soil organic matter in the 10 highest-value-producing agricultural states in the U.S.

They found that “using cover crops on just half of the acres devoted to the nation’s two most ubiquitous crops − corn and soybeans − in those top 10 states could help capture more than 19 million metric tons of carbon each year and help soils retain an additional trillion gallons of water.”

But despite the benefits, fewer than 7 percent of U.S. farms plant cover crops, while only 1 percent of total cropland nationally has them.

The NRDC would like to see the Federal Crop Insurance Program − which is backed by U.S. taxpayers − offer discounts to farmers who implement cover crops “just as safe drivers can get discounts on their car insurance.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS: A farmer holds a piece of his heat-stricken corn while chopping it down for feed in Nashville, Ill., in July 2012.

The Times Tribunes, Published: JUNE 11, 2017
Many farms dealing with climate change

(*) "EARTHTALK" is a trademark of the nonprofit Earth Action Network. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org.


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World Refugee Day

Australians rally to mark World Refugee Day amid concern for the plight of over 65 million forcibly displaced people.

Australia for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) official partner in Australia, raised a record $33.9 million in 2016 to support the UN's emergency and humanitarian programs worldwide.

June 20 marks World Refugee Day.

"With more than 65 million people forcible displaced globally and the number growing every day, Australian donor support is more critical than ever," said its National Director, Naomi Steer.

Seventy-five per cent of funds were raised for UNHCR's general emergency operations; 19 per cent raised for emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and Ecuador - and six per cent for specific projects providing targeted support for women, girls and children.

A key highlight, it says, was the support from Australia's Vietnamese community, which has itself been the beneficiary of UNHCR support in the past.

More than $550,000 was raised by the community in NSW, QLD, WA and SA, to support Australia for UNHCR’s appeal for Syrian refugees.

Figures from the UNHCR show that nearly 34 thousand people a day were forced to flee their homes in 2015, because of conflict and persecution.

Ten million people around the world are stateless with conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen as well as in sub-Saharan Africa showing no sign of ending.

Southern Sudanese refugees don't travel very far

On a visit to Juba in South Sudan, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees called on the country's leadership to help stem the flow of people within its borders.

"Southern Sudanese refugees don't travel very far" he said.

"They don't arrive on the shores of Europe or Australia or at the border between Mexico and the US. Those are the places in the world where refugees become visible and where their message is heard, but they're here. They are nearby because they hope probably to go back and they live with communities that are close to them."

'Donor fatigue'

Bruno Geddo, from the UNHCR in Iraq told SBS News that he's concerned at potential 'donor fatigue.'

"We are funded only 23 per cent of our budget" he said.

"We should be funded more reasonably in the region of 40 to 45 per cent. I'm also aware inevitably that in complex situations, and Iraq has been complex for the last 20 plus years, there may at times be a tendency by donors to succumb to fatigue. But again, the fight, the battle, the struggle which has been waged in Iraq is important well beyond the borders of Iraq. It is a fight, struggle that is being waged on behalf of the entire humanity."

Hungary bottleneck

In Europe, Hungary became a major crossing point for hundreds and thousands of migrants at the height of Europe's migrant crisis in 2015.

Around seven thousand are now stuck in limbo - in camps in an increasingly hardline system that many have widely criticised as being inhumane.

Aid groups say that since the beginning of this year, only 100 asylum seekers have been granted protection status in Hungary - while over 2,200 were rejected during the same period.

For 14-year-old Afghan refugee, Namalali, conditions are harsh.

"I crossed the border 15 times, maybe 10 times police arrest me and fight me," he says.

"I have with my friends, we have four, eight, 12 of them. Also they arrest me and they fight me and when they fight me, they're smiling. Too much bad I'm having and every time they crash our mobiles."

Tomas Bocek, from the Council of Europe, recently visited container camps for migrants in Hungary.

"You know, they don't understand why they are there," he said.

"Why they are in a closed camp, or they call it prison, why they ended up in this prison, or how they call it. And the question that everybody asked me is: when will we get out?"

Legal challenge

Meanwhile a final legal challenge is to be mounted on Tuesday in Britain to challenge the government's failure to accommodate thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in Europe.

The Dubs Amendment was passed in May 2016 in response to the global refugee crisis but to date only around 350 minors have been taken to the UK.

SBS, Published: 1 DAY AGO
World Refugee Day: Australian NGO raises record donations despite 'donor fatigue'
By Maya Jamieson

Read more:
CNN News: Updated 0549 GMT (1349 HKT) June 20, 2017
World Refugee Day: What you should know

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Soap recycling

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) − A Haitian program to recycle used soap bars from luxury hotels has proven a win-win-win proposition, reducing waste, helping fight water-borne disease and giving employees like Magoiana Fremond the chance to send her kids to school and let them "eat every day."

The project, simple but effective, has had a remarkable impact.

Laure Bottinelli discovered the idea of soap-recycling while spending time in Southeast Asia. Inspired to try something similar in Haiti, she and two associates in January 2016 created the Anacaona company, Haiti's first and only soap-recycling enterprise.

They have already enlisted 25 hotels in the plan, in both Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, a weekend destination for many foreigners living in the capital.

"In Haiti, nothing is ever wasted: Poverty is such that everything is recovered, reused in one way or another," said Mai Cardozo Stefanson, part of the management team at Montana, a luxury hotel in Port-au-Prince.

"Normally, the staff saves the soap for their own use. But now they collect used bars and give them to Laure. In return, they receive clean, reconditioned soap bars."

Plus, she added, "with the cholera crisis we're facing, there is the aspect of hygiene education," another part of the work done by Anacaona.

Used soap bars collected from hotel rooms are shredded and melted before being reconditioned, jobs Anacaona's three employees divide among themselves.

"I didn't come back to Haiti to set up just one more NGO," said Bottinelli, a company head at the tender age of 28.

While some employees do not know how to read the contracts Anacaona gives them, "we have explained to them what a work contract means, that there are rules to be respected but also rights protecting them."

In a country where informality is the norm, she likes to point out that her company is properly registered with commercial and tax authorities.

The new soaps are made using only natural Haitian products and are wrapped in biodegradable paper: the small company aspires to social responsibility and prefers hiring single mothers.

"I can't deny it, the Good Lord brought us this job," said Magoiana Fremond, carefully wrapping a soap bar. Before, she couldn't afford to send her five kids to school, provide them food and pay the rent.

"Anacaona helps the country, and me, a lot: my children are in school, they eat every day. Before, I rented an apartment, but now I've started building a house," she added with a proud smile.

While the first orders for Haitian soaps were sent to French beauty label Yves Rocher, the recycling project now is able to distribute part of its own production to partner schools in Jacmel.

The small company, still in the development stage, is also playing a part in reducing water-borne disease in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

With 72 percent of Haitians lacking indoor toilets, the cholera epidemic that started in 2010 has spread across the country, killing nearly 10,000 people.

The lack of potable water has made diarrheal diseases a leading cause of infant mortality, according to the World Health Organization.

Anacaona works with its partner schools to be sure they teach basic hygiene rules to their students. And in the Cite Soleil, the Caribbean's most densely populated slum, the company pays community workers to spread that message.

With questionnaires in hand, these "hygiene ambassadors" criss-cross their neighborhoods, knocking on the doors of every rusty sheet-metal shanty they encounter to first assess the inhabitants' sanitary habits and then share the essential rules of good health.

"Now, every time people see me in the neighborhood, they think about the advice I gave them," said Judeline Joseph, 25, with a laugh.

"Sometimes they don't have the money to buy what you need to treat the water. But some of them simply forget to take precautions -- so we are really doing something useful!"

Jamaica Observer, Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017
From luxury hotels to slums, Haiti puts used soap to good use

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living life

It’s been a few years since I spent Christmas with my two children, so I was especially excited when I recently discovered that our respective schedules meant that we could celebrate the festive season together this coming December. I quickly booked my flight to London, where my son lives, and began making plans.

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I’m sure I had a big grin on my face as I thought about our reunion. I also have a sister who lives in London with her family, so I was sure there would be lots of catching up on my holiday agenda.

The following morning, I decided to check the news online while I waited for the kettle to boil. I gasped when I read the first headline. There had been a terror attack on London Bridge. As I quickly scanned the report, I was aware of the beating of my heart.

