2018年05月31日

「働き方」法案

 日本共産党のインターネット番組「とことん共産党」は29日、「実態は過労死合法化・促進『働き方』改革法案NO!」をテーマに、ゲストの上西充子法政大学教授、吉良よし子参院議員と司会の小池晃書記局長、朝岡晶子さんが語り合いました。

 厚労省のデータねつ造について上西氏は「裁量労働の方が(労働時間が)短いというためにねつ造したものです」と批判。法案の委員会採決の当日(25日)にも新たなデータの誤りが発覚したことを指摘し、「説明もないままで納得できますか」と述べました。

 小池氏は、残業代ゼロ制度(高度プロフェッショナル制度)について「労働時間という概念が無くなる。休日もなくなる。労働時間を把握しなくなるから割増賃金もなくなる。休憩も無い」「深夜も夜中も働かせるための制度だ」と批判しました。

 上西氏は、加藤勝信厚労相の「夜中に働いた方が効率がいい」という発言をあげて、「経営者が(労働者に)夜中に働けと言える制度です」と指摘。吉良さんは、過労死遺族の方の「労働者も生身の人間です。夜は寝ないといけない」という訴えを紹介し、「深夜の労働はダメだとしないといけない」と主張しました。

 上西氏は、最低賃金1500円を訴える若者グループのエキタス京都が掲げる「手放すな働く誇りと残業代」を紹介し、「自分は過労死しない」と考える人へ働きかけることの重要性を語りました。

 また、自らが広め話題になっている「朝ごはんは食べなかったんですか?」「ご飯は食べませんでした(パンは食べましたが、それは黙っておきます)」という“ご飯論法”について、論点をそらす加藤厚労相の答弁を多くの人に知ってもらうために考えたと説明。「加藤厚労相だけではなく、安倍首相など多くの政府関係者が論点をずらして時間稼ぎをしている」と述べ、「法律をつくろうとしている責任者がのらりくらりとするというのは不誠実」と批判しました。

「しんぶん赤旗」2018年5月31日(木)
「働き方」改革法案NO 厚労相の答弁は不誠実
上西教授が解明・批判
https://www.jcp.or.jp/akahata/aik18/2018-05-31/2018053104_03_1.html

 また竹中平蔵氏らが鬼畜ぶりを発揮している。
 わかりやすくていい。
 経済の目的を相変わらず倒錯していて見苦しい。
 労働者の幸せが最優先ではなく、経済成長至上主義で、労働者はその歯車。
 経済成長のためなら犠牲を強いても構わない、と。
 まだ騙され続けるか否か正念場。

藤田孝典、9:53 AM - 30 May 2018

 国会で与野党による攻防が繰り広げられている「働き方改革関連法案」。
 労基法や労働契約法など8本の法案で構成され、時間外労働に対する罰則付きの上限規制や、同一労働同一賃金の実現にむけた施策などが盛り込まれている。
 その中で最大の焦点となっているのが、労働規制を緩和する新たな仕組み「高度プロフェッショナル制度」だ。
 高収入の一部専門職を対象に働いた時間では管理せず、導入されれば残業や休日出勤をしても割増賃金は支払われなくなる。
 厚生労働省は、高度な知識を持ち自分で働く時間を調整できる人は労働時間に縛られず柔軟に働くことができると説明。
 一方、野党側は、長時間労働が助長され、健康確保が十分できないと主張。激しい攻防が続いている。
 労働時間を管理しない労働者を作るという日本で前例のないこの制度で、私たちの働き方はどう変わるのか、そして働き方改革はどうあるべきか、議論する。

出演者 :
 竹中平蔵さん (東洋大学教授)
 上西充子さん (法政大学教授)
 吉田浩一郎さん (クラウドワークス社長 新経済連盟 理事)
 棗一郎さん (日本労働弁護団 幹事長)
 武田真一・鎌倉千秋 (キャスター)


https://www.nhk.or.jp/gendai/articles/4138/index.html

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The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda

ST. PAUL, Minn. − In the summer of 1919, a brokenhearted 22-year-old Army lieutenant climbed to the third floor of his parents’ rowhouse in St. Paul, Minn., and began to write a novel. He pinned the outline of his manuscript to the curtains of the bedroom window.

Those pages became “This Side of Paradise,” and the months its young author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, spent toiling on it made him a literary sensation. Published in the spring of 1920, the novel sold out quickly and earned him acclaim, remuneration and the woman of his dreams: He married Zelda Sayre, who had quickly reconsidered his romantic entreaties in light of the promise of his debut.

At least partially, Fitzgerald owed his career to the solitude of that quaint bedroom on the top floor of his parents’ St. Paul home. In 1971, the Interior Department recognized the significance of the brownstone by declaring it a registered national landmark.

And now that home is for sale. Just think about it: A relic of America’s cultural history can be yours for $625,000.

The 3,500-square-foot residence dating to 1889 is located at 599 Summit Ave., just blocks from the governor’s mansion in a leafy, upper-class neighborhood. The home has four bedrooms, including the one occupied by Fitzgerald in July and August of 1919. He was known to step out for cigarette breaks onto a narrow ledge beyond the bedroom windows. Attached to the wall next to a door is a brass speaking tube that he used to call down for lunch.

For the past 19 years, Michael and Nancy Jones have lived in the house, but they’ve decided to offer the place for sale to relocate to a more rural area in Minnesota.

“We’ve finally decided to go back to our roots,” Michael said.

In the two decades they have lived there, the Joneses have become used to strangers, onlookers and tourists taking pictures of their home, peeking through the windows or knocking on the door asking for a tour of “the Fitzgerald museum.” (Although the Joneses pay homage to Fitzgerald with copies of his books on their shelves, the house is not a museum.)

Michael Jones said that he’s a voracious reader − the spines of Dick Francis thrillers and Ken Follett sagas adorn their bookcases. But the man who has lived in the house Fitzgerald called home is not much of a fan of the great American novelist, an alcoholic who died of a heart attack at 44, having squandered his fortune.

Fitzgerald’s New York Times obituary stated that “Mr. Fitzgerald in his life and writing epitomized ‘all the sad young men’ of the post-war generation. With the skill of a reporter and ability of an artist he captured the essence of a period when flappers and gin and ‘the beautiful and the damned’ were symbols of the carefree madness of an age.”

When you’ve shared the same house as Fitzgerald, you become closely acquainted, which doesn’t necessarily lead to admiration. “You know Scott,” Jones says, “was, umm, a leader in the moment of decadence. He and Zelda were the leading partyers of the day. I’ve thought of myself as having more middle-class American values.”

Michael Jones read “The Great Gatsby” at his wife’s insistence, and he read “This Side of Paradise” because, well, they lived in the home where it was written.

“I didn’t feel compelled to read any others,” Jones said.

So with the house on the market, the Joneses will beat on, boats against the current, to a quieter life in the countryside.

[photo]
The house in St. Paul, Minn., where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "This Side of Paradise.”

The Washington Post, Published: September 15, 2016
If you can’t afford Gatsby’s mansion, how about Fitzgerald’s old house?
By T. Rees Shapiro
https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/if-you-cant-afford-gatsbys-mansion-how-about-fitzgeralds-old-house/2016/09/14/238f7092-79f7-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html

MONTGOMERY, ALA.−As she sat in the house where The Great Gatsby writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, once lived, a visitor contemplated the famous Jazz Age couple.

“I tried to imagine how maybe Scott would tell a joke and Zelda would laugh,” said Farong Zhu, a Fulbright scholar from China who translated Zelda’s only novel, Save Me the Waltz, into Chinese. “Everything was very beautiful. I was so excited to be close to the Fitzgeralds, I couldn’t sleep well the first night.”

But you don’t have to be a literary scholar to stay in this apartment upstairs from the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala. The Fitzgeralds lived in the house in 1931 and 1932 and, for $150 (U.S.) a night, anyone can rent the apartment on Airbnb. There’s nothing else quite like it in the rental website’s inventory, according to Airbnb spokesperson Alyssa McEwan.

It’s also the only site on the Southern Literary Trail open to the public for overnight stays. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for travellers,” said trail director Sarah McCullough. “And of course it generates revenue,” always a challenge for historic sites.

Fitzgerald Museum director Sara Powell said she worried when rentals began in April that visitors might throw wild Gatsby-style parties. But those concerns proved unjustified. As McCullough put it, “Most of the people who would want to stay there probably have a great love for the writer and the writer’s work, and would have great respect for the property.”

The house dates to 1910. The apartment is furnished in casual 20th-century style: sofa, armchairs, decorative lamps, oriental rug and pillows embroidered with quotes from Zelda like this one: “Those men think I’m purely decorative and they’re fools for not knowing better.” It has two bedrooms, a working kitchen and Wi-Fi, but the ambience evokes another era, with a record player and jazz albums, a balcony and flowering magnolia trees in the yard, all tucked away on a quiet street in Montgomery’s historic Old Cloverdale neighbourhood.

“It’s hard for writers to be disconnected from their own world, even for a second,” Powell said. “We’ve had people tell us it was so good to be up there, even for a couple of days. You do unplug and get out of your headspace.”

Though the Fitzgeralds didn’t live in the house for long, Montgomery was important in their celebrated, tumultuous lives. Zelda was a Montgomery native and they met at a country club here in 1918 during the First World War. She was a teenage debutante and he was stationed at a nearby military base.

Once married, rich and rootless, they moved from place to place, including Paris and New York, where a stay on Long Island planted the seed for Gatsby. In Montgomery, he worked on Tender Is the Night and she wrote Save Me the Waltz. It was the last place they lived together with their daughter, Scottie, who turned 10 there and later was sent to boarding school. F. Scott, an alcoholic, died at age 44. Zelda battled mental illness and perished in a hospital fire at age 47.

In the 1980s, the house was threatened with demolition to make way for condos. Local lawyer Julian McPhillips and his wife, Leslie, bought the house and established a non-profit for it. McPhillips is a Princeton University alumnus; Fitzgerald also attended Princeton and the museum displays a copy of his grade report, showing many dropped courses before he left school to join the military. The museum also owns 11 of Zelda’s paintings, personal belongings like an inkwell and beaded purse, and first editions of Fitzgerald’s novels.

As a tourist destination, Montgomery is best known for civil rights history. This is where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man, sparking a bus boycott by African-Americans that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregation on public buses unconstitutional. That protest also turned a young Montgomery minister, Martin Luther King Jr., into the leader of the civil rights movement.

In April, two new sites opened in Montgomery that are already attracting a lot of attention: a memorial to victims of racial terror lynchings and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.

Powell is looking for ways to connect with visitors coming to experience these other attractions. She’s developing a workshop for 2019 looking at how race relations were impacted by a 1890s election law named for Zelda’s father, Judge Anthony Sayre, that made it harder for illiterate and semi-illiterate citizens to vote. And while Fitzgerald scholars like Zhu are a natural fit for writers’ residences, Powell is open to proposals on any topic.

Katherine Malone-France, vice-president of historic sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says the Airbnb rental and writers’ residencies are great ways to keep places like the Fitzgerald house “financially sustainable and culturally sustainable” while remaining “respectful and relevant to their pasts.”

“That is the best way to preserve something: to use it,” she said.


[photo]

The Star, Published: Wed., May 16, 2018
‘The Great Gatsby’ writer’s mansion now houses a museum with an Airbnb
By BETH J. HARPAZ, The Associated Press
https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2018/05/16/the-great-gatsby-writers-mansion-now-houses-a-museum-with-an-airbnb.html

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World No Tobacco Day Thursday

While the link between smoking and a range of cancers is well known, the World Health Organization warned Thursday there was too little awareness of tobacco's impact on the human heart.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day Thursday, the UN health agency hailed that smoking had declined significantly since year 2000, but warned that there were still far too many people indulging in the dangerous habit.

And it cautioned that research showed there was "a serious lack of knowledge" about the different health risks associated with tobacco.

Tobacco use has been linked to more than seven million deaths worldwide each year, including some 890,000 from breathing in second-hand smoke.

But many people are unaware that nearly half of those deaths, around three million, are due to cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and stroke, WHO warned.

"Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people aren't aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

"Tobacco doesn't just cause cancer. It quite literally breaks hearts," he said.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including tar and others that can narrow arteries and damage blood vessels, and nicotine, which is associated with increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

At the same time, smoking unleashes poisonous gases like carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the blood, thereby reducing the availability of oxygen for the heart muscle, WHO said.

The agency pointed out that tobacco use is responsible for around 17 percent of the nearly 18 million deaths from cardiovascular disease around the globe each year.

Yet in many countries, there is very low awareness that smoking significantly increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

In China for instance, a large WHO survey showed that more than 60 percent of the population is unaware that smoking can cause heart attacks, while in India and Indonesia, more than half of adults are unaware that smoking can cause stroke.

"Governments have the power in their hands to protect their citizens from suffering needlessly from heart disease," said Douglas Bettcher, who heads WHO's non-communicable disease prevention unit.

According to a new WHO report on smoking trends and prevalence, the percentage of people worldwide who indulge in the habit has dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2016.

But it warned that the pace of reduction was too slow.

Due to population growth, the number of smokers in the world has remained relatively stable at around 1.1 billion, Bettcher told reporters.

AFP, Published: 31 May 2018
Heartbreaker?
Smoking causing millions of heart attacks, strokes: WHO

https://www.afp.com/en/news/23/heartbreaker-smoking-causing-millions-heart-attacks-strokes-who-doc-15h78j1

FOR World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has gone back to basics for its theme this year: Tobacco and heart disease.

By basics, I mean that the link between tobacco and heart disease has been established for more than half a century since a seminal work by Professor Sir Richard Doll.

The “British Doctors’ Study” ran from 1951 to 2001. The researchers wrote to all doctors in the United Kingdom, and approximately 40,000 responded.

Their smoking habits and effects were closely monitored and, in 1956, the study provided convincing statistical proof that tobacco smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.

Over the years, analysis of the data revealed more stark findings − smoking decreases lifespan by up to 10 years and that half of the smokers will die of a smoking-related disease. In other words, one in two smokers will die because of cigarettes.

Unfortunately, knowledge regarding the effect of tobacco on cardiovascular health remains surprisingly low. Tobacco leads to the damage of blood vessels; besides the heart, the brain can also be affected (a stroke is essentially a “brain attack”) as well as poor blood supply to the kidneys and peripheral blood vessels of the body.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12 per cent of all heart disease deaths.

Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.

Nearly 80 per cent of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

It is, therefore, very heartening to note that our newly-appointed Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad has pledged to continue Malaysia’s efforts in combating the evils of tobacco.

By choosing the national launch of World No Tobacco Day as his first official function in his new role, he, no doubt, sends a message that the Health Ministry will continue to support the initiatives in ensuring that Malaysia fulfils her responsibilities as outlined under the WHO’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC).

According to WHO, World No Tobacco Day 2018 coincides with a range of global initiatives and opportunities aimed at addressing the tobacco epidemic and its impact of public health, particularly in causing the death and suffering of millions of people.

These actions include the WHO-supported Global Hearts and RESOLVE initiatives, which aim to reduce cardiovascular disease deaths and improve care, and the third United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs being held this year.

At a local level, the newly formed Pakatan Harapan government will, no doubt, be on the receiving end of tobacco lobbyists, who claim that plain packaging is a failure, and others who would highlight the role of illicit drugs whilst conveniently forgetting that their product kills one in two users.

Still, others will attempt to “clean -up” the image of electronic cigarettes and hope that the new government will ease its regulations.

However, the ministry and the government should, instead, remain true to the philosophy of the FCTC and further enforce the MPOWER measures as introduced by WHO (MPOWER is a policy package intended to assist in the country-level implementation of effective interventions to reduce the demand for tobacco, as ratified by WHO’s FCTC).

These include (as taken from the WHO):

# MONITOR tobacco use and prevention policies;

# PROTECT people from exposure to tobacco smoke by creating completely smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport;

# OFFER help to quit tobacco (cost-covered, population-wide support, including brief advice by healthcare providers and national toll-free quit helplines);

# WARN about the dangers of tobacco use by implementing plain/standardised packaging, and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco product packages, and implementing effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms caused by tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure;

# ENFORCE comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and,

# RAISE taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.

In this new era of Malaysian politics, the old scourge of tobacco remains. Efforts at eradicating it should continue with the implementation of policies that are evidence-driven rather than introduced for political expediency.


[photo]
The Health Ministry will continue to support initiatives in ensuring that Malaysia fulfils its responsibilities as outlined under the WHO’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC).

[another photo]
Students and activists take part in an anti-tobacco campaign rally ahead of 'World No Smoking Day' in India, 27 May 2018. World No Tobacco Day is marked annually on 31 May to raise awareness of the health risks of tobacco use and to push advocacy for policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/05/375019/lets-fight-back-against-heartless-tobacco-industrys-scare-tactics

New Straits Times, Published: May 31, 2018 - 10:34am
Fulfilling our responsibility
By DR HELMY HAJA MYDIN
Dr Helmy Haja Mydin is a consultant respiratory physician and co-founder of Asthma Malaysia
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/375029/fulfilling-our-responsibility

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Malaysia voted for change

ON Oct 10, 2012, I wrote about how Psy’s global hit song brought much adoration and admiration for South Korea.

At that time, Malaysians, along with the rest of the world, were obsessed with his Gangnam Style. It was so popular that Barisan Nasional brought Psy in for a Chinese New Year celebration performance in Penang, just ahead of the May 5, 2013 general election.

That turned out to be an expensive PR disaster and didn’t improve BN’s GE13 fortunes in Penang.

It wasn’t Psy’s fault but I was struck by how South Koreans were lapping up the reflected glory from his megahit and left me longing for the same sense of enormous pride about being Malaysian.

Those antics, however, were nothing in comparison to the really humongous embarrassment called 1MDB that was yet to explode in our collective face. While there were questions raised about its financial dealings, the full extent of the scandal would only be exposed in 2015.

And so I wondered when would we have a “Gangnam Style moment”, when someone or something from Malaysia commanded global admiring attention?

We have it now, the person and the something. Since May 9, the world has been swooning over Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the spectacular rout of BN.

We can finally hold our heads up again and no longer bear the shame of being described by the US attorney general as the nation with the worst form of kleptocracy.

Sure, we had intermittent street protests but not on the scale of the South Koreans’ determination to remove their scandal-ridden president.

Of course, the South Koreans had the advantage of key institutions like their press, judiciary and police being relatively free and independent and a parliament that was sensitive to public dissent.

And yet, despite all the odds, Malaysians finally voted for change. For that, we can be justifiably proud and accept every bit of praise and accolade for being a shining example of people power from well-wishers from around the world.

Malaysians rejected BN because we believed it had become too arrogant and corrupt.

Indeed, the revelations from the police raids and press conferences that have transfixed the nation beat anything the writers of US TV series House of Cards – described as a “wicked political drama” featuring a ruthless, manipulative and power-hungry president and First Lady in the White House – can dream up.

Yet we should be more circumspect because the juicy revelations are whipping up our emotions and making us very judgmental. It’s a given we want all the perpetrators responsible punished but the new government must sort out fact from fiction to build a solid case to bring the culprits to justice.

And as much as we want that and solutions to tackle the shocking amount of government debt, what is more important to me is for Pakatan Harapan to have concrete, sincere plans to build a new Malaysia.

Both Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim came together with DAP and Amanah leaders with one aim in mind: remove Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister by breaking Umno’s stranglehold on Malay voters.

Now that’s done, they must show they can stay together and offer us something much better. Our new government therefore must demonstrate to us by example that we can live, work, worship and play together without fear and suspicion of each other.

It must take the lead to dismantle our race-based politics, government and even our society’s fixation on looking at just about everything through race-coloured lenses.

That is imperative because we have seen how issues of race and religion were abused and misused to divide and rule us.

Which brings me to the great divide that exists post-GE14. While the peninsular West Coast states as well as Johor clearly voted for PH’s brand of politics to build a more racially united, progressive and inclusive nation, that was outright rejected in religiously conservative Kelantan and Terengganu.

PH and Rafizi Ramli’s Invoke got it completely wrong when they predicted PAS would be wiped out.

PH must set out to convince people in those two states that pluralism, secularism and liberalism – all of which were rejected by the previous government and labelled negatively as “human right-ism” – are not anathema to Islam.

Indeed, in PH states, the expectations are incredibly high and pressure to deliver rests heavily on 93-year-old shoulders.

Right now, there is so much love and gratitude for Dr Mahathir for saving Malaysia that there is an online campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Actually, people have forgotten he has been nominated before: in 2007 by four non-governmental organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I know because I broke that story.

That nomination was spearheaded by Dr Ejup Ganic, the Vice-President of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1990-96 and President of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina until March 2001.

Dr Ganic had worked closely with Dr Mahathir in the 1990s when Malaysia provided economic, political and humanitarian support to a Bosnia-Herzegovina recovering from the trauma of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the 1992-95 civil war.

He felt Dr Mahathir deserved the Peace Prize as the Third World’s “most illustrious contemporary” and its “most courageous advocate”.

He also said Dr Mahathir had influenced the world by leaving behind lessons on how diversity could be managed, conflicts reconciled and multi-ethnicity harnessed to build a vibrant economic and political system.

Mark those words: managing diversity, reconciling conflict and building an economy and political system based on multi-ethnicity. These are exactly what this country needs now.

Our Prime Minister and his colleagues must now have the courage to apply those lessons on their own people to create a new Malaysia so that our present golden moment does not fade but continue to shine as a model multiracial nation for all the world to see and emulate.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 30 May 2018
To Malaysia with love, from the world
By June H.L. Wong
Aunty is set to go a-travelling in the months to come and she will be proudly brandishing her Malaysian passport.
https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/so-aunty-so-what/2018/05/30/to-msia-with-love-from-the-world-we-are-in-the-spotlight-as-the-global-flavour-of-the-month-keeping/

EXACTLY 22 days ago, Malaysia voted for change. Yes, it has been that many days since Pakatan Harapan became the coalition in power – and what a ride it has been so far!

We’re now just over one-fifth of the way into the new government’s first 100 days and we are seeing significant changes as it cleans house and begins setting things right.

Some of the developments were unthinkable just a month ago. Among them are a broad investigation into alleged wrongdoings involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd, liberalisation of the press and the formation of a more racially inclusive Cabinet.

One change I’m really happy about is that more Malaysians are appealing to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for fundamental amendments to the laws that protect women from abuse and harm.

Having said that, I can’t help but feel that there is one struggle that might be forgotten in the clamour for her attention and support – the fight for a Malaysia that is fair to those living with disabilities or rare disorders that can and do create disabilities or other life challenges.

This concern drove me to speak to friends within the community of Malaysians with disabilities and rare disorders to hear them out on what changes they want to see in the weeks, months and years to come.

The first to share her thoughts was Rachel Siew, who urged the Women and Family Development Ministry to work with the Education Ministry to get children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms.

“Children with disabilities must be mainstreamed with able-bodied children, and I am speaking from experience here.

“It taught me from an early age to accept that I was different when compared to others and to find ways to adapt, overcome and succeed,” said Siew, who lives with Morquio syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the body is unable to break down sugar chains that help build bone, cartilage, cornea, skin and connective tissue.

Siew also urged the ministry to work together with the Health Ministry to help those who are fighting Morquio like her, as well as others who are living with similar disorders.

“In Budget 2018, RM10mil was allocated to patients with rare disorders, especially those who are undergoing Enzyme Replacement Therapy, which is a lifelong treatment. However, the new government froze the funds when they took over on the basis that they wanted to review the Budget allocations of the previous government.

“It was really painful to hear this, and I ask the new government to maintain the allocation or even better, to add to the funding,” she said.

I can definitely get behind her plea and her work to raise funds for her health, as her treatment costs RM1.6mil per year.

I also spoke to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Albinism Association founder Maizan Mohd Salleh, who also urged the Government to place children with disabilities in classrooms with able-bodied children.

“As far as possible, we must include these students in mainstream classes. This can have far-reaching effects, as it can stimulate compassion and empathy among students and create a culture that considers and includes people with disabilities instead of one that looks down on us with arrogance,” said Maizan.

This is a point I agree with completely, as this can help break many Malaysians’ stereotypes about people with disabilities, especially when it comes to how “useful” the community is and how such people can contribute to nation-building.

The third person I spoke to, Phelan McDermid Syndrome Foundation Southeast Asia Regional Representative Nadiah Hanim, also urged the Government (including the Women and Family Development Ministry) to work with all stakeholders when devising concrete plans that truly help Malaysians with disabilities and rare disorders.

“My key recommendation is that all efforts should include engagement with actual stakeholder groups throughout. Plans should be integrated and we should continue to communicate with each other all the way through.

“Be cohesive, comprehensive and work together. We need an integrated intervention approach that gives cradle-to-grave support,” said Nadiah.

She added that any policy to help should be comprehensive.

“There is a lot of focus on early intervention programmes, which is good. But need to also think about adolescent care, respite for caregivers, bridging, community and institutional care,” said Nadiah.

All in all, it looks like the relevant ministries need to put their heads together and get to work to help Malaysians with disabilities.

“And this is something I really think they should so that the Pakatan Harapan government can be a government that truly cares about all Malaysians. After all, people with disabilities are Malaysians too and are as worthy as you or me of being included in the fabric of our nation.

Ultimately, I do hope that we can all rally and support their cry for their needs to be considered, for them to be included as we build a better Malaysia together. Looking at the massive step forward that we took as a rakyat on May 9, I’d like to think we can.


The Star, Published: Thursday, 31 May 2018
Next step – a nation that cares for all
By Tan Yi Liang
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.
https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/in-your-face/2018/05/31/next-step-a-nation-that-cares-for-all-may-9-should-mark-the-beginning-of-a-new-era-for-every-malay/

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the truth about the Najib administration's reckless spending and gross mismanagement of the nation's finances

WITH a new government in power, the truth about the Najib administration's reckless spending and gross mismanagement of the nation's finances is finally coming out – one trillion, maybe more, in debt, huge losses in one government project after another, appalling mismanagement and lack of oversight. I fear we haven't heard the half of it.

Worse still are the mega-projects with foreign partners that can only be described as a rank betrayal of the nation's interest.

In time, we might well come to discover that what all these projects had in common was massive corruption, that many of these initiatives were nothing more than a gigantic national feedlot scheme for corrupt politicians and their cronies to feed on public funds to their heart's content.

If all that money had been put to productive use, we might be a fully developed country by now.

Criminal negligence

One thing is clear: if Najib had not been removed from power, he would have driven the nation to the ground. As it is, it's going to take us a long time to dig ourselves out of the hole that he put us in. And the citizens of Malaysia are going to have to pay for it.

Of course, Najib is not the only one to blame; every last one of his cabinet ministers contributed to this disaster as did senior officials like the chief secretary, the secretary-general of the Finance Ministry, the governor of Bank Negara and the attorney-general, among others. If they had any honour, they would have resigned by now.

Mahathir and his economic team now have their work cut out for them. If anyone can turn the situation around it is Mahathir. At least we can be thankful for that.

Mega-projects galore

One of the more pressing challenges that the country now faces is the mega-projects with China and Singapore.

The RM55 billion East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) is perhaps emblematic of the way Najib worked with China. Not only did we borrow money from China to pay China to build a railway link that was both unnecessary and unviable, the terms of the contract itself were "very damaging to our economy", as Mahathir noted after being briefed on the matter. Even the way the loan agreement was negotiated was "not normal" according to him. The final price tag for this colossal white elephant might even exceed RM92 billion we are told.

In effect, China took for itself all the benefits and left us with all the liabilities. Was this the Belt and Road Initiative or a plan to bankrupt and railroad us?

A disaster of this magnitude, of course, does not occur because of incompetence or even stupidity; such adverse and one-sided terms indicate that other factors were at play.

Mahathir has now expressed the hope that the project could be renegotiated if not cancelled entirely. The PRC ambassador to Malaysia, on the other hand, keeps insisting that "there are no changes in the ECRL project" and that everything is "running smoothly".

The RM110 billion Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project represents another huge headache for Malaysia. Despite all the hype it's just not cost-beneficial; all that money just to shorten the travelling time by one hour. Mahathir has now confirmed that it will be cancelled though the terms of the agreement are such that it might cost us about RM500 million to do so.

Thus far, Singapore, like China, has not given any indication that it is willing to rethink the project. Thanks to Najib, Singapore too has us by the cojones. No wonder Singapore, like China, was rooting for Najib in the last election; both prefer a weak and easily manipulatable candidate in Putrajaya to Mahathir.

Moral responsibility

In the end, we might have little choice but to pay heavy penalties for Najib's follies. However, an argument can also be made that China in particular, took advantage of a corrupt regime to sign projects that did not meet international standards of good governance and transparency. China must have known that the ECRL project was suspect right from the beginning; yet, it went ahead with it. Indeed, China exploited our weaknesses to impose "unequal treaties" (as Mahathir called them) upon us.

I submit, therefore, that both China and Singapore have a moral responsibility to do the right thing now and cancel if not renegotiate these agreements with minimum penalty.

Hard lessons in independence

Whatever it is, we will now discover who our friends really are.

Both China and Singapore can insist on their pound of flesh and use their economic muscle to bully us into maintaining these "unequal treaties" or they can do the right thing and work with our government to find mutually acceptable solutions. They can have their pound of flesh or they can prove themselves the good neighbours they claim to be, but they can't have both.

For Malaysia, it is a lesson, a very expensive lesson, that when we have weak and corrupt leaders, we are vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation. We must never allow ourselves to be put in this position ever again.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 30 May 2018 - 06:59pm
China and Singapore should do the right thing
By Dennis Ignatius
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/30/china-and-singapore-should-do-right-thing

THIS year marks the 44th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia.

Malaysia was the first Asean country to establish diplomatic relations with China, starting a new phase of cooperation between the two great countries.

Over the past 44 years, like a blooming bunga raya, the national flower of Malaysia, China-Malaysia relations have continued to grow with great vitality and keep pace with the times.

China and Malaysia have become strategic partners with high-level mutual trust. Leaders of the two countries have always maintained the general direction of friendship while assessing the situation and complying with the trend.

The two sides collaborate closely in bilateral as well as regional and international affairs, upholding the spirit of mutual respect and supporting each other. The political trust between the two countries has deepened steadily.

Over the past 44 years, China and Malaysia have become partners with integrated interests. In the first 20 years of China’s reform and opening up, a large number of Malaysian entrepreneurs came to China to invest in and develop business, making valuable contributions to the process of liberalisation as well as national economic development.

Malaysia has cumulatively invested US$7.58bil in China, which surpasses China’s investment in Malaysia. As its counterpart, China kept its promise of keeping the renminbi (RMB) from depreciating during the Asian Financial Crisis, which helped Malaysia fight the crisis.

Despite the sluggish world economy, China continues to strengthen economic cooperation with Malaysia, injecting impetus for Malaysia’s economic growth. For nine consecutive years, China has remained Malaysia’s largest trading partner. It was the largest investor in Malaysia’s manufacturing industry for two consecutive years and main construction contracting partner for many years. Cooperation between the two countries has been extended to all aspects in a way that’s mutually beneficial and aimed at creating a win-win situation and achieving sustainable results.

China always regards Malaysia as a priority partner in investment and cooperation. We encourage creditworthy and powerful Chinese enterprises to invest in Malaysia. Prospective investors are required to abide by the relevant laws and regulations of both countries and to uphold international trade norms and respect the contract. They must strictly adhere to the fundamental principle of equality, mutual benefit and win-win situation.

We are not in pursuit of self- interest; rather, we want to contribute to the development of Malaysia’s economy and help improve the people’s livelihood.

Chinese enterprises have brought world-class technology and advanced management experience to Malaysia, besides funds and employment opportunities. We have invested in more than 300 projects, creating more than 62,000 jobs.

In the first week after the setting up of the new government, three more Chinese enterprises invested RM1.2bil in Malaysia. The second phase of the Daiyin Textile Malaysia Company in Johor held its opening ceremony last Sunday. When it’s fully operational, total production will reach 450,000 spindles. The annual income from sales will be up to US$400mil and more than 2,000 jobs will be created. This shows Chinese enterprises’ appreciation for a good business environment and the confidence they have in the new Malaysian government.

China and Malaysia have supported each other like brothers in times of adversity over the past 44 years. Opinion polls show that more than 70% of Malaysians have a favourable view of China, the highest among Asean countries. We will always remember that Malaysians stood in queues to donate money and relief supplies to China when the deadly earthquake struck Wenchuan, Sichuan Province in 2008. Similarly, Chinese people went out of their way to help the people affected by the severe floods on the east coast of Malaysia. The ties between people of the two countries were strengthened over the years by holding hands and overcoming difficulties together.

Today, more than two million Chinese tourists visit Malaysia every year, and China has been Malaysia’s largest source of foreign tourists for six consecutive years.

The number of students exchanged between the two countries has risen dramatically. Xiamen University Malaysia Campus has been in operation since 2016.

All these are encouraging signs that cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries are in full swing.

After 44 years of concerted efforts, China-Malaysia relations are standing on a historic starting point with well-grounded cooperation. The new government with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister heralds a new era of national development in Malaysia. Similarly, the success of the Communist Party of China in hosting the 19th CPC National Congress marked the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation entering a new era.

This also results in opening a new chapter in China-Malaysia relations. While traditionally the two countries have been friends, the rich potential of pragmatic cooperation is yet to be fully exploited.

Making this new energy and rich potential work for the wellbeing of the people in both countries is the current priority of both governments. Therefore, we should blaze new trails, explore new ideas, motivate people and create new opportunities.

In this historic moment of connecting the past with the future, the Chinese government is willing to work hand in hand with the new Malaysian government to develop further so that the people of both China and Malaysia can share and gain from the fruits of development.

I believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, China-Malaysia relations will develop in a higher and stronger manner as we embark on a new journey for greater glory!


Letter to The Star, Published: Thursday, 31 May 2018
Embracing a common future together
By BAI TIAN, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia
https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2018/05/31/embracing-a-common-future-together/


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2018年05月30日

Koichi Hagiuda, 54, the LDP's executive acting secretary-general

TOKYO (AFP) -
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government came under fire Tuesday after a senior MP suggested only women should raise children under three and another urged newly-weds to have at least three kids.

Abe's government has made "womenomics" -- or boosting women's participation in the workplace -- a priority, as the country's workforce drops amid a rapidly ageing population.

But Koichi Hagiuda, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), touched off a firestorm on Sunday when he said men rearing children might be "unwelcome" for them.


"Children need an environment where they can stay with their mothers ... if you ask infants under three which parent they like more, the answer should be mama, even though there are no firm statistics to support it," said Hagiuda, 54, the LDP's executive acting secretary-general.

Those remarks came after another MP, Kanji Kato, doubled down on comments suggesting young couples should produce at least three children, saying he had received popular backing.

But the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party lashed out on Tuesday, saying the comments were "intolerable."

"There are many people who cannot give birth to children despite wanting to and there are many single-father families," Yukio Edano said. "Don't they notice these facts?"

Sumire Hamada, from rights group Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, told AFP that Hagiuda's comments were "out of the question."

"What happened to the government's pledge to build a society where men can participate in child-rearing?

"These comments overturn what the government has said, and I'm sure many fathers have been angered" by Hagiuda's "rude remarks," she said.

Another campaigner said the remarks could encourage men to persist in the long working-hours culture endemic in Japan.

Tetsuya Ando, founder of the organisation Fathering Japan, told AFP: "When he said children under three like mothers more than fathers, that's unacceptable."

"That kind of remark puts pressure on working mothers to stay at home while removing fathers' rights to rear children," said Ando, 55, himself a dad-of-three.

[photo]
"Children need an environment where they can stay with their mothers ... if you ask infants under three which parent they like more, the answer should be mama," a senior Japanese MP says, in comments which prompted a strong backlash

[another photo]
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government came under fire Tuesday after a senior MP suggested only women should raise children under three and another urged newly-weds to have at least three kids.
https://www.nst.com.my/world/2018/05/374396/japan-backlash-over-mums-should-care-toddlers-remark

France 24, Published: 29 May 2018 - 06H19
Japan backlash over 'mums should care for toddlers' remark
By AFP
http://www.france24.com/en/20180529-japan-backlash-over-mums-should-care-toddlers-remark

Think of the children.

That's the argument a senior member of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party made this weekend, when explaining why men shouldn't have to watch their own kids.

Koichi Hagiuda said raising infants and toddlers is a job for mothers. He called the idea of fathers serving as primary caregivers "unwelcome".

"We speak of cool ideas such as a gender-equal society and men's child-rearing, but they are unwelcome ideas for children," the 54-year-old executive acting secretary general of the LDP told an audience in the city of Miyazaki.

Children under 2 "need an environment in which they can stay with their mothers", he said.

Hagiuda acknowledged that there is little data on whether fathers are unfit to parent young children. But he said infants "must want mums, no matter how you look at it".

"I think it is a bit strange if they choose dads," he said.

His remarks reflect Japanese reality. According to the BBC, Japanese fathers spend less time doing housework and taking care of their children than men in much of the world.

In the United States, men spend about three hours a day helping with kids and chores. In Japan, it's one hour, according to the BBC. The average Japanese father spends just 15 minutes a day with his children. Just 2 per cent of Japanese men take the paternity leave they are entitled to.

Hagiuda also acknowledged that raising children is hard work and that Japan needs to "create a system to care for mothers".

His remarks came on the heels of several other sexist comments from Japanese lawmakers. LDP's Kanji Kato, 72, said this month that newlyweds should have at least three children. The remark prompted one female LDP lawmaker to accuse Kato of "sexual harassment". Yukio Edano, who heads a different Japanese political party, called the statements "intolerable".

Hagiuda's remarks also sparked controversy.

Sumire Hamada of the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Centre called them "rude".

"What happened to the Government's pledge to build a society where men can participate in child-rearing?" she asked, according to the Japan Times. "These comments overturn what the government has said, and I'm sure many fathers have been angered."

Tetsuya Ando, founder of the Fathering Japan organisation and father of three, took issue, too.

"When he said children under three like mothers more than fathers, that's unacceptable," Ando told the Japan Times. "That kind of remark puts pressure on working mothers to stay at home while removing fathers' rights to rear children."

Japan has often struggled to incorporate mothers into the workplace. Things are so bad that in 2013, the BBC asked whether Japan was "the worst developed country for working mothers".

Women say the long hours, part of Japanese culture, make raising a child nearly impossible. Studies by the government show this is the main reason young mothers leave their jobs. "If you want to keep working you have to forget about your children, you have to just devote yourself to the company," Nobuko Ito, a lawyer, told the BBC.

Before she had kids, she would sometimes work from 9am to 3am. She left her corporate law job after giving birth. "I can't do this, it's impossible," she said.

Even women who want to work face obstacles. In parts of Japan, there is also a severe child-care shortage. The Tokyo government says about 20,000 children are on waiting lists for childcare spots.

The lack of women in the workplace is a big problem for Japan. The country's population is shrinking, and needs qualified workers. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made increasing the number of women in the workplace a top priority.


[photo]
Japan has often struggled to incorporate mothers into the workplace.

Washington Post, 30 May, 2018 7:14am
A senior Japanese official says raising toddlers is not a dad's job
By: Amanda Erickson
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12061097

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Ramadan Cabinet

WE ARE thankful that a fresh Cabinet has been sworn in and has met to usher in a "new" government of Malaysia – one of "hope". It looks like the flame of Rabu (Ramai akan balik undi) has been realised and translated into a movement of "Rakyat asas benteng utuh", given the renewed commitment to (re)do the right things; and slowly but surely, restore our pride and dignity.

This was readily sensed during the swearing-in on May 21 with the many firsts that crowned it. Not only in terms of age, gender, mix and "attitudes" but also in terms of "teamwork" that started from scratch before the coming together as an alliance built on "hope" and aptly named Pakatan Harapan.

Most tried to pooh-pooh this effort and pitted one party against the other using the messages and politics of hate, but the rakyat had enough of it. And the rest is history.

So we have an elderly statesman leading the Cabinet and for the second time around as the country's prime minister, despite the many efforts to run him down unfairly based on the "age" factor forgetting that "age" is just a number, and can differ vastly from the intellectual version. What else wisdom and experience that accompany age but are often dismissed.

In this case, wisdom and experience were decisive factors in a victory so overwhelming, pushing back what a well-oiled juggernaut could do. This is certainly a first in our history under the stewardship of a 93-year-old prime minister who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest to be elected to office. The record is unlikely to be broken any time soon if at all.

Next is the first female deputy prime minister at a time when the issue of gender imbalance and representation is high on the global agenda.

For the first time too, there are three women in the Cabinet. Should the deputy prime minister decide to decouple her portfolio on women's affairs – another woman can easily step in.

Three is also the number of medically qualified ministers in the Cabinet. They are the prime minister, his deputy, and the health minister (who specialises in toxicology – a useful trade to detox the "virulent" politics of hate) – another first.

The Cabinet also has the first ever "Sikh" represented by the communication and multimedia minister and; the first elected "academic" as the education minister.

The closest to this previously was a former vice-chancellor who was made a senator before being appointed to office (and then opted not to stand for election at the end of his term).

This time also saw a rare case of a federal minister doubling as mentri besar.

All these firsts, go to show the "creative" and "courageous" spirit of the new government against the "old" practices of choosing those who were proven less capable (at times corrupt) as ministers ignoring good governance. In other words, issues of ethical standing were not taken seriously leading to the demise of the old regime.

It is in this context that the new Cabinet has a link to the blessed month of Ramadan. What is more given the ruthless realpolitik that coloured the political landscape in the last decade and changing the course of history post-GE14.

That the swearing-in and the inaugural Cabinet meeting took place during Ramadan directly plugged it into what the blessed month seeks to universally establish.

Foremost, it is about "cleansing" oneself from all the "impurities" of life covering thoughts, words and deeds. Much of these have been soiled by politics – in putting to use the art of manipulation and deceit where the end (power) justifies the means.

Hence, Ramadan stands for rigorous self-control through self-reflection around the clock overshadowing the urge to play to the gallery by being politically visible to remain "popular".

What with the persuasion of social media to clamour as much "likes" as possible no matter how superficial it is. This pushes self-reflection to the back seat thanks to the "addictive" technology.

As such Ramadan calls for humility by immersing oneself in the "real" world of the deprived and destitute as another form of true self-reflection.

Here again, politics is deceiving when it equates to power and influence as a form of material wealth and comfort to be flaunted publicly as a mark of success.

The Malay(sian) proverb of "ikut rasmi padi, lagi berisi lagi tunduk" was regarded as an act of political suicide (for being less aggressive) and thus tossed out in the wind.

Even ancient wisdom (like "the taller the bamboo, the greater it bends") merited no attention in the pursuit of gullible politics. In averting this, Ramadan seeks to bring to life the "primordial" values of being human – call it vital forces, or dharma or fitrah.

Each speaks of the "middle path" (not quite the same as "moderate"), of balance and harmony, of the link between all life forms as part of the cosmic network.

It celebrates diversity on the pedestal of patience and acceptance in attaining peace for all forever.

These are but some of what Ramadan calls for so that every Malaysian can benefit from and resonates well with the new worldview of new Malaysia.

It, therefore, could easily be embraced to bolster greater commitment in delivering the new vistas as the 100-day countdown begins and goes beyond the holy month via a Ramadan Cabinet.

The SunDaily, Published: Wed., May 30, 2018
Welcoming the Ramadan Cabinet
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/30/welcoming-ramadan-cabinet


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To age better, exercise !

Ageing occurs when biological reserve and response demands decrease to restore and maintain homeostasis due to physiological, psychological, physical and social changes.

HOW DOES THE AGEING PROCESS AFFECT QUALITY OF LIFE?

Ageing is a process. It occurs when biological reserve and response demands decrease to restore and maintain homeostasis due to physiological, psychological, physical and social changes.

An expert once said that ageing starts from the fifth decade of life, at about 45 years of age. Here, old age begins at 60 years. In developed country, 65 years old is the starting point of ageing.

Ageing is associated with physical and physiological changes that affect quality of life. The fitness level decreases for about five to 10 per cent per decade after the age of 30. This is due to the decrease of maximum heart rate and a reduced capacity of the heart.

Muscle function and power reduce too. This is due to the reduction in muscle mass. A healthy 80-year-old may lose half of his muscle mass. This could be due to hormonal changes in the body. In contrast, fat mass will increase.

As a result, balance, flexibility of joint and walking ability are reduced by increased age. This is why the risk of fall is high among the elderly.

Ageing is also associated with more incidence of chronic diseases. The most common chronic disease is hypertension. Other common diseases are high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, obesity, diabetes, depression and heart disease.

As age advances, people are less physically active. In Malaysia, starting at the age of 50, prevalence of physical activity starts declining. At the age of 60, the prevalence of physical activity is 60.9 per cent compared to 73 per cent at the age of 40.

There are indicators for healthy and successful ageing. They include: survival to a specific age, being free of chronic diseases, autonomy in activity of daily living, good quality of life, high social participation and high level of cognitive function.

HOW MAY BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE SLOW DOWN THE AGEING PROCESS?

It is known that regular physical activity is a significant lifestyle factor that may prevent and reduce impact of age-related physical and physiological changes. Regular aerobic exercise will improve fitness and reduce accumulation of fat mass.

Strength exercise will increase muscle strength, bone mass (especially among elderly women) and muscle mass. Studies have shown that muscle mass may increase between five and 10 per cent. Overall, this has a positive effect on body composition.

Flexibility exercises will improve joint flexibility and prevent joint restriction. Balancing exercises will improve balance and prevent falls. Overall, functional capacity will improve and the elderly can maintain a high degree of personal independence and finally, maintain quality of their lives.

Regular exercise will also prevent and control chronic diseases, which is a risk factor of heart disease. It will improve insulin sensitivity, improve blood glucose, decrease blood pressure and improve lipid metabolism. This will prevent diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol and subsequently will prevent occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

Effects of regular exercise will also be seen in the prevention of mental illness like depression. Cognitive function will improve with regular exercise too. Studies have shown that a physically active person has less risk of developing dementia by 30 per cent compared to a less active person.

WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDED PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES?

Exercise in the elderly has similar benefits as it does to a young person. This includes aerobics, strength exercise, balance and flexibility exercises. Aerobic exercises should start at low intensity and gradually increase to moderate intensity. Improvement to high intensity will increase cardiovascular function.

According to the Health Ministry’s Physical Activities Guildelines 2017, the duration should be 150 minutes per week (for moderate intensity exercise) or 75 minutes per week (for high intensity exercise).

To know more about intensity during exercise, refer to this column on May 5, “Preventing exercise injury”.

If you want to use heart rate monitor to measure intensity, refer to the May 19 article, “Monitoring Heart Rate”.

The minimum duration of exercise is 10 minutes per session. An individual is encouraged to find what he or she finds enjoyable and comfortable with. Suitable aerobic exercises includes walking, brisk walking, swimming, cycling and running.

Strength training is recommended to improve muscle mass and strength. It should be done 2-3 times per week. This type of exercise should include major muscle group of upper and lower body.

Start with lower weight and lower repetition (8-10) per set, 2-3 set per type of exercise. Gradually increase weight, repetitions and sets over months.

Balance and flexibility are important exercises for the elderly. Balance exercise is to challenge one’s stability. Example of balance exercises are standing on one leg, walking in circles, sideways or over obstacles.

Flexibility exercises help to prevent joint restriction and improve body function. Stretch each joint (neck, back, upper limb and lower limbs) until you feel tightness or slight discomfort and hold for 30-60 seconds. Balance and flexibility exercise can be done before or after each time doing aerobic exercise.

It is recommended that before engaging in any physical activity, refer to a doctor for medical evaluation.

If you have heart condition, please refer to the Aug 1 article, “Why heart disease patients need to exercise” and the Aug 15 article, “Can I exercise after a heart attack?”

[photo-1] Flexibility exercises help to prevent joint restriction and improve body function.

[photo-2] Regular exercise will prevent and control chronic diseases, which is a risk factor of heart disease.

[photo-3] Ageing is associated with physical and physiological changes.

New Straits Times, Published: September 28, 2017 - 1:41pm
Heal with exercise
To age better, exercise

By Assoc. Prof Dr Ahmad Taufik Jamil
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/heal/2017/09/285102/heal-exercise-age-better-exercise


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Magic & divination

We’ve always believed in magic. As a child watching a magic show; or as a captive audience watching the amazing iPad magic on Ellen DeGeneres talk show on TV; or even as a tourist in Cairo watching a street magic act. At least for a moment, the magic captures our imagination completely.

Magic has been around for the longest time, existing in our cultures, films and society. It’s not too far from the truth when we say that in every civilisation magic has played an important part to spur creativity and innovation. Perhaps the reason for this is because magic deals with the unknown. And we’re always driven to solve the riddles of the universe.

ANCIENT MAGIC

It’s hardly surprising then that when Ilham Gallery recently hosted a forum ILHAM Conversations: Malay Magic and Divination that it ended up being a full-house, standing-only event, attended by every race, creed and age. From the engaging session at the forum, we’re to believe that until today, this topic is regarded with fascination, even as its practice has dwindled in the face of modern society and new world medicine.

The speaker, Dr Farouk Yahya, currently the Leverhulme research assistant in Islamic Art and Culture at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, opened his enlightening session with the legend of Tun Teja to prove just how deeply entrenched these practices have been in our society. The legend tells the story of how Hang Tuah charmed Tun Teja Ratna Menggala, daughter of the Seri Amar DiRaja Bendahara Pahang Inderapura and whisked her away in the deep of the night away from her father and fiancé.

Tun Teja was in love with Melaka’s most famous Laksamana, Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah however, broke the news to the beautiful Tun Teja that he was taking her to the Sultan to be the king’s wife. To help her forget him, Hang Tuah gave Tun Teja a hate potion called hikmat pembenci. This perhaps was the most famous mention of Malay magic and spells in our manuscripts and legends; a story immortalised in the Unesco-recognised Hikayat Hang Tuah.

Sheepishly, Farouk confides that he hadn’t always been familiar with the world of magic. “I grew up in Kelantan, surely the hotbed of such practices. However, in our household, jampi serapah and magic spells were unknown,” begins the youthful-looking 43-year-old, before adding: “This I’m sure is strange coming from someone like me who spent my early years in a society in which most households had spells for almost everything, from little cuts and mishaps, to things that go bump in the night and how to win the lady of your heart among others.”

His interest, shares Farouk, was actually spurred by his love for art, and study in the artwork in Malay Manuscripts led him to manuscripts that recorded the complex world of Malay magic. Nevertheless, he found the subject fascinating enough to write his PhD thesis at SOAS, entitled Magic & Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

For Malay magic to be recorded in such manuscripts gives indication to its importance as part of the Malay World cornucopia of knowledge. The Malay manuscript, explains Farouk, was a well-respected tradition and the purview of people of knowledge. The text covered a broad spectrum of topics such as legal laws, religion, poetry and literature, knowledge and yes, magic.

Continuing, Farouk adds that magic, by definition, is practised through the act of spells, amulets and incantations for a specific outcome, and is usually performed by a bomoh or pawang, individuals regarded as men of knowledge who possessed the power to heal with good and bad inclinations.

So magic could be a double-edged sword. In our society, there are actually Malay bomoh, Chinese and Indian medicine men as well as many other pawang of every ethnicity. “The Malay World was never in isolation, true to its strategic location and the way of the people. They travelled and inter-married, conducted trade and interacted with diplomacy with the whole known world,” says Farouk, adding: “Therefore, practices in magic took in intercultural considerations and society beliefs, possibly to encourage acceptance.” The practised have evolved since those days when the people of the land practiced animism, Hinduism, Buddhism as well as Islam.

DIVINATION − A WAY OF LIFE

“Divination, on the other hand, attempts to predict the future through numerology, dreams and omens,” continues Farouk. In the West for example, during the Renaissance, it was quite the fashion for divination to be in the form of party games that utilised play-cards, rune stones, astrology and manuscripts.

Meanwhile, in our part of the world, it was customary for the people, royals, and the nobility to seek divination for important occurrences and life events. This included determining marriages, suitable dates, intended travels, businesses, opening new lands and many other daily life decisions.

The simplest example of divination can be the opening of a manuscript and interpreting the meaning of what’s contained on the page. However, it’s also quite normal to see a seer or nujum for divination who will reveal answers through charts, wheels of fortunes and horoscopes. The outcome of a series of actions would reveal certain fates. Some methods like the Lingkaran Barisan Laksmana, Ketika Lima and Rotating Naga indicate influences from Persia, India and Bali.

UNDER THREAT

When asked by the audience on what constituted the real threat to this legacy and culture of magic and divination, Farouk pauses before replying emphatically: “It’s the rise of modern medicine and knowledge as defined by the modern world and not religion as many would believe. The assimilation between beliefs and religion has been quite smooth.”

When people began choosing modern medicine over healings by magic, the need for a bomoh or pawang disappeared in time. Modern belief and amenities caused magic to lose its appeal and further saw the practice of magic and divination dwindling and fading away. Unfortunately, this also included the practice of healing such as herbalism and alternative medicine.

There’s a Japanese popular legend, the story of Urashimataro, where a sea enchantress kept him young and captive for over 300 years by way of a magic box. Today, we’re amazed by age-defying products produced by Japanese technology.

We can only hope that the preservation of magic and divination arts through publication and discussions all over the world will continue to remind us of the unique knowledge possessed by our ancestors.

Otherwise, one day we will wake up and find, just like the Japanese magic box in the Urashimataro legend, what is magic today, will be science tomorrow.

[photo-1]
Divination, on the other hand, attempts to predict the future through numerology, dreams and omens, says Dr Farouk Yahya
[photo-2]
Tun Teja Ratna Menggala of Pahang Inderapura took the Hikmat Pembenci to forget Hang Tuah.
[photo-3]
In Panji Semirang, her stepmother Paduka Liku used a potion to make Panji Semirang’s father forget her and her mother, the true queen.
[photo-4]
Divination Manuscript courtesy of Pusat Manuskrip Melayu, PNM.
[photo-5]
The sea-enchantress from the Japanese legend Urashimataro and the Turtle had a magic box to keep Urashimataro ageless and captive to her charms.

New Straits Times, Published: August 20, 2017 - 2:31pm
Magic & divination
By ninotaziz
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/sunday-vibes/2017/08/270194/magic-divination

posted by fom_club at 11:49| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Happy Vesak Day 2018 !

VESAK Day is an important Buddhist holiday that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha.

This year it is being celebrated on May 29 - the first full moon in May. Here’s more about the holiday and how it is observed.

What is Vesak Day?

Vesak Day is also called Buddha’s birthday and Buddha Purnima, and is almost always celebrated on the first Full Moon in May.

It is traditionally observed by Buddhists and some Hindus across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia and the Philippines and in China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

All three events are traditionally said to have happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life.

How is the day observed?

On Vesak, devout Buddhists and followers assemble in their various temples before dawn for the ceremonial and honourable hoisting of the Buddhist flag.

They will collectively sing hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples).

Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks (incense) to place at the feet of their teacher.

These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.

Devotees are urged to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind, so the practice is to partake of vegetarian food for the day.

In some countries, notably Sri Lanka, two days are set aside for the celebration and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government for the celebratory period.

During the festival, birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a "symbolic act of liberation" of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will.

Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white dress and spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe the Eight Precepts to train themselves to practice morality, simplicity and humility.

Some temples also display a small statue of the Buddha in front of the altar in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water over the statue.

This ritual is symbolic of the cleansing of a practitioner's bad karma, and to re-enact the events following the Buddha's birth, when devas and spirits made heavenly offerings to him.

During the ceremony, monks recite verses uttered by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago to invoke peace and happiness for the government and the people.

In their talks, monks remind Buddhists to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha taught.

Who was Gautama Buddha?

Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama or simply the Buddha, was an ascetic and sage.

He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the eastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE (before the Common Era).

Accounts of his birth say the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, while his mother stood holding on to a tree.

Once born, he is said to have taken seven steps forward after which a lotus flower arose from each footstep, which is why the lotus flower is very important to Buddhists.

He then declared that this was his last rebirth and that he would become an enlightened individual.

Buddhism was founded on his lifetime’s teachings and practices, and he remains the primary figure in the faith.

He is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering.

Accounts of his life, discourses and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorised by his followers.

Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

The Buddha is also a key figure in Vaishnava Hinduism, where he is considered to be an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Of the ten major avatars of Vishnu, Vaishnavites believe Gautama Buddha to be the ninth and most recent incarnation.

[photo-1]
Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha
[photo-2]
Buddhists pose with lotus shaped lanterns to mark Vesak Day in Seoul, South Korea
[photo-3]
Buddhist monks attend Vesak ceremonies in Hanoi, Vietnam
[photo-4]
A young novice monk holds a lotus flower during a ceremony called 'Children Becoming Buddhist Monks', at the Jogye temple in Seoul, South Korea

The Sun Online, Updated: 29th May 2018, 11:03 am
BUDDHA DAY
Happy Vesak Day 2018 !
What is the Buddhist holiday about and how is the Full Moon event marked?

By Sofia Petkar
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6399969/vesak-day-2018-buddhism-full-moon/

KUALA LUMPUR - The 2018 Wesak Day celebration in Malaysia is historic as it comes on the back of an unprecedented demand by Malaysians for change, says Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

He said Wesak's spirit of birth and enlightenment coincided with the birth of a new Malaysia, a feat made possible through the enlightenment of Malaysians striving for justice to be upheld.

Mohamed Azmin said Malaysia's new beginning highlighted the importance of service and justice for all, the importance of good governance, and placing the importance of people above all else.

"In the spirit of new beginnings, I have decided to take on responsibilities at the Federal level as we need to save our country. It will be tough, but together, I am confident we can provide a new direction for our country."

"To Buddhists in Selangor and throughout Malaysia, I extend my warmest wishes to you on a Wesak Day filled with joy and thanksgiving. Happy Wesak Day!," he said in his Wesak Day Message today.

He added that in Malaysia, Wesak Day was a treasured symbol of multi-cultural and multi-religious society as Buddhists commemorated this occasion with peaceful celebrations and charitable deeds for the less fortunate.

Wesak Day marks the celebration to honour the Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment and liberation via Nirvana.

This year in Malaysia, Wesak Day will be celebrated tomorrow.


BERNAMA, Published: May 28, 2018
2018 Wesak Day celebrates birth of new Malaysia, says Azmin Ali
http://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1467584

This year, Wesak Day falls on May 29. To millions of Buddhists, this is a sacred day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.

Buddhists in Malaysia as well as around the world will flock to temples to participate in the many activities that will take place, such as meditation, chanting, and the washing of Buddha statues. Some temples also serve vegetarian meals.

Temples that have bodhi trees and lotus ponds will also see to these symbols associated with the Bud-dha’s enlightenment and birth.

The Buddha attained enlightenment while sheltering under a bodhi tree, which is also called the tree of wisdom, according to Rev Datuk Dr Sumana Siri, 65, the chief monk of Malaysia and Singapore.

Also, the Sanskrit word for bodhi means “to awaken”, which refers to the Buddha’s enlightenment, the reverend said in a phone interview from Penang.

As for the lotus, legend has it that when the Buddha was born, he made his special state evident by immediately walking seven steps, and at each step, a lotus flower bloomed. This is why the Buddha’s teachings are known as the Lotus Way, says Sumana, who is the founder of the Buddhist Realists’ Movement in Penang.

According to Dr Anil Sakya, “Wesak is the day that the Buddha freed mankind from all bondage and taught people to develop a true humanness without divine help.”

The 57-year-old is the rector at the World Buddhist University in Bangkok and responded via e-mail.

“The Buddha freed us from the idea that destiny depends on the grace of god. Instead, he taught us that our destiny is in our own hands. We can attain the supreme humanness with our own efforts,” he says, urging Buddhists to reflect on the three significant life events of the Buddha that occurred on Wesak Day.

Three major life events

The birth of the Buddha serves as a reminder that everyone is the same at birth. It takes time after being born for people to start to show differences, whether they are heading down a good or bad path, Anil points out.

A person with a supreme goal, just like the Buddha, always improves himself for his own betterment as well as for the good of others. He uses his endeavour, mindfulness and wisdom to achieve the highest status of humanness.

“Buddha strove for the benefit of the world and the ultimate peace and happiness of all worldly beings. Let us learn a lesson from the Buddha’s birth and follow his path to improve and cultivate ourselves to have a higher status of mind,” he says.

The Buddha was a prince who grew up in a palace surrounded by luxury but he gave it all up to gain ultimate wisdom. He travelled down the darkest corridors of his mind to come face to face with the devil inside him. He used meditation to strive towards complete peace and happiness and, at the age of 35, on a night when the moon was full, he was fully awakened from ignorance.

Anil says the story of how the Buddha gained enlightenment signifies that it is not easy to achieve success. With many years of endurance, mindfulness and wisdom, he was able to achieve what he was searching for even though the hardship nearly killed him in the process.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha didn’t then live a life of ease; enduring more hardship, he went from place to place to share his knowledge for the benefit of many.

According to Anil, the Buddha’s virtues, such as sacrifice, compassion and wisdom for the benefit of many, can be excellent models for us as we suffer through our own lives in the search for ultimate peace and happiness.

When the Buddha reached 80, his body became frail and he died peacefully, knowing he would not be reborn into the cycle of suffering life and death.

“The passing away of the Buddha denotes that no one is beyond death. It also confirms and exemplifies his teachings of impermanence, suffering and no soul,” says Anil.

“Life is uncertain but death is certain. Therefore, we should lead our lives mindfully. This is the Buddha’s word.”

Living peacefully, joyfully

In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly, in one of its resolutions, recognised Wesak Day internationally to acknowledge the contribution to the spirituality of humanity that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia.

The spiritual aspect of life is indeed important, according to Prof Bhante Seevali, a visiting monk at the Sri Jayanti Buddhist Temple in Kuala Lumpur.

Seevali, who has a PhD in social science from the Sorbonne in France, believes that many social problems are due to a lack of understanding and absence of knowledge of the noble teachings.

The Buddha’s teachings appeal to the mind. His teachings consist of everything one needs to know to live a peaceful, joyful and successful day-to-day life, says the 60something Seevali, who was born in Sri Lanka and has been a resident monk at the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre in Ontario, Canada, for 24 years.

The Buddha also taught followers their duties to their elders, parents, children and society. But problems arise when parents give their children an education but fail to provide a spiritual education. As a result, they don’t understand about values in life and their responsibilities to be good citizens and useful to their families. This leads to disunity in families and loss of social values.

“During Wesak, we should understand why people celebrate. It is about a master who taught everyone to live a meaningful and useful life.

“People who chase after material wealth forget the noble qualities. They don’t find joy and happiness but are chasing after a mirage,” he says.

Being a Buddhist should not be a label. Instead, he urges Buddhists to be good Buddhists by learning and practising Buddhist teachings.

“Do good, be good before you say goodbye to this world with a smile,” Seevali says.


[photo]
A float with representations of the Buddha decorated with lotus-shaped lights during a Wesak Day celebration last year.

The Stra2, Published: May 29, 2018
Buddhist monks give their views on the significance of Wesak Day
By MAJORIE CHIEW
https://www.star2.com/living/2018/05/29/thrice-blessed-day/

posted by fom_club at 11:35| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2018年05月28日

日本の政治はどこに向かうのだろう。

 きょう5月28日、国会で集中審議が行われる。
 この審議の結末は見なくても100%わかる。
 野党は安倍疑惑追及に大声を上げる。
 なにしろ疑惑満載だからだ。
 あらゆる矛盾が明らかになった。
 おまけに加計学園が、認めてもらうためにウソをつきました、という冗談のようなコメント出すに至っては、オウンゴールも甚だしい。
 ところが、それでも安倍首相は白を切るしかない。
 会ってません、知りません、私も妻も関与していませんと繰り返すしかない。
 少しでも非を認めれば一瞬にして終わるからだ。

 かくして時間切れできょう一日の審議は終わる。
 政治不要論はまずます講じる。
 各社が発表する世論調査を見ても国民の政治不信は明らかだ。
 内閣支持率も与野党の支持率も微動だにしない。
 内閣支持率と不支持率は逆転したままだ。
 安倍首相は信用できないという世論は7割を超えたままだ。
 しかし自民党支持は変わらず、野党の支持率はばらばらなままで、一向に高まらない。
 これを要するに国民は政治にうんざりしているということだ。

 しかし、暮らしの不安を解消するため何とかしてほしいという思いは強い。
 どうすればいいのだろう。
 日本の政治はどこに向かうのだろう。
 残念ながら、このままいけば何も変わらない。
 なぜか。

 既存の政党、政治家たちに、ただのひとつも、ただのひとりも、現状を解決する意思と能力を持つものが存在しないからだ。
 自分たちの生き残りを優先するしかないからだ。
 どうすればいいのか。
 私は解散・総選挙しかないと思っている。

 それは安倍首相が自らの思惑で行う解散・総選挙ではない。
 それは野党が覚悟を決めて安倍首相に内閣不信任案をぶつけて行われるハプニング解散ではない。
 世論の政治不信が強要する、追い込まれ解散だ。
 つまり解散して出直さないと政治が一歩も進まない、そう皆が思うようになって行われる本当の意味でも出直し解散だ。
 その結果何が起きるか。

 自民党は負ける。
 しかも大きく負ける。
 しかし与野党が逆転する事はあり得ない。
 つまり、政権交代は起きないが、もはや自公だけではこの国を動かす事が出来ない結果になる。
 その時こそ、私が繰り返して言ってきた、与野党による緊急避難的な挙国一致政権、挙国一致内閣が必要になる時だ。
 つまり与野党が、政権を巡る政局に明け暮れることなく、皆で何が日本国民にとって最善の政策であるかを考えるしかないということだ。
 実際のところ、いまの日本が直面している諸問題は、誰が政権をとっても、誰が首相になっても、ウソをついてごまかすしかないほど、解決出来ないものばかりだ。

 もはや与野党が議論している場合ではないのだ。
 首相も政治家も、やりたいものがいたらやればいい。
 やらしてやる。
 しかし、やらしてやる以上は立派にそれを成し遂げなければ許さない。
 ましてや、今のような恵まれた給与や特権をただ取りはさせない。
 それでもよかったら、誰でもやりたいものがやればいいのだ。
 こう国民が要求して、いまの政治家たちに解散・総選挙を求めるのだ。
 すべての政党、政治家たちが国民の審判を受ける事になる。
 そしてすべての政党、政治家たちは、審判が下った後で、国民の本当の審判を受ける事になる。
 そういう政治にならなくては日本の政治は良くならない。
 安倍暴政の災いを転じて福となす事が出来るとすれば、それは既存の政党、政治家を否定して、あたらしい国民の為の政治システムをつくることだ。
 その第一歩が緊急避難としての挙国一致政権、挙国一致内閣である。
 きょうの集中審議を見ると、それくらいの発想の転換が必要だと皆が思うだろう。
 少しでも政治を考える者であればの話ではあるが。

天木直人のブログ、2018-05-28
それでもウソをつくしかない安倍首相と政治の完全崩壊
http://kenpo9.com/archives/3802

posted by fom_club at 13:03| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

When greed is all consuming

I TRULY believe life is all about finding meaning as a balancing act between order and chaos, between the familiar and the unknown, between good and evil and between the state and the politicians.

The road bumps and humps are only pauses not periods and they teach you a lesson or two just as lobsters teach us about stress and change.

We (now) live in a blessed country where the need to mince words is taken over by plain speaking and the spade is settled to be called a spade. Everyone is free to voice their opinions which means we the netizens are tasked with the unenviable need for expertise and wisdom to discriminate between what is true, what looks like the truth but is not. Fake news and information are generated to add excitement by a fraction of our community and worldwide whose ulterior motives are apparent sometimes.

When one thinks life is a parable with nothing but only ugliness, people generally see it justified to resort to drastic responses and actions and Russian author Leo Tolstoy saw existence as so absurdly unjust that he suggested there were only four valid responses to such situations: ignorance, hedonistic pleasure, suicide or struggling on despite all.

Personally, on analysis, Tolstoy found suicide the most appropriate but we are here to live and make a difference, so suicide is deleted from the equation. Having said that, despite the bleak worldview and no matter how much you might have suffered and however cruel and unjust you find life to be, you should not blame the world.

Politicians who are embroiled in calamities have only themselves to blame as they know the only sure thing in politics is the downfall when excesses and extremes are adopted with no checks and balances.

We have individuals, when having fallen into a suicidal pit, feel that the world is conspiring against them and refuse to admit defeat and wrong.

The story of the "Monkey and the cookie jar" comes to my mind. A monkey sees a cookie jar filled with cookies. The jar has a very narrow neck but in the zest to have the cookies the monkey puts his hand into the jar and grabs a fist full of cookies. He is unable to remove his hand from the jar because his fist has grown too large with the cookies. He is trapped. He has a choice; leave the cookies and escape or keep trying to salvage his hand and the cookies and risk being caught red-handed with theft.

Sounds familiar? The choice would be the toughest for people smitten with insatiability and they would go to any length to have them all.

The story is my favourite which I would relate to my students to convey the simple moral value of how greed leads to ruin. On the flip side, what is the "circuit-breaker" between success and greed?

My simple logic tells me that anything that is selfish in nature and the excessive desire for more of something than needed, can constitute greed. Business people may disagree with this frivolous definition as for them success and money are interrelated and their view in that context is acceptable.

In short, when one truthfully asks "how much is enough", the answer can open up a plethora of responses and surprises.

Greed is essentially, a mental illness just as much as obsessive compulsive disorder is as decreed by experts in mental health.

People who have a fad for expensive items and hoard these items need medical intervention.

If we look at politicians as one of us, or who might have been like us when they started, they all pursue power and all politicians without exception are obliged to make compromises. However, the acid test of any politician's integrity is when they draw the line in terms of what is not up for negotiations. Politics is after all the art of the impossible and frankly, those who are in politics for accumulation of power and wealth will lose out, sooner than they think.

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato contends that one of the most fundamental ethical and political concepts is justice, a complex and ambiguous concept.

And it is suggested that the first definition of justice is "speaking the truth and repaying what one has borrowed".

If only this was adopted as a creed by the people who were running the country …

The SunDaily, Posted on 28 May 2018 - 08:02am
When greed is all consuming
By Bhavani Krishna Iyer
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/28/when-greed-all-consuming

[Read more]

MY boss is 73, my mum is 83 and our new prime minister at 93, I now truly believe that age is just a number. There are many more septos, octos and nonagenarians around us who are doing much more than we think they could do and yet we get too hung up on age.

What keeps these people going? They defy the odds, they carry others' dreams, they want to keep going with every cell in their bodies screaming with passion for action.

In the saga that unfolded, gripping the young and the old, the lame and the fit, just about every living being in the country praying so feverishly, summoning every God there might be to help us regain the glory of our country, her beauty, the harmony and shedding tears during the last few gripping hours, we now know we have a nation of Malaysians who can be depended upon.

We must thank the great man who proved that age is indeed just a number.

We stand proud as a family, much to the envy of the world, the power of people having achieved the impossible, doing the unthinkable, staking lives and livelihood so that we will leave a future generation who will habitually do the right thing, fighting the wrongs without fear or favour, who will know wealth not earned is not theirs to enjoy and who will speak-up against abuse of power.

We owe our gratitude to many but topping the list would be Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who did what he needn't have done.

Sleepless nights, long tiring days, humiliations, threats to his life and yet he knew he alone had the power to achieve what he just did.

Notwithstanding that politics is a dirty vocation anyway, there is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace and charisma, the personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership. Mahathir alone has all of these. This is "charismatic" domination, as exercised by a leader.

This is present in the octogenarian and tributes and accolades have not stopped since the tsunami of change presented us the grand finale.

Our prime minister is a true statesman and he who had a choice of remaining "retired" and stashed away in the comfort of his family and home decided that he will be different, he chose the path and set himself on a "rescue mission".

If he made mistakes in the past, he has been given a chance to redeem, if he had faulted in the past, he can now make amends, if he didn't grasp in the past, he is able to see now what needs to be done and if he did not listen to the voices of the rakyat, he is all ears now.

He has become a hero, a sensation greater than any Malaysian might have been. A great speech can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It can rouse you to aspire to greatness. Our prime minister is different; his words of wisdom are peppered with cynicism and we laugh at his wit, even at the most anxious moments and that makes him the seasoned politician he always will be.

There are leaders and there are great leaders and then there are heroic leaders and the best of the best will have courage, selflessness, humility, patience and is caring and we know who fits into this mould.

Now that we have made the impossible possible, the new government has loads to do and with due respect all those who worked tirelessly for months now, please spare some time to replenish yourselves before you start.

The young and old, the rich and poor have put a wager on you fulfilling your manifestos. Do not let us down.

The Opposition we have now has shored up enough experience and wisdom in politics to be an effective counter-ally to ensure checks and balances are in order.

As I write this, there are scores of pseudo-commentators who have taken liberty to shame the losers which I think is uncivilised.

We need to remember, in politics winning and losing are part of the treacherous game. We don't need to forget or forgive but we could move on without adding salt to the wound.

I also hope so fervently that the various parties which have come together to form the government will have the interest of the country and her people at heart. Which means, the elected representatives and the various heads of agencies need to work to prove that they had the power to fix the rots and more importantly, ensure we stay as Malaysians, removing the scar and stain of racism for good.

Happy Birthday to a New Malaysia !

The SunDaily, Posted on 15 May 2018 - 02:51pm
Age is just a number
By Bhavani Krishna Iyer
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/15/age-just-number-0

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Our Common Future

AN almost immediate challenge to Sabah’s newly installed government is a seemingly local problem, but, with national and global implications: how to ensure the ultimate survival of Borneo’s unique pygmy elephants.

Last week, Sabah again made international headlines with news of the death of six pygmy elephants in several different oil palm plantations, the latest of the endangered creatures to perish as their rainforest habitat continues to shrink.

According to Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga, the carcasses did not have any signs of gunshot wounds and he theorised that they could have been poisoned accidentally by plantation fertiliser. Some conservationists said the creatures might have taken drinks from the poisoned watering hole.

Late last year, three other elephants were killed by poachers; in 2013, 14 were found dead in Sabah and were thought to have been poisoned.