Seemingly, some pedestrians had been mowed down by a van driven by terrorists on the bridge, while others had been stabbed after the same perpetrators had abandoned their vehicle.

As I switched on my mobile phone, a large knot began forming in the pit of my stomach. However, there were no messages from my son or any indication that he’d tried to reach out to me.

I took a deep breath, booted up my laptop and signed onto my Facebook account, where I have a group chat dedicated to the members of my family. My sister and her family were fine, but there was no mention of my son.

I tried to banish the unthinkable thoughts that were forming in my mind, but I couldn’t do anything about my shaking hands as I typed out a group message asking for news of my son.

The next few minutes went by as if in slow motion. I had to do something; anything but stare at my computer screen.

I’d just gone into the kitchen to make a cup of tea when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Facebook alert. I ran back to look at the screen. It was my son. He was on holiday in Spain. And yes, he’d told me about his plans the week before, but I’d obviously forgotten all about them.

I let out a huge sigh.

When I’ve read about terrorist attacks in the past, I’ve always felt bad for the families and friends of the people who have been slain during such cowardly and dastardly acts.

I can’t imagine how anyone can begin to come to terms with such a sudden and brutal loss. Everything must seem so surreal to them.

I suspect somewhere at the back of my mind there is a little selfish thought that thinks, “Thank goodness I don’t have to go through that.”

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t wish anyone any ill, but I’ve never had to cope with such a horrific loss. It’s as if these things just happen to other people.

Still, I sometimes have the thought that one day I might be unlucky enough to be one of those other people. And I know such thoughts can be so destructive if you let them take root.

I’m not an overly pessimistic sort of person. I don’t think people are out to get me, or my dreams won’t amount to anything, or there’s danger lurking around every corner. Sure, bad things happen – all the time.

You just have to look at the front page of any newspaper to see evidence of this: People and animals are harmed/killed. Property is destroyed. People are left homeless. Natural disasters wreak havoc. Crops die. There is too much or too little water. People become disabled or homeless. The list is endless.

But I also know it’s how you respond to these events that’s important.

I will not cancel my trip to London, or think my flight is going to be blown out of the sky, or feel afraid when I walk around the streets of London, or worry endlessly about my son as he takes the train to work every day.

If you let other people or events dictate your actions, they will render you powerless and rob you of the life you should be living. And that’s no way to live.

The Star2, Published: JUNE 19, 2017
Don't let fear get in the way of living life

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JUST take what the bullies give you and hope their anger will die down quickly.

Try to shield your head and vital organs. Let them punch you in the back or strike your legs. Wait for them to get tired.

Don’t defend yourself. Don’t block their punches! Because it will enrage them and they will attack from all sides at once.

Never shout back because they will rain blows on you continuously.

When my friend was 14 years old, he was bullied constantly by a group of five older boys. After a while, he learned that the best way to survive the torment was to do the above.

“They would shove me into an unoccupied classroom during recess and punch me repeatedly,” he told me.

My friend is now a 27-year-old mass communications graduate. He never saw those ruffians after finishing school and we are glad he grew into the mild-mannered gentleman we all love and respect.

Where did we go wrong? Why do we keep hearing of school- children using fists to settle their differences?

Should our children be taught self-defence? But how to fight when outnumbered four or five to one?

“You don’t fight. You run,” said a colleague who spent many years learning taekwondo and karate. He confessed to having his share of brawls in his youth.

He said that unlike one-to-one combat, group or street fighting was savage because the fighters tended to become frenzied and would strike harder than they intended.

His reply shook my perceptions of the world. We were talking about children! Not fighters in combat! But he was being realistic about the violence.

World Health Organisation has a fact sheet on youth violence showing an estimated 200,000 wrongful deaths among youths aged 10 to 29 each year globally.

The dictionary defines a bully as ‘a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people’.

I too was a victim of bullying as a schoolgirl.

My classmates lashed out at me with insults and threats. They seized my crayons and colour pencils and dared me to tell the teachers.

They did not hit me but 20 years on, I still remember their nasty remarks which had a lasting impact on my psyche.

Anyway, what happened to my friend went beyond that and what happened to T. Nhaveen and navy cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain proved fatal.

Nhaveen, 18, was attacked on June 10 by people identified as his ex-schoolmates. He died last Thursday.

Zulfarhan, 21, was beaten and tortured for two days – May 20 and 21 – allegedly by his university mates. He died on June 1.

Covering Nhaveen’s wake as a journalist was heart-wrenching.

I cried with his mother when she pleaded with cabinet minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim to never let bullying happen again for the sake of other parents. That is a mother for you. My deepest condolences.

Nhaveen and Zulfarhan’s attackers were arrested and the law will deal with them.

But I feel no joy in knowing they face murder charges.

We must all be ashamed to have young Malaysians tried for murder.

Youth violence is a societal problem because “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke, philosopher).

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Bullying: Just cower and take it?
By N. Trisha

(*) Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Burke was a hugely influential Anglo-Irish politician, orator and political thinker, notable for his strong support for the American Revolution and his fierce opposition to the French Revolution.


BULLY victim T. Nhaveen, 18, died on Thursday after being brutally attacked on June 10. This would be the third death in recent months of a young bully victim in Malaysia. Tahfiz pupil Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi died on April 26 and naval cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman from Malaysia National Defence University on June 1.

According to reports, Nhaveen had often been beaten and berated by bullies in school. His teachers described him as a “soft” and “gentle” person.

On the day of the attack, he had gone out with a friend when they were confronted by a group. The ensuing altercation turned into a brutal attack and Nhaveen was later found unconscious.

Thaqif, aged 11, had been punished at a federally unregistered religious school in Johor. He was subsequently admitted to hospital where his limbs were amputated. He later lapsed into a coma and died.

Zulfarhan, 21, was beaten up by six of his college mates and 13 others – all of whom wanted to force a confession over a stolen laptop. He died bruised and with burns on his body.

For all our anger, dismay and sadness, it seems that less than nothing is being done to ensure these cases don’t happen. In the case of the perpetrators, what kind of people raised such children.

The behaviour will continue into adulthood, and lead to others being abused as well in households, which will then lead to yet another generation of bullies. Bullying does not stop without intervention, and abuse begets abuse.

Case in point, a 39-year-old unemployed man in Pantai Dalam was found guilty of beating up his sister on June 15 by the magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur.

This also happens among those in authority. For example, late last year an officer with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was investigated for abusing and sexually assaulting his wife in Johor.

In Kangar, a 29-year-old woman was beaten by her husband last December. She ended up with bruises on her face, shoulder and knee. His reason? She had cut her hair after he verbally abused her for colouring it in the first place, thinking he would be happier.

Last May, social media highlighted the story of a husband who had beaten up his 25-year-old wife in front of a laundry in Kuantan. She had recently given birth to their second child. The woman refused to file charges.

We even had a 49-year-old veterinarian hitting his wife in an elevator in Jerantut, Pahang. This case made its way to social media in March 2016 after having taken place in August, 2013. It took three years after the assault for the man to be taken to court.

We have a huge problem when it comes to bullying in this nation, and the government, the authorities and even the welfare department and NGOs need to do more. But more than this, we must as a society declare zero tolerance for abuse.

It is time that we became nosy neighbours and call the police when we see bruises on women and children, hear angry screams at night, and even see people yelling at one another in a car during a traffic jam.

It is time to ask the moody co-worker who looks scared or stressed out of his or her wits if everything is all right. It is time to ask the withdrawn child in the class, or at the tuition centre, or even when they come over to play with your own, if everything is all right.

All this must be done to ensure no more tragedies occur, and it must be done to ensure that every person being abused is set free from the vicious cycle before a tragedy occurs. Some will use their status, their money, their power, even their religion to defend their actions as justified. This must never be allowed to happen.

And more importantly, it is time to stop those who peddle messages of hate, which allow bullies a platform to threaten hurt and even death to those who believe differently. Social media is full of such people, and it is time we fight back.

The SunDaily, Posted on 19 June 2017 - 09:27am
Time to fight back
By Hafidz Baharom

THE Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is deeply saddened and joins in the national grief following the deaths of T. Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, both of whom lost their lives prematurely, allegedly due to extreme bullying.