Pygmy elephants are threatened by widespread logging of their natural habitat to make way for lucrative oil palm plantations, and are targeted by poachers as their ivory fetches a high price on the black market.

A herd of pygmy elephants feeding by the banks of the Kinabatangan River is a sight to behold. They are baby-faced with oversized ears, plump bellies and tails so long they sometimes drag on the ground as they walk. Pygmy elephants are unique to Sabah and it will be an act of tragic neglect and omission if we fail as stewards and pay little attention to their survival.

As the Malay saying goes, “Tak kenal maka tak cinta” (you won’t love them if you don’t know them). We need more research to understand these animals better and thank those meeting that need in Sabah.

The Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) located in the Lower Kinabatangan Basin is a collaborative research and training facility managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University. The centre is also generously supported by the Sime Darby Foundation.

According to the DGFC director, Dr Benoit Goossens, understanding the pygmy elephants’ origins and past demography would be useful for the development of a long-term conservation strategy. The centre, with partners including the Sabah Wildlife Department, is drafting a 10-year action plan to protect the elephants.

He said there were fewer than 2,000 pygmy elephants living in an increasingly fragmented environment. There have been, for many years, two competing theories on the elephants’ origins: they could have been introduced by humans (records from the 1600s show neighbouring sultans offered elephants as gifts to the Bornean sultans), or they could have diverged from Asian elephants a long time ago.

About 15 years ago, a genetic study showed that Bornean elephants’ DNA differed significantly from that of Asian elephants. A joint research team of experts from Portugal, France, Wales and Sabah, including Dr Goossens, recently published a study in Scientific Reports saying that the elephants may have arrived on Borneo at a time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia.

The team used genetic data analysis and computational modelling to study the demographic history of these animals. With no fossil records to guide their work, the team created computational models for different scenarios.

“Then we compared the results from these models with existing genetic data, and used statistical techniques to identify the scenario that best explained the current genetic diversity of the elephant population in Borneo,” Dr Goossens says.

Their conclusion: the most likely scenario was a natural colonisation of Borneo around 11,400 to 18,300 years ago. The period corresponded to a time when the sea levels were very low and elephants could migrate between the Sunda Islands.

Such an illustrious history for a special group of animals is not only a source of pride for Sabahans but for all Malaysians. Indirectly we are also the custodians of these unique and majestic animals for the rest of the world to appreciate and wonder.

Therefore, it is reassuring to know that one of the earliest public statements made by Sabah’s new chief minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, was to assure the rakyat that the state government was committed to the preservation and conservation of wildlife and natural resources, and to back that with the necessary political will “to push through more drastic measures that would affect big logging companies and plantations”. Furthermore, short and long-term measures to mitigate human-elephant conflicts must be put in place.

Time is running out for the pygmy elephants. Surely we do not want to see what happened in 2015 when the Sumatran rhinoceros was declared extinct in the wild in this country. Malaysia takes pride in being one of the 17th mega-diverse countries on Earth. Let’s ensure the precious pygmy elephants of Borneo continue to be one of our greatest emblems of that status.

[photo]
Pygmy elephants at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah. They are often sought-after by poachers for their ivory which fetches a high price on the black market.

New Straits Times, Published: May 28, 2018 - 9:58am
Plight of pygmy elephants
By ZAKRI ABDUL HAMID
Zakri Abdul Hamid r is a Langkawi Award laureate and was the first Asian ever elected Chair of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/374037/plight-pygmy-elephants

[Read more]

LONG before “sustainable development” became a global buzzword in 1987, the principle of “utilising natural resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” had already been practised by many cultures and individual leaders beyond the Western world.

In this regard the late Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan, father of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), stood out for decades.

Last week, Malaysia hosted the visit of a delegation from the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment. Led by its chairman, Prof Mohammad Ahmed Fahad, and its secretary-general, Dr Meshgan Al Awar, the visit was to celebrate the “Year of Zayed”, commemorating the late leader’s contribution to sustainable development.

Introduced in the influential UN report “Our Common Future”, sustainable development is a philosophy that encourages us to conserve and enhance our resource base while meeting basic needs of employment, food, energy, water and sanitation.

The idea quickly went viral, taken up as the theme of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro − better known as the “Earth Summit”. And, it inspired Agenda 21, the summit’s sustainable development blueprint for the global community.

This was followed by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg which reviewed progress and focused on water, energy, health, food security, and biodiversity loss.

Twenty years after the Earth Summit − Rio+ 20 − leaders from 192 nations renewed their sustainable development commitment in a non-binding document called “The Future We Want”.

Three years ago, heads of government met again and agreed on the 2030 Development Agenda, committing to 17 sustainable development goals (SDG).

Each interrelated goal relates to a vital social or economic issue such as poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanisation, environment and social justice. And, each goal has its own set of targets (169 in total across the 17 goals).

Notwithstanding the global processes taking place in the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed exemplified a leader who walked the sustainable development talk. He is considered one of the world’s greatest conservationists, one whose foresight and vision long preceded the present-day global environmental movement.

According to Zayed: “We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”

“With God’s will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.”

Sheikh Zayed founded a programme to protect the country’s wildlife and created a sanctuary for endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx and the Sand Gazelle. Among the results: the symbol of Abu Dhabi, the Dorcas Gazelle, is a protected species and its numbers are increasing. Sheikh Zayed also reintroduced traditional methods of desert agriculture, ensuring that Abu Dhabi will be greener and more fertile.

Sheikh Zayed was born into an inhospitable, arid environment, so when he was appointed the Ruler’s Representative to the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi in 1946, he immediately started to secure a more reliable and sustainable supply of water. He set out to preserve the heritage of falconry and hunting, and, at the same time, ensure the long-term survival of falcons and their prey. He also introduced a humane face to the sport, which he considered art and an invaluable heritage.

It is no surprise, therefore, that in 1999 UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, honoured the former leader by founding the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment.

The foundation launched the Zayed International Prize for the Environment to recognise and encourage environmental achievements that support and promote implementation of Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for Sustainable Development, the outcomes of Rio+20, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the years, recipients of the Award in the Global Leadership category have included Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Prince Albert 11 of Monaco. The scientific and technological category includes scientific leaders like Bert Bolin, Jane Lubchenco, Partha Dasgupta, Ashok Khosla and Mostafa Tolba.

In the words of former US president Bill Clinton, “Anything written about this man will not do justice to him − he is a very influential man and you can feel his strength and his great dreams of a happy future for his country”.


[photo]
Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nahyan: “We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country.”

New Straits Times, Published: May 7, 2018 - 10:03am
Sheikh Zayed, early leader in sustainable development
By ZAKRI ABDUL HAMID
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/366726/sheikh-zayed-early-leader-sustainable-development

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Badminton dragons hungry for Thomas Cup title

BANGKOK: Boasting the likes of five-time world champion Lin Dan and Olympic champion Chen Long, China have set their sights on reclaiming the Thomas Cup title this week, after missing out in the last two editions.

Head coach Xia Xuanze admitted it is more challenging for the nine-time champions to win it this year, but the badminton dragons are ready to give their best to land the prestigious men's team title in Bangkok.

Tipped to be one of the tournament's favourites, China are in Group A with India, France and Australia.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the competition that starts on Sunday, Xuanze said: "I feel that it is a little different every year. We haven't won the Thomas Cup title in the last two editions, and this year is going to be more challenging for the team.

"Our target, however, is to be champions. We will do our best as a team to try and win it."

Prior to the 2014 edition, China were crowned champions in five consecutive Thomas Cup tournaments.

On the other hand, China have dominated the Uber Cup for a long time. Xuanze, however, is still wary of the threat from Japan, the top seeds of the tournament.

"Between the men's and women's teams this year, I must say the former are stronger. It will be a challenge for the women to defend their crown.

"There are a few countries who are really strong this year. For the Thomas Cup, I see us fighting against countries like Denmark, Indonesia and Malaysia," added Xuanze, who took over from former China supremo Li Yongbo last year.

China, will open their Thomas Cup campaign against Australia on Sunday, while the Uber Cup team play France ion Monday.


[photo]
Chen Yufei (L) and Chen Long of China attend a press conference ahead of the Thomas and Uber Cups badminton tournament in Bangkok.


New Straits Times, Published: May 19, 2018 - 8:25pm
Badminton dragons hungry for Thomas Cup title
By Fabian Peter
https://www.nst.com.my/sports/badminton/2018/05/371081/badminton-dragons-hungry-thomas-cup-title

BANGKOK: China regained the Thomas Cup after a six-year wait following a 3-1 win over Japan in the final here on Sunday.

And China achieved the win without having third singles player Lin Dan to play in any of the ties in the knockout stage.

The squad, now under chief coach Xia Xuanze following the departure of Li Yongbo last year, silenced the critics who slammed the team for failing to win in the last two editions.

It was also their 10th Thomas Cup victory since the 1982 edition in London.

"It is definitely a huge relief for all of us, so much so that we feel like having a drink right now," said Xuanze.

"We were criticised by the press in the last couple of years, so it is a great win for us.

"Japan were great, but our players played very well too, to secure the title," added Xuanze, who also confirmed that Lin Dan will not be quitting anytime soon despite playing a very minimal role in the team this year.

"Lin Dan may not have played, but he is still part of this team. He is not quitting yet and will continue to play in China."

[Results] China 3 Japan 1
Chen Long lost to Kento Momota 21-9, 21-18;
Liu Cheng-Zhang Nan bt Takuto Inoue-Yuki Kaneko 21-10, 21-18;
Shi Yuqi bt Kenta Nishimoto 21-12, 21-17;
Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen bt Keigo Sonoda-Yuta Watanabe 17-21, 21-19, 22-20.


[photo]
Chinese players celebrate with their winning trophy at the end of the Thomas Cup badminton tournament in Bangkok on May 27, 2018.

New Straits Times, Published: May 27, 2018 - 7:37pm
China beat Japan for Thomas Cup crowns
By Fabian Peter
https://www.nst.com.my/sports/badminton/2018/05/373918/china-beat-japan-thomas-cup-crowns

BANGKOK: Japan clinched the Uber Cup for the first time since 1981 when they defeated hosts Thailand 3-0 at the IMPACT Stadium on Saturday.

Coach Park Joo Bong attributed the team's success to exposing the players in high level matches and also getting them improve their world rankings after they finished runners-up to China in the 2014 edition in New Delhi.

"2014 was the best result but unfortunately, we didn’t do so well two years ago (in Kunshan).

"So it was important to get the players, both in singles and doubles, improve their rankings. This was part of the preparations for this Uber Cup," said Joo Bong, who hopes the men's team will follow suit when they play China in the Thomas Cup final on Sunday.

In the Uber Cup final, World No 2 Akane Yamaguchi gave Japan a perfect start when she saw off local star Ratchanok Intanon 21-15, 21-19 in the first singles match.

In the post-match interview, the 21-year-old Japanese shuttler, who lost to the Thai No 1 in the semi-finals of the Malaysia Masters in January, said: "It feels great to have won against Ratchanok, but honestly it doesn't feel like an individual achievement.

"Everything we achieve here is for the people of Japan."

It was one-way traffic from there as World No 2 Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota made easy work of scratch pair Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Puttita Supajirakul with a 21-18, 21-12 win in the women’s doubles.

Reigning world champion Nozomi Okuhara then sealed the win for Japan when she scored an easy 21-12, 21-9 success over Nitchaon Jindapol.

"I know that the Japanese team in the 1980s were very strong, but I didn't think too much about it or pressured myself to meet any expectation.

"However, I feel really happy and proud to have contributed to this historic moment for Japan again," said Okuhara.


[photo]
https://assets.nst.com.my/images/articles/27tas_1527331751.jpg

New Straits Times, Published: May 26, 2018 - 6:49pm
Japan end 37-year Uber Cup wait
By Fabian Peter
https://www.nst.com.my/sports/badminton/2018/05/373560/updated-japan-end-37-year-uber-cup-wait


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When Malayan badminton team made Thomas Cup history

ONLY a portion of the slightly ageing booklet juts out from a pile of old newspapers but that’s enough for me to notice the word ‘THOMAS C.’ printed in bold black ink against a light red background. Is it what I think it is? Have I found the Holy Grail of badminton paraphernalia − the souvenir booklet issued in 1949 after Malaya won the inaugural Thomas Cup competition?

Nervously, I turn around to survey the surroundings. The recycling centre is practically deserted save for the elderly supervisor seeking refuge from the sweltering afternoon heat under a fast whirling fan a distance away. This is usually the quietest time of the day as most of the employees are out on their collecting rounds.

Taking advantage of the lull and absence of prying eyes, I decide to remove the layers of old newspapers bit by bit until the magazine comes into full view. My heart skips a beat as I stand rooted to the ground, trying hard to maintain my composure. It is indeed the rare Straits Times’ commemorative issue published in conjunction with the Malayan badminton team’s successful Thomas Cup campaign.

Thankfully, the almost 70-year-old publication is still in very good shape apart from a slightly worn spine.

Eager to check out the contents, I head towards an empty plastic chair nearby so I can settle down to some browsing. The back of the front cover reveals a photograph of the winning team posing with their racquets. This interesting illustration is accompanied by the Malayan Thomas Cup team manager and non-playing captain, Lim Chuan Geok’s triumphant message to the Straits Times.

Lim, who was also President of the Badminton Association of Malaya at that time, thanked the Malayan people and the Singapore Government for their generous financial support in making the team’s European trip a reality. He also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to fans for their overwhelming number of congratulatory messages and apologised for not being able to reply to each one of them individually.

His humble words struck a chord with me. Prior to this Thomas Cup success, badminton was a little known sport and Malaya was never considered a force to be reckoned with. Public funding was rare let alone monetary rewards for the players. Yet, the men played their hearts out and brought the ultimate glory to a nation which so desperately needed good news after the devastating Japanese Occupation and Second World War.

BADMINTON’S GREATEST EVENT

The idea for such a tournament, the single greatest event in the history of badminton, was conceived by Sir George Alan Thomas. Born in 1881, Thomas only started playing badminton at age l8 when he joined the United Services Badminton Club at Southsea, Hampshire. Thomas, at the end of his first season, reached the semi-final round of the All-England Championships’ men’s doubles competition.

Three years later, in 1903, he bagged his first title − the All-England mixed doubles championship. That became the first of Thomas’ long list of successes. Throughout his playing career, Thomas won a total of 90 national titles, which comprised 2l All-England championships, 3l Scottish championships, 26 Irish championships and 12 French championships. That impeccable record, unbroken until today, will very likely stand for all time.

Though he won greatest fame as a badminton player, Thomas reached the highest class in other fields as well. He was one of the last eight in the 1911 Wimbledon lawn tennis championships and entered the semi-final round in the men’s doubles in 1907 and 1912. For two years, 1922 and 1934, Thomas was British chess champion.

Thomas’ honoured place in badminton didn’t rest entirely on his performances on the court. Elected to the committee of the Badminton Association of England in 1909, he became vice president in 1930. Four years later, Thomas became the first president of the International Badminton Federation. In 1939, he donated the silver cup which still bears his name but due to the outbreak of World War II, the first international tournament was postponed until 1948.

BIRTH OF A GREAT TEAM

In the booklet’s one page feature entitled On Tour With The Team, Straits Times’ journalist Lee Siew Yee, who travelled with the team, mentioned that the players had ice cracking under their feet as they waited on the deck of P&O liner Carthage. That day, which happened to be England’s coldest December day in 58 years, was definitely a far cry from the sweltering Singapore heat the team waved goodbye to 25 days earlier.

Yet, the eight men, mufflers round their necks, mittens on their hands and winter coats over everything else, remained undaunted. They kept their spirits up and even managed a grin at London under six degrees of frost.

Fortunately, the weather soon became kinder. There was much more sunshine than snow, fog or frost for the rest of the winter that year. Warm as it was by English standards, the players still went to bed barricaded by flannel pyjamas, pullovers, hot water bottles, blankets and eiderdown. During the day, they dipped constantly into their store of 136kg of chocolates to build up energy.

To supplement the dull English fare, the team brought along rice. The journalist remarked that everyone was taken aback when the rice appeared for the first time on the London hotel table as a grey soggy blob. The inexperienced English chef had used too little water to wash and too much to cook the Malayan staple.

After the first three weeks in London, the team headed to the Midland counties, then south to Torquay, north to Glasgow and south again back to London’s Preston and Harringay. After a breather, they once again travelled to Scotland, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark, all the time emerging victorious in badminton matches they took part in.

Taking care of a team on an extended tour was a gruelling affair. While the Americans, Danes and Indians each had a captain, a manager and an adviser to look in to their needs, Lim had to fill all three roles himself.

His first job upon arrival in London was to secure a badminton hall where the players could get regular practice and accustom themselves to exacting playing conditions where three-set matches were fought out without an interval and the damp English air slowed the shuttle down considerably.

CREATING CHAMPIONS

I’m heartened to see that quite a number of pages feature the Malayan players in action. The accompanying captions help me to imagine the rigorous training the men went through for nearly three weeks, day in day out, at the Wimbledon Squash and Badminton Club.

It’s quite amusing to see the players dressed from neck to ankle in woollies and flannels when they initially hit the court. Fortunately, those thick winter clothing soon gave way to the familiar singlets, sweaters and shorts when the players got used to the weather.

Apart from studying railway time-tables, paying hotel bills and answering correspondences, Lim imposed strict discipline to make sure that the players peaked at the correct time. He constantly reminded the team that they were there to win the cup and not to enjoy themselves. Off the court, players rested and conserved energy by attending occasional football and ice hockey matches as well as tea parties.

Between December 1948 and the end of January 1949, the weaker teams were slowly eliminated and finally only three were left in contention − Denmark, America and Malaya. As the tournament used a knockout system rather than a round-robin one, Denmark was given a bye and had the luxury of waiting for the winner of the Malayan-American tie.

As the date with America approached, Lim ordered a slow-down in training. He engaged a masseur to make sure that the six men chosen to play were in their best condition. Malaya’s Wong Peng Soon, one of the most brilliant stroke-makers the game had ever produced, wrenched a shoulder muscle and was forced to spend hours recuperating in the warmth of an ultra-violet ray lamp.

Everyone could feel the tension in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall when the Malayan-American tie started on Feb 22, 1949. Malaya won three out of the first night’s four matches and added three more the following night to reach the final with a margin of six matches to three.

TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS

Congratulatory cables started pouring in from Malaya and a victory banquet was organised. In the midst of rejoicing, came bad news. Wong’s injured arm had taken a turn for the worse and he decided to pull out. A hasty decision was made for Law Teik Hock to fill Wong’s place and Ong Poh Lim came into the team as third singles.

Then, on the morning of the final, Lim made a dramatic effort to play Wong after learning that his injury had unexpectedly yielded to treatment. The Danish captain generously agreed to this sudden change but the official referee turned down the request saying that it contravened the rules.

On paper, Malaya’s hopes against Denmark looked bleak with Wong’s exclusion. Practically everyone thought that the strong, straight forward style of the Danes would prevail. At the same time, opinions were conflicted for the Malayan team. Some quarters dismissed them as mere stylists who did better in exhibitions than serious competitions while others said that they had a fighting chance.

As the first match progressed, the naysayers were proven wrong. Law rose to the occasion magnificently, sweeping aside Danish champion, Jorn Skaarup in just 20 minutes with a surprising margin of 15-5, 15-0. Match after match fell to the Malayans. Despite the Danes’ efforts to stem the tide, they were completely routed by the Malayans.

Finally, it was left to Penangite Ooi Teik Hock to score the fifth and decisive point to place the trophy in Malaya’s grasp. Malayan badminton’s finest hour arrived when Ooi delivered his winning stroke to beat Skaarup. The two thousand supporters, all that Queen’s Hall in Preston could hold, went wild. They cheered and gave Thomas Cup’s first winners a standing ovation.

Malaya’s first Thomas Cup campaign drew to a successful end when Thomas presented Lim with the trophy and paid the winning team a glowing tribute by saying that Malaya played really great badminton and was worthy winners.

While walking towards the supervisor to purchase the booklet, I take some time to reflect upon Thomas’ parting words as the curtains fell on the on first Thomas Cup tournament: “I hope that this championship will promote the growth of the game and friendship among nations of the world.”

Today, the Thomas Cup has grown from strength to strength with more countries participating in this biennial competition. Denmark became the fifth and most recent nation to win this coveted cup, joining Malaya (now Malaysia), China, Indonesia and Japan in the elite list.

Sunday Vibes wishes the Malaysian team every success in the 30th edition of the Thomas Cup at Bangkok’s IMPACT Arena beginning today until May 27, 2018. Hopefully, the cup will once again make its way to our shores.

[photo-1] The 1968 Thomas Cup team arriving victorious at Subang Airport.
[photo-2] The souvenir booklet commemorating Malaya’s first Thomas Cup win.
[photo-3] The 1949 winning team comprised eight players.
[photo-4] Malayans at home tuned in to the radio to keep track of their team’s progress.
[photo-5] Thomas presenting Lim with the cup after the Malayan team overcame the Danes in the final.
[photo-6] Lim played a huge role in Malaya’s inaugural Thomas Cup success.
[photo-7] Ooi scored Malaya’s fifth and decisive point.

New Straits Times, Published: May 20, 2018 - 2:00pm
When Malayan badminton team made Thomas Cup history
By Alan Teh Leam Seng
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/sunday-vibes/2018/05/371310/when-malayan-badminton-team-made-thomas-cup-history

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A royal wedding to rival Harry's and Meghan's

THE tree-lined avenue leading up to Windsor Castle was recently awash with crowds of royal enthusiasts who had gathered from all over the world to get their first view of newlyweds, Prince Henry Charles Albert David or Harry, as he’s better known, and Rachel Meghan Markle as they embarked on their first journey as a married couple in the ceremonial carriage.

The historic date of May 19, 2018 was made extra special when it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II had conferred upon her grandson a Dukedom. Prince Harry and Markle from then on would be addressed as His and Her Royal Highness The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Photographs of the lavish nuptial held at St George’s Chapel immediately call to mind Malaya’s own royal wedding, held some 62 years ago between the-then Raja Muda of Kedah, Tunku Abdul Halim and the Negri Sembilan princess, Tunku Bahiyah.

The week-long wedding festivities were held starting from March 9, 1956 at Istana Seri Menanti, the birth place of Tunku Bahiyah, eldest daughter of Tuanku Abdul Rahman ibni Almarhum Tuanku Muhammad and Tunku Kurshiah binti Almarhum Tunku Besar Burhanuddin, the Yang di-Pertuan Besar and the Tunku Ampuan Besar of Negri Sembilan.

To the common people, this was definitely a significant occasion to celebrate, especially when Malaya was about to gain full Independence from the British in just a little more than a year’s time. The list of spectacular events lined up for the entire week helped put at ease a nation still wrapped up in the complexities of political advancements, future status of the nine Malay rulers, racial integration with regards to Malayanisation and incessant demands for wage increases by the labour unions.

A JOYOUS EVENT

The unification of two of the most important royal houses for the first time in their history, and the fact that the bridegroom, eldest son of Kedah monarch Sultan Badlishah ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, was an heir apparent further underlined the nuptial’s importance in terms of national interest.

Students of Malayan history today are indeed fortunate for the famous Straits Times journalist Harry Miller was one of the few members from the media who was invited to cover this joyous event. His eye for detail resulted in interesting and detailed reports about the events that took place in the Negri Sembilan royal town at that time.

The start of the long list of ceremonies was marked by an eight-gun salute which echoed from the green-clad hills girdling Seri Menanti. At that time, according to Miller, Tunku Bahiyah waited within the spacious confines of Istana Besar while her husband prepared himself some half kilometre away in the picturesque Istana Lama, the grand wooden building where the princess’ ancestors lived and reigned.

In her room surrounded by her loyal ladies-in-waiting, Tunku Bahiyah received glad tidings. Her bridegroom had passed the religious ceremony of marriage the previous night with flying colours. Recollecting that particular event which was steeped in royal protocol, customs and local belief, Miller reported that Tunku Abdul Halim sat cross-legged opposite the Mufti in Istana Lama’s prayer room. The Mufti began with a solemn atonement in Arabic before leaning forward to hear the Kedah heir reply ‘in one breath’: ‘I accept in marriage Tunku Bahiyah with a dowry of $1,001.’

An hour earlier, the bridegroom’s appointed representatives had, with the due formality befitting royalty, presented the dowry to Tunku Bahiyah’s parents. Miller noted that in Negri Sembilan, royal dowries were fixed by ancient adat (custom).

Under Muslim law, the presentation of a dowry is a form of contract usually signified by the bestowal of a gift. Tunku Bahiyah’s dowry came, among other things, in the form of Malayan 10 dollar notes. The scores of red legal tender were placed on silver trays, each meticulously fashioned into the shape of birds, butterflies and flowers.

These same motifs were followed in the presentation of silver receptacles containing the customary sireh leaves, nutmeg and lime. These traditional gifts were Kedah’s gesture of kinship through marriage.

Two days after the religious ceremony and in accordance with Malay marriage traditions, the royal bridal couple were dressed in their best and sat solemnly before their family members, rulers and high ranking officials on a richly-decorated throne in the balairong seri (audience hall). Around them were Kedah and Negri Sembilan regalia bearers while two maidens with fans stood nearby to keep the newlyweds cool.

RESPLENDENT TRADITION

During this bersanding ceremony, which is the formal public demonstration and acceptance in a Malay marriage, the British High Commissioner Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray and invited Sultans joined the other well-wishers in taking turns to anoint the couple with scented water and rice.

Just like the worldwide preoccupation with Markel’s Givenchy wedding gown, Miller was equally fascinated with Tunku Bahiyah’s gorgeous strawberry and gold-embroidered costume. He described it in great lengths, enthusing about the countless diamonds that sparkled on her head, neck and wrists.

Meanwhile, Tunku Abdul Halim wore a gold leaf-wrought-and-diamond-inlaid head dress which weighed nearly three kilogrammes. The groom also wore gold leaf-shaped armlets with the Kedah royal crest embossed on each.

Around his neck dropped three heavy gold necklaces while his waist was decorated with a wide belt fitted with a large gold buckle. An ancient gold-sheathed Kedah keris with shimmering diamonds and rubies on the hilt completed the prince’s costume.

The royal wedding ceremony ended the next day on a delightful note of informal abandon. The bridal pair had, for the third morning in a row, been drawn on the takhta renchana (ceremonial carriage), completely yellow in paint and decora¬tion, to the pancha persada, a seven tiered pyramidal pavilion for the final purification ceremony.

Miller noted that this symbolic act, which involved the couple dipping their fingers in a mixture of scented holy oil and water, actually descended from the ancient days when purification was literally a com¬plete bath in the sacred concoction.

As the Negri Sembilan adat ordained entertainment after the end of each puri¬fication exercise, bersilat (traditional Malay art of self-defence) demonstrations were held on the first and second mornings.

On the penultimate third morning, the princes and princesses of the royal household were allowed to set aside protocol and indulge in a free-for-all water battle. They used receptacles of every description to douse each other with scented coloured water.

The gathering crowd watched in amusement as the rivalling factions made for the water in the dainty fountain in front of the pancha persada. The pool of blue-coloured water served as an ammunition dump for them to reload old bottles, cigarette tins, spray guns, water pistols and even well-worn hats before heading off to look for their next victim!

Even the royal couple wasn’t spared. Gallons of water were flung in their direction while on the way to the carriage for the return procession. Luckily, the royal umbrella bearers were nimble enough to save the newlyweds from severe splashing. It was indeed the perfect ending to, what was considered at that time, the biggest royal wedding ceremony in post-war Malaya.

A SUMPTUOUS AFFAIR

I’d always thought that the Negri Sembilan ceremonies described by Miller marked the end of this historic wedding until a recent discovery of a booklet published to welcome home the royal couple as well as celebrate their marriage in Kedah’s capital proved otherwise.

Acquired together with a large stack of documents, photographs and receipts, this special commemorative publication was given to a well-known Alor Star Chinese community leader who went by the name of Loh Cheng Hoe. The royal Kedah household, at that time, must have taken great effort in the booklet’s preparation for each invitee’s name was individually printed in green letters at the top of the booklet cover.

Inside the booklet is a cream-coloured invitation card written entirely in Jawi script. The royal Kedah crest is given pride of place in the centre, near the top margin. On the right hand side are a slew of Chinese characters, written neatly in blue ink. I suspect that Loh couldn’t read Jawi and must have asked someone to translate the document for him.

With the advent of better printing techniques, Prince Harry and Markel’s invitations were certainly more sophisticated in comparison. Made by Barnard Westwood and following years of royal tradition, the cards were gilded around the edge and printed in gold and black. Each piece had been individually burnished to bring out the shine.

Inside the ageing booklet, I discover a piece of cyclostyled paper showing the guest seating arrangements during the State Banquet held on March 21, 1956 at Alor Star’s iconic Balai Besar. An unmistakable red crayon mark indicates Loh’s place among the 200 guests at seat No. 33 on Table B. Also inside is the list of dishes that Loh and the other invitees enjoyed dur¬ing the dinner. These included grapefruit cocktail, consomme soup, baked Langkawi crab and roast stuffed Kedah turkey served with roast potatoes, creamed cauliflower and green peas.

These sumptuous Kedah delicacies were definitely comparable to those served at the lunchtime reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for the newly-married Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The 600 guests at St George’s Hall feasted on Scottish langoustines, grilled asparagus and rhubarb crumble tartlets. The wedding cake included elderflower syrup, made at the Queen’s residence in Sandringham from the estate’s own trees, with an Amalfi lemon curd filling and elderflower buttercream.

While Sir Elton John performed at the lunchtime reception in recognition of the close connection he has with Prince Harry and his family, the dinner guests at Kedah’s Balai Besar were entertained by the band from the Royal Malay Regiment.

Judging by the list provided on the booklet’s back cover, the band played a total of 12 scores during that memorable evening. Among the tunes that filled the air around the Kedah Ceremonial Hall were Johann Strauss’ Czech Polka, Vivian Ellis’ Bless The Bride and Franz Von Blon’s Sizilietta.

Tunku Abdul Halim ascended the Kedah throne just two years later, following the sudden demise of his father, Sultan Badlishah, on July 13, 1958. Together with his consort, Sultanah Bahiyah, Sultan Abdul Halim ruled the state wisely and justly for many years. During his 59-year-rule, the monarch made history by becoming the only Malay Sultan to become Malaysia’s supreme ruler twice. His two five-year terms were from 1970 to 1975 and 2011 to 2016.

Sultanah Bahiyah passed away on Aug 26, 2003 while Sultan Abdul Halim died on Sept 11, 2017. His brother, Sultan Sallehuddin ibni Almarhum Sultan Badlishah, is the current ruling monarch of Kedah.

[photo-1]
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry ride in an Ascot Landau carriage at Windsor Castle after their wedding in Windsor, Britain.

[photo-2] The royal couple during the ‘berinai’ ceremony.

[photo-3] MacGillivray (front row, second from right) seated with the Malay states Sultans.

[photo-4]
After the religious ceremony, Tunku Abdul Halim touched his bride’s hands gently to indicate their new status as husband and wife.

[photo-5] Loh’s commemorative booklet for the Kedah State Banquet.

New Straits Times, Published: - May 27, 2018 - 2:00pm
A royal wedding to rival Harry's and Meghan's
By Alan Teh Leam Seng
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/sunday-vibes/2018/05/373818/royal-wedding-rival-harrys-and-meghans

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Malaya's first Buddhist association

“UNCLE Wong’s house is near the junction of Lebuhraya Bodhi and Jalan Nirvana,” remarks my father as I slowly turn into the North-South Expressway. My parents had just heard of their former colleague’s ill health and decided to pay him a visit. Since it’s the weekend and there’s nothing on my schedule, I offered to drive them to Penang for a day trip. With images of sumptuous hawker food dancing in my mind, this will be like killing two birds with a stone.

The unusual road names immediately arouse my interest. If memory serves me right, it was under the shade of a very large and old fig tree in Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, India where Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, later known as Gautama Buddha, achieved Bodhi (spiritual enlightenment). Since then, this evergreen species, with its heart-shaped leaves, has been referred to as the Bodhi tree.

It suddenly dawns upon me that Uncle Wong’s place is in a location that has good vibes. After all, Hindus and Buddhists alike consider nirvana as the highest state of enlightenment a person can achieve where individual desires and suffering no longer exist.

Things become even clearer as our conversation continues. All the roads in Uncle Wong’s housing estate bear Buddhist-inspired names as it was developed by the Penang Buddhist Association sometime in the early 1930s.

“Back then, the Penang Buddhist Asso¬ciation (PBA) was the first Buddhist institution in Malaya to present a correct picture of Buddhism, free from the trappings of superstitions and malpractices, to members of the public” my mother adds.

It seems that this obligation stems from the fact that Penang is a cosmopolitan island consisting of a diverse number of ethnic groups. Since its establishment as a British settlement in 1786, immigrant races, including Thais, Burmese, Singhalese and Chinese had started arriving at the shores of Penang (known then as Prince of Wales Island).

These new arrivals brought with them their religious practices and began building Buddhist temples and forming associations. Among those were Theravada temples which were originally set up to cater for the spiritual needs of the Thais, Burmese and Singhalese communities. As such, in those early days, only Wesak, Kathina (the offering of robes to monks marking the end of the Buddhist Lent) and their individual ethnic New Years were celebrated.

However, by the early 1920s or even earlier, the Thais, Burmese or Singhalese began losing influence over their own temples when Chinese worshippers began to gradually outnumber them. In order to cater to this new majority group of devotees, the once purely Theravada temples started incorporating Chinese customs and celebrations as part of their official activities.

Acutely aware of this encroachment, a group of Straits Chinese Buddhists decided to form their own association that would give them the opportunity to study Buddhism in its pure and uncorrupted form.

PENANG BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION (PBA)

The PBA was registered with the Registrar of Societies on Feb 25, 1925. The Government Gazette Notification No. 441 published on March 6, 1925 listed the nine association founders as Lee Swee Bee, Lim Chean Seang, Lim Boon Chin, Lim Eu Teong, Ong Boon Sin, Lim Teong Aik, Teoh Teik Thuan, Chew Eng Bang and Lim Say Eng.

Soon after PBA’s formation, the association’s rules and bye-laws began to raise eyebrows among its members. There was clearly no attempt to specifically define what was meant by the doctrine of the Buddha, nor was there any measure mentioned, which would guard the association against the possibility of reverting to, in its own terms, malpractices such as those committed at most Chinese temples throughout Penang.

This revelation prompted a response two years later when Venerable Kee Tong stated clearly that activities such as burning paper houses and elaborate funeral processions, accompanied by musicians, were considered defective influences and malpractices that shouldn’t be condoned by those who sought to study Buddhist teachings in their purest form.

Although largely a Mahayana Buddhist association, the PBA had always been ecu¬menical in both its activities and outlook. This liberal approach could be seen in the association’s first few Buddhist lectures which were delivered by Venerable Hai San, a Mahayana Buddhist monk, and Venerable A. Pemaratana, a monk with Theravada inclinations.

While Wesak Day was always celebrated in May, a date generally accepted by Theravada practising countries, the PBA also gave equal prominence to other celebrations like the birthday of Bodhisattvas Kuan Yin, Man¬jushri and Ksitigarbha.

“Why don’t you visit the PBA when we’re at Uncle Wong’s place? It’s just a stone’s throw from the housing estate,” my father suggests as we approach the Penang Bridge. I nod enthusiastically, knowing full well that there’s still much for me to discover.

EARLY BEGINNINGS

Despite its establishment in 1925, the PBA didn’t have sufficient funds to have a building to call its own. During those early forma¬tive years, the association took up temporary residence in the premises of Siang Kheng Si in Jalan Perak. A few years later when membership rose rapidly, it was forced to relocate to a larger place in Kim Ho Keong Si in Jalan Datuk Kramat.

The sizeable membership soon enabled the association to commence its fund raising exercise. For seven years, starting from 1928, devotees who donated $120 or more were given life membership status while those who gave more than double that amount were given life membership in addition to having their names etched on the association’s ancestral tablet.

By 1929, the PBA had secured enough money to purchase a piece of land opposite the Datuk Kramat Padang. Instead of resting on their laurels, the association members steeled their resolve to collect even more money to fund the construction of their new home.

A year later, in 1930, the association set up its first provident fund for the purpose of allowing members to enjoy benefits when they retired. This popular move brought more people into the fold and membership for that year jumped to 540.

Finally, after a two-year construction period, the new PBA building was declared open in 1931. During the ceremony, the PBA also adopted a Chinese calling, ‘Pin Sia Hood Hake Ee’, which was actually a direct translation of its name in English.

The inclusion of a Chinese name and the phenomenal success of its provident fund launched the year before brought in a deluge of members. By 1935, membership stood at 7,062 where 3,761 were provident fund holders. Five years later, in 1940, the number of members more than doubled to 16,164 while the number of provident fund members nearly quadrupled to 12,011.

RICHEST BUDDHIST INSTITUTION

This outstanding increase in membership raised some concern among the PBA committee members. They began to wonder why people were really joining. Was it with the true intention of studying Buddhism or merely to benefit from its lucrative provident fund?

By 1935, the PBA became the richest Buddhist institution in Penang. With its new found financial clout, the association set about enlarging and improving the monks’ living quarters to cater for a larger number of visiting monks from China as well as invest in a stretch of land to build 49 terrace houses and three bungalows. These homes were the predecessors of the ones now in Uncle Wong’s estate.

After dropping my parents, I head off towards the nearby Jalan Anson. Being a weekday, the PBA is rather quiet but I can sense the ever present serenity. The sprawling and well-manicured lawns, as well as the centrally-located seven-tiered pagoda, are indeed a sight for sore eyes.

Externally, the PBA building does not have the traditional Chinese architectural style commonly seen in early Penang temples. This could be due to the popularity of the westernised form, called the Late Straits Eclectic style, during the time when the structure was built in the early 1930s.

It’s also interesting to note that local Mahayana temples do not typically resemble their counterparts in China. This divergence is primarily attributed to the lack of raw materials, artisans and exorbitant costs involved in their construction. A good example of this type of locally-designed temple is the Beow Hiang Lim Temple which is located near the Penang Hill Railway Station in Ayer Itam.

The amazing story of the PBA continues when I walk into one of its high-vaulted halls which is ornately decorated with polished floor titles, multi-tiered chandeliers and mother-of-pearl inlaid furnishings. Looking at the records highlighting the association’s philanthropic activities over the years, I realise that PBA has made good use of the substantial profits derived from the rents of the houses it owned to help the needy.

Among the pre-war recipients of the association’s generosity were the Po Leung Kuk (Society for the Protection of Women and Children), Ayer Itam Flood Relief Fund, China Relief Fund and the Pulau Jerjak Fund. I also noticed that Penang’s Sungai Dua Old Folks Home was one of the major beneficiaries. By 1937, it had received in excess of $30,000 worth of aid. Apart from these, the PBA also gave generously in support of local temples as well as those abroad.

During the Japanese Occupation, the PBA was forced to make a voluntary donation of $46,547.19 to the Japanese Military Administration. This huge sum was PBA’s share of the $50 million that all Chinese communities in Malaya had to pay in return for the release of their seized property. This huge sum also helped to absolve the Japanese Army’s brutal treatment against the Chinese and help prevent further unnecessary loss of lives.

After the Second World War, a historic Peace Service was held in PBA’s main shrine hall to remember those who perished during the horrific Japanese Occupation. Among those who attended this solemn ceremony was the Governor General of Malaya, Sir Malcolm MacDonald and prominent Pen¬ang community leader, Dr. Ong Chong Keng.

EVOLUTION THROUGH THE YEARS

In the later years, there appeared to be a lax in the association’s strict rules when nuptials were allowed to be solemnised within the premises. This was an unheard of practice in any liberal Mahayana temple, let alone stricter Theravada temples like the PBA. Buddhists considered marriage to be a strictly secular affair and monks shouldn’t be involved.

At the same time, others viewed this innovative approach as an attempt to prove that Buddhist monks could per¬form as well as, if not better than, Christian priests when it came to solemnising wedding ceremonies. Nevertheless, this practice was discontinued several years later after members voiced their disapproval.

By the 1950s, a youth section was formed to organise programmes like picnics, study groups, hymn singing sessions and preaching for the younger generation. Mandarin classes were also conducted for PBA’s English educated members.

Some time in 1964, the Penang Buddhist Association Kindergarten was established after the association realised that there was a need to help working parents care for their children. This day-care styled centre became very popular and remains an affordable option for the people of George Town until today.

The chiming of a nearby wall clock startles me to the present. It’s time to pick up my parents. On the way back to the car, I can’t help but reflect upon the PBA’s 93-year-old legacy. Coming from humble beginnings, it has steadily evolved to become a world-class Buddhist organisation that serves all sec¬tors of humanity with boundless love and compassion.

[photo-1] The PBA is located along Jalan Anson.

[photo-2] A typical 19th-century Chinese temple in Penang.

[photo-3] A photograph featuring visiting monks and the association members taken in the early 1950s.

[photo-4] Statues of celestial beings feature prominently in Buddhist temples.

[photo-5] Weddings were solemnised at the PBA for a brief period in the 1950s.

New Straits Times, Published: May 27, 2018 - 2:20pm
Malaya's first Buddhist association
By Alan Teh Leam Seng
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/sunday-vibes/2018/05/373835/malayas-first-buddhist-association
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2018年05月27日

Ideals of democracy

THE definition of democracy as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not always realised. For democracy everywhere is tainted by partisan political and corporate interests.

Democracy does not always practise equality, for the system thrives on inequality, with the elites controlling the masses through the practise of capitalist economy in which the masses work for wages while the capitalist class (elites) controls the means of production.

A viable and ideal democratic system focuses on the wellbeing of the people, as well as allowing and encouraging profit-oriented private initiatives and enterprises. While the capitalist economy offers opportunities to accumulate wealth, it should also ensure an equitable distribution of wealth by addressing the economic plight of the lower-rung masses.

It should also discourage the unrestrained accumulation of wealth that negates its equitable distribution.

A viable democratic system that is based on the ethical principles of accountability and integrity would ameliorate the inequality of income and other opportunities for the wellbeing of the people.

But a democratic system is only as good as the people who run it, for human weaknesses influence the character of the governance. Thus, the integrity of the instruments of governance that are created to serve the people will depend on the ethical and moral bent of the authorities.

As a result, there are various manifestations of democratic governance, which vary from those that are closely aligned to the democratic principles to serve the people to those that exhibit elements of feudalism, totalitarianism or dictatorship.

A proper democratic system incorporates the three major divisions of governance: legislature, judiciary and executive. These are separate and independent entities that act as checks and balances.

In reality, the separation is often breached, especially in Third World developing democracies. First-World democracies respect this separation of governance and each branch is administered by people of integrity and accountability.

And the legislature or Parliament is the crucial and integral part of the democratic process for it passes laws that are implemented by the executive and counter-balanced by the judiciary, which interprets these laws. The designation of parliamentary democracy testifies to its singular importance in a democracy.

It is an august house that supersedes the executive and judiciary, and a place in which the peoples’ representatives concern themselves with matters that address the needs and wellbeing of the people.

It is also a place where the voices of the people − their grievances and grouses − are given hearing through elected representatives, as well as to redress any malfeasance.

Besides Parliament, the media, in the spirit of freedom of expression, plays a crucial part in highlighting the people’s grievances.

It must be independent and robust to report without fear or favour. And journalistic integrity must not be sacrificed for partisan interests.

There should not be any legislative constraint that curbs freedom of speech. And most important is the people’s right to choose a government through free elections.

This right is the core expression of democracy of the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

In the final analysis, a democracy is an organisational system, an algorithm that sets out the procedure to an orderly, safe and secure existence that regulates human (and even flora and fauna) interaction and engagement in a sane and respectful manner, without infringing on individual and communal rights.

However, the algorithmic expressions of democracy are dependent on the nature and character of those who manage and input the system.

Democratic expressions vary according to the cultural milieu, which may reflect vestiges of former systems of governance, such as feudalism, socialism, communism or dictatorships.

As a result, the democratic countenance presents facades that reflect various expressions of the democratic ideals, from one of benign to one of camouflaged belligerence and even to outright oppression. All in the name of government of the people, by the people and for the people.

[photo]
Parliament is a crucial part of the democratic process as it passes laws that are implemented by the executive, and counter-balanced by the judiciary that interprets these laws.

New Straits Times, Published: May 27, 2018 - 9:28am
Ideals of democracy
By Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin is an honorary fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373751/governance-ideals-democracy

(*) CenPRIS, USM

The Centre for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS) aims to promote research and publication in policy matters through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established in 1974, CenPRIS serves as a resource centre for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options. As Malaysia’s oldest research centre, CenPRIS has contributed immensely to the nation-building project through various action-oriented research. CenPRIS, for example, had provided policy inputs to the Malaysian government on a number of important policy issues ranging from poverty alleviation to ethnic relations.

Over more than forty years of serving as Malaysia’s premier research institution, CenPRIS has incorporated an international dimension in its research agenda so as to cater to the ever increasing interconnected world. CenPRIS therefore welcomes and encourages collaboration on regional as well as international policy issues. The movement of peoples and capital in a globalized world has and will define international relations in the 21st century, and CenPRIS intends to embark on this journey as an important player. Forming linkages with other institutions in the Asia Pacific region is the first step in this direction.

Public policy both at domestic and international level requires sound and critical scrutiny from stakeholders, and as a research centre, CenPRIS will continue to build its capacity to be in the fore front of this dynamic process.


http://cenpris.usm.my/

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a Novel Prize for Distinguished Warmongering

THIS remote village in Ndonga, Central Afri-can Republic does not have an official school, and there is no functioning government to build one. So the villagers, desperate to improve their children’s lives, used branches and leaves to construct their own dirt-floor schoolhouse.

It has no electricity, windows or desks, and it does not keep out rain or beetles, but it does imbue hope, discipline and dreams. The 90 pupils sitting on bamboo benches could tutor world leaders about the importance of education − even if they struggle with the most basic challenges.

“It is hard to learn without a paper or pen,” Bertrand Golbé, a parent who turned himself into a teacher, acknowledged with a laugh.

“But, this is the way we have to do it. They do not have breakfast when they arrive. They are hungry. It is difficult.”

Yet the students do learn, here, in one of the poorest countries in the world: They spoke French with me and some were doing real geometry when I happened to drop in.

One student, Doria Seleyanca, 13, said his father had been killed in the warfare that has engulfed Central African Republic for 14 years, and that his family does not have much.

“I eat one meal a day,” he explained stoically.

Seleyanca said he wanted to grow up to be a teacher − and he knew that an education was the only ticket to a better life.

I am on my annual win-a-trip journey, in which I take a university student with me on a reporting trip. My winner, Tyler Pager of Northwestern and Oxford universities, has been visiting schools with me here in the Central African Republic − and they underscore the need for a new global focus on schooling.

“Tragically, aid to education has been falling since 2010,” says Julia Gillard, a former Australian prime minister who now leads the Global Partnership for Education, an international effort to support schooling in poor countries.

The United States talks a good game about global education, but it has never made a huge commitment. Barack Obama pro-mised, as a candidate, to start a US$2 billion (RM7.9 billion) global education fund, but nothing more was heard about it. As for President Donald Trump, he wants to slash aid, although Congress boosted support for the Global Partnership.

The US has invested enormously in the military toolbox to reshape the world, but it has systematically underinvested in the education toolbox. The trade-offs are substantial: For the cost of deploying one US soldier abroad for a year, we can start at least 20 schools.

The paradox is that education has been a huge global success. Until the 1960s, a majority of humanity had always been illiterate; now, fewer than 15 per cent of adults worldwide are.

But, now, we have run into something of a global crisis: 60 million elementary school-age children remain out of school, and tens of millions more go to school but do not learn a thing. That is because many schools in poor countries are abysmal, suffering from corruption and inefficiency. Teachers routinely do not show up − and are paid anyway − or are only barely literate themselves. Progress cannot involve simply pouring more money into broken systems.

The World Bank found that only 0.3 per cent of teachers in Mozambique have the minimum knowledge needed to teach, along with 0.1 per cent of teachers in Madagascar. In Niger, it is zero per cent.

In dysfunctional schools, students do not learn.

The World Bank said in Uganda, only 10 per cent of fourth-graders could read a simple paragraph. In Mozambique, fewer than half can add single-digit numbers. And in South Sudan, a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to graduate from high school.

Yet, done right, education can be transformative. Evidence suggests that it reduces extremism, empowers women, and promotes development; for the same reason terrorists blow up schools, we should build them.

Education is also a bargain: By my back-of-envelope calculations, for about one-half of one per cent of global military spending, the world could vanquish illiteracy forever by ensuring that every child completes primary school.

If schools are often dreadful, the students are heroic. In the town of Boda, in a junior high school with 700 students and two functioning classrooms, we met an orphan named Lionelle Ngombe.

Ngombe had missed a year of school when she could not pay fees. Then the Catholic Church gave her a few dollars to start a “small business”. So, now, every day, she sells peanuts in the street when she is not in school, to raise money for her school fees.

“I do not know if I can stay in school,” she said gamely, “but I will try.”

As world leaders drop the ball, Ngombe could teach them something basic: The best leverage we have to change the world is education.

[photo]
Lionelle Ngombe (centre) at a junior high school with 700 students and only two functioning classrooms. She sells peanuts in the street to pay for school fees.

New Straits Times, Published: May 27, 2018 - 9:16am
These kids can tutor leaders
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NYT
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373745/these-kids-can-tutor-leaders

This isn’t diplomacy that President Trump is practicing with Kim Jong-un. It’s a roller-coaster ride − and it may be leading us to a more dangerous period in relations with North Korea.

Trump again proved his exceptional talent on Thursday by following his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal with his cancellation of the June 12 summit meeting with Kim; few presidents manage such diplomatic ineptitude over a four-year term, let alone in a single month. Then a day later, Trump suggested that the meeting could be rescheduled after all − maybe even back on June 12.

Man, those inscrutable Occidentals!

I’ve been covering and visiting North Korea since the 1980s, and this may be the moment of greatest risk and opportunity. It is maddening that the U.S. is handling the moment so chaotically.

North Korea’s initial response to the cancellation was calm and conciliatory, presumably because Kim wants the summit and because he wishes to appear more statesmanlike than Trump. If restraint doesn’t succeed soon, then the risk is that we’re back to confrontation − and if so, look out.

This isn’t diplomacy that President Trump is practicing with Kim Jong-un. It’s a roller-coaster ride − and it may be leading us to a more dangerous period in relations with North Korea.

Trump again proved his exceptional talent on Thursday by following his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal with his cancellation of the June 12 summit meeting with Kim; few presidents manage such diplomatic ineptitude over a four-year term, let alone in a single month. Then a day later, Trump suggested that the meeting could be rescheduled after all − maybe even back on June 12.

Man, those inscrutable Occidentals!

I’ve been covering and visiting North Korea since the 1980s, and this may be the moment of greatest risk and opportunity. It is maddening that the U.S. is handling the moment so chaotically.

North Korea’s initial response to the cancellation was calm and conciliatory, presumably because Kim wants the summit and because he wishes to appear more statesmanlike than Trump. If restraint doesn’t succeed soon, then the risk is that we’re back to confrontation − and if so, look out.

Every president since Nixon − except Trump − has realized that military options are too dangerous to employ. That’s especially true today, when North Korea apparently has the capacity to use nuclear, chemical and biological weapons against Seoul, Tokyo and perhaps Los Angeles. If nuclear weapons are used, researchers say, one million people could die on the first day of a conflict.

Yet Trump has a swagger and impulsiveness that make even Pentagon officials deeply nervous. He has a Kim-like appetite for brinkmanship.

In short, we may be headed for a game of chicken, with Trump and Kim at the wheel. And the rest of us are all in the back seat.

If the summit is not rescheduled, we’ll be worse off than before because it will be difficult for Trump to return to his policy of strangling North Korea economically. China has already been quietly relaxing sanctions, and South Korea may not have the stomach for maintaining strong sanctions, either. That might make the military toolbox more appealing to Trump.

Some Republicans have praised Trump for his North Korea diplomacy, and there’s been talk about him winning a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s preposterous. Just look at how we got here.

Trump’s jingoistic rhetoric didn’t particularly intimidate North Korea, but it terrified South Korea, which feared it would be collateral damage in a new Korean war. So South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, shrewdly used the Olympics to undertake a peace mission to bring the U.S. and North Korea together, flattering Trump to make this happen. This was commendable on Moon’s part; he’s the one who genuinely deserves the Nobel Peace Prize if this works out.

Then Trump rashly accepted the idea of a face-to-face meeting on June 12, without adequate preparations and apparently based on the delusion that North Korea would simply hand over its nuclear weapons. Still, talking is better than bombing, and there was some prospect that the talks could set in motion a process in which North Korea would freeze nuclear and missile tests.

Kim’s apparent destruction of his nuclear test site was a genuinely positive step, notes Siegfried Hecker, an expert on the North Korean nuclear program at Stanford University. It was then a slap in the face for Kim when, just hours later, Trump canceled the June 12 meeting

National Security Advisor John Bolton seems to have played a key role in the cancellation, and he presumably will be an obstacle to setting a new date − for Bolton’s solution to almost any problem seems to be to start a war.

Bolton is smart and well informed, and he hit the trifecta: On Iraq, Iran and North Korea alike, he has a perfect record of disastrous decisions. He was a champion of the invasion of Iraq, he helped kill nuclear deals with Iran both 14 years ago and again this year, and he helped destroy an agreement with North Korea in 2002 in addition to derailing the latest summit plan.

If there were a Nobel Prize for Distinguished Warmongering, Bolton would be a shoo-in.

As for Trump, he seems to have a cartoon understanding of international relations, thinking that a couple of great men (one with orange hair) walk into a room, solve a problem together, and then go pick up their Nobel Prize. He discounts expertise, skips briefings and blithely antagonizes allies.

It’s telling that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t get that Kim Jong-un’s family name is Kim; Secretary Mike referred to him as Chairman Un.

Both Trump and Kim would still like to make a summit happen. So I’m still hoping for the best while fearing for the worst.


[photo]
President Trump with his new national security adviser, John Bolton, who has a tendency to sabotage diplomacy.

The New York Times, Published: May 24, 2018
Aboard Trump’s Terrifying North Korea Roller Coaster
By Nicholas Kristof
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/opinion/north-korea-trump-kim-summit.html


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What Moral Heroes Are Made Of

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of people who I would regard as moral heroes. They spend their lives fighting poverty, caring for the young or the sick, or single-mindedly dedicated to some cause. I’ve been wondering what traits such people tend to have in common.

The first is that they didn’t overthink their decision before choosing to live this way. They didn’t weigh the costs and benefits or wage any internal battle with themselves. As Anne Colby and William Damon write in “Some Do Care,” a book that has organized my thinking on this subject: “We saw an unhesitating will to act, a disavowal of fear and doubt, and a simplicity of moral response. Risks were ignored and consequences went unweighed.”

At some point in their lives, somebody planted an ideal. Somebody set a high example of what a good life looks like, and the person who went on to become a moral hero just assumed that, of course, that’s what one should do.

They tend to have a “This is what I do” mentality. They don’t have a lofty sense of themselves. They don’t have a sense that they are doing anything extraordinary. “What I do is as simple and common as the laughter of a child,” Mother Teresa once said.

They have a weird obliviousness to inferior pleasures. They are not tempted by worldly success because they are not interested in worldly success. They don’t talk much about personal happiness, because they’re not particularly interested in themselves, period.

That’s because, as Colby and Damon argue, their self-identity is fused with a moral ideal. Their identity is not based on being a lawyer or a pianist. Their identity is defined by a certain moral action. They feel at home in the world when they are performing that moral action and feel out of sorts when they are not.

We see them tirelessly serving the poor or risking their lives for democracy and think they are performing great acts of self-sacrifice, but it doesn’t feel that way to them. It feels like the activation of their own nature. Doing that work seems to them as ordinary as doing the dishes. Something needed to be done, so they did it.

Another quality you see is constant goal expansion. Some believe that a person’s character is set in childhood − that after age 18, people don’t change all that much. That’s not how it is with these people. They are to moral life what lifelong learners are to intellectual life.

Some series of problems get presented to them − say, in the form of a parentless child landing on their doorstep or a new social wrong in their community. They see needs and respond with an instinctive and sometimes reckless series of “yeses” − and later on figure out how they’re going to address them. “Never look down to test the ground before taking the next step,” Dag Hammarskjold once advised. “Only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”

You often see such people expanding their ambitions in the face of hardship. Andrei Sakharov was a Soviet scientist who became so concerned with the radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests that in 1961 he wrote to Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev dismissed him, portending decades of government intimidation and eventually internal exile. But every time the Soviets punished him, he expanded his activism and widened his critique.

Often, they have another strong back. There’s usually a team of peers around them sharing core tasks and carrying them when they can’t carry themselves. Great moral leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King may get the bulk of attention, but they usually emerge from trusted small groups.

People who lead these lives tend to possess an insane level of optimism, a certainty that history does change for the better and that achieving justice is only a matter of time. They remain undaunted even in the face of severe hardship and assume that every wrong is temporary.

Finally, the direction of their lives moves almost invariably from fragmentation to integration. The fragments of their character have become integrated around one single-minded moral cause. They tend to be hedgehogs, not foxes. Their efforts are generally built around healing some rupture in society, reconciling differences, bringing the unlike together, a move from fragmentation to wholeness. However contentious the world may look, they have a mind-set that at our deepest level we are all connected in a single fabric.

Some of these moral heroes even seem to sense that no matter how diverse their fields of work are, they’re all somehow part of the same big struggle.

As one antipoverty activist put it to Colby and Damon: “I also know that I am part of a struggle. I am not the struggle. I am not leading any struggle. I am there. And I have been there for a long time, and I’m going to be there for the rest of my life. So I have no unrealistic expectations. Therefore, I am not going to get fatigued.”

The New York Times, Published: May 21, 2018
What Moral Heroes Are Made Of
By David Brooks
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/opinion/moral-heroes-improve-society.html

America hasn’t always, or even usually, been governed by the best and the brightest; over the years, presidents have employed plenty of knaves and fools. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like the collection of petty grifters and miscreants surrounding Donald Trump. Price, Pruitt, Zinke, Carson and now Ronny Jackson: At this point, our default assumption should be that there’s something seriously wrong with anyone this president wants on his team.

Still, we need to keep our eye on the ball. The perks many Trump officials demand − the gratuitous first-class travel, the double super-secret soundproof phone booths, and so on − are outrageous, and they tell you a lot about the kind of people they are. But what really matters are their policy decisions. Ben Carson’s insistence on spending taxpayer funds on a $31,000 dining set is ridiculous; his proposal to sharply raise housing costs for hundreds of thousands of needy American families, tripling rents for some of the poorest households, is vicious.

And this viciousness is part of a broader pattern. Last year, Trump and his allies in Congress devoted most of their efforts to coddling the rich; this was obviously true of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but even the assault on Obamacare was largely about securing hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthy. This year, however, the G.O.P.’s main priority seems to be making war on the poor.


[photo]
President Trump and his administration lack empathy for the poor.

The New York Times, Published: April 26, 2018
Trump’s War on the Poor
By Paul Krugman
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/26/opinion/trumps-war-poor.html

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I, caregiver

FROM the time I gave birth to my son with special needs, I’ve been told to never be ashamed of bringing him out in public. He can’t help being the way he is; he didn’t ask to be born that way.

Indeed I’ve never been ashamed of him. On the contrary. He has enriched our lives. He brought out the tiger mum in me and together, we have fought the odds.

But before we became a strong pair, we had to wade through all sorts of challenges before finding the roads that suited us.

However, as a young and inexperienced first-time mother at that time more than two decades ago, I listened to everyone and did nearly everything I was told.

I wanted the best for my son and I was determined to do anything and everything for him. There was a lot of good advice given but now in hindsight, I realise that not everything was realistic, practical or suited our needs. It was a journey we had to take and learn from.

In the early days, I brought my son Omar to almost every birthday party he was invited to. We went everywhere like any other normal young family would, including holidays abroad.

We struggled like many families did − baby bags with food, drink and diapers, strollers, extra clothes, the works. We also struggled with Omar’s medications and seizures (when he was a baby until he was 2 years old), and then later with his physical disabilities.

What I learnt through the years was that for many illnesses, there are certain triggers that could cause a person to have a reaction, some more intense than others.

For example, some episodes of asthma, epilepsy, migraine and even indigestion can be triggered by situations and/or elements surrounding that person. Not everyone reacts to the same triggers in the same way but there are some general things that we learnt to avoid through experience.

LEARNING ALL THE TIME

For Omar, we learnt that he doesn’t do well with loud noises, food that’s highly processed and sugary, and places with flashing/strobing lights, which include television and certain rooms with skylight and fan.

This means that cinemas are a no-go for him. So too are malls, especially during festive seasons when the DJs like to blare out music at insane levels.

Omar doesn’t just have epilepsy. He suffers from multiple syndromes that also include autism and cerebral palsy. So with his physical and mental challenges, coping with external stimuli can be difficult for him − and us.

There have been occasions when we’ve taken him to the mall for casual outings. He loved the music in the background and the general festive feel of everything. He also loved the different smells wafting from bakeries and perfume shops as he angled his head this way and that, inhaling deeply and chirping happy sounds.

However, when the music got too loud, Omar would instantly turn into a different person. He’d scream and cover his ears; he’d struggle and slide off his wheelchair, writhing on the ground as though in pain.

All this would happen so fast but would be dramatic enough to draw a crowd, some offering to help. But the more hands there were to carry and help him back into his wheelchair, the more he’d struggle and lose his temper. He didn’t want to be handled and people didn’t want to see him rolling on the floor.

He’d get frantic and others got stressed. It was much easier to physically manage him when he was younger. But as a big, strapping adult, you’d need a few people to help, provided they know how.

OUR PLEASURE, THEIR PAIN

The same is true when we travel, especially in airplanes. When he gets to the point where he can’t be reasoned with, the plane ride can be a nightmare. Not just for him but also for all of us, including other passengers. It would not be fair to everyone concerned. Add other factors like pooping or vomiting; it’s a classic case of “everyone can cry”.

Through the years of trials and errors, we’ve found Omar to be a creature of habit − happiest when he can keep to his routines and see familiar faces in familiar places. It doesn’t really make a difference to him if he travels to discover new places for holidays.

As for shopping malls and certain functions, we can’t tell the DJ to turn down the music so that it’s not at an ear-shattering level. They get offended when they can’t play their music at rock concert volumes.

So we can’t really use our own yardstick to measure what’s enjoyable for our special child. Our pleasure can be their pain.

I remember relating all these incidents to my late father once and he replied: “It’s not always kindness to bring your child out in public. Who are you trying to please?”

[photo]
I’ve been told to never be ashamed of bringing my special needs son out in public.

New Straits Times, Published: May 26, 2018 - 2:10pm
Not everything is for everyone
By Putri Juneita Johari
Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang.
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/pulse/2018/05/373477/i-caregiver-not-everything-everyone

IT’S that time of the year again when Muslims around the world would observe a month of fasting, which constitutes, among others, refraining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.

While the majority of Muslims will slide into this routine quite easily, there will be a group for whom fasting will be a challenge. They’re usually the sick, the elderly, women who are having their menses, women who are breastfeeding and travellers. Some pregnant women feel well enough to fast. Those who don’t can replace the days missed as soon as they can.

There would also be those whose health is now challenged, and coming to terms with their new reality of not being able to fast would be a blow to them. I remember those years with my late parents all too clearly. It took them a few years to finally accept that they were no longer able to fast due to illness. Mum underwent haemodialysis for several years. Dad had several health issues that rendered him severely dehydrated. I remember that he required emergency treatment at the hospital on the few occasions he tried to fast.

They tried many things before they finally accepted their fate. One was avoiding oily, salty and spicy food. This could lead to indigestion, they said. Eating highly processed food can also make you hungrier faster so it’s only sensible to avoid it. Eat slowly and chew your food. Chewing 30 to 40 times before swallowing and spooning in your next bite helps you digest your food better and keeps you feeling full longer.

Avoid certain drinks such as sodas, sweetened drinks and caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee. They don’t quench your thirst and they don’t count towards your water intake. You still need to drink plain water.

It doesn’t help that our body tends to trick us into feeling hungry when we’re actually thirsty. So when you feel hungry, drink a small glass of water first. If you still feel hungry after that, then you should eat because you’re really hungry. You just have to be mindful of your water intake and watch the indulgence.

Besides, the whole idea of fasting during Ramadan is to eat in moderation. It’s not about making up for lost time of not being able to eat during the day and feasting at night like you’ve not eaten in a while.

KEEPING HYDRATED

Having said all that, dehydration is a very real problem, especially among the elderly who, even on a normal day, have problems keeping up their fluid intake, what more during the fasting month. Even a person of average good health can suffer from dehydration when fasting if they don’t drink enough water from the time they break fast to the time they resume their fast.

How would you know if you or your loved one is dehydrated? If you pass very little or no urine, feel disorientated, confused or faint, you should break your fast with a drink of water or any fluid. You can always make up for this fast at a later date when you’re better. If your doctor has declared you unfit for fasting, you’d have to pay the fidyah as compensation.

Here’s how you can drink enough water after breaking your fast. You should still target eight to 10 glasses of water (about 200ml per glass). Trying to do that in one sitting will make you sick. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to do that after a day of fasting.

Sip your water throughout the evening from the time you break your fast until sahur. Have your first glass when you first break your fast followed by dates and fruits. Drink another one or two glasses after your meal. Take a break and drink a glass after maghrib prayers. Sip two to three more glasses or put 600ml in a water bottle and sip throughout the evening. When you wake up for sahur, drink another two to three glasses of water. You can also eat food that has high water content like watermelon, cucumber, salads, soups and porridge.

Those who have to restrict their water intake, for example, like those on dialysis or have kidney problems, shouldn’t do this. Ask your doctor if you can fast at all. Don’t skip meals, especially sahur. Even if you don’t feel like eating a full meal, have at least a glass or two of water. Ideally you should eat complex carbohydrates or food rich in protein. I personally find breakfast food to be ideal for this such as scrambled eggs or omelette and toast, and/or a bowl of oats.

Fasting in Ramadan isn’t about starving yourself. It’s basically a time when you eat differently, bearing in mind that some people actually face hardship and hunger not just during Ramadan but also every day. It’s a time for all of us to be grateful for every blessing that we have and enjoy.


New Straits Times, Published: May 12, 2018 - 1:01pm
Staying hydrated during Ramadan
By Putri Juneita Johari
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/pulse/2018/05/368650/i-caregiver-staying-hydrated-during-ramadan

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Malaysia’s first online plant shop

WHEN you hear the term “serial entrepreneur”, chances are the image that’s conjured in your mind is that of Silicon Valley types doing IT stuff.

Sara Dalina is a serial entrepreneur who’s been involved in the software business but the common denominator in all her endeavours is nature.

Sara is also the co-founder of Malaysia’s first online plant shop, suitably named Daun.com.my.

Having built up a solid client base in the Klang Valley, she’s now looking to expand the business across the country and also − rather surprisingly − start selling artificial plants and flowers!

ALL THE VENTURES YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH NATURE. IS THERE ANY CONNECTION TO YOUR UPBRINGING?

I grew up in Kemaman (Terengganu) and later in Subang Jaya, so I’ve had the privilege of enjoying both kampung and urban life. You could say that I’ve had the best of both worlds and yes, it has certainly shaped my outlook in life.

WHAT’S YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?

I was a multimedia student and my first job was as a graphic designer.

WHAT’S THE FIRST COMPANY YOU FOUNDED?

It was a software company called Mesra Alam Sekitar, which I co-founded with a childhood friend in 2010.

Our software allowed palm oil mills to record their smoke emissions data so they can comply with the Department of Environment’s requirements. We were the first company in Malaysia to offer a remote monitoring system for such emissions.

YOU ALSO HAVE A NATURE-THEMED CORPORATE TRAINING COMPANY...

Yes, Challenge Accepted Consultants incorporates the outdoors and nature for corporate team-building activities. But I also injected some technology so we use things like QR codes in our training modules. I don’t think technology and nature are mutually exclusive.

DO YOU DO ANY NATURE-RELATED ACTIVITIES THAT ARE NOT BUSINESS ORIENTED?

Thanks to my training company, I was exposed to the rainforest. I noticed that a lot of conservation work still needed to be done so I volunteered with the Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam − Peka) for three years.

We initiated tree-planting activities in forest reserves throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Through those activities, I became aware of the plight of the Orang Asli community.

They had a lot of difficulty with English so I leveraged on my connections in the city to invite both college lecturers and students to teach English to Orang Asli children for free.

I also managed to get several of my corporate clients to contribute to their schools.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A “PLANTOPRENEUR”?

I’m always looking for something new to do and I wanted my next business to be one that could help urbanites get back to nature.

Providing a platform for homeowners to order plants online seemed like a very practical way to do that. It was a gap that we could fill. Before we started Daun.com.my, there was no easy way to order plants online and have them delivered to your doorsteps.

HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR BUSINESS PARTNER, KERSTIN MCGUIRE? WHAT DO EACH OF YOU DO?

I met McGuire through a mutual friend and discovered that we both loved nature so we decided to build this business together.

I focus on website design, development and maintenance. McGuire does product research and development and manages operations.

ARE THERE MANY COMPETITORS OUT THERE?

There are a few now but back when we started in 2016, we were the first. Even today, we’re still ahead of the others in terms of the range of products we offer. We offer innovative value-added services. For example, customers can send photos of their homes so we can recommend the right plants for them. We also offer on-site consultation and after-sales consultation.

WHAT’S THE MAIN BENEFIT OF BUYING FROM DAUN.COM.MY COMPARED TO BUYING FROM A PHYSICAL SHOP?

We offer quality assurance. When you pick up a plant in a shop, you may not necessarily pick the healthiest plant. When we buy plants for our customers, we carefully inspect each leaf and send only the best plants to our customers.

If the stock is not in the very best condition, we’ll contact our customers to check if they’d be willing to wait for the next shipment. Quality is our priority.

WHAT’S THE SINGLE MOST POPULAR PLANT YOU SELL?

It would be the Peace Lily. It’s an indoor plant that flowers, which is rare because flowering plants usually need direct sunlight. But Peace Lily doesn’t, so it’s a really easy plant to care for.

ARE YOU CONSTANTLY EXPANDING YOUR PRODUCT OFFERING?

This may come as a surprise to you but we’re seriously looking at offering artificial plants, although this will be through a different website.

There’s a strong demand for artificial plants because customers have told us that there are places in their homes or offices where there simply isn’t any sunlight. Artificial plants would be perfect for such places. We think there’s a market for this.

EVER THOUGHT OF SETTING UP A PHYSICAL SHOP?

No, we’re happy with our current business model because it gives us more flexibility when it comes to time.

It allows us to lead the kind of lifestyle that we prefer. We really don’t want to be tied down to a shop’s opening hours.

[photo-1]
Sara Dalina is happiest when she’s doing something with nature.
[photo-2]
Sara Dalina (right) and her business partner, Kerstin Maguire.

New Straits Times, May 26, 2018 - 2:00pm
Taking a leaf out of nature
By Oon Yeoh
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/pulse/2018/05/373466/taking-leaf-out-nature

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Are My Friends Really My Friends?

“You’ve got enough friends, a new one is bad for you,” says a petulant character named Max in “Kicking and Screaming,” Noah Baumbach’s 1995 cult movie, when a member of his post-collegiate quadrumvirate attempts to introduce a fifth guy. “You start spreading your affection around and it runs thin, believe me.”

The two-decade-old reference may feel dated, but consider the period the film was set in and the ways its characters interact. Landline conversations are routine. Lengthy answering-machine messages and postal mail play a significant emotional role. Friends gather at bars with no external distractions and little chance of making plans with other people on the fly.

It seems antique and quaint compared to how 20-somethings now socialize. Gone are focused landline calls, long recorded voice messages, snail mail (perhaps even long emails). Nights out with friends are interrupted by the immediate posting of frequently taken photos and other attention-diverting phone applications.

In hindsight, the movie’s time − the ’90s − was the last decade that had relatively few technological obstacles to traditional levels of friendship “thickness.” Social media and smartphones spread affection around more easily; friendships may run thin.

“My net is cast wider” now than in the past, said Lucy Schiller, 29, a recent graduate of the nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa. “It’s a lot easier for me to engage casually with a greater number of people. I don’t know if this is a byproduct of aging, but it seems like the parameters of friendships have changed. I’d like to think they involve long walks and talking at length in person and involving yourself in shared activities, but at this point it feels like those structures have been relegated to the past and we’re skating along through very fun but very lightweight interactions.”

Two statistics from the General Social Survey in 1985 and 2004 are often invoked regarding the influence of new technology on close friendships and social isolation. The average number of confidants people said they had dropped from 2.94 to 2.08 over that time, and the number of those who had none at all went from one-tenth to nearly one-quarter.

Taken on their own, these numbers are a damning indictment of internet-era connections, even if social networking was in its MySpace-Friendster infancy in 2004 and the iPhone did not exist.

But in 2011, a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania headed by Keith N. Hampton found evidence that “close social relations do not attrite with internet use and that internet users tend to have larger personal networks,” and that social isolation was actually lower in 2008 than in 1985.

The researchers also determined that the network size of “core discussion confidants” is most strongly associated with two popular social media activities: instant messaging and uploading photos. People who have a mobile phone and engage in these activities have a network 34 percent larger than those who don’t.

Other papers by Dr. Hampton argue that the internet and social media can facilitate offline social connections. One states that “internet use may be associated with higher levels of participation in traditional settings that support the formation of diverse networks,” such as visiting public spaces or knowing more people in the neighborhood. Another suggests that frequent Facebook users have more close and more diverse social ties than the average American − though roughly the same number of overall connections.

Wedding and Funeral Guests

These findings jibe with the research of Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford. He has theorized that “group size” of both humans and nonhuman primates − the number of people (or, say, chimpanzees) one can maintain social cohesion with − correlates to “relative neocortical volume,” or the ratio of the neocortex to the rest of the brain.