While the public outcry for loss of life is understandable, Suhakam is of the view that the demand for the most severe criminal prosecution may be a short-term solution as such a response does not address the root cause of this escalating social problem.

Suhakam underlines that the link between bullying and later delinquent and criminal behaviour cannot be ignored, and early identification and intervention is necessary to ensure that all children are safe. All adults are responsible for creating positive environments and ending violence in the lives of children and youth.

Suhakam reiterates that everyone has the right to be respected, safe and free from violence, harassment and bullying, as well as the right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. When bullying is unchecked, parents, teachers, students, community and religious leaders, government as well as all stakeholders are compelled to find a suitable formula for preventing bullying in a manner that protects all children and students, including society. As bullying is a complex social problem that requires a multitude of approaches, the authorities must also demonstrate that our society can and must function within a culture of non-violence.

Suhakam expresses its deepest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of Nhaveen and Zulfarhan.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 18 June 2017 - 08:36pm
Address root cause of bullying
By Tan Sri Razali Ismail, Chairman, Suhakam

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Letter from Ravinda Singh

OPEN spaces are of two distinct categories. One is created by the State from unalienated state land, for example the Taiping Lake Gardens, while the other is within landed residential areas and created by purchasers of such properties.

It is virtually unknown among purchasers of landed residential properties (not the gated ones) that the open spaces they find in their housing schemes are paid for by them, and as such the open spaces are actually common property owned by them collectively.

Developers of landed housing schemes are required to set aside 326.7 square feet of land for each house they build in the scheme. If this requirement is not fulfilled, their development plans are not approved. The cost of this land is factored into the house prices just like the cost of building the roads and drains. Before vacant possession is given to the purchasers, the open space created in this way (which can total a few acres) must be surrendered by the developer to the local authority (LA).

Handing over to the LA is supposed to be for maintenance purposes only, the money for which comes from the yearly assessment fees or taxes (cukai pintu) paid to the LAs.

Open spaces in housing schemes which are the common property of the house-buyers have to be gazetted and herein lies a flaw in the law that does not recognise the difference between “public open spaces” like the Taiping Lake Gardens (which is unalienated government land) and “open spaces” made up of the 326.7 square feet of alienated land compulsorily bought from the developer by each purchaser of a landed property in a housing scheme.

The two distinct types of open spaces are gazetted under the same provision of law, Section 62 of the National Land Code (NLC) “Power of reservation of State land”.

Gazetting under this section is not permanent, as Section 63 allows for the leasing of such “reserved” land. Section 64 allows for revocation of the gazetting and Section 65 permits the giving of temporary occupation licences on “reserved” land.

Thus, gazetting of the open spaces in housing schemes under Section 62 only gives a perception of security. It actually turns the land, made up of 326.7 square feet compulsorily bought by each house-buyer from the developer, into government property over which the government has absolute right to do what it likes.

The law thus allows the open spaces in residential housing schemes to be taken by the government.

Why should the open spaces in landed property housing schemes, compulsorily bought by the house-buyers from the developer, and then compulsorily handed over to the LAs, become the absolute property of the government? This land is not state land.

The law should therefore be amended to state that the open spaces made up of 326.7 square feet per house and paid for by the house-buyers are handed over to the LAs on trust for maintenance purposes only and no provisions of the NLC or any other laws shall apply to empower the LAs or the government to allow such open spaces or any part of them to be used for any other purpose(s) whether temporarily or permanently.

These open spaces should remain open spaces for as long as the respective housing estates are in existence. Would any parliamentarian please take this matter up and push for the law to be duly amended?

The Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 19 June 2017
Amend the law to protect open spaces

HAVE children no right to be brought up as disciplined persons? All our sympathy and tears are not going to bring back Nhaveen, or any of the other children who suffered at the hands of other children.

Their blood is on the hands of the authorities who allowed discipline in our educational institutions to deteriorate to such a deplorable level.

The primary role of educational institutions should be character development so that whether a child scores 10A's or 10F's, they will grow up into well behaved persons who respect law and order.

It is amazing how adults, and especially those trained to handle children, like teachers, cannot be in control of and discipline errant children.

Assaulting, injuring and killing others is not child's play. But children who may start showing aggressive behaviour from as young as three do not know this. If not corrected, such behaviour becomes ingrained and gets worse with time.

By destroying school discipline, serious damage is done to society as the indisciplined schoolchildren will only become bolder with the passing years and will think nothing of inflicting torture and death on others.

Such violence, and other criminal behaviour, become "normal" behaviour. Thus there is strong co-relation between deterioration of discipline in schools and increase in crime.

But the authorities are in denial of this fact. Is it the fault of these violent children that they have grown up to become such persons?

Society may not accept it, but these children are the victims of an education system that has failed to instil discipline, giving various excuses and theories for such failure.

Sending Nhaveen's, or Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain's attackers to the gallows may be seen as "justice" by the families of the victims. But is it justice to the attackers who were not disciplined from the time they began showing traits of violence that progressed from "playfulness" to "murderous"?

Would these children be in court now if their aggressive and violent behaviour had been corrected as soon as it was first seen, be it with the rod? Various parties have come up with suggestions to improve school discipline. Are any of these tried and tested methods that really work?

For example, psychologists, children's experts (some may just be armchair experts), defenders of children's rights including those in Unicef and the UN, always speak of the "soft" approach to discipline children as they cannot imagine a light cane being used to do so.

To them, the very thought of using a light cane is "corporal punishment" which is "child abuse" and which only "widens the circle of violence".

Are these mere perceptions or based on hard evidence?

So, they mean to say our forefathers who believed in "spare the rod and spoil the child" were stupid, violent people?

Spanking is a discipline method defined as striking a child on the buttocks or extremities "without inflicting physical injury" and with the intent to modify behaviour.

I for one strongly believe that spanking is very effective in changing child misbehaviour, but it must be done judiciously, and only when other methods fail.

What the Ministry of Education should do is carry out a proper study by throwing a challenge to all those who have suggestions for tackling school indiscipline, using their "soft approach" or the rod, to take up full-time appointment as "counsellors" or "discipline masters" for at least one full year, in primary or secondary school as they choose, and prove their theories.

There should be no interference in their work and neither should they be bogged down by red tape.

Then have child psychologists, paediatricians, and other specialists to closely monitor and study the effects of those methods, especially in the case where the "rod" is used.

They should not make a fuss about one or two cane marks, though. As I firmly believe that the rod is still the best tool for correcting child misbehaviour in early childhood, and I hasten to say that not all children need it, I am willing to take charge of disciplinary matters in a primary school that has disciplinary problems and prove my point, for using the rod is most effective when done early in childhood.

There should be no political interference or any red tape such as requirement for witnesses for every stroke of the cane dispensed. Using the rod is most effective when done on the spot (when misbehaviour is spotted) and not after a delay.

Letter to The SunDaily, Last updated on 18 June 2017 - 08:41pm
Authorities allowed slide in discipline
By Ravinder Singh, Penang

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The Japanese

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slumped more than 10 points to 44.9 percent in a public opinion poll published on Sunday, amid opposition party suspicions he used his influence unfairly to help a friend set up a business.

Abe has repeatedly denied abusing his authority to benefit his friend. His grip on power is not in danger, given his ruling coalition's huge majority in parliament, but the affair looks unlikely to fade away.

The education ministry unearthed documents last week that the opposition said suggested Abe wanted a new veterinary school run by a friend to be approved in a state-run special economic zone. The ministry had earlier said it could not find the documents but reopened the probe under public pressure.

Opposition politicians and the media have identified Abe's friend as Kotaro Kake, the director of the Kake Educational Institution, which wants to open a veterinary department. The government has not approved new veterinary schools for decades because of concern about a glut of veterinarians.

Nearly 85 percent of voters responding to a Kyodo news agency survey said they did not think the government probe had uncovered the truth of the affair and almost 74 percent were not persuaded by the government's insistence that there was nothing wrong with the approval process.

The institution has said it had acted appropriately.

Voters were split over last week's enactment by parliament of a controversial law that will penalize conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, with 42.1 percent in favor and 44 percent against the legislation, Kyodo said.

The government says the new legislation is needed so Japan can ratify a U.N. treaty aimed at global organized crime and prevent terrorism in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Opponents say it will allow police to trample on civil liberties by expanding the scope for surveillance.