The oft-cited “Dunbar’s number” is an average of 150 casual friends for humans (really, a range of 100 to 200). These are the people who might come to your wedding or funeral.

Within this roster, there are embedded layers of intimacy that grow smaller by a factor of three: 50 of these make the next cut to buddies, about 15 are good friends, around five confidants form our circle of trust, and finally we have an average of 1.5 people we deem our closest relationships. (Conversely, we can keep track of roughly 500 acquaintances and 1,500 faces we can match to names.)

One may presume that boasting thousands of social media friends or followers would inflate Dunbar’s number, but Dr. Dunbar said that is “absolutely not at all” the case. In a recent paper analyzing Facebook and Twitter data, and another one looking at mobile phone calls, his team determined that people still “showed the same frequencies of interaction as in face-to-face relationships” for the corresponding layers of intimacy, he said.

However, digital media channels “don’t distinguish between quality of relationships,” he said. “They allow you to maintain relationships that would otherwise decay. Our data shows that if you don’t meet people at the requisite frequencies, you’ll drop down through the layers until eventually you drop out of the 150 and become ‘somebody you once knew.’ What we think is happening is that, if you don’t meet sometime face to face, social media is slowing down the rate of decay.”

The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are “remote,” whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, “you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.”

Whither Rapport?

People from our past that we no longer directly communicate with but who are active on social networks can “colonize valuable space in your mind, and you think about them instead of about your close friends,” said Carlin Flora, the author of “Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.”

“If my high-school friend posts frequently about her life, it’s almost like it’s celebrity gossip, or it’s akin to me watching a reality show about her,” Ms. Flora said. “Our brains get confused about whether we know celebrities; if we see someone a lot, our brain thinks we know them.”

Of course, thinking we know people through status updates (or paparazzi photos) is not the same as spending time with them, just as dashing off “Happy birthday!” on someone’s Facebook wall has less emotional impact than saying it in person or over the phone.

Ms. Flora did note the advantages of digital media for introverts and people susceptible to loneliness, namely that it is less risky and enervating to make contact through a text or post than through a phone call or an invitation to meet.

With this lower threshold for maintaining friendships, some people strongly favor mediated interactions over in-person interactions, especially millennials accustomed to constant communication via devices.

Ms. Schiller, the Iowa graduate, goes out often with friends at night but also subsists on a digital diet of texting (heavily enough that she recently strained her thumb), Google Chat and social media. She said she finds conversation on Google Chat banal, likely because she tends to use it as she multitasks on her computer, but sometimes opens up more to people via the confessional space of a text message than she might across a table.

As with many millennials, talking on the phone was never a big part of her routine and is now reserved for the rarest of occasions. “I’ve asked people over Gchat if they want to talk on the phone, and they hem and haw,” she said. “It can feel draining − there isn’t a casual component to it.”

There are physiological benefits to face-to-face encounters, however, that do not accrue to digital interactions or the phone. “Your blood pressure goes down, you have synchrony, you mimic your friend’s posture unconsciously,” Ms. Flora said. “It’s a rapport humans have developed over thousands of years, and you don’t get that when you only follow someone on social media.” (Skype et al. can be comparable, though, Dr. Dunbar observed.)

But now it’s common for this synchrony to be disrupted in person, thanks to the ubiquity of the smartphone. Imagine Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting “Nighthawks” recomposed today, with the three late-night diners and counterman all gazing at screens.

“If there’s a bunch of guys at a bar together and they’re all on their phones,” Dr. Dunbar said, “they’re not doing much to trigger the endorphin system to create the sense of bondedness.”

With this lower threshold for maintaining friendships, some people strongly favor mediated interactions over in-person interactions, especially millennials accustomed to constant communication via devices.

Ms. Schiller, the Iowa graduate, goes out often with friends at night but also subsists on a digital diet of texting (heavily enough that she recently strained her thumb), Google Chat and social media. She said she finds conversation on Google Chat banal, likely because she tends to use it as she multitasks on her computer, but sometimes opens up more to people via the confessional space of a text message than she might across a table.

As with many millennials, talking on the phone was never a big part of her routine and is now reserved for the rarest of occasions. “I’ve asked people over Gchat if they want to talk on the phone, and they hem and haw,” she said. “It can feel draining − there isn’t a casual component to it.”

There are physiological benefits to face-to-face encounters, however, that do not accrue to digital interactions or the phone. “Your blood pressure goes down, you have synchrony, you mimic your friend’s posture unconsciously,” Ms. Flora said. “It’s a rapport humans have developed over thousands of years, and you don’t get that when you only follow someone on social media.” (Skype et al. can be comparable, though, Dr. Dunbar observed.)

But now it’s common for this synchrony to be disrupted in person, thanks to the ubiquity of the smartphone. Imagine Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting “Nighthawks” recomposed today, with the three late-night diners and counterman all gazing at screens.

“If there’s a bunch of guys at a bar together and they’re all on their phones,” Dr. Dunbar said, “they’re not doing much to trigger the endorphin system to create the sense of bondedness.”

The New York Times, Published: May 12, 2018
Are My Friends Really My Friends?

The quantity of human interactions has increased, but the quality is arguably diminished.
By Teddy Wayne
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/style/who-are-my-real-friends.html

posted by fom_club at 14:31| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2018年05月26日

Trump-Kim summit may be back on

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump said the United States was having “productive talks” about reinstating a June 12 summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, just a day after he cancelled the meeting citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility.”

Mr Trump told reporters that US officials are in talks with North Korea after the country’s “very nice statement” on Friday, less than 24 hours after Mr Trump cancelled the highly anticipated meeting.

“We are having very productive talks about reinstating the Summit which, if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th., and, if necessary, will be extended beyond that date,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

South Korea’s presidential spokesman said in response: “We are cautiously optimistic that hope is still alive for US-North Korea dialogue. We are continuing to watch developments carefully.”

Trump had earlier indicated the summit could be salvaged after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea saying it remained open to talks. “It was a very nice statement they put out,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’ll see what happens – it could even be the 12th.

“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

After years of tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The plan followed months of war threats and insults between the leaders over North Korea’s development of missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Trump scrapped the meeting, planned for Singapore, in a letter to Kim on Thursday after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out over what it saw as confrontational remarks by U.S. officials demanding unilateral disarmament. Trump cited North Korean hostility in canceling the summit.

In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea’s criticisms had been a reaction to American rhetoric and that current antagonism showed “the urgent necessity” for the summit. He said North Korea regretted Trump’s decision to cancel and remained open to resolving issues “regardless of ways, at any time.”

Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had appreciated Trump having made the bold decision to work toward a summit.

“We even inwardly hoped that what is called ‘Trump formula’would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue,” he said.

DIPLOMATS AT WORK

Trump’s latest about-face sent officials scrambling in Washington. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters diplomats were “still at work” and said Trump had just sent a note out on the summit, which could be back on “if our diplomats can pull it off.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams declined to give details of any diplomatic contacts but said: “As the president said in his letter to Chairman Kim, dialogue between the two is the only dialogue that matters. If North Korea is serious, then we look forward hearing from them at the highest levels.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump did not want a meeting that was “just a political stunt".

“He wants to get something that’s a long-lasting and an actual real solution. And if they are they are ready to do that then ... we’re certainly ready to have those conversations,” she said.

North Korea had sharply criticised suggestions by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and Vice President Mike Pence that it could share the fate of Libya if it did not swiftly surrender its nuclear arsenal. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed by NATO-backed militants after halting his nascent nuclear program.

Trump had initially sought to placate North Korea, saying he was not pursuing the “Libya model”.

US regional allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea’s main ally, China, urged the two countries to salvage the summit.

At an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said it was necessary to ensure security on the Korean peninsula, which touched on China’s core interests.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the same forum, regretted the cancellation and said the world should keep doing its bit to make the summit happen.

South Korea also would continue efforts to improve ties with the North, the office of President Moon Jae In said after Moon’s top security advisers met for the second time on Friday.

Some analysts worried that canceling the summit could prompt a resumption in hostilities, including renewed shorter-range missile tests or stepped-up cyber attacks by Pyongyang and increased sanctions or deployment of new military assets by Washington.

In his letter, Trump warned Kim of the United States’ greater nuclear might, reminiscent of his tweet last year asserting that he had a “much bigger” nuclear button than Kim. While the Trump administration had insisted on North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program, Pyongyang had always couched its language in terms of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

It has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

[video]
Trump-Kim summit may be back on: Mattis

The Straits Times, Published: May 25, 2018, 9:40 pm SGT
US in ‘productive talks’ about reinstating June North Korea summit, Trump says
By Reuters
https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/a-day-after-walking-away-from-summit-trump-leaves-open-possibility-of-june-12

One day after abruptly pulling the plug on a high-stakes summit with North Korea, US President Donald Trump said Friday the meeting with Kim Jong Un could go ahead after all -- and would "likely" happen on the originally scheduled date of June 12.

The summit would be an unprecedented meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, which Washington hopes will result in the full denuclearization of the reclusive state.

Trump said in a tweet that "very productive talks" were ongoing with North Korea about reinstating the summit.

"If it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th," he wrote, adding the meeting could be extended further if necessary.

On Thursday, Trump cancelled the summit that was due to take place in Singapore, blaming "tremendous anger and open hostility" from Pyongyang in recent days.

But North Korea responded Friday by saying it was willing to talk to the United States "at any time" -- a reaction Trump welcomed as "warm and productive."

"We're talking to them now," Trump said of the North Koreans. "They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it."

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there was "possibly some good news" on the summit, while White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters: "If the meeting takes place on June 12, we will be ready."

On Saturday, South Korea, which had brokered the remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, cautiously welcomed Trump's latest comments.

"We find it fortunate that the embers of the North Korea-US talks are reignited. We are watching developments carefully," Presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-gyeom said.

Trump's initial cancellation of the summit blindsided treaty ally Seoul, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move "shocking and very regrettable".

- 'Twists and turns' -

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cast the fast-moving developments as simply "twists and turns" in the process.

"We never expected it to be easy," Nauert told reporters.

But the whiplash from the White House was unusual even for the chaos-loving president. In March, apparently acting on impulse, Trump agreed to the talks with Kim after only limited input from aides.

In a letter to Kim, Trump blamed Pyongyang for his decision to call off the summit, and warned North Korea against committing any "foolish or reckless acts" while also highlighting America's "massive and powerful" nuclear capabilities.

North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's decision "unexpected" and "regrettable" but sounded a conciliatory tone, saying officials were willing "to sit face-to-face at any time."

Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had completely dismantled its nuclear test site in the country's far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture.

- 'Show goodwill' -

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he respected and supported the US president's move to cancel the summit while China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, urged the two foes to "show goodwill."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin held out hope the talks would eventually take place.

Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit.

As the date drew nearer, however, a gulf in expectations between the two sides became apparent.

Before Trump's announcement, Pyongyang had hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant and stupid."

Washington has made it clear it wants to see the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the North.

Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrent until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression.

- Libyan model -

The White House was unhappy about what it considered to be a "trail of broken promises" by North Korea -- including failure to show up for summit preparatory talks and complaints about the latest US-South Korean joint military exercise.

It also was unhappy about the North's failure to allow international observers to verify the dismantling of the Punggye-ri test site, the staging ground for all six of its nuclear tests.

But the North's Kim Kye Gwan countered that Pyongyang's angry statements were "just a backlash in response to harsh words from the US side that has been pushing for a unilateral denuclearization."

Both Pence and Trump's hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton had raised the specter of Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi, who gave up atomic weapons only to die years later at the hands of US-backed rebels.

Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North website that monitors North Korea, said Kim's hand has been strengthened regardless of whether the summit goes ahead because recent weeks have seen him forge connections with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as with Russia and South Korea.

"Kim has created sort of a cushion for failure that if the US backs away, the Chinese and Russians will be behind him," Wit said.

But others said Trump's demonstrated willingness to walk away could yet extract further concessions from Pyongyang.

"North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future," said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.


AFP, Published: 26 May 2018
Trump says North Korea summit could still happen
https://www.afp.com/en/news/23/trump-says-north-korea-summit-could-still-happen-doc-15a80q20

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Are Malaysians collectivistic in nature ?

I LOVE being a lecturer. My role, I have always believed, is not only to impart knowledge to students but also to develop their academic potential and soft skills by exposing them to the world of work. Above all, I try to teach them the importance of upholding integrity in everything they do.

But, last week, I felt I failed to do just that. To my utter dismay, I received reports on May 16, a day when all teachers are celebrated for their hard work and dedication, accusing my students of plagiarism.

As a lecturer, I have come across a lot of plagiarised work. The reason this happens is that students fail to rephrase the ideas they deem suitable to be included in their essays.

But, to discover that the work plagiarised was a creative piece left me dumbfounded. The assignment was to produce a short film within a span of seven days. Unlike essays, which require students to quote scholars and cite academic journals, a short film allows them to be as creative as they want. Anything goes.

Afraid that I would pass an unjust decision which would possibly tarnish my students’ reputation, I decided to confront them about this matter.

With tears rolling down their cheeks, the girls said they didn’t know that the eight-minute mystery film they produced turned out to be a plagiarised version of a French short film.

“We felt something was not right when Desmond was very adamant that we use specific shots and angles, and insisted we follow the script to a tee,” said the film’s director, while other group members nodded in agreement.

Desmond was the only male member of the group who came up with the idea for the script. In class, I noticed he positioned himself as the group’s leader.

“Why didn’t you say anything, then? Why did you keep quiet?” I asked. “We respected his decision because he was the one who wrote the script,” they replied.

Their answer took me back to my teenage years when I chose to keep quiet because I was afraid of being seen as rude and disrespectful. The times that I disagreed with something but decided not to do anything about it because I thought voicing out my views would not make a difference. The hours spent talking with friends about the dissatisfaction I felt instead of confronting the person who caused my misery was still vivid in my memory.

The incessant fear of questioning what is felt as wrong, the tendency of conforming to public opinion, the apprehension felt from the mere thought of challenging societal norms, all came flooding back.

I cannot help but wonder: is it our culture that makes so? Malaysians, according to social psychologist Gerard Hendrik Hofstede, are collectivistic in nature. As opposed to an individualistic culture, where people look after themselves, a collectivistic culture like ours gives importance to a group, be it a family or other extended groupings.

According to communications scholar Stella Ting-Toomey, countries that are collectivistic will most likely have a high score in power distance (how people view power relationship within a group). Malaysia is an example of a collectivist society with a high power distance score.

So, what are the characteristics of a high power distance culture? Ting-Toomey says people in high power distance cultures tend to accept unequal power distributions, asymmetrical relations, and rewards and sanctions based on rank, role, status, age and perhaps even gender identity.

This, I feel, explains my students’ reaction to the sly, manipulative plan Desmond concocted. While values like politeness and respect for the elders − due to our collectivistic and high power distance society − are some of the distinguishing characteristics Malaysians are known for, they have somehow made us appear docile.

My students’ decision to not challenge Desmond has cost them an “A”.

This, I hope, is a lesson that they will remember. When something doesn’t feel right, speak up, or you may risk losing out.

[photo]
Values like politeness and respect for the elders are some of the distinguishing characteristics Malaysians are known for.

New Straits Times, Published: May 26, 2018 - 9:34am
Are Malaysians collectivistic in nature?
By Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh
Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh is a lecturer and head of UKM’s Centre of Corporate Communications
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373440/are-malaysians-collectivistic-nature

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MyMangrove (Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network)

MANGROVES and seagrasses possess distinctive characteristics with remarkable adaptation features, allowing them to naturally occupy Malaysia’s fragile tropical coastlines. Their presence is significant in terms of providing multiple benefits and ecosystem services to the nation, particularly for coastal protection against oceanic and climatic catastrophes, and securing the livelihoods of coastal communities.

Mangroves are a natural habitat for a diverse type of plant and are home to myriads of animals and marine fauna. They are the breeding and spawning grounds for marine and coral fishes, a sanctuary for over a thousand known species of molluscs, bivalves, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. This includes dolphins, otters, crocodiles and mudskippers.

Malaysia’s mangroves store 90 per cent of all known and described Indo-West Pacific’s mangrove plant species, making it the third largest mangrove-holding nation in the world. Adjacent to the mangroves, particularly on the eastern and southern coasts of Peninsular Malaysia, as well as on the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak, lie numerous beds and meadows of seagrasses.

All 14 species of seagrasses found in Malaysia are well-adapted to highly saline conditions and they are the specific grazing grounds for dugongs and other marine mammals and creatures. Seagrasses provide the ecological link and habitat connectivity, particularly on nutrient exchange and dynamics with the neighbouring mangroves and coral reefs.

One important thing in common for both mangroves and seagrasses is that they are identified as an efficient carbon sequester. Hence, together with saltmarshes (commonly found in subtropical coastlines), mangroves and seagrasses are known as the blue carbon ecosystems. Particularly for mangroves, they are found to be four-times a better carbon storage compared to their terrestrial counterparts. Through photosynthesis (a process in which plant uses light, water and carbon dioxide to generate food and energy for growth, releasing oxygen as a waste product), mangroves and seagrasses fix a significant amount of atmospheric carbon by storing it in their above-ground bodies, and in their roots and soil underneath.

This process of carbon sequestration is vital to assist in our combat against climate change.

Considering all of the benefits and services provided by these ecosystems, it is unfortunate to note that mangroves and seagrasses are not legally protected. They fall in the loopholes of natural resource governance, partly due to their habitat locations, and partly due to our ignorance in recognising their ecological importance.

The National Forestry Act provides protection for mangroves within the gazetted forest reserves. However, approximately 1,000 sq km of mangroves are not (yet) gazetted and are put solely under the jurisdiction of the state governments.

Similarly, the National Fisheries Act does not include mangroves in the protection and enforcement, although it is a known fact that fish and seafood resources are highly dependent on mangroves for their survival.

Seagrasses, on the other hand, are totally not covered by the two important legal tools, except for the ones located within the boundaries of the marine parks, in which coral reefs are the main emphasis. This is a worrying scenario.

In the nation’s plight to protect our coasts from being eroded due to obvious climatic factors, human development continues to encroach on these habitats without careful consideration.

Land reclamation, urban expansion and coastal development are identified as the primary anthropogenic factors contributing to the loss and the degradation of our mangroves and seagrasses. Coupled with the extreme climatic conditions, the future of Malaysia’s mangroves and seagrasses seems vague.

It is hoped that the ongoing formulation of the National Wetlands Policy would address and solve these issues. The conservation of mangroves and seagrasses has already been mentioned in the National Policy on Biological Diversity, but, again, without a strong supporting enforcement tool like an act or a regulation, mangroves and seagrasses may still not be efficiently protected.

The Environmental Quality Act does have a provision to regulate this through the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment by the Department of Environment. However, many destructive coastal development went on without solid mitigation measures and monitoring. Strict enforcement of rules and regulations should control anthropogenic disturbances on these habitats.

The Forestry Department, The Department of Marine Park and The Department of Environment are already placed under the same roof, that is the Natural Resources and the Environment Ministry.

Therefore, it is hoped that the ministry is able to strengthen smart partnerships and collaborations, and to allow for flexible enforcement mechanisms in between departments in order to protect these important intertidal habitats − our mangroves and seagrasses and all their ecological significance.

[photo]
The 40,000ha Matang mangrove forest in Taiping, Perak, is one of the world’s best-managed sustainable mangrove ecosystems and home to numerous mammals and bird and fish species, and river dolphins.

New Straits Times, Published: May 26, 2018 - 9:29am
They're not legally protected
By DR A. ALDRIE AMIR
The writer is senior lecturer and research fellow at the Institute for Environment and Development (Lestari), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and coordinator of the Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network (MyMangrove)
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373438/theyre-not-legally-protected

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PEKA (Environmental Conservation Organization)

“WOMEN make better nature lovers than men,” she declares. “But in most cases, our voices are often the last to be heard in environmental planning and management. We need to change that!”

That a female trailblazer in environmental activism was on point on the feminist conversation du jour reveals where Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil came from: a place where a woman’s strength and independence isn’t simply about walking the talk, but it’s also about being more vocal and “talking” the talk.

The 55-year-old activist and founder of PEKA (Environmental Conservation Organisation) had gotten tired of not being taken seriously: “They said I’m just a woman. I don’t have a degree or a PhD so what do I know?” and going through the diplomatic route on speaking out for the environment. “We’ve done the meetings, the writing of letters ... We got ignored,” she remarks drily, before shrugging her shoulders and adding: “So I became vocal.”

Speaking out and making news created the effect Sabrina hoped for. It also meant that she frequently got into trouble with the authorities for bringing to the media’s attention, environmental issues that were prevalent in this country. “We have no other alternative, but to make news. But when we did, PEKA was suddenly seen as anti-establishment and anti-government.”

A case in point would be the recent news she made sometime last year when she and her assistant were remanded for allegedly insulting a royalty. “We were thrown into the lock-up and treated like common criminals for raising the question as to why the only remaining forest reserve in Mersing was being de-gazetted for oil palm plantation conversion,” recalls Sabrina candidly without a trace of rancour or bitterness. “Speaking up isn’t an easy thing to do. Sometimes you have to pay the price for doing the right thing.”

A mutually beneficial collaboration, she adds, is possible between the NGOs and governments – but the relationship is often fraught and sometimes hostile. Frustration and mistrust abound on both sides.

“We do want to work with the authorities,” she insists, adding: “It’s wrong for humanity to think that we can live in a way that shows no regard to animals and forests. PEKA’s only agenda is simply to protect our precious natural heritage.”

NATURE LOVER

Her environmental roots grow deep. Smiling, Sabrina confides: “I grew up with such a profound love for nature. I was a loner. I preferred the company of nature to people actually!”

She doesn’t look at all like an introvert, much less an activist, I admit aloud and she breaks into peals of laughter. At close quarters, Sabrina is overwhelming; all that mass of blondish brown hair shaped today into two loose plaits, pink pillowy lips and dark mascaraed eyes. She’s stylish, colourful and a far cry from what you envision an environmental activist would look like.

“How does an activist look like?” she wonders with a chuckle. “We women need to take care of ourselves and look good. I love fashion but I don’t even try to keep up with it, to be honest.” She then tells me tongue-in-cheek that “... magazines aren’t interested in interviewing me for that very reason. I’m not into brands or the latest handbags!”

Continuing, she shares, her tone wistful: “I really, really love nature. I grew up loving waterfalls, rivers, beaches. I’ve climbed the Penang Hill hundreds of times. In fact, back in the days, there were rivers and waterfalls in the Penang Botanical Garden. I used to bathe there when I was little.”

She grows quiet, before adding softly: “Penang Hill is thankfully still there, but you don’t see waterfalls and rivers in the Botanical Garden anymore. Those are gone.”

“I used to be quiet but I witnessed too much hypocrisy and double standards when I was growing up. This made me become very rebellious,” she adds soberly. “I couldn’t keep quiet anymore.”

Something needed to be done, she tells me. “I remember going often to this orchard in Raub, Pahang, where a particularly beautiful waterfall was located until one day, the orchard owner told me, ‘Oh you know, all of these will be cleared soon.’ ‘But there’s a waterfall there. How can they do logging there?’ I asked him, feeling shocked,” relates Sabrina. “At that time I didn’t really know much about saving the forest. But I remember this man shrugging his shoulders and answering dejectedly: ‘You know lah this country. Whatever they want, they’ll do.’”

We can’t just keep logging and logging until we run out of forests, she exclaims vehemently. “Our forest is our water catchment area. You kill the forest, you kill off our water supply. People may not care about animals. But water... we all need water to live.”

NATURE GETAWAY

It seemed a natural choice for her to buy up swathes of forests and convert them into eco-friendly resorts. Certainly taking direct control of land has been a tried and tested conservation tool for decades. Tanah Aina, her local patch of inspiration, exists because she wanted to turn it into a nature reserve of sorts.

“I said to myself, ‘You have to walk the talk’. Because I’m such a nature lover, I wanted to teach people all about the environment. It’s pointless to just talk or protest about land clearing activities. We have to educate the masses about the importance of jungles. At least I know the jungle plots and orchards that I own will not be cleared,” she explains, adding: “This was one way I could protect the forest.”

The building of the resort, she tells me, respected the area’s topography and the existing vistas were preserved. “Not a single stone or rock was removed. We didn’t cut any trees down, unless it was rotten. Even then, we replanted trees,” she says. “Nothing should be built at the expense of nature.”

The process of building can be exciting as Sabrina would attest. She had a team of builders and bought plenty of materials to construct the resort. But she also needed transportation to bring those materials in.

Eyes dancing, she reveals that she’s licenced to drive a lorry. “I can show you my licence!” she exclaims, laughing. Rather than rent a lorry, she thought it would be prudent to buy the vehicle and drive it herself.

“I remember going to the driving school to take the test. I was the only woman there and the men just looked at me and said: ‘Mem! Tak payahlah belajar pandu lori! Kita orang boleh pandu untuk Mem!’ (Ma’am, you don’t have to learn how to drive a lorry. We can drive for you!)”

But she insisted − and got her licence. “The police would stop my lorry whenever they saw me behind the wheel. I mean, look at me!” she remarks, gleefully waving her hands about her. “With full make-up, earrings and a dress ... I can’t imagine what they were thinking!”

The police were understandably baffled. “They’d go around the lorry twice and check my licence. Then they’d ask me, ‘Why do you want to drive a lorry?’” she shares, throwing back her head and chuckling. “That was fun!”

Do you still drive a lorry? I ask. “No!” Sabrina replies, smiling. “Still, it took a lot of courage. I believe in life, when you want to achieve something, you have to be brave. You can’t hesitate.”

Her can-do spirit drove her on, especially when her eco-resort wasn’t an immediate success. “I didn’t have any background in management or hospitality,” she confides, adding: “I was just a fitness instructor. I loved my exercise, baking and of course, jungle trekking.”

When she first mooted the idea of opening the resort, a lot of people thought she was crazy. “Who’d want to come to a jungle? I just said, ‘Never mind. We try to change. We have to start somewhere.” She reveals that there were no takers for that first year. “Nobody came! I called friends, I asked people to come and stay for free. I tried everything.”

But eventually, people did come. “It helped reinforce my belief that we need to reconnect people back to nature.” The natural world’s benefits to our cognition and health will be irrelevant, she adds, if we continue to destroy nature around us. “Destruction is assured without a human reconnection to nature.”

NATURE CHAMPION

There was no looking back since. Tanah Aina has been accorded several awards, the latest being the Best Hotel Services award at the recent 20th Malaysia Tourism Awards in March this year. “I started the resort as a platform for people to get to know our forests and it’s been hugely gratifying to see that people are beginning to understand and recognise just how amazing our Malaysian forest truly is.”

There’s still so much to be done, she believes. Her nature havens aside, she tells me half-wistfully that although Malaysia has amazing biodiversity and is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, “... it’s all disappearing rapidly.”

Something − an adjustment in the chair, a re-angling of the head − warns me the tone is about to shift. And it does. “Let me ask you this question. How many more highways do we need? Why can’t we upgrade what we have? Why must we go through a phase where we need to really fall before we can come back up?”

She’s all at once both fiery and passionate. I get a glimpse of the impassioned activist who steps on toes and gets on the wrong side of the authorities whenever she strides into an issue or an event with guns blazing. “Every time you cut down a forest, you’re disturbing the ecosystem. It’s simple: we must save our forests, for there is no Plan B to tackle climate change or many of the other critical challenges that face humanity without them.”

She had sent letters to stop the logging at a nearby forest near Karak back in 2014. When a massive landslide hit the Karak Highway in Peninsular Malaysia back in November 2015 exactly a year later, she was furious. “We warned them! And they denied that it had anything to do with the logging that was taking place nearby.”

When locals complained that waters near Taman Negara, Pahang, were getting silted up, she led a media expedition up the Tembeling river to expose the logging going on there. She also led the campaign against logging at a catchment area in Frasers Hill which led to a stop order by the authorities on all logging activities there. “We’ve had some success, but it’s often an uphill battle trying to change mindsets. We don’t have to be dependent on balak (timber) as our major source of income.”

But the real power, she believes, belongs to the people. “We must get people involved.” Civil society and non-governmental organisations, she says, have long been keys to challenging systems that would favour the few over the many, and give a voice to the voiceless. “But we need the voice of the majority in order to make it work.”

The one thing that she wants to shift is the idea that environmental NGOs like PEKA has been tasked to save the world; that activists − as brave and courageous as she has been − will come in, take action, rage public opinion and make changes happen. “At some point, I’m hoping that we can campaign together with people, and break the idea that people can outsource their conscience to us.”

With all that’s been said and written about her, what would she want Malaysians to know about her? I ask. “Me?” She’s clearly baffled at my question. “What they think of me is immaterial. There’s really nothing great about me anyway.”

A pause and she concludes: “I wish to get more people to understand and appreciate our environment. Respect and love Mother Nature. That’s not so difficult, really.”

[photo-1]
A love for nature has transformed Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil into a passionate nature activist.
[photo-2]
Sabrina has found her true calling deep in the Malaysian forests.
[photo-3]
Leading her PEKA team to congratulate Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on his recent appointment as Prime Minister and to discuss about environmental issues affecting Malaysia.
[photo-4]
Joining hands to protest the EKVE Phase 1 project which involves the de-gazetting of 106.6 hectares of the Ampang Forest Reserve.
[photo-5]
Protesting the logging at Fraser’s Hill. A stop order on logging activities at Fraser’s Hill was finally issued after this stand.

New Straits Times, Published: Sat., May 26, 2018
Wild at heart

Blazing the trail in environmental activism
By Elena Koshy
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/pulse/2018/05/373420/wild-heart-blazing-trail-environmental-activism

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2018年05月25日

The victims of Trump

When we will we ever learn? How many more young British soldiers do we have to send to be slaughtered, maimed or traumatised in futile foreign calamities at the behest of US presidents? In the buildup to Iraq and Libya, critics were ridiculed as naive peaceniks or demonised as the heartless useless idiots of former western clients Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

What came next? Hundreds of thousands perished, millions were injured and displaced, while extremist jihadists flourished. With the British government preparing to bend to Donald Trump’s demands to double troops in Afghanistan, there are no excuses. We know the Afghan conflict – the longest in US history – has been a disaster. This is a blood sacrifice for the megalomaniac in the White House, paid by young Brits, teenagers among them.

According to a poll, 56% of Britons believe that military involvement in Afghanistan “has not been worthwhile”; just 25% take the alternate view. Public opinion does not always mean wisdom, so let’s judge if they’re correct. 456 Brits have perished in the conflict; and – according to one study – more than a quarter of the 220,000 personnel who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been left wounded, ill or psychologically harmed. The US has expended a trillion dollars on this calamity; it may have cost Britain tens of billions.

What do we have to show for it? More than a hundred thousand dead Afghans, tens of thousands of civilians among them, and yet the government control just 56% of the country’s territory. The Taliban, it is estimated, are active in 70% of the country. Opium production reached a record high last year. According to the former western-backed Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the war is a failure. “We have more radicalism, we have more extremism, we have more attacks all around,” he says, accusing the west of “targeting Afghan homes, Afghan people and not the sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan”.

Before Trump assumed the presidency, it is notable that he described the war as “a terrible mistake”, a “total disaster”, and a “complete waste”. Now he is not only sending his own young citizens to die and suffer for this “terrible mistake”, but demanding we send our own. Where are all those supposedly moderate, sensible commentators who decry Trump as a demagogic menace to democracy and peace? Will they speak out, or is Trump only a quasi-fascist danger until he wants to engage in war, and then he becomes presidential, sensible, a statesman even?
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The victims of Trump are barely remarked upon.

What of the western-backed Saudi slaughter in Yemen, and the sixfold increase in US airstrikes there under Trump?

What of the 215% increase in civilian deaths because of US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria under Trump?

What of Trump fuelling violence in occupied Palestine?

This man should not be allowed to dictate British defence policy.

We cannot allow our government to casually toss away the lives of our young simply because Trump demands it.

[photo]
‘According to a poll, 56% of Britons believe that military involvement in Afghanistan has not been worthwhile.’ British military personnel on their way to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in October 2014.

The Guardian, Last modified on Fri 18 May 2018 21.37 BST
Britain cannot send its young to Afghanistan simply because Trump demands it

The US president should not be allowed to dictate UK defence policy
By Owen Jones
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/18/britain-young-afghanistan-trump-demands-defence-policy

The UK government is considering doubling the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan in response to a request from Donald Trump for reinforcements in the face of increasing gains by the Taliban.

Britain has about 600 troops in Afghanistan at present, mainly based in Kabul training officers and not engaged in combat. There is also a small contingent of special forces.

The new deployment could see hundreds more return to Afghanistan. The UK withdrew almost all of its combat troops from the country in 2014.

Faced with a Taliban resurgence, the US, which has about 15,000 troops in the country supporting the Afghan military, asked the UK and other Nato countries last summer to send reinforcements. Britain responded with an extra 85.

Later in the year, Trump renewed the plea and the proposed new UK deployment is in response to that request by the US president. The hundreds more British troops are expected to be involved in training rather than combat.

The Ministry of Defence, which usually does not discuss troop deployments in advance, said only that the UK’s contribution was kept under constant review.

An MoD spokesperson said: “The support the UK provides Afghanistan on security, development and governance is crucial to building a stable state and reducing the terrorist threat to the UK. We remain committed to Nato’s non-combat Resolute Support mission, in which we play an important role, and keep our contribution under constant review.”

In spite of pressure on the defence budget, the UK is engaged in 25 operations overseas. It is also struggling to retain and recruit personnel, a problem that was highlighted in new MoD figures published on Thursday showing the army shrinking, down to 77,120, well short of its supposed strength of 82,000.

The overall size of the armed forces, including navy, air force and army, stands at 194,140, down by 2,900 from last year. The army, down from 78,410 a year ago, is at its smallest since the 17th century. Recruitment is traditionally harder in peacetime.

The reduction is down to factors including a series of budget squeezes, computer glitches on the part of Capita, to which the MoD outsourced recruitment, and low morale. The MoD’s annual armed forces continuous attitudes survey revealed that 61% of service personnel described morale as low.

The shadow defence secretary, Nia Griffiths, criticised the government for its “shocking failure to recruit and retain armed forces”.

An MoD spokesperson did not directly address the shrinkage, but said: “We are currently active on 25 operations in 30 countries around the world and have enough personnel to meet all our operational requirements. In the past year, we have recruited over 13,000 people into a variety of posts and we have a range of initiatives to make sure we attract and keep the personnel we need.

“We remain committed to ensuring we have the right skills at every level of the armed forces, so that our world-leading military can continue to face intensifying global threats.”


[photo]
British military personnel arriving at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan in 2014.

The Guardian, Last modified on Fri 18 May 2018 11.50 BST
UK may double troops in Afghanistan after Donald Trump request

US asks for reinforcements after Taliban resurgence
By Ewen MacAskill
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/18/uk-may-double-troops-in-afghanistan-after-donald-trump-request

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Sustainability from Islamic perspective

WE know that moderation (wasatiyyah) is a major Islamic principle and way of life by the clear affirmation of the Quran. In an address to the Muslim community, the Quran conveys God Almighty’s vision of this Ummah as a community of the middle path (ummatan wasatan) to make moderation, therefore as a guide and conduct of their earthy life (al-Baqarah, 2:143).

Moderation has not only much to say about the personal conduct of individuals and the community’s collective ethos, but also on the use of the earth’s resources and care for its natural environment. The substance of this teaching is elsewhere endorsed in the Quran where the text speaks of balance (al-mizan) in the creation of this earth and the terrestrial universe, all of which have been created in a state of grand natural equilibrium, “so weigh all things fairly and do not disturb the (God-ordained) balance.” (al-Rahman, 55:7).

Three other concepts of relevance to sustainability conveyed in the Quran, are firstly, humankind’s assignment as the trustees and vicegerents (Khalifah) of God on earth to act as bearers of a mission and responsibility to establish a just socio-economic order therein (al-Baqarah, 2:30). The utilisation of earth’s natural resources such as land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, and oceans are considered the right and joint property of the people. Since humankind is God’s vicegerent on earth, they should take every precaution to ensure the rights and interests of its other inhabitants, including the animals and birds, are fulfilled, not only of this but also of future generations.

The second and still related concept is that of ‘building the earth’ (i’mar al-ard), also known as ‘umran’, or building of a humane civilisation on earth, which has been expounded in much detail by Muslim scholars, notably the Andalusian scholar, ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406 CE) and others. Justice and being good to others (al-’adl wa’l- ihsan), which are essential to a humane civilisation, envisage not only the general wellbeing of the present but also of the future generation.

The third aspect of relevance to sustainability in the Quran is the avoidance of prodigality (Israf, al-A’raf, 7:31) and extravagance (al-tabdhir, al-Isra’, 17-27). The two are basically synonymous, yet a technical distinction has been drawn between them. Israf signifies prodigality and wasteful use of what is otherwise permissible, such as one who consumes food in excess, or uses water wastefully, even for purposes of cleanliness and ablution.