The ruling coalition pushed the law through parliament last week, taking the rare step of skipping a vote in committee and going directly to a full session of parliament's upper house.

Almost 68 percent of voters expressed dislike of that rarely used tactic, Kyodo said.

Reuters, Published: Sun Jun 18, 2017 - 7:40am EDT
Japan PM Abe's support slumps amid doubts about school scandal
Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Paul Tait

























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The Australian

Sydney − AFP: A unique supermarket in Australia is giving food destined for landfills a second chance, as the government embarks on a major push to cut down on waste costing the economy A$20bil (RM65.18bil) a year.

The outlet run by food rescue organisation OzHarvest in Sydney (*) takes surplus products normally thrown out by major supermarkets, airlines and other suppliers, and gives them away for free.

It is an attempt to tackle the mounting waste problem in Australia, where more than four million tonnes end up as rubbish each year.

“It is simply remarkable that we produce enough food to feed 60 million people a year but every month more than 600,000 people –one-third of them children – seek food relief from relevant charities,” Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said in April.

The government is drawing up an ambitious plan to halve food waste by 2030 and is convening a national summit later this year involving the private sector and non-profit organisations.

Globally, one-third of human food – about 1.3 billion tonnes costing around US$1 trillion (RM4.28 trillion) – is lost or wasted annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Such wastage is particularly conspicuous in retail, where food is thrown away “due to quality standards that over-emphasise appearance”, the UN body added.

That’s where supermarkets like OzHarvest come in, said founder Ronni Kahn, a leading voice in Australia’s food rescue community, who hopes the store will raise awareness about sustainable living.

Besides the needy, “there are people (at the supermarket) who want to take part in this sharing economy – and understanding why this produce was rejected, why is this here”, she said as she pointed to bread donated by a bakery.

Long queues have formed outside the shop since it opened in April, with the unemployed, single mothers and students among those leaving with bulging grocery bags.

What we eat or discard is just the tip of the iceberg in the production process, conservation experts say, with huge amounts of resources like fertilisers, fuel, land and water used to grow and pack food.

“When food’s wasted, all of those resources are wasted as well.

“What’s incumbent upon us is to make the most of the food that we produce, rather than producing more,” said Marcus Godinho of charity FareShare.

FareShare tackles waste by cooking large quantities of food due to expire or that farmers and manufacturers struggle to sell in a 500m2 kitchen in Melbourne before freezing and storing it for distribution to the disadvantaged at a later date.

Another initiative is Yume, an online platform connecting suppliers and buyers for surplus produce at significantly discounted prices, chief Katy Barfield said.

“It can be cancelled orders, be mislabelled, brand refresh, export orders that get cancelled, or specifications unwanted by retailers,” Melbourne-based Barfield said.

Barfield, who previously headed up food rescue charity SecondBite, wants to take the platform global as she develops it to handle millions of transactions.

With Canberra stepping up, waste warriors are optimistic that incentives could reduce excess in supply chains and encourage businesses to keep surplus food fit for consumption away from landfills.

Even public institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons could make their procurement of food more sustainable by buying surplus products, Barfield added.

“It would save food going to waste, be good for the environment, be very good for the taxpayers’ pockets because we would be paying less for the food, and I think it’s a win, win, win,” she said.

Not wasted: Volunteers waiting for customers at OzHarvest Market, a recycled food supermarket, in Sydney.

The Star, Published: Monday, 19 June 2017
Saving food, pocket and planet

(*) food rescue organisation OzHarvest
The OzHarvest Market is Australia’s first ever rescued food supermarket, stocked with produce that has either been donated or would otherwise go to waste, but is perfectly edible. Based on a ‘take what you need, give if you can’ philosophy, our purpose is to make rescued food available to everyone, especially those who need it most.

The OzHarvest Market is a pop up marketplace, which is part of The Addison Project, TOGA and Qualitas’ youth shelter housing project at The Addison Hotel on Anzac Parade in Kensington, Sydney. It opened on April 19th and will remain open for as long as the site is available.

Want to donate food to OzHarvest Market? Click here!

Help The OzHarvest Market keep its doors open for those in need! Donate here.

Where: 147 Anzac Parade, Kensington, NSW 2033, Australia (view the location on Google Maps)

Opening hours: 10am – 2pm, Monday – Friday

Like our OzHarvest Market Facebook page to get the latest news including stock updates: www.facebook.com/OzHarvestMarket

For more information contact sydney.info@ozharvest.org

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Cambodian Womwn

TAKEO (CAMBODIA) (AFP) - Peeling a mango inside her rickety wooden shack, Chhum Long explains how her daughter's decision to nurture a Western couple's baby in her womb helped her family buy two desperately needed items: a metal roof and a motorbike.

Last year a broker appeared outside the 60-year-old's house in Cambodia's southern Takeo province and offered her daughter $10,000 to be a surrogate mother for a wealthy foreign couple.

"My daughter immediately agreed with the offer because we are very poor," she told AFP. "They took the baby away as soon as he was born, she did not even see his face."

An ongoing trial in Phnom Penh of Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles on charges of running an illegal surrogacy business has shone a spotlight on Cambodia's role in the rented womb trade.

It is a little-regulated industry that pairs wealthy foreign couples desperate for a child -- paying as much as $50,000 -- with some of the world's most vulnerable women.

The enterprise has sparked a regulatory game of cat and mouse as poorer nations move to halt the trade only to see it resurface or appear across their borders.

One-by-one countries that had been popular surrogacy destinations like India, Nepal and Thailand have banned the trade.

Cambodia did the same in November. But interviews conducted by AFP suggest the industry remains, albeit in the shadows.

Cambodia is one of Asia's poorest countries with an average annual income of just $1,150. Nine months of surrogacy might bring in as much as nine years salary.

- 'Keeping it quiet' -

The village of Puth Sar, where Chhum Long and her daughter hail from, is a typical target.

Its bucolic charm -- wooden houses surrounded by green paddy fields an hour south of the capital -- belies an entrenched poverty.

Village chief Ouk Savouen said brokers first appeared two years ago. At least 13 women have agreed to be surrogates since then, some after the ban came in.

"There are now four surrogates who are currently pregnant but they keep it quiet," he said. "They were recruited in February and March."

The village chief dislikes the trade, saying it is exploitative and rarely provides families with the kind of riches they think will free them because the payments are mostly frittered away.

But he also recognises it is hard for women to turn down the offer of such large sums.

"I just want them to be fully paid and cared for," he said, suggesting careful regulation is better than an outright ban.

No surrogate mother in Puth Sar was willing to speak when AFP visited.

But two recent surrogates from other Cambodian villages agreed to talk on the condition that only their nicknames were used.

Both were driven by poverty but said they had broadly positive experiences.

Champei got pregnant before the ban, giving birth in April to a boy for a Dutch couple. She was paid $10,000, which was used to purchase a plot of land.

"This is a lot of money for me," she said.

"I want to be a surrogate mother again so I can build a home," she said, adding that other women from her village were also surrogates.

- 'I miss her' -

Romduol, 35, makes just $200 a month as a garment factory worker in Kampong Speu province.

She heard about surrogacy through her colleagues and gave birth to a baby girl for a gay Australian couple before the ban.

"The Australians were so happy with the baby," she said. "I still consider her my child. I miss her because she had been in my womb for more than nine months."

She used the money to pay off debts.

"But I have not fulfilled my dream yet. If possible I want to be a surrogate mother again because I need a house," she said.

Cambodian government officials, however, say the ban was necessary.

"Cambodia is still poor but we don't want to use surrogacy to reduce poverty among our people," Chou Bun Eng, who heads an anti-human trafficking committee at the Ministry of Interior, told AFP.

"Otherwise Cambodia will become a factory to produce babies for sale".

The November ban came in the form of a government edict. But there has yet to be a law passed specifically outlawing the trade, leaving it in a legal grey area.

Chou Bun Eng said the government was drafting legislation but provided no timeframe.

Back at Puth Sar, Chhum Long admits the money from her daughter's surrogacy has not rescued them from poverty.

After burning through monthly cash instalments dealt out during the pregnancy and spending much of the remaining money on paying off debts, there wasn't enough to buy the new house they had hoped for.