Tabdhir on the other hand is spending on that which is unlawful in the first place, such as the purchase of drugs and gambling tools. With regard to the former, the text says that “God does not love the prodigals − al-musrifun,” and in reference to the latter, that they are the “the devils’ brethren,” both of which expressions signify primarily moral and behavioural aspects of human conduct, but can be the subject of legal action if they amount to manifest harm (darar).

The lawful government is then authorised, under the concept of public interest (maslahah), and just policy (siyasah ‘adilah) to impose restrictions on that which may be permissible, and also to elevate to a prohibition what is reprehensible (makruh) in the shariah. The Islamic legal maxim-cum-hadith that ‘harm may not be inflicted nor reciprocated [in the name of] Islam would in principle authorise the individual and the community to take legal action against persons and organisations, even states, that are guilty of environmental damage and destruction.

The Prophet of Islam has added his voice to say with regard, for instance, to greening the earth that “anyone who plants a tree, no human nor any of God’s creatures will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him.”

In another widely quoted hadith, the Prophet has said that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it.

In yet another hadith report, Abu Barzah once asked the Prophet: “Teach me something so that I may derive benefit from it.”

He said, “Remove the trash away from the walkways of the Muslims.”

Muslim leaders, such as the first caliph Abu Baker, advised their troops that when engaged in war with the enemy forces, they must not chop down trees nor destroy agriculture, nor kill an animal, unless it be for essential human needs.

In another hadith, the Prophet has also said that anyone who “kills a sparrow in vain, God Almighty will take him to task for it in the Day of Judgment.”

Islamic teachings are also emphatic on cleanliness in both personal hygiene and the enhancement of beauty. With regard to the former, the Quran says that “God loves those who insist on cleanliness − al-mutatahhirin (al-Baqarah, 2:222), and the latter is the subject of a renowned hadith, which declares succinctly that “cleanliness is one half of the faith”.

One can elaborate further, but even from what has been said, it is clear that sustainability, moderation, and cleanliness are entrenched in Islamic teachings and are integral to the faith of the believers. Rich and resourceful as these sources are, yet many aspects of these teachings are being neglected in the personal behaviour, speech and lifestyles of Muslims generally, to which Malaysia is also not an exception.

[photo]
Wasteful use of water, even for ablution, is prohibited in Islam.

New Straits Times, Published: May 25, 2018 - 10:23am
Sustainability from Islamic perspective
By MOHAMMAD HASHIM KAMALI
Mohammad Hashim Kamali is founding chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373098/sustainability-islamic-perspective

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians should avoid commercialisation of religion in conjunction with Ramadan month, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) said.

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said with the Muslim community fasting, Ramadan was similar to the month of festivals - food festivals, buffet festivals, iftar festivals, sahur festivals and shopping festivals.

He drew reference to the statistics of the National Solid Waste Management Department where the month of Ramadan was synonymous with an increase in total solid waste dumped by Malaysians.

He said the latest report explained that the solid waste in the state of Perlis increased by 25 per cent or 180 tonnes a day in Ramadan compared to 130 tonnes a day in a regular month.

“As such, CAP calls on Malaysians to avoid commercialisation of religion.

“It is necessary to mobilise society at all levels, including the authorities and the government, so that this month of Ramadan is appreciated once more as the month of worship and the month to do good,” he said today.

According to Idris, commercialisation of religion was when there was element of trading, influencing and exploiting religion for the sake of material goods alone.

He noted that there were signboards advertising hotels, restaurants, residences and even villages in the area that promoted a wide variety of iftar and sahur packages and offered dozens of types of food at various prices.

“The Ramadan bazaar, which exists in every corner of society, reinforces the meaning of commercialisation of religion.

“Malaysians, especially those who are Muslims, should be more sensitive to this issue by avoiding buffet festivals and iftar and sahur events that are far from true Islamic teachings.

“Food wastage, dozens of types of food during iftar or sahur, excessive spending, advertisements promoting pre-Eid celebration sales and hotel buffets are a manifestation of the commercialisation of religion,” he stressed.

Idris said the government should ensure that the commercialisation of religion be contained during the month of Ramadan.

“Any form of commercialisation of religion should be restricted.

“The Islamic bodies and institutions that are responsible should be the defenders against efforts to commercialise religion,” he added.


[photo-1]
A general view of the Ramadan Bazaar in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya.

[photo-2]
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris urged Malaysians to avoid commercialisation of religion.

New Straits Times, Published: May 24, 2018 - 8:32pm
CAP urges Malaysians to avoid commercialisation of religion during Ramadan
By Audrey Dermawan
https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/372927/cap-urges-malaysians-avoid-commercialisation-religion-during-ramadan

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The rule of law comprises 4 important elements − accountability, just laws, open government, and accessible and impartial dispute resolution.

I DELAYED my trip to the office last Monday (May 21) to watch on television Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first address to government officers in Putrajaya. It was his first meeting with the civil servants after he took office as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister. The historical event took place at Putra Square. He was greeted with a thunderous applause as he took to the stage just after 8.20am.

As I had expected, it was a short speech. He reminded the civil servants that Malaysia’s administration was once the best in the Commonwealth, but sadly it is not so now. “This is the struggle we have to go through to regain the respect we have lost”, he added.

He urged civil servants to rebuild the trust of the Malaysian people towards the public service and to work with him to restore the country to its former glory. He said: “Our country was well-respected previously, but, now it is not the same as in the past. We must restore the country to ensure that it will be looked highly upon and respected once again,”

He also asked for their complete cooperation in the administration of the country. “As long as I don’t violate any laws, I hope all of you will give your undivided cooperation to me as the prime minister.”

What Dr Mahathir said that morning to the civil servants in Putrajaya reminded me of the memorable words of Sayyidina Abu Bakr As-Siddiq as he spoke to the people after he was appointed the first Caliph: “If I do good, then help me; if I do wrong, then correct me.”

It also reminded me of what Dr Mahathir had written on his blog a year ago, which was republished in a news portal (www.malaysia-today.net) in April 2017. In that posting, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia had lost the respect of the international community due, for the most part, to the high level of corruption in this country to the extent that it has been labeled as “one of the most corrupt countries in the world”.

There are other reasons as well − including the “unresolved 1MDB scandal”, the “unexplained” RM2.6 billion in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal account (of which subsequently the Attorney-General had said there was no wrongdoing because it was “a gift from the Saudi royalty”), the sacking of auditors by 1MDB, and the fact that there had been no auditing of the 1MDB accounts over the last two years.

Reminding the civil servants that “Malaysia’s debt has reached an alarming trillion ringgit”, Dr Mahathir said important measures must be taken and many changes will have to be made so that the nation can recover quickly from its current situation.

He concluded by telling them: “We are confident that we can overcome the challenges but we need civil servants who are efficient and trustworthy to achieve these changes. As administrators, one must put the rule of law above all else and those tasked to carry out their duties must help to clean things up so that Malaysia can be on the road of recovery. All of us must work together to achieve this.”

The issue of trust in the government was raised by Chandra Muzaffar (chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1 Malaysia) when he delivered a talk at a forum in Singapore two days after the 14th general election. He told his Singapore audience that the Malaysian voters rejected the Barisan Nasional coalition because of a “yawning trust deficit” between the BN leadership and the people, apart from the other issues mentioned, including the mismanagement of Felda.

Soon after he took office as prime minister, Dr Mahathir lifted the “Official Secrets” ban imposed on the 1MDB audit report, making it accessible by the general public. By that swift unexpected move, he was telling the people that they now have an open government, which is indeed a good start to rebuild public trust. The declassified report revealed, according to Dr Mahathir, “more wrongdoings committed than what was known to the public and me”.

More importantly, an open government is an integral element in the rule of law, which the new government had repeatedly sworn to uphold. According to the World Justice Project portal, the rule of law comprises four important elements − accountability, just laws, open government, and accessible and impartial dispute resolution.

With regained respect and trust, restoring confidence in the national economy should not pose an insurmountable task. That task has been given to the Council of Elders (also called Council of Eminent Persons), chaired by former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin. Other members include Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican, Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Sri Robert Kuok. Unquestionably, the council has the collective expertise in fiscal and monetary policies necessary to do the job.

Daim told reporters on May 13 that the council would hold meetings daily for 100 days. “I want to finish this in 100 days. After that I want to sleep”, he joked. For this former finance minister, “people are king”, and not “cash is king”, and he wants the new government to uphold this all the time.

The clock is ticking. The countdown to 100 days has already begun.

[photo]
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after his speech to the civil servants at his first meeting with them at Putra Square in Putrajaya on Monday. With him are Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa (right) and Public Service director-general Tan Sri Zainal Rahim Seman.

New Straits Times, Published: May 25, 2018 - 10:24am
The countdown begins
By Salleh Buang
Salleh Buang formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for private practice, the corporate sector and the academia.
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/373100/countdown-begins

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Our children deserve a living planet

I GREW up in Bandar Hilir and a kampung in Ujong Pasir, Malacca in the 1970s. As a boy, I enjoyed playing in the outdoors and interacted with all kinds of wild animals.

Behind our house were wild birds, monitor lizards, snakes, macaques, and by the beach, hermit crabs, mud skippers and horseshoe crabs. There were enough natural spaces for the wildlife to thrive.

Catching spiders, insects and snakes was an integral part of me being a Malaysian boy. Growing up in Malacca, we looked forward to running along the beach at low tide, collecting sea shells and dead corals.

We had ample opportunities to interact with the outdoors, and without doubt learned a lot about nature.

To love and care for nature was not something forced upon us.

We did not study nature academically, instead we grew up around it and had a deep sense of knowing what is out there. With my eyes closed, I can still remember the sights, sounds and smells of animals and nature around us then.

However, as I grew older, it became very clear to me that the natural space will eventually give way to land conversion for human development.

All the natural places I played – the secondary forests, the beaches and mangroves – have been cleared for housing development, roads or are lost due to land reclamation.

The places where I grew up are now all gone. The outdoor playground that my friends and I enjoyed have now vanished. What is left are merely deep sentiments and fond memories.

I cannot take my children to my hometown and say, "This is where papa used to play. This is the spot where I waited to catch spiders."

I can only tell them the memories of where my childhood spots used to be. They will never realise nor appreciate what their father lost.

But I am also pragmatic because we are developing our natural environment to cater to human needs – to generate economic growth, provide housing and jobs for a growing population.

Invariably, many of the spaces that we have all enjoyed as children will never remain forever. I am quite clear about that.

However, development and progress can be made in a sustainable manner if town and city planning incorporates environmental interests. After all, nature is life giving.

For that reason, during Earth Hour 2018, our goal in WWF-Malaysia was to help Malaysians understand the need to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 – that "By 2020, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably."

As we progress towards economic prosperity, we must design our cities with biodiversity elements that enhance the quality of our life. Sufficient number of parks, with spaces large enough to function as green lungs to provide clean air and to cool down the heat of the urban environment is vital to our wellbeing.

For these reasons, WWF created the One Planet City Challenge (OPCC), to highlight solutions to environmental problems and reward progressive cities that put human beings, biodiversity and climate mitigation at the centre of urban planning and implementation.

These cities are the role models for planet Earth. The leaders in these model cities create sustainable housing and transport, engage in energy efficiency programmes and move towards supporting renewable energy. They strive towards the development and dissemination of low-carbon solutions through progressive policies and actions.

In 2011, the OPCC started as a WWF-Sweden competition in search for cities that were progressive in the implementation of green practices.

From just one country, OPCC expanded into 23 participating countries in 2017. Among them are the United States, Canada, China, India, France, Japan and Brazil.

In Malaysia, the participating cities are Petaling Jaya, Malacca, Shah Alam, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

During the 2017/2018 cycle, Malacca became the first state to have all its councils registered for OPCC.

Among others, OPCC encourages communities to promote walking and cycling in conjunction with the use of public transport as a mean of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, it encourages us to reduce our usage of cars, instead, walk or cycle to the stations and take a bus or train to reach our final destination.

As we walk more, we become healthier. As we use fewer cars, we burn less petrol and our air gets cleaner.

The OPCC actually promotes a sustainable lifestyle and reminds us that we need to take small but daily steps to combat climate change.

We all really need to better appreciate how important it is to protect what we have. Our natural capital is for our wise use, not abuse.

Do we care if our endangered, rare and endemic wild animals and plants are threatened with extinction, and our natural spaces lost forever?

Do we care at all if our rhinos, tigers and marine turtles become extinct?

I cannot, in good conscience sit back and see more of our wild animals and plants become distant memories. Our children deserve better than that. They deserve to inherit a living planet.

The SunDaily, Published: 27 April 2018 - 08:05am
Our children deserve a living planet
By Dionysius Sharma
Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma is executive director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/04/27/our-children-deserve-living-planet


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US weighs auto tariffs

The European Union and German automakers reacted with dismay Thursday after the US said tariffs on car imports could be on the horizon, potentially opening a new front in a burgeoning transatlantic trade conflict.

American Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday said he had initiated an investigation into whether auto imports "are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security."

The move came after President Donald Trump tweeted there was "big news coming soon for our great American autoworkers".

The European Union, which has been lobbying feverishly to remain exempt from US border taxes on steel and aluminium ahead of a June 1 deadline, expressed consternation at the latest White House announcement.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Brussels was "concerned" by the car tariffs threat, which she said would violate international trade rules.

"We'll of course see what that is, what the investigation leads to, but as far as we can see this is something which is also against the WTO (World Trade Organization)," she said in Brussels.

"It is very difficult to imagine (car imports) create any sort of threat to the national security," added European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen.

With German carmakers set to be among those hit hardest by the possible tariffs, the country's auto giants were quick to add to the criticism.

Global behemoth Volkswagen condemned Washington's "one-sided protectionism", saying "only free and fair trade secures increased prosperity".

The sentiment was echoed by luxury carmaker BMW, which said "barrier-free access to markets" was key to global growth and employment.

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), which has calculated that autos and car parts accounted for over a quarter of Germany's 111.5 billion euros ($139.9 billion) in exports to the United States last year, said the US move "should almost be seen as a provocation".

German carmakers exported nearly half a million vehicles to the US in 2017, but they also built over 800,000 cars at American factories where they employ some 36,500 people -- and car parts producers around 80,000 more.

Shares in Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler were among the worst performers on the DAX index of blue-chip German shares Thursday.

- Global outcry -

Imposing car tariffs would open yet another front in the Republican president's confrontational rows over trade that have drawn global outcry from allies and partners.

"Evidence of significant economic damage due to the trade conflict is mounting," tweeted economist Marcel Fratzscher of the DIW think-tank in Berlin.

"The Trump administration now adding new threats with tariffs on European cars could make things a lot worse."

The latest announcement comes as negotiations with Canada and Mexico over revamping the continent-wide North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have stalled over auto demands.

Trump had earlier blamed the US neighbours to the north and south for being "difficult" in talks to renegotiate the pact.

The contrast with a Thursday visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Chinese premier Li Keqiang could not have been starker.

"China and Germany are on the path of promoting multilateralism and bolstering free trade," Merkel said in Beijing.

Japan also voiced concern over the prospect of US car tariffs, with trade minister Hiroshige Seko saying they would "plunge the world market into confusion" and be "extremely regrettable."

Passenger cars make up around 30 percent of Japan's total exports to the United States and Tokyo has already threatened Washington with retaliation at the World Trade Organization for the steel tariffs.

- China cuts tariffs -

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Trump was asking for vehicle import tariffs as high as 25 percent.

That would move US policy in the opposite direction from China, where President Xi Jinping recently offered to cut border taxes to 15 percent from 25 percent.

In its statement announcing the inquiry, the Commerce Department cited figures showing that US employment in automobile manufacturing had dropped by 22 percent from 1990 to 2017.

Trump -- whose protectionist platform helped launch him to the White House -- has repeatedly floated the notion of steep tariffs that would shield the US auto industry.

He has specifically targeted Germany, and argued that American cars are slapped with higher tariffs than those imposed on European autos.

US cars sold in the EU are hit with 10 percent duties, while the US imposes just 2.5 percent on cars from the EU.

But Washington imposes 25 percent tariffs on European pick-ups and trucks -- which the EU taxes at a much lower 14 percent on average.

[photo-1]
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced he initiated a so-called Section 232 investigation on auto trade, which would provide the legal basis to impose tariffs if his department finds imports threaten US national security.

[photo-2]
Passenger cars make up around 30 percent of Japan's total exports to the United States and Tokyo has already threatened Washington with retaliation at the WTO for the steel tariffs.

AFP, Published: 24 May 2018
Europe fears trade dispute escalation as US weighs auto tariffs
https://www.afp.com/en/news/205/europe-fears-trade-dispute-escalation-us-weighs-auto-tariffs-doc-15a4s45

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2018年05月24日

"SHOCK win"

"SHOCK win" was spread all over most news headlines after GE14, but it wasn't a shock for many Malaysians. Instead, it was a long journey that was led by a coalition of people who educated the nation in different ways throughout the years. Credit has to go to the full-time activists who bravely created awareness and the quiet activists who supported their work. I admit I was sceptical of a Pakatan Harapan win.

In my line of work studying policies and politics, we try to look at situations in a pragmatic manner leaving emotion aside. I was confident of a stronger popular vote. Putrajaya, however, felt out of reach only because of all the obstacles and tricks.

Between the redelineation exercise, silencing of critics, gerrymandering, censorship of serious administration problems, voting obstacles, gift giving, blocked websites, biased campaigning rules, weakening of institutions, racial speeches, confusion of party logos, a weekday polling day, the long queues to cast votes, overseas voter hardship and the lopsided reporting, a win just looked and felt impossible. But just like that, Malaysia's narrative changed and our lives with it.

A friend in her 70s lamented that a huge burden had been lifted. My cousins who are much younger than her feel that Malaysians are now nicer to each other and are a bit more civic-minded.

There is a sense of hope in the air which transcends age, ethnicity, cultural, religious and economic lines. Something we seemed to have lost along the way but have maybe gotten back now.

I, too, feel this hope strongly but am conscious to not be unrealistic and to remember that this is a new government not a band of magicians. It will take time for promises to be fulfilled and one term, however, is not enough time to clean up the mess.

But this election has also increased our consumption for local news. Who would have imagined that so many would be listening to the local news on the radio or watch national TV shows for the latest updates and tune in to the interviews of political personalities and analysts?

In a turn of events, the very people who were not allowed to enter Malaysia or be interviewed are now the stars that bring in the ratings. It is good that we are experiencing a change in the reporting culture and I hope it only gets better.

But it is highly disappointing the number of U-turns these institutions, mainstream media outlets and different high-level personalities are making. I say this because in limiting the press and staying silent you abetted in the corruption and thievery that has robbed this nation of so much more than money.

If anything, this should tell us how important it is for the country's institutions to remain independent and for the media to provide objective nonpartisan reporting.

What is evident, however, with the sudden openness Malaysia is experiencing is the absence of critical thinking, investigative journalism and questioning skills. In the past, most reporting was curated and people were cautious not to antagonise the government. If there was space given for questions to be asked, they would be token questions that accelerated the dumbing down of society.

There was a systematic curtailing of thoughts, speech, cartoonists, academics, even yellow balloons were not spared. At times, even my articles were held back or sentences and words like submarine or Mongolia could not be published. But not too long ago, that was the Malaysia we lived in.

Until May 10, press conferences did not include a Q&A session making it difficult to hone a skill that was never going to be used. So when this new government is inviting questions and engaging people, there is a clear need for better, more broadminded questions and ideas to be put forward.

Because limitations were placed on such institutions that should have been independent, we now see a gap that needs to be addressed. Not only have they lost credibility, but Malaysia has lost many academics because their research interests and analysis have not toed the line of the previous regime. So many of our think tanks and institutes have been relegated to mortgaging their name because the in-house hires are not empowered to produce the studies needed.

All this has robbed us as a nation of thinkers, innovators and people of principle in every single field. We have lost talent because of the erosion of institutions and discriminating policies that have impacted the different sectors either by putting good people in cold storage or in many situations forced people to leave the country. Now what we are left with is a missing layer of Malaysians who in 20-30 years should be the ones serving on the council of eminent persons.

There is a laundry list of things that this new government needs to make right and another list of mechanisms that need to be put in place to prevent a repeat of an oligarchy stronghold. This is what might bring back our talent and inject good blood into our institutions. But it takes time to build a nation again and it also takes time to change mindsets that have been in place for so many years.

This cannot be done in five years and this is not something that is the sole responsibility of the government. While we experience this change, we as Malaysians have to learn to think differently in a new Malaysia and that is most exciting.

The SunDaily, Published: 24 May 2018 - 09:33am
Changing mindsets
By Natalie Shobana Ambrose
Natalie has found that there is a direct correlation between elections and her going back to university. She is a third-year PhD student of International Politics and Conflict Resolution and will fulfil her KPI in 2020.
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/24/changing-mindsets

THE new Pakatan Harapan government claims to be serious about implementing the rule of law in this country without fear or favour instead of the arbitrary application of the law which we have witnessed for the past 61 years.

However, against this principle, some of the recent changes in government institutions and actions by the new administration are cause for concern.

The Attorney-General must be truly independent

First, it has been reported that Lim Guan Eng's lawyer plans to make representations to the new Attorney-General (AG) for the corruption charges against him to be dropped or changed.

After the shenanigans associated with the last "BN-friendly" AG that we are presently beholding, I'm surprised the new PH government would want to be seen to be doing the same with a "PH-friendly" AG.

Now, if we are not to slide into banana republicanism instead of upholding the rule of law as claimed by the new prime minister, the new AG should not only be strictly independent but must be seen to be independent and not an instrument of the ruling party.

The Malaysian people did not sack the old regime to put in place the same old, same old.

People have a sense of justice. We do not tolerate double standards and the AG has to be scrupulously neutral if he/she is not to be accused of partiality.

Rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law and that includes the powerful and the well-connected. When the AG's office is abused for political ends, we will no longer have faith in the rule of law.

Once the system is not seen to be fair, people will lose faith in the legal system in this country and we will have anarchy. It is the rule of law applied without fear or favour that protects individuals, and society as a whole, from arbitrary measures and safeguards personal liberties.

What are the terms of reference of the Council of Eminent Persons?

Then we had a "Council of Eminent Persons" (CEP) thrust upon us with unknown terms of reference and without constitutional precedence. Before further statements and actions are taken by the CEP, Malaysians want answers to important questions:

>> Is this Council merely an advisory function to the Cabinet or just to the prime minister's council?

>> Was the chairman of this Council elected by the Council or appointed by the prime minister?

>> Is its sell-by date 100 days or is that just Daim's own agenda that he recently announced?

>> Will a Council place be reserved for Tun Dr Mahathir when he hands over the prime ministership to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim?

This is why the specific terms of reference for the CEP must be clear for all to see.

Now, if this Council is merely an advisory role, why did Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim warn us to be wary of Daim Zainuddin in his recent interview with Malaysiakini: "… people are also expressing deep consternation that he has been unable to explain some major problems in the past … People say there's no need to bring old baggage, which is true, but to me, if you want to talk about democratic accountability, it must not stop at (former prime minister) Datuk Seri Najib (Abdul Razak)."

Put an end to ministerial and prime ministerial prerogative in our laws

Many of our laws have a rider that allows the minister to have the final say with the interpretation of the law.

Other laws such as the Petroleum Development Act 1974 gives inordinate power to the prime minister as pointed out by former UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy: "Section 3 of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 empowers the prime minister to direct the Board of Petronas as he deemed fit.

Such directions are binding on the Board notwithstanding any written law to the contrary." (Foreword to "Racism & Racial Discrimination in Malaysia" by Kua Kia Soong, Suaram 2015:xii)

Such prerogative powers should not be in the hands of ministers and the prime minister if we truly believe in the rule of law and work should start to clean up all such laws to ensure they are "people-friendly".

Want of transparency, accountability and good governance in public administration and government-linked corporations has brought the system of governance into an appalling state.

The blatant abuse of power resulting in misuse of public funds with impunity led to the fall of the old regime. Malaysians expect better laws, proper procedures and transparent processes. In other words, we want rule of law, not an arbitrary rule, please!


The SunDaily, Published: 24 May 2018 - 09:25am
Rule of law is not arbitrary rule
By Kua Kia Soong, adviser to Suaram.
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/24/rule-law-not-arbitrary-rule

posted by fom_club at 12:37| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

A new BRI road map ?

THE recently concluded 14th general election and the formation of a new coalition government under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad signify new directions, not only politically, but across all spectrums, as the country continues its trajectory towards developed nation status.

According to Dr Mahathir, the government will pursue sound and sensible economic development policies to address, among others, the nation’s current high levels of foreign debt. Among the first questions posed by the foreign media to the prime minister was the former government’s approach to Chinese investments, in particular the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Dr Mahathir’s initial response was that the government will review all commitments by the previous administration to ensure that the benefits will accrue equally to both parties. He noted that he had personally congratulated President Xi Jinping on the BRI and appreciated the need for land connections, especially rail networks between Europe and Central Asia. China has the technology needed for this purpose, as such railway networks and huge trains would facilitate trade and services between Asia, and Eastern and Central Europe.

The BRI policy focuses on economic prosperity for China and all participating countries through trade and investments. The policy is also known to be a manifestation of China’s vision of being a rising power and a key global trading partner in the 21st century. Although China has officially claimed of not having geopolitical motives under the initiative, there are some underlying concerns by scholars and participating countries that the BRI is a strategic agenda.

Possible scenarios that may escalate tension in the maritime domain include the ongoing overlapping claims in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Indo-Pacific region. Recent developments − such as, the joint petroleum exploration in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Continental Shelves in the South China Sea, the establishment of the Air Defence Identification Zones (ADIZ), attempts to designate marine parks and subsequent law enforcement regulations by coastal countries, intensification of military drills, and freedom of navigation operations − have raised concerns among countries in the region. Besides, the recent revitalisation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) between India, Japan, Australia, and the United States in the Indo-Pacific, should be taken seriously as such moves could certainly create tensions.

BRI is evolving its approaches on port developments along the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. Some of the port developments under BRI, including Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar; Hambantota port, Sri Lanka; and Gwadar port, Pakistan; are known to have strong military undertones. Besides, China has new interests in projecting developments in Djibouti, Maldives and Colombo and border defence coordination along with the belt and road construction. It is of concern that these approaches may camouflage or be a cover for China’s defence and military intentions.

As rightly pointed out by Dr Mahathir, Malaysia has pursued initiatives such as Asean’s Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) that has been upheld since 1971. In line with this, he said that military manoeuvres and vessels such as warships should be discouraged in the region as they could be a magnet for opposing vessels.

Malaysia has world class construction and other infrastructures and its robust development programmes should attract technology, quality, and best-cost projects; as such it had attracted investments from China. The Chinese are also looking for integrated development in the future encompassing all the possible sectors under the BRI.

Besides BRI, there are also infrastructure-related investments by other economic powers in Asia, such as Japan, which is pursuing “quality” infrastructure development across the Indo Pacific. Thus, it will be advantageous for Malaysia not to be dependent on a single source of investment, but seek investments from various countries. Although such competition-based investments would have the attendant risks and benefits over the long term, in the short term they would prevent domination by any single country in Malaysia’s economic development.

China’s claim of promoting a friendly and peaceful environment in Asean through BRI is much welcomed. Although the BRI has provided significant investments and facilitated trading for China and Asean, the locations of the maritime infrastructure under it has received mixed assessments.

However, enhancing common interests, mutual trust, transparent and environmentally sound infrastructure development would help to moderate the tension and mistrust emanating from the maritime disputes in the region and promote positive cooperation and collaboration.

[photo]
Military manoeuvres and warships should be discouraged in the region as they could be a magnet for opposing vessels.

New Straits Times, Published: May 24, 2018 - 9:23am
A new BRI road map?
By Sumathy Permal
Sumathy Permal is a Fellow and Head of Centre for Straits of Malacca, Maritime Institute of Malaysia.
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/372570/new-bri-road-map

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Military spending highest since end of Cold War

ACCORDING to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), countries around the world spent US$17 trillion (RM67.69 trillion) on arms in 2017. Although there was a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent rise in real terms on 2016, the total global spending in 2017 is the highest since the end of the cold war.

This is an unprecedented amount of resources. The spending in 2017 represented 2.2 per cent of global domestic product (GDP) or US$230 per person. The ‘military burden’, which is “the military expenditure as a share of GDP” and which “assesses the proportion of national resources dedicated to military activities and the burden on the economy”, has fluctuated from a post-cold war high of 3.3 per cent in 1992 to a low of 2.1 per cent in 2014.

The five biggest spenders in 2017 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, which together, accounted for 60 per cent of global military spending. The United States alone accounted for more than a third of the world total in 2017 (US$695 billion) and it spent more than the next seven highest spenders combined, confirming the fact that the country can retain itself as the most powerful nation − in terms of military − in the world.

Looking at the US trend, there is a clear difference between the Obama and the Trump administration. US military expenditure had fallen each year since 2010 and substantially did not change in 2017 from 2016. However, the military budget for 2018 has been set by the Trump administration at a considerably higher level (US$700 billion).

Looking at the regional trends, in the Middle East, because of a lack of accurate data for Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen, SIPRI could not estimate the total military spending in this region in 2017. Between 2009 and 2015, military expenditure of countries in this region increased by 41 per cent, although it then decreased by 16 percent between 2015 and 2016 because of the fall in oil prices.

The spending increased again in 2017 by 6.2 per cent with Saudi Arabia being the largest military spender in the region and the third largest in the world, following the US and China. Turkey increased its military expenditure by 46 per cent between 2008 and 2017 while the last available estimate for the UAE’s military spending is for 2014, when it was the second largest military spender in the Middle East (US$24.4 billion).

After some years of decline, Iran increased its military spending between 2014 and 2017 by 37 per cent, mainly due to the gradual lifting of European Union and United Nations sanctions, which brought benefits to the Iranian economy. Israel’s military spending increased by 4.9 per cent to US$16.5 billion in 2017 (excluding about US$3.1 billion in military aid from the USA). Today Israel is one of the 10 countries with the highest ‘military burden’ in the world (4.7 per cent of GDP).

Military spending in Asia and Oceania reached US$477 billion in 2017, a 3.6 per cent higher than in 2016 and 59 per cent higher than in 2008. These high levels make the region the second largest spender after the Americas. The largest increases in military spending between 2008 and 2017 were those of Cambodia (332 per cent), Bangladesh (123 per cent), Indonesia (122 per cent) and China (110 per cent). China’s military spending in 2017 (US$228 billion), accounted for 48 per cent of the regional total.

Europe accounted for 20 per cent of global military expenditure in 2017, at US$342 billion. The spending in Europe was 2.2 per cent lower than in 2016 and marginally higher (1.4 per cent) than in 2008. France’s spending fell by 1.9 per cent to US$57.8 billion; the British military spending rose by a tiny 0.5 per cent to US$47.2 billion, while Germany’s spending rose by 3.5 per cent to US$44.3 billion, its highest level since 1999.

In Africa, military expenditure was marginally down in 2017, by 0.5 per cent to US$42.6 billion or 2.5 per cent of global military spending. North Africa’s military spending was an estimated US$21.1 billion in 2017: the first annual decrease since 2006. Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, decreased its budget by 5.2 per cent between 2016 and 2017 to US$10.1 billion. Nigeria’s expenditure fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, despite the ongoing military operations against the terrorist group Boko Haram. Its spending was US$1.6 billion in 2017.

The data, combined with other key information on budget spending from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that the portion of GDP that OECD countries spend every year for the military, is much higher than the one dedicated to the ‘Official Development Assistance’ (ODA).

The latter is defined as “government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries”. According to OECD, “loans and credits for military purposes are excluded (from ODA)” and this aid “may be provided bilaterally, from donor to recipient, or channelled through a multilateral development agency such as the UN or the World Bank”.

The gap between military expenditure and ODA in OECD countries is incredibly deep in most cases. For example, Turkey spends more than twice as much for its military budget rather than for aid to developing countries: 2.2 per cent of GDP for its military and just under one per cent for ODA. The gap is even greater in the case of Israel: 4.7 per cent for the military budget and an insignificant 0.1 per cent for ODA. The US spends 3.1 per cent of its GDP for the military and 0.2 per cent for ODA. Only a few countries follow the opposite trend. Luxembourg, for example, in 2017 spent twice as much for ODA (1.0 per cent of its GDP) rather than for its military budget (0.5 per cent).

Analysts, activists and policymakers worldwide have often criticised this allocation of resources.

Regardless of the freedom of each country to spend its budget in the way it prefers in order to guarantee security for its citizens, there is an important aspect to note.

Anthony Chekhov once said: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there”. This principle, which then took the name of ‘Chekhov’s gun’, was paraphrased as “once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired”, someday soon.

A global military expenditure of over US$1.7 trillion clearly represents much more than a simple “pistol on the wall”.

The likelihood to have a conflict caused or fueled by those arms produced by that $1.7 trillion global budget is higher than ever.

[photo]
A Bell-Boeing OU-22 Osprey tilt-rotorcraft performs a tactical ‘dutoff’ during a military exercise.

New Straits Times, Published: May 24, 2018 - 9:19am
Military spending highest since end of Cold War
By MAGED SROUR, IPS (Inter Press Service)
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/372568/military-spending-highest-end-cold-war

NEW York and Washington, DC may be three hours apart geographically, but in global affairs, they are worlds apart.

With the wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere unabating, at the United Nations in New York, terms like ‘conflict prevention’ and ‘sustaining peace’ are back in vogue, with world leaders attending a major summit. Meanwhile in Washington, while the talks with North Korea took centre stage behind the scenes the drum roll of war against Iran is revving up.

The playbook of this potentially impending war is familiar. The groundwork in the media and political arena is being laid, to make war necessary, so that it ultimately becomes so. Future historians can look back to this month for the many early warning signs and the red herrings that set this stage. There are four obvious signs.

Leading the list is Israeli provocation. On April 9, Israel attacked Syrian military bases where Iranian security personnel were stationed. Seven Iranians died in the attack and tensions in the region soared. As many Middle East watchers noted, Israel was trying to provoke a retaliation from Iran, so that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could unleash his pent-up anger across Iranian skies.

As the dead soldiers returned to Tehran, Iranian officials said the strikes “will not remain without a response.” Israel, meanwhile, reiterated it won’t tolerate Iranian military bases next door. It launched another attack on April 30 killing Iranians, Syrians and Iraqi military personnel.

Memories of Israeli-Iranian cooperation against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war are all but erased from history as the two countries have provoked and retaliated against each other through proxies for three decades. But the war of words is escalating to war on the ground.

Second, the rising tensions in the region come in parallel with the attacks on and subsequent cancellation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has always resented. The JCPOA has prevented Iran from pursuing even the possibility of nuclear weapons, and was meant to open a pathway for broader diplomacy between the United States and Iran and to keep at least a cold peace between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

While Iran has adhered to the terms of the JCPOA, the US has not. The financial sanctions and threats of billion dollar penalties against banks that dare to do business with Iranian companies or citizens were still in place before its cancellation.

Third, the ascent of John Bolton as National Security adviser means ‘regime change’ policy is firmly back on the table. For those needing a reminder, this was the policy of the George Bush administration after 9/11. It signals a range of covert and overt actions by the US or its proxies to bring down a regime that is deemed unfriendly to the US, and instal a friendly one.

Finally, there is nothing quite like preparing the groundswell for chaos than meddling with a country’s finances. Here too the timing and evidence is not coincidental. In February 2018, the Iranian rial lurched downward and as Iranians rung in their new year in late March, the spiral continued with a 20 per cent loss, causing many to question machinations behind the scenes.

While Iran’s own mismanagement of the economy is also to blame, the coalescing of external factors is notable. Iranians have relied on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) markets to obtain dollars and enable transactions and trade.

But with US and Saudi involvement, the UAE instigated a new five per cent value added tax, visa restrictions and tighter banking restrictions that mostly affect Iranians.

In Iran a public rush to sell the rial and invest in the ever more expensive dollar or gold, prompted the government to step in and announce a single official dollar rate. Whether this allays fears and stabilises the economy is yet to be seen. But uncertainty is in the air.

But as pressures loom, it is important to remember that Iranians – men and women, old and young, children and grand parents are trying to live normal lives of love and laughter, joy and heartache.

In 2002 when US think tanks and media joined the Bush administration’s drumbeat of war on Iraq, the public was sceptical, but the political establishment pushed to make war seem inevitable.

Now cheerleaders of that war have their eyes on Iran. A country that is significantly larger and is home to 80 million people, majority young, overwhelmingly educated, and mostly fed up with the aging theocracy that isolates them from the world and thwarts their aspirations.

But this population does not want missiles raining from the sky. It doesn’t want its economy ruined. It wants engagement with the world. It is also deeply patriotic. They may rail against the regime but they will likely rally as a nation if there is any foreign attack.

The world should also pause and anticipate what may unfold if chaos is invoked through economic collapse and a weakening of Iran’s borders: at a minimum refugees spilling into Europe and an open gateway from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Persian Gulf and beyond.