"We are still poor," she shrugs and then grins. "But if they selected older women, I'd want to be a surrogate too."

Chhum Long's daughter was paid $10,000 to be a surrogate mother, a sum worth nearly a decade of average income in Cambodia

France 24, Published: 18 June 2017 - 07H40
Surrogacy remains a lure for Cambodia's poorest despite ban
By Suy SE

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The Korean

SEOUL - AFP, BLOOMBERG: A United Nations veteran has been appointed as South Korea's first female foreign minister, tasked with easing tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Ms Kang Kyung Wha, 62, who was appointed yesterday, served as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs before becoming a senior policy adviser to UN chief Antonio Guterres this year.

One of Ms Kang's first tasks will be to prepare for a bilateral summit between President Moon Jae In and United States President Donald Trump later this month, as fears grow over Pyongyang's weapons programme.

The isolated regime has staged a series of missile launches this year, defying global pressure and triggering tightened UN sanctions.

Ms Kang served at the South's foreign ministry for years before joining the UN.

Her diplomatic experience will help the South navigate tricky waters and tackle sensitive issues with allies and neighbours, Mr Moon's office said earlier.

Mr Moon, a centre-left politician who took office on May 9 after the ousting of impeached president Park Geun Hye, has advocated dialogue with the North to bring it to the negotiating table - in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.

Ties with the US have also come under some strain recently over the controversial deployment of a US anti-missile system in the South. The deployment has soured relations with China, which sees the system as a threat.

The South under Park agreed last year to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system to guard against threats from the North, prompting Beijing to deploy informal economic sanctions against South Korean businesses in April.

Though parts of the system are already in place, Mr Moon this month suspended further deployment.

Officially, the delay is to allow time for a new comprehensive environmental impact assessment, but analysts say the move is a strategic delay by Mr Moon to handle the tricky diplomatic situation he inherited.

President Moon Jae In (right) and newly appointed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, after she received her appointment credentials at the presidential residence in Seoul yesterday

The Straits Times, Published: 7 hours ago
UN veteran is South Korea's first female foreign minister

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The French

Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party swept to a large majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday, although it fell short of a predicted landslide.

Macron's year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) and their allies won 351 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, final results showed after the second round of an election which has eliminated many high-profile figures.

The party Macron founded just 16 months ago has re-drawn the French political map, although the winning score was considerably lower than the 470 seats predicted by some pre-vote surveys.

But it gives the 39-year-old president one of France's biggest post-war majorities, strengthening his hand in implementing his programme of business-friendly reforms.

"A year ago, no-one would have imagined such a political renewal," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

"It is down to the president's desire to breathe new life into democracy and to the French people who wanted to give parliament a new face."

Macron's success was tempered by a record low turnout of just under 44 percent, leading his opponents to claim he had no groundswell of support.

- Desire for change -

REM routed the Socialists and heavily defeated the rightwing Republicans, while the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen -- whom Macron defeated in the presidential run-off on May 7 -- had a disappointing night.

Le Pen entered parliament for the first time in her career in one of at least eight seats won by the FN, but the party fell well short of its 15-seat target.

Le Pen's victory in the northern former coalmining town of Henin-Beaumont was a rare bright spot for her nationalist and anti-EU party that was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron.

She insisted the FN still had a key role to play, saying: "We are the only force of resistance to the watering down of France, of its social model and its identity."

The Socialists were the biggest losers, punished for the high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence that marked their five years in power.

The party of former president Francois Hollande shed more than 250 seats, obtaining just 29 seats.

"The rout of the Socialist Party is undeniable," said PS leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who lost his seat in the first round and resigned his position on Sunday night.

Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls narrowly retained his seat after a dogfight with a hard-left candidate in the Paris suburbs who demanded a recount amid noisy protests.

But former education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem -- a one-time Socialist star -- was beaten by an REM candidate in the central city of Lyon, while former labour minister Myriam El Khomri lost to Macron-supporting candidate Pierre-Yves Bournazel in the capital.

The Republicans fared better than the Socialists, hanging on to 131 seats, down from over 200 in the last parliament, and remain the main opposition party.

The conservative party had enough seats to "defend its convictions", said the party's leader for the elections, Francois Baroin, calling on Macron to heed the record low turnout, which he said sent "a message".

"The task he faces is immense," he added.

- More women lawmakers -

The new assembly is set to be transformed with younger, more ethnically diverse lawmakers and 223 women -- a record number.

Around half of REM's candidates are virtual unknowns drawn from diverse fields of academia, business or local activism.

They include 27-year-old Rwandan orphan Herve Berville, who cruised to victory in the western region of Brittany, and female bullfighter Marie Sara, who came within 100 votes of unseating senior FN figure Gilbert Collard in southern France.

The other half of the party are a mix of centrists and moderate left- and right-wing politicians drawn from established parties including ally MoDem.

The hard-left France Unbowed won 17 seats as it also struggled to maintain the momentum it had during the presidential election.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the movement's firebrand leader, won a seat in the southern city of Marseille on a pledge to lead resistance to Macron's radical labour market reforms.

Melenchon also honed in on the record low turnout, saying: "The French people are now engaged in a sort of civic general strike."

Many observers suggested voters were weary of elections after four in the space of two months.

Apart from loosening labour laws to try to boost employment, Macron also plans to overhaul France's social security system and wants to breathe new life into the European Union.

His confident start at home, where he has concentrated on trying to restore the lost prestige of the president, and his bold action on the international stage has led to a host of positive headlines.

He won instant plaudits from France's closest ally Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman hailing his "clear parliamentary majority."

Yahoo News, Published: June 19, 2017, 12:15 pm
Macron marches to clear majority in French parliament

PARIS (AFP) - A 55-year-old village mayor was arrested on Saturday for allegedly attacking a prominent French right-wing parliamentary candidate while she was out campaigning.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a flamboyant 44-year-old candidate for the Republicans party, was canvassing for votes at a Paris market on Thursday when a man called her a "stupid bobo" -- a blend of hipster and bourgeois -- and shoved her leaflets in her face, causing her to fall.

The former environment minister blacked out for several minutes before being rushed to hospital.

Vincent Debraize -- mayor of Champignolles, a small village in Normandy in northern France -- denied he had verbally or physically assaulted her, Kosciusko-Morizet's lawyer Xavier Autain told AFP.

Debraize was placed in custody for "intentional violence against a person conducting public services", according to Autain.

"It is a serious attack on an elected member of the Republicans and I hope for a fitting response from the judiciary," he added.

After the attack, the man left, heading for the closest metro entrance.

He was photographed, and his picture made the rounds in French media. French public prosecutors quickly launched an investigation.

"He was identified after witness testimony and thanks to video surveillance," said a police source.

Kosciusko-Morizet faces an uphill battle to win Sunday's second round of parliamentary elections in the well-heeled 5th, 6th and 7th districts of Paris.

Her rival, Gilles Le Gendre, a 59-year-old business consultant who represents French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Republic on the Move party, scored 41.8 percent to her 18.1 percent in last weekend's first round.

France 24, Published: 17 June 2017 - 21H40
French mayor arrested for clash with right-winger
by Benjamin LEGENDRE

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The Malaysian

I WOULD like to draw attention to the link between certain parenting styles and bullying.

And here’s the cold, hard truth: The vast majority of children who bully do so for reasons connected with their home life.

Either they bully in order to satisfy feelings that are missing at home; to relieve stress, anxiety, and anger from home; or because it’s what they have observed and learned at home.

Although parents intellectually can comprehend that words, behaviours and actions have a huge influence on their children, many have difficulty objectively assessing their own parenting styles and techniques.

Generations of patterns, cultural traditions and expectations, and the difficulty that comes with self-awareness and fear of loss of parental authorities, further complicate the issue.

Without any judgement whatsoever, my intention here is simply to ask you, parents, to be open to the following points, to acknowledge the potential consequences these actions or inactions might have, and to ask yourself the hard question: Is it possible that your parenting style might be responsible for the fact that your child is a bully or might become one in the not-too-distant future?

1. Neglected child with occupied parents:

This parenting inattention is one that often causes children to turn to bullying in order to fill a void.

Bullies often bully so that they can get attention and validation from their peers, since they aren’t getting those things from the people in their life that matter most, their parents.

Afraid of becoming the victim themselves, and wanting to fit in, many bystanders turn into bullies and in the process, they validate one another’s actions, making them feel empowered and reinforcing the behaviour overtime.

If you don’t spend enough quality time with your child, make a change. It’s that simple. Even short amounts of time can be made to count more by really connecting with your child.

Internet-free family dinners or breakfasts are an easy way to start. Make connections with encouragement or validation and show your unconditional love first before judging your children every time you come together.

2. Name calling, insults, and gossiping:

These are all considered a form of bullying. When you participate in these actions yourself, you are bullying the person on the receiving end; and in doing so, teaching your child to do the same.

What you say to your partner, what your partner says to you, how you talk about your friends, peers and family members, and what you call your child all make an enormous, long-lasting impact on him or her.

Learn to be more aware of what words you choose and check your impulse to spout everything out in an instant. Even better, learn to communicate your feelings in an effective and respectful way to the person you are unhappy with.

3. Hitting and spanking:

This is a parenting decision that is often cultural in nature and passed down through generations.

While it may be really difficult to change the way you think about something that’s been drilled into you for decades, the plan is for parents to explore the long-term consequences of spanking and adopt other more effective means of discipline.

When spanking and caning are the only way to discipline children at home, it creates a huge amount of anxiety and humiliation.

It’s essentially like they have the threat hanging over their head at all times. Sure, you could argue that they wouldn’t have to worry if they just behaved, but children will make mistakes. It’s what happens to them as part of the growing-up process.

If they don’t feel safe at home, guess where they would go to? That stress also often manifests as bullying when children do not have an effective outlet for their feelings.

Additionally, you are teaching your children that threatening to hit and hitting are acceptable means of punishing someone who has done something that you don’t like. Children model their behaviour directly after their parents. Those who are spanked at home are more likely to hit other kids than children who are not.

4. Expressing anger and rage:

Your child’s feelings are directly influenced by yours. Have you ever noticed that when you’re anxious, your child also feels anxious? Or when you’re excited, your child also feels excited?

While this connection may seem to diminish as your children grow into their teens, it’s very evident during the early years.

Not only will your child unconsciously absorb feelings of anger, but how you choose to handle your anger will teach your child how they would handle anger.

Yelling, cursing, gesturing and acting aggressively when confronted with a frustrating experience send the direct message to your child that it’s okay to respond in those ways to anger.

Find out how you can better cope with stress and learn to express your anger more constructively and in a healthier manner.

Learn effective communication skills and choose when to walk away. For example, if the situation isn’t really important, like the driver who jumped queue in front of you, just let it go.

It’s important that your child knows walking away and ignoring the situation can be an effective and acceptable option.

If you’re angry at a friend or family member, teach your child that effective communication skills and talking about your feelings are the best options. Lead by example.

Bullies are not born, they are raised.

Many studies confirm an association between harsh (punitive) parenting styles and children’s likelihood of being both a bully and being bullied.

Some studies also point to a more surprising association – permissive or neglectful parenting creates bullies, too.

The University of Washington conducted a retrospective study of 419 college students and found that parental authoritativeness (firm and gentle approach) – in which parents are warm and caring but set specific rules for their child’s safety – lowered children’s risk of being bullied.

Both permissive and authoritarian (harsh) parenting styles, on the other hand, were positively correlated with bullying of other children.

A 2012 study also pointed to lackadaisical parenting as a problem.

Researchers investigated online bullying in a sample of college students and found that those with permissive parents had engaged in more bullying behaviours than participants with authoritarian and authoritative parents.

Neglectful parenting was associated with the most bullying.

Most research on parents’ influence on bullying, however, have focused on harsh, punitive parenting styles in which the parents are essentially modelling bullying behaviour for their children.

In a sample of 2,060 Spanish high school students about bullying and parenting styles, results indicate that abusive discipline increased teenagers’ risk of abusing peers or being abused by them.

Taken together, most studies indicate that the best parenting style falls in the middle of the spectrum.

Indeed, various studies have shown that a protective factor against being bullied or becoming a bully is having parents who are facilitative, meaning warm and responsive to their children and encouraging of appropriate levels of autonomy (rather than being either controlling or overly permissive).

The bottom line? If you do not wish to raise a bully, do not bully your own children.

A gentle and firm (authoritative) parenting style is protective against so many negative psychological outcomes that people who wish to become better parents should take classes on how to be more gentle and firm (authoritative) with their children.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 19 June 2017
Raise children in warm and responsive environment
By KO TEIK YEN, Clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist, Kuala Lumpur

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The British

A horrific fire razes an apartment block in London just as the country barely recovered from its shock election results, while politicians seem unprepared for the all-important Brexit talks this week.

WHAT a bad time it must be to live in or visit Britain. It’s been one unexpected (and mainly terrible) piece of news after another.

Last week, there was the horri-fying fire in a London apartment block that took many lives. Many Malaysians live in high-rise buildings so we could really sympathise with those who perished and their families.

The fire spread so fast because it shot upwards through the cladding on the building’s wall. Cladding is a type of skin or extra layer placed on the outside of a building.

There are lessons for Malaysians. We should at least ensure that there are no materials placed on the outside face of our apartments and office buildings that can attract, magnify or spread a fire.

The fire could not have come at a worse time – only a few days after an election that eliminated the Conservative Party’s majority, for-cing it to form an uncomfortable understanding with a Northern Ireland party.

Before that, there were the terrorist attacks in the London Bridge area and in Manchester. And last year saw the “Brexit” referendum vote taking Britain out of the European Union.

It’s certainly not easy to be in charge of Britain right now. Her rivals may call Theresa May “a dead woman walking”, but any Tory leader taking over now will be blamed for the mess to come. It is ironic that an election aimed at creati-ng stability and certainty has instead led to instability and great uncertainty.

Britain’s immediate challenge is the Brexit negotiations, scheduled to start this week. Since the election results were a calamity for May, she has no mandate to take a tough “hard Brexit” stance.

Yet it would also be politically hazardous to switch to a “soft Brexit” position. Britain is therefore caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Those who voted for Brexit resent--ed immigration and being subjected to EU regulations and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). They felt socially left behind and associated this with Britain being in the EU.

But many others (almost half) had an opposing view. They enjoyed the economic benefits of being in the EU and feared the consequences of quitting.

Britain would like to have its cake and eat it: enjoy the benefits of free trade, services and capital flows inside the EU but be allowed to control immigration, and not to submit to EU regulations or the ECJ. But the rest of the EU will have none of it. They will impose strict conditions and won’t set a precedent for rewarding a member who quits.

Under a hard Brexit, Britain would have to negotiate an agreement similar to the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement. Britain will have some leeway in immigration control, but at the expense of excluding important parts of trade in goods (especially agriculture) and services.

Most worrying for Britain is finan--cial services. London is now the financial capital of Europe, but its status will be in jeopardy if Brexit curbs its financial firms’ access to Europe.

If an FTA cannot be concluded within the strict two-year deadline, Britain might have to fall back on the “WTO solution”. It would face the same tariffs in EU countries that the EU imposes on WTO members that do not have FTAs with it. This would be a nightmare for businessmen, politicians and consumers.

If the government now goes for a “soft Brexit”, it would mean joining either the European customs union or the European single market.

In the customs union, Britain will enjoy tariff-free trade in most goods in EU countries and also have the same external tariffs as the EU with the rest of the world. However, agriculture is excluded and services only partially covered.

Britain will have to be subjected to the ECJ on trade-related issues. There will be more leeway to negotiate immigration control.

Then there is the single market, which has many advocates, inclu-ding some Tory leaders. If Britain joins, it would have to adhere to the four freedoms of trade, services, capital and movement of people within the EU, as well as hundreds of related regulations, and accept the ECJ. There would be little leeway for Britain to negotiate immigration control. Norway, a non-EU member, is in the single market.

If this softest of options is taken, those who voted for Brexit will protest that this is like remaining in the EU.

But if Britain chooses the hard option, it will lose many of its pre-sent economic advantages of EU membership.

Britain may try for a hybrid of the soft and hard options, but the rest of the EU will make that difficult. Being unprepared, Britain will stall for time when negotiations start. Of course, many people are wondering how Britain ever ended up in this predicament.