[photo]
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned Teheran would be hit with the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ after its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

New Straits Times, Published: May 24, 2018 - 9:03am
Heed warnings to avert war
By Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, IPS (Inter Press Service)
Sanam Naraghi Anderlini is co-Founder & executive director, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN).
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/372564/heed-warnings-avert-war

posted by fom_club at 12:05| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

I am Malaysian

AS citizens of Malaysia we have all the reason to be proud of ourselves given what transpired post-GE (General Election) 14. It is perhaps not too early to claim some credit for ourselves. Even May 13 went by unnoticed. To the younger generation, it was just another day of no historic significance. For the older ones, it seemed to be overtaken by the "jaw-dropping" GE14 result which quickly "unified" Malaysia as a nation. It was almost spontaneous without manufactured slogans to make it happen. This must have come from our hearts that bind us for the love of our only country.

A clear indication of this came from a press conference where the new finance minister said: "I don't consider myself as Chinese. I am Malaysian." His reply was followed by loud applause. It was in response to a question from the press deliberately framed to project the "racial" dimension. Fortunately, this was wisely handled to drive the all-important "Malaysian" message home.

It was also timely considering a race-based coalition was "devastated" in the election. In particular, the Chinese-based component party that contested 39 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats could only secure one and two seats respectively, compared to winning 31 parliamentary seats in GE11.

To nail the coffin, its president lost the seat he held for many years and the party only had slim majorities in the few seats it won.

Interestingly enough members of the party preferred to be called "Malaysian Chinese" as reflected in the name of the association. Not even "Chinese Malaysians" – if at all ethnicity is considered relevant as in the case of African-American for US citizens of African descent (like Barack Obama). Otherwise they are happy to be just Americans. So why not just Malaysians for us?

This is what makes the statement "I am Malaysian" such a great departure, given that his party is now part of the new ruling coalition. It was a resounding "vote" for Bangsa Malaysia as per Challenge 1 of Wawasan 2020.

It is also imperative to send a clear and strong signal to some embassies and their governments that allegedly claimed to be "defenders" of overseas Chinese despite that the latter are now loyal citizens of another sovereign nation. This claim was heard not too long ago leading to a "diplomatic spat" because it was deemed as "interference" in the internal affairs of Malaysia.

This should not be allowed to happen again bearing in mind that investment and interest from China is pouring in to a tune that has caused unnecessary "anxiety" among most Malaysians. Add this to the insistence of playing a "defender's" role, it raises more questions than answers that are bound to ruffle local sensitivities, scenarios and practices (think Africa).

As it stands, the first branch campus from China located near Nilai stood like a sore thumb with only Chinese and English words chiselled on its foundation stone with not a single word of Bahasa Malaysia. So too for many of that country's factories in Malaysia. Similarly during official events involving top officials from both countries; the launch of the ECRL project is a notable example where our national language was not used. This would not happen in China. So why did it happen here?

The implication of such a move is a grave one. Not respecting our national language (what more not speaking it well) is tantamount to negating the existence of our nationality as Malaysians. And that is also the main reason why many still cling to their ethnicity rather than being full-blooded Malaysians. This is not limited to just uneducated elderly people (this is understandable) but surprisingly use of the language is also a problem for many corporate leaders who cannot string a single decent sentence in good BM. It is shameful. This means "I am Malaysian" is void to the extent that the previous prime minister had to address some of them in English or broken BM in their ethnic dialect after 60 years of Merdeka.

For this reason alone "I am Malaysian" is a vital force that must be seriously maximised to strongly mould it to create a sole identity for Bangsa Malaysia in shaping the "new" Malaysia. At once subordinating the ethnic tendencies, including state-based "bangsa" that some "clans" are dubiously popularising. If not this will only dilute or confuse the situation further, including the use of superfluous logos and taglines (think sehati sejiwa, 1Malaysia, etc) which are utterly superficial and a waste of resources as glaringly evident from the election result for the losing coalition.

Hence, it cannot be overemphasised that "I am Malaysian" was a key take home message when a "fresh" government was voted in decisively. It was done on the basis of "Harapan" and NOT based on political parties, what else racial and chauvinistic ones in whatever form. It is time to bury the latter once and for all as a form of toxic thinking. Yes, we are proudly Malaysians. Are you?

The SunDaily, Published: 23 May 2018 - 11:29am
I am Malaysian
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible".
http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2018/05/23/i-am-malaysian

THE night of Malaysia’s 14th general election, as the country sat riveted with the election results, I received various text messages from friends and contacts on the African continent.

Many wanted to know if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was going to be able to pull off the biggest political coup this side of history. Then, there were others who just wanted to know if this would mean that there would be rioting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

It was not as if the international news networks were keeping mum on the events unfolding in Malaysia. But, for many African countries, Malaysia meant Dr Mahathir, and Dr Mahathir meant Malaysia; how could the two be separated? Added to that was the mind-boggling idea that a man eight years shy of his centenary could have the stamina, political pull, and mental capability to run a campaign that would put many middle-aged politicians to shame.

“Malaysia” as a name, became well-respected during Dr Mahathir’s tenure in the 1990s. Malaysia, as a country, was one of the first developing countries to pursue an active south-south cooperation with Africa by establishing joint ventures, bringing in Malaysian investors, and encouraging robust trade with Malaysia. As a trailblazer, we were in Africa when China’s outward-looking policy was but a mere idea.

The first Langkawi International Dialogue, which brought together many of the leaders of Africa, was held in 1995. By 1997, the LID was already garnering attention as a visionary forum for the movers and shakers of the developing world to gather and exchange frank ideas. Despite Dr Mahathir’s interest in Africa, Malaysia still had only one or two outposts in the continent, with one ambassador covering eight or 10 African countries.

However, in the space of six years, by 2003, Malaysia had no less than 12 embassies in Africa. This was also the year that Malaysia’s presence in Africa began a slow but sure withdrawal.

We now know in hindsight how events unfolded that night of May 9 and the morning of May 10. As far as upsets went, the results of GE14 marked the end of the rule by the same coalition for the past 60 years. In its place was a new coalition, headed by a former prime minister who had led Malaysia for more than a third of those 60 years.

The changeover was relatively smooth. There was no rioting on the streets, and no blood was spilled over the transition. While Malaysians remained glued to the news and social media over the formation of the new cabinet and state administration, congratulatory messages from all over the world, including from Africa, were coming in thick and fast.

For West Africa, a return of Dr Mahathir meant a shift in Malaysia’s attention from only the big players, to developing countries of the south. Sure enough, in one of his first policy outlines, Dr Mahathir indicated that there would be more south-south cooperation; only the form of it needed to be clarified.

The more advanced countries of Africa are no longer looking for donors. They want partners whom they can learn from. As one foreign service officer described Malaysia: “this is a developing country that has made it big all on its own. That is the model we want to emulate.”

The Africa of old is nearly all gone now. Chinese investments, greater trade, and more educated officers and leaders now mean that they are asking us to help them catch better fish, rather than to provide that fish. In exchange, they now have valuable resources, both in terms of commodity and human resources, that we can benefit from.

Earlier this year, Malaysia was dealt a devastating blow when it failed to secure enough votes for the UN Human Rights Council. In 2003, when we stood for the UN Commission on Human Rights, we managed to get 189 votes, only three votes short of unanimity. The simple answer of why we lost this time around is because we have less friends now, or less friends who admire what we stand for.

We need to regain the international spotlight for ourselves. The Malaysia many out there know was the Malaysia that brought the exploitation of Antarctica to a practical standstill; the Malaysia that committed troops and resources in the name of the oppressed halfway across the world; and the Malaysia that forced the developed world to recognise the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in terms of the environment.

Malaysia’s landmark GE14 has come and gone, but it has left behind an indelible mark on the political landscape, both domestic and international. Once again, Malaysia has captured international attention, this time for all the right reasons.

It is up to us to ensure that this opportunity is used wisely, to reach out to as many friends as we can.


[photo]
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad greeting the public after Friday prayers last week.

New Straits Times, Published: May 24, 2018 - 9:34am
Malaysia in the eyes of the world
By Dr Shazelina Zainul Abidin
Dr Shazelina Zainul Abidin is a foreign service officer and an honorary research fellow of the University of Sheffield. These days, she writes primarily on international affairs, with a particular emphasis on Africa.
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/372572/malaysia-eyes-world

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2018年05月23日

Why birds don't have teeth

PARIS:
Why did birds lose their teeth? Was it so they would be lighter in the air? Or are pointy beaks better for worm-eating than the jagged jaws of dinosaur ancestors?

Actually, birds gave up teeth to speed up egg hatching, a research paper published Wednesday suggests, challenging long-held scientific views on the evolution of the toothless beak.

Compared to an incubation period of several months for dinosaur eggs, modern birds hatch after just a few days or weeks.

This is because there is no need to wait for the embryo to develop teeth – a process that can consume 60 percent of egg incubation time, said researchers Tzu-Ruei Yang and Martin Sander from the University of Bonn.

While in the egg, the embryo is vulnerable to predators and natural disasters, and faster hatching boosts survival odds.

This would be a concern for dinos and birds – all egg layers. In mammals, embryos are protected inside the mother.

“We suggest that (evolutionary) selection for tooth loss (in birds) was a side effect of selection for fast embryo growth and thus shorter incubation,” Yang and Sander wrote in the journal Biology Letters.

Previous studies had concluded that birds – living descendants of avian dinosaurs – lost their teeth to improve flight.

But this did not explain why some non-avian dinosaurs in the Mesozoic era had independently evolved similar toothless beaks, said the duo.

Other studies had concluded that beaks were better for eating bird food.

But some dinosaurs with a very different, meat-eating diet had also discarded teeth in favour of pointed beaks.

Yang and Sander said their breakthrough came from a study published last year, which found that the eggs of non-flying dinosaurs took longer to hatch than previously thought – about three to six months.

This was because of slow dental formation, which researchers analysed by examining growth lines – almost like tree rings – in the fossilised teeth of two dinosaur embryos.

Faster incubation would have been aided by early birds and some dinos taking to brooding their eggs in open nests rather than burying them as of old, said the research team.

They conceded their hypothesis was not consistent with toothlessness in turtles, which still have a long incubation period.

[photo]
Why did birds lose their teeth? Was it so they would be lighter in the air? Or are pointy beaks better for worm-eating than the jagged jaws of dinosaur ancestors?

New Straits Times, Published: May 23, 2018 - 7:31am
Why birds don't have teeth
By AFP
https://www.nst.com.my/world/2018/05/372160/why-birds-dont-have-teeth

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Yes, gun violence is actually on the rise.

The school shooting has become an American motif, a previously unthinkable option for the odd, the alienated and the spurned, a way to find voice through violence.

We had yet another one last week in Santa Fe, Texas, where a student killed 10 people and injured 13 others. After the shooting, Paige Curry, a student at the school, offered a chilling assessment of our current predication.

A television news reporter asked: “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This is not real, this would not happen at my school?’”

Paige responded, shaking her head, an uncomfortable, reflexive smile on her face that mocked the naïveté of the question: “No, there was not.”

The reporter pressed: “Why so?”

Paige continued: “It has been happening everywhere. I have always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

Schools across the country are preparing for this morbid eventuality. According to a 2015-16 Crime and Safety Survey by the National Centre for Education Statistics, 92 per cent of public schools have a written plan describing procedures to be performed in the event of a shooting.

According to Vox:“Since Columbine, 32 states have passed laws requiring schools to conduct lockdown drills or some form of emergency drill to keep students safe from intruders. Some states went even further after 20 children died in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Now, six states require specific ‘active shooter’ drills each year.”

These preparations − sheltering in place, ducking for cover, running for your life − have become a routine part of our children’s educational experience. This is not normal and must never be accepted as such. Neither are these shootings normal. This is all insanity.

We have too many guns in this country, including too many based on combat weapons, and as a result we have too many shootings and deaths.

Many of us know this. We also know that legislators in Washington, as well as President Donald Trump himself, are so beholden to the National Rifle Association that little to nothing will be done to stem the real problem: Guns and their availability.

Instead, politicians talk about tangential issues like the mentally ill, the “hardening” of soft targets like schools, and putting even more guns in people’s hands, like the lunacy of arming teachers.

A main facet of Trump’s campaign was the condemnation of violence in Chicago and what that said about the culture there.

As The Washington Post pointed out, Trump promised in his inauguration speech to end this “American carnage”, but “gun deaths are up over 12 per cent year-over-year. Firearm injuries are up nearly eight per cent. The number of children under the age of 12 shot by a gun has increased by 16 per cent, while instances of defensive gun use are up nearly 30 per cent”.

Yes, gun violence is actually on the rise.

As Time magazine pointed out in November, “Firearm-related deaths rose for the second-straight year in 2016”.

It continued: “In 2016, there were more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in the US − 4,000 more than 2015, the new CDC report on preliminary mortality data shows. Most gun-related deaths − about two-thirds − in America are suicides, but an Associated Press analysis of FBI data shows there were about 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016, up from 9,600 in 2015. The increase in gun-related deaths follows a nearly 15-year period of relative stasis.”

Furthermore, according to an April FBI report: “The FBI has designated 50 shootings in 2016 and 2017 as active shooter incidents. Twenty incidents occurred in 2016, while 30 incidents occurred in 2017”. The state with the largest number of those shooters − six − was, you guessed it, Texas.

But as politicians in Washington have made clear that they have no desire to address this issue, no desire to stand up to the NRA, no desire to stop treating these deaths as collateral damage, those seeking change must change tactics.

People seeking common sense gun control must become single-issue voters on gun control. Support for more restrictions may not be the only reason to vote for a candidate, but it must be sufficient to vote against one.

We have to stop waiting for politicians to display courage and instead start to instill fear in them.

As an individual voter, you do not need to have a slate of reforms in mind, you only have to vote consistently for candidates who are committed to reviewing the issue and advancing smart, effective policy.

This is now about the long game. The NRA di not amass its clout overnight, and the building of a contingent of politicians committed to gun control also won’t come overnight. But it can, and indeed must, be done.

Students like Paige should not simply assume that one day a fellow student will show up with a gun and an appetite for death, and that there is nothing Washington is willing to do to prevent it.

Enough is enough!--N

[photo]
The Houston-area high school where a 17-year-old student killed 10 students attending an art class.

New Straits Times, Published: May 23, 2018 - 8:31am
Enough is enough !
By Charles M. Blow
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/372168/enough-enough

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China’s “debt trap” diplomacy

Last year, with more than $1 billion in debt to China, Sri Lanka handed over a port to companies owned by the Chinese government. Now Djibouti, home to the US military’s main base in Africa, looks about to cede control of another key port to a Beijing-linked company, and the US is not happy about it.

Beijing “encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 6. “Chinese investment does have the potential to address Africa’s infrastructure gap, but its approach has led to mounting debt and few, if any, jobs in most countries,” he added.

Some call this “debt-trap diplomacy“: Offer the honey of cheap infrastructure loans, with the sting of default coming if smaller economies can’t generate enough free cash to pay their interest down. In Sri Lanka, acrimony remains around Hambatota and projects like “the world’s emptiest airport.”

China has characterized its “Belt and Road” initiative as a win-win for its aspirations to become a global trade leader and developing economies’ desire to fund transportation infrastructure. It has certainly filled the vacuum created by a shrinking American presence in global institutions. But as with Western internationalist projects, China is also facing accusations of imperialist behavior when its debt plans go wrong.

The Center for Global Development, a non-profit research organization, analyzed debt to China that will be incurred by nations participating in the current Belt and Road investment plan. Eight nations will find themselves vulnerable to above-average debt: Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

The researchers note that they did not estimate how this debt would effect growth, and that they needed to assemble much of their data from media reports. But they still say their evidence should raise concerns about economic distress stemming from debt that would undermine development efforts altogether. In the past, China has responded to the debtors inconsistently and hasn’t followed best practices adopted by international lenders working with poor countries. Sometimes, the debt has been forgiven; other times, disputed territory or control of infrastructure has been demanded as recompense.

They argue that China should work to bring other countries into their investment programs to spread debt more equally, and adopt stricter standards and more transparency about how sustainable its support for developing economies really is. Some countries aren’t waiting on China to take action: Pakistan and Nepal turned down Chinese infrastructure loans last year in favor of other sources of funding.

[Reference]
Eight countries threatened by Belt & Road debt

Quartz, Published: March 07, 2018
Eight countries in danger of falling into China’s “debt trap”
By Tim Fernholz
https://qz.com/1223768/china-debt-trap-these-eight-countries-are-in-danger-of-debt-overloads-from-chinas-belt-and-road-plans/


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Stop Kicking Sand In Kim’s Face

It’s got to be either one of the stupidest acts that I can recall or a very wicked plan by Washington neocons to sabotage Korean peace talks.

How else to describe the decision by Big Brother USA and junior sidekick South Korea to stage major air force exercises on North Korea’s border. The prickly North Koreans had a fit, of course, as always when the US flexes its muscles on their borders. Continuing South and North Korean peace talks scheduled this week were cancelled by the furious North Koreans. The much ballyhooed Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is now threatened with cancellation or delay.

Who can blame the North Koreans for blowing their tops? As Trump administration mouthpieces were gabbing about peace and light, the US Air Force was getting ready to fly B-52 heavy bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters around North Korea’s borders and missile-armed subs lurked at sea.

This provocation was the first of two major spring military exercises planned by the US and its reluctant South Korean satrap. In case North Korea failed to get the message, the second exercise is code-named ‘Maximum Thunder.’

And this right after Trump and his neocon minions reneged on the sensible nuclear treaty with Iran. In a policy one could call ‘eat sand and die,’ Trump demanded that Iran not only give up any and all nuclear capacity (Iran has no nukes), but also junk its non-nuclear armed medium range missiles, stop backing the Palestinians, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, roll over and be good, don’t do anything to upset Israel, and pull out of Syria. In short, a total surrender policy leading to future regime change. Hardly an encouragement for North Korea.

North Korea was right on target when it accused arch-neocon John Bolton of trying to sabotage the peace deal. In 2005-2006, Bolton served as the Bush administration’s ambassador to the UN. He established a tradition for the post of being anti-Muslim, pro-Israel and anti-Russian, a policy continued to this day by the current US UN rep, loud-mouthed neocon Nikki Haley.

In the 2005-2006 period, after years of negotiations, the US and North Korea were close to a nuclear/peace deal.

Enter John Bolton. He succeeded in sabotaging the US-North Korea deal. Why? Because Bolton, as an arch neocon, was fanatically pro-Israel and feared that North Korea might provide nuclear technology to Israel’s foes. As usual with the neocons, Israel’s interests came before those of the United States. Trump’s newly named Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, is also an ardent neocon.

Last week, Bolton went onto US TV and actually suggested North Korea might follow the course set by Libya, of all places. Libya’s then ruler, Muammar Kadaffi, bought some nuclear equipment from Pakistan so he could hand it over to the US as a gesture of cooperation after the Bush administration invaded Iraq. The handover was done with much fanfare, then the US, France and Britain attacked Libya and overthrew Kadaffi. The hapless Libyan leader was eventually murdered by French agents.

Is this what Bolton has in mind for North Korea? The Northerners certainly seemed to think so. Some wondered if Bolton and perhaps Pompeo were trying to sabotage the North Korea deal. Or were at least being incredibly obtuse and belligerent. Was Trump involved in this intrigue? Hard to tell. But he can’t be happy. His minions and bootlickers are promoting Trump for the Nobel Prize – rather ahead of events.

Or was the US military rattling its sabers and trying to protect its huge investments in North Asia? The Pentagon takes a dim view of the proposed Korean nuclear accords. The burst of sweetness and light coming from Pyongyang just sounds too good to be true.

Veteran Korea observers, this writer included, find it hard to believe Kim Jong-un will give up his nuclear weapons, particularly after seeing Trump’s deceit in dealing with Iran and Kadaffi’s murder.

Speaking of de-nuclearization, why does North Korea not demand that the US get rid of its nuclear weapons based in South Korea, Okinawa, Guam and with the 7th Fleet? Many are targeted on North Korea. US nuclear weapons are based on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Others are secretly based in Japan.

Why not demand the US pull out all its 28,500 troops in South Korea and some 2,000 military technicians at air bases? Conclusively halt those spring and fall military maneuvers that raise the threat of war. End the trade embargo of North Korea that amounts to high level economic warfare. Establish normal diplomatic relations.

Pyongyang has not even begun to raise these issues.

Smiles and hugs are premature.

EricMargolis.com, Published: May 18, 2018
STOP KICKING SAND IN KIM’S FACE
By Eric Margolis
https://ericmargolis.com/2018/05/stop-kicking-sand-in-kims-face/

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Dr Maszlee Malik as the new Education Minister

KUALA LUMPUR: Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) welcomes the appointment of Dr Maszlee Malik as Education Minister, describing him as a person with vast experience in the field of education, both as an educationist and author.

Its chief executive officer, Ali Salman, in his congratulatory statement said Dr Maszlee was also famous for exhibiting principled stance by speaking on critical issues openly.

He said the Simpang Renggam Member of Parliament had provided fresh ideas for the Malaysian education system during his campaign by proposing teaching assistants in classrooms, reducing class sizes as well as paperwork for teachers.

“He has also shown commitment to education issues affecting the community through his work on the Board of Governors of the IDEAS Autism Centre and other non-governmental organisations such as Teach for the Needs (TFTN) and Downsyndrome Educational Centre (ORKIDS),” he said.

Ali Salman, who is also the chief executive officer of Islam and Liberty Network, a global platform of researchers and academics, said that Maszlee had actively contributed in debate on Islam and policy issues by presenting an inclusive, plural and liberal interpretation of Islam.

He said Maszlee had also shown commitment to IDEAS in the past when he convened its short course on Political Economy in 2014.

IDEAS had previously published papers on the topics of school choice, school autonomy and school dropouts, as well as four papers on autonomy in higher education.

“We look forward to engaging with the new Minister of Education on these issues, and hopefully influence the policy debate surrounding education in Malaysia,” he said.


[photo]
Dr Maszlee Malik is the new Education Minister.

New Straits Times, Published: May 19, 2018 - 10:46pm
Maszlee has vast experience in education - IDEAS
(BERNAMA)
https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/371128/maszlee-has-vast-experience-education-ideas

I WAS informed by my editor that a few months ago I had said publicly that if Pakatan Harapan won, I would give them a two-week honeymoon before laying into them.

I hate it when people use your own words against you. Besides, I didn’t expect them to win, did I? Anyway, it has been exactly two weeks now, so let us begin.

But wait, there’s really not much to say at this point. These chaps haven’t started work properly, what with the new ministers having been sworn in just a couple of days ago.

Oh well, how about a few suggestions then. Twelve years ago, I started writing for this paper by penning an open letter to Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who was then the newly appointed education minister.

In the letter, I bemoaned the problems faced in higher education. Those problems still exist.

To be fair to the former minister, he actually responded to that article and took the trouble to try to fix things. But as was wont in the previous administration (how sweet it is to say “previous” administration), he was given a different portfolio.

Education was handed to some chap whom I remember very little about, except that when I had a chance to meet with him and speak about academic freedom, his eyes took on the look of a man thinking about lunch.

Now we have Dr Maszlee Malik as the new Education Minister. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride for him since the announcement that he was the Pakatan candidate for the post.

There was a petition against him because he was deemed by some to be an inappropriate choice. This was due primarily to allegations that he had supported controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik.

Dr Maszlee has since come out to say that he did not support the content of what Dr Zakir said. Instead, the support was for Dr Zakir’s freedom of expression, which Dr Mazlee pointed out is something everyone has, regardless of creed.

Well then, that’s cool. Frankly, I don’t know what sort of person Dr Maszlee is. I have never met him and despite our newfound fervour in the democratic process, let us not forget that an elected government has a pretty broad mandate to make its own decisions.

We may not like it although we have the right to criticise it. But at the end of the day, unless the government’s decision is unlawful, we can’t stop it.

What is done is done and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I will now direct the rest of this article to Dr Maszlee.

In my letter to Mustapa, I was very polite (well, as polite as I could be) because the previous administration was quite heavily into protocol and the like. I don’t think I have to be so with the new lot – at least for the time being, before they get used to power. So, here goes:

Hey dude, it’s nice to see a fellow academic get into government. Don’t let us down now. I’ve been reading the stuff you said you were going to do. It looks pretty good so far.

I am not sure how you intend to make school fun for kids though. It sounds a bit vague and New-Agey to me and as far as I can tell, the only thing that kids find fun is fun. Then again, I am sure that there is some sort of Nordic study you are aware of that suggests methods to make school a pleasure for our children.

What I really want to discuss is our universities. You mentioned repealing the Universities and Uni-versity Colleges Act because it stifles academic freedom.

This is true, but perhaps some amendments are all you need. The Act, as I am sure you know, is largely a dull document, full of bureaucratic details about the nature of a university. But it’s necessary stuff.

The things that are truly awful are the restrictions on our students’ freedom of assembly, association and expression. These provisions must be seen to.

But even that is not enough. Our young people get in trouble with the universities for simply asserting their rights not based on the Act per se, but via the individual rules that the universities have.

These are appalling regulations seemingly drafted by a bitter fascist trapped in a windowless grey government building who finds pleasure in punishing youths.

Therefore, it is not enough to bring the Act in line with human rights. The university discipline rules, too, must toe the line as established by the Constitution.

Apart from freeing our young minds, we must empower them to take responsibility for their lives and fates. For this, may I suggest that we return the power of students to form actual unions.

Scrap the pathetic and toothless “student councils” that exist now and bring back the unions of old (your new boss should remember those because he got rid of them).

A union with financial autonomy and the power to actually make a difference will ensure that the student body is independent and in a position to determine the way it is governed and treated by the university administration.

Speaking of university administration, it is time to take a serious look at the Student Affairs Depart-ments, which should be purely about student welfare and nothing else.

If we treat students like adults, we will get adult graduates.

Oh, academics must be treated like adults too. Please have a look at the repulsive Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act. You know, the one that says that academics can’t criticise the government or even praise it without first getting permission. The one which the odious “Aku Janji” is based upon. The one that I have been breaking all my professional life. That has to be scrapped.

Right, I must be caught up in the excitement of the times. This is the longest article I have written in a long time. I guess not fearing arrest does that to you. Anyway Maszlee (I can call you Maszlee right?), good luck and remember, we’ll be watching.


The Star, Published: Wednesday, 23 May 2018
A must-do list for Dr Maszlee
By Azmi Sharom, a law teacher
https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/brave-new-world/2018/05/23/a-mustdo-list-for-dr-maszlee-the-new-education-minister-should-focus-on-freedom-and-empowerment-in-t/

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2018年05月22日

Future of the American left

IT’S easy to argue that the American left is on the cusp of a great victory. The economic anxieties of the working class have gone unaddressed. The Resistance is passionate and politically engaged. Faith in capitalism is plummeting. Only 42 per cent of millennials embrace capitalism, according to a Harvard University poll, while 51 per cent reject it.

The Republicans seem to be turning themselves into an aging minority party. Moderate Democrats are no longer a force. There are only two vibrant political tendencies in America right now: Trumpian populism and Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren-style progressivism. As Trumpism loses, progressivism will win.

What can we say about the coming progressive regime? First, it will be a decisive break from the moderate liberalism of Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama. Second, despite some silly recent talk, it will not be Marxist.

A few of the distinctive features of Marxism are:
1. The belief that the problems of the modern economy are inherent to the capitalist system.
2. Capitalism will eventually collapse.
3. There is an alternative system.

My sense is these ideas have been rejected by most on the left. It’s become clear, to those on the fair-minded left, that global capitalism has produced the greatest reduction in poverty in human history. The problems with capitalism are more discrete − mostly with the plight of the working class in rich countries.

Moreover, there is no alternative. Economist Dean Baker has argued that it’s silly for people on the left to see the market as the enemy: “This makes as much sense as seeing the wheel as the enemy. The market is a tool, it is incredibly malleable.” It can be structured to redistribute wealth upward, or it can be structured to redistribute wealth downward.

The goal for most on the left is not replacing capitalism, but reforming it to make it work better for all. That would involve two big tasks.

The first would be to rewrite rules to redistribute wealth. In an anthology called “Reflections on the Future of the Left,” Baker imagines ways this might be done: impose a tax on financial transactions to weaken Wall Street’s power; change monetary policies to give full employment priority; shorten the workweek to tighten labour markets; and change corporate law to make it easier to cut executive pay.

The second task would be to ensure economic security for all. This would involve raising the federal minimum wage to $15 (RM60) per hour, providing universal basic income and having the federal government provide a paying job to all who want one.

I would disagree with this agenda on pragmatic policy grounds, but at least it would be humane. It’s a positive, universalist agenda that aims at social solidarity and national cohesion − we’re all in this together. It would be, as Sheri Berman writes in the left-wing magazine Dissent, enchanted with a radical idealism.

Nonetheless, I don’t think this is the leftism we will wind up with.

Tribalism is in the air, on the left as well as on the right. It is based on a scarcity mentality, the idea that life is a zero-sum war between us and them. It emphasises division and conflict, not solidarity and cohesion. It draws out the authoritarian tendencies in any movement. On the right, tribalism brings us the ethnic authoritarianism of Donald Trump. On the left, it seems likely to bring us the economic authoritarianism of a North American version of Hugo Chávez.

You can see authoritarianism entering the left through two avenues.

The first is nationalism. Not long ago, most of the American left tended to think transnationally − partly because problems like climate change are global, partly because it’s hard to regulate a global economy nation by nation, partly because progressives used to be psychologically averse to nationalism.

But national sovereignty is not withering away. Left-wing hostility towards European Union-type multilateral organisations is at record highs. Now a lot of progressive economic thinking is nakedly nationalistic. Bernie Sanders in 2015 derided a more open immigration policy as a “Koch brothers proposal”. It’s the old xenophobia − us or them. On trade, the left-wing populists sound like Trump.

The second stream fuelling economic authoritarianism is identity politics. It used to be that big political divides were defined by economic interests; now, the cultural dog wags the economic tail. Identity politics defines the core political divides. When many progressives talk about economics these days, they take the habits of mind they developed when talking about identity groups and apply them to economic groups.

It’s the same Manichaeism: oppressor versus oppressed, privileged versus underprivileged, hegemon versus victim. Conflict is inevitable. The apocalypse is near. Preserve the purity of the group. Shut down the other side. It’s sectarian politics to the nth degree.

In Venezuela we saw how a politician used demagogic sectarian rhetoric to establish an authoritarian regime and then destroy a people. I’m sure many of my left-wing friends believe that that sort of tribal us/them mentality won’t hijack and corrupt their own movement. But as someone who lived through the last 30 years of conservatism, I’m here to tell you, it can. Politicians these days have decided they don’t need the thinkers any more. − NYT

[photo]
Activists at a May Day protest near Wall Street.

New Straits Times, Published: May 22, 2018 - 8:38am
Future of the American left
By David Brooks
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/371786/future-american-left

[Just for your reference]

I was in the library reading room when suddenly a strange specter of a man appeared above me. He was a ragged fellow with a bushy beard, dressed in the clothes of another century. He clutched news clippings on class in America, and atop the pile was a manifesto in his own hand. He was gone in an instant, but Karl's manifesto on modern America remained. This is what it said:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, lord and serf, capitalist and proletariat, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stand in opposition to each other and carry on a constant fight. In the information age, in which knowledge is power and money, the class struggle is fought between the educated elite and the undereducated masses.

The information age elite exercises artful dominion of the means of production, the education system. The median family income of a Harvard student is $150,000. According to the Educational Testing Service, only 3 percent of freshmen at the top 146 colleges come from the poorest quarter of the population. The educated class ostentatiously offers financial aid to poor students who attend these colleges and then rigs the admission criteria to ensure that only a small, co-optable portion of them can get in.

The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy -- seizing for itself most of the income gains of the past decades -- and then ruthlessly exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.

The educated class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and reduced it to a mere factory for the production of little meritocrats. Members of the educated elites are more and more likely to marry each other, which the experts call assortative mating, but which is really a ceaseless effort to refortify class solidarity and magnify social isolation. Children are turned into workaholic knowledge workers -- trained, tutored, tested and prepped to strengthen class dominance.

The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then congratulate themselves for sending their children to public schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.

The information society is the only society in which false consciousness is at the top. For it is an iron rule of any university that the higher the tuition and more exclusive the admissions, the more loudly the denizens profess their solidarity with the oppressed. The more they objectively serve the right, the more they articulate the views of the left.

Periodically members of this oppressor class hold mock elections. The Yale-educated scion of the Bush family may face the Yale-educated scion of the Winthrop family. They divide into Republicans and Democrats and argue over everything except the source of their power: the intellectual stratification of society achieved through the means of education.

More than the Roman emperors, more than the industrial robber barons, the malefactors of the educated class seek not only to dominate the working class, but to decimate it. For 30 years they have presided over failing schools without fundamentally transforming them. They have imposed a public morality that affords maximum sexual opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those lower down.

In 1960 there were not big structural differences between rich and poor families. In 1960, three-quarters of poor families were headed by married couples. Now only a third are. While the rates of single parenting have barely changed for the educated elite, family structures have disintegrated for the oppressed masses.

Poor children are less likely to live with both biological parents, hence, less likely to graduate from high school, get a job and be in a position to challenge the hegemony of the privileged class. Family inequality produces income inequality from generation to generation.

Undereducated workers of the world, unite! Let the ruling educated class tremble! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!

I don't agree with everything in Karl's manifesto, because I don't believe in incessant class struggle, but you have to admit, he makes some good points.


The New York Times, Published: MAY 29, 2005
Karl's New Manifesto
By DAVID BROOKS
https://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/29/opinion/karls-new-manifesto.html

posted by fom_club at 12:03| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Teachers deserve more than appreciation

LAST week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I intended to write on the subject, but a more newsy topic intervened. That’s an apt metaphor for what is happening to the plight of teachers in America today. We live in a media environment in which the urgent often crowds out the important. But this week, I will stick to my plans.

In East of Eden, a sprawling, magisterial novel about the great American West, John Steinbeck writes, “In the country the repository of art and science was the school, and the schoolteacher shielded and carried the torch of learning and of beauty. ... The teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside. A family could indeed walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher”.

The picture Steinbeck paints (set in the early 20th century) is almost unrecognisable in today’s America, where schoolteachers are so poorly paid that they are five times as likely as the average full-time worker to have a second job, according to Vox. We have all heard about stagnant middle-class wages. But the average pay for a teacher in America, adjusted for inflation, has actually declined over the last 15 years, while their health care costs have risen substantially. The Economist reports that teachers earn 60 per cent of what a professional with comparable education does.

The average salary for a teacher in many states is under US$50,000 (RM199,000). Teachers in West Virginia went on strike a few months ago to demand higher wages, and the government agreed to a five per cent pay raise, which means the average salary will rise to only US$48,000. Like many other states, West Virginia failed to restore education spending after slashing it in the wake of the financial crisis a decade ago. As of last year, per pupil state funding (adjusted for inflation) was still down between eight and 28 per cent in five of the six states where teachers have now gone on strike, according to a study by the Centre for Budget and Policy Priorities.

With low wages and stretched resources, American educators burn out and quit the profession at twice the rate of some of the highest-achieving countries, as Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute points out. Since 35 per cent fewer Americans have studied to become teachers in recent years, she notes, there are massive teacher shortages, forcing schools nationwide to hire more than 100,000 people who lack the proper qualifications. In fact, the New York Times reports, it is so hard for public schools to find qualified Americans that many districts are starting to recruit instructors from low-wage countries like the Philippines.

It’s not all about salaries. One veteran educator I spoke to, who began working in California in the 1960s, reminisced about that “golden age” when she had ample resources to use in the classroom, went to seminars to develop her skills, and felt fulfilled. Today, teachers have little time or money for any of this. A recent survey of public school teachers found that 94 per cent pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, without reimbursement, at an average of US$479 a year.

It’s not even all about money. Leading a classroom was never a pathway to riches, but teachers once did command the respect and status that Steinbeck’s quote reflects. Andreas Schleicher, who heads the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s education division and has spent years doing careful international comparisons on education, has often observed that the countries that do best at public education − Singapore, Finland, South Korea − can recruit top college graduates into the teaching ranks because they pay reasonably well, they invest in professional development, and their societies show deep respect for the profession.

In America, when we encounter a member of the armed services, many of us make a point to thank them for their service. When was the last time you did the same for a public-school teacher?

Yes, education is a very complicated subject. Simply spending more money does not guarantee results − although there are studies that indicate a significant correlation between teacher pay and student achievement.

Yes, the education bureaucracy is rigid and often corrupt. But all of this masks the central problem: Over the last 30 years, as part of the assault on government, bureaucrats and the public sector in general, being a teacher in America has become a thankless job. And yet, teaching is the one profession that makes all other professions possible.

[photo]
The schoolteacher shields and carries the torch of learning.

New Straits Times, Published: May 22, 2018 - 8:41am
In honour of those who carry torch of learning
By FAREED ZAKARIA
Fareed Zakaria is an American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/371788/honour-those-who-carry-torch-learning

Read more:
[photo]
Teacher Taylor Dutro listens as protest organizers speak at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on May 1, the fourth day of a statewide teacher strike.

The Washington Post, Published: May 17, 2018
Teachers deserve more than appreciation
By FAREED ZAKARIA
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/teachers-deserve-more-than-appreciation/2018/05/17/9013cc58-5a11-11e8-8836-a4a123c359ab_story.html?utm_term=.a7c668f6b0c9


posted by fom_club at 11:44| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

A new era of peace in Korean Peninsula ?