Brexit was not the main reason for the Tories’ poor election outcome. Many voters were appalled at the heartless social policies and the continued austerity programme in their manifesto and May’s lacklustre campaign, while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn came up with a positive agenda of health, education, welfare and jobs, “for the many and not the few”.

The Tories are likely to now switch to “soft austerity” while a revived and more unified Labour will try to ride the crest of its popularity, in hopes of making it to Downing Street.

The next elections will be exciting. That’s one of the few certainties about Britain amidst the present chaos. But we don’t even know whe--ther to expect the next elections in five years or five months from now!

The Star, Published: Monday, 19 June 2017
Britain facing an uncertain future
By Martin Khor

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The Chinese

It’s hard to understand the motivation for some of the extreme stunts carried out by the Chinese, but they certainly make the headlines.

THE Chinese are the world’s bravest people and strong believers in the inspiring quote “If you think you can, you can”.

Their “daring behaviour” has always made them the focus of news reports; some have even risked their lives to prove their “bravery”.

But not everyone is lucky enough to claim victory from the God of Death; many have lost their challenges.

Recently, three people – two women and a man – nearly became tiger food at Changsha Ecological Zoo in China’s Hunan province.

The trio, in their 60s and believed to be related to each other, had climbed from a hill behind the zoo to gain free entry into the park.

They destroyed a fence and jumped into the zoo compound.

Just 50m away from them were seven Bengal tigers, wandering in the open safari.

Luckily the trespassers were spot-ted in time by security, who rushed to their rescue.

They had saved 130 yuan (RM82) each on the tickets but nearly lost their lives.

Zhang Bin, the zoo’s security chief, said tourists were only allowed to tour the section in the safety of a bus provided by the zoo.

“No one is allowed to go out there,” he added, emphasising that the section had clear danger notices but the trio ignored them.

Earlier this year, a man climbed into a tiger enclosure to play with the big cat at the Ningbo Youngor Zoo.

He was dragged further into the park and mauled to death by a tiger.

In another incident, two women left their car while touring the Badaling Wildlife World in Beijing.

They were attacked by Siberian tigers. One of them died on the spot.

The Chinese believe they can do anything as long as they are determined and do not surrender to the challenge ahead.

Last week, a teenager did not make his way back safely after swimming in heavy seas off Kamala beach, the famous tourist destination at Phuket island in Thailand.

The 18-year-old and two friends had ignored the warnings to swim in the sea and a large wave washed over them.

The beach guards rescued two of them, but the teenager could not be found. His body washed up on the beach the following day.

A day before the incident, four female Chinese tourists, who also ignored the red flag warning not to go swimming, nearly drowned in the sea.

As of May this year, more than 70 Chinese tourists drowned or were injured in the seas of Thailand.

These tourists might think they could fight Mother Nature or that they their lives were worthless.

But if you do not treasure your own life, don’t risk the precious lives of the rescuers trying to save you or at least, don’t cause trouble to others.

The Chinese are also a curious bunch and are fond of learning anything and everything they do not know about.

A female passenger activated an emergency inflatable slide just before a jetliner was about to take off at the Beijing Capital Interna-tional Airport last Tuesday.

Apparently, the curious woman, whose seat was next to an emergency exit, just wanted to see what would happen if the lever for the emergency slide was pulled, after hearing from the crew that it could only be touched during an emergency.

Her act stunned other passengers and the Xiamen Airlines flight, bound for Xiamen in Fujian pro-vince, had to be cancelled.

She was detained for 12 days.

The other 113 passengers on board were reassigned to other flights later the same day.

The woman could also face a fine and huge bills for compensation from the airline company, inclu-ding losses from flight cancellations and reassignment of passengers.

She could also be asked to pay 100,000 yuan (RM63,000) for fixing the slide and the price could go up to 450,000 yuan (RM284,600) if the airbag inside was damaged.

The released emergency slide has to be inspected and tested for safety by experts before it could be reinstalled.

The removing and installing of the slide takes four engineers about five hours.

Netizens joked that the woman had made the most expensive experiment.

Maybe the woman did not trust the airline crew and wanted to test if the slide was in usable condition in case of an emergency.

No matter what was in her mind, her uncivilised ignorance shamed the country and her countrymen while causing inconvenience to many other travellers.

Such behaviour shown by its people is one major issue China has tried to tackle in recent years.

It has even come out with a list of guidelines to constantly remind its people of the do’s and don’ts when visiting tourist destinations.

The guideline to promote civilised behaviour and observe etiquette included being punctual, being understanding, not speaking loudly, not spitting, not littering or defacing historic treasures.

The Star, Published: Monday, 19 June 2017
Daring, curious or foolhardy?
By Beh Yuen Hui

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Iraqi mother in Mosul

Wazira rocks her tiny baby pleadingly but he is inconsolable, crying for the milk his mother can neither produce herself nor buy in a camp near the Iraqi battleground city of Mosul.

"He's been crying since the moment he was born. He only stops when he's so exhausted that he falls asleep," the 24-year-old Iraqi mother said, sheltering her baby Rakan from the scorching sun with a piece of white cloth.

"I cannot breastfeed him and I feel he's never satisfied. There's no good food to eat and no money to buy baby formula," she said, sitting outside one of the clinics in Khazir camp.

The camp southeast of Mosul, where Iraqi forces are deep into the eighth month of a massive operation against the Islamic State jihadist group, is crammed with around 32,000 people displaced from the war-torn city.

Conditions in Khazir, one of the largest -- but not the worst -- displacement camps around Mosul are difficult. Temperatures soaring past the 110-Fahrenheit (43-Celsius) mark add to Rakan's discomfort.

"Sometimes I pound the biscuits they give us at the camp into powder and mix them with water to try to feed him by force," said the young mother, her face partly covered by a black veil.

A few yards (metres) down the queue, Marwa is also waiting for her turn to take her eight-month-old daughter to a doctor.

The 25-year-old mother, who fled west Mosul with her family two weeks earlier, already had no maternal milk to give Maryam five months ago.

"These past few months made me very tired, we kept moving from house to house until we finally managed to get out," she said. "I was sick and couldn't feed her anymore."

As elite forces retake the city one neighbourhood at a time, civilians often used as human shields by the jihadists stay cooped up in their homes -- at risk from shelling and dwindling food supplies -- until their area is retaken.

The line of haggard-looking mothers holding their wailing babies curled around the clinic run by the International Medical Corps, a US-based charity.

- Stress -

Neshmeel Diller, one of the doctors at the clinic, said she examined up to 80 women in a single day.

"Seventy percent of them complain of their inability to breastfeed and of their children always being hungry and crying all the time," she said.

"The psychological condition of these mothers and the hormonal changes caused by anxiety and depression, the lack of privacy and physical comfort as well as of balanced nutrition... all these factors converge to affect their ability to breastfeed," Diller said.

She added that the pressure of life in the camp often meant that mothers would lose the patience to repeat their attempts.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), another medical charity, said it was also monitoring the impact of high lactation failure rates on nutrition among the displaced child population.

More than 800,000 people have been forced from their homes since the start of the Mosul operation last October.

Most experienced traumatising living conditions under the ruthless rule of IS for close to three years, risked their lives trying to flee and now face a very uncertain future.

"Stress is a major factor affecting the mothers of our little patients. Stress affects breastfeeding more than a mother's own nutritional status or physical health," MSF's medical coordinator in Iraq, Evgenia Zelikova, told AFP.

"We do notice an increase in malnutrition among babies whose mothers are no longer able to breastfeed," she said.

"This is because formula milk is often hard to come by or extremely expensive in besieged areas of Mosul and in the camps."

The UN Children's Fund said it had noticed a spike in malnutrition among the most recently displaced children and had begun distributing a peanut-based supplement among affected populations.

Space war, Published: June 11, 2017
Tired, traumatised Mosul mothers unable to breastfeed
By Layal Abou Rahal, Khazir, Iraq (AFP)

Mosul, Iraq (CNN) - A Humvee screams into the field clinic a few kilometers from western Mosul's current front line. A teenage girl is carried out, listless. An elderly man is in complete shock, unable to utter a word, and is helped towards a bed. A woman struggling to breathe is quickly given oxygen.

Ten-year-old year old Mariam Salim and her older sister, Ina'am, are being tended to in the back.
"My parents are under the rubble, (another) sister is dead. I saw her," Ina'am mutters, her lips quivering.

Just as the family was trying to flee, the two girls say, a mortar hit their house causing it to collapse. The rest of the family is buried under the rubble.

"They are gone, they are gone." Mariam tells us. "My mother, father, sister, brother."

Mariam leans over to wipe the Betadine antiseptic off her sister's face -- the reality of what she has said perhaps not quite sinking in, or maybe she just needs something to focus on, a distraction from a loss she cannot yet comprehend.

Her sorrow seems to come in waves. Her body shakes as her eyes fill with tears, but just as quickly she is angrily asking questions, yelling to an older brother who made it out, "We were trying to get to you!" and then turning around and calmly cleaning Ina'am's face.

Their neighborhood is still under ISIS control, although the Iraqi forces are within eyesight and earshot. Those forces were not able to reach the siblings' home or their family members trapped under the destroyed house. They cling to a hope that at least maybe their parents and younger brother may still somehow be alive.

We drive closer to the frontline. Plumes of smoke rise, the explosions rumbling in the distance. The targets are ISIS fighters, but with each blast comes the reality that in the homes and streets hit -- whether by airstrikes, artillery, or ISIS bombs -- are civilians cowering under staircases, in basements. Children screaming, parents helpless to protect them.

Earlier, an Iraqi commander, visibly upset, had told us of corpses they pulled from under the rubble in one neighborhood. A mother was still cradling her baby.

'Where have you been for the last three years?'

Stumbling through the debris-strewn streets, past the blown-out buildings and burned-out vehicle husks, those who survived make their way towards the Iraqi forces. Escape rarely comes before the fighting picks up as Iraqi troops move in on ISIS forces. ISIS executes anyone who tries to flee when ISIS fighters are not otherwise occupied.

They arrive breathless, voices shaking, single sentences that hardly encompass what they have been through.

"Where have you been for the last three years?" a woman shouts at Iraqi troops.

"Twenty days ago we tried to escape, they (ISIS fighters) caught him, shot him four times in the head," a man sobs. "My brother."

There is deep sorrow. There is anger. There is relief.

As ISIS is being squeezed into even smaller territory -- a handful of neighborhoods and Mosul's old city -- the civilians held hostage are running out of food.

Umm Abed has a family of 11

"We were eating flour and water." She says. It was only enough to feed the children, to ease their hunger pains. She and her husband stayed without food for four days.

Also on the front line is a forward field clinic manned by ex-US Army Special Forces soldier Dave Eubank and his team with the Free Burma Rangers, a non-governmental service organization.
Just days earlier they responded to a call from one of the Iraqi units.

"They said civilians coming, a lot (of them) shot. We got there and a guy came crying, crying, he said, 'My daughter was shot in front of me, her head was blown off.'" Eubank recalled.

The field was littered with dozens of bodies massacred by ISIS fighters as they were trying to flee. Men, women, young, old. Children shot in the face.

Thirteen bodies ... and then, movement

"We saw these 13 bodies and then we saw movement. Here they are, look against the wall, these are all dead people." He shows us a photo on this phone. Bodies crumpled against each other.

After the photo was taken, life appears and the effort to save life is fast.

One man is alive, he moves his arm. From underneath a black hijab a little girl peers out. Her mother had been dead for two days. The little girl hid against her mother's corpse.

American forces supporting Iraqis with air assets drop a curtain of smoke. Using an Iraqi tank for cover Eubank and others move as close as they can.

"We got there and then the smoke lifted," Eubank said later. "And then ISIS just hammers them. And the people there are like, 'Come! come!' And the little girl gets out from under her dead mother's
hijab and she sees us -- the tank is shooting, you know. "
"I called the Americans, I said, 'Please give me smoke again right now.' The Iraqis are already in on this. So the Americans dropped this perfect curtain of smoke I ran grabbed her.

"She was screaming, unwilling to let her mother go. No one knows her name, she still hasn't said a word."

The next morning, Eubank said, another man somehow managed to escape and told them of others who were still alive.

"With a brave Iraqi soldier, we ran across the road -- ISIS is on three sides of us, we can hear them talking. Crawled through, found a girl up the street, threw a rope to her. She tied herself. (She was) three days no sleep no water, wounded."

They managed to safely drag her over the rubble and rocks.

The depth of the suffering here impossible to articulate.

"It is hell," an elderly woman in a wheelchair said softly.

A hell that we cannot even begin to imagine.

The incomprehensible brutality of life under ISIS, the public executions, beheadings, school curriculums that taught of slaughter, mandatory black niqabs and long beards; smoking, cell phone, satellite TV bans. To endure that for three years followed by the incessant bombardment, fear and starvation.

People here have lost just about everything.

There is no past blueprint for this war, no one has fought an enemy like ISIS holding civilians hostage in this type of a dense urban battlefield. There are no words to comfort those who survive.

Just the endless, throat-grabbing, suffocating sorrow.

CNN, Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT) June 6, 2017
Mosul: As the battle against ISIS rages on, so does terror, suffering for civilians
By Arwa Damon, Ghazi Balkiz, and Brice Laine, CNN

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Helmut Kohl

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of Germany's 1990 reunification and mentor to Angela Merkel, has died at age 87, his Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) said on Friday.

The mass-selling newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died at 9.15 a.m. on Friday morning in bed at his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany, with his second wife, Maike Kohl-Richter, at his side.

Merkel, Germany's incumbent chancellor who grew up in communist East Germany before being appointed by Kohl to her first ministerial post, said he "changed my own life path decisively" by reuniting Germany.

"When a new spirit began to stir in eastern Europe in the 1980s, when, starting in Poland freedom was seized, when brave people in Leipzig, East Berlin and elsewhere in East Germany began a peaceful revolution, then Helmut Kohl was the right man at the right time," said Merkel, who was wearing black.

"He stood fast to the dream and aim of a united Germany even as others hesitated," she said in a televised statement from Rome.

Germany's longest-serving post-war chancellor from 1982 to 1998, Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro currency, persuading skeptical Germans to give up the deutschemark, a cherished symbol of the "economic miracle" of the 1950s and 1960s.

An imposing figure who formed an unlikely personal bond with socialist French President Francois Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Kohl, a conservative, had been frail and used a wheelchair since suffering a bad fall in 2008.

By committing to anchor Germany within Europe under a common currency, he overcame resistance to reunification from Mitterrand, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister who feared the return of a powerful, united Germany.

"The maker of a united Germany and Franco-German friendship: with Helmut Kohl, we lose a great European," tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron, with an iconic picture of Kohl and Mitterrand holding hands at a memorial to the World War One battle of Verdun.

British Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to "a giant of European history" and "the father of modern Germany".

U.S. President Donald Trump said Kohl was a friend and ally of the United States. "The world has benefited from his vision and efforts," Trump said in a statement.

Shortly after leaving office, Kohl's reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in his center-right CDU, now led by Merkel. Until his death, Kohl refused to identify the donors, saying he had given them his word.


Tributes poured in from around the world.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush said he and his wife Barbara "mourn the loss of a true friend of freedom, and the man I consider one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe".

"Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life," he said in a statement. "Helmut was a rock."

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who worked with Kohl to negotiate the peaceful reunification of Germany, said: "The United States has lost one of its best friends and the world has lost a ringing voice for freedom."

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent condolences to Germany's president and to Merkel and cited him as saying Kohl "will be remembered in Russia as a resolute supporter of friendly relations between our countries".

In Brussels, European flags were lowered to half-staff in tribute.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who served as Luxembourg's prime minister while Kohl was in office, tweeted: "Helmut's death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed."

At home, Kohl is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. He won voters in bleak communist East Germany by promising them "flourishing landscapes".

Kohl, along with former European Commission chief Jacques Delors and Jean Monnet, founding father of the European project, are the only three people the EU has made Honorary Citizens of Europe, an honor bestowed for extraordinary work to promote European cooperation.

Reuters, Published: Fri Jun 16, 2017 - 10:40pm EDT
Helmut Kohl, father of German reunification, dies at 87
By Paul Carrel and Thomas Escritt, BERLIN

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