THOUGH only five months into the year, 2018 will be remembered for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s participation in several bilateral summits following years of isolation since assuming power in 2011, climaxing in his Singapore meeting with United States President Donald Trump next month.

On March 25, Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping that served as an important ‘reset’ in the Beijing-Pyongyang alliance. This was followed by a successful inter-Korean summit on April 27 that led to a significant thawing of inter-Korean relations, even raising the possibility of a peace treaty replacing the armistice that brought an end to the Korean War in 1953. On June 12, Kim’s meeting with President Trump in Singapore could be decisive in committing North Korea to denuclearisation.

Despite the positive reactions from all sides, many questions remain. One such is what are the North Korean regime’s intentions or end goals. It is posited here that Pyongyang’s objectives are legitimacy and reunification. What explains Kim’s decision to come out of isolation is the alignment of four main factors:

First, President Moon Jae-in. Like the previous two left-leaning presidents during the post-Cold War period (Kim Dae-jung and Roh Myu-hun), Moon supports engagement with North Korea. It was important for Moon to move away from the assertive policy pursued by the previous two conservative governments (Lee Myung-bak and Park Gun-hye) that had even called for regime change in Pyongyang.

Second, the accession of a non-mainstream Donald Trump as president of the United States was another important factor. His unpredictability and strong interest in achieving deals facilitated a meeting with the ‘rogue’ North Korean regime − something that was unthinkable for previous American administrations.

Third, North Korea’s achievement of its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities was also critical in pushing the Kim regime to agree to the summits. This point was made clear in Kim’s New Year announcement that North Korea has reached the deterrence capability that secures the country from any threat, particularly the US.

The final factor relates to the impact of the extensive multilateral sanctions imposed on North Korea. Despite its long-standing approach of refusing to yield, the North Korean leader admitted that the impact of the sanctions on North Korea was the toughest in 2017.

In analysing the positive gestures and developments on the Korean peninsula, it is suggested that North Korea’s intentions are to gain legitimacy for the Kim regime internally and from the international community. As Kim is a young leader who conceivably has a long tenure ahead as the leader of North Korea, legitimacy is a critical goal.

Kim’s decision to pursue an active diplomatic strategy could mean that he feels secure about his position internally both in political and military terms. His ability to participate in a range of bilateral summits that includes meetings with China and the US is a significant achievement that his predecessors have failed in before. Moreover, these meetings also show the leader’s ability to engage in tough negotiations to defend North Korea’s interests.

Kim’s performance in the summits with Xi and Moon, and willingness to meet the US president, displayed his statesmanship qualities and North Korea’s willingness to negotiate to bring about peace in the Korean peninsula. This approach has somewhat softened the negative perceptions held by the international community of the isolated country and the Pyongyang regime.

The second goal of the Kim regime is to achieve the reunification of the Korean peninsula without the intervention of external parties. This was clearly stated in the Panmunjeom Declaration signed after the inter-Korean summit in April. Both states committed to “determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord”.

Unlike South Korea, North Korea seems to strongly believe that Korean reunification should occur sooner rather than later. The legitimacy acquired from the bilateral summits contributes to North Korea’s gaining an upper-hand in the reunification issue.

Kim’s ‘charm offensive’ is directed at weakening the alliance between the US and South Korea and their coordinated approach towards addressing the North Korean problem. If this is the case, the North would have a stronger negotiating position compared to its Southern neighbour simply owing to its ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities.

North Korea’s position would become even stronger when Kim’s strategy to pursue an economic reform programme to complement its relatively strong military comes to fruition. Through the bilateral summits with China, South Korea and the US, as well as with Japan in the near future, Kim’s strategy could be to incrementally have the economic sanctions lifted, receive economic aid, and pursue bilateral economic initiatives so as to kick-start the moribund economic growth of North Korea.

If North Korea’s diplomatic charm offensive is successful in its objectives, it could pave the way for the realisation of the North Korea-China vision of a unified Korea. In this vision, the role of the US would be relatively weaker than it is now, and China’s influence would grow through the strengthening of China’s relations with the two Koreas.

As denuclearisation is the most pressing issue for now, it will dominate the US-North Korea discussions in Singapore. However, it would be important for the American president to discuss this issue within the larger long-term context of the Korean peninsula.

In the summit talks, Trump is expected to maintain American advantage in the reunification of the Korean peninsula as well as vis-à-vis China’s relations with the Korean peninsula.

[photo]
Kim’s decision to pursue an active diplomatic strategy could mean that he feels secure about his position internally both in political and military terms

New Straits Times, Published:
A new era of peace in Korean Peninsula ?
By Bhubhindar Singh
Bhubhindar Singh is Associate Professor and Coordinator, Regional Security Architecture Programme (RSAP), at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/371790/new-era-peace-korean-peninsula

posted by fom_club at 11:33| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Time to declare South China Sea a zone of peace

ASEAN member states have been pursuing a strategy based largely on soft balancing and diplomatic engagement towards China for over three decades.

The soft balancing makes use of institutional mechanisms such as the Asean Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus. These platforms as well as negotiations to craft a Code of Conduct all play a part in efforts to restrain Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

Soft balancing refers to the restraint of a threatening power using institutions, limited ententes and economic sanctions to delegitimise its policies. Hard balancing is based on military power and formal alliances to deal with such a state.

In recent years, however, fears have been expressed about the inability of such soft balancing efforts to produce concrete results, especially at a time when Asean members are increasingly divided, with some even possibly pursuing soft bandwagoning (i.e. not actively opposing expansionism while reaping economic benefits) vis-a-vis China.

The question then is what the future of soft balancing is when pursued by using institutional mechanisms and limited ententes or informal alliances in restraining China and, to some extent, the US from generating aggressive policies in the region. Is it time to make a bold move to declare the South China Sea a zone of peace under United Nations auspices and encouraging China and the US to respect peace and tranquility in this theatre, with binding confidence-building measures and arms control commitments?

The challenges Asean faces in its soft balancing efforts are many.

First, the structural constraints: The international system is currently going through a reconfiguration. The end of the Cold War produced a brief period of near-unipolarity in which the US emerged as an uncontested military and economic leader. But the 2008-09 financial crisis undermined that dominance. As the US-led order continues to fray, China’s economic power and influence have grown.

In terms of military might, China still lags behind US. Instead, Beijing is adroitly using asymmetric strategies including island building and base acquisitions and more importantly, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The second challenge is institutional. The golden years of international institutions are the first 20-30 years of their founding. The original sense of unity of purpose will begin to dissipate as the institutions come of age. The threat environment begins to change and fatigue tends to develop among member states.

In this regard Asean has been fairly successful, but today it faces a multitude of challenges making the old rules based on consensus insufficient to deal with them.

The third set of constraints come from the changing strategies of China. Unlike previous rising powers, Germany and Japan in particular, China has resorted to an indirect strategy. Although called “peaceful rise” and later “peaceful development”, the strategies of building small islets in the South China Sea and limited naval expansion into the Indian Ocean have not been felt as threatening to state security as direct massive expansion by previous rising powers.

The BRI is an indirect strategy for expansion. This interlocking of smaller states into a trading and investment system offers China hegemony without obtaining military dominance. This is China’s version of the East India Company of the colonial era, adapted to the times.

The lack of alternative sources of investment, especially for infrastructure projects, has made many Asian and African states turn to China. All Asean states are members of the BRI, even though some are benefiting more than others. This means that they have little interest to rock the boat. A failure of the BRI may turn states against China, but this is far from certain at this point. Active hard balancing, relying on formal alliances and military buildups, seems improbable as the economic conditions remain in favour of China in the foreseeable future.

So, what is left by way of strategy? Despite its limitations, soft balancing through existing Asean institutions and limited alignments seems a better option than doing nothing or resorting to hard balancing. However, adding a new approach, that is, declaring the South China Sea as a zone of peace, under UN auspices, and encouraging the great powers to sign protocols respecting such a zone may have long-term value.

This will be a broadening of the aspirational declaration signed in November 1971 by Asean foreign ministers which called on all powers to respect Southeast Asia as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPAN). In this case, the main focus will be the South China Sea where great power competition has become intense in recent years.

A code of conduct for the South China Sea is important but it could be part of a larger zone of peace idea so that other parameters can be developed to restrain great power competition. These may include agreements on preventing accidents, heavy militarisation, and freedom of navigation, which can all form part of a UN-sanctioned zone of peace. Such a zone of peace is of vital importance to all trading nations, including China, as the success of BRI will rest on peace and order in the region.

New Straits Times, Published: May 22, 2018 - 8:50am
Time to declare South China Sea a zone of peace
By T.V. PAUL
T.V. Paul is James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University, Canada, and currently a visiting professor at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Restraining Great Powers: Soft Balancing from Empires to the Global Era’ (Yale University Press, September 2018).
https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/05/371792/time-declare-south-china-sea-zone-peace

posted by fom_club at 11:28| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Nobukazu Kuriki, 35 and Raman Nair Hachoodan, 42

 登山家の栗城史多(くりきのぶかず)さん(35)が21日、ヒマラヤ山脈のエベレスト(8848メートル)の登山中に死亡した。所属事務所が明らかにした。登る様子をインターネットで生中継する登山スタイルで好評を得ていた。

  4月17日に日本を出発後、27日にネパール側のベースキャンプに到着。5月5日から登山を開始し、20日に7400メートル付近まで到達したが、体調不良で下山中だったという。別動していた撮影隊が21日朝、7千メートル前後で遺体を発見した。滑落したような外傷はなかったという。同日未明、ベースキャンプにいるスタッフに下山の意思を伝える無線連絡があったのが最後のやり取りになった。

 栗城さんは7大陸最高峰の「単独無酸素」での登頂を目指し、最後に残されたエベレストに8度目の挑戦中だった。今回は、通常ルートより高難度の南西壁から山頂を目指していた。


朝日新聞デジタル、2018年5月21日18時56分
登山家・栗城史多さん死去 8度目のエベレスト挑戦中
https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASL5P56XSL5PUTQP019.html?ref=yahoo

 登山家で北海道今金町出身の栗城史多(のぶかず)さん(35)が、エベレスト挑戦中に亡くなった。道内の関係者からは悼む声があがった。

 自身のホームページなどによると、栗城さんは札幌国際大在学時の2004年の北米デナリ(マッキンリー)を皮切りに、6大陸の最高峰と4座の8千メートル峰に登頂。単独、無酸素による高峰登山にこだわり、09年からは「冒険の共有」としてインターネットの生中継登山を始めた。エベレストには今回まで8回挑戦したが、登頂できなかった。12年のエベレスト登山では難ルートの西稜に挑み、登山中に凍傷にかかって手指9本を失った。

 山岳関係者が集まる札幌市中央区の居酒屋「酒房つる」の店主大内倫文(みちふみ)さん(70)はまだ無名のころ店に通ってきていた栗城さんをよく覚えている。南極に挑戦したときのお土産を店に届けてくれたこともあった。しかし栗城さんが有名になり、ここ5、6年はほとんど接触はなかったという。「息子のようなものだった。リスクは必ずあるものだが、無酸素は無謀だった。心配はしていたのだが……」と残念がった。

 出身地今金町に以前あった地元後援会で会長を務めていた白岩利勝さん(75)は、「野球少年で、根性のある子だった」と話す。最後に会ったのは昨年6月。同町の記念行事として栗城さんの講演会が町民センターで開かれ、元気な様子だったという。演題は「NO LIMIT――限界という壁を越えて」。「相変わらず挑戦するんだ、ということを話していた」と振り返った。


朝日新聞、5/22(火) 7:32配信
「無酸素登山、心配してた」 旧知の人々、栗城さん悼む
(芳垣文子、佐久間泰雄)
https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20180522-00000013-asahi-soci

ニッカンスポーツ、2018年5月22日10時0分
野口健氏が亡くなった栗城さんに数日前遭遇していた
https://www.nikkansports.com/entertainment/news/201805220000232.html

A celebrated Japanese climber who lost all but one finger to frostbite on Everest has died on his eighth attempt to reach the summit, officials said Monday.

Nobukazu Kuriki had fallen ill and was descending when his team lost contact with him. The 35-year-old is the third climber this month to perish on the world's highest peak.

"Kuriki stopped responding to radio communication and we couldn't see his headlamp when we looked up from the bottom in the dark," his team posted on Facebook.

"(The) team near Camp 2 climbed up his route to search for him and discovered Kuriki who passed away due to low body temperature."

Late Sunday Kuriki had reached 7,400 metres, pushing beyond three of the four camps that mark the route to the 8,848 metre (29,029 foot) summit.

"Now I feel the pain and difficulty of this mountain. I appreciate it and I am climbing," he wrote on Facebook.

The conquest of Everest always eluded the experienced mountaineer, who had achieved solo ascents of two other 8,000-metre peaks without the use of bottled oxygen.

On his fourth attempt to reach the top in 2012, Kuriki suffered severe frostbite and lost nine fingers.

He returned three years later in September 2015, months after an earthquake hit Nepal and triggered an avalanche that killed 18 people at Everest's base camp.

Bad weather forced him to call off that expedition. He tried again in 2016 and 2017 but inclement conditions again frustrated his quest.

Man Bahadur Gurung of Bochi-Bochi Treks, who organised Kuriki's expedition, said they were trying to arrange for his body to be flown back to Kathmandu.

More than 400 people have reached Everest's summit during this spring climbing season, when a period of calm weather typically opens the route to the top of the world.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks and foreign climbers who flock to its mountains are a major source of revenue.

Apart from the three deaths on Everest, at least three other climbers have died on separate mountains in Nepal this month.

The body of a Malaysian climber was found over the weekend, five days after he went missing on the 6,812-metre (22,349 ft) Ama Dablam -- a lower but technically difficult climb.


Yahoo !, Published: May 21, 2018
One-fingered Japanese climber dies on eighth attempt at Everest
By AFP
https://www.yahoo.com/news/one-fingered-japanese-climber-dies-eighth-attempt-everest-081914870.html

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian man who scaled the peak of Mount Everest last year died in Nepal while attempting to climb another mountain there.

Raman Nair Hachoodan, 42, was found dead on Mounta Ama Dablam, which is located in the Himalaya region of Eastern Nepal.

According to a report by the Himalayan Times, he was recovered from a gorge at around 5300m above sea level on Sunday (May 20), five days after he went missing on May 15.

His close friend K. Nagarajoo said that Raman’s father was still in Nepal arranging for his remains to be brought back to Malaysia.

Raman, who is from Shah Alam, managed to reach the peak of Mount Everest on May 20 last year under extremely difficult circumstances.

“It was a great feeling to touch the roof of the earth. My hard work and training paid off. It is the most difficult thing I have done in my life,” an ecstatic Raman told The Star in an interview last year.

Nagarajoo said that Raman’s death was a big loss to the hiking community over here.

“He was a very dedicated person when it came to hiking. He loved nature very much. He said nature is religion. It’s a big loss for the community,” he said.


Malaysia Today, Published: May 21, 2018 03:43 pm
Raman, Malaysian who reached peak of Everest, found dead in Nepal
(TheStarOnline)
http://malaysiatoday.com.my/news/Raman-Malaysian-who-reached-peak-of-Everest-found-dead-in-Nepal

posted by fom_club at 11:21| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2018年05月21日

2018 Boston Marathon

This year’s Boston Marathon, with its horizontal rain and freezing temperatures, wasn’t just an ordeal unfolding amid some of the worst weather in decades.

It was also an example of women’s ability to persevere in exceptionally miserable circumstances. In good weather, men typically drop out of this race at lower rates than women do, but this year, women fared better. Why, in these terrible conditions, were women so much better at enduring?

The results for Boston, one of the most competitive marathons in the world, were doleful this year: The winning times for both men and women were the slowest since the 1970s, and the midrace dropout rate was up 50 percent overall from last year.

But finishing rates varied significantly by gender. For men, the dropout rate was up almost 80 percent from 2017; for women, it was up only about 12 percent. Overall, 5 percent of men dropped out, versus just 3.8 percent of women. The trend was true at the elite level, too.

I’ve run the Boston Marathon twice, including in 2013, the year it was bombed. I’m often tempted to drop out of races, but I never actually have. Pushing through affords plenty of time to question the wisdom of prolonging what is sometimes extreme pain. I’m always relieved when I finish − but I never really consider why I bother.

This marathon made me wonder if gender might play a role. You can find a whole range of theories on why women out-endured men in Boston − body fat composition, decision-making tendencies, pain tolerance, even childbirth − but none offers a perfect answer.

One theory is that women handle cold weather better because their bodies naturally have more fat. In general, it’s true that the essential body fat level − one you can’t medically dip beneath − hovers around 3 percent for men and 12 percent for women (when it comes to racing, breasts aren’t exactly performance-enhancing, but they’re still usually part of the deal). And the insulating subcutaneous fat layer under the skin is twice as thick in women as in men.

But at the same race in 2012, on an unusually hot 86-degree day, women also finished at higher rates than men, the only other occasion between 2012 and 2018 when they did. So are women somehow better able to withstand extreme conditions?

That answer could involve psychology. Endurance may feel objective, but your ability to keep going − even if it means slowing down − is often ultimately up to you.

“When you reach the point that you can’t go on, it feels physical, like an immutable limit,” Alex Hutchinson, the author of “Endure,” told me. “But your physical limits are actually mediated by your brain. In most instances, dropping out is a decision.”

The decision process might connect to the perception, or tolerance, of pain. Here’s a potential, if contentious, factor: Childbirth is by most accounts excruciating, and because women’s athletic and fertility peaks are close or overlap, a lot of the female marathoners who race Boston have also given birth.

Keira D’Amato, a 33-year-old real-estate agent in Richmond, Va., ran much of the race with Sarah Sellers, a nurse who went on to take second place, until D’Amato’s vision blurred and her awareness wavered. She slowed to a fraction of her original pace, so focused on reaching the finish line that she didn’t even know it when she finally got there, in 46th place.

Comparing her experience in the race to the births of her children, D’Amato told me, “I never blacked out during labor.” (Of course, dropping out while giving birth is not an option.)

She said she had finished every race she started and added, “That wasn’t going to be the first time.”

Differences could also lie in other decision-making traits. For example, women are known to pace themselves better than men, an advantage in any context but especially helpful in the cold, when a large shift in pace could affect one’s ability to regulate body temperature.

“Men tend to start races more aggressively and take a higher risk approach, so they’re more likely to blow up in the second half,” Hutchinson said. “If you hit the wall at 18 miles in that terrible rainstorm and you’re wearing 7 pounds of sopping wet clothing, there’s a heightened risk you’re going to drop out.”

[photo]
Desiree Linden winning the 2018 Boston Marathon.

The New York Times, Published: April 20, 2018
Why Men Quit and Women Don’t
By Lindsay Crouse
Ms. Crouse has completed 10 marathons. Her best time is 3:03:52.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/opinion/boston-marathon-women-nurse.html

 4月のボストン・マラソンで日本勢31年ぶりの優勝を果たした男子の川内優輝(埼玉県庁)が、欧州でも注目を集めている。公務員として働きながら国内外で多くのレースに参加する異色のスタイルを各メディアが特集。「マラソン界の未確認飛行物体(UFO)」(フランス公共ラジオ)「大ブレークのアマチュア」(フランス紙レキップ)などと大きく伝えた。

 アフリカ勢が席巻する近年のマラソン界に新風を吹き込んだレースは衝撃を与えたようだ。英紙ガーディアンは「川内を愛すべき10の理由」と題し、多くのトップ選手と異なってスポンサーの支援がない点や2時間20分以内の完走数がギネス記録に認定された快挙、ゲスト参加した大会を盛り上げるためにパンダの着ぐるみで走って2位に入ったことなどを挙げた。

 スイス紙ルタンはチューリヒ・マラソンに川内を招待した大会責任者の話を紹介。ビジネスクラスの航空券を手配しようとしたら「エコノミーで十分です」と断られたエピソードとともに「誰にでも優しく、礼儀正しい。自分がスターであるかのように振る舞わない」と実直な人柄に触れた。

 欧州でもランニング人気は高く、各地の大会は盛況だ。来春プロに転向する意向を表明したことも各紙が報じており「市民ランナーの星」は引っ張りだこになりそうだ。


東京新聞, 2018年5月1日 夕刊
異色の川内、欧州も注目
スポンサーなし/ギネス記録/礼儀正しさ
 (ジュネーブ・共同)
http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/sports/list/201805/CK2018050102000212.html

posted by fom_club at 12:37| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

1MDB

PETALING JAYA: Nobody in the world, says investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, “not a single expert really”, thought there could be a change of government in Malaysia.

“What has happened here reaches far beyond the borders of this country, and I think Malaysia can become a beacon in this region,” she told The Star in an exclusive interview yesterday.

“You can have an incredibly sophisticated change of government, totally peaceful and mana-ging to hang on to all the rules.

“Congratulations to the people of Malaysia, who have shown the importance of real democracy in a system where people thought you couldn’t change the government because it was so solidified.”

For nearly a decade, Rewcastle Brown has been the figure behind Sarawak Report, an investigative website known for exposing stories of corruption in Malaysia.

The former BBC journalist was even a wanted woman as the Najib administration issued a warrant for her arrest in 2015, citing activities “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

On Saturday, a mere 10 days after the defeat of the Barisan Nasional government in the 14th General Election, Rewcastle Brown, 58, found herself touching down at KLIA, relieved to know that the warrant no longer applies and her website has been unblocked.

“I did not want to come rushing down while everyone was having their celebrations ... but there were some things I needed to get done as soon as possible.


-- 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) assets --
RM1.7bil Park Lane Hotel, New York
RM202mil Viceroy L'Ermitage Berverly Hills
RM159mil Bonbardier private jet
RM137mil Time warner Centre Penthouse
Rm25mil Van Gogh and Monet paintings


“There are some court cases I’m dealing with and one or two journalistic stories. Where there is a good story, it is hard to keep me away,” she said.

The Sarawak-born Rewcastle Brown is excited about the role her efforts played in exposing voters to alternative news sources beyond the mainstream press.

“I hope it was a useful instrument for getting information to voters, and that was the job I set out to do as a journo.

“I think the election was a complex organic event, in which so many things came together.

“I felt in many ways that the Malaysian media were constrained in covering the sort of things that I was able to do from London, and that’s why I got involved. I felt very invited to do it by the journo community here in Malaysia and many people who read my reports.”

Rewcastle Brown was born in Sarawak and lived in Malaysia for eight years before going to the UK to attend boarding school.

She cites her connection to her birthplace as one reason she was committed to her cause.

“I think it is important where you grew up. You have a sense where your childhood was and who your first friends were.

“Sarawak was such a beautiful place and this is why I’m so passionate to open up some of the issues.

“I felt very conscience-stricken because I spent my entire working life in the west, in the UK, and very few knew where Sarawak was or knew much about Malaysia.

“I felt a responsibility as a journalist and someone who was fairly connected to do my bit to bring these issues to wider recognition.

“I was very relatively safe in London compared to what many brave Malaysians have gone through.

“Many Malaysians felt they would find a better life overseas under the circumstances of how Malaysia was being run. When you meet many of them their heart is still in Malaysia. They were sad exiles. But all that has changed now.”

Rewcastle Brown won’t be returning to Sarawak this trip and it is still unclear whether or not she will be barred from returning to the state, as she was in July 2013.

“I have had no indication that there has been any change in my immigration status in that state.

“As you know they have their own border controls. When I last checked I was on the list.

“In fact I have a certificate from my last attempt when I arrived at the airport with an official stamp. Everyone was very polite about it but it said you’re not allowed in so I have that keepsake at home.

“But I know I wasn’t the only one barred from Sarawak,” she said in reference to some Pakatan Harapan politicians and civil society leaders who have also been denied entry.

She said she also had to be careful when contacting her old friends from Malaysia.

“It got to a stage where my computer was hacked several times and it was a liability to my friends here to be communicating with me.

It has been a difficult road for someone whose reports challenged the might of then ruling Chief Ministers Tan Sri Taib Mahmud in Sarawak and Datuk Seri Musa Aman in Sabah.

However, Rewcastle Brown has no intention of backing down from what she calls a campaign platform.

“I think it’s in vogue these days to feel journos have to be totally objective and should have no opinions of their own and be balanced in that sort of way.

“I don’t think that is truthful. The BBC had a very campaigning mindset in that you openly make a point you stand against racism or anything undesirable. That’s where I come from. I’m not ashamed of being opposed to corruption.”

With the winds of change blowing in Malaysia, she is unsure what role her work may play in the future.

“I think we were all looking at one date, the May 9 election. And this isn’t a business. It is not something I have been doing as a profit-making thing. So I have to think about where I go forward. It has taken a great deal of my life so far and I don’t regret a minute of it.

“I have enjoyed writing the reports and I suspect I will still continue to find stories. But on the other hand I know there are lots of Malaysian journalists who will now be unleashed to compete, and I’m very happy to see that happen too.”

The Star, Published: Monday, 21 May 2018
Malaysia a regional beacon for peaceful change, says Rewcastle Brown
By Martin Vengadesan
Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/05/21/a-beacon-for-peaceful-change-exclusive-rewcastle-brown-msians-have-shown-the-importance-of-real-demo/#gwcgkVXOezPtgecc.99

+++ Thank you Clare for standing up and exposing what was wrong in Malaysia, the greed and rape of the country by corrupt people.+++

posted by fom_club at 12:24| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Japan's new 'Airbnb law'

Rental platforms like Airbnb are hoping for a boost from a new law coming into force next month in Japan ahead of an expected surge in demand for the 2020 Olympics, but experts warn it could actually hamper business in the short-term.

Currently anyone renting out a room risks falling foul of the law but short-term rentals will be legalised on June 15, clearing up a legal grey area.

But the new law also introduces fresh restrictions, dismaying many who rent out rooms to tourists via Airbnb or similar platforms.

Would-be renters will have to register their lodgings with the authorities and the new law limits total overnight stays to 180 days per year.

The new legislation allows local authorities to impose their own restrictions too.

The tourist-magnet of Kyoto, for example, has said it will only permit rentals in residential areas between mid-January and mid-March, the low season for tourist arrivals.

Jake Wilczynski, Airbnb spokesman for Asia-Pacific, told AFP the new laws are a "clear sign that Japan is buying in to the idea of short-term rentals for individuals".

But many have cancelled reservations or simply taken their lodgings off the platform.

"Under the new law, Airbnb hosts will not be able to accommodate guests as easily as before. I hope this doesn't put the bar too high for us," 41-year-old Nobuhide Kaneda, who rents out a room in Tokyo, told AFP.

On an Airbnb discussion forum, an Australian host identifying herself as Narelle wrote: "I am... becoming frustrated that no one knows what is required."

"I also feel the three-month timeframe to organise a notification number is unrealistic."

- 'Waiting for instructions' -

Airbnb does not say how many properties on its platform already comply with the new laws but does not deny there have been some teething problems.

Wilczynski said the firm was "in the process of discussing the issue with the Japanese Tourism Agency".

"We are waiting for instructions," said the spokesman for Airbnb, which has informed its members of the legal changes.

Despite the new restrictions, there is a huge potential market for short-term rentals as the country gears up for Tokyo 2020 and the Rugby World Cup the previous year.

Airbnb rentals have boomed in recent years, driven by an increase in tourism and a surprising lack of hotel infrastructure.

With around 60,000 listings, Airbnb dominates the Japanese vacation rental market, even though it lags far behind many countries in Europe -- France, for example, has 450,000 listings.

And demand is poised to rise as Japan targets an influx of 40 million visitors in 2020 when it hosts the Summer Olympics -- up from 29 million last year.

Yasuhiro Kamiyama, CEO of Hyakusenrenma, a local firm that manages 2,000 private rentals, said the new law will begin to "normalise Japan's Airbnb market".

He hopes to have 30,000 rental properties on his books by 2020.

Mizuho, a research institute, said that "vacation rental services are unlikely to rapidly expand after (the law's) introduction. But the potential needs are great among foreign tourists, particularly from Asia."

However, the loosening of the law will also open the door to fierce competition.

E-commerce giant Rakuten is planning to launch a property rental site as soon as it comes into effect and telecom group KDDI has also set up a reservation platform.

Hotel chains will also be stepping up their game, building new sites to counter "the risk of a shortage" come 2020, according to a recent research note from Mizuho.

- 'Noisy neighbours' -

An additional problem faced by potential hosts is opposition from neighbours, who worry about noise from holidaymakers or security.

According to Japanese media, there have been several cases of management companies or co-owners banning sub-lets in their buildings.

Soichi Taguchi, a Japanese tourism official, said the new laws were "urgently needed to ensure public health and prevent trouble with local residents".

But Airbnb called such incidents "extremely rare", and Hyakusenrenma's CEO said "all the problems have stemmed from illegal rentals because neighbours did not know who was operating them".

In a bid to overcome such local difficulties, some platforms offer extra services to manage rentals, such as providing the welcome to guests, handing over keys and showing them around the property.

Airbnb has forged a partnership with a service provider which registers properties with local authorities, and arranges wireless internet and cleaning after the rental.

[photo-1]
There will likely be strong demand for short term rentals during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

[photo-2]
Nobuhide Kaneda (left) rents his apartment to Max Ikeda (back right), a Ukrainian-Japanese living in Hiroshima

Mail Online, Updated: 04:06 BST, 20 May 2018
Japan's new 'Airbnb law': a double-edged sword
By AFP
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5749601/Japans-new-Airbnb-law-double-edged-sword.html

posted by fom_club at 12:06| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku)

Top Japan's 'shoplifters' steals the show to win cannes palme d'or
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYop7CxE8F0

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at Cannes on Saturday for “Shoplifters”, a critically acclaimed family drama with unguessable plot twists.

The award, to a director who has won prizes at the festival before, defied speculation that the Palme might go to a female director, with three strong contenders in a year when the Hollywood sex scandal was the talk of the town.

Italian actress Asia Argento, who has accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, said there were abusers in the audience who had yet to be outed.

Argento said Weinstein raped her during the Cannes festival in 1997 when she was 21. “This festival was his hunting ground,” Argento said in a speech ahead of the prize-giving.

Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex, and a lawyer representing him said that Argento’s claims were completely false. Argento’s London-based agent, Steve Kenis, was not immediately available to provide further details.

“Even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women,” Argento told the black-tie ceremony.

“You know who you are, but, most importantly, we know who you are, and we are not going to allow you to get away with it any longer,” she ended her speech, to applause.

Weinstein’s attorney in Italy, Filomena Cusano, said the allegations by Argento were completely false, and that Argento and Weinstein had a consensual relationship.

“This is clearly a painful time for Ms. Argento, but it is a false narrative,” Cusano said in a statement. “Mr. Weinstein only wishes Ms. Argento well.”

After the ceremony, Cate Blanchett who headed the jury of five women and four men, said: “Women and men alike on the jury would love to see more female directorial voices represented,” adding that it had been “bloody hard” to select a winner.

“But in the end I think we were completely bowled over by how intermeshed the performances were with the directorial vision,” she said of “Shoplifters”.

The runner-up prize, the Grand Prix, went to Spike Lee’s satire “BlacKkKlansman”, based on the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.

Blanchett said the film’s ending, with footage of the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August and President Donald Trump blaming “both sides” for the deadly violence, “blew us out of the cinema”.

A female director, Nadine Labaki from Lebanon, won the Jury Prize - effectively the bronze medal - for “Capharnaum”, a realist drama about childhood neglect in the slums of Beirut.

Fifty years after he helped get the Cannes festival canceled in 1968 in solidarity with worker-student protests, 87-year-old Jean-Luc Godard received a Special Palme d’Or for his collage of sounds and images, “The Image Book”.

Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski won Best Director for “Cold War”, a romance that moves from the peasant farms of Poland to Paris jazz clubs and back from the 1940s to the 1960s.

“Girl”, a Belgian drama about a transgender teenage girl’s quest to become a ballerina, won the Camera d’Or for the best directorial debut for director Lukas Dhont.

Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who is prevented from leaving Iran and is in theory banned from making films, won Best Screenplay for “3 Faces” along with co-writer Nader Saeivar.

The award was given jointly to another film, “Happy As Lazzaro”, written and directed by Italian Alice Rohrwacher.


Reuters, Published: May 20, 2018 - 2:35 am
Japan's 'Shoplifters' steals the show to win Cannes Palme d'Or
By Robin Pomeroy
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-filmfestival-cannes/japans-shoplifters-steals-the-show-to-win-cannes-palme-dor-idUSKCN1IK0QX

Hirokazu Kore-eda -- who won the top prize at the Cannes film festival Saturday -- is Japan's answer to Ken Loach, a director whose stories about struggling ordinary people never fail to touch.

His gentle slices of ordinary life have been praised for their humanism, with "Shoplifters", about a group of Tokyo misfits and crooks who form a kind of alternative family, called a "modern day 'Oliver Twist'".

Variety said its "protagonists' rough-and-ready lifestyle demonstrate that people can find comfort even in the worst economic conditions".

Critics said that the film also exposes how the "state fails its neediest individuals".

Kore-eda -- who won the third prize at Cannes in 2013 -- told reporters that the film was perhaps his most socially conscious to date.

"Still, the point of entry to the story is the family," he added. "I kind of ask if people who are not related by blood can build a family by spending time together."

Kore-eda, 55, scored a big international arthouse hit with his baby-swap tale "Like Father, Like Son", which won the jury prize at Cannes five years ago.

It tells the story of a workaholic father called Ryota and his neglected wife who pours her energy into their six-year-old boy Keita.

But one day their lives are turned upside-down by a phone call from the hospital where he was born saying that a nurse had switched him with another infant.

The other couple, a fun-loving shopkeeper and his adoring wife, are pinched financially but raising a happy brood of three kids.

- Cinematic clan -

Lawyers get involved and Ryota insists that he should raise his biological child instead of the sweet-natured but directionless Keita, who only knows him as a father.

Critics praised it as a beautifully worked take on the nature-versus-nurture debate.

Born in Tokyo, Kore-eda set out to be a novelist but then began working in television. His first film "Maborosi" won prizes at both the Venice and Chicago film festivals.

He first made the shortlist for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2001 with "Distance", his examination of the devastating effect a cult massacre has on the families of its victims.

But it was not until three years later with "Nobody Knows" that Kore-eda really had his breakthrough outside Japan.

Like many of his films, it was inspired by a real-life event -- four young brothers and sisters abandoned in an apartment by their mother.

Most of his movies since have been shown at Cannes.

His sensitive, melancholic style has been compared to that of the legendary Japanese master, Yasujiro Ozu, who made the classic "Tokyo Story" in 1953.

Like in his Cannes film "Shoplifters", Kore-eda has constructed his own cinematic family of actors who appear in many of his films, including Hiroshi Abe and Kirin Kiki, who often plays nasty grandmother figures.

"We are all about the same generation, and we have made a film together in our forties and fifties and maybe we will do another in our sixties," he said.


[photo]
Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda poses after he was awarded with the Palme d'Or for the film "Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku)"

AFP, Published: 19 May 2018
Kore-eda, Japanese master whose films never lack heart
https://www.afp.com/en/news/206/kore-eda-japanese-master-whose-films-never-lack-heart-doc-1567av1

 カンヌ国際映画祭は、ベネチア、ベルリンと並ぶ世界3大映画祭の一つ。これまでパルムドールに輝いた日本人監督は、「地獄門」(1954年)の衣笠貞之助、「影武者」(80年)の黒沢明、「楢山節考」(83年)と「うなぎ」(97年)の今村昌平の3人です。

 今回の受賞作「万引き家族」は、ビルの谷間に住み、万引きで生活費を得る“一家”を描きます。両親をリリー・フランキー、安藤サクラが演じ、樹木希林、松岡茉優(まゆ)の各氏らが出演。血縁のない人たちが絆をむすぶ姿を描き、貧困や日本の抱える諸矛盾をあぶり出しています。

 是枝裕和監督は、大学卒業後、テレビマンユニオンに参加し、水俣病担当官僚の自殺の真相に迫るドキュメンタリー「しかし…」(1991年)を初演出。「忘却 憲法第九条―戦争放棄」(2005年)で政権の自衛隊イラク派兵への怒りを感じさせました。

 1995年、「幻の光」で劇映画初監督。「誰も知らない」(04年)では、社会が置き去りにした子どもたちに光を当て、時代劇「花よりもなほ」(06年)には復讐の連鎖を断つ願いを込めました。「そして父になる」(13年)、「海街diary」(15年)、「海よりもまだ深く」(16年)など家族の人間模様を掘り下げる秀作を発表。昨年の「三度目の殺人」は、日本アカデミー賞最優秀作品賞など6部門で受賞。裁くという行為がはらむ怖さを描く底に今の時代への批判がありました。

 メディアの動向への真摯(しんし)な発言を続け、本紙にもたびたび登場。「時代の問題点をきちんと問題意識にすえたい」と語っています。


しんぶん赤旗, 2018年5月21日(月)
カンヌ最高賞受賞 是枝監督作品
日本の諸矛盾あぶり出す
(児玉由紀恵)
https://www.jcp.or.jp/akahata/aik18/2018-05-21/2018052114_01_1.html

posted by fom_club at 11:57| Comment(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする